A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Friday, January 03, 2003
DUDE, WHERE'S MY POT LAW? Yay, another snowflake in the pot-decriminalization snowball: an Ontario Court judge cleared a healthy teenager of pot possession charges yesterday, ruling that Canada's marijuana-possession law is no longer valid in Ontario. The judge said that because the Federal Parliament had failed to comply with a 2000 ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeals that required the government to pass a law that would allow chronically ill people to possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although the decision is not binding on other courts, it is expected that this defense will be used in other Ontario pot-possession cases.

I'm guessing that Canada will have civilized pot laws within the next 3 years, which is a very good thing.
PILES AND PILES of that white, snowy stuff. The storm is really hitting hard. If you're travelling around the northeast like Lily is, please be sure to drive carefully.
This incisive piece just looks like it was written by a nineteen-year old. Wait a was written by a nineteen-year old.

The writing just needs a little spice, that's all. Maybe he could say something like, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Ummm, wait a minute. That line is taken already.

Sorry Eric, but my taking of the Spark Test showed uneqivocally that I am a guy. Excuse me while I remember to put the toilet seat down...
DOUBLE EDGES: Iraqi dissident and humanist Kanan Makiya throws down an interesting set of challenges to American liberals, especially those who oppose war with Iraq, in this Salon Premium (sorry) interview with Michelle Goldberg:
GOLDBERG: You've been frustrated by the liberal assumption that the Defense Department is full of callous cowboys while people like Secretary of State Colin Powell represent rationality. Can you explain why?

MAKIYA: It's really based on practical experience over the last six months, seeing how the position on Iraq has evolved. In general the Department of State and the CIA are particularly slow in supporting any genuine democratic initiative. They are the ones who have spearheaded the very dominant role played by Islamists from Tehran at the conference that just finished in London. They're behind the support the ex-Baathists have received.

There are deep philosophical differences undermining this. They [the State Department and CIA] have a very low level of faith in democracy as a practicable working idea in a country like Iraq. They have a deep faith in the importance of maintaining the status quo in the Middle East. They tend generally to be the ones still trying to prop up our Saudi Arabian relationship and deny the deep complicity of Saudi Arabia in the emergence of al-Qaida.

Supporting tyrannical authoritarian Arab regimes has been U.S. policy for a very long time. It's failed most dramatically. The other policy wing in the American administration [represented by the Defense Department hawks] looks at American policy over the last 30 years and sees failure. Their policy begins with an impulse to approach the problem at its core. At the moment it sees those roots as best being approached through the issue of Iraq.


GOLDBERG: What would you say to liberals who oppose the war?

MAKIYA: Think this question through from the point of view of what people in Iraq have been through, not from the point of view of your agendas at home.

You do not want to be where you're putting yourself today. In your deepest heart of hearts, you don't want to be there. If you are there, it's because you're ignorant of what's going on inside Iraq. But the very people who stand to suffer the most are asking you to do this, and you of all people should be behind it.
Contrary to appearances, I actually think the second point is a much less trenchant criticism of the war-skeptical left than the first point.

Although I would be willing to bet that Makiya is a very brave man, he perhaps tips his hand with his rhetoric in this last bit. His references to the war-skeptical left's "agendas at home" is clearly off-target: any opinion poll will show you that opposing war with Iraq (or asskicking by American forces in any region of the world) is not a political winner in the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11. Also, Makiya's assertion that "the very people who stand to suffer the most are asking you to do this" isn't particularly convincing, when one considers the uninspiring state of the opposition in Iraq. As his release of prisoners in the Fall demonstrated, Hussein is weakening, but there hasn't been any significant evidence of mobilized opposition in Iraq calling for American-led liberation from Hussein. All available evidence indicates that the opposition with Iraq is still weak and--even worse from a normative point of view--extremely divided over who or what they feel should replace Saddam and whether they would support a U.S.-led invasion. And I won't even get into the reasons that a very well-informed liberal might have for opposing war at this point, by America, by this administration (hint: look how well this administration is handling Afghanistan--I give it even odds that that place will collapse back into anarchic and tragic warlordism, unless the U.S. or some other international actor doesn't step things up very soon).

Makiya's second point cuts more deeply. Over past year, war-skeptical leftists have seemed very willing to jump in the sack with "paleocons" and realists like Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, the gang running the CIA, and even bad old Henry Kissinger so long as these ex-cold warriors seem ready something dim about going to war with Iraq. Colin Powell often seems bathed in a light when leftish people talk about him. But these liberals should stop and think about the reason that those guys don't want to invade Iraq: they loathe the idea of humanitarian intervention, and they think the material benefits of invading Iraq may be iffy--emphasis on the second part. This reptilian perspective of realpolitik and "reason of state" is not one that leftists should feel comfortable supporting. Doing so comes with political consequences, and if Makiya's description of the State Department's position is accurate, those consequences are ones that liberals should be working to oppose.
Thursday, January 02, 2003
SO SAY IT LOUD: I think like a chick, and I'm proud. Uh, more or less...

So, yeah, The Spark's "Gender Test" was, uh, not so accurate in my case.

(via The Kitchen Cabinet).
Tuesday, December 31, 2002
How "idiotarian" and "fisked" managed to not make the cut, I'll never know.

[from the G&M]
That's some pretty funny-lookin' democracy they got goin' on over in Israel...

[via American Samizdat]
David Adesnik also considers the WaPo article that I referenced before. With regards to the "blame game", I think he comes to the same conclusion as myself, but puts it more bluntly:

"I think the proper response is to admit what the US did wrong and shift the discussion to the merits of its current policy. As Ken Pollack tells the WaPo, what we did in the 1980s "was a horrible mistake then, but we have got it right now." "

It's true that Rumsfeld's embarrassing parleys with Saddam make useful political points for the Administration's enemies (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that -- it's just how the game is played). However, I don't think that it should influence current strategy one iota -- except to act as a salutary lesson.

Adesnik goes on to state that:

"...the Bush administration has been doing all that it can to delay the release of documents whose publication would have no adverse effect on national security, but might prove to be quite embarrassing to both members of the current administration as well as the President's father."

And my message to the Bush administration shall be: suck it up. It's no secret that Rummy and Reagan (and even Bush-I) were up to their nose in it with Saddam - trying to cover this stuff up only makes you look sillier.

David makes one other point at the end of his post, namely that the foreign policy strategies of Clinton and GHWBush were of a higher moral standard than that of any of their recent predecessors. He then says:

"That is no small accomplishment considering that Bush and Clinton were the first presidents of the first lone superpower since Roman times. Lord Acton observed that "Power corrupts...and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That may have been true once. But the United States took advantage of its unprecedented power to raise its moral standards and those of other nations as well. That is what makes America exceptional."

Now, the obvious comment is that Ronald Reagan set the moral foreign policy bar at such a low height that it would have been impossible not to look better by comparison. At the same time, while I just don't know enough about the totality of either Carter's or Eisenhower's foreign policy strategies to make a judgment about where they stack up, David does have a point -- compared to Reagan, Nixon, LBJ and even Kennedy, Clinton and GHWB come up smelling like roses.

However, I would argue that it is America's role as the sole superpower that has allowed it to pursue this relatively benign course. From the late years of the first Bush presidency through 9/11, America enjoyed an almost unprecedented run of prosperity. Its dominance on the world stage was never questioned, and its security (other than the embassy attacks and the USS Cole attack) was never seriously threatened. This allowed it to use its military might in the pursuit of a moral foreign strategy -- in Somalia, in Haiti, in Kosovo. Further, in a time of prosperity and security, America's voters would never have stood for the unjustified use of U.S. troops abroad. And one of the best ways to justify military operations to the public is to present them as moral operations.

By contrast, Cold War presidents were operating in a world that was far from secure. The potential threat posed by the Soviets -- the threat of mutually assured destruction -- was far, far, greater that the threat posed by al Qaeda today. Therefore, military involvement in the Middle East, Angola, Zaire, Central America, Indochina and elsewhere could always be "justified" using the code words of diplomatic immorality: "domino theory", containment, realpolitik and the like. The collapse of the Soviet Union allowed for the unfettering of a moral American foreign policy, and should not come as a surprise.

[though the Rwandans, Bosnians and (until 1998) East Timoreans might be forgiven if they are a little skeptical of America's sudden conversion]

UPDATE: links fixed.
This guy is awesome -- he's going on the blogroll for sure.

At first I wasn't sure what to make of it (much like this site)...but the gig was up, right at about the third reference to "our elected wartime President". And he might just be the first person to ever Google-bomb Jonah Goldberg.
Monday, December 30, 2002
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone -- but the WaPo's analysis of recently declassified documents shows that Saddam Hussein owes quite a bit to the Reagan/Rumsfeld/GHWBush/GWBush Axis of Kicking Ass.

In 1982, the Reagan administration became highly concerned at the gains made by Iranian forces, and received the news that

"the Iranians might achieve a breakthrough on the Basra front, destabilizing Kuwait, the Gulf states, and even Saudi Arabia, thereby threatening U.S. oil supplies"

So Reagan dispatched private citizen Rumsfeld to Baghdad, with the message that Iraq would receive whatever support it needed in beating back the Iranians; this despite the "almost daily" use of chemical weapons by Saddam's forces, and despite the misgivings of the CIA. Shippings of biologicals such as anthrax and bubonic plague continued throughout the Reagan and GHWB administrations; as noted here, these sales continued even after the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

To a point, I find the standard "blowback" accusation a little unfair. In a democracy, leaders and administrations will often have to take positions that reverse or contradict the actions of their predecessors. So it follows that GWB cannot be held responsible for, and cannot have his Iraq policy governed by, the actions taken by the U.S. in the '80's and early '90s -- even if he is a descendant (both ideologically and literally) of those administrations.

At the same time, there are lessons that should be learned. The obvious one is that the "enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend"/realpolitik style of foreign policy outlined above will quite frequently turn around and bite you in the ass. We saw it with bin Laden, and we've been seeing it from Saddam for over ten years.

[An aside: in one of my favourite post-Connery Bond movies, The Living Daylights, guess which militant group is presented as being one of the "good guys"? Yep, the mujahideen.]

The second lesson can be taken from this paragraph:

"Everybody was wrong in their assessment of Saddam," said Joe Wilson, Glaspie's former deputy at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and the last U.S. official to meet with Hussein. "Everybody in the Arab world told us that the best way to deal with Saddam was to develop a set of economic and commercial relationships that would have the effect of moderating his behavior. History will demonstrate that this was a miscalculation."

Yes, and yet the logic of "fostering change from within" is used by Western governments to justify commercial contacts with any number of abhorrent regimes -- the Beijing dinosaurs being the foremost example.

[Hey, maybe we'll finally be censored in China!]
A bicycle built for three?

Jonah Goldberg is caught trying to expand the working definition of "dichotomy"...
Sunday, December 29, 2002
On a less political note, Paul Kariya's father passed away yesterday...and despite that, the trooper played in Anaheim's loss to the Canucks tonight.

It's been easy to forget about Kariya the last few years, given the crappy teams he's been surrounded with...but he was part of our gold-medal winning team in Salt Lake City, and it's a damn good thing he was there on a certain Sunday in February to stuff it to Team USA.

The four sports moments in my life that I will want to tell my kids about:

4) Murphy to Gretzky to Lemieux to beat the Soviets in the '87 Canada Cup (in my hometown Copps Coliseum, to boot);

3) Donovan Bailey de-pantsing Michael Johnson in 1997;

2) The Blue Jays winning back-to-back World Series...after having to deal with those Yanks taking our Stanley Cup; past, present and future;

1) Theo, Marty Bordeur, Joe Sakic, Cujo, and the boys, in February of 2002.

And best of all...check out the NHL standings as of tonight (with 5 of the 6 Canadian teams looking to be in the "spring smackdown")...
WHEN HE GOT FIRED AS FINANCE MINISTER, Paul Martin must have thought that he'd have a lot of free time. Because the guy has a freakin' blog. I shit you not, which you will see if you click on that link.

Well, sort of: he's made 2 entries since it was launched on December 4. Or maybe another explanation for the blog is that one of his campaign folks thought that it might give the aging guy a chance to grab some of the younger wired crowd in his attempt to win the Liberal leadership. Possibly the most interesting (ridiculous? jarring?) aspect of it is that the explanation he gives when you jump to "Why does Paul blog?" basically acknowledges this outright.

Amazing. I think he just lost about 33% of whatever amount of respect I had for him previously (which was actually a decent amount--not really any viable alternatives to the Liberals, like, ever). Although I guess it beats having David Frum as Prime Minister or Sullivan as President. OK, I'll go say 10 Hail Marys now for that last bit...

(via Marc Weisblott)