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Tehran’s Perspective

[ 0 ] July 30, 2006 |

Although I continue to agree with Billmon that the current offensive is a losing proposition for the Israelis, this article suggests that Tehran is concerned about Hezbollah’s loss of military power in southern Lebanon.

Linking up with the Shiite Muslims of southern Lebanon was part of Iran’s efforts to spread its ideological influence. But in building up Hezbollah, the ideological motivation fused with a practical desire to put a force on Israel’s northern border.

No matter how this conflict is resolved, Iranian officials already see their strategic military strength diminished, said the policy experts, former officials and one official with close ties to the highest levels of government. Even if a cease-fire takes hold, and Hezbollah retains some military ability, a Lebanese public eager for peace may act as a serious check.

In the past, Iran believed that Israel might pause before attacking it because they would assume Hezbollah would assault the northern border. If Hezbollah emerges weaker, or restrained militarily because of domestic politics, Iran feels it may be more vulnerable.

Of course, so much depends on sources and perspective that it’s hard to tell if the above is an accurate picture of Iran’s assessment of the situation. If it is, I’m a bit surprised; yes, conventional offensives can damage guerilla organizations, but they can rarely destroy them. Moreover, there’s not much in the way of indication that the Lebanese government is turning against Hezbollah. Guerilla war is a wonderful way to bleed a foe, because sponsors like Iran very rarely spend as much supplying the guerillas as states like Israel spend destroying them.

So I’m skeptical, but it’s worth a read.

America’s Worst Human Being

[ 0 ] July 29, 2006 |

Steve Sailer on the Seattle shooting:

Anti-Semitic terrorism … another job Americans just won’t do!

Linked to approvingly by the Derb.

For the record, of course, Naveed Haq has lived almost all of his 31 year old life in the United States. He went to high school in Richland, Washington, and he’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His wealthy parents live in Pasco, Washington. By any meaningful definition of the word, Naveed Haq was an American… unless you’re Steve Sailer, and believe that some races are just inferior to others, and thus presumably ought to be kept out.

Incidentally, there was once this guy named Tim McVeigh, from Pendleton, New York. Although his act of terrorism (which, you may recall, killed 168 people) wasn’t specifically intended to kill Jews, anti-semitism was certainly one of his motivations.

… nor is McVeigh the only example of home-grown anti-semitic terrorism.

Thomas Albert Tarrants 3d was a 21-year-old terrorist and dynamiter, an anti-Semite with an arrest record; Kathryn Ainsworth was a 26-year-old schoolteacher by day, a Klan bomber at night. They were the trusted confederates of Samuel Holloway Bowers Jr., Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Mississippi Klan. On the evening of June 29, 1968, their mission was to pull off what the Klan called a “No. 4″ — a murder — against a prominent Jewish businessman in Meridian.

Crazy Netrooty Purge Happy Blogofascists

[ 0 ] July 29, 2006 |

They’ve invaded the New York Times, apparently.

[The editorial page of The New York Times on Sunday endorsed Mr. Lamont over Mr. Lieberman, arguing that the senator had offered the nation a “warped version of bipartisanship” in his dealings with Mr. Bush on national security.]

…weird. The editorial itself is not yet available, but the notice is hidden halfway down an article about Lieberman’s campaign difficulties.

Good Lord, this isn’t good…

[ 0 ] July 29, 2006 |

The last few weeks have bumped up the bar for “Horrible News”, but I think this qualifies:

“Tonight Show” host Jay Leno will be the first replacement co-host for the syndicated review series “Ebert & Roeper” as Roger Ebert recovers from cancer surgery earlier this month.

Ack. The only thing worse that having Jay Leno replace Ebert would be… oh, no. Oh, God no…

As previously reported, Kevin Smith, director of “Clerks 2,” will sub for Ebert the weekend of Aug. 12. Buena Vista hasn’t named any other co-hosts but said Ebert is under doctor’s orders not to rush back to work.


[ 0 ] July 29, 2006 |

This is awful, obviously. The Stranger seems to have good coverage.

[ 0 ] July 28, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Stromboli

Graf Zep

[ 0 ] July 28, 2006 |

In comments, Bistroist points out that the wreck of the Led… er, Graf Zeppelin has been found. Graf Zep was Germany’s first effort at building an aircraft carrier (Seydlitz was the second). After the war began the Germans gave up on Graf Zep and consigned the hulk to duty as a storage vessel. The Soviet Union took the ship over at the end of the war, and apparently sank her in the Baltic.

Just a thought for the naval enthusiasts out there: What if the Germans had completed Graf Zep and used her as a commerce raider? Commerce raiding with Graf Zep was never their intention, as she was supposed to serve as a prototype for their projected fleet carriers. I suppose that the big problem would be supply; aircraft carriers use up fuel and ordinance at a rate much higher than surface ships, so any cruises would likely have been short. On the other hand, only one carrier during the war was caught by enemy surface ships (HMS Glorious), and it’s possible that Graf Zep, with a high speed (35 knots) and significant recon assets, could have avoided being destroyed by the Royal Navy. Graf Zeppelin was also quite large (33000 tons) for her projected complement of aircraft (50), which may suggest the possibility for longer ranged operations.

Lebanon Roundup

[ 0 ] July 28, 2006 |

Read Hilzoy. Critical passage:

If we’re going to argue about this, let’s at least recognize that we are not living in a world in which any state of affairs we might want is achievable. Stopping Hezbollah from firing rockets is difficult. Katyushas are nine or ten feet long, which makes them a lot easier to smuggle and to conceal than, say, your average ICBM. They can be fired from any hard surface, using a pipe and a car battery. Hezbollah has hidden them all over southern Lebanon, and they would not be hard to smuggle in from Syria. A force with popular support — say, the army of a popular Lebanese government — might be able to keep actions against Israel to a minimum, if not to stop them altogether. But an unpopular occupying force, whether Israeli or multinational, probably will not, even if it does have the right mandate and rules of engagement.

If you think I’m wrong about this, then argue with me. But don’t just ask me whether Israel is supposed to just accept the presence of people willing to use rockets on the other side of the border, without explaining what alternative there is. And don’t say that Israel has to do what it’s doing since it was attacked, without being willing to explain why exactly you think that Israel’s actions will in fact make it more secure.

Read Yglesias on deterrence.

By committing themselves to a war whose strategic objectives they can’t achieve without the deus ex machina of massive European intervention, the Israelis have put themselves in a very awkward — very dangerous — position. Tit-for-tat retaliations combined with vigorous diplomacy might have taught Hezbollah a lesson about the dangers of future raids and nudged Lebanon in the direction of taking responsibility for the south. But Israel and the United States have now put themselves in the position of arguing that a return to the status quo ante is unacceptable without having a strategy for forcing anything else. And, certainly, the pre-war situation was sub-optimal, but its merits can be too easily dismissed. Israelis were much better off than Lebanese Shiites or Palestinians (and the general situation in Lebanon was moving in a direction favorable to Israel) and therefore had the most to lose from rocking the boat.

Again, I’m glad that I don’t believe it’s possible to create a deterrent reputation for resolve. Otherwise, I might think that Israel was in serious trouble.


[ 0 ] July 27, 2006 |

Good line:

The case requires elaborate cover, buckets of money and the finest, fastest air and sea vessels the taxpayers of Miami can afford. Not really, of course. The actual operating budget for the Miami police department in fiscal year 2005 was around $100 million, a good $50 million less than the reported production costs of “Miami Vice.”

Should I be ashamed of the fact I’m excited to see this movie?

Sports Autobiographies

[ 0 ] July 27, 2006 |

Are there any good sports autobiographies? The genre is not one noted for distinction; most of the books are written by ghost writers who often have only a mercenary appreciation of their subjects. Ball Four, the one clear candidate for classic status, may not even qualify as an autobiography, although Bouton’s multiple revisions and new editions have brought it much closer to inclusion in the genre. I’ve heard that Hank Aaron’s book isn’t bad, but I haven’t read it. Are there any sports autobios that are worth reading?

Rethinking Agricultural Subsidies

[ 0 ] July 26, 2006 |

Late last year one of my students gave an outstanding presentation in defense of US agricultural subsidies, an accomplishment I had not thought possible. Daniel Davies makes the same argument here. Long story short, it’s difficult to convincingly argue that agricultural subsidies have a serious detrimental effect on Third World consumers, as opposed to producers. Given that most third world countries are net importers of food rather than exporters, reduced subsidies in the US and EU are likely to hurt more than help.

This doesn’t get ag subsidies completely out of the woods; they are still allocated unfairly, they still represent questionable subsidization of a narrow economic strata, and they still tend to have detrimental environmental effects. Still, something to think about.

What the Hell?

[ 0 ] July 26, 2006 |

After launching widespread airstrikes in order avoid negotiating with Hezbollah for the return of its soldiers, it now looks as if Israel will… negotiate with Hezbollah for the return of its soldiers, possibly promising to stop harassment of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and negotiate out the Shebaa farms issue.

What the hell? Why did a war have to be fought to achieve that outcome? A Haaretz article also indicates that Israel may maintain a 1km zone within Lebanon, which will do absolutely nothing to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. You might as well put up a sign saying “Don’t Seize Soldiers or Launch Rockets at Haifa”.

Since I don’t believe establishing a reputation for “resolve” is important or possible, the outlines of this settlement don’t bother me so much. If you do believe in reputation, however, it’s hard to imagine how this situation could have gone down worse for Israel. Of course, the situation remains fluid, and everything I just cited may change in the short term. It’s also possible (as always) that I’m missing some important angle.

UPDATE: As Dan points out, the FOE post cites a Beirut Daily Star op-ed, which can’t really be seen as a reliable indicator of Israeli attitudes. My bad. But Haaretz doesn’t really dispute the second contention, which is that Israeli objectives have been scaled back to something resembling a thin demilitarized zone, which, again, will have almost no effect on Hezbollah’s ability to attack Israel. Note that I’m not calling for Israel to attack more vigorously; I think that a quick cease-fire will be good for everyone. Nevertheless, it’s frustrating to see lots of people die for what appears to be no productive outcome.

Ze’ev Schiff has a not terribly helpful op-ed arguing that Hezbollah must be defeated for reputational reasons; apparently, Jordan and Egypt are likely to attack Israel if Hezbollah cannot be defeated:

If Israel’s deterrence is shaken as a result of failure in battle, the hard-won peace with Jordan and Egypt will also be undermined. Israel’s deterrence is what lies behind the willingness of moderate Arabs to make peace with it. Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, will be strengthened and it is doubtful whether any Palestinians will be willing to reach agreements with Israel. Therein lies the link between the fight with Hezbollah and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That’s pretty close to a textbook case of a bad use of the reputational argument; all commitments are interdependent, everyone interprets events in the same way, etc. Schiff also give no useful advice as to how Hezbollah can be “defeated” such that all actors will agree on the outcome.

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