:: Friday, March 21, 2003 ::
Not exactly "shock and awe," but it's a good start
:: Thursday, March 20, 2003 ::
Kentucky rolled through its first NCAA tournament game 95-64 over the Jaguars of IUPUI. The winner of Oregon vs. Utah is next.
An analogy that doesn't work
InstaPundit linked to this post by Geitner Simmons comparing Bush to Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane in the movie High Noon. Yes, Kane was a "unilateralist" in the sense that he didn't have any allies for his fight against the gang led by the bad guy, Frank Miller. But people around the world don't think Bush is a unilateralist just because of Iraq--it's also because he's a unilateralist on almost everything else! OK, so the US is more or less the world's policeman, just like Will Kane was for the town of Hadleyville. But, unlike the US, that was Kane's only job. He didn't have to deal with other things like global warming, anti-ballistic missile treaties, international criminal courts, and Israeli/Palestinian violence. Kane, unlike Bush, had no other things to handle that could affect people's level of trust (or mistrust) in his intentions. But it's not surprising that people who think fighting bad guys is America's only role in the world (while pretending that world opinion on other issues doesn't affect how much help we get for those fights) would fall for such a self-serving analogy.
Transform and roll out!
A friend in Kentucky noticed this story about a guy in the Ohio National Guard who named himself after an '80s cartoon character:
A member of Ohio's 5694th National Guard Unit in Mansfield legally changed his name to a Transformers toy.
Optimus Prime is heading out to the Middle East with his guard unit on Wednesday to provide fire protection for airfields under combat.
"On Sunday, we were awarded as the best firefighting unit in the Army National Guard in the entire country," said Prime. "That was a big moment for us."
Prime took his name from the leader of the Autobots Transformers, which were popular toys and a children's cartoon in the 1980s.
He legally changed his name on his 30th birthday and now it's on everything from his driver's licence, to his military ID, to his uniform.
Not that I'm making a direct comparison, but...
:: Wednesday, March 19, 2003 ::
About 12 hours after the first bombing run into Iraq, and not much else yet. Massive bombing and invasion can't be too far off, but in the meantime, doesn't it seem like a bit of a Sitzkrieg?
Earlier today, the Ha'aretz ticker reported IDF intelligence chief Farkash Ze'evi's claim (consistent with his earlier estimates) that there are no missile launchers in western Iraq, i.e. within range of Israel. Best of luck to coalition forces and everyone else in the region for a quick and decisive war with as little damage as possible to everyone not associated with Saddam.
F%^k you, Haloscan
After the umpteenth "server work" related crash, I've given up on that commenting system. Onto SquawkBox, whch seems to work OK at painpill.
French people have feelings too
:: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 ::
One surrender monkey in particular, Brookings scholar Justin Vaisse, just had to go and point out that things aren't as simple as they might seem:
A few weeks ago in Baltimore a woman heard me speaking French with my wife, and, after hesitating for a while, she approached us. "I want to thank you very warmly for the position that your government is taking on the question of war with Iraq," she said. "This is important, and I am so grateful to you."
I hope the mutual interests and values shared by the US and France will ease the recovery from the damage inflicted by crappy leadership and selfish polemicists on both sides.
I understood that she intended a compliment. But at the moment, I'm a bit wary about being defined by my nationality. There are shock-jocks near Atlanta offering people the chance to smash a Peugeot for $10, just out of anger at France; there is a bar owner in Florida pouring French wine onto the street; and French-bashing jokes are being passed around the Internet like, well, a French whore. And now I'm being thanked for being French.
But, couldn't I be both French and pro-war? Or more to the point, couldn't I simply hold a more nuanced position, estimating that the costs of a war probably outweigh the benefits, while also believing that French President Jacques Chirac's hardball diplomacy is as harmful as George W. Bush's? ...
Recent events have thus forced me to reconsider my long-held assumption about anti-Americanism being influential in France and anti-Europeanism, particularly francophobia, being low-key in the U.S. In normal times, people here certainly care less about Europe than Europeans do about the U.S. America as a cultural and economic phenomenon permeates European life and European media in a way that European culture certainly does not in Middle America. Rather than a reaction to an overbearing presence, recent France-bashing in the U.S. has apparently grown out of anger, rooted in a deeply-held patriotism, at France for challenging the U.S and doing so with some success. "Iraq now, France next" reads a new bumper sticker. And where in Europe would a news presenter welcome you by describing his country as "the land of the free, the home of the brave?" The distinct roots of American francophobia partly explain its more virulent outcome—such as Peugeot-smashing, tabloid attacks and boycott threats.
This observation saddened me. I already knew it was part of my transatlantic identity to defend America in Paris and Europe here, and never to feel politically at home in either place. But suddenly this wave of clichés and reduction to nationality seemed overwhelming. There was not much I could do if people wanted to see Frenchmen only as appeasers or as peace heroes. Objectivity and nuance seemed lost. This saddened me not really as a French citizen, but rather as someone who loves America.
How it could have been done better
:: Monday, March 17, 2003 ::
There's a teriffic article by Paul Glastris in Slate comparing and contrasting Clinton's approach to Kosovo and Bush's approach to Iraq. Specifically, how Clinton got the reluctant Greeks on board for Kosovo while Bush couldn't get the reluctant Turks for Iraq:
Unlike Clinton, who acted through an existing alliance, NATO, Bush from the beginning has rejected relying on existing international bodies in favor of waging war through a "coalition of the willing." That approach, however, makes it harder to win over reluctant partners because it puts their elected officials in a less tenable position. Turkish politicians are essentially being asked to defy popular will in order to support the dictates of a more powerful country, the United States. Greek politicians were asked to defy their voters not for the sake of relations with the United States—if that were the case, they'd never have done it—but in support of NATO, an alliance in which Greece has a vote, and therefore power.So could Bush have used NATO for the Iraq war? Maybe not, almost certainly not to do the fighting, like in the Kosovo war. But he could have used it for Afghanistan, instead of rudely declining the other member states' offer to fight that war within the NATO command structure, and that would have made the Iraq diplomacy easier:
Might it have been possible, in the afterglow of a successful Afghan campaign fought with NATO, to convince alliance members to agree to enforce any new U.N. resolutions against Iraq? Might it have been easier to pass a second U.N. resolution, or at least get majority support in the Security Council, if it were NATO calling for the vote, and not just the United States, Great Britain, and Spain? Indeed, would such a resolution have even been necessary? And if it were Brussels, not Washington, demanding that Turkey support an invasion of Iraq, would Turkey, desperate to join the European Union, have dared refuse?One point that almost everyone--pro-war, anti-war, Bush supporters, Bush critics--agrees on is that the worldwide Iraq debate has had a lot less to do with Iraq than with America. Namely, American power and how the rest of the world is affected by its use is the real issue that concerns people, much more than the threat posed by Iraq. Uber-hawkish types have gleefully cited that (like everything else in this debate) as proof that diplomacy doesn't matter because everyone else is too craven to deal with the real issue at hand, so we couldn't have convinced any of those surrender monkeys anyway.
But the conclusion we need to draw is pretty obviously the opposite one. Since people were more concerned with how America uses its power than with the particular threat of Iraq, this administration's non-Iraq-related foreign policies have had a much bigger effect on its ability to sell its Iraq policy than it would have if everyone really had been focused exclusively on Iraq. The fact that so many people were angry at how we were going about doing other things made it all the more likely that they were going to oppose us on Iraq. Undoubtedly there had to be a credible threat of unilateral action to get the UN going on Iraq, since the previous decade had been marked by a colossal failure of international will to enforce those resolutions, but the failure of European will in the Balkans was no less serious before NATO finally took action. How we go about doing these things makes a big difference in how much support we get.
On the verge
:: Sunday, March 16, 2003 ::
Now that war really is looking imminent, it appears that the second front from Turkey that military planners were so eager to have is not going to be there. In case anyone's forgotten, US plans to deploy more than 60,000 troops there failed in a parliamentary vote by a margin of 3 votes out of 533. There were plenty of reasons for that: obvious ones like the widespread opposition to war in the Turkish public, and less obvious ones like political intrigue within the ruling party. It was going to be tough for the administration to get that support in any event, but while war hawks and Bush backers blame everyone else for all the diplomatic troubles, is it not unreasonable to ask whether American diplomacy might have been a factor as well? Was the US approach to the problem--not just the negotiations with Turkey on this issue, but the administration's overall interactions with the international community over the past two years--not a factor at all? Is French perfidy entirely to blame for the failure to get another 3 votes out of 533 for that greatly desired second front, whose absence will definitely expose our troops to greater risk?
In spite of the administration's diplomatic failures, I support the war. I would not have supported it if the President had followed the Cheney/Rumsfeld/warblogger approach of ignoring the UN entirely and refusing to allow for inspections. In that case, we would have had zero allies. Not even Tony Blair would have been on board, as his government would have fallen if he had signed on to that approach. Undoubtedly the "moral clarity" brigade would not have cared about that.
With regards to the damage that this administration's arrogance has caused to US standing in the world, I see the Iraq war not so much as the cause of that damage, but as a manifestation of it. They have little or no use for alliances (that are admittedly difficult to maintain) and international institutions that don't simply take orders and follow their agenda. That approach will diminish US national security, not enhance it. That said, as D-Day approaches very quickly, I think what we're about to do is the right thing.
New Orleans, here we come
The bracket is out, and Kentucky is #1 in the Midwest Regional. They have a pretty nice bracket for getting to the Final Four in New Orleans, which is a just reward for winning the SEC tournament and going into the NCAA tournament as the #1 team in the country. Here's to a magnificent season, perhaps the most surprisingly dominant one in the long tradition of great UK teams. May it last another three weeks, up to and including the night of the NCAA title game!
What's not to like?
I saw a new theatrical adaptation of Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" last night, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, thanks to my friend Sid who was able to score a couple of comp tickets. I heard that the NY Times gave it a mediocre review (I couldn't find it on their website), but whatever, it was a fantastic show. It's very intense and moving, and all the actors were excellent.