Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Diplomacy is Good for Diplomats

There were a couple of back and forths late in the game between the Pulvarizer and me in the comments section of the last post. I didn't respond to his second comment, but will do so now to a portion of it at least, which ran like this:

"So basically what you're saying is we had to invade Iraq, because some day, Saddam may have inflicted harm on US citizens. Then why haven't we invaded countries such as Iran, Syria, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which currently pose real dangers to the US, based on the same preventive theory? Iran, Syria, and North Korea are active supporters of terrorism, adamantly oppose US interests, and in the case of Iran and N. Korea, have active WMD programs, namely nuclear. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, while allies in the context of realpolitik, turn blind eyes to large portions of their citizens who partake in anti-American activities and actively support terrorist organizations.

And no good choices? The same paths Bush is pursuing now with regard to Iran and North Korea, (1) patience, (2) gathering significant international support, (3) sanctions, and (4) supporting anti-Iranian groups and nations, were available to Bush with regard to Iraq after 9/11. Not to mention allowing the renewed WMD inspectors enough time to do their job. Surely you can’t say Iran appears to pose a lesser threat to US interest now than Iraq did pre-Gulf War II. So then why are we pursuing two very different strategies? The only difference is Bush wanted to appear tough on “terrorism,” so he quixotically invades Iraq."

First let me address the "why don't we invade everyone who poses a threat" canard. The answer is two part. First, none of the countries mentioned had repeatedly ignored the UN requirements placed on it, so there was no impetus for action from that standpoint. The UN had an impetus to act, but instead kept re-drawing the line, saying sternly again - "if you cross that line, something really bad is going to happen, like us drawing another line further back." Bush said - enough of the games - we could afford to screw around with guys like you prior to 9/11, but the cost of doing so has risen significantly. So you're done.

Still, taking the Pulvarizer's point, why limit pre-emption to the one case in which there was a history of efforts to bring a regime in line that continued to violate UN requirements? Why not unilaterally go after some of them? In one obvious case, that of North Korea, the reason is this - we know they already have nuclear weapons, so the human cost of taking these guys out is likely to be far far higher than those incurred in Iraq. There is an obvious tradeoff - when the costs to correct the problem are likely to be very steep, you play the waiting game. The same will be true for Iran in short order.

Syria - well, I don't know what to say about them other than that we probably should bomb the shit out of them. The difference there may be that we felt like we had ties to opposition groups in Iraq that would enable us to fill the vacuum (which, contrary to the Pulvarizer, has been more successful than he will acknowledge), and maybe we have no such ties in Syria. As for Pakistan, Mushareff has probably risked more than anyone in supporting the US in the war on terror. With Saudi Arabia, although they have tolerated anti-Americanism, they have also tolerated us, giving us a military foothold in the region; in addition,that regime is making itself more democratic, which is a hopeful sign of progress that could abet the anti-Americanism.

Finally, the paths that we are pursuing now with respect to Korea and Iran, those of "(1) patience, (2) gathering significant international support, (3) sanctions, and (4) supporting anti-Iranian groups and nations", which "were available to Bush with regard to Iraq after 9/11" will go absolutely nowhere. In fact, Korea got their nukes that way in the first place, and Iran will not be deterred from getting theirs in this way as well. You'll never get the support of China and Russia, because of their own self-interest, just as we didn't get that of France and Germany for the same reason with respect to Iraq. In the case of Iran, we'll be forced to cross our fingers like we do with North Korea, and as we did for decades with the Soviet Union (and are about to do again with Russia).

And as for sanctions, I'd like to remind the readers that there were significant sentiments to lift the sanctions on Iraq, which we were told were leading to 100,000 deaths per year, far in excess of the number of innocent Iraqis being killed as a result of the war. These 100K were in addition to those who over the years were gased or tortured by Saddam and Co., and were supposed to be deaths that stemmed from the impact on the economy from the sanctions. Of course, we had a program in place to stem that problem in the "Oil for Food" program, but apparently the "food" mentioned was mostly fois gras being eaten by bribed Frenchmen, as well as the son of the UN Secratary General. Meanwhile the people of Iraq ate cake.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Lie, Repeated Often Enough, ...

"Novak triggered one of the capital's most tangled investigations with a July 2003 column reporting that Plame had suggested sending her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, to Niger to investigate whether Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain nuclear material from that country -- an unsupported claim that was included in President Bush's State of the Union speech." (emphasis added).

That is from a Howard Kurtz column in the Washington Post today. The fact is that the claim was very well supported, even by the CIA that sent Joe Wilson to Niger and found his "evidence" to be worthless, but it is unsupported if the definition of unsupported is that Joe Wilson, international man of intrigue, doesn't agree. So it depends on the meaning of the word unsupported - and it is really unfair for us to assume that Kurtz would use it in the way the typical readers would define it. He's part of the free press, and in addition to divulging sensitive classified information, the other privilege that the free press enjoys is defining their own terms in an idiosyncratic fashion.

But not to belabor this point, this is a great example of repeating a claim (usually a simple one) so often in the face of all evidence to the contrary (usually complex)until a lie becomes a truth. Among the other lies, repeated ad infinitum, without any support, are these:

1) Bush (or his admin) claimed Iraq was responsible for 9/11 - never happened.
2) Bush (or his admin) claimed Iraq was an imminent threat - never happened, in fact on several occasions, they explicitly said Iraq was not an imminent threat.
3) Iraq and Al Queda had no ties whatsoever - there is a mountain of evidence suggesting otherwise. Not deep ties, granted, but not no ties, which is what is always claimed. In fact, the recent killing of Al Zarquawi mentioned without a sense of irony that he had been in Iraq since 2002, prior to our invasion.

I'm sure there are others. And these are only the factual claims. More problematic, and idiotic, are the pearls of "wisdom" divined from the uncanny ability of Bush-haters to read his mind:

1) Bush "misled" us about WMDs in Iraq. Apparently 10 good years of gathering bad and faulty intelligence, most of which pre-dated Bush, fall on Bush, who was able to convince nearly every Democratic senator at the time that the intelligence was accurate, even though he surely knew otherwise.
2) Bush wanted to avenge the assassination attempt on his father, and that is why he went to war.

Etc. Etc. As the old saying goes, a lie repeated ofen enough gains the semblance of truth.


Thank God for Zinadine Zidane, whose head butt of the Italian provided the only memorable moment from the soccer World Cup finals. This is the problem with soccer - a once every four year event can be decided by penalty kicks. In addition, the only two goals that happen in the game were the result of a penalty kick and a header off of a corner kick. No organic goal in 2 hours of play. Great athletes with great skills, no doubt, but when the rules of a game make it highly probable that it will be decided without one natural goal, why should we bother watching? I'd personally rather that they televise these games with the express intent of trying to capture on film all of the fights that break out in the stands among drunken Europeans, and make that the highlight of the coverage. Interview the guys after the fight, make a judgment on who won, etc. Short of that, all that we have to look forward to is a guy headbutting his opponent, and there seems to be all too little of that to justify the time.

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