ZoNotes: The Devil Came Down to Georgia, lookin' for a soul to steal...
Friday High Culture
Tonight I enter the realm of haute sophistication and will go to my complex's wine tasting tonight. Fun and details will come tomorrow.
There are a bunch of different takes this morning on President Bush's decision to send SecState Powell next week to Israel to attempt some peacemaking. First, let's start off with the kettle-thou-art-black material from the Saudi Ambassador, Prince Bandar. In deploring "the terror," Prince Bandar is attacking the Israelis for their operations against terrorist infrastructure. Understand the relationship of the Arab pressure weapons against Israel -- Palestinian bodies, Syrian rockets, Iraqi nukes, Egyptian about-faces, Jordanian benign condemnation, and Saudi cash. It is true that Prince Bandar represents a segment of the royal family that is somewhat pro-American. It is also true that this segment is about to be muzzled when King Fahd dies. Plus, it is this very same element of the royal family that exported extremists to other places so they could raise trouble in foreign lands. Can you imagine what the real hardliners are like? Ok, now here's the second take by Peggy Noonan. If Noonan isn't working in the White House spin machine, she does a good job acting like she does by praising Bush's action. Then, of course, there's my take on the entire situation. In the last 6 years, I've come to the conclusion that a negotiated settlement absent decisive military victory by either of the combatants will eventually crumble. Peace in SW Asia is like the Holy Grail for diplomats -- he who can capture it has eternal life. Subsequently, many intelligent men (Carter, Clinton, Bush I, to name a few) have expended maximum effort to get minimal return. Still for every failure, there's always someone around the bend willing to invest the credibility of their office to see through the process.
Given the current situation, the only way you could alter that reality is if you freeze developments on the ground. Yesterday I posited my "Croatian Solution." Since Powell isn't due in Israel until next week, this is increasingly what it looks like. Whenever Sharon reaches a comfortable level where he can halt IDF operations is when Powell will likely "apply pressure" on Israel to withdraw. So, at the moment, Israel is on a 72-or-so-hour clock to do whatever more it needs to do. This is very very risky, because one suicide bomber could wreck the timing, plus all the other stuff I mentioned yesterday remains constant.
Speak, Speak to the Congregation!
ZoNotes' foundation-to-the-decoration gabfest on the Israeli crisis has garnered responses from the readers:
From the anti-Sharon side, Livy Keithley (C'98) tells us:
"Bush has acted too little, too late. I don't mean
to say "I told you so," but I think it was back in
late September when I said that Bush's mandate of
"fighting terrorism" as his justification would open
the door for Sharon and the Israeli thugs to make a
mockery of all human rights in Palestine.
What Israel is currently engaging in is wrong,
plain and simple. While I sympathize with the
arguments of "self-protection" and fighting terrorism
(notwithstanding the amorphous definition of the term
"terrorism" - one man's terrorist is another man's
freedom fighter), I cannot being to condone the
Zionist incursions into Palestinian territories in any
way, shape or form. Sharon has been begging for a
fight since 9/11 - he saw Bush's ignorance and
half-cocked attitude as the perfect excuse to start a
war, and we are now seeing the final stages of that
develop today. Honestly, I'm surprised it took this
Sharon, despite his rhetoric of "really wanting to
work for peace," wants nothing more than to be
remembered as the PM who permanently destroyed the
Palestinian cause. He has never been committed to
peace, and never committed to the peace process; his
only sense of "peace" has been total and utter
surrender of the Palestinians to his version of the
facts. Like that would ever happen....yet he knew
that, banked on that, and ultimately is able to skew
the American populace to believing his is the best
side to be on.
Thus, because of uncontrolled incursions by
extra-military groups in Palestine, Sharon has found his
excuse to impose a greater-than-martial-law
restriction on all of Palestine, and go literally
door-to-door looking for people. Where is human rights now?
Freedom from search and seizure; innocent till
proven guilty; justification for police action.
Israel knows none of this, will never know none of
this, and refuses to even entertain such notions. For
this reason alone, the United States should wholly
and totally abandon our support of Israel and its
repressionist, bullyist policy.
Powell will be able to do nothing; you are correct
in asserting that the "Bosnia" situation that Bush
might be hoping for will not occur; even
if it does, it will not help, it might even be
worse. Sharon has found his excuse to do what he has
bee ntrying to do since 1967; wipe the Palestinian
cause off the face of the earth. I just wish that
Bush would buck up and recognize what is going on,
and possibly get his head out of his tail and not
support Israel...for once."
Perspectives on the Fallacy of the Perfect Adversary:
Aaron Ammerman (F'00)
"Okay, I'm gonna argue with myself just for the
moment ;-) Part of the Fallacy of the Perfect
Adversary seemed refuted the Kissingerian canard that
despotisms have more effective foreign policy than
democracies due to the reduced role of bureaucratic
inefficiency in the foreign policy process.
How about this looper- Despotisms (like all 3rd
world regimes) _appear_ to have a more effective
foreign policy (a la Kissinger) because they have a
more focused, often one-dimensional foreign policy.
Sophisticated western/American foreign policies by
contrast must address the entire spectrum of
political disputes throughout the world. Foggy Bottom and
Quai D'orsay are expected to weigh in on every
foible in every country... why? because that's what
global superpowers do because they have to AND the
obligation is compounded by having a democratic
populace that in toto has an opinion on everything.
Is it possible to have an opinion on everything and
never send a conflicted message?
Meanwhile, most foreign policy establishments are
tasked with one or two objectives- join the EU,
attract more foreign aid, conquer Guyana, become the
indisputed ruler of Nagorno-Karabakh, end sanctions
imposed on your regime. Does anybody care about
Iraqi opinion on the international whaling regime? NO!
Does anybody care about Germany's opinion on
Israel-Palestine? NO! Does anybody other than the U.S.
and Fiji care about the Fijian civil war???
One of my constant concerns at work is remembering
that two policies aren't written in direct conflict
with each other due to a policy shift or
half-assedness or compelling circumstances, but usually
because two different people attempted to make a
statement on similar subjects and brought conflicting
prejudices and biases to the table. If the U.S. only
tackled one issue at a time (like many despots), a
united approach would easily be possible- Bush can
direct Powell to send out a message that terrorists
are bad and everyone would know "terrorists are bad
- official U.S. policy" without question. Instead,
we differentiate between "real" terrorists,
terrorists we can do business with, terrorists who are
better than the alternative, terrorists who only
attack non-American targets, terrorists who only attack
rich American businessman and/or missionaries,
terrorists who have legitimate complaints against a
dictatorial regime, terrorists who have a lot of
relatives in the U.S., terrorists who are rich white
suburban children who are alienated from their
families and communities and act out their rage because
our society lacks role models and rites of passage,
and terrorists who make fat donations to U.S.
A conflicted foreign policy is a privilege: the
privilege of the fat, happy regime that does not worry
about its survival or legitimacy on a day-to-day
"I did everything the Bible says.. even the parts
that contradict the other parts."
And, Finally, Sean Mullaney (B'00):
"Yes, the Bush Administration policy here has been very muddled. I believe that is largely the fault of the State Department. Bush saying that "Arafat could do more" to stop the terrorists is odd and at this point untrue. If the Administration would just make the fact that Arafat is a terrorist ordering attacks US Policy, all of a sudden things would be so much clearer.
The disconnect from Saturday's UNSC 14-0 vote (US "Yes") and Bush's comments hours later is interesting. At first I thought that this illustrated the irrelevance of the Security Council. But Novak's article hints (and I tend to agree) at something more. Maybe this was Bush's way of telling the State Department, "You guys suck, I really don't appreciate your point of view." Bush is not one known for direct confrontation. Just see how the FBI and CIA, for example are the same now as on Sept 10. Yeah, Tom Ridge got a title, but no real changes have been made.
Novak's cryptic warning at the end is interesting. While an all out war in the Middle East would be a disaster (one I think may unfortunately be inevitable -- but one the US should delay for some time while we rebuild the military for a serious fight), I think the greatest disaster would be to support terrorists. You support terrorists (whether or not, BTW, those terrorists have the approval of the Euros and CNN), de facto you support 9-11, and that is intolerable. This also opens us and the Israelis up for many more terrorist attacks."
"Love doesn't pay the bills, but that's what you have your checkbook for..."
ZoNotes: We all ride and don't worry about the fall. I guess that's just the cowboy in us all.
The Croatian Solution?
What's the endgame? There has to be one, right? Earlier in the week SecState Colin Powell mentioned that he was waiting for the "right time" to go to Israel to try and broker a settlement of some sort to help alleviate the problems caused by the second intifada. Couple this statement with the Bush Administration's acquiescence of Ariel Sharon's Operation "Protective Wall" against Palestinian terrorists. With Bethlehem's church of the Nativity isolated and Israeli forces entering Nablus, it seems like the White House is waiting for ideal circumstances on the ground to develop in order to be in a better position to negotiate a deal. In a narrow sense, this mimics a strategy from the Clinton years. During the War of Balkan Succession, the U.S. allowed the Croatians to circumvent the UN arms embargo and build a ground army strong enough to defeat the Serbs in combat. Accordingly, after the Croats defeated the Serbs in Operation STORM in 1995 and retook the Krajina region, then-President Clinton had realistic momentum to compel the warring parties to meet at Dayton. The "facts on the ground" had changed. Is Bush searching for his own Dayton, a situation where all the warring parties are bound to Washington's decisionmaking because the reality on the ground dicates it?
This is a dangerous strategy, insofar in that the actors here are trying to manage a chaotic situation. Secondly, unlike Dayton, which was an enforced solution, none of the current "peace plans" mean anything in a larger strategic framework.
Furthermore, the Dayton Accords required a significant NATO/U.S. ground component. If you buy the prevailing logic, that means the West would have to kick in 20,000-plus peacekeepers. Peacekeepers tend to create their own borders based on their frontlines, logistics, etc., etc. When they leave, the incentive for the combatants is to settle old scores and restart the war. The American presence in the Balkans now is semi-permanent in this regard. In a country as small as Israel, where the distance between disputed land and undisputed land is measured in the most finite amounts, any NATO-ish force sets an arbitrary demarcation line. Plus, unlike Dayton, where one side (the Serbs) had clearly lost, the Palestinians see their suicide bombings as having more leverage. The peacekeepers would become A) human shields for the Palestinians, and B) targets. Instead of being "in the middle," the peacekeepers would be "in the way." Thus is the sensitivity of the diplomatic games the White House is playing, because it may create the very circumstances it seeks to avoid -- putting U.S. and Western troops between the IDF and the Palestinians.
The European Union has spent the better part of the last decade trying to become the "second superpower," acting as a progressive counterbalance to we, the red meat-eating uncultured savages. The problem with this is that besides the fact that Europe is weak, it chooses the wrong times and the wrong situations to test its mettle. In 1991, "the hour of Europe" was supposed to manage the Balkan crisis. That hour ended up with the siege of Sarajevo, the massacre at Srebrenecia, and the near-retreat of European troops on the ground before the American intervention. As a "test case," the western Euros failed their newly-liberated-from-Communism eastern opposites badly. With the SW Asian crisis brewing in Israel, the EU sees another opportunity to correct American neanderthalism. So, the EU is trying to get a delegation to force its own version of a peace agreement, predictably tilted towards the desires of Yasser Arafat. It risks greater calamity, because the Israelis, unlike the Croats, and Bosnians, actually have the force to match their resolve.
Yard to the Wall
The defining moment of the 2001 baseball season was Barry Bonds' goose-bumpy home run chase, where he fulfilled a haughty ZoNotes prediction and crushed 73 home runs. The premier moments of this young baseball season are again being provided by Bonds, as the San Francisco Giants slugger boomed 4 homers in the first two games, sending home 9 RBI. To borrow a phrase from the sportswriter imperium -- "at this pace," Bonds is set to bang home 324 homers. This crisp beginning to the season is a refreshing way for fans of the game to put off gloomy thoughts of lockouts, contraction, and Bud Selig's gawd-awful testimony to Congress in the offseason.
"The warmer the winter, the cooler the spring."
ZoNotes: She Moves in Mysterious Ways..
When Aaron (F'00) and I were lunching at the Tombs on GU's beautiful East Campus on Saturday, he expressed a thought to me that made a whole bunch of sense. Basically, if the American foreign-policy decisionmaking process appears so disorganized, what makes us think that the other side is any more efficient? Could it be that enemies like Iraq and North Korea have even a messier leadership apparatus even though they are authoritarian dictatorships? Look at Palestine, where Yasser Arafat first cultivates an anti-Semitic infrastructure and then ends up with the tar baby of the Fatah movement, as al-Aqsa. His control is, at the same time, both absolute and nonexistent. His security forces like Force 17 end up being terrorists, too. He can't move against what he says he can't control, precisely because he controls it. Still, if there's anybody who's going to kill Arafat first, it will most likely be the very security forces he controls. Odd, isn't it?
Another historical case is that of the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sure, the Soviets succeeded in getting the SS-4s and -5s to Cuba, but once the crisis accelerated, I think that Khruschev lost operational control of his troops. Plus, by sending FROG tactical nukes to the local commanders in Cuba, Khruschev created initiative where he wanted control. I think that the Soviets would have launched the FROGS against 2d Marine Division had it moved to invade.
To clarify what I'm getting at, I think that the Soviet troops were "Cubanized," perhaps taking orders from Fidel Castro, and were going to launch their nuclear weapons first even if Khruschev didn't give them permission to do so.
The whole concept that executing foreign policy in a democracy is inferior to that of one conducted in a dictatorship is a farce. That's an old Kissingerian canard that sounds good in IR Theory but mostly ends up exploding. As ugly as American foreign policy comes out looking at times, it still produces better results, uneven as they may be. I'm gonna tag Aaron's thinking as the Fallacy of the Perfect Adversary, because our enemies make strategic miscalculations, too. In fact, the last couple of wars we've fought were a result of someone else's strategic mistakes, not their right decisions.
The Guns of Spring
Thanks goes out to ZoNoter Wesley S. Gillette (F'00) computer expert and one of my roommates from junior year for sending me Edward Luttwak's article on the contingencies that could blossom into the fourth full-scale Arab-Israeli war. An especially revealing facet of Luttwak's analysis is his assessment of the costs of mobilzation for both the Israelis and the Arab states. It reminds me a bit of the "partial" mobilzations in the late summer of 1914 that helped trigger World War I. Once you lock into a full-scale mobilzation, you ramp up the likliehood of a general war. That's basically what happened when the European states in that tragic August moved. The deployments created their own inertia, and forced momentum instead of cooling nerves after the death of Franz Ferdinand.
The only tenet of Luttwak's article that I disagree with is the economic impact of a full Israeli deployment. Yes, pulling Israelis from their jobs to the seat of an F-15 is an expensive proposition, especially when extrapolated across the entire Israeli population. However, if the Israelis went to that high a level for war, then the war won't last long. Israeli operations as I see them embrace two things -- swfitness and overwhelming force. Ariel Sharon's reputation as a great general was forged not on a guerrilla campaign. You'd have to look at Menachem Begin or Moshe Dayan for that. Sharon's fame is in quick , brutal, smashing victories in 1967 and '73. That's why Israel is sludging through the Palestinian incursion. It won't slug through a conventional Arab attack.
If the Egyptians or the Syrians move their large conventional forces, Israel will not reply with a corresponding deployment -- it will move to strike, largely because it can't afford to sit Fulda Gap-style for an assault to come over the horizon. The idea is that if you can surge to victory, you present your antagonists in Europe and the UN with a fait accompli. The Israelis like to kick off ground campaigns with airstrikes. It caught the Egyptians on the ground in 1967. In 1973, Israel was almost defeated when the Egyptians pinned down Israeli air superiority with a sophisticated SAM/air defense network. In the 1980s, the Israelis decimated the Syrian Air Force over Lebanon. Today, the Israeli precison-guided arsenal is ahead of the capabilities of two NATO states -- Britain and France -- putting it just behind the United States. The moment the Egyptians crossed into the Sinai to "deter" Israeli operations against Yasser Arafat, the Israelis would choke them off. You don't even want to contemplate the ensuing melee.
"Baseball is the Nation's pastime, football is its passion."
ZoNotes: The World Is Not Enough
Crossfire used to beat least mildly interesting. But the new Mortal Kombat-ish arrangement between James Carville/Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson/Bob Novak is an odd conflagration. Watching this train wreck last night, I expected one of the antagonists to bust out a "Fatality" move. Novak wasn't even in the studio, as he was in Atlanta cheering on the Maryland Terrapins in the NCAA championship game.
The College Park DMZ
Speaking of which, after the Terrapins won the NCAA basketball title last night at the Georgia Dome against Indiana, the student body up in College Park resorted to a now-annual tradition of rioting and unrestrained disorder. While last night's shenanigans did not approach the destruction of last year's Final Four aftermath against Duke, they did include a MD state trooper losing two teeth and a bonfire. Perhaps the most entertaining scene was the one of College Park police pumping pepper spray rounds into rambunctious miscreants. "It's like, they're killing us with pepper spray!" A female coed said angrily. Yeah, like totally, can you like understand that we like have rights and stuff?
Their Backs At History's Wall
ZoNotes' pro-Israel stance in the midst of the second intifada has already been largely exposed in the last week. It appears that given Palestinian suicide attacks, active Arab endorsement of them, and the Bush Administration's conflicted response, that we will have a second Gulf War sooner than expected. At what point does world opinion become so loud and repetitive that the person on the receiving end of the lecture not even listen? The "pull" of the U.S. with Israel stems from the fact that Washington is the only capital on earth willing to give Israel a friendly ear. In the last 35 years, as European countries buckled to their traditional stance of appeasement in the face of tyranny, their ability to talk to (or "talk at") Israel has in fact deteriorated. The same applies for the UN. The resolutions passed daily condemning Israel have become so frequent that they are now mundane. When left to their own instincts, the Israelis are better off taking unilateral action and having the "international community" deal with it than listening to the pinstripes in New York and Brussels.
Last night on HARDBALL!!!! Howard Fineman made a point of saying that in Jerusalem, you have the intersecting point of the world's 3 great monothiestic faiths -- Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Technically, as a fellow ZoNoter pointed out at dinner on Saturday, all three faiths are "of the Book." It would be too much to ask if we could all get along, but taking that commonality into consideration, wouldn't that work against the whole "ancient ethnic hatreds" thinking peddled in both southwest Asia and southeastern Europe? The problem, mainly, is the people. Religion becomes a card in a larger geopolitical-military game, used by leaders to incite public unrest and direct it against someone else.
Even in the months after 9.11, I assumed that we would understand what the average Israeli lived through daily. Clearly, I underestimated that sentiment.
"Yesterday's pop culture is today's high nostalgia."
ZoNotes: How Do You Like Me Now?
For Want Of Two Percent
The news out of Israel this past weekend was dismal, as suicide bombings continued throughout the Holy Weekend. I keep saying the "most recent" attack only to be superceded by the next most recent attack. Yesterday's bombings in Haifa will guarantee retaliation by the Israeli Defense Force, and justifiably so. Last week Livy Keithley (C'98) suggested that Israel "Do the Right Thing" and continue with the "peace process" despite the accelerated attacks by Hamas and Al-Aqsa. The problem is that the two mechanisms -- negotiations, attacks -- work contrary to one another. Why would Arafat even approach the negotiating table when the factions that "are beyond his control" are slicing wedges between Washington and Tel Aviv? Why would Israel even consider talking when under fire? If you take a look at what Arafat walked away from at Camp David in 2000, you notice that the Palestinians had 98% of what they were asking for. As offers go in this part of the world, this is just about what you can acquire without actually having to go to war over it. In order to secure that last 2%, Arafat had to launch the second intifada. All the bloodshed stemming from the summer of 2000 is over 2%. The suicide bombing campaign is, as the New York Times' Thomas Friedman declares, part of the Palestinian strategic decisionmaking process. ZoNoter Simon Torres (F'00) relates some commentary that was sent to me Saturday afternoon:
"Random thoughts on the Middle East on this Holy Saturday.
"I want to be a martyr, a martyr, a martyr, a martyr." - Yasser Arafat
And with that, there goes the peace "process". The fact of the matter is that while Israel's decision to raid the Ramallah compound is tactically strange and devoid of any real military objective, this is what dealings with Arafat and the PLO have come to: gestures instead of actions, statements instead of diplomatic protocol. The Palestinians are not fit to mind mice crossing a road, much less govern the nation they seek to have. Disagree? Their "leader" wants to meet the same fate as cowardly murderers who blow themselves up in public squares and is currently hiding underground somewhere. Their spokespeople are these same murderers, whose actions speak more strongly than any fool the PLO puts in front of the cameras. Their political agenda consists of statehood, but only as the expense of the eradication of the Jewish state and all of its people. It's not an oversimplified argument at all. That's who is in control of the Palestinian agenda and process. This is what Israel is left to negotiate with. Anybody knows that there have to be certain groundrules set for conflict resolution, whether you are talking about the stability of an entire region of the world or whether or not it's your or your wife's turn to throw out the trash. One are the presence of legitimate actors who can carry out concessions and promises agreed upon. Another is the reasonable proposition that any and all agreements (and disagreements, for that matter) are made in good faith. Does it seem like these rules can be applied to the PLO or Arafat? Absolutely not. Until many things change, peace will not come soon to this region, if at all."
The siege of Arafat's Ramallah complex isn't the key here. To understand what Israel is planning to do, you have to look at the Friday callup of 20,000 IDF reservists, the largest since 1991. That's a signal that this isn't going to be a narrow demonstrative operation. It portends to something on a wide scale, involving the systematic expulsion of terrorist elements in Palestinian territory. I would like to see peace, but at what cost, and under what conditions? If the Palestinian leadership can't even forge a workable, temporary ceasefire agreement to reopen peace talks, why should Israel be handing over any territory? The last Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon didn't silence Hizbollah, it emboldened it.
"Ah Dohn't Wahnt....
...your life!" Sorry, I had to turn on the twang there for a second, I watched Varsity Blues last night on FX. The film is a great ride, throughly entertaining and refreshingly brash.
Remains of the Day
Well, I do admit being somewhat wrong about my Final Four picks, as I was 100% off the Final. Both Indiana and Maryland played very well, so all the credit goes to them. OU and Kansas suffered from shooting outages that made any comeback an unrealistic endeavor. That said, I was amazed that Kansas put together the quietest 19-4 run I've ever seen, creeping to within 4 points of the Terps. I actually didn't watch most of the 2 games as I was out and about with ZoNoter Kathleen Lyon and Katherine Bulage. Of course, the sporitng events that I did watch were heartburn inducing. The Spurs, suffering from the yearly case of the ZoGivingThemPropsThusTheyLose disease, let a 10-point 4th Quarter lead slip away against the hated LA Lakers, 96-95, capping a three-game losing streak.
"Beat your swords into plowshares, but always keep your shotgun loaded in the shed."