December 02, 2005

Cheney's Loss of Judgment

Lex nails it:

In one way, the idea that Mr. Cheney has undergone a personality change is unfair: he was always a belt-and-braces pessimist and ardent conservative. As a Wyoming congressman, he compiled a voting record to the right of Newt Gingrich's (he voted against the equal-rights amendment, for example); as defense secretary, he constantly found his most powerful prejudice confirmed, that the world is a very dangerous place. But even allowing for this, September 11th 2001 clearly changed him. As Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution points out, a pragmatic hardliner became an ideological hardliner. He lost his patience with the world's ditherers and debaters. And his world-view was sprinkled with neo-conservative pixie-dust.

Somewhere in this transformation Mr. Cheney seems to have lost his most prized political asset--his judgment. Whenever he had a chance on Iraq, he seems to have pushed the evidence further that it could reasonably be pushed. He not only argued that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; he insisted that he was close to acquiring a nuclear bomb. He not only complained in private about the hand-wringers and poseurs in the United Nations; he suggested from the first that America could go ahead without the blessing of that body, as if international opinion is an irrelevance in modern warfare. Somehow, one of life's natural Hobbesians not only underestimated how difficult it would be to transform a Baathist dictatorship into a functioning democracy, but even bought the clap-trap about Iraqis greeting Americans with flowers. [emphasis added]

So true, and Lexington neglects to mention the 'last throes' crapola in this list, as well as Cheney's hugely misguided torture policy (among other things). Yes, alas, Cheney has lost his judgment too often these past months and years. A pragmatic hardliner (of which we need more), as Daalder says, has metamorphosized into ideological hardliner (of which we need fewer). I fear we're stuck with him, as Bush without Rumsfeld is perhaps conceivable, but without Cheney is near impossible to fathom. But we need to fight tooth and nail through 2009 to ensure Cheney doesn't do more damage to the polity, and help saner voices (Condi Rice, Steve Hadley, non-Addington deputy-spheres) win the policy battles. It ain't pretty, but that's the job at hand. In this effort we can, I hope, look to (the very few) congresspersons of caliber that can assist on this front, people like McCain, Graham, Warner and Hagel. As well as the flicker of hope that Bush will come to realize more and more that Vice is providing materially diminishing returns, and act accordingly.

Posted by Gregory at December 2, 2005 12:27 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Can I ask - is there some source for a quote that represents the following

"even bought the clap-trap about Iraqis greeting Americans with flowers. [emphasis added]"

Was it stated that ALL Iraqi's would welcome their liberators - some, many?

Or is Cheney's rosey idea about post-war Iraq a supposition

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 2, 2005 03:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

yawn. someone pls dig up the quotes for mahone....

Posted by: greg at December 2, 2005 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue,

Here's one example of the "greeted as liberators" farce from an interview with Tim Russert before the war:

Cheney: Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. And the presidentís made it very clear that our purpose there is, if we are forced to do this, will in fact be to stand up a government thatís representative of the Iraqi people, hopefully democratic due respect for human rights, and it, obviously, involves a major commitment by the United States, but we think itís a commitment worth making. And we donít have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S. Clearly, 12 years after the Gulf War, weíre back in a situation where he does constitute a threat.

[...]

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and weíre not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I donít think itís likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. Iíve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya whoís a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, heís written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

There are other examples. Cheney was, er, not exactly bashful with his pollyannic predictions. Also in that interview is Cheney downplaying the need for more troops, claims that Iraq and Al-Qaeda had a "long-standing relationship" and claims that Iraq had an active nuclear program. Amongst other distortions and exaggerations.

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/bush/cheneymeetthepress.htm

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 2, 2005 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Otherwise, I would note that we wouldn't have to worry about the predelictions and tendencies of the VICE President if the actual President were running the show. Don't blame me though, I didn't vote for this sometimes "commander" in chief.

Ultimately, Cheney's actions lie at Bush's feet. Either he takes control, or he takes responsibility. Or both.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 2, 2005 04:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks for the quotes Eric

Did you notice the lack of the word "flowers" in there?

Is "greeted with flowers" the snide shorthand code to insinuating the Cheney is an idiot - does it flow better than the things he actually said but remains true to what he meant in your opinion

Is "greeted with flowers" fake but accurate to be more blunt

Because since he didn't say that - why are those words, which obviously seek to make him look like a complete idiot, attributed to him repeatedly?

( I know I know - "shuttup Pogue, this isn't about the facts, we're trying to smear Chimpy's vp!" )

As for that actual interview - is there a date for that interview? Looks like pre-war to me - Russert talking about resistance in Baghdad and all that

That didn't happen did it - Baghdadigrad anyone?

and we WERE greeted as liberators by many Iraqi's - even most Iraqi's would be accurate

So is Cheney wrong - was he unduly optimistic? Was he spinning a positive in the lead up to the war? Maybe a bit - but hardly to the degree you suggest with this "greeted with flowers" meme

And who are the "insurgents" - aren't many arab terrorists from ourside Iraq? Who are the mosque bombers anyway?

Does this have bearing on looking at the carnage wrought by these thugs in relation to the pre-war hopes for a more welcoming population

or more simply - does AQ blowing up mosques and humvee's prove that the Iraqi's, or many or most Iraqi's, DIDN'T greet us as liberators?

Now I know this is a few levels beyond the fun you like to have by using fake but accurate statments about the Bush Admin - but these all seem to be legitimate questions

If you want to peddle this "greeted with flowers" line - why don't you try it at the Daily Kos

Nobody there will even question the accuracy of the quote

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 2, 2005 08:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First of all Pogue, the quote I provided is not exhaustive of all quotes ever by Cheney. In other words, he might have used the word "flowers" elsewhere, but I don't think that matters much. They are euphemisms for the same thing. I know someone did in fact use "candies and flowers." Might have been Cheney. Maybe Chalabi. Either way, same basic meaning. And I don't know if Greg ever suggested that was a direct quote.

As for the date of the interview, it is pre-war.

Also, this from you:

And who are the "insurgents" - aren't many arab terrorists from ourside Iraq? Who are the mosque bombers anyway?

Actually, the vast majority of insurgents are actually Iraqis. According to repeated polls, most Iraqis want us to leave. Most Iraqis have a negative view of us. Most Iraqis think targeting US troops is legitimate resistance. If that's greeted as liberators, what does greeted as occupiers look like.

Also of note: The context of Cheney's response. He was being asked about the possibility of a prolonged insurgency. He denied the likelihood because we would be greeted as liberators. This suggests that there would not be anything like the support levels for the insurgency that we have seen. He was wrong. "Big Time." We have a very determined, widespread and deadly insurgency that is stretching into year three. Pretty long last throes if you ask me.

Incidentally, pointing out that he was right about certain things (ie battle of Baghdad) is really a tautology. Of course he got some things right. Just not the most important.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 2, 2005 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That should read that I don't think Greg or Lex ever suggested that Cheney directly said the word "flowers" but that he bought the clap-trap (ie the greeted as liberators narrative)...

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 2, 2005 08:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

According to repeated polls, most Iraqis want us to leave.

Which is not inconsistent with this being an act of liberation. There are Iraqi political parties which explicity say that Iraq was liberated, but still look forward to eventual US withdrawl.

Most Iraqis have a negative view of us

Mainly that we havent been as effective at rebuilding the country as they would like. For which Cheney and Rummy bear some of the blame. But thats seperate from the question of whether we're viewed as liberators.

Look, one can take Cheney down well enough without the flowers business - as you did by pointing out that Cheney failed to prepare for an insurgency carried out by a MINORITY of Iraqis. A grave failing indeed. Why then the need to imply that the MAJORITY of Iraqis dont see us as liberators? That implies things about the current policy options, false things, AFAICT.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 2, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"people like McCain"

So at least you recognize that whatever ideology Cheney is tainted with, it aint neoconservatism.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 2, 2005 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

oops, you DID say neoconservative pixie dust.

So lets see. Bill Kristol is the son of the founder of neoconservatism. His mag, the Weekly Standard, is the main opinion journal of neoconism. Kristol clearly is fed up with Rumsfeld, and strongly supports McCain. McCain is pragmatic, and the Rummy-Cheney axis is ideological. Yet the ideology is neocon pixie dust? Clearly something is awry with our ideological terminology.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 2, 2005 09:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

LH,

I don't know how the "majority" of Iraqis view or viewed us - as liberators or otherwise. I think it's safe to assume that when you add the Kurds and the Shiites together, that a majority viewed us as liberators in the immediate aftermath. It is also safe to assume that that number has since lessened as the occupation has gone on. Some are just fed up with the duration of the occupation, while others have grown cynical about our overall motives and have reassessed their view of us as liberators from the get go.

I would also say there are many reasons for the negative views showing up in the polls - not just a question of effective rebuilding. There are also the invasive home raids, civilian deaths, detention and abuse of innocents, all manner of imposition from closing down roads to cordonning off entire towns, etc., etc. (not saying these moves aren't justified in a war zone, but they do breed resentment).

But ultimately, it is irrelevant to the point being made about Cheney's pre-war claims/beliefs. He was telling Russert that there wouldn't be a prolonged insurgency because the Iraqi people would view us as liberators. But he was wrong. Even though many and probably most Iraqis did view us that way, it did not forestall the emergence of a dedicated, active and prolonged resistance. His claim that we would have a sufficient level of support from the Iraqi people to head off an insurgency was clearly erroneous. Even if we had support from 50-70% of the population.

Hence, Cheney sufficiently bought in to the "liberators" narrative so as to affect policy decisions (to all of our detriment) as well as his public statements to the public (which built up false expectations). So I think discussion of his acceptance of such "clap-trap" is justifiable. Even if he never said "flowers."

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 2, 2005 10:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for your attempt to create bright line ideological tests, I think it should be pointed out that someone could be influenced by neoconservative thought without agreeing with Bill Kristol on everything. Conversely, Bill Kristol's disapproval cannot eradicate all neoconservative influence from a politician or pundit.

I mean, Francis Fukuyama is a neo-con, and he has vastly different views on much of this than Kristol, Frum, Krauthammer, Ledeen, etc.

So it is at least prima facie acceptable to say that someone (Cheney in the present example) was influenced by neoconservative thought even if some neoconservatives don't like everything they're doing. Also, it should be noted that being influenced by neoconservative thought ("sprinkled with pixie dust") shouldn't imply a 100% adherence to the doctrine. It could have impacted Cheney's thoughts without him becoming an ideologue. Ditto Rummy.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 2, 2005 10:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Kristol clearly is fed up with Rumsfeld, and strongly supports McCain. McCain is pragmatic, and the Rummy-Cheney axis is ideological. Yet the ideology is neocon pixie dust? Clearly something is awry with our ideological terminology."

Rumsfeld isn't a neoconservative. He didn't want to go to war with Iraq, and his big thing is restructuring the military, not democracy promotion or the war on terrorism.

I learned a lot about Rumsfeld and the other foreign affairs players in the Bush administration from Charles Man's book The Rise of the Vulcans.

Posted by: Les Brunswick at December 3, 2005 03:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Kristol clearly is fed up with Rumsfeld, and strongly supports McCain. McCain is pragmatic, and the Rummy-Cheney axis is ideological. Yet the ideology is neocon pixie dust? Clearly something is awry with our ideological terminology."

Rumsfeld isn't a neoconservative. He didn't want to go to war with Iraq, and his big thing is restructuring the military, not democracy promotion or the war on terrorism.

I learned a lot about Rumsfeld and the other foreign affairs players in the Bush administration from Charles Man's book The Rise of the Vulcans.

Posted by: Les Brunswick at December 3, 2005 03:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Either way, same basic meaning"

yep - fake but accurate as I expected - great answer

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 3, 2005 03:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "sweets and flowers" expression comes from Woodward's book Plan of Attack. He described a meeting Bush and Cheney had with Iraqi dissidents, including the aforementioned Professor Kanan Makiya, during which one dissident said, "People will greet troops with flowers and sweets." Cheney, in the above quote, asserts that we will be greeted as liberators, that he does not expect a long struggle, and then cites Makiya-- he's clearly referring directly to the conversation where the flowers expression was used!

So Pogue, the assertion that Cheney "bought the clap-trap about Iraqis greeting Americans with flowers" is not at all fake, and is entirely accurate. Try again next time.

Posted by: Andrew at December 3, 2005 06:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What Andrew said. Pogue, you are taking a distinction without difference and trying to make it into some type of major point of differentiation which you will use to castigate your opponents.

Maybe you could enlighten us all, in regard to Andrew's point and mine above, what exactly the substantive difference would be between saying we would be greeted as liberators based on Professor Makiya's assurances and saying we would be greeted with flowers based on Professor Makiya's assurances? Seems like the same thing to me in every single important aspect. It's just that one anticipates the manifestation of a small token of appreciation for the "liberators" while the other implies such. But they are certainly consistent, especially when you consider the context and the reference to Mikaya's counsel.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 3, 2005 07:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And Pogue, you should also note that the author never said that Cheney used the word "flowers." What he said is that Cheney bought the clap-trap about being greeted with flowers.

In light of the fact that Cheney, in the same interview, twice said we would be greeted as liberators, and cited Mikaya (who said "flowers and candies") as evidence of this fact, it is very accurate to say that Cheney "bought" Mikaya's flowers and candies narrative.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 3, 2005 08:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I do think we had a few hours of "democracy, whiskey, sexy!" before the looting. Glenn Reynolds used to run an entry on Instapundit "Surpressed Photos from Iraq" that dealt with this issue. I also agree Cheney and friends did not prepare the public for the pain of an occupation. As for 80% the Iraqi's wanting us to leave, I'm sure a similar number of French wanted us to leave in November 1944; the question is when, how and in what direction.

Posted by: wayne at December 3, 2005 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric

Cheneys world view may well have been influenced by neocons. For example his viewpoint on say, Arafat, or on the desirability of regime change in Iraq. But those were the things he held when he was a 'pragmatic hardliner' and are positions he shares with McCain. Greg is specifically referring his ideological hardliness to "neocon" pixie dust. There is nothing "neocon" about being unpragmatic, as evidenced by McCain.

Its like saying someone evolved into a Stalinist, due to Marxist pixies dust. The example of Marxists who are not Stalinists would indicate that it takes something other than Marxism to turn a "pragmatic" socialist into a Stalinist.

Also - I think we have been careful here to keep to the specifics of flowers for good reason. As Wayne points out, there are numerous testimonies from US soldiers of friendly welcomes, including being served food and drink. Not wanting to enter a long discussion of regional hospitality practices, we have wisely focused on a specific detail.

That Cheney failed to prepare for a specific scenario is true, and as i said earlier, a serious fault. As for Makiya, he continues to be, AFAICT, a man of great integrity, with his own take on what has happened in Iraq. I do not think he ever promised that the remnants of the Baath apparatus couldnt manage to pull off an insurgency that would then establish its own dynamic.

I fear the net result of this kind of discussion is less on Cheney, then to increase skepticism of people like Kanan Makiya.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 5, 2005 05:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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