Minutiae
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The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
--Cornelius Tacitus (c. 116 A.D.)

Monday, October 07, 2002
A great article in Slate about why we should invade:

"There are, of course, many repugnant dictators in the world; a dozen or so in the Middle East alone. But Saddam Hussein is a figure of singular repugnance, and singular danger. To review: There is no dictator in power anywhere in the world who has, so far in his career, invaded two neighboring countries; fired ballistic missiles at the civilians of two other neighboring countries; tried to have assassinated an ex-president of the United States; harbored al-Qaida fugitives (this is, by the way, beyond doubt, despite David Plotz's assertion to the contrary); attacked civilians with chemical weapons; attacked the soldiers of an enemy country with chemical weapons; conducted biological weapons experiments on human subjects; committed genocide; and then there is, of course, the matter of the weaponized aflatoxin, a tool of mass murder and nothing else...


So: Saddam Hussein is uniquely evil, the only ruler in power today—and the first one since Hitler—to commit chemical genocide. Is that enough of a reason to remove him from power? I would say yes, if "never again" is in fact actually to mean "never again."

But at a panel this past weekend on Iraq held as part of the New Yorker festival, Richard Holbrooke scolded me for making the suggestion that genocide was reason enough for the international community to act against Saddam. Holbrooke, who favors regime change, said the best practical argument for Saddam's removal is the danger posed by his weapons programs. He is right, though the weapons argument, separated from Saddam's real-life record of grotesque aggression, loses its urgency. Because Saddam is a man without any moral limits is why it is so important to keep nuclear weapons from his hands...


The argument by opponents of invasion that Saddam poses no "imminent threat" (they never actually define "imminent," of course) strikes me as particularly foolhardy. If you believe he is trying to acquire an atomic bomb, and if you believe that he is a monstrous person, than why would you possibly advocate waiting until the last possible second to disarm him?

After returning from Iraq, I dug out an old New York Times editorial, which I recommend people read in full. It was published on June 9, 1981 under the headline, "Israel's Illusion."

"Israel's sneak attack on a French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression," the editorial states. "Even assuming that Iraq was hellbent to divert enriched uranium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, it would have been working toward a capacity that Israel itself acquired long ago."

Israel absorbed the world's hatred and scorn for its attack on the Osirak reactor in 1981. Today, it is accepted as fact by most arms-control experts that, had Israel not destroyed Osirak, Saddam Hussein's Iraq would have been a nuclear power by 1990, when his forces pillaged their way across Kuwait.

The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality."

Read the whole thing.

[Andrew sullivan points out the mea culpa by Max Frankel for that 1981 editorial in his autobiography.]
posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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I love Reason magazine. This article perfectly encapsulates why I am unwilling to call myself a feminist.
"The undying attachment to old shibboleths -- on matters from war to leftist politics to abortion -- has been a major cause of organized feminism’s growing irrelevance. Feminists have been complaining for years that rumors of the movement’s death have been greatly exaggerated, citing among other things the number of women’s studies departments on college campuses. But the disconnect between ordinary American women and their self-appointed spokeswomen is now painfully obvious. Only a quarter of women are willing to describe themselves as "feminists" to pollsters, and you can see why: Pretty much every step the feminist leadership takes these days seems to lead to a pratfall, from odd little blips like Ms.’s hiring of a disgraced journalist like Smith to the huge media circus surrounding NOW’s support for convicted child drowner Andrea Yates..."
Another article on the same subject.
Then there're the cartoons.
posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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USS clueless on the psychology that requires war:

"Part of why we now must win a war there conclusively is because of 12 years of mistakes. It began in 1991, where the Arabs learned the one lesson we didn't want them to learn: we had the ability to crush them all, but we didn't have the guts to try. We defeated the army of Iraq so badly as to totally humiliate them. The Republican Guard divisions, the most feared and respected military force in the entire Arab world, were not even close to a match. It was so unbalanced as to be ludicrous.

And then we let several divisions of the Republican Guard march away and take their tanks and weapons with them. And the Arab response to that was to conclude that we were blithering idiots. Some of the Arabs prevailed on us to let other Arabs we'd just been fighting get away, and we actually did so. That represents a level of gullibility, from their point of view, that defies belief, and in an instant any respect we might have earned in the war was lost. It's hardly any wonder they've spent the last ten years trying to cheat us; we've proved we're easy to cheat.

Years of "proportional responses" to their depredations and treaty violations showed them the same thing: we had a huge army, fantastic weapons, damned little brains and no balls. To a warrior culture, that means that we were stupid cowards, who could thus be ignored. We were extraordinarily rich stupid cowards, but to a warrior that doesn't matter. Cowards are beneath contempt; they are to be ignored or killed or enslaved, but never to be dealt with on an equal basis. The stupid are to be taken advantage of.

So now, in order to actually make progress in this war, we have to erase 12 years of foreign policy failures. It's not that we have to prove to ourselves that we have balls, it's that we have to prove it to them. They know full well that we can stomp them all flat, but they have never believed that we'd actually be willing to do so, and they won't believe it until we actually do so once and prove it.

And we now have to prove that we can't be cheated forever. Saddam has been cheating for twelve years; now he and his nation must gain the full measure of reaction for doing so.

And it has to be conclusive, and it has to be complete, and the target has to be Arab, or else it won't actually give us the moral authority with them which we'll need to actually talk to them and get them to do what we need them to do. And the longer we wait, the more expensive it will be for everyone. We could have done this cheaply in 1991. We could have done it relatively inexpensively after the first WTC attack, or the attack on the African embassies, or when USS Cole was attacked. Now it's going to cost, but if we're gutless and yet again wait, then they will interpret it to prove that we're cowards.

It won't be possible to make any progress in the talks with the Palestinians until they all, right down to the children, believe that if we ultimately get fed up with them that we'll grind them into the ground. Until that happens, they will never give up their ambition to take all of Israel back and pushing the Jews into the sea. The essential step towards peace in Israel is for the Palestinians to give up that ambition, and the only way to do it is to make them lose hope.

It's the cruel paradox of this war that the only way we can deal with them peacefully is by proving to them in war first that we could defeat them if we wanted to. Nothing less will do. All the proposed policies from the antiwar side, such as negotiations and ultimatums and inspections and international condemnations and yet more attempts at negotiation are all treated by the "Arab Street" as signs of weakness and impotence, which is why they've failed for the last ten years and why they would keep failing in future."

posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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Why on earth does the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have a popup ad on dictionary dot com?
posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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Great there's someone running around DC shooting random people. The hopeful part of me wonders if a few idiots will wise up and stop lecturing about Israeli oppression. What will they be willing to do when the alternative is their own children bobbing and weaving into school? At least a building is some safety from a sniper. What will happen when we get random bombers in malls and pizzerias. I'd like to join the folks calling on citizens to shoot back, but well... guns are banned in DC.
posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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It's not snow it's micro-hail. Snow may not happen until on or after Oct. 31.
posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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Here's a good turn of phrase. The UN: an idea whose time has gone.
posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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Southpark Republicans? Sounds about right.
posted by Rachel 10/7/2002
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