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, May 15, 2004 ::

The Halle Berry doctrine
Yossi Alpher of Bitter Lemons has an article in the Washington Post about America's options for getting out of Iraq. I never heard anyone put it this way before, but it would be interesting to see any and all pretenses of nation-building explicitly abandoned and codified in doctrine (that would immediately open itself up to mocking based on the most notorious celebrity incident of said nature):
Declare victory and withdraw. Save American (and coalition) lives and avoid more painful mistakes. Put future Saddam Husseins on notice that the United States has adopted a new "hit and run" strategy to remove them without the complications of extended occupation and nation-building. This may turn out in the long term to be the only realistic option.
The last option that Alpher outlines is surely the one we'll be seeing implemented:
Status quo. Hunker down, try to reduce losses, invent new ways to "democratize" Iraq, outlast the prison scandal and hope things improve. This is probably where the United States will go in the short term, because both bureaucratically and ideologically it's the easy option.

10:59 AM
:: Friday, May 14, 2004 ::
Some tough Democrats
Nice to see Paul Wolfowitz getting pounded at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Hillary Clinton stated some incontrovertible facts:
"You come before this committee . . . having seriously undermined your credibility over a number of years now," she said. "When it comes to making estimates or predictions about what will occur in Iraq, and what will be the costs in lives and money, . . . you have made numerous predictions, time and time again, that have turned out to be untrue and were based on faulty assumptions."

She quoted to him from his previous testimony from the run-up to the war, in which he asserted that the Iraqi people would see the United States as their liberator, that Iraq could finance its own reconstruction and that the estimate of Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, that it would take several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq was "outlandish."
Wolfowitz' response was pretty pathetic:
[He] ignored many of the attacks [from committe members], including most of Clinton's charges. But he told her that in disagreeing with Shinseki's estimates on the troop requirements for postwar Iraq, he was siding with another senior Army general closer to the action -- Gen. Tommy R. Franks, then chief of the Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for Iraq and the Middle East.
Hey, don't look at me, someone else was wrong, too.

Now, the civilian leaders at the Pentagon (Wolfowitz being #2, behind Rumsfeld) are, of course, supposed to exercise oversight over the generals. The idea, though, is to overrule the ones who are wrong, not the ones who are right. It's obvious who was right and who was wrong in this case.

There were also plenty of reasons to listen to Shinseki, in spite of Wolfowitz' "the other guy was in the field" dissembling. Shinseki had experience in Bosnia, as a ground commander during a major post-conflict/nation-building enterprise. Almost everyone else who had any experience at all in the Balkans was saying the same thing as him about post-regime-change Iraq (that it would take a lot more troops than the Balkans did).
"I didn't have time to respond . . . to the whole list" of Clinton's points, Wolfowitz said in an interview last night. "I plan to."
With more buck passing? He has no direct response to her accusations, of course. They're undeniably true. This guy has no credibility left at all.
12:20 AM
:: Thursday, May 13, 2004 ::
The anti-de Gaulle
It strikes me that in some ways, Ahmad Chalabi is almost the 180 degree opposite of Charles de Gaulle, with respect to their positions as potential leaders in exile. De Gaulle was widely disliked by American and British officials during WWII, who figured that he was a self-centered showboat who was wildly overstating his potential importance within France. But after the Allies drove the Germans out of France, de Gaulle turned out to have lots of political legitimacy within the country, and he played a key role in bringing it back together. Chalabi, on the other hand, had top-level US officials tripping over themselves to believe everything he told them and anoint him the future leader of Iraq. Then, when he got back into the country, it turned out that he had exactly zero political legitimacy with the people he was supposed to be leading into a new era.
6:38 PM
:: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 ::
What a scumbag
Not that I'm usually surprised by anything this guy says, but one Senator sure didn't mince any words this past week, as lots of other blogs have already commented on:

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe hails from the wing of the Republican Party that believes coddling Iraqi prisoners is for wimps.

Appearing last week on MSNBC's Hardball, Inhofe spoke approvingly about "some of the things that the French did" during their brutal and futile 1950s war to suppress Algerian independence. Referring to current interrogation tactics, Inhofe said, "You've just got to be tough, and you've got to try to get the information out. If you don't get the information out, more Americans can be killed. And then you'd really hear squealing about it."

It was one thing to spew on cable television, but it was qualitatively different for Inhofe to express similar unapologetic sentiments Tuesday morning during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the prisoner-abuse scandal...Inhofe did not mince words when it was his turn at the committee's microphone. He began by expressing puzzlement at "this outrage everybody seems to have about the treatment of these prisoners." Speaking for himself, but suggesting that he had hidden supporters on the committee, Inhofe said, "I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment"...

What Inhofe's comments reflect is the belief that, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, America is entitled to play by its own rules, heedless of worldwide public sentiment. The senator from Oklahoma did express a few muted sentences of regret over the conduct of the accused U.S. prison guards: "They were misguided, I think even perverted, and the things they did have to be punished." But Inhofe reserved his true outrage for such unlikely targets as the "many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons, looking for human-rights violations, while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying."
A lone wolf, not representative of anyone's opinion but his own, right? Well...
At a time when the Bush administration has issued a series of apologies for the mistreatment of Iraqi captives, it might be easy to assume that Inhofe is consciously challenging the White House from its right flank. But the Oklahoma senator insists that he is stoutly supporting the administration and beleaguered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Asked about his inflammatory opening statement to the committee, Inhofe said confidently, "I'm sure that the president was glad that I did it."
Republican "moral clarity," in all its glory. Let's see who's willing to contradict him on this.
4:16 PM

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