January 3 2003
LIBERAL V. CONSERVATIVE: As promised, here's a quick follow
up to yesterday's discussion about liberals, conservatives and
the Axis of Evil.
In the aftermath
of September 11 the Bush administration made a decision to publicly
recognize nation-states that pose the greatest potential harm
to the United States and the world. In the ensuing year, we've
moved closer to conflict with Iraq, been alerted to Iran's large
nuclear complexes, and entered into a confrontation with North
Korea over the restarting of their nuclear programs.
To a conservative
like Hugh Hewitt these
are the difficult but logical results of the President Bush's
effort break with some of the failed foreign policy decisions
of the past decade and provide a forthright assessment of the
threats posed by the various regimes in Baghdad, Tehran, and Pyongyang.
To a liberal
Marshall the problem is not the policies of the past - regardless
of the final outcome the ideas of "containment" and
"engagement" are immutable truths of any foreign policy
- but rather that Bush's Axis of Evil is a self fulfilling prophecy.
North Korea, despite its deceptions and provocative past behavior
is merely responding to the Bush administration's label. It's
why Marshall can describe the President's foreign policy as "mixing
think-tank braggadocio with feckless inconstancy." It's also
how Marshall can turn the North Korean situation on its head by
asking, "why in the hell did they (the Bush administration)
provoke this situation in the first place?"
of such forthrightness in foreign policy makes liberals recoil
in horror - just as it did with Reagan in 1983 - primarily because
such honesty can often lead to confrontation and conflict. Liberals
abhor conflict and seek to avoid it through constant negotiations,
even if this means continued compromise and tolerating years of
defiance and deception.
on the other hand, readily accept Bush's proposition that taking
a candid approach to foreign policy is both prudent and principled
- even if it leads to conflict in the end. As Dinesh D'Souza succinctly
puts it in his new book, Letters
to a Young Conservative:
insist that because there are evil regimes and destructive forces
in the world that cannot be talked out of their nefarious objectives,
force is an indispensable element of international relations."
points out another profound difference between liberals and conservatives
that contributes to the opposing views on foreign policy:
like to proclaim their love of country, while liberals like
to proclaim their love of humanity."
find liberals voting without reservations to drop bombs in Kosovo
for "humanitarian" reasons in 1998 but deploring the
use of force in Iraq, both in 1991 and today, to eliminate threats
to U.S. national security and our allies abroad. - T.
Bevan 9:49 am
THE TRIAL LAWYER: A little filler on the
"Edwards for Prez" campaign. TNR
says Edwards has no choice but to "sell high," that
is, to run for higher office before he's tossed out of the Senate
and reduced to a one-term wonder with no political future. Will
Saletan says that while Edwards may lack the experience and
knowledge of his rivals, he's way ahead of them in crafting a
message for his candidacy. Both points are valid.
Even more interesting is the strategy Edwards
seems to be taking: to make himself a virtual Democrat carbon-copy
of Bush. The platform he laid out yesterday focused on 1) homeland
security 2) economic recovery and 3) education (primarily access
to college). Sound familiar?
Edwards did turn to some traditional populist/class-warfare
rhetoric while trying to spin his background as a trial lawyer
(he's a "regular guy fighting for regular people against
the powerful"), but he also said that he hoped to convince
the American people he had "good judgment" that is "grounded
in North Carolina values" and he wanted to "earn the
trust" of the public. This pretty much describes the current
occupant of the White House.
It's a viable route for the general election.
The only way Bush is going to lose is if the economy is in the
tank or the War on Terror is going badly. In either case, Edwards
will stand as someone enough like Bush (a Southerner with common
sense values, etc) to make conservative Democrats, Independents
and even some moderate Republicans comfortable voting for a change.
The real question is whether Edwards can make
it out of the primaries using such a strategy. Some, like Rich
Galen, have speculated that Edwards will run well to the left
of the field. This may still be true, though Edwards fully realizes
the further left he goes the more distance he'll have to travel
to get back to the center by November 2004. But Edwards is slick
and remarkably amorphous, and the planks of the platform he outlined
above should be malleable enough to give him a fighting chance
to work his way through the obstacle course of the Democratic
THE LABOR LEADER: Gephardt is
in as well. His strong support of President Bush since 9/11
has strained relations with the liberal base, but you still have
to consider him one of the early favorites. He still has good
relations with organized labor and is the only contender who has
the previous experience of running for president. These are both
valuable assets and Gephardt will need them both to score a win
in either Iowa or New Hampshire - something he has to have for
a realistic shot at the nomination. - T.
Bevan 8:49 am
January 2, 2002
IS IN: Senator Edwards officially
announced he's running for president. If Bob Graham stays
out, Edwards will be the only Southerner in the race and could
use a primary win in South Carolina as a springboard to the nomination.
N. KOREA BASEBALL: Earlier this week Josh
Marshall posted an email from one of his readers and agreed
with with the idea that the Bush administration's handling of
the North Korea situation was
analogous to the FBI's handling of Ruby Ridge and Waco. Glenn
Reynolds called this a "bit of dubious moral equivalence."
It was actually quite a bit worse than that.
Hewitt's column analyzes Marshall's ongoing effort to both
attack President Bush over North Korea and to defend the Clinton
administration's record. Josh wasted
no time in responding.
however, is fraught with inconsistencies. Here's the biggest one:
only get credit for pointing out what everyone already knew
-- that the 1994 agreement was an imperfect one and perhaps
only a stopgap -- if you've got something better. If you don't,
you just look like a fool.
agreement with North Korea was hailed as a monumental achievement
by liberals at the time. In fact, we just endured another celebration
of it as such a few months ago when Jimmy Carter won the Nobel
Prize for his involvement. The idea that "everyone already
knew" the agreement was "imperfect" or a "stopgap"
is patently absurd and revisionist. Furthermore, confronting someone
with evidence they are breaking an agreement with you is not foolish,
allowing them to continue to lie to your face is what makes you
look like a fool.
In a larger
context, the argument between Hugh and Josh highlights the important
difference of how conservatives and liberals view the world and
the concept of the Axis of Evil. It's a discussion we'll take
up in more detail tomorrow. - T.
Bevan 10:26 am
December 31, 2002
"SHIPS OF CONCERN": John Mintz of the Washington
Post reports al-Qaeda
has a fleet of approximately 15 cargo ships it uses to move
weapons and terrorists around the globe. This is another one of
those stories highlighting US vulnerabilities that makes your
hair stand on end.
know our ports are still very vulnerable - only about 2% of shipping
containers are searched upon entry. Add to this the striking description
of the maritime industry provided by one US government official
in the article:
industry is a shadowy underworld. After 9/11, we suddenly learned
how little we understood about commercial shipping. You can't
swing a dead cat in the shipping business without hitting somebody
with phony papers."
As we watch
the government go through the Herculean task of strengthening
national security across the board, it's amazing to realize how
utterly vulnerable America has been to attack.
KOREA AND THREE OPTIONS: In a not so shocking new development,
North Korea is
blaming the US for its decision to break the 1994 framework.
Now that international monitors have been expelled, their nuclear
program is totally
Korea criticizes US efforts to pressure Pyongyang into giving
up it's nuclear program.
a lighthearted analogy. Say you're sitting in a big round room
with 200 other people of all colors, shapes and sizes. All of
the sudden a person on the other side of the room stands up, pulls
out a gun and aims it directly at you. This person, somebody who
has already broken their promise not to build or buy a gun, now
says they want you to come over and talk to them about making
a deal. They'll trade you the gun for your watch and the money
in your wallet - or something like that.
At this point
you have three options. Since you are a much bigger person, you
could walk across the room and singlehandly kick the other person's
ass. This could be termed "aggressive non-negotiation."
Sure, you'd get shot and it might hurt and be a little bloody,
but you're not going to die and the problem will be solved - even
if the other people in the room aren't very happy about watching
would be to walk across the room and, in front of all of the other
people in the room, enter into a direct dialogue with the person
holding the gun to your head and work out some compromise you
can both live with: the gun for the watch and $20 bucks out of
your wallet, etc. This is known as "appeasement."
is to not speak directly with the person holding the gun, but
to ask those standing in close contact with him (or her, if you
prefer the PC version) to 1) tell the gun holder what a stupid
idea they've got going and 2) convince them it's in their best
interest to put the gun down. Part of this convincing might involve
some inducements, like some rice for the person's starving family,
and these inducements may or may not be supported in part by the
person being threatened. This is what one could accurately call
"engagement" under the circumstances. This is what the
Bush administration is doing with North Korea, and it's the right
thing to do - at least for now.
STAR FALLING?: I found this interesting
assessment of Vladimir Putin and his relationship to the Russian
military in the Moscow Times. Here is the author's conclusion:
mostly tends to tell people what they want to hear: While meeting
Western leaders he talks of partnership and liberal reforms,
and in Beijing he repeats anti-Western "multipolar world" slogans.
What Putin says and what he does are often wide apart.
tactic has made Putin everybody's darling for the time being,
but the cloak of professional deceptiveness is visibly beginning
to wear thin, internationally and internally.
like a description befitting a certain former American president.
But whether you trust Putin or not, there is no question he will
play a vital role in American efforts to prosecute the War on
Terror and to help manage the situation in North Korea.
TREATMENT: A reader emailed yesterday bringing this
story to our attention. When Boston was chosen as the site
of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Boston Mayor Tom Menino
saw it as a huge opportunity to boost the city's ailing economy.
is seeking written assurances that the DNC will spend $50 million
contracting out with local businesses to prepare for the convention.
Alas, it looks like the DNC is unwilling to commit to quotas for
local business owners. So far, the best Menino has been able to
negotiate is a "verbal agreement" to hire a Boston-based
company to construct the $4 million convention stage and the promise
that local companies will be given "due consideration"
in the awarding of contracts.
sums up the situation nicely: "It's the same old story --
liberals want to impose quotas on everyone else, not on themselves."
NUMBER 2 IS GOOD NEWS: Unless there is a horrific tragedy
today, Chicago will relinquish
its title of Murder Capital of America to Los Angeles - even
though it remains the most deadly city in America on a per capita
The big news
remains New York, which continues its remarkable drop in violent
crime and will post fewer than 600 homicides for the first time
since 1963. Thanks Rudy. No wonder Mexico City is going to pay
a gazillion dollars for his advice.
CHOICES: Thank goodness this
election isn't taking place in Palm Beach, Florida. - T.
Bevan 9:28 am
December 30, 2002
AXIS OF EVIL, JR.: Is it too late to revise the AoE list
to include Yemen?
Pound-for-pound it could be the most
dangerous terrorist haven on the planet. Here's a quick review
of what's happened there just in the past three weeks:
be added to the attack of the USS Cole in October 2000 and the
recent CIA assassination of a top al-Qaeda lieutenant.
It's no coincidence
Yemen is both Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland and a country
run by Islamic militants that shares a 906 mile border with Saudi
Arabia. It's the rug the Saudis have been sweeping their dirt
under for a long time.
Speaking of Saudi Arabia, Presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman's
to the Saudis about fully supporting US troops in the coming
war with Iraq repeated a now common myth:
Lieberman warned that Saudi Arabia is the ultimate target of
though they have attacked the U.S. ruthlessly, the goal must
be Saudi Arabia," he told reporters in Tel Aviv. "They are clearly
not intending to conquer the United States of America, but they
all have in mind overthrowing the regime in Saudi Arabia."
this "al-Qaeda is a threat to Saudi Arabia" line so
many times it's now taken as a fact. But where is there any shred
of evidence to support the idea that Osama's henchmen are actively
working to topple the House of Saud? Al-Qaeda isn't setting off
bombs in Riyadh or assassinating members of the Saudi government.
the two seem to have reached a nifty homeostatic relationship
where al-Qaeda runs around terrorizing the rest of the world's
infidels while the Saudi government holds them at arms length
- far enough away to satisfy the US and the rest of the international
community but close enough to win the tacit approval of the vaunted
rhetoric (as well as that of many other US officials) only serves
to propagate the myth of the Saudi government as some sort of
potential victim in the war on terror instead of what it really
is: a regime that for decades has presided over the world's primary
source of terrorist funding and radical Islamic ideology. - T.
Bevan 9:05 am