Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Daily Kos: dKos=Demagogues Killing Off Substance --This dKos diary pretty much sums up my idea of how dKos is dangerously close to being the Free Rupublic of the left. (4:58 PM) 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, December 22, 2005
I Thought It Was a Chinese Restaurant in A Christmas Story --Driving by a Japanese restaurant with one of those electronic tickers, I saw the following holiday message:
"Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra"
Seriously. (9:22 PM) 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
How American Strategy Gave al Qaeda Its Chance to Win the Terror War --(posted to my diary Daily Kos)
I am currently reading Peter Lance's Cover Up, whose twin threads are an alleged cover-up of the terrorist nature of the downing of TWA 800 and the failure of the 9/11 Commission to fully investigate its subject matter.
At one point, Lance mentions journalist J.M. Berger and the website intelwire.com. I found this interesting article. (Warning: PDF)
In American Made: Al-Qaeda's New Caliphate, Berger describes how the invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder.
If Halford Mackinder were alive today, he might call Iraq the Heartland of the Middle East and assert that whoever controls the Heartland decides the destiny of the region. Berger describes an al-Qaeda whose goal is establishing a caliphate (think the Taliban writ large over most areas once ruled by Muslim empires). Geopolitically, the invasion of Iraq with out a post-war strategy has opened up to al-Qaeda this "heartland" which has the potential to influence most of the other countries in the region.
I suggest that the Bush administration understood the potential importance of Iraq in the grand scheme of things and could not handle the thought of it being in the hands of a man who could never be a subservient and loyal ally, or at least a bribable servant. However, they failed to realize that there are worse things than Saddam Hussein. (I am more imaginative. Sometimes, I think that maintaining the status quo in Iraq is acceptable if the end result of a withdrawal is freeing up resources that allow a U.S. invasion of Iran on an equally slim pretext as part of an effort to contain Iraq.)
The Bush administration has painted itself into a corner. The conditions for a loss are clear: the establishment of an Islamacist government in Iraq. The conditions of a win are less clear; what good is the establishment of a democracy if it allows Islamcist forces a chance to be democratically elected or if it is so fragile and unstable that it can be overthrown? That there is no plausible scenario for an unquestionable win leads Berger to say that "the important question now is how to minimize the negative consequences of the Iraq conflict."
Berger's conclusion is chilling.
Regardless of what dubious wisdom, justification or strategic intention originally motivated the invasion of Iraq, the war there has now become virtually unwinnable for the United States in the foreseeable future. An extended U.S. occupation may allow enough time for the political situation to change in favor of Western interests. While even this hope is tenuous, the occupation is -- for the moment -- probably the most attractive option among some very bad alternatives.
In the short- to intermediate-term future, the U.S. could seek to bolster its position by supporting autocratic secular allies in the region with economic and military incentives. However, the allies most susceptible to this sort of persuasion are also the most vulnerable countries in the event that the tide of Islamism continues to rise, raising the all-too-likely prospect that such aid would ultimately end up in the hands of the very enemies the policy was intended to thwart.
By providing this sort of support to corrupt and nondemocratic regimes like Egypt and Pakistan, U.S. leaders would also have to abandon the stated goal of instilling democracy in the region. This, in turn, would compromise their political standing at home and make it even more difficult to maintain any sort of popular support for a continued military presence in Iraq.
In the final analysis, the best America can hope for in Iraq is to maintain its occupation in a state of relative stability for the duration of the Bush administration (an outcome which would require new strategies to stem the momentum of the insurgency).
The current administration lacks the political capital at home and abroad to craft a broad regional solution favorable to Western interests, a fact which is unlikely to change for the better. The major risk of a prolonged occupation is that any significant error or scandal -- such as the Abu Ghraib prison controversy -- further diminishes America's already badly tarnished image in the region.
A new administration might be able to approach such efforts with a clean slate, presuming the next president is not closely linked to the policies of the current White House. However, this outcome is also contingent on the emergence of new and better thinkers in both U.S. political parties.
Berger ends by saying that: "A change in course cannot come too soon, but it may already be too late to salvage the Middle East."
Sometimes, I think that the emphasis on the thin justification for war and on the establishment of a timetable for withdrawal occludes more important matters. At times, it seems like the argument from the left is "Oooh! Look at all the money! Look at the body counts! Case closed!" There is a need for a deeper understanding and analysis of strategic issues and an ability to render complex issues into simpler restatements that may lose the nuance but preserve the emotional thrust.
One example is John Murtha's simple stance that we're fighting an insurgency, not terrorists, and that such a war is unwinnable. Behind that is a strategic understanding of what an insurgency is, how and when to fight one. He only argues for withdrawal because it is an inescapable conclusion of his facts, not because withdrawal is an inherently good thing. Casualties could increase by an order of magnitude and they would be acceptable in a winnable war with commensurate rewards, but they are a pointless luxury in an unwinnable war. (The left has a problem with credibility on military issues because it gives the sense that there are no wars worth fighting, not because it opposes specific wars.) Democrats don't need to come up with a clear Iraq strategy, but they do need to demonstrate a clear grasp of the facts involved, unlike the White House. (1:05 AM) 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, December 12, 2005
The Baseball Analysts: The Hall of Fame Case for Bert Blyleven --Via the Baseball Primer Newsblog at Baseball Think Factory, the Baseball analysts present The Hall of Fame Case for Bert Blyleven. (6:04 PM) 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, December 08, 2005
--According to the Salt Lake Tribune:
Eagle Mountain is a burgeoning Utah County community, full of young families, new homeowners and white people.
Lots and lots of white people.
The racial breakdown of Eagle Mountain was listed as a selling point on the Web site of home builder Bigg Homes.
The site also included this comparison among others: "Black race population percentage significantly below state average."
"Significantly below" was in bold.
Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP branch in Salt Lake City, described the information as "subtle discrimination," meant to encourage white people and discourage black people from buying in the area.
I know you're wondering the same thing I am: there are enough black people in Utah to staff a local NAACP branch? (7:06 PM) 0 comments Links to this post