January 30 2003
KOFI: When I buy a newspaper, I usually sort out and dispose
of the sections I don't read - like the "Life" section
in USA Today, for example. Today, the Washington Post's "Style"
section was literally on its way into the trash bin when I caught
a glimpse of this
fawning profile of Kofi Annan.
piece is filled with fatuous praise of Annan, including the following:
for the subtle push, the deft move, the calculated but gentle
blow, Annan must rely on his strongest weapons, the U.N.'s moral
suasion and its legitimacy. He can only nudge nations, cajole
them, reason with them or shame them. He can only try, perhaps
in vain, to slow down a drive toward war. But try he must. That's
his job. No wonder some in Washington wish he'd just butt out."
part of the problem is that the U.N., by allowing travesties such
as letting Libya head the Human Rights Commission, has lost all
claim to possessing any shred of "moral suasion" or
"legitimacy." Just this morning USA Today ran the
is scheduled to chair the UN Conference on Disarmament in May.
The post rotates alphabetically among the 66-nation conference."
I am not
making this stuff up.
praise from the international community - including winning a
Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 - Annan has made some very personal
contributions to the evaporation of the UN's moral authority.
Most notable among Annan's failures was his 1998
trip to Baghdad to negotiate a "compromise" with
Saddam Hussein - one which the dictator subsequently violated.
admiration of Annan is rooted in his unwillingness to use force
under any circumstance as a method of compliance. But this is
exactly the characteristic that makes Annan such a feckless leader.
Sixteen UN resolutions sit stacked on his desk, everyone of them
violated by Iraq over the last 12 years. Yet he still wants more
time, more diplomacy, more tolerance of Iraq's defiance of international
agenda is one of disarmament," Annan says. "And the
UN is not in the business of overthrowing governments." Perhaps
they should be. Without the use of force to back UN resolutions,
which in the case of Iraq would almost certainly lead to a change
in regime, the UN serves no other purpose than to pass meaningless
paper through a bureaucratic machine. -
T. Bevan 10:22pm
January 28 2003
SCORING BLIX: Reactions to the Blix
report, delivered to the UN yesterday, were
mixed. My sense is that the report provides pretty damning
evidence against Iraq - much more than expected. I'm not sure
the report is the "slam dunk" Andrew
Sullivan thinks it is, but at the very least it represents
another documented piece of evidence that Iraq continues to defy
the world and play hide-the-ball.
French and the Germans used Blix's statement as an opportunity
to argue that inspections are doing the job and should continue
for as long as necessary. I don't think history is going to be
kind to defenders of the status quo.
consensus seems to be the UN will indeed grant inspectors at least
a few more weeks to poke around the desert. In the interim, the
United States has announced it will
release more evidence on Iraq's WMD programs.
all the markings of a set up by the Bush administration. They
may not provide a "smoking gun," but you get the sense
they have conclusive proof of Iraqi violations they've been holding
back on. Biding their time while military preparations take place
and the French and Germans make fools of themselves.
is one thing we know about President Bush, it's that he is deliberate
and disciplined. Despite his instinct for decisive action, Bush
has taken the slower, more difficult path through the UN, realizing
well ahead of time the current impasse would be the result of
choosing that path. I get the impression he and his team have
been playing a methodical game of chess for months in the run
up to what is now an inevitable conflict with Iraq. Maybe I'm
giving them too much credit, but I think Powell's
sudden reversal in tone is not just a fit of pique at those
allies opposing invasion.
The Democrats take the Bush doctrine of preemptive attacks to
new level. I was surprised by the move, but I certainly wasn't
shocked. During his time as Democratic leader in the Senate, Tom
Daschle has set a string of hyper-partisan precedents.
however, seems to be way out of her league in criticizing the
President. Pelosi may be a fine organizer, but she's not a very
effective public speaker - in part because she's constantly trying
to hide her far left ideological views and appear more "moderate."
stammered, and generally talked in circles this past Sunday on
ABC's "This Week" - as she did on Meet The Press a couple
of months back - about Saddam being a menace and her unwavering
support for the military while blasting the President over his
approach on Iraq. It was bizarre. I kept wondering where the ventriloquist
The most interesting thing about the annual State of the Union
is the expectations game. When Bill Clinton was President most
of the pre-speech chatter consisted of how incredibly long it
might run or how many mini-policy initiatives he could possibly
cram into one speech.
the media continue to set expectations incredibly high; framing
it as a "pivotal
moment" of his Presidency. It may very well be just that.
Even Bush is taking a personal interest in promoting the speech.
In Bush's crisis-laden Presidency each speech has become bigger,
more important, and thus more politically risky than the next.
to the expectations of Bush's first major speech, his
inaugural. There were none. Now the
pundits clamor - as they did last September 12 before the
United Naitons and the year before that when the President came
before Congress - that everything is riding on this speech.
expectations every time. I suspect he'll do it again. - T.
Bevan 8:35 am
January 27 2003
ANTIWAR DEMS: Watching the crop of Democrat presidential
the war issue is sort of like watching a root canal in progress.
Let's give Dean and Sharpton credit for at least articulating
a clear position on the subject - even though both aren't constrained
by Congressional voting records or, for that matter, a realistic
shot at being the party's nominee.
of the group, however, is working on a muddled message that goes
something like this: Saddam is a real baddie and I've voted to
disarm him by force if necessary. Even though inspectors haven't
found any "smoking gun" yet, we need to give them more
time to work. Bush is on a unilateral rush to war and we need
to be more sensitive to allies like Germany, France, Russia and
If you boil
all this mumbo jumbo down you're left with a policy of containment,
plain and simple. Let inspections continue under the supervision
of the UN and don't push for any action aggressive enough to provoke
a French veto in the Security Council.
So why not
just say, "I'm for containment?" Well, because frankly
it looks weak. And guess what? It is. We've been going the containment
route for years and all it's gotten us is a stack of UN resolutions
worth less than toilet paper. The public knows this.
So why won't
one of the candidates come out in favor of the war and frame it
in a way that appeals to the base? Play up the humanitarian angle,
liberating an oppressed people from a brutal despotic regime?
You know, the sort of "We Don't Want to Take Their Oil, We
Want to Give Them Freedom" rhetoric that resonates with liberals
everywhere. It's also an angle the Bush administration, to their
detriment, I believe, has failed to emphasize enough. It should
be easy pickings.
lays the template for the argument in the new issue of The
New Yorker. Read the whole thing. I don't want to spoil it,
but here's his conclusion:
United States has been wrong, politically and morally, about
Iraq more than once in the past; Washington has supported Saddam
against Iran and overlooked some of his bloodiest adventures.
The price of being wrong yet again could be incalculable. History
will not easily excuse us if, by deciding not to decide, we
defer a reckoning with an aggressive totalitarian leader who
intends not only to develop weapons of mass destruction but
also to use them.
abdication, or a military coup, would be a godsend; his sudden
conversion to the wisdom of disarmament almost as good. It is
a fine thing to dream. But, assuming such dreams are not realized,
a return to a hollow pursuit of containment will be the most
dangerous option of all.
This is a
pretty reasonable argument- one that should be easy enough to
make if you have the courage to buck current Democratic party
orthodoxy, step forward and make the case. It speaks volumes about
the character and leadership of the crop of Democratic candidates
that not one among them is willing to do this, especially if they
truly believe that force against Saddam is necessary.
YOUR FAITH?: On the eve of the Blix report, both Jack
Straw and Colin
Powell have toughened their language considerably on Iraq.
This is good news, and even if more time is granted to the inspectors
it will probably be done so with strict guidelines and timetables.
other hand, liberals in both in the United States and Europe seem
content with the view of Charles Kennedy, leader of Britain's
think that most people would prefer to place their faith in
Kofi Annan and the UN than in the more bellicose statements
that emanate from time to time from in and around the US administration."
If the true
aim is to disarm Saddam, continuing to support an organization
that has failed in spectacular fashion to deal with Iraq for the
last 12 years seems (I'm searching for a nice word...) misguided.
Not to mention that the ONLY reason the world is making an effort
to disarm Saddam at all is because of the United States' willingness
to lead with tough, and yes, bellicose language. My faith is in
Bush, Blair, Straw and Powell. Where's yours?
Susan Page says the White House has no
regrets over using the phrase "Axis of Evil" in
last year's State of the Union address. What will be the money
phrase from this
year's speech? - T.
Bevan 8:14 am