Politics and Policy
Saturday, June 05, 2004
REMEMBERING AMALEK Last week's New Yorker has a chilling portrait by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. They seem only somewhat less bloodthirsty and racist than the terrorists of the current intifada. Some of them have photographs in their homes of Baruch Goldstein, who slaughtered 29 Arabs as they prayed at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. And some of them agree with Goldstein that the Arabs of the West Bank are covered by the Biblical injunction to war against Amalek. As it happens, the UCLA faculty Torah study group, which has been slogging its way through Devarim (Deuteronomy) at the rate of a few verses a week for something like ten years, just got finished dealing with that commandment (Deut. 25:17-19). While the Torah has many puzzling passages, surely none is more puzzling: Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when HaShem thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which HaShem thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget. This ties together some of the earliest material in the Torah with the very latest of the Ketubim: "Remember" refers back to Shemot (Exodus), Chapter 17: Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua: 'Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.' So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. And HaShem said unto Moses: 'Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.' And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Adonai-nissi. And he said: 'The hand upon the throne of HaShem: HaShem will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.' Part of that war is recounted in Chapter 15 of the first Book of Samuel: And Samuel said unto Saul: 'The HaShem sent me to anoint thee to be king over His people, over Israel; now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of HaShem. Thus saith HaShem of hosts: I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.' And Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to the city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley. And Saul said unto the Kenites: 'Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them; for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt.' So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul smote the Amalekites, from Havilah as thou goest to Shur, that is in front of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, even the young of the second birth, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that was of no account and feeble, that they destroyed utterly. Then came the word of HaShem unto Samuel, saying: 'It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments.' And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto HaShem all night. [snip] Then said Samuel: 'Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.' And Agag came unto him in chains. And Agag said: 'Surely the bitterness of death is at hand.' And Samuel said: As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before HaShem in Gilgal. In the Book of Esther, Haman, the wicked grand vizier who plots to exterminate the Jews, is referred to as an Agagite; whether that means that he is literally a descendant of Agag, or merely that he is Agag-like, isn't clear. (Goldstein committed his mass murder on the day of Purim.) Back, then, to the commandment in Deuteronomy. It seems as inexplicable as a Zen koan: “Do not forget to blot out the memory of Amalek.” How could that commandment possibly be kept? It’s like an order to sit still for five minutes and not think of an elephant. As long as we carry on the fight against Amalek, so long do we prolong the remembrance of Amalek. Moreover, the elaborate account of Amalekite guilt offered in Deuteronomy fits rather poorly with the first account of that campaign in Exodus. There, the emphasis is on the power given to the Israelites by the raising of Moses’ arms, and the support given him by Aaron and Hur when his physical strength gives out. The notion that the Amalekites attacked dishonorably is not so much as hinted at, which seems strange if their behavior was so horrible as to bring on them a war without end. And yet the text makes clear the divine intention to eliminate the Amalekites, and the commandment to Israel to war against them “from generation to generation” (i.e., forever). At Purim, we enact blotting out the name of Haman, "the Aggagite": the descendant, literally or figuratively, of Amalek. When the name is spoken, the congregation makes so much noise that it cannot be heard. In some traditions, the name “Haman” is written with chalk on the soles of the shoes, and when the name is pronounced everyone stamps his feet. But of course all of that shouting and stamping calls attention to Haman and preserves his name; surely there are many Jews who couldn’t tell you quite who Melchizedek was or what Josiah did but to whom Haman is a familiar name. Whether individually or communally, wiping out the memory of something is not an activity that can continue with any hope of success; not if the we are “not to forget.” Perhaps “remembrance” (zacher) understood not as “memory,” but as “monument.” Then the commandment would be to extirpate the race of Amalek and eliminate any buildings or artwork or texts they might leave behind. (That’s as opposed, for example, to Hitler’s plan to wipe out the Jews but leave the Prague Ghetto as a museum of the life of the no-longer-extant people.) That seems consistent with the commandment Saul is so terribly punished for not observing. In this sense, though the war against Amalek has reached a successful conclusion; there is no Amalekite population anywhere, no Amalekite literature, no Amalekite flag or seat at the United Nations, not even any Amalekite ruins. But, that accomplished, what is it that we are to continue not to forget? The Rabbis seem to agree that the duty to struggle against Amalek is a duty in every generation. One straightforward account is that, as the Haggadah says, “in every generation” there are those who attack Jews the way the Amalekites are said in Devarim to have attacked the Israelites, and that the war against Amalek is a war against Jew-haters of whatever ethnicity. Call that the Baruch Goldstein interpretation. An alternative interpretation is that the fight against Amalek is never-ending because we, as individuals and as a community, have Amalek – the impulse to do violence, and in particular to do violence against the helpless – within us. And the struggle against that inner Amalekite will never reach a conclusion. But whether the war against Amalek is taken in its nationalist or its liberal sense, it requires remembrance. If we are not to forget, then we retain a zacher, if only in our minds.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
TONY BLAIR'S SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON WAR WITH IRAQ Tuesday, March 18, 2003 I beg to move the motion standing on the order paper in my name and those of my right honourable friends. At the outset I say: it is right that this house debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right but that others struggle for in vain. And again I say: I do not disrespect the views of those in opposition to mine. This is a tough choice. But it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down and turn back; or to hold firm to the course we have set. I believe we must hold firm. The question most often posed is not why does it matter? But why does it matter so much? Here we are, the government with its most serious test, its majority at risk, the first cabinet resignation over an issue of policy. The main parties divided. People who agree on everything else, disagree on this and likewise, those who never agree on anything, finding common cause. The country and parliament reflect each other, a debate that, as time has gone on has become less bitter but not less grave. So: why does it matter so much? Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people, for so long brutalised by Saddam. It will determine the way Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century; the development of the UN; the relationship between Europe and the US; the relations within the EU and the way the US engages with the rest of the world. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation. But first, Iraq and its WMD. In April 1991, after the Gulf war, Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of all its WMD. Saddam had used the weapons against Iran, against his own people, causing thousands of deaths. He had had plans to use them against allied forces. It became clear after the Gulf war that the WMD ambitions of Iraq were far more extensive than hitherto thought. This issue was identified by the UN as one for urgent remedy. Unscom, the weapons inspection team, was set up. They were expected to complete their task following the declaration at the end of April 1991. The declaration when it came was false - a blanket denial of the programme, other than in a very tentative form. So the 12-year game began. The inspectors probed. Finally in March 1992, Iraq admitted it had previously undeclared WMD but said it had destroyed them. It gave another full and final declaration. Again the inspectors probed but found little. In October 1994, Iraq stopped cooperating with Unscom altogether. Military action was threatened. Inspections resumed. In March 1995, in an effort to rid Iraq of the inspectors, a further full and final declaration of WMD was made. By July 1995, Iraq was forced to admit that too was false. In August they provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive BW (biological weapons) programme and for the first time said Iraq had weaponised the programme; something Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening whilst the inspectors were in Iraq. Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in 1990. Iraq was forced then to release documents which showed just how extensive those programmes were. In November 1995, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles that could be used for WMD. In June 1996, a further full and final declaration was made. That too turned out to be false. In June 1997, inspectors were barred from specific sites. In September 1997, another full and final declaration was made. Also false. Meanwhile the inspectors discovered VX nerve agent production equipment, something always denied by the Iraqis. In October 1997, the US and the UK threatened military action if Iraq refused to comply with the inspectors. But obstruction continued. Finally, under threat of action, in February 1998, Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a memorandum with Saddam to allow inspections to continue. They did. For a few months. In August, cooperation was suspended. In December the inspectors left. Their final report is a withering indictment of Saddam's lies, deception and obstruction, with large quantities of WMD remained unaccounted for. The US and the UK then, in December 1998, undertook Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as much of the Iraqi WMD facilities as we could. In 1999, a new inspections team, Unmovic, was set up. But Saddam refused to allow them to enter Iraq. So there they stayed, in limbo, until after resolution 1441 when last November they were allowed to return. What is the claim of Saddam today? Why exactly the same claim as before: that he has no WMD. Indeed we are asked to believe that after seven years of obstruction and non-compliance finally resulting in the inspectors leaving in 1998, seven years in which he hid his programme, built it up even whilst inspection teams were in Iraq, that after they left he then voluntarily decided to do what he had consistently refused to do under coercion. When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for: 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, possibly more than ten times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; an entire Scud missile programme. We are now seriously asked to accept that in the last few years, contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence, he decided unilaterally to destroy the weapons. Such a claim is palpably absurd. 1441 is a very clear resolution. It lays down a final opportunity for Saddam to disarm. It rehearses the fact that he has been, for years in material breach of 17 separate UN resolutions. It says that this time compliance must be full, unconditional and immediate. The first step is a full and final declaration of all WMD to be given on 8 December. I won't to go through all the events since then - the house is familiar with them - but this much is accepted by all members of the UNSC: the 8 December declaration is false. That in itself is a material breach. Iraq has made some concessions to cooperation but no-one disputes it is not fully cooperating. Iraq continues to deny it has any WMD, though no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes them. On 7 March, the inspectors published a remarkable document. It is 173 pages long, detailing all the unanswered questions about Iraq's WMD. It lists 29 different areas where they have been unable to obtain information. For example, on VX it says: "Documentation available to Unmovic suggests that Iraq at least had had far reaching plans to weaponise VX ... "Mustard constituted an important part (about 70%) of Iraq's CW arsenal ... 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for ... additional uncertainty with respect of 6526 aerial bombs, corresponding to approximately 1000 tonnes of agent, predominantly mustard. "Based on unaccounted for growth media, Iraq's potential production of anthrax could have been in the range of about 15,000 to 25,000 litres ... Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist." On this basis, had we meant what we said in resolution 1441, the security council should have convened and condemned Iraq as in material breach. What is perfectly clear is that Saddam is playing the same old games in the same old way. Yes there are concessions. But no fundamental change of heart or mind. But the inspectors indicated there was at least some cooperation; and the world rightly hesitated over war. We therefore approached a second resolution in this way. We laid down an ultimatum calling upon Saddam to come into line with resolution 1441 or be in material breach. Not an unreasonable proposition, given the history. But still countries hesitated: how do we know how to judge full cooperation? We then worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and drew up five tests based on the document they published on 7 March. Tests like interviews with 30 scientists outside of Iraq; production of the anthrax or documentation showing its destruction. The inspectors added another test: that Saddam should publicly call on Iraqis to cooperate with them. So we constructed this framework: that Saddam should be given a specified time to fulfil all six tests to show full cooperation; that if he did so the inspectors could then set out a forward work programme and that if he failed to do so, action would follow. So clear benchmarks; plus a clear ultimatum. I defy anyone to describe that as an unreasonable position. Last Monday, we were getting somewhere with it. We very nearly had majority agreement and I thank the Chilean President particularly for the constructive way he approached the issue. There were debates about the length of the ultimatum. But the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said it would veto a second resolution whatever the circumstances. Then France denounced the six tests. Later that day, Iraq rejected them. Still, we continued to negotiate. Last Friday, France said they could not accept any ultimatum. On Monday, we made final efforts to secure agreement. But they remain utterly opposed to anything which lays down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance by Saddam. Just consider the position we are asked to adopt. Those on the security council opposed to us say they want Saddam to disarm but will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position. No to any ultimatum; no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action. So we must demand he disarm but relinquish any concept of a threat if he doesn't. From December 1998 to December 2002, no UN inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq. For four years, not a thing. What changed his mind? The threat of force. From December to January and then from January through to February, concessions were made. What changed his mind? The threat of force. And what makes him now issue invitations to the inspectors, discover documents he said he never had, produce evidence of weapons supposed to be non-existent, destroy missiles he said he would keep? The imminence of force. The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep. And yet when that fact is so obvious that it is staring us in the face, we are told that any resolution that authorises force will be vetoed. Not just opposed. Vetoed. Blocked. The way ahead was so clear. It was for the UN to pass a second resolution setting out benchmarks for compliance; with an ultimatum that if they were ignored, action would follow. The tragedy is that had such a resolution issued, he might just have complied. Because the only route to peace with someone like Saddam Hussein is diplomacy backed by force. Yet the moment we proposed the benchmarks, canvassed support for an ultimatum, there was an immediate recourse to the language of the veto. And now the world has to learn the lesson all over again that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant, is the surest way not to peace but to war. Looking back over 12 years, we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil. Now the very length of time counts against us. You've waited 12 years. Why not wait a little longer? And indeed we have. 1441 gave a final opportunity. The first test was the 8th of December. He failed it. But still we waited. Until January 27, the first inspection report that showed the absence of full cooperation. Another breach. And still we waited. Until February 14 and then February 28 with concessions, according to the old familiar routine, tossed to us to whet our appetite for hope and further waiting. But still no-one, not the inspectors nor any member of the security council, not any half-way rational observer, believes Saddam is cooperating fully or unconditionally or immediately. Our fault has not been impatience. The truth is our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and years ago. Even now, when if the world united and gave him an ultimatum: comply or face forcible disarmament, he might just do it, the world hesitates and in that hesitation he senses the weakness and therefore continues to defy. What would any tyrannical regime possessing WMD think viewing the history of the world's diplomatic dance with Saddam? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions is only matched by our feebleness in implementing them. That is why this indulgence has to stop. Because it is dangerous. It is dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us. Dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace, against us. Dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity; when in fact, pushed to the limit, we will act. But then when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. Iraq is not the only regime with WMD. But back away now from this confrontation and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating. But, of course, in a sense, any fair observer does not really dispute that Iraq is in breach and that 1441 implies action in such circumstances. The real problem is that, underneath, people dispute that Iraq is a threat; dispute the link between terrorism and WMD; dispute the whole basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our way of life. There are glib and sometimes foolish comparisons with the 1930s. No one here is an appeaser. But the only relevant point of analogy is that with history, we know what happened. We can look back and say: there's the time; that was the moment; for example, when Czechoslovakia was swallowed up by the Nazis - that's when we should have acted. But it wasn't clear at the time. In fact at the time, many people thought such a fear fanciful. Worse, put forward in bad faith by warmongers. Listen to this editorial - from a paper I'm pleased to say with a different position today - but written in late 1938 after Munich when by now, you would have thought the world was tumultuous in its desire to act. "Be glad in your hearts. Give thanks to your God. People of Britain, your children are safe. Your husbands and your sons will not march to war. Peace is a victory for all mankind. And now let us go back to our own affairs. We have had enough of those menaces, conjured up from the continent to confuse us." Naturally should Hitler appear again in the same form, we would know what to do. But the point is that history doesn't declare the future to us so plainly. Each time is different and the present must be judged without the benefit of hindsight. So let me explain the nature of this threat as I see it. The threat today is not that of the 1930s. It's not big powers going to war with each other. The ravages which fundamentalist political ideology inflicted on the 20th century are memories. The Cold war is over. Europe is at peace, if not always diplomatically. But the world is ever more interdependent. Stock markets and economies rise and fall together. Confidence is the key to prosperity. Insecurity spreads like contagion. So people crave stability and order. The threat is chaos. And there are two begetters of chaos. Tyrannical regimes with WMD and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam. Let me tell the house what I know. I know that there are some countries or groups within countries that are proliferating and trading in WMD, especially nuclear weapons technology. I know there are companies, individuals, some former scientists on nuclear weapons programmes, selling their equipment or expertise. I know there are several countries - mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes - desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of these countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing. We all know that there are terrorist cells now operating in most major countries. Just as in the last two years, around 20 different nations have suffered serious terrorist outrages. Thousands have died in them. The purpose of terrorism lies not just in the violent act itself. It is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, to produce consequences which they then use to justify further terror. Round the world it now poisons the chances of political progress: in the Middle East; in Kashmir; in Chechnya; in Africa. The removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan dealt it a blow. But it has not gone away. And these two threats have different motives and different origins but they share one basic common view: they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life. At the moment, I accept that association between them is loose. But it is hardening. And the possibility of the two coming together - of terrorist groups in possession of WMD, even of a so-called dirty radiological bomb is now, in my judgement, a real and present danger. And let us recall: what was shocking about September 11 was not just the slaughter of the innocent; but the knowledge that had the terrorists been able to, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000 and the more the suffering, the greater the terrorists' rejoicing. Three kilograms of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate a quarter of a square kilometre of a city. Millions of lethal doses are contained in one litre of Anthrax. 10,000 litres are unaccounted for. 11 September has changed the psychology of America. It should have changed the psychology of the world. Of course Iraq is not the only part of this threat. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously. Faced with it, the world should unite. The UN should be the focus, both of diplomacy and of action. That is what 1441 said. That was the deal. And I say to you to break it now, to will the ends but not the means that would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other course. To fall back into the lassitude of the last 12 years, to talk, to discuss, to debate but never act; to declare our will but not enforce it; to combine strong language with weak intentions, a worse outcome than never speaking at all. And then, when the threat returns from Iraq or elsewhere, who will believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? No wonder Japan and South Korea, next to North Korea, has issued such strong statements of support. I have come to the conclusion after much reluctance that the greater danger to the UN is inaction: that to pass resolution 1441 and then refuse to enforce it would do the most deadly damage to the UN's future strength, confirming it as an instrument of diplomacy but not of action, forcing nations down the very unilateralist path we wish to avoid. But there will be, in any event, no sound future for the UN, no guarantee against the repetition of these events, unless we recognise the urgent need for a political agenda we can unite upon. What we have witnessed is indeed the consequence of Europe and the United States dividing from each other. Not all of Europe - Spain, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Portugal - have all strongly supported us. And not a majority of Europe if we include, as we should, Europe's new members who will accede next year, all 10 of whom have been in our support. But the paralysis of the UN has been born out of the division there is. And at the heart of it has been the concept of a world in which there are rival poles of power. The US and its allies in one corner. France, Germany, Russia and its allies in the other. I do not believe that all of these nations intend such an outcome. But that is what now faces us. I believe such a vision to be misguided and profoundly dangerous. I know why it arises. There is resentment of US predominance. There is fear of US unilateralism. People ask: do the US listen to us and our preoccupations? And there is perhaps a lack of full understanding of US preoccupations after 11th September. I know all of this. But the way to deal with it is not rivalry but partnership. Partners are not servants but neither are they rivals. I tell you what Europe should have said last September to the US. With one voice it should have said: we understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and WMD and we will help you meet it. We will mean what we say in any UN resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily; but in return we ask two things of you: that the US should choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of re-starting the MEPP (Middle East Peace Process), which we will hold you to. I do not believe there is any other issue with the same power to re-unite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course there is cynicism about recent announcements. But the US is now committed, and, I believe genuinely, to the roadmap for peace, designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today. All of us are now signed up to its vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestinian state. And that should be part of a larger global agenda. On poverty and sustainable development. On democracy and human rights. On the good governance of nations. That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance. Here again there is a chance to unify around the UN. Let me make it clear. There should be a new UN resolution following any conflict providing not just for humanitarian help but also for the administration and governance of Iraq. That must now be done under proper UN authorisation. It should protect totally the territorial integrity of Iraq. And let the oil revenues - which people falsely claim we want to seize - be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN. And let the future government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation's disparate groups, on a democratic basis, respecting human rights, as indeed the fledgling democracy in Northern Iraq - protected from Saddam for 12 years by British and American pilots in the no-fly zone - has done so remarkably. And the moment that a new government is in place - willing to disarm Iraq of WMD - for which its people have no need or purpose - then let sanctions be lifted in their entirety. I have never put our justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441. That is our legal base. But it is the reason, I say frankly, why if we do act we should do so with a clear conscience and strong heart. I accept fully that those opposed to this course of action share my detestation of Saddam. Who could not? Iraq is a wealthy country that in 1978, the year before Saddam seized power, was richer than Portugal or Malaysia. Today it is impoverished, 60% of its population dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die needlessly every year from lack of food and medicine. Four million people out of a population of just over 20 million are in exile. The brutality of the repression - the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty are well documented. Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, his tongue cut out, mutilated and left to bleed to death, as a warning to others. I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam. "But you don't", she replied. "You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear." And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine not to be able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror. That is how the Iraqi people live. Leave Saddam in place and that is how they will continue to live. We must face the consequences of the actions we advocate. For me, that means all the dangers of war. But for others, opposed to this course, it means - let us be clear - that the Iraqi people, whose only true hope of liberation lies in the removal of Saddam, for them, the darkness will close back over them again; and he will be free to take his revenge upon those he must know wish him gone. And if this house now demands that at this moment, faced with this threat from this regime, that British troops are pulled back, that we turn away at the point of reckoning, and that is what it means - what then? What will Saddam feel? Strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states who tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, what will they take from that? That the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep? And if our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make them multilateralist? Or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism there could ever be. And what of the UN and the future of Iraq and the Middle East peace plan, devoid of our influence, stripped of our insistence? This house wanted this decision. Well it has it. Those are the choices. And in this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no cause ideal. But on this decision hangs the fate of many things: Of whether we summon the strength to recognise this global challenge of the 21st century and meet it. Of the Iraqi people, groaning under years of dictatorship. Of our armed forces - brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear. Of the institutions and alliances that will shape our world for years to come." I can think of many things, of whether we summon the strength to recognise the global challenge of the 21st century and beat it, of the Iraqi people groaning under years of dictatorship, of our armed forces - brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear - of the institutions and alliances that shape our world for years to come. To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest, turn the UN back into a talking shop, stifle the first steps of progress in the Middle East; leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events on which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better. Tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination that Britain faltered. I will not be party to such a course. This is not the time to falter. This is the time for this house, not just this government or indeed this prime minister, but for this house to give a lead, to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right, to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk, to show at the moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing. I beg to move the motion.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
THE TORCH FLAMES OUT: The Legal Aftermath We pause for a moment of schadenfreude. Whatever the final outcome, it's been fun watching the Bob "the Torch" Torricelli flame out. Not only is Torricelli a crook, he's a fink. Am I the only one around who remembers that he was the first Democrat on the Hill to stick it to Al Gore during the recount fiasco? Speculation at the time was that he was hoping for the new Administration to cut him a break on his legal difficulties. If that wasn't it, I can't imagine what his excuse was. Be that as it may, the New Jersey Supreme Court just ruled that a law providing a deadline of fifty-one days before the election for a candidate to drop out and be replaced didn't actually mean what it said. So Frank Lautenberg will be on the ballot in November, with, apparently, a decent chance of winning. Eugene Volokh provides a quick, and, to me, persuasive analysis of why the New Jersey Supreme Court was probably wrong to rule as it did. His point is that the court has replaced a law that seemed on its face to provide a bright-line rule with mush, thereby opening the process to the partisan whims of judges. That seems right; if, as reported, a French General remarked about the charge of the Light Brigade, "It is magnificent, but it isn't war," a Democrat has to say about this ruling, "It's great news, but it isn't law." The decision doesn't even pretend to interpret the statute. It merely says that it would be a bad thing if the voters didn't get to choose a senator in a real election, and that the purpose of giving the voters a choice can be reconciled with the need to make the election happen smoothly. Fair enough, but why is that the court's decision rather than the legislature's? (In its sole nod toward something that might be called legal reasoning, the court does cite its own precedents to the effect that the election laws are to be construed liberally in the interest of giving the voters a choice.) I think there's a strong case for a later drop-out rule; it might even reduce somewhat the tendency toward negative campaigning if someone who does a real slash-and-burn confronts the risk that his opponent will drop out in favor of an unscarred newcomer. (Imagine the look on Bushdaddy's face if Mike Dukakis had dropped out in October 1988 and let Bentsen run in his stead.) That the military absentee ballots have already been sent is really neither here nor there; the military folks can write in the new candidate, or he simply has to forgo whatever votes he might have gotten from that source. But none of that justifies a court's messing with election law in order to bring about the political result its majority prefers. Does it, Justice Scalia? This sort of thing was one of the predictable results of Bush v. Gore. The only good, and puzzling, thing about this decision was that it was reportedly unanimous, while two of the seven justices are Republicans, and six of the seven were appointed by Republican governors. So maybe Eugene is wrong about the law, and I'm wrong to believe him, or maybe the Republicans, knowing that they were going to lose, preferred not to kick up a partisan fuss, or maybe they're such small-d democrats that they were willing to bend the law to provide the voters a live choice. Control of the Senate is so important, and so likely to rest on a single seat one way or the other, that I can't be whole-heartedly unhappy about the result. I know some Republicans who felt the same way two years ago. "Of course Bush deserves the Presidency," one of them (now heading an important agency as a Presidential appointee) said to me. "He stole it fair and square." Another said, "Bush won a clear majority: 5 to 4." This case is one degree less outrageous than that; the voters of New Jersey still have the final say. But it still doesn't smell good. However, since, as Michael Walzer once said, there is neither profit nor glory in doing evil badly, now that the Democrats have decided to try to steal the seat they ought to go about it the right way. Obviously, the Forrester campaign is going to make an issue of this quasi-legal switcheroo. Lautenberg's response should be to refuse to discuss the court case and simply ask why Forrester is so afraid of running against someone who isn't a crook: so afraid of giving the voters an actual choice? Doesn't he think he can win a fair contest? UPDATE Not! It turns out that those deadlines have not been treated as binding in the past. Just this spring, for example, Forrester himself was given the top spot on the Republican primary ballot -- the spot that goes to the party designee for an office -- when the previous designee dropped out (following an FBI raid on his office) after the 51-day deadline. Another candidate challenged the switch as too late, but Peter Sheridan, Forrester's lawyer -- the same lawyer who is now arguing that the statutory deadline is sacred -- argued successfully that "stict compliance to statutory requirements and deadlines ... are set aside where such rights may be accommodated without significantly impinging upon the election process." So the whole flap was nothing but a shuck and a jive. I'm somewhat embarrassed. Bill Frist ought to be really embarrassed. PEDANTIC NOTE TO MR. SHERIDAN The subject of the quoted sentence is "compliance," not "requirements and deadlines." The predicate of a sentence agrees with its subject in number. The third-person singular present of the verb "to be" is "is," not "are." "Strict compliance are set aside" ? Consider suing your eighth-grade English teacher for malpractice.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
WHY DOES MITCH DANIELS WANT TO INCREASE THE CRIME RATE? The warhawks and warbloggers assure us that the couple of hundred billion it's going to cost us to invade and occupy Iraq is really spare change in a ten trillion dollar economy. If we need to do it, we can afford to do it. Actually, that's right. It is, and we can. I just wish the same folks could remember that principle when it comes to other forms of government spending. Consider the following from Mitch Daniels, Bush's OMB Director, in today's Washington Post. Daniels said that apparently for the first time in history, the economy is growing but revenue is shrinking, in part because of the weak stock market. Combine falling revenue with a growing cost of war, he added, and spending will have to restrained elsewhere. "Some folks just can't quite learn this dance," he added, referring both to Congress and to administration officials who continue to request big increases in their programs. "To avoid the guns-and-butter mistake, we're trying to hold everything nonsecurity-related to very severe scrutiny." An administration official said Daniels was referring to such expenditures as literacy training for prisoners, an Olympics scholarship and a program called "Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners." The programs also include those that provide extra money for rural and small schools, and were marked for extinction in Bush's budget. So to finance an 11-figure war we're going to cuts in a bunch of seven-figure programs? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. And the only way to close the gap that now has red ink stretching out at least until 2005 is to cut domestic spending, not to roll back the tax cuts that we were going to be able to take out of the surplus that now doesn't exist? Riiiiiiiiiiiight. The Greens, and others who refuse to grow up, always ask, "What's the difference between Republicans and Democrats?" as if there weren't one. One good answer is, "The difference between a Mitch Daniels and a Jack Lew." Let me take a look at one of the proposed cuts: literacy training for prisoners. Cutting those programs is guaranteed to increase crime, and on balance it will certainly cost money rather than saving money. It's about like trying to cut health care costs by not giving people flu shots. Here's the arithmetic: keeping someone in prison costs about $25,000 per year. More than half of those released will be back in prison within three years, and some of them will cycle in and out for a long time to come. The expected present value of the future costs of imprisonment alone (ignoring the costs of the crime itself) for a prison releasee is on the order of $100,000. Reading scores are strong predictors of recidivism, because employment competes with crime and people with better reading scores have better employment prospects. Literacy programs cost a few hundred dollars per prisoner. So a literacy program that has an impact of less than 1% on future crime and imprisonment has already covered its costs just by reducing imprisonment, with the benefits of reduced crime to the victims and the other benefits of employment to the prisoner, his family, and his neighborhood thrown in as bonuses. [Of course, those savings accrue mostly to state budgets, not the federal budget, which raises the question why the states are waiting for the feds to finance prison literacy programs rather than doing it with their own money. Look it up under "Davis, Gray, correctional officers' union contributions to."] The correlation between reading scores and recidivism rates suggests a considerably bigger effect than that 1% figure, as does a study by Anne Morrison Piehl that compared alumni of a prison that had a good literacy program with otherwise comparable alumni of an otherwise comparable prison that didn't. Would I like to see this confirmed by a randomized controlled trial? Sure. But why wait? Every year about half a million people emerge from prison, and their criminal activity constitutes an important fraction of total crime, especially serious, violent crime. Boosting prison literacy programs is so obviously right, from every angle, that we ought to just go ahead and do it. The only reason not to is sheer malevolence: Prisoners are BAD. They deserve to be HURT. Let's not spend any of OUR money on those BAD people. That kind of stuff is still good for a few votes. And on a purely cynical calculation -- I'm still waiting for evidence that this crew is capable of any other kind -- crime isn't obviously bad for Republican electoral prospects. A neoconservative was once defined as a liberal who had just been mugged. Maybe Daniels and Bush are concerned that falling crime rates have been drying up the supply of converts.
Monday, September 30, 2002
THE ESTRADA NOMINATION The latest fuss over the Estrada nomination concerns whether he was involved in politcally "vetting" candidates for clerkships with Justice Kennedy. You will doubtless be astonished to know that liberals, Democrats, and opponents of the nomination think he did, and that so doing is shocking, while supporters of the nomination, mostly thougn not exclusively conservative Republicans, say he didn't, but that if he did there wasn't anything wrong with it anyway. The two anonymous sources of the story (anonymous, that is, but willing to talk to a reporter from the Washington Post to confirm the original Jack Newfield story in the Nation) say it happened to them: one was told by Estrada that he was "too liberal," another reports an interview in which Estrada asked lots of ideologically loaded questions, followed by no callback. Estrada testified that he had never engaged in any such activity, but then corrected himself to say that he might have said something like what he was reported to have said, but only as a joke, and then further to say that if he thought a candidate had strong views, left or right, that he couldn't set aside, he might have recommended against that candidate. The following reaction from the pro-Estrada side is about typical (Eugene Volokh links to it approvingly): What am I missing here? Has it now become a civil rights violation for a Supreme Court Justice to select clerks he or she believes will be sympathetic to the justice's interpretive approach and constitutional values? Time for a deep breath. First, as to whether it would have been wrong for Estrada to engage in ideological vetting. A threshold question is whether Kennedy wanted his potential clerks vetted in that way. Here's what was reported in the Post: The other person said he asked Estrada to recommend him to Kennedy, but Estrada responded: "No way; you're way too liberal." The person added that his role on the committee was to prevent liberal clerks from influencing Kennedy -- as they supposedly had in cases such as Romer v. Evans, in which Kennedy wrote the court's opinion striking down a Colorado constitutional amendment that limited laws against anti-gay discrimination. Now presumably Justice Kennedy didn't ask Estrada to protect him from clerkly advice that might tempt him into liberalism. If Estrada was using his position on Kennedy's screening committee to try to influence future clerkship choices in ways of which Kennedy was unaware, that would seem to me improper in the extreme. But assume that possibility away. Assume Estrada was carrying out Kennedy's instructions. Would that have been a bad thing? Perhaps not. One might argue that clerkships ought to be more or less purely merit-based, but there's a decent argument the other way, too. But if the choice of law clerks is properly ideological, why not the choice of appellate judges? And if the choice of appellate judges is properly ideological, what does Estrada have to complain about if the liberals on the Judiciary Committe choose to reject him because he's too conservative, just as he supposedly rejected those clerkship applicants for being too liberal? Is anyone going to pretend that Bush's selection of Estrada doesn't reflect Bush's ideological predelictions: that an equally brilliant young liberal lawyer (or, for that matter, a equally brilliant young conservative named Michael Street) would have been nominated to the second-hightest court in the land on no more distinguished a resume than Estrada can show? (He went to law school, clerked, worked in the Solicitor General's office -- a recognized career path for aspiring judges and law professors -- and then went to work for a law firm. One of his advantages as a nominee is that he hasn't published anything.) Or is the claim that the President is entitled to excercise ideological choice in nominating judges but that the Senate must consider only competence and judicial temerament in confirming them? Is that in some clause of the Constitution that somehow got left out of my copy? And it was hardly the practice of the Republicans when Clinton was President. The difference is that he tended to appoint moderates, rather than liberal extremists, and that the nominations were mostly shot down by secret "holds" and the refusal of hearings rather than being openly voted down in committee. Bush v. Gore made it obvious that the right wing of the judiciary was fully prepared to cheat in order to achieve the outcomes it wanted. Ever since, the occasional reference in judicial opinions to the executive and legislative as "the political branches" has become what Mark Twain called "a mere sarcasm." Five Republican justices flat-out stole a Presidential election. (The line about how Bush would have won even in a recount is both probably wrong and irrelevant. Wrong, because it assumes, dubiously that none of the "overvotes" would have come in though the Florida "clear intent" standard would seem to require counting them. Irrelevant, because it's still cheating even if your side would have won anyway.) If the Federalist Society crowd doesn't like the result, they should have thought about that before their man Scalia engineered the dirty deed. That's one important disctinction, in my eyes, betwen McConnell and Estrada: McConnell said right away that the ruling in Bush v. Gore was flatly wrong. If Estrada thought so, he kept it to himself. Why should we have any confidence that, as an appellate judge or future Supreme Court justice, Estrada wouldn't cheat in the same way? (That he was one of Bush's lawyers in the recount isn't dispositive, of course; within limits, a litigator can properly ask for things a judge can't properly grant.) I would prefer to go back to a less savage confirmation process. If the Republicans were willing to agree to a truce -- promising not to block the nominees of the next Democratic President on ideological grounds -- I think the Democrats ought to take the deal, though I'd probably insist on having a few of the old Clinton nominees renominated and confirmed to seal it. (Changing the Senate rules so that all appellate court and Supreme Court nominations came up for floor votes after some period would help help make such a deal binding, but the members of the Judiciary Committee, on both sides of the aisle, would never tolerate such a thing.) In any case, no such offer has been made, and Orrin Hatch is still cheerfully peddling the lie he told for six years -- that no ideological tests were being applied. It's hard to accept a promise not to do it again from someone who swears he didn't do it before. So for now, we're stuck with the process we have, and I see no case for unilateral disarmament by the Democrats. The younger the nominee (and therefore the more years of expected judicial tenure are involved) the higher the standard for confirmation should be if his ideological predelictions are strongly marked. The answer shouldn't always be "no:" sheer ability, coupled with integrity and the capacity for independence, has to count for something. If we had evidence other than the whisper mill (from published work, perhaps) that Estrada had real brilliance and creativity, and some willingness to follow the argument rather than his political loyalties -- if we were dealing with another McConnell. or with Eugene Volokh -- that would be one thing. But just another smart young conservative footsoldier with the right ethnic bacground? In the immortal (purported) words of Miguel Estrada, "No way." One final point: despite a certain amount of weaseling, Estrada clearly denied the charge of having engaged in ideological vetting. So if that charge turned out to be true, he perjured himself. I understand that some interpret the Clarence Thomas precedent as establishing that perjury is a legitimate tactic at a confirmation hearing when the questions involve the nominee's sexual history, taste in pornographic videos, and opinions about Roe v. Wade. But the "pubic hair in the Coke" exception hardly applies in this case. [That Thomas perjured himself is virtually beyond dispute. Anita Hill testified that he had made reference to a specific porno film starring "Long Dong Silver," which Thomas denied ever having seen; when the committee majority wanted to subpoena his video rental records to determine if he had in fact rented that film, he and his supporters screamed bloody murder, and Joe Biden, being the weak fool that he is, folded. The excuse was that video rental records are properly private, which seems reasonable enough; but the question here wasn't Thomas's viewing habits, but his veracity under oath. His unwillingness to have his sworn word tested against hard evidence should have convinced any reasonable person that he was lying.] Now one view that I have heard expressed was that dragging up old sexual history was improper, and that Thomas was therefore morally entitled to lie. That's more or less Clinton's defense. But Estrada wasn't being asked about his sex life, but about his quasi-official political actions. That makes the question of whether it's OK to lie about sex moot in this case. So I don't think "No he didn't but it would have been OK anyway" is going to stand up. Right now, it appears that the committee majority plans to kick the can down the road, stalling on the issue of access to Estrada's work product as in the Solicitor General's office. But eventually they're going to have to vote on it (unless, of course, the Republicans take back the Senate in November). If Dianne Feinstein doesn't jump ship, it looks as if the Democrats will be able to hold together.
Sunday, September 29, 2002
STATEMENT ON IRAQ BY 33 LEADING NTERNATIONAL SECURITY SCHOLARS This is the text of the advertisement that ran on the op-ed page of the New York Times last Thursday. WAR WITH IRAQ IS NOT IN AMERICA’S NATIONAL INTEREST As scholars of international security affairs, we recognize that war is sometimes necessary to ensure our national security or other vital interests. We also recognize that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and that Iraq has defied a number of U.N. resolutions. But military force should be used only when it advances U.S. national interests. War with Iraq does not meet this standard. ¨Saddam Hussein is a murderous despot, but no one has provided credible evidence that Iraq is cooperating with al Qaeda. ¨Even if Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear weapons, he could not use them without suffering massive U.S. or Israeli retaliation. ¨The first Bush Administration did not try to conquer Iraq in 1991 because it understood that doing so could spread instability in the Middle East, threatening U.S. interests. This remains a valid concern today. ¨The United States would win a war against Iraq, but Iraq has military options--chemical and biological weapons, urban combat--that might impose significant costs on the invading forces and neighboring states. ¨Even if we win easily, we have no plausible exit strategy. Iraq is a deeply divided society that the United States would have to occupy and police for many years to create a viable state. ¨Al Qaeda poses a greater threat to the U.S. than does Iraq. War with Iraq will jeopardize the campaign against al Qaeda by diverting resources and attention from that campaign and by increasing anti-Americanism around the globe. The United States should maintain vigilant containment of Iraq -- using its own assets and the resources of the United Nations -- and be prepared to invade Iraq if it threatens to attack America or its allies. That is not the case today. We should concentrate instead on defeating al Qaeda. Robert J. Art Brandeis University Richard K. Betts Columbia University Dale C. Copeland University of Virginia Michael C. Desch University of Kentucky Sumit Ganguly University of Texas Charles L. Glaser University of Chicago Alexander L. George Stanford University Richard K. Herrmann Ohio State University George C. Herring University of Kentucky Robert Jervis Columbia University Chaim Kaufmann Lehigh University Carl Kaysen MIT Elizabeth Kier University of Washington Deborah Larson UCLA Jack S. Levy Rutgers University Peter Liberman Queens College John J. Mearsheimer University of Chicago Steven E. Miller Harvard University Charles C. Moskos Northwestern University Robert A. Pape University of Chicago Barry R. Posen MIT Robert Powell UC - Berkeley George H. Quester University of Maryland Richard Rosecrance UCLA Thomas C. Schelling University of Maryland Randall L. Schweller Ohio State University Glenn H. Snyder University of North Carolina Jack L. Snyder Columbia University Shibley Telhami University of Maryland Stephen Van Evera MIT Stephen M. Walt Harvard University Kenneth N. Waltz Columbia University Cindy Williams MIT Institutions listed for identification purposes only. Paid for by the signatories and individual contributors (773-702-8667; 617-495-5712).
Friday, September 20, 2002
ELEVEN THESES ON RATIONAL POLICIES TOWARD IMPERFECTLY RATIONAL BEHAVIOR 1. The perfect rationality of economics textbooks is an abstraction, imperfectly descriptive of actual behavior. 2. The alternative to perfect rationality is not "irrationality" but imperfect rationality. Simple rules of reason, such as the Law of Demand, can be descriptively accurate about persons whose behavior isn't well described in terms of maximizing expected utility over time. 3. Imperfect rationality has patterns: --Simplification, heuristics, local search, satisficing. (Yes, of course these can be seen as "rational" by incorporating decision costs, but the point is that actual decisions will differ from those predicted under models of costless rationality.) -- Superstition, understood as belief in "luck" as a causal force, and costly efforts to improve luck. -- Hyperbolic discounting (a simplification from geometric) -- Loss aversion rather than expected-utility maximization. -- Addictive behaviors. 4. Policies designed as if everyone were perfectly rational in the economist's sense will perform less well than designed when they encounter imperfect rationality. Deterrents may fail to deter, incentives to incent. 5. Individuals, groups, and situations are likely to be systematically heterogeneous with respect to departures from rationality. Stress, disease, pain, having grown up in or currently inhabiting a highly unpredictable environment, and drug dependency would all be expected to increase departures from normative rationality. Generalized measures of intelligence, and perhaps educational attainment, would be expected to correlate negatively with some such departures, especially those with high cognitive, as opposed to emotional, content. Insofar as conditions facing persons of lower socioeconomic status and members of ill-treated classes of people cause stress, disease, pain, unpredictable environments, lower measured intelligence and educational attainment, one would expect to find larger departures from perfect rationality as one moved down the SES scale and among ill-treated ethnic minorities and other socially marginalized groups. (Departures from rationality might also inhibit upward, and contribute to downward, social mobility, giving the imperfect rationality/SES connection bidirectional causality.) There might also be less obvious variations relating to age (we would expect the rationality of young children to be quite imperfect, but the gradient after maturity isn't intuitively obvious), subcategories within "mainstream" ethnicity, family status, religious preference, religiosity, occupation, perhaps even sexual orientation. Less is known than should be about the extent of imperfectly rational behavior and its distribution across individuals, groups, and situations. Reliable and inexpensive measures at the individual level would have great value in some situations. 6. Given any level of individual rationality, some situations are more likely than others to produce systematic departures from the norm. Investment behavior may be on average quite subrational even if most investors are closer than average to being perfectly rational, due to the complexity of the situation and the fact that uncertainty in the environment induces superstition and therefore reduces rationality. Likewise we should expect strong pain relievers to be consumed less nearly rationally, on average, than weaker pain relievers, simply because pain reduces rationality and more pain reduces it more. How closely behavior in specific domains correlates with some generalized measure of "rationality" remains an important, but largely unanswered, question. 7. Different policy arenas confront different extents (and varieties) of imperfect rationality, due both to heterogeneity in the populations they deal with and to variations in the situations the affected parties confront. That suggests that the optimal level of deviation from the policy prescriptions that follow from pure rational-actor assumptions will vary across policy arenas. A health care policy that assumes perfect rationality in the acutely ill is likely to underperform significantly compared to one based on more realistic assumptions. But the textbook model may work fine in thinking about, for example, trade policy or the question of patent lives. 8. Imperfect rationality may be dealt with in (at least) two different ways: Accomodation: Change policy to reflect the imperfect rationality in the target population. If retirement savings are sub-rationally low, then policies to force such savings or their equivalent might improve welfare. If intoxicants tend to be over-consumed, then taxation or regulation might be necessary as protective measures. This is the classic paternalist case. Another set of accomodationist strategies involves estimates about behavior rather than about welfare, as when criminal punishments are designed to emphasize swiftness and certainty rather than severity on the grounds that offenders tend to be present-oriented and loss-averse rather than foresighted and risk-averse. Amelioration: Improve the extent to which the underlying behavior approaches normative rationality. This can be done either case-by-case, by making individuals aware of their imperfect rationality in specific instances and helping them protect themselves from themselves or from deception short of fraud (think of required disclosures of the true interest rates on loans or of the energy costs of appliances), or generally, by helping individuals change their basic decision-making styles. 9. A reasonable worry about paternalist intervention is that it will be anti-ameliorative: that designing policies to reflect imperfect rationality will tend to increase the extent and degree of imperfection, by reducing the cost of less-than-rational behavior. That would of course be true if the subjects involved were perfectly rational, and it might be true even if they were not. But it is equally conceivable that one could design policies that would help shape behavior toward more nearly perfect rationality while offering protection from the imperfections that currently exist; that is what parents are supposed to do. We should expect governments on average to do less well at this, but the principle remains intact. 10. Schooling ought, if possible, to be directed in part toward improving rationality as well as altruism; they might usefully be thought of as the two parts of "character" To date, there has been little study of how to do so. 11. More research is needed.
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
NOTE TO READERS This site is reserved for longer posts. Daily traffic is at MarkARKleiman.blogspot.com. Any item on this blog will have a pointer from that one.
Saturday, September 14, 2002
THE KILLER WEED CONTROVERSY If you're following the link from Slate, my original posts on the potency issue are here and here. There followed an exchange in American Enterprise Online. David Murray of the drug czar's office criticized the posts above here; I responded here. [Whatever you think of the argument, the Mullah Nasruddin story Murray uses as his frame is wonderful.] Just in case you're on the pro-pot side of this and think that it's only the government that makes stuff up, check this out. This weblog is no longer in use; my current thoughts are here. THE ETHICS OF THE DEBATE ABOUT GOING TO WAR There are several possible outcomes of our current confrontation with Iraq: 1. We don't go in, and SH sits there, supporting whatever terrorism he's supporting and building whatever weapons of mass destruction he's building. 2. We go in, win big, fast, and cheap, get rid of Saddam Hussein with relatively few casualties on their side and just about none on ours, put in a new government we more or less like which won't support terrorism or build WMD's, and it holds up. 3. We go in, win big, fast, and cheap, put in a new government we more or less like, it collapses into chaos or Iraq splits into three pieces, one or more of them friendly to terrorists or willing and able to start accumulating WMD's. 4. We go in, face more opposition than we reckoned on, take a bunch of casualities and inflict a big bunch of casualties, and the aftermath follows one of the two courses outlined above, with the good outcome presumably less likely than under big, quick, and cheap. 5. We go in, discover that the Iraqis either actually like the current regime or hate us even more, and find we're in a sandy Vietnam. 6. We go in, it turns out SH either had the bomb or knew where he could get one quickly, and he takes out Tel Aviv. 7. #5, substituting New York. I'm deliberately ignoring the variations about who "we" is: just the US, the US with nominal help from some allies, the US with real help from some allies, the US backed by the UN. Some of the debate so far -- not enough, to my taste -- centers on the relative probabilities of outcomes 2-7. In thinking about that sort of question there's a tendency to ask what's most likely, and then act as if the most likely thing was actually going to happen. That ignores a key insight from decision analysis: the 10% likely outcome arrives one time in ten. All the people who are patting themselves on the back about having guessed right about how the Gulf War would go should be reminded that it was a guess, no matter how well educated. There two scenarios (other than #1) that don't involve fighting: 8. SH backs down, lets the inspectors in, and they either find that nothing was there or succeed, as far as they can tell, of destroying the capacities SH was building. They stick around so he can't start again. Despite having to back down, he holds on to power. 9. The Iraqi military, confronted with a repetition of the Gulf War, takes SH out and shoots him. The new Iraqi Supreme Poo-Bah asks the UN inspectors in to watch them shred their WMD's. #8 has gotten some attention; so far, I don't recall anyone even speculating about #9. Some of the people arguing against a war prefer outcome #1, the status quo, to any of the war options. But virtually all of the people arguing against a war prefer, or at least say they prefer, #8 (Iraqi backdown) to #1. And I can't think of a good reason not to prefer #9 (internally driven change of government leading to backdown) to #1. The more plausibly the US can threaten war, the more likely outcomes 8 and 9 become. I don't know whether that means that they go from being inconceivable to being wildly improbable, or whether it means that 5% probabilities turn into 20% probabilities, but the less credibility Bush has as he rattles his sabre the less likely it is that we can get what we want by bluff rather than combat. And of course how plausibly Bush can threaten war depends in part on the attitudes of the American public and the Congress, which attitudes the ongoing debate helps to shape. So here's the ethical problem: if you think that outcomes 5-6-7 above are plausible enough that your prefer the status quo to the expected utility of the war option, but outcomes 8 and 9 are your most preferred outcomes, what should you say? It's not obvious that saying what you really think is the right thing to do. On the other hand, to some extent the argument I've just made shows, if it's right, that "democratically determined foreign policy" is under some circumstances an oxymoron. Now take the analysis one level deeper. George Schultz announces that he thinks we should go to war. Does that mean that George Schultz thinks we should go to war, or that he thinks, pursuant to the reasoning above, that Americans in general, or members of the Republican foreign policy establishment in particular, ought to back the President, even if war would in fact be a bad idea? The same applies, of course, to the sabre-rattling itself. The President and the hawks around him have convinced many of us that they actually would prefer a war to a backdown. But that might be a useful think to have the Iraqis believe, even if it weren't true. This would all be easier, of course, with a President we respected and trusted. But there's nothing we can do about that right now. Unlike almost everyting else he's gotten in his life, George W. Bush has earned our hatred and contempt. Worked hard for it. Nothing is going to take it away from him. And we know that, whatever else he does, he will not give up one iota of personal or partisan advantage to secure national unity for the coming campaign. Indeed, he will do his best to bait the Democrats into opposing him, hoping for a backlash in November. Why else have Dick Cheney appear on the Rush Limbaugh program on the 9-11 anniversary? Or why has Bush made precisely zero effort to enlist Bill Clinton and Al Gore -- both of whom supported the Gulf War -- on the pro-war side? But as much as I believe that Democrats need to start acting as effectively nasty as Republicans, I have to draw the line somewhere, and it's well short of trying to make the outcome in Iraq worse in order to avoid giving GWB a political boost. This stuff gives me headaches, which is why I'm happy to work on domestic policy. And I'm not comfortable with the answer I just got. But a little self-consciousness about what we're doing as we debate going to war should be useful, shouldn't it?
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
REVENGE OF THE KILLER WEED: THE SEQUEL Two readers who claim to remember the sixties write to say that the pot nowadays is definitely stronger. (One adds that the music isn’t nearly as good.) I don’t doubt it; a factor-of-three change in potency isn’t a small one. And it’s likely that some of what people were smoking to “The Sounds of Silence” really was too weak to get off on; whatever the mean, there’s a distribution around it, and the lower the mean the more likely any given sample is to fall below some cutoff. But none of that goes to the question, “What are the risks of smoking cannabis, and have they changed substantially over time?” My view is that the risks are substantially greater than most of my well-educated boomer friends believe. Taking the entire population of people who have used cannabis at least five times, the risk in that group of becoming a heavy daily cannabis user for a period of at least months is something like one in nine. Being a pothead isn’t nearly as bad for you as being a drunk, and it usually doesn’t last as long, but it’s still not a good place to be. That seems to me a strong enough reason to oppose the legalization of cannabis on any commercial basis; I hate to think what RJR and Miller Brewing (or whoever just bought Miller Brewing) could do if they had cannabis to market the way they now market tobacco and beer. (In my ideal world, there would be no law against growing cannabis, using it, or giving it away, but selling it would remain banned. That wouldn't prevent sales activity entirely, but it would help keep it discreet and prevent advertising.) There’s no reason to think that the risk of developing an unwanted marijuana habit has changed over time as a result of increasing cannabis potency, or that stronger cannabis creates new risks of, e.g., violence or lasting psychological damage. The right answer to a boomer who says, “I smoked the stuff and it didn’t do me any harm” is “Then you were one of the lucky majority. Don’t forget about the unlucky minority,” rather than “But pot is different now.” There has, in fact, been a change over time that, unlike potency, is directly relevant to policy choice. The age at first use has fallen, so that the typical first-time smoker is an eighth grader rather than a college freshman. That has to increase all of the risks involved. The opponents of changes in current laws ought to challenge proponents of such changes about why making cannabis legally available to adults won’t further increase its use among minors. (Perversely, but perhaps inevitably, current policies make the risks of legal and social sanctions for using cannabis greater for adults than for teenagers.) But to do so would require an implicit concession that cannabis use by adults really isn’t such a horrible thing. Is that common-sense acknowledgement too much to ask?
REVENGE OF THE KILLER WEED This November, Nevadans will vote on an initiative to legalize marijuana. Unlike California's Prop. 215, this isn't about medical marijuana; this is the whole ball of wax. Of course, Nevada can't actually make marijuana legal; it would still be banned by federal law. That means that the state can't set up a legal distribution system as provided in the ballot measure. The newspaper chatter about how the resulting revenues could fix the state's budget deficit is therefore pure moonshine. Still, Nevada could get its own enforcement machinery out of the way of Nevadans (and tourists) who want to smoke the stuff. While the Feds would certainly step in to keep Nevada from setting up a state distribution system, they're not going to arrest any substantial number of individuals for smoking a joint, or even for growing a few plants. Surprisingly, at least to me, the proposal seems to have a decent chance of passing. Unsurprisingly, John Walters, the "drug czar," is against it, and he's dragged out one of the great chestnuts of the marijuana policy debate: increasing marijuana potency. "What many people don't understand is that this is not your father's marijuana," Walters said. "What we're seeing now is much more potent." Walters provided more detail in an op-ed: In 1974, the average THC content of marijuana was less than 1 percent. But by 1999, potency averaged 7 percent. Further, unlike the old "ditchweed" and bulk marijuana of the past, there are now far more powerful products to entice youth. The THC of today's sinsemilla averages 14 percent and ranges as high as 30 percent. Even stronger stuff is on the way. The point is that the potency of available marijuana has not merely "doubled," but increased as much as 30 times. Well, actually, no. These are old claims, and well known to be false. Those very low potency figures resulted from testing marjuana after long periods in storage. Marijuana with less than 1% THC is, precisely, "ditchweed," and no one would have bothered to smoke it. And of course the fact that some pot out there now is much stronger than average pot was a generation ago doesn't really tell you much; the right comparison would be average-to-average or maximum-to-maximum. On an average-to-average basis, potency (as measured by THC content) has probably about tripled, partly due to changes in cultivation and partly due to the change in the mix of what is sold as "marijuana" from the less-potent leaves to the more-potent flowering tops of the plant. But all of this is really beside the point. What matters isn't how strong the material is, but how intoxicated the users get. And there's lots of evidence that marijuana users tend to have a target level of intoxication and learn how to titrate dosage to reach that level. Studies that ask marijuana users to roll a joint have found that the average size has halved, from about half a gram to about a quarter of a gram, and there's anecdotal evidence that sharing a single joint has become more common. The proof of the brownie is in the eating. The Monitoring the Future study, which has been asking high school seniors about their drug use since the 1970s, has a set of questions asking users of each drug, "How high do you get when you use [whatever it is]?" The reports are different for different drugs -- not surprisingly, people who use LSD report getting much higher than people who smoke pot -- and there's some variation over time, reflecting, for example, the trend toward drinking to get drunk. So there's reason to think the questions are measuring something real. And the line for marijuana is flat as a pancake. Kids who get stoned today aren't getting any more stoned than their parents were. That ought to be the end of the argument. But the stakes here are too high for the drug warriors to let the facts get in their way. (And yes, the "reform" side can be equally disrespectful of the data.) Most baby boomers had experience with pot, either personal or vicarious, and most of those experiences weren't catastrophic. "Not your father's pot" is a great way to convince them to ignore their own experience, personal or vicarious, and believe what they're told to believe. To some extent, it works: most boomers tell pollsters that they oppose marijuana legalization. And since reporters have been trained to think that "objectivity" means reporting both sides of an argument rather than determining, where the facts are determinable, which side is telling the truth and which is using a substitute, there's no real risk of getting nailed. (Think of it as postmodernism in action.) Walters himself may well not know how bogus his numbers are; telling the boss that a politically useful argument is false-to-fact is rarely a good career move. So all the incentives line up behind Mark Twain's maxim: "Tell the truth, or trump. But take the trick." But is the game really worth the candle? Everyone knows what Lincoln said about fooling all of the people all of the time, but perhaps more attention should be paid to the context he put that in: "The public confidence, once lost, will not be easily regained. You can fool all of the people some of the time..." There's a provision of the federal criminal law that makes it a crime to knowingly make a false statement to an official of the United States about any matter within his official competence. I sometimes fantasize about a symmetric law making it a crime for an official to bullshit the public. No? Well, maybe not. Still, it's nice to think about. [See the follow-up post immediately above. For a critique by David Murray of the drug czar's office, see here. For my response, see here.]
Saturday, September 07, 2002
IS SWEDEN REALLY WORSE OFF THAN MISSISSIPPI? Other countries have public policies different from ours. They also have different results. It's tempting to try to attribute the differences in results to the differences in policies, but the temptation should usually be resisted. Conditions also differ in ways that have little to do with policy, and different policies are likely to be optimal under different sets of conditions. (When asked whether the United States should embrace Dutch drug policies, I'm always inclined to reply, "Yes, as soon as we have a Dutch population to try them out on.") All of this is by way of comment on the latest storm in the blogosphere about conditions in Sweden. It has always been an article of faith among the American right that Sweden is about to finally collapse under the horrible weight of all that socialism, and the tendency among some social democrats to imagine it as the America-that-ought-to-be just contributes to the problem. The latest brouhaha seems to have started with Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, who reacted to Eric Alterman's comment that Sweden was "a beacon of light" by pointing out that Sweden ...collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two, and despite its moralistic posturing in the postWar era was not especially admirable then, either. Nor, being poorer than Mississippi, but with more crime than America, are they much of a model domestically. Let's give the foreign policy stuff a pass, shall we? -- World War II was a while ago -- and look at the domestic facts. First, the economy. Sweden has a lower GDP per capita than the United States; compared to the rest of Western Europe, it's been slipping, but still counts as a thoroughly rich country. Like other Western Europeans, Swedes work hundreds of hours per year less than do Americans; a fair comparison would attribute some value to the added leisure. Swedish income is more equally distributed than ours, and more of it is spent on publicly funded services (and correspondingly less on private consumption) than is the case here. So if you compare Swedish after-tax income with U.S. after-tax income, ignore leisure, and don't add anything back in for, e.g., a national health care system, Swedes start to look pretty poor compared to Americans, even Mississippians. Swedes also have much smaller median household sizes, so a comparison based on household incomes makes them look especially bad. Reynolds cites a "Swedish study" on this point, but that turns out to be an anti-tax press release from the Swedish equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce. Admirably, Reynolds provides a link to Jason McCulloch's clearly laid out debunking of the study, but Renolds gives no basis for his conclusion that the critique is unconvincing. There's further back-and-forth on poverty rates; Sweden's is lower than ours, Reynolds admits, but he asserts the difference is only because the average Swede is poorer than the average American, pushing Sweden's poverty line down. That turns out to be wrong; if the standard of poverty is set at 30% of the US median family income, Americans are about twice as likely as Swedes to be counted as poor (6-and-change percent v. 3-and-change percent). Overall, then, the claim that Sweden is poorer than Mississippi is just about as silly as it sounded the first time you heard it. A glance at other measures of well-being, such as reading levels and life expectancies, confirms the view that Sweden is still doing pretty well for itself. That doesn't, of course, mean that Swedish economic policies are admirable, or that ours should come to resemble theirs. All the above is second-hand analyisis; economic policy isn't my field. Now to the crime rate, which I actually know something about. After the huge crime wave of the 1960s and early 1970s, our total crime rates were higher than European crime rates, and our violent crime rates were enormously higher. Then our crime rates leveled off (and started to fall in the 1990s), while European rates soared. In crimes like auto theft and burglary, most of Western Europe now has higher rates than the US. But if you look at violent crime, we still hold an unfortunate lead: for homicide, our rates are three to five times as high as comparable European rates. But overall crime statistics -- counts of total crimes, or total number of people victimized in a year --are dominated by property crime, most of it relatively petty. Unless you really think that a murder and a purse-snatching are equivalent events, comparing totals doesn't really tell you much. So the statement that "Sweden has more crime than the United States" represents something less than half the truth. Occasionally someone asserts, based on Interpol statistics, that someplace in Western Europe has a higher murder rate than the US. Barry McCaffrey, while he was drug czar, claimed that about the Netherlands, as "proof" that being soft on drugs leads to crime. (Ironically, he made the comment in Stockholm, as part of a speech praising the draconian Swedish approach to drug control by comparison with the milder Dutch approach.) That claim was false about the Netherlands, and it's false about Sweden. The Interpol numbers track crimes as described by each country's own laws. In some European countries, including the Netherlands (and, it appears, Sweden) attempted murder is covered by the same crime-code section as completed murder. So the Dutch have twice our "homicide rate" as measured by the Interpol numbers, but only one-fifth as much actual homicide. Sweden's actual murder rate is somewhat higher than that, but still only about a third of ours. Murder is a fairly good measure, though not a perfect one, of serious violent crime generally. And it's serious violent crime, not larceny, that threatens a society's viability. The actual losses sustained by property-crime victims are more than annoying, but they don't really constitute a huge social problem. (Even murder, simply considered as a source of sudden death, is a much smaller problem than, for example, auto accidents, which no one considers a primary measure of social welfare.) The truly horrible thing about crime is that it is deliberate rather than accidental, and therefore spreads fear and poisons social relationships. "Even a dog," said Justice Holmes, "knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked." Moreover, it's possible to avoid crime by taking precautions, such as moving to a safer neighborhood, and those precautions impose costs on the people who take them and on the people around them. When a storeowner closes early for fear of robbery, that deprives the people in the surrounding neighborhood of both services and employement opportunities. The contribution of poverty to crime is a well-known issue, but the contribution of crime to poverty is at least as powerful. The aggregate costs incurred by crime avoidance measures, plus the residual fear, are overwhelmingly more important than the aggregate costs of property crime itself. (The average residential burglary costs the homeowner about $1200; the impact on housing prices of burglary rates is all out of proportion to that.) That Western European property crime rates have soared certainly tells us that something's going wrong there. It may also presage a nasty turn in their politics, as the crime wave here did in ours, especially if European violence rates continue to rise as well. But right now, crime -- violent crime -- remains a society-threatening problem for us, and not for them. Again, that doesn't tell you whose policies are to be preferred. Maybe if we sent Bill Bratton to Stockholm he could get the burglary rate down, and then again maybe he couldn't. (I hear he and Bob Wasserman are doing a great job on crime in the London Underground.) But I doubt we can learn much about the advantages of higher marginal tax rates or more generous income maintenance programs by studying crime in Sweden. It would no doubt be useful if American policy discussions made more, and better, use of the experience of other places, but we are in some ways quite exceptional, and that will always limit the applicability of comparative studies. Be that as it may, using fuzzy statistics as ideological missles really just wastes everyone's time. UPDATE This topic continues to generate more controversy than it deserves. John Ray , for example, the Grand Inquisitor of the leftist heresy, defends GDP per capita as an "objective" measure of well-being. A few points in summary: 1. As measured by GDP per capita, Sweden is indeed poorer than the US, though richer than France, Britain, or Germany. 2. Anyone who has visited both Sweden and Mississippi will doubt that the latter is in any meaningful sense richer. 3. Even comparing to the US as a whole, Swedes are, on average, better-educated and longer-lived; these are crude and partial, but still significant, measures of overall well-being. 4. GDP per capita is, as Ray says, an accounting measure of total market-traded or tax-financed economic activity. It was not designed as a measure of net welfare, even net material welfare. 5. Leisure, clean air, safe and comfortable working conditions, personal security from criminal victimization, high educational standards, and highway safety are all aspects of material well-being omitted from the GDP measure. GDP also fails to account for resource depletion, whether of the forests in Brazil or the water table under Phoenix, Arizona. 6. It's true that any specific adjustment to the GDP measure will involve judgments that are in some sense political. But that does not make GDP an "objective" measure of welfare. Using it that way implies a judgment that the value of leisure hours is zero. That isn't political: it's simply wrong. The whole controversy has been, I submit, silly from its inception. Only the desperate need of some conservatives and libertarians to believe that Sweden, which pursues policies they condemn, must therefore be in terrible shape, explains it. After all, it would have been equally true to say, "After a decade of Thatcherite rule, Britain was poorer than Mississippi," or "The disastrous policies of the Berlusconi regime have made Italy poorer than Mississippi," or "The Austrian flirtation with a neo-Nazi government has left it poorer than Mississippi," since Sweden is richer, on a GDP per capita basis, than Britain, Italy, or Austria. But of course saying any of those things would have been foolish.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
The Rule of the Chicken Hawks: Base Canard, or Fair Comment? As C.S. Lewis pointed out about his Screwtape Letters, sometimes it is the howls of outrage that show where a remark has really hit home. That seems to have been the case with Gen. Anthony Zinni's swipe at the war wimps in the Little Bush White House (led, of course, by the AWOL-in-Chief): Here’s Zinni’s rude remark, as reported by CNN: "Attacking Iraq now will cause a lot of problems," Zinni told members of the Florida Economic Club. "If you ask me my opinion, General Scowcroft, General Powell, General Schwarzkopf, General Zinni -- maybe all see this the same way. "It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it in the same way, and all those, who never fired a shot in anger and really held back to go to war, see it in a different way. That's usually the way it is in history." Eliot Cohen points out that civilians sometimes get it right when generals get it wrong. Glenn Reynolds (the Instapundit) and Andrew Stuttaford of National Review Online accuse Zinni of "channelling" Robert Heinlein, whose Starship Troopers depicts what Heinlein’s narrator sees as an admirable society in which the elective franchise and officeholding, though not civil liberty, are restricted to military veterans (and veterans of comparably dangerous civilian pursuits). But of course none of this addresses Zinni’s point. He wasn't challenging the qualifications of non-veterans to vote, or to hold office. He was asserting that, on a question of whether to go to war, the views of those with experience in actually leading troops in battle should be preferred to the views of those who had personally avoided fighting. What Zinni really said was, therefore, much nastier than what his critics pretended to hear him saying. Phrased as it was, his remark didn’t just challenge the expertise of his opponents: it denigrated their physical courage. Zinni could, of course, be wrong, as well as rude. One might equally well attribute the opposition of old generals to new wars to a reluctance to give younger men a chance to replace them in the public esteem, or to an undue concern with the institutional health of the military machine, and the welfare of it members, as opposed to the national interest it is supposed to serve. That's part of the reason ad hominem arguments are so much fun; they're gloriously unselective. So if an argument is both impolite and without much analytical force, perhaps it not ought to be offered at all? I’m not so sure. Historically, one of the strongest forces on the side of proponents of war is the presumption that they embody courage, the manly virtue par excellance, and that their opponents are somehow effiminate. (See Harvey Mansfield’s reflections on the contemporary importance of andreia, which can mean either “courage” or “manliness.” ) Without endorsing in full what Mansfield calls a "patriarchial" view, it would be reasonable to note, with Machiavelli, that the management and defense of the state involves the exercise not only of coercion but of punishment, the deliberate infliction of harm on foreign enemies and domestic criminals. Someone greatly deficient in the willingness to inflict such harm may be a good person, but he (or she) will be, to the extent of that deficiency, a bad ruler. And if the ruler's willingness to hurt is not accompanied by the willingness to expose him- or herself to being hurt, then we have rule by bullies. (Someone should remind some of our contemporary presidents that Theodore Roosevelt was using the Gay Nineties slang term “bully” (= fab, def, cool, neat, groovy) when he claimed the Presidency as a “bully pulpit”: he did not mean that it was a good pulpit for a bully to hold, or a good pulpit to be used for bullying.) That analysis would seem to make personal courage what the law of employment discrimination calls a “bona fide occupational qualification” for a ruler. Putting one’s life and bodily integrity at risk for the defense of country is also, of course, a way to demonstrate one's willingness to place the public welfare over one’s own immediate good, another quality voters might reasonably look for in those they choose to bear temporary rule over them. Little as I find to admire in Joe Lieberman's public career, his freedom riding in the early 1960s, when white freedom riders were at risk of being beaten and even killed, struck me as a genuine character recommendation, and not entirely because of my admiration for what was then his cause. [That military service is one good way to demonstrate the virtues of courage and commitment to the public good is one good reason, in my view, that it ought rightfully be open to all capable of performing it, without discrimination on grounds of gender or sexual orientation.] Physical courage is also sometimes thought to be a sign of, or an aid to, moral courage, which is perhaps the greatest virtue required of a public servant, but although the virtues share a name and a common mechanism -- what Plato calls right opinion about what is truly to be feared -- I doubt they share much else, and there are so many counterexamples in both directions that it would be foolish to make any strong inference from a willingness to go in harm’s way on the battlefield to a willingness to displease one’s political supporters or defy the temporary public whim. The political damage done by lack of demonstrated personal courage is particularly grave when someone now holding a dovish position also previously chose not to fight when many others were fighting, as in the case of Ted Sorenson's conscientious objection in World War II, which blocked his appointment as Director of Central Intelligence by Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton's legal, apparently conscience-driven, but still rather devious draft avoidance in the Vietnam era. What's at least a little surprising is how little personal wimpiness damages hawks, or how little a good service record protects doves. Ronald Reagan fought World War II on a Hollywood sound stage, and it no more weakened his support among the "nuke 'em" crowd than his divorce weakened it among the "family values" crowd. By the same token, Lincoln's honorable service in the Black Hawk War didn't protect him from attacks on his patriotism for opposing the Mexican war (a precedent the anti-war forces of the 1960s could have used to some advantage, if so many of them hadn’t been carrying ideological baggage that made them despise both history in general and American heroes in particular). Logically, of course, deciding not to serve in a conflict which one opposes on political or moral grounds casts less of a shadow on one’s personal courage than deciding not to serve in a conflict one supports. So it's much more legitimate to challenge the andreia of those who supported the War in Vietnam but, in Dick Cheney's lovely phrase, had "other priorities" at the time, than that of the anti-war draft avoiders. Looking backward, I do not think it reasonable to have thought that a Northern-dominated Communist Government in South Vietnam was likely to produce greater happiness for the greater number in that country than the locally-based mix of feudalism, crony capitalism, military dictatorship, and rule by the Catholic minority that was the only practical alternative. But it was possible, then and now, to think that unification under Ho Chi Minh would have been the overwhelming winner in a free election, as agreed to in the 1954 peace treaty, and that respect for treaties and respect for self-determination ought, in some cases, to trump views from outside about the right forms of government for someone else’s country. I’m less firm now in that rather Wilsonian view than I used to be -- I find that I love personal liberty and the victory over profound mass poverty more than I do government by elections, and I'm convinced that in the not-too-long run personally free and prosperous peoples will find a way to choose their own rulers -- but it still seems to me a quite defensible one. It was the view I held at the time of the Vietnam war, and it made my 4-F classification -- for a perfectly genuine case of profoundly flat feet -- a very welcome development. I was not aware of any particular visceral fear of fighting or objection to killing for the right reasons -- I would, I think, have volunteered to fight (e.g.) to free Southwest Africa from South African rule -- but I had at the time what seemed to me quite serious moral qualms about waging what I took to be aggressive war. None of those complexities kept the pro-war forces from, largely successfully, challenging the manliness and the patriotism of the anti-war forces. If it's sauce for the goose, it's sauce for the gander. And, as I say, the imputation of lack of personal courage to, e.g., little Bush and Cheney based on their war (non)-records is not entirely unfair. Now how relevant that lack of personal virtue is to holding public office is a different question, but that's not really a question the party that just spent eight years assaulting Bill Clinton's personal character, and the twenty years before that doing the same to Ted Kennedy’s, has any right to raise. It would be interesting to see the results if a the Democrats were to run a retired general, or at least a real war hero -- Zinni, Wesley Clark, John Kerry -- against a President who never managed to find his way back to the Texas Air National Guard unit in which he was sitting out the Vietnam campaign after taking a transfer to another Guard unit in Alabama so he could work on his father's friend's senate campaign. It was a great mistake for the Democratic left to allow the Republican right to appropriate the American flag as a political symbol in the late 1960s. People who wear uniforms and carry guns -- the military and the police -- do an indispensible job, and enough of the public feels that fact deeply that the half-heartedness of many liberals about acknowledging it represents a real source of political weakness for the left. The Oklahoma City bombing -- clearly an attack by a part of the Far Right against the American government qua American government -- provided an opportunity for the Democrats to try to take the flag back, but the project either was never considered, or it was thought too hard to bring off, or the use of the flag as a right-wing symbol had so poisoned it for the liberal Boomers around the Clinton White House that they couldn't find it in their hearts to even try to reclaim it. However that was, questions about patriotism and courage certainly contribute to the Democrats’ relative weakness among males, and especially among Southern and rural working-class males. I can think of worthier ways of dealing with this problem than making fun of the fair-weather patriotism of those now urging us to go to war with Iraq, but not necessarily more effective ones. The usual epithet for hawkish draft-avoiders used to be "war wimps." But given the overtones of assertions of, and challenges to, virility that underlie this whole rather disgusting line of debate, I prefer the more forceful "chicken hawks," which in addition to its obvious meaning in context can also mean older men with a sexual taste for teenaged boys. If you're going to be nasty, why stop half-way? As Mr. Dooley said (but perhaps Mrs. Dooley didn’t fully agree?) politics ain't beanbag.