A New Definition Of ‘Chutzpah’

There’s an old joke in which “chutzpah” (Yiddish for ‘nerve’) is defined by a young man who has killed both his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.

Today, we have a new definition.

Political seer Matt Stoller writes about Joe Lieberman (in response to Lieberman’s interview at Pajamas Media):

Lieberman is throwing the whole party under the bus. It’s time for 2008 candidates to step up.

Matt, let me say here and publicly that this proves you’re an idiot. Lieberman didn’t throw the party under the bus – you tried to throw him under it, and are going to fail, and are being petulant about it.

How did you think he was going to respond? By sending flowers? By campaigning to lose so you’d approve of him? Christ, you’re even stupider than I thought you were if that’s the case – and that’s pretty stupid. Or, alternatively, you’ve set the new standard for chutzpah.I said it once and still stand by it:

Ask yourself this, if you’re all excited at the notion of Lieberman running against Lamont as an independent. Who do you think is going to be sitting in the Dirksen Building in February of ’07? Lamont? In a state that was – in 2004 – 44 percent unaffiliated, 34 percent Democratic, and 22 percent Republican. Come Election Day, what exactly do you think is going to happen?

And when Lieberman is sitting in his Senate office next year, do you think the Democratic Party will be stronger or weaker for his departure?

I say it will be weaker.

It will be weaker because a losing Lamont candidacy will not have local and regional coattails as large as Lieberman’s – and I somehow don’t see Lieberman doing a lot of campaigning for downballot offices in the next few months.

It will be weaker because a senior sitting senator will owe very little allegiance to the national party.

Weaker because other senior officials will sit and weigh the cost of party allegiance against the benefit, and will have a concrete example of what party loyalty buys.

So when such bloggers as Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, Chris Bowers, Jerome Armstrong and Jane Hamsher preen that they have pushed “Rape Gurney Joe” (Hamsher’s sobriquet) off the island, there’s only one problem: They think they are winning in doing so.

Right, then. See you all at the inauguration in January.

What’s Opera, Doc?

So this weekend the Long Beach Opera (disclosure: I’m on the board) is performing our tribute to Mozart’s birthday – without any actual music by him (or any heads of deities, you’ll be glad to know).

We’ll be performing work by Michael Nyman, Arvo Part and Louis Andriessen composed to honor Mozart, as well as showing a Peter Greenaway film – ” M is for Man, Music & Mozart.”

I happen to have a couple of extra tickets for Friday night (two because of my friend’s motorcycle accident last weekend), so drop me an email if you’re in Los Angeles and are interested in coming. I’ll make you a deal…

Facts? In A Knife Fight?

My review of Jim Geraghty’s book “Voting to Kill” is up at the Examiner site.

I had to edit it pretty brutally for length, and as a consequence it reads, I think, a little more harshly about the book than I feel.

I think that Geraghty’s point is right on – which ties into Kevin Drum and Eric Martin’s posts expressing massive frustration with William Arkin.Kevin wrote:

Outside the blogosphere, of course, we have the actual Democratic establishment, the one that wields genuine influence. Some of them are in Congress and make floor speeches — about both Iraq and national security more broadly. Some of them run for president and lay out detailed position papers about how best to conduct foreign policy in an age of jihad. Others host symposia at think tanks or write lengthy articles in places like Foreign Affairs and Democracy. Still others write books covering practically every nuance of liberal foreign policy you could ever hope for.

Some of these liberals think we ought to withdraw from Iraq and some don’t. I think it’s safe to say that virtually all of them believe that a less militaristic and more internationalist foreign policy would be a net benefit. But it’s also safe to say that none of them — not one — believes this is all it will take to put a stop to militant jihadism. And yet, after five years of speeches, articles, symposia, and books by Democrats on national security, that’s what Arkin writes.

Kevin, I read most of that stuff, and I’ve got to tell you first that I don’t see a clear Democratic line of reasoning beyond the kind of thing that Martin has in his post here:

More profound success in this endeavor will ultimately require, as praktike and Matt Yglesias pointed out, a fundamental rethinking of many of the tenets that have guided our foreign policy decisions in that region for over a century. These tectonic shifts will be difficult to set in motion, slow developing once undertaken, and hardly aided by a noted lack of political will in many respects. These are the hard steps.

But there are easier ones too. For one, by focusing on the real costs of Iraq, and placing Iraq in its appropriately important context as one hindrance among a handful currently undermining our efforts in the war on terror, we can seek to avoid making a similarly counterproductive blunder in Syria, Iran or wherever else it is that the neoconservative wander/bloodlust would take us. Not invading yet another Muslim country in the span of a few years would be, you know, a positive first step even if that simple abstention wouldn’t solve all our problems overnight.

Further, rehabilitating our image and fortifying our influence by aspiring to back-up Bush’s soaring rhetoric with actual corresponding policies (ie, respecting habeas corpus, banning torture, etc.) – while not creating a solution “voila!” – will redound to our benefit in other areas crucial to our success. We would, among other things, decrease support for extremists, increase the likelihood of recruiting and maintaining valuable human intelligence assets, and help to secure the vital cooperation of a wide array of foreign governments and their respective intelligence agencies, on which we rely.

The use of human and signal intelligence, surgical military operations, marginalizing extremist organizations through the application of soft power in its myriad manifestations and fostering a more robust relationship with potentially helpful foreign national interests would all be attainable steps that would serve us well while we go about the larger, paradigm shifting overhaul cited above.

The praktike post he cites is the one that I commented on earlier – the one in which solving Israel/Palestine on terms acceptable to the Arab world, and not involving ourselves in any more invasions is pretty much the core prescription. I know that prak has made other suggestions…

But the part I emphasized is the part that the Democrats keep coming back to…better intelligence, surgical military operations, using ‘soft power to marginalize extremists’, and getting allies…and there are more than a few problems with that.

The first one is that the same Democrats are the ones who keep kneecapping intelligence programs like SWIFT and they are the ones who led the charge to get the ‘icky people’ out of the humint business. They don’t have a lot of credibility there.

The second is the classic Clinton ‘ninjas from helicopters’ fantasy. I’ve blogged my criticism of it several times in the past, but I’ll lay out the three core objections here: a) it probably won’t work (because we need huge networks within the target country to make such an attack work, and we can’t and won’t assemble intel networks in that depth everywhere in the world); b) it’s immoral – we’re talking a covert war of assassination here. Think the film Munich times 2,356; c) it consists of our committing acts of war in a number of foreign countries – something they may have a say about and a response to.

I’m all for using soft power – the attractive nature of our society and the value it has as an attractor – and I’ll fully agree that Bush hasn’t done a very good job of this. But it’s a feature of a strategy, not a strategy in and of itself.

And as to allies, you mean like the UNFIL troops in South Lebanon? The ones who won’t forcibly disarm Hizbollah, even though that’s what the UN resolution calls for? Or like the French, German, and Russian response to Iraq – the one that was certainly influenced by tens of millions in bribes paid to influential businessman and leaders in those countries?

Look, there’s nothing wrong with any of these proposals – but even as an intermediate term response while we’re getting the Arab world to stop educating its children that killing Jews is the highest calling (which makes the while ‘solving the Israel/Palestine’ thing problematic) – it’s obvious that the Democrats don’t have significant credibility here, either through stated policy or through their party history.

The Democratic presidents during my adult lifetime have been Carter and Clinton – and based on what I know of their administrations’ history (which is pretty well demonstrated by Geraghty), and which was just pretty closely confirmed to me by what I saw Tuesday night – and so here’s the problem.

The Democrats clearly have a perception problem – even within our own ranks. Is it perception, or is it reality?

Now I’m at a point where I’m disagreeing with Kevin and Martin (and all the folks standing behind them), as they’re telling me that I’m just flat wrong. Which is, as always, possible…

So here’s my proposal.

One thing that would be damn useful in deciding this issue would be to assemble a repository of links to core democratic positions on defense so that we could all go to primary sources. Right now the debate (including this part of it) consists of “yes they do” and “no they don’t” – which ought to be resolvable relatively easily, and seems like a perfect thing for blogs to do. I’m going to reach out to Kevin, praktike, and Phil Carter – and am open to suggestions on who else – and ask for links to top Democratic cites, papers, quotes, etc. on the subject of defense. I’ll keep a post live with the links we get, and offer to let them crosspost it as well and see what grows.

So folks, comment here with links central to understanding Democratic policy on defense.

This isn’t meant as a joke, and I’m not looking for people to do anything but contribute pointers to things we can use to do the best map possible of mainstream Democratic positions on defense. Let’s settle this debate with some facts – we can argue about what they mean once we have them.

Give Me Your Tired Arguments, Yearning To be Free

David Corn has a piece in Slate piling on Christopher Hutchins – who needs my rhetorical support about as much as (pick and insert your own example of coals to Newcastle metaphor).

But the point he raises is such a sore point to me that I have to flag it and bitch loudly.

I summed up my issues in a post a while back.

Here’s Corn:

Bush’s claim that Iraq had “recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”—one sentence in his speech—led to controversy and scandal. It begot the op-ed by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson (whom the CIA sent to Niger to check out this report) that accused the White House of having misrepresented the prewar WMD intelligence. That op-ed begot the Robert Novak column that outed Wilson’s wife as a CIA operative. And that article begot the criminal investigation that targeted the White House and produced an indictment of Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, for allegedly lying to the FBI and a grand jury.

It’s now accepted by the U.S. intelligence community that there was nothing to the Niger charge. Even the White House in July 2003 disavowed its use of the allegation. Proponents of the war in Iraq no longer cite it as justification for the invasion. But there is one holdout: Christopher Hitchens.

Here’s the Senate Intelligence Committee report:

The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996- 1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, [redacted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.” (page 43)

Here’s my old post:

So Wilson directly confirmed to the CIA that Iraqi officials had met with Nigerian officials, and that they had – in the view of the Nigerian officials – attempted to broach the subject of uranium sales. Now the claim the President made wasn’t that Iraq had gotten uranium, or that it was even likely to get uranium. It was that:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Now skipping over the ‘gimme’ that Bush is saying that the British are saying etc. etc., the question is whether Wilson – who accused Bush of lying in that statement – was himself telling the truth in making that accusation.

And the problem I have, as a kind of simpleminded person, is that Wilson’s own words, as expressed in the consensus, bipartisan Senate report, also support the charge that Iraq was seeking uranium.

So what is it that I am missing, exactly?

Look, most things that matter are matters of judgment and degree. And to say that Bush overstated or over relied on the evidence – provided by Wilson himself – is one thing, while to confuse matters (by tossing in the forged Italian documents) by suggesting that Bush stated that Iraq had successfully bought (as opposed to unsuccessfully sought) yellowcake is, simply put, political fraud.

But that fraud is part and parcel of political commerce these days. It shouldn’t be when the stakes are as high as they are today. And those opposing Bush would get further with people like me if we weren’t left with a choice between people who make us uncomfortable but are at least engaging what we see as a serious issue – and folks who lie about the issue to make political points.

Jeff Cooper

In 1980, at the suggestion of a friend, I signed up for a class in “Basic Pistol” at the American Pistol Institute, in Paulden Arizona. My friend was new to shooting, while I thought I pretty much knew what there was to know (in that way I was a typical American male) and so I showed up expecting very little.

What I got was quite different.

The class was taught by Col. Jeff Cooper, who died at his home on the grounds of API yesterday. Col. Cooper, as most people who read his works or dealt with him indirectly – as I did – called him, was a commanding presence. He was loud but not profane, gruff but always civil, and a wonderful combination of earthy and erudite. He represented a certain ideal of American manhood; John Wayne without the mincy little shorts and man-bag. He’d ‘seen the elephant’ and served in the Marines and as a private military instructor in Latin America.

He was also by my standards (and pretty much by any contemporary standards) a racist and sexist, and his conservativism dial was set so far to the right as to be literally medieval.

He codified the body of doctrine and training that became the modern small-arms manual, and served as the center of a loose web of men and women who advance and teach the art of practical shooting worldwide. Our military and police today are taught by instructors almost all of whom learned at or from those who learned at, Jeff’s school.

There I was affectionately – I hope – known as “the hippie” and it was only my knowledge of the 30 Years’ War (a subject he challenged me on out of the blue) and some other random historical facts I managed to dredge out of memory that got him to tolerate me. I was a very good student, if only a decent shot, and managed not to piss off any of the other instructors too badly (except for Clint Smith when he asked me the “Bozo” question).

Col. Cooper had stage presence to burn. He used that presence – all of it – in the service of his teaching and craft, and after hours in wide-ranging discussions in his library with the students who – like all good students of a sensei – gathered around to soak up his mannerisms and wisdom in the hope that they would translate into mastery.

I never became a master, but the things he taught me in that class – and in later discussions – really did become core “truths” for me. I may have completely disagreed with Col. Cooper about female police officers (who he called “copchicks”) and on the root causes of political issues in Africa and Latin America – but he was always willing to engage in respectful argument, and when you’d made a point he couldn’t parry, he’d grunt softly and acknowledge it generously.

I hope to grow into someone with strong opinions and still keep that kind of honesty, and if I got nothing else from the Colonel, I’ll take that.

Col. Cooper and others of his ilk that I have been lucky enough to know represent a real kind of uniquely American ideal that I hope never goes out of style.

His writings – many not for sensitive eyes – can be found here, his Wikipedia entry here, and a good page on him and his works here.

In the middle of a shoot-off (class-ending competition that settled your rank within the class – none of this touchy-feely non-hierarchical learning for him) he stopped two of us, fixed me with a stare, and reminded me that “You can’t miss fast enough to win, Marc.”

Like many things he said, that is still and will always be absolutely true.

Warren Christopher And Strong Reactions

Check the update at the bottom.

So this is going to be even less thought out than my usual posts. Deal with it.

I’m back from the Warren Christopher lecture, and I’m seriously having trouble understanding the strength of my own reaction.

Which is flat-out anger. In the car driving down the 110, I was trying to unpack my reaction, and just let my internal editors take a break. And here’s what came out:

I wish I was religious. Then I could believe there was a hell and wish I could send people like him to it.

Which is way over the top by any reasonable measure. but I swear that’s what I was thinking. And it is so far from the midly critical intellectual critique that I walked in the door with that I’m not sure how to react to my own reaction.

And yes, I wondered if I’m just having a bad week (hint: yes, I am. A good friend is in the hospital after a horrible motorcycle crash this weekend that left the other rider – the stupid one riding far too fast on the wrong side of the road – dead, severely injured my friend and bruised and shook his lovely girlfriend. Another friend is just out of the hospital after a horrible bicycle crash that left him needing major surgery to his shoulder).

But there’s something serious here as well.

I doubt that I’ll get to the bottom of it in this post alone, and there will be a longer discussion to follow.

But here’s what pissed me off – a close paraphrase of one of Christopher’s comments:

Why didn’t the Americans attack Iran – maybe we should have. Based on Valentine’s Day thought Iranian govt would solve it. He, Vance, Carter thought keeping the hostages alive would be the priority.

Maybe if forceful action had been used Reagan wouldn’t have been President.
[emphasis added]

Not “maybe we wouldn’t be looking down the barrel of a major confrontation with state-supported Islamist radicals.” Not “maybe 9/11 wouldn’t have happened, and tens of thousands of people wouldn’t have died.” Not any number of other things involving the United States and our relations with the rest of the world. Ronald effing Reagan’s election is as bad a thing as he can imagine.

I can’t imagine a more insular view of things. And I’m terrified that one of the actual people who shaped events can’t see past the mirrored window of his political party.

A while ago I wrote this:

Which brings me to the final point, and to me the most frightening. It’s an adjunct to the first two, and simply put, it suggests that everything that happens isn’t really about the thing itself – the war in Iraq as an example – but it’s about us; how we feel about ourselves, who has political advantage, who profits and who loses in the courts of power, prestige and wealth.

I’m genuinely afraid that the ruling cohort, and those who enable it by participating in the political process, have so much lost touch with the realities that we face that they are incapable of looking at an issue like Iraq, or 9/11, or the economic straits we have spent and borrowed ourselves into as a nation except as a foothold in climbing over the person in front of them. I imagine a small table of gentlemen and -women, playing whist on a train as it heads out over a broken bridge. The game, of course matters more than anything, and the external events – they’re just an effort to distract they players from their hands.

I was being somewhat rhetorical when I wrote that. The point was serious, and I thought accurate. But tonight I just had it pushed into my face, and somehow it’s not clever any more. it’s enraging.

Secretary Christopher wore a beautiful tailored suit, and his shoes were brilliantly polished. They reflected the crowd; in my Royal Robbins khakis and Timberland nubucks I felt badly underdressed. This crowd was a locus of influence and power here in Los Angeles; a crowd that can Get Things Done.

And I left in fear that they’ve lost the notion that they are getting things done for any reason except for their advantage or the advantage of their own little club. And yes, that pisses me off. A lot.

To end on a whimsical note, the other thing it reminded me of was Terry Gilliam’s great film “Baron Munchausen.” In it, a European town is besieged by the Turkish army; the town is run by a rational leader (Horatio Jackson brilliantly played by Jonathan Pryce) who keeps entering into formal agreements with the Turks – Wednesday, the Turks may shell them without response – because having formal agreements that embody order, and rationality expressed in words are what matters:

Horatio Jackson: Ah, the officer who risked his life by singlehandedly destroying *six* enemy cannon and rescuing ten of our men help captive by The Turk.
Heroic Officer: Yes, sir.
Horatio Jackson: The officer about whom we’ve heard so much.
Heroic Officer: I suppose so, sir.
Horatio Jackson: Always taking risks far beyond the call of duty.
Heroic Officer: I only did my best, sir.
Horatio Jackson: Have him executed at once. This sort of behavior is demoralizing for the ordinary soldiers and citizens who are trying to lead normal, simple, unexceptional lives. I think things are difficult enough without these emotional people rocking the boat.

Here are my notes (via treo, and yes my thumbs were tired):

Warren Christopher 09/25/06

The crowd – judicial insiders…”I need to start getting into private judging; it’s too lucrative to miss out on”.

Talks about setting up the tribunal. Bought a building? Who paid the cost of the tribunal?

Feels Shah could have gotten care in Mexico…wishes we hadn’t let him in, but thinks that doing so was an expression of our values…

Anne Swift decided to surrender the embassy – the Marine guards couldn’t have held the Embassy.

First thing was to go to the UN…

Tried interlocutors to open line of communication.

Maybe we should have detained the Iranian diplomats. Desperate to open line of communication.

Vance & he thought that as long as the Americans were in good health force was not an option.

Reagan election – he said they’d be better deal with Carter. The Algerians said they felt that Reagan had an impact.

Impact of failed rescue mission….it had a negative effect – dispersed hostages until release. May have caused them to disperse nuke facilities today.

Thinks they may have been too focused on it. Lots of senior Administration focus on Iran.
Might have been sounder to delegate and have midlevel folks deal with it.

He got angry on Jan 19 when Iranians walked back on the signed agreement and refused to sign an annex concerning bank transfers…called his pilot to leave. _This_ made him angry…

“Don’t think we violated ‘don’t pay ransom’ but we might have come close…” (exact quote)

Soviet decision to invade Afghanistan impacted by hostage crisis?

Thinks we tempered our reaction to Sov invasion because of the hostage crisis.

Why didn’t the Americans attack Iran – maybe we should have. Based on Valentines Day thought Iranian govt would solve it. He, Vance, Carter thought keeping the hostages alive would be the priority.

Maybe if forceful action had been used Reagan wouldn’t have been President.

Update: See comments by andrewdb and m. takhallus. This is a bipartisan issue. This isn’t remotely a Democratic issue, although I hammer the Democrats about it a lot because they’re my party and I want them to change so they can win. And I push them hard on the issue of foreign policy because we need a real set of debates.

This is an issue involving all the ‘insiders’ who have forgotten why power is worth having.

I’ll emphasize a point takhallus made:

This is why some of us are so furious at the current administration. Not only are they losing, they’re setting the country up for another round of moping self-doubt. That’s dangerous for the entire world.

There is no substitute for victory. Manly chin-jutting and chest-thumping are not victory. Victory is victory. We’re not gaining a victory right now, we’re losing. Just as there’s no substitute for victory there’s no excuse for failure.

The Law Within Islam

The role of women in the Islamic world is an interesting – and possibly critical – one in many ways. I’m currently reading an excellent history: “The Middle East On The Eve Of Modernity: Aleppo In The Eighteenth Century” by Abraham Marcus.

Marcus devotes a lot of the book to the domestic economy of Aleppo – an important trading city in the 18th Century – and explores (among many, many other things) the roles of women, which were wider than I had presumed.

In the modern Middle East, the question of the role of women remains a central one, and one that many think will unlock a path to an Islam that can live within itself. Blogger Ali Eteraz has emailed me a few times to point me at his blog, Eteraz, and after reading it for a while, it’s one that I’ll highly recommend.He has a post up citing a recent oped in Pakistan concerning the potential changes in Pakistani law concerning women and testimony (attention is mostly paid by the media to issues of rape) and there was a kernel of the oped that was too important not to pull up and try and show around.

The essence of the fundamentalist argument is that Islamic law is a specialized science, decipherable only to people who spent many years of study in the subject. The experience of ordinary people, particularly the ordinarily pious or the ordinarily impious person, is irrelevant. What counts is what the truly pious think.

There are two problems with this approach. The first is that piety, especially when it comes to women’s issues, often turns out to be a riotous blend of ignorance and prejudice garnished with a fig leaf of morality. The second is that it excludes anybody who is not a certified and recognised Islamic scholar from having any say as to what law should be.

[emphasis added]

This is a point made in passing that rang like a bell for me as I read it. The foundation of Western society is the notion that the power of the state – codified in the law – is subject at some level to the will and opinion of the common citizen.

A world where that view of Islamic jurisprudence was dominant would be a world where I’d sleep far better at night. Read the whole thing, as well as Ali’s entire post (hell, read and bookmark his entire blog…).

We’re hammering ourselves against a wall, and it’s painful. But cracks and daylight are appearing. Slowly, too slowly, but they are there.

What Would You Ask?

Monday night, I’m going to hear Warren Christopher talk about “The Iranian Hostage Crisis and the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal: Implications for International Dispute Resolution and Diplomacy”

I may get a chance to chat with him. My impressions of the US response to the Iran hostage crisis are pretty bleak.

So – what should I ask him? What should I read tomorrow?


So today while I was at a meeting, TG sat in the driveway and sold a bunch of stuff we pulled from the garage attic, as a part of a neighborhood garage sale day.

I helped haul stuff out of the garage early this morning, and was looking at a collection of kitchen tools, outgrown and seldom-used children’s toys, skis that we can’t get the bindings adjusted on any more, and obsolete electronics.

I’m not someone who buys deeply (or at all) into the notion that we should all live in quaint villages in a manner that would have made 19th century Mennonites comfortable, which is I think at the root of much of the ways that people look at Western consumer society.

But I did look at the large pile on the driveway and think for a bit. I have worked by the hour for most of the last 15 years; I’ve made, say, a buck-and-a-half a minute.

So I look at the pile of stuff, and to me it represents wasted time. Half a year of my life, maybe, that I worked to buy stuff that we’re now piling in our driveway to sell for a hundred bucks or so.

A Smart Post – And Two That Aren’t

Three articles caught my attention today, and I thought I’d pass them along with some quick comments before I have to go outside and grill dinner.

First, Gary Hart – who I like and generally have wished would be one of the most-heard voices in the Democratic party on issues of national security has a – delusional? – post up at Huffpo. His point, simply, is that we ought to expect a US airstrike on Iran before the 06 elections. An ‘October surprise’, as he calls it.

It should come as no surprise if the Bush Administration undertakes a preemptive war against Iran sometime before the November election.

Were these more normal times, this would be a stunning possibility, quickly dismissed by thoughtful people as dangerous, unprovoked, and out of keeping with our national character. But we do not live in normal times.

Look, there are a lot of things to talk about in regards to the appropriate things to do in dealing with that dapper hipster running Iran. Some people – including some of my co-bloggers – think that a bombing campaign as outlined by Hart for the fall sweeps

Therefore, he will announce, our own national security and the security of the region requires us to act. “Tonight, I have ordered the elimination of all facilities in Iran that are dedicated to the production of weapons of mass destruction…..” In the narrowest terms this includes perhaps two dozen targets.

But the authors of the war on Iraq have “regime change” in mind in Iran. According to Colonel Sam Gardiner (author of “The End of the ‘Summer of Diplomacy’: Assessing U.S. Military Options in Iran,” The Century Foundation, 2006) to have any hope of success, such a policy would require attacking at least 400 targets, including the Revolutionary Guard. But even this presumes the Iranian people will respond to a massive U.S. attack on their country by overthrowing their government. Only an Administration inspired by pre-Enlightenment fantasy could believe a notion such as this.

is the best idea since Marshmallow Fluff. I’m on record as thinking it’s a bad idea.

But politically, in the current environment – absent a YouTube video of Ahmadinejad personally machining plutonium hemispheres while pointing to a map of Washington DC – I can’t imagine that the US political reaction would be survivable for the GOP. And that once the Democrats were sworn in in January, that Bush would then be looking at some serious face time with the Judiciary Committee.

So, Gary – what the hell? Do you think Karl Rove is that stupid?

Next, over at American Footprints, another thoughtless post by Eric Martin, who points out that – in the middle of the conflict with the movements behind terrorism, there is more terrorism. This is kind of like saying that GI’s didn’t start to take casualties in Europe until after D-Day. Hint: there is an enemy, and they will fight back. While we’re engaged with them, they’ll fight back harder.

This seems so obvious that I’m puzzled that people keep bringing this point up. It’s part of the fantasy 110-minute war that people envision, I think, when they watch too much television.

In contrast, praktike has a thoughtful and smart post on the interaction between how Islam and the West talk about each other and how they act – including an interesting and first-hand account of the Muslim Brotherhood wrapup to a day of worship.

Go read it, and while you ought to know where prak and I may disagree with his conclusion:

Where I would have written: “If we don’t find a solution to the Palestinian question that Arabs and Muslims view as legitimate, and if we keep backing disasters like Iraq and the recent Israeli war in Lebanon, the decent men and women of the Middle East, most of whom are faithful Muslims, will have a very hard time defeating those who have brutalized and coarsened their culture and religion.”

The problem of course is that there may be no solution to Israel-Palestine that the Arab and Muslim view as legitimate short of the destruction (or such severe strategic disenfranchisement that it is effectively destruction) of Israel? And while we can absorb a lot of terrorism while the decent men and women of the Middle East work to defeat the bad folks – there is a limit, and I think we’ve already absorbed a lot of it.

Having said that, I’ll suggest that I line up closely to prak when it comes to defining the optimal solution – helping those decent people take control of their nations and region.

Now – the question is how?