B After The Fact

Thursday, September 30, 2004

B Defends Himself From An Attack On The Left

I didn't really think a lot about Afghanistan until I read the Fallows piece.

I think the fundamental difference in thinking is whether or not this was a war of choice. Me, being very neo-con in this one area of my thinking, feel that the timing was a choice, by which I mean the short term timing, this year or last year, etc. Reading Fallows makes me feel the place may have been more of a choice than I previously thought -- I have to think about it some more.

But the notion of a full scale war against radical Islam at some place in the Middle East. That was not a choice at all. That war was started and imposed on us. The only choice was how to fight it.Radical Islam would have attracted terrorists either way. They would have been attracted either because we invaded Iraq, or because we did nothing, and would have been perceived to be paper tigers, ready to be destroyed. And that perception may have been true. But what the U.S. was doing, pre 9/11. floating along in a bubble. That had to stop.

Problem with the Bushies is the same one I keep saying in the form of my joke "Didn't they see Lawrence of Arabia?" The committment is long term, and then you still may be doomed to failure. After all, it took us 45 years to win the Cold War, which was a far far easier task than this one will be.

Bush's failure to prepare the country properly, because Bush misread then and continues to misread now the threat, is the reason Bush has to go. Bush never took the threat of radical Islam seriously, and still does not -- he looks at it in terms of settling personal scores with Saddam, securing the Bush family oil contracts, and consolidating Bush's royal power domestically (something that is separate and apart from consolidating Republican power or conservative power or Christian power, three things that Bush couldn't care about less).

A Letter To B Attacks Him From The Left

One of my loyal readers attacks from the left:

"Read the Andrew Sullivan piece. The problem is that its logic is completely circular. Blair, and Sullivan, believe that Iraq is a central front in the war against radical Islamic jihad. They conveniently ignore the fact that Saddam, evil as he was, did not have any ties to Al Qaeda -- the people who actually brought terror to our shores and killed 3000 Americans.

"The only reason that Islamic jihadists are now swarming all over Iraq is that we created a vacuum there by invading. There wouldn't have been a threat to American security in Iraq if we hadn't opened the door. Everything the Bushies say they want to do in the Middle East -- bringing democracy, teaching the Arab world that the USA will not lay down in the face of terror, etc. -- could have been done, and done more effectively, in Afghanistan...if only we had seen the task through to its completion. Leaving the job unfinished there and invading Iraq has created two problems where there had previously been only one.

"I do not believe that we can leave Iraq immediately. On the other hand, we are doomed to failure there, not just by the grievous mistakes that have been made in the execution of the plan, but by the flaws inherent in the plan from the beginning. If there had ever been the slightest prospect for success, Bush has certainly killed it by his gross incompetence.

"However, we need to say, once and for all, that this was an idiotic idea to start with. If we are to minimize the historic damage that the Iraq diversion has wrought, we need to honestly acknowledge what has happened. Otherwise, the right wing will use knee-jerk reactionary politics and muddy the waters, as they always do. And this will mean that any efforts at damage control will be rendered ineffective."

B Defends Himself from an Attack on the Right

A Red Mind In A Blue State responded to my last post. I respond in kind.

The energy crisis is easily solved, and the jobs and prosperity that solving the energy crisis would bring would solve many of the economic ills you mention, if we brought the same national resolve to solving that problem as we do to insuring that the oil lines are made safe for Haliburton and the Carlyle Group.

I have said this before as a joke, but I also mean it seriously. Just solve the energy crisis, and give all the patents to Haliburton. But at least that way, we wouldn't have to go through this whole business of pretending we care about one problem in the Middle East when we really care about another problem entirely.

The choice is not between sending kids to the Middle East and having grandma freeze in the winter while you can't find a job. Half the people I know don't have jobs now. The choice is between whether we send kids over to protect the price of cheap oil, or whether we develop alternative solutions here in the United States, and find a way to fairly apportion what may (or may not) be the greater cost of domestic energy.

Iraq has to be a working democracy, not a kind of democracy, not the Phillipines, because the United States has staked its reputation and prestige in making it one. And what democracy and freedom means in the United States is a whole different thing entirely from what it means everywhere else.

If all you want from Iraq is all you say you want, if the United States does not want or need a true election or a working democracy in Iraq, then there was no reason that France and all those other morons in the United Nations couldn't have had a say in when and how we get Saddan.

Anyone could have replaced one corrupt dictator with another corrupt ruler more to its liking. The United States went in alone because it did not, and should not, trust other people to set up American-style freedom properly. But if we are not going to set it up properly, if we were going to compromise our values anyway, we could have compromised them at the United Nations in March 2003 just as easily as Rumsfeld seems to want to in January 2005.

Unless, of course, we went in for the oil.

Monday, September 27, 2004

If You Want To Leave Iraq -- Vote For Bush

This is taken from Spence Ackerman's Iraq'd blogsite on The New Republic's website. Everytime I think I have something new to say, someone else is saying it too.

"Any implication that that place has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and U.S. forces I think would obviously be unwise because it's never been peaceful and perfect and it isn't likely to be."

The Michael Moore wannabe who thinks we should just leave before things are peaceful in Iraq is --- Donald Rumsfeld.

The troops will be home for Easter --- unless of course they are needed to secure the oil.

You can never be too cynical about these people. They are way ahead of us.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

James Fallows to Michael Moore: Why Don't You Just Ask Some Generals?

In the current issue of The Atlantic, James Fallows writes a cover article Bush's Lost Year that makes Michael Moore seem like a Bushie.

Bush's Lost Year, according to the article, is 2002, when Bush could have done anything and everything, but was only interested in the one thing -- Iraq. Now of course, according to the article, all the resources have been spent, the mess in Afghanistan will soon be as bad now as it was on September 11, and Pakistan remains a sump-pump of terrorism. Iran and North Korea --- both of which do have easily verifiable WMDs -- are not only three years stronger, but the United States is three years weaker. Fallows shows that the United States has spent all of its "soft power" (non-war influence) and a good deal of its military power. Fallows also makes a case, painful to me who viscerally disagrees with it, that a chance to lean harder on the Israelis to make peace was squandered. Fallows also points out, although I don't think he meant to, that the chance to lean harder on the Palestinians was also squandered. Fallows says that those choices will not come around again. Fallows also says, very clearly, that alternative uses of power (finish the job in Afghanistan, use more political/ military capital in Pakistan or Iran or North Korea) were never really considered in a meaningful way, although alternative uses of power, especially vis-a-vis the Israel/Palestinian matter had some powerful advocates (Colin Powell and Tony Blair).

Fallows quotes sources saying, both directly and indirectly, that everything we are trying to do, and will fail to do, in Iraq, could have been done in Afghanistan, if the Bush Administration only wanted to.

Fallows does not name, and its absence is stunning, one single person in the top three levels of government, who made the argument, at a time where it mattered, to go into Afghanistan full-bore, stay there, and use Afghanistan as the model of democracy by which the Mid-East would fall like so many dominoes.

What Fallows does makes clear is that had such a person existed, he would have been quickly shunned by the administration. Before, during and after 9/11, the Bushies were only interested in one thing -- Saddam Hussein.

According to The Atlantic article, and just like Moore posits in Fahrenheit 9/11, the Bush Administration only went into Afghanistan because they could not handle the p.r. mess that would develop if they did not appear to be at least trying to catch Osama.

The big difference between Michael Moore and James Fallows is that Fallows quotes exclusively from Republican and military sources.

The other big difference is that Fallows gives a full-blast review of what it meant in military planning circles to fight a war in Afghanistan that you knew, from day one, was only going to be a side show to the Iraq war to follow. It is not pretty.

The decision to do the war in Afghanistan on the cheap was not done, as Donald Rumsfeld is always quoted as saying, to show what a new lighter army could do. The task of having the Northern Alliance go after Osama rather than having American military do it themselves was not done simply because the Northern Alliance knew the terrain and the U.S. military did not. The task of keeping Osama from escaping into Pakistan was not left to the Pakistani military to avoid a sovereignty dispute with Pakistan over a potential U.S. "invasion." Rather, all these things were done to keep resources available. They would be needed in Iraq.

Then there was the focus factor. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the neo-cons, were all focussed on Iraq. They had no time to focus on anything else.

In the echo chamber of response to this article, I have read that Fallows said somewhere (not in the article) that the Bushies felt, due to the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, that the United States could not possibly be successful in Afghanistan over the long-term. According to this view, the Bushies also felt, as has been widely reported, that the Iraqis would greet American soldiers with flowers.

When Afghanistan turned out to be easy (the people wanted us there) and when intelligence concerning Iraq turned out to be different from what was expected (didn't anyone in the Bush administration ever watch "Lawrence of Arabia"), it never dawned on anybody in the White House or the Pentagon to re-calibrate their thinking about resources in Afghanistan versus resources in Iraq.

The only mission was to get Saddam. Now Saddam is gotten. Good luck to all of us.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Will Bush institute a draft? Can Kerry avoid one?

Kerry said that if elected he will be out of Iraq in four years. Bushies claim that such talk is irresponsible.

My question is: How can Bush fight a war if he has no soldiers? Are volunteer levels still sufficient now that we see that joining the National Guard can be a long term commitment to putting yourself in the line of fire?

Even I don’t think that Karl Rove would master-mind an economic depression so deep that the only available job for millions of men and women would be the Army.

Bush cannot easily institute a draft. That means that he will have an excuse to leave an unpopular war right before the 2006 congressional elections. Abandoning Iraq will be keeping with his character.

I think this war will become most unpopular in the same mid-Western swing states that are being fought over right now. It will also be unpopular in states, such as Indiana, that seem solidly Republican, but would suddenly find a way to be both extremely conservative and extremely anti-war at the same time --- if there seems to be no end to the war in sight. This is how people like Birch Bayh and Lee Hamilton get elected in Indiana.

Conversely, the so-called liberal coasts, which have more international influences put upon them, will increasingly favor, or at least understand, a war where terrorism is being stopped in its tracks. I keep thinking that I represent a lot of centrist thinking on the war -- love the war, hate the warrior --- but no one seems to be thinking that way but me. I expect everyone will come around in time

Kerry, being a liberal hemmed in by the vast right wing conspiracy, would be unable to leave Iraq under any circumstances.

Not just Kerry, but a Democrat, any Democrat, would therefore have to fight in the end.

Not just Bush, but a Republican, virtually any Republican, could leave Iraq whenever he wanted.

If Michael Moore had the courage of his own anti-war convictions, he would vote for Bush.

However, if during the campaign, Kerry were to raise the issue of Bush's potential draft, Kerry could put both himself and Bush on record. If Kerry's media was 1/8 as effective as Bush's, he would have scared everyone by now. And, as an American (neither Democrat nor Republican), an election based on the draft would be a valid issue to determine the future direction of the country.

No election is completely free of other issues. But a full and fair election with the draft as a central issue would give the winning candidate a real mandate to do what he wanted in Iraq.


You have to wonder if John Kerry wants it badly enough.

Many bloggers, like A Red Mind In a Blue State, question whether Bush's National Guard service is relevant in the current election. According to this logic, the only thing relevant about the incumbent's record is what he does as President. Past actions will gain no traction. Therefore, war hero Bob Dole could not touch Bill Clinton's "draft dodging" in 1996, since the time to do it was 1992, etc.

George Bush's National Guard service shows his character completely. He obtained a coveted position through family connections. He seemed to rationalize this by thinking that since he was the best man for the job, how he got the job did not matter so much. Bush needed a short time to get his bearings. Once he got them, he performed diligently and admirably. Despite his diligent and admirable service, he did not obtain his desired results. The day-to-day grind became too much for him. He ran away. He got family retainers to cover his tracks.

This is the story of Bush's National Guard career. It is the story of his business career in oil. It is the story of how he won the election. It is the story of Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama, and it will be the story of Bush's involvement in Iraq.

Bush became President after the Supreme Court short-circuited the Florida process. Bush thought it was OK, because he knew that God wanted him to be President. While President, he sought a way to take out Saddam Hussein. His first few months as President were rocky, but after September 11, after some hesitation and other steps, after WMDs, Bush got his chance to invade Iraq. The invasion went swimmingly. History books will make it sound as if one day we invaded Iraq, and the very next day we found Sadman Insane in the monkey hole. After that, the post-invasion became messy.

According to Bush's pattern, he will now look for a way out. After the National Guard became messy and inconvenient, Bush split to Alabama. (Family retainers made it right with the National Guard) After business invesmtents became messy, Bush split to the Texas Rangers baseball team. (Family retainers made it right with the SEC). After Afghanistan became messy, Bush split to Iraq. (Family retainers made it sound unpatriotic, the act of a terrorist, to ask why we were abandoning the search for Osama). Now that Iraq is messy, Bush may look for a way out of Iraq as well.

If John Kerry wants it badly enough, he can certainly show that Bush's past is an exact indicator of the present and the future. Bush's lack of character foretells a bad end for Iraq.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


In 1913, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution gave the people the right to elect their United States Senators. Before that time, Senators were elected by the State legislatures.

Since 1913, there have been 22 Presidential elections.

In two of those elections, sitting United States Senators were elected:

John Kennedy (1960)
Warren Harding (1920)

In three of those elections, sitting United States Senators were defeated:

Robert Dole (1996)(Dole actually resigned from the Senate during the campaign process)
George McGovern (1972)
Barry Goldwater (1964)

In the 20th century, three additional United States Presidents had been Senators, then became Vice President, and then became President:

Richard Nixon (President 1969-1974; Vice President 1953-1961; Senator 1950-1953)
Lyndon Johnson (President 1963-1969; Vice President 1961-1963; Senator 1949-1961)
Harry Truman (President 1945-1953; Vice President 1945; Senator 1935-1945)

In the 20th century, four men had been Senators, then became Vice President, and then lost elections to become President

Al Gore (lost election 2000; Vice President 1993-2001; Senator 1985-1993)
Walter Mondale (lost election 1984; Vice President 1977-1981; Senator 1964-1976)
Hubert Humphrey (lost election 1968; Vice President 1965-1969; Senator 1949-1964)
Richard Nixon (lost election 1960; Vice President 1953-1961; Senator 1950-1953)

Richard Nixon (1968) is the last person to ever be nominated to run for President after previously losing a Presidential election. For the record, in the 20th century, Eisenhower beat Stevenson twice (1952 and 1956) Dewey lost to both Roosevelt (1944) and Truman (1948. Bryan lost to Taft (1908) and to McKinley twice (1896 and 1900)

More fun trivia to follow in later blog postings