Thursday, June 28, 2007


Do you think Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001?
Yes: 41%
No: 50%
So, more people are right than wrong, but the problem is that 5% more people think Hussein had something to do with 9/11 than the last time this question was asked. Augh.

Also, this question is just weird. The "correct" answer in these questions is always bolded:
From what you know about the situation, do you think the United States is losing the fight against al-Qaeda or radical Islamic terrorism?

Yes: 52%
No: 37%
Now, I don't know the answer to this question, and I don't think Newsweek does either. How are we marking this? To say, unequivocally, that the US is "winning" the war on terror seems like a leap to me, especially when you're calling a majority of US respondents stupid in the process.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good people, even back then

Edward Barlow wonders about the morality of colonialism -- in 1690:
But for nations to come and plant themselves in islands and countries by force, and build forts and raise laws, and force the people to customs against the true natures and people of the said places without their consent, how this will stand with the law of God and the religion we profess, let the world judge.
Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, p. 40

Think this through, people

via Digby, it seems that Dinesh D'souza has a "gaffe", in that he accidentally told the truth: he hates Americans.
D'Souza summarizes the prevailing sentiment by unveiling what he modestly calls "D'Souza's law of immigration": An immigrant's quality is "proportional to the distance traveled to get to the United States." In other words: Asians trump Latinos.
Uh, so Asians trump Mexicans. But Mexicans are further from America than.... Americans, right? So by D'souza's logic, aren't Americans the worst possible people?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Can we make literacy mandatory?

Seriously. Look what happens to one drooling war hawk when he's motivated to read "All Quiet on the Western Front":
Many was the time I had to put the novel down while reading it, and silently repent of the way I had so thoughtlessly anticipated the pleasures of stomping the Iraqi military during the march-up to the war there. War we will always have with us, and there will be times when war is the only choice we have. But it must always be the last resort, and must never, ever be undertaken with anything but utmost gravity. It is a detestable thing.
Rod Dreher has been coming around slowly for a while now, but just imagine the possibilities.

Next you'll tell me I'm adopted

Uh, did anyone else know that our solar system isn't part of the Milky Way galaxy?

The Putative Iranian Bomb

Brad Delong writes much that is good here, but there's two parts that I disagree with. Unfortunately, one is a fundamental one, and comes early:
It is widely believed that the ruling regime in Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Perhaps this is not true. Perhaps the ruling regime in Iran is merely seeking to persuade everybody that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons. A country's political leverage is maximized when it is nearly able to acquire nuclear weapons but has not yet done so.
The third option is that Iran is trying to build a threshold nuclear capability -- as is explicitly allowed, and encouraged, under the NPT -- that would theoretically allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon within 18-24 months of giving a "go" order.

It is problematic for the Iranian regime to pursue nuclear weapons: the only two Supreme Jurisprudents that Iran has had since 1979 (Khomeini and Khameini) both explicitly and repeatedly decreed that nuclear weapons are irreconcilable with the tenets of Islam. Nevertheless, Iran's main concern is not Israel -- who've had nuclear weapons since the 1960s without Iran batting an eye -- but originally Iraq, and now Pakistan. The United Nations did a thorough job of disarming Iraq, so the Iranian nuclear program was mothballed during most of the 1990s.

Unfortunately, once Pakistan demonstrated a nuclear weapon, there was a clear danger to Iran: the Pakistani military and intelligence services are riddled with extremists who, via the Taliban in Afghanistan, have already committed anti-Shia ethnic cleansing campaigns.

We're very used to the idea of Israel threatened by crazy Iranian mullahs, but there's another alternative: Iranian mullahs threatened by crazy Pakistani Islamists. All it takes is one magic bullet, and Musharraf is gone, after all. So Iran has a dilemma: nuclear weapons are forbidden by the theocracy, but things with Pakistan could go really bad, really quickly, with little warning. The answer, as much as there's an answer to any of these things, is the threshold nuclear capability I mentioned above.

This is not the same as wanting a nuclear bomb. It is the kind of nuclear technology that is, by the international law of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, supposed to be available to all countries around the world, including Iran. (This is the gaping hole at the heart of the NPT: it is fundamentally contradictory, and so long as we insist on "peaceful uses" of nuclear technology, we will by definition be risking a more dangerous world.)

The second thing I disagree with Prof. Delong on:
The best resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem would be for all powers in the region--India, Pakistan, Iran, and Israel--to do what makes their people safest: for all to give up their nuclear weapons programs. The second best resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem would be for Iran to do what makes its own people safest: for it to give up its nuclear ambitions, whether or not it receives substantial security guarantees that deter the possibility of attacks on Iran in return. Even if Israel and Pakistan keep their nuclear weapons, the devastating consequences for Israel and Pakistan of using nuclear weapons against Iran is a more effective deterrent than an Iranian nuclear arsenal would be.
Uh, what "devastating" consequences could we inflict on nuclear-armed Israel or Pakistan that would make up for Tehran being a glowing, ashen wasteland? Are we willing to promise the Pakistanis or Israelis that Jerusalem or Islamabad would be similarly reduced? Why would we threaten our allies like that? Short of that, what kind of guarantees could we give Iran that would make them give up the bomb? Iran has lived under US sanctions for decades, and their elites have done just fine thank you. They know quite well how ineffective diplomatic means are at deterring military threats, and they also watched Indian and Pakistani tensions calm down after both parties had nuclear weapons.

So no, there is no more effective deterrent in Iranian eyes than posessing the ability to produce nuclear weapons. And here is where we reach, in my eyes, the most crucial and under-explored aspect of this whole issue:

So far, Iran has done absolutely nothing -- nothing at all -- that places it in breach of the NPT. So why is the US going crazy over this? Well, strident anti-semitism is never a good thing for foreign leaders in the US' eyes, unless you happen to be James "fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyways" Baker. But more crucially, Iran is one of, what, three countries that has publicly and successfully humbled the American government: only Cuba and Venezuela, I think, would get a similar kind of reaction from the US*. Clearly, the US is not thinking objectively about risks to either itself or Israel -- Pakistan is a greater danger on both counts, but gets billions in aid. This has less to do with a real calculus of risk, and more to do with America's own issues with Iran -- dating back to the Carter administration, for God's sake.

*Question for the audience: In you view, is it better that the revolutionary movements in Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela have humbled the US government, even at the cost of unquestionable misery in Cuba and Iran, and the worsening autocracy that is Venezuela?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Slightly-fresher lake chronicles

So I finally read Hansen et al's article which I asked for last week. (Oh, readers, how I appreciate you so.) Hansen argues that we're much closer to a climate disaster than, for example, the IPCC. Basically, the IPCC doesn't take in to account the latest understandings of ice-sheet collapse, which seriously affects their estimates of sea-level rise. Hansen, on the other hand, relies on the historical data: the last time the temperature of the Earth was where it's headed if we don't change course the sea level was at least 45 feet higher, and may have been as much as 90 feet higher. My understanding is that for anything more than 15 metres of sea-level rise we'd have to melt East Antarctica (which so far seems stable, praise Buddha) but just melting Greenland and Antarctica would be more than enough to, uh, destroy the global economy.

To take my favorite example, global container shipping requires massive, specialized ports which a) require billions of dollars of investment, and b) are (duh) all built at the current sea level. It wouldn't take anything close to the 15-metre rise that Hansen is worrying about to make global shipping a total mess. And ask yourself: what happens when we can't get anything from China anymore?

The IPCC has downplayed the threat of sea level rise, and it kind of went out of the headlines for a while. But it is the single biggest economic threat posed by climate change -- global infrastructure at risk measures in the tens of trillions of dollars, and the global population at risk, directly and not, measures in the billions of people.

The key to worry about here is positive feedback: the Earth has, historically, warmed up very quickly and taken much, much, much, much, much longer to cool off. A warming phase might only last centuries, or even decades, but the cooling phases last millennia. The reason for this is simple: all the mechanisms to cool the planet off (and there are many) operate on much slower cycles than the mechanisms that exacerbate warming. The natural process for sequestering CO2 in ocean sediments, for example, is much slower than the ice/water albedo flip, where liquid water retains 90% of the energy it absorbs when, as ice, it would have reflected 90% of the energy away.

So if we get to the point where the Arctic is ice-free in the summer, the Greenland ice sheet is probably doomed. A Greenland that is surrounded by a liquid ocean is going to be a Greenland that is bathing in much warmer water than can support the ice sheet, and the collapse (while it won't be "fast" by human terms) will probably be unavoidable at that point.

There are some extremely speculative ways we might avoid disaster if faced with rapid sea-level rise. The weirdest one is simply pumping the water in to high basins -- the Taklamakan desert in China, for example. This would basically abandon any idea of "fighting" climate change, though -- the creation of a new, inland Mediterranean in North Asia most certainly qualifies as catastrophic climate change. And I'd hate to think of the energy bill to move all that salt water. So basically, the best option for dealing with sea level rise is to stop it before it starts.

Canada: The Pentagon's gas tank

So, I was listening to Andrew Nikiforuk on CBC this morning. Apparently, he's written a piece in the Globe and Mail about how Alberta, and increasingly Canada, are "petro-tyrannies" because of the dominance of oil in our economy. It's a bit too self-consciously "provocative" for me. Also, it suffers from the irredeemable flaw of taking Tom Friedman seriously. That said, there's something here worth discussing.

First of all, the whole "law of petropolitics" that Nikiforuk (via Friedman) is so worried about didn't seem to apply in either the UK or Norway, as just two examples. The North Sea oil boom didn't usher in a dictatorship of any kind, no matter how bad you think Maggie Thatcher was. Moreover, Nigeria has been getting more democratic as it's oil revenues have increased in the last decade. How do we square this with petrotyranny? We don't, because it's just some turd that Tom Friedman dropped on the NY Times op-ed page a while back, and doesn't deserve to be taken seriously.

There is, however, a much more rigorous and complex field of political science that looks at various "resource curses" throughout the world, including gold, diamonds, and of course oil. Golda Meir once joked "Don't talk to me about Moses -- he led us to the one country in the Middle East without oil." Might be, that was the best thing Moses ever did for the Jews: looking at, oh, every major oil-producing country in the world today south of Turkey, they're all what Gwynne Dyer calls "full-spectrum failures". They've failed to deal with their economies, failed to deal with their own politics, and crucially failed to deal with the existence of Israel. If it weren't for the oil under their feet, these regimes would all have ceased to exist long ago. The wealth that oil brings manages, in some cases, to keep things liveable.

So what does this have to do with Alberta? Well, some. Oil wealth does let a government make a lot of mistakes and not have to pay for them -- Ralph Klein's debacle with energy deregulation was papered over with oil money.

(Hm. Klein's idiotic deregulation scheme cost the people of Alberta as much tax money as the problems at Human Resources Canada and the gun registry and the Sponsorship scandal, combined. Which of these issues got more air time in your eyes? Did you even know about Alberta's problems with electricity?)

But Nikiforuk seems to worry that this is a permanent state of affairs, and that Harper's ascendance is about to pave over the rest of Canadian democracy because of the impulse to develop the tar sands, so that we can be the new "Energy Superpower". I'm not as worried. The first thing is simply that we can expect Alberta's natural gas production to start dropping rapidly any day now, and when that goes it's going to take a substantial chunk of the Albertan government's income with it. Edmonton gets more money from gas ($5 billion, out of $35 billion in total provincial revenues) than it does from both forms of oil, so when production goes in to steep decline the Alberta treasury is going to have a serious shortfall to make up -- and that's assuming there aren't any knock-on effects on oil production, which of course there will be: the tar sands are powered by natural gas, after all.

One thing that I absolutely agree with Nikiforuk on is the need to actually stop and think about what we're doing in Alberta. Did we ever, as a country, vote about whether or not we want to be the gas stop for the American empire? I don't remember it, but Chretien, Martin, and Harper have all pursued this policy of supplanting Saudi Arabia as US gas stop with enthusiasm. The Americans, for their part, have no illusions about what Canada's role in the 21st century is: Cheney speaks regularly about Canada's role as "energy security" for the US.

And, once again, we need to face the obvious: Canada will never, ever, ever meet it's Kyoto obligations -- or any other climate change objectives -- so long as we're obsessed with wringing blood from a stone: the tar sands are too dirty, and require too much energy themselves, to ever be sustainable.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Pentagon: The world's hummer

Michael Klare has an article on how oil-intense the US war machine is:
Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That's greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million -- and yet it's a gross underestimate of the Pentagon's wartime consumption.
Ever since the Royal Navy converted to oil-fired battleships, we've been on this path: the militaries of the world have, as one of their core functions, the seizure of protection of oil deposits. The British took Iraq, the Americans made a deal with the Saudis, the Nazis tried to take the Soviet Caucasus, and Japan briefly succeeded in taking Indonesia. What Klare is talking about is nothing new, it's just that now, with oil increasingly concentrated in one area (the Middle East is expected to have more than 50% of the world's oil reserves by 2050, instead of 20% now) the impulse is even more urgent.

There's also the problem, as Klare documents, that America's increasingly-imperial military posture (global strike, full-spectrum dominance) is by definition more energy-intense -- and the only energy that matters in this case is oil.
As summarized by LMI, implementation of the Bush Doctrine requires that "our forces must expand geographically and be more mobile and expeditionary so that they can be engaged in more theaters and prepared for expedient deployment anywhere in the world"; at the same time, they "must transition from a reactive to a proactive force posture to deter enemy forces from organizing for and conducting potentially catastrophic attacks." It follows that, "to carry out these activities, the U.S. military will have to be even more energy intense.... Considering the trend in operational fuel consumption and future capability needs, this ‘new' force employment construct will likely demand more energy/fuel in the deployed setting."

The resulting increase in petroleum consumption is likely to prove dramatic. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the average American soldier consumed only four gallons of oil per day; as a result of George W. Bush's initiatives, a U.S. soldier in Iraq is now using four times as much. If this rate of increase continues unabated, the next major war could entail an expenditure of 64 gallons per soldier per day.
I think we're likely to see the Pentagon increasingly looking at alternative fuels, and even some of the more unlikely technological prospects -- anneutronic fusion may be quackery, but for the kind of money it will take to test it, the Pentagon usually only gets a Powerpoint slideshow and some bagels.

Tee hee

Thomas Cahill's pop-history How the Irish Saved Civilization recounts the role that medieval monks and scribes played in preserving the West's knowledge of history, science, art and literature throughout the Dark Ages until, one day, the time was ripe to bring it forth again to help usher in the Renaissance. The sense one gets from [Conservapedia] is that of a group of scribes working to do the opposite -- to reduce and eliminate much of what we've learned so that, one day, the Dark Ages can be reborn.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Yes, but clearly those wogs just can't learn

Andrew Leonard, at Salon, writes:
Is geography destiny? One strand of development economics, represented most vigorously by Jeffrey Sachs, believes so. Landlocked, mountainous states, like, say, Bolivia, face much larger obstacles in achieving economic growth than do countries with easy access to seaports, and navigable rivers. Sachs particularly likes to apply this theory to his current passion, Africa...

...The second point is that the regions in which Africans tended to escape the depredations of slavery tended to be characterized by a greater degree of "ruggedness." It was easier to hide from the slavers in the hills. The authors do a ton of number-crunching to prove that over the centuries, Africans fleeing from the slave trade tended to congregate in more rugged regions.
Okay, so first the slave trade robs coastal (and later, more interior) African societies of their young adult males, a process that goes on for centuries. This leaves them often leaderless and divided, prone to further exploitation by Arab and European slavers.

Then, in an attempt to escape the voracious maw of the slave trade, the permanent patterns of settlement are abandoned and Africans increasingly move away from the areas that are best for growing economies (plains, river valleys) and move to more secure -- but harder to develop -- hills and mountain country. So African societies are first stripped of some of their most productive members, then chased on to the worst land. Sound familiar?

Finally, with the end of the slave trade the Europeans just occupy Africa outright and impose highly unequal economies where a tiny minority of whites concentrate the wealth of whole nations in their hands -- a process that only petered out in the 1980s, by the way. (Zimbabwe, for good or ill, was only allowed majority rule a year before my birth.)

But no, I'm sure the responsibility for Africa's problems lies only and exclusively with Africans themselves.

Finally, finally shrinking the Bush base!

John Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey did a post in ye olden dayes of 2005 which, I believe, conclusively established that George W. Bush's electoral base was 27%. This floor was the bare minimum of votes that Bush could expect, based on the performance of batshit-crazy Republican Alan Keyes. Sayeth John and his friend Tyrone:
John: Hey, Bush is now at 37% approval. I feel much less like Kevin McCarthy screaming in traffic. But I wonder what his base is --

Tyrone: 27%.

John: ... you said that immmediately, and with some authority.

Tyrone: Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That's crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% Crazification Factor in any population.


John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?

Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?
Well, good news everybody, because Bush has moved in to the basement! Only 26% of Americans now say they approve of his job approval! Huzzah!
But the 26 percent rating puts Bush lower than Jimmy Carter, who sunk to his nadir of 28 percent in a Gallup poll in June 1979. In fact, the only president in the last 35 years to score lower than Bush is Richard Nixon. Nixon’s approval rating tumbled to 23 percent in January 1974, seven months before his resignation over the botched Watergate break-in.

This sounds dangerous

The small but troubling faction of "do-it-yourself" childbirth advocates who encourage unassisted childbirth are courting danger, warns the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
Well, sure, you'd expect any group of OB/GYNs to object to a practice that, if it spread, would put them out of work. Oh, what's that?
"Freebirthing" is the practice of giving birth at home, without the help of obstetricians, nurses or even midwives or doulas.
Okay, that's some crazy shit right there. I don't think any society has ever made a practice of just leaving women in a room alone. At least, not for long and not without a lot of collateral damage. But even better is the alleged justification:
They also note that "freebirth" allows a woman to listen to her own body's signals rather than coaching from an outsider.
Now, admittedly I'm a man, so my opinions or knowledge of pregnancy need to be pretty heavily discounted. But my understanding is that when crunch time comes, the only thing a woman's body is saying to her is "here, I'm going to make you feel more pain than you've felt in your life up to this point, and it's going to feel like an eternity. How does that work for you?" Frankly, I'd prefer the coaching.

And now I've got the image of a pregnant woman being told to go one more round with Apollo Creed in my head...

War: The ultimate renewable resource!

Oh sweet Jeebus:
In an interview with the Times Online (UK), U.S. Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus was asked whether the troop escalation could mitigate the rising sectarian violence in Iraq.

Petraeus argued there was a “golden hour” of “omnipotence” in the early stages of the war where the U.S. was “viewed as a liberator.” He then claimed the U.S. is being perceived as “liberators” once again in Iraq, this time freeing them from the bloody civil war instigated as a result of the U.S. occupation...
Iraq: there's always some new reason why the US can, nay MUST, stay.

The Myth of the Rational Consumer

via Chris Hayes, this quote from Schumpeter makes me laugh:
"[T]he typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field. He argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again."
Economics, you see, is founded on the idea that individuals perceive their own self-interests clearly, and pursue those interests rationally. It would be impossible for Schumpeter -- and economists' economist -- to concede that the entire edifice of economics is challenged by the idea that individuals are periodically irrational, so he had to assume that they're only irrational when it comes to politics. They become, in his words, "primitive".

This makes me laugh, of course, because the entire consumer economy in which we live is explicitly based on appealing to our primitive side. Lest you think I'm exaggerating, you should read Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece from a while back about SUV marketing and "the Lizard Brain". Just a small excerpt:
"The No. 1 feeling is that everything surrounding you should be round and soft, and should give," Rapaille told me. "There should be air bags everywhere. Then there's this notion that you need to be up high. That's a contradiction, because the people who buy these S.U.V.s know at the cortex level that if you are high there is more chance of a rollover. But at the reptilian level they think that if I am bigger and taller I'm safer. You feel secure because you are higher and dominate and look down. That you can look down is psychologically a very powerful notion. And what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That's why cupholders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cupholder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it's soft, and if I'm high, then I feel safe. It's amazing that intelligent, educated women will look at a car and the first thing they will look at is how many cupholders it has."
Cupholders = safety. That's the level of rational thought that Schumpeter thought citizens abandoned when they thought about which party to support. To take a wider view, try to think of one product -- a single one -- where the marketing isn't playing to some primitive urge on your part. So: no sexual appeals, no use of fear or security messaging, and no claims or implications that product or service X will elevate your social status or bring you in to a desirable community (one of the basic urges in any primitive society.) I'll give you a minute to think about that.


Alright, get back to me later.

Let's be clear -- the SUV is only the easiest potshot you can take at the myth of the rational consumer: people buy SUVs that are more expensive, more fuel-intensive, more dangerous, for entirely irrational reasons. Mothers think they're protecting their children when, in fact, they're putting them at much, much, much higher risk. Gladwell's article makes clear that these people are so stupid that Detroit's own executives regard them with pretty much unbridled contempt.

And this isn't trifling, remember: the home automobile is the second-largest expenditure a family is likely to make after their housing costs. If people are supposed to be rational -- especially when the costs to them are high -- than the craze for the SUV is kind of a big deal for economists to grapple with, at least if they're going to be simultaneously arguing that "consumers" are rational while "citizens" are primitives.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The stupidest guy on the planet today

Oh boy. I know the title was already taken for (grrr, Doug Feith) but jeebus is Tony Blair dumb. Three different data points:I'm tempted to be sympathetic to Blair on the last count -- on 9/11 itself, I too was scared that Bush would go nuclear. But unlike Blair, I was never under any illusions that I could have stopped it.

That second link is especially good. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not that I don't respect copyright....

But if someone has access to this article here, and could get a digital copy to me somehow, I'd be extremely grateful.

Update: Thank you to those who leapt to do my bidding. Now, give me money!

(crickets chirp)


Debts are owed, but they can't always be repaid

Hm... my brain had stored this somewhere, but I'd forgotten it was that Senator Gravel -- the same one currently running for the Democratic nomination:
Daniel Ellsberg was the defense intellectual who leaked the study to newspapers. But it was Gravel who turned it into a public document, one everyone can read. As the Nixon adminstration was busy trying to enjoin their publication in court, Gravel, the 41-year-old senator from Alaska, had called an extraordinary two-man night "hearing" of his Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds. He began reading aloud from the four thousand page typescript. He started at 9:45 PM. "The story is a terrible one," Gravel warned. "It is replete with duplicity, connivance against the public. People, human beings, are being killed as I speak to you. Arms are being severed; metal is crashing through human bodies." Then, he began to weep. Word of mouth spread; aides and reporters working late started filtering into the hearing room. He read for three hours and then recessed, noting to reporters he might be risking expulsion from the Senate. He stopped at 1:12 AM, promising to continue the next day. By then, he had broken out in sobs once more.
As Rick Perlstein notes, this means we all owe Sen. Gravel a great debt -- by entering the Pentagon Papers in to the Congressional Record, Sen. Gravel cut the knees out from under the Nixon Administration, which was trying to sue the press in to submission. (Poor Nixon. If only he'd survived a decade longer, he needn't have bothered.) Congressmen can't be sued for acts in Congress, so Gravel's move made the Pentagon Papers a public-domain document for all to read.

That said, Sen. Gravel does seem to be a nutter these days. So no, I wouldn't think people should be voting for him. If you need more evidence, read the rest of Rick Perlstein's post.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blood on the floor

via Ankush (over at Ezra's place), Andrew Bacevich is still mad as hell:
History will render this judgment of Pace, who succeeded General Richard B Myers as chairman in September 2005: As U. S. forces became mired ever more deeply in an unwinnable war, Pace remained a passive bystander, a witness to a catastrophe that he was slow to comprehend and did little to forestall. If the position of JCS chair had simply remained vacant for the past two years, it is difficult to see how the American military would be in worse shape today....

When Donald Rumsfeld served as defense secretary, silent assent became an absolute requirement, as army chief of staff Eric Shinseki learned, to his chagrin. When Shinseki testified, during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, that occupying the country might require many more troops than were available, Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz went out of their way to humiliate and discredit the general for having the temerity to venture an independent opinion. The message to the senior officer corps was clear: those interested in getting ahead were expected to toe the party line.

Pace exemplifies this breed. Only once during his time as chairman has Pace asserted himself -- and that, somewhat bizarrely, was to express his view that homosexuality is immoral. Apart from that uncharacteristic outburst, he has loyally accommodated himself to whatever the boss has wanted, even to calamitous policies that have done immeasurable harm not only to the country but to the armed services to which he has devoted his life.

Always with the stupid

via Atrios, Roger Cohen suffers from Paul Martinitis*:
I see four core American interests in Iraq that cannot be abandoned. There must be no Afghan-like Al Qaeda takeover of wide areas. There must be no genocide (say a Shiite sweep against Sunnis). There must be no regional conflagration (for example, a Turkish invasion). And there must be no return to the old order (murderous Stalinist dictatorship).

To ensure this, the United States must keep a military presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
This paragraph shows only that Roger Cohen has refused to actually deal with the lessons of what's actually happened in the last four years** Which of these four core priorities is Cohen willing to sacrifice? Because there's good reason to suspect that they're entirely contradictory: A "Stalinist" Sunni dictatorship may be the only way to prevent a Shia-led genocide, or for that matter a "regional conflagration" for example.

So which one priority is it that Cohen thinks we should put before all others? He doesn't say, and I don't believe he's got one. This is because the "core American interests" aren't actually important for their substance. What's important, to Roger Cohen and oh so many other people, is that the US keep troops in Iraq. Therefore, it's necessary to invent a reason, or a number of reasons, to keep them there.

Look at Cohen's list: There's little reason to believe that, in the absence of the US occupation, that the Iraqis will tolerate al Qaeda for longer than it takes to dump the bodies in the Tigris. Preventing a Turkish invasion of Iraq should be possible without US troops in Iraq because, uh, the US gives Turkey all of its guns. A Rwanda-style genocide is unlikely, if only because the Sunnis have shown enourmous passion in killing Shia, too. And even if you stipulate that a return to the old order would be bad for America (why? Saddam was a friend, once) that too is unlikely. So no one aspect of Cohen's core interests is actually likely to be threatented. What is likely is that, in each area, the final outcome will be less than what America would prefer.

Is that a sufficient reason to leave 50,000 troops in the firing line as a further irritant and recruiting icon for al Qaeda? Well, if you're a columnist for the New York Times, the answer is a resounding yes!

*For the non-Canadians, blessedly-former Prime Minister Paul Martin famously had about 300 priorities before breakfast.

**One of the most obviously dangerous things about the ingrained stupidity of our media is the failure to actually look at what has happened. Cohen writes several hundred words about the necessity of a small "residual force", the entire time ignoring the fact that the much larger "actual force" in Iraq has totally failed to accomplish the goals he thinks the residual force will. It's as if the last 4 years hadn't happened in Cohen-land.

Friday, June 15, 2007

We must become the enemy

During the Cold War, there was a line of reasoning that went something like this:
Capitalist democracies can never compete with the "brutal efficiency" of the totalitarian state. All other things being equal, the Soviet model will always produce more soldiers, more tanks, more bombers, and more missiles, and we therefore will always be at a disadvantage so long as we subscribe to the status quo of radical, even dangerous ideas such as unlimited freedom of speech or assembly. We can't let crucial industries go on strike, nor can we allow civil unrest to go unchecked.
Similarly, during and before WWII, there were more than few people who thought that the only way America, England, and Canada would defeat fascism was to, uh, become fascist states themselves. Some of these people were very rich, and some of them tried to put their plans in motion.

I'm sure this isn't an odd occurrence. Go back to 1683, as the Ottoman Armies were marching on Vienna, and no doubt some of the finest minds in Christendom were talking about the "brutal efficiency" of the Turk and his endless supply of Saracens, and how Christians needed to be more like the Mohammedan. Not actually convert, because that would be absurd, but to just blur the lines so much that it wouldn't matter.

It's an odd impulse, really. Maybe it was understandable in 1683, when your average Christian was just one bad harvest from burning witches for having Congress with the Beast. But we, today, here in North America, have inherited the wealthiest and most advanced society on Earth. The United States in particular is powerful beyond the dreams of any ruler, and wealthier today than ever. (Though with inequalities that Rockefeller would have recognized and approved of!)

Some people seem to think this was an accident. That we defeated the Nazis in spite of our democracy, or that we survived the Cold War in spite of the civil unrest of the 1960s. The idea that we have prospered because of our values -- sometimes honored in the breach more than in the observance, of course -- seems awfully hard for some people to believe.

Which brings me to this. Mike at Rational Reasons has written an eloquent response to some native Christians who, apparently with a straight face, have written:
"A Christian worldview advances the ideas of localism and decentralization...."

"Politicians are still called "ministers" as a continual tribute to the Christian worldview...

"Secular humanist leaders despise equality..."
But then go and write:
The separation of church and state is a glorious Christian doctrine. It is not simply Christian culturally, as though it was simply co-opted and perfected by societies that happened to be significantly Christian. The separation of church and state is a biblical doctrine given to us by God as a gracious provision for the orderly functioning of society. It is an essential component of ordered liberty, the socio-political model given to us by God, and the Christian corrective to the non-Christian tendencies toward anarchy and tyranny.
So I'm pretty confused right about now. Because there's not much in the last paragraph that I disagree with, except for the fact that I'm not a Christian. (Or rather, I'm certainly not what those Christians would call a Christian. That, and "ordered liberty" sounds like an oxymoron to me.)

But of course, the separation of Church and State is not a Canadian tradition -- we've never had the wall that Jefferson called for here. We have state funding for Christian schools, Quebec spent decades with Catholic dogma interfering with the state at every level, and if you see the opening of the Ontario Legislature any time, you'll also see the MPPs in Queen's Park recite the Lord's Prayer.

All that aside, you might guess that the nice language about the separation of Church and State is really just a palate-cleanser for us to get to this:
We need to re-educate ourselves about the morally superior nature of Christianity for law and public policy, as well as for private morality, identifying the ways in which Christianity applies the grace of God in society.
Socialism may have been Godless, but you don't need to be a Maoist Cadre to scare that crap out of me while talking about "re-education." You see, the separation of Church and state (ordained by God, remember!) is actually why Church and state need to be fused. Or something. I don't really understand. Mike calls these people the Christaleban, and if you've got a better name leave it in the comments below.

The point is this: I think it's a good bet that Mr. Bloedow, author of "State vs. Church" is going to find a bigger market for his book on establishing a Christian Theocracy today than he would have in, oh, August of 2001. In a time where the main divisions in the world seem to be theologically-inspired (Israel-Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan) and when, inexplicably, we are exhorted to be afraid of people who can't work a DVD burner, it's understandable, if misguided, that we might take shelter in our own theology. But it won't work. We didn't win WWII by becoming more fascist, we didn't survive the Cold War by becoming more Stalinist, and we aren't going to come out alive on the far end of whatever you call the mess we're in now by becoming less tolerant, more theocratic, or more loudly exhorting the superiority of Christianity to all other religions.

Christians are, admittedly, in a tight spot when it comes to multiculturalism: their faith requires that they admit no Gods before theirs, and I think the safe bet is to allow no Gods equal to theirs, either. But Canada is not, despite the flourishes here and there, an exclusively Christian country. (And, by a strict definition it never has been.) And we've still managed to build one of the world's best places to live. Mr. Bloedow seems to think that's an accident. I think it's an explanation.

Surefire signs of weakness

Whenever somebody makes the agument that "we need to do X or else we'll look weak", I usually discount the argument pretty substantially. That's only one of the many funny things that you can read in this article that Rob deals with quite handily. As Rob mentions, the lamentations over the US defeat in Vietnam spurring the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan truly is amusing. While there's a number of reasons to be opposed to foreign adventurism by any country, including the US, there's very little reason from a US power perspective to say that the invasion of Afghanistan was a bad thing*. It hurt the USSR enormously, the Soviet military never really recovered, and it's one of the signal failures of governance that precipitated the collapse of Communism. Good things on their own, but especially good things for the US.

If the US departure of Vietnam spurred the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, then for the love of God let's leave Iraq, pronto. Maybe we can get the Iranians to invade when we leave -- that worked out so well for the Ayatollahs last time.

*And yes, that includes the external costs of 9/11. Do you think a single American, if asked in 1980, would have turned down a deal where the Soviet Union ceases to exist, but America loses 3,000 civilian lives?

Things that keep me up at night

Boy, time was all you had to worry about was a war between China and the US. And, yeah, we still have to worry about that. But now, there's more:
Choices usually involve a price, but people persist in believing
that they can avoid paying it. That's what the Indian government thought when it joined the American alliance system in Asia in 2005, but now the price is clear: China is claiming the whole Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, some 83,000 sq. km. (32,000 sq. mi.) of mountainous territory in the eastern Himalayas containing over a million people....

A year ago, Indian foreign policy specialists were confident that they could handle China's reaction to their American deal. In fact, many of them seemed to believe that they had taken the Americans to the cleaners: that India would reap all the technology and trade benefits of the US deal without paying any price in terms of its relationship with its giant neighbour to the north.
Even if the US weren't trying to build an encircling mesh of alliances against China, it would have been difficult to "build space" for the Indians and the Chinese to both emerge peacefully in the world system. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the US is trying to do, so we're stuck with it. The net result is that the relationship between two nuclear powers with 3 billion people between them is getting frostier by the day.

I wasn't particularly looking to see the Bollywood remake of Doctor Strangelove. Were you?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Greatest Generation -- Where'd they go again?

From Robert at LGM, this manual issued to US soldiers in Iraq (circa 1943) is simply too good to not read in it's entirety. (PDF!) Perhaps my favourite part so far (and I'm only on page 4!):

But just remember what Tony Blair told us all -- nobody could have expected the insurgency to take root the way it did, or that the Iraqis would have fought back. Except, apparently, Tony's parents.

More seriously, I suppose this shows the near-perfect mutability of the perceived traits of outsiders to our own community, whether that be religious, ethnic, what have you. Back in the 1940s, when Iraqi assymetrical warfare was necessary as a defense of British colonial posessions against Hitler, we described them as "highly skilled guerillas" and "staunch and valuable allies". Fast forwards 60 years, and those traits get them labelled terrorists and "dead-enders".

The Iraqis, of course, haven't actually changed that much, except in their usefulness to us.

ADDED: Oh shit, this is too great, on the very next page:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Like Saipan, but colder

Mr. Scoville:
What's in store, if this plan continues, is effectively the reduction of Canada -- and the rest of North America too -- to the status of a new form of colony, in service not to any political crown but to corporations. And it's thereby the reduction of Canadians -- and everyone else but a few -- from citizens to subjects.
This isn't a nationalism thing, this isn't even a "left-wing" thing. It's a democracy thing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Honesty in foreign affairs

Ezra Klein is at a conference, blogging:
Gordon Smith is currently explaining how his mother used to spank him, but that she loved him anyway. This, he thinks, is akin to our current standing in the world.
You know what American leaders should do more often? Compare the other 95% of the species homo sapiens to disobedient children, in need of violent punishment. I think this would really improve America's standing in the world.

Occasional Canadian Politics-blogging

Some days, I almost.... nope, sorry couldn't say it. I don't feel bad for Stephen Harper.

First, you've got the environment file which Harper totally mismanaged, and continues to mismanage, but seems to think he can un-mis-manage through sheer spin. Get John Baird to say anything often enough, and loudly enough, and the hope seems to be that Canadians will be entranced by the sheer awesomeness that is the Conservative machine. Sadly for them, it doesn't actually seem to be working: Canadians' views on the Conservative policy are based on substance, not appearance.

Secondly, you've got the one issue that I was seriously worried Canadians would actually agglomerate around the Conservatives on -- Afghanistan. Here, too, substantive Canadian unease is not being settled with shouts of "support the troops" or "kill the terrorists!"

And it seems to have made Harper a little nutty. See here, via Scott:
Sources say that Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay feels blindsided by the letter to the editor published Saturday that inflamed matters.

Insiders say that Sandra Buckler, the prime minister's communications director, instructed MacKay to sign the letter, which rejected any side deals with Nova Scotia.

MacKay, a Nova Scotia MP and the senior minister for Atlantic Canada, refused, say sources. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty signed the letter.
Clearly, I'm not a mind reader. But blogging allows a little latitude for baseless speculation, and that kind of trick -- making McKay sign a letter destined to piss off his base -- sounds to me like Harper is trying to smack around the old Tory part of the Conservative Party and make sure they don't try to take on the western base. At the very least, it sounds like Harper was trying to keep McKay from mounting a credible leadership challenge later.

Imported Chinese gluten doesn't kill pets, I kill pets

I'm now fully licensed to drive in the province of Ontario. Be warned.

Thinking about driving recently has led me to wonder why in God's name you'd choose to own a car in Toronto. Certainly -- having both owned a car and not owned a car at various points in the last few years -- I can say that (for me) it was far more disruptive to adjust my life to owning a car than the adjustments I make to not own a car (biking, transit, etc.) Worrying about gas and insurance costs alone was enough to make me not want to keep the car I had.

So, in brief, the environmentalist/energy-nerd doesn't like cars. I know you're all shocked.

Pity your local teaching assistant

Chris Bray:
My longstanding suspicion was confirmed last week: Twenty percent of all known undergraduates complete their written coursework by typing up a summary of whatever text you give them, taking it all as equally weighted fact and never noticing especially much what it says.

I never thought they'd actually do it with Mein Kampf. But oh my god, they most certainly did.

Monday, June 11, 2007

When we do it, it's not terrorism: WWII edition

Rob speak, you listen.

There is, of course, a far more recent (and bipartisan to boot!) example to choose: the aerial destruction of Iraq's critical infrastructure throughout the 1990s and the sanctions that prevented the reconstruction of, among other things, the water supply crucial to feeding a dry country. It was famously justified by the US government under Clinton as critical to the policy of regime change -- if the Iraqis wanted the sanctions to end, they needed to replace Saddam. The fact that tens of thousands of Iraqi children died over the decade was secondary at the time.

Of course, Iraq has since turned in to such a Hobbesian nightmare that most Iraqis would instantly prefer turning back the clock to the sanctions era. So Clinton's reputation on this issue might be salvaged by the awfulness that is his successor.

Malthus for President

Scary stuff: an article from New Scientist on the precarious state of the world's mineral reserves. The article's behind a paywall, but you can find the text here:
The calculations are crude - they don't take into account any increase in demand due to new technologies, and also assume that current production equals consumption. Yet even based on these assumptions, they point to some alarming conclusions. Without more recycling, antimony, which is used to make flame retardant materials, will run out in 15 years, silver in 10 and indium in under five. In a more sophisticated analysis, Reller has included the effects of new technologies, and projects how many years we have left for some key metals. He estimates that zinc could be used up by 2037, both indium and hafnium - which is increasingly important in computer chips - could be gone by 2017, and terbium - used to make the green phosphors in fluorescent light bulbs - could run out before 2012. It all puts our present rate of consumption into frightening perspective....

The US now imports over 90 per cent of its so-called "rare earth" metals from China, according to the US Geological Survey. If China decided to cut off the supply, that would create a big risk of conflict, says Reller.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Well played, sir

Scott Horton is cute with Edmund Burke.

Read all the way to the end.

A Drought for the Ages

Avert your eyes, children:
DENVER — Drought, a fixture in much of the West for nearly a decade, now covers more than one-third of the continental USA. And it's spreading.

As summer starts, half the nation is either abnormally dry or in outright drought from prolonged lack of rain that could lead to water shortages, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly index of conditions. Welcome rainfall last weekend from Tropical Storm Barry brought short-term relief to parts of the fire-scorched Southeast. But up to 50 inches of rain is needed to end the drought there, and this is the driest spring in the Southeast since record-keeping began in 1895, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Dust bowl, anyone?


Paul Krugman:
In Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney completely misrepresented how we ended up in Iraq. Later, Mike Huckabee mistakenly claimed that it was Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

Guess which remark The Washington Post identified as the “gaffe of the night”?

Folks, this is serious. If early campaign reporting is any guide, the bad media habits that helped install the worst president ever in the White House haven’t changed a bit....

Now fast forward to last Tuesday. Asked whether we should have invaded Iraq, Mr. Romney said that war could only have been avoided if Saddam “had opened up his country to I.A.E.A. inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction.” He dismissed this as an “unreasonable hypothetical.”

Except that Saddam did, in fact, allow inspectors in. Remember Hans Blix? When those inspectors failed to find nonexistent W.M.D., Mr. Bush ordered them out so that he could invade. Mr. Romney’s remark should have been the central story in news reports about Tuesday’s debate. But it wasn’t.
Well, that explains so much about the modern Republican Party: reality is an "unreasonable hypothetical." But of course, this is about much more than the blinkered delusions of Mitt Romney and the Republican base. Thirty years ago, when the now-dead President Ford said there would be no communist hold on Eastern Europe, he was widely and rightly mocked and made to look like an idiot. Where is the press today? Talking about John Edwards' haircut, or Obama's middle name. Brilliant.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jon Schwarz has a point here (GOP losing war on history, cont.)

Fareed Zakaria writes:
In 1980, the U.S. share of global GDP was 20 percent. Today it is 29 percent.
It is, as anybody with a passing knowledge of world history could tell you, false. At least in the sense that there is something real called the global economy, the US share has been shrinking ever since the end of World War II. Jon Schwarz:
The problem here isn't that Zakaria made a mistake. It's that he would never make a mistake like this in the other direction—i.e., something that made the U.S. look worse than it is. You don't get to be International Editor of Newsweek and host of your own program on PBS and on the board of Yale without having a tendency toward saying inaccurate, self-congratulatory crap about America.
What's clear is this isn't only about foreign policy -- the American pundit class has a nasty allergy to numerical literacy. See, for example, the months-long battle Paul Krugman had with the New York Times over Bush's tax cuts.

The Bizarro World that is the GOP

It seems to be an article of faith among the US Conservative movement -- believed by the President, no less -- that Saddam Hussein did not, in fact, let inspectors in to Iraq before the war.

And nobody really seems to care in the media that the President, and all of his likely GOP successors, and totally detached from very recent history. It's as if, in 1992, George Bush ran for re-election on the platform that Manuel Noriega had sponsored the Beirut bombings or something. It's wrong, and obviously and bizarrely wrong.

But I see that Paris Hilton was released from prison early today, so clearly there are more important things to discuss.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Knocked Up

Let's get this out of the way: Kevin Drum couldn't find a clue with two hands, a flashlight, and possibly a sherpa when it comes to the funny. Knocked Up was fantastic. Better even than 40 Year Old Virgin, which is quite a feat considering this movie (almost) entirely lacked Steven Carrell. Seth Rogen may not be the next Olivier, but he's damn good.

More than the actors, I'm really enjoying Judd Apatow's writing. Both of his films have an element that really appeals to me: behind the fart jokes and bong humour (which is awesome, btw) there's a kernel I'd like to see a lot more people take to heart: relationships take work. Real Live Preacher once wrote that "love is a verb", as in a word denoting action. He was responding to people who would say to him, "oh my wife knows I love her" or "my kids know I love them" without ever actually showing it. No. Wrong. It's not enough.

What's more, in Apatow's films the work is worth it. People who aren't "right for each other" or "that special someone" end up being right for each other, but only after working at it. It's a sweet message, and a needed antidote to the people who worry too much about finding "the one."

The government-in-exile

Robert Dreyfuss reports in The American Prospect that a post-US coalition of forces is already waiting in the wings once the US forces stop propping up the Maliki government.

So what's the preferred analogy? Iraqi De Gaulles?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Nalgene, how could you betray me so?

Yikes. I don't go anywhere without my Nalgene bottle, usually filled with water or iced tea. It appears I've been slowly poisoning myself, for years now.

Fortunately, there are alternatives available. Nalgene also makes bottles out of non-Lexan plastic, or you can skip those entirely and find a retailer of stainless steel bottles. (Can a bottle be made of steel? Does bottle denote shape, or material?) I'll be going for the stainless steel variety, for now.

Attacks up, more complicated in Iraq

Bad news:
The overall percentage of U.S. military fatalities caused by roadside bombs had dipped from more than 60 percent late last year to 35 percent in February. It then rose again to 70.9 percent in May, according to research by the independent Web site Gains in defeating the bombs have not resulted in fewer deaths because the number of bombs -- and the lethality of some types -- have increased, military officials said.

Insurgents are also staging carefully planned, complex ambushes and retaliatory attacks as they target U.S. troops, the officials said. While few in number, these include direct assaults on U.S. military outposts, ambushes in which American troops have been captured, and complex attacks that use multiple weapons to strike more than one U.S. target. For example, attackers will bomb a patrol and then target ground forces or aircraft that come to its aid.

"We are starting to see more sophistication and training in their attacks," said a senior military official in Baghdad. While the vast majority of attacks are still relatively simple and involve a single type of weapon, "clearly the trend is going in the wrong direction," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
One can assume, based on previous trends, that we will see similar tactics in Afghanistan eventually. 18 months? 2 years? That's my guess, on the outside. Maybe faster if the US gets out of Iraq -- there'll be thousands of angry men with guns who are still itching for live-fire excercises against the Great Satan, and Afghanistan will be the best option if they actually leave Iraq. (Something I don't see happening until January, 2009.)

Steve Gilliard, RIP

I had just enough time to read Saturday that Steve Gilliard has died, and then not enough time to write anything about it. Others have written far more eloquently about how good he was, but I'd like to add something about how far-sighted he was.

Aside from only one or two other writers (one of them Billmon, another DKos alumnus) Steve Gilliard got what he wrote right. He was right about Iraq way back in the summer of 2003, back when the nutbars in right blogistan couldn't stop talking about how many schools were being painted and how Paul Bremer was teh new hawtness. Steve used actual facts, informed by his knowledge of history, to call bullshit on the whole enterprise.

For the last 4 years or so, every time there was some development in Iraq or the Middle East broadly, I went to the News Blog to see what Steve Gilliard thought of it first. One of the last things I remember Steve writing before entering the hospital was that he didn't trust Gen. Petraeus to give an honest assessment of the surge, because his desire for career advancement would overpower his better sense.

As with so much, Steve Gilliard got it right, first.

Friday, June 01, 2007

No. Wrong. Nyet.

Jonathan Alter gets a lot right, when he says that Bush is a moron for comparing Iraq to Korea. This, however, is very very seriously wrong.
U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea at the explicit request of the South Korean government and people. When President Carter raised the possibility of pulling them out in 1977, American Gen. John K. Singlaub was not the only one to object. South Koreans know that American forces are the only thing standing between them and being overrun by a million North Korean troops stationed just over the border. Only now, more than 50 years after the end of hostilities, is the formal state of war being brought to a close. Aside from some demonstrators once in a while, no one in South Korea seriously wants our troops to go, at least until the threat from the North recedes and unification begins. Then we’ll be gone.
No, they won't. American troops haven't left Germany, almost 20 years since the Cold War began to unravel. And that may even be a good thing -- that's an argument for another time. US leaders will continue to want an armed, armored presence on the Asian mainland because, among other things, China will continue to exist on the Asian mainland. Absent an explicit, and strident, request by the United Korean government for American forces to depart (a la Philippines, 1991) those forces are staying right the hell where they are. (Actually, they'll probably be redeployed to the south of the peninsula, if possible.)

America puts major armed forces bases all over the world because, well, that's what America does. For American commentators to suddenly wake up to this fact and find it objectionable in the case of Iraq is kind of funny.

Oh, and those few, scattered demonstrators who want America to leave Korea? They include 54% of the country. To go back to a previous post: it's simply astonishing how ignorant even well-educated Americans are about their own foreign policy, or the desires of living breathing people around the world.