Archives: 09/2006

New at Cato Unbound: Clark Ervin Replies to John Mueller on Terrorism

In today’s installment of Cato Unbound, Clark Kent Ervin, former Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security and author of Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Attack, strongly disagrees with John Mueller’s provocative lead essay, “Some Reflections on What, if Anything, “Are We Safer” Might Mean,” in this month’s issue devoted to “9/11 Five Years After: Reassessing Homeland Security and the Terrorist Threat.”

Borrow and Spend, Spend and Elect

As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) is charged with helping House Republicans get elected and re-elected. In this difficult year for Republicans he’s facing a tough race at home in the Buffalo area. According to the Wall Street Journal (paid reg. required), he’s using today’s standard Republican formula: promise to cut taxes and spend, spend, spend:

Mr. Reynolds, with about $3 million in campaign contributions, has run ads on local television for more than a month, earlier than in past campaigns. The first emphasized his support for low taxes and few business regulations, ending, “Tom Reynolds – Fighting to save New York jobs.” Another had two retired military officers hailing his role in saving the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from shutdown. The third featured a mother holding her toddler while recalling the congressman’s help in forcing Blue Cross/Blue Shield to cover surgeries for the child’s cleft palate. “Tom Reynolds has a big heart,” she says into the camera.

Nuclear Proliferators and Double Standards

One of the more interesting foreign policy phenomena over the past year or so has been the prevalence of China hawks fawning over the US-India nuclear deal. The clear implication is that the payoff from signing the deal is that India will fall into line in a loose policy of containing China. Never mind the fact that India has made perfectly clear that it has no intention of following such a policy.

Now comes State Department spokesman-turned-South-and-Central-Asia-assistant-secretary Richard Boucher to admit that with respect to our posture on India versus our posture on Iran “Is there a double-standard? Yeah. There should be.” Reuters reports further that Boucher “added that he did not believe Iran decided its policies based on how Washington dealt with India.”

This is pretty simplistic thinking. Nobody’s arguing that Iran “decides its policies based on how Washington deals with India.” The point is that the increasingly brittle international nonproliferation regime is based on norms; to the extent that the United States undermines those norms, it hastens the irrelevance of the NPT and the related institutions. Further, it’s perfectly clear that the international community (or “international community” if one prefers) has not gone along with the new norm that countries that are friendly to America should get special treatment.

And while we’re at it, let’s look at the circular logic deployed by pro-India deal types based on proliferation concerns. On one hand, we’re told that India has a rock-solid track record on proliferation, so we should sign the deal as a reward. On the other hand, we’re told that one of the benefits of the deal is that it will get some of India’s civilian reactors (though none of its military reactors and no future reactors) into a monitoring regime.

But if India has a rock-solid track record on proliferation, why care about getting them into a semi-formal nonproliferation institution? And further, let’s take a look at India’s allegedly solid track record on proliferation, courtesy of the Weekly Standard:

Over the last 20 months, the State Department has sanctioned no fewer than seven separate Indian entities for transferring strategic weapons-related technology or goods to Iran.

One of these entities–Balaji Amines Limited–was sanctioned late in July for selling Iran chemicals critical to manufacturing rocket fuel at the very same time Iranian-supplied missiles to Hezbollah were slamming into the homes of innocents in Haifa. State also sanctioned Y.S.R. Prasad, former chairman of India’s entire state-run civilian nuclear program. He is reported to have visited with Iran’s nuclear establishment several times and transferred technology to extract tritium, a material necessary to make smaller, more efficient missile-deliverable nuclear warheads. India is demanding that the United States drop its sanctions against Prasad, who is one of the most honored members of India’s nuclear elite. He also is one of the eight leading Indian nuclear scientists who recently wrote Singh protesting the nuclear deal’s encroachment on India’s freedom to expand its nuclear arsenal and to conduct a foreign policy independent of Washington.

A key concern he and his distinguished colleagues raised in their letter (which Singh noted in his address) relates to the strategic cooperation agreement India reached with Iran in 2003. The House of Representatives has been worried about India’s ties to Iran and considered conditioning U.S. nuclear cooperation on India’s supporting allied efforts to block Iran’s nuclear program. This, however, would be a deal breaker for India, Bush administration officials warned. The House listened, backed down, and instead simply expressed its desire for Indian support against Iran’s nuclear program in the report that accompanied its enabling legislation. For India, though, this was still intolerable. “We cannot accept introduction of extraneous issues on foreign policy,” Singh explained. “Any prescriptive suggestions in this regard are not acceptable to us.”

Was a strategic recalibration of the US-India relationship long overdue? You bet. But the Bush administration’s typically clumsy diplomacy with respect to the deal threatens to take a wobbly nonproliferation regime and smash it to bits, without any clear strategy for what’s going to follow in its wake. And now, to the extent the nuclear deal has become a referendum on US-India relations, it’s far too late to torpedo the deal without risking serious damage in those relations. We now find ourselves in a bind where any of the possible outcomes, whether the deal’s passage, its dying on our side, or its being killed on India’s side, are going to have pretty bad consequences.

Here you had a good idea (improve strategic ties with India) that was implemented in such a way that it created a host of negative consequences. It didn’t have to happen this way.


I’m anything but an expert on British politics, but if the head of the Conservatives is making noises like this, we’ve got a serious image problem abroad:

“I and my party are instinctive friends of America and passionate supporters of the Atlantic alliance,” [Conservatives chief David Cameron] said, warning against the “intellectual and moral surrender” of anti-Americanism. But he added that being an uncritical ally was dangerous for Britain: “I fear that if we continue at present we may combine the maximum of exposure with the minimum of real influence over decisions.”

Risking a rift with the Republicans and his own traditionalists, he attacked the “unrealistic and simplistic” neoconservative philosophy of Mr Bush’s closest colleagues and advisers, calling it “a view which sees only light and darkness in the world – and which believes that one can be turned to the other as quickly as flicking a switch”.

Health Care Quality: Sharpening the Differences

Ezra Klein wants patients to receive the highest quality health care possible.  So do I.  Klein thinks that patients are “easily fooled” when it comes to health care quality.  So do I.  Klein thinks “panels of experts should watch over health care decisions.”  So do I. 

Klein thinks that politicians should empanel and watch over those experts.  I think that multiple panels should compete to provide patients with the best information, which patients could take or leave.

I worry that if politicians lead the pursuit of quality, the pursuit of quality will become infected by politics.  Klein kind of agrees.

Klein proposes to get around that sticky wicket by prohibiting Americans from contributing to politicians they like.  I think it’s an odd health care agenda whose success requires shredding the First Amendment.

Klein thinks patients are ignorant about quality, and thinks politicians should insulate patients from the costs of their medical decisions.  I think insulation from costs breeds ignorance about quality.

An elderly woman presents with abdominal pain from ingesting a spider.  Klein’s prescription: one bird and one cat, to be administered orally.  Cannon’s prescription: induce vomiting.

David Brooks’ Newest Conservatism

At various times, David Brooks has called his political philosophy “neoconservatism,” “compassionate conservatism,” “national greatness conservatism,” “big government conservatism” and, now, “progressive conservatism.” By any name, however, it has one common denominator: big, expensive, and intrusive government. In Sunday’s New York Times, Brooks puts forward a plan for “human capital investment,” calling for:

  • Giving every child born in America $1,000 at birth to put in a savings account;
  • Spending more money on preschool;
  • Further extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • More government reorganization of our educational system; and
  • An increase in the child tax credit.

Actually, there is a term for this type of program—it’s called liberalism.


Goldwater on Goldwater on HBO

Next Monday, September 18, HBO will broadcast a new documentary, “Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater.” The film was made by Barry Goldwater’s granddaughter, CC Goldwater. The Los Angeles Times calls it “an unabashedly admiring — though not wide-eyed — attempt to reclaim her grandfather’s legacy, and to reconcile the man she adored — the avid gadgeteer, ham-radio operator, aviator, and truly talented photographer of American Indians — with the controversial political figure, often heralded as the father of the American conservative movement.”

There are three kinds of people these days who like to call themselves “Goldwater Republicans”:

* libertarians, who tend to ignore the social conservatism of the senator’s 1964 presidential campaign, focusing on his rugged-individualist opposition to the federal leviathan and his later opposition to the religious right;

* liberals, who would perhaps have been Rockefeller Republicans in 1964, when they denounced Goldwater as literally insane; and

* limited-government conservatives, who still believe in the ideals of Goldwater’s book The Conscience of a Conservative and regret the big-government conservatism that now dominates the Republican party.

My guess is that “Goldwater on Goldwater” is going to appeal more to the first two groups than to the actual Goldwaterites. It interviews people from across the political spectrum, but George Will appears to be the only Goldwaterite interviewed, while it also features Hillary Rodham Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, Ben Bradlee, Walter Cronkite, Al Franken, and James Carville. Interviews with the daughter who had an abortion and the gay grandson also indicate a strong emphasis on the later Goldwater.

Either way, spending 90 minutes with Barry Goldwater has got to be a welcome respite from the world of George W. Bush.