Thursday, June 30, 2005
WATCH THE BORDERS! (FBI HISTORY AND URBAN LEGEND IN-JOKE):
The real question, for those who believe there is some way to turn this around, is not the Syrian border but the Iranian border. Last fall, Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker that:In July, 2003, two months after President Bush declared victory in Iraq , the war, far from winding down, reached a critical point. Israel, which had been among the war’s most enthusiastic supporters, began warning the Administration that the American-led occupation would face a heightened insurgency — a campaign of bombings and assassinations — later that summer. Israeli intelligence assets in Iraq were reporting that the insurgents had the support of Iranian intelligence operatives and other foreign fighters, who were crossing the unprotected border between Iran and Iraq at will. The Israelis urged the United States to seal the nine-hundred-mile-long border, at whatever cost.
If you don't remember it happening, you're right. Why? The answer beggars belief:The border stayed open, however. “The Administration wasn’t ignoring the Israeli intelligence about Iran,” Patrick Clawson, who is the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and has close ties to the White House, explained. “There’s no question that we took no steps last summer to close the border, but our attitude was that it was more useful for Iraqis to have contacts with ordinary Iranians coming across the border, and thousands were coming across every day — for instance, to make pilgrimages.” He added, “The questions we confronted were ‘Is the trade-off worth it? Do we want to isolate the Iraqis?’ Our answer was that as long as the Iranians were not picking up guns and shooting at us, it was worth the price.”
In other words, one of the toughest-talking, most conservative administrations in history took a tack so liberal even liberal weenies like us wouldn't have. Hell, even sophomores in the middle of a campus multiculturalism project wouldn't have followed their logic to this conclusion.
No, it did not seem like a good idea at the time. Not that we ever got to discuss it, or even knew that such a discussion was taking place.
And what does it say about the administration that they actually needed the Mossad to tell them what should have been blindingly obvious ... that of course the rabidly anti-American Iranian government would not resist this huge target of opportunity right next door. DUH.
Unless, of course, you want to be as paranoid as Sailer and imagine that they need a pretext to invade Iran eventually.
After all, if that isn't the explanation, then the people in the Bush administration are as clueless as we fear they are. At least the paranoid explanation gives them some intelligence.
ADDENDUM: The even more glaring question that no one's asking is why we didn't seal the major border crossings before invading. It would have lent more credence to the idea that it was about enforcing the sanctions which were increasingly being violated. And if there were any WMDs, it would have ensured that none were going to be rapidly shipped out (a point we're willing to concede to the diehards on that one) and thus we were, like, serious about preventing proliferation.
Historians will debate for the rest of the century whether this or the decision not to destroy the weapon caches found on the way up the rivers was the worst mistake of the war.
posted by Sully 6/30/2005 10:17:00 PM
"WAIST DEEP IN THE BIG MUDDY ...":For all our mistakes, perseverance in Iraq -- and no timetable for withdrawal -- is our only responsible option now.
Did he ever believe in any other?
posted by Sully 6/30/2005 10:14:00 PM
NOT ALL THE SPOTS HAVE CHANGED:
Arthur Silber on how Sullivan is still carrying water for the administration (links in original).
Sullivan’s objections do not go nearly far enough. As I have explained, Sullivan still wants his American empire of “benevolent hegemony” (with a minor assist from Britain) — he just doesn’t want any of the “mess.” He still refuses to question the overall goals of this administration’s program, or to acknowledge that those goals require the means he abhors—and that the same goals may logically entail even worse practices (if such are possible). Sullivan wants the program, but steadfastly refuses to see that he must therefore “accept all the consequences.”
This is one part of the argument against Sullivan. There
is a second part, of equal importance. Many people seem to have forgotten Sullivan’s central role in poisoning the cultural atmosphere in the days after 9/11. A number of people helped propagate the vicious idea that any disagreement with Bush’s specific means of fighting this war constituted treason, but Sullivan was front and center in making that “argument.” Sullivan did yeoman work in marginalizing anyone who had any objections to Bush’s plans in the days and months after 9/11, no matter how well-founded those objections were. Sullivan himself may now question very limited aspects of Bush’s war—limited in terms of the overall scope of Bush’s program, which he still endorses—but the poison he so enthusiastically injected into our culture’s arteries continues to do its deadly work.
posted by Sully 6/30/2005 10:02:00 PM
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
WINSTON SMITH WATCH:
P O’Neill discovers that Sullivan isn’t even beneath amending his own work for the Sunday Times when he reprints it on his website, as well as hints that the Times is what’s keeping Sullivan financially afloat.
posted by Sully 6/28/2005 10:00:00 PM
SO SPOT-OFF IT’S HARD TO TELL IF HE KNEW THERE WAS A SPOT IN THE FIRST PLACE:
We expected Hitch’s piece to be unconvincing, and we weren’t disappointed.
The only surprise was that he meandered so much before getting to anything one might confuse with an argument:Further on in the same portentous article, we encounter one Andrew Bacevich, a “professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired Army officer.” What could be more impressive? This expert delivers himself of the opinion that, “If this is such a great cause, let us see one of the Bush daughters in uniform.” Let me do a brief thought experiment here. Do I know a single anti-war person who would be more persuaded if one of the Bush girls joined up? Do you? Can you imagine what would be said about such a cheap emotional stunt? Stalin's son was taken prisoner by the Nazi invaders (and never exchanged), and Mao's son was killed in the war that established the present state of North Korea. I am not sure how encouraging such precedents are supposed to be, but they have nothing at all to do with the definition of a just war.Let’s take this down one piece at a time.
First, those of us against the war are decidedly not the ones this is about convincing. The war was illegal, a violation of international law started under false pretenses and poorly planned. Two drunken Paris Hilton wannabees in uniform are not going to change that.
But Hitch, in his resentful zeal, seems not to be have noticed that there’s a severe recruitment crisis. Recruiters have said privately that the Bush girls enlisting would do more for their cause than tripling their advertising budget (Steve Gilliard had a great post quoting a Times article that said this, but we can’t seem to find it right now).
Of course, the Bush girls enlisting would probably be a net loss from a morale standpoint; we can’t imagine if we were out on patrol in Iraq at the thought that two party girls who’ve never worked a day in their lives and aren’t otherwise likely to (much less be sober enough to shoot straight) would be having our back to be at all reassuring.
Back to the main thought ... Declining military recruitment numbers might be good news if your political world consists entirely of getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, damn the consequences, or if you’re one of those pacificists who believes the U.S. should be made into some sort of large-scale Scandinavian clone where the military really does need bake sales, but there are still real needs for the military. If Kim Jong Il decides to invade South Korea, the whole question of Iraq becomes real academic real fast, and the folly of chickenhawkery immanent. So it’s not just about Iraq and whether people were for it or not.
As for Stalin’s and Mao’s sons (the former, as all readers of The Unbearable Lightness of Being know, never returned because he committed suicide when confronted by the British officers at the POW camp about his habit of leaving the latrine a filthy mess), well, that certainly can’t have hurt their causes, no matter how abominable their governments, could it? And what does it say about the Bush twins et al that they don’t feel democracy is worth their personal risk to defend (if that is the way they feel) while Stalin and Mao Jrs. died for totalitarianism.
To then change the subject to a defense of civilian control is a red herring. A beautiful shade of red, but red, to be sure. So? How does the military become any less answerable to civilians if the sons of civilian leaders serve? No military leader would, or did, say anything like what Hitch imagines him saying.
And who said it was necessarily a great day for democracy when Truman fired MacArthur? The Republican House leadership of the time actually considered impeaching him over it — something Hitch conveniently forgets. They didn’t like that level of civilian control.
We’ll concede Hitch and Sullivan a basic point here that too many on the left don’t: that support for a war or military action needn’t be preidcated on one’s military service or lack thereof.
But (and this is a big but) in a democracy it is reciprocally imcumbent on those who do support it without such experience nor plans to acquire it to reassess such verbal-only support if manpower levels in the battlefield become as critically low as they have, and to not routinely call opponents of such wars traitors and equate them with the enemy. The current chickenhawk brigade fails on both counts.
UPDATE 7/3: Steve Brady comments.
posted by Sully 6/28/2005 02:34:00 PM
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US:
Believe it or not (some days, even we don’t), today marks the third anniversary of SullyWatch.
A lot has changed in the last year. It’s different, the blogosphere as a whole has changed much since 2002, for the better, but we still sort of miss that frontier feeling it used to have. Oh well. No reason to stop.
We won’t go into the long reminiscences like we did last year. Instead, we’ll just say that we have every intent of being here next year, whatever things are like then.
Oh, and if you want to show your appreciation, the little white box to the right is a good place to do it.
posted by Sully 6/28/2005 02:31:00 PM
Sunday, June 26, 2005
DIDN’T MEAN TO BUG YA:
Further reaction to Sullivan’s How HIV Infection Changed My Life and Can Do the Same for You.
It’s Matt’s World:And to try and make some sort of excuse for HIV by likening it to diabetes? What was Sullivan thinking? We should (and do) preach diabetes prevention, as well. Put it another way: I have high blood pressure. This is probably because I’m overweight. Now, I take medication for it every day, and it’s under so control, so my BP appears normal. But that doesn’t mean that I want to stay on medication for the rest of my life. Far from it. I need to lose weight and exercise, and then perhaps I’ll be off the meds. What I don’t need to do is tell people: 'Hey, it’s just like diabetes. Catch it early, take some medication, and you'll be fine!' I thought the point was not to let our bodies get sick in the first place?
We should add, too, that one of us has been taking HBP medication for a little over a year now and never really thought of the similarities to Sullivan until now, probably because there aren’t really any.
This person, too, is very fortunate that it has had no side effects and no other effect on lifestyle besides 120/80. Would we wish not to be on it? Well, the hypertension didn’t have any symptoms either, and unlike Matt we believe it’s a family trait so weight, despite being slightly more than it should be, probably wouldn’t change that. But being on it gives you a peace of mind toward your future health prospects you wouldn’t otherwise have (and we’ve also noticed that even the occasional headaches we got before are almost a thing of the past, whatever might cause them).
John Whiteside sez:I am sure it is tough to hear statements about how the health of HIV+ people makes prevention harder. I have some sympathy for what he feels. But ultimately, when faced with discussion about how to teach HIV prevention in a world where HIV doesn’t kill as rapidly as it once did, here’s Andrew's reaction: it’s all about him. That’s where my empathy runs out.And isn’t it nice when Sullivan’s reaction to the reaction basically proves that point?
posted by Sully 6/26/2005 12:13:00 AM