May 26, 2004
Stay in Iraq until Democracy is Assured
This morning's Seattle Times brings an oped from one Resat Kasaba, professor of international studies at the UW, arguing for an immediate U.S. withdrawl from Iraq:
The United States has lost its ability to achieve its goals in Iraq. The American administration no longer has any moral standing among the people there. The longer U.S. military and civilian personnel stay involved in Iraq, the more enemies they make.
This sweeping statement, unsupported by evidence, is directly contradicted by Iraqi blogs as late as yesterday
. "I'm an Iraqi citizen and I want to thank president GWB from all my heart for the great service he's done to the Iraqi people by freeing us from one of the worst tyrants in history." Perhaps Prof. Kasaba has convincing evidence, but his argument would be better if he presented it rather than assuming facts not demostrated.
The only clear way out of this situation is for the United States to leave Iraq as soon as possible...
Only then can Iraq move toward a free and democratic future, which it most certainly deserves.
Ok, the U.S. should leave Iraq. And who should replace us? Wait for it...
There is a way in which this transition can be carried out so that it does not lead to chaos and anarchy. As the very first step, President Bush should convene a summit that includes the secretary general of the United Nations and the leaders of major European powers, neighbors of Iraq (including Iran), Egypt, China and Japan.
Yes! The U.N. And Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China. All of which have such a stake in creating democracy in Iraq, and such experience with democracy in their own countries.
And by the way, Israel is a close neighbor of Iraq; would the other generous countries in this new coallition welcome her participation?
Such an extraordinary gathering would serve two purposes. One, the United States would be announcing to the world that it is changing course and reaching out to the world community in dealing with the situation in Iraq. Second, such a gathering would draw attention to the fact that if Iraq fell into anarchy and civil war, this would have serious consequences for not only the security and stability of the region but also for the world at large.
In other words, those who would be most directly and immediately affected by Iraq's further slide into chaos would be invited to help prevent it.
For half of the countries on Prof. Kasaba's list, "security and stability" means rule by a strong man. They are hostile to democracy, and a democratic Iraq is anathema to them. For Arab leaders, it would deligitimize their own governments, which are all dictatorships. They long to be in a position to restore Saddam-like stability to Iraq.
A key goal of such a summit would be to create a truly international military force to help Iraq with its security. This force should be under the command of a U.N. officer. As soon as this force is constituted, all the U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq. A small number could be reintroduced subsequently but only as part of the multinational force, and under the command of the U.N. officers.
Who are these U.N. officers? The U.N. has no military force of its own, but relies on member states for troops. Would Prof. Kasaba suggest U.S. troops serve under Syrian command?
Contrary to the pontifications of pundits and other "experts," the Middle East has a long tradition of electoral politics going back to the 1840s.
Examples would really help here. How about a modern tradition of elections? The Turks hold regular elections and have a functioning democracy, but they have a deliberately secular country whose army has regularly overthown governments thought to be too religious. The Palestinian Authority had an election in 1996 in which Yasser Arafat was elected to a five year term, but there was no election in 2001. Perhaps Prof. Kasaba means the Israeli tradition of elections going back to the 1940s.
Given the opportunity, Iraqis would certainly be capable of organizing themselves and determining their future in free elections.
And who is giving them the opportunity? The U.S. The Army and Marines and the CPA have organized hundreds of local elections for city councils and provincial governments. And Prof. Kasaba is right: the Iraqis have generally stepped up to the challenges of running city governments, and there is every reason to believe they can handle national democracy. President Bush has made that his goal, and outlined a timetable on Monday
The five points Bush listed in his speech Monday amount to little more than a restatement of general goals few people would disagree with. We still don't know how these goals are supposed to be achieved and what June 30 will bring to the country or the region.
And the president will be giving five more speeches over the next few weeks, presumably to fill in the details. But we can't know exactly how the transition will unfold, as events in the country will change any plan we announce today. And when the plan is challenged, better the guarantors of Iraq's democracy are democratic Britain and America, not theocratic Iran and Baathist Syria.
Leaving Iraq as I've suggested should not be seen as a defeat. By reassuming moral leadership and regaining its international legitimacy, the United States would find itself in a much better position to affect the international system.
This is either naive or disingenuous, depending on how charitably you want to read it. Of course it will be seen as a defeat. By the American people, who will wonder what happened to our leaders' resolve. By U.N. and E.U. bureaucrats, who will be able to gloat over putting the U.S. "back in the box." And most devastatingly by al-Qaeda, who will have another example ala
Beruit and Somalia to demonstrate to their followers that America is decadent and can be outlasted.
This is a much better route than the one we are embarked on now, where countless lives and reputations are being wasted and the country's treasure is being spent for a cause no one is able to articulate anymore.
Prof. Kasaba is himself able to articulate the cause rather well: free elections for Iraqis, stability for their country. The only waste of lives and treasure that would occur is for the U.S. to give up halfway through and turn over the rest of the process to dictators with no more regard for Iraqi freedom than for that of their own people. The only route, hard as it is, is to stay in Iraq until democracy is established and its preservation is assured, if it takes two years or twenty.
Posted by awm at 08:14 PM
May 25, 2004
Iraq The Model
Iraq The Model has been added to my blogroll. This blog is published by three brothers, Mohammed, Ali and Omar, living in Baghdad, and gives a much different picture of life there than you will find in the average Western newspaper. Some examples:
If you have been living on a steady diet of gloomy Iraq news, blogs written by Iraqis are a welcome change. For the most part, they are more optimistic about the future of the country than newspaper reports. Even when reporting bad news, the authors demonstrate a commitment to democracy absent from reports by many journalists; after all, an Iraqi has to live with the consequences of our policy, whereas a reporter will go live comfortably at home no matter what the outcome. Most Iraqi bloggers are pragmatic -- they cannot afford to spin to score political points, so regardless of their opinions of George Bush or Americans they wish for a peaceful and democratic conclusion of the occupation. One wishes all the supposed friends of "the oppressed Iraqis" wished the same.
Posted by awm at 05:22 PM
May 24, 2004
John Kerry in Seattle
John Kerry is coming to Seattle. From the announcement:
This Wednesday, May 26th, John Kerry will be speaking at Pier 62, at
the corner of Pike Street and Alaskan Way, just blocks from downtown
Seattle. Gates will open at 9:00 AM.
Don't miss your chance to be a part of John Kerry's historic march to
the White House! Space is limited and tickets are needed -- get your
free tickets as soon as possible!
Tickets are free, and are available at 1848 Westlake Avenue North in
Seattle beginning Monday evening. The office will be open until 9:00
PM Monday and from 9:00 AM until 9:00 PM Tuesday of this week. Space
is limited, so make every effort to get your tickets soon.
Depending on your political affiliation, you may have various reasons for wanting to attend. My personal belief is that it is always a good idea to get a personal look at a presidential candidate when possible.
Posted by awm at 05:51 PM
May 21, 2004
Via the Shark comes a Seattle Times story on Mark Griswold, who is running for state rep against speaker Frank Chopp. Griswold and I sat next to each other at the Nethercutt kickoff breakfast (photographic proof), and he impressed me as a serious person who can truly present an alternative to the monolithic Democratic establishment of the city. He is an example of a growing phenomenon -- the mainstream Republican. He is pro-business and fiscally conservative, and also is pro-choice and a gay rights supporter (including the right to marry). As the Democratic leadership of Seattle navel-gazes, obsessing over reducing carbon-dioxide emmissions and whether "Bush lied!", moderate voters are turning to the GOP. Stefan and I are just two examples. The Democrats are quietly losing the middle, setting up Seattle to become a two-party city.
Check out Mark's website at griswoldforrep.org.
Posted by awm at 08:33 AM
May 20, 2004
I had a great idea for a new website yesterday: personalized news by baysian spam filtering. It would work like this:
- Collect RSS feeds for news sources and blogs
- Set up individualized accounts
- Present each user with a set of headlines. Based on which articles they click on, assign weights to the RSS description (perhaps with a Baysian spam filter). Allow users to indicate lack of interest, too.
- Generate custom news feeds based on the results.
Talking about this at lunch today, I was informed an ex-Amazonian, Greg Linden, is working on exactly that. His site is called Findory. Apart from easily being able to express disinterest, it matches my vision closely.
I played with it for a few minutes today, reading about a dozen articles. Findory does an OK job of surfacing things that I am interested in, and I'm sure it will get better with usage. It is still shallow on content: a search for "monorail" turned up one article on the Las Vegas monorail. A search for "seattle monorail" turned up nothing, as did searches for "instapundit," "andrew sullivan" and "dan savage." My guess is that local news is generally thin, and blog results are non-existent. The former can probably be blamed on lack of RSS feeds, the latter on the narrow scope of the site. Findory is in beta-testing, so hopefully both will change in the near future.
Posted by awm at 06:41 PM
May 19, 2004
Calling all political numbers junkies: King County is publishing its election canvass data electronically. Here is 2003, here is 2004.
For those who aren't hip to the ways of election reporting, the canvass is a precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the vote for each election. Each report includes an index of which precints are in which legislative, council or congressional districts, making it very easy for potential candidates to find precincts they can expect to run well in, ones they will lose, and ones are a toss-up. Until 2002 King County only published this info on cdrom at a cost of $75 per election, which meant in practice only large organizations (read: political parties, unions and business associations) could afford enough data to track long term trends. With web availability, a high school student with mad Access skillz can set up an analysis.
No word yet on whether the county will back-publish older elections.
Posted by awm at 08:56 AM
May 18, 2004
Grand Old Party
Here are some pictures from the George Nethercutt fundraiser I attended with Stefan Sharkansky last Friday. He and I were also delegates to the King County Republican convention on May 1st, where we (unsuccessfully) tried to have an anti-gay marriage plank removed from the platform and had a lot of fun doing it. And independently I've been working with the 36th District Republicans to get them a representative on the Ballard District Council, which already has Democrats and Greens as members.
Republican, you say? This will come as a surprise to my friends and family, many of whom knew me as a die-hard Democrat from my birth to the mid-90s. Recent events have convinced me I fit better in the party of Lincoln and T.R., rather than with today's Democrats. Someday I may bore you with the details of my transformation. For now, content yourselves with the knowledge that I'm working to make Seattle a two-party city.
Posted by awm at 08:30 PM
The first gay couples are getting married in Massachusetts. Specifically, they began getting their licenses yesterday, and given the three day wait they can be expected to have ceremonies starting Thursday.
When Erica and I got our license, it was a relatively mundane affair: wait in line behind a guy getting a fishing license, pay the clerk, fill out a form, yadda yadda. The real fireworks were at the wedding. Not so for Aaron and Brian, two young men who got their license in Cambridge yesterday. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link.) They were simply mobbed as they mounted the steps of city hall and had to wait in line for hours overnight with 260 other couples. I'm sure it was worth it. I'm sure no one in that line was there for a fishing license.
It is high time gay people have the right to get married, even if it is only in one state. If marriage in this country means anything, it means the right to marry the one you love, the most joyous experience possible and one that should be denied no one. May the example of Massachusetts show the country they have nothing to fear and much to gain from same-sex marriage.
Posted by awm at 08:02 PM
Gaps in the blogging
Today is my first blogging day in three months, and represents the third time I've picked up after a long gap. I have had feelings of guilt about not posting, but now that I have a sudden rush of ideas for writing after so long with nothing I realize that this is my style -- have a burst of ideas, express them, go quiet while digesting new topics, then have another burst.
So don't expect this site to be continually updated. My creativity will sustain itself for a few weeks or months, but I won't know when it goes and won't be able to publish an official hiatus notice. If anyone cares enough to know when I come back, please subscribe to this page using Blogarithm, which was created specifically for tracking flaky posters like me.
Posted by awm at 07:10 PM
It was only a matter of time. We knew that Saddam had chemical weapons that were unaccounted for -- they hadn't been found and there was no convincing story that they had been destroyed. So they were bound to turn up, found buried, shipped to Syria, somewhere. It turns out terrorists found them first, as Fox News reports confirmation of Sarin gas in an artillery shell used in a roadside bomb in Iraq on Saturday. Two weeks ago a mustard gas shell was found. Hopefully the Army will be able to determine who set the ambushes and trace back to the source of these weapons, so the truth about Iraqi WMD programs can be told.
Update: Blaster's Blog is covering this better than one else I've seen. (Via Instapundit.) Like they say, just keep scrolling.
Posted by awm at 05:23 PM
This morning I had the theme from "The Odd Couple" stuck in my head. Walking from my car to the office, I kept whistling the first few bars. No decernible reason for it -- I was just happy and the peppy tune was just what was needed to match my mood.
Reading The New York Times, I learn that Tony Randall has died. How many more will be whistling that theme today -- in a minor key?
Posted by awm at 09:37 AM