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
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:: Friday, August 29, 2003 ::

More good news?
With yet another huge bombing in Iraq, this time just outside an important mosque, I wonder if anyone will try to spin it as evidence that the US is actually doing better than we thought we were, as happened last week with the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

One of the central planks of this argument, which Tom Friedman also buys into, is what might be called the "Ragnarok" theory. It's basically an element of the "flypaper" theory--namely, all the world's terrorists are streaming into Iraq for a final, winner-takes-all battle with America, a sort of terrorist Ragnarok. As Friedman says:
America's opponents know just what's at stake in the postwar struggle for Iraq, which is why they flock there: beat America's ideas in Iraq and you beat them out of the whole region; lose to America there, lose everywhere.
I think this is somewhat dubious reasoning. Nobody doubts that a peaceful, stable, representative political system in Iraq would have a positive effect on the Middle East (whether or not we can get there, especially with terrorists attacking all the time, is another question). But will that really bring about a final, total defeat for extremist terror organizations? It's not like there aren't any other places they could go, especially if things don't get better in Afghanistan. Successful nation-building in Iraq isn't going to be a lightning bolt that resolves all the problems of states that are failing in various ways, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which have been critical in spreading and incubating Islamic extremism. There'll be plenty more to do to stop terrorism no matter what happens in Iraq. Getting it right there will certainly help, maybe significantly in the long run, but it won't be the end of everything.
10:41 AM
:: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 ::
Dishonesty
David Warren has a convenient explanation for all the bad news coming out of Iraq--it's all the liberal media's fault:
What we [are being] told [is] ... not news, but rather a part of the media drumroll on U.S. casualties -- designed to do what Saddam Hussein could not, and mount pressure on the Bush administration, until it agrees to cut and run, leaving its pro-democratic Iraqi allies to the dogs, and inspiring an escalation of Islamist terrorism all over the world, at this proof that America is a "paper tiger".

Returning from four weeks of holiday, in which I did my best to avoid all news, I find myself again somewhat shocked by the sheer malice of the mainstream media. The journalists themselves are overwhelmingly "liberal". In the U.S., for instance, they have been shown to vote as a class for Democrats over Republicans by margins of more than ten-to-one; and further, that they tend to identify with the left wing of that Democrat Party. They want to bring down President Bush, at all costs; and if Iraq is turned back into a Saddamite killing field, or Al Qaeda is given a new lease on life, they don't particularly care. For they smell Republican blood.
Yes, the entire media cares more about bringing Bush down than they do about terrorism and other dangers around the world. We all remember how much attention the media paid to problems around the world, including Saddam and al-Qaeda, back when Clinton was president, instead of spending all their time covering the problems of his administration. Oh, what's that you say? All Monica, all the time, even through the embassy bombings in Africa and the last crisis with weapons inspectors in Iraq? Hmmm...

Even on its own terms, Warren's argument is lame. The problem as he sees it is that the Bush-hating media is stirring up trouble by spouting left-wing lies about how things are going badly in Iraq, with the potential consequence of a war-weary public being misled into thinking that it'd be better to get out of there soon. Now, I seem to remember strong public support for the war in the months leading up to it, and I do not recall any widespread leftist hysteria in the mainstream media about how it was going to be a colossal disaster, which one would have expected to hear and read if all they cared about was destroying Bush's presidency. So did the American people support the war because of the media, or in spite of it? Has the mainstream media been inciting against Bush all along, or is it more or less accurately informing and reflecting public concern with the war's violent aftermath? Warren is basically arguing that the people will believe whatever the media tells them, even when it's a pack of lies, and that the media is hell-bent on destroying the Republicans. This is impossible to square with the fact that most of the public supported the war--unless Warren is only going to accuse the media of lying when they disagree with him. It's partisan hackery.
3:51 PM
:: Monday, August 25, 2003 ::
Back in a couple of days
I'm moving to a new apartment, so things are kind of hectic for the time being.
10:27 PM
:: Sunday, August 24, 2003 ::
Not very believable
Occam's Toothbrush links to this article by a Romanian ex-Soviet intelligence officer accusing Russia of helping Saddam get rid of his WMD arsenals in the months leading up to the war. Moe sort of distances himself from the article's specific accusations, so this is not directed at him, but I really think that anyone who believes everything in this article is donning a tin-foil hat. How could all of this stuff take place without us having even the slightest hint that it was going on? Not just that we don't have proof, but that no one even mentioned it as a possibility.

On the broader issue of what happened to the WMD, even if you don't think it was all a Russian plot, it's still pretty ridiculous to think that all these weapons were indeed there just before the war, but were then hidden, transferred somewhere else, or destroyed right before we invaded, all right under our noses, without us having any evidence of it now. Here's part of what Zbigniew Brzezinski said on CNN in July (about halfway down in the transcript):
Here is an argument: A country is armed to the teeth. It poses a monumental threat to us. We go to war, we destroy its army, it never uses these weapons, we cannot find them in their arsenals. And now we claim that they may be hidden somewhere or exported somewhere. I mean, that really strains credulity...

[I]t tells you something about our intelligence if Iraq allegedly had all of these weapons, was so well armed, and then could destroy them without us even knowing about it. I mean, I think that's kind of a preposterous argument.

If we were so well informed that they had them, and we had all these reasons to go to war, and then they destroy them, disarm themselves, in effect, and we don't know about it, it clearly proves my case that there is something fundamentally wrong with the information on the basis of which we operate and on the basis of which we make decisions that we want the rest of the world to trust.

12:32 PM

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