Saturday, September 07, 2002

An American's Statement to the World:

Hi, World, how's it going? Been a while. I know our current leader doesn't call you much, but we really do like you. In fact, we're a lot like you. Really. We've got Hindus, and Muslims, and Christians, and Jews, and people who believe in Body Thetans and the healing power of crystals. We've got Irish Buddhists, Japanese Baptists, and Jewish atheists who are trying to find a nice Jewish boy to settle down with. We've even got women who make a living travelling all over the place telling other women to stay home. All sorts of crazy shit. You'd love it over here. I know we told a lot of you to stay home, but you know we didn't mean it. Ya'll do most of the work around here anyway, except the stuff that involves typing (and that ain't really work).

I know that some of the stuff we've been doing hasn't been explained real well, so I thought I'd take a shot. Listen to me real good, now. We, the United States of America, don't want to kill you or anyone else, nor do we want to piss you or anyone else off (well, maybe France). We'd prefer that everyone just keep sending us their smartest students and hardest workers while buying our soft drinks and watching our action movies. However, we are going to defend ourselves against attack and take steps to keep ourselves from being attacked. We also reserve the right to stick up for people who are getting slaughtered for no good reason at all. Don't expect any different. Ever.

If we have to defend ourselves, people are going to die. Some of those people won't deserve it. That's just the nature of warfare. It's real hard to sort the good guys from the bad guys when the bad guys are trying to keep from being sorted. So if we end up killing someone who didn't deserve it or stationing troops near someone's holy place, we're genuinely not trying to be insensitive. We're trying to do the best we can in an imperfect world. Believe me, we don't like it when innocent people die. It's not our nature.

You might mention to your leaders that you don't want to get caught in any crossfire, so they need to make sure they don't kill any Americans ('cause if they do kill any of us, there's sure to be crossfire). If they seem intent on killing Americans anyway, you might try shooting your leaders in the head with an AK-47 or throwing them in prison. I know the Rumanians are awfully glad they shot theirs, and the Serbians don't seem too upset that theirs are in jail. I know you don't always have that option, and you may be stuck with the scumbags you've got. If so, our condolences. But your beef is with them, not with us. Getting all upset because we have troops in the desert miles and miles from anyplace you really care about or because we let women drive cars and hold jobs isn't going to make up for the fact that you can't find a decent job yourself.

On the matter of women, you really need to learn from our mistakes (not you Scandinavia, you're doing fine; and we're big fans of that casual nudity thing ya'll got going). We treated women badly the whole time we've been here (not as badly as some of you do, but badly enough) until we realized something very, very important. Women are just like men, except smaller and prettier. Yes, I know there's some differences in the plumbing, but their brains work about the same. They have the same ability to make intelligent decisions (and stupid ones) as we guys do. If we have souls (a matter still open to debate), then so do they. They aren't unclean, nor are they temptresses sent here by Satan (well, maybe those girls down in Padre, but not the rest of 'em). They also work hard and come up with some really nifty ideas. Honest. Think we came up with all this shit ourselves? If you want to catch up with our standard of living, you're gonna have to let the women have lives of their own. It just won't work any other way. Did I mention they're prettier?

You should also really chill out about people of different religions, different tribes, and different races. I know we Americans have got to work on this stuff ourselves, but we're trying (most of us, anyway). We've got one country with all the world's religions, all the world's tribes, and all the world's races in it at once. It may be confusing at times, but we've always got someplace different to eat or a new name to mispronounce. I know our history on this stuff sucks, but we're getting a lot better at it. You should try it, really. I'm just bringing up this stuff because it might keep you from starting a war that we get dragged into. There's enough real reasons to get in arguments. We don't need to go making up new ones because you're hair is straighter than your neighbor's, or 'cause his ancestors came from someplace else 500 years ago. If we try real hard, I think we can all get along. Hey, if a Vandy fan can date a UT fan, anything's possible.

So, remember. We don't want to kill anyone and we'll try hard not to, but if we have to defend ourselves we will. Don't think that any bad stuff that may happen is intentional. It's not. We're just as likely to fuck up as anyone else, we just do it with bigger ordnance. And if there's any way to interpret what we say in a way that doesn't make you angry or sad, that's the way we meant it. Honest.

We'd also like to apologize for not learning your languages. We bought the tapes and have been meaning to get around to it, but the game was on and a friend came over with some beer. Next thing we knew it was 3am and we were on our way to Padre. You know how it is.

Iraq, part II

(part I)

Just wanted to add a few things before getting on to the Big Question.

If it weren't apparent enough already, we have what appears to be definitive proof that the Administration has had a hard-on for Iraq regardless of the situation.

CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks......

With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans. And at 2:40 p.m., the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying he wanted "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only UBL" – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden.

Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn't matter to Rumsfeld.

"Go massive," the notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

Now, as I said in point #10 earlier, motivation is irrelevant . If the taking Hussein out is the right thing to do, then it's the right thing to do whether the Bushies are doing it because Saddam made Poppy look bad after the Gulf War or because they're legitimately concerned for the welfare of all Americans. Sometimes even misguided idiots want to do the smart thing, even if by seeming accident. It does however, give us reason to look carefully to make sure we aren't being fed only some of the evidence at hand. We need the good, the bad, and the ugly to make a smart decision, not just the information the Administration chooses to spoon-feed us (see Westmoreland, Gen William; also, Tonkin, Gulf of).

Steve Chapman makes a good point that Hussein threat to us nukes against us wouldn't be any more credible than threats to use chemical and biological weapons were in 1991: he's not suicidal. He knows that using them would provoke immediate and massive retaliation. Chapman concludes that
So why does Mr. Hussein want weapons of mass destruction? For their only real function - deterring other countries from attacking him. If he had nuclear weapons, the United States would have to drop the idea of invading Iraq to overthrow its government. But if the only value of an Iraqi bomb is Mr. Hussein's self-preservation, it's hardly worth going to war over.

I'm not convinced.
Hussein most likely thinks nuclear weapons would give him back the muscle he lost in the desert of Kuwait (and then some). He also knows that a nuke would make him a hero to millions of Arabs. Many feel humiliated over how powerless even their strongest countries are compared to a puny Westernized nation such as Israel, much less the combined might of the Western world. These people would cheer an "Arab Bomb" for the same reason they cheer on their World Cup teams, it would make them feel less insiginificant in the world. It would make them feel that the Arabs mattered. People've gone to war and died for feelings like that. Never underestimate the power of pride to drive people into doing really rash and stupid things.

The Arab nations that are currently seething with discontent (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Algeria chief among them) would have to publicly side with Hussein in most any dispute or face greater instability. We may not care, but they will. They're already taking his side against ours. Imagine how much worse it would be if he became the most visible symbol of strength in the Arab world (and that is what he wants to be). We really don't want Hussein having that kind of influence.

We also have to worry about what Hussein would do if his bluff were called or if a conflict got out of control. No nuclear power has ever lost an all-out war. I'm sure Russia would use its nukes if Moscow were threatened, and I'm sure we would if Red Dawnever became reality. Why wouldn't Hussein use his nukes if Turkish, Iranian, or Israeli tanks were on the outskirts of Baghdad? A regional confrontation could easily escalate into something big and threatening to his regime. Remember, Hussein is not some beloved father figure with a deep well of sympathy within Iraq (he's far more popular among people who've never lived under his rule). He's a brutal dictator who rules by force. He would have to treat any incursion by enemy troops, any rebellion, anything at all that showed him to be weak as a threat both to his rule and to his life.

With a nuke by his side, Hussein would most likely feel free to foment unrest again among Turkish and Iranian Kurds (a three way game they've been playing since the 60's); to test Israel by forcing Jordan into breaking diplomatic relations; maybe even to take up unfinished business with Iran. He would consider his nukes to be a Get Out of Jail Free Card. Other countries could push back, but if they got fed up and went after Iraq itself...boom. Just that threat would make him much more adventurous in the region. Now imagine if the offended country didn't pull up short of the goal line, or if military setbacks caused a rebellion to break out. If he thought he was going down, Hussein would use the bomb without hesitation.

We also have to worry about what happens to the nukes when Saddam (who's 70 years old) is gone. He's got two sons, the smart one and the crazy one. He's also got an oppressed Shiite majority and at least a few generals who wouldn't mind running the show for a while. No nuclear country has ever had a civil war, either.The wrong side could win, bombs could go missing during all the chaos, or they could be used if one side started to get its ass kicked. All we really need is a Somalia with nukes.

As much as I'd like to think that Hussein getting nukes wouldn't be a problem as long as we no longer messed with him, I can't.
They would be, and in more ways than we can enumerate (Imagine if the crazy son took power? Imagine if Hussein got Alzheimer's?).

Iraq and Money

It would be nice if we could ignore how much things cost in matters of life and death. We can't. If money didn't matter, we could simply bribe everyone into being our friends and then get our friends to beat up on the few people who still didn't like us. In fact, we're doing a limited version of this right now with countries like Egypt and Pakistan. The reason it's limited is because money is limited. Like it or not, we have to take money into account even in matters of national defense. The answer may very well be yes, but the question must be asked: Is an invasion and occupation of Iraq worth the billions of dollars it would cost? Or, if you will (and I think you will), Is an invasion and occupation of Iraq a better use of billions of dollars than anything else we could do with the same money?

The first Gulf War cost approximately $61 billion (about $80 billion in today's dollars), with Japan and the Gulf States paying 80% of the cost (this is only the cost of the wa, not of the years of bombing and enforcing the no-fly zone since). Most estimates of the cost of invading Iraq have simply extrapolated from that to reach an estimate of $100 billion or so. I believe this is wildly underestimated. The original Gulf War was a relatively short bombing campaign, followed by a very short ground war, and a little more bombing. The proposed war is a full scale invasion and occupation of Iraq, not simply the driving out of an occupying country. It's going to be a lot more involved. I'd be surprised if it cost less than $200 billion, with the United States paying every dime (and it could cost far more).

Some fantasists seemt o think we can simply inavde Iraq, taked the oil wells, and pay for the invasion with that oil. It's not going to happen. In 1991, Hussein had his withdrawing troops set fire to Kuwait's oil fields and destroy its wells. If we invade and take the oil fields og Iraq, expect them to be in flames. Once we do get the fires under control and the equipment rebuilt, every dollar will be needed to feed the people of Iraq (remember them?) and to rebuild all the crap we blew up during the invasion and all the crap that Hussein let fall apart so economic sanctions would look bad on Al Jazeera. I repeat: The oil wells of Iraq will not contribute one dollar to the cost of an invasion.

We aslo need to worry about the effect of an invasion on the economy of the United States and of the world as a whole. The three major recessions since the 60's were all started by spikes in the price of oil (the Oil Embargo of '73, the Iranian Revolution of '79, and the invasion of Kuwait in '90). We shouldn't expect things to be different this time around. Given that we're already in a recession, they may be far worse. The United States imports far more of its oil than ever before and has done nothing to dampen its dependence on fossil fuels. Domestic supplies would never be able to pick up the slack (regardless of what Dick Cheney tells us). Not only do we have far less oil than the Persian Gulf, but they're far less accessible. The cost of drilling in Alaska is about 10 times the cost of drilling in Saudi Arabia.

Iraq currently sells billions of dollars of oil legally through the food-for-oil program. It also sells billions of dollars more illegally through Syria and Jordan. Take all that oil off the market and the world price will skyrocket (and it will be off the market). If Hussein manages to stop or slow deliveries from the Persian Gulf (and he'll try), the price of oil could hit record highs. In 1991, Hussein hunkered down and played defense (other than sending a few Scuds towards Israel) in hopes that we wouldn't invade and depose him. It worked. If we knows we're coming after him, expect Hussein to use every weapon in his arsenal. One of the most powerful would be to interrupt oil deliveries and/or to strike against the oil fields of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Expect an invasion of Iraq to send oil prices through the roof, with likely depressive effects on the world economy.

Again, an invasion of Iraq may well be worth the financial and economic costs involved, but we need to take those costs into effect. Ignoring the economic effects of our actions and not weighing the financial costs of those actions is unrealistic. Life is a series of tradeoffs, and we need to go into those tradeoffs with our eyes open. In this case, we'd be trading off a ton of money and a short-term spike in oil prices (among many other things) for getting rid of Saddam Hussein. We'll have to decide if it's worth it.

Friday, September 06, 2002

Daschle Won't Be Stampeded

The New York Times reports

Congressional leaders said today that they would undertake weeks of hearings and debate on whether to support military action against Iraq, a move that could delay a final vote until after the November elections.

"I'm more concerned about getting this done right than getting it done quickly," said Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic majority leader, a day after President Bush agreed to seek congressional approval before any invasion. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the Republican minority leader, also made it clear that he did not favor forcing a quick vote, although on Wednesday Congressional and administration leaders had predicted that the debate could be concluded by early October......

The critical questions now may not be the outcome of the debate about Iraq, but rather how long it lasts, and what effect it has on the general election campaign this fall.

I'm glad to hear this for a couple reasons.
1) As an ex-military man myself, I don't want to us to start a large and potentially long-running war for cheap electoral reasons, nor do I want to see us commit troops without deciding as a nation that the benefit is worth the price.
2) I think it's bad policy to make life or death decisions on a rushed timetable right before an election. The circumstances don't exactly lend themselves to thinking things through.
3) I don't want to see the Bush administration gain a partisan advantage from an issue that shouldn't be politicized.

I know why Daschle doesn't want a quick vote (and it confirms my feeling that he knows exactly what he's doing as Majority Leader, unlike some ones we've had in the past). I just don't know why Lott doesn't either. He may have traded it away in a backroom deal for something else he wanted, or he may actually be feeling some pressure from his own side to slow things down a bit. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has said he'd vote no if he wasn't shown a legitimate reason to invade Iraq, and there may be more like him. If so, good for them. I don't thing the Senate should roll over for anyone in the White House from any party, especially not on matters of life and death.
Roll Call has the news that there will almost certainly be a vote on a War Resolution before the October recess and that Bush will be providing the text:
Congressional leaders are preparing for a lengthy and possibly divisive debate over going to war against Iraq, with near unanimous agreement the vote will come before the Nov. 5 elections......

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told a closed-door meeting of House GOP leaders Wednesday to expect a vote before leaving town for the elections, a departure that is currently slated for Oct. 4.......

Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.), however, said he believes that a resolution will be arriving shortly, something he'll reserve judgment until he reads the exact wording. "We have to wait and see what he sends us. It's up to him to give it to us, just as his father did," Reid said, referring to the 1991 debate on the Gulf War.

This stinks more and more of Karl Rove and election year politics, and has absolutely nothing to do with case for invading Iraq. It's simply an effort to make this election about fighting the War On Terror rather than on domestic issues. They know that virtually no Republicans will lose any votes by giving Bush the go-ahead, but that a vote either way will hurt some Democrats.

Look for the Administration to craft a War Resolution giving Bush complete leeway to do anything he wants, even to invade countries other than Iraq. The point will be twofold, #1: to actually get all the leeway they want; #2 (and more importantly) to goad Democrats into voting against it. Those votes, provoked by the sheer unreasonableness of the Resolution, can then be used against them in the November elections.

As a bonus, Greens and pacifistic Dems can also be provoked into abandoning any Democrat who votes for the Resolution. This gives the Republicans an advantage either way in many swing districts and conservative states. I know why Rove wants to do it, but why would Daschle fall for it? There's no great urgency, no reason a vote can't be held after the election. If this is truly about national security and not about partisan politics, then it should be held when we can have an open debate not a few weeks before the election.

I reaffirm (and extend) my prediction:
If the War Resolution is voted on before the elections, it costs Paul Wellstone his job and costs the Democrats the House of Representatives (as even a moderate number of liberals sitting on their hands come election day would tilt several close races).

Thursday, September 05, 2002

War & Politics

The politics of going to war with Iraq have almost nothing to do with the actual reasons to go to war (see previous point #10 Motivation is Irrelevant ), so I will deal with them seperately.

The Bushies have announced that not only do they want Congressional approval for going after Iraq, but that they want it before the elections. This can be the work only of the most powerful man in Washington, Karl Rove. The timing of the announcement and the request to have it done before the elections have virtually nothing to do with Iraq (the administration had already signalled its willingness to invade without Congressional approval) and everything to do with those November elections.

Two weeks ago the headlines were nothing but bad news for the Republicans, as business scandal after business scandal threatened to engulf the party most associated with corporate America. Now, after a few weeks of judicious leaking and today's announcement. the headlines are buoying the hopes of the party most associated with national defense. This is not a coincidence. Nor is the attempt to have the vote take place a few weeks before the voters decide control of Congress. This is a brazen attempt to make political hay out a life and death decision.

The one race this is aimed at more than any other is the Senate race in Minnesota and incumbent Paul Wellstone, the most visible member of the "Peace Camp" in the Democratic Party. In fact, a vote on invading Iraq before the election will probably cost Wellstone his job and may cost the Democrats the Senate. If Wellstone votes no, he'll be branded as a "wimp" and as too soft for today's brutal geo-political climate. He'd lose droves of swing voters in Rural Minnesota. If he votes yes, he'll be branded an opportunistic sellout and alienate the core of his support among dyed in the wool liberals. This would almost fatally kill turnout among his left wing base (while driving even more to the Greens).

Tom Harkin may be affected by the same dynamic in Iowa, but to a much lesser degree. He's neither as vulnerable as Wellstone nor as dependent on the left wing of the Democratic Party for his support. Jean Carnahan in Missouri should only be affected if the vote is extremely close, as it very well may be. Tim Johnson in South Dakota should only be affected if Tom Daschle grossly mishandles the situation, which I doubt he will. This is one of the few situations where being the incumbent is a disadvantage, as a challenger who needs liberal votes to win (true in both Oregon and Colorado this year) won't draw nearly as much fire either way. With no vote to cast, he can at least deflect the issue if not dodge it altogether.

The desire to go to war among most of the Bush camp may not be political, but the decision to ask for a vote right before the election surely is. If Tom Daschle has any gumption at all, he'll call the Bush's bluff and schedule a vote for the first week after Congress comes back into session after the election. He could also publicly declare that he doesn't want to saddle a new Congress with the decision of an old one, and wait until December. The only urgency is in the fevered brain of Karl Rove, who knows a good wedge issue when he sees one (see Reparations, Slavery; also Defense, Missile).

Why am I so sure that Karl Rove is behind this decision? Because it's what I'd do in his place,and my Momma didn't raise no fool.


Given that Iraq, "regime change", and a possible invasion is the #1 topic of interest for current webloggers, I feel that I should explore the issues surrounding our former friend Saddam Hussein and his reign of terror in the Middle East. I'll try to delineate what I feel to be the salient points and draw policy from them, rather than start with the policy first and point out only the facts that support it (as so many people on both sides seem to do). I will also refrain from references to Neville Chamberlain and 1930's Germany (the situations aren't comparable), from wishful thinking (if we would drop the sanctions, maybe Hussein would stop trying to take over the Middle East), and from irrelevant distractions (while I care about the West Bank and Gaza, I sincerely doubt that Saddam Hussein gives a flying fuck about anyone but himself).

1) Saddam Hussein is a brutal, despotic scumbag who's proven he'll do anything to hold onto or increase his power. He's had relatives and lifelong friends tortured and killed. He's invaded both Kuwait and Iran. He's used poison gas against both enemy combatants (in Iran) and his own civilians (the Kurds). He allows Iraqi children to die of treatable illnesses because their deaths make the Western sanctions against his regime look bad.

2) Hussein isn't crazy, stupid, or suicidal. You don't stay alive and in control this long by being stupid. He doesn't want to die and join Allah in heaven. He doesn't think he's a living God, nor does he think little green men from Mars or the neighbor's dog are giving him orders. He does what he does out of rational self-interest (as he sees it).

3) Hussein is a scumbag, but there are lots of other scumbags in the world. Some have even been our frinds (see Somoza, Anastasio; also Sese Seko, Mobutu). Libya, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have all exported terror at one time or another and all treat their people like absolute shit. We just finished giving preferential trade terms to China, which forces women to have abortions, uses slave labor to manufacture exports, and sells the organs of condemned prisoners (few of whom did anything that would be worthy of the death penalty in the US).

4) We can handle scumbags, just not ones bent on dominating the world's oil supply. We wouldn't have a problem with Hussein if he were simply a routine despot letting his people starve while he built palaces. It's his predisposition for conquest and domination that has us (rightly) freaked out.

5) Hussein wants to be a player. Life as the unchallenged dictator of a relative backwater is not the life for him, he wants power over other people. Preferably, he'd like to be the dominant military force in the oil-producing parts of the Middle East. If not, he'd settle for a being a hero to the Arab world, with his opinion having great sway over the fates of other leaders.

6) Hussein already has both biological and chemical weapons. Both are relatively easy to make and easy to hide once made. However, both are difficult to use in a way that would immediately threaten the West. He could use nerve gas against enemy troops in the field, or spread the plague to Hadjis in Mecca, but it would be much more difficult to use them against us directly. That is not to say, however, that it is impossible (it's not). Biological weapons could certainly do a lot of damage, especially if a contagious disease with a long incubation time were spread through Western Europe.

7) He doesn't have nukes, but he'd like to. Nuclear weapons are much harder to build, the components are much more rare, and they are much harder to keep hidden once built (radiation leaks and is relatively easy to spot, foreign scientists are noticeable, people talk). However, once in hand, Nukes are much easier to use effectively. A missile, an airplane, a container ship, or a delivery truck could all be used to explode a nuclear device in a foreign city.

8) We really, really don't want him to get nukes. Not only would that make Hussein the de facto leader of the Arab world (as possessor of the long-sought "Arab Bomb"), it would make him a very real threat to our dear friend Israel and give him a veto over the actions of every country in the Persian Gulf region. It's not the use of the bomb, but its threatened use that would be enough. Every power in the region (other than Israel) would have to back down before his threats and Israel would have to consider itself at a stalemate. Even the US would have to think long and hard about confronting a fellow nuclear power.

9) We only care because of the oil. Let's face it. Th only reason we don't write off the Middle East tomorrow (the way we have sub-Saharan Africa) is because they've got the oil and we need it to keep our lifestyle going. No one was beating the drum to invade Uganda just because Idi Amin was eating his enemies.

10) Motivation is irrelevant. The wrong thing is still the wrong thing even if we do it for the right reasons (see Vietnam, Cambodia, et al). The right thing is still the right thing even if we do it for the wrong reasons (see Noriega, Manuel; currently a guest of the Federal corrections system).

11) Competence and staying power, however, are not irrelevant. If we do the right thing in the wrong way, it could turn out far worse than doing nothing at all (see Afganistan 1980-2001). If our leaders lack either the competence to pull off an invasion in the best way it could be done or the staying power to do what needs to be done afterwards, we need to take that into account when making a decision.

12) None of our allies want us to invade, but allies are quite important when taking action, much less so when deciding what action to take. Just because other countries don't want us to invade does not necessarily mean that we shouldn't want to invade. We should factor into the Cost-Benefit Analysis the damage done to our relations with other countries by acting alone. Few things would be worth the cost if it involved every other nation cutting off relations and ceasing trade with us immediately (not that this is even a remote possibility). We also need to take the availability (or lack of it) of help into account when deciding if a plan is feasible.

13) If we invade, Hussein will attack Israel , just like he did last time. This time, however, we should expect more than just Scuds. He'll pull out the chemical weapons, whatever air force he has left, everything but the kitchen sink. The intent will be to get the Arab world to rally around him, and it just might work. Any Arab nation standing with us may face open revolt in its streets.

14) The "Best Case Scenario" almost never comes to pass. While the Gulf War itself almost fits that bill (I'm not sure killing 100,000 Iraqi draftees would have been the "Best Case"), its aftermath certainly doesn't. No one wanted to see Hussein stay in power and gradually rebuild his military capability, yet there he is.

15) This will not be a repeat of the Gulf War. We cannot waltz into battle expecting our opponents to surrender en masse (see USSR v. Finland, 1939-1940). Hussein will not have his troops in the open desert as easy bait for airstrikes. They will be deep in the mountains (where we can cut them off and leave them to starve) and in the cities (where we must root them out house-to-house). This will be an ugly, vicious war (see Stalingrad, Beirut, Grozny, et al) with high casualties on both sides and lots of dead civilians. Hussein's troops won't fight fair. They'll stay in populated areas where they have civilans as human shields and they'll use every weapon at their disposal (including chemical and biological weapons). That's not to say that this might not be worth it, just that we need to take it into account.

16) After the invasion is over, we won't all sit around a campfire holding hands, singing Kumbaya, and giving each other backrubs. The Iraqis have no tradition of liberal democracy and pluralism to fall back on, as Western Europe did after WWII and as Central Europe did after fall of the Iron Curtain. No Vaclav Havel will emerge to lead them into the light of a new day. There will be a bitter power struggle, with the Shiite majority, the Kurdish minority, and the Sunni dominated military and economic structure in opposite corners. There will be on "Rule of Law" (there never has been), there will be no respect for each other's human rights (ditto) and there will be no peace unless it is imposed from outside.

17) Unfortunately, we won't be able to just declare victory and go home. As stated in #9 above, we need the oil. Not only does Iraq have about 10% of the world's oil reserves, it sits right next to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, representing about half the oil in the world. Please don't mention crap like ANWR. It wouldn't pump enough oil in a decade to replace the Gulf's output for a week. Walking away from Iraq as it dissolves into chaos just isn't an option, not with our oil-driven economy (pun intended).

18) Yes, this means nation-building. We would need to keep troops in Iraq for the forseeable future to ensure a successful transition to a stable nation. Anything less would be to invite disaster.

19) Note: I didn't say a stable democracy. Despite the ravings of some ideologues to the contrary, democracy is not in Iraq's immediate future under any realistic scenario, nor should we want it to be. The immediate result of a truly democratic election would most likely be the immediate impostion of a Shiite theocracy followed by years of civil war. The best we can hope for is a relatively benign monarchy like that in Jordan or Morocco, the worst (other than civil war) would be some variation of the brutal theocrats currently running Iran and Saudi Arabia.

20) We shouldn't really care who ends up on top as long as they foreswear offensive military actions and nuclear weapons and seem capable of governing the country into the forseeable future. This is why we want a benevolent monarchy, they tend to last a lot longer. We will, of course, end up taking sides, if for no other reason than that the House of Saud wants us to. Unfortunately, they control the oil wells and we've been too short-sighted to cut consumption when we had a chance.

So, there's the situation as I see it. Please write if you agree, disagree, or think I left something out.
Next installment: what the hell should we do?

Wednesday, September 04, 2002


I'm a hetersexual, white male veteran with a mild Southern accent, very short hair, and a father who ran for Congress as a Republican. You might assume by this that I'm a conservative myself, but I'm not (at least not what passes for "conservative" these days). You'll find it hard to pidgeonhole me politically, but I do tend to vote for the Democratic Party. Sometimes this is because I genuinely like the candidate, sometimes it's because I'm repulsed by his opponent. They stray at times (sometimes far afield), but the Democrats do seem to be on the right side of most issues I care about and are more likely than not to be on the side of the little guy (I figure the big guy can look out for himself). I couldn't care less about the pet cause of the some of the Left, but I also couldn't care less about the pet causes of much of the Right.

I tend to care a lot more about economic issues than social ones, and I tend to favor government regulation in areas where the less scrupulous among us might otherwise run wild and ruin things for everyone (such as the environment and the stock market). I favor government funding where private funding would leave pressing needs unmet (healthcare and the environment again), or where it would distort what we as a society hold important (education especially). If anything, I guess I'd call myself a New Deal Democrat.

For a glimpse into my mindset, I'll leave you with a list of things I'm for and another list of things I'm against.

Choice, Democracy, Free Speech (even when idiotic), Military, Gay Rights, Guns, Israel, Waving When Someone Lets You Into Traffic, Environmental Regulation, Single Payer Healthcare, NATO, Public Transportation, Fair Trade, Unions, Spring Break, The Alternative Press, Public Education, Alternative Fuels, Families, Minor League Baseball, Long-Ass Prison Sentences for Violent Crimes, "Please" and "Thank You", Being Multilingual, The Pick and Roll, A Steeply Progressive Tax Code, Sin Taxes (no, I don't see a conflict), The World Cup, Sex, Sarcasm, Days Games, Trains, Division III (non-scholarship) Athletics, Family Farms, Neighborhood Policing, Foreign Aid (with lots and lots of strings attached), America as an ideal we can try to live up to and as an imperfect society we can try to better.

Abortion (I think it should be legal, I just don't like it), NAFTA, Affirmative Action, Vouchers, Astroturf, The Death Penalty, Policing Morality, Television, PETA, The Christian Coalition, Chickenhawks, TheWar on Drugs (better called The War on Some People Who Use Some Drugs), Speech Codes, SUVs, Slavery Reparations, Prayer in Schools, "Unhuh" Instead of "You're Welcome", Athletic Scholarships, The Foreign Policy of the French Government (1872-present), Puritanism, Fundamentalists (of any stripe), Greens, Ayn Rand, True Believers and Fanatics (of any stripe), PNTR with China, Welfare, The University of Tennessee Football Team, Self-Regulation of Industry, The United Nations, Long Commutes, The Designated Hitter, Long-Ass Prison Sentences for Non-Violent Crimes, America as a litmus test or as an ideological abstraction instead of a real country.
Hello World!