Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nothing He Can Say Wrong-Nothing She Can Say Right

Rep Cynthia McKinney is now in the fight of her political life--again. After a primary defeat in 2002 (and return to office in 2004), she seems to be flirting with another primary nightmare in 2006.

After surviving the first primary vote last week, where she garnered 47% of the vote to her nearest competitor's 44%, she seems poised to return to the Atlanta area emptyhanded. So to prevent that, she has agreed to debate her remaining primary opponent--something she refused to do prior to the runoff. She missed several televised debates, presuming that she was going to coast to victory. It now seems that that arrogance comes with a cost.

The problem facing McKinney is similar to the one facing John Kerry in the fall of 2004 when he refused to discuss issues with Bill O'Reilly. He knew he was his own biggest liability and that his only shot at staying afloat was to keep away from individuals who might require him to deal with facts rather than the easy mantras that defined his campaign. Similarly, McKinney had a choice to make before the primary: should she appear at a series of debates, giving her two opponents a free opportunity to beat her up in person where her personal behavior was the biggest issue, or should she fail to show, thus avoiding the appearances that she had anything to defend and that her opponents possessed any electoral credibility? Hard choice for one in McKinney's position. But now she has no choice. If she fails to show, she communicates little more than arrogance, and gives her opponent an unrestricted pulpit from which to thrash her and advance his own candidacy. But again, she places her own behavior in issue and is forced to react to relevant personal attacks.

It is never good when an incumbent loses in a primary, and as any political scientist could tell you, McKinney is in real trouble. When the two anti-McKinney candidates take about 56% of the vote (and make no mistake, this primary is about McKinney, not issues), the Congresswoman has things about which she ought to be very worried. But the most ominous problem for her is the sheer predictability of this outcome. She has a very recent history (2002) of a primary loss in this district with these same voters when her own personal conduct was the biggest issue facing voters. When all of these factors come together, she has a very real shot to lose her seat again.

Bottom line, history is repeatable and Ms. McKinney has much to fear. Her removal will be no significant loss to the people of Georgia and to the Congress.

Democrat Kettles Call Al-Maliki "Black"

Congressional Democrats don't like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Because he is not pro-Israel. Because he really isn't denouncing Hezbollah, and because he is not really doing what they think he ought to be doing in the war on terror. They really think that he ought not be allowed to speak in front of the Congress today. And if they really believe that, they are really, hopelessly lost.

Because al-Maliki, while certainly not a politically sharp guy, probably has enough in the way of pull with his own people and enough good will with the Administration that he can probably afford to drop some much more significant charges on the Dems.

He can inquire as to whether the Dems really support the removal of terrorists from his nation or just abandoning his people to an al-Qaeda-contrived civil war. He can ask whether they support freedom in his nation or another Islamist state occupying the center of the Middle East. Because their incessant demands for pullout timetables promise the very disasters that would destroy his nation and re-enslave his people.

Because whatever unfortunately-ingrained backward cultural attitudes he holds towards Israel which are a function of the collective Arab intolerance, he is not going to act on them to Israel's detriment. But the Dems are serious about and regularly advocating for a pullout timetable that would create a humanitarian disaster in Iraq, would embolden al-Qaeda and regimes like Iran, Syria and North Korea, would lose us any respect as a military force in the Arab world, and would signify such complete moral and physical weakness, the likes of which we have not displayed since the most memorable Carter years.

So if the Democrats wish to apply this standard to the political cleanliness of persons addressing the Congress, then I would consent to canceling Prime Minister al-Maliki's address to the Congress if it meant that their standard could be applied to their behavior as well. It would mean that Democrats like Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Russ Feingold, Carl Levin, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, and pretty much the entire Congressional Black Caucus should be expurgated from the Capitol. They are remarkably soft on terror, hard on America, and lack the vision required to maintain the kind of security we need as a nation. They harbor the tried and failed leftist anti war and socialist economic philosophies of the 1960s. Their time has passed.

At least Prime Minister al-Maliki has a positive vision for peace and security that accepts his region's realities and extends beyond whatever he may believe about Israel.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mideast Struggle Cannot Be Successfully Resolved With Diplomacy

Condi Rice is now in the Middle East to attempt to resolve the shooting war between Israel, Hezbollah, and potentially Lebanon and Syria, with Iran waiting in the wings. But the effort at diplomacy, if U.S. policy remains that Israel has a right to defend itself (which presumes that it has the right to exist in the first place), will be either ineffective or unnecessary.

I am praying that this is little more than the Bush Administration's effort to be seen doing something to avoid the accusation from the left that it allowed the Levant to turn into another Katrina. Because diplomacy can't solve the current problem, but if allowed time, Israel might.

The current parties to any talks to resolve this matter are, of course, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, with the outside possibility of Iran. And with that understanding, the talks are DOA. Israel and Lebanon, a democratic nation and one desperately wanting to be, respectively, both would have a reasonable shot at working the whole matter out if they were the only parties involved. But the whole problem is that a terror group living in Lebanon with its blessings started it. And given that the terror group is funded and directed by Syria and Iran, explaining their involvement, it is hard to see how any diplomatic result could result in a lasting peace.

Hezbollah, who has no rightful place at any negotiating table, started this by firing weapons from Lebanon into Israel. Hezbollah is a terrorist group with the objective of eliminating Israel. Lebanon, while not blameless, insofar as they condone the presence of Hezbollah in their nation thus making them responsible for the aggressive acts of their guest, really can't stand up to Hezbollah. Their military has no legs, and they are therefore subject to the whims of this very well-armed terrorist gang. Both Syria and Iran are global terror sponsors who want Israel's destruction, the provocation therefor being that Israel wants to peacefully exist where it is (granted, things are looking down for Syria, but I see this as nothing more than a temporary setback for them). Which makes one wonder what objectives Condi Rice hopes to achieve, beyond simply the appearance of peace-making.

But to leave the matter alone, and support Israel may indeed be the solution.

Israel is by far the most effective and deadly military in the region. Hezbollah continues to exist only because Israel is showing undeserved gentlemanly respect for Lebanon by not simply annihilating the border towns that harbor the Hezbollah guerrillas. Conversely, Hezbollah cares not who or what it hits. It just wants to kill Jews. But if Hezbollah is wiped out, Lebanon has a real shot at being a nation in its own right rather than one held hostage to a foreign-funded group of thugs. It also leaves Syria without a proxy hand, as it does Iran. They would both have to do their own dirty work rather than paying a toady to do it, which means direct attacks on Israel. And neither Syria nor Iran have the capacity to deal with the Israeli military. Damascus would be raining missiles and Iran's nuclear program would no longer need to be the subject of UN debate.

Conversely, if we stop the shooting before Hezbollah has been thoroughly eliminated, we are doing nothing other than aiding Hezbollah. It will give them time to recoup their losses, rearm and repeat the same acts of war that began the conflict we have now, because these terrorists have no peaceful objectives.

And while I am not hoping for a wider Middle East war involving Syria and Iran, I do think that it is about time that we allow Israel to mete out justice on a gang of terrorists who, for too long, have served as the tool of terror-sponsoring states and who have impeded the emergence of real peace along the Eastern Mediterranean.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Olmert Offers Adult Solution to a Group of Children

Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert's offer of a cease fire in the battle against Hezbollah and Lebanon is remarkably simple and reasonable: 1. a return of the two soldiers who were kidnapped by Hezbollah guerrillas, 2. a cessation of cross-border rocket attacks, and 3. a deployment of Lebanese troops along the southern border to prevent Hezbollah from doing as they have done. But it won't work, (at least not yet), for some very simple reasons.

Israel made a very mature and reasonable offer. Stop attacking us (because we weren't attacking you), give us back our men who were wrongfully taken, and police your border like a responsible neighbor. But Lebanon really has very little control over the acts of Hezbollah, so controlling them in a straightforward fashion is unlikely.

But more to the point, the nations involved, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, are all still thinking like the adolescent bullies they are. In their minds, Israel needs to be destroyed, if for no other reason than the fact of its presence. And while it does not attack its neighbors as a first aggressor, its Islamofacist opponents regard its very existence as provocation. And against such opponents, Israel's efforts at rational negotiation have no hope. Which is why the military option may help the growing up process along.

There is nothing like a good schoolyard licking to set a bully straight, and the same works on the international level. Some nations will only learn to be peaceful if the cost of belligerence is too high. In this case, Hezbollah has some popularity in the nation. Take away the popularity and you take away the power. And so by wrecking the Lebanese infrastructure little by little, the Lebanese then have reason to reevaluate their tolerance of such a thugocracy operating in their nation. And so while they may still not have the slightest scintilla of love for their neighbor to the south, at the very least, they now know the price of unnecessarily angering them.

The choice now falls to Lebanon. Will they finally decide to grow up and rein in, expel, or destroy (as Jordan's King Hussein did) the terrorists, or will they continue on the same foolish path they have for the past 60 years, by remaining the tool of Syria's Bashar Assad and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while being pummelled by an Israel that wants nothing more than to be left alone?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lebanon Held Hostage

I didn't think that this was the way things were going to play themselves out, but it makes so much sense. The Middle East is on the brink of all out war. Israel has been attacked by Hezbollah terrorists, and are now invading Lebanon in return. Iran, Hezbollah's chief benefactor and puppet master is taking Israel's response as a first-strike fairly personally (because of the Islamist position that it is their right to harass Israel and kill Jews free from any response). Add to that the fact that Syria is right next door, is as much a contributor to Hezbollah as Iran, and you have the makings of an all-out war.

The Lebanese government is a very curious creature. It is now technically free of years of Syrian control, but it remains effectively under the control of Hezbollah, which is essentially a separate nation operating within Lebanon. While the leaders, such as they are, of Lebanon favor a pro-western and anti-Syrian stance, they are powerless to control Hezbollah, which is somewhat popular among Shiite Lebanese who for decades have been marginalized by Christian and Sunni elements. In other words, Hezbollah is holding the tiny nation hostage.

And after the series of rocket attacks into Israel, the Israelis are making the government of Lebanon pay for failing to police their southern region. But Lebanon, in a fairly ignorant display of irresponsibility towards its neighbors (and thus its own citizens), has historically refused to rein in Hezbollah activity on their southern border with Israel, regarding such action as an undeserved gratuity to a neighbor for whom they care not a bit.

But now they have reason to care, given that Israel is making very clear that there is a price to be paid for housing terrorists and failing to control them. Unfortunately, while Israel is right to make things unpleasant for the Lebanese government for failing to control aggressive activity within its borders, it may also be risking war with Syria and Iran. But in a sign that neither rogue nation wants to pick a larger fight, Iran's bombastic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated that invasion of Syria would trigger a wider conflict. Put differently, this is a sign that while they hate Israel, neither really thinks that it is worth it to invite a strike from a clearly very angry, motivated, and militarily superior Israel.

Coupling that with the fact that the Bush Administration will not pressure Israel to stop shooting, (to do so would be to undermine his whole philosophy in the war on terror), it seems that the very green Lebanese government has its first very big challenge on its hands.

The fact that the government allows a terrorist organization to operate within its own borders says very little for its sovereignty, and as noted, there may be very little that Lebanon can do. But there is very much that Israel can do to make Lebanon wish it had done something. Which puts it at a crossroads--does it continue to repeat the mistakes of the past, playing the same old Islamist anti-Israel game, despite the fact that Israel will make Lebanon pay a price for being the staging ground for terror attacks into Israel, or will it decide to do the difficult and courageous thing and behave responsibly as Jordan did, making Syria the only remaining safe haven for terrorists?

If it chooses the latter, it will be a hard road indeed, but it is the only hope for a truly free and democratic Lebanon. If it chooses the former, its government will continue to be ineffective and little more than a hostage of Hezbollah.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

FCC Picks on Sports

It all started when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake introduced to us the all too familiar "wardrobe malfunction". And now, the FCC wants to regulate televised sports, punishing broadcasters for the vulgar remarks of fans (H.T. Drudge). It's a step too far.

Readers of this site will know that I refrain from the use of vulgarity because I feel that it has no place in the kind of discourse that I try to have here. But I can control what gets said here. Live programming is something quite different.

It is one thing to punish a broadcaster for indecent language in a sitcom. It is premeditated, can be edited out, and really has no effect on the final outcome. It's quite a different thing to control live broadcasts where a loose-lipped fan whom nobody can control lets slip a loud comparison between a referee and an excretory organ or product, inquiries into his parentage, or some other vulgar comment designed to express dissatisfaction with the official's ruling.

The problem is that while the effect on Hollywood may indeed be positive--discouraging premeditated and entirely preventable crudeness that they have been trying for years to cram down our throats--it may actually have a chilling effect on live sports because it is altogether impossible to predict and prevent the transmission of all inappropriate fan behavior. And the fact that there are complaints rolling in means that the whiny prude crowd is afoot, looking and listening in for any indication of naughtiness broadcast over public airwaves and then reporting even the least indication of it.

Yes, the acts of Janet and Justin were truly inexcusable. But the law was not designed to cater to the puritan who wishes to punish the network whose microphone picks up someone in a crowd running their mouth.

I think indecency on TV and radio is entirely disgraceful. There is no place for it and no need for it. It lessens us. But planned vulgarity is entirely different from an unplanned remark that was never intended to be aired.

The FCC is there to perform a service for the American people by punishing broadcasters who knowingly and willingly allow inappropriate material to be aired. It's not there to apply the rule so strictly as to make it impossible for sportscasters to bring us live coverage of games because fans may end up saying too much.

There's regulation and then there's over regulation. This is the latter. it would be nice if the bureaucrats in Washington took the time to understand the difference.

The Plame Game Endgame

Tonight on Special Report with Britt Hume, columnist Robert Novak may reveal who his primary source was in the release of the name of Valerie Plame as the individual who recommended her husband, Joseph Wilson, IV for a trip to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether Saddam Hussein was attempting to acquire uranium from that nation in violation of the 1991 cease-fire and UN Security Council resolutions.

By way of recap, Joe Wilson went to Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate the issue. He hung around for about a week and found nothing, other than the results of a few conversations with a like-minded ambassador whose understanding of the situation seemed to support the story he later told in a New York Times opinion piece in 2003 after the Iraq invasion. In that piece, he claimed that he was sent to Niger at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney, and that after he reported his findings, the Administration blew off his concerns because they did not fit the tail-wagging-the-dog fact pattern that he claims the Administration was trying to construct. At that point, the question likely floating around the White House was, "Who the *heck* is this guy?" to offer the polite version. And in an effort to correct the record, it was released to Novak that it wasn't Cheney requesting Wilson's services, but rather his own wife who was a desk officer at the CIA. What fell from that was Wilson crying foul, claiming that his wife was a CIA operative and that the White House blew her cover, endangered national security by doing that, and put him through "27 months of hell" where he was given tons of adoring media attention, wrote a book, appeared in a gigantic photo shoot and profile with Vanity Fair, and even had shots taken of Valerie in her knickers for Time magazine. Ignoring the fact that the vast share of the hideous exposure that put the Wilson-Plames through "hell" was done voluntarily by the braggart Joe Wilson, using his wife as his stepstool to political fame and quasi-relevance, a victim never had it so good. Then came a federal investigation which seems to have netted only one person on a dubious perjury charge.

But now it seems that Bob Novak is prepared to release the name of his chief informant. He has already made known that Karl Rove was a confirming source, after Novak called Rove and relayed the story he later broke. And there are a few things that can be garnered from this:

1. Patrick Fitzgerald has not brought any charges against that person (H.T. Drudge). It would be public information if he had, that person's name is already known to him, and the time would have long passed for him to do so. The point being that no crime was committed in releasing Plame's name, as Wilson has long claimed.

2. Per the above-linked Novak piece, the source was not a "political gunslinger" which may indicate that the person had no ax to grind, other than letting the truth be known.

This is really the final nail in Joe Wilson's political coffin. No crime committed and no wrong done--other than blowing the lid off of his false righteousness and emotional claims of harm done to his family--as he paraded them before reporters' cameras for his own political purposes.

It is important that we know the details of this story, mainly because nothing about it appears classified, but also because the Administration's honesty and those of it's vociferous critics are at issue. If we have a liar in our midst, it would be helpful to know who it is. The left, led by Wilson has never ceased to claim that that President and Vice President are liars.

But the facts that have emerged from this investigation, namely a debunking of that op-ed piece and the excoriation of Wilson's book by a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report have done the same damage to Wilson and his supporters that they intended to do to the President. And I can't imagine the release of this source's name being anything particularly helpful to Wilson's already embarrassingly discredited cause.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Does McKinney Intend to Coast to Re-election?

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), now well known for being a belligerent, unintellectual troublemaker is now reported to have blown two televised debates between the candidates running for the Democratic nomination for her congressional district, reports Drudge.

So either her scheduler got it wrong twice, so she can publicly blame her staffer (and we know that she has no problem doing that), or she is so arrogant that she thinks that she has no need to participate in a debate of the national issues affecting her district (as well as her own behavior), because she believes that she is guaranteed the nomination and re-election.

And while I'm betting on the latter, either way, McKinney continues to show Atlanta voters just how unfit for office she really is.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Left and Close Elections

What do you call a very close election where a Democrat wins? A victory for the Democrat. But what do you call it when a Republican wins? The product of fraud, racism and reason for court challenges and calls for re-votes, of course. Ask any Daily Kos-er and they'll tell you that they expect the Republican to concede, because in their arrogance, the left believes that holding the reins of power is their birthright. But after watching Mexico's recent election, it is most relieving to see that the United States does not have a monopoly on leftist nuts.

By all reasonable accounts, it appears that Felipe Calderon, the conservative won the election by just under a quarter million votes out of about 41 million over the leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or as I like to call him, "Lopez Algore"). Lopez Obrador's first order of business as the guy falling behind in the court is to ask for a recount. And after the recount didn't put him over the top, he is now mounting a challenge in the courts, which he will maintain until he wins or runs out of options. But the problem is that this is not how fair play is supposed to work.

Elections are held, and the result comes down to a number. The side with the biggest number wins. That number is determined by a finite number of votes properly cast. It is certainly legitimate to order a recount of ballots in a very close election. But once the number is determined, that's all the contoversy that there needs to be. The side with the smaller number needs to throw up their hands and concede, or at the very least if ego and sour grapes prevent an appropriate concession, just a simple exit from the scene. But leftists have made a habit of contesting close elections, appealing to racial politics, accusing the other side of fraud and all sorts of horrible acts that turned the election ever so slightly their way. In other words, it's not about winning the vote--unless that's how they happen to win fairly--it's just about winning, period, regardless of the tactic.

But in Mexico, things are a tad different. It tends to have a much more homogenous population than the United States, so the race card won't be that effective an approach. It also recently updated its election system which very nicely ensured the integrity of their votes. And by some accounts I have seen, their system is superior to ours, which says much about our commitment to avoid another Florida 2000 or Washington Governor 2004. So the Mexican Al Gore is left to argue, as he probably meant to argue all along, that the election is the product of fraud, with the fact of his loss being the compelling (and probably only) evidence thereof. Which is the core of the problem.

There are times when an election result can be legitimately contested such as in 1960 when widespread fraud under the supervision of Mayor Dailey in Chicago likely turned Illinois, and the election to Kennedy. Or any of a number of cute things that Democrats pulled in 2004, none of which ended up winning them the election. But the now-habit of preparing court challenges any time that an election is close and it's the liberal losing is becoming a hallmark of the arrogant left. And if anyone wants a clue as to how fair the left is, just observe what happened in Washington State, where they used court challenges to change the outcome of a very close election. In short, a combination of cooperative judges and fake ballots kept emerging until the vote count put the Democrat, Christine Gregoire ahead. And the instant that happened, the lost ballots stopped emerging and the court challenges ended--certainly a coincidence that nobody searched for any more lost ballots... The will of the voters was discerned! And we know it was discerned at that stage, because the Democrat came ahead--evidence in and of itself of a proper outcome, if you ask the left.

So please pay attention, as we have another election coming this November. The evidence of fraud boils down to the fact of a Republican victory, or one for the Mexican conservative. Because when a leftist wins, the mantra of "count every vote" seems to disappear.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Understanding Separation of Powers

There has been much talk of late about "separation of powers". We hear it most recently in the context of anything covert that the Bush Administration is doing to combat terror. The left feels that anything the President does to fight terror that is not plain and in the open is an executive overreach. They claim that "separation of powers" needs to be respected. And then they'll resort to their default whining about impeachment or something like that. But as with every other can of worms the left unwarily opens in moments of false righteousness, it misdefines the issue while completely ignoring how little regard it has for those same admirable principles.

Separation of powers is a vitally important concept to our freedom. It prevents one branch of government from acquiring too much power, and thus acting by fiat. It requires the different branches of government to assent to the ultimate acts of the others, preventing one from becoming independent of any of the others and getting out of control. And it is now the excuse being used by the far left to justify espionage.

The media, led by the New York Times, justified the exposure of two classified programs over the past six months under the notion that separation of powers needed to be observed, meaning that the executive needed oversight from the other branches. And in theory, this is a completely correct principle.

But this excuse for breaching our security misses the point that the President advised the appropriate Congressional oversight committees on these various programs. In other words, the people's elected representatives in the other branch of government were on board and able to take whatever action they felt appropriate. They took none, as the people of the United States have elected a legislature comprised of people of both major parties that is much more likely than not to cooperate with this President in the war on terror. And so the argument fails that the Administration was usurping power it did not have or hiding activities from those with the power to oppose it. Just because it was done without the consultation of the NYT editorial board does not mean that it was not done in keeping with the Constitution. So the separation of powers concern does not exist.

And taking a very generous leap by presuming that the left is engaging in this debate in good faith, rather than using it as a pretext to attack the Administration it so pathologically despises, it is then fair to say that they are incorrectly defining and applying the term "separation of powers". But based upon their posturing, it is probably fair to say that they are using the term "separation of powers" to mean something more akin to "partisan balance."

They disagree with this President, regardless of what it is that he is doing, and are insisting that their minority viewpoint be given equal consideration in all matters of state concern. But our Founders saw no need to ensure a system of political parity between those of differing views. And it is rather arrogant for them to presume that their vociferous opposition should translate into relevance. Because the Founders were very clear about one thing: those who gain power under our system do so only because they are elected by the people.

So the whole "separation of powers" argument, as offered by the media-left is a no-go. But interestingly, these same folks would have been wise not to raise the separation of powers issue, because it opens the door to a discussion about their efforts to legalize their social agenda, and how their strategy by its very terms requires a violation of the principle they claim to watch and guard so closely.

The courts have long been the far left's substitute legislature of choice. And the power which the courts are granted (and by Marbury v. Madison, granted themselves) have enabled individuals and groups with agendas that had no prayer of passing through any legislature in this nation, to petition the courts, demanding special rights, and claiming that a denial of their demands violated some provision of the Constitution. Of course, this requires a very broad and frankly twisted reading of the Constitution, but certain politician-judges have no problem making new laws from the bench by adopting convoluted legal theories that have no basis in American jurisprudence. And when judges make up brand new law to fit their subjective view of the way the law ought to be evolving, that is a violation of the separation of powers.

Courts exist to ensure that laws are applied to contoversies between individuals. They also exist to ensure that the legislature and the executive do not take acts that are unconstitutional. But to be clear, it is not their job to remake laws they don't like, or to make ones they do. And it is not their job to read more meaning into the laws and the Constitution than is actually there. In other words, their job is one of a dispassionate referee, one who brings things back to the objective standard found in the laws on the books, not to a subjective concept of the way things ought to be. But when judges step beyond those limits, as the left expects them to every time they litigate a case for gay rights, striking of abortion regulations, restricting religious speech or any other of their pet causes, they are usurping the power of the legislature to write laws and the executive to approve them, thus violating the separation of powers. But in that case, the left cares not, as the separation of powers benefits them.

So when the left speaks of the concept of separation of powers, it is important to be clear about what they mean: They really aren't concerned at all about whether each branch of government is operating within its Constitutionally-prescribed limits, because the current system hasn't given them much success. They want to be the final backstop in the legislative and political process. In other words, separation of powers is the exact opposite of what they want. They want union of power. And they want to be the ones holding it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Kim Makes Things Unpleasant for His Handlers

While the rest of us were watching the Discovery launch and enjoying fireworks, Kim Jong Il decided to have his own display in North Korea. Of course, there was no coincidence in timing. It was a direct thumb of the nose at the U.S. But that should surprise nobody. Nor was I astounded by the fact that the ICBM seemed to be more of a model rocket, expiring after an embarrassing 40 seconds, and probably landing the rocket scientist who designed it in a nice North Korean jail. But the most interesting aspect of it all is who else was upset by the launches.

Kim meant to mess with the U.S. insofar as timing and the fact of launch are concerned. He also rattled South Korea and Japan, its free regional neighbors who have the most to lose from any type of attack. But Kim also is going to be hearing it from China and Russia, because they both came out of the launches with a major loss of pride.

One would expect the U.S., Japan and South Korea to have a fit over this matter. And they indeed have, with Japan taking the lead. But most surprisingly, the Russians are apoplectic. To a very significant degree, Russia is to blame for the fact that North Korea can launch launch missiles, given that its missile program is SCUD-based. That fact is encouraging, only in the sense that SCUD systems are largely junk, meaning that North Korea is going to have a hard time being anything but a regional problem. But that is small comfort when two of our best trading partners and allies--South Korea and Japan--are easily within the known range of the North. But none of this has anything to do with Putin's Russia becoming any more of a responsible member of the world community. Because while having a crackpot missileman on their border is not a pleasant thing, Russia is more concerned about its pocketbook and prestige than regional peace.

As Russia's business interests have expanded, so have its vulnerabilities, and it's not great for business to have an unhinged little troublemaker threatening shipping interests in the Sea of Japan and the Western Pacific. And while the North is good at keeping a strategic and economic competitor in the form of the U.S. busy, it's not all that great for them when Kim sees nothing wrong with troubling the interests of Moscow. This was an unneeded complication.

Which brings us to China, who is not-so-strangely silent on the matter. We've all seen the parents, seething over the behavior of their children in public, longing for the moment when they could bring a little justice to their children's lives in private. So at this moment, a likely embarrassed and furious Beijing is preparing to take the naughty little Kim to the woodshed, for all the good it will do. And while diplomats put on a socially polite face and appear to ignore the realities of international politics, the current chief diplomat of the United States is no fool, nor are her counterparts in Russia, Japan and China.

To a significant degree Kim exists for the pleasure of the People's Republic of China. He functions as little more than a convenient toady who, as with the Russian calculus, is able to keep the U.S., South Korea and Japan busy as China goes about flexing its economic muscles and securing access to energy resources to fuel its growing economy. And China looks almost responsible whenever it periodically deals the North a paddling to keep it in check for another month or so. But how useful is a toady when the other kids finally get tired of him and beat him up?

The problem China faces is not that North Korea is behaving in an unneighborly fashion, but rather that it is behaving in an unnecessarily provocative and dangerous manner, for China couldn't possibly care less how irritating the North is for its neighbors or for the U.S. Because it really exists only to run interference for the Chicoms as noted above. But when the little lackey decides to come into his own, and tries to put himself in the same league as the big boys, he often takes the beating for which he had been begging, causing his own benefactor to become distracted as he tries to clean up the mess.

And while we once had the comfort of being able to look to China to control an unruly Kim Jong Il, it seems that Kim has left the ranch, which may mean that he will end up dealing with a rather motivated group of nations who now have fewer concerns about putting him in is place--or perhaps taking him out of it.

So in a very real sense, the monster they created has become a significant liability for them, causing them to spend as much time and energy dealing with the North as they had intended the West to do. Kim was meant to be nothing more than an itch for the U.S. to scratch. Instead, China and Russia let their brat kid play freely in their gun cabinet, and allowed him to spurn their discipline. And now it seems that little Kim's antics may leave him dealing with the lawmen. And if that happens, and the U.S., South Korea and Japan must do some dirty work, it will only serve to increase their regional influence to the detriment of the local totalitarian powers who would be left looking stupid in the wake of such events.

And nobody needs an even more aloof China and Russia.

Monday, July 03, 2006

North Korea's Convenience Store Hold-Up Moves Us to DEFCON 3

Anyone who remembers the movie War Games will remember that after hacking into a military computer at NORAD and playing a little "Global Thermonuclear Warfare", Matthew Broderick's character brought us from a nice happy DEFCON 5 to a less than comfortable DEFCON 4, meaning something's up and we're not really all that happy about it.

But Kim Jong Il has worked us up to about a DEFCON 3. (H.T. Drudge)

NORAD actually uses a four-tier system, and right now, we are at a "Bravo-plus", meaning that we're thinking that the conditions for somebody making an ill-advised decision are ripe.

And when we have rhetoric from North Korea of the type that speaks in terms of nuclear war, with missiles capable of reaching the United States preparing for testing, it's the kind of thing that gets our military a little jittery. And it's the kind of talk that really has no place in international discourse unless one is really itching for a fight.

And while the Cold War was a uniquely unpleasant time, and while the Soviets were an ambitious and cruel bunch, they ultimately sought to dominate the world by conventional means. They likely wouldn't have invaded Afghanistan to move south towards a warm water port otherwise. They understood that the world isn't worth dominating if it is an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland, and the hand on the trigger was almost always a steady one. But Kim's calculus is a little different.

Kim cannot seriously aspire to world domination. The nation under his rule is the most closed state on earth. His people are starving while he lives richly and while his nation operates a nuclear weapons program. And his nation is so underdeveloped that he needs to blackmail the civilized world to obtain the supplies he wants. But like a guy holding up a convenience store, he wants real-world relevance and respect. And by threatening a test launch of a missile capable of reaching the U.S., he is doing the equivalent of making a demand for a suitcase with a million dollars, a ride to the airport and a private plane to take him to Mexico. The downside of such a deal is that police generally take a dim view of robbers, and if the opportunity for a shot on the gunman comes, they will often take it to end the standoff, with the troublemaker's blood being on his own hands.

In this case, though, the world community treats outlaws like misbehaving little children who need a time-out, rather than the grown up and dangerous individuals they are. Granted, Kim's threat of nuclear war is pretty laughable. It's one thing to build a nuclear device. It's quite another to mate it to a missile and make it work properly--having rocket science and nuclear science doesn't necessarily mean that you can get them to work together. But it's very easy to imagine that they could use lower tech means of delivering such a device to our ally South Korea. Which means that the gunman in the store has a hostage he really doesn't care about killing. Because the gunman himself is more than just a little crazy.

And while the world and the Bush Administration continue to talk about talks that won't happen, which will have zero affect even if they did, and propose various undeserved and ridiculous concessions that do nothing but reward Kim's blackmail, one hopes that the Administration has a significantly different plan for the resolution of the Kim Jong Il problem.

Because the police aren't afraid to have a sniper take out the gunman to end the standoff. Nor do we owe any particular courtesies to a nation that threatens South Korea, North Korea, Japan, and now our own soil.

And while Kim threatens retaliation in the face of a preemptive strike, a few things are a little hard to ignore: Kim won't be able to respond to any kind of first strike launched by the United States because he won't see it coming, and after a preemptive hit he won't have anything left with which to shoot. But it's a harder thing to stop him once he is in the business of launching missiles. And THREATCON Bravo plus is not the position we want to be in, as we wait for Kim to make the first unpredictable move.

We've been winning the War on Terror because we've managed to address the threats in the places from which they materialized. To treat Kim as anything more than a terrorist, regardless of the technical fact that he is a head of state, is foolishness.