Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I love the smell of desperation in the morning...

In my last post, I suggested that Bush would resort to desperate measures to try to boost his sagging approval ratings. Well, forget desperate measures. Now it's just desperation, plain and simple. As Steve Soto reports at The Left Coaster, Cheney "has resorted to taking shots at Chuck Hagel," one of the only Republicans who has any sense on Iraq (and, unlike the warmongers in the Bush Administration, someone who's seen actual combat). Bush will try to pull himself up with a televised speech on Tuesday at Fort Bragg, against another "Mission Accomplished" backdrop, but it seems unlikely that such a staged event will turn public opinion back in his direction. With rising casualty numbers coming out of Iraq and more or less bad news across the board, the American people are finally coming to see just what they've got in the White House. And they don't much like it anymore.

And the Democrats? "All Democrats have to do in response to Bush's speech tomorrow is point to the CIA's own report that shows Bush's bungling has accomplished something that Saddam couldn't: make Iraq into a terrorist threat."

Maybe -- just maybe -- we're witnessing the last throes of the Bush presidency. He's got a few more years, and that's an awfully long time in politics, but it's hard not to conclude that, at the moment at least, he's running on empty.

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17 Comments:

  • "Bush's bungling has accomplished something that Saddam couldn't: make Iraq into a terrorist threat."

    How can you say such a thing? Saddam did make Iraq into a terrorist threat: A terrorist threat to Israel, and we all know a terrorist threat to Israel is a terrorist threat to the United States. Saddam was directly responsible for supporting Palestinean suicide bombers, rewarding $200,000 to each suicide bomber's family. If that isn't terrorism I don't know what is.


    "A citizen of the world"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:32 AM  

  • I don't really see how you can say "terrorist threat to Israel is a terrorist threat to the United States." That's simply not true. So far, at least, the Palestineans have not attacked the United States. I'm not saying it's not possible (there has been talk in the past about Hamas or Herzbollah targeting the US), but it's highly unlikely that the Palestineans themselves would or could.

    Bush is faced with the fact that bad war news is always going to hurt the Administration, regardless of the wisdom of the policy. The problem is there are few alternatives--I don't think pulling out precipitously is a good option. I am convinced, however, that the Republicans do not want to go into 2008 with large numbers of American troops still fighting in Iraq. Of course, whether Bush really cares about the party is not clear.

    As far as I'm concerned, Bush is reaping what he has sowed, not just on Iraq, but in general. His supposed "mandate" is turning out to be illusory and I think his reliance on the conservative base is starting to wear thin. The problem (or maybe not a problem if you are a Democrat) is, Bush is so stubborn (or self-righteous)and his team is so used to being in campaign mode, that I doubt he is capable of reaching out either to the Democrats or to the non-nut wing of his own party.

    By Anonymous Marc Schneider, at 9:54 AM  

  • Marc,

    A terrorist threat to Israel is a terrorist threat to the United States. For when Israel is attacked by terrorism, it is like an attack on the United States. Our foreign policy objectives and security issues are the same, take a look at the past 50 years since the creation of Israel. We are like brothers, we share the same interests, we both are engaged in a war against terrorism and we both shall fight for freedom whereever there is darkness. If you want more information about our common security interests, take a look at the JINSA, and New american foundation Century websites. Let the bells of freedom ring.

    " A citizen of the world"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:52 AM  

  • As Robert Kagan recently pointed out in an excellent Washington Post article, what we tend to forget is that as early as the 1990's it was clear, at least among US and British officials, that Saddam would have to be dealt with at some point. This was not a man who would respond to traditional carrots of aid and economic incentives. He was content to let thousands of children die of starvation every year. He waged two foolish wars that accomplished nothing. We were not dealing with a rational man here, but a manipulative man with delusions of grandeur who posed a serious threat to peace so long as he was in power. Whether the country was the US, Kuwait, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia...the US would have to clean up whatever mess he started.

    To say that Iraq is more of a terrorist threat now is perhaps technically true, but the sentiment seems to overlook the fact that Iraq was always a serious threat to world peace and US interests.

    By Blogger Nate, at 1:19 PM  

  • Nate,

    Even if Kagan is correct, that doesn't mean that you needed to fight a war. To say that someone will have to "be dealt with at some point" is not much of a justification for the specific action taken because you don't know what the future will hold. Maybe Saddam would have had a heart attack and died. Maybe lots of things would have happened. I just don't think you can justify this war, in the absence of specific, compelling indications that Saddam was an immediate threat, on the basis that he would be a threat in the future.

    If you acknowlege that he was not an immediate threat, but think that he would have been a threat in the future, does that mean it would have been appropriate for the Administration to make up a reason? What Kagan seems to be implying is that we had to go to war sometime, so find a reason now even if it's a pretext.

    By Anonymous Marc Schneider, at 3:44 PM  

  • Kagan is one of the smarter guys on the right, but it's obvious (to me, at least) that war supporters are desperately searching for any retroactive justification they can find. I agree that Saddam had to be dealt with -- and I needn't remind those of you who read my blog regularly that I supported the war, however reluctantly, in part because of humanitarian concerns -- but what is becoming more and more clear (and we see this in the other memos coming out of Downing Street) that the Bush people had no effective post-war plan. And that's the price the U.S. is paying now. I'm glad to see Saddam gone -- anti-warriors of the left often forget that he gassed his own people and slaughtered thousands every years -- but I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the occupation if there's been some preparation for it.

    To the first comment, above: I didn't say that Bush has turned Iraq into a terrorist threat. But that's generally the view of the CIA, if not quite so explicit. I don't deny that Saddam supported terrorism insofar as it sustained his rule, but he wasn't jihadist bent on bringing down the U.S. He was a secular fascist. He only used explicit support for terrorism to secure popularity (such as we can call it that) at home. The problem now is that Iraq has become a home for jihadists, and all the reports I've seen indicate that they're thriving in the vacuum of authority that is much of the U.S. occupation.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 4:20 PM  

  • Marc,

    We did need to fight the war. Iraq had to be dealt with for various reasons, and even though it wasn't an immediate threat, we finally had the opportunity to deal with a thorn in our ass and gain a leg up on China. With the overwhelming support for the U.S. government after 9-11, why not tell a noble lie in order to get rid of Saddam, be in control of the second largest oil reserves in the world (which is worth $60 dollars at the moment), and protect Israel and the rest of the world from an inevitable attack by Iraq. I have to say that I'm very impressed by the foresight of this administration. They were able to kill three birds with one stone.

    "A citizen of the world"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:40 PM  

  • Citizen of the World,

    Who is going to decide what's a "noble lie?" I'm not naive, I think deception is part of governing and its unrealistic to expect officials to be candid about everything. But we are talking about a war here.

    What "inevitable" attack by Iraq are you talking about? Who was Iraq going to attack? They certainly weren't going to attack Israel or the United States.

    If you are going to say that the government should just lie whenever it decides it wants to fight a war, I find that an immensely dangerous concept.

    By Anonymous Marc Schneider, at 9:47 AM  

  • I certainly can't endorse the "noble lie" concept. What we have to distinguish here is (a) the way the war was sold to the public and (b) how the post-war occupation has been carried out from (c) the overriding question of whether to go to war in the first place.

    Marc, I see your point about the danger of projecting a doomsday scenario in the future when in fact it may never come to pass, but that has to balanced with the possibility that it might come true. Would the British have been better off taking action early in the 1930's when Germany started their imperialist maneuvers, and when the German war machine was still developing? By holding out hope that Hitler would come around to appeals to reason, even as Hilter showed no signs of doing so, the British painted theselves into a corner.

    Was Saddam a risk on par with Hitler? No, but hindsight is 20/20. On many fronts he was defying international law and his track record showed a history of lying, cheating, and brazenly foolish military ventures. Why play a loaded game of poker with him for the next 10-20 years, as he manipulates weapons inspectors and starves his own people? What kind of message does that send to other rogue regimes?

    I still believe a legitimate case can be made that it was better to choose a war on our terms than to let Saddam carry on. There is also the humanitarian dimension. It's just a shame that Bush didn't sell the war in the right way and that he has managed it so badly.

    By Blogger Nate, at 2:54 PM  

  • Nate,

    I recognize your point about Hitler. Obviously, knowing what we do now, the Brits would have been better off dealing with Hitler earlier. But, that's hindsight. At the time, the British couldn't know what might happen in Germany. In hindsight, a preemptive war might have been justified. But not based on what was known at the time.

    Same with Saddam. If we could look in the future, we could say that we should or should not have started a war. But Saddam was certainly less dangerous than Hitler.

    I agree that you can make a case for taking out Saddam now. But you have to balance the costs and benefits and the benefits are not compelling to me at this point.

    By Anonymous Marc Schneider, at 4:45 PM  

  • Marc, that's a good question, who is responsible for determining whether a lie is noble? In my opinion, the responsibility lies on the leaders that make the decision and the historians who judge their actions. Yet, the problem with any judgement made on nobility, is that it is a value. Which means there is no objective truth, only subjective opinion, which makes everything meaningless. Therefore, all man has left to him is to do what he thinks is right in his circumstance.

    How can you think war is above lies, what planet do you live on? It is an inherent part of it. It has been done since the beginning of time. America lied in the Spanish-American War, the mexican-american war, in various coup d'etats during the cold war, we even lied in WW2. Lies are sometimes necessary, they can be used for "good" or "bad". It is not sacrilegious to lie in war.

    The iraqi threat was inevitable in the sense that Iraq was bound to be an antagonist in some form or another. I do not believe it had chemical weapons at its disposal, but I'm sure Saddam would of had some tricks up his sleeve, It was just a matter of time.

    It is the war that is behind the lies or truth which is dangerous, not the lies.

    "A citizen of the world"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:08 PM  

  • Citizen of the World,

    I find you dismissiveness of concern about lying to be disturbing. Yes, lying occurs and, arguendo, may sometimes be necessary. But most of your examples are better illustrations of why lies lead to bad policy. Are you saying it's appropriate for a democratic government to take the country into war on false pretenses because of their own evaluation of the danger? What if Bush had decided that Israel posed a threat and decided to lie about that? Your political morality seems to be the ends justify the means and I think that's dangerous. Maybe I'm just naive.

    As for Iraq, your nebulous formulation that "Iraq was bound to be antagonist in some form or another" just illustrates the weakness of the argument. You can't point to any specific threat that it presented to either the United States or to Israel. Your reasoning would justify invading a host of countries. Your essential point is that we needed to take out Saddam regardless of the reason and we can make it up as we go along.

    I have no idea what that last line means.

    By Anonymous Marc Schneider, at 10:03 AM  

  • "Most of your examples are illustrations of how lies lead to bad policy?" BAD POLICY??? I'll concede to you it is expansionistic and selfish, but it is in no way bad policy. Is gaining a third of the United States in the Mexican-american war for one lie bad policy? Is Lying about the explosion of the USS MAINE in cuba, in order to gather public support for war, which led to the acquisition of Puerto Rico, Cuba,the Philippineans, and the rest of the spanish empire bad policy?

    This policy was not bad policy, it was smart policy. If the Mexicans had kept their land, in what type of state would the people in "northern mexico" be in? They would be suffering the same high levels of economic degredation, corruption, and crime, that the rest of mexico is plagued by this very moment. The citizens of "northern mexico" would be desperately trying to cross the border into the U.S. How can you think American policy is bad? The Mexican argument can be used for the spanish american war as well.

    So, on what grounds was the policy bad? do you mean moral grounds? I'm sorry but I cannot be as presumptious as you, and try to play god, adjudicating what is right or wrong in such complex matters, and I doubt you have the right to either. For how can one make ethical judgements when there is no plain right or wrong... Things are never just black and white, nor soley Good or evil. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THINGS ARE MURKY....

    Yes, I am saying that it is appropriate to take a democratic country to war on their own evaluatation of danger. I wouldn't want it any other way. For it is rational to want your government to decide whether to go to war based on their evaluation of danger, their first responsibility is for the security of the nation, not for ethics. If the latter were the case, that nation would never survive.

    If Bush decided Israel was a threat and decided to lie about it, my approval of his lie would depend on his rationale behind it.

    I do point to a specific threat that Iraq had posing, if you look at my first comment you can see how Saddam had been funding suicide bombers in Israel to the very last moment. I do agree that Iraq wasn't an immediate threat persay to the U.S., but I will stand by my claim that it was an inevitable threat, which by looking at the history of Saddam's rule you can understand my reasoning.

    My Central point is not that it is okay to invade a country without a reason, My central point is that it is okay to attack a country with an underlying reason behind it, while giving a fake reason to the public, in some circumstances.

    I apologize for the breadth of my response, but there were to many accusations I had to deal with.

    Sincerely,

    "A citizen of the world"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:06 PM  

  • By Blogger ahmet can, at 1:25 PM  

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