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Pentagon vs State Dept - whats your take?

 
 
Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 01:06 pm
Tell more, Fishin'. This was my first and only encounter with Zakarias.
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 01:22 pm
Went looking for comments on and by Zakaria (no "s"). Didn't find much except for two laudatory reviews in Amazon. I'm quote from one of them because it expresses what I heard Zakaria talked about in this morning's interview:

"....The major premise is this: unregulated democracy undermines liberty and the rule of law. There are a plethora of parallels to be drawn from this domestically (e.g. Benjamin Barber and Don Eberly), or internationally (e.g. Robert Kaplan, Robert Keegan, etc). "The Future of Freedom" will prove to be a profoundly troubling book for those who believe democracy flourishes anywhere it is planted or whatever culture it is grafted onto, and for those who believe democracy is synonymous with freedom. This is a very old argument, one that finds itself centered in political philosophy, and Zakaria's book is all the more important because of its timeliness, and because, even as it is an old argument, it is one that has never reconciled the individual with society, or freedom with duty....."

As one who is interested in the changes in American political and social character, I think the revival of this "old argument" is a useful one.
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 01:32 pm
Here's a Zakaria paper in Foreign Affairs (1997) which is probably the start of his book:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19971101faessay3809/fareed-zakaria/the-rise-of-illiberal-democracy.html


Series of relevant reviews from the Houston Chronicle:

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/ae/books/news/1851522
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fishin
 
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Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 05:16 pm
From what I've read about him statments like the one in the Houston Cronicle article are generally what gets him into trouble.

"the Arab rulers of the Middle East are autocratic, corrupt, and heavy-handed. But they are still more liberal, tolerant, and pluralistic than what would be likely to replace them."

More tolerant then what would replace them? What possible form of government could be LESS tolerant?

More pluralistic? Maybe.. If you happen to fit into the pluralistic society that only regards you to be a human being if you follow the state sanctioned religion, are male, wear your hair and clothes in the state perscribed fashion, etc, etc, etc... If you think and look just like everyone else THEN you MIGHT be accepted into society...

His determination that the US, Canada and the Western European nations are all "failures" of democracy because there are still people in these countries that live in poverty is a bit perposterous. By the standards he sets no democracy can be "sucessful" unless it reaches utopia.
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blatham
 
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Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 08:50 pm
guys

I'm short on time tonight, but here's a piece on Zakaria I bumped into by chance this morning...haven't read it yet.
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 08:56 pm
That was great, Blatham -- just the kind of reading I'm into this evening!
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blatham
 
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Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 09:07 am
fishin and tartarin

Zakaria is clearly a media fav right now. Saw him on two shows last night. But I have to admit, I found him a very careful and thoughtful guy with little evidence at all of fixed ideas. I suspect that fishin's earlier assessment of broad rejection of Zakaria's work overstates by some margin.

On the subject of his argument that a worse form of governance might replace the autocracies present now, this brings up back quite neatly to nimh's questions about the upsidedown-ness of things. Though the liberal tendency is to indict governments like that in Saudi Arabia for their autocracy, there is also an appreciation (shared with the real polikers) that revolution and instability can bring about more real misery than a stable, if unfree and injust and horribly inequitable, regime.

nimh....to the degree that it can be ascertained, do you think motive is the element which might help us tease apart this issue? I mean by this that liberals will tend to distrust enforced stability where it seems such is being determined by considerations such as 'good for business' or 'integral to our strategic interest'. Yet we will be much more forgiving where the motive is something akin to policing. Stability as a temporary civil institution to the end of furthering human liberty and expression, really, rather than stability as a temporary structure for extracting resources.
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fishin
 
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Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 11:27 am
blatham - I realize the thread has drifted from earlier comments about divisions and resignations with the State and Defense Depts but thought you might find the following Robert Novak opinion piece informative in light of your recognition of the public resignations at th State Dept as being significant...

The Army's Civil War
Thursday, March 13, 2003 Posted: 6:27 PM EST (2327 GMT)
http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/03/13/column.novak.opinion.army/index.html

WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- As the Pentagon prepared to go to war, it was considered a 100 percent certainty there in the middle of last week that Thomas White would be sacked forthwith as secretary of the Army.

Sober second thoughts prevailed, however, about taking that step on the eve of battle. Even so, nobody can guarantee White's survival.

White's problem is not last year's pseudo-scandal concerning his disposal of stock options earned as an Enron executive. His difficulty is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who desires total control over his vast realm. Rumsfeld has experienced trouble with the Army, especially its chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki. The retirement of Shinseki was announced long ago and will take effect in June. White's departure date is undetermined, and his critics in the Office of the Secretary of Defense want to change that.

In his latest policy disagreement with Rumsfeld, Shinseki on February 25 testified to Congress that "several hundred thousand soldiers" might be necessary for post-war occupation of Iraq.

White last week did not join the Pentagon's civilian leadership in contradicting Shinseki's estimate but endorsed the general's credentials. Not only did this undermine Rumsfeld's efforts to gain control of the officer corps that he felt ran wild during the Clinton days, but it raised the specter of a long and difficult occupation of Iraq.

Until George W. Bush brought him to Washington, Tom White had a storybook career as a highly decorated Army general who entered private life after 23 years to become a well-compensated Enron executive. He found himself in the middle of Rumsfeld's determination to discipline the Army by killing the Crusader mobile artillery system.

White appeared publicly with Rumsfeld to express solidarity with the Defense secretary's decision, but his body language betrayed disagreement. Rumsfeld later made clear to him he was not at all happy with White's performance.

The Crusader is the tip of the iceberg. Uniformed officers resented failure to use tube artillery in Afghanistan, with Shinseki publicly testifying that the Crusader could have saved American lives at the battle of Anaconda. Rumsfeld also crossed the Army by eliminating funding for high-tech Army brigades. Nothing better reflected the split than Shinseki's most recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Breaking all precedent, Rumsfeld had announced 14 months in advance that Shinseki would be stepping down as chief of staff. Thus, the general was a longtime lame duck February 25 when Sen. Carl Levin, senior Democrat on Armed Services, asked him how many troops would be needed to occupy Iraq.

His "several hundred thousand" answer was so far from the official line that it confirmed Rumsfeld's view of Clintonite generals out of control. While Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz declared Shinseki "wildly off the mark" and Rumsfeld also disagreed, the general stuck to his estimate. That left it to the secretary of the Army in testimony before Senate Armed Services last Thursday.

White anticipated the inevitable question, and had carefully drafted an equivocal answer: "Gen. Shinseki has some experience in this, having run the stabilization force in Bosnia, and he's a very experienced officer." Pointing out that "there are others" who disagree, White concluded: "You have two views on this right now, and expertise in support of each view." That surely was no ringing affirmation of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz line at an hour when White's future was shaky.

White and his closest associates were not aware of how close he came to being fired last week, and not even normally well-informed U.S. senators had any hint. Naturally, nobody at the Pentagon will confirm a possible sacking. Not speaking for quotation, White's critics in the Office of the Secretary of Defense portray him as an impediment in the goal of reforming the Pentagon. His admirers see him, in contrast to a long line of lackluster service secretaries, committed to the Army institutionally.

Actually, the 1986 Goldwater-Nickles Act took the Army and other civilian service secretaries out of the chain of command, so that White is largely a symbolic figure. If he is dismissed on the eve of war, it will happen because Don Rumsfeld insists on the symbol of everybody at the Pentagon singing the same song without dissent.



It seems high-profle, public resignations aren't limited to the State Dept.
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 12:37 pm
Blatham -- Your comments go to the heart of the dilemma. In my view, the administration... well, it's been wrong in so many ways that picking out one "wrong" almost seems like nitpicking ... but the administration should never have committed to "democracy" in Iraq. It has been a PR move which will backfire, most likely. As I think I said backaways, self-determination is what's needed; "democracy" is not only a very narrow choice in a region which has other traditions, it's not even what the administration really means. The administration wants a friendly, subservient capitalistic state with, at best, the trappings of democracy.

My experience as an American liberal living for a long time in a dictatorship showed me that, bad as that dictatorship was (and god knows it was bad in many respects), the gradual opening up of Spain which started in the early sixties (due, in large part, to the influx of foreign tourists, capital, and new residents, changing the social climate) led to an end to dictatorship in 1975 and a remarkably smooth transition to the democracy which Spain now enjoys.

I have enjoyed hearing bits and pieces of Zakaria on NPR and very much like his ability to describe accurately where America is at, where it should be at, and the kind of responsibilities we must accept to maintain freedom.

You cannot take a Vermont maple or a Texas redbud and plant it in Iraq and expect it to grow. No more can you implant a political system which we haven't even perfected ourselves after 200 years, and expect the newly unburdened Iraqis (who are, after all, a group of warring factions kept under a dictatorship) to make it blossom into a democracy overnight. Someone suggested quite seriously that we might send them copies of the Federalist Papers in translation. We might want to reread them ourselves and see the kind of sniping and bitchin' and moanin' we went through two centuries ago and are still doing it now.

Self-determination (hard enough) should be the goal, and the sooner we get out of the there and let other nations and NGO's (and perhaps the Carter Center) facilitate the process, the better.
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blatham
 
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Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 08:19 pm
fishin

Thank you very much for that piece. This is a realm (one of many) in which I am frightfully unknowledgeable. So State doesn't much like Rumsfeld, and the Pentagon doesn't much like him either, and even his relatives in Germany have told him not to come around any more. The sympathy area in my brain is not firing.
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nimh
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 05:28 am
Tartarin wrote:
Self-determination (hard enough) should be the goal, and the sooner we get out of the there and let other nations and NGO's (and perhaps the Carter Center) facilitate the process, the better.


What I find troubling in the left's current preoccupation with self-determination is that it implies an equation between government and population, between government and country. When referring to the principle of self-determination to claim the right for governments in the Middle East or elsewhere in the South to steer their own course - their right, essentially, to be safeguarded from the pressure of "imperialist" or "neo-colonialist" powers from the North/West - whose self-determination is it leftists defend? That of the country, the people in question, or merely that of the people in government claiming the right? Can the governments in the Middle East be said to represent the population? A government like Saddam's or Assad's clearly does not.

Perhaps we should more clearly distinguish between the causes of self-determination and national sovereignty. The former has been traditionally espoused by leftists. The idea that people should have the right to rule themselves came to be seen in terms of national self-determination - the right of nations to rule themselves. That's how the left ended up applauding the emerging independence of countries in post-Habsburg and post-Ottoman Europe and that of countries decolonising themselves. But to what extent has that turned out to be problematic, in itself already? The Habsburg empire has come to be rehabilitated itself slightly, in this last decade of nationalist fervour and violence, as a place of relative tolerance and openness, in themselves liberal values, I'd say. In the decolonised world, many brutally dictatorial regimes have come to power under the banner of national self-determination. That doesn't mean that decolonisation itself was wrong, just that leftists should remind themselves that the principle of self-determination was, originally, about people ruling themselves, not about the immunity of governments, and that governmental independence from foreign rule is merely the means to that end.

Perhaps that's where the distinction with national sovereignty comes in. (I am no expert on international law so I might bandy these labels about much too freely). The principle of national sovereignty has come to be used by governments to deflect any outside criticism - 'undue interference in domestic affairs' as catchword. That ended us up totally impotent to act against a regime harming its own citizens - as long as the terror stayed within the national borders, neither UN nor foreign power had the right to intervene. I personally thought the break with this norm in the case of the Kosovo war was a victory for liberals. Liberal, or leftist, values like human rights and minority rights imply a universal ambition, and in the attempt to have the principle of national sovereinty stop them at the country's borders I recognize conservative or rightist values, in which people are essentially regarded as subjects of their sovereign - their regime, their government - rather than citizens with independently defined rights. The Kosovo war meant the acknowledgement that the principle of sovereignty could be superceded by the need to defend those rights.

The point being that the principle of a people's self-determination can in principle be hampered as much by a native dictatorship as by an outside intervention. I'd agree in principle the former has the slightly better papers in terms of self-determination definitions, but doesnt that wholly depend on what kind of dictatorship, what kind of intervention? Take Afghanistan: was the Taliban regime more of an expression of the self-determination of the Afghan people than the current, fragmentised politics, helped into place courtesy of Western intervention, is? And that's just a bad example ;-).

I'm not saying I don't agree with you on what the motivations of the US administration are, or that I take its word on its sudden embracement of the values of "Iraqi Freedom" and Middle-East democracy. But I do think that striving for self-determination as the ultimate goal can not be equated with "getting out of there, the sooner, the better" - that's just crude isolationism, even if it does come forth from a sincere self-critical concern for the fate of the rest of the world. Outside intervention can be necessary to achieve a people's self-determination (as you already imply yourself, in fact, by hinting "other nations" could intervene). A leftist or liberal agenda should include the need for it, and focus on defining benchmarks and institutionalisations that make it an instrument for the good rather than the instrument the Bush government is wielding now - instead of rejecting it out of principle, and consequently falling back on the practice of inviolable borders, 'untouchable' national sovereignty and diplomatic impotence vis-a-vis the domestic repression of brutal dictatorships.
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nimh
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 05:45 am
I realised that when I was writing this lengthy reply I was really also still answering the questions of another thread I was posting on last night - see http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=6630&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 07:25 am
Nimh -- Just a quick response -- lack of time at the moment. Self-determination as a means, not an end. Precisely the opposite -- government and people are not equated. Get rid of the romantic delusions about democracy -- about our governance. Concentrate on maintaining the basic institutions -- and first among these is the understanding that voting is NOT a privilege, not ONLY a right, but a DUTY -- and that voting is based on informing oneself, and that information depends on the media, and that the media should be wholly free.... of influence, of ownership. The basic institutions (= values) have to come from citizens and tradition, not laid on from the outside. And on and on.

We should never intervene in another nation's affairs UNLESS we intervene as members of the world community through, for example, the UN. Our intervention in Afghanistan, according to current accounts of that country, cannot be taken as a success. I think we've blown it in Iraq.

I don't think it's helpful to think of self-determination (or governance) in terms of left and right. We are trapped (and not only in A2K) by those labels. I was hoping this forum was edging towards erasing that deadening dichotomy.
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 07:36 am
jjorge*197982*

How long is Bush going to get away with bamboozling the American public?

As long as the majority agree with his action. I was against the action originally but after reading about the atrocities committed by the Saddam regime I now believe the action was needed. The UN just based upon the human rights violations, which they were fully aware of, should have sanctioned it. Just another failing of that august organization
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fishin
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 09:35 am
Tartarin wrote:
Get rid of the romantic delusions about democracy -- about our governance. Concentrate on maintaining the basic institutions -- and first among these is the understanding that voting is NOT a privilege, not ONLY a right, but a DUTY -- and that voting is based on informing oneself, and that information depends on the media, and that the media should be wholly free.... of influence, of ownership.


There is a fundamental flaw in this line of thought. "Self-determination" means that the people decide what form their government takes and how it will operate. What if they choose a form of government and politcical system that doesn't rely on voting? Voting is one of the "romantic delusions" of democracy. Something can't be a "duty" if it isn't a part of the process and it's value as a right in that situation become trivial.
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nimh
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 03:59 pm
Tartarin wrote:
I don't think it's helpful to think of self-determination (or governance) in terms of left and right. We are trapped (and not only in A2K) by those labels. I was hoping this forum was edging towards erasing that deadening dichotomy.


I consider myself a leftist (though an unconventional one, as you'll have noticed), and I see no problem in asking what "we, leftists" can do better, what "we, leftists" seem to risk overlooking, et cetera.

There's reason enough for a lively debate as the rift between, say, interventionists versus "hands off"-ists (as in, "hands off Serbia", "hands off Iraq" - which sounds idealist but basically risks being just that, a hands-off approach) runs straight through both the left and the right.

Two further asides:

Tartarin wrote:
Our intervention in Afghanistan, according to current accounts of that country, cannot be taken as a success.


Depends on what your criterium is - is the situation there now good or even moderately acceptable? No. Is it better than under the Taliban? Depends - apart from whether you have the luck of living in Kabul or not - on whether you prefer anarchy or dictatorship. I'd say the state of lawlessness now is always still better than the totalitarian rule before.

Tartarin wrote:
the media should be wholly free.... of influence, of ownership


that's impossible - somebody always owns the TV station, whether it is a commercial company or the state.

Tartarin wrote:
We should never intervene in another nation's affairs UNLESS we intervene as members of the world community through, for example, the UN.


I'd agree with you on that one, but you already knew that.
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 04:16 pm
Agree with you about the media -- didn't put in conglomerates because I had a feeling it might touch off a tangential discussion. A discussion which is badly needed but there's already too good a one going on here to start another conversation which I'm overly apt to do.

Afghanistan/success issue: Defined both in terms of what we accomplished compared to what we could have accomplished, and what the Afghanis might reasonably have expected vs. what they got. We are very big boasters but don't "put out." We'd do better to work with others, set more reasonable goals, and keep our mouths shut.

Re: left and right. I've been thinking about starting a forum on this -- erasing the use of the term and examining the central issues which allegedly divide us. There's a lot of ground in the center and I find myself straddling: one foot in the far left, one in the center or what used to be right-of-center. Very much like Dean -- see latest in the Dean forum.
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blatham
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 06:15 pm
fishin

I think Tartarin's point re voting as 'romantic delusion' is just that assuming a free election system is, by itself, enough to protect liberty and equality, and that other factors need to be in place as well. One might imagine free elections in an insane asylum, or free elections where media is tightly controlled by an oligarchy, or free elections in a country where notions of class yet prevail, or even free elections where the system is such that only multi-millionaires have a chance.

nimh

Looking at your differentiation above...
Quote:
Liberal, or leftist, values like human rights and minority rights imply a universal ambition, and in the attempt to have the principle of national sovereinty stop them at the country's borders I recognize conservative or rightist values, in which people are essentially regarded as subjects of their sovereign - their regime, their government - rather than citizens with independently defined rights. The Kosovo war meant the acknowledgement that the principle of sovereignty could be superceded by the need to defend those rights.

This is my notion as well, that something like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights out to trump the possibly competing value of the sovereignty right.
Getting there, as you know, is no small trick simply due to different world views and moral/ethical traditions. Quick example: within the Anglican Church, the resistance on allowing same sex marriages is coming most powerfully from African voices. But we can get close, as the UDHR demonstrates.
But such simply cannot be achieved, I think we three believe, by US fiat. Or by any single dominating power, saintliness being more rare than Mr. Rumsfeld might have us believe.
The grave danger which I perceive in this present administration's liberation project (like Soviet or Chinese communism's, for example) is that it might too easily be something other than what it says it is. Or even thinks it is. Transparency in decision making would have to be paramount, and that is certainly not the case with the Bush government. Honesty in language would have to prevail - unlike presently with terms such as 'coalition'. And there would need to be deference to and respect for local traditions - a criterion that Billy Grapham's son wouldn't match.
Most fundamentally, I think, such a world-wide liberationist system would have to be validated by broad agreement. Those projects and philosophies which held international agreement regimes to be inconveniences or impediments ought to be precisely the one's which set off immediate alarms.
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nimh
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 06:38 pm
Blatham

I think we are almost entirely on the same page, considering both the need, or goal, of a suggested "world-wide liberationist system" itself, and what conditions or benchmarks should be in place and met.

And I do think it is "our" alternative on this that we should stay true to, that it should be that which we should forcefully propose when Rumsfeld's version of world-wide liberation comes up. That it's what we should do (thats a bigger and more abstract "we" than just you and me, obviously) instead of staking out reactive positions that are the mere negative image of that of Rumsfeld c.s.

Here in Holland we have two leftist parties opposing the war - the Socialists and the Greens. The Socialists have the slogan "No Saddam No War" - well-meant, but basically meaningless in indicating anything more than opposition to this war - there's no alternative implied. The Greens on the other hand collect under the banner "Make Law Not War". I think that when, for example, Syria now comes up, we should focus on what we would propose in terms of international lawmaking and -enforcing to deal with its dictatorship, rather than merely on highlighting where Rumsfeld's case in the question is wrong and to be distrusted. However much easier and more acutely provoked the second is.

But I think I've made that point more than enough by now ... :wink:
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blatham
 
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 06:56 pm
nimh

It might, however, be the case that a particular regime (which will remain unnamed) will have to get the heave ho, and it's notions thoroughly repudiated, before your vision and mine (and Tartarin's) has a snowball's chance in hell...:wink:
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