Archive for January, 2003

The Irrelevance and Decline of France and Germany

Sunday, January 26th, 2003

“But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

Many Islamic countries have managed to hide their economic and political failures by blaming the more prosperous West, and especially the United States as Satanic. Of course, the supreme irony for these religious zealots is that Allah (within the narrow vision of these zealots) would seem to be economically rewarding these same blasphemous Western cultures. Even resource-wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia are having difficulty maintaining the extravagant lifestyle of the ruling families, so it permits a simmering militant strain of Islam to prosper.

Now Europe follows this sad example. For the last three decades, Europeans have chosen the path of growing government control of the economy. They, are now realizing that despite a greater population, they are being economically outpaced by Americans. The economic dynamism of the United States has resulted in 57 million new jobs here, while collectively the members of the European Union have managed to create an anemic 5 million since 1970.

European politicians sometimes exploit the consequent political unrest by diverting anger to the United States. Last year, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder faced with a plummeting economy and popularity, ran for re-election on a patronizingly anti-American platform. It is easier to feel morally superior to Americans, than it is to come to grips with German economic inadequacy and self-imposed impotence.

Arrogant European condescension manifests itself in other petty little ways. Two years ago, Europeans voted secretly to replace the United States on the United Nations Human Rights Commission with the Sudan. It seems some of the European governments are willing to welcome a country where slavery still persists to a Human Rights Commission so long as it will poke a stick in America’s eye. Under different circumstances, this behavior would be a silly annoyance. We now live in serious times.

After the United States was attacked on September 11, a new sense of urgency to deal with terrorism and its sources has swept the United States, less so in Europe. Despite initial feelings of sympathy for the United States, a recent poll suggests that two-thirds of European elites smugly feel that it is “good for Americans to feel vulnerable.” Americans do not agree.

In a matter of weeks after September 11, the United States, with only 400 soldiers on the ground, managed to end the sanctuary that the Taliban government of Afghanistan was offering Al Qaeda terrorists. The Europeans managed to provide some marginal military aid in this response, but only at the cost of deliberately and demonstrably false accusations that the United States was causing massive civilian casualties and engaged in the wholesale torture of prisoners. In reality, the United States response in Afghanistan liberated the Afghans from a repressive regime and prevented winter starvation.

We now turn our attention to a long festering threat. Since their defeat at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the Iraqis, by everyone’s admission, has been violating the terms of the cease-fire agreement. They are seeking to accumulate weapons of mass destruction, which they are willing to use against their own people. They are in league with the terrorist underworld, as they provide money and other support to the families of homicide bombers that deliberately kill innocents in Israel. These latter efforts are in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which required Iraq “not commit or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory.”

This fall, the United States managed to persuade a reluctant world and Europe that Iraq’s non-compliance with relevant UN resolutions undermined the effectiveness and authority of the UN. This same reluctance to act against Fascism doomed the League of Nations. Last fall the Security Council agree 15-0 that “Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations.”

It now seems that at least France and Germany did not really mean what they said. They now lambaste the United States for not showing more patience with the UN inspectors in Iraq. This argument is particularly disingenuous because were it not for the United States willingness to use military force, there would be no inspectors in Iraq. It was not the appearance of the French Air Force or the German Army on the horizon that compelled Iraq to allow in the beloved inspectors.

It is clear now that the French and the Germans never meant to compel compliance. The UN resolutions were just a delaying tactic to buy time for Iraq in the hopes that American resolve would wither. The French and the Germans are not willing to face their clear obligations under the November resolution. They are willing to live with a rapidly re-arming Iraq, especially since the likely targets will not be Europeans, but Israelis or Americans. Or perhaps, in their jealous pique with Americans, they are willing to weigh in on the side of Isalmo-facists as long as they are anti-American. You might have thought that their collective experience living under Fascist regimes, they would harbor particular antipathy to such regimes.

In the November resolution, the UN agreed that, “false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution … shall constitute further material breach.” Even the softheaded UN inspector Hans Blix has admitted to the Security Council that Iraq has not accounted for 20,000 liters of anthrax, 1.5 tons of VX nerve gas, biological growth media, or Scud missiles Iraq is not allowed to possess.

It now seems likely that the United Nations Security Council under the veto of the French will not authorize the use of force against Iraq to enforce the November resolution. It also seems likely that the US will do so nonetheless. The result will be an ironically strengthened UN with its resolution enforced, but it would weaken France and Germany. They will sink into political irrelevance much as their collective economic importance continues its decades-old decline.

When Theodore Roosevelt delivered the words in the citation above, the American Century was just beginning. Roosevelt’s words reflected the American ethos of vigor and strength. The United States began the century as a modest economic and military power with enormous potential. Mighty European governments spent the century devouring each other, sapping each other of not only economic energy but spiritual vigor and confidence. Unlike its European counterparts save Great Britain, the United States begins this century with the same governmental institutions in began the last century with. This is an important measure of the resilience of these institutions.

The United States begins this new century the dominant economic engine of the world and certainly its strongest military power. It is impossible to know for certain where in the registry of countries the United States will find itself at the end of the century. Perhaps by the sheer size of its population will make the 21st century the Chinese century. Unfortunately, Europe is a dying echo of his previous grandeur, a pleasant land of pleasant, quiet, and irrelevant people. It declines into self-indulgent middle age, comfortably sitting on the sidelines. How sad.

The Obligations of Supreme Command

Sunday, January 19th, 2003

“At the summit, true strategy and politics are one.” — Winston Churchill.

It has long been a concern of political philosophy to structure military organizations in democratic societies that are strong enough for legitimate defense while sufficiently constrained to protect civilian society from excessive military influence. In the words of Plato, how does a society create a military, “gentle to their own and cruel to their enemies?”

In mature, constitutional democracies, this problem has largely been solved. There is no real probability that a Western-style democracy in North America or Europe will fall in a military coup. Nonetheless, the relationship between a civilian-controlled military and its civilian leaders remains a serious question.

In 1959, Samuel Huntington wrote The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations, which has come to be the seminal piece on the subject and is studied at military colleges. Huntington made the case for what is now the conventional wisdom about civilian-military operations. According to Huntington, the role of civilian leadership is to set clear, achievable military objectives and then allow a professional military to design and implement the means to achieve these objectives.

This conventional wisdom has been reinforced by what many people believe is the lesson of the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, President Johnson is perceived as having restrained the military from achieving victory, while micromanaging to the point of personally reviewing target lists.

Professor Eliot Cohen of the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Relations of the Johns Hopkins University in Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime turns this reasoning exactly on its head. Cohen argues that successful wars are best conducted with intimate control by civilian authorities over military decisions and a constant dialogue between civilian command authorities and military commanders. As military strategist Claus Von Clausewitz explained “war is simply a continuation of political intercourse.” Waging war is not a single decision. Rather it is a set of continuing decisions in response to changing circumstances many with direct political import. War necessitates decisions on alliances, strategies, means, and limits that are more political than empirical. As Georges Clemenceau explained, “War is too important to be left to generals.”

In making his case, Cohen examines the war record of four successful wartime leaders: Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War; Georges Clemenceau, French leader in World War I; Winston Churchill Prime Minister of Britain during World War II, and David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel during the Israeli War for Independence.

In all these situations, Huntington’s admonition to acquiesce to expert military advise was not even possible given the fact the generals often differed sharply in the their advice and perspective. Through constant oversight, questioning, prodding, and haranguing, these leaders forced their generals to devise and implement coherent military strategies. This often involved reorganizing military commands and individuals to adequately implement civilian decisions. Abraham Lincoln had to work through a series of generals until he found ones that were competent and aggressive enough to implement his vision of victory.

If Lincoln had simply instructed George McClellan to defeat the South and not intimately involved himself in the conduct of the war, the United States would likely be two countries today. One of these countries may have maintained the institution of slavery throughout the nineteenth century. If Clemenceau had relinquished authority to Marshal Ferdinand Foch, an even harsher peace would have been imposed on post-war Germany than the disastrous Treaty of Versailles. Indeed, Foch could have caused a greater political rift with England and the US that would have inhibited the alliance against Nazi Germany during World War II. Without the continuous and severe audit of the military’s judgment by Churchill in practical and detailed military matters, resources would have been squandered and lives lost, perhaps changing the outcome of the war. If Ben-Gurion had not leashed in disparate military groups forcing them into a single coherent command during the formation of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces may have never marshaled the limited resources necessary to defeat an enemy that overwhelmingly out numbered them.

In Vietnam, rather than there being too much civilian oversight, there was far too little critical supervision. Despite a reputation for abrasiveness, President Lyndon Johnson never forced his generals to formulate a coherent strategy for winning the war when their efforts were clearly ineffective. It would be impossible to imagine Abraham Lincoln allowing a General William Westmoreland to remain in command for four years of ineffectiveness. The military never really gave Johnson any options above merely more of the same: more bombing, more firepower and more soldiers. Indeed the sheer size of the American forces delayed the transition of the indigenous South Vietnamese Army from a petty bureaucratic impotent institution into a force that could effectively defend South Vietnam with only modest US assistance. Johnson should have reassigned generals and commanders until he found a set that demonstrated a successful strategy for victory, if indeed such a strategy existed.

Cohen argues that Vietnam does not make the case for letting generals run the war. Rather Vietnam is a classic example of a debacle that can follow inadequate civilian direction of the military. As President George Bush contemplates war with Iraq, he should not be so foolish as to employ the dogs of war without retaining some control over their leashes. In many ways, how and when to attack Iraq has important political imports. The responsibility to make these decisions resides with the president.

A Democrat the Republicans Should Worry About

Sunday, January 12th, 2003

Originality is not safe. Trying to duplicate past successes is boring, but it offers the greatest chances for repeating. That explains why when one genre of television show is successful, like Survivor, the show is duplicated or permutations along the same theme appear. The same can be said of politics.

On the national level, Bill Clinton was the Democrat’s latest and biggest success. In 1991, fresh off the victory of the Gulf War, the first President George Bush’s approval rating was astronomical. Many of the Democratic heavy-weights, like then Senator Al Gore, declined to run. They did not want to squander an opportunity to be the party’s nominee in a futile effort. This left the field open for relative unknowns, like an obscure former Governor of a small southern state, Bill Clinton.

Random factors seemed to fall in Clinton’s favor. Although the recession had ended by early 1992, unemployment rates still had not responded and the economy appeared sluggish. This, accompanied by what some considered a diffident attitude by President Bush, who seemed preoccupied with foreign policy rather than domestic discontent, provided Clinton an opening. Moreover, maverick third-party candidate Ross Perot garnered 19% of the popular vote and may have very well tipped the outcome in the 1992 in Clinton’s favor. Nonetheless, give credit where credit is deserved, Clinton took the political gamble and won.

Clinton was the recipient of a few political advantages that have helped Democratic presidential hopefuls. First, he was from the South. No Democrat from a state north of the Mason-Dixon line has been elected President since 1960, when John Kennedy won. Not only have Democrats from the north, or northwest not won, they have been clobbered. Just ask George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis. Jimmy Carter from Georgia defeated President Gerald Ford in 1976 and Tennessee’s Al Gore won a popular national majority in 2000. If Gore had just managed to win his home state, he would have won in the Electoral College and be president today. It is clear, if the Democrats want to win, they would best look toward a candidate from the South.

Second, Clinton effectively nurtured an image as a moderate. He was a member of the Democratic Leadership Council that had tried to wrest the Democratic Party from its more Liberal elements that up until that point had doomed Democrats to losses in three sequential presidential elections. Jimmy Carter too had run as a fiscally conservative moderate. Whatever, one’s evaluation of how they governed, Clinton and Carter did not run as traditional Liberals.

If Democrats are looking for a candidate that has a reputation as a moderate and is from the South, Senator John Edwards from North Carolina, who just declared his intention to run for president, fits the bill. Add to that his youthful and vigorous appearance, and the current President George Bush could have a formidable opponent.

Bush’s current popularity ratings are high, but if the economy does not rebound and if the War on Terrorism is perceived in 2004 to be inconclusive, Bush like his father could prove to be more vulnerable than he now appears. If so, Edwards’ political bet could pay off.

David Broder of the Washington Post notes that Edwards’ political gamble in running for president may be an all or nothing proposition. Apparently, “Votes he cast on labor union matters and some social issues have won favor from important national Democratic constituencies but do not sit well with many voters at home.” Edwards appears to be lurching to the political Left for help in the Democratic primaries.

In dealing with a potential Edwards candidacy, Republicans would want to emphasize his more Liberal positions. What part of the political spectrum does John Edwards occupy?

Professor Keith Poole of the University of Houston uses an “Optimal Classification” algorithm to cluster Senators and Representatives based on their voting patterns. He can rank politicians as more or less Liberal or Conservative depending on how often their votes align with other Liberals or Conservatives. The rankings can be a little wacky because there are a lot of votes on matters that are more partisan and organizational than ideological. Nonetheless, the rankings are an interesting way to order by a combination of partisanship and ideology.

As one might expect in the 107th Senate, the three most Liberal Senators were Russell, Feingold (D-WI), Mark Dayton (D-MN), and Jon Corzine (D-NJ). Interestingly, the late Paul Wellstone (D-MN) ranked fourth. On the other end of this one-dimensional spectrum, the three most Conservative members of the Senate were Don Nickles (R-OK), Phil Gramm (R-TX), and Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

In such a ranking, John Edwards is only the 38th most Liberal member of the Senate. That places him toward the Conservative end of the Democrats. However, there is a significant distance between Republicans and Democrats and ordered ranking has its limitations. Being toward the Right of the Democratic Party does not necessarily place Edwards at the nation’s political center.

The Americans for Democratic Action score Edwards as having voting with them 70% of the time. The mean score for all Democrats is 86% and for all Republicans 11%. The other side of the political spectrum ranks Edwards in an analogous way. Where Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina gets a 99% ranking from the American Conservative Union, Edwards hovers between 12 and 16%.

Despite the label of moderate, it is reasonable to expect that Edwards is about as far Left as his constituency will allow and, like Lieberman in 2002, he might move further to the Left to please other Democrats.

Edwards’ background as an “aw shucks” sort of trial lawyer means not only will he have plenty of financial backing in the election, it means that he is skilled in talking everyday folks in to making themselves feel good by taking money from Peter to pay Paul.

The combination of Southern heritage, an appearance of moderation in ideology, and an ability to connect with ordinary people, will make Edwards a formidable candidate if he can survive the Democratic primaries. If their goal is to win the presidency in 2004, the Democrats could certainly do a whole lot worse than picking Edwards and not much better. He ought to be the candidate that Republicans fear most.

A New Generation of Conservatives

Sunday, January 5th, 2003

There are many Conservatives like David Horowitz who rail ceaselessly about the Liberal bias on campus and the consequent lack of a diversity of ideas. William F. Buckley, by contrast, has generally been unafraid of the fact that much of academia leans to the Left. He once observed that good students drive out, or at least ignore, bad teaching. Teachers who are too ideological will likely turn off as many students as they persuade.

Much of politics in the US winds up being a contest between Democrats and Republicans. Despite many rhetorical differences, in practice they govern more similarly than either would care to admit. As a consequence, most Americans and most students are too busy with their daily interests to pay much more than passing attention to politics. Political apathy is perhaps the sign of a mature society that has largely already reached a consensus on large political questions.

Although campuses across the country lean to the Left, the strongest, contingent of Left wing professors inhabit pseudo-intellectual departments like Women’s Studies. The dominant purpose of these departments is not research and honest pedagogy, but ideological proselytization. Students who gravitate to these disciplines largely already have a suitable ideological predilection. Few new converts are secured. The remaining student body will ignore these courses unless they view them as an easy way to pad their grade point averages.

Nonetheless, the Left-ward tilt on campuses has the salutary effect of toughening Conservative-minded students. While Left-leaning students can safely roam like sheep through campus with their ideas unchallenged and unmolested, Conservatives must either learn how to argue their cases in an unfriendly and unsympathetic environment or remain silent. Those who speak up grow in self confidence as they learn to critique their professors and fellow students. In short, the Left on campus has nurtured a new generation of lively and irreverent Conservatives.

Perhaps this is nowhere more apparent that at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire. In the 1980’s, the Dartmouth Review, a Conservative magazine, emerged. The pages of the publication served as a voice for Conservative students frustrated by the uniformity of ideas enforced by political correctness on campus. The Dartmouth Review was been a constant thorn in the side of the Dartmouth Administration and Liberal professors across campus. Many of the stunts the Dartmouth Review staff embarked upon to generate good copy were in bad taste and sophomoric, but remember many of the culprits were sophomores. This crucible has formed a number of Conservative pundits including talk show host Laura Ingraham and writer Dinesh D’Souza.

In his recent book, Letters to a Young Conservative, D’Souza attempts to instruct a new generation of Conservatives. The book is structured as a series of letters to Chris, a fictitious campus Conservative. D’Souza spends much of his time speaking on college campuses. He is thus intimately familiar with the usual arguments of college professors and offers Chris guidance on how to respond.

Though many of the notions D’Souza explains are plain vanilla Conservative ideas, he explains them in a cheerful, straightforward, and lucid way. The book is an excellent primer and source of moral support for the emerging Conservative undergraduate.

Many Conservatives are Conservative by temperament and grow into political Conservatives later. Ingraham and D’Souza represent a new breed on energetic Conservatives who have learned to use the rhetorical methods of the 1960’s radicals on campus to frustrate many of the same radicals who have managed to acquire tenure. For this we have Liberal college campuses to thank.