Saturday, October 09, 2004

My Debate Thoughts
Glenn Reynolds does a great job covering the debate, especially in this post, which rounds up the post-debate conclusions of several major pundits and bloggers. I recommend you check all of that out.

As far as my thoughts go, however, it comes down to a simple conclusion: Bush won, based on a stronger response, lower expectations after the first debate, and, I think, better preparation. Less often, tonight, I found myself scowling, cursing, and wondering why he didn't say x, y, or z. He still never slammed anything out of the park, even when Kerry teed up the ball, but there were some very strong answers just the same. Before I continue on my overall impression, however, I'd like to address a few very specific quotes from Senator Kerry (quotations from Washington Post transcript, available here).

"King Abdullah of Jordan said just yesterday or the day before you can't hold elections in Iraq with the chaos that's going on today."
Yes, people, that's King Abdullah, clearly an authority on when and where democratic elections can and should be held, right?

Randee Jacobs: "Iran sponsors terrorism and has missiles capable of hitting Israel and southern Europe. Iran will have nuclear weapons in two to three years time. In the event that U.N. sanctions don't stop this threat, what will you do as president?"
Senator Kerry: "I don't think you can just rely on U.N. sanctions, Randee."
That's right, he said it. In Iraq, we should have taken more time, and given "Hans Blix" the time he needed to complete his inspections. As I remember, Hans Blix said then that it would take years for him to be satisfied that there truly were no WMD in Iraq. Given those circumstances, Senator Kerry says he would have waited and allowed sanctions to continue to contain Saddam. Given similar circumstances in Iran, however, we cannot rely on sanctions. I'd like to ask Senator Kerry what exactly the difference is there. Of course, I already know that the answer is the same as why bilateral talks are the right idea with North Korea, while Iraq should have been mutlilateral: anything Bush does, particularly regarding Iraq, must be wrong.

"General Wes Clark, who won the war in Kosovo, supporting me[...]"
I won't go into depth here, but I wrote a paper on this, and I will hold firm on one point: we spectacularly failed to meet any one of our objectives for the war in Kosovo. If you want further details, email me, and I'd be happy to provide them.

"And in order to have the best intelligence in the world, to know who the terrorists are and where they are and what they're plotting, you've got to have the best cooperation you've ever had in the world."
Jokingly, while watching the debate, I interrupted the middle of this line, after the world "world," and said something along the lines of "you've got to ask France and Germany for permission." I didn't honestly believe he'd say that, but that's pretty much what this line says. Oh, and by the way, our intelligence on Niger and Iraq seeking Uranium there, which has been so wildly disputed by the Democrats, came from Britain, probably by way of France.
Also, as my brother points out, Kerry makes a good point: France did have more people on the ground in Iraq than we did, it's just that they were making deals with Saddam.

"Boy, to listen to that -- the president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment.
Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's OK. But if you're a president, it's not."

First off, it's news to me that Red Sox fans don't live in a world of reality, with respect to the environment. That's a piece of information I didn't have at my disposal.
Secondly, he's just lost the vote of a lot of Red Sox fans, or he should. He's also proven once again that he is not a true Red Sox fan, and sticks to that line just for the votes it may bring him. Aside from saying his favorite Sox player is 'Manny Ortiz,' actually a combination of the players Davide Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, he has made several gaffs regarding his supposed favorite team. If he were a true Sox fan, though, he would know that while we may cognitively know we don't function in reality, and we acknowledge that people who say so may be right, we absolutely never say it about ourselves. It is always the year that our boys are going to win the series. (I chalk this up to more evidence that Kerry is a lying opportunist, to a much greater degree than that to which President Bush can ever legitimately be accused.

"They pulled out of the global warming [treaty], declared it dead, didn't even accept the science."
He is referring, here, to the Kyoto Accords, which he, apparently, thinks we should have stuck with. On July 25, 1997, the 105th Congress voted on the following:

Question: On the Resolution (s.res.98 )

Declares that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997 or thereafter which would: (1) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex 1 Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period; or (2) result in serious harm to the U.S. economy.

YEAs 95
NAYs 0
Not Voting 5
Senator Kerry's vote? Yea. That is, he voted for this proposition, which was to withdraw from Kyoto. Now, he says: "The fact is that the Kyoto treaty was flawed. I was in Kyoto, and I was part of that. I know what happened. But this president didn't try to fix it. He just declared it dead, ladies and gentlemen, and we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10 years."
But the fact remains, Senator Kerry voted to take precisely that action, along with 94 other Senators, in opposition to, that's right, exactly ZERO Senators (the rest were absentions). Sounds like the man I want to be my president.

"China and India are graduating more graduates in technology and science than we are."
According to (first site that came up in Google), China's 2003 population was 1.28 billion, India's was 1.05 billion, and the US was 0.29 billion (290 million). Combined, China and India have over 8 times the population of the United States. Separately, India alone (the smaller of the two), has over 3 times the population. Of course they are graduating more technology students than we are!

That's it for now, I'll try to post a bit more tomorrow, after I consider my overall impressions, and incorporate what I hear from the pundits.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Iraq posed no threat, right? - Disksfound in Iraq show info on U.S. schools: "The U.S. military in Iraq has discovered two computer disks containing photographs, layouts and other material pertaining to American schools in six states, U.S. government officials said.
The FBI is examining the materials, but a Department of Homeland Security official said the intelligence community determined there was no threat.
The military retrieved the disks in Iraq within the last couple of months, and they were turned over to the FBI, one official said Thursday.
'There is no threat associated with this,' another government official said."

So, it seems that someone in Saddam's government was collecting data on American schools. Interesting. Clearly, I'm going to use this to explain that Saddam's government posed a threat, right? So why on earth would I include the line that 'there is no threat associated with this"? Simple: because our President removed the threat that was there. I'll say this one more time for the record: Saddam spent the last decade lambasting and threatening the US in every public speech he made. He didn't have the weapons, but he wanted to. The sanctions were failing, and the world was moving to eliminate them. Had we not acted, were Saddam still in power, we would still be in danger.

More troops? Don't be stupid
My brother contributes a great post today, contradicting the points made by Andrew Sullivan, Jake at dcfb. The important portion:

"I've heard the criticism that while we hoped for the best, we neglected to plan for the worst. However, I disagree with that statement. We planned for a long hard slog through the desert to Baghdad, under a rain of chemical weapons, and across burning moats of oil. We planned for months, possibly years of door to door, high-intensity, urban combat through Baghdad with the Republican Gaurd and the Saddam Fedayeen. It didn't happen. The US and Iraqi military and civilian casualties would have been far greater in that case, and we should thank our military commanders that they were able to devise a plan that was flexible enough to capitalize on the previously known weaknesses of the Baathist military and those discovered through the course of battle in those opening days.
Some people say, that yes, we were able to take Baghdad, but obviously we don't have enough troops on the ground to pacify the nation. However, I'm unconvinced that more troops would significantly improve the situation. I'm inclined to believe those that say that more US or Coalition troops would further alienate Iraqis, rightfully inflame their sense of nationality, and lend credibility to the terrorists calls to arms."
I've been drawing parallels, in my mind, between the war in Iraq and the American Revolution since the explosion of Al Sadr's rebellion mid-summer. While I haven't found the time to write a full-blown column, allow me to draw out some of the connections here.

I took a class a few years ago on American military strategy through the Civil War, which went pretty far in analyzing the Revolutionary War, particularly how we were able to defeat the British. There are some important lessons there that can be applied to Iraq. The problem is, while these lessons have been taught to military strategists for centuries, they are not known to the general public. This makes it easy to say "we need more troops, we need more troops," to overcome a rebellion, when in reality that is exactly opposite to common military knowledge.

In the Revolution, very generally speaking, the British faced a native population, a portion of which was militantly opposed to their intervention, the majority of which was largely apathetic towards their presence, much as we now face in Iraq. The British thought was, the militant portion is small, and all that they needed to do was crush it once, maybe twice, chase the farmers back to their homes, and the rebellion would be put down. Lexington and Concord should have taught them otherwise, when, despite their overwhelming strength, the British sustained heavily casualties while returning to Boston. Throughout the rest of the war, the Brits constantly overestimated the importance of a military victory, as every American death led to more dedication from the militant groups in American society, and an even slighter possibility of a return to the status quo after the war.

The differences between this and Iraq are striking. Iraq is not our colony, we have no desire to maintain territory there (aside from a few military bases), and we are not trying to subjugate the people to our desires, but merely free them to pursue theirs. That being said, however, we are facing a similar enemy, and if we try to overwhelm them, we will lose the war the same way the British lost to us. The key is to do what the British failed to do in sufficient quantities: we have to stimulate the natives who recognize what we are trying to accomplish to act on our behalf. As my brother pointed out, we need to train Iraqi forces so that the terrorists are attacking them, not us, so that the overall Iraqi population comes to side with their countrymen, against Zarqawi et al. Winning the hearts and minds, as I believe our military commanders understand, cannot be accomplished by destroying Fallujah, or even just the terrorists within that city. It can only be done by creating sympathy among the apathetic portion of Iraqis for the portion that has sided with us -- through their losses instead of ours, through our refusal to target them, and through elections that show the people what true freedom can accomplish.

The truth behind the pictures
For those of you who saw Keith's post regarding the Pentagon's refusal to release images of coffins returning from Iraq, I'd like to point you to two columns from the Wall Street Journal.

The first was published several months ago, and was written by Ronald Griffin, whose son died in a truck accident in Tikrit. He is firmly committed to keeping the images out of the public eye, for the sake of the other families who have lost sons and daughters. He adamently insists that the pain and suffering of these families not be used for political leverage on the national stage.

"Steve Capus, executive producer of 'NBC Nightly News,' arrogantly and presumptuously spoke for me when he stated, 'It would seem that the only reason somebody would come out against the use of these pictures is that they are worried about the political fallout.' Well I am that 'somebody,' and as I looked at those pictures the tears were not running because of my worry about political fallout. In all the criticism there has never once been put forth a single argument of how having the media coverage lifted would be of benefit to the loved ones of these heroes. We are never taken into account. We are the collateral damage in this all so obvious ideological struggle [...] Had the media ban not been in effect, we, the families of fallen soldiers, would not have had these moments to ourselves. Without the ban, it is conceivable that I could have viewed a procession of flag-draped coffins as they disembarked from the aircraft. But how would the families of those other fallen heroes, who would be unable to come to Dover because they lived in Iowa or North Dakota or Arizona, feel when they viewed on TV their loved ones arriving? Would they feel the honor that was being bestowed upon them from all those other Americans? Or would they suffer further when the pictures were used in the context of criticism?"
The second comes from today's OpinionJournal, and points out the absurdity of the argument that the images must be released in order for the public to understand the true costs of the war:
"Prof. Begleiter, who teaches at the J-school at the University of Delaware, told me in an e-mail--courteously and freely--that he filed suit because the Pentagon's policy of 'keeping the images secret has been inconsistently applied.' It has 'periodically made some images public, including some from Afghanistan,' but is not permitting dissemination of images of coffins from Iraq. 'I am making this request,' he explained--with the e-mail equivalent of a straight face--'to settle the policy.' Oh, and 'to force the government to either deny or grant the public the ability to properly assess the cost of war.'
So there you have it. Prof. Begleiter's suit is in the service of the public--an act of civic duty--done to steer rudderless Americans (War dead? What war dead?) in the direction of The True Picture. 'I believe the picture should be complete,' he told me. 'Images of war casualties are an age-old component of the cost of war.'
So: Without Prof. Begleiter and his exquisite concern for every part of the jigsaw, without his selfless Samaritan's lawsuit against the Pentagon, without these pictures of coffins draped in flags--lowered daily from the belly of a transport plane--We, the People, Would Not Know.
If you read this and choke, you've probably lost a son in Iraq."
I offer these to you in the interest of open debate. Read Keith's piece, and the comments that follow, and then read these two OpinionJournal pieces.

Personally, I come down on the side of the latter. I cannot believe that the supposed gain from releasing these images, and having them in every news broadcast regarding casualties in Iraq from now until the last (think CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, 24/7), outweighs the suffering it will inflict on the families of the fallen, and the dishonor to the dead that will be done by the political opportunism of those opposed to the war when they get their hands on these pictures and video. It simply doesn't make sense to me that the public is stupid enough not to know that 1000 deaths is a high cost, or that there is any other reason we need to see these images. Like today's WSJ editorial, I think it is summed up nicely by what Mr. Griffin wishes he could say to the journalism professor sueing to get these pictures released: "If I were to talk to Prof. Begleiter, I'd say: 'Hey, you don't need to see the pictures. The American public doesn't need to see them. If they don't already know about the war in Iraq, and that people are dying there, then shame on them.'"

Part of a Rare Breed
An editorial in today's WSJ asks: "Whatever happened to campaign buttons? Sure, they're still out there, on delegates at political conventions and for sale on eBay. But the days when you could just walk into campaign offices and grab all the freebies your pricked hands could stand are long gone. Buttons no longer shower the crowd at political rallies like candy at a Shriner's parade; and the girls in paper Hubert Humphrey dresses who handed out buttons on the midway at the Texas State Fair in 1968 were already a dying breed.
Not only that, but people used to actually wear these things, on a lapel or collar, as proud tokens of their engagement in the political process. No more. We may plaster our cars with candidate bumper stickers and even, in a fit of some strange passion, put up a giant yard sign. But walk around wearing a pin? No way."

Apparently the editors of the WSJ opinion page have not been visiting many college campuses. Yes, I too lament that you can no longer get political buttons for free by the handful, but you can get them online and at conventions, and I, along with many of my fellow students, commonly pin them onto our backpacks. So, they're not dead, just reserved for a smaller class of people.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I'll be damned
Brokaw just went to Wonkette and Powerline for punditry input. Looks like old media has finally been forced to consider the power of blogging.

Quote of the Debate
The experienced, intelligent, thoughtfull Cheney repeatedly smacks down the whiney, argumentative, upstart Edwards. He backs up his statements with facts, and with history. Edwards does so with exaggerations and invective. So, the quote? Cheney: "You know, Gwen, it's hard to know where to start; there are so many inaccuracies there."

My early thoughts, as the debate continues
A recap, so far:
Senator Edwards: Come onnnnn. You guys are lying, admit it. Pleeeeease? I've got facts. They're not true, but I memorized them anyway.
VP Cheney: Your facts are inaccurate. Here are the real facts. Oh, and remove your pants; I've got a hankerin' for a spankerin'.

This (via OxBlog) is ridiculous: "Red regularly unbolted his cage door and released his favourite canine companions for midnight feasts."

There's a video link in the right-hand column. Watch it. Despite the obnxious British woman who is giving the report, the video is pretty spectacular.

Political Wire: Presidential Coffee Cup Poll: "According to The Hill, a new poll finds President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are tied among coffee drinkers, 44% to 44%. However, among those who take their coffee black, Bush leads 48% to 42%. Kerry 'takes the cream-and-sugar crowd' by a margin of 50% to 36%. "

Now there's a shocker...

The Curse of Victory
Brendan Miniter has a great piece today in the WSJ about why the "success" of last week's presidential debate (as you all know, I still maintain that Kerry did not have the victory many are attributing to him) might end up being an albatross for the Democratic ticket.

What it comes down to is the expectations game. Debate victors on the national level, unfortuantely, do not win because of superior policy claims, or powerful statements, but rather because of the heuristic shortcuts taken by the public at large. When you boil down what Kerry said, it was no different then what he'd been saying for the previous ten days, and significantly different from what he'd been saying in each of the preceeding ten-day periods. But, supposedly he won because of style points. Now, the benefit he got from the national media's downplaying his debating skills is gone. Even if he loses the next debate, he will be expected to win another victory when the third rolls around.

Tough break. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. (Oh, except maybe Al Gore, who won the first debate in 2000). Read Mr. Miniter's piece, it's worth it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

It's tough to argue...
...with the logic of reality. Keith has a great post today, regarding Kerry's "Global Test," as defended by William Saletan. Read the whole thing, but here are the salient points:
"The justifications of the war were centered on WMD, which everyone, including Senator Kerry, believed existed. The evidence collected by the CIA (think 'slam dunk') was corroborated by MI5, Russian intelligence, and Hans Blix himself. Saddam's unwilligness to cooperate seemed to confirm what everyone suspected. Nothing, save a chemical or biological agent-laced warhead in Tel Aviv could have been more convincing.
The thing is that everyone was wrong.
International consensus or the 'global test' had nothing to do with these justifications. Chirac and Schroeder wouldn't pull a de Gaulle and say 'No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me,' today or before the Iraq war. The 'global test' in Iraq was destined to fail, no matter how much better the evidence, no matter how much longer the farce of inspections were allowed, and most importantly, no matter who was President."

Just some thoughts...
I've now watched the debate twice, and read the transcript three times. Why would anyone subject himself to that? Well, two reasons: 1)I enjoyed the debate, as I enjoy most of politics. B)I hoped to find time to write a column explaining how, through his complete lack of understanding of interactions between nation-states, John Kerry has disqualified himself for the presidency.

So, here are some things I've come up with.
Kerry is angry that we shared the load in Tora Bora with our allies. He is angry that we went to war with Iraq without more burden-sharing from our allies. He is dissatisfied by our multilateral talks with North Korea, involving our allies.

Now try and explain to me how these three views can be combined into a coherent world view. He doesn't think anyone but the US was strong enough to track down OBL in Afghanistan (by the way, our Special Forces guys were involved the entire time), but thinks we're not strong enough to handle uprisings in Iraq. He wants to conduct a summit between "all the allies" on how to conduct the war on terror, but bilateral talks are a better idea with North Korea (don't give me the BS about how we can have both. As soon as we give in to Kim Jong Il and grant bilateral side-talks, he'll stop dealing with the multilateral group.). To borrow a beautiful southern phrase, that dog don't hunt. Kerry's total misunderstanding of these inconsistencies show him to be a dangerous choice as our national leadership.