Sunday, April 29, 2007

Great Moments in Punditry...

All right, the next one was supposed to be non-politcal...

...but Tom Tomorrow's latest version of This Modern World is just too choice.

See this recent one called "Great Moments in Punditry." Can you see why great powers do not want predictions registries or accountability or any kind of measures of credibility?

Russ Daggat chimes in an additional example with the following choice example from Right-wing columnist and FOX News commentator Cal Thomas, April 15, 2003:

"When the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Europe escaped from the shackles of communism, I wrote that we must not forget the enablers, apologists and other "fellow travelers" who helped sustain communism's grip on a sizable portion of humanity for much of the 20th century. I suggested that a "cultural war crimes tribunal" be convened, at which people from academia, the media, government and the clergy who were wrong in their assessment of communism would be forced to confront their mistakes. While not wishing to deprive anyone of his or her right to be wrong, it wouldn't hurt for these people to be held accountable.

That advice was not taken - but today we are presented with another opportunity in the form of scores of false media prophets who predicted disaster should the U.S. military confront and seek to oust the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein. The purpose of a cultural war crimes tribunal would be to remind the public of journalism's many mistakes, as well as the errors of certain politicians and retired generals, and allow it to properly judge their words the next time they feel the urge to prophesy...

All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent."

Oooooog. As if.

As if "conservatives" invented the Marshall-Acheson-Truman strategy that led to the long victory.

As if liberal JFK wasn't so macho-eager to wage Cold War that he leaped into a trap set for us by the KGB in Vietnam, proving that you could fall off the tightrope with too much "vigah" as well as too little.

As if the caricature "fellow travelers" weren't always far more rare on the left that caricature thieving pigs were on the right (though both a minority, Thank God. Or rather, please, God.)

As if, this chilling piece of vendetta nastiness perfectly exemplifies how a president and party could piss away the united America they got to lead, after 0/11... the united West that supported us then...

As if this blithering hypocrisy weren't typical of the monsters, who cannot even imagine applying the same words to themselves.

---A One Sentence Strategy for Iraq--

Oh, there is something you are now hearing over and over. The BIG ROVEAN TACTIC is this. Demand that their opponents choose a simple, one sentence strategy for Iraq.

"Well? What would YOU do?"

It is horrendous and a "Have you stopped beating your wife?" question. Because No one-sentence answer will sound mature or sage, given the horrific political, social, military, and moral quagmire that we are inheriting. Moreover, any attempt to avoid giving a one sentence answer sounds equivocating and mealy-mouthed.

Another brilliant Rovean gotcha ploy and dems are falling for it.

There has to be an answer that turns the tables. I suggest this one.

"Obviously, a new team will have to work with allies (once we have regained their trust) and others to come up with new plans. But YOU are twisting and evading the issue.

"The issue is who should be entrusted with the task of finding a way out of this mess?

"Although democrats led us through the most successful military campaign in US history, losing not a single US service pwerson while cheaply and swiftly bringing peace and law to Europe for the first time in 4,000 years, while strengthening alliances and even gaining popularity in the Muslim world... still, that does not absolutely prove we will do a great job with Iraq.

"What IS proved, though, is that the present gang of fools cannot be trusted with a burnt match.

"They are the same men who coddled Saddam for decades.

Who - when they had him in their hands - set him free to oppress Iraqis for twelve more years.

Who lied to us and to the world about pretexts for war.

Who have oppressed and meddled and half-destroyed the professionals of the military and intelligence communities.

Who have undermined American science at every turn and undermined out goal of energy independence.

Who ruined all accountability systems and contract rules, replacing them with half a trillion in crony deals.

Who have wrecked U.S. military readiness.

Who have spent our grandchildren into permanent debt.

Who have driven off our allies and friends, while encouraging millions to embrace our foes.

"So don't you DARE demand that I give you a one-sentence answer about what to do in Iraq.

"I can give you a clear answer about what I will do, once in office.

"I will fire the gang of boobs who gave us this mess, and invite in grownups from the professional intelligence and military and civil services, freeing them to give sage advice without fear of retribution. Advice that will be heeded.

"I will also invite in adults from both parties who were banished by a pack of cranky, nasty little boys, who base every national decision upon a context of "culture war."

"I will seek out those - from all philosophies - who were proved right by the passage of time, and hold accountable those who lied or proved unworthy of trust.

"Together - with restored goodwill from the rest of the world - and with iron determination to rebuild our strength - we will start wading out of this mess that we were dragged into, by liars and fools how have no business meddling in the affairs of nations.


David Brin said...

Brin redux, here, with more.

Recently, Paul Krugman did a great job of framing the debate. Among other things, he provided the perfect metaphor: A hostage crisis.

April 23, 2007
A Hostage Situation

There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.

If this were a normal political dispute, Democrats in Congress would clearly hold the upper hand: by a huge margin, Americans say they want a timetable for withdrawal, and by a large margin they also say they trust Congress, not Mr. Bush, to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq .

But this isn’t a normal political dispute. Mr. Bush isn’t really trying to win the argument on the merits. He’s just betting that the people outside the barricade care more than he does about the fate of those innocent bystanders.

What’s at stake right now is the latest Iraq “supplemental.” Since the beginning, the administration has refused to put funding for the war in its regular budgets. Instead, it keeps saying, in effect: “Whoops! Whaddya know, we’re running out of money. Give us another $87 billion.”

At one level, this is like the behavior of an irresponsible adolescent who repeatedly runs through his allowance, each time calling his parents to tell them he’s broke and needs extra cash.

What I haven’t seen sufficiently emphasized, however, is the disdain this practice shows for the welfare of the troops, whom the administration puts in harm’s way without first ensuring that they’ll have the necessary resources.

As long as a G.O.P.-controlled Congress could be counted on to rubber-stamp the administration’s requests, you could say that this wasn’t a real problem, that the administration’s refusal to put Iraq funding in the regular budget was just part of its usual reliance on fiscal smoke and mirrors. But this time Mr. Bush decided to surge additional troops into Iraq after an election in which the public overwhelmingly rejected his war — and then dared Congress to deny him the necessary funds. As I said, it’s an act of hostage-taking.

Actually, it’s even worse than that. According to reports, the final version of the funding bill Congress will send won’t even set a hard deadline for withdrawal. It will include only an “advisory,” nonbinding date. Yet Mr. Bush plans to veto the bill all the same — and will then accuse Congress of failing to support the troops. …

Anyway, never mind the political calculations. Confronting Mr. Bush on Iraq has become a patriotic duty.

The fact is that Mr. Bush’s refusal to face up to the failure of his Iraq adventure, his apparent determination to spend the rest of his term in denial, has become a clear and present danger to national security.

Thanks to the demands of the Iraq war, we’re already a superpower without a strategic reserve, unable to respond to crises that might erupt elsewhere in the world. And more and more military experts warn that repeated deployments in Iraq — now extended to 15 months — are breaking the back of our volunteer military.,,,

At last, major columnists speaking to an issue I had almost alone for three years... the war against US military readiness and the US Officer Corps.

Anonymous said...

Comparative Advantage
How economist Paul Krugman became the most important political columnist in America.

There is no shortage of great pundits, it's just that they can't get jobs in the Corporate Mass-Media.

Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'

The writers at the Onion knew what was coming in January 2001. It was all so predictable, how many pundits predicted the future as well as they did?

My guess is that if they had, they would now be unemployed.

The owners of America wanted to roll the country back to the gilded age, and had they had a little luck (No Katerina) and a successful little war (Irak), they would have.

Anonymous said...

Rove's question:
"Well? What would YOU do?"

My one sentence answer:
"I'm going to fix what you fucked up."

Radio commentater Ed Shultz once put it as "You drive the car off the cliff, then look at me and ask 'what's your plan?'. Well, I'm going to put on my seat belt and pray the airbags work!"

Make it clear that it's thier fuck up. Drive it home! "You fucked up, and I'm going to fix it."

Anonymous said...

Brin for president.

Evden, "me too" posts don't add very much to the discussion. Don't you have any real discussion to contribute?

Anonymous said...

If you want to understand the pitiful under-performance of pundits (and maybe even why their jobs are kept), check out:

Bill Moyers discusses the horrible "journalism" practiced just before the war by Washington reporters. Lots of echo chambering and punditry committed by those that can barely expend the effort to pick up the phone when stories to be transcripted are sent to them. A kid from Newsweek and the NBC News head Tim Russert look especially pathetic in their work ethic / knowledge base.

Francis said...

Wrong link, Don. Although the annotated one is even more depressing.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I would do if I were GW Bush.

Have a national address that announces he is going to veto the Iraq funding bill sent to him by Congress....BUT

1. He is vetoing it because he needs to uphold the constitutional status of president as Commander in Chief. It is the privilege of past and future presidents, of both parties, to exercise this authority.

2. It is a bill so encrusted with irrelevancies that it should be vetoed. Prescription drug reform and ag subsidies? Please.

3. But, and this is the pay off, the right to exercise power over Congress in military matters does not equate to the imperative to do so. Having set a precedent with the veto he should then request that Congress resubmit the bill shorn of its pork and trivia. If at that point the will of the American people, as expressed by their representatives is clear, he will sign it.

If it requires, essentially, earmarks to round up the needed votes in congress, it is not really vox populi. If as a bill it can stand alone, it does. Sign it.

Of course, we of the conservative stripe have long since dispaired of GWB showing this sort of political savvy.


Anonymous said...

The post from "Evden" was spam. It wants people to click on the link, which is a ".biz" address.

Bill Moyer's special of last Wednesday, and the one-hour show on Friday, were wonderful. And aggrevating.

Gawd, what UTTER SUCKERS "we" were on the build-up to the war. How UTTERLY INDEFENSIBLY LAZY AND "WHIPPED" the majority of the press was! #@$%^*%@ cowardly TOOLS!

Anonymous said...

Alas - Bush's veto is because (his own words) it needs to be stripped of the "surrender date."

Courtesy of NPR at 5:30

Anonymous said...

Just one thing needs to pointed out about the "Fellow Travelers" and "Communists" of the 'teens and the thirties..

The first bunch overwhelmingly dropped sympathy for the "Revolution" when they found out about the purges.

The second, Depression Era bunch, overwhelmingly dropped support for Uncle Joe when he signed the Non-Agression Pact with Hitler.

Overall, the "Extreme Left", with tiny exceptions numbering in the tens of thousands, have been willing to admit mistakes when the bad smell has been jammed under their nose...but Neo-Feudalists still try to pawn off Pinochete as a success.

Millions, litteraly millions, of Registered Communists said en masse "We were wrong about the USSR" a Decade before HOAC started in...but how many Registered Republicans who voted for Nixon admit they were just as horribly wrong?

How many will *ever* admit in regard to Bush?

lightning said...

Tacitus2 --

Conversely, GWB could sign the bill and issue a "signing statement" that the pullout date is unconstitutional and that, as Commander in Chief, he'll ignore it.

He's been looking for a showdown. This could be it.

But I don't expect him to do that, either.

Anonymous said...

The President is an ADMINISTRATOR he does not set policy. Policy comes from the soveriegns of our Republic through our representatives.

This is a major point that is not being followed by all branches of government.

The fatal flaw here is that policy was illegally delegated to an administrator.

Signing statements are illegal. The President has the duty as all citizens do to determine constitutionality of a law. The ONLY legal remedy is to veto a bill amd send it back to the legislature. See Article 1 section 7 clause 2.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.

Anonymous said...

James Cascio notes in his blog today:

"It's a troubling sign of the modern political culture that being repeatedly and horrifically wrong about important subjects doesn't seem to make one less popular as an advisor. In fields where the subjects of professional analysis are granular and readily quantifiable, making crucial mistakes over and over again is a clear pathway to unemployment. Yet when the subjects are expansive and globally important, such as the politics of war or climate, repeated errors apparently aren't worth notice."


More at Responsibility to the Future.

Anonymous said...


We could simply impeach Bush & Cheney, bring our troops home, save lots of American lives and treasure by ending our occupation of Iraq now, instead of waiting till January 2009, when the next president will end the occupation and bring the troops home.


Those Onion guys should be given a column on the Editorial Pages of the NY times, Washington Post, USA Today and a place at the table on Sunday Morning instead of the gas bags that are there now.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, the "commander in Chief" clause was never intended to give a president totally arbitrary whim power over war and peace or to commit all the nation's purse, youths, and stamina to foreign adventures just on his say-so.

I mean, what kind of conservative arre you? eh? (He says with a friendly wink. ;-)

How can "commander in chief" be interpreted that way, while "the power to declare war" is simply brushed aside? That's Congress's power, by the way.

By your plan, Bush would -- if he were "sensible" in your view-- do things that you likely would have called impeachable if Clinton had done it.

As for the Tomorrow's World GREAT MOMENTS IN PUNDITRY cartoon... WHICH YOU MUST ALL SEE!...

.Want more?

Francis said...


You've just redefined the powers of the CinC entirely. It is the power of congress to declare war, not that of the CinC. Congress controls whether, the CinC controls how - and congress are saying that the answer to whether should be "no". That is the responsibility of congress, and at that point, the CinC's responsibility is to abide by the will of the people and get the troops out of there as soon as he can.

And since when has the current Republican administration been anything other than a fan of pork by the barrel? (When it stopped going to their causes, I suppose).

For that matter, since when has the Republican party been anything other than a fan of pork? They have always outspent the Democratic party - they simply don't raise taxes to match (unlike the Democrats). For that matter, I don't understand how the Republican party can be called Conservative since Reagan (although I speak as a moderately informed outsider, not being American).

False Data said...

I've gotten the impression there's actually quite a bit of disagreement among legal academics over what the war powers clause means. I don't know a ton about this area, but here's my take on the positions. I'll try to paraphrase some of the arguments--hopefully I'll get it right.

John Yoo, out of Berkeley, believes the President may use force without congressional authorization. From a policy standpoint, you don't necessarily want to wait while four hundred some-odd people deliberate how to respond to the incoming missile attack. Textually, he points out that the founders could have written the Constitution to allow the President to act only when the country's invaded, something they knew how to do (see Art I § 10 cl. 3 which prohibits states from engaging in war "unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay"), but they didn't restrict the President's power that same way in either Art. II § 2 cl. 1 or Art. I § 8 cl. 11. I think his view is that Congress's "declare war" clause is just the power to enact the formal document which contains a declaration of war, and that the founders intent was that Congress's power to stop the President would be the power of the purse, just like Parliament's was for the King (and just like we're seeing with the Dems' time-limited funding bill.)

On the other side, you have someone like Mike Ramsey who thinks (rtf) that, at the time they wrote the Constitution, the founders understood "declaring war" to mean any open attack that created a state of war. He notes that, at the Constitutional Convention, several delegates stated the President shouldn't be able to unilaterally start a war, and that delegates to the ratification debates emphasized the clause as a limit on the President's power. I believe he feels the Commander in Chief clause has two roles: it gives the President the power to manage the war in those areas where Congress doesn't say anything, and it prevents Congress from splitting up the role of Commander in Chief among several people.

What's the right answer? That's for "We the people" to decide (so debate on!) Personally, it seems reasonable to me that the President should be able to respond without congressional directives if there's an invasion or something similar, but that the President should not be able to start a war unless Congress passes a declaration of war.

TheRadicalModerate said...

"Well? What would YOU do?"

It is horrendous and a "Have you stopped beating your wife?" question. Because No one-sentence answer will sound mature or sage, given the horrific political, social, military, and moral quagmire that we are inheriting. Moreover, any attempt to avoid giving a one sentence answer sounds equivocating and mealy-mouthed.

Well, since we're not limited to one-sentence answers here, what would you do?

Let's do this right: List your strategic goals. Describe your diplomatic, economic, and military strategies. Provide an estimate on necessary force composition and cost. Forward-looking, please--we all know that the number of mistakes that have been made is just breathtaking and it's unfair that everybody taking power will have to deal with the present situation. The reality is inexcusable, but it's still the reality.

I agree that the positioning done by Bushco is not only unfair but is destructive of any productive discourse. Demanding a one-sentence solution is ridiculous. However, Congress is in the process of enacting a one-sentence policy, which is not only unfair but actively insane. So let's see if we can't do better.

Anonymous said...

Completely off topic:

Well, we now know that Mitt Romney has failed the most important test of all-

-he has absolutely NO taste in Science Fiction.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

Congress is in a position where one-sentence deadlines are all that it CAN do.

My belief is that they are falling into a Rovean trap... but one of limited power. At this point, over 50% DO want a simple, one-sentence answer. Get the $%## out of there and see to our own nation, our people, our readiness, our economy and finances, our allies, our science...

(Funny how the war on drugs was so important to the right... till suddenly it isn't, anymore.)

But no, the answer in Iraq that I'd prefer is NOT "cut and run". Frankly, I am and always have been a hawk. I wanted Saddam's head and one reason why I utterly despised the entire Bushite cabal was because of the Travesty of 1991, when Bush Sr. went on radio and - in his own voice and on our behalf - asked the Iraqi people to "rise up! We are on our way!"

And then left them to be slaughtered, enslaved and brutalized for 12 more years.

THAT alone... plus their earlier coddling and subsidizing of that monster... is reason enough for my "one-sentence answer."

Get the Bushes and all of their friends away from the steering wheel and controls of Western Civilization.

They are - AT BEST - drunken sot fratboy morons.

They are not conservatives.

They are not patriots.

They are not truthful or decent or moral men.

They are catastrophes.

And if you conservatives want to save even a fragment of your movement, you had better heed the sound of Barry Goldwater, spinning in his grave. the... time... to... stand... up.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Well, that's the response I was hoping not to provoke. I've got it that you really, really hate Bushco. I've got it that you wish that you could throw water on them and they'd melt away, accompanied by high-pitched wailing.

They're not going anywhere until they leave office in 20 months, unless you think you can impeach both Bush and Cheney, simultaneously.

So, I repeat my question: What would you do, in some detail? I will add a further question: Is it appropriate for the dems to force an early, nearly-total withdrawal? What will the consequences of that withdrawal be?

Anonymous said...

I know what I would like to see from the current administration:

A concrete goal and a oath to withdraw when the goal is met.

Also monthly reports to the Congress and the people on progress to meet that goal.

The goal:
1)Enough Iraqi forces to control the current insurection. When we have that we leave.
2) Rebuild enough of the infrastructure to leave a viable economy.
3) A one year maximum to achieve this from start of oath.


We should demand at least that much accountability.

The reason I give for the above goal is that we let our military destroy Iraq.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Here's my version of an answer to my own question:


Ensure an uninterrupted flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, at a price that isn't ruinous, for the next 20 years. Yup, it really is all about oil.

Stop nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. (This is really, “Stop nuclear proliferation worldwide,” but if you can make it work in the Middle East, you can make it work anywhere.)

Avoid a proxy war in Iraq between Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. Such a war runs an unacceptable risk of collapsing the Saudis or the Iranians as viable states. This would not only be a humanitarian disaster, but it will interrupt the flow of oil from the Gulf.

Deny non-state groups an effective base from which they can mount regional or international terrorist operations.

Ensure that Israel can remain a viable democratic state.


Encourage Saudi Arabia to continue its economic war with Iran. The Saudis have been trying consistently to drive the price of oil down, which would deprive Iran of the funds it needs to be aggressive in the region. This requires that we offer enhanced assurances to the Saudi regime to guarantee their security and will probably require that we stay hands-off with the export of Salafism. This really sucks, but it may be the best alternative, at least until Iran is contained.

An extremely low oil price is actually not in the US’s best interest, because it will interfere with what will eventually turn out to be a pretty robust alternative energy industry. However, a low oil price is essential for putting pressure on Iran. I suspect that some kind of tax that puts a floor on the price of oil will merely ensure that the floor price becomes the minimum market price, which is unhelpful. This is a problem for which I have no solution.

Encourage the Kurds to make as much trouble as they like in the Kurdish areas of Iran. Note that this will make Turkey very, very nervous, so they have to be given absolute guarantees that the Kurds will restrain their nationalism to point east, rather than north. We can and should negotiate this with the Kurds.

Throw Lebanon under the bus. Support Syrian hegemony in Lebanon as long as they'll interdict Hezbollah, thereby weakening Iran.

To deter Iran, negotiate (or merely assert) a Middle East nuclear protection treaty, which makes a nuclear attack, by any power, on any Middle Eastern country, grounds for (possibly nuclear) retaliation by the US.

It is essential eventually to come up with some formulation of the above that makes some set of designated "rogue nuclear states" (with Iran being one of them) liable to (possibly nuclear) retaliation in the event of an act of nuclear terrorism anywhere in the world. This obviously has large practical and moral problems, but they are possibly not insurmountable. Note that this is not really a Middle East issue, but rather reflects the need to rethink deterrence in a newly-proliferative environment.

Engage Iran diplomatically. Our top requirements are the enforceable elimination of any military nuclear weapons program, a reduction in military support to Iraqi militias, and elimination of all military aid to Hezbollah. We should be willing to give on economic and humanitarian support to Hezbollah and Iraqi militias, and a general reduction of economic and industrial sanctions.

The problem with negotiating with Iran is that they have fewer things they want from us than we want from them. For that reason, it is essential to continue pursuing sanctions in the UN on their nuke program and apply low-level military pressure until they start to give us some of the things we want.

Note that many of these initiatives are contradictory. Welcome to the real world.


The Biden federation plan is pretty much the way to go: three nearly-autonomous regions with a loose (and fairly weak) revenue sharing plan. Alternatively, you can go for a genuine three-state solution with hard, defensible apportionment of the northern oil fields between the Kurds and Sunnis.

Plan for the collapse the Maliki government. Negotiate, publicly, a separate oil field agreement between the Kurds and the Sunnis. This exercise has two purposes. First, it’s prudent planning for a likely event. Second, it places a huge amount of pressure on the government to get its act together.

Plan to move the Iraqi military to a more federated structure. The Peshmerga is already pretty autonomous. We need to identify units of the non-Kurdish portions of the military by tribal loyalties and plan to allocate them to the appropriate federal entities.

Note that the Sunni areas are the most problematic, because a significant portion of their military power is actually insurgents allied with individual tribes. These units need to be brought under some sort of regional umbrella and unified or the Shiites and, even worse, al Qaeda, are going to eat them alive.

Continue training and building the military and police, but we have to re-orient their loyalties to a federated environment. This is extremely dangerous. Once you get trained units defecting and fighting each other, the cat’s really out of the bag and you’ve got a self-sustaining civil war that will take decades to burn itself out. Better to institutionalize the divisions than to have them erupt ad-hoc in the middle of a crisis.

Telegraph the split-up to the population, then provide enough cover so that relocation can proceed with a minimum of bloodshed. It's probably not a horrible idea to make funds available for relocation.

I have no clue how to deal with Baghdad. Make it a federal district? Declare it an open city? Partition it?


Continue the surge to provide cover for population relocations. I'd guess you have to do this for at least another 12-18 months.

Reduce the power of pro-Iranian militias as much as possible. The objective here is twofold: First, you want the inevitable military breakup to favor a Shiite military organization that's not beholden to Iran. Second, you want to stretch Iran as much as possible economically. If they constantly have to resupply forces in Iraq, they’re able to make less trouble elsewhere. Again, this exercise goes on for as long as you’re willing to put up with the surge.

This is the last chance to hit al Qaeda in Iraq. The idea that we can do surgical raids after withdrawing the bulk of our troops is nonsense. We will not be completely successful in defeating them, but this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Degrading al Qaeda is worth a lot, even if you can’t defeat them.

Plan to pull back to bases inside Iraq. I’d have one adjacent to the northern oil fields, one adjacent to the southern oil fields, one on the Sunni portions of the Tigris, and one in Diyalla that could cover both Baghdad and the Iranian border.

While engaging Iran diplomatically, make their lives as miserable as possible until they begin to yield. Hit their militia proxies as hard as possible. Put pressure on the border with overt forces and cross-border with proxies and covert forces. Continue to keep the two carrier battlegroups in the Gulf and push Iran’s air defenses pretty hard. This is an area where the US needs to incur a little risk for a lot of reward.

Please note that 90% of this is the current military strategy.


Short-term (say a year to 18 months), change nothing. 17 or 18 combat brigades, distributed mostly in the Anbar/Baghdad/Diyalla regions. $70-80 billion for two more years. Yup, it’s unpopular. Yup, it’s going to hurt the military. Yup, it’ll be politically disastrous for the GOP. It’s still the right thing to do. The GOP really, really needs to adhere to the Pottery Barn rule. The Democrats need to let them take the hit, rather than trying to pacify their left wing. (Mind you, I don’t think the GOP will take my advice, unless the hawks are suddenly running the circus...)

Longer term, I think we’re looking at a permanent 6 brigade garrison presence. It’s probably also prudent to pre-position equipment for at least two armored brigades within striking distance of the Iranian border. These can be negotiated away, but only for a significant diminution in Iranian cross-border power. Let’s see: a third of the existing force at garrison ops tempo instead of combat tempo--one fifth the cost? So, $14-16 billion a year, for at least ten years.

David Brin said...

Fair enough RM.

What I would do is wage total war against culture war.

I would make excruciatingly clear to the American people that the Bushites have waged relentless violence against professionalism in our government. Aginst not only the US Officer and Noncommisioned Officer Corps, but against the intelligence community, the Foreign Service, the Civil Service, the scientific community, the educational community, and so on.

WHILE pushing my own notions of the “Age of Amateurs” - I would pass several bills:

1) Demanding that a commision of professional officers and civil servants and diplomats and Justice Department and GAO professionals be put in charge in Iraq. Now.

2) Removing all second and third and fourth tier hacks that were appointed by Bushco secretaries with the sole intention of harrassing and persecuting government professionals with bozos whose sole qualification is that they were Young Republicans at Bob Jones University. Promoting professionals in house to fill those slots would be great. CROSS promoting professionals into each others’ services would be even better, to shake things up.

3) Protect whistle-blowers NOW!

4) Re-establish Congressional scientific apparatus, as suggested at:

But more. I would call upon the best and wisest American conservatives to join a Joint Commission on Science and Technology to serve as an ad hoc science court and blow the whistle on the top ten worst damnable lies and repressions of fact. Of course this would open the wedge for such decent Republicans to participate in a truly far-reaching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, down the road. But starting with science would be just fine.

And yes, every single one of these will be vetoed by Prexy... and he would take a bloody nose with every veto, losing political power, losing allies, riling more urban Republicans, until even guys like you change their vocabulary from “regretable” to “outrageously unacceptable.”

As for Iraq? I have already spoken to this.

I believe we must pull our troops out of direct policing and fighting and recognize that this is a New Balkans and there will be no "Iraq" till the separate communities decide to make one.

We should say that we will defend certain lines across the country. Transport corridors and big projects like water works and pipelines. Any city that gets itself organized and offers peace and law to its inhabitants will be protected from outsiders... on a CITY BY CITY BASIS.

We should defend Kurdistan... and any swathe of Sunnistan that gets itself organized enough to eject Al Qaeda and ask for our help. (And, faced with the likelihood of a militant Shiastan, care to bet they would?)

I would Invite the Iranians to put up or shut up and send peacekeepers to police their Shia brethren. Let THEM face Al Sadr! And if a result is a temporary Iranian hedgemony, so? WATCH how soon the people of Basra put aside their Shia commonality with the Iranians and remember that they are Arabs!

Let the Ayatollahs have a Vietnam of their own, for a change!

Above all, I would start protecting our men, rotating them home, letting them rest and refit, and RESTORE OUR NATIONAL MILITARY TO SOME SEMBLENCE OF READINESS.

But dig it... RM... I have answered you as a courtesy. In fact, I do not have to. I know - like any person oppressed by shrieking/horrid monsters - that this will be a long a hard struggle. I do not have to offer pat answers for how I'd "work with" political nightmares.

There is only one thing that will save this republic short of civil war. If America's conservatives wake up, then Bushites will be marginalized, cauterized, and sit in the Oval Office moaning for those 20 months while the rest of us work on this mess.

It is YOU... entirely you and your fellow conservatives... who have the responsibility. You bear the main moral burden.

It is you who are deciding, even now, whether to stand up or continue wringing out rationalizations.

Liberals faced a similar crisis after WWII. By 1947 they were at war against their former socialist pals.

Sorry. But you conservatives are apparently made of MUCH more obstinate, reality-detached and far less useful stuff.

TheRadicalModerate said...


There is only one thing that will save this republic short of civil war. If America's conservatives wake up, then Bushites will be marginalized, cauterized, and sit in the Oval Office moaning for those 20 months while the rest of us work on this mess.

I can't think of any better way to work on this mess than by engaging with you in fora like these. Seems to me that Bushco has pretty well had its teeth pulled already, which suits me fine, as it does you. Trust me--I'm awake.

I'm willing to have my nose rubbed in the conservative screwups of the last 5-6 years. There are certainly plenty to choose from. I can't say I like it very much, though, and it certainly gets tiresome going over the same old ground over and over and over. The cartoon is a fine example. Is this really supposed to tell us something new?

Anyway, thanks for the response. The Middle East mess is clearly one of the key hard problems we now face. Hopefully honest discussion of the options will filter up to Congress and the White House and make the posturing a little more sophisticated on both sides.

Anonymous said...

Friendly wink interpreted as such. I wish, in a nostalgic and conservative way, that our forces would only go into action after a thoughtful debate in Congress and a declaration of war. In fact, the last time this has happened was, correct me if I am wrong, WWII. I won't repeat myself by reposting the quotation from Sen. Taft (R) saying that if Congress did not stand up and demand the right to rule on intervention in Korea it would forever forfeit that right. Since then Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Hati, Gulf etc have all been under one or another ambiguous resolutions or under UN auspices. Perhaps if Congress had the sole power some bad stuff could be avoided. But we are no longer fighting organized states, and we are in a sad era when destruction on a wholesale or small scale basis could come at a moment's notice. It's kind of like the action against the Barbary Pirates in the 1800's...anybody recall if Congress declared war then?

Another conservative thought....Congress would probably be populated by a better class of men and women if they had this grim responsibility.


Anonymous said...

Oooh, a "What would you do?" challenge.

Well, let's see. For starters, I'd admit that with Republicans still defending Bush and his miserable fiasco of a war, and with the Democrats having too small a majority and too little political capital, we're not gonna get Bush and the rest of the monsters in his administration impeached.

Therefore, they're going to be in charge for 20 more months, during which there's no way they'll admit to being wrong or change course at all. Which means Iraq is going to continue to disintegrate the way it has been, unless something new and surprising and worse happens. And the best Congress can do is the kinds of things the Democrats have been doing now.

And in 20 months, whoever takes over is going to have a mess of even more ginormous proportions on their hands, and any kind of planning we could do now about "what to do" will probably be made irrelevant by new and wonderful disasters the Bush administration will get into.

That said, if I were appointed leader, Civilization style, what would I do?

Well, first, what are our goals?

Oil? Probably, for all that we really really really really need to get our economy shifted so we're not completely dependent on it, oil just has too many uses, and it's been cheap for so long our entire economy and infrastructure and cities are completely designed around it, which is a Bad Thing.

Preventing the formation of a failed state that's a breeding ground for terrorists? I think we've already failed at that. The thing is, by being there, we give terrorist groups the chance to practice against our military, and we also give something more important, great propaganda for recruitment. The "Great Satan" really did invade and occupy part of the Arab world. Not to mention the torture, the tens of thousands (at least) of civilian casualties, and so on.
If we stay or if we leave, either way we still end up providing reasons for people to hate us and radicalize.
The thing is..."the terrorists" aren't an existential threat. "Radical Islamists" or whatever aren't going to conquer the world. They're not going to destroy the country, unless we let them. I'm not sure Al Queda's got that much to do with any of the insurgents in Iraq, and I wonder if we left, if the Iraqis would then turn on the other violent foreigners.

Preventing the massacres and ethnic cleansing? We don't seem to be preventing them that well now, but it'd get worse right when we left, I'll admit. So we offer people places here (which we probably won't, after all, they might be terrorists!) or help people resettle and parition, or... there's really no good options there.

Stopping nuclear proliferation? First thing we should do there is lock down and dismantle all the spare Russian nukes we can. I don't know how much there is of those, or how many we'd be able to disassemble now, what with the way Russian politics has gone. But all that scares me a lot more than Iran.
With Iran, the first step would be to stop pointlessly antagonizing them with things like "axis of evil" (man, how many opportunities did that alone kill?) and actually be willing to talk with them, instead of dismissing diplomacy out of hand. It's hard to figure out what somebody else wants or is willing to do until you talk to them. Maybe it'd get somewhere, maybe it wouldn't, but since there's no way we could do another war right now, we don't have many other options.

And there's still Afghanistan, too.

So, what kinds of things would have to be done to fix these?

Well, the first thing that'd have to happen would be completely unpopular, and would get attacked by all the usual elements. Taxes have to go up, to pay for what we're spending now.

Second, the military budget would have to be rearranged to put more money into troops and training, and less into useless boondoggles like missile defense. And we'd have to raise the size of the army, if we're going to stay in Iraq and have any chance of getting anything done.

Except, none of that would kick in for at least two years. Recruiting and training and equipping a bunch of new soldiers takes time. Especially in the middle of an unpopular and futile war. Where would all these new soldiers come from, and with ~2 years until Bush is gone, and then at least a year for the new troops to cycle through, that's three years from now, and things will probably be a lot worse. We could try and get the UN and other countries involved, but I don't know how well that would work. Possibly, under the control of a different administration, but nobody else would trust Bush etc, and Bush wouldn't ask, anyway.

I think I give up on the hypothetical here. Anything that would have a possibility of working requires more troops we don't have (some soldiers are already on their 5th tours!), competent leaders we don't have, and time we don't have. So how would I fix it? I don't know. I suspect a lot of things are past fixing.

daveawayfromhome said...

Dang! Nate beat me to a couple of my punches, but I'll post anyway.

Here's my quick and "easy" answer to the question, "what would you do?":

1) Establish a draft, doubling or tripling the number of troops in Iraq, and increasing the number of troops tenfold in Afghanistan. Let's get the numbers to do the job. Shock and Awe, baby, shock and awe.
2) Raise taxes to pay for this ungodly mess. During WWII there was a 91% marginal tax on income over $200,000. Compare that to the Bush years where only the extremely rich have made gains. I'd be fair though, everybody gets a tax increase.
3) Mandatory gas rationing, and an extra tax on any vehicle that gets less than 20 miles per gallon (an extra, extra tax on any non-commercial vehicle getting under 12mpg). Higher taxes on gasoline powered recreational vehicles also, and we'll include vintage cars in that catagory. This is just more of a 60 year-old mess created by our our feeling of entitlement about our seemingly endless thirst.
4) Investigations of anything and everything connected with this war. For anyone who was involved in authorizing the torture of prisoners, torture will also be authorized for their questioning.
5) Any and all outsourcing and private contracts will be terminated, possibly with prejudice. The military will again take over any and all operations. Local workers will be used for local work, except for that done by the military for U.S. operations. All monies spent (save for covert operations) will be maintained and recorded in a transparent and auditable manner.

Do I think this will happen? Hell, no. American was never really interested in going to war in Iraq, that's why there's been such an unprecedented level of lies, secrecy and "painless" war financing. The Bush Administration knew that if it were to put the country on an actual war footing, support for this war would dry up like a slug in the desert sun.

Personally, I would question whether even the above would "win" the war in Iraq. I'm rather doubting that even this would do the trick. Bush's insistence on more of the same strikes me as being a lot like a losing gambler who keeps putting more money down because "next time" he'll win.
We made a terrible mess over there and we're never going to fix it with guns and tanks. I think that the best we can hope for is to get out of the way of the Iraqis while they try and figure out if they'd rather kill each other or clean up the mess. If they choose to clean up, they have the oil resources to pay for it (assuming we dont steal them). If they choose to kill each other instead, we'll probably do the more good by providing massive humanitarian relief than we ever could by standing in the middle of the gunfire while "trying" to stop it.

The RadicalModerate asked "What will the consequences of that withdrawal be?" I wasnt quite sure if this was a real question, or a rewording of one of the latest GOP talking points (will the Dems take responsibility for the bloodbath when the U.S. pulls out of Iraq? - which is another have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife question), but I'll treat it as if it is for the sake of making my point.
The Iraqis are not a bunch of children. Once upon a time, mere years ago in fact, they ran their own country; refineries, airports, factories, police stations, etc, and they did it all by themselves. We showed up and busted everything wide open, made a big mess, and pushed people around (and out). If we leave, they may choose to kill each other, or they may choose to rebuild their country. They may choose both. But it will be their choice, made as grown-ups who probably have a pretty good idea of what they want. They may not all agree on the best course, but that's hardly a localized problem now, is it?

If we're really concerned about the Iraqis more than we are about our own skins (and oil thirst), we need to ask this question: Is our presence as much a problem as it is a solution? If the answer is yes, then we need to withdraw and concentrate on humanitarian aid while the Iraqis sort out what's best for themselves.

As for all the hand-wringing about Iran, of course Iran has a right to meddle in regional politics - it's their region! Our attitude is a bit like China showing up and threatening us because we were trying to influence policy in Mexico.

Finally (I've gone on waaay too long), a response to this: "To deter Iran, negotiate (or merely assert) a Middle East nuclear protection treaty, which makes a nuclear attack, by any power, on any Middle Eastern country, grounds for (possibly nuclear) retaliation by the US." As far as I could tell, the only ones making nuclear threats in the middle east was the U.S.

gmknobl said...

I have a simple one sentence answer: "Not what you did!"