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Bloggingheads
12-26-2007, 08:12 AM

ohcomeon
12-26-2007, 09:35 AM
First. Now we are like a real blog comment section.

thprop
12-26-2007, 09:57 AM
Note to Bob, Huckabee's cross was not subliminal. (http://brainwaveweb.com/diavlogs/7636?in=00:15:48&out=00:16:38)

sub∑lim∑i∑nal [sub lŪmminíl], adjective, without awareness: entering, existing in, or affecting the mind without conscious awareness

The mullions in the window behind him were so obviously framed as a cross that there was nothing subliminal about them.

The Wikipedia entry for BHtv (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloggingheads) has been up for over two months. Nate announced it back on October 24. (http://forums.bloggingheads.tv/phorum/read.php?1,17441,17466#msg-17466) I think that is more than a matter of weeks. (http://brainwaveweb.com/diavlogs/7636?in=00:51:40&out=00:52:03) Depends on your definition of "matter". Nine weeks may be more than a matter. "Couple of months" might be more accurate.

Tim_G
12-26-2007, 10:23 AM
OK, so the surge has "worked" because violence is down, but how do we know that the Iraq Study Group approach wouldn't have been just as effective?

Violence is down because millions of refugees are out of the country, and the Iranians seem to not be sending in IEDs, and various other factors, but what is the long-term strategic gain that would not have occurred under the Iraq Study Group approach? I don't want to leave our troops there forever, and when we eventually withdraw, what's going to be different from what would have happened under the Iraq Study Group approach?

And what about all the corruption? The corruption rating is down there with basket case countries like Haiti. Police officers all have to pay bribes to become police officers, so honest people are disqualified. At the end of the day, the Iraqis have to govern themselves and we can't conjure a competant government into existance to take over as we withdraw. Like with South Vietnam.

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 10:51 AM
Is it possible for Bob to come up with a weaker argument about the Iraq war then: "It has lasted longer than World War II"?

That argument is so lame Jerry Lewis should hold a telethon.

So much for that vaunted Bob Wright intellect.

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 11:02 AM
Violence is down because millions of refugees are out of the country,
Well if that is so, why is violence decreasing while thousands of refugees are returning home? That argument holds less water than Bea Aurthur's Depends.

For more info (from the Guardian no less!) click here (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2230041,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=12).

Surcam
12-26-2007, 11:28 AM
Democrats:
1. Edwards
2. Obama
3. Clinton

Republicans:
1. Huckabee
2. Romney
3. Thompson

Mr. Kaus, Mr. Rollins deserves more credit for that 49/50 state trouncing. Huckabee has long since been my pick to win it all, perhaps not in the same fashion, but he does have an appeal across political spectrums right now. Huckabee's free agent acquisition should get more love here. I hope to be wrong though as I'm rooting for Obama.

harkin
12-26-2007, 11:32 AM
Watching Bob tap dance around the successes of a man progressives branded 'General Betray Us' is absolutely delicious.

Don't worry Bob, Obama or Hillary will snatch Islamochaos from the jaws of democracy.

Would love to see Juan Cole every time he hears how the surge is working, I'll bet steam is visible.

David Edenden
12-26-2007, 11:42 AM
Every racist, every fascist, every ethnic cleanser in the Balkans looks to Greece's treatment of its ethnic Macedonian minority (and Turkey's treatment of its Kurds) as a model on how to treat their minorities.

Greece denies the very existence of an ethnic Macedonian minority on its soil, all under the watchful gaze of Nato and the EU. When the Macedonian govenment demands that Greece treat its ethnic Macedonians fairly, Macedonia is accused of irredentism by Greece.

All the Serbs of Kosovo have to do is look to Greece's treatment of ethnic Macedonians to see their future.

Barack Obama has adopted the Greek position by co-sponsoring Bill HR 356 which parrots the Greek line.

Therefore Obama supports Greek racism. It goes to his judgement and character. He supports Greek racism for a few extra votes and a few extra talents of silver and gold. He is an ordinary "pay to play" politican!

"Black man supports racism" is a "man bites dog", a "liberal crosses picket line", a "conservative was on welfare" type of story.

When the rightwing smear machine swiftboats Obama on this issue, how will the left defend him? Can Robert Wright defend Obama? Would he want to?

Get Heather Hurlburt and Rosa Brooks to discuss!

Namazu
12-26-2007, 11:53 AM
Someone please help me with Bob's logic on this: the Anbar Awakening is the result of Al Qaeda wearing out their welcome, but the presence of American troops in forward operating bases is what has provided the security needed to drive them out and put indigenous peaceable local Sunnis back in control of their own communities. How is this separate and distinct from the "Surge?" Or is Bob just ignorant of the primary reporting, or too committed to the narrative of American failure? And does Mickey really concede this point, or is he just letting Bob push him around?

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 12:08 PM
Bob's claim here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:30:00&out=00:31:06) that we don't know if Saddam would have lost power had me in stitches. Is he willingly ignoring everything we have learned about the regime since the war or is he just ignorant?

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 12:12 PM
Or is Bob just ignorant of the primary reporting, or too committed to the narrative of American failure? And does Mickey really concede this point, or is he just letting Bob push him around?

Yeah I don't quite understand why Mickey mollycoddled Bob through this whole dialog, if the situation was reversed Bob would have pounded Mickey with his patented Smug Rant Attack.

pattersd
12-26-2007, 12:39 PM
I thought that the Anbar Awakening was taking place before the surge?

cjsmith
12-26-2007, 12:46 PM
Someone please help me with Bob's logic on this: the Anbar Awakening is the result of Al Qaeda wearing out their welcome, but the presence of American troops in forward operating bases is what has provided the security needed to drive them out and put indigenous peaceable local Sunnis back in control of their own communities. How is this separate and distinct from the "Surge?" Or is Bob just ignorant of the primary reporting, or too committed to the narrative of American failure? And does Mickey really concede this point, or is he just letting Bob push him around?

The majority of the extra troops are not in Anbar. The Sunni Awakening is about paying off local tribesman to kill al-Qaeda. This started prior to the surge and would have happened with or without the surge. It's smart policy, but it has nothing to do with the surge. The most that could be said is what Mickey says--"the surge capitalized on the already existing Awakening."

The tribesman are not exactly "peaceable". They are running smuggling and extortion rings on the US dole out in the desert. To quote Sen. Webb, "it's redneck justice." But yeah, it's better than al-Qaeda no doubt.

Elsewhere in the country, al-Qaeda would be killed by the Mahdi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, or the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

The real issue is that the surge works against the idea of a central unified government/country. Bob makes this exact point. There will be no national reconciliation. e.g., The Shia leadership (Maliki, Hakim) are not making any moves to integrate the Sunni tribes into the Army & Police. Because they think (with plenty of reason) that as soon as the tribes are done killing AQI, they may go after them (Shia).

The US military recognizes that the primary reality since the fall of Saddam is that power has devolved to the local level. All they are doing now is dealing with the local guys who actually control the power. Iraq has turned into a series of fiefdoms.

Other reasons for the decrease in violence (including extra US troops): the Mahdi Army under Sadr calling a ceasefire--arguably a reaction to the surge. And the ethnic cleansing is mostly finished in Baghdad (another point Bob makes).

What's not clear (to me) is what happens when the inevitable return to the pre-surge numbers return? Does the Shia-Sunni violence return or do the Shia fight each other (Sadr vs. Hakim) and the Sunni keep fighting each other (al-Qaeda vs. tribes)?

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 01:25 PM
The majority of the extra troops are not in Anbar. The Sunni Awakening is about paying off local tribesman to kill al-Qaeda. This started prior to the surge and would have happened with or without the surge.
It may have happened without the surge but it may not have reached its level of success without the surge.

It's smart policy, but it has nothing to do with the surge. The most that could be said is what Mickey says--"the surge capitalized on the already existing Awakening."

The tribesman are not exactly "peaceable". They are running smuggling and extortion rings on the US dole out in the desert. To quote Sen. Webb, "it's redneck justice." But yeah, it's better than al-Qaeda no doubt.
In that part of the world what would one expect? It is not like it is populated by members of the Des Moines Rotary club.

Elsewhere in the country, al-Qaeda would be killed by the Mahdi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, or the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
And a lot of a non-al-qaeda sunni's would have been killed too.


The US military recognizes that the primary reality since the fall of Saddam is that power has devolved to the local level. All they are doing now is dealing with the local guys who actually control the power. Iraq has turned into a series of fiefdoms.
And this is a bad thing how? Decentralized power is more conducive to a tribal based cultural anyway. The vast majority of the populace is comfortable with the arrangement so why fight it? It was a mistake to push a strong central government in the first place.


And the ethnic cleansing is mostly finished in Baghdad (another point Bob makes).

I would be very careful about placing so much of the weight of your argument on the ethnic cleansing meme. Refugees are starting to return* to their old neighborhoods and the levels of violence have not risen.

*The more of a trickle than a flood, and some of the return is due to Syrian deportation, but it is always dangerous to base a causal argument on a fluid situation. It maybe years before we know how much ethnic cleansing actually sticks. Baghdad has been ethnically dirty for centuries so it is highly possible ethically clean is not Baghdad's normal state.

graz
12-26-2007, 01:39 PM
Too bad if the hipsters think themselves to cool for school to view the hyped "Juno." I saw the movie with my teenage sons and they laughed as long and loud as the adults in the theater. And the teenage leads play beautifully against typical teen issue movies - think Porky's and the like.
I was grateful for the potential role model effect as portrayed by the incredibly sensitive, smart and sarcastic female and the immature but righteous male leads. I also loved the way that the movie simply diffuses the hot button issue of abortion and barely addresses birth control. No preaching, just humor and seriousness. This allowed a good jumping off point for discussion with my sons about those otherwise critical, topical issues.
Mickey has redeemed himself one notch with me.

jummy
12-26-2007, 03:02 PM
here, blackfive remembers cpt travis patriquin, co-author of the anbar awakening, and the alarmingly simple powerpoint presentation which allowed it to happen.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=iMBWpgMTJjs

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 03:36 PM
Good one jummy. Too bad it won't be received well on this board 'cause it aint chock-full of nuance.

BritInCanada
12-26-2007, 04:29 PM
Hey Bob: Typical boomer, seeing everything through their own historical time-span, which is a fragment of time. WWII is NOT the standard for all wars! So what if the Iraq War lasted longer than the American involvement in WWII? The 100 Years war lasted ... a hundred years. If the war is necessary it doesn't matter how long it is fought -- only that it is won. Likewise, if a war if unnecessary, who cares if it over in a week?

From my view, the Iraq war is necessary for an overdetermination of reasons, and assertions that it is 'oh, obviously' a mistake are merely cocktail chatter of the white-wine liberal set. You think otherwise, fine. But the duration of the war is an irrelevancy.

Tim O
12-26-2007, 04:45 PM
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2007

10. Myth: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy had become more important to them than in previous months (in November only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still rivals it as an issue!

9. Myth: There have been steps toward religious and political reconciliation in Iraq in 2007. Fact: The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has for the moment lost the support of the Sunni Arabs in parliament. The Sunnis in his cabinet have resigned. Even some Shiite parties have abandoned the government. Sunni Arabs, who are aware that under his government Sunnis have largely been ethnically cleansed from Baghdad, see al-Maliki as a sectarian politician uninterested in the welfare of Sunnis.

8. Myth: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.


Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US 'surge,' or more than 10 percent of the capital's population. Among the primary effects of the 'surge' has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital.



7. Myth: Iran was supplying explosively formed projectiles (a deadly form of roadside bomb) to Salafi Jihadi (radical Sunni) guerrilla groups in Iraq. Fact: Iran has not been proved to have sent weapons to any Iraqi guerrillas at all. It certainly would not send weapons to those who have a raging hostility toward Shiites. (Iran may have supplied war materiel to its client, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI), which was then sold off from warehouses because of graft, going on the arms market and being bought by guerrillas and militiamen.

6. Myth: The US overthrow of the Baath regime and military occupation of Iraq has helped liberate Iraqi women. Fact: Iraqi women have suffered significant reversals of status, ability to circulate freely, and economic situation under the Bush administration.

5. Myth: Some progress has been made by the Iraqi government in meeting the "benchmarks" worked out with the Bush administration. Fact: in the words of Democratic Senator Carl Levin, "Those legislative benchmarks include approving a hydrocarbon law, approving a debaathification law, completing the work of a constitutional review committee, and holding provincial elections. Those commitments, made 1 1/2 years ago, which were to have been completed by January of 2007, have not yet been kept by the Iraqi political leaders despite the breathing space the surge has provided."

4. Myth: The Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils," who are on the US payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants. Fact: In interviews with the Western press, Awakening Council tribesmen often speak of attacking the Shiites after they have polished off al-Qaeda. A major pollster working in Iraq observed,

' Most of the recent survey results he has seen about political reconciliation, Warshaw said, are "more about [Iraqis] reconciling with the United States within their own particular territory, like in Anbar. . . . But it doesn't say anything about how Sunni groups feel about Shiite groups in Baghdad." Warshaw added: "In Iraq, I just don't hear statements that come from any of the Sunni, Shiite or Kurdish groups that say 'We recognize that we need to share power with the others, that we can't truly dominate.' " ' '

The polling shows that "the Iraqi government has still made no significant progress toward its fundamental goal of national reconciliation."

3. Myth: The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic growth. Fact: The subterranean battle among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs for control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province makes the Iraqi north a political mine field. Kurdistan now also hosts the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas that sneak over the border and kill Turkish troops. The north is so unstable that the Iraqi north is now undergoing regular bombing raids from Turkey.

2. Myth: Iraq has been "calm" in fall of 2007 and the Iraqi public, despite some grumbling, is not eager for the US to depart. Fact: in the past 6 weeks, there have been an average of 600 attacks a month, or 20 a day, which has held steady since the beginning of November. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and police. Across the board, Iraqis believe that their conflicts are mainly caused by the US military presence and they are eager for it to end.

1. Myth: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge."


Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops.

Labels: Iraq

posted by Juan Cole

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 04:58 PM
That's hilarious (wipes tear from eye)...wait I just had a thought maybe you weren't being funny by posting a Juan Cole quote.

ohcomeon
12-26-2007, 05:14 PM
Professor Juan Cole's qualifications:

Education -
# 1975 B.A. History and Literature of Religions, Northwestern University
# 1978 M.A. Arabic Studies/History, American University in Cairo
# 1984 Ph.D. Islamic Studies, University of California Los Angeles

Scholastic Awards and Grants ;James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, Hunter College, 2005. ; Hudson Research Professorship, Winter, 2003 ; Award for Research in Turkey, May, 1999, International Institute, U-M ; Research Excellence Award, College of LSA, U-M, August, 1997 ; OVPR and LSA Faculty Assistance Fund Grants, June, 1995 ; LSA Faculty Assistance Fund Grant, March 1994 ; Rackham Research Partnership, 1992-93 ; National Endowment for the Humanities, Jan.-June, 1991 ; Office of the Vice-President for Research, U-M (Pakistan), Summer 1990 ; Horace H. Rackham Faculty Grant, Egypt, Summer 1988 ; SSRC/ACLS Post-Doctoral Award, England, Summer 1986 ; Fulbright-Hays Islamic Civilization Postdoctoral Award, Egypt, 1985-86 ; SSRC/ACLS Doctoral Fellowship, Pakistan, India, UK, 1981-83 ; Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Fellowship, India, 1982

Middle East Studies Association of North America:

* President, 2006.
o 1999-2004. Editor, The International Journal of Middle East Studies (Published by Cambridge University Press for the Middle East Studies Association of North America).
o 1998 Program Committee chair, MESA annual conference
o 1996, 1989 Officer Nominating Committee
o 1991, Book Award Committee, Middle East Studies Association
o 1988-1992 Book Review Editor, International Journal of Middle East Studies

This information and more plus the languages he speaks and the places he has lived in the Middle East can be found on his website
Middle East Studies Association of North America:


http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/

You may not agree with him but he has been studying this stuff for decades. He certainly has an "anti colonial" point of view. That's OK with me since I don't want the US to be a colonial power.

Namazu
12-26-2007, 05:36 PM
The majority of the extra troops are not in Anbar. The Sunni Awakening is about paying off local tribesman to kill al-Qaeda. This started prior to the surge and would have happened with or without the surge. It's smart policy, but it has nothing to do with the surge.
Do you have a source for any of this? The primary reporting shows in detail how American troops embedded in the Western provinces have provided security, collected tips, and trained and armed locals. This has taken place off the big bases, so their numbers don't reflect the size of the logistics tail or anything like that, but in any case, so what? There are more troops in Korea than in Anbar. To say this could have happened without the added troop strength requires, I think, some credentials in military planning.
There will be no national reconciliation.
I find it hubristic, to put it kindly, for anyone to say what would or would not have happened, or what will or will not happen in Iraq at this point. Do I have to share this Nostradamic vision to conclude, as Bob does, that the "Surge" has had the opposite effect from the one intended? Forgive me for asking, but is this the Juan Cole story line?

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 06:13 PM
I don't give a crap about Cole's CV (or anyone else's for that matter). I've got letters after my name too* whoop-die do!

The man has absolutely no interest in being even moderately objective about the topic.

Once a guy like Cole has stated a position he can't ever back away from it. He must do what he can to pump life in to the narrative that supports his position not matter what the fact on the ground maybe.

If Iraq continues to improve those that have invested in failure and disaster (Cole, Harry Reid, Bob) will do anything to support the narrative. Facts won't matter, white will be black, black will be white.

*They happen to spell "Bad Mother F*cker"

breadcrust
12-26-2007, 07:03 PM
liberrocky,

Once a guy like Cole has stated a position he can't ever back away from it. He must do what he can to pump life in to the narrative that supports his position not matter what the fact on the ground maybe.

You're not adaptable, so the bolded section must be projection. If violence returns to pre-"surge" levels in Iraq are you going to apologize to Harry Reid, Juan Cole, and Bob and admit that Bush's Iraq policies have chunked? Doubt it.

Eight comments posted on this short board?! Calm down, lib, the forum isn't going to run out of space. WE HEAR YOU.

Baltimoron
12-26-2007, 07:04 PM
If not for the convenience of watching bhTV and eating breakfast without having to flip pages or click a mouse, all this blather about the impending primaries is becoming excruciatingly tedious. Edwards' peccadilloes is the perfect way to relieve the tension, and my regard for him has only increased. I love his wife, but little boy Johnnie needs a good boink now and then.

I hope the primaries don't end before I can vote when all candidates run out of money. But then again, how does campaigning really differ from panhandling?

Baltimoron
12-26-2007, 07:18 PM
Politically, how long will Americans refuse to admit to themselves the Iraq War has been handled horribly from the beginning, and that all General Petraeus is doing is giving the US military a much-needed trophy and a precedent for deeper reforms later. The COIN manual is the one good product of this war, but it's not designed for a conflict like the Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraq War.

Politicians are so behind the curve on the Iraq War, that it's almost inevitable that Americans will not understand what happened in Iraq until service members return and start taking funds for healthcare and readjustment. Mickey's line on the Surge makes a huge crash post-Iraq inevitable. The Surge will replace the talking points about possible victory in Vietnam if not for the protesters at home for conservative propaganda for decades to come.

Go Joe Biden!

Exeus99
12-26-2007, 08:45 PM
The Hundred Years' War was declared 1 Nov. 1337 and ended with the Battle of Castillon on 17 July 1453, four months short of 116 years.

Your larger point stands--how long does Mr. Wright expect modern U.S. style "wars" to last; wars wherein efforts are made to minimize damage, contain violence, narrowly target combatants, and stick around until the country is as prosperous and stable as modern Japan and Germany? If we were fighting the nation of Iraq in a WWII style, a total war designed to destroy the nation and its ability and will to fight, then yes, this has taken much too long--but I don't remember our firebombing Basrah, nuking Mosul, etc. As expensive as the war has been, I also don't think we're spending 70-90% of our federal dollars on it, nor drafting hundreds of thousands of men, nor repurposing nearly all industrial production, and on and on.

It's also fair to ask when the clock stops. If we only count a conflict as officially over when the last U.S. serviceman leaves the country, do we ignore that we still have large presences in Germany, Japan, and (more to the point) on the Korean peninsula? The Iraq war and WWII are both wars, but in almost no other way equivalent; it is thus not surprising that they will have very different time frames. Mr. Wright's feigned indignation that the war has already taken "so long" is the product not of an appropriate and useful comparison but of a lazy talking point that avoids answering the question you'd need to answer to make this criticism, namely, how long should a war to remove S. Hussein & Co., restore the country, empower a democratic state and ensure stability (all without waging a WWII-style total war) take?

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 09:00 PM
You're not adaptable, so the bolded section must be projection. If violence returns to pre-"surge" levels in Iraq are you going to apologize to Harry Reid, Juan Cole, and Bob and admit that Bush's Iraq policies have chunked? Doubt it.

Sure, but it ain't going to happen without a massive destablization push from Syria and Iran. If they stay on the sidelines then the peace train is goign to keep rollin'

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 09:02 PM
Eight comments posted on this short board?! Calm down, lib, the forum isn't going to run out of space. WE HEAR YOU.
Yeah sorry about that. I was bored to today.

Jeff M
12-26-2007, 09:02 PM
Before we call Iraq the best of all possible quagmires, shouldn't we wait until the surge ends this spring in order to tell if the security gains are lasting? If they do last, then it will be fair to say that the surge was successful. Until then, I think critics of the war have every right to be skeptical of the hosannas.

Baltimoron
12-26-2007, 09:25 PM
The "Surge" can never be so successful that it would compensate for the damage wrought by this war--on the US military's hardware, on the American diplomatic reputation and budget--and it distracts from the need actively to consider repairing those damages right now. I want to "win", too, but that victory is becoming awfully pyrrhic right now.

brucds
12-26-2007, 09:36 PM
"the peace train is going to keep rollin' "

Dumb-ass hippies, obviously on drugs and wearing rose-colored glasses !!!

DenvilleSteve
12-26-2007, 10:07 PM
Bob thinks it likely Saddam would have been overthrown by now. By what examples in other Arab and Islamic countries? Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, Libya - all countries where the ruling party have retained power for decades. There are not even many assassinations in the Arab world. When they do occur, like in Egypt, the successor comes from the ruling party.

If anything, Bob is conceding the argument that the absence of Saddam and the Baathists has reduced tensions in the ME. Why else would he make the unsupportable claim that Saddam would likely be taken out unless he was trying to explain away a positive of the Iraq war.

-Steve

bjkeefe
12-26-2007, 10:12 PM
liberrocky:

The man has absolutely no interest in being even moderately objective about the topic.

Something that could well be said about everyone who's in love with the surge.

breadcrust
12-26-2007, 11:00 PM
liberrocky,

Sure, but it ain't going to happen without a massive destablization push from Syrian (sic) and Iran.

You can't blame an Iraqi civil war on Syria and Iran. Iraq is composed of a bunch of tribalists who aren't coming to terms as it was said they would during this "surge". Remember? That's what the "surge" was supposed to be about; cranky Sunnis and moody Shiites were supposed to find common ground and celebrate their differences when some tasty "surge-enhanced" peace gave them breathing room. It isn't happening. Of course, as you've just admitted, you'll never say you were wrong and apologize to Bob, Juan, and (blechh) Harry and will always look for someone to blame besides your party's leader.

Baltimoron
12-26-2007, 11:07 PM
The claim, that the Us at least toppled Hussein, is not even valid anymore, in light of how the US has nearly discredited centralized republican government in Iraq. What does democracy matter if it's only in the Green Zone where there's stability. If Iraq devolves violently into another Yugoslavia, it's a reminder of one lement missing this entire time: international consensus. It will take the rest of the developed world to make sure Iraq follows the former Yugoslavian statelets' path.

Toppling Hussein was just vengeance for his flippancy after the US gave him so much. The US, and its allies, only needed to take from Hussein what they gave him. And, let's recall, too, that Clinton's strike, according to Thomas Ricks, was so successful it compelled Hussein to curb his weapons programs and purge his minions so thoroughly, that America's feeble intelligence networks were crippled right through the invasion in 2003. I'm not extolling Clinton at all, because Iran policy from Carter to Clinton at least put Hussein on the map, but the reason the Bush administration could make its ridiculous claims about WMD was because the intelligence had been destroyed. Building Iraq is just beyond the people who think they gave Iraqis "democracy" when all they did was ruin their world.

liberrocky
12-26-2007, 11:43 PM
The "Surge" can never be so successful that it would compensate for the damage wrought by this war--on the US military's hardware, on the American diplomatic reputation and budget
Wow you can predict the future? That is so cool. Do you have a 900 number? Are you friends with Miss Cleo?

Baltimoron
12-26-2007, 11:50 PM
You're having a neo-con flashback--beware the Feds trying to confiscate your stash! If cancer patients can't have it, 2002-3 nostalgia is definitely no reason for the weed!

Unless there's a gold mine on Mars, I doubt China, Saudi Arabia, and American homeowners have enough money to keep footing the bill. The trillions wasted already (http://www.project-syndicate.org/print_commentary/stiglitz67/English) are as yet unpaid. How much more damage and borrowed funds do you need to feel good about gross incompetence!

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 12:09 AM
You can't blame an Iraqi civil war on Syria and Iran.
Reread my quote, I was not talking about civil war I was talking about an escalation in violence.

Iraq is composed of a bunch of tribalists who aren't coming to terms as it was said they would during this "surge". Remember? That's what the "surge" was supposed to be about; cranky Sunnis and moody Shiites were supposed to find common ground and celebrate their differences when some tasty "surge-enhanced" peace gave them breathing room. It isn't happening.
Yup it didn't happen that way and the architect of the surge and the counterinsurgency, Kilcullen (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/08/anatomy-of-a-tribal-revolt/), admits that.

In fact what has happened is better.
Of course, as you've just admitted, you'll never say you were wrong and apologize to Bob, Juan, and (blechh) Harry and will always look for someone to blame besides your party's leader.
If I am wrong I'll admit it, 'cause that's just the kind of buckaroo I am.

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 12:12 AM
You're having a neo-con flashback--beware the Feds trying to confiscate your stash! If cancer patients can have it, 2002-3 nostalgia is definitely no reason for the weed!

Unless there's a gold mine on Mars, I doubt China, Saudi Arabia, and American homeowners have enough money to keep footing the bill. The trillions wasted already are as yet unpaid. How much more damage and borrowed funds do you need to feel good about gross incompetence!

Dude I think that your tinfoil hat is screwed on a bit tight.

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 12:16 AM
Something that could well be said about everyone who's in love with the surge.
Well I am not in love with the surge, I am in love with results..and turtles..but mostly results.

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 12:18 AM
Why else would he make the unsupportable claim that Saddam would likely be taken out unless he was trying to explain away a positive of the Iraq war.
Steve, please stop making sense you will upset the other residents.

breadcrust
12-27-2007, 12:30 AM
liberrocky,

Me: You can't blame an Iraqi civil war on Syria and Iran.
You: Reread my quote, I was not talking about civil war I was talking about an escalation in violence.

If the current post-"surge" state in Iraq is merely a barely cooled civil (sectarian) war, then Iraq is almost bound to return to its pre-"surge" violence levels because too many Iraqis are willing to fight and murder. This has nothing to do with Syrians and Iranians. Iraq can escalate the violence without help from foreigners. I don't need to reread your quote, because it's brilliance seared my soul the first time I read it... I will never forget.

Baltimoron
12-27-2007, 01:07 AM
Pardon me for interrupting your after-Xmas white sales! No sooner than the Clinton administration pays down the Reagan debts, then Bush, Jr. goes to the store to buy candy! Now, I'll give him his bids to reform Social Security and immigration, even if the first plan was dreadful, but it's not as if America can afford all this partisan fractiousness and Bush administration incompetence!

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 01:18 AM
I don't need to reread your quote, because it's brilliance seared my soul the first time I read it... I will never forget.
You are not the first and won't be the last!

If the current post-"surge" state in Iraq is merely a barely cooled civil (sectarian) war, then Iraq is almost bound to return to its pre-"surge" violence levels because too many Iraqis are willing to fight and murder.
Are you sure it is "almost bound to"?


This has nothing to do with Syrians and Iranians. Iraq can escalate the violence without help from foreigners.They could escalate violence but not to previous levels without outside support.

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 07:58 AM
No sooner than the Clinton administration pays down the Reagan debts,
The national debt was not reduced during the Clinton years, the budget was in surplus but that was mostly thanks to Republican Congress.

then Bush, Jr. goes to the store to buy candy! Now, I'll give him his bids to reform Social Security and immigration, even if the first plan was dreadful, but it's not as if America can afford all this partisan fractiousness and Bush administration incompetence!
Apparently America can't afford to get you the mental health services you desperately require.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 09:41 AM
liberrocky:

The national debt was not reduced during the Clinton years ...

That's effectively true, although it is important to note that its growth was halted. This is quite the opposite for the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations.

garbagecowboy
12-27-2007, 10:24 AM
It's not an ancillary point, though, because a lot of people who don't understand the difference between the debt and the deficit misunderstand and think that during the Clinton years the fact that the debt stopped growing was somehow equivalent to a person like, paying off their credit card debt or something, as opposed to a person with a ton of credit card debt starting to live within their means (briefly, as the budget was not balanced throughout Clinton's term).

Trust me, I know, I have a lot of otherwise smart Democrat friends I went to high school with who are kind of poster-children for those quizzes you hear about where American college students can't point out Iraq on a map. Well, they're not that ignorant, but I have definitely talked about fiscal responsibility to them and they definitely did not get the distinction between the deficit and the debt and they somehow thought (possilby abetted by the media, just saying) that during the Clinton years, that the U.S.'s debt problem was somehow fixed, as opposed to just not getting worse or getting marginally better.

Needless to say, I explain the difference between the debt and the deficit and tell them that the last time the U.S. government actually didn't carry a relatively massive debt was around 1840 (http://www.die.net/musings/national_debt/). Needless to say, Bush has really screwed the pooch on this one, to use the parlance of our times.

If you look at a chart of the U.S. national debt in the past you get two impressions; first of all, the notion that we are going to have to "pay it all back" in our lifetimes is somewhat misleading; the U.S. national debt, other than a brief period in Clinton's term where a tiny fraction was repaid, has been growing virtually exponentially since World War I (see the previous link). So at least two generations of Americans have lived, not paid down the debt (in fact, seen it expand exponentially) and not had to pay it off. In fact, in that time, taxes have almost uniformly gone down, at least since the WWII era, again with a small hiccup during the Clinton administration and with regard to taxes it has been more down then up then down than just straight down.

At any rate, this leads me to two conclusions. First of all, the U.S.'s quality of life requires its creditors to think that we have good credit. While the Iraq War is distressing in this regard, as you can see on the debt chart, both World Wars were significantly bigger fractional increases in the debt than most years, but the debt has increased exogenously in peacetime anyways. The Iraq War, simply for political reasons, will not continue to cost as much as it currently does for more than a year, or two, or three, at most. The Bush expansions in entitlements (notably the expansion of Medicare and spending by the Federal Gov't on education) like a diamond is forever.

Just as the debt has never really gone down, as far as I can tell, beyond Welfare reform, neither has entitlement spending. Certainly not the real expensive, well-liked entitlements that lots of people end up qualifying for, particularly Social Security and Medicare. I am very concerned about what is going to happen vis a vis the national debt when we not only try to have our cake of paying for current entitlement schemes where the demographics don't work at all (where there will soon be more people getting benefits per person paying into the system than ever before) but eat it too by doing something like expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, not just the elderly.

Basically, the point is: yes, admitted, as a conservative/libertarian type who has never voted for a Republican (or voted, period) the Republicans have screwed us badly in the last 8 or so years. The Iraq War certainly hasn't helped. Social Security is just as bad as it has always been. Expensive new entitlements have been enacted. Democratic Presidential candidates are scrambling over themselves to explain why their massive new entitlement scheme is better than their opponents' (with re: healthcare). Our Chinese creditors both have our proverbial nuts in a vice (in the parlance of our time) and may be getting sick of absorbing the U.S. penchant for living above our means (notice the weak dollar). And the next President is going to be a Democrat with a Democratic Congress. Welcome back to the Great Society, vers. 2.0.

In short, we are screwed. Tax increases will certainly be necessary, but I'd be much more comfortable about their effect if they were not accompanied by a concomitant expansion of government spending on healthcare, which certainly seems like how it's gunna happen.

Yes, Bush has been fiscally irresponsible. Our reputation amongst our creditors is arguably more important than in foreign policy circles. The way to get that back is to do what Clinton did (helped/hindered by a Republican Congress): don't get any of your expensive programs through the Congress, be President at a time of rapid economic expansion, and hype the fact that the fact that you're not "getting anything done" means you're accomplishing something mch more important: being fiscally responsible. Now that the "grown ups" are going to be back in charge it will be interesting to see if they act as such, get our finances in order, or if looking back to the Clinton years amongst people who care about our national finances will remain a popular strategy until 2016. [/rant]

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 10:37 AM
That's effectively true, although it is important to note that its growth was halted. This is quite the opposite for the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations.
Sure but why? There were three reasons:
The wealth generated from the tech bubble, the Republican congress blocks on spending and the reduction in Military and intelligence spending thanks to the post cold war "peace dividend".

Tim O
12-27-2007, 10:47 AM
I figured it would be useful to read exactly what Juan Cole contends. We wouldn't want to go off half cocked and smear someone with out understanding what he's reporting right? Fair and Balanced?

No one is mentioning how Sadr declared a cease fire and how that has affected the level of violence.

or the fact that ethnic groups have clustered into ethnic enclaves in Baghdad as part of the changing dynamic.

EchoesOhio
12-27-2007, 12:34 PM
Speaking of changing shirts, Bob, aren't you wearing the same one in this diavlog that was so expertly selected and used here quite some time ago:

http://www.newamerica.net/people/robert_wright

Yes, this is my first bloggingheads comment after having been an avid reader for "a matter" of seasons. And yes, it is mostly irrelevant. Still, it is a moment I will likely never forget.

garbagecowboy
12-27-2007, 01:17 PM
Welcome aboard.

Namazu
12-27-2007, 01:29 PM
Professor Juan Cole's qualifications:
What's your point? They pale in comparison to Noam Chomsky's CV. Smarter people than Juan Cole have said dumber things. Cole, bright fellow though he may be, operates from a well-defined ideological viewpoint and is invested in positions he staked out earlier in the war. His understanding of current facts on the ground is disadvantaged relative to the soldiers and reporters in theater. His Top 10 list consists largely of "interpreting" a single Washington Post article for people too lazy to read it and other reports for themselves. Whatever the merits of his academic work, he is clearly operating a side business dishing out talking points.

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 01:55 PM
I figured it would be useful to read exactly what Juan Cole contends. We wouldn't want to go off half cocked and smear someone with out understanding what he's reporting right? Fair and Balanced?

No one is mentioning how Sadr declared a cease fire and how that has affected the level of violence.

or the fact that ethnic groups have clustered into ethnic enclaves in Baghdad as part of the changing dynamic.
I read it. I don't feel like spending time Fisking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisking)it so I will let others do that (http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=10493).

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 01:56 PM
Speaking of changing shirts, Bob, aren't you wearing the same one in this diavlog that was so expertly selected and used here quite some time ago:
Bob wears that shirt a lot, so what? Homer Simpson always wears the same shirt too.

garbagecowboy
12-27-2007, 02:57 PM
So here it goes: Bob says that we can't say that the "surge is working" because we don't know if the Iraq Study Group recommendations would have yielded the same or better results, and because a lot of the change has been from indigenous changes in Iraq that may be independent from U.S. military policy.

I'm not sure to what extent I agree with this; the U.S. is still a major player in Iraq; our position, our expected strategic posture, the number and disposition of our forces all certainly must play into domestic political calculations, so simply saying "well a lot of this is from the Iraqis so you can't say the surge worked" is a little unsatisfying to me. Correlation is indeed not causation; but Bob seems to be taking the converse and running with it: correlation can't be causation. Furthermore he seems to apply the "well this isn't how they said the surge would work" argument to do some work also towards the "you can't say the surge is working" argument in the sense that, well, since we said we were going to do this as a nationally unified effort but the success has come from our dealings at the local level the surge as he defines it is arguably non-existent: we have increased troop numbers, sure, but Petraeus didn't surge like Bush thought he would, ergo the surge ain't working.

I would come down somewhere in the middle; what America and its military do affects things in Iraq to a large extent. What other actors do obviously has a lot to do with it. America is arguably the largest single entity across the country, however, so to say that the fact that Bush changed his Iraq policy and then basically by sheer coincidence a lot of other factors fell into place that decreased violence dramatically seems like a bit of an overstatement. Maybe "the surge is working" is an overstatement, but saying the surge is completely unrelated to the progress being made also seems like an overstatement to me.

At any rate, my question is a forward looking one: what will Bob and more importantly the anti-war left say if troop levels decline and violence increases again?

Will Bush get the benefit of the doubt in this case because correlation does not imply causation? Somehow I don't really see that happening.

More interestingly, what happens if and when a Democrat is in the White House and really significant troop withdrawals begin and violence surges? Troop draw-downs seem to be a political winner; after all, everyone wants the troops home and out of harms way. Will the Wrightian "the surge is working is just a Republican talking point" argument hold such sway that there will be enough political support for the continued pullout of troops even if violence and chaos start breaking out in the absence of a large American troop presence? Will the sitting Democrat in office get blamed for causing a return to the pre-surge chaos, or is that merely a conservative fantasy?

I write this post not merely to be snarky, I am actually curious as to how people who think that the surge has nothing to do with the progress in Iraq will react if and when a troop draw-down is accompanied by a spike in violence. If there isn't one, and the surge wasn't really necessary, well, that's great; we will be able to bring a good fraction of the troops home and stop dicking them over with repeated, long tours of duty with a relatively good outcome in Iraq itself. I just wonder what will happen is this rosy scenario doesn't come to pass.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 03:37 PM
GC:

I don't want to defend Bob's point of view, especially as he expressed it in this diavlog, but generally, I'm in the same anti-Iraq-invasion camp, so here is my answer to your question.

The main thing that motivates me to retort when I hear the simplistic phrase "the surge is working!" is just that: it's simplistic. Most people who utter it fail to acknowledge several key points:

o The violence is down, but only in comparison to when it was at its worst.

o Ethnic cleansing has to be recognized as a partial explanation for the decline of the sectarian aspects of the violence.

o Part of the reason that some groups aren't attacking us, or being blatant about attacking other groups, is that we're bribing them not to. Part of the bribery consists of weapons, and some of the rest -- cash -- is probably being spent on weapons. This does not seem likely to enhance future prospects for reduced violence.

o There aren't a whole lot of reasons to believe that the effects of the surge will last once the required troop draw-downs begin.

o The original purpose of the surge was largely to provide breathing space that would allow the national government to assume control. If anything, the national government seems even farther from that than it did when the surge began.

o Life in Iraq is still, overall, miserable. Electricity is a sometime thing, clean drinking water is unavailable in many areas, unemployment is near 50%, and the one source of revenue -- oil -- is not secure from sabotage and has not been settled as to its distribution. Additionally, many of the best and brightest have fled.

I'll grant that each of these points is subject to some debate, but I think it would be completely unrealistic to deny that all of them have some substance, at least.

The simplicity of the trope has a further problem: it carries the implication that the overall situation is now a success; i.e., invading Iraq was the right thing to do and well worth the effort. The reality of the situation is: Iraq is now one of the least stable countries in the world, especially once the US presence is removed, and the US has paid dearly to achieve this unhappy state of affairs. We've got thousands of our own dead, tens of thousands wounded, and run up a trillion dollar tab on our China-funded credit card. Parts of our military are exhausted, our image in many places around the world is in tatters, and we've aggravated the problem of anti-American terrorists.

You're probably aware that we have an election coming up. I am deeply worried that the incessant parroting of "the surge is working!" will result in an under-informed voting public making bad choices as a result. For the sake of national security and pride in our country, we need a big change in the way we do business with the rest of the world. If everyone who chortles "the surge is working!" would also be honest enough to add "in the sense that we've averted a complete catastrophe and now have only an unmitigated disaster to clean up," I'd be a lot more comfortable. Just saying the first part prolongs the impression in the voting public's mind that everything is an either/or choice.

So, to someone like you, who admits the existence of nuance, continuums, and gray areas, I am happy to admit that there have been some benefits associated with the surge, and I am even willing to say that there might be some causation involved. But when I encounter the usual shallow thinker, I'm reluctant to concede anything, because I am afraid of the consequences of giving an inch.

Baltimoron
12-27-2007, 04:40 PM
Thanks to garbagecowboy and bjkeefe for distinguishing between discretionary spending, where there is a deficit again, and non-discretionary spending, where there has always been debt. Against liberrocky, who would push discretionary spending past the point of breaking if only for a 0.5% chance of "winning" in Iraq, it's almost pointless to talk about balancing budgets.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 04:59 PM
GC:

It's not an ancillary point, though, because a lot of people who don't understand the difference between the debt and the deficit ...

You're right. One of a million simple concepts that the average voter doesn't seem to understand, which makes me absolutely crazy.

If you look at a chart of the U.S. national debt in the past you get two impressions; first of all, the notion that we are going to have to "pay it all back" in our lifetimes is somewhat misleading ...

Also true, although the increasing debt means more interest has to be paid every year (as I'm sure you know), which means a larger portion of the budget is not available for things that we'd like to see, like scientific research.

And the next President is going to be a Democrat with a Democratic Congress. Welcome back to the Great Society, vers. 2.0.

I don't see that happening, for two reasons. On the positive spin side, the Democrats mostly like the idea of being the new party of fiscal responsibility. On the negative spin side, the Democrats mostly live in fear of the "tax-and-spend" trope. Fox News and AM radio will keep the brakes applied, even if the Republicans in the Senate can't filibuster.

In short, we are screwed.

If we keep doing things the way we're doing, I agree. On the other hand, we have it within our power to rectify the situation. I think SS can be tweaked, repeatedly if necessary, to make it revenue-neutral. Medicare is a bigger problem, but maybe a national health plan will help. The real question is will we ever be able to get some gutsy politicians elected, ones who won't be afraid to tell the American people some belt-tightening is in order. The Reagan and Bush 43 administrations told the country we could have our cake and eat it, too, and put the following administrations in the position of appearing to be mean for trying to do something about it. (Don't tell anybody, but I always felt bad that Bush 41 was punished with the "read my lips -- no new taxes" thing.)

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 05:28 PM
Against liberrocky, who would push discretionary spending past the point of breaking if only for a 0.5% chance of "winning" in Iraq, it's almost pointless to talk about balancing budgets.
What? When did I advocate anything but fiscal discipline?

Baltimoron
12-27-2007, 06:11 PM
You can't support an open-ended committment and say you're for fiscal discipline!

garbagecowboy
12-27-2007, 07:54 PM
Fair enough.

Do you have any response to the part I asked about political blame if as you yourself suggest when the draw-down of troops results in increased violence? I'm particularly interested in how you think this will play out if this happens if and when the President is a Democrat, which I think is the most likely outcome.

Also, I wouldn't worry too much about the voters picking a Republican. Seriously, I'm a conservative and if I voted I wouldn't vote for any of the losers the Republicans are gunna be nominating. I think that even though the surge is working ;-) that Iraq fatigue is still pretty stong and that the Republicans chances of winning a general election are pretty slim.

In that case, I wonder what's going to happen in Iraq once the troops start coming home. If violence spikes back to what it was a year ago, we will be in a dilly of a strategic and political pickle.

cjsmith
12-27-2007, 08:21 PM
I'm not sure the point about reconciliation is anybody's storyline. I had Joe Biden and Nir Rosen in mind not Juan Cole for what it's worth.

The argument (as to why no national reconciliation) basically is this: what do the Sunni have to offer the Shia?

Answer: ?????

The power lies at the local level and I imagine Iraq (or if it breaks up, its successor entities) will go on with low-grade violence (possibly spiking???) as these groups fight it out with each other. And the central government in the Green Zone is mostly ancillary to that primary reality.

In other words, Iraq is a failed state. The surge is a better tactical military program, but it can't replaced a failed strategy (elections, central government in Baghdad) and (what I think) is an unachievable goal (Iraq as ally in war on terror, etc.).

It's not just that the surge which was supposed to (as the Dems say) give breathing room for the national reconciliation that has never taken place, it's that there is no structural reason for such a deal to take place.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 08:27 PM
GC:

Do you have any response to the part I asked about political blame if as you yourself suggest when the draw-down of troops results in increased violence? I'm particularly interested in how you think this will play out if this happens if and when the President is a Democrat, which I think is the most likely outcome.

Thanks for asking. I meant to add this as part of my concern about the perceptions of the under-informed electorate. Yes, I do worry about this. Here's a scenario that keeps popping into my mind: Bush withdraws troops, partly or mostly because it's required, perhaps partly to make it look like he's "declaring victory" as the election comes into the home stretch. The violence in Iraq does not immediately flare back up, but because nothing has really been resolved on a national scale, tribal hostilities begin to heat up. Meanwhile, the U.S. population is distracted by the latest manufactured campaign whoop-de-doo, thanks in large part to the MSM, especially TV "news." A Democrat is elected to the White House. Shortly after he or she is sworn in, violence flares up in Iraq. Whether or not the new president had a chance to withdraw additional troops, the story line will be: "The Democrats lost the war. If only they hadn't insisted on pulling out troops too soon, Iraq would now be issuing ponies to all its children."

The Democrats will be unable to unify behind one simple rebuttal slogan, and consequently, the mouthbreathers whose votes unfortunately count as much as mine will soon start to believe the spin from Rush, BillO, SHannity, et al.

Or something like that.

Even without indulging my dark fears, I share your concern about violence ramping back up in Iraq once the troop withdrawals begin. I don't have the slightest idea what we would do in that situation. I'm sympathetic to the view of "we broke it, we bought it," but another part of me thinks there just isn't anything we can do -- militarily -- to force the various factions in Iraq to get along, for real, in any long-term sense. And since so many bad decisions were made after "Mission Accomplished," I don't see that we have much cred if we appeal to the rest of the world to help, either with peacekeeping or diplomatic efforts. And if that does happen, what do the Democrats do then, even if they have the White House and sizable Congressional majorities?

quote:
--------
Also, I wouldn't worry too much about the voters picking a Republican. Seriously, I'm a conservative and if I voted I wouldn't vote for any of the losers the Republicans are gunna be nominating. I think that even though the surge is working ;-) that Iraq fatigue is still pretty stong and that the Republicans chances of winning a general election are pretty slim.
---------

If Hillary wins the nomination, that's 40-45% of the country automatically voting against her, right out of the gate. If the true liberals start seeing her as little different from the Republicans, they may stay home, and I never underestimate the Republican get-out-the-vote machinery. And speaking of machinery, have you been following the security testing on electronic voting machines? No confidence there.

The only thing that keeps me hopeful is the weakness of Republican candidates.

quote:
--------
In that case, I wonder what's going to happen in Iraq once the troops start coming home. If violence spikes back to what it was a year ago, we will be in a dilly of a strategic and political pickle.
--------

Yes. As I said above, that could well be a nightmare, even leaving aside the US political ramifications.

TwinSwords
12-27-2007, 08:34 PM
Garbage Cowboy,
I would probably know the answers to these questions if I'd spent more time dwelling in the forum, but alas I do not. So, in order to help me assess where you are coming from, would you mind answering the following questions?

(1) Did you vote for Bush in 2000 and 2004?

(2) Were you a supporter of the invasion of Iraq?

(3) Have you ever reached a point where you concluded the invasion was a mistake?

(4) Do you think we should stay in Iraq pretty much no matter what happens? I.e., the cost of leaving would be greater than the cost of staying.

(5) What do you believe was the real motivation for the invasion?

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 10:12 PM
You can't support an open-ended commitment and say you're for fiscal discipline!
I know this is hard to understand, but when you are fighting a real war (not one on poverty or drugs or cancer) fiscal discipline is a secondary, yet still important, consideration. But in the end winning is what matters. So in a time of war fiscal discipline is a luxury item. But that hardly makes me an advocate for being fiscally irresponsibility

Baltimoron
12-27-2007, 10:15 PM
I rest my case!

And, i would add. that fiscal discipline leads to better policy, even when a government has to go over-budget. Those advocating an open check are just by definition irresponsible.

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 10:18 PM
Sorry reread my post. I had hit submit instead of preview.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 10:18 PM
It'd be nice if a country said to itself, "We can't afford to start a war."

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 10:20 PM
It'd be nice if a country said to itself, "We can't afford to start a war."
That is just moronic.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 10:29 PM
liberrocky:

Fiscal discipline is moronic?

Baltimoron
12-27-2007, 11:18 PM
I think some criterion or criteria is necessary by which to evaluate the utility of a policy. A fiscal criterion does that as well as any, and maybe best, because spending tends to focus everyone's attention in a way other arguments don't. I also think that generally (and this is a theological view we can quibble with endlessly) because human decision-making is so fallible, that there will always be bad consequences from every one decision.. Therefore, there can never be enough hand-wringing, knockdown-dragged out debate on any question, especially war. I think people can minimize the evil they create, and that government is the last bulwark. But, if you are justifying decision-making based on other criteria, it seems the flood will overwhelm the dike.

Also, I also think a fiscal criterion dove-tails constitutionally with Congress' budgetary responsibilities. The Executive's war-making powers have been a moral question since the First Seminole War. The Executive has expansive, yet limited power, which is almost a recipe for trouble. The Executive can respond to emergencies, but is restrained by Congress and SCOTUS for making permanent decisions. The one check on that trouble is character. And here, I think President Bush's Calvinist belief in the moral value of human agency is a bad character type to have in the constitutional system.

liberrocky
12-27-2007, 11:59 PM
No, your smelly hippie "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber" peacenikism is moronic.

As Orwell said: "Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist"

liberrocky
12-28-2007, 12:06 AM
I think some criterion or criteria is necessary by which to evaluate the utility of a policy.

A fiscal criterion does that as well as any, and maybe best, because spending tends to focus everyone's attention in a way other arguments blah blah blah...


I have an easy way to evaluate policy: does it increase personal freedom? If yes = GOOD if no=BAD.

bjkeefe
12-28-2007, 12:32 AM
liberrocky:

I have an easy way to evaluate policy: does it increase personal freedom? If yes = GOOD if no=BAD.

Please explain how this squares with your support for George W. Bush.

TwinSwords
12-28-2007, 12:51 AM
Please explain how this squares with your support for George W. Bush.
I guess it's kind of like fiscal responsibility: they write themselves an exemption from their values when it's convenient, or the nation is at war, or George Bush is president.

Note: After Jan. 20, 2009, substitute the next Republican President for "George Bush."

Baltimoron
12-28-2007, 12:59 AM
I have an easy way to evaluate policy: does it increase personal freedom? If yes = GOOD if no=BAD.

It's hard to be free without money. Or, if Saudi Arabia and China are paying for your debt.

garbagecowboy
12-28-2007, 01:16 AM
Garbage Cowboy,
I would probably know the answers to these questions if I'd spent more time dwelling in the forum, but alas I do not. So, in order to help me assess where you are coming from, would you mind answering the following questions?

(1) Did you vote for Bush in 2000 and 2004?



No and no. I was not old enough to vote in 2000 and I have never voted since I turned 18.


(2) Were you a supporter of the invasion of Iraq?


Yes.


(3) Have you ever reached a point where you concluded the invasion was a mistake?


Yes, several years ago, at this point.


(4) Do you think we should stay in Iraq pretty much no matter what happens? I.e., the cost of leaving would be greater than the cost of staying.


No matter what happens? That is an awful lot of eventualities to ponder. I think that the correct course of action would be gradual draw-downs in troop numbers that will allow our soldiers regular periods at home, at least for the foreseeable future. I have no inside access to numbers on what it would take to get this done, but I would not mind seeing a draw-down to say 80,000 troops by the start of 2009, with more withdrawals continuing if violence did not erupt back to near 2006 levels. My ideal scenario that I think would be politically acceptable would be something that I outlined to KJ: a gradual phase-down of troop levels over the next 2 or 3 years that has at its relatively flexible endpoint a much smaller troop presence (maybe 30-50k soldiers) who instead of patrolling the streets of Baghdad are holed up in Kurdistan, ready to strike out if it seems that certain violent factions are getting out of control and/or taking over cities or provinces. I am not committed to "victory" nor am I of the mind that America should just get used to having this many troops in Iraq for "as long as it takes." I think a reasonable strategy would be to start bringing troops home, see if the situation does not degenerate into chaos, and to bring as many troops home as possible while still having a sufficient number of boots on the ground to prevent a general civil war from re-breaking out. Whether or not this is possible I know not.


(5) What do you believe was the real motivation for the invasion?

I don't see why this particularly matters except as a loyalty test for Bush hatred... but I'll go for it.

Not oil. The idea that we were going to get Iraqi oil most easily by invading the country rather than just dealing with Saddam seems nuts to me.

I would say a mixture of an administration that came in with a master-plan for remolding the Middle East in a way they thought would be easy that turned out to be hard mixed with a faulty intelligence system that gave them the information they wanted to hear rather than what the world needed to know. Whether or not this has to do with George Bush's daddy issues I have no idea, and I make no comment.

breadcrust
12-28-2007, 04:06 AM
liberrooky,

I have an easy way to evaluate policy: does it increase personal freedom? If yes = GOOD if no=BAD.

Sweet. It's good to find another on this board who wants to end the Bush family's War On Drugs.

jjb
12-28-2007, 04:28 AM
Bob misses a key point about group selection. If one subscribes to the selfish gene theory, then group selection depends on the homogeneity of the group. Thus, group selection can provide a genetic basis for altruism, but it also provides a genetic basis for all sorts of more pernicious aspects of human nature, such as racism and xenophobia. If we're concerned about survival of our genes, we're first concerned with our own survival (and reproduction), then with our family members' survival (and reproduction). We would want to expel from the group those who are least genetic similiar to us, such as those of different races. I think that we should not assume that group selection leads to an optimistic view of human nature.

lurker2209
12-28-2007, 05:16 AM
If the chief argument to stay in Iraq is a moral one (the 'we broke it, we have to fix it' argument) then the real question is at what point is that moral obligation reached. It can't be that we must only leave when Iraq is a happy stable democracy. We don't have the obligation; we don't even have the right to force the Iraqi's into that. Part of the appeal of the surge in my mind was the idea that we'd give the Iraqi's a real chance to make progress, to learn that they're all better off when the stop shooting and start cutting a few deals. The idea that we'd do this by supporting the central government seemed to me to be the best of the not so great options, but the opportunity that presented itself to strengthen the Sunni's is better. The unequal footing of the factions seemed to be a big factor in preventing deals from being struck.

So we've stopped a lot of the shooting and the Iraqi's haven't cut any deals. And of course it's not too late for this; these things tend to build and it may be that we see progress just as the US starts to leave because everyone is waiting to the last minute to gauge conditions.

But if they don't step up, then can we consider our moral obligation fulfilled? Have we done enough? Have we really given them a chance? Have we manipulated all the circumstances we could in towards peace? I don't know. I'd feel a lot better if we'd used the breathing room of the surge to spend some more money on getting their lights back on, and their water. If we'd built a few more roads and hospitals.

But morally, I feel less sick about pulling out now that I did about pulling out a a year or so ago. Because we're reaching the point where logistically we have to go soon. And we've tried to give them a chance. I don't know if we've done enough. I don't know if the Iraqi's even give a damn about my conscience.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 02:23 PM
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:09:45&out=00:10:11

Whoops! Is it funny to anyone one else that the part of the "Edwards using the Andrew Young as cover for his love child" scenario Mr. Wright finds most implausible is the baby's likely skin tone, and not, say, Mr. Young's advanced age, the fact that he lives in another state, the fact that Mr. Young is a former pastor, the fact that Mr. Young is supporting Sen. Clinton for President, or perhaps that as a close associate of MLK during the civil rights struggle, three term Congressman from GA, Ambassador to the UN, Mayor of Atlanta, and all-around high profile person Mr. Young's claiming to be the father would have the opposite effect of diverting attention from the matter and would in fact draw huge amounts of press coverage, exactly what Sen. Edwards would be trying to avoid by pinning the paternity on some other non-famous man? But nah, it's the fact that the child might be born visibly dark-skinned that sinks it for Mr. Wright, who's obviously a practical man.

Oh well, everyone makes mistakes, and I'm sure it's humbling to have one's blunders recorded on public video for posterity; any bets on whether this particular incident gives Mr. Wright pause when tearing into Mr. Kaus in the future?

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 02:41 PM
On the question of apologizing to Sen. Reid for questioning his harsh criticisms of Pres. Bush's handling of the Iraq war--the same Sen. Reid who in April said that the war is lost and that the "surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday" (article link) (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/04/20/reid_says_was_is_lost_drawing_gop_rebuke/)--should he perhaps now apologize to himself, since he has now admitted that "there are a lot of reasons the surge certainly hasn't hurt. It's helped. I recognize that" (interview link) (http://news.monstersandcritics.com/usa/news/article_1382809.php/Senate_Majority_Leader_Reid_acknowledges_surge_is_ effective)? If Sen. Reid in April deemed the surge a failure due to high violence, and is now to remain consistent forced to deem the surge at least a partial success due to low levels of violence, how is he owed an apology for this position by people who were sharply critical of his (now seemingly premature) declaration of the surge's failure if violence again rises in the future?

TwinSwords
12-29-2007, 03:29 PM
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:09:45&out=00:10:11

Whoops! Is it funny to anyone one else that the part of the "Edwards using the Andrew Young as cover for his love child" scenario Mr. Wright finds most implausible is the baby's likely skin tone, and not, say, Mr. Young's advanced age, the fact that he lives in another state, the fact that Mr. Young is a former pastor, the fact that Mr. Young is supporting Sen. Clinton for President, or perhaps that as a close associate of MLK during the civil rights struggle, three term Congressman from GA, Ambassador to the UN, Mayor of Atlanta, and all-around high profile person Mr. Young's claiming to be the father would have the opposite effect of diverting attention from the matter and would in fact draw huge amounts of press coverage, exactly what Sen. Edwards would be trying to avoid by pinning the paternity on some other non-famous man? But nah, it's the fact that the child might be born visibly dark-skinned that sinks it for Mr. Wright, who's obviously a practical man.
Quite obviously, nothing would disprove the claim that it was the black Andrew Young's child as effectively as birthing a white child. Nothing you listed above could conclusively prove that the black Andrew Young wasn't the father, but giving birth to a white child would, so Bob's focus on that detail was perfectly logical as long as he thought the alleged father was, in fact, the black Andrew Young.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 04:28 PM
That aspect of the scenario makes the Andrew Young an unlikely candidate for fall guy down the road, since he'd only be viable until the child is born. Other aspects of the scenario, most prominently the fact that as a very high-profile person Mr. Young would serve to do the exact opposite of a good fall guy's job, that is, he would bring much more attention to the situation instead of dispelling any attention the situation might otherwise receive, make the Andrew Young an unlikely candidate right now. If the purpose of pinning the pregnancy on someone else is to divert attention away from the story (and the candidate), picking someone very famous as the father accomplishes the exact opposite--the scandal of the Andrew Young fathering a child out of wedlock (he's been married to his second wife since 1996, his first died in 1994) would bring a great deal of attention to the story, and even if only peripherally connected to the Edwards campaign this attention would be harmful, effecting the opposite of the "Andrew Young as fall guy" scenario's desired outcome. Combined with the fact that Mr. Young is widely seen as supporting Sen. Clinton for President, this should have prevented Mr. Wright from concluding that the Andrew Young in question is the famous Andrew Young, instead Mr. Young's skin color provided Mr. Wright with evidence that the "famous Andrew Young as father" scenario was MORE likely to be true, since it would be easily disprovable once the child was born and thus wouldn't have been used unless true. In fact the opposite, that the famous Mr. Young would NEVER have been used as a fall guy under any circumstances was the correct conclusion, which Mr. Wright surely realizes now--he made a funny mistake. Additionally a DNA test would be much more effective in ruling out potential fathers, as infant skin tone is highly variable.

bjkeefe
12-29-2007, 04:28 PM
It also seems reasonable to expect that that Andrew Young is the first person to come to mind when the name is mentioned, and to have a vision of that Andrew Young from quite a few years ago, when he was much more frequently in front of the cameras.

bjkeefe
12-29-2007, 04:29 PM
Exeus:

If you think it's reasonable to ask Harry Reid to apologize, then surely you agree it's at least as reasonable to demand an apology from Bush, Cheney, and their neocon cronies for starting the war in the first place, for lying about WMDs, for trying to pull the job off without international consensus or adequate troops to maintain order, for bungling the occupation, and for suppressing all efforts to find out how much profiteering has gone on.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 04:50 PM
Bjkeefe: I'm not in the habit of asking politicians to apologize, especially not for acting like...politicians! My point was that if you think someone owes Sen. Reid an apology in the event that Iraq once again descends into pre-surge levels of violence then in that event he will have to revert to his earlier criticism of/prediction for the surge--and that he would in that case owe himself a similar apology. Reid called the war lost and predicted the surge would not work, he has now reversed at least some of that judgment in response to changing outcomes in Iraq. He predicted that the surge wouldn't help, and now admits that the surge, at least in part, helped. I don't think he owes anyone an apology, but clearly everyone could use a little more humility with respect to predictions of what the future will hold in highly dynamic situations.

A larger point is that the Democrats were probably wrong to rely so heavily on violence in Iraq as a measure of our failure in Iraq. While this violence is highly visible and American deaths resonate, drawing the argument in terms of "Iraq is violent and our troops are dying in large numbers, therefore our effort is failing" leaves you open to changing circumstances producing the counter, namely that "Iraq is less violent and fewer of our troops are dying, therefore our effort is succeeding." Trying to shift the focus to our failure to obtain political goals (unification, pacification, etc) now looks like Democrats moving the goalposts--this isn't entirely fair since these objectives were always there and necessary, but the tactical political decision to point mainly to U.S. deaths and Iraqi violence as measures of our failure means that this reversal now undercuts the Democrats' earlier message.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 05:03 PM
The Andrew Young certainly springs to mind first at the mention of that name, but the problem here is that Mr. Wright found Young's skin color to be a reason why using him as the purported father was more likely to be true (since it would be a dumb lie, easily disproved once the child is born) instead of using Mr. Young's prominence and celebrity as a reason to doubt that Edwards would use him in that capacity; the implausibility of the Andrew Young as a candidate for scapegoat (due to the factors I listed) should probably have caused Mr. Wright to doubt that the Andrew Young in question was the famous 75 year old former pastor and politician.

It's not a big deal, I'm sure Mr. Wright is somewhat embaressed by the mistake and hope that Mr. Kaus will make use of this slip in the future when he needs a counter to Mr. Wright's claim that Mr. Kaus is too gullible in believing gossip; "Yeah, well, at least I didn't think the Andrew Young knocked up an Edwards campaign worker!"

bjkeefe
12-29-2007, 05:23 PM
Exeus:

I don't agree with you about Harry Reid -- he called it as he saw it, and I wish more politicians would do that. I still think the war is lost, or at least, still in the middle of being a losing situation.

I do agree with you about the Democrats' PR tactics, and the risk that they ran trying to frame the war solely in terms of violence. As you point out, it certainly makes my case harder when I try to point out what an utter failure the entire thing still is. Just another case of the Democrats being so afraid to be seen as "against the troops" that they chose the wrong approach.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 06:51 PM
Mr. Wright's comments in this clip (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:32:08&out=00:33:09) are really beneath him.

First, is it "objectively true" that the surge is less than 50% responsible for the improvement in Iraq--does Mr. Wright have the objectively true percentage--to some number of decimal points--and why didn't he share it? Claiming some disputed point is simply objectively true in your favor, especially when that point is by its nature subjective (ie how much credit or blame to apportion some factor in a development that is the result of a number of complex factors) is a talking-point debating tactic; essentially saying "this particular conclusion is beyond debate" in the midst of a debate over that very topic doesn't accomplish much. Can any historical outcome ever be said to be caused by any one factor exclusively in a way that is objectively true? (As an example, what caused the U.S. Civil War, or what caused some battle to be won by one side, etc.--history is complex, and it's surely acceptable for reasonable people to disagree about a complex situation relating to recent events which no one here understands well). Mr. Wright's assertion that the change in Iraq was not caused, maintained, or brought about by the surge in a way where the surge is more than 50% responsible in an "objectively true" way is groundless, no matter how emphatically stated. Can Mr. Wright give me the proper causal attribution for the surge, be it 30% or 20% responsible, since he must know this amount as objectively correct?

Next, the thrust of Mr. Wright's comment is that Mr. Kaus' framing of the issue is the same as the Bush Administration's, and that this is wrong in itself. But if these conclusions are objectively true, that is, if the facts are such that they aren't subject to interpretation and can be known with precision, why should the fact that Mr. Kaus and the Bush Admin. reached the same conclusions (and/or expressed these conclusions the same way) be surprising? If someone who agrees with Mr. Wright framed the issue in the same way he did, say someone more politically extreme than Mr. Wright, someone who many find distasteful, and that person expressed this agreement by framing the issue in the same way Mr. Wright does, would that in any way negate Mr. Wright's conclusion? Especially if these facts are objectively true or false, it would only make sense for people who saw the situation correctly to reach the same conclusion--and yet Mr. Wright attempts to use a possible example of this as evidence against Mr. Kaus. This is illogical, but Mr. Wright isn't relying much on logic in this exchange.

Lastly, the most offensive part of Mr. Wright's comments comes towards the end of the clip, where he slurs both Republicans and Mr. Kaus. Mr. Wright accuses Mr. Kaus of spouting propaganda, and says that this isn't surprising since "that's where [Kaus is] politically." There are a number of insults packed into these sentences. The tone is quite patronizing, saying "well, you're clearly wrong and lying, but I expect that kind of bad behavior from someone with your political beliefs." Even granting that the Bush Admin. has earned plenty of skepticism, Mr. Kaus has repeatedly stated that he is not a Republican, and Wright's assertions to the contrary haven't changed Kaus' mind--must someone disagree 100% with Bush to be counted among the non-Repubs. in Wright's book? Wright denies that any honest disagreement with his opinion is possible, and concludes that since Kaus and people with his political beliefs disagree, they must be using propaganda--lying and intentionally deceiving others by framing the issue in an untrue way, as opposed to expressing their true opinion in an attempt to persuade others. But can't Kaus think that he's right? Isn't it possible that others think the contribution of the surge (to the better situation in Iraq) is larger than Mr. Wright believes? For Wright it's not enough to disagree with Kaus and those who are "where [he's] at politically," they must also be liars and propagandists. In one of the first BHs I watched Mr. Wright expressed that he felt attacking someone's motives was futile, since not only was it not possible to truly know what someone really thinks, but also that person's conclusions could be true or false regardless of the person's motives. Here Wright violates this idea in whole--he asserts that not only is Kaus (and any who disagree with him) wrong, but also that they're knowingly wrong and are arguing in the way they are in order to deceive others. Even if you believe that Kaus' position is entirely incorrect, this is a shitty think to say about Kaus--Mr. Wright took his criticism too far.

Is it really not possible that Mr. Kaus believes what he asserts? Can the only conclusion be that he's intentionally lying here, and that that lie is best explained by his political beliefs? Isn't it just possible that he's simply wrong? If so, Wright's conclusion is not the only one, as he seems to assert, and his treatment of Kaus is therefore shabby. Mr. Wright has shown an admirable willingness to apologize for comments he made in anger in the past, I hope he will apologize to Mr. Kaus, off camera if not for the audience.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 07:13 PM
Wright simply saying here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:34:00&out=34:36) that "there are stakes to this argument" doesn't excuse his impugning Mr. Kaus' motives. Saying "well, it matters how this argument is settled" doesn't give your side more or less weight, it doesn't mean you're more correct. Even if you believe that extremism in defends of your cause is no vice, that alone doesn't make you right--the other "side" probably feels the same way. If it's ok for Wright to call Kaus or Repubs. war-mongering propagandists who would use this propaganda to further their blood thirsty designs, isn't it equally ok for others to call Wright or Dems. weak-kneed appeasers who want to undercut our effort, or somehow "against the troops?" Wouldn't it be better if both sides admitted that, though they disagree, everyone is expressing their best estimation of the truth and arguing for what they believe is best for our nation?

Notice too that Kaus tries to inoculate himself from the disease of being associated with Pres. Bush by assuring Wright that he's convinced (along with a significant majority of the population) that Bush is a terrible president, but of course this doesn't carry much weight with Wright--he seems to believe that it's simply not possible to agree with the Bush admin. on this point, and that no one but a Repub. propagandist would make the argument Kaus does. In this way he shows that he's not really open to discussion, he has concluded that his position is not only correct but is in fact the only one that any honest person could reach--he should at least acknowledge that he will permit no disagreement on this point without slurring Kaus under the pretense that some honorable alternate position (that Kaus villainously refuses to take) is possible.

bjkeefe
12-29-2007, 07:29 PM
Exeus:

I don't buy your demand that Bob apologize to Mickey for calling him a Republican. I was going to say "closet Republican," but it's pretty much obvious to everyone by now where he stands. It'd be one thing if Mickey would just admit that he's gone over to other side, but his claim that he's still a Democrat makes him deserve nothing but criticism. He's a concern troll at best.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 07:38 PM
Here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:44:40&out=00:44:49) men are more belligerent, partly due to innate genetic differences, but five minutes later here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:49:13&out=00:49:25) the suggestion that a poster might "write like a man" (viciously, fearlessly) sounds sexist. Not irreconcilable, perhaps, but isn't it just as sexist to say men on the whole possess more of a bad trait as it is to assert that men on the whole possess more of a good trait? And aren't any gender differences supposed to be conditioned-imposed by the patriarchy-as opposed to even partly genetic?

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 07:51 PM
Oh, he shouldn't apologize for calling Kaus a Republican (although that gets a little old), he should apologize for insisting that since his (Wright's) position was objectively true Kaus was not just wrong but was in fact knowingly wrong, and parroting the propaganda of the Bush administration--AND that this intentionally deceptive framing (while-condescendingly-to be expected from "someone with [Kaus']" beliefs) will damage the nation. It should be enough to disagree strongly and point out where they disagreement rests, but Mr. Wright goes much further, saying that Kaus' framing echoes propaganda, and that this will have severe consequences (which should be obvious to Kaus). It is similar to a Repub. stating that someone who opposes the continuation of the Iraq war is unpatriotic or "hates the troops;" that kind of crap doesn't have a place in an honest debate between people of good will and should be called out when coming from anyone. Whatever Kaus' shortcomings, I don't think, nor do I think Mr. Wright believes, that he is willing to support a position that he knows to be harmful to America just to be on the President's "side." That suggestion should be considered offensive, and Mr. Kaus in my opinion deserves an apology.

bjkeefe
12-29-2007, 09:07 PM
Exeus:

I take your point. I just don't agree -- I think Mickey is dishonest in claiming to be a Democrat, while doing a lot to sabotage that party's efforts. He also tends to repeat common tropes about things like The Surge. I see Bob's reaction as a friend calling a friend on his shit.

Guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 09:10 PM
Why does Mr. Wright's "do no harm" policy here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:26:30) only kick in "after the Afghanistan war?" Isn't it perfectly applicable to/before that war, as well? Wouldn't the application of that policy before the Afghan war have lead to us not fighting the Afghan war? If so, that policy indicates that the Afghan war was wrong, too. Or does the "do no harm" policy only apply to unilateral action? That doesn't persuade me much, it was a "mulitnational" force with U.N. approval that won the first Gulf War, but it was America that was blamed for starving Iraqi children and bases in Saudi Arabia--that first Gulf War in that sense did harm, making Bin Laden's 9/11 attack an inevitable chicken coming home to roost under a backwards-looking "do no harm" policy.

Is Mr. Wright's proposed application of this policy to Iraq but not Afghanistan just an example of hindsight bias, where the Afghan War has (to some degree) gone better/been less of a disaster than the Iraq War, and so in Mr. Wright's opinion not (as) harmful, and thus not proscribed by the "do no harm" policy? If so, how would this have been predicted from the time, looking forward? Wouldn't any sort of extreme precautionary principle leave the Taliban in power or at least prohibit us from invading Afghanistan, lest we risk angering Muslim fundamentalists and creating more terror? Hell, looking back, the decision to arm the mujahideen against the Soviets would violate this principle, as would the division of the Middle East along the lines it was divided post-War, as was Carter's support for the Shah, as was our siding with Iraq over Iran, and on and on. Looking back I can tell you what violated this principle of "do no harm," but that does me little good as a predictive tool for what action I should take in the future--besides which, the true results of making a different decision in past aren't always clear.

Was it a mistake to invade Iraq? Probably. Was it a mistake to do so as we did? Certainly. But that's a pretty easy case, Mr. Wright, the place is a mess and no one's arguing that it's not. Some people think that there's a possibility that the eventual (long run) future of the nation will be better than if we had never invaded, many people think this is not possible. Arguing that things were, pre-invasion, trending well (from an American perspective) with respect to Iraq is an exercise in revisionism, however. Is it true as Mr. Wright asserts here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:30:00&out=00:31:00) that things were working against Hussein, or that those things were likely to produce a more "stable" and (one assumes) better outcome? Mr. Kaus is right to point out that the weak international consensus for containing Hussein had all but crumbled, and the oil market's wealth would surely shore Hussein up considerably. Further, if it's folly for neocons to insist that given time and U.S. help a stable democracy will spring up in Iraq any day, how much more ridiculous is it for Mr. Wright to imply that a similar outcome might have sprung up in the same place spontaneously, with no U.S. intervention? Let's assume Hussein died somehow--would an Iraq run by one of his depraved sons have been more conducive to U.S. interests, let alone the well being of most Iraqis? Pre-war, the U.S.' ability to control or influence Hussein was on the wane, and wishful thinking after the fact won't change that. Is it possible that some perfect U.S. policy would have reversed that trend, and brought about a happy peace for all? Perhaps, but note that under 8 years of Pres. Clinton's watch the situation didn't improve markedly, and for all that Administration's commitment to international unity a coalition willing to take action to strongly oppose Hussein couldn't be sustained--how likely were we to get one under the unilateral-minded Bush administration?

Wright asserting that no positive outcome now can mean that the invasion was a good idea since the outcome might have been better (somehow)--better both than the current situation and better than the pre-invasion status--is at least honest, nothing will convince him that the war was good idea. Very well, the low state of affairs there certainly doesn't inspire much confidence that things will turn out pleasantly any time soon. Wright seems to have trouble extending his considerable intellect to the task of constructing decent counterfactuals, however; simply saying "well, things might have turned out swell anyway" without putting forward any method by which this result might have been achieved is a poor excuse for an argument. It's similar to saying that WW2 might have resolved itself in a way agreeable to Great Britain without U.S. involvement--it's possible, but to make a convincing argument you'd have to show how. Mr. Wright doesn't make any effort to show how Iraq could have thrown off Hussein and his ilk, achieved both safety for its citizens and peaceful stability, and ceased to be a dangerous force for U.S. and world interests without American involvement that would violate the "do no harm" policy.

Putting forward an ill-defined "do no harm" policy as Mr. Wright here does without elaborating as to how what will (in the future) produce harm is determined renders the policy useless. Is it possible that intervening in the Darfur region of Sudan will create terrorism against the U.S. in the future? How about sending troops into western Pakistan--troops that would hunt for Al-Quaeda but who would almost certainly kill some innocent civilians in the course of their operations--is that a violation of this policy? Sen. Obama has indicated he might support both those actions, and neocons on the right probably would, where's the "Do No Harm" candidate? Is Wright stuck supporting Ron Paul again? How about something like our withdrawing the Bush administration's sickening support for the Saudi regime? Surely this would be a positive development...unless that regime devoted even more money to madrasahes teaching hatred against the U.S. and worked to funnel more money to groups that eventually lead to more terrorism...does the "do no harm" policy indicate we should give more or less support to the status quo? How about Egypt? Should we engage with the Iranian regime, de-escalating tension between our two countries but possibly strengthening the regime's hand against internal pro-democracy factions--what actions constitute "doing no harm?"

These kinds of questions aren't simple, and just stating that the U.S. should have followed a different path w.r.t. Iraq (or Afghanistan) only beings to answer them--what SHOULD we have done, what would the likely outcomes really have been, and what SHOULD we do in the future? There is plenty of room for disagreement on the best courses of action, and pretending that there's some self-evidently correct best path of simply "doing no harm" that we as a nation were too stupid to take (should have listened to Mr. Wright, don't you know!) is a backwards-looking fantasy, a ridiculous oversimplification that has almost no predictive power.

Exeus99
12-29-2007, 09:50 PM
Mr. Kaus is correct to note how grudging Mr. Wright sounds here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7636?in=00:31:15&out=32:30). Putting aside for the briefest of moments whether Mr. Wright's larger point (that the recent good trends are not mostly due to the surge) is correct, consider the politics of Wright's approach. How does he think it sounds to say "over objections from people like Wright the surge occurred, during and after which (and likely beginning before) things got better in Iraq--but all pains must be taken to give the surge very little credit for this positive change"? Even if the impact of the surge had only a minimal effect in bringing about this positive change, insisting on this kind of precision in apportioning credit sounds mean and small, as though Mr. Wright is trying to refuse to acknowledge any good. The charge of sour grapes or that those who defend their original opposition to the surge are doing so to protect their pride come all too easily, even though in Mr. Wright's mind he is staking out an important distinction so that this example won't be used to make further mistakes in the future.

Politicians and talking heads make their living pretending that correlations imply causation-that because two things are even superficially related one must have caused the other. The surge is correlated with Iraq's improvement--even if this improvement began before the surge, they have occurred and been maintained contemporaneously. Mr. Wright may be correct when he insists on pointing out that this correlation does not mean the surge caused the improvement, but this exactitude is certainly counter to the way our political discourse is usually carried out. I for one would welcome this new standard, where every linkage that is not causal in nature is pointed out as such in the strongest terms, as long as this standard is equally applied across the board. Good economy under Clinton? Bad housing market under Bush? Exactly how much of each is causal, that is, how much of the good economy under Pres. Clinton was due to him being President, and how much of the housing downturn is directly due to Pres. Bush? Are different health outcomes in nations with universal healthcare wholly the result of those healthcare policies, or do the lifestyles, lack of diversity, or culture of those people play some role, and if so how much? I applaud Mr. Wright's dedication to precision with respect to getting the causal relationship between factors correct even when doing so results in politically damaging appearances, and I'm sure he will insist on this same precision on other topics--after all, we wouldn't want to conclude that this rigor is only applied when it favors Mr. Wright's position, that might call into question his motivation and make the attitude Mr. Kaus here calls grudging and testy seem petty!

garbagecowboy
12-30-2007, 12:57 AM
what caused the U.S. Civil War

To quote the Simpsons: just say slavery.

garbagecowboy
12-30-2007, 01:04 AM
I disagree that Mickey is a "closet Republican." I don't know too many people who are in favor of universal healthcare.

Maybe with the way the wind is blowing us "libertarian Republicans" are increasingly just "libertarians" and any and all government spending will be approved of heartily by both parties, and therefore Kaus's moderate stance on Iraq (and no, that was not a typo) and his anti-labor and anti-illegal-immigration stances make him a Republican.

If so, I weep for the party of Goldwater.

bjkeefe
12-30-2007, 01:53 AM
GC:

I disagree that Mickey is a "closet Republican." I don't know too many people who are in favor of universal healthcare.

That's one heck of a statistical argument you've got there.

In any case, the health care thing is an outlier, and is explained in large part by his admitted hypochondria. Just think about his non-stop harping on rumors of Democratic scandals, his cheerleading for the surge, his anti-immigration attitudes, his endless crush on Ann Coulter, and recall how he spent 2004 bashing Kerry.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing that he's a Republican, or leans that way. I'm just saying he should come clean. He strikes me as a typical middle-class white guy who's gotten more cynical and conservative with age. Nothing unusual or wrong about that, except for the denial.

As for the libertarian issues you raise: you libertarian Republicans have no one to blame but yourselves for getting into bed with the radical Christians. You should have known that they like their handouts and being taken care of by figures of authority.

garbagecowboy
12-30-2007, 02:51 AM
Uhh, yea, that should have read "I don't know too many Republicans who are in favor of universal healthcare." Which Kaus emphatically is, as well. Also, not too many Republicans that I've heard of write books about income inequality and its possibly deleterious effects on our society.

garbagecowboy
12-30-2007, 02:56 AM
As for the libertarian issues you raise: you libertarian Republicans have no one to blame but yourselves for getting into bed with the radical Christians. You should have known that they like their handouts and being taken care of by figures of authority.

A fair point, although I would take issue with the "you libertarian Republicans" phrase. I was far too young to have been politically active when those alliances were forged to have had any say in it, and furthermore I have never been politically active. I am only a "libertarian Republican" in the sense that that is the type of mainstream political candidate I agree with. You know like... uh... Ron P-- no, uh, er, um, Nelson Rockefeller? Barry Goldwater? I have never been involved in any sort of Young Republicans club, have never voted for a Republican, and have never given any money to any Republican candidate or fund.

So I don't think I should blame myself. But I do blame those who did make that Faustian bargain. It is my hope that at some point in the future the Republicans will come once more to stand for fiscal discipline and limited government, and that the Democrats will restrain Republican impulses to expand government control over personal freedoms.

bjkeefe
12-30-2007, 10:44 AM
GC:

(Replying to two posts here.)

Uhh, yea, that should have read "I don't know too many Republicans who are in favor of universal healthcare."

I'd still make fun of this. I'm reminded of liberals in NY and MA, back in 2004, who I'd hear say, "I don't know anyone who likes George Bush." Same sample selection problem.

[Sidebar: I don't know the data, but I've seen stories about certain kinds of Republicans who favor national health care of some sort. In addition to the poor people who would like health care, but who are Republican for reasons of, say, hawkishness or thinking the Democrats are the party of Teh Gays, I've also read about plenty of business owners who would like to be rid of dealing with the issue. And I'm sure many of the aging large companies would be delighted to have their retirees off their books.]

Also, not too many Republicans that I've heard of write books about income inequality and its possibly deleterious effects on our society.

That was kind of a while ago, wasn't it? If you're speaking of The End of Equality, that was published in 1992.

However, I do admit he doesn't seem to have changed his tune on this issue very much. Which raises another question: if he really (still) cares about this issue, why does he spend so much time picking at the Democrats? It's not like the Republicans are likely to take this one up in the foreseeable future.

I used to think Mickey saw himself as a gadfly, self-appointed to keep his party honest, much the way Paul Krugman does. But he seems to have gone well beyond that to me.

... I would take issue with the "you libertarian Republicans" phrase. I was far too young to have been politically active when those alliances were forged ...

Yeah, that was a little unfair of me. Sorry. Now that you remind me that you are less than politically active, I realize I should have remembered that, too. I'm also aware that you're hardly a codger. On the other hand, the way you had bemoaned the loss of the "party of Goldwater" kind of provoked me, in the sense of ownership implying responsibility.

It is my hope that at some point in the future the Republicans will come once more to stand for fiscal discipline and limited government ...

Here's a thought experiment. Suppose the next president is a Democrat, and continues in the vein of Bill Clinton, a fiscally responsible president. Would that be sufficient to make you reconsider your party allegiances, or at least your self-identification?

I don't see either party going for limited government for a while. There were some real reductions under Clinton, thanks to Gore's task force, but both parties have lots of reasons to keep things large: the Dems for nannying, the Reps for policing, to oversimplify. It saddens me to think that Republican candidates can still say "I'm for limited government" without getting laughed off the stage. Except for Ron Paul, I don't think any of them believe in the principle in the slightest.

garbagecowboy
12-30-2007, 11:25 AM
Here's a thought experiment. Suppose the next president is a Democrat, and continues in the vein of Bill Clinton, a fiscally responsible president. Would that be sufficient to make you reconsider your party allegiances, or at least your self-identification?


Since I assume you're talking about a Democrat, let's get down to cases:

If the next President were a Democrat and he or she was fiscally disciplined for reasons of principle, in spite of having Congress controlled by the Democrats, I would definitely reconsider how I self identify. Again since I don't vote or give money or give money or do anything beyond posting on bh.tv, I don't think have any "allegiance" to either party.

However, my definition of fiscal discipline is probably different from yours. It is not just raising taxes so that the deficit is 0 even though you've created a bunch of expensive new entitlements. The problem with entitlements is not necessarily their implementation, when costs are relatively easy to estimate (although "free" nationalized health-care is gunna be pretty goddamn expensive any way you slice it) but years down the road when things get tricky.

I agree there is not much of a constituency for "limited government" out there, but I believe there is one inasmuch as there is an overlapping constituency that is for "fiscal discipline" and is against tax increases. If for whatever reason the Democrats control both the Legislative and the Executive branches and they raise taxes, curb wasteful spending (I'm thinking pork-barrel attachments here) and aren't able or willing to agree on some gaudily expensive new universal health-care plan, and the end result is that the deficit is negative, we start paying down the debt, and there are no massive government programs created under President Clintobamwards, then I would think much more highly of the Democratic Party.

If, on the other hand, they want to saddle our country with ever more "free" programs that we can't afford, but are only hindered from doing so by a combination of a few defecting Democrats and the Republicans, and therefore the tax hike that was meant to make the deficit not hugely increase under the new regime makes the deficit shrink or go to negative, then I will not really consider that "disciplined." It's the same thing with Bill Clinton; he was fiscally disciplined (to some extent) in the same way that a child whose mother makes him eat his vegetables has good eating habits; think about if Hillary-care had been passed early in his first term, and/or if the Democrats has successfully torpedoed welfare reform (although I realize Clinton supported that): his fiscal responsibility would have turned out very different indeed. If Hillary-Care had indeed been passed, I bet you could have kissed that 0-deficit period goodbye, and he would be talked about in the same breath as Johnson and Bush43, not Eisenhower.

Frankly I could care less about individuals, I am just upset that a situation where the legislative and executive branches are controlled by different parties (for more than the current 2 year spell) does not look like it will happen any time soon and for any length of time. I haven't looked it up, but I bet if you look at a whole host of indicators of fiscal responsibility such as the size of the deficit, the amount of discretionary spending as a % of GDP, etc., that the best periods are times when the Congress and the President are not of the same party, and that periods when they are the same are much worse, regardless of which party it is. In short, I'm not so much looking forward to one party running the show well (which may well be imposible) I'm much more looking forward to the day we get back to that grand American political institution which does have the promise of limiting the expansion of the Federal Government: partisan "gridlock."

May President Clintobamwards use his/her veto stamp early and often.

bjkeefe
12-30-2007, 12:28 PM
GC:

Thanks for the detailed answer. Some short replies:

I won't argue about whether national health care will be expensive or not. I have sympathy for the belief espoused by its supporters that it will reduce costs for the nation overall, but I worry that a shoddy implementation could be expensive, especially to start. Mostly, though, I'm not that emotionally tied to the issue. If it happens, great, but I'll believe it when I see it.

I agree that long-term entitlement programs are potentially worrisome. I think the SS problem is overstated by many, especially those with hidden agendas, and that the real problem will be health care. But see last paragraph.

I hate pork-barrel spending as much as you do, but in the grand scheme of things, this isn't really a big revenue drain. The sum is usually, what, a few billion? Compared to the cost of the Iraq invasion, the DoD budget apart from that, the entitlement programs, and the interest on the debt, pork is trivial.

It'll be interesting to see how the Dems behave if they get control of the WH and Congress. I grant that it's possible Bill Clinton behaved the way he did only because he was smart enough to cooperate with the inevitable. On the other hand, he did run from the start as a "third way" politician. I believe, while being unable to prove, that he pretty much wanted the budgetary outcomes that he got. It's harder to say if he would have actively resisted a Democrat-controlled Congress who wanted to spend, but that's moot. Back to the present, I really do believe the label "tax and spend" has so scarred, and scared, Democrats in general that they're loving trying to rebrand themselves as the new party of fiscal discipline.

In general, I share some of your liking for "gridlock." One of my favorite lines from the Clinton years came from a pundit opining after the 1996 elections, something to the effect of, "The American people delivered a message to their government, and that message was, 'Don't just do something! Sit there!'"

However, it is my deeply-held belief that Bush & Co. did so much damage that I can only hope Democratic control will produce some badly-needed fixes. I got my doubts about their ability or courage to do this, but it's the best chance available, so long as the Republicans seem bent on running solely on a platform of fear.

Lily
01-02-2008, 03:26 PM
I'm the reader Bob mentioned who interrupted his tÍte-ŗ-tÍte with David Corn in the DC Starbucks. Normally I am not the type of person who accosts celebrities, but I'm such a fan of bloggingheads that I couldn't resist saying hello.

Anyway, they were both charming, and it was such a thrill to meet them. I'm an overworked lawyer, so I'm not able to spend much time in the forum. But I do listen to many of the diavlogs at work, and I hope the enterprise flourishes. The Andrew Young discussion in this diavlog made my morning.

Also, Bob is taller in real life than you'd think from seeing him on the small screen.

That is all.

Lily

bjkeefe
01-02-2008, 03:31 PM
Thanks for the details, Lily. [Nate, please note for the historical record.]

I'm an overworked lawyer, so I'm not able to spend much time in the forum.

Surely there must be some client you don't like, who you could bill for your time while weighing in here. ;^)

garbagecowboy
01-02-2008, 04:27 PM
I don't want to seem overly paranoid... but is Nate's absence from the forum ever since the redesign dropped a sign that the bh.tv death-squads have succeeded in their mission to Arkansas to eliminate Nate?

bjkeefe
01-02-2008, 04:53 PM
I don't want to seem overly paranoid... but is Nate's absence from the forum ever since the redesign dropped a sign that the bh.tv death-squads have succeeded in their mission to Arkansas to eliminate Nate?

It's not just Nate. Until today, I was convinced that BN had been subject to extraordinary rendition. And what about look? And where are frustrated_patriot and piscivorous?

What, do these people think they have lives or something?

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 05:26 PM
I don't want to seem overly paranoid... but is Nate's absence from the forum ever since the redesign dropped a sign that the bh.tv death-squads have succeeded in their mission to Arkansas to eliminate Nate?
LOL!

I've wondered if he's offended he wasn't recognized for his efforts on wikipedia. But who knows. Have you hopped over his firewall (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=66943#poststop) yet?

Exeus99
01-08-2008, 01:30 AM
The Washington Post's editorial page sees Mr. Wright's "objectively true" (that the surge is not responsible for reduced Iraqi violence) and raises him an assertion that it's "[n]ow indisputable that the surge has drastically reduced violence." Editorial here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/07/AR2008010702632.html
What's next in this war of adverbs? Will Mr. Wright next claim that his position is not just true, but self-evidently true?

bjkeefe
01-08-2008, 08:49 AM
Exeus:

Without wishing to reopening the debate completely, I would note one thing: the WaPo's editorial page has been notorious for its hawkishness and cheerleading on the Iraq issue from the get-go. Consider the source, is all I'm saying.

Exeus99
01-08-2008, 04:13 PM
bj: Fair enough, but if Wright's happy to do argument-by-assertion, then he's open to the same from other well-respected sources; he says it's objectively true that the surge hasn't (itself) reduced violence, the WashPo says it's indisputable that the surge has...what's a free-thinking person to conclude?

bjkeefe
01-08-2008, 09:57 PM
Exeus:

... but if Wright's happy to do argument-by-assertion ...

You're right to criticize Bob for that particular assertion, as he expressed it.

However, his larger (implied) point is correct: First, the violence is down only in a relative sense -- by comparison to a year or two or three ago (depending on your choice of metric). It's still really bad there by comparison to pretty much any other country. It's even arguable that for the average Iraqi, life was safer while Saddam was still around.

It's also fair to suppose that The Surge isn't solely responsible for what reductions we do see. There are plausible contributing factors like the fact that ethnic cleansing has been completed in many neighborhoods, and like the fact that we're essentially bribing certain Sunni groups not to fight.

It's also important to note, and tiresome to have to keep reminding the cheerleaders, that the main purposes of The Surge have not been met by any stretch of the imagination. There is no semblance of unity, no sign that the national government has authority, few indications that basic services are being restored, and no sense that the US military could leave with worry any time soon.

... the WashPo says it's indisputable that the surge has...what's a free-thinking person to conclude?

A free-thinking person may think anything he or she likes. A critical thinker, on the other hand, would do well to keep in mind things like history, a sense of perspective, and an awareness of where opinionators are coming from.

garbagecowboy
01-09-2008, 01:12 AM
Brendan, I agree that the original goal of the troop surge of political reconciliation in the central government has not been achieved.

But success is relative to people's expectations. How many people were there who thought that Bush's idea of having a stable Iraqi central gov't by the beginning of 2008 was realistic? Probably not very many.

I would say that we are at the high end of the reasonable range of expectations. There was the idea that held sway at the time that the surge was little more than a stall... basically anything but stay the course, which happened to put ever more soldiers' lives on the line. Of course, soldier's deaths are plummeting. (http://www.icasualties.org/oif/US_chart.aspx) Also, people probably thought that a significant reduction in violence necessary for political dealing would not be possible. But it, too has been achieved.

As I have articulated before, there are myriad of factors, of which the surge was only one, that got us here, but Bush has been successful at least in reigning in civilian and military deaths, and handing off to his successor a much less chaotic state. It's fair to say that "the surge has worked is facile." But at the same time, it's fair to say that "all the most important statistics in Iraq have improved during the time period of the surge." He has succeeded, politically, I believe, in allowing the candidates to not focus exclusively on Iraq, which I think benefits our nation.

In summary, I think Bush got this one right; sticking with Iraq a little bit longer has led to all sorts of good outcomes we might not have seen had the decisions been made by a dove.

bjkeefe
01-09-2008, 02:24 PM
Adam:

How many people were there who thought that Bush's idea of having a stable Iraqi central gov't by the beginning of 2008 was realistic? Probably not very many.

I don't know if I agree. Enough people believed the claim so that sufficient support, or at least acquiescence, was obtained to pursue The Surge. And if I accept your point of view, there's a more important implication: Bush's selling of The Surge on this basis was therefore either naive or dishonest.

He [Bush] has succeeded, politically, I believe, in allowing the candidates to not focus exclusively on Iraq, which I think benefits our nation.

That's exactly what I think is so bad about the current perception of The Surge as a success: that it has taken attention away from Iraq. Worse, I'm afraid that the typical ill-informed or apathetic voter might now be more inclined to think of the entire invasion as some sort of smart decision. Such people don't take into account the entire record of the debacle; they just think of it in terms of today versus what they're told to compare it to by whatever talking head is their sole source of news. What the Bushies are getting them to do is to compare today with the point when things were at their worst. No mention is made of the fact that it has cost a trillion dollars and an insane amount of lives to get us to the point of having a failed state where the best that can be said is the violence is down a tad from yesterday.

You claim that "soldier's deaths are plummeting" and offer some data to support it. Sure, the claim is valid if one chooses the short time range to suit. However, it's also true that 2007 was the worst year for troop casualties (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/opinion/06chart.html). How many of the great unwashed masses, whose votes unfortunately count as much as mine, do you suppose are aware of this?

I'm not saying there is nothing to the claim that, recently, violence is trending downward. I'm just saying that this seems to be the only story that too many people want to tell. Or hear. The larger consequences of the decision to invade Iraq, and the political mindset that lay behind this decision, are crucial to how we proceed in the near future. Both of these are issues that should be front and center during the campaign. To say "The Surge is working!" and by implication, "Iraq wasn't so bad after all!" is to risk our foreign policy continuing down the same boneheaded path.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
01-09-2008, 02:46 PM
Brendan and gc,

In regard to Mr. Kaus and the End of Equality. I haven't read the book, but based on its description and on the arguments Mr. Kaus has made several times on BhTv -- it was not really a book talking about the negative effects of income inequality as gc claimed. In fact, it was an argument for democrats to stop worrying about or trying to address income inequality and instead focus on "social equality."