Excelsis Ratings/Reviews - Ranma & Shampoo

Grim's Hall:

As longtime readers know, I always try to link to anyone who links to me. (If you link to me, and I don't link to you yet, email me.) While trying to snuff out any new blogs that have linked to me, I ran across an anime site that mentions this place. I'm not sure who Ranma & Shampoo are, exactly, but I am honored by their description of this place: "For those who like a mix of Tolkien-like prose and shrewd political commentary."

Thank you. It's a most kind thing to have said.

Sir Walter

Sir Walter Scott:

John Derbyshire over at The Corner states this:

Readers of my own pro-Crusader piece will be aware, but others may not be, of the greatest of Crusader novels, Sir Walter Scott's THE TALISMAN.

I am amazed that there aren't periodic -- once a decade, perhaps -- Scott revivals. He is a wonderful storyteller (though you can't take the history too seriously).

John earlier wrote a piece on the crusades which cited The Talisman and a book by Alfred Duggan called Knight with Armour. I actually ran down copies of both of these and read them, being a fan of historical novels, and particularly Medieval ones. The Duggan novel is without question the most concentrated piece of despair and misery I have ever read.

The Scott novel, however, is indeed grand, though it's not only the history that is implausible--the geography, and one of the key plot devices are equally so. By far the most excellent piece of Scott's writings is Ivanhoe, parts of which I can quote from memory.

In any event, I've been trying to spark a Scott revival for some time. For a while now, Scott's collected works have been listed under "Honor & Virtue," to the right and down. His poetry is good too, although it lacks the power and the variety of Chesterton's. Still, some of it is rollicking, like "Harold the Dauntless," which is about a Viking:

Woe to the realms where he coasted, for there
Was shedding of blood and rending of hair,
Rape of maiden, slaughter of priest,
Gathering of ravens and wolves to the feast!
When he hoisted his standard black
Before him was battle, behind him was wrack!
If you're looking for a hearty way to spend a day or two, take up Ivanhoe. It's worth the time and effort, if only to read the scene where Richard Coeur de Leon shares wine and songs with Friar Tuck.

UPDATE: I had forgotten how good John's piece on the Crusades was. He has a habit of saying things that challenge the ear, but he doesn't do it to shock or get attention. He does it to knock you out of the easy assumptions we all rely upon. One of these things, taught as Gospel in most textbooks, is that the Crusades were bad. John replies:

Is there anything at all redeeming that can be said about these sorry episodes? Well, yes....

[I]f we are to take sides on the Crusades after all these centuries, we should acknowledge that, for all their many crimes, the Crusaders were our spiritual kin. I do not mean only in religion, though that of course is not a negligible connection: I mean in their understanding of society, and of the individual's place in it. Time and again, when you read the histories of this period, you are struck by sentences like these, which I have taken more or less at random from Sir Steven Runciman's History of the Crusades: "[Queen Melisande's] action was regarded as perfectly constitutional and was endorsed by the council." "Trial by peers was an essential feature of Frankish custom." "The King ranked with his tenant-in-chief as primus inter pares, their president but not their master."

If we look behind the cruelty, treachery, and folly, and try to divine what the Crusaders actually said and thought, we see, dimly but unmistakably, the early flickering light of the modern West, with its ideals of liberty, justice, and individual worth. Gibbon:

The spirit of freedom, which pervades the feudal institutions, was felt in its strongest energy by the volunteers of the cross, who elected for their chief the most deserving of his peers. Amidst the slaves of Asia, unconscious of the lesson or example, a model of political liberty was introduced; and the laws of [the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem] are derived from the purest source of equality and justice. Of such laws, the first and indispensable condition is the assent of those whose obedience they require, and for whose benefit they are designed.
No sooner had Godfrey of Bouillon been elected supreme ruler of Jerusalem, eight days after the Crusader victory (he declined the title of "king," declaring that he would not wear a crown of gold in the place where Christ had worn a crown of thorns), than his first thought was to give the new state a constitution. This was duly done, and the Assize of Jerusalem--"a precious monument of feudal jurisprudence," Gibbon calls it--after being duly attested, was deposited in the Holy Sepulchre (which had been reconstructed some decades before)....

[T]he virtues of men like Saladin rose as lone pillars from a level plain. They were not, as the occasional virtues of the Crusaders were, the peaks of a mountain range. The Saracens had, in a sense, no society, no polity. Says the Marquis to the Templar in another great crusader novel, Sir Walter Scott's The Talisman: "I will confess to you I have caught some attachment to the Eastern form of government: A pure and simple monarchy should consist but of king and subjects. Such is the simple and primitive structure--a shepherd and his flock. All this internal chain of feudal dependence is artificial and sophisticated." Well, artificial and sophisticated it may have been, but in its interstices grew liberty, law, and the modern conscience.

If we are to have the Crusades thrown at us by the likes of Osama bin Laden, let us at least not abjure them.

There is much to be said for that position. Leaving aside the question of whether the Crusaders are "spiritual kin" in terms of religion after all--not only is the West less united on the question, but also their particular form of Catholicism would be hard to find today--he is certainly right about the early developments of Western liberty. The Roots of Liberty has been a frequent topic of discussion here. A good bit of it predates the Crusades, as we talked about when discussing the question of paganism in schools. But this part does not: the idea of a separation of powers in government, and their balance. As John correctly writes, it was the tension between those opposing powers that provided the space for our idea of liberty. That tension opened spaces where a man couldn't be pushed around by one power without having an appeal to another. Having done so, we that human nature flourishes when liberty is assured. The Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Covenanters, the English Civil War, the Jacobite Risings, the American Revolution, and even the American Civil War have been battles in the attempt to preserve and reinforce those spaces, and to maintain that tension. We owe its origin to feudalism, and the kind of men who went on Crusade.

DragonRiders: Sovay

Who is Sovay McKnight?

Now that I have given in to the evil cause of Left Liberalism--just far enough to help Sovay McKnight set up a blog--some of you are probably wondering who she is, besides, obviously, an old friend of mine. Thanks to the magic of Google, we have several possible answers from the OSINT.

Answer #1: Sovay, Dragonrider of Pern!

Sovay is a meek person. She loves Faluril with all her heart and would never do anything to displease him. In fact, displeasing him is her greatest fear. Life Story : Sovay grew up sitting at the feet of her mother and learning everything about managing a household. Her greatest dream was having a home of her own with a loving husband with many children.
Answer #2: Sovay, Female Highwayman!
Sovay, Sovay all on a day
She dressed herself in man's array
With a sword and a pistol all by her side
To meet her true love to meet her true love away did ride.
Answer #3: Sovay, Demi-Fox Queen of Terra!
[Note: click the black & white picture to see Sovay in full color glory!]

Due to the rather quirky sense of humor the Atlantian artifact, she not only was given a rather larger breast size, but was also youthened to a young woman only a bit YOUNGER than her daughter, Exotica. Also, the rather "perky" nature of the demifox rather agrees with this woman, and enjoys it very much. Very energetic.

Intelligence is always speculative, of course, so it could be that the truth is somewhere in between.


An Interesting Point of View:

Via ParaPundit, I found an article from The Atlantic on the US military liason to Outer Mongolia, Colonel Tom Wilhelm. There's quite a bit that will be interesting to PRC watchers, but there's also this little tidbit from the Colonel himself:

The full flowering of the middle ranks had its roots in the social transformation of the American military, which, according to Wilhelm (a liberal who voted for Al Gore in 2000), had taken place a decade earlier, when the rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army. "This zeal reformed behavior, empowered junior leaders, and demanded better recruits," he said. "For one thing, drinking stopped, and that killed off the officers' clubs, which, in turn, broke down more barriers between officers and noncoms, giving the noncoms the confidence to do what majors and colonels in other armies do. The Christian fundamentalism was the hidden hand that changed the military for the better. Though you try to get someone to admit it!
Drinking did what now? Maybe among the soldiers stationed in Mongolia... I hear rarg isn't the usual cantina fare. Still, I doubt it's true even there. Certainly the Mongolians have a way to encourage drinking:
The way to drink is special there: when guests have a meal, some beautiful girls in traditional costume stand beside the table and sing songs. And then they'll go to guests respectively, holding hada [silk scarves]... in their hands and a little silver bowl with spirit in their right hands. The spirit can't be refused and must be "bottomed-up". If somebody refuses to drink, the singer will continue singing until the guests drink all the spirit in the little bowl.
I've had this kind of spirit, and I'm here to tell you, the singing is necessary. To explain it in Western terms, I'll relate one of my father's favorite stories:
A man was out hiking around the hills of Tennessee when he came across an old man walking up a road, carrying a jug under one arm and a shotgun under the other. They got to talking and, after a while, the old man offered him a swig. When the man tried to refuse, the old fella leveled the gun at him and said, "Boy, around these hills, when a man is offered a drink, he takes a drink."

Seeing his point, the man took the jug and had a swig. He nearly died trying to choke it down, but finally managed to finish the swallow.

"Stuff's awful, ain't it?" laughed the old man. "Here, you hold the gun on me while I take a drink."

The tale is entirely unfair to the quality of Appalachian moonshine, which is often excellent. Lots of those fellows up in the high hills are Christian Evangelists too, but that moonshine still seems to get made. Another thing my father always said was, "The difference between a Baptist and a Methodist is that a Methodist will share his beer with you," and I suspect that our Colonel may have forgotten the truth behind that jest.



For those of my readers who can do Spanish, and in honor of the 11-M bombings, I have added El Pais to the News links.

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Chess! What is it good for?

Chess & War:

The UK Guardian has this look at how modified games of chess can be used to study warfighting:

By modifying key variables, such as the number of moves al lowed each turn, or whether one player can see all of the other's pieces, they are investigating the relative importance of a host of factors that translate to the battlefield, such as numerical superiority, a quick advance and the use of stealth....

One major difference between chess and war is that chess does not contain what the military terms "information uncertainty". Unlike a battle commander, who may have incomplete intelligence about his opponent's level of weaponry or location of munitions depots, one chess player can always see the other's pieces, and note their every move. So Kuylenstierna and his colleagues asked players to compete with a board each and an opaque screen between them. A game leader transferred each player's moves to the other's board - but not always instantaneously. For instance, one game modification resulted in a player being prevented from seeing their opponent's latest two moves.

The lessons they've extracted so far appear to be applicable to all similar games--checkers, for instance. The lessons will sound familiar to students of modern American warfighting:
[A] fast tempo can be important, particularly in combination with "deep planning". Deep planning involved, at every move, each agent considering all their previous moves and their opponent's responses, and their responses to those responses, and using this to develop a "tree" of possible strategic paths they could follow to win. "A deeper planner is one who can search deeper into time, and has more possible end points," says Calbert. In general, deep planning plus a fast tempo was devastating - even if the opponent was numerically superior.
Do they apply to real war? It sounds very similar to the Afghan campaign, where the US footprint was tremendously limited, but used tempo and intel to take a much smaller and embattled Northern Alliance to victory over dug-in Talibani in short order. And Iraq?
The build-up to the war in Iraq coincided with the first results from the chess simulations run by Jason Scholz and his team. "We watched with great interest the dialogue between General [Tommy} Franks, who wanted to use more materiel, and Donald Rumsfeld who wanted a fast tempo and lighter units," Scholz says. Based on the chess results, which favoured a fast, decisive attack strategy, Scholz says his advice would have been to go along with the US defence secretary's ideas. "In the end, there was a compromise," he says. "But a relatively fast tempo did really gain a very decisive, rapid advantage in Iraq."
Hat tip, Arts & Letters Daily.

The Liberal Conspiracy - Satire, Informed Commentary and 9-11 Research


Sovay--who lives a few miles away from me--has decided to carry on the old CalPundit tradition of catblogging. I should note that she left off one of Sam's several names: Assassin. That cat dropped a metal stool on my head once, from off the top of her refrigerator.

AllRefer Encyclopedia - Bob Dole (U.S. History, Biographies) - Encyclopedia

Honor & Nonfeasance:

If you appoint somebody to repair your roads, and pay them the monies promised, and then they don't bother to show up and do it, you've got a situation called "nonfeasance." If some small-town official doesn't perform the duties they've been elected or appointed to perform, but takes the money, they're subject to penalties under the law.

But what of a high official, say, a Senator? The Senate requires both more and less, as it turns out. For the man of honor, it demands more. A Senator takes a Federal oath of office:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
All Senators are entitled to be called "Honorable." Alas, not all of them live up to the honorific, or to the honor of their office or their oath. Some do:
In June, 1996, Dole resigned from the Senate in order to devote more time to the presidential race[.]
Some, alas, do not:
Presidential hopeful John F. Kerry [related, bio] has been a virtual no-show in the U.S. Senate over the past 14 months, but he hasn't missed a paycheck, even though a dusty federal law says some of his $158,000 salary should have been withheld.

During his run for the presidency, Kerry has missed every one of the 22 roll call votes in the Senate this year and was absent for 292, or 64 percent of the roll call votes last year, according to a Herald review of Senate records.

That means the Massachusetts senator has been away from his post in the Senate chamber for at least 128 days over the past 14 months.

Kerry is not the only political truant. U.S. Sen. John Edwards [related, bio] (D-N.C.), the runner-up behind Kerry in the hunt for the Democratic nomination, has also missed every roll call this year and skipped 178, or 39 percent of the votes last year.

Kerry, when the assets of his wife are included, is one of the wealthiest members of the Senate with a reported net worth somewhere between $198 million and $838 million.

The first duty of a Senator is to represent their constituents. That is the most important of the duties of office that they swear faithfully to discharge. We cannot be there in the Senate, hearing the testimonies and voting on the laws. We entrust that to Senators. We trust them to keep their oath of honor.

When they do not, there is a penalty.

However, he and the other AWOL candidates have been spared the automatic paycuts called for in a long-ignored federal law passed in the 1850s.

Section 39 of the United States Code Service requires the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House to deduct daily pay from members for each day they are absent.

The only legal excuse is if the senator or representative, or one of their family members, is ill, the law states.

Or at least, the law says there is a penalty. In fact, there is none: the Secretary of the Senate has apparently never enforced this federal law, and the current one is citing that as a good reason to carry on not enforcing it.

This is no surprise. The lesson we ought to have learned by now is this: no law can restrain the honorless. No one who will not be restrained by his oath of office is fit to sit in the Senate, nor any judgeship, nor any other position of authority. We have seen that the law cannot restrain the powerful if their word will not restrain them.

Kim du Toit - Weekly Rant

Quote of the Month:

Good lad Kim du Toit has what I think may be the finest thing I've read in quite a while. If it doesn't strike you so, you're entitled to your own opinion.

Note to Virginia Postrel: real men don't take Prozac.

If life gets a little to much for a real man, he gets drunk, has sex, goes to the shooting range or gets into a fistfight while getting drunk. 'Twas ever thus, and men did quite fine thereby for centuries, until some pussywhipped doctors decided that it would be soooooooo much better just to medicate men into being women.

Yeah, "sound medical reasons", "ameliorating effects" blah blah blah.

You tell 'em, mate.



I've been asked to share this with anyone interested.

The Embassy of Spain convenes a silent demonstration tomorrow, Friday, March 12th, to express its outrage for today's terrorist attack perpetrated in Madrid, in which approximately 200 people have died and 900 have been injured.

The demonstration will take place at the Washington Circle (Pennsylvania Ave and 23rd St NW) at 12 am.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China doctor calls 1989 'mistake'

Communist Awakening:

Dr. Jiang Yanyong, subject of the People's Republic of China, is a very brave man. Last year he exposed the Chinese government's coverup of the SARS virus. Now, he is calling for the Chinese Communist Party to admit that the Tiananmen Square massacre was a mistake:

Jiang cited former President Yang Shangkun as telling him that "the June 4 incident is the most serious mistake committed by our party in history."
One thinks of the Great Leap Forward (which left thirty to sixty million people dead of starvation) as a competitor for that title. There's also the Cultural Revolution, and the repression of the Hundred Flowers period, the founding of the Red Guards... but let's not quibble. It's a bold step, and I wish them well with it.

Yahoo! Mail - bjarnr@yahoo.com


The Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday heard DIA Director Vice Admiral Jacoby. His testimony is available at that link (PDF warning). It's a balanced report, and one of the most complete world-sitreps I've seen available as OSINT. I assume our enemies will take advantage of the opportunity to read it; you might as well too.

Pandagon: A Real Pro-Growth Agenda

Um, what?

Via our beloved friend at The Liberal Conspiracy, we have to ask a question about Pandagon's "Pro-Growth Agenda". Pandagon says:

By reframing the health care initiative, you get businesses on your side and end the idiotic cries of socialism -- this is about keeping American workers competitive, why are you anti-American? You want all our jobs to go to France?
The United States has an unemployment rate between four and six percent, from year to year. France's rate is from nine to thirteen percent. That health-care thing isn't working out. Nice try, though, Pandagon.

UPDATE: The aforementioned beloved Liberal, Sovay, demands that I expand on my comment. Pandagon was just joking about France, she tells me, and so focusing on the joke is missing his point.

I'm not sure I agree--Pandagon probably is joking, but joking to make a point. The point ought to be refutable by refuting the joke. Sovay is a bit humorless on occasion--only now and then, when she's on about politics--so I'm going to go ahead and rebutt formally.

The policy Pandagon suggests isn't sound for this reason: health-care costs affect the economy regardless of who foots the bill. We aren't losing jobs to France, we're losing them to the Third World. We're not losing them to Socialist safety-net states, but to states which have no net at all. Their costs are lower, therefore wages and other structural expenses can be lower.

Health care is one of those structural expenses, yes. If the employer is paying for insurance, the cost of employing a worker is higher. However, if the employer gets a "tax credit" from the government for that expense, the money is still being spent. Unless the government is suddenly going to become willing to cut spending--pardon me a moment while I laugh bitterly--the government is going to need higher tax revenues to offset the tax credits. Those revenues are almost certain to be collected in the form of higher tax rates, which tax increases add to the cost of doing business just as much as paying for the insurance in the first place. (Indeed, Pandagon suggests paying for it by repealing the Bush tax cuts, which is to say, by raising tax rates from where they are now.) Moreso, the Pandagon policy adds a middleman--you now have to pay for the people who process all that tax-credit paperwork, government employees who have to be paid out of tax revenues. How are we going to pay for these new salaries on the public dole? Oh, right, there go those tax rates up again.

There's a reason that governments, like France, which have a thick socialist safety net also have massive structural unemployment. If you're really serious about outsourcing and unemployment, there are a few options, but increased socialist spending--even if it's disguised as tax credits--is not one of them. Protectionist trade policies are one response; a dismantling of parts of our own safety net, to make us more competitive with the Third World, another. Right now the Republican party seems to prefer the latter, and the Democratic party (including, I suppose, me) the former. There are not many other realistic options, but one thing that definitely won't fix the problem is drifting off into fantasies like these, whereby we can have increased socialist spending and also lower market unemployment.

Southern Appeal

Southern Appeal:

Southern Appeal is being especially clever. :)

Secrecy News 03/09/04


The JAG is talking about the "drastic" change in the way the US military conducts domestic ops. There are quite a few documents on the topic that have become available recently. Essentially, the main change is that the military is doing a lot more inside the US, where civilian law enforcement has traditionally been the mainstay. From Secrecy News (a contradiction in terms, yes?):

In the absence of clear guidelines and effective oversight, the U.S. military is becoming increasingly involved in domestic operations, including surveillance activities that blur the traditional distinction between foreign intelligence and domestic security.

"Since September 11, 2001, the role of the military in domestic operations has changed drastically," according to the 2004 Operational Law Handbook of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

"Prior to September 11, military involvement in domestic operations was almost exclusively in the area of civil support operations. Post-September 11, the military's role has expanded to cover 'homeland defense' and/or 'homeland security' missions, somewhat undefined terms," the JAG Handbook stated (p. 355).

Several instances of "an expanding military role in domestic affairs" were reported today in the Wall Street Journal.

In one case, an Army intelligence officer demanded that a University of Texas law school turn over the videotape of an academic conference in order to identify "Middle Eastern" individuals who had made "suspicious" remarks....

One military intelligence organization with a domestic presence is the low-profile Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA).

Quietly created post-September 11, CIFA has a broad charter to provide counterintelligence and security support to the Defense Department around the world and within the United States.

"Worldwide, more than 400 civilian and military employees work for CIFA with the ultimate goal of detecting and neutralizing the many different forms of espionage regularly conducted against the United States by terrorists, foreign intelligence services and other covert and clandestine groups," according to the Defense Security Service.

"The threats posed by these adversaries include actions to kill or harm U.S. citizens; to steal critical information or assets (military or civilian); or destroy critical infrastructures."

CIFA was established in 2002 by Department of Defense Directive 5105.67.

There has been a lot of debate in Congress about establishing a domestic counterintelligence agency, like the British MI-5, so that the FBI won't have to try to carry counterintelligence as well as law enforcement. The two disciplines are very different, and the firewalls the FBI has to put up to make sure that the rights of citizens are protected makes them quite poor at CI. I've always been opposed to having a domestic CI branch, though there are good arguments on both sides. It looks a bit as if the DOD has gotten ahead of the Congress, and simply begun handling domestic military intelligence. I have complete faith in our military professionals, but I suspect that the Congress is going to resent the initiative as they become aware of it.


Kerry Breaks the Logan Act:

Rantingprofs asks this about Kerry's announcement today (emphasis added):

And at what point did it become appropriate for a candidate for office to have contact with foreign leaders? Doesn't Kerry realize the damage that can do? If he leads any foreign leader to believe that he'd be more sympathetic to their arguments and interests -- which clearly he's done -- how isn't that a signal to those countries to hold off any dealings with this administration in the hopes it will soon be sent packing and they'll be able to do better? And if that's the case, then why isn't Kerry now interfering with American foreign policy in a way that could potentially benefit him (by reducing the level of success this administration can chalk up between now and the elections since at least some leaders will be stonewalling hoping for a better deal)? No doubt some of that kind of stonewalling is likely with other governments during any election season -- should Kerry be explicitly encouraging it?
In fact, if Kerry has been involved in talks of these kinds with foreign leaders, he is guilty of violating the Logan Act, which has been on the books since 1799:
Sec. 953. - Private correspondence with foreign governments:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

Three years in a Federal prison is the penalty for this--that makes it not only a Federal crime, but a felony. Kerry won't be prosecuted, of course, for the simple reason that Bush can't afford to prosecute him--having Kerry arrested for any crime would appear to be a political assassination, regardless of guilt. But the point here is the same as the point below: Kerry, master of nuance, has been twenty years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He knows what the law is. Yet, he not only has responded to these advances from more than one foreign leader, he trumpets them to the press. Beware him.

UPDATE (2005): In later discussions on the Logan Act, it became clear that there were some important facts about it not clear to me at the time I wrote this piece. The first is that it has never been enforced; the second is that a sitting Senator may very well claim to have proper authority to speak for at least his part of the government, and constituents. Kerry's Vietnam-era negotiations in Paris appear still to have been a violation of the (never enforced) Logan Act, but this would not appear to be. The final position at the end of the debate was here. I say that Senators are 'obviously' exempt, though plainly it wasn't obvious to me at the beginning. It only became so on examination.

Newsday.com - AP World News

Viking Harbor:

Archaeologists have discovered a Viking harbor in Norway, the oldest preserved to our age.

The ancient harbor complex at Faanestangen, near the west coast city of Trondheim and some 250 miles north of Oslo, was discovered when a local landowner started work on a small boat dock on the same spot selected by his ancestors a millennium earlier.
It will be very interesting to see what is uncovered as the dig progresses.

In Sweeping Critique, Kerry Condemns Bush for Failing to Back Aristide


John Kerry is talking foreign policy in an NYT interview:

Had he been sitting in the Oval Office last weekend as rebel forces were threatening to enter Port-au-Prince, Senator John Kerry says, he would have sent an international force to protect Haiti's widely disliked elected leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Yes, that's right there in the Constitution, Article II: 'The President is the commander in chief of international forces.' You know, those fast-reacting ones that can be on the spot in time to stop a sudden rebel uprising that, in the course of a few days, overthrows a country. Like the European Rapid Reaction Force, which... well, it doesn't actually exist yet, does it? But when it does come into existence in 2007--in theory Kerry could still be President, assuming this EU project is actually on time for a change--plans are for it to be deployable in 15 days. NATO does rapid-reaction forces, but on a localized basis--they are setting one up for the Olympics this year, for example, but it won't be able to deploy across the world because it won't have the transportation capacity to do so, and I am fairly certain that they do not keep one handy in the Carribean in case of sudden accidents.

The uprising lasted just 24 days even if you count from the rebel's seizure of the town of Gonaives, but at that point there was no reason to think that Aristide would be ousted. It wasn't until the 16th that refugees returned from the Dominican Republic and seized Hinche, which was the sign that the trouble was mounting; and the rebels 'advancing on Port-au-Prince' was, as noted, just over the weekend. France got around to calling for a UN authorized force on the 25th, four days before the fall of Aristide--but France conditioned any UN resolution on such troops on Aristide's withdrawl from the country, which Kerry says he didn't want. Presumably France, even if it had the capacity to devote troops to Kerry's 'international force,' would not have done so to prop up Aristide.

The fact is that there is no 'international force' that can respond to a crisis on that timeframe. I think it's fair to say that there is only one organization that can put that many troops on the ground, that fast. You might give the benefit of the doubt to another politician speaking on the issue--but Kerry proudly trumpets his mastery of nuance, and has been almost twenty years on the Foreign Relations Committee. A man trying to get away from his youthful claim that he was an "internationalist" who felt that US forces should only be deployed wearing blue helmets might take the opportunity to recognize that this is an example of when only US forces will do. A man who runs on the line, "I know something about aircraft carriers for real!" might like to demonstrate that he also knows about the men who serve on them. A man who dares to command them ought to demonstrate that he respects them and their abilities: abilities that are not merely extraordinary, but unique.

Bonus question for the nuance-lovers among you: how does the claim that he would have chosen to send troops to Haiti mesh with this one:

"But if I am President, the United States will never go to war because we want to, we will only go to war because we have to."
-- John Kerry 9/2/03
So, what? It doesn't count as war if it's just a little Carribean country? Or, we had to send troops to prop up Aristide? Or, as seems most likely, Kerry didn't mean what he said?