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Uninformed Comment

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  • Afro-Asia, Global South Reject Boycott of Iran
    • Uninformed Comment 02/26/2012 at 3:43 pm

      Joe,

      Just for kicks, can you tell us which paragraphs (they're all numbered) in the IAEA's November 2011 report lead you to conclude that Iran has engaged in any nuclear-weapon development work since 2003.

      I've read that report with very great care four times now. While I originally felt as you feel (or claim to feel), I've changed my mind. And so I'm curious to know why you have not.

  • Gingrich Endangers US troops by Slamming Obama for Apology over Qur'an Burning
    • Thomas,

      Your comment suggests that burning an old Christian bible might not upset people here. Whether or not that's true, other symbolic acts might. For example, if a group of Muslims in this country burned an American flag, it might upset many Americans.

      When in Afghanistan, do as the Afghanis do. They don't burn Korans.

    • Uninformed Comment 02/25/2012 at 6:36 pm

      On the several comments about "messages" in the burned Korans:

      Might it not have been more diplomatic to do something other than burn the Korans? Lock them in a file cabinet, for example?

    • Uninformed Comment 02/24/2012 at 3:44 pm

      "But Obama’s apology was intended to prevent more US troops from being killed."

      I understand that political considerations require that Obama have given this reason for his apology. But if we set those political considerations aside -- as we have the luxury of doing here -- does that reason for the apology strike anyone as likely to infuriate Afghans still further? Does it not imply that no apology would have been forthcoming were Americans not exposed to possible retaliation?

  • Today's Top 5 Crises in the 2011 Arab Revolutions
    • Uninformed Comment 07/11/2011 at 10:49 am

      I'd be curious to know Juan's position on the French minister's suggestion that the rebels negotiate with the Libyan government without insisting that Qaddafi and his sons give up power before negotiations begin.

  • Free Libya Forces Advance in Western Mountains
    • Uninformed Comment 07/08/2011 at 9:44 pm

      "Of course it would be better if the people in Tripoli bundled the Qaddafis onto a plane to Caracas and then reached out to Benghazi for a political resolution. Until they do that, the war will continue."

      It appears from videos of the Tripoli rally last Friday that Qaddafi may still have at least some lingering support from the people in Tripoli, though it's possible they were all forced to come out. Check out YouTube for videos of the July 1 rally, and also for the July 7 Benghazi rally for the rebels.

    • Uninformed Comment 07/08/2011 at 9:38 pm

      For those who may not have read this, there was reportedly a large rally in Benghazi yesterday - tens of thousands of rebel supporters took to the streets. The rally was reportedly intended to counter the large rally held in Tripoli a week ago in support of Qaddafi. Some observers estimated the Tripoli crowd at 1,000,000 people, but a review of YouTube videos makes it possible to see only approximately 200,000 people (my guesstimate) because the camera wasn't able to take in more than that number in any one shot, and it's possible that other shots showed an overlap. Even so, the Tripoli crowd was quite large, as was the Benghazi crowd in yesterday's rally.

    • Uninformed Comment 07/08/2011 at 9:35 pm

      Interesting NYT article today on the rebels' military prospects:

      link to nytimes.com

  • The Audacity of the Gaza Flotilla
    • Uninformed Comment 06/26/2011 at 12:51 pm

      I happen to know the daughter of James Schermerhorn, the now-82-year-old American who was on the Mavi Marmara last year and will be on the Gaza flotilla this year. She's naturally worried about her father, but reports that he is not. (I last talked to her about this 2 weeks ago, when he was on his way to Athens.)

      She said that organizers were making an even more diligent effort this year to be sure that nothing was on board that could be considered a "weapon." Those who remember what sorts of things were described as "weapons" last year will appreciate that this task will not be an easy one. At the same time, the organizers have reportedly learned that the Israelis intend this year to drop attack dogs onto the flotilla ships, and so the participants are stocking up on high-frequency dog whistles that, they hope, will debilitate the Israeli attack dogs.

      For what this is worth... I have no idea how much of it is accurate.

  • Gates: Winding down the Wars
    • Dr. Cole writes:

      "Even the Libya War, of the prosecution of which he has been bitingly critical, will turn out all right, [Gates] thinks, because NATO will stay in the fight and remain united. That is a multilateralist sentiment. It isn’t what we were hearing from Washington in 2003. One has a sense of an age passing, and to the extent that the age was characterized by unilateral adventurism, its demise will benefit us all."

      If I understand this correctly, what was wrong about Iraq was the US' "unilateral adventurism." What's right about Libya, of course, is that the UNSC has approved it (let's ignore the question of whether our own government has approved it).

      Isn't that a rather simple-minded distinction, one that entirely ignores whether sound reasons existed for the intervention? What If, for example, Saddam Hussein really had had WMD and, to boot, had been slaughtering his people by the thousands every day, but the UNSC adopted no resolution authorizing action against him? Suppose, for example, that Bush had gone into Iraq without UNSC authorization (as occurred), and US troops then discovered all of this horrible Saddam behavior that other UNSC member countries had refused to believe. Suppose the US had promptly put an end to all of that bad behavior by Saddam. Would the US have been justified in intervening in Iraq even though the UNSC had declined to approve it?

      Conversely, in Libya, if the UNSC were to have authorized attacks on Libya, as have occurred, but no evidence actually turned that Gaddafi had massacred civilians, even in recaptured cities where he'd indisputably had both the opportunity and motive, might one fairly argue that US participation in the NATO bombing was improper even though the UNSC had adopted a resolution that (at least arguably) authorized that bombing? Or would the US be honor-bound to reconsider whether the bases for that UNSC resolution had been shakier than they may have appeared at the time, and so the US should stop participating in the NATO bombing?

  • Top Ten Mistakes in the Libya War
    • Dr. Cole wrote:

      "There is no evidence of any real distinction between Qaddafi’s personal money and the state’s. When Qaddafi defied the UNSC order to stop attacking his people, and when the US joined a multi-national, UN-authorized attempt to protect those people from his thugs, it was time to expropriate his sons’ Ferrari money and give it to the people."

      Let's assume for the sake of argument that assets frozen in New York have not been conclusively shown to be Libyan government assets, even though that is what the Libyan government claims they are and that is what multinational financial corporations such as Goldman Sachs have treated them as being. Is that good enough to justify seizing those assets -- that they are, in effect, "guilty until proven innocent?" That, unless the Libyan government can show that those assets were not the source of funds for a Ferrari bought by one of Moammar Gaddafi's sons, the $35 billion frozen by the US may simply be taken?

      Or is the burden on those who would seize the assets? Can the US government conclusively establish that no US government assets have been used for improper purpose? If not, may any foreign government simply seize US government assets and turn them over to some opponent of the US government who claims to be representing the US people?

      With all due respect, and much is due, this view does not strike me as a fully developed view of how the international banking system works or ought to work.

      Am I not fairly describing your views on this?

    • Though many journalists and commenters routinely refer to the frozen assets as "Gaddafi assets," careful observers will note that official pronouncements, including those from our own State Department, nearly always refer to them as "Gaddafi regime assets" or even, on rare occasions, as "Libyan government assets."

      This may strike the casual observer as a pointless distinction, but it is not. Official US government pronouncements do not treat the frozen assets as the equivalent of Moammar Gaddafi's personal piggy bank that may be handed over to the rebels simply because many people in this country think they'd be better leaders and they've asked for our help. Instead, they correctly recognize them as assets of the Libyan government, which cannot be seized merely because we no longer approve of that government. That is why the rebels are finding it so difficult to get any of them released, or pledged as collateral for loans.

      To simply declare that the current Libyan government -- like them or not -- has "lost legitimacy" and that, therefore, we may hand billions of dollars in Libyan government assets to some group we feel would run Libya in a way that we and its people would like better makes it difficult to argue that Libya -- or any other country, for that matter -- may not do exactly the same to us.

      How difficult would it be, do you suppose, for quite a number of countries around the world to declare (or have declared in the past) that the US government has "lost legitimacy" because, say, National Guard troops had shot students at Kent State, or because Bush had stolen the 2000 election, or because Obama is bombing civilians in other countries without asking for Congressional permission, or for any one of dozens of other reasons, and thereupon seize US assets in that country?

    • Uninformed Comment 06/19/2011 at 10:26 pm

      Setting aside for the moment a question that really ought not to be set aside, even for the sake of argument on other points -- whether NATO's actions in Libya go quite far beyond what was authorized under UNSC Resolution 1973 -- US involvement in the Libya War certainly can be distinguished from Iraq in that the UN authorized it (or at least something remotely resembling it: I just can't seem to set aside that other question). On the other hand, Iraq at least had the explicit blessing of Congress; Libya does not. One can quibble about whether Congress really authorized Bush to invade Iraq without coming back again for specific permission (though I dislike Bush, I feel he made it quite clear to Congress that it would have one and only one chance to object), but at least Bush asked.

      So, in a nutshell:

      1. In Iraq, the US' participation was approved by our own leaders, but not by foreign countries.

      2. In Libya, the US' participation was approved by foreign countries, but not by our own leaders.

      Neither combination is ideal. Which is better?

  • Obama right not to Release Usama Photo
    • Uninformed Comment 05/06/2011 at 12:49 am

      This may interest those of you who are not Google Earth addicts.

      I checked out Osama bin Laden's property on Google Earth the moment his killing was reported. It included just the main house, a very small building in the back yard of that side of the compound, and the long garage-like building at the back of the property. The copyright on the Google Earth video was dated 2011.

      I was puzzled because all news reports that diagrammed his property showed more buildings - some more than others, but all showed more than appeared in this 2011 Google Earth photo.

      I've checked bin Laden's property at least twice per day since then. It's always appeared the same as the first time, until today.Today, Google Earth had brand-new photos of the property, with a copyright (also dated 2011, naturally) attributed to a different source. These photos showed all of the buildings that appeared in the most detailed of the diagrams accompanying news reports of bin Laden's killing.

      Either Google Earth is posting photos that are a lot older than what they claim in their copyright notices, or there was quite a building spree on bin Laden's property between the first of the year and now.

      I tend to think it's the former. I noticed a similar phenomenon with Iran's Fordow facility in late 2009, though that situation was a bit less clear. The photo was dated 2007, if I recall correctly, and showed very rudimentary surface features - no permanent building at all. The photo was updated shortly after the story broke, and voila: there was a bright white fully finished building of considerable size. Though two years had gone by, I remember being suspicious nonetheless that the construction had gone from nothing to fully complete in that short a time, especially since various analyses of the Fordow development had insisted that the project had been quite far along by 2007. Whether or not I ought to have been was and is unclear to me, but the recent bin Laden "update" makes me more suspicious in retrospect.

  • NATO Strike on Command Center kills Qaddafi Son
    • Uninformed Comment 05/01/2011 at 5:41 pm

      Juan writes:

      "They said they meant to hit that compound because command and control had been exercised from it."

      Labeling this single-family home in a residential neighborhood a "compound" arguably advances the argument, but it doesn't transform that single-family home into a "command and control center." I think it was Groucho Marx who once said: "Sometimes a single-family home in a residential neighborhood is just a single-family home in a residential neighborhood."

      Certainly one could argue - Juan essentially has - that wherever Qaddafi goes is a "command and control center," at least if he's got his cell phone in his hip pocket. But wouldn't that mean NATO was "targeting an individual" if it dropped a bomb on a place for that reason?

    • Uninformed Comment 05/01/2011 at 5:36 pm

      Juan writes:

      "There is another wrinkle. Reporters who visited the bombed compound said they could not imagine that anyone who was there survived. We have no proof that Muammar Qadddafi was at the site, except his say-so."

      This is hardly the only expression of skepticism about the reported event. Al-Arabiya, for example, insists that the son was killed but that none of the three grandchildren were. Other media sources echo Juan's suspicion based on the extent of the damage, which no one could have survived. This may be the only place, however - certainly the only one I've read - that questions the claim that Qaddafi was there.

      It's understandable that no one else would question this claim. If Qaddafi's camp were trying to maximize the PR value of this tragic event, and it had no reservations about lying, wouldn't it be more likely to insist that Qaddafi was nowhere near the house?

  • Corporate Welfare Royalty
    • Setting aside the portion of GE's profits earned offshore, when a US corporation doesn't pay tax on its current-year US-derived income, there can be many reasons - all of which you'd find sensible, I suspect, if you were familiar with US corporate tax laws. Most likely (by a very wide margin), GE probably "carried forward" large losses from earlier years, offsetting its earnings in 2010.

      The IRS has a whole team assigned to monitor the tax filings and payments of GE (and other large corporations). The IRS employees on that team undoubtedly get their performance evaluated based on how well they make sure GE doesn't dodge any taxes.

      The great guy who waters the plants in my office finds all this "tax dodge" publicity very persuasive.

  • Fighting Rages in Misrata despite Withdrawal Pledge
    • "[Gaddafi's troops] still hold the hospital in the west [of Misurata] that they have (quite illegally in international law) made their base."

      Some observers understandably may have missed this, but the New York Times has reported that this "hospital" closed several years ago. Once a hospital always a hospital, I suppose one could argue, but the "rules of war" don't prohibit use of a building that hasn't been used as a hospital for several years.

      The "rules of war" do require combatants to wear uniforms, to distinguish themselves from "civilians." Rebels claim that some Libya troops don't wear uniforms.

      Ever seen a rebel soldier in a uniform?

  • Free Libyan fighters exult in small Victories, as US begins Drone Strikes
    • You're correct that the 13 refers to a different matter, as I see upon rereading. Not really so for the 100 and the 200. The 100 "sought asylum" in Tunisia, while the 200 "took refuge" in Tunisia. Not sure I see the difference you mention.

    • Here's food for thought for those who support assisting the rebels to conquer all of Libya:

      Gaddafi complained over a month ago about NATO's attacks on his forces even when they were retreating from the Benghazi area. NATO's response was that Gaddafi's forces were still attacking Misurata, and so it was appropriate to attack other Libyan soldiers out in the desert, miles from any civilian, so that Gaddafi would order their comrades to stop attacking Misurata.

      But what if Gaddafi's troops do stop attacking Misurata, as his spokesman claimed yesterday he has decided? There is still some fighting in southwest Libya, but what if Gaddafi's troops stop that too and just hold whatever positions they now have? Fighting has largely stopped in Ajdabiyah and Brega, so there'd be no fighting at all.

      No fighting at all, unless either the rebels start it or hostile tribesmen from cities near Misurata sneak into town and start attacking the rebels guerilla-style, as reports today suggest is likely. If that occurs: (1) Gaddafi undoubtedly will claim his forces are not involved; and (2) the rebels undoubtedly will claim they are - that the so-called "civilians" resisting the rebels' "liberation" of Misurata are actually Gaddafi's soldiers out of uniform. Indeed, the rebels have announced in advance that they intend to claim just that.

      It will be up to NATO to decide whether to take the rebels' word for that claim. So far, of course, NATO has always accepted the rebels' version of events, and it appears unlikely that that will change any time soon. And so it is likely that NATO will start (or never stop) bombing Misurata with Predator drones and an occasional high-altitude bomber – this time aiming at the suspect "civilians" who are challenging the rebel "liberators."

      We will end up, at best, with a simmering civil war, and possibly an all-out renewal of the Misurata fighting. Though the beleaguered Misurata civilians may be grateful for the departure of the Libyan army's heavy artillery, that probably will be replaced – maybe even outdone – by stepped-up attacks from Predator drones and an occasional NATO high-altitude bomber. All of this continuing bloodshed will be justified by NATO on the ground that Gaddafi is somehow responsible for the Libyan people's failure to throw a sufficient number of flower petals at the feet of the rebels who've courageously liberated them from Gaddafi's yoke.

      And how will it end? One obvious possibility is that the rebels will never subdue the guerillas, in which case the fighting will just go on and on and on. A second possibility is that the rebels eventually will subdue the guerillas and keep them suppressed, which probably will require that they put in place such a harsh police state that even their most ardent supporters will start to have second thoughts about them. Still another possibility is that the persistence of the tribesmen's challenge to the rebels, the failure of the rebels or NATO to find any real evidence that Gaddafi's military is assisting the resistance, and the surprisingly low level of flower-petal popular support for the rebel "liberators," will make the "no questions asked" backers of the rebels start to look rather foolish – and perhaps, if they are honest with themselves, even to feel rather foolish.

      NATO nevertheless may (as in "probably will") continue to bomb Gaddafi in Tripoli, insisting that he's still attacking civilians even though none of his troops are openly involved in the Misurata fighting. But that rationale may wear thin with Libyans after a few weeks or months unless some actual evidence of Gaddafi's involvement in Misurata emerges. It may wear thin not only with the Tripoli residents on whose heads the NATO bombs are falling day after day, but also the Misurata residents, who every day will see open warfare in their city involving (1) rebels; (2) guerilla fighters from nearby hostile tribes who genuinely don't seem to like the rebels; and (3) Predator drones and high-altitude bombers sent by infidel countries from half a world away to help the rebels. The Libyan people's patience is especially likely to wear thin if, as nearly always happens, a few NATO bombs land on some apartment building, school or vegetable market.

      Maybe those Libyan eye-witnesses will blame all of their suffering on an entirely unseen element – Gaddafi and his military. But maybe they won't. Maybe they'll blame it instead on the infidels who drop bombs on their cities every day and night, and on the rebels that those infidels are supporting. They'll remember that Misurata was peaceful enough before either the rebels or the NATO infidels showed up in town. And that observation may make them believe that Misurata will become peaceful again if they can just get rid of those two new groups. They probably will conclude that they cannot do much about the Predator drones and the NATO bombers, but that they certainly can help the people who are fighting against the rebels.

      And if and when this occurs – "when," in my view – the Western countries who are spending billions of dollars of their taxpayers' money to send Predator drones and NATO bombers half a world away, to drop bombs on cities whose residents plainly have shown they would like them to stop doing that, might just decide it's time to go away. Maybe the people who live in those Western countries will start punishing politicians who resist that urge.

      One can only hope they will, and the sooner the better.

    • FROM NEW YORK TIMES STORY:

      "The news agency said 13 of the Libyan soldiers, including a colonel and two commanders, had been detained, while a rebel spokesman in the eastern city of Benghazi asserted that more than 100 had sought asylum."

      FROM INFORMED COMMENT:

      "In the west on the Tunisian border, Berber rebel troops have taken a checkpoint and chased away 200 Qaddafi loyalists, who took refuge in Tunisia."

      13? More than 100? 200?

      It's only hours after the story was reported. By dinner time, we could have ourselves a serious exodus here.

  • Misrata's People under Siege
    • Uninformed Comment 04/15/2011 at 4:42 pm

      Little RichardJohn,

      An essential point you're missing here: I'm saying that those, like you, who want to prolong the war are the barbarians. You're saying that those, like me, who want to end the war are barbarians.

      You should acknowledge that, absent any reason to think otherwise, continuing the war will cause more civilian suffering. But you counter that there indeed IS a reason to think otherwise: if we don't arm and train the rebels, and do whatever else it takes to defeat Gaddafi and drive him from the country, he will massacre civilians.

      I then respond: If one accepts your assumptions, you're probably correct. But why, why should anyone simply accept your assumptions? What reason do we really have to believe that Gaddafi would willingly - not as "collateral damage," but willingly - go into Benghazi and start hacking women and children? What shred of evidence do you have to believe that would occur, other than the insistent word of a bunch of no-name incompetent rebels who've indisputably lied about a great deal?

      You seem to think that there's no harm in taking the rebels' word for it, that it won't matter if it turns out you've been duped. Better safe than sorry, you might argue: if it turns out that Gaddafi wouldn't have butchered his people after all, it will still have been a fun adventure.

      The problem with that "better safe than sorry" argument is that many more civilians will get killed, by both sides, while we're waiting to find out whether the rebels' claims are really valid. Why not avoid all that by asking for some evidence now? Certainly we have injured civilians - on both sides - but do we really have any evidence at all to think that either side would intentionally slaughter civilians? And if not, should we not end this pointless fighting now?

    • Uninformed Comment 04/15/2011 at 1:14 am

      No need to look outside this blog for an example of what I mean by unsubstantiated claims. Professor Cole writes, in this very piece:

      "Qaddafi is also bombarding Ajdabiya without regard to civilian life:"

      He then embeds a video. Have any of you watched that video? It shows a funeral procession, with one casket, whose occupant is described by relatives as rebel fighter who died for the cause. A second casket is shown later in the video and, once again, relatives or friends describe the deceased as a rebel fighter. The video later shows, from a distance, what appear to be 4-6 caskets resting in the ground in an area of a cemetery that a rebel fighter describes as "Martyr's Row." He does not say that any civilians are buried there, and one gets the clear impression that the area is reserved for rebel fighters who've been killed in battle. Neither the video, nor the narrator, nor any of the people interviewed even suggest that Gaddafi troops attacked civilians in Ajdabiyah.

      This is exactly the sort of thing that, unfortunately, passes for "evidence" among those who've decided that the best thing to do is continue this war until Gaddafi is driven out of Libya. No evidence at all appears in this video, and yet it's presented here as evidence.

    • Uninformed Comment 04/15/2011 at 12:45 am

      Joe from Lowell:

      Here's another example, this one from C.J. Chivers' piece today in the NY Times, reporting on the fighting in Misrata. The article mentions that a 6-year old girl was injured in today's fighting. A photo in a linked collection of photos shows a girl on a hospital operating table who I easily can believe is 6 years old.

      How was this girl injured?

      Turns out there are two answers to that question. Here is the caption for the photo of the girl that appeared in a collection of photos attached to Mr. Chivers' Times article:

      "A doctor at Misurata Hospital worked [successfully, thank goodness] to save the life of a 6-year-old girl who was shot in the chest by Qaddafi forces. She also sustained a neck wound from shrapnel during the fighting."

      According to the caption, then, this poor girl was both (1) shot in the chest, which suggests someone fairly close to her shot her with a hand gun or a rifle; and (2) wounded by shrapnel, which suggests she was hit by an incoming missile or mortar shell, presumably fired from far away. In other words, Gaddafi's forces were shelling an area in which their own comrades were fighting with rifles or hand-guns.

      Possible? Yes. Plausible? You tell me. I don't think so, and I suspect Mr. Chivers shared my skepticism. His article did not even claim the girl had been shot - by anyone. All of her wounds, according to Mr. Chivers, were caused by shrapnel.

      While this example suggests exaggeration or fabrication by the caption writer, it nonetheless does strike me as solid evidence that a 6-year old girl indeed was seriously wounded by shrapnel from a missile or mortar shell fired by the Libyan military. This is the sort of evidence that does support claims that Gaddafi's attacks are killing or wounding innocent civilians - the first I've seen, but evidence nonetheless. I readily concede that, and concede that it's better evidence than much (not all) of what is offered by the Libyan government to show that NATO bombings in Tripoli have been killing civilians. Nevertheless, most Western journalists physically based in Tripoli appear now to agree that civilians are dying from the NATO strikes on the city. Some civilian deaths indeed are occurring, even though I strongly suspect that the pilots who drop those bombs on Tripoli, and the Libyan troops who fire mortars into Misrata, sincerely hope that they won't kill or injure any 6-year old girls.

      There is no question that war is very hard on civilians. The sooner a war ends, the better for civilians. You and others who press for more assistance to the rebels, so that they can continue this war, should bear that clearly in mind. It's worth repeating, since it plainly doesn't seem to have sunk in yet: Setting aside the question of which side wins, the longer this war lasts, the harder it will be on civilians. That is why the US should have allowed negotiations to occur before sending in the bombers. That is why it should have allowed Libya to seat the first, or at least the second, of its designated UN representatives so that the matter could be debated in the UN - and possibly even resolved there; that, after all, is what the UN is supposed to be good at. That is why NATO should have allowed the African Union to send in its negotiators right from the start. And that is why the US should now consider a solution that doesn't require, as an absolute non-negotiable starting point, that Gaddafi and his sons leave the country. That simply is not a responsible position, especially in light of the parties' relative positions on the battlefield. What leader in his right mind would simply give up when he's not only winning, but winning with only minimal resistance from enemy troops for whom the label "Keystone Kops" would be an entirely undeserved compliment?

      You, and everyone else who presses for military aid to the rebels, may indeed be "saving lives" if, as you claim, Gaddafi would otherwise roll into Benghazi and start hacking up innocent women and children. The analysis indeed would be different if we really had evidence - rather than baseless conjecture - to believe that would happen.

      But even this very sad story about the 6-year old girl doesn't provide evidence that Gaddafi has done that or would do that - any more than it proves the US would do that when a NATO bomber drops a bomb on a civilian area in Tripoli, as it's indisputably done. What the story of this 6-year old girl does show, however, is that continuing a war unnecessarily results in unnecessary civilian deaths.

      That we know for sure. What you claim - that helping the rebels to prolong this senseless fighting would "save lives" - is, by contrast, irresponsible conjecture.

    • Uninformed Comment 04/14/2011 at 7:41 pm

      Joe from Lowell:

      The US used "diplomacy" in Libya? Please.

      The US refused even to issue a visa to Libya's designated UN representative so he could go to the UN in New York to try a little diplomatting. When Libya selected another UN representative, he flew to Tunisia in a clever but unsuccessful effort to present his credentials to the UN Secretary General, who happened to be in Tunisia at the time, but he too was rebuffed. When the African Union asked to send negotiators to Tripoli to try to settle the matter peacefully, they were refused fly-over permission by NATO (until recently: they finally were permitted to land after several weeks of refusals).

      Hillary's "diplomacy" has amounted to nothing but a demand that Gaddafi leave - not what one might characterize as a "diplomatic" demand to make to a leader who is, after all, winning handily on the battlefield, and a demand which, if accepted, would eliminate entirely the need for any "diplomacy" whatsoever.

      That is the sort of "diplomacy" that Hitler employed shortly before he invaded Poland. How can you seriously claim it's anything more than that?

      As far as your assertion that "a massive crime against humanity was hours from being committed," you're simply accepting that on blind faith from rebel leaders who've lied repeatedly even when the truth would have done just as well. Gaddafi never said he was going to massacre innocent civilians. As anyone who heard those remarks (by his son, actually) understood, he was referring to the rebels who had illegally seized Libyan government arsenals and taken over many Libyan cities. Nor did he say he was going to kill them - merely that he was going to show them "no mercy." I can guarantee, Joe, that if you or I seize some US military arsenal and take over Chicago, the US government is likely to react in a very similar manner, quite possibly including a threat to show us "no mercy." This will happen even if we're the nicest guys in the world and deserve to take over the government of the United States. If that happens (and it's up to you, Joe - count me out on that one), I won't interpret such a remark to mean that the US government intends to slaughter the innocent residents of Chicago.

      You believe what you want to believe, of course, as I suppose we all do. But you ought at least to acknowledge that you're accepting it all on faith. Gaddafi has had many opportunities to massacre civilians. Other than unsubstantiated claims of the rebels, have you seen or heard any evidence whatsoever that he's actually done so? if he's killed 8,000 innocent civilians, as some have estimated (and that was several weeks back), surely there must be at least one photo or video that shows this clearly.

      I invite you to do what I did when Professor Cole posted a link several weeks back to a video that "proved" Gaddafi's brutality: actually click on the link, watch the video, ask yourself whether it really shows what you'd expected or anything close to it, and, finally, wonder why something better than that video can't be found to prove the rebels' "civilian massacre" allegations.

      You, like many others, simply work backwards from your conclusion to find (or fabricate out of whole cloth) assumptions that support those conclusions.

      Your thinking is supposed to move in the opposite direction.

    • It's often surprising how irony appears only with the passage of time.

      At least those of us who live in the US will recall vividly the September 2008 "Saturday Night Live" skit featuring a mock joint appearance by "Sarah Palin" (played by Tina Fey) and "Hillary Clinton" (played by Amy Poehler). Here is the best-known exchange from this extremely well-watched video:

      Hillary Clinton: I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.

      Sarah Palin: And I can see Russia from my house!

      As all who saw this video will remember well, Hillary's line was received in respectful silence, while Palin's response brought down the house. It was perhaps the single funniest line of the 2008 US Presidential campaign.

      In light of Hillary Clinton's subsequent "Bomb first, ask questions later" approach to US relations with Libya – carried to the absurd extent of denying a visa to Libya's designated representative to the UN, and refusing to allow would-be African Union negotiators to land in Tripoli, whose statement strikes you as more humorous now?

  • Impatient Rebels Critique NATO Aid
    • Uninformed Comment 04/06/2011 at 5:10 pm

      "Jordan is now delivering relief supplies to Misrata by airlift."

      One wonders why Western countries didn't do this several weeks ago. They've had total control of the skies for over two weeks.

  • Westbrook: Half-Measures in Libya will Fail
    • Uninformed Comment 04/04/2011 at 11:46 pm

      Several comments have more or less expressed this thought, but each has principally made another (equally worthwhile) point, so I'll express the thought here. I seriously doubt it will make it past Dr. Cole's thick red editing pencil, but it's been fun writing it nonetheless (as this remark undoubtedly indicates, I've written this sentence after finishing the comment).

      I doubt any of us would dispute that the US simply can't afford to intervene in every foreign dispute merely because we conclude that doing so probably would save lives. Indeed, if God told us that we could certainly save, say, 500 lives by intervening in another foreign war but that we'd certainly lose, say, 450 American soldiers' lives and $20 billion in the process, I'm confident we'd say "Gosh, we'd like to help, but no thanks."

      Any disagreement on that?

      If not, then I think we all should frankly admit that we don't just intervene on humanitarian grounds. We still run the cost-benefit analyses. We figure out first how much it will cost us in blood and treasure - exactly as any sane and rational human being would do. And, frankly, the drawing of a line short of "boots on the ground" means to me that we're not really willing to commit much in the way of "blood" to act on our humanitarian impulses.

      But here's where the analysis falls short in the Libya War. If we tote up the American blood and treasure on the "cost" side, presumably we are also toting up the "saved Libyan lives" on the "benefit" side. Presumably there is no disagreement on that.

      Are we toting up those "saved Libyan lives" with the same careful scrutiny we devote to toting up the blood-and-treasure costs? Far from it, in my view. Some of us feel that the numbers we plug into our cost-benefit analysis for "saved Libyan lives" may appropriately be based on whatever numbers we happen to receive from the Libyan rebels - rebels who tell us in one breath that 8,000 civilians have already been killed, and in the next breath that they've recaptured Sirte when they're in fact 100 miles away (among many other misstatements).

      Others of us (I'm one of them) say this: Before the US spends "blood and treasure" to support a bunch of people we've never heard of, in a country that - let's face it - none of has given a damn about before all of this hullabaloo arose, the beneficiaries of our blood and treasure - the lives of our sons and daughters - ought to show us some actual evidence that what they're claiming is in fact happening - not merely that they think it would be very useful to them if we were to expend some dollars, sons, daughters and weapons on their behalf. Not just "eye-witness reports," but actual photos and videos. If thousands of people really have died, certainly there must be pictures, videos, killing fields. I've looked very hard, and have yet to find any - not to mention enough that I'd consider sending my son or daughter to die.

      In short, my message to the Libyan rebels is this: We Americans are very nice people, with strong humanitarian impulses. We'd like to help, but show us first why we should risk the lives of our children for you.

    • Uninformed Comment 04/03/2011 at 9:34 pm

      David Westbrook writes:

      This at the beginning:

      "Let me suggest a rule of thumb: we should not undertake the moral burden of killing when we are unwilling to undertake the existential risk of dying."

      And much the same at the end:

      "Hence my rule of thumb: if we are serious, we should be willing to put troops on the ground and fight."

      Two comments:

      1. Good for Mr. Westbrook for pointing this out. I've been more than a little perplexed at all those who've argued the US should jump into this war for humanitarian reasons, only to insist in the next breath that we should draw a clear line at "boots on the ground." Why? If we conclude it's our moral duty to intervene, why should we NOT put boots on the ground? Mr. Westbrook makes the same point.

      2. Mr. Westbrook leaves unclear whether he thinks the US to get more involved or not. This may well reflect humility: He is merely explaining that the US must acknowledge that it is at war and, therefore, decide whether it is going to do it right – i.e. put boots on the ground – or pull out.

      Though it may be unfair to Mr. Westbrook to speculate on his personal views – and, he might properly argue, irrelevant in any case – I see hints in his writing here that he believes the US has already made an irrevocable decision to enter this war and thus has only one real choice: stay the course, and expand the US' involvement if necessary – that to not do so would be irresponsible.

      If that is Mr. Westbrook believes (and if he does not, my apology to him: let my finger point instead to those readers who do believe that; I have no doubt there are same), I disagree. It does not necessarily follow from a country's admission that it is at war that the country is morally obliged to stay in that war, much less to expand its involvement.

      In some wars, that is true; in other wars, it is not. If the US' entry into this war had somehow exposed one side or the other to greater risk than if the US had not entered the war (such as when we encouraged Iraqi Shiites to undertake a rebellion in 1991 that they probably would not have undertaken absent our encouragement), arguably we'd have a moral duty to stand by whichever side we'd exposed to more risk by entering the war.

      But I don't believe that happened this time. If the US just pulled out right now, I doubt the rebels would be in any worse a position than they'd have been in if the US had never intervened in the first place. Indeed, they probably would be better off, since Gaddafi would think twice before carrying out any massacre, knowing full well that the US was still keeping a careful eye on things and had already intervened once without any massacre even having occurred.

      In short, the US has not made an irrevocable decision that it must now make the best of. Instead, it's faced with a new decision each day: Should it stay or should it go?

      I'll be less circumspect than Mr. Westbrook in answering that question: It should go.

  • Women's Rallies in Libya Protest Rape
    • Uninformed Comment 04/01/2011 at 12:02 am

      Julia,

      The young woman may be dead or jailed. Or she may be alive and out of jail. She may have been raped again. She may not have been.

      It's all just idle speculation. I may have been raped, or maybe not. The same for you, or anyone.

      I must say I'm surprised and disappointed that everyone seems to be ducking the question I've posed, which seems to me compelling: In a country where a man's word often counts for more than a woman's word, and where men usually decide whether the man or the woman is telling the truth, why in the world would any woman - a woman who's already claimed to have been raped in front of the entire world, and thus has no reservations about reporting what happened to her - pass up what really amounts to her one and only opportunity to establish her claim by independent medical evidence? She could have insisted that a doctor of her choice monitor the whole procedure, and complained loudly if the Libyan government refused. But she didn't.

      Why?

      I suppose it's obvious by now that I have a tentative answer to that question, but I'd certainly like to hear another answer from others. It's certainly a question that cries out for an answer.

    • Uninformed Comment 03/31/2011 at 8:42 am

      Emma,

      "There are so many reasons why this may be so, but the fact that you assume all women who are raped automatically want to tell the world about it, shows you know very little about the subject."

      Actually, I do know quite a bit about the subject, but we're not trying to show who knows more here about rape. Most 5-year olds know enough to understand that a woman may be unwilling to "tell the world" she's been raped, but I think we can agree this particular woman had overcome that hurdle. She burst into the lobby of a hotel occupied by journalists and photographers covering the most-watched story in the world.

      You certainly may speculate that any medical exam would have been a cover-up, but I have no doubt whatsoever that, had one occurred and the woman had requested, Western journalists would gladly have arranged for the whole process to be monitored by trusted, independent physicians.

      You also may speculate that the examination might not have turned up any evidence. Sometimes that is the case. Usually not - especially when the woman openly has asserted that 15 men forcibly raped her and that several also urinated and defecated on her. Nearly always, there is evidence of physical injury that can't be attributed to some other cause. In the vast majority of cases, DNA evidence will be available as well. I'd be extremely surprised if something hadn't turned up.

      Perhaps a physician reading this can "referee" our disagreement on what a physical exam would have turned up. But for those who are familiar enough with that narrow subject to accept that my view is sound, the question still remains entirely unanswered:

      Why, why did this woman refuse a medical examination, thereby passing up a golden opportunity to establish independent proof that she was telling the truth about this horrible rape?

    • I don't understand this. The Libyan government claims the woman refuses to allow a medical examination. Neither she nor any family member denies this.

      Why? Why would she not accept an opportunity to establish independent proof of this heinous crime? Without it, it's just her word against that of the men she's accused. She could have proven her case to the whole world. It can't be that she's reluctant to seek publicity.

      Why, why, did she pass up this opportunity? It just doesn't make sense to me. Does anyone have any theories about this?

    • To Barbara Rice:

      "Also, is there any truth to the rumor that Gaddafi is using Serb nationals as mercenaries?"

      Of course. If it's alleged, it's true.

  • An Open Letter to the Left on Libya
    • Interesting to see that the Red Cross has sent in teams to monitor the killing in Cote D'Ivoire, where they've reported seeing hundreds of dead bodies and have estimated 800 deaths.

      Juan Cole mentions the rebels' estimate of 8,000 civilian deaths in Libya. That's a lot more than in Cote D'Ivoire. I'm surprised that the Red Cross hasn't sent a team to Benghazi to check out the situation. Perhaps it should re-examine its priorities.

  • Top Ten Ways that Libya 2011 is Not Iraq 2003
    • Uninformed Comment 04/02/2011 at 8:46 pm

      John Mullen wrote:

      "If Western intervention was meant to reinforce people’s power in Libya, how come Hillary Clinton is flying into London to discuss with other Westerners the future government of Libya?"

      That's a very good question, John. I have no idea what the answer is.

  • Qaddafi threatens to Join al-Qaeda as his Forces advance on Rebel Strongholds
    • I agree entirely with Steve from Virginia. I expect that the uprising will yield some benefits to the Libyan people, so that dead rebels will not have died in vain: Gaddafi is likely to accept much of the long-standing "reform" advice offered by his son, Saif.

      This may not happen, of course, but whether it does or not, further bloodshed won't change the answer to that question. The conflict indeed could get bloodier if the rebels insist on defending Benghazi and the other coastal eastern cities. In addition, the scope of any possible amnesty deal will shrink the longer this conflict continues, and many Libyans will unnecessarily suffer even after the dust clears if Gaddafi is left with carte blanche to hunt down any and all rebels.

      Time for the rebels to call it a day, strike the best deal they can, and then push very hard for some real reforms. I may be naive, but I don't think so: some good will come from this; reforms will be made - all without US intervention.

  • Earthquake/Tsunami reminds us of Futility of War
    • Uninformed Comment 03/12/2011 at 1:01 am

      An odd juxtaposition of posts, eh? A post encouraging the reader not to give up on the Libyan rebels armed struggle against Gaddafi, followed by a piece stressing the "futility of war."

  • Mubarak Defies a Humiliated America, Emulating Netanyahu
    • Uninformed Comment 02/03/2011 at 12:01 pm

      To Bonnie McFadden,

      You wrote:

      "Superb analysis, superb writing. This article deserves a Pulitzer."

      I agree entirely. Unfortunately, because your first sentence is true, your second sentence will be ignored by those who dole out Pulitzers.

    • Uninformed Comment 02/03/2011 at 11:51 am

      This is a very impressive piece of writing, which should be recommended to as many people as possible, and maybe given a special front-page-archive position by Juan so readers can click on it for a quick refresher weeks, months or even years from now. In many passionate writings, the passion inevitably transforms truths into exaggerations, blunting the force of the writer's message. Not so here: Juan's passion merely makes the truth more sharp and clear.

  • DOJ Subpoenas Twitter Account of Wikileaks Volunteer and now Iceland MP
    • Uninformed Comment 01/10/2011 at 9:45 am

      Whether or not Twitter fights these subpoenas probably won't prevent the DOJ from getting the information. (I'm a lawyer, and would find it highly doubtful that the DOJ wouldn't have nailed down the answer to this question before the subpoenas went out.) For that reason, ironically, Twitter's effort is likely only to draw people's attention more clearly to the lamentable (but obvious) fact that Twitter (and Facebook, etc.) communications can be and will be obtained by the US government.

      That's why I don't use Twitter, and why I use Facebook only under an alias and with a very small number of "friends." Even then, I post nothing on Facebook that would give away my identity, and have asked my few "friends" not to do so either. In addition, I've learned that one can delete most posts on discussion threads within Facebook applications (Scrabble, in my case), and I spent an hour yesterday doing just that. If you were the person who started the discussion topic, however, Facebook (or maybe it's the specific application) won't allow you to delete your first post on the discussion topic.

      Others might consider some effort to "scrub" their Facebook record a bit. Certainly it's all there in the archives, but I nevertheless think it will protect your privacy a bit from snooping eyes to delete those old posts and think long and hard about what, if anything, you put in new ones.

    • With just a few exceptions, the Wikileaks cables have actually been "published" by one or more of the several newspapers to which Assange has delivered them, in most or all cases with editing by the newspaper after learning directly or indirectly of the US government's specific preferences concerning the cable. Whether this additional filter relieves Assange of liability is one question, but another important question it raises is whether each newspaper is liable as well. No one held a gun to the newspaper's head to force publication, and it's fair to assume the newspaper's cooperation with Assange was at least as "active" as Assange's cooperation with Pvt. Manning.

      Thoughts?

  • Iran's Oily Revenge on US Drivers, US Troops
    • Uninformed Comment 01/06/2011 at 5:02 pm

      Iran may chair OPEC, but OPEC chairs don't set quotas or prices. It works by consensus. This article suggests Ahmadinejad has control over things over which he has no control at all. Being pleased with something (higher oil prices) does not mean one has caused it to happen.

    • Uninformed Comment 01/06/2011 at 4:59 pm

      Rather than a "petty act of revenge," it may be that Iran stopped shipping gasoline to Afghanistan because it needs it in Iran.

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