Political Animal


CAN WE JUST IMPEACH THE ENTIRE HOUSE?….As correspondent Ian D remarks, “It can get stupider”:

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, plans to introduce a bill today proposing that the families of the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen buried in France and Belgium be allowed to dig up their remains and have them shipped home. “The remains of our brave servicemen should be buried in patriotic soil, not in a country that has turned its back on the United States and on the memory of Americans who fought and died there,” Brown-Waite said.

Yesterday Glenn Reynolds suggested that renaming french fries wasn’t such a bad idea. Just a way of blowing off steam without “being destructive or self-defeating like trade sanctions.”

Hmmm. It looks to me like this silliness is rather quickly morphing into being both destructive and self-defeating. Care to comment on this latest escalation, Glenn?


LIFE GOES ON IN THE SENATE….OK, so the Senate just voted 64-33 in favor of banning what “its critics call partial-birth abortion” (as the New York Times puts it). But I thought that Republicans were all claiming that the Democratic filibuster of Miguel Estrada was irresponsible because it was holding up the important business of running the country?

I guess not. Too bad, though, in this case.


WOULD THE UN APPROVE AN ATTACK ON AL-QAEDA CAMPS?….After the U.S. offensive against Afghanistan destroyed the Taliban, a few al-Qaeda members managed to escape American forces by slipping across the border into Iran.

By late 2002 many of them had crossed Iran into Iraq and settled in the Halabja Valley, a Kurdish area under the control of Ansar al-Islam, a band of radical Islamic Kurds. As a story in the Washington Post put it:

“The relationship between Ansar and al Qaeda is very much like the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” said Barham Salih, the prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish administration that abuts the Ansar zone.

Saddam Hussein has little effective control over this area, so the existence of the refugees doesn’t really constitute strong evidence that he has ties to al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, there are al-Qaeda operatives in the Halabja Valley, and Dan Drezner has a question about it:

At a minimum, the Post story would seem to justify an offensive to knock out Ansar al-Islam and retake the Halabja Valley. This leads to an intriguing question. Given the obvious link between achieving this objective and the war on terror, and given the assertions by France and others that credible evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda would justify use of force, would the Security Council be willing to approve U.S. military action in this area?

Dan thinks this would be an interesting test of French and German motivations. Would it?

It’s a hard question to answer in isolation, since at this point I think everyone would simply assume that the U.S. was using such a strike as the thin end of a wedge toward full war on Iraq. So it’s almost impossible to evaluate this on its own merits.

At the same time there’s also a larger problem. Since al-Qaeda is a global organization, approving U.S. military action against Ansar al-Islam could be taken to imply approval of any U.S. action against any suspected al-Qaeda group anywhere in the world. It therefore seems unlikely the UN would approve of this, and in turn the U.S. would surely never ask the UN for approval, since it would limit our freedom of action in the future if the request were turned down.

Or so it seems to me. Back to you, Dan.


NEOCONS AND ANTI-SEMITISM….Pat Buchanan has an article this month in The American Conservative that questions the influence of neocons on administration planning for the Middle East. That’s fine. But he also says this:

We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people’s right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.

Coming from someone with Buchanan’s rather dodgy record of anti-semitism, this doesn’t really help the anti-neocon cause much. However, while granting that this is the wrong way to address the issue, I’m curious about what the right way is.

As near as I can tell, here are the (highly condensed) relevant facts:

  • Lots of neocons are Jewish.

  • Neocons are rabidly pro-Israel.

  • It is reasonable to infer that they are pro-Israel largely because they are Jewish.

  • They have a strong influence in the current administration.

  • Lots of people have a strong distaste for the whole neocon agenda of remaking the Middle East in America’s image.

I don’t really have a place to take all this, I guess, but I’m wondering about the best way to clearly distinguish legitimate criticism of neocons from mere anti-semitism. For example, when Gary Hart referred a few weeks ago to “think tank theorists,” he was clearly talking about neocons. And when he warned that we shouldn’t be guided by “Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests,” it’s pretty obvious that he might well have had Jews in mind. Or not.

This is hardly a new issue, but it’s become more visible lately because of the rise of the neocons and we’re likely to hear more about it. What I’d like to see are some reasonable guidelines for discourse, guidelines that suggest which lines of attack on neoconservatism are reasonable and which ones aren’t, and what kinds of criticism of Israel are legitimate and which ones aren’t. If there were any consensus on this, it would make both criticism and defense of neocon theology a lot easier and a lot less polemical. It would make it a lot easier for me, anyway.

Maybe someone who thinks this is an interesting topic and allows comments on their site will bring this up and see what kind of discussion we get. Matt? Max? Anybody?

Or is this just a hopeless topic?