Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Two Sides of Rummy's Survival

There's a lot of speculation from Bob Woodward's upcoming book on the pressures to fire Donald Rumsfeld after the 2004 election.

The obvious reason is that firing Rumsfeld would have been a political disadvantage. Letting Rumsfeld go would have made it look like Bush actually was dissatisfied with events in Iraq while he was telling everyone how wonderful things were. In other words, Bush decided to keep failing in Iraq rather than make himself look like a liar.

But, I think that Bush has deeper reasons for keeping Rumsfeld. Bush admires aggressive, over-powering men like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Nolan Ryan, or Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros. Wishing that he had an overwhelming personality or athletic ability himself, Bush has a deep admiration for other men like that. In this way, Bush likes the way that Rumsfeld runs roughshod over the military because he's always wanted to run roughshod over things himself.

Conversely, George Bush has a deep empathy for failure. Having failed with four oil companies before being set up with the Texas Rangers, Bush knows the frustration, futility, and impotence of doomed projects more than the vast majority of men and women. As a result, Pres. Bush would have more empathy with Rumsfeld's failures as defense secretary than he would for people who are having success.

So, Rumsfeld survives even as Baghdad falls apart. The wannabe in Bush admires the arrogant brashness of Rumsfeld while the loser in Bush commiserates with Rumsfeld's failures.

How Much Bolder Can They Get

Tonight President Bush claimed that withdrawal from Iraq would 'embolden the terrorists.' Probably, but how much bolder can the terrorists be than they are now?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Falling Off a High Wire

There is a report on CNN that Terrell Owens, celebrated wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on pain pills, and was saved from such a gruesome and wasteful death by a friend.

I'm glad to see that someone was there to help him.

Owens has been on the high wire of making high levels of demands on his environment and even higher levels of demands on himself for years. It's a good thing that someone was there when he fell off.

George Allen's Head

This week's George Allen crisis involves a college teammate at the University of Virginia saying that Allen often used the n-word with other whites on the UVA football team. According to Dr. Ken Shelton's interview with Salon, Allen once took the head of a deer that had been killed by a member of his hunting party and put it in the mailbox of a nearby black resident.

Everything about the incident was vintage racism--looking for an opportunity to intimidate and disgust his friends, employing blacks as a kind of "favorite target," and then treating it as a huge joke. Dr. Shelton decided to go to the press after he saw clips of the "macaca" incident: "When I saw the look in his eye in that camera and using the word 'macaca,' it just brought back the bullying way I knew from George back then," Shelton said.

For George Allen, racism was attractive because traditions of white racism in the United States provided what was for him an extremely appealing outlet for his bullying. Unlike a lot of "passive racists" who react to things they see and hear about blacks, Allen went out of his way to engage in racial harassment and surround himself with Confederate flags and other symbols of white supremacy. For Allen, the virulence of his racism was an outlet for the aggressive bullying at the core of his personality.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Decoding the NIE

“Key Judgments” of the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate have been declassified. To put the issue simply, initial U. S. operations in Afghanistan “seriously damaged” al-Qaida, but the invasion of Iraq has resulted in a reversal of that progress and led to the growth and diffusion of the “global jihadist movement.” Because of the weakening of al-Qaeda, there is less of an immediate threat than there was in 2001, but the growth of the global jihadist movement will lead to more attacks on U. S. interests “at home and abroad.”

How has the invasion of Iraq led to growth in global jihadism?
1. “The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre. for jihadists, breeding a deep
resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for
the global jihadist movement.”

2. “ . . . the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and
operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the
struggle elsewhere.”

In other words, the jihad against the American occupation in Iraq is creating a new wave of terrorist leaders, operatives, and fighters trained in operations against the American military. When those terrorists return to their home countries, they are greeted by an audience that is highly receptive to the global jihadi message because of the intense and widespread Muslim resentment of the occupation.

If it were not for the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, the global jihadist movement would be much weaker. The NIE mentions several reasons for this. Most importantly, the jihadist program of sharia based governance is unpopular with the majority of the Muslim population. Likewise, many important Muslim clerics oppose global jihad and there has been at least a potential for democratization. However, the enormous resentment of Arab and Muslim populations over the U. S. invasion of Iraq keep these factors from resulting in a weakening of global jihadism. At this point, the appeal of jihadism is based on resentment over the American occupation of Iraq and the endemic corruption and stagnation of Muslim nations. The NIE gives the impression that the invasion of Iraq has become the most important factor stimulating the growth of global jihadism.

The NIE engages in a little wishful thinking concerning how global jihadism could be countered. Encouraging the “Muslim mainstream” to disavow the global jihadists, the possibility of defeating the jihadists in Iraq, and the death of high profile leaders like bin Laden and al-Zarqawi in “rapid succession” are all posed as developments that could reduce the appeal of global jihadism. However, the NIE doesn’t express much confidence that any of these events will happen soon (although Zarqawi, of course, has been killed).

Right now, the major factor cited by the NIE as discouraging attacks on the U. S. is that Europe presents such an inviting target. Despite our $500 billion military, cultural and geographical isolation appears to be the strongest weapon in the American arsenal.

The NIE Key Judgments are written in the driest possible bureaucratic language. However, it is necessary to point out that the NIE’s emphasis on connecting the occupation of Iraq to the growth of global jihadism makes the NIE a left-wing document. Left-wing war critics of the Bush administration have been arguing that an invasion of Iraq would stimulate global terrorism since even before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Being correct is no consolation for the disastrous outcomes of the Iraq invasion, but acknowledging that the invasion was doomed to make the war on terrorism worse is an important element in rethinking American policy for the future.

Bushies Focusing Their Delusions

Today, Condoleeza Rice is claiming that the Bush administration did "at least as much" as the Clinton administration to fight al-Qaeda before 9-11.

I doubt there will be any investigation of Rice's claims, but Rice is wrong and she knows she's wrong. That's a nice way to say she's lying.

Before 9-11, the Bush administration was completely focused on promoting missile defense as their most important defense priority. Missile defense was one of those peacetime defense scares where people like Donald Rumsfeld promoted the idea that Chinese and North Korean missiles were a threat to the U. S. that could be met once and for all by anti-missile missiles. It was all non-sense. North Korea has only the crudest nuclear bombs, if that. They're at least as long a way from having nuclear missile technology as the U. S. is from having a functioning missile defense. When North Korea does have missile technology, it will be easy for them to evade missile defenses. It turns out that evading defensive missiles is a lot easier and cheaper than developing them.

Because they were focused on selling the whole missile defense delusion, the Bush administration downgraded the reality of the terrorist threat. In fact, Bush's national security team dismissed the concerns of the Clintonistas, pushed counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke out of the "principals meetings" down to the deputies meetings, and laughed off the warnings of both Clarke and George Tenet. Just as George Bush spent all of August, 2001 on vacation in Texas, the Bush security team was taking a vacation from counter-terrorism.

Unfortunately, the reality of 9-11 didn't disconnect the Bush team from their delusions. They merely switched from missile defense to invading Iraq.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bob Schieffer Preacher

Going for the easy patriotism points, Bob Schieffer decided to use his soapbox on Face the Nation to lecture about American democracy by comparing the Bush/McCain compromise on torture to the state of things in Venezuala and Iran.

"It's not a perfect plan, but it shows how we do things in a democracy — out in the open — and in accordance with the law even when dealing with the worst of the worst. "

Unfortunately for Schieffer and patriots everywhere, things don't look so good in the real world of the Bush administration. In fact, the Bushies have been doing everything they can to flout the Constitution, the War Crimes Act, military regulations, and international law concerning the handling of prisoners. Likewise, the Bush administration prefers to do everything in secrecy and kept Congress and the public in the dark as much as possible about CIA prisons, the rendition of detainees, torture practices, and various exercises in data mining. If anything, the Bush administration has been making an effort to be as much like the "worst of the worst" as possible.

Schieffer compared Hugo Chavez to one of the comic arch-villain in the old Batman series. It was an apt comparison. But the Bush administration doesn't escape the shame of Batman comparisons. Like Michael Keaton's obsessive, murderous Batman, the Bush administration is scarcely more moral than the insurgents they are fighting even if we are more moral than our Iraqi government allies who are taking chain saws to people as they kill them. The Bush administration is also like Adam West's Batman in being so comically inept that you have to wonder if they'll make it to commercial. And whether the Bush administration is Keaton-murderous or West-inept, the bad guys are far from intimidated and global terrorism keeps getting stronger now that it has a new home in Western Iraq.

However, unlike Batman or Hugo Chavez, the murderous ineptitude of the Bush administration has real world consequences for the well-being of Iraq and the United States.