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"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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Wednesday, 1 March 2006
Midweek Madness: Specific Chickens - Briefly Forgotten - Coming Home To Roost
Topic: Couldn't be so...

Midweek Madness: Specific Chickens - Briefly Forgotten - Coming Home To Roost

It was clear one Wednesday, March 1st, the middle of the week, that the month of March did come in like a lion, and is unlikely to leave as a lamb. The president was out of town, stopping off in Kabul in poppy-rich Afghanistan, on his way to India. In Kabul he "renewed his pledge" to get Osama Bin Laden - we'd really get him this time, honest (story here in detail). This time we're serious, or maybe people forgot we were serious, or something. So now we'll get all these bad guys - "It's not a matter of if they are captured and brought to justice, it's when they are brought to justice."

Really? It's been a long time. Perhaps with the Dubai Ports business making folks wonder just how serious he is about this war on terror business his handlers suggested some Texas bluster was in order, a John Wayne sort of threat. One wonders how that plays these days. Last time "Bring 'em on" - which he said when he was asked if the number of troops in Iraq were enough to deal with events spiraling out of control after that business at the bridge in Fallujah - didn't make anyone feel any more secure. Some military folks were appalled. Some families of those with sons and daughters over there got real antsy. But he's like that, bragging his guys can beat up your guys with one hand tied behind their backs. It's a Texas thing. You want a piece of me? My guys, over there, will whip you ass. Don't mess with Texas.

If you're one of "his guys" you wince when he says thing like that. But the idea is people should eat this up, assuming they believe him after all this time. We'll see about that.

Then it was off to India to work out that nuclear deal - give them advanced technology if they pretend they'll play by the rules of the nonproliferation treaty they never signed (as mentioned elsewhere, see Fred Kaplan here on what that's about, and how hard it will be to pull off).

Work this out and maybe they'll get behind us on whatever it is we're doing, and open their markets wide for our goods, and help us deal with China. A tough sell, but it's better than staying home and saying, over and over again, trust me, it's okay that a company owned by the United Arab Emirates run operations at our major ports. That gets old. People, even in his own party, want him to explain that. Texans don't explain. So he's doing the India thing, and lot of the story there is about looking diplomatic - we imposed temporary sanctions on India back in 1998 after they conducted nuclear tests. Make friends, look reasonable. That should calm folks down.

Hey, we're not unreasonable. There's evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons and we haven't invaded Iran, or, given that our troops are a bit busy these days, as an alternative bombed the living daylights out of all their scattered research and development facilities. We don't inflame tensions in the Middle East with massive military force, unless we must, to, say, find and destroy weapons of mass destruction that are meant for us, or to get rid of a man who was behind the New York and Washington attacks of September 2001.

No, wait, it seems we didn't have to do that. But we wouldn't do something so rash as invade and occupy a country just to prove a political theory about how people in far away lands, with lots of oil, really should live their lives and run their country, would we?

Well, we did what we did, and Iran is a problem.

So we'll try diplomacy this second time, with a second country (Like we have a choice?) And the Russian will help, processing the fuel for them so it can only be used in power reactors. They did say they just wanted to generate electricity, after all.

So how's that going? Iran Forges Ahead On Nukes - "Talks for a deal with Russia continued Wednesday. But Iran appears ready to defy the UN watchdog agency..."

Drat. Now what?

And in that third "I" country? 30 Killed As Violence Continues in Iraq. But it's not a civil war. It just looks like one.

Well, things keep happening that you don't expect - American UN Employee Kidnapped In Somalia. Somalia? Well, this is a UN employee, and we hate the UN - we sent John Bolton there to tell them, repeatedly, they they're all corrupt fools who know nothing. But this is an American. So we have to have a Black Hawk Down moment again? Geez.

This is not going well.

The Middle East scholar from the University of Michigan, Juan Cole, Wednesday in Salon, called this Iraq's Worst Week, and Bush's, and that was midweek -
Tactically, strategically and politically Bush now finds himself in the worst of all possible worlds. With Americans increasingly fed up with the Iraq debacle, he needs to start drawing down troops soon, but he can't do it while the country teeters on the brink of civil war. If civil war does break out, a U.S. withdrawal will look even more like cutting and running - under these circumstances, not even Karl Rove will be able to figure out a way to get away with simply declaring victory and going home. Yet if American troops stay, they have no good options either..."
No options there? Fix India, let the Russians fix Iran, convince folks the Dubai ports deal is no biggie, and you've still got this.

But it wasn't supposed to happen. We said they'd agree on a unified secular government, a Jeffersonian democracy with a free-market economy we could all buy chucks of, and that would start a new world over there, as everyone would see how fine that was. Oops.

Why didn't someone say this might happen?

It seems someone did.

Wednesday's Knight-Ridder story (Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay) here is a bit of digging, in the journalistic sense - former senior intelligence officials told them that our intelligence agencies "repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war."


Surely they noted the warnings. Not exactly. The fellow who chaired the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, Robert Hutchings, explains to the Knight-Ridder guys the president and his top aides ignored a "steady stream" of warnings about civil war in Iraq - "Frankly, senior officials simply weren't ready to pay attention to analysis that didn't conform to their own optimistic scenarios."

Ah, they were thinking positively. Optimistic. Not giving into negative thinking. You can change what seem like dismal reality with the right attitude.

That does seem to be what was going on. See The Peril Of Selective Reality, from Wayne White, who before he retired in 2005, was Deputy Director of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research's Near Eastern Division and coordinated Iraqi intelligence for them -
According to an article in the February 13 issue of U.S. News & World Report, President George W. Bush reportedly reacted to a "darkly pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq" written by the CIA's Baghdad station chief in mid-2004 by remarking: "What is he, some kind of defeatist?"
And then he goes into detail, but your get the idea.

There is no civil war over there. No need to think that way. Defeatism is self-fulfilling and all that.

You could see that in this interview with ABC News - "...what is the plan if the sectarian violence continues? I mean, do the US troops take a larger role? Do they step in more actively to stop the violence?" President Bush - "No. The troops are chasing down terrorists."

Yep, we don't think about negative things. Note that this is not saying all the violence is not our problem and the Iraqis are on their own. Nope. Not at all. This is saying that it's pretty much not even happening. (Fox News here runs a screen graphic asking the big question - is this civil war in Iraq something the liberal news media just "made up?")

Think positive, like Condoleezza Rice, when she was just the president's national security advisor, not his secretary of state, saying to the senators that "no on could have predicted" terrorists would hijack airplanes and crash them into buildings. Of course not. You don't think that way. That's so negative. Yeah, there were warnings but the FAA can be so negative.

And midweek the classic example of this got some attention. That would be this -
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did appreciate a serious storm but these levees got breached and as a result much of New Orleans is flooded and now we're having to deal with it and will." - George W. Bush, September 1, 2005
Yeah, well, the Associated Press did their journalistic digging here and got their hands on the videotapes of the pre-hurricane briefings where Bush, Brown and Chertoff were told this was really going to happen. The media site "Crooks and Liars" has the tapes for you in streaming video format if you'd like to see - Windows Media Player or Quicktime.

The day was filled with comments that were pretty much "he lied to us" stuff. He lied? Maybe what he was told just didn't register as it was just so negative.

These guys aren't lying. They're just disconnected from reality.

Better someone in charge who is hyper-positive delusional, after all, than someone who's an evil heartless liar - maybe.

And sometimes you don't exactly lie, you just goof, as here Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sends a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That testimony back on 6 February? He needs to clarify. He did say that NSA spying without warrants on American citizens was all the president had authorized. That was it. But there are other things he's authorized, all kinds of super-secret spying outside the silly laws, but you see, "I did not and could not address any other classified intelligence activities." He really didn't mean to imply that was it and there was no more. He just said that. But he didn't mean to imply it.


What to make of where we are now? See this from UPI -
MONTE CARLO, Monaco, March 1 (UPI) - The worst geopolitical blunder in 229 years of American history? That was how participants at a recent off-the-record conference held in Monaco viewed the US decision for the regime change invasion of Iraq.

Hyperbole from leftist malcontents? No, quite simply the verdict spoken in sadness rather than anger by 63 personalities from Europe, east and west, the Middle East, North Africa and the US.

They were former prime ministers, foreign ministers, heads of intelligence services, newspaper editors, TV news executives, current and former heads of major international organizations.

There was little noticeable anti-Americanism. No snide remarks about President Bush's lack of foreign policy experience. In fact, participants stressed how important Us global power was to global stability. But they lamented how it had been wasted on Iraq, instead of being carefully nurtured for what could be far more threatening crises in the same neighborhood before 2010.
It's full of detail - "A ranking Egyptian official reminded the Monaco assemblage that Egypt's President Mubarak, prior to the Iraq war, had warned the Bush administration that a successful overthrow of Saddam Hussein would almost certainly lead to the election of a Shiite religious leader." There's more.

A pro-Iran Shiite theocracy running Iraq. A civil war brewing if not started? Don't believe it. That's negative thinking. (Think negatively in Monaco and you lose at the Casino, but then, if you think in Monaco positively you lose at the Casino - kind of like where we are in the Middle East now.)

Our weekly columnist, the playful Bob Patterson adds this -
Has any pundit suggested that maybe Bush has been right all along. We did have a plan, and precipitating a civil war was precisely what we were trying to achieve?

Remember when the folks in Chicago used to hear about gangster shootouts and say "Let 'em kill each other?" Well, if the Americans sit inside their compounds and the Iraqis do kill each other, then, finders keepers! It's our oil!
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, responds -
Cute theory! Let's add that one to the list!

But I do find it interesting that there is, even after three years, no actually serious discussion at all about why we invaded Iraq. (And needless to say, I do not think "for the oil" or "to avenge his daddy" is any more "serious" than "to preemptively protect ourselves from a tyrant who had WMD and would, in all likelihood, lend them to his friend, Osama bin Laden.")

A few years ago, after much noodling through the evidence, I myself arrived at the opinion in these very pages [Editor's Note: see this from last August] that our invasion of Iraq was hatched way back before 9/11 by a cabal of neo-conservatives, most of them associated with the New American Century Project, who apparently paid close attention to fellow neo-con Francis Fukuyama's famous article (and later, book) entitled "The End of History." Amongst his arguments, Fukuyama had put forth the idea that the fall of world communism will essentially leave America with nothing worth fighting for in the world.

"Not so," these guys argued. "America will now be in a position to use its unilateral power to further democracy around the world - indeed, from the barrel of a gun - and specifically in the middle east, which seems to need it the most!"

It was sort of the domino-theory in reverse, where knocking over that first domino would get the process going throughout that neighborhood.

And why was Iraq chosen? Because having no friends, especially among its Arab neighbors, and with neither the means nor will to resist, Iraq was a pushover! Fortunately for these guys, 9/11 hit while the plot was still in the planning stages, presenting them with a much stronger sell to the American people - if, that is, they might somehow connect this whole thing to the mythical "War on Terror".

But Fukuyama, who has a new book out ("America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy"), has lately been renouncing that neo-conservative label and distancing himself from his roll as the guy who started it all. In fact, he was interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition today with words that reaffirm my own beliefs of how we got to Iraq:

Q: "But you obviously think that the model of Iraq, trying to invade a country and impose democracy, just isn't going to work."

A: "Well, look, that was actually a case of bait-and-switch. I mean, nobody... the Bush administration didn't come to the American people and say, 'Look, we're going to invade this country to make it democratic,' because obviously nobody would have bought that. You're never going to persuade Americans to sink blood and treasure in a military invasion of another country simply to bring human rights and democracy there."

In the interview, Fukuyama explains how, in the 1990s, one of two conflicting principles of neoconservatism -- a belief that social engineering doesn't really even work in the District of Columbia, much less would it work overseas -- was beaten into submission by the other -- the belief that an America willing to exercise its power for moral purposes, to effect a "benevolent hegemony" over the rest of the world, can achieve almost anything it wants to. And this loss of balance, he says, has led us into the mess we're in today, where much of the rest of the world, even those who ought to be our friends, actively hate us.

The whole NPR piece - which I recommend to anyone interested in understanding, beyond the usual chatter, how we got to where we are - runs just under five minutes and can be heard here.
Yep, and there's this:

The neoconservative tragedy.
Jacob Weisberg - Wednesday, March 1, 2006, 3:36 PM ET - SLATE.COM
... "Neoconservative" has become such a loaded term that it tends to obliterate civil discussion. Some Europeans use it as a synonym for supporters of the Iraq war or for sophisticated warmongers in general. On the American far left and far right, "neocon" often emphasizes the Jewishness of many of its adherents, implying that they care more about the interests of Israel than those of the United States. Fukuyama, who until recently counted himself a neoconservative, defines the term not by the shared back story of some of its founding members (Trotskyism in the 1930s, opposition to the New Left in the 1960s, Commentary magazine in the 1970s, etc.), but rather by a shared set of ideas.

Though there are endless exceptions and caveats, the most influential neocons are "hard" Wilsonians with respect to foreign policy. They reject the realist notion, most strongly identified with Henry Kissinger, that the United States should act only according to its interests. Instead, neocons believe that America must provide moral leadership to the rest of the world, spreading liberty and democratic ideas, by force if necessary. They like alliances but have little time for global institutions or the finer points of international law. Applying this characterization, Fukuyama counts as neoconservatives both Ronald Reagan and the second-term George W. Bush, who is about as far from a Jewish intellectual as it is possible for someone to be.

While he remains sympathetic to the democracy-spreading mission, Fukuyama castigates the unilateral and militaristic turns that gave us such concepts as "preventive war," "benevolent hegemony," and "regime change." Neoconservatives, he contends, have abandoned their fundamental political insight, namely that ambitious schemes to remake societies are doomed to disappointment, failure, and unintended consequences. "Opposition to utopian social engineering," Fukuyama writes "... is the most enduring thread running through the movement." Yet neoconservatives today are bogged down in an attempt to remake a poorly understood, catastrophically damaged, and deeply alien semi-country in the Middle East. How did these smart people stray - and lead the country - so far off course?
Good question. And the answer is worth a double-click with your mouse.

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
I do like Weisberg's line here about those pushing the invasion inside the administration assuming "that historic inevitability would do the heavy lifting for them."

One can't help but imagine that they thought we'd go in, have some flowers thrown at us, topple a few statues, then get out without ever having to go anywhere near "nation building," much less have to do any follow-up invasions in neighboring countries like Iran. But now that we see how things worked out, we sure can forget about trying the same thing anywhere else soon, and I'm sure they know this.

Still, if you follow that link of his book title to Amazon, you can scroll down and see this review posted there: "Francis Fukuyama here gives the most lucid and knowledgeable account of the neoconservative vision of America's place and role in world affairs, and where it has overreached disastrously. He argues effectively for an American foreign policy more aware of the limits of American power, less dependent on the military, and more respectful of the interests and opinions of other countries and emerging international norms and institutions." - Nathan Glazer, Professor of Sociology and Education Emeritus, Harvard University

One should recognize Nathan Glazer as one of the often-cited founders of neo-conservatism.
The president stands alone now, as the theorists walk away from their theory?

Now that's a bad week. Chickens. Coming home.

Posted by Alan at 22:43 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006 22:46 PST home

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