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November 30, 2005


The oddest thing to me, from the previews, is Bush's use of the other V-word: "victory." This is a word that even the happy-talk chorus has generally avoided, because of its utter lack of ambiguity.

No one talked about victory in our last two successful wars, Gulf I and Kosovo. Saddam ejected from Kuwait and uneasy peace in the Balkans were both good outcomes. But victory connotes more. Victory is crossing the goal line as the clock runs out, the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the sailor kissing the girl in Times Square.

Talking about victory, in the context of Iraq, is outright delusional. Even the (implausible) best outcome - a sort-of-stable, vaguely semi-demi-democratic government, the insurgency reduced to a low-grade fever - would fall far short of the grandeur of victory. Instead of lowering the bar for what can be passed off as success, Bush is raising it.

The White House is now officially a reality-free zone.

-- Rick

the grand old duke of crawford

he had ten thousand men

he matched them off to iraq

and marched them home again

when you're up you're up

and when your're down your're down

and when your're in the thrities

it time to bring'em home

the grand old duke of crawford

he had ten thousand men.....

Yeah, right. The Vietnam war is a good lesson in another way. When we precipitously left (in disarray and military ignominy) the country didn't descend into chaos. The world didn't come to an end. We weren't submerged by international communism (its opposite is another story). What happened is that after Nixon's speech another 20,000 US soldiers died and countless Vietnamese, not to mention the after effects on the living.

Oh, and Woodrow Wilson might have a claim, after Bush, to being our worst president ever. A white supremacist, hard right democrat, anti-union, rigid, a civil liberties position that makes the Patriot Act look like it was drafted by the ACLU and an even worse public health record vis a vis influenza than the current nitwits. And we saw how well his plan for a permanent peace worked out. Failure of The League in the US was largely his political maladroitness.

With God on our Side we are all going to hell in a handbasket.

Don't get revere started on how Wilson screwed up 1918 pandemic flu by insisting on "no bad news" for the war effort.

Peope have short memories. it's good to remember what Nixon said and did, before considering what Bush is saying and doing. And Wilson gives Bush a run for worst. President . ever.

Since we're on the subject of Wilson -- and I agree fully with the description of him here -- can we review his electoral history? Elected first in a fluke (the Roosevelt/Taft war), he was thought to be defeated early on election night '16...but slithered to a just-over-3% win (the margin of thin-ness Bush actually went under in '04). What followed for Wilson's party was complete collapse, in both the Congressional races of '18 and the presidential contest in '20 (to say nothing of '24 and '28). People have been so anxious to find parallels for Bush in (first) Reagan, now LBJ and Nixon...but maybe Wilson is the best template. Complete destruction of the GOP seems too good to be true, but it's happened before.

Rick, I think you're right: the use of the word "victory" makes almost impossible the declare-victory-and-leave scam that many in the press have been insisting Bush will implement to save his party from disaster. These people underestimate Bush's sheer pigheadedness. I think Seymour Hersh has it right: the guy is convinced he's got a hot line to god, and any negative developments he views as simply mirages created by Satan to try and distract him from his mission.

Apparently, Bush thinks it's a simple choice of strategies:

"Cut and Run" versus "Cut and Paste".

Hersh was pretty amazing on Hardball yesterday. He described an atmosphere of fear on the part of many around Bush because there is no way to reach him. It seems that they will just keep slowly telling him things are getting better in Iraq and in a few months they will tell him we have won and can bring all but 30-50,000 troops home. Basically the Murtha plan, which Hersh seems to imply is the Generals' Plan. Since he doesn;t listen to0 contrary views, he will never know it isn't true. At least, this seems to be the hope.

After listening to Bush's speech this AM, it appears we have the same quality of planning to get out as we did to get in.

I was struck by this, from a BBC report about Bush's speech this morning:

"These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgement of our commanders, not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington," he said.

Because, seriously--the idea of civilian control of the military is so 18th century.

There is, I believe, a fairly significant difference between Murtha's plan and Nixon's plan for accelerated "Vietnamization" (edited out of Dem's quote from the 11/69 speech).

Murtha's plan calls for a long-term quick-reaction force that could be in place for years, even decades. American soldiers would continue to die in Iraq, but only at times and places of our choosing.

Nixon's was basically a strategy for pulling out in defeat. He didn't say it, of course, but that's what it was. I haven't read the fancy "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" PDF the NSC put out today. But I'm not heartened by the opening words, "The following document articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003 and provides an update on our progress as well as the challenges remaining." It sounds too much like what Nixon tried to do in Vietnam, which was to accelerate the strategy that was already in place, that is, Vietnamization.

I hope Hersh and Mimikatz are right and basically the military leadership (to whom Murtha and Wilkerson probably have better ties than the cabal, now that the politically-ambitious Myers is out) has decided to manipulate the administration in order to avoid a Vietnam-style pullout under the cover of "Iraqization." [A term Bush will avoid at all costs, of course, since it has such a direct parallel with "Vietnamization," and thus one that Democrats should probably start using to describe the Bush plan.]

Wilson gives Bush a run for worst. President . ever.

I am no fan of Wilson's, but, while he may give Bush a 'run', he doesn't beat him out. Moralistic, stinkingly racist, stubborn and overweening as Wilson was, he was no Dubya. It's inherently difficult to compare presidents, especially from very different eras, but attempting to take all that into account, Bush is simply in his own category. No president before has fucked up so much, large and small, short and long-term, as has Bush. Not Buchanan, not Tyler, not Coolidge, not Harding, not Nixon, not LBJ, not Reagan - not anybody. The fact that it's so clear (to me, anyway) even without the benefit of historical distance is kind of shocking, but there you go.

shorter rasmus: Murtha's was and is a serious plan that has yet to be debated, Bush's is not.

jonnybutter, you're discussing the two finalists in the category. As is usual in that case, there's an argument to be made.

MUST SEE TO APPRECIATE how little Bush Administration policy has changed:

Check out the banner at top of this White House web page ("President Signs Iraq Resolution") from October 16, 2002.

Ah, thanks! Shorter, indeed!

I should say that my view of the problems with Nixon's accelerated Vietnamization comes largely from my reading of A Bright Shining Lie a long time ago. I suppose my brain has edited the book's thesis over time, and I should probably re-read it before trying to talk about parallels between Bush's strategy in Iraq and the failed American strategy in Vietnam.


The old standard for a 'failed' presidency was always a mixed record: Wilson, LBJ and even Nixon did some good things (eg Wilson pushed and signed into law a lot of what TR started); their presidencies were 'failed' because of their mixed records. Name me one thing Bush has done well, one bad situation he's ameliorated. The North-South war in Sudan (but not the genocide in Darfur)? Maybe. Libya? Not really (he inherited that). What else? I can't think of anything, domestic or foreign. It's a new standard for failure, at least in the 20th century: virtually unmitigated failure. I hate to be a gloomy gus here, but Bush just seems categorically different.

RonK: Wow.


That "Denial and Deception" banner would be funny if it were not so full of irony. I mean, I tried to laugh, but couldn't. It's not that Saddam's Iraq wasn't engaged in denail and deception, not doubt they were--the U.N. inspectors ran into plenty of it. But the administration's response was to descend to the same level. So stupid, childish, and insecure. As Wilkerson put it recently, Cheney has to be "a moron, an idiot, or a nefarious bastard."

Interesting that so far, nobody - not even the President - has made a reference today to the Bush Doctrine, the idiotic, utopian, neo-crazy policy that got us into Iraq in the first place. The Bush Doctrine is a Strangelovian version of the Wilson Doctrine with a planetwide adoption of the (Teddy) Roosevelt Corollary (to the Monroe Doctrine).

The late Robert Osgood, of the "realist" school of foreign policy, and no liberal, once wrote:

"Military force is not only ineffective as an instrument for achieving transcendent moral ends: it is morally dangerous as well … the use of force with a view to such grandiose ends tends to become an end in itself, no longer subject to either moral or practical restrictions, but merely to the intoxication with abstract ideals."

Of course, the Bush Doctrine is itself just a tool of the millennialists of the Project for a New American Century, the Manifest Destinarians of our age, with the entire globe - instead of just the western frontier - as their battleground. Unlike those earlier imperialists, this crew has run aground in their very first encounters on the way to Pax Americana. But, as we saw today in Bush's speech, they still seem to think they can pull victory out of this disaster and march forward elsewhere as well. Bloody failure is no deterrence to these dystopians.

Shorter Bush Doctrine: Do it our way, or we'll kick your ass ... or at least we'll say we did.

Shorter Bush probem: you can't be the war president if you're not winning the war.

jonnybutter, even if everything you say is true, WW I and 1918 pandemic (read Barry's The Great Influenza before voting) are tough to top.

Here is why Bush's plan won't work.

There are two mentions of Iran in the document -- both times paired with Syria, and both references are highly critical...

Iran and Syria have failed to provide support to Iraq’s new government and have in many ways actively undermined it.


Neutralizing the actions of countries like Syria and Iran, which provide comfort and/or support to terrorists and the enemies of democracy in Iraq;

now, first off, its false that Iran has "failed to provide support to Iraq's new government." Indeed, one of the things that most bothers right-wingers is the closeness of the current government to Iran.

But more importantly, Bush's approach to the problems presented by Syria and Iran is all stick and no carrot. Bush still sees his Iraq policy as part of a much larger strategy in which the current systems of government in Syria and Iran are overthrown -- and if there is one way to ensure that Syria and Iran continue to make like difficult for the US in Iraq, its by making it clear that they are next on Bush's agenda if Iraq is stabilized.


as someone else has alluded to, Bush is using the same "cherry-picking intelligence while ignoring contrary facts" method that got us into this war.

I don't mind if he was going to try and lie his way out of this war the same way he lied us into it, but lying to "stay the course" ain't gonna cut it.


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