< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: November 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Continued Progress

Khalilzad is moving exactly as I had hoped, and predicted. The latest signs show him engaging Iran directly. I disagree though with making that public. Perhaps they had to in order to get cooperation, but behind the scenes would have been much more effective. That said, this is a huge step forward.

Here's what we need to be worried about now. The biggest obstacle to such talks will be that either side is hijacked by their own hawks (or the hawks of interested third parties). The latest news out of Iraq makes it appear that this is not the case. The clean war crowd is finally calling some plays. And of course Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others are not in any position to make demands at this point. However, this is extremely high stakes stuff which could easily be sabotaged from within or without.

This goes for both the US and Iran. Iran is slightly more complicated since their hawks are probably not feeling the same degree political isolation as those in the US. No doubt the Iranians will see this as a trap, to get them into a position where we can pin the blame on them. But that is why we should be ultra-confident here. By leaving, and by having Shia militias and death squads ready to go, we can ensure Iran will see civil war in at least its bordering regions. We hold all the leverage right now. Plus, extreme confidence often wards off would be hijackers.

Next step is making sure Turkey is there, and making sure Iran's hawks know they can play this as a great victory over the "arrogant US" to their domestic audience, shoring up support (bribing them with power). Also, even more leverage can be exerted on Turkey, especially in concert with our EU allies. Things are definitely moving, at least the bet has been placed.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Operation If We Go, You Go

According to this article, and some rumblings I'm hearing in the Indian and Pak news, Khalilzad will be pushing the option I described in this post a little over a month ago. I'd take credit for it, but I can't due to my inherent modesty and gentlemanly habits.
A premature U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq might trigger a regional conflict in the Middle East that could draw in predominately Shiite Iran and Sunni Arab states, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad warns in a television interview.
In all seriousness, this is beautiful. The gambit will work, in my estimation, because the regional powers have far more to lose than we could ever gain. Originally, by virtue of our isolation in Iraq, we had reached a point of Pareto optimality. But when faced with our exit (hasty at that) the regional powers (Turkey and Iran mainly, with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in the second tier) can easily see a situation where the Pareto superior move is clear: the US phases out while regional powers phase in until law and order are established.

I'm glad to see this. Heartened actually. It makes it clear to me that the people calling the shots now on Iraq have their ear to the ground and are trying anything to keep it together. On the other hand, I hope its clear to everyone what this means. Essentially, the United States is saying to the rest of the world: we can't handle this, its your problem now. However great a strategic move this may be, it can't be underestimated how much this will degrade the country's future maneuverability.

One note to anyone out there listening: while its nice to see this covered in our news channels, the Al-Jazeeras of the world (and Turkish equivalents) would be, in my opinion, surprisingly receptive to such a message (however tweaked it may need to be). It plays into their ongoing narrative of "the oafish giant US screws up again".

Update on Bush's Brain

This review of the Blitzer-Hersh dialogue brings the issue of Bush's sanity back to center stage. The big picture is simple enough: Bush is portrayed as resolute--convinced he's on a divine mission to export democracy and confident of an ultimately (20 year's future) favorable historical verdict. Staff within the white house and the military are portrayed as increasingly fearful of the president's ability to hear evidence of failure or to accept sound advice on preventing it.

In this context, Juan Cole's post today is eloquent and true:

"I guarantee you, George, that historians are going to be unkind to you. You went into a major war over a non-existent nuclear weapons program. Presidents' reputations don't survive things like that. . . . . So forget about history and destiny and the divine will. You are at the helm of the Exxon Valdez and it is headed for the shoals. You can't afford to daydream about future decades."

That is the question for the day: "Can he correct his course? Can he even steer the ship at all?" That question transcends the smaller (but still severe) questions of lying, corruption, and torture: these assume the possibility of correction, by checks and balances imposed by the other two branches of government, and ultimately by the electorate. But today's deeper question is about the man himself--in particular, whether his own self control suffices for his control of the ship, i.e. whether the government itself, and the people, are in danger from this man.

It's going to take time and some good luck before we get a clear answer; while we wait, we might watch the signs and symptoms.

1. Persistent and uncorrected self-confidence in future outcomes is fatal. Human experience--whether political, economic, military, scientific, or religious--is unanimous that any course, however noble, requires corrections to accomodate newly perceived realities. "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead" is the rhetoric of fools--the few who survive attest to the many who drown in torpedoed wreckage. Survival in such circumstances is purely random; assuming otherwise is self-deception. So the more that W wears the mask of fatuously smiling self-confidence, the more we should worry.

2. Killing the messenger is the archetypal behavior of leaders at risk of falling--but having no messengers, or listening to none, is the sure sign that disaster is inevitable.

3. When the president's colleagues in the administration, the Congress, and the courts, attempt to impose a correction--as they already are attempting--then it's the equivalent of mutiny: a contest for control of the ship is inevitable, possibly with many casualties. It's a close call whether W is such a little boy that he gives up control to the adults, i.e. "a consensus presidency," or such a headstrong adolescent that he goes all out in rebellion against the adults.

Footnote to historians: Kissinger, who reveled in his description of Nixon's drunken psychoses, was a traitor for not blowing the whistle much sooner. We're only lucky to have survived that season of presidential
paranoia.

Footnote to Laura, Bar, and the other ladies who are described as the only ones who still have the president's ear: the sooner his colleagues blow the whistle on W, the better chance we have of surviving with our constitution, not to mention our national security, intact.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

That Wretchard

Last Thursday Wretchard, at the Belmont Club, wrote a fairly interesting post on the intelligence for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). He focuses on the question of pre-OIF "versions" of the intelligence...
The entire assertion that 'Bush lied, people died' doesn't work if there was a single pre-war consensus Iraq intelligence estimate which unhappily turned out to be wrong, in whole or in part. It only works if there were two versions, one of which was fed to the public and to government officials like John Murtha, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry (which 'misled' them into voting for OIF) and another which was kept secret within the inner circles of the Bush administration, which showed OIF to be unjustified.
One sees where he's going. Just in case it isn't clear...
It's fairly clear there was only one version of the general assessment of Saddam Hussein before OIF -- that he was a threat. There were, however, two variants respecting the degree and imminence of the danger that he represented.
One version, with two variants... fair and balanced. I wonder though if today's revelation would change Wretchard's mind?
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
It should change his mind right? An official version of the threat, materially different from the one given to Congress, makes that whole hard-left slogan work now? According to Wretchard at least.

More importantly though, in terms of animating the political will, or if one prefers in perhaps more Lacanian usage, preparing the public for full satisfaction, nothing worked like the implication that Saddam Hussein was involved with aQ and somehow was involved in 9/11. I realize someone of Wretchard's intellect would find such stretching incredulous. However, we aren't talking about intellect, we're talking about satisfaction... a national orgasm of retribution. You can't have that, and the delightfully sheepish morals which accompany it, without the proper psychological preparation. Waas continues in his article:
But a comparison of public statements by the president, the vice president, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld show that in the days just before a congressional vote authorizing war, they professed to have been given information from U.S. intelligence assessments showing evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link.

"You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," President Bush said on September 25, 2002.

The next day, Rumsfeld said, "We have what we consider to be credible evidence that Al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts with Iraq who could help them acquire … weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities."

Another interesting aspect to this story, beyond the siren's seduction, is this interesting aspect about the PDB in question.

The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president's national security adviser and deputy national security adviser, the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense, and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records.
And the Administration is refusing to let the Senate Intel Committee see that document, typical. But study the distribution list for the 9/21/2001 PDB. One of those officers is not like the others. One of those officers just doesn't belong. Can you tell me which officer is not like the others... Right, Cheney is an officer of the US Senate. So there really is no privilege here (can you have a privilege which prevents you from revealing information to yourself?). I wonder if there are any enterprising Senator staffers who would like to remind the VP of this fact.

President John F. Kennedy

Reprinted below is the text of my post from one year ago today. Once again, I think it is altogether fitting and proper that we take at least a few moments to reflect on the life of John F. Kennedy. Many weep at the tragedy of a life and a time of so much promise cut so short. That is perfectly appropriate. But as I suggest below, he was there and very much alive and in charge at the precise time that it counted most:

For every peaceful sunrise of the last 42 years, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to JFK. As a result of revelations about the Cuban Missile Crisis, we now know that if the USA had attacked Cuba the Soviets would have responded with a nuclear attack on major cities in the US. Many of our nation's other leaders at the time, including Kennedy's military advisers and many in Congress, wanted him to invade Cuba. They were all wrong, and if any of them had been President instead of Kennedy, there would have been a major nuclear war. But Kennedy, who at the time was not much older than Barack Obama is now, had the personal and political courage to stand up to them for the good of the nation and the world.

Many political leaders, given the gift of time, have accomplished more than JFK. But none has ever accomplished anything greater.

Woodward Syndrome All Over Again

Woodward in the toaster:

As the transcript of his interview on Larry King last night shows, Woodward's not only in the throes of a particularly painful Woodward Syndrome relapse, but also unable to avoid looking pitiful. See below, Nov 19 and 16, for details on the Syndrome and its diagnosis.

In the Syndrome, a speaker or writer follows the Lady Macbeth pattern of "protesting too much" -- revealing a truth by disproportionately emphasizing its opposite. Last night, it was so flagrant as to raise concerns for Woodward's survival as a functioning member of society. For the details, just read the entire transcript upside down--rendering any exaggerated or illogical statements as their opposite, with emphases proportional to the original degree of exaggeration. Here are just two of the most florid, and poignant.

1. The classic "oh by the way," discussed in the previous posts, was used by Woodward himself in his interview with Mr. X.

WOODWARD: ... I guess a few weeks later. So I said to this source, long substantive interview about the road to war. You know, at the end of an interview like this, after you do an interview on television, you might just shoot the breeze for a little while. And so, I asked about Wilson, and he said this. . . [Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, etc.]."
KING: I see.
WOODWARD: Most kind of off-hand.

In truth: "I got a clear and well scripted answer to my main question about Wilsson. But I knew how serious and potentially damaging the revelation about his wife might be, and was afraid to make it public."

See the last paragraph of Tatel's Appeals Court opinion: "Were the leak at issue in this case less harmful to national security . . . I might have supported the motion . . . [i.e., declined to compel testimony from Miller or Cooper ]. " Elsewhere in the LKL interview, Woodward brags on his 30 years experience covering the CIA, claiming that's how he knew this leak was harmless. Off-hand my foot. He knows the harmfulness. He's lying.

2. After King pressed him on whether the coziness with the administration would make him less objective, this sad little show and tell episode transpired:

WOODWARD: But you know, I would never compromise. You know, if I may, I brought some headlines in "The Washington Post." These -- do these make any sense?
KING: Hold them up a little.
WOODWARD: Yes, OK.
KING: So we can read them.
WOODWARD: This is -- yes, OK. This is November 2002 before -- as the Bush -- word came out about the war in Afghanistan. "A Struggle for the President's Heart and Mind." Struggle. It explains in great detail how Powell had different positions, there was a mass tension and difficulties in the war council. Let's see. This is the second part of that series. "Doubts and Debates Before Victory over the Taliban." Doubts and debate. Now, anyone who knows anything about the Bush administration, they'd rather keep doubts and debate off stage. I bring them on stage in this book. I've -- you know, I don't want to go on, but "The New York Times," front page, when the book, "Plan of Attack," came out last year, "Airing of Powell's Misgivings Tests Cabinet Ties" and the book jolted the White House and aggravating long festering tensions in the Bush cabinet. So I'm not comprising anything. And anyone who looks at the books or the coverage will see that it has some pretty tough stuff in it.

In truth: "I know I'm their lapdog."

Like a child with chocolate on his face, Woodward can't understand how pitiful his protestations of innocence (no chocolate on my hands) are--a journalist comes to an interview about his role in a major scandal by bringing his previous headlines to show how truthful he is?

The toast is burning up.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Good Thoughts on Globalization

Dan at tdaxp has more on globalization. I highly recommend reading the post from start to finish several times. It is worth it.

Personally, I like this post better than most. Like all knowledge worthy of the title, he boils the somewhat long and dense thought down into a slogan: "Globalization is Water". It can be frozen. It can be heated to the point of evaporation. It can stay fluid. I'm still not completely in the magic cloud camp, at least not insofar as its used to describe the orientation phase of OODA. The cloud doesn't admit of an opposite, which only impedes the dialectic in my opinion.

Having said that though, there is this intriguing possibility. Dan starts his post out with a walk through fuzzy logic (a 1960s convention which processes data on partial set membership instead of "crisp" or "rigid" set membership). While he doesn't take it past its native statistical heritage he does at admit this nice analogy...

fuzzy logic : numerical precision :: magic clouds : procedural precision.

Let's expand on that for a second. Don't just apply fuzzy logic to data processing. And don't merely analogize the principles it uses to those used in process management. Any physicist will tell you there is some pretty good relevance of fuzzy logic to quantum mechanics. Partial electron/partial wave. You get the picture. Everything we think is so infused with modern rationalism that we sometimes forget its an epoch like everything else. Take the fuzzy / cloud / chaotic quantum view of the world and set it against the mathesis universalis. Now you've got your opposite. A pretty nasty one at that. Anti-rationalism. But that sounds scarier than it really is, and if you consider many of the Straussian based views at play in the world today, it isn't at all crazy that we're moving towards this description...

fuzzy/chaotic world view : modern rationalism :: locke's empiricism : mathesis universalis

Dan doesn't take it this far, but I think he should. I realize the Hegelian hackles I often show here are out of the mainstream. Just last year I attended a conference filled with the English speaking world's greatest Hegelians... filling a small conference room in the back of a small fellowship hall in New York City. But that is changing. Tempo has increased, and we could use some rules with which to navigate the new framework of anti-rationalism.

The globlization epoch is a new game where beating the opponent is no longer the goal, instead, anticipating the next phase is the prize.

Dan: Globalization is not water.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sans Provincial

Everyone's talking about our inevitable bail out from Iraq. John Robb weighs in with this sobering statement of the problem:
The United States is losing the moral conflict with Iraq's guerrillas. The US President's support among Americans has dropped to the lowest levels since Richard Nixon and opposition groups are becoming more strident and popular.
Robb then traces the hot points on the moral conflict back to a central handicap which our military was sandbagged with: isolation. He argues that isolation caused all the major blunders: the belief in bad intel, the ad hoc military planning post invasion, the politicization of military plans, etc. Here, I agree with John Robb, but with a slightly different twist.

Bernard Bailyn makes what I consider a crucial point about Americans, how they view power, and what American power truly looks like. In what is surely to become a classic on America's founding generation, To Begin the World Anew, Bailyn contrasts portraits of our founders with portraits of their contemporary peers in England. He contrasts the homes of our founders with those of their European peers. He drives home the very vivid reality of America's exceeding provincialism during those days. The starkest example is Roger Sherman's portrait, as compared to his sculpture in Statuary Hall in the Capitol building.

But Bailyn doesn't just start with the contrast, he makes it clear that this provincial state of existence freed the minds of the founders. He quotes Madison:
Is it not the glory of the people of America that whilst they have paid a decent regard tot he opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?
Or as Bailyn himself states of the founders:
They attacked head on the overrefined, the overelaborated, dogmatic metropolitan formulas in political thought, challenging assumptions that only idiots, they were indeed told, would question.
In other words, though provincial, creative. And the metropolitan formulas, though sophisticated, rigid.

I agree with Robb that isolation caused most of the blunders committed by America in Iraq. But this is a special type of isolation. It is the same isolation our founders saw in their sophisticated European counterparts. The same isolation which they were repulsed by. Isolation caused by the metropole. A professional military run by professional bureaucrats and instructed by professional politicians. Without provincial clarification, Americas leaders will always be isolated in this way, regardless which party they come from.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Woodward Syndrome: Part II

Note initially that the Woodward syndrome is not to be confused with the [Scott] McLellan Syndrome--of clumsy, self contradictory, tangled rhetoric, where speaker and listener both know that lies are on the table; Woodward cases are much classier rhetoricians than McLellan cases. Shakespeare has history's best nutshell description of the Woodward Syndrome: "methinks the lady doth protest too much."

The Woodward Syndrome requires two factors before it can be invoked in the interpretation of a given discourse. First, the person must have a history of articulate and persuasive speech or writing and be known already to have used such gifts to personal advantage (not necessarily illicitly—while Ted Bundy was indeed thus gifted, so was Winston Churchill). Secondly, objective readers of the discourse in question must find it puzzling; it must seem odd, overstated, or inconsistent with known facts. The furrowed brow and tilted head of the reader or listener is the body-language "Tell" that a Woodward Syndrome is being confronted.

Given that the two requirements above are met, then the statements of the discourse are sorted into three types.

Type 1 statements are factual and straightforward. They tend to be brief and are presented straightforwardly without unexpected emphasis.

Type 2 statements are exaggerations, where gratuitous emphases leave the listener or reader asking "why the odd wording, unexpected emphasis, or seeming contradiction of consensually accepted facts?" An appropriate upside down reading of a Type 2 statement is not simply to tone it down but rather to read it with an emphasis in the opposite direction. Type 2 statements, however, are also not unduly prolonged.

Type 3 statements may also be oddly worded, but in addition they are elongated and they actively distort the meaning, making it initially more difficult to know what the opposite true claim would actually be. They sometimes appear near the end, almost seeming to be an afterthought. Type 3 statements therefore sometimes require consideration of the context, not only in the discourse at hand but also in other discourses making the same claim. As with Type 2 statements, their upside down reading is not simply to falsify the statement but instead to amplify its opposite.

So . . . back to Woodward himself. Two notable Type 2 statements in the discourse are considered below (A and B), followed by two notable Type 3 statements (C and D). Together these suffice to indicate the general outline in the fog.

A. Paragraph 1: "I testified under oath in a sworn deposition to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. . . "
NOTE: "oath" and "sworn" are redundant, and oddly so.
UPSIDE DOWN: "I lied (or at least concealed some truth)."

B. Paragraph 4: "[Wilson] had been sent by the CIA in February 2002 to Niger to determine if there was any substance to intelligence reports that Niger had made a deal to sell ‘yellowcake’ or raw uranium to Iraq. Wilson later emerged as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration.”
NOTE: (1) Yellowcake is not actually raw but it's only been preliminarily processed to a point that still takes many more years to convert to weapons grade uranium. (2) The last sentence is a non-sequitur, bypassing Wilson's findings and their use by the CIA and the White House, both of which occurred long before Wilson became an "outspoken" critic.
UPSIDE DOWN: "Everybody knows the yellowcake was harmless, but they want me to help the public think that Wilson-outspokenness is the issue. I try not to worry what the secret real issue is."
COMMENT: What is the real issue?

C. Last Paragraph: "It was the first time in 35 years as a reporter that I have been asked to provide information to a grand jury."
NOTE: The classic afterthought form of a genuine Type 3 statement.
UPSIDE DOWN: "I’m in over my head."

EXTERNAL CORROBORATION by Woodward on Larry King: "This is a junkyard dog prosecutor.”
UPSIDE DOWN: I'm not just in over my head, Fitzgerald already has my jewels in his jaws and I'm afraid he's about to bite."
COMMENT: (1) Even Gergen showed the Tell of Puzzlement at Woodward’s rant on Larry King. (2) Woodward knew on October 27th that Fitz was going to come after him (which happened November 3rd). The fact that he was so alarmed in advance means he knew how much darker this whole affair was starting to become--to his personal discredit.

D. Paragraph 7: "Fitzgerald asked for my impression about the context in which Mrs. Wilson was mentioned. I testified that the reference seemed to me to be casual and offhand, and that it did not appear to me to be either classified or sensitive. I testified that according to my understanding an analyst in the CIA is not normally an undercover position."
NOTE: The classical Type 3 repetition and prolongation, with irrelevancies and imprecisions. Nothing Woodward says he testified to really answers Fitzgerald's question of context. How does a something "appear" to be classified or sensitive? What possible relevance to Fitzgerald's question does "my understanding"--of the role of an analyst as "not normally an uncover position"--offer?
UPSIDE DOWN: "I secretly fear she was indeed undercover and by outing her my source was trying to damage or destroy Brewster-Jennings."
COMMENT: Those in the White House who got the original Plame information from the CIA would know: (1) that Plame’s front was Brewster-Jennings, a major CIA mechanism for tracking and intercepting weapons of mass destruction; and (2) that it would be destroyed if Plame were outed. The known consequence—its destruction—must have been the intended consequence. It certainly would have given the White House a WMD facility they could call their own and do, or undo, things with—for example, “plant” WMD’s where needed.

EXTERNAL CORROBORATION by Woodward on Larry King: “They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldridge James or Bob Hanson, big spies. This didn't cause damage.”
NOTE: Eight pages of concealed court records, in the Judith Miller court case, addressed the national security seriousness of the leak.
UPSIDE DOWN: “I fear my source was trying to damage or destroy Brewster-Jennings.”

CONTEXT CORROBORATION: consider the single most shocking question Fitzgerald has asked, indeed that any prosecutor has asked about any administration in U.S. history. From Fitzgerald, at the indictment announcement (he gets it):

"And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. Cooper? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?" (emphasis mine)

In summary, the upside-down reading on Woodward is this: Before he testified, he feared that the administration had behaved very badly, even treasonously, in trying to destroy Brewster-Jennings, thereby discrediting him and his books. He may have withheld information from Fitzgerald, and was probably relieved at the seemingly narrow scope of Fitzgerald’s questioning.

In larger context, it has already been apparent from earlier scrutiny of his work that Woodward was initially unable to exert the minimal thought required to see through his sources to darker and deeper truths.

Final note: Woodward had to be both intellectually impotent and pitifully vulnerable to flattery to have thought that Rove, Libby, or others, would let him talk to everybody, including the president, without their having carefully scripted those interviews in advance to conceal their truer actions and motives. His whining now is that of the lapdog sent whimpering away from the house.

Friday, November 18, 2005

If By Liberal...

Its time now for another installment of Federalist X's stump speeches. This is the If By Liberal speech, which can be used and quoted freely w/out credit... imitation is after all the sincerest form of flattery. I write this because, from blog to blog, person to person, I find that there is no greater occasion for misunderstanding than that which occurs on the subject of Liberality. Do enjoy. And feel free to add to or take from.

If by liberal, you mean, that freedom from oppression; that goal of our forefathers; that eternal form which even the slave Epictetus would not let his master have over him; that deep desire which the Israelites prayed for while in captivity; that mover of history; that primordial groan from the cosmos to the heart of every man, woman and child which calls them to freedom and led Lincoln and this singular people to overcome our greatest challenge; that great feeling which graced the fingertips of the fallen at Normandy; that industrious drive which prescribed the form of our Constitution; that promised land which Dr. King viewed from on high; that state of being which Gahndi delivered to billions; that achievement of modernity that God has planned for all mankind; that drive for equality before the law which led to a fair wage, the freedom of every women to determine her own fate, and the freedom of every human, regardless of color, to redeem the promise of this hallowed ground; which the patriots fought and bled and died over generations to gain...

Or

If by liberal, you mean, that tradition of those seven arts, passed down in the form of the trivium and quadrivium; sacredly held by all practitioners of truth; given to us by God for the sake of our posterity; mixing together with human endeavor to unlock the secrets which cause death and disease, sinfulness and crime, waste and poverty; colluding with our desires to create strength and wisdom, love and passion, faith and charity; allowing us to contemplate the heavens and all the expansive scope which lies beneath them; unfolding the dovetailed treasuries from Aristotle to Maxwell, Euclid to Newton, Ptolemy to Kepler; which forever guides the course of Reason, God's greatest gift, on its sovereign voyage...

Or

If by liberal, you mean, that tenant of faith which Martin Luther boldly tacked on Wittenberg's door, marking the beginning of the meek and great Protestant Christian religion; that sacred belief which holds as the object of its true desire nothing but eternal communion with the Lord of Heaven; that fine tuning between the heart and soul which allows the freedom of any man, woman, or child to express faith as his or her God asks; that uplifting pillar of theology which precludes the jealous dispensation of heavenly favor and holds between the soul and God no man nor obstacle; that pure ideal of interconnected love throughout humanity which serves only the message of His holy word in all tongues in all ways; that singular command from which complete obedience promises everlasting life and freedom eternal; that spirit of tolerance in all religious pursuits which is the cornerstone of this great land; which unites every American with every human under the purview of a higher power...

Then I say to you, I am a Liberal dear friend, proud and true.

But,

If by liberal, you mean, that desperate feeling of ennui which plagues the minds and bodies of privileged youth; that strident opposition to the status quo of the generation which preceded it; that selfish indulgence which only idleness and wealth can generate; that blind acceptance of all things novel and abandonment of the familiar for its own sake; that quick-witted criticism which lacks respect for wisdom; that light hearted abandonment of all morals in pursuit of unbridled relativity; that failure to distinguish between innocence and victimhood; that betraying self-confidence in all things popular; which slowly abandons the traditions, the sanctity, and the resoluteness which we in this nation call the Law...

Then I say to you, dear friend, I am most assuredly against it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Woodward Syndrome and its Diagnosis: Part I

As I argued earlier, Woodward's appearance on Larry King, the night before Fitzgerald's indictment, was suspicious and puzzling. Woodward's statement today offers us the opportunity to apply an old diagnostic principle, to see if it can clarify what was puzzling.

The principle, proven over the centuries, is simple: "When a person's disclosure profile is puzzling, try reading it upside down." In other words, across the range of statements in a self-report some things are emphasized to a significant degree; other things are just routine. The principle states: "the things emphasized are true--in the direction opposite from the emphasis. So person might say: (a) I am a reporter; and (b) I saw person A assault person B; and (c) it was a raining hard that day. Statement (a) is routine; statement (b) wasn't just false, but its opposite was true--in actual fact, person B assaulted person A; and statement (c) wasn't just false, but it's opposite was also true: it was a gorgeous, sunny day. The decision when to invoke this principle is triggered by mismatches and confusions that make the disclosure hard to square with other facts; the likelihood that the principle is properly invoked is increased when "reading it upside down" makes substantially more sense than reading it as is.

A familiar clinical (and even theological) corollary is: "the last shall be first;" i.e. the "oh by the way" off-the-cuff remark, usually at the end, is the important one; the well stated primary first point, the smokescreen.)

Applying this principle, which shall hereafter be known as the Woodward Syndrome, we find:

1. The last point is of the first importance: Woodward says, "It was the first time in 35 years as a reporter that I have been asked to provide information to a grand jury." But by our principle, the statement actually means: "In my 35 years as a reporter, I've often danced on the edge of the law, but never before been caught with my, umm, sources exposed." If that is the correct reading, then it means either that Woodward has been sloppy, not looking over his shoulder enough, or else he's in over his head and can't swim. I provisionally adopt the latter interpretation: this thing is bigger than Woodward knows how to handle. It's handling him, instead. (And we're not talking Fitz as a handler--we're talking Rove, Libby, Hadley, Cheney, Rice--whoever the truly smartest political image designer in the administration really is. On the current evidence, it's Rove--whose intelligence is indeed exceptional.)

2. The next to last point is almost as important: Woodward says, "I answered all of Fitzgerald's questions during my testimony without breaking promises to sources or infringing on conversations I had on unrelated matters for books or news reporting -- past, present or future." The upside down of that could be either of two things: (1) "My testimony was very damaging to my sources, nonetheless;" or (2) "I lied to Fitzgerald." The choice between these two versions is closer, but at the present the weight swings toward (2): to say that he answered the questions may well mean that he didn't answer them truthfully, since if Woodward had told the truth, he would ordinarily say so. Some version of option (2) is also favored by the repeated, and altogether artificial, appeal to what his notes, his tape recordings, or his memories reveal--all highly similar to some of Judy Miller's descriptions of her testimony, and none typical of how truth-tellers tell truth (by simply telling it).

3. In this statement, and in his infamous Larry King interview, he emphasizes the casualness and the triviality of the leak: Woodward says in his statement, "Fitzgerald asked for my impression about the context in which Mrs. Wilson was mentioned. I testified that the reference seemed to me to be casual and offhand, and that it did not appear to me to be either classified or sensitive. I testified that according to my understanding an analyst in the CIA is not normally an undercover position." Please! Woodward is an expert on what a CIA analyst is? Read upside down, the statement makes much more sense: "I know it's serious, but our story is that the leak was casual."

Coming in Part II: why the above is truly the merest tip of the iceberg, which includes how the recently touted casualness of the leak can be the scripted echo of the first explanation of the leak--that it was intended to embarrass Joe Wilson--which may itself be a cover story and lie. Both of these may be the obfuscatory work of the really smart guy or gal in the administration.

And About That "Executive Privilege" Thing

Let's say I'm an attorney, and my client is discussing a legal problem in confidence with me. We invite a third party, let's call them "Congress" to come in and discuss the problem. Congress is completely separate from my law firm, though we often deal with the same types of work. Congress however is not a party to the problem, they are completely "outside" the claim, and we've had them sign no non-disclosure agreement. The attorney-client privilege (unless otherwise contractually modified) in this case is broken by communicating confidences in the presence of a third-party and taking no steps to ensure that communication is private (at least, I think thats right).

So as the latest Energy Task Force news break (oh, yeah, the oil executives did participate afterall... some newsflash) can someone please respond to this:
Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on the document. She said that the courts have upheld "the constitutional right of the president and vice president to obtain information in confidentiality."
by simply saying: "no". The court didn't. They didn't answer the question whether if an officer of the legislature is present in during the communication the privilege is broken as between the executive and the legislature. And since the VP is constitutionally an officer of the legislature, don't we need to answer that question? More on this here and here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Retro-Progressive

Kevin Drum is pimping a collection of articles from Washington Monthly writers which they jointly entitle "The New Progressivism." If you read those articles, I hope you will be under-impressed. I was. Not only do they dance around what could be imaginative and creative new proposals, they bite off so little of the issues which are confronted that one wonders if these "New Progressives" have lost their teeth? Perhaps this phase of progressive brainstorming is some sort of retrogradation. Maybe progressives are forced to remove all the power-grabbing tools they once helped sharpen, and strip down to their naked souls before they can be allowed to rise again. I don't know. But this is some of the worst idea generation I've ever seen in my life. Let me get this straight, the new progressive/populist battle cry is "I want my Nickelodeon?" I'm not kidding when I say my four year old daughter could come up with a better, more mass appealing idea: "free ice cream for everyone everyday!"

I'll be commenting more at length on each of these. But for now, let me just say, I hope to God this isn't the "New Progressivism". If it is, I might just go to sleep for the next three or four elections.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Clowns

No other way to describe it. A bunch of drunk clowns in lower Manhattan could have pulled off a better critique of free trade programs. First, we have Nathan Newman of Sherrod Brown fame, which Tim has chronicled nicely here, here, and here, boy that Russo is some ass huh? Well Nate writes an article and cross posts at Kos, Armando promotes, and FINALLY the truth comes out... Nathan Newman is full o shit and has an axe to grind.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the contention that the DLC hasn't promoted or fought for TAA expansion is complete horseshit as almost every bill designed to do just that came from DLCers. Good thing Nat has the kos faithful to bail him out. Better put that one in the bin Nate. I'm no DLC faithful, but when their critics resort to outright lies, you must wonder who they threaten the most...? Hat tip Kos reader: seanleckey.

Scream Bloody Murder!

The latest Republican diatribe, live on Fox, has to be heard to be believed. Be sure to watch the video itself.

Where to begin?

1. Isn't this treason, plain and simple? It certainly gives aid and comfort to the enemy; and it certainly incites violence.
2. It certainly advocates treason by the president--"turning over" San Francisco to terrorist attack.
3. Rub every Republican office-holder's nose in this. Do it on camera. When they say "of course" they disagree, do a "yes, but can you really assure the American people that the administration wouldn't or hasn't looked the other way when informed about some threats." Make them get mad on camera. Ask if they expect the Justice Department to prosecute him for incitement, treason, etc. If they say that's up to the Justice Department, make them answer the question of what they personally are going to do about this. Nothing? Really? Somebody on national television, speaking for the Republican side, is recommending that terrorists be allowed to destroy lives and property in San Francisco, and you yourself are not going to do anything about it?
4. Rub every journalist's nose in it, as above.
5. Rub every Democrat's nose in it, asking why they aren't doing something.
6. Rub Fox's nose, and all it's advertisers, in it. Boycott them if O'Reilly isn't gone in 24 hours. (Compare to CNN and Novak, for proportionality in sentencing.)
7. Accept no apologies from O'Reilly or anybody else. Apologies are irrelevant. The deed is done.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More on Imperial Vice Presidents

I want to followup on my post below re: Olivia's "Imperial Vice Presidency". Some of this will be repetitious, but I hope its valuable nonetheless. Let me start by asking the question: Is VP Cheney an Officer of the President, or an Officer of Congress?

According to the Constitution, Article I, Sec. 3, the Vice President of the US is an officer of the US Senate. That is why Vice Presidential powers are discussed in, Art. I and not Art. II for example. Here are the relevant portions:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided. [...] The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States. (US Const. Art I, Sec. 3)

To recap, the VP is an officer of Congress or the "President of the Senate". And though the VP is an officer which the Senate does NOT choose (because the electoral college DOES choose) the VP is a congressional officer nonetheless. Let's move on to Art. II to see if this VP is some sort of hybrid officer... part legislative/part executive. Does the VP have executive powers?

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. (US Const., Art. II, Sec. 1, Clause 1)

Thats a period on the end of that sentence. Executive power is with the President PERIOD. No ifs, ands or buts. No power sharing arrangements were contemplated by the Constitution, power checking... yes. Power sharing... no.

There are NO other enumerated powers for the VP in the Constitution. He's a secretary to the Congress, and a successor to the President. He breaks tie votes. Nothing more.

But could he be an officer of the President too? Just like Libby received a commission from the Executive and was employed by the VP? I say no. And S.M. Olivia says no too.

Although the office of Vice President is created in Article II of the Constitution, it is granted no authority under that article. The Vice President has no executive power unless and until there is a vacancy in the office of President. It is Article I, which designates the Vice President as president of the Senate, that breathes constitutional life into the vice-presidency, as it were. The evolution of the Constitution's text demonstrates that the convention always viewed the Vice President as a presiding officer of the Senate first, and as a temporary presidential successor second. This reasoning is confirmed by the third section of Article II, which states that the President "shall commission all Officers of the United States." This refers to agents of the executive branch, including cabinet members and even EOP staff. The Vice President, in contrast, does not receive a commission from the President. He is chosen by the Electoral College, subject to the ratification of Congress.

Olivia only describes part of the picture. The founders were deeply troubled by the devolution of the Roman republic into an Empire (one of two motivating fears: the fates of Rome and Athens were two sides of the same coin). And this fear of Empire was one of the main reasons the founders placed the successor to the executive within the legislative branch. They knew, as any student of history knows, a successor who shares the reins of executive power, that is the supreme command of the Armed forces, is a successor who is a danger to the republic. The only obstacle in his way to declaring himself Caesar is the life of the President. Some may say I'm stretching here. But a presidentially empowered VP is a legislator and executor. He unites two branches under one office. He breaks the system of checks of balances in the performance of his own privilege. But for the life of the President, he is as close to Caesar as you can get.

Alexander Hamilton explains the role of the VP in Federalist 68. He describes essentially a back-up President who serves the Senate unless the President is removed from office. He gives two reasons for even having a VP:

One is, that to secure at all times the possibility of a definite resolution of the body, it is necessary that the President should have only a casting vote. And to take the senator of any State from his seat as senator, to place him in that of President of the Senate, would be to exchange, in regard to the State from which he came, a constant for a contingent vote. The other consideration is, that as the Vice-President may occasionally become a substitute for the President, in the supreme executive magistracy, all the reasons which recommend the mode of election prescribed for the one, apply with great if not with equal force to the manner of appointing the other.

So, reason 1) to make sure the Senate can break a tie and 2) to have an already Constitutionally confirmed back-up in case the Prez kicks the bucket. Nothing there about sharing executive power. He also adds this telling allusion:

It is remarkable that in this, as in most other instances, the objection which is made would lie against the constitution of this State. We have a Lieutenant-Governor, chosen by the people at large, who presides in the Senate, and is the constitutional substitute for the Governor, in casualties similar to those which would authorize the Vice-President to exercise the authorities and discharge the duties of the President.

At the time he wrote this, Lt. Gov's in NY had no executive authority at all. The analogy makes it clear that at least Hamilton thought the VP was a secretary of the Senate, unless and until the President is removed. Better to have a would-be Caesar under the thumb of the "elite" branch of the legislature than to give him a taste of the power that could be his.

So how did we get here? How did we allow the VP to slowly become an agent of Imperial power? Olivia traces the rather long history quite well, and I commend it to your attention. But let me try to make it more concise:

Three postwar trends signaled the unconstitutional shift of the office of Vice President from the legislative to the executive branch. First, the selection of vice presidential candidates is now made by presidential nominees alone rather than by party conventions. [...] The second trend is that since 1960, vice presidents have commonly run for President themselves. Historically this was not the case. [...] The final postwar trend was discussed above, the expansion of the EOP. With the growth of presidential staff came the growth of vice-presidential staff.

The biggest problem I see with the current setup is that VP today acts with apparent executive authority. The VP uses "executive privilege" to shield conversations from Congress, but by the Constitution, that VP is an officer of Congress! How can there be privilege against revealing something to yourself?

And this brings me to MaskedMarauder's diary. The 11/8 press gaggle may well go down in history as the end of the rise of the Imperial Vice-Presidency. MM relates it as only a curious note. But in the context of a rising menance to the Constitution, it seems like the White House may be signaling that not only will the President distance "himself" from the person of the VP, but also that the apparent executive authority of the VP will be stripped.

The only way for the President to do this is to slowly divest whatever apparent authority the VP has assumed. That means, quite literally, changing the locks on the doors, removing old passwords, taking him off the calendar. And if that is going on, that is a very dangerous problem for the entire country.

Who knows how far this Imperial VP has reached into the bowels of presidential power? How tightly are his tentacles entwined with the privilege of presidential authority? Will removing them cause the republic irreparable harm?

I hope not. But it is certainly time for Congress, and time for those who wish to uphold our Constitution, to oversee this operation in order to avoid a hemorrhage we simply can't afford right now. Cutting off the flow of funds which are the lifeblood of the VP's operations will send a loud message that America won't tolerate Imperial power. Just do it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Short on Blair

Looks like it's time to go short on Blair.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Incumbent Party

The party of incumbents continues its winning streak as Americans reject change. I'm sure some Democrats and a few Republicans are patting themselves on the backs, while some challengers are having another drink at a quiet bar. The truth of this election though is that voters continue their slumber: four more years of the status quo. I'm sure Congress is happy, I am not.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thoughts on Vice-Presidents

Mitya K turned me on to the Mises blog. Its interesting, though sometimes a little out there in my view. S.M. Olivia has a good post there today, "The Imperial Vice-Presidency". When I read the title, I knew where the argument was going, and I was not disappointed.

It is a little known fact, but a fact nonetheless, that the VP's office is not part of the executive branch. That is a modern practice, certainly since Carter, and arguably since Ike. But it needs repeating, the Vice President has absolutely zero power from Article II. The only powers designated to the Vice President by the document we quaintly refer to as our Constitution are found in Article I, that is, the VP is an officer of the Legislative Branch, not the Executive.

After a very thorough tracing of VP history, Olivia lays out the objection to the increasingly powerful VP's office: such an office is extra-constitutional. But there is much more danger here than illegal operations, as we've seen lately, such ops seem to be par for the course.

One major reason why the VP's office was not vested with executive authority was that doing so would be dangerous to the republic. The Founders knew well that executive succession could lead to armed conflict, especially if the first in line to succeed to the President was someone who had some command over the Armed forces. A devolution into Imperial Rome was a great fear, and that fear motivated the placement of the VP under the thumb of a distrustful legislature.

Of course Olivia does point out the accountability problem with having someone like Cheney craft military policy when Cheney isn't in the chain of command. But Olivia forgets to see the other more serious danger lurking on the other side of the coin: civil war. Quasi-executives with succession privileges and an affinity for exceeding constitutional authority are a clear danger to the republic. It is completely predictable that the "zenith of vice-presidential power" would result in a constitutional crisis. Unfortunately, the legislature is running away from the fight. I hope the next POTUS will reverse this dangerous course.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Counsel to the President

Some of my first memories are of what I guess must have been the summer of the Watergate hearings. I remember having to leave the swimming pool one day at the apartment complex we lived in so my parents get back in time to watch the hearings on TV. I don't really remember much about the hearings themselves, except it seemed like every third word that came out of the TV was "John Dean." ("Viet Nam" is another word I remember coming out of the TV a lot around that same time). I had no idea who "John Dean" was, but I got the pretty clear impression (a) that he was somebody that people thought should be listened to, and (b) that whatever he was saying wasn't good for Richard Nixon (of whom my mother repeatedly said "he's a CROOK!" -- as if that were a self-evident truth with an obvious conclusion: that he needed to go).

Turns out that John Dean was White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon, and he was pretty much blowing the whistle on Nixon.

Well John Dean is still around: http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20051104.html He understands White House scandals. And he's still someone worth listening to. His assessment on this one -- which he says is "Worse Than Watergate" -- is that Fitzgerald is close to having the goods on Cheney. Only problem is that he needs Libby to flip, and that that probably ain't gonna happen.

As I've suggested in previous posts, I think Dean's assessment is probably right. Libby knows he's likely to be pardoned no later than January of 2009, and possibly sooner (December of 2006 is a possibility). In other words, from Libby's perspective, Fitzgerald doesn't have all that much leverage, and the guy with the real leverage is Bush. Bush, legally, can give Libby a get out of jail free card whenever it becomes politically possible. (Can anyone imagine a scenario where it won't be at least politically possible on January 19 of 2009? Serious question.)

Bush and Cheney, in their conspicuous Indictment Day praise of "Scooter," clearly were winking at Libby (as if they needed to), holding out the carrot of a pardon if he does his duty. Fitzgerald's only leverage is to offer a plea deal that would lead to a lesser sentence than a conviction after trial. But if Libby thinks he's likely to be pardoned in no more than 3 years if he takes the fall and protects Uncle Dick, where's the incentive to deal with Fitzgerald?

Does Fitzgerald understand this? He's a prosecutor, used to being the government and having all the power. Does he realize that Bush has way more power over this than he does, through his ability to pardon anyone he wants to for any reason? Does he care? Is there anything he can do about it?

The only thing that might give Libby pause enough to deal with Fitzgerald is the thought that it might never become politically possible for Bush to pardon him. Clearly, it's not politically possible right now because of the impending 2006 midterm elections. But is there any way that the political landscape could be such that it is impossible for Bush to pardon Libby in January of 2009? Maybe Democrats could make the pardon question such an issue that Bush is forced somehow to promise that he won't use it. Is it a campaign issue for the 2006 midterms? I ultimately question whether there's any strategy that would work: if Frist wins the election, then it's easy for Bush. But isn't it also easy if Hillary wins? A last FU to the American people from W?

Knowing a little about Fitzgerald from the inside, I can't imagine that he would sit still while Libby effectively thumbed his nose at the criminal justice system because of the hope of a pardon. But does he have a plan for dealing with the deflating effect that the possibility of a pardon has on his prosecutorial power? Do the Democrats have a plan for making it politically impossible for Bush to pardon Libby? I'd like to hear some good thinking on this.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

CEO COM LINK

You don't hear much about this, but the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Business Roundtable Security Task Force, has established a secure telecom network for CEOs to communicate together and directly with the federal government in the event of a threat or crisis situation. Its called CEO COM LINK (*.pdf).

Of course, this is the sort of conspiracy crap left wing quacks just love. A bunch of CEOs sitting around getting warnings about which subway is going to blow up, or which plane is going to be hijacked, and a bunch of campaign donations going to the President's party to make sure that phone doesn't suddenly disconnect just before their flight to Cairo.

But when you look into this secure telephone line, you find out A) it is just a password protected conference call (i.e., not really that secure) and B) CEOs really are getting advance notice of things (and have gotten such notice at least four times).
Since its creation, COM Link has been used at least four times (and probably many more) to give corporate officials advance warning of increases in the terrorist threat level. But in the wake of any future terrorist strikes, Ridge, within minutes, will be able to speak directly with the Roundtable's entire CEO membership, whose companies oversee a significant amount of U.S. critical infrastructure and collectively account for an estimated $3.5 trillion in annual revenues.
You also find out that the single biggest argument for it is based on a wargame simulation with parameters set up by Homeland Security and, you guessed it, the Security Task Force at the Business Roundtable.
Speaking at the McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Summit and Exposition in Arlington, Va., in May, Armstrong raved about COM Link's performance in the April war game. "The difference between doing it [using COM Link] and not doing it saved over a million lives in the war game," Armstrong said.
Well, sure it did. You designed the simulation. The GovExec article is pretty detailed and I recommend you read the whole thing. At the end of the day, this really doesn't sound too good to me. I realize there is a need to make sure information flows freely and unimpeded from government to the operators of critical infrastructure, but to be honest, CEOs (for all their lavish pay) aren't exactly at the operator level. Moreover, when only seconds between information and catastrophe exist it seems more than a little impractical to try and track down CEOs on their email and cell phones only so they can turn around and inform the operators (or more likely, have someone else inform someone else, etc. etc.).

Most importantly though, the secrecy of the whole thing is really bad in my opinion. We still don't know who is "on" the CEO COM LINK list and who isn't. We don't know what the criteria for being on that list is. We also don't know what is discussed and how far in advance these warnings are given. And finally we don't know what the quality and quantity differences are in the information between what CEOs receive, and what the general citizenry receives.

In addition to those questions, I'm really curious to find out whether CEO COM LINK was activated during Katrina. Is that why Wal Mart's response was so much better than say, FEMA? And if it wasn't activated during Katrina, why not?

Winning

I don't care if you're a Republican or Democrat, a Greenie or a staunch member of the Reform Party, an independent or someone who never votes, you have to care about not winning GWOT. And yes, I didn't say "lose", I said not win. There's a difference. We can sit around and not win for decades, long before we finally lose. But the longer and longer we wait to develop the force and the strategy necessary to win, and win completely, the more likely it is no resolution will occur in our lifetimes. In that respect then, ask yourself, do you want your children and your grandchildren to be fighting a war you couldn't win?

I'm quoting from some recent Congressional testimony to the House Intel Committee:
It is now four years and one month since the 9/11 attack on America.

The comparable date for World War II would have been January 19, 1946. By that point the United States was largely demobilizing its forces after a victorious global war.

During the comparable length of time that we have been responding to the 9/11 attacks on America, the World War II generation of Americans had rebounded from the attack on Pearl Harbor and defeated Germany, Japan and Italy, built a worldwide military and intelligence capability, built the atomic bomb, massed and organized industrial power, and laid the foundation for the worldwide network of alliances that has stabilized the world for the last sixty years.

This difference in energy, intensity, and resolve should worry all of us.
That was Newt Gingrich, and if you read it a couple of times, it is the most blistering criticism to date of the way this war has been handled. In the early 1940s, we were half the country facing twice the enemy. Our GDP at the beginning of the war was equivalent to that of Germany, Italy, and Japan. It was easy to see that if we didn't act strongly and decisively, our very existence was in jeopardy. German U-Boats off the coast of Carolina, Japanese bombers in Hawaii, the squeeze was on, and we pushed back.

Today, we're twice the country, with 10 times the GDP. Our enemy is not even a single state, much less a collection of states, and the funding it has at its disposal is comparably insignificant compared to the trillion dollar economies of the West. This may give some of you a great deal of comfort. But consider the fact that Hitler, with his exceptionally advanced war engine, was never able to strike at the heart of New York City.

What we're witnessing is a profound change in the way war is conducted. Today's elite military technology, UAVs, night-vision, shoulder mounted IR missles, are tomorrow's cheap imitation knock-offs available for a few thousand bucks at your local Radio Shack - some assembly required. Gone are the days of mechanized infantry battles across the desert of North Africa. And here to stay for awhile are the days of inexpensive, highly leveraged attacks against economic infrastructure.

It could easily be the case that America is simply too big to fight this war, and that the great unwinding of great nation-states is completely inevitable. But it also could be the case we're simply using the wrong tools to fight it. I have a lot to say about this. But for now, I want the A9 readers to reflect a little on where we are today versus where we were in 1946.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In Memory Of

Lt. Commander Erik S. Kristensen, a 33 year old Navy SEAL died on June 18, 2005. I just learned this. My snail mail has been rerouted several times with my moving around and I'm just now getting some mail now that has been sitting in CT for several months. Erik was flying on a Chinnok helicopter which was shot down by Afghan insurgents... I remember hearing the news report on CNN, but had no idea my English teaching friend was onboard.

Erik was not your average anything. I met him in Annapolis as he continued his own zealous quest towards beauty and greatness of soul. I could say a lot about Erik here, but a fellow alum Andy Ranson, has said it better so I'll quote from him:
Since Socrates often came up in our conversations, I thought it fitting that this passsage from The Republic leapt off the page at me recently. I picked the book up, thinking of Erik and how our friendship was cemented over discussions of it. Erik would blush at being compared to Socrates' description of a philosopher, but I think those who knew Erik will find it quite appropriate. Socrates asks Glaucon, "But the one who is willing to taste every kind of learning with gusto, and who approaches learning with delight, and is insatiable, we shall justly assert to be a philosopher, won't we?" Farewell to a great man, a true Johnnie, and a wonderful friend.
Erik S. Kristensen was laid to rest with full honors on Hospital Point at the Naval Academy this summer. The world has lost a bright light, and we are worse off without him. No further posting today please.

Pardon Me?

Maybe Libby knows he will be pardoned, so will not cooperate. Not to worry, there's always WIWITW--which is Wookie talk for Wilson Is Waiting In The Wings, lawsuit in hand, ready to "triangulate" the legal assault on this administration. The triangulation is reciprocal: if witnesses in Wilson's suit try to contradict their testimony to the grand jury--so much of which is already on display in the indictment, then Fitzgerald is waiting in the wings to nail them for perjury. Triangulation will triumph. Is this Platonic, Pythagorean, or what?

It looks at least for now like this is all going to court, no matter what happens to Libby, and no matter what he says. And when the testimony starts, the rotating blades will, as they say, decorate the White House in new shades of shame.