No Security for You!

Kevin Drum links to a Will Saletan article that recommends modeling the Iraq withdrawal after the gradual introduction of welfare reform. Now, as evidenced by Slate‘s categorization of the article under the “Frame Game” banner, this isn’t a matter of substance. The policy would be the same as if we apologize, start pulling our troops back, and admit defeat. But framing is important, especially when national reputations are on the line. I think that Saletan has found the most graceful, face-saving way to withdraw. It doesn’t admit defeat; but it doesn’t ridiculously claim victory either. It ends the war, but it lets the administration keep saying that the war was over in the first place. And perhaps best of all, it has the White House seeing the conflict the way the public does: as the U.S. giving expensive assistance to a country that should instead be directed at home. This ensures that the public would back it, which is critical to its success.

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Worst. Speech. Ever.

Call me old fashioned, but I was under the impression that one should only give a big, televised speech that every network covers when they have something new to say. But based on Bush’s speech tonight, that is clearly not the case anymore. The only thing new was Bush’s renewed focus on lying about Iraq’s nonexistent ties to 9/11. And sadly for him, I think that even PNAC knows that’s B.S. If he thinks this is going to boost his popularity, he’s sadly mistaken.

Matt Coooper and Judith Miller Are Going to Jail

Well, that or cooperating. I think that their case was rather weak in the first place. The right to the freedom of press only means that newspapers can publish anything they like (save libel), not that they may obstruct criminal investigations in order to get a good scoop. And besides – their reluctance to disclose their sources shows that they have something to hide. This could blow the Plame investigation wide open.

Grokster Falls

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Grokster, a P2P service, was violating the intellectual property rights of music producers. However, it did so in an unusual way. The main opinion, written by David Souter, ruled that by marketing itself as a means to pirate music, Grokster was making clear it condoned piracy. This was joined by an even more lenient concurrency by Steven Breyer, and a much more orthodox one by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I actually think that the Souter and Breyer opinions were the perfect ruling on this matter. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to use P2P software – trading movie trailers, sharing open source software, etc. Thus, software that allows one to use it legally, such as BitTorrent, should not be shut down. However, Grokster, not unlike Napster, was very clear in stating that their primary purpose was piracy. This raises more serious IP concerns, and thus Grokster deserved to be shut down. However, I’m worried that the RIAA/MPAA will take this as a blank check to seek more restrictive copyright laws that further encroach on personal freedom. Let’s hope that SCOTUS keeps them in check.

Kelo

I think that the whole response to the Kelo decision is very overblown. In case you haven’t heard, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that local governments can invoke eminent domain to acquire private property for use by other private entities. Specifically, it ruled that New London, Connecticut could take private property from citizens for use by Pfizer. Usually, eminent domain rights are only granted when the seizure of property serves a public interest. The court, with a majority written by Justice Stevens and joined by the three other liberal members of the court and Justice Kennedy, ruled that the property seizure could be interpreted as an effort at economic development, considering that the Pfizer facility would generate jobs. I don’t think there’s really any debate as to whether or not New London’s actions were acceptable; I don’t even believe the majority of the court would endorse stealing property to give to a pharmaceutical company. But unwise policy is not necessarily unconstitutional, and economic development is clearly in the public interest and an acceptable pursuit of local governments. Thus, it’s hard to see how eminent domain would not apply here. Again, the decision was a bad one. But it wasn’t unconstitutional.

Alan Turing

As Andy Sullivan points out, today is the late Alan Turing’s birthday. For those of you who don’t know, Turing is the godfather of computer science. He remains to the this day the greatest scientist in the field, above even McCarthy, Knuth, and Dijkstra. His Turing Test launched the field of Artificial Intelligence. His Turing Machine concept revolutionized computer theory. And, perhaps most consequential to our everyday lives, his cracking of the Nazi Enigma encoder was crucial in defeating Hitler. Turing is revered by all computer scientists and programmers; indeed, the Turing Award is considered the Nobel Prize of computing, having been given to luminaries such as Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and Alan Kay. However, he wasn’t as respected by the British government. He was tried and convicted of sodomy for being gay, and was forced to take libido-reducing hormones. He eventually gave himself a deadly dose of cyanide, though his mother insisted that he was murdered. This was a man who revolutionized the world we live in, yet was destroyed, and kept from bettering the world further, by homophobic legislation. I hope that the Republican party keeps that in mind the next time the FMA comes up for a vote.

Andrew Sullivan: Still Not Quite There

Andy Sullivan’s come a long way on the war. He’s one of very few Republicans to openly and clearly acknowledge that a) there were no WMDs b) reconstruction hasn’t been a walk on the yellow-brick road and c) Abu Ghraib was torture, murder, and sponsored by the administration. That those acknowledgments are rare is quite sad; all are undeniable facts. But he broke with his party on them all the same, and that’s admirable. However, he’s still hasn’t quite smelled the coffee, as a post today showed:

Ever since a key rationale for the war to depose Saddam – existing stockpiles of WMDs – was debunked, the interesting theoretical question is: if we’d known then what we know now, would we still have launched a war? In general, I agree with Bob Kagan. We too often forget the consequences of the alternative: hideously cruel and corrupt sanctions, the maintenance of Saddam’s barbarism, the entrenchment of despotism in the Arab world, the encouragement of Jihadists who could interpret inaction as weakness, and the fact that sanctions would eventually have collapsed and that Saddam could have gotten his WMDs in the near future anyway. It would be dishonest to say I’m not chastened by the inept post-war, Abu Ghraib, the abandonment of the ban on “cruel and inhumane treatment” of prisoners, the resilience of the insurgency, the ineffectiveness of reconstruction and the loss of 12,000 Iraqi lives while we were responsible for their security. But I still think that, even knowing what we know now, the war was worth it, if only for the potential for Arab democratization that has opened up; and the end of Saddam’s brutality.

His three points seems to be:

  • Saddam was a horrible dictator.
  • Sanctions were bad, and would collapse anyway, leaving Saddam to obtain weapons again.
  • Terrorists would see us as weak if we didn’t go in.
    The first one obviously isn’t justification for war in and of itself. According to Freedom House, 49 countries are “not free”. Thus, choosing to invade Iraq because Saddam was a dictator would have been arbitrary. Moreover, in 2003, and today for that matter, the war in Afghanistan hadn’t been won. We should have focused on winning that, rather than going and toppling random dictatorships.
    The benefits of sanctions far outweighed the costs. Yes, there were civilian casualties, but those were a result of Saddam’s mismanagement, not the sanctions themselves. Sanctions also eliminated Saddam’s weapons program, a better result than any of us could have imagined. It’s up for debate over whether they would have collapsed, but even if they would have, there were plenty of countries in 2003 that actually did have chemical and biological weapons, and weren’t just planning on acquiring them. Giving Iraq higher priority than them would have been stupid.
    His third point is just stupid. Why would terrorists see us as weak for not invading a country that they had no relationship with? While we’re at it, why not take over Columbia, to show we’re not wimps? Silly, silly.
    Andrew, as usual, makes a good argument. However, he still doesn’t show that Iraq should have taken precedence over any number of other countries, many of which were just as dictatorial and actually possessed WMDs, such as Syria and North Korea (no rhyme intended). Let’s just hope he comes around.