April 21, 2006

The Tragedy of George W. Bush

"Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq...If he'd invented the Bill of Rights it wouldn't get him out of his jam.''

William F. Buckley, in an interview with Judy Woodruff for Bloomberg several weeks back.

Mr. Bush's Presidency has now mostly run aground amidst the harsh wilds of Mesopotamia. Iraq will likely be viewed by historians as a foolhardy over-reaching that put the lie to Bush's forward democratization strategy (and perhaps the Bush doctrine too, of which more below), indeed left it largely eviscerated, cast brutally against the rocky shoals of too grim realities. No, the war is not lost, and perhaps, just, some 'peace with honor' style settlement might still be salvaged from the wreckage. But the time has come for deep sobriety indeed about the state of the so-called global war on terror. Now, almost five years since approximately 3,000 Americans were brutally killed literally inside the very symbols of our national power, it is time for some serious reckonings.

The main perpetrator of these ghastly attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains at large. This in itself bespeaks a massive failure (albeit many key al-Qaeda figures have been brought to justice despite this woeful shortcoming, and al-Qaeda has not been able to strike the American homeland since 9/11, worth noting). America remains immensely distrusted through vast swaths of the Islamic world, so that it continues to serve as ready incubator for fanatical terrorists hell-bent on conjuring ways to maim and kill millions of Americans, if and when they can find their window of opportunity. Parts of Afghanistan and, increasingly, Pakistan, are serving as reconstituted safe-haven for neo-Talibs and other assorted al-Qaeda sympathizers that are stealthfully regrouping every day. And, in Iraq, we struggle to form even the semblance of a unitary government, an insurgency rages through Anbar Province (alone the size of Belgium), militias are multiplying, and American soldiers and Iraqis continue to bleed amidst a veritable epidemic of continuing violence. The capital and geographical lodestone of establishing a successful democracy in Iraq, Baghdad, resembles the Beirut of the late '70s more and more every day, or at least it seems so to this far-away observer.

But there is more. The global war on terror, after all, is nothing if it is not a global counter-insurgency campaign. We are meant to win hearts and minds, to lessen the anti-American animus that, fairly or unfairly, animates large swaths of the globe, from Caracas to Jakarta; from Lagos to Ankara. But we've done a very poor job of this indeed. America has shunted aside bedrock civilizational values stemming from way back to the Magna Carta, such as the concept of habeus corpus, with the detainee facility at Guantanamo (Article 39 of the Magna Carta, written in 1215: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him except upon the lawful judgement of his peers or the law of the land.") In addition, the American military suffered its worse moral disgrace since My Lai with the revelations of torture and abuse from Bagram to Abu Ghraib.

America, very unfortunately, is no longer seen as undisptuted avatar and protector of human rights on the world stage. Putting aside hyperbole about gulags, putting aside the varied hypocrisies of UN Human Rights Commisions run by the Syrians or related manifest absurdities, the simple reality is that America no longer automatically stands for, say, preservation of a relatively magnanimous post-war Achesonian order. It is viewed too often as an overly militaristic, indulgent, brash power. (For instance, its chattering classes of late breezily speak of new adventures in neighboring Iran, whilst two major projects to its East and West remain in, respectively, alarming and crisis-ridden state). Put simply, America is no longer seen often enough, as it should be especially among our friends at least, as a responsible power that moves, strongly and with resolve when need be, but always deliberately, with maturity, with steadiness.

The Bush Doctrine posited that those who harbor terrorists would be held to account as much as the terrorist themselves. But, 'blog-swarms' ferreting out Iraq-al Qaeda links, rapt sophomoric communion with Iraqi intelligence files or, still, the Weekly Standards hyperbole aside, our first post-Afghanistan target was likely ill-chosen, as Saddam's ties to international terror were relatively de minimis. Yes, he was a monster, a genocidaire, a perilous presence in the neighborhood. But now disabused of the erroneous information about WMD, in hindsight, mightn't we have preferred to contain this beast rather than expend the lives of now almost as many Americans who died on 9/11 to unseat him, not to mention the almost 20,000 wounded, likely 35,000 and up Iraqis killed, coalition forces felled, hundreds of billions of dollars spent (though we forget containment was not cost-free either, not by a long shot), and other assorted gruesome pain and expenditure?

We Americans are meant to be pragmatists, after all, and so we look at things through a prism of cost and benefits. And so now as the Iraq war languishes along and begins to approach WWII in duration, we wonder, was it worth it? Was it worth this blood and treasure to put into power Shi'a political parties, to varying degrees close to Iran, that will likely visit, some day, crude Shi'a majoritarian revanchism on Sunnis in their midst, setting off a cycle of violence that will go on for years until the parties exhaust themselves, while meantime the Kurds will perhaps, someday, precipitate some crisis with Turkey if they over-play their hand with their new quasi-state in the north? As I said above, the war isn't lost, and rosier outcomes remain possible. But still, but still.

George Ball, during another war, once famously advised LBJ: "You know, once on the tiger's back, we can't pick the time to dismount. You're going to lose control of this situation, and this could be very serious." Once again, we are at a very serious juncture indeed. Unlike Vietnam, we are not escalating in Iraq, and it seems all but pre-ordained that troop levels will go down, not up. The question remains, however, is the team currently in office even capable of disengaging competently, or will they make a hash of that too? Will they be too confident of the Iraqi Armies capabilities? Will it be too little too late to restore order in Baghdad? Will Anbar remain so problematic because we still don't have convincing amounts of troops, whether American or truly trained Iraqi ones, to provide order so as to win hearts and minds and then clear, build and hold? And do we have a convincing diplomatic strategy, in terms of intelligently ensuring Iraq's neighbors minimize their nefarious meddling, or will we continue, as is our wont too often, to hyper-ventilate and issue empty diktats hither dither to assorted 'bad guys'? Do we have the sleeper issue of Kurdish federalism fully gauged? Have we planned for contingencies like a serious resumption of the Shi'a insurgency, or an Iranian land-grab in the south, near Basra?

As I said, it is time for some reckonings. So here are some, in no particular order. Mr. Bush never understood the complex history of Iraq (particularly the epic ethnic tensions he was walking into), the massive nation-building task that would be necessary, or, put simply, that democracy in pre-Enlightenment societies in regions convulsed with geopolitical tension are not created on the breezy fly. Saddam was so demonized as the new Adolf Hitler, that policy-makers apparently believed he was so loathed (true) that his unseating would lead to petals being thrown at the feet of the conquering heroes (untrue). Mr. Bush, unfortunately, was ill-served by his instincts. He appeared to gravitate towards what he saw as the no-nonsense machismo of the Rumsfelds and Cheneys, and poo-pooed the cautionary notes of men who had seen war up close and personal, like Colin Powell and Richard Armitage. Rumsfeld and Cheney, in turn, were advised by men like Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith and Scooter Libby, men who, whatever their intellectual bona fides, displayed an appalling lack of judgment in thinking that an Ahmad Chalabi, say, a man with no grass-roots support among the Shi'a, and wanted by Jordan for alleged financial chicanery, could be somehow airdropped into Nasariya to spark the Great Iraqi Revolution, allowing for troops to be drawn down with utmost speed, and that this liberationist love-fest would then (voila!) all be paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. No one apparently gave sustained thought to how quickly the ostensibly 'liberated' become ingrates to their heretofore saviors, to the specter of a resilient insurgency (sorry, 'dead-enders'), to the worrisome prospects of ethnic conflagration and the dissolution of the country into three sectarian or ethnically homogenous para-states. These were errors born of utopic over-enthusiams, of hubris, of short-sightedness. Tragic ones. (Yes, this is all well covered ground, and not the real tragedy in all this, finally. Yet it bears remembering, not because it is fun to beat up on anyone, as many of us including this blogger supported this war knowing the above-described team was at the helm, but rather as cautionary note to attempt to at least tone down some in this very same crowd who today, not yet appropriately chastened apparently, tell us Iran, say, wouldn't be too hard either. How soon we forget, how the hubris and faith-based confidence and arrogance are so pervasive, how memories are so short!)

But the more painful tragedy is that Bush could have changed course, really changed course (more than small-scale tactical adjustments), at various junctures. Mr. Bush could have held his failed Defense Secretary to account after the Abu Ghraib debacle or, more recently, after two of the key generals leading the Iraq War on the ground (Swannack and Batiste) fingered him for a spent, discredited force that rendered even harder the prosecution of the Iraq war effort. He could have finally surmised the critical importance of establishing order in Iraq, rather than allowing his advisors to breezily contend the 'battlespace' was increasingly under control, and that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Forces were at the ready to protect the nation from all nefarious comers. He could have recognized that 'whack-a-mole' needed to be replaced by 'ink-spotting' and 'clear, build, hold' much earlier. He could have realized that the dangers of appearing too much the 'foreign occupier', or of fostering Iraqi 'dependency,' were necessarily high class problems, if you will, concerns to be given more weight once the country was at least better stabilized. He could have realized that no serious war leader says "stuff happens" or "freedom is messy" about massive looting that convinced the majority of Iraqis that the Americans were not serious about protecting their security, at least apart from the Oil Ministry, thus losing the Coalition reservoirs of good will at a critical juncture. He could have realized that the approach of a CEO hell-bent on boosting shareholder value, looking to cut inventory and boost profits wherever possible (off-ramp the First Cavalry prematurely, based on erroneous assumptions and ignorance about troop to population ratios need for effective nation-building, so as to minimize resource-spend in Iraq, the better to prove that troop-lite worked so more funds could be budgeted for modernization rather than expanding the size of the Army). Mr. Bush could have muted his Defense Secretary who free-lanced as a Secretary of State too, with talk of "Old Europe", or the "so-called Occupied Territories", or that the British weren't really needed either push come to shove. As Chuck Hagel has noted, "we need friends". So why did we so purposefully allow major Cabinet officers to needlessly alienate many of them, even those we rightly considered rather frequently perfidious or otherwise nettlesome? We were in a position of strength, the better to rise above the fray and not get nasty in the sand-box.

But, no. No major course corrections appear afoot. This would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, you see, and this is not the way of the Bush White House. So no top down truly independent investigation, say, with Congressional involvement, of the scandals surrounding detainee policy are in the offing. No true recognition of how perilous Iraq remains, as Michael Yon passionately explains in the immediately preceding post. No thought to whether all the resources diverted from the Afghan effort are materially impacting our effort there, including the capture of Zawahiri and UBL. Instead, continuing easy bromides that 'freedom is on the march', as chaos reigns in Iraq, as Egypt and Russia and Pakistan and Uzbekistan remain mightily authoritarian (who lost Russia, the seemingly perennial question for foreign policy groupies, appears to loom large again). At the same time, our diplomats prattle on endlessly about terror and freedom to East Asian and other audiences, who in turn are more interested in sketching out a new security infrastructure in that neighborhood, or are busily attempting to outflank us via localized trading and other arrangements, with less hands-on U.S. involvement than is advisable. As for South America, our influence is on the wane, with populists gaining power in Bolivia, and demagogues in Venezuela and Cuba continuing to gain marketshare in the battleplace of ideas about what should lie in store for the future of the South American continent.

In the Holy Land, we seem to have abdicated any real role as the proverbial 'honest broker' in the Arab-Israeli dispute, pretty much agreeing to allow the Israelis (somewhat understandably, of course) to pursue a strategy of unilateral disengagement so as to present the Palestinians with something of a fait accompli on the shape of going forward borders and status of Jerusalem. No adult supervision there, but rather a sense that our policy has run adrift and that the roadmap, while still ostensibly official American policy, is something of a dead plan walking. And while commentators vacuously cheerlead a too infantile version of democracy (presto, elections!), when the results seem to run against the grain of our national interest (or that of important allies), as with the Hamas victory, we do not really follow through with the courage of our convictions. A major experiment in democracy in Palestine is greeted with, well, cutting off aid to the democratically elected victors. Meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood gains in Egypt (and reportedly more than we realize, covertly, in Jordan and Syria), and religious parties are still strong in Lebanon.

What has our democratization strategy really wrought in the Middle East, especially with Iraq still in chaos? At least arguably, it has made us look more hypocritical (Palestine), or very sloppy (Iraq), or increased Islamist influence (Egypt). Does this mean this policy makes no sense, at all? No, of course not. Creating political space in an atrophying political environment like the Middle East is critical, but it must be pursued with much greater caution. If securing a Middle East peace settlement is critical to our national interest, two states living side by side, why would we allow for conditions whereby an irredentist terror group would take power? Wouldn't it make sense to let progress on the peace process moderate Palestinian behavior, rather than rush to elections whatever the consequences, and then alienate them even further by denying them the same quantum of aid as had previously been bestowed? Is this intelligent policy?

A man with a deeper world-view would sense this veritable maelstrom of contradictions, and shades of gray, and pitfalls and perils--and perhaps challenge original assumptions, adapt policies to changing circumstances in more fundamental fashion, inject new blood into policymaking circles, not at the press secretary level in some pitiably irrelevant re-juggle, but among the very highest players of his national security team. Rather than bovine loyalty, even to proven incompetents, a man of strength and conviction and high intelligence would seek to make a new start of it, to improve our posture on the international stage, one so problematic in so many respects as sketched above. But such a man is not in power. George Bush is not that man. Mr. Bush is a man who mistakes stubborness for resolve, absolutist aims for high moral bearing, blindly staying an erroneously charted course for rock-ribbed Crawford fortitude. Thus, we stumble along and continue to endanger the national interest.

Like his father, Bush wished to put to bed forever the Vietnam syndrome, and restore a warrior ethos to our armed forces that, as some experts believed, were suffering under the effete obligations to perform such tasks as building kindergartens in Kosovo. Like a parody of some ennobled timarchic leader, Mr. Bush strode onto the Abraham Lincoln, festooned in martial, cock-sure gear, and declared Mission Accomplished, surely a moment that showcased imperial decadence and delusion if there ever was one. Instead, without realizing it, Mr. Bush created even larger peacemaking obligations for the armed forces, by never establishing order in Iraq because of trying to wage war there on the cheap. His Army is under real pressure in Iraq, and it is hurting, with some soldiers on their third or even fourth tours. Still, there is no serious talk of expanding the Army and Marines, still we err more towards transformation than established military doctrine and the manpower and troop mix requirements necessary for successful counter-insurgency, still it's heckuva job Rummie.

No, the tragedy of George Bush is ultimately one of his own making, and one that he cannot readily extricate himself from, because rigid absolutism and an overly simplistic worldview seem deeply embedded in his character. It is meant to be tough. It is meant to show resolve. It is meant to project national strength and purpose. But, no, the too often utopic aspirations instead lead to myopia. It is actually stubborn, actually short-sighted, actually too often negatively impacting the American national interest. So he (and we) are in a jam, all right, as Bill Buckley said. Yes, even if he invented the Bill of Rights, let alone went a good way towards sullying our human rights record instead. Iraq, and the continuing real risk of failure there, are tragic, of course. But it is perhaps an even more painful tragedy that, per chance, it might have been very different, were it not for profound shortcomings of Mr. Bush's character, the advisors he chose to place his trust in and rely on, and the resulting strategic and tactical blunders that were the result of the interplay of these factors, among others.


Posted by Gregory at April 21, 2006 04:29 AM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

Before the lefties "congratulate" you in that simpering, condenscending, way they have of thumping their chest in triumphal "We were right" idiocy, let me just say that I agree with much of what you wrote.

It matters not to me whether Bush is a lame duck or a dead duck, But if we are truly at the end of our rope in Iraq then it may be time to cut our losses and leave. If things are as bad as you and Yon make out - and I don't doubt that they are - then what is the point of expending more blood and treasure? Would Iraq become a "failed" stated if we left? I think not. It would probably slip into that Shia revanchist mode that you talked about or it may surprise us and limp toward some kind of multi ethnic religious dictatorship. But a place were terrorists are born and bred?

Posted by: Rick Moran at April 21, 2006 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


For all I know, the proprietor endorsed this obviously crazy venture out of ignorance, mental laziness, and war fever. I'm sure that was true of the majority of Americns who supporrted the war at the start. But it seems to me that we should consider the possibility of other motives among the key decisionmakers - we should consider the possibility, which has such great explanatory power, that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld are moles, Manchurian candidates, determined to ruin the Unted States. It explains both foreign policy and fiscal policy. They even tease us: " They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."


Posted by: gcochran at April 21, 2006 06:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rick,

Why would anyone congratulate another for admitting they actively participated in driving the nation off a cliff?

Cut and run? What are you saying?? We've still got schools to paint.

Posted by: Davebo at April 21, 2006 07:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In the Holy Land, we seem to have abdicated any real role as the proverbial 'honest broker' in the Arab-Israeli dispute, pretty much agreeing to allow the Israelis (somewhat understandably, of course) to pursue a strategy of unilateral disengagement so as to present the Palestinians with something of a fait accompli on the shape of going forward borders and status of Jerusalem. No adult supervision there, but rather a sense that our policy has run adrift and that the roadmap, while still ostensibly official American policy, is something of a dead plan walking. And while commentators vacuously cheerlead a too infantile version of democracy (presto, elections!), when the results seem to run against the grain of our national interest (or important allies), as with the Hamas victory, we do not really follow through with the courage of our convictions. A major experiment in democracy in Palestine is greeted with, well, cutting off aid to the democratically elected victors"


Greg

Are you actually saying we should not have cut off aid to the PA? Even Jacques Chirac gets this issue. No adult supervision? What other policy toward Israel do you suggest? Im really quite lost here.

And Uzbekistan??? Yes its still authoritarian, but we're no longer associated with the authoriatarian state there. Isnt that kind of what we need to do if we're going to win hearts and minds?

No change in direction. As you well know, there was a change in early 2005, when Condi became Sec of State, and the undersecretraries were pushed out at DoD. This has been associated with new outreach toward Europe, the fruits of which are support from them on Iran AND Hamas. A generally new realism. Also the quiet backing down on the McCain amendment, and apparently, a reigning in of harsh interrogation techniques.

Im really lost with this post. It reads like a parody of your positions, posted by someone trying to undermine them.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 21, 2006 07:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i'm not saying we shouldn't cut off aid. I'm saying that putting ourselves in the position where we pretty much had to cut off large amounts of aid was, all told, likely not advantageous to our image and general prosecution of the GWOT in the region, where most are already skeptical about what U.S. led democratization portends. Too rushed democratization can lead to difficult consequences, such as charges of hypocrisy.

Posted by: greg at April 21, 2006 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

re: Lefties

I don't mind the Lefties. I've never minded them, even when I was much happier with my Republican Party (back when it was the lesser-spending party, and before it became associated with the smearing and condemnation of veterans).

I'm in favor of the Bush administration reducing its hubris and arrogance, because as a pragmatic Republican, I'd prefer to have allies -- not least so that some other countries can take casualties instead of it being all US casualties.

To some extent the lies of the Bush administration are not all important -- politicians are in the business of lying. But what matters may be more what actually happens. Bush may tell some lies about securing democracy, and go out and try to secure our oil supply (which is a laudable goal, say I), and he may (I wish) get Egyptian troops to help in that goal, even if they have little to no interest in an open democracy in a Shia dominated country. I don't care whether the Egyptian troops believe the propaganda or not -- I'd consider it success if they helped ease the burden of the fighting, and give Joe US soldier a break.

Frankly, I'd like a much smarter US administration, which tried to play off our enemies one against each other, because weakening them without us even fighting is even better.

But, re: "Also the quiet backing down on the McCain amendment, and apparently, a reigning in of harsh interrogation techniques."

I'm not sure that they've not simply admitted defeat on the Congressional side and gone over to their fallback plan of depending on Unitary Executive Power Overrides Everything (including law and Constitition, if possible) justified by state of "war". You may say that they appear to be behaving based on their statements, but, I don't know why they're statements that they don't torture now are more credible than their statements before that they weren't torturing. Sorry, that came out way too long and confused. I mean, if they lied about this exact issue before, why is it we should believe them now? Speaking of what is apparent, it seems apparent that a little bit of whitewash where only enlisted were punished -- and junior enlisted at at that -- was meant to portray a cleanup.

How credible is it that torture policy was set at the (junior & mid) enlisted level? (I mean, even ignoring the reports that the memos came from the top.)

I'm not sure how important an issue torture really is, but it is quite unfortunate for our (necessary & I think appropriate) propaganda campaigns.

Posted by: frank wallace at April 21, 2006 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush is, of course, a disaster. But GD's post hangs a little too much on his pygmy shoulders. Look, well before November 2004 it was pretty plain that the administration was in way over its head. Nonetheless, a majority of our fellow citizens decided to ignore the obvious, and sign on for more of the same.

War enthusiasts (like, I guess, Moran, above) chafe when their opponents say, "I told you so". But for the ten millionth time, to war sceptics, the really appalling thing isn't how badly the war has gone, but how obvious it ALWAYS was that the war would inevitably lead to a position of no good options. This war wasn't handed down from on high, crafted by a secretive government in a closed society. It happened at a time when information of all kinds was effortlessly available, in abundance. Nonetheless, we shambled into into the bastard project.

Bush is merely a symptom of a much deeper pathology in American public life. Maybe we'd better spend a little more time cleaning our own house, before we start worrying about the precise structure of power relationships elsewhere?

Posted by: sglover at April 21, 2006 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"... (albeit many key al-Qaeda figures have been brought to justice despite this woeful shortcoming, and al-Qaeda has not been able to strike the American homeland since 9/11, worth noting)."

I am troubled by the assertion that because al-Qaeda *has not* struck on American soil, al-Qaeda has therefore been *incapable of striking* on American soil. To give expression to this (IMO) false confidence is to enable future leaders to say "We used every available resource to prevent it; no one foresaw that al-Qaeda would be capable of launching another attack on American soil."

Cf. Condoleezza Rice' widely quoted: "Steve, I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile...."

That kind of statement contributes to the appearance of competent leadership, but no fact supports it.


Posted by: Yermolai at April 21, 2006 08:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"i'm not saying we shouldn't cut off aid. I'm saying that putting ourselves in the position where we pretty much had to cut off large amounts of aid was, all told, likely not advantageous to our image and general prosecution of the GWOT in the region, where most are already skeptical about what U.S. led democratization portends. Too rushed democratization can lead to difficult consequences, such as charges of hypocrisy"


Some folks would be charging us with hypocrisy whatever we did. If we had attempted to delay the Pal elections and keep Fatah in power indefinitely wed have been accused of hypocrisy as well. So maybe youre saying we shouldnt advocate democratization as a strategy at all?

Frankly I dont think we'd be net net better off id we followed that advice. Every policy has nuance and contradicitions, and every policy will lead to exceptions, sometimes embarrasing ones. Part of what being a "grown up" on foreign policy means is learning to live with that, and balance the costs and benefits.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 21, 2006 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi

Hugh from South Africa. Like most non-Americans I know I am appalled by events over the last few years, and saddened at the collapse of the America I grew up with - fair, free, open, optimistic, principled etc etc.

I had no doubt right from the outset that this was a bullshit war - I watched Colin powell's presentation and it was plain dead obvious it was all bullshit and lies. The war has been a criminal act of the highest order and the only way for America to recover is to hold those responsible accountable, and I mean trials held in American courts regarding the American laws violated. Failure to do so will more and more leave American with the same moral standing white South Africans had through the 80's and 90's - polecats of the world.

I live in hope. All the best!

Posted by: hugh at April 21, 2006 08:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I had no doubt right from the outset that this was a bullshit war - I watched Colin powell's presentation and it was plain dead obvious it was all bullshit and lies. The war has been a criminal act of the highest order and the only way for America to recover is to hold those responsible accountable, and I mean trials held in American courts regarding the American laws violated. Failure to do so will more and more leave American with the same moral standing white South Africans had through the 80's and 90's - polecats of the world."

Agreed. It'll be a terrible precedent if Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, et al get to enjoy plush retirements. We really need to set some stark examples.

Posted by: sglover at April 21, 2006 08:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry - I meant the 70's and 80's, South African settlement was reached in early 90's.

Posted by: hugh at April 21, 2006 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Bush is a man who mistakes stubborness for resolve, absolutist aims for high moral bearing, blindly staying an erroneously charted course for rock-ribbed Crawford fortitude. Thus, we stumble along and continue to endanger the national interest.

For the thousandth time, this was apparent by 2004.

Were you on the side of "more of the same?"

If yes, then you deserve all the derision the Internet can fling at you. Waking up to the disaster that is George W. Bush -- in 2006 -- is pathetic. He was a disaster, obviously so, in the last Presidential election year. Anyone who advocated his re-election is simply not to be taken seriously in public affairs.

Posted by: stickler at April 21, 2006 09:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well we were right so you'll just have to deal.

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at April 21, 2006 09:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Don't you wish you could write like this?

The Generals' Dangerous Whispers



http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/20/AR2006042001379_pf.html

Oh, wait. This guy is a leading member of that cabal of pestiferous Jewish neocons who got us into this mess in the first place.

Sorry, my bad.

Nha Bao

Posted by: Nha Bao at April 21, 2006 09:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In response to your observation that "many key al Qaeda figures have been brought to justice" I would ask "justice" in what sense?
That they were caught, questioned, perhaps tortured, and are now held incomunicado in secret locations their knowledge classified? That is not justice in the classic sense and to deny these men( and the many others swept up the the web of the WOT) any semblance of due process does not hold this country in a favorable light. The public has been treated like mushrooms--kept in the dark and fed feces laced with good doses of fear. I believe we are entitled to much more information about al Qaeda, the WOT and 9/11 than we have recieved. I have many questions about the origional story and about our dealings with and knowledge of these "terrorists."I would much prefer a public trial, public justice, and public disclosure. This is supposed to be the American way--but no we now live under the Bush way--"I am the decider and I know what is best."

Posted by: Sylvia Demarest at April 21, 2006 09:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Don't you wish you could write like this?
...
Oh, wait. This guy is a leading member of that cabal of pestiferous Jewish neocons who got us into this mess in the first place."

I can't tell -- is this sarcasm, or what? I mean, nobody cites Krauthammer with a straight face, do they?

Posted by: sglover at April 21, 2006 09:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ya know, saying that Bush is 'stubborn' really gives him far too much credit.

Stubbornness, after all, is sometimes a virtue. It means sticking with what you believe matters, even when you pay some price for it.

Bush has never been stubborn. For one thing, he has never worried about paying a price for anything.

For most of his life, he got off scot-free. Then all of a sudden, his plans didn't work out perfectly in Iraq, and he noticed that he might just pay a price. Did he get stubborn?

Nope. He just froze. Paralyzed with fear. Like a deer in the headlights.

That's where he was when the planes hit the Towers. And that's where he has been ever since the bad news about Iraq started to seep in.

He keeps saying he's going to stay the course. But that's what a frozen deer would say, too, if it had Rove whispering in its ear.

Stubborn? Oh please--I've known stubborn people, and admired some of them, and Bush is nothing like them. He's just paralyzed with fear, that's all.

Posted by: oh deer at April 21, 2006 09:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nixon, driven by his demons to make his own worst fears reality, was tragedy. Stilwell, the right man in the wrong place, was tragedy. Grant, the great hero whose stature led him to be granted an office requiring all the skills he lacked, was tragedy.

I don't see the stuff of tragedy in George Bush. Perhaps that's only an aesthetic judgment on my part. Bush is, for sure, a talented politician who sought with skill and determination a post that his entire career strongly suggested was beyond his abilities. He wasn't driven into it, ordered into it or undermined by flaws in his character he had long struggled against. He succeeded in his national campaigns because he was better at the things someone committed to the permanent campaign must do than his opponents -- who into the bargain included some of the least impressive politicians ever to seek a major party's Presidential nomination -- because his father's Presidency had made his name well-known, and because 19 Arabs flew planes into crowded buildings on September 11, 2001.

Bush pretended to be up to the demands of the Presidency, and Americans let him pretend. They demanded little of him, and he demanded little of himself. To my mind this is decadence, not tragedy: a judgment on a people rather than the saga of one man. George Bush is the third small man in succession that Americans have placed in the White House, and the people being chosen for lesser offices are mostly small themselves, like Bush more interested in the campaign than in what comes after. There is something wrong with one such man in the Presidency; three in a row suggests something wrong with us.

Posted by: Zathras at April 21, 2006 11:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Nitpick:

'In many cities, Iraqis celebrated in the streets and embraced American soldiers. Some even threw the flowers that Kanan Makiya had predicted.' (George Packer, _The Assassins' Gate_, p. 136)

In Baghdad cheering crowds 'tossed chocolates and candy, cigarettes, flowers picked from a nearby park at the soldiers'. (Anthony Shadid, _Night Draws Near_, p. 122)


Posted by: David Tomlin at April 21, 2006 11:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

nit duly noted. embarrassing, partic as i read both books! but you get my point, no?

Posted by: greg at April 21, 2006 11:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

Please, your VERY DETAILED PLAN for the next 2 years or so.

You seem to know EVERYTHING. I am sure it will be perfect.

Posted by: Twenty-Twenty at April 22, 2006 12:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, Glover, Since Mr. Krauthammer is a published professional columnist, and you're just some bitter guy living on a fixed income, with absolutely zero impact in the GWOT, I guess we'll have to settle for Charles.

Posted by: Tommy G at April 22, 2006 12:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

Would to God that it were so, but the Administration's insistence on trying to maintain a fantasy picture of Iraq is greatly hindering making future progress. It gets the right-wing stalled trying to spin the lies (so mostly exaggerating and sadly often lying), and the left-wing stalled demolishing the lies (and often possibly in frustrating venturing into exaggeration), leaving neither any energy to deal with actual proceeding from where we really are. Both focus on perceptions instead of planning.

Posted by: frank wallace at April 22, 2006 01:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is it me, or have I just read the first Post Mortem of the Bush Administration, three years early? Dead on Greg, as usual. Ignore the stone throwers, they just don't have the intellectual guts to see reality.

Posted by: Thom H at April 22, 2006 02:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I share in Zathras' lament. It seems like in each election, we are offered the choice between bad and worse. When the history of all this is written, perhaps fifty years from now, we will see that the seeds of this situation were sown decades ago as the ME autocracies were nurtured, encouraged, and promoted. There are times when I think we should pull back and let the chips fall where they may. Sooner or later the people who labor under the yoke will have had enough and change will become possible. In the meanwhile, perhaps further doses of chaos is precisely the right medicine.

I know of no national leaders who are capable of asserting the kinds of leadership that is required to move positively from here. Greg's post treats GW's failings as tragedy, but the harm is not to GW, it is to us, for we yearn for a system that produces excellence yet in our day-to-day prurience, as a people, we find more time and devote more attention to a rape case at Duke than to the task of cleaning up our political system, ridding it of gottcha politics, and encouraging the development of quality leadership. The point made by our Michigan friend above is that we have isolated our perspectives into the narrow spheres of our survival rather than living by the tenets that animated the idealism that once was America and could be again.

We can speak of the tragedy of GW, but neither Kerry nor Gore were appealing candidates. Kerry was a spoiled brat whose stature derived more from his millionaire wives than his accomplishments. There was simply too much politicking in his "war" experience. Gore is a certified nut case whose vision of the world is a return to the caves. Would they have done better? I don't know, but they certainly weren't able to persuade the voting populace of their merits.

We have a lot of problems, but to me the most threatening is that our system is failing us not because of its inadequacies, but because of our own. We tolerate K street. We tolerate the sinecures that our legislators accrue and protect. We allow the congressional manipulators of both parties to stand before microphones and spout the party line. And we say to ourselves, ". . . business as usual." Well criticism is like a universal anatomical trait, everyone has one. It is time and has been time for as long as I remember to demand more, to insist on a change in the political status quo, and to hold not only the POTUS, but every elected official responsible. We need to get rid of safe districts and eliminate gerrymandering. We need to have 90 percent at least of the races competitive. Maybe we need term limits. And most of all, we have to stop hurling brickbats at each other and try to find bi-partisan means to reform this system. If we do not, it will someday be lost.

I am sending my two children off to college in the fall. I will miss them I am sure. I carry a strong sense of responsibility for the awful mess into which they embark. I am surely responsible in some ways, but I want to look forward rather than back.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at April 22, 2006 03:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your entire posting is undeciperhable.

Posted by: jim at April 22, 2006 03:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael, I say that if we have voting districts, to eliminate gerrymandering we would need somie rote method to assign districts that does not allow any judgement.

If someone gets to decide where the district lines are, that someone may be partisan and may do gerrymandering. To prevent it we need some system that decides the districts uniquely, without any personal judgement. It isn't enough to have a computer program do it -- if the program picks things in some order that can be changed, by changing the order a partisan might run through all the possibilities to get the version that's gerrymandered best for his side.

If a rote system designs the voting districts, some districts will be gerrymandered by accident. I think we should accept that rather than try to choose the lines to make districts competitive. Doing that artificially will give bad results too.

About the choice of "bad or worse", I think we'd do better with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). It might tend to give us bland candidates that everybody finds acceptable instead of bold leaders -- or maybe not. It would be a big improvement. Work for it in local elections. Then when enough people see how well it works, try for state elections. It's a long term thing but it's worth going after.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 22, 2006 04:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's it. I'm freaking done.

Greg, when you're ready to offer up some solutions on where we go from here rather than hand-wringing, I'll be back. Until then, this blog is a complete waste of time. And this from a guy who agrees with you about how Rummy has handled the post OIF occupation.

Meantime, our Persian friends are up to their elbows in Uranium. We've actually allowed the Europeans to take the lead on that account because they were supposed to have more credibility with the Iranians than we did. We're giving diplomacy a chance.

Surprise! The Persians were lying to everybody.

Care to go on about what a halfwit George Bush is?

Jesus Christ. There's a freaking war on. Wake up and smell the coffee, will you?

Guess what? This war on terror you're so upset about? It's about to fly completely out of control. These lefties who are all bitching about Kerry not having been elected? Well, they're about to learn the meaning of the word "fear".

Posted by: section9 at April 22, 2006 04:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What we need are more thoughtful voters.

We need voters who pay enough attention to local and national politics that they have some knowledge of the candidates and their records before the campaign starts, so they're less likely to be taken in by campaign makeovers.

We need voters who get information from sources besides ads, pundits, and spinmeisters; who pay attention to serious policy analysis rather than talking points.

We need voters who are reflexibly suspicious of facile slogans, mutually-contradictory promises, and "code-word" appeals to prejudice.

We need voters who understand at least a little bit about the issues the candidates talk about, so they'll know who's blowing smoke and who really knows what s/he is talking about.

We need voters who understand that an emotional point of view, no matter how deeply and passionately felt, still needs to be fact-based; and if all facts contradict it, the facts should prevail over the emotion.

We need voters who understand that anything - a candidate, a policy, a promise - which seems too good to be true is, in fact, probably not true. Or at least not workable.

We can gimmick with elections all we like, but until we insist on candidates who don't insult our intelligence, and stop rewarding the ones who do by electing them, we're still going to wind up with lousy candidates - and lousy elected officials.

Posted by: CaseyL at April 22, 2006 04:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Kerry was a spoiled brat whose stature derived more from his millionaire wives than his accomplishments.

Care to compare Kerry's accomplishments against Bush's?
Kerry's would be Better.

>There was simply too much politicking in his(Kerry) "war" experience.

Subjective. Bush didn't have ANY war experience; None, zero, zip. Bush walked away from his military experience. Bush's "war" experience was ALL political.

>Gore is a certified nut case whose vision of the world is a return to the caves.

Typo on your part. You mean BUSH would have the world return to the caves.

Gore is smart enough to be a bridge officer on a starcruiser doing an 'away team' survey on Bush and his little cave.

Posted by: James at April 22, 2006 06:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


A very thorough and researched look at recent history. The underlying tone is somewhat negative and this can be improved at looking at the following:
Objectives:
1. OIL - Saudi oil money makes its way to the US & UK banks already. The next best treasure chest is there waiting to be taken. And we have it!!
2. ISRAEL - If we ignore Iran for the moment, Iraq in its present chaotic shape is infinitely safer for Israel than with Saddam in power. And we have done it.
3. PERMANENT BASES IN THE MID EAST - Who can question the enormous desirability of having a few of these in the middle of all that oil regions? And now we have them for perpetuity.

It would appear that all of the above basic objectives have been met. True, there have been unforseen costs, but really, any objective reviewer can see that these are "affordable" in the totalality of all that is gained. A little patience is all what is needed and for sure, we have it.

Posted by: chotasher at April 22, 2006 07:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fine essay, except for one point.

"somewhat understandably,of course" seems the sort of disclaimer that Tony Judt might have trouble with... I know I do.

Criticsm of Israeli policies vis a vis Palestine does not equal anti-Semitism.

There is, in my opinion, nothing understandable about "agreeing to allow the Israelis ... to pursue a strategy of unilateral disengagement so as to present the Palestinians with something of a fait accompli on the shape of going forward borders and status of Jerusalem."

What?

And besides, with our (bi-partisan) tacit approval, Israel has engaged in far more pernicious behavior than "unilateral disengagement" (like extra-judicial assasination, among other niceties) which is even less "understandable."

Perhaps you disagree.

Posted by: pugsley at April 22, 2006 07:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> PERMANENT BASES IN THE MID EAST -

Hahaha -- I don't know if you were joking, but the idea that we'll be able to maintain bases in central or southern Iraq is pretty funny.

As is the idea that Congress will reform gerrymandering or pass term limits -- come on, forget the pie in the sky, even if those hypocrites in congress could stop doing coke, prostitutes, and gambling long enough to pay attention, there's no way they'll do something stupid (for themselves) like reform voting districts or pass term limits. Can't you see the entire seniority system is set up to protect the incumbents?

Posted by: hackunworth at April 22, 2006 08:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Between the corrupt cowards in congress, and the corrupt war-profiteering cowards in the administration, and the fools that listen to their so-oft disproven lies (which were never very credible to begin with), the US is merely reinventing fascism.

This scam that the US will be forever at war with one concept or another, and so patriotic citizens will march to the jackboots and keep their mouths and brains shut, and pocketbooks open, would seem too puerile for an intelligent public, but apparently there is no such problem in the US.

Posted by: hackunworth at April 22, 2006 08:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg:

I have to jump in on your use of the Newspeak phrase 'bring to justice.' This is important not just in a nit-picky sense, but because the lazy (or dishonest) thinking that leads to the use of this term is the same thinking that has led to many of the mistakes in the "war" on "terror."

Killing someone in a firefight is not bringing them to justice. Saying that it is betrays a conflation of one's wishes with the Divine Will. For the same reason, killing someone trying to escape is not bringing to justice.

It is not only the President who has used the phrase in both of the above instances, but the Secretary of State. Within the past year.

It is also not 'bringing to justice' to apprehend someone, torture them for information, and hold them in a secret prison, with no access by the Red Cross or anyone else, without charge or trial.

It is not bringing to justice to apprehend someone, torture them, take them to Guantanamo Bay, and hold them until the 'end' of the 'war.' Even if they are an enemy who has engaged in combat, but especially not if they are a civilian turned over by bounty hunters.

Now when I say that the use of the phrase is wrong, I am not necessarily saying that the underlying conduct is wrong. I have no problem with members of our armed forces killing AQ soldiers in a firefight, for example. It's just that those of us living in a post-Charles I world can't and shouldn't use 'bring to justice' as the descriptive phrase.

Bring to justice includes, and must include, an objective adjudicative system. Moussawi and Lind, brought to justice. Once the Supreme Court sorts out the proper procedures, Salim Hamdan too. Jose Padilla, it finally is in train. For 'key AQ figures,' though, the result is a complete zero.

One more whack at the horse, Greg: what kind of person uses 'bring to justice' to describe actions that do not include any adjudication?

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 22, 2006 02:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Answer: Surely not a lawyer.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 22, 2006 02:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What is your bottom line? My read is that we should have done nothing to disturb the status quo, left Saddam in power and just hoped he would not be a problem in the future with WMDs or terrorist support. Accept the fact that people in these cultures just cannot have democracy and left to their true devices they will rule each other with an iron hand of brutality or just kill each other. Their solutions seem to be to blame the US and "the Jews", Israel, etc.
I supported Mr. Bush's efforts and continue to do so but it is beginning to look like helping these people is hopeless as you say and you may be correct, they just cannot do it. Their culture and religion will not allow it. If that is the case, then the mistakes or successes aside, nothing will make a difference. We tried to offer the middle east a chance at a better life by establishing a window to obtaining human rights, representative government, and the things that we take for granted but it appears most have no interest.
The real tragedy is not Bush's mistakes or mine - it is the missed opportunity for 100s of millions of people. Perhaps, we just need to accept that we need to pull out of all of the middle east, Africa, Asia, and forget them and their problems. They will eventually die of starvation, AIDS, murder each other, etc. and they will blame us for not stopping them from brutalizing each other. You see that is the bottom line. Engage or not engage.
Since we are not perfect, we should not even try.
Our national security depends on this engagement but maybe some sort of isolation would be as effective. I don't know the answer but the idea that since we did not do this completely perfectly, we should not have tried. If none of the problems you state had not of happened, do you sincerely believe there would have been no problems?
It's not Bush's tragedy, it's theirs. He and I were both foolish to think their love of themselves was greater than their hated of us.
Sounds trite, but no good deed really does go unpunished..

Posted by: Pam at April 22, 2006 03:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pam, the very best case scenario at this point -- and at any point since August 31, 2003 -- is that Iraq ends up something like Pakistan: mildly democratic, but with areas beyond the reach of central power. There's always been the real possibility that Iraq would have a Waziristan, and that even if the people in Anbar loved freedom as much as you wished they did, there are enough who don't love Israel/US that some terrorists would be able to have sanctuary. So long as they threatened Israel/US, and not Baghdad.

This is one of the huge flaws in the whole thing.

Whether or not Iraq ends up like Pakistan today or like Afghanistan from 1991-2001 remains to be seen. (I've deliberately included pre- and post-Taliban victory periods).

And by the way, I'll ask you and anyone else who posits the only alternatives in 2003 as (a) invasion or (b) nothing ever to overthrow Saddam, to offer some reason why Iraq had to be invaded before AQ was completely obliterated.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 22, 2006 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bin Laden got away with killing thousands of Americans and then made the US look like a military goofballl.

Bush and the current generation of Americans are no match for Bin Laden and Al-Queda....maybe the next generration will be up to the job.

Posted by: Uncle Sam at April 22, 2006 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"To some extent the lies of the Bush administration are not all important -- politicians are in the business of lying. "
Posted by: frank wallace

I understand that politicians frequently lie, and more frequently BS. But it's a simeple matter of both morality and survival that they be held accountable for the harm done by those lies. In the case of Bush, he took our post-9/11 90% trust and support, and used it 100% for personal political gain. He started a war under false pretenses, killing a large number of people. He botched the war through corruption and dishonesty; we'll be able to total that bill over the next decade or so, but's already a pretty big bill.

If lying under oath about an affair is worth impeachment, what does Bush deserve for his far more serious lies?

Posted by: Barry at April 22, 2006 08:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I for one see no tragedy in Bush. Bush represents the perfection of the corporate state, by his total deference to it. Corporations have superceded government as humanitites leading organizing principal. Corporations are histories most successfull organizational model.

One might note that world financial markets are on fire. Financial assets of all types are rising in value relentlessly. They care not a bit for the goings on in Iraq. Iraq is irrelevant as it is totally outside the corporate sphere. Iran too for that matter. They are expendable, or at least their people are. The ordinary citizens that is. The elites of the regions send huge portions of their money into the capital markets of course. The oil will be there and flow into markets no matter who pumps or sells it. Oil is fungible

Bush is tragedy only to the extent that one is wedded to the old fashioned notions of traditional liberal democracy. Such is an anachronism. Modern communications have molded pliant and sheepish citizens focused exclusively on their own entertainment and comfort and driven politically by simple prejudices.

Posted by: rapier at April 23, 2006 12:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I don't understand Bush's "loyalty" to Rumsfeld.

As far as I'm aware, they had no real history together prior to Rumsfeld's appointment, did they?

Rummy isn't one of Bush's Texas cronies, or even an Andover friend or Yale frat buddy. Cheney's the one with the long history with Rumsfeld.

It really makes it look like Cheney is wearing the pants in the administration.

Posted by: Jon H at April 23, 2006 01:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't understand Bush's "loyalty" to Rumsfeld.

What's the chance that Rummy could give testimony enough to get Bush/Cheny impeached?

Rummy will be the SoD as long as he wants to, while Bush is in office.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 23, 2006 01:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> we did not do this completely perfectly

The implied allegation that we came close to perfection in Iraq, but didn't quite hit it, is hilarious :)

Posted by: frank_wallace at April 23, 2006 01:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On the other hand, Bush might dump Rummy when it does Bush the most good. Maybe Rummy is loyal enough to Bush or to somebody on Bush's side that he'd accept it.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 23, 2006 01:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh the Humanity! Is this a hilarious post or what? And the "college dorm roon bull session" comments? What a crack-up!

As noted somewhere above, the hand-wringing and perfect hindsight of GD, betray only a sophmorish innocence, combined with a deep, deep ignorance of actual, real history, particularly of the military kind. Add this to wishful thinking of the "Can't we all just get along and be friends?"kind and I can almost hear John and Yoko chanting in the background, "All we are saying...."

What? Doesn't anybody here venture outside the cocoon of their BDS to actually review what's going on in Iraq from someone other than the "Green Zone " hotel-bound j-school wussies and their Al Q stringers?

This is a war, people! Get serious, do some research, read others not of like-persuasion, maybe even something penned by those nasty, detestable "soljer-boys" with boots on the ground. (none of whom you actually know or could ever consider inviting over for a glass of wine! Why, they wouldn't know the difference between chardonnay and fume blanc, the barbarians!)

Greg do your repetitions of the typical "progressive" canards, make you feel better? They obviously seem to bolster your deeply-felt, self-espoused moral superiority! Abu Ghraib as a the "worst moral failing of the US military since My Lai' ? Oh please, it is to laugh! Trailer trash humor, recognized and duly disciplined, does not somehow stand out as a great moral failure of our time.

Why don't you just come out with the bumpersticker sloganeering, so beloved of you and the bulk of your commentators hereon?? Why hide behind all the fancy and "too -clever-by-half" rhetoric?

Come on, you'll all feel better: "Bush lied! People Died!"

There, don't you feel better now and more importantly, smugly self-satisfied and morally superior to us "Neanderthals", who continue to insist that you're either "fer us or agin' us"? And that truly, we either kill the bastards over there or we face them in the streets here.

And if that happens, and the dust-up comes here, do you really think the Islamic fascists, will spare the time to consider your pretty words of dissent and take them into account when the moment comes for a decison on whether your shoulders should be relieved of that swelled head?

The times call for men of action, the men of words and nuance having failed miserably to split hairs so fine and weave them into webs of alliance that smack only of treachery and deceipt . You and your ilk, are of the latter kind, failures at what you do because of your inability to perceive there is true EVIL afoot, of the kind that will not reason and will neither rest nor delay, but to its own nefarious advantage.

And so you and your ilk are jealous and long for that which tears down those who you have not the "stones" to emulate, looking to failed warriors, whose own memories of what they said when they held the reins of power and force, fail and are exposed in their own lying reversals. Not unlike the the words of those politicians, 7 to 8 years back, who made regime change in Iraq the official policy of this land, yet, like you, could not summon the true moral courage to act on those words, thus that policy languished until real men of action strode forth to embark upon a course that may hopefully save all your sorry hides from impostion of the Sha'ria! upon them!

Posted by: Earl T at April 23, 2006 03:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg:
Just found your website the other day and generally agree with your analysis. But I wish to nitpick something in the next to last paragraph of this post. Actually, both the Army and Marines are increasing their combat effectives. I don't remember the exact details from last summer/fall but the number of combat brigades is being increased from something like 10 to 13+. This is being accomplished by further privatizing former grunt tasks. This may not be the most effective way to grow combat size but with voluntary recruitment down and with no real possibility of involuntary recruitment that is the best the Pentagon can do.

Posted by: Paul Lucic at April 23, 2006 05:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Earl T:

Shouldn't you be lurking over at Little Green Footballs? You may feel more at home there.

Posted by: Thom H at April 23, 2006 06:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, well written denunciation of the US President, sparing us ideology for pure practicality.

A refreshing approach.

Second, I am afraid comments like Pam's rather make me wish in fact one could hit people up side the head with information.

What is your bottom line? My read is that we should have done nothing to disturb the status quo, left Saddam in power and just hoped he would not be a problem in the future with WMDs or terrorist support.

Most intelligent observers can discern, I am sure some alternative between doing absolutely nothing and incompetently invading a country on effectively trumped up pretences without proper plans on how to succeed nor the basic self honesty to correct course when things go wrong.

Sadaam was, in any event, hardly a truly pressing issue.

However, far worse, is this comment:
Accept the fact that people in these cultures just cannot have democracy and left to their true devices they will rule each other with an iron hand of brutality or just kill each other. Their solutions seem to be to blame the US and "the Jews", Israel, etc.

These cultures. My relations a few generations back wrote the same sorts of things about WOGs and the like.

Broad brush strokes based on a superficial set of stereotypes pretending to be knowledge.

Of course that including such truths like "The Confucian mind" would never grasp democracy, etc. and thus the Asiatics would always live in despotism.

Immutable truths.

"These cultures"

Or one might, rather than engaging in gross responsibility waiving stereotyping, admit one had fucked the project into a cocked hat by one's own devices.

I would add, by the way, that the sneering about Middle Easterners being given over to conspiracy theories seems misplaced in a country where I constantly hear how the price of gas is being controlled by Big Oil, etc.

Human nature differs not so much from place to place.


We tried to offer the middle east a chance at a better life by establishing a window to obtaining human rights, representative government, and the things that we take for granted but it appears most have no interest.

Well if you believe your own agitprop.

the problem with believing one's own agitprop is that while one's own self image is usually positive, that is not so often the case on the part of those that distrust you - often for good reason. Certainly if you step out of American skin and put yourself in the other's shoes one can think of many reasons not to think such an offer was extended.

The US with UK help invaded Iraq and spouted quite a lot of hot air about democracy, booming economies, etc.

All well and good, might have actually won people over had there been a modicum of delivery actually evident to Iraqis - and further delivery of said promises in some vague keeping with the magnitudes implied by CPA-Iraq. I know as an investor sitting in those fine conference rooms in Amman and Kuwait I heard some of the most dazzling things from American officials.

But see, the problem that cropped up, from my view as an equity investor in region, was primarily with American planning and how very, very fucked up it was. Indeed delusionally misplaced.

Not that the Iraqis were brilliantly prepared to grasp the situation after several decades under Sadaam and a decade of crushing sanctions, but that was something any of us schooled in the region expected.

What we did not expect was gross incompetence on the Americans part - it was out of keeping with experience. However, the present Administration managed to achieve truly mind numbing levels of incompetence and listened to know one. Not people like me in region, not to its critics, not to Iraqis. Nobody.

Frankly amazing, one of the most incredible things I have ever witnessed in my life.

It rather sticks in my craw now to hear American hypocrites putting their failures down to the Iraqis being savages, etc. (to strip away the polite language hiding the bigotry).

Iraq was going to be a hard row to hoe from the start, no people emerges from what the Iraqis experienced in the past 30 odd years undamaged, and it is truly offensive to hear this sort of bigotted tripe spouted to excuse what was primarily an American failure (or more accurately, a failure of certain Americans, in leadership positions - I for one met a good number of brilliant and creative folks inside the diplo service and firms like Parsons who had they been given better plans, etc. might have worked out Iraq far better. However, the cesspit that was CPA-Iraq was a positive value destroyer in terms of moving Iraq forward.)

Spit in the face of the wounded if you will, but pretend not that in reality a real offer ever actually got to the table. I certainly never saw it.

The real tragedy is not Bush's mistakes or mine - it is the missed opportunity for 100s of millions of people. Perhaps, we just need to accept that we need to pull out of all of the middle east, Africa, Asia, and forget them and their problems. They will eventually die of starvation, AIDS, murder each other, etc. and they will blame us for not stopping them from brutalizing each other. You see that is the bottom line. Engage or not engage.

Wonderfully Victorian of you.

However, insofar as you (and the rest of the Developed World) need the resources of Asia, Africa and above all the Middle East (that petrol thing), nor is the rest of the world as savage as you paint it.

Nor does the positive development depend on any magic wands waved by the Americans.

However, as pure economics requires engagement (unless the US wishes to impoverish itself in autarky), one should learn how to engage in a productive manner rather than with misplaced sneering.

I don't know the answer but the idea that since we did not do this completely perfectly, we should not have tried. If none of the problems you state had not of happened, do you sincerely believe there would have been no problems?

I find the implication here that the valid comparision is between some divine level of perfection in execution and doing nothing to be offensive.

Having witnessed a good portion of CPA-Iraq's fiasco up close, as well as having worked in the greater Middle Eastern region for some years, I can personally attest that I have rarely seen such levels of incompetence. In the American administration.

It was not a question of "perfection" being missed, but basic levels of competency.

Which was strange, as there were many competent bodies on hand, US, UK experts, etc. They were not called on, or barely so. It was strange and maddening to watch 20 year old children be put in charge of the Bourse, and party political staffers as contracting agents - I almost feel like digging up an email from a good friend at Parsons on the behaviour.

The question is not "oh we were not perfect, but one can not actually expect perfection" - bloody whinging excuse really - but how the US managed to plumb the depths of profound incompetence in what should have been the most important overseas operation it had launched in 30 years.

Continuing to pretend that the CPA-Iraq effort represents some ordinary and even acceptable effort is a deep insult to the United States, and indeed the many competent Americans I have worked with over the years. The effort resembled nothing of the sort of well-executed if flawed development projects I had seen with USAID, etc. nor the kind of effort put into engineering projects in the Gulf by private firms..... It plumbed the depths of incomptence.

It amazed everyone.

It's not Bush's tragedy, it's theirs. He and I were both foolish to think their love of themselves was greater than their hated of us.
Sounds trite, but no good deed really does go unpunished..

It is trite for it is self indulgent whanking excuse making, "oh so sorry for me that the bloody natives were not appreciative of our efforts, not really our fault Waltham et al knew fuck all about the subject and fucked things three ways to hell, bloody natives got in the way."

The foolishness was hubris, and blind ugly pride.

The Lounsbury, aqoul.com

Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 23, 2006 06:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kerry was a spoiled brat whose stature derived more from his millionaire wives than his accomplishments.

Anyone who can say this about a combat veteran, winner of the Bronze Star and Silver Star, is not to be taken at all seriously. Anyone who can say this is barely qualified for citizenship in this Republic.

Posted by: stickler at April 23, 2006 08:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Continuing to pretend that the CPA-Iraq effort represents some ordinary and even acceptable effort is a deep insult to the United States, and indeed the many competent Americans I have worked with over the years.

Remember, Mr. Lounsbury, the CPA is just the tip of the iceberg with these clowns. Their hiring preferences are identical across the board. CPA, DOD, Treasury, Agriculture, HSA, etcetera etcetera world without end, Amen.

Posted by: stickler at April 23, 2006 08:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Djerejian:

Your stuff is weirdly fascinating, but not for the reasons you might think.

In a post of 3,089 words that should have numbered about 189, you use expressions from Latin, French, German, and Spanish, all in italics just to let us know that you know them (or something):

--de minimis
--genocidaire
--revanchism
--diktats
--machismo
--voila!

Are you Henry Kissinger writing a doctoral thesis about the Congress of Vienna in 1815? Is this kind of stuff big over at the Council on Foreign Relations, where you apparently long to “belong?” Like you, I am a Georgetown Foreign Service graduate (30 years before you) and you embarrass me. When you were at GU, didn’t the English professors introduce you to Strunk and White’s famous little book, The Elements of Style? Its key command was Rule #17, Omit Needless Words! Omit Needless Words! Omit Needless Words!


You might also consider Rule 14, “Avoid fancy words.”

You remind me of Andrew Sullivan, who checks every morning to see which way the wind is blowing so he can stay a second ahead of the day’s meme--except you lack his gay shtick and have about 1/5th of his talent.

Your policy observations might be interesting if you would you just cut the crap and speak in plain English.

(Here’s my advice to the generals: “Shut up, stop squabbling, and win the war quickly, damnit, before the bastards hit us again.”)

Enough already. I’m outta here. As another poster said above, this blog is a complete waste of time.

Peter Collins

Posted by: Peter Collins at April 23, 2006 12:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Another great post.I dont think I'll every read anyone else again.

Posted by: Forrest at April 23, 2006 01:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Peter Collins: Thank you SO much for saying exactly what I wanted to.

People who write like this, are camouflaging the fact that they have very little to say.

Writing for writing's sake. I could understand it if he was being PAID per word.

Lounsbury: Thanks for your comments. I agree with your analysis. Whether or not one agreed with the strategy/vision, it's the incredibly incompetent EXECUTION that has been so damaging.

To properly address the dozens of issues raised in the original post and subsequent comments would take me far more time than I'm willing to give it.

What I find troubling is how much effort is given to totally useless/wasteful things, and how very little effort is given to thinking ahead and coming up with possible solutions. Maybe it's because so few of us know what the hell to do - and that many of us realize that? 99% of everything I see and hear - from old media to blogs to you name it - is criticism and posturing. This works to our enemy's advantage.

Posted by: slick at April 23, 2006 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BD is waaaaaay better than Andrew Sullivan.

(Enough words for you?)

Posted by: Jerry at April 23, 2006 04:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, re the whinging about BD style, well, everyone has their tastes, eh? I rather like it that Djerian actually has mastered joined up writing and is not afraid of vocabulary. It's understandable that in some quarters there is a fear of such, but BD shouldn't be concerned about others lack of self confidence.

Second, regarding Lounsbury: Thanks for your comments. I agree with your analysis. Whether or not one agreed with the strategy/vision, it's the incredibly incompetent EXECUTION that has been so damaging.

Well, I saw this in person. Indeed while I thought the entire invasion was a bad idea, it certainly seemed to me and people willing to put millions in equity into Iraq that there was a decent chance that was rapidly pissed away. There was no good reason for this, none.

It is offensive a few years down the line to play the bigot game and start talking about Iraqis inherently rejecting democracy, etc.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 23, 2006 06:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

99% of everything I see and hear - from old media to blogs to you name it - is criticism and posturing. This works to our enemy's advantage.

Slick, you're right. If we all got together behind the only possible positive action -- impeachment -- then we'd all be much better off.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 23, 2006 07:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> > 99% of everything I see and hear - from old media to blogs to you name it - is criticism and posturing. This works to our enemy's advantage.

> Slick, you're right. If we all got together behind the only possible positive action -- impeachment -- then we'd all be much better off.


Ok, that made me laugh out loud...

The Lounsbury made a serious effort to deal with one of the neo trolls, but your humorous response was entertaining in a vastly different sense.

Posted by: frank wallace at April 24, 2006 04:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent work Greg

Posted by: Matt at April 24, 2006 11:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Earl,

"As noted somewhere above, the hand-wringing and perfect hindsight of GD, betray only a sophmorish innocence, combined with a deep, deep ignorance of actual, real history, particularly of the military kind."

Indeed this is true. I have little sympathy for those who supported this war and now think it is going wrong. A little historical anaylsis would have shown how stupid an idea attacking Iraq was. Ask the Brits in the 30's or the French in Algiers. It was never going to work.

"Abu Ghraib as a the "worst moral failing of the US military since My Lai' ? Oh please, it is to laugh! Trailer trash humor, recognized and duly disciplined, does not somehow stand out as a great moral failure of our time."

It was a moral failure. Some of our troops abused and tortured prisoners. The US is not supposed to do that. It goes against treaties we have signed (which we have to adhere to, even when it is not expedient) and more importantly it goes against our national character. In order to be the good guys we have to act like the good guys. and if you think that everyone who is guilty has been dealt with, think again. Soldiers follow orders. Who gave them the orders? And if you reply that they were freelancing, then we have a dangerous lack of discipline in our military.

"There, don't you feel better now and more importantly, smugly self-satisfied and morally superior to us "Neanderthals", who continue to insist that you're either "fer us or agin' us"? And that truly, we either kill the bastards over there or we face them in the streets here."

I get the impression that there is plenty of smug self-satisfaction to go around. Do you really believe that one is either "fer us or agin' us"? Really? Just two choices? If that's it then the choices suck. And I'm sure the Iraqis would love to hear your opinion on figting there instead of here. I'm sure if you explained it to them they'd come around to the idea that it is better for them to be killed on a daily basis than us. You also seem to think we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Did you miss the memo about Saddam not being involved in the 9/11 attacks? We are fighting a nationalist/sectarian insurgency in Iraq that we created by our actions there; if we had not attacked, the insurgency would not exist. So who are we fighting there so we don't have to fight them here? If you think that Al Qaeda cannot have a few fighters in Iraq and still stage attacks elsewhere in the world, maybe the people of Spain and England can enlighten you.

"And if that happens, and the dust-up comes here, do you really think the Islamic fascists, will spare the time to consider your pretty words of dissent and take them into account when the moment comes for a decison on whether your shoulders should be relieved of that swelled head?"

I doubt it. That's one of the differences between them and us, remember? So stop using the misdeeds of others to excuse our own. Didn't your mother ever teach you that "other kids do it too, and worse!" is not an excuse?

"And so you and your ilk are jealous and long for that which tears down those who you have not the "stones" to emulate"

Stones? More like brains not to emulate. Why the hell would I want to emulate any of theses idiots? Gosh! I really wish I was George Bush today! His manly manliness has really gotten the job done, and left us all in a much better situation! And everyone appreciates him doing it! I wish I could bask in a fraction of the adulation that is being heaped on him right now! Right...

In 2000 I thought George Bush was the wrong man for the job. He has turned out to be worse. So I was wrong about that. But everything else has turned out about as I expected, though I am surprised he got a second term. I guess there's a fool born every minute, and he convinced a few hours worth of them.

Posted by: kilfarsnar at April 25, 2006 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

I don't understand why it is so important that Osama is still "out there", instead of in custody.

We are in an idealogical campaign. As such, it is far more effective to publicly render Osama impotent and discrediting his ideology, than to capture him and make him a cause celebre.

Many of your commentors appear to be assuming their conclusions. Few of them offer convincing descriptions of the problems American policies are trying to solve; the constraints the solutions have to meet; the perceptions, misperceptions, and assumptions of the many actors (on all sides); and so on. In short, I read a bunch of gripes.

My own assessment on Iraq and the GWOT is that the strateg(er)y is essentially correct; that there have been operational and tactical errors, but they have not substantively undercut the strategy; and that we Americans (with some help) will win or lose this war only within the gray matter that exists between the ears of its citizenry.

My assessment on many commentors is that they elevate senior elective or appointed government officials to the status of gods -- and therefore are subject to either worship or desecration. Dehumanizing people who have to make very difficult judgment calls is no way to win an argument, much less a war.

Oh, and if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

MG

Posted by: MG at May 1, 2006 01:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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