Political Animal

HUMANITARIAN RELIEF….One of the things

HUMANITARIAN RELIEF….One of the things that I’m less than sanguine about in postwar Iraq is the state of humanitarian relief, and it’s something I’m puzzled by. We’ve been planning this war for six months, it’s gone pretty much the way we expected, and yet we seem unprepared for the scale of humanitarian aid that’s required. Why?

It might be nothing more than the usual chaos at the beginning of any operation like this, but I wonder if there’s more to it. Did the Bush team expect that in the end they would get UN approval for this operation and that the UN would be doing the humanitarian followup? Perhaps when it finally became clear that UN approval wasn’t coming, they kicked off plans for the postwar relief efforts, but by then it was too late and Bush didn’t want to delay the war while the relief plans were ramped up.

Just a thought.

THE END OF WAR?….Chris Mooney

THE END OF WAR?….Chris Mooney today:

I must confess I am ecstatic at what has happened. It seems to me that this war, thus far, has proved the critics largely wrong. Sure, there were civilian and military casualties, but we knew there would be, and they have been moderate in number. This is no “holocaust” — it is a war of liberation, as the images of Iraqis toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein make painfully clear.

I suppose that now, more than ever, I remain of the generation who observed Kosovo, Afghanistan, and now Iraq, and who believes that the United States, despite its many flaws, can be a great source of good in the world.

I think this is right. I’ve always felt that the postwar reconstruction was much more important than the war itself, and I’m far from sanguine about how this will go, but the fact is that the war itself has gone about as well as could be expected. And no matter what happens next, Iraq will surely be a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.

I remain disturbed by the tone of the pro-war camp, which seems to feel that America now has the right to invade any country with a nasty dictatorship, but even given that, I think it’s good to keep things in perspective. As Chris says, despite our flaws, American power has been used far more often in a good cause than otherwise.

Now it’s time to move on, and it’s time for the administration to prove that it means what it says: we’re going to rebuild Iraq, we’re going to keep order, we’re going to put in place a better government, not just a friendlier dictatorship, and we’re not going to use Iraq as a launching pad for further wars. I also hope to see some aggressive use of diplomatic pressure to encourage our Mideast allies (as well as enemies) to incrementally open up their societies, and a full-bore effort to try and resolve (or at least improve) the current Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

Time will tell.

THE AGONIST….In case you just

THE AGONIST….In case you just got back from a vacation on Mars, the blogosphere had its own mini-scandal a few days ago. Sean-Paul Kelley, who runs The Agonist, has been providing hyperactive coverage of the war since it started three weeks ago and has gotten quite a bit of attention for this. He’s also become one of the most popular blogs around, receiving as many as 100,000 visits a day.

On Monday, Wired revealed that Sean-Paul had been using lots of verbatim information from Stratfor, a subscription service, without crediting them. In fact, in a couple of cases he deliberately sourced Stratfor information to “a little birdie” and to “a Turkish friend.” Stratfor has settled this amicably, but what do the rest of us think?

Basically, this: Sean-Paul did something wrong, he knew it was wrong, and he should be ashamed of himself.

And what should happen to him? I’d say that the usual punishment for lying (and getting caught) is public humiliation and loss of credibility, and this is exactly what’s happened. Justice, therefore, has been done. Does it reflect badly on the blogosphere in general? Only if you take blogging more seriously than I do. Should bloggers have a code of ethics? It is to laugh. I mean, we all know already that lying is a bad thing, right?

I’d like to add one more observation, too: my original reaction to this was a bit muted because, after all, everyone knows that by their very nature blogs are aggregators. It was inherent in the form that all of Sean-Paul’s information came from other news sources, not from personal reporting, and for that reason I originally had a hard time putting this incident into the category of full blown plagiarism that people like Stephen Ambrose and Doris Keans Goodwin have been accused of. What makes it more serious, however, is that he sourced most of his information (CNN, Iraqi TV, “a reader in comments,” and so forth) but failed to source Stratfor, and apparently only Stratfor. I think some perspective is still called for here, but it’s pretty obvious that there was some deliberate and persistent deception here.

POSTSCRIPT: I used to read The Agonist before the war and enjoyed it, but when it went into hyper-war mode I stopped. I just wasn’t interested in 24/7 war coverage, so I haven’t read the site for three weeks now. However, he’s been on my blogroll for a while, and I think it’s probably appropriate to remove him at this point.

UPDATE: There’s one more lesson from all this: in the internet age you just can’t expect to get away with this stuff. Google makes it too easy to find original sources and there are too many people reading too many things. I’ve caught people doing this kind of thing before (in other circumstances), and it’s just childishly easy. So don’t do it, OK?

BASEBALL UPDATE….Reader Keith Luckenbach alerts

BASEBALL UPDATE….Reader Keith Luckenbach alerts me to this charming piece of baseball news:

The Hall of Fame president, a former official in the Reagan administration, canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of “Bull Durham” because of anti-war criticism by co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

“We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important — and sensitive — time in our nation’s history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict.”

The Hall of Fame doesn’t want to be associated with anyone who doesn’t support the president? When did I miss the part where baseball became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican party?

Robbins’ reaction: “You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame.”

Luckily for me I gave up on baseball back in 1994, so I don’t have to go to all the time and bother of insisting on a boycott or anything. But these guys really need to grow up.

UPDATE: Edited to remove references to Major League Baseball, which, I am informed, has no official relationship to the Hall of Fame.