Archive for September, 2004

Unrequited Love

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

It is so disheartening to witness the sad desperateness of unrequited love. That is what makes Democratic candidate John Kerry’s obsessive and obsequious need for European approval so unrealistic and forlornly delusional.

When did the Europeans exhibit the greatest affection for the United States in the last few years? It did so immediately after 3000 people were killed at the World Trade Center buildings in New York, the Pentagon, and on a lonely field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Mixed in with genuine sympathy and compassion on the part of many Europeans was a little too much smugness on the part of European elites. There was a little too much sang freud that perhaps America had received its just retribution and overdue comeuppance for its arrogant and self-important foreign policy, particularly its support of Israel. Contradictorily, there was also the suggestion in a French bestseller that the tragedy of September 11 was planned and executed by the US itself as a way to put Americans on war footing.

While certainly there are many Europeans who love and admire Americans on a person-to-person level, European political opinion will not be satisfied with the United States unless it unilaterally opens trade barriers to help the overburdened European social welfare state. European elites will not be satisfied unless Americans bear the burden of Western military spending and loss of life, used only at discretion and the forbearance of Europeans, like in Bosnia. European governments will be pleased so long as the unruly and uncultured Americans listen to their betters.

In a recent speech on Iraq, Kerry insisted that he would persuade Europeans to share the burden in Iraq. While some like the British and the Italians certainly have already contributed very substantially in resources and blood, Kerry is in a jilted lover’s fantasy if he sincerely believes that the French and Germans will ever donate enough troops or money to materially effect the situation in Iraq. It is possible that Kerry does not believe this, but is making the promise for political effect, so Kerry’s position reduces to excessive credulity or lack of credibility.

By degrading the legitimate preference for French and German support to self-abasement, Kerry is setting up the United States for the morning-after disillusionment. Americans best not permit the siren’s song of European love and approval to seduce Americans to overlook their congenital allegiance to the spread of liberty and democracy and the necessity to defend those interests.

Collapse of Network News

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

Respect for the truth is not marked by always being accurate, but by a perpetual willingness, even an eagerness, to correct past errors. It has become clear to everyone whose eyes have not been crusted shut by partisan pinkeye, that the documents CBS offered as evidence that National Guard officers were pressured to sugar coat then Lt. George W. Bush’s records and that Bush disobeyed a direct order to report for a physical, were forgeries. There are a number of technical issues with regard to font and spacing that indicate that the papers were almost certainly not produced by the common typewriters used by the National Guard at the time. Further, the documents mentioned pressure by General Staudt on behalf of the young lieutenant. Other records now show that the general had retired more than a year earlier than the date of the memo. CBS claims they were working on the story for five years. It took less than five days to undermine the evidentiary foundation of CBS’s report.

If we presume no deliberate maliciousness, what becomes evident, even from this distance, is that reporters and producers at CBS believed or wanted to believe these negative Bush stories so much that they lost their ordinary journalistic skepticism. Now it could be argued that there is not a sufficient ideological diversity on the staff of CBS News that could have acted as a check to this unintentional partisan enthusiasm. Nonetheless, it is extremely unlikely that anyone at CBS consciously decided to use documents they knew were forged.

CBS’s gravest error was not the initial mistake of makingpolitically explosive accusations based on forged documents less than two months from an election, but its intransigence to take seriously legitimate questions by known document experts. Given the initial questions about the authenticity of documents, CBS should have been the first to launch an independent assessment of the documents and make the earliest generation of the documents available to other independent news organizations. Stonewalling against criticism does convey openness to truth.

The wife and son of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, the purported author of the memos, said that Killian would not have written such documents and that the statements in the documents were inconsistent with opinions the late Lt. Col. voiced to both his wife and son. Now it is possible that CBS could have still judged the documents authentic, but they did have a journalistic responsibility to inform viewers that the some people close to Lt. Col. Killian doubted the documents. The experts consulted by CBS also had serious doubts about the documents, yet CBS did not convey this uncertainty to the viewers.

Since we assumme the documents came from an anonymous source, CBS also had the positive ethical obligation to help the viewer assess the credibility of the documents’ source. While not specifically naming the source of the document, they might have provided a general identification. Were the documents provided by a National Guard colleague of Lt. Col. Killian? Where they provided by a person with either a political or personal motivation to harm the Bush campaign? Where they provided by someone who supports Bush and was releasing the documents reluctantly out of an obligation to provide important information to the public? Having not met these rather customary responsibilities, CBS appears either incompetent or highly partisan.

The case for the partisanship of CBS is further buttressed by the book, Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History by B. G. Burkett Glenna Whitley. In June 1988, Dan Rather and CBS aired The Wall Within. The documentary interviewed half a dozen veterans who had apparently been traumatized by the atrocities they performed or the personal losses they sustained in Vietnam. Burkett and Whitley filed Freedom of Information Ac requests for the records of the veterans questioned and found that their stories did not check out. One veteran never saw combat, while another spent his time in a stockade for being AWOL. CBS still stands by this story despite the contrary documentary evidence uncovered by the routine Freedom of Information requests CBS itself should have pursued.

Similar lapses and the hubris they represent have over the years whittled away at the credibility and viewership of the major three networks. According to, “The three nightly newscasts have seen ratings decline by 34 percent in the past decade, nearly 44 percent since 1980, and 59 percent from their peak in 1969.” CBS’s drop has been the most precipitous. Cable news networks and the Internet have offered different sources of news and information. The perceived alternative to liberally-slanted news organizations, Fox News, now dominates the Cable news networks, surpassing MSNBC and CNN in viewership. With regard to the recent incident with forged documents, bloggers on the Internet broke the story, not the network news, not cable news. The collapse of network news has been accompanied by, and perhaps hastened by the rise of alternative information sources.

However, there is a down side to this network news collapse. If news sources become too fragmented and too connected to particular viewpoints, the population does not have a common framework within which to conduct reasoned debate. This can create a “Tower of Intellectual Babel,” within which there is shouting and posturing, but precious little communication and dialogue. We can only hope that the information free market will drive viewer towards those sources that effectively vet for accuracy and truth.

Secret Plan Revealed

Sunday, September 12th, 2004

A conversation deep in the bowels of Republican election headquarters August 2004…

Deep Font:  Mr. Rove, I received your request to come here.

Karl Rove:  Yes.  I’m glad you could make it here so quickly.  We have an assignment that should be a perfect match for your skills. We know that this fall the Democrats will discover how the President exploited his family connections to avoid military service in Vietnam and skipped out on what little duty in the National Guard was required of him.  What we need to do is to discredit such reports before they gain any traction.

Deep Font:  How can we do that?  We know that the major media have all their investigative reporters interviewing Bush’s old acquaintances and they will be scouring whatever records we have not managed to destroy.

Karl Rove:  Simple. We will give the media and their Democratic allies what they want.

Deep Font:  Did I hear you right?

Karl Rove:  Yes you did.  We will give them want they want, but not quite the way they want or expect it.  I want you to forge documents from the 1972 era that will feed unspoken speculation about Bush wanting to avoid a physical examination to keep his drug habit from becoming public.  I want the documents to suggest that Bush’s superiors were being pressured from above to give Bush sparkling evaluations.  I want these documents to be leaked to the media.

Deep Font:  I still don’t understand.  Wouldn’t such information damage the president’s re-election chances?

Karl Rove:  It could slightly, but only if the reports are allowed to linger and sink into the public consciousness.  This is where your particular expertise comes into play.  I want the documents to appear at first blush to be authentic, but under any serious scrutiny they should be transparent forgeries.  When the fact they are forgeries becomes apparent, the media will be discredited and anything they find subsequently will lack credibility.

Deep Font:  Yes I could do that.  I could use proportionally-spaced fonts and use modern line spacing.  Gosh, I could even use a smaller font for superscripts, things that would be hard to accomplish using the common typewriters of the era.  However, no reasonably skeptical reporter would fall for this.  Who would be so transparently partisan, so willing to believe that they have found evidence of a Bush scandal, that they would abandon natural journalistic skepticism?

Karl Rove:  I am surprised you have to ask.  The answer is CBS News and Dan Rather, of course.  The people at CBS are either too young or too anti-Bush to be properly skeptical.  Such memos would play right into there preconceived notions.  Some of the producers were not even born in 1972.  They probably would not recognize the documents as forgeries if we told them they were private e-mails or cell-phone records from 1972.

Deep Font:  If the media are that credulous, isn’t it possible that the forgery will not be realized until after the election?

Karl Rove:  Yes, that could be a problem.  I’ll just have our digital black shirts use blogs on the Internet to publicize those features of the documents that make them obvious forgeries.  With Fox News and the Weekly Standard, knowledge of the forgeries will trickle into the main stream media.  Once they smell blood in the water, the mainstream media are like sharks and will go after their own.  They will quickly validate to the non-Conservative community that the documents are forgeries.  Indeed, if I am not mistaken, CBS will stand behind the story long after it is painfully obvious that the documents are not authentic.  No, I am being to optimistic.  Not even Dan Rather has been that blinded by zeal.

Deep Font:  I can easily arrange for the documents. All I need is a word processor and to photo copy the originals a dozen times.  Well I hope it works.  You know, sometimes these ideas blow up in your face.  Remember, when we funneled money to the Howard Dean campaign and he thought they were Internet contributions.  What a chump.  Well, he didn’t win the nomination.

Karl Rove: Yes, you’re right.  I expected Dean to self-destruct after, not before, he secured the nomination.  We went ballistic way too soon. However, when he did explode, he tainted the Democratic field with a Left-wing, anti war stench.  We ultimately did almost as well getting John Kerry to run against. The Bushs are pretty good at beating Massachusetts Liberals in national elections.  We would have had a harder time against Joe Lieberman. Dean whipped the Democrats into such a frenzy, that they never would have nominated a genuinely thoughtful candidate.

Even if I do say so myself, I did outdo myself with back-door funding of Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11.  Democratic partisans ate it up like gummy bears in kindergarten class.  Mom and Pop Middle America are now convinced that the Democrats have lost their collective minds.  It could not have worked better.

Deep Font:  What do you want me to do with Osama?

Karl Rove:  Keep him on ice in case Bush looses the debates with Kerry.  We may need him yet.

World War IV

Tuesday, September 7th, 2004

“Democracy is coming, and there will be no excuse thereafter [for terrorism in Iraq].” — Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Perhaps the most powerful and persuasive polemicists are those who have not only crossed but leapt across the ideological divide. Norman Podhoretz is just such a person. He was part of a cohort of New York intellectuals, born in the first half of the last century, who gave rise to the likes of Norman Mailer and Susan Sontag. These were radicals who embraced Socialism, were sympathetic to Soviet Communism, and perceived little moral distance between the United States and Fascists in Europe. Somewhere in the 1960s, Podhoretz, on the basis of US efforts at post-war European reconstruction, Soviet repression, and the material success of the US economy began to appreciate the force for liberty and success the United States represented. As a consequence, he became one of the founders of the “Neoconservative” movement.

These Conservatives appreciate the role government sometimes play in ameliorating extreme fluctuations of a robust capitalist economy. You will not find these “new” Conservatives still upset at Franklin D.Roosevelt’s Social Security. Yet Neoconservatives are blessed with the congenital Conservative intuition that personal freedom is linked to the personal resources people control, and they retain the certain knowledge that the United States has a positive obligation to nurture freedom and democracy across the world.

Now that we have entered into the second generation of Neoconservatives, perhaps the movement should be thought of as a separate branch rather than new sprig off the main trunk of Conservatism. Neoconservatives believe that American intervention in the world is not only salutary, but necessary, while “paleoconservatives” believe that the United States is too good to involve itself intrigues of the old world. Pat Buchanan is perhaps the most vocal of current paleoconservatives.

Podhoretz has long been a writer of political philosophy and at age thirty became the editor of Commentary, one of the most influential political journals. This month, in Commentary, Podhoretz lays out a cogent and persuasive case for the Bush Doctrine: the fundamental notion that American economic and physical security are best protected when the Zeitgeist favors politically free and economically open societies. At its heart, the Bush Doctrine holds that the ideology of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is rooted in the lack of these values in countries ruled either by thugs or Islamic theocracies or both.

The key to this understanding is to recognize, that World War IV has now been thrust upon us. The first two world wars involved pitched battles between massive armed forces. World War III, what is commonly called the Cold War, was different. Soon after the close of World War II, it became apparent that Stalin considered the demilitarization of the US as a sign that US involvement in world affairs was a momentary phenomenon brought on by the unique events of World War II. We would soon retire behind our oceans and retreat to traditional isolationism. Hence, Stalin saw little impediment to Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe and elsewhere. It was the other underestimated president, President Truman, that in response enunciated the Truman Doctrine. This doctrine held that the US should by various means: political, economic, and, if necessary, military contain the spread of Soviet domination. This policy worked best when the US nurtured fledgling democracies rather than making temporary alliances with non-Communist, yet authoritarian regimes.

With fits and starts from Korea, to Vietnam, to South America, presidents of both parties adhered to this containment strategy. However, containment was drifting into accommodation until President Ronald Reagan seized the rhetorical offensive and assured us “the march of freedom and democracy … will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.” This moral certitude, coupled with the intention to achieve a military dominance over the Soviet Union could not keep up with, was sufficient to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Like the WWIII, World War IV against Islamic Fascism is likely to be a long struggle employing economic, political, and military means. In an age where weapons of mass destruction are too conveniently available the stakes are very large.

The US was slow in coming to an appreciation that World War IV had begun even while we were still in the last stages of World War III. Indeed, the tensions of that war obscured the events that pointed to the growing terrorist threat. As far back as the 1970s, during the Nixon and Ford Administrations, offshoots of the Palestine Liberation Organization murdered American diplomats in Lebanon and the Sudan. During the Carter Administration, Islamic Fundamentalist under Ayatolla Khomeini seized 52 hostages in the US Embassy in the capital of Iran. Even the stalwart Ronald Reagan withdrew American troops from Beirut, Lebanon — troops placed there as a buffer to protect the PLO from the Israelies — with no effective response to the killing of 241 marines asleep in their barracks. Though the first President Bush forced Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to retreat from its invasion of Kuwait, the unwillingness to topple Saddam, fairly or unfairly, convinced Islamic fundamentalists that the West was too decadent and casualty adverse to seriously pursue their adversaries to the end.

The pace picked up in the 1990s as the US and US interests were attacked by Al Qaeda in Somila, at the World Trade Center in 1993, and the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. The USS Cole lost 17 sailors in a suicide attack while refueling in Yemeni. It was not until the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, that the US came realize that threat was grave and not a sporadic law enforcement issue.

Podhoretz argues that the previous weak responses convinced Al Qaeda that there would be few long-lasting consequences to any attack. “The sheer audacity of what bin Laden went on to do on September 11 was unquestionably a product of his contempt for American power. Our persistent refusal for so long to use that power against him and his terrorist brethren — or to do so effectively whenever we tried — reinforced his conviction that werae a nation on the way down, destined to be defeated by the resurgence of the same Islamic militancy that had once conquered and converted large parts of the world by sword.” This was a miscalculation on his part.

To set forth political framework for this struggle, the Bush Doctrine has emerged. Though the specifics may be altered with time, the framework is a thoughtful basis for pursing this fourth world war. While Podhoretz is anxious that we may not muster the will to purse the doctrine over the decades it will require, he does outline the four pillars of the policy: morality, sources, preemption, and accountability.

  1. The first pillar is recognition of the crucial applicability of moral considerations in foreign policy. For the foreign policy “realists,” stability is guiding principle. Moral considerations obscure the delicate balancing require to maintain the status quo. While it is clear that there are times that one must deal with and perhaps eve accept unsavory and despotic regimes, it must be recognized that there is a real moral cost for such decisions. The cost is that the delayed and deferred legitimate claims of the governed can nurture the resentments that feed Islamic terrorism.
  2. The second pillar is the assertion that the cause of terrorism is not poverty, but political repression as evidenced by the prosperous background of may terrorists. Draining the repressive swamps in which terrorism breeds requires the fresh drying winds of liberty and democracy.
  3. During World War III, we relied on deterrence. The assumption was that no state would launch an attack against the United States for fear of nuclear retaliation. However, in a world where small, suicidal groups, only loosely associated with states, can cause large numbers civilian casualties, deterrence has lost its saliency. There is no one to retaliate against. Preventing such attack, through preemption becomes an option.
  4. The fourth pillar is one of state accountability for allowing or encouraging terrorism. Such states are as culpable as the terrorists themselves. This extends to the PLO. Bush was the first president to explicitly call for an independent Palestinian state, yet only state that eschews corruption and terrorism and embraces democratic ideals . As Bush explained in 2002, “Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging not opposing terrorism. This is unacceptable. And the Unites States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorist and dismantle their infrastructure.”

It was the United States that was decisive factor in the victories of the last three world wars. The United States has proved to be the single most important force in the spread of freedom, democracy, and posterity. The question is whether the United States will once again answer histories call. In the words, of Bush nomination acceptance speech:

“This moment in the life of our country will be remembered. Generations will know if we kept our faith and kept our word. Generations will know if we seized this moment, and used it to build a future of safety and peace. The freedom of many, and the future security of our Nation, now depend on us.”