Friday, March 4, 2005

The Iraqi Security Situation

Strategy Page offers some insight into how a suicide bomber was able to get a car close enough to a crowd of police recruits to kill 125 of them last week.

Vive La Revolutione

Michael Ledeen gives us a good lesson in the recent history of democratic revolutions and urges that we pick up the pace:

It was the beginning of the Age of the Second Democratic Revolution. Spain inspired Portugal, and the second Iberian dictatorship gave way to democracy. Spain and Portugal inspired all of Latin America, and by the time Ronald Reagan left office there were only two unelected governments south of the Rio Grande: Cuba and Surinam. These successful revolutions inspired the Soviet satellites, and then the Soviet Union itself, and the global democratic revolution reached into Africa and Asia, even threatening the tyrants in Beijing.

The United States played a largely positive role in almost all these revolutions, thanks to a visionary president - Ronald Reagan - and a generation of other revolutionary leaders in the West: Walesa, Havel, Thatcher, John Paul II, Bukovsky, Sharansky, among others.

There was then a pause for a dozen years, first during the presidency of Bush the Elder, who surrounded himself with short-sighted self-proclaimed "realists" and boasted of his lack of "the vision thing," and then the reactionary Clinton years, featuring a female secretary of state who danced with dictators. Having led a global democratic revolution, and won the Cold War, the United States walked away from that revolution. We were shocked into resuming our unfinished mission by the Islamofascists, eight months into George W. Bush's first term, and we have been pursuing that mission ever since.

[T]he defeats of the fanatics in Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by free elections in both countries, destroyed two myths: of the inevitability of tyranny in the Muslim world, and of the divinely guaranteed success of the jihad. Once those myths were shattered, others in the region lost their fear of the tyrants, and they are now risking a direct challenge. The Cedar Revolution in Beirut has now toppled Syria's puppets in Lebanon, and I will be surprised and disappointed if we do not start hearing from democratic revolutionaries inside Syria - echoed from their counterparts in Iran - in the near future.

For anyone to suggest to this president at this dramatic moment, that he should offer a reward to Iran for promising not to build atomic bombs, or that we should seek a diplomatic "solution" to Syria's oft-demonstrated role in the terror war against our friends and our soldiers, is a betrayal of his vision and of the Iranian, Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian people.

Our most lethal weapon against the tyrants is freedom, and it is now spreading on the wings of democratic revolution. It would be tragic if we backed off now, when revolution is gathering momentum for a glorious victory.

These are exciting times, but we must not lose sight of the fact that success is far from assured. It will take perseverance and steady resolve to carry us through the inevitable setbacks ahead. Yet who can doubt the rightness of the cause? Who can seriously argue that we should give up, turn around, and go home, that a free and democratic Middle East and a severely truncated terrorist threat is not worth the cost? Who can today insist that our intervention, as clumsy as some aspects of it may have been, was a mistake?

If things fall apart, of course, then there will be recriminations aplenty, but if freedom really is "on the march" and if down the road Iran and Syria become true democracies at relative peace with their neighbors, the Bush administration, despite its mistakes, is going to go down as the most visionary, the greatest, administration in the history of this country.

Snare and Delusion in the Middle East

The more things change with the Palestinians the more they stay the same. This article in the Jerusalem Post suggests that everything in the Middle-East is back very nearly to square one. Syria and Iran are sponsoring the murders of Israelis, and the PLO isn't inclined to do much about it:

Delegations from the Israeli defense establishment embarked Monday to Washington, Paris and London, in order to present intelligence information which Israel has collected against Syria revealing its role in the deadly bombing in Tel Aviv Friday night, which killed five people.

Israel said Sunday that it would use intelligence information to prove Syria was behind Friday night's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet Sunday.

"We have intelligence information that the orders came from the Islamic Jihad in Syria," a senior source close to Sharon said. "We know where the orders for the attack were issued, we know where they were sent, and we know Syrian intelligence was involved and provided logistical support."

Mofaz told the cabinet that an Islamic Jihad cell in Jenin recruited the bomber from Tulkarm under orders from Damascus. Mofaz said that Israel had arrested Islamic Jihad operatives in Tulkarm, but both Mofaz and Sharon emphasized that the PA had taken no action yet against the group, even though Israel had given the PA names of wanted Islamic Jihad operatives.

"Although we know for a certainty that the orders came from Islamic Jihad elements in Syria, that fact is not enough to absolve the PA of its responsibility for the departure of the terrorist and of its obligation to act against his partners in the crime," Sharon said.

Sharon told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had not taken any practical measures against terror. He said that without active steps on the part of the Palestinians, there would be no transition towards implementing the first stage of the road map.

Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Avi Dichter told the cabinet that the timing of the attack was set by Islamic Jihad officials in Syria to send a message to Abbas's new government. He said intelligence officials had enough information about the bombing even to know where the bomb was made.

In pointing a finger at Islamic Jihad, Israeli security officials noted that the movement receives millions of dollars from Iran. "The headquarters in Damascus sends instructions to operatives in the West Bank regarding the type of attack and how it should be planned. Local operatives then begin preparing the explosives and plot the route and recruit the suicide bomber who will carry out the mission. The entire operation from beginning to end is funded by Iran," an official said.

So much for the hope that somehow now that Arafat is gone things would be different for the Palestinians and Israelis. The only way genuine change will occur in the Middle-East is if the tyrannical regimes in Syria and Iran are overthrown and replaced by functioning democracies. The end of the Baathists in Damascus and the mullacracy in Tehran is a necessary condition for peace in the region, and it's the only hope for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Everything and anything else is simply a snare and a delusion.

Bush and Putin at Bratislava

David Adesnik at Oxblog has a good analysis of what was going on between Bush and Putin in Bratislava the other week. A lot of commentators said that Bush buckled under to Putin on the matter of Putin's indifference to democratic principles in Russia. I like Adesnik's take, however:

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT BRATISLAVA? As I mentioned yesterday, America's top journalists are having a hard time figuring out what the Bush-Putin press conference was really all about. One interpretation of the event I didn't mention was that of the WaPo editorial board, which lambasted President Bush for knuckling under to a liar and a thug like Putin.

In general, I am quite sympathetic to anyone who insists that Putin is a liar and a thug and that America should start getting tough with Moscow. Moreover, I have had harsh words in the past for both the WaPo and for our president when they seemed to go soft on the Russian president. In fact, given my unrepentant criticism in the past of both Bush and the WaPo, I think I have the credibility this time around to say that Bush did a superb job at Bratislava and that the WaPo's good intentions have resulted in some very poor analysis. The WaPo observes that:

Lauding the Russian ruler as a man who means what he says, Mr. Bush declared that "the most important statement . . . was the [Russian]president's statement when he declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia."

The problem, as Mr. Bush should know, is that nearly the opposite is true. The record shows that Mr. Putin has reversed Russia's progress toward democracy in almost every respect while consistently distorting that record.

No question that Putin is an unrepentant liar and an emerging dictator. But I think the Post misunderstands what President Bush was trying to achieve. This was his first meeting with Putin after an inaugural address that committed the United States to an unmitigated policy of global democracy promotion. Thus, W. wasn't going to demand an abject (and highly public) surrender from the Russian thug. Rather, he wanted to feel him out and make clear on a very personal level that he, Bush, cares a lot about democracy promotion. From where I stand, the crucial statement from Bush was this:

I think the most important statement that you heard, and I heard, was the President's [Putin's] statement, when he declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia, and they're not turning back. To me, that is the most important statement of my private meeting, and it's the most important statement of this public press conference. And I can tell you what it's like dealing with the man over the last four years: When he tells you something, he means it.

By itself, that last sentence is absurd. When Putin's tells you and I something, he is probably lying through his teeth. But Putin is smart enough to know that he can't constantly lie to Bush and get away with it. He can lie to the Russian public and to the American public without consequences. But every gangster knows better than to f*** with the godfather.

Like Reagan, Bush has a very personal diplomatic style. Again like Reagan, Bush pretty much speaks his mind, both on the record and off. Thus, when Bush says that Putin made a serious commitment to democracy at a private meeting with the President of the United States of America, that is exactly what Bush means. He has put Putin on the record and expects him to live up to his word, the same way that Bush lives up to his. Putin to concede that:

We are not going to make up - to invent any kind of special Russian democracy; we are going to remain committed to the fundamental principles of democracy that have been established in the world. But, of course, all the modern institutions of democracy - the principles of democracy should be adequate to the current status of the development of Russia, to our history and our traditions.

Putin has...acknowledged that democracy has a universal essence. What matters isn't whether Putin really believes this. What matters is that he told it to the President of the United States, who will be very angry if Putin goes back on his word.

For the reasons given above, I think Bush did a superb job at Bratislava. Now comes the hard part. For the first time, however, I am confident that Bush really understands what is at stake in Moscow.

Adesnik's take on the press conference makes far more sense to us than the commentary we read and heard last week to the effect that George Bush, who hasn't flinched from much of anything in the years he's been president, caved to Vladimir Putin. It's much more likely that he was very diplomatically telling Putin that the whole world now knows what he has committed to. It pretty much locks him in to it, at least psychologically, and makes him look very bad if he reneges.