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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

:: Thursday, April 10, 2003 ::

Differences that are worth noting
I just noticed this great article from a week ago by Max Boot. He explains that contrary to the conventional wisdom (held at least by Vietnam-obsessed pessimists) that overwhelming American military force can be foiled by determined guerrilla warfare, the US has a very successful record throughout its history in fighting such para-military enemies. But here's a critical throwaway point at the end about Israel:
Saddam's appeal in the Arab world, which depends on successfully defying the "Crusaders," will be shattered. Thereafter, the US is committed to democratic reforms calculated to win over the bulk of the Iraqi population. (It is Israel's inability to implement such measures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that prevents it from winning a more complete victory against Palestinian militants.)

If civilians are the sea in which guerrillas must swim, as Mao famously said, then the Ba'athists likely will find Iraq an arid place before long.
Precisely. So how, I wonder, is Israel supposed to "defeat terrorism" and force the Palestinians to "surrender," or even bring about something that can remotely be called "victory"? Iraq is a country with a barbarous (ex-)ruler detested by his people, desperate for liberation. Saddam also lacked any meaningful external political support, as for all the French and Russian opposition to the war, they certainly weren't able to prevent it from happening. Under those circumstances, the overwhelming military superiority of US & British forces ensured the brilliant victory that we're seeing now.

Despite a significantly greater advantage in firepower over the Palestinians than the coalition forces enjoyed over Iraq (no army, no tanks, no Republican Guard for the Palestinians), it's 36 years and counting with no absolute "victory" for Israel. What exactly is going to cause the Palestinians to "surrender" and accept whatever Israel deigns to give them, when they enjoy political support of one degree or another from almost the entire international community? How is sheer Israeli firepower, absent any meaningful attempt to shake up the political realities of the situation, supposed to drain the sea in which the Palestinian terrorists swim? It's not going to be enough.
6:27 PM
:: Wednesday, April 09, 2003 ::
Dork alert
George Lucas has made several public statements in the last year or so indicating that there won't be any DVD editions of the original Star Wars trilogy films. Instead, he's only planning on doing DVDs of the Special Editions that were re-released in 1997 with some new effects and edited scenes. While I'm not as obsessed about the changes as many other Star Wars fans (most notably the "Han fired first, not Greedo!" conundrum from the first movie), I'm 100% behind the effort to get the original films on DVD. If nothing else, original theatrical cuts of movies should always be available to fans who prefer them to later "director's cuts." So click here to sign an on-line petition calling for the release of the original trilogy on DVD. Fanboy activist signing off...for now!
4:39 PM
No European collapse in the making
In typically cheeky style, The Economist points out this week that "Mr. Blair is not Mrs. Thatcher" when it comes to doing battle with continental Europe:
Excited anti-Europeans, for whom the last few weeks have been a delicious vindication, dare to hope that Mr Blair the war leader could soon tread in Margaret Thatcher's footsteps in other ways as well. After all, what did this once most starry-eyed Europhile do when finally forced to choose between Europe and America? Has he not learned, like nearly all of his predecessors, that Britain's fundamental interests and those of its continental “partners” are always doomed to diverge?

Surely, Prime Minister Blatcher will want not only to resist the encroachments of the coming European constitution, but to lead “new” Europe against the integrationist project of the evil Franco-German axis? When it comes to the euro, who would want to share a currency with the cheese-eating surrender monkeys? And while we're about it, what about joining NAFTA?

This is the stuff of fantasy. Mr Blair may have acquired a shrewd appreciation of what the French president Jacques Chirac is about, but for all the tough language he uses these days, he is no Mrs Thatcher. Unlike her, he is instinctively non-confrontational, but more importantly, and also unlike her, he neither feels isolated, nor would relish it if he was. Strange as it may seem, Mr Blair believes, in spite of everything, that there is still everything to play for.
There's also this obvious fact which hasn't stopped the Rumsfeld acolytes gleefully searching for some way to spin reality into the "old Europe, new Europe" paradigm:
Despite everything that has happened in the last three months, it is too soon to declare the attempts to put together a limited EU common foreign and security policy a completely busted flush. The differences over Iraq are acute, but they are the exception rather than the rule: on the majority of foreign policy issues, from the Middle East peace process to the role of international organisations and the value of treaties such as Kyoto, most European countries see eye to eye.

12:07 PM
:: Tuesday, April 08, 2003 ::
Congratulations 'Cuse
The college basketball season ended with an unlikely champion, with a freshman-dominated Syracuse team beating Kansas 81-78 in a very bizarre final game. Syracuse hit an incredible 10 3-pointers in the first half, and Kansas was shockingly bad from the free throw line, hitting only 12 out of 30 for the whole game. The referees sucked too, making several terrible calls that at least sort of evened out, with both teams getting called for non-existent fouls at different times. A meaningless bit of trivia to note is that Syracuse won the title with three straight wins over teams from the same conference (Oklahoma, then Texas, then Kansas), almost certainly a first in NCAA tournament history.
4:59 PM
It'll need a closing number
Diane regrets that Stanley Kubrick isn't alive to direct the Gulf War II movie, focusing on the rescue of PFC Lynch. One thing he probably would have come up with is a choice for a song at the end of the movie that one or more of the characters sing on-screen, as he did in his two war movies. In the 1957 WWI film Paths of Glory, the French soldiers crowd into a tavern and demand a song from the young German woman brought there to entertain them (played by Kubrick's soon-to-be wife, Christiane). She sings the wistful "Soldier Boy" (that's what this review says it's called) that reduces the triumphant soldiers to tears once they recognize it. Kubrick's other war movie, the 1987 Vietnam film Full Metal Jacket, ends with the Marine company marching off from their successful (but very costly) battle with mixed emotions, singing the theme song of the "The Mickey Mouse Club."

So if Kubrick were directing this movie, it would most likely end in similar fashion. It certainly isn't Vietnam or WWI, but his statement about this war would definitely end on a bittersweet note.
1:39 PM
:: Monday, April 07, 2003 ::
Don't call me "neo-con," not fair to me...
Some neo-conservatives are protesting the very existence of that term, at least when it's used to describe them, like Paul Wolfowitz in this article:
[Wolfowitz] said he dislikes such labels as "hawk" and "neo-conservative" because "I don't think they fit me very well. I certainly don't like a label that suggests I believe that the military is the solution to most of the world's problems."
Just after Bush's "axis of evil" speech, there was an article in The Economist where someone in the administration was quoted as saying that "hawk" was an inaccurate term for Wolfowitz because it wasn't as strong as the more accurate "velociraptor."

Another prominent neo-con, or at least someone who leans very much in that direction, is Eliot Cohen, author of the highly regarded book "Supreme Command" from last year. I saw an interview with him last fall on C-SPAN where he went all post-modern on the interviewer, C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb:
LAMB: Is it fair to call you a neo-conservative?

COHEN: I really don't like that term.

LAMB: Some of the press has done that.

COHEN: I know. I really don't like that.

LAMB: Can you label yourself?

COHEN: No. And I hate being labeled, and I don't like labeling others.
Strangely, in an earlier part of that same interview, Cohen talked about some of the people who contributed quotes that praised his book and had this to say about one of them:
Paul Kennedy is a wonderful historian who teaches at Yale. I think you'd have to say that his position on most things is, you know, pretty standard kind of liberal position on things.
Not that I think Cohen is a bad guy or a hypocrite (seriously), but you can certainly label that last quote a case of "labeling others." Maybe he said it without liking it.

I wonder if the next person who calls Richard Perle a neo-con will get sued for libel.
3:53 PM
:: Sunday, April 06, 2003 ::
Thank goodness for checks and balances
As described in this story from the Washington Post, Congress is battling back against the Bush administration's proposed authorization of an unrestricted Rumsfeldian reconstruction of Iraq:
Congress has already rewritten the emergency request for $2.5 billion in reconstruction assistance that Bush submitted last month, with the Senate barring the money from use by the Pentagon. The House has insisted that it go through the traditional State Department aid agencies. "The secretary of state is the appropriate manager of foreign assistance, and is so designated by law," said Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz), a House Appropriations Committee member, expressing a view widely held across party lines.

Prominent lawmakers said they expect the changes to survive a House-Senate conference this week. But the White House has mounted a strong effort to reverse them, including calls by Vice President Cheney late last week to the top GOP leadership...

Top Republicans as well as Democrats have been smarting for months over what they view as highhanded treatment by the White House and the Defense Department on a range of fiscal issues. While there is overwhelming support on Capitol Hill for the way Bush and Rumsfeld have conducted the war, the peacetime arrangements for Iraq outlined in Bush's emergency spending package met with near universal rejection.

In what members said was an unprecedented move, Bush asked for the $2.5 billion reconstruction fund to be appropriated to the White House itself, presumably to be distributed through the Pentagon. A memo prepared by senior GOP staff for the House Appropriations Committee noted that the arrangement would erect a "wall of executive privilege [that] would deny Congress and the Committee access to the management of the Fund. Decision-makers determining the allocation . . . could not be called as witnesses before hearings, and most fiscal data would be beyond the Committee's reach."
And that's according to Republican staffers in Congress, lest anyone think this has anything to do with partisan politics. I certainly hope that Congressional Republicans will stay allied with the Democrats in turning back this attempt by the White House to usurp total power, with total secrecy, for the reconstruction that everyone agrees will be tougher, and in many ways more important, than the war itself. It's disgraceful that Bush is trying to get away with this.
5:40 PM

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