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Commentary
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, May 24, 2006

On the Blogosphere email list, I try to send out daily link round-ups, with topics varying from amusing videos to important news. Feel free to join — send an email to: Blogosphere-subscribe@yahoogroups.com — read and send interesting links of your own. Here are various links from today's email.

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Pat Robertson either has enormous leg muscles or no shame.
This month, we learn that Pat Robertson can leg-press...um....2,000 [pounds]! A Sports Illustrated columnist notes that the Florida State football record for leg-press is a mere...1,335 pounds.

Which means that either Pat Robertson is telling a fib to sell his delicious protein shakes, or Jesus is spotting him.

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Iraq war supporters have long focused on the insurgency — and especially on al Qaeda in Iraq — as a measure of how well we're doing in the Iraq war. That's a bad idea. Security in general is important to building the political infrastructure necessary for success, but progress against the insurgency is a very poor metric of the success or failure of Iraq, though.

The real question is not how we cope with the dead enders, but how we cope with the people wrestling for control of the machinery of government...
The [16th Brigade], a 1,000-man force set up by Iraq's Ministry of Defense in early 2005, was charged with guarding a stretch of oil pipeline that ran through the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dawra. Heavily armed and lightly supervised, some members of the largely Sunni brigade transformed themselves into a death squad, cooperating with insurgents and executing government collaborators, Iraqi officials say. [...] Unlike the others, the 16th Brigade was a Sunni outfit, accused of killing Shiites. And it was not, like the others, part of the Iraqi police or even the Interior Ministry. It was run by another Iraqi ministry altogether.
The answer, as it turns out, is "poorly". We have "created a galaxy of armed groups, each with its own loyalty and agenda, which are accelerating the country's slide into chaos". Whether they reach "chaos" or find a political accomodation is still an open question, but it's important for supporters of the Iraq war to recognize that the progress being made toward Iraqi democracyt can be erased in a second if the machinery of government is corrupted.

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The Quote of the Day from Greg Mankiw, who addresses Slate's "Bushism of the Day" feature:
Slate’s motive is to say “Look at how inarticulate George Bush is.” But even before I had ever met George Bush and become one of his economic advisers, I had the opposite reaction to these items. I always interpreted them as “Look how sophomoric and condescending we editors at Slate are.”

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Decision '08 observes of a Boston Globe article on Kerry's position vis a vis Iraq...
Kerry’s proposal calls for a Dayton Accords-like conference, to include the various Iraqi factions, the League of Arab States, Iran, Syria, and the rest of Iraq’s neighbors (among others), to try to forge a consensus on Iraq’s future; a redeployment of US troops to support roles; and then a withdrawal of US combat troops by year’s end.
...what can it possibly mean? The hope for Iraq lies in a summit and precipitious withdrawal - withdrawal that is telegraphed?
Indeed, it's generally a bad idea to enter negotiations by prostrating oneself on the floor. Nor is "not in the face!" a good signal to send one's enemies.

I don't recall the specific quote, but Henry Kissinger once observed that politicians usually called for multilateral negotiations when they had no ideas of their own. It's the diplomatic equivalent of "I got nothing. Whatta you guys got?"

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Meanwhile, on Iran: even if you assume that — between allowing Iran to go nuclear and attacking Iran — attacking is the lesser of the two evils, one would think that we'd be looking for a chance to avoid that pyrrhic choice. And — huzzah! — Iran is making the overtures. So why are we ignoring that opportunity?
Opposition by US “hawks” led by Dick Cheney, the vice-president, is complicating efforts by the main European powers to put together an agreed package of incentives aimed at persuading Iran to suspend its nuclear fuel cycle programme, according to diplomats and analysts in Washington. [...] Mr Cheney is said to oppose the notion of “rewarding bad behaviour” following Iran’s alleged breaches of its nuclear safeguards commitments. The hawks – who include John Bolton, the US envoy to the UN, and Bob Joseph, a senior arms control official – fear a repeat of a similar agreement reached with North Korea in 1994 which did not stop the communist regime from pursuing a secret weapons programme.
The solution to the legitimate concerns about Iranian compliance are two fold: (2) increased economic connectivity to give the West more leverage with the Iranian regime and the Iranian people, and (2) incentives conditioned at each step of the way with an extensive, transparent inspections process, so that the incentive mechanisms work at each step of the process.
 
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Comments
The solution to the legitimate concerns about Iranian compliance are two fold: (2) increased economic connectivity to give the West more leverage with the Iranian regime and the Iranian people, and (2) incentives conditioned at each step of the way with an extensive, transparent inspections process, so that the incentive mechanisms work at each step of the process.


Sure it didn’t work for North Korea, but THIS TIME IT WILL?! The connectivity thing was the basis, in part of Kissenger’s Detente with the USSR. Increased trade with the USSR and the West would entangle the USSR in a set of Lilliputian ropes, moderating and constraining the USSR. Well it wasn’t the TRADE that defeated the USSR, it was the economic exhaustion brought on by THE WEAPONS bought by the West. This is a variant of Cobden and the Manchester School, trade will "civilize" our opponents. It MIGHT, in the long-run, but in the short-run it just might allow the Iranians to complete a program FASTER and decide to use the weapons.

As to incentives and inspections...Uh Jon did you not notice that the UN had COMPLETE RUN OF IRAQ and yet Saddam managed to frustrate the inspection process? Why would this work better in Iran, a completely sovereign state undefeated in war and with it’s civil society and forces of repression in place? Again, it didn’t work in a defeat Iraq, but a similarly hostile Iran with far greater powers of resistance will allow meaningful inspections?

PLUS, incentives, usually work FOR the sanctioned... IF Iran does "X" they get "Y". SOunds good, what if they ambiguously comply or comply today, but TOMORROW begin to renege on the agreement? Will the West REALLY then cut off the increased trade with Iran, which benefits WESTERNERS, too? Is it not more likely that what will happen is that France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the PRC will say, "Close enough?", rather than lose out on increased sales to Iran or greater access to Iran’s oil? More than likely an incentives and sanctions program will lead to a faster disintergration of the weak coalition than effective curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

Bottom-line: the proposal SOUNDS nice, but doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny. This is akin to the fellow’s proposal that the US allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons, but threaten Iran with a NASTY retaliation IF they ever use them. In short, both reward Iran TODAY, but promise "stern actions" TOMORROW, if they don’t behave, but if we are willing to cave TODAY, why would Iran take our pormises of FUTURE action seriously?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Sure it didn’t work for North Korea, but THIS TIME IT WILL?!
Apparently, you are unaware that incentives conditioned upon verifiable cooperation with an "extensive, transparent inspections process" is exactly what the Agreed Framework lacked. So, yes, other than being exactly unlike the Agreed Framework, this is just like it.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
So in other words we just let them stall for more time?
 
Written By: Jordan
URL: http://
Well Jon did you note my critique of your incentives ideas?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
How, exactly, will talking to them let them "stall for more time" in a way that not talking to them will not?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Iraq war supporters have long focused on the insurgency — and especially on al Qaeda in Iraq — as a measure of how well we’re doing in the Iraq war
Really? I think this is bass ackwards- Iraq war supporters focus on milestones like elections, # of Iraqi forces ready to stand on their own, etc to measure how well we’re doing. It’s the anti-war crowd that focuses like a laser on the insurgency as the prime indicator of how badly we’re doing.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Whether they reach "chaos" or find a political accomodation is still an open question, but it’s important for supporters of the Iraq war to recognize that the progress being made toward Iraqi democracyt can be erased in a second if the machinery of government is corrupted.
Actually, the war’s supporters actually conflate the two. Stated another way, progress for the war’s supporters is measured by the number of Iraqi forces that "stand up" so that we can "stand down." The problem is that these forces are the militias. or those whose loyalties are to the militias and their associated clerics, not the national government.

The war’s supporters are operating with a 2004 mentality. They simply will not acknowledge that the insurgency, i.e., Sunni guerillas who want to kill Americans, are a very minor part of the problem right now. Indeed, have you ever heard Bush meaningfully discuss the problems identified in Flikins’ article? I haven’t. I really don’t think he understands the problems. Truly. They are complex, multi-layered problems and Bush is simply not equipped intellectually to deal with them.

As for finding accomodation, it’s not going to happen. The Sunnis will not accept persons with ties to the Shia militias to fill the unfilled cabinet posts - interior, defense, national security. And yet, it is going to take persons with such ties to root out the influence that the Shia militias have over the security forces.

Of course, had Bush not so completely screwed up in the beginning, i.e., had he established order in the beginning, the militias would not have come to be so powerful.


 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Well Jon did you note my critique of your incentives ideas?
The US already has unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran. We could offer to lower them, offer more economic incentives, etc. We probably cannot sanction them further without hurting ourselves as much as we hurt them. We just don’t have that much leverage.

At this point, our points of leverage with Iran are three-fold:

1) The threat of attack.

2) Various threats within Iraq, including empowering Iran’s enemies.

3) Alliances with Iran’s other neighbors.

And our ability to effectively do the last two is suspect. The effective incentive wrt Iran would be some combination of nuclear fuel provision, the gradual lifting of US trade barriers and very, very gradual security guarantees.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
How, exactly, will talking to them let them "stall for more time" in a way that not talking to them will not?
Straight from the horse’s mouth:
THE man who for two years led Iran’s nuclear negotiations has laid out in unprecedented detail how the regime took advantage of talks with Britain, France and Germany to forge ahead with its secret atomic program.
It should be obvious by now that we have 2 choices here:

1) A nuclear Iran
2) Airstrikes against Iran
 
Written By: Jordan
URL: http://
After witnessing what the US did to their neighbor, and the hat trick pulled off by Kim Jong Il, the permanent part of the Iranian government is more motivated than ever by one goal: regime survival. That means nuclear weapons. The junta knows that economic plums will do exactly nothing to move them toward their goal of survival, thus they play for time, so they dance as fast as we fiddle.

The only economic sanction that will stop them is an oil embargo, and then only temporarily as the Iranians adapt and learn to smuggle oil out of the country to Russia and China. This of course presumes that the west has the political will to put up with the even higher oil prices an embargo would bring.

We need to kill the mullahs. Or we can cross our fingers and tolerate an untouchable nuclear armed junta in Iran. This is the choice before us.

:peter
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
Really? I think this is bass ackwards- Iraq war supporters focus on milestones like elections,…
Still!?
Man, I stopped listening about milestones and turning points six months ago.

The cosmopolitan crew over at Martini Republic illustrate…
President George W. Bush, yesterday, May 1, 2006:

A new Iraqi government represents a strategic opportunity for America — and the whole world, for that matter. . . . This is a — we believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens, and it’s a new chapter in our partnership.

Vice President Dick Cheney, December 18, 2005:

It’s an Iraqi government elected by Iraqis under a constitution written by Iraqis. . . . I do believe that when we look back on this period of time, 2005 will have been the turning point . . .

President George W. Bush, December 12, 2005:

It’s a remarkable transformation for a country that has virtually no experience with democracy, and which is struggling to overcome the legacy of one of the worst tyrannies the world has known . . . . There’s still a lot of difficult work to be done in Iraq, but thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq.

President Addresses Nation, Discusses Iraq, War on Terror, June 28, 2005:

When the history of this period is written. . . . the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom.

Mrs. Bush’s Remarks at Conference of Women Leaders, March 8, 2005:

People in the Middle East and commentators around the world are beginning to wonder whether recent elections may mark a turning point as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, January 31, 2005:

The election is a victory for the Iraqi people. It’s a significant step forward for freedom and it is a defeat for the terrorists and their ideology. It marks a turning point in Iraq’s history and a great advance toward a brighter future for all Iraqis

President George W. Bush, January 29, 2005:

Tomorrow the world will witness a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom, and a crucial advance in the war on terror. The Iraqi people will make their way to polling centers across their nation.

President’s Remarks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 30, 2004:

Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell. America and the world are safer. . . . When it comes to fighting the threats of our world and spreading peace, we’re turning the corner and we’re not turning back.

President Bush, June 18, 2004:

A turning point will come in less than two weeks. On June the 30th, full sovereignty will be transferred to the interim government.

Remarks by the President to Military Personnel, June 16, 2004:

A turning point will come two weeks from today. On June the 30th, governing authority will be transferred to a fully sovereign interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, an American embassy will open in Baghdad.

Remarks by the President on Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 19, 2004:

Today, as Iraqis join the free peoples of the world, we mark a turning point for the Middle East, and a crucial advance for human liberty.

President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East, November 6, 2003:

We’ve reached another great turning point – and the resolve we show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, June 12, 2003:

The events of the last few months make clear that the Middle East is living through a time of great change. And despite the tragic events of the past few days, it is also a time of great hope. President Bush believes that the region is at a true turning point.
And they sum it up nicely,

There’s a name for it when you are continually turning. It’s called “spinning.”
I know I’m dizzy.
And there was another one on Monday.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Well, stepping stone to the future, just doesn’t have the same ring as turning point, now does it.

Neither does just saying they’ve reached an important milestone.

But since you are already convinced its a failure, it really doesn’t matter how you want to characterize the effort.

*****

As far as Iran goes, totally different ball of wax from North Korea.

North Korea is the most cut off country on the face of the planet. Without the support of China, they’d of collapsed years ago.

Iran still has plenty of life and connectivity to the rest of the world. Opening up a dialog would be a good step. No promises. Just start with dialog.

And aint it grand that the liberal/left-wing/progressive/democrats think now is the time to go uni-lateral. Oh, and with North Korea. But not with Iraq.

Their rules are confusing me? Or is it just, propose the opposite of what President Bush proposes???
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
The ostensible goal of negotiations is to talk Iran into giving up its nuclear weapons. However, the real goal should be to avoid to whatever extent possible, a cold war effect that would delay Iran’s evolution towards democracy by decades.

Only a ground invasion and occupation or a WWII-level continuous saturation bombing campaign can bring the nuclear weapons drive to a full stop. If those options are off the table, then there are two events that are very likely to happen in the next two decades: Iran obtains nuclear weapons, and Iran becomes a democracy. The goal is to have the second one as close as possible in time to the first one. Once Iran becomes a democracy, who cares about the nukes?

The nuke program and any associated sanctions/minor bombing campaigns are a valuable distraction for Iran, win or lose. Their goal is survival, and they survive. We’d be better off using carrots and sticks to prod Iran towards democracy.

Anyone notice how as soon as Israel pulled out of Gaza, Fatah and Hamas were at each others’ throats within six months? Moving out of a war footing with Iran is more of a threat to the regime than war itself, in the long run, save for all-the-way options.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Straight from the horse’s mouth:
It may be that we have only the two choices you list, but entering into negotiations will not diminish our choices at all. At worst, it will leave us at status quo ante. In the meantime, though it may ultimately be fruitless, negotiations are the best chance we have to avoid those two options.
Man, I stopped listening about milestones and turning points six months ago.
Absolutely. I thought for a time that the election of a unified government would be a "turning point", but it’s become apparent to me that the problems are not going away and there is no "turning point". In fact, it’s difficult to even determine a trend. The data is all over the board.

On the other hand, that applies to the dove side, too. For all their talk about Iraq going to hell, it has yet to happen. Iraq, to date, has been fairly resistant to predictions from either side.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It may be that we have only the two choices you list, but entering into negotiations will not diminish our choices at all. At worst, it will leave us at status quo ante. In the meantime, though it may ultimately be fruitless, negotiations are the best chance we have to avoid those two options.
We’ll just have to agree to disagree then. I think any chance we once had of avoiding those options has long passed, if it ever existed. The longer we delay military action, the closer Iran moves to going nuclear. They’ll never accept any kind of deal.
 
Written By: Jordan
URL: http://

 
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