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Tilting at Windmills

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February 27, 2006
By: Paul Glastris

TALKING STRAIGHT ABOUT WAR... The New York Post reports today that Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an effort to "toughen up her message on national security and Iraq," has signed up former Clinton White House speechwriter Heather Hurlburt. This is good news for Hillary, and for the republic. Regular readers of The Washington Monthly will remember Hurlburt as the author of one of our all-time best pieces, War Torn. In it, she argues that because too many liberals particularly Democratic staffers and political operatives don't take the substance of national security issues seriously, Democratic politicians often come off sounding like phonies, like people with positions on rather than convictions about how best to defend the country. The Post piece, however, makes Hurlburt sound like some big hawk on Iraq. But as I recall from talking to her while editing her piece in the fall of 2002, she was far more dubious of, and hence wiser about, Bush's plan to invade Iraq than a lot of people, including me. You can read more of Hurlburt's smart musings over at Democracy Arsenal.

Paul Glastris 5:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (137)

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Comments

We don't need straight talk. Just ignore Iraq and it will go away! Or, if you must talk, give us Happy Talk -- otherwise, you love terrorists and hate the troops!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on February 27, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Arggh, this is annoying. Many smart Democrats don't take the GWOT seriously because it doesn't *deserve* to be taken seriously. Al Qaeda is not an existential threat to the US -- it's a goddamned law enforcement issue. And Bush's attempts to deal with the "root of the problem" have stirred up a hornet's nest that seems to have made the problem a lot worse. Democracy in the Mideast has led to empowering a bunch of Islamists with a dubious relationship to the principles of democracy.

How, exactly, does one take this "seriously" -- except by opposing it at every turn?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Why does everyone repeat the meme that dems don't do substance on foreign policy. Repugs didn't even go in for it until George "No Nation-Building" Bush got into the game. All the major FP and State Department players of the last century were Dems. It's only right now that they're not stepping up to the plate. Maybe because they've taken the policy failures of Viet Nam and the Cold War to heart while neocons posit a fantasy that defies reasonable debate.

Posted by: Kenji on February 27, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

What Bob and Kenji said. Stop internalizing your adversary's talking points, that's got to be step number 1.

Posted by: craigie on February 27, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

> This is good news for Hillary, and for the
> republic. Regular readers of The Washington
> Monthly will remember Hurlburt as the author of
> one of our all-time best pieces, War Torn. In it,
> she argues that because too many
> liberals--particularily Democratic staffers and
> political operatives--don't take the substance of
> national security issues seriously,

Wow - you guys at the Washington Monthly just eat up these Radical frames, don't you?

First, can you present any evidence that "liberals" (I consider myself a liberal, btw, but I would be curious to know what you mean by that word) aren't "serious" (good solid Radical word right off the bat) about national security. As opposed to Rumsfeld, Cheny, Wolfowitz, and Andrew Sullivan I guess? Notice that little thingy going on in Iraq at the moment? Who is responsible for that? Oh yeah, the men (pretty much all men) who call themselves "serious".

And of course there is that little issue of who has actually served in the armed forces (ratio seems to tilt quite heaviy toward Dems as actually having served, at least in Congress) and who actually goes to Iraq to see what is going on (hint: Al Franken? Yes. Conservative talk show hosts? No.)

But hey, who's "serious" around here?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 27, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Gore is no sissy when it comes to foreign policies.

Just to go to war without thinking is just plain stupid and has nothing to do with being soft.

Besides, anyone can beat up on a little, weak one and feel like a heroe. (Grenada, Panama, and a beaten Iraq)

I do know that politics and morals don't mix, but a little brain would be welcome.

To use diplomacy is not being soft, just smart.

Posted by: Renate on February 27, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Arggh, this is annoying. Many smart Democrats don't take the GWOT seriously because it doesn't *deserve* to be taken seriously. Al Qaeda is not an existential threat to the US -- it's a goddamned law enforcement issue. Posted by: rmck1

Bob is correct. From the beginning, the intelligence agencies and the military always thought of al Qaeda as a law enforcement issue. In other words, tanks, helicopter gunships, cruise missiles, and 250,000 compat troops were not the weapons for getting al Qaede. Let the FBI, CIA, and spec ops forces handle it.

Who gives a flying fuck what Hillary Clinton has to say about anything? Hiring a speech writer is pretty clear evidence that Hillary Clinton doesn't know what to say about Iraq, etc.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 27, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

From just the firxt 6 posts, Ms. Hurlbert's central point is confirmed.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on February 27, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Fafblog already interviewd Clinton and other Dem leaders on this issue. It wasn't pretty.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 27, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

What are our vital national interests? 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?

What are the means to most effectively achieve those objectives?

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?

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.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

It will be very interesting to see how the Democratic Party resolves the split between those like Bob and Jeff II - who think that jihadism is just a "law enforcement" problem - and those who think that the "it's just a law enforcement problem" weltanschuuang gave us 9/11, Khobar Towers, etc., etc., etc. That is the defining split in the Democratic Party and it's anyone's guess how it will turn out.

Posted by: DBL on February 27, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I get it. Taking security seriously means being willing - no, eager! - to nuke any and all people who pose a threat to our future.

I agree! Let's start with Texas.

Posted by: craigie on February 27, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

If Democrats take National Security seriously, then what they need to focus on is convincing the public that they take National Security seriously. Look how they closed the gap on the GOP over the Port deal. Talk may be cheap, but it goes a long way.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on February 27, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Please spare me the label "Liberal Hawks" for those idiots who thought invading Iraq was a good idea. They were neither Liberal, nor really hawks.

They were just suckers who bought the rhetoric.

Hawks have the guts to ask: does this make sense for national security? Do - dos just say: National Security? Oh, all right then.

Liberals are supposed to ask: Is this in the interests of Americans? Is it just?

Muddle-headed thinkers just didn't bother trying to figure out those questions (and answers).

Let's be clear now - it was pretty obvious to almost everyone in the world that Iraq would be a disaster - in 2002. Just a few nut cases in Washington and London screamed the opposite. Why we still label those nuts, liberal hawks or other flattering names now is beyond me.

If Hurlburt made the tough call in 2002 - kudos. But if she didn't and she bought the line - just another reason to please ask Hillary to go away. Please.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on February 27, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

"In other words, tanks, helicopter gunships, cruise missiles, and 250,000 compat troops were not the weapons for getting al Qaeda."

No, but they were needed to uproot Saddam, destablize the region, and put Americans at daily risk -- exactly what Bin Laden was hoping for after 9/11, as Bill Maher constantly warned before he was yanked off the air. In other words, why have an army when they can use ours? The AQ memo on Madrid said they were hoping W would win reelection because they couldn't imagine a stupider adversary. Were they wrong?

Posted by: Kenji on February 27, 2006 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

I have to disagree with my fellow liberals here. The grand unqualified successes of GWB's foreign and national security policies on so many fronts provide ample proof that GOP is better than the Democratic Party on these issues.

Posted by: lib on February 27, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

No, Paul -- liberal hawks don't get it.

What craigie said: Job One is to stop internalizing the opposition's talking points.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Mrs. Clinton also bought Cisco and Microsoft and the other leading dot com stocks in late 2000.

Posted by: nut on February 27, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

I agree! Let's start with Texas.

One last time:
1. The 9/11 terrorists weren't Iraqis

2. Bush isn't a Texan.

-thank you
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 27, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

DBL:

It's a law enforcement issue for which we weren't properly prepared.

Kinda like the Midwest methamphetamine epidemic. You don't lob shells into meth labs.

Because we weren't prepared doesn't automatically imply that we need an entirely new paradigm. It just means we have to get tougher in more sensible ways.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

It will be very interesting to see how the Democratic Party resolves the split between those like Bob and Jeff II - who think that jihadism is just a "law enforcement" problem - and those who think that the "it's just a law enforcement problem" weltanschuuang gave us 9/11, Khobar Towers, etc., etc., etc. That is the defining split in the Democratic Party and it's anyone's guess how it will turn out. Posted by: DBL

Was there a question there?

Neither Bob nor I decided that al Qaeda was a law enforcement issue. The agencies I mentioned did. And though they are fallible, I think they have a better grip on the situation than we in the peanut gallery do.

But, if you've been following the story since 1993 (which you obviously haven't), you'd know that al Qaeda and other "radical Islamists" aren't really all that numerous, don't have club houses where they regularly meet, and aren't official branches of any government in the ME, most notably, the former government of Iraq.

Just as the FBI didn't invade NJ or even Little Italy to put a good deal of the old line Mafia out of business, you don't send the army after relative handfuls of the "faithful" spread out in mostly autonomous cells around the globe.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 27, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Women writes article saying Democrats need to talk tough. Gets hired as speech writer to talk tough. Washington Monthly used as a cheap tool.

Posted by: Rob on February 27, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary and Kerry gave Bush a Blank Check to go to War. Neither had the vision to see the future consequences. Democrats should nominate a Kucinich, Feingold, Dean or other candidate who had the sense to oppose the Bush War Machine.

Down with the Cult of the Personality.

Plenty of Republicans have had a belly full of Bush by now. Given a choice and a clear voice from a candidate that opposed Bush from the git-go, they would vote Democratic.

Senator Clinton's website is selling American flags. Three cheers! She's a 200% SuperPatriot.

Posted by: deejaays on February 27, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Dustin,

So long as 'armed conflict' is the only measure of having a 'serious' foreign policy, your internalized assumptions will continue. It's beyond frustrating that someone like Kerry, who by any account has a long, distinguished record on foreign policy (and whose father was a diplomat for christ's sake), was accused of not having ideas on how to conduct it.

The warmongering freak show that has run our Republic into the ground include enablers like you who can only conceive of foreign policy as the act of war or fish-in-a-barrel fights over Arab companies.

Kerry had a legit foreign policy platform -- including a focus on port security. But 'serious' folks went for more war and war mongering. Kerry wanted terror to be considered a nuisance, well, isn't that a more serious goal than whatever it is that Bush is hoping to accomplish -- which is what, exactly?

Howard Dean gets everything right on Iraq and is treated like a crazy man by 'serious' players like you. Bush and his neocon brigade get nothing right, look like the demagougic amatuers they are, yet they get the 'credible policy' nod? Are you that fucking stupid?

If abject failure, destablization AND failure to protect human rights is your vision of a serious foreign policy then once and for all, send in the clowns.

Posted by: n.o.t.l.f. on February 27, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

It doesen't require some grand strategy. The port issue proved that. All it takes to shrink the gulf between both parties on Security is not to act like "National Security" is something to be ridiculaed and act like you are too cool to discuss.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on February 27, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- he's useless, but I can't resist pointing out the rubber steak squeak: asked a series of real questions, the best Bob can muster is "liberal hawks don't get it" cuz they "internalize the opposition's talking points."

Um... WE'RE the Opposition. The other guys are the ones in power.

Hurlburt's story was really clear -- she acknowledged that the Clinton administration started out clueless on military and national security issues, and wound up merely indifferent.

And that's from somebody on OUR side.

It's like the story of Michael Jordan's ad copywriter, who did that commercial about him waking up from the dream where he had Jordan call himself a "weak hitting minor league shortstop." So Jordan called the guy up, and said: "WTF do you mean 'weak-hitting minor league shortstop?' I said I wanted to do a commercial about the dream I had that I was playing PRO BASEBALL, dammit!"

And the guy just said, 'Yo, Mike: you batted .191 in BIRMINGHAM.'

The National Security Adviser wanted to do a Big Speech illuminating Clinton's policies about defending our country -- and it became an office joke, the speech that was never made.

Ask the right questions -- and folks (God help us if they're our base) will tell you you're just 'internalizing'... that we start out clueless and end up indifferent.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Talking straight about war means holding up the dead for all to see the horror. Talking straight about war means holding up the bills so everyone knows the latest estimate of the Iraq invasion and occupation is $19,000 per American household. Talking straight about war means talking straight about how to bring about peace, which means working with our co-belligerants to find common ground and living with others making decisions that are not in the best interests of some US constituents or even our national interests.

I do not think Americans have the attitude to do any of those things, so if Ms. Clinton or any other Democrat wants to be elected president, they have to talk bullshit about how America has the strongest most powerful military in the world and how noble our cause is and how we will not back down, retreat or compromise from our ideals of world wide 'democratic' hegemony. National Chauvinism is the only tway to talk about war in America, and that is what Ms. Hurlburt seems to understand. Sorry, but I think she is a Murhtafucker.

Posted by: Hostile on February 27, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

What Jeff II said.

The very *worst* thing you can do to stateless misfits like al Qaeda is to inflate them into the equivalent of state actors and direct/bully/corerce/bribe the foreign policy of the entire developed world into a policy of wiping them out.

All that does is inflate their egos to monstrous proportions and makes them that much more certain that they're on a mission from Allah.

Osama is the troll of Western civilization.

Although the policy is not always easy to practice, everybody still knows that nothing is a more cruel act to troll than to relentlessly ignore him :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_riverbendblog_archive.html#114099727090607435

The echoes of Shock and Awe continue to devastate Iraq.

This reality (see link above) is our doing, we opened the gates of hell beginning in March of 2003.

No politician can claim to be a hawk if they are not willing to face reality; violence begats violence.

Peace is more than the absence of war.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on February 27, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another brilliant, serious thinker. Lawrence Kaplan in the New Republic, via Slate:

In the cover article, Lawrence F. Kaplan stresses the importance of U.S. forces remaining in Iraq. "As the war takes a sectarian turn, the United States begins to look, even to many Iraqis, like an honest broker, more peacekeeper than belligerent," he writes.

Yeah, that's a serious argument. That the U.S. is almost universally despised in Iraq is the sole thing they agree on over there. Serious talk, my ass.

And who, exactly, treats national security as a joke? Is law enforcement -- even if you don't agree with the 'solution' -- somehow a lesser instrument than war?

So, sans ideas except for dribble like Kaplan's "stay the course" madness, we get lectured by the likes of you Dustin about how we're not serious enough.

Maybe we should just blow more shit up and scream "Arab! Arab!" that seems to be your wildly intelligent prescription for serious foreign policy discourse.

Posted by: n.o.t.l.f. on February 27, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Indifferent's ass, Paul.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

"So long as 'armed conflict' is the only measure of having a 'serious' foreign policy, your internalized assumptions will continue."

Cry me a river. I didn't make the rules. For some reason, when voters think of Foreign policy & National security, they think of military issues & potential armed conflict. If you wish to Martyr yourself & my party over the fact that their conception of National Security has too much to do with guns & missiles & stuff rather than your own personal conception, I won't weep for you.

"Kerry had a legit foreign policy platform -- including a focus on port security. But 'serious' folks went for more war and war mongering. Kerry wanted terror to be considered a nuisance, well, isn't that a more serious goal than whatever it is that Bush is hoping to accomplish -- which is what, exactly?"

You're right, Kerry did have a serious foreign policy. If you can endorse Sen. Kerry's Foreign Policy than we have no disagreement. Terror is a law enforcement issue (although referring to it as a 'nuisance' was a political disaster waiting to happen). I have my issues with Dem. Foreign Policy but I trust the Democrats with For. Policy and Nat. Security, certianly moreso than the GOP. But the Democratic party hasn't done a very good job of convincing the public that it can be trusted with Nat. Security. This is a political issue. One that won't be won very soon by whining that people need to completely reonceptualize Foreign Policy & Security issues without mentioning guns and war and icky unliberal stuff like that.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on February 27, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Republican policy is lots of muscle and no brains equals Iraq.

And what a mess that is.

When this administration leaves office we will have nothing left but rubble. All because they are so macho.

It will have to be a long, long cleanup.

Posted by: Renate on February 27, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Afghanistan met the bar you described. Iraq didn't.

If 9/11 "changed everything," one of the things it changed is the essential need to coordinate with Muslim countries who face a threat from radical Islamism more immediate than our own, and whose interest it is thus in to help us wipe out terrorist cells.

Invading Iraq just made that proceedure that much more needlesly complex.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Human rights issues are identical with national security issues.

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

cld:

That's the fundamental neocon error.

And if it were true -- we would have invaded Sudan, Congo, Haiti, Burma, Liberia, Zimbabwe, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK
That is the defining split in the Democratic Party

No, its really not. The defining split in the Democratic Party is, and has been for quite a long time, between genuine liberals and center-right "moderates" who differ from Republicans primarily in how they seek to serve corporate interests above all else, rather than whether they seek that.

Divisions over the GWOT and comparatively minor, within the party, compared to that split, though there is a not insignificant, but still rather loose, correlation between those who think they can get traction by being Republican-lite on security issues to neutralize those issues and the center-right types that are closest to the Republicans on most other issues.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 27, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

I concur with many of the rather outraged responses, though with one reservation. I have observed -- as a "convert" to Democracy -- that on average there is a much stronger base of knowledge on things military within the Republican Party than within the Democratic.

This is not to cast aspersions. It may well be that I've just observed all the graduates of the College Republicans who spent their undergraduate years debating the finer points of Tom Clancy novels. Or, less facetiously, it might be because more military people identify Republican and so feed into the GOP machine.

At a certain level, it doesn't much matter -- when you're analyzing or proposing policy at a kind of global level. And here I think the Hillary hire is a good decision, at least insofar as it would make Ms. Clinton "better" on national security (I still think her candidacy would be a mistake).

But in terms of general credibility, military (and former military) people are acutely aware of people who get things "wrong" -- whether in politics or in Hollywood. And, once they get it wrong, it's hard to repair the reputational damage. Fair or unfair, our response tends to be, "How hard can it be to learn the difference between an F-15 and an F-16?" So if a candidate gets it wrong, and I'm a kind of notional undecided voter who knows the right answer, I'm going to think twice about that candidate -- again, at least as far as national security is concerned.

That's why I feel the "Fighting Dems" mini-phenom is such a positive thing. It doesn't really matter if they win so much as they help reframe the image of Democrats as 60s holdovers who can recite the order of the tracks on every Grateful Dead album ever released but who don't know the difference between an AK-47 and an M-16.

I'm not saying that either skill (listening to the Dead or firing a weapon) makes a substantive political difference. And it's certainly not all about hardware. But it strikes me as I start moving in Demo circles that few people understand what a Unified Command is, what the relationship between, say, the commander of CENTCOM to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is, etc.

There, the difference is in the way understaning national security -- the nuts-and-bolts of the system, that is -- can be a symbolic political difference.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on February 27, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

And I apologize for misspelling "understanding" there at the end. Appears I need a new keyboard.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on February 27, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK
the Clinton administration started out clueless on military and national security issues, and wound up merely indifferent.

Americanist,

First, I don't take your word for it that Hurlburt feels as you say. Second, Clinton was so indifferent that he told Bush face to face that terrorism would be his biggest foreign policy challenge. Advice that Bush brushed aside.

The larger issue here is public relations.

Democrats are plenty serious about defense. Their problem is that the sophistication--and effectiveness--of their approach is by nature less dramatic than the crude saber-rattling approach of the right.

The problem we face is communicating to people in Red America.

Communication.

Not seriousness, or competence. The GOP cannot touch us on competence because they don't appreciate the power of peaceful means.

Posted by: obscure on February 27, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly, rmck1. What a crazy frenzy these Americans have got themselves in. I dont know if I should laugh or cry, or maybe be grateful for the opportunity to learn a few things about human nature.

Less than half a century ago, our chief adversary was a nation of hundreds of millions, with thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at every patch of ground in the U.S. Today our chief adversary is a rag-tag band of desert Arabs with no demonstrated nuclear capability, without even a conventional army or airforce and we are just as afraid.

So what have I learned? That human beings seem to need something to be afraid of. If there is no real threat, well invent one. And as Alfred Hitchcock knew, we can be more afraid of dangers that arent clearly defined or even known. The safest country in history lives behind fences and gates and fears every bump in the night.

Posted by: James of DC on February 27, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK
Human rights issues are identical with national security issues.

I largely agree with this; I also almost agree (oddly enough) with Bob's characterization of this as the fundamental neocon error.

That is, I think all national security issues are, at root, human rights issues and all human rights issues have, ultimately, national security implications. At the same time, I think that the "Leninist", in Fukuyama's description, neoconservatives delude themselves on the ability to correct human rights issues through massive military force and force of will, as if they believe because those issues have national security implications, and because the military exists for national security purpose, it is a universally appropriate and effective tool for addressing those issues.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 27, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

bob, "That's the fundamental neocon error.

And if it were true -- we would have invaded Sudan, Congo, Haiti, Burma, Liberia, Zimbabwe, etc."

If that really were the fundamental neocon error, that is exactly what we would have done.

When our national security agenda is reconstructed around humanism and human rights, everyone else will be working with us, instead of against us.

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if hiring a speech writer helps us in national security, then she should hire a hundred thousand.

Posted by: Matt on February 27, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

I have never believed that neoconservatives have ever had anything like human rights issues truly in mind, they simply use the rhetoric for their own brutal interests.

Every place on earth they identify human rights issues that require US intervention just happen to be identical with where US corporate interests would like a US military intervention.

But they weren't so keen on Bosnia.

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

I concur with many of the rather outraged responses, though with one reservation. I have observed -- as a "convert" to Democracy -- that on average there is a much stronger base of knowledge on things military within the Republican Party than within the Democratic.

Well, I'd withhold judgment on that. Compare and contrast, say, the military knowledge of men like Kerry, Kerrey, Gore, Murtha, General Clark, etc. with the top Republican policymakers such as Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Lott, etc., few if any of whom served in the military and fewer of whom have ever served in combat. The mere fact that so many of the top Democratic lawmakers are veterans gives them a breadth and depth of knowledge about the military -- and a concomittant reluctance to use military force except when necessary -- that the Republicans lack.

That said, there does seem to be more fascination with all things military among the rank and file of the Republicans -- but it exists, as you said, at the Tom Clancy level, at the level of wargamers and young boys who are real interested in uniforms and cool guns that make a loud noise. Their "knowledge" about the military and military culture is the opposite of serious -- it's childish, an infantile fascination with toy soldiers.

Posted by: Stefan on February 27, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan, that is seriously bang on. An excellent post in a history of excellent posts.

Posted by: craigie on February 27, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

In it, she argues that because too many liberals--particularily Democratic staffers and political operatives--don't take the substance of national security issues seriously,....

That sentence would make more sense if the word "substance" was replaced with "cheap empty symbolism." Democrats are the ones who take substance seriously since we're the ones who care about funding first responders, port security, catching bin Laden and dismantling the Al Qaeda network, enlisting our allies to help, etc.

Republicans, on the other hand, don't care about substance at all -- what they care about is looking good rather than doing good. They'd rather engage in a cheap symbolic gesture that makes it look like they're doing something about security rather than the hard work itself. They'd rather prance around on an aircraft carrier in a borrowed flight suit rather than get down and dirty in a jungle firefight.

Sadly, though, the voters often seem to prefer the Republican approach to the Democratic. As long as you can make it seem like you're doing something you don't actually have to do it....

Posted by: Stefan on February 27, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK
Their "knowledge" about the military and military culture is the opposite of serious -- it's childish, an infantile fascination with toy soldiers.

...or a childish, infantile attempt to compensate for an ignominious, cowardly youth.

Posted by: obscure on February 27, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

From the obscure files of Letterman's Top Ten lists sometime in 1988

Top ten assignments for Dan Qualye in the IN National Guard

One of which was, and this kills me every time,

"makes cool explosion noises with mouth using practice grenades"

Ka boom, I blowed it up!!

Posted by: Miss Ion on February 27, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks very much, craigie.

Posted by: Stefan on February 27, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK


CMDICELY: The defining split in the Democratic Party is, and has been for quite a long time, between genuine liberals and center-right "moderates" who differ from Republicans primarily in how they seek to serve corporate interests above all else, rather than whether they seek that.

Well, I'd agree, except it's kind of like saying that the defining split in those persons who are psychics is between genuine psychics and phony psychics, who differ from non-psychics by not a whit. Meanwhile, genuine psychics differ from genuine liberals in the Democratic Party by the same margin, inasmuch as they both are as rare as Republicans who can see a future where they're not in the pockets of corporations.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 27, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

I concur with many of the rather outraged responses, though with one reservation. I have observed -- as a "convert" to Democracy -- that on average there is a much stronger base of knowledge on things military within the Republican Party than within the Democratic. Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies

This simply isn't true, particularly at the national level where there are more Democratic members of both houses amd former administration officials that served in the armed forces than on the Republican side of the aisle.

At the local level the difference is between people who understand that most international problems are complicated and can't or won't be solved simply by kicking the shit out of some country or group, and those people, who really account for only a small amount of voters, who like kicking the shit out of other countries. I don't think there is a problem with getting the public to understand this provided it's framed properly.

Think back to the time right after the 9/11 attacks. We could have done anything as a nation and gained almost unconditional support for this action, and did with the invasion of Afghanistan. But then Iraq got conflated with al Qaeda because the Bush administration, as we all know now, wanted an excuse to invade Iraq. So the Bush administration spent the next two years lying through it's teeth about this in such a way that anyone contradicting them looked weak. (Fuck you very much Tom Daschele and John Kerry. And, BTW, Howard Dean was the only credible canditate in 2004 talking sense about the boondoggle.)

But in terms of general credibility, military (and former military) people are acutely aware of people who get things "wrong" -- whether in politics or in Hollywood. And, once they get it wrong, it's hard to repair the reputational damage. Fair or unfair, our response tends to be, "How hard can it be to learn the difference between an F-15 and an F-16?" So if a candidate gets it wrong, and I'm a kind of notional undecided voter who knows the right answer, I'm going to think twice about that candidate -- again, at least as far as national security is concerned.

This is nonsense because until 2002, national level elections did not turn on national security and candidates having encyclopedic knowledge about every weapons system we had, was in development or we were procuring. And even after 9/11, knowing these thing has jack to do with going after terrorist groups.

In short, saying that Dems don't understand defense or, in particular, foreign policy is nonsense. More specifically, it's the public that doesn't know and didn't care until they were convinced with endless lies that terrorism was a serious defense issue rather than a international policing issue. If you don't believe this to be the case, better tell the Spanish and the Germans as they figured it out about three years ago.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 27, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

cld & cmdicely:

I don't think we're all that far apart on this. Let me try to sketch it out briefly:

First, I do believe that *ideally*, our foreign policy should be based on a universal concept of human rights like the one enumerated in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration. Every human being suffering from rights abuse is an equal tragedy wherever it occurs.

But here's the problem: We simply do not have the resources to respond to every human rights crisis in the world, even if we had the political will. Because of this, we are then forced into making rational/utiltarian calculations as to where it's best to apply our power. Leaving aside what constitutes our "national interest," even if we acted with a modicum of beneveloence and a minimum of raw economic interest, other suffering nations of the world -- the ones we didn't step in to help -- will *inevitably* view our actions in the world as unfair, cynical, selfish and hypocritical. This is the inevitable outcome of a policy based on allegedly doing "what's right" in the world.

The other factor is Law of Unintended Consequences. Making omlettes entails breaking eggs, so we have to ask ourselves how much suffering is it justified to cause in the name of stopping other suffering? When is killing justifed to stop killing?

This is precisely the evaluation that has so failed in Iraq. We took out Saddam the dictator and made his country much worse as a human rights disaster than it was in the last years of his regime.

What allows actions like Iraq to be undertaken in the name of "furthering human rights" is precisely the kind of Leninist (more properly, Rousseauvian) hubris that cmdicely identified with the neocons. The messianic fervor that deludes us into thinking that our exceptionalism (America doesn't do empires), our might and our values can transform parts of the world that have been unprepared to follow our historical example.

And this is why there's such an element of Greek tragedy in the Iraq misadventure -- good intentions gone horribly awry. Of course, even this poetic resolution gets rather nastily trashed in a hard-eyed calculus of who ultimately benefitted from the invasion ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK
I concur with many of the rather outraged responses, though with one reservation. I have observed -- as a "convert" to Democracy -- that on average there is a much stronger base of knowledge on things military within the Republican Party than within the Democratic.

I dunno. IME, there is a lot more knowledge of "military trivia" among Republicans, but a similarly miniscule percentage of either party gets military affairs beyond the trivia level.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 27, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I have said for some time that liberals need to attack Bush, and attack him viciously, on the two areas where he has supposed strength - the war on terror and his faux moral character. Hillary should start every speech with three words, Wheres Osama, George? and then proceed to demonstrate that Bush is actually very, very weak on terror - allowing bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora, playing pattycake with the dictator Musharraf in Pakistan, who wont allow our Special Forces to come into the Northwest territories to hunt bin Laden down (is that friggin absurd or what?), not fully funding the Nunn-Lugar Act to buy back nuclear material from the former Soviet states, and on and on and on. This Dubai Ports deal is just one more opening to hammer home the point that Bush hasnt even brought to justice the men who killed 3,000 Americans (bin Laden and al-Zawahiri) and they continue to mock us, because Bush is so deeply indebted to the Middle East sheikdoms. Put up billboards along major freeways, showing Bush kissing Arab leaders and holding their hands with rude captions. This should be like shooting fish in a barrel! On the morality front, it is absolutely nuts that left-leaning reporters dont ask Bush at every press conference, How many times have you been arrested, George? How can a man be elected twice to the presidency without answering that question? You think a Democrat could have gotten away with dodging that question??? This wacko South Dakota abortion bill also gives Dems the opportunity to ask Bush why it was O.K. for him to pay for a 15 year-old to abort his love child, but it is not alright for a 30 year old mother of two to abort a severely retarded fetus she is carrying??? Ask him about his arrest in Houston in 1972 for cocaine, going AWOL from the National Guard and on and on. The guy has the longest rap sheet of any president in history for Gods sake! Oh, I know, the Dems want to take the high ground and not sink to their tactics Well, then get used to being a doormat for the Republicans for three decades. Until we hit back and hit back hard, we are relegated to serfdom.

Its right out of Karl Roves playbook, page 1 Attack your opponent on their perceived strengths! Remember what they did to a guy named Kerry????

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 27, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

This is what Atrios (can I mention him here?) has called process talk. "We Democrats need to get across our message/"toughen our stance"/do better in explaining our differences with Bush/find something to stand for/blah blah blah."

God, I hate process talk. "Internalizing your opponent's talking points." EXACTLY.

Just cut to the frickin' chase, man. The war is a horrible mistake and has made us less safe. You have to be smart AND strong to fight terrorism. Swinging wildly around makes the problem worse. An inability to learn and adjust makes the problem worse. Bush has made the problem worse.

Period.

Posted by: pk on February 27, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to believe that at least a small part of Paul Glatris' tongue was in his cheek as he wrote that the hiring of a speechwriter by a backbench first term Senator whose principle distinction in life is that she married the last Democrat to become President was "good news for the Republic."

But he was probably quite serious.

Posted by: Zathras on February 27, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

The more I think about this, the angrier I get. Serious about national security? Let's see, was it a Democrat or a Republican who ignored multiple warnings that Al Qaeda was planning a serious strike in the summer of 2001? Was it a Democrat or a Republican who then failed to capture the perpetrators of that attack at Tora Bora? Was it a Democrat or a Republican that got us bogged down in a senseless war, based on lies, that has so far degraded our military readiness and cost us over 2,000 men and women and hundreds of billions of dollars, all for nothing at all? Was it a Democrat or a Republican who proposed handing our port security over to an autocratic Arab princedom? Was it a Democrat or a Republican who mortgaged our economic security to the Chinese Communists?

So just who's cucking serious and who's the one fucking playing at toy soldiers? If being "serious" means putting on a "Commander-in-Chief" windbreaker and standing up on stage filled with soldiers dragooned to serve as a prop, then something is seriously wrong with how we define that word.

Posted by: Stefan on February 27, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

So just who's cucking serious . . . Posted by: Stefan

I hate to be a stickler for spelling, Stefan, but I think it's spelled fucking.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 27, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

What is it about Democrats, that they think hiring a consultant - or speech writer, or wardrobe expert, or whatever - is the key to victory.

First things first: get a candidate with some principles.

Posted by: Paddy Whack on February 27, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to be a stickler for spelling, Stefan, but I think it's spelled fucking.

Fucking right it is.

Posted by: Stefan on February 27, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

What do you want? Good spelling or good rocking and rolling?

Posted by: nut on February 27, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

bob,


No, we don't have the resources to respond everywhere, and I wasn't suggesting we try. In fact, at this point, our finances may be so much more grim than most people suppose, it probably isn't advisable to do anything abroad at all. The more our resources dwindle, the more we really will need to have others liking us.

That the rhetoric of human rights was mis-used to justify the invasion of Iraq doesn't make the rhetoric wrong. In fact, that such evil people thought it was the ideal choice says something about it's natural validity.

Our historical example is a fine one, but helping others achieve self-determination is exactly to not 'force' them to follow our example.

The kind of unintended consequences flowing from having human rights and concern for the self-determination of others as the central focus of our security theory is that even after the Vietnam War so many people all over the world still viewed the US as a paragon of freedom and virtue. It's only been through the careful application of cretinism by successive Republican administrations, as if intentionally to show everyone else how wrong they were, that this view is now, perhaps irrevocably, altered.

Do you really think interving in the genocide in Rwanda would have been 'hubris'?

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

This move by Hilary is right up there with Gore hiring Naomi Wolf in 2000.

Remember her? She's the genius who advised Gore to wear khakis and earth tones, so he would look like an Alpha Male.

Posted by: MountainDan on February 27, 2006 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

cld:

No, I'm a good ol' fashioned liberal internationlist, not an isolationist (though Bush makes it easy to use traditional isolationist arguments against his grand[iose] mission to democratize the world). I probably think much like you on this.

I would have supported a NATO mission to Rwanda, based on the theory derivable from our intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo -- which might be called the "Clinton Doctrine" had he chosen to call it that.

And I have no problem with *fomenting* democratic movements wherever they may be. I agree with the end of the Fukuyama essay that argued our support for emerging democracies has to be opportunistic, to realize that it is up to them, not us. We find movements like these and support them as much as we can logistically. I have zero problems with the State Dept, the IDI, IRI helping out the opposition movements in Belarus and Ukraine, etc ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

MountainDan:

Have another shot of EverClear and watermelon juice. You're not stupid enough yet.

And maybe, gods willing, you'll pass out face down on your keyboard.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

MountainDan:

What does an Alpha Male look like?

Naomi Wolf's a pretty damn hot number, though, you've gotta admit :)

I'm a sucker for black-haired Jewish girls ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 27, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Check it out,

this whole board goes to a therapist,

http://www.planetout.com/entertainment/comics/dtwof/archive/483.html

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, "improved messaging."

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Posted by: BigRiver on February 27, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting how the symbiotic relationship works though: Rove is said to pick his opponents' strengths, then run hard against those. People like Hulburt then internalize Rove's attacks, taking them to heart /as if they were valid/. Which, in the long run, does make them valid (appear "unserious" before the media and you will soon be unserioused). Then the lesser Radical attack dogs can go after the actual weaknesses. The ones the Dems created inside themselves.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 27, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Getting liberals to believe their own bad press is something conservatives have been working hard at for thirty years, and it mostly works.

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK


BULLSHIT FROM MOUNTAINDAN: This move by Hilary is right up there with Gore hiring Naomi Wolf in 2000. Remember her? She's the genius who advised Gore to wear khakis and earth tones, so he would look like an Alpha Male.

THE TRUTH FROM BOB SOMERBY: Wolfs connection to the Gore campaign was first reported by Time, in a story released on October 31, 1999. The story had been carefully researchedand it didnt say a word about earth tones! By the way: Like most humans, Gore had been wearing the troubling tones since he began his campaign in March. This is abundantly clear in the published record. But so what? The morning after the Time report, Ceci Connolly got busy. In the Post, she cited a conversation with Dick Morris, in which Morris speculated (Connollys word) that Wolf had told Gore to wear those troubling tones. By that afternoon, the corps was reporting this speculation as fact, and worrying hard about its significance. Wolf flatly denied that she had ever given Gore advice about his clothes. No evidence ever contradicted her statement. But so what! Earth tones were now a fact-for-life. Over the course of the next thirteen months, they were endlessly flogged as a troubling fact which revealed troubling parts of Gores character.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 27, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Damn straight, Stefan, get mad (and get even)!! When some dipshit conservative uses the pathetic line, "Democrats are just angry", I respond, "You fucking right I'm angry. I'm angry Bush ignored numerous warnings about al-Qaeda. I'm angry he hid in a cornfield in Nebraska all day on September 11th. I'm angry he let bin Laden go at Tora Bora. I'm angry the man who killed 3,000 Americans is still running around loose. I'm angry he refuses to go into Pakistan and get the man who killed 3,000 Americans. Why are you NOT angry, you right-wing pussy????"

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 27, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

In another way, you might say that respecting humanistic values as the central tenet of our defense policy could be described as defending the spending power of our markets.

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary has to look tough on terrorism to appease her Jewish constituency in New York, plain and simple. Protecting Israel is job #1 and the media will squash anyone who isn't on board with the programme.

She can go fuck herself as far as I care, she is the most overrated politician ever. And she doesnt reflect the prevailing sentiments among Democrats anymore. Like her spineless colleagues, she has missed too many opportunities to go after Bush's failed policies not to mention corruption - has she said anything about Abrahmoff - no, take a guess why.

The Republicans have nothing to worry about vis a vis Hillary's presidential aspirations. She wont get past the primaries because she has left the Democratic base hanging out to dry one too many times.


Posted by: jman on February 27, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

I am heartened by this exchange. Though down at the very end it began to degenerate a bit. Still, it is good to see that there thinking people out there who are not being fooled by the smoke and mirrors of the elitists.

Posted by: NeoLotus on February 27, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

So - what exactly? - Hillary has hired Hurlburt to make her *sound* more authentic on foreign policy and national security. I'm relieved.

Posted by: The Blue Nomad on February 27, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

um, good news?

Who cares?

Why would anyone care who Hillary Clinton is hiring? Being slighly more correct about the Iraq invasion (debacle) than Glastris doesn't count for much.

Posted by: morris on February 27, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

One more item to consign to the dustbin:
"9/11 changed everything", as in meaning that the US had to embark on the GWOT.

What Heather and company need to be writing for HC is that "for the Republicans, "9/11 changed everything" meant that we stopped being Americans that day. We started willingly giving up our civil liberties. We started sponsoring torture and invading other countries without cause. We abandoned our system of justice by opening Gulags in Gitmo, and Eastern Europe, and we participated in the kidnapping, transport and torture of people from numerous countries around the world. All of these things have made us less safe, and our nation less secure.

The best medicine for our nation's security is to start living and being Americans again. The next president needs to rededicate himself/herself to upholding the constitution.

Posted by: RickG on February 27, 2006 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

...proceed to demonstrate that Bush is actually very, very weak on terror - allowing bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora, playing pattycake with the dictator Musharraf in Pakistan, who wont allow our Special Forces to come into the Northwest territories to hunt bin Laden down (is that friggin absurd or what?), not fully funding the Nunn-Lugar Act to buy back nuclear material from the former Soviet states, and on and on and on.

Sadly, for Ms. Hurlburt and many Americans this is 'talking straight about war.' While I agree with the liberal 'doves' posting here about the horrors of war and the tragedy of the Clinton Success, which has marginalized liberal issues for the Democrats, it is the electorate and those who want the US to project a masculine force in the world to solve our problems who occupy the majority - of both parties. I dislike the politicians for their pandering to national Chauvinism, but this is a representative democracy and if the people want to project war as a characteristic of their identity, maybe I am wrong to blame the professionals who have to use their votes to seize the reins of power for pandering to them. The real chore is changing the attitude the US should use military force to solve problems of international conflict that are best solved with diplomacy.

If the military was required to solve the threat of extra-national terrorism, instead of police power, then surely it has been a failure. The use of war, invasion, and occupation in Iraq has been a complete catastrophe. Using military threats to solve problems that either are not existential or limited police actions to intervene in regional ethnic conflagration, is a military policy the US must relinquish. The above mentioned tragedy of the Clinton Success has left the Democratic Party with out a leader who can adequately win enough support with a rational national defense policy. Certainly 9/11 gave the warmongers a scared electorate that was exploited by Bush, but only Kucinich and Dean were out in public trying to voice reasonableness to the hysteria, and they did it without much institutional or editorial backing.

I agree with Mr. Kriz's quote above, the Democrats have a wonderful hammer in Bush's national security failures to pound the Republicans with, and they should use it forcefully. I am just perplexed at how to end US miltancy's popularity as a policy choice.

Posted by: Hostile on February 27, 2006 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

oh, my bad, I didn't realize that Glastris' post was a goof. "Hurlburt's smart musings"... pretty funny.

Posted by: morris on February 27, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

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

What are the means to most effectively achieve those objectives?

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?

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."

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

No, d-uh.

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

Why not a genocide in Darfur?

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

Why not Pakistan?

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.

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.

THAT's a good reason why Hurlburt was right.

Here's another: Obscure wouldn't take my word what she said -- and didn't bother to read it, either, to learn I was right.

But it's the rubber steak squeak that's perfect: "Americanist:

Indifferent's ass..."

You guys are stupidity on stilts.

Hurlburt wrote how she, as a speechwriter, was called in by the National Security Adviser to work on a speech illuminating Clinton's record and vision on national security issues. She HERSELF pointed out that Clinton was weak on this stuff early in his Presidency (no kidding?), but that by the last couple years, they had something to say... but, somehow, never got around to saying it. There was always some OTHER speech that was more important -- Hell, Paul Glastris himself will remember the conversation he and I had about "Jim Thorpe, Athlete of the Century" around that time.

What do you think "indifferent" LOOKS like?

When the President's top adviser on national security wants to do a major speech on the reason he has the job, and nobody cares enough to make it happen -- that's a clue.

Oh, what the hell, here are a couple more: Do we really want to spend zillions on a new fighter plane? Isn't it just an expensive zeppelin -- why not use smaller, cheaper drones?

Why NOT invest in missile defense?

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

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

And, Obscure? Read Hurlburt's article before you post again, k? How about YOU summarize it next post?

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 27, 2006 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Stephen Kriz:

Right on! I've been thinking exactly the same thing. Turn their fucking games back on them. We have a right to be angry, but the real question is why the hell aren't their sheeple just as angry? Now that the sheeple have learned that Bush cares so much about homeland security that he'd sell our already extremely vulnerable ports to the highest pro-terrorist bidder (UAE), maybe just maybe they will wake up and realize how butt-fucked they have been.

The game is up this time. Now that he has once again been caught in another lie -- that no one objected to anything about this sale vis-a-vis security issues -- but the Coast Guard had expressed serious reservations -- it is yet another example of how "Just trust me..." means bend over while I relieve myself at your expense. Lies, lies, and more lies. This guy has long since put any lies Clinton told into the amateur category. As so many people now say, whenever Bush and his cronies speak, I automatically assume that exactly the opposite of what he is saying is the real truth. It makes for a better understanding of what is real and what is faux news.

This crowd not only can't shoot straight, they also can't seem to stop lying even after they get caught time after time after time. Truly Bush will go down as the worst president in all American history and the moniker "Tricky Dick" will soon give way to a worse one for Lyin' Bush. It's like he's addicted to lying now and just can't seem to help himself. Too bad it is so contagious and seems to spread worse than the Avian flu to the leadership of the Congress and most MSM outlets -- can we say Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, et al.?

Posted by: marvc on February 27, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Being for the War or assuming "centrist"/"conservative" positions does NOT equate to "engaging the issue of national security seriously."

Hillary, joe Biden, Joe Lieberman -- each of these panderers are ridiculed because, just as Heather Hurlburt said, they seem to be posturing and pandering, rather than taking a position out of principle and substance.

You can talk security for real, push defense sincerely, defend our civil liberties and the Constitution -- and still not be FOR the War, and STILL not be a SO-called "centrist"/"moderate"/etc. -- There's nothing "realist" about these DLC-types.

Their political acumen laughable.

Heather Hurlburt is case in point. Do you cut down your betters (Feingold) -- or act and speak constructively?

Uh, she pretty much self-indicted the wrong half o' the party. No one believes Hilary's had a conversion on the road to Damascus. Nobody.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 28, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

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

The GOP won't say what they would do in this situation either; the consensus is that Taiwan policy is left mildly ambiguous. But by "first strike" I assume you mean invasion, rather than a nuclear attack, which China would never contemplate; it doesn't make sense for them. And the US is legally obligated to make sure that Taiwan can defend itself, a position to which any Democratic politician would also subscribe.

Why not a genocide in Darfur?

A Democratic President (particularly one in the post-Dayton Bill Clinton mold) would have been far more likely to deploy US troops to Darfur than GWB has been, were it not for the fact that the invasion of Iraq has damaged US credibility to the point where deploying US troops in a Muslim country may be a net security loser. To be "serious" about security issues, you have to look at the actually existing global political situation. We may be better off persuading France or Germany to send troops to Sudan at this point, perhaps with US logistical support.

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

Interesting, but not likely. Nazarbayev is not weak. He's not even unpopular. Anyway, in such a circumstance, we should support Russian intervention to secure the nukes - ideally a joint intervention, and only to take control of nuclear sites, not to intervene politically. Though obviously the Russians would stick their noses in. Ideally we'd want to get all the nuclear material out of the country ASAP.

Why not Pakistan?

Why not Pakistan what? Why not intervene in Pakistan in case of a coup? Because our troops would be dragged through the streets until their heads fell off, and then the Pakistani Air Force would threaten to nuke our bases in Iraq with their F-16s, and we'd guarantee that only the most radically anti-American member of the coup plotters would achieve power. So, no, we don't intervene militarily in Pakistan in case of a coup.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 28, 2006 at 12:54 AM | 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

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Posted by: gregg birnbaum on February 28, 2006 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff II dismisses my observations about national security credibility and elections as "nonsense," because until 9/11 elections didn't turn on national security.

Oh, that would explain Ronald Reagan. The bear in the woods was a bear. Stupid me - I thought it was an analogy.

I don't know where Jeff II is in the party i.d. sweepstakes, but I used to be a Republican so I have first-hand experience of the difference in the national security knowledge base.

The presence of Vietnam-era Democrats did very little to bolster the party's national security credentials. The Democratic Party has "always" been soft on defense in the master political narrative -- let's remember that the "neocons" once WERE Democrats.

As for Democratic identification among military personnel, keep dreaming. There is slightly higher Democratic identification among enlisted, but the officer corps -- especially the Army officer corps -- is white, proud, and Republican.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on February 28, 2006 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist,

You make the comical assumption that we are under some sort of obligation to address your 'issues' because of their obvious intrinsic merit.

You are one of the most flatulent participants here, and weirdly self-important at that.

Thanks, brooksfoe & Bob for your patient responses to our friend the Americanist.

Posted by: obscure on February 28, 2006 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Just as an aside, it's not really necessary to hit enter and make a new paragraph out of every sentence. It takes up space, and if people can't read through all of your comments because you group them appropriately in two or three paragraphs, then they're not worth reading anyway.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on February 28, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- riiiight, obscure.

I asked the obvious questions -- hell, the definitive ones -- about national security, but (proving Hurlburt's point, in the article you didn't read), you figure we're under no obligation to answer 'em.

This sorta discussion ain't about me -- but I got news for you: a political movement that disses folks LIKE me, loses. (Just like one that dismisses guys who win elections, like Clinton and Lieberman, is doomed.)

And a political movement that defines itself by folks like you and the chewtoy -- in your case, proudly ignorant, and in his, just dumb -- literally cannot win: you don't WANT to.

Personally, I read and post in places like this cuz, once in a great while, I find folks who think, or arguments that I haven't thought of, which are worth testing.

But, obscure? You didn't even read the damn article, and you doubted my (accurate) summary of it, and when challenged on it, your response is "flatulent".

Methinks it's you, not I, that needs a bit more roughage in your diet.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

And, just to rub Obscure's nose in it (like the chewtoy, I think he likes it, which sorta defeats the purpose but what the hell), taking Hurlburt's point: if you DON'T think "what are our vital national interests" isn't the definitive national security question, WTF would it BE?

You guys are considerably more sheep-like that the folks you complain about.

A lesson in how to articulate national interests:

Churchill pointed out once that for 500 years, British policy had been to oppose any power, or group of powers, which was capable of dominating Europe. (This was the object about which Palmerston made his famous remark that nations don't have permanent friends, nor permanent enemies, just permanent interests.) Thus, England fought against Spain, and later against France; it swapped sidea fighting both for and against Germany and the German-speaking peoples (including the Dutch) a half-dozen times, but never once wavered in its interests.

The reason is geography: Britain is an island. So long as the British navy could protect the island and, later, British trade all over the world, it was only necessary to ensure that there was no single dominant European power or alliance, for Britain to protect her interests.

THAT's how to define a nation's interests, guys.

Take the fucking hint.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

I personally believe that there are a lot of technologies out there which are very close to being able to step up and fill the need should a complete oil stoppage by Iran (blocking the straight of Hormuz) come about. At the momen Honda and Toyota are being stupid and insisting that their hybrids come with no attachments for recharging their batteries from stationary power sources.

After-market suppliers are filling this void so that you can modify your Prius and plug it in at night. This means that (if you force the car to drive all the way home at night on battery power alone) you bump your fuel mileage way, way up.

Another big bonehead move has been the refusal of motorcycle manufacturers to produce commuting motorcycles with electronic fuel injection. They pour all their money into making 180 mph beasts for the organ-donor crowd.

Lastly, the Volkswagon diesel engine when running on bio-diesel is really a nifty piece of internal-combustion engineering. What a shame that every mailman and pizza-delivery service in America isn't required to drive such a car.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on February 28, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I personally believe that there are a lot of technologies out there which are very close to being able to step up and fill the need should a complete oil stoppage by Iran (blocking the straight of Hormuz) come about. At the momen Honda and Toyota are being stupid and insisting that their hybrids come with no attachments for recharging their batteries from stationary power sources.

After-market suppliers are filling this void so that you can modify your Prius and plug it in at night. This means that (if you force the car to drive all the way home at night on battery power alone) you bump your fuel mileage way, way up.

Another big bonehead move has been the refusal of motorcycle manufacturers to produce commuting motorcycles with electronic fuel injection. They pour all their money into making 180 mph beasts for the organ-donor crowd.

Lastly, the Volkswagon diesel engine when running on bio-diesel is really a nifty piece of internal-combustion engineering. What a shame that every mailman and pizza-delivery service in America isn't required to drive such a car.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on February 28, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist,

No, I don't dismiss the merits of debating national security. I dismiss your pretensions to some special arbiter status. You make so many breezy and absurd statements that IMO you undermine constructive debate. Am I entitled to my opinion?

(Just like [a political movement] that dismisses guys who win elections, like Clinton and Lieberman, is doomed.)

I think it's fair to say Leiberman get's dismissed here. He hasn't won any national elections, though, and neither has Hillary. But Hillary at least can get a hearing here. Of course if you were referring to Bill, who has won a couple of national elections, he gets plenty of respect here, deservedly so.

This sorta discussion ain't about me

Then why do you so often insert yourself into your comments?

As a nation, I think we have an overwhelming interest in promoting non-violent, tolerant political regimes. We have an overwhelming interest in promoting free and fair trade. We have an overwhelming interest in promoting responsible global environmental stewardship. And we have a very important interest in defending ourselves from violent zealots. And Bob is right to suggest that this latter is largely a policing issue.

I also think that everything I've just said is very, very obvious. But, again, that's just my opinion.

Posted by: obscure on February 28, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Then there came the end for the British Empire too.

Interesting, Sweden has had no war for about 150 years. They are doing quite well. What is wrong with that?

Posted by: Renate on February 28, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- Ya see, Obscure, this is why I concluded Bob is dumb (and from that, a chew toy), two observations for which you are now supplying evidence that they apply to you, as well: "we have an overwhelming interest in promoting non-violent, tolerant political regimes. We have an overwhelming interest in promoting free and fair trade. We have an overwhelming interest in promoting responsible global environmental stewardship. And we have a very important interest in defending ourselves from violent zealots...."

Those are all "interests", but you imply only the last is one sufficiently vital that you, for one, would be willing to kill people and destroy things to sustain it. And you promptly agree with the chew toy, who doesn't seem to notice THAT IN HIS OWN FUCKING EXAMPLE, we, er, actually invaded and continue to maintain a substantial military presence in another country.

Which, Korea notwithstanding, isn't a 'police' function.

Since you're evidently unfamiliar with actual political discussions (other than the circle jerk thing), this is how it works, when it works: Somebody with actual experience (e.g., Hurlburt) makes an observation (e.g., Democrats need to get beyond the gamut from clueless to indifferent on national security issues) based on experience (e.g., the Berger speech that never happened).

Somebody else with actual experience (f'r instance, er, me) summarizes and concurs with the point (in this case, the one raised by Hurlburt), and asks the definitive questions for national security, viz.: 1) What are our vital national interests, and 2) what are we willing to kill people and destroy things over?

This is what's known as a tautology, Obscure. (Out of charity, I'm skipping over that you didn't read Hurlburt, lack her experience, and disrespected me when I summarized her point.)

That is, if you're not willing to kill people and destroy things over something, it's not a "vital" national interest. It may be a good thing, worth working for, even damned important: but if it's not worth life and death, it's not "vital".

Going too fast for you? Take your time.

"Global environmental stewardship" is certainly a good thing, but I dunno that we'd be willing to send B-52s to take out China's coal plants. Is that what you meant?

Or -- face it -- you're too fucking stupid to understand what Hurlburt was talking about. Cuz those are the only two choices: either you meant we have a vital interest that would mean B-52s over dirty coalburners, or, proving her point, you didn't realize THAT is the level of concern sufficient to engage force, from which depend issues of force structure, weapons planning, etc.

Oh, wait: you didn't actually READ her article.

There's something obvious about you, Obscure: and it ain't what you hallucinate are 'opinions'.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

After reviewing Hurlburt's comments I would say that, yes, you mischaracterized the argument when you wrote,

the Clinton administration started out clueless on military and national security issues, and wound up merely indifferent.

The evidence Hurlburt presents might support an assertion that sufficient energy was not put into publicizing the administration's approach to national security and military affairs.

That is substantially different than your assertion that they were indifferent to the issues themselves.

Posted by: obscure on February 28, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist,

Whew.

I think, in addition to what I've said already, that you are too emotionally unbalanced to have generally constructive discussions with...

But, FWIW, as a nation we're willing to use force (kill people) to defend ourselves against those intent on using force against us. Beyond that it is difficult, probably impossible and irresponsible to speculate about our use of force.

Posted by: obscure on February 28, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Well, since you didn't address any of the answers provided by myself and brooksfoe -- preferring to be the badly behaved dog, shitting in the corner, drooling on the carpet, humping the guest's leg -- let me try to spell it out for your testosterone-intoxicated brain:

Chewtoy? "Honey, put the fucking dog in the back yard, please."

Keep it up and it's obedience school time for you, Rusty :)

What is America's national interests as defined by when it's appropriate to use military force?

1) Defense against an attack within our borders.

2) Defense against a potential attack within our borders in areas that are safe haven for the potential attackers.

3) Defense of our allies against an attack.

4) To maintain a fundamental principle of international law (i.e. driving Saddam out of Kuwait).

5) To stop, alongside international bodies like NATO, genocide and/or egregious human rights abuses in countries incapable of defending themselves, and which threaten civilized order in their regions.

Off the top of my pointy, squeaky li'l head.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 28, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Bob,

I appreciate your listing of when it's appropriate to use military force. I suspect most conservatives would agree with you, at least in the abstract. The devil, of course, is in the details. Perhaps you could apply your criteria for me. Was it appropriate to use military force to overthrow the Taliban? Or should the US have relied on law enforcement - Interpol, the UN Security Council, etc. - to seek the arrest and trial of AQ suspects? Would it matter to you whether other countries and/or the UN supported military force by the US in that case?

Or how about a hypothetical: Suppose a radical Islamic group came to power in Saudi Arabia and cut off all oil exports, sending the world economy into depression and making millions of people in the US and abroad unemployed. Would you send the Marines or not?

Posted by: DBL on February 28, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

DBL gets it -- took the chewtoy long enough.

Renate misses something important "Then there came an end for the British Empire, too..."

Actually, the great insight in Churchill's observation that a coherent understanding of Britain's national interest determined its national security for FIVE HUNDRED YEARS, is that it started about 300 years BEFORE there was a British Empire. Hell, it started before there was much of "a" Britain, in fact -- Churchill dated it at the end of the 100 Years War.

Oversimplified a bit, that was when England lost its claims in Europe, particularly in France. From the Norman Conquest through the Hundred Years War, England's "vital national security interests", as we might use the term, meant claims to territory IN Europe. As soon as the Hundred Years War ended those claims, the imperative that Churchill identified emerged. Even in what was effectively a civil war, the Wars of the Roses, the killer for any side was the involvement of any foreign power or coalition which might (particularly with an alliance to a new English dynasty)have dominated Europe. Likewise, a big part of what killed Mary Stuart was her ties to France, the potentially dominant power of HER day. The dalliance with Spain, the role Henry VIII played with the Reformation, Elizabeth, and all the way through the wars with the Dutch, William of Orange, Marlborough and Malplaquet, and on through Queen Anne's War, etc., it all follows the same pattern. So what Churchill identified as Britain's vital national interest long pre-dated even the first British Empire (us), in fact, that's what CAUSED it: England wasn't about to let Spain, the French and the Dutch rule the New World without England there to provide the balance, now this way, now that.

I suspect that was a big part of Berger's struggling with the speech, though the proof of Hurlburt's point is simply that it was never important enough to MAKE it. A clear articulation that this is what is vital to us would be invaluable -- and we haven't had one in a long time.

'Course, (not to mention the chewtoy) Obscure provides an obvious reason why, from the progressive base: I noted that Hurlburt argued that the Clinton administration had gone from "clueless" to "indifferent".

Clueless: "Though the administration had not garnered high marks for security savvy in its early years, we had, as they say, grown in office. ..."

Indifferent: "In recent months, I've been thinking a lot about that speech and the indifference to military matters that killed it."

Obscure -- who didn't even UNDERSTAND the issue, not having read the article, and now (having read it) doesn't understand IT, either -- figures this means a failure to publicize... what, exactly?

What are our vital national interests?

The chewtoy figures this means an invasion, although he weirdly thinks this is also a police matter, i.e., "a potential attack within our borders in areas that are safe haven for the potential attackers..." WTF? When did al Qaeda get a safe haven in Newark?

Any attack on the United States or our allies, including terrorists directed by, connected with, or provided safe havens by (as the Taliban did with al Qaeda) any nation or failed state, involves a vital national interest. No, that isn't about "law enforcement". We want bad guys to fear the 82nd airborne cuz they WILL; they're not afraid of the FBI.

And he somehow hallucinates that genocide in Darfur is worth the lives of Americans in uniform, but of course, NOT in Iraq...

Thoughtful guy, the chewtoy. Next he will inspire Obscure to confuse filing a 45 minute speech with buying a $100 billion weapons system.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Was it appropriate to use military force to overthrow the Taliban?

Appropriate or not, it was a failure if the goal was to eliminate al Queda. If the goal was to destablize the country and enable certain American elites to seize opium poppy production, it was a huge success.


Suppose a radical Islamic group came to power in Saudi Arabia and cut off all oil exports, sending the world economy into depression and making millions of people in the US and abroad unemployed.

The oil belongs to the people of Saudi Arabia, implying Americans would go to war (killing people)in order to steal Saudi oil belies DBL's inhumanity and his belief in America's inhumanity. I suppose DBL thinks it appropriate for Iran to invade the US to steal its nuclear power technology, since we prohibit selling it to them. Might makes right, as long as you are doing it for America. If you are not, prepare to be nuked. This is the kind of talking straight about war that too many Americans understand to be rational. Prepare for US invasion of Venezuela.

You go to war to protect yourself from real existential threats like invasion or launched missiles coming your way or you go to to war as a police action to prevent the kind of ethnic or political violence seen in Bosna and Rwanda. You do not go to war because you covet your neighbor's natural resources. Shame on you DBL, you are a thief of the very worst type.

Posted by: Hostile on February 28, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but in the end you're ducking the question rather than answering it.

For one thing, it's not unheard of for a nation to go to war over natural resources, so "you do not go to war cuz you covet your neighbor's oil' is, at least, an admonition rather than an analysis.

Whaddaya do when somebody ELSE goes to war over natural resources?

For another, it begs the question what IS a vital national interest, or not.

Put it this way: if it was legit for us to go to war over oil, viz., to keep Iraq from keeping Kuwait, what's the diff to keep al Qaeda from getting the Saudi fields?

Stop bitching about mere specifics if you can't figure out a Rule, cuz that's a reason we don't get to make the rules.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Suppose a radical Zionist group came to power in Saudi Arabia and cut off all oil exports, sending the world economy into depression and making millions of people in the US and abroad unemployed. Would you send the Marines or not?

Posted by: Hositle on February 28, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Suppose a radical Episcopalian group came to power in Saudi Arabia and cut off all oil exports, sending the world economy into depression and making millions of people in the US and abroad unemployed. Would you send the Marines or not?

Posted by: Hostile on February 28, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Suppose a radical group came to power in the US and cut off all oil exports to other nations, sending the world economy into depression and making millions of people abroad unemployed. Would you storm the Bastille or not?

Posted by: Hostile on February 28, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Or would the typical American buy an new SUV and drive to Disney World?

Posted by: Hostile on February 28, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile - I'm not sure I get your point.

What difference would it make who seizes power in Saudi Arabia if what they do is cut off oil supplies to the world? The question is what the US should do about that.

Please keep in mind that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was prompted by the US embargo on oil to Japan, which in turn was prompted by the Japanese invasion of China, which in turn wasn't prompted by anything except naked aggression.

So if you want to know whether I think the US should be prepared to wage war for oil, well of course I do, and so does probably 90% of the American public. That we haven't yet had to do so is fortunate.

I don't really care whether the oil "belongs" to the folks who happen to inhabit the Saudi Arabian desert. I don't want to steal it - I'm happy to pay for it at world market prices. But if the Saudi Government were to decide to punish the West for, say, not supporting Hamas's efforts to destroy Israel, well, that's what we have the 82nd Airborne and Marines for.

Posted by: DBL on February 28, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Besides (the historical ignorance here is amazing), it's not like the U.S. military would have to run the refineries. If it came to an American invasion of Saudi Arabia, it wouldn't be THAT hard to find locals to run the oils fields, not to mention the Sacred Cities. Hell, that's how we got the Saudis in the first place -- it was just an Ottoman province before Britain and France knocked off the Turks, when it was King Hussein's family, if memory serves, who ran Mecca and Medina.

It was AMERICAN companies, btw, using bin Laden's family business, who made the haj big business: so puh-leeze, spare us the idea that the only family business represented at the U.N. has some extra-historical claim to sovereignty.

Personally, I dunno as I would necessarily buy the hypothetical that just because there was a coup in Riyadh, we should send in the Marines. Maybe, maybe not. I would argue that somewhere in there, there is a vital national interest, though -- not an "overwhelming" one, a genuinely vital issue.

Which brings up another one: people have to BELIEVE us, when we say "or else". That was in the end my take on invading Iraq. Bush said after 9-11 that Saddam Hussein had to go -- which pretty much settled it for me: I want bad guys to believe American Presidents when they say stuff like that.

However much Bush has fucked up the war (which is considerable), Saddam is still gone. That counts for something.

A big problem progressives have, isn't simply that nobody much believes US when (have we ever?) we say stuff like that (not in a long time), but that we seem to collectively doubt it matters whether people believe us, if we did.

I can't think of the last time a liberal said an "or else" that worked. Anybody?

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

You are a thief committed to armed robbery.

Posted by: Hostile on February 28, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

DBL:

> I appreciate your listing of when it's
> appropriate to use military force.

And I appreciate the civility of your question. It's nice to debate
with political opponents aren't also, you know, flaming assholes :)

> I suspect most conservatives would agree
> with you, at least in the abstract.

I suspect most Americans would agree. It covers the realist /
internationalist spectrum without the neocon grandiosity.

> The devil, of course, is in the details.

Always difficult to provide a set of hard and
fast rules in a world that changes so quickly.

> Perhaps you could apply your criteria for me. Was it
> appropriate to use military force to overthrow the Taliban?

Well yes, but recall that wasn't the original objective. The
original objective was to get the Taliban to hand over Osama
and other al Qaeda suspects. When that didn't happen (Osama
was a guest, and hospitality is a matter of honor unto death
for Afghanis), we had no choice -- as we had no choice to take
out the training camps that helped produce the 9/11 perps.

> Or should the US have relied on law enforcement -
> Interpol, the UN Security Council, etc. - to
> seek the arrest and trial of AQ suspects?

I don't believe the UNSC has jurisdiction there, but as a rule of
thumb international cooperation (among LEAs, intelligence services,
state departments) is always helpful. Consider that hunting down
Osama primarily *is* a law enforcement issue -- else we would have
sent the Special Forces into North Waziristan. Or we could certainly
render that patch of ground a wasteland if we so chose. But we can't
because we can't afford to destabilize Pakistan. Other countries
always matter in situations where looking for the bad guys amounts
to finding needles in haystacks -- unless we want to create more bad
guys wholesale, which regrettably we're doing with Bush's approach.

Consider also the impact of doing it the other way -- claiming
that the global war on terrorism requires us using our intelligence
services to disappear suspects into an American Gulag where these
people have virtually no rights, and the vast majority of them
swept up have no actionable intelligence. Is this a helpful thing?
Or does it so lower our reputation in the world as a harbinger
of individual liberty that it causes more harm than good, only
strenghtening the resolve of our current enemies and creating more?

> Would it matter to you whether other countries and/or
> the UN supported military force by the US in that case?

I don't recall if the UNSC authorized our military action
in Afghanistan, and that might be because Taliban Afghanistan
was hardly a state; only two or three countries in the region
recognized it and for the most part it was an anarchy. An
entirely different bar than invading an actual country with
established worldwide diplomatic relations like Iraq.

> Or how about a hypothetical: Suppose a radical Islamic group came
> to power in Saudi Arabia and cut off all oil exports, sending the
> world economy into depression and making millions of people in
> the US and abroad unemployed. Would you send the Marines or not?

Well, these things happened MOL in 1973 and 1979. In '79, it
happened literally when a radical Islamic group took over our former
ally Iran and held American hostages for over a year, besides. While
Carter's rescue attempt was a tactical failure, nobody can argue
against the morality of using the military to resolve that situation.

But that was for the sake of freeing our hostages, not
undoing their oil embargo. We endured the embargo in '73.

It's still not a good hypothetical because today our sources
of oil are much more spread around than they were in the 70s when
OPEC ruled supreme. Saudi Arabia could cut off the spigot and
cause an economic downturn, but not a worldwide depression.

Americanist:

> The chewtoy figures this means an invasion,

The rabid dog has little clue of what I mean, as per usual.

> although he weirdly thinks this is also a police matter,
> i.e., "a potential attack within our borders in areas
> that are safe haven for the potential attackers..."
> WTF? When did al Qaeda get a safe haven in Newark?

DBL had no problem understanding that I referred tbere to Afghanistan.
DBL, though, didn't try to quote me from memory and brainfart in the
process. Nothing quite so ungentlemanly as to attempt to blame one's
own syntactical fuckup on the original words of what one misquoted.

But Sparky here rarely does it on the paper ...

> Any attack on the United States or our allies, including
> terrorists directed by, connected with, or provided safe
> havens by (as the Taliban did with al Qaeda) any nation or
> failed state, involves a vital national interest.

Which is, of course, a summary of what I said.

> No, that isn't about "law enforcement". We want bad guys to fear
> the 82nd airborne cuz they WILL; they're not afraid of the FBI.

The bad guys do not fear the 82nd. They *revel* in the 82nd.
They know that the 82nd will create so much ill will in the
communities they hide in that it fulfills their larger ideological
objective even if they happen to get wasted in the process.

Which is, you know, the story of the Iraqi occupation. And pretty
much the tactical orientation of every insurgency ever fought.

Hearts and minds, Sparky, hearts and minds ...

> And he somehow hallucinates that genocide in Darfur is worth the
> lives of Americans in uniform, but of course, NOT in Iraq...

I hardly implied that I'm gung-ho about a Darfur intervention.
I merely said that it met the bar of a humanitarian mission,
like Bosnia and Kosovo, as part of an international force (NATO
preferred over the Blue Helmets). I'd certainly have to have an
idea of the mission before I accepted or rejected it out of hand.

Iraq did not meet any kind of bar. There was no ongoing genocide
to stop, no refugee crisis, the weapons inspections were pre-empted
leading everyone to conclude that the UN process was a farce.

> Thoughtful guy, the chewtoy.

*smacking Sparky on the snout with a rolled-up newspaper*

Look! The paper! Smell that? Baaad dog ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 28, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- riiight: "Property is theft", too.

I remember about 25 years ago when I was working in the Senate, during five or six years when the related issues of the civil war in El Salvador and the contra war against the Nicaraguan government was going on, not to mention the Rios Montt genocide against the Maya, etc., in Guatemala. We used to make fun of Reagan, saying stuff like he needed cue cards to remember which government he was propping up and which one he was seeking to knock off.

But an old CIA guy said to me, look: the real distinction to make is between what is vital, and what is merely important. Arguably, better governments in El Salvador or Nicaragua or Guatemala, or Haiti, hell, throw in Cuba (and, soon enough, Grenada) are all IMPORTANT, right? We're sure not AGAINST somebody replacing Rios Montt "We don't have a 'scorched earth' policy. We have a policy of scorched Communists." Who but a fascist regretted when Somoza left? Or Baby Doc?

The trouble with liberals, he complained, is that you can't tell vital from important, when you don't want to act but it is TIME to act; and you can't tell the important from the vital, when you SHOULDN'T act, but you want to.

Practically every poster here (with me and a couple exceptions) brags how they were against going into Iraq, and a couple bitch about knocking off the Taliban, too: though folks don't bother to explain just why it was NOT a vital national interest to invade a nation and overthrew its government when it allowed its territory to be used to stage an attack on us IN our country.

Yet the chew toy AND hostile both want to go to war against genocide in the abstract: where is the vital national interest in THAT? I have family that could die in such a military operation -- justify to me why my nephew or nieces should die for Darfur, but not Kurdistan.

Explain to me how we're gonna do so much better in Sudan than we did in Mogadishu -- or Baghdad.

That's surely what Berger wanted to say in the speech he never made, that the Clinton administration had learned, that it was getting it right.

But -- hell, even Hurlburt called it "indifference".

And you guys don't seem to KNOW the difference.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- more proof what a fucking idjiot this guy is: "The bad guys do not fear the 82nd..."

Two words: Saddam Hussein.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 28, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> Yet the chew toy AND hostile both want to go to
> war against genocide in the abstract:

Here, little puppy *mwa* *mwa* ... *SMACK* !

Y'know, Sparky, you're all intent on impressing us with your
background and anecdotes and whatnot, but as a debater, you
are no class act. You either can't or willfully won't follow
the discussion. You distort virtually every position of
another person you try to synopsize. I have to re-explain
myself post after post because you never bother to read it right
first. I finally shut you up about the fact that, yes, I competely
agree that we should threaten to nuke Iran if they nuke anybody.

How long will you continue to misrepresent my position on Darfur?

> where is the vital national interest in THAT?

Where was the vital interest in Bosnia and Kosovo? Once again -- this
is not an argument to intervene, either concretely or in the abstract.
Only an acknowledgment that there are crises in the world that our
intervention might be able to help. Darfur *obviously* isn't a first-
order threat to our vital national interests. But stepping in to
prevent genocide and a massive refugee crisis is a noble goal which
fosters positive values and increases our crediblity in the world.
If a consensus develops among the EU and/or NATO powers that an
intervention would stop atrocities, I think we could consider it.

I don't frankly know enough about the situation in Darfur to
offer any kind of argument to support an intervention. I'm
merely acknowledging that such an argument could be made.

> I have family that could die in such a military
> operation -- justify to me why my nephew or
> nieces should die for Darfur, but not Kurdistan.

They have no need to die in Kurdistan; the
pesh merga is protecting the Kurds just fine.

> Explain to me how we're gonna do so much better
> in Sudan than we did in Mogadishu -- or Baghdad.

We may not. I tend to be very chary of military interventions
as a general principle, and am extremely concerned about the
unintended consequences of warfare. I'd have to have an idea about
troop strength, logistics, and how this might affect other countries
in the region, as well as on the Muslim populations of our allies.

It's entirely possible that I'm persuaded that it would turn into
a fool's errand that would only make the situation worse. But
the principle at stake is to draw a line against religious and
ethnic genocide. If it can be done, it certainly should be done.

> That's surely what Berger wanted to say in the
> speech he never made, that the Clinton administration
> had learned, that it was getting it right.

The crisis at that time was Rwanda, not
Darfur. And it's complicity in a crime
against humanity that the West did nothing then.

> But -- hell, even Hurlburt called it "indifference".

This kind of careful consideration is the last thing from indifference.

> LOL -- more proof what a fucking idjiot this
> guy is: "The bad guys do not fear the 82nd..."

> Two words: Saddam Hussein.

Three words: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Asswipe.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 28, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Ho-hum.

Americanist,

You're a classic example of cavalier arrogance too sloppy and impatient to put together a coherent argument.

The trouble with liberals, he complained, is that you can't tell vital from important, when you don't want to act but it is TIME to act; and you can't tell the important from the vital, when you SHOULDN'T act, but you want to.

Hey guess what? Maybe Mr. CIA there has an opinion about the distinction between 'important' and 'vital.' But opinions are like assholes, aren't they? Everyone's got one. So, arguing--speculatively--about what situations are vital and what situations are merely important is nothing but gassing off.

And if you were interested in advancing understanding you'd see that. But you evidently don't.

Practically every poster here (with me and a couple exceptions) brags how they were against going into Iraq, and a couple bitch about knocking off the Taliban, too: though folks don't bother to explain just why it was NOT a vital national interest to invade a nation and overthrew its government when it allowed its territory to be used to stage an attack on us IN our country.

Practically every poster?? Iraq was a staging ground for 9/11??

Similar with you're egregious misrepresentation of Hurlburt. She slammed Clinton for failing to give a speech.

You aren't interested in dialectic for the sake of illuminating issues. You're chasing after grandstanding opportunities.

Knock yourself out, Captain.

Posted by: obscure on March 1, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

I pointed out: "a couple bitch about knocking off the Taliban, too: though folks don't bother to explain just why it was NOT a vital national interest to invade a nation and overthrew its government when it allowed its territory to be used to stage an attack on us IN our country...."

To which Obscure replies: "Iraq was a staging ground for 9/11?? "

Learn to READ, asshole: the antecedent was Afghanistan.

LOL -- but as always, it's the chewtoy who truly exemplifies progressive stupidity here.

Try to read this very slooowly, Bob, it may help your comprehension:

We. did. not. invade. Iraq. because. of. Zarqawi.

We. invaded. Iraq. because. of . Saddam. Hussein.

With me so far?

Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. He is on trial for his life. This is a result that tyrants have been known to fear. It was caused by, among others, the 82nd Airborne Division.

Let's take a moment to let that sink in on ol' Bob here.

Okay, now just in case Bob isn't the chewtoy and bullshit artist he shows himself to be around here, observe the nature of his 'argument', such as it is: in pointing out that Saddam's case (among others) provides a very good reason for folks like Saddam to fear the 82nd Airborne, I wasn't exactly going out on a limb, being as how Saddam is on trial, not in one of his palaces.

Bob's response, though, is based on the idea that Saddam must have been thinking: 'Gee, I really want to bluff the Americans and the UN into thinking, hell, I want to help the Bush administration fake evidence that I'm a really really bad guy (cuz I am, but they don't have WMD evidence, so I'll just ACT like I have some: that'll show 'em) so they will invade the country where I'm dictator, knock off my government, and finally pull me out of a hole in the ground where I'm hiding. Hell, if I work at it, they'll even put shots of me in my underwear on the Internet while my former subjects put me on trial for my life. Oh, I'm mad evil...'

Who but the chewtoy would ever suspect that the Iraqi insurgency was a secret plot by Saddam himself, that the old bastard was capable of such self-sacrifice? Hey, nobody like him would ever be afraid of the 82nd Airborne after THIS, huh?

It takes genius to be that stupid. I revoke everything I've ever said about the chewtoy and his rubber steak squeak.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist, truly, you are mentally unbalanced.

Learn to READ, asshole: the antecedent was Afghanistan.

???

Get some help, friend.

Posted by: obscure on March 1, 2006 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

Obscure, this is basic English comprehension.

The full sentence: "Practically every poster here (with me and a couple exceptions) brags how they were against going into Iraq, and a couple bitch about knocking off the Taliban, too: though folks don't bother to explain just why it was NOT a vital national interest to invade a nation and overthrew its government when it allowed its territory to be used to stage an attack on us IN our country."

The plain meaning of the sentence (to those who can, ya know, READ) denotes that those who bitch about knocking off the Taliban will not explain why invading Afghanistan did not serve a vital national interest, because the Taliban allowed its territory to be used to stage an attack on the United States.

You're illiterate. You can't follow a thought from the beginning of a sentence to the end: "Practically every... and a couple even..."

So I suppose it only makes sense that you can't figure out the theme of the thread, namely, progressive indifference (Hurlburt's word) to national security.

Psst: it doesn't speak to the point to huff that the Iraq war sucks, or Bush is a moron, or whatever other dumbass bleat you reflexively wanted to say. It PROVES Hurlburt's point that neither Clinton nor Berger actually made the speech she drafted.

I think there have been three, maybe four posters in this thread (notably DBL) who actually spoke to Hurlburt's argument: Democrats need to start THINKING about national security issues. That requires defining, or at least arguing over vital national interests, which means over what exactly are we willing to kill people and destroy things, from which we'd proceed to invest hundreds of billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money.

Hell, done right, we could conceivably SAVE scores if not hundreds of billions: WE could fund all kinds of good stuff, and even provide our OWN tax cuts (why not restructure the tax code?), if we could talk sensibly and credibly about national security.

Consider: Why spend all that money on pilots in jets? Why not use drones? Why not invest in missile defense? Why so many nuclear weapons plants? Should Israel AND Turkey join NATO, in a two-fer? Why not repeal the ban on research into religion as a national security threat? What's our THEOLOGICAL strategy for the threat from Muslim countries, the way we had an ideological strategy during the cold war? What's up with selling plutonium to India?

But you -- typical -- can't sustain the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, nor between 2003 and 2006, either cuz you're too fucking stupid to read (my own conclusion), or you're too self-righteous to THINK.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> We. did. not. invade. Iraq. because. of. Zarqawi.

You know, this isn't essential for the point I wanted to make, but it
happens to be some nice smooth, creamy gravy: You're wrong, Sparky.

Zarqawi was *a central part* of our reason to invade Iraq, because
Iraq allegedly harbored international terrorists. You remember all
the discussion before the war about how fugitive from justice Zarqawi
got medical treatement in Baghdad for his amputated leg? I also read
that we had an opportunity to take Zarqawi out with a cruise missile
or something, and *we didn't*. Why? Because it was decided that
he was *needed* to *make the case* that Iraq harbors terrorists!

> Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. He is on trial for his
> life. This is a result that tyrants have been known to fear.
> It was caused by, among others, the 82nd Airborne Division.

And if taking out Saddam was the valid metric of winning this war,
we'd be home by now. Murtha believes it's the only valid *military*
metric -- the one which does honor and justice to the 82nd -- and
he is, of course, correct. But obviously we have another problem
now with an insurgency -- and insurgencies are *all about* playing
rope-a-dope with bigfoot foreign military presences in the homeland.

> Okay, now just in case Bob isn't the chewtoy and bullshit artist
> he shows himself to be around here, observe the nature of his
> 'argument', such as it is: in pointing out that Saddam's case
> (among others) provides a very good reason for folks like Saddam
> to fear the 82nd Airborne, I wasn't exactly going out on a limb,
> being as how Saddam is on trial, not in one of his palaces.

And there are several reasons why this Fox News conventional wisdom
is flat-out wrong. First, because actual states (leaving aside
failed states like Taliban Afghanistan) do not sponsor or harbor al
Qaeda-style international jihad. In fact, the Muslim states in which
sectors of their publics are the most sympathetic to the ol' Sayyid
Qutb bullshit (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, etc.) are the ones
whose governments have the most to fear from it, and who are thus our
strongest Muslim allies in the GWoT. This is why all the handwringing
over the UAE as a "terrorist sponsor" is so misplaced. Nobody has
more to fear from Osama & Co. than Gulf oil shiekhs, including us.

Secondly, because the neocons, to obtain a foreign policy objective
that is secondary to America's, have deliberately conflated the
state-sponsored terrorism that does occur in the Mideast with al
Qaeda. The struggle for Israel against Palestine is a US national
interest, but not a vital one. But the neocons are hardcore Zionists
(both Jewish and Christian, like Feith) who have conflated our
vital national interest with Israel's. While it's not convential
wisdom, I believe this is deeply unpatriotic. Israel, with
the most sophisticated military and intelligence in the region,
is more than capable of dealing with its existential threats.

Of course, even saying this puts me in jeopardy of being called
anti-semitic, which is like calling Israel's Peace Now anti-semitic.

> Bob's response, though, is based on the idea [...]

And once again, you need to twist what I write out of recognition
into an absurd straw man (attempt to tell me what I think, indeed
-- you could try quoting it, asswipe), because you're more interested
in playing doggy dominance games ("Sparky! Bad dog! Get off Mr.
Henderson's leg!") than having a reasonable discussion.

You know, you are going to rue the day you ever called me a chewtoy,
Sparky. An ill-mannered dog is a much more stinging metaphor :)

So to sum up what I *actually* think:

Yes, we can invade Iraq and send the Fear of a Christian Gawd
into the hearts of any state in the Mideast that would like to
make mischief -- but the mischief likely to be made is against
Israel. So you have to question whether all that American blood
and treasure was worth making this point. I'd argue it wasn't.

What you can't do is use the 82nd Airborne to deter al Qaeda, when
al Qaeda's stated ideological goal is to provoke a war with the West.

Capice?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 1, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- oh, no: I've come to recognize your genius. The way you in which you use metaphor leaves me speechless, just as the power of your reasoning intimidates me: naturally, I rue ever challenging any you've said, viz:

Whether or not anything you've said is true (how could I doubt it?) or well-reasoned (far be it from me to argue), Saddam is neverthless the latest in a long series of folks who pissed off the United States and lived to regret it.

Squeak on.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- oh, I can't resist: as long as the chewtoy, et al, are being educated in public, this is a genuine example of how metaphors work --

A key moment in Joe Lieberman's first Senate race (to pick someone near and dear to y'all, a Democrat who actually WINS elections) which he won in a virtual tie with Lowell Weicker, was Weicker's reaction to Leiberman's TV ads.

Joe's polling showed that Connecticut voters had a generally favorable opinion of Weicker, but it was weakly so, and idiosyncratic. That is, most folks who had voted for Weicker, and thought they might do so in the future, also knew that he had quirky convictions that were kind of unreliable: he MIGHT decide some issue (like prayer in schools) was a matter of life and death, and he'd filibuster for months, while some other issue (like Bush, Senior's unfitness for the Presidency cuz of his apologia for Watergate) he would just forget about.

So the Lieberman guys came up with the image of Weicker as a sleeping bear, hibernating while issues important to the people of Connecticut were being decided, and then suddenly arousing -- almost -- to growl sleepily when something quirky bugged him. (It was also a nice apposite to the bear in the woods ad that Reagan had used four years earlier.) It didn't hurt that Weicker is a big, heavy-set guy, either: they used a cartoon.

The ad drew blood, because it exploited what everybody knew about Weicker anyway.

Weicker responded to the cartoon with an ad in which he appeared himself, looking right at the camera. He bitched about the ad, took his glasses off, and 'fought back with the record'....

And Lieberman's guys were ecstatic: "We called him a bear in a cave," the guy who did the ad told me, "and then he came out of the cave and GROWLED. God, it was great."

LOL -- the more you squeak, Bob...

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> Whether or not anything you've said is true (how could I doubt
> it?) or well-reasoned (far be it from me to argue), Saddam is
> neverthless the latest in a long series of folks who pissed
> off the United States and lived to regret it.

Your point?

> LOL -- the more you squeak, Bob...

You're trying to analogize this debate with an election campaign?

Hey, if it came down to a vote on PA between you and I ...

Thank you, Lowell Weicker ... Ill-behaved dog vs grumpy bear?

Six of one ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 1, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Your point?"

As noted, you're hopeless, so long as you squeak.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

I'll bet you're just as fond of putting your wives and/or girlfriends in lose-lose situations, too ...

The sine qa non of the abusive personality.

Everything that crawls off my fingers is a "squeak" as you define it.

So kindly go fuck yourself.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 1, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

ROFL -- okay, I shall TRY to be patient with these rubber steak squeaks: one point at a time.

1) I noted that part of our national security is our credibility. (Some of you evidently disagree.) That is, when an American President -- ANY President, no matter how stooopid -- says something like "Joe Badguy must go", I want bad guys to BELIEVE him.

2) As an example, I pointed out that Bush had said Saddam hadda go -- and guess what? He's no longer a dictator in Iraq, he's a prisoner in Iraq.

3) As an argument from other evidence, I pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan is not a police action. It's, er, an invasion.

4) So I noted that it is good for our credibility that bad guys will fear the 82nd Airborne, who would not and do not fear the FBI.

5) The chewtoy, being used to bleating in chorus than actual thinking, objected that, in fact, bad guys don't fear the 82nd Airborne.

6) So I noted two words: "Saddam Hussein".

7) The chewtoy, unable to resist acting like a rubber steak (it's his nature), piped up: "Zarqawi."

8) So I pointed out, as simply as possible (the chewtoy has trouble with complexity), that we didn't go into Iraq because of Zarqawi, but because of Saddam. That is, it was Saddam who was tolerating Zarqawi. It sure as hell wasn't Zarqawi plotting Saddam's overthrow by urging him to defy the U.S. so that we'd invade and put the bastard on trial, any more than Saddam planned to sacrifice his rule in order to trap America in Iraq.

9) So, in the future guys like Saddam are more likely to worry about an American President saying "don't do that", with the example of Saddam's overthrow by force in mind.

'Course, the chewtoy doesn't believe in credibility as an instrument of our national security, cuz it doesn't squeak. He figures that it wouldn't matter to the next psycho dictator that we were willing to spend blood and treasure to knock off Saddam.

But, ya know what? The worse Iraq gets for us in the aftermath, actually ENHANCES our credibility in a certain sense: there is a long list of nations which we might decide to do some B-52 and Airborne diplomacy over that wouldn't involve a tenth the difficulty Iraq poses.

Dictators who run places like that will take the lesson. Hell, it's the ACTUAL reasoning behind your bullshit support for interfering to stop genocide: "Generalissimo, we have an ultimatum from the United States: stop the killings or they will invade."

"No, they would not dare. They would never be willing to pay the price."

"LOOK WHAT THEY DID IN IRAQ, Supreme Leader...."

But, as noted, you're indifferent. Sad, really.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

You know, you really do remind folks of Mussolini, or maybe Berlusconi. Your ego is so vastly overinflated (as a defense against insecurity, doubtless) that you can't brook *any* disagreement whatsoever. It's never an issue on the margins for you (our positions aren't that far apart; you support Murtha, for crying out loud) but because I make some points about the difference between state actors and al Qaeda, your ego can't take it and you attempt to demolish me.

This is why nobody listens to you. This is why you wind up losing support for your positions everytime you show up here and have a "debate" with the regulars. It's not your ideas; it's your odious all-or-nothing trimumphalism. I'd rather be a "chewtoy" than an insufferable ass, Paul. Chewtoys have a built-in sympathy factor. Insufferable asses don't.

As simply as I can:

State actors are not al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has an ideology that says the West is at war with Islam. It has every incentive imaginable to see this enacted in truth. It also has no assets to protect: no palaces, no infrastructure, no oil, no hoards of devoted followers in the streets. That's why invading Iraq *to stop Saddam from supporting terrorism* was the greatest gift we could have given Osama.

As for badguy states taking us more seriously? Well, perhaps Qaddafi did. Or perhaps Qaddafi, who's been moderating himself for the past decade, renounced his nuke program at that moment for maximum PR value, the better to leverage good trade deals with the West. Good deal either way; score one for our team. What about others?

Iran and North Korea certainly seem to be moving in the opposite direction, responding to our belligerent rhetoric with intransigence. And there's a certain amount of rationality in wishing to acquire nukes as a deterrent to what just happened to Saddam. So we're 1 for 3.

I agree with you (anyone would) that presidents should make good on their threats. That's hardly an argument, though, for threatening Saddam in the first place. The UN farce was a fait accompli; making an invasion contingent on Saddam's actions (to assuage the conscience of the West) a baldfaced lie. Your crediblity argument is fine in principle, but we shredded our credibility when we forced Saddam to confirm bogus intelligence or else. He couldn't confirm the lies, so he was invaded.

Way to make Saddam look like a martyr, Paul.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 1, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- the chewtoy just can't stop squeaking: "we forced Saddam to confirm bogus intelligence or else. He couldn't confirm the lies, so he was invaded."

Um, for folks on THIS planet, what actually happened was Saddam tried to cheat on the margins of the UN inspector regime that he had agreed to follow. Not a good move on his part -- but the curious thing (not so curious, really: it squeaks) is why the chewtoy would misrepresent it.

'Course, you're the one who figures Saddam looks like a martyr -- isn't that what you just said?

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> "we forced Saddam to confirm bogus intelligence or else.
> He couldn't confirm the lies, so he was invaded."

> Um, for folks on THIS planet,

EXCUSE me, asshole? This is the world consensus.

> what actually happened was Saddam tried to cheat on the margins
> of the UN inspector regime that he had agreed to follow.

So you're now ... what. Parroting long-since-refuted NRO talking
points? Didn't you follow the inspections as they happened? I
certainly did. There was some initial resistance. There were those
annoying minders. But as the process wore on, the resistance began to
melt away, as Iraq began to internalize the fact that our troops were
massing in the region and Bush was dead set on invading. A cache of
rockets were discovered with longer ranges than allowed; they were
immediately destroyed. Some old mustard gas shells were found --
the same. Did you read the final reports of Blix and ElBaradei?
Neither felt that any early Iraqi resistance justifed shutting down
the inspections before they were finished. ElBaradei's description
of Iraq's rotting nuke infrastructure dripped with contempt for
the American accusations he was sent to examine. Saddam, in short,
became quite serious about preserving his nation through cooperating
with the inspectors. And here's the devastating irony -- even if
I'm wrong, then Saddam's defiance shreds your deterrence argument.

But I'm not wrong. Saddam had a proper
fear of the 82nd. Only it didn't matter.

> Not a good move on his part -- but the curious
> thing (not so curious, really: it squeaks) is
> why the chewtoy would misrepresent it.

I'm misrepresenting shit, asshole. Charles Duelfer confirmed it
all in his final report. Iraq had no WMDs and Bush was looking for
any old excuse he could find to invade -- even if he had to lie.

The point is that modifying Saddam's behavior with the threat of
imminent force was *never the fucking point*. It was a charade
to placate Tony Blair, much to the loss of his political capital.

> 'Course, you're the one who figures Saddam looks like a martyr --
> isn't that what you just said?

No, of course it isn't, asshole -- but when have you ever paraphrased
me accurately? It's what happens when Colin Powell gets up in
front of the UN and presents a "slam dunk" case that he knows in
his soldier's heart is bogus -- having ripped up two-thirds of it
in his hotel room with Tenet the night before. It's what allows
Saddam to preen and strut at his trial about no WMDs and have most
of the Sunni population of the region cheering on his defiance.

And it's what makes it so difficult now for America
to argue the case that Iran is trying to build nukes.
Even *George Bush* is on record making that very point.

Lesson One is establishing credibility around the world is not
basing a case for invading a country on bogus intelligence.

Jesus you're one obtuse motherfucker if you can't acknowledge that.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 1, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Aw... the chewtoy is so cute when he's trying to use big words and "concepts", like obtuse.

Nobody fucking cares (including me, except insofar as you typify the stupidity of my fellow progressives) what you think, Bob, but just so you're not getting away with anything: I noted that Saddam is no longer in power, which is what's known as a clue.

You started hopping up and down that... hey, guess what? Saddam is no longer in power.

Try to focus on that. It's what's known as a fact.

Literally NOTHING you've said beyond that speaks to the point, nor makes sense. (A smarter person would have recognized that you can't deter genocide if bad guys don't believe you when you make threats. I wasn't arguing IRAQ, but what makes for vital interests and national security -- but, hey, you still have trouble with in power, out of power. The fact is, you ARE indifferent to our national security: what counts for you is that Bush is in power, and we're not.)

Which is what makes you a chewtoy: that telltale rubber steak squeak.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

The hypothetical about an oil embargo requiring a military response is sick and demonstrates how low American conservatism has become. Back in the Seventies no one comtemplated war in order to obtain the precious stuff. We waited in line and paid higher prices.

Perhaps it was the knowledge of the terribleness of war that was obtained from the Viet Nam war experience, when many Americans had to serve regardless of their politics because of the draft and when the media was capable of telling the story rather than hiding it like they do now. Regardless, America has become the bad actor in the world today, and it is because of base people like the appropriately named Americanist and DBL, who represent America as armed bandits.

Posted by: Hostile on March 1, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> Aw... the chewtoy is so cute when he's trying
> to use big words and "concepts", like obtuse.

Obtuse -- as in not acute -- describes your argumentation style
to a T. We're talking about what does and does not constitute a
security threat to the US. Your only retort at the end of this
series of exchanges (and it is blissfully coming to a close; Kevin
will disable comments in this thread momentarily) is to assert that
Saddam is not in power anymore -- as if that counts as a rebuttal.

> Nobody fucking cares (including me, except insofar as
> you typify the stupidity of my fellow progressives)

You're not a progressive, dude. You're a fucking centrist troll.

> what you think, Bob,

You think so? Heh, you should have a look-see at the email
exchanges I'm having with other regulars about *you* if you'd
*really* like to know who does and doesn't care about whose thoughts.

> but just so you're not getting away with anything: I noted that
> Saddam is no longer in power, which is what's known as a clue.

Right. And Iraq is the 51st State and on the brink of civil war.

> You started hopping up and down that... hey,
> guess what? Saddam is no longer in power.

And the country is by all reasonable measure manifestly the worse
for it (no small feat considering how rotten Iraq was before), the
region is inflamed, the democracy we've pushed for is empowering
Islamists and our credibility -- the bludgeon you've been thwacking
me over as the *main point* of taking out Saddam -- is in tatters.

> Try to focus on that. It's what's known as a fact.

Try focusing on the *consequences* of that. They make my point.

> Literally NOTHING you've said beyond that
> speaks to the point, nor makes sense.

That's what they're all telling me in email :)

> (A smarter person would have recognized that
> you can't deter genocide if bad guys don't
> believe you when you make threats.

Like we're in any position to deter *anything* now -- after having
lied to the world about Iraq's threat potential? After having sunk
our fighting forces into a tar baby that's now forcing us to withdraw
to our bases and watch the ISF we've tried to train revert to their
militia loyalties because getting involved will only make it worse?

Investing our military in Iraq doesn't give any dictator the
idea that we're interested in deterring genocide unless we can
make a buck on it. Genocide missions are multilateral -- like
NATO in the Balkans. Our unilateral preventive war policy shows
our hands as selfish hypocrites who don't give one limp-dicked
attempted fuck about human rights. Turning the GWoT from a
multilateral police action governed by international law and
the Geneva Conventions into a singlehanded fuck-you-all, we'll-
do-what-we-please adventure has only emboldened genociders the
world over. What do they fear in Khartoum after seeing Iraq? Abu
Ghraib? That Americans actually *give a shit* about preventing
torture? That they can try to invade *another* Muslim country?

> I wasn't arguing IRAQ, but what makes for
> vital interests and national security --

You attempted to make the absurd argument that even our failure in
Iraq acts as a deterrent because it gives badguys the idea that we're
suicidal berserkers who will act against our own best interests. The
Nixon Madman Theory in deeds not words. Which, you know, might have
some merit if we could ever get our army *out* of Iraq. But since we
can't, all the badguys see is how we've weakened ourselves, how many
enemies we've made, how we stand for no values, how we lie. If they
happen to be religious fanatics (like in Khartoum) we look like Satan.

> but, hey, you still have trouble with in power, out of power.
> The fact is, you ARE indifferent to our national security:

And you are indifferent to American honor.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 1, 2006 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- it's silly to keep noting what a dope you are, but this offends my sense of craft: "After having sunk our fighting forces into a tar baby..."

One sinks into a tar PIT. One gets STUCK TO a tar baby: you can't let it go.

This isn't just bad writing (typical of folks who can't read), it's also remarkably similar to what Ellsberg demolished as the "quagmire myth" of Vietnam. God forbid we should miss the lesson again.

I'm sure your fellow knuckleheads are deeply distressed that somebody bothers to challenge so rudely what they blithely think of as unconventional wisdom, so what the hell:

You guys only backed Murtha if his sensible proposal meant how Dean characterized it: "The idea we can win... is wrong."

It's not wrong. It's essential. That doesn't mean "we" will win, or in fact that anybody will "win" in Iraq.

But it does recognize the national security reality of it: losing would really suck.

The chewtoy likes to brag what a dedicated loser he is, so surely he's used to it: he rationalizes it as "principle".

But it's not.

Others aim higher -- and so should we.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 2, 2006 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> LOL -- it's silly to keep noting what a dope you are,

But a compulsion like this is second nature for a personality disorder.

> but this offends my sense of craft: "After having sunk our
> fighting forces into a tar baby..."

Omigod, a mixed metaphor in a blog comment. Mea fucking culpa :)

> One sinks into a tar PIT. One gets STUCK
> TO a tar baby: you can't let it go.

You know, if you were truly observant, you would have noted
that I said "the bludgeon you are whacking me over" when I
should have said "the bludgeon you are whacking me *with*.

How can I live with myself. Where's that suicide capsule? :)

> This isn't just bad writing (typical of folks who can't read),

How about bad arguing? You spent how many posts trying to rub my
nose in Saddam's capture, because it sends the right note to the bad
guys. I notice you dropped that line of argument, perhaps because
doing it unilaterally, scoffing at both international law and the
Geneva Conventions, promotes a moral nihilism that, far from deterring
anybody, only encourages the next genocider who comes down the pike.

Oh, but you don't want to talk about IRAQ, only SADDAM
-- as if you could meaningfully separate the two.

[crickets chirping]

> it's also remarkably similar to what Ellsberg
> demolished as the "quagmire myth" of Vietnam.
> God forbid we should miss the lesson again.

Ahhh ... Vietnam revisionism, a preoccupation beloved by progressives
everywhere. So -- who "stabbed us in the back?" Walter Cronkite? :)

Vietnam was an extremely salutory lesson for Americans to learn. It's
called hubris, Paul. Maybe you need to revisit some ancient wisdom
on the subject. Unlearning that lesson through unilateral action
against A GUY IN A CAVE is what's demolishing our worldwide prestige.

> I'm sure your fellow knuckleheads are deeply distressed
> that somebody bothers to challenge so rudely what they
> blithely think of as unconventional wisdom, so what the hell:

Attempting to tell people what they think is not challenging shit.
It's just raw arrogance -- precisely the kind of arrogance that's
fucking this nation up. I tell my European friends about these
dialogues. You are the face of the Ugly American, Paul. You're
a quintessential bully -- both in your manner here and in your
ideological preoccupations. You're why we're so hated in the world.

You're the problem, bro. You're not functionally different
than a neocon. You believe that American exceptionalism is
the answer to everything, that cheap jingoism is how you win
elections on national security. Well, the way Democrats win
on national security is by what Mickey Kaus called "a return to
normalcy." We fought the Cold War without getting our panties
so in a bunch we ripped up the Constitution and international law.

Over A GUY IN A FUCKING CAVE, no less.

We'd rather look at the problem reasonably than exploit unreason.
You believe exploiting unreason (images trump issues) is just ducky.

Go kiss Hillary's ass, bro. Do something *really* useful for the
country, like helping her propose the next flag burning amendment.

> You guys only backed Murtha if his sensible proposal meant how
> Dean characterized it: "The idea we can win... is wrong."

I backed Murtha after his press conference.

What Murtha said that inspired so many of is is that, in military
terms, we had achieved our objectives: We took out the regime
and captured Saddam. Anything else is not the military's to win,
it's for the Iraqi people to sort out, and that our presence
in the country as armed social workers is only making it worse.

> It's not wrong. It's essential. That doesn't mean "we"
> will win, or in fact that anybody will "win" in Iraq.

And isn't *this* worthy of Catch-22. Winning is "essential," but
it doesn't matter who will win, or in fact that anyone will win.

This isn't moving the goalposts -- it's yanking
them out of the ground and selling them on eBay.

> But it does recognize the national security
> reality of it: losing would really suck.

Yes, "losing" *would* suck, if the country fragments and
Anbar becomes Taliban Afghanistan on steroids. I used to
argue this with my antiwar friends all the time, stressing
Powell's Pottery Barn Rule. But Murtha's press conference
was a paradigm shift for me, precisely because he allowed for
an over-the-horizon rapid reaction force, to keep an eye on
the kind of terrorist training that would threaten us directly.

This is why I'm very leery of folks who, in the name of championing
the formerly oppressed underdog, are rooting for the Shi'a to crack
as many Sunni heads as necessary until they turn on the insurgency.
It ain't gonna work that way; it's an argument for a Sunni militia.

So I'm very supportive of Kahlilzad's role in trying to keep the
Sunnis on board and prodding the Shi'a to give on the constitution,
which is an unworkable document as it stands. I support everything
that America is doing diplomatically to try to keep Iraq from becoming
Yugoslavized in the name of "ethnic self-determination" -- a modern
curse even worse than nationalism. I'm disturbed by antiwarriors so
quick to accept a fragmented Iraq, which is the very worst outcome.

Funny thing is, Paul -- I don't think you and I are so far
apart on the substance of this. I support redefining our
military mission as a protective force to prevent another
Global Jihad Central from forming in Iraq, which we can do
without a massive military footprint within the country.

> The chewtoy likes to brag what a dedicated loser he is, so
> surely he's used to it: he rationalizes it as "principle".

Any 13-year-old can walk into a schooyard
and knock a 7-year-old to the ground.

> But it's not.

Winning without principle turns victory to ash.

> Others aim higher -- and so should we.

Victory without honor is ignoble and ultimately no victory at all.

And, as history has shown time and again, eventually it winds up biting the "victor" on the ass.

Real nice that the Germans finally "unlearned" the lessons of Versailles, Paul.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- a 13 year old knocking down a 7 year old? Golly, what grief are you still carrying from YOUR childhood, dude?

Only a fool (which explains the chewtoy) would expect, or even want a war to be a fair fight.

Still -- in case anybody except this idiot still bothers with this thread -- "hubris" is the wrong lesson.

Ellsberg's analysis of the Vietnam decisions showed that there was always a continuum of policies available to the decisionmakers. (You can argue about what should have been ON the continuum, or what each action might have meant: the point is to know that they did have one, and what it DID mean, to the folks making the decisions: this is the sorta thing chewtoys miss -- how things ACTUALLY happened.)

At one end of the continuum, we could simply give up and leave: abandoning our allies and surrendering. At the other end, we could have nuked Hanoi, etc. It would be irresponsible for military decisionmakers not to consider all options, so: there they were.

It's the mid-range of the available decisions, of course, which are telling, and where the most daming analogies to Bush -- and to contemporary Democrats -- emerge.

Toward the nuke 'em end of the spectrum, there was the range of decisions that they considered had a reasonable chance of victory: unlimited bombing, invade the North, Laos and Cambodia; blockade the Chinese border, etc. In the earliest years, under Ike and before the Bay of Pigs, the contemporary analyses, the ones that informed decisions at the time, set the victory threshold considerably lower than it was later, after the American involvement had escalated. (There were various reasons for this: but again, the point is -- this is how THEY thought of it.)

Toward the give up and quit end, there were a range of decisions that had a reasonable chance of preventing defeat: more U.S. troops, targetted bombings, incursions into Cambodia and Laos, etc. Again, in the earliest years, the threshold for not losing was considerably lower than it got to be later.

Ellsberg was shocked to discover that, time and again, the decisions reached were NOT the ones aimed at winning, because they were all considered too costly. (This is what McNamara has admitted in recent years.) Instead, over and over again, the decision was made to make only a sufficient investment in blood and treasure so as not to lose before the next election.

This isn't a 'quagmire', which denotes wandering onto shaky ground without knowing the danger. Nor it is 'hubris', which would have meant confidently aiming for victory, and falling short.

Ellsberg called it "a stalemate machine" because it was calculated, step by step, to increase the cost without gaining any benefit.

It's a truism (cuz it's true) that Bush got into Iraq and "mission accomplished" the first goal, which was knocking off Saddam, but missed the "then what?" part: the dog who caught the mail truck.

But since I'm not a Republican nor arguing with the President, it's the Democrats' failures which concern me: NOW, not years ago.

The first military principle is the OBJECTIVE: what do we want? If Democrats actually want only to get out of Iraq, and let it go to hell: that's defeatism, by definition. Wouldn't our enemies be better off, because we were defeated?

It's not nuts to argue that Iraq is so bad that it'd be best to cut our losses and leave -- but it's not self-evidently persuasive, either: too many of y'all take it for granted. There is a powerful difference between "get out so we can win" and "get out cuz we can't win": but that distinction is beyond a rubber steak squeak.

Iraq is not quicksand, and we can do better than be the squeaky parts in another stalemate machine.

Besides -- to the chewtoy, any issue just looks like another dog to bite him: I named, what, a dozen, 15 issues?

But all he can say is: we shouldn't have gone into Iraq. A chewtoy in the rear view mirror.

We gotta look forward -- and fercrysakes, stop squeaking.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 2, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

> LOL -- a 13 year old knocking down a 7 year old? Golly, what
> grief are you still carrying from YOUR childhood, dude?

Why? Was it SOP in your neigborhood for 13 year olds to knock
down 7 year olds? If so, that might explain some things ...

> Only a fool (which explains the chewtoy) would expect,
> or even want a war to be a fair fight.

And only a sociopath would insist on using
war as an instrument of social policy.

Lesson One from Iraq War II: The Powell Doctrine is irrelevant
to a foreign occupier in a counterinsurgency against guerillas.

> Still -- in case anybody except this
> idiot still bothers with this thread --

Don't kid yourself; not counting spambots, the only people who access
threads in archive are the two nimrods continuing the argument.

I'll be surprised if I can upload this response
before the comments are turned off, truthfully ...

> "hubris" is the wrong lesson.

It is precisely the right lesson, because this is no longer purely
military. Had it been -- like driving Saddam from Kuwait or taking
out Saddam because his regime posed a legitimate threat, then we'd
have a clear metric of victory and we could go home, and we'd leave,
with MOL a clear conscience, to let the Iraqis deal with the fallout.

Instead, like Vietnam, it's an insurgency, and we're sticking
around not to conquer the country but to swing them over to
our way of life (the fallback positions in Bush's serial casae
belli when the WMD and 9/11 connections fell through). Which
means if we trash the place we hand our opponents a victory.

That's the paradox of insurgencies, of "destroying the village
in order to save it." Hubris -- the belief in ourselves as
the superior civilization, is precisely the fuel that feeds it.

Hubris is precisely what keeps us in the Hamlet position, the
"stalemate machine" as Ellsberg so calls it (which is just another
way to say quagmire -- that is, stuck). If we were nihilists,
we'd just bomb the place to shit and be done with it. If we were
shameless calculators of material self-interest, we'd withdraw.
Instead, we have to try to preserve the possibility of an outcome
that saves our self-image -- even if by the most grotesquely
fatuous, empty rationalizations, like Nixon's "Peace With Honor."

It's hubris because we're incapable of admitting to ourselves
that the failure of the mission was preordained -- something which
you shrink from in disgust as politically unacceptable but which is
nonetheless the most likely outcome. Truth is often brutal on ego.

> Ellsberg was shocked to discover that, time and again, the
> decisions reached were NOT the ones aimed at winning, because
> they were all considered too costly. (This is what McNamara
> has admitted in recent years.) Instead, over and over again,
> the decision was made to make only a sufficient investment in
> blood and treasure so as not to lose before the next election.

Why would this be shocking in retrospect? We live in a democracy,
Paul, not an empire, and we find genocide morally loathesome. Our
goal was never to conquer and occupy Vietnam but rather to support
the government of the South against an insurgency, to prevent the
spread of Communism through Southeast Asia. This puts inherent
limits on what we could do. Even if a united public allowed us
the blood and treasure, we couldn't have used the options high on
the nuke 'em scale, else we convince the world we're bloodthirsty
imperialists and hand the Commies an enormous propaganda victory.
Conversely, if we simply withdrew, we'd send a terrible signal to
China and Russia that we wouldn't honor our military committments.

Of course we were stuck. Of course it was a quagmire. You
just can't bomb a country into choosing our way of life.

> This isn't a 'quagmire', which denotes wandering
> onto shaky ground without knowing the danger.

It was a quagmire in the sense that we became stuck because our
options were inherently limited by the militarily incoherent
nature of the mission, which was to befriend our former enemy.

Hearts and minds, Paul, hearts and minds ...

Empires never had this problem. Democracies do.

> Nor it is 'hubris', which would have meant
> confidently aiming for victory, and falling short.

In Vietnam, it was a certain innocence about our motives that
we lost, illustrated no more poignantly than by the young anti-
Communist American adviser in Graham Greene's The Quiet American.

In Iraq, innocence has become pathology:

1) Mission Accomplished.
2) Iraqis want freedom just like everyone on the planet.
3) God chose me to carry out this historic mission.
4) I will never admit mistakes.
5) Things are always better than they look on the ground.

Hubris, Paul. Sophocles would have a friggin' field day.

> The first military principle is the OBJECTIVE: what do we
> want? If Democrats actually want only to get out of Iraq,
> and let it go to hell: that's defeatism, by definition.
> Wouldn't our enemies be better off, because we were defeated?

There's an unstated premise in here which needs examining, and
that's the extent to which we can affect whether or not Iraq
goes to hell. You'll recall last week when the country tottered
on the knife-edge of civil war after the dome bombing that our
military seemed eerily absent from the situation by many accounts.
I think this was an intentional tactical decision to let the
ISF try to keep the peace -- and we saw how effective they
were against the militias. Our active role there is shrinking,
and best we can do is hope that our training is taking hold.

As for a bottom-line objective, I think that's clear -- for both
Republicans and Democrats -- and that's to keep Iraq from developing
into a staging area for battle-hardened jihadis aiming to take their
expertise to us or our allies. This is why Murtha's plan is sensible.

> It's not nuts to argue that Iraq is so bad that it'd be best
> to cut our losses and leave -- but it's not self-evidently
> persuasive, either: too many of y'all take it for granted.

Some of us have been persuaded for a long time into a hardcore
withdrawal position, which I've never thought is tenable; we let
Iraq became Taliban Afghanistan II and the world is in for some
serious trouble. But what *all* of us withdraw-the-troops-from-Iraq
types do take for granted is the notion that our military can hold
Iraq together. It cannot. What peace it keeps is trumped by the
violence it inspires. This is Murtha's argument and he's right.

> There is a powerful difference between "get out
> so we can win" and "get out cuz we can't win": but
> that distinction is beyond a rubber steak squeak.

Well, this is the hubris talkin'. Peace With Honor and all that.
We can get out so we can more properly focus on our *objective*,
surely -- so we can be more effective in the GWoT. But that means
a shift to containment, a "return to normalcy," which means we'll
be in the region indefinitely, with doubtless no final victory
as it's not exactly likely that someday in the forseeable future
global jihad ideologists are going to wake up one day and cry
Uncle, you outspent us! the way Gorbachev did. And that means
no final victory in a low-intensity war fought in perpetuity.

In Iraq, the only real hope is that the country keeps from
fragmenting and they can form a strong, legitimate central
government with all factions duly represented. If that manages
to happen, our main burden in the GWoT will be that much lighter.
It is an outcome, though, in which the US has little real say.

> We gotta look forward -- and fercrysakes, stop squeaking.

A Return to Normalcy. That's the appropriate rallying cry.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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