Thursday, August 10, 2006

Victory for Lieberman Republicans?

The cult of Bush has now found something new to be incensed about. Lieberman lost his bid to be re-elected as the Democratic Senator from Connecticut because his opponent, Ned Lamont, ran a campaign focused primarily on Lieberman's unquestioned support of George W. Bush's failed policies in Iraq. On most other issues, barely a ray of light can be seen between the two candidates' views.

I know why Connecticut Dems eschewed Joementum. After making out with the president in the House chamber, Lieberman derided Democrats who served as the loyal opposition to Bush, stating: "It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril." Game, set, match. Mr. Magoo could have beaten this idiot in the primary. The start and conduct of the Iraq war was wrong: it has not helped the war on terror, it has not advanced US policy in the world, it has not weakened al Qaeda, and it has yet to benefit the Iraqis (save, of course, Ahmed Chalabi). And knuckleheads like Lieberman thought it prudent to refrain from any discourse just when our nation depended on it.

The unusually delusional Cal Thomas is the latest apologist for failed Bush policies to speak out. He appears to be in the catarrhal phase of his rabid disapproval of Connecticut Democrats who had the gall to exercise their franchise on Tuesday. Uncool Cal says:

It is a loss for his party and for the country. It completes the capture of the Democratic Party by its Taliban wing....[Democrats] have now morphed into Taliban Democrats because they are willing to "kill" one of their own, if he does not conform to the narrow and rigid agenda of the party's kook fringe.”

Oh please. Ned Lamont is a capable successful citizen with views that are in lockstep with the national Democratic Party and Connecticut voters. Nobody killed Lieberman, he committed political suicide by supporting a failed president in a war that does not serve our national interests, and the voters for once were intelligent enough to recognize it. Is “Taliban” the latest epithet used for opponents, like Nazi has been used in the past.? If so, I'd like to present Grodge's Corollary to Godwin's Law, which would state that comparing a political party to the Taliban ends the argument, and you have lost. Furthermore, your party will likely lose at least one house of Congress in the coming election. Thomas continues:

[Lieberman's] detractors, who brought him down in the primary with a one-issue, inexperienced and unqualified candidate, Ned Lamont, hate President Bush so much that their judgment has been distorted...The Taliban wing of the Democratic Party cannot countenance any "heretics" who do not toe their line.”

The Iraq war is just “one-issue” like Tiger Woods is just another duffer. Iraq is the defining catastrophe of the generation, and increasingly citizens are recognizing it as a war of choice that was the wrong choice. The defining characteristic of a democracy is that elected officials are to be held accountable for their failures, and who can blame Connecticut voters or refusing an entrenched pol like Lieberman who is cozying up to the corrupt party that has recently had a Republican mayor and governor who were forced to step down for malfeasance, namely soliciting 8 year-olds on the internet and handing lucrative state contracts to cronies. I also find it humorous that Cal Thomas takes issue with “incendiary rhetoric” from a bunch of left-wing bloggers, a few remarks sampled from probably thousands comments made about Lieberman, when his rhetoric about “Taliban Democrats” who issue “political fatwahs” against “heretics” is arguably more incendiary and coming from a supposedly respectable member of the punditocracy to boot.

My favorite line from Thomas' vituperative tirade, however, is his contention that Lamont supporters somehow damage the democratic process. He says: “For those who still believe not only in a strong two-party system, but also in compromise and conciliation in order to promote the general welfare and seek the common good, the Lieberman defeat strikes an especially harmful blow.”

What's in Cal's Kool-aid? When voters disagree with a candidate, they damage the two-party system? I heard nobody advocating a Stalinist or Maoist one-party system. Rather, I saw voters engaging in the responsible conduct of discourse and citizenship. Finally. At long last, maybe rays of morning sunshine are beginning to brighten the horizon after this long, 6 year, dark night of our collective national soul.

Cal Thomas takes the incongruous view of positively spinning Lieberman's loss by concluding that “GOP losses, if any, might not be as bad as predicted this November. Karl Rove could not have devised a more brilliant plan.” Ahh, yes... the old schoolyard canard of "meaning to do that", as in "Yeah, well I meant to hang that curve ball just to see how far you could hit it." On the contrary, if the rest of the nation follows suit and the 70% of Americans who think Iraq was a mistake finally vote the Bush sycophants out of office, we may get not only a Democratic Senate with subpoena power, but we may also get hearings and indictments that are long overdue.

Then maybe Mr. Thomas can stop libeling Lamont supporters as terrorists and start doing something constructive, like campaigning to get donors for Rove's, Cheney's, and Rummy's legal defense funds .

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shi'a Crescent won't end the world (I think)

Billmon’s recent screed is a frightening appraisal of the spiral occurring in the Middle East. I consider Billmon a must-read, and have not missed a post for over a year. He has been consistently out front with pithy insight on the failed US policies overseas, and while I enjoy his writing and banter, I take issue with his current stand.

Billmon's “War Party”:

If the United States were to begin pulling troops out of Iraq now, it would be interpreted correctly throughout the Middle East as an open admission of defeat -- one that would likely lead fairly quickly to a complete American evacuation of the country. (Maybe not literally by landing helicopters on the roof of the embassy, but all in the region would understand the military reality that as the force grows smaller it will become progressively more dangerous to keep it in Iraq.)

Such an outcome could well force Iraq's Shi'a political leaders to snuggle up even more tightly to Iran, if only as a matter of physical survival. If the full-scale civil war everyone seems to expect were to break out following an American withdrawal, Baghdad might even feel compelled to call in Iranian troops. At a minimum, Iran could be left with enormous influence over, if not outright control of, the Iraqi government and its security forces. Access to Iraqi air space would give Iran a direct resupply corridor to Syria, and, through Syria, to Hizbullah. A ground presence could provide Tehran with a direct ground link -- call it the Ayatollah Khomeini Trail -- assuming the Kurds could be bought off and/or intimidated, or the Sunni belt pacified (one shudders to think of what that might involve.)

Presto: one Shi'a crescent to go.

Since Billmon is usually spot on with his analysis, and many of his predictions have been borne out, I fully realize that my current opposition to his grim view of the “Shi’a Crescent” taking shape in the Middle East may merely be my irrational denial of the horrendous consequences of such a development. As with all of my blog entries, this view continues to be a work in progress as I try to hash out my opinions and I fully recognize that it is prudent to take pause whenever one disagrees with one of Billmon’s opinions. So here goes my mental gymnastic exercise:

Left Blogistan, as embodied in Billmon’s entry cited above among many others, is tending toward an indignant, self-righteous cynicism that I don't think is necessarily warranted. Yes, Bush is a first class boob, but just as Islamofascism cannot destroy the West, neither can a mismanaged foreign policy run by chickenhawk neocons. As a culture, I believe we are much stronger than that. In sum, the world is still safer than it was two or three decades ago when our way of life was directly threatened with instant annihilation by Cold War protagonists. Sure, our enemies can catch us sleeping and blow up a few buildings, and maybe even set off a dirty bomb some day, but that does not threatens our way of life, unless we respond in a self-destructive way. My sense is that the majority of Americans are now recognizing that our response of attacking Iraq was indeed an over-reach and we are unlikely to do that again, whether Republicans or Democrats inhabit the Oval Office over the next few decades.

A recent article about Thomas P.M. Barnett is pretty enlightening and presents a more measured view of current events. Barnett is a defense policy consultant who has done work for the Pentagon and has written several books, one of which I read last year, called The Pentagon's New Map. While not a hawk in the neocon sense, Barnett does recognize that there are bad actors in the world that are tending to destabilize various regions of the world, and these regimes sometimes need to be taken out. Barnett argues that nobody is better suited for the military tasks than the US, which he calls the Leviathan, but he also recognizes that we cannot do it alone, and we need friends in the world to help with the necessary "nation-building" chores associated with regime changes. Barnett explains that Core nations make up the regulated economic markets and possess most of the world’s wealth. Alternatively, third world societies of various stripe are called the non-integrated Gap, which is slowly being incorporated into the Core through the gradual pull of globalization. Barnett liberally cites Thomas Friedman and apparently accepts much of the “Moustache’s” tenets.

While these nuances have certainly been lost with the current administration, I believe that Barnett's philosophy is consistent with US policy over the past 60 years, which had been molded over the decades by successes and failures in wars and police actions. World War II is the classic example of the West joining forces to battle a clear and present danger. The Korean War in the 1950's, while not perfectly executed, had showed that the West, when acting together, could be victorious in halting the Red Menace, and generations of South Koreans as well as other Core nations have benefited greatly. The Bay of Pigs in 1961, on the other hand, is an example of the US acting alone and failing. We learned from other failures, such as Vietnam, where we did not heed the object lessons of imperial France who had pulled out in the 1950's at the outset of the ensuing Vietnamese civil war, after which we attempted a unilateral engagement that failed, with many similarities to today’s nightmare. I would argue that the Balkans incursions were examples of near-perfect execution of Barnett’s ideation with US firepower and European forces joining ranks to stem sectarian violence, halt destabilizing refugee migration and bring despotic assholes to justice. The fact that Kosovo and Yugoslavia wars were not long and drawn out are testament to their success. Some isolationists may bemoan the fact that a multinational force is needed in the Balkans to this day, but most would recognize that that is a small price to pay for relative stability.

Iraq is only the most recent example of a gross misjudgment of our abilities to act as the sole purveyor of war and post-war security, unnecessarily acting alone, and the outcome is consistent with Barnett's presumptions about the limitations of a Leviathan force. We simply cannot do it alone. (And, no, Britain's 8,000 soldiers are not enough either.) The unfortunate part is that these lessons should have been learned years ago, but the arrogance of neocon ideologues prevented rational planning, and now we are left with the messy, expensive and demoralizing prospect of withdrawal and failure in Iraq. The worst part is that we have squandered the international support after 9-11, which has set back the prospects of stemming Islamo-terrorists: a real threat that has been recognized for decades, and while it may not destroy our way of life, it may certainly be more costly to control now that al Qaeda and Hezbollah have become emboldened with relative success against the best military powers in the world. The force of globalization may be an inevitable trend toward greater and greater inclusion of third world Gap cultures into the Core of regulated market economies, but Barnett recognizes that this integration we occur with fits and starts of varying degrees, and sometimes military force will be needed to keep the peace. Who better than us to provide that force?

While I don't necessarily disagree with this assessment, I have always had grave reservations about the capabilities of the current administration to make important decisions, and I raised questions prior to the 2000 election. Now, it turns out, these doubts were warranted. The bipartisan chairmen of the 9-11 Commission have now come out with their scathing assessment that the Bush/ Cheney administration overplayed the association between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda among other sins. The only conclusion that one can have is that the Iraq war was the “wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time”, as an intelligent person had said a couple years ago. And no, Kerry and others never “voted for the war” as has been dissembled about for years. The Democrats in the Senate joined Republicans, the president and the world to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against Saddam Hussein in order to get UN inspectors back into Iraq. To have not signed the force resolution (not a war declaration, by the way) would have been negligent on the Democrats’ parts, and yes, that is a gentle indictment of you, Mr. Feingold. In retrospect, the Bush administration, at best, took advantage of the situation and the force resolution in order to rush into the neocon agenda of shoot first, inspect later, which was in contradistinction to most of western civilization. This Iraq debacle is George W. Bush’s, and shame on those who voted for him, who frankly, should have known better.

While I'm not ready to leap over the bridge, like our friend Billmon seems to be threatening, I do realize that we have a long recovery ahead to undo the damage and get back on the track of influencing the world like the benevolent superpower we envision ourselves to be. The “Shi’a Crescent” notwithstanding, I honestly believe that our system will somehow correct itself. Granted, my confidence in our system is a bit shaken, especially when I see fellow citizens and voters listening to David Frum, Jonah Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly, and RE-electing morons like Bush, but at the risk being panglossian, I still think that at the end of the day, we'll pull out of this tailspin and get back to the head of the formation.