27 August 2004

Around the World in 80 Column-Inches

Well, not quite; there's nothing from Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, or East Asia in here. Which is part of my point; but that's for another time.
  • Jackson Diehl tries his very best to put the Schlesinger report in some kind of context. Although some of his detailed attempts at linkage go a bit awry, his conclusion is spot-on:

    So why do the reports' authors deny the role of policy, or its makers? Partly because of the Army's inbred inability to indict its own; partly because of the desire of Rumsfeld's old colleagues, such as Schlesinger, to protect him. But there's another motive, too: a lingering will to defend and preserve the groundbreaking decisions — those that set aside the Geneva Conventions and allowed harsh interrogation techniques. Schlesinger argues they are needed for the war on terrorism; he and senior Army commanders say they are worried about a "chilling effect" on interrogations and a slackening in intelligence collection.

    The buried message of their reports, though, is that the new system is unworkable. Once the rules are bent for one class of prisoner, or one detention facility, or one agency, exceptional practices cannot be easily returned to their bottle — and the chaos of Abu Ghraib is a predictable result. Just as the Army professionals foresaw, Bush's 2002 decision undermined "U.S. military culture" and its "strict adherence to the law of war." That is the headline the investigators ducked.

    This is still far too verbose. Much shorter, much more accurate, and (to my mind anyway) more elegant would be:

    One does not promote the rule of law and democratic values by denying that they apply to one's own military forces and interrogation procedures.

  • Intelligence is not perfect. It cannot be perfect. (And it's a helluva lot closer to "perfection" than counterterrorism ever can be.) Brian Jones, the "chief dissenter" in the British intelligence community on Iraqi WMDs—that is, he did not believe there was adequate proof of Iraqi WMDs and said so in a memo (which, of course, was promptly ignored) notes through the Post (emphasis added; fake paragraphing removed for clarity):

    What really troubles him, Jones said, is that British intelligence and its sister agencies in other countries failed to accurately assess Iraq's weapons programs despite a clear mandate to do so. This suggests to him the limitations of intelligence and compliance monitoring, including inspections. "After Iraq lost the first Gulf war, we had greater access through inspectors than any of the existing arms control treaties would give us, and still we failed collectively through intelligence and through compliance monitoring to get the right answer," he said. "The truth is, we need to do a whole lot better than we did in Iraq," Jones said, "but I am not confident that what is required can actually be achieved."

    On the other hand, there are much more believable reports concerning the next nation to the east of Baghdad making their way through "leaks" into the public eye, but the Iraqi WMD fiasco has irreparably harmed their credibility and raised legitimate questions. That I believe the newer reports are closer to the truth may well come from my own prejudices, so I'm trying to keep an open mind. Hopefully, so will everyone else. <SARCASM> Yeah, right. </SARCASM>

  • Professor Ribstein offers some exceptionally clear insight into regulation of market failures. Although his concern is about the securities markets, I think his comments apply equally to the entertainment and intellectual property "markets," particularly given the high degree of arbitrage in those "markets." The INDUCE Act bears even more signs of hasty drafting and one-sided analysis than did SarbOx.
  • Later today, or perhaps tomorrow, I hope to post an essay on why technical innovators should care about the fate of dance choreographers' heirs. Hint: The Second Circuit got it wrong. On multiple levels, the most important of which do not appear to have been raised by the parties.