27 February 2007

The Choice on Iraq

As our father commented to us yesterday, this article by our favorite Independent Senator, Joe Lieberman, is "a must read." And further, "when a patriot writes, we should read."

We hope his senatorial colleagues--both Democratic and Republican--will heed the words of Senator Lieberman, and support General Petraeus and our troops in Iraq. As our father pointed out, if they weren't going to give Gen. Petraeus the time necessary to win, they shouldn't have unanimously approved his appointment.

There should be no deadline for freedom and liberty. You cannot "re-deploy" democracy.

The Choice on Iraq
(subscription required)
By Senator Joe Lieberman

Two months into the 110th Congress, Washington has never been more bitterly divided over our mission in Iraq. The Senate and House of Representatives are bracing for parliamentary trench warfare--trapped in an escalating dynamic of division and confrontation that will neither resolve the tough challenges we face in Iraq nor strengthen our nation against its terrorist enemies around the world.

What is remarkable about this state of affairs in Washington is just how removed it is from what is actually happening in Iraq. There, the battle of Baghdad is now under way. A new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has taken command, having been confirmed by the Senate, 81-0, just a few weeks ago. And a new strategy is being put into action, with thousands of additional American soldiers streaming into the Iraqi capital.

Congress thus faces a choice in the weeks and months ahead. Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq--or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here?

If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and looked to Baghdad, we would see what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts. For the first time in the Iraqi capital, the focus of the U.S. military is not just training indigenous forces or chasing down insurgents, but ensuring basic security--meaning an end, at last, to the large-scale sectarian slaughter and ethnic cleansing that has paralyzed Iraq for the past year.

Tamping down this violence is more than a moral imperative. Al Qaeda's stated strategy in Iraq has been to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war, precisely because they recognize that it is their best chance to radicalize the country's politics, derail any hope of democracy in the Middle East, and drive the U.S. to despair and retreat. It also takes advantage of what has been the single greatest American weakness in Iraq: the absence of sufficient troops to protect ordinary Iraqis from violence and terrorism.

The new strategy at last begins to tackle these problems. Where previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias, now more U.S. and Iraqi forces are either in place or on the way. Where previously American forces were based on the outskirts of Baghdad, unable to help secure the city, now they are living and working side-by-side with their Iraqi counterparts on small bases being set up throughout the capital.

At least four of these new joint bases have already been established in the Sunni neighborhoods in west Baghdad--the same neighborhoods where, just a few weeks ago, jihadists and death squads held sway. In the Shiite neighborhoods of east Baghdad, American troops are also moving in--and Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army are moving out.

We of course will not know whether this new strategy in Iraq will succeed for some time. Even under the most optimistic of scenarios, there will be more attacks and casualties in the months ahead, especially as our fanatical enemies react and attempt to thwart any perception of progress.

But the fact is that we are in a different place in Iraq today from even just a month ago--with a new strategy, a new commander, and more troops on the ground. We are now in a stronger position to ensure basic security--and with that, we are in a stronger position to marginalize the extremists and strengthen the moderates; a stronger position to foster the economic activity that will drain the insurgency and militias of public support; and a stronger position to press the Iraqi government to make the tough decisions that everyone acknowledges are necessary for progress.

Unfortunately, for many congressional opponents of the war, none of this seems to matter. As the battle of Baghdad just gets underway, they have already made up their minds about America's cause in Iraq, declaring their intention to put an end to the mission before we have had the time to see whether our new plan will work.

There is of course a direct and straightforward way that Congress could end the war, consistent with its authority under the Constitution: by cutting off funds. Yet this option is not being proposed. Critics of the war instead are planning to constrain and squeeze the current strategy and troops by a thousand cuts and conditions.

Among the specific ideas under consideration are to tangle up the deployment of requested reinforcements by imposing certain "readiness" standards, and to redraft the congressional authorization for the war, apparently in such a way that Congress will assume the role of commander in chief and dictate when, where and against whom U.S. troops can fight.

I understand the frustration, anger and exhaustion so many Americans feel about Iraq, the desire to throw up our hands and simply say, "Enough." And I am painfully aware of the enormous toll of this war in human life, and of the infuriating mistakes that have been made in the war's conduct.

But we must not make another terrible mistake now. Many of the worst errors in Iraq arose precisely because the Bush administration best-cased what would happen after Saddam was overthrown. Now many opponents of the war are making the very same best-case mistake--assuming we can pull back in the midst of a critical battle with impunity, even arguing that our retreat will reduce the terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq.

In fact, halting the current security operation at midpoint, as virtually all of the congressional proposals seek to do, would have devastating consequences. It would put thousands of American troops already deployed in the heart of Baghdad in even greater danger--forced to choose between trying to hold their position without the required reinforcements or, more likely, abandoning them outright. A precipitous pullout would leave a gaping security vacuum in its wake, which terrorists, insurgents, militias and Iran would rush to fill--probably resulting in a spiral of ethnic cleansing and slaughter on a scale as yet unseen in Iraq.
I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to step back and think carefully about what to do next. Instead of undermining Gen. Petraeus before he has been in Iraq for even a month, let us give him and his troops the time and support they need to succeed.

Gen. Petraeus says he will be able to see whether progress is occurring by the end of the summer, so let us declare a truce in the Washington political war over Iraq until then. Let us come together around a constructive legislative agenda for our security: authorizing an increase in the size of the Army and Marines, funding the equipment and protection our troops need, monitoring progress on the ground in Iraq with oversight hearings, investigating contract procedures, and guaranteeing Iraq war veterans the first-class treatment and care they deserve when they come home.

We are at a critical moment in Iraq--at the beginning of a key battle, in the midst of a war that is irretrievably bound up in an even bigger, global struggle against the totalitarian ideology of radical Islamism. However tired, however frustrated, however angry we may feel, we must remember that our forces in Iraq carry America's cause--the cause of freedom--which we abandon at our peril.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Senator from Connecticut.

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26 February 2007

Condoleeza Rice

Last week's post about the left's demonization of African-American conservatives coincided seredipitously with an excellent bio by Armstrong Williams about Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Forget about Nancy (Pelosi, not Reagan) and Shrillary Clinton, this is a woman to be admired.
By Armstrong Williams
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently held the first of several three-way talks among the United States, Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Although the initial meeting ended with little progress other than a commitment to meet again, the fact that Rice was able to get these country’s leaders talking together in the same room is progress. And though these talks may seem insignificant and long overdue (this is nearly a 60-year-old conflict) year, they in fact are a groundbreaking success for the world. And the person we have to thank for that is our very own Condoleezza Rice.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1954, Rice grew up as an only child in the midst of America’s civil rights struggle. Her father was a Presbyterian minister and high school guidance counselor and her mother was a high school teacher. As Rice recalls of her parents and their friends, "they refused to allow the limits and injustices of their time to limit our horizons.” Although Rice was subject to racism quite frequently, she never allowed her environment to limit her development and progress. And thank goodness for that, because her contributions to this world (thus far) are inspiring.

Rice earned a Bachelor of Arts, Masters Degree, and PhD in Political Science, before beginning her professional career at Stanford University, teaching Political Science. She began as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor, university Provost, and finally full Professor, a title which she continues to hold. In addition to being the first female and first minority to hold the position of Provost at Stanford, Rice was the youngest Provost in Stanford's history. Rice helped Stanford erase a $20 million deficit when others believed it would be impossible. Coit Blacker, Stanford's deputy director of the Institute for International Studies said, “There was a sort of conventional wisdom that said it couldn't be done ... that [the deficit] was structural, that we just had to live with it." Two years later, Rice convened a meeting to announce that not only had the deficit been balanced, but the university was holding a record surplus of over $14.5 million. Her work in academia propelled her to great things in the business and political world.

Besides her abundant business ventures, Rice has collaborated on several books, joined many community groups, been given several honorary degrees, and served as a board member in several prestigious organizations. But her political career is where we’ve really seen Rice shine.

She first worked in the State Department in 1977, during President Jimmy Carter’s administration, as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Nearly ten years later while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rice served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From there, her political career took off. She served in President George H.W. Bush's administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 2000, she was picked by President George W. Bush to serve as National Security Advisor and in 2004 was named Secretary of State.

Since Rice became Secretary of State in January 2005, she has undertaken several major initiatives to reform and restructure the department, as well as US diplomacy as a whole. Arguably her most substantial initiative has been dubbed "Transformational Diplomacy," a goal which she described as a process to “work with partners around the world to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.” Besides her work restructuring America’s state department, Rice has had great success overseas.

In North Korea, for example, where threats of nuclear proliferation seem ever-present, Rice has kept her cool and continually urged North Korean leaders to actively participate in the six-party talks with the US and five other countries. She also, according to senior administration officials, bypassed layers of government policy review that had prevented a past agreement. In the last two weeks, Rice became “cautiously optimistic that we may be able to begin, again, to implement the joint statement of 2005 toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” Rice however isn’t without her critics when it comes to North Korea. Hardliners from the right are criticizing Rice’s diplomatic approach, and lawmakers from the left are upset the current deal is similar to one they could have gotten four years ago. Despite the bickering, it will soon become clear that Rice’s approach is the only path to progress in this case. Without her steady hand and head, this sort of agreement would never have been possible with North Korea.

Despite the unsuccessful war in Iraq and the troubled times in Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, North Korea, and several other countries, Rice has become the most trusted popular member of the Bush Administration. She is arguably the most talked about, respected, and admired woman in the world. And she is certainly the most powerful woman on the globe today. The road Rice has traveled is an inspiration to all people - American or otherwise.

Mr. Williams is a widely-syndicated columnist, CEO of the Graham Williams Group, and hosts the Armstrong Williams Show.

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24 February 2007

Warming Dissent - Part III

Global Hot Air: Part III
By Thomas Sowell

If you take the mainstream media seriously, you might think that every important scientist believes that "global warming" poses a great threat, and that we need to make drastic changes in the way we live, in order to avoid catastrophes to the environment, to various species, and to ourselves.

The media play a key role in perpetuating such beliefs. Often they seize upon every heat wave to hype global warming, but see no implications in record-setting cold weather, such as many places have been experiencing lately.

Remember how the unusually large number of hurricanes a couple of years ago was hyped in the media as being a result of global warming, with more such hurricanes being predicted to return the following year and the years thereafter?

But, when not one hurricane struck the United States all last year, the media had little or nothing to say about the false predictions they had hyped. It's heads I win and tails you lose.

Are there serious scientists who specialize in weather and climate who have serious doubts about the doomsday scenarios being pushed by global warming advocates? Yes, there are.

There is Dr. S. Fred Singer, who set up the American weather satellite system, and who published some years ago a book titled "Hot Talk, Cold Science." More recently, he has co-authored another book on the subject, "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years."

There have been periods of global warming that lasted for centuries -- and periods of global cooling that also lasted for centuries. So the issue is not whether the world is warmer now than at some time in the past but how much of that warming is due to human beings and how much can we reduce future warming, even if we drastically reduce our standard of living in the attempt.

Other serious scientists who are not on the global warming bandwagon include a professor of meteorology at MIT, Richard S. Lindzen.

His name was big enough for the National Academy of Sciences to list it among the names of other experts on its 2001 report that was supposed to end the debate by declaring the dangers of global warming proven scientifically.

Professor Lindzen then objected and pointed out that neither he nor any of the other scientists listed ever saw that report before it was published. It was in fact written by government bureaucrats -- as was the more recently published summary report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is also touted as the final proof and the end of the discussion.

You want more experts who think otherwise? Try a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, Patrick J. Michaels, who refers to the much ballyhooed 2001 IPCC summary as having "misstatements and errors" that he calls "egregious."

A professor of climatology at the University of Delaware, David R. Legates, likewise referred to the 2001 IPCC summary as being "often in direct contrast with the scientific report that accompanies it." It is the summaries that the media hype. The full 2007 report has not even been published yet.

Skeptical experts in other countries around the world include Duncan Wingham, a professor of climate physics at the University College, London, and Nigel Weiss of Cambridge University.

The very attempt to silence all who disagree about global warming ought to raise red flags.

Anyone who remembers the 1970s should remember the Club of Rome report that was supposed to be the last word on economic growth grinding to a halt, "overpopulation" and a rapidly approaching era of mass starvation in the 1980s.

In reality, the 1980s saw increased economic growth around the world and, far from mass starvation, an increase in obesity and agricultural surpluses in many countries. But much of the media went for the Club of Rome report and hyped the hysteria.

Many in the media resent any suggestion that they are either shilling for an ideological agenda or hyping whatever will sell newspapers or get higher ratings on TV.

Here is their chance to check out some heavyweight scientists specializing in weather and climate, instead of taking Al Gore's movie or the pronouncements of government bureaucrats and politicians as the last word.

Thomas Sowell, distinguished economist, is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute.

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23 February 2007

Warming Dissent - Part II

In his comment on yesterday's post, Matt hinted at an interesting point we've been thinking about for some time. Namely, that because Thomas Sowell is African American and conservative, it puts him in a unique commentary position.

Nevermind that the left, in their patronizing way, believe that he is betraying his race (or, for that matter, Michael Steele Republican candidate for Senator in Maryland, or Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, etc.).

However, what's most important about Messer's Steele and Sowell isn't so much their race, but that they are shaking the largely left-imposed politics that they (the left and mainstream media) believe are inextricably tied to their race. Consider Gagdad Bob's observations on this, and other, simliar issues:
Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, here is another thing that disgusts us about the liberal media, the idea that we care that she is a "woman." Only a liberal could think that one's reproductive equipment is more important than one's ideas. Likewise, it disgusts [us] -- it literally makes us want to vomit -- to repeatedly hear about Obama's skin color, for we are so far beyond race that it doesn't even occur to us that he's half white. Rather, we only notice that he is halfwit. That is the only thing that matters to us.

Since liberals, with their perfect myopia, have no ideas but instead obsess over things like race, class, and gender, there is much talk that this is the year of potential "firsts." First black president, first female president, etc. But to a [us], they might as well be saying "first chick president," "first n***** president," "first dago president" (Giuliani), "first baby killer president" (McCain), "first cult president" (Romney), for it is no less disgusting to our ears.

Besides, I thought negroes already had a president, Al Sharpton. Isn't he the "black leader?" That's what I heard from the liberal media. "Al Sharpton, Black Leader."

Imagine the bottomless contempt you must have for blacks to presume to appoint them a leader, much less a lowlife like Al Sharpton. Consider for a moment the racial condescension in imagining that, unlike any other Americans, blacks require a "leader" selected by the white liberals who know what's best for them. Sick, sick, sick.

By the way, ladies, who's your chick leader, anyway, Hillary or Pelosi? And where do you get your chick news, from Katie Couric or from the View? And if Tom Sowell is my leader, does that make me black?
We read Mr. Sowell because he's smart and an excellent writer. We appreciate his application of pragmatic economic principles to the issues that we face. This next article, part two in this series, is yet another example of that.
Global Hot Air: Part II
By Thomas Sowell

Propaganda campaigns often acquire a life of their own. Politicians who have hitched their wagons to the star of "global warming" cannot admit any doubts on their part, or permit any doubts by others from becoming part of a public debate.

Neither can environmental crusaders, whose whole sense of themselves as saviors of the planet is at stake, as they try to stamp out any views to the contrary.

A recent and revealing example of the ruthless attempts to silence anyone who dares question the global warming crusade began with a "news" story in the British newspaper "The Guardian." It quickly found an echo among American Senators on the left -- Bernard Sanders, an avowed socialist, and John Kerry, Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein, who are unavowed.

The headline of the "news" story said it all: "Scientists Offered Cash to Dispute Climate Study." According to "The Guardian," scientists and economists "have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report."

It is a classic notion on the left in general, and of environmentalist zealots in particular, that no one can disagree with them unless they are either uninformed or dishonest. Here they dispose of scientists who are skeptical of the global warming hysteria by depicting them as being bribed by lobbyists for the oil companies.

While such charges may be enough for crusading zealots to wrap themselves ever more tightly in the mantle of virtue, some of us are still old-fashioned enough to want to know the actual facts.

In this case, the fact is that the American Enterprise Institute -- a think tank, not a lobbyist -- did what all kinds of think tanks do, all across the political spectrum, all across the country, and all around the world.

AEI has planned a roundtable discussion of global warming, attended by people with differing views on the subject. That was their fundamental sin, in the eyes of the global warming crowd. They treated this as an issue, rather than a dogma.

Like liberal, conservative, and other think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute pays people who do the work of preparing scholarly papers for presentation at its roundtables. Ten thousand dollars is not an unusual amount and many have received more from other think tanks for similar work.

Enter Senators Sanders, Kerry, Leahy, and Feinstein. In a joint letter to the head of the American Enterprise Institute, they express shock, shock, like the corrupt police official in "Casablanca."

These Senators express "our very serious concerns" about reports that AEI "offered to pay scientists up to $10,000 for questioning the findings" of other scientists. The four Senators express how "saddened" they would be if the reports are true, "by the depths to which some would sink to undermine the scientific consensus" on global warming.

If the reports are true, the Senators continue, "it would highlight the extent to which moneyed interests distort honest scientific and public policy discussions" by "bribing scientists to support a pre-determined agenda."

The Senators ask: "Does your donors' self-interest trump an honest discussion over the well-being of the planet?" They demand that "AEI will publicly apologize for this conduct."

As the late Art Buchwald once said about comedy and farce in Washington, "You can't make that up!"

If it is a bribe to pay people for doing work, then we are all bribed every day, except for those who inherited enough money not to have to work at all. Among those invited to attend the AEI roundtable are some of the same scientists who produced the recent report that politicians, environmentalists, and the media tout as the last word on global warming.

The trump card of the left is that one of the big oil companies contributed money to the American Enterprise Institute -- not as much as one percent of its budget, but enough for a smear.

All think tanks have contributors or they could not exist. But facts carry little weight in smears, even by politicians who question other people's honesty.

Thomas Sowell, distinguished economist, is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute.

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22 February 2007

Warming Dissent - Part I

Has there ever been a more effective propaganda machine/echo chamber than the political left and mainstream media? We think not.

That's part of the reason you'll rarely have the opportunity, nay privilege, of reading an article by Thomas Sowell. With the passing of Milton Friedman last year (RIP), we're glad we have Mr. Sowell to carry the common sense torch of basic economics. In this article, and the two to follow, Mr. Sowell applies his background in economics to the hysteria of global warming. Read on.
Global Hot Air
By Thomas Sowell

The political left's favorite argument is that there is no argument. Their current crusade is to turn "global warming" into one of those things that supposedly no honest and decent person can disagree about, as they have already done with "diversity" and "open space."

The name of "science" is invoked by the left today, as it has been for more than two centuries. After all, Karl Marx's ideology was called "scientific socialism" in the 19th century. In the 18th century, Condorcet analogized his blueprint for a better society to engineering, and social engineering has been the agenda ever since.

Not all the advocates of "global warming" are on the left, of course. Crusades are not just for crusaders. There are always hangers-on who can turn the true believers' crusades into votes or money or at least notoriety.

Whether the globe really is warming is a question about facts -- and about where those facts are measured: on land, in the air or under the sea. There is no question that there is a "greenhouse" effect. Otherwise, half the planet would freeze every night when there is no sunlight falling on it.

There is also no question that the earth can warm or cool. It has done both at one time or another for thousands of years, even before there were SUVs. If there had never been any global warming before, we wouldn't be able to enjoy Yosemite Valley today for it was once buried under thousands of feet of ice.

Back in the 1970s, the environmental hysteria was about the dangers of a new ice age. This hysteria was spread by many of the same individuals and groups who are promoting today's hysteria about global warming.

It is not just the sky that is falling. Government money is falling on those who seek grants to study global warming and produce "solutions" for it. But that money is not as likely to fall on those skeptics in the scientific community who refuse to join the stampede.

Yes, Virginia, there are skeptics about global warming among scientists who study weather and climate. There are arguments both ways -- which is why so many in politics and in the media are so busy selling the notion that there is no argument.

If you heard both arguments, you might not be so willing to go along with those who are prepared to ruin the economy, sacrificing jobs and the national standard of living on the altar to the latest in an unending series of crusades, conducted by politicians and other people seeking to tell everyone else how to live.

What about all those scientists mentioned, cited or quoted by global warming crusaders?

There are all kinds of scientists, from chemists to nuclear physicists to people who study insects, volcanoes, and endocrine glands -- none of whom is an expert on weather or climate, but all of whom can be listed as scientists, to impress people who don't scrutinize the list any further. That ploy has already been used.

Then there are genuine scientific experts on weather and climate. The National Academy of Sciences came out with a report on global warming back in 2001 with a very distinguished list of such experts listed. The problem is that not one of those very distinguished scientists actually wrote the report -- or even saw it before it was published.

One of those very distinguished climate scientists -- Richard S. Lindzen of MIT -- publicly repudiated the conclusions of that report, even though his name had been among those used as window dressing on the report. But the media may not have told you that.

In short, there has been a full court press to convince the public that "everybody knows" that a catastrophic global warming looms over us, that human beings are the cause of it, and that the only solution is to turn more money and power over to the government to stop us from our dangerous ways of living.

Among the climate experts who are not part of that "everybody" are not only Professor Lindzen but also Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, whose book "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years," punctures the hot air balloon of the global warming crusaders. So does the book "Shattered Consensus," edited by Patrick J. Michaels, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, which contains essays by others who are not part of "everybody."

Thomas Sowell, distinguished economist, is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute.

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20 February 2007

Outsourcing Redux

Free trade is one of those ideas that seems so great and so logical, we often forget that not everyone agrees. That is, we forget until we walk past a "fair trade" protest in Seattle or the "Fair Trade" cafe on campus at UCL. We can safely conclude that these people have never taken a basic economics course.

Today, after discussing CEO pay, Wal-Mart, free trade and other cool economic things, we did a little online research, re-watched the first volume of Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose," and found Greg Mankiw's blog. Among the many things posted was this gem, written back in 2004 about the outsourcing debate, but very readable and applicable today.

This dedication goes out to all you protectionists out there, wherever you may be. We know Valentine's Day was last week, but we hope you'll forgive our tardiness.
Adam Smith on Outsourcing

By N. Greg Mankiw

If the American Economic Association were to give an award for the Most Politically Inept Paraphrasing of Adam Smith, I would be a leading candidate. But the recent furor about outsourcing, and my injudiciously worded comments about the benefits of international trade, should not eclipse the basic lessons that economists have understood for more than two centuries.

To avoid making the same mistake twice and clinching the award, I should let Mr. Smith speak for himself. Here is what he said in his 1776 classic The Wealth of Nations: “It is maxim of every prudent master of a family never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy...What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry employed in a way in which we have some advantage.”

This is the basic theory of international trade. Since Smith penned these words, economists have added rigor to the analysis (thank you, David Ricardo) and have conducted numerous empirical and historical studies of the effects of trade. The verdict is in: Smith was right. Few propositions command as much consensus among professional economists as that open world trade increases economic growth and raises living standards. Smith’s insights are now standard fare in Econ 101.

Yet, whenever the economy goes through a difficult time, as it has in recent years, free trade comes under fire. Some people now fear that trade is responsible for recent weakness in U.S. labor markets. The concern is understandable, but it is simply not true. Over the past three years, job losses are more closely related to declines in domestic investment and weak exports than to import-competition. To the extent that the rest of the world threatens U.S. prosperity, the main problem is not rapid growth in China and India, but slow growth in Japan and Europe.

Of course, global competition has caused employment declines in some industries. The world trading system is changing along with technology. Goods that could once be produced only domestically can now be produced abroad and imported over fiber optic cable. The Internet and advances in telecommunications have meant that more Americans are competing with workers in other nations. Even if more competition is good for consumers, it can produce very understandable anxiety among some workers and their families.

These technological changes, however, have not rendered Smith’s insights obsolete. The same principles apply to offshore outsourcing of services as to traditional trade in goods. This has been confirmed in a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute. McKinsey researchers tallied up the costs and benefits associated with outsourcing and found that for every dollar the United States sends abroad, we get back about $1.12, resulting in a net gain of $0.12. Smith would not have been surprised.

Some people fear that Americans cannot compete with low-wage workers abroad, or that global competition will mean that wages will “race to the bottom.” The truth is that we can prosper in a global economy because our workers are among the best in the world. Our real wages are ultimately determined by our productivity, and American productivity growth has been spectacular over the past three years.

So, if trade is not the problem ailing the U.S. economy, what is? Smith again has the answer. “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things." This fits perfectly with three of the President’s priorities: defending the homeland against terrorist threats, reducing the tax burden on the American people, and reforming the tort system. (If Smith overlooked the importance of ensuring a reliable energy supply and reducing the cost of health care, we can forgive his eighteenth-century myopia.)

The President, like Smith, believes in the free enterprise system. The goal of policy should be to open up markets, not to retreat behind walls or throw rocks in our harbors. Economic growth is not zero-sum. Prosperity in one country is not a threat to prosperity in another. Free and open markets can mean better jobs both for Americans and for our trading partners around the world.

It may be a mere coincidence that Smith’s great book was published the exact same year that the Declaration of Independence was signed. But the founding fathers of the United States share an intellectual bond with the founding father of economics. They both believed that liberty and prosperity go hand in hand. Our founding fathers were well aware of Smith’s work. Benjamin Franklin knew Smith personally. When Franklin quipped that “No nation was ever ruined by trade,” he likely meant it as an understatement.

Perhaps quoting Adam Smith is risky. Smith was British, so some people may accuse me of outsourcing economic advice. But import competition is not a threat. I have great confidence that President Bush’s policies will grow the economy and create a job for every American who wants one, including his politically tone-deaf economist.

Dr. Mankiw is a professor economics at Harvard and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.

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09 February 2007

Policing Iraq

The Snake Eater
Give our troops the tools our cops have.

By Daniel Henninger

Subject: A case study of how the U.S. got bogged down in Iraq.

Problem: If a cop in Anytown, USA, pulls over a suspect, he checks the person's ID remotely from the squad car. He's linked to databases filled with Who's Who in the world of crime, killing and mayhem. In Iraq, there is nothing like that. When our troops and the Iraqi army enter a town, village or street, what they know about the local bad guys is pretty much in their heads, at best.

Solution: Give our troops what our cops have. The Pentagon knows this. For reasons you can imagine, it hasn't happened.

This is a story of can-do in a no-can-do world, a story of how a Marine officer in Iraq, a small network-design company in California, a nonprofit troop-support group, a blogger and other undeterrable folk designed a handheld insurgent-identification device, built it, shipped it and deployed it in Anbar province. They did this in 30 days, from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. Compared to standard operating procedure for Iraq, this is a nanosecond.

Before fastening our seatbelts, let's check the status quo. As a high Defense Department official told the Journal's editorial page, "We're trying to fight a major war with peacetime procurement rules." The department knows this is awful. Indeed, a program exists, the Automated Biometric Identification System: retina scans, facial matching and the like. The reality: This war is in year four, and the troops don't have it. Beyond Baghdad, the U.S. role has become less about killing insurgents than arresting the worst and isolating them from the population. Obviously it would help to have an electronic database of who the bad guys are, their friends, where they live, tribal affiliation--in short the insurgency's networks.

The Marine and Army officers who patrol Iraq's dangerous places know they need an identification system similar to cops back home. The troops now write down suspects' names and addresses. Some, like Marine Maj. Owen West in Anbar, have created their own spreadsheets and PowerPoint programs, or use digital cameras to input the details of suspected insurgents. But no Iraq-wide software architecture exists.

Operating around the town of Khalidiya, north of Baghdad, Maj. West has been the leader of a team of nine U.S. soldiers advising an Iraqi brigade. This has been his second tour of duty in Iraq. When not fighting the Iraq war, he's an energy trader for Goldman Sachs in New York City.

It had become clear to him last fall that the Iraqi soldiers were becoming the area's cops. And that they needed modern police surveillance tools. To help the Iraqi army in Khalidiya do its job right, Maj. West needed that technology yesterday: He was scheduled to rotate back stateside in February--this month.

Since arriving in Iraq last year, Maj. West had worked with Spirit of America (SoA), the civilian troop-support group founded by Jim Hake. In early December, SoA's project director, Michele Redmond, asked Maj. West if there was any out-of-the-ordinary project they could help him with. And Maj. West said, Why yes, there is. He described to them the basic concept for a mobile, handheld fingerprinting device which Iraqi soldiers would use to assemble an insurgent database. Mr. Hake said his organization would contribute $30,000 to build a prototype and get it to Khalidiya. In New York, Goldman Sachs contributed $14,000 to the project.

Two problems. They needed to find someone who could assemble the device, and the unit had to be in Khalidiya by Jan. 15 to give Maj. West time to field-test it before he left in February.

To build the device, they approached a small California company, Computer Deductions Inc., which makes electronic systems for law-enforcement agencies. Over the Dec. 15 weekend, CDI went to work building a machine for Iraq.

Tom Calabro, a CDI vice president, assembled a team of six technicians. Its basic platform would be a handheld fingerprint workstation called the MV 100, made by Cross Match Technologies, a maker of biometric identity applications. The data collected by the MV 100 would be stored via Bluetooth in a hardened laptop made by GETAC, a California manufacturer. From Knowledge Computing Corp. of Arizona they used the COPLINK program, which creates a linked "map" of events. The laptop would sit in the troops' Humvee and the data sent from there to a laptop at outpost headquarters.

Meanwhile, SoA began to think about how they'd get the package to Maj. West by Jan. 15. They likely would have less than seven days transit time after CDI finished. SoA normally used FedEx to ship time-sensitive equipment into Iraq. But given the unusual nature of the shipment, they were concerned about customs and clearance: This wasn't a case of soccer balls. Jim Hake thought of an alternative: Find someone who would hand-carry it, like a diplomatic courier, on a flight to Kuwait and from there to Taqaddum air base in central Iraq. This meant finding someone who could get into Iraq quickly.

The someone was Bill Roggio. Mr. Roggio is a former army signalman and infantryman who now embeds with the troops and writes about it on his blog, the Fourth Rail, or for the SoA Web site. He was at home in New Jersey, about to celebrate his birthday with his family. He agreed to fly the MV 100 to Iraq as soon as it was ready, in conjunction with an embed trip. With SoA's Michele Redmond, he started working out the logistics for getting to Iraq ASAP.

On Jan. 8, CDI's Tom Calabro emailed the group, including Maj. West in Iraq: "Things are progressing at a furious pace. I may be able to ship by end of day tomorrow. Worst case is Thursday or Friday."

Four days later, a glitch. Mr. Calabro said a vendor mistakenly shipped via the U.S. postal service and a crucial part arrived late, on Jan. 12. "My guys are going to work through the night to finish testing," he said. They shipped the kit via UPS to Bill Roggio for Monday arrival; later that day, he boarded a Lufthansa flight from Newark to Kuwait City. After an overnight hotel stay, he took a C130 military transport to Taqaddum, 45 miles north of Baghdad. Maj. West's Marines drove him to their outpost 15 minutes away.

And so, a month from inception, Bill Roggio handed the electronic identification kit to Maj. West.

On the night of Jan. 20, Maj. West, his Marine squad and the "jundi" (Iraq army soldiers) took the MV 100 and laptop on patrol. Their term of endearment for the insurgents is "snakes." So of course the MV 100 became the Snake Eater. The next day Maj. West emailed the U.S. team digital photos of Iraqi soldiers fingerprinting suspects with the Snake Eater. "It's one night old and the town is abuzz," he said. "I think we have a chance to tip this city over now." A rumor quickly spread that the Iraqi army was implanting GPS chips in insurgents' thumbs.

Over the past 10 days, Maj. West has had chance encounters with two Marine superiors--Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, who commands the 30,000 joint forces in Anbar, and Brig. Gen. Robert Neller, deputy commanding general of operations in Iraq. He showed them the mobile ID database device.

I asked Gen. Neller by email on Tuesday what the status of these technologies is now. He replied that they're receiving advanced biometric equipment, "like the device being employed by Maj. West." He said "in the near future" they will begin to network such devices to share databases more broadly: "Bottom line: The requirement for networking our biometric capability is a priority of this organization."

As he departs, Maj. West reflected on winning at street level: "We're fixated on the enemy, but the enemy is fixated on the people. They know which families are apostates, which houses are safe for the night, which boys are vulnerable to corruption or kidnapping. The enemy's population collection effort far outstrips ours. The Snake Eater will change that, and fast." You have to believe he's got this right. It will only happen, though, if someone above his pay grade blows away the killing habits of peacetime procurement.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

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08 February 2007

It's Official: Jason Munns Signs with BYU

We've been following this kid since his Sophomore season at Southridge HS (Kennewick, WA) when he burst onto the scene. We've followed his career ever since. We wrote about him and made predictions in one of our early (admittedly dorky) Top 10 lists. In that list we quoted a coach from a rival high school whom we normally detest: Braves head coach Craig Beverlin had this to say about SHS and Suns QB Jason Munns, "I've been coaching for a long time, and that's one of the better teams I've ever coached against," Beverlin said. "Being one of the oldest guys (in the Big Nine) sometimes I get deja vu; I thought I saw (Drew) Bledsoe out there. I coached against Bledsoe, and I've felt that Munns is an oncoming Bledsoe-type athlete. He did nothing to change my opinion tonight."

We've hoped Munns would go to BYU since Footbal Season 2004 and yesterday that wish came full circle. Now our high school alma mater and college alma matter are inextricably linked.

Click on these links to read a couple of other posts we've written about Jason in the last couple of years:

BYU Football - Jason Munns
Jason Munns - Next Great BYU QB

At the beginning of Football Season 2006, we travelled to Qwest Field in Seattle to watch Southridge play perennial state power Prosser on the homefield of the Seattle Seahawks. The game didn't go so well for the Southridge or Munns, but that did not get Jason down. After falling behind by a pair of TDs, he literally willed the team down the field for a TD, scrambling for huge chunks of yardage when his WRs couldn't get open. On two consecutive plays, after breaking into the secondary, he litterally sought out the smallish Prosser safety and laid a shoulder into him and plowed over him. That kind of competitiveness is great and inspiring, but we recommend you learn to slide, because in Division I, the safeties are a little bit bigger.

Now Jason, one more bit of advice. Playing QB at BYU is unlike playing QB at any other school in the country. It will be tough to escape the football questions, even when you go to church. It is because some members of the church can't separate their football fandom from their faith that this can be difficult. Ignore the hype (including the hype emanating from this blog) and the criticism. Listen to your family and your friends. Listen to the coaches. Bronco is every bit as good as advertised and his assistants are right there with him. You're fortunate to have great family, friends, and coaches to support you.

And for the love of football, enjoy your time at BYU. If you thought high school was fun, well my friend, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Your 4-5 years at BYU will be the best. Live it up.

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06 February 2007

Environmental Apocalyptus for the Rest of US

In case you missed the link from yesterday, here's where we got that clever title!

A Necessary Apocalypse
By J.R. Dunn

A man who ceases to believe in God does not believe in nothing; he believes in anything.
- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

The apocalyptic vision of global warming serves a deep need of the environmentalist credo, the dominant pseudo-religious tendency of our age in the prosperous West.

For good or ill, human beings are constructed to believe, and faith has its demands.. Along with the concrete elements that demand belief (that fire burns and that it's not wise to walk off cliffs, for example) there exists an apparent necessity for a belief in "the rock higher than I" - a belief in a superior entity that can inspire awe and gratitude, that can be turned to in hard times, that can act as witness to injustice and dispenser of mercy.

Despite the claims of our current crop of militant atheists such as Dawkins and Harris, this is not simply brain-dead foolishness. Religious belief is hard-wired into human beings, by what means and for what purposes we don't yet understand. (A much wiser atheist, the biologist Edward O. Wilson wrote in On Human Nature that he intended to demonstrate that religious belief played an evolutionary role and could thus be explained by Darwinism. That was thirty years ago - if he ever succeeded, I haven't heard about it.)

When religious belief is subverted, it does not, as Chesterton implied, simply vanish. It is almost immediately replaced by another set of beliefs on a similar level of abstraction and serving the same purpose. Sometimes it's an import, such as Buddhism or TM. Sometimes it's a creed deliberately created to serve a political agenda, as we see in Nazism and Communism. Sometimes it's the goofy SoCal syncretism currently expressed in Wicca and Neopaganism. ("If people seriously want to be pagans," the late Joe Myers, a Christian brother of my acquaintance once said. "They'd become Roman Catholics.") And sometimes they're a combination, a weird melange of ideas picked up from various sources that (and usually not coincidentally) also serve a political purpose. Which brings us to environmentalism.

That environmentalism is in fact a pseudo-religion goes without saying. Like all such, it possesses every element of contemporary legitimate belief. It has a deity, in this case the goddess Gaia, the personification of the living Earth, (first envisioned by James Lovelock, whom we can slot in as high priest). It has its holy books, most changing with the seasons, and most, as is true of the Bible with many convinced Christians, utterly unread. It has its saints, its prophets, its commandments, religious rituals (be sure to recycle that bottle), a large gallery of sins, mortal and otherwise, and an even larger horde of devils. (Let me pause here to sharpen a horn.)

Another item that a pseudo-religion must have is an apocalypse - and that's what global warming is all about.

In fact, the apocalyptic is the major fulcrum of environmentalism, the axis around which everything else turns. It's environmentalism's major element of concern, its chief attraction, and the center of discussion and speculation, in much the same way that some Protestant variants of Christianity are obsessed above all with sin. So crucial is the apocalypse to environmentalism that there has been a whole string of them, one after the other, covering every last aspect of the natural world. If one don't git ya, the next one will.

Green emphasis on the apocalyptic appeared early, accompanying the introduction of mass environmental awareness itself. Silent Spring, published in 1962, represents the first environmentalist scripture -- nothing other than a modern book of Revelations. Rachel Carson, a popular nature writer, was dying of cancer while writing the book, and Silent Spring became an outlet for her rage and grief. Carson predicted the imminent coming of a stricken world, a world poisoned by the synthetic products of the chemical industry, in which no birds sang and human children would not be immune. The early 60s were marked by fears of the consequences of atmospheric nuclear tests, and the suggestion that chemicals were just as deadly found a willing audience.

Pollution - a word that itself bears many religious connotations -- became a byword of the era. That fact that the phenomenon encompassed virtually every aspect of technical civilization including car exhausts, household plastics, and power generation, guaranteed it a good long run. Truly grotesque stories, ranging from dioxins eating sneakers from children's feet to hushed-up epidemics of cancer, made the rounds. None were anything more than grist for Snopes.com, and the promised chemical doomsday never arrived. But Carson's work set the pattern for all the environmental apocalypses to come.

The next example was overpopulation, its prophet the notorious Paul Ehrlich. His set of tablets was titled The Population Bomb and if anything, it was even more popular than Silent Spring. Ehrlich's thesis was that relentlessly burgeoning population would overstress the earth's "carrying capacity", use up all available resources, and lead to the collapse of civilization before the 20th century was out. The argument seemed irrefutable to those not familiar with the uncertainties surrounding demography (Thomas Malthus had made similar series of predictions early in the 19th century).

Countless offshoots of Ehrlich's book appeared, and overpopulation became one of the standard ideas of the late 60s, embraced by the counterculture, policymakers, academics, and the media. Even today, an era in which deflating national populations are the problem, it's by no means unusual to come across people still living in Ehrlich's nightmare world, much the same as the Amish or Mennonites have preserved their far more pleasant way of life into modern times. Ehrlich became quite wealthy, and the master of his own foundation devoted to the study of the "overpopulation threat". To this day, he contends that his thesis is correct. The whole episode is begging for a detailed historical study.

A variant combining aspects of both theories had a brief run in the early to mid 70s: the doctrine of universal famine. Pollution would poison croplands and stunt agricultural production, and overpopulation would do the rest. The problem here was the fact that proponents insisted that doom was imminent, with famine appearing as early as 1975 or 1980 at the latest. The experience taught the Greens to be a little more vague with dates.

The early 1980s saw a reprise of earlier fears of nuclear destruction (a workable definition of an "advanced civilization" could well read "one in which there is sufficient leisure time for large numbers of people to worry about doomsday"). The nuclear freeze campaign, largely engineered by the KGB, took up much of the public attention devoted to environmental crises. But even this effort was given an environmental gloss when scientific impresario Carl Sagan put together a road show of "mainstream scientists" to promote the concept of a "nuclear winter".

The firestorms generated by a nuclear strike would generate smoke so thick as to block out the sun across much of the northern hemisphere, causing a collapse of the terrestrial ecology. Nuclear winter never quite caught on outside of certain elite circles, in part due to flaws in the theory. Sagan's specialty was exobiology, the study of possible extraterrestrial life-forms, and it developed that the climate model he'd used was based on the atmosphere of Mars, a planet locked in an ice age for the past billion years. Nuclear winter faded with the nuclear freeze movement. All the same, just before his death Sagan made it known that he'd willingly accept a Nobel for his role in preventing World War III.

Ozone depletion, the next environmentalist flurry, was a little too esoteric to generate the uncritical devotion accorded to pollution and overpopulation. It involved arcane chemical reactions, took place in the stratosphere, and seemed to be confined to Antarctica. (Although the northern hemisphere was home to the bulk of the offending chlorofluorocarbons, the Arctic didn't seem to have the same problem.) But ozone depletion did serve a useful Green purpose in drawing public attention to the atmosphere, and confusing people as to exactly what the problem was all about. (I would guess that something like two-thirds of the people in this country believe that ozone depletion and global warming are part of the same phenomenon.)

But in fact, global warming has actually adapted elements of all previous environmental crazes. It holds that carbon dioxide (a naturally-occurring compound that comprises a large portion of the atmosphere) is a form of pollution, the same as Carson's detested synthetic chemicals. Like that involving overpopulation, the threatened catastrophe is universal, and implicated in everyday practices and institutions. As with the universal famine, the effects are concrete and horrifying, though the dates have been left vague - ‘in the coming century', rather than in a year or two. As with the nuclear freeze, the human villains are easily identified, their actions, which place all human life in jeopardy, beyond redemption. As with ozone depletion, mainstream scientists have a remedy - even if it's unproven and unnecessary.

The lessons of previous environmental panics have been carefully applied to global warming No other environmentalist program has been prepared with such detail, purpose, and conviction. A skilled cadre of scientists, activists, and publicists exist who have devoted entire careers to nothing else. A vast literature has appeared analyzing not climate as a whole, not the interactions of the entire system, but solely and uniquely global warming. In many ways, warming has become both more and less than an ideology: it has become an industry, one that with such financial elements as carbon offsets can easily support itself.

The global warming program has been in play for a quarter of a century. It has been quite successful, convincing a small majority of the population that such warming is in fact occurring and is caused by manmade emissions. It is not a fad of the decade like overpopulation or nuclear winter. Nothing, not scientific evidence, not common sense, not the fact that much of the United States is basking in subfreezing temperatures as I write this, will be allowed to overturn it. The environmentalist movement has staked everything on this program. Not for the sake of science; most of the science is wrong or fabricated. (This week's IPCC report marks no change in this regard.) Not for humanity; they have never cared for humanity. Not to alter the climate itself; no such program has been suggested, and in any case the earth's climate, an unstable planet-wide chaotic system, will go its own way no matter what we do. But for one reason: to make environmentalism a basic element of millennial society.

And that's where the danger arises. The problem with this type of pseudo-religion is that they're essentially heresies, and like most heresies far more bloodyminded than the parent religions that they otherwise mirror. This is obvious when we examine Nazism and communism. The same strain in environmentalism may be hidden, but it's there. This creed has killed massive numbers and forthrightly contemplated death on an even larger scale.

The banning of DDT in 1971 resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people in the developing world, most of them children, from insect-borne diseases such as malaria. (This despite the fact that the use of DDT to fumigate homes could have no serious effect on the environment.) Yet no environmental group has ever made note of the fact, and all oppose the reintroduction of DDT for any purpose. The DDT ban places Rachel Carson in an exclusive circle shared only by Karl Marx as a writer whose work alone caused vast amounts of human misery. (Adolf Hitler was, of course, more man of action than writer. It's doubtful that Mein Kampf in and of itself could have triggered the same upheavals as Hitler's actions.)

Death on a scale beyond even Mao was something openly contemplated in respectable circles of the cult. One byproduct of the universal famine panic was a concept called "triage". Adapted from the emergency medical technique in which the dying are put to one side while the less injured receive priority treatment, triage advocates suggested that certain "failed" nations be completely isolated from the rest of the world to bring about a "die-off" of their "excess" population, a process that would have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions. This was not a crackpot notion; it was presented as a serious policy issue and discussed as such in outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. The particular "failed" nation always suggested by these people was India, one of our epoch's economic powerhouses.

For a third example of bloodymindedness we need only mention the environmentalist and animal rights "direct-action" groups that have utilized terrorism, sabotage, arson, assault, everything short of murder in their campaigns against offending companies and even innocent third parties.

Increasingly strident rhetoric of the kind being heard from public figures such as Heidi Cullen and even Prince Charles may well result in a vicious circle in which public frustration leads to violent action leading to more frustration and on to the inevitable climax. Up to this point, environmentalist violence has been held in check by force of law - and only by force of law. How long this will remain the case depends on how much power the Greens are allowed to accrue.

True believers, a millennial creed, and easy targets - these have always and forever made for an unholy mix. Nothing about environmentalism suggests that it won't follow the same ugly path.

J.R. Dunn is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.

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05 February 2007

IPCC Report--Sweet Apocalypse to the Church of the Holy Environment

Who said Christians were the only Millenarians?

Climate of Opinion
(Subscription Required)

Last week's headlines about the United Nation's latest report on global warming were typically breathless, predicting doom and human damnation like the most fervent religious evangelical. Yet the real news in the fourth assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may be how far it is backpedaling on some key issues. Beware claims that the science of global warming is settled.

The document that caused such a stir was only a short policy report, a summary of the full scientific report due in May. Written mainly by policymakers (not scientists) who have a stake in the issue, the summary was long on dire predictions. The press reported the bullet points, noting that this latest summary pronounced with more than "90% confidence" that humans have been the main drivers of warming since the 1950s, and that higher temperatures and rising sea levels would result.

More pertinent is the underlying scientific report. And according to people who have seen that draft, it contains startling revisions of previous U.N. predictions. For example, the Center for Science and Public Policy has just released an illuminating analysis written by Lord Christopher Monckton, a one-time adviser to Margaret Thatcher who has become a voice of sanity on global warming.

Take rising sea levels. In its 2001 report, the U.N.'s best high-end estimate of the rise in sea levels by 2100 was three feet. Lord Monckton notes that the upcoming report's high-end best estimate is 17 inches, or half the previous prediction. Similarly, the new report shows that the 2001 assessment had overestimated the human influence on climate change since the Industrial Revolution by at least one-third.

Such reversals (and there are more) are remarkable, given that the IPCC's previous reports, in 1990, 1995 and 2001, have been steadily more urgent in their scientific claims and political tone. It's worth noting that many of the policymakers who tinker with the IPCC reports work for governments that have promoted climate fears as a way of justifying carbon-restriction policies. More skeptical scientists are routinely vetoed from contributing to the panel's work. The Pasteur Institute's Paul Reiter, a malaria expert who thinks global warming would have little impact on the spread of that disease, is one example.

U.N. scientists have relied heavily on computer models to predict future climate change, and these crystal balls are notoriously inaccurate. According to the models, for instance, global temperatures were supposed to have risen in recent years. Yet according to the U.S. National Climate Data Center, the world in 2006 was only 0.03 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in 2001 -- in the range of measurement error and thus not statistically significant.

The models also predicted that sea levels would rise much faster than they actually have. The models didn't predict the significant cooling the oceans have undergone since 2003 -- which is the opposite of what you'd expect with global warming. Cooler oceans have also put a damper on claims that global warming is the cause of more frequent or intense hurricanes. The models also failed to predict falling concentrations of methane in the atmosphere, another surprise.

Meanwhile, new scientific evidence keeps challenging previous assumptions. The latest report, for instance, takes greater note of the role of pollutant particles, which are thought to reflect sunlight back to space, supplying a cooling effect. More scientists are also studying the effect of solar activity on climate, and some believe it alone is responsible for recent warming.

All this appears to be resulting in a more cautious scientific approach, which is largely good news. We're told that the upcoming report is also missing any reference to the infamous "hockey stick," a study by Michael Mann that purported to show 900 years of minor fluctuations in temperature, followed by a dramatic spike over the past century. The IPCC featured the graph in 2001, but it has since been widely rebutted.

While everyone concedes that the Earth is about a degree Celsius warmer than it was a century ago, the debate continues over the cause and consequences. We don't deny that carbon emissions may play a role, but we don't believe that the case is sufficiently proven to justify a revolution in global energy use. The economic dislocations of such an abrupt policy change could be far more severe than warming itself, especially if it reduces the growth and innovation that would help the world cope with, say, rising sea levels. There are also other problems -- AIDS, malaria and clean drinking water, for example -- whose claims on scarce resources are at least as urgent as climate change.

The IPCC report should be understood as one more contribution to the warming debate, not some definitive last word that justifies radical policy change. It can be hard to keep one's head when everyone else is predicting the Apocalypse, but that's all the more reason to keep cool and focus on the actual science.

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02 February 2007

Joe Lieberman is a Terrific American

By Kimberley A. Strassel

WASHINGTON -- The war in Iraq brings to Joe Lieberman's mind an old Mark Twain story. "When a cat jumps on a hot stove, the cat never jumps on the stove again because the cat always assumes the stove is hot," says the senator from Connecticut. "But we are smarter than that. OK, so Vietnam didn't work out. But there are times when you've got to use force, to protect your security and to protect your principles."

Try telling that to the nuisance of congressional felines now prowling around the Iraq debate, eyeing it like a cooker on high boil. Next week will witness a Senate vote on a resolution condemning President Bush's new plan to quell growing sectarian violence and terrorism in Iraq by increasing the number of troops. While that vote may be largely symbolic, it comes amid far more ominous congressional calls to cut off war funding, to leave the Iraqis to settle their differences, to bring the troops home.

If ever the Iraq political debate was at a crossroads, it's now.

At the center of this fray is Sen. Lieberman, a sort of Horatio at the congressional bridge -- spiritedly trying to hold back a bipartisan stampede out of Iraq that he believes will result in devastating consequences for that country, the region, and, most importantly, U.S. national security.

"Iraq is the central part of a larger and ultimately longer-term conflict in the Middle East between moderates and extremists, between democrats and dictators, between Iran- and Iraq-sponsored terrorism and the rest of the Middle East . . . Are we going to surrender to them, surrender that country to them, and encourage people like them to be in authority and power all over the Middle East and in a better position to strike us again?" asks Mr. Lieberman. If only Livy had his quill today.

These are blunt words, and quite a few more flow from Mr. Lieberman throughout a lively interview in his office this past week. A born gentleman, he refrains from lobbing any pot shots at opponents. But he made clear that he felt Washington had been ducking an honest debate about the war and the consequences of abandoning it, hiding instead behind "cosmetic" resolutions and rhetoric. Four years into the conflict, Mr. Lieberman thinks there is value in remembering again why it is we're in Iraq.

This is well-trod ground for a man who supported not just the first Gulf War, but sponsored the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act that aimed to topple the regime. In 2003 "we did something that was right and courageous, which was to overthrow Saddam Hussein," says Mr. Lieberman. "He was a genocidal dictator, he tried to assassinate a former American president, he used chemical weapons [on his] . . . own people . . . He was a hater of the United States." Saddam was a danger, not to mention a barrier to creating a democratic Middle East that ceases to be a threat to the U.S.

This is why the senator remains unmoved today by those colleagues who have abandoned the cause, lamenting that they were "deceived" about the existence of WMD or that they have "lost confidence in the leadership of the president." Says Mr. Lieberman: "If you still think, not only that the original purpose of going in was right, but that how it ends will have a significant effect on American security for a generation or more to come, then you don't back away." And that, he says, counts even in the face of faltering public opinion. "I think we are elected to lead. . . . Americans are understandably responding to the carnage they see on TV every night, and what we have to urge them is not to surrender to the people who are causing that carnage."

Mr. Lieberman, who returned from his latest visit to Iraq in December, freely acknowledges what he believes were "the series of mistakes that were made after Saddam Hussein was overthrown," from the disbanding of the Iraqi army to our reluctance to send more troops (something he has advocated since the fall of 2003). Still, "we were getting to a point where we were making some significant progress -- and it is important not to overlook this. There were three elections held. Those were a powerful demonstration of what no one is able to deny, even those who now want to turn away and give up on Iraq. Which is that the majority of the Iraqi people want a better life for themselves and their families. The majority is not involved in sectarian violence and clearly not involved in terrorism."

There are still hopeful signs, he says. His recent trip included a stop in Ramadi in Anbar province -- an area thick with terrorist operatives -- where the senator saw evidence that "we've turned the tribal leaders to our side, against al Qaeda." Mr. Lieberman also felt from his discussions around the country that there were strong signs a "moderate, multiethnic coalition" was coming together among political leaders who would support Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a renewed push to restore order. "This thing is still winnable," says Mr. Lieberman. "And it is critical that we take advantage of this opportunity to win."

Which gets to President Bush's proposal for more troops, a plan Mr. Lieberman enthusiastically endorses. "The people in Congress, and the public, were quite right in saying the president's got to come up with a different approach. And he did. It's better than any other plan I've seen because it holds the hope of success. Most of the other plans are effectively just giving up and walking away."

Are 21,500 additional troops really enough? "I wish it was more, truthfully," he answers, throwing his own wish of 35,000 or even 40,000. "But I believe it is adequate. What I hope is that it is implemented quickly." The troops will be vital to quelling what Mr. Lieberman sees as several very different conflicts currently raging in Iraq. In Baghdad, more U.S. soldiers will bolster more Iraqi forces who aim to hold neighborhoods wracked by violence between local Shiites and Sunnis. In Anbar, they will hunt down al Qaeda. More troops, says Mr. Lieberman, will also provide the opportunity "to change the dynamic" in the wider war on terrorism, by sending a message to Iran and others that the U.S. will not abandon the region's moderates who are struggling to create a new democratic order.

And what of those Americans looking for some guarantee this will succeed? "None of us can be certain [the president's plan] is going to work; all the choices we have in Iraq right now are difficult. But by far, the one that is the worst, and would have disastrous consequences, is to pick up and leave, in small steps or in one large step, for all the reasons we know," he replies, emphatically. He also wants to speak beyond the proposal itself, to its author. "I have admiration for the president, because I believe he gets it. He understands the challenge of our time, which is from Islamic extremism . . . And he knows what he's doing is not popular. But he's doing it because he thinks it is right for the country."

So what does that say about Mr. Lieberman's Senate brethren, those who now want to turn tail for Rome, abandoning Horatio and his damned bridge to the enemy? What, I ask, accounts for the growing numbers of senators -- including Republicans such as Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, Maine's Olympia Snowe, Oregon's Gordon Smith -- who could well provide the decisive votes to undermine their own president in a time of war?

Mr. Lieberman offers a few half-hearted (dare I say, gentlemanly) explanations for the Senate's frigid feet. Some feel let down because the WMDs were never found; others are "affected in a political context by the loss of public support." But he ends up back at a baser truth, conceding that "some people, I just think have been partisan about this -- and that, to me, is the worst reason."

Mr. Lieberman is also frustrated that those supporting the resolution are dodging the tough questions. "The resolution that is being talked about, in one sense I'd say it is offensive, because it is only cosmetic . . . It won't affect the implementation of a new plan to succeed, to win in Iraq. But at the same time it will send a mixed message to those who are fighting for us in Iraq, and those who are fighting against us in Iraq. It will be a very graphic example . . . that we are divided."

But what can Mr. Lieberman, President Bush and others do to stave off such a capitulation? For starters, he responds, his side needs to make sure the naysayers aren't allowed to just criticize. "Part of the case would be, look, if you are really against the war and you are really against what the president is proposing, have the nerve to do what Congress under the Constitution is authorized to do: Move to cut off the funding and then let's have a real head-to-head debate."

Critics of the president's approach might also be made to put forward an alternative, and justify their proposals -- beyond some vague notion that this must all be solved by the Iraqi parliament, which Mr. Lieberman explains isn't so much a solution as wish-fulfillment. "There is an attempt by some of my colleagues here to say that it is wrong to think a military victory is possible, and in the end this requires a political solution among Iraqis. Well, of course it does. But as President Bush said, and as I believe, you can't have a political solution, you can't have economic growth . . . unless you first have security. That's key. Security's basic."

The other alternative, of course, is to simply admit defeat. Some in Congress are working up the courage to say as much, and to further suggest that abandoning Iraq wouldn't be all that bad. "People say this is just like Vietnam, we could leave, and that would be that. That won't be that. We're in a war which has it origins in this part of the world, in the Middle East, in the conflict within Islam. If we pull out and essentially surrender to the extremists and terrorists, they are naturally going to follow us right back to our shores.

"If we leave the place collapses. And it's more than civil war, it's ethnic cleansing. The Iranians come in and dominate a good chunk of the country. Al Qaeda takes over a good part and uses it as a base. The Kurds [can sustain themselves] but it gets very ominous. . . . And then the same group of people who attacked us on 9/11, they achieve a victory, and they will use that victory to strike at us again."

Speaking of the threat posed by Iran, Mr. Lieberman has been equally unimpressed by the U.S.'s lack of resolve. "I'm troubled by this reflex reaction to talk with Iran. We're a strong enough country, when it seems productive we shouldn't hesitate to talk to anybody. But we ought to talk when it is in our interest, not theirs. And right now it is only in Iran's interest."

He says he's been encouraged by the administration's tougher stance in recent weeks, and in particular President Bush's decision to move another carrier battle group to the Gulf region -- "which sends a message to Iran."

Mr. Lieberman also notes that, "We know that some of our American soldiers are being killed by sophisticated IEDs from Iran. The evidence is just closed, clear, compelling. . . . I can't believe the concern expressed by some of my colleagues here about whether we have a right to take prisoner Iranians who we conclude are either supplying weapons to Iraqis who are using them to kill American troops, or training them to kill American troops." As for the rest of the world community, "they're in denial."

What is remarkable, I think toward the end of our conversation, is how spry and feisty the senator looks. He did, after all, just come off a draining year fighting a bitter battle -- against his own party -- for his political life. Mr. Lieberman is now officially an "independent," yet he takes care to describe himself as an "independent Democrat." Why identify with a party that is so uniformly opposed to him on an issue so dear to his heart? He admits he frets that foreign policy is the "Achilles heel" of his political side, and that "unless the Democratic Party can prove to the people that as a party it is not either pacifist or isolationist, but is willing to stand up and protect the security of the American people, then we're going to have trouble electing a president."

His own Democratic heroes are Truman and Kennedy. "The Kennedy inaugural was the single . . . speech that brought me into public life. Those famous words 'Pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.' That's what it has meant to me to be a Democrat." Horatio's challenge now is to convince his party -- and more than a few Republicans -- to also remember just who they are.

Ms. Strassel is a member of the Journal's editorial board, based in Washington.

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