Friday, September 19, 2003
Well, weekend is approaching in South Florida. For most of us down here, the weekend involves either going to Joe Robbie Stadium and paying through the nose for stadium beer, or watching the Dolphins play on TV. This weekend's opponent is the AFC East's hot team, the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo appears to have made it to the Promised Land of relevance by acquiring Drew Bledsoe. Drew has a hot hand, and looks to have a good season this year. Miami needs to play a flawless game this weekend to beat the Buffalo wings at home. I'm a big Dolphin fan, but count me as a pessimist: Buffalo 24, Miami 20.
The Dolphins are a perfect metaphor for this town. Good, but never good enough to be great. Yes, we have South Beach, but South Beach is for rubes who can't make it to Malibu or Cannes. I don't care if J Lo has a home here; the place is still bush league. And the Dolphins are like that. They play some good football, but they never put forward a truly great, dynastic team. They haven't done that since the days of Griese to Warfield. That was three decades ago.
Miami was a colorful town in those days. It had characters in it like Rocky Pomerance, who ran the Miami Beach police department during the 1972 Republican and Democratic national conventions, and Jack "Murph the Surf" Murphy, whose claim to fame was the Star of India heist in 1964. The Dolphins played in the greatest stadium that ever was, the Miami Orange Bowl. The place had character. Now it's just another provincial town, replete with the usual gang of buckpassers and corrupt politicians. A good enough place to live, but destined never again to be Super.
War news tends not to be as depressing as it was in August. This is primarily because American tactics are bearing fruit. The adoption of aggressive patrolling and muscular counterattack against ambushers is forcing the local thuggery to take their jihad to Radio Shack and carry out terror by means of the Remote Control bomb. Indeed, they used these devices to kill three Americans in the past two days. Contrast this to the rather direct "hug the belt" strategy of the North Vietnamese army and their Viet Minh allies. People who wail that this is "another Vietnam" have no idea what they are talking about, or do and they are being deliberately mendacious. Indeed, in the incident of two days ago in which we lost three guys up near Takrit, the infantry immediately counterattacked and captured between 48 and 60 insurgents.
Each loss is a bitch to hear about, but I say again, these losses pale in comparison to either 1968, the casualties we took in one hour's fighting on Omaha Beach, or the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Yet we are definitely winning this war. The Shi'a clerics have decided that the Americans are going to stick it out, which is all for the good as far as the Shi'a are concerned. This means that they understand that the Americans will train Shi'a battalions for the new army. The Shi'a have also been assured of proportional representation in the new parliament. These are the only things that make sense to me, given the lack of an uprising after al-Hakim's assassination. That bonehead move by either al-Qaeda or the Ba'athists was supposed to spark a Shi'a uprising against the Americans. Instead, it drew the Americans and the Shi'a closer together into a tripartite alliance that included the Kurds. In the long run, this looks real bad for the Wahabists (especially since the infantry are hunting them down with relish, and with plenty of intel information from the locals), and strengthens the hand of those Sunnis who want to cut the best deal they can in the new constitutional arrangement.
The Shi'a clerics will be the new kingmakers in Iraq, not the Ba'athists or their Wahabist allies. That's why there's no revolt; it is in their interest for us to remain there to keep the Ba'athists at bay while they build their power. When they have built themselves into the dominant force in Iraqi politics, they will demand that we leave. And we will.
Several really good links are included tonight. Victor Davis Hanson lays out the case that we are near a tipping point in the War on Terror. He correctly points out that our effort has brought fabulous results thus far, and we are a Saddam away from psychological victory. In this morning's Jewish World Review, Krauthammer dissects the curious dichotomy that exists in regard to Nation Building within the Democratic Party. Apparently, it's cool in Afghanistan among the tribalists, but not cool among westernized Iraqis.
Really, I'm not making this up.
Finally, Mona Charen brings Al Qaeda and Saddam down to earth in this column. James S. Robbins seconds that emotion in a column about the connections between Saddam's Mukhabarat in today's Online edition of National Review. One of the things that mystifies me about opponents of the war is the blithe assurance with which they assume that Al Qaeda and Saddam had nothing to do with each other. The wish-myth goes that since Al Qaeda was led by a religious fanatic and Iraq by a pragmatic, modernizing strongman, they would never help each other. What the Left forgot was one of oldest rules about politics: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Well, I'll be damned.
I didn't think that General Wesley Clark (USA, ret.) would get into the race, but it appears that he has clearance from Bill Clinton to get involved. The fact that Clark is in the race for the Democratic nomination should tell anyone, most of all the clueless Dick Morris, that Hillary Clinton is not running for the Democratic nomination this year.
As FreeRepublic's resident sage, the Common Tator, remarked two days ago, "Clinton does not think Bush is beatable. If the Clintons thought Bush was beatable Hillary would be the candidate not Howard Dean!".
There are a bunch of people in the service with Wesley Clark stories, not all of them complimentary. But lets assume that he was a fighting soldier, and not the perfumed prince that got him the NATO post as SACEUR. Clark will have to defend the conduct of the Kosovo operation, one of the least understood wars of the last twenty-five years. The conflict was purely an air show. And it came damn close to failing. Only the involvement of the Russian foreign ministry kept the Clinton Administration from having to send ground troops into Yugoslavia and get into a partisan war with the Serbs.
The Russians were the ones who got Milosevic to the table. Clark had nothing to do with it. Indeed, shortly after the ceasefire was to be announced, the Russians sent in an armored column from Bosnia through Serbian territory and into Kosovo. A Russian mechanized rifle battalion parked at Pristina airport to show the Red Army flag and stake Russia's claim in the Balkans. Apparently, Clark wanted to send the British off to evict the Russians from their new base at Pristina Airport. The Brits told Clark to go pound sand. The British commander of the allied peacekeeping forces in Kosovo was said to have told Clark that he wouldn't "start World War III" just for him. My thinking is that while the Bush people have one eye on Dean, another eye will probably be on Clark. Clark is Clinton's protege, and a friend from Arkansas.
Democratic thinking is that this Friend of Bill can criticize Bush from the "right" on Iraq. In other words, the conventional wisdom among Democrats is that the Iraq campaign has become a desert khaki version of the Vietnam War, the Democrats own intervention from hell. As a "general", swing voters will feel safe voting for him. However, if the Democrats turn out to have screamed "quagmire" too soon, as I suspect they have given the improvement in the situation on the ground there, then the whole Clark candidacy loses its reason for being.
Democrats like to think they can come up with their own Ike. The problem is that Ike came to the presidency by being one great thing and promising two great things. Ike was Ike, Supreme Allied Commander, the guy who beat Hitler. Wesley Clark did not beat Hitler.
However, the promises of Eisenhower mattered more than who Ike was. Ike promised to "go to Korea" and make a once and for all decision on the Korean war. Now that was a quagmire. We lost almost as many men in three years of fighting the People's Liberation Army than we did in ten years of fighting in Vietnam. There was general war weariness. And the economy was in recession: Truman's approval ratings were in the basement and people wanted a change. Ike promised to tackle that, too.
Wesley Clark faces no great quagmire and an improving economy, both of which will help Bush to get reelected. Of course, only a cynical bounder like me would suspect that that was what the Clinton's had in mind all along.
Meantime, in the California People's Republic, the Recall Election has been put in limbo. Yesterday, a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit ruled that the election had to be postponed, preferably until March. The court ruled that the concern of the plaintiffs (those eminent Federalist scholars over at the Los Angeles chapter of the ACLU) that the punch card voting system could lead to bad counting and, thus, a violation of Equal Protection.
Basically, the argument was that black, hispanic, and "poor" voters might have greater problems with punch cards than white folks. Of course, the court sense the danger to the California electorate, and followed the ACLU'S argument. At bottom, the court liberals who sat on this case found a way to try to save Gray Davis' ass. At least for now.
However, as the courts tend to follow the Election Returns, the entire panel could not have been happy to see that approximately 70% of Californians want the election to go forward as scheduled. So, the Ninth's entire panel is getting back together to rule en banc on the decision. My prediction? The Ninth reigns in the panel, and allows the election to go on.
Just a hunch.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Normally I like Hurricanes. The football Canes. See, I went to the University of Chicago. All we had were the Fighting Maroons. The Maroons hadn't done anything since the early 1930's, when Jay Berwanger won the Heisman. Shortly after winning the trophy, Robert Maynard Hutchins (U of C's President, and the Midwest intelligentsia answer to Alberto Stroessner) declared that football was no longer fit for the Chicago Man and pulled the Fightin' Maroons out of the Big Ten. Football was brought back in 1969, but only at a Division III level (I got to cheer for my good friend Dan once. I think he was an offensive lineman.). As an aside, there is still a codicil in the Big Ten's agreement with the U. of C. that allows the University to rejoin the conference at any time.
Which leads one to a visualization of the U. of C. football team being beaten up by Ohio State's cheerleading squad while the football team looks on in wry amusement, but that is for another time and place.
The only Hurricanes I root for are the Miami 'Canes, of course. But their namesake, a real live bitch named Isabel is moving north by northwest towards North Carolina's Outer Banks and the Chesapeake Bay. As of this writing she remains a Category 4 storm, and is poking along at 13 miles an hour. The National Hurricane Center's latest advisory continues to suggest that Isabel will turn north by northwest towards a landfall between the South Carolina/North Carolina Border and Southern New Jersey sometime on Friday. Most betting men and horseplayers believe that if you split the difference, Isabel comes ashore somewhere between Cape Hatteras and the southern Delaware coast abutting the Chesapeake Bay.
Reports from Free Republic's Eastern seaboard posters indicate that the plywood is running out and there isn't a jug of water to be had. Batteries are becoming rather scarce as well. Concern is running high, as the National Hurricane Center's forecasters suggest that this Hurricane will be a Category III storm when it makes landfall (anywhere between 115 and 130 miles per hour).
I'm not sure how many folks are out there reading this blog as of yet, but if I had a phone line to the President, I might suggest that he activate Northern Command and do a callup of state National Guardsmen in the Eastern seaboard states for active duty to police the recovery areas and to assist in immediate reconstruction needs. Oh, and there are those who live in the Outer Banks areas who suggest that they need to be gone and out of there by tomorrow night (as in, evacuated).
Meanwhile, in Blogland, the most famous blogger out there, Andrew Sullivan, continues to get it as he tracks the deterioration in the fighting spirit of the Democratic Party. Sullivan's blog, always insightful and uncommonly well written, can be found here. Andrew is one of the leading lights of gay Republican thinking, and continues to be a forceful advocate for victory in this war against Islamic Fascism, at all hazards. He also gives some insightful arguments against a Federal Marriage Act that are well worth following up.
Speaking of the war, a rather revealing article about the successes of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment in the Sunni Triangle showed up, of all places, in the Arab Times, an online version of the same English language Arab daily published in Kuwait City. I think the news is starting to percolate out that the Americans have the initiative in Saddam's old stomping grounds, and are doing so by denying the local jihadi any sanctuary zones.
This comes on the heels of a thoroughly awful incident the day before in which an American outfit ambushed a car ful of Iraqi policemen who drove into an ambush. The Iraqi officers were considered independent by the local population and were respected. It is this kind of thing that stokes calls for revenge among the local Sunni. It will remain for units like the 1st/22nd to remain aggressive enough so that the bad guys never believe they have the initiative.
It will remain like this until American units pull out of Iraqi urban areas and back to the boonies.
A curious thing is happening in Europe. The European Community is drawing up a supranational constitution without so much as a mention of The Good Lord in the preamble to their new legal foundation. Despite pressures from the Vatican and the Orthodox Churches of Europe, the mention of the Deity, and more specifically of Christianity, was opposed by (you guessed it) the French. The nation that gave us La Circ de Soleil at the Beaux Rivage Riverboat Casino, Pierre Laval, and the Fall of the Third Republic, has now decided that it must oppose the presence of the Almighty in Europe's new constitutional architecture.
Apparently the French insist that France is "a lay state" (no, not as in "lay down for the Wehrmacht") and insist that a thoroughly secular approach to the Constitution is appropriate here. What is really going on is that the Catholic Church has collapsed in France while the level of Islamic immigration grows ever larger, and ever more radical. Islamists have a fertile ground to till for future jihadist recruits and the French react not in confidence, but in fear.
Finally, the Tom McClintock Cargo Cult continues to believe in principle above all things. It was hoped that Tom would get the message and pull out to give Arnold Schwarzenegger a clear run at Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante. McClintock, being a man of principle, chose to attack Schwarzenegger instead. This despite the growing concern of Republican county committee chairmen that McClintock will do more damage to the Party in the long run if he remains in the race. Regardless of some noises of concession, I expect McClintock to hang around until the debate on the 24th. That debate, a three way between Cruz, Arnold, and Tom will give McClintock the statewide exposure that only Arnold can bring to the table.
The more I look at it, the more I think that McClintock is staying in to get enough media buzz to give him a shot at Barbara Boxer next year.