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political roundup

not much time for posting lately. work's been nuts and i've been preoccupied with preparations for entering the navy. always time for a roundup, though.

bush the bully?

tony blair finds himself in a rare public spat with the white house over the matter of "final political control" on major military operations in iraq once the provisional government is holding the reigns. blair wants the IPG to have final say-so--and if iraq is truly to be a sovereign state, shouldn't this go without saying?

well no. and here's three reasons why.

1. iraqi sovereignty is an illusion. for the time being, anyway. the provisional government exists because of and is sustained by u.s. military might. their sovereignty is symbolic until they can stand on their own two feet, and that's not going to happen any time soon. it will happen eventually, but suddenly dumping the overwhelming burden of national security on the provisional government in five or six months (as one delirious iraqi official recently suggested) would be devastating. which brings us to...

2. we know better than the provisional government. we know what's better for iraq than the iraqis? well, when it comes to national security, yes. we've got the training, the experience, and what we didn't know going in there, we've learned through our mistakes. the iraqis are absolutely vital in an advisory role, but they lack the know-how to deal with the likes of al-sadr on their own. i understand that the IPG is eager to get started. after decades of saddam, who wouldn't be? but if in their patriotic zeal they sent us away too early, iraq would degenerate into chaos, the eventual outcome of which would likely be a fundamentalist islamic state. that would be bad for all parties.

3. the president does and should retain final control over the use of american military might. whenever the u.s. troops go abroad, it's the president who's ultimately responsible for their actions and for their safe return. that's not something that can be delegated to any government, let alone a provisional one. granted we respect the wishes of sovereign, legitimate states, but as mentioned in points 1 and 2, iraq isn't going to spontaneously become that on june 30th, however many pieces of paper are signed.

the pain from spain falls on fruited plains

when the spain caved to the will of terror, i and many like me warned of dire consequences for the spanish people. unfortunately, the consequences seem to be a bit more far reaching:

[A]l Qaeda operatives are pleased with the change in government resulting from the March 11 terrorist bombings in Spain and may want to affect elections in the United States and other countries.

this is why we must win in iraq, whatever the cost. whether you were for the war or against it, you've got to get on board now.

as far as al qaeda wanting to influence elections, in spain they used terror to oust a strong conservative government in favor of a weak liberal one. why, i wonder, would they seek to employ the same tactic here?


could it be that they don't share the low appraisal of the prosecution of the war on terror held by so many of the president's critics?

by getting this story into the papers now, the white house has seeded that thought in the minds of the american voters. politically, this will prove quite advantageous: if the terrorist plot is thwarted, the president has kept us safe and comes out a winner. if the terrorists do launch a successful attack, then the american people will recognize their objective and instinctively rebel against it. once more, bush wins.

is the white house playing politics with the war on terror? no, i don't think so. so-called "chatter" has been building for months, and it's entirely reasonable that al qaeda would want to eliminate the greatest threat to their existence by using a proven method. that being the case, the administration would be remiss in not warning the american people of the upcoming danger. that this aids bush's reelection aspirations should come as no surprise: the nation always rallies in the face of an outside threat. that it happens to put john kerry on the spot is a shortcoming of his, not bush's.

if you can't beat 'em...don't bother trying

as most of you are aware, the marines have pulled out of karbala, shiite islam's most holy city. karbala has now become something of a fundamentalist kook reservation, an island of taliban-esque law unto itself. i've heard reports of barbers being forbidden to give western-style haircuts, purveyors of alcohol being beaten and drug through the streats, men being "encouraged" to grow beards, etc.

were the marines "beaten" in karbala? hardly. the cost of success was simply seen as too high. a full-scale assault on karbala would be perceived by the 80% shiite majority of iraq much the same way catholics would perceive a full-scale assault on the vatican. a general uprising was deemed too likely.

i wonder, though, about the cost of withdrawal. have we proven to future al-sadrs that the united states is willing to throw itself on the sword of its own virtue? why should we respect muslim holy sites more than the muslim fanatics who are using them as military strongholds themselves? would we have really sparked a general uprising by rooting out al-sadr? that last one strikes me as too implausible. arab cultures respect strength, and the fact that we flattened saddam in about a month--saddam who kept the shiites cowed for decades--was as impressive a show of strength as could be imagined. besides, was it really necessary to destroy the holy sites to get to al-sadr? we could have rolled in knockout gas, cornered him in a mosque and starved him out, etc. i doubt very seriously that, with a bit of thought and effort, we couldn't have come up with a way to defeat al-sadr and keep the mosques relatively unscathed.

at any rate, the marines have now left karbala and karbala is looking more and more like a province of iran. is there any bright side?

actually, there is. sooner or later, every iraqi citizen is going to realize that there are really only two options. they can adopt a representative form of government and a reasonable facsimile of libertarian freedom, or they can go the road of islamic theocracy. i don't have any illusions about a true, western-style democracy springing up any time soon, but they could have something that's a lot closer than anything else the arab world has to offer. and karbala might provide just the incentive they need to get it.

when iraqi shiites visit karbala, they're going to see about as stark a contrast between opression and freedom as you could hope for. that's not a bad thing. if you were in charge of cold war propaganda for the u.s. government a few decades back, a simple film of daily life in east berlin would have worked quite nicely. the sort of up-close-'n'-personal exposure to the government some shiites might think they want could be just the thing to tip the scales in favor of freedom.

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