January 03, 2004


Texas Congressman Ralph Hall has traded in his D for a shiny new R. Other than a net loss of one set for the Dems and a gain of one for the GOP, what does it mean?

Hall has long been one of the most conservative Democrats in Washington, but he has also been a symbol of the old Democrat way of thinking: Strong on defense, sympathetic to states' rights, lower taxes, traditional values and so forth. That way of thinking is as dead as Elvis in today's Democrat politics, so much so that the mere mention of any of those issues by the Dems' current presidential front-runner comes off sounding like a pander or an insult. Hall's switch reflects, not so much a switch on his part, but a drift on his former party's part. He once felt right at home with the Democrats, and his constituents supported him. Today it's easier for him to win re-election as a Republican, and his philosophy is a better match for that party.

But there's more to the switch than simply a change of seats. Hall's district includes territory once represented by Sam Rayburn. Outside of Texas that may not mean much, but Rayburn was the *first Speaker of the House to hail from the Lone Star State, and he held that post longer than anyone else in the 20th Century. Rayburn, along with war hero Audie Murphy, strode east Texas like a colussus from the 1940s to the early 60s. Civic centers, student centers, streets and even a lake bear his name today across that region. The US Navy even has named a submarine after him, indicative of Raburn's Congressional role in supporting defense. And Rayburn was a loyal Democrat, and was instrumental in helping FDR lead America through World War II. I used to live in the 4th District, studied at the university that molded Sam Rayburn and became a reporter in buildings named after him. It was yellow-dog Democrat territory as recently as the late 1980s.

Rayburn's former district, redrawn over the years but essentially the same slice of land, is now represented by a Republican, I believe for the first time since Reconstruction. It is a district that borders on Dallas but stretches out to the farms of northeast Texas, and straddles one of the wealthiest areas in the state. It is also home to a number of defense contractors, and Hall hinted that national defense played a key role in his switch when he said on Friday that he didn't agree with the Democrats running for president. In other words, the Dean surge has already given George W. Bush coattails, nearly a year before the election.

In switching, Hall joins about 170 Texas elected officials and lawmakers who have switched from the Democrats to the GOP since 1992. Hall's switch therefore demonstrates the complete collapse of the Democrats in Texas.

*edited to correct a factual error, Jim Wright (D-Ft. Worth) also served at Speaker

Posted by B. Preston at 01:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004


Starting off the New Year with a dud, the Times editorial writers outdo Dowd.

A Wounded United Nations

Poor word choice. Try "irrelevant." Or "counterproductive." How about "useless?"

These are difficult times for the United Nations. The Bush administration's taste for unilateral action and its doctrine of preventive war pose a profound challenge to the U.N.'s founding principle of collective security and threaten the organization's continued relevance.

Since when is involving more than 30 countries considered "unilateral?" That words surely has to be the single most abused term of the past year. And since when is it "unilateral" to create new alliances to do jobs that the UN has clearly failed to do? Is the NYT simply unaware of the Proliferation Security Initiative? If they are, they're incompetent. If they're aware of it but fail to mention it or at least consider it before dubbing the Bush administration "unilateral," they're guilty of the shoddiest and most dishonest journalism.

About that UN founding principle--collective security. The UN failed to do that job, when it failed to enforce a boatload of anti-Saddam resolutions. That's the Bush administration's fault? And 12 years is a "rush" to war? Wait, getting ahead of myself there--they haven't actually used the "rush to war" bit yet. But they will.

The editors wrote this turkey on autopilot, just hitting copy/paste from every lame left-wing blog entry of the past year. They must have these terms and phrases--unilateral, rush to war, etc--keyed into macros. Need to bash Bush? Just pop around on the Functions keys and you can create your own Mad Lib anti-Bush editorial screed. Trained apes could have written a more cogent, original editorial than this one.

Since the day the administration took office, it has been chipping away at the multinational diplomatic system that America did so much to build in the past two generations. It has walked away from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, waged war against the International Criminal Court and disparaged international arms control agencies and weapons inspectors.

More macros, it seems. Kyoto--a treaty so bad the Clinton administration wouldn't even submit it to the Senate for a vote. The ICC--built to try Henry Kissinger, but not Fidel Castro. We should submit ourselves to this monstrosity, when it's already bleeding obvious that the left will just use it to try US presidents, cabinet secretaries and generals--but not Kim Jong-Il or Robert Mugabe? And the "international arms control" line--what does the PSI do? It's an arms control alliance, doing a job the UN's arms control agencies have failed. It was the PSI, not the IAEA, that forced Libya's disarmement. It is the PSI, not the IAEA, that's caging North Korea. And it's the PSI, not the IAEA, that has forced China to close its airspace to North Korean weapons shipping. The US once depended on the IAEA, but that agency has proven itself soft on weapons proliferation. Should the Bush administration just pretend the IAEA is still competent, or do something about actually getting a handle on WMD proliferation?

The war in Iraq brought these conflicts to a new height. Washington's rush to invade split the Security Council in ways that have still not healed. Yet the months since the Iraq invasion have shown how much the United States still needs the U.N.'s unparalleled ability to confer international legitimacy and its growing experience in nation-building.

Editorial writing by cut and paste. The "rush to invade." What a pile. And it's all the US' fault that France et al used the UNSC to shield Saddam. Even the French are starting to recognize that they screwed the pooch on all this, but leave it to the Times to keep defending people whose idea of national defense is to wrap themselves in a white flag and brush up on their German.

Even after the U.N. was shoved aside over Iraq, it tried to play a constructive role in rebuilding that shattered country.

It did?

The price it paid was the terrorist bombing of its Baghdad headquarters last August, perhaps the most costly blow the U.N. has ever endured. Its top diplomat in Iraq was killed, along with 21 others.

Because the idiots rejected American security assistance, offered because we knew they needed some help. But the UN didn't want to be too closely identified with the US, and got 21 of its people killed. That's our fault too, I guess.

Despite standing aside from the invasion and being excluded from the subsequent administration, the U.N. found itself a prime target of Iraqi guerrillas, and a particularly vulnerable one because relief and reconstruction work cannot be carried out from behind impregnable barriers. Since August, the U.N. has all but withdrawn from Iraq.

So we should just turn everything over to an organization that, first, rejects sensible security assistance, then, turns tail and runs (while blaming the US) at the first sign of trouble? What kind of sense does this make? Let's find the most cowardly among us and make them front-line Marines. That would make about as much sense as entrusting Iraq to the UN.

The U.N.'s global concerns reach far beyond Iraq.

And so do its scandals. All across Africa and the MidEast, wherever there's a corrupt dictator with a taste for graft, you'll find a UN toady willing to confer that international legitimacy that the Times says only the UN can deliver.

In Afghanistan, a senior U.N. diplomat is responsible for assisting the transition to a fully elected government.

What did that diplomat do to oust the Taliban and make the transition possible?

The U.N. is part of the quartet group, which is trying to get Israelis and Palestinians to carry out their responsibilities under the agreed road map for peace.

And we can all see how well that's going.

Its nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is charged with detecting nuclear weapons programs.

And its utter failure forced the US to form the PSI. The IAEA has become an enabler, not a barrier, to proliferation.

Just as important is the U.N.'s role as a crucial catalyst for education, health and poverty-reduction programs, which can help prevent future armed conflicts.

Can you say "mission creep?" What on earth is a collective security ogranization doing meddling in education?

This work has suffered from the fallout over Iraq and the resulting tensions between the United Nations and Washington. Unless the U.N. finds a way to reclaim a leadership role on Iraq, it could have an increasingly hard time mobilizing the political and financial resources it needs.

Failure breeds irrelevance.

That seems to suit the Bush administration.

Is this one of Howard Dean's "interesting theories?" Does the Times think the Bush administration wanted to kill the UN? Maybe we paid Chirac to act like a jacque-ass all of last year. Maybe Karl Rove pays Michael Moore to make the entire left look like it feeds on nothing but Oreos and conspiracy theories. Maybe Howard Dean is really a GOP Manchurian candidate. It's an interesting theory, and perhaps if we could get the minutes from all cabinet meetings since Bush took office we could prove or disprove it.

The White House continues to disparage the effectiveness of U.N. weapons inspectors, most recently in Libya.

Pointing out facts is not "disparaging" anyone. The IAEA failed in Libya--it had no idea how extensive Libya's WMD program was. The PSI proved it. That's not the US' fault and it doesn't bolster the UN's case, no matter how the Times wants to spin it.

It complains about the U.N.'s reluctance to return to Iraq without acknowledging its legitimate concerns about the lack of a clear political mandate.

We're just being nice. Calling them "cowards" probably wouldn't get them to go back in.

But the U.N. cannot afford to wait until Iraqi sovereignty is restored next July. It must take on increased responsibilities in the coming weeks.

Why? The Times just takes it as a given that the UN, which fought Iraq's liberation, is more legitimate than the US, which actually shed blood to accomplish that liberation.

Instead of complaining about the U.N., Washington should smooth the path for its return. It should take up Secretary General Kofi Annan's suggestion of a three-way meeting of U.N. officials, the American occupation administration and the Iraqi Governing Council later this month to clarify the role the U.N. can play in shaping the transition to a self-governing Iraq. One meeting would not resolve all the differences between Washington and the U.N. But it would be a useful start.

Yeah, let's have a meeting. Let's talk. That's what the UN is good at--empty talk. But why the Times believes any of this is a good idea is a mystery--the editors never even bother to justify it. You're just supposed to accept like a good little drone.

America needs the United Nations as an effective partner in Iraq, not as a whipping boy for the administration's continuing problems there.

No, we either need the UN to step and do its job or get out of the way. And the Times needs to stop using the Bush administration as its whipping boy. No American president would ever have gotten Kyoto passed, because it's a horrible treaty aimed at curbing our economy. Bashing Bush over that is just the Times' way of angling for one of its pet issues.

The U.N. needs to be involved, most immediately so it does not default on its responsibilities to the Iraqi people.

I'd say 12 years of dithering constitutes "defaulting on its responsibilities to the Iraqi people." But that's just me.

By taking a strong role in shaping Iraq's return to the community of sovereign nations, the U.N. can also demonstrate that it is determined not to let its global influence be marginalized.

Too late, Kofi. You had your chance and you blew it. You've been benched. Learn from it. In the mean time, the US will take care of business without you. We've got a backup arms control alliance (PSI) and a backup security alliance (the Coalition of the Willing). But don't worry--you've still got your cheerleaders at the New York Times on your side. I'm sure they'll get you back in the game.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:18 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack


I have very rarely experienced racism directed at me or someone with me. It's happened a time or two--once in Japan, when I was riding a train through Tokyo and an old codger gave me the evil eye. I can't say it bothered me, because a day or two earlier on that same train another old codger saw me and immediately struck up a conversation about baseball. Hideo Nomo was in his glorious rookie season, and he was the talk of Japan. The first old guy was more representative of the Japan that I lived in for four years--friendly, open to Americans and eager to treat gaijin with respect. The second old guy was just a harmless crank, probably one of those Imperial officers who threatened to commit seppuku after the war, but whose courage failed them and they ended up making boatloads of money working for Honda or Sony and resented Americans for every last yen. I figured he had his own issues to work out, and I was merely a convenient target for a few minutes.

The other time that sticks out was in early 1995. My fiancee and I were walking down a street in San Antonio along with a couple of our friends. We made quite the quartet--two obviously white-bred guys with two attractive Oriental women. As we were walking down the street, minding our own business, talking about this and that, a car with three or four African Americans drove by, and as it passed us, a rather overweight female stuck her large head out of the window and shouted at us:

"Go back to China!"

Which amused us, because none of us had ever been to China. The ladies were from Japan. The ignorance of some knows no bounds--not all Orientals are Chinese, though I suppose a majority are if you look at it in terms of hard numbers. Maybe our verbal assailant was just playing the odds? In any case, you can't go back to a place you've never been.

But how should we square that little incident--being ordered by an ignoramus who happened to be black to leave the country simply because of appearance--with recent utterances by the increasingly offensive Dr. Howard Dean? To the Boston Globe, he said:

"Dealing with race is about educating white folks," Dean said in an interview Tuesday on a campaign swing through the first primary state where African-American voters will have a major impact.

How would "educating white folks"--collateral targets in my San Antonio scenario--have made one bit of difference? It wasn't white folks who shouted at two Japanese women--who for all our shouter knew were American citizens by birth--and told them to leave the country. It wasn't white folks who started an anti-Semitic riot in New York a few years ago, a riot that ended up killing 8 people (that riot was started by a Democrat presidential candidate named Al).

Racism isn't any single race's property, and no single race is alone in guilt. And actually, one of the least reported patterns of racism, but one of the most prominent forms of it in urban areas, is black vs Asian racism, mostly directed at Korean merchants who set up businesses in black neighborhoods. How does "educating white folks" deal with that kind of racism?

Dean's "educating white folks" schtick is the ultimate pander, and probably the worst example of elitist condescension I've heard in years. And talking about race in such a one-sided way is a sign of intellectual cowardice, a cowardice that does seem to have wound its tentacles around a party that will allow an Al Sharpton a legitimate place at its table.

So let's just tick off the ways that Dean has dealt with major issues lately. On race, he's a unidirectional pander bear--it's all whitey's fault. On God and guns, well, he's a mute. Doesn't want to talk about them, even though the Constitution does, and, well, being president has a thing or two to do with Constitutional law. But he's open to Southerners with Confederate flags in their trucks, so long as they don't care about all that "values" stuff, because Dean wants to leave values out of presidential politics. But don't fight him on something as important as a bike path, or he just might up and change religions. On the war, he's agin' it, doesn't think it's accomplishing much, and grins when asked about the deaths of American soldiers fighting to free Iraq. Oh, and his earliest followers flirted with calling themselves the "Dean fedayeen," identifying themselves with the very forces fighting against US troops in Iraq.

So my question to Dean is--when are you going to educate yourself? Because from where I stand, you sure need a crash course in race relations, in foreign policy, in Constitutional law, in the role of religion in American life, and in public relations.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 31, 2003


Have you ever gotten yourself into such a place that nothing less than a full turnaround, an about face and a quick move against the direction you had just been walking would do?

I tend to be a creature of habit, and not all of my habits are good ones. I get up at generally the same time most days, go to work, and one of the first things I do is find some way to get ahold of come coffee. Even if it's decaf, I need the feel of the hot java on my throat. It tells me to get going, to focus, to start making things happen. Sometimes if I don't get that coffee, I'm just lost. My mental elevator gets stuck in the basement.

One of my habits involves the internet. I spend much of my time, probably too much, using the internet. Sometimes I use it to good purposes, like researching topics to write about, or to read up on something that I don't know enough about, or to send and receive email from family and friends. Sometimes I use the net for ill, to waste time better spent playing with my son or talking to my wife or a million other useful things. The net can become a substitute for human contact, but it makes a poor one in the end. The "what's over the next hill" feel to clicking around, hunting for that next cool or informative or just wacky site, never leaves me satisfied. Sometimes it feels like an addiction, I just have to keep clicking away even though my eyes have become bloodshot with the lateness of the hour.

But I do have one net habit that's a good one. When I close a session, I head for the toolbar, grab the options menu and hit two buttons: Clear History and Delete Files. Those two buttons clear out my browser's file caches, erasing data I no longer need and which, if allowed to accumulate, can slow down my peppy machine. It's a good idea to clear out your history and delete downloaded HTML and graphics files whenever you end a surf on the web. That's what those two buttons do. Think of them as preventative maintenance.

Wouldn't it be great if life worked that way? You could just push a couple of buttons, and just like that your sorry history, the record of all the things you'd messed up and done wrong, all the people you had disappointed or lied to or upset even unintentionally, and all the shortcuts you took even though you knew you were just transferring the cost to someone else, all of it, would just go away.

I've never been big on New Year's resolutions. I don't believe that one oath tossed out on an arbitrary day will have much impact, and I have decades of failed resolutions to prove it. There was the resolution to finish a novel-it died while the novel was still in the outline stage. There was the resolution to become a better husband. Well, can't say that one went very far. There was the resolution to read my Bible every day. It lasted about a week, I think. I would go on, but it would get embarrassing at some point. Fact is, resolutions have never been my strong suit.

Consistency never has been one of my stronger points either. I tend to let little disappointments become nagging barriers to enjoying any success. I call myself by certain names, Christian, Baptist, etc but don't always live up to the billing. But I've always taken encouragement from the fact that God called David a man after His own heart. David was a leader, a king, a warrior for the people and the faith…and an adulterer, a murderer, a poor husband and a deadbeat father. If David could get such a high honor from God, I figure there is hope for me. My achievements aren't as spectacular as David's, but neither are my sins. Surely there is some room for an everyman like me near God's heart.

There is. Taking a page from the computer world, we do have a Clear History, Delete Files mechanism, though most of us don't know about it and therefore never or seldom use it. It's not a magic button. It's a relationship.

We cannot clear our own history, and we cannot delete all the baggage that comes with it, but we can turn it over to someone who can. And that someone is there, ready, all the time, to do it. All we have to do is ask.

Better than a New Year's resolution, because it is permanent, and the first step on the road to a consistent walk in the right direction, it's there for the asking. Jesus said for all who need rest or are burdened with the heavy baggage of life to come to Him. He promised to take up that baggage on Himself, and to forgive everything you did to deserve that baggage in the first place. And He is good for His promises.

Clear history, delete files. I'm not going to make another pointless New Year's resolution for 2004. I am going to try and remember that imperfect David still found a place near God's heart, and take hope from that. And I'm going to make sure that I keep up with a little preventative spiritual maintenance this year, by keeping up with the one relationship that makes everything else work. That relationship clears out my sorry history, and deletes the eternal baggage that that history had in store for me.

Posted by B. Preston at 03:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I must say I find this discovery, um, unsurprising:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. forces operating in the so-called Sunni Triangle -- the region of Iraq most loyal to captured former dictator Saddam Hussein -- found a significant weapons cache that included al Qaeda literature and videotapes, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

Members of Task Force Ironhorse 2nd Infantry's Arrowhead Brigade discovered the material Monday morning at a site in Samarra, about 65 miles north-northwest of Baghdad. Some of the items were found hidden in a false wall, the military said.

Imagine that--al Qaeda terrorist literature and videos in Iraq. And in the Sunni triangle, home of Saddam's most loyal supporters. Must've been a postal mistake, because I coulda swore a securalist state like Saddam's Iraq would never in a million years work with the likes of Islamofascist Osama bin Laden.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Thoughtful essay by Richard Mouw over at Belief.net.The last couple of paragraphs capture a thought I think more Christians need to hear and understand:

The truth of the matter is that the New Testament does not give much hope to Christians who expect to be well-treated by the dominant culture. Readers of David Limbaugh’s book [Persecution] would do well to remember that Jesus seemed to take the fact of continuing persecution of his followers for granted. "Blessed are you," he told his disciples, "when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you becaue of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5: 11).

This does not justify our cultivating a persecution complex. But it is a good reminder that the time for Christians really to start worrying is when we find ourselves winning too many popularity contests.

If the early Christians behaved the way many modern Christians seem to think is essential--turning over moral decisions to the prevailing cultural attitudes, altering basic Christian doctrine so that it lines up with the shifting standards of modernity or politics--it's fair to say there would be no Christianity at all. It would have been absorbed long ago, and forgotten. We have survived because there has always been a remnant that remained loyal to God's hard truths no matter the cost, and because it has been God's will that we survive.

Coincidentally, I'm currently reading Silence by Shusaku Endo. Set in 17th century Japan, Silence is a sobering read for anyone who believes American Christians are being persecuted. Japan in that period probably experienced the most thorough and successful anti-Christian campaign in history. In some ways it was Christianity's version of the Holocaust. Whole families and towns were destroyed in the shoguns' quest to stamp out the "European" faith and close Japan to all outside influences. Hundreds of thousands of Christians were executed in cruel and painful ways, and Japanese Christianity only survived as a deeply underground resistance movement. Japan's crypto-Christians were some of the least heralded, most courageous Christians in history.

American Christians do face some hostility from elements in our culture, and that hostility is gaining ground through abusing the courts and so forth, but persecution here is nowhere near on the scale that our brothers and sisters in Japan experienced.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:53 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 30, 2003


Is this like Nixon going to China?

Put me down as skeptical. I don't see President Bush flitting off to Libya any time soon.

Posted by B. Preston at 05:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Not the one the press has conditioned us to think about. There's another one, and it's growing rapidly. I'll let a Democrat sum it up:

Stanley B. Greenberg, the pollster for Gore in 2000 and Clinton in 1992, agreed. "Younger, married white men are disastrously, overwhelmingly Republican," he said. "They are trending more Republican over time. Everything about George Bush speaks to them."

So how "disastrously" Republican are us white guys?

In an ABC/Washington Post survey released last week, white men preferred Bush over an unnamed Democrat in 2004 by 62 percent to 29 percent, a head-turning 33-point margin; by contrast, white women gave Bush just a 10-point lead.

The press can talk about coalititions and interest groups and the other gender gap all they want, but since white men make up 40 percent of the vote and white women make up just over 40 percent too, most of the action is obviously with the majority of the vote. And the tilt there is heavily Republican, thanks mostly to the fact that W has led us through two successful wars to defend our civilization and has the forces of Mordor generally on the run.

I don't see how Dean, a Bobo peacenik who thinks the Bush administration is the most dangerous administration is his lifetime, can convince enough white men that he's right about that. I just don't see it happening.

It's like this: on one side you have a president who has won two wars, set up a blockade that has netted a little terrorist fish while caging a big one, and has the economy humming along at breakneck pace. And he bagged Saddam Hussein. How can Dean convince anyone who doesn't already hate Bush that he should be replaced?

MORE: Steven Den Beste comments. The card game Hearts is involved. I would have thought the board game Go made a more apt comparison, but leave it to Den Beste to come up with something that on its face seems unlikely to convince, but ends up all the more convincing anyway.

Posted by B. Preston at 04:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Near Tyler, Texas. It looks like the feds thwarted a Tim McVeigh wannabee:

It began as a misdelivered envelope and developed into the most extensive domestic terrorism investigation since the Oklahoma City bombing. Last month, an east Texas man pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon of mass destruction. Inside the home and storage facilities of William Krar, investigators found a sodium-cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands, more than a hundred explosives, half a million rounds of ammunition, dozens of illegal weapons, and a mound of white-supremacist and antigovernment literature.

Question: Where did this guy learn how to build a sodium-cyanide bomb? I hope the feds are taking a hard look at his travel over the past couple of years.

Read the whole story. It's frightening, if incomplete:

The fact is, the number of domestic terrorist acts in the past five years far outweighs the number of international acts, says Mark Pitcavage of the fact-finding department at the Anti-Defamation League. "We do have home-grown hate in the United States, people who are just as ill-disposed to the American government as any international terrorist group," he says.

Levitas estimates that there are approximately 25,000 right-wing extremist members and activists and some 250,000 sympathizers. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 708 hate groups in 2002.

Question: Why only mention right-wing loonies? How about the Earth Liberation Front, which advertises arson right on its web site? ELF brags about its terrorism, and will even keep you up to date with its crimes in an email newsletter if you sign up for it.

I guess they're not a "hate group." And perhaps their being a lefty terrorist group may have something to do with their omission, too.

Posted by B. Preston at 12:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Dan Drezner's been doing a bang-up job running Sulli's site this week. Truth be told, Sulli should watch out--he's going to have a monster on his hands.

But this graf from this post has me scratching my head:

What is mildly shocking -- from someone who knows a thing or two about economic sanctions -- is that companies from stalwart U.S. allies -- Poland and South Korea -- were also complicit in the sanctions-busting.

South Korea, a "stalwart ally?" Balderdash. Poppycock. Ever heard of the Hyundai scandal, Dan? The South Korean conglomerate essentially paid billions to the North Korean government in 1999 thru 2001, buying rapprochement between it and the South Korean government. That massive bribery scam netted a Nobel for then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and helped drive a wedge between the US and the ROK on North Korea's nuclear program that lasts to this day. The "Sunshine" policy that led SoK to triangulate relations between the US and NoK--putting us more often than not into the bad guy slot--was an outgrowth of the massive Hyundai scandal. Hyundai's CEO was eventually indicted, and he committed suicide in August rather than face prosecution. Several SoK government officials have also been indicted.

South Korea is not a stalwart ally, and they haven't been for nearly a decade. South Korea's largest corporation, Hyundai, which does billions of dollars of business in US markets, paid Kim Jong-Il to stage a phony summit and did its best to damage the US effort to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The South Koreans should be dubbed the French Koreans, for all the irritants they throw into US and Japanese plans to tame Kim Jong-Il. On the other hand Poland is a stalwart ally, and it's sanctions busting is a shock. But SoK's busting sanctions is just par for the course.

MORE: For an example of a real stalwart ally, look no further than Japan, which has announced forgiveness of most of its Iraqi debt. Unlike South Korea, Japan supported the war in Iraq from the beginning. Unlike South Korea, Japan has signed on to the Proliferation Security Initiative--the naval blockade of North Korea that netted Libya and forced it to disarm. Both Japan and South Korea are sending troops to Iraq, but South Korea has decided not to send its counterinsurgency troops, which are some of the best in the world and would be very useful in Iraq, though it has no constitutional mandate to stay out of combat. Japan is sending humanitarian troops to a live combat zone, only its second such deployment since the end of World War II. Only a constitutional prohibition against sending combat troops overseas is keeping Japan from sending troops to fight right alongside ours--and Prime Minister Koizumi is studying changing the constitution to allow such deployments in the future.

MORE: Bribery is apparently a way of life in South Korea.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The UN famously failed to enforce its sanctions against Iraq, so the US led an invasion to enforce them anyway.

The UN has famously failed to do much about North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, due mostly to Chinese and Russian machinations within the Security Council, so the US has forged an alliance outside the UN to blockade North Korea's shipping.

Now that Libya has disarmed (thanks to US and British pressure, and the discovery of Libyan arms deals with senior members of the Axis of Evil), the US is not trusting the UN to verify the extent of Libya's WMD programs. With good reason, apparently:

The U.S., convinced that dictator Moammar Gadhafi's weapons programs are far more extensive than guesstimated by the International Atomic Energy Agency, will send technical experts to Libya in January.

"While Mohammed ElBaradei, the director of the U.N. agency, says he has seen four nuclear sites, CIA and British intelligence have concluded there are 11 sites," the Associated Press reported today.

"The United States intends to pursue its own program for dismantling Libya's nuclear program as well as programs to develop chemical and biological weapons and missiles as well," said AP, quoting a U.S. official.

The UN's primary missions are global security and non-proliferation of WMDs--everything else it does is just evidence of mission creep. The French, Russians, Germans and Chinese have effectively made the UN useless to the point of being counterproductive. The most underreported story of 2003 is probably the slow death of the UN, and the rise of other US-led institutions and alliances built to carry on that old body's core missions.

UPDATE: Steve Verdon has more on Libya's nuclear program, which operated completely unobserved by the IAEA. Either the UN is structurally incompetent or it is staffed by people whose sympathies lead them to allow proliferation to happen on their watch intentionally. Having observed IAEA Chief Mohammed ElBaradei over the past couple of years, I'm leaning toward the latter.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 29, 2003


Interesting take from Bruce Fein on the military detention of Jose Padilla. Here a few exerpts:

According to an unsealed declaration submitted by Michael H. Mobbs, Padilla had been convicted of murder and a handgun charge before moving to Egypt in 1998. He traveled in the Middle East and Southwest Asia between 1999 and 2000 in comradeship with known members and leaders of al Qaeda. During an Afghanistan sojourn, Padilla joined a plan to construct and detonate a radioactive bomb within the United States.


In sum, Padilla might be likened to the Nazi saboteurs during World War II, including an American citizen, who were apprehended in the United States, tried by a military commission as "unlawful combatants," and executed. The Supreme Court in ex parte Quirin (1942) sustained the constitutionality of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's interdiction and execution of the saboteurs.
The court of appeals majority fatuously urged, in contrast to Quirin, that Padilla was taken into custody "outside a zone of combat." As any sapient creature knows, the September 11 villainies in the United States are al Qaeda's signature; and, it regularly incites jihads against United States civilians and soldiers anywhere on the planet. Sanctuaries from its international terrorism are chimerical. That explains the newly created Department of Homeland Security and the United States terrorist threat color codes.


Judges Pooling and Parker enlisted as their decisional keystone a federal statute denying the president power to detain citizens "except pursuant to an Act of Congress." In the aftermath of September 11, a Joint Resolution authorized the president to unleash "all necessary and appropriate force" against any nation, organization, or persons implicated in the terrorist attacks to thwart "any future acts of international terrorism against the United States."
Padilla was acting in collaboration with al Qaeda; and, his detention and interrogation would help derail future al Qaeda terrorism. But reminiscent of a surprise O Henry ending, the two judges whimsically concluded the Joint Resolution intended to sanction killings of enemy combatants, but not their detentions as prisoners of war for counterterrorism intelligence or otherwise.
The Padilla ruling demonstrates the dangerousness to national security of judicial ignorance in action. Its reversal by the Supreme Court is foreordained.

I agree with everything but that last sentence. Since a couple of justices on the SCOTUS have openly replaced the Constitution and US legal precedent with their own view of "international law," nothing should be taken as foreordained. The Supreme Court has become a mercurial, unpredictable body capable of making up laws ex nihilo and ignoring the plain text of laws handed down straight from the founding fathers.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 28, 2003


As I'm sure you're aware, an earthquake in Bam, Iran this week may have killed 40,000 people. If that number holds up it represents roughly half of the town's population, and something like two-thirds the number we lost in the entire Vietnam war.

Iranians deserve our prayers, and the support of the world. Their loss is staggering.

But while Iran's losses are momentous, 40,000 is less than the number Iran lost in another earthquake just 13 years ago. In 1990 a quake in northwest Iran killed 50,000 people.

Now, I'm not a big government kind of guy, but isn't this sequence of events a powerful argument that Iran needs a revolution to replace its government? The mullahs apparently learned diddly from the '90 quake, and building codes apparently didn't change in the years between that quake and this one. If building codes had changed--if Iran had learned a thing or two from countries like the US and Japan that suffer enough quakes in some areas to alter building codes accordingly--thousands of people might have survived this week's quake.

To put it in some perspective, the 1995 Kobe quake killed 5,000 Japanese. It was a 7.0. Japan has long engineered its buildings and elevated highways to better withstand quakes, because that country has a long history with quakes. The Kobe quake could potentially have killed tens of thousands if not for two things: a stroke of luck (the quake struck before rush hour) and solid quake-resistant engineering. The engineering obviously wasn't perfect, but it did help minimize the damage. In contrast a 1923 earthquake destroyed most of Tokyo, a terrible event perhaps echoed in the popular Godzilla films depicting Tokyo's demise under the feet of an unstoppable monster. One hundred thousand confirmed died in that quake, and an additional 40,000 went missing (meaning their remains were never found). Tokyo in 1923 was mostly made of wood, contributing to the fire that ravaged the city, and was very poorly engineered. Earthquake proofing was still in the distant future.

Iran's mullahs have no excuse. Iran has a long history with quakes--it sits across several major fault zones. Earthquake-hardened construction techniques have been around for 30 years or so, in countries that actually keep up with the modern world. The quake in Bam was a 6.5, but due probably to buildings not built to withstand even the slightest temblor, as many as 40,000 are dead. In Iran a weaker quake kills more, because of bad engineering, which itself is probably the result of a negligent government that failed to learn anything from a recent killer quake.

Iran needs a revolution. The mullahs cannot effectively protect Iran's citizens from anything they should be protected from, though they did manage to protect their subjects from the evils of billiards for the past few decades.

UPDATE: National Review's Clifford D. May sees it my way: The mullahs are medieval incompetents.

The leaders of a poor country could claim that they hadn’t the resources to do anything about that -- that they could not, for example, afford to reinforce existing structures or build new structures that could withstand temblors. But Iran is oil-rich and has had plenty of money to lavish on nuclear weapons programs and on such terrorist groups as Hezbollah. Were Iran a democracy, its mullahs would be held to account, at least at the ballot box.

It's long past time for a revolution in Iran.

MORE: Dennis Prager says Iran's refusal of Israeli help--and Israel's offer to help--tell us all we need to know about the Middle East. Israel is civilized enough to lend aid to a state dedicated to Israel's violent destruction, while the mullahs would rather watch their own people die than accept help from Jews.

Posted by B. Preston at 08:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


With the holidays and, frankly, a lack of motivation to continue blogging lately, I haven't written much in the past week or so. But this editorial from The Japan Times has brought me out of my undisclosed location for a brief fisking. It is one of the most wishful editorials I've come across regarding Libya's decision to disarm.

First, some background. The Japan Times is an English-language daily from Tokyo, aimed primarily at Western (mostly American) expats and businessmen either living in or on extended stays in Japan. It's generally a decent newspaper, if a little weak in its selection of columnists. You'll never see a Charles Krauthammer or Ramesh Ponnuru piece in TJT, but you're also not likely to see any of the big liberal heavyweights either. It runs mostly d-list talent, and nearly always from a leftish point of view. I think that selection effect is mostly the result of the Times' own editorial staff, which since Japanese politics tend to run to the left of ours, and because journalists are generally left of center in most of the West and westernized countries (and Japan is the most westernized country outside the actual West), you get mostly leftish political opinions.

That said, The Times' take on Gadaffi's decision to divest his WMDs, allow in inspectors to prove that he's come clean and then to share intel with the US and Britian concerning terrorism and WMD traffic generally, is laughable. That sentence was a mouthful, so let me restate it this way: The Times' editorial writers have mental blinders on. And they can't write.

Mercurial Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has pulled off another coup.

What sort of coup does one pull off by capitulating in the face of a serious enemy, as Gadaffi did? Or is this opening sentence a reference to the way Gadaffi seized power in Libya? Either way, it makes no sense. He didn't "pull off another coup," he said "uncle." Big difference.

Last week's announcement that Libya would give up all its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has turned the former pariah into an international statesman.

Huh? "International statesman" and Gadaffi have no place in the same sentence. The man is a recently repentant killer, deserving of some space for giving up his WMDs and terrorist past, but no statesman in any sense. Next will they tell us that Kim Jong-Il is an internation statesman because he stopped kidnapping Japanese schoolgirls?

Surprising though the move may have seemed, it was the result of a long process -- and a victory for diplomatic engagement even with so-called rogue states.

A "victory for diplomatic engagement?" Perhaps, depending on your definition of "engagement." Nevertheless, "so-called rogue states" is an interesting phrase. What would the Times' editors call a state that bankrolled the destruction of an airplane full of innocents, then denied responsibility for more than a decade, all the while bankrolling terrorists across the MidEast and Europe, some of which killed American GIs in a German disco back in the 80s. That particular act generated a certain type of "engagement": President Reagan bombed the daylights out of Gadaffi's capitol city, killing one of his sons. Said "engagement" pretty much ended Libya's star turn as the #1 terrorist state on the planet.

And we're within a sentence of completing the first paragraph. This could be a long fisking.

Libya has long topped the list of "rogue states." The country has been accused of supporting terrorists. In addition, the government has been suspected of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Despite the charges, Libya always denied having a WMD program.

A real editor would re-write that paragraph as follows:

Libya has long topped the list of rogue states. The country has a history of supporting terrorists. In addition, the government has recently admitted trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. That admission came about after a US-led blockade of fellow terrorist state North Korea turned up undeniable proof of a Libyan WMD program. Until confronted with that proof, Libya always denied having a WMD program.

I think I've summed up the history a little more accurately, don't you? Pity the Times' editors didn't do their homework. If they had, their version would have been closer to the truth. If its editorial were a history exam, it is so riddled with errors in fact that it would garner an automatic F.

That changed last week, when the Libyan government not only admitted it had such a program, but announced that it was ready to give it up. Libya then invited a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its facilities and verify that it was abandoning its WMD ambitions. Libyan officials said they were ready to sign the additional protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows special inspections of nuclear facilities. If Libya follows through, it will be only the second country, after South Africa, to voluntarily disarm.

Why did Libya turn a 180? Why did it allow the inspectors in? Why will Libya sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty? Why will it disarm?

Engagement, that's why. Just not the kind of engagement that the Times prefers. You'll see what I mean shortly.

If the world was surprised by the revelations, the key interlocutors -- the United States and Britain -- were not. They have been engaged in negotiations with the Libyan government for several years as Tripoli has tried to end its international isolation.

The first indications of a change of heart in Libya came with the decision to turn over the two men accused of planting the bombs in Pan Am flight 109, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, claiming 270 lives. After the trial was complete, Tripoli then entered into five years of negotiations to settle the claims of the victims and their families, finally agreeing to offer about $2.7 billion in total in return for the lifting of United Nations sanctions. The U.S. and Britain said that they would maintain their own sanctions until Libya came clean on its WMD programs.

All true, but note that most pundits wanted the US and UK to drop their sanctions before Libya's decision to disarm. Just saying "hey, sorry we killed so many people, here's some money" was good enough for them. But the US and UK kept up the pressure. And note as well that the Libyan turn on Pan Am 103 was for the most part driven by the US-led campaign of relentless pressure, both within and without the UN, to make Gadaffi own up. That pressure dates back several years, through all administrations from Reagan forward. But it wasn't decisive; Libya continued a brisk weapons trade with its senior Axis of Evil partners until very recently. Something, some event, triggered the final Libyan decision to disarm. What was that?

Nine months ago, Tripoli indicated that it was ready to do just that. After making overtures to Washington and London, the Libyan government revealed that it had a clandestine nuclear-weapons program that was trying to develop a uranium enrichment capability, which included, among other things, a pilot-scale centrifuge facility. The Libyans reportedly denied that any enriched uranium had been produced.

"Nine months ago..." Fascinating sentence, that. What happened nine months ago, which would have been March of 2003? Checking the calendar, it seems there was a little dustup to Libya's east. The US tried, unsuccessfully it turns out, to kill Iraq's Saddam Hussein with a missile strike, a strike which was a prelude to a quick war to remove him from power because he led a terror-sponsoring state with designs on WMDs. You don't suppose Gadaffi could've seen in Saddam's predicament a bit of handwriting on his own walls, do you? Perhaps he suspected a few Tomahawks had his palace's coordinates dialed up?

The Japan Times certainly doesn't think so. Its editors see no connection with the Iraq war and Gadaffi's surrender. In fact, according to The Japan Times, the central event of 2003--the war in Iraq--played no role in Gadaffi's choice:

What prompted Mr. Gadhafi's change of heart? Hardliners will credit the war against Iraq and the message it sent to governments nurturing WMD ambitions. The problem with that theory is that it does not match the time line.

Yes it does. Nine months--to the day--prior to Libya's announcement, the US-led war in Iraq began. What part of that timeline does the Times not find relevant?

While the overtures regarding the WMD program began about the same time as the invasion of Iraq, the diplomatic rapprochement began years ago. More to the point, Libyan officials have explicitly denied the linkage.

No, they haven't. In fact, Gadaffi himself has admitted that the Iraq war scared him, and it seems now that it scared him straight. According to the Italians:

A spokesman for Mr Berlusconi said the prime minister had been telephoned recently by Col Gaddafi of Libya, who said: "I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."

Surely a paper with the Times' resources could have made sure its editors were aware of this quote, which refutes the entire thrust of its lead editorial on the Libyan decision to disarm? Surely the Times' editors would attempt to incorporate it into its view of the events in Libya?

Evidently either the Times was unaware of Gadaffi's own opinion of his own decision (inexcusable if true, given the fact that a quick Google search could have turned it up) or the Times' editors don't believe the quote is legit. If that's the case, the editors still should have mentioned it if only to knock it down. By omitting it, the editors have opened themselves up to charges that they selectively ignore facts that don't line up with their apparently theological view of world events--theological, in the sense that they're formed more by blind faith than by the facts.

Anyhow, the Times then goes on to offer up a single sentence that effectively refutes its own editorial:

More convincing is that Mr. Gadhafi recognized that being a revolutionary firebrand, whose key purpose was standing up to the U.S., was a dangerous strategy.

Any why, praytell, would Gadaffi recognize that standing up to the US was a dangerous strategy? Could it be the "engagement" offered first by Reagan, then by George W. Bush?

As a result, Libya's economy has been undermined and his regime -- and his heir apparent, his son Mr. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi -- might not survive him.

And why would Gadaffi worry whether his regime and son would survive him? Perhaps the events begun in March 2003, events ending in the death of a Baathist regime, the capture of its head and the death of its intended dynastic heirs--the odious Uday and Qusay Hussein--influenced his thinking. I'd say the evidence for that point of view is strong, but the Times believes otherwise:

Mr. Gadhafi's decision also provides a powerful boost for U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who are already celebrating the capture of Iraq's former President Saddam Hussein. But they would be advised to focus on the real lesson of this episode: Engagement, not brute force, brought about Libya's change of heart. A similar strategy might work on the Korean Peninsula.

Ah-ha! So that's what the Times editors were really driving at--they're afraid that that hairtriggered cowboy in Washington might just think everybody that gets uppity needs invadin', so they're hoping to head him off at the proverbial pass. Call it a pre-emptive war protest; they hope they can persuade, not President Bush, but Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi, that endlessly jawing with the likes of Kim Jong-Il, endlessly yapping like Pavlov's dog everytime Kim rings his nuclear bell, is the best way to deal with him. He leads a "rogue state" in the Times' view, and as such should be "diplomatically engaged." Any other path would be folly, argues the Times.

Funny thing is, both the Bush and Koizumi governments seem to agree, and have set out to build an alliance--the Proliferation Security Initiative (you knew that was coming)--to peacefully curb Kim's weapons trade while the US, Japan, South Korea and China can diplomatically engage Kim's North Korea. A second Korean war would be a last resort.

Diplomacy may not work. The status quo is not tenable in the long run, and Kim seems to respond to any softening of the US line with belligerence and hotheaded threats. If Kim gets his hands on nuclear weapons that he can sell, and if the world stands idly by, he will sell them to the highest bidder, and those weapons will turn up at the base of a mushroom cloud in a US, Japanese or western city. War may end up being the only way to deal with him. But it may not.

The US tried the diplomatic route, for nearly a year, before invading Iraq. And prior to that year, the US and UK led the various watches that enforced the Iraqi no-fly zones and kept the sanctions in place that kept Saddam in a sort of box. But post 9-11, that situation was not tenable. The soft line proffered by the French, Russians and Chinese led Saddam to believe he could escape one more time, and live to fight another day. Soft lines tend to encourage dictators; hard lines tend to cow them. War tends to defeat them. Those are the lessons we all should learn from the war in Iraq.

Libya's Gadaffi learned the correct lesson from recent history. He surrendered his weapons, fearing promotion to the A-team on the Axis of Evil after Saddam's capture. It's a pity that the editors at papers like The Japan Times, editors in a good position and with access to enough of the facts to make a sound judgement, consistently fail to learn what history has to teach them. If they did learn those lessons, they would favor a harder line toward North Korea, knowing that such a hard line just might prevent nuclear war.

Posted by B. Preston at 07:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack