Thursday, April 29, 2004

Well, the exam is over, class is done, and summer has now started.
I hope you all enjoyed writing about Washington and Wilson.
It was a fun class-- I really did enjoy the chance talk with you twice a week about the goings on of USFP. I plan to do some blogging over the summer, so keep in touch and post a comment and such, or just read along.

I actually watched that frontline special on Bush and his religion (link is in comments to previous day's post).
It was interesting--it gives you a whole new way to listen to and interpret what Bush says. He really is speaking a different langague than what I (and maybe you, but maybe not you) speak. We use the same words, but clearly, when he talks about the Axis of Evil, he means Evil in a biblical sense.
That, my friends, is the future of American politics.

The Marines are fighting the cleric al-Sadr's militia/army in Fallujah, but they appear to have a political deal where some sort of Iraqi army force will take over the city...

In Thailand, police forces killed over 100 fighters who attacked police stations, and its quite possible that the fighters were linked to fundamentalist separatists

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Finally, the internet is back and working at AU! what a fun time, nearly 2 days with no on-campus internet and no AU email. So it seems that all of you with non-AU email accounts are probably the smart ones, though its not like you could get to it with no WWW working.....
So, now that we have survivied that fun little episode....

The Iraq situation gets more and more interesting by the day. Negroponte is testifying before the Senate about how he would be ambassador to a country that he would essentially run. Brahimi is proposing a care-taker government that could do little to actually run the country for the year that its in office. It is, sadly, paving the way for a defacto US protectorate in Iraq. I think that this is where the Vietnam parallel is most strident-- you have a US ambassador, a huge US intelligence and military presence and US advisors in every ministry and department essentially running a country that is supposed to be sovereign. No wonder some Iraqis are begining to be skeptical of the US. Makes me wonder if some one in the Pentagon had essentially planned to hand things over to Chalabi (who is all over the place in the Pentagon's pre-war planning) and go home, allowing him to be the new "president" of Iraq. I have decided that I am no Chalabi fan.

Anyway, that is my thought on Iraq for the day.

See you all tomorow night at the study session-- there will be food, pizza, soda, and of course candy for me to toss out to you, all thanks to the center for teaching excellence.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

How about West Wing last night? It was a great discussion of Free Trade. It was, actually, a decent episode. They seem to have found thier footing again (there were some bad ones after Sorkin left...) and they got back to real issues, capturing the complexities of policy and politics in some really good TV.
It captured the free trade debate quite well-- real people lose real jobs while "the economy" gains a little bit more for everyone who is a part of it. Tough political choices.

So today we get to NATO and US / European relations. Ultimately, this is a question of who are your friends and how do you go about conducting global affairs. Throughout the Cold War, "Europe" was the critical ally for the US. You could even talk of "Europe" as a whole (despite the fact that its many different countries) because there was a political unity through the EEC and NATO. Now, Europe and the US have distinctly different visions of how to run world politics. The important question is how much of this is a conflict of style--George Bush is not popular in Europe--and how much of this is a more fundamental split that any US president would have to contend with.

The New Europe / Old Europe thing is from Rummy (he's a fountain of quotations). What New and Old Europe are, exactly, is up for debate and where NATO fits in all that is also a very important point for discussion.
So, in our last class debate, lets discuss!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I saw Woodward on Charlie Rose tonight, and the thing that I found most interesting was when they talked about how there was no case where the President, before invading Iraq, went to anyone with significant experience in war and asked, "what's the worst case scenario? Is this a mistake? Give me counterarguments so I can test my reasons." Even more surprising was Woodward's subsequent comments that he [Bush 43] did not even ask his father for any advice whatsoever, even though his father was a former president who had the unique experience of going to war against Iraq and would presumably have an insight or two. When Woodward pushed Bush [during the oval office interview] on this, Bush said, "No, that's not our relationship. I get my strength from a higher father." What is going on here? Does Bush need psychiatric help? I'm sorry, I do my best to be non-partisan, but this is unbelievable to me that such a monumental, world-changing decision could be made in this fashion.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

what a fun weekend for stuff to talk about.
the most obvious are the Post articles that stem from Bob Woodward's new book, which chronicle the inside the administration debate leading up to the Iraq war. The thrust is that Bush was looking at war significantly earlier than any of us in the public ever knew.
The series will be running all week.
It is amazing-- Woodward has hours of interviews with Bush, Rumsfeld, and all the key people. How does he do it? He's Bob Woodward, arguably the most influential and well connected journalist in town. I guess breaking the Watergate story will do that for you...

I know China is our formal topic, and we will discuss it, but this is so much more fascinating. I am amazed that Bush had set his course for war with Iraq in November, 2001, and told Rummy to start the war plans but didn't tell Condi about it. Didn't tell his own national security advisor about his plan to go to war?
Then what is she doing for him? Her job is to be the one he trusts to work these issues-- if he was dead set on it and didn't tell her, that isn't good for her.
Also, notice how central a role Cheney plays in all this....

So, that should generate plenty to talk about.

There's also a great story about Columbus, Ohio (my hometown) in the Post today, its all about the quest for votes in the ultimate swing state, the Buckeye!

Friday, April 16, 2004

This one's a must read....

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Out by June 30, huh? What do you guys think about the President's commitment?

I wanted to return to the point of the Sept 11 commission on which we ended class yesterday. An interesting point came up that I am not sure we had enough time to fully develop and discuss, so i wanted to provide a forum for it here.

The question was over the duality of the present testimony before the commission. The commission's official mission/goal and one that I believe that the members are honestly attempting to reach is to provide an in-depth accounting of what happened / led up to Sept 11 so that we as a nation can a) come to terms with it and find some closure and b) understand where and why we were blind to the signs that something was about to happen so we won't make that same mistake again.

However, there is a second, overlapping political game being played out through the testimony: Did the Bush Administration somehow mess up, either in the events leading up to the war on terror or in the response to sept 11 (afghanistan / iraq, etc). That game is one of the highest consequences because Bush has staked his re-election campaign on his reputation as a leader of the nation in war and crisis (cf his tv commercials that have pictures of ground zero in them). If this narrative is somehow discredited, Bush probably loses the election. If this narrative survives and is strengthened, (plus the economy rebounds), Kerry is probably toast. So, the stakes are high.

Here is where the "blame game" comes into play. Each side wants to "blame" the other for dropping the ball.
But (and this is where I think the importance of the "focus"/mindset point I made in class yesterday cannot be overstated), its only obvious now that elements of both the Clinton and Bush administration dropped the ball because we are looking at what they knew with a post-sept 11 lens. Pre-Sept 11, we, as a nation, just weren't thinking that way, and we didn't want our political leaders taking the bold steps to launch an offensive against terrorism.

Consider 2 things.
First, recall back in 1998/1999. Clinton was going through that whole "scandal" thing and there were the attacks on the two US embassies in Africa. Clinton responded by launching a number of cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan, targeting Al-Queda targets. At the time, he was lambasted for using the use of force to distract from his domestic problems. What we know now is that he probably should have done more, not less, but can you really see him launching such a significant operation while being impeached?

Second, check out this one potential alternative scenario (go down to the 4-9-04 entry in this blog).
Would the public likewise have supported a major military action against the Taliban in the opening days of the Bush Administration?
Its clear that the Bush Administration wanted to go after Iraq from the get-go (this is a well documented fact, people like Wolfowitz and Perle and such had been talking about it for years and years), but there was no public willingness to support an "easy sell" war in Iraq, let alone one in Afghanistan without provocation.

Post Sept 11, its an entirely different story, we have a very different way of looking at things and evaluating decisions.

But, at the time, back then, people couldn't see the importance of the CIA/State/FBI intel we had because it wasn't a top priority, it wasn't a realistic possibility in thier minds, and they saw the world in a fundamentally different way. That is the true power of Sept 11, i think.

But you are free to think otherwise.....

Saturday, April 10, 2004

What a fun day, I mowed my lawn and painted a room.
But, as you might have guessed, I have been paying attention to the Sept 11 commission investigation, and it has me fascinated, concerned, captivated, upset, and critical all at the same time.

As we move on to the topic of Homeland security, you can read, for the first time ever, a the President's Daily Brief, (or, for a cooler looking PDF version, click here), the single most important intelligence product that the community produces on a daily basis. Its the first thing the President reads each morning. Highly recommended to check this out, its the only time one might be made public ever.
This is the brief that Condi Rice refered to in her testimony before the commission investigatign Sept. 11.
The title, Bin Ladin plans attack in the US is stark and startling. The operative question is the obvious one: did the Administration react appropriately to this threat? Is there anything that they could have done differently?
Now, you can't go re-run history all over again. It is, for those of you who have been in my research methods course, a series of contingent processes. You might be able to come up with a plausible unfolding of events scenario in which the Administration stopped the 9-11 attack, but there is never any way to know if this was, more than a 1 in a million possibility.
The shocking and tragic thing, though, is that we seem to be learning that it was a possibility. How probable it might have been is another story.
For our purposes, several things are particularly interesting and relevant.

In her testimony, Condi repeatedly refers to the institutional constraints that prevented the government from really doing effective counterterrorism domestically. The DHS and Patriot act, which she cites, are the Administration's solutions to that. What she disputes is the issue that terrorism was not a major concern for the Administration in early - mid 2001.

Now, we can play "gotcha" with this all day long, but that doesn't make anything better (though it is fun, and will probably determine the outcome of the November election). What we can do that is important, though, is understand the working assumptions of the government pre and post 9-11, as well as the institutional structures of government pre and post 9-11.

So, this is starting to ramble, but such is the way it is when I type a lot.
I am more interested in what you have to say about Condi and the Adminstration's attempt to defend itself before the commission vs. Clarke and other's attempts to portray the administration as lax. How much should we focus on the working assumptions of government policy, how much on institutional structures of government, and how much on individuals who may have dropped the ball?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Ahhhh, people, people....
the war is back on, and yet no comments....
I would figure a flurry of opinion and posting given what is going on in Iraq yesterday, today, and probably tomorow and the next day too.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Its Iraq redux week, except for the fact that its not over.
It looks as if there are plans to send more people to Iraq, which is interesting.

So, was the war a good idea?

The fun question is--if we knew then what we knew now, would things be different?
Of course, we are finding out that we did know much of the stuff then that we know now, we just didn't pay attention to it--deliberately or not.
but that matters, of course, for had we listened to the State Department's post war planning and vision and not DoD's, we might have been ready for the looting and post war chaos.
but that is just one example.

what do you think?

Pro-Iraq war people and anti-Iraq war people can agree on a few things; namely, that over 600 American soldiers have been killed, over 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, over 100 billion dollars have been spent, international law has been violated (even Bush does not dispute this), and we have damaged relationships with allies. I think that both sides admit to the previous statements. Where I think that they differ is that the pro war people think that the war was worth the price (in dollars, lives, etc.) for a number of reasons including the freedom of the Iraqi people, the chance to establish a democracy in the Middle East, and the opportunity to remove a dictator who may have, in the future, abetted terrorists or threatened the United States. If you assume that the last three statements are true (i.e. the Iraqi people are now free, there is a democracy, and terrorism has decreased), then the debate is just about whether it all was worth the price, and that is a difficult debate to have. I think the real debate is whether those three assumptions are true; that is:
1. Are the Iraqi people more free?
2. Is there going to be a stable democracy that could transform the region?
3. Has this war helped the fight on terror or has it hurt it?
In my personal opinion, I would challenge all of these assumptions, especially 2 and 3. I don't think there is going to be a stable democracy anytime soon; it seems to me like Iraq is a chaotic mess with rival factions who hate each other and hate the U.S. even more. Even if fair elections were to be held, do you really think the U.S. will stand by the appointed leader even if it is not to the Bush Admn.'s liking? Regarding point 3, I think this invasion has probably made us less safer because not only is Iraq a new home for al-qaeda when it wasn't before, but I believe that this attack has inflamed world opinion and has helped to create more terrorists. On the first point about the Iraqi people, I haven't been to Iraq, so I don't really know how their life is, but I don't think we can necessarily assume that their life without Saddam is better. I know Saddam tortured and gassed some people, but for the average Iraqi, we have destroyed much of their infrastructure (e.g. water, electricity) and therefore are making their daily lives harder. That is my opinion on the three points, but I could be wrong (I think it's hard to know for sure without really being there)and I invite dissenters to disagree with me. In summary, I think that our debate should be about those three points and not about whether the price of war was too high or not too high.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

So we are onto Iraq week. Should be a fun week!
The question for monday is about the media.
The coverage of the was was exceptional--when have you ever had live footage from the front. I was captivated by it, staying up late into the night to watch MSNBC and CNN beam back live footage of the 3rd ID rolling through the desert and then hear former generals like Clark come on and comment on how well (or not) we were doing.
But, in this vast media frenzy of live embeded coverage, we were well served by the media?
Much was made of the case for war, but little was done to pick it apart at the time-- an now, we are learning, the case deserved much more scrutiny than it was originally accorded.
What should the Media's wartime role be? Should it question the government? Is doing so part of its public mission or is it divisive? Can the media undermine a war effort, or does its gaze help the public relate to the government?
Iraq was so unique in that we watched the invasion live, on TV. We watched the case, the diplomacy, and the war.
Were you sold a bill of goods, were you just a bad consumer, or are people just too harsh on a media and government trying to make the best of a tough situation?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I'm a Dan Brown fan (he's the guy that wrote the Da Vinci Code) and I would recommend two of his earlier books that pertain to the stuff we talked about in class today. Digital Fortress is all about the NSA and the issue of civil liberties and unbreakable codes. Deception Point is all about the NRO and NASA. Even though they are fiction, I think that it is well researched; people in the know have said that his description of the agencies is pretty realistic, and there are lots of interesting pieces of trivia about technology and weapons and other stuff. I have a question about the image intelligence. How is it being used in the hunt for bin laden? Is the only reason that we haven't spotted him because he has been in a cave for so long? I would assume that we have the whole area where he might be under surveillance. Maybe not, though, I really don't know. If any of you know stuff about this, I would be interested.

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