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Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE EVER-GROWING DISAPPOINTED-IN-BUSH CLUB....Bill Kristol, who's not just a neocon but a second generation neocon, cranked up his long-festering criticism of the Bush administration's war efforts today, telling Chris Wallace that "we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq." Kristol now joins Francis Fukuyama in the disappointed neocon club, William F. Buckley and Bruce Bartlett in the disappointed normal-con club, and guys like Richard Clarke and Michael Scheuer in the disappointed mega-hawk club. Pretty soon, in one of those weird inversions so common in politics, John McCain is going to be the only friend George Bush has left.

In any case, it turns out that Digby's reaction to Kristol was similar to mine: doesn't this sound an awful lot like the old school Marxist lament that you can't say communism failed since it was never really put into practice anywhere? Given neoconservatism's Trotskyite origins I suppose this parallel isn't a surprise or anything, and I look forward to coming across a disparaging reference to "actual existing neoconservatism" someday soon. It should be the start of an entertaining bloodletting.

Kevin Drum 7:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (119)

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Comments

Poor Bill

Posted by: Ringo on February 26, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think the question for Mr. Kristol is why has he spent the last three years defending a war that wasn't a serious effort. Why has he not shouted from the mountain tops? I think disingenuous is a good description for this right-wing lickspittle.

Posted by: Jim M. on February 26, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bushism is and always has been a religious cult whose leaders are not to be questioned and whatever they do is by definition not only "right" but "righteous."

We will see who is really programmed into the cult and who is not.

Posted by: alan on February 26, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, Bill Kristol hates America.

Something is coming to mind concerning rats and ships...

Posted by: MJ Memphis on February 26, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Wolcott picks up on the same theme:

http://jameswolcott.com/archives/2006/02/commandante_kri_1.php

Posted by: Jones on February 26, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

In another breakthrough, Kristol stated that Islamic terrorists are not practising real Islam and so we should not be fighting the Muslims.

Posted by: lib on February 26, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

So, what would a "sserious effort" have looked like?

Trying to answer my own question, I'm pretty sure it would have involved tax increases. That's the sort of reality that separates the "neo" from the "conservative" pretty fast, I bet.

Posted by: craigie on February 26, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

So, what would a "serious effort" have looked like?

I work in the aerospace industry with its share of a lot of hard core republicans. More than once they have stated that US should just drop a nuclear device in the area. Perhaps people like Kristol are too afraid to say what they actually want. May be he is saying the same thing in code.

Posted by: nut on February 26, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Trotskyite? Back when I was in college, that was an epithet the Stalinists used to throw at the Trotskyists.

Did Kevin just unwittingly tell us something about his past???

Posted by: litho on February 26, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Don't confuse intellectuals with power.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 26, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Not a serious effort

Is an apt description of the entire Bush presidency*. One day, the folks duped by Bush will wake up to the reality of just how badly they were duped, and just how badly this idiot governed.

History won't judge this dipshit kindly, and you won't be able to find a single, solitary idiot claiming to have voted for Bush in 20 or 30 years.

*The only exception: Bush has been extremely, extremely serious about looting the treasury for the benefit of the top 1%.

Posted by: teece on February 26, 2006 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

More than once they have stated that US should just drop a nuclear device in the area.

Sort of gives the lie to the idea that this was all about bringing democracy to the middle east, doesn't it?

Posted by: craigie on February 26, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kristol: "It wasn't our neoconservative principles that sucked, it was Dubya's implementation."

And in another 30 years, another generation of Kristols will be pushing the same swill.

However, it's not all bad; it's pretty nice to see the Republican party turning into the Donner party...

Posted by: grape_crush on February 26, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

History won't judge this dipshit kindly, and you won't be able to find a single, solitary idiot claiming to have voted for Bush in 20 or 30 year

Shortstop has this covered - she's said this before, and I 100% agree.

25 years from now, tbrosz will be in his rocking chair going "Bush? Never heard of him. I voted for Clark."

Posted by: craigie on February 26, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

You liberals can't stand it because the war in Iraq is going so successfully. President Bush just told a bunch of real heros, the American Legion, the other day.

The real problem is that the liberal media is sabotaging our efforts to bring democracy to a region that has seen nothing but scummy despotic Muslims running the Middle East. They are to lazy to leave their nice hotels in Baghdad and just make up a bunch of lies instead of reporting all of the good things the US is doing in Iraq like painting schools and handing out soccer balls.

You traitors hate it because freedom is on the march in Iraq and are just jealous becase President Bush will one day be remembered as the greatest leader in US history

Posted by: Al on February 26, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

The real problem is that the liberal media is sabotaging our efforts to bring democracy to a region that has seen nothing but scummy despotic Muslims running the Middle East. They are to lazy to leave their nice hotels in Baghdad and just make up a bunch of lies instead of reporting all of the good things the US is doing in Iraq like painting schools and handing out soccer balls.

If the war is being competently executed, how can it be sabotaged by reporters?

Posted by: Ravinia on February 26, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK
"...and guys like Richard Clarke and Michael Scheuer in the disappointed mega-hawk club."

Rickard Clarke has not been a hawk on Iraq. Are you thinking of Richard Pearle, a mega-hawk and also a neocon?

Posted by: w on February 26, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

It's a clever analogy (to the Marxist's lament), but I would say it's a little different. The Marxists were being obtuse-- there was no way to implement Marxism other than in a top-down, authoritarian fashion, because a Marxist system creates no incentives to work, which means you have to employ force to get the public to comply. All of Marxism's problems as a governing philosophy flowed from that.

In contrast, Kristol does have a point that the war wasn't fought the way he wanted it to be. I don't personally think it would have made that much of a difference, but Rumsfeld did have a very different view as to how to use the military than Kristol did.

But the question for Kristol is "who's fault is that?". And the answer is it is partially the fault of neoconservatives and other hawks who knew better but who refrained from criticizing or (even better) refusing to support the Bush Administration when it became clear that they were not fighting the war the way the neocons and hawks felt it had to be fought.

These guys went in the tank for Bush when it counted, and gave him intellectual cover for a war that was fought in a way that they didn't think would work. Why? For many reasons. Certainly Rove and Bush would have pulled their invites to the good parties and access to the good sources if they hadn't have played along. Kristol's publisher, Rupert Murdoch, also may have wanted him to support Bush wholeheartedly. Less cynically, maybe Kristol thought he shouldn't let the perfect be the entity of what he thought was good (i.e., deposing Saddam).

Whatever the reason, however, it's too late for Kristol to carp now. He had his chance to join the others who opposed the war (albeit for different reasons), and tried to help stop it because he knew it wouldn't work in the form it was being implemented. Not only did he not do that, but his magazine demagogued those who did as of questionable foreign policy acumen and as not caring enough about national security. Now, Kristol has gotten what he deserves. Unfortunately, the US is also stuck in Iraq.

Posted by: Dilan Esper on February 26, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Don't get your knickers in a twist, Kevin - the disappointments with President Bush are only a pale reflection of the shock and horror that just about every major Democrat inspires among Kristol, et al. Criticism among friends is a different kettle of fish.

Posted by: DBL on February 26, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

That's the problem with not being a poli sci major. Please explain how neo-conservatism has its roots in Trotskyism, and please explain (if possible) what the difference is between Trotskyism and Leninism. I think I used to know the latter, but how this relates to Donald Rumsfeld's politics is lost on me.

and yeah, Fake Al has kind of leaped the leviathan.

Posted by: Bob G on February 26, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

BUSH WAS RIGHT! SADDAM WAS A SERIOUS THREAT AND APPEASEMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN SUICIDAL! THE INSPECTIONS WERE SUBSTANTIVELY THWARTED AND THE SANCTIONS CORRUPTLY VITIATED! THE PROOF IS OUT THERE:

[VIA POWERLINE]

Investors Business Daily summarizes the evidence.

There are Saddam's audio tapes:

On them, Saddam talks openly of programs involving biological, chemical and, yes, nuclear weapons.

[A]s late as 2000, Saddam can be heard in his office talking with Iraqi scientists about his ongoing plans to build a nuclear device. At one point, he discusses Iraq's plasma uranium program something that was missed entirely by U.N. weapons inspectors combing Iraq for WMD. This is particularly troubling, since it indicates an active, ongoing attempt by Saddam to build an Iraqi nuclear bomb.

"What was most disturbing," said John Tierney, the ex- FBI agent who translated the tapes, "was the fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were totally unknown to the U.N. Special Commission (or UNSCOM, the group set up to look into Iraq's WMD programs)."

Then there's the account given by Georges Sada, second in command in Iraq's air force:

He has written a book, "Saddam's Secrets," that details how the Iraqi dictator used trucks, commercial jets and ships to remove his WMD from the country. At the time, the move went largely undetected, because Iraq pretended the massive movement of materiel was to help Syrian flood victims.

Nor is Sada alone. Ali Ibrahim, another of Saddam's former commanders, has largely corroborated Sada's story.

So how was Saddam able to use his "cheat and retreat" tactics without being found out? He had help, according to a former U.S. Defense Department official.

"The short answer to the question of where the WMD Saddam bought from the Russians went was that they went to Syria and Lebanon," said John Shaw, former deputy undersecretary of defense, in comments made at an intelligence summit Feb. 17-20 in Arlington, Va.

"They were moved by Russian Spetsnaz (special ops) units out of uniform that were specifically sent to Iraq to move the weaponry and eradicate any evidence of its existence," he said.

The conclusion?

President Bush was right. We had to invade to disarm Saddam otherwise, he would have completely reconstituted his chemical, nuclear and bio-weapons programs when inspectors left.

IDB could have added that we now know that Saddam trained thousands of terrorists at three or more training camps in Iraq, up to the beginning of the war in 2003. So the fear that Saddam might slip WMDs to terrorists for use in the U.S. was anything but far-fetched.

It is also important to note that only a tiny percentage of the documents left behind by Saddam's regime that potentially relate to WMD programs and support for terrorist groups, and only a tiny percentage of the audiotapes recorded in Saddam's office, have been translated. So far, we haven't even seen the tip of the iceberg; but even that has been enough to require the conventional wisdom to be re-evaluated. It seems virtually certain that there is much more to come on these subjects.

When the Iraq Survey Group reported that it was unable to find Saddam's WMDs, it was treated, understandably, as a huge news story. The news media interpreted the ISG's failure as undermining, to a great degree, the administration's case for the war. Fair enough. But now it appears that the administration, along with the CIA and the intelligence services of all other countries who assessed the issue, likely was right after all. Why isn't this equally big news?

Posted by: The Objective Historian on February 26, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

This whole fiasco reminds me of the old saying about lipstick and a pig. This entire presidency has been one hell of an ugly sow. It's rewarding now to see how the rest of the swine are starting to realize there is no Victoria's secret to make this beast look purty. Sooooouuuuuuuuiiiiiieeeee!

Posted by: marvc on February 26, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

This whole fiasco reminds me of the old saying about lipstick and a pig. This entire presidency has been one hell of an ugly sow. It's rewarding now to see how the rest of the swine are starting to realize there is no Victoria's secret to make this beast look purty. Sooooouuuuuuuuiiiiiieeeee!

Posted by: marvc on February 26, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Great, Kevin, you publicly called the neocons (which Bill Buckley is not) exactly what they are, a bunch of damned communists

Posted by: Matt on February 26, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

This whole fiasco reminds me of the old saying about lipstick and a pig. This entire presidency has been one hell of an ugly sow. It's rewarding now to see how the rest of the swine are starting to realize there is no Victoria's secret to make this beast look purty. Sooooouuuuuuuuiiiiiieeeee!

Posted by: marvc on February 26, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is usually an honest guy, but here he is trying to create something out of nothing. In context, Kristol was explaining that his answer to the recent violence was that the terrorists are to blame and our effort should be to kill and defeat them. And he stated the obvious. We have not had a serious three year effort to conduct a war focused on killing terrorists. We have been doing other things, e.g., the constitution, elections, politics, etc., and focusing sometimes on terrorists.

Kristol did not even say what we have been doing the past three years was wrong, only that it has not been a serious three year effort to fight a war killing terrorists [and Saddamists]. I assume he thinks we should have focused more on killing terrorists, which is a debatable proposition and no doubt more easily said than done.

Kevin is far better than most liberals, but the focus on Bush hatred even causes him to mischaracterize and now, perhaps even without knowing it, state he is looking forward to the "entertainment" of "bloodletting" [bad choice of words] among republicans that would accompany failure in Iraq.

Why can't guys like Kevin see that failure in Iraq would be bad for all Americans, and the rest of world, and not entertainment for him because he thinks republicans will suffer?

Posted by: brian on February 26, 2006 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Objective" Historian:

Saddam had no WMDs. He just didn't. It was all lies, and you believed them. The Administration recklessly pursued the neocon agenda, telling fools like you that they were doing it to protect the US from WMDs. You were duped. It is time for you to accept this and move on already. Bill Buckley has. It's your turn.

Posted by: Joel on February 26, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: it turns out that Digby's reaction to Kristol was similar to mine: doesn't this sound an awful lot like the old school Marxist lament that you can't say communism failed since it was never really put into practice anywhere?

You lump your reaction to Kristol with Digby's, but I didn't read his essay as a disagreement with "the old school Marxist lament that you can't say communism failed since it was never really put into practice anywhere." Digby contends that the neocon's ideal of democracy is phony--that it's always been phony--as a cover for their real goal of world domination. I don't hear him saying, as you seem to be implying, that Marx's goal of giving power to the lowest workers was disingenuous. So if Marx was sincere, the assertion that communism was never put into practice is accurate. Conversely, neoconservatism has been put into practice, as it has never wavered from its actual imperialistic goals.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 26, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol may be "disappointed" in the reptilian Bush, but will continue to support him as America descends into bankruptcy and Third World status, because party loyalty is all that matters to them.

I'm sure he will be "disappointed" in President Jeb Bush in 2009, after Hillary tanks in 2008, too.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 26, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Why can't guys like Kevin see that failure in Iraq would be bad for all Americans, and the rest of world, and not entertainment for him because he thinks republicans will suffer?"

brian:

Why can't guys like you see that continuing to occupy Iraq in the face of failure is bad for all Americans, and the rest of the world, and not an excuse to defend the Administration's disasterous policies?

Posted by: Joel on February 26, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

gold star for brian maintaining the true faith!

gold star to the objective historian for his/her continued outstanding parody of a right-winger!

as for kristol, he continues to labor under the impression that donald rumsfeld works in a different government than george bush, which really takes some creative thinking.

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

I guess it could have been worse. We could have attacked North Korea or Iran first. Of course people like Bill Kristol and his ilk will always be welcomed on Fox and to a lesser extent on MSNBC and CNN. Cable loves wars where just some unlucky Americans and collateral damage in other countries are killed. The majority in this country see it for what it is. No more war.

Posted by: darby1936 on February 26, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

"...John McCain is going to be the only friend George Bush has left."

There'll always be Lieberman.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on February 26, 2006 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

It's like that joke about the brooding old Red:
"Stalin wasn't a Communist--I was a communist!"

Posted by: Steve Paradis on February 26, 2006 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

When Iraq finally crumbles into complete internecine chaos -- and it will very soon -- the Bush administration and its sycophantic cohorts will also crumble as the American people and the rest of the world finally see what a disaster they have truly been. The ensuing chaos will expose the lie that this war has been all along, and it will expose the truth that this region of the world is so much more complex and dangerous than Bushco were ever capable of understanding. It was never about setting up a simple version of American democracy in a region of the world where they have been fighting each other over their respective versions of Islam for more than a thousand years. We will not be able to smooth over these differences with an American style government bandaid. Of course the Repubs and Bush supporters will never be able to admit that; they don't really have a clue why this quagmire developed because they still think it is a success and is "winnable" !!!!

They are incapable of admitting the truth that this war is an unmmitigated disaster and has cost too many innocent lives and far too much money out of tax payers' pockets. In the end, it will have all been for nothing because we failed to put the focus on fighting the real terrorists instead of the straw men Bush made up in Iraq.

Posted by: marvc on February 26, 2006 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

You're right, Kevin. This Trotskyite impulse towards "enlightened" authoritarianism seems built on the notion that you can somehow find or create a perfect, one-size-fits-all orthodoxy.

It's ironic, because a common con complaint about liberals is that we make and enforce laws as if people are better than they actually are -- that they understand human nature better than we do. But if you scratch a neocon's surface (you know, past the hair goop and extra padding), you usually find an idealist who just can't quite believe that his ideals don't work in the real world with real people.

When you look at it that way, you realize all that "optimism" crap is just a convenient, Capraesque fig leaf for their dogged cluelessness. Dem party types, are you listening? Debunking time is upon us.

Posted by: Kenji on February 26, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mainstream, pro-American Democrats could capitalize on opposition to Bush if they did the American thing and opposed massive illegal immigration. Unfortunately, Democrats are just as corrupt as the GOP.

-- Illegal immigration news

Posted by: TLB on February 26, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

"...doesn't this sound an awful lot like the old school Marxist lament that you can't say communism failed since it was never really put into practice anywhere?"

That's exactly what it is.

Posted by: Derek Copold on February 26, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Mr Bush didn't have very high vote totals in 2000 or 2004. His prior career highlights were slim: the Texas Rangers deal, 2-term governor of Texas. It's not like he had a mandate. Everybody always has high expectations when a favorite gets elected, but eventually it becomes obvious that there are too many competing factions for any one of them to have a tremendous effect.

I think that on the whole Clinton was better than Bush, but Clinton inherited a growing economy over which he had little influence (small tax increase, Congressional reform of welfare, spending increases), whereas Bush inherited a contracting economy over which he may or may not have had some influence (tax cuts, spending increases.) But each was a disappointment to the extremes of his party (liberals for Clinton, conservatives for Bush.) In the long run I think that the Bush boost for energy development will be a good thing, but it's too soon to know, and the involvement isn't popular on the right (except for the possibility of pork for the local constituents.)

In 1936 the liberals of the Democratic party announced that the New Deal was dead. One can feel their disappointment even today. But it wasn't dead -- that was just the usual overheated rhetoric of true believers disappointed by real politics.

Posted by: republicrat on February 26, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

[Y]ou won't be able to find a single, solitary idiot claiming to have voted for Bush in 20 or 30 years.

Kinda like that Vanilla Ice album, To The Extreme. 11 million people bought that album, and every last one of them will deny it today.

Posted by: Thlayli on February 26, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Unfortunately, Democrats are just as corrupt as the GOP.'

Yes, it's very easy to string any list of words together, isn't it? Unfortunately, day is just dark as night.

Posted by: Kenji on February 26, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat, bush had very high vote totals; what he didn't have was high percentage of the vote totals.

as for the economy, i don't really want to derail this thread, but you're wrong on several levels.

that is, you're wrong about clinton: his policy decisions made an enormous difference in the economy, and that's why we had the longest and best peacetime expansion in modern american history.

and you're wrong about bush: his policy decisions have also made an enormous difference in the economy, and that's why the rich are getting richer and everyone else is scuffling. the chickens of bush's perverted form of keynesian stimulus will come home to roost before he leaves office, btw, although they'll still be coming home for years in the future, since he has left us without any tools to offset the next recession.

and while we're at it, the idea that whatever someone said in 1936 reverberates today isn't just wrong: it's deranged.

insofar as any past moment in the democratic party reverberates today, it's two choices by lyndon johnson: to do the right thing and push through civil rights legislation, thereby losing the south, and to do the wrong thing and push on in the big muddy, thereby fracturing the party in ways from which it still has not fully recovered.

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

So, Billy.

What was that "noble cause" to which the Presidencial moron referred when the freak first talked with Cindy.

Richard Cranium.....

Posted by: Sky-Ho on February 26, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

howard, you are one of the reasons I keep coming back to this site. Thanks!

Posted by: Joel on February 26, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Joel, too kind! but i'll try to keep rewarding your faith....

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

But isn't a lack of serious effort over three years to be expected when you go to war with the army you have?

Posted by: C.J.Colucci on February 26, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

howard, you are correct that Bush did not have high vote percentages.

the idea that whatever someone said in 1936 reverberates today isn't just wrong: it's deranged.

do you feel the same way about other years? 1863 ("the world will little note nor long remember what we say here"), for example, 1789, 1933 ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"), 1938 ("I believe that what we have here is peace in out time" [that's approximate]), 1940 ("we will meet them on the beaches, ...").

Idealist intellectuals are always disappointed by the presidents. It's a part of growing up in America.

Posted by: republicrat on February 26, 2006 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Joel,

I criticized Kevin for considering a future failure in Iraq as producing a source of "entertainment" for him. You raised a different issue, which is whether we will fail. You have concluded we will.

I regard your certainty on the issue as speculation about an unknowable outcome. The outcome will depend on current and future actions and events. Wars and their aftermath are uncertain things, most of which historically could have ended far different if persons, armies, parties or countries had taken different actions (e.g., the American Civil War, which might have produced a far different result if any number of different actions had been taken).

As to Howard, he seems correct about LBJ, but I do not understand the analogy to the choices faced by democrats today. What are the democrat choices today that are comparable to the choices of LBJ? By the way, for all of Johnson's faults, he should be lauded for his choice on civil rights -- but I suspect as a politician he also must have calculated that the democrats could win without the south or it appears he thought democrats could regain strength in the south within 30 or 40 years.

Also, I believe it is true that the Civil Rights Act passed with a higher percentage of repubican senator support than democrat senator support. So in a strange twist, the republican party of Lincoln gained the south after a century of significant support for civil rights. Joel, this goes to show the unpredictability of future political events (even political events in Iraq) are unpredictable).

Posted by: brian on February 26, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat: i didn't mean that nothing said in the past has no reverberation in the present.

i meant - as i thought was clear in context, but just to be sure - that "In 1936 the liberals of the Democratic party announced that the New Deal was dead. One can feel their disappointment even today" was not only wrong but deranged.

clearer?

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK
In any case, it turns out that Digby's reaction to Kristol was similar to mine: doesn't this sound an awful lot like the old school Marxist lament that you can't say communism failed since it was never really put into practice anywhere?

Sure, but then, the Marxist lament is perfectly accurate, given that all practical implementations of "Marxism" were actually derived from Leninism, which was a radical alteration of Marxism to avoid the necessity of actually going through a capitalist phase (the creeping reforms of capitalism that have occurred in most advacned Western capitalist states throughout the 20th Century to the modern day are, in some ways, more genuinely "Marxist" than any overtly "Communist" system ever was -- which is not to say that it is fair to describe them as "Marxist" either.)

Much as I think that much of what neoconservatives believe is fundamentally wrong, dangerous, and doomed to failure even if implemented conscientiously, I don't think that it is at all unfair or inaccurate to point out that, even in implementing the neoconservative agenda, the Bush Administration has been fundamentally unserious, driven by perceived advantage in domestic politics rather than adherence to any kind of policy principle, and, on top of that, broadly incompetent.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 26, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

"You raised a different issue, which is whether we will fail."

No. Not whether we *will* fail. We have already failed. I'm not predicting the future, I'm describing a present reality.

Possibly the only thing that Bill Buckley and I have ever agreed about.

Posted by: Joel on February 26, 2006 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

brian, i didn't make an analogy to the democrats of today with my point about LBJ. I was simply correcting republicrat that if he wanted to feel something from some past moment in the democratic party today, 1936 wasn't it, the johnson administration was.

and there's nothing strange about the republican party gaining the support of the south: it was calculated. it was called the "southern strategy" and was pursued right out in the open.

i'll continue to give you a gold star for being a true believer on iraq: they're getting rarer and rarer, so a sighting is certainly interesting.

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

btw, brian, you stirred my interest in the voting on the civil rights act:

By Party and Region
The Original House Version:

Southern Democrats: 7-87
Southern Republicans: 0-10
Northern Democrats: 145-9
Northern Republicans: 138-24
The Senate Version:

Southern Democrats: 1-21
Southern Republicans: 0-1
Northern Democrats: 46-1
Northern Republicans: 27-5

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964#By_Party

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

"So in a strange twist, the republican party of Lincoln gained the south after a century of significant support for civil rights. Joel, this goes to show the unpredictability of future political events (even political events in Iraq) are unpredictable)."

Uh, Brian, I grew up in the American South during the Kennedy-Johnson years. I didn't just read about it, like you did, in a high school textbook.

The Republican party didn't take over the South because of a record of "significant support" for civil rights. They took over because the Democratic party rejected apartheid, leaving the Southern white vote nowhere to go but to the Republicans. Far from being "unpredictable," it was, for those of us who were actually there, entirely predictable.

Try out your phony history on someone else, brian. I know better. I was there.

Posted by: Joel on February 26, 2006 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Howard,

And many of those Northern Republicans were later forced out by the conservative takeover of the GOP - For example Sen Thomas Kuechel of California was stopped in the 66 primary by a combination of Walter Knotts John Birchers from Orange County and former Soutnern Democrats from the San Joaquin Valley. The Republicans who helped this legislation paid a political price. It was similar to the cost the Democrats paid in 94 for voting for the Brady Bill in 93.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 26, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

While it's true that both Kristol and Fukuyama have now criticized Bush, Kevin neglects to mention the key and telling difference: they're criticizing Bush for completely opposite reasons.

Fukuyama criticizes Bush mainly because of his continued embrace of the neoconservative doctrine, which Fukuyama now rejects as deeply flawed. Kristol criticizes Bush because he didn't take the approach far enough.

Kristol is a quintessential neoconservative who has no reason to live if his movement dies. He's simply in his, well, final throes here.

It's over for him. He knows it and he shows it.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 26, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

There is an old saying that describes Kristol's position.

"Success has a 1000 fathers. Failure is an orphan."

Were the policy successful Kristol would be claiming full credit.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 26, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Leave it to an egghead like Kristol to refuse to give up the ghost on his crackpot ideology.

It's like the death of Communism. The last bastion of Marxist were always to be found in academe well after the Berlin Wall came down and China trended capitalistic and Communism itself was really nowhere to be found.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 26, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Howard,

Thanks for the research confirming my point that a far greater percentage of congressional republicans than democrats supported the Civil Rights Act (a fact that surprises many people, possibly including you). Notwithstanding that fact, the republicans gained the south. I realize a democrat president was instrumental and there was at least to some extent a later republican southern strategy that took advantage of the opportunity, but the republican lock on the south was not easily predictable in 1960 and has lasted longer than even LBJ anticipated.

Joel, I don't want to get personal, but I suspect your are either very highly partisan, on the young side, or very judging in your personalility. Neither you nor I, nor anyone else, knows how Iraq will turn out. No disrespect intended, but it should be obvious that how it turns out depends on the future acts of Americans, Iraqis and many others.

Posted by: brian on February 26, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Brian, i wasn't "surprised." i just wanted to affirm my hunch about the numbers, which i did: net out the south, and the dems supported the civil rights act more than the gop did.

remember, the whole reason there were so many democratic senators in the south to begin with was as a carryover from the civil war and reconstruction, which suggests that even lbj, with his notion that the south would be lost for "at least" a generation underestimated the presence of legacy racism in the south.

(as a side note: i supported jindal over blanco for governor of louisiana. when he lost, no less a gop apologist than fred barnes noted that there were simply still too many gop voters in the south who wouldn't vote for a non-white person.)

(as a further side note: bush won the 13 states of the old confederacy by 5.5M votes in 2004; he lost the other 37 states (including all the other red ones) by 2.5M votes.)

thirdpaul, i considered carrying on to the point you made, but you have more detail than i would have had, so i'm glad i didn't!

Joel, thanks for your first-hand account. My professional work has brought me in close contact with movement veterans from birmingham and greensboro, and i've heard their first-hand accounts, which yours tracks.

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

oh yes, back to iraq: saying that we don't know how history will turn out, while true, is also a complete cop-out from taking responsibility for our decisions in the present. we can play pretend all night long.

or we can acknowledge that however history breaks for the people of iraq (including the possibility that there won't be an iraq), there is no outcome available that is worth the costs in american blood and treasure, not to mention the opportunity costs this war has imposed.

Posted by: howard on February 26, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol is so hypocritical. He complains that Rumsfeld planned to withdraw most of the troups as soon as Saddam fell. But in Kristol and Kaplan's book The War Over Iraq, they said things would go so well that we would be able to do exactly that.

Posted by: Eduardo on February 26, 2006 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Howard,

Your numbers are correct, but to what point? Your 2.5 million vote "win" for Kerry is made up entirely (plus some) of margins in California and New York. Therefore, the south joined the entire rest of the country (except Calif and NY) in voting for Bush.

Yes, northern democrats supported the civil rights act in greater percentage than Northern republicans, but southern democrats were a very powerful force in the democrat party and the congress. The act never would have passed without republican support, which was very high.

I did not remember that LBJ said "at least" a generation. He was a better predictor than I thought. But I still think he must have calculated that the democrats could still win with northern and western votes.

I think Barnes is much tougher on republicans than the typical liberal pundit is on democrats, but putting that to one side, one of the most fascinating questions of American politics is whether southerners would vote for a black republican, such as Rice, Powell or some other rising star. You are down there, and seem to think no. I am more optimistic and think it would be a great day for America if southern states voted for a a black republican president, especially if it was Rice who grew up as a little girl suffering the prejudice of the old south.

Posted by: brian on February 26, 2006 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

Applying the principle of Occam's Razor to Kristol's about-face, Ron Byers upthread has it: ..."failure is an orphan."

Bush is truly the Anti-Midas. Everything he touches turns to shit. Who in their right mind wouldn't try to wash themselves of it?

True, some have beeen 'cleaner' than others since 2003, but then there is always the Prodigal Son Syndrome. I'm betting that this syndrome will become rather cliquish as the war fails further, and the various legal issues now in play unfold.

Just call me optimistic.

Posted by: jcricket on February 26, 2006 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK


What's funny is that Riverbend is wetting herself and blaming the US and the new army for not doing more, after spending years accusing them of brutality. I think, the Sunni population is headed for a breakthough here. They might finally realise that the best the Sunni radicals can do is piss off the US so much, they actually get out of the way for the well-deserved Shiite radical retaliation.

" And where are the Americans in all of this? They are sitting back and letting things happen- sometimes flying a helicopter here or there- but generally not getting involved.
....
Im reading, and hearing, about the possibility of civil war. The possibility. Yet Im sitting here wondering if this is actually what civil war is like. Has it become a reality? "
- posted by river @ 2:27 AM

Posted by: McA on February 26, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think disingenuous is a good description for this right-wing lickspittle.

Me, I think "lickspittle" is a good description for this right-wing lickspittle. I've never understood why Kristol is considered an intellectual. Like Bush, it's really hard to imagine him getting anywhere without the family name. And his current pissing and moaning has all the moral authority of a whore who's been stiffed for her services....

Posted by: sglover on February 26, 2006 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

sglover ~ You Rock!

Posted by: jcricket on February 26, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

I find Kristol to be bright and one of the more honest pundits. He is often critical of President Bush and other republicans.

On Iraq, I think there is a fair chance that the recent violence will be a wake up call for the Arab Sunnis that they need to get on board and help root out the bad guys and support the government, or risk a civil war that they will clearly lose. Helped along by whatever bribes we can offer, isn't that the rational conclusion by the Arab Sunnis?

Posted by: brian on February 27, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

brian:

If it was going to play out that way, it would have happened a long time ago. Zawahiri already took Zarqawi to task for killing too many Muslim civilians. Pitched battles have been fought between nationalist insurgents and foreign jihadis. The class of Sunnis that Riverbend belongs to have little affection for either religious whackjobs or Saddamite henchmen.

But the Sunni insurgency isn't going away because the Shi'ites have gotten into the business of reprisal killings in a major way.

When you have a culture that believes that collective punishment is morally justified, it's very hard to pull back from arming your own sectarian militia and and identifying more strongly with your tribe and religion than with an Iraqi government that appears weaker daily.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Helped along by whatever bribes we can offer, isn't that the rational conclusion by the Arab Sunnis?

Since when did vast groups of human beings engaged in bitter factional struggles ever collectively come to a "rational conclusion"?

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 27, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

When you have a culture that believes that collective punishment is morally justified

As in "I think we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity"?

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 27, 2006 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

I just mean that in ANY situation where central authority is extremely weak and internecine violence looms, any "rational" individual joins up with his/her group's militia, or any other strong force which they are entitled to claim protection from. If I were in prison, I'd convert to Christianity and join the damn Aryan Brotherhood to keep from getting mauled. And if I somehow found myself alone on the West Bank, I'd find the first settler encampment I could and starting singing the she'ma at the top of my lungs.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 27, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

On Iraq, I think there is a fair chance that the recent violence will be a wake up call for the Arab Sunnis that they need to get on board and help root out the bad guys and support the government, or risk a civil war that they will clearly lose. Helped along by whatever bribes we can offer, isn't that the rational conclusion by the Arab Sunnis?

Wow! That's brilliant! With that rising violence means peace is close logic, you could fill in for Smilin' Don Rumsfeld!

Iraq has spiralled entirely out of American control. The Iraqis ignore us, because by now they've ample evidence that we're not, at bottom, honest players. Spread all the fucking bribe money you want -- the AK-47 markets can use the business.

Biggest goddam strategic disaster since Operation Barbarossa. To return to the original topic, Kristol and Perle and the rest of those corpse-feeding maggots ought to drafted into the infantry.

Posted by: sglover on February 27, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe:

Nice to see you back off a rather pointless and inapt straw man :)

Obviously, that was my point as well.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe:

The notion of collective punishment is one od the more noxious legacies of Abrahamic religions.

Collective punishment, taken to tribalist extremes, makes the rule of law impossible.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

This is getting pretty hard to follow. Collective punishment? ABrahamic religions? Riverbend?

On the current and future situation in Iraq, you guys act like you know so much about it without saying much in the way of facts, when so much of the present and certainly the future is unknown.

Did you guys also know with certainty how Poland, Russia, Bosnia, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and other hot spots were gong to ultimately play out?

I don't know that there are "vast groups of human beings engaged in bitter factional struggles" or that the result of the Arab Sunnis getting on board necessarily would have played out by now. It just seems like your views and the certainty of your conclusions/predictions are motivated by Bush hatred as much or more than the facts.

Posted by: brian on February 27, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

frankly0 is exactly right -- Fukuyama and Kristol, while both criticizing Bush now, do so from opposite directions and belong to opposite camps. Fukuyama even referred to the Kristol group as the "Leninist" neocons. He now thinks that the whole war thing was wrong, whereas Kristol thinks it wasn't fought "seriously" enough -- we didn't kill enough Arabs.

Kristol also keeps insisting that the Iraq / Al Qaeda link has been proved. And he is pushing for war against Iran, even when his fellow Fox "pundits" -- and even Brit -- express reservations.

I'm not going to celebrate the demise of Kristol's faction, as many seem to be doing, until I see it. Actually, about 20 years after that, if they're still gone.

Posted by: JS on February 27, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

brian:

Well, for the moment anyway the Sunnis seem to be pulling back from the brink and there's hope that they'll rejoin government talks after they lift the daytime curfew in Baghdad and things stay relatively calm ... from the NYT today.

Understand, brian, that what we were doing was reacting to your own factless speculation that the Samarra mosque bombing could be a turning point that would somehow convince the Sunnis to renounce the insurgency because they realize they cannot win an all-out civil war. This has been a hawk talking point for awhile now.

I think there's *some* truth to it. I think clearly all factions spooked themselves last week and they came as close as Iraq has been since the invasion to an all-out civil war. Nobody but the most hardcore fanatic wants that outcome.

There's an opposing dynamic operating, though. And that's the fact that the ISF is manned primarily by Shia and Kurds, and the attacks on Sunni mosques and reprisal killings argue strongly that's what's good for the Shia and the Kurds applies to Sunnis as well, and maybe they ought to arm their own militias if they can't count on the government to protect them.

The government needs to get its act together, and pronto. It seems to be losing legitimacy daily ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

In any case, it turns out that Digby's reaction to Kristol was similar to mine: doesn't this sound an awful lot like the old school Marxist lament that you can't say communism failed since it was never really put into practice anywhere?

Pretty hard argument to make, considering the Pubs and their Neocon soulmates controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, and most of the MSM. If you can't get it done under those ideal circumstances, then I'm sorry: you just can't get it done, and no amount of rear-guard apologetics or intellectual viagra is going to change that.

Posted by: chuck on February 27, 2006 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

The government needs to get its act together, and pronto. It seems to be losing legitimacy daily ...Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

So does the Iraqi government. ;)

Posted by: Windhorse on February 27, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz?

[crickets chirping]

Tbrosz????!!!

Posted by: chuck on February 27, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Actually great and informative commenting in this thread despite the feeble troll attempts.

One question: what is a "Sadaamist" ? Is it the same as an "evil-doer" ?

How many "Sadaamists" equal a "Trotskyite" ?

Just askin'..

Posted by: Tim on February 27, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't they be Sadaamites? Part of the axis of awfullness combining everything wingnuts fear:
A-rabs n' homersexuals, all in one neat package. Rapture us up, Scotty!

Posted by: Kenji on February 27, 2006 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

Eduardo - you're right.. Kristol, along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz planned this whole thing all along, terrorism nothwithstanding. It's stunningly disingenuous for him to claim that the war wasn't fought correctly when it was he himself failed to forsee the insurgency.

Posted by: Andy on February 27, 2006 at 3:45 AM | PERMALINK
Sure, but then, the Marxist lament is perfectly accurate...

But, does anyone know what "Marxism" is?

(Did Karl "I am not a Marxist" Marx know?)

Posted by: obscure on February 27, 2006 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

It woulda been polite, if nothing else, for somebody to have answered Bob G's questions: "Please explain how neo-conservatism has its roots in Trotskyism, and please explain (if possible) what the difference is between Trotskyism and Leninism."

Neo-conservatives are the folks (and their kids) who were originally leftists, like Irving Kristol (this guy's father), and Norman Podhoretz, John Podhoretz's dad. These guys attacked the Democratic Party in the 50s for moving too slowly on civil rights because it contained a large chunk of Southern segregationists, and they were passionate opponents of the Vietnam War.

Nobody much cared what they thought (except, well, them) but in those days they were diametrically the opposite of National Review, for example, which published white supremacist apologies and was all for fighting in Vietnam. Conservative criticism of Vietnam were more or less like Bill Kristol's now, that the only problem is that we weren't serious about killing enough of the bad guys.

So all political movements include (or acquire) "I told you so" intellectuals, which is particularly entertaining when the movements are losers.

In the history of Communism applied loosely where it doesn't quite belong, "Leninists" are folks who out-organize and out-agitate broader political movements which include 'em -- revolutionaries, rather than reformers. (Think Lenin knocking off Kerensky.) The defining characteristic of "Leninists" is that they win -- or, at least, that they are trying to.

"Trotskyites" like to think of themselves as even more revolutionary than Leninists, but their distinguishing characteristic is that they lose: and rationalize their failures by the stupidity of the electorate, or the government, or the brutality of what whupped 'em, e.g., Stalinists. Trotsky brilliantly predicted that Stalin's international strategy would fail in 1926, that the Chinese Nationalists would turn on the Communists forced into that alliance by Stalin, but so what? Along with his brilliant insight and murderous record, ol' Leon was on his way to meet an ice ax in Mexico.

Kristol and Podhoretz, the fathers, were all self-identified Trotskyites, back in the day. When what they ostensibly wanted (civil rights, our loss in Vietnam) actually happened without much help from them, they abruptly changed their minds, helping to form the Committee on the Present Danger in the 1970s, leaving the Democratic Party over McGovern's candidacy, forming coalitions with Scoop Jackson, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and others (including, eventually, Reagan), opposing detente and arms control treaties and essentially arguing "Moscow delenda est".

But don't confuse any of that with 'winning'. A rule of thumb: the further a guy is from the successful exercise of power, the more neo-conservative he is.

I interviewed Norman Podhoretz once at the first Second Thoughts conference in 1988, when a former Viet Cong guy was boo'd because he refused to endorse the contras, on the honest grounds that, he said, he didn't know anything about Central America. Podhoretz said to me, without a trace of irony, "Well, I didn't know anything about Vietnam, and that never stopped ME."

Sorta sums 'em up, don't ya think?

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Podhoretz said to me, without a trace of irony, "Well, I didn't know anything about Vietnam, and that never stopped ME."

Sorta sums 'em up, don't ya think?
Posted by: theAmericanist

>>slaps forehead

I have more respect for the stuff that winds up in the lint trap of my dryer than for either of these blowhards.

Make that both of them, tied up in a pretty ribbon.

Now isn't that a distressing image?

Posted by: CFShep on February 27, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Bush has failed because the neocon philosophy is morally and intellectually bankrupt, depending as it does not on fact but on faith-based presumptions that arise from delusions born of arrogance, self-righteousness, self-centeredness, self-interest, and a hatred of all that is not like them.

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 27, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

A good source for that history is Fukuyama's recent essay, The Neoconservative Moment.

One quibble. You say that the The Public Interest / Manhattan Institute group that became the nucleus of the neocons was anti-Vietnam War in the early 60s? I thought one of their most important commonalities was strong anti-Communism, although from a left perspective (as in Stalinst Communism isn't true Communism)?

Why would they oppose the Vietnam War in the early 60s and swing so strongly in favor of it after the McGovern debacle? Doesn't strike me that political expediency would count for much of a motive for that crew.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Ask them.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Well, sadly enough, these guys *did* make it into the inner circle of power, so while they may have self-identified as Trots when they were gadflies in the wilderness, it's probably more accurate to say that neocon doctrine became closer to Leninism in the final analysis.

The Leninist concept of the vanguard party (a small cadre able to see above current events, selected to give The Historical Process a push) is disturbingly similar to certain ideas of that other neocon wellspring, Leo Strauss. While I agree with Fukuyama that Strauss himself was more an old-school classics professor than an Ivory Tower Machiavelli, there's an aspect of his ideas variously called "obscurantism," or a contrast between esoteric and exoteric aspects of political doctrine. I'm pretty certain this is derived from the Noble Lie in Plato's Republic -- the notion that every regime is founded on great crimes and being honest about this is no way to inculcate public morality.

Which is just another way of saying that the neocons believed in the morality of dissembling propaganda (rightly understood only by a ruling elite) for a proper ends. Which is, in itself, a quintessentially Machiavellian concept, as well.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

I guess it's just very difficult to imagine how one could be both doctrinally anti-Communist and opposed to the Vietnam war *before* it became apparent to all and sundry that it was a fool's errand. If Podhoretz is as clueless about Vietnamese history as you suggest, it doesn't seem based on a tactical analysis of the outcome of Diem Ben Phu ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I think you guys might be over-thinking this situation. The Bush 'doctrine' never had anything to do with NeoCons or other ideas.

Bush: War Preznit, Two terms! Bush dynasty!

Posted by: MarkH on February 27, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

An insurance defense attorney in Dallas once said to me:

"So you're that vanguard of the proletariat that my mother always warned me about."

Still cracks me up.

Posted by: CFShep on February 27, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: Given neoconservatism's Trotskyite origins I suppose this parallel isn't a surprise or anything, and I look forward to coming across a disparaging reference to "actual existing neoconservatism" someday soon.

Take one to the $2 window.

But, since that's exactly the 'Bush is no Reagan' whine in another bottle, I'll go cash that ticket now, rather than wait.

Posted by: CFShep on February 27, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK
I think you guys might be over-thinking this situation. The Bush 'doctrine' never had anything to do with NeoCons or other ideas.

Bush: War Preznit, Two terms! Bush dynasty!

You forgot plundering the treasury for the good of your fellow Oligarchs.

Posted by: Law of the Jungle on February 27, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

CFShep:

Yeah, that's pretty damn amusing. Especially so if the family of lawyer in question were East European refugees :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, ye of little faith! Squabbling among each other while giving the real cause of our Iraq problem a free pass. True patriots know that this administration has vision and skill. We shall thwart our enemies at home and win greater prosperity of our citizens - even for undeserving liberals and others of doubtful loyalty.

As for current problems in the middle East, we can solve them in a trice with available weaponry if it were made clear that we, the public, will no longer suffer the obfuscations and disinformatin of the liberal, biased media.

I think we can look forward to a twenty or thirty year interval of increasingly conservative government because that is what the American public clearly want and shall have given appropriate solution of problems with the media. J. Yoo and the Attorney General have shown clearly that the Executive has the power and authority in time of war to deal with the number one problem. Let them get on with it.

Posted by: Minute Man on February 27, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

In 1981, the late Tip O'Neill asked a friend of mine, a college professor and longtime liberal activist (former speechwriter for JFK) a question that y'all might usefully ponder in this very different context. Intellectuals rationalize far more than they lead -- and when they DO lead, it's precisely because they've gotten out of the way of those with real power.

Tip had known the professor for decades, of course, and for all his bluster was a far more practically educated and shrewd man that most academics. So he put his finger precisely on the problem when my friend met with the Speaker to argue for the recommendations of a blue ribbon commission (most of which eventually became national policy, over the next decade):

"Why should I give a shit what you guys think?" Tip asked him. "The only ones on your side are the editorial writers."

Not many votes there.

Bob, I stand by my assessment of you as a chew toy in these discussions, particularly since just now, you're sorta squeaking like a plastic steak. What changed the neo-cons' mind was LOSING in Vietnam, abruptly followed by the sudden and alarming prospect that America just might be defeated in the Cold War. Hadn't you heard of this? It was in all the papers, even made a few newscasts.

By the early 1970s as the disaster in Vietnam unfolded, the U.S. had lost its once-decisive strategic nuclear advantage of the USSR. (As late as 1963, the U.S. could plausibly threaten to nuke the Soviets with bombers and, as a long series of overflights with spy planes demonstrated, there wasn't much the Soviets could have done to stop us. By the mid-60s, MAD doctrine was largely intended to counter Soviet ICBM capabilities with the idea that while counterforce nukes might work, there would be more than enough countervalue nukes, e.g., on American submarines, to make 'victory' impossible. But by 1972, the Soviets had enough nukes that it was just possible that they could have conceivably staged a counterforce first strike, and then it would be up to US whether or not to blow up the world, or surrender [NB -- France and Germany would have surrendered in a heartbeat]: thus, the ABM treaty to conjure up an eternal stalemate. THAT's what the necons rejected: bored of being Trotskyites, they wanted to WIN. 'Course, a leopard can't change its spots.)

So, Kristol wants to win in Iraq. (shrug) So do I.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

I am intrigued by the assertion that George W. Bush is the worst president ever. I think that Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were worse presidents, though both had better resumes as candidates. Nixon was an avid reader with a retentive memory, yet he gave us bad governance. I also think that LBJ was a worse president, on the whole, though the voting rights act and civil rights act are great accomplishments. Jimmy Carter had solid accomplishemts, but he repudiated his accomplishments during his re-election campaign, and asserted that any future president would make as many mistakes as he had -- a truly bizarre campaign strategy.

I do think that George W. Bush, Al Gore, and John Kerry were among the worst candidates ever. Al Gore would have been elected but for a few thousand miscast ballots by his supporters, something not his fault that must be grating on him; it was Al Gore who gave us the phrase "there is no controlling legal authority" on the topic of illegal campaign donations, and he ran away from Clinton's successful economic policies, trying to portray himself as a populist instead of a semi-aristocrat. Why would a candidate run away from what was clearly one of the most successful economic policies of recent decades, a policy set while he was vice-president? It made no sense. Bush also tried to portray himself as a "man of the people" (blue jeans and brush clearing) instead of a semi-aristocrat, but Bush seems to like the people whose votes he wants, where as Gore seemed to disdain them.

If 2000 and 2004 are any indication, then the Democrats need something more than a weak opponent if they want to win in 2008.

Counting back to my first vote, I have voted for Democratic presidents about twice as often as for Republican presidents. Hence my name "republicrat", though "demorepublicrat" has a more quantitatively accurate letter count.

Posted by: republicrat on February 27, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Besides, Buchanan was the worst President ever.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

> Bob, I stand by my assessment of you as a chew toy in
> these discussions, particularly since just now, you're
> sorta squeaking like a plastic steak.

And, by making a gratuitous statement like this, you
illustrate why you're in the position you're in: wasting time
posting on this blog instead of, you know, advising all the
close-to-power types you get such a kick out of namedropping.

Power and diplomacy have a dialectical relationship. If you lack
the ability to communicate your ideas without needing to insult
and belittle, you guarantee your own spot in the wilderness.

Why did they kick you out of the DLC, anyway?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- I was never IN the DLC, Bob. (That literacy thing again: you have a tendency to to jump to self-serving conclusions.)

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, that's pretty damn amusing. Especially so if the family of lawyer in question were East European refugees :)

Bob
Posted by: rmck1

Lakeside Limosine Liberals. 14 carat WASP to the very core of his being.:)

He actually uttered this bon mot during a failed attempt, number 27, if memory serves, to seduce me. There was a St. Bernard named Big Mary invovled in a periperal role.

I won't go into that....

He was Democratic chairman for my precinct.

I knew right there the Democratic candidates were in deep trouble.

Posted by: CFShep on February 27, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

No, by your own admission you were prevented from ever joining the DLC. The phrase you yourself used was "blackballed from the DLC."

Now ... your discourse on the Vietnam crisis in '70 doesn't begin to address why the gestational neocons opposed our involvement in Vietnam a decade earlier.

I can certainly see any number of arguments for this, of course: Ho was a nationalist, not a Commie ideologue, the North was fundamentally about resisting French colonialism, Vietnam's history of occupation would militate against ever being radio-controlled by the ChiComs.

But if you bought into Kennan's Domino Theory and had just witnessed the crushing of the Prague Spring and Hungarian uprising, you'd also find it a bit facile in light of recent history.

My guess is that you aren't providing a full account of this, and that there was no doubt a great deal of *debate* on the issue of how much the US should get involved here from this group of intellectuals.

It may well have become an article of neocon faith when a consensus started forming in both parties that the mission was failing, which the neocons read as sending a dangerous signal to a much more well-armed Commie bloc.

And it's impossible for us to "win" in Iraq militarily, btw. Winning the country is in the hands of the Iraqis alone.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

CFShep:

Oh that's funny ... I can *only imagine* the St. Bernard episode :)

I had visualized it more along the lines of one of Alice Rosenbloom's (aka Ayn Rand's) grandkids on the receiving end of a finger-wagging ideological lecture at age 6 ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh that's funny ... I can *only imagine* the St. Bernard episode :)

I'll try to remember to tell this one someday.

It's necessarily a lot less salacious than a fertile imagination might supply. But what wouldn't be?

It's much better if I can act it out, readily lends itself to pantomime, but if I can do so I'll endeavor to get the story into a form which can be written out.

Dog *was* the size of a small tank but came equiped with overactive salivary glands.

Her real name was "Little Alice'.

>>waving to Bob.

Posted by: CFShep on February 27, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

CFShep:

I guess the first question that comes to mind is: Was the dog's presence incidental; just happened to get, umm, tangled up in the encounter -- or was the dog actually part of a seduction *plot*, necessarily planned out beforehand?

Not just salacious imaginations, dear (although the answer to your rhetorical question is, of course, none). I know some rl "dog stories" (involving leashes and encirclement) that are best not shared on a family blog :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Oy -- Bob, why DO you insist on clinging to my shoe, like I stepped in something?

[Just to get it out of the way, I tried to persuade the DLC to endorse the deregulation of employment-based immigration in 1998, coupled with an immigration reform based on Matthew 19:6. They decided to support a guest worker subsidy, instead: look up "Temporary Help" in TNR, which covers the issue if not the DLC gambit.]

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Don't ad-hom me for no supportable reason and I won't throw your own characterizations back in your face.

Not a difficult entente to honor, really.

You were a fine presence in the Pat Tillman thread. Carry on in that vein and we won't have any further problems.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Little Alice's saliva-drenched intrusion into post-concert (Phoebe Snow - he was straining so hard for 'hip' that I was worried that he'd do himself an injury.) coffee was the deal killer.

;-0

Posted by: CFShep on February 27, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

There's a bigger issue here, of course, and it has to do with a discourse of power that you bring to virtually all your disagreements with us Political Animal regulars. A common theme concerns the fact that we progressive intellectuals don't know squat about power, and until such time as we learn how to communicate in the language of power politics (image trumps issues, etc.), we'll be condemned to continue to wander in the wilderness.

And that's a respectable position, which also happens to be DLC conventional wisdom.

But this kind of view is going to be met with no small degree of resistance here, because while Kevin is a liberal centrist, most of the regular contributors are pretty solidly liberal/progressive. We're not strategists obsessed with winning elections; we're more concerned with the general state of the country and are batting around ideas that we think would make it better. There are certainly other venues out there if you want to be a savant of Democratic Realpolitik.

I'd like you to notice a fundamental irony here. Immigration is one of those issues on which neither party has a coherent stance. You got into a heated disagreement with the DLC (I'm assuming being "blackballed" entailed more than politely submitting a position paper that was subsequently turned down) over a firmly-held principle. And that's admirable, Paul. But in the process of making your point it appears you burned some bridges.

You took a stand on principle and didn't back down. In most cases, that would be heroic. But it doesn't jibe at all with the running lecture you submit us to regarding power politics. It's more like your own version of being a pro-choice absolutist or a take-no-prisoners opponent of George and Dick's Bogus Iraqi Misadventure.

There are issues of principle that some of us feel as strongly about as you feel about immigration. We're willing to mock the spineless centrist Dems for not addressing them. And we risk alienating some in the middle by doing this. Kissing powerbroker butt is just not looking very attractive to many of us atm.

You'd think -- since you never kissed DLC butt to advocate your immigration position, either -- that you might be able to at least identify with this ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

ROFL -- now I'm supposed to IDENTIFY with a chew toy?

Much less one that presumes to lecture about principle. There's an old line in politics, dude: "There comes a time to set aside principle and do what's right."

Stop being a chew toy, and you may eventually notice when one of those moments arrives.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

You realize, I hope, how much you sound like Ayn Rand on the lecture circuit :)

I just read the Ayn Rand chapter ("Ubermench") of Tobias Wolfe's novel, Old School. Fucking hilarious ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Or put more simply: People who like to lecture about power generally don't have any.

Flies, honey, vinegar and all of that.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- it's redundant to make the observation to 'ol Bob, here, but: you catch more flies with horseshit than honey.

If you WANT to catch flies.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> One more time: "What are our vital national interests?

Is this a test or quiz? :)

> That is, what are the specific matters over which we are
> prepared to go to war, to kill people and destroy things in
> order to reach a specific objective, defined by those matters?

Well, now you're talking about something more limited than our "vital
national interests;" you're talking about what are the types of
circumstances which justify using our military. Surely our national
interests encompass good diplomatic relationships with our allies, a
positive image in the world, a belief by all peoples that we embrace
transendent human values whether or not their regimes do as well, a
healthy balance of trade, leadership in technology -- things that fall
under the rubric of soft power and which Bill Clinton fostered well.

> What are the means to most effectively achieve those objectives?

That's a question of military doctrine. As a general principle I'd
say it entailed an embrace of the means of warfare as a last resort.

> Who are the people we are most likely to have
> to kill, and the things we are most likely to
> have to destroy, to achieve those objectives?

We kill people who are intent on killing us. We destroy the means
they have to do so. George Bush likes to assert that America is a
peaceful nation -- we only attack legitimate threats. While Bush
himself abrogated this in Iraq, it's a good start as a consensus.

> Talk about how going after bin Laden was a pure law enforcement
> matter (right, knocking off the Taliban was... a traffic stop,
> right?) is yet more evidence progressives don't get it."

Well Paul, as I said, *you* don't get it. Obviously, tracking
down Osama *is* a law enforcement issue, because otherwise we would
have sent the Special Forces into North Waziristan (lotta lefties
follow Michael Moore and try to turn that into a conspiracy theory).
Obviously, our relationship with Musharraf is more important, because
as much of a nimrod as he his, some of the Islamists in the ISI are
a *lot* worse and we don't want to piss off his military support.

Knocking out the Taliban was a secondary objective; had they turned
Osama over, they might be "ruling" (after their fashion) Afghanistan
today (great piece in the NYTimes Mag this week about the Taliban
roving ambassador who's now in his first year at Yale). The Taliban
wouldn't do it because he was invited, and hospitality is an extremely
important matter of honor in Afghan culture. And plus, we had to take
out the training camps. The Taliban were in the way. While there's
no love lost for that regime, "Afghani democracy" was an afterthought.

> Just ONE poster bothered to say a single thing to the point
> -- and all that guy said was Afghanistan fit, and Iraq doesn't.

The world is a better place that you're not a teacher, Paul.

> No, d-uh.

Nice to know you don't agree with the Iraq fiasco.

> Let's see, just off the top of my head: How
> about a Chinese first strike against Taiwan?

How do you mean a "first strike" here?

> Why not a genocide in Darfur?

I would support an intervention in Darful under the aegis of NATO.
And in Congo as well. One point Hurlbert makes is that we lost an
opportunity after Bosnia and Kosovo to define a "Clinton Doctrine"
of humanitarian intervention -- though in both cases, I don't think
they'd meet this particular bar, because neither regimes threaten
well-developed democracies. I support updating that calculus.

> How about a coup in Kazhakstan, a regime offering
> to sell plutonium to the highest bidder?

Kazakhstan is signal example of Bush's hypocrisy. It is one of
the most egregious human rights violators out there, and yet it's
an ally in the War on Terra (Haute) because they know how to crack
Islamist heads. Practical perhaps, but totally repudiates what
we're trying to do in the Mideast. Do you mean should we support
the leadership? Depends on who's pulling the coup. Should
we support the usurpers? Not if they're radical Islamists.

> Why not Pakistan?

We need to defend Musharraf. As military dictators go, he's not
a horrible guy. And the Salafi/Deobandi Islamists waiting in the
wings of his security apparatus are a *lot* worse than the Iranians.

> Look, guys: if we can't say what we're willing to kill
> people and destroy things over, and HOW we plan to invest
> the taxpayers' money to do it most effectively, we SHOULDN'T
> have power, never mind that nobody will trust us with it.

You know, Paul, you really do talk like a guy who spends a fair
degree of time wondering if his cock is large enough. Another point
Hurlbert makes is that there *is* a cultural difference between
Democrats and Republicans on defense -- and while she's not snarky
about it, she doesn't elaborate on the deeper reasons. It's more
than a Vietnam-generation thing, or a lack of defense mentoring on
the Democratic side. It's just that Democrats really just *don't*
believe in warfare as an instrument of progressive social policy.
It's not that Democrats are turned away from the world -- the
internationally-minded are involved with NGOs on issues like human
rights, AIDS and landmines. We believe that warfare is so destructive
it must only be used to prevent a worse atrocity that wanging it will
create. This creates a disincentive to think about it -- but this
kind of resistance is hardly unhealthy. Rather, it reflects wisdom.

> In another thread, the chew toy argued from his vast knowledge
> of Islam and Persian history that it wouldn't make sense, f'r
> example, to observe simply that Iran would be better off as a
> nearly-nuke power than to be bombed by the U.S. for a couple
> weeks -- and (casually) that if Iran ever nuked us or an
> ally, it would cease to exist as an organized state.

Well, we've already had this debate, and you're carrying on
once again like a drunk with the dry heaves. To reiterate
*sigh* one last time 1) To "simply observe" something about
Iran says nothing about what *Iran* might calculate it can endure
(sustaining the damage of a fortnight of air strikes to bolster
solidarity in an Islamic Revolution that loses more legitimacy every
year) and 2) that's just standard-issue deterrence doctrine which
I told you FIVE SEPARATE TIMES I have have exactly zero problem with.

But you apparently enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing.

> THAT's a good reason why Hurlburt was right.

Hurlbert's a Clinton/Albright internationalist and I found nothing
substantial to argue with her about -- save for the fact that
she doesn't deeply examine the nature of what "security issues"
are in the political realm -- because they're probably the set of
issues most easy to demagogue. You know -- like immigration issue.

One of the most important things Democrats could do would be to start
a dialogue about what precisely *are* the real threats to America.
Right now some on the left are salivating in a jingoistic orgy over
the port issue, calling the UAE a "terrorist nation." We need to
cut right through that crap and talk about is and isn't a threat.

> Why NOT invest in missile defense?

Because the scientific consensus says that it's nothing more than
a boondoggle that will never be workable because of fundamentally
unresolvable technical issues. But take that up with the experts.

> Gimme a Democrat's defense of the United States Marine Corps.

Defense against *what*? Although I will say that I liked
your suggestion that we should highlight our Muslim Marines.

> ROFL -- face it, you guys are a kind of circle
> jerk, the Special Olympics of political debate.

No, the Special Olympics is debating in cyberspace.

Even when you win, you're still a retard :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 28, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

Whoopsie -- uploaded this into the wrong thread.

I'll re-post into the newer one.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 28, 2006 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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