February 05, 2005

Oil and Terrorism

Arnold Kling explains why efforts to wean ourselves from the consumption of foreign oil, as a means to combat Saudi funding of terrorism, are a bad idea.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 11:22 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 14, 2004

It Can't Happen Soon Enough

Let them take responsibility for their own defense:

The US is expected to announce on Monday that it is pulling 70,000 troops out of Europe and Asia in the largest restructuring of its global military presence since the second world war.

People briefed on the plan say two-thirds of the reductions will come in Europe, most of them military personnel stationed in Germany who will be sent back to US bases.

An additional 100,000 support staff and military families worldwide will be part of the realignment.

The changes are expected to be announced by President George W. Bush at a speech to the Convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Cinncinatti, Ohio, on Monday.

That would be a start to a much more healthy relationship. Europeans can be responisible for themselves and, in turn, appreciate our assistance when they get it -- instead of simultaneously resenting it and taking it for granted.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 08:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 25, 2004

9/11 Report

The WSJ has a useful summary.

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July 13, 2004

What about the virgins?

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A confidant of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) surrendered to Saudi diplomats in Iran and was flown to the kingdom Tuesday, a potentially valuable asset in the war on terror because of his closeness to the fugitive al-Qaida chief.

Khaled bin Ouda bin Mohammed al-Harby was shown on Saudi TV being pushed in a wheelchair through the Riyadh airport. He is the most important figure to surface under a Saudi amnesty promising to spare the lives of militants who turn themselves in.

That's odd. I would have thought al-Harby would have preferred to die in the glorious jihad and meet his 72 virgins.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 08:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 12, 2004

Not Backing Down

After months of taking a beating in the press and Democratic primary over not finding WMDs in Iraq, it looks like the Bush administration is finally fighting back:

President George W. Bush said on Monday his administration would maintain its policy of pre-empting potential security threats despite growing doubts over the adequacy of US intelligence to assess such dangers.

In a speech at the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in Tennessee, Mr Bush made clear he would not rethink the approach after Friday's damning report by the Senate intelligence committee. The report concluded that the Central Intelligence Agency made serious errors in asserting that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction.

While acknowledging that the report "has identified some shortcomings in our intelligence capabilities", he said that would not cause him to reconsider the approach that led the US to invade Iraq.

"America must remember the lessons of September the 11th," Mr Bush said. "We must confront serious dangers before they fully materialise."

The president said that before the US went to war with Iraq, the administration, Congress and the United Nations Security Council all agreed intelligence showed that Iraq posed a serious threat.

And it's not letting the Democrats have it both ways, as they've been trying to do for months:

The Senate findings have fueled an already bitter election-year debate over Iraq, even though John Kerry, the Democratic presidential hopeful, and John Edwards, his running mate, both voted for the Senate resolution authorising war against Iraq.

Mr Kerry said on the weekend that the Senate findings bolster his argument that Mr Bush misled the country in launching a war that has hurt the US. He refused, however, to reconsider his vote, saying that "based on the information we had, it was the correct vote".

But Dick Cheney, the vice president, accused the Democrats on Monday of developing "a convenient case of campaign amnesia". He said Mr Kerry and Mr Edwards "are criticising the president for looking at the same information that they did and coming to the same conclusion that [he] did. If the president was right, and he was, then they are simply trying to rewrite history for their own political purposes."

Cheney is making the critical point. If Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq -- as Democrats love to imply -- then so did Kerry, Edwards, and all of the other Democrats who both voted for the war and made statements similar to the administration's concerning WMDs and the threat posed by Saddam.

UPDATE: As one might expect, the NY Times account does not mention Cheney's fine point. But why would it?

Posted by Old Benjamin at 07:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

The Real Criminal

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A defiant Saddam Hussein rejected charges of war crimes and genocide in a court appearance Thursday, telling a judge "this is all theater, the real criminal is Bush."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Posted by Old Benjamin at 11:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 30, 2004

Bottled Piety

A couple clutch Victor Hanson Q&As:

Q: What are your thoughts on the International Institute of Strategic Studies' Strategic Survey 2003-4, which contends that Al-Qaeda has grown because of the war in Iraq and that there are still 18,000 Al-Qaeda members still active around the world?

Hanson: If true, that is equal to a division- far less than the 20 million or so Japanese, German, and Italian combatants that we took on in World War II, much less the 2 billion Chinese, Russians, Eastern Europeans, and African and Asian states that made up the so-called communist bloc. I am wary of the "because of Iraq" logic-the rationale of all phony wars. It is like saying, "because of the battle of Midway" now we are fighting the Japanese all over the Pacific, or "because of B-17 raids in 1942" we got ourselves into a war in North Africa and Sicily. The fact is we have made amazing progress in dismantling bases in Afghanistan, pressuring Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, taking out Saddam Hussein, and shutting down terrorist enclaves in Europe, America, and Asia. Once you go to war, of course, the enemy fights back even more fiercely. Those holed up in Fallujah or Mr. Sadr's followers are either Baathist holdouts, al Qaeda operatives, or pro-Iranian militants who were our enemies long before March 2003.

What we are witnessing is a coming showdown, where lines are drawn, the sides become clear, and the stakes apparent. So al Qaeda has not "grown" so much as grasped that it is now in a war for its existence and must either come out and fight or slowly be strangled. Witness the situation in Saudi Arabia that is at least clearer than the last decade, when the Royal Family paid bribe money to deflect the killers against us. I suspect that there are fewer al Qaeda members now than before the invasion of Afghanistan. If they are so smart, how did they turn a friendly Saudi government into their enemy, lose Afghanistan, make an enemy of a once neutral Musharraf, and are without the intelligence and succor of Saddam's Iraq? And they are about to turn 350 million timid Europeans into perturbed hosts ready to expel or at least closely monitor all foreign Arab nationals.

* * *

Q: As far as morality is concerned, from the get-go the U.S.-imposed regime of sanctions upon Iraq was grossly immoral, just like the English blockade of Germany after the end of the Great War. These policy decisions caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in both instances. Was Hussein a bad guy? Sure. Then why did NR's hero, Don Rumsfeld, and Washington arm Saddam in the 1980's? Because he was "our" bad guy then, when it seemed he was about to lose to Iran. Morality, indeed. Do you want to invade China, next, Professor Hanson?

Hanson: Calm down and quit the boilerplate hyperbole that only reflects a hysteria rather than reasoned analysis. The English mistake in 1918-9 was not the blockade, but allowing a mostly victorious German army to surrender in France and Belgium-"we were stabbed in the back by Jews and communists and never lost"- rather than to be crushed under an Allied counterattack that ended up in Berlin. Not "hundreds of thousands," but rather 50 million died for that blunder a mere twenty years later.

But enough of bottled piety. We gave some intelligence to Saddam and allowed a few arms sales-less than 2% of his aggregate arsenal that otherwise was supplied by the Russians, French, Germans, and Koreans. I did not agree with that decision, but was aware of the reasoning-a radical theocracy in Iran had taken our diplomats, organized killers of Americans in Lebanon, and promised our destruction. The realpolitik was not unlike our decision to arm the mass-murdering and former Nazi-partner Stalin in 1942, albeit on a much smaller scale-a policy rarely criticized today by the Left although we knew at the time that 30 million Russians had been liquidated, and our aid would only strengthen such repression both during and after the war. There is little morality in war, and states are faced with choices between bad and worse. Only utopians from the campus or newsroom have the luxury of hindsight and leisured perfection. China? Rather than worrying about a hypothetical and nonsensical US invasion, why not turn your attention to China's real invasion of Tibet and its subsequent near annihilation of Tibetan culture. Criticizing the US for not being divine is easy, but taking on an autocratic government whose predecessors killed 50 million of their own people is quite another thing.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 09:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 29, 2004

Taking Down Sadr

Belmont Club has an informative post on the U.S. military's victory over Sadr's militia. I found this bit particularly striking:

In what was probably the most psychologically revealing moment of the battle, infantrymen fought six hours for the possession of one damaged Humvee, of no tactical value, simply so that the network news would not have the satisfaction of displaying the piece of junk in the hands of Sadr's men. The enemy understood the rules of engagement too well, but from the other side. "Squeezed into a few downtown blocks, Sadr militants began using children to shuttle ammunition, soldiers said. Youngsters carrying large plastic bags darted from corner to corner, and the soldiers would not shoot them. 'We all grew up knowing you don't hurt women and children,' Taylor said. 'And they used that to their advantage.' The US estimates that 20 civilians were killed in operations around Najaf. The Najaf hospital claims 81. When the Russians retook Grozny after a disastrous first foray, they returned to the operational formula of Marshak Konev in Berlin and rained down 8,000 artillery shells per hour on the town, killing perhaps 27,000 before attempting it again. The vastly more powerful Americans did not, yet triumphed. They are inept, as everyone knows.

Ted Koppel was determined to read the names of 700 American servicemen who have died in Iraq to remind us how serious was their loss. Michael Moore has dedicated his film Farenheit 9/11 to the Americans who died in Afghanistan. And they did a land office business. But at least they didn't get to show Sadr's miliamen dancing around a battered Humvee. The men of the First Armored paid the price to stop that screening and those concerned can keep the change.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 08:38 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Iraqi Sovereignty

An Iraqi perspective from Iraq the Model:

I was on duty-call in the hospital all yesterday and I was in the ward when I heard the news that Mr. Bremer had already transferred the power to the new government two days ahead of the expected date. I was so happy about this news and I couldn’t wait until I finish my tour to celebrate the occasion.

My friends all seemed thrilled and optimistic, yet they seemed to have no interset in celebrating the event. I decided to do something so I asked one of my colleagues to cover for me for an hour; I told him that I have to get something from outside.I directly headed to the nearest bakery and ordered a nice cake and returned to the hospital as fast as I could. On the way, I didn’t see any large calibrations but I noticed that the streets were busier than usual and people looked lively and relaxed.

I invited some of my friends, one of us volunteered to get some beverages and we gathered around the cake to celebrate the happy event. I took some pictures but sadly not all the doctors (female mainly) agreed on me posting their pictures and I’ll respect their will.

Some of us were celebrating regaining sovereignty, some were celebrating the end of occupation, others were happy because they think the new government will bring safety and order. I was celebrating a new and a great step towards democracy, but we were all joined by true hope for a better future and by the love we have for Iraq.

After wards we sat for a while discussing different matters. The hall was busy and everyone was chatting and laughing loud. They had Al-Jazeera on (something I never managed to convince them to stop doing). Then suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.

The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! “Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying” One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said “He’s going to make me cry!”

Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic,”A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq”! (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq).

I was deeply moved by this great man’s words but I couldn’t prevent myself from watching the effect of his words on my friends who some of them were anti-Americans and some were skeptic, although some of them have always shared my optimism. I found that they were touched even more deeply than I was. I turned to one friend who was a committed She’at and who distrusted America all the way. He looked as if he was bewitched, and I asked him, “So, what do you think of this man? Do you still consider him an invader?” My friend smiled, still touched and said, “Absolutely not! He brought tears to my eyes. God bless him.”

Another friend approached me. This one was not religious but he was one of the conspiracy theory believers. He put his hands on my shoulders and said smiling, “I must admit that I’m beginning to believe in what you’ve been telling us for months and I’m beginning to have faith in America. I never thought that they will hand us sovereignty in time. These people have shown that they keep their promises.”

As Andrew Sullivan wrote, you won't read that in the New York Times -- which is really a shame.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 08:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

John Keegan on Nation Building in Iraq

An interesting and somewhat pessimistic column from the preeminent military historian.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 02:20 PM | Permalink | TrackBack