Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tuesday round-up

Victor Davis Hanson gives the Iraq war a report card. The results: Strategy, A; tactics, B-; message, D.

Have there been mistakes? Of course. Admit them and confess they were errors of omission, not commission—of misplaced leniency, not excessive brutality. The Iraqi army should have been weeded from within rather than destroyed outright. The first wave of looters whose crimes led to a rampage that stole six months of Iraq’s future and wrecked the country should have been shot. Abu Ghraib should have been exploded on liberation in front of world television as testament to its Baathist horror, an iconic act of our resolve to end the mass murder.

But all that is in the past. Our strategy is still inspired and our military is superb. But we need to let them win and then tell the world why. And if we don’t, we may very well lose.

Andrew Sullivan does the necessary work of fisking Susan Sontag's NYT/Guardian Abu Ghraib piece.

Sontag asserts that the core of the U.S. and coalition mission in Iraq is imperial conquest. This is demonstrably untrue. The motives of the French and Belgians in nineteenth and twentieth century imperialism were utterly different than the Bush administration's attempt to pre-empt Islamist terror in the wake of 9/11. The goal from the beginning of the Iraq war has been to set up a democratic and stable Iraq and to move toward U.S. withdrawal. No imperialist would be insisting upon a June 30 deadline for the transfer of sovereignty, as President Bush did last night. The conflation of these two distinct endeavors is absurd: mere rhetoric, not argument. Was American intervention in Bosnia, of which Sontag approved, "imperialist"? It saved Muslims from a totalitarian, genocidal monster as well. And we still have troops there. If Sontag wants to make a distinction between the two wars, it would be interesting to read. But none is there. She is venting, not arguing.

Charles Krauthammer agrees that we need more expensive gas, not cheaper gas.

The idea is for the government -- through a tax -- to establish a new floor for gasoline, say $3 a gallon. If the world price were to rise above $3, the tax would be zero. What we need is anything that will act as a brake on consumption. Since America consumes 45 percent of the world's gasoline, a significant reduction here would bring down the world price.

But the key is to then keep the tax. Indeed, let it increase to capture all of a price reduction. Consumers still pay $3, but the Saudis keep getting lower and lower world prices. The U.S. economy keeps the rest in the form of taxes -- which should immediately be cycled back to consumers by a corresponding cut in, say, payroll or income taxes.

Keep gasoline prices high and American consumers will once again start demanding and buying lighter and more fuel-efficient cars -- exactly as they did in the late '70s and early '80s. Prices will continue to drop, and the U.S. economy will capture the difference.

It's a perfectly virtuous circle. It requires only a modicum of political courage. Which is why it does not stand a chance of happening.