Thursday, January 27, 2005

Condi's first day on the job....

Today was Condolezza Rice's first day on the job as our new Secretary of State. I found some excerpts from an address she gave her staff at the State Department. (I found them on Rush Limbaugh's website. I found no more than a mention of the address anywhere else). Here are the excerpts:

"I'm going to look and the president is going to look, to this department to lead that effort, and not just to implement policy, but we're going to need ideas, intellectual capital. I need your ideas. My door will be open. Please, understand that this is a time when history is calling us, and I just look forward to working with each and every one of you toward that end. The president has laid out a bold agenda, and he expects a lot of us. I want you to know, too, that I'm going to be committed to you, the men and women of the Foreign Service, the civil service, and our Foreign Service nationals abroad, and you in turn will be committed, and we in turn will be committed to carrying out that bold agenda."

"I got to participate in Germany unification and the liberation of eastern Europe and the peaceful talks with the Soviet Union, but you know, I realize that I was just harvesting good decisions that had been made in 1946 and 1947 and 1948. A lot of those decisions spurred by good work done by this building, the men and women of the state department. And those were days when it must have seemed that freedom's march was not assured. You think about it, in 1947 civil wars in Greece and Turkey, and in 1948 the permanent division of Germany thanks to the Berlin crisis and in 1949 the Soviet Union explodes a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule and the Chinese communists win. It must not have looked like freedom's march was assured. But they somehow pulled themselves together, people like Truman and Atchison and Marshall and, of course, on Capitol Hill, Senator Vandenberg, and they created a policy and a set of institutions that gave us a lasting peace. While no one might have been able at that time to imagine a Democratic Germany or a Democratic Japan, when President Bush now sits across from chancellor Schroeder or from Prime Minister Koizumi he sits across not just from a friend but a Democratic friend."

"I know that there are those who wonder whether democracy can take hold in the rocky soil of the West Bank or in Iraq or in Afghanistan. I believe that we as Americans who know how hard the path to democracy is, have to believe that it can, and we have to make it so that we work with those who want to achieve those aspirations so that one day a future president is sitting across from the Democratic president or prime minister of many a Middle Eastern country, of many a country that has not yet known democracy. That's our charge; that's our calling."

I think that Ms. Rice will be a wonderful assest as Secretary of State.

Rush made some observations and some predictions during his monologue today, some of which I tend to agree with. You can read them here.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Upcoming Iraqi Elections

Views are all over the place regarding the situation in Iraq today, and what will happen during and after the elections.

On the one hand we have had some very depressing articles in the Washington Times over the past few days. Times reporter Sharon Behn is in Baghdad, and in today's piece talks about the situation in the streets and communities:
The atmosphere can be deceiving at times. Inside homes and hotels, people watch sensuous music videos from Egypt and international news broadcasts. Traffic still fills the streets, and shops are open.

Yesterday, children filled one amusement park, happily riding on a Ferris wheel as adults strolled around, some of them dipping into large bags of potato chips.

Feelings among Iraqis range from rampant fear to resignation to a certain pride at being able to survive in spite of horrendous conditions.
Westerners either live in the ever-more fortified "Green Zone" or in other heavily protected compounds.
Most Western contractors living in Baghdad are in a state of siege. They have stockpiled water and food and have weapons cocked and ready whenever they go into the streets. Many have simply left the country until after the election.
Last week Behn filed a story that was equally discouraging:
Fear stalks Iraqis in ordinary life — a terror largely unseen by the outside world and largely invisible to American soldiers and U.S. diplomats assigned here.

Death threats and execution-style killings — including reports of entire families being dragged into the street and shot in the head — continue under cover of darkness, locals say.

Anyone rumored to have contact with Americans is in danger. Police forces are so riddled with informers and under threat themselves that no one dares report kidnappings, bombings and executions in their neighborhoods to authorities.
Read the whole thing if you'd like to ruin your afternoon.

No doubt what Behn says is true - as far as it goes.

And if you leave it at that, one could easily take the view that all is lost, the election will be a failure, Iraq is sliding towards chaos which will result in a new terrorist state worse than Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime.

Let's move on over to the indespensable Arthur Chrenkoff and see what he has to say. He has been publishing a "Good News about Iraq" series for several months now. As he puts it,
It has been a mission of this fortnightly column, now in its nineteenth edition, to bring to readers' attention all that "gets overlooked if not ignored" in Iraq: the advancements of the political and civil society, the rebirth of freedom, economic growth and reconstruction progress, generosity of foreigners and positive role played by the Coalition troops in rebuilding the country, and unremarked upon security successes. Contrary to some critics, the intention has never been to whitewash the situation in Iraq or to downplay the negative; the violence, bloodshed, disappointments and frustrations are all there for everyone to see and read about in the mainstream media on a daily basis. But to point out positive developments is not to deny the bad news, merely to provide a more complete picture. As voters faced with the defining foreign policy issue of the new millennium we owe it to ourselves to be fully informed about the state of affairs in Iraq. And that means both the car bombs and rebuilt hospitals.

Below is not the full picture of Iraq - merely that part of it you don't often see on the nightly news or the pages of newspapers. This does not automatically make it more - or less important in the scheme of things, merely equally important to consider.
Arthur has just posted number nineteen in the series, and as always it is well worth reading all the way through. The amount of research he puts into these is impressive. It's serious research, too, and has gotten him published at, which is the Wall Steet Journal's online editorial site.

His article is too much for me to summarize or excerpt here, so read the whole thing.

So what of it?

Is one right and the other wrong? No, I don't think so. Many Iraqi's are fearful. Yet most will vote in the elections. Clearly the situation is such that even some of those running for office will not even campaign publicly, such is their fear.

Dr Walid Phares made the point on the radio today (The Laura Ingraham show) that we are simply seeing what the terrorists want us to see. They want us to perceive that the country is in chaos, and know that every bomb will dutifully be headlined by the media (as they should). What they do not want you to see is that they have utterly failed to stop the vote, which was their main objective. They are getting frustrated.

We should also remeber that we have seen this gloom-and-doom before. Recall that the left instructed us that elections would be impossible in El Salvador, and that only the Sandanistas could really control Nicaragua. Salvadorans went to the polls under much of the same threats that Iraqis face today. Jesse Jacksom famously told us that we were on "the wrong side of history" by supporting the government in El Salvador and the Contras in Nicaragua. Noone today would argue that either country is the perfect bastion of Jeffersonian democracy. Yet the fact remains that Central Americans are much better off today than they were in the early '80s.

The naysayers tried to tell us that elections in El Salvador would not be possible, or legitimate if they took place. They were wrong then, and will likely be wrong today.