Monday, July 31, 2006

Anthony Cordesman Is Shrill!

Eric Umansky needs all ten tentacles to count the ways:

Eric Umansky: "Stupid, Incompetent, and Obsolete": Military analyst Anthony Cordesman rips the strategy so far by Israel--and the U.S.:

Most modern combat...will be wars against enemies that use terrorism, insurgency, and asymmetric tactics and fight at the political and ideological level. Winning will require victory at that political and ideological level, and in the tactics of shaping the psychological, perceptual, and media dimensions of the conflict.

Defeating the enemy will not be more important than winning the support, or at least tolerance, of the population. Local, regional, and global perceptions of the conflict will be as important in sustaining a war, and in terminating conflict on favorable and lasting terms, as the number of enemies captured and killed.

Israel has so far failed to understand this in Lebanon as the US to some extent failed to understand it in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. This is all too natural in wartime, and Israel - unlike the US with the exception of the attacks on 9/11 -- is under direct attack. “Understandable,” however, is not “excusable” in modern war. Carelessly seeking immediate tactical advantage at the cost of major strategic risks and penalties is stupid and dangerous. Creating more enemies than you kill is self defeating; making it politically and ideologically impossible to end a war and so is spreading new levels of anger and hatred to other countries and/or factions....

Modern war is going to be war fought by both state and non-state actors that seek to compensate for US, Israeli, and other countries' conventional military superiority by using populations and civil facilities as a shield, and constantly finding and exploiting new ways to use civilian casualties and collateral damage as ideological, political, psychological, and media weapons. It is also a duel that favors the enemy actor. It is easier and cheaper to disperse, shelter, hide, and collocate, and then exaggerate and lie if civilian casualties and collateral damage occur.

The officer or official who responds by accusing such enemies of being cowards or endangering their own people is simply stupid, incompetent, and obsolete. Quite aside from the fact that the US and UK found no problem in using the same tactics against Nazi Germany, and democratic resistance fighters have used them in many wars, such talk is based on the fundamental strategic and tactical fallacy that wars have rules based on the past. Enemies always seek to fight on advantageous terms and modern enemies will seek to fight below our level of conventional military advantage at the tactical level and above it at the ideological level.

It is equally stupid, incompetent, and obsolete to simply call such enemies “terrorists” and talk about “democracy.” This may work within the confines of Israel or the Beltway, but wars are being fought for the minds and perceptions of very different people with very different values. Ethnic identity; perceiving such tactics as authorized by God or as the only workable route to liberation and “freedom fighting;” putting faith and culture first are military realities that no amount of prattle about universal Western values is going to defeat.

It may simply be too late for Israel to react in this war. It entered it based on deeply flawed grand strategic and tactical principles, and seems to have fought the ideological and political dimension on the basis of the perceptions of Israelis and Americans. The IAF and IDF have so far been clumsy in both air and artillery operations, and sought tactical advantage at serious risk of excessive civilian casualties and collateral damage. Military cultures do not change in mid-operation and the incredibly clumsy IDF and Israeli government response to Qana is a case in point. Israel will, however, have to learn in the future if it does not want to take a largely passive region and turn it into an active enemy.

The question for the US is will it learn in time to win in Iraq and Afghanistan, and seek the new military reality it faces in shaping its force transformation. One critical case will be the battle of Baghdad, where any major American mistake could alienate large numbers of Sunnis - or more seriously - turn a large number of Shi'ites against the US. Baghdad is a political struggle for stability and security; not a counterinsurgency campaign...

More broadly, however, the Bush Administration and US military need to drastically reshape their priorities and methods to deal with suspected terrorists and detainees.

Gail Collins Is Shrill!

For many, many moons Gail Collins and the *New York Times* editorial board remained deaf to the keening madness of the shrill. "You don't know what it's like in there!" ex- and current administration staffers would say, weeping, at cocktail parties and dinners as they recounted stories of the mendacity, malevolence, disconnection from reality, and sheer incompetence of George W. Bush and his administration. But the *New York Times* treated George W. Bush and his enablers as a normal--albeit Republican--president accompanied by normal political and policy maneuvering.

Now, however, the dead, uncaring stars have aligned. And things have changed

At long last, Gail Collins and the New York Times editorial board succumbs to shrill unholy madness:

A Senate Race in Connecticut - New York Times: The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play.... Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.

Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress....

[T]his is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman’s ability to command Republicans’ attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president’s defender. On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized”... a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons....

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.... [T]his primary... it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

Welcome, Gail and crew! Glad to have you aboard!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Welcome, Chris Matthews!

We had long thought that Chris Matthews was an ex-Boston machine politician who had an eye for the main chance and thought he could become rich by tacking right. But no!! He is one of the Great Old Ones in disguise!!

Welcome, Chris Matthews. Is it wet enough for you in your suite? We have tried to match the climate of drowned R'lyeh...

Think PRogress: Matthews: The War in Iraq United "the Disparate Pieces of Shia Radicalism into a Frankenstein Monster:

MATTHEWS: Two years ago, King Abdullah of Jordan warned me of what was coming in the mideast. His prediction was dead. He spoke of his fears and what the United States was doing in iraq, toppling one government, electing another, was creating what he called a Shia crescent, from Tehran through Baghdad to Beirut that threatened to dominate the Arab world, challenging modern Sunni governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and others with an axis of Shia power based in Iran.

When I look at the map today, that Shia crescent the King foretold has come to light.... We converted Iraq from a country which has fought revolutionary Iran for eight years to a bloody stand still to a Shia dominated ally of Iran and created a boulevard of common religion and common regional politics.

Did you hear the new Iraqi leader take sides with Hezbollah in a struggle with Israel? This is the emerging threat, not just to the moderate Sunni countries including Egypt and Jordan who formed and honored treaties to Israel and us. Our brave soldiers have fought, died and been dismembered in Iraq only to connect the disparate pieces of Shia radicalism into a Frankenstein monster that has come to life right there on our TV screens and worse yet in the vicarious mideast where young arabs found a hero named Hezbollah.

Fareed Zakaria Is Shriller than Ever!

Via Think Progress:

Think Progress: Zakaria: Rumsfeld "Seems In A Parallel Universe and Slightly Deranged": Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria ripped into Donald Rumsfeld this morning on ABC's This Week. Transcript:

[If I were running against conservatives,] I would make up a campaign commercial almost entirely of Donald Rumsfeld's press conferences, because the man is looking -- I mean, it's not just that he seems like a bad Secretary of [Defense]. He seems literally in a parallel universe and slightly deranged. If you listen to what he said last week about Iraq, he's living in a different world, not a different country...

"Slightly" deranged, Fareed?

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Whiskey Bar Is Shrill

The Bartender at the Whiskey Bar is really shrill:

Whiskey Bar: Axis of Weevil: No, the big mistake we repeated, according to Frum, is underestimating the strength of Iraq's "internal enemies" and the willingness of hostile neighbors to provide them with sanctuary and support:

Only the US has tried to pretend that the war zone stops at the international border. In some horrible rerun of Vietnam, the US has let the enemy establish safe havens just on the other side of the line, from which it draws supplies and reinforcements with impunity.

Now this is a bit unfair, in my opinion, because it's easy to understand why the Pentagon and the Cheney administration lowballed the potential for guerrilla warfare. They were told by some pretty world-class foreign policy experts that they didn't have to worry about the risk of guerrilla warfare. And who were these experts? Why, David Frum and his mentor, Richard Perle.

Here's what the two of them had to say about it in their 2004 book, An End to Evil:

Now the pessimists are quivering because the remnants of the Baath Party have launched a guerrilla war against the allied forces in Iraq. These guerrillas are former secret policemen and informers, the regime's specially recruited enforcers, murderers, torturers, and rapists . . . But it is wrong to describe these paid killers as a "national resistance," as some even normally sensible people have sometimes done. For a dozen years after Appomattox, former Confederate soldiers terrorized their neighbors, robbed trains, and killed Union soldiers. Was the Ku Klux Klan a "national resistance"? Was Jesse James?

Well, seeing how the Iraqi version of the KKK is on the verge of running our sorry asses out of the country, I guess the answer to that question is yes. And it would appear Frum now agrees, since he seems to have been reduced to a "quivering" plate of strawberry-kiwi jello. Welcome to the Pessimists Club, David. You're going to love the initiation rites.

The other Vietnam-era boo boo that has Frum weeping and tearing his clothes is the Army's failure to stop the Grand Kleagles and Imperial Wizards of the Sunni Klavern from establishing safe havens in neighboring countries, like Syria.

Now it's not clear the rat lines into and out of Syria played a very big part in the growth and success of the domestic resistance movement -- as opposed to the imported Al Qaeda wannabes like Abu Zarqawi. Certainly Iran has played a very important role in building up its favorite Shi'a political parties and helping infiltrate their militiamen into the Iraqi security agencies. But at least up until fairly recently, this was just the Cheney administration's idea of good, solid nation building -- not the 21st century version of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

In any case, this is another problem the experts told us we didn't have to worry about -- the expert in this case being Paul Wolfowitz, a.k.a. Wolfowitz of Arabia. Here's Wolfy expounding his theory of "desert impotence" to the Washington Post in June 2003:

I think it is worth emphasizing that these guys lack the two classical ingredients of a victory in a so-called guerrilla war if that's what you want to say they're conducting. They lack the sympathy of the population and they lack any serious source of external support. (emphasis added)

Really David, if you can't take Paul Wolfowitz's word for these things, who can you trust?

It should be clear from the sources cited that Frum's problems are all in his head -- probably the result of too many nights spent smoking dope with Ward Churchill or reading the collected works of Noam Chomsky. Iraq is not collapsing into chaos and ruin. Iran is not poised to pick up the pieces. Only "sunshine patriots" and "weak-kneed media elites" believe such things. Why, Dave and Dick even warned us about people like that:

The gloomsayers were unembarrassable. Having been proven wrong when they predicted the United States would sink into a forlorn quagmire in Iraq, they reappeared days later to insist that while military victory had been assured from the beginning, the United States was now losing the peace.

I think David Frum badly needs to sit down and re-read his own book. Maybe then he'll remember that Iraq is a stunning success -- a role model for the war on terrorism, the key to democracy in the Middle East, the cure for the heartbreak of halitosis and a lot of other wonderful things, although I can't think of any more at the moment.

Former DepSecState Richard Armitage Is Shrill!

He says:

Armitage Fears Bombing Campaign Will "End Up Empowering Hezbollah" : Richard Armitage dramatically broke ranks with his neoconservative allies yesterday, saying in a radio interview that he feared it was impossible to eliminate Hezbollah through airstrikes, and that by attempting to do so, "you're going to end up empowering Hezbollah, and perhaps introducing an element into the body politic in Lebanon that will take some great period of time to recover from." Armitage also criticized the Bush administration for refusing to talk directly to Syria....

Armitage was Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan when the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon was bombed in 1983, and served as second-in-command at the State Department under President George W. Bush. In 1998, he signed the Project for a New American Century letter to President Clinton urging regime change in Iraq.

The Bush administration has thus far "giving a tacit blessing" to the escalating Mideast violence. During crisis talks in Rome yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice bucked the "entreaties of nearly all of her European and Arab counterparts" to push for a ceasefire.

Full transcript:

NPR: You were an assistant secretary of defense back in 1982, when a peacekeeping force was sent into Lebanon, a multinational force stationed there but ultimately forced to withdraw. Talk to us about that, and what we might draw from that.

ARMITAGE: It was a very troubled time, actually, and sooner rather than later we became involved %u2014 or were seen as taking sides %u2014 in someone else%u2019s civil war. And ultimately we lost 241 Naval and Marine personnel.

NPR: In the bombing of the%u2026

ARMITAGE: Yes, in the October %u201883 bombing.

NPR: Are there parallels between that peacekeeping force and now?

ARMITAGE: Well, I remember with stunning clarity one of our Israeli interlocutors sitting in my office, telling me that, %u201CDon%u2019t worry about this peace in Galilee operation. We understand our neighbors very well. We understand them better than anyone. We know all the dynamics of the situation in Lebanon.%u201D And that turned out not quite to be the case. I suspect that people in government now are also hearing that from Israel. Don%u2019t get me wrong %u2014 if I thought that this air campaign would work, and would eliminate Nasrullah and the leadership of Hezbollah, I think it would all be fine. But I fear that you can%u2019t do this from the sky, and that you%u2019re going to end up empowering Hezbollah, and perhaps introducing an element into the body politic in Lebanon that will take some great period of time to recover from.

NPR: An element into the body politic that as yet we do not know?

ARMITAGE: I think we do not know. And we%u2019re not, as far as I%u2019m concerned, using all the levers that we have, such as having the Secretary of State talk to the Syrians. I think they want to get involved. I think they want to become more central to a solution, and you might as well give them the opportunity. If they step up to it, fine. If they don%u2019t, we%u2019ll know them for what they are.

Using Your Tentacles Properly...

P.Z. Myers is offering lessons in the Lower Fetid Pond just north of Cthulhu Hall here on the Miskatonic University Campus at sundown:

Pharyngula: Squid attack!: If anyone is interested in writing a Lovecraftian horror novel and getting all the details just right, I recommend this paper by Kier and Leeuwen. They used a high-speed camera to capture exactly how a squid, Loligo pealei, strikes and seizes its prey. Isn't it beautiful? In the first frame, you can see the animal poised with its arms and tentacles pointed like an explode at the target, a shrimp. Then, as the squid slides forward, the two tentacles race forward with impressive speed (these frames are 10msec apart; the whole sequence occurs in a bit more than a tenth of a second), and the eight surrounding arms peel back and form a lovely writhing flower of suction cups and waving hydrostatic grasping organs. Oh, this is such a splendidly baroque little carnivore.

The Shrill Fred Kaplan Speaks

Fred Kaplan is shrill--driven shrill by that wild witless bird that is Condi Rice:

Condi's witless optimism about the Middle East. By Fred Kaplan: There Are Worse Things Than the Status Quo: At her press conference on Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice revealed—-far more articulately, if unwittingly, than any other official has in some time—-just what is so dangerous about President George W. Bush's foreign policy.... Asked why she hadn't flown to the region earlier or engaged in "shuttle diplomacy," as some had suggested, Rice replied, "I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do. … I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante. I think that would be a mistake." Then came the killer sentence, the sentiment that explains so much about what's gone wrong with American diplomacy and not just in the Middle East:

What we're seeing here is, in a sense, the growing—-the birth pangs of a new Middle East, and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we're pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old Middle East.

How many souls over the decades have sallied forth into the desert, beaming with bright eyes and blueprints for a "new Middle East," only to bog down in the dunes, blistered by sunstroke and bitten by scorpions? It's not so much the blithe arrogance that's troubling.... It's the stunning confidence in this belief... they're willing to push ahead with their vision even at great sacrifice of political stability and human life.... "I could have... rushed over and started shuttling," but "it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do." Well, for starters, you could have saved hundreds of lives, preserved billions of dollars in property, and perhaps stemmed the tide of rising anti-Israeli (and, by extension, anti-American) passion....

A cease-fire without a political solution, Rice said, would have meant we'd be back "in six months again or in nine months or in a year, trying to get another cease-fire."... Sociologists often say that fighting urban crime requires eliminating the "root causes." Here too there are disputes over just what those root causes are. But cities don't wait until they've figured it out before taking action; they hire police to hit the streets and go after criminals.... Secretary Rice spoke like a big-city mayor who, in the middle of a crime wave, announces that he's not going to put more police on the streets; he's going to convene a summit to address the wave's root causes.

There's nothing wrong with convening a summit; but, meanwhile, put police on the streets....

And, by the way, just what is this "new Middle East" that Rice sees rousing in its "birth pangs"? Is it really better than the creature of old? Does she think it's a sibling of the peaceful, tolerant, democratic Middle East that her president believed would rise up in the wake of Saddam Hussein's collapse? That toddler didn't turn out so well. Is there any sign that the pangs of Lebanon might produce a gentler kid than the pangs of Iraq? If there is a new Middle East on the horizon, it's more likely to bear crescent arcs and hidden imams. It's not a creation that any Western diplomat should be "pushing forward." Its potential emergence provides still more reason to contain all violent outbursts as quickly as possible, not to let them run their course.

Warren Christopher Is Incapable of Being Shrill

Warren Christopher is physically incapable of being shrill:

A Time To Act: A Time To ActBy Warren ChristopherFriday, July 28, 2006; A25: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's just-concluded trip to Lebanon, Israel and Rome was an exercise in grace, bravery and, to my regret, wrongly focused diplomacy. Especially disappointing is the fact that she resisted all suggestions that the first order of business should be negotiation of an immediate cease-fire between the warring parties. In the course of her trip, the secretary repeatedly insisted that any cease-fire be tied to a "permanent" and "sustainable" solution to the root causes of the conflict. Such a solution is achievable, if at all, only after protracted negotiations involving multiple parties. In the meantime, civilians will continue to die, precious infrastructure will continue to be destroyed and the fragile Lebanese democracy will continue to erode.

My own experience in the region underlies my belief that in the short term we should focus our efforts on stopping the killing. Twice during my four years as secretary of state we faced situations similar to the one that confronts us today. Twice, at the request of the Israelis, we helped bring the bloodshed to an end. In June 1993, Israel responded to Hezbollah rocket attacks along its northern border by launching Operation Accountability, resulting in the expulsion of 250,000 civilians from the southern part of Lebanon. After the Israeli bombardment had continued for several days, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin asked me to use my contacts in Syria to seek their help in containing the hostilities. I contacted Foreign Minister Farouk Shara, who, of course, consulted with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. After several days of urgent negotiations, an agreement was reached committing the parties to stop targeting one another's civilian populations. We never knew exactly what the Syrians did, but clearly Hezbollah responded to their direction.

In April 1996, when Hezbollah again launched rocket attacks on Israel's northern border, the Israelis countered with Operation Grapes of Wrath, sending 400,000 Lebanese fleeing from southern Lebanon. Errant Israeli bombs hit a U.N. refugee camp at Cana in southern Lebanon, killing about 100 civilians and bringing the wrath of international public opinion down upon Israel. This time Shimon Peres, who had become prime minister after the assassination of Rabin, sought our help. In response, we launched an eight-day shuttle to Damascus, Beirut and Jerusalem that produced a written agreement bringing the hostilities to an end. Weeks later, the parties agreed to a border monitoring group consisting of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, France and the United States. Until three weeks ago, that agreement had succeeded for 10 years in preventing a wholesale resumption of hostilities.

What do these episodes teach us? First, as in 1996, an immediate cease-fire must take priority, with negotiations on longer-term arrangements to follow. Achieving a cease-fire will be difficult enough without overloading the initial negotiations with a search for permanent solutions. Second, if a cease-fire is the goal, the United States has an indispensable role to play. A succession of Israeli leaders has turned to us, and only us, when they have concluded that retaliation for Hezbollah attacks has become counterproductive. Israel plainly trusts no one else to negotiate on its behalf and will accept no settlement in which we are not deeply involved. Further, based upon my experience in helping bring an end to the fighting in the Balkans, the Europeans are unlikely to participate in a multinational enforcement action until the United States commits to putting its own troops on the ground.

Finally, Syria may well be a critical participant in any cease-fire arrangement, just as it was in 1993 and 1996. Although Syria no longer has troops in Lebanon, Hezbollah's supply routes pass through the heart of Syria, and some Hezbollah leaders may reside in Damascus, giving the Syrians more leverage over Hezbollah's actions than any other country save Iran. Syria has invited a direct dialogue with the United States, and although our relations with Syria have seriously deteriorated in recent years (we have not had an ambassador in Damascus for more than a year), we do not have the luxury of continuing to treat it with diplomatic disdain. As the situations with North Korea and Iran confirm, refusing to speak with those we dislike is a recipe for frustration and failure.

Because Hezbollah has positioned itself as the "David" in this war, every day that the killing continues burnishes its reputation within the Arab world. Every day that more of the Lebanese infrastructure is turned to dust, Beirut's fragile democracy becomes weaker, both in its ability to function and in the eyes of its people. The impact is not limited to Lebanon or Israel. Every day America gives the green light to further Israeli violence, our already tattered reputation sinks even lower. The reluctance of our closest allies in the Middle East even to receive Secretary Rice this week in their capitals attests to this fact. It is time for the United States to step forward with the authority and balance that this moment requires.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Former DepSecState Richard Armitage Is Shrill!

He says:

Armitage Fears Bombing Campaign Will "End Up Empowering Hezbollah" : Richard Armitage dramatically broke ranks with his neoconservative allies yesterday, saying in a radio interview that he feared it was impossible to eliminate Hezbollah through airstrikes, and that by attempting to do so, "you're going to end up empowering Hezbollah, and perhaps introducing an element into the body politic in Lebanon that will take some great period of time to recover from." Armitage also criticized the Bush administration for refusing to talk directly to Syria....

Armitage was Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan when the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon was bombed in 1983, and served as second-in-command at the State Department under President George W. Bush. In 1998, he signed the Project for a New American Century letter to President Clinton urging regime change in Iraq.

The Bush administration has thus far "giving a tacit blessing" to the escalating Mideast violence. During crisis talks in Rome yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice bucked the "entreaties of nearly all of her European and Arab counterparts" to push for a ceasefire.

Full transcript:

NPR: You were an assistant secretary of defense back in 1982, when a peacekeeping force was sent into Lebanon, a multinational force stationed there but ultimately forced to withdraw. Talk to us about that, and what we might draw from that.

ARMITAGE: It was a very troubled time, actually, and sooner rather than later we became involved – or were seen as taking sides – in someone else's civil war. And ultimately we lost 241 Naval and Marine personnel.

NPR: In the bombing of the –

ARMITAGE: Yes, in the October bombing.

NPR: Are there parallels between that peacekeeping force and now?

ARMITAGE: Well, I remember with stunning clarity one of our Israeli interlocutors sitting in my office, telling me that, "Don't worry about this peace in Galilee operation. We understand our neighbors very well. We understand them better than anyone. We know all the dynamics of the situation in Lebanon." And that turned out not quite to be the case. I suspect that people in government now are also hearing that from Israel. Don't get me wrong – if I thought that this air campaign would work, and would eliminate Nasrullah and the leadership of Hezbollah, I think it would all be fine. But I fear that you can't do this from the sky, and that you're going to end up empowering Hezbollah, and perhaps introducing an element into the body politic in Lebanon that will take some great period of time to recover from.

NPR: An element into the body politic that as yet we do not know?

ARMITAGE: I think we do not know. And we're not, as far as I'm concerned, using all the levers that we have, such as having the Secretary of State talk to the Syrians. I think they want to get involved. I think they want to become more central to a solution, and you might as well give them the opportunity. If they step up to it, fine. If they don't, we'll know them for what they are.

The History of the Shrill

Now that Peggy Noonan has joined the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill--those who have been driven into shrill unholy madness by the mendacity, incompetence, malevolence, and disconnection from reality of George W. Bush and his administration:

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan: Republicans hearken back to Reagan... they agreed with what he did... they believe he was a very fine man.

This is not now how they feel about Mr. Bush....

William F. Buckley this week said words that... had the power to make one sit up and take notice.... Mr. Buckley's judgments... raise the question of what Bush's political philosophy is--I mean what he thinks it is.... He doesn't believe in smaller government. Or maybe he "believes" in small government but believes us to be in an era in which it is, with the current threat, unrealistic and unachievable? He believes in lower taxes. What else? I continually wonder, and have wondered for two years, what his philosophy is--what drives his actions.

Does he know? Is it a philosophy or a series of impulses held together by a particular personality? Can he say?... People... feel safer with a sense that their leaders have aims that are intellectually coherent. It would be good for the president to demonstrate that his leadership is not just a situational hodgepodge, seemingly driven and yet essentially an inbox presidency, with a quirky tilt to the box...

Now that there is nobody at all not paid-for who thinks George W. Bush has any business sitting in the Oval Office, it is time to answer some of the questions the yung'uns have about the origins of the Order of the Shrill, which I date to an exchange between me, Tyler Cowen, and Andrew Northrup:

Tyler Cowen: I've had enough. Here is our latest foreign policy initiative: "New US curbs on travel to communist-ruled Cuba went into effect on Wednesday..." Here is the full, sad story. Here are more details about the human costs of the policy. Here is some material on America's failed use of sanctions against Cuba. What do you have to do to join The Ranks of the Shrill? Does someone have to send you an E-Invite? Posted by Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen Seeks to Join the Ranks of the Shrill: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal: By the power vested in me by Paul R. Krugman, and through the invocation of the ideas of Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Lord Acton, John Stuart Mill, and all the other friends of liberty, I hereby enlist and welcome Brother Tyler Cowen to The Ranks of the Shrill.

The Poor Man: The Coalition of the Shrilling: Brad DeLong intones the forbidden verses which consecrates an aspirant into the Occult and Hermetic Order of the Shrill:

By the power vested in me by Paul R. Krugman, and through the invocation of the ideas of Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Lord Acton, John Stuart Mill, and all the other friends of liberty, I hereby enlist and welcome Brother Tyler Cowen to The Ranks of the Shrill.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Krugman R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaaiiiiii!!!!

Posted by The Editors at July 2, 2004 09:18 AM


That is not shrill which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even shrillness may die. Posted by: Hal at July 2, 2004 09:57 AM

Why does Yog-Sothoth, the goat with a thousand young, hate America? Posted by: Tweety Fish at July 2, 2004 10:13 AM

Yog-Sothoth hates America too, but every student of the dark lore knows that Shub-Niggurath is the black goat of the woods with a thousand young. Now, if you'll excuse me I must go and re-heat my breakfast burrito. Posted by: Comic Book Guy at July 2, 2004 10:48 AM...

More seriously (or is it less seriously?), those were (and these are) strange days.

I guess it started, I think, with that extremely strange and not-very-analytical Svengali of the Bush Social Security reform plan, Peter Ferrara, who wrote back in 2001 about "the fierce, shrill, and unreasoned denunciations of allowing workers the freedom to choose a personal-account option for Social Security may impress the gullible... and denounced:

..the highly irascible Paul Krugman...

That was, I think, the start of a very peculiar meme: a piling-on of critics of Bush--especially of Paul Krugman--whose sole criticism was that he was "shrill." The critique was neither that he was a bad economist, nor that his accusations that the Bush administration was lying about a whole bunch of stuff were incorrect (indeed, one of Paul's most vicious critics, Andrew Sullivan, gloried in the fact that Bush was lying about his tax cut. See So if you wanted to attack Krugman, but could not attack him because his analytics were right, and could not attack him because his accusations of Bush administration dishonesty were correct, what can you do? Well, a bunch of right-wingers led, IIRC, by Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan found a way.

Here's Kaus:

"Comparative Advantage" by Nicholas Confessore: "[Krugman] is obviously a very smart guy, basically liberal, with complicated views, who once recognized when his own side was wrong. And at some point he switched and became someone who only sees what's wrong with the other side, in fairly crude terms," says Mickey Kaus. "The Bush tax cut is based on lies. But it's not enough to criticize a policy to say that it's based on lies. You have to say whether it's good or bad for the country."

(Never mind, of course, that Paul always spent a lot of time, space, wordcount, energy, and breath criticizing the substance of Bush's idiot policies. Yes, they were bad for the country--and Paul said why.)

And here's Sullivan: - Daily Dish: I have long found Paul Krugman an insufferably pompous, shrill, Bush-bashing pseudo-populist...

The accusation--the only line of critique--is that Paul "only sees what's wrong with the other side, in fairly crude terms," or--in shorthand--is "shrill."

God alone knows why they thought this line of attack would do anything other than shred their own reputations. God knows why others took up this line of attack. But take off it did, both as a narrowly-focused attempt to degrade the reputation of Paul Krugman, and as a broader attempt to marginalize all who pointed out that the policies of the Bush administration were (a) stupid, and (b) justified by lies, and it took off both among the yahoos of the right and also among the denizens of the center-left.

Why did it take off? I think the reasons were well laid out by Nick Confessore:

"Comparative Advantage" by Nicholas Confessore: On balance, Krugman's record stands up pretty well. On the topics he writes about most often and most angrily--tax cuts, Social Security, and the budget--his record is nearly perfect. "The reason he's gotten under the White House's skin so much," says Robert Shapiro, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, "is that he's right. None of it is rocket science."

So if dismantling the facade of lies around, say, Bush's tax cut is so easy to do--and makes you the most talked-about newspaper writer in the country--why don't any other reporters or columnists do it themselves? Because doing so would violate some of the informal, but strict, rules under which Washington journalists operate. Reporters usually don't call a spade a spade, unless the lie is small or something personal. When it comes to big policy disagreements, most reporters prefer a he-said, she-said approach--and any policy with a white paper or press release behind it is presumed to be plausible and sincere, no matter how farfetched or deceptive it may be.

Similarly, among pundits of the broad center-left, it's considered gauche to criticize the right too persistently, no matter the merits of one's argument. The only worse sin is to defend a politician too persistently; then you become not a bore, but a disgrace to the profession and its independence--even if you're correct...

This seemed to hit the nail on the head: it was (and is) considered impolite to take what the Bush administration said about the rationales for its policies seriously. Consider the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, sneering on September 16, 2004 at those who took Bush's impact on the country seriously:

I was only briefly enamored of George W. Bush... who went to war in Iraq for stated reasons that turned out to be baseless and for unstated reasons that have yet to be publicly acknowledged... neoconservative foreign policy agenda in which violence plays too prominent and casual a role.... chilled by assertions of near-royal power... choice of judges, his energy policy, his unilateralism or the manner in which he has intruded religion into politics.... I nevertheless cannot bring myself to hate Bush.... In fact, Bush haters go so far they wind up adding a dash of red to my blue...[1]

In this context, given that criticisms of George W. Bush and the malevolence, mendacity, incompetence and disconnection from reality of him and his administration are--no matter how sound their analytics or how true their factual claims--going to be dismissed by many as impolite and "shrill," why not have some fun with and embrace the term?

And so the idea was off and running...

Faisal grabbed the website, after emailing "must. resist. temptation. to set up. group weblog" and being answered "Why is this temptation to be resisted? :-)." Andrew introduced the conceptual link to H.P. Lovecraft. (Wikipedia has the appropriate background reading:

And the ranks of the shrill are now... impressive indeed. Even the truly cowardly are now shrill. Only the bought-and-paid-for have not joined the ranks of the highly critical who have been driven into shrill unholy madness by the mendacity, malevolence, incompetence, and disconnection from reality of George W. Bush and his administration.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Krugman R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn!

[1] And, of course, it was only a month later that Cohen became what he had sneered at:

I do not write the headlines for my columns. Someone else does. But if I were to write the headline for this one, it would be "Impeach George Bush."... Not since the Spanish-American War has the United States gone off to war so casually, so half-cocked and so ineptly.... Yet from Bush comes not a bleep of regret, not to mention apology. It is all "steady as she goes" -- although we have lost our bearings and we no longer know our destination. (Don't tell me it's a democratic Middle East.) If the man were commanding a ship, he would be relieved of command. If he were the CEO of some big company, the board would offer him a golden parachute -- and force him to jump...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Poor Man Institute for Freedom, Democracy, and a Pony Is Shrill

Andrew Sullivan's idiocy is the trigger. This is the polite part of Sifu Tweety's "episode":

The Poor Man Institute: Wed 26 Jul 2006: Your professional pundit class in action: Sully Pooh, putting the “Andrew Sullivan” back in “Andrew Sullivan is a worthless fucking hack“:

I finally saw the Gore movie yesterday. It’s thoroughly persuasive about the reality of global warming and the contribution of carbon dioxide emissions to it.

I’ll give you a minute to let this sink in. Three weeks ago, the evidence for global warming was akin to Dick Cheney’s case for Iraq’s WMD - but now, having seen a f------ Hollywood movie about global warming starring famous former VP Al Gore, well, he finds the science persuasive. I’m very pleased, and I hope this change of heart lasts until Dan Quayle comes out with a movie about how the Earth’s not really getting warmer, it’s just that we’re all getting cooler. I would now like everyone to observe a moment of silence for that big tragic accident that tragically killed all the scientists in the world, leaving no way for professional pundits such as Sullivan or Gregg Easterbrook or Ron Wanker Bailey to figure out what all’s the dillio-yo-yo until someone got around to making a movie about it. It took you long enough, Al!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shrillness Rises to Dangerous Levels...

Billmon at the Whiskey Bar reads Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright, and his shrillness rises to dangerous levels. Trained professionals are establishing a containment field. But it may not hold:

Whiskey Bar: Hirohito Effects: Today's Washington Post story on Operation Midwife is just chock full of them. Some of my favorites:

The United States had been hoping to enlist moderate Arab allies in an effort to pressure Syria and Iran to rein in Hezbollah, but the Saudi move yesterday seemed to cloud that initiative.

Yes, TV footage of Arab women and children being blown to bloody bits does tend to put a damper on such things. Maybe Shrub should ask the Saudis to ban TV? (Even if it's not in the Koran, I bet they could get one of their pet sheikhs to make something up.)

The kingdom remains perhaps the most important American ally in the Arab world, and King Abdullah's views carry influence with Bush.

There's that cautious "perhaps" again. Does the Post know of any other Arab ally that supplies the world with 10 million barrels of oil a day? The Dauphin doesn't hold hands with just anybody, you know. (But no petting below the waist: That's AIPAC territory.)

"The response to the humanitarian problem caused so far has not been adequate," said a senior U.S. official involved, who insisted on anonymity to speak frankly about the situation. "It's an issue for us."

Gosh. That was frank, wasn't it. And I'm sure the Cheney administration will get right on it -- just as soon as FEMA finishes cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina.

Some U.S. officials say they have been disappointed with earlier warnings to Israel -- which have gone unheeded -- about the wider regional repercussions of military tactics. "There has been considerable damage to infrastructure and civilians," the senior official added. "We're puzzled by some of the targets."

Puzzled. As if Lebanon were one big acrostic, and the President was having trouble figuring out that "W" is also the first letter in "War Crimes."

As always, I've saved the best for last:

Another issue is the composition of an international force to keep Hezbollah away from Israel's border. Israel wants a muscular force that could either disarm Hezbollah or prevent future attacks. But U.S. officials acknowledge the limited interest in another coalition force in the Middle East. (emphasis added)

Limited interest. This one makes the Middle East sound like a church picnic, and the "new Europeans" a bunch of parishioners who've had just a bit too much to eat: Uncle Sam: Some fried Lebanon, Brother Poland? Poland: (burps) No, really, I couldn't. That Iraq rump roast has given me gas. Pass the Pepto-Bismol.

I don't know how much they're paying Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright to crank out this crap, but it's gotta be a lot more than the old Pravda writers used to get. But they're worth it: Your typical Pravda story would have you dozing and dreaming about tractor parts in no time. But this stuff is almost good enough for The Daily Show.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Billmon Is Shriller than Ever!!

Now he--Tom Ricks, of the Washington Post--tells us. And this drives Billmon shrill:

Whiskey Bar: Department of the Bleedin' Obvious: Stop the presses. Tom Ricks, intrepid war correspondent for the Washington Post, has an urgent news flash. He reports that in the months following the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. Army forgot the lessons of Vietnam!

But there is also strong evidence, based on a review of thousands of military documents and hundreds of interviews with military personnel, that the U.S. approach to pacifying Iraq in the months after the collapse of Hussein helped spur the insurgency and made it bigger and stronger than it might have been.

Now I know this new information will come as an shocking surprise to readers of Whiskey Bar -- or Steve Gilliard's News Blog or or William S. Lind's columns or, oh, I don't know, a couple of hundred other left-wing and paleocon blogs and web sites. But since it's in the Washington Post I guess it must be true. How could the rest of us have been so stupid not to have seen it??? It must be because we didn't review all those thousands of documents and do all those hundreds of interviews. Still, it's instructive, or at least amusing, to take a look back at what Tom Ricks actually reported at the time the Army was allegedly forgetting all those critical lessons of Vietnam. Here's Tom in July 2003, just as the guerrilla war he now says the Army didn't know how to fight was getting started:

As Iraqi fighters launched guerrilla strikes, the U.S. Army adopted a more nimble approach against unseen adversaries and found new ways to gather intelligence about them, according to dozens of soldiers and officers interviewed over the last week . . . At the same time, the frequency of attacks has declined in the area northwest of Baghdad dominated by Iraq's Sunni minority, long a base of support for Hussein . . .That decrease is leading senior commanders here to debate whether the war is nearly over. (emphasis added)

And here he is again a couple of months later, continuing to relay all that yummy "good" news:

Senior U.S. commanders here are so confident about their recent successes that they have begun debating whether victory is in sight. "I think we're at the hump" now, a senior Central Command official said. "I think we could be over the hump fairly quickly" -- possibly within a couple of months, he added. (emphasis added)

I could go on and on, but really, what's the point? Only that Ricks is as responsible as anyone for leading the American people (and the military itself) to believe the war was being won -- quickly and decisively...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gregory Djerejian Is One of Our Most Honored and Insane Members:

And boy is he shrill. Via the Shrill Libertarian One of Los Angeles:

Once Upon a Time...: Calling War Lovers Anonymous: Is it possible, even with Lebanon's Cedar Revolution now lying in ruin, even with Iraq bleeding profusely, even with Afghanistan (and portions of Pakistan) increasingly seeing a reconstituted neo-Talib and al-Qaeda presence--is it really possible that Bush would listen to an unholy alliance of unrepentant, incorrigible and increasingly reckless neo-cons (Krauthammer, Kristol's Standard, most of NRO etc.), crude Jacksonians (Bolton, Steyn) and hotted up evangelical rapturists (the legions of Hewitts)? (By the way, when will another prominent neo-con--say, for example, the brightest one of them all to have served in government, in my view Paul Wolfowitz--stand up and pull a Fukuyama, by remonstrating some of his prior tutees for their too abundant enthusiasms, so as to help calm things down a tad?) Friends, these days, given the near total dearth of quality political leadership in Washington, given a media that, in the main, can only be described as severely cretinized and moronic, given a sense of pervasive paranoia and incompetence and fear gripping swaths of the country like a national mania, of sorts, well, anything is possible. But let us fight the good fight here for a sense of judiciousness and intelligence in our foreign-policy making. It is time to stop speaking messianically of root causes willy-nilly, and absolutist solutions, and eradication of this or that writ large, and rather to confront an exceedingly complex neighborhood with more deftness and realism and sobriety and, yes, humility. Hopefully someone is listening...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Charles Pierce Is Shrill

Charles Pierce is really shrill:

TAPPED: IT'S PERSONAL. It just so happens that I have a couple of really ugly-ass dogs in this fight over embryonic stem-cell research. Not many political issues are personal with me, but this one deeply is. I have watched slow death from neurological disease once too often in my life to be anything but furious when Sam Brownback, a United States senator to the everlasting embarrassment of that body, pulls out a child's drawing of an embryo with a smiley-face in order to argue his position. Or when Tony Snow, that towering public fake, starts getting glib about "murder," as though there isn't enough blood lapping at the ankles of everyone in this White House to float a barge. Or when Snow's boss, that tough-talkin', crumb-spittin', neck-rubbin' international buckaroo, uses the first veto of his presidential career and then hides behind children while maundering incoherently about a "moral line" as though he'd recognize one if he fell over it....

I don't give a damn how tactically brilliant this may be. I look at this action and this is what I know -- that millions of Americans will die horrible deaths and the government of the United States doesn't give a good goddamn about them. Period. And, no, Senator Obama, I don't have to respect the deeply held beliefs of anyone who condemns their fellow human beings to miserable suffering on the basis of anthropomorphized blastocysts in the service of an anthropomorphized god...

Welcome, Mr. Peirce. Here you have ahome.

Shrill Unbalanced Anti-Anti-Liebermanites

Joshua Micah Marshall watches Lieberman supporters go shrill--but not in a good way:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall July 21, 2006 12:10 AM: One thing that strikes me is the sheer intensity of views on this race.... [T]he anti-anti-Lieberman crowd are... unhinged.... There is this sense that a Lieberman defeat on August 8th would be some sort of apocalyptic event, with Lieberman cast as some martyr, to what I'm really not sure. Mort Kondracke's column, which I noted below, seems like the quintessence of this sort of attitude, though the volume is turned, well, all the way up to eleven.... Listen to the opening line of Mort's column: "This is no exaggeration: The soul of the Democratic Party %u2014 and possibly the future of civility in American politics %u2014 is on the line in the Aug. 8 Senate primary in Connecticut."...

[I]n the Kondrackes and others there is this sense that for a well-liked-in-the-beltway senior pol like Lieberman to face a primary challenge is somehow a genuine threat to the foundations of the system. You'd think he was a life peer, if not an hereditary noble....

The blogs have been important... generated money and press.... But... Lieberman's in trouble with Connecticut primary voters.... Lieberman... has fallen seriously out of touch with his constituents.... One might say that Lieberman has stuck to his views on Iraq notwithstanding the political perils or the unpopularity of the position in his party.... But I don't think he really understood the peril at home. Because if he had, he would have been more prepared for this. And he wasn't.

This impession has been added to in my mind by chats with various folks from the Lieberman world. I think most of Lieberman's advisors, supporters, hangers-on and former employees have watched these last seven or eight weeks with a mix of mortification, surprise and disbelief, as they've seen his campaign make one mistake after another. Going back to that issue of his being out of touch you really get this sense that Lieberman and his team were totally out of the habit of fighting a serious election. To me, it all goes back to the bizarre "bear cub" ad... just stupid -- dumb and incoherent, making three or four contradictory claims at once. It showed a man and a team that were really rusty, caught unawares of what was rumbling beneath them.

That's a Shrill Sound. But It's Not a Good Shrill Sound...

Tom Friedman is shrill, but not in a good way. Not in a good way at all:

Order vs. Disorder - New York Times: Too often, assaults like Hezbollah's, which have global implications, have been met with only "a local response," said Gidi Grinstein, who heads Reut, an Israeli defense think tank. "But the only way that these networks can be defeated is if their global assault is met by a global response."

Unfortunately, partly because of China, Russia and Europe's traditional resentment and jealousy of the U.S. and partly because of the foolish Bush approach that said unilateral American power was more important than action legitimated by a global consensus, the global forces of order today are not at all united.

It is time that The World of Order got its act together. This is not Israel's fight alone -- and if you really want to see a "disproportional" Israeli response, just keep leaving Israel to fight this war alone. Then you will see some real craziness.

George Bush and Condi Rice need to realize that Syria on its own is not going to press Hezbollah -- in Mr. Bush's immortal words -- to just "stop doing this shit." The Bush team needs to convene a coalition of The World of Order. If it won't, it should let others more capable do the job. We could start with the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton, whose talents could be used for more than just tsunami relief.

One doesn't know whether to be more impressed by the shrillness or more appalled by the incoherence,.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Six Years too Late, George Will Is Shrill...

The Washington Note reports that George Will is shrill:

The Washington Note: George Will swats Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice first:

"Grotesque" was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's characterization of the charge that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was responsible for the current Middle East conflagration. She is correct, up to a point. This point: Hezbollah and Hamas were alive and toxic long before March 2003. Still, it is not perverse to wonder whether the spectacle of America, currently learning a lesson -- one that conservatives should not have to learn on the job -- about the limits of power to subdue an unruly world, has emboldened many enemies.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Rice called it "short-sighted" to judge the success of the administration's transformational ambitions by a "snapshot" of progress "some couple of years" into the transformation. She seems to consider today's turmoil preferable to the Middle East's "false stability" of the last 60 years, during which U.S. policy "turned a blind eye to the absence of democratic forces."

There is, however, a sense in which that argument creates a blind eye: It makes instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress. Violence is vindication: Hamas and Hezbollah have, Rice says, "determined that it is time now to try and arrest the move toward moderate democratic forces in the Middle East."

You will have to see the Washington Post for Will's powerful prose about an ill-thought out democratic plan serving as the vehicle that has delivered and empowered extremism in the current Middle East make-up, but then in the next section of his startling essay, George Will unleashes full fury on the neoconservative agenda and The Weekly Standard:

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to The Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservativism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything.

"No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria. . ." You get the drift.

So, The Weekly Standard says. . .

"We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions -- and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

"Why wait?" Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate, in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq. And if Assad's regime does not fall after The Weekly Standard's hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?

As for the "healthy" repercussions that The Weekly Standard is so eager to experience from yet another war: One envies that publication's powers of prophecy, but wishes it had exercised them on the nation's behalf before all of the surprises -- all of them unpleasant -- that Iraq has inflicted. And regarding the "appeasement" that The Weekly Standard decries: Does the magazine really wish the administration had heeded its earlier (Dec. 20, 2004) editorial advocating war with yet another nation -- the bombing of Syria?

George Will gets the "Conservatives with a Conscience Award" today from The Washington Note.

His five-whack, scathing assault on Kristol and The Weekly Standard rises from a frustration and raw honesty rarely seen (but increasingly moreso) among those who count themselves friends of conservative presidents like G.W. Bush.

At least this time around -- no matter what happens further in our encounter with Iran and the nations in Israel's neighborhood -- U.S. policy will be debated and fought over.

No more steam-rolling and no more "trust us" duplicity from the White House.

Applause to George Will for this brave and important piece.

But why is George W. Bush called "a conservative president" rather than "the chief clown in the clown show"?

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.

Ezra Klein Is Shrill

Let us bow before this great shoggoth:

Ezra Klein: Things That Make Me Proud To Be A Journalist:


  • Other Developments
  • PM Olmert says Israel will destroy terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, South Lebanon
  • Israel cutting Lebanon "to pieces" PM Siniora says
  • Israel says it will create a buffer zone in southern Lebanon

If I were crafting a parody of the political media's decline, I could hardly construct a better set piece than today's reportage. A live mic at the G8 Summit caught Tony Blair and George Bush talking privately about the conflict in Lebanon. Given the relative opacity of Bush's thoughts on the situation, the frank discussion offered a fair amount of insight and a couple nuggets of news, including that he was going to send Condi to the region (or possibly the UN -- but she's going somewhere to deal with this), that he blamed neither Israel nor Lebanon for the violence, and that "the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

That's a big deal: Bush believes it within the Syrian government's power to calm the conflict. Theoretically, that should have major implications for American diplomacy and, possibly, policy. So what's CNN's headline? "Open mic catches Bush expletive on Mideast"! The story is not that his substantive views on the issue have been uncovered, but that the president curses. Indeed, the article even speculates on how such a stunner slipped out, arguing that "the escalating crisis in the Middle East prompted him to use an expletive in a conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair."

This is your press corps. The President has a potty mouth is a more pressing story than the President believe sufficient pressure on the sovereign nation of Syria could be the key to ending an intensely volatile war in the Middle East. What a proud day for my profession.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Shrillness Greater than that of Ten Thousand Altos...

Duncan Black and Digby are really shrill upon hearing Bush's advice to Putin that Russian democracy be "like Iraq, where there's a free press and free religion":

Hullabaloo: There He Goes Again"

BUSH: I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq, where there’s a free press and free religion. And I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia will do the same thing. I fully understand, however, that there will be a Russian-style democracy.

PUTIN: We certainly would not want to have same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, quite honestly.

BUSH: Just wait.

And here is Duncan BLACK:

Eschaton: While it's funny, we also have to accept the fact that either Bush is a little bit insane or that the people around him have really just stopped bothering to brief him on anything important. Either way, like his BFF Joe Lieberman, he's lost the plot. He's paved Iraq with streets of gold and turned it into paradise, and nothing can shake him of that fact. The administration is no longer taking responsibility for providing any serious leadership on world affairs, with Bush addressing questions about serious issues with pig jokes.

Meanwhile the smart set in Washington still imagines that there must be some recipe for success, that we can just let several more Friedmans pass in order to ease their consciences.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Andrew Northrup Is Shriller than Ever!

He encounters Max Boot, latches on with his powerful suckers, rends him limb from limb with his powerful arms, and then devours the shreds and gobbets with his cruel parrot-like beak:

The Poor Man: The further wisdom of Sun Bzoot: The Grand Champion of Civilization IV has figured out why we’re having such a hard go of it in Iraq: Our enemies aren’t drinking lattes

‘AMATEURS TALK strategy. Professionals talk logistics.” That well-worn saying, sometimes attributed to Gen. Omar Bradley, contains an obvious element of wisdom. Modern militaries cannot fight without a lengthy supply chain, and the success or failure of major operations can turn on the work of anonymous logisticians.

Yet there is a danger of professional soldiers becoming so focused on supply lines that they lose sight of larger strategic imperatives. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we may already have crossed that threshold. [...]

Some front-line units continue to operate out of spartan outposts where a hot meal is a luxury and flush toilets unknown. But growing numbers of troops live on giant installations complete with Wal-Mart-style post exchanges, movie theaters, swimming pools, gyms, fast-food eateries (Subway, Burger King, Cinnabon) and vast chow halls offering fresh-baked pies and multiple flavors of ice cream. Troops increasingly live in dorm-style quarters (called “chews,” for “containerized housing units”) complete with TVs, mini-refrigerators, air conditioning/heating units and other luxuries unimaginable to previous generations of GIs.

Optionally: we might have invaded the country without enough troops to hold it, and, because it would be politically unpleasant, have done nothing to remedy this situation. Maybe the people running the war did nothing because in order to bring enough manpower to bear you would need a draft, and you would need a draft because fiercely pro-war fighting-age super-patriot keyboard kommandos like military genius and important intellectual Sun Bzoot would rather stay home with their TVs, mini-refrigerators, air conditioning/heating units, movie theaters, swimming pools, gyms, fast-food eateries, fresh-baked pies and multiple flavors of ice cream, and sit on their dead asses eating Cinnabon and sipping lattes than join the army. So maybe the military isn’t all gung-ho about “getting out there” and fulfilling our strategic imperative of pacifying Fallujah for the seventeenth time on account of how it’s fucking pointless. Maybe they were sent out there without the tools they needed to succeed, and now they are being kept out there basically so some important politicians won’t have to admit they f----- up. It could be that, Max.

Or, you know, maybe we’re losing because the troops have Cinnabon.

Sometimes, I honestly hate these people.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Harold Meyerson Is Shrill

Harold Meyerson gets medieval on Joe Lieberman:

Lieberman's Real Problem: I am about to become a traitor to my class. Among my estimable colleagues in the Washington commentariat, the idea that Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is facing a serious challenge from a fellow Democrat over Lieberman's support for the Iraq war seems to evoke incredulity and exasperation.... My colleagues also finger those crazy lefty bloggers as the culprits behind the drive to purge Lieberman from Democratic ranks.... No great mystery enshrouds the challenge to Lieberman, nor is the campaign of his challenger, Ned Lamont, a jihad of crazed nit-pickers. Lieberman has simply and rightly been caught up in the fundamental dynamics of Politics 2006, in which Democrats are doing their damnedest to unseat all the president's enablers.... Lieberman's broader politics are at odds with those of his fellow Northeastern Democrats.... He is being opposed because he leads causes many of them find repugnant.

As early as December 2001 Lieberman signed a letter to President Bush asking him to make Saddam Hussein's Iraq our next stop in the war against terrorism.... And just last week Lieberman characterized the progress of the war as "a lot better" than it was a year ago, adding, "They're on the way to building a free and independent Iraq." So, why the surprise if Connecticut voters.... conclude that they cannot trust his judgment on the single most important issue of the day? That's... opting for a senator who pays more attention to the war on the ground than to the war in his head....

Connecticut's three Republican House members are scrambling for their political lives for fundamentally the same reasons that Lieberman is.... The issue here... [is] that his positions -- not just on foreign policy but on trade, Social Security and other key issues -- are... out of sync with those of Democrats in his part of the country. To expect his region's voters to dump the area's moderate Republicans but back Lieberman is to expect that they will adopt a double standard in this year's elections.

Lieberman's ultimate problem isn't fanatical bloggers.... His problem, dear colleagues, is Connecticut.

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Morons?

Ivo Daalder joins the shrill, and writes that the Bush administration today has not a "multilateral" foreign policy, but rather no foreign policy at all. He sees no method at all:

Has Bush Gone Multilateral? | TPMCafe: A consensus seems to be emerging, at least in the mainstream media, that Bush has given up on the unilateralism of his first term and is now firmly committed to a multilateralist foreign policy.... But how much of this change is real? While there has been a shift in foreign policy during Bush's second term... it's not so much a shift from unilateralism to multilateralism as it is a shift from relying on the use of force to doing nothing.... [U]nilateralism, preemptive force, and regime change... made Bush's foreign policy revolutionary. Abandon the idea of preemptive force, and you're left with nothing more than hoping for change. And hope, as Colin Powell was wont to say, is not much of a strategy.

Instead of force, Bush and Co. now emphasize the importance of "diplomacy."... But what the administration is doing isn't diplomacy.... Rather, what Bush is doing is just talk (or talking about talk)... the constant refrain that just sitting down with North Koreans, or Iranians, or even Iraqi insurgents would be a concession or reward or, worse, legitimize the interlocutor, rather than a means to solving problems.... For Bush, negotiations are the weapon of the weak. The strong don't negotiate with the weak....

With neither force nor diplomacy, Bush is pursuing a foreign policy of empty gestures... trying to kick the proverbial can down the road -- far enough so the next president can deal with it... we're now talking about a trash can rather a soup can...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

America's Best and Brightest Are ... Shrill and Unbalanced?

The Army Times points us to a rather distressing statistic: 40,000 defectors since 2000. This does beg the question:

What do you get when tens of thousands of troops from all branches of the military start to consider the malevolence, mendacity, and sheer disconnection from reality of the George W. Bush administration?

Osama bin Laden still at large
A weakened national defense

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Too Late, Colin Powell Is Shrill

Colin Powell is finally shrill, and says, today:

Colin Powell: Guantanamo ought to be closed immediately.

Much more than a day late, and many dollars short.

Eric Alterman on Colin Powell and North Korea Know-Nothingism: The tone of Powell's tenure was set early in the administration when he announced that he planned "to pick up where the Clinton administration had left off" in trying to secure the peace between North and South Korea, while negotiating with the North to prevent its acquisition of nuclear weaponry. The president not only repudiated his secretary of state in public... he did so during a joint appearance with South Korean president (and Nobel laureate) Kim Dae Jung, thereby humiliating his honored guest as well. A day later, Powell backpedaled. "The president forcefully made the point that we are undertaking a full review of our relationship with North Korea," Powell said. "There was some suggestion that imminent negotiations are about to begin--that is not the case."...

Bush made a bad situation worse when, in a taped interview with Bob Woodward... ratcheting up of the hostile rhetoric.... Bush had already undermined the extremely sensitive negotiations under way to bring the North Korean regime into the international system.... (Powell had termed their continuation "a no-brainer.") One suspects the president's decision was motivated by a combination of unreflective machismo and a desire to provide military planners with an excuse to build a missile-defense system. But in doing so, he displayed a disturbing lack of familiarity with the details of the negotiations he purposely sabotaged. "We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements," he said.... Bush aides were later forced to admit they could find no evidence to support the president's accusation. (A White House official tried to clear up the matter by explaining: "That's how the president speaks.")

GOP Representative Peter Hoekstra Is Shrill

So McJoan, one of the most fearsome and shrill of the Great Tentacled Ones, reports:

Daily Kos: State of the Nation: Too Little, Too Late? by mcjoan: The GOP Congress might have finally woken up to the fact that they are irrelevant, this time vis-a-vis the White House.

WASHINGTON, July 8 -- In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important Congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters. The letter from Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not specify the intelligence activities that he believed had been hidden from Congress.

But Mr. Hoekstra, who was briefed on and supported the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the Treasury Department's tracking of international banking transactions, clearly was referring to programs that have not been publicly revealed.... "I have learned of some alleged intelligence community activities about which our committee has not been briefed," Mr. Hoesktra wrote. "If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."

He added: "The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play Twenty Questions to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution."

I applaud Hoekstra's effort to assert his committee's oversight role over executive overreach in intelligence, but where has he been for the last five years?

George Lakoff is.... Shrill?

George Lakoff -- no stranger to Shrill Unholy Madness™, writes to tell us that the Order is spending too much attention on the alleged incompetence of the George W. Bush administration, and should instead be focussing on the mendacity and malevolence.

George Bush is Not Incompetent

The conservative vision for government is to shrink it – to "starve the beast" in Conservative Grover Norquist's words. The conservative tagline for this rationale is that "you can spend your money better than the government can." Social programs are considered unnecessary or "discretionary" since the primary role of government is to defend the country's border and police its interior. Stewardship of the commons, such as allocation of healthcare or energy policy, is left to people's own initiative within the free market. Where profits cannot be made -- conservation, healthcare for the poor -- charity is meant to replace justice and the government should not be involved.

Given this philosophy, then, is it any wonder that the government wasn't there for the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Conservative philosophy places emphasis on the individual acting alone, independent of anything the government could provide. Some conservative Sunday morning talk show guests suggested that those who chose to live in New Orleans accepted the risk of a devastating hurricane, the implication being that they thus forfeited any entitlement to government assistance. If the people of New Orleans suffered, it was because of their own actions, their own choices and their own lack of preparedness. Bush couldn't have failed if he bore no responsibility.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Poor Man and Matt Stoller Are Really Shrill

The Poor Man writes:

The Poor Man Institute: Matt Stoller reads Sully the Pooh. Matt Stoller is shrill:

This is rich. The rush to war was premised on the assumption that the judgment of the Bush administration (and Sullivan) was superior to that of professional weapons inspectors like Hans Blix. This turned out to be false. Now, the foot-dragging on global warming is premised on the assumption that the judgment of the Bush administration (and Sullivan) is superior to that of the global scientific community.

As usual, this is an issue of judgment and trust. Put Sullivan and Samuelson down as apologists for global warming, those willing to justify inaction so that they can feel, at the end of he day, smugly superior. In other words, if you like the the people who brought you the war in Iraq, you'll love inaction on climate change.

One day soon, these people will go away, and politics will become more than a parlour game for rich and smug boomer elitist cowards.

And that is something I would dearly like to believe, but I do have to wonder what will cause these people like Sullivan to finally "go away." Is there a set timetable for withdrawal, or would such a move embloden the blogofascists? Are they going to stay until Mission Accomplished, No End But Victory, going out with sunny nobility and heroically stuffed crotches on a dramatic carrier landing? Or, alternately, do people like Sullivan have high-paying, high-stutus, no-work, no-skill, responsibility-free jobs, which they are as likely to walk away from as anyone from a pile of free cash? I fear the latter.

People like Sullivan aren't going anywhere voluntarily. And, if Sullivan were to fired, what basis would there be for this? What line of stupidity, irresponsibility, bad taste, dishonesty, pettiness, or self-parody still waits to be crossed in the man's storied career? And were he to somehow find this undreamed-of line, what then? An ethically-flexible self-promoter like Sully Pooh with a certain level of name recognition will always be able to find a cozy position somewhere. Sully, Goldberg, Malkin, Coulter, etc. are all staying more or less where they are for the duration, and any loss from their ranks can be quickly replaced by a suitable up-and-comer. If their influence is to be lessened, it is the audience that must go away.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Shriller than Ever

Yes, it's Andrew Sullivan, stating that Bush is guilty of war crimes:

Andrew Sullivan | The Daily Dish: The Hamdan decision certainly suggests that, by ignoring the Geneva Conventions even in Guantanamo (let alone in Iraq), a war crime has been committed. And in the military, the command structure insists that superiors are held accountable. I've been saying this for a long time now, and have watched aghast as the Bush administration has essentially dumped responsibility for war-crimes on the grunts at Abu Ghraib. The evidence already available proves that the president himself ordered torture and abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions. Now he has been shown to be required to act within the law, and according to the Constitution, his liability for war crimes therefore comes into focus. Money quote from a useful Cato Institute Hamdan summary:

Both the majority and concurrence cite 18 U.S.C. § 2241, which Justice Kennedy stresses makes violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention a war crime punishable as a federal offense, enforceable in federal civil court. The majority holds, of course, that trying persons under the president's military commission order violates Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, suggesting that trial is a war crime within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 2241.

Furthermore, the majority stresses that the Geneva Conventions 'do extend liability for substantive war crimes to those who "orde[r]' their commission" and "this Court has read the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 to impose ‘command responsibility' on military commanders for acts of their subordinates." The Court’s emphasis on the liability that attaches to "orders" is significant, because trials in the military commissions are, of course, pursuant to a direct presidential order. Even so, it's difficult to imagine a circumstances in which charges under Section 2241 might actually be prosecuted.

Difficult but not impossible.