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June 30, 2005

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Congressional critics of President Bush's stay-the-course commitment to the war in Iraq argued Wedne [Read More]

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some reaction from the denver post:

Bush went backward with 9/11 references
The president repeatedly invoked the Sept. 11 attacks to press for public support of U.S. policy in Iraq. We had hoped he would retire this gimmick.

you can find lots like this.

Newsday:

Too little from Bush on Iraq
President's address oversimplified, blamed too much on 9/11, terrorism

June 30, 2005

How disappointing.

President George W. Bush went to the American people Tuesday night to explain why the nation must stay the course in Iraq and the kernel of his televised message was: 9/11-terrorism, 9/11-terrorism. That is not enough and it will not do.

Bizarre:

WASHINGTON, June 29 - So what happened to the applause?

When President Bush visits military bases, he invariably receives a foot-stomping, loud ovation at every applause line. At bases like Fort Bragg - the backdrop for his Tuesday night speech on Iraq - the clapping is often interspersed with calls of "Hoo-ah," the military's all-purpose, spirited response to, well, almost anything.

So the silence during his speech was more than a little noticeable, both on television and in the hall. On Wednesday, as Mr. Bush's repeated use of the imagery of the Sept. 11 attacks drew bitter criticism from Congressional Democrats, there was a parallel debate under way about whether the troops sat on their hands because they were not impressed, or because they thought that was their orders.

This is the Republican strategy for everything, not just the war in Iraq. Republicans are bridge burners, and habitually propose "solutions" to problems that obliterate the trail back, so that in the event of failure, they are able to throw up their hands and blame Democrats for negativity and a lack of a plan of their own for fixing the damage.

Social Security. Voucherizing public education. Flat tax. Energy exploration. Whatever.

Republicans don't do pilot programs.

Republicans also have a strategery for the Big Lie.

I just worry the public's support for "staying the course" can be easily manipulated into support for "expanding the fight to Iran because that's the only way to turn this into a victory." In particular, I'm worried that it will turn into support for turning this from a 4G conflict back into a 3G conflict--by turning all of Iraq into Fallujah (the justification will be that, after we launch a strike on Iran, Sistani will lose patience, and we'll have all out war on US). Because when it comes right down to it, many (hopefully not most) Americans prefer maintaining their current lifestyle to sustaining some highfalutin' idea like Human Rights.

emptywheel,

It can't be done, we don't have the horses. We can't turn all of Iraq into Fallujah. If we try to bring the point of the lance into Iran, the supply/logistics tail will be cut off and destroyed. Bill Lind is right, Iraq is an utter cock-up and it is only a matter for time before we declare victory and leave.

emptywheel, hence the refernce to the Big Lie (see linkand story). It's a real worry.

There is no 'course' to stay.

Makes a nice bumper sticker.

Melanie, I understand very well all of the reasons why we can't do Iran. But until I hear someone explain how BushCo are going to accomplish the objectives they went into Iraq to accomplish (retaining the dollar as reserve currency, setting up military bases in ME to replace those in Saudi Arabia, and establishing a footprint in time for peak oil), then I will still suspect BushCo will do the idiotic thing and press forward. If they pull OUT, they will have destroyed US hegemony with one risky gamble. And they're nowhere near ready to face that yet. They're in too deep and the only direction they've got left is to move forward.

Granted, that forward movement may come in unexpected ways. (Leslie Gelb has suggested the elusive Iraqi troops are intended for war against Iran, not for self-defense, and Jaafari's agenda on his recent visit included approving US intervention in Iran). But they're not doing the minimal things they need to do to establish some kind of channel with Iran (and this was before the Iranian election)--which is prety much what we've done with N Korea, too.

I'm not saying it is a smart decision--or will be successful. I'm just saying BushCo has too much to lose, so until I see a way for them to stem those losses, I'll still expect some kind of attack on Iran.

"Because when it comes right down to it, many (hopefully not most) Americans prefer maintaining their current lifestyle to sustaining some highfalutin' idea like Human Rights."

I don't think that is the choice. Iraq has already cost us over $200 billion, with deficits as far as the eye can see and $58-60 oil. Going into Iran with anything more than minimal, ineffectual airstrikes is going to cost a whole lot more, and one would assume the iranians retaliate in some significant way. Thus, going into Iran itself will make it impossible to maintain our way of life. I think people (including Republicans) are waking up to this, and that is why Bush's poll numbers are falling.

I don't know what Bush (or Cheney) will do when he finds out he can't have what he wants in Iraq (or Bolotn, or Social Security), or whether the adults in the GOP will restrain him, but I expect we will find out.

I read Billmon's post last night before I went to bed. I think all late night posts should have a warning label when they are that depressing. This part rang true and kept me up for a bit.

The most serious threat, though, is that the neocons would use their newly regained freedom of action not to limit the fallout from failure in Iraq, but to invade Iran and/or Syria -- the same "flight forward" response to crisis that ultimately ruined imperial Germany. And this is why, perversely, we probably should regard any sign that the Cheney administration is preparing to withdraw from Iraq as a warning flag of further catastrophes to come.

But Mimikatz, that's the point of my comment. We can't keep our lifestyle by going forward into Iran. But we can't keep it by withdrawing either. We pull out and we lose our preferntial access to oil and, since we've lost our competitive edge in most areas, we lose our dominant world position to boot. We pull out and the coming oil crisis will be a crisis for the US too, not just for Europe (and that's part of the gamble BushCo have made--the reason they don't give a damn about global warming is because they've decided to go for broke already here).

I suspect that Cheney firmly believes that he has a 7 year window to own the middle east. If he can pull that off, our huge debt doesn't matter. Now, if Cheney weren't in charge, we might have been doing something to increase savings, shore up our manufacturing, stabilize our finances. But it's probably too late for that now.

Emptywheel: That was the point I was trying to make--that we can't advance by going forward. But I think we can by retreating.

I don't think it is at all too late for measures such as conservation. I lived as an adult through two major droughts and an electrical shortage here in CA as well as the previous oil shocks. It is astounding how much people can conserve IF (1) they are told it is necessary and encouraged to do it and (2) the gov't engages in a PR campaign that makes conservation cool. We can't with the current political leadership, that's the problem. But great strides could be made even from where we are now, even where we are likely to be in 18 months. And it isn't that big a sacrifice, really. Not nearly as much as people think. That is what is so sad.

If we had a gov't that could deal reasonably with foreign suppliers, that encouraged and subsidized alternatives and conservation, and a national PR campaign, we would be ok. But we don't, so we aren't. Some day Jimmy Carter will be a hero.

And the one other thing we would have to do: really improve the educational system, and induce the 80% of the kids not trying to get into elite colleges that they will have to work harder. It is not widely known just how far we have fallen relative to the rest of the world. Someone apparently told kids about 5-6 years ago that they didn't really need to work at anything, and it is catching up with us.

Don't mean to sound too grumpy, since I am by nature an optimist. Many cultures have a folktale like the one about the monkey who reaches into a jar to grasp something bright and shiny, or maybe just good to eat, and then finds he can't get his hand out of the jar as long as he continues to clutch the object. But he isn't willing to let go of it.

That is our predicament. In Iraq, but in terms of "preserving our way of life" in general. It's not that it can't be done, but it requires more in the way of mental gymnastics and imagination than the current administration has. It's just a matter of seeing that what is in the bottle isn't what's really important.

Mimikatz

Thanks for the response. I've really been hoping to be convinced that I'm wrong, but I've been havign a hard time expressing what I believe BushCo thinks the calculation is.

I'm not sure you've convinced me though. Here's my outstanding doubts.

First, it's not just oil conservation--although it is that. But the real hurt won't be in individuals cutting their consumption by a half. It will be in, say, WalMart cutting its trucking energy consumption by a half. That's not going to happen without very drastic changes in our lifestyle. Food prices will go up drastically and our entire market system will have to change. These changes are achievable, but NOT in the short term. Plus, we have to do things like move away from our industrial agriculture, which is totally dependent on oil. It can be done, quickly (Cuba did it). But again, I don't think WE can do it quickly.

But the real problem is coming up with a way to get out of our economic problems, which Iraq was also supposed to be a solution to. Anything we can tweak (consumer spending, pensions, current account deficit, global competitiveness) threatens to bring down the global trade regime. And while there are advantages to moving away from the level of globalization we've got now, if we make that move too quickly, you really risk having a problem bigger than the Great Depression. Exacerbated by the fact that we (and the rest of the world) is SO interdependent that there would be at least some famine and scarcity. But there's really NO way to fix our economy without asking consumers to drastically change their lifestyle, which will mean we've already lost the battle to retain peoples' lifestyles. There is no way we can continue being the consumer of last resort for 3 billion manufacturing workers. We've invented new kinds of credit over and over, but within thet near future, folks are going to start asking us to pay our bills for real.

Also, I absolutely agree that we need to be funding schools much better than we do. (Healthcare funding is another critical need.) But once again, we've lost a half-generation of competitiveness at least. I don't see how we make that up in the near term (which again means we'll have a real challenge fixing the economic issues, as we will no longer be competitive). The US is/will be fighting to retain its hegemony in the short term, not the long term. It will all be decided by the time today's 6th graders get to college. We just don't have enough time to do the things that should have been continued from Carter's day.

I like the metaphor, Mimikatz.

And actually I think we might find a much better shiny object, no matter what happens. But it will involve a very dangerous transition period when a lot of people driving SUVs and thinking primarily of how imaculate their lawn looks to their all-white neighbors will have to give up these things. I'd like to get ahead of the game, start convincing them the new shiny object will be better than their SUVs and Chemlawns. But I don't doubt the transition will be dangerous.

I guess I have more faith that things won't have to be so drastic, or so rapid, and we will find that relatively small changes, multiplied many times, will make enough of a difference. That was my experience in the hardship periods I described. Moreover, collective behavior change is easier if it is shared. The real tragedy is Bush's squandering of the opportunity to begin these changes after 9/11, when the public was receptive. If you keep telling people that nothing has to change until the wave is upon them, they are going to feel betrayed, and that is dangerous.

So it really comes down to leadership. A population can be mobilized for virtually anything. We could have a push for education, particularly science and engineering, like in 1957. We could have a push for energy conservation. We could have a fairer tax system, so the burdens wouldn't all fall on the poorer half. But not with these clowns in charge.

So while the things you say might happen, it might not be that bad, or things might turn out in a way we can't foresee. So I still have faith that enough people will come around in time, or events will break our way, so that it will be ok.

Mimikatz, emptywheel, stop sounding so intelligent. This is a blog. You'll give folks the wrong impression, and we'll have to do this all the time.

A fine thread, as usual.

1. The problem is not that there aren't good ways to get out of Iraq in a reasonable amount of time, even withstanding Juan Cole's warnings about the wider war that could ensue. The problem is that the Bush administration is unwilling to listen to people like Cole and come up with a strategy that accounts for the worst-case scenarios.

2. Note this article in the NY Times today: Secular Shiites in Iraq Seek Autonomy in Oil-Rich South.

3. Thus, to this observer, the clearest way to get out of Iraq is to make a realistic assessment of what Iraq is going to look like when all is said and done and then do everything we can to make that happen, and leave. Thereby preventing the civil war which has already begun from escalating into a regional war fought on Iraqi soil. I think the above article points toward the inevitable look of postwar Iraq.

4. But this means that the BushCo goals listed by emptywheel above won't be accomplished, at least not in the short term. So we are basically screwed, since that's all BushCo cares about. In the long run a stable Iraqi Kurdistan and a moderate Iraqi Shiite power with its capital at Basra would help manage oil prices.

5. The U.N. could be brought in to maintain a peace accord in central Iraq (with a long-term U.S. presence in Iraqi Kurdistan apart from the U.N. mission), wherein the Baathists would be allowed to reform as a political entity with ties to Syria just as soon as Sadaam is hanged.

I'm a little perturbed to see presumed liberal Democrats accepting the (undeclared) war aims of the Bush administration, such as the maintenance of moderately priced oil which doesn't belong to us for American consumers.

I'm also concerned to see us discussing a possible invasion of Iran solely in terms of its feasibility. Have we accepted the administration's strategic doctrine of preemption? Or do we think that the US violated international law by attacking Iraq?

Is the only thing the Democrats have to offer "we would have done it better"?. More and more it seems to me that that is in fact all the Democrats have to offer.

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