Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Josh Marshall has unexpectedly emerged as an acute analyst and observer of the Bush Administration's kalaedoscopic approach to strategy in the Mideast.


Monday, February 26, 2007

What we need

The news media seems determined to start the Presidential campaign in 2007, instead of waiting for 2008.

It is not a campaign we need in 2007, but a painful vivisection of the Bush Presidency and the Establishment that supported it -- a live autopsy of all that has gone wrong with Republican Rule by the Wrong.

Cleansing our deeply poisoned political system

The function of a political storm is to allow a People to change their collective mind, to change their politics, and -- often, most important -- to change the elite, which governs them. Glenn Greenwald, while contemplating the spectacle that is Joe Lieberman, explains the problem:

The reason our mission in Iraq has proven to be so disastrous and corrupt is very simple -- the advocates and architects of that war are completely corrupt, inept, and deceitful. Recognizing this fact and ceasing to accord people like this with respect and credibility is infinitely more important than any specific debates over particular policy or strategic questions. . . .

These are people who are completely bereft of judgment and integrity, and their behavior has wreaked incalculable and arguably unprecedented damage on our country. Holding them accountable, and recognizing them for what they are, is critical not only for cleansing our deeply poisoned political system, but also for averting identical, or worse, tragedies in the very near future.

Greenwald is focusing on Lieberman, on the occasion of yet another idiotic Lieberman WSJ op-ed. Lieberman is a U.S. Senator, newly re-elected, and probably not going away any time soon. But, we shall see.

There's another group, which will have to enter the trashcan of history, before American politics can recover, and that group is the High Punditocrisy of American Media. Bob Somerby of Daily Howler fame, has this peroration on this Monday morning:

In the past fifteen years, the interests of decent American people have been endlessly slaughtered by an indecent cohort. They’re too rich, they’re too famous; they’re much too dumb. They’re a race of insipid, inane “Antoinettes.” But their tribe controls your national discourse. They slaughtered Gore in 1999, and they slaughtered your nation’s interests in the process. Until we explain this tribe to the public, they’ll live on—and they’ll slaughter again.

Lieberman, even if he persists in the Senate, may be neutralized by the evolution of our politics, but how the triumphalism of idiot pundits will end, remains to be worked out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Doomed. Wrecked. Ruined.

Atrios points to Tom Schaller:
"According to the latest Gallup survey, Republican self-identification has declined nationally and in almost every American state."

Yes, it has. Bush, the Republican Caligula, is like some kind of caustic soda stuck to the Republican brand, eating it away. (Schaller, of course, has an analysis.)

Atrios is right, I think, that it will take prolonged treatment to have lasting political effects. Some Democrats will fear that the Republicans will rise zombie-like, if Democrats are less than spectucularly effective in curtailing Bush's Iraq adventure. But, the drip-drip-drip of conversations, like the one Digby observes between Chris Matthews and various right-wing Republican pundits, where the essentially fraudulent nature of all Republican "principles" is on full display, will continue for some time. It isn't just the Iraq War, from which none of the Republican candidates for President and few of the Republican leaders in Congress yet have the sense to flee. Having as candidates for the Republican nomination only moderate and liberal Republicans, who will have to change their positions on every major issue, to get the nomination, has its own dynamic.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mysterious BW rants on TPM


Failure is a tough sell. Odom admits that, but he does not fully understand the implications. The Democrats in Congress are not especially stupid, but they are necessarily anxious about withdrawal, because they are sensibly fearful of being blamed by the Republicans for “losing Iraq”.

The worst kinds of Republicans control almost the whole news Media. The punditocrisy has backed this stupid war completely. The narrative, which will be fed to the American People, by this propaganda machine will not be favorable to a Democratic Congress.
And, withdrawal from Iraq will be followed for months and years by a series of events catastrophic to American interests in the region. Stability will not magically reappear. At best, Iran may assume control of much of Iraq; at worst, Iran and Saudi Arabia will fight a prolonged proxy war.

Odom is wrong to attribute the dire situation entirely to the mere fact of the war. In fact, the conduct of the war by the U.S. has largely created the chaos in Iraq. The corrupt and incompetent conduct of the war has created the chaos in Iraq. Bush’s corrupt and incompetent conduct of the occupation and reconstruction has created the chaos in Iraq.

Everywhere, political punditry from the Right concentrates on ignoring, or distracting from, the massive contribution to Iraqi chaos made by Bush’s conduct of the occupation and reconstruction. And, too many on the Left help them in this effort, prattling on about “age-old” conflicts between Shia and Sunni, with scarcely a word about how the institutions of secular society were ground to dust, leaving only ancient tribal affiliations.

The critical work of the Congress in the next 6 months is to build the narrative, which places the responsibility for the course of the Iraq War on its conduct. The narrative, favored by the self-destructive left, of a war that was doomed from the outset, is welcomed by the Right, which wishes to gloss over the corruption, malfeasance and incompetence. I am no fan of Hillary's (or Kerry's) conspicuous calculation, but Hillary is right to remind Democratic Primary voters that the mistakes in Iraq belong to Bush. Squabbling over which Democrats have uttered mea culpas on their support for the Iraq War at the outset does not build a political majority. Focusing attention on Bush's conduct of the war, and how the conduct of the war has contributed to the hopelessness of the current situation -- there Bush's responsibility is unambiguous and unshared.

With the foundation afforded by a narrative of Iraq failure, which clearly fixed blame on the incompetence and corruption of Republicans, the Democrats might be able to sell the idea that it is too late in Iraq, to recover. And, with that foundation, the Democrats will be able to get the country out of Iraq, without destroying themselves.

The story of how Bush conducted the war, and how that conduct led to the on-going fiasco and catastrophe, which is Iraq, is the story ALL Democrats should be telling, over and over, until nothing else can be heard in this country, and the U.S. gets out, out, out.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Four Wars and counting

Via Kevin Drum, here's Phil Carter at Slate, learning something from Secretary of Defense Gates, about why the U.S. effort in Iraq has become inherently futile.

The basic idea, attributed to Gates, is that there are (at least) four wars going on in Iraq:
1. a Shia v. Shia struggle in the South, with implications for the legitimacy and stability of the Shia-led central government;
2. a vicious Sunni v. Shia sectarian struggle in Baghdad;
3. an insurgency against the U.S.-supported central government;
4. an effort by Al Quaeda against the U.S.

A commenter on Drum's site makes the perfectly valid point that a fifth war, a Kurdish effort to capture Kirkuk from the Arabs and Turkmen, is presently in the offing.

The problem is not the multiplicity of struggles, per se, but the reality that anything the U.S. does tactically to win one of these struggles, tends to undermine its ability to obtain a favorable outcome from the other struggles. If the U.S. strengthens the central government by training and equipping its forces, for example, that training and equipment tends to flow into the sectarian militias, which are contending against one another in the south. And, Al Quaeda, though small and unpopular in Iraq, enjoys a great deal of leverage, because it is free to play the spoiler, with spectacular attacks aimed at destablizing the situation wherever the U.S. makes a bit of progress.

Kevin Drum draws the obvious conclusion, which Carter -- a military lawyer -- does not: "the conclusion from this is pretty obvious: continued American engagement is futile. No matter what tactics we use, at best we can win only one of these battles -- and only at the cost of making the others worse. "

The political storm in the U.S. over Iraq is presently stalled. The reason is quite simple -- a political storm is basically a struggle over narratives: who can tell the most appealing story, and the politicians are struggling to come up with a narrative, which will appeal to the American People. This is very difficult, because the U.S. has dishonored itself in Iraq, and there is no prospect for a "happy ending" to this drama. That makes all even faintly plausible, let alone truthful, narratives about Iraq seriously unpalatable to the American public. It does not help that much of the punditocrisy, which controls public discourse on television, is foolish, supported Bush's Iraq policy from the beginning, and is implicated in the failures of U.S. policy.

But, the further development of events in Iraq will not wait on creative dramatics in the U.S. The policy, whatever it is, is doomed to further and spectacular failure, and its principal author -- President Bush, is a deeply unpopular, lame duck President, with lots of authority, but rapidly diminishing political power.

Bush's approval ratings, just above 30%, are waiting to plunge into hanging territory. Below 30%, Presidents resign in disgrace. As events deteriorate in Iraq, and the Democrats in Congress, investigate the past, a narrative of incompetence and corruption will gain traction.

The American People will not want to swallow a narrative that blames America, but a narrative of failure is impossible to avoid, because failure is impossible to avoid. The only question is, in the narrative(s) adopted, who will be blamed. The Right may well decide to adopt a narrative, which blames the Left for undermining the troops, or some such, if they can keep such a narrative from becoming so ridiculous as to attract derision. The Left seems surprisingly open to adopting a narrative, which absolves Bush from responsibility for making things in Iraq much worse with his corrupt and incompetent Reconstruction, if they get to claim that the invasion, itself, in principle, was a bad idea and impossible to make work. The Left thinks such a narrative would innoculate American foreign policy against adventurism [-- just as Vietnam did . . . NOT!]

I still hold out hope that Congressional investigations of corruption and incompetence will eventually lead to a rejection of Bush's cult of stupid incompetence. Stupid people do not recognize stupidity; that's how they are stupid, so hoping the people, generally, are going to reject stupidity, per se, is hopelessly naive. But, people do, sometimes, recognize corruption, and they do, sometimes, defer to smarter and wiser, and not just to loud-mouth flatterers. There is some hope, for discrediting the Republican Party and much of the punditocrisy.

But, it is clear that Iraq is destined to create a still bigger political storm, because Iraq is spinning ever further out of control; all of the U.S. effort from this point on, will be futile. The chances that Bush will be able to plausibly blame the Democrats for the failure in Iraq is diminishing, rapidly.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Explains everything

Juan Cole:
"It isn't right, but, well, the US is run by cranky old rich white men, . . ."

Monday, February 5, 2007

Failure in the Making

The general thesis of this blog has been that Bush's moronic policies would have bad consequences, and, at least some of those policies would have consequences so acutely bad, as to create a "political storm" -- a bit of political theatre in which the body politic appears to learn something from the sequence of political events. My model was Watergate, which seemed to be about a third-rate burglary, but was, in fact, about the Imperial Presidency of Richard Nixon.

It is a measure of how seriously deteriorated is the United States, that Bush has been able to go as far as he has, without alarming the journalistic and corporate elites.

But, there is a logic to overreaching, which just carries on until it confronts a limit, no matter how far out that limit may be.

The President has embarked on his "surge" in Iraq, yet another ill-conceived, largely unplanned policy, with predictably catastrophic consequences. The incomparable Stirling Newberry outlines why things will get worse before they get still worse.

It appears that Mr. Bush, unable to provoke the Congress into making him withdraw from Iraq, has turned to the long-suffering Iraqi People. A uniter not a divider appears ready to unite the Iraqi People behind American withdrawal.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

New war, better than the old war

It is with complete incredulity, that I watch the Bush Administration continue to pursue war with Iran. If anything is better calculated to destroy America's pre-eminent role in the world, I can scarcely imagine what it might be.

Michael O'Hare summarizes the case:

This is sounding uncomfortably familiar. The Bush team is motivating a war with Iran with the kind of hard-headed intelligence and open-eyed analysis it perfected for the Iraq disaster, but not planning for the war, with the same insouciance with which it made no particular plans for the Iraq war.
Not planning for a war is not at all the same as planning not to have a war, as the arrival of another carrier group in the Persian Gulf makes clear. Anyway, the Iranians are almost all Shi'a, so what could go wrong?

James Fallows, ever the voice of reason, writes for the Atlantic, what ought to be obvious to every rational politician in Congress:

Deciding what to do next about Iraq is hard — on the merits, and in the politics. It’s hard on the merits because whatever comes next, from “surge” to “get out now” and everything in between, will involve suffering, misery, and dishonor. It’s just a question of by whom and for how long. On a balance-of-misery basis, my own view changed last year from “we can’t afford to
leave” to “we can’t afford to stay.” And the whole issue is hard in its politics because even Democrats too young to remember Vietnam know that future Karl Roves will dog them for decades with accusations of “cut-and-run” and “betraying” troops unless they can get Republicans to stand with them on limiting funding and forcing the policy to change.

By comparison, Iran is easy: on the merits, in the politics. War with Iran would be a catastrophe that would make us look back
fondly on the minor inconvenience of being bogged down in Iraq. While the Congress flounders about what, exactly, it can do about Iraq, it can do something useful, while it still matters, in making clear that it will authorize no money and provide no
endorsement for military action against Iran.

None of this is exactly rocket science. It is clear from the opinion polls that a solid majority understands that the Iraq War is a disaster. It is not as clear, I think, that everyone understands that war with Iran is completely unnecessary and would be catastrophic in its consequences for the U.S. But, here we are.

Before the Iraq War, I do think that a lot of people were caught up in a kind of hypnotic trance, as a consequence of 9/11, and a failure to acknowledge just what an incompetent moron Bush is. But, now we have the example of that war and its corrupt, moronic execution staring us all in the face.

The great political storm, which must inevitably follow the bad consequences of bad policy -- the political theatre, which metes out the blame and draws the moral lessons, and drives people and parties from power -- rises in the land. But, even as the nation struggles to digest the moral lesson of the Iraq, Bush seems determined to drag the country and world forward toward a conflict in Iran.

Beginning this week, the Congress will hold hearings on the corruption and incompetence of the Iraq Reconstruction. The Scooter Libby trial will continue. Katrina continues to fester in memory. Those things alone would feed the political storm. But, somewhere yet another carrier group heads toward the Gulf, which may well mean nothing, but who trusts Bush?