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Month: April 2003

Now and afterwards

Current Department of Defense thinking about post-war Iraq includes an extension of the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. The ILSA called for sanctions on any country which made 40 million dollars or more in new investments in Iran; this includes such countries as Britain, Italy, and Japan. The ILSA has never been invoked before, unsurprisingly.

Remember, folks, Bush is a master of diplomacy. Actually, this would make sense if he’s planning on cutting Rumsfeld loose — focus the resentment of the world on the DoD, and let Powell and State ride in to save the day. I’ve been wondering this flurry of negative press about Rumsfeld is a way of preparing the ground for such a move, but Seymour Hersh is kind of an unlikely agent of the Republicans. So it seems doubtful.

Oh, yeah, the war itself. We’re still in that regrouping phase I talked about last time I did a war update. Things are getting tense in the rear, due to the Iraqi strategy of disguising themselves as civilians. The suicide bombing didn’t help. It’s fascinating me, actually — we may have thought we’d seen televised wars before, but this time the whole world really is watching. That shooting at the checkpoint is an undeniable tragedy, but it would have gone unnoticed even ten years ago. It’s not that we care more now, it’s that we see more now.

What effect will this have on the prosecution of future wars? Damned if I know. I will predict that we have at least one more quantum level in transparency to go, though; when smart drones with cameras are cheap enough to be disposable and have the range to get from Philadelphia to Saigon and back, we’ll have even — I was going to say better. Perhaps not. Even more powerful technology to see what’s going on.

US air strikes are at a fever pitch, oriented towards a) reducing the effectiveness of the Medina Division of the Republican Guard and b) knocking out the Iraqi leaderships command and control facilities. The latter has turned out to be really tough, which is one of the reasons we’re still seeing effective coordination of Iraqi troops on the ground. The US has enough resources to keep on trying for a while, though. It’s just kind of important to knock those facilities out before pushing further, since it’ll make the rest of the war significantly easier.

The former goal — weakening the Iraqi troops between the US and Baghdad — is also important, and is also nearly necessary before the final push. There’s no indication that it’ll fail, but it’s good to watch.

Bruce Rolston points out that there’s no reason to hurry to the next stage, especially since reinforcements have a while yet to come. (You could be reading him instead of my stuff, by the way; he’s smarter about all this than I am.) The only caveat I’d make is that we’re about two months away from looking damned silly for not accepting the Chilean compromise resolution. If the war takes three months, we wouldn’t have lost anything by accepting that one and we might have gained a stronger coalition plus a majority vote in the Security Council, which at least gets Tony Blair out of any trouble he might be in now. However, Bush was in a hurry — partially in order to avoid a summer war — so no such luck.

That hurry makes sense if the war lasts a couple of months. If it drags on into June, it isn’t as sensible. If we hit August (unlikely but possible), it makes no sense at all. So that’s my long-winded way of saying that I can see at least one reason to pressure General Franks to move before reinforcements show up. If the air bombardment weakens the Republican Guard sufficiently, the coalition may at least encircle Baghdad in the next three weeks.

What else? No news in Northern Iraq, except some withdrawal on the part of the Iraqis, for no apparent reason. I can’t imagine Saddam withdrawing from Kirkuk, but it’d be pretty clever if he managed to pull the Kurds into the city. That’s one clear trigger point for a Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq.

And Stratfor is good; excellent maps and interesting news. My money’s well spent.


How Appealing is blogging the Supreme Court oral arguments in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases. Sort of like the Agonist for the war, but with silly wigs. Wait: I’ve been corrected, that would be the British legal system. Sorry.

Shifting sands

Sometimes, it all depends on what your cause is. Kevin Drum took some heat recently for arguing that liberal extremism drives away the mainstream. He clarified later, exposing one of those unfortunate side-effects of a democratic winner-take-all system — you need to appeal to the middle of the road to get elected, so the fringes need to be carefully managed. This has the effect of muting certain extremes of discourse…

A tangent, here. By forcing extremists to mask their views in order to gain any kind of political power, we make them more effective. Interesting little paradox. If the Patriot movement could win some political success without sneaking into the Republican Party, they’d be a far clearer target for those who oppose their views, and I could say similar things about various leftist groups. It’s like the TB virus — by forcing it to evolve in order to get past antibiotics, we make it stronger. Anyhow, I was talking about something else.

Ah yes. So, Kevin makes an accurate point regarding the need to appear moderate. But then he bumps into Martha Burk, and says (again accurately) that “The reason Burk harps on Augusta National is because no one pays attention to her when she’s talking about substantive issues.” True enough. And nobody pays attention to gay rights activists when they’re talking about non-flashy issues, either.

Best of the day

serious vulnerability present. all doomed. over. is I think my favorite 4/1 posting of the day. Possibly the best of all time. The brilliance of it is that it’s completely accurate.

A distributed denial of service condition is present in the election system in many polypartisan democratic countries. A group of determined but unskilled and not equipped low-income individuals, usually between 0.05% and 2% of overall population of the country, can cause serious disruptions or even a complete downfall of the democratic system and its institutions, and wreak havoc and destruction without using any force.

OK, maybe a little doomladen, but otherwise accurate.

On treason

It never dies!

People in the comments of my earlier post keep saying “aid and comfort,” which in today’s climate is one of those ominous codes meaning “he’s a traitor.” One guy even said “What Arnett has done would have gotten him arrested and jailed in WWII.” So I thought I’d do a little research on the nature of treason.

Turns out it’s a slippery beast. In particular, you have to prove that the guy wasn’t acting under duress, and you have to prove that there was the intent to cause harm. In Cramer v. United States, the Supreme Court said “On the other hand, a citizen may take actions which do aid and comfort the enemy… but if there is no adherence to the enemy in this, if there is no intent to betray, there is no treason.” If Arnett believed that he was providing aid and comfort, that’s probably sufficient. If he didn’t — and see a slew of previous comments from me on the reasonable belief that most of what he said was nothing you couldn’t read in a million other places — that’s probably not.

Now, in Chandler v. United States, Douglas Chandler was found guilty for participating in propaganda broadcasts from Nazi Germany. But he was paid by the German government and actively assisted in planning the broadcasts, and clearly showed intent to betray. Aid and comfort alone are simply not enough. In Chandler’s case, there weren’t countless US media outlets saying the same things he was.

(I still think Arnett certainly deserved to be fired.)

The Tokyo Rose case, Toguri v. United States, is also fairly interesting and relevant. (Iva Toguri broadcast on Radio Tokyo during World War II, and in fact was convicted for treason, but President Ford later pardoned her on the grounds that the trial was a sham.)

One might enjoy The Law of Treason in the United States, by James Hurst, if one would like a good comprehensive background on what treason actually is.