January 20, 2004
GOOD ARTICLE ON NASA
Simberg points to this excellent three-parter on the development of the Bush space policy which was really helpful in clarifying the White House role in all this. There's no doubt after reading it this is a personal focus of Bush-Cheney, for reasons divorced from electoral politics. That's somewhat reassuring.
I'm more partial to the "Bush vision" than I was at first, as the Easterbrook-Simberg interaction led me to think through what my real problem was with the plan as outlined. I've decided a large part of what's not reassuring to me is the administration's continued faith in NASA head Sean O'Keefe -- who seemed completely unimpressive throughout the Columbia disaster and its aftermath -- to pull this off. In military slang, he seems the kind of man the troops would follow only out of a sense of morbid curiosity. I simply can't see him turning the organization around, or meeting the deadlines or cost projections set. While on the surface winding down the Shuttle-ISS era and refocussing on the moon seems sound policy, the continued sole reliance on NASA is really too disquieting. If there'd been even a passing reference to commercial space providers filling in the places where NASA no longer should go, I might have been more relieved.
The obvious example, as Jay Currie points out, is plans to create a whole new NASA launch program (starting at $300 million, but certain to cost more) to recover the Hubble space telescope for the Smithsonian, now that NASA can no longer maintain it. Jeez people, act like Republicans and auction the thing off, along with every other LEO task the President doesn't want you to do anymore. (As someone else suggested, I'd have more faith in the new lunar missions idea if the President had simultaneously called on the private sector to put a GPS-cloud around the Moon by 2013, too, so that the hypothetical NASA landers could rely on that precision to save on maneuvering fuel and increase their payloads.)
ANDREW SULLIVAN MAKES TWO GOOD POINTS IN SAME DAY: PROVES INTERNET NOT ENTIRELY USELESS
(No, I have no idea what the headline means, either.)
Sullivan: "The pre-emption doctrine is practically speaking dead." He's wrong on the terms, of course... as Instapundit and the Clueless reminded us recently, the "Bush doctrine" is actually pre-pre-emption... military attack in the absence of any current threat. But he's right it's practically dead... what limited international (and I dare say, Congressional) support the States had for the Iraqi adventure is unlikely to return for another WMD-based case made by this president, even on much more compelling evidence. Iran and Syria, for the short- to medium-term, are quite safe, it seems.
(I confess I don't understand the ire directed at the Washington Post for that article by the other two sites named above... if anything the "imminent threat big lie" they're excised about seems charitable to Bush, making his foreign policy look less like "Hulk-smash-things" than it really is. Try the sentence as they'd apparently prefer it had read... "gaps between the administration's rhetoric and the postwar findings threaten Bush's doctrine of "not waiting for preemption," which envisions attacking a nation before it constitutes any kind of threat to us." That almost sounds Napoleonic... no, wait, scratch "almost"... And anyway, how is saying "Iraq was actually not yet a threat" that different from Dean's saying "it hasn't made us any safer," again? Apparently to be a Republican in the States today, you need to pass the Fitzgerald test of first rate intelligence... Although they're right about the WaPo: I don't understand why that paper steadfastly refuses to change their "imminent threat" keyboard macro to read "grave threat" or "urgent threat", both of which Bush demonstrably did call Iraq.)
Sullivan is also right re Edwards, the Democratic candidate I know next to nothing about. In this race, that's a blessing. The more I find out about Clarkdeankerry, the more I recall steadfast democrat Tom Binkley from Bloom County, fetal on his bed because he secretly thinks Jesse Jackson is "a little loopy..." Ex-Canadian Samantha Bee had a nice piece on the Daily Show last night comparing them all to fringe presidential candidate "Lobsterman." Viewing the candidates sans the still-opaque-to-me Edwards from afar, I'd vote for the lobster... American Democrats! Trust the two Canadians on this one! If anyone knows squishy-centrist leftism, it's us! We've built a whole country on the notion!
BRITS: SISTANI'S RIGHT, BREMER'S WRONG
Brits in Basra say democracy is possible, totally undercutting the CPA's default position vis a vis Sistani.
(You know, if you conjured up the ghosts of Jefferson and Gen. Howe right now, and told them that in two centuries the British army would be the ones pushing democracy on a reluctant American satrapy in the Orient, you really have to wonder what their reaction would be.)
It's certainly not the soldiers' fault. Note the end of the article, too: "At the end of May, for example, a US Marine unit in the city of Najaf had prepared to hold an election for a local assembly, which was cancelled by Mr Bremer days before it was to take place. In a matter of a few weeks, US marines in Najaf had built ballot boxes, a US army civil affairs unit had arranged for voter registration and polling stations throughout the city, and candidates had campaigned."
Note please, that even I don't think direct elections are actually going to help Iraq, as they can only promote the Shia majoritarian interest, and encourage Kurdish and Sunni insurrectionism. That could be held in check through sensible political design: if any country ever needed bicameral federalism, this country's it. But the whole thing's being done in such a rush, to an artificial and apparently poll-driven deadline, that it seems unlikely to easily succeed. I really can't understand why the 1945 German example (of local and regional direct elections and American handover of those responsibilities to the new mayors and governors within the first six months of occupation, but holding off on a federal handover until the political system was demonstrably mature enough for it) could not have been followed in this case.
The American insistence on appointing everyone at first, then making through their own diplomatic stumbling the likely first Iraqi experience of democracy a one-throw-of-the-dice winner-take-all national election (with no way of ensuring there ever be another), seems almost calculated to embolden the extremists and separatists, with the inevitable backlash of strongmanism to follow shortly thereafter. As said here before, we seem headed for Egypt v2.0. Home of Mohammed Atta v2.0 in a decade or so.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex