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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

One notable aspect of the defense of the Ground Zero Mosque is the claim that defending the rights of these Muslims it is part and parcel of living in accord with our traditions of property rights, free speech, and religious freedom.  But this is, frankly, the theory of America.  Yes, these are important and hoary legal rights.  But they were instituted by our Founders and still valued for practical reasons:  we value our own right to worship, we do not want our neighbors policing our worship, we do not want to contribute to the worship of others, with which we may disagree, and we do not want the kinds of violent contests over religion that have characterized much of European history.  In our past, and even now, there were practical limits on the range of expression of speech or religious freedom owing to our common heritage.  Likewise, and with similar practicality, we value democratic institutions because we believe it limits government excess, allows our interests to be filtered through the political process, and prevents the concentration of power in a king or oligarchy.  But, we also knew until recently among whom we were living, voting, and choosing representatives and presidents.  These were not third world rabble on the whole.  We were not going to face violent reactions in either politics or religion if the outcome–conversion or a lost election–were not a desired one.  Once again, experience rendered the theory a practical and beneficient one.

But for liberals–whether neoconservative or “out of the closet” left-liberals–the procedures are often valued without regard for their practical outcome.  And among left liberals in particular, negative practical outcomes are embraced in the name of theories because these outcomes undermine traditional power structures, habits, and people.  Such rhetorical appeals use our honor and contempt for hypocricy as the very means by which our collective happiness will be undermined.  Thus, free speech for Muslims is championed while draconian prosecutions for “hate speech” among our peers in Europe and Canada are greeted with indifference.  Democracy that yields a ban on gay marriage is struck down by the courts, even as it is championed in Iraq to accomplish Sharia or in South Africa to expropriate property from farmers.

If I may paraphrase something I wrote earlier on Bush’s policies on Iraq:  he acted on the assumption that we’re winning in Iraq by turning Iraq into a democracy, but he was mistaken insofar as he believeed “democracy” is a substantive policy outcome and not an interim procedure that could lead to any number of substantive results both for us and the Iraqis.

Procedural schemes in government are justified to the extent they lead to some long-run practical benefit. Procedures and rights are inventions to achieve practical and final ends like safety, commerce, and order. In both foreign and domestic policies, there should be no purely idealistic procedures, if they would likely lead to some abhorrent practical outcome, such as a society’s destruction.

With Bush and his inner circle, the supporters of a deontological and idealistic foreign policy deluded themselves into thinking that they’re the good ones and that their opponents simply lack sufficient commitment to the cause, instead of recognizing that they’re thoroughly ideological in outlook and merely hoping that a positive outcome will result from the unknown nature of Iraqi public opinion as expressed through elections. This was dangerous and irresponsible, considering the stakes.

Similarly, blind supporters of free speech and religious freedom for Muslims in America do not recognize that the lack of commitment to free speech and religious freedom among this subgroup renders that expansion of freedom short-sighted, unwise, and self-destructive in the long-run, or, at the very least, carries some countervailing risks.  What good is “religious freedom” that results in subordination to Sharia in the name of a suicidal consistency and unwillingness to look beyond theory to practice and outcomes?

As Burke stated in reference to another self-destructive experiment in consistency, “Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it, and exist in much greater clearness and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection; but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.”  Indeed.  While rights and legalities are of high importance, they are not of supreme importance.  They are means to an end, and if they clearly do not serve that end because of some changed circumstance, they must be modified, amended, or in some other way adjusted to deal with reality.

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Brief Update

I’ve been in process of moving cities.  I haven’t forgotten you dear readers.  This weekend the home internet is getting hooked up, and I’ll be back to regale you with the usual stuff.  My brief recap of the week:

Iraq is still a hell hole, and if this is “success” we should pull up the chocks on Afghanistan today.

Economy still looking bad.

Kagan is a leftist and an extremist, but also witty and likable, and this is why she’ll be confirmed.  Indeed, this may be why Harvard Federalist Chapter liked her:  she had a sense of fair play and liked the exchange of ideas.

Thank you WASPs for letting us displace you (at the NY Times of course).  We won’t return the favor for the next up and coming group of people looking to displace us, of course.

Ammo on sale at ammunitiontogo.com.  1000 rounds .223 for $200.   What a way to celebrate Second Amendment Supreme Court victory this week, which was expected after Heller, but a nice triumph after all my years disarmed by Daley’s thugs in Chicago.

Al Gore has gone from enviro-crazy to possible criminal.  A lot of folks are sugegsting this is beyond the realm of possibility–and to me it’s equally likely this woman is an opportunist engaged in high stakes blackmail–but, then again, the sexual passions can be strong and overwhelming even for people otherwise successful.  Look at Eliot Spitzer or Bill Clinton.  Plus, Al Gore seems to have become very angry and nasty after the 2000 election.  Anything’s possible.  What a fitting denoument for the Clinton administration if this comes to pass.

I’m hopping mad that Obama’s felaty to unions and myopic concern for peacetime environmental regulations is keeping effective, foreign, non-union oil skimming vessels from assisting in the Gulf of Mexico.

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If Obama’s foreign policy is sometimes incoherent, Hillary’s is simply Bush-lite.  Her recent essay in Foreign Affairs reveals herself as someone who does not depart substantially from the globalist paradigm of Bush and President Clinton, with the main difference being her greater faith in “diplomacy.”  In a world where many nations’ interests involve knocking America down in prestige and power, this is simply wishful thinking of the worst sort.  It’s essentially the foreign policy espoused earlier by John Kerry.  It is vague about how she will fight terrorism, focusing instead on a policy of supporting the people that will clean up the pieces in the wake of an attack, the lauded “first responders.” 

The flaws in Hillary Clinton’s basic perspective are never more apparent than in her discussion of one of the major foreign policy failure of the last decade, the payoff deal given to North Korea to cease its nuclear programs.  This deal was brokered by Jimmy Carter and signed off by President Clinton and promised North Korea money to cease its nuclear arms programs after it had essentially threatened the West with its arsenal.  She writes: 

Like Iran, North Korea responded to the Bush administration’s effort to isolate it by accelerating its nuclear program, conducting a nuclear test, and building more nuclear weapons. Only since the State Department returned to diplomacy have we been able, belatedly, to make progress.

Actually, North Korea was undertaking all these programs after the deal when it promised it would not do so.  Nothing in Bush’s “axis of evil” remark could have set off such a massive undertaking.  The money paid off by the ’94 Clinton Deal enabled the North Korean regime by giving it much-needed financial and material support.  As I wrote earlier:

I can’t say I blame Clinton for not discovering North Korea violations and weapons plans earlier. The secret North Korean regime is notoriously hard for our spies to penetrate. But I do fault him for thinking he could bribe a criminal regime like this into behaving sensibly. The basic concept of the agreement was the problem, and the end result was more or less inevitable. Even the most minimally rationally black-mailer, once he’s been paid, has an incentive to seek more. And that’s exactly what North Korea’s been trying to accomplish ever since. Clinton’s plan was all carrot and no stick. Bush has been tasked with cleaning up a mess that he did not create, where he did not fail to negotiate real security guarantees, and under the threat of a far more substantial North Korean weapons capability.

On top of its flawed concepts, Clinton’s lengthy essay provides little guidance as to when and where diplomacy is necessary or unlikely to be of use, nor does it articulate when force is needed and under what circumstances she would use it.  For instance, does she embrace the “humanitarian wars” concept of President Clinton?  Does she think a UN mandate is always necessary (after all, her husband did not in Kosovo)? Does she recognize that certain irrational players on the world stage, such as A-Jod in Iran, may not respond to the same incentives as less ideological and religiously-tinged leaders?  Finally, does she recognize any inherent or at least structural tension between the Western World and the Islamic world?  She’s either silent or vague on these issues.  The world Muslim only comes up in referring to her support for “building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan.”

Bush has been a disaster on foreign policy because he is a liberal.  He believes in spreading democracy, the universality of American values, and the necessity of idealism in our foreign policy.  He also has been incompetent, using tough talk without backing up words with appropriate action, alienating potential friends like Russia, using democracy as a substitute for the necessity of real security in Iraq, and being diffident and inarticulate about the need for intelligence-gathering against al Qaeda.  There is no reason to think Clinton will not be worse in all these respects, even if she is accepted more readily by the Europeans. 

Let’s not forget that it is al Qaeda, China, Iran, and Russia who matter most in the next President’s foreign policy.  On all four matters, the first President Clinton, embracing a very similar view as Hillary was a disaster.  Al Qaeda grew in strength and planned 9/11 during his watch.  China grew stronger military and economically under his watch, and its increasing trade with the West did not liberalize its internal affairs as promised.  Iran continued to support terrorism during Clinton’s more mild presidency and was linked to the Khobar Towers bombing without any retaliation on his part.  Finally, Russia grew increasingly alienated from the West during Clinton and Bush’s presidency because both presidents desired to expand NATO, criticized Russia on Chechnya (where it’s fighting al Qaeda and its allies), and both meddled in Russia’s internal affairs and elections.  Clinton may not be loony on foreign policy, but liberals and conservatives alike should expect many of the same problems as Bush has had, coupled with the likely disappointments that the deus ex machina of diplomacy will foster.  These problems will persist because both Hillary Clinton and Bush use liberal ideas–the importance of the UN, democracy (including among our allies), and human rights–as guides when hard-headed realism about diplomacy and the use of force is needed.

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I think it’s remarakable that General Ricardo Sanchez, former Corps Commander of all coalition assets in Iraq, is now pointing the finger at everyone–including Rumsfeld, Bremer, Casey, Bush, etc.–when he was so singularly incapable of getting the mission accomplished in Iraq. He failed to keep control when the daily numbers of IED and other attacks were 20% of what they are today. He supervised the slow-motion effort to up-armor American vehicles, train Iraqis, and win “hearts and minds” with little attention to the security of ordinary Iraqis. His and Bush’s motto could have been, “Who needs security when you can vote!”

He failed to sound the alarm about our troops’ lack of language training, the porous Iraqi borders, and the failed detention system that culminated in the Abu Ghraib scandal. His task may have been too ambitious and his assets too few, but even so he misused what he had and never risked his career to do the right thing for the American troops in the field. He willingly gave support to Rumsfeld’s ideological blindness about the war’s progress and failed to provide an appropriately skeptical counterweight to Rumsfeld and Bush’s more outrageous demands. Finally, he failed to provide a proper “big picture” mission to his division commanders, and thus a lack of mission clarity hampered efforts at every level.

I believe this anecdote, recounted by the highly credible Thomas Ricks, speaks for itself:

I actually said to Sanchez one day, something my driver had said to me. My Iraqi driver said, “You know, when I lived in America, we could call 911 if you wanted police help.” He said, “Why isn’t there a hotline here that we can call in and say, ‘Hey, I saw some insurgents'”? …

I mentioned this to Sanchez, … and he said, “Oh, that’s an interesting thought.” Well, this was March, I think, 2005. I believe they finally did stand up a national hotline.

Sanchez symbolizes everything that is conventional, unimaginative, incompetent, and overly political in today’s corps of generals.

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Tom Ricks, author of Fiasco, has an excellent series of reports on IEDs in Iraq in the Washington Post.  One of the most notable trends is a chart showing the number of IED events since 2003.  The number is five or six times higher in 2006 and 2007 than it was in the first six months after the invasion.  Recall, that was the time when Rumsfeld was dismissing the insurgency as the death throes of “Dead Enders.” In 2003, there probably was some chance to restore order, assuming we had any end game for what a good Iraq government looked like.  Of course, we did not, so these tactical discussions may themselves be a bit of a distraction from the entire operation which was flawed from the get go insofar as it aimed to protect America and reform the Middle East by giving the Iraqis a democratic government.

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In between his paeans to folks in Bangalore wearing Nike shoes and drinking Starbucks coffee while talking on their Samsung phones, Thomas Friedman also likes to write about foreign policy. He infamously declared every six months for three years running that the situation in Iraq was critical and, by implication, that if things did not sort themselves out that the war was essentially lost. He never felt obliged to revisit his previous predications. He also quietly started speaking out against the war after positioning himself earlier as one of its most sentimental cheerleaders.

But now he’s turned a new corner. His banality and faddishness have fully joined forces with his peerless capacity for observing the mundane through the lens of a well-traveled propagandist for globalization. He basically has declared the war on al Qaeda won and the events of 9/11 over-played and, therefore, unimportant for the next election. No hidebound slave to the past, he writes:

I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

I guess I missed that great day, some two or three years ago, where representatives of al Qaeda stood on the deck of the USS Nimitz and signed formal documents of surrender. Has Friedman not noticed the recent attacks on Glasgow airport, al Qaeda’s massacres of civilians in Iraq, the radicalization of European Muslims, the Paris riots, and the Bali, Madrid, and London bombings? We’ve not had a significant domestic attack after the various resrictions Friedman complains about were put in place. His failure to notice this bona fide success is analogous to the liberal complaint about “warehousing criminals,” even though the last decade of increased incarceration has also led to a significant reduction in violent crime. One of the worst things about Friedman, and one of his great deficiencies as a columnist, is his failure to refocus the public’s attention on important, though easily forgotten, matters of importance. He instead loves the ephemeral, as evidenced by his vulgar habit of dropping brand names to show how we all consume the same things world-wide.

Al Qaeda is real. It means us harm. Within its ranks, one finds motivated personnel who have shown a remarkable combination of cunning, high concept operations, and willingness to exploit our tendency towards forgetfulness and complacency. The post 9/11 changes on the border and outside our borders–including the establishment of GITMO and the increase of monitoring of visitors to the US–mean that American citizens can live more securely and with fewer restrictions upon ourselves. As I’ve noted before, the false freedom of open borders means less freedom of movement and security at home. Instead of coining useless new phrases–like al Qaeda 2.0–Friedman should use his powers of rhetoric to envision the results of al Qaeda’s next attack, perhaps an exploding LNG tanker in Boston or a hijacked cargo jet hitting the Sears Tower or a company of urban snipers slipping in through Mexico.

Friedman does not understand that the very openness he wants to return to was, in part, the cause of the various security lapses that led to 9/11. The government and private industry maintained a culture of willful blindness and wishful thinking. Frieman tells us we need to be more open and solicitous of the opinions of the rest of the world, and, to appease our critics, we must close GITMO and create procedures to faciliate easier access for business travellers. He intones, “Those who don’t visit us, don’t know us.” My God. Has Friedman not noticed that sometimes people visit us, hate us more, and use their visits to kill lots of us, e.g., Atta, Qutb.

It’s true, there has been a great deal of water under the bridge since 9/11 on how best to deal with al Qaeda; in particular, the strategy of forcible democratization of the Middle East seems entirely discredited by events in Iraq. But the problems of the Iraq War do not mean that al Qaeda is no longer a big deal or that we can turn our attention to the things that Friedman really gets excited about like gadgets and smart foreigners with similar, transnational values.

Friedman is the most prominent champion of globalization in the American media. He undoubtedly endures endless sleights, sincere pleading, and criticism from Davos People for America’s alleged crudeness and insensitivity. With his latest column, Friedman has guaranteed access to the finest cocktail parties in Davos and Geneva and Paris and Durban for years to come. At the same time, he has disqualified himself from being taken seriously by Americans who are concerned about American security.

There is little accountability in journalism. People make predictions that do not come true and still continue to earn a living. I want this stupid column plastered everywhere the next time al Qaeda manages to undertake a successful attack, which, sadly, is almost certainly inevitable.

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General Petraeus advocated a surge. Then he, inexplicably, said it was working so well that it was time to change course again and reduce the surge. I discussed this illogic here. Andrew Bacevich–Army veteran , BU Professor, and father of deceased Army Lieutenant KIA in Iraq–explains the political roots of Petraeus’ backing down from his earlier enthusiasm for the surge in this article in the American Conservative:

If Petraeus actually believes that he can salvage something akin to success in Iraq and if he agrees with President Bush about the consequences of failure —genocidal violence, Iraq becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks directed against the United States, the Middle East descending into chaos that consumes Israel, the oil-dependent global economy shattered beyond repair, all of this culminating in the emergence of a new Caliphate bent on destroying the West—then surely this moment of (supposed) promise is not a time for scrimping. Rather, now is the time to go all out—to insist upon a maximum effort.

There is only one plausible explanation for Petraeus’s terminating a surge that has (he says) enabled coalition forces, however tentatively, to gain the upper hand. That explanation is politics—of the wrong kind.

Given the current situation as Petraeus describes it, an incremental reduction in U.S. troop strength makes sense only in one regard: it serves to placate each of the various Washington constituencies that Petraeus has a political interest in pleasing.

A modest drawdown responds to the concerns of Petraeus’s fellow four stars, especially the Joint Chiefs, who view the stress being imposed on U.S. forces as intolerable. Ending the surge provides the Army and the Marine Corps with a modicum of relief.

A modest drawdown also comes as welcome news for moderate Republicans in Congress. Nervously eyeing the forthcoming elections, they have wanted to go before the electorate with something to offer other than being identified with Bush’s disastrous war. Now they can point to signs of change—indeed, Petraeus’s proposed withdrawal of one brigade before Christmas coincides precisely with a suggestion made just weeks ago by Sen. John Warner, the influential Republican from Virginia.

The article is worth reading in full. The idea that the Bush administration can dress up its helter skelter lack of strategy in Iraq is much more insulting to the uniform than any propaganda peddled by moveon.org and company.

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