Archives for October, 2002

Left and Right Together, We Shall Oveercooomme…

I’m pleased to announce the debut of Stand Down: the Left-Right Blog Opposing an Invasion of Iraq. Kudos and thanks to Max Sawicky, who came up with the idea and worked hard to get it up and running. It’s a group blog, with contributors from all points on (and off) the political spectrum, united by a commitment to civil debate and a conviction:

that the use of military force to effect “regime change” in Iraq is ill advised and unjustified. We do not deny that the current Iraqi regime is monstrous, but we hold, following John Adams, that the United States need not go “abroad in search of monsters to destroy” unless they pose a clear and direct threat to American national security.

“Fisk” us if you dare, warbloggers!

Posted on Oct 30, 2002 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Axiso de Malo

Check it out: A Latin American Axis of Evil. Hey, why have just one?

Posted on Oct 29, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Snipers, Chechens, and Guns

During our weeks-long ordeal with the sniper, I heard a few people try to argue that this helped make the case for a well-armed society. That didn’t make any sense to me. It’s hard to return fire when it comes from the trunk of a car 150 yards away and you can’t see the target in any event. Muhammed and Malvo didn’t have any trouble killing folks in “shall-issue” Virginia.

I can’t be the first person to have made this point, but isn’t the Chechen theatre-siege a far better argument for concealed-carry? Forty armed citizens out of 700 in the audience might have made it quite difficult for the terrorists to secure the building. Sure, a lot of folks might have been killed in the firefight, but a lot more would have been able to escape in the chaos. Sixty-seven died anyway in a rescue attempt that might have gone a lot worse.

Al Gore attacked candidate Bush for signing a CCW bill in Texas that didn’t prohibit carrying guns into churches. But if Chechen methods are replicated by Al Qaeda cells here, that looks to me like a solid argument for guns in churches, bars, shopping malls, and schools.

Police resources are finite, and a free society’s vulnerable at almost an infinite number of locations. (Jerry Brito’s thoughtful take on the Chechen siege makes that point.) That’s the cruel genius of asymmetric warfare. Wide dispersal of arms may help right the balance.

Posted on Oct 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Nice of Them

From the NRO eulogy for Paul Wellstone:

“He was an opponent of conservatism, but he was a decent man.”

Posted on Oct 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cultural Decline Indicator

From Cary Grant to… Marky Mark?

Posted on Oct 25, 2002 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Laughing in the Face of Death

I have an unemployed dipsomaniac friend here in D.C. who figures he’s immune to the sniper because he never gets out of bed early enough to be vulnerable, and if he’s out and on the street by nightfall, he’s usually stumbling and weaving too much to be an easy target. I also figure it’s only a matter of time before some young lady gives the same friend the ol’ “Chief Moose brush-off”: “OK then, call me at the number you gave me.”

Posted on Oct 23, 2002 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Disband the Libertarian Party

Julian’s post on the growing libertarian/conservative divide has generated some interesting discussion in the comments section in the post below. I think I agree with Julian, and I’d like to offer some related observations on political strategy. A couple of years back Liberty magazine ran a retrospective on the Libertarian Party. One of the essays–I think by Randy O’Toole–was pretty intriguing. He said that in the late ’60s two radical political movements began coalescing. One was decentralist and anti-statist in orientation; the other, centralist and statist. The former, ironically, adopted a centralist political strategy of fielding candidates for office and trying to take over the machinery of politics. The latter, also ironically, adopted a decentralist strategy of ad hoc coalition building along the lines Julian suggests. The former is, of course, the libertarian movement, and the latter, the Green movement. I think it’s fair to say that the green strategy has been more successful. To the extent that libertarian ideas have made progress, it’s had very little to do with LP politicking.

The greens have never devoted the resources to fielding candidates for office that the libertarians have. They’ve never required fellow travellers to sign affirmations of ideological purity, as the LP has for many years with the nonaggression axiom. Instead, the greens have relied more on organizations such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace that build coalitions for specific initiatives and do their best to manipulate the existing parties. In our first-past-the-post electoral system of single-member districts, the best the LP could ever hope for is to be a Naderite spoiler. Its greatest successes haven’t come from capturing office, but from the occasions where it’s aped green movement strategy through advocacy and advertising–as when it helped defeat proposed FDIC “know your customer” regulations or ran effective ads countering the ONDCP’s “drug-users fund terrorism” ads.

This sort of strategy would compliment Julian’s call for ad hoc coalition building focused on common ground on key issues. In addition to the nonpartisan libertarian think-tanks that already play a key role, we need the equivalent of a Sierra Club for Liberty or perhaps an ACLU that doesn’t read property rights and gun rights out of the Constitution. These organizations fight at all levels of our political system, using the institutions and party structures that are already in place. They don’t demand ideological purity, and they work with folks from both sides of the aisle (as when the ACLU works with Bob Barr and Ron Paul on privacy issues). I’ve watched an LP convention or two on C-Span. To me, and I’m sure to most of the rest of the world, it looks like a gaggle of high school physics teachers bickering over parliamentary procedure. It’s a waste of resources. Disband and decentralize.

Posted on Oct 19, 2002 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Paging Gene McCarthy…

My colleague John Samples has drawn my attention to a very interesting CNN-Gallup-USA-Today poll:

According to the poll, Democrats enjoy an electoral advantage among those who care most deeply about the economy and those most concerned with the possibility of war with Iraq, suggesting that there may be a protest vote on both issues. Likely voters who cite Iraq as the most important issue, for example, oppose invading that country by a two-to-one margin, 66% to 33%. They also indicate they would vote for Democrats over Republicans by a 16-point margin, 56% to 40%. By contrast, among all likely voters, opinion on war with Iraq is evenly divided (47% favor invasion, 46% oppose), as is the vote for the two parties.

All of this suggests that if the Dems had any cojones, they could have made something out of this issue. Oh, for a latter day Gene McCarthy. Howard Dean, maybe?

Meanwhile, Julian comments on the emerging libertarian-conservative split over Iraq and cloning. Says Julian:

This doesn’t mean that libertarians are about to — or should — flee the blue-blazer and khaki crowd for the warm embrace of the Green party. It does mean that we should begin to take more seriously our own rhetoric about being “beyond left and right.” We should, as John Adams advised the United States, steer clear of permanent alliances, and instead begin to develop ad hoc coalitions with issue groups on either side of that artificial left-right spectrum. The new and surprising combinations that emerge (not, as some would say “strange bedfellows,” except to those who can’t see how arbitrary the current teams are) will make it more difficult for a lazy media to pigeonhole any of us. And the exchange of ideas between groups which normally view each other as enemies will undoubtedly be healthy for all concerned. We might even learn something.

I think there’s room to convince the neocons on cloning though. Think of it: legions of six-armed bioengineered supersoldiers–the Kristol Brigades–patrolling Iraq, Iran, and Syria (and sending in absentee ballots for Bush 2004)…

Posted on Oct 18, 2002 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Will the Real Dick Armey Please Stand Up?

Is he the guy who came out against preemptive war, then voted for it, or is he this guy?

I’m Dick Armey yes I’m the real Armey all you other Dick Armeys are just going barmy…

(sorry, sorry.)

Posted on Oct 17, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Wwww ww ww wipeout!">Wwww ww ww wipeout!

Posted on Oct 17, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Posse Comitatus and the Sniper

This morning I moved around a lot while waiting for the bus, positioning myself behind telephone poles and streetlights, trying not to look like I was avoiding a potential sniper. This afternoon, I find that the Pentagon’s getting involved in the sniper hunt, and that Drudge has linked to an op-ed I did on the Posse Comitatus Act.

My position on all this is a little more nuanced than is typically media friendly, or than might be suggested by the Drudge link. Near as I can tell, what DoD wants to do is not a violation of the act. The act proscribes use of US military forces to “execut[e] the laws.” The courts define “executing the laws” as arresting, shooting, searching, and laying hands on or coercing citizens; they have not held that provision of advice or equipment constitutes law enforcement in violation of the PCA. Thus, the “drug exceptions” to the PCA are not really “exceptions,” since they don’t give soldiers authority to act like cops domestically.

If we had Delta countersnipers out trying to take down this guy, we’d have a clear violation of the act, and I’d be screaming bloody murder (really, pun not intended). But PCA’s not going to stop the army from providing surveillance equipment to the local authorities.

Where does that leave us? Should we worry about this, or not? My answer, to quote the Kinks, is a “definite maybe.” Clearly the core concern that PCA addresses isn’t present here: soldiers aren’t going to shoot someone by mistake in this situation. But having the military more involved in domestic law enforcement is a bad idea even if the troops aren’t actually shooting at or arresting people. Delta Force advisors at Waco played a key role in the one of the greatest tragedies in US law enforcement history, ordering a tank assault on the Branch Davidian dwelling that killed 83 people. The more you get cops thinking like soldiers, the less they conceive of themselves as peace officers charged with protecting the rights of their fellow citizens.

If the army’s assistance helps nail the sniper, I’ll be glad. But if the army starts getting involved in every high-profile criminal case where a plausible claim can be made that it can help–we should start to worry. A lot.

Posted on Oct 15, 2002 in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Strong Hand vs. Iron Fist

I keep hearing, as an argument for intervening in Iraq, that Arabs respect a “strong hand,” and that a forceful policy along the lines contemplated can dampen terrorism. Now that may be the case, but wouldn’t it have to be a much stronger hand than any of us is currently talking about? The French used a strong hand in Algeria (incl. the use of torture), but not strong enough to prevail. Sharon uses a fairly strong hand now in the West Bank and Gaza, and yet that doesn’t seem to be dampening terrorism.

But I can think of a couple of situations where a really strong hand did work to suppress terror in the region. King Hussein’s campaign against the PLO in “Black September” 1970, in which the Jordanians killed, I believe, more Palestinians than Israel ever has. Hafez Assad leveled of the town of Hama in response to an Islamic uprising in 1982. 10,000 died. In each case, the iron fist worked.

Moral considerations have prevented the Israelis from pursuing such a policy. (One of the most repulsive, and ironic, aspects of the tactics adopted by Hamas, Al-Asqa, et al, is that the very survival of their movement depends on Israeli moral superiority–if the Israelis followed their lead in erasing the civilian/combatant distinction, they could kill everyone in the West Bank and Gaza in a matter of hours. To their great credit, they’ve resisted that temptation.). The same considerations seem to operate in our war plans for Iraq, and, presumably, for any further endeavors in the region.

But what if the “strong hand” policy many hawks support isn’t a strong enough hand? What if it proves strong enough to hold Iraq and Afghanistan, but operates to swell Al Qaeda’s ranks? What if it’s an inefficient “third way” between disengagement from the region and an unapologetically brutal antiterror policy? What if only the “iron fist” can put the fear of Allah into potential Islamofascist recruits sufficient to dissuade them from joining up? Will the hawks support a policy as indifferent to civilian deaths as Assad and Hussein did: Hama on a much larger scale? As the Sean Connery character keeps repeating to Kevin Costner in the Untouchables, “What are you prepared to do?” As we clutch the Middle Eastern tar baby closer to our chests in the years to come, I fear it’s going to become a question we’re forced to ask ourselves again and again.

Posted on Oct 14, 2002 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Brito on Hitchens on Kissinger

Jerry Brito comments on his recent screening of the Trials of Henry Kissinger, a movie based on Christopher Hitchens’ book of the same name. It sounds like a hell of a movie. It’s a shame that Hitchens has aligned himself with the neocons and endorsed their project of social reconstruction via AC-130 gunship in the Middle East. As his critique of Kissinger and books like No One Left To Lie To show, Hitchens knows better.

Much as I hate dimestore psychoanalysis from a distance, it seems to me that Hitchens’ shift stems from a personality trait he shares with the neocons: a taste for the grand twilight struggle. In his 9/11-anniversary column Hitchens notes that along with anger and disgust, on 9/11 he felt no small measure of “exhilaration”: “I am prepared for this war to go on for a very long time. I will never become tired of waging it, because it is a fight over essentials. And because it is so interesting.” Give him credit for frankness, but in my view that sentiment is shameful and profoundly weird.

Posted on Oct 12, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Here We Go…

Well, terrific: three days after it’s revealed that the CIA believes the president’s rationale for war is bankrupt, Congress overwhelmingly votes to authorize force anyway. I wonder, why do we bother agonizing over congressional control of the war power if, whenever they get a chance to vote, our elected representatives reveal themselves to be such a contemptible clutch of ass-covering cowards?

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on the MacArthur Regency the administration has planned for postwar Iraq:

In the initial phase, Iraq would be governed by an American military commander — perhaps Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of United States forces in the Persian Gulf, or one of his subordinates — who would assume the role that Gen. Douglas MacArthur served in Japan after its surrender in 1945.

The article quotes Henry Kissinger, who talks sense, for once: “I am viscerally opposed to a prolonged occupation of a Muslim country at the heart of the Muslim world by Western nations who proclaim the right to re-educate that country.”

But that understates it. The president’s policy is insane. According to his own CIA director, it increases the very risk it’s ostensibly designed to avoid: the transfer of WMD to terrorists. Not only that, it’s the most generous gift imaginable to the Al Qaeda recruitment drive. It makes Bin Laden’s ravings about a Crusader-Zionist alliance to de-Islamicize the Middle East look half-plausible to the angry young men of that hate-filled, backward region.

The president is a likeable fellow, and seems fundamentally decent. I’m sure he’s a good husband and father and friend. I don’t resent the fact that he’s a man of modest intellectual gifts and little curiousity.

No, it’s not the ignorance that gets me, it’s the ignorance combined with the fatuous, square-jawed, “make-no-mistake-about-it” self-assurance. I wish to God the man had a modicum of Socratic wisdom. If he’d read any history books in his life, he’d know that war is a Goddamned uncertain business. About the only thing you can say with confidence is that the unintended consequences will outweigh the intended ones. We’ve embarked on a grand experiment in what Michael Kelly calls “armed evangelism.” And if you think it’s going to work out according to plan, you’re a fool.

Posted on Oct 11, 2002 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Life Imitates the Onion

The WP reports that:

“George Tenet, in a letter read before a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees Tuesday, said that ‘Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical or biological weapons.’

But Tenet went on to say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack against his country could not be deterred, ‘he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist action.’

Here the DCI is making a point that the Onion raised a few weeks ago in its “man on the street” interviews about Iraq: “It’s clear to me that nothing short of war will stop Saddam Hussein from using his weapons.”

Posted on Oct 8, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off