Faster Iraq Watch No. 9--WaPo speaks.

Faster Iraq Watch No. 9--WaPo speaks.

Faster Iraq Watch No. 9--WaPo speaks.

A mostly political Weblog.
May 18 2004 2:52 AM

WaPo For Faster Iraq Elections?

Plus Sullivan wins "Brandini Award"

Faster Iraq 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 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.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Uh-oh: Maybe the U.S. war and rebuilding project in Iraq really is in danger of collapsing--you have to worry when its boosters start hauling out the old Teddy Roosevelt "man in the arena" quote. ("The man who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly ...") I don't know about you, but I'd rather not fail while daring greatly, thank you. Especially when it comes to stopping mass terrorism. ... 12:52 P.M.


Brandini Award Nominee: Andrew Sullivan confuses Zarqawi  with Zawahiri. ("IT WAS ZARQAWI: Yes, it probably was Osama's number two.") ...[You're just getting even because Andrew gave you a mock award for the "Kerry Withdrawal Contest"-ed. Hey, that might come back!] ... 3:49 A.M.

to be the guy people have no choice but to vote for on Nov. 2. Not because he has a stirring new vision (he doesn't); not because he's such a darned likable guy (he isn't); but because circumstances are such that fair-minded "swing" voters have no choice but to pick him. He's not running against the war, per se, but as the nobleman at the end of the Shakespeare play, a beacon of sanity on the battlefield.

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't this just a fancy way of saying that Kerry's hoping for disaster in Iraq? While he may get his wish, wouldn't the Democrats rather nominate somebody who could win if Iraq isn't a disaster in November? P.S.: Fineman also--provocatively--says Kerry "is under no illusions that voters will embrace him in a personal way." I don't quite believe it. Certainly the bland Kerry quote (about trying to "preserve my acceptability") doesn't prove this level of cold-blooded self-criticism. Do you really live your entire life in embarrassingly conscious emulation of John F. Kennedy without wanting to inspire people like John F. Kennedy? That's the likely flaw in the cold-blooded Fineman Plan for Kerry: his staff may merely want people to vote for him, but he's going to want us to like him.A bridge too far, as they say. ... 3:20 A.M.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Another reason I hate stories with 'real people' in them: An Editor's Note reveals the dirty little secret about where the New York Times finds those ordinary citizens sprinkled throughout public policy pieces to complain in homespun fashion about the dire effect of this budget cut or that government initiative: they are handed to the Times on a platter by (liberal) advocacy groups. Gee, no wonder they act like trained seals! ... And of course Times reporters would never feel they owe anything to the groups for doing their legwork for them. (But accept a theater ticket from a similar group and you get fired.) .... P.S.: Link via Taranto, who notes that the Times, hilariously, is embarrassed only because two of its non-random surveyees on a Medicare drug story had actually also appeared in a video for an advocacy group, Families USA. Apparently if they hadn't appeared in the video--but had still been hand-picked by the group--it would have been OK! To paraphrase Kinsley, the scandal isn't what the "editor" thinks is unethical, it's what he thinks is ethical. .... Here's a productivity-sapping measure: How about a newsroom rule that Times reporters have to actually go out and find their own men-on-the-street? ... Or they could just call Greg Packer! ... 11:20 P.M.

Of course! How could the 1979 Kazakhstan discovery have slipped my mind? Donald Luskin nails Paul Krugman for a sleazy face-saving correction--claiming he "forgot" something he probably never knew--in an otherwise interesting pair of doomsaying Krugman columns about the menace of rising oil prices. ... P.S.: I guess Krugman's doomsaying columns about the menace of deflation  in the U.S. are now ... of acadamic interest. One of these days he's going to be right! ... 10:30 P.M.

Andrew Sullivan holds up for ridicule a man named Robert Knight for writing (in part) the following:

None of this happened by accident. It is directly due to cultural depravity advanced in the name of progress and amplified by a sensation-hungry media.
* We were told putting women into combat areas is progressive and enlightened.
* We were told pornography is liberating, and that anyone who objects is a narrow-minded Puritan who needs therapy. We have been flooded with porn imagery on mainstream television and in magazine ads. Where did those soldiers get the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion? Easy. It's found on thousands of Internet porn sites and in the pages of "gay" publications, where S&M events are advertised alongside ads for Subarus, liquor and drugs to treat HIV and hepatitis.

Doesn't Mr. Knight have a point? I was thinking some of the same things myself--in particular that the public tolerance for porn contributed to the Abu Ghraib scandal (certainly to the willingness of soldiers to preserve the images on CDs). And the story of Private Lynndie England is not exactly a triumph for the new sex-integrated military (or for the broader argument that you can introduce new sexual dynamics into a long-standing institutional environment without any ill effects). ...I haven't quoted Knight's criticism of gay marriage, which is probably a big part of what got Andrew's goat. Still, he ridicules the whole thing, the way people do when they subconsciously realize their opponents have a powerful new argument and want them to just go away ... Update: Yes, Knight has no point at all. .... 6:42 P.M.

Did Arnold Schwarzenegger do some diplomatic sherpa-work with Jordan's King Abdullah? BoifromTroy finds a bit of Donald Foster-ish evidence  to this effect. He could be right! 2:14 A.M.

Faster Iraq Watch 6: William Safire--who, it is famously said*, has the soul of a New York P.R. man-- disses the faster-election solution for Iraq. Why? ... Does he have to give a reason? He's William Safire! ... O.K. He says it's not "doable." And he suggests that he's talked to the Kurds. ... There. Are you confident now? ...[*--by Charles Peters] P.S.: Note that  yesterday's WSJ editorial--cited in today's weak and uninformative NYT GOP-split-on-Iraq piece  as supportive of the administration--contains the following un-Safirean, decidedly restive paragraph:

In the face of these challenges and atrocities, Americans don't want to hear about "staying the course." They want to hear our commander-in-chief tell us how we are going to win. Primarily this means making good on our promise to go ahead with the June 30 handover of power to Iraqis and hold elections as soon as possible. [Emphasis added.]

If the editors of the Journal had wanted to endorse the current January, '05 election schedule, don't you think they would have discovered, in their Journalish fashion, that "the good sense of the American people" has expressed itself firmly in favor of staying the course? [Isn't this assumption--that the great and good American people are of course right (and of course endorse one's own position)--what has been called the Howell Raines Fallacy?-ed. Why, yes! The WSJ ed page is a serial HRF-committer of long standing.] P.P.S.: Wouldn't "faster elections" be a good idea for John Kerry to embrace, as a criticism of Bush? Unless Kerry's afraid it might work. ...1:47 A.M.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Meow! ABC's The Note, which I love, discusses Jill Lawrence's USA Today piece surveying Kerry skeptics, including Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Donna Brazile and the editor of kf. "With all due respect to [those] quoted speaking disapprovingly: they haven't won too many presidential campaigns," snipes ABC, with Kerryish swagger. Right. ... How many presidential campaigns has Bob Shrum won again? I keep forgetting! As many as Mark Halperin, I hear. ... 4:19 P.M.

Goldberg vs. Kurtz: Jonah Goldberg argues that CBS' 60 Minutes II shouldn't have broadcast those photos of Americans abusing Iraqi prisoners. WaPo's Howard Kurtz is dumbfounded

And yet some people are questioning whether "60 Minutes II" should have done this.

What would be the alternative: covering it up?

Sitting on the story so the U.S. military wouldn't look bad?

Why not suppress all negative news and just salute?

Stories have consequences. That's the way journalism works.

I'm with Goldberg, whose column is quite measured and reasoned, especially when compared with the pat, self-congratulatory professional yawps of Kurtz and WaPo ombudsman Michael Getler.

1) You don't have to print everything. I wouldn't print the identities of CIA agents. I wouldn't print private information (e.g. outing someone as gay, or twisted), even if it were relevant to a non-private story, if it would cause them to commit suicide. I wouldn't publish the sailing dates of troop ships, to use the classic court hypothetical. Would you? Forget whether the government should be able to stop you from printing them--would it be a moral thing to do to print information that would very likely result in hundreds of deaths?  The Abu Ghraib photo situation is very close to that one, except that the deaths are likely to be measured in the thousands and tens of thousands--once all the Arabs and others who are enraged enough by the pictures to become (or support) anti-U.S. terrorists are finished with their careers. That's if we're lucky.

2) "What would be the alternative: covering it up?" No. As Goldberg and others have suggested, CBS could have produced a story--even a TV story--that didn't display the pictures. If the Pentagon dragged its feet about stopping the abuse and disciplining those responsible, CBS (or whoever had the pictures) could have threatened to publish at least some of the photos as a spur to justice. But if the only alternative were covering it up--then yes, covering up is sometimes the right thing to do.

3) "Why not suppress all negative news and just salute?" That's a silly argument. Just because you don't publish something doesn't mean you don't publish anything. As they say, Mississippi's a hard word to spell--you never know when to stop. But you've got to stop somwhere. Editors draw lines all the time. (Did we see, for example, all the grisly photos of Nicole Simpson's near-decapitated corpse? I think I'd remember it, and it would have gotten big ratings.) Given that the purposes of publishing the photos could have been largely accomplished without publishing them, I'm not sure this case was even close to any line.

4) A basic debate over the war against terrorism has been between two models. In one model, there is a finite number of bad guys who want to kill us, and who need to be defeated, deterred, overawed or killed. In the other model, there is a large amorphous group of "swing voter" Arabs who might support terrorism but who might also be persuaded to live at peace with the encroaching forces of globalization. Model #1 is associated mainly with proponents of aggressive military action. Model #2 is largely associated with liberals who worry about "blowback," root causes and the Palestinians (though some neocon idealists envision spreading democracy winning over the "swing voters"). If you buy model #2, as do many of Donald Rumsfeld's critics on the left, and as do I, then you really didn't want these photos published, because they are what will lose us the swing voters and produce the blowback--if not in Iraq then elsewhere in the Arab world. Not only does it follow that the photos are best left unpublished; it also follows that the Pentagon was doing the right thing when it attempted to keep them secret. And it follows that the revered Senator McCain, who has been declaring that he wants all the remaining photos released, is acting like a posturing, media-mad fool. ""We need to assure the American people this won't happen again," McCain says. Huh? The current crop of stomach-churners isn't enough to do that? We need to make a few hundred million more people want to kill us!

5) At the same time, it would be nice if conservatives like Goldberg would apply the logic of their argument about the photos to larger questions of foreign policy--weighing, say, the arguments for invading Iraq without the U.N, against the costs of rising Arab and world anger. The next time a Democratic peacenik (or Frenchman) frets about "blowback," let's have no more hoots of derision from Goldberg or from any other conservative who's argued for photo-suppression.

Update: Goldberg responds to his critics here ... 2:56 A.M.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Faster Iraq Watch 5: The NYT's David Brooks joins the call for early--fall--Iraq elections, adding the insight that it will allow Iraqis to defy America democratically. What he doesn't talk about is whether this means the Bushies will have to abandon many of their strategic ambitions in the region. ...Meanwhile, E.J. Dionne effectively ridicules the Bush administration but seems to feel that, as a partisan Bush opponent he doesn't have an obligation to help come up with a solution. Isn't he also an American? ("Vote for Kerry" isn't a solution if the die will be cast in Iraq well before November, as seems likely.) Dionne does at least refer readers to the Kagan and Kristol early-elections piece (without describing its essential point).  ...P.S.: Again, why wait until the fall in Shiite and Kurdish areas that can hold elections sooner? The situation isn't exactly going to sit still for our timetable, and (as Robert Wright notes) elections in the South will make holding elections in the Sunni Triangle easier. ... Better yet, Ayatollah Sistani can wrest the concession of early elections from us, which will help on Brooks/Fanon "let-them-beat-us" grounds. ... P.P.S.: Brooks says we "went into Iraq with what, in retrospect, seems like a childish fantasy." Whose fantasy, exactly? It's never too early to name names. ... 4:18 P.M.

Dem Panic Watch 5: The needle, she no move. ... Kerry up by only one point in California? ... Don't worry! He's a good closer! ...Joke-spoiling caveat: Conservative T. Bevan is impressed with Kerry's advantage among April/March-deciders  in the IBD poll. And there is some pro-Kerry movement  among registered voters in the USAT/CNN/Gallup Poll, but not among "likely" voters. ... And nothing's happening  among the registered voters over at AP/Ipsos. ... 12:52 P.M.

The Full Monica: Eduwonk likes Kerry's latest education proposal-- basically more money and pay in exchange for easier dismissal of poor teachers. (Wasn't that Monica Lewinsky's education plan? It was!  But she was sound on this issue.) ... Questions:1) Has Kerry abandoned his previous plan to also water down the standards in the No Child Left Behind Act? Apparently not; 2) How do we know Kerry won't waffle and fold on the firing question at the first salvo from the teachers' unions (the way he folded on his feckless affirmative action rethink in the ealry '90s)? How do we know these aren't just more words from overzealous speechwriters--part of Kerry's current suck-up-to-centrists campaign, which followed his now-semi-renounced suck-up-to-liberals campaign in the primaries? We don't. 3) Any reform of this magnitude--sackng lots of now-tenured teachers, on federal command--will require a political fight. You can't just propose it and expect it to sail through Congress. You have to educate the voters and whip up some general interest pressure to counteract the highly effective special interest pressure of the teachers' lobby. That means running around in public telling horror stories about poor teachers who couldn't be fired, which means deeply annoying the National Education Association. There's no sign Kerry is ready to do that. [But Bill Clinton didn't tell many welfare horror stories before reforming welfare--ed. Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich had told the stories for him. Plus, voters have always hated welfare.] ...

P.S.: In an encouraging sign, Kerry has been unexpectedly tenacious in sticking with his Social Security semi-means-testing idea. Of course, nobody's really attacked him for it--yet.  2:49 A.M.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Nobody Covers the Art World like kausfiles! Here is a passage buried deep within the recent  NYT Sunday Business piece  on big shots who try to avoid paying sales taxes on the art work they buy:

As president of the Whitney Museum board, Robert J. Hurst has played a pivotal role in shoring up the institution's finances and securing prized artworks for its permanent collection. One of the Whitney's galleries bears his name. In addition to being a leading figure in the New York art scene, Mr. Hurst is the former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, and held a $267 million stake when the firm's shares began trading publicly in 1999. ... [snip]

As the investigation of art dealings got under way in early 2002, investigators in Mr. Morgenthau's office discovered that Mr. Hurst had bought a large number of artworks in New York for which he had not paid New York sales tax, according to one senior prosecutor. The unpaid tax amounted to at least $2 million, said a senior law enforcement official.

According to a law enforcement official, Mr. Hurst had the art shipped commercially to a home he owned in Colorado. Shortly thereafter, the official said, Mr. Hurst reloaded it on a private jet and whisked it back to Manhattan.

A senior law enforcement official said that when Mr. Morgenthau's office confronted him about the matter, Mr. Hurst was offered the opportunity to pay the tax and did so. In a brief telephone interview last week, Mr. Hurst said: "I have paid all my sales tax. I am absolutely current." Although he said he would call to discuss his art purchases further, one of his assistants called later to say that Mr. Hurst was traveling and would be unavailable for an interview. [Emphasis added.]

Let's assume Hurst has now paid all his taxes. Is he really the sort of person the Whitney wants heading its board? This is an institution famous for using taxpayers' money to fund exhibits that many taxpayers find offensive (e.g. Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ"). Shocking the citizenry has been a successful marketing strategy for the Whitney. If the taxpayers' outraged representatives were to try to withdraw or limit their contribution, as they occasionally do, the Whitney would be among the first to call it censorship--asserting, in effect, a conditional right to the tax money. Fair enough. But you'd think the Museum would then want to be headed by people conspicuously willing to pay the taxes that help support it--not those who appear to go to elaborate lengths to dodge their tax obligations, which they seemingly only fulfill after they're caught out. ... 3:54 P.M.

Building on his strengths: ABC's The Note says Kerry "has yet to find a voice that comforts while it enervates." ... Hey, don't be too hard on him. It's early in the campaign, and he's already got the enervating part down. ... 2:19 P.M.

WaPo's excellent piece on the background of the Abu Ghraib comes close to making the case that the abuse was the logical consequence of a) having too few troops to b) fight an insurgency that intimidated potentially friendly Iraqis. ...No wonder the Pentagon sponsored screenings of Battle of Algiers. If I remember right, one character in the film is a plain-speaking French general who argues that winning the guerilla war requires torturing prisoners. ... I wish I could believe the convenient win-win line peddled by Sen. Pat Roberts on ABC's This Week--that torture doesn't pay off in terms of accurate information, so it's completely senseless on all counts. But I fear the fictional French general was closer to reality. WaPo implies that the tougher interrogation techniques instituted by our troops last fall did pay off, though it cites only "U.S. generals." ... What's not clear from the Post is the short-run tradeoff: If the U.S. had decided to scrupulously hew to the Geneva convention, even at the risk of more insurgent attacks and more casualties, how much worse would it have been? In the medium-to-long run, of course, the get-tough policy is looking like a disaster for the U.S., even within Iraq and even apart from humanitarian considerations.  ... 

Impolite question: Not that it would have made everything all right, or even partially right, but why didn't our generals or their subordinates ban photographs,to forestall the propaganda debacle that has now taken place? That would have shown some understanding of how modern information technology can help fuel global Al Qaeda-like hatred. It's been been suggested that the photographs were a part of the intended humiliation and "softening up." But even if you wanted to humiliate--which I'm not advocating!--surely there are ways to do that that don't also risk humiliating the U.S. around the world.  How much incremental benefit did the photos add? (You could have had flash bulbs pop without actually taking pictures, even.) ...

The horse race angle: Making voters ashamed to be Americans has to be particularly powerful electoral poison, no?If the "needle" doesn't move in Kerry's favornow--while his big positive bio ad blitz is simultaneously happening--do Democrats need any more evidence of what a weak a nominee he is? ... Why not nominate someone else and win!

Update: An April 5 WaPo piece by Tom Ricks actually quotes a soldier citing Battle of Algiers:

The soldier said that rough handling of detainees was common in his unit but that he thought it was often warranted. "It's a little like the French colonel in 'The Battle of Algiers,' " he said, referring to the 1965 film about the Algerian uprising against French colonial rule. That is, he explained, the French officer said, " 'You're all complaining about the tactics I am using to win the war, but that is what I am doing -- winning the war.'

Maybe they should have shown them The Longest Day instead. 12:22 A.M.

Sunday, May 9, 2004

Random Rasmussen: Here's an excerpt from the reader e-mail that cured me of my Rasmussen tracking poll addiction:

Rasmussen numbers are going to change even if the underlying facts they are polling do not change.    To illustrate this I created an excel file in which mimicked the polling of 500 people per day and repeated this for 100 days.  During this 100 day period, the underlying "facts" did not change:  45% of people supported bush, 45% of people supported kerry and 10% were other or undecided.   Let me emphasize:  this never changed during the 100 days:  I know this because it's how the excel file was programmed. 

Despite the fact that there was no change in the actual situation, the polling results did change:  one day Bush outpolled Kerry  50-40;  on another day Kerry outpolled Bush 49-42; and on another day it was Kerry 50-44.

Rasmussen evens out these one day jumps by reporting three day moving averages.  But those also move around, though not as much.  Let's look at the 3-day averages for one five day period in my simulation:

Monday:  Bush  48  Kerry 41

Tuesday:  Bush  46  Kerry 43

Wednesday:  Bush 45  Kerry 45

Thursday:  Bush 43  Kerry 47

Friday: Bush 43 Kerry 47

If that's what Rasmussen's numbers might be like in an unchanging dead heat, what would an actual shift of opinion look like? My e-mailer, E.L., writes: "If Rasmussen shows a lead of 4-5 points for two straight weeks, that would convince me that one candidate was actually ahead," though he admits that's "not rigorous statistics." I don't know if my Pundit Threshold--the level of statistical certainty I can tolerate before I start pontificating about a "trend"--is that high. But from now on I'll try not to get spooked by one, two or three point rises and falls in Rasmussen's numbers over the course of a few days. ... 8:42 P.M.

Faster Iraq Watch 4: Kagan and Kristol, on board for moving up Iraqi elections. ... But why wait until September 30 in the areas that can hold balloting even sooner? ... [Shouldn't this be an Iraq Panic Watch?-ed That too.] ... Link via Sullivan ... Slower Post Watch: Meanwhile, Fred Hiatt and WaPo--recognizing that Rumsfeld's resignation is not in itself a solution--seem, alarmingly, to be stumped. They've produced a vague men-of-goodwill-must-get-togther plea so bite-free it makes David Gergen look like Chris Rock!  I thought I'd clicked on an old L.A. Times editorial by mistake. (Sample: "The administration must set aside its prejudices and reach out convincingly to potential allies at home, in Iraq and throughout the world.") More troops? Fewer troops? Faster elections? Cede more control to the U,N,? Abandon democracy for stability? Accept a radical degree of Sunni/Shiite/Kurd federalism? Lower our long-term expectations about military bases? What's the point of being inside the Beltway if you don't even grapple with these issues? ...I suspect this is a placeholder editorial designed to show general concern while an internal WaPo ed-board debate rages. It would have been more informative to show us the debate. Why waste readers' time? ....  2:41 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. 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. 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. 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]