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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|Saddam Is Dead--Media Takes|
From the AP: Saddam Hussein, the shotgun-waving dictator who ruled Iraq with a remorseless brutality for a quarter-century and was driven from power by a U.S.-led war that left his country in shambles, was taken to the gallows clutching a Quran and hanged Saturday.
From the NYTimes: Saddam Hussein, the dictator who led Iraq through three decades of brutality, war and bombast before American forces chased him from his capital city and captured him in a filthy pit near his hometown, was hanged just before dawn Saturday during the morning call to prayer.
From the WaPo: Former Iraqi President Hanged Before Dawn in Baghdad to Divided Reaction
Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was hanged in the predawn hours of Saturday for crimes against humanity in the mass murder of Shiite men and boys in the 1980s, sent to the gallows by a government backed by the United States and led by Shiite Muslims who had been oppressed during his rule, Iraqi and American officials said.
From the WashTimes: Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq with remorseless brutality for a quarter-century, was hanged early today.
The man who came to a grim end at the end of a rope had vexed three U.S. presidents. The 69-year-old dictator left the United States and a coalition of nations in a fight to quell a stubborn insurgency waged by Saddam loyalists.
From the Comcast News Site: Clutching a Quran and refusing a hood, Saddam Hussein went to the gallows before sunrise Saturday, executed by vengeful countrymen after a quarter-century of remorseless brutality that killed countless thousands and led Iraq into disastrous wars against the United States and Iran.
Seriously, who writes these things?
"Left his country in a shambles?" Couldn't pass the chance to take a swipe at the war, eh?
And who edits the WaPo? Other than being, quite possibly, the worst sentence ever constructed ( I guarantee Mrs. Ghering would've returned that to me with a big red mark in 11th grade), I highly doubt that "Iraqi and American officials" would say "backed by the United States and led by Shiite Muslims who had been oppressed during his rule."
And "executed by vengeful countrymen?" Really? Not "hanged to death in accordance with the sentence handed down by a jury after a full and open trial which was then upheld by Iraq's highest appeal's court?" No, it's "vengeful countrymen."
Actually, you want to know what's funniest about the whole thing? The AP story, the WashTimes story, and the Comcast version were all written by the same guys. Yep, the byline for all three is Christopher Torchia and Qassim Abdul-Zahra.
Just goes to show you what a little editing will do for you. All three, of course, are just a little bit snarky in tone; but you see how the process of getting it into the paper once it hits the editor's desk sort of alters what the reader gets.
And, in a surprise development, the first paragraph of the NYTimes is, by far, the most "uneditorialized" of all those out already tonight. What were the odds, eh? I guess it had to happen sometime.
|The Importance of Extermination|
No Point In Me Saying It . . .
if somebody with unimpeachable credibility has said it better.
In my segment on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday, I focused on the frustrations that I hear from milblogs to MSM reports to reports from my own sources that the ROEs have devolved to the point of absurdity and our forces are more fearful of UCMJ violations than they are of enemy insurgents. This devolution of the ROEs in Iraq originated from an institutional CYA instinct by the DOD and senior commanders resulting from sensationalist media coverage of such events as Abu Ghraib, CIA "secret prisons", and various manufactured Gitmo abuse claims.
The Ethiopian Army has imposed no such constraints on itself and is doing to islamist forces in Somalia in days what the UN, and the US weren’t able to achieve in years. Reports from the front indicate that the Islamic Courts who had been administering sharia law in Mogadishu have surrendered and fled the city in advance of the Ethiopian assault. Obviously, the Ethiopian Army’s combat power, training, and capabilities are a mere fraction of ours and yet they are decisively defeating a fanatical and entrenched enemy in an urban environment. Why?
Off the top of my head, I would say that Ethiopia is not afflicted with a pernicious and defeatist media machine that is capable of manipulating public opinion, and even if it was, it doesn’t look like the Ethiopian president would give a damn in any case. The word that comes to mind is resolve. . .
Sadly, I doubt that this sort of message has any chance of getting through to the people who need to hear it.
Let me put this in other terms.
I've recently had problems with my house. Plumbing problems, to be exact. (That, in large part, explains the recent drop in blogging activity). But the problem with plumbing problems is that, often, they're only discovered after a "symptom" presents itself.
In my case, that "symptom" is bugs. Flying, irritating, annoying bugs. Which, even though the plumbing problem has been fixed, persist in my basement and my house.
I try to kill them in droves, with bug spray and bug bombs and other things; I try to kill them by eliminating their breeding ground via chemicals and other stuff; and, when those measures fail them, I squish them under my fingers one at a time.
But nothing works.
You know what I wish? I wish these bugs were like ants. Ants live in little colonies sustained by and in support of the queen. If there was a queen, I could kill her and, over the course of time, eliminate the colony.
Which makes me wonder why the US government is willing to tolerate all the bugs in their house.
Except that our problem isn't a queen--its a king. Many of them.
If the problem is one or two bugs, kill them in easy ways; if the problem is hundreds--thousands-- of insurgents and terrorists, kill the colony. Eliminate the head of the colony, and those who spread the disease.
It's time to eliminate Moqtada al-Sadr. And, while we're at it, we should eliminate their breeding grounds in Iran. And, just to be sure the message is clear, wipe out any and all chance of the problem getting worse--obliterate the nuclear sites.
But, sadly, that would take resolve.
|My Christmas Wish List|
That the women and girls living in the grips of Shari'a come, at some point in their lives, come to know the power of self-determination.
That the children born into Darfur today have a chance to experience Hope--for their lives, for their countries, for a better future.
That the mothers and fathers of the Dalit children of India--the untouchables--realize the gift of life that God has given them and recognize the beauty of their existence, that they, too, can then cast off the shackles of an outdated caste society.
That the people of Iran and North Korea gain their voice, and find a way to force their government to back away from the brink of disaster that their governments are driving them towards.
Merry Christmas. And God Bless Us, Every One.
|Favorite Christmastime Movies|
There are, in the course of my life, a handful of movies which, for whatever reason, I relate indelibly with Christmastime. For some of these, the reason is obvious; for others, the relationship may seem tenuous, at best. But I will endeavor to relate why I identify these movies with Christmastime through the values that I think these movies relate.
Yes, I am taking a break from my normal topic matter; sometimes, other things are just more important.
Or more interesting at the time.
Anyway . . .
First of all, let me say this right away: I have yet to see The Nativity Story, so I'm leaving room on my list for it, though its not there, yet.
1. A Christmas Carol
How imaginative, right? Well, wait--there's subsections. Because, of course, there's been, like, 35 different versions of the Dickens classic. So one must also name the versions one likes, doesn't one?
A. The original 1938 version with Reginald Owen in the title role, and a bunch of Lockharts running through the cast. The particular strength of this version is, frankly, its age. The special effects were, well, a bit weak at the time, so the director had to do a much better job suggesting much of the spectral nature of the visitations, and I think, in that regard, he did a grand job. Besides, the black and white, so dreary and grim, has a great atmosphere, and suggests a far more Dickensian tale than more modern versions. Of course, the theme of the story is wonderful (for a more thorough discussion of that theme, see a much more qualified writer on such things here) and reminds us all not only of the evil of Greed (one of the Seven Deadlies, of course), but of the power of Redemption.
B. The 1988 Bill Murray vehicle Scrooged. Yes, I love this version, and not just for the Danny Elfman soundtrack. I think what Dickens conveyed so effectively through darkness and dread, Richard Donner (of Lethal Weapon fame--there's a kicker, eh?) conveys rather well using biting sarcasm and sudden shifts from comedy to tragedy. Of course, this version has a different Deadly Sin at its core: Pride. Frank Cross (Bill Murray) doesn't so much covet money as he does success, power, the approval of the "right" people and the right to take credit for a huge success (a very crass made-for-television live production of A Christmas Carol). In the end, though, it is Redemption that steals the day, and Frank rediscovers Joy, and Fun, and, of course, Love. I like this version because Pride is one of those insipid faults that I find myself constantly struggling to overcome, and this telling of the Dickens tale kinda reminds me that there is a standard of accomplishment that I should be striving for that has nothing to do with the "right" people.
C. From 1992, A Muppet Christmas Carol. This particular version holds a place in my heart because, of all the things that is most evident in children around Christmastime that we adults fail to recognize, much less value, it is Whimsy. There is evident in every frame of the movie the absolute childlike joy of life that Jim Henson captured best through his non-human creations. Same story, same message, but a delivery that reminds us we can learn lessons AND enjoy them, too.
Yes, I know--George C. Scott was a fine Ebenezer Scrooge, as was Patrick Stewart. But I don't think their versions add that much to the original--certainly not enough to make it on my list.
2. Any of the Harry Potter movies.
Yeah, I know. Other than that each of them seem to contain important scenes which center around the "Yule," and that they seem to be released pretty close to Christmas time every year, there really isn't a strictly "Christmas"-y message in any of them. Nonetheless, I identify these movies with Christmastime. And it is hard to read these books or watch these movies without being very aware of the values JK Rowling conveys through her imagination. To wit:
:at the end of the first novel/movie, the "voice of God" (Dumbledore) extols three qualities in our three central characters: intelligence, loyalty, and courage.
:the smartest, and hardest working, character in the stories is, by the way, a girl.
:in the fourth installment the title character is given an honor in competition that he, perhaps, did not earn, except for "outstanding moral fiber"
:the central government refuses to acknowledge the evil that is in the world, but the heroes seem to always act with a sense of clarity; in many ways, an adult character could never get away with the clarity the young heroes do--it would be "unsophisticated." Nevertheless, they are nearly always correct.
There is much to recommend these stories. I know some of my Evangelical friends don't like them because of the presence of magic and "demonic"influences; I think the positive values far outweigh the possible negative influence of such elements, which are rarely more than incidental to the central ideas of growing up, confronting evil, and staying true to your friends and your values.
3. From 2001, The Fellowship of the Ring
Other than that it, too, came out at Christmastime, what has this to do with Christmas?
Well, really, nothing.
And, why this one and not either of the others in the trilogy?
Because this one is the superior one. In mood, in character development, and in pacing, this installment is the better of the three.
Though, really, the whole trilogy is amazing and wonderful.
At any rate, I like this movie at Christmas time because there are three seperate acts in this movie which convey one of the great themes that I perceive around Christmas: self-sacrifice.
Of course, self-sacrifice is not really one of the central themes of Christmas; Christmas is Joy, and Celebration, and Merriment. But central in all that is that God sent his only begotten Son to become Man, that all men may be Redeemed. With the birth of Christ, the story of Jesus is at its beginning, its point of departure, its point of no return, if you will. . . .
the beginning of the greatest tale of Self-Sacrifice ever told.
In FOTR, Gandalf "dies" confronting the ancient evil, which allows the rest of the company to escape. Boromir gives his life in a valiant battle to protect two of the "little ones" of the company; and, in what I think is the best scene of the whole trilogy, Samwise walks out into the lake, fully laden, in pursuit of Frodo, though he cannot swim. It is an act of both Faith and Loyalty . . .
but, more important, when the two of them set off on their lonely journey, it is an act of Self-Sacrifice, going without the benefit of warriors to protect them, as they walk straight into the mouth of the lion. As is said later in the tale, the "great stories" are really about simple men who choose to act against their own best interest that others may have a better life. I love it.
D. And, of course, from 1946, the Capra classic, It's a Wonderful Life.
This has to be on the list. Who doesn't cry when the townspeople come parading into George and Mary's home to give back to George some measure of his need?
Okay, I'll admit it--until I had a baby girl, I never cried at that scene (though the drowning scene gave me nightmares for years as a kid); now that I have daughters, I cry during Terminator. But I digress. . .
What I love about this movie is that it is, in the end, it is a tribute to the unexpected, unlooked-for rewards of a life spent in Service to others.
Not that anybody should listen to my advice, but if you have a few hours to kill, you may want to run and rent one of these, or try to find it on TV.
|Media Hits and Misses . . .|
as in "hit pieces" and "mis-representations"
This one falls in the latter category.
From ABC News (via Hugh Hewitt):
British intelligence and law enforcement officials have passed on a grim assessment to their U.S. counterparts, "It will be a miracle if there isn't a terror attack over the holidays in London," a senior American law enforcement official tells ABCNews.com.
"It is not a matter of if there will be an attack, but how bad the attack will be," an intelligence official told ABCNews.com.
So, how can ABC reporting this constitute a "miss?" you might be asking.
Because the ABC webite is the only major media reporting this, as near as I can tell. I watched three news broadcasts tonight (I know--the lengths I go to for the blog): our usual 4 o'clock news (news lite), the 5:30 NBC national news broadcast, and the 10 o'clock news FROM THE ABC AFFILIATE here in Denver. I figured one of these would at least mention this story, especially the ABC affiliate.
Nope. Not a whisper.
I'll accept that the big story locally is the two feet of snow we got in the last 36 hours--fine. But our little trip around the world news on all three broadcasts had stories about the new SecDef in Iraq, and the 8 Marines charged in the killings in Iraq, but not whisper about what should be a major story. And has the potential to be THE major story of the next two weeks.
Dean Barnett made this argument two days ago:
People like me, people who understood what Rumsfeld was getting at and never lost the heart of it – we’ve lost the war of ideas.
I think we HAVE lost the war of ideas. The problem is, we have been painfully--blindingly--slow to recognize who the enemy is in this war of ideas [I use the word "enemy" advisedly--speaking strictly(!) about the war of ideas]: the media.
The media has wilfully, systematically, and tyrannically buried evidence that might have brought to light arguments to help those of us on this side of the war of ideas. Think hard: name the man who shot up the Israeli airline ticket counter at LAX a few years back; name the man who shot up a mosque in Seattle; name the man who drove into a crowded sidewalk in the upper midwest last year (I think it was Minnesota, but my memory could be wrong). You can't can you?
Neither can I.
But I can tell you that, from the early reports of each incident, the men were Muslim.
If each incident had been performed by an Evangelical, don't you think you would know their names? Don't you think you would have been treated to stories about "what's wrong with the Christians?"
But not when it involves a Muslim. No, we don't even get coverage of the actual text of some of the rantings of Ahmedinijad, much less coverage of the "anti-Holocaust Symposium" he hosted last weekend.
The media has blinded the public to the threat; in a war, if you can't see the enemy, it's hard to know they're your enemy.
And the media has made damn sure that you haven't seen the enemy for five years now.
I wonder what they'll say about the people who pull off the Christmas Bombings in London, 2006? That they were all young men from England?
And, by the way, what do you suppose the odds are that MI5 has lost track of the 18 men because they are no longer in London? 18 suicide bombers could wreak a lot of havoc on the second busiest shopping day of the year.
That's really the only word to describe what the Nuggets managed to pull off today in trading for the services of Allan Iverson.
Yes, I know--this is not politics. Get over it.
I think this has huge upside for the Nuggets. We gave up Andre Miller, a player with good leadership skills and adequate offensive abilities to get a player who CAN play the point guard, though it will certainly look different than we're used to. Frankly, I just need Iverson to think "pass first" about 50% of the time for me to see him as an effective point--he always looked to score in Philly because noone else could! Here, maybe we'll get to see some amazing playmaking abilities to complement his scoring.
We also gave up a deep bencher and a couple draft picks to get another deep bencher. Not a big loss there; sure, those two draft picks could have been big, but they're likely to be later in the first round, and Nuggets aren't really a rookie away from being a contender--they're an Iverson away.
And let me make it clear that I don't really like Allan Iverson. I see him and the words "prima donna" LEAP into my brain. I think, in many ways, he epitomizes everything that is wrong with the NBA.
But I'm willing to give him a chance. He's never been on a team where he wasn't the only viable offensive option--he may be better at this "team" thing than we know.
At any rate, it'll certainly be fun to watch when he's in a good mood. And 'Melo's not too busy bitch-slapping other players and whining to the officials to play some serious ball. It will certainly be fun to watch.
|Alexandrian Solutions to Gordian Knots|
President Bush is going to announce his new approach to Iraq in a few weeks. Let me recommend two suggestions from the 'sphere.
First, from John Hinderaker:
Here is how you can do it. In late November, U.S. military sources revealed that they had found irrefutable evidence that Iran is arming the militias who are killing American soldiers:
[U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.
Iranian-made munitions found in Iraq include advanced IEDs designed to pierce armor and anti-tank weapons. U.S. intelligence believes the weapons have been supplied to Iraq's growing Shia militias from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is also believed to be training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran.]
So here is what you, President Bush, should do: take as a model the Cuban Missile Crisis. First John Kennedy, then Adlai Stevenson, laid before the world the evidence, in the form of aerial photographs, that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear arms in Cuba. The proof was taken as conclusive, and, consequently, the Kennedy administration's actions enjoyed universal support at home, and widespread support abroad.
Do something similar here. Commandeer a half hour in prime time to tell the American people, and the world, that we have clear evidence of Iran's involvement in killing American servicemen. Show the captured munitions. Explain exactly how they have contributed to American casualties. Display aerial photos of the training camps. No doubt there is much more evidence that can be presented or described.
You should say that Iran's supplying of weapons in order to kill Americans is an act of war. In the dramatic finale of your speech, announce that thirty minutes earlier, American airplanes stationed in the Middle East took off, their destination, one of the munitions plants or training camps of which you have shown pictures. That training camp, you say, no longer exists. You say that if Iran does not immediately cease all support for, and fomenting of, violence in Iraq, we will continue to strike military targets inside Iran.
To which, no doubt, most of the world will respond with shock and dismay, trying to force our hand back in the kid gloves like they did with Israel this past summer. But there will also be those--and rest assured, the media will find them quickly--who simply say "this can't be done--it will ruin the world." To which they should be referred to this idea from Arthur Herman, via Hugh Hewitt.
The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group’s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAV’s (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.
Our next step would be to declare a halt to all shipments of Iranian oil while guaranteeing the safety of tankers carrying non-Iranian oil and the platforms of other Gulf states. We would then guarantee this guarantee by launching a comprehensive air campaign aimed at destroying Iran’s air-defense system, its air-force bases and communications systems, and finally its missile sites along the Gulf coast. At that point the attack could move to include Iran’s nuclear facilities—not only the “hard” sites but also infrastructure like bridges and tunnels in order to prevent the shifting of critical materials from one to site to another.
I would follow that up with two further, key announcements, both specific to stabilizing Iraq:
1. That we are increasing our military presence by 40,000 troops for a four-month rotation with one purpose: closing the borders of Iraq and Syria--yes, we are talking a massive border with difficult terrain, but the American military is capable of the task, and the murderous flow of arms and finances which are coming across these borders to kill Americans justifies--demands--such an action;
2. I have ordered our commanders to rewrite our Rules of Engagement for Iraq to empower our troops to use wider discretion in engaging the sectarian elements within Iraq and to allow us to make use of the internationally recognized principal of "hot pursuit", particularly with regards to terrorists fleeing across the aforementioned borders.
With the firing of Don Rumsfeld, the acceptance of John Bolton's resignation, and the appointment of Robert Gates, the President seems to be signaling a retreat from the domestic front--not to mention fecklessness on the shooting front-- on the War of late; I believe it is well past time to turn the momentum around with a moonshot.
Boldness has undeniable advantages. It is not merely coincidence that both the ancients and the Christians have their tributes to action ("Fortune favors the Bold;" "The Lord helps those that help themselves")
At this point, even a massive failure on this idea has the strong potential to, if not end, at least severely remediate the Iranian nuclear program. That, alone, makes the idea worth undertaking.
Let a legacy be one of action in defence of free peoples, rather than a meaningless pursuit of unenforceable resolutions that bear the imprimatur of impotent world bodies.
|I Might Just Have to Start Drinking Anheuser-Busch Products|
Even though, generally speaking, I don't like their products.
But a commercial like this one needs to be rewarded, even if it's almost a year old.
And, by the way, especially now at the Holidays, remember these men and women and do something for them if you see them.
Jim has a great and important interview posted at his site. Forward to all your friends who "originally supported the war but just want to bring our boys home now."
--President Bush knows the general direction he wants to move U.S. policy on Iraq but won't announce it until next month, the White House said Tuesday.
Just a thought, but, you know, couldn't some of this intense scrutiny of the policy taken place over the summer, when the sectarian violence was just starting to spin out of control, and there was still a prayer that Congressional majorities could have been saved to do the hard work longer?
--As a whole, I reject this report," Talabani said.
"I think that Baker-Hamilton is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution," Talabani said.
asked to respond, James Baker turned to an aide to ask who Jalal Talibani was, and then asked the reporters if he knew if Talibani was an Israeli agent.
--Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday told delegates at an international conference questioning the Holocaust that Israel's days were numbered.
"Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon to be wiped out," he added.
Whew. Thank goodness we've been advised to sit down and talk with him. Why, somebody that reasonable and worldly is SURELY just the right guy to help us solve a sectarian violence problem in one of his neighboring countries.
|Takeaways from a Day at the Movies|
Harry Potter: If Voldemort is forming an army, I want to fight!
James Baker: The enemy is forming an army, is on the brink of developing nuclear weapon, has called for the extermination of one of our closest allies, and has been making war on the United States for 27 years . . . I think we should talk to them.
[the Harry Potter clip was heard in the trailer prior to today's movie]
And, in case you're considering takingyour family to see "Happy Feet," think about this review by Michael Philips for Chicago Tribune:
A lot of director George Miller's film is gorgeous and exciting. Its craftsmanship and ambition put it a continent ahead of nearly every other animated feature of the last couple of years.
Audiences are in for an emotional thumping, as well as a bit of bait-and-switch. Despite the movie's joyous poster image and marketing promises of an all-ages lark, . . . The storyline doesn't fully cooperate.
Or take this from Michael Medved [courtesy fellow RMA-er Bob]:
The movie releases that bother me most are those with false and misleading advertising. That's why I'm particularly annoyed at the big new animated film about tap-dancing penguins, "Happy Feet." The marketing suggests a feel-good frolic for kids of all ages, but the reality is dark, disturbing and deeply political. . . .
Parents should be forewarned, in other words: there's very little that's "Happy" about "Happy Feet," and it is entirely unsuitable for young children.
I just want you to know what you're in for.
That said, the first 50-60 minutes of this movie are both hilarious and visually breathtaking. "Happy Feet" could easily be the description of the audience up to the one hour mark in the movie--the soundtrack is KICKIN'!, and the stoy line and dialogue are snappy and original.
And then we enter the sermon.
Do yourself a favor: see it on a big screen when you can get in cheap, and leave at the one hour mark.
|More on "Imperial Grunts"|
One line in particular kept coming back to trouble me. On page 369 of the paperback version, Kaplan writes:
To be sure, the dicision to invest Al-Fallujah and then pull out just as victory was within reach demonstrated both the fecklessness and incoherence of the Bush administration. While a case can be made for either launching a full-scale marine assault or continuing the previous policy of individual surgical strikes, a case cannot be made for launching a full-scale assault only to reverse it because of political pressures that were easily foreseeable in the first place.
I think this very thing, this fecklessness, is what has caused both the Iraq campaign and the American political campaign to go down the crapper.
There was a time when the President was derided for his blunt talk, for "Bring it on" and for "whether we bring justice o our enemies, or bring our enemies to justice, justice will be served." But at the time that he spoke those words, everybody in the world believed him.
His biggest problem now is that the world does NOT believe the rhetoric any more. The world sees a man who, if he even bothers to talk the talk, has walked away from Moqtada al-Sadr, has refused to offer reprisals for Iranian and Syrian intervention in Iraq, has failed to follow the doctrine of "hot pursuit" in chasing al-Qaeda across the Pakistani border, and who seems to be on the brink of accepting both a nuclear North Korea and Iran. And don't underestimate the lesson the world learned this summer when this administration "encouraged" the Israelis to stop the offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In short, this President has allowed his administration to become the paper tiger bin Laden expected when he killed 3000 Americans five years ago.
And add to that the President's embrace (head fake?) of the Iraq Study Group Report, and those of us who appreciate the "rock in the storm" leader are struck with a body blow. Honestly, engage Iran and Syria to provide stability in Iraq?!?! Iran has the same interest in Iraqi stability that Hitler had in Czech stability circa 1938. Actually, Iran has a deep interest in stability in the middle east--one large caliphate that starts on the Arabian peninsula and extends all the way around the Mediterrainean Sea to Andalusia and Algeria would be a very stable region. Not a very healthy one for Israel, but stable.
Pile on to the ISG the words of the nominee for SecDef:
Senator Byrd I think that military action against Iran would be an absolute last resort, that any problems that we have with Iran, our first options should be diplomacy and working with our allies to try and deal with the problems that iran is posing to us. I think that we have seen in Iraq that once war is unleashed it becomes unpredictable, and I think that the consequences of a conflict, a military conflict with Iran, could be quite dramatic and therefore I would counsel against military action except as a last resort and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened.
and I have the distinct feeling that the President has lost the nerve for the fight. Not the will--I think he still sees Islamic Fascism as the major threat to America in the 21st century; but he no longer is either willing or able to make the case to the American people that the war is going to be long and difficult, but necessary to win on every front that presents itself.
Is there anybody in the world who feels any more foolish than Moammar Khaddafi. Nothing worse than being the first tyrant to capitulate to to someone who, it turns out, never would have had the stones to come after you in the first place.
|Great Read--Not for the Faint of Heart|
I just finished reading Robert Kaplan's Imperial Grunts. Actually, it only took about a ten days--and that was through a very busy week. To my surprise, it was both highly informative and an page-turning read.
The problem is, after reading it, I'm not sure if I should be deeply inspired . . .
or deeply depressed.
Probably a combination of the two.
Keep in mind that everything I'm going to write here is fairly preliminary. I just finished the book about 20 minutes ago, and many of these thoughts are not fully fleshed out.
Why inspired? because the portrait of the men- and women-at-arms of this country are remarkable people. I cannot underscore that enough--REMARKABLE! Men and women of wit, courage, character and wisdom, whose insights into their areas of influence are earned (!) through sweat, difficulty, and--more often than you'd think--diplomacy. If all the decisions within theaters were made by the men and women on the ground, I think this would be a much better world.
Why depressed? because the decisions within theaters are NOT made on the ground as often as they should be, or even as often as is reasonable or logical. Indeed, the marines even have an acronym for the actual decision-makers: REMFs (Rear Echelon Mo@#^& F*&$^%s). For example, if the portrait Kaplan paints is accurate, the Afghan campaign was going swimmingly (relatively speaking) when it was mostly "Little Army"--special Ops and small footprint units. This approach created ad hoc alliances which were effective at gathering intel and influencing the civilian population to ally themselves with "our side." Unfortunately, once that approach was successful enough, the "Big Army" moved in, left a huge footprint, alienated the population, and burdened its soldiers with so much bureaucracy and cumbersome rules of engagement that we lost a lot of our effectiveness. And now the Taliban is reconstituting and starting to wreak havoc again.
And that is, of course, a bit simplistic. But I could not help but think that the "grunts" had a better idea of how to execute the GWOT than the risk-averse old men with all the hardware on their chests.
Like I said, these are just preliminary thoughts. I'll have to let the whole thing percolate a little it before I get too committed to this position, but that's where I've been for the last few nights as I was finishing up the book.
So, by the way, when the President says "I listen to the Generals, and if the generals ask for more troops, I'll give 'em to 'em", I wish, just once, he would say "The other day I was talking to marine Captain John Smith outside of Samarra, and he thinks we should. . . , and you know what?, I think he's got a great idea. So here's what we're gonna do . . ."
If you want something good to read over the holidays, I can't recommend this book highly enough. Especially if you are someone, like me, who never put on the uniform.
More on this book later.
|Moving Soon . . .|
I've decided to find a new blog home. Actually, I decided about two years ago, but have been too lazy to do the necessary legwork to make it happen.
But now the good people over at ConservaBlogs have made some space available, and I'm happy to jump aboard. I'll provide all the links and such as I move in in the very near future.
Now, if they can just make my writing better . . . .
|Another Light Post|
It's a football day, I guess.
Well, if you can call what the Broncos did last night "football."
Jay Cutler's gonna be fine. But there's only so many times that ANY team will fall for that waggle play. And Cutler got himself hung out on the edge more than once last night. He also made a couple very nice passes--even the late touchdown, which was more run than throw, would not have materialized if Cutler hadn't gotten the ball out to the receiver on the sideline in nothing flat.
But, come to think of it, I don't seem to remember any big time efforts to get the ball far downfield. It kinda still looked like the Jake Plummer offense.
How can the Broncos run for over 150 yards and still lose? Five turnovers; some very stupid, undisciplined play, all around. And, some very uncreative play calling in the second half.
It's beginning to look like the biggest problem with the Broncos offense this year may actually be the guy down in Houston starting make David Carr look like a professional quarterback. Or, more clearly, the problem is that the offensive coordinator this year has become predictable.
I think we saw last night the end of the Broncos Super Bowl jouney for this year. Which is fine.
What I'm wondering is what else we've seen the end of. There are a lot of very smart people who think coaches lose their effectiveness after so much time--and let's face it: this team does not play with Shanahan-like precision. It might be time for a new voice . . .
|Is This Really That Hard?|
For several years, one of the chief arguments you hear in opposition to a BCS Tournament has been that the "student-athlete" has to get back to classes, and a tournament lengthens the post season and will interfere with their studies. Okay, fine; but . . .
This year the Fiesta Bowl--the Championship Game--is being held on January 9th. When I first learned to love college football, all the big Gowl games were held on January 1st--without exception.
So if we can go an extra eight days, why can't we back up a week, and do a three week tournament?
Three rounds, eight teams, seven games. This year, that allows Boise State to play into the game; it gives us a chance to actually answer the question of Florida or Michigan on the field; it would also let one of those very good one-loss teams from a smaller conference--say, perhaps, Louisville--try to prove their mettle on between the sidelines.
First round: Dec 23rd and 24th; second round: December 30th; Championship game: January 9th (extra days of preparation, better television slot). You could even keep the Bowl system intact: first round of Gator, Orange, Peach, and Cotton Bowls; second round of Rose and Sugar Bowls; championship in Tempe, AZ. And then rotate the second and final rounds from year-to-year.
Does anybody really think that the fans from each region won't flock to these games?
And even though I do feel vindicated in picking Florida for the Championship, I know that there's really only one way to prove who's best, and that's on the field.
|Not Exactly The Strongest Argument|
On the front of the Denver Post Editorial Page this morning is a one-sided defense of preschool, and, in particular, the recent voter-approved tax increase that will fund preschools for all eligible Denver children. The title of the article is "Value of preschool proven," but here are the statistics cited to justify that title:
The Perry Preschool Study done by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation is the longest running study of the impact of high quality preschool, having followed program participants through age 40.
When comparing the program group (children who received high quality preschool) with the no-program group (children who received no preschool), researchers found that 65 percent of the program group graduated from high school compared to 45 percent of the no-program group.
At age 40, 60 percent of the program group earned above $20,000 compared to only 40 percent of the no-program group. And 36 percent of the program group had been arrested more than five times, compared to 55 percent of the no-program group.
I'm not sure I would EVER use 65 percent graduation rate as a positive; nor would I consider $20,000 or a FIVE-ARREST minimum as useful benchmarks for any justification of an educational program.
Seriously. "Oh, really? Only 45% of your subject have been arrested at least FIVE times? Why, you must be so proud . . ."
You hear statistics like these, and the first question has to be "from where are you drawing your population?" And the second question has to be "do they live anywhere near me?"
I might suggest--however humbly--that the population of the study might have experienced far more positive long-term success in life if they had, in exchange for preschool, a strong father in their lives. Show me THAT study, then let's talk about a huge taxpayer expenditure.
|Media Hits and Misses . . .|
as in, "hit pieces" and "mis-representations"
Well, with the 2006 election a cold, dead husk, nearly a whole month past us now, I suppose it's time for the media to look to the future. Thus, the Denver Post puts on its front page today this piece: Allard may face roughest road yet
Unfortunately, as we've come to expect from the Post, this is little more than a piece attempting to define a Republican in terms that make him easy to beat.
Asked what he has accomplished in a decade in the Senate, Allard doesn t talk first about how he led the attempt to ban same-sex marriage, or how he pushed for billions of dollars for research into a missile-defense system, or how he pressed to improve the U.S. Air Force Academy s handling of sex-assault accusations.
He wants people to know he protected endangered fish.
When I first got into politics, I never knew that I would be in a position to get that much accomplished as far as improving the environment, he said.
Allard, a Republican with one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate, clearly knows the challenges he d face in 2008. His state tilted toward the Democrats in last month s election, and there s already a Democrat with a pro-environment bent in the race.
You know, it's not just the ironic, condescending tone leaping out of the second paragraph; it's that Anne Mulkern goes out of her way to highlight the controversial subjects Allard has been involved in.
And do you really think this was the first thing Sen. Allard brought up? Really? Yeah, me neither. Wouldn't you like to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation to see where that little quote actually came from?
The rest of the article is similar in tone: trying to paint Allard as either lazy or just unaccomplished, even intimating legislative plagiarism at one point. An excerpt:
Allard generally is perceived as a mild-mannered, affable lawmaker. There's less agreement on his record.
In his decade in the Senate, he has been a loyal vote for a number of conservative causes, from cutting taxes to protecting gun rights to limiting abortion. He has focused heavily on Colorado issues and has passed just one bill with a national scope.
Interesting that she would highlight the distincly one-sided nature of tax cuts and protecting gun rights.
At any rate, get ready, Colorado. The media, emboldened by its victories this year, will only get worse over the next two years.
Especially with the Presidency on the line.
|Media HitPieces and Miss-Representations|
In a tiny square at the bottom of the front page of today's Rocky Mountain News is this tease:
Surivor of Darfur finds hearts ache to help.
Darfur, eh? What's the problem in Darfur?
According to United Nations estimates, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced to refugee camps along the border of Sudan and Chad.
Of course, those of us who pay attention to the news at all know this already. Here's the laughable part of the story, though--and in the very next sentence:
As with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, news of this genocide has been slow to travel to the U.S.
Slow to travel? Yeah, you might say that. But I thought it was the job of the media to . . .oh, never mind.
Completely left out of the story is the complete fecklessness and uselessness of the world body which is most responsible for both highlighting such tragedies and for attempting to end them: the United Nations. Of course, there's this:
Britain and the United States have been pushing for the United Nations to take over the peacekeeping mission, and the African Union says it would be happy to stand aside. Sudan, however, will not allow a U.N. force on its territory.
In the meantime, the UN has plenty of time to highlight all the abuses--both perceived and misreported--of Israel. Israel, which acted with great restraint during the War with Hezbollah, gets called out for taking action to defend itself, but the government of the Sudan--Sudan!-- has a veto on UN action to stop a genocide.
That said, American inability or unwillingness to step in and do anything about this, and the similar slaughter in Rwanda in the 90s, constitute two of the greatest failures of the "world's only superpower." I'm not an expansionist, and I don't think we have to be the world's police force, but . . .
genocide is a different thing, and the acceptance of genocide anywhere, through inaction, makes the same such slaughter of anyone--say, the Kurds--a matter of debatable intervention. That is to say, if we won't step in and put an end to the slaughter by the Janjaweed, then it should not be a surprise to us when our desire to stop the slaughter by Saddam is not universally accepted.
And, sure, that was nowhere near the only reason for overthrowing Saddam, but it has been a huge humanitarian success story--and has gone completely unreported.
Not to mention that U.S. standing in the world as "moral arbiter" is an important role that America plays. And when we sit on the sidelines during something like Darfur, we lose an awful lot of credibility for action or influence elsewhere.
Why do I not similarly assail the U.N.'s credibility? Because they have none to begin with.
Here's a thought: if the Democratic Senate refuses to confirm John Bolton to the job of U.N Ambassador--him being the only meaningful reformer in Turtle Bay--then we should cancel the real estate deals with them, and tell them to move to Geneva. And further, we should then withhold at least--AT LEAST--half of our dues to that body so that we can fund the efforts we're making around the globe that the U.N. is unable to [of course, all assuming that these are, at least in part, responsibilities of the Executive Branch].
It does nothing for our credibility to be the host nation to such a useless organization. It's like if Mike Shanahan were to offer part of Dove Valley (the Broncos' training facility) to the Arizona Cardinals, with the hope that the Cards would play our games for us.