Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 26, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

MINISTRIES....Ramesh Ponnuru reports back from a journalists' lunch hosted by John McCain:

McCain notes that corruption and the lack of political progress are continuing problems. "Whoever designed that government ought to be taken out and shot," he said, referring to the large number of Iraqi ministries.

McCain is upset because Iraq has too many ministries? That's very deckchairish on the Titanic of him, isn't it?

Also this: "If there is no political progress over the next three months or so, McCain said, 'some very tough calls would have to be made.'" Does this mean the New York Times will now run a story telling us that Republicans have been changing their tune on Iraq, suddenly emphasizing political progress as a benchmark instead of the level of violence?

In any case, three months from now is February 26. Mark your calendars.

POSTSCRIPT: For what it's worth, Iraq appears to have 31 ministries these days. Just thought I'd clear that up.

Kevin Drum 2:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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Three months, eh? That's what, half a Friedman unit?

Also, as I was marking my calendar, I noticed that the Feb. 26 deadline is after most of the major primaries have taken place. How convenient for McCain.

Posted by: DaveWoo on November 26, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Whoever designed that government ought to be taken out and shot,"

Don't worry, John, there's a good chance that will happen in Baghdad, even by accident. (That is, unless he's talking about blaming the CPA, in which case medals of honor will be acceptable substitutes.)

Posted by: RSA on November 26, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

RSA: Actually, I was hoping to make a joke about how the ministry structure was created by Saddam Hussein, and he's already been taken out and shot. (Or hanged, I guess.) But it turns out there really are a bunch of new ministries that Saddam had no hand in, so a perfectly good joke had to get tossed on the ash heap.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on November 26, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you sound like you've done some research here: my guess would have been that it was representatives of the bush administration who designed the government. do you happen to know?

more hilariously, of course, is the way that the likes of mccain (and graham) all want to pretend that the surge wasn't justified as a means of, you know, actually achieving some political progress. these people just don't have any ratiocinative powers at all: they just bellow.

Posted by: howard on November 26, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

And yet, they still do not have the Ministry of Propoganda, the Ministry of Truth, and the Ministry of News.

Oh, I forgot, these are headquartered in DC/New York. McCain must be the Minister of Truth, and Bill Kristol the Minister of News.

I guess the Ministry of Propaganda has been outsource to the uberboys at the Corner.

Posted by: gregor on November 26, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Not to get too crazy, but how many "ministries" does the US have? Comparable countries to Iraq? Is 31 ministries more or less than normal?

Perhaps the 31 might include a Ministry of Silly Walks?

Posted by: Fred on November 26, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

so a perfectly good joke had to get tossed on the ash heap

Not at all. Unless Dick Cheney has given up hunting. Or drinking.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basementqu on November 26, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

there are well over 1000 different agencies, offices and departments in the US Federal govt.

Posted by: cleek on November 26, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

There aren't very many mini-series on Iraq, however.

I'd like to see Michael Landon in the part of Nourim Al'Maliki. He makes me feel happy about things.

Posted by: absent observer on November 26, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Since someone asked for a comparison, India has 32 Cabinet level Ministers, but the number of ministries is larger, as some have ministers oversee more than one.

Posted by: gregor on November 26, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Is it newsworthy that McCain wants to shoot Paul Bremer and a bunch of neocon recent college graduates?

Posted by: Anonymouse on November 26, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

absent observer on November 26, 2007 at 3:23 PM:

I'd like to see Michael Landon in the part of Nourim Al'Maliki.

Landon would be a longshot for the role, considering that he's been dead since '91...But then again, a zombie in the role of Al'Maliki would be way cool.

Posted by: grape_crush on November 26, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

"taken out and shot"

A preview of McCain's Justice Department?

Nice to know this kind of guy is a viable Presidential candidate. Just what the Founders envisioned...

Well, Franklin anyway.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on November 26, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

When McCain says tough choices will have to be made, that's not a threat to leave Iraq. It's a threat to depose Maliki and the rest of the Iraqi government.

Posted by: Jen on November 26, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

What about all those purple fingers, what do Iraqis want? Are is that all irrelevant now?

All it really means anyway is they (the Iraqis) want sign Bush's hydrocarbon framework law.

Posted by: Me_again on November 26, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Taken out and shot" is rarely funny in day to day life. When the context is a war zone and the speaker is a statesman, I propose it's never funny.

Republicans have such tin ears for politics. If they weren't so corrupt, they'd never win.

Posted by: brent on November 26, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kissed the Blarney stone, he did, charming rogue. Given his sordid support of illegal infiltration, McCain can give lessons to the Iraqis on corruption.

Posted by: Luther on November 26, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

How droll that one of the Keating Five has his knickers in a twist over corruption!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 26, 2007 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Three months, eh? That's what, half a Friedman unit?

Not necessarily. I read that to mean that the Friedman has been devalued. So now we have to agree to wait 2 FUs before declaring Iraq a failure.

Posted by: craigie on November 26, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Cabinet
The US currently has 15, and another 5-6 cabinet level officers who don't head government departments or, I suppose, must be part of another department (eg head of the EPA)... oh and the CIA is an odd case.

Is the number of ministries really a problem or is it the independence of ministries?

Were there not problems a year or two ago with the security forces of the ministry of health operating as death squads? The analogous department in the US does not have security forces and I would imagine that the same is true of any non-police state at peace (ie india). I believe there have also been reports of the ministries basically controlling territory rather than slices of the government bureaucracy.

Basically the central government is very weak. I doubt it could bend ten ministries to its will after they were parceled out to the various factions.

Posted by: jefff on November 26, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I imagine that the "very tough calls" that will have to be made will include trying to decide whether to give the Iraqis another six months to shape up or another twelve months. And, let it be noted, when those six/twelve months are up, there are some very tough calls that will have to be made. But the odds are about 100 to 1 that John McCain won't be making them.

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on November 26, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it almost two years ago that a lot of Republicans, including McCain, started to say that if things didn't improve in the next few months that they would support withdrawal? And then they kept resetting those deadlines every few months? Why doesn't the press do a simple timeline to show that these people aren't men of their word and that they've simply been lying to the American public by playing and endless game of "just give it a little more time". All they're trying to do is run out the clock, so they can avoid accountability in upcoming elections. Basically they've placed their political careers over the lives of the American soldiers (who keep dying while they avoid electoral accountability), as well as what is best for the United States itself, not to mention the people of Iraq (who apparently never seem to merit even an insincere word of notice).

Republics don't fall because of the actions of evil and greedy men. You always have evil and greedy men in power and influencing it. Republics fall when good men (like McCain used to be) fail to stand up to these evil men. McCain pretty much sold out this country and our constitution by failing to stand up to Bush administration and the GOP when they have broken the law and violated the constitution. And all for what, an outside chance that he could become president?

The sad thing is, McCain is still one of the most honest and decent members of the Republican party. Shows you how thoroughly corrupt and intolerable the rest are.

Posted by: Augustus on November 26, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Love the semi-neologism "deckcharish." And no "hopefullys" in sight!

A good Monday then it is.

Posted by: Mellors on November 26, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

"What about all those purple fingers, what do Iraqis want? Are is that all irrelevant now?"

'Democracy' def.

1) Voting results approved by the US Government.

'Terrorism' def.

1) Violence not approved by the US Government.

'Freedom Fighters' def.

1) An insurgency approved by the US Government.

etc...

Posted by: Buford on November 26, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't that more of a semi-neoblogism?

Posted by: Kenji on November 26, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Whoever [insert what you will] ought to be taken out and shot.

Coming from a Republican, this isn't as funny as it used to be.

Posted by: Laney on November 26, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Canada with a population very roughly in line with Iraq has 34 ministers responsible for 67 positions. Not quite sure what McCain is on about.

...but then again the Reprehensibles never seem to need any basis for their claims. Just that they serve the needs of the minute.

Posted by: snicker-snack on November 26, 2007 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

FU/2 eh? pretty good, and "FU" is probably what mccain will say when asked about it next february ;-).

Posted by: supersaurus on November 26, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Lots of ministries...
It's not the number of ministries that don't make sense to me, it is how they are scattered all over the parties. Having lots of parties with their fingers in the pie makes sense for a legislature, but for an administrative arm? Not so much to me.

I know there was a time in our country when the admin jobs were shared between parties, and we moved away from that fairly quickly. Why choose the form of government they did for Iraq?

Posted by: SJRSM on November 26, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

State's list appears to be a bit out of date. The GAO's Oct 2007 report lists 34 ministries (does not include 3 ministers without portfolio); see STABILIZING AND REBUILDING IRAQ - U.S. Ministry Capacity Development Efforts Need an Overall Integrated Strategy to Guide Efforts and Manage Risk. Worth a read even if you don't care about the exact number of ministries.

Posted by: has407 on November 26, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

SJRSM: It's not the number of ministries that don't make sense to me, it is how they are scattered all over the parties. Having lots of parties with their fingers in the pie makes sense for a legislature, but for an administrative arm? Not so much to me.

Don't forget this is a parliamentary system with no definitive majority. Ministries are as often as not handouts used to entice parties and factions into joining and supporting the governing coalition; the more the merrier.

Posted by: has407 on November 26, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

We need a Ministry of Youth and Sports so, you know, Congress can focus on important things like subpoenaing baseball players about steroids.

Ohh, my bad...

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 26, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

This video shows where the real corruption and lack of political progress are evident - in the Republican Party in the United States! Iraq is getting on pretty well for a society that has had over a million of its citizens slaughtered by the most powerful army in world history. Not to mention having depleted uranium exploded all over their environment, over a million people displaced and their infrastructure blown to smithereens. Other than that, things are going swimmingly.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 26, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Conservative Deflator: a society that has had over a million of its citizens slaughtered by the most powerful army in world history.

Actually, most of those people were killed by insurgents and by al Qaeda in Iraq. These groups set out to murder large numbers of innocent civilians.

The US deserves commendation for fighting against these mass murderers on behalf of Iraqi citizens. OTOH those who favor an immediate withdrawal of US troops are advocating a policy that would make it easier for the killers to murder even larger numbers of people.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 26, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK
"Whoever designed that government ought to be taken out and shot"

It is not entirely clear if, here, McCain is advocating US government officials or those of a friendly foreign nation, but what is clear is that, if he were a Democrat running for President, he would get pounded for this, and every other Democratic candidate would get hounded and forced to distance themselves from the statement and condemn it.

Will this happen on the Republican side?

Posted by: cmdicely on November 26, 2007 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

We've already tried the guy who pines for dictatorship, can we please take a pass on the guy who's calling for summary executions and sings songs to cheerlead another invasion?

Posted by: Boronx on November 27, 2007 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, most of those people were killed by insurgents and by al Qaeda in Iraq. These groups set out to murder large numbers of innocent civilians.

What a deceitful little shit you are. A large percentage are as a result of direct U.S. action (particularly in the first few months). The rest can be wholly attributed to the conditions created by the U.S. invasion (including lack of health facilities and power) that the U.S. was told would be created by its invasion. Al Qaeda in Iraq (I know you like to throw that Al Qaeda name around - kinda like asperging the United Kingdom by slamming the United States) is by U.S. army estimates responsible for 5% of the insurgency at best. In any case most of the deaths have been indirect and can certainly not be laid soley at the door of the insurgents.

The US deserves commendation for fighting against these mass murderers on behalf of Iraqi citizens. OTOH those who favor an immediate withdrawal of US troops are advocating a policy that would make it easier for the killers to murder even larger numbers of people.

Or make it much more likely for the locals to clamp down on the 'killers'. Assertion is not argumentation. Particularly when it comes from as dishonest a sod as you. Perhaps in future when you've gained my trust by being proven correct on issue after issue I might even pay heed to one of your unsupported assertions. And pigs may soar to the outer reaches of the galaxy...

Posted by: snicker-snack on November 27, 2007 at 5:11 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget this is a parliamentary system with no definitive majority. Ministries are as often as not handouts used to entice parties and factions into joining and supporting the governing coalition; the more the merrier.
Posted by: has407

Is a parliamentary system generally considered to be the best? Since we were starting with a clean slate, was this the right one to deploy?

They need to have some sort of elections every year over there. We have them here, and it keeps the democratic juices flowing.

Posted by: SJRSM on November 27, 2007 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

McCain appears to be advocating for the assassination of the grand architect of the Iraqi invasion, the Decider.

Posted by: anonymous on November 27, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I nominate "deckchairish" to succeed "truthiness" as best new word in politics. Great phrase, Kevin!

Posted by: peter A on November 27, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK


Ever since Stephen Colbert invented the word and concept of “truthiness”, its use and the use of derivative words have become widespread. Its interpretation and application varies. It can mean closely approaching the truth, or it can mean the truth as decided by the user, somewhat similar to the claims of the Bush administration that it creates its own reality.

In a New York Times article about fashionable watches that don’t tell time, one being just a blank space on a fancy watchband, the trend was called a move to “watchiness”.

Other actual or suggested derivative uses are “uniqueiness”, “smartiness” and “global warminess”

Now that President Bush has downgraded the objectives in Iraq, seeking only a state of accommodation, we might apply the term “successiness”

homer www.altara.blogspot.com

Posted by: altara on November 27, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

SJRSM - Not sure there's any "best", and although parliamentary systems tend to be the norm, the devil's in the details. (Not to mention that virtually every form of government can and has been abused and misused.) That said, I doubt anything else would work (such as it does) at this point in Iraq.

Posted by: has407 on November 27, 2007 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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