Michael Ubaldi, August 19, 2003.
By now the bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad is hardly news; the president's response, while inevitable, was memorable and rhetorically precise:
The terrorists who struck today have again shown their contempt for the innocent. They showed their fear of progress and their hatred of peace. They are the enemies of the Iraqi people. They are the enemies of every nation that seeks to help the Iraqi people.
By their tactics and their targets, these murderers reveal themselves once more as enemies of the civilized world.
Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam's brutal regime. The civilized world will not be intimidated. And these killers will not determine the future of Iraq.
A far cry from the diplomatic standard du jour of "the strongest possible terms," this posture can be duplicated. It must be. Even though Iraq is where the White House is physically obligated to spend political capital, the world is hurting for a similarly clear enunciation on Iran and North Korea.
UPDATE: Fantastic - it's online (sign-in-only today [that's your cue to take fifteen seconds and sign up]). Henry Sokolski critiques the administration's general passivity on the North Korean question and infers a widespread defiance of atomic treaties by dictatorships - with startling results.
Michael Ubaldi, August 19, 2003.
Instapundit found a New York Post article by scholar Amir Taheri examining the steady fall of the old Near East order. What set it in motion? The fall of Saddam Hussein. Glenn focuses on those implicated by Saddam's well-known, vast network of bribery, but the most important lesson here is that Iraq was, in fact, the correct first target:
In a timid step away from one-party rule, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last month ordered his branch of the Ba'ath to distance itself from the government. In any case, Syria lacks the financial resources of Iraq and is itself dependent on handouts from Saudi Arabia and Iran among others.
"What matters is to keep the flame of pan-Arabism burning," says Taysir al-Khamsi, leader of Jordan's pro-Saddam faction. "We have lost Iraq to the enemy and must get together not to lose Syria."
Some Arab pundits believe that the fall of Saddam's regime has spelled the end of Ba'athism as a political factor in the life of the Arabs. "Ba'athism died long ago, maybe as early as 1965 when it became a cover for military juntas," says Saleh al-Qallab, a Jordanian former information minister. "For years, Iraqi money enabled the Ba'ath to maintain a presence. With Saddam gone, that presence will fade."
Damascus is the headquarters for numerous terrorist organizations; Saddam has always had a penchant for outsourcing to radical groups. That Iraqi Ba'athists' prefered military operations are indistinguishable from Hamas, Hezbollah or al Qaeda only underscores the implications of their marked tolerance for and lack of sectarian fighting with radical foreigners in the country. You'd think that two groups purportedly loathing each other more than a common enemy would be wary of one gaining strategic dominance, wouldn't you? But even with each side a far easier target than the Allies, neither seems to mind. Pan-Arabist, Secularist, Socialist, Wahabbi, Fundamentalist Shiite, whatever: totalitarians are totalitarians, and Saddam's fall has upset the region's entire status quo.
Michael Ubaldi, August 18, 2003.
He's from Tikrit, he skips and hides, he likes to flex his power; he puts on women's clothing, and hangs around in bars?
The US army is hoping to stick up posters of Saddam Hussein's face superimposed on Hollywood heroines and other stars in an attempt to enrage his followers and draw them out.
In one called 'Zsa Zsa Saddam', he has his head tossed back, his blonde locks flowing and a filter-tipped cigarette dangling coquettishly between his delicate fingers.
"We're going to do something devious with these," said a chuckling Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Russell last week, as he checked out a range of spoof Saddam pictures taken from the Internet (www.worth1000.com).
"Most of the locals will love 'em and they'll be laughing. But the bad guys are going to be upset, which will just make it easier for us to know who they are."
The flypaper strategy continues!
Michael Ubaldi, August 13, 2003.
Iraq is back in the natural resource export saddle:
Iraq began pumping oil at around 4:30 p.m., said the oil official, speaking on condition of anonymity, at Turkey's Ceyhan terminal.
"They started pumping and everything looks normal," the official said. "We don't know for how long they will keep pumping, it is up to Iraqis."
The oil flow to Turkey was expected to be between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels a day, about half of pre-war volumes, Dow Jones reported on Monday. The pipeline has a maximum capacity of over 1 million barrels per day.
Hopefully Iraq's oil infrastructure, aging and in disrepair, can benefit from investments of Western technology to increase efficiency and capacity - not to mention find itself placed under proper ownership. 5-10% of the world's supply is nothing to sneeze at; nor is a potential democratic, oil-rich ally for America to help hasten our permanent separation from the authoritarian House of Saud.
Michael Ubaldi, August 13, 2003.
The American public is by and large understanding and supportive of President Bush's bid to democratize Iraq; from numerous anecdotes reported by Allied troops across the Near East country, we can see that the Iraqis are beginning to catch on, too.
But that isn't preventing the abjectly anti-American and purportedly Saddamite-infiltrated al Jazeera - or its ilk - from establishing a dominant presence in Iraq to shape the news heard by the growing number of satellite-television viewers. Troublemakers who hide under the guise of political and religious leadership are another threat to Iraqi confidence. Nor can we be assured that all Iraqis know the extent of American philanthropy or will continue to trust the occupation force if constantly bombarded with distorted information.
Claudia Winkler of the Weekly Standard chimes in and suggests fighting fire with fire:
It's possible that the next vote Iraqis cast will be for a constituent assembly. If so, now is the time for discussion--in print, on television, and especially on radio, which has the widest audience--of the core issues in making a democratic constitution. This should start with elementary concepts like majority rule and individual rights, the independence of judges, the dispersal of power, religious freedom, and the role of political parties in structuring choices. The discussants should include learned men and women who have reflected deeply on these matters, but also people with a practical role in society--school principals, merchants, newspaper editors, engineers, imams--and the man and woman in the street. Here are a few ideas:
The Baghdad Boys: This hour-a-day show would feature a couple of engaging Iraqi hosts with contrasting backgrounds and views, a sophisticated grasp of the issues at stake, and the ability to conduct respectful interviews with guests of many persuasions. (How about rushing a few promising young Iraqis over to do internships with C-SPAN's Brian Lamb?) The format would be flexible, but whether the hosts appeared together or singly, they would become familiar to the public at large. The goal would be to expose Iraqis to a cross-section of their countrymen, and to air many responsible points of view about how the principles of democracy should shape the future government.
Democracy in America: This show, airing several times a week, would interview historians, political scientists, journalists, politicians, and others about the American experience. It would expose Iraqis to the story of our founding, the Constitution that emerged from it, and aspects of its later evolution that seem pertinent to the Iraqi situation. This show might alternate with another
Democracy in the World: Using carefully selected case studies, this series of conversations with experts would show listeners how different peoples have fashioned democratic arrangements consonant with their cultures
New Iraq Roundtable: Get the infrastructure in place for call-in shows and let Iraqi men and women hear each other speak.
Don't stop there. As security becomes less of a concern in the country, why not physically bring in speakers - industrial, political and philosophical leaders - to hold inspirational seminars on the very aspects of civilized, free living to which Iraqis are unaccustomed. Watching, say, a Japanese businessman with experience back to the 1960s speak on television through Arabic subtitles is one thing. Hearing him in person, where Iraq's own economic and intellectual leaders could establish dialogue to better crystallize their understanding of a lesson, would dramatically enhance the ability of these men and women to conduct their own pedagogy.
Let the Iraqis hear the Poles and other slavic nationals; the Germans, the South Koreans. Such testimonials would regard challenges and failures as much as they would explain great victories against the unpredictable first years after liberation from tyranny. Facing doubt now and ridicule in years to come, Iraqis will need encouragement as they become the first Arab nation to experiment with democracy.
Michael Ubaldi, August 12, 2003.
A cautionary in the National Review from Cato senior fellow Gerald P. O'Driscoll, Jr. on an irreplaceable ingredient to successfully transforming Iraq into a peaceful, free-market democracy includes a warning to the Bush administration:
Bush administration officials are reportedly unwilling even to discuss privatizing Iraq's oil. If the White House does not establish private-property rights in Iraq, especially for its principal resource, then the United States will have fought a war to maintain a Soviet economy in the Middle East. Before long, one dictator will be replaced with another. The lives lost and money spent will have been for naught.
Private-property rights provide a peaceful means for allocating resources where violence would otherwise reign. By establishing title to income streams, property rights enable people to trade money for more titles, or vice versa. The absence of private-property rights in natural resources drives civil wars. This is true whether the resources are oil or diamonds, and whether the locus is Angola and Nigeria, or Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Japan may appear to many as a grandfathering, centralized plutarchy but in legality and principle it harbors a free economy energized by private property. According to former Washington Post Tokyo bureau chief William Chapman, Douglas MacArthur ensured that nearly three-quarters of Japanese who were tenant farmers under the Meiji and militarist periods became protected landowners He knew that without the acknowledged means to pursue independent enterprise, a country's population is only as capable as the vision of its government - which means that the market is literally at the mercy of its government.
Given that the continuing insurgency has sapped a good deal of momentum from the Provisional Authority while it has physically hampered efforts at reconstruction, we should allow the Bush administration reasonable leeway in determining the correct time to implement land and resource reform; after all, the absence of a central authority with executive, legislative and judicial powers to actually redeem rightful ownership would render any attempts fruitless. MacArthur had both the Diet and a Prime Minister with whom he could work; no matter how recalcitrant Yoshida Shigeru and other reactionaries might have been, the Japanese people had an elected government to grudgingly enact and enforce the Supreme Commander's own New Deal. Iraqis have no more than a temporary, rotating government that answers to an occupational authority; and bands of various armed parties hostile to freedom in any form.
Without a doubt, private property is vital. Let's wait for the right moment.
Michael Ubaldi, August 12, 2003.
Reuel Marc Gerecht echoes my sentiments against any political participation (read: meddling) in Iraq from amoral Old Europe or yet-totalitarian Near East regimes:
Irrespective of whether we should seek to have Europeans, Pakistanis, or Indians dying with or in lieu of Americans, irrespective of whether murderous hard-core Baathists and Sunni fundamentalists would feel less "occupied" and less murderous seeing Turks in their country, and irrespective of whether the economically stressed, antiwar countries of the European Union would actually give meaningful financial aid to Iraq, the idea of a "new coalition" to oversee the reconstruction of Iraq is entirely unwise. It would probably encourage the worst political and cultural tendencies among Iraqis, even among those who are profoundly pro-Western. It could easily send a signal throughout the Middle East and beyond that the Bush administration doesn't have the stomach to transform Iraq, let alone the region.
In the Muslim Middle East, in the age of bin Ladenism, where the rulers and the ruled are constantly assessing American strength and purpose, multilateralism, when it is so evidently cover for a lack of patience and fortitude, is never a virtue. However long the United States stays in Iraq, the cost in American lives and dollars will likely go up, not down, the more we "internationalize" the occupation. The men who are killing U.S. soldiers, and other foreigners, want to drive the United States and other Westerners out of the country. When Washington talks about the need to share the pain, what these men hear is that America wants to run. And however commendable may be the idea of a joint American-European project in the Middle East through which we can lessen the rancor between us, greater European participation in Iraq's reconstruction is much more likely to fray U.S.-European relations than enhance them. It will be hard to blame the Iraqis for the ensuing troubles. It's not their fault if Washington doesn't read Islamic history.
Do foreign policy moderates like Senators Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel, who support a vague measure of "internationalization," truly believe in the idea of blunting reconstruction command? I suspect they don't, but want auxiliaries onto to which one could shunt blame in the event of an ugly situation in the future - yet all at the expense of American adminstration. Democrats to the left of fellow party member Biden and Republican Hagel, from their own statements, are probably more interested in obviating Near East reform altogether. But whatever the specifics, as Gerecht explains, the broad multilateral drive is motivated by having no stomach for reconstruction in Iraq - or anywhere else. While disturbing as a potential policy and distracting as a component in Washington's debate (arguing over whether or not to lead reconstruction in Iraq as opposed to how to go about it), this challenge may be more useful than damaging. Gerecht is correct in drawing attention to this danger; in practicality, this is good news for Bush. The president's actions show a reliable pattern of resistance to wavering from American prerogative; his decisions on foreign affairs are usually immune to the latest trend in focus-group diplomacy. The general electorate speaks similarly through consistent polling.
The same brand of "world opinion" that came to Saddam Hussein's public defense has hit an all-time floor in value, its principal manufacturers in no shape to distribute. France shrieked its voice raw in the first months of the year with no signs of recovering; Near East dictatorships are tiptoeing around Washington while quietly dealing with murmurs of reform or rebellion in their own states; Germany is reentering Washington's good graces only by way of obsequious concession. No one cares what the Belgians have to say. The domestic game is tilted even further: with Democrats united in an unpopular appeal to subcontract the United States out of leading the war on terror, the White House has been given another powerful campaign issue by its opponents.
Michael Ubaldi, August 10, 2003.
Whether Ba'athist, common thug or terrorist, an insurgent has just made a terribly stupid mistake:
Iraqi gunmen shot dead a Nepalese Gurkha security officer in an ambush in central Basra Sunday, a spokesman for southern Iraq's British-run administration told Reuters.
The dead man, who worked for the private security contractor Global Security, was in a vehicle that had been delivering mail for the United Nations. Nepalese Gurkha soldiers who have retired from service in the British army are widely employed by security firms in Iraq.
Security firms, yes - for those retired. What about Gurkhas in active service? Back in October of 2001, before the Taliban had their crops watered with bright yellow bomblets, Victorino Matus enthusiastically suggested that the British "unleash the Gurkhas." And for good reason:
Mere mention of the Gurkhas strikes fear and awe in the hearts of many. As one retired Gurkha officer explained to the Los Angeles Times, "When they're ready to go into battle, their eyes turn red. Then they keep coming. They can never be stopped." Indeed, having fought alongside Great Britain for almost 200 years, the Gurkhas are known throughout the world as legendary soldiers. Their motto: "It's better to die than be a coward."
The legend dates to 1814, when the East India Company, which oversaw the subcontinent under the auspices of the British Empire, went to war against the kingdom of Nepal after repeated raids by Gurkha tribes into Bengal and Bihar. A year later, the boundary dispute was settled and a peace treaty was ratified. But the British went further. Impressed by the Nepalese warriors, they asked them to volunteer for the East India Company. And so, in 1815, the Regiment of Gurkhas was born.
The Second World War saw a record 112,000 Gurkhas fighting alongside the British in North Africa, Syria, Italy, and in the brutal Burma campaign, which resulted in over 40,000 Gurkha casualties. Colonel David Horsford, who fought with them in Burma, once said that "when the Gurkhas ran out of hand grenades, they spent 20 minutes throwing stones at the Japanese troops." Major Charles Heyman, who served with the Gurkhas more recently in Borneo and is currently the editor of Jane's World Armies, notes that "the Japanese were terrified of them."
Gurkhas are not exactly the sort of culturally invested soldier anyone would want to add to their list of belligerents. Who do you think would come out standing - some half-literate Fedeyeen brawler or these fellows:
People making Iraqi reconstruction miserable had better pray for Gurkha magnanimity and the fact that Britain hasn't unleashed them. The only good news for Iraqi insurgents to come of a retribution from this dead man's comrades is that the insurgents would be chopped into ground round by the best.
Michael Ubaldi, August 4, 2003.
It's the end of the line. Saddam or no Saddam, the Ba'athists are being bled of manpower:
U.S. forces have launched more than two dozen raids in northern Iraq in the past 24 hours as part of an operation aimed at killing or capturing Saddam Hussein, U.S. military officials said Monday.
The raids - centered around Saddam's ancestral homeland of Tikrit - netted 46 people, including a local resistance leader and two former midlevel officials in the Iraqi government, officials said.
Given that the Iraqi people - when not frightened into submission - have no loyalty to the fallen regime, the Allies are clearly chopping away at a finite enemy. Dangers to countrymen and occupiers will continue, but it seems that Ba'athist involvement may find itself capped in the history books at just a few months following the end of major operations ("A stubborn but quickly dismantled Ba'athist resistance"). Good news as well on measuring the depth of Saddam's lies:
During another raid Thursday, this time in Baghdad, Abdullah Abbus Khandush, an Iraqi scientist associated with Saddam's nuclear programs, surrendered to U.S. authorities, according to U.S. defense officials. They said he was cooperating with U.S. authorities.
At some point, most of those with knowledge of Iraq's weapons programs will either be able to overcome fear of retaliation (more likely with the coerced) or else be offered enough clemency to perform under interrogation (high-level Ba'athists with little to lose). Add this to David Kay's anticipated report and the pro-liberation argument will soon gain another victory in debate for President Bush - and on the ground, for the Iraqi people.
Michael Ubaldi, August 3, 2003.
Thomas Nephew reminds Senator Jay Rockefeller of the full extent of Resolution 1441 - namely, the relevance of previous Security Council resolutions Saddam swatted aside. And that the Senator voted to enforce every letter of those resolutions. A commenter deflects the "Bush told us about an 'imminent danger'" talking point.