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May 31, 2003

Trumped-up Wolfowitz "revelations" in Vanity Fair

Bill Kristol has an excellent analysis of what Wolfowitz really said in his interview with Vanity Fair's Sam Tanenhaus.   Needless to say, he did not say anything approximating the opening line of the press release being circulated by VF's flacks:

Contradicting the Bush administration, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz tells Vanity Fair that weapons of mass destruction had never been the most compelling justification for invading Iraq.
Go read the whole thing.   Better yet, go read the Pentagon-prepared transcript of the actual interview conducted with Wolfowitz here.

May 31, 2003 at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gweilo pimping

The Gweilo Diaries has some excellent posts today.   Be sure to read this one on continued resistance in Iraq and this one on the disturbing situation in the Congo.   I'll post some of my own thoughts later.

May 31, 2003 at 11:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2003

Is Bob Geldof a closet "Bushie"?

From the UK Guardian via Andrew Sullivan:

'You'll think I'm off my trolley, but Bush has the most positive approach to Africa since Kennedy' : Geldof, back in Ethiopia, praises Bush

May 30, 2003 at 06:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Repairing Saddam's desecrations

Interesting satellite pictures showing how the water is returning to Mesopotamian Marshlands in Iraq, as the dams and water control structures built by Saddam are destroyed. (Saddam had drained the marshes as part of the reprisals against the Shia uprising in Iraq after the first Gulf War.)   Hat tip to Metafilter.

May 30, 2003 at 06:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Real changes in the Palestinian Authority?

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column in today's WaPo highlighting the obstacles to making peace with a Palestinian Authority that is far from clear about whether it wants lasting peace or just a temporary "cease-fire".

On May 23, just a week ago, the official newspaper of the supposedly reformed Palestinian Authority carried a front-page picture of the latest suicide bomber dressed in suicide-bomber regalia. It then referred to the place where she did her murdering as "occupied Afula." The town of Afula is in Israel's Galilee. It is not occupied. It is not in the West Bank or Gaza. It is within Israel. If Afula is occupied, then Tel Aviv is occupied, Haifa is occupied and Israel's very existence is a crime.

This bit of incitement and delegitimization was, to my knowledge, reported in not a single American newspaper. It is simply too routine. It is the everyday stuff of Palestinian newspapers and television, schoolbooks and sermons. Appearing, however, after the Palestinians had presumably adopted new leadership committed to (1) ending terrorism and (2) accepting Israel, this outrage caught the eye of Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Satloff brought it to American attention noting that "it is difficult to imagine a more chilling message to Israelis who doubt Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution."

Go read the whole thing.   It is thoughtful, and a helpful reminder that peace cannot be achieved unless both sides to the dispute want it.   At best, the jury is still out on the Palestinians' desire to leave to co-exist with even an Israel with 1967 borders.   At worst, well, we've seen this script before...

May 30, 2003 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More French perfidy?

Ann Coulter, in her typically dry and understated way, has unearthed evidence that the UN's alarmist views on "global warming" may be a French plot to undermine America.  

The key to the U.N.'s global warming study was man's use of aerosol spray. You have to know the French were involved in a study concluding that Arrid Extra Dry is destroying the Earth. In a world in which everyone smelled, the French would be at no disadvantage. Aerosol spray. How convenient.

May 30, 2003 at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

All the news thats fits our preconceived notions...

I have been remiss in not writing about the latest developments in the Howell Raines/NYT situation.   As you may know, Raines' favored son Rick Bragg formally resigned today from the Times.  Yesterday, he defended his practice of relying on stringers to gather facts and conduct interviews, flying in to "toe touch" the locale in question, writing up the notes of others into feature articles, and scoring the prized "dateline" without attributing his collaborators.

I must admit that, being a civilian, I had never paid much attention to "datelines".   I just assumed that the reporter whose name appeared on the byline had actually researched the story (possibly with help from others), but had certainly been present at the locations reported upon, seen the sights, spoken with most of people quoted, and generally absorbed the essence of what actually happened.   According to Rick Bragg, at least at the NYT, this was, more often than not, not the case.   Rather his role was that of a glorified rewrite man... taking notes and interviews conducted by others and then fashioning them into a poignant, and compelling story (often from the nearest airport, where he had just flown in to secure the dateline).

This assertion provoked a fascinating outpouring of commentary from current NYT correspondents and stringers, both attacking and defending this view of the role of a feature reporter.   (These comments were sent to the excellent Jim Romenesko at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Florida.)   I highly recommend reading these comments, since they consist of many journalists saying that the Bragg approach was an abuse, leavened by a few contributors lauding Bragg for his talent and skill as a writer.

My take on all of this is that the Times should adopt the crediting policies followed by the leading newsweeklies, where the lead writers are given a byline and any additional reporting is credited at the end of the article.   This approach would make it clear that the finished journalistic product was a team effort, and that the person writing the description of the scene and events may well have not been personally present.   Just like in the securities markets: full disclosure.   As one former federal prosecutor once told me, "sunlight is the best disinfectant".

May 30, 2003 at 02:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2003

A call for patience (and vigilence) on Iran

Today's WaPo contained a thoughtful and well-balanced editorial on the US' evolving policy towards the government of Iran.   Their bottom line (which I happen to agree with) is that it would be a mistake to adopt a more aggressive posture towards "regime change" in Iran at the present time.   However, they go on to support the view that a more forceful US policy may be needed if Iran were to go too far:

If Iran escalates in Iraq, refuses more intrusive international inspections of its nuclear facilities or appears to actively harbor al Qaeda, the tougher measures the administration is debating may be necessary. But for now, they are not.

May 29, 2003 at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"If We Run Out of Batteries, This War is Screwed."

Very interesting, man-on-the-ground look at how info tech was used in the war in Iraq.   Joshua Davis did a great job of vividly describing how the network was set up, maintained, and used for both tactical and strategic advantage.   Also, we have to keep in mind that the only Army division that has fully undergone the "network-centric warfare" transformation (the 4th ID), wasn't in the fight at all.   Definitely recommended reading. (Hat tip to Supersam Blogs for finding this one.)

May 29, 2003 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time to get serious in Afghanistan

There is an excellent OpEd column in today's WSJ calling for the US to step up and embrace expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to provide security outside of Kabul.   (Subscription required, email me if want to read it and I'll send it on.)   This is an important issue, for both moral and strategic reasons.

Morally, we should not allow Afghanistan to slide back into anarchy and civil war.   The US played a big part in helping create the current situtation in the country by our efforts during the 1980s to arm Afghani mujihadeen to resist the Soviet occupation and its puppet regime.   Afterwards, when some of the Islamist, Wahabbi allies of these same mujihadeen attacked us on 9/11, we responded by conclusively intervening in Afghanistan's civil war.   We owe it to this proud and independent people to finish the job and re-build a peaceful, stable society in Afghanistan.

Strategically, it would be a huge mistake to allow chaos and warlordism to return to Afghanistan.   One reason is that it would undercut US credibility throughout the Muslim world.   Another reason is that a fragmented, lawless Afghanistan would provide a useful sanctuary for Islamist guerillas and Al Queda to regroup.

As Ahmed Rashid and Barnett Rubin eloquently frame the issue in their column:

People in Iraq and elsewhere are watching to see if the U.S. is committed not only to defeating regimes it sees as threats, but to providing security and governance to the long-suffering peoples of those countries. They will draw their conclusions according to the results.
For my part, this is just another reason why we need to create a new branch of the US military dedicated to this type of "less than combat" military operation.   (For more on this idea, see here and here.)

May 29, 2003 at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack