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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

My friend and perpetual inspiration Mickey Kaus questions or at least wonders out loud about a Pew poll which says that among 'secular Democrats' 28 percent sympathized with the Palestinians and 26 percent sympathized with the Israelis in the current round of ritual bloodletting. Let me quote the master at length:

I note the I'm a secular Democrat. Many of my friends are secular Democrats. And I don't think any of them would have told a pollster, since the suicide bombings began, that they "sympathized with the Palestinians" over the Israelis, even if they supported Palestinian's long-term aspirations to statehood. ... Keep in mind, the result for all those polled (in the Post-ABC survey Kohut seems to be talking about) was 49-14 in favor of Israel. ... There must be something funny in how "secular Democrat" is defined. Do you have to actively check off a box labeled "secular"? Are you denied "secular" status if you ever set foot in a church or synagogue? ... Either the Post-ABC poll is screwed up, or advocates for the Palestinians have been more successful than anyone thought. One Zogby or another has reason to be happy. But which one? ...

Isn't there a frighteningly straightforward answer to this mystery? Mickey is JEWISH. His friends are disproportionately JEWISH compared to the rest of the population. As Seinfeld would say, not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm Jewish too. But I think this is the answer to the mystery.

Back in the Clinton days I used to get really pissed at Jimmy Carter for stickng his nose into foreign policy stuff. Really pissed. But in Cuba this week Carter is making the Bush administration look like idiots and they really have only themselves to blame.

John Bolton's charge that Cuba has an offensive bioweapons program was clearly intended both to embarrass Carter and to minimize any good press Castro might get from Carter's feel-good visit.

But Carter has pretty effectively turned the tables on them. Obviously his personal inspection of a biotechnology facility means nothing. But you can't say the same for what he says he was told in his pre-visit State Department and CIA briefing. Carter claims he asked and was told the US had no evidence such a program existed. And now the former president has said so publicly.

Castro may not deserve good press. But he sure is getting it. And John Bolton looks like a mendacious, reckless ideologue who's happy to squander American anti-WMD credibility on the dopey sideshow of anti-Castro foolery.

A Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cuba has 'a number of projects that are what could be dual-use things, but they're probably not. . . . It's a question more of them exciting suspicions by not being open. I don't know of any tangible stuff that shows yes, they are making anthrax [or anything else]. There is stuff we don't know about.'

This is the key graf from today's Washington Post piece about the Bush administration allegations that Cuba has an offensive biological weapons program. An administration official is in so many words saying that Under Secretary of State John Bolton's allegations are crap. As I noted in the earlier post, Cuba has a fairly advanced biotech industry. If you do biotech, almost by definition much of your equipment and facilities are going to be dual-use. So they seem to have nothing. And the actual briefings Carter got from the State and intel people seem to back that up.

This is the problem with the hawks. They often do see certain big picture things with real clarity. But they're irresponsible, reckless, and they often just don't tell the truth.

As I said earlier, Bolton's throw-away remarks about Cuba -- perhaps a sop to Otto Reich -- weaken our hand against Saddam Hussein. If you're a hawk, if you really care about weapons of mass destruction, you should be angry with Bolton. If you think this is just a parlor game then maybe you won't mind.

I really, really, really want to recommend a book to you. It's called Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France and it's by Ernest R. May, a highly respected diplomatic historian. There are two reasons why this book is so good. The first is that it is just a marvelously engrossing narrative of one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th Century: the lead-up to the Second World War and particularly Hitler's lightning victory over France in May and June of 1940. It's just a very polished, compelling World War Two book and a very good read.

But it's much more than that.

May begins with a question that most of us would probably not imagine really was a question. That is, why did France lose?

From the newsreels, many histories, and the mythology of appeasement you'd get the impression that this was just a given, that Germany was strong and armed-to-the-teeth and France was unprepared and weak. But this just wasn't the case. May makes very clear that France (and especially France and Britain together) were both quantitatively and qualitatively stronger and better prepared for war. Simply put, on balance, they had more stuff and better stuff.

So then the question: why did they lose and lose so quickly?

May provides a complex series of answers to this question. But the key ones are easily stated.

One, the French intelligence services were inefficiently organized and intelligence gathering was not well wedded to policy-making. In other words, though France had better intelligence assets in Germany the French weren't particularly good at analyzing and making use of that information. Nor were they particularly good at crafting policy based on intelligence.

Two, the French military, though professional and well-equipped, was organized around a series of what one might call risk-averse doctrines which made it cumbersome, immobile and less agile and quick to react than it should have been.

May uses diplomatic, military and intelligence sources from the French and the German sides to assemble a very clear view of how the two diplomatic and war-fighting machines operated. May's readily apparent depth of familiarity with these sources is little short of breath-taking.

All of this combined to allow the weaker power, Germany, to defeat the stronger one, France.

What makes this book valuable to read today is that May makes a convincing case that our Western military and intelligence services are much more like that of the French circa 1940 than the Germans. And that's sobering.

This is the rare work of history that has very real application to constructing defense, intelligence and foreign policy today. More on Strange Victory soon.

Who says there are no lefty blogs? Max Sawicky, an economist at the the Economic Policy Institute, a respected labor-liberal DC think-tank, has just opened the doors of his own blog (god, I hate that word!). I remember back in his Crossfire days, or I guess when he was leaving Crossfire, Mike Kinsley said that he'd always felt a little bad being the 'from the left' voice, since he really wasn't from the left at all. Since I'm sometimes labeled as the 'liberal' or 'left' blog in contrast to Kausfiles or Andrew Sullivan's site, I sometimes have a similar feeling. Anyway, if you want your economics left, and I do mean left, then definitely check out MaxSpeaks.org.

PS. Lotsa Israel stuff too. And no, he's not down with AIPAC.

Under-Secretary of State John R. Bolton recently accused Cuba of developing and proliferating Weapons of Mass Destruction, specifically offensive biological weapons. Today Secretary of State Colin Powell most tepidly endorsed Bolton's claim by telling Russian TV that "we know that Cuba has been doing some research with respect to biological offensive weapons possibly, and so we think that it is appropriate for us to point out this kind of activity."

'possibly' ... 'with respect to'... you get the picture.

There is a slender hint of credibility to this charge since Cuba is known to have a pretty advanced biotech industry and that includes the equipment and know-how you'd want for creating bioweapons. But I'm going on the assumption that the claim is essentially bogus, and Powell's statement today, to my ears, tends to confirm this. This statement doesn't sound like it's about WMD. It sounds like it's about pandering to anti-Castro nut-cases. (Sorry for the blunt language, but ...)

Anyway, there's a price to pay for this kind of foolishness. The United States is trying to make the case that the Iraqi government really is developing WMD and really is a seriously threat to global security and really should be overthrown. I am rather in spite of myself coming to the conclusion that they're right. But if Saddam really is dangerous then there's a very high priority in marshaling and protecting our credibility and believability in making our case against him. Playing games and saying the Fidel Castro is another Saddam isn't tough, it's stupid. And it endangers the United States. Because it weakens us in our ability to make the case against actual bad actors.

New Bradley-Reich quasi-lib axis revealed!

From: "Bradley-Reich Reception"
To: postmaster@RobertReich.org
Subject: May 14th Bill Bradley Event
Date: Thu, 9 May 2002 17:48:06 -0700

Bill Bradley invites you to help Robert Reich get Massachusetts moving again...

At the Museum of Transportation.

Please join former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley in supporting ROBERT REICH FOR GOVERNOR

When: Tuesday, May 14th
Sponsor Reception: 6:30pm to 7:30pm ($500, $250)
Main Reception: 7:30pm to 9:00pm ($50)

Where: The Museum of Transportation
Larz Anderson Park, 15 Newton Street, Brookline, MA

For more information, download an invitation at http://RobertReich.org/ 2002/Bradley.pdf

To RSVP, email Receptions@RobertReich.org or call (617) 461-5048.

Hope to see you there!

Directions and updates at http:// Robert Reich.org /2002 /events_bradley .shtm

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I sometimes wonder whether there is a higher rate of literary production on weblogs or in newspapers and magazines writing about weblogs. Certainly it's a close call. No sooner had I heard the news that Mickey Kaus was taking the final leap and making Kausfiles a part of Slate than I got a call from a reporter at one of the New York dailies (using a very broad definition) asking me to comment on it.

I did what I could to come up with something interesting to say. But it wasn't easy. The first thought that came to my mind frankly was, "Jacob, what am I? Chopped liver?" But I'll take that up with him personally.

What I told the guy was that I thought what was valuable about weblogs (a term I hate, to be honest with you) wasn't so much their editorial or business independence as the fact that they are a new and I think worthwhile form of writing, one not tethered to the conventions and constraints of ledes, nut-grafs, beginnings and endings or even quality.

That being as it may, with the news of Mickey's move it's probably time for me to discuss my own recent negotiations in the same direction. For the last month or so Steve Case and I have been been discussing merging Talking Points Memo with AOL. As I noted above, I'm not averse on principle to bringing TPM under the wing of a major media conglomerate. But frankly after we looked at AOL's financials it just wasn't a pretty picture and we had to break off the negotiations. I mean, look what happened to Time Warner. "You've Got Stock Valuation!" Or, then again, maybe you don't.

Anyway I don't want to beat up on those guys. We just weren't ready to tie our fate to such a creaky ship. So for now it's just pure TPM, no TPM (a subsidiary of AOL-TimeWarner).

Depends what the meaning of 'is' is ...

Dude: Bill Clinton, Former President of the United States

Questionable Assertion: Said he'd never really been 'alone' with ex-paramour Monica Lewinsky.

Told to: Jones Legal Team; Judge Susan Weber Wright

Dude: Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives

Questionable Assertion: Said he'd never really been 'married' to ex-wife Marianne Gingrich.

Told to: Roman Catholic Church; God

You may note from the datestamp on this post that I am still burning the midnight oil, rather feverishly I might add, on my article on the Iraq debate in Washington, DC.

I couldn't help pointing your attention, however, to Bill Safire's OpEd in today's Times. The subject of the piece is the alleged meeting between Mohamed Atta and a key Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague last year.

As Safire notes, "If the report proves accurate, a connection would exist between Al Qaeda's murder of 3,000 Americans and Iraq's Saddam. That would clearly be a casus belli, calling for our immediate military response, separate from the need to stop a demonstrated mass killer from acquiring nuclear and germ weapons."

Safire goes on to describe how a "protect-Saddam cabal" at the Justice Department and the CIA is scheming to cover this up.

Let me give you a peek at a section of one of the interviews I conducted for my article.

Danielle Pletka was until recently a key staffer to Senator Jesse Helms. She was the Senator's point-person on Iraq. Recently she moved to the American Enterprise Institute. Pletka is feisty, sharp, and very candid. Some of those she's gone up against have an even more expansive package of adjectives. But I enjoyed my conversation with her, so we don't need to go into that.

Pletka thinks there are more than enough reasons to go after Saddam right now. But a hand in September 11th isn't one of them.

When I spoke to her late last month she told me: "Nobody credible makes the case that there's some connection between Saddam Hussein and what happened September 11th." As she puts it, with admirable directness: "The case [against Saddam] has been the same since 1991, hell, since 1988 and that is that Saddam Hussein is a lunatic and he is seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction."

One thing I've learned in reporting on Iraq is how much our policy has been distorted and mangled and generally made a shambles of by mouthy pundits who don't have a clear idea what they're talking about. Safire's piece today looks like a case in point.

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