Thursday, November 30, 2006

Poor Victor

It must be traumatic for the classical philosopher of war. Victor Davis Hanson, the central California farmer and classicist (his book on the Peloponnesian wars is actually rather good) who aspires to be the philosopher of our current wars is almost visibly distraught in a recent post on National Review Online.

Dear Victor is afraid that if we fail in Iraq "it could be worse than that the perception of impotence that galvanizes our enemies. If we lost in Iraq and fled, it would not be the perception at all, but the reality of power that would be gone, in the sense that the United States would never in our lifetime intervene successfully again on the ground abroad -- convinced that it would inevitably lose.

"I think we are also close to seeing the permanent end of any Anglo-American military collaboration. And there would be legitimate questions raised also whether the U.S. military could win any future war -- given the knowledge that, barring some instantaneous victory, the American public would not allow it the time or latitude to destroy its enemies."

Maybe a gent who imagines himself a historian might have through some of these complications before cheerleading for a war of choice -- not necessity -- in a country with artificial borders imposed by British colonialists, divided by religion and ethnicity, with all kinds of pent-up resentments and hostilities suppressed by Saddam's tyranny. I only wrote a two-parter on Iraqi history before the war based on a few weeks of research, but it appears that I knew more about Iraqi history and the baggage it would bring post-war than any of the conservative and neoconservative cheerleaders.

If I believed Hanson was right I might almost be rooting for a clearcut U.S. defeat. But the poor dear is clearly hyperventilating. We've been in Iraq now longer than the U.S. was in military action in World War II, and there's no sign that the administration has the slightest idea how to bring it to a successful conclusion. So spare us the anguish over the public demanding an "instantaneous" victory.

After Iraq, however it ends, the U.S. military will still be the most powerful on earth by orders of magntitude. I hope we'll be a little more cautious about thinking we can bring instant democracy to countries with no tradition of democracy, but I suspect such hubris will hardly disappear.

Stephen Hadley's memo

Here's a link to the full text of National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley's Nov. 8 memo written after his trip to Iraq. Again, this is a NYT story, so it will probably cost to get access to the full text in a couple of days.

It's a little more overtly critical of Maliki than I had gleaned from reading the NYT story yesterday, but still carefully and conditionally worded enough to justify continuing support of Maliki, which from the Bush-Maliki conference of today was probably the preordained policy anyway. But there's still not much that wasn't being worried about in public at the time. It does suggest that from the U.S. perspective Iraq is still semi-sovereign rather than fully sovereign, as even Bush is careful to claim in public. It suggests several ways the U.S. might intervene in "internal" Iraqi politics to get the outcome the U.S. government desires.

The money quote is right at the top: "We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? [which is what, from the U.S. perspective? I'd really like to know, but the generalities from the president are not especially enlightening.] If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The ansers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq."

Some have suggested that this was a "friendly leak" from within the administration, to put Maliki on notice that the U.S. was scrutinizing him carefully. I have no inside information, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Lebanon war?

Just a little heads-up. I talked to someone I consider a fairly reliable source who just returned from several weeks in Israel studying their counter-terrorism tactics and history. He says almost everybody there, especially in the military, expects there will be another military clash with Hezbollah in Lebanon by this coming summer. I hope not, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Bush trip and Hadley's memo

President Bush's meeting with Iraqi prime minister Maliki has been postponed 12 hours. At this point there's no really reliable news as to why, but rumor is that Maliki is peeved that a Nov. 8 memo from Bush National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that is not all that flattering about Maliki was leaked to the New York Times.

If you want the reasonably full story on the memo, please click on this link fairly soon. In a couple of days the NYT will make you pay for the story.

As reported, the memo is hardly an unvarnished putdown or in fact much of anything that deserves to be classified Secret. It's a reasonably candid report on a trip to Iraq by Hadley and some NSC staff that included a face-to-face with Maliki. It expresses doubt as to whether Maliki can really control the chaos that Iraq has become, but practically anyone who was paying attention had those doubts. Money quote:

"His intentions seem good when he talks to Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hieraarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

Whenever the meeting does take place, the key question the leaders should confront honestly (if either is capable of that even in private) is whether there's a solid chance that a shift in strategy or the addition of a few more U.S. troops (many more seems unrealistic unless they start moving them from Europe or Okinawa) will lead to substantial improvement in six months or a year. If not, it's time to begin the American withdrawal, crow that we got rid of Saddam and put Iraq in the hands of Iraqis, and approach the next crisis/opportunity with a little more humility about the American capacity to set things right in other parts of the world through the magic of the military.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Journey Toward Justice

I had an interesting meeting last week with Dennis Fritz, author of the new book, "Journey Toward Justice." Dennis is one of more than 100 prisoners released in the past few years, most of them with the help of Barry Scheck's Innocence Project, because DNA evidence proved them not guilty.

Dennis served 12 years in the Oklahoma state pen for a murder he didn't commit. The cops looked at him briefly in connection with a 1982 murder, then pretty much left him alone for five years. When nothing else panned out, they came after him and an acquaintance and got them convicted. Dennis says he never lost faith that he would be exonerated eventually, but it was a long time coming. John Grisham also has a book out focusing on Dennis's co-defendant Ron Williamson, and has written a cover blurb for "Journey Toward Justice." I think Dennis's book is more interesting, and it certainly covers the legal issues more thoroughly.

As I wrote in a blurb for the book, this case should make it clear that people serving on juries should take the instructions that you shouldn't vote for a conviction unless there is no "reasonable doubt" very seriously, even if other jurors pressure them. I found out something about Dennis's case that he didn't know until just a few weeks ago.

A single juror doubted his guilt and was holding out until other jurors told her that if she voted to convict they would vote against the death penalty. Then when the penalty phase came up, the other jurors were all for the death penalty. But this time, having been double-crossed, she did hold out, and Dennis was sentenced to life. If that one juror hadn't let her conscience guide her, he might very well have been executed before DNA evidence proved him innocent. Think about that if you ever serve on a jury. You have an absolute right to let your conscience be your guide, and there's nothing they can do to you if you hold out or hang the jury.

Monday, November 27, 2006

What hurricane season?

Pardon me if I indulge in a little shadenfreude when the experts are wrong-wrong-wrong. But do you remember all the experts early this summer who predicted this would be one of the most devastating and destructive hurricane seasons on record? And those who tied more intense hurricanes to global warming?

Well, they were wrong, weren't they? Instead of being one of the most destructive hurricane seasons on record it has turned out to be one of the mildest.

I'm fascinated at those who are so eager to tie something like hurricanes -- which so far as I know have a strong cyclical pattern that undoubtedly overpowers whatever modest contribution global warming might make -- to global warming. I'm a modest skeptic on global warming being stronger this time around than longer warming and cooling cycles we have seen throughout history. But maybe it's so. But to jump in and tie it to severe hurricanes -- something that's easily falsifiable and in this case clearly falsified -- is almost astonishing. Sure, they can count on most of the media not to point out just how wrong they were, but do they think nobody will notice?

It only confirms that most of those most concerned about global warming -- though they might turn out to be right -- have only a tenuous hold on even the most elementary of scientific concepts.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why wait to withdraw?

Here, of course, from my recent column for, is my preference: American withdrawal from Iraq as quickly as possible. I think I went through most of the objections and answered or neutralized them reasonably well.

Here's a particularly noxious one, invoked all the time by Bush & Co: that American withdrawal would immediately make Iraq a safe haven for international terrorism. A lot of things could happen after a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, including civil war. But whatever emerged would almost certainly not be something like the Taliban in Afghanistan, eager to provide refuge for al-Qaida and other international terrorists. In fact, given that al-Qaida is generally Sunni in persuasion and the majority in Iraq are Shia, Iraq might very well become one of the unfriendliest places places on earth for al-Qaida.

That's not the guaranteed outcome, and I have no crystal ball. But Iraq as an effective safe haven for international terrorism is one of the least likely results of a U.S. withdrawal.

What now, Iraq?

Sorry for not posting for a while. For some reason Thanksgiving seems like the busiest week of the year for me --basically trying to get five days' writing done in three days. Anyway, here's a link to my most recent piece for the Sunday Commentary section of the Register. It suggests that the current "strategy" of doing more of the same in Iraq is a bit like the definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over, again and again, and expecting different results.

I outline the alternatives that seem most "live" and assess the chances for change.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A giant of liberty dies

Although I first met Milton Friedman's son, David, in 1967, in Washington, D.C. -- he used to go down to Dupont Circle almost every night to try to convince the hippies that if they were consistent about the values and preferences they espoused they should be free-market libertarians -- I didn't meet Milton Friedman until sometime in the 1980s, probably at a Pacific Research Institute seminar or banquet. After that I saw him a few times at Hoover Institution events, and usually had a few minutes with him one on one. Those were some of my most charished memories.

Milton Friedman looked you in the eye, with that little twinkle in his, and listened to questions, then answered them in a way that you knew he had really listened and understood -- sometimes including implications you hadn't thought of. When he was talking to you he treated you as if yopu were the only person in the world at that particular moment. In fact the only person for him was his wonderful wife Rose, with whom I also had the privilege of speaking a few times, trying to reassure her that the freedom movement would live on after her generation got old and was no longer able to contribute much anymore.

I guess Milton's 1962 book, "Capitalism and Freedom," along with Hayek's "Road to Serfdom," was a major contributor (for better or worse) to my intellectual and ideological development. Hayek taught a class at UCLA when I was there. Having read his book I knew he was a big deal, but since he taught (as I remember) a graduate seminar I couldn't take his class and thought it would be presumptuous just to drop into his office and say I would just like to meet him. I've regretted that decision ever since, as the occasion to meet him never arose again.

Lesson: If you want to meet somebody you admire -- or who just interests you -- take advantage of opportunities, even if it means being a tad pushy. The person will probably be flattered. Of course, being impolite should not be an option.

Milton Friedman's discipline was economics but his passion was liberty. He was still writing things, and writing them well, at age 93. May we all be so coherent at that age. He will be missed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What will the Democrats do?

Here's a link to my piece in the Orange County Register's Sunday Commentary section on the Democrats' plans for next year. In a word or two, expect all kinds of investigations into Bush administration mistakes, including about the war and pre-9/11, but not much in the way of substantive policy proposals. Even though President Bush expressed interest in working with the Democrats on immigration reform, I'd be surprised to see anything approaching the comprehensive get done.

Rove part of Republican denial?

Here's more evidence that Republicans are in denial about the importance of the Iraq war in their defeat last Tuesday. Speaking to Time magazine's Mike Allen, Karl Rove, the president's political guru, explained that he and the president missed the forecast because, "The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected. Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass."

Responding to the fact that the polls also showed discontent with the war, he took solace in the victory of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman over avowed anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, and concluded that "Iraq does play a role, but not the critical, central role."

Rove may be right that there's not a consensus for an immediate pullout. But he's whistling in the dark if he doesn't think the war was a -- and probably the -- major factor in his party's defeat.

On the other hand, I talked to a Republican insider in Washington today who told me all the Republicans he talks to are fully aware of the importance of the war in last Tuesday's results, and statements like Rove's are strictly for the press releases. Fine, but what's wrong with press releases that reflect the truth?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Buchanan to be honored

Don Boudreaux, chairman of the economics department at George Mason University, has announced in his daily e-mail that James M. Buchanan, the Nobel economist who is also at GMU, is among the recipients of the 2006 White House National Humanities Medal. As Don put it,"no living econbomist has done as much as has Jim to ground economics in the humanities -- to show that economics, properly and wisely done, is not a tool for social engineers but the core of the science of human society.

Here's the Washington Post story on the award. And here's a link to what Don calls "the most insightful one-page article ever written in the social sciences."

There's something wrong with the Register's Web site just now, so I can't post the link to my review of James Buchanan's latest book, "Why I, Too, Am not a Conservative." Later. Suffice it to say I recommend it highly. Many people who think they are conservatives could benefit from understanding it.

Republicans in denial?

I've heard various Republicans talk about how they lost the election in large part because they forgot they were supposed to be the party of limited government and once they were in power -- especially once their party controlled both the legislative and executive branches -- they went on a wild spending spree.

It's nice to see that degree of self-criticism, but I think most Republicans are still avoiding coming to terms with just how large a factor the Iraq war was in their ignominious defeat. Newt Gingrich yesterday, for example, said that if Bush had fired Rumsfeld two weeks before, the Republicans would still control the Congress.

I don't think so.

Bush might even have been right to suggest that it would have been seen as a purely political, election-oriented move -- as if dumping him the day after getting trounced in an election wasn't seen as political -- and that it would have backfired electorally.

I'm persuaded, however, that while spending like drunken sailors -- er, sorry, that cliche is a gross insult to drunken sailors, who are at least spending their own money -- was a factor in losing the peoples' confidence, it wasn't nearly as big a factor as the war. Until the Republicans come to terms with that and start rethinking foreign policy, they're going to have a hard time regaining confidence.

The trouble is, all too many Republicans really, really like war and the aggressive foreign policy that leads to war. So long as that's true -- remembering that the Democrats are no great shakes on the issue from a libertarian, realist or constitutionalist point of view -- they don't deserve support.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Daddy to the rescue

Many of us have been wondering for quite a while whether Bush 41 would step in to save Bush 43 from his own foolishness. As a father I can understand the reluctance. You want your children to step out on their own, to be self-reliant, to be their own people. But sometimes, even when they have become chronological adults, the temptation to step in when they do something really off-the-wall can be overwhelming. When your son is president of the United States and is harming the country and the party, it can seem like a necessity.

The senior Bush has said since Dubya was electred that he doesn't interfere and he doesn't offer advice unless asked. And there has long been a sense that Dubya was in some ways rebelling against the old man. Bush senior didn't like Don Rumsfeld much back in the 1970s and he probably doesn't like him much now. But the Bushlet nominated him and stuck with him through all kinds of criticism and calls for his resignation. (Here's an assessment from Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon for a couple of years under Rumsfeld before retiring from the Air Force.)

It has been obvious from Day One that many of Senior's people -- Brent Scowcroft most vocally -- were skeptical about the Iraq war, and it has seemed unlikely that Senior himself wasn't concerned. I had it from a good source -- and should have blogged Wednesday I guess, but work was pretty hectic that day -- that the resignation of Rumsfeld to be replaced by Gates was a Senior operation, initiated at least a week ago and overseen by Jim Baker, the longtime Bush family consigliere.

The question is whether this change will mean a change in policy. Gates has his own baggage -- Iran-Contra suspicions and all -- and he has mainly been a loyal family retainer. But if this was a rescue operation, it's likely the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, will come up with something reasonably dramatic -- perhaps partition along sectarian/ethnic lines -- and the Bushlet will adopt it, saying this was what he had in mind all along.

Daddy's people

Election analysis

Here's a link to my latest column an The essence is that the election was about disenchantment with the war, but it will take a good deal of work by those who want to end the war before those election results are translated into action toward even winding it down.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Medical marijuana disappointment

Tuesday's election had several marijuana-related issues, and while the good folks at the Marijuana Policy Project remain relentlessly upbeat, the results were a little discouraging.

In South Dakota, which was passing a referendum to reverse a law passed by the legislature to make abortion virtually illegal, voters were not quite ready for medical marijuana. They rejected a ballot measure to authorize the medical use of marijuana by a narrow 52-48 percent margin. To be sure, Measure 4 faced intense opposition from the White House, the state attorney general and most of the state's political establishment. The pro campaign was not very well funded, so in a way coming this close is heartening. But medical marijuana initiatives have succeeded in other states, even against stiff opposition.

Fortunately, in the 11 states that have authorized the medical use of marijuana, polls still show strong support for the laws.

MPP supported an initiative in Nevada to permit the manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana to adults 21 or older. It failed, 56-44, but for 44 percent of voters in any state to endorse outright legalization is encouraging. In Colorado local activists put Amendment 44 on the ballot to allow possesssion of up to one ounce. It lost 60-40. Again, 40 percent is impressive, but it's still a loss.

On the other hand, more modest proposals did rather better. Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica in California approved measures to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority (something San Francisco did more than a decade ago -- buy my book for details), as did Missoula County in Montana and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. And several districts in Massachusetts approved non-binding policy statements from voters to permit possession of up to one ounce or possession for medical purposes with a doctor's recommendation.

MPP also points out that Nancy Pelosi, the incoming Speaker of the House, has been a backer of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would order the feds not to go after patients in states with medical marijuana laws. And 20 active medical marijuana opponents in the House were defeated.

Maybe not so disappointing after all, but I would have loved to see success in South Dakota.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lew Rockwell on rejecting war

Lew Rockwell, president of the Mises Institute, had a typically insightful piece noting that in the repudiation of the president that yesterday's election results represent, "the failed (no longer any dispute about that ) war on Iraq was the decisive issue at every level."

He notes that the economy is in reasonably good shape (by conventional measures), there is no draft, and few Americans have family members or even know anyone at risk in Iraq, yet Americans voted against the war and did so during a midterm election, where national issues are seldom dispositive. Here's Lew:

"It seems that a certain impulse toward idealism still can make the margin of difference. It's not only about economic interest. Issues of peace and justice and truthfulness really do matter, even now. Ideas and not interests alone can still change the course of history, even in an age of cynical democracy in which buying and selling votes is said to be what matters."

We'll see about changing history. I suspect the Democrats will move cautiously on the war, at least at first, except for some welcome investigations. But any movement toward disengagement is welcome. And maybe we'll even see the beginnings of a debate on more fundamental aspects of foreign policy.

Santorumism goes down

I must confess to a special pleasure that the sanctimonious little twit Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania lost. He is the worst of the breed of Big Government Conservatives, not only wanting the government in peoples' bedrooms but also endorsing almost every federal welfare program that holds out the false hope of helping the poor or beefing up families.

Here's a recent piece by Laurence M. Vance, who actually read Santorum's book, "It Takes a Family," which I haven't brought myself to do yet. Vance is the kind of evangelical Christian who not only doesn't want the government to use other peoples' taxes to promote his religion, but believes excessive contact with politics demeans and cheapens Christianity. Perhaps that persuasion will grow in the wake of the election.

Anyway, Vance checked Santorum out with The New American's congressional rating service, which emphasizes constitutionalism (Ron Paul generally scoress 100). In the four ratings for the 109th Congress Santorum got 60, 20, 22 and 70. Not exactly sterling.

It's so easy to be a "compassionate conservative" with other peoples' money. But it's consistent for Santorum, who thinks the government needs to do a lot of supervision of us wayward Americans, and actually said that the phrase "the pursuit of happiness" was unfortunate because it had gotten America in a lot of trouble. He seems to instinctively distrust freedom, and the fact that so generally sensible a person as Peggy Noonan actually wrote a column saying she would miss him if he lost says something exceedingly unattractive about modern "conservatism."

Checks and balances

The Democratic victory for control of congress is a big boost for the idea of checks and balances -- and a significant repudiation of the war in Iraq. This wasn't necessarily clear at first, but as the Democratic margin in the House increased and as exit polls showed the Iraq war as the top priority for so many voters, it became increasingly obvious.

With the commission bill the United States moved to the verge of being a police state, repudiating at least in significant part the Great Writ of habeas corpus that has protected people in English-speaking countries from being imprisoned arbitrarily and without charges for some 800 years. I don't know if Democratic majoritie(s) -- the Senate is still uncertain as of this writing -- will be moved to reconsider that bill, or if the election results will embolden the courts. But the American people let the political establishment know that they have had enough of unitary government.

Does that mean gridlock? If so, how glorious! A government incapable of undertaking major initiatives from either end of the sometimes bogus political "spectrum" is a government less capable of hurting the people. The economy thrived under divided government during the 1990s and most of the 1980s. Bring it on!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Big Senate night for Dems?

This is from Doug Ireland, who claims to have a spy among the major network analysts who has access to the hermetically sealed exit poll results. The usual caveats about exit polls apply, mainly that they're polls, not actual votes, and historically they have overstated the Democratic votes, although the pollsters say they have corrected to eliminate that bias. We'll see.

Anyway, this is out on the Net, so I see little reason not to pass it along, even though it might or might not comport with the actual vote.

ARIZONA D-46, R-50
CONNECTICUT Lieberman up 4 points
FLORIDA D-62, R-36
NEW YORK D-68, R-30
OHIO D-57, R-42
MONTANA D-50, R-48
My network analyst suggests that the Missouri Senate race is definitely too close to call, and that Montana could yet tighten considerably."

Here's the link

Sorry, I forgot the link to John Fund's piece. Here it is.

Election-night crutches

Here's an interesting piece in today's Wall Street Journal that may be helpful in trying to dope out what it all means a few minutes ahead of the professional pundits. It's an hour-by-hour guide to when polls close in various states from by old acquaintance John Fund -- I had dinner with him last time I was in NYC but that was about six years ago.

He has Indiana and Kentucky closing at 6:00 EST (my recent check says 7:00). If the Republicans are losing the 2nd (Chocola), 8th (Hostetler, probably already lost) and 9th (Sodrel) in Indiana it could be a long night for the GOP. If Republicans lose the 3rd (Northrup) and 4th (Davis) in Kentucky, start roling the term "Speaker Pelosi" around on your tongue.

The three seats in Connecticut where Republicans are vulnerable are also key. And check Florida 22. Virginia closes at 7:00 so that should give us a preliminary idea of how the Allen-Webb contest is going and (maybe) how the struggle to control the Senate will play out.

I talked to Ted Carpenter, Cato's foreign-affairs guy this morning, and we got onto the topic of the election. He lays no claim to being a U.S. election specialist, but he expects the Democrats to gain 35 House seats because of discontent over the Iraq war. I'm not quite so bold.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Reference at

I was pleased to see Charles Featherstone, writing at, referenced my column last week on I bounced off a piece by Spencer Ackerman in the New Republic, which noted that conservatives have reverted to a pattern from the Vietnam era -- blaming the failure to win on antiwar critics and a failure of "will" back home.

Money quote from myself: "In brief, they [war supporters] have shifted from emphasizing the prospects for victory to warning about the dangers of defeat -- and placing the blame for possible defeat not on conditions on the ground or the wisdom of the war itself but on a lack of will to win among strategic elites back home. We're losing not because the furue of Iraq is not, or should not be. America's to dictate, but because critics of the war, and even of the administration's prosecution of the war, are sapping the will to fight brutally enough to win."

Featherstone endorsed the idea and took it a step further, arguing that "This is magical thinking. To believe that doubting the regime is the cause of that regime's military failure is akin to believing that harboring bad throughts about someone is the cause of their misfortune should misfortune arise."

Thanks for noticing the piece, Charles.

Iraqi independence

Last weekwas a fairly significant week in Iraq, and not just because of the verdict rendered on Saddam Hussein, about which more later. Probably more significant was the decision by the United States, in response to a request from Iraqi prime minister Maliki, to remove American checkpoints from the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday. U.S. military commanders seemed surprised by the request but complied -- even though they were in the midst of a concerted search for a U.S. Iraqi-American soldier who had been kidnapped, probably by insurgent forces connected with or sympathetic to Moqtada al-Sadr, who is one of Maliki's political backers.

Now maybe this means that the Iraqi government is really developing a certain independence from the U.S. occupiers. Or maybe it means the U.S. complied with the request to help create a sense of independence. Certainly Maliki has been stressing his growing desire for independence, including letting an aide leak a report of a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad, where he told Khalilzad he was "a friend of the United States, but not America's man in Iraq."

If the Iraqi government is calling the shots in Iraq, even standing up to the U.S., perhaps that's a good thing. If so, however, doesn't that mean it will soon be time for the U.S. to pull its troops out of Iraq and let the Iraqis handle things, even if it means a bit of chaos for a while?

The fact that Iraqis tried Saddam Hussein, in a trial that was far from perfect, but perhaps the most transparent public trial in recent Middle East history, is another important sign. We can expect some violence from the Sunnis when the U.S.-Iraqi curfew is lifted. But the Iraqis -- who ran the country for thousands of years before the United States was born -- should be capable of running things without Uncle Sam pretty darn soon.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Appearance report

I got through my appearance for the Brandeis University National Women's Committee, Laguna Hills Chapter rather nicely. The committee, whose central purpose is to support the Brandeis University library, holds monthly meetings and invites speakers four times a year.

I had the opportunity to to explain that the Register's editorial pages re separate from the news pages, that the editorial pages are rooted in a philosophy that holds indivudal liberty to be the most important political principle, and that it's not the same as being conservative, as many believe.

I explained how our philosophy led us to oppose the Iraq war from the outset, going into some detail on the differences between preemptive (justifiable) and preventive (almost never justifiable) war, and finally got to the stated topic, whether the election Tuesday will be a refenedum on the war. I suggested it would be if the Democrats win big, not just taking a House majority by a seat or two, but gaining 25 or more seats on the Republicans (15 needed to gain the majority.

Laguna Woods being a retirement community, the audience was mostly fairly elderly, mostly female. The Q&A session was lively, with a lot of viewpoints expressed and many people suitably skeptical about our government -- as an institution, not necessarily just an administration -- being able to much of anything right. All in all an enjoyable experience. Contact me at if you want to book me as a speaker.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

About Kerry

As I wrote for tomorrow's edition of the Register, John Kerry is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving -- to the Republicans.

Maybe it was intended to be a joke aimed at Bush or maybe it was a little of Kerry's subconscious seeping out. Either way it was a disaster.

Consider what he actually said: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't you get stuck in Iraq." On Imus this morning he said (click here for video) it was supposed to be "you get us stuck in Iraq. Just ask Bush."

Give him the benefit of the doubt, but even that is not especially funny and is in fact rather mean-spirited. Bush's problem is not lack of education -- he has an MBA after all -- but incuriosity and stubbornness. Kerry's comment, if that's what he meant to say, reflects a thoroughly unearned sense of superiority that most people found troubling about him last time he ran for national office. If it came out of his subconscious, it suggests the possibility that he's in a bit of a time warp, stuck in the Vietnam era when people who didn't keep up their grades were vulnerable to being drafted, whereas it's an all-volunteer army now.

Either way, it gave the Republicans, who richly deserve to get trounced this election, a chance to recast it as a replay of Bush v. Kerry. Even two years later, with all the chaos in Iraq and even after Katrina, I wouldn't be surprised if more people find Kerry repugnant than find Bush repugnant.

So Rush Limbaugh hurt the Republicans last week with his over-the-top comments about Michael J. Fox -- and his decision to keep harping on the topic becauyse like Bush he can never admit he was wrong and just shut up. And Kerry hurts the Democrats this week because he's such a thin-skinned privileged spoiled brat that he can never admit he was wrong and shut up.

Both parties richly deserve to suffer. Too bad they make voters and other Americans suffer along with them.

Speaking date

I will be out and about tomorrow, November 2, specifically to speak in the morning for the Brandeis University Women's Committee, Laguna Hills Chapter. It will be at 9:30 in the morning (refreshments), with the speech at 10:00, in Laguna Woods Village, Clubhouse Five. Come in through Gate 9 off of El Toro Rd.

The topic, picked a little more than a month ago, is "Will the Election be a Referendum on the Iraq War?" I think it will be to some extent, although strength of it being a single dominant issue is vitiated by conservative disgust with Bush on spending and big government issues and the Foley page boy scandal.

For more detail on what I thought a few days ago, here's a link to the column I did last week for Of coursethings have been complicated by subsequent developments, especially John Kerry's foot-in-mouth incident.