The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, January 31, 2003

Security Council: A procedural plan for Bush to finesse the French

Now the first UNMOVIC/IAEA reports are in, the end is supposedly in sight for the UN game. I anticipated the moment a few days ago with some ideas of my own on the subject. Now, others are joining the fray.

Steve Den Beste (prompted by a correspondent) has an idea that the USG may try to use procedural methods in the UN Security Council to outflank and isolate the French, with a view to a speedy end to jaw and a prompt start to war:
One reader pointed out that procedural votes in the Security Council require 9 ayes but are not subject to veto, which means a motion to cut off debate might be possible in a short time ("short" in diplomatic terms, not in computer terms, i.e. a few days).

It is indeed a cunning plan - but, I suspect, only in the Blackadder sense.

The following points (no suggestion they're exhaustive!) occur in considering the viability of the scheme:


  1. It is true that, in Art 27(2) of the UN Charter, it states that
    Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
    But it does not (and neither do the UNSC Provisional Rules (referred to in my earlier piece) define what procedural matters covers [1].

  2. There is no provision in either document for any sort of closure motion [2]. That's not to say that such a motion might not be made, of course.

  3. One would expect, over the years, a body of precedents (unwritten rules) to have been developed to which members and the UN Secretariat would normally adhere. In the cases of the US Congress and the UK House of Commons, such precedents are written down and, to an extent, codified. I'm not sure to what extent that applies to UNSC precedents. I would be surprised if every decision was treated as the first!

    Is there precedent for a closure motion? I can't believe this is the first time the notion has occurred to someone!

  4. Rule 30 deals with points of order [3]:
    If a representative raises a point of order, the President shall immediately state his ruling. If it is challenged, the President shall submit his ruling to the Security Council for immediate decision and it shall stand unless overruled.

    So, on that basis, if the US introduced a closure motion, France raised a point of order that such a motion was out of order, and Germany ruled in its favour, the procedural simple majority would suffice to overturn the ruling. Slam dunk.

    Except that that supposes that the Security Council decisions on such matters are at large, untrammelled by precedent. Or that the rules of the Council can be changed on the fly by means of simple points of order.

    It's conceivable (certainly, unwise to assume the opposite) that whether or not a closure motion may be made should be ruled too important to be dealt with as a point of order, but should rather be dealt with as an amendment to the Rules.

  5. Is a change in the Rules (written or unwritten) of the UNSC procedural for Art 27(2) purposes, and hence able to pass by simple majority? The Rules deal with procedure, but establishing the rules is surely more fundamental. Were the various votes establishing and amending the Security Council's Provisional Rules assumed to be procedural?


  1. The proposed use of a procedural motion has the defects of its own merits. It's less important than a substantive motion, and, for that reason, the veto cannot be exercised. But the fact that it's less important makes it politically easier to oppose, especially for the non-permanent members.

    Clearly, if all there is is the substantive motion to endorse an attack on Iraq, to oppose the motion is to oppose the attack. It's zero-sum, all or nothing - John Wayne stuff. A procedural motion gives that tertium quid essential to diplomacy. Opposing closure is merely saying, I think we should have more time to discuss this.

  2. And a number of the NPMs who might reluctantly be dragged into the Yes column on the substantive motion have, I suspect, publics that are not at all keen on the war. Or have leaders who have already expressed strong reservations.

    If they are to vote for endorsing the war, those leaders would want the cover of having resisted a lengthy spell of American arm-twisting before giving in. We made sure everything was done for peace is what they need to be able to say. If they fold in five minutes, they're Yankee running dogs (or today's equivalent).

  3. As an example of a NPM, take Mexico. President Vicente Fox has not exactly been shoulder to shoulder with Bush on the war.

    Last October, he had the temerity to have his mouthpiece say
    México se acerca a la posición de Francia, Rusia y China. La posición del Presidente (Vicente) Fox (es) en el sentido de no estar a favor de las resoluciones de carácter unilateral

    Of course, he was in the Yes column for the substantive vote. But he'd had a decent period of holding out against Uncle Sam.

    Right now, he's in Germany with 'Saddam's best friend'. He's warning Saddam to cooperate - but evidently in no hurry to get closure-motioned into rubber-stamping the attack.
    Este momento del proceso es tiempo de análisis, evaluación, discusión y diálogo de los miembros del Consejo de Seguridad para llegar a conclusiones.

    No queremos anticiparnos a emitir juicios hasta terminado este ejercicio...

    And more of the same here.

    There is a Fort Knox of accumulated anti-Americanism in Mexico, that is available to be mobilised in the right circumstances. I'm out of touch with Mexican politics - but the last time I looked (when Subcomandante Marcos and his Zapatistas had taken over Mexico City - or so it seemed - and were making a complete prat of Fox, not without the able assistance of the man himself) Fox was not exactly a dominant leader. (Not even over his own PAN party in Congress.)

    According to this poll, published on January 29, Mexicans oppose a war on Iraq as part of the war on terror 83% to 12%.

    If he's to vote for endorsement, he clearly needs to make a show of independence (Viva Vicente!) before passing beneath the gringo yoke.

  4. And France would be none too disappointed either by seeing a closure motion issuing from the American camp. They get two bites at the cherry:

    First, they'd argue that the US is railroading the decision through; they'd argue the legal points I mention above (plus some better ones, I'd hope!) And then (let's say) they'd lose.

    Then, the Council moves onto the substantive motion. And the French veto it. But on the basis that they are only doing so to give proper time for debate. And promising that, in any event, they will not exercise their veto when, after that time, the substantive motion comes up again.

    Den Beste suggests, on the contrary, that the French would be pinned to the wall:
    If they choose Saddam and veto an authorization for war, we go ahead anyway and France gets to take credit for killing the UN, not to mention for being in favor of whatever horrors in Iraq we uncover once we've won. If they vote for us, Chirac ends up looking spineless.

    More than a whiff of The West Wing-style wishful-thinking here, I suspect. The UN, readers may recall, survived a good four decades of enforced inertia due to the Cold War (I mentioned in an earlier piece the pure fluke that enabled the Korean resolutions to be passed.) I don't think a French veto here would kill it off. And, unlike Schröder, with whom their President has generally been twinned on the issue in the media, the French have carefully left the door open to supporting war [5]. But only once it's shown to be strictly necessary.

  5. Den Beste does some vote-counting. I can't say I'm impressed. For instance, he suggests Bush's push on AIDS aid will buy the votes of Angola, Cameroon and Guinea.
    If "Africa" is seen as crossing us up in the Security Council, that proposal could become a dead issue. I don't think those three nations will take the chance; it's too nice a carrot hanging out there to ignore just for the chance of tweaking our noses. Bush just bought them.

    AP is reporting details of the Bush plan: and - Oops! - none of the African beneficiaries is on the Security Council [4]. How, I wonder, did that happen?

    It's not, perhaps, surprising, in the case of Cameroon, given that the country suffers, according to this NGO summary, rather less from HIV/AIDS, in proportion to population, than some of the nations that Bush will be helping!

    As vote-counting goes, it's not quite up to Lyndon Johnson standards!

Of course, Den Beste may have gone into the whole thing with the minutest attention to detail, and is merely avoiding showing his workings to hamper the French in planning their countermoves. Naturally, my opinion on these matters is that of the rankest of amateurs......

Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds quotes a correspondent approvingly thus:
After reading the stunning op-ed letter in the WSJ this morning......I thought of Bush and Chirac and Schroeder, and a movie scene immediately popped into mind - the scene at the end of Twelve Angry Men, where Henry Fonda looks at Lee J. Cobb and says, "You're alone now."

Since he brings it up, I'm reminded of the start of deliberations: Fonda having said he doesn't know whether the defendant is guilty or not, is asked by Jack Warden
So how come you vote not guilty?

Fonda replies
Well, there were 11 votes for guilty. It's not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.

Under Den Beste's scheme, Bush isn't the noble (and oh so sanctimonious) Fonda: he's the guy who wants to send the kid to the chair in five minutes so he can get over and soak up some pre-game atmosphere at Yankee Stadium! And (and Fonda wouldn't forbear to point this out) there's a lot more than one American boy's life (let alone the others) on the line for Bush.

Over to you, Ari....

  1. The French text uses the expression questions de procédure: no help whatsoever. One would have to look at the other languages to be sure.

  2. Rule 33 specifes a number of procedural motions, but nothing resembling closure.

  3. For President, read Chairman: France now, Germany in February.

  4. The African nations named are: Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

  5. Earlier today, I quoted the French Foreign Minister saying as much.


Going to war on a point of order - the French nail the point

It's not that it's an original point, or astounding, or really newsworthy.

But it's worth stressing - and it's interesting that the French Foreign Minister, Dominque de Villepin, has chosen to stress it now.
Il ne faut pas confondre le degré de coopération de l'Irak avec la menace qu'il représente effectivement. La question d'une intervention militaire se poserait si nous avions la certitude que l'Irak possède des armes de destruction massive et s'il refusait de les détruire ; elle ne peut pas se reposer seulement sur l'absence de certitude que l'Irak n'en a pas. Nous ne sommes pas dans le camp des pacifistes à tout crin, mais nous ne sommes prêts à une guerre que si elle est indispensable.

The US posits as bull points for war two essentially procedural matters:

  1. Iraq has failed to comply fully with its USCR 1141 obligations to cooperate with the inspectors;

  2. Iraq's previous evasions and deceptions have placed the burden of proof on Iraq to show that it does not retain WMDs, rather than the inspectors needing to prove that it does - a burden, needless to say, which the Iraqis have failed to discharge.

De Villepin is pointing out that the only legitimate basis on which an attack can be justified is on a demonstration of the the threat posed by Iraq.

Of course, the reason why these procedural issues are brought up by the US is the very lack of concrete evidence about the threat itself - or, worse - the fear (from the US viewpoint) that what evidence that there is shows that the Iraqi threat is contained.

For all the talk about the Adlai Stevenson moment, the USG track record on producing evidence of the threat has been dismal. Remember the much-touted Mohamed Atta meeting in Prague? The whole history of USG attempts to show an Iraq-Al Qaida connection has been a succesion of failed deceptions. And, way back in pre-history, the Blair dossier - the first of many insults to the intelligence (pun intended).

Hence we're going to war on the basis of a motion to compel, or a motion for discovery, or some such legal mumbo-jumbo.

The French guy is right - and a thousand years of history make saying so the hardest thing to do!

Thursday, January 30, 2003

When the six pack turns into Seven Dwarves.....

This is, believe it or not, a genuine point of information.

The current Democratic possible Presidential candidates for 2004 are colloquially known as the six pack. One more appears on the horizon and - you see where I'm going with this.

The Dems have already done the dwarf thing - 1988. And once, I'm sure they'd agree, was enough.

So how is it managed? Suppose a Dem wants to put himself forward - is there some kind of DNC clearing system whereby he's made to stack until one of the six-pack drop out or another guy comes forward, to bring the total up to eight?

I can't imagine the suits haven't thought of this - they surely can't just be hoping for the best, surely?


South Carolina boycott - North Carolina's new senior Senator is all in favour

If Joe Lieberman's is a sad case, what to make of Bob Graham?

In looking at Lieberman, I had missed Graham's earlier statement that he not only wants the flag removed from the Statehouse grounds at Columbia (as does Lieberman) but actually supports the NAACP call for an economic boycott of the state!

Comment is surely superfluous.

(The supposed beneficiaries of all this attention - the boycott's been going on since 1999, I believe - have not, it seems, been uniformly grateful. I now turn up a piece on black concern about the effect on tourism that I'd suggested in the earlier piece was a key industry likely to suffer from any successful SC boycott.)

Which flag is being flown? Those wishing to get technical have this site for Civil War era flags, and this is a history of Confederate flag controversies post-Appomattox. I'm steering well clear.


The Bush Iraq Resolution report...... on its way - see the update.


Is Uncle Sam playing footsie with Kurdish terrorists?

Not a hard story to dismiss really: the Grassy Knoll, Area 51, the CIA Los Angeles crack attack - this one finds itself right at home!


Well, the story's mercifully a good deal shorter than any of those famous conspiracies: over the weekend of January 18/19, Millyet columnist Can Dundar
published a document telling of contacts between the PKK and US officials. The document, which was found by Milliyet reporter Namik Durukan in northern Iraq and which seems to be an actual PKK report, reveals that US officials have held contacts with the PKK about the future of northern Iraq.

‘What pleases us is that our organization was not treated with suspicion,’ the report wrote. ‘This shows that our meetings will bear fruit.’

During their meetings, the PKK promised to solve the Kurdish problem as part of a ‘democratic solution’ carried out by protecting the country’s integrity. In addition, they requested that Washington serve as a mediator between on the one side Barzani and Talabani, the generally recognized Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq, and on the other the terrorist group.

However, the US doesn’t have a record of keeping its promises. This time the PKK is leaning towards threat and blackmail to position itself better in Iraq’s future. It’s sending the message, ‘Don’t mess with the PKK.’ [Paragraphing mine]

And that's it.

The only other piece of evidence I can find online is a question during the January 23 press briefing with Richard Boucher at the State Department:
QUESTION: Today's Turkish newspaper published some pictures about some U.S. officials, they are meeting in the Northern Iraq and the PKK terrorists, as the new name is the KADEK terrorists. And why the United States needs this kind of contact with the PKK in the Northern Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what you're talking about. I will have to look into it and see if there is any such thing.

The latest briefing with a transcript on the State Department site (January 24) doesn't mention the PKK (or KADEK, as it's known now) at all.

A search at the New York Times and Washington Post throws up no mention of either acronym within the last 30 and 14 days respectively.

Google et al are equally bereft of further information.

What can one say?

Namik Durukan has turned up before, in a report on the
shooting of Turkey's foremost human rights activist Akin Birdal
in April 1998. He's described as
a journalist from Diyarbakir who works for the BBC's Turkish Section, was accused of helping the PKK by 'spreading anti-Turkish propaganda' via his reports.

Apparently, Durukan was actually put on trial by the Turkish government at the time:
Very reliable sources report that the prosecution alleged that Durukan sent coded messages to the BBC. If the dollar went up or the deutschmark down, it meant the PKK were about to start - or abort - a military operation.

[It's a military dictatorship beneath a thin veneer of just enough 'democracy' to satisfy the West - what do you expect?]

Equally apparently, he was acquitted.

[What can I say? He was part of the veneer - plus the BBC thing....]

The questions Who is he working for? and Is the document, if it exists, genuine? are necessarily intertwined. I don't really think the sketchy reports we have really make it sensible to spend too much time speculating: for instance, the fact (if it is one) that Durukan was had up in court by the Turks might make him appear likely to be a PKK sympathiser. But, the same reason would make him an excellent witness for the Turks....

The cui bono question is also far from clear. Are the Turks trying to embarrass the US to get it to back off a bit on its war-related demands; or to show the need for injecting Turkish forces into Iraqi Kurdistan; or are the PKK/KADEK trying to play the big men; or what?

Who exactly were those
US officials?
Again, there's a wide choice; from outright fakes, through local CIA contacts acting for themselves while pretending to work for the Agency, genuine US operatives gone native.......take your pick, write your novel.

The name Archimedes Patti, the OSS's finest and sometime associate of Uncle Ho, springs to mind, for some unaccountable reason. My guess is that there's a whole gaggle of Pattis putting themselves about the alphabet soup in the region, smiling warmly, trusting to interpreters, being led by the nose, and generally making prats of themselves.

Can you say Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh?

Speculation is fun: but some real journalism would be better. And that, I'm afraid, is not something I can help with!

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

American Europhobia: a fifty year comparison

With hostilities apparently around the corner, unless we're lucky, the US v Europe grudge match is getting whole forests felled.

An article by Timothy Garton Ash in an upcoming New York Review of Books takes a long look at the phenomenon which seems at times to fuel the blogosphere!

No great revelations, but a pleasantly written leisurely canter [1] round the subject.

He stresses that the mutual transatlantic phobias are driven to a significant extent by ideology, rather than raw xenophobia. For instance, he quotes polling from December 2002 showing that Democrats were markedly more sympathetic than Republicans to the greater European inclination to persevere with diplomacy, rather than resort to war. And suggests that the phobia coming the other way tends to be led by the European left (a rather weaker point, perhaps, in relation to France, where de Gaulle set the phobia benchmark by which all his (mostly right-wing) successors have been judged!).

The belated decision of the American right to embrace the Zionist cause - the Likud brand, in particular - similarly gives them a stick to beat the Europeans with, and put clear blue water [2] between it and the centre-left. Jonah Goldberg, for instance, is quoted as calling Bill Clinton a European - and I get the impression that, in his book, it's definitely a worse offence than perjury!

And Ash makes the old point about the US have a parent-child relationship with Europe; following a long period of cultural Euro-worship [3], the Cold War suppressed the rage of the American nation's adolescence. And Clinton the European kept it dampened down. With a real American in the White House, it's been flaring up like mad.

I have a battered copy of a book by an acolyte of Margaret Mead, Geoffrey Gorer, called The Americans: A Study in National Character [4] which draws on Mead's 1942 The American Character in suggesting (amongst other things) the rejected father theory.

On the first page of the first chapter, he quotes General George Patton (of all people) addressing his men before the assault on Sicily in July 1943:
When we land, we will meet German and Italian soldiers whom it is our honor and privilege to attack and destroy.

Many of you have in your veins German and Italian blood, but remember that these ancestors of yours so loved freedom that they gave up home and country to cross the ocean in search of liberty. The ancestors of the people we shall kill lacked the courage to make such a sacrifice and continued as slaves

He's proposing a sort of Darwinian superiority for Americans: not purely biological (in the sense of the Nazi Aryan ideal), but clearly with a large biological component.

Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld might balk at expressing themselves in quite so bald a fashion as the General. But, it seems to me that Patton's message supplies a good deal of the venom with which their softer words are laced.

And, perhaps, a part of the resentment felt in Europe at kneejerk charges of antisemitism from the American right derives from the perception that much of their rhetoric is underpinned by feelings of racial superiority similar to those expressed by Patton.

[The Gorer book is a mine of theories which supposedly explain the American character from what he calls
the psycho-social viewpoint.
A mine that I hope to work some when the opportunity arises.]

  1. Nearly 5,000 words.

  2. A (UK) Conservative Party catchphrase, denoting its difficulty to distinguish itself from Blair's Labour Party - now holding the centre ground of British politics, without getting too extreme.

  3. Like most things American, rather than splitting the difference, two contradictory ways of thinking co-existed. Rampant Anglophilia in the arts, and Big Bill Thompson expressing a desire to punch King George in the snoot, Calvin Coolidge saying They hired the money, didn't they? and similarly disobliging comments.

  4. Cresset Press, London; 1948


Lieberman considers endorsing a South Carolina boycott - over a flag?!

Call it Jefferson Davis's revenge. More than 140 years after he was sworn in at Montgomery as CSA President, one glimpse of grey, and ordinarily sensible pols go doolally. Stark raving bonkers.

First [1] it was Trent Lott (December archive passim.) Then, the bizarre complicity of might-be 2004 candidate Carol Mosley Braun in the Senate's honouring of the old traitor.

And now solid, dependable, middle-of-the-road Joe Lieberman is apparently seriously considering telling voters to secede South Carolina from the Union! Economically speaking, that is [2].

Not that he invented the moronic plan - that honour goes to the NAACP. But the idiocy is no less damning for being merely adopted. (Perhaps, post-Lott, white pols have to jump Jim Crow particularly high to avoid the taint.)

Of course, in these days of outsourcing, boycotting a state's products must be nigh on impossible. Except for tourism - which just happens to be a big Palmetto State earner on which many registered Dem voters' jobs depend. Workers on minimum wage, workers who couldn't stand to lose their health insurance if Northern moral onanists got with the Shun SC programme. The sort of folks you'd expect a Democratic President to have closest to his heart.

Not that he's an enthusiast. According to the State, Lieberman told them that
[n]ot one voter has asked him about the flag.

The NAACP's SC constituents not perhaps over-enamoured with its master-plan to throw them out of work?

But it's not only members of their own party that the kow-towing Dem candidates must worry about: since, as I mentioned in an earlier piece, the Democratic primary in South Carolina will (I believe) be open, GOP crossovers could make life interesting. With Al Sharpton on hand to push the boycott message (or am I presuming too much there?), middle-of-the-road candidates may get run over.

In any case, that a guy like Lieberman would even entertain the crackpot boycott idea for second makes me wonder: with all this crazy stuff going on down in Dixie, perhaps the DEA ought to be tasked with a War On Magnolia......

  1. First for this blog, at least.
  2. Of course, SC was first to get the seceding business underway in December 1860, so there's poetic justice there. But poets, as a class, are not notorious for possessing an excess of common sense......

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Was Mary Todd Lincoln a husband-beater?

[I'm not suggesting that there's any historical doubt on the question - merely, that I personally don't have a clue. (Time to re-read David Herbert Donald's bio, perhaps....)]

The idea comes from an article on husband-beating in La Firme newspaper of Santiago de Chile (preserved on Usenet), which says:
El problema ha afectado a muchas hombres, tanto de países desarrollados como del tercer mundo. Por ejemplo, el mismísimo Abraham Lincoln, ex Presidente de Estados Unidos, sufrió las consecuencias de casarse con una mujer de armas tomar.

Let's just say I'm gobsmacked and will look into it.


Yanks v Franks: not another Blogistan fracas?

[There should be a collective expression for the French and the Germans - Franks seems as good a jury term as any.]

As a topic, it's about as squeezed dry as thin women in Hollywood. I footnote it mostly because it's the first post-hiatus blogosphere row I've played a part in (albeit one of the blink and you'll miss it variety).

Kevin Drum over at Calpundit quoted approvingly an extract from my piece on Rumsfeld's mischievous comments about old Europe [1] and the like:
The question for the US is, of course, what position could the Europeans take up, short of supine submission to each and every US proposal, that the Administration would approve?

Then David Adesnik at Oxblog picks up the quote and then comments:
....why is it now acceptable to bash America without a solid argument to back the bashing up?

My impression (no claim for statistical validity) is that the manifold imprecations hurled by the more belligerent amongst blogosphere denizens towards the Franks are themselves not invariably accompanied by solid argument in support. Or, perhaps, those arguments are thought so well-known that the reader can be expected to take them as read.

On the substantive point, it's a commonplace, surely, that, in time of war, there's a closing of ranks, and a willingness to assume that the enemy is wrong on all points simply because he's the enemy.

For example, one has the internment of West Coast Japanese during World War 2: a move low on effectiveness (Jap spies hadn't made it out East yet?) and high on pandering to Yellow Peril prejudice [2]. Few tears shed for Korematsu-san inside the Supreme Court or out, I suspect. The propaganda posters speak volumes, of course - this one - the Jap soldier (supposedly the spitting image of Prime Minister Tojo!) carrying off a naked white girl over his shoulder [3] - one of the most striking.

A brave American to suggest in 1942 that the Japanese had genuine difficulties in relationship to primary resources that explained, without justifying, their resort to war!

Very much lower down on the same continuum, Bush and the War Party - more by innuendo than direct statement - go a good deal further than merely suggesting that the Franks' appreciation of the strategic situation is faulty. Their failing is moral: they lack the courage and willingness for self-sacrifice to face the threat from Saddam [4]; their leaders fail to lead, are still mired in a Cold War mindset with Gaullian Third Force notions; and [though this is perhaps not stressed as much] they have their own reasons - financial, strategic, neo-colonialist - for wishing to treat with Saddam, rather than overthrow him.

It is, of course, business as usual. The transatlantic stereotypes - cowboys versus decayed bourgeoisie - haven't changed much in fifty years, surely? Like all stereotypes, they only have resonance to the extent they're true. At one level, it's banter between friends (frères ennemis is the French term, I believe), like the Poms and the Aussies over cricket [5]; at another, a partially accurate representation of deeper truths.

Politically, Yank-bashing and the reverse no doubt pays dividends where it counts: with a politician's own voters. But they can only be relevant to practical diplomacy by mistake.

Rumsfeld, of all people, should know the distinction between rhetoric and diplomacy by now - for instance, his now famous 1983 trip to Baghdad [6], no doubt justified on grounds of Realpolitik, need have had no relation to the public foreign policy pronouncements of the Reagan Administration at the time.

And the Europeans, for all their displays of synthetic anger - the shit reference from French Ecology minister Roselyne Bachelot [7], most notably - understood this well enough.

The tone, finally, of my original piece was very much Circulez, y'a rien à voir [8]. My sense is that, in the main, it's (some members of) the War Party who seem to be taking the Yanks v Franks stuff in earnest - perhaps because zeal is better copy than cynicism, and genuine zeal best of all.

Which is not to suggest that the policy differences between the US and various European powers are in some way fictitious. Clearly, they're not. But, I believe, the tone of the public debate, the news agenda set by politicians and the media, do, to an extent, fictionalise those differences. Goose them up for the hoi polloi.

Franklin Roosevelt was crippled throughout his years as President. Yet for most of the period, most Americans had the impression that he could walk - or, if they suspected his problem, preferred not to think about it. That, of course, was just as FDR wanted it. But I doubt he ever duped himself into believing the fantasy [9].

  1. Transcript here.

  2. Part, perhaps, of the explanation for the Dred Scott approach to the school desegregation cases (Brown v Board of Education) of wartime California Attorney-General Earl Warren and subsequently Eisenhower's blowback Supreme Court Chief Justice - known by his nickname, Impeach....

  3. Carrying her by her left leg, her torso upside down, her back against his (a contortion for the sake of the League of Decency, no doubt!)

  4. Echoing the Munich stuff much in evidence last Autumn, but not so much recently.

  5. Until the Aussies got too good and started winning every time!

  6. The December 30 2002 WaPo article by Michael Dodds preserved on Usenet.

  7. Wrapped up in a reference to the mot de Cambronne incident - where the eponymous general of Napoleon replied Merde to an invitation to surrender - Gen Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne said Nuts at the Battle of the Bulge in similar circumstances, of course.

  8. Shades of Officer Barbrady.....

  9. He did, as I understand it, entertain certain fantasies - as to the dispensability of de Gaulle in the pre-D-Day period, for instance; and the liquidation of the French and British Empires. And there were indeed a considerable nuisance in the conduct of wartime diplomacy. Nobody's perfect....


Iraq: Whatever happened to the other report?

Everyone focussing right now on the reports from UNMOVIC and the IAEA, and quite right too.

However, the completist (anorak?) in me just had a thought about that other report on Iraq, WMDs and the like that should have been produced recently: the report (to use the language of English municipal bye-laws) pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 [1], that Congress past three months or so ago.

§4(a) of the Resolution says:
The President shall, at least once every 60 days, submit to the Congress a report on matters relevant to this joint resolution, including actions taken pursuant to the exercise of authority granted in section 3 and the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after such actions are completed, including those actions described in section 7 of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338).

The section, strangely enough, does not specify that the first period of 60 days starts running on the day on which the Resolution became law; but perhaps the rules of statutory construction read that requirement into it.

If so, there should have been a report sent to Congress no later than the middle of December. So far as I can tell, however, the first official confirmation of the existence of a presidential report under PL 107-243 is this letter dated January 20 2003 on the White House site, evidently sent to the House Speaker and Senate President pro tempore:
Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243) and as part of my effort to keep the Congress fully informed, I am providing a report prepared by my Administration on matters relevant to that resolution including on the status of efforts to obtain Iraq's compliance with the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council. Information required by section 3 of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1) is and will be included in this and subsequent reports.

Better than never, but at least a nod to legal obligations. Except that there is no sign anywhere of the text of the report.

Not on the White House site [2], not (according to THOMAS) in the Congressional Record, nothing disclosed from Messrs Google and Co (except what is clearly a covering letter from the Pres as mentioned before).

Do I expect anything of any value in the report? Certainly not. None of the other productions of the US and UK governments on Iraq have produced much of value. But the odd piece of the jigsaw might become apparent, set against other information already in the public domain.

Besides, if the law tells the President to do a thing, surely (especially on so sensitive a matter as this) he ought to do it.

It may, it occurs to me, have always been intended to be a secret report. Perhaps that's implied by statutory interpretation, too. In which case, I will have lived and learnt.

Finally, I may merely be showing my ignorance in not having located the report in the place where the world (or at least the American portion of it) and his wife knows it may be accessed. So be it.

I just would like to know.

  1. HJRes 114 (107th); became PL 107-243 on October 16 2002 - THOMAS has a temporary URL only - GPO URL for PDF copy.

  2. Link from the page with the letter? You've got to be joking...... Just to double-check, I looked at Fleischer's January 21 briefing transcript. Nada.

UPDATE The missing report is on its way for we Great Unwashed. THOMAS - temporary URL, as per - includes it in a list dated January 28 of Executive Communications to the House (#263 for the year, evidently - from a Congressional Record search on 107-243); it will be H Doc No 108-23, and - I'm guessing - will be available from the GPO site on this URL.

It's only fair to say that no 108th Congress Congressional Documents at all are yet available from that page. Is there a quicker way to get hold of the Presidential words of wisdom? For mere mortals, I mean......

Monday, January 27, 2003

UC Berkeley - Applicant's SAT Scores by Race

An interesting page turned up in Gratz/Grutter researches: it gives the 25th and 75th percentile scores [1] for high school applicants for freshman spots at the college from 1983 to 2000 for the various racial groups.

It's an unwieldy page to look at - better in spreadsheet format - but they're numbers to work with.

No immediate surprises - except that there seems to have been a rebasing in 1996 - a 100 point jump in the 25th for pretty much all categories is surely an artefact!

  1. Thus the tails of the bell curve are excluded without any math. Which is always a plus in my book...


Utah court shambles over rape counselling report

The New York Times had a piece yesterday (link via Howard Bashman) on the problems state courts are having with such reports.

The article mostly concerns a Massachusetts case in which the court has ordered such records turned over to the lawyer representing a man accused of rape.

But it refers to a case last month in Utah, one of 'a few' states which have accorded such reports absolute privilege, in which the state Supreme Court threw out an appeal from a man convicted of rape who argued (based on the 14th Amendment) that the reports in his case should have been reviewed in camera to determine their evidential value.

Going to the decision - the case is State v Gomez - it seems, to judge from the tone as well as the content of the only opinion, that Gomez's case to the court on the point was just one long snafu: the cases that his lawyer cited [1] as controlling related to laws granting qualified privilege, and hence, the Utah court said, were not in point.

The opinion goes on:
Other than his assertion that Ritchie and Cardall govern this case, Gomez offers no other independent constitutional analysis or authority supporting his two otherwise conclusory statements referencing the Fourteenth Amendment and his constitutional right to a fair trial. In this respect, Gomez has failed to adequately brief the constitutional issues in this case, and we therefore will not address them.

And then cites what look like exclusively Utah opinions for taking this course. (Perhaps it's such settled law that there was no purpose in searching out better precedents!)

An opportunity lost to get a proper decision on the constitutionality of the Utah law - and that of the (unspecified) other states with similar laws.

And Gomez is still doing five to life.......

[I took a brief look at the Utah Constitution - not mentioned by Gomez's lawyer on the absolute privilege point. I don't think it gives greater protection than the US Constitution. But frankly, since the only page I could find puts virtually every sentence on a separate page, it took five seconds to lose interest in the whole idea!]

  1. Pennsylvania v Ritchie 480 US 39; State v Cardall 982 P2d 79.


Could the new silent majority really stymie the war?

The role of Neville Chamberlain in the years before World War 2 was a fixture in War Party rhetoric a few months ago. His most striking verbal contribution, however, occurred on April 5 1940, when he told an audience
Hitler has missed the bus.

The same day on which Royal Navy vessels leave port bound for the truly shambolic Norway 'invasion' [1].

Now, I don't reckon many Britons believed Chamberlain [2] at the time. And cynicism is perhaps the safest reaction in time of near-war to any proposition remotedly smacking of bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover.

About this piece from Sunday's London Observer, I'm not totally sure.

It picks up on a point that I've made several times before here - most recently here - that polling numbers against the war (in large majorities, against a war without express UN approval) are useless unless politically organised. And the writer's deeply sceptical (as I am) about the effectiveness of street protests in slowing down or stopping the march to war. (So perhaps my hesitation over the piece is just unconscious flattery - judge for yourself....)

Her idea (to which she gives much less space than those she rejects!) is that Tony Blair is listening to the silent, stay-at-home majority; that his espousing (and getting Bush to espouse, however faithlessly) the UN route can be attributed to the threat that all this political potential energy lounging on the sofas of Britain could be roused to do him damage unless he went slowly.

And that - unfortunately - is it. She leaves out the key detail - the method whereby this damage could actually be inflicted if Blair once says, Bugger the UN! and the war kicks off.

It's the same problem the no-appeasement fanatics have with arguing that Hitler could have been stopped long before Munich. For the argument to be credible, they must say how. Who is supposed to have done what on what day, etc, etc.

So, credit for realism on the effectiveness of demos; but not even close - and certainly no cigar - on how popular anti-war sentiment can be activated.

Perhaps, in next week's column......

  1. Which led to his resigning, following the famous House of Commons Debate (starting 3 May 1940) in which Conservative MP Leo Amery famously (is supposed to have) called on Labour MP Arthur Greenwood, as he started his speech, to
    Speak for England.

  2. Someone has no doubt searched the records of Mass Observation to find out - also, Gallup was doing polls in the UK at the time, I believe.

CORRECTION Not so much Homerus dormitans as the old guy after a sackful of magic mushrooms! As the page linked states, the Speak for England quote was uttered on September 2 1939 - in response to a suggestion from Chamberlain that a withdrawal of German forces across the Polish borders might be the basis of negotiations. As Captain Mainwaring would have said....

On the bright side, checking the entirely self-indulgent Latin tag got me to the excellent Perseus Digital Library with more classical-related stuff than you could shake a stick at (including an online Lewis & Short, by the look of it. For me, Latin in earnest was a very long time ago.....)

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Affirmative action doesn't hurt whites - a couple of analogies

[Having railed in the past against the tidal wave of fallacious analogies used in connection with the Iraq war, I offer mine duly tentatively. I suspect they need work. Suck them and see...]

They occurred to me reading a piece in Alas (link via Body and Soul) based on the paper in the March 2002 Michigan Law Review paper by Goodwin Liu [1] - which, needless to say, I have yet to read.

The Liu Argument

As I understand it, this quote (from the WaPo article [1], sums up his main point [2]:
Because the number of black applicants to selective institutions is relatively small, admitting them at higher rates does not significantly lower the chance of admission for the average individual in the relatively large sea of white applicants.

In other words, because there are so few minorities relative to whites in the college-attending cohorts, the damage suffered by any individual white applicant (or - and let's not forget them - person who would have applied, but for the AA) is small, if not de minimis.

Now let's class as contingent the precise proportions - and also the fact that Hispanic immigration and fertility in excess of white levels will likely significantly narrow the white:minorities ratio over the next few decades. And deal with the principle.

Let's assume US society recognises that there are a range of minorities who, because of past or present injuries or losses suffered by reason of their race, are deserving of benefits from society purely because of their ethnic background. And, for ease of expression, let's call these minorities blacks and the rest of the population whites.

Analogy 1: Income Tax

One scheme would be to pass a law that every white person would be charged an additional percentage of his income as a reparations tax, let's call it. The revenue thus raised would form a ring-fenced fund which would then be distributed in cash and kind to the blacks. And not just poor blacks, because the reparation being made is not a mere socialist redistribution of income from rich to poor: it's compensating for wrongs suffered by reason of race. So rich blacks collect too.

Under such a scheme, the burden on a particular white of providing his share of a fund of $Xbn would depend on, amongst other things, the ratio of whites to blacks: clearly, at 100:1 a relatively small and financially bearable individual tax burden on whites may suffice to produce a large per capita benefit to individual blacks. At 3:1 - not so much!

How does this scheme materially differ from that of higher education AA [3]? The goal - to produce a greater social good by providing a more even distribution of an opportunity - which has both money's-worth and other benefits - between blacks and whites - is the same.

And the method - to withdraw that opportunity from the whites and grant it to the blacks - is also the same.

Would such a tax survive a challenge under the 14th Amendment?

Analogy 2: Shoplifting

It's certainly a social good that members of society, however poor, should not starve; further, that they should have some level of minimum subsistence.

But the best social security schemes have glitches.

Suppose a girl just kicked off welfare steals food from a large supermarket chain for herself and her child. Who otherwise will go hungry that evening.

When caught, she tells the store detective that it wasn't fair: the store made a billion bucks a year - and she only took $5 of groceries.

Why, nevertheless, do we still class taking the groceries as theft?

This analogy is looser (clearly, AA is not in breach of the criminal law!) but not, I think, without interest. Our sympathy for the girl [4], the size of the theft - both absolutely, and in relation to the wealth of the victim - does not detract from the fact that we still say it's theft.

And, on the moral level, most people, I suspect, would say that stealing the groceries was wrong, even though they would readily agree that the case demanded leniency. Our sympathy goes to mitigation, not guilt. The good motive can't erase the badness of the act.

Part of the problem with the girl's method of satisfying her needs is that it's arbitrary. Most citizens these days would, I suspect, have no difficult in principle in seeing taxes raised for welfare. But the girl took her whole need from a particular taxpayer for no reason connected with a fair method of providing the cost of it.

What, say, if the law was changed, so that girls in her position could take $10 a day of groceries from stores without paying? That would make the taking legal, of course; and more orderly - like food stamps, in a way! - but it would be just as discriminatory. Why should stores suffer the cost alone, and not car manufacturers or trial lawyers, say? And should Mom-and-Pop stores be just as liable as a Wal-Mart store to hand over $10 worth of stuff to any particular girl?

The most important, perhaps the only significant, reason that AA - for diversity or reparation - should be banned is that, just like Jim Crow before it, it is morally wrong. Arguments like Liu's which stress contingencies (the white:black ratio, in this case) do not address that issue - and, like the N% 'method' with which the Administration is besotted, are liable to fall apart even on their own terms when the facts don't fit.

On the constitutional law point, I'm naturally less confident - looking up, as I am, at an Eiger-like learning curve! But, at the very least, the tax example - in need of refinement as it no doubt is - extracts the essence of the redistribution inherent in any form of AA from the suffocating deluge of details of higher education admissions procedures involved in the UMich cases.

Definitely more work needed, I think....

  1. Liu was quoted in the Sixth Circuit Opinions in Grutter and will no doubt figure prominently in briefs to the Supreme Court - paperwork for the UMich cases is (mostly) here. And there is a side issue (canvassed in the National Review why Liu was allowed to pre-publish a piece in the WaPo (DOC format copy backup here.)

  2. Liu follows up with the old point about athletic, alumni and similar preferences - John Rosenberg at Discriminations has a nice line in handling this point (as, for instance, here) so I'll happily leave it with him!

  3. Admit that, in the UMich cases, the goal is different: diversity, not reparation. But the method - the redistribution of benefit from members of one race to those of another - is essentially the same.

  4. Which might easily be lost by suggestions of, say, narcotics use - but let's not go there......


After Bush, Carol Mosley-Braun and the Confederacy

Can it be barely six weeks ago when the dudgeon over Trent Lott and his big mouth was at its height? That's what the archives say. And they throw up a handy little nugget I'd entirely forgotten.

My incredulity at the original moronic comment was magnified several times over as the Lott Confederate rap-sheet was gradually exposed to public view. Most signally, the legislative efforts he expended in the cause of that well-known Democrat and arch-traitor, Jefferson Davis.

One of the first things he did after arriving in the US House was to get Davis's citizenship restored.

And (and here we approach the point), as US Senator, he secured for Davis the honour of a rule that Davis's Senate seat (the physical object, that is) should be the permanent seat of the senior Senator from Mississippi. (An insanity (inanity?) surely exceeding that of any of the fol-de-rols and flummery with which the British legislative process is decked.)

And no one objected. Not a single Senator uttered so much as a query wondering whether honouring a traitor and champion of the slaveholder was really sensible. Let alone roundly denounced the lunacy as it deserved.

Including the then Senator from Illinois, Ms Carol Mosley-Braun. Perhaps there was good reason for her not being present on the Senate Floor to speak on the resolution; or to call for a roll-call vote [1]. But the very least she could have done, surely, would have been to make a fuss about it in the media [2]. Not much of Confederate lobby in the Prairie State to worry about, one would have thought. Was it that she didn't want to show up all those Dixiecrat Lite Southern senators from her own party as nostalgists (personally, or vicariously for their constituents) for porticoed mansions, immaculate womanhood and contented darkies singing sweet and low in the cabins?

Surely that makes her much more tainted than Lott - she had every reason to have known better.

And now she's talking about running for President - and, with Tawana's best bud threatening to irrupt into the campaign, Braun has attractions as a distraction.

But does Al know her Confederate past? I suspect there's some GOP hack handling it right now....

  1. This suggests that you need at least 20% of Senators present and 11 in number to force such a vote. But this 1999 copy of the Senate Rules does not even mention roll-call votes, that I can see! Must technically be called something different, I suppose.

  2. Google has zip, for what it's worth.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Bush 'Confederate wreath' lie: AOL-Time Warner strongarm censorship?

The last time I spied a hint of net censorship, it was the alleged affair between Harvard President (and ex-Clinton hack) Lawrence Summers (Larry Summers to his female admirers, one suspects) and head of undergraduate English at Harvard Eliza New [1].

Now, an altogether more powerful suspect hoves into view.

To the accompaniment of the hyena howling of self-righteous grievance-politicians, their slaver mixed with flesh torn from the carcass of the miserable Lott, that august organ Time announced with a flourish that the President of the United States had resumed a practice discontinued by his father: annually to send a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. The piece was added to its site on January 19, and was evidently intended for the print edition dated January 27.

Don't bother clicking, though. That sucker is brown bread. The subtitle, though, leaves little room for doubt as to the line being taken:
Bush may have rebuked Lott for his praise of Strom Thurmond, but the President recently revived a practice of paying homage to an even greater champion of the Confederacy.

By this journalistic coup, not only was Bush shown to be as infatuated with the Cavalier Myth and Lost Cause as the erstwhile Senate Majority Leader (my December archive passim) but a thundering hypocrite, to boot. (In both senses.)

Talk about your slam dunk...... Except that the story is a lie. Stand up, Mr Michael Weisskopf [2] and Ms Karen Tumulty: is that head quite so white? Or is it merely sequoia? In either case, forget the Pulitzers!

Because all that Bush Senior did was change the day each year on which the wreath was handed over. And the practice continued under his Confederate successor without (so far as I'm aware) a peep from the attack-dogs of the Party of Treason.

So far, so predictable.

Nose further: the regular Time link is dead [3], but the printer-friendly link still works. Search on the story's title Look Away Dixieland (and Time) in Google: you get the regular link, but no cache. (A 1988 story of the same name is cached, though!)

The Daypop site (which caches the stories it links as a matter of course) also strangely singles out the Time story for special, non-caching, treatment [4].

A search on AllTheWeb produces a link to neither version of the original story, but only Time's 'correction'.

It's not exactly Watergate: no gun, let alone smoke. Website snafus are ten a penny, of course [and don't I know it!] - Time didn't deliberately can their story. The fact the PF version is still up is proof, surely?

And so the journos got it wrong? When has that ever happened? They just retailed in good faith something that a previously reliable source had told them.

[What happened with the print edition? Did any dead-wood have to get pulped? Have any fact-checkers been sacked? Was the story fact-checked? Is Time website copy deemed worthy of being fact-checked?]

On its own, the story's nothing much. But Google is well-known as the subject of censorship attempts. And censorship activity can really only be demonstrated by an accumulation of instances.

Well, here, it seems, is one.

[The original 'lie' story is, I found after getting going with this, all over the blogosphere - start with Instapundit (where else?). The Google point doesn't seem to be. Hence the persistence.]

  1. The censorship continues: at the time of the earlier piece, there were three (job-related) items thrown up by Google. Searching just now, the names in tandem produced zimmo. The couple (or should that be, coupling?) officially (or as good as) does not, and never did, exist. Stalin, eat your heart out.......

  2. Mr Weisskopf appears, for a cursory glance at the (no doubt, sanitised) record of Mr Google, to have previous. A guy worth keeping an eye on, I suspect.

  3. In fact, it says, This page is not available. Which is a separate and completely fresh lie, of course!

  4. The search page has a cache link. The cache page, underneath the standard box says This page is not cached.


Texas 10 Plan - Michigan raises practical arguments against

The response to Bush's response to the UMich affirmative action cases (I last mentioned here) from the pro-AA contingent has, from what I've seen, been generally the sort of whiney, grievance-politics special pleading and cheap shots that one could have forecast.

Now, we have an interesting point at last (via Howard Bashman).

Bush's great idea, you'll recall, for clinging maniacally (from the electoral viewpoint) to diversity as an object of government policy whilst (supposedly) avoiding the necessity for race-based admissions in higher education, was the N% plan - to offer the top N% in each and every high school a college place, whether, on neutral criteria, they deserved one or not.

In the President's home state, N=10.

The Detroit News article points out a number of factual differences between Michigan and Texas which, it suggests, would make it impractical to apply an N% solution to the Wolverine State.

I have no idea whether these points are factually correct, of course; but, if they are, they would seem to pose something of a problem.

For instance, UMich, it says, is not part of a large statewide public college system - it only admits 5,000 freshmen a year, and there are 672 high schools in the state.

And, outside of Detroit and Flint, residential segregation in Michigan is less intense than in Texas. So, outside those cities, the top 10% of high schools is liable to be mostly white in any case.

If the article's complaints are kosher, the lesson is not, of course, that SCOTUS should cleave to old-line AA; rather, that the fancy-pants N% proxy mechanism for AA does not do the smoke-and-mirrors job it's supposed to. And the court should just tip-toe past the Government briefs, and find diversity unconstitutional. Period.

Now, I'd like to think (it makes a better story that way) that Bush's guys knew this all along, knew that, in Michigan, N% = lily-white(-ish). But, somehow, I suspect cock-up (mixed with a large helping of Texan boosterism) rather than conspiracy....

Friday, January 24, 2003

Polling on the Vietnam War - lessons for the Iraq War?

There are parts of an interesting RAND study online which examines US polling evidence for World War 2, Korea, Vietnam and later wars, principally, it seems, to consider a possible link between the cumulative US casualties suffered at a particular point with public opinion on the war at that point.

One point arising from the Vietnam polling is that the questions Should we have got into this war? and Should we get out now? get what on the face of it are inconsistent answers. This chapter of the study shows (PDF p8) that, even as late as November 1968 (nearly a year after Tet), over 30% of respondents were in favour of escalating the war, against around 20% who wanted the US to pull out entirely.

But, in October 1968, again according to RAND (p7), only 37% answered No to the question Do you think the US made a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam?

Of course, there is really no inconsistency - the first question is practical, the second purely hypothetical [1]. Immediate withdrawal is rarely the best, or even a feasible, solution in a war, however badly it's going. For instance, the POW question weighed heavily on US minds, during both Korea and Vietnam.

The RAND study doesn't have made a mistake numbers going back before August 1965 (by which time Lyndon Johnson had already committed the US to a big-scale commitment of combat troops). It's not clear that, given the deceptions practiced by LBJ in the period up to July 1965, such numbers would be terribly useful, though!

Moving to the present, one could expect that, in the period immediately following a US attack on Iraq, the American public would rally round the flag. If the war went badly for the US, the made a mistake numbers would start to move from a high base; and those opposing the conduct of the war would likely count as many who wanted escalation as those who wanted withdrawal.

Most importantly, it seems quite possible that it will take a long time, relative to the likely length of the war [2], for failures in the conduct of the war to make the poll numbers move dramatically enough to affect government action.

The Adminstration may well feel (it's the war-cheerleaders' view already) that Bush is finished politically unless he attacks Saddam in short order; and certainly, if he hasn't defeated him in good time for the start of the 2004 campaign. If he pulls back he's sunk; if he continues fighting, he might win and save himself. No-brainer.

So any pressure, to be effective, must come from outside the Administration. Congress has only a few months ago given a resounding, bipartisan endorsement to his Iraq policy: GOP members in particular may be reluctant to press the issue, for fear of accusations of disloyalty, and of coming off cowards or idiots for changing their minds at the first whiff of trouble. Again, they need time to be able to say that supervening events have changed the factual basis on which they gave their vote. Or some such nonsense.

But they also have the problem that opponents of war policy would likely be split between those wanted escalation and those wanting withdrawal. No doubt, Congress would be split, too: and, with no single line being pressed on the Administration, it would be equivalent to no pressure at all.

Will demos do it? I doubt it, somehow.

The point is that the strong and consistent numbers [3] opposing war without UN sanction will not deter Bush from attacking without such sanction because the underlying sentiment is not turned into effective political action. It's just so much wishful thinking - compare the large majority [4] between the wars opposed to lynching (even in the South) that was worth rather less than a hill of beans when it came to overcoming the opposition of the US Senate to a Federal antilynching bill.

And, if the war goes pear-shaped, there will likely be no single alternative course of action behind which opponents could rally Congress.

Needless to say, I'd be only too delighted to learn that my conclusions are quite, quite wrong....

  1. It's noticeable that there's a steady but glacial decline in No answers to the made a mistake question. The numbers stabilise in the last quarter of 1967 around about 45%, and there's a post-Tet drop (2/68 on 12/67) from 46% to 42%. And a couple of similar hiccups later on in the war. But the trend is so consistent it almost looks phoney.

  2. It's a version of the absurd fear of the officer class in England in 1914: that the war would be over before they could get to the front.

  3. There's an excellent page collecting war polling numbers.

  4. No precise numbers! Research needed.....


UN - The Frog-bashing is fun, but.......

Axis of Weasels, indeed! I'm as much of a sucker for a good belly-laugh at French foreign policy delusions of grandeur as the next man.

For instance, the grand African summit in Paris to which Mugabe is invited is but the latest in a succession of ventures designed to sustain an African role deemed essential to the maintenance of French national dignity. (Past incarnations include Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, who became his father's 'Monsieur Afrique', gopher in the lucrative corruption that linked the state oil company Elf with the fabulously corrupt President Omar Bongo of Gabon; and de Gaulle's Jacques Foccart, who set up the system of relationships with sub-Saharan Africa following the completion of decolonisation in 1960 [1]. All goes back to Fashoda 1896; if not the Battle of the Nile....) gotta swim, birds gotta fly, the French have to play diplomatic games. (To be fair, I don't think they're quite alone there.)

I can't believe that the US Administration is taking this anything like as seriously as the reports that inspired the weasel gag suggest: in particular, the French made no commitment to oppose any draft US UNSC resolution [2] authorising an attack on Saddam. The Germans, of course, have done so. Some axis, huh?

The Germans, of course, don't have a veto - they have the luxury of voting their 'conscience', such as it is, knowing that (excepting the unlikely situation of a 7-7 tie) their vote won't matter. Unlike the Stanley Baldwin crack about the press, they don't have the power - so that kind of absolves them of the responsibility. Schröder has political problems back home: he's indulging in a little Wag the Dog action - as if American presidents have never allowed domestic considerations to affect foreign policy choices!

The French, of course, have a public opinion extremely hostile to the war - polling two-thirds to three-quarters against over past weeks. French government drum-bashing against being railroaded into supporting war (notably from Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin) at least serves democracy in giving voice to such opinion, and thereby working off some popular frustration [3]. It might well do the overall war cause some good in the long run!

The question for the US is, of course, what position could the Europeans take up, short of supine submission to each and every US proposal, that the Administration would approve? Any move, however constructed, to delay the moment of decision will, it seems, be seen as equivalent to opposition. In particular, any suggestion that the January 27 UNMOVIC/IAEA reports provide the basis for delay in military action.

The Americans (in public, at least) are making it a zero-sum game - any extent to which the European position, such as it is, is adopted in the UNSC is a corresponding loss to the Americans. A zero-sum game does not allow for diplomacy. It's my way or the highway.

To be fair, if the Administration is suggesting that disputes over the cogency of the inspectors' reports is a cover for substantive opposition to the war - in particular, to this war now - they're to a large extent right. Most of those looking for more time for the inspectors don't believe that the Administration theory that Saddam is no longer deterrable has been proved sufficiently to justify war; but they don't (I suspect) hold out much chance that another six months - another six years, even - of inspections would do much to clarify the point.

Strangely enough, AP has CJCS General Richard Myers saying yesterday that US forces in theatre have months of endurance; and that the hot weather was no problem because the fighting would be at night anyway.

So, while his boss is all about the big hurry-up, Myers is telling the diplomats that there's no need to rush on his account!

On balance, I prefer Myers for the real USG mood on the state of play in war diplomacy: Rumsfeld's public reactions have the authentic aroma of Captain Reynaud about then. (The blogosphere, to judge from an entirely unscientific trawl, seems to be taking him seriously. Or perhaps it's me who's in need of a sense-of-humour booster jab.....) War, I suspect, is neither less nor more likely as a result of the Franco-German intervention. But some steam has been released, and humour extracted.

Not so much an Axis of Weasels as a bracing ferret down the collective trousers......

  1. A series by a couple of Libération journos on the Foccart system (the only extensive treatment online that I can see) starts here.

  2. I explained before why it was inconsistent for the US to ask for such a resolution.....

  3. I'm sure the badmouthing from Rummy will just enhance the effect!

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Sharpton, the new, improved Lott....

Just when the GOP might be feeling somewhat under the cosh on race matters, a little light relief from an unexpected source.

The 'Reverend' Al Sharpton, no less, is having his 2004 presidential ambitions taken seriously by senior Dems, or so it appears.

No mistaking the strut:
Both former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts claimed Sharpton had offered them the vice presidency.
What the diamond merchants would call Chutzpah, I'd think.

And as for Tawana Brawley
he defiantly insisted Brawley was no hoax, saying: "I believe we were right."

Now, he'll never be in a position to offer anyone the Veep slot for real; but just keeping his campaign going would surely pay in raising GOP morale alone (let alone the effect on swing voters of that distinctive style all over their TVs for months on end).

The suggestion is that the South Carolina primary (#3 of the 2004 campaign, as currently scheduled) is Sharpton's big chance. It's also, this report suggests, completely open. It was, I find, the South Carolina primary where, in 2000, Democrats crossed the aisle and voted in numbers for John McCain against Bush - final tally McCain 42%, Bush 53%.

What price a spontaneous movement of Palmetto State GOP supporters returning the compliment in 04, and swinging behind Sharpton in the primary?

The New York Post article suggests one plus of having Sharpton make a good showing:
"If Sharpton does well, it's going to be hard to deny him a place at the podium at the Democratic convention - in prime time," frets a party strategist already worrying about how heartland America will react.

Trent who...?


UN Game Plans - what's cooking?

So Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder have been having a party. And no party is complete without party games.

Naturally, Jacques and Gerhard's was a variation on the old favourite, Bash Bush: a united line that was
"grounded in two ideas: the first is that any decision belongs to the Security Council, and to it alone, expressing itself after having heard the report of the inspectors in conformity with the pertinent resolutions approved by the Council." The second, he said, was that "war is always the admission of defeat, and is always the worst of solutions. And hence everything must be done to avoid it."

Meanwhile the British public's adherence to the line of no attack without express UN approval is stronger than ever, according to a poll of a couple of days ago: 81% say no war without a fresh resolution. Blair persists in refusing to commit himself, of course.

Not much movement in the story, then. What the media are not talking about (so far as I can see) is how the UN game might actually pan out.

For instance, the French Foreign Minister has (shock horror!) threatened to veto any proposed US resolution in the UN Security Council seeking authorisation for an attack.

Fine. But the US line all along has been that UNSCR 1441 is, in itself, authorisation for an attack: why would the US be putting forward a new resolution, and risk the humiliation of a French veto, and the appearance of admitting its previous no new resolution needed position was wrong?

What do the French do if the US takes this line? Introduce a resolution of their own? To say, for instance, No action until the UNMOVIC/IAEA final report (ie, Greek Kalends). Would it garner a majority of the 15 members [1]? (Bearing in mind the success of the US in achieving unanimity with SCR 1441, and the continuing power of the US cheque-book.) Russia and China, for instance, may find it easier to support a dilatory resolution than use a veto against a (mythical) US authorisation resolution. Has anyone done any serious vote-counting?

Suppose the French manage to garner 8 votes for their resolution: would the US veto, or ignore? (The Kosovo example is available, as previously discussed, where the UNSC was essential bypassed in a high moral fervour.)

And what about Tony Blair (the poster-boy for high moral fervour)? He has a choice: either use the dilatory resolution as an excuse to duck out on the war; or join Bush and fight.

If he ducks out, bang goes the Special Relationship (for a while, at least [2]); and, with France and Germany cosying up, he'll get no European brownie-points for joining the peace camp at the last possible moment. He's the Grand Old Duke of York squared: at least York got his men to the top of the hill!

If he goes along with Bush, and ignores the resolution, will the 81% count against him? Not, I suspect, if there's a nice, clean, quick war with few British casualties. If, as must be as likely as not, it doesn't turn out like that - the attack gets bogged down, Saddam manages to lob some WMDs into Israel, the Kurds start fighting a completely different war - a backbench revolt is likely.

But he'll probably be able to weather it in the short term. The Conservative Opposition have been even more gung-ho about the war, and are weak as water politically in any case. The heir apparent, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, will be naturally reluctant to press his claims in time of war.

On the other hand, Blair may decide that this is just the sort of issue of high principle on which he could resign with dignity (not to mention, sanctimony). He's been Labour Party leader for nearly ten years, and may think that, with two landslide election victories under his belt, he's done enough for the party. And he has the cring-making departure of that other long-serving prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, as a warning not to cling too tightly to office.

More thoughts to come.

  1. The non-permanents for 2003 are Germany, Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile.

  2. The history of Anglo-American snubs (Suez, Vietnam, etc) is, I believe (research needed!), that the demands of business override those of amour-propre, after a due interval.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

What happened to the Asian Republican vote?

A mostly rhetorical question, for the moment.....

Arising out of my earlier piece on the Republicans and their Quixotic quest for the black vote came the odd stat that, over the 90s, the GOP have actually been losing what had, I suspect, been their major non-white ethnic demo [1], the Asians. (Perhaps only a surprise to me...)

According to this analysis, the Dems' percentage share of the Hispanic vote for the presidential elections of 92, 96 and 00 was 61, 72 and 67 respectively; whereas the corresponding percentages for the Asian vote were 31, 43 and 54.

Why? Because, to take the example of the moment, Asians tend to be as much victims of affirmative action as whites. And, if neither party is exactly leaping to denounced the ghastly practice, at least the GOP is institutionally less wedded to it.

For ethnic groups, more affluence, more GOP-leaning seems to be the rule. With the only long-standing exception being the Jews - who apparently gave Gore 79% of their votes in 2000. The suggestion, however, is that the Chinese and Vietnamese sections are deserting the GOP for a variety of reasons.

As with the black vote, one has to bear in mind the absolute size of vote in question: according to the US Census analysis mentioned in the earlier piece, the total votes cast in the 2000 presidential election by Asian and Pacific Islander voters was 2.0m out of a total of 110.8m. Hispanics voted 5.9m. So the Dems' gain in Asian votes was likely enough more than cancelled out by their loss of Hispanic.

More puzzling on this subject by and by, I suspect........

  1. In terms of percentage of the vote cast by the group in question, rather than absolute numbers of votes.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

No ducks around affirmative action - why does Bush bother?

The University of Michigan saga prompts me to ask why Bush fails to heed the wise words of one of the founders of the modern Republican Party: when you're hunting for votes, you go where the ducks are.

My hypothesis: there is nothing that Bush can do for American blacks (in policy, appointments, PR, any sphere at all) - which he can do without vastly disproportionate damage to his base support - that would significantly affect the result of the 2004 presidential election [1].

Some history [2] and some numbers to help test the hypothesis:


Before the Civil War, most free Negroes (even in the North) were disenfranchised; and the vast bulk of Negroes were slaves. After the War, during Radical Reconstruction, substantial numbers of Negroes voted for the first time: and naturally, they voted for the party that voted them free rather than the party that seceded to keep them slaves. No-brainer.

Come 1877, and - gradually [3] the Negro was squeezed out of the voting booth in the South (where the vast bulk continued to live). But where they had the chance, on the whole, Negroes continued to vote Republican, right up till 1932. Neither party did anything of substance for them; so it was Amendments 13-15 that still tipped the scales.

Franklin Roosevelt gave the Negro a share of the New Deal - less than his white fellow-citizen's share, of course, to preserve the caste distinction so necessary to keeping sweet his Southern base, the Jim Crow liberals included; and, over the FDR presidency, that brought the Negroes in a clear majority definitively into the Democratic column.

There was a compounding effect: as the proportions shifted in favour of the Democrats, so the effect of the migration of Negroes to the North meant that the absolute numbers effectively able to vote was increasing substantially [4]. (The effect of the 1944 Supreme Court decision in Smith v Allwright [5] on Southern Negro voting was much less significant.)

But a substantial minority of the Negro vote still went Republican. And this was bolstered during the 1950s by the hotting up of the war over Jim Crow: where the (most of the time) Democratic-controlled, 2/3rds-cloture, Southern-dominated US Senate was a large part of the national image of the Democratic Party. Eisenhower in 1956 and Nixon in 1960 both snagged around a third of the Negro vote. Despite Little Rock and the 1957 Civil Rights Act, these, arguably, were votes that the Dems were losing, rather than the GOP was doing much to garner [6].

Then came 1964 and Goldwater - who, apparently, took as much as 6% of the Negro vote! Perhaps the GOP could have had a Southern Strategy [2] without such a drastic fall-off in Negro support - clearly, the party already had, and would have continued to need such a strategy whether or not a Goldwater had been available as a candidate.

But the deed was done. Just as Negroes voted in 1920 for Warren Harding as the successor-in-title of Abraham Lincoln - and for no better reason - so, black voters today would, on the whole, vote en masse for virtually any Democratic presidential candidate, in preference to virtually any Republican, just because of Goldwater and his associated baggage.

Always recall, however, that much of the damage had already been done by Franklin 'I See No Lynching Bill' Roosevelt.


But beware a Zeno's Paradox: don't get caught up on percentages, and fail to look at absolute numbers of votes. (It's numbers, after all, that mean winning or losing.)

According to an analysis from the US Census (p5), there were 186.4m US citizens over 18 on Election Day 2000: of which 144.7m non-Hispanic white and 22.8m black.

There was little difference (p6) between the two races in either registration rate or voting rate [7]: 89.5m NHWs, 12.9m blacks voted in the Presidential election.

According to this UPI analysis, Bush's share of the black vote (based on exit polling) was 9%. Or 1.2m votes.

Compared to Bush's 340,000 deficit in the popular vote in 2000 a significant figure. But compared to his share of the NHW vote [8]?

Arithmetic dictates that even a doubling of Bush's black vote yields him only (ballpark) around 2% of his NHW vote.

And how exactly is he to achieve this miracle? Only, one supposes, by making the most extravagant concessions (a reparations pork barrel, for instance. Or a full-blooded affirmative action bill.) Only, that is, by alienating substantial sections of the (NHW) vote that is (again, ballpark) 50 times larger than his black vote.

Can you say leverage? The slightest percentage falloff in Bush's white vote cancels the most Pollyanna-ish forecast of increases (in numbers of votes) in his black vote.

The suggestion is that the Republican edge right now is a dying breed of white Protestant, heirs of the Scots-Irish Southerners of yore; and that they need some new shtick to catch the up-and-coming Hispanic demo, in particular. But, surely that has to be done by persuading a large section of Hispanics (a far from homogeneous group, of course) that their interests closely resemble the white, middle-class, non-ethnically based interests which are the core constituency of the GOP.

And contrast the Republican approach to the grievance politics offered by the Dems to their black constituency: living in the past, the mirror image of poor old Trent Lott's pathetic nostalgia for the Old South, combined with a sort of Tammany ethnic politics that, for other groups, is surely dying or dead. There is simply no mileage in the GOP trying to pretend it cares about grievance politics: it comes across as phoney every time. Rimming Sharpton no doubt causes mirth amongst more black voters that would ever vote for the man; but the benefit is surely outweighed by the loss of morale in the GOP's core constituency.

When it comes to AA, a two-faced strategy is apparent from the (minimalist) Government briefs [scroll down], and the (broader) Bush statement on the UMich case. Grievance politics is in the Dems' wheelhouse, and they won't be stinting in attacking Bush on race any way they can manage. No doubt, the White House analysts have run the numbers on the effect of Bush taking a principled stand against diversity as a goal in AA, and found the fudge to be safer.

Pity. Absent Grutter, silence would have been the best policy, as previously discussed. But since Bush was clearly obliged to say something once the Supremes had granted certiorari, I don't immediately see why something approaching the truth would necessarily have hurt him more than the fudge will.

We'll see.

  1. There are other years and other offices - but I'm talking about Bush, and he only has a maximum of one election to win or lose.

  2. Most of this from memory - probably best taken as a series of sub-hypotheses!. [A useful pair of 2001 articles (here and here by a UPI man on the Southern Strategy since Reconstruction.]

  3. I have a copy of Albert D Kirwan's 1951 Revolt of the Rednecks, subtitled Mississippi Politics: 1876-1925, which describes the long and tortuous process of excluding Negroes from political life in that state. A stereotype confounded on every page - that I've read! I'll return to it when other matters permit.

  4. Samuel Lubell's Future of American Politics is useful here, as so often: his chapter (1952 ed p81ff) on the Negro vote includes a table (p92) which shows that, over the ten years to 1950, the Negro population in Michigan had increased by 109% to a white increase of 18%; in Illinois, the figures were 60% and 8%, with other industrial states showing 2:1 ratios or better.

  5. The white primaries case that cropped up in connection with the Trent Lott farrago. One question for those able to vote was, of course, who to vote for? Their Democratic oppressors, or lily-white Republicans only in it for Convention shenanigans and patronage (all or most for white folks)?

  6. One stat I haven't found: the proportion of the Eisenhower 56 and Nixon 60 votes that their Negro support represented.

  7. As late as 1980, 56% of Southern blacks were registered, as against 76% of Southern whites. There was a (statistically significant?) difference in the percentage voting between black males and black females (53% to 59.7%) - 2000 analysis p6.

  8. Which I've not been able to trace. Gore's share of the total white vote was 42%, apparently. And Bush took white men 60:36, but split white women with Gore (as it were!).

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