April 29, 2002



Turkey to take over leadership of Kabul brigade. The British have already joined the warfighting team down in Kandahar... look for Turkey to recruit for Muslim nations for the next six-month stint, particularly Jordan and Malaysia.

Posted by BruceR at 05:50 PM



Reason no. 647 why I'm moving out of the downtown.

(Noticed at Bill Quick's.)

Posted by BruceR at 04:45 PM



The increasing demand for American peacekeepers in the West Bank is, if given into, going to tie up at least one, probably 2 of the U.S.'s 13 divisions, in addition to its commitments in Korea, Europe, Afghanistan and god knows where else. Reading between the lines, the NYT plan aired on the weekend called for every last free soldier the Americans had, pretty much... but a large proportion of those would be permanently diverted if the Saudis and the Democrats get their way.

While I'm on the topic of ideas for Middle East peace that won't work, Yossi Halevi's idea this weekend of giving the West Bank back to Jordan (also touted by Glenn Reynolds) is also a non-starter. The Jordanians fought a bloody war 32 years ago to expel the PLO. They're not ever letting them back in, in whole or in part. That opportunity passed decades ago, when King Hussein was in power... now it's too little too late. Never mind Sharon's insistence on supporting the settlements to the bitter end. Never mind the West's obsession with maintaining existing international borders, in defiance of all facts on the ground. (As far as the West is concerned, countries can divide into sub-components, to be administered by UN peacekeepers, forever, or they can try and make the 1945 borders work for them. Those are the only two acceptable options... ever.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:46 PM



A couple interchanges with Den Beste's site, worth reprinting here, I think:

In response to the Ramallah deal, I wrote in Steven's forums:

Let's not kid ourselves, when the inevitable mob comes, they're going to just get out of the way and let them be sprung. Really, other than the Israelis, who's going to care? There's no WAY their ROE's are going to be written to allow force in anything other than straight self defence.

The Post is also touting this as almost entirely personal diplomacy by Bush. After his meetings with Abdullah this week, he apparently concluded he had to throw his Saudi guests a bone to "keep the peace process alive," whatever that means at this point. Forcing Sharon to release a triumphant Arafat without any real preconditions appears to have been the bone.

(Sharon's probably fine with it, too, frankly. He had to know that, barring some incredibly stupid act by Arafat, this was going to be the inevitable end as soon as the Western "human shields" had forced their way past the tanks into defend him. All the floaters he's put out the last couple weeks (exile, flight to Gaza) have been ways to get something tangible for his own people to see out of the steadily diminishing set of facts on the ground in Ramallah. Bush probably just had to say to him, "Stop screwing around, you know you're going to have to release Arafat unconditionally sooner or later anyway." Now at least it looks like U.S. pressure, so Sharon's not too damaged domestically by the retreat.)

Interesting how close my conclusions mirrored the analysis of that Times article above, which I just recently read.

Den Beste himself emailed me on another topic, to say that recognizing Kurdistan (my proposed Gordian solution for the Middle East knot) was impossible due to Turkish resistance, and an American invasion of the country more likely than I had made out. Here's what I wrote in reply:

Even the NYT was saying early 2003 would be the earliest. I think they're going to miss that window, it's going to put them past mid-term Congressionals, and the idea will be quietly dropped (assuming of course, Saddam Hussein does absolutely nothing in the meantime, other than funnelling money to the Palestinians to keep that fracas alive). By that time, I suspect Bush's entire diplomatic effort will be locked up in a new, and initially promising Oslo II, involving, once again, Sharon, Arafat, etc. It'll be ultimately fruitless, of course, but there will be tremendous resistance to doing anything to stop it once it gets going.

Hey, I'm happy to be proven wrong here. I'm generally a pessimist about most things. One thing I do know for certain is that the American people are clearly uncomfortable with a War of Aggression against Iraq, if it's based solely on the (lack of) provocations we've seen so far. America doesn't do aggressive war well... when was the last? 1812?

No, Bush needs a new provocation if he wants to do that, and Saddam is in no hurry to provide it. This is, ultimately, probably a good thing... leaks like that NYT piece and the troop moves are effectively keeping a lid on a whole lot of bad things that Iraq could be doing, in the short term anyway. Nor do I believe the Americans are going to fake a provocation, "Wag the Dog" style. I have no patience for the conspiracy theorists who see evidence of that in the Maine, Lusitania, Pearl Harbour, Tonkin Gulf, etc. (Now the Mexican war of 1848... that's a little iffyer... what was Fremont trying to do in California?) But what did happen in many if not all of those cases was an exercise in brinkmanship (in the classic 1898 case, sending a battleship for a "port of call" visit) that escalated, if not out of control, then without a clear executive intent to escalate, either. That could happen here... too... but if it did it would be through some intermediate step (such as steps toward recognizing a political entity's claim to the Kurdistan no-fly zone (maybe, De Gaulle style, as a "Free Iraq"?) which would start the escalation going and produce the war you're expecting.

And of course it would piss off Turkey. But this is the problem with American foreign policy post Cold War in general... this obsession with stability over and above freedom and democracy in all cases. The Kurds want their own country... they say they want it to be democratic, secular, all that jazz. But because it will annoy an ally, these people are to be denied freedom forever. They're never going to find it as a minority in a non-Western Iraq. It's the same with trying to keep Bosnia or Kosovo together now... it's ultimately pointless. All you're doing is buying time.

There are times when regional stability does trump people's yearning to be free. A plebiscite in Kashmir today would almost certainly lead to the unravelling of Indian secular government, and a new Pakistani ascendancy... I can see the argument against that. Nor am I a big fan of Quebec separatism. But we haven't dropped mustard gas on Montreal yet; nor are we as hard on the French as Turkey is on its Kurds. Even a Kurd-friendly, democratic Iraq would be a provocation to Turkish Kurds, if they're being oppressed at home... and I for one am tired of Western foreign policy that implicitly encourages oppression.

In short (if you don't like reading italics) I believe an unprovoked war effort is not viable domestically for the U.S. Iraq needs to do something first to provoke it. That means we're talking brinkmanship, an effort to prove to the domestic audience that all other means short of war have failed to accomplish a widely held and popular policy objective. Defining the war to come as the war to free the Kurd from genocide would be just such an objective. The first step toward the brink could then be recognizing some political entity protected by the Northern no-fly zone as the true government of Kurdistan (or alternatively, all of Iraq). Iraq would have to escalate or submit, and sooner or later you'd likely end up having your war. I just don't believe it's going to happen any other way, whatever Paul Wolfowitz says.

Posted by BruceR at 02:20 PM