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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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Tuesday, 15 August 2006
Race: A Minor Incident Turns Major as People Put Two and Two Together
Topic: Race
Race: A Minor Incident Turns Major as People Put Two and Two Together
The incident occurred the week before but didn't hit the wires, or whatever they're called these days, until August 14, and the whole thing exploded in the press and other news media on Tuesday, August 15 - Republican Senator George Allen has said what? He's in an increasingly pesky reelection campaign - still ahead by quite a bit but things keep shifting. And he's considered one of the front runners for the Republican nomination to run for president against whoever the Democrats settle on in 2008.

The New York Times sets out the problem quite succinctly here -
If Senator George Allen of Virginia is thinking of running for president in 2008, as is widely believed, what he said in a little town in southwestern Virginia several nights ago may haunt him.

"This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is, he's with my opponent," the Republican lawmaker said on Friday night at a rally in Breaks, next to the Kentucky border. "He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great."

Mr. Allen, a Republican running for re-election to the Senate, was singling out S.R. Sidarth, a 20-year-old volunteer for Mr. Allen's Democratic challenger, James Webb. Mr. Sidarth's mission was to trail Mr. Allen and videotape his speeches, in the hope they would yield grist for the Webb campaign.

But it was Mr. Allen who supplied grist for his rival with his use of the term "macaca," a genus that includes numerous species of monkeys found in Asia.

Mr. Allen said Monday that he meant no insult, that he was sorry if he hurt anyone's feelings and that he did not know what "macaca" meant, according to the Washington Post, which reported about the incident today.

Mr. Sidarth, who is of Indian descent, was not convinced. "I think he was doing it because he could, and I was the only person of color there, and it was useful for him in inciting his audience," Mr. Sidarth told the Post.

The senator's communications director, John Reid, said in an interview today that Allen campaign workers had good-naturedly nicknamed Mr. Sidarth "Mohawk" because he would not disclose his name and the sobriquet seemed appropriate for Mr. Sidarth's hair style.

Perhaps, Mr. Reid suggested, "Mohawk" morphed into "macaca," with results that turned out to be regrettable.

After his initial use of the term, Mr. Allen went on to urge the crowd to "give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

Unfortunately, Sidarth was born in Fairfax County, right there in Virginia.

And what's this "macaca" business? Asian monkeys?

The Times is being kind.

As noted below, it's a coded racial slur seemingly well understood in the South. No one who wasn't an "insider" was supposed to get it. But that's just not how things go these days. And this wasn't supposed to hit the national media. The whole thing is on tape and all over (see it here) - CNN and all the rest run it and people talk about it. And folks use Nexis and Goodle these days on who uses this odd term, and how it has been used in the past. There's nowhere to hide.

The Times quotes Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, saying that this "verbal gaffe" would probably not keep Allen from being reelected to the Senate, but if he runs for president the word "macaca" will hurt him, "not only because it is offensive on its face but also because it fits into a long pattern of insensitivity by Allen on racial and ethnic matters."

Sabato knows the guy - he was student council president at the University of Virginia when Allen was class president there thirty years ago. And the Times notes that Allen opposed a state Martin Luther King holiday back in the eighties, and when he was governor he issued that 1993 proclamation honoring Confederate History Month, and he kept a Confederate flag in his home and all the rest.

Of course George Allen has been discussed in these pages before - April 30 here - and he seems like a dumbed-down version of George Bush (imagine that), just another Texan good ol' boy, except he grew up out here in Palos Verdes Estates while his father was with the Los Angeles Rams, and his mother is French. It's kind of funny that when his father coached the Washington Redskins Nixon used to call up the elder Allen and tell him what plays he ought to run - although there's no evidence the senator's father ever did that. Small world.

He's one piece of work, and the buzz last spring was the Ryan Lizza profile of the younger Allen - George Allen's Race Problem -

But, while Allen may have genuflected in the direction of Gingrich, he also showed a touch of Strom Thurmond. Campaigning for governor in 1993, he admitted to prominently displaying a Confederate flag in his living room. He said it was part of a flag collection - and had been removed at the start of his gubernatorial bid. When it was learned that he kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office, he said it was part of a Western memorabilia collection. These explanations may be sincere. But, as a chief executive, he also compiled a controversial record on race. In 1994, he said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination - an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery. After some of the early flaps, a headline in The Washington Post read, "Governor Seen Leading Virginia Back in Time."
At the time of the profile Ezra Klein said this -
Potentially worse, Allen comes off as a garden variety of sadist, a high school bully and vandal who hurled his brother through a glass door when he wanted to stay up past his bedtime, cracked another brother's collarbone for the same offense, and so tormented his youngest sister that she wrote a memoir packed with instances of his cruelty and thuggishness. It's grotesque stuff, and considering the perpetrator is being seriously considered as the chief executive and primary symbol of our country, Lizza's article is a definite must-read.
But Kevin Drum suggested Allen would get a pass -
The press corps is a sucker for "authenticity," and it's something that both George Bush and John McCain have cleverly exploited - because for most reporters, speaking in complete sentences or having smart ideas about policy are way less important than being a "straight talker" or "comfortable in your own skin." But just as McCain's embrace of Jerry Falwell has shown him to be a wee bit less of a straight talker than his handlers claim, Allen's "authenticity" also turns out to be barely skin-deep.

... Allen may reasonably claim that what he did as a teenager four decades ago shouldn't be held against him now. But the consistent evidence in Lizza's piece that his red state good 'ol boy shtick is little more than a personal invention, carefully cultivated and maintained through the years, should at least give the press corps pause as they cover his campaign. They've gotten suckered by this act before, and both McCain and Allen are currently gearing up to sucker them again with the same song in a different key. Caveat emptor should be their watch phrase this time around.

But the senate race in Virginia turns out to be a classic of the sort Drum feared.

As noted in these pages here, running in Virginia against the incumbent George Allen, is one James Webb - the former Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, the best-selling author (Fields of Fire from 1978), and a former United States Marine Corps officer decorated for valor in the Vietnam War. He's left the Republicans. He's running as a Democrat. And the dynamic is clear - Allen is the tobacco-chewing good ol' boy wannabe, son of the famous football coach, with the confederate flags all over, be challenged by the done-everything, intellectual and writer and lawyer and man of action. The "I don't read nothin' much" never-in-the-military Man of the Old South, who went to high school out here in chic Palos Verdes and cut classes a lot, is ahead. Webb likes to point out that when he was fighting in Vietnam, Allen - emphasizing his middle name, Felix - was spending his summers at an exclusive dude ranch, pretending to be a cowboy. But it's not going that well.

Will this little incident change things? Probably not.

But the Washington Post is certainly annoyed -

"My friends, we're going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas," Sen. George F. Allen told a rally of Republican supporters in Southwest Virginia last week. "And it's important that we motivate and inspire people for something." Whereupon Mr. Allen turned his attention to a young campaign aide working for his Democratic opponent - a University of Virginia student from Fairfax County who was apparently the only person of color present - and proceeded to ridicule him.

Let's consider which positive, constructive or inspirational ideas Mr. Allen had in mind when he chose to mock S.R. Sidarth of Dunn Loring, who was recording the event with a video camera on behalf of James Webb, the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat Mr. Allen holds. The idea that holding up minorities to public scorn in front of an all-white crowd will elicit chortles and guffaws? (It did.) The idea that a candidate for public office can say "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia!" to an American of Indian descent and really mean nothing offensive by it? (So insisted Mr. Allen's aides.) Or perhaps the idea that bullying your opponents and calling them strange names - Mr. Allen twice referred to Mr. Sidarth as "Macaca" -- is within the bounds of decency on the campaign trail?

We have no inkling as to what Mr. Allen meant by "Macaca," though we rather doubt his campaign's imaginative explanation that it was somehow an allusion to Mr. Sidarth's hairstyle, a mullet. Mr. Allen said last night that no slur was intended, though he failed to explain what, exactly, he did have in mind. Macaca is the genus for macaques, a type of monkey found mainly in Asia. Mr. Allen, who as a young man had a fondness for Confederate flags and later staunchly opposed a state holiday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has surely learned too much about racial sensitivities in public life to misspeak so offensively.
The Post has no idea what the word means, but Jeffrey Feldman does -
I did some Google searches to find out what it meant. As it turns out, the question is not if 'macaca' is a racist term, but which of the three definitions of the word 'macaca' did George Allen intend when he used it?

Here are the three choices:

1. 'Macaca' - French : racist slang; similar to English 'nigger,' used to describe Arabs.
2. 'Macaca' - English : racist slang; similar to 'nigger' used to describe Arabs.
3. 'Macaca' - English : racist slang; used by American white supremacists in 'insider' talk about African-Americans.

Which one is it?
That's a good question.

And there are some other points, like whether the word was used intentionally -
So far, George Allen's campaign is saying that the word was Allen's mispronunciation of 'Mohawk,' but reasonable people can discount that answer. The word 'macaca' (three syllables) is no closer to 'mohawk' (two syllables) than are the words 'Madison' or 'Mac n' Cheese.' And since Allen pronounced the word twice in a short period of time - each instance with emphasis, as if he was setting up 'macaca' to be the keyword that everyone would hear - we can conclude without hesitation that his use was conscious. He used the word because he chose to use it in advance at that moment and to make sure that everyone in the audience heard him use it. 'Macaca,' in other words, was the keyword in his communication strategy to handle the situation of a campaign staffer from his opposition following him around with a video camera.
And was 'macaca' a word he learned from his mother, but did not understand? Hardly -
This is another potential misinterpretation of the events. Since George Allen's mother was raised in France and French-speaking Tunisia, some have surmised that 'macaca' might just be a nonsense word he had heard from his mother, but did not understand. This cannot be true, however, because it has been shown that George Allen studied French and did quite well. The idea that he would not understand a word used by his mother, but use it twice in a campaign stump speech - this makes no logical sense and can be discounted.
The conclusion - George Allen used a white power word in a stump speech -
George Allen's used 'macaca' at his campaign stop (1) consciously, (2) specifically in order to signal to people who knew what it meant, and (3) with the goal of showing that he was not intimidated by the staffer from his opponent's campaign attending his campaign events.

The entire statement was designed to humiliate the person in question by drawing attention to them and insulting them with a coded racial slur - all with the intention of showing confidence in response to intimidation from his opponent.

It is likely that George Allen did not believe many people would understand what was being said, except for 'insiders' already familiar with the word 'macaca.'

George Allen used a white power word in his stump speech. And he did it on purpose.
It's a white power thing. It will serve him well in Virginia. It's a no-no nationally, perhaps.

And he apologized and still claims he knows nothing -
Reached Monday evening, Allen said that the word had no derogatory meaning for him and that he was sorry. "I would never want to demean him as an individual. I do apologize if he's offended by that. That was no way the point."

Asked what macaca means, Allen said: "I don't know what it means." He said the word sounds similar to "mohawk," a term that his campaign staff had nicknamed Sidarth because of his haircut.

Yep, it's one of those apologies where it not his mistake for what he said. But he's sorry, really, that the other guy was too dumb to understand him, and of course he graciously regrets there was a misunderstanding (you know how these folks are, of course). Oh, and by the way, someone on his staff came up with the nickname. It wasn't even him, but, then, he's a big man and will say these regrets himself, even if some low-life staffer who screwed up.

Heck, maybe he really is presidential material.

Hell, his audience got it, and that's what mattered.

Ah, this is one guy and an isolated incident.

Would that it were, but it isn't an isolated incident. All you need is reminders, which James Wolcott of Vanity Fair lines up here.

He notes that Conservative New York radio talk show host Bob Grant once said on the air that then-New York mayor David Dinkins reminded him of a "men's room attendant". (See this.) Don Imus of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning one said of the black journalist Gwen Ifill, now moderating PBS's Washington Week in Review -"Speaking of reporter Gwen Ifill, he's said, 'Isn't the [New York] Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.'" (See here.) Mickey Kaus's at SLATE.COM recently said this - "Congresswoman Maxine Waters had parachuted into Connecticut earlier in the week to campaign against Lieberman because he once expressed reservations about affirmative action, without which she would not have a job that didn't involve wearing a paper hat." And there's the cover of the latest Weekly Standard here - Al Sharpton as a Driving Miss Daisy faithful retainer "who dares not look his master in the eye."

Wolcott -

Washroom attendant. Cleaning lady. Cafeteria worker. Chauffeur.

Notice a pattern?

No matter what height of prominence a black person reaches, conservatives will always find a way to reduce him or her to low-paid, low-status, low-skilled caricatured servitude. That's their idea of cutting black personalities down to size and putting them in their place. Whatever uniform they wear, it's still a monkey suit in the eyes and mouths of the white-makes-right contingent, which should make it no surprise that Senator George Allen, adopted son of the Confederacy, would reach back for a race-baiting jibe as his beanball pitch.
It's just the latest in a series.

And see Digby at Hullabaloo here -
There is some debate as to whether George Felix Allen was making a deliberate slur or whether he was just repeating his French mother's phrase for "dirty Arab" without fully realizing what he was saying (or thinking nobody would know what he was saying.)

I don't think so. I think this is racist code of the worst sort. Allen isn't just another southern good old boy who can't tell the difference between his family heritage and racism. He chose to become a neoconfederate long after it was out of fashion, in defiance of accepted norms of his time and he has built his good old boy reputation partially because of it. He didn't inherit his brand of racism - he chose it.

The evidence suggests that "macaca" is a slur that American white supremacists have adopted from European white supremacists to apply to dark skinned people. And what this means is that George Allen is conversant in the language of white supremacists and he uses that language in his conversation. And while it's impossible to prove, I believe he used that word deliberately because it is a word that a racist like him would know that "certain" people would correctly identify.

It's right out of the Lee Atwater playbook, at whose knee Mary Matalin, Allen's biggest supporter, studied.
What's he talking about? Lee Atwater, the last generation's Karl Rove. And the New York Times's Bob Herbert, who is their black editorialist, on October 6, 2005 discussing a 1981 interview with Lee Atwater in which he explains the GOP's Southern Strategy -
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me - because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."
There's more here but basically -
That was Atwater, even as he was trying to say that racism was dying, helpfully explaining that the GOP mantra of "tax cuts" was another way for a candidate to say that you didn't believe in government hand outs to black people. (Too bad nobody listened to him at the time and figured out a way to fight that, but it's too late now.) But what he really revealed was that racism had just gone underground. "Macaca" is as abstract as it gets - to anybody but a white supremacist who knows exactly what it means. It's just one of the newer code words for "nigger, nigger, nigger" and Allen, who kept a noose in his office for years, is the type of guy who would know it.

George Felix Allen is the most disgusting serious candidate for president this country has produced in many decades. The fact that he's backed by a large number of powerful mainstream Republicans for the nomination shows what that party really is, even now, after all this time.
People do put two and two together. And George Felix Allen may have inadvertently set up the real issue here, that the Civil War of the 1860s never really settled anything. The South fights on, and they're stronger now than any time since that business at Fort Sumter.

On April 10, 1861, Brigadier General Beauregard, in command of the provisional Confederate forces at Charleston, South Carolina, demanded the surrender of the Union garrison of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Garrison commander Major Anderson refused. On April 12, Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort, which was unable to reply effectively. At two-thirty in the afternoon on April 13, Major Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter, evacuating the garrison on the following day.

For some, those were the days. And it's not over yet.

Phillip Raines, whose words and photographs have often appeared in these pages, explains it best -
Was it racist slang - used by American white supremacists in 'insider' talk about African-Americans?

That's it, that's why he said it, and back-peddling and saying he didn't know what it means is just another way of him saying "Aw shucks, I was just funning." As a native born southerner immersed in a culture of racist and class supremacy I can assure the readers of Just Above Sunset his true sentiments were drawn out by the videographer as provocateur. He thought he was speaking in code, and racist will create a feeling of inclusiveness by sharing their racism with other people, usually quietly, by saying something like "between you and me… nigger, you know."

It's better explained by example -

I was in Mississippi visiting my wife's relatives. Atlanta is in the south, but Mississippi is Deep South, making Atlanta look socially transitional between Boston and Jackson. A cousin-in-law was skinning a deer under the carport after a Thanksgiving morning of hunting. He was mid-twenties, a lawyer, a nice looking guy even in a camouflage jacket and red hat. The family, in general, likes me, though I'm somewhat of an oddity. A city boy, a sax player, a leftist - a lot of things they aren't - but with a fundamental basis of behavior that I'm there to get along and have a good sense of humor as long as right wing politics aren't brought up. Then I'll fight, won't take it, and will definitely call a spade a spade (it's a shovel reference, not cards or color, though it's a metaphor morphed into that).

Knowing that as a city boy I didn't hunt I couldn't share in the happiness of bagging a deer in the first few hours of hunting season, there was a still desire from him for an inclusiveness. He shifted the conversation to the general inferiority and faults of blacks - the laziness, the stink, the inferiority, and most threatening, the dangerous potential of violence to take from those that have - to take the white women, take the money through armed theft, take the TV right out of the living room if you don't lock up. The thematic subtext of his chatter was "now that it's just us I will show you my unspoken hatred like a secret, bare myself in intimacy, and you can admit the same to me."

He was disappointed that I didn't take my cue and admit that I hated them too, collectively though I might, as a musician, mention there are some good ones. I've seen this scenario again and again my whole life in the South. I changed the subject to different knives for different tasks of dressing out the deer. He offered a thin slice of leg muscle for me to taste raw, but I declined, saying I was a hippie vegetarian for too long and raw meat didn't settle with me, hurt my teeth somehow. But a point that's important was this guy was educated, had summoned up enough concentration to pass the bar and would most likely run for judge one day (he was just the type), but at his core and despite his path to wealth, success and power, he would always be a white supremacist, even if he became adept at hiding it. A hundred years ago he might have sent his mother a postcard of a lynching and written on the back, "Ma, there is one less of these here to hurt you," as was on the majority of post cards in the lynching exhibit I saw at Emory.

It is a fact that all southern born men struggle with racism. Most dismiss the struggle and only a few pursue racial enlightenment and sort out the incidents that reinforce racism for a higher path. Like blowing up frogs with firecrackers (like our sitting president did as a kid), it is an outlet for meanness - and that somehow feels good and empowering. And trust me, again as a native-born southerner, that even as southern men are taking over the highest offices in the land, repeatedly, deep inside, there is a voice that is claiming a small victory in the ongoing civil war between the north and the south, and its conservatism. It offers one more opportunity to have a dose of that meanness - like it's a satisfying drug whose effects last for days. Kindness is a weakness, unless it's towards your momma.
And that is what we're dealing with.


Minor Footnote:

To understand where this is coming from you have to understand that Bill Montgomery - who blogs as "Bilmon" - is a journalist who specializes in finance - economics and corporations and interest rates and trade and all that sort of thing. He goes on assignment to all the international economic forums and all, and clearly explains the implications of what's happing, which is no small feat. He knows his stuff, and he knows all sorts of things about statistics. He thinks this business with what George Allen said is an example of reversion to the mean -
As a 16th generation Virginian, I'm proud that the Old Dominion has blessed the nation with such political and intellectual giants as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It doesn't mean I'd ever actually want to live in that reactionary armpit of a state again, but still, I'm proud.

It almost - almost - makes up for George Allen…

… Macaca? What the fuck kind of kindergarten insult is that? Is that the best the idiot could come up with? What's next? Boogerbrain? Doodoohead? Harry Flood Byrd could think up better racial slurs in his sleep.

I think this is a political example of the statistical phenomenon known as mean revision - in which a string of unusually high data points is often followed by a string of low ones, bringing the trend back towards the long-term average.

If you look at it that way, it's no surprise Virginia politics has been churning out dimwitted racist assclowns for the the better part of the past 200 years. It takes a heap of mean reversion to compensate for Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Mason and Monroe.

But now that the state has given us Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and George Allen in such quick succession, it's pretty clear the pendulum has swung too far. Virginia is almost down to the Texas level now, which is about six standard deviations below the mean. It's time for something better - or at least a little better, like Jim Webb.

Of course, Allen's latest crack makes it clear that even a Macaca (whatever the hell it is) would be a big improvement.
That's the most idiosyncratic explanation of this incident out there.

Posted by Alan at 22:09 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006 18:38 PDT home

Monday, 14 August 2006
Winners and Losers
Topic: Perspective
Winners and Losers
Monday, August 14, the "no one got what they wanted" cease-fire went into effect and the war in Lebanon halted, sort of. As the newspaper of record out here, the Los Angeles Times, put it - Hope Expressed for Cease-Fire's End to Violence.

Hope is nice.

But and the end of the day Hezbollah was still dropping a few rockets into northern Israel, and Israel was claiming it had the right to got after Hezbollah anywhere in Lebanon and take out road and bridges as they could be used to bring in more rockets and such from Syria. You see, they were stopping all offensive military operations, but that would be defensive, really, if you just thought about it.

And this from Fred Kaplan summarized where it goes from here -
Hezbollah says its militias won't leave southern Lebanon until Israeli forces also leave. Israeli leaders say they won't leave until Hezbollah also leaves. Lebanese officials say they won't deploy their army in the south until they're assured that they and the UN peacekeepers are the only armed forces in the area. Yet, according to Resolution 1701, the UN forces can enter southern Lebanon only to "accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces."

Each group has good reasons for their hesitations. Hezbollah doesn't want to leave Israel as an occupation force. Israel doesn't want to leave a vacuum that Hezbollah could fill. The Lebanese army doesn't want to get in the middle of shooting between Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah militias. The United Nations wants to be seen as assisting the Lebanese government, not as an unwanted interloper. It's a Catch-22: Who's going to make the first move, and under what authority?

In other words, there's a chance that this security arrangement could collapse from the get-go.

So from here it goes nowhere fast, or goes nowhere quite slowly if the locals are lucky. They're pouring back into southern Lebanon to get home and see what's left of where they lived and worked. And Hezbollah is there, offering aid - food, water, medicine, and help rebuilding. They're no dummies. That's how they deflect any anger at tripping off this thirty-day war by grabbing the two Israeli soldiers. They'll help, and Israel didn't exactly win much here - and they still have the soldiers.

In fact the day opened with Hezbollah claiming a win as the cease-fire held (details here) - the rag-tag band of rebels stood up to the Empire and the dark side of The Force.

No, wait - that's Spielberg Star Wars. But what may be the third most powerful military in the world couldn't do much with them. Israel has a history of wiping out whole Arab armies in a matter of days - think 1967 and all that. This time they were checked, for a full thirty days. It was kind of a first, and Hezbollah took that as a victory. And there were victory dances in the streets of Beirut - joy in the streets. The idea that had been floated by some in the Israeli government - that all the death and destruction would really piss off the locals and they'd turn on Hezbollah and then Hezbollah would be scorned and discredited and slink off into obscurity, toothless and disgraced for having started all this - didn't exactly work out. But it was an interesting theory.

Well, such a claim couldn't stand. A few hours later, President Bush dropped by the Sate Department - a place where you'd just never expect to see him - and with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his side, said, no, Israel had soundly defeated Hezbollah (details here). That's not what Israel was saying, but never mind - "There's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon." And maybe there will be, one day.

He also said the war was part of a broader struggle between freedom and terror and "we can only imagine how much more dangerous this conflict would be if Iran had the nuclear weapon it seeks."

What? How did they get in there?

You just had to think deeply, and after all, the president has been reading Camus. The deep thoughts are these - Hezbollah started all this and all the suffering, death and destruction is their fault, no one else's. And everyone knows Hezbollah is just the tool of Syria and Iran - and those two, along with North Korea somehow - are part of a worldwide war on American and its values. The hate freedom, and Starbucks and KFC and Wal-Mart too maybe. You had to look at the big picture. Then he got a little wobbly, or the teleprompter crapped out. He reverted to his usual simple-man Texas rhetoric, as in his words -

The world got to see - got to see what it means to confront terrorism. I mean, it's a - it's the challenge of the 21st century, the fight against terror.

A group of ideologues, by the way, who use terror to achieve an objective - this is the challenge.

And that's why in my remarks I spoke about the need for those of us who understand the blessings of liberty to help liberty prevail in the Middle East.

And the fundamental question is: Can it? And my answer is: Absolutely, it can. I believe that freedom is a universal value. And by that, I mean I believe people want to be free.

People want to be free. One way to put it is I believe mothers around the world want to raise their children in a peaceful world. That's what I believe.
That's a tad embarrassing. Rice with her PhD and all would have rolled her eyes, but you don't do that on camera. He's the boss. Cheney just stood there just looking as if he were thinking of other things - it really don't matter what the boy says, as he's been a good front and the press is too frightened suggest this is simple-minded drivel, and the public loves their rambling and somewhat incoherent cowboy. Simple is fine.

And for that public he's "the decider." He said so. First when he said Rumsfeld stays - and now with this. He decided we, the good guys, won, for all the mothers in the world. He understands all of them, and the universal. Everyone else doesn't. Israel might want to sack Olmert for what happened. Olmert is even saying, yes, he screwed up. Hezbollah may be more wildly popular than ever. But we won. And that's that.

Oddly, it seems to be another "Mission Accomplished" moment, but without the banner. We won.

But then there's Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker with this on what was really going on with this thirty-day war with the ambiguous ending, if it's ended. From the man who broke the story of the My Lai Massacre back in 1968 and the man who most recently broke the story of what was going on at the Abu Ghraib prison, the item deals with what he learned from his inside sources this time.

Hersh doesn't get things wrong and what he reported here is that this Israeli war with the Hezbollah had been carefully planned with the Pentagon - in fact, by the Pentagon. The kidnapping of the two soldiers was what they were waiting for - an excuse to launch what was a demonstration run for what we could and would do with Iran, as Iran apparently will not stop their development of a nuclear weapon. Israel agreed to be a test case for the theory.

It was very simple. Using the Iraq "shock and awe" model, bomb the crap out of the country but use minimal ground forces - the Rumsfeld model, as it were. And the idea that had been floated by some in the Israeli government really came from Cheney's band of neoconservatives - all the death and destruction would really piss off the locals and they'd turn on Hezbollah and then Hezbollah would be scorned and discredited and slink off into obscurity, toothless and disgraced for having started all this. This is parallel to the argument William Kristol, the public face of the neoconservative movement, has been making in their journal of record, the Weekly Standard, and on Fox News - we need to bomb Iran right now and take out all their nuclear facilities, maybe using our nuclear weapons, and then the upshot will be the locals will rise against their theocratic rulers and overthrow them and welcome us and our way of running things - democracy will triumph and we'll be the good guys.

Hersh reports that we encouraged Israel to follow the model, and they bought in. They really did have a problem, so why not? It was both a test run of the theory - seeing if it worked or if it should be tweaked a bit with any necessary minor modifications - and a very public demonstration for Iran to consider, and quake in the shoes.

Hersh reports that the Israeli plan, according to the former senior intelligence official, was "the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran."

It just didn't work out -
The surprising strength of Hezbollah's resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing, the Middle East expert told me, "is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back."

Nonetheless, some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. "There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this," he said. "When the smoke clears, they'll say it was a success, and they'll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran."
And do they did. And Iran is next, even if the theory is, as the scientists like to say, so bad it isn't even wrong. It doesn't even rise to that level.

But Iran it is -
A former intelligence officer said, "We told Israel, 'Look, if you guys have to go, we're behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later - the longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office.'"
It seems Bush does not want to leave office without regime change for the three charter members of the Axis of Evil. He is not his father, who wouldn't even take Baghdad after the first Gulf War.

And then, as Bill Montgomery notes here, the president does have a demonstrated tendency to treat any unexpected reversal or failure as a personal rebuke. This will only make him more eager to take out Iran - to prove he's right, no matter what people say and what seems so. That's how he is.

Montgomery -
The thing is, if a devastating strategic bombing campaign couldn't even deter the Hezbollanians - the direct target of all those bombs - then it isn't likely to deter the Iranians. If one were intelligent and sensible, one would probably conclude that only an air campaign backed by a full-fledged ground invasion would do the trick. But Hezbollah's success at defending its turf (even in the face of something like 10-to-1 IDF numerical superiority) also suggests Iran's Revolutionary Guards aren't likely to be quite as easy a pushover as Saddam's conscript army and the professional criminals who commanded his Republican (body) Guard.

But of course, the neocons are not intelligent and sensible, so they'll likely conclude that the problem with Israel's war was that it didn't go far enough, fast enough. (This, of course, has been the neocon explanation for every military or foreign policy debacle they have caused or helped cause since the Vietnam War.) In this case, there's an element of truth to it - the Israelis did move slowly and hesitantly on the ground, and did shy away from the barbarity of Curtis LeMay-style total war from the air. (If they hadn't, the Lebanese really would be sitting in the dark for the next couple of years.)

Whether the failure to bomb Lebanon back into the Paleolithic, as opposed to the Neolithic, Stone Age was due to some residual shreds of humanity on the part of Israel's military and political elites, or simply because Hezbollah retained the deterrent capability to lob a few missiles into downtown Tel Aviv is not clear -- or particularly relevant. The former constraint certainly doesn't apply to Dick Cheney (the man who has defied medical science and proven that a human being does not in fact need a functioning heart in order to survive.) The latter - the ability to lob a missile into downtown Washington - isn't a credible deterrent - not unless Iran has developed ICBM capabilities.

Still, the fact that everything has not gone to plan in their splendid little war in Lebanon must have had some impact on the gang's thinking.
Hersh says no.

And the neoconservatives are ticked that this ended with a damned UN resolution. There's a roundup of what they're saying here, with things like this:

National Review Editors - "In addition to winning in Lebanon, Iran has the upper hand both in Iraq and in the contest over whether it will be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. If current trends continue, the Bush administration's project in the Middle East will require the same sort of expedient we have just seen in the Israel–Lebanon conflict: a papering over of what is essentially a failure."

This - "Our war President has turned out to be a disgrace. At this point in world history, the Islamofascists look like they deserve to win. In fact, they might."

Michelle Malkin - "Israel and the West surrender to Hezbollah."

This - "I'm hoping we can get through the next two years without any major disasters, and then I'm looking to elect a real war leader to the White House - somebody with a warrior's temperament and a leader's skills. George Bush has neither. He is a dangerous failure, and America will be well rid of him."

William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer both said this weekend on Fox that Hezbollah won and Iran has been strengthened.

Maybe the "bomb them and they'll like us" theory is wrong. That doesn't seem to be a permissible thought with these guys.

And now William Kristol is in despair as the left is useless and so is diplomacy -
So the Democrats are hopeless. Unfortunately, back in the real world, Bush administration policy hasn't been particularly strong either.

... What good has the recent affinity for carrots done us? Are our enemies in retreat? Are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moktada al-Sadr, Bashar Assad, the Sunni holy warriors in Iraq, al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers in the United Kingdom, and Kim Jong Il on the run?

... The State Department has succeeded in the past year in making the Bush administration more Euro-friendly and UN-attentive than ever. For this, the president has reaped no political benefit at home - and the dangers continue to mount abroad. How Bush deals with Ahmadinejad's terror-supporting and nuclear-weapons-pursuing Iran will be the test.
There's only military action in this world - and no one gets it - now not even the president. What are you going to do?

Well, here a thought. There's something called forbearance.

In one of the many items on the Lebanon war, as it was at its climax, you could find Robert Wright in and interview with Ann Althouse saying this -
What I think is actually sometimes the smartest thing to do in response to terrorist provocation, which is forbearance, is very hard to counsel. [But] if you ask what kind of shape would Israel be in if they had done a day's worth of retaliation, and since then just endured any missiles, and said, "OK, look, at this point there's no excuse for what they're doing, we're not even fighting them," I think Israel as a nation would be more secure than they are.

But it's very hard to convince people of that, and I admit that rhetorically it's hard to make that a winning strategy.
No kidding.

And two days before the cease-fire, you could find Caleb Carr in the Los Angeles Times on the escalating cycle of reaction and overreaction by Israel, the Palestinians, and Hezbollah asking this -
Is there an alternative to this pattern of mistakes and countermistakes? There is, but it involves a quality that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have ever come close to mastering: tactical restraint in order to achieve strategic advantage. Simply put, this involves looking past immediate and all-out retaliation as the best method of countering threat. It is not a call for turning the other cheek; rather, it suggests that savagely swinging back every time one's cheek is dealt so much as a brushing blow does not amount to effective boxing, much less enlightened belligerent behavior.
It's just not smart, even if emotionally satisfying.

These were found by Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly who adds this -
It's human nature to demand action following an attack. Any action. Counseling restraint in the hope that it will pay off in the long run is politically ruinous.

But our lives may depend on figuring out how to make this case. If it wasn't obvious before, it should be obvious by now that conventional military assaults are usually counterproductive against a guerrilla enemy like the ones we're fighting now. We can't kill off the fanatics fast enough to win, and in the meantime the war machine simply inspires more recruits, more allies, and more sympathy for the terrorists.

… Unfortunately, I'm not smart enough to figure out how to formulate this argument in an effective way. I wonder at times how Harry Truman managed the trick at the dawn of the Cold War, fending off the "rollback" hawks and convincing the public that containment was a more realistic strategy. But despite reading a fair amount about the era, I still don't know what the key was - though the presence of a sane faction in the Republican Party at the time was certainly a factor.

Beyond that, of course, actually having a coherent long-term strategy to pair up with a short-term counsel of forbearance would make the job easier. Ditto for a more aggressive short-term approach to homeland security. But neither of those will do the trick alone. Someone has to figure out how to sell the basic plan.
Can that even be done? Not these days. But it sure would be cool of some political leader, who no one could consider a wimp, just came ought and said - "What, another bombing campaign, followed by invasion and occupation? Are you stupid or something? We want to win this thing, you fool."

Then people would rub the sleep out of their eyes, perk up and try to figure out ways to win over the world and not just slap others around, and work on shoring up things at home here. And, oh yeah, pigs would fly.

Posted by Alan at 22:14 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006 22:18 PDT home

Sunday, 13 August 2006
Hot Off the Virtual Press
Topic: Announcements
Hot Off the Virtual Press

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-format site that is parent to this daily web log, is now online. This is Volume 4, Number 33, for the week of August 13, 2006.Click here to go there...

This week's issue is a matter of six and eleven. That would be six extended commentaries on current events, dealing with the major events of the week, the winding down of the war in Lebanon, if that is what's happening, the unseating of a three-term Democratic senator, Joe Lieberman, if that is what is happening, and the spin on the Brits foiling a plot to simultaneously blow up a whole lot of airliners. Actually, and as usual, the items are an attempt to get under the events, to see the logic, or illogic, of what's happening and who is saying what, and what to make of it. And where is Ernest Hemingway when you need him? War correspondents these days? Bah.

The photography offers a tour of a neighbor just south of Sunset Boulevard, the Fairfax district, sometimes called Kosher Canyon or "The Bagel District" - four pages of amazing images to give you a feel for ethnic Hollywood. And there's a little bit of humor regarding fame out here, and shots of where historical events really end up. For the automotive buffs, there's a very rare hot rod Morris Minor - really. For those who like cute, how about some kids at play? For those who logon for the botanicals, there are two pages, sharper and stranger than ever. And the "one shot" this week is a very disturbing poster out here, but it matches the times.

Our friend from Texas brings us more of the weird, of course, and the quotes this week were inspired by the UN resolution ending the Lebanon war - people saying the oddest things about compromise.

Again, Our Man in Tel-Aviv and Our Man in Paris are on vacation this month.

Direct links to specific pages -

Extended Observations on Current Events ______________________________

Applying Logic, or Not
War Thoughts: Someone Needs to Tell the Story
Joe's Bad Day
Framing: What Proves What, Exactly?
Talking Points: There's No Fighting the Spin

Southern California Photography ______________________________

Neighborhood Tour: The Fairfax District (four nested pages)
Fame: In case you were wondering…
Long Ago: History in the Window
Cars: A Major Minor
Kids at Play
Botanicals: Matched Sets
One Shot

Quotes for the week of August 13, 2006 - Compromise

Posted by Alan at 18:35 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 12 August 2006
Talking Points: There's No Fighting the Spin
Topic: Reality-Based Woes
Talking Points: There's No Fighting the Spin
It's been some days since all those British fellows were arrested for their plot to blow ten US-bound airplanes out of the sky. As mentioned elsewhere, the spin from the administration is that this shows that we ought to be at war and occupying Muslim countries, to force them to have some sort of democracy. If we prevail we'll all be safe, as such young men will then participate in the political process and feel no need to commit mass murder. They can run for office instead, or work for the politician of their choice. And they'll be angry no more. Or so goes the theory, for which there is little proof. How could there be? The projects in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't exactly going swimmingly. Proof of the theory will come much later, if ever. It's an if-then conditional argument, and getting the "if" set up - the free, open and secular democracies where there are gentlemanly debates and compromises worked out in some sort of congress or parliament by elected and sensible officials - is a real bitch of a job. But it should all work out that way.

And that's the line from the White House and "Zell" Lieberman. Anyone who doesn't support the global war on terror - remaking the Middle East by regime change and occupation - is missing the point. These guys with the liquid explosives and black hearts would not exist in the new world they envision. They'd be pussycats, or at least political operatives who want power and influence, and really don't feel any need to kill anyone.

So the logic goes this way - if you think these preemptive wars we're waging are doing more harm than good, then you're really supporting the angry young British Muslim men with the bombs. You're encouraging mass murder. You must hate America, and hate democracy.

Yes, it's a stretch, but that the spin. It requires that you trust the general theory is sound, without evidence, which cannot be provided at the moment.

Some buy it, but it may be that more and more people are finding it somewhere between, on one end, a little too abstract, and on the other, rather loony. To deal with those folks the theory will be repeated again and again, and reported in the media endlessly. Just keep saying it and people will become exhausted and indifferent and decide it's true. Why fight it? Yeah, whatever, George.

But there's a cool subset of this - the contention that the British arrests prove that we need programs like the illegal wiretapping and further prove that the press has been irresponsible by reporting about such illegal secret programs. That too is being repeated endlessly on the right - see Glenn Greenwald here for all the citations. If we and the Brits hadn't broken the silly laws thousands would be dead again. So there>!

The problem is it's just not true. As reported here in the Washington Post (and elsewhere), all the wire taps and looking into banking transactions were done here using FISA warrants and, in the UK, using warrants signed off by the Home Secretary. They followed the law and still got the job done.

Even Bill O'Reilly on Fox News admitted that - he just added that the warrants used in this case really didn't prove anything. We still need to cede the president the right to violate any laws he chooses. That's the only way to keep America safe, and we all love America, don't we? So this was just a bad example, or something. It still proved the point, sort of. You just never know - bypassing the warrants might have been good too, even better.

So the British and the Americans followed the laws of their respective countries that require warrants - and the terrorist plot using telephones and bank transfers was foiled. And also note this was long after it was "revealed" in the traitorous press that our government was tracking communications and financial transactions. The second part of the argument - that the press undermined our war on the bad guys by reporting there were such programs - is similarly odd. The facts show otherwise. Not that this matters very much. That argument lives on too.

All this is very odd. The facts undermine the arguments here, but if you think about it, the facts don't matter. The larger theory must be true.

One wonders how long this sort of reasoning can go - on using legal means supports the president's absolute need to use illegal methods to stop terrorist attacks - but then the American people seem to want to live in an authoritarian state. Or many of them do. Oh well.

In any event, this was big victory for the Bush administration, or so the spin goes.

But there's this from "tristero" (actually a composer whose works are performed by orchestras worldwide, Richard Einhorn) -
… as I see it, without a doubt the most bizarre aspect of the 9/11 attacks were not that they were imagined and plotted but that they actually happened. Even assuming an incompetent CIA and FBI, there were many, many signs that summer and fall that something was up (start with the 9/11 commission report and work your way through Pretext to War, The One Percent Doctrine, and a slew of other books). But for some strange reason all those signs were missed ignored, failed to rise to the higher echelons. Of course, I would be the last person to suggest that George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were unspeakably, unforgivably, negligent by ignoring the clear warnings of the Clinton administration on Al Qaeda - complaining about all the attention being focused on "just one man;" snickering, "Okay, you've covered your ass" when folks from CIA came to brief them.

Actually, I confess it. I just lied to you. I was one of the first to suggest that the Bush administration, through its utter incompetence, bears a heavy responsibility for the carnage of 9/11. I was saying so a few hours after the attacks to my friends from Finland who called to make sure that we were okay.

If nothing else, the exposure of the latest potential atrocity simply highlights how incompetent the Bushites were. No, they didn't "let it happen" and it certainly wasn't a black op to boost Bush in the polls. It's just that, well, Richard Clarke had been pushed aside, John O'Neill had quit in disgust to manage WTC security, Robert Mueller was the new kid on the block, and John Ashcroft was proofreading an arrangement of "When the Eagle Soars" for seven kazoos and musical saw. Meanwhile, many others were simply ignored and let the obsessive, paranoid and quite essential monitoring of bin Laden's activities drop.

That failure to pay attention to reality is a hallmark of the Bush administration.
That is not the official spin. It's just looking at the facts. But this is not repeated endlessly.

Something else repeated endlessly regarding the war and Joe Lieberman in particular, here from David Broder, is this this -
The people backing Lamont are nothing if not sincere. But their breed of Democrats - many of them wealthy, educated, extremely liberal - often pick candidates who are rejected by the broader public. Many of the older Lamont supporters went straight from Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern in the 1960s and '70s to Howard Dean in 2004. They helped Joe Duffey challenge Senator Tom Dodd in Connecticut for the 1970 Democratic nomination on the Vietnam War issue, only to lose to Republican Lowell Weicker in November.
Jonathan Schwarz here comments -
Apparently there's some kind of batsignal for the US punditocracy that tells them all what to write each week. This week their orders are to inform us that the Democrats had better watch out for those far-left elitists like Ned Lamont, who will with their extreme anti-war positions lead them to defeat just like George McGovern did.

… This might make you wonder certain things - like, was opposition to Vietnam the "wealthy, educated" position? I know it's fun to listen to stories from Uncle Dave B, and extremely boring to look at reality. But let's give reality a shot just this once.
So he displays all the polling from 1971 - and the man has his facts wrong. The wealthy, educated, extremely liberal were not there. The grade school-educated were always the most dovish, the college-educated the most hawkish. But then, conventional wisdom is conventional wisdom. The facts be damned.

As for the polls Schwarz lays out on this generation's issues, he sees this - "Weirdly, as you see, more education doesn't necessarily push you either way on Iraq. It seems to make you more ambivalent - while those with less education are both the most dovish and the most hawkish, with little ambivalence."

So that spin from Broder and the rest is fine, it's just not based on the facts. And it is believed by all.

What to make of all this? There's no fighting the spin. Give in. You'll be more comfortable.

Posted by Alan at 18:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 11 August 2006
Topic: Breaking News
It's over? That's what the Associated Press reported late Friday evening, August 11 - the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that calls for an end to the war between Israel and Hezbollah. The resolution authorizes fifteen thousand UN peacekeepers to help Lebanese troops take control of south Lebanon, and oddly, as Israel withdraws. They don't get to stay. But it has, after all, been four weeks or more since this all started, and something had to be done. More than eight hundred are dead, mostly civilians, and Lebanon's infrastructure is pretty much destroyed, and all this displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and "inflamed tensions" (the AP folks doing understatement) across the Middle East. The resolution was drafted by France and the United States. It was adopted unanimously. Enough is enough.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert endorsed the resolution late Friday, after a day of what seemed like brinksmanship - a threat to expand the ground war and a public request for the United States to ship over some of those massive antipersonnel cluster bombs. Lebanon's cabinet was to consider the draft on Saturday, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Lebanese government assured her that it supported the text. And she said so on CNN, not Fox News, to show, one must presume, that she's being as fair as possible. Wolf Blitzer scoops Bill O'Reilly. Who'd have guessed that would happen?

There still is the matter of when to implement this all. Israel said its go-get-'em operations would continue until Sunday - that's when its cabinet will meet to endorse the resolution. And it seems they will. Early Saturday the tanks, troops and armored personnel carriers were still pouring over the border, that "blue line" that seemed to disappear for a month. Kofi Annan said he planned to meet Lebanese and Israeli officials "as soon as possible" to determine the exact date of a cease-fire. Is it over? It's sort of over, maybe.

Rice was saying the "hard work of diplomacy" was "only beginning" - it would be unrealistic to expect an immediate end to all violence, and said that we'd be increasing our assistance to Lebanon by fifty million dollars, and demanded other nations just stop interfering in Lebanon's affairs. Yep, if Iran and Syria keeps sending in replacement rockets and such we might get really mad.

Kofi Annan admitted the whole world has been frustrated, and he had been - "I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the council did not reach this point much, much earlier." But better late than never - even if the American neoconservatives don't agree.

Some demands just weren't met. Forget the Lebanese objections - Israel will be allowed to continue defensive operations. Arab diplomats suspect the Israeli military will interpret "defensive operations" very loosely. And there's the mater of Chebaa Farms along the Syria-Lebanon-Israel border - that's for later. And Israel won't get its wish - an entirely new multinational force separate from the UN peacekeepers that have there since 1978, with no authority to stomp on Hezbollah when the drop rockets into northern Israel. And Lebanon's acting foreign minister, Tarek Mitri, is not a happy camper - they'll buy into this but allowing Israel to continue operations in any way is crap - "A cease-fire that by its terms cannot be implemented is no cease-fire. A cease-fire that retains the right for one side the right not to cease firing is not a cease-fire."

Picky, picky, picky… And there's no call for the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel or any sort of demand for the "immediate" withdrawal of Israeli troops. The thing only says there's a "need" for the "unconditional release" of the two Israeli soldiers captured July 12, the thing that's stared this all. It's not one of the step here. It just would help, but it's not required.

Like all compromises, no one gets everything they want. Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said to look at it this way - "The question is, has everybody got enough for this to stick and for it to be enforceable?"

We'll see. This has been going on far too long. Israel and the Palestinians at it - Hezbollah formed after the 1967 war to fight back. Qatar's Foreign Minister - Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani - said the Arab states would be submitting formal requests for a Security Council meeting in September to work out a new regional peace plan. Enough of this foolishness - it's not good for anyone.

Glenn Greenwald, the attorney and the fellow who wrote the best-seller How Would A Patriot Act?, calls this "a bizarre end to a bizarre war" and discusses the political-policy implications of what happened here -
Hezbollah would not be disbanded nor disarmed, and its re-supply route from Syria would neither be destroyed nor impeded. Given the grand pronouncements with which this war began - that Hezbollah would be destroyed, that it was the start of the epic war of civilizations - any honest person (and even many who are not honest) would acknowledge that this is a defeat for Israel and for neoconservative dreams of a wider war. As a result, many in Israel are predicting, and vigorously calling for, the resignation of Israel's Prime Minister.

The disappointment and anger of neoconservatives over this ignominious end must be severe, and it is almost certain to be a source of very intense conflict between them and the Bush administration.
And he provides links to various sources - Israelis calling for Olmert to resign and over at the influential National Review, John Podhoretz saying he should go, adding this - "I'm tempted to suggest that our government, having seemingly lost its will to oppose (or even to let others oppose) our deadliest enemies, deserves the same fate. But let's wait until the facts are in."

Get rid of George Bush? These guys aren't happy. Rich Lowry here quotes an Israeli source as saying that this is the "worst defeat for Israel since 1948," and adds this - "When it comes to UN resolutions in the Middle East is that they either simply reflect the facts on the ground, or make the victor give away a little bit of his victory; they never let someone pull victory out of a hat from defeat. So Israel will ultimately get from this resolution what they won on the ground, which is to say not much."

John Podhoretz earlier had said the resolution will mean that "Israel and the United States will be handing Hezbollah a victory. And Israel will have lost a war for the first time - and probably not the last." Olmert agrees to the cease-fire. He's a coward.

Greenwald -
When this all started, neoconservatives were in full bloodthirsty glory, salivating over the complete obliteration of Hezbollah and much of Southern Lebanon, as the start of the "great opportunity" - "our war" - in which we would do the same to Syria and Iran. Instead, they got a joint U.S.-French UN resolution engineering a cease-fire dependent upon French troops protecting Israel from the Hezbollah militia, and even Israeli hawks lamenting the humiliation suffered at the hands of Hezbollah (assuming Hezbollah, which clearly has the strongest hand here, agrees to all of this).

Watching Fox News right now discussing this is like being at a wake. … The neoconservative dream for broader war, at least for the moment, has collapsed on its shattered foundations. Nobody should consider a Hezbollah victory to be anything remotely a cause for celebration; that should go without saying. But the plan the neoconservatives harbor - and thought they were finally able to execute - is as dangerous a threat as anything else in the world, and anything which puts a stop to it, and which drives a wedge between them and their enablers in the Bush administration, is something which, independent of all else, is a constructive development.

… I view this war and the end of it as "bizarre" because the war's ambitions were so grand and sweeping from the start - the amount of brutality and slaughter required to accomplish them were far in excess of what could be tolerated - that it was almost designed to fail from the start. One could say exactly that of the general neoconservative view on all matters…
No Cheney neoconservative will really want Rice's head on a platter - and she gave the interview to CNN, not Fox News. Oh my, or as Donald Rumsfeld would say, "Good Gracious!"

Bill Montgomery adds this about Israel's position now, and ours -
They've blown it, right down the line, from the opening bid for an aerial knockout, through the defeats and retreats, the incredible shrinking war aims, the daily humiliation of seeing a third of Israel bombarded with rockets. And now this - a ceasefire that appears to give Hezbollah all or nearly all of what it demanded (although not the Laker tickets), all of it to be supervised by a "reinforced" version of UNIFIL (most of the reinforcements will probably never arrive) working under a limited one-year mandate, and with no more legal authority to use force than the current bunch of blue helmets.

And for this, Lebanon was ravaged, thousands were killled, millions on both sides spent weeks cooped up in air raid shelters and the credibility and any lingering shreds of respectability of the US government in the Islamic world were flushed down the you-know-what. For this.

After all, why did we embark on the war, if not to ensure that French soldiers will protect Israel from the Hezbollah rocket battery.

The long knives are already out - for Olmert, for Peretz, the ward boss turned defense minister, for Halutz and the commander of the Northern Front (who was effectively sacked in the middle of the war) and probably half of entire IDF general staff, if they don't sink them in each other's backs first. Losing is never pretty, and the post-war settling of accounts is going to be even less so.

It seems as if every minor league neocon in Washington is taking the opportunity to remind Israel that if there's one thing America detests it's a loser. So much for all the tearful singing of the Ha'tikvah. If Washington's Middle Eastern Rottweiler wants to keep getting its kennel ration, it will put a little more teeth into the business next time.

… All the bellicose rhetoric in the world - like Schiff's threat to respond with "cruel craziness" if and when other red lines are crossed in the future - can't conceal the failures: of a military aristocracy's arrogant faith in technology, of an Army that's grown accustomed to waging war against Palestinian teenagers, of a political establishment that believes with zombie-like intensity that the cure for incompetence is ever greater applications of military force.

There will be hell to pay for this fiasco - coming as it does on top of Uncle Sam's own murder suicide pact in Iraq. When and where that payment will be demanded isn't clear yet, but if the past is any guide it will be paid in the blood of the innocent and not the guilty.
Yeah, well, wait until we pull out of Iraq. This is just a foretaste of what's to come.

And as for Rice weeks ago saying the fighting might have continue as, although it seemed bad, it was really a good thing, and opportunity when you looked at it the right way, just the "birth pangs" of a new Middle East - "Condi better swap her forceps for a shovel, because it looks like there's going to be a lot of graves to dig in the 'new' Middle East."

It was a strange day indeed. The old way of working things out prevailed - disagreement, negotiation, compromise, uneasy peace and distrust, but some sort of peace nonetheless. For those who see compromise as a sign of weakness and moral failure, this was a very bad day. For those who will now live and not die in a pill of rubble or be blasted apart by a rocket falling from the sky, not so bad.

Posted by Alan at 21:40 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 12 August 2006 06:35 PDT home

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