Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Duncan Black is shriller than ever--a constant pole star of shrillness in a changeable universe:

Eschaton: Incoherent: So, the wise old men of David Broder's beloved Iraq Study Group testified to the Senate today. From what I gathered from CNN coverage just now, they support sending more troops to Iraq (James "Give it a chance!" Baker more than Hamilton), but they warn that nothing will improve unless there's also diplomacy with Iran and Syria.

Personally, I don't really understand their obsession with diplomacy with Iran and Syria. It's probably a good idea on its own merits, though what it has to do with Iraq I'm not sure.

Still, they say they support sending more troops to Iraq. Then they say it needs to be accompanied by things which won't happen.

I just don't understand this game anymore.... [D]iplomacy is going to be necessary... [but it isn't] particularly useful until the people in charge acknowledge a few elements of reality that they are unwilling to acknowledge....

But he is not shrill enough. Diplomacy is necessary. But diplomacy is useless unless the current U.S. administration is removed from office.

Alicublog is shrill!

alicublog: DRUNKS WITH GUNS. The Ole Perfesser done wrote hisself (well, collaborated on) a paper, all about why Communitarians should hook up with the People of the Gun to make everyone, will-he nill-he, join a militia -- and not a statist militia-in-name-only like the National Guard, but something more like Boy's Night Out with shootin' ahrns. It is strange that the Perfesser puts so much effort into reaching out to Amitai Etzioni and the Bowling Alone crowd.... There are all sorts of highlights in the document, but I especially liked the quote from an Andrew Lytle novel which the authors say "captures the spirit of community present in militias": "It wasn't long until riders from every section of the county came in.... Kin would meet that hadn't seen one another for a year or more.... Such jollification you never saw. There were dinners on the ground, and red-mouth barbecue pits. The groceries knocked out the tops of their liquor barrels, and red whisky ran down gullets like rain after a dry spell."... [I]f a combination of loaded semi-automatic rifles and whiskey running "down gullets like rain after a dry spell" is what the Perfesser is after, I say... I am content to watch the fireworks from a distance.

Spencer Ackerman is shriller:

The Washington Monthly: CENTCOM FOLLIES.... Spencer Ackerman reports from Capitol Hill: "I just got back from Admiral Bill Fallon's hearing to head Central Command, and I've never heard a military officer testify for nearly four hours and fail to exhibit an understanding of even one issue he's about to grapple with. Here is Fallon's excuse: 'As you know, I've got a full-time job in Pacific Command, and I've tried to stay away from the detail of Central Command until such time as I might be confirmed,' he said. 'Then I intend to dive into it.' 'I'm surprised that you don't have that understanding going in, frankly,' said Senator Levin.

Spencer Ackerman gets shriller:

toohotfortnr: yeah that's the other side of this life: Lally Weymouth jawbones with Adel Abdul Mehdi: "All Americans see on TV screens are Sunnis slaughtering Shiites and ethnic cleansing in the streets." "Unfortunately this is true. But this is only one part of the picture. Only 12 months ago, we had elections and 12 million people voted, Sunnis and Shiites."

Yes, and as a result, all Americans see on TV screens are Sunnis slaughtering Shiites and ethnic cleansing in the streets. Also, if I'm Adel Abdul Mehdi, and a reporter mentions to me at the World Economic Forum that I'm Bush's favorite to replace the of-course-sovereign PM Maliki, I'd walk into the Swiss foreign ministry and seek asylum.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Joseph Galloway is shrill:

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 01/17/2007 | Postponed sacrifices will come due with a vengeance: President Bush was asked in an interview this week why our military and their families are bearing all the sacrifices of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His response was telling. The American people are sacrificing, too, Bush said. Their peace of mind is disturbed by the images of carnage they see on their televisions. His response was lame, but it also was infuriating, and his attempt to switch the focus to how well he thinks our economy is doing was no less galling....

He was proud that, unlike every wartime president in our history, he hasn't increased taxes to pay for a war. In fact, he, George W. Bush, not only hasn't raised taxes; he's cut them, leaving his war to be financed by going deeper into debt to China and Japan. There's no need, he said, to revive some form of mandatory national service so the children and grandchildren of all those Americans living their comfortable lives might make both sacrifices and contributions to the defense and well-being of our country. Our volunteer military is working just fine, Bush said. It can continue to shoulder the entire weight of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the wars that have ground the Army and the Marine Corps beyond the breaking point....

Rumsfeld, with the backing of Vice President Dick Cheney, was the architect of the idea that 21st-century wars could be won and soldiers replaced by high-tech weaponry. That you can do much more with much less. Anyone in uniform who suggested otherwise was throwing his career away, as was made amply clear in late February 2003, when then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, under questioning from Sen. Carl Levin, opined that it would take "several hundred thousand" American troops to pacify and occupy Iraq. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz promptly dismissed Shinseki's analysis, which was based on the general's experience as the commander of U.S. forces in Bosnia, as "outlandish." Iraq, Wolfowitz said, would be a lot easier than Afghanistan was because there were no ethnic divisions in Iraq.

A veteran of Vietnam who lost a foot in combat there, Shinseki knew whereof he spoke, which is a lot more than one could say of Wolfowitz, who's never worn a uniform or heard a shot fired in combat. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and their bosses in the White House made Shinseki's last few months in office a living hell. At his retirement ceremony, which none of those gentlemen had the common courtesy to attend, the soft-spoken general sounded a warning that they should have heard: Beware of giving a 12-division mission to a 10-division Army. That, of course, is precisely what Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld did, and the results, four years later, were entirely predictable. In fact, I predicted them right here in a 2003 column headlined: "How to Break a Great Army"...

Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott are shrill:

President dismisses critics - A Concord Monitor Article - Your News Source - Concord NH 03301: Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, said the administration would like GOP leaders to block any vote, but that at this point even some of the most ardent Republican conservatives need some way to voice their skepticism on the record. The best the White House can hope for is what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, called "a smorgasbord" of resolutions that splits both parties and pulls Senate sentiments in multiple directions.

Like other GOP lawmakers, McConnell said time is running out for the president.

"I think everybody knows what the consequences are. The president doesn't have a stronger supporter in the Senate than the person you're looking at, but I repeat, this is the last chance for the Iraqis to step up and demonstrate this government can function," he said. "The message to the Iraqi government could not be more clear."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The shrill Dean Baker asks a question:

Beat the Press: Global Warming is Serious: Why Can't the Post Treat It Seriously?

In a front page article on President Bush's changing statements on climate change, the Post tells readers that he will spend $29 billion on "climate science, aid, and incentives." Is there even a single reader of this sentence, apart from those actually working on climate policy, who has any idea what this commitment means?

For beginners, how about telling readers the time frame for this spending? My understanding is that the $29 billion will be spent over ten years (approximately 0.1 percent of projected spending), but I don't have any clear idea of what this money refers to, so I can't say that for certain. It would also be helpful to know to what extent this money involves an additional commitment of resources -- the government has spent money for decades on climate science and various programs that encourage conservation.

In short, reporting this $29 billion in projected spending provides no information whatsover. Couldn't the two experienced reporters who wrote this piece recognize that they were not providing any information to readers? Couldn't their editors?

--Dean Baker

The Washington Post isn't in the business of providing information, Dean. That would be "unbalanced."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sisyphus shrugged is shrill, and awards Dana Milbank the Claude Rains Memorial Gambling Awareness Award.

Dana Milbank is not shrill. He pulls his punches as he writes:

Dana Milbank - In Ex-Aide's Testimony, A Spin Through VP's PR - Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president... Cathie Martin... on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

It is unclear whether the first week of the trial will help or hurt Libby or the administration. But the trial has already pulled back the curtain on the White House's PR techniques and confirmed some of the darkest suspicions of the reporters upon whom they are used.

Dana gets two things wrong in these four paragraphs. First, Cheney doesn't "think" he controls Russert: Cheney does control Russert. Cheney's press aide Cathie Martin is correct when she says that Russert will not push Cheney or attempt to closely question him.

Second, the trial does not confirm "some of the darkest suspicions of the reporters." The reporters have no suspicions about how they are used by the Republican leadership. They have been active coconspirators here. The trial confirms some of the darkest suspicions about the reporters.

These two weasel-words by Milbank--"thinks" instead of "does" and "of" instead of "about"--are markers of the extent to which the Washington press corps is still, after everything, in the tank for and shading its reporting in favor of the Bush administration.

Milbank goes on, calling things "[newly] confirmed... suspicions" that he has known--and I have known--to be facts since at least mid-2001:

Relatively junior White House aides run roughshod over members of the president's Cabinet. Bush aides charged with speaking to the public and the media are kept out of the loop on some of the most important issues. And bad news is dumped before the weekend for the sole purpose of burying it.... She walked the jurors through how the White House coddles friendly writers and freezes out others....

[Martin] proposed "leak to Sanger-Pincus-newsmags. Sit down and give to him." This meant that the "no-leak" White House would give the story to the New York Times' David Sanger, The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, or Time or Newsweek...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

The Economist's Lexington correspondent is finally shrill! It writes a good article about Condi Rice.

It's at least four years too late for such an article to be useful and informative, however: | Articles by Subject | Lexington: [Condi Rice's] fingerprints are on some of the worst mistakes of the first Bush term. She claimed the White House was unaware of the CIA's doubts about whether Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger, for example, despite the fact that her office had received two memos on the subject and a call from the CIA director. But her culpability is deeper than that. When Ms Rice ran the National Security Council (NSC), it was hopelessly dysfunctional....

Ms Rice has also proved a disappointing manager of the State Department....

Ms Rice made her career by impressing powerful establishment figures.... But what happens when your patrons disagree?... [Rice] chose to flatter her current patron.... [She]... started her career... sceptical about nation-building and democratisation. She might have chosen to restrain her boss's Manichaean instincts with a dose of that realism. Instead she went along with him. Being a perfect protégée can get one a long way up the greasy pole...

I pay for the *Economist* in the hope that it can tell me true things about the world that I don't already know, rather than confirm things that I learned from other sources four years ago.

Matthew Yglesias is really shrill:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Plus Ça Change:

David Brooks, April 10 2004:

Come on people, let's get a grip. This week, Chicken Littles like Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were ranting that Iraq is another Vietnam. Pundits and sages were spinning a whole series of mutually exclusive disaster scenarios: Civil war! A nationwide rebellion!

January 25, 2007:

Iraq is at the beginning of a civil war fought using the tactics of genocide, and it has all the conditions to get much worse. As a Newsweek correspondent, Christian Caryl, wrote recently from Baghdad, “What’s clear is that we’re far closer to the beginning of this cycle of violence than to its end.” As John Burns of The Times said on “Charlie Rose” last night, “Friends of mine who are Iraqis — Shiite, Sunni, Kurd — all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that would absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now.”

September 18, 2004:

As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army. They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are much better equipped to win an insurgency war.

January 25, 2007:

The weakness of the Bush surge plan is that it relies on the Maliki government to somehow be above this vortex. But there are no impartial institutions in Iraq, ready to foster reconciliation. As ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes in The Weekly Standard, the Shiite finance ministries now close banks that may finance Sunni investments. The Saadrist health ministries dismiss Sunni doctors. The sectarian vortex is not fomented by extremists who are appendages to society. The vortex is through and through.

So having heaped scorn a few years ago on doves who were later proven right -- not necessarily shown to be all-wise, all-knowing sages on all subjects, but who certainly demonstrated a greater degree of understanding of the nation of Iraq and the dynamics of the war there -- does Brooks have a less scornful view of those same people and their ideas today? Of course not: "The Democratic approach, as articulated by Senator Jim Webb — simply get out of Iraq 'in short order' — is a howl of pain that takes no note of the long-term political and humanitarian consequences."

Each day that the New York Times publishes David Brooks takes, I think, a week off the lifespan of the organization.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A correspondent makes the mistake of reading Maureen Dowd. His head explodes:

Now, part of maintaining one’s mental health is not reading op-ed columnists. We all know that they just make one stupider. I wonder if it was ever thus or if a columnist like Mencken or Lippmann could have made one smarter? Probably not.

Anyway, through no fault of my own, I glanced at a Maureen Dowd column that referred to HBO’s “Rome” as “that other gory saga of a declining empire”.

I learned in 7th grade, while studying the Bard’s “Julius Caesar”, that the events surrounding the assassination about Caesar were about the rise of an empire. In fact, as Gibbon wrote in some relatively well-known passages, the apogee of the empire was yet to come.

It is interesting that this is unknown by the editorial board of the NYT. I mean, the information is available on Wikipedia. In fact, the basic historical outline has been posted on the HBO website under “ROME”. But no one cares to look it up. After all, it is only ancient history, and only nerds know about this sort of thing. Cool people who party with the right people shouldn’t actually know the specifics of Roman history; people who do are boring.

But when I was young, this sort of thing was considered important in polite, upper-middle class liberal society. I remember _______ telling me about Gibbon and how every well-educated young person should read him. Clearly, it is not important any more [to anybody at the New York Times]. And that is very interesting...

You could try to rescue Maureen Dowd by saying that she is following the line of Suetonius and is referring to the moral decline of Rome, not its material decline, and that she knows damned well that Julius Caesar was proconsul of Gaul two centuries before the apogee of Rome as an empire, five centuries before the collapse of the empire in the west, and fifteen centuries before the fall of Constantinople.

But who would want to?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Matthew Yglesias wonders how the Gang of 500 can bear to look themselves in the mirror in the morning:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: The Pundit Mobius Strip: I wonder if really elite pundits like Joe Klein ever feel weird about writing that something might look bad even though it makes sense on the merits.

After all, Klein has a substantial ability to affect how things are perceived. He notes that "Just because [liberals are] right about Iraq, and about this escalation, it doesn't mean they won't be blamed by the public if the result of an American withdrawal is lethal chaos in the region and $200 per barrel oil" which is true.

On the other hand, if American withdraws and Joe Klein and other similarly situated people all focus their energy on placing the blame where it belongs -- on the war's architects -- then the odds are pretty good that liberals won't be blamed.

The Note's "Gang of 500" business is a joke, but only sort of. A rather small number of writers, producers, and editors for ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and the Associated Press substantially determine how things will be play in the press.

If those people decide that doing something will "look weak" and then cover it as if it does "look weak" it then will, in fact, look weak. If they determine the reverse, the reverse will probably happen.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Over at the Washington Post, even Deborah "What Does an Ombudsman Do, Again? Nobody Told Me" Howell is shrill: FishbowlDC: Howell Critiques Post's Edwards Story: From her internal Omblog:


More than a dozen readers, both inside the newsroom and outside, were troubled by the John Edwards story on Page today. So was I. Most complainers thought that the story either wasn't worth a story or wasn't worth fronting or both. It was interesting enough to make an item in In the Loop, but not Page 1. I kept looking for the graf that would tell me that the buyers had some history with Edwards, that they were big campaign contributors, that there was some quid pro quo. Nada.

Bill Hamilton, the editor on the story, obviously disagreed. "If the mixture of Georgetown, real estate, a presidential candidate and a secret buyer who turns out to be under investigation for screwing a major union that that candidate is courting is not front page news in a Washington newspaper, then we just have different news judgment.

"I think writing about the finances of presidential candidates is an important service that this newspaper needs to do more of. In this case, we went beyond what was clearly an attempt to shield the important details of a transaction that earned a presidential candidate more than $5 million. And that presidential candidate just happens to be a millionaire who is basing his campaign on a populist appeal to the common man.

"Nowhere in the story did we say that Edwards did anything wrong. But it is a fact of life that a guy who is running for president has to be careful of major financial transactions in a way that normal people do not. In this case he did not take the time to even Google who was buying his house."

Bill Hamilton and John Solomon are not claiming that the buyers bought Edwards's house for more than its fair market value in order to get him to be less supportive of the union. Bill Hamilton and John Solomon are not claiming that Edwards sold the house for less than its fair market value in order to get the buyers to be less hostile to the union. All Bill Hamilton and John Solomon are doing, they say, is... what? Their explanation is that it is a "fact of life that a guy who is running for president has to be careful of major financial transactions in a way that normal people do not."

Yes. Candidates have to be careful not to sell things for less or buy things for more than their fair market value in order to avoid coming under suspicion of making a payoff.Candidates have to be careful not to sell things for more or buy things for less than their fair market value in order to avoid coming under suspicion of receiving a payoff.

But not even Solomon and Hamilton want to be thought of as such idiots as to be the ones making any such allegations, do they?

Each day that either Solomon or Hamilton keeps working at the Post is another nail in its institutional credibility. Each day Len Downie--who put the story on page A1--keeps working for the Post is another nail in its institutional credibility.

Spencer Ackerman is shrill:

toohotfortnr: i was playin with guns while your mama had your punk ass playin tennis: [I]t's hard to tell what exactly Richard [Just] is arguing, since he drifts in and out of agnosticism about the prospect of Iran attacking Israel. At one point, however, he addresses the case of the much-quoted, oft-truncated Rafsanjani quote, and concludes:

So, even if Yglesias is right that "such an eventuality" refers only to the loss of Israel's nuclear superiority, Rafsanjani is celebrating that loss of superiority because it will allow Iran to pursue Israel's destruction by conventional means.

To people who know something about military affairs, this is ... not the greatest interpretation. The prospect of Israel losing to Iran in a conventional military conflict is absurd. The IDF is much, much more powerful than the Iranian military. If I were the Ramatkal, the best war I could ever imagine with Iran would be one in which Iran decides to launch a conventional attack. If Iran decides to send its pilots on a bombing mission, look what they'd be flying in.... Seven F-14s!

One wishes not to be cavalier about the threats allies face, but the IAF has this one well in hand. Let's not bother talking about ground forces. Or training. Or weaponry. Or command structure. Or battle experience. Let's say that Richard is correct that Rafsanjani was talking about blunting Israel's nuclear arsenal in order to even the playing field for a conventional war. If so, Tel Aviv should be popping f------ champagne bottles to celebrate the national suicide of Iran.

More likely, Rafsanjani wasn't making this point, but rather making a point about deterrence while sounding bellicose notes on a national holiday filled with ugly -- but rather typical -- patriotic gore.

Mark Kleiman is shrill:

The Reality-Based Community: Five sweet rollcalls: not a bad start: I'm really grateful to all the pundits and bloggers who have explained to me so carefully what a turkey of a Speaker Nancy Pelosi is, being a gurrrrrrrlll and a San Franciscan to boot. Otherwise, I might have thought that picking five signature issues and getting them all through the House before the SOTU was pretty slick work.

Even more so, I might have been impressed by the actual votes: how Pelosi split the Republicans while holding her own caucus together beautifully. In each case, at least 24 Republicans voted for the Democratic bill, but except for college loans a majority of GOP members were on the unpopular side each time, making four clear partisan issues: protecting the country from terrorists, protecting seniors and the Treasury from Big Pharma, raising the pay of the working poor, and curing disease.

Party discipline among the famously fractious Democrats: near perfect. Other than stem cells, where 16 Democrats voted "no," Democrats lined up just about perfectly; in the four other rollcalls, there were a total of four Democratic "nays," all on the energy bill.

As I say, I might have been fooled into thinking to myself, "Mr. Sam would have been pretty happy with those rollcalls."

Silly me.

Matthew Yglesias is shrill:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Classicists: Victor Davis Hanson espies signs of progress all the world 'round and notes that "If the administration could get their proverbial rock of Sisyphus finally over the top, they would be surprised at how many Middle Eastern governments might profess newfound and opportunistic support, and, at home, how many pundits will readjust and now profess sorta, kinda, maybe not to have been so critical all along."

Um . . . I think Hanson may want to reacquaint himself with the Sisyphus character. If I could only square the circle, I'd be recognized as a major mathematician. Seems like as good a time as any to relink to Julian Sanchez's old Prospect satire imagining Bush pondering Camus.

Matthew Yglesias tries to be reasonable and confused, but can't maintain it. In the update, he falls into shrillness once again:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: I Don't Understand: Richard Just remains convinced that Iran is, in fact, likely to launch an unprovoked nuclear first strike on Israel, and at the same time disclaims possession of any knowledge about Iran or Iranian affairs and denies having a view as to the appropriate policy remedy for this threat. Frankly, I'm confused and don't really know what kind of argument one can mount under those circumstances.

UPDATE: I mean, really, anyone who doesn't think Iran is going to launch an unprovoked nuclear first strike on Israel isn't taking this issue seriously? Kenneth Pollack? Ray Takeyh? Really? Are there any real experts on Iran who agree with the Halevi/Oren/Just position on this? In my experience, stoking paranoia about an Iranian nuclear first strike has been an idiosyncratic project of The New Republic that not even The Weekly Standard has gone in for.

And Richard Just makes his play for the Stupidest Man in the Universe prize:

The Plank: MORE ON IRAN: I'm hesitant to get into a full-blown debate about Iran and Israel.... Unlike me, Yossi and Michael actually know what they're talking about.... But I do want to make a few narrow points. Brad, you note that Khamenei has issued a fatwa against developing nuclear weapons.... Khamenei is, in addition to a hateful man, a liar as well. I suspect you would counter that, since he is a liar, maybe he is also lying about his desire to see Israel destroyed. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. I have no way of knowing, and neither do you....

Matt Yglesias (whom I personally like and respect) accuses me of misrepresenting... Rafsanjani. Since Yglesias has previously made this same accusation against TNR author Matthias Kuntzel, and since his reading of Rafsanjani's speech--then as now--is bizarrely naive, it's worth settling this once and for all. Here is the quote in its original context:

The colonialists will keep this base [Israel] as long as they need it.... [T]hey have arranged it in a way that the balance of power favors Israel.... They have supplied vast quantities of weapons of mass destruction and unconventional weapons to Israel.... They have nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and long-range missiles and suchlike....

If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.

My dispute with Yglesias is over what Rafsanjani meant by the last sentence.... To me, the first reading is the obvious (and more likely) one.... [I]t's impossible to tell: It's an ambiguous phrase, and you can read it either way....

Yglesias will probably label me a warmonger for explaining what Rafsanjani actually said, I'll reiterate what I wrote last week: I don't know what to do about Iran, and I am skeptical of arguments for bombing the country's nuclear facilities...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Excellent Brad Plumer Strikes Again! And boy is he shrill! He causes Minipundit to ask:

Minipundit: Brad Strikes Again: I really don't understand how Brad Plumer has kept his job at TNR after pwning pro-war-with-Iran forces so thoroughly on The Plank...

It's a good question. Minipundit goes on:

[T]he pwnage is a beautiful thing to witness.


The Plank: WHO'S BEING CAVALIER?: Richard [Just], you're absolutely right: Khamenei and Rafsanjani have said some inflammatory things in their day. (Although, as Matt Yglesias notes, you're cherry-picking with that Rafsanjani quote; in context he may have been talking about nuclear deterrence.) Of course, you could fish around and find Khamenei saying non-crazy things too: He's expressly ruled out a first strike against Israel, for instance, and issued a fatwa against using nuclear weapons. Yet those statements are always disregarded, while others are seen as revealing the "true face" of Iran.

So maybe the better option is to look at Iran's actual past behavior rather than mining for quotes. Ray Takeyh's new book, Hidden Iran--which earned a favorable review from Vali Nasr in this magazine--makes a strong case that, historically, Iran has acted quite pragmatically in its foreign affairs. That's why Khamenei and Rafsanjani have the reputation they do, even though everyone agrees that they're loathsome people. Of course, The New Republic tried to get around this point by running a cover story on how Ahmadinejad was totally different and an honest-to-Allah psychopath. But as Juan Cole pointed out, this would be far more troubling if Ahmadinejad actually ran the show.

That's hardly a "cavalier" attitude. Justin Logan of the Cato Institute recently wrote what strikes me as the canonical case against attacking Iran, and it's perfectly hard-headed. No one wants Iran to get nukes--seeing as how India and Pakistan have come close to incinerating each other on occasion, it's scary even when secular regimes get the bomb. But attacking Iran will, at best, merely set their nuclear program back a few years and further entrench the ruling regime in Tehran (and that's if a strike manages to disable all of Iran's nuclear facilities--no small feat). At worst, it will lead to a horrific regional war and make future Iranian nuclear attacks even more likely.

On the other hand, Iran's past behavior--behavior, not various quotes culled from MEMRI--strongly suggests that it can be deterred and even reasoned with. (Indeed, the BBC just reported that Iran offered to cut off all funding for Hezbollah in 2003 in exchange for closer ties with the United States, but Dick Cheney nixed the offer.) So if diplomacy can't convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions--something the Bush administration has never seriously tried--then deterrence is the least-bad option left. Disagree if you want, but don't call it "cavalier". Also note that Iran seems years away from a bomb, giving the United States ample time to at least try diplomacy.

You've also mentioned that Israel can't afford to be as sanguine about Iran's nukes as the United States. Well, true, U.S. interests on this score may not line up perfectly with Israeli interests--for starters, the United States has more to lose from any potential blowback in Iraq, in the event of a military strike. That's worth hashing out, but again, I don't think it's cavalier (or dismissive of Israeli concerns) to do so.

Senator Patrick Leahy is shrill. Attorney General Gonzales should already have been impeached, removed from office, and forbidden to hold any other office of trust or profit under the United States Constitution. In addition, he should have already been sent to the Hague for investigation: - Unassigned - Transcript of Gonzales-Leahy exchange on Arar: This is an edited transcript of the exchange yesterday between U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales and Senate judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy.

LEAHY: You know, I live about an hour's drive from Canada and go up there often. And in Vermont, we tend to get a lot of Canadian news, just radio and so on.

But something that made the news here in the United States was the question of Maher Arar. -- M-A-H-E-R A-R-A-R, in case I mispronounce it.

He's a Canadian citizen. He was returning home from a vacation. Plane stops at JFK in New York and continues on to Canada.

He was detained by federal agents at JFK airport, 2002, on suspicion of ties to terrorism.

He was deported to Syria; was not sent on the couple of hundred miles to Canada and turned over to the Canadian authorities, but he was sent thousands of miles away to Syria. He was held for 10 months.

He was held in abhorrent conditions there and those sending him back must have known he was going to be tortured.

The Canadian government has apologized for its part in this debacle. In fact, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police actually resigned over it. The country is prepared to compensate him for it.

This country has not said anything at all that we made any mistake or had any apology.

Press accounts indicate the Justice Department approved his deportation to Syria.

And I understand he remained on the United States terrorist watch list so he couldn't come 50 miles or 75 miles, whatever, south into the United States without fear of being picked up again, sent back to Syria.

Why is he on a government watch list if he's been found completely innocent by this Canadian commission, which actually had the information from us?

GONZALES: Senator, I've got some very definite views about this particular case, as you know...

LEAHY: Well, go ahead.

GONZALES: ... beyond litigation. What I want to do is, hopefully, in the next few days – I'm happy to sit down with you and Senator (Arlen) Specter and give you more information.

In fact, we may be able to publicly say more about this shortly. I'm just not at liberty, at this time, to...

LEAHY: Let me ask you this: Why aren't you at liberty?

I don't understand that. It's not a matter of executive privilege.

GONZALES: No, sir, again, and I'm not ...

LEAHY: It's only the president that can ...

GONZALES: No, I'm not suggesting that I will not be able to answer your questions. I'm just suggesting I can't do it today.


GONZALES: I just – sir, I'm not – there is not a position – I can't represent the position of the executive branch on this particular issue.

But I think, in a relatively short period of time, there's more information that I should be able to share with you, and hopefully, that we can share publicly.

LEAHY: But why was he sent to Syria instead of Canada?

GONZALES: Well, again, Senator, I'd be happy to answer these questions I think we can say a lot more about it, if you just simply give me some additional time.

LEAHY: Can you tell me why (then attorney-general John Ashcroft) took steps to ensure that he wouldn't be tortured?

Of course, he was.

GONZALES: I believe that piece of information is public. There were steps. I think General Ashcroft confirmed this publicly, is that there were assurances sought that he would not be tortured from Syria.

LEAHY: Attorney-General ...


... I'm sorry. I don't mean to treat this lightly. We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated.

We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured.

And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

You know, and I know, that has happened a number of times, in the past five years, by this country. It is a black mark on us. It has brought about the condemnation of some of our closest and best allies.

And it is easy for us to sit here comfortably in this room knowing that we're not going to be sent off to another country to be tortured, to treat it as though, well, Attorney-General Ashcroft says we've got assurances.

Assurances from a country that we also say, now, we can't talk to them because we can't take their word for anything?

GONZALES: Well, Senator, I ...

LEAHY: I'm somewhat upset.

GONZALES: Yes, sir, I can tell. But before you get more upset, perhaps you should wait to receive the briefing ...

LEAHY: How long?

GONZALES: I'm hoping that we can get you the information next week.

LEAHY: Well, Attorney-General, I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll meet you halfway on this.

I'll wait next week for that briefing. If we don't get it, I guarantee you there will be another hearing on this issue.

Canadians have been our closest allies – longest unguarded frontier in the world. They're justifiably upset. They're wondering what's happened to us. They're wondering what's happened to us.

Now you know and I know, we're a country with a great, great tradition of protecting people's individual liberties and rights. You take an oath of office to do that; I take an oath of office to do that. I believe, in my basic core nature, in that. My grandparents, when they immigrated to this country, believed that.

Let us not, let us not create more terrorism around the world by telling the world that we cannot keep up to our basic standards and beliefs...

Alan Wolfe is shrill:

Eschaton: At one point in "The Enemy at Home," Dinesh D'Souza appeals to "decent liberals and Democrats" to join him in rejecting the American left. Although he does not name me as one of them, I sense he is appealing to people like me because I write for The New Republic, a liberal magazine that distances itself from leftism. So let this "decent" liberal make perfectly clear how thoroughly indecent Dinesh D'Souza is. Like his hero Joe McCarthy, he has no sense of shame. He is a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace, a sorry example of a publishing culture more concerned with the sensational than the sensible. People on the left, especially those who have been subjects of D'Souza's previous books, will shrug their shoulders at his latest screed. I look forward to the reaction from decent conservatives and Republicans who will, if they have any sense of honor, distance themselves, quickly and cleanly, from the Rishwain research scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Matthew Yglesias is shrill:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Textual interpretation of statements by former president Rafsanjani aside, other things to keep in mind regarding the Iran issue:

  • There is overwhelming theoretical and historical reason to believe that no country would mount an unprovoked nuclear first strike against a country with a credible second-strike nuclear deterrent.

  • There is no particular reason to believe that Iran is especially close to obtaining a workable nuclear weapon.

  • There is very little reason to believe that an unprovoked unilateral military attack on Iran will substantially delay the date at which Iran may or may not be in a position to build a nuclear weapon.

  • The phrase "point of no return," though often heard in this debate, has no real practical meaning and, in particular, it's worth pointing out that many nations have passed this point without constructing nuclear weapons.

  • Nothing is more likely to convince future Iranian governments that they should engage in unprovoked "preventative" attacks on other nations in the region than a history of said other nations launching unprovoked "preventative" attacks on Iran.

  • There is substantial empirical and theoretic reason to believe that the Iranian nuclear program is substantially defensive (though probably not "peaceful") in nature.

  • The very administration currently pushing toward a military confrontation with Iran has, in the past, rebuffed Iranian peace overtures and consistently refused to attempt good-faith negotiations aimed at resolving outstanding bilateral disputes between the United States and Iran.

Richard Just at The New Republic is "a little disturbed by the cavalier attitude some liberals have taken towards the prospect of a nuclear Iran". Ah, good, I'm incredibly disturbed by the cavalier attitude warmongers have taken to the truth. Just writes:

As plenty of others have noted (see this TNR Online piece), Ahmadinejad isn't exactly the only member of the Iranian regime who would like to see Israel destroyed. Even a so-called moderate, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, famously said, of a nuclear attack against Israel, "It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." So maybe it's true that Khamenei is taking power back from Ahmadinejad.

I wonder whether or not Just is deliberately trying to mislead his readers about this. Anyways, here's what Efraim Karsh and Rory Miller wrote about Rafsanjani:

The next year, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, widely regarded as a pragmatist, noted that Israel was more vulnerable to nuclear attack than Muslim countries "because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything." Then he added, "It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."

The fact of the matter is that no matter how many times The New Republic truncates that Rafsanjani quotation, it's still the case that he was talking about deterring Israel's nuclear arsenal and not launching an Iranian first strike.

Once More With Feeling | TPMCafe: Here's the full text of the speech from which those quotations are drawn:

The colonialists will keep this base as long as they need it. Now, whether they can do so or not is a separate issue and this is my next point. Any time they find a replacement for that particular instrument, they will take it up and this will come to an end. This will open a new chapter. Because colonialism and imperialism will not easily leave the people of the world alone. Therefore, you can see that they have arranged it in a way that the balance of power favours Israel. Well, from a numerical point of view, it cannot have as many troops as Muslims and Arabs do. So they have improved the quality of what they have. Classical weaponry has its own limitations. They have limited use. They have a limited range as well. They have supplied vast quantities of weapons of mass destruction and unconventional weapons to Israel. They have permitted it to have them and they have shut their eyes to what is going on. They have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles and suchlike.

If one day ... Of course, that is very important. If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality. Of course, you can see that the Americans have kept their eyes peeled and they are carefully looking for even the slightest hint that technological advances are being made by an independent Islamic country. If an independent Islamic country is thinking about acquiring other kinds of weaponry, then they will do their utmost to prevent it from acquiring them. Well, that is something that almost the entire world is discussing right now.

I don't regard this as very ambiguous. Rafsanjani is observing that Israel has achieved strategic superiority in the Middle Eastern region notwithstanding a small population base through the development of superior weapons technologies, including unconventional weapons. He further observers that an Iranian nuclear bomb would neutralize that Israeli advantage. GlobalSecurity observes that this speech "was widely interpreted as indicating that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Israel" and I think that's pretty clearly the correct interpretation. The view that this was a threat to launch an unprovoked nuclear first strike against Israel seems like a very strained reading.

When Daniel Jonah Goldhagen wanted to offer the first strike interpretation in his New Republic article on Iran, he at least did us the courtesy of providing the crucial context line "If, one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill" that preceeded the portion of the quotation that Kuntzel uses ("the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything") and that, I think, made it clear to any fairminded reader that Goldhagen was misconstruing things. Kuntzel, sadly, does no such thing and instead truncates the quotation in a way that makes his preferred reading seem much more plausible than it really is...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mark Levin of National Review freaks out when the Bush administration announces that its claims that it had to avoid FISA jurisdiction were all lies:

And Another Thing . . . on National Review Online: What Is the White House Thinking? Is there no principle subject to negotiation? Is there no course subject to reversal? For the Bush administration to argue for years that this program, as operated, was critical to our national security and fell within the president's Constitutional authority, to then turnaround and surrender presidential authority this way is disgraceful. The administration is repudiating all the arguments it has made in testimony, legal briefs, and public statements. This goes to the heart of the White House's credibility. How can it cast away such a fundamental position of principle and law like this?


Jack Balkin is not shrill about this. That means that he is abnormal--flat of affect:

Balkinization: Attorney General Gonzales: There is no right to habeas corpus in the United States: Attorney General Gonzales matter-of-factly suggested that there is no right to habeas guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution; the Constitution merely states that the right of habeas, whatever it is, cannot be suspended except in cases of rebellion or invasion. Senator Specter was deeply skeptical of this answer, as well he should be.

Prohibitions against suspension are a guarantee of an underlying right, because they prevent certain legal relations between the state and individuals from being suspended except under very limited conditions; and that is what Gonzales' too-clever answer glossed over. Gonzales might have been trying to suggest that statutory habeas was not covered by the Suspension Clause of Article I, section 9, but his remarks went much further, stating that "the Constitution doesn't say, 'Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.' It doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended . . ." Note that Gonzales did not limit himself to individuals within the United States--he included citizens as well....

[H]is remarks show a very worrisome approach toward the Great Writ, and it is not the first time we've seen it. It is the same approach we've already witnessed in the Administration's views about Jose Padilla, Yasser Hamdi, and other accused enemy combatants, as well as its views about detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Under this approach, habeas corpus is not an individual right. It is merely a default rule that can be waived in the interests of national security according to the judgment of the President as Commander-in-Chief.

What is most troubling about this view--that habeas is not a right but a default rule rather easily dispensed with--is that it undermines the very purpose of the Great Writ, both in the United States, and in Great Britain, where it originated: The possibility that the King could dispense with the rule of law and throw individuals in prison because he regarded them an enemy of the state is the very reason why we have a writ of habeas corpus. Substitute "George W. Bush" for "King" and you are rapidly approaching the Administration's desired position...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The shrill Kevin Drum says that Newsweek's Howard Fineman is an even bigger idiot than he imagined. Me? I'm dumbstruck that Newsweek thinks people will pay for this:

Fineman: The Dems' 'High School Musical': Potomac High The earnest straight-A student. The mysterious newcomer. The guys who love to hear themselves talk. No, it's not the pep rally. It's the Democratic primary. You knew Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in high school. At least I did. They were candidates in the student senate election. She was the worthy but puffed-up Miss Perfect, all poodle skirts and multicolored binders clutched to her chest. He was the lanky, mysterious transfer student—-from Hawaii by way of Indonesia no less—-who Knew Things and was way too cool to carry more than one book at a time.

Who would be leader of the pack?

Presidential elections are high school writ large, of course, and that is especially true when, as now, much of the early nomination race is based in the U.S. Capitol. It is even more the case when the party in question, and here we are talking about the Democrats, is not sharply divided ideologically....

As she saw it, she had outmaneuvered all of those big-talking boys who loved to hear the sound of their own voices (think Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and John Kerry). There was that handsome John Edwards to contend with.... Besides, she had convinced that cute Evan Bayh to be her junior-prom date and escort her to the assembly in the auditorium.

Then Obama showed up. He was new, he was smooth, he was skinny, he was smart, but not in-your-face about it. The girls flocked to him, of course—that grin!—but so did the guys, because he had Game. His promised to Change Everything, and yet there was something calming about him-—but also something that told you he might fade away as quickly as he materialized...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brad Setser gets shrill and medieval on Lori Montgomery and Nell Henderson of the Washington Post:

RGE - The Washington Post really doesn't like Social Security: Best I can tell, Social Security is in the best financial shape of any federal program... far better future shape than Medicare.. than the portion of the government that isn’t financed by the payroll tax. That part of the government has a $434 billion deficit. Social Security, by contrast, has a $185b cash flow surplus.

Social Security’s... assets are growing -- they will top $2 trillion at the end of this year. Sure, it will need to draw on the interest on those assets in a few years, but that, after all, was the point of building up the Social Security system’s assets. Consequently, I don’t see why 2017 is a date that causes the social security system any trouble – no matter what Lori Montgomery and Nell Henderson write in the Post.

Social Security surplus will begin to shrink in 2009, as the baby boomers start to retire. It is it estimated that the fund will dry up completely in 2017...

The Social Security trust fund won’t dry up in 2017, according to any projection. Or even 2018 or that matter. That is when the CBO now projects Social Security benefits will first exceed payroll tax revenues. In 2018, Social Security will have to use the interest on its assets to cover its projected benefits. No big deal...

Wow. And I thought I was annoyed at that article.

When Nell Henderson and Lori Montgomery wrote "the fund will dry up completely in 2017" what they meant--or should have meant--was that the flow surplus of Social Security taxes over Social Security benefits will come to an end after 2017, and thereafter Social Security will not reduce but will increase the overall unified federal government deficit.

But they did not say what they meant. What they said cannot be read as saying anything other than that Social Security goes bankrupt in 2017--the [Social Security trust] fund will dry up completely--and thereafter people won't get their Social Security benefits. The use of "fund" and "will dry up completely" in the Social Security context rules out other interpretations.

Knaves or fools?

William F. Buckley is shrill:

William F. Buckley Jr. on Iraq on National Review Online: A geographical division of Iraq is inevitable. The major players are obvious. It isn't plain how America, as an outside party, could play an effective role, let alone one that was decisive, in that national redefinition. And America would do well to encourage non-American agents to act as brokers %u2014 people with names like Ban Ki-moon. On the basis of this analysis I will vote against supplementary American involvement in Iraq.

Brendan Nyhan is shrill:

Mike Pence dissembles on 1990 recession: Brendan Nyhan "Mr. Reasonable himself" -- Wonkette: Time to play economic literacy 101 with another supply-sider. Rep. Mike Pence, a conservative Republican who ran unsuccessfully for minority leader, writes in the Wall Street Journal today that the 1990 tax increase signed by George H.W. Bush "ushered in economic recession":

We have been down this road before. In 1990, I was a young candidate for Congress when the last Bush administration sided with a Democrat majority in Congress to pass the largest tax increase in history, all in the name of bipartisanship and compromise. This compromise ushered in economic recession and a two-term Democratic administration in the White House. We cannot walk down the 1990 road to "compromise" again.

However, the National Bureau of Economic Research dates the beginning of the recession to July 1990, and the compromise bill that included a tax increase wasn't enacted until November 1990. Bush didn't even indicate he would support a tax increase until late June. This makes the Laffer Curve look like rigorous social science

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Prometheus 9 is shrill:

Now I haven't been a fan of Orlando Patterson since he declared that my sociology graduate students friends who got money to eat by teaching outside the Sociology Department lacked a proper sense of loyalty to their department and their discipline. But he did get one big thing right: slavery is social death. The whole point of slavery is that slaves simply do not exist in the social and moral calculus.

We see that in Mark Graber, for whom the groups with moral and political claims with respect to the 1787 constitutional order are "Tribe A" (northern free-soilers), "Tribe B" (slavemaster Southerners), but not "Tribe C" (slaves). We saw that in Ken Burns's "Civil War," where Shelby Foote would with a straight face discourse on the "united South" defending itself from invasion.

And we see this as applied to slaves, ex-slaves, and their descendants today by David Brooks.

Let's turn the mike over to Prometheus 9:

David Brooks is sooo gullible | Prometheus 6: In [TS] The American Way of Equality, he lauds Seymour Martin Lipset, "the eminent sociologist who died at 84 on New Year’s Eve." I think he picked a dead guy either because he can't defend himself

Though Lipset never quite put it this way, the clear message from his writings is that when achievement and equality clash in America, achievement wins.

or because folks hate to speak ill of the dead. Being the sixth reification of a Chaos Lord, I have no such scruples. Because if this

America never had a feudal past, so nobody has a sense of social place or class-consciousness, Lipset observed.

is in any way an accurate understanding of Lipset's position, then he was singularly ignorant. The entire Solid South was a feudal society. And the idea that no one in the USofA has a sense of social place or class-consciousness is just laughable.

But we ARE talking David Brooks here.

Steve Gilliard is shrill:

THE NEWS BLOG: You know, I have a couple of hundred military history books. But, never, in my wildest dreams, would I look a bunch of 19 year olds in the face and say let's go take that building. Because I don't know the first thing about leading men in combat. Why the fuck is the president listening to this fat motherfucker who wouldn't know how to load an M-4, much less take one apart in the dark. If I had served with Jack Keane, I would call him a disgrace to the Army for allowing the president to listen to this assclown. I mean, I would fly to Washington, have lunch with him and say this shit to his face. No letter, no e-mail, face to fucking face.

He would deserve that much consideration.

Robert Kagan has no business making war. None. He is so shitty at his chosen profession, he isn't even a tenured professor, but an assclown at a think tank.

But the sick part is that people who know better are pushing this bullshit.

You know, I respected Harry McMaster, until I realized he was bucking for a star. As a battlefield commander in the 1991 Gulf War, his personal courage was unquestioned. But when I read the self-serving bullshit he was pushing out about Tal Afar, shit his own men didn't believe, shit reporters exposed as bullshit, that he had gotten rid of the terrorists. Hell, the Shia were calling for the Wolf Brigade to kill the Turkomen and Sunnis.

Instead of pushing this shit, he should have retired to oppose this.

But he picked the wrong branch. Back in the day, Armored Cav was the shit, going up the Fulda Gap, it was a good job, but times change. The future of that branch is Strikers and armored cars, not M-1's and Bradleys. So what's a man to do?

He refashions himself as a counterinsurgency expert. Which he accomplished by driving a tank.

Someone at JSOC has had a good laugh over this.

You have this fat piece of shit, Kagan, pushing a plan, supported by people who lost their fucking minds or never had them to begin with. Petraeus is either an optimist or hid his Courtney Massingale side until late in his career. Even though I was not a fan of the way Charles Swannick led the 82nd in Iraq, he, John Baptiste and Paul Eaton are so morally and ethically above him it's shocking. They had the decency to retire and tell the truth.

Now, a lot of the hype about Petraeus comes from Rick Atkinson, who between his history of the Army in WWII, did go to Iraq. But he's mostly a light infantry guy, with some leg infantry time. But mostly he was 101 and 82nd. He is no SF type. Yet, he was allow to toss out the parts he didn't like.

Again, JSOC had people rolling their eyes.

How the fuck is Ray Odierno in command of anything besides his lawn mower. His command of the 4th ID was a disgrace. You have Buford Blount, who successfully led the 3ID nearly cashiered for asking too many questions during the drive to Baghdad, and you have Odierno, who's battalion commanders sucked, one being a raving lunatic who sought out ambushes, now running the war.

Odierno should have been forced to retire. Period.

When will someone like Wes Clark or Tony Zinni put the cards on the table and say the obvious: why the fuck are you listening to Robert fucking Kagan. They are embarassing the Army and their chosen profession by listening to this fucking moron. I mean, have they no pride? No respect for their own profession? Robert Kagan sits in a room and makes shit up. He has no experience in war. To take his advice seriously should draw the scorn of their peers.

This is akin to taking a health care analyst and telling him to remove a bullet. Kagan writes books. He has no business making military policy. None, and Odierno and Petraeus should be ashmed as professional military men to take his idiotic fucking advice.

Matthew Yglesias is shrill:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Surgers Versus The Surge: The Washington Post reports that America's generals don't think much of Bush's plan "to add up to 20,000 troops to the 132,000 U.S. service members already on the ground." Interestingly, even though they don't put it that way, even th eauthors of the surge plan think this is a bad idea: "Kagan and Keane both emphasized that the surge has to be both substantial (minimum 30,000 troops) and sustained (minimum 18 months)." A Kagan-Keane sized escalation won't be mounted because the Joint Chiefs say it's logistically impossible. But according to Kagan and Keane success requires "a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail."

This is the sort of thing that can make a man shrill; I'm not sure what other indication you need that this cruel farce is being undertaken in bad faith. Or does Bush have some actual reason to believe that the number of additional troops required for the Iraq mission to succeed just so happens to be the exact number of troops who it's logistically possible to send? That's be a hell of a coincidence, wouldn't it?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Peggy Noonan is shrill:

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan: I had the odd and wholly unexpected experience of feeling supportive of a troop increase until I saw the president's speech arguing for it. What a jarring, furtive-seeming thing it was.

Surely the Iraq endeavor and those who've fought in it and put their hopes in it deserve more than collapse, withdrawal and calamity. But . . . 20,000 more troops, who'll start to arrive over the next few months, and we'll press the Iraqi government to be tougher? A young journalist who is generally supportive of the president said, "So this is it? The grand strategy is to repeat a strategy they weren't able to execute the first time they tried it?"

What a dreadful mistake the president made when he stiff-armed the Iraq Study Group report, which had bipartisan membership, an air of mutual party investment, the imprimatur of what remains of or is understood as the American establishment, and was inherently moderate in its proposals: move diplomatically, adjust the way we pursue the mission, realize abrupt withdrawal would yield chaos. There were enough good ideas, anodyne suggestions and blurry recommendations (blurriness is not always bad in foreign affairs--confusion can buy time!) that I thought the administration would see it as a life raft. Instead they pushed it away. Like the old woman in the flood who took to the roof and implored God to send a boat to save her. A hunk of wood floated by as she prayed with fervor. A busted wooden door floated by as the waters rose and she doubled her prayers. Finally she cried "God, I asked you to save me and you didn't send a boat!" And the voice of God answered: "I sent you a hunk of wood and a door!"

We don't always recognize deliverance when it arrives.

There was something unnerving about the speech, from the jumpy beginning to the stumbles to the sound glitches. A jittery affair, and some dusk hung over it. At the end I suspected the president's aides had instructed him again and again not to strut or have an edge. He perhaps understood that as: Got it--don't be me. He couldn't do wounded wisdom, but he could repress cocky cowboy. The result was that he seemed not chastened but effaced, not there. It was odd. One couldn't find the personal geography of the speech.

Nothing in it really worked. "I had a sinking feeling," said a conservative journalist afterward. An old Republican hand: "He looked like he was over his head." Of the call for bipartisanship: "A tad late." John McCain looked pale--he looked like a ghost among the pillars--as he gave reaction on Fox from the Capitol. His voice was soft, feathery, like a speaker who'd been knocked flat on the way to the podium. "I'd much rather lose a campaign than lose a war," he said. I wondered if he was thinking, Once again this man sinks my fortunes. It's South Carolina all over again! Dianne Feinstein seemed grave on CNN. "Oh, my heart fell," she said of the president's proposal. "I was very disappointed by it." She wanted more attention to Mideast peace efforts.

Pat Buchanan on MSNBC warned of what would happen if the U.S. simply withdrew or maintained the status quo: "I think the president's gonna get this last chance, but I think it's the last one." There has been something gallant in the old battler who'd opposed the war taking no pleasure in the current crisis. Democratic foreign affairs veteran Richard Holbrooke on PBS: The speech was "an astonishing event. . . . The president is doubling down on every bad bet." Republican veteran Ken Duberstein: "I found myself watching the speech thinking, 'I want to believe.'" He did not hide his skepticism...

Rod Dreher is shrill:

Crunchy Con: My All Things Considered commentary - Rod Dreher, Conservative blog, Beliefnet conservative politics and religion blog: I talk about coming to terms with the end of an illusion. As someone who came of political age under Reagan, I've been a conservative for most of my life (for the sake of brevity, NPR edited out the part of the essay in which I explained that I'd had a high school and early-college dalliance with liberalism). I disdained the Vietnam-era "hippie" mentality with regard to national security. I took it for granted that those people were hung up on Vietnam, and ought not be listened to because they were blame-America-first liberals....

I formed my political views on national security in the confident glow of Reaganism. For me, it was a fact of life that Republicans were strong, capable and confident, and Democrats were weak, vacillating and incompetent.... When Bush led us into the Iraq War, I thought the liberals who predicted doom -- and, crucially, the conservatives (like Buchanan) who did as well -- were either fools, cowards or unpatriotic. But now I see that I was the fool. In the NPR piece, I wrote about how I sat there watching Bush's speech and thought that when they get old enough to understand these things, I have got to teach my children never, ever to take the word of presidents or generals at face value. To question authority, because the government will send you off to kill and die for noble-sounding rot (e.g., crusading for democracy in the Middle East). And it hit me that this is precisely the message that so many of those who lived through the Vietnam experience tried to tell my generation -- in my case, and in the case of so many other Gen X Reagan Youth, in vain.

I wonder if my kids will take me seriously in the future when I tell them what happened in this war, and how the Republican administration that their father believed in and voted for twice brought this country to this terrible place, through its mendacity and incompetence. Or will they think me a crank? Will they have to learn for themselves?

The thing is, I am no less conservative now than I was at the outset of this war. I've had some e-mails from listeners accusing me of apostatizing to the left. That's only true if you think the sum of conservatism is to support the Bush government and its war. Which is nonsense -- and part of the foolish mindset that led me to think that conservatives who opposed this war from the beginning on principle were somehow doing so in bad faith. But I am a different kind of conservative. I am vastly more suspicious of the state, and of the mob mentality, which I joined at the time. I can't help feeling that all the trust in governmental institutions that Reagan so painstakingly built up after the disillusionment of Watergate and the Vietnam debacle will now have been shattered by Bush, though we won't realize that until the Iraq adventure collapses fully...

John Derbyshire is shrill! And pigs put on their goggles and take to the air!

From "The Corner": "Sorry, but it struck me as a snow job, from an administration that -- pretty much like the rest of us -- has no clue where to go from here. The central and most glaring contradiction is the implied threat to walk away -- yoked to the ringing declaration that, of course, we can't walk away. We seem to be saying to the Maliki govt.: 'Hey, you guys better step up to your responsibilities, or else we're outa here.' This, a few sentences after saying that we can't leave the place without a victory.

So-o-o-o: (1) We can't leave Iraq without a victory. (2) Unless Maliki & Co. get their act together, we can't achieve victory. (3) If Maliki & Co. don't get their act together, we'll leave. It's been a while since I studied classical logic, but it seems to me that this syllogism leaks like a sieve...

The President: 'Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria.' We haven't been doing this? How many of the 21,500 troops of the 'surge' will be assigned to these operations? Leaving how many for Baghdad and Anbar? Shall we have a 'hot pursuit' policy? And, returning to the issue of sticks: What, exactly, do Iran and Syria have to fear from us, whatever they do?

I would quarrel with his "poor Colin Powell": Colin Powell is a grownup, and he knew very well that he was making a high-stakes gamble when he put loyalty to Bush over patriotism or loyalty to the army. But otherwise...

He talks to his readers at

War and Piece: :

Seattle, Wash.: Hello Jonathan. It seems the question du jour is who, among Senate Republicans, is likely to break with the Prez and support an anti-escalation resolution? Are there enough to support a cloture motion? Thanks.

Jonathan Weisman: I can name at least six, and as the weeks go on, that number will grow. Even Senate Minority Leader McConnell said yesterday he didn't know if he had the votes to sustain a filibuster. That's bad for Bush.

Cambridge, Mass.: Thanks for taking questions. The "surge" hearings in Congress remind me of the astonishment I feel when I read about how strong a candidate Condie Rice would be if she were to decide to run for president. Next to Cheney no one has had more influence on Bush than Rice as NSA in concocting the failed policy to begin with, and next to Rumsfeld no one has had more of a role in failing to execute foreign policy than Rice as Secretary of State.

What exactly does she bring to the table besides loyalty to Bush and Cheney, and what value does that currency have these days (or more important in 2008 or even 2012)?

Jonathan Weisman: Condy ain't going anywhere in 2008 and after yesterday, I think she could think of no better place to leave than Washington. I agree that the taint of the Iraq war has crippled what political ambitions she might have had -- and I don't think she had any. Ditto poor Colin Powell. The big question is, what impact will it have on John McCain.


Scarsdale, N.Y.: I enjoyed your colleague Sudarsan Raghavan's article today following Apache Company on patrol. However, the soldiers need to be court-martialed for questioning the President. They also point to the President's recognition of the real problem in Iraq. Does Spec. Caldwell care about doing his job, shooting terrorists? No, he worries about whether he'll get to see the birth of his child in seven months, as though that matters when compared to the epoch struggle against Islamic terrorism we face today. Oh, and he says "I want to go back and play my Playstation". Some kind of soldier. U.S. Unit Patrolling Baghdad Sees Flaws in Bush Strategy (Post, Jan. 12)

Jonathan Weisman: OK, Scarsdale, suit up. Baghdad needs you.

Shakespeare's Sister Is Shrill

Shakespeare's Sister : Our new Secretary of Defense did not tell the House Armed Services Committee in Congressional testimony yesterday "I'm no expert on Iraq" and "I'm no expert on military matters."

Yes. Yes he did.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sebastian Holsclaw has, finally, joined the reality-based community and is now one of the shrill. Welcome!

Obsidian Wings: Nothing New: Well now that we have heard the president's speech on the troop surge, I can safely say what I strongly suspected: Bush's strategy is unchanged from the stragedy he has played out since the beginning. He has no explanation for why we have done so poorly thus far, and thus can offer no reason why adding a few troops to the mix will make things better. Even as someone who argued for more troops from the time we invaded Afghanistan, I can see no good reason to throw more troops to die in Iraq.

And while I hate failing, I hate wasting people's lives on a failure even more.

Which unleashes the commenters:

...You're not interested in outlining the point at which you realized that ever supporting Bush was a terrible mistake, and your opponents in argument were right all along? Most right-wing bloggers are never going to do that: of course, most right-wing bloggers are apparently not even willing now to admit that their past support of Bush was a terrible mistake. Pro-war pundits, amateur and professional, have in general been extremely reluctant to admit their persistent wrongness - even when they change their minds. When a person pursues a course of action so wrong-headed for years on end, and then suddenly realizes "hey, I was wrong, and all those people who told me I was wrong were right" you'd at least expect a sheepish acknowledgement, if not a handsome avowal.

Posted by: Jesurgislac | January 11, 2007 at 04:04 AM....

Jesurgislac, is there some purpose to be served by Sebastian prostrating himself aside from providing personal satisfaction to you? I mean, I'm perfectly happy to mock his wrongness as well, but I don't expect him to dance like a monkey for me.

Posted by: Phil | January 11, 2007 at 06:05 AM....

What's the out of the box idea that would actually make it possible to "win" this thing? The fundamental problem is that the most potent force in Iraq is al-Sadr and his militias/death squads. Not only do they perpetrate sectarian violence, but they also represent the scary side of Islam. But the Maliki government is wedded to Sadr both by ideology and fear and is never going to do anything about him, no matter how many nice sounds Maliki makes about rooting out violence from all sides.

What can we do to "solve" this problem? For starters, we'd have to change the regime yet again. This strategy worked well in 1965 and it should work well today. Then we'd basically have to send in enough troops to turn Sadr City into another Fallujah. Then... well, gosh, I'm not sure I can even go on from here, I'm so overcome by the feasibility of the plan so far.

The fact is that there are no good solutions. The most practical route is to reject your initial assumption, and realize that the continuation of the war is not inevitable just because The Decider says so. A steadfast majority has ways of making its voice heard.

Posted by: Steve | January 11, 2007 at 09:08 AM....

One more vote that what he's really doing is running out the clock. Politically, I think the Democratic presidential candidates have to make that explicit -- come out for withdrawal, and withdrawal on the basis that it should have happened now or earlier, and the only reason we're going to have to do it in 2009 is that Bush was too craven to face reality now. It's Bush's war, and Bush's failure -- we'll just be stopping the bleeding.

Posted by: LizardBreath | January 11, 2007 at 10:01 AM....

If I'm trying to use a 3-foot stepladder to reach the top of my 3-story house, is putting a phonebook on top of it a new strategy?

Posted by: KCinDC | January 11, 2007 at 10:05 AM...

Put me down as one of those who would like to see Sebastian dance like a monkey. It would add a very small amount of happiness to days that are otherwise spent pounding my head against the wall.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The existence of Jason Zengerle proves that I must have been very bad in a previous life. Very, very bad. So very bad that I must carry an infinitely-heavy karmic burden. How else could it be just for me to have to live in a world that contains such evil things? Evil things like this:

Jason Zengerle: The question about the surge to me is: are the consequences of defeat so dire that it's worth one final attempt to avoid it? I don't know the answer to that.

Now that's not a totally unreasonable question. It's largely unreasonable, given that nobody in favor of the now-downsized "surge" can explain why anybody should think it will lead to anything that could be called "victory" in Iraq, and lots of people can say why it probably won't. But it's not totally unreasonable. And we should applaud Jason Zengerle for having the self-knowledge to know that he doesn't have an informed answer to this question.

But what is totally bats----insane-cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo is how Jason Zengerle hopes to acquire the information about the state of Iraq and the U.S. military to reach an informed answer to this question:

I'll watch Bush's speech tomorrow night; I'll listen to what Kennedy and Biden and any other Democrats have to say in response; and I'll try to come to a conclusion.

"I'll watch Bush's speech," he says. I'll watch Bush's speech. I'LL WATCH BUSH'S SPEECH. And by watching Bush's speech Jason Zengerle thinks he will learn, thinks he will gain information about the state of Iraq and the U.S. military, thinks he will become smarter and wiser and the fog in his brain will clear and he will have an informed opinion. This is so bats----insane-cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo I... I.. I. I. I just cannot go on.

If it were only "I will read Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency manual." But no. It isn't. It's "I will watch Bush's speech." Whimper. Sob. Aaagh.

If Fafblog were here, Fafblog would say:

We have a suggestion as to a more productive way that Jason Zengerle could spend his time Wednesday night. Instead of trying to learn about Iraq by watching George W. Bush's speech, he should instead down four mojitos and watch the pole-dancing stylings of Cecil the Wonder Turkey. Scientific tests have proved that watching the pole-dancing stylings of Cecil the Wonder Turkey produces 600% more knowledge about Iraq and the U.S. military than does watching a speech by George W. Bush.

But alas, Fafblog is not here. We are doomed.

Cecil the Wonder Turkey:

Dymaxion World reports that after seven years news impulses have made their way from Richard Cohen's eyes to his brain, and that as a result Cohen is now among us:

Dymaxion World: Holy Crap! Richard Cohen writes something sensible!: Richard Cohen, last seen whining about how mean Stephen Colbert was to the President at a White House dinner:

...Up against this kind of mentality, the rational man seeks comfort in fantasy. It was our fantasy that a new Iraqi government, formulated months ago, would so turn things around that Bush would begin a phased withdrawal. It was our fantasy that the November congressional elections would make a difference -- and that Bush would be forced, when he saw the clear sentiment of the American people, to reverse himself. It was our fantasy that the report of the Iraq Study Group would compel the president to rethink everything -- so vast was the panel's expertise, so sound its reasoning and so comforting its appropriately thinning hair. In fact, so wasted was its effort. The members were the mullers. Bush was the decider.

And so those who have decided otherwise -- a couple of four-stars, maybe the chief spook and all those awfully smart people throughout government and academia -- are ignored and/or are heading out the door. Bush listened to them when he agreed with them and refused to listen when he did not....The execution of Saddam Hussein was Iraq in a nutshell.... It was sloppy, putrid with the stench of sectarian hatred and, as always, totally unnecessary. George Bush saw it differently by not, as is his custom, seeing it at all.

Matthew Yglesias transforms himself into the form of whatever-it-was in "Hellboy" and uses his mighty tentacles to rend Jeffrey Goldberg into shreds and gobbets:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002:[S]someone should let Jeffrey Goldberg know that whatever you want to call the fact that the Democratic base thinks fighting AIDS should be a top foreign policy priority means, it can't mean that Democrats are retreating from internationalism. We're looking at an intense concern for the well-being of foreigners who live in states too poor or too chaotic to take care of them properly and, perhaps, concern about the second-order consequences of indifference to their fate. As Henley likes to say here, the specter of "isolationism" in this context is merely "a reluctance to travel a long distance to kill foreigners at great expense....

And so it goes for Goldberg. His basic view seems to be that if you're an "internationalist" you must agree with him that the war in Iraq should be continued indefinitely, perhaps escalated à la Bush/McCain, and then expanded to Iran. But if this is internationalism -- if it means committing an endless series of military blunders -- then who needs it?

Duncan Black gets shrilly medieval--medievally shrill--on Joe Klein:

Eschaton: Opposing War: Joe Klein today:

The fact that I've been opposed to the Iraq war ever since this 2002 article in Slate just makes it all the more aggravating. But it's possible to have been against the war and to hope for the best in Iraq. I'd bet that the overwhelming majority of Americans who now oppose the war are praying for a turn for the better in Iraq. Listening to the leftists, though, it's easy to assume that they are rooting for an American failure.

Which leftists, Joe? He does not say, unsurprisingly. Still, I can't support or refute his assertion that he was "opposed to the Iraq war ever since this 2002 article in Slate" because his link is f----d up. However, we do have this from... 2003!

This is a really tough decision. War may well be the right decision at this point. In fact, I think it--it's--it--it probably is.

That's some opposition. A------.

Ezra Klein is not yet a trained professional. It's dangerous for him to be this shrill:

TAPPED: THE BAD KLEIN. I don't really know what to say about Joe Klein's recent tantrums and continuous self-humiliation. Can't Ana Marie take him aside and ask him to stop? But amidst Klein's attempts to discredit my surname and his laughable posts whining about nasty rhetoric while calling liberals fools and dilettantes, he's actually making a point... that doesn't deserve to go unchallenged. Klein writes:

The latest to make a fool of himself is Paul Krugman of the New York Times, who argues that those who favor the increase in troops are either cynical or delusional. Mostly the latter. Delusional neocons like Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan, to be precise. But what about retired General Jack Keane--whom Krugman doesn't mention--and the significant number of military intellectuals who have favored a labor-intensive counterinsurgency strategy in Baghdad for the past three years... they, not Kagan and Kristol, are the motivating force behind Bush's new policy. As for K & K, Krugman's right: they've been wrong about Iraq. But at least they've taken the trouble to read the doctrine and talk to key players like Keane and General David Petraeus. Liberals won't ever be trusted on national security until they start doing their homework.

Here's Michael Duffy, writing this week's cover story for Time magazine, Klein's employer:

The surge belongs to the neocons and in particular to Frederick Kagan, who taught military history at West Point for a decade and today works out of the American Enterprise Institute as a military analyst. Kagan argued for a surge last fall in the pages of the Weekly Standard, the neocons' house organ, after the military's previous surge, Operation Forward Together, failed in late October. Kagan turned to former Army Vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane, a retired four-star general who still has street cred at the Pentagon, to help flesh out the plan and then sell it to the White House.

Let's recap: Klein is arguing that Paul Krugman is a lazy fool because he attributes the surge strategy to Frederick Kagan and the neocons.... Michael Duffy, [Time's] main political reporter and a guy who presumably does "talk to key players" and "read the doctrines," reported that the surge "belongs to the neocons and in particular to Frederick Kagan," and made it clear that Kagan sought out Jack Keane to add credibility.... A far cry from Klein's claim that military intellectuals "are the motivating force behind Bush's new policy."...

Either Joe Klein is wrong on the facts, or Michael Duffy is. In either case, Time magazine is paying someone to misinform their readership.... [H]ere's a question for [Klein]: Are you misrepresenting the facts in order to blast liberals, or is your magazine's cover story a heap of lies? I, by the way, am a subscriber, and so would really like to know.

Joe Klein has driven Ezra Klein further into shrillness:

Ezra Klein: Joe Klein And The Politics of Tone: Sometimes I wonder if Joe's actually trying to soil my surname. His very first blog post (oh what a day!) reads like a parody of the form. By the time the first three sentences wind to their merciful end, he's already accused Democrats of sounding like "ill-informed dilettantes" and accused Paul Krugman of "making a fool out of himself." Ill-informed? Foolish? Tsk tsk, those bloggers and their language.

Klein's actual complaint is staggering in its mendacity: Democrats, who he thinks are right about the uselessness of a "surge" strategy, are being too nasty in saying so. Let's go over that again: In Joe Klein's very first blog post, his initial chance to opine in an instant and high-profile medium, he doesn't choose to inveigh against a dangerous and counterproductive strategy which he admittedly believes would cost thousands of lives and prolong an immoral, grievously wrong-headed war. No, he chooses to toss off a tantrum against Democrats who are too rhetorically dismissive of the strategy he admittedly believes would cost thousands of lives and prolong an immoral, grievously wrong-headed war.

What is wrong with these people?

Monday, January 08, 2007

I am shrill once again--this time because of both Joe Klein and George W. Bush. Greg Sargent is shrill to. He writes, apropos of Joe Klein:

The Horse's Mouth: Joe Klein -- who once wrote that bloggers are "frothing," "screeching," and filled with "vitriol" -- has just started blogging himself! And the results, it must be said, are pretty weak. In fact, come to think of it, Klein comes across as pretty frothy and screechy himself today. He claims Paul Krugman has made a "fool" of himself, and indulges in just the sort of thing he's complained about finding in the blogosphere: Reckless assertions not backed up by any reporting.

And Klein writes:

I'm afraid I'm going to get cranky about this: The Democrats who oppose the so-called "surge" are right. But they have to be careful not to sound like ill-informed dilettantes when talking about it. The latest to make a fool of himself is Paul Krugman of the New York Times, who argues that those who favor the increase in troops are either cynical or delusional. Mostly the latter. Delusional neocons like Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan, to be precise. But what about retired General Jack Kean--whom Krugman doesn't mention--and the significant number of military intellectuals who have favored a labor-intensive counterinsurgency strategy in Baghdad for the past three years? They are serious people. They may be wrong about Iraq now, reflexively trying to complete a mission that has been lost, but they are not delusional...

Should we start by saying that General Jack Keane's name has a final "e" on it? And that somebody who doesn't know how to spell General Keane's name and yet endorses his plan comes across as--nay, is!--an ill informed dilettante?

Or should we start by saying that the original Keane-Kagan plan put forward in November called for "surging 50,000 more troops--with the equipment they need--into Iraq in the coming weeks and months"? And that all mention of the "50,000" figure has been deleted from the plan at Somebody who doesn't know that Keane has changed his plan in midstream--that the plan originally called for a surge of 50,000 troops but is now down to 20,000 has made a fool of himself, hasn't he?

Or should we start by pointing out that almost without exception the military intellectuals who have favored a labor-intensive counterinsurgency strategy have called for a much bigger troop increase than the piddly 20,000 of George W. Bush's surge? "300,000 Arabic-speaking military police" is what I have heard for years now? Is Joe Klein deaf, not to know that standard force requirements for serious counterinsurgency are much bigger than the proposed surge? Or is Joe Klein simply ignorant of counterinsurgency doctrine, of the size of Bush's likely proposals, or both of both?

Or should we start by saying that somebody who begins his piece by saying that "the Democrats who oppose the so-called 'surge' are right" and concludes by saying that "liberals won't ever be trusted on national security until they start doing their homework" is badly delusional himself? I mean, if liberals haven't done their homework how can anybody know that they are right--as Joe Klein does? Is Joe Klein saying that he has done their homework for them?