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September 30, 2004

As if...

Also linkworthy is Allah's debunking of the usually-reliable Michael Isikoff's profile of a "once-moderate" Muslim cleric who has allegedly been radicalized by the US presence in Iraq.

Allah's bottom line? The Egyptian cleric profiled was never a moderate, unless your definition of moderation includes religious scholars who believe the Koran endorses suicide bombings of civilian women.

September 30, 2004 at 05:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More info on CBS and the draft

Bill from the INDC Journal has an interesting interview with several people at CBS news about the recent story they ran about the possible resumption of military conscription.   It's a good piece of real-time journalism and a great example of original reporting from an up-and-coming blogger.

September 30, 2004 at 04:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2004

More on the Intifada is over and Israel won...

From a feature by Laura King in today's LAT observing the fourth anniversary of the start of the second Intifada:

When Abu Fahdi joined a Palestinian militant group and took up arms against Israel, he thought he was serving his people. Now he believes he did them only harm.

"We achieved nothing in all this time, and we lost so much," said the baby-faced 29-year-old, who, because of his status as a fugitive, insisted on being identified by a nickname meaning "father of Fahdi." "People hate us for that and wish we were dead."

However, the Arab press has not given up on the struggle.

September 28, 2004 at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 26, 2004

John Kerry, gun nut

John Kerry owns an assault rifle?! (It's in the NYT, so it must be true.)


Oh well, it was too good to be true anyway. The NYT is now reporting that Kerry doesn't own an assault rifle after all.   Evidently, the rifle in question is a 100 year old Russian bolt action model that was reportedly used by the Vietcong and given to Kerry "by a friend years ago."   A campaign spokesman said that Kerry had never fired it.

Bizarrely, the four page "interview" with the presidential candidates that had appeared in the magazine Outdoor Life was actually a series of written questions that were answered by staffers. I guess the editors of the magazine (which is owned by Time Warner Inc., parent of CNN, among other things) are continuing to maintain the high journalistic standards of that organization.

September 26, 2004 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's management style...

... what is the French term for Jimmy Carter's skill in micromanaging, without the real world experience of having been the governor of a large state? (From democratic partisans (and NYT journalists, natch) Adam Nagourney and Jodi Wilgoren.)

Best bit; who knew Bush was such a political wonk?

Mr. Kerry has less of an interest in the processes of politics than the president does. If Mr. Bush likes to talk about party registration breakdowns in southern Ohio, Mr. Kerry drifts off when the subject turns to the demographic details of campaign polling. While Mr. Bush screens new television advertisements in the White House family quarters, Mr. Kerry is often satisfied with viewing a rough cut, or skimming a script. He is also apt to exhibit a blank face when he runs into a Democratic leader he should remember, one aide said.

September 26, 2004 at 12:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2004

Kerry's unlikely detractors...

Check out this surprising column by the WaPo's Colbert King regarding Kerry's record on Vietnam. King's column includes this email from former Clinton-era Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Rodney Coleman:

I vividly recall Kerry's antiwar testimony in April 1971. I was a White House fellow at the time, on a leave of absence from active duty, as were five of the 17 fellows selected. Two of them had Vietnam experience with Silver and Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts awarded for their heroism. In early April 1971, I volunteered to go to Vietnam after my year as a White House fellow. I could have very easily taken steps to forgo a tour in 'Nam, but as an Air Force captain committed to the ideals of the oath of office I took, Vietnam was the only game in town.

When Kerry made those critical statements of the war, my parents, God bless them, went ballistic about their son going in harm's way. My military colleagues in the fellows program who had been there and were shot up were incensed that a so-called military man would engage in such insubordinate actions. At the time Kerry made those unfortunate remarks, America had POWs and MIAs, among them my friend, Colonel Fred Cherry, the longest-held black POW of the Vietnam War. How could a true American fighting man throw away his medals, while thousands he fought alongside of were in the midst of another example of man's inhumanity to man?

On an only tangentially related note, I read this moving tribute to one of the brave young men who never came back from Vietnam last night.   It is worth reading.

September 25, 2004 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Liberals just don't get it

In yesterday's post about learning the wrong lessons from Vietnam, I tried to explain why liberals don't understand that criticising the war helps our enemies in Iraq. Why does domestic criticism of the war matter? Because the people trying to fight against the creation of a democratic, moderate Iraqi government know that the only way they can win is to persuade the American people to pull their troops out of that country. And the best ways to get the American people to want out of Iraq are to a) kill as many US soldiers as possible, b) convince them that the war is going badly and is unwinnable, and c) that the war was a mistake in the first place and that all the sacrifices made to date have been made in vain.

Of course, this is exactly what the North Vietnamese did to us during that war. You would have thought that we would have learned something from that sorry experience. But you would have been wrong.

Take today's NYT as an example; their lead editorial criticizes the Bush campaign for being "divisive", "undemocratic" and even "un-American" because they keep saying that Kerry's negative comments about the situation in Iraq are helping the enemy:

The president has claimed, over and over, that criticism of the way his administration has conducted the war in Iraq and news stories that suggest the war is not going well endanger American troops and give aid and comfort to the enemy. This week, in his Rose Garden press conference with the interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Mr. Bush was asked about Mr. Kerry's increasingly pointed remarks on Iraq. "You can embolden an enemy by sending mixed messages," he said, going on to suggest that Mr. Kerry's criticisms dispirit the Iraqi people and American soldiers.
Interestingly, there was an article in that same edition of the NYT by John Broder reporting from LA's "Little Saigon" about Vietnamese-Americans' reactions to the presidential campaign's curious focus on the events of 30 years ago. Broder's piece includes this interview with a Vietnamese-American who evidently has more sense and historical perspective than the entire NYT editorial board:
Nguyen Chau, 55, who came to the United States in 1995, said he preferred President Bush to Senator Kerry, in large measure because of Mr. Kerry's antiwar activities after he returned from Vietnam. Mr. Chau, who was an officer in the South Vietnamese Army, said he served at the same time Lieutenant Kerry was in the country, but his fate afterward was different.

"I know he came back against the war, he didn't like the war," Mr. Chau said. "I heard and read the newspaper that he gave back his medals, that he was like Jane Fonda. I think he didn't know very much about the Communists."

Mr. Chau spent six years in a Vietnamese labor camp, and then 14 years trying to emigrate to the United States. As a former prisoner, he qualified for a special visa program approved under the first President Bush.

He said he approved of the war in Iraq and hoped only that the United States would stay to finish the job of wiping out the insurgents.

"They're doing the same thing to the Americans in Iraq that the Communists did in Vietnam," Mr. Chau said. "They should stay there until it's better. The United States should have stayed longer in Vietnam."

We shall have to wait and see whether the US shows more loyalty to Mr. Allawi and the other brave Iraqis who are trying to rebuild their country than we did to Mr. Chau and his former comrades.

September 25, 2004 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2004

Strategic blindness: Learning the wrong lessons from Vietnam

John Kerry, having finally decided (at least for this week) that knowing what he does now, he would not have taken the country to war in Iraq, does not appear to understand how his comments on the current situation in Iraq damage US interests and endanger the lives of American troops.

In Vietnam, where US soldiers last faced guerilla warfare waged by political insurgents, our opponents knew they could not prevail militarily against the US' superior resources and advanced weapons. Rather than try to achieve a military victory, the Vietcong and their North Vietnamese allies focussed on a political strategy of destroying the American people's willingness to fight. Over time, as US casualties mounted and domestic opposition to the war grew, they succeeded in driving US soldiers out of their country, clearing the way for the North Vietnamese conquest of South Vietnam.

Our enemies in Iraq are trying to pursue the same strategy in that country. While they have no hope of taking on US soldiers in head-to-head combat, if they can succeed in causing enough US casualties and weaken domestic political support for the war, the US will leave Iraq.

This is why comments like the ones Kerry made yesterday in response to interim Prime Minister Allawi's speech before Congress (which Kerry was too busy to attend in person) are harmful. By painting a bleak picture of the situation in Iraq for the American people and deriding the decision to have gone to war in the first place, Kerry encourages the terrorists who believe that if they kill enough US soldiers, the country will tire of its commitment to Iraq and withdraw.

The wrong lessons

I believe that much of the current division of American opinion over the Iraq is due to partisans on both the right and the left holding contradictory conclusions about the "lessons of Vietnam" and trying to apply those lessons to Iraq.

The liberal conventional wisdom about the war in Vietnam is that it was an unjust, unwinnable war and the more than 58,000 US soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam died for nothing or, even worse, in support of an unjust cause. The true heros of the war were those Americans who protested against the war and refused to support their government in waging the war, perhaps even leaving the country or going to prison to avoid the draft.

On the right, the war was also seen as a failure, in that it did not succeed in defending South Vietnam from domination by the communist North, reduced American prestige around the world, and was a colossal waste of US "blood and treasure" to use that wonderful Churchillian term.   However, in spite of the corruption and brutality of our South Vietnamese allies, most conservatives viewed the fight to defend the South against communist aggression as a noble cause. This view was reinforced when after the 1975 victories of communist regimes in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, more than three million people risked their lives to become refugees over the following two decades. Untold numbers of others were executed, put in resettlement or reeducation camps, or otherwise perished.

As for the war being "unwinnable", most military analysts, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, now believe that the US military had made significant progress in terms of defeating the insurgency in the South. The 1968 Tet Offensive, while a military disaster for the Vietcong and North Vietnamese army (the NLF), was a huge political success in terms of turning US domestic opinion against the war. When Nixon allowed US forces to deny NLF forces sanctuary in Cambodia and resumed bombing of North Vietnam, the balance of power shifted against the North. The US was then able to negotiate a "peace agreement" in Paris with the North Vietnamese that guaranteed the South's independence and allowed the US to withdraw its forces. However, when the US (distracted by Watergate and thoroughly sick of Vietnam) failed to react to North Vietnam's blatant violations of the Paris agreement, the South was unable to stand alone against the more powerful Northern forces.

Conservatives therefore believe that if the US had only been more determined to enforce the terms of the Paris agreement (for example, by threatening to resume bombing the North if violations continued), the humanitarian disaster that followed the North Vietnamese victory could have been avoided.

Vietnam's painful memories

In the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Vietnam and the 1975 collapse of the Saigon regime, Vietnam remained a painful subject for many Americans. The war was associated in many people's minds with a host of problems, including the rise of the mass youth protest movement, "stagflation", the collapse of the stock market, rising unemployment, the rise of OPEC and a diminution of American prestige throughout the world. The atmosphere at the time was perhaps best captured by films like Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) or Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), which portrayed the war as a tragedy which destroyed the lives of many good men for no apparent reason and the US military as being led by evil incompetents.

During the 1980s, the tacit ban on public discussion of the war began to slowly disappear. Many books were written describing the Vietnam experiences of American soldiers, like Michael Herr's Dispatches or Phillip Caputo's Rumor of War. But America never really had a debate about the war's goals and aims: was it a botched attempt to uphold the noble goal of defending freedom in South Vietnam or a complete mistake, based on ignorance, anti-communist paranoia and economic self interest?

Containment meaningless in multi-polar world

One reason why this historical debate never occurred was that the world changed during the course of the war. At the beginning, the world was seen as a bipolar, manichean place: the "free world" versus monolithic communism. In this context, the strategic doctrine of "containment" was broadly accepted on a bipartisan basis. From this perspective, the war in Vietnam was merely the latest campaign in the post-WWII struggle to prevent communist expansion. (Remember the "domino theory"?)

In 1972, Richard Nixon went to China, and the world was revealed to be a more complicated place. China and the USSR had nearly come to war over border disputes during 1970... China and Vietnam fought a nasty border war in 1978. Suddenly, the notion of "containment" (which had led to the American role in Vietnam, beginning in the early 1960s) was hopelessly quaint. The product of a bygone era, if that era had ever truly existed.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana

This lack of historical perspective has come back to bite us on the ass in Iraq in that different sides of the debate over American policy towards Iraq have learned different -- and contradictory -- "lessons" from the war in Vietnam.

Conservatives think that criticism of the war effort in Iraq strengthens the morale and political strength of the insurgents who are trying to drive the Coalition out of Iraq. Liberals believe that protesting the war is a moral imperative because the sooner the US withdraws its troops the sooner US soldiers will stop dying (and killing) in a hopeless war that cannot be won.

One side or the other will be proven right by history. For the sake of the people of Iraq and the entire middle east, I just hope that we don't see a repeat of the humanitarian disaster that befell Southeast Asia at the conclusion of that war.

September 24, 2004 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lying Lockhart

Joe Lockhart, newly appointed senior advisor to the Kerry campaign and former Press Secretary for President Clinton, is following in the former President's mendacious footsteps.   As the NY Post's Deborah Orin points out, Lockhart's assertion that he did not discuss the forged National Guard documents with Bill Burkett strains credulity.

Plus, the other guy on the phone, Bill Burkett, told a reporter from the Dallas Star-Telegram that Lockhart tried to "convince me as to why I should give them the documents." [Correction: the Star-Telegram has printed a correction to this article, stating that they misquoted Burkett. Burkett was evidently referring to discussions he had with CBS when he spoke about being convinced to hand over the documents.]

Maybe Lockhart wasn't lying, after all...

September 24, 2004 at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Obituarary of the Week: Russ Meyer, dead at 82

Film producer-director Russ Meyer, the original raunchmeister, died at home last Saturday or pneumonia and Alzheimers.   (The AP obit in the NYT called it dementia, but I think they were just editorializing.)


The NY Sun's usually excellent obituary section has come through with a very good obit for Russ Meyer written by Stephen Miller.   (If that link doesn't work for you, try this one.)

The NYT's Douglas Martin wrote a pretty interesting (though less revealing) obit as well.   (The NYT also runs a very creepy looking picture of Meyer from 1969.)

September 22, 2004 at 02:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack