Why is Saddam different from

Why is Saddam different from the Soviets during the Cold War? I think this is a good question and essentially it is what Hesiod is asking here.

The argument is that deterrence worked during the Cold War, why won’t it work now. In some sense this is a good analogy, but it fails to grasp a key difference between Saddam’s rule and that of the Soviet Union.

First though, Hesiod is absolutely correct about the invasion of Kuwait. It was a perfectly rational act based on the information he had. The mistake was the US sounded like it would appease him. Our mistake and the signal was vital to his decision-making.

The difference is great between the two countries and how they are governed. The Soviet Union was a bureaucratically run country after Stalin. This meant, while it was totalitarian, that power was dispersed widely. No single leader was in control and the aims of furthering the regime were held by more than a small group of leaders with one cult of personality at the top. Towards the end of the Soviet Union, political science really caught up with this and started to model the bureaucratic decision-making process and these models continue to be used in China.

Iraq is a very different case though. Saddam, though originally a part of a party apparatus, has shed that baggage by killing off any competitors. The Baathist Party in Iraq is Saddam and his family. In the Soviet Union there were norms to follow and diffuse power that kept any single person after Stalin from becoming a cult of personality. That is an important check.

More importantly, Mark Bowden points out what Saddam’s ultimate goal is. He wants to be a Nassarite figure that stands for and unites Arabs in a nationalist state. In this regard he is like Hitler, though the military comparisons are silly. As long as he or his sons can survive, deterrence will work. However, if he is threatened by a neighbor, the US or most likely a domestic competitor, what is his calculus?

If his goal is to further his legacy, the use of a nuclear weapon is not irrational in attempting to achieve his goal of a Nassar like legacy. His goal isn’t the survival of a state as a bureaucratic organization would see it, it is the survival of his legacy.

Perhaps this is too much psychobabble, but I think his view of his place in the world is well documented. And at that point, one must decide how the institutional differences between the Iraqi state of 2002 and the Soviets during the Cold War are similar or different. I take them as very different creatures and those difference provide a criticial difference in how successful deterrence would be.

As President Clinton pointed out the other night, this creates a huge problem for an attack. How do we ensure that Saddam doesn’t unleash his stockpile of biological agents on the world?

Interestingly, this also provides some insights on who else we may or may not take on in the future, ahem “war on nouns.” Syria, which is a highly relevant threat isn’t run by a cult of personality. It isn’t that Assad isn’t the most powerful member of the Syrian Baathist Party, but the Party is a bureaucratic body that is more than one person. North Korea’s position is debatable, but I would see Kim Jong-Il as a cult of personality–one looking to cut a deal as today’s story concerning the abductions of Japenese Nationals seems to indicate.

The Howlers will hate this

The Howlers will hate this one–the Wall Street Journal (story not available to non-subscribers) did a piece on the California Electric Market and Krugman picks up on it. I haven’t read the original story yet, but the problem has been obvious for some time. The deregulatory scheme used in California was horribly designed. The Dick Cheney complaints about price caps were nothing but a distraction from the real problem. Too much leverage was given to a small group of companies, long-term contracts were banned or heavily discouraged, and regulators forced the separation of utility branches all lead to a situation rife for problems. Price caps didn’t have a chance to create a problem.

The more important point is this is what happens in Crony Capitalism. I’m a huge fan of deregulation of energy markets. I believe that strategy is the most likely strategy to improve the use of renewable sources. Of course, ‘the reforms” by Gray the Blowhard reduce those incentives. Sidenote: Republicans–what was wrong with Riordan again? Oh, that is right he was reasonable. But Pete Wilson sold the regulatory process to the industry and they got exactly what they wanted. Crony Capitalism of the type we see with Cheney and White harnesses all the power of the market for the few at the expense of the many. Capitalism should be a liberating mechanism, but if the game is fixed, it loses its power.

Josh Marshall has a great article on the lack of competence in the administration. Either one is a genius and knows how to run a business and is fully knowledgeable of rebuilding Iraq’s oil fields and plundering Californial, or one is a boob hired for political connections. You can’t have it both ways.

Broder makes an important point.

Broder makes an important point. We only remember the truly great of the past while discounting the competence of most we see today. Those who screw-up get our attention, but all of those who are quietly compentent don’t get the attention.

“Unfashionable though it may be, I am here to assert that the quality of candidates at all levels, but especially for governor, is rising — not falling. As the barriers to women and minorities are reduced, the level of expected competence continues to improve.”


I’d send money, but he

I’d send money, but he won’t take it from out-of-state. Jim Leach is one of the most honest and decent humans in elective office. If he were to lose it would be a true loss to this nation. He brought down Gingrich and he forced Clinton and Rubin to maintain a wall between banks and business (and Gramm too). While I don’t understand how he can vote for the current House leadership, I heartily recommend any central Iowans to vote for him.

In the relation to the above:
Rep. Jim Leach
(R-Iowa), House International Relations Committee

“It would be a mistake to cast doubt on president’s motives. The fact is that two indefensible terrorist acts were perpetrated on U.S. embassies causing the deaths of a large number of American and African citizens. Response is appropriate.”

While I don’t put it past this administration to use Iraq for the fall elections (and I’m guessing it won’t work), that is irrelevant to the debate of whether we should go after him or not. The above quote serves us all well. Of course, Leach is much more skeptical of action on Iraq than I am.

Sullivan goes off his rocker.

Sullivan goes off his rocker. I liked Sully when he wrote for the New Republic. He provided excellent critiques of the administration and while more conservative than I am, made coherent arguments based on principles usually.Unfortunately, he seems to have become a partisan shill now.

Let’s look at a couple claims today. He seems to think the UN Strategy was a brilliant ploy by Bush? Huh? Bush wasn’t brilliant, he just got slapped by enough people in his own party to realize the go it alone strategy wasn’t going to work. If he was brilliant he would have done this i in the first place and not caused strategic allies to have to waffle. Now, the leadership in Egypt and Saudi (hardly an ally, but strategically yes) look even weaker to the alternatives in those societies.

This strategy is right and it should have been pursued right off the bat. For an administration that claims to be disciplined they have lost control of an essential debate. Now, those we need to help are in a position that weakens them. That isn’t a success in any real terms when the same result could have been arrived at without the same problems.

Josh Marshall adds a lot to this debate. ”

If the president fell flat on his face in the middle of the Rose Garden some of these characters would applaud his uncanny foresight in having arranged for the ground to be in just the right place to break his descent. Shades of the personality cult. ”

As to Clinton acting on terrorism and Iraq? Let’s remember this garbage. I was for a hardline with Iraq then, and I still am. Remember Trent:
“”I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time,” Mr. Lott said, “Both the timing and the policy are subject to question.””

Now, who can seriously complain about Clinton letting up on Hussein? Was part of this self-inflicted by Clinton’s utter lack of self-control? Yes. Does that mean it wasn’t the best policy at the time? No.

The Sudan and Afghan strikes? Coats, Specter and Kemp all called him on it. The only people pushing for more at that time were Goss and McCain and sort of Hagel. They can bitch, Sully, you can’t. Why not? Let’s hear what you had to say

“In retrospect, only one moment in the past year will, I think, endure as a grave threat to the integrity of the United States. And that was the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan last August. The evidence that this bombing was well-thought out and well-targeted is extremely thin. At best, it smacks of incompetence. At worst, it smacks of the use of American arms and credibility for the purposes of short-term political gain for the president. I know everyone is sick of investigations. But, if ever an independent investigation is called for, it is surely into the origins of this particular episode. I say this not because I am squeamish about the use of force abroad but because the use of such force should always be beyond suspicion and reproach. The only time, I think, when impeachment was even vaguely justified was when those raids evoked the question of something truly rotten in the White House. Republicans, however, were more concerned with what the president did with Monica Lewinsky than what he did with the Armed Forces of the United States. In the long run, there will be no more damning indictment of them than that. ”

We missed Osama by an hour or two. Perhaps Sudan was a bad choice. But by an hour or two we missed the Islamic fascist who would later kill more than 3000 Americans in one day.

Clinton shares some blame for distracting the nation, don’t get me wrong. But the bitching and moaning about his actions to take on terrorism at the time were unjustified and Sullivan was a part of that problem.

As a note, if I

As a note, if I ever use the term fisking non-derisively, slap me. The ridiculous practice has taken off and even now been showcased by Sullivan in Salon. I’m not sure if it is more annoying than the overuse of the term ‘indeed’ or the annoying habit of many bloggers to use the term ‘interesting’ as something like a knowing nod only the cool kids are in on.

The problem with fisking is it takes a very articulate person like Sullivan, well when he wants to be, and reduces them to make snarky commentator on an arguments’ side notes much of the time. Seldom does fisking result in a refutation of the central argument or even the evidence. Usually it centers on some side note or pithy comment used for getting attention. A perfect example above is his mention of the 100 Years War. That is relevant to modern warfare how? (was that a fisking–oy).

It might be helpful to remember paragraphs are meant to explain a point. Breaking down those paragraphs loses that point often and thus fails to refute the actual argument. A far more productive strategy would be to outline an argument, state its premises, its evidence and its logic and then attack those. However, for much of the blogosphere that takes too much time. Instead insinuating those who disagree with you are unpatriotic or a hack (oh the irony there) is much more fun.

One of the most fisked authors is Paul Krugman. I’m not sure what it is about him that brings out so much anger, but I have seen few substantive rebuttals in those fiskings. However, I have seen problems with some of his arguments, but fisking never seems to get at those problems. Why not? Because it is designed to produce pithy remarks and not a substantive critique.

Finally, fisking seems to promote an inane comparisons to appeasement in 1938 a. If anyone noticed, we already drove the guy out of the figurative Sudentland. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to overthrow him, but let’s try some original thought and not a reliance on a bad analogy. Whenever an alternative to immediate action it is claimed to be some sort of appeasement. That isn’t appeasement, it is setting priorities.

This comes via Instapundit. Great

This comes via Instapundit. Great analysis of a non-event. What is amazing is that they didn’t even accept the possibility this was a crank. Along with a bunch of self-righteous garbage about “how they won’t do that again.” Besides being an inane old white guy cliche, it doesn’t really address the problem of why these guys pulled the joke in the first place. A nosy busybody got all nervous because some ferinors walked in a Shoneys.

What is even more odd is the strange sense of wanting it to happen to a place near them. It reminds me of the coverage in St. Louis after 9-11. The newscasters just couldn’t handle that something so important didn’t happen to St. Louis and seemed to almost regret it.

Then again, maybe she thought they should have better sense on where to eat…

Hicks are really gullible. Go

Hicks are really gullible. Go figure. Apparently law enforcement is considering calling this a terroristic threat. Let’s see, the witness can’t identify what they were going to do, she wasn’t even sure if it was a real threat or a joke, and she was listening in on a conversation. Ummmm…no jury is going to bother convicting someone for that.

Repeat after me, Shoney’s isn’t a hotbed of terrorists on their way to blow up Miami. Hell, Shoney’s doesn’t even have hot food. The only thing anyone is really guilty of is having the bad taste of eating at Shoneys.

Even better is this:

According to police sources, all three men at first were uncooperative – denying consent to search the car.

”It was probably not the right time for them to be copping an attitude with police,” said one federal law enforcement source who was up all night monitoring the investigation. “But that’s exactly what happened.”

Let me add a little something to this discussion.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It is called the 4th amendment. Forcing the police to do their job is not copping an attitude.

From Talking Points Memo is

From Talking Points Memo is a hysterical story on the radio ads played in Kansas City comparing Social Security to reverse reparations.

In cases of low-rent sleaze like these it’s hard to know whether to fix on to the dishonesty, the crassness, the ugly caricature of gullible blacks the ad is intended to appeal to, or just the pitiful dorks themselves who hatched the idea.

You can just imagine the brainstorming session with the CSE-baseball-cap-clad goofball ‘wingers who came up with the ad. “Hey, you know how blacks are all into reparations? Well, Social Security is terrible for blacks. We’ll say it’s like reverse reparations! You’re giving your money to the white man! They’ll eat that stuff up. By the way, you hear about how that fat rapper killed Tupac Shakur? Dangit!”

Ahhhh … an idea is born.

Rosenberg is getting flack over

Rosenberg is getting flack over criticizing the Bush administration’s contradictions over the war. Now, conservative hacks taking issue with his characterization, I understand. However, someone who is truly concerned with Iraq and the potential threats should be highly critical of an administration that can’t get its act together. File under: The adults are back in charge.