Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back to Normal

This article in the Weekly Standard (hat tip DD) describing the rehabilitation for former insurgents and how they are being redeployed as relatively functional persons is one more suggestion that politics is moving into the "post Iraq war" era. I use the phrase advisedly because combat in that country is likely to continue for some time. But as the diplomatic crisis between Iraq and Turkey over the Kurdish secessionists emphasizes, it is starting to become just another normal messed up Middle Eastern country with this crucial difference: it has gone through occupation, an abortive civil war and an ideological revolution all in about four years time.



The process of moving from the height of crisis into relative normalcy is an interesting one. Roger Simon predicts "the US will win the War in Iraq, and Hillary Clinton will be elected our next President" which in some way reflects the expectation of a kind of American "normalization" too. It would be ironic but not entirely surprising if Hillary Clinton's victory was facilitated by voters feeling they could live with her now that there was nothing left for her to mess up any more. That might not be true yet people might think that.

George H. Bush lost to Bill Clinton after winning Desert Storm and Winston Churchill to Clement Atlee two months after the surrender of Nazi Germany. Sometimes people react to the end of a crisis with a nostalgic yearning for their old messed-up lives. The crisis of course, never truly passes. It just changes form. Who could have guessed that Desert Storm itself would provide a pretext for Osama Bin Laden to launch his Jihad upon America. Britain in 1945 threw itself into itself into the "postwar consensus" which established the welfare state and liquidated the Empire. They were going to build a "land fit for heroes" only to become the economic basket case of Europe. But that was tomorrow's trouble then and no one wanted -- no one could have -- imagined a James Callaghan or his cure: Margaret Thatcher.

If history holds any lesson it is that it never truly stops. But people want it to seem so, at least for a while. Classical Values thinks the public is suffering from information fatigue. It's the weariness of sustained effort. That leaves an opening which a canny politician can exploit. And while it's probably impossible to build a political platform entirely on the prospect of mellowing out maybe part of the public may secretly be waiting for a politician who will offer to lead them to fun times. Waiting for a What the Heck platform. Rick Moran asked whether America had become a pathologically gloomy country with one party focused on apocalyptic threat to America and the other to endlessly decrying "malaise". But being constantly gloomy is tiring work and counterproductive in the end. One of the secrets to Ronald Reagan's leadership was making okay again to be hopeful and have a good time. Reagan made it licit to both fight the Evil Empire while simultaneously affirming the sanctity of going bowling on a Saturday night. He showed us a City on the Hill not as a palace of cold marble, but as a place where you could laugh within its lighted halls and occasionally drink a six pack of beer on its ocean-beaten margins. Even if you had to go to work the next day.

The world crisis is far from over. It will never be over and that's the point: death and sorrow will always be the companions of our journey; so we might as well lighten up. We live in a period of unparalleled opportunity. This century we leave Earth and take our first tentive steps into outer space -- if we can get the environmentalist's permission to do so. This century we end our dependency on oil, get viable robotic servants, self-driving cars, extended lifespans, pervasive connectivity and with any luck, cheaper dentistry. This and nuclear carbombs, maybe. And if the future is dark it is also incomparably bright.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."

Wasn't it that way always?

23 Comments:

Blogger Teresita said...

It would be ironic but not entirely surprising if Hillary Clinton's victory was facilitated by voters feeling they could live with her now that there was nothing left for her to mess up any more..

As if GWB was Mr. Perfect.

Hillary would have gone to Afghanistan to avenge 9-11, but not the Iraq side show. That was driven by Cheney and the neo-con PNAC gallery.

Hillary would have been down there in New Orleans the day after the levee broke with rolled up sleeves.

10/23/2007 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger falcon_01 said...

Why would the levee break with rolled up sleeves? I thought it broke because of Democrat corruption and abuse of funds... Always trying to point the finger at Bush... I should have known it was the levee's fault.

10/23/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Afghanistan was a training base and it has been supplanted to some extent by Pakistan, but the real center of gravity is the Middle East and Europe. Osama's latest plea for Muslims in Iraq to unite represents a political loss -- not just his base in the tribal areas of the NWFP -- but in the heartland of Sunni Islam.

The significance of the al-Qaeda's rejection by large segments of Iraqi society represents a psychological victory of immense proportions. And I think Michael Yon is right when he says it is a victory in Iraq would be of "such strategic consequence" as can hardly be properly assessed.

10/23/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

W: And I think Michael Yon is right when he says it is a victory in Iraq would be of "such strategic consequence" as can hardly be properly assessed.

Even the Bush team has given up on using the word "victory" and now says the catch-phrase "return on success". Victory requires a vanquished enemy. Success can be defined any way you like.

10/23/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Has the institution of the US military once again pulled the world's bacon out the fire? Knock on wood, of course of course, but maybe so.

10/23/2007 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

CARE: Though the ear choose not to hear,
In the heart I echo, clear:
Savage power I exercise,
Transformed I am, to mortal eyes.
On the land, and on the ocean,
Evermore the dread companion,
Always found, and never sought,
Praise, as well as cursed, in thought.

-- Faust II, Goethe.

Always before us the awful night's intense profound. Me? I think I'll take you up on that beer.

10/23/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I see all too often the advancement of the “Period” theory of history, as in thinking of history in the same manner as we do hemlines and hair lengths, and then using that as justification to abandon previous successful approaches to solving the very problems that don’t appear to be so large any more. It’s like saying “Hey! The Black Death is so yesterday! Quit worrying about all those rats!”

This is perhaps understandable when it comes to people whose worlds revolve around hair lengths and hemlines but not for people who should know better. In the 90’s I can’t recall how many times I heard things like “That’s just old fashioned Cold War thinking” or “Your way does not matter any more” at meetings in places such as the Pentagon and Space Command HQ. What this usually amounted to was a way to demolish a sound argument made by qualified and experienced people in favor of enhancing selected career paths at the expense of others.

Better is the Enemy of Good. “New” is the enemy of “It works.”

10/23/2007 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Hillary is unlikely to win for a variety of reasons.

Not only (Teresita) would Hillary have continued the cowardly policies of her Husband -- avoiding any military action with consequences as he did for 8 years -- but like most women Hillary is manifestly unsuited for leadership when it comes to military affairs. Hillary's habit of treating Secret Service men who are prepared to deal out violence AND TAKE IT for her protection as servants in the Leona Helmsley mode (she was legendary for cursing them out when they "forgot their place" and put her personal protection over servile demeanor) indicates the Achilles Heel of female leaders:

They are very good at being Queen Bee. But most of them have no clue as to personal, physical violence and the dangerous violent competition that characterizes the lives of men like Osama or Zawahari. [Men such as Kucinich, Kerry, perhaps even McCain, corrupted by long DC residence from what he was in Hanoi might also fit this description of course. The supply of leaders who understand and can deal with the question of violence is pretty limited, nevertheless it's far more limited among women than men.]

Hillary is also likely to be upset on two reasons domestic and foreign.

Domestically, goodies and handouts and jobs and affirmative action and driver's licenses and in-state tuition for Illegal Aliens means none for white males. Who in good times can tolerate that but in bad economic times won't.

The narrow Tsongas victory in what was supposed to be a blow-out over Illegal Immigration and the melt-down in NY over Spitzer's plan for illegal alien licenses is a harbinger for that fight and Republicans know it's a dagger to the heart of Dems coalition. [And what the Base-vs-Bush fight earlier this year over illegal immigration was all about]

In foreign affairs, Hillary is likely to be undone with Pakistan falling into Taliban-AQ control and Iran's race for nukes.

Who will the American people trust more to prevent American Cities from being nuked? A Queen Bee who can be nasty to the help, and political enemies, but weak like her hubby wrt real enemies and beholden to the lunatic Kos-left, or someone like Rudy or Fred or even Romney?

An AQ-Taliban takeover, or Iran exploding a nuclear weapon, sinks Hillary's chances because she's not ruthless enough to strike first against a threat. When it's survival, Americans will pull the lever for the Republican because he's not bound by legalisms, "proof" or anything other than survival.

10/23/2007 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Stan Smith said...

Teresita:

Hillary would have been down in New Orleans with her hands in William Jefferson's freezer. Dream on about rapid Dem reaction to Katrina. It would have never happened.

10/23/2007 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Stan, it always amazes me how many folks don't want to look into Gov Blanco's and Mayor Nagin's actions in around the hurricane's landfall.

10/23/2007 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Whiskey 199: When it's survival, Americans will pull the lever for the Republican because he's not bound by legalisms, "proof" or anything other than survival.

Normally I'd be inclined to believe that. But Bush disregarded the "legalism" of providing "proof" to a FISA court and went ahead with warrantless wiretaps six months before 9-11, (according to the WaPo) even assuming that 9-11 was an existential threat.

10/23/2007 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Yes, the world would be such a better place if Saddam had tap danced out of the sanctions box and the French and Russians developed Iraq's oil fields to help him rack up 100 billion a year selling the production to China. Of course Iran would be developing nukes and so would Saddam (each program would justify the other).

So there would be a nuke arms race in that region, with fascist regimes seen as heroic successes. Hey, they achieved victory over the USA. Saddam would not be shy about the boast and the rest of the world would agree--because he'd be telling the truth: it would be a great victory for him and he'd be the new Nasser in the Arab world. Kuwait would negotiate and peaceful union. See, the first gulf war was a waist. John Kerry was right about that one, too.

Meanwhile we'd have troops bogged down in a quagmire in a land locked Afghanistan--the news media would say so and we now know they are right about these things. AQ in Pakistan would still be carrying out attacks around the world--the organization would not be burning money in Iraq and sending operatives there to die so why not Europe and the US. And hey, Saddam would slip them all kinds of help (Why not? What would we do about it? A new UN resolution?).

Not to worry, Hill would invade Pakistan herself--a country with nukes and six times the population of Iraq. But she'd win because all the villages would rally to her.

Sounds like a plan. Our messy real war against against your perfect dream war--you win!

10/23/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Das said...

"And if the future is dark it is also incomparably bright."

Thank you for that Wretchard and so many other brilliant posts.

God bless you; you are part of the light.

10/23/2007 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

The election of Bobby Jindal, the Republican son of Indian-American immigrants, as governor of Louisiana seems to show that the folks of Louisiana decided to try an alternative to the corruption and incompetence of Louisiana government.

But, of course, you won't hear about the election from the MSM.

10/23/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

There's a great scene at the end of the movie King Rat. The Japanese POW camp is liberated and the uptight skinny socialist Brit, the camp cop and enforcer, tells the entrepreneur, quasi-outlaw King, "it's our turn now, Churchill's out and things are going to be a lot different now..." (paraphrase). And the bewildered King, lost because the environment he thrived in has been torn away, dejectedly awaits his fate.

Ironically, too much success in Iraq before election 08 may be the worst possible scenario for the Repubs. It potentially could be a Pyrrhic victory, real success countered by the overwhelming perception of defeat fostered by the media. Remember, Britain for all intents and purposes was essentially a defeated country by the end of WWII. Is that how Americans will perceive Iraq?

10/23/2007 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

Teresita, I have one question for you. Why did Mississippi which suffered just as greatly from Katrina weathered the devastation as well as could be expected while next door Louisiana fell apart? Hmmm?? One state governed by Republicans was prepared and did not devolve into a lawless society.
Its state and city government officials handled their duties and provided relief and assistance to their citizens. Next door, the state run by Democrats fell apart and criminals had free rein in the devastated areas as the police, firemen and medical personal abandoned their posts. Some of the police even joined in the looting. The city and state officials spent their efforts on blaming everyone else but themselves for the disaster after the disaster. Too busy finger pointing they fail miserably in providing relief and assistance to their citizens. Maybe the reason Jindal swept to such a massive victory on Saturday is the people of Louisiana, unlike you, know who is to blame for the mess that was the aftermath of Katrina.

10/23/2007 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

Oh, one more thing, Teresita. Where did Bush get the authority to conduct those wiretaps? Why none other than the Clinton Administration;

Dateline: April 24, 1995

"Vowing that "those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind," President Clinton honored the victims of Oklahoma City today and pledged to ask Congress for broad new powers to combat terrorism, including creation of a domestic counterterrorism center headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The White House said Mr. Clinton would seek new authority for Federal agents to monitor the telephone calls and check the credit, hotel and travel records of suspected terrorists. He also wants financing to put into effect legislation that requires telephone companies to assure easy access for court-ordered wiretaps of new, harder to monitor, digital computer lines."

McVeigh gave the Clinton Administration the excuse it needed and the pretext for new emergency measures, the Counter-Terrorism Bill. Let's review what the enlightened Clintons asked for and got:

1) Permanent resident aliens arrested under the Counter-Terrorism act have to prove they should not be held in jail before trial. Secret evidence can used in the detention hearings and at trial that only the judge could see, not the defendant. (Gee and you thought that was Bush's doing)

2)The bill lifted a 1994 Crime law restriction prohibiting the FBI from investigations based on speech or beliefs, when restricting humanitarian aid. Foreigners can be barred from speaking in the U.S. using McCarthy era McCarran-Walter Act provisions. An overbroad definition of terrorism allows the Justice Department to select crimes to prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.

3) Presidential powers expanded.
The President can label organizations -- without any appeal or review -- as "terrorist", and criminalize fundraising for humanitarian aid even remotely related to such groups.

4) Permanent resident aliens can be deported or indefinitely jailed for their affiliations or political activity, with no judicial review.

5) The Counter-Terrorism act further restricts the Bill of Rights' habeas corpus protections for state prisoners. Although this is a terrorism law, and death-row inmates were used to justify this provision, this affects all state prisoners, and no one convicted of federal terrorism laws. Prisoners are required to prove the state acted "unreasonably," a tough legal standard that isn't met simply by having credible evidence of innocence or wrongful imprisonment. Prisoners will be limited to one federal appeal within a short time of exhausting state appeals. Federal courts are required to render decisions within six months, and can't overrule state courts' interpretations of constitutional law.

6) The law requires banks to identify any domestic "agents" (undefined) of groups labeled as terrorist, and freeze their funds with no right of appeal.

The original bill contained a provision, supported by the Clinton administration, lifting the historical "Posse Comitatus" restriction on the U.S. military working with domestic police. The provision did not make it into the final version.

Also either forgotten or distorted is the connection between Oklahoma City and Waco. Exactly two years before the Oklahoma City bombing, the federal government’s fifty-one-day standoff with the Branch Davidians at Waco ended with the slaughter of eighty civilians, including about twenty children. Most of the victims were burned alive. Timothy McVeigh referred to the attack at Oklahoma City as payback for what the federal government (the Clinton Administration) did at Waco. Most Americans don’t want to think of the Oklahoma City bombing as a reaction for the federal government’s (the Clinton Administration) atrocity at Waco. So perhaps before you sing the praises of Ms. Hillary maybe you need to review what really happened in the nineties.

10/23/2007 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

I doubt we will have "too much success."

For one thing, Dems have bet the farm on defeat in Iraq being morally "good for the US." That was not and will not be a winner.

Secondly, Iraq is a sideshow. As is Afghanistan. The key is Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. None of those are going well and the winning hand is who will "nuke first" and ask questions later with respect to Iran and/or Pakistan.

10/23/2007 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Secondly, Iraq is a sideshow. As is Afghanistan. The key is Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

And, in the longer term, Europe. Particularly France, Russia and the UK, which have both their own sizable nuclear arsenals and troubling and growing domestic Islamist problems.

10/23/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Tarnsman: Oh, one more thing, Teresita. Where did Bush get the authority to conduct those wiretaps? Why none other than the Clinton Administration

Which brings up an interesting point. As Bush grabs more and more power for the Executive, only to hand it all over to Hillary, conservatives will soon learn that the Imperial Presidency is not an exclusively Republican prerogative.

10/23/2007 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

In the Founder-built perpetual zero-sum power struggle between the exec and the legislative, GWB, representing the exec, has been on defense at least as much as otherwise, don't you think?

10/23/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

"whiskey_199 said...

'I doubt we will have "too much success."

'For one thing, Dems have bet the farm on defeat in Iraq being morally "good for the US." That was not and will not be a winner.

'Secondly, Iraq is a sideshow. As is Afghanistan. The key is Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. None of those are going well and the winning hand is who will "nuke first" and ask questions later with respect to Iran and/or Pakistan.'"


I don't see Saudi Arabia as such a huge threat to us, while recognizing where the source of the heat and the fuel supply are, I cannot say that the KSA is our enemy so long as we are winning. KSA was preparing to intervine as best as it could, if we left Iraq as the Democrat victory in the mid terms threatened would happen. In the sorry state it was in last year at this time, KSA would have put up a counter effort to the certain Iranian surge of activity. Turkey would have played a defining role in the outcome for evident reasons. Baghdad has a better handle on the situation now, and KSA is breathing easier. I believe we will see a return to more civil relations with us and our allies in the region.

Syria, however is still capable of stirring the pot and causing hell. Lebanon may be off the front page, but it is at the front and center of this war on Islamists and their war on Secular ME/SA Democracies. What is occurring in Pakistan could easily be mirrored in Lebanon, and in many respects is. Except for the Lebanese Army and the resolve shown by the Lebanese themselves in resisting the Islamists entreaties. They continue to defy the Islamists call for capitulation and grow weary at lack of progress in setting up a tribunal to investigate political slaying.

Damascus is a player in Lebanon, Iraq and in Pakistan by virtue to Damascus International Airport. A long border with Turkey on the north and with KSA to the south and east, as well as with Iraq, Assad leveraged his position with the Iranians in a losing game. Everyone, even the Dems should know it. What would Hillary do? Perhaps, send Miss Nancy Pelosi out for another round of hot air, and fan the flames some. I think she's smarter than that, but honestly, I wouldn't bet on it.

10/24/2007 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

FEMA gave the same level of response to NOLA as it gave to the state of Mississippi. Why are there still more problems in NOLA than in Mississippi?

Look to the local government. The local and state government for New Orleans is a corrupt mess that for 30 years spent its levee money building casinos on the New Orleans waterfront. Dollar Bill Jefferson is only one example of the corrupt incompetents who run that town. The majority of recovery work in New Orleans was done by the Coast Guard and National Guard. Last time I looked the defense department is a federal responsibility. The federal response worked. The local response did not.

You saw the response to the *local* failures of Katrina the other day, in the first-ballot election of a born-Hindu, converted-Catholic, dark skinned Republican immigrant from India to the Louisiana governor's office, and a down-ballot sweep of every statewide race except the lieutenant governorship. If only the people who still actually lived in New Orleans had been allowed to vote last year, then Nagin would have already been replaced.

When the pressure lets off, that doesn't mean that people want to give idiots a second chance.

On the foreign policy tip, Iraq is not the war. Iraq is a key battle in the Grand Counterjihad. So is Afghanistan. So is the pursuit of bin Laden. The War is still going on, and even if the pressure lets off the country doesn't necessarily want to give team Clinton a second chance at the presidency, and make no mistake it is a second chance, not a first.

10/24/2007 12:35:00 PM  

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