Re: William Tucker’s Time to Change Course:
If William Tucker (and others) understood that ousting Saddam Hussein was absolutely necessary and not an act of American altruism would their attitude towards the proposed surge in Iraq be any different? One thinks so.
We are now discovering that not enough resources and effort went into fighting the Iraq war and that includes public diplomacy. The original reason for ousting Saddam was the belief that he was dangerous — because of the proscribed weapons he appeared to retain and his involvement in terrorism. Indeed, this threat was already recognized by President Bill Clinton, who stated in 1998:
Think how many can be killed by just a tiny bit of anthrax, and think about how it’s not just that Saddam Hussein might put it on a Scud missile, an anthrax head, and send it on to some city he wants to destroy. Think about all the other terrorists and other bad actors who could just parade through Baghdad and pick up their stores if we don’t take action.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, however, there was enormous bureaucratic opposition to talking about Iraq’s involvement in terrorism, because according to U.S. intelligence, there had been none. So the decision was made to emphasize Iraq’s weapons programs.
That now appears to have been a mistake. Those familiar with the Iraqi documents captured by U.S. forces say they show extensive Iraqi involvement in terrorism going back many years. Indeed, the Washington Times‘ Bill Gertz reported already in November 1992, “Iraq is training international terrorists again at a secret base near Baghdad for the first time since the Persian Gulf war….The renewed training activity is viewed by some officials as an ominous sign that Iraq may be stepping up its support for global terrorism after a hiatus of nearly two years since the Gulf war.”
Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Sen. Rick Santorum fought for the public release of the Iraqi documents, but met with only limited and temporary success. Yet as we surge in Baghdad, perhaps we need to surge at home as well, and do what it takes to explain why it was necessary to fight this war and why it is necessary to win it.
— Laurie Mylroie
American Enterprise Institute
I find myself somewhat where William Tucker is concerning our nation’s war in Iraq. What adds to my vexation is the knowledge that, according to International Christian Concern, Iraq has now moved up to being the in the second worst place in the world for the persecution of Christians. If that is so, then Iraqi Christians were much better off under Saddam Hussein than they are now that we have “liberated” them.
— Larry Wilson
Ted Kennedy (I think it was he) said that when you’re arguing politics or policy, you first misstate your opponents views and then contradict the misstatement.
I loved your opening and the insight it provides into radical (left or right) politics. Congratulations for leaving the SDS!
With respect to your mind-reading of the idee fixe of President Bush, “neoconservative Jews,” and “die-hard conservatives,” however, I consider them “misstatements” and respectfully offer a different view.
Nine-eleven and events that followed 9/11established — not sure of the order of importance — (1) radical Islam’s hatred of our country that is a “state hatred” equivalent to racism or “race-based hatred;” (2) the intelligence of the radical Islamists in learning and then capitalizing on (a) vulnerabilities to terrorism in the U.S., public transportation being a particularly serious vulnerability, (b) prevailing biases in mainstream print and TV reporting in the U.S., (c) manipulating ‘political correctness’ to advance terrorist capabilities in the U.S. and the world, (d) rapid response to information about U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities in both “hot” and “cold” wars — including the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns — most of which is provided by the mainstream media and explained as “letting America know what it’s government is doing” and at least some of which undoubtedly impaired our ability to succeed militarily in those campaigns.
In the years since 9/11, the stateless Al Qaeda organization has achieved support from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, probably Egypt, and other continental African countries. One unifying hypothesis for this support that almost never appears in the media is pure racism against Jews. It is rampant in Islam. Hitler was by no means the only leader who wished every Jew to be gone from the planet.
To your idee fixe points that appear to me to be assertions without evidence: the notion that President Bush was primarily concerned with amending the legacy of his father not pursuing Saddam to Baghdad is spurious on its face. The coalition put together by George Herbert Walker Bush would never have agreed to such a move, and, if pursued, that action would have resulted in mass defections from the coalition and left the U.S. virtually alone and as a true “aggressor” in dismantling Saddam’s regime. This notion also discounts the nobler stated purpose of President Bush that regime change in Iraq was necessary for U.S. security, elimination of a state supporting terrorism, and highly beneficial to foster democracy in the Middle East.
As for “neoconservative Jews” (sounds racist to me) wanting to “correct the mistakes of World War II,” I am mystified by the use of the latter phrase as if it explains anything. Which “mistakes” of World War II? And, what is your source for such a belief? Please don’t use “everybody knows what I’m talking about” as a response.
And we are to believe that “die-hard conservatives” (sounds like ad hominem arguing to me) have no more character, intelligence, love of country, love of freedom, love of life than to put our military in harm’s way to “prove that America could project its military might any time and anywhere we chose?” From whence came this brilliant insight? What speeches, documents, analysis?
And now for your “So What Should We Do?” Well, one thing we can’t do is place an impenetrable “force field” over the Middle East such that the region functions like a quarantined file in a computer — it’s there, but it can’t hurt anything. And the problem with Islam isn’t that it’s a 1400-year old civil war, it’s that the teachings of Islam are fundamentally flawed, contradict generally accepted human values, and are poorly understood by most of its followers. The latter follow radical leaders as mindlessly as your idee fixe SDS people who “don’t [sic] mind slaughtering a few people” in order to achieve what the radical leaders define as the goals of Islam. So-called “moderate” Islamist leaders are simply people who understand the foregoing and have chosen to be rational in practicing their faith in a rational world.
Your description of the Middle East as a “cauldron of ethnic hatreds” (is that code for anti-Semitism?) is correct, but President Bush and other world leaders have a vision that your “ain’t gonna happen” is not necessarily true. They believe that a sea change of life can occur in the Middle East because so much of the rest of world is already in or moving toward more rational governance. The pathway to this change is establishment of democracy a la Iraqi, prevention of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, establishment of a true Palestinian state, true democracy in Lebanon, and a domino effect in other Mid-Eastern states and in Africa. Such a pathway will require adoption of the strategy and achievement by maximum diplomatic efforts together with as little military force under political control as consistent with the objective.
So, call me crazy, but I prefer to believe that our leaders — including many in the Congress from both parties — can distinguish national interests from narrow partisan interests and when the stakes are as high as they are in today’s world, will act more to preserve and protect national interests. The President should use his “bully pulpit” to continue to articulate a strategy that recognizes the impossibility of “containment” in dealing with radical Islam. Containment “Ain’t gonna happen.”
The awful specter of a “forceful rejection of Republicans in 2008” pales in comparison to a world of increasing radical Islamic domination (think Cindy Sheehan in a burqa) and its concomitant amoral methods for extending that domination that result in unrestrained anti-Semitism and other unconscionable insults to personal freedom.
Thanks for listening.
— Steve Barnes
Our collective failure in Iraq to date is analogous to the story about the Country Redneck and the Championship Skeet Shooter going Quail hunting. Most people’s assumption would be that the Sheet Shooter would clean house. Doesn’t work that way in the story as often reflected in real life. The Story goes like this:
Billy-Bob Redneck and John Q, the world’s best Sheet shooter, go hunting one day in the Texas scrub for Quail. As recent events have shown, Quail can be very unpredictable about where they appear and great skill must be taken by all in order to not have one or more hunters become the hunted by a smart bird. When Billy-Bob and John Q “step” on the first group of hidden birds, the eight Quail do exactly what Billy-Bob expects and he raises his gun and fires once and drops a bird. John Q on the other hand fires off all three rounds and doesn’t connect. This routine goes on for the rest of the day with Billy-Bob getting an occasional second bird while John Q with the most expensive shotgun made doesn’t take a single bird and is nearly empty of his equally expensive Special Skeet Bird shot. Befuddled, John Q asks Billy-Bob what he is doing wrong.
On reflection and with an eye to a certain dignity to be maintained by all Billy-Bob responses thus, “You think you are shooting a round of Skeet where a single Bird always comes from a predictable place and all you have to do is place your shot where you already know it needs to go. Further more, you are trying to do this to all the birds that jump up at the same time and thus never focus on and take the shot you can make. We are shooting Quail, not Sheet.”
We went into Iraq with multiple priorities or “Quail” if you wish. We’ve been trying to pursue multiple number one priorities ever since, some of which conflict and tie our hands with our efforts in others. We are trying to hunt down “Quail” with Skeet rules when in fact we should be hunting Quail. There is only one no. one priority and all else depends on that. When we focus on Quail hunting rather than a game of Skeet shooting, the rest will take care of itself over time.
— Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia
Mr. Tucker’s assertion that he was a completely oblivious bystander to the extremist leftism in his student days is far too convenient.
Perhaps he was one of the good ones, and perhaps he did come to realize the folly of his ways, but how can one possibly be around a group of such people for so long and not have some sympathy for their core “revolutionary” ideology.
His ultimate support for the losing ideology in Iraq merely confirms this.
William Tucker wants to change course in Iraq, but all the directions he pointed out had huge, hull ripping rocks in them. There is no point changing course if all you are going to do is run your ship on to a reef.
— Christopher Holland
PUBLIC SCHOOL DAZE
Re: Adam B. Schaefer’s When Mayors Play Principal:
I live about two blocks from Cato, and have watched and participated in D.C. politics since Marion Barry’s first term.
What you say about the right way to run schools sounds reasonable. But in D.C (and I imagine other large, obviously Democratic cities) it leaves out too many considerations.
Such as getting elected. The teachers’ unions are pivotal in large city elections. You haven’t explained how to sell them or circumvent them.
In D.C., the better the schools get, the faster the city gets whiter. Not good for the political establishment. (Could almost say the same thing about crime, couldn’t I?) That’s also called the “Plan”, and it really frightens a good portion of the older black community at the gut level. That’s changing as the older community dies off or leaves, but it’s certainly here now.
The charter school movement has good aspects and interesting real estate aspects, given some of the city and federal money involved. Not your primary proposal, but my guess is that when the tax thing gets implemented, the real estate side of your proposals will be interesting. That involves the development community and local communities, whose primary interest is not education.
But good luck anyway.
The St. Louis City Public Schools have been on the death watch for several years now, for a variety of reasons, to the point where the State of Missouri may take over the over sight of the school system. While the “adults” are fighting, the kids are suffering, and what’s worse, it seems to be happening in more and more large towns and cities. Why can private and charter schools do what big school systems can not do — properly educate our kids?
— Mike B
Re: George H. Wittman’s Those Who Serve:
I would be most interested to learn of Col. Wilkerson’s background and education prior to joining the military. Do you know if he’s a line officer or a staff officer? And, why did he join the military?
Having served in the Navy and Naval Reserve, enlisted and commissioned, for well over 35 years, and dealing with literally thousands of folks in that time, I can only wonder where the Colonel comes up with his idea of poor, uneducated troops that can’t find a job anywhere else.
— Mike B USN (ret)
Political junkie though I am, I’m stumped. Few things, in these recent tumultuous political years, have been more distressing and perplexing to me then the actions of Messrs. Powell, Armitage and Wilkerson. And that’s saying a lot. While some in the conservative media have done good work detailing this and have expressed their outrage over the breathtaking perfidy of these men towards Mr. Bush and his administration, nonetheless, as far as the MSM are concerned, this story is and has been a yawner and a non-starter.
Frankly, I never understood why Mr. Powell felt so “compromised” and put upon after delivering his infamous U.N. speech. The fact that Iraq had WMD and pre-planned reconstituted weapons programs and labs, once the coast was clear, was and is a no-brainer to any rational person. He, of all people, should have been convinced of this. The infamous mobile labs, mysteriously and meticulously scrubbed down, leaving no trace as to their intended purpose, were morphed into mobile helium balloon generators, with just the slightest hint of the duel purpose built into Iraq’s military/civilian infrastructure. Granted, the Bush administration refused to hold the high ground and quickly took to the tall grass on this, but still.
Then, of course, there’s Mr. Armitage and the unseemly actions of the MSM and Mr. Fitzgerald in this whole Plame fiasco. Ego, hurt, and payback must be big things in Washington, for nothing can possibly explain how and why Powell and Armitage have allowed Mr. Libby to twist in the wind over the most famous non-crime ever committed in Washington. And of course, there’s Mr. Wilkerson and his flank assaults on the Bush Administration. The Libby trial might well expose the raw truth of this entire sordid mess and perhaps even offer up some comic relief, that is, if Libby’s defense team can pry Joe Wilson out of Saddam’s spider hole and get him on the witness stand. Who knows, maybe Messrs. Fitzgerald and Nifong will go national together and wreak havoc nationwide as America’s dream legal team. With this bunch, anything is possible.
WILD ABOUT HARRIET
Re: Jacob Laksin’s In Defense of Harriet Miers:
In your article about Harriet Miers, you state the following:
“Like the withdrawal of her nomination, Miers’ exit from the White House may well be a victory for the conservative cause. But it’s hard not think that, on some small level, it is also a loss to the culture of political civility and the ideal of public service.”
However, this is exactly why we got a lot of liberal Supreme Court justices from past Republican presidents — too much emphasis on political civility and the idea of public service (i.e., see all the liberals on the court now). A review of Miers’ history clearly shows that she is certainly not fit to be a conservative SCJ. The conservatives stopped another bad SCJ appointment by a Republican president, something that should have happened with past presidential picks, but too much emphasis was put on civility, diversity, etc.
— Carl Harris
San Antonio, Texas
Harriet Miers was the excuse many conservatives needed to begin the crack up that has gripped the movement. By denigrating Republicans and “deifying” Ronald Reagan (despite seven major tax increases, appeasing terrorists in Lebanon, growing the Departments of Energy and Education and amnesty for millions of illegal aliens) they have stalled, sidetracked or derailed the nation’s political realignment to the right. While Reagan’s Kennedyesque “legacy” may be a “feel good,” it is small conciliation that moderates and liberals will dominate the political landscape for the foreseeable future. When President Bush leaves office and the next Supreme Court justice is nominated we may be wishing it was Harriet Miers or someone very much like her. Better a conservative lightweight to a liberal constitutional law Adonis.
— Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina
Re: James Bowman’s review of We Are Marshall:
I disagree with Mr. Bowman’s movie review. Who cares what the director calls himself. That is totally irrelevant. The New York Times and Rollling Stone didn’t like the movie much either. You are with interesting company on this one. I have subscribed to The American Spectator since 1974 and have rarely seen you agree with those two journals on anything.
I went to see the movie in Montana, where I live, and not one person moved the entire time; to get popcorn, go the bathroom, etc. The entire audience sat through all the credits and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Jim Tressel, the head coach of Ohio State, had his whole team watch the game before their national championship game last Monday night. They, of course, lost to Florida. Tressel’s point of showing the movie was in its lesson of overcoming adversity and all the other lessons in the movie that Mr. Bowman evidently missed.
My son’s entire college football team (not Ohio State) also watched it, liked the movie and not a dry eye in the room. Randy Moss has done and said a lot of nutty things, including Mr. Bowman’ assertion that the plane accident “really wasn’t nothing big.” So why did Moss show up during Marshall’s games this season with the cast of the film along with other former Marshall players? Moss didn’t do it for money and also announced a donation of $50,000.
Anyway, I thought it was powerful and great movie.
Still devoted to your magazine.
Oh, my son plays for Marshall.
— Alex Parkhurst
Re: Lawrence Henry’s No to the Death Penalty:
Mr. Henry is yet another advocate for Mommy’s Law: that the world should be a place where an unsupervised toddler will never see or hear anything that its Mommy would object to if its Mommy was paying attention.
The one thing we adults have discovered through the shrinking of the world through the Internet and, before that, cheap travel, is that the world is a dangerous place even for adults, let alone unsupervised two-year-olds. Currently I have some friends racing in The Dakar, a 16 day rally raid from Lisbon to Dakar across some of the most dangerous and challenging terrain in the world. Close to 600 vehicles set out on Saturday, voluntarily, at their own expense, to throw themselves against not only Mother Nature, but forgotten land mines, wild animals, local people who wander out in front of them, other competitors and the person sitting next to them who for the greater part of every day holds a hefty part of both their lives between his or her hands. Last year at one point 80 of the 136 motorcycle riders were lost, strayed or stranded in the desert in the dark. Every year two or three Raiders are killed. Everybody knows this is true when he or she signs on. People like Mr. Henry should never be allowed at one of their bivouacs lest his delicate sensibilities be permanently disarranged at the sight of a man with a dislocated shoulder being stoically bound up and repaired so he can get back on his bike in the morning and finish fourth in a field where only 30% got to the end at all. (That would be Cyril Despres.) The toddler that still pulls Mr. Henry’s strings would have the Dakar banned because it would frighten him; or even worse, he would have it emasculated or taken off the air so he’d never even inadvertently see people voluntarily throwing themselves against the worst the world can offer.
In the years before Mr. Henry and the Helicopter Mommies who Hover, it wasn’t at all like this. Children’s books from the early to mid 20th century are replete with the undeniably common deaths of brothers and sisters who often had wasted away as cripples and invalids before dying at home in full view of the other children. The book Roller Skates, about a little girl whose wealthy society parents leave her with her middle class school teachers in a boarding house while they sail away to spend a year in Italy, contains two chapters in which a four-year-old child of very poor young parents dies of pneumonia despite the best a New York City society doctor can do for her, and not only the children of the time but the children of later years who read this book understood that death is something that comes to us all. Now comes Mr. Lawrence Henry who wants us all to remain toddlers and believe that death is optional and if we don’t look at it, it won’t be there…in fact, he seems at times to demand that death should not in fact be acknowledged at all.
The fact of the matter is, Mr. Henry, if you and your Ponytail Hippie friends would stop trying to turn the world into Chucky Cheese with no sharp corners and nothing that would harm a toddler whose Mommy is in the bar, we might just get back to the world we once had where people of both sexes realized that great effort may produce great reward but it also may get you killed — and they accept that reality and move on.
Personally I am enjoying the spectacle of the Dakar and most of all I enjoy speculating how I personally would do were I to throw myself against the elements as my friends are doing now. Go Mike and Dale; you carry a lot of us with you who would never be able to do what you do, but who admire you for mixing into the fight. And we’ll welcome you at the end of the Dakar knowing that at any point it was possible you would not make it to the end. Because that is what being alive is all about — the bet with the world that you’ll get to the end. (P.S. Get there ahead of Robbie Gordon.)
And as for those like Saddam who bet high and end up hanged — well, sometimes that happens too. The world is a dangerous place. Thank God. I suggest Mr. Henry confine himself to the Treehouse Channel if he can’t deal with that; and I earnestly pray that he doesn’t try to make the world into the Treehouse Channel so he’ll never see anything that will frighten that toddler pulling his strings.
— Kate Shaw
Daniel Allott’s A New Old-Fashioned Christmas:
I think Daniel Allott brings up an interesting point in his article, “A New Old-Fashioned Christmas” that, like many other Western countries, it’s important for Christians in the U.S. to work hard to keep it a sacred season and not merely a tradition. However, every year there are more and more signs that the same sort of transformation is taking place in this country. The other day I heard Christmas referred to as “Santa’s big day”. I guess we only have a couple months to wait until the Easter Bunny’s big day.
Re: Paul J. Smith’s letter (under “Volleys and Salutes”) in Reader Mail’s Surge Protectors:
The erudite former Marine Paul J. Smith did an excellent Google search and, subsequently, informed us:
A 21 Gun Salute is a Salute, an expression of welcome, good will, respect. The Gun in a 21 Gun Salute refers to naval guns or artillery, not firearms.
Indeed — the primary man-o’-war (for both the British and U.S. Navies) in the 18th and 19th centuries was a frigate, which sported 42 guns. When such a ship approached a non-hostile foreign vessel or a non-hostile foreign port, the skipper would order his gunners to fire a sequential broadside on the presenting side (keeping the muzzles protruding from the gun ports) so that the other ship’s master (or harbor master) could be reasonably certain that he wouldn’t be fired upon. Ergo, the 21-gun (half of the 42-gun main battery) national “salute”.
Mr. Smith also asserted: The fact that the firing party consists of seven riflemen firing three volleys does not constitute a 21-gun salute.
Again, Mr. Smith is correct — which is why I used the word “traditional” rather than “required”. The firing parties fire three volleys (reminiscent of the three-volley “let’s-fight-some-more” signal)…BUT, they customarily consist of seven riflemen. Thus, they (de facto) collectively fire twenty-one rounds. Mr. Smith’s hair-splitting pedantry seems, somehow, inappropriate. Let’s let the firing parties fire twenty-one rounds (or 22, if we include “one for Chesty Puller!” Ooo-RAH!) and let the family decide if it’s a “salute” (which, I believe, is wholly appropriate) or merely a series of volleys, shall we?
— David Gonzalez (Squid, Ret.)
WINNING HOME AND AWAY
Re: Mark Fallert’s letter (under “Profiling in Courage”) in Reader Mail’s Surge Protectors:
Mr. Mark Fallert’s letter is well thought out and makes much sense, especially the part about restricting our borders and jailing or expelling those here illegally and monitoring those budding terrorists right here on our soil.
However, I believe he has missed one of the main reasons we are in Iraq, and that is to try to change a portion of that backwards part of the world by exposing it to something other than maniacal dictators or maniacal theocrats. If you’ll recall, after WWII we stayed in West Germany to keep the USSR from overrunning Europe so we wouldn’t have to go back there in a few years to fight WWIII. Same with South Korea — Chinese communism was on the move, so we fought them in Korea, and South Korea was able to flower. Regardless of how you feel about the Vietnam War, Singapore believes that because we fought that war, they were able to flower without Chinese influence.
I’m not saying that if we stay in Iraq, the Middle East will change — but it has a much greater chance of doing that than if we leave. We aren’t there just to fight terrorists; this is a long-term strategy to help a part of the world so that maybe, just maybe the new Iraq will encourage the rest of the Middle East to become a part of the modern world.
I’m all for fighting the war here at home. I sometimes wonder what politicians in D.C. are smoking when they talk about “immigration reform” as basically an open borders, come one come all invitation to the world. Don’t they think terrorists are listening? Yes, let’s get really vigilant here at home, but let’s try to plant a seed in the Middle East and pray that something grows. Perhaps that is naive, perhaps that is too idealistic (as John Kerry has said), but does anyone have a better idea?
— Deborah Durkee
Re: Mimi Winship and Elaine Kyle’s letters (under “Diane and Pete”) in Reader Mail’s Surge Protectors:
I wish to thank Mimi, the unquestioned Poet Laureate of TAS, whose contributions I have enjoyed over the past year and Elaine Kyle, for whom my admiration for sheer down to earthness knows no bounds, for their letters tonight. Read them on return from the hospital.
A disappointing return two days ago for a few more CT scans of the scene of the crime — to his aorta. But he is looking good tonight — the handsomest fella in ICU — and I thank you all for the good wishes and prayers.
Now if I can just get my five-year-old grandson to stop malingering to get some of the attention his Poppy has stolen away from him — meanwhile I am giving my best audition for the oldest living “Annie” off Broadway, singing “The sun’ll come out toooo-morrow, bet’cher bottom dollar. that tomorrow, there’ll be sun…”
TAS has the loveliest group of people in cyberspace writing to it.
— Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California
Re: Ken Shreve’s letter (under “Petaeus, Fallon Overhyped?”) in Reader Mail’s Surge Protectors:
Mr. Shreve makes good points, but he erred in the meaning of Naval Aviator: Naval Aviators are in fact pilots who fly the aircraft. Naval flight officers are not pilots, and don’t fly the aircraft; they are bombardier/navigators, electronic countermeasures officer, radar intercept officers, tactical coordinators, etc.
— Ed Ahlsen-Girard (CDR, USNR)
Re: Jim Bjalonick’s letter (under “Petaeus, Fallon Overhyped?”) in Reader Mail’s Surge Protectors:
Jim Bjaloncik has it EXACTLY right, as does Colonel Hunt: “Kill ’em all.” When will we ever get it?
— Susan Gluck
Weston, West Virginia
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