Steven Den Beste responds to Walt Pohl's open letter to him, and ends up with a very well-written article addressing the fact that no, the impending war with Iraq is NOT about retaliation.

Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, but American involvement in WWII had nothing to do with revenge. Yes, many individual citizens were motivated by revenge, and on a political level that is what made war possible. But the US government got involved in the war to remove the danger we faced, and the primary danger was Nazi Germany.

and also:

But that's not the real reason. We are taking Iraq for the same reason we took Morocco: to use it as a staging ground for further operations in the overall war.

and my last quote:

That doesn't mean "Kill! Kill! Kill!" It doesn't mean we solve our problem with Arab failure by killing all the Arabs. If that was what we wanted to do, the war would have ended about a week after the September 11 attack, after which most of the Arab world would have been converted to radioactive glass.

Read the whole thing. Recall my earlier ranting about how this is really about the Whole Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, followed by Israel and Palestine. This is the direction we're heading towards.


morality in leadership

Anne Applebaum reminds us all:

If we remembered, truly remembered, why the Cold War was fought and how it was won, for example, we would know that it is unacceptable to alter our liberal democracy in order to fight the war on terrorism either at home or abroad.

It's the foundation of the philosophies of themic: inform your conscience, then follow it.

This is why we have strict rules of engagement. This is why we spend more money to make smarter bombs. This is why we encourage the world to unite together, but why we have to start a war nevertheless. And yes, it's not always easy.

Incidentally, this is why I have a greater and greater respect for President Bush. He may be nuts, he may be stupid, but dammit, he has convictions, and he will follow them until the dear end.

I care if our President's views differ from mine, but I'm more concerned that the President is a good man, and is following those views with his whole heart. You know what that inspires? Faith, people. FAITH.

FAITH means that if we do something we think is good and right, and we do it in the best and most moral way we can, then despite hurdels and speedbumps and even tragedies, we have contributed to making the world a better place, and the world WILL BE a better place.

I remember reading, a while back, an article on the popularity of Vladimir Putin. Asked a wide variety of questions about his policies, he consistently got 60 to 90% disapproval rates amongst the people of Russia. However, asked for an overall approval rate, he was getting 95%. Why the dichotomy? Something to the effect of "I don't have to agree with him to think he's doing a good job."

This is the core of what bothered me about Clinton, as opposed to Bush. Clinton (and Gore 2000) was more interested in public approval rate than in doing what was right. Well, at least he seemed that way. You got the feeling that he didn't know what was right, but he just wanted to be loved. This is the personality of an abused husband, a mousy father, inches from bitter resentment and capable of bursts of personal ego-driven irrational behavior. This is the personality of Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator.

Bush, on the other hand, honestly doesn't seem to give a shit what people think of him. Certainly the preparations for war aren't giving him approval raises. Most certainly the delay in waiting for the United Nations to figure out if they're going to say something isn't helping him either, at home or abroad. Although he ceratinly had approval ratings to spare, it's been a long time since I've seen someone so blatantly disregard them. Reagan and PATCO, maybe?

This belief in doing what's right is considered many things by different people. Christian Fundamentalism, Naivety, Foolhardy and Totalitarian. It is a series of insults founded on fear and an artificial air of superiority that popular media musters so easily when they lack the time or energy to properly debate.

Yesterday on NPR I heard an essay by a Lieutenant in the US Navy. He talked about his conversations with one of his best friends, after she returned from an anti-war protest. He observed that while he risks his life for his government and to help the afflicted people of Afghanistan and Iraq, he recognized that she risk incurring the wrath of the US Government. Both, however, believe they are doing what's right, and both deserve praise for that. And both should take a moment and an open mind to recognize the other.

I would praise Chirac for standing by his values, too, if I didn't have the distinct suspicion that he's not actually sticking to values. He's making a power play for France, for Europe (or at least a Europe led by France), purely for personal gain. This was shown most recently and most explicitly through his condescending and direct threats to Eastern Europe. Frankly, right now the honor and purity of heart is easier to see in those who are uniting, in the US and UK, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Eastern Europe. Not in France, Germany, Belgium, and Turkey.

As a disclaimer, it should be noted that I've traditionally valued the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan more than many. I recognize that they lean more towards the dangerous-levels-of-power than I should be comfortable with in a democratic government, but I view that as a flexibility of our democratic government to allow singular/elightened leadership when presented with it, and to rediverge the power when that leadership wanes.

-- brendan
Here's my take.

Looks like the game is getting interesting over there. After the vote against American troops based in Turkey, it'll be interesting to see how Turkey's role will play out in what looks like an inevitable war.

Turkey continues to insist they will be an invading force, as part of the coalition, and that they will indeed leave when the coalition leaves. It seemed like the real reason they didn't want American troops is because America was planning on not letting Turkish troops across the border, for fear of losing the support of the Northern Iraqi people and of having to babysit good guys and bad guys at the same time. There's a lot of history there. Even after extensive reading I feel I'm barely scratching the
surface of the complex interrelations in that region.

from OpenDemocracy:
The Kurds went ballistic. "Any Turkish intervention under any pretext would lead to clashes," thundered Hoshyar Zebari, veteran KDP head of foreign relations. "If Turkish soldiers come here, to Erbil, I will hate the Turks and the Turcomans. We will use what we have, even our lives, if we have to," said Nasreen Mustafa Sidiq, the Kurdish minister of reconstruction and development in Erbil.

No one should underestimate the importance of handling Turkey well, especially given the importance of post-war Iraq being a foundation for the reshaping of the Middle East.

This from the Telegraph:

The London-based Al-Zaman newspaper said that Gen al-Darraj told "indignant" relatives shortly before he died that he had been slipped a poisoned drink during the meeting at one of Saddam's presidential palaces.

Not to make light of a serious tragedy, but doesn't it seem just a bit James Bond-ish? Well, Mr. Scientist, perhaps you would like a sip of (ominous music) TEA, net to my tank of beauuuuuutiful (ominous music) SHARKS WITH LASERS?

I don't know if I believe this one.
OK it's been a while.

I know.