August 17, 2005

Yesterday: "Last Throes"; Today: "We Cannot Predict the Length..."

From the Caspar Star Tribune (Wyoming's News Source!), we have Dick Cheney:

"We cannot predict the length or course of the war on terror, but we know for certain with good allies at our side this great nation will persevere and we will prevail."

Translation: I'm not quite man enough to admit I was full of it with the "last throes" comment, so instead I'll talk about 'dictionary meanings' and avoid discussing Iraq in my public utterances (better to conveniently conflate Iraq under the 'war on terror' rubric which, while accurate, nevertheless, shall we say, conveniently elides the main point).

Hardly Churchillian straight-talk, huh? More by way of Roveian 'stay on message' herdism. But these are mediocre times and we, sadly, appear to be led by mediocre men...Look, if our leaders cannot communicate honestly to their public the real state of play with regard to the most pressing issue of the day--well, they will lose the public's trust and the war effort will be increasingly imperiled because of it.

P.S. And no, the oft-heard locution 'as they stand up, we will stand down' just doesn't cut it as a frank assessment of where the war stands. See Fred Kagan below for some of the reasons such utterances are largely chimerical and bogus at this early stage...


UPDATE: I stand by the substance of this post but want to apologize for the sophomoric and intemperate use of the "not quite man enough" locution. Dick Cheney has had a long and distinguished career in public service and deserves better treatment than this by the author. That said, I continue to maintain that his use of the "last throes" language, as well as his refusal to disown it, opens up the Administration to charges of being deceitful to the American public. As someone who endorsed Bush in '04 and contributed money to the Party--I feel let down--thus the oft-frustrated tone. Nor is this just a case of an unfortunate, trivial, one-off slip of the tongue in my view. Cheney has perhaps been an uniquely powerful Vice-President in the history of the Republic, and his influence is therefore extremely significant. As are, of course, his public statements about the state of the Iraq war effort--America's most critical foreign policy challenge at this juncture. In my view, the war in Iraq will necessitate active combat by U.S. personnel for, at minimum, 2-3 years yet. So to say that the insurgency was in its "last throes" creates expectations that are not aligned to reality in my estimation, and I believe it is critical that our leaders are seen to be fully leveling with the American public about the scope of the challenges that lie ahead. Having said all this, the language I employed was unfortunate and adolescent, and I hereby retract it with apologies to, not only the Veep, but also to my readers who deserve better.

Posted by Gregory at August 17, 2005 07:17 PM | TrackBack (26)
Comments

I would like to point out the the 'last throes' comment was directed toward the Iraq insurgency while the 'cannot predict length' comment is directed toward the war on terror as a whole.

Posted by: brogie62 at August 17, 2005 08:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ok, so theres a Get out of Iraq now lobby. And there are diehard admin defenders.

How do we form a "dont make more than a token withdrawl in Spring 2006, unless things are a lot peachier than we expect" lobby?

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 17, 2005 09:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BD, who was the last national leader who made apologies like you seem to fancy? Henry at Canossa? My poor memory strains to recall Sir Churchill calling himself a shithead on national broadcast. Why not send him a mail-order wakizashi and a seppuku manual? I don't think it serves you to question his manhood or otherwise get personal with these people.

People read you because you appear(ed) to have some professional credibility on foreign policy. Posts like this suggest otherwise. Are you still mad from the last post where you explained your recent behavior? Or do you seriously expect something like this to actually happen? Would you expect it anywhere else at any other time? It's just not reasonable.

BTW, the next time you screw up, should we expect cringing like this? Go ahead, eat some shit for something, BD. Show us how it's done.

I'm not mad and I'm not trying to insult you. I'm just baffled. Really, I hope you feel better or something.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 17, 2005 10:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hardly Churchillian straight-talk, huh?

Does Greg know what the heck he is talking about? He mocks Cheney for making EXACTLY THE SAME type of statements that Churchill made during WWII. For exampe:

"Numbers do not daunt us. But judged even by the test of numbers we have no reason to doubt that once the latent, and now rapidly growing, power of the British nation and Empire are brought, as they must be, and as they will be, fully into line with the magnificent efforts of the French Republic, then, even in mass and in weight, we shall not be found wanting. When we look behind the brazen fronts of Nazidom - as we have various means of doing-we see many remarkable signs of psychological and physical disintegration. We see the shortages of raw materials which already begin to hamper both the quality and the volume of their war industry. We feel the hesitancy of divided counsels, and the pursuing doubts which assail and undermine those who count on force and force alone."

http://www.churchill-society-london.org.uk/Joybells.html

That was in NINETEEN - F***ING - FORTY. Yeah, that's right, Churchill was saying he saw "remarkable signs of psychological and physical disintegration" in the Germans in 1940. Don't worry, Churchill said in 1940, the Nazis already had "shortages of raw materials" which had already begun "to hamper both the quality and the volume of their war industry."

If Greg had been alive and blogging in 1940, what would he have done, mocked Churchill too? You can just picture Greg later in 1940, as Holland and Belgium and France fell, sniggering to himself - "yeah, what a fool that Churchill is - he ASSURED US that the Nazi war machine was falling apart."

Posted by: Al at August 17, 2005 11:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow, Greg, a whole chorus of people who aren't necessarily your favorite commenters.

Maybe - just maybe - if people keep sticking it in people's eye when they "talk straight", what you'll get instead is more "public utterances"?

And hey, as Brogie has pointed out, they don't even actually have to be talking about the same thing. Just close enough to make for cutsey-headlines.

You know, if you don't have anything to post about on a given day, you might try stepping away from your computer.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 18, 2005 02:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Look, if our leaders cannot communicate honestly to their public the real state of play with regard to the most pressing issue of the day--well, they will lose the public's trust and the war effort will be increasingly imperiled because of it.

Good observation but look, if our leaders had ever communicated honestly to their public the real state of play with the most pressing issue of the day--well, the Iraq diversion from war effort would never have been proposed.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 18, 2005 04:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Alan, where would you like the troops instead? Afghanistan? Pakistan? KSA? Egypt? Lebanon? Gaza? Chechnya? Or just lined up six deep along the Mexican border? Or should we stop fighting entirely?

Truth is a weapon that becomes blunted from overuse. It is so precious that, to quote again Churchill, it must at all times be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.

Skipping all the blame bits we've only heard ten thousand times before, have you any constructive suggestion other than giving evil people what they want?

Posted by: Nichevo at August 18, 2005 06:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow, the long knives sure come out when Greg wanders off the reservation...

Al, I gotta say, that's the best-argued and most substantive post I've ever seen from you. Kudos.

That said, there are several qualifications that need to be added. First off, if memory serves, the Nazis were lacking in raw materials throughout the whole of the war - as were the Allies. Likewise, Germany saw outright political warfare that made what's going on in DC right now look like a tea party. None of that stopped the Nazis from being... well, the Nazis, but Churchill's utterance wasn't entirely indefensible.

Second, the circumstances Cheney and Churchill faced are radically different. Churchill was facing a stronger enemy that was racing across Europe, and needed to rally all of Britian ASAP. Whatever you think about Islamofascism, it's not the kind of immediate threat to the US that Nazism was to England. Context matters, as Cheney and you should be aware.

Moreover, as a million Internet posts have pointed out, the only way the terrorists can win is if we choose to leave. That being the case, public support is everything in this war, and it helps if Cheney either gets things right the first time or backs off a clearly incorrect statement whenever possible. He's done neither.

But if blogs had been around in 1940, would they have ridden Churchill's ass about his statement? Yeah, some probably would have, for good or ill. And I suspect Churchill, like any good politician, would have dealt with it, and I suspect the public would have still followed Churchill, because he was right far more often than not. Let's see if we can say the same for Cheney.

And Nichevo, if we'd have known three years ago what we know now about how things would play out, I suspect a whole lot of people would prefer keeping the army at home, both to build it up and to have a credible deterrant towards Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Or heck, if you feel we're not advancing the war on terror unless we're currently invading somebody, let's take out Iran (aided by a military build-up started soon after 9/11). They're way more dangerous and organized than Saddam ever was.

Because, however much we've stopped evil people from getting what they want in Iraq, other evil people the world over haven't been stopped by us in the meanwhile.

Posted by: Chris at August 18, 2005 08:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush doesnt have to apologize for anything.

he just had to go on TV, and announced Rummys resignation, and thank him for his brilliance, his commitment to transformation, his patriotism. Then announce his successor.

Churchill didnt apologize, but he DID fire people, IIRC.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 18, 2005 02:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is what I said about Rumsfelds "last throes" comment some weeks ago

Enough already - ONE snippet and we get weeks on end of sniggering

What exactly do you want the VP to be saying anyway

"We are in for a long hard struggle with a determined foe who is no where near to giving up and could persevere"

Is there any good that could come from such statements? I mean, Bush and others have made it clear this will be a long hard fight in the WoT - what more do you want?

I for one would like to see more people pointing out that the terrorists are deperate dead-enders who have NO CHANCE to win anything and at best can hope to continue to murder people until they are hunted down and killed like dogs

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 18, 2005 02:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK Nichevo, I'll try.

where would you like the troops instead?

I'd predominantly use other than troops to combat an underground dispersed globalised collection of 9/11-type mass murderers. Asymmetrical "war" is doomed to failure. It's like using rifles to hunt down mosquitos. There's a fight to be won, but not by what the US has deployed, which is not only unsuccessful but counter-productive. Iraq has been turned into a terrorist breeding ground.

have you any constructive suggestion other than giving evil people what they want?

How is that my suggestion? (though I acknowledge that Saddam wanted to be left alone like any number of evil despots elsewhere on the planet)

Let me turn around who wants what in two ways:

1. By invading Iraq, the US gave Bin Laden what he wanted - hundreds of thousands of muslim relatives grieving tens of thousands of dead muslims who despite Saddam would still be alive today.

2. Some well-connected people want some corporations to make big money in oil production, arms manufacture, military equipment, troop support and war reconstruction helped by what in a free market would be blatant insider trading and anti-competitive concuct. Saddam was way more crudely evil than these well-connected people, but is the US by definition incapable of evil?

Constructive suggestions? There was more scope for them before Iraq was invaded. Forget the promised democracy, forget the promised secular pluralism, just hope for stability. Is stability a precondition for withdrawal or is withdrawal a precondition for stability? The latter, I think, so my constructive suggestion is to withdraw.

Truth is a weapon that becomes blunted from overuse. It is so precious that, to quote again Churchill, it must at all times be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.

I'll buy that in the context in which it was uttered, but poll trends suggest that the US electorate can't see the truth for bodyguards. Among stated reasons for invading Iraq, I can't see it either.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 18, 2005 04:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue Mahone: I mean, Bush and others have made it clear this will be a long hard fight in the WoT - what more do you want?

The Bush administration should have fully prepared the American public for the occupation by being clear and upfront about what it would truly entail. It should have noted the cost, the effort, the manpower, and the length of time it took for other successful occupations, and then used that to provide a good-faith estimate of what this occupation would entail (the fact that they didn't was the main reason I opposed the war). Instead, it downplayed the costs and manpower at every opportunity, and took a long time to even acknowledge that an insurgency existed. Cheney's remarks are not a isolated incident, but a sign that this disconnect with the facts on the ground continues to this very day.

And I hope it is obvious that losing popular support for the war before the invasion would have been far less costly than losing support in the middle of the occupation, which is what this administration was risking with the approach that it chose (especially by way overplaying the WMD issue). Of course, as I've said before, I don't think this administration understands the concept of risk.

Posted by: fling93 at August 18, 2005 08:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Bush administration should have fully prepared the American public for the occupation by being clear and upfront about what it would truly entail.

You ask the impossible. The Administration didn't know "what it would truly entail" and, I hate to break it to you, NOBODY ELSE DID EITHER. Nobody knew what was going to happen -- and I mean nobody; not Bush, not the Democrats, not the anti-war left. (And anyone who says they really did know what was going to happen, is a f*^&ing liar.)

Posted by: Al at August 18, 2005 09:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nobody knows exactly what was going to happen, but we should have gotten a good-faith estimate. Lindsey tried to do that in regards to the cost when nobody else in the administration was willing to, and what happened to him served as an example to others that this administration doesn't judge estimates and predictions based on how accurate they are likely to be.

Posted by: fling93 at August 18, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bullshit, Al. Gen Zinni had wargamed all of this stuff years before when he was Centcom Commander. When he asked Franks' deputy, Gen Delong, if they had reviewed his work, he was told, "no, we didn't have time." Notice Zinni endorsed Bush in 2000, and was conspicously absent on the campaign trail last year.

Hell, Gen Van Riper ran all over them in the wargame leading up to OIF as the Opfor commander. These geniuses just reset the game and dismissed Van Riper. And what do you know, the insurgents are using the same kind of low-tech tactics that Van Riper used.

Don't tell me this shit was unpredictable. Don't even give me that weak-ass shit. Goddamn it, when you go to war, you plan for the worst case scenario, not the best case! Man, you have severely pissed me off. It's people like you who will cause the destruction of this country in your blind allegiance to everything Republican. What's more important, goddam it, the party or this country? Cause I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign AND domestic. If folks like you are more loyal to personalities and parties than to our nation, then buddy, we are going to have some severe problems down the road.

The Democrats didn't know? The anti-war Left? Maybe, but if so that's because they are stupid. Oh, and by the way, they weren't starting a freaking war.

And Pogue, that's exactly what the Vice President should have said. And he should say it again, and again, and again. He should say it every freaking day. And he should actually do something to emphasize the gravity of the situation. Leading a recruiting drive? Demonstrating the nation's appreciation for our servicemembers by leading a campaign to have the VA fully fund college tuition for veterans? Hell, man, just take some wounded vets from Walter Reed out to a ball game, like the pro wrestlers do.

And once again you demonstrate your complete lack of knowledge of guerrilla warfare and terror campaigns "Desperate dead-enders"? Large outbreaks of terrorist violence are dead-end characterisitics of internal war scenarios, but the literature clearly shows that they do not indicate the impending end of wars involving a perceived foreign occupier. And they do not have to win. They just have to outlast us.

Posted by: T-Bone at August 19, 2005 04:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Update: Accepted, Greg. Mighty big of you.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 19, 2005 06:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nice update, Greg. How could anyone with the cojones to tell a Senator within the Senate chamber to "go f*** yourself" ever be "not quite man enough"? Cheney is a guy you gotta respect. I mean look at his Vietnam record.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 20, 2005 05:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When the ardent supporters of our nation's leaders are defending their very costly and unsuccessful (slight understatement here?) global actions with "but, they didn't know"...

I'm just asking, what does that ultimately tell us?

Posted by: KlevenStein at August 28, 2005 07:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
"Awake"
--New York Times
"Must-read list"
--Washington Times
"Pompous Ass"
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Recent Entries
Search
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
U.S. Blogs
Columnists
Think Tanks
Law & Finance
Security
Books
The City
Western Europe
France
United Kingdom
Germany
Italy
Netherlands
Spain
Central and Eastern Europe
CIS/FSU
Russia
Armenia
East Asia
China
Japan
South Korea
Middle East
Egypt
Israel
Lebanon
Syria
B.D. In the Press
Archives
Categories
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS RDF

G2E

Powered by