Yes, You’re Pissy

Arthur Silber has a monumentally chestbeating post up on ‘the Coalition of the Pissy‘ and warbloggers.

Since I’m for the war and a blogger, I guess he’d include me in that category. And since I have a deep set of disagreements with him – not just about the war but about some of the broader issues he raises in the post, I’ll take them on here.First, the tired (I’d hoped it was re-tired by now) ‘chickenhawk’ argument:

…the warbloggers, those armchair generals who appear to delight in conflict, war and death — so long as it all occurs far from wherever they happen to be, while their fingers fly over their laptops, while they sip their evening drinks and watch their widescreen TVs in their oh-so-comfortable homes.

Second, the notion that simplisme is the root of the desire for war, and that one who understands the complex, rich broth of history would take a different position:

According to the brave, fearless, always-typing warbloggers, we had spread before us an old-fashioned morality play: on one side, we had pure, untarnished good — the noble, honorable, uncompromising United States, which stands only for truth, justice, freedom and liberty for all. And on the other side, we had a monster like Saddam Hussein — and anyone who expressed a “but” clearly had placed himself on Saddam’s side, and on the side of torture, the murder of innocents, the gassing of children, rape rooms, and innumerable other crimes against humanity. There was no middle ground, no complexity, no nuance here — it was one or the other. You were either on the side of the typing warbloggers and of Pure Good, or allied with the forces of Unadulterated Evil.

Third, the notion that criticism somehow equals censorship:

I also realized something much more important: all those who adopted Coalition of the Pissy as their war whoop of condemnation against anyone declining to join their mindless dance of joy are nothing more than moral bullies and intellectual thugs. They are the enemies of mind, and of thought — and they are the enemies of truth, justice and freedom in a very deep sense. They are the advance guard of the Truth Police. For them, history does not exist, nor does the past in any meaningful sense at all, nor does the future.

These barbarians live only in the moment, only in the now — disconnected from everything that has become before, and from everything that is likely to flow in the future from our present actions. Thought, principles and ideas are alien to them, in the most profound sense imaginable.

Fourth, the notion that it’s really All Our Fault:

And if you want thorough, indeed overwhelming, documentary evidence of the numerous kinds of support provided to Iraq in the 1970s and 1980s by both the United States and Britain, go to this page. Follow the links — and despair, but wonder no more where Saddam’s “power” came from.

But our own crimes and betrayals still continued. Not only did we build up a man we knew to be a vicious, brutal dictator when it suited the demands of an utterly pragmatic, unprincipled foreign policy — a policy which many enthusiastic supporters of our current foreign policy now want to see continued with Taiwan, so that we can sell yet another free country down the river for the benefit of a totalitarian dictatorship — but we then stood by while innocents were slaughtered by the tens of thousands. The following has to be one of the blackest marks in our recent history — and one of the most damning indictments of a “pragmatic” foreign policy, a policy which deliberately and intentionally spits in the face of principles, and of the value of human life.

Fifth, the notion that having done something wrong in the past, we can’t right it.

…these people who proclaim their own moral superiority at every turn, and condemn those who do not agree with them in every detail as loathsome “Saddam-lovers” who “hate America” — apparently never learned, or are now determined to forget, that it was the United States, Britain and other Western nations who built up and supported Saddam when it suited our purposes, and that it was the United States that stood by while courageous Iraqis were slaughtered literally under our noses.

Sixth, the overweening moral arrogance that seems to characterize a big part of the antiwar movement.

I want to state one thing very clearly and unmistakably for the benefit of any warbloggers who might read this — particularly those warbloggers and other hawks who strut their self-announced moral superiority and constantly shove it in the face of everyone else, and who act as if any disagreement with their historically ignorant views of the world constitutes some sort of treason. You are the enemies of America — just as you are the enemies of thought, of history, of ideas, of any conception of what genuine liberty means, and how it is to be achieved.

Let’s go through these in order.

First, I’ve hammered a nail in the chickenhawk argument before; I should try again with a wooden stake. It’s a vile debate tactic, aimed as silencing those with whom you disagree, and intellectually senseless, as it would suggest that only the troops ought to vote on issues involving war – something that I hope we’re pretty far away from in this country.

Second, no, the issue isn’t the acceptance of nuance, but the inability to see anything in the other side’s facts or argument that can simply be accepted – as it makes sense to accept that Saddam’s capture was good – without a left-handed attempt to devalue it.Again, it’s about devaluing an opponent’s arguments so that no real weighing can take place. I fully accept the idea that war is a bad thing – that innocents (and innocence) die; that events seldom play out according to plan; that plans themselves are incomplete and contingent.

I’m just weighing the scales differently, and am willing to accede both the goodwill and intellectual probity of those who disagree with me. Doesn’t mean I don’t think they aren’t wrong; people often are.

But I don’t need to deny the idea that deaths in combat – of our troops, civilians, or even our enemies – are tragic, or that lives are in fact shattered by loss and injury in wartime. And I can hold that thought without the balancing ‘but’ and still hold on to my belief that those tragedies and losses are sometimes necessary or unavoidable. In my universe, that’s what qualifies a nuance and intellectual sophistication.

Third, no, saying that you’re wrong – even loudly saying that you’re wrong – isn’t censorship, it isn’t something that makes us ‘enemies of truth, justice and freedom‘ – unless, of course, you are the sole arbiter of truth, justice, and freedom (see arrogance, below). I’m tired of reading in the Los Angeles Times plaints from those who explain that their dissent is being crushed by the totalitarian State. If the State was crushing your dissent, you wouldn’t be on page A3 of the Times, you’d be in Pelican Bay. that ought to be a difference we can all understand.

Fourth, where does the notion that all of history is driven by the Trilateral Commission (or, more seriously, by the U.S.) come from? Everything isn’t our fault, nor is it entirely our responsibility.

The West, collectively, has both some responsibility for what happens in the Middle East, and some stake in how it comes out. That stake was raised dramatically on 9/11 – as it would have been had we watched a cloud of debris, dust, and human ash rain down over Paris rather than Manhattan.

But to suggest that we – in the U.S., or even in the West in its entirety are the only actors in this drama – is both counterfactual and morally demeaning to the actual people who live in those far away lands. They have the status of actors, of moral agents, not props in some morality play being acted out among the intellectuals here in California.

Fifth, our failure to march on Baghdad and to support the Sunni uprising was a stupid and immoral act. But I’ll point out that it was many of the same actors in Europe and the UN who counseled that we limit our action to ejecting Saddam from Kuwait. And having failed to do the right thing once precludes us from doing the right thing later – how?

Sixth, I certainly reserve the right to enthusiastically argue on behalf of what I believe in. But I make those arguments in the context of my belief that the rest of the universe is full of smart, well-informed people who are worth listening to. And that not only do I hope they I can convince them of things important to me, but that it just may be that I learn something from them.

Because if I can’t learn from other people – if my only lessons come from self-reflection and dialogs held with my mirror – there wouldn’t be any point in public dialog, and I could save myself the effort of typing these words for public consumption.

UPDATE: Demosophia comments, and adds some historical echoes from an earlier era.

Instapundit on Palestine

Instapundit takes a strong stand on the Palestinian issue, based in no small part on the post below detailing Palestinian hatred and anti-Americanism.

I came out against the immediate creation of a Palestinian state over a year ago because I don’t think the social and political materials for a state are there yet, and because I don’t think we should reward people who talk about peace in English and war in Arabic.

…but…Glenn thinks that the Palestinian people are part of a proxy war against Israel and the U.S., and that by attempting to be ‘evenhanded,’ we’re misleading ourselves. His concrete proposals are pretty reasonable:

I don’t think this means that the Bush Administration should be taking direction action against them — closing off their funding via shutting down Saddam is a good start, and a policy of slow strangulation directed at Arafat and his fellow terrorists is probably the most politic at the moment. We need to try to squeeze off the EU funding, too, especially now that it’s been admitted to be part of a proxy war by the EU not just against Israel, but America.

But let’s stop pretending that what’s going on between Israel and the Palestinians is some sort of family misunderstanding. It’s war, and the Palestinians — and their EU supporters — think it’s a war not just against Israel, but against us. We should tailor our approach accordingly.

But I still think he’s is wrong in this – wrong because I tend to think that while a bloodthirsty cult run by kleptocrats does dominate the Palestinian people today, I continue to believe (based on not much more than optimism and my own view of human nature) that this dominance doesn’t have to last. This implies that the issue is the leadership and dominant culture, and that the average Palestinian hasn’t completely internalized the values of that homicidal leadership; or rather that it is best to proceed as though that’s the case.

That’s a subtle but crucial distinction. It implies that we can be, in the terms of the Marines, both the “best friend and worst enemy” to the Palestinian people, and it builds a door that reasonable Palestinians can follow should they choose to.

Making that choice possible should be the goal of our policies in that area.

The paths are twofold; to openly go to war with the Palestinians (and in doing so, ultimately with the Arab world), or break the problem apart by doing several things: dry up the political and financial incentives being offered the Palestinians and terrorists to fight rather than simply live; find and neutralize the committed fighters; and work to empower (initially by keeping them from being killed by the more radical elements) the majority who I have to believe simply want to raise kinds and lead normal lives.

Note that none of what I’m proposing is easy. And that elements of it do involve the explicit use of force – against terrorist organizations operating in the Occupied territories and judiciously, against states that harbor or sponsor them.

But I think that it’s easier to try the complex solution before we simply sweep the table clean with a war.

Look, so far the Arab states have made it clear that they will fight the war against Israel to the last Palestinian. They have gotten a free ride in that they can send relatively insignificant amounts of cash and aid and so at a low cost have a lot of impact on Israel.

Our goals should be in part to end that free ride, and free the Palestinians from their role – as Glenn describes it – as cannon fodder in order to let them make a conscious choice about whether they want war or peace.

I won’t foreclose on the latter possibility until it’s clear that the Palestinian people have.


While I haven’t been writing much, I’ve definitely been reading. Books are one of the standard presents I give, and one bug – or maybe feature – is that in going to the real or virtual bookstore, I get to pick up one or two things for myself.

In this case, I saw a copy of Halberstram’s book on the Balkan Wars, War In A Time Of Peace; it was remaindered, and cheap, and I snapped it up in no small part because I thought it would help me scratch around and come to a conclusion on Wes Clark.

Because of all the work and holiday madness, I’ve only read about the first third, but I can say one thing: This. Book. Rocks.

That means I really liked it, and am finding it damn useful for looking at the complex web of forces that go into making our foreign policy.

I also saw a copy of Carville’s latest, Had Enough, and while it definitely spoke to me…I think his analysis of the impact of Bush’s economic policy is pretty spot on (kind of an Engine Charlie view of the role of government – and yes, I know that’s not fair to the real Charles Wilson), and similarly his criticism of the Democrats – summed up in his story of the “transgender amendment” – stands up pretty well. But I just glanced at it in the store, and reluctantly put it aside (sadly, no big discounts yet) until next month.

Arrogance or Honesty? You Decide…

Just back from a wonderful motorcycle ride with Tenacious G and a friend who’s moved to New York but is back visiting (we stopped for a long time and enjoyed the incredible, rain-washed views from the intersection of Stunt and Saddle Peak), came home and picked up our L.A. Times.

I usually read the funnies first, but media critic Tim Rutten’s column (intrusive registration required, use ‘laexaminer’/’laexaminer’) caught my eye. It is entitled ‘Fact or opinion? Yes, it really does matter,’ and it’s a peach.

Here’s the money quote:

There is a certain kind of bright but brittle mind that loves this sort of either/or thinking. What such minds cannot accept is the common-sensical notion that real life — including that of the press — is lived mostly in the pragmatic middle. There, experience has demonstrated that intellectual rigor and emotional self-discipline enable journalists to gather and report facts with an impartiality that — though sometimes imperfect — is good enough to serve the public’s interest in the generality of cases.

I have to go do chores, but will comment pretty extensively later in the day; meanwhile I’ll toss this out for your review, edification, and amusement.

Don’t forget to go back and look at this old post of mine when you’re thinking about it.

[Update: OK, here’re my comments on this:

Rutten seems to have missed that whole Reformation thing; the notion that truth might not have to be derived from a priesthood – and make no mistake, when he starts talking about ‘intellectual rigor and emotional self-discipline ,’ he’s talking about a priesthood – is something that went by the wayside became central in Western society a number of years ago. Frighteningly, it appears to be coming back.What he says has the ring of truth; it describes an attitude which I believe is consistent with the behavior of the media over the last few years. It’s certainly consistent with my direct experience with the Man In The Hat at Brian Linse’s, and it’s consistent with the kind of institutional arrogance that brought Howell Raines down at the NY Times.

I share his belief that it’s the ‘pragmatic middle’ where most things happen in societies; like supertankers, they turn slowly. But – I also am convinced that here is some interesting sociology to do in studying how journalism works in this new century; the web of relationships and obligation and even more important the filters that decide who will and who won’t get a job at the NY or LA Times.

As I’ve noted before, I think that one of the most important functions of the blogosphere is to provide some public check on journalism, and to do so not because any one blogger is better-informed or smarter, but the because the dialog among blogs can quickly knock down bad facts or unsupported ideas.

Rutten, (and his boss Jon Carroll) in closing journalism off from that kind of dialog, are taking the position of Linda Ham, the shuttle manager for Columbia who cut off discussion of the possible damage from the foam strike. (Ironically, the Times just ran a series on Columbia; note that they appear to have joined ProQuest in making all their archival materials only for-pay)

Sadly, more than the lives of seven individuals are at risk because of the arrogance of the media.

(Corrected dumb error on Howell Raines’ name, thanks to Kaus)
(Corrected dumb grammar mistake…my editor must have missed it…)

Emergent Security

The last point I made in my proposals for Democratic policy was:

Sixth, we’re going to develop security mechanisms based on the theory that fine-grained systems that bring information and communications to the existing public safety community, as well as the public at large are better than huge, centralized bureaucratic solutions;

I’m going to skip ahead in my dialog with Calpundit, because this topic is actually the one I’m the most interested in. It deals with two issues that are closest to me right now: 1) national security; and 2) reimagining government policy in the terms of ’emergence’.

There’s a lot of woo-woo today around ’emergent’ systems; it is a little-understood concept but one with applications from biology to urban studies to e-commerce and computer games. I have been nagging at the idea that somehow I could marry my liberal goals with emergent means, and divorce modern liberalism from centralized command-and-control mechanisms. It’s a fuzzy, not-yet-thought-out set of ideas for me, but one that it working it’s way closer to the surface of my brain.
Here’s Steven Johnson’s definition, in his book ‘Emergence’:

In the simplest terms, they solve problems by drawing on masses of relatively stupid elements, rather than a single, intelligent “executive branch.” They are bottom-up systems, not top-down. They get their smarts from below. In more technical terms, they are complex adaptive systems that display emergent behavior. In these systems, agents residing on one scale start producing behavior that lies one scale above them: ants create colonies; urbanites create neighborhoods; simple pattern-recognition software learns how to recommend new books. The movement from low-level rules to high-level sophistication is what we call emergence.

Security, to me, is an excellent place to start talking about the policy utility of this concept. We’re seeing the cost of highly centralized, overly-complex and intrusive security every time we fly. Does it work? Are we safer in the air today than we were on Sept. 10, 2001 because we all have to take our shoes off, or because passengers have changed their response doctrine?

I’ve said it a hundred times; no one not armed with guns is going to hijack an airplane any time soon. The passengers won’t allow it. Every time you take your shoes off as you go through security, ask yourself how well Richard Reid did, and how he got stopped.

The reality is that no centrally planned security apparatus can adapt fast enough to the variety of challenges that an imaginative opponent can present. And the efforts to do so will require the imposition of an increasingly Stalinist security apparatus.

We’re seeing this play out the back-and-forth over civil liberties versus security that is taking place in Washington.

So what’s the response then? Do we abandon security in order to maintain our freedom? Or do we abandon freedom to remain secure? Or do we compromise, as we are, to wind up half-free and half-secure?

I think there’s another way.

Conceptually, it looks like this:

Instead of centralizing and bureaucratizing the defensive part of our security apparatus – of ‘professionalizing it’ – move the responsibility outward, where it really will be anyway. The reactions to 9/11 weren’t coordinated in Washington D.C., they were done on the ground in Manhattan and in the air over Pennsylvania. We have a large network of ‘first responders.’ They are the police, fire, hazmat, EMT and emergency medicine staffs that exist in every city and county of the country. The reality is that any unanticipated terrorist action will first be met by these forces, not some super-special SWAT group coordinated out of the Pentagon.

So why not beef these forces up?

Rather than creating a national-scale bureaucracy that is guaranteed to get to the scene too late to do anything, why not move the responsibility outward?

Concretely, that might mean some policies along these lines:

* Improving the training and escalation procedures for front-line responders to enable them to recognize a terrorist act and quickly escalate the response to an appropriate level. Improve the tactical training for police in dealing with terrorist-level threats, and beef up local responses to explosive devices by better training and equipping local bomb squads.

* Improve the training of even lower-level responders like private security guards in malls and office buildings to enable them to identify and respond, where appropriate, and to effectively communicate upward to local police and fire services.

* Improve the public-health infrastructure (this would be a good thing regardless) to enable it to identify and respond to bioterror more quickly. This involves, unsurprisingly, better training local EMT and emergency room personnel in identifying and communicating potential outbreaks.

Notice that each of these points relies to a great extent on two things:

# Creating a doctrine in which the lowest level possible reacts to the threat; and

# Creating a communications network (which is a combination of communications technology and the human attention and connections necessary to make that technology effective that connects local agencies upward and laterally.

Overall, there is a current set of beliefs that each level will wait for the next level up to deal with a terrorist act. A citizen will tell a security guard, who will call the police, who will call SWAT, who will call the FBI, who will call the HRT, who will call the military.

By the time we’re done playing ‘telephone,’ it’s all going to over except burying the bodies.

At Columbine, the police response was right out of the current playbook. Secure a perimeter, evacuate all the civilians you can get out of the way, wait for SWAT and the bomb squad to show up, stage and prepare, and go in and secure the building.

That didn’t work so well there.

But it was the standard doctrine, established because we believed that an unplanned response or a response without the necessary overwhelming force would be an ineffective response. So the police trained to wait for the situation to be right.

The passengers on AA Flight 11 similarly followed doctrine; when hijacked sit tight, avoid confrontation, wait until the plane gets on the ground and the grownups either negotiate a settlement or effect a rescue.

That didn’t work so well either.

Similar stories in Thurston High School and on AA Flight 93 ended differently. It wasn’t because there were better plans, or necessarily because the specific people were braver or smarter (although on Flight 93 they were obviously better informed). It was because they operated on a different doctrine, which involved immediate action, and not passively waiting for someone else to solve the problem.

Now some problems can’t easily be solved by a few high school kids or airline passengers, and I don’t mean to suggest that they are.

But I do mean to suggest that we need to invert our doctrine – actually, to bring our doctrine in conformance with reality. Because we’re spending billions building capabilities that aren’t. Because the reality is that the only people who will have a chance to avert an unanticipated terrorist attack will be a couple of security guards and local cops. And the first people to react to it will be EMT’s firefighters, and the staff of the local ER.

So let’s design a security system around them.

There are some collateral benefits of doing this.

First, we spend less time and energy building a giant, centralized domestic security apparatus which will inevitably be abused by those in power. By diffusing the power, we make that inevitable abuse harder to do, easier to detect, and more limited in scope.

Second, the additional capability we build into local law enforcement and public health bears immediate fruit in better law enforcement and public health, even absent a terror attack. The communications infrastructure that will help Southern California agencies respond to an attack can also be used in the event of fires or earthquakes. Better public health infrastructure will not only limit the population’s exposure to bioterror, but to naturally occurring disease as well.

Practically, not every threat can be met at a local level. NEST will never be a county function. And offense will remain the best defense, and will never be a local function.

But if we want to build a truly robust security system, we’d do well to heed Bruce Schneier (author of the great book ‘Beyond Fear‘):

The moral, Schneier came to believe, is that security measures are characterized less by their success than by their manner of failure. All security systems eventually miscarry in one way or another. But when this happens to the good ones, they stretch and sag before breaking, each component failure leaving the whole as unaffected as possible.


“The trick to remember is that technology can’t save you,” Schneier says. “we know this in our own lives. We realize there’s no magic anti-burglary dust that we can sprinkle on our cars to prevent them from being stolen. We know that car alarms don’t provide much protection. The Club at best makes burglars steal the car next to you. For real safety we park on nice streets where people notice if somebody smashes the window. Or we park in garages, where somebody watches the car. In both cases people are the essential security element. You always build the system around people.”

The people on the front lines. Angela the baggage clerk. She’s not going to violate my civil liberties, and she might actually save me some day, rather than investigating afterwards.

WMD, or the Risk of WMD?

Calpundit revisits the case for war, and finds it wanting. (Before you suggest that he’s the only liberal that I read, I’ll note that in times of limited blog-time, I tend to read only four blogs: Calpundit, Crooked Timber, Instapundit, and the Volokh Conspiracy. There are a lot of other good ones that I read [go check out my slightly-stale blogroll at Armed Liberal to get a sense of who], but time’s kinda short right now.)

Kevin lists the three legs of Bush’s arguments in favor of invasion, and proceeds to challenge each one, focusing on the WMD – which to my more dovish friends are the sole legitimate causus belli.

He concludes with Bush’s quote about Saddam’s intent to acquire WMD, and then asks:

The possibility that he could acquire weapons. Remember that. For better or worse, that’s what’s left of the public rationale for going to war.

Was it a good enough reason? Your call. But I wonder how strong the support for war would have been if Bush had said that back in January

Sorry, Kevin. Gotta disagree.

I’ll toss a quick question to Kevin and Kos and some of the others who share those views:

If we’d found WMD or real proto-WMD by now, would your position be different? Would the invasion have been wholly legitimate?

Answer honestly now…Now, personally, I don’t believe that WMD were the sole justification to invade. There are a host of broader issues (some of which Bush is handling well, some extremely badly).

But there’s a pretty serious problem with even this narrow argument being made by Calpundit.

Let me make a simplified model to make my point, in an area where I have some knowledge and direct experience, and which scales nicely, I believe.

The nightmare scenario for a police officer to be confronted by someone with a realistic-seeming toy gun. I have never bought my sons real-looking guns, not even chrome cap guns that look like six-guns. That’s for two reasons; first I didn’t want them, at a young age when children have an imperfectly-formed sense of the real, to ever possibly confuse a real gun for a toy one. And I didn’t want a police offer or armed citizen to ever confuse a child brandishing a toy gun for someone who presented a real threat.

We had such a case here in Los Angeles recently. The police were called to a loud party, and one officer, walking alongside the house, suddenly saw someone holding an extremely realistic prop gun – one so realistic that prop houses control access to them. The specific sequence of events is subject to some dispute, but the result wasn’t: officer opened fire with his very real gun and killed the innocent (but to my mind, foolish) partygoer.

The officer was investigated, and not criminally charged. The family sued, and the city settled for $225,000 – a relatively low amount in use-of-force cases.


Because the officer – and more important, any reasonable person in that position – perceived Anthony Dwain Lee as a mortal threat. In the limited time he had to make a decision, he made one – in this case, unequivocally the wrong one.

But it was one that most reasonable people in his position, with his training, and with his information would have made.

Now personally, I believe that police training places too great an emphasis on ‘shoot first’. I’ve argued passionately with police friends about it, and that’s a subject for another post.

Was the officer wrong to do what he did?

In the light of all the facts that we have on hand now, obviously yes. In the .4 seconds he had to make up his mind and act, however, his superiors and the courts didn’t believe that he was. While they might draw lessons learned about it – and I’d argue that they should – the notion that his shooting was somehow malign never arises in most people. They can distinguish between deliberate or careless error, and error that comes from incomplete or inaccurate information. And the standard used is typically “what would a similarly situated, trained, and informed reasonable person have done?”

You see where I’m going with this…

Similarly, let’s go to the record of how both parties felt about Saddam’s state of readiness before April 2003. I could dig like mad for quotes from Daschle and other leading Democrats, but let’s go with the Big 3:

Madeline Albright, in 1999:

“Saddam Hussein had been acquiring weapons of mass destruction. We carried out with the help of an alliance, a war [Desert Storm], in which we put Saddam Hussein back into his box. The United Nations voted on a set of resolutions, which demanded Saddam Hussein live up to his obligations and get rid of weapons of mass destruction.

“The United Nations Security Council imposed a set of sanctions on Saddam Hussein until he did that. It also established an organization that is set up to monitor whether Hussein had gotten rid of his weapons of mass destruction.

“There has never been an embargo against food and medicine. It’s just that Hussein has just not chosen to spend his money on that. Instead, he has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction, and palaces for his cronies.”

Sandy Berger, in 1998:

Berger sought to frame the dispute in broad, strategic terms. He said the world could not afford to allow Iraq to flout the will of the international community.

“The lesson of the 20th century is, and we’ve learned through harsh experience, the only answer to aggression and outlaw behavior is firmness,” Berger said.

“He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983,” Berger said.

President Clinton, in 1998:

“Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons,” Clinton said in a December 16 statement from the White House.

These are the ones I could Google. There are a bunch more collected at

I list these, not to try and parse the blame for whatever faulty intelligence there may have been between Republicans and Democrats; I say it because reasonable, smart, well-informed people other than those in the Bush Administration believed that Saddam had WMD, and was willing to use them.

And so to look at the decision made to invade, we have to look not in the light of the perfect information of hindsight, but in the context of the imperfect information available – to the question of whether it was a toy gun or a real Desert Eagle.

There are absolutely legitimate questions to ask about the quality of our intelligence about Iraq – from before the first Gulf War until today. There are absolutely legitimate questions to ask about whether an invasion was the appropriate response to the risk of WMD.

But those aren’t the questions we’re asking.

And before we do, let’s step further into the reality of the pre-invasion world, and move away from an Anthony Dwain Lee innocently holding a prop, standing at a party, and to Alan Newsome:

Alan Newsome never thought his BB gun would kill anyone. When he brandished it in the hallway of his Harlem apartment building, it was just something to help scare some cash out of a burger joint deliveryman. But the deliveryman turned out to be a cop, and when Newsome pulled the fake gun, the cop’s partner shot the 17-year-old three times in the chest, killing him.

The threat posed by Newsome – brandishing a realistic looking pellet gun – was one that any reasonable person would have responded to with deadly force.

Saddam may have thought he had WMD because his staff lied to him. He may have thought he could use the empty threat to bluff.

But the fact of his behavior moves him from the Lee category to that of Newsome.

Wes Clark

One last post before I fall off the planet for the day –

Mark Kleiman leads me to Andrew Sabl, who joins Calpundit in supporting Wes Clark. I haven’t dug into choosing a Democratic candidate I’ll support yet, because I’m still wrestling with the broader issues of where the party’s going.
But there were a few choice quotes from Kleiman and Sabl I’ll pass along:


Clark isn’t indifferent or hostile to American power: He wants the U.S. to be the most powerful country in the world in a hundred years, thinks it will be good for the world if that happens, and is here to tell us how to do that. His answer is that of FDR, Truman, and Kennedy. The U.S. triumphs when it supports institutions that embody our values — universally attractive, if pursued seriously and humbly — and further our interests — to the extent that they’re compatible with those of most of the world’s citizens.


As I would have expected from Andy, the essay has a highly original slant on what this campaign could be about: making the Democratic Party once again a comfortable place for those who are comfortable in their patriotism, and linking a progressive domestic agenda to the requirements of world leadership. You might call Clark’s message as interpreted by Sabl — though Sabl doesn’t himself use this label — the liberalism of national greatness.

I like both of those quotes a lot.

I’ve been put off from Clark by the sad fact that many of my military friends (albeit a self-selected and highly conservative group) actively detest him.

I’ll go read the book and do some more thinking over the next month or so.


Tom Holsinger emails a Reuters story that the 2nd Dist. Court of Appeals has ordered terror suspect Padilla freed.

While I’m not a lawyer, it seemed odd that a U.S. citizen would be held as an enemy combatant, rather than as a suspect charged with sedition.

Mach One

How cool is this??

A privately funded rocket plane called SpaceShipOne yesterday broke the sound barrier over California’s Mojave Desert, achieving what its developer called the first supersonic flight achieved by a nongovernmental effort.

A homebuilt supersonic rocket. (Admittedly, it’s hard to call anything built by genius Burt Rutan ‘homebuilt,’ but still – I wonder how the level of effort compared with that in building the X-1?)

[Update2: Commenter Mike Daley catches me in a DOOOH! moment and reminds us all that Rand Simberg and Jay Manifold are a) all over this; and b) actually know something about it…

Update: Commenter Frank Martin provides a link to some pictures and first-hand commentary! Thanks, Frank…]


* April 19/03: Private Manned Spaceplane Unveiled as the craft makes its first test flight.
* Dec 18/03: SpaceShipOne breaks Mach One in a test flight.
* Juune 8/04: The system prepares for its first space flight. Go, SpaceShipOne, Go!
* June 21/04: First full flight successful!
* Sept 29/04: SpaceShipOne makes its first official X-Prize flight, and succeeds. That flight had some scary moments, though.
* Oct 5/04: Mission Accomplished! SpaceshipOne wins the X-Prize, and breaks the X-15’s manned altitude record for an aircraft.

Ever Have One of Those Months?

These are the days I feel kind of like Prince Humperdinck in conversation with Count Rugin:

Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work. But I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped!

My two paying clients are v. busy right now, my two charity clients are even busier, and Biggest Guy just showed up from Virginia, so I have a houseful of kids as we get ready for the holidays.

But wait! There’s more!
I have to go to the Bay Area next week to visit another potential client, and then Joe has passed on to me an invitation to meet with the Marines at Camp Pendleton to discuss ways to support programs like Chief Wiggles’; an invitation that – as a liberal hawk – I’m proud to have been offered and I feel an obligation to accept.

The uncle who helped raise me has pancreatic cancer, and so I’ll be heading East in a few weeks to see him in New York; I may as well swing south and watch Biggest Guy sign his ROTC papers and make it official.

Oh – there’s one more little thing – TG and I have set a date in Spring, and picked a tentative venue.

So I trust that folks will be understanding about my abject inability to blog much this month.

Here’re some of the topics that I would be blogging, if I had the time. I’m sore the posts you can make up around them will be as good or better than what I have actually written.

* “Precision by Division,” or how to get blog and journalistic commentary to limit the level of detail that it raises to something approaching the actual amount of knowledge held – and why it is that neither seem very interested in adding to knowledge, as opposed to fitting knowledge into pre-existing opinion.

* “Real Quants,” about Crooked Timber’s post on the appropriate and inappropriate use of mathematical metaphor in politics and economics.

* “Emergent Politics,” about the impact of emergent analysis on politics and on my conception of liberalism.

* Part IV of my discussion with Calpundit – about the need to increase troop levels.

* A reprise of my earlier post on job exports, and on the various political and moral issues raised by folks since my first post, with a tie to the overall issue of the future role of unions.

…I’ll see what I can get done in the next week or so.

…oh, and pretty damn cool about Saddam, no?