Friday, March 14, 2003

An Open Letter to the President

Mr President:

Though I--like most of my countrymen--did not vote for you, I feel I should write to thank you for your amazing diplomatic accomplishments of the last few months.

Few people thought it possible to convince Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq to allow tough, thorough inspections of his weapons program to begin again. But your resolute commitment to inspections, backed by threat of war, got those inspections underway. While the rest of the world--peaceniks like myself included--advocated less threatening modalities of diplomacy, you stood firm, and now the world can breathe a deep sigh of relief, knowing that your massive bluff has paid off, and that we will soon know for sure that Hussein's regime has been completely defanged.

I think, though, that the current troop levels in the Middle East are higher than necessary for this role of the international bad cop, and that perhaps our allies may get the impression that in fact invasion, rather than verifying disarmament, is our true goal. I encourage you to declare victory and return our troops safely home, thereby reassuring our allies and the people of the Middle East that your brilliant and audacious plan has been completely successful, and that you were right all along to use the threat of war to get inspectors back into Iraq.

Joe Quimby
Mayor of Springfield

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Blogger's Delight

These days, Tom Friedman is pure gold. The satirical commentary practically writes itself.

He begins with one of the goofiest confessions I've ever heard from a columnist (and I read Richard Cohen, too):

I have a confession to make. Right after 9/11, I was given a CD by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which included its rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." I put it in my car's CD player and played that song over and over, often singing along as I drove.

Undaunted by starting the piece with a declaration that he is the world's biggest nerd, Friedman surges onward. The general idea of the column is that war with Iraq is a good idea that Bush should have sold on its own merits, rather than trumping up a bunch of phony charges:

My main criticism of President Bush is that he has failed to acknowledge how unusual this war of choice is--for both Americans and the world--and therefore hasn't offered the bold policies that have to go with it. Instead, the president has hyped the threat and asserted that this is a war of no choice, then combined it all with his worst pre-9/11 business as usual"

See, Tom, here's the thing: Invading other countries is not the way things are done; in fact, there are actual rules prohibiting exactly that. So it's naturally a tough sell. Maybe invading Iraq to make the world safe for democracy sounds great to a bunch of guys over here, but to make it sound good to the international community would take some pretty serious explaining.

And explaining, to be polite, is not Bush's forte. He speaks his own personal G-Dub Gibberish, consisting of "Don't mess with Texas" logic that spills out in the form of hemming, hawing, smirking and Spoonerisms.

So instead, Bush is sticking to a nice, simple (and mostly false) script that doesn't require him to exert his brain. If he sticks with WMD, he won't have to figure out how to convince the international community to abandon the framework of international law so that the Project for a New American Century can commence.

I am amazed when I see these naive arguments from people like Friedman, who just can't understand how Bush wasn't able to sell this war to the rest of the world. At least the NeoCons understand that they won't get the rest of the world to go along, and simply don't care. But the people who think that everybody else would happily go along with this little adventure, if only we took the time to explain it to them nicely, really need to wake the hell up.

Does "Krauthammer" mean "hardcore" in German?

Wow. I've gotten so used to Bush being coddled by the media, it's hard to know what to make of Wednesday's column in the Post by Chucky Krauthammer. But basically, I think, Chuckles says that Bush is a pussy:

The reason you were able to build support at home and rally the world to at least pretend to care about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is that you showed implacable resolve to disarm Iraq one way or the other. Your wobbles at the United Nations today -- postponing the vote, renegotiating the terms -- are undermining the entire enterprise.

Now, Krauthammer does cut his homey G-Dub a little slack. He acknowledges that the last-minute alteration of plans is designed to help out Tony Blair by giving him domestic political cover, but he writes, almost sorrowfully, "...Mr. President, he's not going to get it."

And here's the NeoCon coup de grace:

Why are we dallying and deferring at the United Nations? In your news conference last week, you said you were going to have people put their cards on the table. I thought it a lousy idea to call a vote we were sure to lose. But having made your decision, you are making it worse by waffling. The world knows you as a cards-on-the-table man. Now you're asking for an extension of time and a reshuffle of the deck.

Now, I'm not a big student of right-wing rhetoric, but that sounds kind of like Charles the K calling out a Republican POTUS as being, well, soft. Yet it gets even better:

No more dithering. Every day you wait is an advertisement of hesitation and apprehension. It will not strengthen Tony Blair. It will not strengthen the resolve of our allies in the region. It will only boost the confidence and resolve of the people you are determined to defeat.

I love the tendency of the ultra-hard-right to eat its own young. I get the impression that the buffet line has just opened for business.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Hey, is it just me, or has Slate been hosed for the last coupla days?

Monday, March 10, 2003

My apologies to anyone who tried to visit the link to William Pfaff's column from the Boston Globe. I don't know whether it was a cut-n-paste blunder or something about the combination of how the Globe encodes URLs and how Blogger decodes them. At any rate, I've got it fixed now. Pfaff makes a point similar to mine, but in less, um, rabid fashion.
War advocates generally fail or refuse to acknowledge that the U.S. has any obligation to acknowledge any higher law than its own need for security. Bush certainly made that case during his 'press conference' last week when he said that we don't need to ask permission from the international community to defend ourselves. I personally believe in international law, so I would strongly prefer that we did, in fact, secure permission for our little military romps.

But I can ignore that personal preference momentarily. Let's just look at this last few months and ask this simple question: Is America more powerful than it was last summer, or less?

I thought that perhaps the answer was 'more' after seeing the 15-0 Security Council vote that got inspectors back on the ground. Achieving unanimity on a security council that included Syria was no mean feat.

But since then, America's ability to influence events has receded dramatically. We've seen a coalition of the unwilling form between France, Germany, Russia and China; and we've been blown off by Turkey(!). It's unclear how many of these diplomatic failures were caused by massive disagreement over matters of substance vs. team G-Dub's ultra-manly approach to getting what it wants. But it seems pretty clear to me that the most powerful nation in the world gets less powerful every time another country publicly refuses to go along with its positions.

William Pfaff makes this point today in a column for the Boston Globe:

Washington only now is discovering that its efforts to override or divide opposition to what it wants on Iraq have created a coherent international opposition that before was not there. It has diminished rather than affirmed its old international leadership.

Every other country in the world knows that the U.S. has crushing military power. But an enormous amount of the U.S.'s power in the past has been our ability to get other countries to see things our way; some of that obviously involved leaning on people, but the pressure took place behind the scenes. When it came time to count heads, the U.S. always seemed to have lots of other countries happily on board. George Bush the former showed this ability in spades with the massive coalition he assembled to deal with Saddam's attack on Kuwait. Clinton showed it again when he took us into Kosovo; though the UN would not sign off on that war, the international community was persuaded to let us do our thing.

But now, the velvet glove has slipped off of the iron fist. Our ability to get our way without resorting to threats has been drastically reduced. And as we keep digging ourselves into financial holes, our ability to keep making war threats effectively will slowly recede as well (hey, weapons cost money).

So, for all you America-firsters: Start thinking long-term. This demonstration of American might is making us less mighty with every passing day.