Saturday, May 26, 2007
1. Iraq will have a weak, corrupt government with limited control over Iraqi territory. There is little reason to think that Iraq will have anything other than a Shiite government. There are two sources of corruption. First, traditionally downtrodden Shiite elites are looking at the government as a mechanism for acquiring "real" private wealth for the first time. Second, the government has become a means to finance the Shiite militias that are integrated within the government structure. Iraqi governments will not be not strong enough to exercise much control over either Sunni or Kurdish territories. They won't be able to exercise much control over Shiite militias as well.
2. The Iraqi government won't collapse and will be too strong for insurgents to overthrow. The al-Maliki government itself is weak, but the Shiite militias that are its true power base are too strong for either al-Qaeda or Sunni insurgents to overthrow. One of the unacknowledged facts of the sectarian civil war of 2006 was that the Shiite militias had the upper hand over Sunni insurgents in and around Baghdad. When we leave the Shiite militias will re-assert themselves in ways that keep either al-Qaeda or the Sunni insurgents from overthrowing the government. Actually, al-Qaeda might not be much of a threat in Iraq after an American withdrawal. There are only 1200 to 2,000 al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq and it seems that Sunni tribal forces are becoming increasingly intolerant of al-Qaeda's operations in Sunni areas. After an American withdrawal lowers the motivation for al-Qaeda volunteers to come to Iraq, al-Qaeda probably will become even less of a factor.
3. The Negligible Genocide factor. There are a lot of worries about a genocide if the U. S. leaves. There shouldn't be. Genocide occurs when one side has overwhelming power in relation to the other. That's not the case in Iraq. The Shiite militias would have the upper hand after an American withdrawal, but the Sunni populations are very well armed and more than capable of defending themselves. Instead, the situation looks like it has a potential for a long drawn out civil war like the one going on in Columbia.
I can see a role for American forces in Iraq. We can help the Iraqis guard against external invasions, help train the formal Iraqi military, and shield against any dangers from al-Qaeda. Otherwise, I think the Iraqis will manage on their own. They'll manage poorly but they'll still manage.
Either the publishers don't have much faith in these books or they're making extremely poor marketing decisions! If the publishers have confidence, why wouldn't they wait until right before the primary season. Or, better yet, until after Hillary is the official Democratic candidate? My guess is that the publishers don't see any of these books as anything special and are therefore rushing to print to make sure they don't get overshadowed by the other books.
My suspicion is that the books will end up making Hillary look pretty good by reminding people of all the crap's she's gone through and how (relatively) well she's dealt with it.
Not that I actually would buy the books.
BUSH'S OWN TIMETABLE. Instead, what the Bush administration did was put out its own timetable for withdrawal. According to the New York Times, administration officials led by Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates are floating ideas of reducing the number of American troops to 100,000 and changing the mission from combat to training Iraqi troops. President Bush mentioned these ideas at yesterday's press conference as well. In certain ways, this is just a return to Gen. Casey's strategy for withdrawal in 2005 and 2006 and has been posed several times before. It may also be a sop to a public opinion which was 2/3rds in support of the Democratic timeline strategy. My impression though is that Bush realizes that the game is up in Iraq, but is determined to withdraw on his own timeline rather than timelines dictated by the Democratic opposition. The administration seems to be giving up on the two main goals of the surge--stabilizing Baghdad and promoting political reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis. Given that there is going to be no "victory," Bush seems to be angling for "defeat with dignity."
IN ADDITION. Glenn Greenwald scoffs at the Times story about reducing troops by half and produces a variety of quotes from war supporters to that effect over the last four years. And he's right to a large extent. So does Atrios (linking Greenwald). However, there is more debate and division within the warmaking machine than Greenwald acknowledges. It turned out that the Iraq strategy of Gen. Casey and Gen. Abizaid was to get the bulk of American troops out of the country as soon as possible.
Another item that leads me to believe that war advocates might actually want to reduce the U. S. military presence in Iraq is that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was emphatic about it. “I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it . . . In other words, I think he, himself, has certainly indicated he’s not happy with where we are. And I think we are looking for a new direction in the fall.”
Mitch McConnell is my senator here in Kentucky and he cares about the well-being of the Republican Party much more than anything in his own life and much more than Dick Cheney. I interpret McConnell's remarks as indicating that the President had better get in front of troop withdrawals or Republicans are going to suffer major reverses in 2008. In other words, the pressure on Bush to retreat from the surge is real and there's at least some chance that Bush will respond by "going in a different direction" in the near future.
Friday, May 25, 2007
What that means for the campaign is that Fletcher will have to unleash a wave of negative ads in order to bring down Beshear's 36% of the Republican vote.
If Beshear were really smart and energetic and had some cash laying around, he's launch some sort of humorous ad to pre-empt the attack ads to come from Fletcher--maybe bring out one of Mitch McConnell's bloodhounds with a voiceover saying "you don't have to be a bloodhound to smell what's coming from Ernie Fletcher, etc.
There are 52 videos in the museum, one showing how the transformations wrought by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 reveal how plausible it is that the waters of Noah’s flood could have carved out the Grand Canyon within days. There is a special-effects theater complete with vibrating seats meant to evoke the flood, and a planetarium paying tribute to God’s glory while exploring the nature of galaxies.
The Museum captures the heart of contemporary, evangelical Christianity--putting on a good show.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Hillary and Obama voted "no." No surprise there.
This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument. The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).
I'm not sure how reputable a writer Clemons is or how valid his sources are. But the idea of Dick Cheney orchestrating his own war against Iran did remind me that I've always wanted to rewrite Phil Collins' "One More Night." With apologies to Mr. Collins.
One More War
One more war, one more war
Ive been trying ooh so long to bomb them
Let you know how I feel
And if I should have a heart attack just help me back
So I can make you see
Please give me one more war, give me one more war
One more war cos I cant wait forever
Give me just one more war, oh just one more war
My heart can't go on forever
Ive been sitting here oh so long
Waiting to bomb them in Tehran
And I was wondering should I call you
So you'll bomb Tehran too
Please give me one more war, give me just one more war
Oh one more war, cos I cant wait forever
Please give me one more war, ooh just one more war
Oh one more war, cos I cant wait forever
Give me one more war, give me just one more war
Ooh one more war, cos I cant wait forever
If you nuke their nurseries
I will always be with you
bomb their colleges and universities
I will follow you
Give me one more war, give me just one more war
Oh one more war, cos I cant wait forever
I know you're asking why fight Iran
Guess you've got much to learn
But if you change your mind you know that Ill be here
And we'll make their oil fields burn
Give me just one more war, give me just one more war
Ooh one more war, cos I cant wait forever
Give me just one more war, give me just one more war
Ooh one more war, cos I cant wait forever
Joe Klein and neo-liberal journalism were one of the main reasons that liberalism was silenced during the initial debate over the Iraq invasion. As pundits for newspapers, news magazines, and "liberal" outlets like The New Republic, NPR, and Slate, neo-liberal commentators amplified all of Dick Cheney's and Colin Powell's claims about Iraq while undercutting anti-war arguments about an invasion working in favor of al-Qaeda and fomenting sectarian conflict. Because neo-liberals also served as the semi-official voices of "liberalism" on Sunday interview shows and debate shows, liberal and anti-war voices were largely excluded from the debate over invading Iraq.
However, because of the disaster in Iraq and the general failure of the Bush administration, neo-liberals are now on the endangered species list. Joe Klein in particular is being whipsawed between declining interest in the neo-liberal point of view and rising competition from a "new" liberal media. Because of the rising tide of disgust with Bush and the right-wing, the liberal readers of magazines like Time are losing interest in neo-liberal views. Where neo-liberals who justified the right were once considered "independent," now they're just thought of as Bush apologists. At the same time, any favorable comment about Bush that Klein makes is subject to derision and insult from the new breed of liberal bloggers, comics, and commentators. There used to be a time when being able to talk with important people was a measure of a journalist's own importance. However, now that the Bush administration is ridiculed as absurd and incompetent, the journalists who talk with the important people in the Bush administration now risk being tarred with the same brush.
Greenwald on Klein. All of this is a long set-up for a discussion of liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald's evisceration of Joe Klein in his Salon blog today. Using "senior military officials" as sources, Klein claimed in a "fair and balanced" kind of way that there was good news as well as bad news from Iraq. The "good news" was that Sunni tribal leaders had come over to the American side in Anbar province and were now serving as an effective fighting force against al-Qaeda. This is where Greenwald cuts Klein down to weenie boy status. Klein was a tool of the Bush administration for repeating their one "good news" talking point about Iraq. Klein was also ignorant about Iraq because the "Sunni tribal leaders" story has been known for months. In other words, Joe Klein was not just a tool of the administration but a poorly informed tool. At the same time, Greenwald points out that Klein was using anonymous sources to get out everyday Bush administration talking points. Instead of protecting his sources from retaliation, Klein was apparently using anonymity as a cheap way of make an old story seem like it still was important.
Again, what conceivable journalistic justification is there for granting anonymity to government sources to recite the Government Line? It has no value other than to lend the government position enhanced though unmerited credibility
For Greenwald, Klein's balancing "bad news" that Iraqi Shiites had little interest in conceding anything to the Sunni minority is much more of a ritual gesture than anything like real objectivity. Actually, Greenwald could have gone further here. Klein's advice to Iraqi Shiite leaders is that they need to get over the "battered child syndrome" that makes them wary of the Sunnis and grow up. That's also the advice that neo-liberals like Klein give to the left when they criticize American government. Klein wants the Shiites to "grow up" and be a man like Joe Klein so they can do the bidding of the "senior military officials" and other really important people that Joe Klein talks to because he's a grown-up.
Finally, Greenwald tears off Klein's last fig leaf when he argues that Klein is merely repeating the standard "Beltway script" that war that the progress of the surge can't be fully evaluated until September when General Petraeus makes his report. In other words, Greenwald is revealing that Joe Klein, "important Washington journalist" working for a "prestigious news organization," isn't even writing his own material. It's more accurate to say that Klein is working up yet another simulation of the same Beltway script used by David Broder, Cokie Roberts, and other Establishment journalists.
Joe Klein's Inner Weenie Boy--What Glenn Greenwald reveals what Joe Klein means by "growing up." He means giving up his own voice--intellectually castrating yourself-- so that he can serve as a mouthpiece for the Beltway point of view. For guys like Joe Klein, manliness is defined as talking, socializing, and agreeing with "the really important people" (or the "big swinging dicks" of the world) on the significant issues of the day. It's identifying his manhood with the phallus of their power rather than his own insignificant penis.
This makes Klein a weenie boy in my book. Conservative figures like the president, Alberto Gonzales, and Rush Limbaugh are weenie boys in the sense that they compensate for their sense of male inadequacy by being especially aggressive in their politics. Working the weenie- boy symbolic magic in a slightly different way, Joe Klein compensates for his own sense of male inadequacy by identifying with "important people" like George Bush and Dick Cheney. In my opinion, this is the bottom of the identification of Joe Klein and the Bush administration. It's all about compensating for what you don't think you have. In this case, the weenie boy in Joe Klein recognizes himself in the weeniness of the Bush White House and loves what he sees despite the failure of the war and the overall incompetence of the administration.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
In a Diageo/Hotline poll of Republican candidates, Romney's still at 8% which puts him behind Giuliani (26%), McCain (17%), Newt Gingrich (10%) and Fred Thompson (9%). Despite five months of campaigning, Romney still hasn't made himself as compelling a figure to Republican voters as either Gingrich or Fred Thompson.
Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are the two first tier Republican candidates but neither of them is actually increasing their votes. In particular, Giuliani seems to be coming back to the pack. I had previously guessed that Newt might enter the race if his own numbers got up to 20%. I'm still convinced that Gingrich will run, but I'm beginning to wonder if Giuliani slipping down to 20% might be Newt's trigger.
I still believe that Newt's basic chance of winning the GOP nomination comes from the likelihood that Mitt Romney is going to unleash a barrage of negative advertising against McCain in an effort to become Giuliani's main challenger. My bet would be that Newt would benefit more from Romney's money than Romney himself.
There is also a real possibility that there will be no clear Republican front-runner at the end of the primary season. The conventional wisdom is that candidates who win Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina establish an irreversible momentum going into the big state primaries on Feb. 5, sweep the big states, and coast from there. There is some chance though that nobody is going to sweep the big states and that the Republican presidential race will be a hard slog right through to the end.
If that's the case, I still see Newt as a potential winner because he's the most "natural" conservative among the top five candidates.
If the bill passes, it will represent an almost complete capitulation of the Democratic leadership to President Bush's demands.
But I'm beginning to wonder the war funding bill actually is going to pass. Nancy Pelosi has already said that she would vote against it which makes me wonder if the Speaker's office is going to "whip" the legislation (twist arms to ensure that it will pass) and ultimately whether the legislation will pass without leadership support. Depending on Republican votes to make up for liberal defections doesn't seem to be an entirely reliable mechanism for passing the legislation either.
Ultimately, there's some chance that Congress can't pass a war funding bill that Bush would be willing to sign.
Klein himself was trying to play many parts. He was not only reporting on the campaign and preparing to write a book about consultants; he was also a constant critic and yet another sometime adviser. After the Kerry appearance at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, he told [Kerry spokesman] David Wade: "Great speech, but it's too late"--then turned around and stalked away. With Klein, it was almost always too late for us, in part because we didn't always take his persistent advice. He would chastise Kerry on the phone when he didn't like a speech, counseling both Kerry and me about what the canddiate should say and what our strategy should be.
TPM wonders if Klein was not inappropriately blurring the line between reporter and political candidate. However, I've always thought that the MSM normally takes the "consultants-eye view" of political campaigns in their reporting. Klein's heavy-hitter status gave him a chance to live the fantasy of consulting a presidentuial candidate during an important election.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The first dead end was reached by the Democratic leadership which appears to have given up on its effort to seize control of the war from the Bush administration and is agreeing to provide four more months of war financing without either a timeline for withdrawal or meaningfully enforceable benchmarks. The main left-wing blogs are not happy but not too surprised either. Word of a 90% Democratic cave-in emerged last week and it turned out that there were only two ways to force a military withdrawal from Iraq--pass a bill with a veto-proof majority or don't pass a war funding bill at all.
The second concerns the surge itself. It appears from a David Ignatius Washington Post op-ed that "senior administration officials" have concluded that the surge is not going to work. The two major goals of the surge were to stabilize Baghdad and push the Maliki government to pass legislation designed to reconcile Shiite and Sunni factions. It appears that "senior administration officials" have decided that the American military is not going to stabilize Baghdad. Instead, "The Iraqi government [itself] needs to show that it can take control of the capital." Of course, the major key to stabilizing Baghdad was to control the sectarian killing that was making the entire city into a kind of killing field. But American officials also have decided that they aren't going to be able to stem sectarian violence either. "'Sectarian violence is not a problem we can fix," said one senior official."
The American military is also convinced that the surge is a loser. "[T]he new head of Central Command, Adm. William Fallon, has publicly stated his view that the surge strategy is just "chipping away at the problem" and that "reconciliation isn't likely in the time we have available.'"
It's easy for those on the left to miss the significance of the emerging thinking about the surge because of David Ignatius' predictable mainstream media conclusion that "bi-partisanship" is needed to change course in Iraq. In fact, Ignatius' "senior officials" (my guess would be Defense Secretary Robert Gates) and the military are beginning to openly adapt the views of war opponents and the Democratic congressional leadership. The "post-surge plan" is to focus on training the Iraqi military, engaging in special forces operations against al-Qaeda, and securing Iraq from invasion by Turkey, Iran, or Saudi Arabia (mostly Turkey). The Democrats have been producing plans like this for a couple of years now with Hillary Clinton wanting to keep 75,000 American troops stationed inside Iraq while John Murtha wants those troops stationed just outside Iraqi territory. The only difference is that the current "post-surge" plan entails going after the sectarian militias that the Democrats would just as soon leave alone.
In other words, "senior officials," the American military, and leading Democrats all agree that the U. S. should cease combat operations in Iraq and retreat to a supporting role. For better or worse, that probably won't be enough to move President Bush off his "dead-ender" position. If Hillary or Obama win in 2008, however, there will be a broad elite consensus on the Iraq policy that needs to be adopted when they take office.
P. S. Fred Kaplan's Slate article on Ignatius' op-ed comes to some of these conclusions as well.
In the Democratic primary, I voted for Steve Beshear for the same reasons I supported John Kerry. Beshear is a well-known name, he's solid, and he's electable in a year when the Republicans are fielding a weak incumbent in the hapless Ernie Fletcher.
Like Kerry, however, Beshear is far from being a lock to beat Fletcher and Daily Kos and MyDD are much too optimistic about his chances. Beshear is so colorless it's painful, seems to lack a killer instinct, and is an easy target for negative advertising because of his advocacy of casino gambling and work as a lawyer/lobbyist.
Worst of all, Beshear probably won't be able to match Fletcher's fund-raising.
But Beshear is easily the best candidate the Democrats can field. So, I'm going to swallow hard and support him as much as I can.
Monday, May 21, 2007
But there has hardly been a peep from either the left or the right over Newt Gingrich calling for military tribunals to lock people up for opposition to the war in Iraq. Gingrich is like Carter in the sense that Gingrich is expressing a conventional wisdom. It's just that Gingrich's conventional wisdom is the cw of the right where Carter's was the cw of the broader American population. However, Gingrich's advocacy of military tribunals for suppressing domestic dissent is far more significant for the future of American democracy than Carter's personal attack on Bush.
Gingrich is the one who should be controversial here not Carter. One of the fatal weaknesses of both moderates and people on the left is our underestimation of the enormous disgust that the right-wing has with American culture and American political institutions.
We need to pay a lot more attention to Newt Gingrich and people like him.
So, it's back to short, infrequent posts while I figure new techniques for breathing without coughing.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Encourage the development of a military tribunal system to lock people up the way Abraham Lincoln would have done it.
When Gingrich mentions "locking people up" through a military tribunal system, he is referring to war opponents. The key is the Lincoln reference. When conservatives like Gingrich talk about military tribunals in relation to Abraham Lincoln, they emphasize that Lincoln had the leading Copperhead, or Southern sympathizer, Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, brought before a military tribunal and convicted. For conservatives, the Vallandigham case established a decisive precedent for presidents having domestic opponents of a war arrested and brought before military courts. Former Reagan defense official Frank Gaffney argued recently in a Washington Times column that the Lincoln precedent meant that members of Congress like Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan should be subject to arrest. Obviously, the same would apply to the leadership of anti-war organizations like MoveOn.org, the proprietors of popular left-wing blogs like DailyKos and MyDD, and anti-war figures like Michael Moore as well.
For Gingrich, "locking people up" means jailing hundreds if not thousands of war opponents and silencing anybody else who might be opposed to the war. At least implicitly, Gingrich believes that "winning the war" means abrogating the free speech, free press, freedom of assembly, habeas corpus, and other due process rights for the entire American population. In other words, the effort to create democracy in Iraq would have the effect (at least temporarily) of ending democracy in the United States.
Curiously enough, Ashcroft himself remains silent.
A more general revaluation of conservative Republicans is in order for commentators on the left. There's been an on-going "Republican Resistance" to the phony intelligence, war planning, torture policies, and other monstrosities perpetrated by the Bush administration. And it is time that the left began giving credit to Richard Clarke, State Department Staffers, anonymous Pentagon leakers, and unnamed personnel stationed in Iraq. Needless to say, those who have been delaying, leaking, protesting, and refusing to carry out Bush policies are still Republicans and still conservatives. However, they have served the country well at a time when the Bush administration has been trying to undermine basic American values and institutions.
They all deserve a lot of credit--Not just John Ashcroft.
When Moore interviews Tony Benn, a leading figure on the British left, his larger concerns come into focus. Benn argues that for-profit healthcare and the other instruments of the corporate state, like student loans and bottomless credit-card debt, perform a crucial function for that state. They undermine democracy by creating a docile and hardworking population that is addicted to constant debt and an essentially unsustainable lifestyle, that literally cannot afford to quit jobs or take time off, that is more interested in maintaining high incomes than in social or political change.
Benn just misses one of the ironies of American life. We have a "docile and hardworking population" that is little interested in large-scale "social or political change." However, we also have an enormous amount of personal aggression in the United States. There are much higher rates for murder, rape, violent crime, and other kinds of interpersonal violence in the U. S. than in comparable countries. If Americans are docile toward social, economic, and political authority, we are extremely and destructively aggressive toward our families, friends, girlfriends, co-workers, and acquaintances. The only legitimate social targets for our aggression are those who complain about or criticize the reigning political-economic system--those on the left who complain about economic injustice, blacks who criticize racism, feminists, and gay rights activists. Americans certainly are docile in many ways but we're also sitting on a volcano of anger.
"History will record that both of them saw the threat to the West posed by terrorism and responded courageously. The wisdom of their policy and the conduct of their governments are not likely to be judged as highly."
That's nonsense. Bush leveraged the 9-11 attacks into the invasion of Iraq that neo-conservatives had been dreaming about since 1991. More than anything else, the invasion of Iraq was an exercise in self-indulgence and the only courage the Bush administration showed was the courage to pamper themselves.
DEFEATED BY DEMOCRACY. Broder doesn't mention that Bush and Blair have been defeated by the democracy that they so dishonestly promoted as a justification for the invasion. Blair was pushed out before he could get the Labor Party trounced in the next British elections and Bush has lost so much credibility that he's more of a national joke than a national leader. Ultimately, all Bush and Blair had was each other. Well, maybe Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Alberto Gonzales as well. And of course, David Broder.
Maybe they can all get together for a group hug when Bush leaves office in January 2009.