Coalition of the chilling!

Coalition of the chilling!

Coalition of the chilling!

A mostly political Weblog.
March 10 2003 6:23 AM

Balking Hawks

An epidemic of cold feet.

News video editors take note: Isn't Peggy Noonan right to identify Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" as a good soundtrack for this period of our history? Simon's lyrics prefigure both the long-range terrorism and human progress enabled by technology. They give a sense of global events spinning out of control. The music is appropriately ominous and martial. Here's a clip from the song  that doesn't quite capture what I'm talking about. (Turn up the bass if you can.)... It's certainly preferable, on diplomatic grounds, to "Rock the Casbah," the first tune U.S. Armed Forces Radio played during the 1991 Gulf War. ... 1:39 P.M.

Coalition of the Chilling: Josh Marshall has shifted from support of an Iraq attack to opposition. (He now apparently supports a delay of "several months," with a beefed-up inspection regime.) ... Meanwhile, the NYT's Thomas Friedman, who has been an anguished, escape-clausey war supporter ("But if war turns out to be the only option, then war it will have to be")  now says we "need to reconsider our options and our tactics" and ask our allies "How much time do we need to give you to see if inspections can work for you to endorse the use of force it fhey don't." .... Both balkenhawken seem to be assuming the U.S. and Britain will not get their second resolution through the U.N. Security Council. ...

Meanwhile, hawk Kenneth Pollack  is distancing himself from the subtitle of his own book! (The subtitle is "The Case for Invading Iraq.") But Pollack really belongs in a larger category of troubled hawks -- the He's-Botching-It Hawks, who seem to still be in favor of pulling the trigger but are focusing their fire on President Bush's handling of the pro-hawk case. This group includes Newsweek's Jonathan Alter ("He's got a good case but has made a hash out of it") and Time's Joe Klein ("he has been extremely careless").


The criticisms of this second group have some merit but they also have a distasteful distancing quality, as if proponents support the omelette but want to criticize the breaking of the eggs. 1) Along with Andrew Sullivan, I'm deeply skeptical of the idea that a greater slathering of skillful diplomatic etiquette could have suckered the French into supporting a military attack they clearly don't want to support. The only reason we can even conceive of France endorsing the eventual use of force after giving more time to meaningful, beefed-up inspections (the new Marshall and Friedman Plan, which makes sense to me if we can't get a second U.N. resolution) is that President Bush charged ahead, moved 250,000 troops into position, and threatened a unilateral attack. 2) Likewise, Alter's right that Bush is unconvincing when he says a war is his "last choice." But then Alter states his own rationale for an attack:

Let's get this straight: Saddam's potential development of nuclear weapons five or 10 years from now constitutes an imminent threat to the United States, but North Korea's possession of them five to 10 weeks from now does not? I personally favor taking out Saddam now so that he's not Kim Jong Il in a few years.

Despite Bush's disingenuous clumsiness and "cowboyspeak," has any American failed to get the impression that this is also Bush's main rationale for an attack? ... P.S.: Which of the two groups of cooling-off hawks does Slate's Fred Kaplan belong in? As far as I can tell, he's somewhere in between the two -- he claims Bush has botched it ("It is hard to remember when, if ever, the United States has so badly handled a foreign policy crisis") and seems to be conditioning his hawkishness on Bush showing more finesse and obtaining a second U.N. resolution. But he hasn't actually shifted to advocacy of delaying an attack (beyond  late March). ... 1:55 A.M.

Sunday, March 9, 2003


Great Moments In Social Equality: Jack Grubman's kids enter public school! (This, according to the N.Y. Post, will be after their rejection by "at least eight exclusive prep schools" ....) Memo to Jeff Zucker: Two words -- 1) sit 2) com. ... 1:20 A.M.

Is Iraq Just a Pit Stop? When even Charles Krauthammer says it's time to negotiate with North Korea, it's probably time to negotiate with North Korea. ...  Krauthammer says he's only for "temporary appeasement," and that "[t]he blandishments should be immediately withdrawn as soon as Iraq is over and we can marshal enough strength in the Northern Pacific." But aren't the North Koreans smart enough to recognize this post-Iraq possibility, and negotiate for a non-temporary deal? Or is Krauthammer arguing we should renege later on whatever it is we agree on now? ...  If Bush thinks a temporary deal is impossible, maybe one unmentionable reason for his hurry to get started with Iraq is that he thinks he needs to finish it up soon in order to shift our soldiers, sailors and pilots to the next war in the North Pacific, before the Koreans churn out a critical mass of plutonium. ... Peter Beinart's  most recent "TRB" column pointed to this possibility, as does the last graf of Michael Barone's latest. ...12:07 A.M.

Friday, March 7, 2003

A conspiracy show-trial for captured Al Qaeda members? In the middle of next year's election? Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball raise this possibility in their highly-reported new weekly Web-only feature. (Worth it for the banner picture alone!) ... But wouldn't a show trial just give the al Qaeda bigwigs a global platform for radical-Islamic, anti-U.S., rhetoric (or, if we silenced them, wouldn't it make us look thuggish)? Isn't this the very reason why, as the Washington Post reports today, some U.S. officials are arguing it would be  better if bin Laden is captured dead rather than alive? The "September show trial" seems like a trial balloon destined to be shot down. ... Update: An alert reader points out that the difference between Osama bin Laden and the already-captured al Qaeda members is that the latter are ... well, already captured. We have to do something with them. We won't have an opportunity to semi-accidentally kill them during an attempted capture. There may be nothing else to do with them except try them. ... But that doesn't mean it has to be a highly-orchestrated "grand Nuremberg-style show trial." ...  1:18 P.M. 


Thursday, March 6, 2003

Some evidence (not conclusive) for the "strong horse" theory of winning Arab hearts and minds. ... 11:38 P.M.

Eilperin Gets Results! (Republicans have pulled the "Christmas Tree" bill she publicized.) ... 11:20 P.M.

Mine the Pollacks? There's one part of Clintonite Iraq hawk Kenneth Pollack's  Q & A with Josh Marshall that I don't understand,  In the interview, Pollack outlines, without a lot of detail, his view "that if you could have turned back time we could have handled this a lot better than we actually did. But we are where we are" and it's "now or never. " He prefers now. Then he says:

You've heard me say any number of times that I wish they hadn't pursued this route with the UN. But, again, when I wrote the book they were in the mode of 'We don't need the UN. We've got all the authority we need to go ahead and do this.' And instead they recognized that that was a mistake. And they have gone to the UN. Unfortunately the route they took may have cost them as much support as it built them. Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact that they at least made the effort. [Emphasis added.]


So was Pollack for going to the U.N. or not? If it would have been a "mistake" not fo go to the U.N., what was wrong about the "route" Bush took? Presumably Pollack objects to the administration getting suckered into what he calls the "inspections trap," in which Saddam perpetually postpones war by showing enough last-minute cooperation to mollify our U.N. allies. But was there a way to go to the U.N. and not get suckered into the inspections trap? If so, I'd like to hear it. ... Maybe alert kf readers can explain to me why Pollack isn't trying to have it both ways here. ...

P.S.: The prescriptive conclusion of Pollack's now-totemic book  doesn't urge Bush to go to the U.N.. It's more like the opposite -- Pollack strongly questions the ability of the U.N. to solve the Iraq problem. He merely says "we would do well to work hard to try to bring as many European, Asian, and other allies on board as possible." ...

P.P.S.:  Like Slate's Chris Suellentrop, Marshall reports that "In his book, The Threatening Storm, Pollack advocates a very different approach than the one the president has pursued." He does? You coulda fooled me! (One exception: Pollack does caution in his book against invasion until we "reduce the bedlam in the Middle East to lower levels," though he doesn't say what he would do if the bedlam resisted such efforts. He told Marshall he thinks "the administration refused to really engage on getting negotiations resumed.") ...  9:47 P.M.

Ken Auchincloss:  It's very upsetting to hear that Ken Auchincloss of Newsweek has died at the unfair age of 65. He was a graceful, exuberant man who made those who worked for and with him feel they were part of a wonderful profession. He was also a confident, independent mind, which is not what you'd expect to thrive in the culture of newsmagazines, where the goal is often to say what everyone else is saying (but a little "smarter") at the precise moment they're saying it. I'd always figured it was because he'd stepped off the Newsweek fast track that he often saw things in a more sensible, even scholarly, longer-term perspective -- but Devin Gordon's appreciation suggests this is just the way he was. A small example: I remember a panel discussion in around 1988 -- a dog and pony show for advertisers, I think -- when people were wondering why President Reagan had lost his legislative mojo. Was it Iran Contra? James Baker's departure as chief of staff? Don Regan's personality? Nancy's astrologer? Why wasn't the Gipper's old magic working? etc. Auchincloss was the only one who pointed out that this was so much hothouse newsmagazine birdsong -- Reagan was having trouble because the Republicans had lost their majority the Senate. Duh! Nobody else thought of it -- it was too big a point, and because it wasn't going to change in the next week (and didn't involve insider tick-tock) there was no payoff for acknowledging it. ... 2:22 P.M.


Late-breaking building: The best memorials (Washington Monument, Gateway Arch, Vietnam Veteran's Memorial) are simple awesome forms -- and they don't need museums! James Ingo Freed's Air Force Memorial looks like it meets the test (and it should so terrify pilots flying into nearby Reagan National that they'll stay very alert).  Ben Forgey is appropriately enthusiastic. ... 12:16 A.M.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Shrum, here's your first assignment: Noam Scheiber on why it's in John Kerry's interest -- but not in the interest of the other Dem candidates -- to puncture Al Sharpton's balloon. I'm convinced, except by Scheiber's argument that Howard Dean couldn't do it too. ... Attacking Sharpton is a move even Kerry might be able to make without seeming phony, since it basically amounts to enunciating a truth that's obvious to practically everyone. (It would be hard to believe, in other words, that Kerry wasn't saying something he actually thought.) ...5:48 P.M.

WaPo's editorial page zeroes in on the dilemma of Homeland Security funding, currently the Democrats favorite way to a) respond to 9/11, b) criticize Bush; c) please mayors and governors and d) avoid the subject of the war. The dilemma is that we don't need anti-terrorist spending spread out across the country the way we need, say, school spending spread out across the country. Big cities and ports are at risk. Small cities and rural areas aren't. Which is why Hillary Clinton's "porkland security" approach -- distributing anti-terror money on the basis of population via entitlement-like "block grants" -- is so wrong-headed. (Do Moses Lake, Washington and Silt, Colorado really need new haz-mat suits?) It's bad government -- and gutless government, and unimaginative government, on what is supposed to be Hillary's new signature issue. ... It will never be possible to completely dismiss the idea that Sen. Clinton will someday be a good president, for Nixon/China reasons -- quite simply, nobody can stick it to liberal interest groups better than Hillary, because she has their allegiance on emotional as well as pragmatic grounds. (She presided over the end of the welfare entitlement, and they still love her!) But the hope that Hillary might help, say, solve the Social Security crisis toward the end of this decade (in part by cutting benefits the AARP wants to keep) is increasingly becoming an exercise in untethered optimism. ... 5:08 P.M.

Juliet Eilperin's piece on House Ways & Means chairman Bill Thomas' "Christmas Tree" bill -- he invited Republican committee colleagues to attach their favorite medium-sized (less than $100 million) tax breaks -- might be expected to kill off the idea. But Eilperin bends over backwards to give the special pleaders their day, and winds up illustrating another Washington truth -- that there is at least a colorable argument for lots of the "special interest" bills Congressmen push for their constituents. ... Still, wasn't one purpose of spending the surplus (through Bush's tax cuts) to suppress this sort of "pretty-soon-it-all-adds-up" log-rolling? ... Update: Eilperin's story was followed by an NBC Nightly News piece ridiculing the bill, and the Republicans have pulled it from the floor. ...  1:24 A.M.

An update to the item on why we don't share intelligence with Hans Blix has been posted below. 12:40 A.M.

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Here's USA Today's answer to the question of why Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's arrest was announced immediately instead of being kept secret. According to this theory, it wasn't the Americans who were overeager to publicize the triumph:

U.S. intelligence officials had hoped that Mohammed's capture could be kept quiet. That would have given investigators more time to analyze the mass of material seized with the al-Qaeda chief and a head start in tracking operatives throughout the world.

Pakistani officials reportedly leaked the information.

10:24 P.M.

Monday, March 3, 2003  

Rix: Who Trix Blix? From Sunday's Tom Ricks WaPo piece on U.S. war plans:

The pace of Special Operations forces will also be stepped up. Their main focus will be denying Iraqi forces access to certain chemical and biological weapons sites that cannot be bombed for fear of setting up toxic plumes, according to people familiar with their missions and training.

Hmmm. If we really know where these chemical and biological weapons are, shouldn't we send an e-mail to Hans Blix? Or was Fareed Zakaria right when he said, on This Week a month and a half ago:

I think the fear that the Administration has, the reason it is not sharing intelligence is that the inspectors will find something. Let me read to you something Rumsfeld said to The Washington Post. "If the inspectors have found something, the argument might then be that inspections were working and, therefore, we should give them more time." This is the view of the inspectors, that they are not getting American intelligence because there are people in the Pentagon who fear that giving them intelligence will make them find things.

I thought at the time Zakaria's version couldn't be true. Looks like I was wrong. ... No wonder Blix hasn't come up with much.  ... Update: Reader R.S., echoing many others, says

The inspectors are under heavy surveillance.  Giving them information lets Saddam know that we know where he is hiding his weapons, which would then lead him to disperse said weapons.  This wouldn't pose an insurmountable barrier, but there are un-sinister reasons why the administration would want to keep the most sensitive, useful intelligence close to the vest.

Sure. But why doesn't it make sense to lead the inspectors to at least one cache of forbidden stuff, just for demonstration purposes -- to show the world we are right? Would that compromise sources more than Secretary Powell compromised them (for a similar reason) in his U.N. speech when he revealed specific phone conversations we'd overheard? Isn't there a lone cache of weapons we could reveal without letting Saddam know that we know where all the other caches are? The main reason we wouldn't do that still seems to be the reason Zakaria gave -- that it wouldn't be taken as a demonstration that we're right, but as another excuse to prolong inspections. ("See, they're working.") I'm just not sure that this apparent American reasoning is correct. "Inspections are working" has indeed been the antiwar/Euro reaction to the recent missile destructions, but the missiles were not hidden weapons. They were declared by Saddam. If inspectors uncovered a stockpile of nerve gas that Saddam's been hiding, on the other hand, I would think it would do a lot to convince the world we're right to want to remove him. (In contrast, stockpiles we uncover after an invasion might be dismissed as planted evidence.)   11:53 P.M.

Unity Doesn't Last Like It Used To:

March 3, 2003

Democrats Pulling Together United Front Against G.O.P.


ASHINGTON, Feb. 28 — Out of power, groping for a voice in an unfamiliar wilderness, Democrats in Congress have begun to put aside their differences and coalesce around a sharpened new criticism of President Bush's domestic policies. ...

Democrats On Hill Split On Agenda
Divisions Weaken Attacks on Bush

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2003; Page A01

Nearly four months after unexpected election losses prompted a reevaluation of their priorities, congressional Democrats are conflicted over their party's direction, deeply divided over Iraq and struggling to agree on a domestic agenda. ...

Context and perspective -- "Message teams" will save us!  VandeHei's take is much more convincing, especially his account of the Democratic split over whether to offer an $800 billion Medicare prescription drug benefit.  Firestone, for his part, babbles credulously about the Democrats' "five 'message teams'" and generally sounds like a man who's been willingly spun. ... But here's a question: Why do the Dems need a unified "single message" at all?  The election's already been lost; there's not another one until more than a year and a half from now. This is the time when an "out" party has the luxury of letting a hundred messages bloom and seeing which one gets traction. ... If a party's "unified" message is as lame as the "credibility gap" theme touted by Firestone, it won't make a difference -- it will still be lame even if it's communicated 24/7 by Senators mouthing joint sound bites with the precision of the East German synchronized swim team. If the message is compelling (as, say, health care became compelling after Harris Wofford's Pennsylvania Senate upset in the early 1990s) the Democrats won't need a "message" team to make sure everybody says the same thing -- they'll all be saying it on their own. ... P.S.: I just noticed that even ABC's knowledgeable Note, which usually passes out merit badges, calls Firestone's piece "a deeply credulous New York Times must-read." I guess "credulous" is the word! But why must we read it, then? To astonish ourselves with what "deeply credulous" junk the Times publishes? 11:37 P.M.

"Tight Job Market" Update: NEXIS Don't Lie! At the instigation of alert reader D.T., kf has done what it should have done all al -- I mean, kf has gone the extra mile and consulted NEXIS to see how the phrase "tight job market" has been used and misused by the NYT in the past. The evidence confirms kf's crude paranoid view that the Times has only recently switched to the incorrect use of "tight job market" as meaning a market where it's hard to find a job (as opposed to hard to find workers to hire). Specifically, there are 44 uses of the phrase "tight job market" in the Times in the past five years. Before November of 2001, it was used 26 times to indicate a good, hot, easy-to-find-a-job economy, and only five times to indicate the exact opposite. But a November 18, 2001 story marked a sharp break -- since then, the phrase has been correctly used zero times to mean a good, hot economy and 13 times to indicate lousy employment prospects for workers.

Is this because in mid-2001 the economy suddenly turned sour, and the NYT 's editors decided to reverse by 180 degrees the meaning they'd previously given to the term in order to spice up their gloom-'n-doom coverage? Or was it because in late 2001 the Times got a crusading new editor, and somehow standards started to sliip? You get tenure if you can answer that one! ... Tenure bid:WaPo, in comparison, at first seems to show a similar pattern, with the correct usage beating its exact opposite 27-1 before late 2001, and the incorrect usage predominating after late 2001. But as the economy soured the Post, unlike the Times, also, quite properly, stopped using the phrase so much. There are only four incorrect WaPo usages after October, 2001, and one correct usage -- compared to the NYT's string of 13 straight incorrect uses, 14 counting Saturday's headline. ... Caveat: But I was wrong to blame only the NYT's headline writers. It's a deeper problem! The misuses don't just occur in the heds. ... 9:02 P.M.

How bad are NYT headline writers? Times readers are familiar with heds that mischaracterize the stories they're supposed to summarize, almost always by spinning them a couple of degrees to the left.  Now Howell's Hed Hacks (sorry) are abusing well-accepted economic terms. The headline on Alex "Bad News" Berenson's Saturday economy piece was

 "Tight U.S. Job Market Adds to Jitters Among Consumers"

But of course a "tight" labor market traditionally means a market where labor is in short supply, and jobs are easy to find.  Tight labor markets are good. They're what we want. Berenson's piece was trying to make exactly the opposite point, that Americans now think jobs are hard to find. [But the NYT said "job market," not "labor market."--ed. At best, the hed was confusing. Labor is the thing being purchased in this market, not jobs. It's a labor market.] ... P.S.: Berenson also hits the Times' save-get key that calls this "the worst slump in two decades, according to statistics from the Labor Department" -- in theory because the U.S. "has lost more than two million jobs since March 2001." But isn't that highly misleading? In the ultra-hot economy of the late 1990s, after all, all sorts of people were lured into the labor market who hadn't been working before -- e.g. young people, semi-retired people, married and unmarried mothers. Now those extra "gravy" jobs have been lost. That's not good, but it doesn't make the downturn the "worst slump in the last two decades," which is the impression the NYT gives. The unemployment rate in June, 1992, was 7.8 percent, remember. It's now 5.7 percent. Even accounting for discouraged workers, etc., it's very hard to argue that we're now in worse shape than in 1992. .... P.P.S.: I do owe Berenson an apology for something I wrote a couple of years ago, implying (if I remember right) that he was rooting for a recession. He'd written an article, in December, 2000, declaring incoming president Bush "lucky" because "the economy could enter a recession" early in 2001. That seemed silly at the time and looks even sillier today. But I had no evidence Berenson himself was rooting for a recession. In Saturday's story, though, he certainly seems to be striving to paint as grim a picture as possible. ... 12:41 A.M.

Why did we find out about the  capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed almost immediately after the event? Wouldn't it have been better to keep the arrest secret while the U.S. and its allies rolled up those al Qaeda operatives whose whereabouts could be traced through Mohammeds' cell phone and computer, etc.? Why send out a worldwide alert, through CNN, to his co-conspirators, telling them it was time to scatter? Did the need for good publicity trump sound anti-terror techniques?... Update: See more on this above. ... 11:11 A.M. 

Wolfowitz v. Perle -- Neocon Schism To Come? After an Iraq war, if Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz moves to try to force Israel to curtail its settlements in the occupied territories -- as he's suggested he'll do -- how long do you think it will take his fellow neocon Bush adviser Richard Perle to turn on him? Not very long, I'd guess. ... 2:04 A.M.

The Forward, galvanized by Tim Russert's "startling" questioning of Perle on Meet the Press a week ago,takes a statesmanlike middle ground on the Likudnik issue. ... The Forward's Ami Eden notes Lawrence Kaplan's misleading statement on Crossfire that he "didn't use the word anti-Semitism" in his bullying Washington Post op-ed piece. Kaplan instead used the phrase "socialism of fools," which is the classy way of saying anti-Semitism --it  means "anti-Semitism"  -- when you want to be able to later say you didn't use the word "anti-Semitism." (Robert Novak was equally disingenuous, of course, in denying he'd ever "talked about dual citizenship." Dual loyalty is the issue he's accused of raising.) ... 1:50 A.M.

Sunday, March 2, 2003 

"Lawless," who is columnist Stuart Taylor Jr., takes issue with my view of international law  in The Fray. There's a  response and a response to the response. Taylor's ahead on points, but the night is young. ... 8:25 P.M.

Saturday, March 1, 2003  

The Washington Post again raises an outrageous charge of dual loyalties!

For many of those troops, serving in the U.S. military is a source of pride, but also of deep personal conflict. They wrestle with the weight of culture and a tradition in which Mexican nationalism has long been measured by opposition to its powerful northern neighbor. Mexican public opinion is overwhelmingly against a war with Iraq. President Vicente Fox has said Mexico, which holds a seat on the U.N. Security Council, will oppose unilateral U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein. In a country with a deep reluctance to get involved in conflicts outside its borders, the antiwar sentiment is raw and passionate.

Obviously, Lawrence Kaplan's work is not done. ... 11:25 A.M.

Friday, February 28, 2003  

Likudnik update: Veteran neocon Elliott Abrams, now in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio at the National Security Council, is firming up the neocon/Likudnik presence there, according to this UPI report. Three NSC staffers appear to have been moved out. ... 3:39 P.M.

You can't say WaPo's Dan Balz didn't think the Shrum/Kerry story was important. ... Have I mentioned that kausfilesscooped the world on this epic event? ... 1:47 A.M.

Don't Rush Me V: Michael Kinsley's latest column helps clarify the Iraq issue, in my mind, by defending the hack, popular  view of "'I'm for it if we have U.N. approval, but not if we act unilaterally.'" Call it the proceduralist position -- where "unilateral" is defined as acting with allies but without the Security Council's explicit blessing. As Kinsley notes, this proceduralism is profoundly annoying to hawks -- if the war's a good thing to do, they argue, are you really going to let France stop it? Well, yes, maybe:

The test of a country's commitment to international law—and the measure of its credibility when it accuses other countries of flouting international law—is whether that country obeys laws even when it has good reasons to prefer not to.

Just like specific instances such as the rule against using human shields, the general regime of international law depends on a willingness to sacrifice short-term goals that may even be admirable for the long-term goal of establishing some civilized norms of global behavior. It sounds naive, and maybe it is. But you're either in the game or you're not. You can't pick and choose which rules to take seriously.

In this case, the rule is you generally don't attack another country across a border without Security Council blessing. (Sure, self-defense wins in a case of imminent danger -- but Iraq doesn't seem to present an imminent danger so much as a danger that needs to be dealt with over the next several years. If self-defense justifies an attack on any nation that might pose a grave threat a few years down the road, the result could be just as destabilizing as if there were no general rule against trans-border attacks.)

But hasn't Saddam repeatedly violated UN resolutions, violations that are ongoing? Yes. The U.N. should act to enforce its resolutions, as President Bush says. But the issue is what we do if, thanks to a French veto, the U.N. backs off an immediate, direct attack as a method of enforcement. Do we then enforce the U.N.'s resolutions ourselves by going outside the U.N.? It would be an odd thing to wage war to defend the edicts and honor of an institution that we are, by the very act of defying it to wage war, effectively derogating as "irrelevant" and obsolete.

I'd even take proceduralism a step further than Kinsley, who seems to suggest that if

we knew for sure it would be as easy and cheap as the administration hopes, few folks would object

I'd object. The whole point of the rule against trans-border attacks is to stop nations from thinking "Gee, if I attack my neighbor it will be easy and cheap and well worth the cost, so let's do it." We don't ban murders except when they're easy and cheap and justified according to some utilitarian calculus. It's truer to say we ban murders because they're often easy and cheap and justified according to some utilitarian calculus.

The seemingly sophisticated focus, among antiwar types, on the difficulty of administering postwar Iraq actually undermines the anti-war case, in this sense, because it suggests that without those difficulties a war outside the U.N. would be justifiable. In fact, those difficulties are largely irrelevant to the initial question of procedural legitimacy.

It's also true, though, that following procedures in this case will make an attack a lot easier and cheaper than it otherwise might be.  Kinsley says this is "not just" because a multilateral attack would ease "concern about an anti-American backlash." But itis mainly because a multilateral attack would ease that concern -- and dilute the blowback by spreading it among our U.N. partners.

Under this view, if France vetos an attack, it would be legitimate for the U.S. to try to change the U.N. rules -- to deny France a veto, or to replace France on the Security Council with a nation less committed to anti-Americanism (or even to try to replace the U.N. with a new organization with better procedures). It would be legitimate to continue beefed up inspections, perhaps along the lines suggested by Robert Wright  or Jessica Tuchman Matthews, in the hope of eventually marshalling enough evidence and Security Council support for regime change by force (and in the meantime, to keep Saddam off balance enough to prevent his development of nuclear weapons). It would be legitimate to keep hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops on Iraq's borders threatening an attack. It just wouldn't be legitimate to attack -- unless the U.N. approves, or the clock somehow runs out and we have good reason to believe Saddam is shortly about to get the bomb.

That course might well be worse for the United States than if the French relent and allow an attack. But that's what the international rules mean -- that we sometimes have to do things that are worse for us, including things that increase the risks we face. That's the price of having an international structure of law -- a New World Order, someone once called it -- which will be a handy thing to have when we're combatting terrorism (which we'll be doing for the rest of our lives).

Well, it's a position, anyway -- one I'm perilously close to embracing. I'll try it on for a few days and see how it feels. Feedback welcome, as always.

P.S.: Democracy, which we hope to bring to the Middle East, is basically a bunch of formal procedural rules too, no? We don't ignore them when we don't like the outcome. [Insert cheap shot about Bush actually losing the election?--ed. No! He won by the rules, with the Supreme Court playing the role of France.]

P.S. -- Note to Karl Rove with forbidden thoughts about timing: Suppose we do have to wait through the summer without attacking, with trooops camped in Kuwait, Turkey, and Qatar, while we talk the French into at least abstaining. Taking a repulsively crass political view of it (which, unfortunately, you don't seem to be taking), isn't it politically better for Bush to attack next winter than now? For one thing, the actual popularity-boosting war would be closer to the elections -- and right in the middle of the early primary season, making the anti-war Democrats highly uncomfortable. Plus, given the possibility of post-war chaos and anti-American blowback over the mid-to-long term, an Iraq iintervention is likely to look a lot better, in November, 2004, if it's only 12 months old than if it's 18 months old. ...  12:51 A.M.

Thursday, February 27, 2003  

Not so fast! The New York Times may have stopped advertising the dangerous diet supplement ephedra on its site, but (as an alert reader points out) kf was incorrect in reporting that all ads, even questionable ones, have stopped. If you look for articles with the keyword "steroids" on the NYT search engine, you still get served ads for steroids, the controversial muscle-builder ("Break through your natural limitations, and build a freaky, extremely muscular physique."). ...Update: Kaimi Wenger thinks he's figured out what is going on. ... 11:15 A.M.

Kf's favorite quote of last week, from an NPR interview with Amazon Brooks, Chicago's oldest voter. She is 105 years old:

I always felt like I should exercise my rights as a citizen even if I wasn't lookin' for no favors. I've never had to ask for any favors so far ....

12:47 A.M.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003  

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down an Arizona state law requiring that political action committees give candidates 24-hour notice before running ads about them in the last 10 days of a campaign. The mysterious blogger "Edward Boyd" thinks this bodes ill for the outright ban on last-minute independent ads in the new federal McCain-Feingold law. ... Boyd notes that the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel included Richard Paez, one of President Clinton's more liberal appointees. ... The opinion in PDF form is available here. ... 1:52 P.M.

Times Caves, Wenger Gets Results! As predicted, the mighy New York Times appears to have rapidly surrendered in the face of lone blogger Kaimi Wenger's criticism of its ephedra ads. Good for the Times. ... Wenger claims victory here. He appears to have killed not only the ephedra ads, but all of the NYT's Google-served ads. ... Total elapsed time between Wenger's first post and the Times' capitulation: under 94 hours. But it was over a weekend --otherwise it wouldn't have taken so long! ... Update: Not so fast! It turns out the NYT is still pushing steroids. See above. ... 12:21 P.M.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003  

Kerry: He's On Your Side! Kf hears that the winner of the Shrum Primary (i.e. the candidate consultant Robert Shrum will work for) is .... Sen. John Kerry. ... Aargh! Wrong choice, Bob! ... Kerry's "on your side!" or soon will be -- "I'm on your side!" being the near-inevitable message of a Shrum candidate. ... The Kerry campaign now has a critical mass of perennial kf targets -- Kerry himself, Shrum (a great guy, but tragically a true believer in an inappropriate"populism"), and overspinner Chris Lehane. Time to send in the inspectors. ...  Update: You can't say  The Note doesn't think this is an important story! [Didn't you beat the NYT's Adam "Deep Six" Nagourney on this by, like, hours?--ed. Thanks for noticing!] .. For Joe Klein's Slate Shrum critique, click here. Klein presciently argues that Kerry makes a poor Shrumian "populist," but is "a cinch for Shrum's other eternal riff: the Next Kennedy." ... As if "J.F.K." needed Shrum to tell him that! ... 5:45 P.M.

'Florocchio' Redux? The New York Post reminds readers of another recent credibility-enhancing statement from Conde Nast's Steve Florio. When rumors circulated in the past few weeks that veteran GQ editor Art Cooper was about to retire, Florio declared:

"It is so much b.s. ...It keeps rearing its head. I'm sure some day it will happen and it will be a mutual decision, but it's not today and it's not tomorrow."

It wasn't b.s., of course. Cooper announced his retirement yesterday. ... For more on Florio's rep (including his inspiring minor league baseball career!) here's a relevant Fortune article. ... Hey, isn't this the same Florio who tells us that the New Yorker is now making a profit? I think it is! ... [Maybe Cooper just spontanteously decided to retire, the way Conde Nast says--ed. You believed that? It's not what Sridhar Pappu  reports.] 4:25 P.M.

Powerful David Ignatius column  likening Donald Rumsfeld to Robert McNamara. But Rumsfeld's such an appealing figure, you say? Well, McNamara's appealing too -- one of the most impressive people I've ever met. Too bad about the path of devastation he's left in his wake. ... 4:11 A.M.

Don't Rush Me IV -- Tough Dove Tough Love: The LAT's Ron Brownstein makes a noble effort to clarify the Iraq debate  -- and, I strongly suspect, promote a position with which he can agree -- by distinguishing two schools of Iraq hawks.

On one side are those who consider international cooperation the key to confronting new threats to global security. On the other are those who see Iraq as the opportunity to prove that the surest way to a safer world is for America to lead through assertive action, even if that increases friction with allies in the near term.

The first position -- the so called "tough dove" school -- is highly appealing to those of us who fear establishing a precedent under which any country can lead a "coalition of the willing" to enforce a treaty obligation or take out an enemy it thinks can't be trusted with powerful weapons (India and Pakistan come to mind).  A precedent allowing a structured international body to remove dangerous rogues seems far less risky. Plus a multinational structure seems the most fruitful way to suppress the terrorist threat without having the U.S. take all the blown-back heat. Brownstein names Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Chuck Hagel and Tony Blair as tough doves.

The problem is figuring out what difference, exactly, tough-dovism would make in practice. Sure we should "[work] through international institutions" (Clark) and avoid "actions that could produce the unintended results of fracturing those very institutions" (Hagel). We should refrain from belittling France and Germany, for example, just because they disagree with our battle plans. And we should give "a higher priority" to "building international support," perhaps delaying an attack to get it. But all that, as Brownstein realizes, is "a matter of degree" and emphasis.

The "tough dove" position would have more utility, as an alternative, if its practitioners would clearly identify the situations in which we'd actually let our allies stop us from taking military action. If the French veto the U.N. Security Council Resolution now being deliberated, would we hold back? Tough Dove Kerry specifically voted against requiring U.N. approval. Tough Dove Clark, on Meet the Press, seems to agree:

TIM RUSSERT: Has the president drawn the sword where he can no longer back down?

GEN. CLARK: I think that's right. I can't quite imagine that he could create a scenario in which it would be OK to just implement an enhanced so-called containment regime with inspectors on the ground; not with all the troops there, not with the determination. ... So I think we can all debate alternative strategies and theories and, yes, maybe containment was possible a year or so ago. Now it's too late. Saddam Hussein has to understand his day is over.

The temptation, of course, is for tough doves to avoid the need for such decisions, to portray their position as the best of both worlds, as in, "We can get our allies to do everything we want to do if only we'd try harder." Sometimes that will be true. (It seems worth waiting through the summer, for example, if that would actually get the French and Russians on board.)  But sometimes, surely, it won't be. Then what? If every time the "tough dove's" position is to go ahead and do what we want to do anyway, their vaunted deference to international institutions becomes something of a sham.  "[T]he tough doves join the neo-cons in believing the United States can't wait indefinitely for U.N. authorization before moving against Iraq," Brownstein writes. Unless there are actions we would wait indefinitely for -- actions we'd really like to take -- the international structure is not really a structure at all, and can't serve its purpose of preventing future unilateral actions by other nations that decide they "can't wait indefinitely" for our approval.

Clark did outline a strategy he says he would have pursued a year ago -- a strategy that avoided an Iraq attack and (presumably) pleased all our allies, France included. Specifically, Clark would have

focused exclusively on al-Qaeda, said, "Here's our target, set Iraq aside, strengthen containment. ..."

But what could this "strengthened" containment have achieved -- especially since Clark is highly skeptical of inspections as a means of uncovering Saddam's weapons? ("I don't have any confidence that the inspectors are going to find anything. This stuff is extremely well- hidden.") Like the tough-dove war strategy, Clark's alternative non-war strategy has a free lunch, best-of-both-worlds quality. We get everything we need and a multinational New World Order too!  (Another obvious question: If strengthened containment without inspectors would have worked last year, why can't strengthened containment with inspectors work this year, avoiding a possible non-U.N.-approved war?)

I'd be happy to be a "tough dove." It sounds so New Democrat. My kind of position! If only I knew what it meant. ...3:36 A.M.

"The fourth quarter belongs to us" says NYT Managing Editor Howell Raines, declaring that people like him "who work for fair-minded publications have been too passive in pointing out the agendas" of their critics. Reactions:

1. Does he think he lost the first three quarters? Did I miss the halftime pep talk?

2. Why lash out? Is he in trouble? Luskin thinks so. I'm not so sure. True, the Augusta Spike was humiliating for both Raines and the Times. But Raines' statements are in line with equally self-righteous, ad hominem, blindered declarations of his own saintly objectivity he's made over the years -- most notably when he attacked James Fallows and The Washington Monthly's Charles Peters in the NYT for what Raines said was their argument that reporters should "see themselves as civic stenographers dedicated to promoting worthy policies."  Back then, Raines also claimed that he, by contrast, was part of a "tradition that calls on reporters to forswear partisan advocacy ... to be agnostic as to public policy outcomes ...."

3. Did Raines have no "agenda" when he was in charge of his paper's editorial page? Was he "agnostic as to public policy outcomes"? That would have made for pretty dull editorials, and Raines' page wasn't dull. The whole point of an editorial page is to have an agenda! Did Raines then turn off his agenda, and turn on his agnosticism, when he got promoted? Where is that switch?

4. Something's getting to him!  12:02 A.M.

Monday, February 24, 2003  

How'd The Note miss this quote?

"The country is clearly ambivalent about Iraq. Kerry has been exactly where the country is."

-- Kerry spokesman Chris Lehane.

Well, he's our leader then! ... 3:20 P.M.

How is the NYT like CBS? Who said the New York Times, isn't advertising package tours to the Masters! ... The Times has righteously called on various institutions (CBS, Tiger Woods) to "choose not to support" -- i.e. boycott -- the tournament and the all-male golf club that runs it. But that doesn't mean the paper isn't above making a few bucks letting sell "Masters Golf Packages" (including "Tickets, Hotel, and Private Houses") on the Times Web site. Does Gerald Boyd know about this? ... In the NYT's editorial world view, isn't that a bit like running ads for Woolworth's Greensboro, N.C. lunch counters  in January, 1960 (or the Montgomery Area Transit System in early 1956)? ... It's hypocrisy, I tell you! ... 11:08 A.M.

Blogs advance the story, I: Antic Muse would appear to have a scooplet in the Bloomberg  L.P. vs. NYU flap. ... 10:52 A.M.

Ginger-greasers: If you're sympathetic to the "nothing new to buy" explanation for our current economic doldrums, it's not crazy to think of this  as a possible solution, rather than simply a case of hypocritical corporate welfare-seeking. ... 2:18 A.M.

Is Slate's Robert Wright a Buddhist? ... 2:02 A.M.

Send Less Chuck Berry?   Was it worth reading 100 inches of Bernard Weinraub's prose just so I could attack the NYT's ongoing front page Remedial Rock and Roll for Menopausal Yuppies  series? No! Too high a price to pay for a cheap blog item! ... But I read it anyway. To my horror, I enjoyed it. After reading Weinraub on Hollywood, I can't trust him as my musical guide -- for example, is it true that in the 40s Berry "discovered that the harmony of many popular songs was derived from the chords of George Gershwin's 'I Got Rhythm,' and were known as songs with rhythm changes"? Seems oddly oversimplified. But Weinraub makes it clear that Berry's rock and roll -- i.e., rock and roll -- was multiracial at its inception, with clear white (country and western, "hillbilly") as well as black (Muddy Waters, Nat King Cole) influences. Much more complicated than a simple case of the white man copping the black man's music. ... Was the beat of Berry's first single really "derived from Bill Haley and the Comets"? I'd always just assumed the borrowing went the other way. ... Bonus Bo-Skipper: Weinraub's first profile, of Bo Diddley, was drearier and more PC. If you saw Diddley open for The Clash in 1979, you don't think it's a mystery why "he has never enjoyed quite the success and recognition" of Chuck Berry or Little Richard." Diddley's set was fifteen seconds of excitement, and then an arrogant, crushingly tedious jam for half an hour. But even the Diddley profile had tidbits: Diddley inventing his famous beat after listening to a song by Gene Autry; Diddley these days spending his time listening "mostly to classical music" and repairing "hearses and vintage cars." ... 1:26 A.M.





Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" 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. The Liberal Death Star--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's MediaNews--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. Tom populists.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.