America Wins!

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Pabst, Dec 28, 2003.

  1. Pabst


    Message received: 'America wins'

    December 28, 2003


    Two weeks ago, George W. Bush's Christmas present to the world (if not to Democratic presidential candidates) prompted a wide array of interpretations. But, to simplify things, most of them fell between two extremes.

    The one end is neatly distilled by the headline on John Podhoretz's column on Saddam Hussein's capture from the New York Post: ''Message: America wins.''

    The other end is encapsulated by our old friend Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's No. 2: ''America has been defeated by our fighters despite all its military might,'' he said in an audiotape broadcast on al-Jazeera last weekend. ''With God's help we are still chasing Americans and their allies everywhere, including their homeland.''

    He didn't mention Saddam's arrest, as this is a minor event irrelevant to al-Qaida's dazzling array of recent triumphs.

    You won't be surprised to hear I incline broadly to the ''Message: America wins'' end of the spectrum. What's slightly more perplexing is the number of hitherto sane people who take the al-Zawahri line. For example, the distinguished British historian Professor Correlli Barnett, whose piece in the current issue of the Spectator is headlined ''Why Al-Qaida is winning.''

    If I were Osama, I'd tuck that one away in the cuttings file. Except, of course, that these days what's left of poor old Osama can itself be tucked away in the cuttings file.

    Here, in a nutshell, is why recent trends seem to be going Bush's way rather than al-Zawahri's: In the little more than two years since 9/11, two vile dictatorships have fallen in Kabul and Baghdad, and only the other day a third, in Tripoli, has suddenly announced that it's dismantling its nukes program and the Brits and Yanks are welcome to take a look over anything they fancy. A plus for Bush's side? Or al-Zawahri's? You make the call.

    But in between these two poles are various other points on the spectrum. At Point A, you'll find those wise old foreign policy birds who get everything wrong but never seem to notice. That would include all those fellows who tut-tutted that the Pentagon's announcement that France, Germany and Russia would be excluded from bidding for Iraqi reconstruction contracts was an appallingly amateurish screw-up given that Washington was about to go cap in hand to Paris, Berlin and Moscow asking them to forgive Iraq's Saddam-accumulated debts. ''Democrats seized on the episode as further evidence of Bush diplomatic blundering,'' reported London's Independent.

    ''Further'' evidence: lovely touch that. But you get the gist: The Europeans would now be certain to reject any moves to forgive Iraqi debt. Chris Patten, the EU's external relations commissioner, called Washington's move ''politically maladroit."

    "It's a triumph for Pentagon diplomacy,'' said ''a sarcastic Mr. Patten,'' as the Guardian put it. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, pronounced: ''It is not the wisest decision. You are saying that countries cannot participate in tenders and at the same time you are asking those same countries to cooperate on debt.''

    But, lo and behold, a couple of days later Bush emissary James Baker touched down in the capitals of Europe and, in defiance of the Guardian et al., France and Germany caved and Russia semi-caved. Perhaps they took the Pentagon frost-out as a sign that the administration was serious. Or perhaps they were worried that their old pal Saddam might get too talkative while in U.S. custody. But either way, in a non-sarcastic un-Chris-Pattenesque way, it does appear to be ''a triumph for Pentagon diplomacy.'' If this is politically maladroit blundering, blunder on; crank the maladroitness meter up another notch.

    Not that the administration will get any credit for it. For among the two other international groupings of Bush-disparagers are those in Group B, who argue yes, there's good news, but no thanks to Bush; and those in Group C, who say yes, it's all thanks to Bush, but it's bound to turn out disastrously: The good news will prove to be bad news, if we just wait long enough.

    There was an interesting example of Group B-think at the end of the week that began with Saddam's lice inspection. Colonel Mohammar Gadhafi threw in the towel on his WMD program -- chemical, biological, nuclear, the works. Why was this? Well, according to the chaps at Reuters, it was because ''segments of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] have become very concerned about Libya.'' Hmm. When the IAEA starts showing ''concern,'' you know you've only got another two or three decades to fall into line or they'll report you to the Security Council. But make no mistake: Gadhafi's surrender definitely isn't anything to do with Bush, Blair, the toppling of Saddam, stuff like that -- no sir, don't you believe it.

    Here's an intriguing tidbit from an interview the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gave to the Spectator in September:

    ''I cannot say which country he was from, but someone telephoned me the other day and said, 'I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.'''

    Interesting. Who on Earth could Berlusconi be talking about?

    Gadhafi is merely the latest example of what one might call trickledown destabilization. As I wrote in early May, ''You don't invade Iraq in order to invade everywhere else, you invade Iraq so you don't have to invade everywhere else.''

    Meanwhile, in Group C are all those who acknowledge that America has won swift victories in Afghanistan and Iraq but that they're meddling with ancient, complex cultural forces that will come back to bite them in the butt. Whatever gets you through the night, boys. One can't help noticing that, despite innumerable warnings from these Western defeatists about the folly of provoking the incendiary ''Arab street,'' the Arab street is now in the third year of its deep slumber. It may be that Osama is just very cunningly ''lying low,'' but, with each passing month, the reason he's lying low is more and more likely to be due to an inability to get up again.

    Taliban gone, Saddam gone, Gadhafi retired, Osama ''resting.'' ''Message: America wins'' is as accurate a summation of the last two years as any. Whether or not you think American victory is a good thing is another matter. But a smart anti-American ought to recognize that generally things are going America's way, and the only argument worth having is about the speed at which they're doing so.
  2. New Year's Resolutions

    Published: December 26, 2003

    During the 2000 election, many journalists deluded themselves and their audience into believing that there weren't many policy differences between the major candidates, and focused on personalities (or, rather, perceptions of personalities) instead. This time there can be no illusions: President Bush has turned this country sharply to the right, and this election will determine whether the right's takeover is complete.

    But will the coverage of the election reflect its seriousness? Toward that end, I hereby propose some rules for 2004 political reporting.

    • Don't talk about clothes. Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean was a momentous event: the man who won the popular vote in 2000 threw his support to a candidate who accuses the president of wrongfully taking the nation to war. So what did some prominent commentators write about? Why, the fact that both men wore blue suits.

    This was not, alas, unusual. I don't know why some journalists seem so concerned about politicians' clothes as opposed to, say, their policy proposals. But unless you're a fashion reporter, obsessing about clothes is an insult to your readers' intelligence.

    • Actually look at the candidates' policy proposals. One key proposal in the State of the Union address will, we hear, be the creation of new types of tax-exempt savings accounts. The proposal will come wrapped in fine phrases about an "ownership society." But serious journalists should tell us how the plan would work, who would benefit and who would lose.

    An early version of the plan was floated almost a year ago, and carefully analyzed in the journal Tax Notes. So there's no excuse for failing to report that the plan would probably reduce, not increase, national savings; that it would have large long-run budget costs; and that its benefits would go mainly to the wealthiest few percent of the population.

    • Beware of personal anecdotes. Anecdotes that supposedly reveal a candidate's character are a staple of political reporting, but they should carry warning labels.

    For one thing, there are lots of anecdotes, and it's much too easy to report only those that reinforce the reporter's prejudices. The approved story line about Mr. Bush is that he's a bluff, honest, plain-spoken guy, and anecdotes that fit that story get reported. But if the conventional wisdom were instead that he's a phony, a silver-spoon baby who pretends to be a cowboy, journalists would have plenty of material to work with.

    If a reporter must use anecdotes, they'd better be true. After the Dean endorsement, innumerable reporters cracked jokes about Al Gore's inventing the Internet. Guys, he never said that: it's a malicious distortion of a true statement, and no self-respecting journalist would repeat it.

    • Look at the candidates' records. A close look at Mr. Bush's record as governor would have revealed that, the approved story line notwithstanding, he was no moderate. A close look at Mr. Dean's record in Vermont reveals that, the emerging story line notwithstanding, he is no radical: he was a fiscally conservative leader whose biggest policy achievement — nearly universal health insurance for children — was the result of incremental steps.

    • Don't fall for political histrionics. I couldn't believe how much ink was spilled after the Gore-Dean event over Joe Lieberman's hurt feelings. Folks, we're talking about war, peace and the future of U.S. democracy — not about who takes whom to the prom.

    Political operatives have become experts at manufacturing the appearance of outrage. In the last few weeks the usual suspects have been trying to paint Howard Dean's obviously heartfelt comments about his brother's death in Laos as some sort of insult to the military. We owe it to our readers not to fall for these tricks.

    • It's not about you. We learn from The Washington Post that reporters covering Mr. Dean are surprised — and, it's implied, miffed — that "he never asks a single question about them." The mind reels.

    I don't really expect my journalistic colleagues to follow these rules. No doubt I myself, in moments of weakness, will break one or more of them. But history will not forgive us if we allow laziness and personal pettiness to shape this crucial election.
  3. Pabst


    Warning!!!!!!Michael Moore is back at it again!

    What does Krugman's politically biased article on how reporters should write non-biased articles have to do with this thread?????
  4. Your article was non biased reporting?

  5. Pabst


    Whether the Mark Steyn article is biased or not biased is not the point. The article is the subject of the thread! Either respond to Steyn's comments or post Krugman in a new thread. How is your article even remotely relevant rebuttal to Steyn.
  6. You don't see the connection between Steyn's article and biased journalism?

  7. Pabst


    I don't consider commentary to be journalism. i.e. In my view Maureen Dowd is not a journalist. Bill O'Reilly is not a journalist, nor is Mark Steyn or George Will. They are published commentators.

    Krugman though is the dangerous type of writer who he so duplicity abdicates. The journalist with pure political agenda. Here's a guy with the balls to write an article on media bias and turn it into an anti Bush, apologetic discourse on Dean.

    People like you and Krugman are irony proof. Witness Krugmans defense of the Gore internet mis quote. In the 2000 election Gore clearly received "better" press than Bush. Out of the blue a Bush D.U.I. becomes front page news, Gore's 7 years of daily pot use was rarely mentioned. Even though Bush had a superior academic record than Gore the press was quick to libel away that Bush connections allowed GWB to enter Harvard's MBA program, ignoring the fact that 30 years ago, Al Gore Sr. was certainly more powerful than GHB. Thus the reputation of Bush being a shallow frat boy remains, despite the fact that besides two Ivy league degrees, GWB is a jet pilot, bilingual and a self made millionaire.
  8. America wins? According to whose game? The article seems like something we will hear at the Republican National Convention this upcoming summer.

    History has shown us that when a country or power over celebrates a few battles, they often lose the war. In sporting events, how often do we see celebration when one team gets out to a big quick lead, only to watch that momentum recede and the other side catch up and win.

    As you recall, it was our own technology that resulted in 911, not the military superiority of the terrorists.

    The cold war took nearly 40 years, and is not fully over with communist North Korea and China still building nuclear weapons. And, I don't know about you, but I don't see the Soviets thriving with democracy. They are always only a small step away from regress to communism of the past.

    Some would even argue that the rise of economic socialism in Europe, which Marx and Engels considered a transitional step to communism, is sign that the cold war was not truly won by the U.S.

    The recent efforts of the U.S. may have shown the world our military superiority, but I doubt that the real cause of terrorism has been retarded. In fact, it may have been strengthened.

    What we do now in Iraq over the next generation will have much more to do with the success of our global expansion of capitalist/democratic thought than a few military conquests.

    Our capitalist structure is based on cheap energy, cheap labor, technological advancement and exploitation of natural resources at home and abroad. When we have exhausted the pool of cheap labor worldwide and exhausted the natural resources, and technology begins to plateau, pure capitalism may well show its true colors.

  9. Krugman is a dangerous kind of writer? More dangerous than Rush, Hannity, Coulter, et al?

  10. Pabst


    See Rogue!!! When you offer a dry, factual rebutal devoid of inuendo and legalistic half truths, I am able to agree with much of what you say!
    #10     Dec 28, 2003