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January 31, 2003

Affirmative action yes! Racial preferences no!

One unfortunate omission from Bush's SOTU was any discussion of the distinction between racial preferences, which the Bush administration opposes, and affirmative action, which it supports.

As I discussed in a post a while back, there are many race-neutral methods for allowing governments or private organizations to offer preferences to individuals from underprivileged backgrounds.  For example, providing preferences to graduates of high schools with a high percentage of poor students, from troubled family situations, etc.

These race-neutral approaches would tightly target the benefits of affirmative action on the people who most need it; the individuals — regardless of race or color — who grew up in difficult circumstances.  Thus, children of wealthy and successful african americans would not receive preference, while kids living in poverty stricken areas and attending poor schools would receive preference on color-blind terms.

By clearly coming out in favor of affirmative action for the truly needy, the Republicans would undercut the Dem's assertions that Republicans are ‘insensitive to the plight of minorities’ or ‘uncaring’.

Of course, Bush only had an hour or so to speak, and the list of urgent topics was long.  So perhaps there really wasn't time to raise this issue.  However, it is an important point, and one that the Republican party needs to be clear on if it wants to stand any chance of making inroads among african american and latino voters in 2004.

January 31, 2003 at 06:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Some military realities

Some thoughtful analysis of the very real military considerations that influence our diplomatic options viz a viz Iraq.   Interestingly, this is from the UK Guardian’s Martin Woollacott.

...Ultimately, the armed forces do what they are told.  Yet the paradox here is that the requirements of a doubting military, which might prefer another solution to the crisis, are making such a solution less likely.  And, in the event of war, those requirements are also likely to narrow the room for political manoeuvre during the conflict, and to restrict choices after it.

This is most obvious in the way that the closing of the window for military action before the hot weather arrives in the Gulf in late March is affecting diplomacy.  The military timetable points to an early war, while the political and diplomatic timetable suggests a much longer process, which might conceivably avoid a conflict.

Military requirements impose a further restriction, in that the American general staff see it as highly undesirable that a large number of US troops wait on call in the Gulf for months on end.  That would be bad enough for regular troops, but the more difficult problem is that the American way of making war involves the call-up of many thousands of reservists.

Large-scale war is impossible, or at least would be severely hampered, without these men and women.  The reserves system eases the burden of maintaining a reservoir of specialists of many kinds for the armed forces, but it also means that the term all-professional is something of a misnomer for the American army.  In a big war, the US army is also a citizen army, and it is argued that reservists cannot be kept endlessly waiting - or, worse, deployed, brought back, and then redeployed - in the way that regulars can.

In its latest report on Iraq, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace* insists that, difficult and costly though extended deployment would be, it can and should be done. The authors, having concluded that a vigorous inspection regime would prevent any serious weapons development by Iraq, say: "For inspections to continue unimpeded for another year or more, two conditions are necessary: a continuing threat of the imminent use of force and preserving the unity of the major powers."

Yet the uniformed military, whatever its reservations about the decisions of its civilian masters, including the top civilians at the Pentagon, is drawn to the proposition that if it is to be done, it is best that it be done quickly.  Some in the past saw in the design of the US reserves system a political benefit, in addition to the technical and financial advantages.  The dependence on the reserves meant that a big war could not be undertaken unless the whole population was convinced of its necessity.  In this case, however, it may mean, rather, that a quick war is seen as the only possible policy, or at least as the best policy.

The American military does not have the same exalted view of its capacities as do many who observe it from afar.  Senior officers think it is badly stretched already.  They may well feel - in a year in which the two crises which have for a decade defined their role have come to a head - that an extended wait in the Gulf is not compatible with being ready for all possible contingencies in the Far East.  Thus the two-war dogma which hampered Wesley Clark in Kosovo may well now be squeezing the options on Iraq, reinforcing the worries about weather and the reservists.

The politics of the American military will continue to affect the choice of policy in a war in Iraq and afterwards.  In the war itself, it will essentially be a military decision whether to permit armed Iraqi auxiliaries to play the sort of symbolic role in combat which could bring them political credit afterwards.  It will be a military decision, almost certainly, whether to permit armed auxiliaries, including especially the forces of the two big Kurdish political parties, to operate freely after the war.  It will be a military decision as to how to deal with the Iraqi units, Revolutionary Guards and others, that may be left intact by a campaign - and perhaps not only intact, but holding chemical or biological weapons - and what there might be for surrender.

All these decisions would affect the political possibilities, as would the most substantial decision of all: to what extent and for what length of time American troops would be occupiers.  The American military is likely to resist an extended occupation role.

The political conditions the Americans, and especially the American military, would prefer in a post-Saddam Iraq - plenty of others to share the burdens and costs - would be far more attainable if a war was widely supported because all had been convinced it was necessary.  Yet the military timetable makes that harder - and harder still to go for the slender but real possibility that Iraqi disarmament, and even regime change, could be achieved by the threat of force alone.

January 31, 2003 at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Some insightful analysis from our pals on the left

If we all sell our SUVs, most of the world’s problems will be resolved.   Sheesh.  Check it out.

Oil Math cartoon

January 31, 2003 at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NYT belatedly realizes ignoring the news won't work...

After refusing to acknowledge that 8 European Prime Ministers were failing to follow the "Axis of Weasel" line laid out by Paris and Bonn, the Howellburo was forced to switch to damage control mode.   But do not despair;

By another calculation, 10 of the 15 existing European Union members did not sign the letter, reflecting profound unease from the Aegean Sea to the Arctic Circle.  Germany insisted today that it was not isolated in Europe and issued a counterappeal for unity along lines agreed on by foreign ministers only four days ago.  "The strength of the union is in its common position," a government spokesman said.

On 43rd Street, at least, the "Axis of Weasel" holds firm

January 31, 2003 at 01:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2003

Division appearing in the "Axis of Weasel"

Today’s UK Times has an open letter from seven EEC Prime Ministers calling for solidarity with the US on Iraq.   Here it is, in full:

January 30, 2003
Europe and America must stand united
The real bond between the United States and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law. These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create the USA. Today they are under greater threat than ever.

The attacks of 11 September showed just how far terrorists — the enemies of our common values — are prepared to go to destroy them. Those outrages were an attack on all of us. In standing firm in defence of these principles, the governments and people of the United States and Europe have amply demonstrated the strength of their convictions. Today more than ever, the transatlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom.

We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and far-sightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the United States we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime’s persistent attempts to threaten world security.

In today’s world, more than ever before, it is vital that we preserve that unity and cohesion. We know that success in the day-to-day battle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all countries for whom freedom is precious.

The Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction represent a clear threat to world security. This danger has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations. All of us are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously. We Europeans have since reiterated our backing for Resolution 1441, our wish to pursue the UN route and our support for the Security Council, at the Prague Nato Summit and the Copenhagen European Council.

In doing so, we sent a clear, firm and unequivocal message that we would rid the world of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. We must remain united in insisting that his regime is disarmed. The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community are our best hope of achieving this peacefully. Our strength lies in unity.

The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is a threat of incalculable consequences. It is one at which all of us should feel concerned. Resolution 1441 is Saddam Hussein’s last chance to disarm using peaceful means. The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with him. Sadly this week the UN weapons inspectors have confirmed that his long-established pattern of deception, denial and non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions is continuing.

Europe has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Indeed, they are the first victims of Iraq’s current brutal regime. Our goal is to safeguard world peace and security by ensuring that this regime gives up its weapons of mass destruction. Our governments have a common responsibility to face this threat. Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own citizens and to the wider world.

The United Nations Charter charges the Security Council with the task of preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those Resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result.

We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its responsibilities.

José MarÍa Aznar, Spain
José Manuel Durã Barroso, Portugal
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
Tony Blair, United Kingdom
Václav Havel, Czech Republic
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
Leszek Miller, Poland
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark

Thank you, gentlemen, for your support.

Perhaps predictably, the NYT and WaPo (less predictably) don’t mention the letter in today’s paper.   Conversely, the WSJ leads its "World News" section with the letter.

January 30, 2003 at 07:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2003

The new appeasers

Great commentary by UK military historian John Keegan in today's Telegraph.

January 29, 2003 at 03:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Osama's State of the Union Address

Found this little gem on Tim Blair’s blog.

January 29, 2003 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wide-bodied activist speaks out

Great piece by Michael Moore in Private Eye. He may finally be onto something...

January 29, 2003 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Bush's best speech yet, in my view. Better then his tour de force before the UN General Assembly last September.

He was clear, focused, sincere, compassionate and yet committed.

The coverage was interesting as well. CBS, perhaps not surprisingly, didn't wait for Bush to exit the room before reporting that Senator Edward Kennedy had issued a statement calling for President Bush to return to Congress to debate using force against Iraq.

For my part, anyone who watched the speech could not help but be persuaded that Bush was a man who wanted peace, who understood the implications of going to war in terms of innocent lives lost, and yet who was sincerely convinced that confronting terror and madmen with WMDs was his sworn duty.

Anyway, its late. And my makeup is starting to run under the hot lights here in the studio.

January 29, 2003 at 01:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2003

You gotta love the Postal Service...

What is it about the USPS that makes their employees go nuts so regularly?   Or is it just the law of large numbers at work?

Woman is made to walk naked before co-workers

Akron- A U.S. Postal Service manager was forced to disrobe and walk naked in front of about a dozen employees yesterday morning by a colleague who threatened to kill her unless she complied.

Lonnie Wilson, 60, who planned to retire on Friday, is in Summit County Jail, charged with kidnapping, aggravated menacing and gross sexual imposition.

"We have no idea what led to this," Terrence Sullivan, a postal inspector from Cleveland, said. "They didn't work together, and we can't understand why this occurred." [Continued here]

BTW, I never heard of "gross sexual imposition" before.   Is this something new?

January 28, 2003 at 06:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack