Tuesday, December 21, 2004
This is something I think can't be overemphasized. The mistake that humans are prone to make is to put themselves in the opponent's shoes. That is a mistake in the case of a regime like the one we are fighting. More specifically, I think we have made a sort of category error in the case of Iraq. We have assumed that since they have a seat in UN and exist within lines on a map that it is a state. But the Baath party never governed through the organs of the state. It governed through a kinship based mafia. Taking over the government buildings and organs of state are only a slight impediment to its power. It is like the FBI thinking it has taken down the Soprano family by running them out of Satrialla's butcher shop.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Monday, December 13, 2004
I can't say I have an answer that I find completely satisfying myself. The starting point must be that Democracy is only as good as the will that it reflects. Ultimately, the only thing that the bulk of Iraqis want is to have a normal country within recognized borders. Democracy can only decide things after you have drawn a line around the polity, after you have made the decision that makes it possible to answer the question, "a majority of what?" The problem with the Palestinians is that they want their country within someone else's recognized borders. The basic issue, majority of what, has not been agreed upon. And democracy offers no way to decide it.
Now how important is it that we have homeowners checking the IDs of people that work for them? What about all the people that were willing to defend Clinton on the basis of the argument that the nation's interests are more important than some silly rule? If the nanny problem is so severe that he should not be offerred the job would it not be grounds for taking the job away from if he already had it? And if we are going to fire people on that basis from government why not from the private sector? And aren't the same people demanding the head of anyone that has employed someone who subsequently turns out to have been illegal also blocking an ID card that would make it practicable to verify someone's status?
Of course we have no intention of holding people to this standard, it is just something we do for people in really important jobs.
It reminds me of the Dukaukis debate debacle where in response to a hypothetical question about the death penalty involving the rape and murder of his wife the governor didn't miss a beat and went straight into his standard, "I don't believe the death penalty is a deterent" answer. He was faulted for not showing enough emotion, as if a professional politician is supposed to get choked up everytime he has one of the million and two variants of the "what if it was one of yours?" question thrown at him.
I was reminded of the interview with Tom Wolfe on Cspan the other night where he recounted his first meeting with Chuck Yeager. Yeager was late for the meeting because he was investigating a fatal crash that had taken place that morning in his command. Wolfe solemly made his condolences, to which Yeager replied, "Aww, you give these boys these planes and they will crack them up." That is the way a professional military man reacts to death.
I am glad that one of the people in the Bush administration is able to strut is emotions for the TV babies, but I am even more happy that the people making the real decisions (one hopes) have enough self-respect not to bother.
But the real sticking point is the public decommissioning of their weapons. The reason they don't want to do that is the same reason that Sadaam wouldn't, the value is the uncertainty. As long as people do not know for a fact that they don't have them then they can threaten thier opponents with them and have the benefit of having them. The free world must learn that the burden of proof must be on the terroists, not the other way around. Uncertainty favors the violent. The public demonstration of the fact is more important than the fact itself.
How Daschle Got Blogged - John Fund, Wall St. Journal
All the News That Fits Their Spin - Chris Weinkopf, The American Enterprise
The point of the two is that media no longer is the gate keeper. They can no longer decide what is a story and what isn't. This is why all of those studies of media bias kept coming up empty. They looked for things that were said. They would count up the adjectives that came along with the names of conservatives and compared them to the ones that were paired with liberals and would hyperventilate about who was called "hard-line" and who was called a "committed activist" as if anyone out there cared who Dan Rather was telling them to like. The real power of the media was to be able to decide that Bush maybe missing a physical was news while Kerry's words coming in handy for the tortures of American POWs--the brothers that were not invited to report for duty at Kerrython--was not news. The most effective point at which to deal with political conflict is before it starts, as E. E. Shattschneider reminds us. The most effective way to bias the news it to decide that it isn't news.
If the choice is between 3 billion unemployed European students accross Europe spending their weekends burning Bush in effigy and 3 guys in Teheran having a nuclear weapon I think we should, without hesitation, choose the former.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
People think that it is odd that the proposed solution to the problem of group think is to put people in a bigger group. That is true but the real worry about the 9/11 commission report is the people that it leaves out of the big box it is trying to draw around intelligence collection. The people that didn’t communicate are the ones that are left out of the reorganization. The FBI.
This is no accident. The reorganization fails for the same reason that the reorganization was necessary in the first place. The structure is mean to ignore problems, to make them go away. The whole set up of our bureaucracy is an instance of what James March would have called solution of a problem by flight, by not solving the problem.
What he meant by that was that there are some trade-offs that we don’t want to face. The trade-off between security and personal privacy is one of them. The trade-off is avoided by putting the two goals in two different organizations. The FBI pursues security with maximum solicitude for personal privacy and without worrying about the effects on privacy, the CIA pursues security without worrying about privacy. The organizations are meant to not cooperate. They have different goals. We don’t think of it this way. When something goes wrong because of the trade-off we have institutionalized in the form of our bureaucracies we blame the bureaucrats for not doing their jobs when in fact the whole problem is that they have been doing their jobs, as those jobs have been defined by policy makers, all too well.
The reorganization ploy is one of a family of political arguments that come under the rubric of arguments that we use to avoid facing up to problems. To solve them by flight. Blaming things on government waste, foreign aid. The idea is to find some problem that everyone can agree upon that does not force us to face up to a trade-off we don’t want to make. Deficit politics are the most obvious example. Making unpleasant trade-offs, explicitly saying how many of one thing are you willing to give up for a given number of the other, is exactly what budgets make you do and exactly what people do not want to do. That is the reason for the perennial appeal of cutting foreign aid and government waste. It does nothing to solve the problem but it provides an excuse for ignoring it. I wouldn’t have to think about this thing if you would just stop doing X. Remember that the trade-off is being made whether people are admitting to it or not. In the end we have a fixed number of dollars and the things we spend them on are not the things we don’t spend them on. Behaviorally we make the trade-off and don’t mind making the trade-off as long as nothing forces us to make it mentally.
The whole pitch of the 9/11 commission is to find a non-partisan solution to what went wrong. This is a virtual guarantee that we will not address, let alone fix, what went wrong on 9/11. The non-partisan parts of the problem are the purely technical parts of the problem, the parts of the problem that don’t call for making a choice between fundamental goals, that don’t ask us to specify how much of one goal are we willing to give up for a given amount of the other. Those questions, the value trade-off questions, are the political questions.
Points out that the democrats were the ones that relied on paid workers to get out the vote. When I was in