Saturday, June 17, 2006

Who Goes There?

Everyone has bad habits. One of mine is trolling through conspiracy theory sites online. I love how some people put together the wackiest notions, and sometimes it’s laugh-out-loud funny, although it’s a bit unnerving how much the Democrats seem to be getting serious ideas from these places. Anyway, the basic requirement for any conspiracy theory site seems to be that you start with a JFK Assassination conspiracy theory. I have to admit that I myself have played a bit with the Dealey Plaza scenario, but it’s tricky because if you talk or write about the thing, you quickly find that you are expected to either believe that Oswald did it all by himself, no matter what common sense or the evidence tells you, or else it has to be some deep conspiracy covering decades and several varieties of secret government coups, again never mind what the evidence or common sense says. I can say, after years of looking at the available evidence and thinking things through, that I don’t know. Yes, people are allowed to say they don’t know.

But the thing that I found interesting today, is that it can be really difficult for a website to hold a civil discussion on this sort of thing. One place I found was making an effort to be scholarly about it, asking folks to register before making comments, to cite their sources, and so on. But they also wanted everyone to submit a biography and photograph when they registered, so the site owner could verify their identity to his satisfaction. And that just made me laugh out loud.

First off, how many people do you know, in this age of identity theft, who are keen to give out a lot of personal information, just so they can post on a public site? I know I would not be comfortable giving out that kind of information to a stranger. But also, let’s say just for a minute that you really are onto something, and so the occasional CIA officer or FBI agent wants to post something important? Again, if they want to keep their job they are not about to blab out their identity to someone who would be more than likely to bring them grief – if “Fox Mulder” had really existed, he would have been busted in the first season for ignoring the Bureau’s regulations. But it works the other way as well; if I were working as a domestic intelligence officer – and we do have those – and wanted to infiltrate this site in order to see what they were up to – it would not be a big deal for DHS or any of a dozen agencies to put together a believable cover, complete with photos and references. Frankly, with Photoshop and a few hours with Lexis Nexis, I could create a fake cover myself. The guy running the site was a true neuf to think that demanding a bio and pic would serve as any kind of security. So it serves as the opposite of what he wanted; it would annoy anyone concerned about their personal privacy, while doing nothing to slow down any real spies. So the lesson for today is to trust your gut, watch out for paranoia more than the Boogieman, and don’t believe everything you read.

Must Read About the Duke Rape Case

LaShawn Barber pointed readers to a “must-read” rebuke of Duke President Richard Broadhead by a prominent alumnus.

Randall Drain’s open letter is rational and compelling, two things the prosecutor’s case and the University’s actions cannot claim.

I do differ with Ms. Barber on one point; as Mr. Drain made clear, Race is hardly a relevant element in this case, nor its discussion. Therefore, there is no valid purpose in describing Drain as a “black Duke alum”.

All The Right Ingredients

Hamsters

Dancing

Music

Cartoons

The Prophet Mohammed

Gotta love it!

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Coach Unworthy Of The Game

I love Baseball. When I became an umpire, part of the reason was a strong desire to be part of the game, to help keep it strong where it mattered most. As an umpire, my job was sometimes tough, but always founded on three simple objectives:

1. Keep it safe.
2. Keep it balanced.
3. Keep it sporting.


Sportsmanship has always been at the heart of Baseball, and I have seen more than a few men whose character and integrity had been forged in their time playing the Game.

So it is, that I regard with utter contempt those petty men who cannot respect the Game, who believe they are entitled to strip away honor if it means gaining an advantage in the moment, especially in some vindictive manner. This is especially true in pitching. And so I put keyboard to action, to rebuke the cowardly and thuggish actions of Ozzie Guillen, whose version of Baseball is closer to Gang Warfare, with similar vocabulary and tactics.

A sad example is the incident at Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, reported by Sports Illustrated’s Jacob Luft, where Guillen brought in pitcher Sean Tracey for the express purpose of hitting a batter with a fastball. Even a White Sox fan site admitted the intent was obvious.

Now, I am hardly na├»ve about professional sports. I even got to work a minor league exhibition game once, and it’s certainly different from college or high school, to say nothing of PONY or Little League. The players more than earn their money in situations where they have to do things differently than they are used to doing, but there again I take the pros to task; despite the lame excuses they very much are role models for the kids, who can be counted on to imitate what they see a Major Leaguer do. And so while I understand that control is a problem sometimes, and that a brush-back pitch is part of the battle for control of the plate, a pitcher who would deliberately hit a player is scum, and a manager/coach who would order it should get jail time, not just a fine/suspension. 90+ mph pitches break bones and put people in hospitals, so deliberately hitting someone with a fastball at that level is nothing short of criminal. Ask Don Zimmer about fastballs hitting people, or the families of Ottis Jackson, "Stormy" Davis, or George Tkach, all of whom died from being beaned by a pitch.

Tracey, to his credit, had a hard time complying with Guillen's thuggish demand. I have seen pitchers become unable to find the strike zone after an intentional walk in a pressure situation, so I can only imagine what a pitcher would go through when ordered to deliberately hit a batter, a thing which all of Baseball rightly rejects at every other level. Here in Texas, the UIL has a no-nonsense attitude to deliberate hits; a pitcher will be ejected as soon as the umpire believes he was trying to hit a batter, and a repeat can cost a pitcher eligibility for a season is proven (and in these days of videocams, that's more common than you might think). My understanding is also that the NCAA similarly takes a dim view of any pitcher trying to hit a batter. So it comes as no surprise to me that Sean Tracey was finding it difficult to obey his coach yet maintain his self-respect; Guillen might as well have asked Tracey to molest a child, as to deliberately hit a batter. So it was that Sean Tracey found himself unable to hit Hank Blalock with a pitch, and so he met with the ire of Guillen. Guillen pulled Tracey from the game, and then kicked him down to the Minors. OK, maybe Tracey's control issues would have sent him there anyway, but the way Guillen chose to do this was classless and may have done serious damage to Tracey's development - I mean, if Tracey gets his control at AAA and impresses folks, his reward is - swell - to go back to the White Sox, where Guillen's sub-decent management style will be waiting. I'd call that a conflict in motivation.

The fact that the White Sox are not punishing Guillen at all for this obvious and dishonorable decision, lowers my estimation of the White Sox organization and the city of Chicago by a large measure.

Michelle Malkin As Lois Lane

Some people are just never happy. I remember the anecdote of the man who won the lottery, only to complain because that meant he’d have to pay more in taxes. There’s a lot of people like that, and well, some of them write blogs.

A good case in point is Michelle Malkin, whose memory of recent history is about as bad as John Kerry’s memories of the late 1960s. President George W. Bush gets America into the fight against Terrorism, answering the 9/11 attacks in a deliberate and measured response, but one which goes to the heart of the crisis. But Michelle has forgotten that. He gets a series of tax cuts for ordinary Americans, which pulls America out of a recession, and ironically also increases federal revenue. But Michelle does not remember any of that. Dubya said and did the right things, over and over again, in all the most important fights, from getting competent non-revisionist judges on the Federal bench and Supreme Court to forward-thinking proposals to improve security and maintain the stability of America’s future in education, medicine, tax reform, and border security. Yet Michelle seems oblivious to it all. Why? Well, it seems that Michelle blames Bush for the current Illegals problem, and seems to think that he should have taken care of this issue, single-handedly if necessary. Never mind what the Constitution says about laws coming out of Congress, never mind the practical problems surrounding prior laws which have never been enforced, the attitudes of legislators who are more turf-protectors than Conservatives, or the limitations of resources and circumstances. And since Dubs won’t be everything she wants him to be, Michelle Malkin has joined the band of malcontents trashing the President.

This would not bother me in most cases, save that attacking the leader of your party and nation, and by the way the Commander-In-Chief of the military, is a common tactic of the Left but out of line for the Right. Disagreement is one thing, but the vitriol from Conservatives only fuels the ambition of Democrats and confuses the public. It is also dishonest in the extreme to attach things to the President which he has never said or done, which is increasingly common to the Rabies Wing of the Conservative Movement. This can only lead to losses in the coming election, which means that as much as they deny it, the spiteful Conservatives are actually working to give power to the Left. I’m sure Harry Reid will send you a nice thank-you note.

But what’s the deal? Any objective review of the Dubya Administration shows that he has been true to the nation, the party, and the people, so why would Conservatives go barmy now? Some of it is History of course; I am old enough to remember how Conservatives started treating Reagan around 1986, how they deserted Ford in 1976, how they ran away from Newt Gingrich around 1998; the support for Conservative leaders is fleeting, and it is a foolish man who trusts such fickle advocates. But to the question, it comes, believe it or not, as a casualty brought by success. The leader does a thing or two which accomplishes a victory, sometimes a great one, and from then on these people expect miracles on a daily basis. Just as the Israelites in the desert knew Moses had performed miracles by the strength from God, but demanded more and more from him, so today Conservatives see what Dubya has done, and their appetite only grows stronger and their gratitude dies out. So what, if Dubya was the first man to understand that we had to take the war to the terrorists if we wanted America safe? So what, if Dubya was the first President ever to try to change Social Security from a scam to a functional system? So what, if Dubya was responsible for two critically important Supreme Court nominees? If they didn’t get it all, Team Rabies could be counted upon to attack the man to whom they owed the most.

George W. Bush is like Superman; no matter how good a job he does, it will never be more than they expect. The very success of his work is his kryptonite. Liberals and CINOs alike pretend that because America whipped Al Qaeda, it was somehow never really a threat. Somehow, Justices Roberts and Alito don’t really matter in the course of the nation. And so on. And just as Superman was never quite good enough for Lois Lane, but had to keep proving himself over and over again (or why else was it, exactly, that Lane was always getting into serious trouble which required Super-intervention), so it is for the likes of Michelle Malkin, that the best President in more than a generation can never be given his due.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Clue, Lesson One – Don’t Side With The Enemy, Especially In Public

The Republicans have truly become the governing party of the United States. I was reluctant to claim this, since the majority was so recently minted, in historical terms, and especially since the GOP continues to repeat some habitual behavior they learned while in the electoral wilderness. But the party which calls itself the Democratic Party – being almost nothing like the party of Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, or Franklin Roosevelt, I cannot agree that they are actually that party in fact – has resigned every signal of its former authority and dignity.

I was struck by the actual results from the 2004 Presidential Election – the Democrats had attacked President Bush on every front possible, they had the myth of the failing economy working for them, along with the much-vaunted “party fatigue”, which in plain English means that voters don’t like leaders who ask them to make sacrifices, unless they are charismatic and eloquent. Yet for all of that, Dubs won his re-election by three million votes. Some of that was a determined support for the President in time of war, but also because John Kerry made it abundantly clear that he was cheering for the wrong side.

Rather than consider the lesson, however, Democrats have redoubled their efforts to defame our military and its Commander-In-Chief, to cast doubt on America’s history and its intentions towards the world at large, and to impugn the character of our major businesses and blame us for our success. Just look at the website for the Democratic Party.

It should have been obvious, selecting Stacie Paxton, speaking as the official voice of the Democrats, claimed yesterday that “Americans are tired of Republicans acting as if the rules don't apply to them. The Bush White House's arrogance and partisan tactics have divided our country. Democrats remain committed to open and honest government.” The problem with those statements is that they lie about Republicans as a party, they pretend that Democrats have been and are morally superior in their deeds and statements, and they ignore more than a few Democrats implicated in political and criminal actions.

I thought about citing how many elected Democrats have been indicted or at least arrested for their crimes compared with Republicans, but that’s not the point, and in any case I do not believe in excusing anyone for crimes, simply because the “other guy” was worse. It should be noted however, that when DeLay was indicted by a paranoid hack of a DA in Austin, he resigned his seat, while Democrats like Harry Reid (who has been very closely connected to the Abramoff scandal), Cynthia “Punchy” McKinney, and William “Freezer” Jefferson refuse to accept any sort of consequences for their own adventures in arrogance. Spare me the soap, donkeys.

Murtha, on no evidence, accuses Marines of mass murder. Dean and Kerry want us to cut and run from the war. Pelosi accuses the Republican Party of a “Culture of Corruption”, again with nothing but noise behind the charge and in ignorance of history; after all, it was Gore who went trick-or-treating at Buddhist temples for under-the-table campaign money from Beijing, not a Republican.

Despite the Democrats’ fondest hopes, this is not 1974, and with the Blogosphere, the snow job won’t work this time. The Republicans may not be doing a very good job as the Governing Party, but the Democrats have made it clear they will not accept the role anymore. Once has to be an adult to take on the job, after all.

Stupidity And Stocks

The Times of London, formerly a newspaper of notable credibility, seems to be chasing the New York and LA Times down into the sewers of rumor-mongering and defeatism. In this case I am noting the article written by one Anatole Kaletsky, who warns readers that the Stock Market is in for a bad go of it, and we might as well give up now. What a putz.

Kaletsy is at least honest about his message; the title reads “Stop Celebrating. The markets are not rallying. This is a dead cat bounce”. Of course, when you go through the article, you might note that the man presents no evidence to support his contention, and he is particularly poor in presenting the context of stock market development. Just as an overview of his dreck, so you won’t feel you have to wade through it, here are some of the salient comments Kaletsy makes:

“the retreat in shares and other assets which was then just beginning, has turned into a full-scale rout.”

“Share prices have been falling almost daily in every major market”

“Most industrial commodities, for example, are still worth from 50 to 150 per cent more than they were a year ago, even though demand for them is now clearly falling and is certain to weaken further in the coming months.”

“Another reason for believing that the bear market has longer to run is that so little financial pain has been evident so far.”


At the end of his article, the fact that he has gone way beyond the pier in his walk to despondency apparently even reaching his own mind, Kaletsky backs off from his tone, noting that Bernanke has good control of the Fed, that the Stock Market in general is sound and headed in the right direction, and that inflation is hardly the threat the media makes it out to be. But this is the CYA stuff that hypocrites toss into their articles so that when their promises of doom fail to materialize, they can try to weasel out. Kaletsky is playing ‘prophet of doom’, but without support for his claims.

The Stock Market does carry risk, of course. Even the most bullish investor is aware that every prospectus warns that you are putting your money at risk in any investment. That said, US Stocks have risen by an average of 11% a year between 1926 and 1999, and by 18% a year between 1990 and 1999.

That’s better than you can get from bonds or bank deposits, and this should be understood when making any decision. There are people who just throw money into a stock or mutual fund without any serious look at the performance of the companies or the risk they are accepting; this is not much different from hoping you will get lucky in a casino. If you take the time and make the effort to do your homework, you can learn a lot about a company’s stability, market position, and potential for growth, and from there you can make an informed choice with good reason for optimism.

American stocks are a much better buy than foreign stocks, generally, because of Sarbanes-Oxley. This is not to say that all American companies or stocks are superior, but Sox creates a level of accountability for upper management which also improves the transparency of operations and reporting. Companies do not like the added expense, but in the long term the provisions make the financial statements more credible and the company more stable, which are critical components to any successful company and investment.

While foreign stocks do not have the same stability and credibility of American stocks (the PRC, for instance, does not allow independent audits of companies associated with the Central Committee), the basic premise still holds; if you find out about a company before investing, you can decide what the most likely performance you may expect to see before committing to an investment. Be careful, but there’s no reason to be a Kaletsky.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

United States Army

Two hundred thirty-one years ago today, when Britain owned our country and only a few men had the nerve to cry “enough!”, a small but determined band was organized. Before there was even an America, there was the American Army. These brave men took on the British and all the odds against them, and made the world better through their courage and sacrifice.

That legacy lives on in today’s generation. Say it loud, say it proud: “Happy Birthday, ARMY!”

Guest Gig?

Well, well, well. Polipundit is asking for guest bloggers. Says the site owner:

“If you’ve been commenting a lot at this or other blogs, why not try guest-blogging? I can’t provide any monetary compensation for now. But you’ll be able to say that you write at a popular blog that gets tens of thousands of readers a day."


I wonder what would happen if I applied?

Gitmo

A couple days ago, a reader accused the United States of rounding up the detainees now being held in Guantanamo Bay by use of “sweeps” and through paid informants. This claim is, to put it bluntly, utter bunk, but typical of claims from the Left and demonstrates the mindset which opposes our troops, the war, and the security of our nation. That said, it is worthwhile to examine just how someone ends up at Gitmo.

The DoD has actually been quite open about how things work at Gitmo. I took the time to look at a few papers, including the process chart, and step-by-step walk-through of a detainee’s initial review, an explanation of the legal basis for detaining AL Qaeda and Taliban combatants, and a link to a website where updated information can be found and studied.

The United States has held somewhere between four and seven hundred detainees at Guantanamo at various times. The exact number is unspecific, not because the U.S. does not know how many detainees it holds (another Leftist lie being tossed around), but because like many detention facilities, detainees are arriving and leaving on a regular basis. Guantanamo, despite the bad press it receives, is actually an effective example of how the system should work in this type of conflict.

First, concerning the status of the detainees. Many on the Left wail over the detainee’s undefined status, legally. Again, this is a dishonest attempt to mischaracterize the people involved. The detainees cannot be considered Prisoners of War, because they were apprehended when plotting or committing acts of terrorism, under no flag or national corps. Thus, they are not POWs as defined by the Geneva Convention. Further, the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo is in no way abusive nor a violation of the standards dictated by the Geneva accords, especially in terms of religious freedoms and expectations of conduct. Further, the use of military courts is expressly approved in Article 87 of those very accords. So even by the Leftist standards, Guantanamo is a valid operational facility.

Referring again to the Geneva Accords, this time with regard to the definition of 'Civilians', these detainees fail the definition. Specifically, the detainees were all involved in deliberate and direct violation of Article 3, especially since the nature of Terrorism is directly counter to the expectation of decent conduct. Guantanamo again fills the requirements for an internment facility, as defined in Chapter II, Article 83. So, however one regards the detainees apprehended by Coalition forces, their treatment is just and fair under the terms defined by the very United Nations which now wants to dismantle Guantanamo for purely political reasons. That is to say, the UN is being hypocritical and dishonest, but as this is a common condition for the modern UN, I will leave that point for now.

Now, as to practice of detainment. The problem of what to do with captured terrorists and combatants is an important element in the War on Terror, and one the Liberal critics have completely failed to consider with any real practical focus. There are essentially five choices available, all of which are employed according to the judgment of the men at the location. Someone apprehended by U.S. forces may be set free after examination, they may be held for a time in a local facility, they may be held in an available prison or camp in-country, they may be deported to another country under certain circumstances, or they may be removed from the theater of conflict and held pending discovery of their identity and review of their actions. Of these, the decision to send detainees to Guantanamo has been a rare choice, as the low number of detainees relative to the number of insurgents and terrorists encountered demonstrates. It is a difficult decision for the on-scene commander to make, given that terrorists cannot be allowed to simply walk away and regroup to murder Americans, nor should they be kept in some location where their friends and conspirators can reach them to plan further violence. Again, the Left refuses to accept that the detainees at Guantanamo have been sent there specifically because they have been determined to represent a present threat to Americans and the mission; this is hardly done casually or on a wholesale basis, as they so falsely pretend. The detainees at Guantanamo all have involvement with groups or actions which demonstrate reasonable concern. If we were arguing a legal action, I should say that in all cases, the detainees are held on the military equivalent of very strong “probable cause”.

At this saying, I immediately recognize that the Left would rise in indignation, demanding that the detainees have been denied their rights, though in actual fact no such rights have been established. The ‘legal rights’ argument quickly falls apart when inspected. For one thing, no government maintains the same procedural code for hostile participants in wartime as they do for accused criminals in peacetime, especially given the character of the offenses. The U.S. Army has little interest in enforcing shoplifting or burglary ordinances, but has a keen interest in removing threats to the public and themselves from operation. Further, the Army is not a police force, nor should it be expected to perform police duties. Also, in wartime the military is not going to be available to testify against persons they observe in hostile acts; the very notion is unreasonable, and detainment of persons observed in hostile acts, even for years, is a reasonable action by a government and relatively mild in scope, given the historical model and functional alternatives.

It should also be mentioned, that the Guantanamo facility and the processes which are performed there are not only documented (unclassified actions are also made available for press and public review), but there are annual reviews by the Department of Defense General to verify conditions, treatment of detainees, and recommended actions or improvements. For example, the February 2006 review announced the recommended release of 14 detainees, 120 transfers to other facilities, and 329 continued detentions of persons presently held at Guantanamo.

This is an effective review process, given the available information and represented threat; those unhappy with continued detention of these detainees may do well to observe that the detainees apprehended by soldiers who are sent on to Guantanamo, are unwilling to cooperate with authorities or provide information on their identities and explain their actions. If you are an Army officer and your men capture a fellow with bomb-making material and he refuses to talk to you, even to identify himself, sending him away from the war zone to a detention camp is a perfectly sound decision. I repeat again, that of all the tens of thousands of individuals interrogated by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, only a few hundred get sent to Guantanamo, less than two thousand since operations began in 2001. That hardly sounds like a knee-jerk reaction or merciless standard.

The comfortable conditions at Guantanamo have been detailed many times, yet many people simply ignore the fact that detainees receive what can only be considered first-class treatment in terms of hygiene, food, and personal considerations. I defy anyone, frankly, to find any evidence of abuse or mistreatment at Guantanamo. Yes there have been allegations, yet not one of them has panned out. Yes, there are the recent suicides, which is an unfortunate development – one wonders why the Left never considers that the privacy demanded by detainees and access to pillows, sheets, and linens made these suicides possible, nor the fact that less than a month ago, staged suicide attempts were used to lure guards into an ambush.

Guantanamo is not a “secret jail”, nor a “gulag”, nor has any attempt been made to mistreat the detainees held there. The U.S. violates no treaty or human right to conduct the base as it has – indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find another facility run as well or as humanely. And make no mistake, many of the countries which publicly attack Guantanamo, have their own facilities which would hardly fare well in comparison to the American standard.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Poll Autopsy – How CBS Manufactures Its Own Evidence

CBS News released a poll this morning, claiming a 2-point drop for President Bush’s Approval numbers even after the death of the vicious terrorist Musab Zarqawi. It seems the "Fake But Accurate" meme is still hard at work at the Tiffany Network. These numbers are so out of line when compared to the other available polls, that I was immediately suspicious. Also, CBS only polled “adults”, not even asking for registered voters. Further, the respondent pool only numbers 659 adults, significantly below the threshold for satisfactory credibility in a national poll. The poll was taken June 10th and 11th, not even the full weekend. CBS does not verify that its “nationwide” poll made any effort to reach a representative cross-section by geography or age or race; no reference is made to the demographic characteristics of the respondent pool., which casts strong doubt on the methodology used in this poll. The collective impact is the creation of a hit piece, especially when the internal data from this poll, or rather its lack, is compared to previous polls in which CBS took part. The one demographic cited by CBS is that they counted 196 self-identified Republicans in the poll, against 244 self-identified Democrats and 219 self-identified Independents. CBS re-weighted the poll to count only 192 Republicans, against 236 Democrats and 231 Independents, or 29.1% Republican, 35.8% Democrat, and 35.1% Independent. This is a deliberate skewing of party representation, invalid in the face of the 2000 Census, exit polls from either the 2002 or 2004 Federal elections, and common sense in the fact that Republicans are the majority party in both houses of Congress.

Monday, June 12, 2006

When You Can't Say Something Nice ... You Might Be A Pollster

Over at Real Clear Politics, I checked out their aggregation of President Bush's Job Approval polls. You know, how so many people are smirking that it sure doesn't look like President George W. Bush will win a third consecutive term?

Anyway, I noticed something. Twelve different polls released Job Approval numbers sometime in May, which ended going on half a month ago. Of those twelve, only three have done a poll in June. Of those three, one shows the same numbers as in May, but the other two are higher in June than in May, one significantly so.

That means nine major polls were happy to trumpet the news when they could post low numbers, but have not mentioned them since. Gee, I wonder why that is so?

The Plans of Saddam

Somewhere right now, the former bloodthirsty tyrant of Iraq is sitting in a cell, with his own thoughts for company. Doubtless, he never planned to have things work out as they have, but the man is not a complete dolt, and I think a lot of people have forgotten that Saddam had some very specific plans in the works, and defied President Bush because he believed he could ride out the consequences. The question to be addressed here is, what did Saddam think would happen, and why was he so wrong?

There is a tendency to be negative these days. We so often digest one day’s news, good or bad, and brace ourselves for the next crisis. We do not, however, tend to look back at even the recent past to consider how we got where we are. The only ones who seem to do that on a regular basis are the conspiracists, who look for things to plug into support for their claims. That’s hardly the same thing as a sound analysis. Obviously, we all face limits to the available information, but a reasonable person can look at the available background, and see what fits, and to that end I write this admittedly unproven guess. I do this, because understanding how Saddam was so wrong and how things went as they did, can help explain how we may resolve the current situation with Iran. In many ways, Ahmadinejad shows some of the same characeristics in his thinking and assumptions, as did Saddam.

Saddam Hussein rose from the relatively small town of Tikrit to serve the new Baath Party as an enforcer by trade and torturer by avocation. Saddam was canny and street-smart indeed, not only to rise through the ranks as he did, but to make an attempt on the life of the Iraqi leader, yet still be invited back to return to be part of the power structure years later. Saddam Hussein must be understood to be a man of great cunning and intelligence. The fact that he held essentially absolute power from 1978 through 2003 means that for a quarter-century every bet of Saddam’s played out, if not as a winning move, at least to little personal cost for him. Even after the first Gulf War, Saddam still lived in luxury, unchallenged in his country. Small wonder he never expected what was to come; he judged Dubya by the standard of Jimmy Carter through Bill Clinton, and believed that even Reagan would not have dared to move against Baghdad. This happened because Saddam held an ethno-centric view of the world- a common human error, but one which failed to understand that America’s goals, enemies, and options had all changed. The Americans not only held a renewed determination to protect American interests, but also understood that our military had grown beyond the old model; the new force is all-volunteer, with better weapons, training, and doctrine than any of our opposition can boast or hope to imitate. After all, a good deal of the AirLand doctrine we used back in Desert Storm depended on the initiative of unit commanders and on-scene decisions. And we have moved further along that training since then, as well. This, in a nutshell, is what undid Saddam’s plans; he never understood the nature of the conflict.

In the first Gulf War, Saddam was stunned by the force and speed of U.S.-led forces, but he was persuaded by his generals to believe that the Coalition could not have easily handled an invasion of Iraq the same way they did the recovery of Kuwait; he never understood that the U.S. held off only because the 1991 Coalition was operating under the mandate of the United Nations, who (never wishing to actually resolve a conflict) forbade the actual removal of Saddam at that time. Saddam was led to believe that his military was more formidable than was actually the case. Even so, Saddam understood that American advantages were overwhelming in some elements. For instance, the U.S. did not merely hold air superiority, or even air supremacy, but absolute control of the skies over Iraq - nothing flew unless they allowed it to fly.

The Iraqis tested the ‘No Fly Zone’ periodically, firing on Coalition aircraft in specific and deliberate violation of the cease-fire terms, the fact that response under the Clinton Administration was so weak and sporadic suggested to Saddam that all he had to do was wait, and the West would lose interest in him. To the end of resuming where he had left off, Saddam had had a great deal hidden away. Documented accounts note, for example, that supplies and weapons, even tanks and jet fighters, were buried in the Iraqi sand. Proof has been slow in coming, but I have little doubt that more illicit material, the stockpiles of WMD known to exist during the Clinton years for example, might also have been placed in similar keeping.

Middle Eastern nations have not established a long history of self-government, nor are the present regimes much inclined to take lessons from those governments they overthrew, as they tend to believe there are no lessons of worth there. Further, it runs against the traditional Middle Eastern psyche of leadership, to appear willing to reconsider one’s plans and actions – rather, rulers in the Middle East tend to believe that one must act decisively, and that admitting error is a fatal sign of weakness. This leads to a distinct rigidity in decisions, and a clear inability to change course, even when approaching disaster. When the Spring of 2003 showed that Saddam had badly misjudged the determination of the Bush Administration, it was too late for Saddam to change his plans, he could only make quick preparations for the inevitable.

Saddam has to have known that the U.S.-led coalition would eviscerate Iraq’s air and sea defenses in a matter of hours. His only hope, therefore, was a Mogadishu-style defense, hoping pinpricks would be enough to make the Americans lose interest in a long garrison of Iraq. Saddam hoped for Baathists to hold a degree of control in certain key cities, so that central control could be re-asserted once the Americans left. This proved to be great folly. Instead of massive and increasing losses, the American military proved able to adapt, improving weapons to meet the local needs and their tactics to adjust to the unexpected. Saddam judged the Americans by the Soviets in Afghanistan and by the surface appearance of our State Department, never comprehending the sterner stuff at the core. As a result, Saddam considered only three possible courses of action; In the best case scenario, the Coalition would fail to depose Saddam, in which case he fully intended to play that opportunity into leadership of the Gulf; the countries of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have long wrestled over the question of who could claim the crown of Middle East hegemony; for Saddam the possibility that he could appear to be the man who had successfully defied America was worth the gamble. In the middle case, Saddam still believed he could either hold his seat at some cost, or else flee to a comfortable exile with his family. Preparations were made to that end, but hidden to prevent the appearance of doubt. And even in the worst case scenario, Saddam undoubtedly believed he only needed to ride out the occupation; stay in hiding until the Americans left, at which time he could plan and act to regain power or security depending on the situation. All three scenarios betray the limited perspective Saddam held; he simply was unable to comprehend the determination of the American forces, nor the scope of their ability. As a result, by the end of the year his sons were dead and the former dictator had been himself captured, hiding in a dirty hole.

This review is not meant to say that I advocate invasion in every case, nor even full-scale military action. I do, however, suggest that our diplomats recall how swiftly negotiations with Libya progressed after the fall of Baghdad, and how accommodating even the emissaries from Teheran became in those days, when the United States was clearly victorious, even if the New York Times would never admit it. Following a series of successful elections, captures, and kills where necessary, it would be wise to remind our potential opponents of the stakes they face, and remind them as well that recent gambles against us have not paid off at all for the fools who thought to play them. George W. Bush is a President of a mold unlike anything these men have seen before, and the quality of our discussions may be improved by making that fact clear to the men on the other side of the table.