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Books

Terror and Liberalism

The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria

Polyarchy

Polyarchy by Robert Dahl

The Nazi Seizure of Power

The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen

Terror and Liberalism

Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

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The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

Archive


 

Uncle Osama

What would an invasion of Iraq do for Osama bin Laden? TomPaine.com has an idea.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 6:11:00 PM


Wednesday, September 25, 2002  

 

"Not So Invady"

The Onion speaks the truth yet again.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 5:01:00 PM



 

Oh No You Didn't!

Sen. Daschle took off the gloves today. In a speech on the senate floor, the majority leader declared himself outraged at the way the Bush administration is using the debate concerning Iraq to advance the causes of election year battles for GOP candidates. His comments seem to be in response to Bush's recent speech in which he put the blame on the senate for not pushing through the administration's Homeland Security bill in a timely fashion.
Daschle responded today with anger that Bush would try to make the issue of security a politicized issue. Daschle insinuated that Bush was trying to make Democrats look as if they were against security, while Republicans were somehow the torchbearers of security. Daschle found the comments to be insulting to Veterans who fought for the nation, not just for one party ideology. "You tell Senator Inouye [of Hawaii who lost an arm in WWII] he’s not interested in the security of the American people. You tell those who fought in Vietnam and World War II they’re not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous! Outrageous!”
While Daschle railed directly against Bush, other Democratic senators questioned the larger motives of the administration policy. My home state senator, Sen. Durbin of Illinois, perhaps put it best when he asked, “Is it regime change in Iraq or regime change in the Senate?” While this pithy little line is great for soundbites, is there truth to it? I think there is.
With the true debate about Iraq not picking up full steam within Congress and the administration until just recently, it seems difficult to believe that the timing of the Iraq resolution was not chosen in order to be a politicized issue. Such a tactic allows the administration to rally support for local candidates on one key issue that Americans will always give support to: the U.S. military and the power of America abroad. While other issues are pushed aside, such as the sluggish economy, corporate scandals and, oh yeah, finding Osama bin Laden, Iraq has been positioned as the main attraction for voters to decide their vote upon. This is not only unfair, for it seems to casts Democrats as against national security, its also untrue.
Both parties have an interest in the removal of Saddam Hussein. This should not be doubted. What they differ on is the method. Democratic criticism of war should not be seen as unpatriotic or weak, but prudent and reasonably cautious. A strong armed attack on Iraq would be foolish for American interests. Take some time, learn the consequences of a war. Learning the possibilities of action will help ensure successful action. To imply that prudence is weakness is what should be deemed unpatriotic. Don't make Iraq a partisan issue, its not.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 3:30:00 PM



 

Straight Talk

Why is it that only out of office politicians have the guts to say what really needs to be said?

Example A: Al Gore on the "war on terrorism" and Iraq.
Example B: Bob Kerry (though I can't find the link to his wonderful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal from a week ago).

The tough questions and the staunch opposition needs to come from those who hold the keys to the car. Congress needs to stop being Bush's yes-man and become a serious investigator of what is really in America's interests. Now.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 11:47:00 AM


Tuesday, September 24, 2002  

 

You Got Your Win, Now Fix It

The repairing of U.S.-German relations needs to begin now. Gerhard Schröder started this mess, now he needs to clean it up.

After squeezing by with the narrowest of wins, Schröder needs to rebuild his relations with both the U.S. and the U.N. Attacking and disregarding the authority of the U.N. is no way to get a perminent seat on the Security Council, which is what Germany covets. Likewise, to liken an American president to Hitler will do nothing to strengthen relations with what would seem to be Germany's most important ally. Furthermore, Schröder irked his fellow European Union leaders, including Jacques Chirac of France and Jose Maria Azner of Spain who sought to have a unified European policy towards Iraq which would strengthen the political standing of the evolving E.U.

All in all Schröder has a lot to fix. He needs to get started before Germany steals the title of "Most Ridiculous European Nation" from everybody's favorite laughing stock, France.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 5:06:00 PM


Monday, September 23, 2002  

 

The Problem With Words

Ever thought that "regime change" was an awfully convenient and convoluted term that circumvents what is really going on with U.S. policy towards Iraq? Josh Marshall does. In his post from yesterday (my birthday!) he writes about how the use of terms such as "regime change" play upon the spinability of the public and do not lend themselves to honest leadership.
He uses George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" to support his uncomfortableness of phraseology in today's political speech. "There is a tight connection between clear thinking and clear language. And clear thinking and clear speech are the beginning of, or at least the handmaidens of, honest thinking and honest speech."
While Marshall doesn't claim to think that "regime change" is the first, glaring fault line in American political language, for there have been hundreds before, this one is particularly instrumental in skewing the reality of the action behind the word.
Politicians shouldn't play upon the ignorance of the typical American. Honest speaking breeds honest thoughts. And honest thoughts will reward the nation with honest and upstanding actions. Let's stop the spin, and start speaking the truth.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 9:45:00 PM


Sunday, September 22, 2002  

 

What Is A "War On Terrorism"?

The American Prospect has a great article on the consequences of a "war on terrorism" and how such a war is nearly impossible to wage and win. In the article Stanley Hoffmann addresses how September 11 has been used as a turning point towards a previously unmentionable agenda for foreign affairs. In essence, September 11 opened a huge can of worms. Hoffmann addresses several areas including the changes in human rights policy, the time honored policy of deterrence that is being bypassed for the more aggressive tactic of pre-emption, and most importantly, how all these brash changes in American policy will effect our relations with others in the international community.
Concerning human rights, Hoffmann worries that they, "are no longer even an ornament of U.S. diplomacy." He worries that America's "war on terror" has given repressive states around the world reason to put down domestic opposition (China comes to mind) in the name of eliminating the threat of rogue terrorism. Similarly, having the eradication of terror as a first priority has pushed the Bush administration firmly behind the Likud government in Israel, forcing Bush to support whatever Israel deems to be "terrorism," and pushes the U.S. away from being a non-partisan negotiator for peace in the region. This will have lasting consequences for the American image abroad and will poison the minds of many Arabs who hoped for peace in their time.
Hoffmann also rails against the disregard for paradigm policies of peace. He worries about the new Bush doctrine of pre-emption and how it will effect the future of the world. After all, America sets the tone, and precedent is hard to break. Deterrence won the Cold War for us for a reason.

"Deterrence worked well against the Soviet Union, a much more potent and, at one point, malevolent adversary. If applied consistently, energetically and with the support of allies, deterrence could still work against Iraq. Replacing deterrence and collective humanitarian efforts with unilateral, preemptive intervention is a license for chaos."

Policy needs to be formulated in a museum of porcelain, not a firing range. It is a touchy thing to create. Brash unilateralism will have dangerous consequences. With power comes risk and to lessen that risk a nation must be careful and calculating in its assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. While the Bush administration understands that it has power, it has neglected the stronger, more convincing aspect of leadership: the art of diplomacy. Hoffmann writes,

"This "we don't need you" posture is very risky for the United States, insulting to others and mistakenly based on the premise that others can never really proceed without us. A superpower must take special care not to provoke the united resistance of lesser powers. But the Bush administration fails to appreciate the importance of what Harvard professor Joseph Nye calls America's "soft power" -- a power that emanates from the deep sympathies and vast hopes American society has inspired abroad."

This "soft power" is an incredibly important aspect of policy making and should be the greater of the two kinds of power. While the U.S. may be able to attack Iraq on its own, defeat the Iraqi army, overthrow Saddam Hussein, and secure the country for peace and democracy, doing so will have costs that are even beyond the scope of reasonable assumption. Allies may not be needed, but they are certainly essential to any lasting goodwill for America overseas. "Soft power" should not be disregarded.
Hoffmann finds that having a "war on terror" as the first and only real policy objective of an administration is incredibly dangerous. Having the threat of terrorism be the fuel for any and all action, both foreign and domestic, will be harmful for the civil liberties of Americans and detrimental to the taxed aura that the U.S. has across the globe.

"[O]ne year after 9-11, three things are clear: First, the war against terrorism cannot be the alpha and omega of a foreign policy; second, it cannot be waged by military means alone; and finally, even a state endowed with overwhelming superiority in all the ingredients of "hard" force cannot substitute that for eyes, ears and brains. Decisions based on dubious assumptions, overconfidence and intelligence reports risk ending in imprudence and fiasco."


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 9:08:00 PM