View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, March 31, 2003
Maskirovka is the Russian word for deception, especially deception in warfare. There's been a little discussion about that over at NRO, and I wanted to add in a couple of possibilities as well. Reports say that Republican Guard troops, from Tikrit, no less, were the ones defending the bridge at Hindiyah today. Given their ineffectiveness, I hope it really was them, and not just irregulars given their uniforms. I also hope all those tanks we're hitting are occupied or intended for use. Is it possible that Saddam had Bradley-fodder drive them down, whil ethe real deal is still waiting for us in Baghdad? I don't know, and I assume that communications traffic is being analyzed for these possibilities.

Here's the official prayer being circulated by the Union of Orthodox Synagogues, and the Rabbinical Council of America, both organizations representing the preponderance of Orthodox synagogues in the US:

Almighty God on High, omnipotent King, look down from your Sanctified Abode and bless the valiant soldiers of the American Military Forces who risk their lives to protect the welfare of all your creation. Benevolent God, be their shelter and fortress, and do not allow them to falter. May harmony dwell in their ranks, victory in their battalions. Fill their hearts with faith and courage to thwart the evil schemes of our enemies and to abolish every rule of evil. Protect them on land, in the air, and in the sea, and destroy their adversaries. Guide them in peace, lead them toward peace, and return them speedily to their families alive and unharmed, as it is written: "God will shield you from all evil; He will guard your soul. God will safeguard your departure and arrival, from now and forevermore." Grant us true peace in fulfillment of the prophecy: "Nation shall not life up sword against another nation, nor shall they learn war any more." Let all the inhabitants of the world know that Dominion is Yours, and Your Name inspires are upon all the You have created. May this be Your will, and let us say, Amen.

I challenge the mullahs in this country, who portray themselves as patriotic Americans, to say the same thing. If they want to replace the Biblical quotes with Koranic ones, so be it.

Sunday, March 30, 2003
I'm not sure what all the blathering about having miscalculated the number of troops we'd need is about. The troops being sent over were due to be in theater weeks ago, and as soon as it looked like Turkey really would keep us out, we started sending the ships south towards the Suez Canal. These troops were supposed to be in the north, but it's not clear that would have affected the fighting in the south all that much. The pause to regroup, and let the Air Force take care of softening up the Guard was planned - as soon as the troops crossed the border, one of Fox News's embeddees was reporting that they were to take 5 days' food and water with them. That means they were expected to be on their own for that long, and then they'd take stock and go from there.

I'm sorry. We may have had to divert some troops to protect lines of communication, but those troops were never in the plan anyway, and our timetable for moving was obvious from a week or two beforehand, given the deadlines we were willing to accept, and the weather constraints we have to deal with. Jed Babbin probably has it right - there's some disgruntled Clinton holdover in the Pentagon who's got it in for Rumsfeld. It's disgraceful, and it's having real effects on the home front's perceptions of this campaign.

Deacon of Powerline claims the conservatives and liberals alike are deluded by the mirage of changing our image in the Arab world by doing good deeds. Instead, he claim, as the major power in the region, we'll just get blamed for everything that goes wrong, even after we've been gone for generations.

The Inestimable Bernard Lewis (it's part of his name now, like "The Indispensible MEMRI" or "Panamanian Strongman Manuel Noriega"), in his latest book, The Crisis of Islam, draws a distinction between alliances of interest and alliances of values. Our alliance with Egypt is of the first variety, that with Israel of the second. He hopes that by building democracy in, say, Iraq, we can develop some of the second flavor in the Arab world.

This is a little different from hoping to "do good deeds," although I don't doubt that some conservatives have allowed themselves to be deceived by the mirage you describe. Mr. Lewis's goals are more durable, more grounded, but not necessarily more modest.

One more WWII posting. Paul Fussell complains in Wartime about the softer, comforting tone of E.B. White as, if not dishonest, at least misleading. But here, in a Harper's article from February of 1942, Mr. White complains about press opacity:

But when, day after day, you are shaken by the detonations of American success and hear only small puffballs of the enemy's fire, a very definite feeling grows in you that Japan has really accomplished very little. The facts show that the Empire of the Rising Sun is doing very well indeed.


Quite apart from the emphasis, the newspaper reader finds it very difficult to get at the truth of any situation, through the great mass of conjecture and rumor and conflicting statements. Often he feels completely baffled and defeated. This is not the fault of the press - it is just that the war is too big and moves too fast and the facts are not always available. The news is the privilege which the customer enjoys, but it is also the crossword puzzle which he alone must solve. One moment he experiences the full flush of victory, the next moment the chil of defeat. From two stories on the same page, sometimes from two paragraphs in the same story, he runs the whole gamut.

Le plus ca change, er, the more things change...

Saturday, March 29, 2003
As it begins to sink in that we're facing an enemy that has more in common with the Nazis than with the Taliban, more WWII reporting, this from Autumn 1941, and Howard K. Smith:

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean only that the German people are afraid of the Gestapo and that all they are waiting for is for someone to weaken the Gestapo, and then they will revolt. Though the Gestapo is certainly a big element in the fear complex, it is not the biggest. The main reason Germans cling to the lion's tail is that they are terrorized by the nightmare of what will happen to them if they fail to win the war, of what their long-suffering enemies will do to them....The German people are not convinced Nazis, not five percent of the; they are a people frightened stiff at what fate will befall them if they do not win the mess the Nazis have got them into.

Here, there is reason for hope for us. Because is becomes increasingly clear to our troops and reporters on the ground that the biggest fear for normal Iraqis is the Baathists. If Jed Babbin is right, and we're facing a boiling pot of terrorist intervention throughout the country, I suspect most Iraqis will turn on them, too. If we bring them freedom, they surely have no desire to descend back into the Saddamite pit, nor to turn themselves into the West Bank. I think this does argue for asking, as Mr. Chalabi suggests, the Iraqi people to take a larger part in their own liberation. They'll be that much less likely to give it back if they've helped fight for it themselves.

I happened to catch a little bit of former senator Gary Hart's, er, performance, on Hannity and Colmes, and it was one of the most dishonest appearances by a supposedly leading politician not named Clinton that I have ever seen. He attacked the notion of the war while, in the same sentence, saying that we need to come together and support the effort. Then, he attacked Hannity for impugning his patriotism by calling him a "liberal." Why was Gary upset? Was it that liberals are patriotic, or that he's not a liberal. When Hannity (somewhat ineffectively) pointed out that Hart is is a liberal, he went ballistic, pointing out that McGovern was a bomber pilot, and that the anti-war movement is supported by right-wing lunatics, too. For all the world it sounded like he was trying to deny his liberalism.

Thursday, March 27, 2003
So Syria want to play, huh? With what, exactly? They might be able to complicate the diplomatic situation, but it's hard to see how that's going to change much. Near as I can tell, New Europe doesn't care as more for Assad than they do for Saddam, and it's not like Syria has much to offer on the world market.

I'm a little afraid that, for whatever reason, the President seems to want to re-involve the UN in this whole mess afterwards. The Matthew Kaminski has a fine WSJ op-ed explaining why it doesn't even do relief work well. I could see a Palestinization of the Iraqis - eternal dependence on a self-important and self-righteous bureaucracy, leading to bitterness and radicaliztion of the population. And Claudia Rossett had another WSJ op-ed a few months ago exposing the Food-for-Oil program as a UN jobs program. Fortunately, once again, our opponents may prove to be their own worst enemies, and the French seem determined to torpedo this proposition.

As for Jed Babbin's fears, he may have properly pinpointed Saddam's Jenin strategy, both the State Department and Britain have shown a clear willingness to pursue ends with means they would deny to Israel. We appear to be willing to sustain whatever short-term diplomatic damage we need to, and we're not dependent on another country for economic or military survival.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Much has been made of the reportage, and the uniqueness of this war's embeddingof reporters. Rumsfeld is right to point out that the last case of embedding was on a weekly, rather than instantaneous, new cycle. But I still thought it might be instructive to look at the Library of America Reporting World War II, which includes eyewitness reporting from that era's best. When I come across good passages, I'll wrote them.

The first is from the New Yorker's A. J. Leibling, who later wrote an entire book about his reutrn to Paris after the liberation. From a piece written as the darkness was about to descend:

Holland, with one-tenth the population of Germany but with several times the wealth per capita, had presented fifty bombers against five thousand. It had been comfortable to believe in neutrality, and cheap. Norway, with the fourth largest merchant marine in the world, had not built the few good light cruisers and destroyers which might have barred the weak German navy from its ports. France herself had economized on the Maginot line....The democracies had all been comfortable and fond of money. Thinking of the United States, I was uneasy.

I guess some people never learn.

The Canadians asked two questions this morning about depleted uranium shells. Repeated studies have shown that it's not any more toxic than normal poisons, and the greatest danger lies in being in a building where one lodges. But the two questioners just assumed this was more dangerous than regular shells. The briefer seemed to get a little impatient with the question the second time, bringing to mind the idiocy of the questions during the first Gulf War.

CNN is reporting on a mural that the Marines in Iraq have come across. It has to be seen to be believed. Be prepared to be shocked & not at all awed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Some sort of French trade representative is on FoxNews right now explaining why we're wrong to be mad at them. He didn't win any friends by starting out whining about how we're singling them out when the "rest of the world also disagrees." Neil Cavuto tried to take him on, but sort of dancde around the point. He did say that part of the reason for our anger is that the war's started, and "why don't the French just shut up already?" It would have been better if he had told them they were missing an opportunity to shut up. All the more ironic that this fellow said that the boycott was "silly, because it doesn't add anything to the debate, and we want to raise the level of the debate."

Ahh, the French. They do love their irony, don't they?

Rally Pictures from Sunday

We got over 2000 people:

Including the ubiquitous Congressman Tom Tancredo:

A Dog of War. You'll notice he still leashed:

They're using dolphins to help clear mines. Where's PETA?

The Army is claiming over 500 Iraqi soldiers killed in the last 2 days of fighting in the south. This apparently does not include those killed by Marines. We're reporting a total of 12 killed - 1 Army and 11 Marines, 9 of whom were killed under a white flag - and 7 captured. I know we don't want to get into a body-count kind of war, but it underscores what Victor Davis Hanson calls the lethality of our armed forces.

There's one disturbing Vietnam parallel, and I'm not claiming this is Vietnan. We win the honest military engagements, but we're not able to bring them to open battle very often. Of course, the perpendiculars far outnumber the parallels, so I won't even bother to enumerate them.

While we're on the subject of casualties, CNN ran one of the most vacuous pieces of statistical analysis by Bill Schenider. He noted that the casualty rate in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam were almost identical, between 1 in 15 to 1 in 13. The Gulf War, with a casualty rate of 1 in 1500 was an anomaly. He then did a casualty calculation, saying that at 1 in 15, that converts to 17000 US casualties.

Well, first of all, the four wars mentioned were all protracted conflicts, whereas we're expecting this war to be much shorter. If you calculate the casualty rate over an average month of any of those wars, it would be much, much lower. Except in Vietnam. guys were in "for the duration," and if you went down to your local recruiting office on December 8th, you were much more likely to get killed than if you shipped out July 1945. In World War I, the overall casualty rates were horrendous; we benefitted by being the West's reserve force, and only fighting for the last 18 months, when both sides had been exhausted. In Korea, we faced China, who could and did just throw human waves at us. Remember Pork Chop Hill?

I do see some diplomatic parallels with WWI, where Japan, like Turkey now, kept doing less and raising its price. While this may strain relations, even seriously, Turkey has no regional ambitions, and in fact, is bidding to join an organization calculated to stifle national ambition. We're their main patron in that effort.

Monday, March 24, 2003
Funny exchange:

Rick Leventhal: They're firing about 300 meters up ahead
Shepherd Smith: Meters? Have you forgotten where you're from?
Rick Leventhal: That's how they measure things here...
Shepherd Smith: I know, I know. Can you tell us how far away these enemy are?
Rick Leventhal: You want that in meters or yards?

I think by now everyone agrees that embedding the reporters has been a terrific success. It gives credibility to the reports, credibility to the military, and promotes sympathy for the troops among the reporters with them. There are some problems of perspective - every firefight ends up being the decisive battle of the war, and the reporters still focus on the little that's going bad as opposed to the large strategic picture which is terrific. But on the whole, I think it really helps to have reporters with the troops talking about operations going off like clockwork, praising the morale, professionalism, and coolness of the troops under fire.

Not all the reporters are that ignorant. Greg Kelly,working for Fox News, and embedded with the 3ID, evidently served in the Marines. He and the anchor traded a few jokes about the culture clash there, but Kelly admitted that when it was time to call in an airstrike, he found himself almost reaching for the phone to do it himself.

My favorite "embedded moment" thus far came Saturday night. Fox was running a split-screen. On the left, the Iraqi disInformation minister was droning on about the brave defenders at Umm Qasr, and on the right, we saw the brave Marines opposing those cowards. If the timing had been just a bit better - 5 minutes or so - we would have simultaneously heard an off-screen explosion signalling the end of the Iraqi resistance in that town. As it was, it was pretty close to perfect.

We had a fine pro-War, pro-troops rally here in Denver yesterday, getting about 2000 folks to show up on a gorgeous Spring day at the State Capitol. Pictures to follow. The afternoon host on KHOW-630, no raging conservative, harped on two points throughout the event he hosted. First, we were to "demonstrate how to demonstrate," as opposed to the decidedly non-peaceful peace demonstrators. Secondly, this is not about politics any more. It's time to stop that while we're actually fighting.

A surprising number of people brought their pets, although nobody seemed particularly amused that I started calling Sage a "Dog of War. I really wish someone would rescue us from our earnestness, sometimes.

Thursday, March 20, 2003
The Colorado Coalition for Israeli Surrender, er, Middle East Peace, is planning a mournful prayer vigil to protest the freeing of Iraq this afternoon at 5:00PM at the State Capitol. Americans Against Terrorism is planning a peaceful, non-confrontational counter-protest across the street from them at 5:15 PM. Bring flags (American and Coalition), signs, and voices.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Colorado has finally liberalized its concealed-carry laws, moving from "may-issue" to "shall-issue" status. If you're over 21, not a felon, and have passed a training course, you qualify for a permit. This is a major victory for those who honor the 2nd Amendment.

Australia - -
Azerbaijan - -
Bulgaria - -
Colombia - -
Czech Republic - -
Denmark - -
El Salvador - -
Estonia - -
Ethiopia - -
Georgia - -
Hungary - -
Italy - -
Japan - - No Email?
South Korea - -;
Latvia - -
Lithuania - -
Macedonia - -
Netherlands - - No Email?
Nicaragua - - No Email?
Philippines - -
Poland - - No Email?
Romania - -
Slovakia - -
Spain - - Online Form
Turkey - -
United Kingdom - -
Uzbekistan - -

Afghanistan, Albania, and Eritrea don't seem to have an online diplomatic presence, but the latter two might have some appropriate governmental sites.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Hans Blix says that Iraq won't use WMDs becuase it would turn world opinion against it. This reminds me of the State Department official who didn't want to bomb to railways leading to Auschwitz because that would only make the Nazis more vindictive towards the Jews.

It's enough to make you lose faith in diplomats.

Herb Keinon, the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, and native Denverite, was back here on a US speaking tour, and I got a chance to see him address a small and mostly sympathetic crowd at the University of Denver. He spoke at some length, but in my notes, I have a number of places where I've note similarities between the PA and the old Soviet state.

  1. The appropriation of democratic language and symbols for non-democratic purposes. In particular, the forms of parliaments, prime ministers, and constitutions, while suppressing any actual dissent
  2. The suppression of internal dissent, allowing for a unified, if warped, message, as compared to the messy disagreement of democracies
  3. The Big Lie. This is, of course, common to all totalitarians, but was raised to an art form by the Soviets
  4. Smooth spokesmen. I remember when Gorbachev came in, how he changed the public face of the Soviet Union from Gromyko to Posner almost overnight. Didn't do them any good in the end, but didn't do them any harm in trying.

Not all of this should be a surprise, since Arafat is something of a holdover from Soviet days, learned a lot from his old patrons. Still, it's stuff that has been adopted by other, demonstrably non-Communist Arab leaders as well.

To what extent is it possible that the leftists are being comforted by familiar tactics and language, and thus fooled into sympathizing with these monsters?

While I agree that Bill Clinton will pretty much say whatever he thinks will get applause out of whomever he's speaking to, I also think that he's got a point with the thing about creating a world we'd want to live in if we're not top dog. The problem is, as usual, he draws the wrong conclusion.

The world I want to live in, if America weren't the World's Sole Superpower, isn't one where tinpoit dictators could impose their will on their neighbors. It's, instead, one where liberty and freedom are widespread. The war we're about to wage will bring *that* world one step closer.

Monday, March 17, 2003
Why don't we hear more about Jose Maria Anzar of Spain? He and the Prime Minister of Portugal, who hosted yesterday's summit, are real heroes here. They're not taking as much political flack at home as Blair is, but then again, we don't have any traditional alliance with Spain. From about 1798 to 1898, our main relationship with Spain was taking over bits of their crumbling empire. After WWI, Spain first swung communist, then fascist, and they only came to liberal democracy in the late 70s.

Maybe that's it. Maybe they understand Iraq so well because, like New Europe, they haven't gotten used to a US-defended democracy.

Monday, March 10, 2003
Rep. James Moran (D-Riyadh, well, actually Virginia, I'm ashamed to say), made some comments at an anti-war rally the other day to the effect that Jewish leaders were dragging the country into the war, and could stop it if they wanted to.

Didn't Moran (how does he pronounce his last name?) head up the Democratic House Campaign Committee recently?

All right, two mitigating circumstances. First, he was targeting his answer. The woman asking the question was Jewish, so he was speaking to her. Jews need to take responsibility for the positions of their community leaders, just like blacks need to find someone other than Sharpton and Jackson to speak for them. Secondly, Moran's daughter is converting to Judaism to get married. So the man's not an anti-Semite, although I'd love to be a fly on the wall at the next family dinner at that household.

Still, he didn't preface his remarks with anything conciliatory, like, "look, if you oppose the war, fine, and you need to go to your community and political leaders, your pressure groups and PACs, and get them to make it in issue." He just rattled off, as though he were on a Sunday morning talk show, that Jewish leaders were pushing Bush into this thing.

I think this is easily as irresponsible as whatever Trent Lott said. And the fact that he was even able to formulate this sentence in public is a sign of these ideas becoming common currency in respectable public debate.

It's an indirect result of the Democratic party refusing to purge its ranks of avowed anti-Semites, or, indeed, do anything that might smack of looking past the next election cycle to the actual national interest.

This aside from the fact that an important US Representative was speaking at a meeting whose avowed purpose was the undermining of US foreign policy on the brink of war.

Sunday, March 02, 2003
In today's Washington Post, Anne-Marie Slaughter has an analysis of the UN that only an academic attorney could love. Her essential point is that the UN was hijacked by the Cold War and that now, with the return of "normal" foreign relations, the Security Council and the UN are behaving as intended, in a multi-polar world. God forbid that she's right.

She argues that "what is just how relevant the United Nations has become." And then goes on to argue that this will be true even if it turns out to be irrelevant in this conflict with Iraq. Well, only if we let it. She fails to realize that, without actual military force to back it up, the UN's only authority is moral, and it only has what moral authority that we choose to invest in it.

We read that:

The United Nations, by contrast, was built on a foundation of realism. In the spirit of the League, all nations were to be represented and to have an equal vote in the General Assembly, but the U.N. Security Council was designed to reflect the realities of power -- that is, the power structure as it stood in 1945. The United States, Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union would agree to join an institution with teeth only if they could prevent it from acting against their interests. Hence, each was given a veto. On the positive side, the vote of a majority of the 15-member Security Council, absent a veto, was deemed to express the will of the international community sufficiently to establish the existence of a threat to international security and to authorize the use of force in response.

The founders may have thought they were being realistic compares to the Wilson. But it's hard to argue that France was of major importance in the "power structure" in 1945. Ravaged by war, having folded like tin foil, in possession of a colonial empire yearning to breathe, well, not in French, anyway, France was given a permanent seat on the Security Council to preserve the fiction that they were part of the power structure. Likewise, I'm not quite sure I understand the presence of China as a permanent member at that point, either, unless it was with an eye to the future. The Japanese still occupied parts of the country, some controlled by the Communists, some controlled by the Nationalists. For years, we were taught in school that the Five Permanent Members were also the five nuclear powers, but this was only true after China exploded their bomb, and ceased being true when Israel developed hers.

The second sentence is the most telling. They would only join an organization that could be counted on not to cut too close to the quick for any of them. The Soviets got caught out when the Council okayed using its flag to defend South Korea. But she rightly places the blame for the initial polarization on the Soviets' use of the veto to prevent the Council from going after it.
But a nation defines its own interests, and the French and Russians have defined it to be in their interest to oppose the US over Iraq, and to protect Saddam Hussein. How this differs from the Cold War dynamic is anyone's guess.

In fact, the UN is not rising to a threat to civilization, it's ignoring one. It only gains relevance if we decide to let it dictate that we should do the same.

Last night, we attended the Colorado Symphony with some friends of ours. The program consisted of a suprisingly unoffensive Richard Strauss serenade, an unsurprisngly grating Strauss tone-poem, and Beethoven's 5th. The Strauss tone-poem was his Don Quixote, and we all agreed that we would rather have heard selections from Man of La Mancha. But the real concert was Ludwig.

While I spend a lot of time listening to classical music, I'm not traditionally a big symphony goer, figuring that it's primarily a listening, rather than a visual, experience. But seeing a symphony performed really is a different experience from hearing it on a CD. For one thing, the sound from different sections attracts your attention. While on TV, the camera does the work for you, at the hall, you get to swing round, seeing a physical interplay among the sections. I hadn't realized how much time the cellos spend carrying the main theme, or how much it was batted back and forth between the violins and the cellos. The fact that the oboe, who interrupts the storm for a moment of calm solo work, is placed spot-between the two sections also seems symbolic.

The opening 4 notes are a cliche, but the whole movement is phenomenal, and that rhythm repeats through all four movements, something I hadn't noticed before. And the oboe gets a little solo cadenza in each of the four movements, something that is also more apparent in concert than on CD.

The guest conductor, a hyper man named En Shao, pushed the tempo along at a gallop, which was a little new to me. Tempos seem to vary not only from conductor to conductor, but also from era to era. There was a time when the last of the first four notes would have been allowed to decay away before starting up. Here, it barely got played before the piece was off an running. I've also heard recordings from the 30s and 50s where the tempo within a movement was related to the volume - louder parts got played faster. I don't know what any of this means, except that we're probably not hearing whatever it was that Beethoven debuted.

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