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  • Archive for March, 2003

    The Cruelty of Sanctions

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th March 2003 (All posts by )

    The always good Walter Russell Mead points out that the preferred “anti-war” program of ongoing “sanctions” actually kills more people in Iraq, mostly children, than a war would. Unfortunately the anti-war people are so far into their own fantasy land that facts, rational argument and moral reasoning cannot reach them. They’d rather just smoke a joint and carry around a picture of Bush with a Hitler moustache. Brilliant.

    Mead’s essay is Exhibit 9,483 for getting this war started, fought and over with. So the poor suffering people of Iraq can have a chance to live decent lives again, to have medicine for their kids and clean water. C’mon, W, pick up the phone and just say “go!”

    UPDATE: Iain Murray addresses some criticism of Mead’s math. Bottom line, it seems to me, the argument remains sound even if the numbers are a little off or open to dispute.

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    Head’s Up on War Coverage

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th March 2003 (All posts by )

    This editorial from Soldiers for the Truth shows that that gang of warriors are fully loaded to provide maximum, round-the-clock coverage of the war as it happens. So, if (when) the balloon goes up, be sure to check in with them.

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    They’re Still not Funny

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th March 2003 (All posts by )

    Erik over at Wax Tadpole takes me to task:

    I also don’t think [the French] see it as a purely zero-sum game in which America’s loss is France’s gain. They vastly underestimate the contribution that America makes to world stability and overestimate the stabilizing effect of their beloved multilateral institutions, which leads them to be reckless in their attempts to launch a new cold war.

    He goes on to add:

    I do think that French policy makers place greater weight on the good (or glory) of France as they see it than on the lives of American soldiers. That leads to decisions that place Americans at risk, but I’m aghast at the suggestion that they’re actively trying to get Americans killed.

    Well. First, I think it is easier to think that Chirac and Villepin are smart and can at least anticipate the consequences of their actions than to impute a “vast underestimation” to them. They are bright guys. They can see how the world works, and they can foresee the more obvious likely consequences of their actions. And they know perfectly well how much America does to create “world stability.” Ending the “world stability” which has been imposed by the United States and which exists on American terms is what they want to happen.

    As to being “aghast” at the idea that they are trying to get Americans killed, I’m aghast too. But I don’t see any other rational explanation for their conduct. Getting Americans killed is, at minimum, a price they are willing to pay. How the Hell else can you read it. If you provide the sworn enemy of the United States with powerful weapons, or the means to make them, you have got to figure they might be used against the United States. That is culpable conduct, whatever they may hope or wish will happen. And if it is not intentional it is still culpably reckless. What I am aghast at is their brazenness.

    I recall reading that if one person has a crazy idea, he can be talked out of it. But get two people to share a crazy idea, and Heaven and earth can’t shake them. They have gone from being lonely fanatics to being an embattled minority possessing the Truth. So you can imagine how relieved I was to see this piece by Ralph Peters entitled “Dead Americans.” Peters’s closing line: “… every American who dies in this war will have a French diplomatic bullet in his or her body.”

    To be fair, Peters does not go where I go on France arming Saddam:

    Although one of the many reasons the French do not want us in Baghdad is that they don’t want us going through Iraqi archives and uncovering the extent of their complicity in Saddam’s defiance of sanctions, the material aid French firms may have provided to Iraq is a trivial issue compared to the moral and diplomatic encouragement Paris has given Baghdad.

    Like I said before: I hope I’m wrong. I hope that at worst the French are being mercenary and irresponsible and thoughtless. Still not a very good moral justification for assisting Saddam to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But maybe it would be forgivable.

    But please, let’s try to recall one of the many “lessons of 9/11” – there are lots of people out there in the world who really hate the United States. Some of them do so for reasons which don’t make a lot of sense to us. But Americans for some reason continue to find this hard to believe, even though they are rich, powerful, loud, indifferent to the sensibilities of foreigners and generally make it clear that the rest of the world is their playpen. Then, when some foreigner wants to cut our throats, we are dumbfounded. We need to stop being naďve. Poverty is not the root cause of hatred of America. Wounded pride is the root cause of hatred of America. And that can exist just as well in the French foreign ministry as it can in some madrasa in Pakistan, or some wealthy home in Cairo or Riyadh, or any number of other places.

    Whatever their real motives, Chirac and Villepin had better watch it. They have caused this country to go into a more difficult war than was necessary. The inevitable consequence is that more Americans and more Iraqis are going to die when the war starts. Whatever those two think they are doing, they are building deep and probably permanent animosity here.

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    Not In My Name

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th March 2003 (All posts by )

    If I were a New Yorker, I’d be annoyed by this sort of divisive posturing by municipal officials. Don’t these people have better things to do on their constituents’ dime?

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    The French Aren’t Funny

    Posted by Lexington Green on 11th March 2003 (All posts by )

    David Warren’s latest essay got at least two Chicago Boyz really, really mad. Not at him. At the French:

    The French et al. smell blood, they are not going to back off now when they see the prospect of doing real damage. Their strategy was from the beginning to split the British from the Americans by humbling Mr. Blair, to delay the inevitable full-scale attack into the Iraqi hot season, when the fighting would be more difficult and thus the casualties higher; to isolate the U.S. diplomatically; to galvanize the international peace movement against the Bush administration; and to improve Saddam’s prospects for creating a catastrophe when war comes.

    Whoa. I wrote a really long, really angry rant after I read this. Then, I had some leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and began to see things in a more calm perspective. Plus, everybody is ranting about the French. I decided to try to add a little light instead of superfluous heat to this issue. Here’s what I came up with.

    The main lesson to take away here is that the French are not misguided. They are not naďve. They are not “surrender monkeys”. They are hostile to the United States. They are allies of Saddam, who is their client and customer. Warren is right their policies will, and are meant to, cause more American soldiers to die once we go to war in Iraq. Again, the purpose of French policy is to cause more Americans to die, as many as possible. There is no other interpretation which makes any sense.

    The French have provided Saddam with weapons, or the tools to acquire weapons, which they knew were meant to be used against the United States. They either willfully or with reckless indifference have supported Saddam’s effort to obtain nuclear weapons. Since they willed the means, they should be assumed to have willed the end. The purpose here is to thwart the United States, and to put the lives of millions of Americans at risk. That is a risk and a threat the French were willing to cultivate and direct against the United States, through their client and ally, Saddam. At minimum, the French assistance to Saddam was meant to make Saddam’s hideous regime secure and unassailable and undeterrable. That is malign enough.

    Why would the French be willing to take steps which logically and practically could very well lead to the destruction of American cities with nuclear weapons? Why are they willing to push things in that direction? Why are they willing to take that risk? Because they see the world as a zero sum game in which what is bad for America is good for France.

    We have trouble understanding this. Putting morality aside, we see that a badly damaged United States would lead to a major contraction in the world economy, and all kinds of negative consequences for political and economic freedom worldwide. To us, it looks like simple, rational self-interest should make the French at least tacit allies of the United States. But that is incorrect. The French have always despised the Anglo-Saxons for being materialists. A great destruction of wealth is a price they would be willing to pay to make France relatively more strong and influential. There is no price too high, to the French leadership, for a chance to damage the hyperpower, to weaken it, to reduce its military and economic and political and cultural influence, to leave the world an open field without any hegemonic power, to create a world in which France can compete as an equal or near-equal, for position and advantage, for the “greatness” and “glory” which they believe to be their historical birthright.

    We also see that increased terrorism will lead to harsher police measures and a degradation of personal freedom. We want to stamp out terrorism, especially the risk of nuclear terrorism, to preserve our freedoms. The French, again, are willing to pay the price of a much more intrusive government and loss of personal privacy and freedom. To them, the Anglo-Saxons have always over-valued Liberty compared to Equality and Fraternity. A world which was less free, but in which there was greater equality and greater social solidarity, one in which there was less individualism and “savage capitalism”, would be a positive from their perspective. So the destruction of the free and open world economy, and the erosion of personal freedom, which Americans think would be a disaster, looks like a positive to the French elite, or at least a price they are willing to pay.

    The “West” is a historical unity, but there is no unitary “West” as a current political matter. The French do not think like Americans. French political values are not our political values. Their interests, or at least those of their political elite, are antithetical to our own. Their vision of the world of the future is contradictory and hostile to ours. And, it seems, they do not see coexistence as a possibility. Either the United States is cut down to size, or they lose their identity, and the future they want to build, primarily in Europe.

    As Rod Dreher notes in this article, the French have a unique and in many ways admirable and appealing way of life. Many people fall in love with the place. One of my favorite writers is A.J. Liebling, and several of his books are love letters to France, French culture, French women, French food. The French leadership is acutely aware of this unique quality. I have grudging respect for the French leaders, for being willing to go to great lengths to preserve their country and its culture, if that is what they really think they are doing. I’d expect no less. I can also see why they see the United States as a threat to that way of life. Maybe they are right. Maybe it is. They are better judges of that than I am. But if protecting France means doing or allowing harm to us, if it really is “us or them”, then hard cheese on them. But do not doubt for a minute that they mean to prevail. Give them that much. Chirac and Villepin are not buffoons. They are serious, ruthless and aware of the stakes. They need to bring us down, and they are working hard to achieve that.

    Before 1939, most Europeans could not believe that Hitler was serious, even though he repeatedly said, explicitly, what he meant to do. We should not be surprised that the French leadership, being less forthright than Hitler, and quietly playing a weaker hand, is not yet taken seriously as the menace it is. But the time is well upon us to wake up, to pay attention, and to coldly do what we must to prevail over the French in any forum and in any manner in which they oppose us.

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    Dumb as a Rock

    Posted by Lexington Green on 11th March 2003 (All posts by )

    My sister sent me this remarkable video of interviews of anti-war protesters in New York.

    The vapidity of their comments is about what I’d expected it to be. The deadpan person interviewing them highlights how thoughtless their positions are.

    Fortunately, just as with the Vietnam war protesters, the Nuclear Freeze movement, etc., this movement provides primarily an opportunity for an outdoor party and self-affirmation-fest for its participants. However, the political effect of these movements and their displays of public stupidity is, as usual, to alienate ordinary middle-class opinion and to strengthen the hand of the government being protested against.

    Bush’s rising support in the polls is due in some degree to these antics. Good.

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    Fatal Priorities

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 11th March 2003 (All posts by )

    It seems as if attorney general Ashcroft is putting more effort into fighting drug-use than terrorism, and this shortly before a war on a Muslim country. This isn’t just a misallocation of resources, it also sends the wrong signal to federal law-enforcement agencies. During the the decades-long war on drugs promotions were mostly awarded based on the number of drug-related arrests an agent made. Due to institutional inertia it is to be expected that agencies as well as individual agents will continue to give the war on drugs preference over the war on terror; field agents have to know that lip-service to fighting terrorism aside, their superiors will continue to make drug-related arrests the main yardstick for evaluating their performance. Resources and personnel assigned to counter-terrorism had been inadequate for years, leading to such failures like this and this. If only one of these leads had been properly been followed, 911 could arguably have been prevented, but the FBI lacked the manpower. To avoid repeating those mistakes, Ashcroft presently needs not only to increase resources and personnel for fighting terrorism, he also has to make sure that they aren’t shifted towards busting drug-rings. Bureaucrats who won’t get with the program should be weeded out. But instead he emphasizes the importance of fighting drugs, positively encouraging to continue the misallocation of resources. If the pre-911 failures are replicated and the terrorists manage to pull off some large-scale attacks the Bush Administration will have to accept the lion’s share of the blame.

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    Risk Taking

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th March 2003 (All posts by )

    Yes, Bush is willing to take a big risk when he thinks it is justified by the likely payoff. Contrast his successful, calculated risk taking with the behavior of the French leadership, which is betting France’s geopolitical status on a pissing match with the U.S. which the U.S. seems certain to win. Who is really the reckless cowboy?

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    Declaration of War?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 10th March 2003 (All posts by )

    Jim Bennett’s new column is the first one I have ever seen by him that I don’t agree with at all. He argues that Bush should now go to Congress and get a declaration of war, before going into Iraq. He does not take the declaration passed by Congress last Fall to be sufficient. I disagree. I do not think that the Iraq war is going to require a massive mobilizing of the economy for war, for example. We will win it with what is in place. We could win it with half of what is in place.

    More importantly, Bush cannot win a Congressional vote at this point. The Democrats, like any political party, have to satisfy their core constituencies. That core is violently anti-war. The core anti-war group is a community of activists that have worked and organized together for 35 years. They are planning civil disobedience in the event of war. Opposition to the war is becoming a litmus test for Democrat Presidential contenders. (See this piece, cited by Instapundit.) In other words the anti-war community is fired up and fully mobilized.

    The pro-war group is not organized, not nearly as fiery in their views, and is growing demoralized by the President’s endless foray into the United Nations, and the President’s own seeming qualms about going to war.

    The Democrats smell the possibility of a major victory against Bush. They smell weakness and hesitation on the part of Bush. They see that his supporters are hardening in their views but not increasing their numbers. And so they are on the attack. This is Politics 101: attack where your opponent is weak. If they can somehow cause Bush to back down they can declare victory and they can repudiate everything Bush has done in foreign policy since day one as a failure, a joke, a disaster. If Bush were insane enough to seek a new vote in Congress, the Democrats would see this as a gift from the Gods. It would be a concession of fear, of weakness. They would now have a rallying point to oppose Bush. They’d filibuster if necessary. They’d put millions of people into the street. They’d do anything to beat Bush. There would be euphoria on their side.

    There is no way whatever that Bush could get a declaration. And there is no way he could be reelected if he asked for one.

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    Update Re: Postwar Occupation – I’m Less Worried Lately

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th March 2003 (All posts by )

    In this post, I expressed my fear that General Powell and the apparatchiks in the State Department were going to push for a too-limited effort to emplace a more liberal and democratic government in post-War Iraq. Various straws in the wind make me less worried, and the consensus seems to be that the reestablishment of some “stable” authoritarian apparatus is not in the cards.

    Michael Barone, in this column assesses the likely next steps following the conquest of Iraq, and opines

    The course of military action is never completely predictable, and horrors may lie ahead. But few in Washington doubt that we can occupy Iraq within a few weeks’ time. Then comes the difficult task of moving Iraq toward a government that is democratic, peaceful, and respectful of the rule of law. Fortunately, smart officials in both the Defense and State departments have been doing serious work planning for that eventuality for over a year now.

    Examples of this planning are discussed in this article entitled “Full U.S. Control Planned for Iraq”:

    The Bush administration plans to take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, with an interim administration headed by a yet-to-be named American civilian who would direct the reconstruction of the country and the creation of a “representative” Iraqi government, according to a now-finalized blueprint described by U.S. officials and other sources.

    The article notes that Iraqi opposition leaders were informed ” that the United States will not recognize an Iraqi provisional government being discussed by some expatriate groups.” This may be the reason for the initial outcry from Iraqi expats. I think Chalabi wanted to be an Iraqi de Gaulle, taking power behind American tanks. We apparently are not going to play that. Rather, “some 20 to 25 Iraqis would assist U.S. authorities in a U.S.-appointed ‘consultative council,’ with no governing responsibility.” Also, the article makes clear, there will be a process of “de-Baathification.” See also Paul Wolfowitz’s speech to Iraqi Americans in Michigan: “We have one of the most powerful military forces ever assembled” now on the borders of Iraq. “If we commit those forces, we’re not going to commit them for anything less than a free and democratic Iraq.”

    Nicholas Lemann’s article, which I saw in the New Yorker, is available in two parts here and here. Lemann quotes at length from an interview with Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy. Feith talks about bringing “institutions of democracy to Iraq”

    “I use the term ‘institutions of democracy’ carefully. I don’t like to talk just about ‘democracy,’ because that connotes that there’s a particular system that works for everybody, and I’m too much a respecter of Burke to assert that.” He paused and said, “But the notion that when you have governmental institutions that are free, and allow for a greater degree of political and economic freedom, and people are protected from tyranny by having multiple institutions in their society that have power-the principle of checks and balances-it leaves open a tremendous amount of room for how societies organize their governments, and their societies in general. The notion of checks and balances as a safeguard against tyranny is something that I think can have applicability all around the world. It’s not peculiar to a particular culture.

    “Then, you have the phenomenon that this greater freedom that came to Latin America, that came to various parts of Asia, largely missed the Middle East. And there is all kinds of writing on the subject, on whether there is anything inherently incompatible between either Muslim culture, or Arab culture, and this kind of freer government. This Administration does not believe there is an inherent incompatibility. And if Iraq had a government like that, and if that government could create some of those institutions of democracy, that might be inspirational for people throughout the Middle East to try to increase the amount of freedom that they have, and they would benefit both politically and economically by doing so.”

    Feith goes on to assert that this process would spread, less out of U.S. compulsion, but because:

    “There are people throughout the Middle East who have interests in promoting greater freedom,” he went on. “You have various people in various countries who have an interest in improving their country. And if there were to be a model of political success along these lines in the Middle East, in Iraq, one can imagine it would be impressive and influential. If somebody elsewhere in the Middle East looks at this and says, ‘If the Iraqis can have these benefits, perhaps we can get some of these benefits for our own people,’ I think that’s really more the mechanism.”

    (Trent Trelenko had previously linked to this Lemann article.)

    Perhaps most reassuring was the President’s recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute:

    The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.

    Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before — in the peace that followed a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.

    There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. The nation of Iraq — with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people — is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.

    That all sounds like a “maximalist” approach I have been hoping for. Bush, the gambler, the risk-taker, is swinging for the fences.

    Finally, as if to make sure our false friends, the bigots in Saudi Arabia, will be “maximally” offended, comes news that the person chosen to “run Baghdad after the defeat of Saddam Hussein” is one Barbara Bodine. She is described as “the senior civilian on the Pentagon task force that is charged with reconstructing Iraq.” She sounds like a tough cookie. She has actually been a terrorist hostage. The story was in the Chicago Sun Times, but I can’t find it online. I’ll update this post if I can find a link.

    UPDATEThis news story references Ms. Bodine, though it is not the one I referred to above.

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    Some Thoughts on the Pope’s Pacifism

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th March 2003 (All posts by )

    My friend ParisLawyerPundit (“PLP”) sent me this recent New York Times article, entitled “Catholics Debating: Back President or Pope on Iraq?” PLP is a devout Catholic who has lived in France for many years, and wanted my take on all this.

    First, anything from the New York Times has to be decrypted, by asking, what partisan gimmick is the Gray Lady up to here? In this case, it is an attempt to splinter-off a key part of Bush’s coalition, church-going Catholics. Nice try, guys, but it ain’t gonna work. This is really a non-story.

    I will show some of my cards and tell you that Lex is a very conservative Catholic who has many friends who are very conservative Catholics. To generalize grossly, so-called liberal Catholics, doctrinally, tend to be politically liberal, and Conservative Catholics tend to be politically conservative, with some variation around the edges. On the “Conservative” side, I have seen no one who has any qualms about the war or the Pope’s objection to it. Nor should they.

    My response to PLP was pretty much as follows:

    The Catholic Church is an entity with a legal structure and delimited powers. The Pope’s authority is limited. He speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals. On prudential political decisions, he is a wise, good and well-intentioned man and no more. We had a Pope bless the Armada before it set out to conquer England. That was wrong as well as stupid. This one, by making himself an objective ally of the tyrant Saddam, is also, in my view, wrong. Any conservative Catholics who have a problem with all this do so because they have inadequate religious education and don’t understand what the Church is or how it works. Like their liberal opponents, in their ignorance, they go by their feelings, in this case, tribal loyalty to someone they perceive as being “on their side”. Anyway, most mainstream Catholics are so disgusted with the Church hierarchy right now that it’s moral authority is at an all time low, and its ability to influence any public debate is minimal. I chuckle at the liberal clergy in this country suddenly clutching this much-despised Pope to its bosom. They have not trumpeted from the altars his pronouncements about the evils of contraception, abortion, homosexuality, divorce. They have not preached with fiery conviction the value of priestly celibacy, or the mandatory nature of the reservation of ordination to men. They have not taken up in their homilies the Pope’s suggestion to reemphasize the sacrament of penance, or daily mass attendance, or corporal mortification, or traditional pious practices, particularly the rosary. They had not heeded his admonition that any political or social activism must be preceded by and rooted in personal prayer and conversion. In other words, when the Pope is working within the ambit of his actual authority, the American clergy pay him no heed whatsoever. They use him as a prop, when convenient, for their own political interests, and toss him aside when his immediate utility has been exhausted. I saw Cardinal George at a retreat for lawyers the other day. He, unlike JPII, made perfect sense on this issue. He said he is opposed to the war. He thinks it is a bad idea. He is worried about hubris, overstretch, a too-great reliance on military force, the alienation and anger of foreigners. These are plausible worries, though I do not share them, or deem them outweighed by other considerations. Cardinal George then said that where there is a legitimate government in place, which ours unquestionably is, then it is necessary, barring the most egregious circumstances, to defer to that government and give it “the benefit of the doubt” in making decisions within its own sphere of competence, such as when, where and against whom to go to war. He went so far as to say that a State cannot be pacifist, since it has an obligation to protect its citizens. He said that it would be wrong for him to give Catholic military personnel any qualms of conscience about following their orders, for example, in this situation. Then, being the realist he is, he smiled and said, “though it is not likely that any of them would pay any attention” if he did. The Pope is apparently a pacifist. This appears to be a result of his early experiences in a helpless and oppressed country. Whatever its genesis, this position is an intellectual and moral error. Much like his also wrong views on the death penalty, he is, to this degree, a true son of the “Spirit of Vatican II”, and innovating and going beyond or even against the Church’s long-standing teaching. Consult John Henry Newman’s book on the development of doctrine and apply his seven-point criteria for legitimate developments, and it becomes apparent that these innovations will likely die out as the alien transplants they are. In a sense it is the error that Eric Voegelin condemned as trying to “immanentize the eschaton”, i.e. arrive at a world something like the one which will follow the return of Christ in Glory by pretending that it is here already. It is a utopianism which can only lead to disappointment if not disaster. In a fallen world there will always be, at best, law-abiding armies, policemen and prisons. The alternative to just and lawful order imposed periodically by force is not a benign utopia but bloody-handed anarchy. Catholics used to know this. They need to relearn it.

    PLP wrote back that he had heard that the scuttlebutt amongst certain academic clergymen is that the Pope has chosen this episode to begin a campaign of activism directed against the liberal democratic West, akin to that which he conducted against the Soviet bloc. The idea here, amongst wishful thinking liberals, is that the Pope despises the liberal West as much as he did the communist East, because of its capitalisme sauvage and so forth, and is now going to wield the hammer against the hyperpuissance. This strikes me as a delusion, particularly where simpler explanations cover the facts better. I responded:

    It would be odd if the Papacy really is choosing this moment as the time for a showdown with “democratic liberalism” generally or its American incarnation more specifically. For one thing, as a tactical matter, it is doomed to fail since Bush is absolutely determined to remove Saddam and has made that clear. Anyway, this scuttlebutt is either wishful thinking or conspiracy theorizing. More plausibly, the Pope genuinely hates the notion of armies marching, as a matter of personal “tastes and preferences”. That is the main reason for all this. Also, this Pope and the Vatican hierarchy have long held a very benign view of the UN as a nascent world government — one Pope and one Caesar again. Of course, I consider this to be folly, but it is a fact. And, in good Italian fashion, and like any diplomatic service, the Vatican foreign office prefers “jaw jaw” to “war war”, on the theory that something will turn up or the principals will get old and die or get bored and give up, and stability is to be valued over everything else. Also, the Pope has made efforts to reach out to Muslims, and he is very worried about a civilizational conflict. Those are the remote bases for the Vatican’s current policy of vigorously opposing the war. The proximate reason is apparently the Chaldean Catholics in Iraq. While there have been stories in the news in recent years that they are suffering persecution in Iraq (e.g., here), it is my understanding that they have benefited from Saddam’s regime, which by being explicitly secular has not discriminated against them, and has protected them from Muslim discrimination and persecution. It seems that in traditional divide-and-conquer fashion, Saddam has employed this Catholic minority in his government, which makes them reliant on him and hence loyal to him. Tariq Aziz is, I believe, a Chaldean Catholic. When the “getting even” process gets going following the destruction of Saddam’s regime, a pogrom against Chaldean Catholic “collaborators” is likely. This concerns the Vatican, with good reason.

    This Pope is a genuinely great man. Many very good and important things for the Church have occurred during his papacy. I pray for him and for his intentions every day. But he is wrong on this one.

    Update:I just noticed Rev. Sensing’s post, citing this post on the same topic.

    Update:This essay by Deal Hudson is on point and nicely done. This site, “Catholic Just War” looks pretty interesting, generally, after a very cursory perusal.

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    Who else. . .

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th March 2003 (All posts by )

    Who else, after watching today’s UN Security Council performance and subsequent press conferences, has a strong desire to see Dominique de Villepin flogged?

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Who else. . .

    Chamberlain, Chávez, Estrada, Iran

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th March 2003 (All posts by )

    Val has some excellent new posts up.

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    Better Odds

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th March 2003 (All posts by )

    Market-determined probabilities of Saddam Hussein’s removal from power have been increasing over the past few days. End-of-March odds last traded at 34%, while end-of-June odds were at 80%.

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    Thomas Atkins is Fine, Thanks

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th March 2003 (All posts by )

    I recently expressed concern regarding the state of the British military, since the guys at Libertarian Samizdata were saying how decrepit their weapons are, etc. Iain Murray was kind enough to point me to this very good article, an interview in the Sunday Telegraph with the new Chief of the British General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson. General Jackson seems like a very sound and sensible man, frankly acknowledging the weaknesses of the British military, but equally confident about its strengths and the contributions it can make. Asked if the lack of “overwhelming support” from the British public would hurt morale, General Jackson responded with this jaunty quip: “The British soldier is a fairly robust being and I don’t think we need to feel concerned, at the moment, that he feels unloved.” Asked if the Americans would really rather fight alone, and only want the British along for political reasons, he responds with this blunt comment: “If that is so, I would think it was somewhat of an ungenerous view but they are perfectly entitled to have it. The United States’ military capability is far ahead of everybody else’s.” But he goes on to add that “It’s not just a matter of politics. It is a sense of burden-sharing, which is quite important, not having to do this on one’s own.” An interesting distinction, which he in part clarifies with this interesting comment:

    If this conflict is fought, logic says there will be a post-conflict situation, and in my view the post-conflict situation will be more demanding and challenging than the conflict itself, which could be relatively swift and with low casualties. Then there is the question of rebuilding, and I don’t mean that in the physical sense, I mean rebuilding the body politic of Iraq. The outcome desired is very clear: an Iraq in its present borders, at ease with itself, with its neighbours, with a representative government. And that will take assistance in the same way as Afghanistan did. I have no doubt that if this set of circumstances comes about the United Kingdom will be asked to play a part in that process. Its not just a military process. Frankly, it’s far from being just a military process. It is many-faceted: economic reconstruction, political development, humanitarian aid, the return of four million presently expatriate Iraqis, and I imagine the bulk of them would wish to go home. Dare I say it, the British Army is very experienced in this.

    All in all, he sounds like a good man for the job, and I think a lot of us are glad the British are on board, particularly for the “particularly challenging post-conflict situation”.

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    Lex Rebuts “ParisLawyerPundit” and His Pal Zbig

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th March 2003 (All posts by )

    I got an email from my friend the hot-shot lawyer in Paris, whom I shall refer to as ParisLawyerPundit. He’s an American, but grew up all over the place in Europe, so he is a genuinely trans-Atlantic guy. PLP is also a product of the University of Chicago Econ Dept., so he is some kind of honorary ChicagoBoy, too. PLP described how an American pundit of his acquaintance was on French TV last night:

    … [H]e tried to convince French politicians and pundits that just because the US is outraged over 9/11 et seq. the unilateral decision to station 200,000 troops on the border at circa. $100 million / day is cause sufficient to stop waiting, forget international law, and Just Do-It, and unilaterally regime-change a despicable dictatorship. I think Zbig Brzezezeinski is right on the money when he says, the “global legitimacy of American leadership” has been “progressively undermined in the course of the past 6 or 7 months”, the “world has moved from surprise at the unilateral raising of the Iraq issue, to concern at a solitary war to general uneasiness at the priorities of the Bush administration”. As he says, “the US needs to face up to the fact that the Middle East’s political problems have proven to be the springboard for Middle East terrorists.

    This seems to capture the most sensible possible Francophone position I have seen yet – agree with Zbig that Dubya is way off the ranch. I responded with less than cool rationality as follows (with minor editing):

    Wow, I wish I’d had the chance to make that pitch to the French! It would have been fun.

    But punditry doesn’t matter at this point. The French think we’re crazy. They have their reasons. In fact, they are kinda right. The US got smacked on 9/11 and it has its blood up. Bush is leading us one of the USA’s intermittent crusades. The rest of the world wets its knickers when this happens because there’s no saying how it is all going to come out. But Bush’s logic is simple. The Muslims live in shitty countries and blame us, so they hate us and want to kill us. We have to knock out Saddam anyway, the crazy bastard, since he’s gonna get a nuke. And the US Gov. really does believe this and fear it, as do I. So, Iraq gets to be the petri dish where we’re gonna try to grow something like an Arab-speaking democracy, where we will undo the root causes of terrorism by changing the whole region, starting with Iraq. We have to do this because the long-term alternative is more and more and worse and worse terrorism, culminating in the USA treating the whole Arab world as if they were the Apaches, which would be a catastrophe for them, physically, and for us morally. So, Bush, who is nothing if not a high-stakes gambler, is putting all his chips on this Fukayama-esque root-causes scenario. As a great Chicagoan said: “Make no small plans”.

    If the foregoing does not convince you, then we are left with the argument many American’s find even more compelling: “fuck it, let’s roll”.

    If it works, it is the wonder of the age. If it fails, the Donks get to clean up the mess after their blowout victory in 2004.

    I can see why some other people in the world of a less sunny and optimistic bent might say, “uh, wait a minute … .” Or, if they are cynical, saying, “the USA cannot possibly mean this, what is their deep, dark, REAL reason … .” But it is just what Bush says it is. I watched his speech the other night. He means it. He radiated a visionary sense of messianic purpose. We are going to bring freedom to Iraq. Look out world.

    Oddly, for a Hobbesian-derived U of C product like me, trained in the systemic-determinist school of thought by Prof. Mearsheimer, and the heartless logic of Hirschliefer’s microeconomics text, I think we have a pretty decent chance of achieving something spectacular in Iraq.

    Anyway, at this point, everybody wins, except Saddam, who dies. Bush gets his war. The Iraqis get rid of Saddam and his torture chambers and get American chow, medicine, roads, etc. for a while. The French get to enjoy their temporary role as “the other superpower” by being the rallying point for anti-Americanism worldwide, which no doubt provides them with delectable, near-orgasmic thrills. The Arab “street” will get to enjoy a period of sullen calm since it respects and fears force and despises and attacks weakness — so they get a little break.

    What’s not to like?

    One thing, at least, Brzrzenzxnski is wrong about: “solitary war”? Mais non! Every inconsequential country is on our side, something like 40 of ’em. Plus, Britain is a player, and they are in this. Blair survived that big vote the other day. He aint goin’ anywhere. So it is the perfidious Anglo-Saxons shoulder to shoulder in a return performance fighting jointly against tyranny. I am whistling ”British Grenadiers” as I type this. Bully and pip pip!

    The main thing is that Bush is taking a huge risk with his eyes open. That’s the kind of guy he is. This post from National Review Online linked to this story, which nicely captures this aspect of Dubya’s leadership:

    The downside for Bush is that he’s the undisputed father of any future failure. If the war doesn’t go well, if post-Saddam Iraq erupts in chaos, if other Middle East governments fall, if there’s an upsurge in terrorism, if the economy continues to flatline, there’s no one else to blame. Bush has so personalized these battles that the outcome will determine the fate of his presidency.

    Bush isn’t afraid of any of this. He decides what he wants to do and does it. He looks at risks, looks at the potential rewards, and throws the dice. This must be terribly frustrating for the people who disagree with him. But, so far, I like it.

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    It’s Carnival

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 4th March 2003 (All posts by )

    Drunken crowds in the middle of the day. Oh joy.

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    Posted by Jonathan on 4th March 2003 (All posts by )


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    Demography is Destiny

    Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd March 2003 (All posts by )

    It’s un-PC to say these things, but what the Hell, what’s a blog for? Anyway, it should be no embarrassment to say that political behavior is most frequently dominated by ethnic, cultural and religious factors – identity issues are the main drivers of political life, much more than economic ones. This has been the lesson learned and taught by Michael Barone, Kevin Phillips, Thomas Sowell, Walter Russell Mead, David Hackett Fischer and everyone else who pays attention to the underlying factors in political life without ideological blinders.

    I’m not sure quite what to make of this piece by Bat Ye’or, entitled, “European Fears of the Gathering Jihad”. She asserts that the growing Muslim population in Europe is the result of some conscious government policy with the purpose of

    establishing permanently in Europe a massive Arab-Muslim presence by the immigration and settlement of millions of Muslims with equal rights for all, native-born and migrants alike. This policy endeavored to integrate Europe and the Arab-Muslim world into one political and economic bloc, by mixing populations (multiculturalism) while weakening the Atlantic solidarity and isolating America.

    I’m more inclined to believe that Muslims moved to Europe because it was close by and promised a better material life as well as more safety and freedom than their homelands. That’s simpler, and consistent with thousands of years of immigration behavior, and does not require any conspiracy theory.

    Nonetheless, this demographic development has and will continue to have real consequences. The ability of the European nations to act in opposition to any Muslim nation is limited by their huge Muslim populations, who vote and naturally enough are sympathetic to their co-religionists. This will be true even where, as is mostly true, their Muslim populations peacefully assimilate themselves. Unfortunately, there is also the threat of terrorism on their own soil which European governments are trying to appease. Both of these trends will be ongoing. European hostility to Israel, for example, will continue and increase. European sympathy for Islamic terrorism, particularly if it is directed against the United States rather than them, is likely to increase.

    This much cited article from the Economist points out that Europe is in a state of decline in terms of population. This review from the Times Literary Supplement makes the same point. Europeans have stopped having babies. Their Muslim neighbors, who are now “Europeans” of several generations standing in many cases, have not. So, the territory we think of as “Europe” is going to increasingly cease to be part of the “West” in cultural and political terms. Whether the Cathedral of Chartres will be a mosque in our lifetime remains to be seen. Whether you think this is a good, bad or neutral development it is certainly one which will have very significant implications in international politics.

    On the other hand, as the Economist article points out, the population of the United States is growing and will continue to grow. The relative power of the United States is likely to continue to grow as a result. A large, young, energetic population bodes well for the ongoing dynamism of the American economy. The United States is going to be confronted by a weaker, older, and increasingly hostile Europe in the decades ahead, at the same time that the American population is increasingly one which is not derived from European ancestors. The two “poles ” of the West, Europe and North America, are going to continue to move farther apart.

    On a related point, in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Yuval Elizur has an essay “Israel Banks on a Fence” (excerpt here) He writes:

    A growing number of Israelis now realize that demographic imperatives, and not just basic justice, dictate a two-state solution. The drastic decline in Jewish immigration to Israel in recent years — as well as the very high birthrate among Palestinians — has led population experts to predict that by 2020 or shortly thereafter, there will be an Arab majority in all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. At that point, the land will cease to be “Jewish.”

    Much as the French were impelled to withdraw from Algeria, marooning and betraying a large and loyal community, the Israelis are going to find themselves doing the same by withdrawing from the West Bank settlements. The Israelis will buy their survival at the cost of handing an apparent victory to their enemies, who will gloat over what has been abandoned to them, or by annihilating those few who refuse to leave. This apparent defeat will embolden Israel’s enemies and encourage further attacks. And the Israelis, like the French will suffer from the presence of a large and embittered refugee community in their midst as a permanent complicating factor in their political life. Nonetheless, as with France’s withdrawal across the Mediterranean, Israel’s withdrawal behind a wall is probably the lesser of two very ugly evils.

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    Moral Hazard

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd March 2003 (All posts by )

    Former FBI agents are interviewed and defend the Bureau’s longstanding de facto practice of overlooking serious crimes, including murder, that are committed by informants.

    Several said they would never protect known killers, but others said it was defensible in some circumstances.

    “You have to weigh the odds of whether killing one or two people is better than killing a whole planeload,” said Wesley Swearingen, whose service as an agent from 1959 to 1977 included tours in Los Angeles and Chicago.

    For example, he said, agents ignored the murder of a small-time mobster by an FBI informant in Chicago in the 1960s because “the information that the FBI was getting was more important. Somebody in the mob is going to kill that person anyway.”

    The utilitarian logic here is difficult to refute, but it’s not the real point. The point is that tolerating a murder of which you have foreknowledge is not far removed morally from participating in that murder. We don’t allow government agents discretion to commit murder in situations where doing so might prevent more murders. Why then do we allow them to use informants as subcontractors to do, in effect, the same thing?
    Clifford Zimmerman, a Northwestern University law professor who studies informant practices, says it is immoral, and perhaps illegal, for agents to shrug off violent crimes.

    “They’re doing their own little cost-benefit analysis and really not taking into account, in my opinion, the damage to society that these people are causing,” he said. “Is a federal official entitled to make that decision — that one person’s life is more valuable than another’s?”

    It’s even worse than that, because the government officials who make these decisions aren’t neutral judges. They benefit from the murders but don’t pay any of the costs.

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    The French Have Always Been Like That

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st March 2003 (All posts by )

    There is an excellent review essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, by Walter Russell Mead. Mead is the man who gave us the term “Jacksonian”, a badge worn proudly by many of the denizens of blogspace, or at least warblogspace. He is among our more astute observers of current events, informed by a profound historical understanding. (See the links here to recent articles and reviews. And, of course, read his book.)

    Mead notes that French Anti-Americanism is less about America than it is “a self-referential Franco-French phenomenon largely untroubled by larger questions of fact.” Rather, this animosity is a very old phenomenon, which even precedes the appearance of America:

    If there is anything missing in these books, it would be a discussion of the relationship between French Anglophobia and French anti-Americanism. Both in France and beyond, new anti-Americanism is simply old Anglophobia writ large. Anti-Anglo-Saxonism has been a key intellectual and cultural force in European history since the English replaced the Dutch as the leading Protestant, capitalist, liberal, and maritime power in the late seventeenth century. The image of Anglophone “New Carthage” — cruel, treacherous, barbarous, plutocratic — that Jacobin and Napoleonic propaganda assiduously disseminated contains the essential features of anti-Anglo-Saxon portraits so familiar today. The humiliations and setbacks that France suffered at American hands in the twentieth century chafe so badly in part because they rub the old wounds that the British inflicted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The British destroyed the empires of the Bourbons and Bonaparte; the rise of the United States established a new superpower league in world politics in which France can never compete. The dog-eat-dog competition of Anglo-Saxon capitalism forces French firms to adjust, and it steadily undermines France’s efforts to maintain its social status quo. The English language has replaced French in science, diplomacy, and letters; the list goes on.
    In other words, a permanent feature of the Anglosphere is and has been a hostile or at least resentful France. And France is not the only country which is troubled by the success of the Anglo/American political and economic model:
    France is not the only country in Europe or the world whose ambitions were frustrated by the British and American hegemonies. France is not the only country which, left to its own devices, would embrace a kinder and gentler, if slower, form of capitalist transformation than the one that the Anglo-Saxon model imposes. France is not the only country in which intellectual and social elites dread the restructuring and decentralization that the Anglo-Saxon model brings in its train. Nor is it the only country where the state fears the loss of authority and power to Anglo-Saxon-driven globalization, with its attendant requirements of low taxes, transparency, and equal treatment for foreign investors and firms.
    Rather than cutting and pasting more long quotes, I’ll just say: Read it all.

    Incidentally, Mead correctly points out here that the “end” of the United Nations is not upon us if the U.S. attacks Iraq without a Security Council resolution.

    The plain if slightly sad fact is that from the day the U.N. Security Council first met in 1946, no great power has ever stayed out of a war because the council voted against it, and no great military power ever got into a war because the Security Council ordered it to. So, whether or not Bush gets a second council resolution on Iraq, the outlook for the Security Council is more of the same.
    That’s right. No matter what happens, the U.N. is too good a boondoggle for too many people from too many crappy little countries, who want to drive recklessly in Manhattan with diplomatic license plates, for it to go away. (Unless, that is, the United States consciously set out to shut it down. But that is a post for another day.)

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    A Musical Interlude

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st March 2003 (All posts by )

    OK, I admit it. We ChicagoBoyz are a pretty serious bunch. We think about things like Iraq and Al Qaeda and the stockmarket and gold prices and politics and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Not exactly “guy things”, really, since we never talk about sports or who is the hottest babe on some TV show. But, still, most of the time, serious stuff.

    And that is what you, our dear readers, have come to expect. So I hope you will excuse something a little more lighthearted for a moment. Specifically, some good musical news has recently come to my attention.

    First, lodged obscurely in the lightly-traveled no-mans-land of the embedded message board on the rarely-updated Muffs website, is a tiny little notice from Kim Shattuck, (lead singer and guitar player and songwriter and presiding muse and genius of the Muffs) that, in fact, no kidding, really, they have a new record in the works. To quote Beavis: “Whoa”. If it is up to the Muffs’ historical average, it will be very good indeed. Start saving your pennies.

    Second, I was really surprised to see something appear on the Lisa Marr Experiment website the other day. That thing had been about as lifeless as a bat-haunted Mayan ruin by moonlight for a year or so. But then a new message went up saying that they’ll be having a new record, which is recorded already, out this summer. Also, it provided this link to a Canadian TV show on which they play several new songs. The performance is pretty, um, loose.But I have high hopes for the studio versions. And I especially like the song “Shooting Stars”. It could have been written 50 years ago, in a good way. I think she is hitting her stride with this country-western angle, though I prefer the pop stuff she does (and used to do) so well.

    Finally, note that the fabulous Eyeliners are on tour. Coming soon to your town, including a gig in Chicago on March 22, 2003 at the Fireside Bowl. So go see ’em.

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