Thursday, August 31, 2006


The UN "acts" on Darfur

Breaking news out of NY: U.N. Approves Darfur Peacekeeping Force

“The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted to create a United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region, despite the Khartoum government's strong opposition.”

…which may lead the unsuspecting to believe that something is finally going to get done there. Alas, that news is tempered by this little factoid:

“But the troops will not be deployed until Sudan consents.”

Somewhere in America today there will be a Homeowners Association meeting that will end up approving resolutions with more teeth and lasting impact than anything coming out of the UN nowadays.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The poor, misunderstood Human Rights Watchers

Board member Kathleen Peratis presents an impassioned defense of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in the face of criticism of its recent report on so-called Israeli war crimes. Diversionary Strike On a Rights Group I guess HRW and the Post think she has enough cache to do this because she also writes for The Forward, which is a Jewish newspaper so we can’t call her anti-Semitic for siding with Israel’s critics. Fair enough, I’ll just call her knee-jerk defense of her HRW misguided and oblivious to its reputation among many as an instinctive leftist, Western-guilt-ridden organization

I confess that HRW is not among my most admired organizations. I find its reports often obvious and trite at the same time. For instance, it recently issued a statement expressing some worries about whether Saddam will get a fair trial:

“The Iraqi High Tribunal must improve its practices if it is to do justice in the upcoming Anfal trial in which Saddam Hussein and Ali Hassan al-Majid are accused of genocide, Human Rights Watch said today.” Iraq: Tribunal Must Improve Work in Anfal Trial (Human Rights Watch, 18-8-2006)

Okay – the trial shouldn’t be a sham but what exactly are the worries here? That sufficient evidence won’t be presented?

“Based on extensive observation of the tribunal’s conduct of its first trial, where Saddam Hussein and seven others were charged with crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch believes that the Iraqi High Tribunal is presently incapable of fairly and effectively trying a genocide case in accordance with international standards and current international criminal law.”

Beyond the obvious that the trial only has to be in accordance with current Iraqi standards (and not some nebulous, HRW-developed or endorsed standard), it seems that HRW is most of all concerned with process vice the application of justice.

“Our investigation showed the Iraqi government ordered the extermination of part of its Kurdish population,” said Dicker. “But individual guilt or innocence in the Anfal case can only be determined through a fair trial, where the accused are able to mount an effective defense.”

So, despite an HRW investigation which showed direct Iraqi government sponsorship of the killings of the Kurds, HRW can’t quite pull the trigger on who is individually guilty in the matter. That’s right; HRW’s press release never comes out and says that Saddam is the guilty SOB here and that they are worried that he may go free on some legal technicality. Nope; they’re worried that:

“[t]he victims of the Anfal won’t see justice done unless the Iraqi tribunal does a much better job on its second case than it did in the Dujail trial”

I challenge HRW to find one Kurd whose concept of justice in this matter is tied to just how spirited a defense Saddam is able to present.

While they fret about justice for Saddam, they have no problems directly accusing Israel Defense Forces of “…serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war)…”Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon: Summary

And for Ms. Peratis enlightenment, here’s why so many of us just can’t take them seriously. Early on (third paragraph), HRW addresses a key defense point of Israel’s tactics:

“The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. “

To my mind, it is simply inconceivable that HRW could find no cases of Hezbollah deliberately using civilian shields – especially if, as they say, they discussed matters with the IDF officials. But even if we take such a statement at face value, we later, in the penultimate paragraph, get this disclaimer:

“In addition, Human Rights Watch continues to investigate allegations that Hezbollah is shielding its military personnel and materiel by locating them in civilian homes or areas, and it is deeply concerned by Hezbollah’s placement of certain troops and materiel near civilians, which endangers them and violates the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties.”

Seems that would be a fairly significant point to tie down before rushing out an investigative report that accuses the IDF of reprehensible actions. Instead HRW, absent many of the possible facts which could serve to support the Israeli tactics, issues their report to much predictable fanfare and international glee.

Ms. Peratis is upset that the report’s critics “… have not merely deployed the common defense of accusing the accusers of getting the facts wrong. They have gone much further and accused the accusers of bad intent.” She should get over it and look into why they feel that way. …or more accurately, why WE feel that way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Another Walt & Mearsheimer sighting

Dana Milbank today properly mocks John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, of the infamous Israel Lobby theory, as he writes on the professors’ talk to CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations). Pronouncing Blame on the Israel Lobby

“Blurring the line between academics and activism, they accepted a button proclaiming "Fight the Israel Lobby" and won cheers from the Muslim group for their denunciation of Israel and its friends in the United States”

I’ve made no secret of my absolute disdain for the professors' (lack of) scholarship on this matter (here, here and here) and this report of their comments will not cause me to revisit such judgment. For instance, there’s this:

But, he added, "If …hadn't captured those soldiers, the war would have come in October anyway." Hezbollah's raid drew Israeli action sooner and "deprived the Israelis of the element of surprise," he said. : Soldiers' abductions a mistake

Oops, sorry – that was Hezbollah leader Nasrallah in a recent interview. Here’s Mr. Mersheimer:

“Clenching the lectern so tightly his knuckles whitened, Mearsheimer accused Israel of using the kidnapping of its soldiers by Hezbollah as a convenient excuse to attack Lebanon.

"Israel had been planning to strike at Hezbollah for months," he asserted. "Key Israelis had briefed the administration about their intentions."

“A questioner asked if he had any "hard evidence" for this accusation. Mearsheimer cited the "public record" and "Israeli civilian strategists," then repeated the allegation that Israel was seeking "a cover for launching this offensive."

Such scholarship - Chicago is lucky to have him.

But, to be fair, this comment by Professor Walt did get me thinking:

“Walt could be heard telling one that if an American criticizes Israel, "it might have some economic consequences for your business."

Hmm – Professor Walt teaches at Harvard; Professor Walt criticizes Israel; Princeton finally supplants Harvard as #1 in the USN&WR rankings. America's Best Colleges 2007: National Universities: Top Schools

Maybe if we could just get Steinbrenner to criticize Israel...

UPDATE: Guess I didn't read down far enough to see that Soccer Dad was already all over this:

Monday, August 28, 2006


Palestinian woes...

This tearjerker from the front page of today’s Washington Post:

Israeli Siege Leaves Gaza Isolated and Desperate

…wonder how Cpl. Shalit is feeling.


Fantasy Football I

I am right now enmeshed in my one of my favorite activities – Fantasy Football. Last night, my first of three drafts: 12 teams, Auction-style ($100 budget), 16 – 18 players; 1QB, 2RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 Def, 1 Flex (any position). Keeper League (although none for this year). My Team and price paid (other players given for perspective):

QB Trent Green - $4
QB Brian Griese - $1
(Peyton Manning - $30; Eli Manning - $15)

RB W. McGahee - $22
RB B. Westbrook - $15
RB C. Taylor - $7
RB W. Lundy - $1
(Larry Johnson - $39; Ladainian Tomlinson - $38; Tiki Barber - $36)

WR Torry Holt - $17
WR Roy Williams - $11
WR Derrick Mason - $8
WR Donald Driver - $5
WR D. Branch - $1
(T. Owens - $16, randy Moss - $16; Steve smith - $21)

TE J. Shockey - $4
TE B. Franks - $1
(A. Gates - $13; T. Heap - $7; T. Gonzales - $9)

K S. Gostkowski - $1
K J. Reed - $1

D Cowboys

Tonight’s draft is also an Auction-style ($100 Budget), Keeper League. I won it last year and am able to keep some of the players at very cheap prices:

RB Larry Johnson - $15
RB Steven Jackson - $17
RB Cadillac Williams - $15

…which means I have three of the Top 10 RBs in a 12 team league for $47. By way of comparison, another team saved Tomlinson at $44.

Friday, August 25, 2006


An Israeli academic speaks out

With all the intellectual gravitas of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, Yoram Peri, a professor at Tel Aviv University, today intones in the Washington Post that the “Decision-Making on National Security Must Be Fixed” in Israel's Broken Process. Honestly, I have no idea what the point of his commentary here is. Help me out - here’s how he frames the issue:

“What went wrong in the war in Lebanon? One part of the answer is already clear: Israel desperately needs a better system for decision-making in the national security realm.

“The civil branch of Israel's government and its decision-making machinery must be made strong enough to balance the military's input. Otherwise, there will only be more events like the one this summer, in which no well-reasoned alternatives were presented to cabinet ministers to compete with the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) recommendation to embark on a broad campaign in Lebanon.”

Fair enough if that’s how it normally plays out in Israeli administrations – but the column goes on to acknowledge just how moderating the military influence has been in such matters over the years. He then throws this at us:

“The focus of controversy in coming weeks will not be whether the war was justified; the overwhelming majority of Israelis, including myself, are convinced it was. Rather, the question will be whether it was wise to opt for full-scale war as Israel's response to the kidnapping of two soldiers. And if a military operation was indeed the appropriate response, what should have been its timing, nature and scope?”

Am I missing some semantic twist? The professor notes that the war was considered justified by most of the populace. To me, that means then that “a military operation was indeed the appropriate response” because, to a significant degree, war is a military operation. And yes, it is always fair to ask about a military operation's “timing, nature and scope” but the problem here doesn’t seem to be that the IDF overdid it. Instead, the appropriate criticism seems to be that the IDF over relied on air power and didn’t commit the troops soon enough – in other words, when the professor questions “whether it was wise to opt for full-scale war as Israel's response”, any answer he gets is suspect because it’s based on the faulty premise that the Lebanon fight was a “full-scale war”.

Professor Peri concludes with an insipid:

“Wars really are too serious a matter to be left to either fervent generals or weak politicians.”

Can’t you just picture a Volvo sporting that as a bumper sticker? The IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Halutz is an Israeli Air Force guy and it is certainly fair to question whether he was too enamored by what he knew best. Or perhaps he just naturally acquiesced to PM Olmert’s preference to avoid the use of troops. Whatever was behind the decision-making process in this matter, Hezbollah never received the potential knockout blow this opportunity presented. I doubt whether an over abundance of “fervent generals” was the reason.


The French to the rescue

Was it something I said? (Just try saying "French leadership" with a straight face.) Today we learn that France Sets Big Force for Lebanon (although I think the Post is being a little carefree with the term “Big Force”…but we’re talking about France so I guess it’s all relative)

“French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that France would commit 2,000 troops to a new international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.”

Charles Krauthammer has (as usual) a perceptive column today which touches on this matter:

“The State Department acquiesced to a far weaker resolution on the quite reasonable grounds that since France was going to lead and be the major participant in the international force, we should not be dictating the terms under which the force would operate.

But we underestimated French perfidy. (Overestimating it is mathematically impossible.) The Perils Of Using 'The Allies'

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Just try saying "French leadership" with a straight face.

A Jim Hoagland column almost always involves a bit of name-dropping as it seems that any prominent leader worthy of the title is an FOJ and so we read today in the Washington Post:

“An open letter to the French president -- even a president who has been an acquaintance for 30 years -- risks drawing resentment as its main response.” It's Up to You, President Chirac

Mr. Hoagland is being achingly polite as he urges President Chirac to engage France more actively in the goings-on in the Mid-East.

“The European Union's foreign ministers meet in Brussels tomorrow, and you have told several world leaders that you will make a final decision by then on whether to provide enough troops and leadership to make the new military stabilization force for southern Lebanon credible and effective. It is vital for Europe, for the Middle East and for France that you commit to doing just that.”

Fair enough as far as that goes but Mr. Hoagland follows that up with this:

Monsieur le president, any American making that suggestion must be humble. After all, the United States will not put any of its troops into the force, largely for the same reasons that you give in private for backing away from your initial, assertive indications about France's leadership role in this crisis.

“A French-led force would be a particular target for car-bombers and other assassins from Syria and its client Lebanese guerrilla organization, Hezbollah, you are said to believe.”

First of all, to even suggest the French and US have similar concerns in putting troops in the region is an insult to our military. We already have men and women in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is a realistic concern that an added third significant presence would only further stir the pot. In the meantime, the French have been leading the UNIFIL contingent that oversaw Hezbollah’s recent buildup and attack on Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon. And while I know the French lost 58 in a suicide bombing that coincided with the attack on US Marines in Beirut in 1983; that was 23 years ago - it’s been awhile since French soldiers have been attacked over there simply because they’re French.

Second, the French have been leading the charge to get the UN resolution in place. To come back now and claim the resolution is too ambiguous to actually commit to action under it makes them worthy of all the derision they’re attracting. European press warns French troop offer weakens UN force in Lebanon

“Despite expectations that France would provide the bulk of a planned 15,000 strong UN force, Paris said Thursday it would send 200 troops to reinforce the UN mission in Lebanon.

“While it said France was prepared to command the enlarged force, it also called for safety guarantees for its soliders (sic) before making further commitments.”\

Okay – this has a certain fish-in-a-barrel flair to it but “safety guarantees”? I know it has been awhile for the French but normally militaries don’t get…oh, what’s the use…you got to wonder: did Floyd Landis thoroughly deplete that nation’s supply?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Democracy Activism - Mid East style

A paper that regularly gives Harold Meyerson, Eugene Robinson and Jimmy Carter Op-Ed space has already shown that its bar to publication wouldn’t even qualify as a speed bump and the latest to leap this hurdle is Saad Eddin Ibrahim, described as “… an Egyptian democracy activist and a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo.” The 'New Middle East' Bush Is Resisting

It wasn’t too long ago that Mr. Ibrahim was extolling the US to stay the course for democracy in the Mid-East:

"I hope the United States will have the sustainability, the consistency to see it through, along with indigenous forces that will build their own democracy," he said.” Saad Eddin Ibrahim Urges Democracy for Muslim World

I would have thought that a learned man such as Mr. Ibrahim would have known that when we say we support democratization efforts, such efforts have to go beyond the mere casting and counting of ballots. Freedoms have to accompany these efforts.  But we now know that Mr. Ibrahim was merely calling for unfettered support, even if it meant supporting democratic actions that were inimical to US interests.

Mr. Ibrahim’s writes of a new Middle East and begins with his conclusion that this new Mid-East “… will be neither secular nor friendly to the United States.” He notes some recent activities in the democratization of his region:

Egypt held its first multi-candidate presidential election in 50 years. So did Palestine and Iraq, despite harsh conditions of occupation.”

Yeah - a plucky people, those Iraqis – somehow overcoming the occupation to hold an election.

“Hamas mobilized candidates and popular campaigns to win a plurality in Palestinian legislative elections and form a new government. Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt achieved similar electoral successes.”

He then laments:

“Instead of welcoming these particular elected officials into the newly emerging democratic fold, Washington began a cold war on Muslim democrats.”

Is he freakin’ kidding me? Hamas? Hezbollah? These are people we can talk to? His characterization of some of the players in the region leaves me wondering just where he is getting his news. For example, there’s this howler:

“Born in the thick of an earlier Israeli invasion, in 1982, Hezbollah is at once a resistance movement against foreign occupation, a social service provider for the needy of the rural south and the slum-dwellers of Beirut, and a model actor in Lebanese and Middle Eastern politics.”

Where to start? To call them “a resistance movement against foreign occupation”, one must completely ignore their alliance with foreign occupier Syria for over twenty years. To paint them as “a social service provider for the needy of the rural south”, one must rank the setting up and firing of armament amongst civilians right up there with food and shelter. And to call them “a model actor”, one must consider the kidnapping of a state’s soldiers as just an accepted part of this wacky process we call politics.

The laughs don’t stop there.  He takes note of a recent Egyptian poll that found Hezbollah leader Nasrallah as number one in perceived importance.

“The pattern here is clear, and it is Islamic. And among the few secular public figures who made it into the top 10 are Palestinian Marwan Barghouti (31 percent) and Egypt's Ayman Nour (29 percent), both of whom are prisoners of conscience in Israeli and Egyptian jails, respectively.”

There can be no Kool-Aid left after Mr. Ibrahim raided the refrigerator. Calling Marwan Barghouti a “prisoner of conscience” is itself an expression of one’s political sensibilities and in this case those would be decidedly anti-Israel.  A brief reminder from an otherwise sympathetic write-up by the BBC about the man  who is “[t]he leader of Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank [and] has been closely identified with one of its militant offshoots, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade” He is now serving 5 life sentences in Israel because :

“Ultimately he was convicted for murder over the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk, as there was insufficient evidence connecting him to the other 21. BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Profile: Marwan Barghouti

But wait, there’s more:

“More mainstream Islamists with broad support, developed civic dispositions and services to provide are the most likely actors in building a new Middle East. In fact, they are already doing so through … Hamas in Palestine and, yes, Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
And that pretty much sums up our problems over there: Hamas and Hezbollah are considered mainstream. And “democracy activists” such as Mr. Ibrahim can’t discern why President Bush - the strongest voice the US could offer in support of Mid-East democracy efforts - is wary of them.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Now is no time to go wobbly.

At U.N., France Presses Pullback Of Israeli Troops…after which you probably expect to read: Of course, Israel immediately complied because everyone respects the French in these matters. Instead:

“France on Wednesday introduced elements of a draft resolution urging Israel to begin withdrawing thousands of troops from southern Lebanon "at the earliest" possible date, as the United States warned that the next 24 hours are crucial because of Israel's threat to launch a ground invasion of Lebanon.”

To anyone paying attention, this comes as no surprise. France is showing once again that they are out of their league when they try to be a player on the world stage. Clearly, Hezbollah has to be secured before Israel can begin to think about scaling back. France seems to understand that Hezbollah isn’t going to realistically budge which means Lebanon won’t either (Prime Minister Siniora’s ridiculous rant from yesterday (End This Tragedy Now)) pretty much tells you he’s a bit player in all this). So that leaves Israel as the only possibility for a rational discussion. The U.S. is wisely not pressuring Israel to forego what’s best for Israel, much to France’s chagrin:

“In Paris, President Jacques Chirac suggested that France would pursue its own diplomatic initiative to end the conflict if the United States refused to budge.”

Also in today’s Post, Richard Holbrooke, a Democratic favorite in foreign matters, weighs in predictably:

“On the diplomatic front, the United States cannot abandon the field to other nations (not even France!) or the United Nations. Every secretary of state from Henry Kissinger to Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright negotiated with Syria, including those Republican icons George Shultz and James Baker. Why won't this administration follow suit, in full consultation with Israel at every step? This would clearly be in Israel's interest. Instead, administration officials refuse direct talks and say publicly, "Syria knows what it must do" -- a statement that denies the very point of diplomacy.”

To paraphrase an old saying: when you’re a diplomat, every problem seems to cry out for diplomacy. But we can’t negotiate beyond what’s right. He can mock it as simplistic but the Administration is correct: "Syria knows what it must do". To begin diplomatic talks without Syria first behaving responsibly is simply a waste of time.

Israel has been fairly consistent in what they minimally expect before they can agree to a ceasefire: Return the two soldiers and disarm Hezbollah. It is insulting to ask Israel to accept anything less. On the other side, Hezbollah, as a terrorist organization, should have no standing to demand anything and Lebanon shouldn’t be able to piggyback on Hezbollah’s demands all the while disclaiming responsibility for their actions.

The trouble with France’s and much of the world’s Realpolitik approach to this mess is that it becomes self-fulfilling; treating both sides as legitimate claimants to concessions. No. Syria is part of the problem and should not be rewarded for that. Lebanon has to act as a nation-state before we can treat her like one. A good start would be for her to take care of Hezbollah. She doesn’t have to ask for permission first. Asking Israel to compromise because Hezbollah’s won't is an appeasement of the worst kind and this Administration should continue to resist such calls.


The GWOT back in the news

The big news, of course - Britian Thwarts Major Terror Plot.

“London's Deputy Police Commissioner, Paul Stephenson, said 21 people had been arrested in London and in Birmingham, England, after a months-long investigation into what he said was a plan for "mass murder on an unimaginable scale."

Now if we could just figure out what the 21 people have in common

Monday, August 07, 2006


Is he dead yet?

The Fidel Castro watch continues.

“Cuba's vice president said Sunday Fidel Castro would return to work in a few weeks after intestinal surgery that forced him to hand over power temporarily to his younger brother.” Cuba: Castro to Return in a Few Weeks

Why do they even have a Vice President if he isn’t going to replace the President at a time like this?

The Washington Post has background information on the story:

“Cuban President Fidel Castro, a nemesis of the U. S. government for more than four decades, temporarily relinquished power July 31, saying he had undergone intestinal surgery.”

Well, beginning with the thousands of Cuban refugees, I think you could expand the populace of just who considered him a ”nemesis”, perhaps even replacing that with a stronger word. Of course, any such expansion would not include the clueless but supposedly educated citizenry populating the greater Madison, WI area.



With Democrats in the political process minority, this Chief Justice Roberts quote is sure to make Ted Kennedy apoplectic (Harvard-educated Ted Kennedy on the attack):

"Too many people think whenever there's any kind of dispute in our society, well let's take it to the Supreme Court and they'll decide," he said. "In a democratic republic that shouldn't be someone's first reaction. Their first reaction should be to resolve political disputes in the political process." Portrait of the Chief Justice as a Family Man

Thank God for global warming – who knew driving those suburban-garaged, gas-guzzling SUVs would actually serve to make our cities more livable When Staying Cool Seems Better Than Being Bad:

“A curious aspect of high temperature is that while crime and aggression rise with the heat, beyond a certain point, you start to see less violent crime.”


Another diplomatic success story

Apparently, diplomatic efforts have really been stepped up in the Lebanon arena such that France and the U.S. have a proposal put together to bring to the U.N. Obviously, everyone wants an end to the violence so, at first blush, the uninitiated might think this is easy. Here’s how the proposal is being received Latest from Lebanon:

“Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, in an interview, said a draft U.N. Security Council resolution …is "impractical" because it would leave Israeli forces in southern Lebanon with Hezbollah fighters nearby until an international force can be organized and deployed. That, he said, sounds like a recipe for more bloodshed.”

Remarkably, Mr. Siniora has also proposed sending in 15,000 Lebanese troops to southern Lebanon to keep Hezbollah away. I say remarkably because we shouldn’t have to negotiate with a head of state to get that head of state to act like a head of state - Hezbollah violence is, and has been, the responsibility of the Lebanese government. Speaking of Hezbollah, their take on the proposal:

“Hezbollah ministers, repeating earlier statements from the movement's leaders, said the group's militia in southern Lebanon would not lay down its arms or stop firing until all Israeli soldiers are out of Lebanon. Only then, and only when the Shebaa Farms and prisoner exchange demands have been addressed, will the movement enter into discussions about disarmament and restoration of government authority in the embattled border area, they insisted.”

…and Israel won’t comment.

So, in sum, we have Hezbollah who started this whole mess basically demanding everything they wanted from the beginning in return for a cease-fire; Lebanon, which was adamant that it wasn’t involved, is also looking to get some concessions out of a possible ceasefire and Israel presumably remains committed to regaining their two soldiers as well as the disarmament of Hezbollah – which was promised years ago anyway.

If this was the Clinton administration, this would be described as “nearly’ reaching a peace accord. But hey, don’t try this at home – these are professional diplomats at work.


The Washington Post discovers the Maryland Senatorial race

The Washington Post comes across as surprised that a contested Democratic primary such as Maryland’s is shaping up to be next month has generated so little heat:

“So although some candidates have been running since Sarbanes announced his retirement plans 17 months ago, the public has been slow to catch on. Polls conducted for The Washington Post in late June and for the Baltimore Sun in mid-July showed there were more undecideds than there were supporters of any individual candidate. More than a third of Democratic voters could not say who they would support. That rate jumped to more than four in 10 in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, home to the largest numbers of Democrats.” Md. Democrats Look to Seize Senate Race's New Spotlight

Left unsaid is the reason why:  the major newspapers (The Post and The Sun) have been ignoring the campaign. A faithful reader of the Post is more likely to know that Ned Lamont is running against Senator Lieberman in Connecticut than who are the major candidates for the Democratic nomination here in Maryland.

I don’t think this is an oversight. Despite Mr. Mfume’s obvious Democratic credentials and his being first to declare, the state party poobahs all rallied round Congressman Ben Cardins’s candidacy instead. This understandably infuriated Mr. Mfume and his followers. Now, despite Mr. Cardin’s sizable advantage in money raised, polls have shown former Congressman Mfume as the leader of the pack (albeit with a plurality-only).  Allen Lichtman and a well-funded Josh Rales only complicate the matter more by running what seem to be credible, if certain to be futile, campaigns.

The Conventional Wisdom says Republican Michael Steele has a better chance against Kweisi Mfume than Ben Cardin. (Of course, the Conventional Wisdom also had John Kerry as our President now.) No way the Post or Sun wants to risk a Republican Senator. But a Ben Cardin victory next month could anger black Democrats in Maryland if they felt Mr. Mfume wasn’t properly treated by the Democratic establishment (which he clearly hasn’t been) meaning Mr. Steele could win anyway. So you can understand the papers’ predicament – they have to be careful in their coverage lest they be blamed for a Michael Steele win.

Damn, it’s tough to be a liberal in these parts nowadays.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


More on a misunderstood Syria

In Baltimore, we have an attorney who used to advertise his services with the catch phrase: Let’s talk about it. That’s a succinct way of summing up the foreign policy strategy of many of this administration’s critics.

“Former officials charge that the administration has missed numerous opportunities to encourage Syria and Iran to cooperate more closely with U.S. interests.

“This has constrained U.S. foreign policy in many damaging ways," said Flynt Leverett, a White House official during President Bush's first term who said he argued unsuccessfully for deeper engagement with Syria. "The United States does not have effective diplomatic channels for managing the situation, much less resolving it." Critics Cite 'Constrained' Mideast Policy

Mr. Leverett worked with the National Security Council for one year (3/02 – 3/03) and then left to join the Brookings Institution where he “focus[ed] on the politics of Syria and the Levant and Syria's role in the war on terrorism and in the Middle East peace process.” Flynt Leverett...Joins Brookings Saban Center as Visiting Fellow In other words, the bigger role assigned to Syria, the bigger punditry role for the likes of Mr. Leveret. Anyway, Mr. Leverett’s status as a former administration official gives him great cache and the Post uses him a lot here:

“But critics of the administration's approach say the administration has simply lectured countries such as Syria, refusing to detail concrete benefits that might flow from closer cooperation. Leverett, now at the New America Foundation, interviewed Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, for a book after he left the White House and said Assad complained that all he heard from U.S. officials was a long list of demands.
Syria is "a state, not a charity," Assad told Leverett. "If it is going to give something up, it must know what it will get in return."

I don’t know what is about Assad that people who write books about him invariably conclude we just got to talk with him more but Mr. Leverett is the second in the last few weeks to come to this very conclusion (Maryland Conservatarian: Syria's Assad not taken seriously; Bush to blame). Here’s an example of what they mean:

“For instance, administration officials have always demanded that Syria prevent militant groups from operating on its territory but have never explained what Syria would get in return. Leverett said the administration should have explicitly linked Syria's removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism to its expelling groups such as Hamas and severing the links that allow arms to flow to Hezbollah.”

Without any fear that this one will come back to haunt me, I can't see myself criticizing this or any other administration for demanding that nation-states “prevent militant groups from operating on its territory.” Nor am I of the belief that accession to such a demand is worthy of praise and rewards. Frankly, such behavior should be considered as the minimum expected of a country.

This being the Washington Post, we then get our dose of nostalgia – remember how much better things were when Mr. Clinton was in charge?

“Syria also could be induced to cooperate if it receives some acknowledgment that it has a role in an Arab-Israeli peace deal, experts said. Syria nearly reached a peace agreement with Israel during the Clinton administration, but the Bush administration has been reluctant to involve Syria in its peace efforts.”

I think their use of the word “nearly” severely stretches its everyday meaning. This is an obvious reference to the Shepherdstown WV talks which ended with Mr. Clinton’s meeting with Assad in Geneva in March of 2000. Here’s the White House spokesman assessing just how “nearly” peace was achieved in our time:

"The differences are significant and important, and obviously more work needs to be done in order to bridge them," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. Assad rebuffs Clinton on Mideast peace

I believe this Administration has learned from the failures of others in the past. Sure, Syria wants to talk…but that’s all they want to do. All their contributions to world peace are pretty much limited to taking a seat and chatting it up:

“Richard N. Haass, the State Department's director of policy planning in Bush's first term and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that after intense diplomatic engagement, Syria in the 1990s joined the coalition that ousted Iraq from Kuwait and was the first country to accept the U.S. invitation to join an Arab-Israeli peace conference in Madrid.”

Such gushing should be embarrassing. There was no way Syria was going to be helpful to Iraq in the first Gulf War - Iraq was clamoring for Syria to get out of Lebanon and a Saddam Hussein with even more oil money to build up his military was not likely to be of any comfort to Syria’s senior Assad. And the invitation to join the Madrid talks in 1991 was co-signed by the Soviet Union, a prime supplier of Syrian military hardware. How could Syria say no?

Although the authors do mention the suspicion of Syria’s role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, they don’t mention other suspicions such as the transfer of WMDs to Syria (Captain's Quarters) or Syria’s hiding of high-level Iraqi officials after the war (BBC NEWS Middle East Iraqi general backs Syria charges).

These aren't insignificant hurdles to the treating of Syria as a respected nation-state. I’ll be amenable to including them in some meaningful talks when someone can point me to any recent evidence of positive Syrian actions beyond their vague expressions of a willingness to “talk about it.”


Al Gore - Soothsayer

As even a stopped watch is right twice a day so is it inevitable that, sooner or later, the angry left will win one and that’ll be used to show that they are the new world order. In that vein, Dan Balz has yet another analysis of the potential significance of a Joe Lieberman loss in Tuesday’s Connecticut primary. Conn. Race Could Be Democratic Watershed

“A victory by businessman Ned Lamont on Tuesday would confirm the growing strength of the grass-roots and Internet activists who first emerged in Howard Dean's presidential campaign.”

He follows that with this eyebrow-raiser:

“An upset by Lamont…could excite interest in a comeback by former vice president Al Gore, who warned in 2002 that the war could be a grave strategic error.”

Well, that wasn’t the way I remembered it so I went back to the former VP’s speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in September 2002:

“Nevertheless, all Americans should acknowledge that Iraq does, indeed, pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf region, and we should be about the business of organizing an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”

“In fact, even though a new United Nations resolution might be helpful in the effort to forge an international consensus, I think it's abundantly clear that the existing U.N. resolutions, passed 11 years ago, are completely sufficient from a legal standpoint, so long as it is clear that Saddam Hussein is in breach of the agreements made at the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War.”

“Now, here's another of the main points I want to make: If we quickly succeed in a war against the weakened and depleted fourth-rate military of Iraq, and then quickly abandon that nation, as President Bush has quickly abandoned almost all of Afghanistan after defeating a fifth-rate military power there, then the resulting chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.

We know that he has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country. As yet, we have no evidence, however, that he has shared any of these weapons with terrorist groups.” Al Gore 9/23/2002 speech

In other words, Mr. Gore was warning AGAINST a “cut and run” strategy in Iraq because he apparently thought that was the Administration’s plan. He knew Saddam had WMDs and understandably didn’t want terrorists to have access to them in the aftermath of a war where no governmental authority arose. He also considered Saddam out of compliance with a multitude of UN resolutions; he just wanted any enforcement to reflect an international consensus.

All of which were legitimate concerns at the time but don’t rise to the level of a prescient forecast of “grave strategic errors.”

I disagree with Joe Lieberman on most issues but think he’s right on the most important issue of the day. If he loses Tuesday, many Connecticut Democrats will no doubt feel the same kind of giddiness their political ancestors felt in 1972 with the nomination of the anti-war candidate George McGovern….as will many Republicans.

George Kagan also has a good piece on Senator Lieberman’s fall from grace among Democrats. The Last Honest Man

Friday, August 04, 2006



The ongoing saga of what happened at Qana continues to infuriate. I make no apologies for my beliefs that the Israelis never knowingly hit civilian-only targets and are definitely not targeting Red Cross or identified medical personnel in their attacks. All of which made it easy for me to avoid joining in the rush to judgment to accept the CW on Qana.

The initial reports, of course, noted the 57 dead count because that was the number originally reported by Lebanese media.

“QANA, Lebanon Jul 30, 2006 (AP)— An Israeli airstrike killed at least 56 people, including at least 34 children, in a southern Lebanese village Sunday, the Lebanese Red Cross said. It was the deadliest attack in 19 days of fighting. Lebanese security officials put the toll at 57 dead. Security officials said the toll rose dramatically after 18 people from two families were found in a single room of the building, where dozens of people had been taking refuge from the fighting.” ABC News: 34 Youths Among 56 Dead in Israeli Attack

Interesting that ABC would use the Lebanese Red Cross as their source since, as we later learned, the Red Cross wasn’t called to the scene until the next morning. CNN quoted this objective source without comment:

“More than 60 bodies have been pulled from the rubble in Qana, the Lebanese representative to the U.N., Nouhad Mahmoud, said Sunday. Lebanese internal security officials said 37 of the dead are children.” - Qana attack stirs worldwide outcry - Jul 30, 2006

Even the Israeli media was not immune to the hype:

“Lebanese media report at least 55 people killed, including 21 children, after three-story building struck by IAF collapses in southern Lebanon village of Qana. Building used as shelter for southern Lebanon refugees. Senior IAF officer says many Katyusha rockets were fired from village where terrorists are hiding, residents were warned to leave. Defense minister instructs IDF to launch immediate inquiry into incident” Lebanon: Dozens killed in IDF strike - News from Israel, Ynetnews

Days later, that number remains unconfirmed although still reported as fact:

Five days have passed since Israel's deadly air strike on the Lebanese village of Qana in which 57 civilians were killed when a struck building collapsed. But the International Red Cross said Sunday that 28 people, including 19 children, were killed and the world body published the same figure on Thursday, Ynet has learnt.” How many were killed in Qana? - News from Israel, Ynetnews

…so why is Ynet still reporting it as “57 civilians…killed”? I would not be surprised if additional bodies are found and the count rises but the 57 number simply has no clear basis for being reported. Even the Washington Post ran an AP story acknowledging the problems of an accurate count:

“The Israeli bombing of Qana became a textbook case Thursday when a new look at the civilian death toll in this week's Israeli airstrike showed it was about half the initial report.” Counting the Lebanon Dead Not So Easy

This of course still doesn’t stop the Washington Post from continuing to report and show:

“Qana, Lebanon, after days of Israeli airstrikes, including one which killed at least 57 civilians, mostly children. The July 30 strike was the bloodiest single incident in 19 days of warfare between Israel and Hezbollah. Qana, Lebanon

Soccer Dad, as usual, has been all over this story. (see here). Also, EU Referendum has assessed the whole picture taking scenario at Qana. Without fully assessing the claims, I found his link of interest. UPDATE: Fellow MBA-blogger Not So Free State has soundly beaten me to EU Referendum Qana Staged

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Union speaks; Democrats jump

Few subjects get my cynical side flared up as much as organized labor. As the Senate prepares to vote on a bill that would raise the minimum wage but also permanently cut estate taxes, the AFL-CIO weighs in:

“For years, organized labor has worked hard to raise the minimum wage, while business groups have campaigned to block such a change. This week in the Senate, however, the AFL-CIO is pushing to kill the wage increase while practically the entire business lobby is demanding that it pass.” An Estate Tax Twist Reverses Party Roles On Minimum Wage

The labor group solemnly assures that:

“…Labor officials say that their opposition is a matter of economic and social justice. They also say that reduced revenue from estate tax relief could lead to cuts in federal programs for the poor, such as food stamps.
"We don't think minimum-wage workers should have to wait for millionaires to get another tax cut before they receive a long-overdue pay increase," said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's legislative director.”

Just to be catty, I’ll point out that in order for most of today’s millionaires to get the tax cut, they have to die…which is probably still too small a price to pay for the class warfare-ists on the left. I’ll also express my skepticism that organized labor really gives a damn about the non-unionists that make up the bulk of minimum wage earners. Instead I’ll just point that when unskilled labor costs – $ x – then surely the skilled laborites in the unions must be worth - $ x+1.

And no, I’m not even moved by their fear of a cut in government food programs. After all, the hidden tax on all of us is the moronic Davis-Bacon Act rule that requires prevailing wages paid on federal construction projects. Prevailing wages = Union wages = Inflated wages.

I’ve previously expressed my negative thoughts on this bill ( Legislatively vetoing the Law of Supply & Demand) which means I’m technically on the same side as the AFL-CIO on this one Senate vote. You can understand my discomfort at not having that more fully explained.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Harvard-educated Ted Kennedy on the attack

Ted Kennedy makes a rather remarkable charge in this past Sunday’s Washington Post, namely that Roberts and Alito Misled Us. Since the Senator didn’t vote for either Justice, I was kind of forewarned that his use of “us” was probably just false modesty. True to form, Mr. Kennedy regales us with his wisdom on this matter.

The gist of the Senator’s piece is that the most recent nominees have produced a “…voting record on the court [that] reflects not the neutral, modest judicial philosophy they promised the Judiciary Committee, but an activist's embrace of the administration's political and ideological agenda.” Here’s an example of what alarms him about Justice Roberts:

“In League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry , the Supreme Court held that Texas's 2003 redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act by protecting a Republican legislator against a growing Latino population. Roberts reached a different view, concluding that the courts should not have been involved and that it "is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race."

Never mind that the Supreme Court actually upheld most of Texas’s 2003 redistricting plan ( - High court upholds most of Texas redistricting map - Jun 28, 2006), is the senior senator from Massachusetts so out of touch that he really expect most of us to be outraged that a Supreme Court Justice has referred to legislative attempts at racial groupings as “a sordid business”? He’s spent too much time basking in far-left adulation if he believes that that’s a surefire applause line.

But he saves his best ammunition for use against Justice Alito:

“Perhaps the biggest winner is the president himself. During Alito's hearing, I asked him about a 1985 job application in which he stated that he believed "very strongly in the supremacy of the elected branches of government." He backpedaled, claiming: "I certainly didn't mean that literally at the time, and I wouldn't say that today."

“But he is willing to say it now. In the very recent case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , Alito signed on to a dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas that asserts a judicial "duty to accept the Executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs" as grounds for allowing the administration to use military commissions of its own design to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

Wow – that’s powerful stuff…well, except for this.

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLEA July 30 Outlook article by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) incorrectly used the word "accept" rather than "respect" in quoting from a dissenting opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. The opinion referred to the court's "well-established duty to respect the Executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs."

So now we have Senator Kennedy taking to the print media to criticize the Chief Justice for thinking it’s unattractive to go about classifying people based on their race and Justice Alito for signing onto an opinion which states the President’s judgment should be respected in military and foreign policy matters. Time to go to the neutral corner, Senator – it’s going to take awhile for the Administration and these two justices to overcome those body blows.

Side Note: Remember all this? Nomination Watch: O’Connor and Ginsburg on threats to judicial independence. I’ll be eagerly scanning the wires for their similar criticisms of Senator Kennedy.


Ignatius on the Mideast...again

David Ignatius is kind enough to share with us what he sees as the Mideast Lessons From 1973. The ever-prolific Soccer Dad has already gathered some of the more insightful comments on it (including his own) but a good Ignatius piece always has room for more. Two eyebrow raisers and then what I think is the real lesson of 1973.

“In dealing with the Palestinians and the Lebanese, the Israelis will have to revise their doctrine that their adversaries can be coerced solely by military force.”

Their doctrine? What coercive acts were the Israeli military force performing that initiated this recent spate of violence? Was it the pullout from Gaza? From Lebanon? Israel maintains by far the most professional military in the region but it seems to be more out of necessity than to act as a coercive force.

“U.S. officials recognize that Nasrallah is likely to emerge as the strongest political force in Beirut, and they hope he will make strategic choices that will build a stronger and more stable Lebanon.”

…and I hope my hair starts growing back. Pundits love to drop in these supposed insights from “U.S. officials” but who is seriously, even under the cloak of anonymity, expressing any realistic hope that Nasrallah cares about a stronger and more stable Lebanon. One need only ask if Syria and Iran want a stronger and more stable Lebanon.

David Ignatius attempts to use 1973 as some great example of how diplomacy can work – although the fact that we are still lamenting a lack of peace in that region (with Syria continuing to be a major problem player despite their participation in the 1973 happenings) suggests that maybe 1973 wasn’t all he’s making it out to be. Maybe the better lesson of’73 is to remember that in the years leading up to that October, Anwar Sadat was quite vocal in his threats of war. It’s the lesson many have been preaching since 9/11 but apparently can’t be said enough: When someone threatens you, believe them.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Yet another Soccer Dad sighting...

Over at Media Blog on National Review Online, Soccer Dad gets yet another link – this time for exposing a double standard in how the Press treats collateral damage when caused by Israel and when NATO caused it with their bombings of Serbia (and injuries to Kosavars). Soccer Dad: Qana again

Good catch S/D – Congrats! But next time I suggest trying to be identified as:

“…David Gerstman, who is in the Maryland Blogger Alliance along with Maryland Conservatarian…”


More from our Mideast Guru

Former President Jimmy Carter continues to instruct us why the resounding election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 was such an important moment in our country’s history. Today’s lesson is his Op-Ed in the Washington Post where he courageously calls for peace in the Middle East because “We Need Policies for a Real, Lasting Middle East Peace.” Stop the Band-Aid Treatment

“It is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response.”

I don’t believe anyone within the powers-that-be in Israel seriously thinks that their recent responses would ever lead to condemnation from within the Arab populace – that would be a nice added benefit but I have never heard it expressed as the guiding principle at work here. He goes on:

“The urgent need in Lebanon is that Israeli attacks stop, the nation's regular military forces control the southern region, Hezbollah cease as a separate fighting force, and future attacks against Israel be prevented. Israel should withdraw from all Lebanese territory, including Shebaa Farms, and release the Lebanese prisoners. Yet yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a cease-fire.”

Way to cut through all the clear skies and identify the obvious. The Israeli attacks will certainly cease if Lebanon ever decides to act as a state, disarms Hezbollah and provides Israel credible assurance that attacks against the Israeli state will cease originating from within the Lebanon borders. All of this should have been done before this latest round of conflicts. Can Mr. Carter point to one iota of evidence that Israel can rely on for assurance that a unilateral cease-fire would result in the rest of his identified needs in Lebanon being realized? Hell, can he identify anything that would indicate any one of those three other needs has a chance of being realized?

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Jimmy Carter column if there wasn’t a gratuitous slam at our current President:

“Tragically, the current conflict is part of the inevitably repetitive cycle of violence that results from the absence of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, exacerbated by the almost unprecedented six-year absence of any real effort to achieve such a goal.”

“…the almost unprecedented six-year absence of any real effort to achieve such a goal.” - The man can sure turn a phrase. Of course, to do so, he had to ignore the facts that within the last six years, ISRAEL left Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005). Then he intones this piece of pablum:

“The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy and the international "road map" for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians.”

Seriously, I am embarrassed this guy was ever my president (and my Commander-in-Chief). Echoing the idea that Israel is somehow “oppressing” the Palestinians is just so much cliché that you know the author is just too lazy to add anything of substance to the conversation.

Any (remote) chance that Mr. Carter ever has of being considered even a mediocre president probably rests on the historical treatment of his Mid-East work - revisionists can do wonders. But his constant need to highlight his remarkable lack of understanding of what goes on in the area will only make their job more difficult. Obviously, there can be no road map to peace as long as one side has as its goal the destruction of the other. Jimmy Carter addressing Israel as the party that’s lost its way is like looking for a lost item only where the light is good - a visible but ultimately mis-directed effort…and in this case one deserving of all the scorn and disdain it inspires.

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