Topic: Foreign Policy and National Security

Expert Opinion

The back page of the Week in Review section of yesterday’s NYT features a symposium on “How to See This Mission Accomplished,” in which the Times asked nine experts to address problems going forward in Iraq.  Since at least five of the nine were enthusiastic backers of the war – and three work for the American Enterprise Institute – this is something like asking the captain of the Exxon Valdez* for his considered judgment on how best to conduct the cleanup.  Hey NYT: next time, why not consult someone who got it right

* Ironically enough, the Valdez’s Wikipedia entry places one “Able Seaman Robert Kagan” at the helm during the crash.  They’re everywhere

ACTE Endorses REAL ID Repeal

Joining the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives has endorsed S. 717, the Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007. This bill would reinstitute a negotiated rulemaking process regarding identity security that was established in the 9/11-Commission-inspired Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act.

Upcoming Event: See South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford Make Sense of the REAL ID Act

Last week, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) vetoed a transportation bill that included a provision objecting to the federal REAL ID Act. The bill would have required the federal government to pay 95 percent of the cost of issuing national IDs before Minnesota would participate. Claiming political machinations were afoot, Pawlenty said that he preferred “something more reasonable like 50 or 60 percent.” One wonders what principle of federalism, liberty, or privacy could possibly support his willingness to accept a 50% unfunded surveillance mandate.

A much clearer vision will be on display next week when Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) joins Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) here at the Cato Institute to discuss the REAL ID Act. South Carolina has barred itself from participating in the national ID system created by the Act, and Governor Sanford defiantly refused to ask the Department of Homeland Security for an extension of the compliance deadline earlier this year.

Senator Tester represents a state that has been similarly defiant. He is an original cosponsor of legislation that would repeal the REAL ID Act and restore the identification security provisions of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act, which REAL ID repealed.

The event is called The REAL ID Rebellion: Whither the National ID Law?, next Wednesday, May 7th, at noon, and it will be Webcast.

The EU Sides with the Thugs in Bolivia

This Sunday, the department of Santa Cruz, the richest region of Bolivia, will hold a referendum on regional autonomy. Other departments in the eastern half of the country will likely follow suit in the upcoming months. The central government in La Paz opposes the project and calls it “separatist.” Despite that, polls show that an overwhelming majority of “cruceños” will vote in favor of autonomy.

As a consequence, the ruling party has threatened to use violence against the citizens of Santa Cruz who show up to vote on Sunday. It wouldn’t be the first time. Last December, the government forced the approval of a new constitution in a Constituent Assembly while a pro-government mob outside the building prevented opposition assemblymen from attending the session. This year, something similar happened when the national Congress declared these referenda on regional autonomy illegal in a rigged session while mobs outside Parliament prevented opposition Congressmen from entering the building.

This time around, the party of president, Evo Morales, has warned about the possibility of taking thousands of its supporters to Santa Cruz to prevent the vote from taking place. The only way to accomplish this is by force.

So it’s kind of surprising that the European Union is taking sides with those who, over and over again, have used violence to suppress democratic institutions. The French ambassador in Bolivia and representative of the EU in that country has stated that the leaders of Santa Cruz who are pushing for autonomy will have to “assume the consequences” if violence erupts on Sunday. That is, the EU will blame the victims if they get beaten up by government thugs for exercising their democratic rights.

Shame on the EU.

Neocon All-Star Team Unsuccessfully Gropes at Reality

In its infinite wisdom, C-SPAN chose to commit this Hudson Institute panel to celluloid. Of course, I can’t get the dang video to work right, but I had the fortune to catch most of the panel last night on the teevee. Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Dan Senor, and Peter Rodman got the old gang back together in an effort to pretend-examine What Went Wrong in Iraq.

The line that Feith advances is that we shouldn’t have done a, y’know, occupation. Wolfowitz supports this position, expressing amazement that “the term ‘occupation’ sticks with us today, even though the occupation ended in June 2004.” These are cute semantic games, but they’re an affront to reality. So Wolfowitz turns to this move, as reported by Eli Lake:

And I do think a real failure — I assign responsibility all over the place — was not having enough reliable Iraqi troops early enough and fast enough, because I think a sensible counterinsurgency strategy would not be to flood the country with 300,000 Americans, but rather to build up Iraqi forces among the population.

This sends Abu Muqawama, the pseudonymous U.S. military veteran and proprietor of a popular counterinsurgency blog, into apoplexy. What’s a real shame is that Lake’s own question, which was excellent, didn’t elicit a serious response. Lake observed that even under close tutelage from the Americans, galling depredations had been committed by the ISF, such as torture conducted by the Ministry of Interior, etc. Why, then, if we had handed more control over sooner, wouldn’t we have expected much more of this kind of thing to have happened?

Feith’s response? I’m paraphrasing here, but it was along the lines of “I just don’t think it would have.” So presumably under the Feith-Wolfowitz plan, we invade, grab Saddam, and then just turn the reins over to “external” Iraqi leader/charlatan Ahmed Chalabi and his band of 700 supporters? Or perhaps Wolfowitz meant his remark as an “assume a can-opener” joke? Wolfowitz’s claim that “a real failure…was not having enough reliable Iraqi troops early enough and fast enough” begs the question How on Earth could we have just had enough committed Iraqi troops “early enough and fast enough”???

Wolfowitz then ups the ante with his claim that “nobody could have foreseen the insurgency,” an insurgency which he attributes almost entirely to Saddam Hussein. Reading from Feith’s new book, Wolfowitz agrees with Feith that neither of them saw “a CIA assessment stating that after their ouster, the Ba’athists would be able to organize, recruit for, finance, supply, and command and control an insurgency, let alone an alliance with foreign jihadists.” This is an absurd over-attribution of responsibility for the insurgency to that Most Unitary of Evils, Saddam Hussein. As for who could have predicted that the intractable confessional disputes may have caused problems, Feith and Wolfowitz may want to look up Paul Pillar.

These points represent just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, if Hudson had had somebody on the panel who did not fundamentally agree on the basic justice, prudence, and strategic genius behind the war, all of this could have been exposed as nonsense in front of the cameras. But that’s not how the game is played, I guess.

NCSL Calls for Repeal of REAL ID

The National Conference of State Legislatures wants the REAL ID Act gone. It supports S. 717, the Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007, which would repeal the REAL ID Act and reinstitute a negotiated rulemaking process on identity security that was established in the 9/11-Commission-inspired Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that an organization like this would reject a behemoth of a project like building a national ID and surveillance system. The NCSL isn’t a small-government organization, and it could just as well have lobbied for billions of dollars in funding.