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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

:: Saturday, November 15, 2003 ::

More Sullivan sophistry
Via Matthew Yglesias, I see that Mark A.R. Kleiman responded to some Wesley Clark bashing by Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan. I've pretty much given up on reading Sullivan at this point, but I do want to address one point in his Clark bashing New Republic article that Kleiman didn't mention:
It should be recalled that the United States and its allies, particularly Great Britain, secured a 15-0 Security Council Resolution demanding complete and unfettered access to potential sites of WMD development--or else--in Iraq. The "else" was subject to debate, but the notion that it ruled out any military action is one only Dominique de Villepin would argue with a straight face. No such 15-0 vote occurred at any time before the Kosovo war. So, if anything, the war against Iraq had more international legitimacy than the war in Kosovo.
In a word, no. This is an incredibly tendentious argument that compares two different situations under a far too narrow working definition of "international legitimacy."

First of all, it's true that there was no 15-0 vote on the Security Council in favor of the US position before the Kosovo War. However, the resolutions on Kosovo that are the most analogous with Resolution 1441 on Iraq, which is what Sullivan was referring to, are Resolutions 1199 and 1203 from September and October of 1998. They basically demanded that the two belligerent sides, the Kosovar Albanians and the Yugoslavian government, should cease all violence and cooperate with international mediation efforts. Like the Iraq resolution, neither of them explicitly authorized the use of force, but nor did they rule it out. Neither of them passed 15-0, but 1199 passed with 14 votes for and 1 abstention, from China, and 1203 passed with 13 votes for and 2 abstentions, from Russia and China. So by the strict definition of "international legitimacy" that Sullivan is applying--how the Security Council voted on resolutions that indicated the possibility of military action without actually endorsing it--he's on the shakiest possible ground for claming that the Iraq war had more legitimacy than the Kosovo war. 15-0 in one case, and 14-0-1/13-0-2 in the other case, is a distinction without a difference.

But there's a lot more to international legitimacy than what the UN Security Council votes on. The Kosovo war was fought by the NATO alliance, all 19 member states. The extra legitimacy that this brought to the US, including the co-operation of those America-haters in France and Germany, was the difference-maker on several important issues, as explained by Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris in this Slate article from earlier this year. Not that Iraq should have been fought as a NATO war a la Kosovo--nobody ever suggested that--but Glastris discusses the marginalization of NATO by the Bush administration and how it affected Iraq.

Also, when it comes to war, there's a lot more to international legitimacy than who votes to do what before the war happens. In Kosovo, the UN and (obviously) NATO were involved with the post-war phase from the very beginning, so that no one country, including the US, had to supply more than a fraction of the resources to that effort. I'm quite sure (don't feel like finding a link to confirm this) that from the beginning, the US has contributed less than 20% of the international military and financial resources that have gone into governing Kosovo since the war ended. But in Iraq, the US is supplying more than 90% of the military force and a large majority of the re-construction costs as well. And some previous commitments from other countries to send troops are indefinitely on hold, like with South Korea and Japan.

Admittedly, it would never have been feasible to get as high a percentage of post-regime-change non-US international presence in Iraq as we got in post-war Kosovo, but surely we could have done a lot better. This is what The Threatening Storm author Ken Pollack had to say at a Brookings Institution panel discussion on Iraq from two and a half months ago (from page 20 of the PDF transcript of the event):
In those few weeks after the fall of Baghdad, most of our allies were coming back to us and saying, look, clean slate; we had our differences before the war, but the war is now over; we want to mend fences, we want to be part of the reconstruction, we want to help. And the Administration stiffed them and basically told them it's our way or the highway.

Now it's several months later, and we're having a hard time in Iraq. And there are a lot of countries which, A, feel like we're getting our come-uppance for our arrogant behavior immediately after the war, and who also feel like, well, you know, gee, do we really want to get involved in this--things have deteriorated considerably. And I will just say that I don't think that this was inevitable by any stretch of the imagination. I do not think that the situation that we are in now was inevitable. I think that if we had handled things differently right from the get-go, we could be in a very different position today. But the fact of the matter is that we are in a very difficult position inside of Iraq and there are a lot of countries which I think would have been much more willing to contribute ahead of time than there are going to be today.
Sure, this war has more international legitimacy than Kosovo. Isn't it obvious? What a wacko that Clark is.
3:45 PM
:: Thursday, November 13, 2003 ::
Did I mention that I'm a Tarantino freak?
Several times, already, but when I was just reading this NY Times magazine piece, I noticed a connection. It's a conversation between Tarantino and another director/screenwriter, Brian Helgeland. Tarantino says this:
My crush on Tatum O'Neal was so strong that actually you could almost consider it your first love. So in the sixth grade I started writing an ABC ''Afterschool Special'' about me meeting Tatum O'Neal. I called her Somerset in the script, and I did what I could never do in real life. I finagled a way, through conniving and lying, to meet Somerset O'Neal. And she was charmed by me. I never got that far in the script. I wrote the first 20 pages and then abandoned it.
Having seen Pulp Fiction more than a dozen times, I immediately noticed that this was the origin of something in that movie. In the Jackrabbit Slim's restaurant scene, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) tells Vincent Vega (John Travolta) about the TV show pilot that she did, "Fox Force Five." One of the titular characters was "a blond one, Somerset O'Neal--she was the leader."
11:39 AM
:: Tuesday, November 11, 2003 ::
Arrangements for Gaza
The various ideas that Israeli officials proposed for dealing with the Gaza Strip just after the Six-Day War are discussed at some length in this Ha'aretz article from last weekend. Everyone wanted to keep it as part of Israel:
Shortly before the outbreak of the war, the right-wing Gahal party, led by Menachem Begin, joined the government of prime minister Levi Eshkol. Immediately after the war, when initial discussions began about the future of the conquered territories, there were only two areas in which there was full agreement between right and left.

A broad consensus emerged concerning the future of Jerusalem. On June 11, 1967, the government decided to annex the eastern section of the city to West Jerusalem, along with a few Palestinian villages. The other area about which no differences emerged was the Gaza Strip. All the sides agreed that it should be an integral part of Israel.
But what to do with all the refugees living there? The first hope for dealing with that went nowhere:
[I]n mid-July 1967, Yigal Allon formulated the plan that bears his name, which became the basis for Israeli government policy until the Likud's ascent to power in May 1977. In reference to the Gaza Strip, Allon stated in the document he submitted to the cabinet: "The Gaza Strip, including its permanent residents, will be designated an integral part of the State of Israel. The official annexation of the Strip to the state will be done only after the Gaza Strip refugees have been rehabilitated outside the Strip. Until then the Strip will have the status of an occupied area administered by the Military Government. The necessary arrangements will be made for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) to continue to bear responsibility for the refugees and for the government ministries to deal with the permanent population."

This clause, which was subsequently forgotten and abandoned, is the key to understanding the status of the Gaza Strip from June 1967 down to the present day. Allon, who was apprehensive about annexing the Gaza Strip with its hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, preferred to first initiate a plan that would empty the area of the refugees. In the first stage, he still believed that the international community would enlist in the effort to rehabilitate the Gaza refugees, who since 1948 had been living in wretched camps. However, it soon became apparent that the West, and still less the Arab states, had no interest in solving the problem of the refugees in Gaza.
I wonder what percentage of people living in Gaza at that time were 1948 refugees. I would guess that it was most of them, since Allon stated that "its permanent residents" should be part of its annexation into Israel.

The next attempted solution didn't work either:
It was decided to make an effort to encourage Palestinian refugees from Gaza to emigrate and thus to empty the area, leaving only the permanent residents. The thinking at the time was that this would bring about the possibility of annexing the Gaza Strip to Israel according to the parameters of the Allon Plan. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was assigned the task of purchasing land in various countries, on which farms would be established for the Palestinian refugees. The intention was to propose to the refugees the possibility of emigrating and giving them money with which they would be able to make a go of the farms.

The JNF went ahead and bought land in several South American countries, but also, surprisingly, in Libya. That country was still ruled by King Idris, and land could be purchased there relatively easily. Once the land was purchased, the authorities started to issue false passports for refugees who agreed to emigrate, and they were sent to start a new life on the farms, which were handed over to them. There were few takers. Probably no more than a few hundred Palestinians left the Gaza Strip as part of this project.

In an incident at the end of the 1960s, shots were fired at the Israeli embassy in Paraguay. This was a period when Palestinian terrorism was on the rise and no one paid much attention to the event. No organization claimed responsibility. The perpetrators were probably "rehabilitated" Palestinians who were angry at Israel for not fulfilling the promises that had been made to them. In protest, they fired at the embassy. The emigration project, which in any event was not a success, was abandoned in the wake of the Paraguay incident.
Negotiations with Jordan to take control of parts of Gaza didn't get anywhere either. Then, things really got stupid: a few settlements were established. Unlike many of the West Bank settlements, no remotely convincing justification for the Gaza settlements has ever been put forward by anyone.

My dad once told me about how he first heard that Israel had made some major territorial acquisitions in the Sinai War of 1956, which it held onto for a few months before evacuating under severe diplomatic pressure from both the US and the USSR. He was in sixth or seventh grade, and his teacher came into the classroom from listening to the radio and said, "Aza b'yadeinu (Gaza is in our hands)!" I asked him if anyone had thought to respond, "So? Who the hell wants it?"
11:23 AM
:: Sunday, November 09, 2003 ::
Self-inflicted torture
The Palestinian divestment movement held their conference at Ohio State this fall. As I did last year here at Michigan, someone's gotta go into the hornet's nest to get the real story, and there are some reports up, with more to follow, on this new blog. I didn't get any insults or anti-Semitism directed at me when I went to the conference last year, but it looks like things weren't quite as calm this time around. Of course, Michigan rules, while Ohio State is lame, so that probably explains it :)
11:39 PM
Looks like Joe Biden hates America, too
His ideas for what to do in Iraq, laid out in this Washington Post article, are very similar to Clark's. Biden's been consistent in his favored approach to Iraq for well over a year, dating back to when the debate about war was just starting. Here's what he's saying now:
First, we should make Iraq a NATO mission, and "double hat" Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, by putting him in charge of a new NATO command for the region. More countries would take part, because they would be reporting to the North Atlantic Council, not the Pentagon. But the United States would retain operational control on the ground with Gen. Abizaid as head of the new NATO command.

Second, we should create a high commissioner for Iraq who reports to an international board of directors of which the United States would be chairman. The high commissioner could be a leading international figure or the head of the Iraqi reconstruction effort, Paul Bremer, wearing dual hats like Abizaid.

The recent donors conference in Madrid is a painful example of the price we pay for doing everything ourselves. Typically, as in the Balkans, the United States covers about 25 percent of reconstruction costs after a major conflict. By that ratio, the $18.7 billion Congress just approved for Iraq's reconstruction should have generated about $60 billion from the rest of the world. Instead we got $13 billion, of which $9 billion was loans. As long as the Coalition Provisional Authority is the primary body making decisions for how Iraq will be rebuilt, other countries will be reluctant to fork over real money. They want a true say in how it will be spent.

Third, we should transform the Iraqi Governing Council into a provisional government, with greater sovereign powers, and make it an institution that better represents Iraq's constituencies. This transfer of authority should not be held hostage to the complicated and time-consuming process of writing a new constitution. Nothing would send a clearer message to the Iraqi people that the future is theirs to build and to inherit. And nothing would make it clearer to them that the Saddam Hussein loyalists and international terrorists killing our troops and Iraqi citizens are also trying to destroy their future.

11:34 AM

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