Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hitler in Donald Rumsfeld’s imagination

The American Legion still has a few WWII veterans in its ranks. The setting is perfect for the administration’s new selling points on the war in Iraq – we are no longer engaged in a war on terrorism but on a war on fascism. Whether or not some or all of these various terrorist groups are fascist or not is something this blog will discuss at a later time. However, Rumsfeld’s speech isn’t about the complexities of political ideology – it’s about painting the world in black and white terms faced with either or scenarios. It’s not merely fascism but Hitler. It’s not 2006 but 1939.

President Bush speaks before the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City today and is expected to urge the country to “stay the course.” Donald Rumsfeld spoke earlier this week. As Fred Kaplan explains, Rumsfeld’s main points were, “Today's terrorists pose the same threat as yesteryear's Nazis; critics of the war in Iraq are like the appeasers before World War II; the real problem is that ‘the media’ spreads ‘lies’ and ‘myths’ about how the war is going.”

This is Fred Kaplan’s take in Slate,

… Rumsfeld posed four questions. "These are central questions of our time, and we must face them," he said. So, let's face them.

1. "With the growing lethality and availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased?"

Well, it depends which "vicious extremists" he's talking about. If he's talking about the leaders of al-Qaida, no, probably not. But, even here, it's a mistake to presume that there are only two choices—appeasement or war. Sometimes, war, at least war fought in a certain style, does as much harm as good.

2. "Can we really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?"

Again, it depends what he means by "terrorists." If he's talking about al-Qaida, who is advocating such a thing? If he's talking about, say, Syria or Iran, which are state sponsors of terrorism, it's sheer folly not to negotiate with them, at least on some issues. (Rumsfeld loads the deck by tossing in the phrase "a separate peace.") Several notable (and quite hawkish) Israelis, including a former director of Mossad, have advocated negotiating with Syria over its support of Hezbollah. Many Americans, of both parties and all persuasions, have urged George W. Bush to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. It's worth recalling that, shortly after 9/11, the Bush administration quietly opened up a line of diplomacy and cooperation with Iran over its shared interest in toppling the Taliban regime of Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld properly lionizes Winston Churchill and, implicitly, Franklin D. Roosevelt for recognizing the threat from Nazi Germany at a time when many dismissed his warnings. But it's a good thing that the Western leaders of World War II weren't as dogmatic as their wannabe-emulators of today. Otherwise, they might not have formed an alliance with the Soviet Union (out of a refusal to negotiate with evil Communists), and they might have therefore lost the war.

3. "Can we truly afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply 'law-enforcement' problems, rather than fundamentally different threats, requiring fundamentally different approaches?"

Once more, Rumsfeld loads the deck. Nobody claims that today's threats are "simply" matters of law enforcement. Obviously, terrorists are not "simply" criminals, and dealing with them requires a mix of approaches, including military. That said, techniques of law enforcement (including police surveillance, border patrol, and international intelligence sharing) have recently broken up more terrorist plots than any military operation.

4. "And can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America—not the enemy—is the real source of the world's trouble?"

This is another red herring. Few Americans, and virtually no contenders in American politics, hold this view. However, a lot of people in other countries—including countries that are, or should be, our allies—do hold this view. Look at the Pew Research Center's most recent"global attidudes survey," released this past June. In only four of the 15 nations surveyed (Britain, India, Japan, and Nigeria) did a majority of citizens have a favorable view of the United States. In six countries (Spain, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan), Iran had a higher rating than did the United States. (In one more, Russia, the two countries' ratings were tied.) Most remarkable, in all but one country (Germany), America's presence in Iraq was seen as a bigger danger to world peace than either Iran or North Korea.

These views are widespread—and, by the way, they've grown steadily more prominent in the past few years—not because of "the media" or "blame-America-first" liberals, nor because Iran and North Korea have more skillful propagandists (or, if they do, it's time for Condoleezza Rice to hire a better public-diplomacy staff). No, a country's global image is usually formed not by what its leaders say but rather by what they do.

Kaplan points to a memo to Rumsfeld from advisers in the fall of 2003. The memo contains quite common sense questions regarding the confrontation with terrorists groups around the globe. Rumsfeld and the Bush administration, in their usual arrogance, has not answered the questions raised.

Rumsfeld should ponder another set of questions that he posed to a handful of top advisers back in October 2003, in a private memo (which was leaked shortly afterward to USA Today):

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop the terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools? Is our current situation such that "the harder we work, the behinder we get"? ... Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madrassas to a more moderate course?

All excellent questions. At the time, I called the memo "pathetic" because Rumsfeld had taken so long to formulate its points. In retrospect, I was too cruel. What's really pathetic is that nearly three years have since passed and the Bush administration still hasn't answered his questions. And what's truly cynical is that Rumsfeld can deliver such a simpleminded speech—charging the critics of the war in Iraq with historical ignorance and "moral confusion"—when he knows the truth is more complicated.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Conservative Judaism likely to soon approve ordination of gay rabbis and same-sex marriage

Conservative Judaism is likely to sanction ordination of gay rabbis and same-sex marriage. The proposals would overturn the movement’s 1992 statement upholding the ban on ordination and gay marriage. According to the Forward,
The ordination of gay rabbis and the sanctioning of same-sex marriage
within Conservative Judaism is near certain, according to movement leaders who
spoke at a meeting in New York on Thursday night.

Organized by the movement’s congregational arm, the United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the gathering offered a preview of the
halachic opinions on homosexuality that are likely to be approved at a December
meeting of the movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. The purpose of the Thursday gathering, said the United Synagogue’s executive vice president,
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, was to help congregations begin to prepare for the “day
after” the rulings are handed down.

In December, the law committee “might accept — will accept, I think
— two or more of the papers [currently under consideration]: one that affirms
the current state of affairs, and one, at least, that liberalizes it,” Epstein
told the audience. The movement has room enough for congregations differing in
their treatment of homosexuality, he said, adding that, even if the movement
adopts a more liberal position, individual communities will have final say over
what course to pursue.

For several years, the law committee has been actively reconsidering its 1992 consensus statement on homosexuality, which upheld a ban on gay marriage and ordination. This past March, four opinions — two on each side of the issue — were submitted to the committee for review, and the final vote was scheduled for December.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

“Progressive realism” as an alternative to neo-conservatism

American citizens are beginning to see the Bush administration’s foreign policy for what it is – an expensive disaster that has weakened and isolated the United States making us more vulnerable to attack not only by ragtag bands of terrorists but other nations such as China. (The latter of which we need to pay careful attention to during the next decade or two.) The smart use of hard and soft power during the Cold War that resulted in the eventual prevailing of the West has been thrown out the window by neo-conservative ideologues who, contrary to liberal internationalists who believed the U.S. should use its power to promote what is good, believe the promotion of U.S. power by itself is what is good. The neo-conservative view is as arrogant as it is corrupting and self-defeating. It is corrupting because means and ends become completely confused. It is self-defeating because it views power as a military exercise only and because it clings to the paleo-conservative isolationist impulse to go it alone and avoid association with international institutions.

This is not to say liberal internationalism didn’t go astray during the Cold War. It did – Vietnam and several smaller conflicts in the Third World are testimony to that. But in Europe, the threat of hard power (NATO) and the use of soft power (the Marshall Plan, democratic promotion and cultural exchanges) checked the Soviet threat there and the emergence eventually of Western Europe from the ruins of WW II as a strong counter weight to the Soviets is where the Cold War was won. The craziness that occurred in the Third World was less important in the over all scheme than Europe.

Disenchantment with Bush foreign policies is an important step for the public but it isn’t enough. There need to be alternative frameworks of foreign relations presented. Joseph Nye suggests the Democratic Party follow the recommendations of Robert Wright and others to have come to call “progressive realism.” He writes,
… how should America use its unprecedented power, and what role should
values play? Realists warn against letting values determine policy, but
democracy and human rights have been an inherent part of American foreign policy for two centuries. The Democratic Party could solve this problem by adopting the suggestion of Robert Wright and others that it pursue "progressive realism." What type of foreign policy would ensue?

It would start with an understanding of the strength and limits of
American power. The US is the only superpower, but preponderance is not empire
or hegemony. America can influence but not control other parts of the world.
Power always depends upon context, and the context of world politics today is
like a three-dimensional chess game. The top board of military power is
unipolar; but on the middle board of economic relations the world is multipolar;
and on the bottom board of transnational relations - comprising issues such as
climate change, illegal drugs, avian flu, and terrorism - power is chaotically

Military power is a small part of the solution in responding to
these new threats on the bottom board of international relations. Resolving
these requires cooperation among governments and international institutions.
Even on the top board (where America represents nearly half of world defense
expenditures), the military is supreme in the global commons of air, sea, and
space, but more limited in its ability to control nationalistic populations in
occupied areas.

A progressive realist policy would also stress the importance of
developing an integrated grand strategy that blends "hard" military power with
"soft" attractive power, creating "smart" power of the sort that won the Cold
War. America needs to use hard power against terrorists, but it cannot hope to
win the struggle against terrorism unless it gains the hearts and minds of
moderates. The misuse of hard power (as at Abu Ghraib or Haditha) produces new terrorist recruits.

Today, the US has no such integrated strategy for combining hard
and soft power. Many official instruments of soft power - public diplomacy,
broadcasting, exchange programs, development assistance, disaster relief,
military-to-military contacts - are scattered around the government, and there
is no overarching strategy, much less a common budget, that even tries to
integrate them with hard power into a coherent national security strategy. The
US spends roughly 500 times more on its military than it does on broadcasting
and exchanges. Is this the right proportion? And how should the government
relate to the non-official generators of soft power - everything from Hollywood
to Harvard to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - that emanate from civil

A progressive realist policy must advance the promise of "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" enshrined in American tradition. Such a
grand strategy would have four key pillars: (1) providing security for the US
and its allies; (2) maintaining a strong domestic and international economy; (3)
avoiding environmental disasters, such as pandemics and global flooding; and (4)
encouraging liberal democracy and human rights at home and, where feasible,

This does not mean imposing American values by force. Democracy
promotion is better accomplished by attraction than coercion, and it takes time
and patience. The US would be wise to encourage the gradual evolution of
democracy, but in a manner that accepts cultural diversity.

Such a grand strategy would focus on four major threats. Probably
the greatest danger is the intersection of terrorism with nuclear materials.
Preventing this requires policies to fight terrorism and promote
non-proliferation, better protection of nuclear materials, stability in the
Middle East, and attention to failed states.

The second major challenge is facing the rise of a hostile hegemon,
as Asia gradually regains the three-fifths share of the world economy that
corresponds to its three-fifths share of the world's population. This requires a
policy that integrates China as a responsible global stakeholder, but hedges
against possible hostility by maintaining close relations with Japan, India, and
other countries in the region.

The third major threat is an economic depression, which could be
triggered by financial mismanagement, or by a crisis that disrupts global access
to oil flows from the Gulf - home to two-thirds of global oil reserves. This
will require policies that gradually reduce dependence on oil, which also take
into consideration that the American economy cannot be isolated from global
energy markets.

The fourth major threat is ecological breakdowns, such as pandemics
and negative climate change. This will require prudent energy policies as well
as greater cooperation through international institutions such as the World
Health Organization.

A progressive realist policy should look to the long-term evolution
of world order. The US should realize its responsibility for producing global
public goods. In the 19th century, Britain defined its national interest broadly
to include promoting freedom of the seas, an open international economy, and a
stable European balance of power. Such common goods benefited Britain, but also
other countries, contributing to Britain's legitimacy and soft power.

With the US now in Britain's place, it should play a similar role
by promoting an open international economy and common efforts, mediating in
international disputes, and developing international rules and institutions.
Because globalization will spread technical capabilities, and information
technology will allow broader participation in global communications, American
preponderance will become less dominant later this century. Progressive realism
requires the US to prepare for that future by defining its national interest in
a way that benefits all.

Monday, August 28, 2006

When attitude is more important that action

Matthew Yglesia is filling in for Joshua Marshall, who is out on vacation, at Talking Points Memo. He wrote a short piece today I think is worth reading and thinking about. I’ve reprinted the entire piece here:
I feel like I should say something about the Katrina anniversary, but I
honestly don't know what to say about it. Fortunately, DK had a bunch of good
Katrina-related content over the weekend. Sheryl Gay Stolberg's article on the
contrasting images of 9/11 Bush and Katrina Bush offers some food for

In particular, the centrality of 9/11 to Bush's political persona
has always struck me as under-analyzed. It's a strange thing primarily because
Bush didn't really do anything on 9/11 or its immediate aftermath. Terrorists
hijacked four planes and sought to crash them into buildings. They succeeded in
doing so with three of the planes. Thousands died. The physical destruction was
enormous. It was terrible. But it wasn't quite as bad as it could have been. The
passengers on one plane downed it before it could reach its target. Many people
were evacuated from the World Trade Center and their lives were saved. But none
of the good work that was done on that day -- and there was some good, heroic
work done -- was done by the president or had anything in particular to do with

Rather, the good vibes about 9/11 Bush all, in essence, relate to a
series of speeches he gave in the days following the event (his immediate
evening-of speech was poorly receieved). And I think they were good speeches.
The rubble/bullhorn event was a good event. The address to a joint session of
congress was great, too. But what does that all really amount to?

Not nothing. Providing inspirational rhetorical leadership in a
time of panic is legitimately part of the president's job. But it still doesn't
add up to very much. A speech is just a speech. It's not, moreover, like this
was a DeGaulle or Churchill type situation where the disaster struck and then a
new leader stepped forward to take the reigns of authority from those who had
failed and gave a speech to mark a new beginning. His popularity skyrocketed
because, having failed to foil a serious terrorist plot, he made a series of
pleasing remarks about the plot. And ever since that day, I think this dynamic
has been infecting our national strategy. The main goal, in essence, is to do
things that signify the adoption of an appropriate attitude toward hostile
elements in the world rather than to evaluate possible courses of action in
terms of their effects.

The debate on Iraq is just awash in this. The war gets discussed as
if it's a metaphor of some kind. A good opportunity to demonstrate resolve or
commitment, or else the lack thereof. A place where our stick-to-it-iveness will
show how strongly we feel that democracy is good. A shadow theater wherein we
send messages to al-Qaeda or Iran or what have you have. But, of course, Iraq is
a real place. The soldiers and civilians in that country are real people. They
shoot real bullets and detonate real explosives. And so the question has to be,
what, actually, is being achieved? What more might realistically be achieved?
What are the consequences -- not intentions, not desires, not hopes, but
consequences -- of our policies?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Battle of Britain and the War on Terrorism

“Warfare in general should not be understood as about martial exploits alone; to win means possessing the better political strategy, the more coherent philosophy and the better economic and political organization.”

This is the assessment of Will Hutton in the Observer today. He examines the myth of British air superiority as the deciding factor in the Battle of Britain. The victory was multi-faceted in the battle as well as the war. There are lessons to be learned about the importance of appreciating the complexity of our strengths. This is particularly relevant today in the current situation of people around the world facing threats from terrorist groups. The danger is real and we must address it but fear mongering and simplistic solutions won’t help.

Hutton writes,
… there were different conclusions to be drawn from the strategic
realities of 1940, as military strategists have argued ever since the end of the
war. Nobody outside a military college has been prepared to listen. But last
week, the argument surfaced again in History Today magazine. In an intriguing
article, three senior military historians from the Joint Services Command and
Staff College argued that it was the Royal Navy that saved Britain in 1940, not
the RAF.

Widely reported, it was a startling challenge to one of Britain's
greatest beliefs and it received a serious and unhysterical response. Sixty-one
years after the war, it may be that at last we are ready to debate why 1940
worked out as it did. After all, a better understanding of our past can only
illuminate the present.

Take the role of air power. The reassessment of the Battle of
Britain is part of a wider reassessment about the potential of air power, as the
Israelis in Lebanon are discovering, as did the Americans in Vietnam. Air power
is not the sole key to winning - or losing - a war. Indeed, warfare in general
should not be understood as about martial exploits alone; to win means
possessing the better political strategy, the more coherent philosophy and the
better economic and political organisation. In these terms, Britain in 1940 was
much better placed than the myths have ever acknowledged.

Hitler easily won his battles in Poland and France, but he had gone
to war too early. To have a fleet remotely the same size as the British, he
would have had to wait until 1946 when the German naval building programme would
have been complete, but he could not be certain that the Nazis could hold power
for that long. He had to move in 1939.

Churchill was also the superior strategist. Hitler's
victories in Europe in 1939 and 1940 paradoxically showed the bankruptcy of
Nazism as a political philosophy: what was to come next? And how could it be
made sustainable? The attack on the Soviet Union that was to destroy his own
regime was, in truth, the only move Hitler could make to sustain his political
momentum, given the inherent weaknesses of his position. Churchill, meanwhile,
could build an alliance with the United States with a clear and explicit war aim
based on a superior political philosophy.

None of this should detract from the heroism of Britain's fighter
pilots in the summer of 1940. In September 1940, a pilot's average life
expectancy in 11 Group squadrons, which shouldered the main burden of defence,
was no more than 87 operational hours.

Equally, the Battle of Britain was the first allied victory of
fundamental political and morale-boosting value. But Britain had a vast fleet
and a powerful and fully mobilised industrial machine. It had a foe whose
political philosophy was to cripple its war effort. We should remember 'the
Few', but also this broader context.

And today we hold no fewer aces in the so-called war of terror,
something we should do well to recall as we scrap civil liberties in what some
British ministers, along with George W Bush, insist is a millenarian fight to
the death. We kept our heads in 1940. Let's keep them in 2006.

Read the complete piece here.

Ethnic Relocation in Iraq

“Ethnic relocation” has an unpleasant ring to it because we, as Americans, live in and support a multi-ethnic society. However, the reality of civil war and possible genocide in Iraq may require us to put the niceties aside and consider options to avoid the bloodshed. The current policy is just not working.

This blog has raised the issue of partition in Iraq before as an alternative to the administration’s unchanging policy in the face of a deteriorating situation. Today, in the Los Angeles Times, Michael O’Hanlon explores how this might work. He writes,
There is what might be called a "Plan A-" option — facilitating
voluntary ethnic relocation within Iraq while retaining a confederal governing
structure. We should offer individuals who want to protect themselves and their
families the chance to move to an Iraq territory more hospitable to their
ethnicity and/or religion.

To a substantial extent this is happening already, but the 100,000
or more internally displaced Iraqis have received scant help or protection to
date. With Plan A- as a policy, not an accident, the international community and
Iraqi government could help offer housing and jobs to those wishing to move, as
well as protection en route. Houses left behind would revert to government
ownership, to be offered to individuals of other ethnic groups who wanted them,
in what would largely become a program of swapping. Funds for some new home
construction would be needed as well.

Obviously, this idea would only work if Iraq's government, through a
strong consensus of its Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds, endorsed it. Most
Iraqis, in fact, still say they want an integrated country, but if the civil war
gets much worse, that option may no longer exist. In that case, reluctant Sunnis
could be persuaded if it was made clear that the confederal governing body would
distribute all Iraqi oil revenue equitably on a per capita basis, not by
geography. Former Baathists, up to a certain rank in the party, also should be
quickly "rehabilitated" and allowed to hold jobs and run for office.

For Americans who cherish the notion of multiethnic democracy, actively
facilitating voluntary ethnic segregation would be a tough pill to swallow. Some
might even go so far as to claim it unethical, making a mockery of the moral
purpose we claimed to be furthering when we liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein's
cruel rule.

But what would truly mock our initial goals would be outright defeat
followed by genocide — perhaps similar to what happened in Bosnia in the early
1990s. There, 200,000 people died; in Iraq, which has five times the population,
the death toll could be much worse.

Although we should generally favor and support multiethnic democracy,
it is not our most important objective — especially not in today's Iraq, where
it may no longer even be achievable. For people trying to cope with the
country's daily perils, staying alive is a higher priority than living in a
diverse neighborhood.

Iraq still has a chance to turn out better, even if our current
strategy fails. If we can encourage future ethnic relocation to occur
voluntarily and peacefully, rather than through murder, rape and intimidation,
we can still salvage an imperfect but real success that ultimately leaves most
Iraqis better off than they were under Hussein. And in contrast to Bosnia, where
land swaps occurred only after the civil war had largely run its course, Iraq
might use such a policy to nip a broader war in the bud.

Radical solutions far different — and far more promising — than "stay
the course" need to be designed now. "Give up hope" is not one of

Read the complete piece here.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

This is not WW III

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, there are two things to remember.

First, the threat from terrorists is real and we must do what we must to prevent it and respond to it when it happens. This includes the smart use of military intervention where and when appropriate.

Second, the threat from terrorists must be kept in perspective. As terrible as the September 11th attacks were, the scope of this threat does not come close to what we faced in the Cold War or WW II. We must not allow the fear of terrorism to pervert our democracy or our common sense in foreign relations. Obsessing over terrorism, gives terrorists power over us.

Below is an editorial from the Boston Globe.
Eleven suspects were brought to court in London this week, charged with
involvement in the plot to blow up several airliners over the Atlantic. The
foiling of their alleged conspiracy will inevitably be scrutinized for what it
reveals about the terrorist threat five years after Sept. 11.

It should be reassuring that the plotters were not as well organized or as
successful at keeping their plans secret as the Sept. 11 masterminds and the
terrorists who did their bidding. If British and Pakistani officials are
correct, knowledge of the airline plot was disseminated among scores of people.
The conspirators failed to prevent a mole from infiltrating their network. And
they were careless enough to permit U.S. agencies to intercept their

If the scheme to use liquid explosives to blow up the airliners was conceived or directed by top Qaeda figures, as Pakistani intelligence has claimed, then it seems obvious that Osama bin Laden's lieutenants are less capable of carrying out a complex terrorist spectacular than they were before they lost their sanctuary and training camps in Afghanistan.

If Al Qaeda was not orchestrating the airline scheme, or if Qaeda figures were involved only tangentially, the thwarting of the plot suggests that local terrorists and jihadists are best fought with sound intelligence and old-fashioned police work. They may be capable of mass killing, as the London train bombings last summer showed, but the threat they represent is very different from that of Stalin's Soviet Union or Hitler's Germany.

Inflating the danger from jihadi terrorists into an existential threat and invoking a grandiose third world war, as President George W. Bush and his advisers have been doing, only plays into the hands of bin Laden and the other deluded megalomaniacs hiding out with him in the mountains of South

Friday, August 25, 2006

George Allen’s “Macaca Moment” continues

George Allen’s career as a United States Senator may soon be going the way of Pluto’s career as a planet. It seems the Senator from Virginia is paying a price for being a bully and a name caller. He and his campaign think it is unfair that he should be held accountable for his actions. They are particularly peeved this issue won’t go away.

O.K. But let’s face it – it’s not that he just did something stupid. He has no distinguished achievements as a Senator to fall back on. I cannot imagine Senator John Warner having done something so stupid but, for argument’s sake, let’s assume he did. This whole issue would have been over in 24-to-48 hours. Why? First, Senator Warner would have had the good sense to sincerely apologize immediately. Second, Senator Warner has a record and respect among colleagues that Senator Allen does not have.

What is Senator Allen’s reputation? He was Mr. Cowboy Boots and Mr. Confederate Flag. And now he is Mr. Macaca.

His campaign staff are upset the public is seeing him for what he is – a low brow narcissistic bigot. Their problem is the campaign can’t shake reality of the candidate they are stuck with. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post,
Since calling an Indian American man a type of monkey earlier this
month, the Virginia Republican has apologized in two speeches, on Sean Hannity's
radio show, in a phone call to the young man himself, in at least seven media
interviews and in several statements from his campaign showing varying levels of

But when Allen arrived here in the Shenandoah Valley on Thursday to
take a factory tour, the local NBC affiliate demanded another apology for the
"macaca" moment. "I made a mistake," Allen obliged. "It was a mistake, and I'm
sorry for it, very sorry for it, and I'm going to try to do better."

The words were barely out of his mouth when the ABC affiliate
requested its pound of flesh. "Oh, goodness," the senator said with a groan. "I
regret it, it was a mistake, I'm solely responsible for it, and I'm very, very
sorry. . . . It was a mistake, I was wrong, it's my fault, and I'm very, very
sorry to hurt anyone."

It seemed surreal to see such groveling from the former quarterback
and aspiring presidential candidate. But Allen, who was cruising to reelection a
few weeks ago, has seen his lead plunge in polls and has been exposed to
national ridicule. The rattled candidate has lost his bluster; his aides trail
him with looks of nausea.

Worse, all of this is happening in what Allen, in another context,
called "America and the real world of Virginia." There's a barbecue buffet at
Shoney's, and single rooms are $45.99 at the Motel 6. The vote here in what
Allen repeatedly calls the "wholesome" Shenandoah Valley -- distinguishing it
from less-wholesome provinces to the east -- is solidly Republican.

Yet Allen tiptoed around the issues of the day as he spoke to the
local chamber of commerce. There was no mention of Iraq or the Middle East, not
a word about terrorism and national security, and barely a mention of President
Bush. And, addressing another all-white crowd, he labored to avoid even the hint
of another macaca moment.

"We graduate 70,000 engineers every year; one-third are from
another country," Allen said, before adding quickly: "Which is just

Just fine? That’s quite a concession.

Milibank continues,

Campaign aides carefully checked media credentials, excluding the video
man from Democrat Jim Webb's campaign who had succeeded S.R. Sidarth, the target of the macaca jab.

The event was part of Allen's "listening tour," but when a local
television reporter, during question time, called out, "Senator Allen, are you
worried --," Allen recoiled as the chamber president, Kathy Welsh, intervened.
"I'm sorry, we're not taking questions from the media," she announced. "This is
for members of the chamber of commerce." This was followed by an awkward
silence; because no chamber member had a question, Welsh asked one of her
own. Minutes later, another questioner said he was from WVPT, and Allen,
fearing another reporter, cried out, "No, no."

In lieu of potentially demoralizing issues such as Iraq, Allen
addressed conservative causes -- the pledge of allegiance, judicial nominees,
and arctic oil drilling to lower gas prices ("It won't bother any of the
mosquitoes up there"). He regained some of his usual brashness when he
criticized the Bush-backed immigration legislation as "convoluted," "outrageous"
and "absurd."

Trailed by reporters at the event's end, Allen practically dashed
from the room and aboard his idling campaign bus.

And if he is not running from the press, he is now avoiding the public. This from the Richmond Times-Dispatch this evening,
STAUNTON - A man who identified himself as a law student confronted
U.S. Sen. George Allen here today, demanding to know if the potential
presidential candidate had ever used the n-word.
Mike Stark, in his early to mid-20s, also asked Allen, R-Va., why he had a Confederate flag and a noose in his office. The News Virginian confirmed that Stark is a first-year law student at the University of Virginia.

An Allen aide asked Stark to leave, while a staff person at the
Holiday Inn in Staunton also told him to leave the premises.

The man paid $20 to attend a luncheon hosted by the Augusta
Regional Chamber of Commerce. The man stood with reporters waiting to interview Allen, then fired him questions.

“Is this an interview?” Allen asked. “I’ll be glad to talk to you

Allen aide David Nepp, stepped in and asked the man to

“Are you with the hotel,” the man asked.

A hotel employee asked man to leave.

Allen did say before the man left that the
Confederate flag was a gift to him. The Republican previously has said the
noose represented his tough-on-crime stance and long has been removed from
his office.

And in case you missed Senator Allen’s “Macaca Moment” you can see
it here.

South Africa soon to be first African country to legalize same sex marriage

South Africa is on the way to becoming the first African country to legalize same sex marriage. The Cabinet has approved legislation to present to Parliament after judicial rulings that it was unconstitutional to deny marriage to gay people. Certain Christian groups are calling for a constitutional amendment protecting marriage as an institution for heterosexuals only. According to the South African Broadcasting Corporation:
Cabinet has given the green light for a bill allowing same sex
marriage, which would make it the first country in Africa to accord homosexual
couples the same rights as their straight counterparts.

Themba Maseko, the government spokesperson, said Cabinet had approved
the bill - which must still be adopted by Parliament after the constitutional
court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny gay people the right to marry.
"Basically (the bill) will legalise same sex marriage in compliance with the
constitutional court ruling," said Maseko, who could not say when Parliament
would discuss the bill.

The bill, which has drawn opposition from religious groups who want a
referendum on the issue, is still subject to public comment. The Cabinet
decision puts South Africa on course to join a handful of mostly European
countries that allow same-sex marriage, making it the first to do so in Africa,
where homosexuality remains taboo and opponents decry gay unions as

Meanwhile, the Marriage Alliance of South Africa, said to represent 20
million Christians of various denominations, has called for an amendment to the
Constitution to protect marriage as a heterosexual institution. This comes after
the Constitutional Court ordered parliament to correct defects it considered
invalid in the statutory and common-law definitions of marriage of same sex
couples not enjoying the same status and benefits coupled with responsibilities
accorded to heterosexual couples.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Foreign donations for Katrina remain unspent

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf coast, it is discouraging to hear that millions of dollars in cash and supplies donated by foreign countries has remained unused. Countries from around the world donated generously for the relief of victims and the reconstruction of their communities. The State Department was unprepared to handle the generosity of the world community and remains unprepared to do so again. Carolyn O'Hara writes in Foreign Policy,
When shocking scenes of devastation unfolded on television screens last
August, the world was incredulous that the sole superpower could get its own
crisis so very wrong. Relief offers poured in from abroad. China chipped in $5
million. Tiny Brunei gave $1 million. Even countries with little to give dug
deep. Bangladesh sent $1 million, Rwanda wired $100,000, and Afghanistan coughed up $99,800. The United Arab Emirates was the biggest donor, doling out more than $99 million. By year’s end, the U.S. State Department had received $126 million from 36 countries and international organizations. (Other countries, such as Canada, India, Kuwait, and Turkey chose to donate directly to the American Red Cross or the Bush-Clinton Hurricane Katrina Fund.)

And it wasn’t just cash that poured in. Other countries sent
planeloads of tents, blankets, and Meals Ready to Eat, but the United States was
ill-prepared to handle the largesse while residents were still trying to
evacuate. Some offers were declined. But oftentimes the government accepted
supplies like bandages, food, and cots and then allowed them to sit for months
in Arkansas warehouses. According to a report by the Government Accountability
Office (GAO) released in April, FEMA and the State Department paid tens of
thousands of dollars in warehouse storage fees in the months after Katrina to
house unused supplies from foreign countries.

The donated cash met a different fate. By late October, the State
Department had allocated $66 million of the $126 million in international
assistance to FEMA, which then granted it to the United Methodist Committee on
Relief (UMCOR), the nonprofit aid arm of the United Methodist Church. With the
funds, UMCOR established Katrina Aid Today, a consortium of nine national aid
agencies dedicated to case-management work for Katrina evacuees. But to date,
only $13 million has actually been disbursed, and it has been allocated almost
exclusively to salaries and training for case workers, not to evacuees.

As for the rest of the funds, some $60 million languished for more
than six months in a non-interest-bearing account at the U.S. Treasury. Had the
money been placed in Treasury securities, the GAO report notes, their value
would have increased by nearly $1 million by the end of February. Instead,
inflation meant the funds actually decreased in value as the government stalled.
In mid-March, the Department of State finally agreed to sign over the remainder
to the Department of Education for teacher salaries, books, and new school
buildings along the Gulf Coast. But the Department of Education has yet to spend
a dime. In response to inquiries from Foreign Policy, a spokesperson said that
an announcement will be made this week regarding how the department intends to use the money.

The Two Georges

After almost two weeks, Senator George Allen has finally found the courage to apologize directly to the victim of his name-calling outburst. (See it here.) However, given the his campaign’s efforts to paint the poor Senator as the real victim, his late apology seems insincere. According to the Washington Post,

The senator's gesture was apt, but it hardly seemed sincere. Even as he
apologized, his campaign continued its two-faced strategy of simultaneously
scoffing at the entire incident as what Dick Wadhams, Mr. Allen's campaign
manager, has said is a contrivance. To Mr. Wadhams, politics means never having
to say you're sorry.

George Allen was seen by some as the logical successor to George Bush in the White House. He was seen as an alternative to Senator John McCain who is seen as too liberal to many in the right-wing of the Republican Party. However, after the Macaca incident his support for national office is cooling as some now see him as “Bush without brains.” That may be a particularly harsh judgment particularly given revelations about our Commander-in-Chief’s fondness for fart jokes.

The two Georges not only share a faux redneck crudeness but both of them come to public office with famous fathers as the only real qualification for public trust. Surely we can do better.

Alternatives for Iraq

This blog has complained on more than one occasion about the lack of discussion of alternative Iraqi policies. We are presented with only two options – stay the course or withdraw now. Although they seem to be opposites they both have one major thing in common – they both equal disaster.

Staying the course has produced this disaster. As if it wasn’t already obvious, the President’s press conference a few days ago only confirms there is no strategy to deal with the situation, only wishful thinking and empty rhetoric. The sectarian violence is spiraling out of control. Despite the denials, the country is already experiencing a low-level civil war. We have alienated allies and united enemies. Iraq is becoming a training ground for terrorists who will haunt us in the future. The United States has become Dr. Frankenstein and Iraq may soon become our monster.

Withdrawing from Iraq immediately, as tempting as that may be given the mess the Bush administration has created, is not a good idea either. The civil war will not disappear with American troops. Rather it will grow because the armed forces and police of the central government are not trustworthy. Given turmoil and no secure borders meddlesome neighbors will likely intervene. Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and especially Iran all have local interests in Iraq. Their intervention would possibly result in a regional war. And, of course, just as the abandonment of Afghanistan by the West after the withdrawal of the Russian created a vacuum filled by fundamentalists and terrorists the same would likely hold true for Iraq too.

We desperately need a third way.

Senator Joseph Biden has a piece in today’s Washington Post with an alternative plan. It is a follow-up to a plan he and Les Gelb, of the Council on Foreign Policy, presented four months ago and is somewhat of a variation of the proposal by former ambassador Peter Galbraith. He writes,
The new, central reality in Iraq is that violence between Shiites and
Sunnis has surpassed the insurgency and foreign terrorists as the main security
threat. Our leading civilian and military experts on Iraq -- Ambassador Zalmay
Khalilzad and Gens. George Casey, Peter Pace and John Abizaid -- have all
acknowledged that fact.

In December's elections, 90 percent of the votes went to sectarian
lists. Ethnic militias increasingly are the law in Iraq. They have infiltrated
the official security forces. Sectarian cleansing has begun in mixed areas, with
200,000 Iraqis fleeing their homes in recent months for fear of sectarian
reprisals. Massive unemployment feeds the ranks of sectarian militias and
criminal gangs.

No number of troops can solve this problem. The only way to hold
Iraq together and create the conditions for our armed forces to responsibly
withdraw is to give Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds incentives to pursue their
interests peacefully and to forge a sustainable political settlement.
Unfortunately, this administration does not have a coherent plan or any
discernible strategy for success in Iraq. Its strategy is to prevent defeat and
hand the problem off when it leaves office.

Meanwhile, more and more Americans, understandably frustrated,
support an immediate withdrawal, even at the risk of trading a dictator for
chaos and a civil war that could become a regional war.

Both are bad alternatives. The five-point plan Les Gelb and I laid
out offers a better way.

First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by
decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The
central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border
security and the distribution of oil revenue.

Second, it would bind the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a
proportionate share of oil revenue. Each group would have an incentive to
maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country

Third, the plan would create a massive jobs program while
increasing reconstruction aid -- especially from the oil-rich Gulf states -- but
tying it to the protection of minority rights.

Fourth, it would convene an international conference that would
produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce
regional commitments.

Fifth, it would begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this
year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, while maintaining a small
follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of

To be sure, this plan presents real challenges, especially with
regard to large cities with mixed populations. We would maintain Baghdad as a
federal city, belonging to no one region. And we would require international
peacekeepers for other mixed cities to support local security forces and further
protect minorities. The example of Bosnia is illustrative, if not totally
analogous. Ten years ago, Bosnia was being torn apart by ethnic cleansing. The
United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords to keep the country
whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations. We even allowed
Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of U.S.
troops and others, Bosnians have lived a decade in peace. Now they are
strengthening their central government and disbanding their separate

At best, the course we're on has no end in sight. At worst, it
leads to a terrible civil war and possibly a regional war. This plan offers a
way to bring our troops home, protect our security interests and preserve Iraq
as a unified country. Those who reject this plan out of hand must answer one
simple question: What is your alternative?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Senator Allen’s Campaign: Bloggers In, Sister Out

The Allen organization is in a tizzy trying to salvage the Senator’s re-election campaign, which is quickly sinking. An email circulated by the campaign manager to GOP leaders blames the problems on all the usual suspects – the media, liberals, etc. In fact, it seems everyone gets blamed except the person responsible for the current state of affairs: George Allen. It’s not just that he bullied and called a young man racially insensitive names at a campaign rally but that he is not know for anything else. After six years as a member of the majority party in the U.S. Senate, he is not known as being particularly thoughtful about or an advocate for any issue at all. Mention the name of Senator John Warner and you think of military affairs. Mention Senator Richard Lugar and you think of foreign affairs. Mention Senator George Allen and you think of …well, cowboy boots and confederate flags.

According to the email, the campaign will attempt to revive the re-election effort by recruiting Virginia bloggers. Hot Line reports,

According to an e-mail circulating among conservatives, Chris LaCivita,
Allen's longtime strategist, and other Allen aides believe that the campaign has
so far failed to appreciate the generative role that bloggers can play -- and
the consequences that pertain when the GOP Netroots aren't mobilizied on behalf
of candidates.

LaCivita is looking for a prominent conservative online
strategist to join the campaign's staff. Chad Dotson, a Virginia prosecutor who
blogs as
Commonwealth Conservative, is helping LaCivita with the recruitment effort. Since Dotson is an elected official and is soon up for re-election, it's
unlikely that he'd be cleared to join the campaign as a paid staff

LaCivita declined to comment and Dotson did not respond to an e-mail
sent to an address listed on his website. The authencity of the e-mail was
confirmed by two sources who were privy to its creation and distribution.

LaCivita is an expert at bypassing the traditional media filter. He
maintains backchannel relationships with many prominent bloggers and political
webmasters. He crafted the strategy that used the conservative blogosphere to
distribute the initial claims made by members of the Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth. In 2004, Dick Wadhams, Allen's campaign manager, employed two bloggers to help delegitimize South Dakota's most influential newspaper. Wadhams believed
that the Sioux Falls Argus Leader was hopelessly biased against challenger John
Thune and in favor of longtime incumbent Tom Daschle.

In the meantime, Ryan Lizza notes that Allen’s sister is suddenly backing off things she wrote in a book, published in 2000, about growing up in the Allen household. Liza notes among other things she wrote about the Senator:

* Turning onto our street, Mom and I passed the Green Bay Packers
fan's house. Often his mailbox lay smashed in the street, a casualty of my
brothers' drive-by to school in the morning. George would swerve his Mach II
Mustang while Gregory held the baseball bat out the window to clear the mailbox
off its post. The Packers fan would nail the battered mailbox back to the post;
the next morning it would be in the middle of the street again. Lately, the
Packers fan had resorted to stapling a Kleenex box to the mailbox post to
receive his mail. (page 16)
* [To George], I was just an ugly dog, as
he called me, sucking on a baby's bottle."What are you morons watching?" George
asked as he changed the channel to Hee Haw. George loved Hee Haw. His favorite
character was the big, slow-witted Junior. Junior tried to tell jokes yet always
failed to remember the punch line. There was also something mildly
country-thuggish about Junior that I think George felt akin to. After Hee Haw,
we watched Mannix. ...
When Mannix ended, George said, "It's late, morons,
time for bed!" We all obeyed George. If we didn't, we knew he would kill
us. Once, when Bruce refused to go to bed, George hurled him through a sliding
glass door. Another time, when Gregory refused to go to bed, George tackled him
and broke his collarbone. Another time, when I refused to go to bed, George
dragged me up the stairs by my hair. George hoped someday to become a dentist.
George said he saw dentistry as a perfect profession--getting paid to make
people suffer. Instead, George became a lawyer and went into politics. (pages
* Ever since my brother George held me over the railing at
Niagara Falls, I've had a fear of heights. (page 43)
* My brothers
never cried. Gregory cried only once, when Dad hit him and broke his nose. Bruce
cried only once, when a referee made a bad call that cost the Rams a game.
George never cried; I didn't think he even knew how. (page 45)
* The
last time we all watched a game together, George beat up Bruce, and Bruce beat
up Gregory, and I bit my nails, and Mom screamed, "Stop, stop, stop!" and held a
knife above her head and threatened to kill herself if we didn't stop fighting.
(page 77)
* Dad got a plastic photo cube of our family to take with
him to Redskins summer-training camp. George took it out of Dad's hands, looked
at it, and said, "God, are you people ugly! Don't ever tell me I'm ugly!" (page
* My brother George welcomed him [Jennifer's new boyfriend Flynn]
by slamming a pool cue against his head. (page 178)

In case you missed seeing Senator Allen calling a dark skinned young man a macaca, you can see it here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

President Bush on the path of least resistance in Iraq

This President is inclined to take the path of least resistance in terms of policy in Iraq. This means refusing to acknowledge the reality on the ground in Iraq today and doing little or nothing differently as increasing numbers of people die. It may sound odd to describe a war policy as passive but that is exactly what this one is – we have committed just enough troops and resources to avoid defeat (for the time being) or victory. In other words, we are not in control of events -- events are slowly taking control of us

At President Bush’s press conference yesterday, Mr. Bush defended the current Iraq policy. (David Corn does an excellent job dissecting his press conference here.) He said we will stay in Iraq as long as he is President as if that alone guarantees some sort of success. The problem is the sectarian violence is spiraling out of control and Mr. Bush refuses to see this as civil war. The President said, “I hear a lot about ‘civil war’… [But] the Iraqis want a unified country. … Twelve million Iraqis voted. … It's an indication about the desire for people to live in a free society.” But according to Fred Kaplan in Slate,

What he misses is that those 12 million Iraqis had sharply divided views of
what a free society meant. Shiites voted for a unified country led by Shiites,
Sunnis voted for a unified country led by Sunnis, and Kurds voted for their own
separate country. Almost nobody voted for a free society in any Western sense of
the term. (The secular parties did very poorly.)

However, conceding there may still be some (but not much) room left for disagreement about where a civil war exists or not, the President not only does not seem to grasp we have a failing strategy to secure unity and democracy but seems to think of the goal as the strategy. Kaplan continues,

Asked if it might be time for a new strategy in Iraq, given the unceasing
rise in casualties and chaos, Bush replied, "The strategy is to help the Iraqi
people achieve their objectives and dreams, which is a democratic society.
That's the strategy. … Either you say, 'It's important we stay there and get it
done,' or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president."

…"helping Iraqis achieve a democratic society" may be a strategic
objective, but it's not a strategy—any more than "ending poverty" or "going to
the moon" is a strategy.

Strategy involves how to achieve one's objectives—or, as the great British strategist B.H. Liddell Hart put it, "the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy." These are the issues that Bush refuses to address publicly—what means and resources are to be applied, in what way, at what risk, and to what end, in pursuing his policy. Instead, he reduces everything to two options: "Cut and run" or, "Stay the course." It's as if there's nothing in between, no alternative way of applying military means. Could it be that he doesn't grasp the distinction between an "objective" and a "strategy," and so doesn't see that there might be alternatives? Might our situation be that grim?
Kaplan raises a key problem in this debate and that is narrowing of options. We seem to be faced with a choice of either staying the course of babysitting this deteriorating situation in Iraq or simply abandoning the country leaving the population to fester in this worsening mess. We have a responsibility to make the best of this situation but the Bush administration has no strategy and no policy beyond empty rhetoric. In the meantime, American soldiers and a lot of Iraqis are dying. There needs to be discussion beyond the two options presented by this administration.

One writer exploring other options (cited here, here and here previously) is former ambassador Peter Galbraith. He sees the situation as too far gone – especially considering this administration’s unwillingness to commit even more resources to the country -- for a united Iraq to work. He argues it is time to consider working with the reality of the three spheres already operating separately in Iraq. He writes in the New York Daily News,
Yesterday, President Bush told reporters that, though he is "concerned"
about talk of civil war in Iraq, "We're not going to leave before the mission is
complete" - meaning, until a stable and unified Iraq can defend itself.

But it is time for the administration to face an uncomfortable
reality: There is no longer any such thing as a single nation called Iraq. In
the north, Kurdistan has its own government, army and flag, and it does not
allow the Iraqi flag or army on its territory. The Shiite south is ruled by
religious parties and militias. The Sunni Arab center is a battleground between
Sunni insurgents and the U.S. military operating in alliance with mostly Shiite
Iraqi troops. In Baghdad, Al Qaeda offshoots dominate many of the Sunni
neighborhoods in the city's west while the pro-Hezbollah Mahdi Army controls the Shiite east.

Iraq's supposed "government of national unity" is not very united,
and governs almost nothing.


So the real question is not "How do we hold Iraq together?" but
"What would it take to put it back together?"

At a minimum, the U.S. would have to disarm the Shiite militias and
end the Sunni-Shiite civil war. Disarming the militias means taking on
well-armed fighters supported by Iran. To end the civil war, U.S. troops would
have to become Baghdad's police force. These missions would require many more
troops than we have in Iraq today and would lead to greater U.S. casualties.

But even if we could put Iraq together, is that a worthy goal?
Iraq's Kurds have created a Western-oriented aspiring democracy in the north.
What U.S. interest is served by forcing them to live in an Iraq that is
theocratic and allied with Iran? And if Iraq's Shiites want their own state, as
apparently they do, why should we commit our military to stopping them?

Iraq is already partitioned. The question now is whether America
should pay a higher price in blood and treasure to reassemble a country that a
sizable proportion of its people do not want.

Whether or not Galbraith is on the right track or not at least he is raising reasonable alternatives to a failed policy neither the White House nor many of its critics are doing. We need more discussion like this and we need it quickly – people are being dying.

Monday, August 21, 2006

George Allen: the Un-American Senator

This from this morning's L.A. Times:


The Un-American Senator

George Allen disgraces himself with a racist slur.August 21, 2006THE BEST POSSIBLE INTERPRETATION of Sen. George Allen's twice pointing at an Indian American videographer at a campaign rally and sneeringly calling him "macaca" is that, in the words of Allen's own spinmeisters, the Virginia Republican and putative 2008 presidential contender was just playfully combining the words "Mohawk" (to mischaracterize the cameraman's haircut) and, well, "caca." As an Allen staffer explained to the National Journal's Hotline blog, he was "an annoyance."

That's the best spin, mind you. The worst — and more believable — is that "macaca" is an Americanized version of the similarly pronounced French racial slur "macaque," which literally refers to a species of stub-tailed monkey, but is figuratively used to insult North Africans and other people with dark skin. It's the French equivalent of "darkie," making all decent people who hear it shudder. Allen's mother is French, from the North African country of Tunisia. He speaks the language well.

Here's what a smiling Allen said to his laughing supporters Aug. 11: "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great…. Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." The object of Allen's ridicule was in fact born in the United States, but the senator's Confederate-tinted understanding of this country apparently has no room for people of color.

Allen grew up not in the "real world of Virginia," but on the tony Palos Verdes Peninsula. There, despite his French mother and Midwestern father (who coached the Rams), Allen developed a curious affectation for what he imagined to be the mores of the South. He began a lifelong embrace of Confederate symbology — lapel pins, bumper stickers and, until recently, flags — while exhibiting some worrying behavior toward African Americans.

According to a damning May profile in the New Republic, Allen once spray-painted something like "Burn, Baby, Burn" on his own high school just before the mostly black Morningside High basketball team from Inglewood came to play Palos Verdes High. Since taking public office, Allen has decorated his workspace with a noose hanging from a tree, opposed dedicating a federal holiday to Martin Luther King Jr., and now employed a vile slur to attack a political opponent.

There is no room for that kind of racism in American politics. We're not in the habit of telling Virginians how to vote, but an Allen defeat this November would send the right message to race-baiting politicians: Welcome to America. Now go home.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

George Allen sings for southern rights

If Senator Allen’s name calling isn’t offensive enough we can always listen to him singing as a reb – in a movie. According to Ryan Lizza the Senator appeared in the film, Gods and Generals. You can view him here (at approximately 00:12 and 1:18.) pretending to sing as he pretends to be a Confederate general. What’s next? Pretending to be a United States Senator?

We have to wonder what Hollywood movie mogul landed him that part.

Me George, you Macaca

Senator George Allen has always played up the folksy/populist persona. At best this Gomer Pyle routine is tiresome, at worse it can be demagogic as we saw when he singled out a dark skinned Webb volunteer for name calling. It is bad enough this man represents Virginia in the United States Senate but he is under serious consideration for the Presidency. We cannot assume American voters will recognize his limitations covered up by a smart campaign organization – that’s how we ended up with George Bush.

However, there is still hope. The Senator’s name-calling incident has at least brought attention to him before a national campaign can repackage him as something he is not. Mike Allen writes in today’s Washington Post,
Allen, eldest son of the legendary Redskins football coach, had what
the storybook star Alexander would call a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad
week, which triggered the perverse consequence of prompting Beltway types to
reevaluate whether he has what it takes to remain on their '08 radars. (No one
ever seems to take your temperature when you're healthy.)….

Until now, Allen had openly positioned himself as Bush's true
successor, a genuine Reaganite in a field of moderates and ideological acrobats.
He certainly has cultivated a Bush-like folksiness; he talks charmingly of
"grub," "pesky bureaucrats" and the "right many" times he has stopped at his
favorite restaurant on the road, IHOP. He shares Bush's fondness for boots, too.
After he won election as governor in 1993, I asked him if he would wear them
into the statehouse. " 'Course!" he replied. "I don't have any shoes." It turns
out he really did give up wingtips after a consultant recommended them when he
was running for the Virginia House of Delegates in 1979 and he lost.

On Wednesday, the two Georges will appear together at a cocktail
fundraiser held by Ed Gillespie, who was chairman of the Republican National
Committee under Bush and is now treasurer of Allen's leadership political action
committee, which could help fund his presidential exploration if he wins
reelection to the Senate in November.

There are key differences between the two, though. Allen, 54, is
three inches taller and six years younger than the president. And where Bob
Woodward found that Bush could give detail-rich answers to scores of complex
questions at a stretch, Allen embarrassed himself in January by replying "For
what?" when a New York Times reporter asked his opinion of the nomination of Ben S. Bernanke, which had been announced three months before and was coming to a Senate vote. (Hint: His predecessor was Alan Greenspan.)…

For now, Allen, like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), says he
is focused only on reelection, with nary a thought of the White House. In the
Virginian's case, that's getting more believable: Democrat James Webb, a Vietnam
veteran who was secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, could give the senator quite a run in a state that is becoming less reliably

And Allen certainly did not help himself two Fridays ago when he
made fun of a Webb campaign volunteer who was following him around. Such workers are called "trackers," and both parties use them. But Allen pointed to the
dark-skinned volunteer -- a Virginia native of Indian descent -- before
welcoming him "to America and the real world of Virginia" and calling him
"Macaca." The word can be a slur (it literally means a type of monkey), but
Allen aides said it was a play on "mohawk," for the 20-year-old's partly shaved
head. Webb's campaign soon posted the embarrassing clip on,
producing a spate of front-page stories.

But Allen failed to follow the other George's playbook for what to
do when caught red-handed. Allen, in at least two interviews, apologized to the
volunteer "if he's offended" -- kind of like telling your girlfriend you're
sorry that she's mad at you….

Allen's indiscretion reinforced one of his fundamental
vulnerabilities: his past embrace of the Confederate flag, which he says was a
manifestation of youthful rebellion. The New Republic's Ryan Lizza provoked
astonished murmuring in GOP circles with a May article about "George Allen's
race problem." The 5,000-word evisceration revealed that Allen, at age 17, had
worn a Confederate flag pin for a yearbook photo at his high school in Palos
Verdes, Calif. Allen's office confirmed to Lizza that it was a rebel flag, and
said it was possible that he also sported the Stars and Bars on his Mustang, as
classmates had recalled….

And this just in from Ben Craw at TPM Café:

As Senator George Allen (R) tosses and quakes in his bed with febrile
visions of monkeys, Mohawks, and fecal matter, challenger Jim Webb (D) is
reaping the benefits, as a new Rasmussen poll shows Webb trailing by only 5
points, a 6 point swing for Webb since last month, confirming WaPo’s assessment
that Allen Flap May Give A Boost To Webb. The poll was taken on August 16 –
Allen’s “macaca” comment came on Friday, August 11, while the video itself and
news of the incident was all over the place by Monday the 14.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More George Allen monkey business

Here are a couple more links for comments on Senator Allen's remarks for your reading pleasure:

Georege Allen's Monkey-Girl

Has George Allen lost his mind?

Bubba meets Macaca

Is Senator George Allen a bully? Obviously. Is he a racist and xenophobe? Apparently. Is he not very bright? We already knew that.

Senator Allen, who has so far has had an undistinguished career as a member of the ruling party in the United States Senate, has finally made a name for himself. Well, actually, he made a name for a Webb volunteer. For the few people on the planet not familiar with the story, Senator Allen was speaking before an all white crowd in Southwest Virginia and during this speech singled out a dark skinned volunteer for the Webb campaign who happened to be videotaping the speech. He twice called the young man “Macaca” – the name of a monkey and common racial slur used in Europe. He said “Welcome to America” as if the color of his skin made him an alien. His reference to Webb visiting Hollywood movie moguls may or may not have been a veiled reference to Jews. (Mel Gibson was too drunk to remember the code words.) You can watch the whole thing here.

The Senator’s choice of words has generated more than a little comment across the internet. Here are a few:

Melissa McEwan in the Guadian

Senator Allen's explantion at Hotline

A new explanation for Macaca at Hotline

Virginian’s feel the remark was inappropriate but evenly divided as to whether it was a racial slur or not

He really meant to call him a shithead

Kathleen Parker says the Senator is a rude cad

The distinguished Senator has a Mel Gibson moment

The nativity test

George Allen’s America

Poll shows gap narrowing since Macacagate

The Sidarth family v Allen

The defense: he meant to call him a shithead

Allen’s immigrant problem

Allen’s race problem

The Dem’s ideal Republican candidate for president

Senator Shithead

Virginia bloggers chime in

“Welcome to America, Macaca.”

Friday, August 18, 2006

The war on terror as a false metaphor

George Soros has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal challenging the value of the “war on terror” as a construct of American foreign policy. He writes,
… the "war on terror" metaphor was uncritically accepted by the
American public as the obvious response to 9/11. It is now widely admitted that
the invasion of Iraq was a blunder. But the war on terror remains the frame into
which American policy has to fit. …
What makes the war on terror

• First, war by its very nature creates innocent victims. A war
waged against terrorists is even more likely to claim innocent victims because
terrorists tend to keep their whereabouts hidden. The deaths, injuries and
humiliation of civilians generate rage and resentment among their families and
communities that in turn serves to build support for terrorists.

• Second, terrorism is an abstraction. It lumps together all
political movements that use terrorist tactics. Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the
Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi army in Iraq are very different forces, but
President Bush's global war on terror prevents us from differentiating between
them and dealing with them accordingly. It inhibits much-needed negotiations
with Iran and Syria because they are states that support terrorist

• Third, the war on terror emphasizes military action while most
territorial conflicts require political solutions. And, as the British have
shown, al Qaeda is best dealt with by good intelligence. The war on terror
increases the terrorist threat and makes the task of the intelligence agencies
more difficult. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large; we
need to focus on finding them, and preventing attacks like the one foiled in

• Fourth, the war on terror drives a wedge between "us" and "them."
We are innocent victims. They are perpetrators. But we fail to notice that we
also become perpetrators in the process; the rest of the world, however, does
notice. That is how such a wide gap has arisen between America and much of the

You may read the entire op-ed here reprinted at TPM Café.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Bush administration has no intention of winning in Iraq

The Bush administration does not have the backbone to prevail in the conflict in Iraq as defined by the administration’s own rhetoric. To do so would mean putting the nation on a real war footing sending tens of thousands of more troops there and suffering far greater casualties than we are presently. It would mean contrary to previous denials admitting there is a civil war going on in that country. It would mean admitting many mistakes were made, changing goals and strategies, and firing Donald Rumsfeld. This President doesn’t have the guts to do any of that. (Besides, for this administration winning is secondary to the use of conflict as a wedge issue.)

In today’s Guardian, former ambassador Peter Galbraith sees the situation in Iraq as not winnable on its current course and argues for the need to rethink our overall strategy. The country has already spun off three different spheres and he believes the most sensible thing to do is formalize this partition that has already taken place. He writes,
To "win", the US and Britain would have to dismantle clerical rule in
Iraq's south, disband Shia militias, persuade Iraq's Kurds to accept some
control from the central government in Baghdad, end the Sunni-Shia civil war
that is now taking 3000 lives a month, and find a more effective strategy for
combating the Sunni Arab insurgency. At a minimum, this would entail a vastly
greater military commitment to Iraq and many more coalition casualties.

Disarming the Shia militias would bring the coalition into conflict
with well-armed military forces that today number well over 100,000. Iraqi
forces exacerbate, not contain, the capital's civil war. They are partisans in
the conflict and the police commit many of the sectarian killings. To bring the
civil war under control, coalition forces would have to become the police of
Baghdad, a mission that would by its nature leave the troops more exposed to

US president George W Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair
have neither the will nor the political backing to send more troops to Iraq.
Unifying Iraq would also mean reversing decisions the two leaders made over past three years. In 2005, the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, helped broker an Iraqi constitution that permits the Kurdistan region (and other Iraqi regions
when formed) to have its own army and to veto almost all laws passed in Baghdad. To bring Kurdistan under Baghdad's control, Bush and Blair would have to undo a constitution both have embraced and which was approved by nearly 80% of Iraqi voters. While the coalition was the legal occupation authority in Iraq, the United States and Britain allowed the Shia political parties to set up their
theocracies in the south and the Shia militias to mushroom from a few thousand
to their current level.

Since the coalition has no intention of doing what is required to
put Iraq together again, the logical alternative is to work with country's
constituent components. Increasingly, Iraq's leaders are thinking the same way.
Iraqi cabinet members talk openly about dividing Arab Iraq into Sunni and Shia
areas with Baghdad divided between its Shia east and Sunni west. Abdul Aziz
al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shia party, has proposed a Southern
Region with the same powers as Kurdistan, and a "hard" border with the Sunni
areas, complete with border guards, to stop terrorist attacks.

Except rhetorically, neither Bush nor Blair is truly committed to
victory in Iraq. But so far, they are not willing to change the mission in Iraq
to conform to the resources they are prepared to commit. As a result, coalition
troops are present in parts of Iraq with no achievable mission. No purpose is
served by having British troops in southern Iraq when they are not going to take
on the militias or promote democracy. There is no point in having US troops in
the middle of civil war when they are not going to do anything serious to stop

This is a good starting point for a discussion about what to do in Iraq. The problem is no one in Washington (or London) is having this discussion. Read Galbraith’s entire article here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bush needs Bin Laden

It has become a much worn out cliché that “everything changed” after 9-11. Not only that, it isn’t even true – nothing has really changed because we have been through this before.

Essentially, we are confronted with smaller scale version of the Cold War which went on for approximately a half century. The West faced a very real threat from the Soviet Union – I did not know a day of my life until 1989 which could not have brought a nuclear confrontation ending civilization as we know it. There were many battles in the larger Cold War fought throughout the world with a variety of different strategies – some very successful, some dismal failures and many were mixed bags of success and failures.

The Cold War also had no shortage of advocates of bad ideas. Our civil liberties were under constant threat not by Communists but by the leaders of our own country. There were advocates of first strikes against the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China with nuclear weapons. Many of the advocates of bad ideas were quite sincere people doing the best they could with their limited view of the world but others were political opportunists who used the situation for their own gain. There was no small amount of fear mongering by certain elements who accused those who questioned them as being naïve at best and traitors at worse. Any real threat that existed was not enough for these opportunists. If Communists did not exist, they would invent them.

You see. Nothing really has changed except the names of the players.

As the September 11th attacks and many incidents since then including a plot to blow up planes over the Atlantic tripped up by officials in the U.K. just a few days ago prove we do face very serious threats by individuals inspired by extremist movements emanating from the Middle East. But it is a mistake to see all these individuals and their organizations as one and the same as Al Qaeda. Success requires sophistication and multiple strategies using both hard power and soft power. Unfortunately, that is not what is coming from the Bush administration. No distinction is made between the multitudes of fighters in Iraq – they’re all terrorists and the only response is the military. There is no distinction made between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah that would help dealing with each. There is no distinction made between the former government of Iraq and the current governments of Iran and Syria and thus we are not on diplomatic speaking terms with them despite the important roles each, particularly Iran, play in Middle East politics.

It is as if there is a need to keep everything simple despite how destructive that is to American interests. A cynical person might wonder if this is why Osama Bin Laden has not been captured or killed yet.

Ernest Wilson believes the Bush administration thrives on the threat from Al Qaeda and for that reason presents an oversimplified interpretation of current events regardless of the evidence to the contrary. He wrote yesterday in TPM Café,

... Bush embraces Osama because it fits his broader policy purposes.
The core policy prescription of this team is to build America’s power to project
its military, wherever and whenever the administration chooses to do so, in
order to be the world’s unmistakable superpower. In their universe, policy
success not only requires a strong military, but is virtually equivalent to a
strong military. The Law of the Hammer says ‘If all you want to use is a hammer,
then everything looks like a nail.” Al Qaeda fits the bill nicely as a handy

Invoking AQ also makes the Bush Team feel comfortable with a “One
Size Fits All” policy toward the world. They resist the necessary nuances of
differentiating among our many antagonists (and allies too, for that matter).
Lumping nationalist, anti-globalist, anti-Israeli, and anti-modernity forces
under one umbrella makes policy making a lot easier.

He then makes the point for sensible policy recognizing the world as it is and using combinations of hard and soft power to engage in these different political struggles around the world.

The better response is to recognize that terrorism and other anti-American
actions by non-state groups are rooted in a variety of local conditions and
local conflicts which intersect with global forces in a variety of ways. A more
sophisticated and effective foreign policy would do a better job of addressing
both the local conditions and their intersections with the global. A better
policy would draw on all the tools of statecraft, including international
institutions and allies, and rely less on the military. A better policy would
frame America’s current security dilemmas not just on the shaky cornerstone of
Al Qaeda and GWOT (i.e. the “Global War on Terror”) but would reframe our
national task as engaging in a global political struggle using all means at our
disposal against those forces who could do us harm, and to work with those
forces with whom we share interests and values.

You can read the entire article here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Is it time to retire the war metaphors in the struggle against terrorists?

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, has just written a piece about the status the current struggle against terrorism. He argues the record of success is very mixed at best. He points out that globalization makes international terrorism easier then ever before and is concerned about the new generation of terrorists gaining experience in Iraq as the previous generation did in Afghanistan twenty years ago.

What is to be done? He is not particularly optimistic about the promotion of democracy, at least as practiced by the Bush administration, as creating the climate to undermine the appeal of terrorist action. He writes,
So what needs doing?

One answer put forward by the Bush administration is to promote democracy. The thinking is that young men and women will be less likely to become terrorists if they are members of societies that provide them with political and economic opportunities to live meaningful and satisfying lives.

Unfortunately, the evidence does not support this. Individuals growing up in mature democracies such as the United Kingdom can still become alienated and radicalized. A more democratic Iraq has become a more violent Iraq. Similarly, elections in Palestine did not persuade Hamas to turn its back on violence any more than elections in Lebanon dissuaded Hezbollah from initiating the current crisis in the Middle East.

Moreover, even if democracy were the answer, it is extraordinarily difficult to bring about, as Iraq shows. Building a true democracy (as opposed to simply holding elections) is an enterprise that requires decades or even generations. In the meantime, however, we require a policy to deal with the terrorism that confronts us.

What is more, democracy is irrelevant to those who are already
committed terrorists. Their goals of re-creating some 7th century caliphate or,
in the case of Iraq, restoring Sunni domination are unlikely to be satisfied by
free men and women openly choosing their political system and

Haas does not think much of the current “war” rhetoric coming out of Washington regarding terrorism and thinks it is misleading and overlooks effective ways to combat terrorism:
… we must drop the metaphor of a “war on terrorism.” Wars are mostly fought
with arms on battlefields between soldiers of opposing countries. Wars have
beginnings and ends. None of these characteristics apply here. Terrorism can now
be carried out with boxcutters and airplanes as easily as with explosives.
Office buildings and commuter trains and coffee shops are today's battlefields.
There are no uniforms, and often those doing the killing are acting in the name
of causes or movements. And there is no end in sight. To the contrary, terrorism
is now part of the fabric of contemporary life.

Another reason to jettison the martial vocabulary is that terrorism cannot be defeated by arms alone. Indeed, other instruments of policy, including intelligence, police work and diplomacy, are likely to play a larger part in any effective

Read his piece here.