Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Reptilian Brains

Not many posts since the election, what with the Christmas-New Year empty time following the exhaustion of the last two years that everyone must feel...But there is still the matter of this war we must fight. Historic perspective is rare in the American body politic, and when one side lays down to rest (as the R's did this last cycle), it gets, well, just cartoonish...Let's take a look again shall we? We lost 3000 + in 9/11 and just now, 5 1/2 years into a global war have we matched that number of casualties in Iraq, against one day's losses. We have not been attacked in almost 6 years. We have the lowest casualty rate of any conflict in the history of humankind...And this against the alternative of sitting back, waiting to be "suitcase nuked" by one of the millions of fanatical killers in the Islamic ghetto, waiting for the next sign of weakness...T (this article from an earlier date, but current in it's prescience)

After our victory in Afghanistan, the president's approval ratings soared, only to descend during the acrimony leading up to the March invasion of Iraq. But after the three-week war, somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of these same Americans purportedly returned to their earlier support of the president's initiatives.

That hard-earned endorsement slipped again, however, as the Iraqi insurrectionists picked off Americans in late 2003 and 2004. In response, the media turned almost all its attention to power failures, looting, Fallujah, al Sadr, Abu Ghraib, and general criticism from the U.N. and Europe. Almost everything good that was happening in Iraq — and there was much to celebrate — was ignored, as if free-thinking newspapers, real political parties, public audit and control of oil, and the opening of thousands of co-ed schools were everyday news in the Middle East. Here at home, oil-price spikes overshadowed the amazing turn-around in the American economy.

The president, of course, is responsible for these wild swings in his popularity — to a point. It was Mr. Bush's tough but necessary decision to invade Iraq, and Americans rightly went along with it on both practical and moral grounds. The majority stuck with him as long as the U.S. seemed to be winning at minimal cost. This latter point cannot be underestimated. A majority of Americans, like a majority of mankind, does not embrace a strong particular ideology that keeps them levelheaded and always resolute through either bad or good news. Most simply wish to win, and to be identified with a winner — they are as giddy with success as they are dejected with disappointment, as quick to blame others for setbacks as they are to claim credit for progress.

But that primordial concept seems to our sophisticated elites too simplistic — although there is a wealth of historical examples to substantiate this depressing trait of mankind. Why was a defiant Pericles lionized in 431 and censured and fined by 430? Most likely because Spartans were in Attica and an unexpected plague was killing 80,000 Athenians. Few cared that he had nothing to do with a mysterious disease, they cared only that thousands had died on his watch. Ask Churchill's ghost why he was called on in 1939, thrown out as war ended, and brought back again as new dangers loomed.

What made Lincoln popular by October when he had been so pilloried in August? Uncle Billy Sherman had taken Atlanta and suddenly the public saw that the Confederacy was hollow rather than defiant and impenetrable. Had Sherman backed off weeks earlier, Lincoln would have been through — even though he was not much responsible for the degree of nerve and bravery shown by the Army of the West and their mercurial general.

Why was Truman ridiculed as unhinged for removing a MacArthur, who wanted to strike back by crossing into China, and then later praised for such sober presidential judgment? Perhaps it was because Matthew Ridgeway had restored equilibrium in Korea and regained much of the territory that was lost under MacArthur's tenure. Accordingly, a once emotional and fiery uproar — replete with MacArthur's ticker-tape parade — evolved into an academic debate about civilian control of the military.

If one goes back to the fifth week of Bill Clinton's 79-day bombing campaign against Serbia — no U.N. approval, no congressional sanction, NATO partners backing out — one reads of castigation from the American Right about bombing a Christian Orthodox country in Europe, from neoconservatives about not committing ground troops, and from the Left about going to war at all. But with Milosevic in the dock and the mass murder stopped, we now are told that the Clinton administration's efforts to stop the bloodbath in the Balkans proved to be about the only success of his scandal-ridden administration. Why? He persevered and won — and we can imagine what would have happened had he caved in at week six and called it another Mogadishu.

The truth is that for all our education, nuance, and professed idealism, too many of us think and act with our limbic systems, which are hard-wired to appreciate perceived success and feel comfortable with consensus. Like most in the animal kingdom, man wishes to identify with good fortune and abhors apparent failure, and thus seeks conveniently to find distance from it. After Abu Graib and the insurrections in Fallujah and Najef, the loudmouth critic Michael Moore is praised as a gifted filmmaker at the Cannes Film Festival even as prominent conservatives and ex-generals, now in their newfound genius, trash the war and claim they were brainwashed, naïve, or not listened to.

Our leaders should remember this volatility. In the long run, of course, the present strategy is sound and in a decade will be judged as such by historians. How could it not be sound to remove a mass murderer who posed a threat to the region and our country and then sponsor a consensual government in his place?

But what about the short-term for Americans, who are captives of the 24-hour news cycle? Their support depends on us not merely winning — as the recent routing of Mr. Sadr attests — but winning in such a dramatic fashion that even a global media ideologically opposed to the undertaking is forced to report American success, and report it with genuine zeal.

How does this acceptance of human nature as it is rather than as we wish it to be translate into the proper daily conduct of the war? Not in the way that most think. The communis opinio goes something like this: too few troops, too little planning, and dilatory democratic reform led us into the present 'quagmire' — as if our present problems were strategic rather than tactical flaws or a condescending misreading of the Arab Street.

In contrast, I think the military campaign was inspired, the proper number of troops was subject for legitimate debate, and the plans to reconstruct Iraq were more or less sound. After little more than a year, we see greater likelihood of success than failure in this most audacious enterprise. But where we have failed is in managing the pulse of the war and the perception of our advance, success, and victory.

Here our greatest weakness has been the half-measure: the need to consult all the ill-informed in the Middle East rather than a few of sound judgment; the good intention not carried out; the threat to thwart evil reduced to lecture and then whine rather than audacious action. We worry too much about the one-day response to our use of force and not the 100-hour gradual appreciation that we are winning. Shooting looters to restore order and save the Iraqi infrastructure would have saved lives and enraged the world for a day. But pictures of subsequent strolls in parks and Iraqis stringing telephone wire and pouring cement would have impressed it far more.

Storming Fallujah would have begotten Jenin-like hysteria, condemnations from mullahs and imams, and cries from John Kerry — for a day or two — but begrudging respect inside Iraq that thousands of insurrectionists (among them hated Baathists) were dead or scattered, and it was safer now to be against Saddam's remnants than with them. The world is not talking publicly as it did a few weeks ago about the injustice of the murderous Sheik Hassin's departure to paradise, but rather murmuring in private that it saved lives and was long overdue.

It is tricky, risky, and downright dangerous to kill or capture Mahdists inside the Holy City of Najef — and our presence will incite demonstrations throughout the Islamic world. But if Mr. Sadr flees Sadr City, flees Karbalah — flees everywhere we attack to find him — his hordes will melt, and those who loudly castigated us for overreaction will quietly praise our sobriety and resolve. In fact, they are already beginning to. Brave and extremely able American soldiers are systematically dismantling his militias even as the world screams about Abu Ghraib. Again, the key is to win and give all credit to the Iraqis.

Such a recognition of human calculation does not constitute approval for realpolitik or the logic of mere force; rather it is an appreciation that morality should be defined as action rather than empty words or good intentions. In each case, protecting the innocent from looters, ridding Iraq of Baathist killers, and stopping fanatics from hijacking Shiite hopes for democratic prominence was the right thing to do — but impossible without the use of guns and steel. While most people simply wish to associate with victory, we need not pander to that base emotion, only appreciate it and indeed co-opt it for a better purpose.

The only thing worse than the amoral use of force is the failure to act when it is the only right and moral thing to do. In short, I think our sole serious mistake in this war is that we have forgotten the lessons of history, the essence of human nature, and what constitutes real morality. Small armies, whether those of Caesar, Alexander, or Hernan Cortés can defeat enormous enemies and hold vast amounts of territory — but only if they are used audaciously and establish the immediate reputation that they are lethal and dangerous to confront. Deterrence, not numbers, creates tranquility and the two are not always synonymous.

A thousand Marines shooting the first 500 gunmen they saw, broadcast on al Jazeera, would be worth the deterrence of another armored division. Taking Fallujah and killing Baathist killers while putting victorious Iraqi coalitionists on television would have been the equivalent of calling up another 40,000 reservists.

The U.N., the EU, the Arab League, and the host of domestic critics, triangulating pundits, and democratic politicos will never properly appreciate our necessary audit and censure of prison abuses. Nor will they praise the restraint shown in Fallujah. Nor will they try to place the combat losses of Americans in historical perspective — of the near impossibility of subduing a country of 26 million people at such a cost. Nor will they do the hard moral calculus of appreciating $87 billion and hundreds of American lives — at a moment of all-time high petroleum prices and during an acrimonious election year — spent to end fascism and inaugurate democracy, at least not when they can scream "No blood for oil" for psychic satisfaction on the cheap. But they most certainly will go silent when al Sadr relents or is in chains, calm returns to Baghdad, and al Qaedists flee from or are killed in Iraq.

For now, forget the potential paradoxes of the transition (in Korea, after all, U.S. troops remain autonomous). Ignore cries for more troops (as if 40,000 — or 100,000 — Americans could stop a North Korean invasion). Pay no attention to what the New York Times predicts will befall us (as if it were right about Afghanistan or the three-week war).

Instead, stay true to our values — but also realize that we are judged by those who think reptilian and will thus join us for the pragmatically wrong, rather than the morally right, reasons. Or as the sometimes vulgar and crass Al Davis put it far better, "Just win baby."
Click here for full article

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dr. Strangelove, Redux

We're talking reasonable, completely acceptable casualties, 200,000,000 dead, tops! And they won't any longer be able to sap and impurify our natural and pure bodily fluids...T

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Holy Wisdom? Why the Pope should call for the return of the Hagia Sophia

Finally...I've been waiting for someone to make this seemingly self-evident point for 30 years now!...T

Many in the West are congratulating Pope Benedict XVI’s recent trip to Turkey, where in the Blue Mosque he prayed facing Mecca and made other gestures meant to salve the wounds raised by his references to Islam’s history of violence. Personally, I found the whole scene a depressing exhibit of the West’s terminal failure of nerve, one particularly distressing given this Pope’s documented understanding that what we call the “war on terror” is in fact the latest episode in the centuries-long struggle with a militant Islam.

In the Pope’s visit and the media response to it, we once again witnessed the one-way street of “religious tolerance” and “respect.” In other words, the West is supposed to respect and tolerate Muslims and Islam, all the while that no such respect is afforded to Christians and Jews. The West is supposed to feel guilty and obsess over its putative crimes against Islam, all the while that the longer chronicle of Islamic assault against the West is forgotten. Hence the ridiculous ignorance of those who think the Crusades were “holy wars” akin to jihadic aggression. Somehow it’s forgotten that the Holy Land was Greco-Roman and Hebraic and Christian for centuries before the armies of Allah destroyed that cultural continuity and imposed a new culture and religion at the point of a sword.

This double standard was particularly obvious given the backdrop of the Pope’s visit –– the city of Istanbul. Once known as Constantinople, this was one of the great cities of Classical and Christian culture, home to one of Christendom’s most magnificent churches, Hagia Sophia, the church of the Holy Wisdom. On May 29, 1453, Constantinople ceased to exist, falling to the armies of the Sultan Mehmet II: “By noon,” John Julius Norwich writes, “the streets were running red with blood. Houses were ransacked, women and children raped or impaled, churches razed, icons wrenched from their golden frames, books ripped from their silver bindings. . . . In the church of St. Saviour in Chora the mosaics and frescoes were miraculously spared, but the Empire’s holiest icon, the Virgin Hodegetria, said to have been painted by St. Luke himself, was hacked into four pieces and destroyed. The most hideous scenes of all, however, were enacted in the church of the Holy Wisdom. Matins were already in progress when the berserk conquerors were heard approaching. Immediately the great bronze doors were closed; but the Turks soon smashed their way in. The poorer and more unattractive of the congregation were massacred on the spot; the remainder were lashed together and led off to the Turkish camps, for their captors to do with as they liked. As for the officiating priests, they continued with the Mass as long as they could before being killed at the high altar.”

Ancient history, you say, irrelevant to the present? But do not the Muslims repeatedly invoke the historical crimes of the West to justify terrorism? Are not the sins of colonialism and imperialism continually cited, even though France and England’s 150 years in the Middle East and North Africa are dwarfed by Islam’s several centuries in Spain and the Balkans and the cradle of the West, Greece? Is there some statute of limitations on conquest and the transfer of territory that attends it, so that the conquests of Islam are legitimized by time, while those of the West can never be?

Why do we accept this double standard? Why are the continuing persecution of Christians today, despicable anti-Semitic slanders, and the desecration of temples and churches in Muslim lands shrugged away in the West, while trivial cartoons and mere statements of historical fact are met with hysteria, violence, and threats? Why are churches disappearing throughout the lands of Christianity’s birth and growth, while huge mosques are going up in London and Milan? Why are Christians and Jews forbidden entry into Saudi Arabia, while Muslims in Europe demand special privileges and recognition of their faith?

Nowhere is this insane, groveling capitulation of the West more obvious than in its treatment of Israel. By all rights, when Israel recaptured Jerusalem from Jordan –– in a defensive war Israel did not want, a war Israel literally begged Jordan to stay out of –– Israel could have razed the Aqsa mosque and rebuilt the temple on the site it had stood on for centuries before Islam even existed. Instead, the Temple Mount is still controlled by Muslims, who are free to worship in the mosque all the while they allow the children of Allah to throw stones on the Jews who come to worship at the few scraps of the temple wall, all that is left to them of their holiest site. Meanwhile the countries of the West decry the “illegal occupation” of Jerusalem and Judea and Galilee, refuse to put their embassies in the capital of Israel, and continually demand more and more concessions to a people who have made it clear that their conquest of Jerusalem is legitimate, that Israelis, not they, are the interloper in the Jews’ historical homeland, and that violence against innocents is justified to undo a history deemed to violate Allah’s will.

When will we learn that this forbearance is not a testimony to our strength but rather a sign of our cultural sickness? Would that the Pope had stood in Hagia Sophia and asked the Turks to restore this Christian monument to the Orthodox Church, as a sign that Turkey is sincere about entering the modern world and accepting its canons of reciprocal tolerance, not to mention showing the sort of regret for its ancestors’ crimes that the West is continually dunned to show. What do you think the reaction would have been? How many Christians would have died in the ensuing riots by the adherents of the “religion of peace”? And how many Western commentators would have scourged the Pope for his blinkered intolerance and insensitivity?

No, the enemy knows that what we pretend to be “tolerance” and “respect” are merely the camouflage of spiritual exhaustion and fear. We have fewer and fewer men like those who created the West in the teeth of Islamic aggression, men like the Byzantine Greek Lucas Notaras. After the sack of Constantinople, the Sultan demanded Notaras’s beautiful 14-year-old son for the royal harem: “When Notaras still defied the Sultan,” Steven Runciman writes, “orders were given for him and the two boys [his son and son-in-law] to be decapitated on the spot. Notaras merely asked that they should be slain before him, lest the sight of his death should make them waver. When they had both perished, he bared his neck to the executioner.” As Nestor says in the Iliad, “Men like those I have not seen again, nor ever will.”
Click here for full article

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Who would say such things!

In the wake of the "Internal Surrender Group" report composed by self proclaimed "moderates", I thought it an appropriate time to post the the thoughts of an individual who despised spineless "moderates"...and who had a habit of being proven correct, over time. This is from the 19th century, but it could have been written today...T
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."
-Sir Winston Churchill: 1899

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

War Stories: Two versions of what we should do next.

Count me among the minority. I pray, more so now than ever before, that I am wrong...T

Five years after September 11, and three-and-a-half years after toppling Saddam Hussein, the U.S. is almost as angry at itself as it is at the enemy. Two quite antithetical views of the war on terror — and indeed, the entire American role in the Middle East — are now crystallizing.

Ideology and political affiliation are no longer necessarily touchstones to either opinion — not at a time when The Nation and The American Conservative share the same views on Iraq and the role of the United States abroad. Republican senators like Chuck Hagel call for withdrawal, while Democrats like a Joe Liebermann do not.

Republican realists are welcomed by liberal Democrats, who want nothing to do with the neo-Wilsonian neo-conservatives that once would have seemed more characteristic of liberal’s erstwhile idealism. It is not just that public intellectuals, politicians, generals, and journalists have different views, but their views themselves are different in almost every 24-hour news cycle. Even the Bush administration at times seems torn, gravitating between both schools of thought.

While there are dozens of variants to the following two divergent positions, they represent a clear enough picture of the present divide.

The Majority Opinion

The new majority school of thought — often described as the more nuanced and more sophisticated — seems to conclude that the “global war on terror” (if that’s even what it ever really was) is insidiously winding down to a police matter. Billions spent in lives and treasure in Iraq did not make us any safer; the passing of time, the dissipation of passions, and increased vigilance did.

We haven’t had another 9/11. Al Qaeda is probably scattered. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are exhibiting the usual, generic Middle East insanity that is largely beyond our own powers of remedy.

Rogue states in the region will ultimately be dealt with, as in the pre-Bush II past, by a sort of containment — whether through retaliatory and punitive air strikes, foreign aid concessions, shuttle diplomacy, no-fly zones, or embargoes and boycotts.

If there ever were need for strong military action and invasion, that time is clearly past, at least for now. The long-term negative effects would more than outweighed any short-term benefits — as we see from the repercussion of the mess in Iraq and possibly Afghanistan as well.

In this way of thinking, an all-encompassing Islamic fundamentalism that threatens the very survival of the West is at best mostly a fantasy — at worst, a license for the U.S. to intervene globally (often against our interests) with the excuse of “fighting terror.”

Certainly, there exists nothing as melodramatic as “Islamic fascism.” That is a misnomer that needlessly alienates millions of moderate Muslims. And such reckless and inexact nomenclature clumsily ignores both the history and all the key fissures — Shiite/Sunni; Hamas/Hezbollah; theocracy/autocracy/ monarchy; Persian/Arab/Kurd/Turk; etc. — of the complex Islamic world.

Instead, the United States, in pragmatic fashion, needs to address regional problems, particularly with more sophisticated, and less ideological, remedies.

Hamas and its rivals exist largely because of the occupied West Bank: force Israel back to its 1967 borders, and Palestinian grievances — and the violence — largely vanish, as the United States at last is freed from much of the old Pavlovian hatred so endemic in the Arab World. Radical bluster from the West Bank can sometimes sound creepy, but it is largely braggadocio, or perhaps a cry from the heart, and thus will quietly go away once the Palestinians have their own autonomous state with internationally recognized borders that reflect pre-1967 reality.

Hezbollah is not really a global terrorist network, but an offshoot of the trouble in Lebanon. It can be handled in part by granting concessions to Syria (such as an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights), winning promises from Israel to be proportionate in responding to occasional (but mostly ineffectual) border provocations, and seeking more equitable political representation for Lebanese Shiites.

Iran is a danger, but not a fatal one. It can be balanced by Sunni sheikdoms in the Gulf and checked by multilaterally sponsored and enforced sanctions authorized by the United Nations.

As far as America goes, the old method of balancing one autocracy against another, with occasional but quiet and respectful lectures about good behavior and reform, is, however regrettably, often about as much as we can do. Sporadic violence against individual Americans can be dealt with through indictments, international policing, and, in extremis, an occasional air strike.

In general, internal security measures, such as wiretaps, Guantanamo-like detention centers abroad, and the Patriot Act, were of limited, if any, efficacy in thwarting another 9/11. They now probably pose as great a threat to our freedoms as do the terrorists.

Indeed, September 11 in proper hindsight seems more and more to have been a sort of fluke, a lucky strike by al Qaeda, predicated both on their sanctuary in Afghanistan and our own somnolence. Both have since been largely addressed. So the specter of another attack of a similar magnitude may well have passed. In some ways, our over-reaction to the bogeyman of “Islamic fascism” has made us less safe, by gratuitously creating new enemies where none previously existed.

However unwise, removing Saddam Hussein may have had some initial utility. But now any benefit is overshadowed by a messy civil war, whose violence is only exacerbated by the presence of American troops that have long overstayed both their welcome and their usefulness.

The best solution to Iraq is to begin now a steady, but sure, unilateral withdrawal under the rubric of “redeployment” — with sincere hopes that three years of our blood and treasure should have been enough to jumpstart democracy, and with even more sincere regrets if they have not. In short, Iraq has turned into an unfortunate, but predictable, fiasco, and it is time to cut it loose with as little blowback as possible.

Anti-Americanism in the Middle East and Europe is largely a phenomenon of George Bush’s idiosyncratic manners and his once-loud advocacy of preemption and unilateralism, particularly in March 2003. With his retirement, things will gradually settle down to the general equilibrium of the Bush I and Clinton eras.

There are indeed dangers on the horizon with nuclear proliferation, threats to wipe out Israel, and endemic terrorism. But as soon as the United States and the West are out of Iraq, become a neutral and honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians, and avoid gratuitous slurs against Islam (such as the pope’s unfortunate remarks or the needlessly hurtful Danish cartoons), our reputation will improve and Muslim hostility will subside — and with it any popular support for militants like Osama bin Laden.

The Minority Brief

We really are in a global war. Its dimensions are hard to conceptualize since our enemies, while aided and abetted by sympathetic Middle Eastern dictatorships, claim no national affinity. Indeed, the terrorists deliberately mask the role of their patrons. The latter, given understandable fears of the overwhelming conventional power of the United States military, deny culpability.

In an age of globalization and miniaturized weapons of mass destruction, it is even more difficult to convince Western publics that they may well face peril from state-sponsored terrorists every bit as great as what the Wehrmacht, Imperial Japan, or the Red Army once posed.

While there are regional theaters of conflict predicated on local grievances — as in the multiplicity of fighting during World War II in China, Ethiopia, Poland, Finland, France, North Africa, the Balkans, Russia, the Pacific, etc. — there is nevertheless once more a transnational ideology that seeks to force its worldviews on others.

Like fascism or Communism, Islamism galvanizes millions with its reductionist claims of Western liberal culpability for widely diverse Muslim gripes from Afghanistan to the West Bank. Rather than seeing a plethora of grievances that can be individually addressed, it is more valuable and accurate to understand the problem as a general complaint that in turn manifests itself in different regions and circumstances. While Cypriots or Tibetans don’t blow themselves up over lost land or honor, those energized with Islamist ideology often do. While Hindu, Christian, or Buddhist fundamentalists don’t appreciate popular culture mocking their religion, Islamists are the most likely to assassinate or threaten the novelist or cartoonist as the supposed blasphemer.

Islamic fascism exists, then, as a reactionary creed that sees traditional Islamic culture threatened with Western-inspired global liberalization and modernization. Drawing on the Middle East’s sense of misery and victimization by others, its narrative harkens back to a purer age.

Once upon a time, the truly devout defeated their enemies and lived a morally pure life under a caliphate of like believers. That universal rule of Islam is at last once more attainable — given the general decadence of the postmodern West, the illegitimacy and vulnerability of most Middle Eastern governments, and the simple fact that vast petroleum reserves, coupled with jihadist fervor, can be translated into militarily powerful, high-tech forces that will obtain superiority over the crusading infidel.

On the home front, demoralization and a sort of cultural relativism are far more worrisome than the Patriot Act and related measures. By the prior benchmarks of the wartime administrations of Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Nixon, these measures are relatively innocuous — and yet have done much to prevent another attack on the United States.

It was not the Patriot Act that banned operas, condemned cartoons, allowed films to be ostracized, or muzzled teachers, but Western self-censorship and fear. Jihadists brilliantly drew on boilerplate anti-Western arguments from Western elites, and when they recycled tired charges of imperialism, racism, and colonialism they found them surprisingly effective at undermining Western morale.

Furthermore, September 11 was no fluke, but the logical culmination of two disastrous prior American policies: appeasement and cynical realism.

By not responding to a decade of prior attacks in East Africa, New York, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and withdrawing ignominiously from Lebanon to Mogadishu, we gave the fatal impression that a terrorist could strike the United States with near impunity — given our addiction to the good life that we would not endanger at any cost. And by ignoring the abject failures of Middle East autocracies, we inadvertently ensured the second requisite to 9/11: dictatorial regimes that allowed terrorists free rein to scapegoat their own failures onto the infidel West.

The remedy, then, is to respond forcefully to terrorists and their sponsors, while simultaneously appealing to the people of the Islamic world that the United States is no longer cynically realist — but is actively working to promote consensual government throughout the region to address their lack of representation in their own affairs. That is not naiveté, but rather both the right and smart thing to do. Unlike the majority opinion that offers the chimera of stability through short-term expediency, the more costly, difficult, and ambitious minority view addresses conditions that more likely will lead to a lasting peace.

Iraq is far from lost, but in fact, despite the negative coverage, has a viable elected government that slogs on through the worst assaults imaginable. The coalition government includes all voices in the country. And that explains why, at least so far, there really is not a classic civil war in which one faction, with clearly defined goals of governance, tries to assume power, backed by substantial military force and broad public support.

The present strategy of Iraqization is the correct one, both for ethical and practical reasons. If we don’t withdraw precipitously, there is a good chance that Iraqi forces, and government flexibility, will eventually pacify Baghdad and its environs — where almost all the violence in the country is confined. Along with the stabilization of Afghanistan, and positive democratic developments in Lebanon, the Middle East is in flux, but with at least a chance of broad-based reform not seen in a half century.

Withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, while strategically and politically understandable, brought little commensurate peace to Israel. And while negotiations about borders are vital to a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a large number of the latter group believe that Israel itself can be unraveled through a mixture of terrorism, rocketry, and on-again-off-again diplomacy. Their real grievance against Israel is not so much its post-1967 retention of conquered land — there were 20 years of war prior to then — but its Westernized presence and daily example of success in a sea of failure. The pathologies of the Middle East were there prior to Israel, and will probably be enhanced rather than ameliorated by a sense of Israeli appeasement and American-induced concessions.

Finally, we are still one lax day away from another September 11, and will continue to be so until the currency and appeal of radical Islamism are history. Anti-Americanism can be crystallized by George Bush and his policies, but it was a pre-existing pathology that will survive long after he is gone — inasmuch as it is a symptom of a much larger malady: envy by the weaker of the world’s only hyperpower; ubiquity of intrusive globalized and destabilizing American popular culture; and the assurance that America, unlike a Russia or China, is sensitive to its critics and, indeed, often offers them the most sophisticated condemnations of its own values and traditions.

How to Judge?

Again, while there are variances, these are the general antitheses about our present war. The current majority view is slowing gaining ascendancy in policy-making circles. It reflects a general weariness on the part of the American people, who are daily bombarded with stories of anti-Americanism abroad, IED explosions in Iraq, and more mayhem on the West Bank. All that gloom and doom contributes to this feeling that we have already done enough, if not too much, and can, with more or less relative security, return to the status of the pre-September 11 world.

Like all wartime debates, the final arbiter will be the battlefield. If realist diplomacy, an end to the Bush Doctrine, withdrawal from Iraq, renewed pressure on Israel, and a rescinding of security measures can avoid another 9/11, prevent Middle East nuclear proliferation, deflate radical Islam’s appeal, and corral hostile regimes from gaining regional ascendancy, then the majority view may prove correct.

But if, on the other hand…well, you know the answer, and my own views on the matter.
Click here for full article

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sticking to his guns

Interesting take here, and one that I still agree with, and have since the beginning. After all, this isn't the Soviet Union, held together at the point of a gun. These people need each other to survive in between Iran, Syria and Turkey. At some point, a forceful government, not a strongman, just a strong central authority, should prevail, given a chance...T

While George W. Bush's many critics and detractors portray him as facing the same dilemma as Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, Bush himself seems determined to proceed the way Harry Truman did in Korea -- or, as some might put it, as Winston Churchill did after Dunkirk.

Leading Democrats like Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan have been calling for troop pullouts from Iraq starting in four to six months. The Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, The New York Times tells us, will recommend a "gradual pullback" of troops, direct negotiations with Iran and Syria and pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.

But Bush seems unpersuaded. "There's one thing I'm not going to do," he said at last week's NATO summit in Riga, Latvia. "I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

In this, Bush has the support of others. Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates opposes a quick pullout. So does the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Central Command's Gen. John Abizaid.

Retired generals who have criticized Bush testified that we should send more troops into Iraq. Democrats seem disinclined to use their congressional majorities to cut short our mission in Iraq lest they be blamed for the unpleasant consequences many predict.

So maybe the Vietnam analogy will not apply. And it shouldn't, because it's misleading. The communists' Tet offensive was a smashing defeat for them, not us, as outlined in Peter Braestrup's 1977 book "Big Story." Military historian Lewis Sorley has shown how after Tet, Gen. Creighton Abrams produced a strategy that was proving successful -- until Congress prevented the United States from fulfilling its promises of aid against the North Vietnamese offensive in 1975.

In Iraq, our enemies may not be making all the progress they seek, and changes in our military tactics are likely. Many argue for embedding more U.S. troops in Iraqi Army units. Other recommendations may come from the review commissioned -- evidently out of dissatisfaction with current operations -- by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace.

Bush, like Truman and Churchill, seems determined not to concede defeat. And remember that for Truman on Korea and for Churchill after Dunkirk, no promising military courses were immediately apparent. Truman, after firing Gen. Douglas MacArthur, had forsaken the threat -- a nuclear attack -- that his successor Dwight Eisenhower deployed to get the communists to agree to a truce.

But Truman's perseverance despite his 22 percent job approval -- much lower than Bush's -- was essential in preserving the independence of South Korea, which now has the world's 14th-largest economy. Churchill, facing Hitler alone, could promise only "blood, toil, tears and sweat" until his enemies' mistakes -- Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor -- gave him the allies that made victory possible.

Churchill's stubbornness prevented a Nazi victory in midsummer 1940.

We should keep in mind, as well, Bush's repeated vow not to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. That's in tension with the Iraq Study Group's expected recommendation of direct negotiations with Iran: The obvious quid pro quo for Iranian help in stabilizing Iraq would be dropping our opposition to Iran's nuclear program. In fact, the opposite approach may be what's needed.

Historian Arthur Herman in this month's Commentary calls for airstrikes not only on Iran's nuclear facilities but also on its ports and refineries; Iran depends on imports for its gasoline, and without ports and refineries, its economy and military would grind to a halt.

That's a move that might be condemned by the "international community," and it risks antagonizing the people of Iran, many of whom tend to hate the mullahs and admire America. But it also might destabilize the regime and dislodge a president who has threatened the destruction of Israel and America. Who today regrets Israel's strike against Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981?

NBC News has declared that Iraq is in the midst of a "civil war," just as CBS's Walter Cronkite declared Vietnam was lost after Tet. Many in the mainstream media today, as in 1968, see nothing but the prospect of American defeat. George W. Bush seems to have other ideas.
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Helpless, Pitiful Democrats

...We'll see...But I agree whole-heartedly that the Senate filibuster has become a bastardization of it's once proud origins. This needs to be changed, by rule, as the constitution says "a majority of the House and Senate concurring" to pass legislation...Not 2/3rds!...T

For all of the dire warnings and pre-election commotion about the impact of a Democratic majority in Congress, the fact is that - now that it is upon us - it can do little or nothing but harass the administration.

There is no real danger of any legislative action emerging from this Congress. Yes, the president has a veto the Democrats cannot override, but nothing will ever make it as far as the desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are just spinning their wheels.

In the Senate, there is no such thing as a majority. Ever since the elder Bush's administration, the filibuster has become routine. No longer reserved for civil-rights issues or for egregious legislation, it now is used to counter even motions for recess and adjournment. Members of the Senate are no longer subjected to the indignity of standing on their feet and reading a telephone book. Rather, the gentlemen's filibuster applies.

The majority leader phones the minority leader and asks if a filibuster is in effect. With his feet up on his desk, the Republican replies that it is and the Democrat, despite his majority, does not even think about bringing up his bill for consideration unless he has a good shot at the 60 votes required to shut off debate. In the Senate, 51 votes determine who gets the corner office, but to pass legislation, one needs 60.
In the House of Representatives, with its 435 members, the Republican Party needed a simple majority - 218 - to rule. The Democrats need considerably more. The normal rules of a mathematical majority do not take into account the fractious nature of the Democratic Party.

Where the Republican majority best resembled the Prussian Army - disciplined, unified and determined - the Democratic majority in the upcoming Congress is disunited, dispersed and divided into myriad caucuses and special interest groups. One could purchase the Republican majority wholesale by making a deal with the speaker and the majority leader. But to get the Democratic majority in line, one has to buy it retail -- caucus by caucus.

First, one has to go to check with the Black Caucus -- hat in hand -- to see if one's bill has enough liberal giveaways to round up its forty or so votes. Thence to the Hispanic Caucus for a similar screening. Then, with one's legislation weighted down with liberal provisions added by these two groups, one has to sell it to the Democratic Leadership Council moderates and, even worse, to the Blue Dog Democrats -- the out and out conservatives.

If you are fortunate enough to pass these contradictory litmus tests, you then have to go to the environmentalists, the labor people, and even the gays to see that your bill passes muster. Only then can you begin to hope for House passage.

The result of this labyrinth is that the relatively moderate bill you first sought to pass ends up like a Christmas tree, laden with ornaments added to appease each of the caucuses. Unrecognizable in its final form, it heads to House passage.

This road map will be familiar to all veterans of the Clinton White House of 1993 and 1994. The most recent administration that had to deal with a Democratic House, the shopping from caucus to caucus and the festooning of moderate legislation with all manner of amendments will seem dejà vu to all of the early Clintonites. When Clinton proposed an anti-crime bill with a federal death penalty, he needed to add pork projects in the inner city like midnight basketball to get it past the Democrats in the House.

Nancy Pelosi will face the same obstacle. By the time her legislation emerges from the lower chamber, it will bear little resemblance to what she had in mind, liberal as that might have been. As Clinton said, after he watched the mangling of his legislative program by the various caucuses in the House, "I didn't even recognize myself."

Once the highly amended liberal legislation emerges from the House, it will make easy fodder for a Senate filibuster. So left leaning that it stands no chance of attracting 60 votes, it will be dead-on-arrival.

So forget the nightmares about an amended Patriot Act or restrictions on wiretapping for homeland security. Don't worry about House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel's, D-N.Y., ravings about the draft or the rumors of a tax increase. It's not going to happen.

What is the Democratic majority good for? One thing and one thing only - to give their party control of the committees and the subpoena power that goes with it. The two House Democratic majority can only make noise and make trouble. It can't pass legislation.
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Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman Dies

Passed on for you without comment...T

Prominent free-market economist Milton Friedman, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economic Science, passed away today at the age of 94. Friedman was widely regarded as the leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics, which stresses the importance of the quantity of money as an instrument of government policy and as a determinant of business cycles and inflation. In addition to his scientific work, Friedman also wrote extensively on public policy, always with primary emphasis on the preservation and extension of individual freedom. Friedman's ideas hugely influenced both the Reagan administration and the Thatcher government in the early 1980s, revolutionized establishment economic thinking across the globe, and have been employed extensively by emerging economies for decades.

Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute, said of Friedman: "Here's a guy who won the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in monetary theory and he was a great Chicagoan, a great empiricist and theoretician of economics. But ultimately, what Milton believed in was human liberty and he took great joy in trying to promote that concept....Milton would say, 'Maybe I did well and maybe I led the battle but nobody ever said we were going to win this thing at any point in time. Eternal vigilance is required and there have to be people who step up to the plate, who believe in liberty, and who are willing to fight for it.' ...In my view he was the greatest champion of human liberty in my lifetime, certainly in the 20th century. And he didn’t slack off in the 21st century."
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Free to Choose

Today passed one of the 3 greatest figures of the 20th century: Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and now, Milton Friedman. We owe more to him, in a way, than either of the previous figures. He freed our Economy, our military, our schools...Please read "Free to Choose" if you have not already done so. You will be stunned to find that so many of today's ways of thinking, of today's policies, all came from the mind of one man...T

I first met Ronald Reagan in 1967, shortly after he had become governor of California. We talked about his plans for higher education in the state. He clearly understood the economics of higher education—a system in California whereby the residents of Watts subsidized the college education of the children from Beverly Hills—and was determined to do something about it.

I first realized what a truly extraordinary person he was in early 1973 when I spent an unforgettable day with him barnstorming across California to promote his Proposition 1—an amendment to the state constitution that would set a limit to the amount the state could spend in any year. We flew in a small private plane from place to place and at each stop held a press conference. In between, Governor Reagan talked freely about his life and views. By the time we returned to our final press interview in Los Angeles, I was able to give an enthusiastic yes to a reporter’s question as to whether I would support Reagan for president. And, I may say, I have never been disappointed since.

Proposition 1 was narrowly defeated, but it started a movement that is still very much alive, as evidenced by the recent passage of a “Prop 1” look-alike in Colorado. Moreover, it was only one way of achieving one major component of his policy from the beginning of his career: holding down non-defense government spending as a way to limit the size of government. Defense spending was another thing. It financed a—or the—basic function of the federal government, and he used it for his great achievement of winning the Cold War by outspending the Soviet Union without having to outfight it on a bloody battlefield.

President Reagan had extraordinary success in changing the course of non-defense spending (see figure 1). The trend before Reagan is one of galloping socialism. Had it continued, federal non-defense spending would be more than half again what it is now. Reagan brought the gallop to a literal standstill. He did so in three ways:

• First, by slashing tax rates and so cutting Congress’s allowance.

• Second, by being willing to take a severe recession to end inflation. In my opinion, no other post-war president would have been willing to back the Volcker Fed in its tough stance in 1981–82. I can testify from personal knowledge that Reagan knew what he was doing. He understood that there was no way of ending inflation without monetary restraint and a temporary recession. As in every area, he stuck to his principles and looked at the long term.

• Third, and in some ways the least recognized, by attacking government regulations. Figure 2 tells as remarkable a story as Figure 1. It plots the number of pages added to the Federal Register each year. The Federal Register records the thousands of detailed rules and regulations that federal agencies churn out in the course of a year. They are not laws and yet they have the effect of laws and like laws impose costs and restrain activities. Here too, the period before President Reagan was one of galloping socialism. The Reagan years were ones of retreating socialism, and the post-Reagan years, of creeping socialism.
To Reagan, of course, holding down government spending was a means to an end, not an end in itself. That end was freedom, human freedom, the right of every individual to pursue his own objectives and values so long as he does not interfere with the corresponding right of others. That was his end in every phase of his remarkable career.

We still have a long way to go to achieve the optimum degree of freedom. But few people in human history have contributed more to the achievement of human freedom than Ronald Wilson Reagan.
This essay appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 11, 2004.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

They're Back?

God save us from RealPolitik...Please read "REAGAN'S WAR: The Epic Story of His Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism" by Peter Schweizer, to see what the "realists" almost brought down upon us during the cold war, what they did in fact bring down on us in Vietnam, and what they certainly will harvest now, if placed in power...T

All Too Real

I have been going through the recent report, “Iran: Time for a New Approach” co-chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski (in charge at National Security during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979) and Robert Gates (involved in Iran-Contra). It makes depressing reading in its call for new talks with the dictators in Iran, since we have done that for 20 years, and should have learned that they lip-synch back only when they feel they have more to gain than lose. Churchill understood that when he put an end to Tory backchannel efforts to talk with ascendant Nazis after the fall of France. And surely we should learn something from the recent Hamas step back and apparent willingness to rethink talking to Israel—given its loss of millions in Western handouts and tough Israel retaliation against Gaza.

Next will come the Baker group report on Iraq—no doubt with more calls to reassure regional dictatorships and to ask them to help “stabilize” Iraq, as if such creepy strongmen would find anything to their advantage in having a successful democracy next door.

And we should remember a few things about the return of “realism” which is really just an academic veneer to the old isolationism. This was a policy that gave us the arming of Osama bin Laden et al. to stop the Soviets in Afghanistan, sort of played Iran off against Iran in their murderous war of the 1980s, abandoned the Kurds, favored the Soviet Gorbachev over the Russian Yeltsin, stopped outside Baghdad and let the Shiites and Kurds be gunned down after urging them to revolt, let Milosevic do his murdering unopposed, and established a revolving door in the Middle East in which former American officials simply went out of office and into great profit by using their past contacts to be rewarded with legal, financial, and arms links to petro-dollar rich dictatorships. Could we not have a simple rule: bar anyone from official duty in American Middle East affairs, Left or Right, who currently or in the past, has had profitable business conducted with the region’s dictatorial governments? De facto, they become suspect when they return in their latest incarnations as senior statesmen. Indeed, it is hard to find very many senior realists who at one time or another have not been consultants, academics, lawyers, salesmen, or investors whose income was not in some way enhanced by Gulf state oil money

As a sidebar: those reformers in the Middle East who used to rail against this realpolitik never said a word in support of recent American efforts to offer a democratic alternative in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to pressure Arab dictatorships to reform. And so when the realist mindset returns, Americans will hardly listen to any of their renewed cries of help, since their train left the station years ago.

Ditto those who now cry for action in Darfur. They were some of the harshest critics of trying to help Iraq, and apparently think we could intervene in the Sudan without the sort of mess that is intrinsic anywhere Westerners must fight jihadists and Islamicists on the ground. Saddam killed just as many innocents as the Muslims did in Darfur, and it would be just as messy in righting that wrong there as it was in Iraq.

Our friends, the KurdsThe Kurds are landlocked, surrounded by Turks and Iranians, often challenged by Iraqi Wahhabists—and booming. With all the talk of Iraq’s “failure” and the need to pull up stakes and call it quits, no one is talking about what happens to Kurdistan, a strong U.S. ally that did everything we have asked of it, and is a model of reform in the Islamic world. Surely, we owe these brave people with a tortured history our continued friendship, and to keep faith to our promises to stabilize Iraq—especially after the debacle of 1991, and of course our earlier realist indifference to their gassing by Saddam. How odd we now contemplate leaving Iraq and the Kurds hanging and getting closer to those of the House of Saud, when the former have offered us only friendship and success at trying to open their economy and establish freedom, and the latter little other than (high-priced oil) and stealthy subsidies for those who have killed us.

Lost in all the campaign rhetoric over the war also is the position of the United States, and its military—if we leave Iraq before it is stabilized. Far from “freeing” up our “overburdened” forces by getting out, we will be instead ensuring that they really will be overworked as crises with Iran and North Korea flare up, and jihadists pour into Afghanistan as Pakistan goes ever more Islamic. In contrast, if the military can defeat the jihadists, train the Iraqis in counter-insurgency, ditto the Kurdish economic model in Iraq and ensure constitutional reform lasts, then opportunistic enemies will hold back. You could have a 5-million-man military after a defeat in Iraq, and it would be kept busy and stretched too thin trying to deal with all the strongmen who thought they smelled weakness and wished to take advantage of American impotence.


Language is the keystone to politics. This past week I gave some lectures about illegal immigration. I noticed how the supporters of open borders so often prefer to demonize their opponents as “anti-immigrant”, hoping to reframe the debate into Americans’ supposed animosity against individual arrivals, legal and illegal. And why not when a rational defense of illegal immigration is indefensible? “Undocumented worker” is another favorite. But with 25% of all illegal alien households on entitlements in California, it is hard to think that all aliens are working or simply forgot their documents at the border. “The borders crossed us” is yet another deliberate misnomer, when the vast majority of Mexicans and Mexican-American in the United States cannot trace their family lineage in America past three generations. You get the picture: when an argument is indefensible then language is contorted to do what reason cannot.

Whom do we admire?

How odd that today we admire Ronald Reagan whose coattails never could translate into a House majority, who was nearly destroyed by Iran-Contra, and who left office in uncertainty over whether he had really changed much the Cold War calculus. Harry Truman finished with about a 25% approval rating, winning no credit for the birth of containment. After his crankiness, the Democrats wanted a more “thoughtful” liberal like Adlai Stevenson as their leader. Churchill—demonized after Gallipoli, and ostracized during the 1930s—was then voted out of office in 1945 after saving Britain from its enemies. Lincoln was perhaps the most hated man in the United States by August 1864.

I mention all this because George W. Bush, who won two wars after September 11, and changed the course of U.S. foreign policy to encourage reform abroad, and prevented so far another 9/11 like attack, can obtain a similar respect from history—as long as he realizes two truths: he must persevere, and no more give into realist seducers than did Churchill to those who called for dialoguing with Hitler; and he must accept that he will leave office hated. But if he flip-flops to get his approval ratings back up to 50%, he can be assured that history’s will be no kinder to him than it was to LBJ, Nixon, George Bush Sr., or Bill Clinton.

For all the present gloom, if Bush hangs tough and gets Iraq stabilized, does not appease North Korea and Iran, and sees movement in the Middle East toward more reform, then in 10 years he will be seen as a rarely successful American President.
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Friday, November 10, 2006

Thoughts from the Wee Hours of Election Night

The conservative interval: What did it accomplish?
This is a complimentary piece to my post-mortem on the election posted yesterday. The sections posted here are backward looking, to the record of Congress since 94; forward looking, to 2008, and a look at the record of populism as an issue. Very interesting. This author has a long record of meticulous election forecasting and analysis, and I have yet to see him get it wrong, including this time (ok I should have listened!). There is much more to the full article, and I urge that you all check it out...T
There are many more issues to address, but it is 3:40 a.m. and I am not going to address them all tonight. Let's look at it this way: The Republicans controlled the House for 12 years--the third longest period of Republican control in history (after 1895-1911 and 1861-75). Democrats of course had a majority in the House (though their leaders often didn't have control) for a far longer period of 40 years (1955-95) and also for a 16-year period (1931-47). But let's look back on the Republican period recently. What did they accomplish?

To answer that question, I think you have to look beyond Capitol Hill and consider the whole country. The big public-policy successes of the 1990s were welfare reform and crime control. Welfare dependency and violent crime were cut by more than 50 percent--more than anyone in 1990 thought possible. Key initiatives were taken not in Congress, but in the states and cities--on welfare reform by governors like Tommy Thompson, on crime control by mayors like Rudy Giuliani in New York City. Most of them were Republicans, but may were Democrats. Also, education reforms were undertaken, again more by Republicans (like George Bush and Jeb Bush in Texas and Florida) but also by some Democrats (like Jim Hunt in North Carolina). In all this, Congress and the Clinton and Bush administrations were interested and occasionally helpful bystanders. The Republican Congress passed welfare reform three times and, after Dick Morris told Clinton he had to sign it, he did so. Bush got a bipartisan majority to pass a federal education accountability bill that built on the successful actions of many states. Gun control, a federal initiative which had no realistic possibility of really reducing crime, was passed by a Democratic Congress in 1994. But the more realistic proposals, allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons and therefore to deter violent criminals from attacking decent bystanders, have been making steady progress in the states to the point that they now hold sway in states with more than two thirds the nation's population.

The Republican Congress deserves great credit for resisting proposals to create the sort of government-run healthcare systems that are bankrupting Western Europe. The 1997 budget deal between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton cut the increases in healthcare expenses sharply; when that inspired protests against HMOs, the Republican Congress averted provisions that would have subjected them to regulation by government and predation by trial lawyers. Instead, employees exercised the option of exit (people who didn't like HMOs got out from under them). The Medicare prescription drug bill of 2003, a vast expansion of government entitlements, created a field of competition that dragged premium costs below expected levels, allowed grievants the option of exit and opened up the field of expanded options to high-deductible health savings accounts. The Democratic House will try to turn the clock back on these advances, but will probably not succeed during the next two years. The Democrats would like us to go slouching toward Scandinavia, even while Sweden and the Netherlands move in our direction to more healthcare options.

2008? The 2006 cycle has had some obvious implications for 2008. George Allen and John Kerry, for obvious reasons, have been swept from the field. That presumably helps Mitt Romney and Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Clinton's turnout efforts in New York didn't produce the upstate sweep she must have hoped for: John Sweeney lost for scandal-related issues, and the Democrats did pick up the Oneida County-centered open seat. But evidently nothing else. Barack Obama remains a threat to the obvious Clinton primary strategy: sweep the South, where blacks are a majority or near-majority in Democratic primaries. On the Republican side, John McCain appeared on Fox (and presumably other channels as well) lamenting that Republicans had lost their way by deserting conservative principles. Giuliani, who campaigned gamely and in an intellectually interesting way, for Republican candidates, was not to be seen.

A final note on populism. In cycle after cycle, we hear that certain forms of populism--full-throated opposition to immigration and free trade--will sweep all before them. The 2006 results, at least as I see them now, provide less than full-throated support for this proposition. Two of the loudest critics of illegal immigration--incumbent J. D. Hayworth and open seat primary winner Randy Graf, both in Arizona, where illegals have been famously streaming through the border--both evidently lost. And in upstate New York, where National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds was in terrible trouble after the Mark Foley scandal broke, his Republican-turned-Democratic opponent Jack Davis also lost, in a region where there had been a huge loss of manufacturing jobs. Nativism and protectionism are political weapons that in a certain light look very strong, which seem to be gleaming swords that will slay all before them. But, again and again, they crack like glass in your hand. If nativism can't work on the Arizona border, and protectionism can't work in upstate New York, where can they work?
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Road Not Taken: Forfeiting a Majority

Mea Culpa
I can scarcely begin to tell you of the grief I've been getting from my Lib-friends. I admit, I thought we would squeak by this time, barely (and we almost did, in the Senate, and the House was under 30: bad, but recoverable, and modest in comparison to many 6 year itch elections), but I tempted fate by posting the last "race by race" prediction, as Mike pointed out quite sharply, and with sickly glee. Wow, was that off mark. With that being said, there is so much gobbledygook being spewed by the Drive-by's the last two days, that I thought a sober election post-mortem was in order. Here is the best one I've seen, with which I largely concur...T

The post-mortems are accumulating, but I think the obvious has to be stated: John McCain and his colleagues in the Gang of 14 cost the GOP its Senate majority while the conduct of a handful of corrupt House members gave that body's leadership the Democrats.

The first two paragraphs of my book Painting the Map Red --published in March of this year, read:

If you are a conservative Republican, as I am, you have a right to be worried. An overconfident and complacent Republican Party could be facing electoral disaster. Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and a host of others could be looming in our future and undoing all the good we've tried to do.

It is break the glass and pull the alarm time for the Republican Party. The elections looming in November 2006 are shaping up to be disastrous for the GOP as the elections of 1994 were for the Democrats. Most GOP insiders seem unaware of the party's political peril. Some are resigned to a major defeat as the price we have to pay for a decade of consistent gains, which, they think, couldn't have gone on forever.

As cooler heads sort through the returns, they will see not a Democratic wave but a long series of bitter fights most of which were lost by very thin margins, the sort of margin that could have been overcome had there been greater purpose and energy arrayed on the GOP's side. The country did not fundamentally change from 2004, but the Republicans had to defend very difficult terrain in very adverse circumstances. Step by step over the past two years the GOP painted themselves into a corner from which there was no escape. Congressional leadership time and time again took the easy way out and declared truces with Democrats over issues, which ought not to have been compromised. The easy way led to Tuesday's result.

The criminal activities of Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Mark Foley were anchors around every Republican neck, and the damaged leadership could not figure out that the only way to slip that weight was by staying in town and working around the clock on issue after issue. The long recesses and the unwillingness to confront the issues head on --remember the House's inexplicable refusal to condemn the New York Times by name in a resolution over the SWIFT program leak?-- conveyed a smugness about the majority which was rooted in redistricting's false assurance of invulnerability. Only on rare occasions would the Republicans set up the sort of debate that sharpened the contrast between the parties. In wartime, the public expects much more from its leaders than they received from the GOP.

In the Senate three turning points stand out.

On April 15, 2005 --less than three months after President Bush had begun a second term won in part because of his pledge to fight for sound judges-- Senator McCain appeared on Hardball and announced he would not support the "constitutional option" to end Democratic filibusters. Then, stunned by the furious reaction, the senator from Arizona cobbled together the Gang of 14 "compromise" that in fact destroyed the ability of the Republican Party to campaign on Democratic obstructionism while throwing many fine nominees under the bus. Now in the ruins of Tuesday there is an almost certain end to the slow but steady restoration of originalism to the bench. Had McCain not abandoned his party and then sabotaged its plans, there would have been an important debate and a crucial decision taken on how the Constitution operates. The result was the complete opposite. Yes, President Bush got his two nominees to SCOTUS through a 55-45 Senate, but the door is now closed, and the court still tilted left. A once-in-a-generation opportunity was lost.

A few months later there came a debate in the Senate over the Democrats' demand for a timetable for withdrawal for Iraq led to another half-measure: A Frist-Warner alternative that demanded quarterly reports on the war's progress, a move widely and correctly interpreted as a blow to the Administration’s Iraq policy. Fourteen Republicans voted against the Frist-Warner proposal --including Senator McCain-- and the press immediately understood that the half-measure was an early indicator of erosion in support for a policy of victory.

Then came the two leaks of national security secrets to the New York Times, and an utterly feckless response from both the Senate and the House. Not one hearing was held; not one subpoena delivered. A resolution condemning these deeply injurious actions passed the House but dared not name the New York Times. The Senate did not even vote on a non-binding resolution.

Nor did the Senate get around to confirming the president's authority to conduct warrantless surveillance of al Qaeda contacting its operatives in the United States. Weeks were taken up jamming the incoherent McCain-Kennedy immigration bill through the Judiciary Committee only to see it repudiated by the majority of Republicans, and the opportunity lost for a comprehensive bill that would have met the demand for security within a rational regularization of the illegal population already here.

And while the Senate twiddled away its days, crucial nominees to the federal appellate bench languished in the Judiciary Committee. The most important of them --Peter Keisler who remains nominated for the D.C. Circuit-- didn't even receive a vote because of indifference on the part of Chairman Specter.

(The National Review's Byron York wondered why the president didn't bring up the judges issue in the campaign until the last week, and then only in Montana. The reason was obvious: Senators DeWine and Chafee were struggling and any focus on the legacy of the Gang of 14 would doom DeWine's already dwindling chances while reminding the country of the retreat from principal in early '05.)

As summer became fall, the Administration and Senator Frist began a belated attempt to salvage the term. At exactly that moment Senators McCain and Graham threw down their still murky objections to the Administration’s proposals on the trial and treatment of terrorists. Precious days were lost as was momentum and clarity, the NSA program left unconfirmed (though still quite constitutional) and Keisler et al hung out to dry.

Throughout this two years the National Republican Senatorial Committee attempted to persuade an unpersuadable base that Lincoln Chafee was a Republican. For years Chafee has frustrated measure after measure, most recently the confirmation of John Bolton, even after Ahmadinejad threatened and Chavez insulted the United States from the UN stage. Chafee was a one-man wrecking crew on the NRSC finances, a drain of resources and energy, and a billboard for the idea that the Senate is first a club and only secondarily a body of legislators.

It is hard to conceive of how the past two years could have been managed worse on the Hill.

The presidential ambitions of three senators ended Tuesday night, though two of them will not face up to it.

The Republican Party sent them and their 52 colleagues to Washington D.C. to implement an agenda which could have been accomplished but that opportunity was frittered away.

The Republican Party raised the money and staffed the campaigns that had yielded a 55-45 seat majority, and the Republican Party expected the 55 to act like a majority. Confronted with obstruction, the Republicans first fretted and then caved on issue after issue. Had the 55 at least been seen to be trying --hard, and not in a senatorial kind of way-- Tuesday would have had a much different result. Independents, especially, might have seen why the majority mattered.

Will the GOP get back to a working majority again? Perhaps. And perhaps sooner than you think. The Democrats have at least six vulnerable senators running in 2008, while the situation looks pretty good for the GOP.

But the majority is not going to return unless the new minority leadership --however it is composed-- resolves to persuade the public, and to be firm in its convictions, not concerned for the praise of the Beltway-Manhattan media machine.
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Monday, November 06, 2006

Where’s The House?

Here's a race by race analysis showing a range of dem house pickups from 5-8 seats. Yes, thats right--5 to 8! not 15-20 (ehem, gallup, CNN). This election is likely to turn out just fine for us--IF WE VOTE!...T

Where’s The House III
My first post on analyzing the House races was two weeks ago and remains the basis for my final post on predictions today. As is my second post I did last week. In order to save a little time in the writing of this, I am just going to note in this post if any race has changed significantly from these previous posts. I am still only going to review reviewed the top RCP House races and felt that look like a risk to Dems or Reps, not all 50 RCP races!

Two week’s ago I predicted the Dems would pick up 6-9 seats. Last week I predicted the Dems would lose one seat in addition to the Reps looking better in one seat and modified the prediction to 5-8 seats. This is the final prediction, and sadly there are not a lot of new polls out at RPC today as I had hoped. But I need to get ready to take our two first graders out to dinner in celebration of their good grades! So onward we go.

I will only be applying the bias correction in heavily Rep districts, and possibly some 50-50 races. But I think districts that went for Kerry will see sufficient Dem voting to throw out and ‘cleanse’ their district. Liberals are mad, no two ways about it. So I see Kerry districts turning bluer, not matter what the GOTV effort can produce. One final change, I am dispensing noting the change in the RCP rankings - too many changes to keep track of. I will list the races in their current RCP rankings, making the top races in any category the least likely to stay in the category from the Rep point of view.

Probable Rep
NY-24: Open (Boehlert) - I have no idea why RCP put this race is in the high risk, likely to go Dem category. There are no recent polls to make this judgement and the district is strong Bush country. Going out on a limb here - there is no wave. My baseline is the political map is roughly the same as 2004 (high turn out). Stays Rep. If I am right, we will see it here tomorrow night.

NY-20: Sweeney - This is another race RCP dumped into their endangered Rep list for no good reason. The RT Strategy/CD Polls are showing a clear, consistent bias to the left. And they use unproven voice recognition polling. If I dump these I get an average Dem lead of less than 3% in a district that went for Bush. So the bias correction brings this to a bit over 2% for the Rep. A good GOTV effort and this one stays Rep.

IN-2: (Chocola - R) - Some polls show a drift towards Chocola. The average of the last three polls is around 5% and the bias correction would put it in the Toss Up category. But that Reuters Zogby poll looks crazy next to the other 4 polls, which have an average of 3.75% lead for the dems. I think Chocola will pull this out with a 2% win.

FL-13: (Open - R) - I dealt with this one in a previous post - stays Rep..

NM-1: (Wilson - R) - This race moved from Probable Dem to Toss Up and now is moving into Probable Rep (following its fall in the RCP ranking). Taking the last three polls and averaging brings it down to 1.3% Dem lead. The trend is towards Wilson and the Survey USA poll shows a lots of momentum. Wilson hangs on.

27. OH-1: (Chabot - R) - Few polls, all outdated but trending right. Trend looks to be with Reps. If the Dem wave fizzles it will dry up in this race. Stays Rep

CT-4: (Shays - R) - I almost moved this into the Rep column, but the inflated generic number stayed my hand. And that is really what is different this time around. Strong turnout numbers and the evaporating generic ballot leads. The average of the last three polls puts this a tie. And we should apply a small bias correction due to lack of polls right now. Shays takes this one with 3-4%.

IN-9: (Sodrel - R) - This one won’t even be close. Ignoring the obviously tilted RT Strategies poll and conservatively using the other four recent polls shows a dem lead of 2%. Applying the bias correction I think Sodrel wins with over a 3% margin

IL-6: (Open - R) - As with the others, there is one outlier that is tilting the average and needs to be deweighted. But even if you include it with the other four and average the lead is a measely 1.6%. Using the bias correction for this heavily Rep district gives Roskam a comfortable win with a margin that should exceed 3%

AZ-5: Hayworth - Another RCP drop in race. Many of the top 30 races moved out of contention, so RCP dropped some more in on some last minute polls. This race is averaging a tie and requires a 5% poll bias adjustment I would assume. I think Hayworth pulls this out by a coule of points.

CA-11: Pombo - Another new race to replace all those races that drifted right and out of reach of the Dems. We have one poll in a solid district. RCP is grasping here. Stays Rep

OH-2: (Schmidt - R) - Another new race (see a trend here) where the last two polls show an average of a 1% lead for the rep. If it wasn’t for the one Survey USA poll there wouldn’t even be a case to make this race a risk - unless the generic ballot numbers showed a massive Dem wave coming. But since there is no wave coming, then I would say this race stays Rep.

MN-6: (Open - R) - This one has gone beyond the Dems grasp. This use to be in the top 20 RCP rankings - not anymore. There is a sign here, for those willing to look.

22. CT-2: (Simmons - R) - This one appears to be sliding away from the Dems even in the RCP rankings.

WA-8: (Reichert - R) - I could put this in the toss up category, if there was a big Dem generic ballot lead out there to push me to. There is not one and even RCP has moved this down their risk list.

24. VA-2: (Drake - R) - This race should never have been added to the RCP risk list, but it was. Why? One outlier poll and the big Dem generic lead which made all races without complete consistency all of a sudden a risk. The latest polls show why this was never in play, but hindsight without the fear of a large dem lead in the generic allows for more clear thinking.

Toss Up
CO-7: (Open - R) - This race I held in the Probable Rep for a while because the polls seem to be all over the place. The last four polls give an average of 8.74%. If I ignore the latest one (yes, not a good thing to do) the average drops to just above 6%. This is still a strong BNush district, so the bias factor can be applied making this a 1-3% lead for the Dem, something a GOTV effort could overcome. So I am moving this to toss up with the expectation it could easily go Dem.

IN-8: (Hostettler - R) - The first round on this I said this race was a lost cause, then a poll comes out showing Hostettler only down by 7. Since then an RT Strategies poll has come out that seriously deviates from the numbers this district showed for Bush in 2004. I am not seeing that much change in the electorate, especially with the generic polls out yesterday that put the lie to one sided turnout models. I am loathed to keep this in the Toss Up category because the polls could be much tighter now. It is at least a toss up.

OH-18: (Open - R) -I am keeping this in the Toss Up category with reservations. Just because Bob Ney is a thieving scumbag doesn’t make the Rep running a crook (otherwise all dems wouldn’t be allowed near young female interns). Most voters are much more sophisticated than blaming a party for one man’s digressions. Plus the polls (minus a late and wild Zogby poll) show a 8% lead for the Dems, which could be as low as 3% if the bias correction is applied in this strong Bush district. We shall see what kind of people live in OH-08, but my guess is they are not the type to paint with a broad brush.

NC-11: (Taylor - R) I am moving this out of the Probable Dem category because (a) the latest Reuters Zogby poll puts the race at 5% and (b) that is a 50% cut in Schuler’s lead since the last Reuters Zogby poll. I think Schuler is heading for a loss with that trend line, but I will park it in the Toss Up category for tomorrow.

OH-15: (Pryce - R) - No recent polls and this is a 50-50 district. Pryceis a savvy incumbent and the GOP GOTV effort should do some magic here. But since we have nothing I am pulling this out of the Probable Dem (where RCP has it) since there is no information either way.

NH-2: Bass - This is the third poll RCP has air dropped into the at risk seats simply because of some wild polling anyone should have know to keep out of simplistic averaging of polls (without any weigting due to methodology, sample size, etc). The UNH polls have fluctuated wildly over the course of a few days - demonstrating they are useless. I was going to dump them all, but that seemed harsh so I averaged them into one fuzzy picture of an 8.75% dem lead. Then to not be unfair I averaged the UNH combined score with the two other polls from the period since averaging 9 with one seemed ridiculous. The race is between 1% and 4.5% - and I am tempted to apply the bias just because of the obvious problems with the UNH polls. I have so many doubts about this I going to stick it in the Toss Up, but it doesn’t really seem as an at risk seat to me. If The Dems do turnout in larger numbers they will get this seat. If the meet or fall behind the Reps it stays rep.

PA-6: (Gerlach - R) - This race remains in the Toss Up category. The district went marginally for Kerry, and the lead is slim across the last four polls. The Democrat poll shows the tightest of the four results. A good GOP GOTV could salvage this one, so it will be interesting to see.

CT-5: Johnson - This is one of the few late movers in the RCP rankings which looked legit. The race is about 5% points ahead for the Democrat, and it was a 50-50 district in 2004. New Toss Up.
Probable Dem

AZ-8: (Open - R) - This open seat is trending Dem, even though the district is heavily Rep. If you average the last three polls you get a lead over 10% for the Dem, which cannot be offset by the bias correction of 5%. Stays Dem

IA-1: (Open - R) - This is Kerry country, so the desire for partisan cleansing is strong. I don’t buy the polls showing 20% leads for the dems - it will not be that lopsided. But I plan to watch this race as an indicator for the entire election. Kerry beat Bush 53-46. If there is a wave Braley will beat this 7% margin of victory. And if there is not one he will tie it. And if there is a Rep GOTV wave he will fall short. Here is a bellweather - an open Republican seat in Dem country.

26. FL-22: (Shaw - R) -This is a race that illustrates some real issues with the RCP rankings. The polls show a solid Dem lead and the district is went for Kerry. It should be a strong Dem pick, but RCP has it in lean Rep. Go figure.

Special Factors

1. TX-22: (Open - R) - This is Delay’s old seat, but the Reps are fighting back and all the handwringing voters will not make the effort to write in for Sekula-Gibbs (see, how hard is that?) is an insult to American voters. Stays Rep

3. FL-16: (Open - R) - I am moving this to Probable Rep because it is clear the Reps can hold this and probably will. No new polls, but Floridians get to Punch Foley to elect Negron. Without any evidence to the contrary this goes Rep.

PA-10: (Sherwood - R) - Nothing new in this race poll-wise. The latest non-Democrat poll shows the race -9 for Sherwood. Applying the bias gives us -4. I am holding this in the Probable Dem.

NY-26: (Reynolds - R) - Another race that looked at risk in the flash of media hysteria (which no serious person should partake in) which is clearly trending Rep.

PA-7: (Weldon - R) - There are no recent polls in this race, but plenty of bipartisan scandal muck now that we have found ACORN has forged a lot of registrations. My guess is Americans just aren’t going to buy into this. We have one late poll with Weldon only down 7. Given this is a Democrat poll we can apply the bias factor and see this race as basically a tie, where GOTV can pull it out for the Reps.

So where has a week brought us? This week we have 4 probable Dems and 8 toss ups. This shows a further slippage in the Dems grip on a House majority. If the turnout models are now showing 50-50 turnout then we split the toss ups and the dems will only pick up 8 seats. If they sweep the toss ups they get 12. And if the Reps sweep the toss ups…Well, let’s just not go there for the sake of the liberal egos out there.

And as I pointed out this is without any Rep pick ups of a Dem seat - which is highly probable. There is GA-12 to consider. That would drop the Dem opportunities to 3-7 seats. I think Dems could lose LA-3 as well. As before, the dems could do better - but it has become very, very unlikely with their lead shrinking in the generic ballot and turn out reporting (not predictions) showing the GOP equaling or surpassing Dems in early and absentee ballotting.

Want to make some history? This is the election to do it, so get out and vote tomorrow.
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

November surprise, anyone?

One more generic moves, one more we're still waiting on
Another Poll moves in our direction. That's 3 out of 3 today, including Fox, ABC/WashPost and the before mentioned Pew research...T
11/05 03:49 PM
Pew is out with their final pre-election poll and just like the ABC/Wash. Post poll, Pew shows Republicans with momentum. In the generic ballot, Dems lead by just 4 points. More importantly, the GOP has made significant cuts into the Dems once gigantic lead among indies.
(The last Pew poll put the Democrats' generic ballot advantage at 11 points.)
They also report that 60 percent of voters heard "a lot" about Kerry's remarks, 24 percent "a little." That leaves Gallup's generic coming out tonight.
Keep an eye on the Gallup generic ballot number coming out tonight, if it shows movement similar to the ABC/WP poll there could be a big surprise brewing for many people cocooned in Washington.
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Republicans Cut Democratic Lead in Campaign's Final Days

I'll stick with my prediction all along--small to medium Demo gains in both houses, Repubs maintain control of both. Pew has a late surge reducing the Demo lead from 11pts to 4pts--they question now whether any power shift will occur...T

A nationwide Pew Research Center survey finds voting intentions shifting in the direction of Republican congressional candidates in the final days of the 2006 midterm campaign. The new survey finds a growing percentage of likely voters saying they will vote for GOP candidates... The narrowing of the Democratic lead raises questions about whether the party will win a large enough share of the popular vote to recapture control of the House of Representatives.

Republican gains in the new poll reflect a number of late-breaking trends. First, Republicans have become more engaged and enthused in the election than they had been in September and many Republican voters (64%) as Democratic voters (62%) now say they are giving quite a lot of thought to the election. About a month ago, Democratic voters were considerably more likely than GOP voters to say they were giving a lot of thought to the election (by 59%-50%). As a result, Republicans now register a greater likelihood of voting than do Democrats, as is typical in mid-term elections.

The Republicans also have made major gains, in a relatively short time period, among independent voters...
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Friday, November 03, 2006

Before Iraq: Remember the Hypocrites!

The assumptions of a forgetful chattering class are badly off the mark.

All I can say is Amen here! Read it, study it, print it, carry it in your hip pocket, but above all, remember it!...T

What is written about Iraq now is exclusively acrimonious. The narrative is the suicide bomber and IED, never how many terrorists we have killed, how many Iraqis have been given a chance for something different than the old nightmare, or how a consensual government has withstood enemies on nearly every front.

Long forgotten is the inspired campaign that removed a vicious dictator in three weeks. Nor is much credit given to the idealistic efforts to foster democracy rather than just ignoring the chaos that follows war -- as we did after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, or following our precipitous departure from Lebanon and Somalia. And we do not appreciate anymore that Syria was forced to vacate Lebanon; that Libya gave up its WMD arsenal; that Pakistan came clean about Dr. Khan; and that there have been the faint beginnings of local elections in the Gulf monarchies.

Yes, the Middle East is "unstable," but for the first time in memory, the usual killing, genocide, and terrorism are occurring in a scenario that offers some chance at something better. Long before we arrived in Iraq, the Assads were murdering thousands in Hama, the Husseins were gassing Kurds, and the Lebanese militias were murdering civilians. The violence is not what has changed, but rather the notion that the United States can do nothing about it; the U.S. has shown itself willing to risk much to support freedom in place of tyranny or theocracy in the region.

Instead of recalling any of this, Iraq is seen only in the hindsight of who did what wrong and when. All the great good we accomplished and the high ideals we embraced are drowned out by the present violent insurgency and the sensationalized effort to turn the mayhem into an American Antietam or Yalu River. Blame is never allotted to al Qaeda, the Sadr thugs, or the ex-Baathists, only to the United States, who should have, could have, or would have done better in stopping them, had its leadership read a particular article, fired a certain person, listened to an exceptional general, or studied a key position paper.

We also forget that Iraq, contrary to popular slander, was not "cooked up" in Texas or at a Washington, D.C., neocon think tank. Rather, it was a reaction to two events: a decade of appeasement of Middle East tyrants and terrorists, and the disaster of September 11. If one were to go back and read the most popular accounts of the first Gulf War, The Generals' War by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor of Cobra II fame, or Rick Atkinson's Crusade, or research the bi-partisan arguments that raged across the opinion pages in the 1990s following the defeat and survival of Saddam Hussein, certain themes reappear constantly that surely help to explain our current presence inside Iraq.

One was shared regret that Saddam was left in power in 1991. No sooner had the war ended than George Bush Sr. appeared, not joyous in our success, but melancholy, and then distraught, once images of the butchered and refugees beamed back from our "victory" in Iraq. Culpability for thousands of dead Shiites and Kurds, the need for no-fly zones, and worry about reconstituted WMD were the charges then leveled.

The heroes? A troubled former Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz (read The Generals' War) who almost alone felt tactical success had not translated into strategic victory, and that we were profoundly amoral to have let a mass murderer remain in power, while thousands of brave revolutionaries were butchered just a few miles away from our forces.

We praise the first Gulf War now. Yet, almost immediately in its aftermath, critics accused us of overkill, of using too many soldiers to blast too many poor Iraqis. The charge then was not that we had too few troops, but too many; not that the Pentagon had understated the need for troops, but overstated and sent too many; not that we had too few allies, but an unwieldy coalition that hampered American options; not that the effort was too costly, but that we were too crassly commercial in forcing allies to pony up cash as if war were supposed to be a profitable enterprise.

The generic criticism in the 1990s of the United States, both here and abroad, was that America bombed from on high, and sometimes, as in Belgrade or Africa, even indiscriminately -- its only concern being fear of losses, not worry over civilian collateral damage or ending the war decisively on the ground. Indeed, in Europe there was voiced a certain cynicism that we were cowardly turning war into an antiseptic enterprise (the "body bag syndrome"), adjudicated only by our concern not to engage with the enemy below.

There were other issues now forgotten. After the acrimony in the debate over Iraq in 1990, followed by the successful removal of Saddam Hussein, Democrats were determined never again to be on the wrong side of the national security debate. So they supported the present war because they were convinced that after Panama, Gulf War I, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, they could regain credibility by supporting muscular action that seemed to pose little risk of failure. That is why only recently have Democratic supporters of the war bailed -- and only when polls suggested that any fear of "cut and run" or McGovernism would be outweighed by tapping into popular dissatisfaction with Iraq.

Realism is much in vogue these days, with James Baker returning as the purported fireman, and even Democrats demanding talks with horrific dictators in Iran and North Korea. That was not the mantra of the 1990s. The Reaganism that rejected Cold War realpolitik and risked brinkmanship to bring down a rotten and murderous Soviet Empire was considered both the wiser and more ethical stance, as even Democrats reformulated their opportunistic criticism after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Mutually Assured Destruction, Kissingerian tolerance for the status quo, and mere containment -- all that was scoffed at in the afterglow of Reagan's squeeze that popped the Soviet bubble.

Not long ago, abdication -- from Rwanda or Haiti, or from the Balkans for a decade — not intervention, was the supposed sin. There were dozens of Darfurs in the 1990s, when charges flew of moral indifference. The supposition then -- as now -- was that those who called for boots on the ground to stop a genocide would not unlikely be the first to abdicate responsibility once the coffins came home and the military was left fighting an orphaned war.

Apparently all the high-minded talk of reform -- Aristotle rightly scoffed about morality being easy in one's sleep -- was predicated only on cost-free war from 30,000 feet. Now the wisdom is that Colin Powell -- the supposed sole sane and moral voice of the present administration -- was drowned out by shrill neocon chicken hawks. But that was not the consensus of the 1990s. In both books and journalism, he was a Hamlet-like figure who paused before striking the needed blow, and so was pilloried by the likes of a Michael Gordon or Madeline Albright for not using the full force of the American military to intervene for moral purposes. That was then, and this is now, and in-between we have a costly war in Iraq that has taken the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans.

The unexpected carnage of September 11 explains so much of our current situation. It has made the realist, neo-isolationist George Bush into an advocate for Wilsonianism abroad, but only on the calculation that the roots of Islamic fascism rested in the nexus between dictatorship and autocracy -- the former destroys prosperity and freedom, and the latter makes use of terrorists to deflect rising popular dissatisfaction against the United States.

The U.S. Senate and House voted for war in Iraq, not merely because they were deluded about the shared intelligence reports on WMD (though deluded they surely were), but also because of the 22 legitimate casus belli they added just in case. And despite the recent meae culpae, those charges remain as valid today as they were when they were approved: Saddam did try to kill a former American president; the U.N. embargo was violated, as were its inspection protocols; the 1991 accords were often ignored; the genocide of brave Kurds did happen; suicide bombers were being given bounties; terrorists, including those involved into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were given sanctuary by Saddam; and on and on.

So it is not those charges, but we who leveled them, that have changed. Americans' problem with the war is not that it was not moral, but that it has been deemed too costly for the perceived benefits that might accrue.

The conventional wisdom was that, after Afghanistan (7 weeks of fighting) and its postbellum stability (a government within a year), a more secular Iraq (3 weeks of fighting) would follow the same timetable. In September 2002, well after the "miracle" in Afghanistan, I listened to a high-ranking admiral pontificate that war on the ground was essentially over in the new age of Green Berets and laptops, that after Bosnia and Afghanistan, air power and Special Forces were all that were needed.

This did not come from Rumsfeld surrogates, but was a fair enough reflection of the wild new intoxication before Iraq -- that a supposed "revolution in military affairs" had changed the ancient rules of war, as if our technology would now give us exemption from hurt. Many of those who now most shrilly condemn the war had in fact years ago rattled their sabers for "moral" wars to eliminate dictators -- predicated on just this foolish utopian notion that GPS bombing and laser-guided missiles had at last given us the tools needed for removing the tumors with precision and at little cost, as we conducted lifesaving moral surgery on diseased states.

No, nothing has changed about Iraq other than its tragic tab. Changes of view are fine, as long as those who now criticize the effort at least acknowledge the climate in which fighting in Iraq was born, and the real conditions under which they themselves once supported the war -- and lost heart.
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