Sunday, January 7, 2007

On Escalation

Michael O'Hare detects a "perfect global storm" of incompetence:

“. . . escalation isn't drawing to an inside straight, it's betting the Jack of Diamonds will jump out of a sealed deck and squirt cider in your ear, . . .”

“I did not commit myself, in print or otherwise, before the Iraq invasion because although I had a sick feeling about it, . . . I was genuinely uncertain.

“I have the same sick feeling about escalating the troop strength of the occupation . . ., but this time I’m pretty sure I know what to expect. The reason is not that I have new expertise about occupation, unconventional warfare, Iraqi politics, or just how many brigades is the magic number; it’s that the inability of the current national administration to bring any complex task to a desired end has been shown over a practical unanimity of failed enterprises. Putting Petraeus, everyone’s current model of a modern lieutenant-general, in charge of ground forces whose capacity to do anything except win pitched battles against an army was never very great and has been affirmatively trashed by Rumsfeld and Cheney, and a bunch of contractors selected for political loyalty and much better able to steal and waste than to make anything work, will not greatly change the odds.

“The historically consistent and pervasive incompetence of the Bush government is in no way limited to the armed forces, indeed the inability of every important agency to do its own job and to function effectively with others is something of a perfect global storm, for which I know no US precedent. Perhaps they are reforming? Nope, hacks and ideologues are still being given corner offices even after the election. Science is still being muffled and kneecapped, and good people are leaving the building. This complete lack of basic human leadership resources up and down the whole enterprise is the reason the Iraq escalation will founder in blood and humiliation.

“The Iraq enterprise is over and it has failed. It isn’t going badly and in need of a really big push for a new plan; it’s gone beyond the imaginable capacities of the tools we have, within the constraints of the second law of thermodynamics that makes the arrow of time point one way, gone with the passenger pigeon and the dodo. Iraq will fester, smolder, and occasionally fulminate for decades. The Shi’a may impose a ruthless and wretched hegemony, or they may fall apart into factions and oversee a long war of all against all, or a Persian empire will come to rule a bunch of Arabs again. We are now irrelevant in any important way to this future, only perhaps to how rapidly it comes on. “Too late” doesn’t mean “earlier would have been better,” it means too late, and too late, by about three years, is what any escalation by this defense department, this state department, this president is. Does Bush know this, as some have speculated, and is just stalling until he can get out of office? I have no idea; it doesn’t matter.

"As George Wald said when asked, “how can we get out of Vietnam?” :
“ 'In ships!' ”

Friday, January 5, 2007

Jeff Huber, Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)

ABC reports that "Fallon, who is in the Navy, is currently head of Pacific Command; he will be overseeing two ground wars, so the appointment is highly unusual."I think ABC is missing the point.It seems highly unusual for a navy admiral to take charge of CENTCOM until you consider two interrelated things.
First is that Bush needs a senior four-star in the CENTCOM job who hasn't gone on record as opposing additional troops in Iraq. Second is that Fallon's CENTCOM area of responsibility will include Iran. A conflict with Iran would be a naval and air operation. Fallon is a naval flight officer. He flew combat missions in Vietnam, commanded an A-6 Intruder squadron, a carrier air wing and an aircraft carrier. As a three-star, he commanded Second Fleet and Strike Force Atlantic. He resently heads U.S. Pacific Command. His resume also includes duty in numerous joint and Navy staff billets, including Deputy Director for Operations with Joint Task Force Southwest Asia in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia. If anybody knows how to run a maritime
and air operation against Iran, it's "Fox" Fallon.

The recurrent reports that Bush is planning to attack Iran have always had a certain unrealistic cast to them, for me.

To do so, with no particular justification or reason, in the face of a country, of whom nearly three-quarters now question the wisdom of Iraq, would be to invite the biggest political storm since the Civil War. Jeff Huber, it should be noted, bemoans the fact that there is "little" that Congress could do to prevent such an attack. True enough. But, he overlooks the poignant reality that there is little that the Congress could not do, to punish Bush and the Generals for such a blunder. After a few days or, perhaps a week or two, of a stumbling patriotism, the country would turn on Bush with a ferocity, which we, in this moment, can scarcely imagine.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Crisis, sweet Crisis, rescue my country

I am old enough to remember Nixon, Watergate and Vietnam. I started this blog, because I remember Watergate, and the awe I felt as the Constitution's gears began to turn, and the country turned on Nixon. Nixon was re-elected in 1972 by the greatest landslide in American electoral history. Twenty months after his second inaugural, his Vice-President had been forced out in a bribery scandal and Nixon, himself, resigned.

Watergate was no accident. Nixon was the Imperial President. He had bombed neutral Cambodia, conducting a "secret" war without even a figleaf of authorization from Congress. He had "impounded funds" in defiance of Congress's power to appropriate. Nixon's involvement in covering up the third-rate burglary at the Watergate Hotel was, really, just an excuse, a handy, "politically neutral" crime, which even Republicans could be forced to condemn. It was a bit like convicting Al Capone of tax evasion.

So far, no figleaf, like the Watergate burglary, has appeared, which would enable impeachment. It is conventional wisdom that, though we can impeach a President for lying about a blowjob, this country cannot get it together on a President lying us into war or "authorizing" torture or other war crimes. Maybe not, and maybe a convenient figleaf is waiting just out of sight, to pop up, as the Mark Foley scandal did in the recent Congressional elections, to enable the reluctant to do the necessary.

I actually think Cheney's resignation, followed by Bush forced to appoint a new V-P, who will assume real power from Bush for the remainder of Bush's term, is the most likely scenario for Bush's Fall from Power. That's just what seems most plausible to me, given the dynamics in prospect.

My musing is prompted by the swearing-in of a Democratic Congress and the imminence of Bush's "new strategy" in Iraq.

There really are no good options for Iraq. The U.S. has failed in Iraq. And, nothing Bush can conceivably do will rescue the situation, or even paper over the obvious for two years. So, whatever, he proposes will be seen in the country for what it is: an admission of failure coupled with a further demonstration of incompetence.

Think about it: admitting failure, while demonstrating incompetence. Not an attractive combination. And, that's what our naked Emperor will be putting on display, for a country mostly prepared to see it all for what it is.

Bush, after hanging around in the 30-40 percent approval bracket for a year, is going south, into hanging territory.

He's going to propose escalating the conflict in Iraq -- something that about 15% of Americans see as a good thing, about the same percentage as think we are being invaded by aliens from outer space. He's going to be doing this amidst a weakening economy, rising gas prices and a hostile Democratic Congress investigating the extensive corruption and criminal wrong-doing, which has characterized his Administration.

This is not going to be pretty, but it may be perverse fun.

Steve Gilliard has had similar prophetic inklings:
I know people don't believe me, but I don't think Bush's presidency survives a rejection of his Iraq plan. Because there will be hearings and hard questions and unlike the GOP, people will expect answers. If Terri Schaivo began the road to the end of the GOP domination of Congress, this will do the same for Bush.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Summing it up

Glenn Greenwald:
No matter what we touch in Iraq, no matter what we do, it only makes things worse -- never better -- because the root of what we are doing is itself so rotted and incoherent and corrupt.

I'd say that sums it up.