March 29, 2005

Paging A Reality Check

Heh. Has anyone ever linked a weaker, recycled Bob Novak article and, voila, tried to declare game over? Read some of the comments to the linked post too (at the LAT site), keeping in mind we are not even half-way through '05. Translation: Approximately 138,000 troops in theater through the New Year at least looks to be a certitude. Thereafter, and only if conditions allow (ie, Sunni participation in nascent political governance structures moving in right direction; insurgency continuing to weaken) only then would there perhaps be major draw-downs in '06. Compare this to Matt Y and the Prospect-y crowd that advocates drawing down, say, 20,000-40,000 (my best guess of what Matt has in mind; though he doesn't deign to clue us lumpenproleteriat in to the 'right' quantum) of the forces in theater with some immediacy. No, Eric's got this one wrong. Sorry. (Yes, indeed, I'd have to eat a lot of crow if Novak had the story right. But I'm pretty confident on this one. Eric, care to wager something?)

P.S. And Eric never cares to honestly address, full-bore, what I mean by the 'abdication of responsibility laden' Clinton years. I suppose he thought, say, our Bosnia policy was just a smashing success through '92-'95 when a rag-tag bunch of Bosnian Serb genocidaires, backed up by Slobo, made a mockery of the international community's 'will'--whilst myriad human tragedies unfolded daily through the Balkans. In the meantime, POTUS twiddled his thumbs and had deep pow-wows with Dick Morris about the merits of triangulation. What great days those! Bring 'em back soonest! Our risible involvements in Haiti and Somalia were embarrassments too, of course. And yes, al-Qaeda and friends were observing all this abdication as far as the eye could see around the globe. And drawing the obvious conclusions. That America was, in many ways, a paper tiger and that bloodying her nose here and there could be done with near impunity (read: the odd pin-prick cruise missile attack in some deserted hamlet; and only after the lawyers [but is Warren on board?] had given the all clear). Call it the Clinton effect. C'etait pas serieux, as they say. And I'm quite happy indeed that it's over. And so, increasingly, are many Iraqis too likely.

Posted by Gregory at March 29, 2005 04:02 AM | TrackBack (9)

The Novak column was one of the most self-serving pieces of trash that has come down the pike since, well, the last Novak column.

The only thing missing, of course, was the portrait of Bush as a mindless tool of the Zionist Hook-nosed Jewish Banking Conspiracy.

Given the fact that we have reached the tipping point in the war, and decisively so imho, our drawdown can be measured and slow, to prevent the return of some Colonel Saddam in the new Army while the new state earns legitimacy. There is nothing wrong with a troop level of around 50,000 men by the end of 2006. That is about what I expect.

Novak is merely trading on Condi's popularity in the country to paint her as the new "anti-Neocon" heroine (insert "Jooooz!" here). Sad to see Yglesias fall for it so easily. I always considered him one of the smart libs.

Posted by: Section9 at March 29, 2005 06:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

They're all in salvage mode, trying to save what's left of their shredded credibility while still trying to appear serious, concerned, humane---and looking out for America's (real) interests.

To this end:
1. Yes, Iraq could still disintegrate.
2. Yes, the Iraqi Shias might yet prove to be fiery Khomeinists (see #1, above).
3. Yes, the Middle East may prove to be more intractable than the bumbling, simplistic (to be kind) neo-cons believe.
4. And yes, the troops must be brought home as soon as possible (and if this precipitates, or helps precipitate, #1, well, we told you this whole "adventure" was WRONG from the get go).

(Well, one can always hope.)

Do the Democrats, and their supporters, still really believe they lost the elections only because of tactics?....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at March 29, 2005 06:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...abdication of responsibility..." Yeah, whatever. And you still won't admit that Bush is Rumsfeld's boss and, therefore, ultimately responsible for his continued screw-ups.

The last paragraph of your post is essentially incomprehensible raving. But, you use that name in there so it means something to you and your freeper audience.

Posted by: avedis at March 29, 2005 11:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Bin Laden determined to strike in US"

Posted by: praktike at March 29, 2005 03:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Posted by: mark at March 29, 2005 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK, at least I know when I page Greg Djerejian he gets the message.

But Greg, saying that I linked to this story in an attempt to declare "game over" is kind of overstating my position and stuffing my shirt with a bit of straw, no?

Here is the opening of the final paragraph:

"I'll be the first to say that Bob Novak could be very wrong on this..."

And throughout the piece, I was careful to use qualified language ("ifs") and attribute these allegations to Novak and his sources which may or may not be accurate. Not once did I say he was right, or even likely right. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, and certainly not a declaration that the game is over.

I'm merely saying that if Novak is right, your take is at odds with the Bush administration, and I thought I would throw him into the steel cage match with you and Matt and see what that did to the discussion.

So in terms of wagers, I don't want to put too much on Novak's word and since I think it would be the wrong course of action to take, I don't want to be rooting for it in any way (for future reference though, I too am a scotch man so we can pick a bottle as the prize should the need arise).

And for the record, I think that Clinton waited too long to act in the Balkans, and Rwanda was an even more grievous mistake. In that sense, your critique is valid. My problem is the selectivity it implies. I mean, the Bush administration has their own bouts with abdication no?

There has been some pretty things said about Darfur, but what exactly has been done? And then there's the nasty little habit of praising, promoting and elevating anyone and everyone who has shown poor judgment and was even tangentially related to providing the legal green light on torture. Other examples abound.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 29, 2005 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A little Zeitgeist, please.

I'm sure that Bush's own foreign policy is simply smashing. But let him try to implement it with the kind of bicameral opposition Clinton faced.

Posted by: Strange Doctrines at March 29, 2005 04:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not only did the Right oppose him in the Balkans, but they weren't exactly clamoring to get involved in Rwanda, and every time he went as far as to send a pin prick of a cruise missile Bin Laden's way, the GOP cried wag the dog and that he was doing it to distract the nation from Monica.

So, the GOP wasn't exactly the moral responsibility faction. But I am willing to acknowledge that this doesn't excuse Clinton's inaction. The buck stops with the POTUS, no matter who the Sec of Defense or any other cabinet member is for that matter.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 29, 2005 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

bob dole. richard perle. maggie thatcher. schultz. bill kristol. yeah, the right opposed him in the balkans all right.

Posted by: greg at March 29, 2005 05:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not 100% uniformity for sure, but is it really fair to say the Right in America was calling for action and Clinton was stalling? If all I have to do is trot out a handful of names, I can say that either the Right or the Left supports/opposes every action by government ever. Such evidence is hardly compelling.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 29, 2005 05:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

strange doctrines is talking zeitgeist. only he's talking kosovo and i'm talking bosnia. but heck, it's all in the same general part of the world, right!

as for eric, he knows better. or, er, should...

Posted by: greg at March 29, 2005 05:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I fully recall that both Governor Bush and his advisor, former Stanford provost Dr. Condoleezza Rice, came out in support of President Clinton's actions in Kosovo. That dog won't hunt. John McCain was foursquare behind the war as well.

Pat Buchanan doesn't count.

Posted by: Section9 at March 29, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The Shlafly piece cited by SD mentions both Kosovo and Bosnia and is critical of each. That is why I used the term "Balkans" policy, but I suppose I should have spelled out the differences.

The truth of the matter is that there were prominent members of the GOP that opposed him on both actions, and that is why I used the short hand.

Take a look at this link:

It's from the Republican Policy Committee in the US Senate. Chock full of disparaging words for the Bosnia and Kosovo interventions. Here's an interesting take:

Clinton Policy Based On Melodramatics

As was the case in Bosnia, the Clinton Administration's claimed justification for intervention in Kosovo is based on a melodramatic oversimplification of the crisis which obscures its complex origins and development. In this case, the stage is set as follows: in 1989 Serbian strongman Milosevic abolished Kosovo's autonomy and is now intent on eliminating Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority from the province by military force; accordingly, "the lesson of Bosnia" is that early use of limited U.S./NATO force against Serbia is the only thing that can avert a humanitarian tragedy, a wider war, and deeper U.S. involvement.....

But as in Bosnia, this formulation can be supported only if the problem is understood in crude stereotypes, with little or no reference to the historical complexity and conflicting equities involved.

Again, there were individual voices, but from an institutional level (be it the right's media outlets to it's legislative leadership), there was a pervasive opposition.

In fact, when running in 2000, Bush made several pointed references to his distaste for nation building and Clinton-era interventionism.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 29, 2005 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And for the record, many of the Republican legislators that ended up supporting him on Bosnia did so out of deference to the fact that Clinton had upped the ante by giving his word to NATO that our troops would be there. This gave him leverage to use in courting bi-partisan approval, but make no mistake about the fact that he had to court that approval. It didn't exist a priori, and it wasn't calling for action "faster please."

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 29, 2005 06:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The distance some people are jumping to get to their conclusions here would qualify them for Beijing in 2008.

Novak was doing what Novak often does: shade a column toward his preferred policy direction while greasing a source (or more than one source), in this case through some fulsome praise of Sec. Rice. He's been doing this kind of thing for a really long time, so this shouldn't surprise anyone.

What has been decided with respect to future troop levels in Iraq? At this point, my guess is, nothing. If things are going really well, the insurgency continues to abate and a new Iraqi government emerges with enough confidence to ask for some American troops to be withdrawn by the end of the year, some will be withdrawn. If the insurgency revives, probably not. Quite a lot of American policy in Iraq has been improvised for going on two years now. It's not likely this has changed just because we have a new Secretary of State.

Posted by: Zathras at March 29, 2005 06:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One small difference between the Bush and Clinton years in foreign policy is the body count.

A dozen or so died during Clinton's years, and we are up to 4,500 under Bush. Spin that Eric.

August 2001: Bin Laden or fetal stem cell researchers the more pressing threat to Americans? Bush thought the latter.

Nation building? No then yes.
Another terrorist attack in the year after 9/11? Yes then no.
WMD's in Iraq? Yes then no.
Capture bin Laden? Yes then no.

And now Bush is selling fighter jets to the dictator who overthrew Pakistan's democracy, and harbors bin Laden and AQ Khan, in order to promote freedom and democracy.

Forgive me for not taking Bush's foreign policy seriously. His one notable success: getting John Walker Lindh off the streets.

That's the reality. Check.

Posted by: epistemology at March 29, 2005 06:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Spin that Eric"

Am I now also the spin doctor for the Bush administration? Sheesh, can't catch a break these days. Greg, where's that bottle of scotch at anyway....

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 29, 2005 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry Eric, I meant "spin that greg", addressing our gracious host. These blogospheres got my head spinning.

Posted by: epistemology at March 29, 2005 08:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"he's talking kosovo and i'm talking bosnia"

How is this distinction relevant here? I don't have links to hand, but I don't recall that the Republicans were any more solicitous of Clinton's Bosnia policy.

Posted by: Strange Doctrines at March 29, 2005 09:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I figured it was a typo, but couldn't reisist the opportunity for a little comic levity. No harm, no foul. Though I reiterate my request for a drink....

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 29, 2005 10:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

strange doctrines: if you have to ask...
eric: happy to wager a bottle of scotch anytime...

Posted by: greg at March 29, 2005 10:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The next time Bin Laden attacks, we can finally go after Syria.

I like this new post-911 logic.

Posted by: NeoDude at March 30, 2005 02:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

epistemology it's ironic you should mention the body count in your comparison as it was exactly the aversion of manpower losses that rendered Clintonian foreign policy so weak and maligned. I don't recall the source but Somalia was recognised by Bin Laden as one of his biggest lessons: the US simply could not tolerate losing soldiers, the Vietnam body bag effect if you will. The withdrawal from Somalia, prompted by the loss of less than thirty troops during those infamous events taught Bin Laden that the US was indeed at that time a paper tiger and surely emboldened him.

Also, not to sound insensitive, but 4500 casualties following the invasion of two large, hostile nations, is under any historical context anybody could care to mention, nigh-on miraculously low.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at March 30, 2005 10:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


For balance sake it is worth mentioning that Bin Laden's beliefs on this matter were also created by Reagan's hasty retreat from Lebanon following the bombing of the marines barracks there.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 30, 2005 02:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Indeed Eric, in fact you can go further back and identify Carter's handling of the Iranian hostage crisis as a key moment when Islamists realised just what they could get away with without real retaliation.

That said, I think it's fair to say that as Bin Laden/ Al Qaeda grew progressively more bold and bloody throughout the ninties, Clinton's responses remained limp and derisory. History has shown the only way of dealing with Islamists is to meet force with force, it's a shame this lesson was only truly learnt post-9/11.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at March 30, 2005 03:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

History is a mixed bag in this regard. Meeting force with force didn't help the Soviets retain Afghanistan, and it hasn't necessarily curtailed the violence and terrorism from Chechan separatists.

I think force, and a healthy dose of it, is a necessary component for dealing with the immediate threat, but it in itself is rarely enough, and not the only way in terms of longview. Attention must be paid to underlying policies and grievances, and other soft power options should be injected into the process in order to create conditions that do not give rise to such elements.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 30, 2005 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"if you have to ask..."

Well, yes, I do have to ask. Because I'm having a little trouble taking in what seems to be the tacit assumption that the Republicans were all in for humanitarian action in Bosnia while Slick Willy was dragging his feet. Or that Republicans were all on board once Clinton (finally!) found his way in. Or that Clinton's intercession there was merely a triangulation cynically trading on popular support (!) for this neat idea of sending American troops into Bosnia.

There are other erroneous assumptions at work here as well, but one gets the sense that your goal in this isn't pithy analysis so much as it is drawing snappy caricatures of Clinton to counter the sort of snappy caricatures of Bush that drive you bonkers. If so, points for style (as always).

Posted by: Strange Doctrines at March 30, 2005 06:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Meeting force with force and a strong dose of self-righteousness was the driving force behind the Southern lynch mob.

Darkies get out of line, hang a few up, they'll calm down, right quick.

So was the theory.

It has not gone unnoticed, that Bush has a hands off policy conserning Bin Ladden. And the Rednecks running foriegn policy need to apply "force with force and a strong dose of self-righteousness" on somebody...especially someone sitting on massive amounts of oil.

If Bush and the US was so tough, why are they scared of the Saudis and the Pakis?

Posted by: NeoDude at March 30, 2005 07:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The ironic aspect of this discussion is that Greg and those he is so fond of linking to keep describing Iraq as a glowing success story for the administration.....nay, for humanity!

If this is true, why would we stick around?

Or are things really not going so well (as assessed by Juan Cole and company)?

Which is it Greg? You can't have it both ways; at least not if you're going to address the reality based community.

Posted by: avedis at March 30, 2005 10:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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