FOX Patriotism

The Road To Surfdom brings to our attention a rather strange offer from FOXNews:

During the Iraq War, to help families obtain video of their loved ones overseas, we will be providing footage of the "imbedded" journalists at a discounted rush price of $34.95 + S&H for rush delivery (instead of the usual $49.95 + S&H). Please use the 'IRAQ Soldier Coverage' line on the menu below.

How generous.

Tax Cut Blues

The Moonie Times says House Republicans want their tax cut bad:

Conservative Republicans in the House say they will flex their muscle to ensure that President Bush's tax-cut plan "or at least most of it" is retained in the 2004 federal budget.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican and deputy majority whip, said conservatives are tired of getting beaten and will not support a budget that contains only the $350 billion in tax cuts approved last week by the Senate.

Tired of getting beaten? Yeah that's one of the hard things about proposing legislation that most Americans (and their representatives) are opposed to.

UPDATE: Along the lines of Matthew Yglesias' skepticism of Republican moderates, I should note regretfully that Rep. Pence may very well get what he wants, and that is a shame. Liberal/moderate Republicans are, to my mind, the most culpable actors in the destructiveness of the Republican agenda. It is one thing to vote for right-wing legislation because you believe in it. It is much harder to justify when the legislation is entirely at odds with your advertised political views and those of your constituents.

Idealizing the U.N.

A tragic reminder for those who've come to idealize the U.N. umbrella as a contrast to American unilateralism:

Thousands of people have attended a mass funeral in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica for the victims of one of Europe's worst massacres.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the UN's failure to prevent the atrocity would "haunt our history forever."

Contingency Planning

There have been a thousand articles and blog posts analyzing what the United States should or should not have known about potential Iraqi resistance, about Rumsfeld's overruling of military commanders, and other various claims of shortsightedness and miscalculation.

Here's my question: even if America had good reason to be confident of a small and expedient war, where was the contingency planning? It's one thing to have a plan that includes Shiite uprisings in the south. It's another to ignore the possibility that they won't.

The claim has been made that the Iraqis are not acting as American wargaming suggested they would. Well how many wargames did we run? The point of these simulations is not just to determine the most likely enemy action, but to test our ability to react to unlikely actions. It is to avoid surprises and ensure we have a plan in place in the worst case scenario, not just the best.

Crossing the Line

I think Peter Arnett crossed the line and am glad to see his actions met with proper consequences... it'll be interesting to see where he goes next (though remembering the Marv Albert arc leads me to suspect he'll be back at NBC soon enough):

NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic on Monday said they had terminated their relationship with Peter Arnett after the journalist told state-run Iraqi TV that the U.S.-led coalition's initial war plan had failed and that reports from Baghdad about civilian casualties had helped antiwar protesters undermine the Bush administration's strategy.

Pundits can grant interviews and voice personal opinions (though doing so for Iraqi TV is questonable to me). Reporters should not. That just seems so obvious, but perhaps the line between punditry and reporting has become too blurred.

The Wait is Over

At last!

Cat Stevens back in studio

But wait, it's not quite as exciting at second glance:

The singer, who changed his name after converting to Islam, has re-recorded his 1971 song Peace Train - his first English language recording since 1978.

Isn't that a rather strange thing to do? I doubt the song will sound any better after 25 years... probably worse in fact. Unless he gets Dolly Parton to duet... that'd be something.

Amazon.com

OK, I've got a $40 gift card to spend on Amazon.com. What should I buy?

Current favorite, picking up a leather(ette) bound edition of LOTR for $12.50.

They Blew It

Ezra Klein has a good insight into why the far right has more power and persuasion in the Republican party than the far left has with the Democrats:

Republicans don't mind their extremists because they help them win elections. Sure, Robertson and Buchanan can fuck around with primaries, but in the end, everyone votes republican and they win. Our extremists lose elections for us.

Our extremists came together and voted Green. Just to show how peeved we are, I did some quick calculator work and surmised that Green voters in Florida gave Nader 181 times what Gore would have needed to win the state. Greens do not come through at the end and insure that a Democrat occupies the Oval Office. If they did, we'd like them a lot more and would probably do a bit of pandering. As it is, we look on as every green and democratic ideal is trampled by this Administration and think how stupid they were to keep us from getting Gore in office.

I voted for Gore in 2000 (someone asked this before.. there's my answer) and remember thinking pretty much exactly what Ezra is pointing to. My voting has been mostly driven by environmental concerns, and I could not understand AT ALL the idea that the green (lower g) position would be improved by a Bush victory. There was much talk about how the Democrats would really have to pay attention to the left after Nader's run. Instead, as Ezra points out, it simply made the far left look like morons who can't be trusted.

Judicial Pretensions II

I just wanted to say one more word about Scalia. I can never resist an opportunity.

What is bothering me at the moment is Scalia's contension that textualism serves as the most effective restraint on judicial activism and legislating from the bench. Yet this philosophy almost NEVER restrains Scalia. He likes textualism/originalism because his political views are conservative and tradionalist, and thus need not be restrained by a philosophy that disfavors change and gives power to the dead hand of history.

When textualism is not convenient, as in school segregation, affirmative action, or gender discrimination (as discussed in my last post), it is simply left out of the discussion, or some wishy-washy alternative like soft originalism is offered up in its place.

When Scalia needs to get around the text, he finds a way. He is the perfect example of why textualism offers no more restraint than any other jurisprudential method. Scalia likes it for exactly that reason. It conforms to and supports many of his positions, and no one can make him use it when he doesn't want to. How pretentious of him.

Judicial Pretensions

UPI has an editorial bashing the 9th Circuit for their decision on the Pledge of Allegiance:

God bless the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judges in America's most liberal court have finally written a decision so blatantly ideological that it may well cause a popular uprising against liberal judges and their pretensions to exclusive authority over interpreting the Constitution.

Right, as if liberal judges were the only ones who pretend to have exclusive authority. Are they any judges out there who think that jurisprudential philosophies other than their own are acceptable? I haven't read any of their decisions if they exist. Reading a little further, we find the classic ill-informed 'originalist' attack on liberal judges:

The appellate judges of the 9th Circuit know perfectly well that such an equation was never the intent of framers who wrote the First Amendment. These liberal judges simply do not give a damn. Their personal modern-day ideological agenda is what matters to them, not the intent of the authors of the Constitution.

Conservative judges would never allow for that. Well let's look at a few interesting areas of law: segregation, affirmative action, and gender discrimination.

First, let's have an originalist explain Brown on its face. Mike McConnell has tried (and failed in my opinion). Considering the authors of the 14th Amendment allowed school segregation in D.C. and in most Northern states (i.e. the ones that didn't ban blacks outright), how can that decision be seen as anything other than flaunting the intent of the authors? Damn those liberals and their pretensions. Look what they did! They forced white children AND black children to attend the same schools! What would the framers have thought!?!

Now let's ask Scalia why the Constitution bans all racial classifications (thus disallowing affirmative action). Do you see that in the text? I sure don't. He can say that it's the most natural reading of the text, but that doesn't make it true. The fact that the authors of the 14th Amendment were in no way committed to color blindness (see segregation above) and passed the Amendment in large part to give Congress power to make race-specific remedies, makes Scalia's claim more dubious. It certainly suggests that maybe, just maybe, his personal views on affirmative action might be informing his 'natural' reading of the text.

Finally, let's hear Robert Bork waffle some more on whether women are protected by the 14th Amendment. It doesn't take a history degree to realize that the authors of that amendment didn't believe in gender equality. Yet the amendment has been so applied, apparently another result of liberals wresting control of the country away from the intent of the framers.

Let's not even touch Bush v. Gore. It's just too much evidence, and wouldn't make it a fair fight.

I will say that I'd sincerely like to hear more of Bush's "common-sense nominees" argue against Brown or gender equality on a constitutional basis. It would ensure their defeat in the Senate and popular opinion.

The point? Of course the liberal 9th Circuit has made questionably principled and decidely liberal decisions. Just as the conservative 4th Circuit has made questionably principled and decidely conservative decisions. Just as the Supreme Court has made questionably principled and both liberal and conservative decisions in its time. It's not a problem of politics, it's a problem of principles, pragmatism, and jurisprudence. And it affects all our judges, NOT just the liberal ones.

Demographics

NY Times has a really long article on military demographics:

Today's servicemen and women may not be Ivy Leaguers, but in fact they are better educated than the population at large: reading scores are a full grade higher for enlisted personnel than for their civilian counterparts of the same age. While whites account for three of five soldiers, the military has become a powerful magnet for blacks, and black women in particular, who now outnumber white women in the Army.

But if the military has become the most successfully integrated institution in society, there is also a kind of voluntary segregation: while whites and blacks seek out careers in communications, intelligence, the medical corps and other specialties in roughly equal numbers, blacks are two and a half times as likely to fill support or administrative roles, while whites are 50 percent more likely to serve in the infantry, gun crews or their naval equivalent.

This part hit close to home, and was the subject of many dorm room and classroom discussions for me (and an impetus for my joining ROTC):

The disparity created by the Vietnam draft can be seen on the walls of Memorial Hall and Memorial Church at Harvard University, where the names of Harvard students and alumni who died for their country are inscribed. There were 200 Harvard students killed in the Civil War and 697 in World War II, but only 22 in Vietnam.

I was always a little skeptical about race being the most significant disparity between the military and the civilian world, and I think this article bears that out (particularly as it relates to the myths about the 'racist' Vietnam War). Instead, the article makes quite clear that the great statistical disparities are class and geography. Not surprisingly, the military is disproportionately lower and middle class and Southern.

Is it an indictment of this administration (or the one before) to say that the people who are making the wars don't understand the people who are fighting them? I don't really know. My instincts tell me that someone who has never served in the military, never fought with, led, nor cared for soldiers or sailors or marines, is not in the ideal position to make military decisions. I don't think that means non-veterans are incapable of being great leaders or that veterans are incapable of being bad ones. It's just an instinctual feeling that a politician has to have been there to really understand the consequences of his decisions.

Brotherhood and Light

Saturday is my day away from the Internet, but I like to leave a little dose of spirituality. Though never a Christian, I find much beauty in the New Testament. This is John 2:9-11.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Liberation?

CalPundit has this analysis of American narrowness on the idea of Iraqi liberation:

Americans in general - and pro-war conservatives especially - are simply unable to understand that the entire world doesn't automatically accept that our "motives were right" or that our intentions have always been benign. And there's no reason they should. They should judge us based on our actions, just as we would judge them. It's this kind of blindness that leads to overoptimistic ideas about Iraqis greeting us as liberators simply because they don't like Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, they don't like us either. Why is it so hard for people to understand that no one likes to have their country taken over by an invading army, no matter how righteous that invading army thinks its cause is?

Agreed. A lot of it is probably historical ignorance as well. I'm sure there are plenty of Americans (probably many of those who think Saddam is responsible for 9/11) who can't really differentiate between the liberation of France and the 'liberation' of Iraq. Saddam may be a dictator, but he's their dictator.

No, Thank You

This has to be the most unappealing pop-up ad I've ever seen. I couldn't be less tempted.

What to Read?

I'm trying to pick which novel to read next (I have a grotesquely large pile of unread books on my shelf), and thought I'd see if anyone had opinions on any of these:

White Noise - Dom DeLillo
A Frolic of His Own - William Gaddis
Quarantine - Jim Crace

If anybody has an opinion, voice it.

Feminism for Men

I've been reading a companion to political philosophy for the past few weeks, trying to brush up before I begin my planned summer adventure into legal philosophy. The book I'm using has three main sections: methodologies, ideologies, and special topics. I'm nearly finished with the second section, and just read the chapter on feminism. What struck me most about the movement is how little effort has been made to help men understand feminism, since we lack the experiential knowledge that seems so integral to feminist thought.

It seems to me that men such as myself, naturally drawn to most popular 'feminist' political movements (pro-choice, reform of rape law, etc.) can only describe themselves as a 'feminist' in name. The movement itself was understandably born in the absence of men (though as one professor pointed out, John Stuart Mill is often looked to for great early feminist thought). Yet today it seems many men could play active and strong roles in feminist philosophy if only the door was opened and they were welcomed in. There seems to be little or no outreach, and I think that is unfortunate.

Good Riddance?

AP reports:

Former Pentagon official Richard Perle resigned Thursday as chairman of a group that advises Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on policy issues, saying he did not want a controversy over his business dealings to distract from Rumsfeld's management of the war in Iraq.

I often look for truth somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of what I hear (not always a good idea), so I've always thought Perle was probably neither a devil nor a genius, just a very hawkish defense guy who really knew how to work the system. If he really is a devil, good riddance. If he's a genius, I'm sure he'll find another way to contribute.

Another Sad Story

Another clear instance where situational awareness and training could have saved lives:

Two Marines drowned in southern Iraq after attempting to cross a canal without a safety line while wearing heavy gear and rifles.

It is always a shame to lose troops in avoidable accidents, but even moreso when these brave men are putting themselves at risk of enemy attack. Dying in a mishap like this does not befit the training these men and their commander should have.

Losing Control

This is one upset man:

The angry North Carolina tobacco farmer who threatened from his tractor to detonate explosives on the National Mall in Washington last week erupted in a federal courtroom Wednesday, forcing a federal magistrate judge to flee as marshals struggled to haul the defendant away.

The Possibility of Inspiration

An inspiring speech by a British commander on the eve of battle. If only I could feel confident that this is truly the intent and aim of this conflict:

We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them.

There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others, I expect you to rock their world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you are ferocious in battle, remember to be magnanimous in victory.

Coping With War

I can't even imagine how people made it through any of our country's more lengthy wars (WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea)... every day I'm on edge, the news constantly frustrates me, I can't concentrate on the things that are supposed to be important.

How did people do it? Did they just get used to it? Did they have better coping mechanisms?

Peer Education

Matthew Yglesias makes an excellent point:

[I]t seems to me that except for a handful of bloggers and newspaper columnists, everyone feels about the same way about this war - uneasy, but hopeful that something good may come of it. Indeed, this feeling is, in my experience, so universal that I sort of wonder why everyone feels surrounded by extremists. My advice: Read less and talk to your friends more.

Agreed. A good friend and fellow 1L who I knew at Harvard is trying to get together a small, private discussion group of law students who have experience with the military or the Middle East, but have differing perspectives on the conflict. It's a great idea and I highly recommend it to everyone. Find a few people whom you respect, make sure there is some diversity of opinion, and educate each other.

Soldier Bloggers

CNN has a story on warblogs, citing Blogs of War, Team Stryker (w/ screenshot!), and LT Smash:

"Blogs of War" and other sites sometimes beat traditional sources with the latest war news.

No kidding! And here's another link to The Agonist. I've been very impressed and proud of the performance of the blogosphere thus far, particularly when compared to the mainstream media.

Stupid Stupid Stupid

This has to be the worst naming scheme since the FBI's Carnivore. The names of our temporary fueling facilities in Iraq:

Camp Shell and Camp Exxon.

Stupid stupid stupid.

When Are Facts Facts?

The Guardian has a feature keeping track of "claims and counter claims made during the media war in Iraq." Well worth reading.

The Horror!

Reuters notes this in their oddly enough section:

Drug dealers in Copenhagen's Christiania hippie colony took novel action on Wednesday by going on strike to protest against proposals to bulldoze the alternative "free city."

Damned organized actions. Tourists are not going to be happy. Imagine travelling all the way to Denmark to have some funny brownies and arrive in the midst of a massive hash strike.

The Nation

I subscribed to the Nation a few months ago, and have really regretted it the past few weeks. Though my liberal social views would probably generally fit with the Nation's coverage, their editorials on the war this week are too much for me to accept. Why does Jonathan Schnell, doubtlessly speaking for countless liberals (and certainly for Michael Moore) insists on drawing a direct connection between the war in Iraq and the contested election in 2000:

"Unilateralism" was born in Florida.

I find this line of reasoning inapt and unnecessary. It excludes all those, like myself, who have doubts about the war but either don't agree or no longer care that Bush 'stole' the election. Arguing against the war by trying to undermine the legitimacy of the President is going too far, and crosses the delicate line between democratic dissent and disloyalty.

I just got an email from the Nation offering me the chance to renew my subscription. Needless to say, it has already been deleted.

UPDATE: A friend emailed to suggest that "If you speak out against the liberals

abuse of logic as you did here, you must also speak out against the

conservative equivalent." I disagree. I don't subscribe to any conservative magazines and don't look to conservative commentators for my news or editorials. The motivation for this attack on the Nation is a growing self-criticism of myself as someone with decidely liberal views on many issues and my growing distate for my 'representatives' in the media.

Why Treating POWs Properly is Important

The Paper Chase has a couple human rights groups arguing that our treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay makes it hypocritical for us to criticize Iraq for Geneva Convention violations.

I'm not going to touch that assertion, but I do want to point out something that seems lost in the shuffle. The best reason for abiding by the Geneva Convention is NOT the prevention of reciprocal violations. Even if the Iraqis begin torturing our POWs, there is a very good strategic (and probably a moral) reason for treating their POWs properly: We want them to surrender.

If an Iraqi soldier or general thinks he is going to be mistreated by the coalition, or shipped off without rights to a Caribbean island for indefinite detainment, he is much less likely to surrender.

The best historical example is the final assault on Germany. German POWs were treated well by American and British forces, and our forces received relatively good treatment in return. Even more importantly, as the German regime began to crumble, Germans were willing to surrender to American and British forces. By the end of the war we had over 400,000 POWs in America (German and Italian), not to mention thousands of prisoners still in Europe.

Not so on the Eastern front. Years of brutality and summary execution of prisoners on both sides convinced Germans (probably correctly) that they would be mistreated or killed if they surrendered to the Russians. Thus they fought to the last man, inflicting significant Russian casualties in the process.

So I think the real question is, not whether our treatment of the Guantanamo detainees makes America hypocritical, but whether fear of that fate is keeping Iraqis soldiers and their leaders from surrendering.

Ridiculous Headline

FOXNews.com has this headline blaring at 11:25pm EST:

BREAKING NEWS - Officials: Chemical Attack Feared Near Baghdad

Technically this is correct. There is fear that the Iraqis might use chemical weapons. But that headline can be read much more severely and is thus terribly misleading. I clicked on the story expecting to hear that our troops have been gassed. Thankfully that has not occurred, but the headline is still unnecessarily misleading and provocative.

UPDATE: It's still there an hour later. Are they trying to give people heart attacks?

Lawrence v. Texas

The Christian Science Monitor has a good summary of the issues at stake in Lawrence v. Texas, the SC's new sodomy case being heard this week. My conlaw professor and I are in agreement that the ruling will almost certainly overturn Bowers v. Hardwick, but even then the question remains how far the court will go. As the story points out, the court really has three options:

They can uphold the Texas law, stating that it is up to elected lawmakers to grapple with such difficult social issues.

Second, they could declare that the law violates equal-protection principles by treating gays differently. Such a ruling would invalidate homosexual-conduct laws in four states, but might leave intact similar, but broader, laws in the nine other states.

Finally, the court could issue a much broader ruling that American bedrooms are off limits to state scrutiny because they are protected by fundamental concepts of liberty and privacy that earlier courts have identified in the Constitution. Such a ruling would invalidate all 13 homosexual-conduct laws nationwide, and would overturn a 1986 court precedent upholding Georgia's sodomy law.

Should be a very interesting decision.

Lawrence v. Texas

The Christian Science Monitor has a good summary of the issues at stake in Lawrence v. Texas, the SC's new sodomy case being heard this week. My conlaw professor and I are in agreement that the ruling will almost certainly overturn Bowers v. Hardwick, but even then the question remains how far the court will go. As the story points out, the court really has three options:

They can uphold the Texas law, stating that it is up to elected lawmakers to grapple with such difficult social issues.

Second, they could declare that the law violates equal-protection principles by treating gays differently. Such a ruling would invalidate homosexual-conduct laws in four states, but might leave intact similar, but broader, laws in the nine other states.

Finally, the court could issue a much broader ruling that American bedrooms are off limits to state scrutiny because they are protected by fundamental concepts of liberty and privacy that earlier courts have identified in the Constitution. Such a ruling would invalidate all 13 homosexual-conduct laws nationwide, and would overturn a 1986 court precedent upholding Georgia's sodomy law.

Should be a very interesting decision.

Mainstream Media

Compare and contrast the coverage on CNN with that of the Agonist.

Is it just me, or does the mainstream media coverage of this war seem downright pitiful?

Anatomy of an Ambush

Phil Carter has a stellar and sobering explanation of how the American POWs were captured and what it reveals about our weaknesses:

Frankly, most logistics units have very poor training when it comes to basic soldiering skills and force-protection skills. My platoon tried and tried to train logistics units on the fundamentals of convoy defense, base defense, route reconnaissance, etc. For every soldier we trained, there were three more who didn not attend the training because they were busy doing "real world" maintenance. Bottom line: combat training gets neglected in support units because they're too busy turning wrenches to practice fieldcraft. That may have cost these soldiers their lives.

Agreed. We need to learn this lesson, and fast.

Chinese Police Psyops

Interesting article about Chinese police efforts to combat all those advertisement fliers we see stuck all over phone poles and traffic signs:

Authorities in China are turning to technology to nab vandals--they use a computer program that spams the wrongdoers' mobile phones until they turn themselves in.

Officials in Hangzhou, the capital of China's Zhejiang province, have developed a system which bombards mobile phones with pre-recorded voice messages, according to the official newspaper, the People's Daily.

Businessmen who put up illegal advertisements which contain mobile numbers have become the target of the computerized phone-spammer.

The message (received at 20-second intervals) tells the target how to turn themselves in for punishment.

More U.N. Irrelevance

William Saletan has this surreal image:

The [UN Security] council was meeting to discuss the latest update from weapons inspector Hans Blix. Blix was downcast because, having been forced to leave Iraq a few days ago so that the United States could start bombing it, his inspection report now seems a bit pointless. Not so, said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. They praised Blix's work and assured him that the war was only an unpleasant interlude in the inspection process.

Yet I've still not heard anything from the French or Germans on post-war administration of Iraq, other than to reject all proposals thus far put forth by the coalition. That's an effective way of guaranteeing the continued irrelevance of the UN and the French/German/Russian axis.

Come Again?

Why is this the headline at the Drudge report??

OSCAR AUDIENCE OFF 23% FROM LAST YEAR; LOWEST-RATED IN HISTORY

I mean, who the hell cares? I never did like award shows (always seemed like artists just getting together to celebrate each other), but could anything be less relevant right now?

Another Casualty

A sad ending to a sad story:

An Army Special Forces soldier charged with killing his wife after returning from Afghanistan nine months ago hanged himself in a jail cell Sunday, officials said.

Female POW

The Moonie Times puts the capture of a female POW in perspective with the discarding of the Risk Rule, which prevented women from serving in particularly dangerous or vulnerable positions during combat. In particular, the thought seems to be that the risk of sexual assault upon female POWs might give weight to the arguments against allowing women into combat.

What I'm Reading

My current sources for following the war:

The Agonist
The Command Post
Team Stryker

The Truth about Shock and Awe II

I'm getting a lot of hits for people searching for my original post on the shock and awe bombing campaign from last week. Here it is.

First Casualties

MSNBC is reporting on the identity of the first combat casualty:

One of the slain was from the U.S. 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt. Col. Neal Peckham, a British military spokesman, said Friday.

I have to admit a bit of shock at the death of an O-5 in combat, particularly as a lone casualty. I have tremendous respect for leading from the front, as this Marine almost certainly was. Still, it seems strange that such a high-ranking officer was the only loss in the battle. Hopefully that casualties will stay low as long as possible.

UPDATE: Wow, looks like I really misread the sentence. Apparently LTC Peckham IS the military spokesman.

That makes much more sense, though the death is no less saddening.

Speech Prep Live

I did think this was rather strange:

The White House is vowing a strong retaliatory response after the BBC aired live video of President Bush getting his hair coiffed in the Oval Office as he squirmed in his chair and practiced on the teleprompter minutes before Wednesday night's speech announcing the launch of military operations against Saddam Hussein.

Streaming Video

Also, if you have the bandwidth I recommend the live feed from the BBC .

War-Blogging

I have neither the time nor resourcefulness to be a real-time warblogger, so I recommend visiting The Agonist for up to the minute updates.

$2 at Taco Bell

Funny story (via Team Stryker, helping to add some humor to a rough day).

Thomas Jefferson gets no respect at Taco Bell. Fittingly, at Monticello they have piles of $2 bills to use when making change. It's a nice touch.

UPDATE: More stories about strange currency transactions.

Soldiers and the Press

Matthew Yglesias posed a question about the rules regarding soldiers talking to the press. This is particularly salient now with the embedding of journalists, and Matthew points to a NY Times story in which young soldiers are questioning the various motives for war.

I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that for the most part the rules will vary from unit to unit and conflict to conflict. One of the risks the Pentagon knew they were running with the embedded journalist program was exactly this sort of thing.

There is a legal restriction titled Contempt Toward Officials (UCMJ Art. 88), which forbids the use of "contemptuous words" against the president, vice president, members of Congress and other officials. This restriction only explicitly applies to commissioned officers though, and hasn't actually been used for prosecution since Vietnam (though several high-ranking officers have been forced out for ill-chosen remarks about sitting presidents).

Beyond that, individual unit commanders can try to set certain rules and procedures for their own troops and offer tips on how to deal with journalists. PAO (public affair officers) are also probably keeping an eye on the journalists.

On a non-legal basis, I agree that this sort of discussion ought to be done away from the microphone.

I'm also reminded of DOD Directive 1344.10, which might cover this. It's primarily about political activity, but it does extend Article 88 to enlisted soldiers.

Here's a good summary of the rules.

The other relevant provision may be that active duty soldiers can:

Register, vote and express his or her personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.

I'm not entirely sure this particular situation falls under the 1344.10 rubric, but if so they are probably ok.

World Leader Reaction

WP has this round-up of early world leaders' reactions, and includes an interesting tid-bit:

China had no immediate comment on the start of the U.S. war on Iraq, but state television broadcast President George W. Bush's address live in a rare move.

China Central Television broadcast the address with simultaneous translation in Chinese.

I wonder how it played to that audience.

The Agonist

The Agonist has good up-to-the-minute updates.

Living in a Blogosphere World

As the war begins and I crave minute-to-minute updates, I find myself thankful for the Internet (I don't have cable television). I also notice that I'm spending almost no time with major new sources, instead sticking to blogs to see what they've found.

If Now Is the Time

To our troops: Godspeed.

Second Thoughts

IHT reports:

In the end, beyond the maneuvering, the rhetoric, the professed convictions, there are questions now in Paris and Berlin about whether their opposition to an American-led war on Iraq has gotten a bit out of hand.

Worthy article. Good to see the foreign press posing tough questions to their leaders. I'd like to have seen the same from ours.

Ahh the Irony

Scalia is a brilliant man, but sometimes he just makes me laugh:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from an appearance today where he will receive an award for supporting free speech.

The City Club usually tapes speakers for later broadcast on public television, but Scalia insisted on banning television and radio coverage, the club said. Scalia is being given the organization's Citadel of Free Speech Award.

Can you taste the sweet sweet irony?

Amusing Ice Cream

Star Spangled Ice Cream:

AT LAST - A CONSERVATIVE ALTERNATIVE TO BEN & JERRY'S

Like millions of your fellow Americans, you enjoy ice cream but do NOT enjoy seeing your money funneled to wacko left-wing causes. We are not ashamed of America. We think it's the best country ever, and so we have set out to make the best ice cream ever!

Their four flavors? I Hate the French Vanilla, Nutty Environmentalist, Iraqi Road, and Smaller Governmint.

No comment necessary.

British Pragmatism

UPI (quick becoming my news service of choice) has a good analysis of Blair's victory in Parliament last night. Particularly interesting is the role that France may be playing in swinging British opinion closer to Blair:

[B]oth public and politicians have been impressed by Blair's unwavering dedication to the "rightness" of his cause, and by France's perceived determination to scupper Blair's huge efforts to get a second U.N. resolution. Significantly, 68 percent of the British public in the Telegraph's poll now says President Jacques Chirac was wrong to say France would veto the second U.N. resolution, with only 21 percent saying he was right.

Good

CNN reports:

An anti-abortion extremist who claimed he only meant to wound an abortion provider was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder for the doctor's 1998 sniper slaying.

Interesting case, in that the defendant, extradited from France with a promise he wouldn't face the death penalty, waived his right to a jury trial and did not contest the prosecution's case.

First Mad Cow Disease, Now This...

UPI reports on more trouble with British cattle:

Plans for a dramatic new role for Britain's Royal Air Force on Day One of the war against Iraq are in question because a Welsh farmer worried about his cows has forced cancellation of a test of the new Storm Shadow bunker-busting cruise missile.

Calm Before the Storm

I've been searching the blogosphere for something to comment on, but the impending war casts a dark shadow over all other topics of thought. It seems like all we can do is wait.

Interesting

CNN reports:

Despite French opposition to a war in Iraq, the French military could assist any U.S.-led coalition should Iraq use biological and chemical weapons against coalition forces, the French ambassador to the United States said Tuesday.

"If Saddam Hussein were to use chemical and biological weapons, this would change the situation completely and immediately for the French government," Jean-David Levitte said.

We'll remember he said that.

Gender Discrimination II

Another thing that gets me is Rehnquist's skepticism that men ought to be able to sue for gender discrimination (dissenting in Craig v. Boren):

The Court's disposition of this case is objectionable on two grounds. First is its conclusion that men challenging a gender-based statute which treats them less favorably than women may invoke a more stringent standard of judicial review than pertains to most other types of classifications...

There is no suggestion in the Court's opinion that males in this age group are in any way peculiarly disadvantaged, subject to systematic discriminatory treatment, or otherwise in need of special solicitude from the courts

Fair enough. But couldn't this exact line of reasoning be used to distinguish racial discrimination against blacks from affirmative action for them?

Why should whites challenging a race-based statute which treats them less favorably than blacks be able to invoke a more stringent standard of judicial review than pertains to most other types of classifications? After all, there is no suggestion that whites are in any way peculiarly disadvantaged, subject to systematic discriminatory treatment, or otherwise in need of special solicitude from the courts.

No More Flag Officers in France?

Phil Carter has a post regarding the annual National Defense Authorization Act, and in particular a provision removing the requirement that the U.S. Defense Attache in France be a flag officer.

As I read this, we want to downgrade the position to a full colonel or possibly even a lieutenant colonel. This position carries enormous diplomatic prestige, so this is a big deal. The American defense attache to Paris is the senior American military representative to the French government, responsible for all kinds of diplomatic and military contacts. I find it interesting that we'd want to downgrade this to anything but a general or admiral, particularly given the rank sensitivity of most European militaries. This could be a bit of legal housecleaning -- France is the only country to have its own special provision in Title 10 mandating a flag-rank attache. But the timing is pretty interesting, wouldn't you say?

It seems unlikely that we'd actually go through with such a move, but I agree the timing is interesting.

Protecting Our Veterans

A law librarian at the University of Arizona (former AF JAG too!) left a comment below pointing us to a great resource she has set up regarding the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This is the law that protects our military personnel from losing their jobs, benefits, or seniority as a result of their military service. If you or anyone you know has had problems in this area, check out this resource and then contact a JAG officer.

Gender Discrimination

Having finished the readings on racial discrimination (from Dred Scott to Adarand), covering slavery, separate but equal, school segregation, and affirmative action, I was left totally convinced that the Supreme Court (reflecting popular opinion) lacked any real coherence in the entirety of its rulings. Now I've just done the reading on gender classifications, and am amazed to find the Court making even less sense in that realm.

How is it that affirmative action for blacks, the group for whom the 14th Amendment was enacted in the first place, is subject to strict scrutiny, but affirmative action for women is not? And if affirmative action for women were to be subjected to strict scrutiny, how could it be that the standard would be higher when the gender classification helps women (affirmative action) than when it hurts them (where intermediate scrutiny is still the rule)?

Ick.

The Journey So Far

Jason Rylander has an excellent post on the consequences of America's diplomatic failures:

Tonight President Bush issues his ultimatum, but it comes not as we might have expected from a position of strength. Rather it seems the last desperate measure of a nation that has one by one eliminated its options. We act not "at a time of our choosing," as Bush eloquently put it in September 2001, but because having failed at all diplomatic efforts, having alienated potential partners, we either invade or lose face. Though our military may be strong, our standing in the world is weaker today than at any time in recent memory. That is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Microwave Weapons

IHT has a story on the potential dangers of first use of microwave weapons:

[C]ritics say rolling out the weapon for the first time could trigger an arms race not seen since the dawn of the nuclear age. By showing other nations that this highly secretive program has produced a viable and effective weapon, politicians from other countries could be convinced to beef up their own development of such devices.

The article also notes that, ironically, these weapons pose the greatest danger to countries that rely most heavily on electronics like computer chips, e.g. the United States.

Good Round-Up

Matthew Yglesias has a good round-up on today's preparations for war.

Check out his first update in particular, a shot at Glenn Reynolds (who I actually like a lot more than Matthew seems to). No one in the blogosphere should ever be so self-righteous as to forget that we are a bunch of Internet geeks and news junkies with sufficient free time and bandwidth to experience war purely through hyperlinks and blockquotes.

Check Out the Winds of War

Winds of Change has a daily roundup of war-related posts called "Winds of War" that is worth checking out every day... it has been a great resource in the past weeks and will almost certainly be even moreso once the shooting begins.

Serving Honorably With the British

The Drudge Report has a story about "Marines Outraged After Placed Under British Command."

I think this is a silly and childish attitude. The story quotes a marine as saying:

"This is bogus, if I die, it's for the United States... not the freakin' world," said the marine, whose identity, location and mode of communication was assured anonymity. "I did not come here to take orders from the British. [We] already feel a big let down by this."

With all due respect to those serving overseas under stressful conditions, this is horribly short-sighted and narrow. The British are the only true allies we have (where are the Spanish troops?) and they will be dying side by side with us. Should we expect the British to serve under us and not return the trust? I'd be honored to serve under a British commander, fighting a war truly unpopular in his homeland. It is a sign of the special friendship of our two nations that the British (or at least their leaders) have stood by us, and the attitude espoused by the marines in this story is disrespectful and misguided.

Looks Like We're Going to War

CNN reports that the President will address the nation tonight.

I'm not excited at the prospect of war, no one should be. Soldiers and civilians will die, and that is always sad and unfortunate.

I will say, I am glad that this charade is finally coming to an end. Let's just hope it gets done right.

Not All Like Sears

After hearing about all the employers who have been so supportive of their military reservists, it's shame to read a headline like this: Tucson reservist loses job when Navy calls. Looks like Pep Boys might not be familiar with federal law, let alone the ethics of supporting those who serve the country. The story quotes the federal law:

A person who is a member of, applies to be a member of, performs, has performed, applies to perform or has an obligation to perform in a uniformed service shall not be denied initial employment, re-employment, retention in employment, promotion or any benefit of employment by an employer on the basis of that membership, application for membership, performance of service, application for service or obligation.

Order of Battle

Militarycity.com has an in-depth map of the American troop deployment in the Middle East, updated regularly.

Iraqi WMD

Global Security Newswire has good coverage of the basic possibilites re: WMD in the war in Iraq:

A fairly small release of Iraqi anthrax over Kuwait City or Baghdad could infect hundreds of thousands of people under certain conditions, according to computer models by a nonprofit research organization and described in a press briefing here yesterday.

Use of a nuclear weapon in Iraq by the United States, for retaliation or other purposes, could be just as devastating to the civilian population, depending on the size of the weapon and whether the detonation were near a major city, the analysis suggested.

The calculations were performed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which used special software - developed for the Pentagon - to model a number of potential WMD scenarios in a U.S.-led war on Iraq. The scenarios also included various Iraqi chemical weapons attacks against Tel Aviv and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. nuclear retaliatory attacks on Baghdad and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's home city of Tikrit.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

It's Saturday so I'm staying away from the Internet... I'll just share one of my favorite poems, Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends":

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends

Softball and Ephedra

For those who don't know, UVA Law is terribly obsessed with softball. We play fall and spring, many students are on multiple teams, and we host a tournament which draws teams from dozens of law schools.

I just walked by the bulletin board which lists teams and standings and saw this post:

After careful consideration, the North Grounds Softball League has decided to ban the use of ephedra and all products containing ephedra for Spring 2003 play.

Could there be a less enforceable rule? Last time I checked, there were no drug tests in law school softball. I can see the efficacy of banning the drug from the playing fields, where the umpire and opposing team can monitor compliance. But to attempt to ban its use without any enforcement/compliance mechanism just seems amusing.

Racial Profiling

Reuters is reporting that NJ has outlawed racial profiling by its public officers, including police.

This is a very tough issue, both because the courts have been reluctant to involve themselves in analyzing the pretexts of police procedure and because at some level there are emprical correlations between race, poverty, and crime rates. The latter was raised heavily after 9/11 in criticism over the reluctance to focus on Arabs in airport searches (instead searching elderly women, etc.).

As a strong skeptic of police procedure, I'm sensitive to the arguments against racial profiling. Unfortunately it is hard to present a coherent strategy for eliminating it without overburdening our police or preventing them from using effective strategies for eliminating and preventing crime.

I'd hate to have seen a police officer choose not to investigate an Arab-American (or any other race) whom he had probable cause is committing a crime (say planning to hijack a plane) because he's afraid of running afoul of this new law.

Gun Club

Strangest thing about the gun club: how nice and gentle all of the members seem to be, and also how old. Most of the board members are retired senior citizens who have a lot of time on their hands and like being involved in various projects (clean-up, construction, charity events). Not the stereotypical image of paranoid gun-nuts.

Serves Them Right

UPI reports that:

French and Russian oil and gas contracts signed with the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq "will not be honored," Kurdish Prime Minister Barhim Salih said in Washington Friday, just before a series of high-level meetings with Bush administration officials.

Obviously the doctrine of 'to the victor go the spoils' is properly buried, but the idea that France and Russia would benefit economically from the sacrifices of America doesn't sit well with me.

Elizabeth Smart

Miracle. Elizabeth Smart was found. I went to high school with one of her cousins (the one on the right in the Reuters photo)... amazing to finally hear a happy ending to one of these horror stories.

JAG in Class

We had a guest speaker in my International Human Rights Class today, a professor from the Army JAG school (which is next door) addressing the laws of war, and how JAG officers are trained. Obviously this presents great interest to me (just a few years until I'm over at the JAG school). Very professional and well-spoken officer, utilizing Powerpoint of course.

First video he showed us was the guiding of a precision-guided munition targeted at an SA-6 anti-aircraft launcher during the Kosovo conflict. As the bomb approached it's target, the person guiding the bomb saw a nearby church, and guided the bomb far away from its target into a field to avoid damaging the church.

The second video showed an airborne visual of a truck carrying Al-Qaeda members near a mosque. Those viewing the scene waited until the truck was well-clear of the mosque (which was audibly the primary concern of the targeting officers) before authorizing firing.

Both were examples of the care that the United States takes in its efforts to avoid collateral damage. I've seen videos showing when our bombs and missiles go astray, so this was a welcome perspective.

In training JAGs, he said there are four principles that are raised when deciding the legality of particular targets:

Four principles: military necessity, distinction (between military and civilian objects), proportionality (relation between civilian loss and military advantage), and unnecessary suffering.

On the last principle he made a good point about full metal jacket bullets, which do not splinter like bullets before them, thus lowering the chance of a slow death by lead poisioning.

He also talked about the trade-off between easy targets with higher civilian deaths and harder targets with lower civilian deaths but more danger to our troops (esp. pilots). Apparently there is no clear legal answer under the rules of war, but the American public is so risk-averse to our own casualties that we now tend to do more high-altitude bombing to limit the loss of pilots.

I'm not sure that anyone who listened to this man's class could honestly claim that there has ever been a major power so concerned with the means and methods it employed in warfare. We make mistakes and we make questionable decisions. But ethics and law are always at the forefront of the decision-making process, and that says a lot.

Talking Dog

the talking dog gave a nice link to my site, with this description:

Despite this commitment to serve in our military (or perhaps BECAUSE of this background, UH is a commissioned Second Lieutenant), we get sort of a "war skeptical" approach, or do we? The political discussion is "well-reasoned" (high praise for a law student!). The blogroll is distinctly left leaning (though he has a couple of the big righties), though the commentary is NOT AS distinctly left-leaning, maybe it is...or is it?

Many thanks to the talking dog for the link and the kind words. The blogroll is left-leaning, though I'm working to make it more well-rounded.

As far as my commentary? Well I'm extremely pro-military, though as the talking dog said, I'm very skeptical of any effort to put American troops into danger (but by no means am I an isolationist). That necessarily makes me a skeptic of whichever party controls the White House, Republican or Democrat. I'm a handgun owner. I'm skeptical of affirmative action (both its ethics and efficacy). I dislike big spending generally, though that puts me in opposition to both many Democrats AND the current administration. I'm particularly put off by reckless big spending (i.e. cutting taxes without cutting spending).

More leftist (at least as far as our political parties go), I'm very pro-environment and pro-choice, the former being probably my biggest current concern. I'm rather disgusted with the current status of the 4th Amendment and its eroding constraints on police procedure. I'm pro-gay rights, anti-censorship, and very keen on the strict separation between church and state.

I have mixed feelings on the death penalty, though I tend to be very opposed to the way I see it used in the United States today.

I tend to mostly be distasteful of the mass media, not because of their politics, but because of the lack of perspective and context. The media seems to only have two approachs to the subjects of their journalism: pandering and disgust. When pandering, they toss softball questions, ignore inconsistency and hypocrisy, and only give the facts that support the object of their reporting. When disgusted, they fight straw men, resort to ad hominem attacks, ignore gray areas, and only give facts that undermine the object of their reporting.

I like the blogosphere because we specialize in calling bullshit on each other, something the media has apparently forgotten how to do.

So there's a quick and dirty manifesto.

Con Law Field Trip

Via Talkleft, I see Instapundit took his Constitutional Law class on a field trip to a shooting range (great idea!):

The students got a chance to shoot a variety of guns, from a .45 automatic to a .357 magnum revolver to an HK MP5 submachinegun, which last was especially popular with a couple of the women. Indeed, the bellicose-women trend was pretty visible in the class. All the students had been shooting before, something you probably wouldn't find in a law school in the Northeast or in California, but the women were notably enthusiastic. (One even knew from experience that Tuesday is "ladies' day" -- free range time -- at Guncraft.)

I suppose that in some ways the teaching value would have been higher if some of the students hadn't had any experience with guns. On the other hand, perhaps the legal parts of the lesson would have been eclipsed by the sheer novelty of the experience. And I'm just happy to have had a successful field trip in a class that doesn't lend itself to field trips very well.

I have long felt that taking those unfamiliar with weapons would do well to take a trip to the shooting range with a gun-owning friend or family member. It may not effect your views on gun laws, gun ownership, or gun owners (I am a relatively liberal gun-owner), but it might. It certainly might add a bit more substance to whatever views you hold. Every assumption about the gun owner as gun nut or right-winger is inadequate to explain me, and I know I'm not the only one who doesn't fit the profile.

Majoritarianism

NathanNewman scuttles the Republican whining about the undemocratic nature of filibusters:

So yes, the filibuster is archaic, but then so is the Senate. And so is the electoral college that put George Bush into office despite getting fewer votes than Al Gore. It's strange that when Bush was becoming President, the GOP didn't go on about majority rule so much, but now that it's their ox getting Gored, they have become born-again small d democrats.

Material Support Prosecutions

Phil Carter has an article up on Findlaw arguing that the rise of Al Qaeda shows why "material support" prosecutions are key in the war on terrorism:

Some have argued that these prosecutions are a diversion and distraction from the real task of prosecuting terrorists. They could not be more wrong. Assuming the government's allegations against them are accurate, men like Ujaama, Arnaout and Al-Arian are as important to terror networks as the men who actually carry out terror attacks - perhaps even more so. Without such individuals raising money, arranging immigration, and providing other forms of support, the terrorists in Al Qaeda could not conduct the kind of operation we saw on September 11.

America faces a dangerously amorphous adversary in Al Qaeda. Defeating this enemy will require more than a head-on military strategy, or a crime-busting legal strategy. Instead, it requires a subtle combination of both - and it requires prosecutions not only of terrorists, but of those who fund them. We must analyze Al Qaeda to find its most vulnerable parts, and then attack those parts relentlessly using every tool at America's disposal - cutting each of the heads off the Hydra, and making sure it never re-grows.

Non-Permanent Members of the UNSC

An issue that has been floating around in my head is just how the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council got the positions they have. I understood vaguely that the 10 slots are for two-year terms (5 elected each in alternate years) divvied up among pre-set regions of the world. Global Policy Forum has some excellent resources on the general nature of the Security Council, as well as links to stories surrounding the annual election cycle over the past several years.

What really interests me is whether the current fight at the U.N. will have an impact on what states are chosen come the next elections. It seems possibile that the more the United States angers the world's diplomatic corps, the more likely it becomes that nations hostile to our foreign policy will be elected to the UNSC.

Allies

The question is, does Rumsfeld want us to have any allies?

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has sparked diplomatic confusion by suggesting that America would be prepared to take military action against Iraq without Britain.

Charges Dropped

TalkLeft has the story: San Francisco DA Drops Charge Against Police Chief.

I think this speaks very well of the DA. Too often prosecutors become too enraptured with the idea of victory at all costs, and forget that they are important decisionmakers in the justice system. At this point, with the discretion of judges being reduced by legislatively-mandated sentencing provisions, the prosecutor has as much discretionary power as anyone in the system. This discretion ought to be exercised in answer not only to the question of "Can I get a conviction?", but also "What is the proper charge?" Sometimes the answer is that no charge is appropriate, and it is good to see the DA in this case exercising that choice.

True Multilateralism

Daily Kos has an excellent summary of the true meaning of multilateralism, as demonstrated in the first Persian Gulf War.

Those who have been following the current conflict closely will probably be astonished at just how comprehensive and REAL the support from other countries was.

My favorite stat:

Afghanistan: 300 troops

Made in America

Very strange ad for Craftsman tools on page 19 of this month's Popular Science. The slogan reads:

Made in America.
Because you need something to fix the things that aren't.

Sound like the foreign policy of someone you know?

Occupation

The Washington Post has great coverage of why, even in the best case scenario (in which we win the war and Iraq doesn't completely disintegrate as a nation-state), post-war occupation is going to put quite a strain on the Army.

It seems more and more likely that I may get my chance to serve in the desert (2005, here I come!)

Non-Lethal Military Ethics

The Christian Science Monitor gives a brief look at non-lethal weapons and the ethics of their use:

A war with Iraq, in fact, may prove the biggest test to date of the effectiveness of many of the US military's fancy new weapons. For the first time since the Panama invasion in 1989, the US may be fighting a largely urban war. Thus the tactics and technology it uses will be crucial in determining the level of casualties and perhaps the length of the war itself.

One possible genre of weapons that could be used, for instance, is riot-control agents - nonlethal chemicals such as tear gas and pepper spray - to flush out enemy fighters or put down POW revolts.

Yet some argue that these nonlethal are banned:

The international Chemical Weapons Convention allows police forces, but not military units, to use such weapons. But military use in situations more akin to law enforcement is a gray area under international law, US officials say, and tear gas was used against hostile Serb crowds in Bosnia. Marine Corps units in the Gulf area reportedly have tear gas and pepper spray in their arsenal.

"The question is whether we stick to the ban and kill people, or use them as a method to save lives," says Army Col. John Alexander (USA, ret.), former head of nonlethal defense programs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This is essentially the argument made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in recent congressional testimony.

JAGs On Their Way

Great story about the role JAG officers will play in the coming conflict:

In a war with Iraq, U.S. commanders could often have an agonizing choice: strike a target and run the risk of killing civilians, and being accused by the rest of the world of committing a war crime, or hold fire and run the risk that Saddam Hussein will still have deadly weapons he can use against American and British troops or neighboring countries.

To help weigh those issues, the Pentagon has dispatched dozens of attorneys to command posts in the region. Their job: help keep America legal if President Bush unleashes its fury against Saddam�s forces.

Military commanders have long had legal advisers. But more than ever, attorneys are in the teams that choose the strategies, the targets and even the weapons to be used. Lawyers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will be working around-the-clock to be on hand when targets appear and fast decisions are needed.

This is the kind of work I hope to be doing in a few years. Don't let anyone say the United States is not very careful in targeting (see General Clark's book on Kosovo for more on this). This is exactly the sort of diligent work that separates the United States from our enemies, both present and historical. Many who are adamantly opposed to the war go the extreme lengths of accusing the United States of indiscriminate bombing and willful killing of civilians (see my post on 'shock and awe' below.)

This is a position disconnected from reality, and does a real disservice to the men and women in uniform who devote considerable effort to limiting collateral damage and often do so in ways that make things more dangerous for American troops (refusing to allow bombing of certain targets or with sufficient firepower to ensure the target is destroyed).

The story also addresses a most interesting question:

One of the hottest legal topics that would be decided only at the highest levels is whether to target Saddam himself. Legally, it could depend on timing:

� Lawyers say that before a war, he would not be considered a valid military target. U.S. policy also prohibits assassinations of leaders.

� If there was a war and Saddam was commanding the Iraqi army, he would be considered a combatant and could be targeted.

� If he no longer had that role and allied forces caught him fleeing, the target status might be revoked. Instead, he might be given exile or arrested and charged with war crimes.

I'll be an Army JAG officer, but this Air Force page has a good summary of the overall duties of JAG lawyers, for those who are curious.

Thanks to James' comment, I found this article in the London Review of Books that suggests Rumsfeld may be interested in undoing much of the progress made since WWII.

Compromise

Once again the U.K. is floating a compromise. This may be the last, best hope of a U.N. resolution garnering majority support.

Blunt Porteguese

Portugal's Foreign Minister let the world know where Portugal stands:

Let us suppose Portugal, proper or its archipelagos, faced a threat, who would come to our rescue? The European Commission, France, Germany?

I think it would be NATO who would come to our rescue, in other words, it would be the U.S., no one else would defend us. For instance, during the 1996 mission in Bosnia, operations took place with the support of 20 satellites, of which only one was European.

If we were attacked, is that what they would offer to defend us? How curious is this: in Bosnia, when we were called to send soldiers urgently to that region, the U.S. had C-17 and C-130 planes, and France leased ferry boats, which during the summer are employed in tourist services to Corsica.

Agonist's Plea

The Agonist, one of my favorite bloggers, has issued a plea:

I hate to do this. Moreover, I hate to beg. But, as many of you know, late last week I learned that my grant from the University for the Silk Road project had been cancelled. It has been a hard blow to take. I have pinched every extra penny I possibly could over the last several months. My fiancee even agreed to push our honeymoon back for this trip. Now 50% of my funding has been revoked because of 'Federal and State funding problems.' Two people here in town have agreed to give me some money but I am still short.

If only 100 people were to donate $25 each it would allow me to go on the trip, do the research and write the book.

It's a really neat project, click here for more info. Now Sean-Paul, about your blogroll... ;-)

SC to Revisit Miranda

AP is reporting that the SC has taken a strange case involving Miranda rights:

Fellers provides an unlikely test case. He wrote his appeal without the help of an attorney, filing as a "pauper" without having to pay court costs. The Supreme Court receives thousands of such appeals a year, but only rarely agrees to hear one. The justices will likely appoint an attorney to argue Fellers' case next fall.

Fellers was barefoot and sipping a mug of what appeared to be tea when he sat on his couch talking to officers who came to his door in Lincoln, Neb. One officer was familiar to Fellers because they both worked as hospital volunteers. Fellers talked freely about getting into drugs after the breakup of his marriage and business problems.

He had been indicted on drug charges before officers went to his house, but they did not specifically tell him they were there to arrest him.

Apparently the police/prosecution are arguing that since he was not yet "in custody," his Miranda rights were not yet triggered. Guess we'll have to wait and see whether this SC wants to keep any substantial restraints on police procedure.

The Beast Arrives

StrategyPage reports:

"The Beast" has arrived in Kuwait. Nine of the 62 ton, armored D9 bulldozers have landed in Kuwait. The D9s have long been used by the Israeli army for urban warfare, and is a major reason why they keep their casualties down. The D9 can plow right through small buildings, and knock down larger ones. The dozer can clear just about any obstacles from a street and it's dozer blade will set off landmines without harming the vehicle.

Precision Shooting

National Defense Magazine has a great article on precision rifle shooting in the Marine Corps, including everything from the rifles to the precision-weapon armorers. Check it out.

Where Do We Go From Here II

Yesterday I asked my favorite bloggers this question:

Starting from where we are right now, what would YOU do in Bush's position? How would you get us out of this?

Further responses:

Chris Bertram of Junius:

First, the UN and other international institutions need to be cherished. I've tried hard to think of a better word, but I can't. There's a lot wrong with the UN, and it has failed pretty miserably in some recent conflicts but I'd rather hold on to an inadequate system of international governance than have none at all and just trust to the goodwill of the rich and powerful. Note that I'm not saying that the UN's decision should be binding on everyone all the time. The intervention in Yugoslavia took place despite the UN and was nevertheless justified. It did, though, have multilateral support, and that of important international organisations. Whatever happens over Iraq mustn't destroy the possibilities for developing a more just and peaceful international order and it may yet.

There are two threats to the UN at present and they are linked. The first threat is that by being unwilling to enforce its own resolutions the UN is discredited as an impotent talking shop. The second is that the US government, frustrated at being refused permission to act by the UN, simply ignores it and takes action on its own. War should be a last resort: that means taking all reasonable steps short of war and Bush and Blair haven't done that.

So with that background, my view is that every effort should be made to clarify whether (a) there are circumstances under which France and Russia would be prepared to sanction military actions (and what those circumstances are) or (b) that there are no reasonable conditions under which they would. If France and Russia are simply making noises about an effective containment regime but would never be willing to sanction action to back it up, they are undermining the effectiveness of the UN and its future. They should be exposed and held to account.

But the Bush administration (and the British government) are unwilling to put France and Russia to the test, because to do so would conflict with what is increasingly a military rather than a political timetable. To rush to war now, as seems likely, is to reject the possibility - however remote - of building the kind of united front that could effect a change of regime in Baghdad without a war. Would Saddam Hussein go faced with such a coalition? I don't know, but it is worth a try. The trouble is, that the Bush administration isn't willing to make a serious attempt.

The other thing that is plainly lacking is any kind of a long-term policy framework for the region as a whole. As far as I can see, all talk of democratization is strictly for domestic propaganda purposes. A post-Saddam Iraq will probably be a bit better from a human rights perspective (probably right up there with Saudi Arabia!). It certainly looks like the Kurds will be sold down the river again and, with the Shi'a making up most of Iraq's population and with Iran next in the Bushites sights, I can't see the majority-rule principle getting much backing from Washington. Regionally, it is obvious that the US has to engage with the Israel-Palestine problem again, instead of just giving unconditional support to an increasingly extreme Israeli government. The administration's policy (and that of the Israeli government) seems now to be little more than to cow its enemies by the threat of overwhelming force. That may be effective for a few years, but it will be expensive and ultimately counterproductive..

Sideshow:

I think Chris's response is quite thoughtful and worth reading, but it sidesteps a crucial issue, which is that George Bush has no credibility with the rest of the world and they no longer have any reason to trust a single thing he says.

Therefore, the first thing I'd have to do if I were him and actually cared about what happened to my country and the world, is to restore US credibility. And the only way to do that if I were George Bush would be regime change at home.

So, if I were George Bush, and were suddenly infused with some brains, integrity, and real humility, I would have no choice but to first make it a priority to convince Dick Cheney to resign as VP. (And, failing that, find some other way to get rid of him, possibly by use of a concerted effort to finally hold him to account for the many unsightly and corrput activities he has been involved in.) Then I'd replace him with the one man in America who could convincingly represent the US as a free and democratic nation - Al Gore. Then I'd resign.

This would instantly change the whole ball game. We'd still have many irrevocable problems that Bush has created - North Korea's new circumstances, just to name one - but at least the world would know the man we elected was in the White House instead of the idiot who has brought the world to its current disasterous state.

The new Gore White House would have a hell of a diplomatic mission to lead from that moment on, attempting to undo some of the damage Bush has wrought, but I'm sure he'd handle it like a gentleman rather than like a drunken faux-cowboy who thinks too much of himself, and our allies would respond accordingly. Gore is no wimp on the issue of Iraq, so I'd expect him to make clear his willingness to back the UN with force of arms where necessary - but not to go off half-cocked on an all-out unilateral invasion. Which is the way it should be.

Angry Bear:

This is a tough subject for me to write about, as I lack expertise in this area, but I'll give it a try. Ideally, Bush would find a way to simultaneously
  • Maintain containment in Iraq.
  • Restore strained relations with allies--France, Germany, Mexico.
  • Improve relations with the Muslim world.
  • Preserve the credibility of U.S. foreign policy in the process. This is more important than preserving Bush's credibility.
Are there reasonable ways to achieve all of these objectives? Perhaps, though I doubt that this administration will follow any of them. If Rove anticipates "World Makes U.S. Back Down" headlines around the globe, then backing-down is a non-starter for this administration. Imagine combining the state of the domestic economy with the Chinese/Spy Plane incident writ large, and even Dick Gephardt might beat Bush. So my focus is not particularly focused on what is right, but rather on strategies the administration could actually use to back down without making it seem like backing down. On domestic policy, this administration has great success with the strategy of repeating a lie until it seems true to the general public. I doubt that would work in this instance, but it might be worth a try. The strategy in this case would be for the administration to repeat ad nauseum this story: "for twelve years and umpteen resolutions, Saddam has defied the U.N.; now the U.S. and President Bush are making him comply. The only way to prevent a war was through this administration's credible threat of war." To feed the outraged right, augment all statements with lines about how ineffective Clinton was in enforcing Iraqi compliance to U.N. resolutions. The story would be the "only George W. Bush could prevent war" version of "only Nixon could go to China". Another option is to intentionally escalate the rhetoric until Britain backs out. Then blame Tony Blair, who is then probably out as Prime Minister, but the Labor Party's dominance likely endures. Find a way to tie this into Clinton as well. This tact would increase the global outrage, but the Republican base might enjoy the chance to further vent their outrage at the Europeans. This is unlikely. Perhaps a better way for the administration to back down is to not back-down, but not start war either. Specifically, this involves a second UN resolution that in essence says "War starts when either or both Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei say it starts". In this scenario, there would be two categories of reports that Blix and ElBaradei could make. The first would be regular progress updates and reports of obstruction of inspections, and on the basis of these, the UN Security Council could authorize or not authorize war. The second would be a list of trigger-items. If, at any time 14 days or more after passage of the resolution, inspectors formally report the presence of any Nuclear, Chemical or Biological weapons (and the definition of these would be clearly spelled out), only a super-majority of the Security Council (12/15, say-it would be spelled out in the resolution. I like 12/15; it means that the U.S. and Britain just have to convince one other country) can prevent war. The key is that the U.S. get a measurable and verifiable trigger along with up-front commitment to that trigger by the currently reluctant UNSC members. Kenneth Pollack might even support a plan like this. There would need to be a face-saving quid pro quo for the administration. I think the most important would be commitments by Russia, France, and China to not use their veto power in any proceedings related to Iraq. The White House could draft appropriate spin: "Negotiating through the night with foreign leaders, President Bush reached a stunning compromise: War immediate upon discovery of WMD. France, Russia, China agree will not veto on Iraq." In an alternative version, replace the UN with NATO, which might make Bush's base slightly less enraged. Not yet addressed are the perceptions of the United States in the Muslim world. Certainly, not starting this war would be a good start on improving relations. But war or no, the administration should fulfill the commitments we made in Afghanistan, immediately.

Army Family Journal

MSNBC has a new weblog called "An Army Family Journal":

In 18 months of marriage, Tamara has spent only 180 days with her husband, Noel, a lieutenant colonel in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Now Noel is off to Kuwait as part of a massive deployment of troops bracing for war in Iraq. This is Tamara's journal.

Keep an eye on it.

Our Troops Abroad

Sometimes I have trouble fathoming just how many young Americans are living on the borders of Iraq now. What's the number now, 250,000? Well that's the population of Richmond and Charlottesville combined... I wish I could hear what the young infantry sergeants have to say right now. A minor change in luck (say I didn't receive my educational delay) and I could very well be with them now. I don't feel guilty for not being there, my time to serve will come soon enough. But it is strange to think about the turns of fate which have led so many young Americans into the desert while leaving you and I to read about it on the Internet.

The Truth About Shock and Awe

Oliver Willis has a post up about the morality of 'shock and awe'. I have to admit, I don't really see the big deal. Whether opposed to war in Iraq or not, the numbers involved in this rumoured bombing campaign do not merit the attention they are getting.

According to this story, the plan is that:

By the end of 48 hours, as many as 800 Tomahawks will have fallen on Baghdad - more than during the entire 1991 Gulf War. At the same time, Stealth bombers will strike as many as 3,000 military targets across Iraq.

By failing to give any context to these numbers, the story has been blown out of proportion.

There are certainly 3,000 viable military targets around Iraq (we targeted almost ten times that many in the first war). If we were to launch bombs against each target, there would be nothing illegitimate about that. Most of the controversy centers on the missile attack on Baghdad. Well let's put the Baghdad cruise missile numbers in perspective:

If 800 Tomahawks fall on the city itself, that's 400 tons (sea-based Tomahawks have 1000 lb. warheads, the air-based version can have up to 3000 lbs.) Not quite the 3900 tons we dropped in two days of firebombing on Dresden (none of which, of course, was precision guided), which is what this campaign is being compared to. Certainly not worthy of this:

It would be the most intense non-nuclear bombing campaign ever - potentially making the aerial assault depicted in Picasso's "Guernica" look like a Monet watercolor.

No, it would be a bombing using less than 10% of the tonnage used at Dresden, all of it precision guided; no firebombing.

Another oft-cited statistic (found here, for example) is that:

U.S. forces plan to drop 10 times the bombs in the opening days of the air campaign in Iraq than they did in the first Persian Gulf war.

A few paragraphs later, however, the true statistic emerges:

[P]art of that plan is to launch an initial air bombardment using 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the opening days of 1991 war.

This statistic is true and meaningless and in fact very misleading:

"Smart weapons" -- the military calls them precision-guided munitions (PGMs) -- weren't widely used in 1991. Only 244 laser-guided bombs and 88 cruise missiles hit Iraq, out of a total of some 250,000 bombs dropped during the war.

Why were PGMs so rarely used? They were brand new! We had limited stock and did not know how effective they would be. And did you catch that last number? 250,000 bombs we dropped in the first war. Now we plan to drop 800 and the sky is falling.

For further comparison, here are some stats from the war in Afghanistan:

By the end of January, the United States had flown about 25,000 sorties in the air campaign and dropped 18,000 bombs, including 10,000 precision munitions.

800 cruise missiles in two days is a lot of firepower. But in the annals of bombing warfare, it is a measure of our discretion and precision, not our carelessness or disregard for civilian life.

Satellite Imagery

Via Calpundit, check out Microsoft's TerraServer for satellite imagery of the entire U.S. (mostly from 1994 and 1997). Just enter an address and relive old times.

Dissent

Via Chris Bertram, here's a forum at Dissent regarding the coming war, including a response from Stanley Hoffmann, who taught me the ethics of international relations as an undergraduate.

Declaration of War

UPI's Anglosphere raises a question I'm surprised I haven't heard raised more: will there be a formal declaration of war?

Such a declaration would commit both nations to full victory, and also to commit themselves to a clear and definitive end to hostilities. It would mean that whatever internal security measures needed to deal with terrorist assaults in the course of the war would be done under the traditional and well-understood constitutional exceptions for time of war, which also have a logical stopping point.

Three major undeclared wars with unsatisfactory outcomes [Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I] are surely enough for a half century. The apparent dedication to seek regime change as a war goal this time is a welcome change. A formal declaration of war would be an appropriate means of seeing this dedication through.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Powell Says U.S. Could Get 9 or 10 Votes in Security Council

Seems exaggerated (I can't see Cameroon siding against France), but even if true, the costs may be more than we can bear:

From Kristof:

[L]et's take stock of how our invasion of Iraq is going. The Western alliance is ferociously strained, NATO is paralyzed, America is resented by millions, the United Nations is in crisis, U.S. pals like Tony Blair are being skewered at home, North Korea has exploited our distraction to crank up plutonium production, oil prices have surged, and the world financial markets have sagged.

Most of the liberal hawk bloggers (I'd probably classify myself that way generally, if not necessarily on this issue) have left the room (CalPundit, Josh Marshall, Agonist). Matthew Yglesias and Mark Kleiman are still trying to hold on.

What I'd like to do is hear some fleshed-out alternatives to war, now that we've gotten ourselves into this position. Starting from where we are right now, what would YOU do in Bush's position? How would you get us out of this?

The responses:

Matthew Yglesias

If I were president I would go to war. I have no doubts about my good faith, my intentions, or my ability to handle the aftermath of war wisely. It seems to me that, done right, invading Iraq even at this point could do the world a great deal of good. Similarly, if I were an influential advisor I would be advocating war and steering post-war policy in an appropriate direction.

The key thing here would be working to move Iraq toward a democratic federal state, consisting of a multitude (i.e., more than just three) provinces, over a period of several years.

It seems to me that the main risks this conflict brings are of tearing apart the good feelings that ought to exist between the United States and the other democracies of the world, but that global opinion could be brought around retrospectively by an appropriate postwar policy.

Sadly, I'm not president and I don't have any influence over White House policy, so it seems to me that they may well do something stupid, that only marginally enhances our security vis-a-vis Iraq while degrading our security on a number of other fronts.

More on his site:

The alternatives to war � give the inspectors more time, the Walzer "little war", etc. � don't sound to me like they offer any real advantages over war. They won't be cheap, since they involve keeping large numbers of US troops in the region for an indefinite amount of time. They won't be very beneficial to the Iraqi people, since they'll keep them suffering under the dual burdens of sanctions and Saddam. They won't better equip us to cope with North Korea since it'll require constant, full-time attention from the US diplomatic corps to keep them in place. They'll generate less anti-American sentiment abroad than a war would, but not less than the already-considerable amount we're dealing with, and because they'll keep this issue on a constant simmer they all-but-guarantee that America won't turn its image in the world around.

Tom Spencer:

We've screwed this up so terribly the best alternative is admitting that we were wrong and backing off the war threat. That's the only thing that will repair the diplomatic damage W and the boys have done.

As for Yglesias's position, I don't view this as a "how expensive is it?" question. This is a moral issue. You don't kill tens of thousands of people in your Shock and Awe air assault on Baghdad just because it costs about the same as pursuing another option.

Admittedly, Saddam is a horrible repressive dictator but I'm not sure the costs of war (diplomatically, psychologically, and economically) justify this action. Another cost is that this war will increase the threat of terrorism and destabilize the region as well. We support a lot of dictators that are as bad or worse as Saddam but you don't see us all cranked up trying to remove them, do you?

This war will do much more damage to our image abroad than many folks realize. W and the boys have already damaged our image in the world through their incompetence and pro-war bluster but an unjust war will utterly destroy it.

Ezra Klein (great new blog):

First, I'm going to approach this as if Bush's term just ended and I'm being inaugurated, doing this as Bush wouldn't work because nobody trusts him and it would be inconsistent with his past behavior.

Once I'd been sworn in I'd immediately make Kenneth Pollack a senior adviser. Matthew Yglesias phrased our (left hawk's) doubts as coming to terms with the fact that the war is being run by Bush and not Pollack, so I'd immediately correct that situation. More importantly, there'd have to be a reckoning with both Americans and the world. I would have to go out and very clearly re-articulate a foreign policy doctrine, because the problem with the justifications currently being thrown around is that none jive with our implied foreign policy, and so none of the very persuasive arguments can be used by the Administration. We don't have to be the world's policeman, but we do have to be actively engaged in a worldwide neighborhood watch. If somebody has attacked multiple residents, is stacking arms in their kitchen, is beating the hell out of their kids, and is freely talking about how many of their neighbors they'd like to off, nobody has to stand still and wait for the first death.

So that'd be the justification, it'd be the one that Pollack and us "left hawks" have been throwing around, it'd be clearly articulated and defended, by me, at a very long and very unscripted press conference. Next, as soon as possible, I'd give a speech at the UN. The speech would be a recap of the new doctrine, the justifications, the danger Saddam poses, and the reasons that regime change is our only viable option. Most importantly, it would be made crystal clear that we realize not everyone will be on our side, and there will be no ill will

or repercussions against countries doing what they think to be best. We'd challenge those who see war as unnecessary to propose alternate solutions that would be sustainable in the long run. We hope that they will be with us, but if not, then their decision will be respected and accepted. A resolution would be drawn up, with the full force of both Britain and the US behind it, and it would be released into the Security Council. We would abide by its vote.

Assuming the vote was in our favor, we'd go to war and conduct it in the best way possible. I know my motivations, and I trust myself to act in a fashion consistent with them. So we'd work to minimize civilian casualties, maximize humanitarian assistance, and, when the time came, put as many resources as needed into rebuilding Iraq and helping it limp towards an ethnically representative democracy.

To quickly address the potential inconsistency on the fact that I would abide by the UN vote but don't think America presently should. The reason I don't think that the US should be bound by the coming Security Council vote is that it's a referendum on Bush and American power more then it is one on Saddam. As such, its results aren't pure and it cannot be allowed to divert us from such an important task. In other circumstances, I see the rule of international law as profoundly important and would do all I could to strengthen it.

None of this stuff is rocket science. What I'm proposing is to simply be honest and be diplomatic, it's amazing how badly Bush and Co. have fucked up this prologue, and it doesn't speak well of their ability to handle the aftermath. Had they just used a bit of diplomacy, we'd be staring down a couple of abstentions rather then staring at a couple of vetoes. But, I can't truly think of any alternatives to war. The "small war" proposed by Michael Walzer does not seem viable in the long run, and would do nothing to ameliorate the suffering of the Iraqi people. None of the other options, increased inspections in particular, seem realistic. So, in summation, I'd go to war but do it honestly and diplomatically. Seems pretty easy, I should run for president.

JB Armstrong from MyDD (who has predicted that there will be no war this month):

I'd help the Kurds establish a nationstate within Iraq. It still allows the cover of going into Iraq, but not for war.

Left in the West:

This is the most difficult question confronting us on the Iraq situation. Indeed, the problem isn't whether we should go to war or not go to war, for the term not going to war involves so many alternatives that it is hard to know what it properly means.

In fact, I believe at this point, President Bush has little choice but to go to war, unless someone else in the equation brokers a deal. Otherwise he looks like he is unilaterally backing down. That is something that is a problem for a couple reasons: 1)It doesn't restore the UN's power in any meaningful way. If the UN only has power because the U.S. volunteers to submit to its authority (for now), the UN's power remains only as long as the U.S. agrees to submit; and 2)It makes the U.S. appear unwilling to back up threats. Whereas a deal brokered by someone else would give the U.S. the ability to say that they were simply trying to make the best they could of world opinion, a unilateral giving-in by America would mean almost certain failure.

Indeed, I believe it is the United Nations or the vocal opponents of war (i.e. France, Germany, and Russia) who must take a form of action in order to prevent it. Canada's idea was the best on the table so far. If I was President Bush, I would have accepted it and I would have pressured France, Germany, and Russia to accept it as well. If a new resolution, clearer than the last, and providing clear protection for Saddam if he complies, passed, it would provide everyone enough cover to claim they came out ahead. Unfortunately, the President seems to be rejecting this option.

Canada's resolution [read more about it here - UH], I believe, was the best solution to this situation. It would greatly decrease the likelihood of going to war and it would also remove the threat of Iraq to the region.

The Agonist's response is here (he also addresses Marshall's follow-up).

Charles Dodgon from The Looking Glass:

Keep up pressure with the monitors. Trumpet everything they find loudly (and with some justification) as the result of pressure from the military buildup. Also arrange support from UNSC permanent members for a strong permanent monitoring regime as a quid pro quo for backing off an an immediate attack -- with particular emphasis on the French, who undermined the last one. Add monitoring for egregious human rights violations while we're at it. With that in place and functioning, declare victory and withdraw.

Erdogan and Turkey

UPI suggests that now that Erdogan can become the formal head of state:

Erdogan's popularity -- and Thursday's explicit backing for the idea from Turkey's respected military -- may allow him to choose to let the United States to move in despite the solid opposition to war by those who will have voted for him and the opposition of virtually everyone else in the country.

We'll see if they do it fast enough. March 17 is rapidly approaching.

De-Baathing Iraq

Professor Porch at the Naval Postgraduate School has an article on Germany, Japan and the De-Baathification of Post-Saddam Iraq:

Given the World War II analogy that apparently guides U.S. policy for a transition to a stable, democratic, post-Saddam Iraq, what lessons might American policymakers draw from our "nation-building" experience in post-1945 Germany and Japan? The Bush administration's goal is to disarm Iraq. But it must make certain that Iraq never again troubles the stability of the Persian Gulf region. For this to happen, Saddam's ambitions to lead the Arab world in the "liberation" of Jerusalem must be utterly discredited, both in the eyes of his own people and of the world, especially the Arab world. This will probably require, as in Germany and Japan after 1945, an unambiguous military defeat of Baathist Iraq, followed by war crimes trials. The risk for the United States is that defeat, trials and a politique of "public shaming" may make Iraqis less, not more, receptive to a democratization process because Saddam has already effectively "de-Baathicized" his own people. Saddam's organizations of repressive state power must certainly be exorcised. In both post-war German and Japan, however the Allies discovered that, even though freed from SS, Gestapo, Kemptai and party supervision, entrenched government bureaucracies, in which alumni of the defunct ancien r�gimes continued to exercise their authority, remained wedded to authoritarian methods and hence proved remarkably resistant to the imposition of "democratic" ideas and practices.

It's long, but good (and even a bit optimistic). Hopefully someone in the current administration understands the size of this task.

Assignment: Kuwait

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting series running called "Assignment: Kuwait", with "daily dispatches and photos looking at life on the base and the servicemen and women who are stationed there."

Today's was the second, and focused on domestic Kuwaiti life:

Khadija Sekouri, a guest worker in Kuwait City, worries that she can't afford a gas mask. Good masks sell for upward of 50 Kuwaiti dinar (KD), or $150 US.

"For a family of five people, it's a problem. This is too much money," says Sekouri, a shopping mall clerk. With that much money, she could fly back to her native Morocco to wait out the war. A friend, Samina Kahar from the Philippines, says she's in the same boat. She makes 80 KD a month working at a children's clothing store.

Unsurprisingly, the scars of the last conflict remain:

Memories of Iraq's 1990 invasion run deep here. Bookstores still display coffeetable books about the event. Everyone has a story to tell. Ghanin Al-Muklaf, a naval administrator, offers me tea as he recalls an eight-month ordeal as a POW, shifted from one Iraqi city to the next by his captors. He was given one meal a day and no bathroom breaks after 7 p.m. He hasn't found much comfort in the peace, however. "From 1990 [on], we've been too afraid," says Al-Muklaf. "Tell America, please, to finish it."

This brings to mind something that has troubled me about a lot of the commentary over the past several weeks. The problem is this: America is an isolated place, and we who live here are isolated people. Our day-to-day experiences are mostly unaffected by what goes on in the rest of the world (gas prices?), even when those events are the result of our own foreign policy. I think that was one of the jarring things we learned on 9/11: we are indeed a part of the world, and what happens out there can affect us here.

Despite (or perhaps because of) that singularly horrible day, most Americans still have distorted and narrow views of the outside world. We only experience the triumphs and tragedies of the rest of the planet via our televisions (and for some, the Internet). The same disconnect and isolation that breeds misunderstanding about America in the Arab world leaves Americans mostly ignorant about the hopes and fears of those abroad.

I have a degree from Harvard in government, studied the causes of war, terrorism, and the ethics of international relations. I can speak intelligently about the theoretical geopolitical impact of a war in Iraq or North Korean aggression. But it's all book knowledge. That's a large part of why I will seek to serve in Korea when I begin my military service, and would gladly accept assignment to the Middle East.

I'm tired of talking about places I've never seen and peoples I've never met.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias agrees, and makes a good point about the current administration:

One reason I try to avoid prognosticating about what effect this or that will have on "the Arab street" is that I really have no idea what things are like there. I've spent a lot of time in France, in the Czech Republic, and in Russia, and some time in England, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Austria, so if something comes up about those countries I feel like I know what I'm talking about.

One concern I have about the Bush administration is that it's not clear to me that they really know anything about the Middle East. Condoleeza Rice who, by all accounts, is the foreign policy hand closest to the president, is an expert on Russia and the Soviet Union. To my way of
thinking, this would be a lot like a Cold War president appointing a noted Middle East scholar to be National Security Advisor.

That about sums up my foreign travel (though I've spent some time in Germany. Italy, Poland, and Slovenia, but not Russia).

As for the Bush administration, what strikes me is that much of their worldview is still informed by the oil business. I am not making the cynic's argument that this is all about oil, but read this old Salon article. Though it is emphasizing the status quo element guaranteed in energy policy, it seems quite likely that Bush's understanding of the Middle East is also primarily informed by what he learned in the oil business (and perhaps what he's read in the Bible).

Radios to Avoid Fratricide

More on the latest military tech: Jane's Defense has this on the new 'radios' (these are the ones onboard the Stryker that I mentioned below):

The US Army is widely distributing its premier tactical communications system - the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system - to US ground units and allied forces to share information on the battlefield and help avoid fratricide in a war with Iraq, according to industry and army officials.

The US 3rd Infantry Division and all other US army units likely to be involved in combat will receive the system, an army spokeswoman said. The USMC is buying a limited number of FBCB2 systems, primarily to enable the army to be able to identify the marines, a programme official said. The USMC's Data Automated Communications Terminals can identify USMC and army units, the official added.

Friendly-fire incidents were responsible for 24% of US casualties in the 1990-91 Gulf conflict, as well as most of UK ground casualties. Of the US fratricide incidents, 61% involved ground-to-ground incidents, according to US government figures. These accidents, as well as the bombing of a Canadian infantry unit by a US F-16 in April 2002 in Afghanistan, have led officials to highlight the blue-force tracking capabilities of FBCB2.

FAS.org has more on these 'radios':

Situation awareness is provided by collecting, integrating and displaying a common picture of the battlefield that is consistent in both time and space at each user display. Software being developed for FBCB2 situation awareness allows the geographical location of individual soldiers, weapons/platforms, command posts, and other operational facilities to be collectively presented on a display. Because the Army Tactical Internet is a true, seamless internet based on the world-wide Internet model, it is possible to communicate each individual geolocation to every FBCB2-equipped user within the Tactical Internet. Addressing mechanisms allow geolocations to be flexibly and selectively communicated, and situation awareness software functionality will contain the necessary filters and roll-up mechanisms for each user to be able to selectively display only the locations of units of interest.

More on Three Strikes

Jeff Cooper has a post addressing the difficulty of constitutional line-drawing in sentencing provisions (re: Three Strikes), and points out the flaws in lawmaking by initiative:

[P]ublic passions, provoked by specific events, are not conducive to considered lawmaking, as California's three-strikes law--the harshest in the nation--demonstrates. Nuance and balance are difficult to capture in the initiative process; while the policy goal sought to be furthered by an initiative may be rational, there is, inherent in the initiative structure, a tendency to overreach in pursuit of that goal. California's three-strikes law is, in my view, a bad law. But a bad law is not necessarily an unconstitutional law.

Naval Instant Messaging

StrategyPage (really a great resource) also has a story about instant messaging in the Navy:

Noting that sailors have increasingly been using shipboard email and instant messaging to form groups of like minded sailors across the fleet, the U.S. Navy has introduced it's own instant messaging system, as part of the Navy Knowledge Online (NKO) portal. This system has better security than public chat and instant messaging systems and allows active duty, reserve, and retired sailors share their collective knowledge and experience.

[T]he navy is also working on a classified instant messaging system, which will be operating by June. This will allow the use of instant messaging for communication between ships during combat operations. The British Royal Navy has pioneered this technique. Also in the works is an increase in the Internet capacity for ships at sea, so that sailors can use instant messaging to communicate with their family and friends ashore.

Here's a February story from new.com with more details. This is neat stuff.

In my ROTC unit we did several tri-service wargames using basic AOL instant messaging to communicate between forces. If secure and more fully-featured, this could be quite promising (reminds me just a bit of the Army's Stryker IAV and its onboard digital communications).

UPDATE: Boy do I feel dumb! Thanks to Phil Carter for pointing me toward Army Knowledge Online, which he says has been "running for a few years now. It's the model that NKO is based on, and it includes a fully functional IM site as well as e-mail, FTP, and other online resources."

Predator Drones

StrategyPage is reporting that Predator drone production has been increased, with new models on the way:

The B model has a max weight of five tons, can carry a 3,000 pound payload, fly as high as 62,000 feet and stay in the air for up to 32 hours. Five more are being built, and one of these may see action in Iraq. There is also a new ground controller workstation being developed. This will feature a 120 degree wrap around display for the ground controller, as well as a HUD (Head Up Display) from the F-16.

Four Predators are being produced a month, with an increase to six before the end of the year. In addition, the form makes spare parts and ground stations. Plans are underway to equip the Predator B with larger air-to-air missiles (Sidewinder and AMRAAM).

Mini-Nukes

Via Defense Tech we have this story from Global Security Newswire:

The Bush administration today told Congress it would like a repeal a 9-year-old ban on research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons, provoking tough criticism from House Democrats.

The Pentagon included the request in its fiscal 2004 defense budget request. Within the request is a provision to repeal a 1994 law banning research and development of nuclear weapons with yields below five kilotons.

Press Conference

Daily Kos has a good summary of the punditocracy's take on last night's 'press conference'.

Manchester UTD Business

I've been a huge fan of European football since a trip to Europe during the European Cup '96 and another during the World Cup '98. In particular, I follow the English Premiership pretty closely. Today I read this story about the ownership landscape of Manchester United, and thought I'd post it for other football fans. (Mea culpa: I'm an Arsenal fan. This will be quite obvious after awhile. Also, any Arsenal (or Premiership) fan who hasn't read Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby must do so ASAP; it's fantastic and he gets right to the heart of being a football fan).

S.F. Police Chief Indictment

Talkleft has had good coverage of the charges against S.F. Police Chief Earl Sanders and the involvement of D.A. Terence Hallinan. Now it looks like Hallinan has more P.R. trouble on his hands:

"Absolutely outrageous," was how one neighboring district attorney reacted to word that Hallinan had rolled ahead with the conspiracy indictments of Police Chief Earl Sanders, Assistant Chief Alex Fagan Sr. and five other officers despite his own reservations about being able to prove the case.

Hallinan's biggest problem is, he can't really fight back:

Hallinan's hands are tied in the public relations arena. For now, he can't release the 1,300 pages of testimony that persuaded a grand jury to issue the indictments. Legally, he can't even comment about what's being leaked to the press.

Stay tuned here (and especially at Talkleft) for more on this fascinating story.

Good Work!

Looks like we got two of Bin Laden's sons:

Two of Osama bin Laden�s sons have been arrested in southeastern Afghanistan, a Pakistani provincial official said Friday. The arrests were reported as Pakistani and U.S. forces were conducting military operations near the mountainous borders with Afghanistan and Iran amid persistent reports that the fugitive al-Qaida leader is hiding out in the area.

UPDATE: FoxNews reports that U.S. officials are disputing these reports. That may be because we don't have them, or because they see a strategic purpose in keeping the issue muddled for now.

Where is CNN on this story? Nothing posted.... ah wait, here it is.

It looks like all three are reporting skeptical U.S. officials. Guess I should have taken a closer look at the source of the original story: 'a Pakistani provincial official'. I've still got my fingers crossed.

Regardless of whether this story turns out to be true, I do hope we're scouring this area with everything we've got. I hope we can simultaneously muster 300,000 troops to sit on Iraq's doorsteps and mobilize enough troops to track down the true source of the 9/11 pain that Bush played on in his press conference last night.

Non-compliance

WP reports that the U.N. inspectors' report will once again be of no help:

Based on previews from the inspectors, the reports will likely include the kind of evidence that both sides of the debate will use to bolster their cases for and against going to war now.

This is a frustrating charade. Neither side actually cares what these inspectors do or do not find. At this point, even if they found a whole warehouse full of nuclear weapons, the anti-war bloc would point to the effectiveness of inspections. If they never find anything, the U.S. will say it's because Iraq is still hiding the ball.

I just don't see the point of these inspections if they aren't effective. Bush either needs to start this war, or propose some other radical change. The status quo is unacceptable.

The Horse's Mouth

AP reports that Bush will be holding a prime-time news conference tonight at 8pm EST. This will be his first solo news conference since November:

Fleischer has previously said if Bush does decide to order U.S. forces into action, he'll want to talk to the nation. But Fleischer says this news conference is not that occasion.

French Manipulation

IHT is reporting that the French know full well how dangerous a U.N. veto would be:

A French legislator said Wednesday that Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told members of the National Assembly majority last week that if France used a veto to block a new United States-sponsored resolution on Iraq at the United Nations, it "would be firing a bullet in the back of the Americans."

And though America wouldn't die from the wound, it would remember it for a long time. Whatever is motivating French obstinancy at this point, the damage being done to Franco-American relations seem more and more irreparable as the situation drags on.

They Hurt His Feelings

NY Times has ANOTHER story on this administration's continuing assault on free speech and the Internet. Looks like Dick Cheney has had his feelings hurt, and he won't stand for it:

Vice President Dick Cheney's office has spurred an unusual dispute by asking a Web site that parodies the Bush administration to remove a satirical biography and pictures of the vice president's wife, Lynne.

I'd like to thank the Vice President. If it weren't for his letter, I'd never have even seen this amusing website.

British Proxy

FOXNews has the widely reported story that the British are working on a compromise Security Council resolution. The only question I have is, is Tony Blair acting independently since his domestic situation really demands another resolution, or are the British simply acting as proxy because Bush does not want to be seen a capable of compromise?

General Franks = Warlord?

Strange headline from the Australian Herald Sun on a story about the President's meeting with General Franks:

Bush plans with warlord

Is that a common Australian way of describing military officers of democratic nations? Strikes me as a rather loaded term, but only because it is usually used in American media to describe undemocratic military rulers.

UPDATE: Here's Matthew Yglesias' take.

Let's Get Him

FOXNews says that the raid in which Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed were captured netted some major intel:

Officials said that the arrests produced many computer disks that detail major financial backers of Al Qaeda around the globe, including some in the United States.

The information contained on the disks include bank account numbers and names of individuals and organizations that have supplied money to Al Qaeda. Senior officials said based on that data more terror arrests are expected and many terror cells will soon be exposed.

Intelligence sources said Mohammed was talking to interrogators to "some degree" and had provided information suggesting Usama bin Laden may be in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, which is on the border of Iran and Afghanistan. The area is known for tough terrain and tribal chiefs who, it is believed, have protected bin Laden in the past."

Echoing other bloggers, I sure wish our military and intelligence efforts could be fully devoted to this effort. I say send in the cavalry!

UPDATE: CNN reports that Mohammed's interrogation has produced mixed results:

A spokesman for Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, told CNN that before he was handed to U.S. authorities the self-confessed head of al Qaeda's military committee said in separate interrogations that bin Laden was alive and that he was dead.

This may be the Pakistanis trying to cover their own asses, but only time will tell.

UPDATE: Even if the Bin Laden info is fuzzy, AP is reporting that:

The recent arrest of a top al-Qaida operative has confirmed for U.S. law enforcement the identities of about a dozen suspected terrorists in this country, a government official said Thursday.

If by 'this countrty' the official means America (and the dateline says Washington), I really expect some arrests, and soon.

Fumbling Towards Diplomacy

Fred Kaplan has this scathing attack on Bush's diplomacy:

It is becoming increasingly and distressingly clear that, however justified the coming war with Iraq may be, the Bush administration is in no shape � diplomatically, politically, or intellectually � to wage it, or at least to settle its aftermath. It is hard to remember when, if ever, the United States has so badly handled a foreign-policy crisis or been so distrusted by so many friends and foes as a result.

His analysis of the situation is thorough and worth reading, whatever your views on the war.

Racist Legacies?

CNN has a story asking whether legacy college admission are racist, profiling UVA (where I attend law school) in particular:

The practice of favoring the sons and daughters of alumni is a tradition at elite schools. It is also essentially racist, say affirmative action supporters, who are attacking "legacy preferences" as never before while the Supreme Court scrutinizes race-conscious admissions policies.

At the University of Virginia, 11 percent of this year's freshmen class were children of alumni -- and more than 91 percent of them are white.

While I do not particularly favor legacies (and am not stridently opposed to affirmative action), this story neglects to give the fullcontext for its statistics, and the context changes everything. The current enrollment at UVA is just under 70 percent white, with black enrollment just under 9 percent. Compared to the state population (2000 census), blacks are heavily underrepresented: they make up almost 20 percent of the state population.

What most affirmative action advocates (and legacy opponents) fail to note is that whites are not overrepresented at the University of Virginia. As said, they make up almost 70 percent of the UVA student body. Yet whites are also roughly 70 percent of the state population.

So who is 'taking' the black population's place at the state's premier university? The statistics say: Asians and foreigners. Asians constitute almost 11 percent of the student body, but less than 4 percent of the state population. And almost 5 percent of the student body are non-resident foreign students.

This analysis probably would not hold true in a state like California, but it is illuminating to flesh out the facts here in Virginia. The whole racial issue is not nearly so simple as some assume.

I also remember recently reading a blog or article about how Asians are considered white for purposes of affirmative action and diversity in many places (Asians certainly don't qualify for preference under Michigan's affirmative action program). If anyone has that link, it'd be much appreciated.

UPDATE: From Jim over at the always excellent Rittenhouse Review, here's a link to the NY Times' profile of the plaintiffs in Grutter v. Bollinger, the U. of Michigan affirmative action case currently before the SC. He makes the excellent point: "This is the best they could do as far as finding worthy litigants?"

UPDATE: Kos from Daily Kos sent me an (unsurprisingly) worthy response (Kevin from CalPundit made similar good points):

I don't think the question is whether Legacy Admissions help whites to be overrepresented -- it's that it's an arbitrary category that disproportionately helps whites. And I'd take the argument further -- that it disproportionately helps wealthy whites.

I'm a fan of the U of Michigan affirmative action program. It provides
several categories under which disadvantaged individuals can get a leg up -- underrepresented race (and diversity has value beyond what AA opponents claim), low socioeconomic status, upbringing in a rural county (sons and daughters of farmers), or a nebulous "others".

Legacy Admissions does nothing more than help those who least need help -- the sons or daughters of other college grads.

Nonproliferation

Global Security Newswire has an analysis of Bush's nonproliferation policy, his defenders, and his critics. Here's are the key points:

As the role of military solutions is enhanced, traditional U.S. nonproliferation strategies have been downgraded, including arms control agreements, and application of the concepts of strategic containment and mutually assured destruction. The Bush administration over the past year has controversially sought to remove, weaken, or prevent arms control pacts that might compromise U.S. counterproliferation capabilities. The United States, for example, withdrew from the ABM Treaty in June and refuses to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty.

Critics have charged the strategy�s various components may transform the international security system in many negative ways. The strategy could, they say, loosen international standards for using force, undermine the authority of the United Nations in deciding when force is acceptable, weaken the international taboo against renouncing international treaty commitments, and undermine norms prohibiting the development and use of nuclear weapons.

Advocates of the Bush strategy contend changes in the international system since the Cold War have brought new types of security challenges that warrant a new approach to international security. Administration officials have made a key assertion that unlike the former Soviet Union, some countries � particularly Iran, Iraq and North Korea � cannot be deterred by the massive U.S. nuclear and conventional superiority from attempting, or perhaps from cooperating with terrorists, to destroy the United States.

Civilian Casualties

Defenselink news is reporting that "The U.S. military will go to great lengths to limit civilian deaths and to minimize damage to nonmilitary facilities should war with Iraq be necessary."

This news will surely come as a blow to those who like to equate American military force with the terrorism of cowards.

War Liberal

War Liberal reports that it's not just the signs that demonstrate a lack of deep thinking at anti-war protests:

I remain convinced that most anti-war protestors haven't thought things through at all.
But Don Nolti, an anti-war protester, and other members of the peace project offered an answer to Gilliland's question. They said they wanted the United Nations weapons inspectors to continue examining Saddam Hussein's missiles, and avoid war at all costs.

Honestly, this has never made sense to me. War is an awful thing, but this belief that it's the worst of things... It's utterly without merit.

The argument was disappointing to 7-year-old Mac Tiers, who was among the first to arrive at the Capitol steps for the hour-long event, armed with a blue magic marker and poster board.

Tiers, who joined his father John Stith on the steps, carefully colored in a poster stating "Fight for Peace," a slogan he came up with himself.

"It means not to war and not to fight people," he said.

Question: If the age of [the child] hadn't been included, do you think you would have been able to tell him apart from your average anti-war protestor?

Nope.

A Study In Contrasts

Here's a perfect example of the point I keep making about the infantile signs in photos of anti-war demonstrations. The first picture is of pro-war protestors at a peace rally. Their three signs read:

Nobody is for war, but adults know it is sometimes necessary to stop mass murdering madmen.

Peace right now means Saddam keeps killing.

Except for ending slavery, fascism, and naziism (sic), war has never solved anything.

Compare those signs to the one below from the anti-war protest. It reads:

War is Not Healthy for Children and All Living Things

That's real helpful. I want to see signs say "War in Iraq Will Increase Support for Al-Qaeda" or "War in Iraq Will Destabilize the Entire Region" or "Why is Iraq More Dangerous than Saudi Arabia?" Can't their signs say anything intelligent? I want to be persuaded by the anti-war rallies, but I need something more.

I don't know where I stand on the war issue, but I do know that even a billion protestors carrying signs that simply say "No War in Iraq" bear no element of moral persuasion.

Three Strikes Still In

Reuters is reporting that the Supreme Court upheld California's three-strikes law. This should not come as a surprise. As the majority decision (written by O'Connor) emphasized, the court almost always defers to the legislature on these policy decisions.

Though I strongly disagree with the three-strikes law, there really is not much the court can do in these cases. If the court is going to overrule sentencing provisions, they would have to articulate some defensible method of calculating what sentences are acceptable and which are not. This seems an almost impossible task from a judicial perspective, which is probably part of why they leave it to the political process to sort out.

UPDATE: Talkleft has more.

Religion in America

Charles Murtaugh has a good post summarizing the current debate about religion in America, and particularly the strain between secular liberals and evangelical Christians. I find myself in quite a strange position personally, as I'm often but not always liberal, and always religious but never Christian (raised in a secularly Jewish household but a student of Zen Buddhism since college).

What I have noticed in my own experience is that I usually connect better with people who have a devotion to something greater than themselves. It need not be religion (though that is a common source), it can be philosophy or nature or science. It just needs to be something that ties the world together and gives them a sense of their place in it.

Hey dude, give peace a chance, man

Yet another picture from an anti-war rally that just makes me go: Huh?

The two visible signs read: "Eye 4 an Eye Will Make the Whole World Blind" and "Educate Don't Devastate"

I'm afraid I have no idea who these slogans are directed at or what they have to do with the potential war on Iraq. Unless you really believe the theory that the President is primarily motivated by revenge for the assassination plot against his father (and I don't), then this isn't about an eye for an eye. At all.

The second sign makes even less sense. Who are we supposed to be educating? The Iraqi people? And how would the protestors suggest we do that, by sending the Peace Corps? We're dealing with a regime that oppresses and murders its own citizens, and somehow "Educate Don't Devastate" occurs to someone as the solution. Unbelievable.

There are good, sophisticated, rational arguments against going to war. But once again, photos like these make me even more persuaded that the anti-war rallies are not in touch with those arguments.

MOPP Gear

The Boston Globe has an article on the chemical/biological protection gear being carried by our troops in the Gulf:

Largely because of those upgrades in the last dozen years, military planners say US forces gathering in the Persian Gulf region are well-prepared to protect themselves against any attacks with chemical or biological weapons, which the Bush administration and Britain insist Iraq retains, despite Baghdad's denials.

Still, some military specialists and members of Congress remain concerned that troops who would fight a war against Iraq are not adequately prepared, mainly because of a history of poor training until recent months. An Army audit completed last July found that most units selected at random were not well-trained in using the protective gear, while a string of congressional studies have reached similar conclusions.

My very limited experience with this stuff was with the older equipment, and all I can say is it was hell to get into, hell to get out of, and hell to wear. The article notes that the new suits are lighter and more durable, but the real question I have is, are they cooler? I wore the old-style suits this last summer in Fort Lewis, WA, and it got real hot, real quick. Seems to me it could get even warmer in the desert of Iraq.

Torturing Mohammed

Here's a horrible editorial from Jack Wheeler in the Washington Times describing suggested methods of torturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The most offensive line:

The ethics of torturing KSM should not be an issue.

How can they not be an issue? This is an absurd statement and simply masks the author's assumption that a utilitarian weighing of consequences favors his position. Two problems: 1) that's quite an assumption, and 2) it is an assumption about ethics. Thus he is in fact relying on ethics, he just doesn't want to explain them or ground them in fact.

Particularly galling is the idea that we can break one of the most fundamental rules of domestic and international law and custom without concerning ourselves deeply with the ethical consequences of that action. It is not as if the author suggests the question is better answered elsewhere, or he has already answered it. Instead he assumes it away.

I don't have much sympathy for Mohammed, but what some forget is the great impact torture often has on the torturer (and the system that supports it). If we ever do use torture, we ought to do it with regret and with heavy hearts at the measures the war on terrorism has required. We ought to feel restrained at each turn by the ethics that fuel our government and our way of life.

By jettisoning a discussion of ethics from the equation, Wheeler loses all sense of restraint. His idea: place Mohammed under an MRI brain scanner, put him on a mechanical respirator, and give him an injection that paralyses the muscles needed for breathing:

If he lies, the respirator is turned off. Few experiences are more terrifying than that of suffocation. After a sufficiently terrifying period of suffocation, the respirator is turned back on, the question is asked again, and the process repeated until he tells the truth.

Perhaps some level of ethical justification could be found for this method of torture, but the very next paragraph exposes the depths of disconnect Wheeler has with any sense of ethics:

After all useful information has been extracted from his brain, KSM should be informed that he will now be killed after his body is smeared with pig fat, that his dead body will be handled by women, and all other actions taken that prevent a Muslim from entering heaven upon death so that he dies believing he will never get the heavenly wine and virgins, but will burn in Hell instead. Upon his execution, there should be no physical remains. The body should be cremated and the ashes scattered to the winds.

I don't understand what kind of country Wheeler wants to live in. I'm all for winning the war on terrorism, but I'd like to preserve some level of decent ethical behavior on the part of our country. Consequentalist ethics can only get you so far before you are living in a country completely unlike the one you intended to save. Since Wheeler doesn't even restrain himself with those ethics, his ideas symbolize the obscenities that come when ethics are ignored.

Afghan Detainees Deaths Ruled Homicides

Here's a CNN story that will probably pass under most radars, but shouldn't:

Military coroners have determined that the deaths of two detainees while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan were homicides, CNN has confirmed.

The men died shortly after arriving at Bagram air base north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. The first man died December 3 of a pulmonary embolism and the second one December 10 of a heart attack.

Autopsies found that "blunt force trauma" was a contributing factor in both cases, military sources said.

I'll be keeping my eyes on this one. Interrogation is one thing, blunt force trauma is another.

Update: Talkleft agrees.

D.C. in the Crosshairs

UPI is suggesting that D.C. is the most likely target for another terrorist attack:

It may well explain why the president spends so much time on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and away from the White House since this and other locations may well be far more easy to defend against unexpected surprise attack, possibly utilizing weapons of mass destruction.

It would explain why Stinger anti-aircraft missiles have been positioned around the Capitol and why guards there have been equipped with automatic rifles.

It would also explain why President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney who, by all accounts have excellent personal and professional relations, avoid each other like the plague as much as possible, putting entire states or large sections of the continent between them. This makes a great deal of sense if they believe that al Qaida is determined to launch more decapitation attacks to paralyze or even destroy the natural line of succession of the U.S. government.

What this doesn't explain is why Bush and Congress have failed to fund domestic terrorism preparations as promised.

Those Who Feel Small

For those who feel insignificant and powerless with such grand and terrible things brewing in the world, read Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Ode aloud and make yourself be heard:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams; --
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

Click here for the poem in its entirety.

Jumped the Gun?

Counterspin is reporting that the story about teachers in Maine harassing their students may have been blown out of proportion.

My very first post addressed this, and I have no problem retracting my comments if the sources I relied upon were incorrect.

Hitchens on Turkey

Christopher Hitchens says we're better off without Turkey as our ally (and rattles off a list of Turkey's indiscretions). Hey Christopher, why is it that this story came out AFTER the Turks denied our request to deploy troops on their soil? Could it be that what you really mean to say is that we're better off without anyone who disagrees with us?

Red-flag reminder: we need allies. Burning bridges is a bad idea, and it will only make those conflicts which are necessary and justified that much more difficult to win.

AIDS in Africa

An eye-opening story from the Washington Times on a study suggesting that tainted blood and dirty needles are the predominant causes of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. This goes against the "almost universal belief that heterosexual contact is primarily responsible for AIDS in Africa."

In the articles, which include a review of dozens of health studies throughout Africa, the authors question the "safe sex" premise behind Western-funded AIDS prevention programs.

"Roughly one-third of the spread of HIV in Africa can be associated with heterosexual transmission. ... A growing body of evidence points to unsafe injections and other medical exposures to contaminated blood as pathways" to HIV transmission, they write.

If the findings prove accurate, it would mean that as many as 20 million Africans may have been infected needlessly, for want of a clean syringe in procedures as simple as childhood vaccinations.

My first reaction is to suspect a devious anti-condom conspiracy behind this (it is from the Moonie Times after all), but I don't really like conspiracy theories. If true, this could be a blow to family-planning groups that have (rightfully) emphasized the spread of AIDS in Africa as an urgent target of their efforts.

The Candidates

Daily Kos has his weekly ranking of Democractic presidential candidates. He has Gephardt at number one, but I really have trouble imagining him winning the nomination. It's like a Bob Dole redux: a stiff, long-serving congressional leader who thinks it is finally his turn (though I probably like Bob Dole better).

Gay Adoption Appeal

Law.com has the details on the ACLU challenge of Florida's ban on gay adoptions, now headed to the 11th Circuit.

Dershowitz on Torture

Here's a transcript of CNN's debate on torture between Dershowitz and Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. Some excerpts from Dershowitz:

I would talk about nonlethal torture, say, a sterilized needle underneath the nail, which would violate the Geneva Accords, but you know, countries all over the world violate the Geneva Accords.

He defends this on the idea that it's going to happen whether legally approved or not:

Don't you think if we ever had a ticking-bomb case, regardless of your views or mine, that the CIA would actually either torture themselves or subcontract the job to Jordan, the Philippines or Egypt, who are our favorite countries, to do the torturing for us?

Though probably true, this actually undermines Dershowitz's solution. He is taking for granted that our security forces will use torture, and there's nothing the law can do to stop it. That is a strange assumption for someone who then argues that we can control the use of torture using limited torture warrants in exceptional cases. After all, if the security forces will use torture now, when it is completely prohibited, why would the denial of a warrant stop them under Dershowitz's plan? It's a logically incoherent position.

Dershowitz thinks the "approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice" creates accountability for torture. This necessarily means that if the President or SC justice refuses approval, the security forces would recognize that authority and restrain themselves. But if that is true, why can't the President or SC justice just say right now that no torture is acceptable? After all, Dershowitz admits that:

[I]t will much better if we never did it.

The Open Sea

Via InstaPundit, here's a Financial Times analysis of our decreasing reliance on Europe as we shift back towards being a maritime power:

Sea powers behave in predictable ways. Strategically, they try to dominate the oceans (and now the skies). They abhor large and fixed land deployments, preferring to use local auxiliaries. They like to control or at least to neutralise the opposite shores of contiguous seas and oceans.

Diplomatically, they have no fixed alliances but only fixed interests. They can make commitments, but they want to feel free to leave. And they always like to have long strings of bases around the world. Britain sought all these things in its heyday and America wants to return to them now. That is the true meaning of the phrase "coalition of the willing".

Too Many Viewings of Top Gun

It's official, the North Koreans have lost their minds. CNN reports that:

A U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft was intercepted over the Sea of Japan on Sunday by four armed North Korean MiG fighter jets, one of which locked its weapons-targeting radar onto the U.S. plane, U.S. military sources said.

U.S. military sources said Monday that the Air Force plane was in international airspace about 150 miles [240 kilometers] off the Korean peninsula when the MiGs approached and flew alongside for 20 minutes, at some points coming within less than 400 feet of the U.S. plane.

Amazing. If Hussein did this, it would start a war. LGF has a link to Stanley Kurtz' article on North Korea and quotes this passage:

Up to now, hawks have had an answer to the charge that they apply a double standard to Iraq and North Korea. The hawks point out that we are attacking Saddam Hussein, but not North Korea, precisely because Saddam does not yet have nuclear arms, while North Korea does. We are trying to prevent Saddam from putting us into the same sort of impossible situation that the North Koreans already have. That is a fine answer. Yet it does not go far enough. The sad truth is that we do still face a terrible choice in North Korea, quite like the one we face with Saddam. And as the North Koreans begin to produce plutonium, that choice will be forced. Either we allow ourselves to lose the war on terror by subjecting ourselves to a nuclear-armed al Qaeda, or we place our faith in bogus international guarantees and inspections regimes, or we go to war with North Korea. That war, with a power capable of killing hundreds of thousands of South Koreans � and Americans � may force us to use tactical nuclear weapons.

Our choice will likely grow more acute with an invasion of Iraq. North Korea will probably choose the moment of invasion, when we are least able to launch a war, to begin its plutonium processing.

What a world.

Marquez

I just started reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude. If the first couple chapters are any sign, this is a masterpiece.

More Good News

CNN reports that:

The names of possible al Qaeda operatives, including some believed to be in Washington and other U.S. cities, were found among a "treasure-trove" of material recovered during Saturday's capture of al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan, sources said Monday.

I look forward to hearing about the numerous arrests.

Giving Pause

Daily Kos, citing a WP story, has a good analysis of the consequences of the Turkish parliamentary decision:

Politically, it's clear that the loss of Turkey doesn't bode well for US chances at the UN Security Council. Both Mexico and Chile are upset at the US's summary dismissal of Canada's compromise resolution (which would've given Iraq four more weeks to prove it is fully cooperating). The issue, of course, is the looming Iraqi summer. Those four weeks would push combat operations into that summer inferno. But politically, it was a blow to US efforts to appear rational.

New efforts to avert war have received a shot in the arm, as another of Iraq's neighbors feels so unconcerned about the "Iraqi threat" that it has refused US troops basing rights. Turkey now joins Jordan and Saudi Arabia as Iraqi neighbors and US allies refusing to provide access to US troops.

I wonder if any of this gives Bush et al the slightest pause. Even if you are pro-war, things like this should be raising red flags and provoking introspection.

Juveniles Standing Trial as Adults

CNN is reporting on a study that suggests we take another look at trying children in adult courts:

The private MacArthur Foundation study released Monday said many children under 16 had as much difficulty grasping the complex legal proceedings as adults who had been ruled incompetent to go to court.

Subjects were given intelligence tests and asked to respond to several hypothetical legal situations, such as whether to confess to a police officer. The results found that one-third of those 11 to 13 and one-fifth of those 14 or 15 could not understand the proceedings or help lawyers defend them.

The study recommends that states reconsider the minimum age for juveniles to be tried as adults or to develop a system for evaluating young defendants' competence.

History of the UN Veto Power

IHT provides a brief, but interesting look at the historical use of the veto power by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Rally in Korea

I missed it yesterday, but Instapundit posted about this rally in South Korea. 100,000 marched in support of the U.S. and our stationing of troops in the country. As noted below, I tend not to be intellectually persuaded by rallies, since there's often little evidence of what basis the individual protestors have for their involvement. Nonetheless, as someone who would actually like to be stationed in Korea (and if you ask for it, you get it), this is a welcome sign.

On a somewhat related note, I have a film recommendation: Joint Security Area, a South Korean film released in 2000. With gorgeous cinematography, great acting, and clear well-written subtitles, this is a real treat to watch:

As part of the Cease-fire Agreement that ended the Korea War in 1953, a 4km-wide Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was created to act as a buffer between the North and South. In addition, the two sides agreed to create a Joint Security Area (JSA) around Panmumjeom, the site where the Cease-fire Agreement had been negotiated, where both sides could meet face-to-face. Unfortunately, because of the close proximity between the North and South, the JSA has been witness to a number of incidents over the last five decades. In 1976, North Korean soldiers attacked and killed two U.S. Army officers who were stationed in the JSA on behalf of the United Nations, while there were high-profile defections by a Soviet citizen (which resulted in a deadly firefight) and a Chinese military officer in 1984 and 1989, respectively.

Based on the Park Sang-yeon novel "DMZ", "Joint Security Area" centers on a modern-day cross-border incident in this flashpoint of North-South tensions, specifically at the 'Bridge of No Return', where prisoners-of-war were exchanged at the end of the Korean War. Swiss military officer Major Sophie Jang (Lee Yeong-ae, who appeared most recently in "One Fine Spring Day"), the daughter of a Korean expatriate and a Swiss mother, arrives in Panmumjeom to conduct an impartial investigation of the incident, which has resulted in two deaths. Not surprisingly, both sides remain tight-lipped about the details of the incident, and treat her investigation with suspicion.

What makes the film so special for an American is to see the conflicted feelings of the Korean people concerning the political separation and official hostility. From this side of the Pacific, it is easy to oversimplify the situation and forget that this is a unfinished civil war, with all its twisted loyalties and inner turmoil.

al Qaeda's Future

The Washington Times reports that al Qaeda may be targeting Pearl Harbor for a future attack. If our intelligence is this good now, let's see what steps the government takes to protect the harbor. Whether our focus on Iraq is justified or not, I do regret that American and international attention has shifted so much. Even if Hussein does pose the larger long-term threat (and I'm not sure he does), there's obviously no question that the imminent threat comes from al Qaeda.

UPDATE: via Instapundit, here's a NY Post editorial that makes the point that we have made significant progress in the war on terrorism while putting pressure on Iraq. I'm still skeptical. (also check out Matthew Yglesias' response to Andrew Sullivan). Let's take a look:

True, many U.S. allies, from France to Egypt, are skeptical about the invasion of Iraq. But it does not follow that they will cease to cooperate with the U.S. war against al Qaeda. They're not offering this cooperation as a favor to Washington: It is in their own self-interest to hunt down murderous fanatics who bear a deep hatred of the West and its allies in the Mideast.

That is one possible read, and it is probably more true of the European allies. It seems less intuitive that the Arab and Muslim countries will react the same way. It would certainly not be in Pakistan's best interest if it meant Musharraf would lose control of the country. It might not be in Turkey's best interest to help America if an(other) influx of refugees pushed public opinion even further against the U.S. (can it go further?) The leaders of our 'allies' are just as interested in their political fortunes as Bush and Rove are (see Schroeder and Chirac). As we've already seen, if undermining the war on terrorism will help, they will do it (see Bush's tax cuts and susbequent failure to finance domestic preparations for terrorist attacks).

In addition, the editorial seems to take for granted that the war will go more or less as planned. That is a huge assumption, and it leaves aside many of the contingencies that pose the greatest risk:

The sort of people who are willing to become "martyrs" for the cause are pretty far gone already. An invasion might push a few over the edge, but it also might give others second thoughts.

What if we accidentally bomb a school with 200 children inside? How many civilians might die in an assault on Baghdad? What if Saddam gasses some of our troops and we use a nuclear device against him? Perhaps none of these are reasons not to go to war, but they will certainly provide new images of propaganda unlike anything the Islamists have now. Currently they rely on American support of Israel and channel images of Israeli 'atrocities' against Palestinians (their characterization, not mine). But in an invasion-gone-wrong, perhaps even one that goes right, powerful new images of American 'atrocities' may become available.

Another point to keep in mind, unmentioned in the NY Post editorial, is that one focus of al Qaeda's grievances and propaganda thus far was the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Imagine the occupation of an entire Arab nation and tell me it won't anger many in the Arab street. Yes, if all goes well and a fully functioning self-sufficient democracy emerges, it will do more good than harm. But until then, the U.S. will be an occupation force, and occupation forces in the Middle East tend to make big targets.

There is also this rather incomplete analogy near the end:

[W]hen the United States finally took firm action, by invading Afghanistan, there was no rejoicing in the Arab street and no sign of increased recruiting for al Qaeda.

Several possible reasons for this: (1) Afghanistan is not an Arab country, (2) much of the war was fought by proxy, (3) the war was fast, efficient, and effective, with very few civilian casualties. These first two certainly aren't true with Iraq, and I'm pessimistic about the third.

Let me emphasize that this is a pessimistic view. It may all turn out much better than this, as the war in Afghanistan certainly did. I hope so. But it is dishonest to make that assumption when weighing the potential risks.

Kim Jong Il sings "In My Room"

Yet another daily whining, I mean warning, from North Korea. Today's rant:

[I]f the United States ignites a war on the Korean peninsula, the world "will suffer horrifying nuclear disasters," according to a newspaper article released by Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency.

The article in Rodong Sinmun also said the U.S. is "pushing ahead with nuclear war preparations in full swing on the Korean peninsula," according to the news agency.

North Korea has somehow become the obnoxious middle child in the Axis of Evil, starved for attention (oh bad bad terrible pun) and pissed off that America is so preoccupied with the Middle East. We've coddled the newborn reformers in Iran (though recent electoral defeats bode ill) and now we're cracking down on the wayward Iraqi teenager. Kim Jong Il must feel so left out.

Unfortunately, if left alone too long, the neglected middle child can become the most crazed, delusional, and dangerous of all. Think of Jan Brady, and be very afraid.

Bad PR in Turkey

The L.A. Times (registration req'd) has this analysis of the circumstances leading up to the Turkish parliamentary defeat of a request to allow deployment of U.S. troops:

As Turks offered explanations Sunday for this stinging defiance of their strongest ally, tales of American insensitivity were high on the list.

"We don't like the way we were pushed around by the Americans," said Emin Sirin, one of dozens of lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party who defied its leaders and voted against the U.S. deployment.

"The Americans kept giving ultimatums and deadlines, asking Turkey to jump into a barrel of fire," he said. "They seemed to think we could be bought off, but we had real security concerns about what Iraq would look like after Saddam. They never addressed those concerns."

Amazing that Rove and the domestic staff can sell shit on a stick to the American public (or at least they could, see below for the Democrats' new credibility gap attack), but Bush and his foreign policy staff can't even win a vote in a NATO ally's parliament with the backing of the Prime Minister and ruling party leadership.

Dali in Prison?

Sometimes the world is a truly strange place. Here's a UPI story about a half-million dollar Salvador Dali painting displayed at New York's Riker's Island jail for almost 40 years, until (surprise, surprise) it was stolen. I sure hope no inmate has it hung in his cell a la The Shawshank Redemption.

Trent's New Friends

Looks like Trent Lott is learning to play nice in his new surroundings.

The Credibility Gap

Via Matthew Yglesias, the Democrats' credibility gap attack. Not bad, though they could have made even better use of the web format by providing hyperlinks to some of their sources.

Anti-War Children?

Here's something I don't understand: the emphasis on children protesting at anti-war rallies. Is there any way these children understand what is happening in Iraq? Even if you are opposed to war, I should hope that the arguments you rest on are sufficiently sophisticated and eduated to be beyond the grasps of 7-year old children. If so (and there certainly are such arguments), why resort to the simplistic anti-violence intuition that these children symbolize?

UPDATE: Re: Cheryl's comment: I agree insofar as I don't think the pro-war movement would be strengthened at all by having children waving flags at their rallies either. But there's a key difference with a 4th of July parade: it is about a simple intuition, national pride. The anti-war protests are not. To be politically active and influential on either side of the war question requires more complex reasoning and explication.

The point is, if even a child (incapable of the requisite reasoning for true political thinking) can hold a sign, I have trouble being moved by such rallies. It does not mean the anti-war protestors are wrong, or that they don't actually have sophisticated explanations and arguments on their side. It just means that photos like the one above do nothing to advance them.

Slow Justice

There are constant (and valid) complaints lodged against the snail's pace of justice in American courts. Let's just say, India has it much worse:

The limitations are most apparent in an epic backlog of cases -- 23.5 million at last count, according to the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center -- that has slowed the pace of judicial proceedings to a crawl.

Even routine commercial matters can drag on for years. A survey cited in the study, for example, found that 59 percent of corporate liquidation proceedings in state high courts took more than 10 years; 32 percent took more than 20 years. Some civil and criminal cases have been pending in Indian courts since the early 1950s.

Because of judicial delays, 73 percent of the country's jail population is made up of people on trial or awaiting trial, according to a report last year by India's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs. Yet the rate of conviction for serious crimes is less than 7 percent -- which means that 93 percent of those arrested on serious charges ultimately go free.

Now obviously the inefficency and backlog are shocking and need to be addressed. But the stat that really jumps out at me is the 7% conviction rate! Who are these people and why are they being arrested in the first place? Compare that figure to America (over 50% conviction rate of those charged, even higher for those that go to trial) or Japan (99% conviction rate, itself controversial)

North Carolina: Hotbed of Islamic Terrorist Recruitment

Via Instapundit, this L.A. Times profile of Khalid Shaikh Modammed is a must read. Some surreal imagery to twist your mind around:

Mohammed's first extended encounter with the West occurred at Chowan College, a tiny Baptist school nestled among the cotton farms, tobacco patches and thick forests of eastern North Carolina, just south of the Virginia line.

In summer 1984, Mohammed enrolled as an engineering major at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, a historically black college on the Piedmont plain in the central part of the state.

Islamists at Greensboro and other U.S. universities made a point of seeking out newly arrived Arab students at airports. If they missed new arrivals at the airport, the bearded ones would seek them out on campus. Their advances were sometimes rejected but often welcomed among vulnerable newcomers who were homesick and out of place.

Is there any place that seems further in the world from Islamic terrorism than rural North Carolina? It is an image devoid of coherence for me.

Tech/Media Mergers

Many have objected to the growth of giant media conglomerations as an ominous sign for the future of creative and diverse content. Now it seems that the stronger argument against these mergers is that they just don't work. News.com has a brief look at AOL Time Warner in this context:

In announcing the merger, for example, executives of the two companies said that they wanted to provide America Online's Internet subscribers the music and publishing information offered by Time Warner and that they wanted to use Time Warner's cable operations to deliver that data online at lightening speed.

Much of this... might have been accomplished with licensing agreements and joint ventures, while keeping the companies separate. That would have avoided all the difficulties of blending two very different corporate cultures, and it would have made it easier to abandon joint projects that weren't panning out.

Ah yes, the good old days before vertical integration became the rage.

Drug War Casualties

And here I thought the American war on drugs was spiralling out of control (it is). The BBC reports:

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has admitted that police might have made some "mistakes" in waging a bloody month-long war on drugs which has left more than 1,100 people dead.

Did they say month-long? Wow. If America's war on drugs had a casualty rate like that we'd be well into 6 figures. I suppose they can at least claim results:

Up to 27,000 alleged drug dealers have been arrested and about 5 million methamphetamine pills seized.

Well that is a lot of arrests, and it sure is a lot of pills. But 1,100 deaths in one month? I'm with Amnesty on this one.

Army Reading List

I've just come across the Chief of Staff of the Army's Recommended Reading List. The list is broken down into various ranks for which certain books are most appropriate. Looks like a very good list. Two books I don't see that are must reads for any aspiring young Army officer: George Wilson's Mud Soldiers and Cololonel James McDonough's Platoon Leader

Arab Disunity = Dynamic Pluralism? Um, no.

Little Green Footballs has some coverage of the fractious Arab League meeting today, titling his post "No Future for the Arab League."

For some pro-Arab spin, check out this editorial from Arab News:

What if this public expression of �disunity� is a sign of political maturity, and thus good news for the Arabs? Is it not possible that we may be witnessing the beginning of a genuine debate about what the Arabs can and cannot do together?

I'm sorry, but since when do authoritarian regimes engage in genuine debate? I doubt they would even know it if they saw it. Leaders who suppress genuine debate within their own country seem unlikely to engage in it themsleves. They understand propaganda and brute force, not pluralism and dialogue. The article also has this strange analogy:

There is no reason why Arab �disunity� should be regarded as a sickness while disunity in the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), is seen as sign of dynamic pluralism.

That's an interesting take on the French bullying of Eastern Europe: dynamic pluralism. I'd say the fact that NATO and the EU are being compared to the Arab League should signal to Chirac just how destructive he has become.

The most choice part of the article is this:

What is new is that some Arab states are now prepared to behave in a normal way: That is to say express disagreement with this or that position in public without becoming involved in a campaign of hatred against those who hold other views.

Does this writer even read his own publication? From the main Arab News article on the day's drama, we have these dynamically pluralistic words from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to Muammar Qaddafi:

"Who brought you to power? Don�t say anything and don�t interfere in matters in which you don�t have any role. You are a liar. Your grave awaits you."

Yep, those Arab states sure are behaving in the normal way. They make Jacques Chirac look quite snuggly toward the Eastern Europeans.

Three Cheers for Sears

Via Instapundit, here's a blog noting that several companies (Sears is mentioned) are paying their reserve soldiers the difference between their regular salaries and their military salary (which is quite meager; go here to see just how meager). We're talking about young NCO's making less than $2000 a month.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias points out that the underlying sadness to this story of good will is that private companies have to step in to compensate for the government's unwillingness to pay our troops what they deserve.

FBI Looks the Other Way

AP has a story about the widespread recruitment of violent criminals as informants by the FBI:

The nine former FBI agents spoke - on the record - not to criticize the practice of overlooking violent crimes by informants, but rather to defend it as a necessary evil of criminal investigation

I'm currently taking a class on criminal investigation. I don't want to be overly simplistic, but there sure do seem to be quite a lot of necessary evils:

The former agents said it makes sense to overlook an informant's involvement in robberies or beatings if the information he is providing helps solve or prevent worse crimes. But sometimes, they added, even murders were ignored.

Some of the arguments made by the agents resemble arguments made in defense of torture and other such means:

"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.

Combine an institutional willingness to look the other way with the war on terrorism (and the proposed Patriot Act II), and a dangerous stew could be brewing.

Luckiest Defendant in the World

I have to think it'd be pretty comforting to a defendant to look over at the jury box and see Bill Clinton. Has anyone else in America been so thoroughly investigated (some might say persecuted)? The prosecutor has good reason to want Juror 142 disqualified.

UPDATE: Talkleft thinks Clinton is actually a bigger threat to the defense.

Sympathy for Foreign Leaders

Talk about a rock and a hard place. Leaders who oppose the United States win the support of their people but risk the friendship of this country. Leaders who favor America, like those in Spain and Italy, do so at the cost of angering their own population.

Then there are the Turks. CNN reports the problems facing the government's attempt to win backing for U.S. troops:

The proposal has little popular support -- hundreds of thousands of Turks protested on the streets of Ankara, and public opinion polls show that more than 90 percent of the population opposes war.

I can't think of a single issue on which America's elected leaders would attempt to contravene public will of that strength. Would Rove let that happen? That ought to stand as testament (for better or worse) of the hegemonic power America is wielding.

UPDATE: The Daily Kos fleshed out the domestic situation in Turkey and raised the same concern.

UPDATE: He also has a stellar analysis of the effect Bush might be having on Mexico's President Fox, with a good look at Mexico's rececnt political history.

Keep It Up

I hope this is a sign that we haven't lost focus on Al Qaeda. It'll be interesting to see what we do with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed now that we've got him.

Dissent

After reading Oliver Willis' post regarding the attacks on the free speech of anti-war advocates (many of whom I disagree with), it occurred to me that there might be some parallel between what Willis calls the "New American Fascists" (a little harsh for my taste) and one of their main enemis, Jacques Chirac. Here it is:

FOX News' Neil Cavuto to American anti-war advocates:

[B]efore you act up, may I suggest you consider [our troops], and just shut up.

Jacques Chirac to the Eastern European nations who signed letters of support for the U.S.:

It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet.

Cavuto again, this time speaking to the President of Latvia:

[N]ow France and some of the more established countries, including Germany, seem to be threatening your very membership eventually in the E.U., and NATO. Are they strong- arming you? They are the ones who seem to be telling you... to shut up.

Let's get this straight, Neil.. suppressing an anti-war advocate is patriotism, but suppressing a pro-war advocate is strong-arming?

"It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own." - Thomas Jefferson

Military Tribunal Details

TalkLeft links to a WP story regarding which crimes will be subject to military tribunal prosecution. She notes that:

Zacarias Moussaoui, now awaiting federal trial in Virginia, may become the first person to be tried in before a military tribunal if the Government loses its bid in the 4th Circuit to keep Moussaoui's lawyers from interviewing Ramzi Binalshibh, a witness who could provide exculpatory information for Moussaoui.

Whatever my feelings about military tribunals (and the possibility that in three years I will be taking part in them), it does seem like the government ought not have it both ways. Either the prisoner should be subject to a civilian criminal court or a military court. Once the civilian court process has begun, it should be allowed to continue. To submit cases to civilian courts but then remove prisoners from that process at the first adverse ruling could do far more to undermine the courts than the tribunal system standing alone.

Public Service Announcement

Over at WindsofChange.net they decided to dedicate Saturday (as the Sabbath) to non-political/news entries, often including Sufi wisdom and other religious or philosophical tidbits. I do not celebrate a particular day of the week as more holy than others, but occasionally I may lean on my religious and philosophical influences to give this blog a more well-rounded approach. In that spirit, here is one of the opening passages of Shunruyu Suzuki-Roshi's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind:

Our 'original mind' includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.

Law Blogs

I have several law-related blogs in my blogroll, but if anyone wants more, LawBlogs.com is an ideal starting point. It even has a link to my page now!

Estrada & Neutrality

Does either party have a whole lot of moral standing when it comes to the judicial nomination fight? I don't like that it has become so political, but I don't think there can be any question that what the Democrats are doing is historically in-line with what the Republicans did with Clinton's nominees.

As The Wyeth Wire points out (with great quotes from Scalia and Rehnquist, definitely check it out), one of the most strange things about Estrada (and Thomas before him) is the claim that these judicial nominees do not have preconceived notions about particular issues or past cases. This is, of course, ridiculous. They studied law, they have opinions, it is not a crime. Being an impartial arbiter of the law does not require that you come to the bench without personal opinions, it requires that you endeavor to put those opinions aside when making decisions from the bench.

It reminds me a bit of one of Michael Sandel's attacks on the liberalism of John Rawls, that "liberalism is wrong because neutrality is impossible" and "try as we might we can never wholly escape the effects of our conditioning." While this latter point is undoubtedly true, it misses the point. As Robert Brown has said, "To be neutral is to be non-aligned and unengaged only under certain conditions and only... with respect to the application of the rules relevant to the contenders within a particular sphere of authority."

What both sides agree on is that individual actors will obviously carry their own opinions and preconceptions with them, the very point Estrada and his defenders deny. Where they go wrong, however, is not just in thinking that judicial nominess can be without preconceptions, but that they should. The point Brown makes fits nicely here. It is no attack on our judicial system to say that judges have preconceptions and personal opinions. It is an inevitable truth. They must merely know how to set those aside when applying the rules in their sphere of authority.

UPDATE: Wyeth linked to it, but I'll also recommend reading Kinsley's excellent take on the situation.