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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Stop While You're Ahead
The evidence is there. Iraq is guilty, there's no doubt about that. Powell made possibly the most convincing case possible for why Saddam's evil regime must be toppled and destroyed. He gave evidence of the ineffectiveness of the inspections game, which undercuts the appeals by France and Russia that inspections continue indefinately. Inspections are futile, plain and simple. If the Iraqis know where the inspectors are going next, and know what they are looking for days before their arrival, what is the use in playing along?
The evidence of Iraq's secret chemical and biological weapons programs should be plenty to initiate a coalition force against Saddam's regime. This alone should be cause. The case was made right then and there. Powell should have ended right there and we could all have gone home and prepared for war.
Instead, he launched into the tired accusation of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. I was almost hoping that there would be some concrete, justifiable evidence of a real link between the two, but all that was presented was a very weak association between a few isolated Iraqi intelligence operatives and a handful of geographically lost "freedom fighters." What makes this accusation all the more misleading is that, while these Al Qaeda members are technically in Iraq, they are in a region not controlled by Saddam!
"Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq, but Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq."
He controls it? Really? Saddam has struggled against the Kurdish populations of the north for control of that area ever since the end of the Gulf War. The region is even unofficially referred to as Kurdistan. It is not controlled by Saddam, and certainly could not be controlled by a single Baghdad henchman.
Also, Powell tried to counter the claim, which I have repeatedly pushed, that Saddam's secular Arab nationalism and Al Qaeda's militant Islamic fundamentalism are incompatible and never would associate.
"Some believe — some claim these contacts do not amount to much. They say Saddam Hussein's secular tyranny and Al Qaeda's religious tyranny do not mix. I am not comforted by this thought. Ambition and hatred are enough to bring Iraq and Al Qaeda together, enough so Al Qaeda could learn how to build more sophisticated bombs and learn how to forge documents; and enough so that Al Qaeda could turn to Iraq for help in acquiring expertise on weapons of mass destruction."
"Ambition and hatred" are enough? When did we give up on seeing the nuances of our enemies? These two evils are as opposite as night and day or black and white. The case for this link will not be enough when the evidence rests on the principle that "a mutual enemy makes for friendship." It is not that simple.
As Saddam's armies marched into Kuwait and began to turn their sights on Saudi Arabia back in 1990, Osama bin Laden actually offered his services, and the arms that backed him, the Mujahideen, to the House of Saud as protectors of the Arabian peninsula against the aggressive, Sunni nationalist of Baghdad. Let me say that again to make it perfectly clear: bin Laden offered to fight against Saddam. His offerer was, of course, rejected by the Royal family and American troops were subsequently brought in to protect Saudi Arabia.
These two groups hate each other. They are motivated by completely different ideological reasonings and want little to do with each other. They are of different Islamic faiths, see America as an evil for immensely divergent reasons, and have entirely different organizational structures that would prevent each from aspiring to interact with the other. Sunni versus Shiite. America as hindrance to regional dominance versus America as infidel. Established state tyranny versus dispersed cell-based terror.
The inclusion of this very weak and highly questionable "evidence" of an Iraqi-Al Qaeda link in the case for war goes toward delegitimizing the entire argument. The association is weak, and should not have been pushed into an otherwise flawless and thoroughly convincing presentation. The evidence against Iraq exists. Iraq and Al Qaeda are two very different evils. To force a connection and insist on all evil being uniform is a dangerous and troubling assumption to make.
"The most fiscally irresponsible administration in history," says Tom Dashle. He may be right. Today when I read about Bush's proposed budget, I couldn't help but wonder if the administration employed any economists. Even the Wall Street Journal seemed amazed (subscription required) at the audacity of this administration to cause problems now and hope they don't show up again later.
From the What's News section:
"Bush proposed a $2.23 trillion budget heavily tilted towards defense."
While the military did suffered a bit during the Clinton years, and there is certainly a need to atune our forces to today's zeitgeist of international affairs, it worries me that this administration feels the need to increase defense spending simply on principle. If we need it, fine. If we don't, don't do it just because.
"The plan, which features $1.3 trillion in new or accelerated tax cuts and proposals to overhaul or cut big social programs, projects a $307.4 billion deficit and sees such shortfalls continuing at least until fiscal 2007."
This tax cut plan was a bad idea to start with and will likely have little impact on the economy. It is generally agreed that no matter how much tinkering a president does fiscally, the economy will do what it wants and will rebound when it feels good and ready. That said, a tax cut will do nothing more than put the federal government back in the hole, and at the cost of vital social programs that the lower classes of America desparately need.
"The Pentagon gets $380 billion, or 4% more, which doesn't cover costs of an Iraq war or subsequent occupation."
Where exactly does this money go to if not towards the costs associated with Iraq? It seems that the costs of the impending war and the years and years of occupation should be the only real reason to increase military spending. The fact that those costs aren't a part of this hike is worrisome. We all know the administration doesn't want to appear to be jumping the gun on the Iraq saga, but let's be real: its going to happen, and we shouldn't pretend like its not. Ignoring those costs will only make things worse later. That seems to be how this administration thinks though. Spend now, don't worry about it later. Credit card companies would love this administration.
"Homeland security's budget will rise, but not for airport screening, the new department's most visible presence."
This department was a bad idea to begin with, and not funding it only makes the in-born problems even worse. This department was handcuffed from the beginning when the CIA and FBI insisted on remaining independent. If those two aren't included, nothing should be. If the administration really wants the department's detractors to get on board, it should make the public face of it the most productive and effective organ of the federal government. At this point Homeland Security needs to at least work on its public image, even if it doesn't have the bite to back up the bark.
"Cash-strapped states will find little to cheer."
This is possibly the most detrimental part of the budget proposal. Across the country more than half of the state houses are struggling to balance their under-funded budgets. States are having to choose between crucial programs that are vital to the everyday needs of citizens. Governors like Illinois' Rod Blagojevich have come into office and have been set up to be the bad guy since they have inherited the unenviable job of choosing which after-school education program, or medical insurance program to cut. States shouldn't be suffering like this when the federal government has the ability to ease the amount of red ink. Instead of a massive tax cut that will not be effective, give the money to the cash-starved states so they can fulfill the needs of their people.
This budget proposal seems like it was written by an uneducated conservative with no experience with basic macroeconomics principles. It sounds to me like the administration needs Professor Melick back again.