Josh Marshall

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Howard Dean said yesterday that <$Ad$>DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe should rein in the fusillade of attacks coming Dean's way from other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

For the moment, I don't have any particular comment on that. They can attack. He can say they shouldn't attack. He can ask McAuliffe to make them stop. Whatever ...

But then Dean goes on to imply (once again) that his supporters won't support another Democratic nominee.

"I don't know where they're going to go, but they're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician," the Times quotes Dean as saying.

The Times goes on to say ...

Though Dr. Dean has repeatedly said he would back whichever Democrat wins the nomination, he said Sunday that support was "not transferable anymore" and that endorsements, including his own, "don't guarantee anything."

"Right now those guys think we're the front-runner, so they're saying all this stuff, `He can't win'," Dr. Dean said. "How are they going to win?

I don't care if Dean says he'll endorse whoever wins. He's playing the defection card. And that crosses the line.

I don't doubt that it would be hard to reconcile some Dean supporters to another Democratic nominee. But that's not the point. By saying it, he's leveraging it, and encouraging it.

The price of admission to the Democratic primary race is a pledge of committed support to whomever wins the nomination, period. (The sense of entitlement to other Democrats' support comes after you win the nomination, not before.) If Dean can't sign on that dotted-line, he has no business asking for the party's nomination.

Let me make reference to a column by Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which appeared yesterday in The Washington Post. The argument is pretty straightforward: Foxman says that the reception given to the 'Geneva Accords' is what one might expect if Israel were not a functioning democracy, as though it needed a government in exile.

I don't agree with that. But, okay, fair enough. A reasonable argument.

But look at this graf toward the end of the column ...

I would suggest that there is a tendency in some circles to psychologically delegitimize the Sharon government without stating it so bluntly. Reflexive and distorted reactions to Sharon, whether calling him a Nazi or unrepentant hard-liner or war criminal or racist or drinker of Muslim children's blood, all have an impact. Such outrageous reactions, repeated time and again in the media, in Islamic conferences, in some parts of Europe and in international organizations, have their cumulative effect. The result is to treat a proposal by nonofficials, legitimate as it may be, in a way that would never occur with any other democratic government.

At this point in the column, all Foxman has discussed are the Geneva Accords and, to a lesser extent, a <$Ad$>number of high-ranking current and former members of Israel's defense and intelligence services who have spoken out against Israel's current policies in the occupied territories.

Some circles? Without stating it so bluntly? There's some projection going on here.

Look at the range of attacks Foxman ascribes to Sharon's critics: "calling him a Nazi or unrepentant hard-liner or war criminal or racist or drinker of Muslim children's blood."

One is a reasonable description (hardly a slur) which the Lukidniks themselves I don't think would even quibble with: hardliner.

But look at the others. One is a version of the blood libel: the reference to drinking the blood of Muslim children. Or Nazi? Or racist?

I don't deny these things have been said. But they're not exactly part of the mainstream public discourse in Israel or the US or frankly anything that has been said or thought by the people involved with the 'Geneva Accord'.'

No, Foxman is not saying that directly. But there's something mendacious and morally unseemly about what Foxman is saying.

He's placing those who oppose Sharon's policies, even adamantly oppose them, into the realm of crazies, extremists and anti-Semites. He's quite deliberately classifying them all together. That's the point.

By putting in 'Islamic conferences' and 'some parts of Europe', Foxman provides himself with catch-alls which in some theoretical sense make his statements plausible. But read in the context of his column, those groups make no sense as the folks Foxman is really talking about. I would assume that anyone who accuses Sharon of drinking the blood of Muslim children has already decided to be rather blunt, right? The point is that Foxman is trying to put all the tough critics in the camp of the blood libelers.

The column is meant to stifle debate and squelch criticism. It's a subtle slander. And there's a sense of entitlement, which is the subtext of the prose I quoted above, which should not be there.

I finally finished this empire essay which I’ve several times mentioned I’d been working on. I found it much more taxing and draining than I’d imagined. And it’s made me question and rethink a number of my assumptions about America’s place in the world today, her relative power, and the underlying domestic changes that are shaping the way she acts today on the world stage.

Is it really reasonable to expect that the values which undergird liberal democracy in America will be effectively spread abroad by the most illiberal people in America? It's a good question. Think about it.

I’ll get into various of these points in subsequent posts. But let me just start by recommending again this book by George Soros The Bubble of American Supremacy. In some ways this is an uneven book -- or perhaps better to say, unadorned. And I don’t subscribe to all his points of analysis or conclusions. But his basic diagnosis of the errors of our current policies – both strategic and moral – are insightful, wise, and important.

(This strikes me very much as the sort of book one might write if one were a multibillionaire who were old enough and accomplished enough to lack any particular literary ambitions, but just had some very specific, important points one wanted to get in front of a large audience. Soros is indifferent to dressing his points up; he just makes them, which is a good way to approach writing.)

All of this allows Soros to step outside the well-worn grooves that our contemporary foreign policy discussions tend to slide along.

This is an unfortunate passage. <$NoAd$>It comes from David Brooks' column in tomorrow's Times ...

But ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn't pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves.

Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn't even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any "plan" hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.

I don't know where to start.

The failure to do proper planning for post-war Iraq, it turns out, wasn't a matter of hidebound ideologues who ignored and attacked expertise and experience. It was the happy result of America's tradition of non-ideological pragmatism.

This is screw-up laundering with a spritz of history tossed on.

Amidst these horrible images out of Iran, I could not help but notice that the magnitude of this earthquake (6.5 on the Richter Scale) was exactly the same as the one last week in California. And of course the difference in the human cost is almost beyond comparison.

The geological make-up of the land under a major quake can play an important role in the devastation it creates. But you have to assume that almost all the difference in this case owes to buildings which are made or not made to withstand quakes.

Here's a list of major quakes in Iran over the last thirty years -- half a dozen of which claimed more than one thousand lives.

Some interesting background on the decision to cancel the flights from Paris to LAX. There seems to have been some disagreement between US and French authorities over how to handle the information.

According to this report from the BBC, Department of Homeland Security officials were pissed that the French had handled the matter so publicly, thus losing a chance to possibly arrest the folks about whom suspicion had been raised.

Meanwhile the DC correspondent of a major French media outlet tells me that French authorities looked at the list of names provided by the Americans and eventually concluded on their own that the people in question had no ties to terrorism.

Finally, this report says that a spokesman for the French Prime Minister "said the United States had threatened to refuse the planes permission to land if they did take off," which again suggests a lack of a completely harmonious interaction.

Needless to say, I don't know which of these stories are true or what's behind them. In real-time, counter-terrorism has its own equivalent of the fog of war. So even the players themselves may not know all the details. And add to this the distinct possibility that reports we hear may include disinformation intended to conceal from terrorists what law enforcement authorities do or don't know.

But, assuming nothing terrible ends up happening, I'll be very curious to find out more about just how this was all handled. Because few things are more important than effective liaison and coordination between ours and our allies intelligence services. And if the choppy political waters are getting in the way, on either side, that's a big problem.

My apologies for the short-rations of posts, but I'm working under a December 24th article deadline. Yes, scroogeful editors -- but don't tell them I told you that!

To everyone, a very happy holiday, this evening and tomorrow, and to members of my tribe, a continuing one.

Let's hope these flight cancellations out of Paris are either out of an abundance of caution or, if it's more than that, that they'll trip up whatever plot could possibly be in the works. Frightening stuff. But to everyone, happy holidays.

South Korea has agreed to dispatch 3,000 troops to <$Ad$>Kirkuk, albeit for "non-military operations," starting next April.

For months we've been getting turned down on requests for significant numbers of troops from other countries. This is a change, one that could be significant both in Iraq and in US-ROK relations. I'm curious what the backstory is.

The Korea Herald says that "If Seoul's plan is approved, the Korean military is expected to pull out a highly organized, well-trained division of 1,400 combatants and 1,600 engineering and medical staff, replacing the U.S. 173 Airborne Brigade based in the northern oil field region near Kirkuk."

Another daily TPM Featured Book: The Mediterranean: And the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, vol. II.

Yes, yes, yes it's a mouthful. And, actually, also a handful at well over 600 pages. And that's just volume two. Don't even get me started on volume one, which -- for reasons we don't have to get into now -- is much less accessible than volume two.

This recommendation isn't necessarily for the casual reader. But if you love losing yourself in a distant part of the past, this one may be for you, one of the crowning works of Fernand Braudel, unquestionably one of the most acclaimed historians of the 20th century. A truly fascinating work of history in the grand style, a joy to read, and, well, as erudite as all get-out.