* Fred Kaplan had a good review in Slate of the major mistakes made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in this war. (SeeT http://www.slate.com/id/2137793/)
The article is devastating from the point of view of someone who (like me) was never opposed to ousting Saddam Hussein. (In fact, I have long felt that we owed his removal to an Iraqi populace that we betrayed in 1991. Or, rather that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell betrayed, by dusting Saddam off and propping him back into power over his terrorized people.)
No, the real issue is not wishy liberal peacenikism, but realpolitik incompetence.
Evidence from the long span of American history suggests that, if something is worth doing, it can often be done virtuously, honestly, honorably, and competently. In contrast, can you name a crisis in our past when a dire situation was BEST handled by people who were demonstrably unable to handle a burnt match? Never was this illustrated better than the present imbroglio in Iraq. Kaplan’s list of horrendous blunders - including disbanding the Iraqi military in 03 -- setting 300,000 well-armed and resentful soldiers loose upon the streets -- is as nonpartisan as it is an overwhelming indictment of blithering ineptitude.
Like all unfit leaders, the administration and its defenders fall back upon classic strategies, for example, maligning critics, resorting to secrecy, questioning others’ patriotism, and intimidation... these have all at least been discussed in the press. But nobody seems interested in probing deeper, to the level of unspoken assumptions.
(For example, is anyone at all willing to discuss the cosmically weird coincidence -- that Donald Rumsfeld held exactly the same job thirty years ago, when he supervised America’s final humiliation in another Asian Land War?)
Oh, but it goes deeper. If this cabal of very silly men has one priority - above all - it is to convince conservative Americans that this whole thing is about political ideology. And therefore, conservative Americans have no choice but to choose between the present gang and “those liberal peacenik pro-terrorist flakes.” Or something like that. By couching it always in either-or terms, they distract anyone from noticing the very large and very sharp axe that could sever this corrupt band from power and save the republic. An axe that could be wielded by Republicans, themselves.
It is a question that they dread ever hearing said aloud.
“Are you honestly telling us that there aren’t OTHER conservatives, out there, who might pursue the same overall values, only more competently, more honorably, more intelligently, more practically and in less bitterly divisive ways?
“What... among a hundred million conservative adult Americans... there are NONE?”
What an indictment of conservatism, if this is true!
In a parliamentary system, any sub-group who had shown themselves to be this foolish, deceitful, corrupt and ineffectual would have resigned by now. Forced out of office NOT by their opponents, but by their own party! A party determined to avoid punishment at the polls by bringing in fresh faces, from a large pool of promising and experienced candidates, waiting in the wings. But today’s GOP seems to be saying that it cannot find anybody else, not even from the back benches. No one who would pursue the War on Terror with Rumsfeld’s vigor, but without his proved record of utter, blithering inneptitude.
Yes, this logic does not hold for President Bush and VP Cheney, who hold Constitutional offices that are bound by time, rather than national confidence. We can argue the pros and cons of that arrangement elsewhere, and I am not necessarily against Madison’s chosen approach. Still, American history is filled with episodes when Cabinet housecleanings were done for reasons of political triage, or for the national good. And if ever there were a time when it was called for.
Here is a test. Try a truly confidential opinion poll of professional officers inside the Pentagon. Many are lifelong Republicans and believe deeply in the general War on Terror. And yet, I would wager that - if offered a chance to pick some other prominent Republican as a new Secretary of Defense, you would find at most ten percent choosing to retain the present leadership. One that has engaged in relentless pressuring, chivvying, meddling, domineering and purging of the skilled and dedicated men and women who make up the United States Officer Corps.
.... More political-relevant snippets.
* Taking Spying to Higher Level, Agencies Look for More Ways to Mine Data http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/25/technology/25data.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
* Ah, but then there’s the problem of digesting information that’s right in front of you:
* As Michelle Bachelet becomes Chile’s first female president, Justin Vogler talks to specialists across the region about the sharp increase in the number of women in South American politics. Most link this trend to the workings of the democratic process. But some are skeptical about how much of a difference more female politicians will make in the lives of everyday women. http://www.theglobalist.com/DBWeb/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=5163
* Average incomes after adjusting for inflation actually fell from 2001 to 2004, and the growth in net worth was the weakest in a decade, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.
Average family incomes, after adjusting for inflation, fell to $70,700 in 2004, a drop of 2.3 percent when compared with 2001. That was the weakest showing since a decline of 11.3 percent from 1989 to 1992, a period that also covered a recession. In contrast, the average incomes had soared by 17.3 percent in the 1998-2001 period and 12.3 percent from 1995 to 1998 as the country enjoyed the longest economic expansion in history. The 2001-2004 performance was the worst since net worth actually declined by 9.9 percent in the 1989-1992 period.