I’m mostly reprinting stuff from other folks, for a while. But (picking up the slack) I’m pleased to say Russ Daggatt is back! So here’s a gem from him (plus a small item or two of my own):
RD: The past few days have ones for the record book. Is Bush to be the most intensely disliked president in US history? For the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50% say they "strongly disapprove" of the president. Richard Nixon had reached the previous high, 48%, just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974.
Not just majority disapproval. A majority strongly disapprove.
Yes, we can see some restoration of faith in Abraham Lincoln’s dictum that you cannot foll all of the people, all the time. And yet, ironically, this makes one MORE fearful of how delusionally crazy men may behave, during their last year of power.
MORE FROM RD: When George Bush invaded Iraq and overthrew its secular Baathist government, he ensured a strengthening of Iran's power in the region. And when Bush took the focus off stabilizing Afghanistan and pursuing al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he ensured the resurgence of the Taliban and other Islamist forces that are destabilizing both of those countries. With Iraq and Afghanistan both in chaos, and nuclear-armed Pakistan threatening to join them, what does the Bush crowd want to do for an encore? Open up another front with Iran. At the same time the only stable part of Iraq, the Kurdish north, faces the possibility of a border war with Turkey.
Right-wing warmongers robotically cite Neville Chamberlain and Munich any time someone questions the wisdom of rushing to war. But a better WWII analogy might be Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union. Even a dominant military power can overextend itself. Moreover, Bush has so fueled hatred of the US in the Muslim world (nowhere more so than in Pakistan), and Islamic radicalism generally, that any government in that part of the world that is seen as an ally of ours is imperiled. (see URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/57485)
The legacy of George W. Bush could be regional war in the Middle East drawing in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and possibly even Turkey. Osama bin Laden (still in a secure, undisclosed location -- presumably in Pakistan) could not, in his wildest dreams, have imagined that 19 fanatics with boxcutters could have such an impact -- destabilizing the entire region. Of course, the real heavy lifting came from Bush. (One hornet can't bring down a barn. But it can sting a horse, who kicks down the barn.)
DB: Where I part company with Russ is this: I was fine with the idea of toppling Saddam! So were many people who hoped, at last, to make up for the astrounding Bush Family policy of propping up that monster, for two generations. Only, almost anyone on Earth, with an IQ above that of a slime mold, could have come up with a better plan to oust Saddam than the one that W chose -- to destroy our alliances, our social cohesion, our finances, our moral leadership and freedoms in the process.
Are any ostriches waking up? This from a dissenting republican site: “Realism must replace the utopianism of the neo-con philosphy. There can be no WWII style occupation of ‘conquered lands’ and that concept must be abandoned. No more utopian nation building and attempts at wholesale transformation of societies into 'our own image'; only destruction of the enemy and the immediate substitution of toppled governments with the best replacements available.” (I never thought I’d be delighted to see a return swing toward traditional GOP cynicism! But right wingers make SCARY utopians!)
On the lighter side see two wonderful “Goldwater Republican” women standing up and having fun while shivving the neocons.
Finally, now that Russ Daggatt is back at work, I can continue to fob much of the political work onto him. Like pointing out something that should have been obvious. That human beings are driven by subjective bias -- with opponents of the Iraq War perceiving all the strategic failures, while administration advocates zero in with tunnel-focus upon this or that apparent tactical success. (None of the “benchmarks” set out by the Bush Administration, last spring, are anywhere near fruition. But some Sunni militias in Anbar have been co-opted, huzzah.)
But, with passionate political partisans so biased, is there anyone to look to, who has a cold-eyed, pragmatic approach? Not the harried and oppressed CIA or the up-to-their-necks military.
RD: Let’s try good old-fashioned capitalists. An MIT economics professor came up with a good objective measure – the bond market. As the professor notes, bondholders, “aren’t politically motivated. They don’t have to rationalize their previous statements or justify their votes from years past. All they care about is whether there will be a functioning Iraq in the future such that they will receive their payments.”
[This is similar to the assessment of global warming on the part of insurance and reinsurance companies. Those – apolitical, impersonal – risk markets are speaking emphatically that the risks of global warming are real.]
“First, some background on the Iraqi bonds. After the United States helped Iraq renegotiate its leftover debt from the Saddam Hussein era, the Iraqi government issued about $3 billion of new bonds in January 2006. These dollar denominated bonds pay 2.9 percent twice a year and mature in 2028, paying the face value of $100. To say the least, the market for these bonds is not robust: as of last week, a bond with a face value of $100 was trading at around $60. Professor Greenstone calculated that, from the markets’ standpoint, the implied default risk over the life of the bond was about 80 percent.”
“Of course, it’s worth asking whether bond traders know anything more about Iraq than the pundits do. It’s impossible to say with certainty, but the collective wisdom of financial markets has proved remarkably adept at evaluating events and predicting the future, even the turning points of war.
"During the American Civil War, for example, when Confederate forces lost at Gettysburg , Confederate cotton bonds traded in England dropped by about 14 percent. During World War II, German government bonds fell 7 percent when the Russians started their counterattack at Stalingrad in 1942, and French government bonds rose 16 percent after the Allied invasion at Normandy in 1944. Many such examples of the prescience of financial markets have been documented by economic historians. Comparing the yields on Iraqi bonds from the start of the surge in February to late August, Professor Greenstone calculated that the bondholders implicitly raised the chances of an Iraqi bond default by 40 percent. Over that period, Iraqi bond prices fell about 14 percent — as much as the Confederate cotton bonds fell after the battle of Gettysburg .”
The key point is that this is capitalism speaking. Not kleptocracy, posturing as free enterprise, but the genuine article in the form of open and knowing markets.
Clearly, we should demand that every Republican candidate, who is urging us to “stay the course” in Iraq, should prove his confidence in great outcomes from this bizarre and ill-defined "utopian adventure in nation-building."
Each of these war-boosters now has a golden opportunity to display admirable honesty and committment, simply by putting his money where his mouth is. By staking his entire wealth upon the same bet that he wants us to make, with our nation, with our sons and daughters, and with our good name.
Tell Mitt and Rudy and Fred and all the rest that they can do this (and gain our respect) by investing all they have in Iraqi government bonds.