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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 14 December 2003

Topic: Photos

A rainy Sunday in Los Angeles, and these guys don't like it much...

Posted by Alan at 14:21 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Iraq

One more view on the question of the French - Should we "share" contracts with Old Europe now that Saddam Hussein has been taken care of?

James Taranto in his Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal: Best of the Web Today - December 14, 2003 regarding the comments of John Kerry:
On "Fox News Sunday," the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, elaborated: "Diplomacy is critical. You need to reach out here and bring other countries to the table. It's the lack of the United States' willingness to share the authority and responsibility that is keeping other countries from being involved."

Kerry has a rather blinkered view of diplomacy; he seems to equate it to "making nice with your adversaries."

Sometimes, of course, that's a wise thing to do, but this isn't one of them. This is a time for recrimination and finger-pointing! The French and others actively worked to obstruct the liberation of Iraq and keep this vicious tyrant in power. We didn't need their help, we did it without them, and rewarding them now would send precisely the wrong message to all the nations of the world. They must pay for their perfidy so that everyone else will know such betrayal has a price. That's diplomacy too.
Indeed, it is.

Well, we won a big one today - without anyone else's help at all. One knows some gloating is a natural reaction.

And he adds this:
Oh, and isn't it a sweet coincidence that Saddam's capture occurred on the third anniversary of Gore's concession?
Really? Today? Interesting.

Posted by Alan at 12:45 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Iraq

Saddam Hussein captured alive: other voices

From the Left - "DhinMI" on the site Daily Kos:
It's one of the most ignominious ends to a tyrant's freedom, almost as humiliating an end to his reign as when the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were dangled from a pole in the Piazza Loreto in Milan, like deer carcasses being bled out in a hunting camp. Saddam's done, and the world is a better place for it.

Clearly there will be celebrating by many in Iraq. But what's next? The U.S. officials haven't indicated what will be done with Saddam, but Ahmed Chalabi is already making declarations that Saddam will go on public trial before the Iraqi people. Will there be a public trial? Will the U.S. chose to keep Saddam quiet?

What about weapons of mass destruction? Now we've got the guy in custody, and he's probably beaten and demoralized. Maybe he'll be like Milosevic and stay defiant, but the early pictures don't show a man with the energy to maintain resistance. So he may be inclined to tell the truth about WMD. But is the truth what the Bush administration wants Saddam to tell?

And what about the continued attacks on American troops? It's hard to imagine Saddam was exerting much operational leadership over the attackers from inside a "spider hole" in which he barely had room to move around. The people attacking coalition troops don't appear to need Saddam around to tell them what to do, and their actions don't appear to be necessarily directed at restoring Baathist control over Iraq as much as evicting the occupying forces from their country. The biggest positive from Saddam's capture will probably be in eliminating the fear that he will return to power. That's a huge relief for many common Iraqis who may now be more emboldened to assist U.S. forces with intelligence about the resistance forces attacking out troops. There may also be less acquiescence by the general population to having the resistance forces move as effortlessly through the country. But it's too early to tell.

Capturing Saddam is good news (although not as exciting or important as would be news of capturing the guy Bob Graham called "Osama Bin Forgotten"). But capturing him alive might not have been the best news for the Bush administration.

There are many questions to be answered over the next hours, days and months, and it's not clear that anyone has the answers.
From the Right - Glen Reynolds at InstaPundit:
THE LESSON: Saddam's capture also shows the importance of patience, and of ignoring the kvetching of the Coalition Of The Pissy. While people bitched, the military just kept gathering intelligence and keeping Saddam on the run until he slipped and they caught him. And looking at the TV images, he seems docile, exhausted, and ready to be caught. That's the fruit not just of a single lucky break, but of the sustained campaign of keeping him moving.

Those who, frankly, would just as soon see the entire war as a failure, are ready to call anything short of perfection a failure. But persistence pays off. It's worth keeping in mind on other subjects.

Interestingly, the American public seems to have gotten that all along, as a pre-capture Gallup poll showing support for the war was already actually climbing in recent months makes clear.

So, on the one hand, he's caught (I assume by now it's clearly not one of those doubles), and that's likely to be a rather major blow to the "insurgents" -- though I rather suspect that some of that has been supported by Syria, Iran, and Saudi elements in the hopes of keeping the United States busy. With Saddam gone, though, it'll be harder for them to escape responsibility, which is likely to cause them to reduce their exposure in this area. That's unalloyed good news, unless we're looking for an excuse to invade Syria.

On the other hand, we're confronted with the question of what to do with Saddam. I've thought about this before, and the options seemed to break down this way: (1) Shoot him out of hand. Appealing for a variety of reasons, but not really our style, and obviously we decided against it. (2) Try him for war crimes ourselves. Potentially messy, and perhaps looking a bit imperialistic to some. (3) Turn him over to the Iraqis and let them try him.

The last is the most appealing for a variety of reasons, as long as we make sure that the process isn't in the hands of covert Saddam loyalists, which shouldn't be hard. On the other hand, he's likely to have some value in terms of information and cooperation, which might encourage people to want to cut a deal with him. That's tricky: He's a dreadful guy who deserves to be executed, probably via a plastic-shredder or some similar method, in light of his crimes. (A Mussolini-style ending probably would have been best, in my opinion). But he may offer enough to make his cooperation worthwhile, though letting him live, or go into exile (where would he go?) seems troublesome too, and offers him the possibility for future mischief.

I imagine that this has been given a lot of thought at the highest levels.
Lots out there on the web....

Posted by Alan at 10:08 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 14 December 2003 10:15 PST home

Topic: Iraq

Breaking News: Saddam Hussein captured alive (nothing else today will be covered in the media, of course)
A friend in Atlanta (Rick) writes:
I assume you've heard.

If not, turn on the TV. It seems they caught Saddam.

(Oh, well, there goes the election. Unless, of course, this guy turns out to be one of the twelve imposters that were never found either.)
I replied:
Yeah, I heard. I've been up since four. Damned cat walking all over me - she's bored? Hungry? Evil?

I watched a bit of CNN and all the rest. I might drift into the next room and catch Bush. I think he's speaking now.

Here's one reaction that seems right -

"But, it really doesn't change much. Capturing Saddam isn't going to end the resistance to the US occupation in Iraq. It may improve things slightly, or it could even make it worse, but the net effect will probably be negligible. Saddam was a bad guy, but it isn't clear he's any worse of a guy than some of the folks who are a part of our `Coalition of the Willing,' so this pretense of moral clarity, etc... is ridiculous.

"Saddam wasn't a threat to us. This was a war of choice and we made a bad choice (and many more bad choices subsequently). Kosovo was also a war of choice. Whether or not that was a bad choice, consider the disparity in the media coverage of those wars.

"And, cynical me just has to ask - who's the enemy now? The [neoconservative] base needs one.

"Did they really call it `operation Red Dawn?' Oy.
Rick replies:
Who said all that? I disagree to a degree.

So Bush is speaking now. I think he delayed it because he wanted his writers to come up with better soundbites.

I think Saddam being gone will affect some of the insurgents not at all. But of the "swing voters," I think the most likely to be moved will be those who were taking comfort in the fact that these big American conquerors couldn't catch him. I don't think many rebels will be moved to action by this. But yes, the war will go on.

The big question: They say he'll be tried by Iraqis. So what if they find him not guilty? Any chance he'll make a comeback?

So Bush is done. Another forgettable speech.
The source, by the way, was the anonymous "Atrios" - as the link will show you.

And now? Use the comment option below to suggest what comes next, or send an email via the "profile" page.

I need more coffee.

Posted by Alan at 09:41 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 14 December 2003 10:16 PST home

Saturday, 13 December 2003

Topic: The Culture

Observations of others...

"There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. I have never run my life that way. I believe that serendipity or fate or divine intervention has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I've been open to those twists and turns because I didn't have a long-term plan."
- National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on CNN, December 12, 2003.

Well, that explains a lot about the mess we're in.

"Mens sana in corpore sano is a contradiction in terms, the fantasy of a Mr. Have-your-cake-and-eat-it. No sane man can afford to dispense with debilitating pleasures; no ascetic can be considered reliably sane. Hitler was the archetype of the abstemious man. When the other krauts saw him drink water in the Beer Hall they should have known he was not to be trusted."
- A.J. Liebling, Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
Yep, that be Greek - "Healthy body, healthy mind." They didn't think it was a contradiction in terms. Well, trust the ancient Greeks on this, and Adolph? Curious.

Well, Hitler wasn't exactly welcomed in Paris way back when. Not his kind of place. Decent wine everywhere, and stinky cheese too.
"Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food."
- Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential
Vegans, a Hezbollah-like splinter-faction and the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit? Sanctimonious, sure. But the "enemy?" Indeed.
"Men who are accustomed over a long series of years to supposing that whatever can somehow be squared with the law is right - or if not right then allowable - are not useful members of society; and when they reach positions of power in the state they are noxious. They are people for whom ethics can be summed up by the collected statutes."
- Patrick O'Brian, The Reverse of the Medal
Well, I'll think about that.

Posted by Alan at 08:43 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 13 December 2003 20:22 PST home

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