Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gracious Geyer's Geyser:
   It's not about evil, it's about testosterone

Georgie Anne Geyer once again gets on her high horse calling for "rational realism" and dismisses any argument of staying in Iraq, of standing up to people who have called for evil upon us, as too much "testosterone".

I won't go into the details; they are old and stale, but I leave you with her punch line,

It is not the first time in history that those who see only enemies are in reality those who create them.

Or, as I would put it,

It is not the first time in history that those who see only flowers end up with their heads in the sand.

But, of course, my vision is tainted by testosterone and therefore suspect. Being a firm believer in equality, I would likewise argue that maybe it is that time of the month for Ms. Geyer.

It makes as much sense as her argument.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ziggy's Zags:
   "Can't we all just get along?"

First of all, welcome to the Gadfly, Mr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter.

Ziggy has oft borne the sting of my rebuttals elsewhere, but he has now reached critical mass, and I will obligingly oblige him.

Ziggy is at it again. In a HeraldTribune Opinion today (at least he is honoring my request to not come home ... ), Ziggy makes a profound declarative statement, "Do not attack Iran" and offers "four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities".

But his logic just washes out in the rain.

Deconstruction time:

Iran's announcement that it has enriched a minute amount of uranium [as if size matters!] has unleashed urgent calls for a preventive U.S. air strike by the same sources that earlier urged war on Iraq. [no! really? I'd have thought Howard Dean would have been the first on the block!]

If there is another terrorist attack in the United States, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be also immediate charges that Iran was responsible in order to generate public hysteria in favor of military action. [hyperbole aside, I'd take that bet; and I'd take the bet that Iran would actually be complicitous in it]

But there are four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:

1. In the absence of an imminent threat (with the Iranians at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war [so threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth with a nuke does not get classified as presenting oneself as an imminent threat?].

If undertaken without formal Congressional declaration, it would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the President. Similarly, if undertaken without the sanction of the UN Security Council either alone by the United States or in complicity with Israel, it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s). [so, only the good guys are bad?? and defending one's sovereignty and one's allies means nothing??]

2. Likely Iranian reactions would significantly compound ongoing U.S. difficulties in Iraq and in Afghanistan, perhaps precipitate new violence by Hezbollah in Lebanon, and in all probability cause the United States to become bogged down in regional violence for a decade or more to come. Iran is a country of some 70 million people and a conflict with it would make the misadventure in Iraq look trivial. [Iran is already working on that. Our reluctance to take action only encourages their bad behavior]

3. Oil prices would climb steeply, especially if the Iranians cut their production and seek to disrupt the flow of oil from the nearby Saudi oil fields. The world economy would be severely impacted, with America blamed for it. Note that oil prices have already shot above $70 per barrel, in part because of fears of a U.S./Iran clash. [Note that oil prices have already shot above $70 per barrel, and the world economy is still abooming. Shame on Ziggy for abandoning principle and exercising, instead, fearmongering]

4. America would become an even more likely target of terrorism, with much of the world concluding that America's support for Israel is itself a major cause of the rise in terrorism. America would become more isolated and thus more vulnerable while prospects for an eventual regional accommodation between Israel and its neighbors would be ever more remote. [Let me restate Ziggy's words and see if you can hear my sarcasm, "an even more likely target?" ... "become more isolated?"]

It follows that an attack on Iran would be an act of political folly, setting in motion a progressive upheaval in world affairs. With America increasingly the object of widespread hostility, the era of American preponderance could come to a premature end. [Note that I forgo the obvious sarcasm redux and merely point out that there already is a progressive upheaval in world affairs. Fighting for pole position as alignments change are part of it. They are already doing it, we need to start shoving back]

While America is clearly preponderant in the world, it does not have the power - nor the domestic inclination - to both impose and then to sustain its will in the face of protracted and costly resistance. That certainly is the lesson taught both by its Vietnamese and Iraqi experiences. [True, perhaps. But Ziggy is arguing "against a (one-time) preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities", not an all out invasion with troops on the ground. Or is he?]

Moreover, persistent hints by official spokesmen that "the military option is on the table" impedes the kind of negotiations that could make that option redundant. [huh?] Such threats unite Iranian nationalism with Shiite fundamentalism. They also reinforce growing international suspicions that the United States is even deliberately encouraging greater Iranian intransigence. [Oh, I get it. Appeasement and free rides should be given a fair chance.]

Sadly, one has to wonder whether in fact such suspicions may not be partially justified. How else to explain the current U.S. "negotiating" stance: the United States is refusing to participate in the on-going negotiations with Iran but insists on dealing only through proxies. That stands in sharp contrast with the simultaneous negotiations with North Korea, in which the United States is actively engaged. [not sure where Ziggy's been, but encouraging the Iranian people to fight against these crazy mullahs IS part of the policy]

At the same time, the United States is allocating funds for the destabilization of the Iranian regime and is reportedly injecting Special Forces teams into Iran to stir up non-Iranian ethnic minorities in order to fragment the Iranian state (in the name of democratization!). [Oh My God, No! Stir up the Iranian people to put those democratic-loving mullahs out on the street? In the name of democratization? Oh, the irony of it all ... ] And there are people in the Bush administration who do not wish any negotiated solution, abetted by outside drum-beaters for military action and egged on by full-page ads hyping the Iranian threat. [and let us not forget abetted by an Iranian Prime Minister and Chief Nuclear Negotiator who are deliberately going out of their way to provoke the Beast]

There is unintended but potentially tragic irony in a situation in which the obscene language of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (whose powers are actually much more limited than his title implies - [True, they are indeed about as limited as Chancellor Hitler's was, before he trashed German democracy]) helps to justify threats by administration figures who like to hint of mushroom clouds, which in turn help Ahmadinejad to exploit his intransigence to gain more fervent domestic support for himself as well as for the Iranian nuclear program. [Now where did I hear that argument recently about ignoring a problem and hoping it just goes away? Oh, yeah. Judgment of Nuremburg - Burt Lancaster's speech where he lamented that the Good Germans initially thought Hitler and the Nazi party were just a political fad]

It is therefore time for the administration to sober up, to think strategically, with a historic perspective and with America's national interest primarily in mind. Deterrence has worked in U.S.-Soviet relations, in U.S.-Chinese relations, and in Indo-Pakistani relations. [The realist is not reading the history books. We beat the Soviets by bankrupting them; deterrence with the Chinese only works when they get their way; and last I heard, Indo-Pakistani relations were not all that friendly. Ultimately, Ziggy doesn't want to solve problems, just put them on the back burner and let the next generation solve them - or maybe they'll just go away ... ]

The notion that Iran would someday just hand over the bomb to some terrorist conveniently ignores the fact that doing so would tantamount to suicide for all of Iran since Iran would be a prime suspect and nuclear forensics would make it difficult to disguise the point of origin. [Ziggy hasn't read today's papers - Iran is already claiming it is ready and willing to share their new-found nuclear technology with everyone, like the Sudanese]

It is true, however, that an eventual Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons would heighten tensions in the region. [Oh, we are so close! There is a glimmer of light!] Israel, despite its large nuclear arsenal, would feel less secure. [ya think? "Eliminate Israel off the face of the earth" insecurity?] Preventing Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is, therefore, justified, but in seeking that goal the United States must bear in mind longer-run prospects for Iran's political and social development.

Iran has the objective preconditions in terms of education, place of women in social affairs and in social aspirations (especially of the youth) to emulate in the foreseeable future the evolution of Turkey. The mullahs are Iran's past, not its future; it is not in our interest to engage in acts that help to reverse that sequence. [Again with the "ignore them and they'll go away mentality]

Serious negotiations require not only a patient engagement but also a constructive atmosphere. [Let me know when the Iranians demonstrate a sincere desire for constructive dialog] Artificial deadlines, [Remember Ziggy's Four Point Program for withdrawal from Iraq? Artificial?] propounded most often by those who do not wish the United States to negotiate in earnest, are counterproductive. Name-calling and saber-rattling, as well as refusal to even consider the other side's security concerns, can be useful tactics only if the goal is actually to derail the negotiating process. [Exactly! Oops. Caught those wily Iranians on that one, didn't we, Ziggy?]

Several conclusions relevant to current U.S. policy stem from the foregoing:

The United States should become a direct participant in the negotiations, joining the three European negotiating states, as well as perhaps Russia and China (both veto-casting UN Security Council members), in direct negotiations with Iran, on the model of the concurrent multilateral talks with North Korea;

As in the case of North Korea, the United States should also simultaneously engage in bilateral talks with Iran regarding mutually contentious security and financial issues;

The United States should be a signatory party to any quid-pro-quo arrangements in the event of a satisfactory resolution of the Iranian nuclear program and of regional security issues.

At some point in the future, the above could perhaps lead to a regional agreement for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, especially after the conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, endorsed also by all the Arab states of the region. At this stage, however, it would be premature to inject that complicated issue into the negotiating process with Iran. [Honest. I read and reread these last few paragraphs looking for what Ziggy thinks the Iranians should do to work toward peace - Oops, caught those wily Iranians again. Maybe Ziggy thinks the Iranians' objective here is sincere and bilateral peace?]

The choice is either to be stampeded into a reckless adventure profoundly damaging to long-term U.S. national interests or to become serious about giving negotiations with Iran a genuine chance to be productive. The mullahs were on the skids several years ago but were given a new burst of life by the intensifying confrontation with the United States. [Being wildly successive in rigged elections had nothing to do with it, of course]

The U.S. strategic goal, pursued by real negotiations and not by posturing, should be to separate Iranian nationalism from religious fundamentalism. Treating Iran with respect and within a historical perspective would help to advance that objective.

American policy should not be swayed by a contrived atmosphere of urgency ominously reminiscent of what preceded the intervention in Iraq. [A truer statement Ziggy has never uttered - yet, who is contriving upon whom?]

Look. The long and the short of it is when the mad dog starts foaming at the mouth, you don't start hand-feeding it platitudes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gracious Geyer's Geysers:
   Heroes of the Fatherland

I fear the Gadfly has found another victim to feed upon.

Georgie Anne Geyer, who most recently wrote a very uncivil article about the incivility of politics (ie the Bush Administration), this matron of unMannerly-like verbage, is at it again.

From her most recent virulent exorcism in civility,

Donald Rumsfeld's errant personal obnoxiousness ... the ideological madness of his immediate subordinates ... the "Saturday Night Live" planning to take over an ancient, eternally brutalized and maddened country such as Iraq. ... Out of their hubristic arrogance. ... Rumsfeld and his never-serving cronies ... the hated civilians under Rumsfeld ... Walter Reed Hospital is filled with the brave boys and girls from West Virginia and South Carolina and North Dakota, with their bodies blown to bits, and nobody in the White House seems the least bit sorry about it ...

Her point is that the retired generals who are now speaking out against Rumsfeld are heroes, nay, Heroes of the Fatherland.

It is not even entirely possible that it is all just so much ado about nothing, except maybe sour grapes.

I post the article in its entirety in my comments

The Gadfly is now on the watch.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Foer's Follies:
   Why America is so politicized

Foer does it again.

In a recent subscription spam email, TNR's most recent Editor explains with blinding clarity why we live in the most politicized times in decades. It is, to use his own words, delicious. And completely self-derogatory. All I have to do is reprint it.

From:    Franklin Foer
Subject: The Christianizing of America?
Date:    29 Mar 2006 16:11:53 PST

Dear Reader,

As you drive behind bumper stickers and flip past the cable news networks, you may have realized that we live in the most politicized times in decades. If you want to really know what's happening in this passionate era, you won't really get the vital scoop from these TV gabfests, or even the New York Times. You need to read The New Republic--it's what the Times reporters read to know what's going on. Subscribe today for only $9.97, and you'll find out what I mean.

In the week's issue, we provide you with all sorts of delicious and important scoops. We have an essay on the real brains behind the religious right, a Catholic priest named Richard John Neuhaus. More than anyone else, he is the man responsible for the movement to Christianize this country. What makes this article so interesting? It was written by the guy who once edited Neuhaus's journal.

We also have a hilarious reported piece on Scooter Libby's defense strategy. Our reporter visited with the memory guru hired by Libby's lawyers to prove that he didn?t perjure himself.

Another essay takes you deep inside the Pentagon, where you can see how top brass have been seduced by some of the silliest ideas to emerge from business schools in recent years. It's an excellent window into the failings of Donald Rumsfeld.

Other pieces in this issue which I recommend highly:

An article by Amy Sullivan debunks all the hysteria surrounding the faith-based initiative. The truth is the program does nothing. Even its biggest boosters have conceded the failure of Bush's pet project.

Lawrence Kaplan visits Iraq, where he meets with the most persecuted group in the country: its Christians.

We also have a tragic-comic tale from the annals of Bush era diplomacy. Even our biggest friend in the world--a poodle named Tony Blair--has been the victim of a long series of slights. Now, the Brits are mad as hell with us.

Speaking of mad as hell, our editorial mounts a funny and vigorous defense of an underappreciated emotion: anger.

Don't take my word for it. Subscribe today to read these piece and discover the real story behind the headlines.

Franklin Foer
The New Republic

My only real trouble with this little bit of sanity is how to complete it.

Do I go for the clever reference to historical precedent with,

Ah, how I long for the days before objective journalism, when the Yellow Kid reigned supreme....

or do I twist the fork just ever so slightly with the more modern call for help,

Who is more foolish? The Fool, or the Fool who follows the Fool?

Help us Obi-Wan, you are our only hope.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Crowley's Crowings:
   Sheehan is worth more than 48 Medal of Honor Recipients

Michael Crowley, of The New Republic' blog The Plank, makes his debut on the Gadfly Chronicles with this little bit of media insanity. In a December 19th article, Is The New York Times Against The Troops?, Crowley takes on Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard for Barnes' December 16th article where Barnes objects that the "war in Iraq is a war without heroes."

Among other points, Barnes explains that the Times has run only two articles on Sgt. Paul Ray Smith, "the first and only soldier awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary courage in the war in Iraq".

Crowley exclaims and complains that Barnes is crowing politics,

But if you read into the piece you'll see that what really irks Barnes isn't so much coverage of the troops after all: It's coverage of George Bush.

Crowley goes on to refute Barnes objection,

So when the Times runs two different articles about the soldier in question--the first one a 2500-worder that appeared on page one, according to Nexis--it's still not good enough if the paper "only" runs a captioned photo when Bush becomes part of the story. To Barnes and his "official" it's apparently the presidential photo-op that matters most of all. Evidently the way to properly honor our heroic soldiers is not to retell their stories, but to ensure that Bush can thoroughly bask in their heroic glory.

The piece in the NYT, by the way, was entitled, The Struggle for Iraq: Casualties; Medals for His Valor, Ashes for His Wife.

But, let us be fair. Here is how Mr. Barnes and Mr. Crowley respectively describe Sgt. Smith's heroism (after all, the story is about him, isn't it?)

As Barnes tells the story:

Surprised by 100 of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards, Smith and his men, some of them wounded, were pinned down and in danger of being overrun. Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a damaged armored vehicle. Exposed to enemy fire, he singlehandedly repelled the attack, allowing his men to scramble to safety. He killed as many as 50 of Saddam's elite soldiers and saved more than 100 American troops. Paul Ray Smith, 33, was killed by a shot to the head.

Mr. Crowley:

Watch (Barnes) zoom in on the case of Sergeant Paul Ray Smith, killed as he reportedly saved 100 of his men when he singlehandedly fended off an Iraqi assault in April 2003.

Well, I could say a lot at this point. I could point out that Crowley could have simply quoted Barnes as he does elsewhere in his rebuttal; I could point out that those 100 men who reportedly were saved are reportedly very grateful; but I won't insult your intelligence the way Crowley enjoys doing.

My guess is Crowley really didn't read Barnes' article. Barnes is clearly criticizing MSM for ignoring what our troops are really doing in Iraq.

Barnes continues (this is something Crowley didn't read or chose to ignore):

Instead of heroes, there are victims. The two most famous soldiers in the war are Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman (in Afghanistan). Lynch was captured by Saddam's troops after her truck crashed. Stories of her heroism in a gun battle with Iraqis turned out to be false. She was rescued later from an Iraqi hospital. Tillman, who gave up a pro football career to join the Army, was killed by friendly fire. "The press made that a negative story, a scandal almost," says a Pentagon official.

It gets worse. In a study of over 1,300 reports broadcast on network news programs from January to September of this year, Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center found only eight stories of heroism or valor by American troops and nine of soldiers helping the Iraqi people. But there were 79 stories, Noyes said, "focused on allegations of combat mistakes or outright misconduct on the part of U.S. military personnel."
And even when the media take an interest, it isn't always respectful. When CNN took up the medal awarded to Smith the day after the ceremony at the White House, here's how anchor Paula Zahn presented it:

"Time now for all of you to choose your favorite person of the day. Every day, you can vote on our website, Today's choices: the mourners pouring into Rome, spending hours in line to pay their respects to the pope; Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Paul Smith for giving his life to save so many of his fellow soldiers in Iraq. And British prime minister Tony Blair, calling for a new election, even though his party has lost support in the polls."

At least Smith won.

Crowley is supremely guilty of exactly what he charges Barnes of doing, if you read into the piece you'll see that what really irks Crowley isn't so much coverage of the troops after all: It's coverage of George Bush.

Mr. Barnes doesn't need it, but allow me an assist. Go to the NYT. Do a search of their articles since 1981 on the following two phrases,

+"Paul Ray Smith"


+"Cindy Sheehan"

(the plus sign and the quotes are required if you don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry Smith or Sean, Ian or Michael Sheehan in your search results)

Crowley is absolutely right. There were 2 articles on the one American soldier in Iraq who was awarded the Highest Military Honor that America awards.

There are 97 articles on Cindy Sheehan.

You do the math.

Then read Barnes' and Crowley's piece and you decide.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Foer's Follies
   Blogging Disingenuous Rhetoric

Every generation must fight their Generation War where the new generation challenges the Order of their parents. In the 60s, the "Flower Children" balked and fought the stifling society of strength, order and stability that their parents built in the aftermath of the upheaval of the Great Depression and World War II.

Spurred by a revolution in politics and the media, in the wake of Vietnam, the Kennedy Presidency, the triple political assassinations, the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandals, these battles like all generational battles were neither polite nor genteel. Slurs abounded from both sides of the generational fence. One of the more clever labels thrown about by the Flower Children was antidisestablishmentarism, a word from English Anglican Church history redefined as a negative philosophy of steadfast and stubborn resistance to change, and one that had the virtue of being one of the longest words in the English language.

Today, the children of that generation are finding themselves, and the liberal society they have created and vigorously defended and protected, assailed by their own children of the internet. And the slur of the new children this time is the deceptively simple moniker, MSM.

Franklin Foer, senior editor at The New Republic, takes umbrage with the electronic usurpation of the established liberal press by the bloggers and their blogosphere, accusing the blogosphere of corrupting the free press. It seems he also takes issue with "the blogosphere (that) nurses an ideological disdain for "Mainstream Media"--or MSM, as it has derisively (and somewhat adolescently) come to be known"

Foer believes that his "Mainstream Media" is the moral equivalent to Plato's philosopher-kings; the Knights-Templar of the Holy Protective Order of the Free Press, if you will. The Inquisitors of this Holy Order are solely charged by Foer with maintaining the purity and integrity of an independent free press, "Newspapers deserve an army of enemies that nag them to be less lazy, less timid, and less nice (but) they don't deserve the savage treatment that they routinely receive in the blogosphere."

I suspect that Foer's Holy Order believes it should police itself, and all newcomers (or newbies, as his children might say) should be brutally suppressed, nay, dare I say it, tortured. His griping is tantamount to "flaming" the blogosphere as a Pretender to his Office of the Holy Inquisitor. Foer, in a revealing peek into his partisan beliefs, identifies the spawning grounds of this beast,

"You would expect this kind of populism from the right, which long ago pioneered the trashing of the MSM, or, as Spiro Agnew famously called its practitioners, "nattering nabobs of negativism." "

but Foer despairs,

"that liberal bloggers seem to have forgotten [...] (t)he right has used media-bashing as political gimmickry (and) want to weaken the press so it will stop obstructing their agenda [...] By repeating conservative criticisms about the allegedly elitist, sycophantic, biased MSM, liberal bloggers have played straight into conservative hands. These bloggers have begun unwittingly doing conservatives' dirty work."

Or to deconstruct and undiscombobulate, "No fair, they beat us to the punch!"

But Foer gets back on the high ground and continues, "What they (the bloggers) are attacking is the MSM's Progressive-era ethos of public-minded disinterestedness. By embracing the idea of objectivity, newspapers took a radical turn from the raw partisanship that guided them in the nineteenth century."

But Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, in The Rise of Professional Journalism at, have a very interesting take on the (de?)evolution of the twentieth century newspapers that Foer exalts and exhorts. In short, McChesney and Nichols take to task the oligarchical consolidation of that raw ideologically partisan free press, typical of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, to a more narrow commercial, business-minded, market-share ideology of non-ideologies, Foer's rosy exuberance for a time that never really existed notwithstanding.

At the Founding of our Republic, a hundred years before Foer's "radical turn" of the free press, there existed numerous smaller partisan broadsheets, newspapers and pamphleteers that colored the free press with a broad spectrum of Diverse Opinions. This was the state of affairs when the works of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Dickinson, James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to mention a mere few, were published in broadsheets and pamphlets.

Foer's School of Objectivity did not consolidate the multitudinous diversity of Free Opinions until a hundred years AFTER the Founding of the Republic. Foer fails to understand that the Republic survived, nay prospered, for those hundred years, despite (or indeed because of) that "raw partisanship that guided them in the nineteenth century."

The blogosphere, contrary to Foer's "nattering nabob of negativism", has spurred the free press to return back to what it does best, encouraging and provoking the debate of public policy so vital to a free democracy. The free press fails utterly in that solitary responsibility if it imposes entrance requirements...

And what is that requirement to admission that Foer would impose?

The Holy Grail of Objective Facts.

"That "objective" style worked well for many years, because, in the postwar period, political elites shared broad assumptions about policy with one another--and the media."

I am not sure if Foer has retreated into a fantasy world again, but what shared broad assumptions and what postwar period? The Red Menace? McCarthyism? Hoover at the FBI? Perhaps he is thinking of a mere slice of that era, somewhere between Watergate and Ross Perot?

But, never the less, what happened to Diversity of Opinion? Has it no value? Objectivity is fine when you are talking about mere Facts. But much of what is going on within the blogosphere is the sharing and dissemination of Opinions and the subjection of those Opinions to the fiery crucible of open debate. I guess Foer believes select opinions belong on the Editorial or Op-Ed Page of established newspapers, or in unresponsive and highly edited Letters to the Editor (me! me! pick me, sir!). Or perhaps in journals and magazines such as, say, The New Republic??

And what has happened in recently history to Foer's Holy Grail of Objectivity? Has not MSM botched even getting the Facts straight? Has it not confused agenda and opinions with Facts? Remember Rathergate? And how many journalists of renowned press agencies such as the New York Times have recently eaten crow with their scrambled eggs because their trusted journalists invented the Facts?

But, ignoring these pardonable lapses of integrity as Foer is apt to do, are we to assume from his analysis that the general populace needs issues dumbed up for them by Foer's elites? In fact, is that not the core of a pre-internet criticism of the free press, by the free press, for the free press, that by dumbing up the news in the interest of increasing market-share, we have endangered an educated critical public and replaced it with uncritical consumers of news? Anybody remember the antics of the Mary Tyler Moore (MTM) show as it parodied local news in the 1970s?

Of course, an ever objective Mr. Foer understands where his shining city on the hill has failed. "But the Bush administration has violently rejected that consensus [...] (of) political elites shar(ing) broad assumptions about policy with one another--and the media."

Ah, so now we understand. The Blogosphere is an invention of those unscrupulous scoundrels who have stolen three successive national elections!

"The mainstream blogosphere (MSB) (Foer's less than adolescent moniker for the bloggers) is only too happy to bury the old media regime, because it has an implicit vision for a new order, one that would largely consist of ... bloggers"

I think Foer, in his "objective" mode of journalistic integrity, is blinded by one salient Fact. Neither Bush, nor Gore, invented the internet. And neither party is driving it alone. Maybe that is what Foer's hidden agenda is all about, buried under his "objective" journalistic analysis. He implies that his Holy Inquisitor is more competent than either party, or the people themselves, to "control the horizontal and the vertical". We cannot trust the other guy, so trust me!

What Foer fails, or refuses, to recognize is that in the end, the blogosphere is dominated, not by the behemoths of the two party system or that "independent" fourth branch of the government, but by the little people, as in We The People, much as it was in that era of Revolutionary broadsheets and pamphleteering. In fact, would it not be too large of a stretch of the imagination to classify the collective works of The Federalist as a pre-electronic blog?

Give Mr. Foer a dictionary, please. Can anyone spell "disingenuous"? Or maybe Elmer Fudd should just fall back to more simple "dishonest".

Foer's Follies
   "Bush gave Iran Nukes!"

Franklin Foer is Senior Editor at The New Republic Online and a major contributor to TNR's blog, The Plank. Two very recent articles brought him into the sights of this hungry Gadfly and I anticipate some voracious feeding. Here is the one of them. I will repost the first from sufrensucatsh shortly.


Ok, I am hyperbolicking. Or is that hyperventilating?

Seems Franklin Foer, senior editor at The New Republic and contributor to TNR's blog, The Plank, lays the blame of Iranian attempts to acquire nukes right at Bush's doorstep.

Iran represents as good a reason as any to be pissed with Bush. Under his watch, the world's leading anti-Semite is poised to get nukes. There doesn't seem to be anything we can say to talk Ahmadinejad out of the bomb. And given his ideological/religious disposition, the odds of him using it against Israel are far greater than zero. What's worse, a wide swath of neocons and other foreign policy hawks seem to agree that these weapons are too dispersed and too hardened to be vulnerable to a preemptive attack. So, I ask again, where's the outrage? And more to the point, does anybody have a plan?

Of course, this begs the question, how did the Iranians develop a nuclear program so quickly, given that Bush has only been in office for 5 years and it takes that long just to lay the foundations of a robust nuclear program? It took Pakistan, under the leadership of A. Q. Khan, 12 years from 1976 to early 1998 to develop Pakistan's nuclear program. Khan assisted Iran in the late 80s and throughout the 90s.

So, should we not instead be pissed with Clinton, instead of the guy who inherited that legacy?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Doom and Gloom on Iraq:
   Woes of Nation-Building

In a September 23 article published on the Council of Foreign Relations website, Lessons in Nation-Building, David Phillips chides United States’ unilateralism in Iraq as the root cause of the ineffective nation-building he sees evident in Iraq.

“Without a clear vision of the end-state, government agencies and international organizations will not know what to do ... organizations must define their respective responsibilities to develop a shared understanding, reduce redundancy, and maximize resources”

Phillips, a Charter Honoree of this Chronicle, sees the United Nations as the Vehicle of Choice,

“through which the international community organizes collective action. Encompassing various aspects of nation-building—from peace and security to humanitarian relief and reconstruction—the UN has undertaken forty-one missions since 1990.”

Ok, which 41 nations have been successfully rebuilt in the past 15 years? Did I miss something? Is this the last quarter of a Rip van Winkle winkle?

It is notable that Phillips did a very short stint in the UN bureaucracy himself in those 15 years.

Phillips goes on to explain how everyone in the current international world order are uniquely qualified to play their part and the only thing holding them back is a mismanaged and bumbling 800 pound gorilla dressed in red white and blue. His only tip o’ the hat to the United States is this backhanded comment,

“The United States should not be concerned about losing control of the nation-building process”

Phillips concludes with this sage advice,

“The United States needs to bridge the gap during the early stages of a crisis or when negotiations become bogged down at the UN Security Council. To create a secure environment for nation-building, the military needs a clear mission and adequate resources for addressing security and related challenges. The military must pivot quickly from combat operations to civilian administration. To this end, civilian planning and civil-military relations should be integrated into all phases of planning and post-conflict stability operations.”

Ok, time to start feeding.

Phillips explores his “clear vision of the end-state” with this admonishment,

“Clarity of purpose is critical. What was the reason for intervention? Was it to stop aggression, to prevent ethnic cleansing, to eradicate weapons of mass destruction, or to create a liberal democracy?”

Ok, so where is the lack of clarity? Stop Aggression? Yes. Prevent ethnic cleansing? Yes. Eradicate WMD? Yes. Create a liberal democracy? AND Yes.

Maybe Phillips is a one-trick pony and can’t understand converging interests. There is no lack of clarity here. Just because France, Germany, China, Russia and al Qaeda don’t like what the US is doing, doesn’t mean that clarity is lacking.

Ok, so the UN is uniquely qualified for the tasks at hand? You mean the same UN that bickered and dickered as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were being slaughtered by Saddam; as ethnic cleansing killed nearly a million in Rwanda; as tens of thousands of Sudanese are being killed, right now, in Dafur?

note: those figures of Iraqi, Rwandan and Sudanese murdered victims are straight from the UN. If I were a raving lunatic and conspiracy nutcase, I might start comparing the UN’s excellent body counting skills with the meticulous skills exhibited by German accountants during WWII. But that is extreme hyperbole; I won’t go that far.

also: here is an interesting UN Press Release, that addresses all three of the examples I laid out. Would not Phillips also view as critical to effective nation-building, some measure of success in a timely fashion? This press release is dated 27 November 1996, nine years ago.

Ok, the long and short is that the UN is good at counting dead bodies and good at producing reports. But far from demonstrating competence in world affairs, they can’t even effectively manage a competent, honest bureaucracy.

And I don’t think the US is terribly concerned about losing control over rebuilding Iraq. In fact, America is all gung ho to let Iraq take over as soon as they establish a new government. We just don’t want to see Johnny-come-latelys assume they have a major voice in the process. Not when they stood at the sidelines bickering and heckling when other efforts would have been tremendously valuable.

And as far as Phillips’ advice on what to do when “negotiations become bogged down at the UN Security Council”, I think America has clearly demonstrated we would rather do something than just sit around and wait for yet another useless round of negotiations. At some point you have to start implementing something. But now, in just the past couple years, after bypassing years and years of fruitless talk, Saddam is in jail, the Iraqis had a national election, a draft constitution has been put to the people. Next week Iraqis vote on it.

After more than 30 years of brutal Tyranny at the hands of Saddam.

America should not have to wait for the UN to catch up. When they can clean their own house and get themselves up to speed and demonstrate an ability to function as a true international institution, and not a sophomoric (in every sense of the word) debating society, then we’ll talk.

I do take solace that all hope is not lost on Phillips. After all, he did recognize all the clear reasons for going into Iraq, though he felt we should be only picking one. And he does inadvertently make this telling comment.

“If PIC members contribute to nation-building, they are also entitled to a reasonable share of the decision-making.”

Maybe he just forgot that we went to the UN with our hands held out, and they spurned it. So, by Phillips own standards, everything is progressing smoothly.

As the French would say, “No?”

Friday, October 07, 2005

Dis'ing Friedman:
   I ain't the only one...

From the Wilson Center, on one of Friedman's comments on Arab democracy and al-Jazeera,

According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “The U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein has triggered the first real ‘conversation’ about political reform in the Arab world in a long, long time. It’s still mostly in private, but more is now erupting in public.” Any regular viewer of al-Jazeera would find those remarks laughable. Long before George Bush took up the mantle of democratizing the Middle East, al-Jazeera routinely broadcast debates about political reform in the Arab world.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

9/11 and H. Katrina:
   "Bookending" Bush's legacy

Wielding Hurricane Katrina as the proverbial blunt object, Thomas Friedman attempts to deal the Bush Presidency a death blow in a September 7 New York Times column. While grudgingly acknowledging that "9/11 is one bookend of the Bush administration", Friedman posits that "Katrina may be the other."

Ignoring the obvious fact that a lot can happen in the three years left in Bush's eight year presidency, and relying on oblique references to his recently authored books, Friedman pulls disparate and unconnected observations together and, voila, Bush is history. Look ma, nothing up my sleeves.

Nothing upstairs, either.

My deconstruction of his piece, originally published on Port McClellan, follows.

When I get time, I will check out Friedman's books from the library and start feeding....

Friday, September 09, 2005

H. Katrina:
   Mo' money!

One of my favorite blogs, Port McClellan, takes Thomes Friedman to task for spewing nonsensical tales

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Iraq Constitutional Draft:
   Civil War Risks?

The recently drafted Iraqi constitution is not perfect. It is flawed, seriously flawed, perhaps even fatally. But it is a constitution of a people with little experience in things democratic; of a people newly throwing off the yoke of tyranny, a centralized oppressive tyranny controlled and peopled from just one minority faction.

Does it necessarily follow that from an imperfect constitution, civil war will inevitably and invariably result? Have the Iraqis democratically doomed themselves?

Detractors of the Administration’s foreign policy in Iraq have always been quick to criticize, quick to find fault, quick to portend doom. Anything to salt the tail. And before the Iraqis have a chance to vote on their own proposed constitution, these doomsayers are in hot pursuit of Armageddon.

President Bush has called the democratic process of drafting an Iraqi constitution, and the success of that process, an “amazing event“. It is a process that attempts to resolve political conflicts in peaceful and agreed upon institutions, substituting the sword with the pen and the word. Something that has been in short supply in Iraq for a very long time.

In an Aug. 26 Newsday piece, reprinted on the Council on Foreign Relations website, Senior CFR Fellow and Deputy Director for the Center for Preventive Action David Phillips takes issue with Bush’s characterization, declares the Iraqi draft constitution dead on delivery and claims “the process has actually increased chances for civil war."

His first argues that it is not a legitimate democratic expression because, “(it) lays the groundwork for theocratic rule.” It also lacks legitimacy as it does not properly represent “all of Iraq's ethnic and sectarian communities (who) must buy into the constitution as a vehicle for upholding their interests.

Phillips asserts that “U.S. officials should tone down their exuberance” because “(a)bsent a political process restoring full sovereignty to Iraq, the United States has little hope of pulling off its exit strategy and reducing the number of its troops in Iraq ... (and) Iraqis may yet veto the constitution in October.

Let us deconstruct this tortured logic.

First, regardless of whether Iraqis accept or reject the draft, it is still an “amazing event”, no less amazing than the drafting, and acceptance, of the Articles of Confederation after the American Revolutionary War. It doesn’t matter that those Articles didn’t survive the decade; it doesn’t matter that they failed because they were fatally flawed from the start. What matters is that in the wake of the Revolutionary War, the Articles were the best that could be negotiated among a freed people who had little, if any, common national interest. And little desire to replace one central authority with another, democratic or not.

In the wake of the failure of the Articles to create a viable national government of the people, the proponents of the Articles of Confederation, the advocates of the supremacy of states’ rights, lost political clout and currency and the federalists won the day with the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, which still remains the supreme law of the land, well over two hundred years later.

Likewise, the forces for regional autonomy in Iraq are much stronger than those calling for national unity. Those calls for unity are generally tainted and discredited by association with the regime of Saddam. And that would be mostly Sunni.

Indeed, as the Iraqis work towards national reconstruction efforts, as Sunnis attempt to sabotage those constitutional initiatives, from boycotting national elections to armed insurgency, it is amazing that a peaceful negotiated process was even started, it is amazing that a National Assembly was even seated (and remains seated), it is amazing that a draft constitution was even negotiated and put up for a vote, more or less on time and under budget.

In judging an outcome as democratic or not, is it not at least as important to judge the process itself? How has the process, of electing an Iraqi National Assembly and parleying a draft constitution between the three factional groups, not been democratic? Phillips makes the argument that of the 55 members on the original constitutional commission, only 2 were Sunni. That is less than 4% representation of a people that constitutes 20% of the Iraqi population. Yet, Phillips acknowledges (trivializes) that “(t)o placate concerns about legitimacy, 15 Arab Sunnis were later included.

Do the math. That is 20% representation for a people that is 20% of the general population; a people who incidentally had decided en masse not to participate in a representative government. Phillips dismisses this, "(m)ost Arab Sunnis were too scared or chose not to vote on Jan. 30." Being scared didn't stop millions of Iraqi and Afghan women from voting. Being scared is no excuse. Freedom isn't a piece of candy you get for being good. And choosing not to vote is not germain to the argument, except to say it was a choice. A democratic choice.

But back to the issue of legitimacy. Sunni representation on the commission that drafted the constitution was increased more than seven-fold to demographic and proportional representation and yet this commission still lacks legitimacy? Didn’t those 15 Sunnis participate in the negotiations? Or did these 15 Sunni representatives boycott the commission as the Sunni people boycotted the national elections that put them in such a poorly represented position in the first place?

The issue here is not that Sunni interests have not been properly represented; the issue is that the Sunnis have not properly represented themselves. And as those states’ rights advocates found out a couple hundred years ago, representative democracies require compromise and acknowledgement to the sovereign will of the majority.

Of course, it is entirely probable that the Sunnis already know that.

Phillips’ argument of legitimacy doesn’t pass the smell test.

But, the larger point of Iraq’s future is not the mere fact that the Iraqis have thus far averted civil war, taking the road of peaceful politics, but whether there are forces strong enough to pull the country back together after a confederation fails, if in fact it does fail. Certainly, the only people currently calling for national unity are the Sunnis, and a broad, if diffuse, secular contingent.

Civil war has been an enormous threat since Saddam fell; Saddam held the country together with tyrannical and sadistic verve. With Saddam and his edifice gone, long suppressed tensions between the three largest ethnic groups have exploded. What is amazing is that, thus far, the only real violent manifestations of this explosion have been limited to initial looting and lawlessness and an armed insurgency that, despite the violence, is sporadic and isolated.

Democratic setbacks like an imperfectly drafted constitution did not and does not raise the specter of civil unrest, and it is far from the end of the world. The National Assembly still exists, with measured legitimacy, and the Iraqis have not dismissed the upcoming October plebiscite on the constitution as irrelevant, regardless of how they individually intend to vote.

To grossly misquote Shakespeare, the vote is the thing.

That is what is amazing.

Furthermore, to condemn the draft constitution because it offends our American sensibilities of religious freedom ignores the fact that the Iraqis are, by and large, Islamic. Religion is not evil; religion is not undemocratic. The seeds of American freedom and democracy had similar theocratic overtones in the seventeenth century New England Colonies. True, few of us would care to live in that religiously intolerant society now, but democracy in the New England did not suffer a death blow because they were theocracies. And Iraq is essentially just as religiously homogenous as those societies were 350 years ago.

Theocracy is not necessarily and inherently incompatible with democracy, and if Phillips insists it is incompatible in Iraq, he needs to make a better showing in his argument.

The second point that Phillips misunderstands (or misrepresents) is that Bush's strategic intentions in Iraq is not one of bugging out of Iraq. If it were, we wouldn’t be there in the first place.

The American strategic objective is to neutralize Iraq as a base of operations for terrorist organizations. As a democracy, as a fully functioning and open democracy of laws, terrorists would find little sanctuary in Iraq, or so the theory goes. Whether you agree with that or not, you cannot (nor can Phillips) argue that is not the stated objective here.

Finally, it would be unconscionable for America’s leader not to trumpet this amazing demonstration of democratic impulse. This is who we are. We are a democratic republic. To stay silent whilst Iraqis attempt to do what we have already done, to reach for what we cherish, would be treasonous to our character. And if that were to happen, Bush’s very political opponents would seize upon that and launch a massive political broadside.

The only fatal flaw I can detect is in Phillips' reasoning.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Why Gadfly?:
   A Primer and Explanation

I am an Advocate of Democracy; I am an Advocate of Republics.

The central Tenets of my democratic beliefs are these several Self-Evident Truths,

  • that All People are created Equal, each with unique Talents and Follies; each with common desires of Vice and Virtue,
  • that All are Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
  • that Governments are instituted among a People, to Secure these Rights, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed,
  • that Tyranny arises when one believes opinion to be fact and thus Immune and Indemnified from debate,
  • that Tyrants cannot survive the light of Reason.

Thus, the Gadfly.

People are creatures of habit, and once a Tyrant is identified, they are fair game until they renounce their villainous ways.