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10 November 2006

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Cloned Poster

In recent years it has become evident that the cable news outfits have become generators of mass hysteria. They bring in their tub thumping anchors, their "experts," their favorite print news people, their favorite congress people and among themselves conduct an orgy of mutual intellectual masturbarion that starts with rumor and quickly becomes self sustaining.

Best quote I have ever read of the shameless media, just look at "Terra.. Terra.. Terra.." coverage on the BBC at the moment, all geared to get Blair his ninety day detention (and deflect US election coverage as well) passed in Parliament next week.

Keep on rolling PL.

JM

I agree that the ISG is not likely to offer up anything other than platitudes...

But I am deeply interested in seeing a reasoned debate about what can or should be done re Iraq.

I've read a good piece recently, called "The Way out of War," that offers up a fairly detailed set of suggestions for "what to do now." My conservative friends have dismissed the piece out of hand, given the primary author (G. McGovern).

So, can we get some inputs, either from Col. Lang or the Usual Suspects who post comments here, on a way out of this situation?

Don S.

Col. Lang

Boy you people are pretty gloomy after a couple of days of changes that seem to show that the American people are starting to "get it".

Now that both houses are both Democrat, and the election results are in, neither the American people or the main stream media will be scared to criticize the Presidents agenda.

Pelosi talks about getting the facts. Bush and Cheney will now have a full time battle on their hands with inquires. From now on every thing the Pres. does and says will be assumed to be out of touch or untrue. The mainstream media will be merciless, it's pay back time for them.

As for change of direction in Iraq, the army is a big machine, as is government, and neither turns on a dime. But my guess is this is a sea change. The US now is all about getting out.

The immense giant is slowly turning around, he has been pricked by a thousands of tiny arrows. As he looks to the horizon, he is wondering if the way back will be a lot harder than the way he came.

PS.

In Canada we are going to have our own little session of reality check. We are now in Afganistan in what the Canadian public thought would be reconstruction, but it has changed to a nasty little war, and looks to be getting worse.

John Howley

I have resisted getting cable. My lousy television reception makes it harder for me to mistake what I see on the snowy screen for reality. I recommend it to others.

Why aren't those who opposed the invasion being lauded as experts now? In the case of the Enron collapse, the naysayers were ignored on the way up, but afterwards, those (few) business experts who had questioned the Enron propaganda were rightly saluted for their insights.

There were plenty of folks who predicted more or less exactly what has happened. in Iraq...easy to get in, hard to get out and so on. But, we still don't hear much from these people in the "official" media.

To that extent, we are still set up for failure. Democracy produces better decisions because more voices are included. Our policy discussions remain narrow and exclusive. So long as this obtains, there is no reason to expect better decisions.

zanzibar

Gates Crasher

As will soon be apparent, the Iraq Survey Group, of which Mr. Gates is a member and to which I'm an adviser, has not discovered any way for the U.S. to exit Iraq -- except under catastrophic conditions. Its recommendations will probably be the least helpful of all the blue-ribbon commissions in Washington since World War II because it cannot escape from an unavoidable reality: We either declare defeat and withdraw completely tout de suite, or we surge troops into Baghdad and fight. The ISG will surely try to find some middle ground between these positions, which, of course, doesn't exist.

arbogast

I think this bears on whether there will be change. Will someone explain it to me?

Bolton's recess appointment is set to expire at the end of December, when the current Congress goes out of session. With only a few months remaining, the White House tried again to get Bolton confirmed during the summer. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee came to the administration's aid, lobbying heavily for Bolton's nomination. It persuaded several Democrats to support Bolton but the nomination was snagged by Chafee.

chimneyswift

Put me in with John Howley, only mark me as a bit more cynical.

Of course the cable "news" channels won't bring out the skeptics from before the war! They were hardly ever allowed a voice in the first place.

This country is still a democracy- Tuesday proved that. But the Mil-Indust Complex still wields immense power, especially within the mass media.

My thoughts on this over-arching subject are a bit too voluminous to put down here, but basically I figure that too many core assumptions of the national dialogue (which are false but which back up the ruling order) would be exposed by allowing real opposition voices on the television.

What are these core assumptions? How about the lack of a reasonable alternative to militarism. Another would be the inability of people in other parts of the world to manage their own affairs, or that we are a benevolent actor on the world stage.

Challenging these assumptions goes against the interest of every Fortune 500 CEO, and people in the news media know this. They also know they depend on the Fortune 500 for their carreers.

chimneyswift

And just to be clear, it's not that we can not or are not benevolent actors on the world stage- it's that when you disallow real questions regarding that you remove a powerful incentive for keeping us honest.

The cable news channels are very good at not keeping us honest.

blowback

The problem with implementing any radical change in the Middle Eastern policy is not the President but the Vice-president. With Cheney out of the way, the Decider could radically change direction.
Now that Rumsfeld has ruled himself out as a scapegoat, that leaves just Bush and Cheney in the frame and Bush 1 is not going to allow his son to take the fall. Since Cheney won't jump, he will have to be pushed and I am sure there is enough evidence to fit Cheney up for the Plame outing particularly if Libby is offered a deal. Rove is almost part of the Bush family so he should be willing to talk as well.
Cheney being dumped will also allow the Republicans to bring in a suitable candidate for the next presidential election - Cheney is probably unelectable even if he is prepared to stand which I don't think he is.
Once Cheney is gone will the Decider change the policy - if he wants to protect what is left of his political legacy he will. Don't forget that he can't stand for re-election so he has nothing to lose.

Arun

In today's NYT, "Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general, was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004" writes:

"It is also vital to reinvigorate the military leadership. First, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, must begin to act in the role prescribed by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. This requires the senior man in uniform to have direct access to the president, a role denied to him and his predecessor, Gen. Richard Myers, by Mr. Rumsfeld. "

This puzzled me. The SecDef not inviting the Joint Chiefs of Staff to various meetings is one thing, but can't the JCS simply pick up the phone and ask to speak to the President, and won't he get through? It has to be the President saying, don't talk to me, talk to Rumsfeld, if the above has any substance.

Les Izmore

Great points about the media and our political leadership, both parties. It seems the bull in the china shop has knocked most of the dishes off the shelves on to the floor and is busy trampling them. The 'wise men', both parties, offer us just two choices, send another bull into the shop or get the bull out the door and let the shopkeeper clean up. Maybe we'll toss a few coins on the floor to assuage our guilt on the way out. Bush, Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and the rest should get a Hummer ride to Sadr City and a map to the Green Zone. Drop them off on a busy corner and a give them a jaunty wave goodbye. Their enablers, those Democrats and Republicans who now parrot the 'no one could have forseen this tragic turn of events' lie, share their guilt. Unfortunately none will end up accepting their responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents. Then again have they ever?

tony

Colonel Lang,
your blog is the best one by far, and the commentators are superb, I like todays entries especially John Howley's. As far as mass hysteria in media is concerned it is not new, it is a part of american culture - otherwise known as "hoolabaloo" -
I agree with the observation that 'talking heads' push the mantra 'nobody could predict' - as if people like Gen. Shinseki have not spoken out.. The hiding of the culprits is awful to watch.
tony

Will

I've had a change of heart in these Mid-East matters. There is not going to be any breakthroughs until the next Gore or Clinton presidency. Then Bill will be able to resume the job he was completing until the bumbler Dumbya had his eight year run.

Here are the salient facts.
1. There are 30 congressman and 13 Senators who are Jewish.
2. America Jewry are 25-30% of U.S.'s wealthiest families (citing Forbes) and wield their wealth effectively. As an example(citing Richard Cohen in the Washington Post) -- supplying 60% and 35% of the total contributions respectively of the American Democratic and Republican political parties.

Clinton can appeal to everybody's best nature and can lead whereas Bush2 (the Dumbya version) is a panderer and appealed to man's baser jingoistic nature.

The most we can hope in the remaining time is no new war with Iran and minimizing Irak casualties.

Peace does not run from Baghdad to Jerusalem. It runs from Jerusalem to Baghdad. And only Bill Clinton or the equivalent can deliver that.

I liked the previous poster's idea about dropping Dumbya in the Red Zone, prefferably with Deadeye Dick, and giving them a sporting chance to get to the Green Zone

Good Night

anna missed

The U.S should publically absolve itself from all "economic interests" in Iraq -- no oil PSA sweetheart deals, no privitization of the Iraqi economy, no micromanagement of the Iraqi economy or the previously nationalized assets or industry. The U.S. should also absolve itself of the mega-embassy and the so called "enduring" military bases. The U.S. should rapidly re-arm the Iraqi military with heavy weaponary and give the elected government the authority to use it. The democrats should restrict and de-fund any U.S. money used to support any of the above, and or redirect such money to Iraqi reconstruction, allocated by the elected government, regulated only by transparent distribution and accounting through media/public oversight. By eliminating the alterior motives of the U.S. Iraq will be allowed to reach its own equillibrium with the least amount of friction.

Nand Jagnath

This month's issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has an interesting article by Lord David Owen, a neurologist as well as politician, that is titled "Hubris and Nemesis in Heads of Government". The article takes a good, hard look at the mental make-up of George Bush and his good pal "Yo Blair".

The article is freely acessible:
http://www.jrsm.org/cgi/content/full/99/11/548

-- Nand

Matthew

How appropriate that this debacle is occuring during the 50th anniversary of the Suez "crisis," i.e, the illegal Anglo-French-Israeli aggression against Egypt.

Col. Lang: What is your reaction to Egypt going to Russia and China in order to restart its nuclear program?

confusedponderer

blowback,
with Cheney out of the way the decider would change direction? I think you 'misunderestimate' Bush Jr. He is certainly not a rocket scientist, but I think you err when you think he's just wax in the hands of persuasive masterminds like Cheney. Point is that he IMO is inclined to prefer Cheney's hard line, as it appeals to his instincts. That is to say, when he sais he is the decider he means just that. There is a limit to persuasive influence on Bush I presume.
Then it's a question if Baker really works for Jr. There still is the remote possibility that Baker works for daddy and has the son by the balls, and drags him kicking and screaming back into the real world, only allowing to save face in public, but I doubt it. It's rather that Baker is tasked with covering up Jr's worst failures and angage in damage control for the GOP establishment. But that said, Bush Jr. is still who he is: The decider who decides.

Arbogast,
I'm happy that Bolton's tenure at the UN is over. Bolton is brilliant tactically, legally. Razor sharp, great work ethos. The guy I would hire for a lawsuit, if I could afford him. Strategically, improving US diplomatic leverage, he has utterly failed.
To say that he is universally detested at the UN is putting it mild. Usually the only allies he could count on were Palau, the Marshall Islands (argumentum fiscalis) and Israel. He never saw himself as a diplomat, but rather as America's whip at the UN, and made sure that was understood. That couldn't work. Arrogant people lacking charm have a hard time even when they are brilliant. There is a point when you have insulted so many people that they collectively become irreconcilable, no matter how professional and appreciative of your qualities. You generate resistance. I'm still unsure wether Bolton was at the UN to simply provoke failure.
In any case, IMO his problem was that he could live his views at the UN. A lawyer making his own case has a fool for a client. That was certainly the case with Bolton. He was overenthusiastic. Well, he wasn't the only smart guy at the UN.

The ideological policies of the Bush administration Bolton was tasked to push through were so radical and out of sync with the rest of the world that not even Archangel Gabriel could have sold them to the rest of the world. The problem for his replacement will be that he still has to sell Bush Jr's policies.

To make it worse: A western diplomat is said to have said that he could live with whatever position the US had, if they could only limit themselves to one. He had a point. Ever since Bush took office there has an ideologue's and realist's position. The policy was not only overtly agressive and radical, it was also incoherent. My message to his successor: Good luck, you'll need it. It's hard to sell shit.

Bush's ideological policies can't be sold better with 'applied realism' - that is - diplomacy. The 'Rest of World' isn't daft. That's why both Rice and Powell ultimately failed: It's the essence of Bush's policies that's rejected. The Bushies fell for the business fallacy that brilliant marketing can make up for a crappy product (besides: in this case we had a crappy product and preposterous marketing).

That goes well beyond Bolton: There is a lot broken porcellaine now, and the US will have a hard time to *earn back* squandered trust. Dem controll of Congress and the ISG are nice and well, but what will count are US actions.

What now? It certainly means Bolton will corrode the (international) legal order somewhere else. He is radioactive now. That means he's out of direct govt service, if not Cheney hires him back to work for his office. However, I rather think he'll end up working for the GOP. An undeniably competent lawyer in a twisted sort of way, he will sure find another occupation - like messing up a vote recount somewhere in the US.

Charlie Green

Whenever W praises someone ("Heck of a job", "I support our troops", etc.), that is a deathknell (warning shot?) for them. He praised Cheney and Rumsfeld just before Rummy got rushed off stage.

I couldn't figure out how it was gonna happen to Cheney but this thread cleared that up.

"Heck of a job, Dick."

Got A Watch

"We either declare defeat and withdraw completely tout de suite, or we surge troops into Baghdad and fight."

Indeed. Do you think Americans want to see anther 3-500,000 troops go to Iraq? Whoa, shades of Vietnam redux!

Exactly where would those troops come from? Here is a hint, from AP today-
"The Pentagon is developing plans that for the first time would send entire National Guard combat brigades back to Iraq for a second tour, the Guard's top general said in the latest sign of how thinly stretched the military has become.Smaller units and individual troops from the Guard have already returned to Iraq for longer periods, and some active duty units have served multiple tours."

The National Guard would be asked to do the heavy lifting to "stabilise" Iraq?

Or maybe the Iraqi Police could do it, except (from Juan Cole):
"If 20% of Iraqi police recruits quit every year and 40% don't show up to work, that leaves only 40% at their precinct houses or on the streets. If they supposedly have 177,000 trained police, they actually only have 70,000 or so. As for that "trained" part, I wouldn't exactly take it to the bank."

I think we are back to the phantom UN divisions scenario. It's like deja vu all over again. Will the last American out of Iraq please lock the gates of the Dream Zone behind them?

Got A Watch

"The U.S. should rapidly re-arm the Iraqi military with heavy weaponary and give the elected government the authority to use it"

Really, Anna? Their first probable order of business, being Shiite, would be to slaughter the Sunni's, drawing in surrounding countries on both sides and creating a wider religious war throughout the whole region. Better re-think that one.

"Iraq will be allowed to reach its own equillibrium with the least amount of friction." That resulting level would probably when no two bricks remain standing together, and most of the population are dead.
It sounds good in theory, but would be really bloody with casualties in the millions. Seems to be the trajectory Iraq is on now, only in slow motion.

confusedponderer

PS: As for ... "It's the essence of Bush's policies that's rejected."

Bush's unitary executive, huh, foreign policy means in fact asking states to, right now, surrender themselves to US benevolent hegemony, while exempting the US from all the rules that apply for the rest of the world.

Would any of those present buy a product like that? (suggested compromise: When becoming US subjects, would the Europeans get voting rights in US elections? Maybe we can cut a deal ...)

The Bushies assumed that the undeniable US lead in military technology and power would give them an equivalent political leverage, allowing them to impose their schemes on the world uncontested. That's the premier folly of the neo-con 'Great Strategy'.
Had they only wanted, the US could today be allied with Iran. The neo-cons were incapable of that. It *had to be* regime change. Well, peace you have to make with an enemy. But the neo-cons accept nothing short of 'Siegfrieden', or 'Endsieg'?
That was rejected by America's allies because it is (obviously) inherently destabilising, escalative and destructive. Iraq and Israel's and the US' position in the Middle East only underline the correctness of this prediction.

Of course, there still is the element of America's self perception and sense of mission. What is America's role in the world? Top dog? Lone wolf? Leader of the pack? When Madeleine Albright called the US 'the indispensable nation' it was not so much a statement of the obvious, but a reminder. It should be overly clear today that the world has soundly rejected Bush's (emphasis on *Bush's*) unilateralism. So that's a dead end (but as we have seen in Iraq, 'dead-enders' are surprisingly persistent).
The US are at a jucture. They have to get clear about where to head. That is a point the ISG will not adress, and I doubt the Dems will be able to articulate it soon. The consequence is that for the near future we will live with the incoherence of a simultaneous ideological and realism approaches to the world, to the detriment of US interests.

When I read all the US armed forces and think tank babble about domination of land, air and space I feel that there are a couple of folks who urgently need to take a deep breath. Pre-emption, dominance are all in nature offensive. I'm all for putting 'defense' back into the Defense Department. Defense is the stronger form of warefare. Being on the offensive merely feels better among the hotheads.

MarcLord

Nand Jagnath,

Maybe Blair is back on meds:

"Blair to speak to US committee on Iraq:"

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061111/ap_on_re_eu/britain_iraq

Soonmyung Hong

confusedponderer.

I don't think Baker is loyal to Bush41 or Bush43. He is a highly self-respecting guy. I can't imagine Jim Baker as other guy's servant. Maybe he has some motivation like rescue "his own" party or "his friend's stupid son". Anyway that's "his" agenda, "his" priority, "his" plan, not for others.

By my own observation, Baker did not hesitate to initiate calls on that line. In private, Baker did not treat Bush with all the deference a Secretary of State usually accords a President. Baker thought that he had made Bush the President, through Baker's political maneuvering.
Baker also sometimes doubted Bush's skills. At a NATO summit in London early in the administration, Baker had stunned me by coming to sit next to me in an auditorium, as I listened to President Bush's press conference. As Bush batted the reporter's questions, the Secretary of State provided me with a personal color commentary whispering in my ear: "Damn he flubbed that answer ... I told him how to handle that one... Oh, no, he'll never know how to deal with that..." I was one of Baker's Assistant Secretaries, but I could not understand why he would go out of his way to disdain the President to an audience of one, me. Over time I came to understand that Baker often doubted the President's judgment. Baker would never have gone to war in the Gulf and made that clear at several points in the months after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The two friends and rivals did, together, demonstrate how an international coalition should be built and how America can get done what it needs without creating self-inflicted wounds.

(Clarke, Richard A., Against All Enermies -Inside the White House's War-, Free Press, 2004)

McGee

I just want to add my kudos to the Colonel and his Guests for the informed and thoughtful opinions expressed in this and the last few threads. Wish I had something to add - damned if I know how we dig our way out of the deep, deep hole that we've so artfully dug. Ask for a Mulligan?

anna missed

Got A Watch
I was only suggesting a cure in the broadest of terms (implementing such terms is another matter). The U.S. strategy in Iraq (and many other places) has been one of divide and conquer -- run amok, in that the strategy has divided the people down to the sectarian level and beyond. The entire post invasion scrabble are the results of the CPA slice and dice policies that have eliminated all vestages of nationalism (socially,economically & politically), in the effort to turn Iraq into a U.S. client state. My suggestions aim at restoring nationalism through U.S. divestment and reconstruction of the socialist political structure as the primary means to reconcile and trump sectarian fragmentation. If only at least such a policy of U.S. absolvment would be seen as a good faith effort at reconcilliation, minus the central irritant of "U.S.interests".

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