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Terror and Liberalism

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


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

In Association with

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck



Finish It Off?

The French and Russians are determined to destroy (subscription required) what's left of the U.N. After the war resolution fiasco in which the Security Council proved itself as ineffective in enforcing its will, it was thought that the proper role of the U.N. would become one of humanitarian organization in the face of crisis. Apparently though, even that worthy and necessary function is not immune from French and Russian stubbornness. It appears now that these two nations intend to uphold the sanctions that they had argued in recent years were the exact detriment to the Iraqi people that was causing their suffering. After years of lobbying their fellow Council members about the damage of multilateral sanctions, these two nations now feel that risking the remaining legitimacy of the U.N. is worth it in order to get a piece of the post-war, liberated Iraq that they had no part in freeing from tyranny.

"The U.N. sanctions can't be changed legally without the approval of the Security Council. And France and Russia -- which had previously argued for loosening sanctions on Mr. Hussein's regime -- now could use their council vetoes to try to keep the embargo intact, at least until Washington affords them a larger role in rebuilding Iraq."

This is sad, sick and possibly the most self-righteous and stubborn move these two European has-beens could have made. If they were so intent on helping the Iraqi people they would not foolishly prevent wealth from flowing into the country by reversing their position on the flawed policies of multilateral sanctions. The French and Russians had their chance to be a part of the coalition.

Instead they chose to cater to activists around the world who saw the protection of a dictator's power and his grip on his people as no one's business but his. Their arguments began with "Yes he's bad, but..." and from there they surrendered all of their argumentative legitimacy; a surrender carried out so well it could almost be confused with that of the various Iraqi Republican Guard divisions that folded like the cowboy deck of cards presented today by the Administration.

The French and Russian line was that peace was the only option and that all the wonderful objectives of a successful war would occur naturally if Hans Blix was allowed to blitz Iraq with his full abilities. Too bad he never would have managed to see this no matter how closely his inspectors looked.

When more cynical motives are attributed to these two peace-loving nations, it is clear that their new opposition to lifting the Iraqi embargo is based on selfish interests for a piece of the pie they did not bake:

"France and Russia hope to assert some influence over Iraqi oil sales, perhaps through a Security Council-authorized committee, at least until an independent Iraqi government takes power. Such an arrangement would prevent self-dealing by the victors, diplomats say, and make it more likely that French and Russian companies could take part in reconstruction."

So, it really is about oil after all. Though not so much for the evil, hawkish, cowboy Americans and their lap dog British accomplices, but for the eternally benevolent, peace loving historical targets of German military aggression. If the French and Russians were smart they would realize their place in international relations in the future lies not in acting as Lilliputians to the American Gulliver. No, the French and Russian place is to responsibly lead the humanitarian aspects of the now-depleated U.N. Either that, or join the coalition in the future.

Somehow I doubt that alternative.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 12:32:00 AM

Saturday, April 12, 2003  


Cowboy Props

The White House is becoming a saloon. Does everyone remember the "Bin Laden: Dead or Alive" posters that the Administration was so proud of back in the fall of 2001? Bush even thought up the idea when he thought back to his childhood when he pretended to be a cowboy. Well it seems that the old "shoot'em up" concept hasn't quite left him. Not only did he have such juvenile accessories as wild west Bin Laden posters, he also had a picture page of all of the top Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership on which he would put a big 'X' through their face when they were captured or killed. How mature. If only he were using a big red crayon, it would be perfect.

We don't see much of those posters anymore. The Administration has forced the national spotlight onto Iraq after realizing that maybe Bin Laden wouldn't just magically appear. He's still at large, but if you listen to the White House standard, he's no longer important. It sure seemed different on September 17, 2001 when Bush was so determined to have Bin Laden's head on a stake, but not so anymore. After seeing that capturing the big guy would be a logistical near-impossibility the Administration changed it tune and insisted that what really mattered was that the operations of Al-Qaeda were foiled. This is certainly more important than a physical capture, but with the mastermind still at large, the American psyche will never relax.

We will continue to get anxious when we ride to the elevator to the top of the Sears Tower, we will breath more cautiously when we step onto the subway, and we will suspiciously eye the solo-traveling, mid-twenties middle-eastern male when we travel on commercial flights. These apprehensions will not go away until the public knows Bin Laden is gone. Those posters are gone, but he's not. That's not the solution.

Continuing with the cowboy imagery however, today CentCom showed off its latest saloon prop: a deck of cards with the 52 most wanted Iraqi leaders. What's the purpose of this? I'm sure the journalists love it and think its the most novel idea ever created, but really, what will something like that really do for morale and security? They say the cards are to be given to the front line troops who may encounter these individuals. That's fine, though it's a bit worrisome that our soldiers don't know who they're after, but a gimmick like this, I think, detracts from the larger goal in Iraq. Six months from now, when Saddam is still unaccounted for, what will the administration say?

My guess: "Pay no attention to him. He's not important anymore. The people of Iraq are free. That is what matters. Now be a good American and focus on Assad."

This kind of control over our attention is dangerous. It leads us to believe that no matter how much the Administration fails to achieve its objectives, it was all intentional anyway. The Administration needs to escape the Saloon mentality. The rest of the world sees it and hates it, and we see right through it.

Put your cards and posters away. And please, no shot glasses with Bashar al-Assad on them in the future.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 4:13:00 PM

Friday, April 11, 2003  


History Repeats Itself: A Photographic Comparison

Surely the French haven't forgotten the sheer joy of this moment...

Or maybe they have, because they stood in opposition to this:

Maybe the Germans had forgotten how exilerating a sledgehammer swing is when you and the crowd of your countrymen around you know that each hit means you're one chunk of concrete away from freedom:

So why wouldn't they feel a common bond with this man?

The Hungarians know what it's like, they've seen totalitarianism up close, and took care of it in 1953...

Maybe that explains why they're in the coalition that freed Iraq so that this could happen:

We took the signs of oppression down then...

And we're still at it:

We used to be better at marching...

But we're just as good at liberating as before.

History does, indeed...

Repeat itself:

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 6:49:00 PM

Thursday, April 10, 2003  


The Oily Rebuilding

Oliver Willis is worried about the aftermath. He raises some very good points and reminds the Administration that Afghanistan is still in shambles. He sees the U.S. role in Iraq as immensely important to the future success and prosperity of the Iraqi people. He's absolutely right on these points. Where I disagree with him though, is what should be done with the vast Iraqi oil reserves.

Oliver says, "I think that the debt that Iraq has incurred over Saddam's leadership should be forgiven, and the various plans I'm reading that suggest oil dividends be divided amongst the people (a la Alaska) make sense." Dividing up the spoils of oil wealth? Bad idea. What's the incentive for Iraqi society to be productive and be the shining light in the Arab world? Subsidizing the Iraqi people won't spur Iraq for needed economic development, it will only engender a mindset of apathy, laziness and social stagnation.

To improve as a nation, the profits of Iraqi oil should be kept by the new government and used for massive rebuilding projects to make Iraq greater than it ever was before. State-of-the-art schools, universities, hospitals and roads should be the first priority. For an example of this type of system, look at Qatar. About a month ago 60 Minutes had a segment about the remarkable relationship between Arab government and 21st century technology in this tiny country. Qatar has vast resources of natural gas and the Emir has gone to great lengths to provide the best of everything to his people. He is currently in the process of building "Education City" which will include a branch of the Cornell University Medical School. The facilities will rival any American institution. Qatar is also home to al-Jazeera. Love it or hate it for its biased coverage, al-Jazeera is the first Arab news network that is not government controlled. It is a leading example of what Arab freedom can look like.

The Iraqi people deserve the highest quality services, educational institutions and health care. Putting the profits of oil in their hands will delay these ambitious plans for massive reconstruction for years. Oil money must provide for the people, not squander their vast opportunity by subsidizing laziness.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 8:40:00 PM

Wednesday, April 09, 2003  


Liberation and Looting

Today was a day that needs a slide show. Newfound freedom from tyranny must be an amazing feeling. Some of the people in these pictures are young enough to have never lived under a free government. Others have lived with liberty before and had to live in fear for over two decades under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, secretly hoping that one day they might again live free of torture and oppression. That day appears to be today. Call it "L-Day" for liberation, or call it "LL-Day" for the widespread looting that accompanied the freedom from oppression. Either way, the people of Iraq are free now, and it will be their voices that will control their destiny.

We'll forgive the spelling mistake. Hasty celebrations have that effect.

1989, Berlin? Nope. 2003, Baghdad.

Freedom never fell so good.

Iraqi men beat a statue of Saddam with their shoes. For Muslims, this is a sign of ultimate disrepect. Oh, and the statue is being dragged by a car. That's probably pretty disrepectful too I'm guessing.

Kisses all around.

Spread the love.

Have you seen a happier kid?

And then there was the looting. Apparently this type of behavior was even being encouraged by American and British troops when it concerned Saddam's palaces. This could be a major problem if there's nothing done about it soon, but for now let the redistribution of wealth take it's course.

You can't beat that smile.

This is what really matters. A pre-Gulf War Iraqi flag. It lacks the "Allah Akbar," or "God is Great" that Saddam added after that war. A free Iraq was born again. Hold that flag high, you deserve it.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 7:02:00 PM



I am having a hard time believing that this is a real article. The fact that an American soldier would say, "that looks awfully like the Taliban to me," when he sees a man on Iraqi state television wearing a turban is worrisome. I hope its just a terribly bad attempt at humor and not true ignorance shining through. Also, the movie selections that the soldiers find in the palace are highly suspect, for the irony of Saddam having "Hanoi Hilton" and "The Assassination of Trotsky" is just too much.

This article is something I'd expect to see in The Onion, not as an AP story in the New York Times, the Guardian and countless other decent publications. Please, someone tell me this is a fake.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 1:12:00 AM


Who Can Lie The Best?

He couldn't possibly be worse than Ari Fleischer.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 2:42:00 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2003  


No Dan Rather, You Won't See Him Again

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 12:38:00 AM


A Must Read

If you don't read anything else I link to, read this.

It's a wonderful piece about the Bush national security doctrine and how it has changed American policy from the Clinton era policy of "transitioning to democracy" to a more aggressive "imposition of democracyā€¯ plan. Ken Jowitt outlines perfectly how this new doctrine will effect the current conflicts of the world and what America can look forward to with it.

Go. Read.

(via Greg Wythe)

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 8:08:00 PM

Monday, April 07, 2003  


Goodbye Penguin

Jerry Krause has finally given up. After years of seeing his Bulls win championship after championship and never getting credit for it, Krause finally suceeded, in 1998, in breaking up the best professional basketball team in history by forcing the best player ever to retire, one of the greatest coaches to flee to his Montana ranch, and for the supporting cast of amazing players to scatter across the league.

In the footprints of the Jordan-Pippen-Jackson dynasty, Krause started out on his own. He brought in his Iowa State fishing buddy, Tim Floyd. He brought in the worst players in order to get the best draft pick. He got it, and drafted Elton Brand. This wasn't good enough. Krause needed his own, made-from-dust superstar. While Brand's 20 points and 10 boards a game was certainly All Star caliber, Krause was not satisfied. Instead, he drafted two high schoolers, both younger than I. This dynasty of youngsters has, of course, failed. With it has gone the aura of Chicago dominance in basketball that labeled the 1990's so well.

Thanks Jerry. You broke up the best team ever and replaced it with losers.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 5:34:00 PM



Well, this is disturbing.

"prosecutors used dubious tactics to force the men into a plea-bargain admitting guilt to lesser charges. According to The Wall Street Journal, they threatened the defendants with "enemy combatant" status - meaning they could have been turned over to the military, deprived of counsel, and held incommunicado indefinitely. In other words, the government said, convict yourself or we will strip you of your rights and you can rot in jail. That doesn't sound like respect for due process and trial by jury."

I've been uncomfortable with this "enemy combatant" label since the day the Administration started using it. It's hard to believe that these people can be denied all of the simple privileges provided by the Geneva Convention just because of the label that the Administration gives them. The Bush administration could have called them anything, and as long as the precise words weren't "prisoner of war," international law was deemed to be not applicable. Now, granted it seems that most all of the rights accorded to the prisoners, er, "combatants" are humane and just and likely what they would receive under the Convention, but the fact that they aren't assured is troubling.

I understand the reasoning behind giving the men captured in Afghanistan dubious status. Rarely in history has the enemy been of such vague allegiance. This enemy was not a state actor, it was a NGO of the evilest kind. It was a terrorist group with no real territory of its own, with agents in 60 nations around the world. The battlefield was undefined, the agents of this conflict were shady characters who were citizens of established nation-states but were not acting on behalf of their homeland. All of these things caused our label to be inadequate no matter what it was.

"Prisoner of War" would be too strong. That's reserved for state to state conflict, something I think we will rarely see again. The simple label of "criminal" would be far too weak. Those flying planes into national landmarks in a highly organized operation do not deserve the same status of those who are guilty of tax evasion.

So what should we call them? Frighteningly enough, "enemy combatant" might be the best there is. The problem with this term though, is that it is completely new and undefined. This wouldn't be entirely dangerous on its own except for the treatment the phrase has gotten from Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and others in the Administration who are determined to keep secrets and encroach on the Constitution. That's where the heart of the problem is. This Administration has taken its new phrase and has used its lack of precedence to define it in new and very dangerous ways.

The fact that law enforcement officials are using this term to threaten those in custody is the first step towards 1984. The term is so vague, and, as it stands now, backed up with a trip to military detention for an undetermined period of time, that it is beginning to develop the same psychological responses that more conventional forms of torture would bring out. It has become a weapon of torture for a torture-free justice system.

Such threats are dangerous to the framework of our society and harmful to the American image abroad. What's truly disturbing about this case is that the prosecutors involved are not being fired, scorned or even scolded. This seems to have become standard practice. For a nation founded on the principles of liberty, freedom and individual rights, tactics like this are dispicable. If activists want something to scream about, scream about this.

(via Instapundit)

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 4:45:00 PM