Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The world of marginal benefits

Max Boot, writing in Commentary, looks at several ways forward in Iraq and concludes that all the get-out-quick scenarios are likely to lead to worse outcomes than one which seeks to build security after which a gradual drawdown can take place. Ross Douthat at the the Atlantic disagrees. Boot says:

The more security that our “surge” forces create and consolidate today, the greater the probability that a transition will work tomorrow. If we start withdrawing troops regardless of the consequences, we will not only put our remaining soldiers at greater risk but, as things inevitably turn nastier, imperil public support for any level of commitment, whether at 160,000 or 60,000.

Notwithstanding some positive preliminary results, the surge might still fail in the long run if Iraqis prove incapable of reaching political compromises even in a more secure environment. But, for all its faults and weaknesses, the surge is the least bad option we have. Its opponents, by contrast, have been loudly trying to beat something with nothing. If they do not like President Bush’s chosen strategy, the onus is on them to propose a credible alternative that could avert what would in all probability be the most serious military defeat in our history. So far, they have come up empty.

Douthat argues that this is nonsense. It's time to change and the fact that no one has come up with a better plan is no reason to stay with a bad one.

This is not satisfactory. Those of us on the fence about the surge are well aware of the potential consequences of withdrawal, but we are also aware that at some point, unwinnable wars must be given up as lost. As bad as admitting defeat would be, it's preferable to asking thousands more Americans to die for what ends up being judged a mistake.

I'm not entirely sure I follow Douthat's argument. The best way to argue for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be to demonstrate that it would probably lead to a better outcome than persisting with the Surge. But Douthat's argument appears to assert that even if withdrawal were demonstrably worse than remaining a it should be attempted anyway, because "it's preferable to asking thousands more Americans to die for what ends up being judged a mistake." That's a non sequitur. Even if the OIF were a mistake that is no argument for embarking upon a greater mistake. The only valid way to proceed is to adopt an improved solution, not just any solution. If X Americans were dying in a Surge strategy but 2x Americans would die and regional stability suffer from a rapid withdrawal, why would it logical to rapidly withdraw? Certainly not to gratify a desire for an acknowledgment. That would be tantamount to losing your pants for the sake of saving your face.

This does not mean, of course, that arguing for a rapid withdrawal is somehow crazy or off the table. On the contrary. If it were demonstrably superior to the Surge then its case would be made. Douthat tries to get around making the case by suggesting that now is the time to take chances since we are in a quagmire. "If we're risking further American casualties on a high-risk military strategy in the hopes of averting defeat, we need to be prepared to consider high-risk political options as well." But this avoids rather than confronts a comparison on the merits of the case. I think Boot is right in saying that if the Surge is the best available alternative then it should be pursued. Otherwise a better alternative should be advanced and it will sell itself.


The necessity to evaluate alternatives by their incremental costs and benefits is highlighted by MoveOn.Org's decision to punish Democratic Congressman Brian Baird for concluding, after a recent visit to Iraq, that the Surge was making some progress. MoveOn simply sidesteped the whole question of comparative consequences and goes straight to their talking point. Brian Baird, who voted against OIF, had inescusably flip-flopped and would be chastised. The problem is not with what MoveOn wants to believe. It is why they want to believe it that leaves something to be desired.

The liberal, anti-war group will go up with an ad by the end of this week in Democratic Rep. Brian Baird’s district in Washington state, accusing him of a “flip-flop” on the Iraq war.

“ Political Action Committee is sponsoring the ad to call attention to the congressman’s decision to go against the views of his constituents, and his previous voting record, to support President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq,” the group said in an e-mailed statement.

“Congressman Baird’s new position, in favor of keeping our troops in an unnwinnable civil war in Iraq, is out of line with the majority of his district and the nation,” Nita Chaudhary of MoveOn said in the statement. “So far this has been one of the bloodiest summers in Iraq and voters don’t want to continue down a failed path. They want representatives who will stand up to President Bush’s reckless policy and bring our troops home.”

MoveOn's argument would be much more powerful if it simply established that the Surge was failing. But it neatly sidesteps that requirement and goes straight to a political argument. " Political Action Committee is sponsoring the ad to call attention to the congressman’s decision to go against the views of his constituents, and his previous voting record, to support President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq." It's enough to say the war in Iraq has "failed". It does not seem necessary to consider whether it is no longer failing or whether a rapid withdrawal would lead to a greater failure. Those are apparently deemed unimportant or irrelevant considerations. But far from being peripheral, the question of incremental cost/benefit is actually central. If a rapid withdrawal from Iraq were actually the best course of action, then its advocates should unhesitatingly tout the virtues of withdrawal rather than begging the argument.

The structural advantage Surge advocates have over those who favor a rapid withdrawal is that OIF is a going operation, capable of measuring itself in some respects. This, plus the fact that most Surge advocates, including Max Boot, favor a an eventual withdrawal -- in fact treating Iraq like a large counterinsurgency oil-spot in a region where it is important not to withdraw until stability is established -- makes it hard for advocates of rapid withdrawal to make an empirical refutation. I think the honest champions of rapid withdrawal should concede that belief in a quick retreat rests on a gamble which they believe will produce far better results than any continuation of the Surge or macro application of the Oil Spot. The case for retreat really rests on the intuition that disengagement, containment and multilateral diplomacy is the better way to deal with the Middle Eastern and Islamic terrorism; that while there is no way to calculate the validity of this intuition, the betting public can be persuaded to take the chance. And there's no alternative but to confessing the consequences of withdrawal are unknown because there is no way to measure the fallout from a rapid withdrawal, both in terms of US security or regional stability without carrying it out. An advocate for withdrawal should explain that it's a potentially expensive gamble and then argue that the payoffs are high enough to risk it. The argument for a quick retreat is necessarily based largely on the belief in the superiority of intuition rather than a cold comparison of known alternatives. Going forward with the Surge is a low risk strategy in the short term with unknown long-term consequences. Retreating quickly is a high risk strategy in the short term with equally unknown long-term consequences. If I were a salesman for retreat I would admit as much and ask the electorate to "trust" the intuition without making any further pretense at empiricism. But that would be asking for too much candor from politicians. And that, much more than troops and weaponry, may be in the shortest supply.


Blogger eggplant said...

It appears that Ross Douthat's target audience are moonbats. Why is his opinion worthy of analysis?

8/29/2007 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

It is a value judgement.
How much value does one place on the life of a US soldier or Marine, compared to the life of an Iraqi?

If one values the life of the soldier or Marine higher than the life of an Iraqi or 100 of them, leaving makes perfect sense, regardless of the outcome.

If one values the life of the soldier or Marine less than an Iraqi, stay and sacrifice a thousand or two more, whether there is a chance of a successful End State, or not.

Less Iraqi may die if we stay, or not. It is as Mr Rumsfeld used to say, an unknowable.

That there is a middle ground, never even discussed, by the experts.

There are options between 162,000 US policemen in Iraq and none.

Who is the enemy? aQ is broken or will be in a couple of months, the Sunni have turned on them, say all the reports.
Brookings maintains that there have never been more than 2,500 of aQI in the country. Just a vicious gang.

Is Mr Maliki the enemy now?
Mr al-Sadr and his 30 member of parliment?

Who are we there to do battle with, exactly?

8/29/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

Lefties are really interesting. Lefties can't ask volunteer soldiers to die for what might perhaps possibly later turn out to be a mistake. On the other hand, those same Lefties insist that several thousand entirely innocent (mainly African) children die every day from malaria -- all because of those Lefties irrational 1960s concerns about DDT which we now know ARE mistaken.

Oh well, presumably it makes those Lefties feel better, and their own self-image is all that really matters.

8/29/2007 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

What is the "marginal benefit" in presenting an image of fighting to win - even if it ends in some form of defeat - as opposed to the perception of running away in response to the kinds of tactics used by the enemy as well as the domestic arguments such as Douthat's?

In the "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia, the U.S. won a tremendous victory in terms of body count. But we pulled out shortly afterwards and that was perceived as a defeat. Given that our original objective was only to protect food shipments, that action makes sense in terms of "avoiding the quagmire". In the long run, it lead straight to the attacks of 9/11/01.

We fought in Vietnam well enough that the Communists were exhausted and the dominoes did not fall. It was a strategic victory in many respects but that perception of defeat caused much suffering in the world, and still does.

Douthat is not just trying to get us out, he is trying to make sure it is perceived as a defeat.

8/29/2007 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I really don't see us pulling out of Iraq until Bush stands there on the dais while another (new) President is being sworn in.

And probably not for a while after that, either.

The Surge is working, no one is going to pull the plug, and even if it wasn't working, they'd bring in a new general, call it something else, and keep on chipping away at it, Iraqi laziness, greed and incompetence notwithstanding.

If you grant that Bush has given a moment's consideration to his place in history, what would that place be if he allowed a nation's moonbat hysterical left to drive him out of a place he thinks we need to be.

And if you grant that Bush has given two second's consideration to protecting this country, he doubly isn't going to allow himself to be driven out of Iraq so that all those terrorists we have the opportunity to kill there can re-focus their efforts on how to get across our wide-open Mexican border and make their dislike of the West extremely up-close and personal.

Any discussion about pulling out before then is merely what-if navel-gazing of the sort indulged in by little girls planning their wedding ceremony.

8/29/2007 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

If the Left could craft a winning strategy, then their position would be immeasurably strengthened. I think most people don't care whether the Republicans or Democrats win the war on terror in some meaningful sense. What they care about is victory, whoever achieves it. Franklin Roosevelt's great intuition was that you could win by winning and people would love you for it.

It's one thing to say "we don't have the winning strategy yet but we are working on it". I think Douthat should have made that argument. It's another thing to say "we don't have a winning strategy and we don't need it." That I think, is a harder sell.

8/29/2007 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Let's say for chuckles that there is a group of people who are "healthy" and a group who are not "healthy"...

The unhealthy want to be healthy, while the already healthy don't want to be exposed to those of the not healthy group, but are willing to offer help to this group.

However, this unhealthy group is sick with anger and hatred of all kinds. Instead of looking internally, this sick group projects externally with its ills.

Sure, we can leave Iraq, but the sick group is not done, nor contained, nor given healing energies. It will come for us just like a drowning person grabs whatever he or she can...including the person who is the rescuer.

Come up with all the fancy arguments you want, but for me the facts remain: Jesse Jackson knows only two colors: Black and white. He will never see a problem without color driving it.

The religion of peace is evolving in such a manner. Like those communists who sat in dimly lit rooms and worked out those great names for murderous groups that sounded so soft and comforting, this so called religion of peace shows little of peace, but a lot of hatred and intolerance.

History is filled with such events as this one, each unique, but each driven by similar energies.

We need to elect smarter representatives to our government, perhaps some with balls that can stay focused on real problems and not just reproductive energies. Oh, and for the women, we need to elect women who don't see government as the great teat supplier to all who come to her.

War is all about us. Real and healthy people do something about it. Where are such people in government?

8/29/2007 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

A Rueful Return To Chinagate?

This in the least is an example of hillary's famous tin ear. But since bill has not changed his philandering ways its likely she hasn't changed either.

8/29/2007 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard --

WHY are the Left selling defeat?

Because they want it.

The Left do NOT consider themselves Americans, don't like America anyway, and believe America and Americans should suffer a defeat because the defeat in and of itself is morally good.

This is why they sell defeat.

They are like courtiers in the palace of some king in exile. Hoping to take the place of the current king and not caring about the people or the kingdom as long as they can move from exile to the palace of power.

This is why they sell defeat as morally good.

If they argued for a quick withdrawal, and on the way out nuke any place thought to contain Osama, destroy Iran and Pakistani nukes and infrastructure and make an overt threat to the Saudis for the same if they fund Osama any more, most Americans would buy it.

But the Left wants passivity and defeat for America because the REAL enemy is America and always has been.

8/29/2007 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I think a fairly large percentage of people see the world according to preconceived notions and are impervious to arguments to the contrary.

Sometimes the biases stem from bitter experience and thus actually have some basis. I knew from an early age how murderous Communists could be and therefore the arguments of people like Noam Chomskey have no effect on me whatsoever. Occasionally I worry about that. Sometimes I ask myself whether it is always true that communism is murderous and intellectually I must admit it doesn't always follow they are evil or wrong. But I will candidly admit that experience has colored my view.

Jose Maria Sison was recently arrested in the Netherlands and now it is coming to public light that he ordered the execution of thousands of activists, workers, farmers, etc in his mad purges and in his efforts to maintain a grip on his organized crime network which styles itself as a communist insurgency. But to many persons who know only what they read in the papers, Sison remains a "revolutionary hero". Sison -- or rather the Sison they imagine -- is their kind of person, of a piece with their world of radical literature, plays, activist songs, and the distant romance of revolution which is romantic only alas, when distant. They can hardly accept, though facts now being covered in the papers make it inescapable to avoid, that their support of Sison indirectly resulted in the murder of thousands. Sison's "killing fields" are a miniature replay of the Cambodian killing fields, which the antiwar generation can scarcely admit it facilitated, even after they piled up the skulls. It's not something antiwar generation would have caused knowingly, you understand. They meant well but it all went so wrong. That was the trouble.

And in the debate over whether to Surge or Retreat I think the sides are squaring off according to temperament more than logic. Some people hate the sight of war -- and rightly so -- so much they are willing to take it from sight at any cost. Even if the consequences are greater than the war's. That's why cost/benefit is not an issue. Aesthetics is.

Maybe the only meaningful persuasion is aesthetic persuasion. Teaching people to see the evil they do even when they mean well. Teaching them to count the cost by showing them those who bear it. Teaching them that it is not enough to say "sorry"; to engage in "healing" or to move on. That it's unacceptable to smash things up and retreat "into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." But it's hard. Maybe it's impossible.

8/29/2007 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"The deep and hidden reason for the tyrannical oppression practiced throughout the Middle East is the imposition of pan-arabic cliques that intend to dictatorially arabize the various peoples of the Middle East, who are – all – not Arabs."

The falsehood of pan-arabism acts as the progenitor of wars, tyranny, and the cultural and intellectual squalor that is found in the Middle East.

The solution to this is authentic ethnic nationalism, staring with the Kurdistan. But instead, the US continues to weigh in its support for pan-arabic Islamic imperialists like the Sauds.

8/29/2007 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Wretchard, you do recognize the futile dichotomy between preconceived notions that are impervious to argument, and teaching them to see it our way ... don't you?

I don't know what we're going to do about the schism that has developed world-wide and is growing deeper and more blood-thirsty every day. The left may have never met a terrorist they didn't love, but they certainly have developed the ability to murderously hate anyone they think is a neocon.

While we're busy trying to put Iraq back together, back home in England, Australia, and America we are splintering on the home front, our governments are inept, corrupt and vicously back-stabbing.

So that once we do, finally, withdraw from Iraq when we have, at last, won ... what will we have to come back home to?

8/29/2007 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

"unwinnable wars must be given up as lost"

Why? And how do we decide that a war is "unwinnable"?

Wretchard is absolutely correct rational analysis begins with where you are now and looks to the costs and benefits going forward.

To me this is a no-brainer. The costs are trivial. $100+ billion/yr. is less than 1% of our GDP, not even 20% of our defense budget. Even the casualties are of no consequence. They are less than .00001% of our population. The cost of abandoning the fight are immense. Iran dominating the Persian Gulf anyone?

What everbody needs to understand is that this is a generational business. We need to create an Iraqi national Army. An army is its non-coms. The US army figures it takes 15 years to make a non-com. The most experienced non-coms in the Iraqi Army have a mere 3 years of experience.

Politics is even messier. It took Korea more than 30 years to get to the point where one elected government could peacefully succeed another.

Counter-insurgency is also a messy time consumming business. The UK just announced that it is pulling troops out of Northern Ireland after 38 years.

8/29/2007 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard --

The solution is simple. Marginalize and politically destroy the influence of those who do not WANT a victory for America. [Because they depend on America for their very existence.]

We can argue about what Victory might look like, what it's components would be, and how best to achieve it.

But the overall goal ought to be easily discernable and agreeable.

8/29/2007 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I ain't got the words.

8/29/2007 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


Douthat wrote:

As bad as admitting defeat would be, it's preferable to asking thousands more Americans to die for what ends up being judged a mistake.

You wrote:

It's one thing to say "we don't have the winning strategy yet but we are working on it". I think Douthat should have made that argument. It's another thing to say "we don't have a winning strategy and we don't need it." That I think, is a harder sell.

The argument we have with Mr. Douthat isn’t about victory or defeat in Iraq. Whether we win or lose in Iraq is irrelevant to those who worship defeat, for one who is emotionally invested in defeat will see no amount of victory abroad as meaning anything other than body bags coming home. He who disagrees with the basic wisdom of a war is unlikely to see any advantage in military victory.

That which “ends up being judged a mistake” can mean anything a narrator says it means – it’s like arguing with Humpty Dumpty over the meaning of a word. The narrator presumes to know “what ends up being judged a mistake”, for he will do the judging.

The essential problem we face in America is that certain factions in American politics fell in love with defeat, and that includes the Fall of Saigon. The Left could blame every disaster in southeast Asia on Nixon and Johnson, while the anti-war movement could be portrayed as a purification rite for America. Within this historiography, a futuristic paradise of hippie culture, half-hearted socialism, the music of Woodstock and the Kingston Trio, the drug counterculture, sexual revolution, and a new rainbow of progressive activism beckoned, only to be thwarted by the “evil” Christian Right and “Reagan Fascism”.

By the end of the Vietnam War, the Left gained mostly unchallenged control over the street. And with control over the street, the Left gained control over the media agenda and cultural power over the future of America. This power has not been seriously challenged. Yes, there is talk radio. It is talk, not action. Talk radio appeals to a clubhouse mentality, a bunker mentality, against those who control the streets. Talk radio appeals most strongly to those who do not set America’s cultural agenda while having little appeal for those who do.

To this day, the Left controls the streets and can summon demonstrators at will. This power was gained by achieving victory through America’s defeat in the Vietnam War.

Republican victory in elections does not end Leftist control over the streets. Nonviolence is symbolic warfare; it is not merely about voicing opposition to a differing viewpoint but also intimidating opponents from expressing theirs. Unless and until the Left can be challenged with greater numbers of demonstrators than they have, and forcefully gain media attention for a different agenda, the media and the universities and the churches and the schools will continue to sway to the Leftist wind. It hardly matters what you think and it hardly matters whether Leftist arguments make any sense when they control what your children learn in school, on television, and from popular culture.

The only section of the Right with any success in challenging the Left’s control over the streets is the anti-abortion movement. Although it may not sound like a victory to pro-lifers, the anti-abortion movement’s street demonstrations have fought the power of the Left to a draw. That’s not a minor achievement.

The Democratic Party is not a monolith. The defeatist wing of the party may be ascendant right now, so much so that War Democrats are generally lying low. Yet, both the Democratic and Republican parties sway with the wind; neither creates that wind. There are pro-victory Democrats and defeatist Republicans. It makes as much sense to assume and the Daily Kos will always be influential in the Democratic Party as it would be to assume al-Qaeda will always be influential among Sunnis. Just as the Ku Klux Klan could be defeated, the Defeatist Coalition (consisting of mainly of leftists and paleoconservatives) can also be defeated.

The civil rights movement won because it challenged the segregationist monopoly over political protest through a combination of protests, legal strategy, and federal intervention. When the segregationists lost control over the streets, they lost their sway over the media.

Likewise, election campaigns won’t defeat the Left. The Left can only be defeated when its control over the streets is effectively challenged.

8/30/2007 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Fen said...

Some people hate the sight of war -- and rightly so -- so much they are willing to take it from sight at any cost. Even if the consequences are greater than the war's.

And this is what I don't understand about the Left. They place so much faith in multi-lateral institutions, diplomacy, the use [or abuse] of soft power to avert war.

But they don't seem to grasp what an American retreat in Iraq will do to all that. Soft power is useless if not backed by the threat of force. If the Left gets America to abandon Iraq, how do they intend to deal with Iran? Do they have any concept re how a retreat will weaken America's hand [and the West] in the future?

8/30/2007 01:22:00 AM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Alexis --

I agree with some of your analysis. But not all. Street demonstrations are largely irrelevant.

Look at the "Million Man March" or the "Million Mom March." If street demonstrations were important, then white people would be paying "reparations" to black people and all guns would be banned. The media carried the water for both those organizations and the result was ... zilch.

Because reparations are a non-starter (i.e. guaranteed Republican victories in the House, Senate, and White House) and so too is gun control (which lost Gore Tennessee and likely, Florida).

I do agree on the importance of grass-roots organizations, particularly those that can punish politicians and the media. By destroying the ability to get elected for those who do not clearly identify the enemy (which is, let's be honest, Muslims) and a plan for fighting back against them. Whether it's a censored Opus comic strip (because Muslims want to control everything you read or do) or bombs away in Waziristan.

The second point is of course grass-roots organizations that make specific examples of the media and media people or organizations. For example, the Washington Post ought to pay a specific price by an organized effort to pressure advertisers to pull their advertising dollars. For caving to Muslim demands for censorship. Simple as that.

When officials lose the gravy-graft train and have to get real jobs, and media organizations lose advertising dollars and people get fired, you'll see a change. You are quite correct in asserting this can only come from grass-roots efforts. Which in turn depends on the internet AND talk radio (which helped kill the Amnesty bill).

You are wrong about the Klan though. The Klan was created in the late 1860's by Forrest and others, moribund by the late 1880's (as segregation made it irrelevant) and only revived from 1920 or so to 1940 (as migrations of Blacks to Northern factory towns pressed Jim Crow hard).

What broke segregation was the private auto, highways, television, and air conditioning. Dr. King and others merely gave the whole rotten edifice a good kick. Even working class whites could remove themselves from cities and towns like New Orleans which was in housing and daily life, fairly integrated. Suburbs, TV (families stayed at home watching the tube instead of out socializing) and air conditioning (it was more comfortable inside than out) meant the South had a sea-change in the post-War period. Ending Jim Crow wasn't important anymore since hardly any white person lived around black people anymore (the white residents after WWII largely abandoned New Orleans far in advance of the end of Segregation). Meanwhile there was business to be had. Even Nathan Bedford Forrest ended his involvement in the Klan when he went North to drum up business investment capital.

I would apply the same insight to the Democratic Party. It IS a monolith. Moveon is punishing Baird for apostasy. He'll get the political equivalent to what Muslims deal out for that act. Same as Joe Lieberman. The Democratic Party's base is extraordinarily narrow. It is comprised of wealthy white elites and minority special interests who by definition are opposed to the interests of most ordinary people over an entire spectrum: economic, cultural, national security, and so on.

And like air conditioning, TV, the auto and suburbs allowed Dr. King and others to kick down Jim Crow (though uncommon courage, sacrifice, and bloodshed were still required) so too can the Democratic Party be kicked down. In fact, I'd argue it must be.

8/30/2007 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

NahnCee's comments seem to be very appropriate on the ituation.

8/30/2007 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The problem with discussing the ideas of the Left is that they are not concepts formulated by “people” at all. They more closely resemble the thought processes of children.

We all have seen those people whose focus is always some specific matter. Everything would be perfect if only they could get that new toy, those new shoes, that new car, escape their marriage, move to that new apartment, get rid of their boss. And it never works; more serious structural deficiencies underlie their problems. Even people who finally win that big lottery jackpot are usually worse off a couple of years later.

So now it is Getting Out of Iraq. Before it was Getting Out of Vietnam, and in between we had Nuclear Disarmament, Getting Out of Nicaragua, Stopping the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the other Cause D’Jours.

They really do want to Move On – move on to the next Thing That Will Fix Everything. It is never necessary to fix their concepts into some sort of overall framework because The Thing is The Thing. Telling a 2 year old that if he spends all of his money on candy he will have none for college never works, either.

8/30/2007 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

The war has become a touchstone for the Left for several reasons. The desire for an American defeat and a Bush defeat have been touched on before. But another aspect is that no small number of the Left are in denial about the Radical Islamic threat, and anyone who endangers the maintainence of that denial will be attacked. Hence the purging of Sen. Joe Lieberman, otherwise a liberal in good standing. Baird is now in for it.

8/30/2007 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

And Nahncee: Sometimes I think that the Left fears most of all what we will learn as the result of our overseas experiences.

If we find out that all cultures are not equal, then why would that not apply at home? If we find that decapitation of the enemy leadership is a useful tactic why not do that here? If going directly to the people who need help and engaging them rather than their corrupt leaders is successful in Iraq, then maybe it will work in New Orleans.

Perhaps one day a leader here will say "The Surge worked in Iraq. Door to door digging them out of their holes worked in Baghdad. How about we try it in DC and Detroit and South Central LA?"

8/30/2007 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

desert rat makes several questionable assumptions.

We don't know if a withdrawal from Iraq is cost free in American lives. We don't know how the perception of an AQ "Victory" would play out, or what kind of intel we currently get by directly interdicting AQ's very dispersed network at its most vulnerable point- Iraq. We DO know that in six years of warfare with a brutal, hateful, numerically strong terrorist opponent, there has not been one successful AQ operation in the US, despite the constant refrain that Iraq has made us less secure. If this is less secure, given the obvious softness of our borders, depth of Anti-American hatreds, and vulnerability of our civilian population and infrastructure, our evident safety is obviously due to either the War on Terror or God, take your pick, and that says we must be doing something right.

As for AQ being a broken mob of 2,500, well, that is another very soft assumption. As AQ and like minded organizations rely on the ability of a few to cause mass slaughter to many, overall numbers are misleading. Just look at what 19 of them- okay, 20- did here.


8/30/2007 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Well, ben, it is the Brookings Institute report that so many cite when claiming the surge is a success.
Either their reporting is valid, or not. But one cannot cite it as a viable source one day in agreement, then reject it the next in dispute. Soft or hard.

Is aQI the only enemy left in Iraq, for US?
Are they the focus of US attention?
Now that we do we no longer fight the anti-Federal Insurgents of the 1920 Brigades, but arm them.
Is the goal of the US no longer, as proclaimed on the White House web site:

... an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself, to be an ally in the war on terror and also an example to the region that democracy can succeed ...

Are the Baathists no longer the Enemy but newly morphed into allies?
Is the Iraqi Federal government no longer an ally, but a foe in need of regime change, as many in Congress claim?

Why bypass the hard question,
Who is the enemy?

It is not Islam, not the Baathists, not the Iraqi Government.
Not if we listen to Mr Bush and believe what he and his Team tell US.

aQI is on the run. That is broadcast by all returning from Iraq. From Mr Warner and Mr Levin to Michael Totten

Ralph Peters relates the position of Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno:

... noted that, while foreign terrorists remain a threat, al Qaeda's been wounded so deeply by the Sunni Arab shift against them that he now feels other issues take priority.

"First, I worry about Shia extremism and Iranian interference, which is increasing. In the long term, Iraqis won't allow Iranians to take over their country - but, in the short term, I'm worried about Basra and the Port of Um Qasr."

Odierno, whose limbs stretched out from a big, black-leather chair, folded his hands. "Second, I'm worried about the development of the government of Iraq. They have to solve their own problems - we can't solve them."

As to Basra, it was just last Feb '07 that both Ms Rice and Mr Cheney declared that city to be a success story in Iraq.

Perhaps Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commanding general of the Multinational Corps-Iraq - the man who leads the day-to-day fight in support of Gen. David Petraeus is just a softy or does not understand the real situation in Iraq.

Maybe he is just a leftist and a defeatist when he says:
... the government of Iraq. They have to solve their own problems - we can't solve them."

8/30/2007 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger Floridan said...

Some of the comments here state that liberals seek defeat and ignore the critical nature of what is at stake in Iraq.

Why should we believe this? If this war (in Iraq) is so important why has the administration not sought to do what it takes to win?

The Bush stategy has been victory on the cheap, with no real buy-in from the American people. Few are asked to sacrifice; few are willing to sacrifice. It's not surprising that this is going nowhere.

If one looks at the war in Iraq as an end in itself, then pulling back is a defeat. If it is seen as just one theatre of a global war, then persisting in draining our limited resources there makes about as much sense as Hitler refusing to let the German Sixth Army make a tactical retreat from Stalingrad.

8/30/2007 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

whiskey: Dr. King and others merely gave the whole rotten edifice a good kick.

Good lord, are you serious about that? Incredibly, you've completely glossed over the constitutional and statutory implications of those marches and (remember) it is our constitution and all that flows from it that makes America a model republic. This also clearly distinguishes the civil rights marches from the Million Man March.

I'll grant you there was a sea-change (economically, politically, racially) not just in the South but all around America but it was at least one generation after the end of World War II.

But back on topic, well done Alexis. We can all quibble about certain points but that was a good piece.

8/30/2007 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Another US General,Deputy Commanding General for Multi National Forces in Iraq, James E. Simmons, discusses with Hugh Hewitt
the conditions on the ground in Iraq

HH: All right. In terms of the Shia radical militias, what’s their threat level right now? Sadr’s allegedly back in Iran…by the way, is that true?

JS: I have no evidence that Sadr is in Iraq.

HH: Okay, given that, do they have good operational control? Or are they falling apart?

JS: Well, I think that there has been a significant effort on the legitimate political process in JAM [Jaish al-Mahdi] to bring the majority of JAM under control. I see some very deliberate work being done to put that organization in the political process. These rogue elements that are out there operating, many of them were clearly part of JAM originally, but we see that they are mostly operating outside the directives of the moderate members and leadership of JAM. So we labeled them as rogue elements, and we see that they continue to get funding and ammunition from Iran.

HH: What kind of numbers are we talking about, General Simmons, when you mention rogue elements among the Shia militia?

JS: We’re talking about, you know, at the minimum, several hundred insurgents that are involved in and around here, in the Baghdad area, and then they’re of course operating in Basra, they’re operating in Karbala, Najaf, Wasat Province, so you know, putting a total number of it would be just a wild guess.

HH: Now there were reports out of Basra a couple of weeks ago that after the Brits have withdrawn that the radicals had taken control of the city. Are those reports accurate?

JS: They are not accurate, and that is a fabrication at best. This was a planned turnover of the Palace and the PJCC to Iraqi control, to the Iraqi legitimate government forces. It was done to standard with, and to well-trained, well-equipped Iraqi Security Forces. There were some peaceful demonstrations that were celebratory in nature, but at no time was any Coalition forces threatened, and the local Iraqi officials under General Mohan, kept a good handle on the situation in Basra.

HH: So what is the situation then in Basra, because that Washington Post story made it sound like the Wild West without the saloons.

JS: It was a demonstration of OMS, or Shia people there that were celebrating, to the best of my knowledge, the return of an Iraqi landmark to the Iraqi government.

He is telling US that the most pressing concern of the his commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the situation in Basra, is well in hand. That Mr Cheney and Ms Rice were correct in their Feb '07 assessments.

So, with the surge a success, the Sunni turned on the aQI and in Basra the:

... planned turnover of the Palace and the PJCC to Iraqi control, to the Iraqi legitimate government forces. It was done to standard with, and to well-trained, well-equipped Iraqi Security Forces.

Still a success story.
So why not, as Mr Warner suggests, begn to draw down, as the US government has promised the US and Iraqi peoples since 2004?

We have won, the politicos on both sides of the aisle just refuse to admit it, to US. Internal US politics being the driving force, not the situation on the ground, in Iraq.

US troop levels just a pawn in the DC chess game.
Or the Generals are lying.

8/30/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Then, back to aQI and their numbers, in Iraq and their source of manpower

HH: Now in a speech last week to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Bush said that since January, 1,500 enemy have been killed or captured each month, which would lead us to about 12,000 by the end of this month, General. What percentage of that, roughly, are foreigner, not Iraqis?

JS: I really don’t have the numbers in front of me, Hugh, but it is, those foreign numbers are primarily operating with al Qaeda here, and whenever we do get them, they are segregated inside the confinement facilities that we have them in, if they are detained instead of being killed in the operation. I would not be able to put a number on it, because I don’t have it sitting right here in front of me.

HH: Is that number in the thousands, though, General?

JS: No, it’s not.

HH: Okay. Of those hundreds of foreigners, are they primarily Saudi? Where are they coming from?

JS: They’re from many different Arab nations. Some of them come from Saudi Arabia, some of them come from Egypt, some of them come from Syria, some of them come from Sudan.

So, out of 12,000 killed or captured, only hundreds are or were foreigners.
Not Iranians, but Arabs.

The Iraqi best suited to do the policing of the areas of operation, as in Anbar. The secret of the current success, local policing, not US presence, except as an arbitrator in the Iraqi Civil War.

As General Lynch made plain a few weeks ago, in a NYTimes article.

8/30/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

As the majority of commenters here seem to agree, the battle is not in Iraq, but a political battle here in the States. Left vs Right.

With the Left wanting to surrender, the Right fighting on
Both in the face of a victory already won.

The Mission, as described in the Authorization for US of Force Iraq,

8/30/2007 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The solution is simple. Marginalize and politically destroy the influence of those who do not WANT a victory for America.

Agree. I think that we on the right have been playing by the rules, one of which is that if you lose an election (even by one vote), then you are duty-bound to go along with the majority and try to make it work.

The left has decided some time ago not to play by those rules any more, to the point where earlier this week one of their spokes-people went so far as to advocate a military coup d'etat to remove our sitting President.

We've been ignoring the left, treating them like a bunch of spoiled brats who must sooner or later grow up, mature, and learn enough about the real world to change their anti-American temper tantrum.

I think we need to start seriously focusing on how to take bits and pieces of the left down a notch or thrice. For example, MSM is already feeling the pinch of people ignoring their ravings and refusing to pay for the privilege. I think we can comfortable assume that both the NY Times and the LA Times are in a death spiral into bankruptcy, and I'd love to see some financial statements on the Big 3 TV networks news programs, too.

Alumni need to start refusing to donate to their alma maters, even more than they are currently doing, until the administration in those insitutes of higher education can prove some kind of accountability, including hiring a more diverse group of professors who aren't all demonstrable pseudo-Indian moonbats.

If a city wants to be a sanctuary city for illegal aliens, then cut off their federal funding for everything.

We have been trusting that time would age and mature the Left, as well as that Capitalism would eventually correct the market and that they would go bankrupt. I think if we were to focus efforts to ensure a faster and more total bankruptcy of anti-American entities (has Cindy Sheehan been audited by the IRS lately?), then that might serve to remarkably focus the mind much faster, and force the moonbat left to decide just exactly how much their street protests, leaks of national secrets and efforts to overthrow the government for the fun of it is worth to them.

They will, of course, scream about freedom of speech and Constitutional rights, but it seems to me that so much of what the anti-war left have been up to is illegal that if we just started enforcing extant laws and manners, it would have an extremely salutary effect -- like making Paris Hilton actually go to jail.

8/30/2007 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

I've been following Douthat's writing for several years now, ever since I found him over at the now completely revamped The American Scene. Pace the commenters above, Douthat is not a Leftist, and his target audience is not the moonbat. He's a Catholic center-right conservative with an intellectualist bent who has soured on Bush and the War.

He also has no opinions on Iraq that are note-worthy other than that they appear in the auspicious venue of Douthat's military knowledge is underdeveloped, and his curiosity could almost be described as anemic. Like most of his intellectualist brethren, he's succumbed to the cognitive trap of dichotomizing military and political strategies into two separate and exclusive zones, instead of co-dependent tracks that interact in complex and oftentimes unpredictable ways.

He's a good writer, and knowledgeable about domestic policy. That's about it.

8/30/2007 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...


If Abraham Lincoln had tried to suppress the southern insurrection using the military he had at the start of the Civil War, the Union would not have won. Although the Bush administration has done a reasonably good job with the resources he had available on September 10, his administration has neither sought a significantly bigger military nor has it been particularly imaginative in fighting our enemy.

The key to mobilizing our society, though, largely falls upon the loyal opposition. Without the support of the loyal opposition, there is a limit to how far any president can go in mobilizing the American people. I think Karl Rove made a horrible blunder by using strong negative advertising against Senator Cleland and Senator Johnson in 2002. Although Lakota Indians rallied around Senator Johnson in 2002, Senator Cleland loss turned him into a cause celebre among partisan Democrats and undermined incentives to cooperate for a common victory. That said, Democrats on the far left (especially the internet) make it easy for Republican partisans to monopolize support for victory.

I do ask. If we don’t fight in Iraq, where should we fight? For the sake of argument, if Iraq were our Stalingrad, what should we do to ensure that our enemy meets his Stalingrad instead? Refusing to fight our enemies is not a viable option, and we certainly don’t want our foreign allies to abandon us much as Mark Anthony’s allies deserted him after the Battle of Actium. The aftermath of the Vietnam War continues to have severe consequences for us, and America’s legacy of betraying its allies undermines the willingness of Muslim allies to fight on our side in the future, especially in Pakistan.

8/30/2007 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I am worried that the war effort may go the way of the Byzantine iconoclasts.

During the Byzantine Iconoclasm, the iconoclasts had strongholds in the army and the court, while the iconodules were strong among monks and women. The iconoclasts controlled the government, while the iconodules controlled the street. The iconodules won the Iconoclasm because they controlled the street. Leo the Mathematician was a great scholar of ninth century Byzantium, so famous that the Caliph al-Mamun offered the Byzantine Empire treaty of perpetual peace and 2000 pounds of gold if Leo the Mathematician would come to his realm. Yet, we know of none of his writings because books written by iconoclasts were systematically destroyed. Empress Irene seized the throne from her son, blinded him, and bribed Byzantine officers to lose battles against the Caliphate lest her son gain credit. Yet, she is called Saint Irene by the Greek Orthodox Church because she restored the icons.

History is replete with factions that control governments yet fail to control the street. For example, there were Republican governments in the South during Reconstruction. Any government that fights a war without the mass media and the academy on its side fights on borrowed time, because those who control the street will eventually break the government. If the Ku Klux Klan could wear down northern resolve to continue Reconstruction 130 years ago, al-Qaeda has every reason to believe it can wear down American resolve to continue our fight against them.

When a faction controls the street, it doesn’t need to demonstrate every day to maintain its control. When the Ku Klux Klan won control over the southern street, it could afford to disband as it had made the streets safe for lynch mobs. Lyndon Johnson, to his credit, had a long-standing vendetta against the Klan. The civil rights movement gave President Johnson an excellent pretext for him to use his office to do everything within his power to destroy the Klan. That broke the back of the segregationist cause, for the Klan was segregation’s backbone.

It is often forgotten how the majority of demonstrators during the civil rights era were segregationists, not civil rights marchers. Segregation was a robust ideology and George Wallace was wildly popular. Segregation, a rotten edifice? And al-Qaeda isn’t? And the Soros gang isn’t? It’s easy to call a regime rotten once it is defeated, just as every war is a long war until it is won. Ending segregation was an uphill struggle, not a cakewalk.

The European friends of the Gates of Vienna are presently trying to break the power Islamist demonstrators have over the European street. They are not allowed to demonstrate in Brussels! Think about it. Brussels and the Belgian government won’t provide security for a nonviolent demonstration by Islamophobes because they are scared of Muslim rioters.

After the September 11 attacks, who seized control over the street? The anarchists! Even before we even started to fight back against the terrorists, they took to the streets to condemn this war and President Bush, not Osama bin Laden and his war! If nobody is willing to actively challenge the Left’s control over our streets, why shouldn’t al-Qaeda think they can win this war?

8/30/2007 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

If nobody is willing to actively challenge the Left’s control over our streets, why shouldn’t al-Qaeda think they can win this war?

These guys seem to be being pretty successful at taking back the streets from the Marxist / Anarchist / Global Warming / Loony Left. And it's also my impression that they're growing larger as an organization:

'Gathering of Eagles'
to protect Vietnam Veterans Wall

8/30/2007 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hewitt Interviews
Major General James E. Simmons ,
And Dr. Kimberly Kagan, who authored
a just-published comprehensive assessment of Iran's actions in Iraq:

Audio of Above, plus Hitchens

8/30/2007 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Both of those folks say that Iran has matched our surge with a similar surge in EFP's to record numbers, stepped up Quds and Hezbollah activity, and etc.

Also agree that there is a high degree of co-ordination between all the groups.

8/30/2007 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

RE: Nothing Lives Long in a Vacuum

As Michael noted, Nothing Lives Long in a Vacuum.
That apparently includes “taking up arms against the occupiers.” Muqtada al-Sadr has announced a six month suspension of Mahdi Army activity in Iraq. The question is why, and at least part...
- Steve Shippert

8/30/2007 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

From a May article I wrote for FrontPage Magazine
titled “Turning The Corner In Iraq,”
I noted that the rivalry between Sistani and Khameini is significant and that Iranian support for groups killing Sistani’s following was a decisive factor in the split.

It was through those open channels that the United States clearly shared evidence of Iranian material support for specific Sunni groups engaged in targeting Shi’a Iraqis in attacks. And it was clearly compelling enough to cause Iraq’ largest Shi’a political party to seek guidance from the traditionalist (and pro-democracy) al-Sistani instead of the revolutionary Iranian leaders.

8/30/2007 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Reply to Alexis,

The surge is an internal security arrangement in Iraq. The insurgency is supported with Iran and Syria/Saudi supply external to Iraq. Since they are untouchable by the surge these supply chains merely need to find new end users in Iraq. America is left chasing around whacking moles. AQM is the latest mole, there will be another.

The surge is war on the cheap and how this conflict has been fought by all sides. It can never lead to victory, but also avoids defeat and risks nothing. The USA and Iran and Saudi and Syria can maintain this conflict indefinitely if they so choose, with minimal inconsequential loss (volunteer and Iraqi civilian). The leaders of these countries appeal to their respective "streets" (the Right side of the American street included) to "fight the glorious fight" and so the war serves a mutually beneficial purpose.

All of the above means the Left and Douthat are correct - the surge cannot win the war. BUT also that the Right and Boot are correct - to withdraw would be stupid. Withdrawl (driven by the Left side of the American street) will not change the needs of Syria and Saudi and Iran to continue to "fight the glorious fight" and they will need to change the venue. If you leave Iraq the conflict will follow you.

"I do ask. If we don’t fight in Iraq, where should we fight? For the sake of argument, if Iraq were our Stalingrad, what should we do to ensure that our enemy meets his Stalingrad instead?"

To ensure victory will require the removal of the enemies strength. Depose the regimes of Iran and Saudi and possibly Syria, replace them with something better. Avoid getting bogged down in areas of resistance and bypass these to destroy the enemys strengths - same as then.

8/30/2007 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Why, that should be obvious to all, doug.

The Coalition only fights those that fight it. Just look to Anbar for confirmation of that.

Mr Maliki has long stated that the Shia militias are not part of the problem, but part of the solution and are controllable, by the Iraqi Government.

The Mahdi Army stands down, regroups, reorganizes and rearms.
Just as their mentors in Lebanon, Hezbollah, have played nice after the war with Israel, last year.

Also, the Security Agreement, the Occupation Treaty is up for renewal in December. If the Mahdi are peaceful, the 1920's new US proxies and there is no sectarian violence to speak of, the US will begin to leave. Either on it's own or at the direction of the Iraqi Government and the UN, per a newly written Security Agreement.

8/30/2007 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Rattler --

Yes I am serious. The political and legal maneuvering was merely an after-the-fact bit of paint on the actual social reality. The same political and legal issues existed in say, 1896 when the Supremes ruled in favor of Jim Crow with Plessy vs. Ferguson. What changed was the willingness of white men to go out and do violence, to kill, to preserve segregation. The car and air conditioning and TV produced suburbanization, atomization, loss of social control, and thus no real political will in the South to fight for Segregation. There was no punishment of corporations and media companies for example in the South that were associated with desegregation. Like Forrest most white Southerners wanted to make money over maintaining segregation.

Alexis -- while I agree with some of your analysis I disagree profoundly with most of it. The Left's "street" presence is over-rated and frankly moribund. Street battles can ONLY be won by young men willing to fight, kill, and even die. That's what made the Freikorps dangerous, and forms the basis for the NPD today in Germany which has German politicos scared. The Left has what, exactly? A few Anarchist punks? Able to act when the police are politically handcuffed? They couldn't even stand up to middle aged motorcyclists. The Freikorps could offer a deal that young men were willing to fight for: power and of course, women that go with power. The Anarchists offer ... what exactly? Power won't flow to them, so no women. Political power through a mob only works when you can convince most young men that their ultimate goal (women) is achievable through violence directed through a central organization.

The media is of course dying, because it's biases are so obvious and it's elitism rankles ordinary people. The LAT and other newspapers are in a death spiral, as is TV news.

The opposition to Lincoln of course was Democrats, who supported the South and sought peace with it. Who actively engaged in traitorous acts. Lincoln of course had will where Bush had none. The Republican governments in the South during Reconstruction were "Rotten" i.e. they had the support of only the freed slaves; the vast majority of the White citizens detested them. The Left today is inimicably hostile to the interests, particularly of white men and especially of young white men.

The Left promotes elitism which leads to wealthy and powerful men (as in the Byzantine Empire) having all the women. Slaves and serfs don't fight for the Emperor's or Sultan's harem. The Left celebrates women and high-status men, denigrates ordinary men. If you are the 90% plus of straight young white men, Leftism with it's PC rules, "may I kiss you now," restrictions on sexuality, sidelining for higher-status men, economic punishment, is a non-starter. Hard to have a street army with women and academic eunuchs. The Klan was powerful because it was the expression of most white men who feared the political revenge that was certain to take place if the former slave class had political and social freedom. Once that fear was negated (i.e. whites moved away from blacks in defacto segregation).

A rotten edifice is one that has no solid basis for political control from the majority of the population. Against solid media bias, various Lefty agitation, and the wealth-minority coalition even a weak and pathetic candidate like GWB won against Gore and Kerry. Because most men could not stomach voting those guys. Weakness, defeat, submission, and low status are never attractive options for men, particularly young men, seeking women. The Left has what? Katie Couric? A failed middle aged woman who slept her way to the top? Whom most men laugh at and don't like? The View?

The Left's fatal flaw is it's hatred of ordinary men.

8/30/2007 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

" The Left has what, exactly? A few Anarchist punks? Able to act when the police are politically handcuffed? They couldn't even stand up to middle aged motorcyclists. The Freikorps could offer a deal that young men were willing to fight for: power and of course, women that go with power. The Anarchists offer ... what exactly? Power won't flow to them, so no women. Political power through a mob only works when you can convince most young men that their ultimate goal (women) is achievable through violence directed through a central organization."
- Whiskey
The left and the New Left did indeed control the streets in the 60's, today's demonstrators are anemic and ignored.
More power in the Nutroots of blogworld than in the streets, and the greatest powers of all are Soros, Ikes, and Macauliff with their money raising schemes for Hillary.

Whether the latest Felonious Chinese contributors are properly dealt with by the Feds and the MSM is crucial.
So far, Ickes et al have had a free ride for the last 15 years.

8/30/2007 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I wrote "For Hillary," in truth, for large numbers of DC Politicos.

8/30/2007 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Talk radio and bloggers are of course responsible for attempting to get MSM to give appropriate attention.

8/30/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Any discussion about pulling out before then is merely what-if navel-gazing of the sort indulged in by little girls planning their wedding ceremony."
One should not underestimate the considerable powers of Estrogen charged youth, obssessed, possessed, and turbocharged with hysteria, to move heaven and earth.

8/30/2007 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Short summary: the Left calls for retreat, the Right calls to hold position and no one calls an advance.

8/30/2007 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

One should not underestimate the considerable powers of Estrogen charged youth, obssessed, possessed, and turbocharged with hysteria, to move heaven and earth.

Ahhhh, yes. You must be thinking of the Children's Crusade ... the only time in recorded history when the Arabs actually won a war against the West.

8/30/2007 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The calls to advance were made years ago, falling on deaf ears.

That no longer being an option it makes little sense to advocate for it.

Better to advocate making the best, out of a bad set of realistic options.

8/30/2007 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Actually, I was just giving every wedding planner's lament.

8/31/2007 12:35:00 AM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

The above comments seem to reflect James Surowiecki's take in "The Wisdom of Crowds".

8/31/2007 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Just about everyone living today is the beneficiary of what can almost certainly be called the single most consequential development in human history -- namely, the onset of industrialization. As the economic historian Angus Maddison has shown in a series of studies of economic development over the past two millennia, human economies grew very little, if at all, for most of human history. Between 1000 and 1820 or so, Maddison estimates, annual economic growth was around 0.05 percent a year -- which meant that living standards improved incredibly slowly and that people living in 1800 were only mildly better off than people living in 1000. But sometime around 1820, that all began to change.
Between 1820 and today, world per capita real income grew 20 times as fast as it did in the previous eight centuries.
Rufus's and Charles' possible substitutes notwithstanding.

8/31/2007 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

(Surowiecki Book Review)

8/31/2007 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

I honestly think that one can over-intellectualize this situation.

I think it is far more simple. Imagine someone intruding on a Roman coliseum show where the crowds were watching people fight to the death. One group wanted the big guy with the leather thong to win, since he looked wild and dangerous. The other group wanted the guy with the armour and sword to win. Win meant one would die. But someone, call him Shrub says that this is wicked, this watching these people fight among themselves. The whole crowd boos and turns on Shrub. How dare anyone interrupt our entertainment.

It became very obvious to me during the Sarajevo seige that the death and destruction on tv was like pornography. The enlightened west gets frissons of danger from watching the collapse of a society, where neighbors start killing each other. It was far away, or far enough away. We could wring our hands and say 'what can be done', giving the thumbs up or down to whoever annoyed us at the moment. Rwanda confirmed it. The pictures were horrific, but what could we do, even with a battalion of Canadians on the ground. Terrible, wring hands, terrible. Just today I was listening to a discussion on CBC Radio (canada) about Burma. Ethereal really, talking of the devotion of the monks, and ooh they did the same thing in Vietnam.

Thumbs down on the Burmese military. Thumbs up to the iranians, except thumbs down when the flog a homosexual.


10/12/2007 08:42:00 PM  

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