Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Get Out the Vote" sucks

All of these "Get Out the Vote" efforts may work, but I personally want nothing to do with any candidate or party that feels so desperate that they are willing and even eager to resort to these marketing campaigns.

It does appear that the success of the Republicans may actually have hinged on the "Get Out the Vote" campaigns in recent elections.

I can understand the Democrats feeling desperate and willing to try anything to get back in power, but it bothers me greatly.

I would ask all Democrats one simple question: Why are you so unwilling to come up with an agenda and approach and "tone" that appeals to an easy majority of the American people so that you aren't so dependent on a razor thin margin for success?

Alas, the real answer is that they simply do not have any interest or passion for the broader interests of a broader majority. They are only willing to incrementally broaden their agenda only enough to barely squeak by.

Maybe that's the appeal of these "Get Out the Vote" campaigns: get more votes with less compromising on "core" values.

That may work and be a sure-fire recipe for gaining "power", but is a truly lousy scheme for governance, as the current "balance" in Washington, D.C. shows us so clearly.

I am personally seriously considering witholding my vote next week simply because I feel that the Democrats are taking my "support" for granted and as a "mandate" for their overly-narrow agenda.

Personally, I would rather see the current batch of Democrats get either a slimmer margin of control or outright fail to gain control of Congress so that they will be forced to focus on compromise and broadening their agenda to gain support from the Center-Right.

A fraction of an ounce of humility is worth far more than a pound of hubris. At least in my book.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Neoconservatives and the pro-Israel lobby

Sometimes I feel that I am a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, and then, all of a sudden, I notice that even the mainstream media is finally starting to pick up on themes that I had noticed quite some time ago. You will find me repeatedly referencing "the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby". That sounds rather like a quack conspiracy theory, but I assure you it is based on personal observations and encounters over the years during my residence and visits to Washington, D.C. Now, all of a sudden, I read an article in the NY Times by Helene Cooper and David Sanger entitled "Rice’s Counselor Gives Advice Others May Not Want to Hear" where they use almost the same language as me:

Likewise, in choosing Mr. Zelikow as her counselor, she eschewed Elliott L. Abrams, a darling of neoconservatives and the pro-Israel lobby.

The good news is that the gist of the article is that the influence of the "neoconservatives and the pro-Israel lobby" may be waning, even as the "realism" and "practical idealism" of people like Philip Zelikow begins to increase. The article goes on to discuss the "distance" between Mr. Zelikow and Secretary Rice, but at least he is there as a tempering influence.

-- Jack Krupansky

Iraq is not really about Iraq

There is great debate concerning what to do about the "civil quagmire" in Iraq. President Bush says that the stakes are high, but the honest truth is that the stakes have nothing to do with the future of the Iraqi people. Rather, what is really at stake is the whole Neoconservative foreign policy agenda, which is driven in large part by the agenda of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby, which in turn focuses on the security of the State of Israel. To abandon the administration's push in Iraq would effectively abandon the heart and soul of the Neoconservative agenda, which would leave the Pro-Israel Lobby and the right-wing hawks in Israel in a quagmire of their own. This is why the administration will persist in "staying the course" even as they stop using those specific words.

It is all well and good for Liberal Democrats to call for the firing of Rumsfeld and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but the liklihood of either happening is rather slim since such acts would be a hard-core "cut and run" which would decimate the Neoconservative foreign policy agenda of "rollback."

"Staying the course" in Iraq has never been a matter of helping the Iraqi people establish a functional democracy, but simply a matter of providing a steppingstone for the Neoconservative "rollback" of what they consider "failed states" and "rogue states", or more simply any country which appears to be on unfriendly terms with Israel.

If it seems stupid that Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush seem to be blindly continuing to ride a "dead horse" policy in Iraq and the Middle East, bear in mind that it is a horse that represents all that they hold dear and they would be loathe to abandon this horse, no matter what.

Also, some minimal level of "success" in Iraq is absolutely needed to give the Neoconservatives leverage in pursuing their ultimate target: Iran.

-- Jack Krupansky

Will democracy cure terrorism in the Middle East?

Somewhere along the line in the so-called "war on terror", democracy or at least so-called radical democratization became the main goal of the "war on terror". For most Americans, the "war on terror" had been intended as an effort to subdue the people and group that executed the attacks of 9/11, namely Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Shortly thereafter, the Neoconservatives attempted to shift the focus to include Iraq and other "states" that allegedly "harbor" terrorism. By the president's State of the Union address in early 2002, the war had been morphed to focus on the so-called "axis of evil", Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Purported weapons of mass destruction were given as the primary motive for subduing Iraq. In parallel, the definition of "terror" was expanded to include not only al Qaeda, but local terrorist groups such as Hama and Hezbollah, which have only been a threat to Israel and not to us here in the continental U.S. Somewhere in there, democracy and "freedom" came to be the main goals of the "war on terror."

The gist of the argument was that a democratic Iraq would inspire a wholesale movement to democracy in the Middle East. In theory, at least.

And, somehow, the spread of democracy would deter and supplant the momentum of the terrorists. In theory.

But now, as each increment of progress in democratizing Iraq is made, it only seems to incite ever more intense anti-American and anti-democracy sentiment among those most susceptible to to the appeal of terrorism.

Even if our democratization efforts were 100% successful, the associated result would be that terrorism would be even stronger in the Middle East than before.

So much for the theory that flourishing democracy is a great tool and strong deterrent in the "war on terror."

Further, a democratic election in Palestine brought Hamas to power fairly, and an election in Lebanon did nothing to sap the strength of Hezbollah. More evidence of the ineffectiveness of democracy as a deterrent against terrorism.

I think encouraging democracy is a wonderful goal and may in fact have some limited effectiveness against terrorism, but let us at least be honest and admit that it has little to do with combatting the type of terrorists who perpetrated the grand-scale attacks of 9/11.

Iran's alleged connections to Hezbollah are a concern, but only a local regional concern of the Middle East (and even then only Israel in particular) and have nothing to do with the security of the continental U.S. Once again, by all means we should be encouraging a more open democracy in Iran, but it has nothing to do with the security of the continental U.S.

In short, democraacy cannot by itself cure terrorism in the Middle East. At best it is only a partial solution, and it may not in fact be the proper starting point.

-- Jack Krupansky

Real progress in Iraq

Despite all of the disturbing news reports out of Iraq, it finally looks like real progress is being made towards a free, democratic, and independent Iraq. The real danger all along was that any "democracy" that we "installed" in Iraq would simply be a short-term puppet facade doomed to ultimately crumble. So, it is actually quite good news when we hear that Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is finally standing up to U.S. pressure and stating quite firmly that "I'm not America's man in Iraq."

Additional American forces in Iraq are not the answer.

Merely "crushing the insurgency" is not the answer.

De-baathification under terms dictated by the U.S. (under pressure from the the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby) is not the answer.

Disarming the militias is not the answer.

Reconciliation is a huge part of the answer. The Iraqis themselves need to come to grips with how they see their own society and nation.

The real bottom line is that the U.S. cannot create a democracy in Iraq. The best the U.S. can do is create the preconditions on which the Iraqi people themselves create a form of democracy that suits them, even if it does not suit the U.S., the Neoconservatives, or the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

Despite all of the carnage in Iraq, we may actually be approaching the point where the Iraqis finally recognize that they are responsible for their own security and will actually request the U.S. to leave soon enough. I strongly suspect that such a request will come within the next eighteen months and possibly sooner rather than later.

The militias are not the cause of the unrest, but simply a reaction by the various constituences, which are essentially trying to say that they aren't yet happy with the governmental structure of Iraq. A big part of the unhappiness stems simply from the fact that the governmental structure "feels" too much like an imposed order of the U.S. rather than a negotiated relationship among the real parties.

While the Democrats currently chatter about how to extricate the U.S. from Iraq and the chaos that might follow, I strongly suspect that six months from now the chatter will be about how to satisfy Iraqi demands for troop departure in an expeditious manner.

To my mind, the big issue warranting our most intense consideration is not getting out of Iraq, but how to build a robust relationship with whatever power structure emerges in Iraq. We should not be trying to fight Iraqi independence from U.S. "policies", but doing our best to act as facilitators.

Much of the fighting in Iraq is not so much to fight against the government, but more to establish power bases to gain better seats "at the table."

Democracy in Iraq will continue to be a real struggle for quite some time, but incremental progress is being made. I have every confidence that the Iraqis will find their own way. I simply hope that the U.S. will be a polite "guest" and not overstay its welcome and not abuse its host's hospitality any further than it already has.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Republican mission accomplished

Most signs now point to a wave of Democratic victories in November, but the Republicans should not despair. Even if they do lose control of Congress, the Democrats they will lose to are far less left-wing Liberal than the Democrats of 1994. Many so-called Democrats are centrist-leaning, moderate, and in some cases simply Republican-lite in their beliefs and agendas or outright Republican in all but name. Quite a number of Democrats are deeply committed to balancing the budget and fiscal responsibility, not to mention being pro-military and anxious to be seen as being "tough on terror." And quite a number are gun-shy of getting near "third rail" issues such as gun control, prayer in schools, flag desecration, or gay marriage. The Republicans should be proud of the extent to which they have influenced the ideology of the Democrats over the past decade and shifted it further towards the center.

Sure, right-wing conservatives will be deeply disappointed that their hard-core agenda won't be pursued, but moderate Republicans will be ecstatic that they will be the real power brokers since their votes will be needed if the Democrats wish to "veto proof" any of their "Liberal" legislative efforts.

Hillary and Joe Lieberman will give the Republicans a run for their money when it comes to being moderate and centrist.

The American public seems comfortable with a combination of Liberal-light and Conservative-light and far less tolerant of extremists on either "side of the aisle." The Neoconservative star has dimmed considerably.

Compared to the traditional liberal commitment to "The Great Society", the Republicans should be proud of the extent to which they have influenced American politics.

That said, it is time for the Republicans to be generous and share power. The Republican resurgence had been a reaction to too-Liberal agendas and policies in the 1960's and 1970's. Now we will finally move back to the "middle of the road" where the American people want their politics to be.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Democrats power ahead for control of Congress

Unless some leading Democrats or the Left-wing Loonies do something incredibly stupid over the next couple of weeks, Congress will most likely be under the control of the Democrats in January, both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Not with a wide enough margin to override a presidential veto, but enough to control the legislative agenda, provided that it stays centrist enough to appeal to moderate Republicans.

Alas, this election is far less about the Democrats having a wonderful agenda and great ambitions for U.S. foreign policy, than simply the fact that the Republicans have really botched things up and people simply want change regardless of what that change might be.

In an odd paradox, Iraq really isn't the primary concern for most Americans, but since President Bush and the Republicans are trying to make Iraq into such a big issue (or hide from it), people will vent their displeasure over the "mismanagement" of the war by either voting for the Democrats or simply refraining from voting for the Republicans who are most responsible for the "civil quagmire" in Iraq.

It is still too early to claim victory and rest on their laurels, but all the Democrats really need to do now is simply "more of the same" (be calm, sensible, and watch the Replicans melt down and shoot themselves in both feet) and patiently wait for the voters to do their thing.

It will be quite amusing to see the conservatives fume when Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House of Representatives.

I expect that the Democrats and moderate Republicans will pass legislation calling for a "phased departure" from Iraq by mid 2008, if not sooner. If I were advising them, I would recommend that they vote on a "sense of Congress" procalmation to indicate their intentions to vote on a "plan" for "departure" in the March to May timeframe and then have lots of hearings and public debate on "options" during that period. This will allow them to control both the debate and the ultimate shape of the plan without being accused of offering an unrealistic and unworkable kee-jerk reaction. Also, it will give "moderates" in Iraq time (a last chance) to evolve their own plans and consensus.

I think much of the legislative agenda over the next two years will be Centrist-Liberal in nature. If for no other reason than to come close to getting the two-thirds majority needed to override any presidential veto.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Nuclear-weapons-free zones

It was nice to read in a NY Times article by Warren Hoge entitled "Security Council Backs Sanctions on North Korea" that President Bush is committed to having the Korean Peninsula being nuclear-weapons-free:

Speaking Saturday outside the White House, President Bush said the resolution sent “a clear message to the leader of North Korea regarding his weapons programs. This action by the United Nations, which was swift and tough, says that we are united in our determination to see to it that the Korea Peninsula is nuclear-weapons-free

It would be doubly nice for the President to commit to the Middle East being nuclear-weapons-free, but that it almost certainly not going to happen. Yes, President Bush will push for Iran and any Arab or Muslim nation to be "nuclear-weapons-free", but even if he were successful, the Middle East would not be nuclear-weapons-free since Israel possesses a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons that they almost certainly would be unwilling to give up given the current leadership of that country.

So much for the concept of nuclear-weapons-free zones as a global concept.

Notice the semantic distinction: "nuclear-weapons-free", as opposed to the traditional "nuclear-free"? The new phraseology would suggest a willingness to permit North Korea to possess nuclear power plants and maybe even enrichment and reprocessing facilities. I wonder if the Bush administration is even contemplating a similar "offer" for Iran.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jim Baker: a breath of fresh air: "I believe in talking to your enemies"

With all of the bad news and negativity concerning Iraq, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III is a breath of fresh air, at last. An article in the NY Times entitled "G.O.P.’s Baker Hints Iraq Plan Needs Change" tells us that:

 James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said Sunday that he expected the panel would depart from Mr. Bush’s repeated calls to “stay the course,” and he strongly suggested that the White House enter direct talks with countries it had so far kept at arm’s length, including Iran and Syria.

“I believe in talking to your enemies,” he said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” noting that he made 15 trips to Damascus, the Syrian capital, while serving Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state.

“It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

Boy, that kind of talk is has been considered heresy by the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby. A Democrat talking that way would instantlly ber ridiculed by many in Congress, although that may quickly change as those some people realize how dire their re-election hopes become as the election draws near and the "civil quagmire" in Iraq looms more ominously over their heads.

On the other hand, I would note that Baker is exactly right when he says that "It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined. You don’t give away anything", and that is not how a lot of diplomacy and negotiations have been conducted in the past, by Democrats as well as Republicans. We have been either too obstinate and inflexible or too willing to compromise on so many fronts. After all these years, the U.S. still hasn't found the "sweet spot" for the middle ground of foreign policy.

It is too soon to say that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least we can now catch a glimmer of hope.

I firmly believe that we need to have behind the scenes talks with Iran, Syria, et al. Sure, we need to talk reasonably tough in public, but we need to be constantly trying to convince them that, as Clinton would say, "we can fel your pain".

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Pro-Israel Lobby at work: prominent New York University historian prevented from speaking

An article by Michael Powell in the Washington Post entitled "In N.Y., Sparks Fly Over Israel Criticism - Polish Consulate Says Jewish Groups Called To Oppose Historian" demonstrates the anti-democratic nature of the Pro-Israel Lobby in action. As the post article says,

Two major American Jewish organizations helped block a prominent New York University historian from speaking at the Polish consulate here last week, saying the academic was too critical of Israel and American Jewry.

The historian, Tony Judt, is Jewish and directs New York University's Remarque Institute, which promotes the study of Europe. Judt was scheduled to talk Oct. 4 to a nonprofit organization that rents space from the consulate. Judt's subject was the Israel lobby in the United States, and he planned to argue that this lobby has often stifled honest debate.

An hour before Judt was to arrive, the Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk canceled the talk. He said the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee had called and he quickly concluded Judt was too controversial.

The article quotes Judt:

"This is serious and frightening, and only in America -- not in Israel -- is this a problem," he said. "These are Jewish organizations that believe they should keep people who disagree with them on the Middle East away from anyone who might listen."

Truly appalling.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Standard of proof for foreign policy decisions

I found the following statement in a NY Times article by Philip Shenon entitled "U.S. Cites Deal With U.N. Members to Punish Iran":

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses, but the United States says it is a cover for making nuclear weapons.

It's the old "He says, she says" routine.

The real question is what standard of proof should the U.S., the EU, and the UN use as a basis for foreign policy decisions.

We're in a "civil quagmire" in Iraq almost precisely because we used suspicions and vague, dubious "facts" and "assertions" to convince people that Iraq was a WMD threat.

Did we learn nothing from that experience?

Actually, the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby appear to believe that they have learned something from the experience: It works! Suspicion and vague innuendo and wild, unsubstantiated assertions are successful and useful tools for shaping foreign policy. Their goal was "regime change" at any cost. Yes, we are now experiencing the painful costs, but they did achieve their regime change goal in Iraq. And that's their goal in Iran, not peace as most people would define it, but simply to remove a perceived threatening (to Israel) regime from power. If there are "costs" to regime change, so be it, and we must be willing to shoulder even the highest costs all in the name of so-called "regime change" that nominally promotes "freedom." Or at least that seems to be how their theory of "world order" goes.

Until we have a deep public debate on the standard of proof for foreign policy decisions, the "lesson" from the Iraq WMD "decision" will stand as if it were an immutable natural law.

Alas, I don't see the Democrats, even left-wing anti-war protesters, or European officials, or anybody standing up and saying "Wait! We need a higher standard of proof before we refer Iran to the UN or even consider unilateral sanctions."

Sure, I myself suspect that Iran really does seek to develop nuclear weapons, but the proper role of suspicion is as an investigative tool to help you identify rocks to look under, and so far no rocks have been found to be covering any Iranian nuclear weapons program. In fact, it seems that as hard as people have been looking, they still can't find anything that directly supports a full-scale Iranian nuclear weapons program or full-scale intentions to pursue such a program.

Meanwhile, lobbyists and politicians and officials in Washington, D.C. continue to "connect the dots" to misguidedly "convince" otherwise sane politicians and public officials to treat Iran as guilty without any reasonable level of proof.

Sanity will have to await more good people who are willing to stand up for "solid , direct evidence" as a minimal standard of proof.

Here we have North Korea publicly stating that it will test a nuke, but the focus of U.S. foreign policy is on "punishing" Iran for something that we have no real evidence for.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Control of Congress in sight for Democrats

What with the recent scandals, the "Civil Quagmire" in Iraq, high energy prices, and simple boredom with the status quo, it actually looks like the Democrats are within striking distance of taking control of Congress next month. Public sentiment could still turn on a dime and depends on the "Looney Left" wing of the party (including Howard and Ned and the anti-war movement) keeping their mouths shut so that the moderate centrists can "close the deal" over the next month. This election truly does appear to be the Democrats' to lose. Alas, I don't have great confidence that the Looney Left will keep quiet and refrain from shooting the party in both feet as they usually do.

The bad news is that even if the Democrats capture technical majorities in both the House and Senate, that won't be true control of Congress since anything less than a two-thirds majority won't be veto-proof and not all "Democrats" can be counted to stick with the party line.

Still, even a thin margin win will effectively allow the Democrats to veto "extremist" legislation and executive decisions. Unfortunately, not all executive decisions require a review by Congress.

My hope is that the Democrats get either a narrow win or a narrow loss and I personally don't care which, since either will require the Republicans to "deal" with the Democrats rather than simply ramrodding legislation to the President's desk without hardly even consulting the other side. A narrow win would require the Democrats to "cooperate" with moderate Republicans in order to veto-proof votes, and that would be a very good thing as well.

Go Centrists!

... and Independents too!

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The election is the Democrats to lose

The Republicans are running scared this election season with a deep enough approval deficit that even a moderately good showing by the Democrats could win control of either or both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, the Democrats in recent elections have shown an extreme propensity for shooting themselves in both feet. As long as the "looney lefties" show enough good sense to shut up and take the win, the Democrats can pull this off, but if Howard and Ned and others who are offensive to centrist voters start mouthing off, the Democrats could really blow yet another golden opportunity.

As an example, calls to leave Iraq immediately (or within six months) will cost the Democrats votes, but calls for a "coherent exit strategy" will win them votes.

Calls to "repeal the Bush tax cuts" will cost the Democrats votes, but calls for "fiscal responsibility" will win them votes.

Getting too cocky and talking as if the election were already won will cost them votes since voters hate being taken for granted. Playing the underdog and "trying harder" will win them votes.

It will be quite an interesting election. After losing two presidential elections in a row, you would think that the Democrats would be willing to cast off approaches that don't work and focus on winning again.

Maybe the telling clue will be the extent to which Democratic candidates call on former President Clinton to campaign on their behalf. The guy knows how to win, even when he has serious flaws to compensate for. Put Clinton up on the podium and people will vote as if they were voting for him instead of the local candidate. But this is a double-edged sword. Clinton achieved success by being a centrist. Candidates risk losing to the extent that they try to distance themselves from the centrist agenda. And voters won't be stupid enough to vote for a non-centrist left-winger who tries to pretend they're a centrist.

-- Jack Krupansky

Is Rumsfeld the source of all evil in the Bush administration?

Recent "revelations" such as contained in Bob Woodward's new book State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III, or at least the media's popularized accounts of what the book allegedly says, suggest that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is the source of all evil related to the Bush administrations policies in Iraq. I don't believe that for one moment. Rumsfeld's "strategy" is completely consistent with the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. The chorus of people calling for the "liberation" of Iraq never consisted of Rumsfeld alone. Replace Rumsfeld, and the rest of the chorus is still singing, behind the scenes maybe, at least until the election is over, but singing nonetheless.

One minute the war is personified by Bush, then Cheney, then Rumsfeld, then whoever is political villain du jour.

Yes, Rumsfeld is a key player in the "gang" that pushed us into Iraq, but to suggest that the current mess is primarily his and his alone is far from the truth.

Woodward's book certainly adds some "color" and details and plain simple gossip, but simply doesn't change the overall picture one iota.

I by no means support the policies pursued by the Bush administration, but highlighting Rumsfeld as the primary culprit and suggesting that the "solution" is for Rumsfeld to resign or be fired smacks of political opportunism when what we really need is cold, dispassionate analysis of both the underlying problems in the Middle East and potential solutions.

I myself am not a political "operative", otherwise I might be right up there on the front line taking pot shots at the easiest and biggest target in Washington, Rumsfeld, who isn't even up for election at all and hence doesn't have a campaign war chest to launch a full-bore media counter-attack. Politics stinks. Shame all those who wallow in it and suggest that they are adding value to society.

-- Jack Krupansky

Which has priority, Iraq or Iran?

Maybe the greatest impediment to resolving the mess in Iraq is the fact that the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby have moved on to other matters, most notably Iran and its so-called "nuclear ambitions."

As far as the Pro-Israel Lobby is concerned the "gathering danger" of Iraq was taken care of in the Spring of 2003 when the White House proclaimed "Mission Accomplished." Yes, the primary mission of the proponents for "liberating" Iraq really were accomplished -- Saddam Hussein was removed from power. For many, the agenda of "radical democratization" is merely a facade for taking pre-emptive military action to "take out" threats, regardless of how much chaos ensues.

Take a look at the "issues" in the Middle East for AIPAC and it is primarily about Iran and its so-called "Quest for Nuclear Weapons", with no mention of Iraq. How strange, but how true.

Where sane people might suggest that the mess in Iraq is great enough to demand attention at the UN, instead, the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby are doing their best to focus the Bush administration and the UN on Iran and its so-called "nuclear ambitions." How strange, but how true.

The curious thing is that maybe the lack of attention to Iraq may be best for Iraq in the long run anyway. Rather than depending on the meddling of the U.S. and the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby in Iraq, the Iraqi people are de facto being empowered to take their own destiny in their own hands.

-- Jack Krupansky

More on smart people causing more trouble

When I ponder whether smart people cause more trouble, the question of how you define "smart" comes up. A related question is what constitutes "real science". Some suggest that "math" ability is an indicator for being "smart". I would suggest that a commitment to true scientific process is a better indicator for being "smart." You can come up with all manner of wonderful ideas and prove them in your head, but analysis of real-world data is a more powerful metaphor.

To me, science is supposed to be all about experimentation and analyzing results, and most importantly refraining from drawing conclusions which are not fully supported by the data. Unfortunately, real science has gotten watered down with far too much posturing and rhetoric and pandering to political interests (on both sides of the fence).

Take global warming. Sure, it is intuitively obvious that modifying the composition of the atmosphere will result in changes in weather and climate. That said, real scientists aren't even close to have a validated model of how the atmosphere, weather, and climate work over extended periods of time. Thus, the wild claims of some "scientists" (e.g., that the polar ice caps and Greenland will completely melt in the coming decades) simply aren't supported by "real" science. Extrapolation from sketchy data is not science.

It is one thing to come up with a "brilliant" theory that seems to be supported by fragmentary data, but it takes decades and even numerous generations of real scientists to fully test a theory and to eliminate biases that may have poisoned the science. The power of a true theory is that it accurately forecasts outcomes over an extended period of time.

If a scientist really follows the data and faithfully pursues the experimental process, their religious (or political or cultural) beliefs matter not one wit. The problem is that a lot of so-called scientists have a lot of trouble focusing on that "real", experiment and data-driven science.

Maybe that's why I would modify a faith in math as an indicator for "smart" to a faith in real science.

So, the problem with the guys in Washington, D.C. (the "other" Washington!) is not that they aren't "smart" in a math and intellect sense, but that they don't use enough real science in their decision-making.

A big part of the problem is that politicians and those who are at their mercy have no room for patience. The political process of frequent elections simply doesn't square with scientific process that depends on excruciating patience.

Whether it is Iraq (or Iran) or terrorism or global warming, the rhetoric of "smart" people is a poor substitute for real science.

A "real scientist" would have said to wait and see how Afghanistan holds up over five, ten, or even twenty years and then decide whether the experimental results support a conclusion that radical democratization really works.

BTW, Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the infamous Iraqi National Congress (INC) which was a big part of the lobbying for the "liberation" of Iraq is... a math guy! He got a BS from MIT and a PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago. His dissertation was On the Jacobson Radical of a Group Algebra. Would anybody suggest that he's not a smart guy?

Although the truth may be that if the administration had actually listened to and followed his literal advice, Iraq might be in much better shape.

Maybe that's one limit for even the smartest and best advice: if you start cherry-picking it and combining it with other "advice", the "proof" of the original advice is likely no longer valid.

Chalabi was originally part of one of the coup attempts in Iraq back in the early 1990's that the CIA promoted and then the higher-ups refused to support, back under the first Bush administration. That's covered in the book See No Evil which was credited as the basis for the movie Syriana which starred George Clooney, but that portion of the book did not find its way into the movie.

-- Jack Krupansky