Friday, February 11, 2005

Another One Bites The Dust: So Long, Eason Jordon

The AP has just announced that Eason Jordan has resigned over the furor concerning his anti-military remarks at the World Economic Forum last month. As many bloggers may know, Jordan alleged the US military deliberately targeted journalists and was responsible for at least twelve intentional journalist deaths in Iraq. This is the same Eason Jordan who, after the Iraq War started, admitted to covering up atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's Baathist government for many years so that CNN could keep their Baghdad bureau open.

Although the story received almost instant attention from the blogosphere, the mainstream media ignored it until early this week. By yesterday, with stories in the major East Coast newspapers and starting to appear on the various wire services, the heat was turned up on CNN to fire Jordan. CNN issued a release stating that, although "he did a poor job" of stating his opinion, Jordan didn't think the US military intentionally targeted journalists. However, Jordan's statement and CNN's explanation didn't match many eyewitnesses' accounts, including Senators Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. Senator Dodd was one of the many who has called for the World Economic Forum to release the videotape of the event so that Eason Jordan could be judged by his own words.

Jordan's resignation is the second time that a major news scandal has been brought to the attention of the public by the blogosphere. The Rathergate scandal was the first. I don't think that people realize the changes the Internet has wrought in the fabric of public communications and news dissemination, but these two events, along with the SwiftVets story that broke the back of the Kerry campaign (ignored by the media until the blogosphere made it such a hot topic that it couldn't be ignored anymore)... all of these show the increasing influence of the blogosphere and the waning power of the mainstream media. More and more, individuals are deciding what is newsworthy and what isn't, and the power of traditional journalism to act as a censor, allowing only the news that they want to present, is disappearing. And that is a good thing.

Freedom of the press wasn't supposed to mean that a few large corporations could control public perception by their slant on the story. Until now, however, there was no way to effectively communicate without going through the distribution channels controlled by the major media organizations. The Internet has changed all that. The genie is out of the bottle. The revolution is happening. It may not be televised, but it will be on the Internet, told by thousands of people in thousands of different ways.

Note: Readers interested in more information on the Eason Jordan story should check out these blogs: Captain's Quarters, Michelle Malkin, LaShawn Barber, and Easongate.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Iran and the Bomb: Can We Afford To Wait?

Israel Must Be Eradicated From The Annals of History”
— text on the Shihab-3 missile launcher
(From the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S) Website)

Reuters reported the following today:

Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, also told Reuters there was nothing the West could offer Tehran that would persuade it to scrap a nuclear program which Washington fears may be used to make bombs.

Can the mullahs be any clearer? Iran has shown by their words and deeds that they are determined to develop nuclear weapons and there is no diplomatic way that we can stop it. So what are our alternatives?

Well, we can accept the fact that Iran will eventually “go nuclear” and resign ourselves to live with the consequences. What are those consequences? Well, here's what the leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamanei has to say:
“The foundation of the Islamic regime is opposition to Israel and the perpetual subject of Iran is the elimination of Israel from the region.”

I can't find the direct quote to cite, but another Iranian leader has, when asked whether Iran had nuclear capabilities, responded that the world will know the morning after Iran has a working Bomb because Tel Aviv will be incinerated. In other words, “Bomb today, mushroom cloud tomorrow.”

Now maybe all of this is hype. Maybe, despite the billions of dollars they've given to Hezbollah and Hamas over the years, and the deaths and damages those forces have done to Israel, the mullahs really could care less about whether Israel exists or not. Maybe all Iran wants is to replace Baathist Iraq as the Power Player in the Middle East, exerting its influence and coercing its neighbors. Objectively there is no regional threat to Iran, especially with the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Iran is the largest (population-wise) country in the Middle East, with a burgeoning petro-economy and a strong conventional military. Except for abysmal misgovernment the country would be among the world's most prosperous. So, the only rational reason for Iran to develop nukes is as a counterweight to US military power—to negate the ability of the US to interfere with Iranian muscle-flexing throughout the region by threatening a nuclear response to any US attack.

The Iranians know that only the United States can successfully interfere if they decide to invade a neighbor or threaten military force unless the Gulf states follow their policies. The lesson of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, to the Iranians, was “don't risk a military confrontation with the US unless you have strategic nuclear weapons.” Hence, their desire to domestically have the capability to create every technology required for an independent nuclear weapons program, from gas centrifuges to breeder reactors to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Now that Iraq is no longer an effective counterweight to Iranian power, no other Gulf state has the conventional military wherewithal to withstand Iran. More to the point, no other Arab regional power has an effective counter to Iran's nuclear capabilities, and thus a nuclear Iran becomes the hegemon in the Gulf. These countries will be in the same situation that Kuwait was vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein; get with the program, or else. Only Israel has nuclear capabilities and thus the military ability to withstand pressure from Iran, and they are neither a neighbor of Iran nor are they hegemonic or imperialist in their intentions. Contrary to Arab assertions, Israel doesn't want to project power. It just wants to be left alone.

The United States' declared policy is that a nuclear weapons-capable Iran is not acceptable. If we're not bluffing, it means that we will not rule any option out to prevent Iran from developing and possessing nuclear weapons... including the use of military force. If we're serious about this, if we're going to use force, then we need to do so before Iran gets the Bomb in order to minimize US casualties and prevent a nuclear conflagration. Iran has threatened to respond massively to any attack on its nuclear facilities and it is not unreasonable to assume that if Iran had nuclear capabilities it would use them.

And thus we come again to the possibility of a pre-emptive war; an attack on another country before they pose an imminent threat, because once the threat is imminent the price we'll pay to eliminate that threat will be very high. Chances are, our earstwhile "allies" in Europe will not support us, as they didn't support us in Iraq. Will the American people?

We know the anti-war folks will condemn any move against Iran. Some will ask, why not North Korea? After all, they purportedly already have nukes. My answer would be that North Korea is strategically much less of a threat to us than a nuclear Iran is. North Korea is broke, with no indigenous source of income (except for the selling of nuclear technology, and we are embargoing that). Our current strategy, of working with their neighbors to isolate them, is paying dividends. Recent news out of the country have indicated that the government is weakening and may well collapse without our active military involvement. If that strategy would work with Iran, then I'd be all for it. But it won't.

Iran, like Iraq and unlike North Korea, has a unique natural resource (petroleum) worth hundreds of billions of dollars on the open market. There's no way we can effectively press an embargo against Iran and have it stick, and since the mullahs know this and also know that we will be forced to escalate once the embargo proves worthless, their first reaction to an embargo or sanctions would be to openly accelerate their nuclear programs. As Rohani indicated above, there is nothing we can do diplomatically to stop them.

Other anti-war types will argue that we have no right to tell the Iranians they cannot have nukes when we have them. This argument demonstrates the same flawed reasoning used to support gun control; assigning morality to an instrument instead of the wielder. Like any tool a weapon reflects the morality of its user. A handgun used by a criminal to murder innocents is obviously being used to commit a bad act; the same type of handgun used by a police officer to prevent a murder is just as obviously being used to commit a good act. The reason we (and the rest of the civilized world) cannot afford to let the mullahs get the Bomb is not because nukes are evil. It is because the Iranian leadership does not have the same worldview that we do; what is unthinkable to us is perfectly acceptable to them. Intervening in Iran is protecting the civilized world's right to be free from coercion and nuclear blackmail.

We're in a race right now. Iran is fudging and hedging and using the negotiations with Europe (as well as the insurgency they're funding in Iraq) to buy time for their weapons program. Soon... probably before the end of 2005, we're going to come to a point where we either act, or we refuse to act. We will either pre-emptively intervene in Iran with a high chance of success or we wait... and either live with the consequences of a nuclear-capable hegemonic Iran, or face a probable nuclear war.

Over the past three decades, when we refused to act we got the fall of South Vietnam and the attendent horrors in Southeast Asia, the fall of the Shah and the rise of fundamentalist Iran and its attendent horrors in the Middle East, genocide in Rwanda, the slaughter of tens of thousands during the Shiite uprising in post-Gulf War Iraq, and the rise of Al Quaida and the resultant carnage on 9/11. When we acted, we got democracies in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, and Grenada, ended Libyan acts of terrorism against us, liberated Kuwait from its invader (and also ended the Iran-Iraq War), and a free Afghanistan and Iraq which held their first democratic elections in history.

Acting is painful in the short-term, but not acting is always more painful in the long term. We need to act on Iran, and sooner rather than later.

Addendum: Here's another related article I wrote last year.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Your Mouth Says No But Your Body Says Yes: What Reid and Pelosi Were Really Communicating

Tell: In poker, a tell is any habit, behavior, or physical reaction, that
gives other players more information about your hand than they
would have simply from your play.

You can often discern what people are thinking by what they don't say. Case in point: the Democratic rebuttal to Bush's State of the Union address tonight delivered by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Despite what Democratic leaders are saying to outsiders, there is no longer any doubt that the party hierarchy recognizes that it is struggling. To their benefit, it looks like Democrats have come up with a strategy. To their detriment, the strategy they seem to have chosen is based on their perception of Newt Gingrich's Contract With America strategy which helped the GOP gain control over the House in 1994... and their perception is flawed. Democrats still do not understand why they are losing elections, thank God.

First, the signs of desperation:

Reid: [...] I grew up around people of strong values - even if they rarely talked about them. They loved their country, worshiped God, never shunned hard work, and never asked for special favors. [...]
Pelosi: [...] Democrats are committed to a strong national security: that keeps America safe, that wins the War on Terror and that never again sends our troops into harm's way without the equipment they need. [...]

The Dems must really be worried about how their party is perceived. Reid and especially Pelosi emphasized values more associated with conservatism than liberalism: themes like hard work, religion, patriotism, and a strong national defense. Is there any doubt that this emphasis is a result of a focus group study that reported Dems got slaughtered at the polls last November because of their weaknesses in these areas? Reid and Pelosi's attempt on the old Star Wars-Obi-Wan Kenobe mind trick didn't work on me... You like Democrats because they are patriotic... Are you nuts! Your party hates America! You like Democrats because they support the military... Are you nuts? The Democrats do everything they can to cripple the military! You like Democrats because they are the party of moral values... Are you stark raving nuts??!! How can you say that with a straight face? ... and I don't think it worked on Red State America either. Earth to Democrats: your problem isn't language, it's credibility.

Second, their clear failure to change their policy positions on the major issues of the day; Iraq, the War on Terror, federal spending, and Social Security. Sure, they put a pretty bow on the packages, but once we opened them it's the same-old, same-old.

Let's look at Iraq, where the Democrats are still urging us to hand over the car keys and get the hell out of the vehicle as soon as possible:

We all know that the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force [by the Dems and the terrorists, not the vast majority of Iraqis - jc]. Neither should we slip out the back door, falsely declaring victory but leaving chaos.

Despite the best efforts of our troops and their Iraqi counterparts, Iraq still faces a violent and persistent insurgency [greatly diminished as shown by their irrelevancy during the election - jc]. And the chairman of the National Intelligence Council said in January that Iraq is now "a magnet for international terrorists." [great! we'll kill all you want... just send more! - jc]

We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq. And we did not hear one tonight. [Uhhh... you should have been listening, because Bush said that we'll leave when Iraq can stand on its own... a victory strategy rather than an exit strategy - jc]

Democrats believe a credible plan to bring our troops home and stabilize Iraq must include three key elements.

First, responsibility for Iraqi security must be transferred to the Iraqis as soon as possible. This action is long overdue. The top priority for the U.S. military should be training the Iraqi army. [Isn't that what Bush just said? - jc]

[...] Second, Iraq's economic development must be accelerated. Congress has provided billions of dollars for reconstruction, but little of that money has been spent to put Iraqis to work rebuilding their country. [Pointless to pay contractors who won't work until they can do so safely, isn't it? And the terrorists have been deliberately targeting contractors since they are soft targets - jgc]

Third, regional diplomacy must be intensified. Diplomacy can lessen the political problems in Iraq, take pressure off of our troops, and deprive the insurgency of the fuel of anti-Americanism on which it thrives. [Pelosi has a point here: if we give in to the Iranians and Syrians, we can get out quicker. Is that what she wants? - jc]

Basically train a bunch of Iraqis on a schedule then pronounce 'em trained... check!, give billions of dollars to a provisional government that can't realistically spend the money in a productive way (but it clears out the bank accounts)... check!, appease the neighbors supporting the terrorists to get them to quit shooting at us while we pack our bags... check!. A cut-and-run with our tails between our legs position, devasting to American credibility in a post-9/11 world but look at the bright side: if Bush were to take the Democratic advice on how to end our intervention in Iraq, he would hand the Dems a spectacular failure that they would then use to excoriate him, much as they excoriated Bush 41 when he agreed to the Democratic tax hike back in 1990. Fortunately for him and for the country, Bush is not anywhere near as stupid as Nancy Pelosi looks. Hey, Nancy? Lay off the Botox, okay? Your death mask was creeping me out.

How about the Democratic dedication to fighting the War on Terror?
And as we protect and defend the American people, we must also protect and defend our Constitution and the civil liberties contained therein. That is our oath of office.
Translation: given half the chance we're going to gut the Patriot Act like a beluga sturgeon. Yep, back to the good ol' days, when the FBI couldn't talk to the CIA, the CIA couldn't talk to the FBI, neither could talk to the INS, and we had to go beyond the letter of the law and avoid any appearance of aggressiveness directed towards foreigners.

I could go on by cutting and pasting the sections of the rebuttal having to do with greatly expanding federal program for education and health care, but my BS detector has just about had it. Suffice it to say that the Democratic rebuttal was not against the President, it was against the voters. Here it is in a nutshell:

So we got beaten in November. So what? We're right and you're wrong, but you're just too stupid or selfish or greedy to understand that. We're going to work on our message to pick off enough of the low-lying electorate "fruit" to start winning elections again, but don't expect us to change our position, just our way of pitching it. And we're going to oppose any policy, legislation, or appointment put forth by any Republican because the Republicans and their evil ways must be thwarted, especially anything that threatens to make Americans less dependent upon the government like Social Security privatization... when that puppy crashes and burns in a few decades you'll be voting Democratic like your life depends on it! Transferring wealth and ignoring the will of the people for their own good because we know better is what made the Democratic Party what it is today, and we're not going to change. Sooner or later, and sooner if we can screw up the economy like we did in 1990 or cause a massive foreign policy debacle like we did in the mid 1970s, you podunks with your short attention spans will forget your silly infatuation with self-reliance and come to us out of desperation... and we'll be waiting.

Quick, someone! Put a stake through this monster before it can get up again!

Addendum: Other places to look for rebuttal analysis... Ankle-Biting Pundits, Vodkapundit, Protein Wisdom, and Wizbang (great synopsis on this site).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Hillary's Wrong: Why Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Are Mutually Exclusive

Andrew Sullivan has written approvingly in The New Republic (subscription required, read it on his website instead) and online concerning Hillary Clinton's recent speech about the politics and morality of abortion. However, in my opinion Sullivan completely misses the point; is abortion equivalent to infanticide or liposuction? The answer to this question is something I believe we can determine to a level of certainty that precludes revisiting the argument.

As the reader may know, Senator Clinton is a well-recognized defender of the right to an abortion. However, as part of an attempt to broaden her national appeal to cultural conservatives (in preparation for a 2008 presidential campaign, in my opinion), she has been repositioning herself to appeal to the traditional-values base of the Democratic Party that, more and more, votes Republican.

Here's some excerpts from her speech, thanks to the New York Times:

"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved."

"We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place."

Was she sincere in her statements? Far be it from me to judge, ahem... but the article goes on to give the views of those who support and oppose Hillary and her pro-abortion record:
Mrs. Clinton's remarks were generally well received, though the audience was
silent during most of her overtures to anti-abortion groups. Afterward, leaders
of those groups were skeptical, given Mrs. Clinton's outspoken support for
abortion rights over the years.

Let's look at the issue of abortion. Pro-abortion advocates believe abortion is merely a surgical procedure involving only one human being, the woman, and any restrictions on abortion infringe upon a woman's right to control what happens to her body. Anti-abortion advocates believe there are two humans involved, the mother and the child, and that killing the unborn child is murder.

What does Hillary believe? Andrew states:
Hers [Clinton's] is, in that respect, a broadly pro-life position. Not in an absolutist,
logically impeccable fashion. That would require abolishing all forms of legal
abortion immediately. But in a pragmatic, moral sense in a free society, where
the ability of a woman to control what happens to her own body will always and
should always be weighed in the balance against the right of an unborn child to
life itself.
How can this be? How can it ever be moral to allow one person to decide whether another lives for arbitrary reasons? Let's call a spade a spade. Hillary's position on abortion is a straddle, an attempt to have it both ways. Hillary wants to appeal to the pro-abortion crowd by defending the right to an abortion, while simultaneously appealing to the pro-life crowd by declaring abortion to be a moral tragedy. Her speech was a restatement of her husband's claim that abortion should be "safe, rare, and legal." Am I the only one to be jarred by the striking absurdity of this position?

If you believe, as Hillary says she does, that abortion is a woman's right, then unless you are the sort to condone murder you must also believe that the fetus is not human and therefore is not entitled to the protection of any human rights including the right to life. It follows, then, that abortion is not a moral tragedy but instead a surgical procedure that is no more immoral than having a wart removed. Why then, if abortion does not involve the murder of a child, should abortion be rare? Why, then, shouldn't we encourage women to have abortions as often as they see fit? And why is a wart removal by another name a moral tragedy?

Correspondingly, if you believe, as Hillary says she does, that abortion is a moral tragedy, then aren't you implicitly agreeing that abortion is murder? Why, then, if abortion is murder, should abortion be legal?

Andrew concludes with his own thoughts on the subject:
In some ways, this does not mean a change of principle. Democrats can still be
and almost certainly should be for the right to legal abortion. But instead of
beginning their conversation with that right, they might want to start it with
acknowledgment of a wrong. Abortion is always wrong. How can we keep it legal
while doing all we can to reduce its scope and damage? Call it a pro-life
pro-choice position. And argue for it with moral passion. If you want to win a
"values" debate, it helps to advance what Democrats value. And one of those
obvious values: the fewer abortions the better. Beyond the polarizing rhetoric,
a simple message: saving one precious life at a time.
Andrew, if "abortion is always wrong" then how can it be right to support it? Do you not see the glaring inconsistency, indeed the hypocrisy in this position? If reducing abortions is about "saving one precious life at a time" then the only possible logical conclusion is that eliminating abortion is the only moral answer.

This is why the Democrats are losing the argument on moral values (and losing elections); they fail to understand or agree that moral values are absolute. This nuanced, Kerry-esque (Clinton-esque?) tactic doesn't address the reason that pro-life folks will not vote Democratic. If one believes that abortion is murder, just as gassing Jews at Auschwitz was murder, then you won't appeal to them by agreeing to discourage abortion while keeping it legal just as reducing the number of Jews sent to Auschwitz while keeping the gas chambers and crematoria operating (at a reduced rate) wouldn't have made the Final Solution acceptable. Murder is wrong, whether it's one murder or one million murders.

Abortion is either murder, or it isn't. If it is then it is wrong and must be ended. If it isn't, then there is no moral tragedy. You can't have it both ways, and the Democrats just anger both sides by trying. My view: having been mindlessly pro-abortion when I was younger, I have since then expended considerable energy and though on the subject and am now decidedly pro-life.