Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan
Archives

:: Saturday, April 05, 2003 ::

Riposte a la Meryl
I have a lot of disagreements with Meryl's recent post about the Democrats, the anti-war-left, and American Jews since 9/11 and Operation Defensive Shield. She explains her rightward swing:
A few isolated incidences of anti-Semitism at anti-war protests wouldn't do a thing to the solidly liberal, Democratic Jewish base. But in the wake of 9/11, and especially since last spring's bloody series of terrorist bombings in Israel, American Jews have noticed how the left is abandoning, if not demonizing, Jews and Israel. In every major protest—every single one—we see anti-Semitic signs, or hear anti-Semitic slogans. Michael Lerner is refused a chance to speak at the International ANSWER-sponsored anti-war protest in San Francisco because his views are "too pro-Israel." Anti-semitic incidents are up nine hundred percent in Northern California, the bastion of American liberalism, multiculturalism, and equality. Unless you're a Jew, it seems...

When I talk to my coreligionists at the oneg after services, and the talk turns to politics, nearly everyone believes that the Democrats have turned their backs. We haven't forgotten that Bill Clinton strong-armed the Oslo peace process, which is now called the Oslo War in Israel. Don't even talk to me about Jimmy Carter, who is showing his hatred for Jews at every opportunity...

Contrary to popular belief, Jews aren't a one-issue voting bloc, which is why the fact that Kerry and Edwards are pro-Israel isn't enough to get them our votes. The tide of anti-Semitism that is rising on the left is making many Jews think twice about their Democratic ties.

I used to think it was only the loony left. But I'm hearing more and more people I would have simply described as liberal coming out with an anti-Semitic remark here, or an anti-Jewish phrase there.
A few issues here. I certainly agree that the rise of anti-Semitism among the anti-war left is very real, very disturbing, and very dangerous. But how much does that relate to the Democratic Party? And what about the record of prominent Democrats on Israel?

First, there's the question of how much influence the far left has among Democrats. Inasmuch as the Republicans are the right-wing party and the Democrats are the left-wing party, leftist anti-Semitism is a problem for the Democrats. But are the far left all that significant within the party? I certainly don't think so. Surely many of the extreme "peace" marchers are across-the-board protest types who don't vote for either major party. Some of them are Democrats, to be sure, but this hasn't affected the potential leadership of the party, as Meryl admits regarding the pro-Israel records of John Kerry and John Edwards. I see no reason to think that voting for one of those guys, or for any mainstream Democrat that I can think of, would result in any empowerment at all for the anti-Semitic elements of the left. To make an analogy across the political aisle, regardless of what one thinks about Bush's social policies, it would be singularly unfair to claim that his presidency has empowered the neo-Confederate racist yahoo wing of his party (a Trent Lott administration would obviously be a different story).

Then there are the Democrats whom Meryl singles out, specifically Clinton and Carter. As for ol' Jimmah, I agree that his opinions on Israel and on the Iraq war are largely misguided and frequently flat-out wrong. But does it really constitute "hatred for Jews"? I guess this ties into the debate about where criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism, or maybe Meryl was just being a bit over the top here. But we're not talking about someone like Pat Buchanan, who has made public statements based on Holocaust revisionism and denial. Nor has Carter claimed that we're at war in Iraq because of a Jewish conspiracy to undermine America's interests on behalf of Israel, or anything along those lines. And let's not forget that Carter initiated the American aid package of billions of dollars a year to Israel after the Camp David Accords. That doesn't mean that his criticisms of Israel today are justified or even worth listening to, but surely it means that he shouldn't be accused of hating Jews.

Then there's the Billster, accused by Meryl of "strong-arming the Oslo peace process." I totally disagree, regardless of how that statement is interpreted. The Clinton administration didn't even know about the back-channel negotiations that led to Oslo until they were well under way. The initiative on the Israeli side came entirely from within the Rabin government. When the agreement was signed and the process began, a large majority in Israel supported it. In lauding the process and devoting a lot of energy to pushing it forward, Clinton did what any friend of Israel in the White House would have done at that point: he supported Israel as it took major risks for peace.

Clinton certainly had his differences with Netanyahu, and American pressure definitely played a role in the Wye Accords of '98. But so what? It was an interim agreement, with no Israeli concessions that could fairly be described as major ones, and it wasn't even fully implemented. Then the Israeli public voted solidly for Barak in '99, giving him a clear mandate to pursue an agreement with Arafat. Some have accused Clinton of strong-arming Barak into pursuing a permanent agreement, but if anything the opposite is true. That is, Barak was the one pushing Clinton to try for a full peace agreement, as chief Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross made clear in this question and answer session at the Washington Institute think tank in August 2001:
We didn't rush off to Camp David. Barak was pushing us to go to Camp David by the end of May [2000]. We went to Camp David on July 11th. We did not go on Barak's timetable, and Arafat knew we were not going on Barak's timetable, and Arafat did make a request for more time to prepare, but then he would not do anything to make preparation possible.
After Camp David, and while the intifada raged, Clinton made his "bridging proposals" in late Dec. 2000. From that same Q&A session, Ross sets the record straight about who initiated the request for that proposal, and he also points out the support that Clinton had in Israel:
The Israeli Prime Minister was pressing very hard for us to do this. Arafat wanted us to do it. I had seen Arafat on December 11th in Morocco, and he wanted us to put the ideas on the table. The Israeli negotiators who were here, I don't think I'm exaggerating when I would say they were desperate for us to put the ideas on the table.

You have a President who believed, viscerally, emotionally, in the value of peace there. You have a President who believed that the Israeli public, with everything that had happened, if they really had a chance for peace and saw it -- because, by the way, he had a lot of his own polling that had been done about the Israelis -- that even in this setting suggested that if a deal could be presented at this point that could gain support, notwithstanding everything that had gone on...

You can say, well, maybe it wasn't responsible to present something that would have been rejected by the Israeli public, but I can tell you, in this particular case, Clinton felt his reading of the Israeli public was better than anybody's. I don't know how well this fact is known, but he was as avid a reader of Israeli polls as anybody, and even at that stage, his popularity in Israel remained enormously high. Barak's may have been rock-bottom, but Clinton's was still registering about 85 percent. These were Clinton's ideas, and if this was an agreement, then he was prepared to go out and push it and sell it. He believed that if he did it and we really had an agreement, that he would be able to help Barak sell it.
Of course Arafat has totally de-legitimized himself and exposed the whole Oslo process as a scam on his part, a fact recognized by most Israelis. Some people these days like to project that backwards and claim that Clinton was working against Israel's interests by meeting with Arafat a bunch of times, but that's complete BS. Oslo was an Israeli decision, not a Clinton imposition. As long as Israeli leaders dealt with Arafat, which they did as long the process was alive, Clinton's dedication to the success of the process was exactly what Israel needed from America. I'm not saying everything he did was perfect, and indeed it's clear that he should have been tougher on Palestinian non-compliance. But if he was guilty of strong-arming Israel or pushing for things that weren't in its interests, why did 85%--85%!--of the Israeli public have a positive view of him in the final month of his administration?

Of course, Meryl can vote for whomever she wants, as can I and everyone else who lives in a democracy. And nobody has an obligation to justify their votes to anybody else. But while I share the alarm and anger over the anti-Semitism of the idiotarian left, I find it very unfair to hold the Democratic Party accountable for it. Much respect, Meryl, but I think you're off base on this issue.
12:35 PM
:: Friday, April 04, 2003 ::
Conspiracy alert
I hope that the eminent Victor Davis Hanson hasn't totally succumbed to the war-hawk conspiracy that everyone who didn't march in lock-step with the Bush administration was not only anti-war, but deliberately and nefariously anti-American. But there's this bit about Turkey from his latest column:
Many Americans are now dead in part because a NATO ally Turkey not merely refused its support, but did so in such a long and drawn out fashion that it is impossible to believe that it was not preordained to hamper U.S. military operations.
Let's remember what really happened: the Turkish cabinet voted in favor of allowing US troops to mount a northern front from Turkey. When the 533-seat parliament voted, the measure got 264 votes, just three short of passage. Consider the facts that more than 90% of their population opposed the war, and that Turkey's desire to join the EU has been slowed down in no small part by France, thus making it more costly for Turkey to oppose France on this major issue. It becomes pretty obvious that the surprising thing is not so much that the measure didn't pass, but that it came anywhere near as close to passing as it did. Both the US and Turkey made some mutually reinforcing miscalculations, as this recent story in the Washington Post made clear:
In retrospect, U.S. officials say, they made unrealistic demands on the new government of Turkey, which was installed only in November, insisting on a vote on whether it would accept as many as 90,000 U.S. troops even as President Bush was still publicly claiming he had made no decision to attack Iraq. U.S. officials repeatedly set deadlines for action, but then took no action when the deadlines passed, costing the administration credibility and inflating Turkey's sense of importance.

Some senior officials in Turkey, where 94 percent of the population opposed the war, even began to believe they could halt a military conflict through inaction on the U.S. request. The Turkish prime minister at the time, Abdullah Gul, appeared racked with doubts about a war, and Turkish officials suggest he secretly opposed the American troop request.

The deadlines were never real, U.S. officials admit now, but merely a feint to keep pressure on Turkey...

In Turkey, senior party officials said, a significant faction within the government believed Turkey could prevent a war by dragging out the negotiations and voting no if necessary. This view was reinforced by resistance to U.S. plans at the United Nations, and also by a meeting on Feb. 18 between Gul and French President Jacques Chirac during which Chirac praised the Turkish position, the officials said. Chirac was spearheading efforts at the United Nations to continue inspections and avoid a war.

"We tried very hard to prevent the war," acknowledged one senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Many believed it was possible. They didn't understand the Bush administration wouldn't listen."

Gul was strongly influenced by this faction, officials said. He visited Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iran in a regional peace effort, and hosted a conference of foreign ministers in Istanbul. He also dispatched a minister to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi officials, and sent a plane to bring the Iraqi vice president to Ankara.

"Up to some point, he believed in the notion that Turkey could do something to stop the war," said Fehmi Koru, a popular antiwar columnist and a former classmate of Gul's. "But when time ran out, and the U.S. pressure increased, he realized it was impossible."

"As one after another after another deadline passed, they couldn't understand what we were all about, and figured they could just keep this going on forever," acknowledged a senior administration official.

By the time the vote was finally scheduled on March 1, party officials said Gul's qualms about the war were so obvious, he was unable to persuade parliament to approve the U.S. deployment. Speaking to parliament before the vote, lawmakers said, Gul failed to make a convincing case. "We could tell his heart wasn't in it," said one lawmaker.
Hanson thinks the Turks' refusal was "preordained to hamper U.S. military operations," or in other words, they knew we were going to war but wanted to make it as tough for us as they could. But that's not what happened--they were against the war, as was obvious when the negotiations with them started, and, due in no small part to administration deadlines that repeatedly turned out to be meaningless, a lot of them thought they could prevent the war from happening. By the time they put it to a vote, just about every factor that could have worked against its passage was in play, and it still only failed by three votes out of 533. So what would Hanson be saying if three fez-wearing legislators had voted the other way? Wouldn't he be hailing Turkey as a model of Muslim democracy that could provide hope for the rest of the region? He certainly wouldn't be criticizing them in conspiratorial terms.
4:48 PM
:: Thursday, April 03, 2003 ::
An old Hollywood anecdote
Diane thinks that the Jessica Lynch story is potentially grist for the Hollywood mill, and we were throwing around some ideas over e-mail. Diane likened it to two Jewish movie executives arguing over a script, which reminded me of a story I heard some time ago about Samuel Goldwyn, one of the big studio bosses in the early Hollywood years. Like several of his contemporaries, Goldwyn was a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe. In the early 1940s, he was producing the movie Pride of the Yankees, which was a bio-pic about the legendary Lou Gehrig. Goldwyn came to the set and talked with the actors, some of whom were Gehrig's teammates playing themselves in the movie. Goldwyn didn't follow baseball very much, but he liked to put on a show of knowing more than he did. One of the people he spoke to on the set was Bill Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher for the '30s Yankees teams, who asked something about how the movie was being shot. Presuming that Dickey was just another one of the actors, Goldwyn used some film jargon, something like "a cross-cut to the dugout." Dickey said he didn't understand, so Goldwyn looked at him with an air of superiority and started to explain: "You see, the 'dugout' is where the players wait when they're not on the field..."
1:02 AM
:: Wednesday, April 02, 2003 ::
Greater significance
The "vacationing" Letter From Gotham comes across a golden nugget of defeatism from a BBC reporter who claims that the rescue of American POW Jessica Lynch is just "one small success story" in a war otherwise devoid of them so far. But why didn't the reporter comment on the fact that Lynch's hometown in West Virginia is called Palestine? Surely that means something! It must be a sign of...well...nothing. Just like when the space shuttle Columbia, with Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon on board, broke up over a wide area that included Palestine, Texas. The widely commented on significance of that was...uh, widely commented on. It certainly didn't exist in any reasonable person's mind.
10:42 AM
Catching up on criticism
The recent trend in media coverage featuring ex-generals criticizing the administration's war approach largely started in the Washington Post late last week. War hawks have constantly complained about media negativism in general, but I haven't seen many specific complaints about the Post. Now the NY Times has a couple of op-eds by very high level ex-generals weighing in with some criticism. Undoubtedly the Times will be accused of treason in the usual quarters.

One of the Times op-eds is by Merrill McPeak, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force during the first Gulf War. Most of his piece is positive:
Now 50 miles short of [Baghdad], the troops are being resupplied — the pause that refreshes — and we've begun something that looks remarkably like an air campaign. Flying about a thousand sorties a day, we've lost a total of zero war planes — in itself an amazing performance. The Republican Guard can either hunker down outside Baghdad and die slowly, or maneuver and die quickly. Looks like pretty good tactics to me.
His one major criticism is levelled directly at the administration's diplomacy, but he pointedly excludes Powell:
If there is a criticism to be made militarily, it concerns the shortage of air support from land bases. We are relying to a great extent on cruise missiles, of which we have a limited supply; long-range bombers, which are not great against moving forces; helicopters, which are vulnerable to ground fire; and air strikes from carriers, which can carry only so many planes. Land-based tactical air is the First Team. Yet we don't have enough of it — largely because diplomatic failures cost us the use of air bases in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. (Here, I mean no criticism of Secretary of State Colin Powell, who played the cards the White House dealt him as well as can be imagined.)
McPeak was considerably less diplomatic in this interview from a few days ago that Josh Marshall linked to:
For whatever reason, the Turks and the Saudis have decided that this is not a legitimate use of power. By the way, they appear to be in the majority worldwide. I believe that one of the elements of power is the ethical and moral authority that is conferred on forces when their use is seen to be legitimate. It's as important as bullets, in my opinion.

When we started bombing Kosovo, everybody in the world saw that -- how painful that decision was. They knew we weren't there to make Kosovo the 51st state; they knew we didn't go into Afghanistan to put George Bush's face on the money there. When we act with legitimacy, it gives our military actions a source of strength. I mean for me this is an aspect of the political maladroitness. I mean you just have to say that you wonder if there's anybody in the White House that's an educated adult.
The other Times op-ed is by Joseph Hoar, who was Norman Schwarzkopf's successor as commander in chief of US forces in the Middle East. He doesn't pull any punches, to put it mildly:
The officials in the chain of command responsible for making decisions on troop strength are the president, the secretary of defense and the head of the Central Command. Each has a considerable staff to help him develop and review plans. In 1990, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, using his staff and the Joint Chiefs, scrubbed the Central Command's initial plan, then reshaped it into the strategy that was subsequently executed with great success.

In that process, the rest of the military and the public knew that the stated needs of the commander, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, were always given significant weight. Today, however, nobody outside a small circle of players knows exactly who developed the plan for this invasion or what the prevailing views were.

There was an opportunity last summer to let senior military officials talk when the Senate held hearings on giving the president authority to act in Iraq. Unfortunately, the Defense Department's civilian leadership turned down a request from the Senate that officers like Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of Central Command, or any of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testify. Instead, the Senate committees got most of their input from a disparate group of retired generals and civilians with wide-ranging views of the requirements for the campaign.

On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the invasion plan was "essentially" put together by General Franks, and yesterday he said that it had the unanimous approval of the Joint Chiefs. I'm sure that is true. However, it is not clear, in the give and take of developing the plan, who the key players were, who in the process gave ground, who among the National Security Council, the Pentagon officials and the Central Command staff had their way. This is important because, while the central tenet of the military establishment is civilian control, the concepts of accountability and responsibility are a close second and third.

Over the past several months, many military officials have reported to the community of retired officers that there were serious disagreements between the uniformed military and the civilian leadership. Some have told me that those in uniform who called for using three additional divisions in Iraq were ridiculed for their "old thinking." One retired four-star general warned that this debate was about more than just invading Iraq — that civilians wanted the war done in a new, leaner way to justify their vision of the "transformation force" expected to be in place by 2010...

That we do not now have enough troops on the ground is not important in terms of the outcome — we will win and depose the regime in Iraq. However, the concept of risk in a military operation is not solely about winning and losing, it is also about the cost. In this case, the cost will be measured in American lives.

When we are victorious and when we begin the more daunting challenge of the reconstruction of Iraq, I hope the Senate will again hold hearings. This time, perhaps, the senior military commanders and the civilian defense officials can testify as to exactly how the plan was conceived and developed. Then the American people will know, if belatedly, why we didn't send enough troops to begin with.

12:54 AM
:: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 ::
Reverse snobbery, and another thing
I seem to be sniping quite a bit of late about stuff that Andrew Sullivan has written. It's a sign of respect from me, as I enjoy his material and wouldn't bother thinking about it or reading it if he were a polemical idiot like some other right-wing media figures. But something he said in this post bothered me, namely his description of Ken Pollack as "the acceptable face of hawkery for the liberal elites."

First off, what's up with the liberal "elites"? Liberals, inasmuch as people who accept that label share similar political views, don't look at issues like Iraq too differently whether they're in the "elite" or not. Why does no one ever talk about the "conservative elites," a label which certainly describes Sullivan? I wonder if I'm in the liberal "elite." I'm definitely not rich or famous, although I do watch PBS and foreign films, so maybe that counts.

The bigger point is the description of Pollack as the "acceptable face of hawkery" for liberals. The implication here is obvious. Everyone's views on the Iraq war are either hawkish or dovish, for it or against it, so Ken Pollack is in the same camp as Ken "Cakewalk" Adelman. But since us liberals don't like Republicans, the only "acceptable face of hawkery" for us is someone like Pollack, who worked in the Clinton administration. Even more importantly, he isn't one of those diabolical neo-cons. Liberals are just too blinded by partisanship to trust any non-liberal Iraq hawks.

This is all nonsense, because Pollack and the super-hawks are decidedly not part of the same camp on this issue. You can be for the war, but very critical of the way Bush got us into it--just like Pollack himself, as Chris Suellentrop demonstrated a few weeks ago in Slate:
In interviews and op-ed articles, Pollack himself still supports the war, saying that now is better than never. But it's fair to say that his book does not—or at least not Bush's path to it. Which may be one reason why so many liberals have been persuaded by it. Pollack's reluctant tone, his respect for doves' sincere and patriotic motives (Pollack says the term "appeasers" is a "vicious slander"), his emphasis on the humanitarian virtues of regime change, and his somewhat dismissive attitude toward the over-optimistic unilateralism of the "far right" all suggest that he was writing with a liberal audience in mind. The Threatening Storm demonstrates that you don't have to be pro-Bush to be pro-war. Think that Bush should focus on al-Qaida before Saddam? So does Pollack. Think that Bush should make a more serious effort to reduce the violence between Israelis and Palestinians before invading Iraq? So does Pollack. Think Bush's linkage of al-Qaida and Saddam is facile and unconvincing? So does Pollack. Fearful that Bush's endorsement of the "pre-emption" doctrine could set a dangerous precedent that other nations might imitate? So is Pollack. Worried that Bush's inattention to the rebuilding of Afghanistan bodes poorly for the reconstruction of Iraq? So is Pollack!
Pollack is not the "acceptable" war supporter for liberals because we're too lame to acknowledge support for Bush. Pollack is one of the responsible faces of hawkery, which is not the sort of hawkishness that Bush is pursuing.
12:43 AM
:: Monday, March 31, 2003 ::
Now this would make for some good TV
Every news channel's war coverage involves lots of ex-military officers giving their views on the war so far, often while standing on top of gigantic maps on the studio floor. But what if one of them were to pull rank in the middle of a discussion?

ANCHOR: Not many battles going on near Baghdad yet. What's going to happen next, gentlemen?

COLONEL: The Iraqis are about to push out of the city, but they're just trying to lure us in there for house-to-house urban warfare.

GENERAL: Wrong answer, scumbag! Now drop and give me twenty!

COLONEL: Uh, wait a minute...

GENERAL: Do you speak English, numbnuts? I said drop and give me twenty!

COLONEL: Yes, sir. (starts doing push-ups)

ANCHOR: Commercial, dammit! Cut to commercial!
11:31 AM
:: Sunday, March 30, 2003 ::
Media defeatism and "bias" only happens against Republicans
At least that what's many Bush supporters seem to think. Negative media coverage of the war, even when it only goes so far as to observe that the war isn't going to be as easy as the "cakewalk" crowd said it would be, has only one true source: personal hatred of Bush himself. This is of course related to the insidious agenda of the media in general, which hates Republicans and loves Democrats. So if a Democratic administration was waging a war, surely the "liberal" media would be as supportive and "unbiased" as Fox News and National Review are during this war. Right?

Wrong. As William Saletan of Slate wrote during the Kosovo war in 1999, under the Clinton administration (and we know that the "liberal" media never criticized him about anything), there was plenty of defeatism and hand-wringing, much of it based on dishonest premises:
American reporters think their job is to examine U.S. policy-makers not foreign policy-makers. So they discount Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's behavior as an objective consequence of Clinton's subjective decisions. When Serbian ethnic cleansing follows NATO bombing, reporters treat the Serbian action not as the product of free will but as a reaction determined by NATO's action. So while journalists on the ground report on Serbian atrocities, journalists in the studios and the newsrooms in effect pass the blame to NATO and Clinton.

This bias has produced a bizarre blame-America-first spin on the right. "We have ignited the very human rights catastrophe the war was started to avoid," declared Pat Buchanan on Face the Nation. Columnist Arianna Huffington compared Kosovo to Waco, arguing that just as Clinton's actions six years ago "precipitated" the murder-suicides by the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, his intervention in Kosovo "has unwittingly produced one of the great humanitarian catastrophes of the 20th century." While some conservatives allege that Clinton's unnecessary belligerence provoked the Serbs to ethnic cleansing, others say his timidity about using ground troops "emboldened" the Serbs to the same effect. Clinton even gets the blame for Russian hostility. On Meet the Press, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., accused Clinton of "pushing Russia into a corner and putting them in a position where they're no longer able to do anything but to react in an aggressive way towards our action."

When the Serbs butcher another 50 Kosovar Albanians or drive another 100,000 out of Kosovo, it's a dog-bites-man story. When NATO bombs what it thought was a military convoy and instead hits a caravan of civilian refugees, killing scores, it's a man-bites-dog story. For several days, the media treated the casualties caused by NATO as the lead story from Kosovo, overshadowing far greater casualties caused during that time by the Serbs. "This may have cost NATO the moral high ground," declared John McLaughlin, invoking the moral-equivalence formula usually despised by conservatives. Meanwhile, the Serbs' role in pushing the refugees onto the road in the middle of a war zone was scarcely mentioned.

Today's media report news instantaneously and expect it to be made instantaneously as well. In less than two weeks, their verdict on the bombing of Yugoslavia leapt from unfulfilled objectives to failure to impossibility. Since air power hasn't brought the Serbs to their knees in four weeks, the media conclude that it never will. Congressional Republicans have decided it's "doomed to failure," according to Fred Barnes. Never mind that under NATO's plan, the bombing will become more severe each week...

Centuries ago, scientific philosophers invented a strict separation between talking about the way the world is and talking about the way it ought to be. Today's media, following this premise, separate "editorial" from "news" judgments. The only standard by which "news" organizations feel comfortable evaluating a policy is success or failure, not right or wrong. So the media's consensus about Kosovo is that NATO's policy is "not working." As Tim Russert put it to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on Meet the Press, "The atrocities continue. What success can you point to that any of your strategy has worked?" The alternative perspective goes overlooked: that the question is what NATO must do, that atrocities are a challenge rather than a verdict, and that NATO should persevere precisely because they continue...

The pundits' verdict is in: The war is "doomed" and "already lost." On Late Edition, Wolf Blitzer observed that Milosevic "doesn't give, after a month of this, any impression that he is backing down." Quoting a report that U.S. military leaders see no sign "that Milosevic is changing his strategy or about to break," Russert asked Talbott, "Are we losing this war?" Other talking heads asserted that NATO is "not united" and won't be able to "stand up" as the conflict wears on. "Time is not on our side," warned former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft on Late Edition. "It is going to be very difficult to keep the alliance together."

Of course, the best way to assure that Milosevic doesn't break, that NATO comes apart, and that the United States loses the war is to predict that Milosevic won't break, that NATO will come apart, and that the United States will lose the war. These predictions bolster the Serbs' morale while undermining NATO's. As Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., observed on Face the Nation, "Patience and resolve are as important a weapon today as actually the airstrikes are."
In case anyone's forgotten, the Kosovo campaign ended in victory for NATO. That was in spite of media skepticism that at least matches, and frequently outweighs, that which we're seeing now in the Iraq war, which (unlike Kosovo) has the benefit of clearly identifiable benchmarks like the conquest of territory. It was also in spite of the almost unanimous carping and criticism from the Republicans that vastly outweighed anything coming from the Democrats in this war. Could it have been because the Republicans hated Clinton more than they wanted the Kosovo campaign to succeed? Could it be because the media likes bad news more than good news, and thus will tend to put a pessimistic spin on events in any war, no matter which President is running it?
1:37 PM

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