Monday, August 13, 2007



All 50 million Elvis Elvisberg fans please take note: I will be blogging over at Wordpress from now on. Thanks for coming on over!

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Counterpropaganda on the surge

Are there any plans for congressional committees to hold hearings featuring Gen. Shinseki, Gen. Pace, the Joint Chiefs at the time of the discussion about the surge, et al, as Gen. Petraeus releases his report saying that there has been progress in Iraq?

If not, why not?

The notion that the administration is merely "listening to the commanders on the ground" is, of course, transparently false.

They fired the last guy because he didn't support the surge. The administration has ignored and scorned expert military advice since the beginning of the war. That should be highlighted right as Gen. Petraeus, who is a somewhat partisan figure with a poor record in his statements about the war, releases his report.

What's more, the idea that the elected officials should just shut up about whether or not the war is a sound balancing of costs and benefits is quite at odds with how representative democracy is supposed to work.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


The Integrity Pose

Andrew Sullivan fantasizes that John McCain's main problem is that he has too much integrity to win.

That was a plausible rationale 8 years ago.

But given his cave-in on torture, his strident support for a flaccid, ineffective surge, and his demagogic eagerness to tar advocates of withdrawal as advocating "surrender," I think we can retire that one here in 2007.

Though in fairness to Sullivan, he wrote that McCain may have "too much integrity for today's GOP." That still may be the case.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Iraq Invasion: Delusional Thinking Based on Ignorance

I read, and recoiled from, this article, in 2001, as a future war supporter. Funny how informed people believed different things than the people running the country, and than I did.

THE MAIN working hypothesis, taken almost as an act of faith and embraced by many Western policymakers and pundits since the end of the Gulf War, is that the West's "Iraq problem"--and most of Iraq's problems, too--would be easily solved once President Saddam Hussein disappeared from the scene. Some observers have therefore couched the "Iraq problem" as one of biology--meaning not the threat of Iraqi biological weapons, but rather Saddam's mortality.

Not all delusional thinking is based on ignorance, but this example is. The contention that Saddam's removal through death or incapacitation would solve most of the difficulties at hand is flawed on at least two counts, one having to do with the past, the other with the future.

First, it ignores the far-reaching changes that Saddam and the Ba'athi regime have wrought in Iraqi society and political culture. The havoc wreaked upon Iraq's socioeconomic system will take years to heal. The total castration of the political system will not be easy to repair either, even in the very unlikely event that a liberal-democratic regime were to come to power in Baghdad. Finally, the mending of the fragmented Iraqi polity now divided between a rump state controlled by the Ba'ath and two fractious Kurdish administrations in the north, will not be a simple matter.

Even more importantly, the "biology" approach ignores Saddam's own plans and preparations for Iraq's future. Saddam is determined to ensure that his legacies and the system he has built are perpetuated after his departure from this life. In this regard, several questions are pertinent: Is Saddam Hussein walking in the footsteps of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Asad, as well as other leaders in this region, in preparing a "hereditary presidency"? If so, what would such a regime be like? In specific institutional terms, what would be the fate of the three pillars on which the regime has been based for the last 33 years: the Ba'ath Party, the security services and the army?

"Saddam After Iraq: Couldn't Be Worse?" Ofra Bengio, The National Interest, Winter 2001.


Thursday, June 14, 2007


Being Bound by Political Accountability and the Rule of Law Is Totally Poopy

Former interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin tearily announced Thursday that public service is, "not worth it."

It turns out you can't just do whatever you feel like in government. Nothing in the VRWC that produced this guy, where extremism and incompetence are no vice, would prepare him for the cold, cruel world of accountability.

Friday, June 08, 2007


The Coming Liberal Crack-Up

I disagree with Atrios about the agreement on the left, with disagreement over priorities. I'm a huge fan of Atrios and the like, but I am almost certainly further to the right than most liberal bloggers.

It's easy for the left-most 70 percent of the population to be in agreement right now. The most important issues are curtailing government the catastrophic war in Iraq, the abuses of constitutional rights, and a delusional foreign policy.

When I was in college, an expert on Indonesia came and spoke to our class. He spoke highly of Megawati Sukarnoputri, but with few specifics. I asked him about her, and his, vagueness, and he gave an insightful, wry response. "That's like the questions I get from Western journalists," he said. "'Well, what's her position on the middle-class tax cut, and partial-birth abortion?' But she stands for the rule of law. And that's what's important right now."

That's how I read things today. When the time comes to make policy, not just resist excesses, we're going to get a little more fractious.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Crisis and Credibility

Andrew Sullivan's interlocutor warns of the catastrophe that will result if we withdraw from Iraq-- al Qaeda will align with Iran, Pakistan will be absorbed into the caliphate, lions will lie down with lambs, a great king of frightfulness will come from the skies, etc.

He is correct that there are no good options.

That said, the people who planned and sold this war were the people who said we'd be greeted as liberators, we'd be done in a few months, and the war would be entirely funded by a modest tax on Iraqi oil profits.

(I supported the war, BTW).

These people traffic only in extremes-- delusional optimism, or paranoid fearmongering-- and they are ALWAYS WRONG. About everything, all the time.

Remember, the "occupation today, occupation tomorrow, occupation forever" crowd are the folks who were on the wrong side of this debate:

"Point: This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism."

"Counterpoint: No It Won't."

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