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

:: Saturday, April 10, 2004 ::

Shouldn't this have happened a year ago?
So, let's see, regarding the situation in Iraq after the June 30 withdrawal of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the people in charge are going to be...? The governing body that will be in charge of the biggest US-led nation-building project since WWII will be...? It'd be nice if there was a plan that anybody could point to. In terms of dealing with various Iraqi factions to come up with a workable plan, the administration has left almost everything up to UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. There are also some vaguely pathetic efforts underway to assemble a new global security force to provide protection for any UN personnel who might return to Iraq.

My question is, what exactly has the CPA accomplished in the past year that a UN-led civilian administration couldn't have done? Schools re-opening, power grids coming back online, those have been some positive achievements. Not exactly beyond the capability of a UN administration, though. Now we've got an approaching deadline, with no plan anywhere close to being in place, and a frighteningly violent insurrection that may or may not spread throughout the country. Having a UN civilian leadership in place for the past year wouldn't necessarily have averted these problems, of course. But it certainly would have had more legitimacy within Iraq than the CPA, and we would have had officials like Brahimi working on a transfer of power for the past 12 months. It's also clear that in that case, the UN would have been much less likely to pull its personnel out of Iraq in the event of a major suicide bombing of its headquarters, as happened last August.

After the fall of Saddam's regime, the question of whether it was better to keep full control of the post-war process or work through the UN was a largely theoretical one, since nobody knew exactly how things were going to turn out. In retrospect, I find it very hard to square the actions that the administration itself is now taking--setting a hard deadline for withdrawing its civilian authority, working primarily through a UN envoy to try to set up a plan for the transition--with any of the previous arguments against having a UN civilian administrator from day one. The fact that Bush and company are doing those things right now is a pretty clear argument for having done so from the beginning.
10:55 PM
:: Wednesday, April 07, 2004 ::
Bad news
Scroll down to the fifth definition from the top here to see what word I think comes to mind for what's going on now in Iraq. This is really, really bad. I hope the lynchings of some American contractors in Fallujah last week wasn't the start of a major downward spiral that could continue for some time to come, but I can't help fearing that it might end up being somewhat analogous to the mid-October 2000 savagery in Ramallah, where some Israeli soldiers who had taken a wrong turn by mistake ended up being beaten to death and hurled out of a Palestinian police station window (the latter part on camera) by a bloodthirsty mob. It was one of the first major signs that the then-two week old intifada was an entirely new ballgame, a lot worse and a much bigger deal than some of the Palestinian violence that had sporadically flared up over the previous 2-3 years. And the suicide bombing didn't even kick in again until quite a few months after that Ramallah incident.

Update: Just remembered this article that I posted about last August. There were growing concerns about anti-occupation Sunni/Shiite coordination between Sadr, the main Shiite rebellion figure right now, and another somewhat prominent Sunni cleric. Maybe some behind the scenes collaboration has been going on with those guys and others to prepare for an opportunity like this.
3:26 PM
:: Monday, April 05, 2004 ::
Was it those strapping hunks of the Sayeret?
A little more information than I needed to know from Ehud Barak in an interview with Gil Rivah of Ma'ariv:
"[I]n my practical life I cannot stand self satisfaction, I therefore never let myself get carried away by the enthusiasm around me. I just want to be in control so that I can be effective and experience life consciously, not like a drunkard, but its not as if I have never had an internal moment of gratification. I have only once allowed myself to be dragged all the way. When I was a young man I got drunk after one of the Sayeret Matkal (elite IDF unit) missions I commanded. We were at (former intelligence chief) Meir Amit’s house and we drank a bottle of whiskey and we all threw up. I remember how I felt while drunk and how I felt when sobering up and thinking that I never want to be in this situation again."

That’s a bit extreme, isn't it?

"Look, there are many things that I am capable of doing, but because I think they will end badly I refrain from doing them. Snowboarding, for example, hypnotizes me. I never tried soft drugs or homosexual relations despite knowing that I could try them if I wanted to."

When I asked Barak why he chose to give soft drugs and homosexual relations as examples, he explained that those were two things he had given serious thought to. “Those are two things that came up when I engaged in internal dialogue with myself about limits, and I came to the conclusion that nothing is forbidden between a man and himself. I think that being a drag queen is the only thing I would not allow myself to do even if I really wanted to”.
Perhaps it has something to do with this famous commando attack against PLO terrorists in Lebanon, where he disguised himself as a woman. Maybe that was the one operation where he says he got drunk afterwards. I think he was made up to look like a grandma/older woman type, which would make sense in that they were disguised as tourists. Not to mention that I can't imagine him ever passing for a woman under 60, even back when he was much younger!
11:00 AM

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