Saturday, April 10, 2004

Automotive review

Tim Blair style!

Also, the correct response to the question, "is it time to send in the U.N.?"

Safe Kaus

Mickey Kaus points to some clearheaded analysis of the Richard Clarke distraction and the whole 9/11 Commission sideshow. As someone else rightly pointed out, al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11, not Bush and not Clinton. Clarke's grandstand play of apologizing was as phoney as a $3 bill. There were others who feared another attack, just as he did if not more. John O'Neill, for example. The problem is that we've created in Washington a system that is so focused on politics, both personal and party, that it is disfunctional when it comes to real threats. No number of commissions and bureaucratic reallignments can change that. I think that's what Bush has been thinking all along, which is why he didn't fire his intelligence and FBI chiefs. While the rest of the country is second guessing and debating over what should have been done, what we should be doing is ignore all the chatter and focus on what we as citizens should be doing to help our government and our military to protect us. What we are doing instead is bickering and blaming and basically acting like spoiled children, because some of us can't stand the thought of not having the power they consider their due. Democrats are projecting their own love of power onto George Bush and anyone who supports him.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Bob and Ben Veniste show

Roger Simon is disgusted by the behavior of Bob Kerrey toward Dr. Rice today in the 9/11 Commission hearings. Hearing highlights on Hugh Hewitt's show, I see what he means. Kerrey took her to task for insisting on answering his questions when he was trying to change the subject, telling her he didn't want a filibuster. No Democrat should even bring up that word with what is going on in the Senate.

This commission has deteriorated into a show trial of the Bush administration. We should be demanding that it be shut down and quit wasting taxpayers money. It would be better spent on bulletproof vests for the Marines.

Why they don't clear the room of these jerks that applaud the Democrats every few minutes is beyond me. Don't these people have any sense of dignity?

If you ask me,

(and nobody has, but I'll tell you anyway) the reason for our intelligence failures and our inability to prevent 9/11 is due to two factors:

1. Bureaucracy -- There apparently were warnings and clues that should have come together, but because of office politics and the slow process of reviewing and passing reports up the chain, and the refusal of different agencies to share information, these never got to a point where anybody could make a decision to do something about them.

There is also institutional inertia in any bureaucracy which rewards people for not doing things more than doing anything risky. Only after a calamity do heads roll and the obscure people who tried to do something get recognized. If 9/11 had been prevented, would we have heard about it? Would anybody have been rewarded? I doubt it.

2. Politics -- I've often thought about what the response would have been if the administration had started implementing more security at airports prior to 9/11. I think it's pretty obvious that there would have been complaints from airlines and passengers and criticism in the media and from Democrats charging paranoia and racism. If we had sought approval to move against Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and round up terrorists, the left would have gone nuts, the "international community" would have accused us of war crimes and the Congress would probably have voted against it. The media are about as rational these days as Al Qaeda itself, and would have been more so then.

This silly 9/11 Commission and its hearings are another aspect of the political jackassery that follows any event. It was the Senate hearings in the 1970s chaired by Frank Church that helped neuter the CIA and made it afraid of its shadow, which is one of the reasons that we had no human intelligence on terrorist groups and in Muslim nations. I don't approve of the CIA doing things like toppling foreign governments without the approval of the President, but it sure shouldn't have to be subjected to this kind of meddling by Congress either.

More on Patai and Arab Mentality

Just read his chapter on the tendency of Arabs to fight among themselves. He says they will divide into opposing factions based on mythical ancestors if they don't have anything better to divide them, and the closer they are, the greater the rivalry and hatred. They will also unite against an outside enemy. They are driven by their pre-Islamic heritage of tribalism and Bedouin ethics to seek revenge, and to regain honor through violence against their enemies. They are given to vicious verbal denunciations and insults, which even have a poetic form in their literature. They all seem to have an innate desire to be known as warriors, even when they are no more than thugs. He notes that the rivalry between Sunni and Shi'ia is stronger in many cases than between Muslim and Christian.

From all this, it seems that to maintain civil order a government in an Arab country is pretty much required to take repressive measures. Democracy there will be not much more advanced than it was here during the Whiskey Rebellion. It seems to me also that a court system in a country like this would be more adapted to the culture if it took the role of a mediator most of the time and resorted to arbitration only in major criminal cases, and when mediation is undesirable or impractical.

In the present situation, I think that we must come down hard on Sadr's group, even if we have to kill them, to make the point that violence and armed militias will not be tolerated. Once the handover of power takes place, we need to maintain a presence and continue to root out terrorists, Ba'athist reactionaries and infiltrators from Iran, Syria and elsewhere. We should try to assume the role of mediator between the major ethnic, religious, tribal and political groups and tribes, backed up by a firm hand, whenever violence breaks out. We have to distinguish between the principles necessary to establish democracy, however, and those which are merely our own cultural attitudes. Arabs don't seem to place much value on human life, except when they mourn hysterically. One death calls for another and honor must be satisfied. Therefore, we shouldn't hesitate to apply swift justice but also offer mediation as an alternative to revenge and blood feuds.

Of course, none of this may work and we'll just have to leave them to their own devices with a clear warning that we will protect our own interests if they return to supporting terror and re-arming with WMD.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Ted's war with himself and mor of JFK II's Senatitis

James Lileks doesn't have to do much to devastate Ted Kennedy's latest blurt. Just juxtapose the quotes: "Iraq posed no threat" and, in 2002, "There is clearly a threat from Iraq," but not enough to justify a war. Sure, Ted, whatever you say. Why don't you and Senator Byrd just go over in that corner and bloviate together until we call you?

The new generation of Democrat isn't doing much better, however. Kerry just keeps on imitating a cartoon senator. We have Marines in firefights over there, and he's still moaning on about "legitimate international authority."

Steyn's Media Guide

Mark Steyn provides a handy dictionary for watching or reading the news:
THE BRUTAL AFGHAN WINTER! = Daytime temperatures 40 degrees higher than New Hampshire.

THE MIGHTY PASHTUN WARRIOR, HUMBLER OF EMPIRES! = El floppo loser face down in a daisycutter crater.

THE SEETHING ARAB STREET! = Westchester county cul-de-sac.
There's more.

Kerry and National Sovereignty

Hugh Hewitt breaks down Kerry's latest blather:
So Kerry denounces the planned turn-over of sovereignty to the Iraqis themselves becayse that sovereignty will not have first passed through a "legitimate international authority." Chew on that for a bit.
Here's a man who wants to lead this nation who repeated claims that our foreign policy must be subject to some mythical international authority. When did we grant the U.N. that authority? Where did this superstition come from? Doesn't he read the news? The U.N. is up to its eyeballs in corruption from its administration of the "Oil for Food" program. Saddam bought off at least two of the permanent members of the Security Council! How does this add up to legitimacy?

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Kerry's latest waffle

He announced that he thought the Bush administration shouldn't have dropped steel tariffs, but that he wouldn't put them back up if elected.

Only Tim Blair could have written this comment:
Doesn�t this guy have any advisors? Aren�t people screaming at him, day and night, "Stop being such a silk-spined, no-balled, both-ways slab of prime Boston wimp"?
What a maroon.

Bill Bennett's new show

You can listen here. If guests are any measure, he's got a winner. How many talk show hosts can get Mario Cuomo, Donald Rumsfeld, George Will and Rush Limbaugh to call in on their first show? Not Al Franken.

I liked Limbaugh's advice: Have fun. Don't talk about other talk shows.

I might add, make your listeners think.

Bennett is obviously unaccustomed to the job. It'll be interesting to hear how he interacts with callers, and he needs to brighten up his delivery. He's got the right parts; I hope he can put them together.

And, as I remembered listening to Hugh Hewitt, he needs a producer like Generalissimo. His bumps are, with the exception of the one for John Campbell, referring to Sacramento, creative and hip.

How did I miss this blog?

Cori Dauber is terrific. She's a Communications prof and "Her area of scholarship is the way the media represents war and the military." And she knows a trick bag when she sees one.

Iraq and riots

Last night I read some remarks in Patai's book to the effect that riots go back a long way as a common part of life in Baghdad. It said that the police decided it was easier to just let them run their course and then repair the damage.

So much of his portrayal of the Arab personality and character sounds bizarre that I have to wonder how it can be true, but the demonstrations/riots of the past week seem to confirm what he says, as does Zeyad of the Healing Iraq blog.

I don't think that anybody will contradict the characterization of the Arab street as volatile. The question is what to do about it. Amir Taheri recommends that:
The broader political picture also needs to be reviewed. Sadr's militia must be disarmed, by force if necessary. But the young mullah and his supporters must also be offered a place in the emerging political spectrum in Iraq ahead of general elections.
I'm not sure how allowing Sadr to be unaccountable for his violence encourages peaceful resolution of issues. This guy is responsible for 20 or more deaths among coalition troops and multiples of that of Iraqis. I understand the danger of igniting more riots, but I don't see how this solution would help. If Arabs are truly as fatalistic and resigned as everybody claims, wouldn't a quit end of Sadr and his militia be likely to convince them that it was not the will of God that Iraqis should rise up against the occupiers?

Taheri is Iranian, so he understands the the mentality of the people in the area mind better than I or Patai do, but it seems to me that to establish the principle that violence is not a choice, we need to be emphatic in stopping this kind of thing. I also recognize that we are infidels from the Muslim perspective, but if they think that going back to Saddam is preferable to dealing with the uncertainties of self-government, as Zeyad wrote, we may need to be a lot more emphatic to get the point across. We have to make it clear that Iraqis have no alternative to taking responsibility for themselves, instead of waiting for the new boss to seize power as soon as we are gone. They also have to rethink their assumptions about Americans, but that can't be done by June 30, I'm afraid. Unlike the French and Brits of the colonial era and the USSR, we don't want to be there permanently. We want them to do what Germany and Japan did after we defeated them, but it could be pretty dicey for us to pull out too soon.

The Kos Kerfuffle

Once again, James Lileks has the apt summation:
Americans strung up and burned. Big-time blogger says �screw them.� Blogger suffers blowback, just as a mainstream columnist would suffer if he wrote that it was time to nuke Mecca or pave Fallujah. And there are consequences? Welcome to the real world.
I didn't notice anybody feeling sorry for Trent Lott, especially on the site that describes itself as 'political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.' Sounds kind of like hype when the political analysis consists of "Screw them," but then, that's probably the source of Kos' popularity.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Bin Laden on the run

State Departmernt counterterrorism official, Cofer Black reported that Bid Laden is no longer in control of Al Qaeda because of pressure from our efforts to neutralize the terrorist group.

But I thought that we had abandoned the war on terrorism in order to satisfy Bush's obsession with Iraq. You mean to say that the administration and the Pentagon can walk and chew gum at the same time?!

Am I the only one . . .

who found the term "sunni baathists" in this post on funny? Maybe they should all be forced to wear beachwear.

The Shiites have hit the fan

Demonstrations have turned violent in Shiite slums of Baghdad. Supporters of Moqtada Sadr, a young radical cleric, are talking about an uprising to establish him has the head of an Islamist dictatorship like Iran's. I think that this kind of thing is not often followed through, especially when they're outgunned. It's a time for putting the hammer down.

I'm reading The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai and noted how Paul Bremer framed his announcement:
"A group of people in Najaf have crossed the line," Bremer said at a news conference. "This will not be tolerated. This will not be tolerated by the coalition, this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people, and this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces."
Patai points out that Arabs love to use flowery language and exaggeration and that statements of intent will often repeat the core point over and over. If they don't overstate their intent it will be interpreted as not being meant seriously. Bremer speaks Arabic and it appears that he knows how to talk the talk. They can't say they haven't been warned.

Update: Here's a profile of Sadr, who appears to be a demagogue of the worst sort. He crossed the line by telling his militia to turn on the "occupiers." Referring to Patai again, I think this will fizzle as quick as it arose.

Is this a good idea?

Being a Christian, I don't think revenge, especially blood feuding, is a good thing, but in this case it might be a good thing if radical Muslim clerics killed each other, provided they could do it without innocent bystanders getting hurt. Revenge is embedded into the Arab culture, harking back to the Bedouin ethos that is the basis for Arab values of honor.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The problem with 'journalists'

Peter Beinart penned a column claiming that the GOP is responsible for the rise of terror because the first Bush administration focused too much on state supported terrorism, which caused it to miss the rise of al Qaeda.

Beinart reminds me of Josh Marshall. What drives his columns is polemics. You start from the position that all problems need to be laid at the feet of the GOP, then you go about contructing an argument to do so. That's not reporting, or even editorializing. It's political campaigning.

Reporters report, and sometimes interpret, facts. They're not speech writers. Mickey Kaus is a Democrat. He has opinions and he's a blogger, but he has the sense to realize that you don't win by shining people on and making arguments that don't wash.

The main thing I remember Beinart for was his accusation in TNR that Bush had lied about the Niger yellow cake story to justify going to war in Iraq. No matter that Bush had chosen his words carefully to avoid a false claim and that the Brits stand by their intelligence; Bush was a liar. The problems with that is that fair minded people who read it are likely to figure out that it isn't fair.