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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Friday, 26 August 2005

Topic: Selling the War

End of the Week: No Agreement in Iraq, Dissatisfaction on the Home Front, and No One Doing Much

From the New York Times we get this:
Talks over the Iraqi constitution reached a breaking point on Thursday, with a parliamentary session to present the document being canceled and President Bush personally calling one of the country's most powerful Shiite leaders in an effort to broker a last-minute deal.

Mr. Bush intervened when some senior Shiite leaders said they had decided to bypass their Sunni counterparts, as well as Iraqi lawmakers, and send the document directly to Iraqi voters for their approval.
From the Associated Press we get this:
[Shiite negotiator Ali] Al-Adeeb said Bush personally telephoned Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and asked him to make compromises on parts of the consitution that would purge former members of Saddam's Sunni-dominated Baath Party from government jobs and political life and on federalism, which the Sunnis strongly oppose.

A second Shiite negotiator also confirmed the Bush call but asked that his name not be published.

Al-Adeeb said al-Hakim told the president that the Shiite bloc was made up of several groups "and they might reject the constitution if the article on the Baath Party is removed.''
The AP follow-up: "The White House confirmed that Bush made the call prior to the midnight Thursday deadline."

Juan Cole: the president bas been "reduced to pleading with a pro-Iranian cleric to please make nice with the ex-Baathists. And he isn't even succeeding in the plea!"

Typical comment from a critic here:
You can bet he wasn't expecting this when he strutted across that aircraft carrier two years ago - or even last year, when Karl Rove had him entering campaign rallies last year accompanied by the theme from "Top Gun."

On the flip side, though, can you imagine the high-fives that were being exchanged in SCIRI headquarters after the call? Al-Hakim will be dining out for years on the story: "So the U.S. president said, 'Please, Mr. Hakim, can you help us?' And I said, "Ahh, I don't know, Mr. President, I'll have to give it some thought..."
This isn't going anywhere.

The poll numbers are tanking. The president's approval ratings are somewhere between thirty-six and forty percent, depending on the poll, with disapproval running about fifty-six percent.

A bad week.

Here's a literary comparison from Michael Signer: Death of a Salesman, 2005.

After a rundown of the situation, this -
Most of the problems about America's situation in Iraq can be traced back not to faults in intelligence, to the Bush's failure at international diplomacy, or to internal disputes in Iraq. They're instead rooted in an earlier, domestic catastrophe: the Bush Administration's failure to convince the American people of the moral rightness of invading Iraq.

It's August, so it's worth remembering this is the month that Andy Card said was, "from a marketing point of view," a bad time to introduce new products.

If they know so much, why was the Bush Administration so bad at selling us this product?

Americans are willing to suffer great numbers of casualties when they believe there's a cause that, morally, rises to the level of mass sacrifice. Osama bin Laden famously said America in Somalia was "paper tiger" that "after a few blows ran in defeat." This belief underlies the ferocity of Al Qaeda's attacks.

The American people want to be convinced by their leaders that they should summon collective moral passion for a military engagement. We tend to approach casualties in a binary fashion -- either they are good (and worth dying for) or not (and worth protesting against -- by the way, Cindy Sheehan is back).
If you click on the item there are embedded links that document all that. And Signer notes that although the casualty level is low compared to the Civil War and the two world wars, although at about Vietnam War levels, he says this:
... unlike many other countries who routinely support grandly bloody conflicts almost as a matter of national culture, Americans apply a high moral standard to casualties: we will not tolerate casualties if they're the result of a conflict in the morally gray area between - which explains why we are convulsing over fewer than 2,000 casualties in Iraq.

Moreover, American constitution-making and nation-building only works when Americans are solidly behind the efforts. Americans fall behind these efforts when they are convinced of their moral rightness. We were more than willing to plow billions of dollars into the Marshall Plan, and to rebuild Germany and Japan, because we were fully convinced of the moral rightness of the missions.

The Bush Administration sold the American people on this war in a hurried, political-blunderbuss sort of way. They worked through politicians first, rather than going to the people. They staged the first vote in Congress a mere three weeks before the 2002 Congressional elections, meaning that the votes (and the "deliberation" that went before them) were shot through with intensely political calculation.

The Administration could have gained more public support for military action in Iraq by focusing less on WMD and more on the stories of Saddam's brutalization of Iraqis, and the fact that his hostile posture threatened our post-9/11 pax Americana.

But, alas, they didn't. They jammed a conclusory war down Congress's throats and presented the package to the American people (the ultimate arbiters) as a done deal.
Singer say we actually were willing to accept this war on faith, but we never really had "that burning, moral passion that has undergirded our greatest military campaigns; the absence of which has gradually corroded our weakest ones (Vietnam, Korea, smaller engagements like Panama, and, now, Iraq)."

Undergirded? Whatever. You see the point. We're losing faith. It been going on for a long time now.

What we face now?
1) A successful Iraq constitution could well take many years of patient cultivation. In America (which was far more stable and internally cohesive), we took ten years. And each of our states (like Iraq's regions) developed their own constitutions in the meantime. But the Bush Administration can't be that patient in Iraq because they need to have a deadline, because they want to get out, because they failed to sell the American people, morally, on the war.

2) To truly establish rule-of-law in Iraq, and stamp out rebellion, would require large numbers of troops, perhaps gained through a draft. Americans have supported drafts before, especially where we've had moral passion for the engagement. But the Bush Administration would never consider a draft, because they failed to sell the American people, morally, on the war

3) To truly win in Iraq (rather than leave behind a fragmented and faltering country) we might well have to suffer more casualties, in the 10,000-or-more range, over the next few years. The American people would certainly grant that sacrifice, if they were behind the war. But the Bush Administration is panicking, because they failed to sell the American people, morally, on the war.
You see where this is going.

Thursday the 25th Jon Stewart had as is guest on "The Daily Show" the facile and experienced, well-traveled and hyper- knowledgeable, and staunchly pro-war Christopher Hitchens as his guest, which was odd. You might note this exchange -
Stewart: But there are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves...

They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence...

Hitchens: I'm sorry, sunshine... I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn't give...

Stewart: No, you misunderstood why. That's not why I ridiculed the president. He refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults, and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points, that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince."
You can watch the whole thing here - Stewart dismantled him. No pleasantries at the end. Hitchens' comment as the walked off the set? "It's been real."

Actuality it was. This just isn't working. But only the comics can say that - and Cindy Sheehan, who is, of course, a flawed messenger. And Chuck Hegel, a Republican with lots of medals from when he fought in Vietnam. No Democrat would dare.

See this from Fafblog:
Fafblog Interviews: THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

FAFBLOG: So what's up, Democrats?

JOE BIDEN: What's up is the war in Iraq, which is terribly mismanaged, Fafnir.

FB: Oh wow! Are you guys against the war, too?

JOE LIEBERMAN: Oh no, we're not AGAINST the war!
HARRY REID: We're all FOR it!
BIDEN: It's the best worst idea in the world, and we're gonna run with it to victory!
HILLARY CLINTON: Watch me eat a bug!

FB: So we can actually win the war! That's great news!

LIEBERMAN: Yes!
REID: Sort of!
BIDEN: Maybe!
CLINTON: I can wrestle a buffalo!

FB: I'm confused.

REID: The problem is troop levels, Fafnir. The US invaded without enough boots on the ground!
LIEBERMAN: Just another couple hundred thousand soldiers on the ground and hey, we should have this thing wrapped up in no time!
BIDEN: Just like I told George Bush all along! I told him in the Oval Office, "You're gonna go in without enough troops and you're not gonna plan for the occupation and it's gonna be the biggest mistake of your presidency and I'm gonna vote for it!"

FB: Wow, that all seems so prescient.

BIDEN: And then Batman jumped in through the window and said "Senator, the Justice League needs you right away!" and I said "Shut up and move, rich boy, we've got a moon to save!"
CLINTON: I have eaten the heart of a gorilla!

FB: So how come you guys voted for the war if the president was gonna screw it up?

REID: We were misled!
LIEBERMAN: We were deceived!
BIDEN: We were given the impression that the war was actually a match of bareknuckle fisticuffs between a mustachioed Brooklyn brawler and a plucky midget Irishman!
CLINTON: Wanna see me punch out a yak? 'Cause I will!

FB: Will the lies never end. But where will we get the troops from now, Democratic Party? Aren't we runnin out of em?

REID: We've used up plenty of REAL troops, sure, but what about FAKE troops? Why isn't the military pounding the streets looking to recruit new mannequins, crash-test dummies and hand puppets?
LIEBERMAN: Our nation's rich supply of blow-up dolls has barely begun to be explored for national security purposes.
BIDEN: To say nothing of our nation's patriotic trained seal and dolphin population! When will the Pentagon deploy the 101st Fighting Shamu Brigade?
CLINTON: I can tear a boulder in half with my teeth!

FB: Yknow you're right! An that's not even countin what our friends in the fungus kingdom could do.

LIEBERMAN: And you know, Fafnir, if we could train the Iraqi forces to replace our forces more efficiently, we could end the occupation that much faster.

FB: That's such a great idea I can't believe nobody's thought of it before! How do we do that?

REID: Voodoo!
LIEBERMAN: Santeria!
BIDEN: Giant samurai robots piloted by magical fairy children!
CLINTON: If elected I promise to rampage through New York City and swat biplanes from the top of the Empire State Building until my grisly and untimely demise!

FB: Now I like everything I've heard so far today but for some crazy reason most Americans think we should just start pullin our troops OUT of Iraq. Are most Americans crazy?

REID: They're not crazy, Fafnir.
LIEBERMAN: They're just weak, willing to expose America's flabby underbelly to the curved scimitars of a thousand swarthy terrorists.
BIDEN: We can't blink, man! That'd be like... like losing an arm-wrestle to Allah or something! Game over, man! Then they know we're pussies!
CLINTON: I will go back in time and become Richard Nixon and lose the Vietnam War twice as hard as anybody!

FB: Yknow you guys got tons a great ideas but you won't be able to do anything with em unless you win some elections again. How're you gonna do that?

REID: By listening carefully to the American people, and then ignoring them.
LIEBERMAN: By forcefully arguing against the direction George Bush is taking this country!
BIDEN: Just before we vote for it again. ...
Not too far off the mark.

So the one or two maverick Republicans, a few comics, and the ordinary folks, a majority now, those fed up with this all - but not anyone from the "opposition party" - are the ones left to fix this?

Seems so.

Posted by Alan at 21:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005 21:50 PDT home

Thursday, 25 August 2005

Topic: Selling the War

Flypaper: Some Conceptual and Practical and Moral Issues

Gregory Djerejian in London is the vice-president and general counsel of a financial services company that specializes in commercial real estate projects, alternative investments, and company acquisitions. So? He also helps manage a philanthropic organization that has supported a number of projects in the Republic of Armenia including a loan program for small and medium sized enterprises undertaken in conjunction with the Washington-based Eurasia Foundation. Before that he was a corporate lawyer in New York. He also worked with our State Department in Bosnia, and had worked at the US Mission to the United Nations and with the congress. His full bio is here, and he publishes The Belgravia Dispatch. He brings an interesting perspective to things, and doesn't rant, and doesn't wear the conspiracy tin-foil hat you find so often on the web. And by the way, Belgravia is the neighborhood in London where you find all the embassies - as you recall from the Sherlock Holmes stories. That's where this fellow lives.

Thursday, August 25, you will find on the site an item that considers the "flypaper theory" of why we have to fight on in Iraq at the same level, if not at some increased level. The theory has its problems - call them logic problems - and they interest me because I have heard this justification for what we're doing in Iraq from any number of those I know now posted there, and from their friends and relatives.

The theory, in the president's words -
Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy. They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail.
We all have heard that repeated by those who want to explain how things really are to those "others" - who think the Iraq operations were and are a diversion from the main task at hand, and make us no safer, and squandered our resources. The idea posited is that this Iraq business is a clever way of creating a new front in the larger war, a contained area where we lure the bad guys and take care of them - Iraq as flypaper to trap them, if you will.

Put aside the problem that this explanation appeared late in the justifications for the war, after the WMD business fell apart and nothing could be established connecting the regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks of September 11, 2001 - it came much later, along with the idea we were there to establish an Jeffersonian democracy with full rights for all, including women, and with a deregulated free-market capitalistic-entrepreneurial economy. That too is now in question as we see a budding Islamic theocracy is quite possible, with its implicit repressions, and the arguments over the new constitution drag on.

Why we have to fight on in Iraq at the same level - why we have to "stay the course" - has now devolved into two contentions - all we have left for justification.

One is the flypaper concept, and the other - ''the way to honor American troops killed in Iraq is to complete their mission and bring freedom to the region.'' If we change course now we dishonor those who have died.

As mention previously, this second idea is why so many are now angry. The idea is now floating around that someone betrayed those almost two thousand good people - and they are dead. And they are dead for no good reason. That is, in some minds, criminal - unless there is a clear explanation of why their deaths were necessary. More and more Americans just don't get it. Allowing more to die makes no sense to them. It doesn't address the issue of what the first two thousand died for.

Putting aside the we-sacrificed-so-many-so-we-have-to-continue-simply-to-make-those-initial-deaths-meaningful argument, there's this flypaper business.

That is what is examined in The Flypaper Fallacy: 10 Reasons Not To Believe the Hype in The Belgravia Dispatch.

Here, Gregory Djerejian explains "the main reason I supported Bush's re-election was because I felt he wouldn't precipitously draw-down from Iraq like Kerry all but declared he would" - but he is troubled. Partly it's that he senses Americans "are smelling out something rather simple" - we are not successfully achieving our strategic objectives in Iraq, which he identifies as the "creation of a viable unitary and democratic state." He cites "dismally poor post-war planning run out of the Pentagon."

But there is this:
That is not to say we are condemned to fail. Far from it. Let's recall some basics. George Bush unseated perhaps the cruelest, most odious leader on the world stage in ridding Iraq of Saddam. Some 8 million Iraqis braved fascistic violence to come out and vote last January. Zal Khalizad is making a yeoman's effort in cobbling together a workable compromise on a constitution that could, just perhaps, help breathe new life into forging a unitary, democratic Iraq -ideally striking a deft balance between central authority (which is critical so as to avoid the specter of ethnic cleansing and the concomitant imperiling of minority rights) and some degree of federalism (Shia, especially in the south, and the Kurds, of course, will demand it). And, to Bush's credit, despite the increasingly loud calls from various quarters, he appears (I say appears as we hear too much of troop draw-downs from points Pentagon) to be continuing to stand up with the Iraqi people during this hugely arduous process.
But there are problems.

What problems? Try this - after more than two years after "the end of major combat operations" you have the daily attacks right in the middle of Baghdad, in broad daylight.

And this list -
- "Towns abutting the Euphrates in Anbar Province are once again becoming insurgent sanctuaries."

- "Largely unregulated Kurdish militias more or less rule the north with impunity, and they are said to be detaining extra-judicially myriad Arabs in detention centers."

- "Strategically critical towns like Kirkuk remain potential tinder-boxes."

- "There is a possible intra-Shi'a schism brewing, and Moktada al-Sadr looks set to start causing trouble again, though he continues to step back from the precipice as is his wont."

- "And while the constitution might yet be agreed, it is unclear what, if any, real impact its passage would have on both on the insurgency and your typical Iraqi on the street, worried more about security and, also, bread and butter related issues like jobs and the state of reconstruction efforts (unemployment is sky-high and reconstruction continues to seriously lag)."
Other than that? Things are fine.

Of course we are getting tired of "the easy, stump lines, especially when they've been repeated over and over and over for several years now" - "I understand freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is an Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world." -
You know, I don't really care anymore, if I ever did, whether freedom is God's gift or the US's gift or France's gift or God knows whose gift "to the world." But I do know 'freedom' is not exactly flowering in Iraq, and so hasn't quite arrived as yet, which while eminently understandable given how massive an enterprise securing freedom there entails, nevertheless leaves us with the nagging problem of whether we have a persuasive 'success strategy' to achieve said freedom there - whether via the work of some benevolent omnipotent deity or, more realistically, the brass-tacks, hard work achieved via the expenditure of the blood and treasure of a great nation.
It was the gift of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, by the way. But putting aside the great gifts of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, what about this flypaper business?

We learn there was just no mention of it before the war - it's a post-war explanation of why we did this - "a convenient theory first cooked up by a David Warren many moons ago." You cannot find any "unambiguous administration statement before the war in Iraq specifically stating that the precise policy goal, strategic objective, and principal rationale for war in Iraq was to fight terrorists 'over there' so they wouldn't come 'over here.'" Djerejian did his homework. Nothing.

The Warren statement is here:
The US occupation of Iraq has done more to destabilize Iran than the ayatollahs could hope to do in Iraq; and then something. This "something" has befuddled the various "experts" on regional security, trapped within their Pavlovian assumptions. They notice that the U.S. forces in Iraq have become a new magnet for regional terrorist activity. They assume this demonstrates the foolishness of President Bush's decision to invade.

It more likely demonstrates the opposite. While engaged in the very difficult business of building a democracy in Iraq - the first democracy, should it succeed, in the entire history of the Arabs - President Bush has also, quite consciously to my information, created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther away from the United States itself. By the very act of proving this lower ground, he drains terrorist resources from other swamps.

This is the meaning of Mr. Bush's "bring 'em on" taunt from the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday, when he was quizzed about the "growing threat to U.S. forces" on the ground in Iraq. It should have been obvious that no US President actually relishes having his soldiers take casualties. What the media, and US Democrats affect not to grasp, is that the soldiers are now replacing targets that otherwise would be provided by defenseless civilians, both in Iraq and at large. The sore thumb of the U.S. occupation - and it is a sore thumb equally to Baathists and Islamists, compelling their response - is not a mistake. It is carefully hung flypaper.
Ah, so THAT'S why he said "bring 'em on" - all part of the plan!

The problems with that, as Djerejian sees it?
1) It's assumes a finite number of jihadis willing to die.

2) Indeed, and related to 1, it ignores that Iraq may be creating more jihadists - not all of whom are rushing to Damascus en route to parts Anbar.

3) It further ignores the fact that some jihadists, terrorists and fundamentalist radicals are gaining valuable experience in terror tactics in Iraq, as CIA reports have indicated, and then heading back out of country to theaters like Europe to pursue attacks there.

4) Flypaper, of course, also ignores dozens of terror attacks outside of Iraq since the advent of hostilities there in early 2003, witness (and this is not a comprehensive tally): [click on the link for items (a) through (mm)] - Bottom line, people: The "carefully hung" flypaper is K-mart quality, I guess, cuz it's not working too well...

5) As serious observers of international terrorist organizations well realize, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, PFLP-GC, DFLP, Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, Chechen separatists (and quite a few other groups besides) are not rushing their forces into Iraq to fight the American Satan near the Green Zone or in Anbar Province - as they've got their own battles to wage.

6) It follows, of course, that Warren's argument that flypaper acts to protect Israel is risible (leaving aside, of course, why American policymakers should be hugely pre-occupied with creating "a good, solid, American excuse, from which Israel has been extracted" (Warren's words) as the very center of a war strategy ostensibly, one would think, primarily concerned with the U.S. national interest, rather than any other countries--yes even including close and important allies).

7) UBL and his henchmen know full well that a mega-terror attack on the scale of 9/11 in a London, New York or Los Angeles would have a hugely larger impact than dozens felled in the latest car bombing of a Shi's shrine near Karbala. You can hang the flytrap from Casablanca to Jakarta and al-Qaeda operatives will still be trying to hit major Western metropolises. Bank on it, as they well see how the intense media coverage of a half-assed 7/7 operation compares to that of terror attacks that kill two or three times as many in Iraq with some routineness. They are still coming after us, and they are not all in Iraq. Not by a long shot. This is because they realize hitting us in our towns and cities smarts much, much more, and also because people trained for operations in Western cities might not be the best kind of jihadis to send to the banks of the Euphrates.

8) Dare I even raise it, as so few seem to give a shit, the moral angle - [see below]

9) [What if] Flypaper is really happening. It's true! Iraq is jihadi central, big time, and they are pouring in in massive numbers. And what if, just, we lose Iraq, with more and more Iraqis radicalized (or cowed by insurgents and/or militias) because we have failed to provide security there because of said influx? Then what?

10) A final problem with flypaper. It's a lie, and it will fly back and smack the President hard in the face when the inevitable next terror attack occurs in the U.S. Those listening and relying and believing his stump speech, credulous people in the heartland, who really think 'we are fighting them there so we don't need to here' - well, they will feel profoundly deceived. That's not good when you are already languishing at 40% in the polls.
That'll do.

So what's the moral issue? A self-identified arch-conservative explains, just after the July 7 London bombings, here:
... has anyone thought about why we're justified in using another nation as flypaper in the first place, even if it was a viable, effective strategy? What gives us the right to use a sovereign nation as a catch basin for carnage so we can go on blissfully consuming and merrily flipping real estate here? Instead of flypaper, this should be called the "Night of the Living Dead Nation" strategy - using the undead, zombie-like carcass of a failed state for our own benefit. Beyond the sheer selfish immorality of it, has anyone thought about the potential for blowback? How would you feel if we were invaded by the Chinese on a false pretense, and they stated openly that their strategy was to attract and fight the scum of the earth in the streets of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago so they did not have to fight in Beijing?
Good question! And curiously, are we seeing the blowback right now on the streets of Baghdad?

This is the first time I've seen this argument, and can you imagine a reporter asking the president, at one of those infrequent press conferences, "Sir, what gives us the right to use what remains of Iraq as our catch basin for the scum of the earth, so we don't have to be bothered with them here? Is that fair to them?"

That won't be asked. But it would be cool.

Djerejian ends with this:
Look, we don't need to make fake arguments about why we are in Iraq. We went in because Saddam was a uniquely dangerous individual whom was commonly believed to be in possession of WMD. In a post 9/11 world, caution demanded that the burden of proof that he had disarmed be on him. He never convincingly showed the world his regime didn't possess WMD, and Bush acted pursuant to various UN resolutions to bring him to task. But we were wrong, and he didn't have WMD, yet History had marched on by then. In turn, of course, the goal was not to disarm the regime, in the main, but now to create a democratic Iraq. We are flailing, currently, in achieving this goal. And, if we fail, the ramifications will be immense. A splintering of Iraq could lead to interventions in that country by Saudi Arabia, by Iran, by Turkey. Ethnic cleansing within the country is a real possibility even if neighbors don't stir up too much trouble. Terror havens may take root in a prospective Sunni para-state.

Thus the critical need for honesty and serious thinking and fortitude. The stakes are immense. Failure is not an option. And the chances of success will be bolstered if we have a President who appears, not a broken record spouting bromides about 'staying the course', or 'fighting them there so we don't fight 'em here' or 'god's gift of freedom' - but who is instead spelling out a convincing war strategy to win this conflict. What do I want to hear? Well, it's more what I don't want to hear.

... unfortunately, the President is not explaining the stakes or the duration of this war frankly to the American people. Nor are his key surrogates. His Vice President said the insurgency was in its "last throes", and then his Secretary of Defense said insurgencies typically last 12 years. One report says troop-rotation planning is underway for 100,000 troops in theater for four more years, another says troops out by end '06. Is it little wonder the American public is confused? We need clarity and leadership Mr. President. And you are not providing it in requisite fashion at this juncture, in my view, and I say this as a prior and current supporter of this administration. Step up to bat and talk Texan plain and simple - but the real deal - not spin and empty bromides. The time is now.
Funny thing - that is, in a way, just what Cindy Sheehan has been saying.

Posted by Alan at 20:22 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005 20:37 PDT home

Monday, 15 August 2005

Topic: Selling the War

What's gone wrong with the narrative?

If Sunday, August 14, was the day The Day the Wheels Fell Off, with Frank Rich in The New York Times saying that, for all intents and purposes, the war is over, except the president doesn't seem to realize it, and the same day Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer in The Washington Post reporting that key people in the administration are admitting we're just not going to get what we fought for, a democracy in Iraq - it seems the best we can hope for is some form of Islamic republic - then Monday was the day things might have been better. The first two major rationales didn't pan out - WMD and ties to al Qaeda - so maybe...

Monday, August 15, 2005 was the deadline for the draft of the new Iraqi constitution. That didn't happen. No WMD, no ties to al Qaeda - so this wasn't war to keep us safe from those - and now this. Democracy, that's the ticket! So we won't get a western-style one – no matter - but now they cannot even decide on the kind of Islamic republic they want to have.

Iraq constitution drafters get extension
Parliament grants seven more days to complete draft; Bush, Rice hail effort
MSNBC News Services, Updated: 6:42 p.m. ET Aug. 15, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's parliament agreed to a seven-day extension for leaders to complete a draft constitution after politicians failed to reach a midnight Monday deadline to agree on the charter. The White House, apparently resigned to the delay, hailed the constitution as "the most important document in the history of the new Iraq" and reinforced the completion procedure as "an Iraqi process."

Parliament adjourned after voting to extend the deadline until Aug. 22, acting on a request from Kurdish leaders for more time.

Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish framers of the charter had reached a tentative deal late Monday, agreeing on issues ranging from oil revenues to the country's name but putting off decision on the most contentious questions - including women's rights, the role of Islam and possible Kurdish autonomy.

Efforts to meet the Aug. 15 deadline showed how determined Iraqis are to maintain political momentum under intense U.S. pressure, but their failure to agree was a clear sign that their sharp political divisions are far from over.
Ah, there are difficulties. Maybe they'll work out something or other.

The best rundown of what those difficulties are is from Juan Cole, the professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan, here.

In short? Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani dislikes the idea of a confederation, which would seriously weaken the central government and might pave the way for a break-up of the country. The major advocates of a loose federalism plus provincial confederation are SCIRI and its paramilitary offshoot, the Badr Organization, and they're unhappy. The Kurds have a three-province confederation, which even has its own legislature (Scotland?), and have demanded that it be expanded (adding parts of three other provinces) - and they've also demanded that some proportion of petroleum receipts from Kirkuk in the north stay in the Kurdish confederation. The Shiite south has a bigger and younger field, the Rumaila oil field, and a Shiite confederation of provinces would benefit if they could keep a proportion of the petroleum receipts locally rather than having them go to Baghdad. The Sunni Arabs at the moment have no petroleum fields, so they do not like this system and are making a stand against it. Add to that the Shiites also want a provision in the constitution that no statute may be passed by the federal legislature that is contrary to Islamic law (shariah). The Kurds reject this provision absolutely. And should the prime minister or president actually appoint the provincial governors, who are not elected by the people? That's a regional thing, and how things work in Egypt, for example. And of course the Shiites are moving closer to Iran, and Bush says over the weekend that he could take military action against Iran over its nuclear program - in an interview broadcast in Iraq from Israel. That's what Cole says.

Yipes!

Can this be fixed, even with an additional week of negotiations?

I asked my nephew, Major Cook, in Baghdad - West Point '90, previously posted to Mosul, fluent in Turkish (there was that year's posting in Istanbul and now he knows more about Kurdish matters than anyone I know) - and got this back:
Fixed? Whew, pretty ambiguous - so I think we should use the words "made to work." In actuality, many Iraqis are embracing democracy, but it is old-school lovers of Islamic Law (Sheriat) like SCIRI that continue to drive a wedge between religious factions that keep this country apart. Truth be known, not all will like the constitution, but they all will get a chance to vote on it. That will be the democracy of it - and if "No" is the vote on the constitution, then the December vote will not be to elect the lasting National Body but another temporary government to build yet another constitution. Regardless, the US Military is not in the politics business. It is our job to provide a secure environment to allow the process to continue. But, in the end, I think it will be "made to work" - and if SCIRI doesn't come to the table to facilitate a solution, then the Iraqi people may vote around them, though that is unlikely. But, heck, that is democracy, and I like to see it.
Fair enough. The military secures the environment for the "nation building" to begin, but they don't do the building. Of course that has been a tough go, but Brian and his like are doing their best to make it possible. And the Iraqis will build - what, exactly?

That is not a question for the military. It is not a tactical or operational question. It is a question of strategy, the geopolitical kind. The civilian leadership, the administration we elect, works those questions.

Comments here and there on Monday?

Eric Alterman asks What do we have here? He pulls this quote from the Sunday Post item:
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
He says this:
Yeah well, you know what's coming next; tens of thousands dead; more than that wounded; hundreds of billions wasted; the hatred of the world; the creation of countless terrorists and torture victims, the destruction of a nation; and the dishonoring of the leadership of the United States of America. All in the service of something that "was never realistic," an "unreality" that was sold to us by a dishonest, fanatical group of ideologues and their cheerleaders in the so-called liberal media.

What's is perhaps most galling about this is the fact that if you tried to warn your fellow citizens against just this likelihood three years ago when it was still preventable, you were part of some decadent, fifth-columnist coastal elite that hated America, while the chest beating patriots were the ones who drained this nation of its blood and treasure is the service of their own lethal combination of ignorance, arrogance, and ideological obsession. Onward Christian Soldiers.
Jerry Bowles says this:
No WMDs, no al Qaeda link, no Iraq oil boom, and now, insult to injury, no democracy. A secular country with relative freedom for women is about to become an Islamic Republic and breeding ground for future terrorists.
Yes, so it would seem. But if is what they choose?

Somehow, in a geopolitical way, this is not what we intended.

But that is what we were sold.

Harold Meyerson covers the press side of sales job in this item in the upcoming edition of Prospect (issue date September 10).

This was a war of choice - a preemptive war (or preventative or prophylactic war, if you will) - and it needed promotion.
A war like the Iraq War, whose public support before the idea was seriously discussed started out well below 50 percent, needs to be sold - "marketed," as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card once put it - needs, well, marketers.

And, in the information age, an administration can't, and doesn't, market alone. It takes an army of salespeople - it takes a village, you might say - to accentuate the positive. And when an administration spreads demonstrable lies and falsehoods, or offers "evidence" that can't be wholly refuted but for which there is nevertheless no existing proof, it takes that same army to stand up and say: "Yes! These assertions are true! Those who deny them are unpatriotic, or simpletons, or both!" And finally, when the war goes terribly, terribly wrong, that same army is called to the ramparts one last time, to say, in a fashion that approaches Soviet-style devotion: "Things are in fact going well! The insurgency is dying! Abu Ghraib is not a scandal! Saddam Hussein did have ties to al-Qaeda; you just don't know it yet!" And so on.

For its war in Iraq, the Bush administration relied on and benefited from the cheerleading of a group of pundits and public intellectuals who, at every crucial moment, subordinated the facts on the ground to their own ideological preferences and those of their allies within the administration. They refused to hold the administration's conduct of the war and the occupation to the ideals that they themselves professed, or simply to the standard of common sense. They abdicated their responsibilities as political intellectuals - and, more elementally, as reliable empiricists.
And so they did.

He singles out William Kristol, working on promoting the war since 1998 - getting rid of Saddam Hussein should be the central goal of our foreign policy. Then came 9/11 and a month later you get this on NPR's Talk of the Nations: "We know that over the last three or four weeks, he has moved many of his chemical and biological weapons programs in preparation for possible U.S. attacks." Yeah, yeah. On November 19, 2001, he and Robert Kagan wrote: "Iraq is the only nation in the world, other than the United States and Russia, to have developed the kind of sophisticated anthrax that appeared in the letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. What will it take for the FBI and the CIA to start connecting the dots here? A signed confession from Saddam?" Right. April 2003 on NPR again: "There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America - that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all." And so on and so forth...

Charles Krauthammer (Time and the Washington Post)?

In the spring of 2003, with Secretary of State Colin Powell was trying to slow things down at bit - remember the Pottery Barn Rule business? - Krauthammer: "No more dithering. Why does the president, who is pledged to disarming Hussein one way or the other, allow Powell even to discuss a scheme that is guaranteed to leave Saddam Hussein's weapons in place?" And Meyerson points out that when the interim government of Iyad Allawi was about to come into office, Krauthammer said this on Fox News - "It's the beginning of the end of the bad news. I mean, we're going to have lots of attacks, but the political process is under way." On Abu Ghraib? "A huge overreaction. Nobody was killed. Nobody was maimed." Well, some were.

Victor Davis Hanson, the classics professor and intellectual of the neoconservative right?

"In the same way as the death of Hitler ended the Nazi Party and the ruin of the Third Reich finished the advance of fascist power in Europe, so the defeat of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi dictatorship will erode both clandestine support for terrorism and murderous tyranny well beyond Iraq." Tell the fifty-plus dead in London, Victor. Why would things be all better when we captured Saddam Hussein? "The Romans realized this and thus understood that Gallic liberation, Numidian resistance, or Hellenic nationalism would melt away when a Vercingetorix, Jugurtha, or Mithradites all were collared, dead, or allowed suicide." It seems history doesn't repeat itself.

Meyerson call Thomas Friedman of the New York Times an enabler. Christopher Hitchens? Trotsky in Baghdad. Read the whole thing, if you want to see who was cheering.

Well, the weekend had one right-side guy changing his tune. That would be Armstrong Williams over at Townhall, where they post this bio of him:
Called "one of the most recognized conservative voices in America" by The Washington Post, Armstrong Williams is a pugnacious, provocative and principled voice for conservative and Christian values in America's public debate.

An entrepreneur and third-generation Republican, Williams has become a multi-media wonder, taking stands for what's right on radio and television, in print and cyberspace. Focusing on issues such as the work ethic, personal responsibility, welfare reform, affirmative action, and especially the restoration of morality in today's society, he brings an independent view with a refreshing twist to the central issues of our day.
Monday's refreshing twist - Armstrong Williams suddenly says, Time to Get Out of Iraq:
We cannot win this kind of war of attrition. US soldiers are dying at a rate of one per day. Meanwhile the rest of the world is having trouble supporting the United States. You cannot lead in a global democracy, if people do not trust you. It is undeniable that we went about this in a very flawed manner. We need to admit that. We cannot solve the problem of terrorism by asserting our will on the world. Meanwhile, the deterioration of Iraq continues, serving as a sad reminder of the failed promise of this mission, and the need to pull out.
Oh my! In the compendium of conservatism, Townhall?

Maybe it's time to slap people back in line, as in this:

Bush slaps down top general after he calls for troops to be pulled out of Iraq
Philip Sherwell, The Telegraph, Sunday, August 14, 2005
The top American commander in Iraq has been privately rebuked by the Bush administration for openly discussing plans to reduce troop levels there next year, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

President George W Bush personally intervened last week to play down as "speculation" all talk of troop pull-outs because he fears that even discussing options for an "exit strategy" implies weakening resolve.

Gen George Casey, the US ground commander in Iraq, was given his dressing-down after he briefed that troop levels - now 138,000 - could be reduced by 30,000 in the early months of next year as Iraqi security forces take on a greater role. ...
He said the wrong thing. Seems to be a trend.

Note this from USA Today - the Ohio Marine reserve regiment with the nineteen combat deaths earlier this month had repeatedly requested as many as 1,000 additional troops to help defend the area of western Iraq they were covering.
Regimental Combat Team 2 began asking for additional troops to police its volatile 24,000-square-mile territory before most of its Marines deployed in February, said operations officer Lt. Col. Christopher Starling, 39, of Jacksonville, N.C.

Starling said the unit could "optimally" use one more battalion, about 1,000 troops, to take some of the pressure off the Reserve unit, which is spearheading an offensive in the region. "With a fourth battalion, I wouldn't have to play pick-up ball," Starling said.

The requests for additional forces were passed to higher headquarters in nearby Ramadi; it is unclear whether they went beyond that level, Starling said.

14 of the regiment's troops were killed in a single incident when an enormous roadside bomb destroyed their amphibious assault vehicle, and another five were killed in firefights.

Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita responded to the USA Today story by saying he doesn't doubt that "every colonel wishes he had more in his area, but the decisions about how troops are (deployed) are made by the commanders above them."
Rumsfeld often says that if those commanders requested more troops, they'd get them. There are no more.

But things are fine.

As in this...

The "Marine of the Year" as named in the Marine Corps Times (citation here) is being charged with attempted murder. It seems he "fired a shotgun from his apartment window at a group of revelers outside a nightclub." Previously? He prepared soldiers for open-casket funerals while serving as a military mortician in Iraq.

Folks are edgy.

How did we get in this mess? There's word going around that John Bolton visited Judith Miller in Jail this weekend. See this: "Steve Clemons has verified that John Bolton was one of Judith Miller's regular sources on WMD issues, and that MSNBC stands by its story that Bolton gave testimony to the grand jury about the State Department memo in question. Bolton, you may recall, has previously been identified to have been involved in the Niger uranium claims that Wilson's trip helped disprove ..."

What were they talking about? What's gone wrong with the narrative?

And that woman down in Texas - Cindy Sheehan - is still a bother. She's screwing up the narrative too.

Christopher Hitchens tries to take care of that.

Cindy Sheehan's Sinister Piffle
What's wrong with her Crawford protest.
Christopher Hitchens - Posted Monday, Aug. 15, 2005, at 11:50 AM PT - SLATE.COM

No one uses the word "piffle" much these days. Pity. It's a good word.

Note this:
I dare say that her "moral authority" to do this is indeed absolute, if we agree for a moment on the weird idea that moral authority is required to adopt overtly political positions, but then so is my "moral" right to say that she is spouting sinister piffle. Suppose I had lost a child in this war. Would any of my critics say that this gave me any extra authority? I certainly would not ask or expect them to do so. Why, then, should anyone grant them such a privilege?
And this:
What dreary sentimental nonsense this all is, and how much space has been wasted on it. Most irritating is the snide idea that the president is "on vacation" and thus idly ignoring his suffering subjects, when the truth is that the members of the media - not known for their immunity to the charm of Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod in the month of August - are themselves lazing away the season with a soft-centered nonstory that practically, as we like to say in the trade, "writes itself." Anyway, Sheehan now says that if need be she will "follow" the president "to Washington," so I don't think the holiday sneer has much life left in it.
And this:
There are, in fact, some principles involved here. Any citizen has the right to petition the president for redress of grievance, or for that matter to insult him to his face. But the potential number of such people is very large, and you don't have the right to cut in line by having so much free time that you can set up camp near his drive. Then there is the question of civilian control over the military, which is an authority that one could indeed say should be absolute. The military and its relatives have no extra claim on the chief executive's ear. Indeed, it might be said that they have less claim than the rest of us, since they have voluntarily sworn an oath to obey and carry out orders. Most presidents in time of war have made an exception in the case of the bereaved -Lincoln's letter to the mother of two dead Union soldiers (at the time, it was thought that she had lost five sons) is a famous instance -but the job there is one of comfort and reassurance, and this has already been discharged in the Sheehan case. If that stricken mother had been given an audience and had risen up to say that Lincoln had broken his past election pledges and sought a wider and more violent war with the Confederacy, his aides would have been quite right to show her the door and to tell her that she was out of order.

Finally, I think one must deny to anyone the right to ventriloquize the dead. Casey Sheehan joined up as a responsible adult volunteer. Are we so sure that he would have wanted to see his mother acquiring "a knack for P.R." and announcing that he was killed in a war for a Jewish cabal? This is just as objectionable, on logical as well as moral grounds, as the old pro-war argument that the dead "must not have died in vain." I distrust anyone who claims to speak for the fallen, and I distrust even more the hysterical noncombatants who exploit the grief of those who have to bury them.
For the record, Cindy Sheehan did not claim he son was killed in a war for a Jewish cabal. That would be David Duke, the former KKK fellow of the far right.

This demonstration, or whatever it is in Texas, may be "dreary sentimental nonsense" - and even some of us on the left are just tired of it - but is a small matter in a larger drama. Hitchens may wish to scoff at her and erase the problem with hyper-literate scorn. If there is a larger drama, this is only, now, a compelling subplot. Hitchens is slick, and he knows his facts. But removing her from the narrative - she will be "swift boated" away soon - won't make much difference now. The main plot is the problem.

So where's that constitution in Iraq? And in a week, or two or three, what will we have there?

We waged this war for what? Cindy Sheehan is not the only one asking questions now.

__

An additional comment from Baghdad -

Major Cook says he just doesn't get it - this all it shows the lack of understanding of what is going on over there. From Baghdad:
I really don't understand Mr. Meyerson's posting as all wars need promotion. The way to win, especially against the tyranny of the insurgency, is to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the populace that they rely on for support. The al Qaeda and Zarqawi's of the World are masters at publicizing their crusades. Hell, Zarqawi has his own web magazine. If we leave their sentiments and don't illustrate all the good we are doing, then the wedge will never be driven and the people will never walk away from the crusade of hate. That leads me to another note on Mr. Armstrong Williams' words, "Time to Get Out of Iraq." Does he know Zarqawi? Just as the democracy is gaining momentum and we are training Iraqi forces to stand on their own? Insurgencies, have never been wars of attrition, they are wars, and even campaigns for the betterment of societies. When Iraq gains and can maintain the increased hope and security (provided by a standing government backed by a viable constitution and standing armed forces), the insurgency will be beaten. If we pull out now, the almost 2000 of my brothers and sisters that have sacrificed will have done it for no reason. Relentless resolve will get us through and the results will benefit many.
Resolve is the question, isn't it?

Posted by Alan at 21:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005 07:11 PDT home

Friday, 5 August 2005

Topic: Selling the War

Follow Up: Back to the War on Terror

Last weekend in Semantics: Thucydides got it right a long time ago... you would find a long discussion of how our government had decided to change how we discuss what we are doing around the world. The Global War on Terror (GWOT) was to become the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE) - a change in terms to better capture what we were doing. Yes, it was awkward, but not a bad idea. Precision is nice.

But GSAVE has gone the way of the great auk. We're back to GWOT.

Why? The Washington Monthly provides the story of the rise and fall of this acronym.

1.) There was a story two months ago by Susan Glasser in the Washington Post that hinted something was happening. She reported that the Bush administration had "launched a high-level internal review of its efforts to battle international terrorism," and that the review was focused on moving policy away from merely killing al-Qaeda leaders and toward a broader "strategy against violent extremism." (That's here.)

2. ) Nothing official for two months - except Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Myers gave a few speeches in which they used the phrase "struggle against violent extremism," and Myers said he personally disliked the phrase "war on terrorism."

3. ) July 26 - the article in the New York Times (mentioned last week in these pages) that made the claim that these two months of changes in phrasing indicated the administration was "retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups." The article is here with this: "Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks."

4.) As the Washington Monthly notes, not a single person is directly quoted as saying that the phrase was officially being changed. Rumsfeld and Myers are quoted using the phrase and a few other people are quoted defending the phrase, but only anonymous "senior administration officials" are used to backstop the assertion that this was some kind of official policy decision. And over the next week, Nexis reported over a hundred mentions of the phrase "global struggle against violent extremism," but with no new reporting. "Every article, editorial, blog post, and late night comic routine is based on Schmitt and Shanker's New York Times piece."

Then it gets good.

5.) Monday, August 1 the president reportedly said at a Homeland Security Council meeting that "no one checked with me." Oops. (See this.)

6.) Tuesday, August 2, in a New York Times article by Richard Stevenson, Bush is directly quoted as saying, "Make no mistake about it, we are at war," and then using the phrase "war on terror" no less than five times. (See this.)

So much for that.

Speculation from the Washington Monthly:
So what the hell happened here? Did Rumsfeld and Myers go off the reservation? Did Schmitt and Shanker screw the pooch, inventing a major policy shift out of a few vaguely worded remarks from anonymous sources? Or was it a deliberate effort to run GSAVE up the flagpole, which was then hastily hauled back in when it became the butt of jokes?
Who knows. Perhaps it was a bit of all three.

But disregard GSAVE. It’s dead. It's extinct.

Posted by Alan at 19:04 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
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Saturday, 30 July 2005

Topic: Selling the War

Semantics: Thucydides got it right a long time ago…

As reported Tuesday, July 26, in the New York Times, on Monday last things changed - U.S. Officials Retool Slogan for Terror War. The Global War on Terror is over. Or it has been renamed.

Salient points:
The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday.

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.
Whatever. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, Monday was saying he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution."

They're not? Then what are we doing in Iraq? He clarifies and says future efforts require "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities' national power." The solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military."

Oh. But? Nevermind.

The Times reports this all grew out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January - and it reflects "the evolution" in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the September 11 attacks. But didn't Bush say the jury is still out on evolution?

The Times also snags an interview with Steven Hadley, the national security adviser to Bush.

His point? "It is more than just a military war on terror. It's broader than that. It's a global struggle against extremism. We need to dispute both the gloomy vision and offer a positive alternative."

So this is the positive alternative.

Reactions? Fred Kaplan in SLATE.COM is skeptical
Are these guys really this clueless?

What else to make of the story's opening sentence:

"The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday."

Three subquestions arise just from the lead. First, this is the administration's solution to the spike in terrorist incidents, the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, and the politico-military deterioration in Iraq - to retool the slogan?

Second, the White House and the Pentagon are just now coming around to the idea that the struggle is as much ideological as military? This wasn't obvious, say, three or four years ago?

Apparently not.

... It took four years for the president of the United States to realize that fighting terrorism has a political component? It took six months for his senior advisers to retool a slogan? We are witnessing that rare occasion when the phrase "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" can be uttered without lapsing into cliché.
But what really gets to Kaplan the comment from Steven Hadley that they were basically looking for an alternative to gloom - a positive alternative. In short? A happier acronym.

And they got it:
Look at the first letters of Global War on Terrorism. GWOT. What does that mean; how is it pronounced? Gwot? Too frivolously rowdy, like a fight scene in a Marvel comic book (Bam! Pfooff! Gwot!). Gee-wot? Sounds like a garbled question (Gee what?).

Then look at Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. Its acronym is GSAVE - i.e., gee-save. We're out to save the world, see, not wage war on it. Or, as national security adviser Stephen Hadley puts it in the Times piece, "We need to dispute both the gloomy vision and offer a positive alternative."
Kaplan goes on to wonder whether Hadley and all the rest of our other top officials really believe this nonsense? The question he asks whether they so enraptured with PR that they think a slogan and a strategy are the same thing - and that retooling the one will transform the other?

It would seem so. Reality is what you make it, and these guys make it.

Remember these guys say things like this -
We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
Got it? Change the words and you change the reality.

Sidney Blumenthal suggests all this renaming is how the Bush administration is silently signaling defeat - but I suspect they don't it see that way. Blumenthal is just the disgruntled left, after all - that other reality, that one doesn't count any longer.

I haven't found anyone saying it yet, but I'm sure it has been said - GSAVE is just a shorted form of "Jesus Saves." It's a crusade thing. (Our friend the high-powered Wall Street attorney also points out that GWOT was far too close to G-Spot.)

Paul Glastris, curiously, here asks us to consider this passage from Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian War" -
The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man.
Yep, it's all how you look at things, and who controls the words used.

And who reads Thucydides these days?

People read John Hinderaker over at Powerline - and Time Magazine says Hinderaker with what he writes on his site is one of the most influential people in America. And Hinderaker says this:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
It's all how you look at it. One man's reality is not another's.

So it's GSAVE now. And the guys in the military may have to turn in these and get the revised version.

Posted by Alan at 13:29 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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