Will Bush stick with a January Iraq vote?

Will Bush stick with a January Iraq vote?

Will Bush stick with a January Iraq vote?

A mostly political Weblog.
May 24 2004 4:56 PM

Bush--Sticking with Slower Voting?

Even Mark Steyn says 'change the course.'

Dem Panic Watch, Revived! The ABC/WaPo Poll has Bush still tied with Kerry, despite falling approval numbers. "Kerry's having trouble with traction," the polltakers say. You think? ...P.S.: Don't worry Dems! That extra month of funding (caused by delaying the nomination) will save us. Yeah. That's the ticket. ... Update: But the WSJ Zogby poll has Kerry up in big swing states (Ohio, Penn., Mich.). Go here  and click on the "Battleground" link under the ad on the right. (Don't ask me what this feature gains by being "interactive," other than cumbersomeness.). ...Update 2: Several e-mailers, including the recently reclusive Mystery Pollster, point out that the Zogby survey is an online poll, which I hadn't noticed. Sample comment: "Wasn't Zogby unreliable enough using the telephone (in New Hampshire and Georgia)?" Good point. I smell self-selection bias. You may go back to panicking now. .... See also note the somewhat distancing note on the WSJ's  "Overview" page: "the results are weighted, Zogby says, to make them representative of what a poll of the overall U.S. voting population would find." Why "Zogby says"?...Update 3: The new CBS poll  does show Kerry with the kind of lead (8 points) you might expect him to have given the news from Iraq. Gallup, though, like ABC, has the race virtually tied. And Rasmussen's Robots have it as tied as they could possibly have it. ...  2:17 P.M.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Faster Iraq Watch 12: Steyn, Bayh, Gingrich on Board! Mark Steyn pretends he's not endorsing "faster elections" but really, if you read his latest piece, you realize he's gone further and endorsed the full Bob Wright plan for piecemeal faster elections. (We can hold them faster if we don't have to wait for all of Iraq to be ballot-ready):

In the Shia province of Dhi Qar, a couple hundred miles southeast of Baghdad, 16 of the biggest 20 cities plus many smaller towns will have elected councils by June. These were the first free elections in Dhi Qar's history and ''in almost every case, secular independents and representatives of nonreligious parties did better than the Islamists.'' ...[snip] ...

That policy of ad hoc, incremental, rolling devolution needs to be accelerated. Towns and provinces should have as much sovereignty as they can handle, on on the obvious principle that the constituent parts of ramshackle federations rarely progress at the same pace.


Steyn covers his change-the-course plea with some tough talk about fixed bayonet charges and the need for resolve, which is fine. .... When smart anti-war people like Wright and smart pro-war people like Steyn say it's time for Bush to drop the idea of holding out for a single, nationwide election way off in January, then maybe it's time for Bush to drop the idea of holding out for a single nationwide election way off in January! ... P.S.: On ABC's This Week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed moving elections up to September--and Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh endorsed faster piecemeal elections. Here's Bayh:

Sooner elections rather than later I think is the right course. Particularly in those parts of country that are stable today and can have them. It might inspire the Sunnis to get their act together and follow course. [Emphasis added.]

Steyn, Bayh, Gingrich, Will, Abramowitz, Sullivan, Wright, Instapundit, Brooks, Kagan, Kristol, Lieberman, McCain... Do we have to get Ann Coulter and Al Franken to issue a joint communique? ... OK, forget McCain, Mr. President. Pretend McCain opposes the idea. ... Bonus buried  lede!kf hears that there is a possibility that Bush will actually include the Faster Elections idea in his speech Monday. He's being lobbied. ... But note that WaPo's Robin Wright quotes an unnamed White House official saying Bush will stress the importance "of adhering to our commitment to the June 30 transfer of sovereignty, and of an election in a January time frame."  [Emphasis added.]   ...7:46 P.M.

Saturday, May 22, 2004


Zinni Fever! Catch it over at Talking Points Memo--and in this excellent long interview about Iraq in the San Diego Union-Tribune. He sounds a little too plain-spoken and articulate not to show up Kerry, though. ... Note that Zinni is not an advocate of withdrawing from Iraq:

"We can't leave. ...  I think it would be disastrous. ... Our only hope is to stay there a few years and try to solve it."

He appears to have given some thought to how that might be accomplished. ... KF-4ZBNH:kf was f or Zinni Before New Hampshire--as the running mate for ... Howard Dean! That was back in the good old days when choosing a Democratic VP candidate meant finding someone who would balance the top of the ticket as opposed to finding someone who would erase all conscious memory of the top of the ticket. ... P.S.: Don't sell that Dem Panic stock yet! Didn't Kerry just dump tens of millions of dollars worth of ads into "battleground" states? Shouldn't he be doing better than losing 43-37 in those states, even in a Fox poll, given the decline in Bush's standing? ... 2:44 A.M.

Bad Hed Day:

Abuse Inflicted to Punish Prisoners, Amuse Jailers
Documents indicate treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was not an interrogation strategy.


That's the encouraging WaPo Web headline for Saturday's excellent Higham and Stephens story on Abu Ghraib. ... Maybe the abuse really was the work of a few out-of-line sadists after all, you think.  ... Unfortunately, the bulk of the story is 180 degrees off from the headline, reporting numerous instances where abuse--though perhaps not the photos of naked human pyramids--clearly was an interrogation strategy. For example:

Davis said Graner and Frederick encouraged him to participate in the incidents.

"The MI staffs, to my understanding, have been giving Graner compliments on the way he has been handling the MI holds," Davis said. "Example being statements like 'Good job, they're breaking down real fast'; 'They answer every question'; 'They're giving out good information, finally'; and 'Keep up the good work' -- stuff like that."

Investigators asked if he had heard military intelligence officers directing the guards to abuse detainees.

"Yes," he said.

Davis said the intelligence officers told Graner and Frederick: "Loosen this guy up for us. Make sure he has a bad night. Make sure he gets the treatment."

2:09 A.M.

Friday, May 21, 2004


Always float the lead balloons on Friday: "I accept your nomination but I actually don't accept your nomination before I accept it."--John Kerry at the Democratic convention in Boston, July 29, 2004. ... 2:30 P.M.

Battle of Jeers: Byron York finally points out that, according to Seymour Hersh (and contrary to the convenient goo-goo win-win CW on interrogation techniques) Rumsfeld's secret torture plan worked--it produced good intelligence. That doesn't mean it was a) moral or b) smart--in the medium term it may also cause us to lose the war in Iraq (and we might have beaten back the insurgent attacks without the extra intelligence). In the long run it may create much, much more terrorism than even a successful Iraq war will prevent. But it's not nuthin'. ... 4:30 A.M.

Faster Iraq Watch 11: "June 30 can't come quickly enough for the good of Iraq" says a headline in the U.K. Telegraph. But what, exactly, will change on June 30? Not that much, it turns out. The Iraqi government to which we will transfer sovereignty will still be regarded by many Iraqis as illegitimate. It will still be attacked by the collection of Baathists, terrorists, extremists and Sunnis that is attacking the current U.S.-installed Governing Council. American troops will still be need to provide security, and there still won't be enough of them, and they'll still take casualties. The "sovereign" government could, indeed, collapse. Yet June 30 has been pronounced so important by the Bush administration that the President will give a weekly address every week until the great day arrives.

This has all the makings of "Mission Accomplished II." The June 30 transfer will be "accomplished," but none of the essentials will change. Indeed, we're told by our commanding generals, the violence will probably get worse.


What will make the violence get better? It seems obvious to me: Elections! Elections and the legitimacy that only they can bring--even in a region that has known no democracy--because they will pick leaders who reflect the actual wishes of Iraqis. Elections currently scheduled for January, giving the terrorists and Baathists six long, hot months to head them off with a campaign of chaos and  violence. The way to forestall this nightmare seems obvious too: If elections are the real "transfer" date after which we'll be able to breathe easier, bring them on! Or, rather, move them up. That Telegraph hed should have read "Elections can't come quickly enough for the good of Iraq."

Leslie Gelb and Jim Hoagland--who've written basically the same provocative change-the-course argument (in Thursday's WSJ  and WaPo, respectively)--have a different answer. They argue the key to stability is a semi-partition that gives Iraq's three basic ethnic groups autonomy in their various regions, within a loose national federation--and that will protect the rights of minorities inside those ethnic regions. When it comes to securing stability and U.S. interests, elections, in this Gelb/Hoagland view, appear to be secondary to regional autonomy. Neither man calls for speeding up elections in any of the three regions. Hoagland doesn't seem to put much of a premium on democracy within the Shiite or Sunni areas--and you get the feeling that Gelb, although he calls for sticking with the elections "procedures already agreed upon by the U.S. and U.N.," also thinks that democracy may be one of the "Utopian" goals to which Bush needs to stop clinging.

I suppose it's possible that giving each etnnic group its own autonomous region would in itself produce stability, even without democracy. I'm no expert on Iraq, and I'm not a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, much less its president emeritus. But I have questions:

1) Would there be no internal violence over who is to lead each region? Is the leader of the Shiites, and especially the Sunnis, so obvious that elections wouldn't serve a necessary purpose of avoiding a violent jockeying for power? Would it bring peace to Southern Iraq, for example, if we said "Here. You'll have your own autonomous region"--or would that set off a more intense battle between Sistani, Sadr, and others? (Keep in mind that even if we cannot establishing an ongoing democracy with regular elections in these regions--even if we are installing authoriarian regimes--elections are handy way to let Iraqis in each region pick which authoritarian regime to install! "One man, one vote, one time" is a lot better than "power grows out of the barrel of a gun.")

2) Gelb says he'd protect minority rights within each of these regions--focusing "almost all American leverage" on this goal. But would that really be possible? ythe Kurds have done a bit of ethnic cleansing, we're told. Gelb himself says it takes "decades" to develop a culture in which the losers of elections have confidence they will be treated fairly. But hated ethnic minorities are going to have that confidence overnight? Hello? If any U.S.war goal sets off your Utopianometer, it should be this one--what might be called Gelb's National Ethnic Bill of Rights. Holding a one-time fair election in each minority-abusing region, in comparison, looks like a piece of cake. (And if we are going to be able to guarantee minority rights throughout Iraq, why not go ahead and create an ongoing national democracy, with its salutary demonstration effect for the Middle East?)

These factors suggest that the real key to stopping the violence, and the rising hostility to the U.S., is still elections, not partition. Partition itself, while achievable, will not stop violence or the need for a resentment-producing U.S. troop presence. (Protection of minority rights, while desirable, may not even be achievable.)

What partition--or, rather, "a loose federation with three largely self-governing regions"--does do is enable the elections solution to work. First, it allows elections in each region to be held on different dates, as soon as the security situation in each region allows it. No need for the Shiites to wait until the Sunni triangle calms down. (And, as Bob Wright points out, a successful Shiite election will give Sunnis a big incentive to calm down.)

Second, "autonomy/federation" will allow elections within each region to bring relative peace in that region, even if the conflicts between these various regional ethnic groups over the shape of the (weak) national government remain unresolved. We don't have to decide how Sunnis will be protected against Shia domination in order to stop the fighting in Karbala,. We just have to have an elected, legitimate Shiite government that can then pursue Shiite interests on the national Iraqi stage. (U.S. troops would still have to be ready if Sunnis stage an invasion of the South, or vice-versa, but that seems unlikely.)

The Gelb/Hoagland semi-partition plan, then, seems like a great first step toward holding faster elections, which remain the key to succeeding in Iraq before we completely wear out our welcome. Too bad Gelb and Hoagland leave out Step #2.

But what do I know!

P.S.: Elections are the key to international legitimacy as well as to legitimacy among Iraqis. Surely assistance from non-coalition countries will be more forthcoming if it goes to help a federation of elected regional ethnic governments than a federation of self-promoted regional ethnic strongmen--or a federation of autonomous regions in which embattled appointed officials are planning to have elections some time next year.

P.P.S.: I know this is farfetched, but if someone somewhere in the Bush administration is pondering the domestic political upside and downside of having quicker elections over in Iraq, they might focus on this passage in Hoagland's piece:

A sham [June 30] transfer of power that allows Washington to continue to make the important political, economic and security decisions is an awful outcome for Iraq, and for Bush. A fig-leaf cabinet in Baghdad would be vulnerable to disruption or even being forced from office by violence and popular demonstrations at any point during the U.S. presidential campaign. It could become an albatross around Bush's reelection neck. [Emphasis added.]

Bumper sticker version of this Bush 2004 strategy: "Elect Sistani First." 3:51 A.M.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Faster Iraq Watch 10: Another reason to accelerate the date of elections in Iraq is that it might throw the terrorists' timing off. Assume that it may take several months to plan a really destructive attack. If Zarqawi is planning a series of big bombings in late December to prevent Iraqis from democratically expressing themselves in January, it might really screw him up if elections are moved up to September. ... Of course, if disrupting his plans were our goal, it would be smart to delay announcing any speed-up of elections for a couple of months--the better to lull him into thinking he has lots of time. I hope this is what Bush and Brahimi are actually planning. ... 2:33 A.M.

Is Sadr Wiser? Juan Cole's blog again offers much better coverage of developments in Najaf and Karbala  than either the NYT or WaPo, although the latter has some information. What happened? The dueling Sistani vs. Sadr demonstrations appear to have been inconclusive, although Sadr's hardly sounds impressive. Meanwhile the Sistani camp is accusing the Sadr forces of spraying Sistani's house with machine gun fire. ... Cole also endeavors to explain his differences with Amir Taheri, arguing that their two accounts are not that contradictory and clarifying what he means when he says that "Muqtada [Sadr] has now won politically and morally."

When I say Muqtada has won politically, I mean that he has stood up to the US for a month and a half, has survived, is continuing to defy it, and his forces still occasionally show an ability to surprise the coalition (as when they briefly tossed the Italians off their base near Nasiriyah earlier this week). I mean that he has enhanced his popularity nationally. I mean that he has made the US look like an oppressive tyrant. Paul Wolfowitz kept crowing last summer about how the US saved the Marsh Arabs from Saddam, but now that many of them have joined the Sadrists in Kut and Amara, Wolfowitz is having the Marsh Arabs killed just as Saddam did, and for the same reasons. Muqtada may well be doomed, but his movement is not going to go away, and his doom will just make him a national martyr and cause all sorts of new problems for the US. [Emphasis added.]

If that's what 'winning' means, then yes, there is less of a contradiction than I thought. ... I still think there's a contradiction: Taheri doesn't simply say that Sistani "has more authority." He's saying Sadr's challenge has been a miscalculation. ... Still, I now have a better picture of the range of possibilities in this tense situation, which could yet produce a disaster for the U.S. (e.g. the destruction of the Shiite's sacred shrines and subsequent turning of Southern Iraq firmly against us). I am grateful to Cole for his serious response--though his equating of Wolfowitz and Saddam suggests why he's still too shrill to be completely trustworthy in my book. ... P.S.: Why isn't the mainstream press doing a better job covering the Sadr rebellion? The obvious reason is that it's extremely dangerous for reporters, especially American reporters, to go to the Najaf/Karbala area. One journalist was killed there yesterday. It's presumably much less risky to stay in Baghdad and report on Abu Ghraib court martials. But that doesn't make the latter story more important than the former. ... Update: Cole responds--you make the call!--and the NYT posts a more informative report  on the U.S. pullback in Karbala (plus renewed negotiations regarding Sadr that Cole referred to yesterday). ... P.P.S.: It would be cheap and immature to note that in the course of asserting his complete reliability Cole misquotes me twice. I wrote that he was too shrill to be "completely trustworthy" (Cole puts "completely reliable" in quotes) and I certainly didn't call him "unreliable." Cole also lumps me in with the bellicose Andrew Sullivan as part of "the Right," and calls the mildly critical comments above "character assassination." I rest my case. 2:13 A.M.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Sorry JFK: A new poll  shows that John Edwards really would help Kerry carry North Carolina. Without Edwards, Kerry's down 7 points in the state. With Edwards, it's essentially tied (Kerry down only 1 point). ... I still think Kerry's too vain to even seriously consider Edwards. And he may have other good choices (e.g. Zinni). But I note that North Carolina has more than three times the electoral votes of New Hampshire, whose former governor Jeanne Shaheen has been enjoying a flurry of mentioning. ... 9:11 P.M.

Cole vs. Taheri:Here's an example of why it's so difficult for a blogger, or any other ordinary citizen in the U.S., to figure out how things are going in Iraq even with the aid of the Internet. To read Juan Cole's useful-but-alarmist web site, you'd think the U.S. campaign against Muqtada Sadr is already a disaster. On Friday, Cole wrote:

My own view is that Muqtada has now won politically and morally. He keeps throwing Abu Ghuraib in the faces of the Americans. He had his men take refuge in Najaf and Karbala because he knew only two outcomes were possible. Either the Americans would back off and cease trying to destroy him, out of fear of fighting in the holy cities and alienating the Shiites. Or they would come in after Muqtada and his militia, in which case the Americans would probably turn the Shiites in general against themselves. The latter is now happening.

The Americans will be left with a handful of ambitious collaborators at the top, but the masses won't be with them ... [Emphasis added.]

But today, Amir Taheri, who like Cole is not in Iraq but must relying on reporting and local connections, reports in the NY Post:

Muqtada al-Sadr, the self-styled warring mullah, is desperately shopping around for a way out of the tangle he has created for himself. He has proposed to dissolve his so-called Army of the Mahdi and says he is even ready to go into exile to prevent further bloodshed. All he is asking for is for the Shiite grand ayatollahs to intervene to get him off the hook of an arrest warrant on a charge of murder. The grand ayatollahs, however, insist that he should eat humble pie. ...

"Things are going well in Najaf," says an adviser to Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, the primusinter pares of Iraqi Shiite clerical leaders ... [Emphasis added.]

This doesn't seem like just a case of divergent political viewpoints coloring the facts. One of these guys is flat wrong, no? (Or they are both wrong!). ... But you can't look to the mainstream N.Y. Times or WaPo to resolve this issue--their most recent articles (herehere  and here) contain some valuable information but don't try to assess who is winning. ... Second-most-ominious bit of info in these mainstream press accounts: According to the NYT, U.S. troops thought Sadr's militia wouldn't be allowed to take refuge in the main shrines in Karbala--another militia had agreed to block them. But now they're in. ... Most-ominous bit of info: Ayatollah Sistani's office in Najaf came under fire. If you were a ruthless Sunni or secular Baathist terrorist who wanted to bring chaos to Iraq, wouldn't you kill the preeminent Shiite leader Sistani in a way that could be blamed on Americans? Isn't this the nightmare possibility we should be worrying about? ... Arguably the Sadr crisis is a lot more important to anyone trying to make up their minds about U.S. Iraq policy than any new developments in the Abu Ghraib investigation, although the latter has been consuming a lot more media space.. ... 7:04 P.M. link

Eduwonkand Drezner rise to defend a professor who has dared say what has always seemed kind of obvious--that teacher-prep courses at ed schools are largely crap!... I'd say ed schools are so mired in BS that even the descriptions of the studies showng they are mired in BS are numbingly worded. ("Questions of rigor and ideology in the core curricula of education schools or programs." You're telling us they are leftish PC time-wasters designed to perpetuate the stranglehold of the unions and the education establishment over who becomes a teacher, right? Why don't you say so!)  5:02 P.M.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Faster Iraq Watch 9: The WaPo ed board emerges from its platitudinous fumfawing about Iraq  to endorse ... elections. "Sooner rather than later," they hint, although they remain distressingly evasive about whether they actually want to accelerate the current timetable. They are, however, clear about some things the Bush administration has to give up:

[T]he supposed utopian solution -- elections -- offers the most pragmatic way of establishing a viable government. Elections, as opposed to war or outside appointment, are still the mechanism favored by the country's most powerful political forces for determining Iraq's future. They offer the best chance of defeating the extremists.

Elections, in short, are the best U.S. endgame in Iraq -- provided the administration adopts a realists' view of them. It is sensible for the United States to give the United Nations as large a role as it will accept in organizing and conducting those elections; it is foolish to cling to the idea that U.S. political favorites, such as some of the exiles on the appointed Governing Council, can survive a popular vote. It is unrealistic to believe that U.S. appointees and advisers can be positioned to control the future government or that unilateral U.S. control over security matters can be maintained past the first ballot; Iraqi forces must be prepared to control security. The Bush administration also must accept, sooner rather than later, that an elected Iraqi government is likely to embrace economic or social policies not favored by the United States and may not be particularly friendly to Washington or to Israel. [Emphasis added.]

More specificity, please! Elections when?  If WaPo's editors think we can make it to January with an appointed government, they might read their (admittedly super-alarmist) Tuesday front page story. ... We don't have editorial pages so they can be as ambiguous as the State Department. ...

P.S.:  Also, does an elected Iraqi government "not particularly friendly to Washington" mean no U.S. bases? Then why not admit that, too? Maybe because it's an argument in favor of a solution WaPo disses: partition or an extremely loose federation. With a loose enough federation, as Robert Wright notes, we might get bases from the pro-U.S. Kurds in the north.  What's the argument against partition? Here's WaPo's condensed CW version:

This would please the Kurds but almost certainly lead to a Yugoslav-like series of wars that would prompt the intervention of Turkey, Iran and other neighbors. The Shiite and Sunni Arab populations in Iraq do not live in easily partitioned districts; Baghdad, for example, is home to millions of both.

I don't have a solution to the Baghdad problem (though Peter Galbraith sketchs a rough-and-ready arrangement). But as for intervention by surrounding states--well, intimidating states like Turkey and Iran and Syria is something we're good at! Stopping guerilla insurgents in order to preserve a unitary Iraq is not. ...

P.P.S: Here's an early argument for faster, piecemeal elections  that explicitly ties them to an intriguing-but-complicated possibility of an evolving partition. ...

P.P.P.S.: Hawkish Instapundit's for faster elections too. ("The captured Zarqawi memo suggested that the terrorists fear an elected Iraqi government more than anything else we can accomplish, and their recent efforts seem to support that thesis.")

Kicker: There's a far-fetched but perhaps persuasive (for Bushies) analogy here from the Clinton administration, which held out hope for a total health care victory for too long in 1994 and failed to make the painful, expectation-shattering compromises that might have produced a small success instead of pure failure and electoral defeat. But Bill Clinton had an excuse for his fateful indecision: he was scared of Hillary. Who's Bush scared of? [Hillary?-ed.11:33 P.M.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Faster Iraq Watch 8: Undersecretary Zakaria weighs in against speeding up elections in Iraq. He dares to attempt what William Safire  didn't have time for: making an argument. Here it is:

Some in America are now urging elections even sooner than January 2005. This is not a democratization strategy. It is an exit strategy. But it will not work. Elections held in an uncertain security environment with militias running around the country will produce contested results and a renewed power struggle—in other words, a road neither to peace nor to pluralism.

I don't understand. There are two trends Zakaria identifies in Iraq. One is that the militias which "owe their primary loyalty to religious" or ethnic groups are "on the rise" and "[w]hen elections are held they will use force and money to ensure that the results come out their way." The other trend is rising dissatisfaction with the occupation, now at such a pitch that an interim government can gain legiitimacy, Zakaria argues, "only if it shows Iraqis that it can stand up to the occupying power."

Here's the thing: Neither of these trends is getting better with time. They're both getting worse. The militias are growing stronger. The Iraqis are growing angrier (which in turn fuels the first trend). How does it help to wait, then? Wait until the militias are numerous and organized enough to really prevent or pervert elections? Wait until anti-American demagogues like Sadr have 80% popularity instead of 45%? Wouldn't it be better to have Iraqis go to the polls right now, before the militias fill the "vacuum" and take control? Why would an interim government picked by the United Nations and "composed of technocrats" be better than a government picked by speeded-up ration-card balloting? Who are these apolitical technocrats who will suddenly emerge as compelling, popular anti-American champions?

Zakaria says there can be no democracy without security, and notes that in order to provide security any Iraqi government "will need not just power but legitimacy." But he seems oblivious to the argument that legitimacy comes from democracy, not the other way around. Is he saying Iraqis would be too intimidated even to show up at the polls en masse on a single day, election day, in order to give an interim government their blessing? My guess is it would be the anti-democrats and terrorists who would be intimidated. Then an elected government could stand up to us and have Zakaria's preferred kind of legitimacy too. (Note that David Brooks, who made the let-them-beat-us-up argument  before Zakaria, makes it in the context of allowing Iraqis to beat us up by campaigning in early elections rather than by extra-political troublemaking. Isn't that a good idea?)

P.S.: Nor does Zakaria (or anybody else I've seen) deal with the possibility of rolling elections held in more secure areas first. More fundamentally, although Zakaria raises the specter of civil war, he never explains why it would inevitably be so terrible if nationwide democracy were preceded by a period in which various ethnic groups controlled different regions (by the rough popular assent of the people in those regions) and jockeyed for national power. Is a Sistani-controlled Shiite government in Southern Iraq going to be a staging ground for Al Qaeda? More than a unified democratic Iraqi government? (I honestly don't know the answer to that. I'm asking.) 11:12 P.M. 

Next: Dating Johnny Hallyday! I guess Kerry really is writing off the South!... Hello? Do Americans want a first daughter who parades around in a dress Paris Hilton would be embarrassed to wear ? And shouldn't she have, you know, thought of that? Even if she looks good in it. ... P.S.: Could she be what these pictures suggest--a bit vain, selfish and opportunistic? John Kerry's daughter, of all people! ... P.P.S.:TheFrench will love it, of course. But Kerry already has their vote. Maybe he's energizing his base! [Cheap shot-ed. No. I'm assured by a French expat journalist friend that ordinary French readers--not just pols and dipolmats--really do love Kerry. That's more than you can say for any significant identifiable group in the U.S.]... [Link via Drudge ] ... Update:Unfogged, who seems to have undertaken extensive research, says it's the fault of flash bulbs, which have this effect on black fabric. ... It's not clear to me that this dress would have much of a purpose if it wasn't intended to be seen through. But it would be very Kerry-like to blame her dresser! ... More: I draw your attention to Discussant No. 5 in the vigorous collective analysis on  Unfogged's comments page. ...Disappointing news: kf reliably hears Alexandra had a rep in college for being "incredibly nice." ...  9:09 P.M.

Faster Iraq Watch 7:  Lieberman and McCain on board! Hope McCain's support doesn't kill the idea with the Bushies. ...P.S.:The idea of waiting 6 more months before elections--giving the Baathists, terrorists, et. al 6 more months to disrupt things--seems so crazy it's worth worrying about what might be holding a speed-up up. Are the Kurds worried about their enemies winning the vote? Are the Bush people worried about events they can't control--e.g. Islamists winning--occurring during the U.S. election home stretch? ... P.P.S.: Note that the "artificial" June 30 deadline, publicly derided by Hillary Clinton, is now the best thing we have going for us. ... 10:48 A.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--Busting the education "blob." Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk]