Josh Marshall

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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

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"
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 2002/Bradley.pdf

To RSVP, email or call (617) 461-5048.

Hope to see you there!

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

* About this message *

This e-mail is sent to Bill Bradley's campaign supporters from Massachusetts. We plan to send a weekly newsletter to Reich supporters with information about the campaign and volunteer activities.

If you do not want to receive future weekly newsletters, please reply with 'Remove' as the subject line.

This newsletter is not intended for distribution to state, municipal, or county employees in their official capacities, for fundraising or any other purpose.

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.

I don't want to make too big a deal about this. But I have to agree with Mickey Kaus that Tony Blair's statement on the assassination of Dutch rightist politician Pim Fortuyn was more than a little inadequate. "No matter what feelings political figures arouse, the ballot box is the place to express them," said the Brit PM. This caught my eye here even before I saw that Mickey had pointed it out. It does almost read like, "Well, you can understand the sentiment but this is hardly an appropriate response." Perhaps, as they say in the House, Blair needs to revise and extend his remarks.

I hear that the internal Pentagon investigation into Tom White's alleged lobbying of Congress against Don Rumsfeld's decision to kill the Crusader artillery system has been completed. And Tom White dodged the bullet. They fingered some lower levels guy instead. So Rumsfeld apparently lets White stay on.

The one person who ends up looking a bit off base here is Torie Clarke, who may have gotten out a little ahead of her brief on this one. She told the Times that "without prejudging [the Army's inquiry] "if people try to blame some midlevel staffers, it would be inappropriate and wrong."

"What the hell is she saying?" a Pentagon source told TPM today. "She's saying I don't want to prejudge the report but regardless of what it says you're not going to get away with blaming mid-level people. Well, you know today Rumsfeld said based on Tom White's assurance it looks like midlevel people did it. So we think that Torie Clarke is a loose canon, no pun intended."

On an unrelated note, could Led Zeppelin IV be any more of a kick-$&% album? Yes, yes, yes, I picked up my copy when I was like nineteen but I hadn't listened to it in a while. Metal-infused blues before it got lame? And precious, folky guitar ballads before they got too precious and folky? God, it rocks.

Maybe I've been working on this Iraq article for too long.

Okay, back to insider Washington punditry.