Monday, November 22, 2004
Proceeding Onward to a Nuclear Iran
This is scary.
The agreement that France, Germany and Britain reached with Iran this week signals that the diplomatic option of dealing with Iran's nuclear weapons program no longer exists.As Caroline Glick points out, this removes the diplomatic option from the table, leaving the military option as the only one available. (I'm reminded of a John Kennedy quote: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Europe cannot prevent American military missions; but Europe can stand in the way of diplomatic efforts. By doing so, they are ensuring that military force will be used instead of diplomacy.)
The Weekly Standard this week explained that light water reactor fuel of the type that the Europeans have agreed to give Iran can be used to produce bomb material within nine weeks. Since the IAEA inspectors only visit Iran every three months, it would be a simple matter to divert enough light water fuel to produce a bomb between inspections. And so, the agreement itself holds the promise of direct European assistance to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
On the plus side, Iran is, at press time, making encouraging noises. But I can't trust that. The Iranians were eager enough to appear bellicose before the U.S. Presidential elections, when they had no allies on their side. With France, Germany, and Britian on board, the Iranians can proceed ahead with confidence... and change their tune when it suits them to do so, just as the North Koreans did.
I find myself wishing that the British will come to their senses; surely they have nothing whatever to gain from a nuclear-armed Iran, nor from endangering their strong friendship with the United States. But I'm not counting on it:
Contrasting with the US hard line, the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he could imagine "no circumstances, full stop" for taking military action against the Iranians.Besides, as an Israeli, I have my own reasons for mistrusting British foreign policy.
It's popular, in certain circles, to predict an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear capabilities. (Israel has a vested interest in preventing the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, since Israel would likely be the first target of such weapons. Further, Israel has the capability, thanks to newly-purchased F-16Is and "bunker-buster" bombs. Finally, an Israeli attack provides the United States with "deniability", should such a thing be necessary... and certainly the Israeli government doesn't need to worry about justifying such an attack to Israeli citizens. Israel has been through this before.)
That answer raises its own questions, of course. How would such an option affect the already-strained American-European relations? Would Israel resent being used as America's covert attack dog?
But surely, the top priority now must not be the future diplomatic fallout. We have to protect ourselves from more lethal forms of fallout, after all.
Daniel in Brookline
UPDATE: Iran and North Korea get mentioned in the same breath a lot these days, it seems. But the news from North Korea is more encouraging. First pamphlets appear, criticizing Kim-Jong Il (likely for the first time ever)!; then newspapers stop referring to him as "Beloved Leader"; and now his pictures are disappearing from state facilities. Such Little Things tries to put the pieces together.
I don't know if I believe it yet. But I want to.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Credibility on Defense: Where Have The Democrats Gone?
I just read an excellent article by Michael Totten; interesting, thought-provoking, not particularly controversial. Have a look.
The basic question is: why are Democratic candidates no longer seen as credible in security matters?
In quoting a Washington Monthly article at length, and commenting on it, Totten raises some serious points -- such as why, no longer comfortable to call himself a Democrat, he is forced to accept the label 'neoconservative'... and why the growing numbers of such people should alarm the Democratic Party, but doesn't seem to do so, more's the pity. (To which I can only add: amen, brother! I never voted Republican in my life before 2004.)
I think he's right on-target in describing what motivates Democrats to public service these days, and why such motivations often don't include knowledge of (or background in) security matters.
I have just one beef. The article ends with the thought that Democrats, unlike Republicans, don't have serious security-minded think tanks to generate policy. Uh, okay, I'll buy that... but how about dealing with the problem at the source? Why are so few Democrats volunteering for military service? It was no accident that, by some accounts, close to 80% of active-duty American military personnel voted for George W. Bush in 2004.
This is self-reinforcing. Republicans see the military in a more positive light than Democrats do, and thus are more likely to serve. And soldiers that perceive greater support from a Republican administration will tend to vote Republican. Given that the current conflict is likely to last a long time, I'd think the Democrats would be worried about this.
With any luck, the Democratic Party will take a long, hard look, over the next several years, at the 20% (or so) in uniform that did vote their way in 2004. Some of them will go into public service... and might stay with the Democrats, if they're not pushed away.
And perhaps, just perhaps, those Democrats who don't trust the military will find time to re-think their positions. They might find that people who serve aren't so crazy, after all.
Daniel in Brookline
The news media (and the Blogosphere) are debating, endlessly, about the recent case of a U.S. Marine, in Fallujah, who shot an enemy combatant under questionable circumstances.
Personally, I think it's nonsense, and there's little point in talking about it. (Why? Because the Marine has already been removed from combat operations, and will have to answer for his actions before his superiors. There will be an investigation. All this is as it should be... and until this process completes, there's nothing more to be learned about it. Certainly we at home can add nothing new to the situation. And if we speculate endlessly on what he did or didn't do, what he should or should not have done, then we're putting him on trial in the court of public opinion, where he can't defend himself... and that is not as it should be.)
My off-the-cuff opinion breaks in favor of the soldier. Let's face it, mistakes are made in wartime under the best of circumstances. This man was not at his best -- he'd been wounded the day before (shot in the face), and had lost a good friend (also the previous day) due to a booby-trap -- yet he was still in there fighting, supporting his comrades-in-arms. A terrorist, believed to be dead, is discovered to be still alive, with his hands not visible... and the Marine takes action by shooting him dead.
It's a gray area. The ethics of being a soldier say that, when faced with a threat -- for example, an armed enemy -- you kill him before he kills you. On the other hand, when faced with a combatant who is no longer a threat to you, that combatant should be treated as decently as circumstances permit.
It's a judgement call, on the part of the soldiers doing the fighting: is an enemy combatant a threat, or not? Yes, these decisions are made -- often in split seconds -- by young people who are tired, hungry, and pumped full of adrenalin, which is far from an ideal way to make important decisions. But no one else can make such decisions. It's not a great situation, in other words, but it's the best we can do.
This leads to the quote for today. It was one of the comments to this post, and I thought it worth remembering:
War is hell. War should be hell. It's what makes it a thing to be avoided. But sometimes the alternative to war is worse than hell. And so we must fight.respectfully,
UPDATE: Blackfive's commentary on the matter is far better than mine -- no surprise there. Check it out. (Check this out, too.)
UPDATE II: Please check out this as well -- a letter to PowerLine from a Marine in Iraq. Listen in particular to his closing words:
For those of you who sit on your couches in front of your television, and choose to condemn this man's actions, I have but one thing to say to you. Get out of your recliner, lace up [your] boots, pick up a rifle, leave your family behind and join me. See what I've seen, walk where I have walked. To those of you who support us, my sincerest gratitude. You keep us alive.UPDATE III: Now there is a petition, to be sent to the U.S. Congress, in support of the (still unnamed) Marine and his actions. If you support this, please take a moment and sign it. Thanks.
UPDATE IV: Here's a list of related quotes, with the pedigree of each. It was inspired by a different event, but I think it's quite relevant nonetheless.
"War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over." -- Gen. William T. ShermanCheck 'em out!
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Quote of the Day
"We will find a way, or make one."
-- Hannibal, 217 BC or thereabouts
It's an inspiring thought, particularly the way he meant it. Hannibal became the dread enemy of the Roman legions, winning battle after battle... and in more than one case, he did it by doing what nobody believed he could do.
For example, the Romans were certain that crossing the Alps with an army was impossible. Difficult it certainly was; Hannibal's army suffered many hardships crossing the Alps, losing many men and all but one of Hannibal's great war elephants. But the result was a major enemy force where the Romans believed none could be... and the battle of Cannae.
An even more dramatic victory was won at Trasimene (or Thrasymenus) in 217 BC, the year before Cannae, when Hannibal somehow got Roman legions (under the command of Consul Flaminius) to march along a narrow beach in a thick fog. With high cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other, Hannibal attacked from the front, rear, and flank, killing many thousands of Roman soldiers (including Flaminius himself). Many Romans were simply forced into the ocean, where they drowned under the weight of their own armor.
I've gotten curious about some of these epic battles after reading about the Battle of Thermopylae (circa 480 BC), in which 300 hand-picked Spartans (and their support troops) held off a Persian army, two million strong, for seven days. It was a suicide mission from the beginning; the Spartan Three Hundred knew that none of them would survive. But their delaying action made it possible to fortify the major cities of Greece; and, perhaps even more importantly, their sacrifice against overwhelming odds rallied the Greeks and unified them, as little else could possibly have done.
It's a humbling thought -- three hundred warriors, including their own King, marching to their own certain deaths and fighting with such amazing bravery that their story, and their names, are remembered to this day, 2500 years later. (Herodotus records that, by reputation, the Persian archers under Xerxes were so incredibly numerous that their volleys of arrows blocked out the sun! But when the Spartans were told this, the warrior Dieneces retorted, "Good. Then we'll fight them in the shade.")
Two memorials stand to the Spartans at Thermopylae. One is a monument to King Leonidas of Sparta, who fought and died there with his troops. A Persian messenger called on the Spartans to lay down their arms; the monument records Leonidas's reply: "Molon labe". ("Come and get them.")
The other memorial, the contemporary one, is an epitaph for the Three Hundred, and is perhaps the most stirring and best-known military epitaph in history. Written by the poet Simonides of Ceos (556BC - 468BC), a modern translation of it reads:
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,respectfully,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
Daniel in Brookline
Thursday, November 11, 2004
So the truth is finally out - Yasser Arafat is dead.
His fate has been uncertain since his health crisis began on October 28th. The rumors were everywhere - Arafat has pneumonia, Arafat is doing just fine, Arafat is in a coma, Arafat is just sleeping, Arafat has AIDS, Arafat will soon recover.
And amid it all, darker rumors were hinted at - Arafat's cronies (and his wife) were scrambling, because only Arafat himself knew where his secret Swiss bank accounts were... and, with him in a coma, uncounted billions of dollars might vanish like smoke in the wind. Suha Arafat, his adoring wife (whom he hadn't seen in over four years), insisted on - and got - a lifetime pension of $22 million per year, for herself and her daughter, as a condition of permitting French doctors to pull the plug on her husband. (If this is true, it'll be interesting to see where the Palestinians find the money for her... given that Palestinian Authority government salaries remain unpaid.)
And now he is dead. As we might have expected, he is receiving high praise from all over the world.
Personally, I agree with Roger Simon: "Looked at objectively, he had more contempt for the Palestinian people than anybody alive". And I say: good riddance to a truly evil man; may he rot in hell for all the misery he's caused. (Update: James Lileks has other ideas.)
If you have a minute, please go here and watch a retrospective of his life. It won't take long. If you prefer, check out this biography of him, complete with some rare pictures of him as a young man.
Perhaps without the tyrant, the Palestinians will have a chance at building a future for themselves. But I doubt it.
UPDATE: care to take the pledge?
UPDATE: I cannot improve upon the words of Alex Bensky, as quoted at yourish.com:
Five hundred years from now the only people who will remember this wretched murderer will be Jews, because he will be added to the long, long list of those who not only in the time of Pharaoh but "in every generation have they risen up against us to destroy us." And centuries from now the only epitaph Arafat will have is "Am Yisra'el Chai."
Friday, November 05, 2004
My mother has a new column out, in the Metro West daily paper, headlined "Bush Policy is Reason bin Laden Didn't Attack".
If you've enjoyed my writing (yes, I'm talking to both of you!), you might want to check that out as well.
Good job, Mom!
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Something To Read
Let me take a moment to plug a fine blogger -- one who got started quite a while before I did, and has proven to have some damn fine things to say. (He's also taken some undeserved flak for his writings lately; perhaps that's a rite of passage in the Blogosphere.)
In particular, take a look at The More Things Change -- a valuable retrospective on where we've been since 2000 -- and also at A Reminder (which I, for one, found quite sobering; follow the links and see what you think).
(UPDATE: Apropos of Jeff's Reminder, linked above, is The Morning After by Michele's A Small Victory. Check it out.)If you like Jeff, keep on reading his stuff; I know I will.
Daniel in Brookline
...and the winner is...
...George W. Bush, by rather more than a nose.
I'm pleased (and impressed) by Kerry's concession -- even more so, in the face of Edwards strongly advising him not to do so. (That's Edwards, playing to his stereotype and acting the trial lawyer, not the politician, and especially not the Vice-Presidential candidate.)
In my opinion, by conceding more or less when it was clear that the game was over, Kerry showed more class than I knew he had in him.
It's been a bitter fight, in many different ways. I'll be looking for some interesting developments, going forward from here.
- Kerry told Bush, in his 11AM telephone call, that it had been "a divisive campaign", and that it was time to work to "bring the country together". Bush agreed. We'll have to watch to see what both candidates do, from here onwards, toward that end.
- I haven't seen any European reactions yet, but they're likely to be interesting. Yes, folks, we re-elected the cowboy; we re-elected the blunt, un-nuanced man who never learned to speak French.
- And now, the gloves come off! We don't know that for a fact; if Bush's second term is a disappointment, he certainly wouldn't be the first President to do so. But I'm expecting him to pursue his foreign agenda a lot more vigorously, now that he doesn't need to worry about re-election. I expect the news vis-a-vis Syria, and Iran, and Saudi Arabia to get interesting.
- In re our enemies, there's this:
Yep, there'll be some nail-biting in Falluja today!
Daniel in Brookline
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Rallying Behind the President
Just for the record (on the off-chance that anyone is listening), I have taken Dean Esmay's pledge. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for pointing me to it.)
In my own words: I did not support Senator John F. Kerry for President, and I don't approve of a lot of what he's said he's going to do. But if he's elected fair and square, he will be my President, and I will accept that without flinching. I may not like him, but if he's elected, I will respect him.
Does the same apply in reverse? It depends, I guess. During a tepid political discussion at work the other day, I promised a Kerry supporter that, in the case of a Bush victory, I would not gloat... if he would promise not to gloat in the case of a Kerry victory. To my bemusement, he insisted on reserving the right to gloat.
So, if Bush wins (as I expect he will), shall I find my colleague and say neener, neener, neener? Actually, I won't -- the guy took a day off work, travelled over a thousand miles (Massachusetts to Florida!) on his own dime, and today he's helping transport people to the polls. I don't agree with him, but hey, he puts his money (and his hard work) where his mouth is, and I respect that.
Daniel in Brookline
"You Bet We Might Have!"
I wasn't intending to post more election-related material today, but this piece by Jonah Goldberg was too good to keep to myself. (Hat tip: Pick & Choose.)
Let's make this simple. John Kerry is the candidate for those who wish we hadn't gone to war in Iraq. But John Kerry can't admit that, even though everyone knows it is true.There's more, including one of the better metaphors-for-why-invading-Iraq-was-a-good-idea-after-all that I've seen lately. (I tend to keep a stock of such metaphors around; they come in handy when speaking to Kerry supporters.)
Kerry has been at such pains to keep this basic point as fuzzy as possible because an honestly antiwar candidate couldn't win the presidency in 2004. Sometimes he offers arcane explanations containing paragraphs like Rube Goldberg contraptions. Sometimes he speaks in a unique Kerry grammar one could call the future-past perfect. When asked if we were right to invade Iraq, he has responded that it depends on what happens in the future. And other times he's said we were right. And other times he's said we were wrong.
But my favorite response was when he was asked if we'd have gone to war with Iraq if he'd been president, and he shot back confidently, "You bet we might have."
Please read the whole thing.
Daniel in Brookline
Election Day, 2004
I had the pleasure of writing in a vote for my mother for 3rd Congressional District, Massachusetts. (No, she's not running there; she lost in the primary to a "spoiler" candidate, resulting in an all-but-unopposed incumbent, alas.) It won't count for anything, of course... but it brought a smile to my mother's face, which is worth a lot to me.
(Turns out she had specifically requested that people not write her name in, but rather vote for the "spoiler", giving every possible chance to getting the incumbent out. That didn't apply to me, since I'm not in her District. And at least one constituent ignored her request... she told me this morning that she received an e-mail from a soldier in Iraq reading: "too late, I already voted for you".)
Voting is, of course, our civic duty -- one of the small (but utterly essential) responsibilities that come with the privilege of being an American citizen. And many of us know, this year, the feelings of voting in an election in which the outcome matters a lot to you. But I have to say, it's a special pleasure to vote for someone close to you; I'm very glad I did.
And now, back to my regular (paying) job!! I don't intend to follow the exit polls today, since they don't mean much to me; I see it as an attempt by the news media to create artificial suspense, at best. But I will be interested in voter-turnout statistics. Many are expecting this to be the highest voter-turnout election in many years, and I very much hope that to be the case.
Oh, and a message to both of my regular readers: if you haven't voted yet, please do so! (As an ex-girlfriend of mine used to say, if you don't vote, you have no right to complain about the results.)
Daniel in Brookline
Monday, November 01, 2004
"The Most Important Election"
Bill Whittle's got a new one out. Please take a moment and go read it.
As usual, some of what he writes lies a little flat... while other portions hit me between the eyes, and left me reeling, struggling to readjust to what he'd just said. For example:
President Bush has already done much to re-program our mortal enemies assumptions about our determination to finish what we start, no matter the cost. Three dangerous enemies have fallen during his watch -- Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The first two were predicted to cause American streets to run red with blood as the Jihadists took their vengeance upon us. In the three years since 9/11, there have been no terrorist attacks on this country. That is a record to be proud of, and one that deserves the reward of my vote, at least.And this:
I want to finish this fight, now. I don't think our children should have to worry about this five or ten or twenty years from now, when Iran or North Korea has had a chance to spread some nuclear largesse around. I believe a badly wounded enemy is more dangerous than a dead one. I want this fight to be over so that the country can afford to elect someone who panders to everyone and speaks French and can undo all this animosity from Europe with a few well-placed toasts and a conciliatory speech at the UN. The time for that is when this thing is over.
So I promised you a final thought, and everything above this point is mere preamble to it. Here it is:Amen, brother.
People are telling you that Tuesday will be the most important election of your lives.
That is not true.
The most important election of your lives was held on Tuesday, November 7th, 2000. You just didn't know it. Neither did I.
What happened on that day led to one man being in the White House these past four years, rather than the other one. Whether he has done enough to keep us safe, even if he should lose on Tuesday, remains to be seen. But the fact remains that George W. Bush was Commander in Chief and President when we needed him the most.
I made a mistake when I cast my vote for Al Gore in the most important election of my lifetime. I won't make that mistake again on Tuesday.
I made the same mistake; I don't intend to make it a second time.
Daniel in Brookline