Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sticking With Us

Brit Tim Hames of the UK Times Online responds to colleague Matthew Parris who urges Britain to abandon their commitment to U.S. foreign policy goals in Iraq:

I am not inclined to castigate the US Administration for what has occurred in Iraq. As Matthew correctly says, it is far from obvious that deploying many more troops after Saddam Hussein was toppled would have made sense, or that the "de-Baathification" of the Iraqi Army and bureaucracy was a miscalculation. For a start, "de-Baathification" was scarcely a deliberate US policy. These institutions simply disintegrated when their leader disappeared. The largest single mistake, in retrospect, rests elsewhere. The problem has not been the Bush Administration underestimating how much Iraqis might come to loathe the West for the "occupation" but a failure to grasp the extent to which, thanks to Saddam, Iraqis had come to fear and hate each other.

That inter-communal hatred is the present cause of Iraq's troubles. American soldiers have died in tragic numbers this month not because of any so-called insurgency that wants to drive the US out of Iraq but because they have been attempting to prevent rival religious and sectarian militias from killing their enemies. The effort to hold together a central government in Baghdad (a drive, ironically, designed to reassure the defeated Sunnis) does not command sufficient consensus to sustain it.

What needs to be done now, as James Baker, a former US Secretary of State, appreciates, is to secure a decentralised settlement and convince the Shia majority to divide the oil revenues in a way that each camp will consider fair. In such a situation, as Kim Howells, the Foreign Office Minister, has outlined, US and British forces could be withdrawn steadily throughout 2007 without chaos.

I would not bet against Iraq's future. That country retains extraordinary attributes. To declare it dead and buried a meagre three years after Saddam's demise is, to me, premature folly.After all, would the recovery of Germany and Japan have been anticipated in 1948, three years after their surrender? Or the fate of Russia accurately assessed in 1994, during the chaos of the Yeltsin years, three years after the Soviet Union was disbanded? Or would anybody have expected that China would be where it is today in 1992, three years after the Tiananmen Square massacre?

The question that those of us in the pro-war camp have to confront is whether by, say, 2010 Iraq, the Middle East and the wider world will be demonstrably the better for Saddam's overthrow than if he and his sadistic sons had been left in power. My answer to that question remains, unambiguously, in the affirmative.

There it is then. Others can choose to condemn the Americans and head for the lifeboats, but not in my name. The offer of Mrs Beckett's assistance is kind, Matthew, yet I do not seek the shelter of a liferaft. I will stay with the ship and take my chances. If the vessel does ultimately capsize, despite my expectations, I will throw a bottle over the side containing the message: "I still think that 'we kicked the door in' is a more noble sentiment than the Little Englander's cry of 'leave those foreigners to their misery'."

Would that our own Democrats and our own media had as much sense and as much loyalty as does Mr. Hames.

What's in a Name?

The New York Post has an excerpt from Mark Steyn's new book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know it. Steyn is one of the wittiest commenters on contemporary events, and at one point he makes this rather obvious but no less disturbing observation:

Not long after 9/11, I said, just as an aside, that these days whenever something goofy turns up on the news chances are it involves some fellow called Mohammad.

A plane flies into the World Trade Center? Mohammad Atta.

A sniper starts killing gas station customers around Washington, D.C.? John Allen Muhammad.

A guy fatally stabs a Dutch movie director? Mohammed Bouyeri.

A gunman shoots up the El Al counter at Los Angeles airport? Hesham Mohamed Hedayet.

A terrorist slaughters dozens in Bali? Noordin Mohamed.

A British subject self-detonates in a Tel Aviv bar? Asif Mohammad Hanif.

A terrorist cell bombs the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? Ali Mohamed.

A gang rapist preys on the women of Sydney, Australia? Mohammad Skaf.

A group of Dearborn, Mich., men charged with cigarette racketeering in order to fund Hezbollah? Fadi Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, Mohammad Fawzi Zeidan and Imad Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud.

A Canadian terror cell is arrested for plotting to bomb Ottawa and behead the prime minister? Mohammad Dirie, Amin Mohamed Durrani and Yasim Abdi Mohamed.

There certainly does seem to be an appalling correlation between brutal, vicious criminality and people named Muhammed. Wonder why.

Persuading the Norks

Charles Krauthammer makes a case for allowing Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons should North Korea persist in developing a nuclear arsenal. It is truly a shame that it has come to this, but it really makes little sense, for Japan or for us, for Japan to be forced to rely on American protection from North Korea. George Bush won't be president forever, after all.

Some of Krauthammer's strongest points are contained in these paragraphs:

Japan is a true anomaly. All the other Great Powers went nuclear decades ago -- even the once-and-no-longer great, such as France; the wannabe great, such as India; and the never-will-be great, such as North Korea. There are nukes in the hands of Pakistan, which overnight could turn into an al-Qaeda state, and North Korea, a country so cosmically deranged that it reports that the "Dear Leader" shot five holes-in-one in his first time playing golf and also wrote six operas. Yet we are plagued by doubts about Japan's joining this club.

Japan is not just a model international citizen -- dynamic economy, stable democracy, self-effacing foreign policy -- it is also the most important and reliable U.S. ally after only Britain. One of the quieter success stories of recent American foreign policy has been the intensification of the U.S.-Japanese alliance. Tokyo has joined with the United States in the development and deployment of missile defenses and aligned itself with the United States on the neuralgic issue of Taiwan, pledging solidarity should there ever be a confrontation.

The immediate effect of Japan's considering going nuclear would be to concentrate China's mind on denuclearizing North Korea. China calculates that North Korea is a convenient buffer between it and a dynamic, capitalist South Korea bolstered by American troops. China is quite content with a client regime that is a thorn in our side, keeping us tied down while it pursues its ambitions in the rest of Asia. Pyongyang's nukes, after all, are pointed not west but east.

The question Americans have to ask themselves is: Which is better, to try to dissuade the North Koreans by arming Japan or by threatening to bomb the bejabbers out of Pyongyang. No other strategy is likely to work, least of all negotiations.

Negotiations only succeed when the other side is willing to compromise or when they see that there is too great a price to pay for not agreeing to terms. In the case of the North Korean program to build nuclear weapons there can be no compromise. Thus the only way to persuade the Norks is to convince them that proceeding with their nuclear buildup will result in the neutralization of their military. This means either arming Korea's neighbors with nuclear weapons or administering a severe and sustained dose of shock and awe.

The former, entailing as it does the spread of nuclear weapons, is exceedingly undesirable, but the latter will mean war on the Korean peninsula and possibly beyond. Given the choices, a nuclear Japan seems to be the better of two very bad alternatives.