Political Animal


A LOOK AT THE BIG BANG….This is cool: the first comprehensive map of the early universe from MAP, the Microwave Anisotropy Probe. It pins down the age of the universe as 13.7 billion years old and confirms that ordinary matter makes up only 4% of the mass of universe.

What’s even cooler, I think, is that it solves a long dispute about the shape of the universe: is it open, closed, or flat? In cosmological terms, is the value of Omega equal to 1 or to something other than 1?

We’ve known for a long time that the value of Omega is pretty close to 1, and for that reason I’ve always suspected that the universe must be flat. It seemed an unlikely coincidence that out of all the possible values of Omega, it should be so close to 1 unless it really was 1 ? for fundamental reasons of some kind.

And so it is. MAP confirms that the universe is flat and is full of some kind of mysterious “dark energy” that acts as a sort of anti-gravity, pushing the universe apart. The universe is expanding, and it’s expanding at an ever increasing rate.

In other words, much like President Bush’s deficit….

POST-WAR IRAQ….Yesterday I complained about

POST-WAR IRAQ….Yesterday I complained about the Bush administration’s inability (or unwillingness) to articulate their goals for a post-Saddam Iraq. Since suspicion of our motives is a big reason for European resistance, this silence seemed to be yet another example of the contempt for allies and world opinion that’s characterized Bush’s administration since its first day.

Well, it turns out that the administration has finally laid out what they want to do in Iraq, and by coincidence they did it just a few hours before I wrote my post. And the picture that was laid out by Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, was mighty pretty. As Tim Dunlop says:

He doesn’t actually mention that they’ll cure cancer, but everything else should be taken care of. No, I’m not being cynical–I truly hope this wish list comes to pass, just as he describes it–but well, you tell me.

Feith testified that “war for oil” is a “false and malign” slogan and we will administer Iraq’s oil wealth “transparently and honestly.” We will not “leave a mess behind for the Iraqi people to clean up without a helping hand,” but at the same time we have a “commitment to leave as soon as possible, for Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people.”

There’s more. The United States “aspires to liberate, not occupy or control them or their economic resources.” We will “safeguard the territorial unity of Iraq.” And we love multilateralism: “U.S. post-war responsibilities will not be easy to fulfill and the United States by no means wishes to tackle them alone. We shall encourage contributions and participation from coalition partners, non-governmental organizations, the UN and other international organizations and others.”

I join Tim in hoping that this indeed all comes to pass. But I have a few questions:

  • This statement was very general and could have been made at any time. Why wasn’t it made six months ago?

  • Why is the administration seemingly afraid to put some meat on the bones of this plan? To this date, not even an estimated budget for either the war or the post-war reconstruction have been given to Congress.

  • Bush is good at giving vigorous speeches about why we have to go to war. Why hasn’t he given a vigorous speech about this post-war plan?

The difference between congressional testimony from an undersecretary of defense and a major speech by the president of the United States is incalculable. The New York Times and Washington Post covered Feith’s testimony ? barely ? and the Los Angeles Times ignored it, but neither they nor the European press would ignore a major speech by Bush himself along these lines.

Even at this late date a speech from Bush himself could have a significant impact on world opinion. So why won’t he do it? Even if the Bushies are as contemptuous of world opinion as they seem to be, you’d think they would want allied support as a purely practical matter. So why not take the high road and do your best to earn the support and sympathy of the world?

It’s all very peculiar.

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.