Saturday, March 29, 2003

We may not agree on everything, but at least Josh Chafetz and I agree on Scotch.
And that, after all, is the really important thing.

Over at OxBlog, David takes on the critics of the Oxford Democracy Forum. Since he both clarifies (for, it seems, the umpteenth time) OxDem's principles, and also goes on the attack against its liberal critics, I feel I ought to weigh in -- after all, I'm both a supporter of OxDem, AND one of its liberal critics. (This is, of course, typical.) (I hasten to add that I'm not one of OxDem's supporters with a 'perfect Democratic voting record', unlike David, having voted for both Republicans and Social Democrats, USA at various points. Again, typical.)
My main problem with David's post is his suggestion that OxDem is more truly and consistently committed to liberal principles than its liberal critics are. Now, in some cases, I've certainly found this to be true -- there are some who are suspicious of OxDem, as they are opposed to the war, at least partly due to anti-American, or anti-Western, or Leftist prejudices -- which assume that no good can come of Western, or Republican, action, and regard internally imposed despotism as better than democracy brought about from without. But there are others of us who are quite as dedicated to liberal principles as Mssrs. Adesnik and Chafetz, and still find ourselves feeling a bit dubious, even queasy, at some of their statements. It's not a matter of commitment; its a matter of diagnosis. I, for one, am I think rather more pessimistic about the likely effects (as well as course) of the current war, and the likelihood of the US and other forces surmounting the formidable obstacles to establishing a functioning democracy in the war's aftermath (See just about every post I've written over the past several days ...)
And this, in turn, reflects a larger philosophical and temperamental difference, which goes beyond, and I suspect at the least informs, and perhaps dictates, our differing perceptions of the present moment. Josh and David, while hardly head-in-the-clouds idealists, do seem to have a far greater faith in the US's ability (if not its will) to re-make the world for the better, than I do. Reading their posts, talking to them, I'm both heartened, and worried, by a certain tone of self-confidence, both individual, and collective (whether that collectivity be the US, or pro-democracy thinkers and activists world-wide). This self-confidence is not wholly unfounded: Josh, Dave, and their allies and comrades-in-ideas are as smart as they are good and well-intentioned. But, for a liberal pessimist such as myself, it still seems like more than is merited. In these times a steadfast, decisive, hard-headed but ardent commitment to liberal and democratic principles is called for; but so is a saving measure of humility, scepticism, a recognition of our limitations, and of the often essentially and unavoidably unpredictable, complex, and even tragic nature of all human life and endeavour.
OxDem is an organization that goes well beyond the current war, or the cause of democracy in Iraq. It is a principled, independent, serious and well-informed organization, committed to ideals and goals that we should all cherish. As such, I welcomed its founding, voiced my support of it early on, and will continue to support it. Such support (in my own idiosyncratic understanding of the term) includes a voicing of disagreement. Democracies need friends rather than flatterers; and so do those who seek to promote democracy.

The WS Journal has a very good -- and very dispiriting -- piece on the history of attempts to intervene, militarily, in the Middle East. Two quotes which give a flavour of the overall impression the article leaves -- and which seem like words of wisdom to me:
"Unless the Americans are far more subtle than they've ever had the capacity to be, and more subtle than the [colonial] British, it's going to end in tears," predicts Faisal Istrabadi, an Iraqi-born lawyer in Michigan who has worked with the State Department on plans to rebuild Iraq's judiciary. "The honeymoon will be very brief."
"We tend to overlook a basic rule: that people prefer bad rule by their own kind to good rule by somebody else," says Boston University historian David Fromkin, author of a 1989 classic on colonialism's failures in the Mideast called "A Peace to End All Peace."

Kanan Makiya has a very good piece on 'de-Ba'athification' in his TNR War Diary. I agree with Makiya's presentation of the problem, and the plan for de-Ba'athification that he's helped to draw up, as he presents it, sounds wise and potentially effective -- I hope our government stops dithering or, worse, diregarding the advice of the Iraqi opposition, and helps to implement it.
I would emphasize one thing in addition to what Makiya writes. Last night on the NewsHour, David Brooks made what I thought was a very good point: the Bush administration, he asserted, has underestimated (one is tempted to say misunderestimated -- indeed, the administration, for all the gloating of some of its supporters, seems to 'misunderestimate' rather more than it is 'misunderestimated') the grip of the Ba'athist regime by approaching it as a tyranny -- a mere oriental despotism, if you will (not Brooks' words) -- when it is, in fact, a totalitarian system. This must be kept in mind when preparing for the difficult post-war period, including de-Ba'athification. This means that de-Ba'athification is both terribly urgent, and doomed to at best incomplete success. The strength of a totalitarian system is that, while rigidly controlled from the center, is retains its power by spreading its influence, its control, the infection of its propoganda and ideology, everywhere, both through institutions, and organizations, and surveilance and control of the entire population. It is therefore hard to shake-off, and remove; and even once removed, its influence lives on. De-Nazification -- in many ways a model of how to deal with the legacy of totalitarianism, as Makiya recognizes -- was a very incomplete process: in Germany, and still more in Austria, many who had been in league with the Nazis -- sometimes prominently -- retained, or were able to soon return to, power in various sectors of society. So, too, in Eastern Europe, even after the internal collapse of the Soviet Union and its Communist satellites (witness the fact that Russia is headed by a former KGB man, the outpouring of nolstalgic Stalinism by many in Russia in response to the recent anniversary of Stalin's death -- and the fact that Poland, one of our staunch East-European allies, which has contributed troops to the war effort, is currently governed by a Post-Communist government).
All the more reason to take de-Ba'athification seriously, to put considerably fore-thought and effort into it -- and to not have the same unrealistic expectations of it that many seem to have had about the war.

‘If you use violent methods the result will almost invariably be totally different from what you intend. Why? Because too much is unknown – not because you are wrong. The abuses are abuses, the tyranny is a tyranny, it should be stopped, it can be stopped; but if the measures are too violent – that’s to say, if you believe in the possibility of a total or even three-quarters transformation of society by organised means, if need be by violence, you will find that you’ve heaved up forces of whose existence you were probably not aware, which will in some way frustrate your designs and produce something maybe better than there was before, but not what you wanted.’ -- Isaiah Berlin talking to Michael Ignatieff about the French Revolution, November 1989

Friday, March 28, 2003

Differing POV's on how the war's going: It's not that bad, opines Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings, in the NY Times. Oh, yes it is, reports Thomas R. Ricks in the Washington Post. It's just the latest example of Cheney and co's irresponsible and overweening self-confidence, asserts Paul Krugman, back at the Times.

I'm inclined to agree with -- all of them. I do think that the war is going to last longer than many anticipated, and turn increasingly nasty and bloody. I've thought this all along, and I'm rather surprised that other people are surprised by this. And, like Krugman, I'm deeply disturbed, though, again, not surprised, at the over-confidence of many in the administration -- an over-confidence that O'Hanlan also notes, and very quickly dismisses before moving on.
O'Hanlan does, on the other hand, point out that we can still beat Saddam. Again, I never doubted it. But I do think that he too breezily glosses over the danger posed by the Republican Guard and, still more, roving bands of fedayeen -- and their ability to cause tremendous problems for the coalition forces, and tremendous suffering for the Iraqi people, by using conscripts and civlians as "human shields" (to coin a phrase). I also think we need to be prepared for these troops, and the Ba'ath leadership, to fight to the death -- their own deaths, but also those of scores of coalition troops and Iraqi civilians, as Amatzia Baram argues in the Times.
Does this mean the war was a mistake? Not necessarily; merely that the American people -- and, perhaps, the American government -- might have gone in with too little a sense of what the cost would be. Does this mean we should pull out? No, a thousand times no: we've started this thing, and now we need to finish it; to stop now would be a disaster for the US's standing in the world, our national spirit, our ability to fight terrorists and despots in the future. And it would be a(nother) betrayal of the Iraqi people whom, having subjected to bombing and sieges, we now have a responsibility to liberate, feed, and heal. That we will do so, and that we will win, albeit with great difficulty and many losses, are not negotiable.

Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the neo-conservative movment (though, hey, some of my best friends are neo-cons) -- it strikes me as all too often all too sure of its own rectitude and ability to re-make the world in its own image, too intellectually arrogant and aggressive and nationalistic and even Utopian (lately I've been reminded that most of the first generation of neo-cons started out as Trotskyites; it still shows in the mindsets of their spiritual -- and sometimes literal -- children), and too uncritically and pugnaciously supportive of Israel. BUT (you knew that was coming ...), the neo-cons are at least a thoughtful, intelligent, well-informed bunch, driven in most cases by genuine principle -- and those principles, while I may disagree with the way they are conceived and applied, are ones I'm sympathetic to.
So, I have to cheer at the latest neo-con onslaught on the so-called paleo-conservatives. (The latter are NOT the old Bukley-Kendall-Kirk traditionalists of the 1950s, as I originally assumed, but rather the Buchananite populist, xenophobic far-right). And, thus far, the neo-cons seem to be scoring all the points -- thanks largely to their opponents. When people accuse you of being motivated by anti-semitism, it is perhaps unwise to reply, as Buchanan did, that the neo-cons represent a Jewish "cabal" that is "colluding with Israel." (Anti-semitic? Him? Nah!) And here's some more of Buchanan's non-anti-semitism:
"Their publications include the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the New Republic, National Review, and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Though few in number, they wield disproportionate power through control of the conservative foundations and magazines, through their syndicated columns and by attaching themselves to men of power."
I see. So, the neo-cons -- many of whom happen to be Jewish -- control the media, wield financial power (through control of the conservative foundations), and attach themselves to men of power (well, at least he didn't actually call Frum a court Jew).
Gee, why don't Buchanan and friends just go the whole hog (tref pun intended), and start reading aloud from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on MSNBC?

More on Moynihan: At OxBlog, Patrick Belton (with the addition of whom the already terrific OxBlog has gotten even better) has a great tribute to the late senator (and he actually manages to find his own words to honour Moynihan!). There is also a touching, as well as charming, reminiscence of Moynihan the man by Bill Kristol in the Weekly Standard. (And, if Bill Kristol and I both agree that Moynihan was a great man, you know it has to be true.) There's also a short but stirring letter honouring the Senator in the Times -- note, appropriately, the use of Latin.

Opposing protestors shout slogans at one another: Ah yes. The Yale I love. Reasoned debate at its best.
Seriously, though: granted, like most protests (in my opinion), both the Yale Students for Democracy's pro-war rally and the reactive anti-war rally were long on rhetoric, short on reason. Fine. But the claim on the YSD side that anti-war protests strengthen Iraqi resistance, and thus cost American lives ... I'm sorry: no. This is moral blackmail, and what's worse, it's moral blackmail based on faulty reasoning. The Iraqis don't care all that much about American anti-war protests, so far as I can tell. Saddam, his henchmen, and his loyal Republican Guard troops are convinced that they can win, and are dedicated to going down fighting if they can't, regardless of American public opinion, or overwhelming American military superiority, or anything else; they cut their ship's mooring to reality (this bad metaphor brought to you on behalf of Josh Chafetz) long ago. As for the rest of the people of Iraq, they'll keep fighting because they have Republican Guard guns pointed at the back of their heads.
Now, when anti-war protestors seek to actively obstruct the war effort by trying to interfere with the operations of military bases, though their actions probably aren't very succesful, we can rightly accuse them of at least intending to make things harder for our troops -- and thus to prolong a war which everyone should hope ends as soon as possible. But to argue that merely voicing opposition to the war is tantamount to harming US troops is most likely incorrect, dishonest, morally bullying, and, in short, utterly beneath the level to which the pro-democracy movement (of which I count myself a member) should adhere.
So, contra OxBlog -- bad work, guys.
CORRECTION: It's occured to me that the above fails to make a key distinction between the arguments of one member of Yale Students for Democracy, and the whole organization. So, I withdraw and apologize for the criticism of YSD as a whole -- while continuing to stand behind my criticism of the particular argument voiced by one speaker, under their auspices.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a great American (and my beau ideal of a politician) has died. I'm reminded of a (rather over-blown) newspaper eulogy for Henry Clay, another great Senator:
"Who can realize that never again that majestic form shall rise in the council-chambers of his country to beat back the storms of anarchy which may threaten, or pour the oil of peace upon the troubled billows as they rage and menace around? Who can realize, that the workings of that mighty mind have ceased -- that the throbbings of that gallant heart are stilled -- that the mighty sweep of that graceful arm will be felt no more, and the magic of that eloquent tongue, which spake as spake no other tongue besides, is hushed -- hushed forever! Who can realize that freedom's champion -- the champion of a civilized world, and of all tongues and kindreds and people, has indeed fallen! Alas, in those dark hours, which, as they come in the history of all nations, must come in ours -- those hours of peril and dread which our land has experienced, and which she may be called to experience again -- to whom now may her people look up for that counsel and advice, which only wisdom and experience and patriotism can give, and which only the undoubting confidence of a nation will receive? Perchance, in the whole circle of the great and gifted of our land, there remains but one on whose shoulders the mighty mantle of the departed statesman may fall -- one, while we now write, is doubtless pouring his tears over the bier of his brother and his friend -- brother, friend ever, yet in political sentiment, as far apart as party could make them. Ah, it is at times like these, that the petty distinctions of mere party disappear. We see only the great, the grand, the noble features of the departed statesman; and we do not even beg permission to bow at his feet and mingle our tears with those who have ever been his political adherents -- we do [not?] beg this permission -- we claim it as a right, though we feel it as a privilege. Henry Clay belonged to his country -- to the world, mere party cannot claim men like him. His career has been national -- his fame has filled the earth -- his memory will endure to `the last syllable of recorded time.'

And of Clay's admirer, Abraham Lincoln's, words on his own beau ideal:
"Mr. Clay's predominant sentiment, from first to last, was a deep devotion to the cause of human liberty -- a strong sympathy with the oppressed everywhere, and an ardent wish for their elevation. With him, this was a primary and all controlling passion. Subsidiary to this was the conduct of his whole life. He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous."

Rest in peace, Senator; you will be sorely missed, and long remembered.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Kanan Makiya has another important reflection on the war (which I've resolved to stop covering in any detail -- the media does quite enough of that, and I have work I should be doing) in TNR, which I recommend heartily. As does Josh Chafetz, who however takes issue with Makiya's criticism of the Bush administration for not offering a detailed plan on how to bring democracy to Iraq. I in turn think Josh "a bit off" on this (actually, I KNOW Josh is a little off on this, I'm just not sure each one -- Chafetz, I like to think, but who knows?) Makiya is, I think, concerned not only or even so much because the Bush administration hasn't set out its own vision for what an Iraqi constitution should look like -- which, as Josh says, is something the Iraqi people ought to have a say in -- but with the fact that the administration, at least in Makiya's account, hasn't really said anything about Iraqi democracy, other than that they support it -- which isn't saying much. Even if the shape of Iraqi democracy is decided largely by the Iraqi people in the aftermath of the war, the administration should be thinking about how to do this -- how to mediate between different factions within Iraq, how to support, or sponsor, or supervise, the drafting of a constitution, how to transfer power to an elected Iraqi government, how to balance the demands of letting the Iraqis rule themselves and preventing the Iraqis from killing one another. It also seems a bit unfair to suggest that Makiya is motivated by a desire to have power placed in the hands of the (itself deeply fractured) exile community (or, really, communities), given that in his last piece for TNR he published an e-mail to his fellow exiles urging them to give up their desire to run the whole show, and to work with -- and accept the demands of -- those in Iraq itself -- i.e., to accept the demands of democracy.
Now, my question for Makiya, is: what does he make of the reports of other Iraqi exiles, who have been living in Jordan are now returning to Iraq to fight -- against the Americans? (This according to MSNBC -- who knows if it's true?)

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

This story about a high school teacher being suspended for skinning a coyote in front of his students, thus exposing them to rabies, (link courtesy of OxBlog; why is Josh reading the filler articles in the NY Times? Doesn't he have thesis and saving-the-world work to do?) reminds me of high school.

Ok, I should explain that. In high school (Highland Park High School in lovely Highland Park NJ, to name names) I had this crazy science teacher (who shall remain nameless -- but he was also the lead singer for a punk-rock band called the Fred Mertz Experience. Really. I'm not making this up. High school was such a strange time ...) who lived out in rural Pennsylvania, in a large octagonal dome consisting of a metal frame covered with foam rubber, which he christened the foam dome and which looked like a giant soccer ball (again, this is true -- I COULDN'T make this stuff up), and was an avid hunstman, and would sometimes bring things he'd killed into class to dissect. I can only remember dissecting fish he caught, though. But he also used to talk about picking up road kill on the road -- one gets a lot of stupid deer between rural Pennsylvania and NJ, I guess -- and taking home and cooking it. He was also the girls track team coach, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, one day my friend Ben (who, when last I heard from him, was doing theater at Drew University. Wonder where he is now ...) was walking across the school parking lot before school, when he ran into said punk-rocker, foam-dome dwelling teacher, who, with his usual crazed grin, motioned Ben towards his car. 'Uh, what's up, Mr. P---s?' asked Ben (ok, the dialogue is largely conjectural). 'Here, Ben, there's something I want to show you' 'Uh, ok.' So Ben goes up to Mr. P---s' truck, and Mr P---s opens up the trunk to reveal -- a dead deer under a blanket that he'd picked up on the road over.'
'I'm gonna cook it -- gonna make a stew!' said Mr P---s, beaming maniacally. Or so Ben later told us in homeroom.

Ah, those were the days. Life was so simple then.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Michael Ignatieff has an excellent (and, for a change, short!) piece in the most recent NY Times Magazine, most of which I agree with. For example, he seems to me exaclty right when he writes that:
"In fact, the debate over war is not so much a clash of competing moral identities as a battle within each of us to balance competing moral arguments. "
"Who seriously believes 25 million Iraqis would not be better off if Saddam were overthrown? The issue is whether it is prudent to do so, whether the risks are worth running.

Evaluating risks is not the same thing as making moral choices. It is impossible to be certain that improving the human rights of 25 million people is worth the cost because no one knows what the cost will be. Besides, even if the cost could be known, what the philosophers call ''consequential'' justifications -- that 25 million people will live better -- run smack against ''deontological'' objections, namely that good consequences cannot justify killing people. I think the consequential justifications can override the deontological ones, but only if the gains in human freedom are large and the human costs are low. But let's admit it, the risks are large: the war may be bloody, the peace may be chaotic and what might be good in the long run for Iraqis might not be so good for Americans. Success in Iraq might win America friends or it might increase the anger much of the Muslim world feels toward this country.
It would be great if moral certainty made risk assessment easier, but it doesn't actually do so. What may be desirable from a moral point of view may be so risky that we would be foolish to try. So what do we do? Isaiah Berlin used to say that we just have to ''plump'' for one option or the other in the absence of moral certainty or perfect knowledge of the future. We should also try to decide for ourselves, regardless of the company we keep, and that may include our friends, our family and our loved ones."
"Just as in Vietnam, the debate over Iraq has become a referendum on American power, and what you think about Saddam seems to matter much less than what you think about America. Such positions, now as then, seem hopelessly ideological and, at the same time, narcissistic. The fact is that America is neither the redeemer nation nor the evil empire. Ideology cannot help us here. "
"In the weeks and years ahead, the choices are not going to be about who we are or whose company we keep, or even about what we think America is or should be. The choices are about what risks are worth running when our safety depends on the answer. The real choices are going to be tougher than most of us could have ever imagined."
I copy all of this out here, because I think what Ignatieff says is right, and important, and I couldn't have put it better myself. On the other hand, I'm a bit more concerned than he seems to be about the company one keeps. Yes, one might, and perhaps should, support the war despite not agreeing with -- indeed, despising (in my case) -- the Bush administration's other policies (and the Bush administration itself). And one might, and perhaps should, oppose the war, and be vocal in one's opposition, despite disagreeing with -- indeed, despising (in my case) -- many of the hard-core leftists who dominate much of the anti-war movement. But only up to a point. At some point, if one believes that the Bush administration is incapable of, or unwilling to, wage a war that will really be directed to, or succesful in, fostering democracy and human rights and international security -- that, while there could be a good war against and for Iraq, the Bush administration will in fact wind up waging a bad war -- one must, for all one's opposition to Saddam, cease to support the war. And, if one believes that the anti-war movement is blinded by an ideological anti-Americanism, and is morally bankrupted by its failure to propose an effective way of dealing with Saddam's terror at home and potential threats to the region and the world, one must disassociate oneself from the anti-war movement --and, if not embrace or support the war, at least acknowledge that no other solutions are likely to be viable.
Ignatieff is, I think, arguing for a recognition of moral complexity. Such a recognition sometimes leads to a recognition of the necessity of making compromises, and joining in alliances with those with whom one strongly disagrees. But that same recognition also sometimes leads to a recognition of the futility, or intolerabilitly, of certain compromises, and the impermisability of certain alliances. It also leads, all too often, to the recognition that we cannot tell, easily or with certainty, when we should compromise, and when we should refuse to compromise.

The NY Times Week in Review has a piece on Tony Blair, which describes how, despite all the damage he's suffered due to his support for Bush and the war, his stature has actually risen. Whether this actually proves to be the case depends, of course, on how the war goes; if either it becomes too costly and drawn-out for the British public to stomach, or if coalition forces fail to turn up evidence of WMD in Iraq, Blair's career will most likely be over. However, no matter what happens, he has I think demonstrated a (currently) unrivalled political courage, articulacy, conviction, and vision; and for that I hope he'll be recognized by history.
Perhaps the US might follow the example of Winston Churchill, and make Blair an honorary US citizen? I think he's earned it.

There's an interesting piece on the new imperialism in the Boston Globe. It lumps together a lot of stuff, much of it interesting but none of it as fully developed as it might have been. For example, there is the observation that many proponents of the project of a new American (or Anglophone) empire are, in fact, not American-born -- many are British, and there are an awful lot of Canadians. This brings up the point that oftentimes the most ardent proponents of empire actually come from the provinces, the borders of the empire in question, the periphery. This, of course, was a fruitful observation made both by Isaiah Berlin (who, in addition to citing Napoleon -- as the article does - also cited Hitler, whom the article, interestingly, does not), and by the great historian of Romen, Ronald Syme (interestingly, Berlin was a Russian-born Jew, Syme a New Zealander, both of whom wound up becoming Oxford institutions in their own right).
One point which the article neglects, though, is the distinction between those -- Michael Ignatieff, for example -- who say, look, America is becoming, or has become, an empire; this is a mixed bag, but we should acknowledge it, and try to restrain the worst aspects of imperialism while seeking to make America's power and reach a force for something beyond empire, namely, democracy and human rights -- and those who beleive that America SHOULD be, or build, an empire, because it has a civlizing mission, or is culturally or morally superior. The difference is between a pragmatic, reluctant, cautious attempt to come to grips wtih empire, and a missionary, utopian embrace of empire.
The latter is, in my view, wrong, and dangerous, and scary. As is the evident nostalgia by many of those quoted for the good old days of the British empire. That empires generally rest on the repression, whether brutal or merely humiliatingly paternalistic, of various native populations (as Berlin, once again, realized -- his writings on the humiliations inflicted by paternalism, and the subsequent lure of nationalism, really ought to be read by some of today's more self-assured self-appointed saviours of the world), and that the British and French adventures in empire-building (as well as the still more brutal, if far smaller, Belgian one) ended in ignominy and have bequeathed violent tensions and resentments that continue to fester around the world (something that a recent article in the NY Times convincingly argues), seems not to have occured to these new, self-proclaimed heirs to 'the white man's burden.' Pity.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

The round-up on today's war developments from the NY Times -- things are getting ugly.
The reports suggest that the Iraqi military -- by using civilians as 'shields' and disguising its troops as civilians, in order to ambush coalition forces -- are in clear violation of the laws of war. (Their treatment of prisoners so far is also dubious -- parading the prisoners on television, and, if reports of pictures of the corpses of US soldiers shot in the forehead prove well-founded, perhaps executing some in cold blood. I hope that the prisoners shown on TV are treated justly and humanely and get out of this alive; but my hopes, while ardent, aren't high. Trusting in the mercy of Saddam Hussein's thugs has never been a good policy).
So, what does this mean? Well, it means that our troops face a dirty, dangerous fight ahead -- one which they'll win, but not without a lot of nasty, often fatal surprises. It also means that, once again, those who complain about the US's killing of civilians are not merely being one-sided; they are harping on horrors that the US has perpetrated and will perpetrate only with reluctance, and has done all it can to avoid, while ignoring far graver abuses by the other side, which have been neither necessary, nor apparently carried out with any misgivings, or remorse, or reluctance.
War is never a matter of black and white; but in this case, based on what I've read about the tactics of both sides, it is a matter of very light versus very dark gray.
I just hope our side keeps playing as fair as humanly possible -- and that our troops get through this, and prevail, as quickly as possible.

CNN has a bit more on the captured US soldiers. It doesn't sound good.
The same article also mentions sightings of the Republican Guard herding Iraqi women and children to military positions as human shields.
Cripes. What monsters.

Not only is Josh Chafetz a budding television personality and pro-democracy pin-up; he's also a loyal reader who knows a good deal more about most things than I. Witness the following message he just sent me:

Josh -- you wrote: "Secondly, though, they did so to try to make it
harder for the coalition to locate and hit targets accurately. Now,
this will either mean that the coalition will cease with the air raids
-- not all that bloody likely -- or they'll continue, but with the
likelihood of decreased accuracy. Which will probably mean increasing
civilian casualities."

Faulty premise. It's not entirely clear why Iraq is burning the oil,
but it won't interfere with targeting. It probably would have
interfered with laser-guided bombs, but the JDAMS are GPS-guided, and
for those it doesn't matter how bad the line of sight is.

Either Iraq doesn't understand how JDAMS work (unlikely) or they're
trying to hurt the US's ability to determine whether it has
successfully taken out the targets it intended to (more likely) or
they're up to something else entirely. I've heard speculation that
they want the smoke so that people watching on TV think that the
bombing is doing more damage than it actually is.

Where the burning oil might do some serious operational damage is when
the ground troops get closer to Baghdad. Then you'll have helicopters
in the air that the smoke will be bad for, and you'll be trying to bomb
*moving* targets, for which you'll want up-to-the-minute surveillance.
Then the smoke will be bad.

Thanks Josh.

Congrats, Josh! I'm sorry I've returned to the States before being able to see Mr. Chafetz's performance on BBC3 -- or being able to witness the massive public impact on the British people, as they say to themselves, 'Hey, those American democracy advocates aren't so bad after all -- in fact, some of them are really cute!' Seriously, though, good going Josh (and the 'heretofore' quote was priceless -- and of course not surprising.)

Friendly fire: this is very, very freaky, as well as upsetting; this is just upsetting (thus far the poor Brits are having terrible luck. 14 killed already in helicopter accidents, and now this. I can't help thinking about one of the college custodial staff at Balliol, whose daughter is serving in Iraq, and how frantic every report of British -- or US --casualties must make her.)

As for the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, first the Turkish government say they've invaded, then they deny it. Very unclear what's going on in northern Iraq. Let's hope that the second statement from the Turks is accurate.

More on Iraqi casualties from the bombing of Baghdad: evidence that, however good our weaponry, and however much we're able to limit civilian casualties, horrible suffering has resulted, and will continue to, from our attacks.
Also note that the Iraqi forces have lit oil fires around Baghdad. Now, first of all, that can't be healthy for the people of Baghdad -- being enveloped in the smoke and fumes of burning oil. Secondly, though, they did so to try to make it harder for the coalition to locate and hit targets accurately. Now, this will either mean that the coalition will cease with the air raids -- not all that bloody likely -- or they'll continue, but with the likelihood of decreased accuracy. Which will probably mean increasing civilian casualities.
But then, harming its own people has been the hallmark of Iraqi policy for decades; why stop now?

And now, the very, very bad news: 5 American soldiers seem to have been captured, and 4 killed, by the Iraqi forces. I hope that Iraq lives up to its promise to treat the prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Conventions; but my trust in the Iraqi government is not great.
Update: the NY Times has "fewer than 10" US soliders MIA.

Wow, incommunicado for a day, and so much happens! I'm not even going to try to address everything that's happened in Iraq over the past 36 hours, other than note the very good news of apparent Iraqi support for the invading coalition forces (see also here; when the Guardian and the BBC report good news on the war, I'm inclined to believe it); and that civilian fatalities in Baghdad have thus far been, by Iraqi reports, light; thank goodness (and US targeting technology!) for that, and let's hope it continues.

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