Wednesday, 22 December 2004

The Mosul Incident

An excellent first-person account of the killings in Mosul yesterday from an Army chaplain. Quite moving.

(þ: Blackfive)

Monday, 6 December 2004

A terrorist futility index?

Professor Becker’s first post is online and here’s the last graf:

Moreover, the degree of certainty required before preventive actions are justified has been considerably reduced below what it was in the past because the destructive power of weaponry has enormously increased. Perhaps most worrisome, the power of weapons continues to grow, and to become more easily accessible. Critics of preventive wars and other preventive actions against rogue states and terrorist groups ignore these major changes in weaponry and their availability. Democratic governments have to recognize that they no longer have the luxury of waiting to respond until they are attacked.
I agree with everything he says in this paragraph. I’m not as crazy about the earlier analogy with criminal behavior, mostly because I think it’s too limiting. This would no doubt set off his commenters that thought attacking Iraq for speculative reasons was a mistake, but I think it’s true. The state has a much higher burden of proof in moving against (potential) criminals than it does in dealing with other states. One reason is that states deal with one another via both war and diplomacy. Hopefully not in that order, but it’s in the nature of sovereignty.

Another commenter brought up an intriguing [update: I rarely re-read posts, but if this post hadn't been up for a few hours already I would edit it and use the word inane, not intriguing] point about box cutters: more people have been killed in the U.S. by terrorists with box cutters than by nuclear weapons. Why aren’t we attacking nations that manufacture box cutters? The commenter misses the whole point of any notion of preventive war: we don’t want to be attacked with nuclear weapons in the first place. September 11th was simply a wake-up call to something that had been building since the Iranian hostage crisis, and it took a disaster to get us out of our slumber. I don’t want to have to wait for yet another disaster to wake us again. There’s an argument to be made against preventive war, but that ain’t it.

As for the title of the post? One of the commenters mentioned that we are creating additional terrorists by attacking Iraq. This is almost certainly true. The questions is, I suppose, are we arresting / killing them faster than we create them? Are we being made less safe for having gone into Iraq? I don’t know, but there’s an upper bound on the number of new terrorists—really, pent up terrorism is more accurate—and I would like to think we’re getting rid of them faster than they’re being created.

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Donna don't preach

You know, I was all for this whole Iraq War thing… but, goshdarn it, Madonna’s opinion pushed me over the edge. No Blood For Oil! But, you know, they make the plastic in CDs from oil… Help me, I’m confused! (þ: memeorandum)

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

More on the Saddam-9/11 link

Scott Althaus and Devon Largio have an interesting article in this month’s issue of PS: Political Science and Politics that advances an alternative (and, in my mind, more convincing) explanation of why the public links Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks than the “Bush lied” meme. It’s only five pages, so, ATSRTWT.

Friday, 22 October 2004

Americans are idiots, redux

Stuart Benjamin has the goods. Interestingly, Kull et al. omit one very plausible explanation why Kerry supporters are more “correct” than Bush supporters: Kerry simply, by sheer coincidence (or deliberate plotting—nobody fields am opinion poll in which they don’t have some expectation of the marginals), shares the perceived positions of the poll majorities, and there really isn’t much between-group variance on those points.

One might also point out that the question selection seems deliberately designed to elicit “known false” perceptions by Bush supporters and that some of the definitions—for example, “a major WMD program”—are in the eye of the beholder. Indeed, Iraq did have a major WMD program in the 1980s and 1990s, all credible intelligence information suggested that program continued underground in some capacity after UN inspectors left in 1998, there is at least some evidence that elements of that WMD program were transferred to Syria during the 2003 conflict, and it is crystal-clear that Saddam Hussein’s ambitions to have “a major WMD program” were just on hold until the Franco-Russian alliance was able to dismantle the remaining sanctions on Iraq.

Finally, it’s entirely possible the whole exercise captures non-attitudes galore. My 2004 MPSA paper suggests (admittedly, using a model that needs some additional work, once I learn how to do latent class analysis) that perceptions of threat from the Saddam Hussein regime were largely the product of partisan attitudes, rather than having an independent origin.

Wednesday, 20 October 2004


Pat Robertson talked to Paula Zahn today, and boy did he let loose a doozy:

“And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, ‘Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.’ ”

Robertson said the president then told him, “Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.”

Now, I suppose Robertson could be completely and totally demented by this point (I mean, he is the guy that blamed 9/11 on gay people, and I doubt his mental faculties are on the rebound); either way, it’s fairly clear that at least half of the people participating in this alleged conversation had no grip on reality.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

Dead but not forgotten

Roger L. Simon picks up on Dick Cheney’s invocation of the ghost of Howard Dean (or, as Roger puts it, “the bizarre and enduring influence of Howard Dean on our lives”). Meanwhile, Wretchard of The Belmont Club reminds us of Turkey’s role in undermining the post-war Iraqi security situation.

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

Empiricism is for losers

The Ranting Profs and Brian J. Noggle find widespread mental illness among American youth. Despite a 402–2 vote in the House of Representatives to bury and urinate on the grave of Charles Rangel’s idiotic proposal to reinstate the draft, the issue apparently isn’t going away—because people who don’t want a draft want to talk about it some more:

“It’s not settled in the least,” [Jehmu Greene, president of Rock the Vote,] said. “We’re going to mobilize all young people to call on Congress and both presidential candidates to give this serious attention because we need an informed debate. It’s not a partisan issue.”

One suspects that Ms. Greene finds the draft boogeyman a convenient recruiting tool for her organization, which the Knight-Ridder newswire charitably describes as “a nonpartisan group that seeks to boost voter turnout among young people.” And what better way to boost voter turnout than irresponsible scaremongering.

Let me make this perfectly clear: nobody wants a draft. We don’t need to have an informed debate (as opposed to lunatic-fringe scaremongering, which is what we have now) about something that nobody wants to take place, something that nobody supports, and something that frankly demonstrates a complete and total lack of seriousness by both the Democratic Party and its enablers at Rock the Vote about actual, non-illusory, and important issues facing America.

Tuesday, 28 September 2004


David Adesnik of OxBlog takes note of today’s David Brooks NYT column arguing—from the historical precedent of El Salvador—that even a flawed “partial” election in Iraq could nonetheless lead to more stability and put the country on the road to democracy. In particular, Adesnik disagrees with Phil Carter’s argument against such a “partial vote.”

One interesting historical example cited by none of the authors is the fact that federal elections were held, as scheduled, in the Union states during the American Civil War. If credible elections could be held in a country undergoing a massive internal rebellion 140 years ago, I don’t see a realistic impediment to a “partial” vote encompassing over 95% of Iraqis—if the number were in the range of 60%, I could see a credible argument against holding elections, but if we’re just talking about Fallujah and a couple of other areas in revolt, I don’t think that’s a meaningful impediment to legitimacy.

Monday, 20 September 2004

WaPo on Musharraf

The Washington Post editorial board rightly castigates both Bush and Kerry for their failure to speak publically about the need for a real democratic transition in Pakistan; coupled with events in Russia and the (quite possibly invented-from-thin-air by Robert Novak) Iraq withdrawal trial balloon, it’s not been a great week for democracy.

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Kofi Annan: Not helping John Kerry

You’d think—or at least want to hope—those “foreign leaders” who want John Kerry to be elected in November would be politically smarter than Kofi Annan, who decided to sex up his complaint that the conflict in Iraq was “not in conformity” with U.N. resolutions today by calling it “illegal” in an interview with the BBC World Service. If, as unnamed Annan critics allegedly charge in the New York Times account, the U.N. secretary-general is “trying to influence politics in important member countries, notably the United States” (presumably to help Kerry), I think he is making a big mistake on two fronts:

  1. Kerry’s dubious claim that he can bring in allies that the Bush administration can’t is undermined by Annan’s statement. No country not in Iraq now will sign on to an “illegal” occupation and stabilization force. Of course, non-participants (most notably, the French) already severely undercut this claim when they stated they foresaw no circumstances under which they would participate, but this adds another nail to the coffin of Kerry’s Iraq policy (such that it is).

  2. Annan’s “cowboy talk” unnecessarily increases tension between the United States and the U.N., at a time when congressional goodwill toward the organization is cratered. Furthermore, since no responsible American government will ever concede that the Iraq invasion was “illegal” (a charge not even made by Howard Dean), it will further erode official U.S. support for the U.N.‘s pronouncements on the “legality” or “illegality” of actions and for the U.N. process in general.

Meanwhile, of course, the Security Council fiddles while Darfur burns; perhaps Annan’s attention should be more focused on bringing the U.N. together to stop the genocide in Sudan rather than rehashing past disputes.

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Good and bad news

Up at Heretical Ideas: Ashcroft may be getting the boot in Bush’s second term—if there is a second term, as seems increasingly likely over the past week—and things seem to be going to hell in a handbasket in Iraq. On the latter, Alex Knapp says “the President won’t talk about it”; frankly, I’d rather he did something about it than talk about it, talk being cheap and all.


“60 Minutes II” doesn’t air in Jackson until 1:35 a.m. overnight (in its place was some sort of TV movie). What does my TiVo program guide say is on the show?

A hoax some consider responsible for helping launch the war in Iraq; actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker talk about their life and marriage.

Signifying Nothing has obtained a copy of the “hoax” originally scheduled to be presented before Rathergate started:

Forged letter from Saddam Hussein to his personal file.

It’s all so obvious now.

Update: Here’s a genuine image from the CBS website that apparently comes from the “picture worth a thousand words” department:

Dig deeper, indeed.

Of course, that’s Dan’s boot on the shovel.

Sunday, 5 September 2004


You know, I don’t care to hear about France’s sex life, thank you very much, although I do think the “long pounding” was suffered by the other 49 states, not to mention the Iraqis, rather severely as well.

September surprise

Equal-opportunity partisan wingnut hat on…

I think this report was clearly timed to distract voters from John Kerry’s self-immolation or his cunningly effective attack on the president. I blame George Soros or the neocon cabal.

Tuesday, 24 August 2004


Our long national nightmare, the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson saga, may finally be nearing an end. The Kerry front organizations left wing of the blogosphere claims there’s an indictment of “Scooter” Libby on the way, while the Bush stooges InstaPundit (and the Washington Post) reports that Libby is cooperating with investigators by waiving his right of confidentiality in dealings with Time reporter Matthew Cooper.

Sunday, 22 August 2004

Parallel Kerry

James Joyner and N.Z. Bear both ponder an alternative universe in which John Kerry has a campaign message that doesn’t revolve around what he did (or didn’t do) in the Mekong Delta before I was born. Left unpondered is whether or not “parallel Kerry” has one of those cool-looking goatees like Spock did in “Mirror, Mirror.”

Also worth reading, linked from the same InstaPundit post, is Stanford political scientist Larry Diamond’s devastating critique of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, including its hamhanded handling by the former Coalition Provisional Authority, from the most recent edition of Foreign Affairs.

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

Another gift from Memphis to the nation

Michael Totten has the scoop on the latest idiocy from the Memphis city council, this time perpetrated by city council chairman Joe Brown, who barred a group of visiting Iraqi officials from city hall, apparently out of concern that they were terrorists. Nor could the city or county mayor be bothered to meet with the group. On the bright side (?), at least they did get to meet mayoral aspirant and city councilwoman Carol Chumney, albeit not at city hall. Needless to say, Memphis-area residents are uniformly shocked, but not all that surprised, by this boorish behavior from their elected leaders.

One suspects that, overall, the Iraqis are better off not having had a chance to meet these rather dubious examples of American officialdom, lest they set a bad example.

Update: Mike Hollihan has more on the fallout from this mess; Chumney is making some political hay with the issue, but I honestly don’t see how she beats Herenton in a head-to-head contest, despite the latter apparently being under investigation by the FBI.

Thursday, 22 July 2004

Subliminal expat

Conrad fills in the gaps in reporting the Filipino government’s spineless capitulation to terrorists. As most sane observers predicted, copycat terrorists have emerged in the hopes of finding similar appeasers elsewhere—though the logic of kidnapping citizens of countries that aren’t even part of the occupation force escapes me.

Monday, 28 June 2004

The fog of war

Riddle me this, Batman:

I think it’s a safe bet that somebody is wrong.

Sunday, 27 June 2004

Textbook Drive for Iraq

Steven Taylor is helping a colleague obtain recent books to donate to Baghdad University in Iraq. In particular demand are recent textbooks in mathematics, the sciences, and medicine, although I suspect any and all donations of relatively contemporary texts (from the last five years or so) would be welcome.

Friday, 18 June 2004

Saddamed if you do

Both Alex Knapp and James Joyner (writing at Tech Central Station, so feel free to dismiss accordingly) think the 9/11 commission’s standard of proof for al-Qaeda involvement in, well, anything might be just a tad too high.

As for Saddam himself:

Saddam’s government was never the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. Iran and Saudi Arabia far outstripped him in that regard. Nonetheless, the fact that Saddam Hussein actively supported Islamic terrorists has been an article of faith since the Carter Administration. Indeed, Iraq was one of the original five states (along with Iran, Libya, Syria, and Cuba) on the original “Patterns of Global Terrorism” list compiled by the State Department in 1979. Saddam was a major sponsor of various terrorist groups, including the PLO, Hamas, and the Abu Nidal Organization.

Read the whole things.

Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Tortured reading

Mark A.R. Kleiman:

So now we have a choice, as voters: Are we going to ratify the decision to make torture (described in various weaselly ways) part of the policy of the United States, or are we going to reject it by replacing those responsible?

Great idea, but what’s our guarantee that a Kerry administration wouldn’t engage in the exact same behavior, if not worse? Where are Kerry’s condemnations of Gitmo? (Everyone’s condemned Abu Gharib, so that doesn’t count.) Mrs. Kerry (the ex-Republican) seems rather more forceful than Sen. Kerry. And, if Kerry is going to try to outflank Bush on terror, is it plausible that he can simultaneously promise to get tougher on al-Qaeda while renouncing the current means by which the U.S. is getting tough on terror?

Throwing the bums out is a great idea… so long as we’re not bringing in new bums that are equally bad, if not worse.

Friday, 11 June 2004


Eric Muller starts hypothesizing about MemoGate:

This is the sort of thing one might expect to see a young lawyer do in a “brainstorming” sort of memo—and that one would expect to see a more senior lawyer react to by saying, “Very creative. I like how you’re thinking outside the box. But none of this is going to fly in the real world. Please go back and rewrite this into something we can actually use.”

The memo is marked “draft”—so maybe all of this too-clever manipulation of hornbook law ended up in the back of a filing cabinet of non-starter ideas. Somehow I don’t think it would have been leaked if that were true, though. [emphasis mine]

Alternative hypothesis: today is June 11, 2004, a mere 144 days before a presidential election. This memo is highly embarrassing to the Bush administration (at least in the opinion of those who already don’t much care for said administration; the jury’s still out on whether rank-and-file swing voter cares about Jose Padilla and Iraqi detainees). Lower-level functionaries in major government departments are known to be core Democratic voters. Ergo, any embarrassing material—even if it was never used to justify administration policy—is worth leaking, especially considering that Abu Gharib was finally moving off the front pages in light of progress in the political situation in Iraq.

Counter-hypothesis: today is June 11, 2004, the week of Ronald Reagan’s death. The memo is highly embarrassing to the Bush administration, but about the most damning piece of the paper trail that ties administration actors to extra-legal torture by CIA and military intelligence operatives. Leak it now, and the news will be buried along with Reagan, as the only media outlets who will still care in a week will be ones with known partisan taint like The New Yorker, and thus, any such accounts will be immediately discounted by otherwise-swayable Republican elites.

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

Holdsclaw v. Davies

Daniel Davies:

I wish Saddam Hussein was still in power in Baghdad because if this were the case, then about 3,000 Iraqis would have been murdered by his regime and would be dead, the roughly 10,000 Iraqis we killed ourselves would still be alive, and we would most likely be well on our way to formulating a credible, sensible, properly resourced plan for getting rid of him and handling the aftermath.

Sebastian Holdsclaw:

This is pure fantasy. European countries and the UN were not in the process of figuring out how to get rid of Saddam just before bumbling George Bush talked them out of it. In January 2002 France, Germany and Russia were talking about having sanctions removed from Iraq and trade and diplomatic relations normalized. Even if he were one of those people who is easily impressed by European words decoupled from actions he couldn’t take comfort in the words. There wasn’t even a large rhetoric-only anti-Saddam pose being taken by European governments. At best there was the admission that he had been somewhat naughty in the past and aren’t we glad that sanctions have brought him to heel.

We would not be ‘most likely be well on our way to formulating a credible, sensible, properly resourced plan for getting rid of him’ if only the U.S. hadn’t invaded in 2003. Unless of course by ‘we’ he means the U.S. acting unilaterally. I understand the need to protect the leftist conscience, but let us at least stick to semi-plausible hypotheticals like “If we were lucky Saddam might have choked on a chicken bone.”

Needless to say, this is engendering a good discussion—a lot of it from the eminently sensible Gary Farber, whose blog you really should read on a regular basis if you’re not already.