March 30, 2004

Wretchard on Mordor

Wretchard, of the Belmont Club asks: "Is the war on terror necessarily a war with the Left?" The answer, as I'm sure he realizes, is that Totalitarianism transcends such outdated Second Millennium conceps as "Left" and "Right," which were merely the relative positions that people adopted at the Tennis Court, and the mere existence of which Hannah Arendt saw as predetermining the inevitable rise of the "awful center:" Robespierre. But in relation to the new strain of the old disease Wretchard has such an elegant way of putting it:

There remains a third answer. That the existence of these two great religious totalitarianisms -- one secular only in name and the other religious only in dissimulation -- is required for their mutual defeat. It relies on the observation that both the Left and Islamism react together to produce an extremely toxic combination which neither could have achieved alone. It takes some reflection to remember just how far both the notions of Islamism and Leftism have moved since September 11. The former was an unknown towards which the man in the street would have been indifferent while the latter was a kind of eccentricity, rough yet without danger. Neither will be again. Both have mutated in interaction or perhaps have become that which they really were.

Both are struggling for the space in which conservatism can never go and for the prize which no sane man ever covets: the dominion of souls. Without their mutual presence either could have occupied a kind of cultural sanctuary in which they would brood, proof against interference from people with simple day jobs. Together they guarantee that their places of safety, every media outlet, every school and every place of worship will be transformed into arenas of unparalleled ferocity -- to the possible benefit of the world. Is the Global War on Terror necessarily against the Left? We shall see. We shall see.

Armed Liberal also has a few thoughts on the ancien theme as well, but the website is down for some reason, so the link will have to wait.

Posted by Demosophist at 06:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Condi's Testimony: It's Too Late

According to a fairly robust theory of voting behavior, based on empirical research into human cognition, general impressions usually take permanent root if they haven't been effectively countered within 48 hours. It is now about 48 hours since Richard Clarke was given a platform to express his views without rebuttal on Meet the Press, and virtually all of the news on the issue has focussed on Dr. Rice's refusal to testify before the 9/11 Commission under oath. The impression is that Clarke is accountable, while the Bush Administration is not. And at this point the window of opportunity to alter the underlying impressions has closed. From this point on, no matter what happens, a lot of folks will see the contention that Bush contributed to the tragedy of 9/11 as credible. Since the impression is no longer even associated with Richard Clarke, undermining his credibility really won't have an impact on that conviction.

Politics is cruel, because it's a human institution, and constrained by human limitations. Playing the game of politics as though it's some abstract set of principles can be very disappointing. At this point the focus of the Republican campaign for the presidency has to be on sewing the impression they wish to create, rather than countering Richard Clarke. From a legal and ethical standpoint they still have an obligation to set the record straight, but there isn't much political purchase in it.

The good news (and it's very good news) is that the public still seems open to the notion that Bush has had a uniquely effective strategy opposing terrorism subsequent to 9/11, and Clarke has probably reached the zenith of his ability to influence attitudes and perceptions about the pre-9/11 effectiveness of the Bush Administration. Although Clarke expressed personal outrage about the Iraq strategy, and even suggested that this was really the reason he decided to begin his whistle-blowing campaign, he has really never given any coherent theory about why he opposes it. At least nothing that wasn't already part of the Left's lexicon. As a sort of glorified cop he really has no special expertise in foreign policy strategy, and he knows it. Hence there has been no narrative, and that's the primary weakness of the Democratic strategy regarding the 9/11 Commission. They may intend a "bait and switch," and have even been far more successful at the "bait" part of the strategy than they really have any right to be. But they have no way to carry off "the switch." In fact, they may have actually opened an opportunity for the Bush Administration to discuss Iraq in the context of the broader War on Terrorism.

There is, first of all, good news to report within Iraq. Recent polling suggests that most Iraqis support the notion of a democratic liberal government, and even credit the US with providing the opportunity. And there has also been evidence of a sea-change in the Middle East with regard to both Palestinian terrorism, and the ancien regimes that have been piling up wrath against the day of wrath.

Wretchard notes that the cancellation of the Arab League Summit probably reflects an unwillingness to adopt a pro-Hamas stance on the Yassin assassination. The "half empty" part of that development is, of course, that they have also chosen not to ratify a deal that was struck to launch a new reform movement, motivated by the fear that Bush has other Iraqs up his sleeve. Some recent inroads into the prospects of a Bush second term by the Copperheads have cast enough doubt on the US resolve to use its big stick that we lost some of its leverage.

And Steven Den Beste has a post up about an intriguing strategy by the Israelis that rests, at least partially, on the lattitude provided by the fear-induced recalculations among the Middle East autocrats. The implications of this go far beyond the relatively progressive attitudes being expressed by the Qadaffi and Assad offspring. As for the direct effect on Al Qaeda we have the Zarqawi letter, which recounts the effectiveness of US strategy in Iraq and just how much Al Qaeda is worried about it.

So I think the Democrats may have miscalculated, not because they didn't manage to sew some of the doubts they wanted to sew through their Clarke campaign, but because they can't really direct where the debate on Iraq will go from here. Having opened the debate about Iraq in a way that's not merely a rehash of the "he lied about WMD" canard it would make dazzling political sense for the Bush team to pick up the cudgel and beat the Copperheads silly with it. And by doing so they may actually erase impressions of Clarke's ersatz "credibility" without actually addressing Clarke at all.

Posted by Demosophist at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

The Price of Mr. Clarke's Vendetta

Wretchard at the Belmont Club notes that an upcoming Arab League Summit in Tunisia has been cancelled, signalling Arab reluctance to take a stand on the assassination of Sheik Yassin.

Clearly the old formula of rechanneling domestic unrest by tacitly supporting anti-Americanism has reached the end of its usefulness to the Middle Easter[n] tyrants. Or rather, it has reached the logical conclusion whose consequences they must now endure.

Neither Europe's old game of triangulation -- a grand name for unscrupulous scavenging -- nor the Middle Eastern ploy of making America both guarantor and enemy can be continued for much longer. Even if Sharon is ousted from the Israeli leadership, developments since September 11 have doomed the ancien regime. The old elite is out of moves.

But whatever has been gained by Bush's "big mistake" that so offends the sensibilities of the Copperheads had already begun to soften before this cancellation, as a result of Richard Clarke's big score.

According to White House archives President Bush had held nearly sequential meetings with G8 leaders in 2003 (June 1 and 2) before flying to the Middle East to meet with Middle Eastern leaders (June 3). His Arab host on that occasion was -- Hosni Mubarak -- the very man who is now [unsuccessfully it turns out] salvaging the Arab summit. It is possible that the Middle Eastern leaders, then quaking in the immediate aftermath of Baghdad's fall, should have then proposed a deal to be sealed a year hence.

But what must have seemed a commutation from certain execution [a deal that would have inaugurated a Middle East reform movement to end the ancien regime] may now look like a bad deal. Efforts by the Left to hamstring Bush and the possibility of his defeat at Kerry's hands has opened an escape hatch.

Confusion has its cost.

Posted by Demosophist at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mild Mannered Mr. Clarke

I'm just beside myself with anger over the way Richard Clarke has been allowed to get his message out more or less unimpeded. Yesterday on Meet the Press he was all reason and light, observing that "I'm not the issue," and that the Bush administration's attempts to set the record straight were part of a general pattern of character assassination aimed at him. They were "engaged in a campaign to destroy me." (As if he weren't engaged in a campaign to destroy them.) To refute Rice's claim that he had not submitted a comprehensive national plan to combat terrorism (something to which Chris Shays also refers) he suggested that the memo he submitted on Jan. 25, 2000 was virtually identical to the plan that was eventually adopted on September 4. There were no significant differences between the two. Remains to be seen, I guess.

And there was "no inconsistency" between his testimony in 2000, which lauded the Bush administration for increasing the commitment to counter-terrorism over that of the Clinton administration five-fold, and his current claims that the Bush Administration had essentially "done nothing" to quell the terrorist threat prior to 9/11. No harm, no foul. "They (the Bush Administration) don't want to talk about Iraq. They want to punish me (Dick Clarke, intrepid bad-guy fighter guy)." He says, proffering an olive branch dipped in cyanide: "Let's raise the level of discourse. I don't want this to be about personalities." Lord no! He's simply called everyone in the Bush administration lazy, dishonest, and stupid. Can't we all just get along?

To make his case he compares the run-up to 9/11 with the actions taken by Clinton to forestall attacks in L.A. and Seattle on Y2K, allowing that at least Clinton did something. Anyone remember Y2K? My memory may be flagging a bit, but I seem to recall that Jan. 1, 2000 came with a built-in sense of urgency related to the fact that the odometer rolled over from a set of messy 1s and 9s to that pristine 2 followed by three zeros (although strictly speaking the third millennium was still a year distant). Well, the Clintonites may not be able to count, but they sure knew public hysteria when they saw it. And after all 9/11 was a significant date too, wasn't it? The anniversary of the emergency call system, or something? Should've seen that coming months away, right? Well, we all know Bush is dumb but that was really a stunning lapse of digit appreciation!

"No spin, just the facts" folks! Well, no spin now... but Mr. Clarke was just doing his job when he was spinning before, yah know. Hence that magnanimous apology, issued after spreading the "twarn't me" butter so thick you could walk on it. It was just something he "had to get off [his] chest." No attempt to capitalize on 9/11, he told Russert. That's just silly. In fact he has plans to make a "substantial contribution" from the proceeds of his book to those victims of 9/11 that he failed to protect (though it wasn't really his fault, you understand, because he tried as hard as he could to raise the alarm). He'd "like to return to a level of civility," for heaven's sake! Let's discuss this like gentlemen!

So, let's. I think Clarke is making two arguments:

1. That the Bushies were lax on whacking the moles; and

2. That the invasion of Iraq stirred up a hornets nest.

He knows very little about the second contention, because he just has no appreciable expertise in foreign policy, but never mind. Rather than make the case against the invasion of Iraq (which is increasingly difficult given the Zarqawi letter and the actions of Libya and Syria) Clarke chooses to make the case about the first contention. At least he has some credibility in that field, although it's a little like looking for your car keys where the light is the brightest.

On its face, the notion that Bush (or anyone other than Clark Kent's alter ego) could have possibly done enough to whack all the moles is, well, rather preposterous. It's fed by a general proposition that the "gummint" ought to be more or less omnipotent, or at least omniscient, and that any deviation from that standard is due to criminal intent or extraordinary incompetence. That's how we know that "Bush lied" about WMD, after all. We can assume he knew everything about Saddam's true intentions, and simply chose to falsely represent those intentions as an excuse to invade some place that had decent bombing targets. In fact, for awhile, there was actually a myth that the Iraq war was simply the Pentagon's way of testing its glitzy array of weaponry. The Guinea Pig War.

As this leaked Democratic intelligence committee memo demonstrates, even though the hearings are supposed to be about "intelligence" leading up to 9/11, the real intent is to wedge in an apriori set of conclusions about the Iraq War. (Hat tip: Armed Liberal) And, in a rather striking coincidence that's [i]exactly[/i] what Clarke is doing, in his book and public pronouncements. As I said, he just isn't credible on foreign policy, so rather than make the case that Iraq was detrimental to the War on Terror he and the Democrats implausibly argue that Bush did nothing to avoid 9/11. It's an outrageous bait and switch, that cynically employs an enormous national tragedy, not perpetrated by Bush as one might think, but by Al Qaeda. (And did I mention that Clarke voted for Gore in 2000? Ain't that a surprise!)

In other words the wedge that's used to shoehorn in this generic impression that 9/11 was really Bush's fault is some crazy-but-unspoken notion that "the authorities" ought to at least be omniscient. But omniscience is sort of a tough standard to meet, and the majority of Americans might actually question that assumption if it were spoken out loud, so mild mannered Clarke chooses to see himself as a normally omniscient being who just had an inexplicable lapse of some sort. He shoulda known better, but he's awful sorry for dropping the ball. Man, that's LOVE, huh? What a hunk!

But look, that's really an attempt to resurrect the pre-9/11 world where we can all sit meekly in our seats and wait for the authorities to suss things out on our behalf. You can rest assured that if there are any lapses you'll get a sincere apology, together with a crocodile tear or two, and maybe even a compimentary mint on your pillow. But for heaven sake don't shoulder any of that responsibility yourself. Let Dick do it (if they'd only let him).

There have been a few of us mortal folk, like Donald Sensing, Armed Liberal, Andrew Sullivan, and a host of others who have been making the case for a VERY LONG TIME that getting our feet wet in the Arab Middle East, in order to germinate liberal democracy and civil society, is not only absolutely essential to the War [on Totalitarianism 3.x], but it's what the war is really about. What the Copperheads, like Clarke, are appealing to is a certain timidity about the essential nature of the conflict. Make no mistake, what they're saying is that we have no good reason to believe in America. Instead we ought to demure to Europe, where modern democracy originated. Oh, wait...

So let me wrap this up by getting something off my chest, since that's apparently the thing to do. To my mind Clarke and his cadre of Copperhead boosters are pinin' away for their seats on one of those three airliners that hit the WTC and the Pentagon on an insignificant day in September a little under three years ago. They prefer that the rest of us forget that we noticed something on that day that inspired us with a certain moral authority to get the job done whatever it takes, and that doesn't expect Big Shepherd to have it all sussed out for us. Indeed, it just might be that such an expectation is not unrelated to the problem itself.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 28, 2004

Bill Kristol on the Dick Clarke's American Grandstand

William Kristol, "The Sorry Mr. Clarke". Excerpt:

There have been occasions in the past when government officials properly took responsibility for actions under their direction that went terribly awry. Janet Reno accepted responsibility for the deaths in Waco in 1993. John Kennedy took responsibility for the Bay of Pigs in 1961. In those cases, apparently reckless U.S. government actions directly caused unnecessary deaths. On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans. It would be no more appropriate for President Bush to apologize today than it would have been for President Roosevelt to apologize for Pearl Harbor. Richard Clarke's pseudo-apology has cheapened the public discourse.
Posted by Demosophist at 01:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2004

No Saddam/Qaeda, But Maybe McVeigh/Qaeda?

Dan Darling advances his critique of the Clarke thesis, including the al Shifa incident:

So now Cohen joins Sany Berger (sic) and Clarke himself (in his book) in the defense of the al-Shifa attack and cites indirect ties between the plant, bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein's WMD program. To me, this isn't exactly a non-trivial point as it predates the Bush administration and presumably any perfidy by the Neocon Cabal(TM) by nearly 2 years. So if all 3 of these men are standing by the decision to hit the plant in order to thwart Iraqi-Sudanese efforts to provide al-Qaeda with VX, that sure as hell looks to me like a definite reason to want to hit Iraq ASAP after 9/11 to prevent another attempted exchange that we didn't know about from succeeding, especially with the pre-2003 US intelligence community's conclusion (and even Hans Blix's, according to his new book) that Iraq did indeed possess such weaponry.

But he also points out that Clarke apparently takes seriously the notion of a link between the OK City bombers and al Qaeda. I am speechless. The most damning indictment of the Bush Administration's handling of terrorism seems to be their willingness to carry this guy for so long.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spin and Counter-Spin: The Dizzying Clarke Controversy

Stuart Benjamin at the Velokh Conspiracy has a few thoughts on the nature of the counterattack to Richard Clarke, as does Jonah Goldberg. Their notion is that, by focussing so much on motive the counter-attackers are missing the crux of the matter: that Clarke's account of things is rife with inconsistencies and factual errors.

From Stuart:

In light of all the above [the fact that critical information is, for national security reasons, withheld], those outside that small circle who are seeking to dismiss Clarke's allegations seem to be on particularly weak ground. He has made very serious allegations and put forward the basis for them, and thus far the Administration has done little to rebut them. Indeed, as Brad DeLong ably catalogues, many of the Administration's responses contradict one another (in fact, many statements by the same Administration official are inconsistent). Until the Administration responds more directly to his allegations (and the basis for them), I can't see the basis on which some can dismiss them. Commentators' dismissals appear to be a matter of faith, not reason.

But Goldberg's take is slightly different:

I think Bush has made some serious mistakes in the war on terror, just as FDR and Churchill probably did in World War II. But Bush's critics, including Clarke, aren't offering finely tuned complaints; they're saying the instrument is not only poorly tuned, it's stolen, the owner is corrupt and stupid, the music is all wrong and the orchestra is evil.

I think that's such a batty interpretation of reality, all that's left to explain that worldview is to question their motives, as distasteful as that might be.

It's almost as though offering a controlled and logical counter-argument places the responder in the position of looking almost as batty as the attacker. The blatant inconsistencies and omissions in Clarke's account, admirably detailed by commenters like Rich Lowry constitute such a tedious littany of abuse of the whistleblower function that they suggest a strategy of simple harassment rather than a concern with accountability. The problem is, of course, that the nonsensical hyperbolic aspects of the Clarke thesis pay, and will continue one way or another until they don't.

That's why it may be critically important to institutionalize the roll of fact-checker or "de-spinner," as we have begun to do with enterprises such as Spinsanity. So far Spinsanity hasn't commented directly on the Clarke thesis, probably waiting until the 9/11 Commission winds down and a few more details emerge. At this point all they've done is comment on a debate between Franken and Lowry concerning the role Clarke played as a bridge between the Clinton and Bush Administrations. But how and where they weigh in may ultimately be even more critical here than it was in the flap over Michael Moore. It is no easy task to remain aloof from such delicious controversy, but may become the next step in the transition from democracy to demosophia.

One of the things I learned from James Buchanan involves his insight that as an economy evolves, and the market nexus expands, workers can afford to specialize. In primative societies everyone, or nearly everyone, is a hunter. In more advanced economies some people can, at a certain point, afford to specialize as water-carriers for the hunters, which raises the overall efficiency of everyone's work, further expanding the market nexus. And so it goes. We know about how much folks like Clarke, Moore and Coulter get paid for their specialized niche as centrifugal spinners. What we haven't decided yet is how much the role of centripetal de-spinner is worth.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2004

Clarke Testimony: The Heart of the Matter

I've been criticized for not giving Clarke his due as an intelligence expert, having not read his book, etc.. But today, under testimony delivered to Fred F. Fielding on the 9/11 Commission in response a question about what fueled his strident attitude toward the Bush Administration, he said that his animosity is driven by the conviction that the Administration was wrong to invade Iraq, and that the invasion increased, rather than diminished, the threat to the US. Well, I suppose anyone can hold any opinion they like about that, but if he served without comprehending that there will never be any quelling of totalitarianism or the totalitarian strategy of terrorism in the Middle East unless and until the franchise for liberal democracy is expanded beyond Israel, then he was not only serving under false pretenses, but is essentially clueless.

I have no idea why anyone who isn't committed to self delusion would waste a moment listening to Mr. Clarke on any topic related to the War on Totalitarianism 3.x, since he apparently doesn't even know it's going on. Richard Clarke is what happens when the focus is on a tactic that's presented as a movement. He embodies the confusion introduced by inappropriate nomeclature.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

Clarke's Inexplicable Kamikaze Attack

Clarke was terrorism Czar under Clinton, yet fails to seriously fault Clinton for having blown opportunities to kill Bin Laden on numerous occasions, as well as Saddam. I point this out not to argue that Clinton should or could have done more, but as a signal of a rather extraordinarily petulant agenda that almost places Clarke in the position of being a "suicide attacker of the angry left."

Richard Clarke was demoted when the Bush people came into office, and was assigned a task that he obviously thought beneath him. He had a peeve that there was no Saddam/AQ link and was given the task of looking for evidence of such a link, something he clearly regards as insulting. In other words he was given the task of challenging his own prejudgments, and what he apparently did in lieu of fulfilling that assignment was to go out and compile what he considered evidence that there was no link, a rather petulant response to an administration that was seeking to comprehend (or perhaps even catch up to) a rather inscrutible enemy. In other words he refused to do what was asked of him, not to "manufacture evidence" but to look for evidence he didn't think was there. This borders on insubordination. He clearly thought he ought to have been employed creating a "grand strategy," not doing this lowly gumshoe work. His methodological ineptitude prevented him from seeing that this is a standard way to test an hypothesis, and is really rather straightforward scientific method. Clearly the Administration could see he wasn't doing what was asked, and their big mistake was that they didn't fire him on the spot. He was essentially incompetent, and this entire tirade involving media interviews, formal testimony, and a book is simply a monumental manifestation of that incompetence.

(And no, I am NOT saying that they should have fired him for not finding the evidence of a link. They should have fired him for not looking for it. The fellow is apparently so dense he can't even tell the difference.)

There have been numerous articles about the CIA's findings regarding the links that Clarke wishes out of existence, but one might start with Tenet's own recent testimony on the matter (and note that Clarke claims that Tenet agreed with him, which he certainly did not), and several articles by Stephen Hayes in The Weekly Standard. The original one is here, but he also wrote a follow up to answer the inevitable attacks from the "see no evil" crowd. The Atta/Prague connection was covered by Edward Epstein in Slate, which also had followups. Almost a total media blackout on this, but it was covered extensively in the blogs. We all watched the story get buried, either through laziness or simply because it challenged the prevailing consensus and media bias. Whatever.

Here's a relevant section in a directive that UBL gave his followers as part of his Declaration of War Against the Americans on August 8, 1996:

Ibn Taymiyyah, after mentioning the Moguls (Tatar) and their behavior in changing the law of Allah, stated that: the ultimate aim of pleasing Allah, raising His word, instituting His religion and obeying His messenger (ALLAH'S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is to fight the enemy, in every aspects (sic) and in a complete manner; if the danger to the religion from not fighting is greater than that of fighting, then it is a duty to fight them even if the intention of some of the fighter (sic) is not pure i.e., fighting for the sake of leadership (personal gain) or if they do not observe some of the rules and commandments of Islam. To repel the greatest of the two dangers on the expense of the lesser one is an Islamic principle which should be observed. It was the tradition of the Sunnah (Ahlul Sunnah) to join and invade fight (sic) with the righteous and non righteous men. [Note, this is a reference to the Sunni founders, and their doctrines, and specifically discusses the notion of [u]joining forces "of the righteous and non-righteous" under a Sunni tribal banner[/u].] Allah may support this religion by righteous and non righteous people as told by the prophet (ALLAH'S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM).

I'm going to assume I don't need to interpret this point by point, because the meaning is fairly clear. By this time (1996), according to the memo that Hayes outlines in the Fieth memo annex, the cooperation between Saddam and AQ was about three years old. The point of presenting this directive, which predates the Bush Administration by four years, is that the burden of proof is on those who contend that there was no Saddam/AQ link, not the other way around as has been portrayed, and as Clarke presumes in his preposterous and unsupported allegations. The Bush people simply tried to get him to begin implementing an intelligence method that was appropriate to the threat, and he refused. As someone with a fairly good grasp of the situation recently observed, after noting that both Lieberman and Biden had disavowed Clarke's allegations as false and devoid of fact: "Wow, these guys seem like suicide bombers. They destroy their own reputation in an attempt to be part of the angry left."

Posted by Demosophist at 12:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 20, 2004

What's Up? The Richard Clark Interview.

I'm afraid I'm getting rather demoralized. I heard in the last couple of days that it's now standard wisdom in the UK that the appeasement strategy of England during the run-up to WWII was "by design," and intentional. It was all part of a plan to fool Hitler into thinking England wasn't preparing for war. Part and parcel of this theory is the idea that the woeful condition of England's defense establishment during the period of the Nazi buildup was, somehow, inevitable. That is, it wasn't the result of bumbling and short-sighted policies or wishful thinking, but simply a matter of economic necessity. (Never mind that the Nazis or Fascists didn't seem so constrained by "inevitable reality.") It's a kind of insidious revisionism that now passes for wisdom. Breathtaking. Well, I'm hardly breathing anyway.

Because it's not unlike the conventional wisdom that's about to be promoted again in an interview with former White House Terrorism Advisor, and current Daniel Ellsberg wannabe, Richard Clark.

I've just seen the teasers for the interview on Sunday night's 60 Minutes, but he apparently casts Rumsfeld as something of an idiot who focussed on Iraq for much the same reason that a dope searches for his keys where the light is better. Clark, who has given some devastating interviews to Vanity Fair, is (how shall I put this) "infinitely dismissive" of any sort of notion that there was an actual link between Al Qaeda and Saddam, even though recent articles in the Weekly Standard and Slate, suggest that the CIA now has a virtual consensus that such a link not only existed, but goes back to 1993. So up is down, and forward is reverse, apparently.

It doesn't matter. The conventional wisdom is that no such link ever existed, that Iraq is totally unrelated to the War on Terror, and that even now the terrorist "insurgency" in Iraq is unrelated to global terrorism. This is now the dominant view folks, so get used to it. And Richard Clark is about to be trotted out to put a few more nails in the coffin of this not-quite-dead notion that the Middle Eastern Nazi-Fascist-Islamist milleau (which is a polite word for "swamp," I guess) and global terrorism are of-a-piece. God forbid we wouldn't be able to dismember a problem to justify a few more blinder-induced "area specializations" that can't see the forest for the trees. What the heck is the world coming to, besides World War Four, I mean?

Posted by Demosophist at 09:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 17, 2004

Who Would Bin Laden Vote For?

Dan Darling has an excellent roundup of the intelligence, including the Moroccan connection, relating to the recent Madrid subway bombings, on Winds of Change. A key graf:

Claims that the results of the Spanish election amount to a victory for al-Qaeda are not simply idle rhetoric or speculation. Researchers at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment have discovered an al-Qaeda document posted online that clearly details a plan to influence the Spanish elections using a terrorist attack. Bjorn Stark and the New York Times have more of the same, but in light of this document, its size, and the detailed analysis of the Spanish politics going all the way back to 1982, my own view is that it is a genuine article, in which case there is no conclusion to be drawn except that the Socialist victory in Sunday's elections was in line with whatever design al-Qaeda has in store for Europe. Thus, as incoming Spanish prime minister Zapatero takes charge of his country he should do so with the knowledge that he is the man that al-Qaeda prefers to have in charge there. The polemical question of "Who would bin Laden vote for?" has been rather aptly answered with regard to Spain.
Posted by Demosophist at 06:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 15, 2004

More Specious Nonsense from Sullivan and Sensing?

This post from Andrew Sullivan, and similar nonsense, is really beginning to get under my skin. In it he claims that Donald Sensing is giving us the "honest truth" when he claims:

Sex, childbearing and marriage now have no necessary connection to one another, because the biological connection between sex and childbearing is controllable. The fundamental basis for marriage has thus been technologically obviated. Pair that development with rampant, easy divorce without social stigma, and talk in 2004 of "saving marriage" is pretty specious. There's little there left to save.

The point isn't about "childbearing" for heaven's sake. It's about child rearing. And to siderail the argument to "child bearing" is either dishonest, or it's so dumb the only appropriate response is a jaw drop. Can it possibly be that one must actually go to the trouble of explaining the difference between quantity and quality to an intelligent person? I mean, I'm willing... but it's a little like explaining that religion is no longer about human sacrifice. Andrew, this is breathtakingly, spectacularly stupid! Grow the heck up, will yah?

Besides , if marriage is an institution in wreckage just why is it you're so animated about gaining entry?

The bottom line is that further separating marriage from child-rearing, contributing to family dissolution, could not only undermine human institutions, it could very possibly result in permanent electrochemical degradation of the brain functioning of a generation, which could in turn result in a permanent and irredeemable downward spiral of the culture. And this doesn't even consider the corrosive effects of family dissolution already identified by Pat Moynihan, et al. I'm sorry, but it's just hard for me to imagine anything with more destructive potential for society.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Espana Neutered

Well, I've been arguing that the terrorists weren't politically savvy when they assumed that an outrageous act wouldn't simply be seen as outrageous and followed by an appropriate resolves. But apparently England's "lion logic" was lost on Spain, which just allowed itself to be bullied into submission by the terrorists. How in the world do you come to the conclusion that your own government is more responsible for terrorism than the terrorists themselves, I wonder? Anyway, Spain has decided to go the kitten route, which will probably increase, rather than diminish, terrorist attacks in Europe. They now know that continental European populations can be bullied and threatened.

And no doubt much of the blame for this sheep-like attitude lies with the the consistently pro-green anti-American press. What a sell-out!

Posted by Demosophist at 11:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Brackets Are In!

The "Road to the Final Four" tournament brackets are here! I know most of my family and friends will be routing for EWSU in round 1, but the odds that they'll beat OK St. are pretty dismal. Still, I went to school there for a brief period, and I'll be routing for them as well. But the state of Washington has two other teams that are contenders, and second seeded Gonzaga could easily take it all. So to all my friends in Spokalou, congratulations! Hope it's a long run!

Posted by Demosophist at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

President Pyle


(hat tip: Jeff Rense)

Posted by Demosophist at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Andrew Resolves His Inconsistencies

Apparently Massachusetts is the wave of the future after all. Key graf:

In time, common parlance will simply refer to all of the above as married. The only real difference may be that a civil union will be less transportable to other states. But that will also surely change, as some states will agree to recognize such civil unions, just as New York state has said it will agree to recognize Massachusetts' civil marriages.

A foregone conclusion, practically. But George Bush was just so wrong to conclude a Constitutional Amendment was necessary:

Of course, this process in Massachusetts is not, in many ways, a bad thing. It really has initiated an extraordinary public debate that has enriched many of us. The legislative and judicial processes in that state are signs that the system is working on a state level, and there is no need for clumsy federal intervention to pre-empt this state-by-state process and impose a premature "solution" on the entire country through the drastic option of a federal constitutional amendment. That also goes for California, where the judicial process should be allowed to continue unmolested by Washington.

It's a matter of "molestation," apparently. Yawn.

(By the way, Justin on Dust in the Light has some excellent background material on SSM that fisks Andrew's increasingly incoherent position on this issue.)

Posted by Demosophist at 07:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Out of Time: Spring Forward

I guess I haven't posted in awhile because I'm just tuckered out by this perfect storm of controversy. First the American Left gets a new hero. Then the Euro Left apparently gets a new partner. The Black Death is on it's way. The stock market is down, and unemployment isn't.

On the up side, the weather looks pretty good, doesn't it? And at least gays are sufficiently optimistic that somebody's getting married. Get it while it's hot.

Posted by Demosophist at 07:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

Andrew, Marriage and States Rights

Andrew Sullivan is an extraordinary intellect and a dedicated [classical] liberal, but the following argument is so facetious that I just can't let it pass:

The assumption that there must be a single national definition of marriage -- traditional or open-ended -- is mistaken and pernicious. It is mistaken because the existing constitutional framework has long accommodated differing marriage laws. This is an area where the slogan "states rights" not only works relatively well, but also has traditionally been left to do its job. We are familiar with the problems of integrating different marriage laws because for the last 200 years the issue has been left, fairly successfully, to the states. The assumption is pernicious because the winner-takes-all attitude that it engenders now has social conservatives pushing us down the constitutional-amendment path. For those who see the matter in terms of gay rights, this would be a tragedy. But it would also be a tragedy for those who genuinely favor local autonomy, or even those of us who genuinely favor keeping the constitutional text uncluttered by unnecessary amendments.

Setting aside, for the moment, the issue of whether or not a Constitutional Amendment is the best way to deal with this situation it is simply not relevant to claim that such an amendment is invalid because "the existing constitutional framework has long accommodated differing marriage laws." If the amendment were passed it would still accomodate "differing marriages laws" as long as they were between a man and a woman. What the amendment does is to explicitely express what was been assumed sacrasanct for thousands of years. And the only reason it must now be expressed, is that the sanctity of that definiing characteristic is being questioned. The situation would be the same were there a significant movement to demand recognition of polygamy, or a number of other nonstandard arrangements. And the Constitutional option is only required because a judicial decision in one state casts into doubt the validity of that assumption that marriage is exclusively an opposite sex union. The appallingly impoverished decision of the Massachusetts court that "what is not forbidden must be allowed" simply forces the hand of those interested in preserving a status quo that is, almost certainly, worth preserving.

The Massachusetts decision may have applied an inappropriate principle to a state, but the fact that such a departure has legitimacy in one of the original thirteen states suggests that it is more than a matter of local deviance. And why should the people of New York or California be subjected to the experimental conditions of such a radical, and potentially disastrous, change in norms if we can be assured that the Europeans are all too willing to allow the experiment to be conducted on their populations?

Of course, were the Amendment to pass and the experiment in Europe to prove a resounding success it might well be necessary to repeal the Amendment. But that possibility is apparently apparently somethig we will have to live with, because passage is necessary in order to keep the ratchet from making a couple of extra, unneccessary and potentially very costly, clicks. It's a little like opening the chest cavity of a patient in order to install a third heart valve. For all we know it might be a great idea, but once we've begin to cut...

I guess I have to acknowledge that I've moved off of the "federalism" position, because I just think it's wasteful. Social experiments with potentially devastating consequences are already underway elsewhere, so I see no need to take the risk here in the US, even if it could be limitted to few states. And this is especially true when the change in state policy comes about not through a popular referendum, but through a judicial decree.

A Constitutional Amendment is an unfortunate necessity, I think. Unless the proponents of SSM are willing to back off for awhile, which isn't very likely.

Posted by Demosophist at 08:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 08, 2004

Did Kerry Actually Say That?

I'm pretty sure I just heard John Kerry say, on CNN about the 9/11 investigation, that the administration was "slow-walking it" and in the next breath that "they want to get the issue out of the way as quickly as possible so Americans will forget it by November." Did anyone else hear that, or did I just imagine it? If he has both oars in the water they're sure pulling in opposite directions.

Update: My entry in Noam Scheiber's "Kerry Motto Lotto" is therefore: "Pulling hard with both oars... toward the antipodes."

Too classical?

Posted by Demosophist at 01:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 06, 2004

Is Rauch Worth Fisking? (Update)

Andrew Sullivan posts a link to Jonathan Rauch's article: Power of Two. I'm not sure it's even worth taking the article apart, piece by piece. Suffice to say that the argument that heteros have done a deuce of a job holding the institution of marriage together during the Great Disruption is a deuce of an argument for taking the risk of screwing things up even more. If it's a disaster twenty years on, how do we get back?

And although Rauch loudly and repeatedly asks how we know that it would do such a thing (which, of course, we don't, with any certaintly) he offers only the standard "conservative" argument that expanding SSM would legitimate OSM. Yes, it might. But in the few places where it has been tried there doesn't appear to be any slowing down of the family dissolution trend (in Scandinavia and Holland). In fact, the trend seems to be accelerating. More significantly, the constraints imposed by political correctness forbid that we ask what might happen should the primary motivation for gay fidelity be swept away, and we arrive at that happy day when AIDS is no longer a threat.

Yes, letting same-sex couples wed would in some sense redefine marriage. Until a decade ago, no Western society had ever embraced or, for the most part, even imagined same-sex marriage. But until recently, no Western society had ever understood, to the extent most Americans do today, that a small and more or less constant share of the population is homosexual by nature.

Same sex marriage has never come up as a viable issue in any society before now. Is it that we're uniquely enlightened, as Rauch contends? What about those societies in which homesexual relationships were the rule, rather than the exception? Would Socrates have considered marrying Alcibiades, even for a moment? Even the Greeks, who were about as tolerant as any society in history of homosexuality knew that marriage had a distinct and vital purpose. Is it possible that what's different today isn't our recognition that homosexuality is "natural," but that AIDS has altered the nature of homosexual relationhips to such an extent that they are now taking marriage seriously? Well, at least seriously enough to demand it as a civil right.

I will address one brief paragraph, that seems to beg some sort of comment, though:

And children? According to the 2000 census, 27 percent of households headed by same-sex couples contain children. How could any pro-family conservative claim that those children are better off with unmarried parents?

This seemed like one of those statistics that could be the result of a flawed method, like ecological inference. However, after checking into this it appears that there is, in fact, a tabulation that could provide the statistic Rauch uses. In the special tablulation conducted for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) there is a variable that tabulates the householders with partners of the same sex. In fact it even breaks these out by whether the partners are male or female. Rauch must have looked at the tabulation done for the "HC Universe," (households with a given characteristic that have children) which would give the number of householders with same sex partners with children in the household. He would then divide that number by the tabulation done for the "TT Universe" (total population) which would give the total number of householders with same sex partners (with and without children). By performing this division he would have arrived at the proportion of same-sex-partnered households with children present. I didn't do this, because I took Rauch at his word, and I was interested in something else anyway.

I thought that rather than duplicate Rauch's percentage it might be more interesting to look at the "CH Universe" (children who live in a household with given characteristics) which would give us the number of children who live in such households, compared to all the children in the population. It turns out that approximately 1/2 of 1 percent of all children in the US live in households "headed by same sex partners."

While this actually involves a substancial number of children (about 500,000) we don't know how many of these same-sex-pairs who head the households they live in would marry if they could, nor how committed they are at present. But assuming that some significant percentage would be candidates for marriage the issue this raises is whether we'd be willing to risk the dissolution of the families of 99.5% of the children in the US for the sake of the other 0.5%, just because we feel generous about SSM.

We ought to at least get some idea of the risk of such a policy before implementing it, shouldn't we?

And finally, the bottom line is that we just don't know what the impact of establishing SSM would be, and although it could be salutary, it could also be disastrous. Consider what the US would look like if it had the level of family dissolution of some Scandinavian countries, where around 80% of children are born and are mostly raised out of wedlock. The US, unlike Sweden, Iceland and Norway, is a heterogenous society. Would the US be a nice place to live with that sort of family dissolution, and the attendant problems created for the next generation, both in terms of diminished performance and anti-social behavior? Would we even be able to defend ourselves from threats like Al Qaeda, and future Al Qaedas?

And please tell me how the damage could ever be undone?

Posted by Demosophist at 11:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 05, 2004


Lileks complains about another disarmament issue. An excerpt:

So the ad is bad because it reminds us of those days. I know, I know – some things ought not be used for transient political advantages. For some, the the real issue isn’t what Willie Horton did, it’s pointing out that he did it. I know. But we need to be reminded. In an odd way, the attacks on New York and Washington were so harsh they cauterized the wound they caused. Or to switch metaphors – we were stabbed in the back, and that’s not a scar you see when you face yourself in the mirror.

People forget. People must not forget.

People forgot the Cole the day after it happened. People forgot the embassy attacks – if they were aware of them at all – by nightfall. People shrugged at Desert Fox and the Tomahawk attack on empty Afghan camps. No one took it seriously until we were all sitting in a dark room at 1 AM staring at the TV, watching the crawl, wondering what was next, stunned and horrified and scared. Three moments: Bush’s speech on the pile, the speech at the National Cathedral, and then the jaw-dropping State of the Union address, which was the moment when the national mood got off its knees and balled its fists and said that’s not going to happen again.


The way some people are complaining, you’d think the ad had text like this:

“In the dark days after the attacks on America, President Bush gave the nation hope that this was not the end of our society, but the beginning of a new era in which grave threats would be met and overcome.”

That would be unacceptable, of course. Politicizing 9/11! Wrapping himself in the flag! Implying his opponents are unpatriotic! Plastic turkey! Aircraft carrier landing! Mission accomplished! AWOL! French goodwill squandered!

By this logic, FDR should have run his 44 campaign on his domestic agenda.

The opposition's agenda is a subtle disarmament, no matter what it looks like. Kerry talks tough, and is superbly fisked by Armed Liberal, to reveal that's he's made only marginal policy contributions, and staked out hard line positions on the antipodes of the issue. (Like it's the first time he's ever done that, right?) This is ersatz bravado, like a speech by Hawkeye Pierce on the Korean War that everyone knows is really standing in for the Vietnam War. Remember Korea? Kerry's was a speech about the sophisticated wisdom of doing things halfway, while claiming he's going the extra mile:

I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror; I believe he’s done too little.

Too little? It'd just be patently bad form to mention something he's actually done, wouldn't it?

Posted by Demosophist at 11:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack