Thursday, June 30, 2005

Stay the course?

The President likes to use the phrase "Stay the Course" as if it were an unassailable reason to continue a policy of failure in Iraq. It seems to me that there are times when you want to stay the course and times when you wish to change the course.

For instance, you might want to change the course if you are following a man that has leapt off a tall building. You might want to change your course if you are steaming towards the precipice of a waterfall. You might want to change your course if you inadvertently find yourself in an angry bull's pasture.

I want to argue that you "Stay the Course" when there is a high probability that doing so will achieve the goals which shaped the course, without incurring losses unacceptable for your gains.

The goals which we are striving for are hard to pin down, but today appear to be the creation of a peaceful, free, and democratic Iraq. The original goals which set us on our course were: smoking out Osama Bin Laden, removing fleets of unmanned Ariel vehicles, removing tons of Sarin gas, Mustard gas, and Anthrax, removing mobile biological weapons labs, removing a nuclear arsenal, and of course removing Saddam Hussein himself from power.

The losses we are incurring as we go are killed and wounded American soldiers, killed and wounded Iraqi civilians, billions of dollars expended, and international pariah status for ourselves.

The task of making Iraq safe for democracy is not so clear-cut and is somewhat subjective. However, I want to argue that Iraqi perception of our presence is critically important to our likely success.


Based upon news reports and interviews with Iraqis it seems that their access to water, gas, and electricity is unpredictable and measurably worse than it was under Saddam Hussein. Many cannot find jobs. In many places the sewers aren't working. Many Iraqis argue that while Saddam was a brute and they are happy to be rid of him, that so far they experience more unpredictable danger in their daily lives under our occupation. That is, they considered Saddam to be a predictable danger and our presence there an unpredictable danger. At best I would say they are ambivalent about us, patient and hopeful but not happy with their current lot in life.

Unless we want to spend all our time trying to put out forest-fires of anti-occupation activity then we need to generate conditions succulent for democracy to flourish, namely Iraqi cooperation. In fact, I argue that if the Iraqi people fight against our goals then democracy is unobtainable by its' very definition (government of the people, for the people, by the people). And that means, as Donald Rumsfailed succinctly said, we want to win Iraqi hearts and minds.


Are we winning Iraqi hearts and minds when Abu Ghraib is still open for business?

Are we winning Iraqi hearts and minds when we shoot at an unarmed, wounded prisoner in a mosque?

Are we winning Iraqi hearts and minds when we use interrogation techniques offensive to their religion?

Are we winning Iraqi hearts and minds when we build permanent bases on Iraqi soil?

Are we winning Iraqi hearts and minds when we smash ancient cities like Fallujah?

I argue that nothing is more important to our goal than to change the course which led to the events listed above. If the current culture is allowed to continue then we will not succeed because the people of Iraq will abandon us, and once that happens we will have to choose between governing like Saddam (with fear) or going.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Where's Osama? Posted by Hello

Fast forgotten

President Bush's speech was predictable and unenlightening and I expect it to fade from view very quickly.

He's still out to bamboozle the American people by linking 911 and his ill-gotten war in Iraq. He's still trying to divide Americans, rather than uniting them. He's still leaving his incompetent defense secretary in place. And he's still engaging in happy-talk and empty-bravado.


Once your credibility is gone you cannot lie with success. While the president tried to again use our troops as props in his pageant, they refused to play along and clapped exactly once and even then had to be coerced into it.

Here's what I've learned. When you have war whose purpose is to ward off an actual threat (from a fleet of unmanned, aerial, WMD-laden vehicles, say) there is no need to lie to the American people. They will sacrifice and they will fight like hell to defend America. But, when you lie to Americans and their children start to die and the threat evaporates they lose respect for you.

A President is essentially a confidence peddler and nothing is more undignified in a President than pomp devoid of trust, and that is where we are now. Our President is a used-car salesman peddling a lemon and we aren't interested.

This is a palpable feeling which now envelopes President Bush. If he weren't so arrogant I might be capable of compassion for him, but instead I find myself uninterested in him or his likely B.S. In other words I am waiting for the next administration and it's as if he doesn't exist anymore.

Here is the full text of the President's speech. There's nothing new in it and I don't trust the messenger, but a good way to leverage the internets is to provide the whole context and not simply an interpretation.

Lonely and pathetic

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Meanwhile back at the ranch

On May 25th, 2004 President Bush used all of the bravado at his command and promised to tear down Abu Ghraib. For those with short memories here is a refresher link:

We will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison

About a year later, on June 28th 2005 that bravado is not only unfulfilled, we have been adding people to Abu Ghraib in excess of its capacity:

Past the normal capacity for both Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca

Our President is all hat and no cattle.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What to do about Iraq

Some conservatives have the perplexing position that being correct about the war in Iraq makes Democrats weak on national defense. First, we were dismissed as unpatriotic, or perhaps not properly "supportive" of a President who prematurely declared our mission there accomplished (which frankly still seems absurd).

Then, once we were exposed as correct by the facts on the ground, conservatives adopted the new charge that the mess was somehow our fault, by reason of improper support of a President who mismanaged nearly every aspect of the war.

My conservative friends, isn't it time you started to listen to the helps that come from reason? The solution to the war in Iraq can be paraphrased like so, "Change the friggin' course!"

The unabridged version of the solution was articulated by Senator Joseph Biden, who strikes Marshall Whitman as rather like Truman:

Intelligent Foreign Policy

I just couldn't resist a post on this subject. It's too important a speech to ignore.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Click here to order your own Posted by Hello

Foot Quotes

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"

Charles Darwin