Thursday, November 06, 2003

A few weeks ago, Tom Friedman was mocking the French for proposing "some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government" -- a proposal that they could only be advancing, he claimed, because it was doomed to failure, and failure was what they wanted to see.

Today, he makes his own proposal:

There is much talk now about the need for "Iraqification" of the police and armed forces, so Iraqis can take over for U.S. troops. No question, this is necessary. But it's not sufficient. We could have 100,000 Iraqis in the police and Army and it would not be enough — without one other person. We need an Iraqi leader (or a leadership council) elected as a result of an Iraqi constitutional or political process. ...

This should be our drop-everything priority.

Which is, of course, very different. It was not proposed by the French.

Capsule review of The Matrix Revolutions:

If you want to know how the interesting setup and hints at a backstory from the second film play out as the story concludes... go hash it out with a few friends in a bar, because you certainly won't learn from this movie.

Which isn't necessarily to say that the backstory doesn't exist... maybe the first draft of the script was a marvelously deft, multi-layered exploration of the nature of reality and artifice, and the human condition. But if so, then in the end they chucked all that stuff to make room for the long, predictable, tedious combat sequences which were vitally necessary to justify their budget. All that's left of the backstory, if it were ever there in the first place, is one interesting scene near the beginning of the movie where Neo has a brief chat with a couple of programs, and a more enigmatic exchange towards the end between the Architect and the Oracle. The rest is mayhem, leaving the resulting film with about the intellectual heft of a Sinbad the Sailor movie -- and as I've not seen very many of those, that may be unfair to Sinbad.

Avoid it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

White House communications director Dan Bartlett explains why Dubya has not publically referred to particular casualties or incidents in Iraq, nor attended any soldier's funeral:

"He never wants to elevate or diminish one sacrifice made over another," said Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. ...

"If a helicopter were hit an hour later, after he came out and spoke, should he come out again?" Mr. Bartlett said. The public "wants the commander in chief to have proper perspective and keep his eye on the big picture and the ball. At the same time, they want their president to understand the hardship and sacrifice that many Americans are enduring at a time of war. And we believe he's striking that balance."

Likewise, the military's new ban on photographs of, well, any particular flag-draped coffin returning from Iraq was instituted, no doubt, to make sure that the relatives of all the dead in Dubya's war feel that their sacrifice is getting equal respect...

For what it's worth, the Times article from which I took these quotes also says, "Mr. Bush does send a personal letter to the family of every soldier killed in action and has met privately with relatives at military bases", though no details are given. I'm sure Dubya personally would love to say more, but Mr. Bartlett just won't allow it...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

A little news from Boston:

Dan "Curse of the Bambino" Shaughnessy bestows the ultimate compliment on the local football team: upon reflection, he's come to the conclusion that they are not, repeat not, the Red Sox.

Hearts and minds:

The day after 16 American servicemen died when their helicopter was shot out of the sky here, a group of American soldiers tossed handfuls of candy from their Humvees to the Iraqi children who lined the road.

"Don't touch it, don't touch it!" the Iraqi children squealed. "It's poison from the Americans. It will kill you."

The Humvees rumbled past, and the candy stayed in the dirt.

Monday, November 03, 2003

In a speech that's collecting a great deal of praise from the lefty blogsphere, Zbigniew Brzezinski begins by recounting Dean Acheson's trip to France at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis:

The former Secretary of State briefed the French President and then said to him at the end of the briefing, I would now like to show you the evidence, the photographs that we have of Soviet missiles armed with nuclear weapons. The French President responded by saying, I do not wish to see the photographs. The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me. Please tell him that France stands with America.

Would any foreign leader today react the same way to an American emissary who would go abroad and say that country X is armed with weapons of mass destruction which threaten the United States?

Given some recent UN votes going strongly against us, as Brzezinski recounts, the answer is pretty clearly not. But his policy prescription for Democrats in the light of this state of affairs makes me raise an eyebrow:

I think in the heat of debate Democrats should not be nay-sayers only, criticizing. They certainly should not be cheerleaders as some were roughly a year ago. But they should stress a return to fundamentals in so far as American foreign policy is concerned. Above all else in stressing these fundamentals, Democrats particularly should insist that the foreign policy of a pluralistic democracy like the United States should be based on bipartisanship because bipartisanship is the means and the framework for formulating policies based on moderation and on the recognition of the complexity of the human condition.


Bipartisanship helps to avoid extremes and imbalances. It causes compromises and accommodations. So let's cooperate. Let's cooperate and challenge the administration to cooperate with us because within the administration there are also moderates and people who are not fully comfortable with the tendencies that have prevailed in recent times.

It is difficult for me to see how any amount of bipartisan accomodation on the part of Democrats, in Congress or elsewhere, will materially change America's diplomatic position so long as the Republicans in charge keep lying their asses off. More generally, bipartisanship has to be based on each side's trust in the other's good faith -- which has to be justified by acting in good faith on both sides, or the whole game falls apart. Which means that when one side tells obvious whoppers, and the other doesn't call them on it, that's not "civility" (to use a favored trope of the right these days). It's letting the bastards get away with it. And so long as the bastards can keep on getting away with it, any attempt by other parties to accomodate them in the spirit of bipartisanship will be self-defeating...

Studies in selective memory -- Dean Esmay:

I've been watching politics for about 20 years, and switched party affiliations a few times. I've never seen this much fury and this much irrationality toward a sitting President.

In the 1990s, we had allegations that a sitting president had been personally involved in drug smuggling, rape, and the murder of an official in his own administration. We saw the pursuit of that president by a special prosecutor with obvious partisan motives, spending years of time and millions of dollars pursuing supposed corrupt business deals and turning up nothing. We saw the imprisonment of a woman for years because she would not give this prosecutor incriminating testimony which she believed to be false. And we saw that investigation culminating in the impeachment of that president -- for only the second time in this country's history -- over testimony related to a personal peccadillo which was not germane to either the land deals the prosecutor was supposed to investigate nor the court case in which the deposition was taken.

I guess Dean Esmay didn't see much of that. I wish I hadn't either.

(Don't even ask how I stumbled on this, but I have endured the pain, and misery loves company).