Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The "Crisis" and the Guard: Betraying America's State of Readiness

I seem to have struck a chord with the Ritual of the Streetcorner. I thank everybody who wrote in, both online and off. And yet, I suspect I am not reaching enough people to make this kind of thing worthwhile, timewise. I mean, who is listening, even at blog levels?

Still, opinionating is as addictive as indignation... and indeed, they are cousins. So I doubt I’ll have the will-power to stop.

Hence, the political lamp is lit.


For about two years I have been railing that military readiness should be an issue for the democrats, as it was for JFK in 1960.

Only with a difference. In 1960 the "Missile Gap" turned out to be overstated. But today's hollowing out of the US military -- chivvied and purged, attrited and drained -- is blatant and utterly treasonous. While contractors wallow at the trough, our actual levels of readiness have plummeted to levels not seen since before Pearl Harbor.

Can anyone claim that we would be ready to deal with a surprise attack, a call for help from some ally, or any other kind of emergency now? Better than, say, in the year 2000?

And now this.


Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer Tue Jan 24, 6:43 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump — missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 — and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives. "You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan..."


What isn't mentioned is something even worse -- the near demolition of our nation's military reserves and National Guard. The plight of these working men and women, who have trained on weekends and sacrificed their summers, perfectly willing to leap to their country's need in an emergency... who are instead being used as sepoys, sent away from their families -- and the states that might need them in a real crisis (e.g. Katrina) -- is simply awful.

Even those who believe in the Iraq Intervention should admit now that it's "elective surgery" and not an "emergency". After collapss of the WMD and terror arguments, their only remaining rationale is "spreading democracy." Perhaps commendable, but critical?

We can argue the merits of this intervention on that basis. Fine. The professional units are for implementation of national policy. That policy may be ill considered and the top leadership incompetent, but at least one can envision it.

(My own view is “moderate”; I can see both the Balkans Intervention and Afghanistan as legitimate moves in a dangerous world. In both cases, the outcomes justified the judicious application of competent force. Indeed, I even felt that we had a duty to deal with Saddam, eventually, by coming up with a plan that would be calm, efficient, unhurried, ethical, overwhelmingly persuasive and smart.)

Having said all that -- and with a willingness to discuss judicious application of professional units in the skillful pursuit of legitimate national policy -- we are still left with the following observation. By no possible excuse is it forgivable to expend and use up our reserves without a genuine emergency.

Certainly this does not include the administration artificially invoking the words “war” and “emergency,” simply to suit its own purposes. (Would conservatives have swallowed that from Bill Clinton?) Not a self declared excuse, but the real thing.

The kind of crisis that unites a nation, instead of dividing it. (If half the country does not see “war”, or a critical foreign threat, then doesn't a burden of proof fall on those who do?)

The kind of emergency that republicans used to say our military was for, while decrying “adventures overseas.”

The kind of war that -- in all times past -- the rich cared enough about to be willing to help pay for.

The kind of war that we can conceivably fight clear of, with hope that normality may plausibly return. Instead of something so vague -- e.g. a “war on terror” -- that it can be extended forever, so long as anyone out there dislikes us.

The kind of emergency that might suddenly befall us, without warning, out of some semi-random direction. The way those 9/11 planes seemed to crash in upon us out of nowhere, taking by surprise. The kind of shock that we were told we would become MORE ready for, after 2001, instead of much less so.

That kind of emergency is what the reserves and National Guard are supposed to be for.

The Guard and reserves are not meant to be instruments of administration policy, but the robust manifestation of a united citizenry. They are noble remnants of the milita of old, eager to defend, though history shows that militia are far less useful in the projection of imperial power. They are the resiliency that America relies upon, in case we are struck by something that the professional anticipators failed to detect in time.

(Or are Cheney-Rumsfeld telling us that now their grasp of all potential threats is perfect? Need I ennumerate the times they have said that, across forty years, and proved wrong? Oh, tell it to Louisiana. Tell it to the Gulf cities.)

If they are used in the proper way, with maturity and true awareness of what they are for, the Guard and reserves cannot be depleted! Because an aroused America will refill the ranks, the way a unified country always has, whenever real crises erupted in the past! But not this time. Re-enlistments in the reserves are plummeting. More proof that most of us don’t see a crisis. No “war.” We're unconvinced.

What we see is brave and noble and decent militia men and women being used, spent, expended on international elective surgery. On a project that at-best is optional and should be done professionally, efficiently, and ethically, or not at all.

So why are almost no democrats raising these points? These arguments would be effective almost across the breadth of the political spectrum. And thus, they offer a way around Karl Rove’s contrived, artificial and treacherously divisive "culture war."

But political reflexes are dismal. Except for Representative Murtha, and maybe Senator Clinton, who else is speaking up for the abused Guard, or decrying our eviscerated state of readiness? Or standing up for the militia? Are liberals really so reflexive that they cannot even perceive an opportunity to win, the way JFK did, through patriotism?

Alas, it appears they might be.

So Rove is left with his flank protected, knowing that his opponents will not even try exploiting his most calamitous weaknesses, nor turn attention upon his most heinous treason.



Mark said...

The hard part is you really can't bring this up unless you also suggest a solution. And the solution is...??

Bring the troops home? Don't think so. There wasn't an emergency in Iraq before but there certainly is now. Besides, it's hard to defend what anyone else calls "cut and run".

How do you recruit more troops? It isn't like they aren't trying hard enough.

I think there is a solution to this, though. It just isn't as easy as complaining about the problem.

The solution probably involves bringing all the Guard back but deploying much of our professional Army over there semi-permanently. Which might mean we need to build a permanent base, which is it's own problem (but to the right of Bush, so might make an interesting selling point.)

But without a solution your just bitching which isn't optimal for getting votes.

Don Quijote said...

Sit back & enjoy the show!!!

I am!

The American Public is getting exectly what it deserves.

Marie said...

Do you have a solution? I don't. I think all the crazy natural disasters diverting troops from Iraq sure hasn't helped.

Anonymous said...

Raise Taxes to help pay for the war, that way citizens will feel they are contributing to a greater effort and be more willing to join / support the military.

Or they will vote against it and it will all be out in the open to sort out.

the current we are fighting a war - but you dont have to put any effort into it approach is behind the shortfall

Anonymous said...

This Iraq war too often reminds me of the riddle of an unstoppable force trying to move an immovable object. One answer is that they both go up in smoke because of the friction...

This war is grinding good people down to a pulp. I hate it. But I still think it needs to be won decisively. "Cutting and running" would mean the end for the Iraqi democracy and a further destabilization of the Middle East.

More troops are necessary and if these troops can not be American troops then they have to be non-American troops. Sometimes all you can do is ask for (more) help.

I read somewhere that there have been 34000 insurgent attacks in 2005, 30% more than in 2004. The sooner this war ends the better.

Don Quijote said...

But I still think it needs to be won decisively. "Cutting and running" would mean the end for the Iraqi democracy and a further destabilization of the Middle East.
What Democracy? where have you seen democracy in Iraq?

More troops are necessary and if these troops can not be American troops then they have to be non-American troops. Sometimes all you can do is ask for (more) help.

If these troop cannot be American, there will be no other troops. Can you think of any other goverment stupid enough to send it's Armed Forces in that meat grinder?

As for stability, you should have thoughtof it prior to kicking over the wasp nest.

Anonymous said...

The problem of Iraq is what happens when you do things halfway.

We need twice as much infantry (with all that implies) on the ground over there. We need to not merely occupy, but conquer...
Or to get out.
As Mark said, we need to move a massive quantity of the regulars (Army and Marine) over there, with the support they require, and be prepared for them to stay not for one year 'tours' but for 'duration plus six'. We need to be prepared to raise taxes across the board to pay for it, to consider carefully a draft to get the manpower, have congress give Bush a declaration of WAR, and a whole list of other things...
Or declare victory and go home.

Someone once said that there is nothing as expensive as a second rate army. I'll say that trying to win a war 'on the cheap' comes close.
"Victory through excess is less expensive than defeat through economy." Harry Truman

Anonymous said...

The two primary arguments about troop strength in Iraq are (1) we are radicalizing local nationalists by having too many troops in place; and (2) we are failing because we don't have enough troops to carry out classic (Galula-style) COIN operations.

Arguable positions, both of them -- and no question that the current troop levels are certainly not the "sweet spot."

The problem with those two positions is that they run counter to reality. We can't move troops out of Iraq because the local forces are not capable of independent operations (and regional considerations makes it unlikely we'll provide a potentially destabilizing force with modern armor, artillery, and C4I capability -- thread /that/ needle, if you dare).

Likewise, the only way to increase troop strength is to bring in an UNSFOR (not happening); mobilize regional governments to provide an African Union-style peacekeeping force (unlikely and probably detrimental to Kurdish and Israeli players) or increase our force projection capability through the dreaded draft (or its friendly face, "national service") and actually focusing on the kind of military infrastructure neeeded to support an empire abroad, such as choosing STRATLIFT over Raptors. (The Navy has been moving asymptotically to blue-water transport and littoral combat capabilities, but the AF is still run by a bunch of unreconstructed fighter jocks.)

Neither approach is politically feasible. So, what are we left with?

Let's roll back a moment to the pre-war situation. The problem with Saddam ultimately was not that he was supporting international terrorism (he wasn't doing so in a meaningful sense) or pursuing WMD (no need to press that point): the problem was that he was an aggressive gameplayer who couldn't read the odds and might decide to kick over the table if he lost too many times. In other words, he was unpredictable. And so the idea, held since the Bush I and Clinton administrations, was that he should be contained until he could be replaced by a more predictable player in the game of nations.

The idea of getting rid of Saddam was neither new nor radical. The idea of invading Iraq to do it directly /was/. And the incompetence with which that project was carried out has now placed us in a position where we cannot choose what will happen to the country. It still may be that we end up with a "not-worse" scenario: someone or -ones who are at least no worse than Saddam in terms of regional destabilization. However, we could also end up with more serious problems in the region as multiple powers and groups begin jousting over the former Iraq.

So, more questions than answers. How do we get a "good enough" solution out of Iraq and preserve to at least some degree our military's ability to react to world circumstances over the next several years? And how many of our other policies -- economic, social, political and diplomatic -- are implicated in the problem and its solutions?

Rik said...

I think the administration will be forced to end Iraqi Fredom shortly.
If America wants to continue its role as Policeman of the World, especially when that world may be accelerating towards a Single World Society, it needs massive reform.
The problem is of course that of 300 million occasionally booting the butt of the other 6.7 billion (and I am in favor of them doing it). I think this is unsustainable, but non-American troops? Don't expect anything from the EU as a whole. China? If you don't promise them anything, they're not gonna show up. Besides, they can wait until the effects of the Russian ecnoomic suicide start showing up. China wiil have a surplus of men in 2020, when Russia faces a possible 40% loss in labour force. Makes interesting geopolitics!
As for the National Guard... Didn't Clinton propose some sort of Peace Corps? Why not instate that? You get more boobies, you can drill some discipline into the welldressed dodo's (actually learn them something!) and last but not least: you get more people to rule.
Of course this turns America into Sparta, but there you are.

Anonymous said...

Watchful, you have pointed out that both the "All" (more troops) and "nothing" (give up and go home) solutions are impossible, and that the current solution (stay the course) will not work...
So, what's the solution? How do we square this circle?

(I gave my two possibilities, does anyone have a third?)

Don Quijote said...

(I gave my two possibilities, does anyone have a third?)

Declare victory and go home!!!

Which is what we are going to do, the only question left is when and how many more Americans will die before this happens?

My guess 2009, we declare Victory & go home!!!

Chris Arndt said...

I rarely reply here. Ooops.


I think the smartest way to deal with any opposing force in war is through sudden and brutal and overwelming force.

I also think the best way that Americans can solve the problems with our reserves is for more Americans to volunteer themselves for these reserves.

I won't; I'm slow, overweight, out of shape, and I don't want to get sent into the desert. If I ever serve my country in a military fashion I throw reserve out the window and full-on join the Navy.

The military needs to recruit more and recruit in every public venue. The civilian public must respond by being willing to volunteer.

Our national character is failing in that respect.

Heck, my father was drafted during the Korean War. Why did a Canadian join the American army instead of going to Canada and saying no? Whatever his faults my father had a sense of civic duty. Then they ordered him to go to Germany and drive officers around.

Kagehi said...

Wasn't going to comment on this, then I read the comments.. With all due respect (oh hell, with no respect) to a positions of people like Murtha and Don Quijote who think they can sit thousands of miles away and *guess* at what it really going on from the press' usual bullshit method of only reporting the stuff going wrong, we don't need that kind of thinking in this situation.

There are really two possibilities, a) the patient is bleeding to death, so its no longer elective surgery, or b) the press isn't telling the truth about most of it and we are getting the, "The patient is about to die, just look at all the tubes and stuff they have plugged into him.", version of the facts.

If the former was the case, leaving would literally make things worse, since despite all the conspiracy theorists, who think Al Queda is just made up, and the turn the other cheek morons, who ironically seem to recognize the kindler and gentler version of the Wahabi and Al Queda types, when sitting in the oval office, literally can't comprehend that these people are still talking about shit the Romans did to them 2000+ years ago and blaiming the west, especially the US for being some imaginary extention of the now long gone Roman Empire. We are not dealing with sane people among the terrorist elements and Bush, probably by accident, got at least one thing right, such groups are convenient *tools* for the sort of idiots that don't comprehend that venimous snakes will bit the handler as readilly as the person they intend to kill with them. What he got wrong is that Saddam was a minor pain in the ass, who needed to be removed, but wasn't sufficiently critical to necessarilly bother with. I strongly suspect this is *why* he decided to move on him, since he literally believed that popping this particular pimple would result in an easier conflict that taking on someone like Syria, which half the damn ME would rally behind. He was half right. A lot of people hated Saddam, including the rest o the ME, so only the lunatics and nuts showed up to help officially. He failed however to consider the amount of support among idiots of the sort Raed Jarrar are, who have so much pride in all the privilege and glory that *his* sect had under Saddam, he would rather piss on everyone, than help build a better future for all Iraqi.

That said, I have read Iraqi blogs, both the good, bad and extremely ugly since soon after this whole thing started. I can say that save for those like Raed, who sit across the border in some other county, Jordan in his case, and pontificate about things based on letters and stuff from his own family, at least one of which was recently "gasp!" arrested as a suspected insurgent, most of them think the worst enemy to progress in Iraq isn't Al Queda or even Al Jezeera, but the western media, because "they" can report being in Iraq and living with what is going on can and do report things that are going right that get glossed over, ignored or distorted by nearly every news agency. And that includes those that often function as Republican mouth pieces like Fox. On the rare occation something the Iraqis themselves consider a positive step forward, the press often either fails to report completely, or worse, spins into something that sounds like things just got worse, instead of better.

No one is telling the truth here in the news. They know what most of the public thinks, half of them guided us step by step into thinking it by failing to report anything but bombs in the first place, and nothing short of the complete embarassment of having all conflict in Iraq cease suddenly is going to make it worth their time, advertising dollars or jobs to report what it really going on at this point, without spinning it into more of what they have been reporting since practically before the first shot was fired.

Reality isn't black and white, but on this issue, everyone is suffering the same syndrome someone posted about in this article:

Almost no one wants to admit that its either too damn late to pull the shit Murtha seems to think is right and far too late to argue about how badly the clowns that started it planned the whole thing. At this point *both* options are nothing but short sighted hand waving. You want to know what the third option should be? Its to get @#$#$ europe to help. But half of them are still pissed off that they lost sweat finincial deals or that the US stepped on their toes. The few that are not, have gotten vaguely involved in 1-2 cases, then backpedelled and ran away, the moment they felt threatened. Their political ideology is, "This isn't our problem. Why should we help? If it blows up in all our faces, its much easier to just blame the US for all of it, instead of admitting *helping* might have made a difference." Childish bullshit! "Go beat up the other kid first, maybe then you will forget about me.." The radicals don't forget things, and they have the tenacity of creationists when it comes to getting revenge for something, even if the idiots involved died thousands of years ago. Don't believe me? Talk to an Iraqi about why some of the Iraqi insurgents are still fighting and what they *know* about the sort that join actual terrorist groups.

Its neither as bad as we are given to believe, nor as good as it should be and its partly the refusal of people to recognize things like how the last Bin Ladin tape sounded like a Democrat speech, hitting all the real and imaginary points about Iraq, that is partly contributing to the problem. Thankfully the Iraqi themselves are getting pissed off enough that they are willing to drive those nuts out. Sadly, this is because they elected a new government that is more concerned with acting exactly like the @#$#$@ US government right now, with its stupid in-fighting and partison idiocies, than solving problems. Hmm. Guess we where successful after all... :(

Kagehi said...

Overwhelming force against who Chris? The whole problem here is that the people causing the real trouble are a scattering of groups with ideological goals that make right wing fundimentalists in the US look like Walt Disney, have cells every place, including the US, and don't wear uniforms. How the hell do you overwhelmingly attack an entire planet, and only nail the people that are actually a problem? And in Iraq, we did overwhelm them. The problem is, they didn't plan to fight fair to start with, so by the time we had a chance *to* overwhelm them, they dissolved into the population. Some idiots keep insisting that we shouldn't have dissolved the Iraqi military. What military?!? By the time a decision was made to dissolve it, you would have been lucky to find two people in the same city who even admitted to owning one or its uniforms, never mind willingly stand in a line some place to be told they where fired. How the hell do you overwhelm that? And they *had* uniforms, while many of the terrorist groups showing up from other countries don't. Are we supposed to look to see if the right side of their faces are black, and left right, instead of the reverse or something?

Kagehi said...

Sigh.. \me repeats to himself, "Proof read, proof read, proof read..."

Not that I even remember anyway.. :p

David Brin said...

Babbler, good analysis. The answer to your appraisal is that we already have the “good enough” situation. The Kurds are happy and at peace and quasi-democratic. The Shiites are well-down the road that they plan to travel -- one of quasi-democratic, Iran-style theocracy (more on that later). And the Sunni-Tikritis will not change appreciably, no matter how long we stay or how much blood is spilled. Ask the Israelis about the staying power of Hamas. These three zones are already in quasi equilibrium. Our presence supplies a lot of blood for spilling. But it does not change any of the basic facts.

Unlike most anti-war protestors, I will concede that certain things were accomplished by this intervention. Inefficiently, stupidly, clumsily and monstrously... but yes, some things. And those things are now mostly done. There is no remote possibility of accomplishing more.

Quijote, please. You know that one of the reflexes that we try to develop here, at Contrary Brin, is to always question certain reflexes. One of them is contempt for the masses. Your fellow citizens deserve better from you, especially since they did NOT vote for these monsters. (See Go to a street corner. DO a slow 360....

Marie, these are not “crazy natural disasters.” Events like Katrina are normal emergencies, the sort that the reserves and Guard are designed to deal with. In fact, they are likely to get more frequent.

Your pretzel twist gets things backwards. “diverting troops from Iraq”....??? Can you actually say that with a straight face? Iraq is the diversion from the reserves’ job! The job of readiness for emergencies. Again, the FACT. We are less ready to deal with surprise than we were before the bozos entered office.

It is a raw, fully fledged and glaring fact.

Frank, your talk about “cutting and running” takes me back. You are too young to remember -- and most folks my age have cleared their neurons of the painful memories, but this is exactly the kind of talk that -- in 1968 -- kept us in Vietnam for another six years! Until the final humiliation that was overseen by a man named ...(hold your breath)...

...Donald Rumsfeld. (Oh, it is soooooo creepy.)

Hawker, I do not agree about needing twice as many ground troops. In fact, we don’t HAVE those troops, so that’s not plausible. Nor do I prescribe ‘Cut and Run’.

What I do suggest is that this matter should be given back to professional diplomats and soldiers, the two groups who have been savagely overruled by those monstrous amateurs, Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice, three people who cannot look across the past 40 years and point to a SINGLE actual success, but try to distract us from noticing their vast panoply of errors.

Mark, thanks for your sweet “bitching” remark. But please step back and notice the polemical technique that you just used. Instead of addressing the concerns that I have raised, about the near-treasonous (and hypothetically deliberate) betrayal of our military reserves and readiness, you switch the topic to Iraq and ask ”And the solution is?”...

...and then proceed to grab a red herring out of mid air, to distract from the issue at hand.

No, the issue that I raised (above) is NOT “what do we do about the present quagmire in Iraq?” Although that issue is related. And I will get to it in a minute.

No, the issue is Are we being led by people who deserve our further trust?

The answer to that question is a resounding (and non-bitching) no!

Having done nothing but lie for six years (and vastly longer than that, in the case of Cheney-Rumsfeld), and having demolished our military readiness, having betrayed the reserves and having put us into a quagmire almost identical to Vietnam, these people are the very last ones we should be trusting to be smart enough to get us out of it.

I mean, what is this monstrous concept of loyalty to politicians? It is positively loony! It is Karl Rove’s insane notion that we all are on blue or red “sides” and that your side has a natural set of leaders you MUST be loyal to.

Dig it, Mark. Politicians, by their very nature, even good ones, are intrinsically untrustworthy schemers. In a European-Parliamentary system, a guy with a track record like Rumsfeld’s would have been forced simply to resign by now. Even if he were replaced by an honest Republican, we’d all be far better off!

Better yet. How about replacing him with the people who ran our VASTLY more successful operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan? Why is that so hard to conceive?

In fact, there are dozens of alternative approaches to what we are doing in Iraq. But I -- at least -- have the strength of character to admit that I am not an expert. I can Monday-quarterback and armchair-general with the best of them, but I am not asking to be put in charge. What I am asking is for my fellow citizens to recognize when incompetent liar-scoundrels are in charge!

Or, are you honestly trying to tell me that, among 300 million Americans, we cannot do better than these morons?

Bozos who have demolished our nation’s readiness, betrayed the reserves, pitted us against each other in “culture war”, sent us into a quagmire, spied on us, tortured in our name (without accomplishing a single thing), and brought our international esteem to the lowest level since we kept slaves?

Your own reflex to defend these guys is the issue here. So stop trying to force me to design military strategy and start defending your own absurd position.

The position of devoting political LOYALTY to bozos.

Anonymous said...

Well said, David.

I agree, let's call on the experts... the same people that Congressman Murtha says he talked to... and see what they say.
Oh, and put someone in charge who will LISTEN to them first. Priorities.

On a related subject...
After Pearl Harbor, the commanders on the scene, Adm. Kimmel and LGen Short, were RELIEVED (and court-martialed) for the crime of not being ready for the unthinkable. Why has no one been relieved for 9/11? Why has there been no senior people blamed for the mess in Iraq?
Loyalty above victory?

Mark said...


You misunderstand me. I have no impulse to defend Bush or any of these guys. (Take a peak at my long abandon blog for proof.) I agree with you completely that their record alone is enough to kick them out. Last year if I was given a choice between Bush and a person chosen at random from your favorite street corner I would have gone with the random person. (At least a random, normal person would be careful.)

But what you described was more or less what Kerry tried to do. We lost that election. Never before has my fundamental faith in democracy been as crushed as it was in 2004. We had a moment where the system was supposed to correct itself and it failed.

My point wasn't that you were just bitching. My point is that bitching isn't a viable political strategy without a set of solutions that go along side. (You know, like lower taxes, shoot bad guys and stop having sex -- that solves all problems!)

Ultimately your point of giving the job back to the professions is correct and perhaps one can build a coherent political strategy around that, but I'm not sure. At least at the presidential level the public expects you to be that expert or at least relay what the experts are telling you.

Mark said...

As a side note, isn't it amazing that the need to identify which "side" someone is on is so strong? Try as I might, I can't read an editorial from someone I don't know without trying to figure out which "side" they are on.

Is that senator saying something smart are trying to trick me? I better check to see if there is a D or R next to his name.

And on and on. You may disagree with what I said in the first post, but if you re-read it with the simple knowledge that I'm on your "side" you'll probably find you don't disagree nearly as much.

We humans have issues, don't we?

Anonymous said...

I not only took the street corner ritual to heart, but summarized it for Suzette Haden Elgin and pointed her towards your blog. She's on LiveJournal.

Rob Perkins said...

Ah, back to the heady topic of politics!

Ask another question, David: Is there anything possible to do with said leaders, and more importantly, with the makeup of Washington DC itself, before '08? Aside from voting their political opposites into Congress in such numbers that the system of checks and balances reasserts?

(Like I really have a choice. My CD is gerrymandered "Democrat", just like 3/5 of all Washington State CD's. I could stay home from the elections and Baird would go back to Congress for another two. I could vote Republican or Libertarian and the same result would come about.)

If not, then I suggest that rage is in fact self-defeating.

David, I was too young: Was Donald Rumsfeld instrumental in any way in causing the Acts of Congress which pulled all funding for the Vietnam deployments, effectively ending them?

Also, if not an expert, should you concede that the information stream you're getting is incomplete and maybe biased at best, tainted by half truths and lies at worst?

(Perhaps you, like me, find it very hard to triangulate the truth from every possible news source. It's a general question, intended to emphasize the complexity of geopolitics in general. And it is the accusation levelled at the President for his decision to invade. Or have I already made that point?)

Anonymous said...

Rob, by '71 Rumsfeld was quietly pushing Nixon (as his special advisor) to end American involvement in Vietnam; he was actually disillusioned about the war and doubtful as to our ability to successfully get out, according to friends of his, by the late '60s, while he was still in the House.

Rumsfeld's hawkish views actually date back to his term as amb to NATO; evidently, unlike that other leading diplomat of the day, George H.W. Bush (at the UN), striped-pants diplomacy didn't agree with him.

Anonymous said...

On competence and national security, though with emphasis on the intelligence rather than military arena, see:

For some background on the author's pending case, see:

Yes, they are both editorials. But they contain claims of fact which at least seem checkable.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll state right up front I have no bloody clue what to do about Iraq. I suspect there's no good options left at this point, thanks to incompetence and possibly worse. And even if there were, I have less than no trust in the fools and incompetents currently in charge of the government, and no doubt they'd screw that up too. And the third reason, even if I had a plan that would work, there's zero chance anyone in the Bush Administration would listen to it or act on it. That would be admitting they did something wrong, their method is keep "staying the course" until they do the exact opposite thing, then claim they were doing it all along. (See 9/11 comission, Homeland Security Department, etc) So I fully expect them to announce troop withdrawls timed to match up to important dates for the 2006 elections, rather than on any actual events in Iraq. (And of course it'll be the fault of those dastardly liberals.)

(And then there's this from the NY Times about the corruption of the rebuilding process)

chris arndt said:

"The military needs to recruit more and recruit in every public venue. The civilian public must respond by being willing to volunteer.

Our national character is failing in that respect."

I can't see how not signing up for a war run by incompetents (and corrupt) on the cheap is "failing national character". Listening to the incompetents in the first place seems more of a failure. "Who is more the fool, the fool, or the fool who follows him?"

Most of the things that could fix Iraq are things that would have had to happen in the past. We're already at low-grade civil war and ethnic cleansing, even with all our troops there. Are our troops doing any good? What's the least bad option? I wish I had good ideas, but this is way out of my depth. I have no idea how or what could be done, especially considering who's in charge.

Anonymous said...

Are liberals really so reflexive that they cannot even perceive an opportunity to win, the way JFK did, through patriotism?

I would say, yes, but not in the way you suggest.

Watch the news concerning the Democrats and what do you see? Teddy Kennedy and Jane Fonda trying to re-fight the Vietnam War. Undoubtedly there are other voices out there, but the liberal leadership seem mostly to be Baby-Boomers trying to recapture their squandered youth.

Not entirely unlike a certain band of Baby-Boomers who were at the time convinced that we could have won the Vietnam War if we'd just done thus-and-so and sent all the hippies to prison.

I don't see this changing until the Baby-Boomers are all either processed into Soylent Cola, or their artificial organs fail.

David Brin said...

Some may have seen an inconsistency, my promoting the notion of turning to professionals to help us out of the Iraq Mess. Since elsewhere I speak of a looming STRUUGLE between professional castes and a rising Age of Amateurs.

There is no inconsistency. The bozos represent everything that is horrible about super-empowered, moronic amateurs. Katrina showed the other end... amateur empowerment utterly disempowered, at the very moment when citizen action was called for.


What's needed is balance. The professionals are abused by dingbat amateurs from above and take it out on the amateurs below. W can do better than this.

Tony Fisk said...

A nasty sensation, having been led into a mess, and seeing no way to get out clean.

Here's my contribution (hardly a solution, but I doubt Iraq will be solved in a single post!)

1. Forget what's gone on before.
(Hard, given that it includes 200,000 people who are no more as a result of the invasion. This is why any talk of 'cut and run' receives such an adverse reaction: blood binds)

2. Consider where are you now:
An overstretched military presence in a demolished nation of 16 million very cheesed off people who do not feel the american presence is helping. You see no alternative governing body.

3. Determine where you want to be:
Out of there, leaving an Iraq that is non-threatening and stable (where the US government wants to be is a moot point, being non-transparent. I will assume it is the same).

4. Devise a plan to get from where you are to where you want to be: (the simple bit!)
Business as usual is achieving nothing, other than a slow death of the american military.

And it seems that bolstering a military presence to maintain order is not an option: nothing to bolster it with!

So, what would happen if the coalition departed Iraq now?

- would the governing body that results be friendly?
No (a matter of those 200,000 who were non-american, although time can heal such wounds). However, I doubt a 'saviour' Bin Laden will be appearing on a Baghdad balcony to the adulation of millions willing to carry his jihad to the world.

- would insurgency drop off?
It depends on who the insurgents are targetting. My guess is 'yes'. US interests are obviously a priority. With US interests gone, insurgents would have nothing to shoot at but the locals, who would be less inclined to shelter them from a common foe. Other reasons for ongoing strife include inter-tribal grudge matches and organised crime.

- without a US presence, how would people cope?
Seems they did pretty well after 1991 (see Baghdad Burning: A Tribute to Iraq Ingenuity).

- would there be a slide into chaos and civil war?
This seems to be happening anyway. The question can be rephrased: would a slide into civil war be speeded, unaffected by, slowed or even prevented by a US withdrawal? If David's observation is right (three moderately stable regions), then the risk of civil war is governed by those region's attitudes to each other in the absence of a universal enemy (US). That leaves the risk of 'balkanisation'.

- how would americans react to a pullout?
Mixed. I think the bulk of americans see the issues more plainly than Fox and CNN, and sensibly don't want anything to do with Iraq (hence the failing recruitment drives). However, as I said, blood binds: to walk away from a task that people, comrades, and loved ones have died trying to achieve is not easy.
Should that occur, then the main thing to avoid is a sense of national shame: do not blame the troops for their leaders' failings! (and be alert for any attempts to do so). To do otherwise would be to revisit Vietnam in full.

Anonymous said...

Off topic:

"The New Security: Cameras That Never Forget Your Face" is an interesting surveillance-themed article.

Kagehi said...

Yes. We can certainly do better. The problem is, those who are experts in any of the stuff that matters are not usually and increasingly are less and less in control of things. The people running the show are not amataur in the sense of being without skill. The problem is that their "skill" is politics. Its like electing Oprah Winfrey to congress or the presidency, having no real *skill* beyond the ability to look good on TV and spout opinions. The whole point at one time was to have a president that *knew* he didn't have all the answers, and picked experts on the issues to help him where he had serious gaps, this was *despite* them sometimes disagreing one something or not liking each other. As much as people would like it to be otherwise, few if any of the last several presidents thought like this. For them, who is picked to be an advisor is an ideological and personal decision, not one predicatd on competence. And to get elected means you have to convince not the people, but your *party* that you fit some arbitrary and irrational standard, which includes hiring people with less competence than similarity in views, once in office.

As for Iraq and Palestine.. This is hardly a surprise. People, unfortunately, when confronting with insane or ineffective authorities that are secular jump to religious authority, while those confronted with religious insanity and ineffectiveness jump to secular ideas. Palestine jumped the direction it did because the secular groups couldn't sufficiently control the religous groups to prevent every attempt they made towards progress being undermined by those religous groups. In Iraq they had a secular madman, who, if not actively anti-religious, was certainly not particularly catering to it, so they jumped in that direction as well. The real question is if they can survive long enough to realize that when you get two priest in a room from different opposing groups, all you end up with is more bullshit, not progress. I think, from the Iraqis opinions on the matter, that Iraq is far more likely to make that realization than most. The only real question is if enough of the ones that already realize that stay to fight back, instead of jumping ship.

Anonymous said...

I looked up the National Guard's mission, and it does seem to support the fighting abroad mandate.

However, I am pretty sure this is not what our Guard and Reservists thought they were signing up for. So I like the "external manifestation of Administration will" versus the "internal protect our homeland" dichotomy.

Slightly off topic: this New Rebublic post contends that Rumsfeld's recent denial of the Pentagon report actually provides evidence that the "real" reason we invaded Iraq was to "impress potential adversaries rather than accomplish something tangible."

I think a lot of evidence argues against this being the sole reason, but I would not be surprised to find out this was part of the thinking.

Don Quijote said...

He who controls the Spice controls the universe

The spice must flow

- Dune

Anonymous said...


How U.S. used Iraqi wives for ‘leverage’

Suspected insurgents' spouses jailed to force husbands to surrender

The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of “leveraging” their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family’s door telling him “to come get his wife.”

Where does it end?

Anonymous said...

If you want to go on the offensive and carry out an aggressive foreign policy, you don't want militia. You want the most professional army possible, preferably mercenaries.

If your foreign policy is defensive, and the primary mission of your miiltary is defending your country's actualy territory, then you want limited use of professionals, and the more militia the better.

Guess what the current US foreign policy posture is?

Anonymous said...

I suspect people have been "picking sides" in the war debate because it is the easy thing to do, rather than engage in informed and reasoned debate, which is hard and requires that the debater actually learn a new skill.

While it sounds like I am a little testy against my fellow citizen...well, I am.

Before we continue talking about "the meat grinder" in Iraq, take a step back and consider how today's casualty rate compares to the casualty rates in previous wars (save for the Balkans, which was a symmetrical war). Better yet, how about comparing the assymetrical war of today with those of yesterday? How did the British fare on the American continent during the last quarter of the 1700s? How did we fare in the Phillipeans during the start of the 20th century? How about Vietnam?

While it may seem like I am trying to make excuses for our current casualy rate, I am actually quite encouraged by the pressure that today's blame and conspiracy cultures exert on our military planners and politicians; I wonder if today's casualy rate would be so comparatively low if this pressure wasn't there, and hadn't always been a part of the American conversation since (probably) our own Revolutionary War.