Monday, January 31, 2005

U.S. Judge: Guantanamo Tribunals Unconstitutional

Justice and 9-11

Industry lobbyists worked with key Republican lawmakers to sabotage new security regulations for chemical plants

Whitman: GOP foiled security efforts
Book says legislators helped lobbyists defeat rules for chemical plants
Friday, January 28, 2005
Star-Ledger Staff
Industry lobbyists worked with key Republican lawmakers to sabotage new security regulations for chemical plants after the 9/11 attacks, Christie Whitman alleges in her new book.

Many chemical plants -- including dozens in New Jersey -- could release toxic clouds that could kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in the case of an attack or a major malfunction. Their security became a prime concern of experts after 9/11, but proposed regulations requiring safety measures failed to pass in Congress.

In her new book, "It's My Party Too," former New Jersey Gov. Whitman -- who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency as the debate raged in Congress and the Bush administration -- placed the blame squarely at the feet of chemical-industry lobbyists and congressional Republicans.

Whitman wrote that she and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge crafted rules requiring the 15,000 most high-risk plants to "take reasonable steps to address those vulnerabilities, and report to the EPA that they had complied."

"Although both Tom and I agreed such legislation was necessary, strong congressional opposition -- led by some Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- to giving EPA even this modest additional statutory authority made it difficult to secure administration support," Whitman wrote, singling out Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) for blame.

She said she grew so frustrated she formally asked the White House to "relieve EPA of its lead responsibility for reducing the vulnerability of the chemical sector to attack."

"The American Chemistry Council (a chemical-industry lobbying group) fought hard against my efforts," Whitman wrote. "I sometimes wonder whether those companies spend more money trying to defeat new regulations than they would by simply complying with them."

There are still no federal regulations requiring chemical facilities to gird against attack.

American Chemistry Council spokeswoman Kate McGloon said the group was taken aback by Whitman's charge.

"We're kind of surprised by the tone of her comments, given that we worked a lot with her," McGloon said.

McGloon said the council supported federal security regulations, just not ones that would take too much decision-making power away from company experts.

"Process safety is what we do," McGloon said. "There is a grave concern about putting the responsibility for those kinds of decisions in not-expert hands."

Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), who has introduced his own strict chemical-plant bill, seized on Whitman's comments as confirmation of his long-held contention that industry lobbyists had defeated any new security rules.

Corzine said he planned to re- introduce his bill next week, along with a companion measure that would provide new rules for the rail transportation of hazardous chemicals.

Early this month, a derailed train car in South Carolina released noxious chlorine gas, killing nine people in a nearby town with toxic fumes, injuring 250 and prompting the evacuation of more than 5,000 people.

Potential scenarios in New Jersey -- a major center of chemical manufacturing -- are far more alarming. For example, the Kuehne Chemical Co. in Kearny told the government in 1999 that one of its railroad tank cars could produce a chlorine cloud that "would be immediately dangerous to both life and health for a distance exceeding 14 miles."

The FBI has called the nexus of the Turnpike, Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and Newark Liberty International Airport the most vulnerable two miles in the country to a chemical-plant attack.

"The chlorine train wreck in South Carolina is likely to get some people to wonder whether they should reconsider their positions on this," Corzine said.

Alexander Lane covers the environment. He can be reached at ala or (973) 392-1790.

Copyright 2005 All Rights Reserved.

The United States has essentially stopped trying to build a democratic order in Iraq, and is simply trying to gain stability and legitimacy

Pictures from CNN

Douglas Jehl's "C.I.A. Said to Rebuff Congress on Nazi Files" belongs on the front page of this morning's New York Times

Ohio Voter Supression

Soros disappoints me here: Not that I think Kerry was perfect, but I think Soros is missing the mark entirely when he makes Kerry the focal point of his criticism (or is it bloomberg that is the one making Kerry the focal point?).

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is transforming Britain into a police state,

Occupation Thwarts Democracy

Michael Crichton has written a new novel which people are taking seriously, despite the large warning label on the cover of the book, marked "FICTION".

George Bush Inauguration Protest Video ~ Check Point "Dubya" ~ January 20th, 2005 ~ Washington, DC

Robert Andrew Powell pops up on the front page of this morning's New York Times

Sunday, January 30, 2005

When is Bush supporting Democracy in Kuwait? Glad we fought Gulf War I to protect Kuwaiti freedom.

Dad slits daughter's throat

Here In the US, this reponsibility falls upon Moms, who have much more painful ways of inflicting the necessary punishment.

"An explosion waiting to happen"

"An explosion waiting to happen"
Iraq expert Amy Hawthorne discusses the possibilities -- but mostly the pitfalls -- of Sunday's elections.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Jeff Horwitz

Jan. 29, 2005 | In Iraq, in the White House and around the world, all eyes are fixed on Sunday, the day of Iraq's elections. Will those elections prove to be the start of a brighter day for the violence-torn country -- or the beginning of an even grimmer chapter?

Last week, in what would once have seemed a breathtaking display of honesty but now comes across as a simple acknowledgment of reality, the commander of American forces in central and northern Iraq admitted to a USA Today reporter that he could not protect Iraqi voters on Election Day. "I wouldn't begin to say that," Maj. Gen. John Batiste said when asked whether Iraqis could safely cast ballots. "It's very possible there will be some of ... the suicide vests and everything." It is also possible, Batiste conceded, that some of the Iraqi security personnel entrusted with guarding polling stations would themselves be insurgents.

It's hard to pinpoint when the Bush administration's public optimism about the elections began to falter, but by now even the always-upbeat president is heavily hedging his bets. "The fact that they're voting in itself is successful," he told reporters Wednesday, setting the bar low enough for any banana republic to pass.

To get a sense of the landscape of post-vote Iraq and the possibilities and pitfalls of Election Day, Salon spoke with Amy Hawthorne, a former analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace whose work has focused on promoting democracy in Arab countries. "It's almost surreal to think about the circumstances under which these elections will be taking place," Hawthorne told Salon. "But like almost everything in Iraq, the United States finds itself with no good options."

Do you think if officials in the Bush administration weren't bound to the Jan. 30 election date they would have wanted to postpone it?

It's difficult to say because the administration is driven by a political timetable that isn't completely tied to the realities on the ground in Iraq. That said, there are three contradictory pressures on the administration that have made the timing of the election very difficult. The first is the administration's own desire to demonstrate to the Iraqis and the American public that we aren't going to be staying in Iraq indefinitely, and what better way to signify that we're moving forward than by holding an election? It's the ultimate symbol of political progress in a post-conflict situation.

The second pressure is obviously the insurgency, which would argue for delaying the election until the violence subsides.

But the third factor is that a lot of people in Iraq -- most notably Shiite political forces -- are very keen on having an election because they want to gain political power for themselves. If the elections were to be postponed, there is the possibility that key players among the Shiite community would turn against the United States, and that's a very strong pressure to hold the elections quickly.

So now's as good a time as any?

Well, I want to be clear: I think it's a very bad time. It's almost surreal to think about the circumstances under which these elections will be taking place. But like almost everything in Iraq, the United States finds itself with no good options.

Sunni Muslims aren't expected to widely participate in the election, but even if they did, they'd still end up being a distinct minority. Why is their participation so crucial to the success of the election?

Many observers of Iraq really believe that the division of the country along ethnic and sectarian lines would be a very dangerous trend for the country. And an election that does not have at least a decent amount of participation from different groups in Iraq risks setting up the conception that political groupings are based primarily on ethnic or sectarian identity, and consolidating the de facto divisions we already see taking place among the Shia, the Sunnis, the Kurds, etc. So the vote does matter, and it matters who takes part, and how many votes they get, because you're planting the seeds for a future system.

From what I can tell, there are Shiite political players in Iraq who are interested in having the constitution-drafting process not be exclusionary, and including Sunnis in the process by appointing them. That is a positive development, obviously, but there is a kind of legitimacy that comes from being elected. With a National Assembly where the vast majority of the members were elected by voters and some people were appointed, the process would be skewed.

There have been very divergent estimates of what turnout will look like. You wouldn't want a hazard a guess on that?

I have no idea. In our own country, people can poll and predict turnout, and if it's raining that day, the turnout might be very low. In a situation like Iraq, it's difficult even to know what kind of information is being disseminated at the community level. From what I can tell from talking to people who have recently been there and reading news reports, there is a large degree of enthusiasm about the process but a lack of information about what these elections are actually for. I'm not sure that the voter education program has managed to explain to people what they're voting for.

Also, we don't know how powerful the intimidation campaigns are. If there are rumors going around that people's families are going to be killed if they go and vote, that will keep people home. I think what might be just as interesting as the turnout in a way is seeing how the Bush administration spins the turnout numbers. I guess some of their polling suggests that the turnout might be about 60 percent, and now administration officials are saying, "Well, that's what the turnout was in our presidential election, and that was legitimate."

Considering how confused the campaign season has been, how do you think people will decide whom to vote for?

I'm just purely speculating, but my guess is that because of the nature of the election system and the security situation -- many candidates are not campaigning openly, and their names aren't even being published -- the information that people have about whom they're voting for is limited.

There are many social forces in Iraq that are probably more powerful than the media and whatever information campaigns the U.N. might be sponsoring. People are going to be making decisions based on those kinds of forces: who people in their family are voting for, what is being said at the mosque and so on. People will vote for candidates from their community whom they know, and the Shiite-affiliated candidates have a really powerful network of mosques and other religious institutions behind them.

From what I can tell from media accounts, a lot of people know maybe the number of a particular candidate list, and maybe that [Grand Ayatollah Ali] Sistani encouraged them to support that list. And that's what they'll be voting on.

How much of Iraq's vote is Sistani going to control?

I can't hazard a guess in terms of numbers, but the Shiite religious institutions, and especially the ones in Najaf that Sistani influences, are very powerful. There's probably nothing in terms of organizational ability that comes close. There aren't strong political parties, there isn't a strong civil society, and there isn't a strong media. And while it's not that religion is the only influence, Sistani is the biggest player in the most powerful institution -- so far -- in the country.

In light of Iraq's colonial history, would you say that an Iraqi national identity really exists? Are we trying to hold an election in a country where people don't primarily think of themselves as citizens of that country?

All I can really say is that you get two very different answers to that question from Iraqis themselves. Some believe there is a very strong Iraqi identity, similar maybe to Egyptian nationalism in the sense that it's historic. Other people I talk to take the complete opposite view, saying, "No, there isn't any such thing. We're a nation that was cobbled together, and now that the repressive system holding us together has been broken apart, there's no way we can stay together."

I think that how people answer that question will ultimately be based on how successful the reconstruction process is. Seeing economic success, security and a workable pluralistic system will encourage them to believe in a national identity. But if Iraq continues to be a state that cannot provide security or jobs for many of its citizens, Iraqis are more likely to say, "A national identity doesn't make sense to us. We need to subdivide."

Apparently there isn't going to be on-the-ground election monitoring. What do you suppose the odds are that the election will be widely perceived as nonfraudulent?

I've worked on election observation issues a lot in the past, and it's important to keep in mind that the presence of international observers does not forestall the perception that the election was fraudulent. Observers can help, as we just saw in Ukraine, but just having them doesn't necessarily mean that they'll give legitimacy to the process.

This is going to sound strange, but in a situation that's as politicized as this one is, it may be better in some ways that there aren't going to be international monitors. I think that the political pressure on monitors to pass a judgment on the quality of the election would be very strong, so I think that even if the observers themselves had lots of integrity, it would still be tricky.

I think the legitimacy of the process will be contested based on the results. This is not an election after a war when all the key players have come together and negotiated a framework for the country to move forward, and agreed to accept the results no matter what happens. There hasn't been that coming-together process in Iraq, even though the U.S. has tried to foster it.

The violence in Iraq has recently moved from being implicitly sectarian to overt, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's anti-Shiite message and the bombings of Shiite mosques and weddings. Are those tied to the election, or is this just the beginning of a religious and ethnic war?

If you're asking if attacks on sectarian targets will end after the election, no, I don't think they will. The people who are carrying them out are highly organized, are highly motivated and seem to have abundant resources and recruits willing to blow themselves up. The election will not be definitive enough or successful enough to deter them.

What's interesting is that although many of the recent attacks seem to be aimed at Shiites, Shiite forces have not responded in kind. Overall, the Shiite political leaders have urged restraint and are satisfied for now to let the American forces do their fighting for them against what I assume are Sunni insurgents.

That might change in the next few months if the Bush administration shifts to a strategy of emphasizing American military advisors and having Iraqi security forces -- many of whom will be Shiite -- fight their fellow countrymen. The tensions may get worse then because the forces in Iraq that have been holding themselves back may not once they're in power.

What election results would be acceptable or unacceptable to the Bush administration?

They obviously haven't addressed that question much directly, but from what I can tell the U.S. has two unofficial but clear red lines. One would be for the new government of Iraq to demand that U.S. forces leave immediately. I think that would be an unacceptable result.

The other bad result, which some administration officials have talked about publicly, would be if a government came to power and said, "We are going to create a new Iraq that is based on Islam in every facet."

Those are the two red lines, and I think neither is likely to happen in the near term. But even if one of those red lines were crossed, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to say, "No, you can't have the government you want," or "No, we're not leaving"?

However flawed the elections are, they will produce an elected Iraqi government. And how is the Bush administration going to balance what it would like to see happen with what the Iraqi leaders would like to see? Things get more complicated after Jan. 30, not less.

There are a number of different major Shiite slates. What are the differences among them and, in particular, what are the fault lines?

Again, we'll know more after the election, but one of the big fault lines is between parties that were in exile during the time of Saddam and political forces that worked underground or weren't backed by a major power like Iran or the United States. That's a big division, and from anecdotal reports, it seems like a lot of Iraqis really resent parties like SCIRI, whose leadership was abroad and sat out those years while Iraqis suffered. On the other hand, the parties that were on the outside are much better funded and have a much better organizational structure, which makes up for what they lack in grass-roots support.

The second fault line is between the parties that have a strong religious character and the parties that have Shiite members who are playing up their Shiite identity but have less of a religious character, such as the Iraqi National Congress led by Ahmad Chalabi. Whether voters are going to be looking at the religious character of the parties or bread-and-butter patronage issues is unclear. And how much debate about the constitution is taking place -- which is after all what this elected government is supposed to produce -- isn't clear either.

You mentioned Chalabi, and I wanted to ask what he's up to. He has been working with the Sadr-ists, alleging that $300 million was covertly shipped out of Iraq, and has been threatened with deportation to Jordan. What's going on?

From what I can tell, the guy has amazing political skills. He was one of the driving forces going back a decade ago for mobilizing political support in Washington for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. You've got to give the guy credit.

So those who counted him out and thought that he was a lackey without any influence misunderstood him. The guy knows how to play the game. As for how much appeal he has inside Iraq, I have no idea. He's willing to cut deals and build alliances with all kinds of people, and it's hard to see what his agenda is other than getting himself into power. In some ways, he seems implausible, but he's also a political survivor with an ability to work patronage networks, which counts for a lot in Iraq.

What about Kirkuk? There's been a massive influx of Kurdish refugees, and Kurds will likely dominate the vote up there both in this and future elections. How will that sit with the rest of Iraq?

Everywhere you turn in Iraq, there's an explosion waiting to happen, literally or politically. Most of the Western media reporting has focused on the insurgency, but there are other festering problems, like Kirkuk and the whole question of Kurdish autonomy, that could come to the fore at any time. The Kurds are taking part in the election, and they're highly organized and will do well for themselves. But they're also trying to figure out whether it's better for them to stay within Iraq or push to become independent. And so far, they've chosen to stay within the country, but they're hedging their bets. And if Kurdish political forces believe they aren't going to be able to bring Kirkuk within their own political orbit, you could see a lot of problems.

What would you say is the best, worst and most realistic outcomes of the election?

In a country where there isn't already a consensus, we hope the elections go relatively smoothly and that the violence is maybe less than we anticipate. But I think that this election process, because of the conditions under which it's being conducted and all the pressure being put on it from different forces, may actually cause more conflict than it resolves.

The way we look at the elections here is as a date-driven process. June 30: Iraq is sovereign. Jan. 30: The election takes place. We expect that the next day the situation will change. I think the positive step of this election is just that there's no other way to produce a parliament to write a constitution that will have some sort of local legitimacy. But the issues the Iraqi National Assembly will be debating are so contentious that we should be ready for more rocky times ahead, not less. I'm always a pessimist when it comes to the Middle East, but I think the election could be conflict-provoking. It's not just that there's a group of insurgents attacking people who want to vote and everyone else is agreed on what kind of country Iraq is going to be. Once you've got people in power and people out of power, the stakes get a lot higher.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
Jeff Horwitz is an editorial fellow at Salon.

Sound Off


Link to Video (Slow, AVI, divx required) No Sound, Before 2nd Tower Collapse


Bushies' New Groove (with my photo essay)

David Brooks, NYT Editorial Columnist

Replusive (Text at end of this Post)!

January 29, 2005
The Bushies' New Groove

. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American life. That's got to be one of the most untrue truisms ever uttered. As everybody from Donald Trump to Ozzy Osborne can tell you, there are nothing but second acts in American life.

The Bush administration has started its second act, and it is striking how different this one feels. When you ask senior officials to remember the first term, they remember it as a time of war. There was the attack of Sept. 11. There were invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. There was the political war of the 2004 campaign.

That was a time when pieces of things were cast asunder. Senior Bush officials talk about this term as a time when pieces of things will be put back together. There's almost a springlike, postwar mood.

The campaign is over. Afghanistan had its election. Even in Iraq, there will probably not be any more big military assaults like the one in Falluja. Now the Iraqis will be making most of the key decisions, and Americans will, with any luck, do more training and less fighting.

One of the effects of this new attitude is that the administration is less fixated upon the Middle East. There is a much broader global perspective. In candid, sprawling conversations, officials are much quicker to talk about Latin America, and the different challenges presented by the (bad) situation in Venezuela and the (promising) one in Brazil. There is more talk of our relationship with India. There is much more discussion of the need to repel China's efforts to reduce American influence in the Pacific.

The administration has certainly not forgotten the Middle East. Mahmoud Abbas is doing a great job, everybody says. There might be a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians next month. Senior officials understand that State should send somebody to monitor agreements between the two sides to prevent miscommunications. But there is a clear intent not to let the big dogs like Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley get transfixed by the process.

The new mood has also brought a resurgence of soft-power thinking. Administration officials are trying to think big about what institutions can be used to implement the freedom agenda the president sketched out in his Inaugural Address.

When you ask exactly which institutions need to be created, they get more than a little vague, but you get a clear sense of their preferences. Bush folks have not developed any new love for the Security Council. Instead, they are much more interested in working with regional groups, like the Organization of American States.

Their favorite kinds of institutions are the kinds they created in response to the tsunami disaster: the kind with no permanent offices and no permanent staff, the kind that is created to address a discrete problem and then disappear when the problem is over. The phrase for this is coalitions of the willing. If you think the Iraq situation soured the Bush team on these sorts of coalitions, you're wrong.

The foreign policy of the Bush officials is beginning to sound more like compassionate conservatism all the time. To win the war of ideology against radical Islam, they want to put much more emphasis on global trade. This strikes me as unpromising; if trade could loosen up radical regimes, Saudi Arabia would be Switzerland. But they really mean it.

They also really mean it when they talk about getting education ministers more involved in global summits and radically transforming our public diplomacy. They mean it when they talk about the anti-AIDS program as a way to use humanitarian relief to build new government institutions and change the character of regimes.

There's so much soft-power talk in the Bush administration these days it would make Kofi Annan queasy.

But it's part of a real feeling of rebirth. For the moment, the State Department types are happy with their new secretary. I ran into a senior Pentagon official coming out of the State Department building - a metaphor for the reduced hostilities between those two agencies. It's hard now even to see a split, at least within the administration, between so-called realists and so-called neocons.

People are even tired of fighting with Europe. "Let's stop analyzing the relationship," somebody pleaded in a fit of exhaustion.

Whether this compassionate second-term agenda can really last is another question. Events in Iraq tomorrow and in Iran later on may make these days look like a sabbatical. But new beginnings are fun.

They beat old beginnings every time.


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Abu Ghraib, Tiger Cages and Flying Viet Cong
by Robert Gaiek

Iran next, then who?

George Bush's apparent desire to create a state of perpetual war spells disaster

Gore Vidal

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Now is a really good time to discuss capital punishment.

Bush Kills. Laughs-Wise, We Mean...

How To Use Fear And
Make Trillions Of
Dollars From War

Monkeys will pay to look at porn

Why insurgents may be the winners

We families are amazed that so few of our fellow citizens are touched by the horrors of the invasion and occupation of a sovereign country.

Reminds me of the Cow Launch on Northern Exposure TV Show


At long last we know: Scion of traitors and warlords: why Bush is coy about his Irish links

Mining practice blamed for destroying streams

Subverting The Press With Propaganda On The Rise

"A Military in Extremis"

Actress shot dead outside New York bar

The gap between rhetoric and reality is growing in the White House

A White House Out of Step?

In WSJ op-ed, Moore falsely claimed "nearly all" Hong Kong workers pay flat tax

Criminals the lot of us

nyt editorial


January 28, 2005
The Market Shall Set You Free

rinceton, N.J.

LAST week President Bush again laid out a faith-based view of the world and again took heat for it. Human history, the president said in his inaugural address, "has a visible direction, set by liberty and the author of liberty." Accordingly, America will pursue "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" - and Mr. Bush has "complete confidence" of success. Critics on the left and right warned against grounding foreign policy in such naïve optimism (a world without tyrants?) and such unbounded faith.

But the problem with the speech is actually the opposite. Mr. Bush has too little hope, and too little faith. He underestimates the impetus behind freedom and so doesn't see how powerfully it imparts a "visible direction" to history. This lack of faith helps explain some of his biggest foreign policy failures and suggests that there are more to come.

Oddly, the underlying problem is that this Republican president doesn't appreciate free markets. Mr. Bush doesn't see how capitalism helps drive history toward freedom via an algorithm that for all we know is divinely designed and is in any event awesomely elegant. Namely: Capitalism's pre-eminence as a wealth generator means that every tyrant has to either embrace free markets or fall slowly into economic oblivion; but for markets to work, citizens need access to information technology and the freedom to use it - and that means having political power.

This link between economic and political liberty has been extolled by conservative thinkers for centuries, but the microelectronic age has strengthened it. Even China's deftly capitalist-yet-authoritarian government - which embraces technology while blocking Web sites and censoring chat groups - is doomed to fail in the long run. China is increasingly porous to news and ideas, and its high-tech political ferment goes beyond online debates. Last year a government official treated a blue-collar worker high-handedly in a sidewalk encounter and set off a riot - after news of the incident spread by cell phones and text messaging.

You won't hear much about such progress from neoconservatives, who prefer to stress how desperately the global fight for freedom needs American power behind it (and who last week raved about an inaugural speech that vowed to furnish this power). And, to be sure, neoconservatives can rightly point to lots of oppression and brutality in China and elsewhere - as can liberal human-rights activists. But anyone who talks as if Chinese freedom hasn't grown since China went capitalist is evincing a hazy historical memory and, however obliquely, is abetting war. Right-wing hawks thrive on depicting tyranny as a force of nature, when in fact nature is working toward its demise.

The president said last week that military force isn't the principal lever he would use to punish tyrants. But that mainly leaves economic levers, like sanctions and exclusion from the World Trade Organization. Given that involvement in the larger capitalist world is time-release poison for tyranny, impeding this involvement is an odd way to aid history's march toward freedom. Four decades of economic isolation have transformed Fidel Castro from a young, fiery dictator into an old, fiery dictator.

Economic exclusion is especially perverse in cases where inclusion could work as a carrot. Suppose, for example, that a malignant authoritarian regime was developing nuclear weapons and you might stop it by offering membership in the W.T.O. It's a twofer - you draw tyrants into a web of commerce that will ultimately spell their doom, and they pay for the privilege by disarming. What president could resist that?

Correct! President Bush is sitting on the sidelines scowling as the European Union tries to strike that very bargain with Iran.

It's possible that skepticism about the European initiative is justified - that Iran, in the end, would rather have the bomb than a seat in the W.T.O. But there's one way for the Bush administration to find out: Outline a highly intrusive arms inspection regime and say that the United States will support W.T.O. membership if the inspectors find no weapons program (or if Iran fesses up) and are allowed to set up long-term monitoring.

There are various explanations for Mr. Bush's position. Maybe some in the administration fear losing a rationale for invading Iran. Maybe the administration is ideologically opposed to arms control agreements (a strange position, post-9/11). But part of the problem seems to be that Mr. Bush doesn't grasp the liberating power of capitalism, the lethal effect of luring authoritarian regimes into the modern world of free markets and free minds.

That would help explain the amazing four-year paralysis of America's North Korea policy. Reluctant to invade, yet allergic to "rewarding" tyrants with economic incentives and international engagement, the president sat by while North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, apparently built up a nuclear arsenal. Now, with Iran no more than a few years from having the bomb, we're watching this movie again. And it may be a double feature: the inertia we saw in North Korea followed by the war we've seen in Iraq. With Iraq and Iran in flames (live, on Al Jazeera!) and Mr. Kim coolly stockpiling nukes, President Bush will have hit the axis-of-evil trifecta.

Pundits have mined Mr. Bush's inaugural address for literary antecedents - Kennedy here, Lincoln there, a trace of Truman. But some of it was pure Bill Clinton. Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton said that history was on freedom's side and stressed that freedom abroad serves America's interests. But he also saw - and explicitly articulated - something absent from Mr. Bush's inaugural vision: the tight link between economic and political liberty in the information age, the essentially redeeming effect of globalization. That's one reason Mr. Clinton defied intraparty opposition to keep commerce with China and other nations strong.

In the wake of John Kerry's defeat, Democrats have been searching for a new foreign policy vision. But Mr. Clinton laid down as solid a template for post-9/11 policy as you could expect from a pre-9/11 president.

First, fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which means, among other things, making arms inspections innovatively intrusive, as in the landmark Chemical Weapons Convention that President Clinton signed (and that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et. al., opposed). Second, pursue terrorist networks overtly and covertly (something Mr. Clinton did more aggressively than the pre-9/11 Bush administration). Third, make America liked and respected abroad (as opposed to, say, loathed and reviled). Fourth, seek lasting peace in the Middle East (something Mr. Bush keeps putting off until after the next war).

And finally, help the world mature into a comprehensive community of nations - bound by economic interdependence and a commitment to liberty, and cooperating in the global struggle against terrorism and in law enforcement generally.

But in pursuing that last goal, respect and harness the forces in your favor. Give history some guidance, but resist the flattering delusion that you're its pilot. Don't take military and economic weapons off the table, but appreciate how sparingly you can use them when the architect of history is on your side. Have a little faith.

Robert Wright, a fellow at Princeton University's Center for Human Values and at the New America Foundation, is the author of "Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company | Home | Privacy Policy | Search | Corrections | RSS | Help | Back to Top

Friday, January 28, 2005

Two articles in this morning Times worth reading that didn't make the front page

To Love The Marigold: Hope & Imagination

Send this errant child to Abu Ghraib for real re-education!

The Strange Death of American Democracy:
Endgame in Ohio
by Michael Keefer

Despite curbs, meth use spreading in U.S.

fake questions to ask Bush at a press conference

But then, how does an adult deal with a spoiled six-year-old who has more power than the adult? If we can come up with an answer to that, then we'll know how to deal with the Right.

Gonzales not right fit for GIs