Political Animal

WAR AND SACRIFICE….And speaking of

WAR AND SACRIFICE….And speaking of the Bush administration’s delicate tap dance about the war, Paul Krugman notes today that Bush is apparently afraid that public opinion would collapse if he so much as breathed a word about sacrifice in the cause of war. For evidence of this, look no further than budget director Mitch Daniels on CNN last week:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Daniels, if it doesn’t include the war and it’s still a $300 some-odd billion deficit, how much does a war add to that?

MITCH DANIELS: Judy, first of all, let’s all hope earnestly there won’t be a war. Saddam Hussein can prevent one any day he chooses just by complying with the requests the world has made of him now for 11 years.

If there should be some decision by the president, we could move fairly quickly after he and our military leaders had told us what to expect in terms of the nature and duration of the conflict. We would then go to Congress quickly with a good faith estimate.

WOODRUFF: So you don’t even have a ballpark figure that you’re working with?

DANIELS: Well, we have a very wide range and that would depend, as I say, on decisions not yet made and decisions that we still hope won’t have to be made.

Sacrifice, hell, they’re afraid even to mention that a war might cost some money. Let’s hear it for moral clarity.


ISN’T IT TIME FOR GEORGE BUSH TO SHOW SOME LEADERSHIP?….It’s not clear ? especially at this point ? whether anything would budge European opinion about invading Iraq, but surely a number of their objections could be dealt with fairly easily:

  • It’s all about oil. Why doesn’t George Bush clearly and forthrightly promise to put Iraq’s oil production under some kind of third-party control (UN, EU, whatever)? In fact, simply for its PR value, I’d suggest a promise that no American companies will even be allowed to bid on oil contracts in post-war Iraq.

  • America merely wants a docile client state in place of Saddam’s Iraq. Why is there not a plan in place ? even a general one ? stating our intentions for a post-war Iraqi government? Are we interested in planting the seeds of representative government in Iraq or not?

  • America will lose interest and leave as soon as the war is over. That’s pretty much what’s happened in Afghanistan, so why not declare our commitment to funding a long-term multilateral presence in Iraq?

Unfortunately, Europeans have every reason to be suspicious of Bush’s intentions given his continuing silence on these three points. I figure that the reason he hasn’t spoken about them is either (a) the Europeans are right or (b) he’s afraid that speaking honestly about a post-war program would damage public opinion in the U.S. and hurt him politically.

Assuming (charitably, perhaps) that the answer is (b), it highlights the enormous difference between Bush and Tony Blair. Blair believes in this cause strongly enough that he’s willing to take an enormous political risk to make it happen, literally betting his prime ministership on the outcome. George Bush, on the other hand, isn’t even willing to put the cost of the war into his 2004 budget. Isn’t it about time that he put his money ? and his political credibility ? on the line at least as much as his junior partner is willing to?


CATCHING CROOKS VIA MINDREADING….TalkLeft has a story today about a guy who has a technique for peering into someone’s thoughts to find out if they’ve committed a crime:

A technique called “brain fingerprinting,” which seeks to probe whether a suspect has specific knowledge of a crime, could become a powerful weapon in national security, its inventor believes.

As it turns out, it’s unlikely his invention actually works, but what if it did? Would it be a good idea?

Here’s a thought experiment: suppose this guy actually had a foolproof, nonintrusive way of determining if a suspect in a crime were telling the truth:

  • What restrictions would need to be placed on its use?

  • Would we need courts and juries (as we know them) any longer?

  • How could it be abused?

  • Is there a downside to a 100% reliable way of catching criminals?

The reason these questions are interesting is that it wouldn’t surprise me if such a technique ? genuinely reliable and easy to use ? were developed sometime in the next few decades. If it is, should we use it?