(For a news source that requires a username and password, use "thelofty" for both.)
(* means blog has been updated recently)
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
There's No Catch 22
U.N. inspectors in Iraq recent found missiles that have a range of more than 93 miles, banned by previous U.N. resolutions. First off, there's your "material breach" right there.
But Iraq says that it needs these missiles for defensive purposes against the aggression of the U.S. Do they not understand why the U.S. would be invading? If they give up the illegal weapons, the U.S. wouldn't have to invade. The U.S. is not trying to catch Saddam with his defensive pants down. The goal is not to clean him out so the fight will be easier. It's not that at all. It's a simple trade. You give up your illegal weapons, you don't get invaded.
I'm beginning to get concerned about our diplomatic standoff with Turkey. For one, Turkey is one of our most important allies in the region and must be retained as a friend above all else. We must not play hardball when the stakes so high. We cannot afford to push Turkey out of our important inner circle.
Second, I am planning to study abroad next fall in Istanbul and Ankara and both this diplomatic showdown and the fact that the timetable for war is getting pushed towards April does not bode well for my plans. The war is going to happen and it needs to happen soon. The last thing I want is to be in a country that is the base of operations for an attack on Iraq. Get it over and done with before August please.
But I digress. The Turks have some legitimate grievances considering that the last time there was a war between the U.S. and Iraq the Turkish economy took a nose dive and embittered the people against any future action after thousands of Kurdish refugees flooded into eastern Turkey. With the past weighing heavily in their minds, the citizens of Turkey are rightfully hesitant to repeat the economic and humanitarian catastrophe that accompanied the Gulf War.
In a survey from early January 83% of Turks did not think the U.S. should be allowed to use Turkey's bases for a war against Iraq. This is not simple anti-Americanism, for there is strong evidence that the Turks have a very favorable opinion of Americans.
For an admittedly very weak example of this, I point to the current issue of Sports Illustrated (yeah I know I'm the only dork who is actually reading the articles in this particular issue). "The Turks weren't eager to have W. use their bases, but don't take that personally; they'd be happy to have the rest of America take full advantage of their pristine beaches, frenzied discos and dollar-loving economy." The Turks are content to live the good life and let be what will be.
Before the Gulf War, Turkey was Iraq's largest trading partner. In the aftermath of sanctions Turkey has suffered. Estimates of Turkey's economic losses over the past decade reach upwards of $40 billion. Early predictions for a Gulf War II have put Turkey's losses at approximately $28 billion. A war would put Turkey in a financial holding pattern as the confusion and fast-paced developments of war would make investors hesitant to throw money at a potentially unstable region. As a consequence of this, if the U.S. is determined to go to war with Iraq and throw a wrench into Turkey's economic stability, it should certainly compensate Turkey for its losses.
The current disagreement on whether or not Turkey will allow American troops to launch an attack from its soil seems to come down to money. The U.S. has offered a substantial sum of around $26 billion. Turkey though, is holding out for $32 billion.
According to the Turkish Prime Minister, "the case here is not as simple as bargaining over dollars. We're talking about the restructuring of the region. How the situation there is going to play out; we have to assess all of this." What he means by that, of course, is how the liberation of Iraq will embolden the 12 million Turkish Kurds to join with their liberated ethnic kin in Iraq to push for an independent Kurdistan that would swallow a chunk of eastern Turkey if it existed. The Turks have worried about a Kurdish rebellion for decades and any change in the status quo of Iraqi Kurds would not be welcomed by Ankara.
For the well-being of Turkey's domestic security we almost need to give Ankara what it wants. Though Wunderkinder probably described the situation perfectly by comparing it to the negotiation that goes on at an Istanbul bazaar. It will all come together in the end, for Turkey wouldn't be foolish enough to lose out entirely, but some understanding of Turkey's qualms needs to occur before any agreeable settlement can be arrived at.
"It's hard not to feel conflicted about advising your government to seek approval from the generally spineless, cynical, and debilitatingly self-interested members of the U.N. Security Council. But in this case going back to the Security Council makes good tactical sense. For one thing, it gives the Blairs and Berlusconis of the world some measure of domestic political cover if it turns out we have to go to war without Security Council approval, which is why Blair and Berlusconi are so supportive of the idea in the first place. More importantly, though, it forces France to decide whether it's really going to undermine its lone remaining source of global influence by vetoing a Security Council resolution authorizing military action--the result of which would be to expose the United Nations as hopelessly irrelevant, since the United States will likely act militarily anyway. To put it another way, the problem the Bush administration faces as long as it doesn't return to the Security Council is that France gets a free pass: It can talk a big game about opposing the use of force without ever having to face the consequences. A second resolution solves that problem."
I couldn't have said it better myself. A second resolution is certainly not necessary given the "serious consequences" provision in 1441, but if it solidifies the support for Tony Blair and other allies that face unwilling domestic opposition then let's do it. Plus, anything that undermines French wimpiness has to be viewed as a good move by the U.S.
A few days ago Safire had a great column about the inconsistencies of the Security Council members when it comes to dealing with North Korea versus Iraq. Certainly the U.S. is partially to blame for the recent developments involving the Korean peninsula. The Bush administration has been so focused on Iraq that it is allowing the North Korean situation to get out of hand.
Every week North Korea announces another horrifically threatening development to its nuclear program. One day it's restarting an old reactor, the next it hints that it already has nuclear weapons. When those remarkable developments fail to earn more than a deflective remark from Rumsfeld, the North Koreans wonder what they have to do to get some attention. The Onion captured this perfectly.
"What does it take to get a few F-16s or naval warships deployed to the Yellow Sea?" North Korean president Kim Jong Il asked Monday. "In the past month and a half, we've expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors, withdrawn from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, restarted a mothballed nuclear complex capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, and threatened to resume missile tests. You'd think that would be enough to get a measly Marine division or two on standby in the Pacific, but apparently not."
In all seriousness though, the North Korean situation is a tough situation. We're dealing with a dictator with a similar standard for reasoning as Saddam Hussein, but equipped with weapons that prevent us from doing much about it. We're forced to rely on Cold War deterrance game theory in dealing with a megalomaniac who may or may not understand the full consequences of his posturing. That's dangerous.
North Korea is a threat that needs attention right now. The fact that the administration has waited so long and has done nothing is troublesome. To ignore the bravado of North Korea is a perilous bet to make. The Korean peninsula needs diplomatic attention and it needs it now.
What Safire points out though, is that while the U.S. has been quick to hush reports of the Korean threat and downplay the audacity of the Pyongyang regime, the rest of the world has also. While the French, Germans, Russians and seemingly the Chinese as well have cherished the opportunity to be a roadblock to action against Iraq, and have insisted on multilateralism at a minimum and unanimity as a nice standard, they have held the exact opposite stance in dealing with the North Korean threat.
"The clear message that the coalition of the unwilling sends Washington about North Korea, which confessed its secret nuclear buildup, then ejected U.N. inspectors just as Saddam did four years ago, is this: Go it alone, America. Korea's nukes and long-range missiles are your problem, not the world's. Hold bilateral talks as the Koreans insist, pay them off as you tried to do before and forget all we have been saying about multilateralism. You work it out with them alone; we'll hold your coat."
This is a glaring inconsistency and one that the U.S. should quickly make its "allies" aware of. They need to choose their principles. Multilateralism or America as world policeman? They can't have their cake and eat it too... except maybe the French.
Everyone agrees that North Korea is a threat and a very large one at that. Yet no one wants to touch it. They all want the U.S. to clean it up. Everyone agrees that Iraq is a threat. Yet no one wants to touch it. They all want the U.S. to leave it alone. There is no consistency. None.
Pass a resolution against North Korea and get tough to enforce it. Insist that if anyone should be a unilateral negotiator with North Korea, it should be China. The U.S. should be more than happy to lead the charge, but China must, must, play a key role. As for France and Russia, well, there's no oil contracts to save in North Korea. Oh well.
Is there any upshot to a Mosley-Braun presidential run? The only thing I can think of is that she will be the first African-American presidential candidate who has actually held elected office in the federal government. That could be good for African-American candidates in the future, for no matter how great Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are for society and civil rights across the country, no African-American candidate will have a legitimate chance of wide-spread appeal without an impressive resume that includes holding federal office. Unfortunately for Mosley-Braun, losing your senate seat will not do much to prove your worthiness for filling that candidacy void. Maybe in 2008 we'll get a worthy African-American candidate.
The New York Post doesn't tend to hold back in its editorial section too much, and this one about the anti-war protests is no different. While it is a bit strong, it is also exactly right.
"It's all too telling that none of the demonstrators carried posters calling for Saddam to prevent war. Which he could easily do by obeying each of the 17 U.N. resolutions aimed at his despicable regime, disarming and going into exile."
So true. Inspections don't work if Saddam won't let them work. Handing over a few pages of documents the I.A.E.A. has already seen before, or allowing your scientists to be interviewed, but only if they have a tape recorder with them so what they tell the inspectors can be monitored, or cleaning up a chemical weapons site days or hours before inspectors are to arrive are not signs of compliance. Saddam is only giving enough to keep feeding the French along so they will be his Security Council voice. As long as the French have something to show for their pacifist efforts, no matter how insignificant it is, they won't allow anything to disrupt their oil contracts humanitarian peace efforts.
The editorial, though, goes after the purpose of the anti-war argument and suggests some alternative protest slogans that, truthfully, are much more accurate:
"No interference with Saddam's torture chambers!
Let Saddam have the weapons he wants!
Death to Israel!
Crush the Kurds! Slaughter the Iraqi Shiites!
Poison gas, deadly germs and nuclear weapons for terrorist groups!"
The truth hurts sometimes. The activist Left used to be the segment of society that would be protecting these groups and protesting such callous acts of torture. Not anymore though, it seems. What happened?
What has happened to the activist Left? Back in the day they were all about protecting human rights abuses and taking down corrupt and oppressive dictators. They protested that the U.S. was not using a policy of "regime change" to remove systematic abusers of human rights. They complained that the U.S. was not doing enough to make the world better for every world citizen.
Now, though, the activist Left is doing exactly the opposite. It has moved away from being against fascism and institutional torture and blatant disregard for natural rights of man, to being staunchly anti-American and being so as its first, and seemingly its only, platform for protest.
Whatever the U.S. is doing, it must be wrong. Nevermind that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been senselessly tortured, imprisoned or killed under the rule of Saddam Hussein. That's just not as important when American power is such a great threat.
Nevermind that the French and Russians have a greater interest in Iraqi oil than we do. That's not important because no matter what, they will obstruct war. Whoever obstructs the U.S. the best is the activist Left's new hero.
Nevermind the fact that if the U.S. really wanted Iraqi oil it would end sanctions and cut a sweet deal with Saddam. Wait, the French already did that. But we must still be the bad guy.
Nevermind the fact that U.N. inspectors have been proven to be completely ineffective in their hide-and-seek charade, and virtually acknowledged as such by the pacifist French. What's their solution though? More inspectors! Hmm, they don't work... let's get more! We know Saddam is a step ahead of the inspectors, yet we should increase the institutionalism of such an ineffective system?
Nevermind our insisted ignorance of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons programs when we're searching for them, but if the evil U.S. were to attack, he would certainly use such weapons. We know he doesn't have them now so there shouldn't be a war, yet we know he'll use them if there is a war. So... wouldn't that mean he's lying? A slight inconsistency, no?
In general, the activist Left has been missing the boat in terms of what it should be protesting. The enemy is oppressive dicators. Always has been, always will be. If you want to protest against American abuses, protest against Ashcroft and the questionable detentions. Protest against our realpolitik support of fanatical time bombs like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Protest how we have ignored the dangerous posturing of North Korea. Protest how teenage girls in Cambodia have been forced from their textile manufacturing jobs and onto the streets to become prostitutes because of their new "labor rights." Wait, no, that was your doing. My mistake.
Read more about the lost focus of the activist Left here.