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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
Inexplicably, American forces moved through Baghdad today. They faced little opposition as they paraded in and out of the heart of the city. Centcom says it was largely a psychological move:
"I think that it was very clear to the people of Baghdad that coalition forces were in the city. That image is important. Being in the daytime was a very clear statement to the Iraqi regime as well that we can move at times and places of our choosing, even into their capital city."
This seems dangerous to me. Not so much for our personnel, but for the safety of the citizens of Baghdad. They see our tanks roll down their massive boulevards and probably think that they have been liberated and can freely speak out against Saddam. Little do they know though, that just as quickly as we came in, we were going to be leaving. I think this was a risky move from a humanitarian aspect. Granted, it showed Saddam and his crumbling regime, not to mention international naysayers, that the U.S. is on the brink of ending this conflict with victory, but it risked the loyalties of all those who saw this bold display.
I hope the venture pays off in the end and proves just how ineffective the regime has become. It certainly could do wonders if we could back it up with legitimate control over those regions of Baghdad that we paraded through. Creating an "image" is certainly crucial in this age of warfare where propaganda reigns, but fascades are dangerous if they have nothing behind them.
We've proven we can move at will, now let's prove we have the will to stay and secure.
The caption on this Yahoo photo says that the Royal Marines lost 9-3 in this pickup soccer game with local Iraqis near Basra. 9-3! It's a shame for Iraq that its national sports teams have suffered during the Hussein regime.
"Iraq, once an Asian sports force that sent 46 athletes to the 1980 Summer Olympics, now rivals Liechtenstein in terms of athletic insignificance. Iraq sent just four athletes to the 2000 Games in Sydney."
Perhaps some day soon Iraq will again have a viable national soccer team. Maybe then they can take their 9-3 win and stick it to Becks and the rest of the English national team.
The Washington Post has a great article today about Tony Blair. As you might notice, I'm a big fan of the British Prime Minister. Blair understands the "vision thing" that Bush sorely misses.
Blair's vision for the world is a broad, ambitious Third Way route that encompasses strong morality, the spread of liberalism and the coaxing of democratic reform as a way to better the world. It is good to see that in a politically divided world, Blair can maintain his vision for such a benevolent world. He has become the guiding light for liberalism. Thanks Tony.
Najaf has been liberated and the people are grateful. So grateful in fact, that the crowds of celebration have slowed coalition forces from advancing. As American forces attempted to contact local clerics at the holy Muslim site where the son-in-law of Muhammad is buried, one American commander said the scene "was like the liberation of Paris."
This seems like a bad call by what's left of the Iraqi regime. Al-Jazeera is playing a huge part in the propoganda war for the Iraqi regime and is providing all the biased coverage that the Arab world loves to see. From wounded Iraqi toddlers to American POW's, Al-Jazeera provides all of the coverage that will instill rage in viewers from Cairo to Islamabad. The station provides a critical outlet for Iraqi propoganda and is not hesitant to show the most graphic images of the dead. Al-Jazeera was keeping the Iraqi regime in the game for the war of opinion across the globe.
Al-Jazeera has given Saddam, or whoever now rules Iraq in his name, a priceless propoganda machine. It has been the mouthpiece of that regime, much like how the "We distort, you decide" reporting of Fox News has been the neocon mouthpiece for the Bush administration. Oliver Willis was right to compare the two, for Fox News is hardly balanced. The Fox News idea of fair and balanced is to have a panel of Bill Kristol, Lawrence Kudlow and Robert Novak square off against a "representative liberal" like David Corn. Can you guess who wins every debate? Can you guess who ends up making the Left sound ridiculous, especially when prodded by Tony Snow?
Al-Jazeera is to the Arab world what Fox News is to Republicans. They both give them exactly what they want to hear. It was unwise for Saddam to stifle his only voice.
Finally. Powell went to Turkey today and actually got something done. While it's too late for Turkey to accept American troops for a strong northern front, the fact that Turkey has eased up on its strong, and seemingly foolish, stance to stand up to the U.S. and attempt to carry out its own parallel Iraq War with the Kurds is a good sign that a little face to face diplomacy can go a long way.
This seems to be a skill that the Bush Administration doesn't grasp as important. When the diplomatic wrangling of a possible second U.N. resolution was being hashed out, the French foreign minister personally travelled to the three African nations who held crucial votes on the Security Council. Those same countries got a mere phone call from Bush during the same period. It is no wonder then that the resolution attempt failed. Had Bush sent Powell or Rice or heck, even Cheney or Rumsfeld, it is likely there would have at least been a vote on the resolution, not to mention a successful binding second resolution. This would have given Blair, Anzar (Spain), and Berlusconi (Italy), and other countless world leaders the political cover to strongly join the coalition.
But no. Instead, the administration half-heartedly counted on nations to feel pressured by the power of America in order to get them to jump on board. This was a big mistake. Bush and company over-valued American influence and figured that a limp phone call would do the trick. They were sorely mistaken and the coalition was left with just three anglo-speaking nations for its fighting force. Not exactly a broad coaltion in terms of fighting force.
Had Bush gone the extra step to secure support through face to face diplomacy, world opinion would not be nearly as bitter. It only takes a little, as Powell demonstrated today. It's too bad he hadn't made that trip to Ankara a month ago. The Turks would have been grateful. So would the world.
The Cubs are undefeated. Winning percentage of 1.000. Zero losses.
I just had to say that while I could. As a Cubs fan those words are rare, even for Opening Day. The northsiders looked good in their 15-2 rout of the Mets on monday. Let's hope it can continue. And let's hope that Corey Patterson's current home run pace continues and tops out at 324 by season's end. Hey, it could happen. Though I think the Cubs might be jinxing themselves with an article like this.
The following is a campaign strategy for Dick Gephardt that I wrote for one of my political science classes, but much of it would apply to any of the Democratic presidential candidates. Except for some of the electoral math, most of the ideas are broad enough that any of the candidates would benefit from them. Please let me know what you think:
In the 2004 presidential election, Dick Gephardt must prove himself to be a leader more capable than the President on the foreign policy issues of the day, while also attacking his stewardship of the domestic economy by highlighting the decline in prosperity that has marred President Bush’s term. He must learn from the mistakes of former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential bid and use them to further his campaign refreshing and energetic ways. Gephardt must show that his years in Congress have made him a more capable national leader, not just another Washington insider. Above all, he must show America that it has suffered, and done so unnecessarily during the Bush presidency under an ambitious yet potentially dangerous shift in foreign policy and through economic leadership that has squandered the prosperity that America enjoyed in the decade prior.
The most overriding issue of the 2004 campaign will undoubtedly be terrorism. Since September 11, America has realized that the vast oceans that defined its borders no longer ensure its security. Prior to September 11, voters saw foreign policy as a realm of government that was largely inconsequential to their day-to-day lives. On that day however, America realized that its international character was deeply woven with its domestic well-being and prosperity. Terrorism became the tool of the downtrodden to lash out at the seemingly invincible American superpower where it hurt the most.
President Bush responded to this new threat with toughness and a vision to make America safe from “evildoers.” He went after the product of terrorism when he went after the Taliban in Afghanistan, but he left the root cause of terrorism unresolved. As America prepared to attack Iraq, Bush was assailed by war skeptics who foresaw a new generation of terrorists arising from such an aggressive, pseudo-imperialist attack against a Muslim nation. Critics saw the new policy of preemption as dangerous to the international order and viewed the methods of diplomacy employed by the Bush administration as sorely lacking in substance.
It is in the wake of these attacks that candidate Gephardt must remake the American image abroad to one that acknowledges the socio-economic stratification, religious devotion and distain for outsiders that is prevalent in many Middle Eastern nations. These are the fundamental causes of the terrorism that has led to the insecurity of the American people. Gephardt must show that the threats from abroad can be dealt with through a thorough understanding of the nature of the threat posed by Islamist terrorism. He therefore must propose a foreign policy doctrine that seeks to encompass not alienate, engage not embitter. It must be a solution to terrorism that calls for greater cultural exchange and economic liberalism. Only by getting to the root of terrorism will it be defeated for good.
To make this message more relevant in the minds of American voters, Gephardt must stress the importance of a strong Department of Homeland Security. He must attack the woefully inadequate funding proposed by the Bush administration and illustrate this dangerous gap as a threat to the American people that must be immediately attended to. In doing this, Bush can be portrayed as partially unresponsive to the needs of domestic security and can be thrown on the defensive, while at the same time Gephardt can flank the President on the vital issue of national security by pointing out the area that most affects the voters. Gephardt should make homeland security his own and should talk about it frequently so voters identify their domestic security interests with him, not the President. By doing this he will prove he is “more vigilant than the president” on guarding America and will be able to effectively neutralize one of the President’s strongest campaign strengths.
To accomplish this ambitious change in foreign policy and its applications for the domestic security agenda, Gephardt must pledge to rebuild alliances that were disregarded by the Bush administration in the rush to attack Iraq. Gephardt must prove himself as a capable and thoughtful statesman who understands the art of diplomacy, a skill much coveted by the American people, but one that the Bush administration fails to fully grasp. He must portray himself as a uniter who will rebuild the tattered international relationships left by George W. Bush.
However, while he must vow to rebuild bridges with America’s allies, Gephardt must show that American influence will remain the dominant and leading force in the world, but that its power can be exerted with tact and meaningful collaboration: “U.S. foreign policy must focus first and foremost on protecting U.S. security interests, engaging the world to advance those interests, and using our influence to broaden the community of nations that share our values and aspirations.” In facing Bush, Gephardt must show that American foreign policy during the past four years has done nothing to gain the favor of the international community, but has instead only worsened the American image abroad. Gephardt must pledge to work with other world leaders for the advancement of American interests. In the vision projected by candidate Gephardt, America must be a strong, gentle giant, not an international bully who tactlessly forces his will on others. Gephardt’s vision must include nation-building for the people freed from the grip of oppression in Afghanistan and Iraq. This determination to clean up the messes we started will gain America broad favor from nations and peoples around the world.
As the new threat of terrorism has forced foreign and domestic policy to coincide, America’s dependency on foreign oil must become a central issue to the Gephardt campaign strategy. Gephardt must promote his plan for energy independence, his “Apollo Project,” as a path to domestic security through environmentally positive means: “As President I will set this goal: In 10 years we will be independent of foreign oil in this country.” This plan is very ambitious and would likely fall short of its goal, but as a campaign mantra its lofty, bright vision of the future could bring voters to Gephardt who admire his aspiration to solve problems.
The “Apollo Project,” named for the program started by President Kennedy to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, could effectively solve two problems with one beneficent campaign message. It could jumpstart a search for new, reliable sources of energy in the form of solar, wind or hydro power. With the pace of today’s technology such a dream is certainly within reach. The result of these new energy sources would be a diminished role for oil, but foreign oil in particular. Since 1970 four out of five domestic economic recessions have been traced to an oil supply shock and its subsequent price increase. In addition to a newfound economic freedom, non-dependency on foreign oil would be a boon to American Middle East policy and would allow our foreign agenda a freer hand in pressuring states such as Saudi Arabia to respect universal human rights. America would be free from the blackmail of corrupt regimes and would be able to crack down on the states that serve as incubators for future terrorism. In this way, the “Apollo Project” would accomplish a much desired foreign policy initiative, while also doing wonders for the environment. With these dynamic components for progress, such a vision should be a highlight of the Gephardt campaign and should be a talking point in confronting the Bush/Cheney oil administration. While past attempts to make the environment a presidential issue have failed to gain much ground, this initiative, when linked to foreign oil and thus to American economic and national security interests, could be a lucrative vehicle for advancing a cleaner and safer vision of America for the voting public.
While much of the campaign will inevitably focus on the foreign agenda and domestic security issues, it will be up to Gephardt to make Bush’s horrendous handling of fiscal policy a very public issue in the general election. Gephardt must show how damaging the Bush tax cuts were for the individual voter and for America as a whole. By doing this, Gephardt will have the difficult task of demonstrating during an election why he plans to ask taxpayers for more money.
Gephardt must demonstrate that a tax cut is both ill timed and socially unfair. In order to portray a hike in taxes as beneficial to society, phrases such as “investing in America” should be inserted as talking points in nearly every stump speech. Gephardt must speak of the programs that would benefit from greater funding such as Social Security, universal healthcare, low-income welfare assistance and prescription drugs for seniors. These programs must be the highlight of the attack on the tax cut instead of a direct and complicated assault on the economics of such a tax reduction. Other than alluding to the nonsensical nature of a tax cut during wartime, the attack on Bush’s economic agenda should focus on all of the programs that would be unavailable with a diminished government budget constraint.
The Gephardt campaign must make the recession that plagued the Bush administration deeply identified with George W. Bush. Gephardt should make frequent references to the poor stewardship of the economy by Bush, regardless of his actual ability to control what the stock market did. In 2000, Al Gore failed to tie himself to the strong economy that he had presided over as Vice President, and many observers suggest that this was, in part, a cause of his narrow defeat. Gephardt must do the opposite of Mayhew’s “credit claiming” and use “credit labeling” to tie Bush to the poor state of the economy in the minds of the voters. The truth of whether Bush had much control over the economy is negligible, for all that is really needed is a negative association in the voter’s mind between George W. Bush and the struggling economy in order to cast enough doubt on Bush to tip the scales in Gephardt’s favor.
Gephardt must emphasize how his plan would spur the economy through tax breaks for those who need it, not those in the upper stratum of the population. Capitalizing on the failed Reagan era economic policy of “trickle-down economics,” Gephardt has sagely revised the phrase to “trickle-up economics,” to demonstrate his concern for the lowest income earners. This phrase will be important for instilling in voters’ minds the notion that Gephardt is running for regular Americans. This image will be important when it comes to identifying the Gephardt campaign with the little guy, in comparison to the Bush administration and its strong support from big business.
In 2004, public image will again be important, and Gephardt must be comfortable in every situation he is in and be personable above all else. One of Al Gore’s biggest faults was his tendency to look stiff and stuffy. When he did attempt to lighten up, be it through wardrobe changes or jokes, his effort often came off as rehearsed and thus, insincere. This may be one of Gephardt’s largest obstacles as well. A quick glance suggests he has many of the same personality traits as Al Gore which, while certainly a plus when it comes to articulating sound argument, may prevent voters from snuggling up to Gephardt and his platform.
Another lesson to be learned from 2000 was that a good candidate must be consistent in his convictions and clear in his message. In 2000, voters tended to view Gore as “a candidate who said what people wanted to hear, rather than what he really believed.” In contrast to Gore, Gephardt must define his beliefs and stick to them. While he may want to aim certain policy objectives to certain audiences (e.g. prescription drug plan to seniors and homeland security to urban groups), his overall message must be perceived as genuine and strong.
When it finally comes down to the vote, the Gephardt campaign would be wise to focus its attention in several key states. Using the 2000 results as a guide, it is clear that about a dozen states will be truly up for grabs. In that election, there were 18 states in which the vote differential was less than 7%. There were even five states, Oregon, New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin and Florida in which the percent difference between the two candidates was less than 1%. In fact, a mere 17,000 votes across those five states would have tipped the scales for each. For the 2004 Gephardt/Bush election there will be ten states on which the contest will hang. In addition to the five mentioned above, Nevada, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire will also be crucial battleground states. With these ten states unassigned to either candidate, both Gephardt and Bush are left with 211 electoral votes. Since 2000, the states that represented Bush’s 271 electoral votes have grown to represent 278 votes, making the contest all the more challenging for Gephardt.
In Nevada, Gephardt would be wise to look for support from the growing suburban population around Las Vegas. As one of the fastest growing major cities in America, Las Vegas could make Nevada a key state for Democrats, if not in 2004. In Oregon, Gephardt should campaign on is new, environmentally conscious energy plan in order to keep the state from jettisoning to the Republican candidate for the first time since 1984. In New Mexico Gephardt should focus on the energy crisis in the southwest and not be afraid to suggest greater nuclear power as a viable alternative. Minnesota and Wisconsin both went to Gore in 2000, but were incredibly close, which leaves Gephardt having to defend these substantial electoral votes rather than go on the offensive to take states won by Bush in 2000. Gephardt would be wise to emphasize his domestic issues in these states, where catastrophic terrorism is far less likely. In Iowa, Gephardt should be able to relate much better than Bush to the concerns of his fellow Midwesterners. Iowa and Missouri have many of the same agricultural interests and having the Democratic candidate hailing from next door couldn’t hurt. The fact that Gephardt is from Missouri is a critical electoral boon for him, for it will result in a net swing of 22 electoral votes. Ohio and Pennsylvania will be among the big targets for both candidates. Gephardt would be wise to focus on his tough stand on terrorism and his determination to change American foreign policy back to strong benevolence when he is in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. His union connections will be beneficial in cities like these, and will serve as a strong vehicle for increasing turnout in cities, where Democrats thrive. If either candidate could capture both of these states, it would be nearly impossible for him to lose. New Hampshire was won by Bush in 2000 and is sure to be a close race once again, but its four electoral votes leave it as a campaign afterthought.
The big prize state in 2004 though, will once again be Florida. With an extra two electoral votes this time around, Florida will play a huge role in the 2004 election. In a straight battle between Bush and Gephardt though, Gephardt would likely come up short. Therefore, when choosing a Vice Presidential candidate, Gephardt would be wise to select his Primary opponent, Senator Bob Graham. Graham is wildly popular with the Florida media and his constituents, and his experience in the executive branch as Florida’s governor will undoubtedly serve the ticket well. With a Gephardt-Graham ticket, Florida would likely fall into the Gephardt column and could ultimately tip the scales for the Democrat. Gephardt would be wise to stress his prescription drug and Social Security plans to Florida’s aging population. Also, with Graham’s strong terrorism-fighting credentials, the Democratic ticket would be well situated to capture much of the undecided political center.
The topics of the 2004 election will be dominated by the security of the American people. In the aftermath of the war against Iraq, Gephardt will struggle against a president who will likely have high job approval ratings. It will be his task then, to focus the attention of the American public on the domestic concerns that have been ignored and to address the gaps and dangers in the President’s aggressive new foreign policy. In doing this, Gephardt must prove himself stronger than the President when it comes to protecting the American people at home. He must outline a doctrine for international relations that will recognize the new threats of the 21st century without surrendering the ideals that kept the Atlantic alliance intact for so many years. He must take the ambitious initiative to strive for a revolution in energy consumption, to both free America from Middle Eastern oil and to create a cleaner, healthier environment for our future. Gephardt will also have to show that the sputter of the economy is not a sign of sound fiscal policy but rather the projection of an impending economic imbroglio.
Gephardt must focus the attention of the American public on the flaws of the Bush style of governance and embed his vision for a revived America in the conscience of every citizen. With a strong execution of this strategy, the man from St. Louis could well lead America through a new Gateway Arch to a new, refreshing century of progress and renewed prosperity.
It's from last week's Time, but I just can't resist well articulated political prose. Andrew Sullivan hit the nail on the head about Tony Blair with this stunning piece about the British Prime Minister. Sullivan explains how Blair's strong endorsement of the war has made it incredibly more legitimate. Blair softens the American hawks' arguments and can deliver them with tact to those on the fence. Blair has become an indispensable ally. Clinton knew this. Now Bush is seeing it as well.
"In some ways, Blair is the prime minister Americans long for, the foil to a president with great strengths but some obvious limitations. Where Bush is formally eloquent but informally brusque, Blair speaks extemporaneously like a skilled prosecutor, nailing down debating points with a parliamentary skill no former governor of Texas has ever been required to master. Where Bush is instinctually a believer in American power, Blair understands the dynamics of a Europe increasingly bound together by a web of pooled sovereignty, a reliance on "soft" economic power, and an acquired aversion to conflict and risk. While Bush is a conservative, Blair is an old-style liberal, in the mould of Britain's great nineteenth century imperialist prime minister, William Gladstone. Bush is eager to engage the world in order to deter and defeat evil. Blair is a man who looks at the troubled globe and sees also an opportunity to do good."
If Britain doesn't want him, I'm sure we could make a nice little exception in our Constitution for President Blair.