P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism

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Saturday, October 05, 2002
A Humble Nation

Jeanne D’Arc has a continuation of her post “From Afghanistan to Iraq.” Her writing and analysis are, as always, excellent. With regard to the risk that an invasion could destabilize the entire Middle East, she writes as follows:

By attacking Iraq -- especially if we arrogantly go it alone -- we'll feed the fires of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, and increase the likelihood of governments in the region collapsing and being replaced by religious fanatics. Conservatives often brush aside that argument by noting that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan are not worthy of our support anyway -- and I don't know anyone who would disagree. But if the thought of a tyrant like Saddam possessing nuclear weapons is worrisome, the thought of such weapons in the hands of the kind of people who might replace Musharraf is terrifying. Better a weapon in the hands of an evil man afraid of dying than in the hands of a zealot with his eye on Paradise.

It appears that at least one major political figure agrees with that analysis. In the second Presidential Debate held on October 11, 2000 in Winston-Salem, N.C., the following exchange occurred:
MR. LEHRER: Should the people of the world look at the United States, Governor, and say, should they fear us? Should they welcome our involvement? Should they see us as a friend, everybody in the world? How do you -- how would you project us around the world, as president?

BUSH: Well, I think they ought to look at us as a country that understands freedom where it doesn't matter who you are or how you're raised or where you're from, that you can succeed. I don't think they'll look at us with envy. It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And it's -- our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we have to be humble. And yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. So I don't think they ought to look at us in any way other than what we are. We're a freedom-loving nation and if we're an arrogant nation they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation they'll respect us. (Emphasis supplied).

We think that Governor Bush had it exactly right.

Thursday, October 03, 2002
Disarmament vs. Regime Change

The issue with regard to Iraq has always been a choice between two competing policies. One policy seeks regime change through invasion. The other policy seeks the disarmament of Iraq and the elimination of the capability to produce and deploy weapons of mass destruction.

The Administration has long held to the view that the proper policy is regime change. In early September of this year, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press. In that interview, the following exchange occurred:

MR. RUSSERT: But what’s your goal? Disarmament or regime change?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: The president’s made it clear that the goal of the United States is regime change. He said that on many occasions.

Yesterday, however, Mr. Bush suggested that disarmament was the goal. The Washington Post reported the following:

"I don't want to get a resolution which ties my hands," the president told reporters. He called for a congressional resolution that "sends a clear signal that the country is determined to disarm Iraq and thereby bring peace to the world."

In order to evaluate the policies of regime change vs. disarmament, one needs to review the justifications for intervention. Four justifications for an intervention in Iraq have been put forward:

1) Saddam is an evil dictator intent on developing weapons of mass destruction and the failure to eliminate both his supply of such weapons and his potential to develop such weapons threatens the security of the United States and its allies.

While there have been conflicting reports as to the current status of Saddam’s WMD program, a good guess is that he has stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. The efficacy of those weapons is a matter of some dispute. Saddam does not currently have nuclear weapons and probably cannot develop a nuclear weapon for some time measured in a small number of years. Despite the mischaracterizations of some on the right, no serious person disputes that Saddam is desirous of obtaining a full range of WMD including nuclear devices.

2) Saddam was complicit in Al Qaeda’s 9/11/01 attack on the U.S. He planned the attacks, aided the hijackers or provided funding for the attacks. Since 9/11/01, Saddam has harbored Al Qaeda operatives on the run from the U.S. In addition, Saddam has funded terrorism more generally.

The evidence of a link between Saddam and the 9/11/01 attacks is quite weak. There is also a paucity of evidence that large numbers of Al Qaeda are hiding out in the parts of Iraq controlled by Saddam. Saddam does assist terrorists in the Middle East including funding suicide bombers in Israel. Saddam was also complicit in a failed attempt to assassinate President George Herbert Walker Bush.

3) Saddam is in violation of a number of resolutions of the U.N. including resolutions regarding WMD, Gulf War prisoners, war reparations and others.

There is no doubt that Saddam has violated many resolutions of the U.N. House leaders and the White House recently reached agreement on the language of a resolution that would authorize the president to use force to compel compliance with all resolutions. Despite that language, if full disarmament were achieved, it is difficult to believe that we would fight a costly war (costly both in human and financial terms) over whether or not the oil-rich leaders of Kuwait received reparations from Iraq.

4) Some have suggested that the purpose of an intervention in Iraq is to establish a democratic government in the Middle East and liberate the Iraqi people.

Some have even suggested that the establishment of a democratic regime in Iraq is part of a larger vision of an Imperial America that will reshape the entire Middle East and eventually the world. It is not clear that we know how to establish a democratic government in Iraq even if that is the goal. Even if we posit the knowledge of how to do so, it is unclear that we have the political will to remain in Iraq until such a job of nation and culture building is complete. The Imperial America idea strikes us as having more traction in the boardrooms of think tanks than in the real world. A byproduct of the democratic Iraq idea is that such a regime would place our economic interests over its own and would produce sufficient oil to keep the market price low.

With those four reasons for an intervention in mind, one can analyze the two proposed policies:

Invasion for Regime Change

The full-scale invasion for regime change provides the surest method of accomplishing the goal of eliminating both the stores of WMD and the capability of producing additional weapons. To the extent that Iraq harbors elements of Al Qaeda a full-scale invasion would succeed in halting such activity. An occupied Iraq is much less likely to engage in terrorism or support terrorism. An invasion would also bring Iraq into compliance with the important U.N. resolutions although it is difficult to see how a post-war Iraq would be in a position to pay reparations to Kuwait for quite some time. Finally, to the extent that we have the ability and political will, an invasion gives the best chance of a democratic Iraq. The upside of a policy of invasion is, therefore, that it addresses each of the foreign policy goals and provides the surest method of achieving each one.

The invasion option poses a number of downside risks.

The first downside is that a whole lot of folks are going to die in an invasion. Some of those will be Americans. We will grieve, however, for each and every one of the deaths whether American or Iraqi, except perhaps for Saddam’s death.

A second downside is that an American invasion and military conquest of Iraq may create a pool of alienated Muslims (in many locations) from which Al Qaeda or future terrorist organizations may draw for recruits. The creation of that pool may result in more terrorists and more attacks against the U.S. or American interests. In addition, an invasion could destabilize much of the Middle East including, perhaps, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. The destabilization of Saudi Arabia could threaten the world's supply of oil. An Islamic revolution in Pakistan would result in the reality of the Islamic Bomb. The further radicalization of Egypt could threaten Israel.

Third, if cornered by a U.S. invasion, Saddam may use weapons of mass destruction against Israel. If Israel retaliates, a wider conflict may occur. We may not be able to control the spread of war in that instance.

Fourth, if an invasion is based on a doctrine of preemptive strike as opposed to an international consensus, others may be inclined to follow suit. Those others may include China with regard to Taiwan or India with regard to Pakistan.

A fifth downside is that a policy of invasion may hinder our efforts to eliminate the threat of terrorism from Al Qaeda and other groups. The war against terrorism requires cooperation and intelligence-sharing from many sources in many parts of the world including Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. To the extent our policies undermine such cooperation, an invasion may actually increase the possibility of another terrorist attack on America. The odds of such an effect rises if we invade without widespread international support.

Finally, a post-war Iraq may degenerate into chaos with the Kurds demanding a separate state and the Shiites doing likewise. The establishment of a Kurdish state could well pull Turkey into the conflict, thereby creating an entirely new set of problems. The establishment of a Shiite enclave in Southern Iraq could rock Saudi Arabia. Chaos in Iraq could also tempt Iran into an indiscretion.

The invasion option is high risk, high reward. It has the potential to accomplish the legitimate goals of America’s foreign policy towards Iraq and also has the potential to explode in our faces with a fierce new round of terrorism and uncontrollable war.

If one believes that Al Qaeda is operating in Iraq or that war reparations must be paid to Kuwait or that it is essential to establish a democracy in Iraq, then the argument for invasion is strengthened. If one believes that the only critical factor is to eliminate the possibility of an attack from WDM, then the argument for invasion is weakened.

In the final analysis, whether one supports or opposes a policy of invasion is likely to turn on how one evaluates the chances for realizing the upside benefits or suffering the downside harms.


The disarmament policy (assuming that it can be effectively implemented, see below) does a good job of eliminating the current weapons of mass destruction in Saddam’s inventory. Assuming that the inspections also involve the destruction of production capability as well as existing stockpiles, it would also do a good job of retarding or eliminating the potential for Iraq to again arm itself with WMD. A policy of disarmament does not address any of the goals regarding possible 9/11 or Al Qaeda links to Iraq. Disarmament also fails to address any of the U.N. resolutions other than those concerning weapons of mass destruction. Finally, as disarmament leaves Saddam in power, it does not address the goal of establishing democracy in Iraq.

One additional upside of a disarmament policy is that it does not foreclose the option of an invasion in the event that the disarmament is incomplete, thwarted, or new evidence arises. The disarmament policy retains the ability to later take the invasion route with its attendant risks, whereas an invasion forecloses the disarmament option.

The primary downside of a disarmament policy (other than that it leaves some goals off the table) is that it may not work. A number of people have suggested that inspections will not find the weapons of mass destruction because Saddam will prevent real inspections and will hold certain places like presidential palaces, hospitals and schools off limits. That is a real concern.

A policy of disarmament through inspections must have teeth. Saddam now promises that all sites will be subject to inspection without notice or restriction except for presidential palaces. Saddam, however, cannot be taken at his word. A disarmament policy must have contingencies in place in the event that Saddam’s actions do not meet his obligations. In addition, the presidential palaces must be open to inspection.

We propose that a disarmament policy have as its contingency that any site the inspectors wish to see must be available for a thorough inspection at any time and without notice. The consequence of putting any site off limits, or impeding the inspectors in any way, is that we reduce the site of the dispute to smoking rubble as soon as the inspectors can remove themselves from the area. A disarmament policy makes no sense without a backup plan to enforce it.

A second downside to a policy of disarmament is that Saddam may use WMD against us (either directly or through an intermediary) while the inspections are taking place. We consider that unlikely for two reasons. First, Saddam must know that such an attack would cost him his life. Secondly, if Saddam’s WMD program is on the verge of having such capability, what was President Bush doing taking a month’s vacation in August? We suspect that President Bush knows that Saddam has no such capability and knows that such capability is not eminent.

A disarmament policy with an enforcement mechanism is a lower-risk, lower-return policy than invasion.


We favor a policy of disarmament with the enforcement mechanism described above for four reasons:

1) We consider the goals of the destruction of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and the removal of the capability to acquire WMD to be essential and the other goals to be of secondary importance;

2) We consider the risks of a unilateral invasion (including the cost in lives, the possibility of harming the campaign against terrorism, the possibility of creating a new wave of terrorist attacks and the chance of a widening conflagration) to be substantial;

3) We believe that a disarmament policy with an enforcement mechanism will work at least with regard to nuclear technology, and that the inspection regimen will halt any progress towards the development of nuclear weapons technology; and

4) A disarmament policy does not foreclose the option to invade if we are wrong.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Jeff Cooper of Cooped Up had a recent post concerning the intemperate remarks by Mr. William Quick of the Daily Pundit. In the post Cooped Up links to, Mr. Quick labeled the “left” as being unpatriotic America-haters. He was not referring to fringe elements of the left but specifically named Tom Daschle and Richard Gephardt as being unpatriotic.

We recently stopped by Mr. Quick’s site and found that he also had labeled Reps. Bonior and McDermott as “morons” and “real-world idiots.”

In a triumph of curiosity over good judgment, we used Mr. Quick’s comment feature to suggest that he share his opinions of Senators Hagel and Lugar.

Mr. Quick obliged with comments that Senator Hagel:

has been a moron right straight through this whole thing. Evidently he thinks Nebraska has nothing to fear from terrorists or Saddam Hussein, and he might be right. There's not a whole hell of a lot of there there, just as there doesn't seem to be much "there" between "Chuckles" Hegel's eardrums, either.

Mr. Quick was kinder to Senator Lugar remarking that he is “normally sounder than this” before calling him “a ludicrous, dangerous bozo.”

We posted another comment inquiring about Mr. Quick’s opinion of General Brent Scowcroft, Secretary James Baker, Secretary Larry Eagleberger, General John Shalikashvili, General Joseph Hoar and General Wesley Clark.

Mr. Quick’s assessments:

General and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, in Mr. Quick’s view, is a "has-been," a "bozo" and a "fool."

Former Treasury Secretary, Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff James Baker is termed a "hit man" and a “bozo.”

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger is called a "bozo," a "clown," a "spearcarrier" and a "suck up."

General Wesley Clark, according to Mr. Quick, is an “ineffectual bozo.”

General Joe Hoar “may not be a bozo but [is] acting like one.”

General John Shalikashvili is Mr. Quick’s favorite. He is labeled “over the hill" but "not a bozo.”

Although we did not inquire as to former President George H.W. Bush, Mr. Quick took the opportunity to call him a “pathetic bozo and apparently clueless to boot.”

Mr. Quick surely has the right to decide for himself who he believes to be a pathetic, ineffectual bozo. And so do we.

Liberal Predictions

Kevin Drum of Calpundit argues in this post that we are on the verge of a progressive era in American politics on the order of the 1910s, the 1930s, and the 1960s. Kevin wonders what issues will be at the forefront of this new progressive era. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “Predictions are always tricky, particularly about the future.” So here goes.

We believe that most progressive reforms are reactions to crises or abuses of power. Reforms during the 1910s, as Kevin notes, concerned working conditions. They also included antitrust regulation. Those reforms were a reaction to the accumulation and exercise of power by a few vested interests against the interests of the populace as a whole.

The reforms of the 1930s, such as the establishment of the SEC, the establishment of the Federal Reserve System, the restructuring of the banking system and the social safety net of the Social Security system, arose out of the ashes of the Depression.

The advances in civil rights of the 1960s, including women’s rights, arose out of the abuse of the powerless by the powerful.

The goals of any progressive movement are the same. Those goals are to protect liberty, promote justice, and mitigate suffering.

In order to identify the areas in which a new progressive movement will promote its goals, we need to first identify the economic, political and social changes that will create crisis or abuse. We have two candidates.

Liberty and Security

First, in the short and middle term, the tradeoffs between security and liberty will rise to the forefront. Larry Niven once wrote that the product of security and liberty is a constant. According to that theory, any increase in security of the nation must be accompanied by a decrease in freedom and any increase in freedom must be accompanied by a reduction in security. That theory is obviously over-stated as it is possible to have neither security nor freedom. The kernel of truth, however, is that some measures that increase security will decrease freedom.

America has become much more security minded after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. We have already sacrificed some principles of liberty on the altar of security.

One response to the heightened awareness of security concerns is that our President is asserting a right to arrest and hold American citizens he designates as “enemy combatants.” Mr. Bush contends that he may hold such persons indefinitely, without charges, without access to a lawyer and that no court or other authority has the power to review his determination that a person is an “enemy combatant.”

Before the heightened security concerns brought on by 9/11, such a position would have been regarded with derision on both the right and the left. What would the reaction of the Wall Street Journal Editorial page have been if Bill Clinton had claimed such authority in 1998?

The indefinite detention of American citizens without any legal process, without charges, without a right to counsel, without the right to confront witnesses, and without judicial review of the detention erodes the rights Americans are guaranteed under the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments to the Constitution.

Under the Patriot Act, enacted in haste following 9/11, the government may now monitor religious and political activity without any suspicion of criminal activity by invoking the War on Terror. The Patriot Act also permits the government to search and seize private property and papers without probable cause by invoking the War on Terror.

We have already seen erosion of liberties protected by the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments to the Constitution. Another large-scale terrorist attack on the United States will be followed by a large-scale attack on the Constitution of the United States, with particular emphasis on the Bill of Rights. In the event of another terrorist attack by Al Qaeda or other radical elements from the middle east, it would not be very surprising if some proposed detainment camps for American Muslims along the lines of the WWII camps for Americans of Japanese descent. If additional anthrax letters are sent, it would not be surprising for some to advocate allowing the government to open mail without the knowledge of the sender or the recipient. John Ashcroft has already proposed the TIPS program, which encourages Americans to spy on Americans.

The left must stand up and preserve the liberties that are the bedrock of our freedom. The maintenance of the liberty rights we already have may not be “progress” in the sense that Calpundit poses his question. The first rule of getting out of holes, however, is to quit digging. The second rule is to bring a ladder. We cannot begin to climb the ladder until we have stopped digging.


A second area that has the potential to greatly reduce suffering but which has substantial downside risk is the emerging biotechnologies. In his concluding sentence, Calpundit seems to dismiss stem cells as a debate of the past. We believe that the mapping of the human genome along with the development of stem cell and other biotechnologies are the beginning of the next great advance for humanity.

One of the primary goals of liberalism is to reduce suffering. The emerging biotechnologies have the promise of the ability to cure juvenile onset diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Downs Syndrome, some forms of cancer, autism (we hope), heart disease, some forms of alcoholism, many types of birth defects and many other conditions caused by genetic defect or predisposition. If that promise becomes reality, such technology would reduce suffering to a significant degree. In addition, such technologies hold the promise of significantly increasing life expectancies.

There is, however, a downside to such technologies. The manipulation of genes lends itself to abuse. The abuse may take the form of a eugenics movement. Eugenics movements have historically resulted in the oppression of many groups culminating with Hitler’s Final Solution and its attendant atrocities.

We believe that it should be the role of liberals to encourage the development of the technologies that can extend life, reduce suffering and cure disease. Liberals must also, however, stand vigilant against the use of such technologies to oppress disfavored groups.

We hope that Calpundit is correct and that a progressive era is on the horizon. Liberals should stand firm in protecting the guarantees of liberty embodied in a 200+-year-old Constitution. They should also look to the future to promote the advances in medicine and biotechnologies that will cure disease, extend life and reduce suffering. In doing so, however, liberals should be vigilant in protecting the core values of justice and equality.

Sunday, September 29, 2002
Terrorism and U.S. Responses 1980-1988

In Blogtopia, (skippy invented that word) the history of terrorism seems to begin in 1979 when the Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The history then skips quickly to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. We have compiled a list of terrorist acts against the U.S., Americans or American interests during the period of 1980 through 1988. We have also summarized the U.S. response to such acts. There may be other terrorist acts and it is sometimes not clear whether a covert U.S. response occurred. The purpose of the listing is neither to praise nor criticize the Reagan administration. The purpose is to broaden the historical context in which the blogtopia (skippy invented that word) discusses terrorism and responses to terrorism.

May, 1981

U.S. intelligence agencies uncovered information suggesting that Libya (under Muammar Qadaffi) was planning to assassinate certain American ambassadors in Europe. On May 6, 1981, Reagan expelled Libyan diplomats from the U.S. and closed the Libyan mission. Reagan also ordered that the United States military shoot down Libyan military craft operating outside Libyan territorial waters. Libya claimed territorial waters within 100 miles of its shore. International law recognized a limit of 12 miles. When two Libyan Air Force jets exceeded the 12-mile limit, U.S. fighters shot them down.

April 18, 1983

A suicide bomber with a truckload of explosives attacked the United States Embassy in Lebanon. Sixty-three people were killed of whom 17 were Americans. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. Although covert operations may have been planned and/or executed, the U.S. took no military action.

October 23, 1983

A suicide bomber with a truckload of explosives drove into the U.S. Marine barracks compound in Beirut, Lebanon. Two hundred forty-one American soldiers were killed and more than 100 others were injured. Caspar Weinberger said that Hezbollah was responsible. Hezbollah denied responsibility. The U.S. did not retaliate militarily but did station a battleship off the coast of Beirut. Four months later, the U.S. withdrew all marines from Lebanon.

December 12, 1983

The American Embassy in Kuwait was bombed in a suicide attack. Five people plus the bomber died. More than 80 people were injured. The bombing was allegedly done by an Iranian supported group know as Al Dawa. The U.S. did not retaliate militarily. Kuwait arrested and convicted 17 people for the bombing.

March 16, 1984

Islamic terrorists kidnapped William Buckley, the CIA Station Chief in Beirut. Those terrorists likely had ties to Iran. Buckley was killed while in captivity. Buckley was the fourth American to be kidnapped in Beirut. Others would eventually be kidnapped as well. The U.S. did not respond militarily. The U.S. bargained with the Iranians for the release of the hostages. The U.S. eventually gave arms to the Iranians in exchange for the release of the hostages in what came to be known as the Iran Contra Affair.

September 20, 1984

An annex of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon was damaged when a truck bomb exploded. Twenty-four people were killed. It is likely that Iranian-backed Hezbollah was responsible. The U.S. did not retaliate militarily although covert operations were planned. It is unclear whether those covert operations were carried out. About six months later, a car bomb killed 80 people in an explosion near a Beruit Mosque. Sheik Mohammed Hussein, a leader of Hezbollah, was believed to have ties to that Mosque but was not killed in the blast.

December 3, 1984

Kuwait Airlines Flight 221 was hijacked and taken to Iran. Two Americans were killed. The standoff ended when Israeli security stormed the plane. The U.S. did not respond militarily.

June 14, 1985

TWA Flight 847 was hijacked and taken to Beirut. One member of the US Navy was killed. The U.S. did not retaliate militarily. The remaining hostages were released after Israel released some Islamic prisoners. It is not known if the Israeli release of prisoners was the result of U.S. diplomacy.

October 7, 1985

Gunmen allied with the PLO hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro and killed an American tourist. U.S. Navy fighters forced a plane carrying the hijackers to land. The hijackers were tried in civilian courts in Italy. No military retaliation against the sponsors of the hijacking was taken.

December 17, 1985

Airports in Rome and Vienna were bombed. The bombers were sponsored by Libya. Five Americans were among 20 killed in the attacks. American warplanes were sent to patrol the Gulf of Sidra off the Libyan coast.

April 5, 1986

A disco in West Berlin was bombed. The disco was known as a hangout for American soldiers. One American was killed. Administration sources identified Libya as the culprit. President Reagan ordered air strikes against Libya. The air strikes were on a large scale (200 planes dropping 60 tons of ordinance). Among the targets of the strikes was the abode of Qaddafi. Close relatives of Qaddafi were killed in the strike. Two days after the air strikes, three previously kidnapped Americans were found dead.

December 21, 1988

Pan Am Flight 103 exploded killing 259 people. The State Department contended that Libya was responsible. Other sources link the bombing to Syria and/or Iran. No military retaliation was taken.

It is easy to recount the history. It is hard to analyze it effectively. We have some thoughts on the lessons that may be learned from the history recited above but those thoughts must wait for another post.

Note: Much of the material in the foregoing was found at the PBS Frontline site. We edited this post to include that link.