Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Listening to old Mozart this morning, Symphony Nr. 6 in F-Major, KV 43, played by the dear old Berliner Philharmoniker (Karl Bohm). When Mozart's done, I suppose I'll freak everybody out and put on some Elton John.

OMG, Did He Really Say That ?

Captain Ed, over at Captain's Quarters, citing several sources (links there), reports that former Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry (a/k/a Thurston Howell, III), had this to say at a Democratic campaign rally yesterday in Pasadena, California, at Pasadena City College:

You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.

Did he really say that ? Captain Ed provides links: an audio clip here (John Ziegler's KFI 64o AM radio show -- clip from the 30 Oct. program), and another here (Allahpundit on Hot Air).
I know Mr. Kerry's what passes for old-line aristocracy in Massachusetts, and is, to a degree product of a culture that has sometimes defined itself in opposition to the military, or pro-military values, but damn, is his attiude showing or what ? "Study hard, or wind up a chump toting a rifle in the military." Yes, folks the Left supports the troops, even if they think they're idiots for joining up.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Prediction. . .

My sense of things is that, barring another surprise, that the Republicans will just hang on to the Senate, (although I think George Allen is in trouble in Virginia). I also believe (but with less certainty) that the Republicans will probably squeak-by in the House of Representatives as well.
Blogging Caesar and Real Clear Politics (see sidebar), have details, or plenty of links to places to find detailed polling information, if you're interested.
Anger is doing a lot right now for the Democrats, as is the eagerness of the national press to be helpful. Losing by just a little would not be all bad for the Republicans: the Democrats completely lack a program, other than Bush hatred, and taking over the Congress would put them in the completely unenviable position of acquiring political responsibility without the actual ability to accomplish anything. If Democratic policy preferences could survive filibusters and other parlimentary delaying tactics, they would still face the Bush veto pen.
The President, for his part, would be able to take a leaf from Bill Clinton's book on stymying Newt Gingrich and his Republican majorities. He might recover some of the public esteem he has forfeited since 2004, and be in a position to blame the Democrats for problems in 2008.
Finally, I don't see how the Democrats can avoid trying impeachment, if they get a majority or even something close to it. Their base and contributors will demand it. But they don't have the votes in the Senate to do it -- not without significant Republican defections, which are unlikely. I think they'd wreck themselves trying it.
So, there is a possible upside to doing badly. . .but for all that I pray it does not happen. I think it would mean a virtual collapse of the war effort, mostly because of the encouragement any gains by the Left would give to our enemies in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Conversely, the Republicans avoiding disaster now would discourage both the Left here, and our foreign enemies, and offer the government an opportunity to deal from a position of strength.
We need a strong government just now, not paralysis. Here's hoping. . .

Monday, Constitutions, Write In's, and etc.

Good morning ! Another week, which beats Hell out of the alternative. In the words of "Sergeant Apone" in Aliens (1986) "every meal's a banquet, every paycheck a fortune. . ." (The handy-dandy movie-quote page for Aliens is really spiffy, btw).

Today is the anniversary, in 1905, of Russian Emperor Nicholas II’s October Manifesto, which promised Russia its first constitution, and established the State Duma. Although commentators like to say that neither the Manifesto or the eventual constitution (23 April 1906) amounted to much, it was a vast improvement over the then-existing autocracy, and the freest government Russia ever had until the 1990’s. Had it not been for World War I, no doubt this experiment would have developed further. (Oh, Franz Ferdinand, why couldn’t you have just dodged that bullet ? Oh Tsar Nicholas, why didn’t you Just Say No to mobilization ?).

Okay, turning away from cosmic universe history questions, and on to our own. The political news continues to look up, a little bit. The Houston Chronicle reports this morning that Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the write-in candidate for Tom DeLay’s old seat in the House of Representatives – is actually in the game, and running a dead heat with Nick Lampson, the Donkey Party’s candidate. Polling indicates that Ms. Sekula-Gibbs would defeat Lampson handily if this were a normal election, and the Republicans not in the desperate position of resorting to a write-in candidate after the courts refused to let the party replace DeLay on the ballot.

I know very little about Ms. Sekula-Gibbs, and I have not followed her campaign, but the fact that this is not a long shot -- that she’s making a credible effort in a write-in campaign, tells you: (1) that she’s a good candidate; (2) and, that Texas Congressional District 22 is very Republican. Still, winning a campaign with a write-in is complicated, and Ms. Sekula-Gibbs, alas, is not named Smith. Good luck to her though. Here’s hoping that S-H-E-L-L-E-Y S-E-K-U-L-A G-I-B-B-S manages to pull it off, and stick a big thumb in the eye of all the great and good who have abetted the effort to disenfranchise the Republican voters of District 22.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Signs of Life on the Right

The political outlook seems markedly better this week. . .

If the Democrats cannot win big here, they should try another line of work. The Republicans have done everything to hand Congress to them other than actually throw the election. Still, it's tough to go anyplace if you, as the Democrats have, base your entire strategy on declaimng to the world that "we hate Bush" but not telling anybody what you mean to do with power.

Oh My Acking Head. . .

Went to friend T's party last night. Ate, drank and danced and had a great time. . .but gonna pass on Pinot Noir for a lllooonnng while.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Further Comment Unnecessary. . .

In the moral crisis that causes the disaster of an army, it is customary to study first the loss of confidence in victory; then, the surprise, resulting from a brutal manifestation of the enemy's will and carrying with it stupor and discouragement: then the panic, following upon some incident of battle; and finally, the debacle or capitulation. . .
Charles de Gaulle, The Enemy's House Divided, Chapter 5 "The Debacle of the German People," p. 115 (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2002 [orig. published 1924]).

AP story today on Iraqi Prime-Minister's employment of the political views of US defeatists.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sleepwalking Into a Nightmare

Linked here is a copy (from National Review Online) of a speech Senator Rick Santorum (R. - PA) is delivering around Pennsylvania today and tomorrow. (Hat tip: Chester, at Adventures of Chester). Senator Santorum's speech is outstanding, and deserves both a wide audience and close attention. Unfortunately, things look bleak for the Senator at present.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Iraq To Do List: (1) Kill al-Sadr; (2) Iraqify; (3) Leave

Ralph Peters, over at the New York Post has an article today on Iraq very definitely worth reading. I only wish I had written it. The money quote:

. . .Iraq deserves one last chance. But to make that chance even remotely viable, we'll have to take desperate measures. We need to fight. And accept the consequences.

The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.

We should've killed him in 2003, when he first embarked upon his murder campaign. But our leaders were afraid of provoking riots.

Back then, the tumult might've lasted a week. Now we'll face a serious uprising. So be it. When you put off paying war's price, you pay compound interest in blood.

We must kill - not capture - Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.

Our policy of all-carrots-no-sticks has failed miserably. . .

Go read the whole thing -- here's a second link. There's not a word in this essay that's not spot on target.
I have always supported the American effort in Iraq, since the botched ending of Gulf War I. I always thought Saddam should be made an example of, and my opinion hasn't changed. But I thought that the campaign to build democracy in Iraq was a bridge too far -- and that we were setting the bar too high for ourselves. The conditions for democracy do not presently exist, and the whole place is a snake-pit of tribal, clan, religious and regional rivalries.
Once the idea of partition was rejected, the best that Iraq could have expected at this point in time was some Iraqi version of the old Republic of Korea in Park Chung Hee days. But democracy ? Not going to happen, and we allowed outselves to become overinvested in promoting that particular outcome.
That said, we need to persuade the Iraqis to throw together some kind of working government; finish-up the Saddam trial and hang him; and finally get this government (through bribery if necessary) to ask us to leave. As we do all this, we will have to Iraqify the war -- provide the government weapons and supplies, (we can set up some kind of mercenary program for the necessary advisors) and then avert our eyes as the government there puts down the rebels in whatever way it finds necessary and convenient. Killing Muqtada-al-Sadr and as much of his militia as possible would be a good first step.
We cannot afford defeat in Iraq. Read Morton Kondracke this morning, who discusses this very point: how Iraq, in its death spiral, is likely to look very much like South Vietnam when the spiritual and political ancestors of Senator Kennedy and Representative Pelosi pulled the rug from under the Saigon government, and cut off US military aid and support -- one of the most disgraceful and shameful political acts of American history.
Mr. Kondracke, in an otherwise excellent discussion, only touches on one very important point -- the domestic political consequences of such a disaster, which are worth thinking on. Over the long run, I am not so sure the political losers are as obvious as Senator Kennedy and Representative Pelosi, and others of their ilk -- would like to think.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Early Voting

Early voted in Cuidad El Jefe this morning with absolutely no problems. Cool electronic voting machine, like last time.
As I was leaving, I noticed a group of black helicopters orbiting the area. Also, all these nondescript domestic sedans with "Diebold" signs on them, driven by people with pocket protectors, sunglasses and these really cool tinfoil hats - were in the area. The Poindexters with the Pocket-Protectors and the CIA briefcases were talking on their little radios, reading Bibles at stoplights and within 100 feet of public schools. The tinfoil hat guys kept tailgating all those "Fluoridated Water" trucks I saw today. Speaking of trucks, got in a traffic jam behind a bunch of 18-wheelers with a cute looking little doll painted on the side next to the words "Dimpled Chads !"
Wonder what all that was about ?
Don't know, but I'll be sure to bring it up at my next Bush-zombie-cell programm -- er, political meeting.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sausages and Legislation

The New York Daily News (via Drudge) and no doubt other New York news outlets are reporting that some person named John Spencer, who is running as a Republican for the Senate in New York, against Hillary Clinton, says that Senator Clinton "used to be ugly," and speculates that she had a bunch of plastic surgery. "You ever see a picture of her back then ?" Mr. Spencer asked. "Whew" he added, in case you didn't get his point.
El Jefe confession time: I hate politics.
Yes, you read that correctly. I really despise politics, politicians and the whole business of office seeking. I understand it well enough, and can perform political calculations in my sleep, but I think the electoral politics business -- gladhanding and mudslinging for votes -- is unspeakably sordid, inherently dirty, and generally repulsive. I suppose that's why I'm basically a monarchist. I'm always glad when election season is over for a time.
I'm interested in government: in the development of legislation, and that sort of politicking -- mostly. I'm fascinated by foreign and military policy, and interested in the treasury, and useful things like roadbuilding, the promotion of commerce, cool public works, fiscal policy and all that goes into building up a strong state and great power. But Jack Politico promising Mrs. Snodgrass that her taxes will go down and her benefits go up (when he have no ability whatever to deliver); and telling her that his opponent Mr. Green is really a no-good who sends IM's to pages ? No thank you. When I hear political speechifying, I usually change the channel.
Now I don't know anything about Mr. Spencer. He may well be a worthy individual. But what kind of fool shoots off his mouth like that ? Besides which it's just boorish to talk like that. But it's worse than boorishness, it's a mistake.
Mind you, although I think that pigs will fly over the Moon before Mrs. Clinton loses, I'd love to see her beaten, because I think the defeat of Democrats would be better for the aforementioned priorities I listed above. Otto von Bismarck is reputed to have said that two things one should never see made are sausages and legislation. Prince Bismarck never saw a US election. Politics, however necessary an evil, is reasonably sick-making.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Back from the Bundu

El Jefe has yet again arrived back in his capital, to be met by millions of denizens of Ciudad El Jefe, all frantically cheering as he drinks the ceremonial Cosmo upon departing his conveyance; before greeting the great and the good of the Imperial court: the archbishops, the casino owners, the secret police bosses, political bagmen, the football coaches, the Corps Diplomatique, and fixers, wire-pullers and hangers-on of every description, including the latest Imperial mistress who, (like all the others), bears a remarkable resemblance to Mindy Farrar, a Penthouse model of bygone days. . .
Then the phone rang and (after the longest run-on sentence ever) I woke up from my nap.
Back out in the bundu this weekend. No internet, TV or newspapers at our Schloss in the country and, oddly enough, for somebody who is as big a news junkie as I am -- I don't miss it so much. I hauled books, papers and the laptop to fiddle with of course, but was cut off from any news input I didn't haul with me. The Sunday New York Times, among other things, is awaiting my attention, and no doubt I will be brought up to speed in due course. A brief perusal of the internet drew a couple of things to my attention:
AP reports that the White House is bracing for the loss of Congress, and that this could spark "guerrilla warfare on the homefront politically." You don't say ? They pay people to come to conclusions like that one ? Sign me up.
Barack Obama is supposedly considering running for President in 2008. He has a small problem in that he's completely unqualified -- hasn't even finished his first term in Congress, but I don't suppose this will be an impediment. It's never bothered anybody before.
France's problems with its Arab citizens and immigrants concentrated in big ghettos called banlieus are at last beginning to get some international attention. Gates of Vienna asks a very pertinent question on this subject; and I'll ask another pair: (1) what condition are the French internal security forces in ? and, (2) what will the French government do when the Police Nationale (particularly their riot troops, the CRS), are no longer able to cope ? Behind the police are the militarized Gendarmerie, and behind them, the Army.
How close is the French government to pulling those levers ? The French have been having problems for awhile: mostly below the radar of the media, but matters appear to be getting serious, and the police, presently in the form of complaints from their labor unions, are calling for help.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Day of Battles

Today is the anniversary of several battles. Join El Jefe in a glass of whatever adult beverage you prefer, (El Jefe has a glass of Jameson, thank you very much) -- and drink to the memories of all who fell, or were wounded, or taken in these engagements.
Battle of Zama. Today, in 202 B.C. , the great Roman general and consul Publius Cornelius Scipio -- one of the greatest soldiers ever to put on boots (among Romans, only Gaius Julius Caesar or perhaps Gaius Marius were greater) defeated the Carthaginians, led by another great general, Hannibal Barca, at Zama, in what is now Tunisia. The last great battle of the long Second Punic War: too many of Hannibal's veterans were dead, and the superb Roman infantry stood up to Hannibal's war elephants and jumped right back in his face -- fixing Hannibal's own infantry in place until the Roman cavalry worked itself around into the Carthaginian rear, winning the battle. There would be other battles -- another war. But Carthage, and Hannibal, were finished today.
Siege of Yorktown. Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered about 7,000 British soldiers to George Washington (for the US) and the Comte de Rochambeau (for France) today, in 1781, effectively ending the War for American Independence. Cornwallis was the best general the British had, and he commanded the elite of the British Army in America, but he made a serious mistake in first chasing the greatest of the US generals, Nathanael Greene, into North Carolina; and then bypassing him, and moving on into Virginia, in 1781.
Lord Cornwallis had enough troops to hold South Carolina and Georgia for the Crown, and those colonies might have been preserved for Britain in peace negotiations. But he split his forces and moved north, and was trapped by a US/French strategic concentration at Yorktown.
Much of the credit for the victory goes to the French and their navy, in particular Admiral Comte deGrasse, who had the finest strategic brain of any of the French commanders, and appreciated the merit of a concentration of Franco-American forces from all over the Indies and America around Chesapeake Bay. His loan of 3,000 troops to Washington and Rochambeau, and his defeat of the British Admiral Graves at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay (15 September 1781) made the isolation and defeat of Cornwallis possible.
Battle of Leipzig. Today, in 1813, French Emperor Napoléon I lost the Battle of Leipzig (16-19 October). Leipzig, in Saxony, was both the largest and the most decisive battle of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1813). Napoléon I was probably the greatest general that ever lived -- he certainly won more battles than probably anybody else, but two of the three he lost ruined him (Waterloo and Leipzig), and of these two, Leipzig was by far the more important.
Leipzig was a massive battle, probably the largest in history prior to the First World War. Napoléon commanded an army of about 200,000 French, Italians, Poles and Germans, opposed by 320,000 Prussians, Russians, Austrians and Swedes. In four days of fighting, Napoléon suffered about 38,000 dead and wounded -- his enemies about 52,000.
The battle was very complicated, and space prohibits much discussion here, but in essence, Napoléon was unable to defeat the mostly Austrian Army of Bohemia, led by the Prince of Schwartzenberg -- before the Prusso/Russian Army of Silesia, commanded by Napoléon's most redoubtable opponent, Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher -- showed up.
Napoléon had lost many of his best troops in Russia; the troops he brought to Leipzig were mostly raw, half-trained and commanded by war-weary generals looking to preserve their fortunes. (Napoléon, one of the foremost exponents of meritocracy -- the man who made generals out of drummer boys -- now discovered that the downside of employing other self-made risers to the top is their loyalty to themselves only in adversity).
Moreover, Napoléon was now facing enemy commander who, if not geniuses like he was, had learned Napoléon's methods and who commanded troops on fire with nationalism who were eager to fight the French. Finally, the French had serious difficulties due to Napoléon's inability to resolve the clash of priorties between his different jobs: between the political priorties of Emperor Napoléon and the military concerns of General Bonaparte.
Napoléon, when his enemies finally managed to concentrate their forces at Leipzig -- tried to retreat the night of 18/19 October. However, an error by an unknown engineer corporal, whose name has thankfully been lost to history -- destroyed the one available bridge over the Elster River -- trapping much of Napoléon's army on the wrong side. The war had two more years to run. . .but Napoléon, from nobody gunner to Emperor -- and then to ruler of Europe in one lifetime -- was finished. He was 44 years old.
All that's long ago now. Particularly to us. But it was all too real, to all too many people. Remember these people, if you have time. The long dead Romans and Carthaginians; British and American; French, Prussians, Russians and Swedes were our brothers too.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave once, her flowers to love, her way to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evl shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given.
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnd of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke "The Soldier." (Brooke died in the First World War)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

No Rights for Pirates ? It's the End of America !

Keith Olbermann has written a perfectly asinine piece for MSNBC "Beginning of the End of America" available at Real Clear Politics, here. Mr. Olbermann's subject is the Military Commissions Act (2006), signed this week by President Bush, and put through Congress to remedy some of the chaos created by the Supreme Court's 5-4 opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, No. 05-184, 548 U.S. ____, ___ S.Ct. ___ (June 29, 2006). As John Yoo explained, in today's Wall Street Journal:
The new law is, above all, a stinging rebuke to the Supreme Court. It strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear any habeas corpus claim filed by any alien enemy combatant anywhere in the world. It was passed in response to the effort by a five-justice majority in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld to take control over terrorism policy. That majority extended judicial review to Guantanamo Bay, threw the Bush military commissions into doubt, and tried to extend the protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, overturning the traditional understanding that Geneva does not cover terrorists, who are not signatories nor "combatants" in an internal civil war under Article 3.

Hamdan was an unprecedented attempt by the court to rewrite the law of war and intrude into war policy. . .

Until the Supreme Court began trying to make war policy, the writ of habeas corpus had never been understood to benefit enemy prisoners in war. The U.S. held millions of POWs during World War II, with none permitted to use our civilian courts (except for a few cases of U.S. citizens captured fighting for the Axis). . .

(emphasis in underline supplied)

Read the whole thing. Professor Yoo places the Military Commissions Act in its proper context: Congress's response to a power-grab by the Supreme Court, which thankfully came a cropper.
In any case, the Act has Mr. Olbermann in high dudgeon because, inter alia it removes the right of alien unlawful enemy combatants to obtain habeas corpus relief in US courts. This is the nub of the matter: the conceit by Mr. Olbermann and the Hamdan majorty that there is no real difference whatever between an American citizen and a foreign national -- even if the foreign national has been shooting at Americans. This is the trend in the law generally, and it follows the prejudices of our overgovernment overlords in the bar, the media, and academia, who hold that national boundries and their associated parochial loyalties are outworn and outmoded.
The Hamdan majority (similar to those who would excuse illegal immigration) has, among other things, prostituted the concept of American citizenship, and privileged non-state actor combatants. The very idea of enemy prisoners -- particularly persons acting under the order of no government, who are not legally entitled to claim the status of prisoners of war - who are in fact no better than pirates, with no right to be under arms whatever -- being able to claim the rights of American citizens is utterly repulsive.
The protection of the Constitution should be for American citizens, wherever they are born. Legitimate prisoners of war -- lawful combatants acting for governments or as a part of other regularly organized armed bodies, -- do indeed have rights, and they may claim the protections allowed by the relevant international conventions. But the persons held at Guantanamo and elsewhere are not prisoners of war. The only thing that the Al Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo are entitled to is a rope, and American law affords them more protection, more due process, and better treatment, than they could ever deserve (the detainees have a library, for God's sake). The Military Commissions Act does not change any of that.
Claiming the Military Commissions Act is the "beginning of the end of America" is ludicrous. We're coming up on 400 years of America -- for America predates the United States -- and there is no end in sight. Unless, that is, Osama and company manage to kill us all -- as they have bent over backwards to tell us that they would be proud and happy to sell their miserable lives to do. God forbid we should scratch a single scale on the precious heads of these snakes. How many of us are these people going to be allowed to kill, so that they can have their civil rights ?
The Constitution is in no danger. Congress meets, we have regular elections, and the courts are functioning (all too well sometimes). The fact that Mr. Olbermann can pen his arrant nonsense is proof enough that Americans enjoy plenty of civil liberties. Hopefully not so many that it kills us.

Iraq: A Worthy Mistake ?

Jonah Goldberg, usually of National Review Online, says in the Los Angeles Times that Iraq was a "worthy mistake" which seems like a contradiction in terms to me if ever there was one. I don't buy that argument, but lots of conservatives, right now, want to say something like this. Mr. Goldberg does have one right on the money point:
We are in Iraq for good reasons and for reasons that were well-intentioned but wrong. But we are there. Those who say that it's not the central front in the war on terror are in a worse state of denial than they think Bush is in. Of course it's the central front in the war on terror. That it has become so is a valid criticism of Bush, but it's also strong reason for seeing our Iraqi intervention through. If we pull out precipitously, jihadism will open a franchise in Iraq and gain steam around the world, and the U.S. will be weakened.
My disagreement with Mr. Goldberg concerns why we went to war: Mr. Goldberg contends that our reasons were "well-intentioned but wrong." The problem with Mr. Goldberg's argument is that he is extremely vague on just what the war was for. Mr. Goldberg says that "the failure to find weapons of mass destruction was a side-issue." But just previous to that, he tells us that the Democrats in Congress who supported the war were ". . .right to vote for the war given what was known -- or what was believed to have been known -- in 2003." What is Mr. Goldberg talking about other than the WMD's we failed to find, that he just termed a "side issue ?"
My own understanding of why we went to war has nothing to do with WMD's -- or with democracy promotion, which, Mr. Goldberg tells us, Bush's critics claim was an "afterthought" to "rebrand a war gone sour." I might agree with that, but in a different sense -- for me, the war was not about democracy, either. I have explained my reasons for war with Iraq more fully in another place, and I have little to add to that discussion. I would maintain that the administration made a serious mistake buying too deeply into its own propaganda on democracy promotion. Creation of republican institutions in a tribalized society was probably impossible to begin with. Making democracy building an objective simply set the bar for success much too high.
The fixation on democracy has undercut the main strategic justification for the war -- which was to frighten local regimes into cooperating with the US in hunting down Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda sympathizers, and make an example of Saddam Hussein: an open, defiant opponent of US influence. The difficulty is that it was not diplomatically or politically judicious for the government to articulate such objectives in public: which occasioned a search by defenders of the US effort for secondary causes and objectives such as WMD and democracy building.

Trouble in Pakistan ?

Bill Roggio, over at Fourth Rail, thinks that the resurgence of Taliban activity in eastern Afghanistan adds up to trouble in Pakistan, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have apparently regrouped. Coup rumors are floating around again in Pakistan. Truthfully, I am surprised that the Musharraf regime has lasted this long.
I wonder what India will do if, hypothetically, a radical Islamofascist government, supported by a good part of the Pakistani military and intelligence services, comes into power in Pakistan ? The Kashmir situation, overnight, would become exponentially more dangerous.


Both sleepy, and busy today, so probably not doing much posting. Kiddo football game last night (make up from all the rain we had this week). In general, I think many of the parents are more intense than the kids. Go figure. Anyway, it ran late, so we all went to bed late. . .and I'm having a serious, serious attack of the Yawneroos.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bush Probably Caused Katrina and the Tsunami Too...

Former U.S. President "Jimmiah" Carter blames Bush for the present Korean nuclear crisis, saying that the deal that he negotiated in 1994 with North Korea is "in the wastebasket." Bush is at fault, Mr. Carter says, for turning his back on this agreement and labeling the NK's as part of the Axis of Evil.
Uh. . .does it matter that North Korea cheated on this agreement ? Does it matter that North Korea even admitted cheating when caught red-handed ? Does it matter that North Korea is part of the Axis of Evil. Does Mr. Carter claim that it isn't ?
What was the US supposed to do... close its eyes, make nice, and let Kim build his bomb ? Anything, I suppose, to keep talking.

Cromwell ?

The sky is falling, and National Review Online's "the Corner" group blog, or whatever it is, has a thread going on Oliver Cromwell. Ooookay. It wouldn't be worth a comment, except that the so-called "Lord Protector" and the "English Revolution" are inhabitants of El Jefe's bad books: that villainous, regicidal, pinch-faced, self-righteous scold of a rebel criminal and his traitor friends were born to be hanged.

No Thanks, We're Stupid

Tony Blankley has written a suitable corrective for those Republicans and conservatives inclined to sit this election out because they think the Republicans haven't adhered to the true religion; have spent money like drunken sailors; haven't tacked immigation; been nice enough to social conservatives; competent enough, or whatever.
This may all be true. . .but the point is ? Putting Teddy Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and the beneficiaries of George Soros and Michael Moore's campaign contributions in power is better ? Personally, I'd rather hand the country over to Chirac.
No, I haven't been completely satisfied with Bush or the Republicans either, but complete satisfaction with the choices our system gives us, in such a large country, is impossible. Staying home this election day would be worse than a crime -- it'd be a mistake. Power, as Napoléon put it, is never ridiculous. So don't listen to all the Barbra Streisand in the papers and on television about how demoralized the Republican base is. That's what the talking heads want you to be. "Many conservatives," the gasbags tell us, "believe the Republicans have 'lost their way' and need a spell out of power." Don't you believe it ! That's the wolves telling the sheep to go to sleep and be pro-carnivore. Don't buy into that. As the Blogging Caesar (Scott Elliott) told us a few days back, it's all in our hands.
Smell the coffee. Vote Early, Vote Often, Vote Right; and, (here's a second link) go read Mr. Blankley's piece.

Bring Me What He's Having...

Drudge says ("developing", no link there yet), that Karl Rove is telling Washington Times editors and reporters that the Republicans will keep both Senate and House of Representatives.
I don't find that totally beyond the realm of possibility, and I would expect Mr. Rove to be upbeat when speaking to the press, even a basically friendly journal such as the Washington Times. But I wouldn't be shocked to find that Drudge had gotten this one wrong, either. Still, somebody bring me what Rove is having.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Did the Dear Leader Really Screw Up ?

AP reports that US "defense officials" are concerned about satellite imagery indicating a second North Korean nuclear test. The US "nuclear envoy," Mr. Christopher Hill, says that such a test would be a "very belligerent answer" to the UN's recent very stern letter (as "Hans Brix" in Team America, World Police, would put it), to Ronery Comrade Kim. You don't say, Mr. Hill ?
Spook 86, over at In From the Cold has a good discussion of the Kim Jong Il government's fulminations about the UN action being an "act of war." Spook points out that the North Korean regime uses such language all the time, and points out that even though a limited attack on the Republic of Korea could be launched with little or no warning, organizing a real invasion would take some preparation. Spook warns that, for this reason, careful observation of the upcoming North Korean military Winter Training Cycle is important:
That's why North Korea's upcoming Winter Training Cycle (WTC) will be very interesting--and potentially important, at least from a military perspective. It should be noted upfront that there are currently no indications that Pyongyang is contemplating an invasion of the south. . .However, the WTC is significant because it's the time of year when the DPRK military conducts most of its training, and North Korean units typically reach their highest levels of readiness. The WTC usually begins in late November or early December and runs through March. Using a building-block approach, North Korean units usually start off the training cycle with individual and small-unit training, then shifting to larger-scale exercises in January and February. North Korea's WTC often culminates with a national-level exercise in the late winter. After that, much of the military shifts to agricultural projects, and training levels plummet.
(emphasis supplied).
Spook points out that overall North Korean readiness has fallen over the past twenty years, primarily due to that country's collapsing economy. Spook goes on to discuss clues we might look for that would indicate the North Koreans are making serious military preparations to make good on the Dear Leader's blusterings about war. Read the whole thing.
The points Spook makes are well-taken, but caution is in order. North Korea is sometimes described as the Hermit Kingdom for good reason -- there is very little reliable, human intelligence, and we are excessively dependant on communications and other forms of technical intelligence for information. The difficulties the US and other governments have encountered in confirming that a NK nuclear test even took place speaks volumes about the difficulties of obtaining accurate information. North Korea is extremely mountainous, and the area around the DMZ full of bunkers and tunnels. The South Koreans, Japanese and Chinese almost certainly have better human intelligence, but Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing also have their own agendas.
The North Koreans are aware of our reliance on technical intelligence. Surely their war planning takes that into account. The possibility thus exists that North Korean war preparations would not be detected. Remember, the First Korean War, in 1950, began with a surprise invasion.
The General Staff Bureau's Operations Department is also aware, or should be, that South Korea is somewhat divided on how to respond to the nuke crisis. The South Korean administration's foreign affairs flagship is its "sunshine" policy of friendliness towards North Korea. Since the NK's in effect slapped South Korea in the face by setting off its nuke, President Roh Moo-huyn and his administation have been taking a lot of heat. Now, it looks like the Roh government wants to pretend that nothing has happened. (Hat tip: One Free Korea; see also DPRK Studies).
Certainly the North Koreans know too, that the US military is, well, a little busy just now. The Bush administration also looks pretty weak.
Finally, the North Koreans have managed to, at the least, seriously annoy the Chinese, who provide the lion's share of North Korea's food, fuel, and military equipment. Now before the North Koreans went nuclear testing, presumably God-Emperor Kim did his sums, and concluded that China would be upset, and a bit irritated, but would not do much. Maybe he's right.
Whatever China does, other than posturing, will, in all probability, not be made public. Chester over at Adventures of Chester agrees with me that the Chinese may be thinking that a coup d'etat to get rid of the Kim dynasty is in order: that the Korean Workers Party seriously needs an enema. Kim Jong Il may be a sociopath, but he's far from stupid, and this possibility has to have occurred to him as well. Look for a party purge.
Kim had to have thought about all this, and tried to insure against it. I think Richardson at DPRK Studies is probably right, and that the operational objective here was to secure the cult-regime's isolation from the outside world. But just suppose the Pope of the Juche Idea (or, of course, one of his underlings), was fallible on China ? As DPRK Studies discusses, a lot of Chinese are Not Happy. China was taking out some Korean Disaster Insurance even before this test, DPRK Studies says, fencing the common border so that starving Koreans from the latest Upper Volta With Nukes don't decamp to China. What are the Chinese really thinking now ? If Cousin Kim has managed to cut off his Chinese grain, oil and guns, how does he plan on getting through the winter ?
Something like this has happened before. On 26 July 1941, in response to Japan's occupation of southern French Indochina (a/k/a South Vietnam) -- Franklin D. Roosevelt froze Japan's financial assets in the United States and used US influence to block Japanese oil purchases in the Dutch East Indies. The US government expected that the economic squeeze would convince the Japanese to change their foreign policies. The Japanese decided to simply go take the oil they wanted. . .Pearl Harbor and US entry into World War II resulted.
What if Cousin Kim has really screwed up ? One way out of such a cul-de-sac would be to loot South Korea. . .
I don't, yet, believe that there is going to be a war. But the possibility cannot be dismissed too easily.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Good morning ! In theory, that is, despite a ginormous Starbucks and other caffeine, the "good" part of that greeting is still a matter of debate.
Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Leipzig (1813), the decisive battle of the Napoleonic wars: Napoléon I's worst defeat. Waterloo was simply applying the period to an issue already decided -- for Bonapartists, Leipzig was the real nightmare. Although the battle is generally reckoned to have begun on 16 October (it ended on the 19th), the preliminaries actually began on the 14th. Maybe I will post more on this battle, the largest in Europe up to that time, on the 19th.
Saddam has evidently written a letter to rebels in Iraq, telling them that "liberation" is at hand and admonishing them to be "merciful" with their enemies. Saddam must think that the forthcoming US electoral victory of the "cut and run" party means that the US will decamp, allowing the rebels to show mercy by shooting, rather than hanging, government supporters. The cut and runners will likely be disappointed for a time, but in any case, Saddam will not be around to see "liberation." Wonder if they'll shoot him, or hang him ?
There's a border fence going up. No, not on the US/Mexico border, but on the frontier between China and North Korea. Looks like the Chinese think that Cousin Kim's starving worker's paradise is down the tubes soon, and they'd really rather not have Manchuria flooded with Koreans. Makes good sense to me. Too bad we don't copy them on the Rio Grande.
Speaking of Mexico, AP is reporting that the Left Wing Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) is likely to loose the gubernatorial election in the State of Tabasco, to the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) -- the former proprietors of one-party Mexico. Now that's interesting. How can this be ? Tabasco is the would-be Jefe of Jefes Andres Lopez Obrador's home state and the base of his power. I wonder how much help the PRI got from President-Elect Calderon's National Action Party (PAN), if any ? I think the peppery Don Andres is correct when he says that the PRD's enemies will "laugh at us" if they lose in Tabasco.
H.M. Queen Elizabeth and H.R.H. Prince Philip are visiting Vilnius, Lithuania, today, staying through Tuesday, then proceeding to Riga, Latvia, on Wednesday; finally, on Friday, winding up in Tallinn, Estonia. Meanwhile, H.H. Pope Benedict XVI is going to Turkey next month. I wish he wouldn't: that seems so very dangerous.
It's definitely Monday. Wish my coffee would kick in.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Back from Camping

Back from camping with the Heir. Lots of fun for the kiddos, if a shade wet, and all us oldsters were ready for bed long before the kids. Would have been more fun around the fire last night with some adult beverages -- a glass of Jameson maybe ? No such luck: I've noticed that both State Parks and the Boy Scouts of America seem to frown on such things, for some unaccountable reason.
Maybe I'll write more after some dirt removal and a nap, more or less in that order.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Good morning ! Today's the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, in 1066. I suppose it was better that William won, but I have always had rather more sympathy for Harold II.
Going camping with the Cub Scouts this morning, so other matters will have to wait.
Matters look unspeakably grim, politically, but be of good cheer. Cruise over to Blogging Caesar and read his very pertinent motivational piece.
Regime Change Iran, citing the New York Sun, sees Persian, not Korean hands, all over the recent NK nuclear test. Could be, I suppose, but perhaps all the baddies are just working together. I would be in their place. (Cut to El Jefe hallucination: "Paging, Mr. A.Q. Khan, Please answer the glowing paging telephone in the dark concourse").
Speaking of Iran, Michael Ledeen (one of my favorite pundits) over at National Review thinks the Bush administration wants a deal with Iran. Call me agnostic on that one. I buy that they want to stall matters -- delay the mullahs from getting their nuke, but I gather they intend to carry on the underground struggle. . .
Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Happy Columbus Day

(a more-or-less annual post)

Today is traditionally Columbus Day and celebrated as such through most of the Americas, although the USA celebrated it on Monday. Columbus Day commemorates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1451-1506). Americans are still allowed to remember Columbus, if they choose, but fear not, Columbus Day will no doubt disappear into the liberal memory-hole, or go the way of Washington's Birthday (folded into generic, anonymous, obnoxious "President's Day"), soon enough.
The great sailor's role in the American story was perhaps small, but certainly decisive. Legions of the politically correct despise the memory of Columbus, his voyages and his culture, never mind that many of them walk the streets spouting their nonsense only because the Admiral found San Salvador on 12 October 1492 (although it was clear he was near land on the 11th). The value of a man may often be gauged by the political enemies he has made; and the fact that so many of the Politically Correct dislike Columbus so much is enough reason to think that he must have been quite a splendid fellow.
Some say he was born in Genoa, others that he was born in Calvi, Corsica. If the latter, he was probably the most distinguished native of that island save Napoléon I. Son of a weaver, and already a distinguished sailor when he began his American voyage, Columbus hoped to find a practicable route to India, but he did better, and found a new world instead – and his discovery changed everything.
The European discovery of America was the biggest event in western civilization since the fall of Rome, and changed the whole world. The future existence of the United States was only one consequence of his voyages; made in barely seaworthy, leaky vessels, with abominable food and mutinous crews.
In recent years, Columbus has suffered from the slanders, slings and arrows of the stupid, the ignorant, and the outright malicious, and all of the other enemies of civilisation who gather under the soiled banners of leftism and “political correctness.” The memory and record of the Admiral are themselves ample defense from the insults of this mob, and Columbus' reputation will survive long after today's philistine lefties have crawled back under their rocks, and back into their midden-pits, to die.
Columbus’ nautical achievements, and the whole colonial experiment, were indubitably worth it. Columbus, and the other heroes of the colonization of the Americas need no special commeration. If you seek their monuments, look around you. The riches of the Americas, in the short run, enabled Europe to prosper, maintain itself and expand in the face of challenges from Asia and the Islamic world. In the long run, the successful implantation of European colonies in the New World, particularly in North America, ensured that civilization came to these shores, and Europe’s American children, would, in due course, be a credit to all that was good in their parents.
Finally, thanks in some part to Columbus and his sailors, in the Old World’s darkest hour, Europe’s children of the New World stepped forward to redeem the Old World from bondage and tyranny. No doubt Columbus, who sought a new route to Asia so that Europeans could carry on lawful commerce despite the Muslim blockade and harassment of Europe, would understand and sympathize with the struggles of the American soldiers of today, carrying the banners of America and civilization in Baghdad and Kabul in the struggle against the Islamo-fascist peril.
After Columbus’s initial voyage to America, he made three further trips to these shores, dying two years after the return from his fourth voyage. The authorities still argue whether he is buried in Seville (Spain), or in Santo Domingo. Thanks be to you Admiral, and to all your officers and sailors, for all you did.

Punitive Actions, but Not Punishment

AP is reporting that China is backing away from supporting US proposals for sanctions on North Korea for that country's apparent nuclear test.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing says that "punishment should not be the purpose" of UN sanctions, which appears to contradict the view earlier in the week of the Chinese UN Ambassador that the Security Council needed to resort to "punitive actions" as to North Korea. The Foreign Ministry would appear to be trumping its own Ambassador: possibly the good Ambassador has gone a little too native in New York and needs a trip to Beijing for some Duck and a bottle of Tsingtao. But I'm sure that, whatever the facts, this will be no contradiction in diplo-speak.
Meanwhile, the Japanese are banning North Korean imports and ships. I don't blame the Chinese for letting the Americans and Japanese do the heavy lifting: since they seem to want to. The US has an ocean separating it from Mad Cousin Kim, China has only the Yalu. As for Tokyo, Beijing is probably happy to see the Kim regime mad at Japan.
I stick with my assessment that the Chinese are the losers here, and not happy, but their disgruntlement is far more likely to be manifested quietly, like good Communists, in true knife-in-the-ribs coup d'etat, find-some-right-deviationists-or-Trotskyists-to-hop-in-bed-with-fashion, and not with noisy and public sanctions. That's for capitalist-roaders.
Check out DPRK Studies, and in particular Richardson's analysis on the reasons for the NK nuclear test, here; and the strategic thinking and purposes of the Kim regime -- a "Strategic Disengagement" strategy, here. I might discuss these excellent pieces later if time allows, but Richardson has constructed as good a working hypothesis as you can find anyplace explaining what the House of Kim is after. I'm still not sure the Dear Leader's sums add up, but that's a story for later.
Also, have a look at One Free Korea, on the demise of the ROK's "sunshine policy." Check out North Korea Zone too. Finally, see the NK News North Korean Propaganda Database. Unfortunately, this has not been updated in over a year, but still very interesting if you want to master the art of vituperation in the true Great Leader/Dear Leader style. In particular, try the Random Insult Generator.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Food for Thought

What will happen if Hugh Hewitt is correct, and the Democrats have crested for 2006 ?
Suppose the Republicans, despite the execrable Mr. Foley; despite Bob Woodward and the best efforts of the East Coast media . . . despite everything -- manage to hold on to both houses of Congress ? The Senate, right now, looks in more trouble than the House of Representatives, but just assume with me, for a moment, that the Elephant dodges the bullet.
I tend to be more of a pessimist than Mr. Hewitt. But it would be such fun for him to be right.
If the toast lands on the carpet jelly-side up, what will the Lefties do then ? Can they possibly get angrier than they are already ?

Fizzle ?

AP reports that the French Defense Minister (Mme. Michele Alliot-Marie) said today that the North Korean nuclear test on Monday must have been a "failed explosion" because the blast was apparently of "limited size."
Perhaps the French have inside knowledge. Perhaps the test did fail. Who knows ? Do the French really know something, or do they perhaps perceive an interest in saying the explosion was of "limited size" and "failed" because if the test was a fizzle, there is then less urgency to do anything about it ?
For an introduction to issues connected with nuclear weapons testing, have a look at the Global Security.org article here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Oops ? !

All kinds of speculation that the North Korean nuke was a "fizzle" -- that is, a dud.

Who knows ? If so, I pity the poor sod who had to tell the Dear Leader. . .

Good Fences and Good Neighbors

The Washington Post reports today that Mexico is conducting a "legal investigation" to determine whether it has a "case" to take its objections to US plans to build fences along the US/Mexico border to the United Nations. Congress has approved legislation providing for additional fences along several stretches of border, and President Bush says that he will sign it. The Mexican government has made it clear it wants the bill vetoed.
The Washington Post article, and other stories elsewhere concerning Mexican objections to a fence, are mostly devoid of legal grounds for objections. Mexico's political and economic objections to such a fence are easy to see: Mexico will be deprived of a relief valve to export its unemployed, which will contribute to political and economic unrest in Mexico.
What the Mexican government expects to obtain by going to the UN, beyond a worsening of relations with the US, is less clear. Although there is not yet a consensus about what to do as to illegal aliens already in country, for the future, the American public does want something done about the borders. The Mexicans, then, are protesting what is bound to happen anyway.
President-Elect Felipe Calderon has made it clear he doesn't like the border fence plan. However, according to the Post, Calderon says this matter is a "bilateral issue" that does not belong before the "international community." Don Felipe is correct, and it is too bad the current Foreign Secretary of Mexico (Luis Derbez) is not listening -- in a meeting with the French Foreign Minister, Mr. Derbez called it a "shame" that US immigration policy was being used for "short-term" gains in the US fall elections. If the Foreign Secretary truly thinks immigration is a "short term" issue for the US, he's had too much tequila. Moreover, the Mexicans are doing themselves no favors by airing such sentiments in meetings with bothersome US "allies" such as the French.
Still, the Mexicans no doubt have their own domestic political concerns to address; and taking an apparent hard line on US attempts to restrict the influx of Mexicans makes some sense considering the closeness of the recent presidential election. The Mexicans have their protest on the record. Hopefully, they have the good sense to be content with that.

Divorce Court Without Marriage. . .

The "Runaway Bride" wants hers.
Just when you think life can't get weirder, it just up and does. In any event, I can't imagine having my whole life being the subject of so much public interest. I confess to not really keeping up with this, so I'm agnostic on this lady's claims. Still, this whole business appears to me to skip straight to the nightmare of divorce court without any of the benefits of marriage first.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Banzai ! (Cousin Kim Cult Edition)

El Jefe has been in the bundu, with no internet, no newspapers "...not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be" and I didn't mind it. El Jefe, SWMBO, the Heir and the cats have all been off at the country schloss since Thursday. We have just returned to Ciudad El Jefe and El Jefe is done greeting the cheering throngs, the mayor, and all the good and great. After I've checked into what my servants have been up to in my absence; heard from the heads of the secret police and the State Church, not to mention read the paper and the e-mails, perhaps I shall make fuller comment on recent events. But for now, this abbreviated version will suffice.

To nobody's surprise, the Kim Jong Il regime has gone ahead and tested a nuclear device. Whether the NK's have a usable weapon, much less a warhead that could be fitted to a rocket, or otherwise detonated under other than controlled test conditions remains to be seen. How others will react is also not clear presently, but we can draw some preliminary conclusions:

Big Loser: CHINA. China now has the worst of all worlds: life next to a basket-case country with a population on the verge of starvation -- that now has some sort of nuclear capability. China is North Korea's windpipe, and I expect the Chinese leadership must be mightily tempted to tamper with Mr. Kim's oil and grain supplies. . . but that just got a lot more dangerous. Still, it is not wise to hack off the Chinese. They don't have to worry with happy talk about democracy or non-aggression -- if they want, they can make Mr. Kim very dead. But this is now, more than ever, gambling. If this wasn't enough, the Chinese have to worry about...

Big Loser No. 2: JAPAN. Banzai ! Can you say "Imperial Japanese Strategic Rocket Force ?" Oh, in today's world they'll call it something dishonest and innocuous, like "Japan Self Defense Flower Protection Force" -- but you get the idea. The Koreans, north or south, to put it mildly, do not like Japan -- if Cousin Kim wanted to be elected God-Emperor of Korea forever, he would use his nuke on Tokyo. The Japanese know this, and they are now going to go nuclear, themselves, faster than you can say Tora ! Tora ! Tora ! Full Japanese re-armament is now a certainty, although if the Japanese are smart they will do it quietly, and take extra special care not to hack off the Russians. (Chinese enmity is a certainty, as is Korean, but the Japanese should be careful not to add Russia to this list).

Big Loser No. 3: NORTH KOREA. Okay, the Chinese tried nicey-nice. They tried to show Cousin Kim that the Chinese way (actually the Francisco Franco/Park Chung Hee model) was really the best -- open the economy, make piles of money, and let enough people do well out of it that the downside of no political freedom doesn't seem like such a bad thing, except to a few intellectuals who can be jailed and persecuted without (immediate) economic consequence.
So what's up with the Dear Leader ? Probably he has concluded, correctly, in my opinion, that the Chinese model would not work in North Korea -- at least, work for him. China is not so much communist, but an oligarchy. North Korea is too, but China has no modern counterpart of the god-like Kim family. If the Dear Leader opened up and went the Chinese route, he would probably run the risk of replacement of his family rule by a collective leadership.
The plight of the Kim regime must be dire indeed. North Korea has now seriously antagonized China, its only real friend, and its economic lifeline. Only the desire for a real change in the status quo -- more aid from the west, in exchange for dropping the nuclear program, would appear to justify such high stakes gambling. Unfortunately for the regime, the North Korean cheating on the last set of agreements with the Clinton administration has undercut any real possibility of the West throwing the North Koreans a lifeline.
Watch for some sort of purge of the ruling party. If sanctions go into play, and if the Chinese react in any material way, Cousin Kim will be worrying about the Chinese hooking up with his domestic opponents.
Winner or Loser: US. The media is dwelling ad nauseum on all the reasons North Korea going nuclear may be bad for the US. I'll take a moderately contrarian position, and argue this is not completely clear.
First, the enemy of my enemy (or at least rival of my rival) is, if not my friend, certainly useful. Korean nukes and Japanese re-armament is going to give China something else to think about, and in a world where China is awash in dollars and drunk on nationalism, this is no bad thing. The US has been trying to nudge Japan back into the Great Power game for some time, and it is going to get its wish. How that works out remains to be seen, but Japan is essentially friendless in Asia, and needs the US alliance. Care should be taken, however, not to hack off the Russians. . .
Second, this gives the US even more incentive to wash its hands of the whole Korean peninsula. Jimmy Carter's idea of withdrawing US forces from South Korea was premature in the 1970's, but, considering overstretch elsewhere, is timely now. Think of how much indigestion a US pull-out would cause the Chinese ! But that's a subject for another time.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Georgia On My Mind...

While we all focus on vitally important matters such as the loathsome Mr. Foley’s IM habits, we would do well to pay some attention to the other leopards in the jungle.

One such leopard appears to have concluded that Georgia is a tasty morsel – and a morsel which quite possibly can be had.

No, I don’t mean the home of Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs, the Falcons, the Braves and peaches. I mean Georgia, the country located in the Caucasus Mountains, between Russia and Turkey. Swallowed by Russia in bite-sized chunks from the 1780’s to 1810: Georgia has since generally been part of Russia, both in Russian Empire and Soviet Union days. When the Czars fell, the Georgians saw their chance, declaring independence on 26 May of 1918.

The Red Army showed up in 1921, bringing freedom, socialism and brotherhood; plus prisons, executions and the secret police for anybody who didn’t want to be liberated. Some local stooges were rounded-up to petition for annexation to the Soviet Union, which they duly did. (It’s always possible to find sheep willing to be pro-leopard). Joseph Stalin, himself an ethnic Georgian, but a spiritual Muscovite - had few illusions about the love his countrymen bore for the Soviet Union (that man had few illusions about anything, other than trusting Hitler) -- so Stalin shot, deported and imprisoned as liberally in Georgia as anyplace else, if not more so.

Georgia formed part of the “unbreakable union of freeborn republics,” as the old Soviet national hymn (catchy tune) said, which, “welded forever” by “Great Russia” stood, until a miracle happened. Lenin’s prison house toppled, and the Union broke. The Georgians, having a proper appreciation of the Soviet “motherland, home of the free” -- bolted again on 9 April 1991…and here we are.

Quite naturally, there are plenty of Russians who want to undo the result of the Cold War and put Georgia and other wayward secessionists right back in the Bear’s claws where they traditionally belong. Had I been born in Moscow or St. Petersburg, quite possibly I would be one such person.
Looks like Russian president Vladimir Putin might be also. Hell, scratch “might,” I know he is.
Independent Georgia has plenty of problems, among them a couple of secessionist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (see map). If you’re a neighboring great power with irredentist or imperialist ambitions, meddling with rebels and rebel-wanna bes is an excellent way to get a foot in the door and stir up some trouble, and the Russians are right in there pitching. Back on the 29th, President Putin entertained Mr. Sergei Bagapsh, the de-facto President of what amounts to independent Abkhazia, along with Mr. Edward Kokoity, who is in a similar position in South Ossetia, another bit of wayward Georgian real estate. The two rebel presidents met with President Putin at a conference on the “Economic Development of Southern Russia” in Sochi.
A better title for Putin’s pow-wow might have been: “Conference of Pot-Stirrers south of the Caucasus.” There is nobody prouder and more upon his dignity in this world than an official of a former rebel movement that actually manages to turn into a government when confonted by current rebels against his own government who are not yet quite in the big time. The Georgians have absolutely gone into diplomatic conniption overdrive over President Putin receiving the two rebel chiefs.
Meanwhile, the Black Sea Fleet is conducting naval exercises off the Georgian coast. The Georgians have asked the Russians to stop…but Russia’s not paying attention. Georgian businesses in Moscow are being raided in what the Russian Interior Ministry (that’s the police), are calling a crackdown on “ethnic” organized crime…
Why are the Russians picking on the Georgians this way ? One possibility is that Moscow doesn’t like Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili’s pro- NATO orientation. In general, the Russians are not happy about the 2003 “Rose Revolution” that got rid of the more pro-Russian President, Eduard Shevardnadze. Mr. Shevardnadze was USSR Foreign Minister back in Gorbachev days.
Pro-Russian is perhaps a trifle harsh: Mr. Shevardnadze was mostly pro-Shevardnadze, but he didn’t do a lot about the Abkhazia and South Ossetia rebels (who had Russian backing). The Russians, you see, have troops in Georgia, and Mr. Shevardnzdze was very aware of this. The Russian troops, some 4,000 of them, are supposed to leave in 2008. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.
The Georgians have tried to return the pinpricks. Back on the 27th, the Georgians arrested four members of the Russian GRU, the military intelligence service, along with some Georgians who were apparently working with them. This has landed the Georgians in worse trouble: on the 30th, the Russians announced they were suspending their troop withdrawals; on the 3rd of October, the Russians cut off air, road and rail travel into Georgia, and closed down the mail.
The Americans and EU have told Russia to play nice, but so far the Russians are not having any of it, although Putin has said the troop withdrawals will start up again. Meanwhile, the Georgians have thought better of grabbing the spies, and, through the Europeans, have handed them back over to Moscow.
On Tuesday, the State Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament), in effect gave Putin a blank check to fix the Georgians: their resolution telling Putin that he can take “even tougher measures” if he wants. Putin said, speaking of the spy dispute: "I would not allow anyone to talk to Russia in the language of provacation and blackmail." Yeah, Georgia trying to blackmail Russia. Sort of like Poland trying to blackmail Nazi Germany.
So what do the Russians want ? At a minimum, it was unwise for the Saakashvili government to be too pro-Europe, pro-American, and pro-NATO with Russian troops actually in country. It might have been wiser to deal for a Russian withdrawal, and only after that was complete move towards the West, and worry more about their own secessionists at that point.
As it stands, the Georgians are in an isolated part of the world, and far from help. Are the Russians going to be satisfied with some groveling, and a more pro-Moscow policy…or do they maybe want more ?
The omens are propitious from the point of view of Russia’s reassertion of some imperial control in the “near abroad.” The Americans are about to be paralyzed, as the Democrats tie Congress in knots and move ahead with plans to impeach, or at least to humiliate, President Bush. The resurgence of the Democrats will completely undercut American foreign and military policies: what’s left of American diplomatic bandwidth is shortly to be totally consumed by the aftermath of the North Korean nuclear test; the collapsing effort to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon (a diplomatic effort cannot succeed because the Europeans are not interested); the Left’s effort to force abandonment of the Iraqi government by cutting off funding for the war; and the resurgence of the Left in Latin America when Daniel Ortega wins the Nicaraguan presidential election.
The November elections in the US are the beginning of a cycle of American caution, and withdrawal from foreign engagement much like that of the post Vietnam period. It is time, then, for the Russians to begin their effort to reassemble the Russian imperial holdings. Georgia, as it was in the 1920’s, is a good place to start -- and now is the time.

Work Jihad

May have a post after lunch, but on Work Jihad this a.m. (I have a brief to churn out). Trying to get a lot of work done so that El Jefe can depart his capital for a few days without wondering what the peasants are getting up to in his absence. . . despite the ever watchful eyes of the Organs of State Security.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Watch the Russians...among others

We must now begin thinking in terms of an enfeebled American government, and what that will mean to the rest of the world.
Other powers are watching our elections, and the troubles of the current administration. With gains impending for the Democrats in both the House and the Senate; President Bush's whole attention is shortly to be focused on avoiding impeachment, and responding to subpoenas. Much of his cabinet, in particular the military, intelligence and diplomatic establishments, will be in the same case. The rest of the world (it is beginning to already), is going to factor our impotence into their diplomatic and economic calculations.
It's back to the 70's. I'm going to write more on this, shortly (but, hey, I have to work). With the US sidelined and stewing in its own juice for awhile, there is an opportunity for other states, and for US rivals generaly, to reshuffle the board in their favor. (Lets be honest: this will thrill plenty of Lefties, here and worldwide). There are all the obvious active fronts, but watch for the appearance of others. In particular, watch the Russians. They are flush with oil cash, and in position to deal diplomatically. If Russia was a stock, I'd call it a definite buy. Georgia is pretty interesting just now. . .

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Well, DUH !

According to an Australian media report (via Drudge), Demi Moore's husband, Ashton Kutcher, met Slick Willie Clinton at a recent function, even sat at the same table, but the aforesaid former President didn't really talk to him, because he was too busy hitting on Demi Moore. "I was like the guy that wasn't there," Mr. Kutcher told Jay Leno.
Where's the news here ? Hello ? This ain't Jimmy Carter we're talking about. Put Clinton at a table with Demi Moore and he's not going to hit on her ? Please.
Quite frankly, it looks like Slick's wandering eye has undergone a considerable improvement in taste.

Mark Foley ?

I confess that I do not, in general, pay too much attention to Congress and its vaporings: my own, well, autocratic tendencies usually mean that I find the Senate and the House of Representatives annoying rather than interesting most of the time. That is, of course, unless I want to see them do something, usually a something that anybody but the most purblind of idiots and dolts (meaning certain members of the Senate and House), could see was absolutely necessary.
All things being equal though, I'd rather have the solons being a minor annoyance, rather than a Major Fly in the Ointment.
Now that I have my petulance off my chest: who the Hell is Mark Foley ?

Monday, October 2, 2006

The Cats Shredded My Homework; Speechless; and Political Divorce

A couple of blog-projects working, but I'm not done with the homework. Okay, Okay, I confess: real life is occasionally more interesting than doing the homework. Besides, I was probably reading Esquire for the articles this weekend. Anyway, in the meantime. . .
George Will has an interesting column over at MSNBC (via Real Clear Politics) ("Speechless in Seattle") on the subject of the Left's crusade to squelch talk radio in the name of "fairness" and "reform."
Michael Barone in "The Disappearing 'Us'" talks about the disappearance of bipartisanship towards the military and America's wars. The money quote:
Nor is the struggle in Iraq "ours" for many Democrats. It's "their" war, the Bush administration's war. And they seek not the road to victory, but the acknowledgement of failure.
Their pit bull attacks on Bush, their constant references to the Abu Ghraib abuses as if they were typical, their opposition to letting the NSA listen to coversations from al-Qaida suspects to persons in the United States. . .these amount to a strategy of rule or ruin. You must let us rule this country, or we won't regard it as "our" country anymore.
Mr. Barone is speaking of course, of leftie Democrats, but one day the Democrats will return to power, and I very much think that rivers of contempt and hatred will then flow right back the other way, with interest.
The Red and Blue halves of this country don't appear to me to have much to say to one another anymore. There is plenty of good research out there showing that the Red and Blue States, in real economic and political terms, have more in common with each other than not, but such studies discount the importance of emotion, and the importance, however it's dressed up, of tribal identification.
The writings of Michael Lind, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation (and one of the brightest Lefties out there), are a good place to go for an introduction to these issues, in particular, his 1999 article "Civil War by Other Means." Another article, written in the wake of the 2004 presidential election: "Red State Sneer" -- is as good a dissection of the Red/Blue split as you are likely to find anyplace.
Mr. Lind's writings argue persuasively that the cleavage denoted today by the "Red and Blue State" shorthand is not new, and, as he states in his January 2001 article America's Tribes, even predates the English settlement of this continent. As a people, we have usually managed in the past to avoid bringing our regional differences to a boil (the War Between the States being the great exception) , but now I wonder if it is not going to bubble-over again ? Possibly instant communication and the ease of travel allows all of us to know each other a good deal better than we would like; and impels us to seek comfort in the company of people who dislike the same people whom we do.
In any case, despite all the talk of the "vital center" and the alleged hunger for uniting and not dividing, I suspect the Red/Blue split is going to stay with us because the politically active portion of the population likes it. Bipartisanship is boring.
The scary part of the equation is that all of this is going on in relatively prosperous times. What happens if we have an economic or geopolitical hiccup of some kind ? Do we become Spain in 1936 ?