Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Posner at Hopkins

Judge Richard Posner, speaking on CSPAN on the intertwined roles of intelligence, counter-intelligence and law-enforcement, commented that law-enforcement alone cannot win the war on terrorism, mostly because the way of thinking is somewhat "alien" to law enforcement. As an example he cited the arrest of a group in Miami. He noted that they had a dream, but no materials, training or resources.

"What they did have was an FBI informant," he said.

Instead of playing out the line to see what kind of connections the group develops, or the paths they take in their search for help, the FBI went in and arrested them. The FBI, he said, is not used to the intelligence game; once they have enough evidence, they make the arrest.

Yet, those types of methods aren't completely foreign. The FBI has spent decades setting stings to take down criminal enterprises. Some went on for years. Perhaps the more serious problem, then, is not ability, but resources.

Posner also suggested that bloggers and others could be utilized as first-line analysts in spelunking through the voluminous open-source material available on the internet; magazines, journals, web pages, etc.

The down-side of this, of course, are the likely thousands and thousands of amateur sleuths out there proffering their grand theories.

- Murphy

Elections aren't enough

A piece on the National Review's online gab-fest, The Corner, took the surprising, but realistic, view that the Iraqi elections were a great symbol of promise, but made little actual headway in dealing with the country's troubles.

The greatest of these problems is, obviously, the ongoing civil war.
The notion that elections bring democracy by teaching people to be responsible for their own bad choices simply cannot work in a totally illiberal environment. Our military commitment has been far too small to support our political ambitions. We haven’t disarmed the militias and we haven’t held the territory we’ve cleared. Because we haven’t established security or handed a central power a monopoly of legitimate force, elections have backfired. We’ve been hoping that elections themselves would do the work that only a government monopoly of force and long-term cultural change can do.
Stanley Kurtz points to the enormous power Moqtada al-Sadr has over the present and future of the Iraqi government and perhaps even the United State's future in Iraq.

He goes on to repudiate the Bush administration's path to war, something that, at the time, was repeatedly and endlessly pointed out to be a flawed creation. At the very minimum, critics pointed to President George H.W. Bush's decision not to take the fight to Bagdhad in 1991, citing the exact problems that have erupted during his son's endeavor.
Now it may well be that, even at the start, we lacked the political will to marshal sufficient military force: to enlarge our military, to go to war with Sadr, to enlarge our footprint in Iraq itself, and to keep central power in our hands for a longer period. But those are the things that would have been needed to begin to bring real democracy to Iraq. To believe we could democratize without all that–chiefly through elections themselves–was an error.

- Murphy

Friday, November 10, 2006

CSPAN Caller: Dems really in power last 6 years.

Comment on C-SPAN from a caller: "Democrats have been in power whether you realize it or not."

The caller started off saying she and many Republicans like her had stayed home to send the Republicans the message that they hadn't taken the fight to the Democrats enough. The Dems, the caller said, are responsible to obstructing the Republican's efforts.

The call came on National Journal during an interview with Richard Baker, a senate historian.

- Murphy


John Judis of the New Republic offers an interesting analysis of how the Democrats won back Congress. The critical term is…independents (surprise!).

An illustrative excerpt:
But Democrats also won in a host of districts and states that George W. Bush carried in the last election. In some cases, Democrats won primarily because the seat had been held by a Republican implicated in a personal or political scandal. But, in many others, Democrats benefited from the reemergence of political trends that had been suppressed after September 11--or, even before that, by Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. The most important of these trends involves independents.…In the 1980s, these voters generally supported Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; but, in 1992, many of them abandoned Bush for Ross Perot, who received 18.9 percent of the national vote.…In 1996, Clinton and the Democrats won back many of these voters, but, after September 11, they gravitated toward the Republican Party, helping to account for Republican success in 2002 and 2004. In this election, however, independents flocked back to the Democrats. Nationally, the Democrats won independents by 57 percent to 39 percent. In the East, the margin was 63 to 33 percent; in the Midwest, 56 to 41 percent; and, in the West, 58 to 35 percent. Democrats also did well in many of those Western and Midwestern states where Perot had won over 20 percent of the vote in 1992: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas (where the Democrats won two of four House seats and the top state offices), Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
If Judis is correct, Republican strategist Karl Rove's promise of the ever-lasting Republican majority was impossible all along. The growing number of self-identified independents would always contribute enough turbulence to keep a permanent majority out of anyone's reach.

Already a great deal of fun has been had reflecting on the "genius" of Rove who, according to President Bush in his less-than conciliatory press conference the day after the election, was not working as hard on the campaign as the President.

As Judis described, many independents came to the Republicans following 9/11. That rally and the desire for stability and continuity contributed greatly to Republican success in the 2004 election. The Iraq war was still young and it dominated the environment. Criticism was mounting, but the momentum was greater.

This time, the costs have surpassed the benefits for most Americans. Once dissatisfaction with the war reached a tipping point, dissatisfaction in other areas such as the economy added the straw.

An additional point that Judis makes very well, is that this election represents a step in the final realignment that became brightly visible in 1994 with the Republican takeover of the South.

- Murphy