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Monday, August 25, 2003

Waiting For Wesley

I am a little bit surprised that this incredible article in the August Esquire about Wesley Clark hasn’t made the rounds in Blogovia. Anyone who is intrigued by the possibility of the general getting in should read it.

I've written several enthusiastic posts about him in recent months, and I’ve been very interested in a Clark run since the day I saw him testify before the Senate the lead up to the Iraq resolution vote. Not only was his analysis absolutely on target, he was tremendously self-assured, well spoken and telegenic. I thought at the time that he would make an excellent candidate. I didn’t know if he was a Democrat but he was clearly not a neocon.

If anyone is interested in reading just how prescient Clark was that day, you can read the transcript here :

(And if you are interested in reading some really disrespectful Republican nastiness, pay special attention to the “questioning” of these generals by patriotic Senators Bunning and Sessions.)

This statement is particularly interesting in light of recent events:

I think that there is a substantial risk in the aftermath of the operation that we could end up with a problem which is more intractable than we have today. One thing we're pretty clear on is that Saddam has a very effective police state apparatus. He doesn't allow challenges to his authority inside that state. When we go in there with a transitional government and a military occupation of some indefinite duration, it's also very likely that if there is an effective al Qaeda left -- and there certainly will be an effective organization of extremists -- they will pour into that country because they must compete for the Iraqi people; the Wahabes with the Sunnis, the Shi'as from Iran working with the Shi'a population. So it's not beyond consideration that we would have a radicalized state, even under a U.S. occupation in the aftermath.


If we go in unilaterally, or without the full weight of international organizations behind us, if we go in with a very sparse number of allies, if we go in without an effective information operation that takes us through the -- and explains the motives and purposes and very clear aims and the ability to deal with the humanitarian and post-conflict situation, we're liable to super-charge recruiting for al Qaeda.

This appearance and his testimony before the House informed my thinking quite a bit on the Iraq invasion. He believes in multilateralism, as frustrating as it can be, not so much because it spreads the risk, but because it gives leaders and politicians of other countries a stake in a positive outcome. That translates into long term commitment, something that is absolutely essential to dealing with terrorism, failed states and nation building. This article written right after 9/11 strikes just the right note between righteous fury and intelligent, deliberate analysis

And as illustrated in the quote above, he was concerned from the very beginning about the potential negative consequences of an occupation in Iraq and how it would affect our efforts to combat al Qaeda. There were others, like Bob Graham, who also voiced this concern, but I never heard any one else theorize that terrorists would pour into Iraq after the war and transform it into a radicalized state under US occupation.

His comments not only reflected an informed strategic military worldview, as you would expect, they also showed a very complex and sophisticated analysis of the global political implications of where the administration was taking us. It was obvious to me that Wesley Clark isn’t just smart. He’s brilliant. Overachieving Clinton-brilliant.

(Meanwhile the President of the United States was either babbling, “They live in caves…we’re gonna smoke ‘em out"" or he was speechifying in phony flowery words and phrases that were so inauthentic that there were times you wondered if he even comprehended what he was saying.)

Like most Democrats I believe that the President of the United States should be very smart. According to beltway CW, this is an absurd view held only by overeducated, Volvo driving, Birkenstock wearing liberals who are the lowest form of American life and should be ignored if not imprisoned.

It would seem that the sad pathology of the inner city that disparages education and good grammar has strangely overtaken the Republican Party and many of those who make their living commenting on politics. It is now considered gauche in these circles to be “too” smart. The common understanding is that Americans prefer a leader who symbolizes their own mediocrity.

So, the big money Republicans simply market a slow but recognizable brand name and tell the apparatchiks not to mention that he is walking around stark raving naked. All that takes is cash and they have plenty.

We Democrats, however, have to find candidates who are not only brilliant, passionate and eminently qualified, which the base insists upon, but we must also pick someone who has appealing looks, an unassailable personal biography, an engaging personality, Southern roots and a heroic, masculine image so that the clueless swing voters and the giggling bimbos of the press have something to keep them sufficiently entertained during those long boring speeches with all the big words.

Clark is smart, to be sure, but he’s got all the other good stuff, too.

He’s got a very high Q rating and handles the press with the aplomb of a film star. He has a winning smile and an easy laugh. He knows how to speak in simple terms about complex issues. He is a proven military hero, a respected world leader, a southerner and a self made man who worked hard and succeeded at everything he tried.

In other words, he is the man who George W. Bush is pretending to be.

A genuine, traditional, all-American, patriotic winner.

* Word to the wise, draft Clarkers. You’ve got to show some pictures and footage of Clark in uniform. Those 4 big stars are a symbol of Clark’s experience, integrity and leadership. We need to work that mojo. In post modern America it’s all about the symbols, metaphors and memes.

That's what I'm talking about

And, since nobody else has done it, I’ll post this little anecdote from the Esquire article. Even cynical, pragmatic old me got a little bit of a chill down my spine when I read it. It’s a great story and every Clark supporter should spread it around the water cooler and the dinner table:

In August 1995, the general—three stars, working as J-5 for the Joint Chiefs—went to Bosnia as part of the negotiating team Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had put together to end the civil war that had resulted in the massacre of as many as eight thousand Muslim men and boys at the town of Srebrenica the month before. In Belgrade, Clark had met for the first time Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was sponsoring the Bosnian Serbs. Now the team had to travel to Sarajevo.

Told that the airport in Sarajevo was too dangerous to fly into, the team decided to drive and asked Milosevic to guarantee its safety on a road held by Bosnian Serbs. Milosevic did not, and so the team wound up taking a fortified Humvee and an armored personnel carrier on a pitched, narrow, winding mountain road notoriously vulnerable to Serb machine-gun fire.

Clark and Holbrooke went in the Humvee, the rest in the APC. In his book, the general describes what happened this way: "At the end of the first week we had a tragic accident on Mount Igman, near Sarajevo. [Three members of the team] were killed when the French armored personnel carrier in which they were riding broke through the shoulder of the road and tumbled several hundred meters down a steep hillside."

It is not until one reads Holbrooke's book, To End a War, that one finds out that after the APC went off the road, Clark grabbed a rope, anchored it to a tree stump, and rappelled down the mountainside after it, despite the gunfire that the explosion of the APC set off, despite the warnings that the mountainside was heavily mined, despite the rain and the mud, and despite Holbrooke yelling that he couldn't go.

It is not until one brings the incident up to the general that one finds out that the burning APC had turned into a kiln, and that Clark stayed with it and aided in the extraction of the bodies; it is not until one meets Wesley Clark that one understands the degree to which he held Milosevic accountable.

For more on General Clark, visit
the Clarksphere
the Wesley Clark weblog
draft clark
the Clark Coalition

And for a tittilating bit of DC scuttlebutt on the Clark campaign, check out HoyPuhLoy