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Monday, March 31, 2003

Wing-nuts Launch "Decapitation" Campaign Against Clark

When Coulter and Limbaugh both launch character assassinations on the same day, you know the word has gone forth. The Republicans are worried about General Wesley Clark. Rush says:

Wesley Clark Looks Really Bad

March 28, 2003

One of the Democratic Party's supposed rising stars has been former NATO General Wesley Clark. After a recent appearance on Meet the Press, many Democrats salivated over Clark as "our Colin Powell." CNN hired General Clark to use the occasion of the war as a platform for his presumed 2004 presidential bid. That was his strategy - and according to the London Spectator, it's backfired.

"So much for the Democrats' hope that retired general Wesley Clark was going to be their Colin Powell. 'He's more Benedict Arnold than anything else if you believe the mail we've been getting here,' says the Democratic National Committee staffer, who only a month ago was touting Wesley Clark as his party's answer to the military star power lined up with the Republicans." They say Clark has pretty much peed away his chances on TV by bemoaning the Pentagon and General Tommy Franks for their strategy in the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"While several other senior retired military men have made critical comments about the ongoing fighting, such as Barry McCaffrey - another former Clinton era official - Clark has by far been the most vocal critic of this administration. 'It just looks really bad that he's knocking the troops and the way we're executing this war,' said the staffer at the Democratic National Committee. 'He's taking hits everywhere - on TV and the newspapers, talk radio. People are furious at Wesley Clark. We can't fund-raise off performances like this!'"

I have to laugh at that last part! "The only presidential candidate that would probably want to be seen with him right now is Howard Dean," said this DNC informant. Prior to crashing and burning at CNN, the DNC had pegged the chief of the Kosovo campaign "for political stardom." He even visited New Hampshire in his pre-presidential bid. Now the Democrats want him gone, because he's so negative about the war effort it's turning off the American people. This is great, folks. The Democrats thought Wesley Clark would be their Colin Powell, but he turned out to be their second George B. McClellan.

Sure. Lots of Democratic National Committee staffers talk to rabid right-wing newspapers and give them quotes like "We can't fund raise off performances like this!" They wouldn't make something like this up would they? And, how about this patented "put it in the british papers, circulate it to the Scaife funded press and the AM radio terrorists until it makes it into the mainstream press" gambit. The Wurlitzer remembers its favorite tunes.

Kevin Drum wonders why all the hoopla about Clark since we don't know what his positions are. He's a believer in just war theory, he's pro-choice, he's for affirmative action (he signed a friend of the court brief in the Michigan case). Now, that doesn't give us any idea about his positions on trade or health care or any of the thousand issues we all care about, but it certainly gives me a good idea of where he stands on the political spectrum.

Unless a Democrat is so outside the mainstream that I think he's worse than Bush, and I can't actually think of one who would be, I will vote for the Democrat who has, in my opinion, the best chance of ousting the current administration. I suspect that whoever this is will probably not be channeling my every thought and will likely disagree with me on any number of issues. This is a big country and a big party. Within that party are a number of coalitions that span the center-left continuum. We'd better start negotiating amongst ourselves in a serious strategic way to get a Democrat elected to the presidency. I gave my reasons for thinking Clark can beat Bush in the post below.

It would be great if we could take back the congress, as well, and it is not beyond our grasp in any way. But, a true Democratic governing coalition is going to be much harder because of the red-state conservative Democrats who must function as de-facto Republicans on issues of taxes and national security. These Democrats will be turned into Republicans if we push them too hard which is not going to help our cause.

It is far better to focus on usurping Bush and capturing one branch of government in its entirety. We can take a long term view on this and try to make our consituency grow, but I think our current situation is sufficiently dire that we need to concentrate everything we have on turning back the radical Republican agenda immediately. At this point there are absolutely no checks and balances and it is rapidly hurtling out of control

So, I pick a Democrat who is a 4 Star General because I think he has the best chance to beat Bush if this perpetual war plays out the way the Republicans plan it. If we disagree on matters of funding for Head Start or Gays in the Military, I'm going to live with that.

I know, I know. I'm tired of making those sorts of compromises, too. But, the world is what it is and there's no use in pretending that this issue of national security is going to fade away in a flood of concern about prescription drug coverage. The Republicans and media who are benefitting from it will not let that happen. So, we'd better face up to reality and try to form a coherent, common sense alternative to the radical path the Republicans are leading us down.

I'll be writing more about this today. I have been working on a long overdue post on a very interesting survey of the peace marchers in NYC. There are some real surprises and some interesting things to work with if we can get the centrists and the liberals to be pragmatic and form a two pronged strategy.

Iraqis to Gitmo

I thought this might happen. They are thinking of shipping Iraqi paramilitaries to Guantanamo as unlawful combatants.

Suspects are being segregated from enemy prisoners of war, in part because they may have been tormentors of regular army soldiers now being held. The detainees will be treated like POWs, but without official status, until a hearing is held under Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions, officers said.

Such hearings, to be held in Iraq, will determine whether the detainees are released, held as POWs or declared illegal combatants. If they are labeled POWs, they will be held until the end of the war and then released along with other prisoners.

Any who are determined to have used civilians as human shields or otherwise violated the international covenants of war will be declared illegal combatants and sent to Guantanamo Bay or other holding facilities, to be detained with al Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan, military officers said. "That guy's going to get the full treatment," said the senior officer.

Military lawyers said they were trying to decide how to hold the hearings and said they wanted to conduct them as quickly as possible to return any innocents caught up in the roundups to their homes, but they acknowledged they were ill prepared for the venture. "We're still figuring this out," said the senior officer, "because we thought we'd have mass surrenders, not this crap."

I'm relieved that they'll be able to separate all the innocents so easily before they send the guilty parties to Cuba to live in prison and legal limbo until George W. Bush decides what to do with them.

There is a standard way to deal with people like this. It's called a war crimes trial. Yes, they get a lawyer and everything. But, it enforces the concept of the rule of law. Apparently, we now find that too inconvenient. I'm sure the captured US POW's will be delighted to hear it.

Sunday, March 30, 2003


Read this amazing story about the battle of Nasiriya. This guy watched a group of marines turn from idealistic liberators into cynical warriors in a matter of a few days. Nobody deserves this, American marines or Iraqi civilians. Useless.
Command and Control

Reader Pi brings to my attention this post on Unintended Consequences that quotes a Stratfor article:

Ten days into the war, Iraqi command, control, communications, intelligence and information systems appear to be operational at all levels, including the national command authority. From the standpoint of U.S. war planning and doctrine, this should not be the case. The fact that it appears to be the case is shaping the war, as U.S. air power pounds these facilities in Baghdad. Clearly, the Iraqis have thought through the survivability of their systems and have made some adjustments. The United States must take down these systems. The difficulty coalition forces are having represents the first serious strategic crisis of the war. The problems the media have obsessed over are trivial

If this is so, the most basic objective of 3rd wave Information Warfare has not yet been met. It hasn't just been a failure of the more kooky aspect of the plan -- the clumsy psy-ops, "decapitation" and selective intelligence. It has not yet accomplished the one aspect of IW that everyone agrees is essential-- eliminating the enemy leadership's ability to communicate with their troops.

I've Been Leaning That Way Myself

Kos puts in a big plug for General Wesley Clark for president. He's being seen by a lot of Americans for the first time on CNN and he's been quite impressive. Perhaps that is why he opted to keep the CNN job rather than declare for President. An hour a night, 5 nights a week is a mighty good way to get some name recognition and public exposure.

I have been watching him for sometime and posted this analysis called General Dynamic about a month ago. People seem to believe that he is only viable as a VP, but I'm more and more convinced that the Democrats are going to need someone with the kind of sterling national security and demonstrated leadership credentials that someone like Clark could provide.

The fact that the heinous harpy Ann Coulter is already going after him by calling him "The Enemy Within" says that he is definitely on the GOP radar screen. I get the feeling he can take the heat.

Everyone's been complaining about Rumsfeld and company not planning for the worst case scenario, yet the Democrats seem to be making the same mistake with 2004. We should be planning for the scenario that has the Cheerleader in Chief riding atop a wave of popularity for his handling of the "war," which will be ongoing and ever more adventurous. If that is not happening and the war has left Bush with a weak hand, all the better. But, it would be wise for us to find somebody who can stand in a room with Bush and look like he's got just as much experience leading this country in battle as he does. (In my opinion, that could be Anna Nicole Smith, but I realize I'm not a typical middle American.) Clark is a Democrat who is also a 4 star General. I just don't see anybody who can match that profile.

My dream ticket would be Wesley Clark/Bob Rubin.

Incestuous Amplification

“defined by Jane's Defense Weekly as ‘a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation.’”

Paul Krugman uses this military term today to explain the Bush administration’s reaction to the California energy crisis. By doing so, he also cleverly highlights the fundamental problem with the Republican establishment that runs Washington. They live in an intellectual echo chamber of insular think tanks, political operatives and partisan media.

But, war is not as controllable as the American political process.

Brad DeLong posts this article and rightly points out that 3 senior administration officials say that: "President Bush's aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from CIA and State and Defense Department officials who warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq."

The New York Times explicitly stated this back on March 18th:

During a White House planning session with his top military advisers late last month, President Bush turned to Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a pressing question: How long would war with Iraq last? But before General Myers could respond, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld put a hand on his arm and said, "Now, Dick, you don't want to answer that."

The exchange is recounted by senior officials at the White House and State Department, as well as the Pentagon, as a window into Mr. Rumsfeld's complicated management style — and, indeed, it presents a Rorschach test to separate Mr. Rumsfeld's detractors from his supporters.

Critics cite the meeting as evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld muzzles the military, as an effort by the defense secretary to prevent the nation's highest-ranking general from performing his lawful duty to give his best military thinking, unvarnished, to Mr. Bush.

Keep in mind that this article was written before the current cover-your-ass operation began. They had no way of knowing at that time that the rose colored glasses scenario would not come to fruition, but there was obviously concern on the part of some that Junior was being managed by the IraqHawks, particularly the starry eyed neocons.

As DeLong noted, this "Sr" complaint can only come from a very limited number of people (my guess being Rove, Card and possibly Powell.) And most amazingly, in the March 28th article, they name Cheney and Rumsfeld as being the ones who misled the Commander in Chief. It's possible that Rove is beginning to circle the wagons to protect Bush's viability and as a result, Rummy (and Cheney?) are feeling a little heat coming from the inside.

This is very intriguing, if true. Much depends upon developments in the war over the next few days. If the troops remain dug in outside of Baghdad for any length of time (even if air power is being used relentlessly against the Republican Guard positions) there will be a news vacuum that might very well portend a continued drumbeat of complaint against Rumsfeld. If suicide bombings become common, he looks very bad indeed.

And, that might lead him to want to take a big gamble and push into Baghdad before the situation on the ground is optimal. The question then would be whether Bush's true inner circle would start to lead Junior away from Rummy and toward the Generals. The only person, after all, who can stop Rumsfeld from ordering General Franks to take a wild unnecessary chance is Bush himself.

Rumsfeld's problem is of his own making. There were many reports of friction between Rumsfeld and the pentagon staff from long before Iraq planning began in earnest. Daily Kos has a great post up about Robert Novak’s reporting on the dissention in the pentagon going back more than a year. Everyone chalked this up to the "transformation" that Rumsfeld was attempting and in typical Howie Kurtz style, it was
reported by most of the press as it interprets everything -- as a high school turf battle. But, this goes way beyond that to a serious concern amongst the brass that Rumsfeld is actually endangering national security.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that he depends almost entirely upon a small group of advisors from Republican think tanks. His insistence on deploying a missile defense system that doesn't work, his uncritical dependence on unproven theories like "effects based warfare" and most importantly, his refusal to allow for contingency battlefield planning are seen by many as not just bad management, but as reckless and dangerous at this particular time. We aren't just playing any more, it isn't theoretical, Rumsfeld is insisting on actually using untried military doctrine based upon pop futurist and techno dreamer scenarios. And he is so sure he is right that he refuses to fully consider back-up plans, instead seeing any deviation as a political concession and therefore without merit in its own right. Franks asks for extra time to adjust to the Turkey debacle and Rumsfeld grumbles that he already gave him 50,000 more troops, what more does he want?

Military planners and intelligence sources were all very aware that Iraq was a different situation than Afghanistan, as anyone with half a brain could see. But, in the tight world of right wing thinkers (remember, they fired all the moderates and liberals that had previously given the Defense Policy Board a variety of perspectives) it was time to put their long time theories into practice. They were not going to be dissuaded by a bunch of cowardly military officers or ossified state department careerists.

They had spent many years, from the Plan B group up through the back halls of the Reagan administration to the AEI/CSP/PNAC echo chamber refining their dreamy utopian vision of a world easily dominated by American technology, business and values and they were not going to let a bunch of cynical naysayers get in their way with nitpicking about how to get there.

We've made this mistake before, as The Pentagon Papers made clear. But, this time it is even worse. There is no rival superpower to keep us from completely destabilizing the world order and then having nothing tangible to replace it with besides the chimera of brute American force.

Despite all the hype and all the money, we are kidding ourselves if we believe that we can rule the world with our military power. The American people are not Spartans and we are not willing or able to take on that project. These people know that which is why they are depending upon this "projection" of power, "effects based" warfare, "3rd wave" information manipulation and fake missile defense to do the job for us. They believed that we would not really have to demonstrate our power because we can make people believe that they face sure defeat.

And remember, many of the people who have theorized this new world order have no personal experience with war, have learned all the wrong lessons from history and formulated many of their ideas from popular fiction, movie myths and half baked futurist proselytizing. These are not the smartest guys in the world. Remember, the two top planners of the war with Iraq came from the Ford administration. The intellectual neocon claque of Wolfowitz and Perle are slightly deranged from having spent their entire careers convinced that the Soviet Union was so all-powerful that any compromise was a defeat. Wolfowitz thought Gorbachev was a stooge and lobbied hard for the US to name Lithuania a US vital interest so as to put a US presence on the ground to prepare for our inevitable invasion of Russia. And, this was after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

They have always been wrong. Always. But events have now taken on a life of their own. We may just have to depend upon Karl Rove to pull Bush back from the brink. That is a very slender thread to hang on to but it looks like it's all we've got.

Update: Josh Marshall also believes that this “3 senior officials” designation is significant also and may mean that there is some serious rumbling inside the administration.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Fudgy Liar Cake

Ken "Cakeboy" Adelman just said that the war is going much better than anyone predicted because we haven't had any terrorist reprisals or nuclear war. And, they will STILL greet us with rose petals just as soon as we've won the war. Chris Matthews is such a nice polite fellow. He didn't mention the "cakewalk" comment.

Perhaps if Adelman had done something really dangerous like receive a furtive hallway hummer, Chris would have been reduced to screaming, spittle flecked outrage. There are limits.

The Worst and the Dumbest

Reuters reports that Sy Hersh has a big one coming out about Rummy:

"He thought he knew better. He was the decision-maker at every turn," the article quoted an unidentified senior Pentagon planner as saying. "This is the mess Rummy put himself in because he didn't want a heavy footprint on the ground."

Following up on my post below, here is a June 2002 article from National Review that discusses the ongoing tension within military circles between the radical technophiles and the traditional services. He describes the varying schools of thought as "strategic pluralists," "strategic monists," and "technophiles."

The first are the traditionalists who have believed that they need every possible weapons system and believe in maintaining a large capable force that can meet any threat. This group has been at odds with Army Chief Eric Shinseki, who began an ambitious and long needed Army transformation plan in 1999. But, they had no idea how good they had it until Rummy came along. He pretty much told Shinseki that his plan was scrapped in favor of a much reduced role for the Army in the future and that "boots on the ground" is a discredited concept.

The second group "strategic monists" are simply the types who believe that "air power (or whatever) is all you need." It has been proven wrong time and again. Still, it persists.

The third group falls into the Tofflerite category described in my previous post. Rummy is a technophile of the highest order with a deep and enduring belief in the efficacy of missile defense and space weapons. When he is forced to come back down to planet earth, in the near term this translates into a belief that "standoff and precision-strike weapons, delivered from the air or from space, will always provide a substitute for land power in future combat operations."

The author concludes with:

The fundamental flaw that characterizes both the strategic monist and the technophile is their certainty that they can predict the future. As Loren Thomson of the Lexington Institute recently observed, "much of what transpires under the rubric of transformation is actually grounded in implicit assumptions about future threats." But the future isn't knowable. The fact is that since 1940, the United States has suffered at least one strategic surprise every decade. "So any concept of transformation that proposes sweeping programmatic changes based on a presumed understanding of future challenges is likely to go wrong. There are simply too many possible threats, and the very act of preparing for some reduces the likelihood that those are the ones we will face."

We should be very skeptical of anyone who claims we can know the future well enough to eliminate or substantially reduce certain capabilities, such as land power. Strategic pluralism and balanced forces have provided a hedge against uncertainty in the past and, as such, have served the interests of the United States well. We should not use special cases such as Kosovo and Afghanistan to justify a return to the strategic monism of the 1950s to the detriment of overall U.S. security.

This is yet another example of the radical Republican experimentation with every institution of the United States. Like the wild supply side experiment with radical tax cuts, the Federalist Society assault on the legal system, and the abrupt change to a doctrine of unilateralism and preventive war, it is the result of insular, second rate, ivory tower think tank intellectuals taking the reins of power and completely running amuck.

It is hard to overestimate the level of damage this chaotic agenda of dangerous, radical change these people can wreak. This is no joke. The Democrats had better get a grip on this threat to our way of life. It is not about offended sensibilities or cultural niceties or social conformity. It is about a bunch of mediocre minds and megalomaniacal personalities who are experimenting with the most powerful government on the planet as if it is a Heritage Foundation seminar.

This war is still likely to turn out all right (for the US) in the short term, but it is not nearly the sure thing that it would have been if Rummy wasn't a pie-in-the-sky true believer who has no respect for history, tradition or intellectual inquiry. If we end up having to bombard civilians in large numbers in order to end the Saddam regime, the blood is on Rummy's hands. He really believed that you can win wars through nothing but propaganda and precision bombing of empty buildings. He didn't realize that the only enemies who are that gullible are the Democratic Party.

WE are the conservatives now, folks.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Future Shock and Awe

Last week I wrote a post about the likelihood that Newt Gingrich is heavily involved in the actual war planning for the Iraq invasion. I had no proof other than some gossipy items in newspaper columns. However, I have since been informed that Newt has had almost unequalled influence in long term strategic military planning for many, many years.

And, when he introduced the Generals to his intellectual mentors in the early 1980's he began a revolution in military affairs that is playing itself out in the Iraqi desert at this very minute.

Last November, Newt spoke to the U.S. Joint Forces Command about the future of the military in the 21st century. He spoke of fast paced deployments, joint services, men on horseback with cell phones commanding B52’s, “The Bridges at Toko Ri” and “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" and a whole lot of other stuff. It’s quite a speech and he’s given many just like it for the last 20 years.

… in 1979 as a freshman congressman …

My dad retired as a lieutenant colonel, and here is a brigadier general [Donald Starry] in the United States Army asking me to advise on the core pattern of how you fight a battle. I promptly said to my staff, "Hold the phone calls, postpone my next appointment…He said, “We have a real problem.” I whipped out a legal pad and said, “Now to understand what we're doing, let me share with you a framework so you can advise them." I was thrilled. Back then, this was pretty powerful, and he pulled out a little flip chart from his attaché case, and for 45 minutes he walked me through every battle doctrine.


Now, the thing that actually sold me was when he left he had taken notes that would begin a dialogue which continued until 1987. I advised the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command from the spring of 1979 through the fall of ’87 on Army battle doctrine. Oh, and I guess in that sense the only elected member of Congress to have ever done anything quite like that.

He says in the same speech:

…my stepfather who was an infantryman who was stationed in Orleans, France, and he took me to the battle field for the Verdun, and we spent a weekend with a friend of his who had been drafted in 1941, sent to the Philippines, served in the Bataan Death March and spent 3 1/2 years in a Japanese prison camp. And at the end of the weekend of Japanese prison camp stories at night and Verdun battle fields during the daytime, I had this sense that this stuff's all real. People die, and not just in Tel Aviv malls, but, as we discovered on September 11th, in our biggest cities.

So I come down here with a passion which is the equivalent to the passion some of you may have felt in combat…

One supposes that those who have actually been in battle might feel differently, but there you have it. In any case, Newt has been advising the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) for many years, (where he also spent a lot of time talking politics apparently.) He remains very active in military matters since he left office:

(June 18,2002)Command leaders briefed Gingrich, who was accompanied by the Commander in Chief of U.S. Joint Forces Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, U.S. Army Gen. William Kernan and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, British Admiral Ian Forbes, at the JFCOM Joint Warfighting Center.

During those early years in congress he was also heavily involved with some other big thinkers, the authors of the popular bestseller, “Future Shock,” Alvin and Heidi Toffler. He introduced his good friends to the above mentioned General Starry in 1982 and they soon came to have an almost unimaginable influence on a certain group of military planners in creating a new military doctrine called alternatively “third wave” and “information warfare.”

This doctrine relies on the Tofflers' thesis that the United States is in the midst of a transition between the 2nd wave industrial society and the 3rd wave information society. This concept is the single biggest influence on Newt Gingrich’s “vision” and the military is the one place where Gingrich seems to have been taken very seriously as a planner and long term strategist from very early in his career. (At one time he had 5 active military officers serving on his congressional staff, a fact which raised eyebrows but since he was the Speaker nobody said much about the obvious conflict of active duty personnel directly involved in the political process.)

After the Gulf War the Tofflers wrote “War and Anti-War: Summit at the Dawn of the 21st Century,” in which they claimed that the first Gulf War was the first war to occur between the 2nd wave and 3rd wave of civilization and was the greatest military victory in history. There were
but many in the military began to plan along the lines that the Tofflers suggested developing a theory called Information Warfare.

In its most benign form it is merely a doctrine for attacking and defending the ever more important information systems (i.e command and control.) But the concept became merged with another doctrine called the Revolution in Military Affairs or RMA that includes the ideas of small, fast “niche” special forces, “information driven” airpower, psy-ops and propaganda and as Don Rumsfeld called it “Exquisite Intelligence.” And these ideas are the basis for Rumsfeld’s military transformation, including his personal favorite “effects based warfare.”

To 3rd wave military enthusiasts, Information Warfare is the thrilling notion that:

"Information dominance is superior situational awareness applied to seize and maintain the initiative, influence the enemy's actions, and induce operational paralysis while denying your adversary the ability to do the same."

In other words, war as mind fuck. “Shock and Awe,” falls into the Information Warfare doctrine with its psy-ops goal made possible by information driven precision weapons. IW relies upon the assurance that, in the face of proper information (i.e. the massive superiority of the offensive force) that logically the enemy will not fight. Well...

The target of information warfare, then, is the human mind, especially those minds that make the key decisions of war or peace and, from the military perspective, those minds that make the key decisions on if, when, and how to employ the assets and capabilities embedded in their strategic structures.

Newt put it more prosaically in a speech at the Hoover Institute last July:

…their [old] answer has been to design campaign plans that are so massive - I mean the standard plan in Afghanistan was either Tomahawks or 5 divisions, and that's why Rumsfeld was so important. Cause Rumsfeld sat down and said, "Well what if we do this other thing? You know, 3 guys on horseback, a B-2 overhead." And it was a huge shock to the army. I mean, because it worked. Now I'll tell you one guy who does agree and that's Chuck Horner who ran the air campaign.

You can still find people out there who are warriors who came up during the Reagan years, all of whom will say flatly to the Secretary of Defense, "The right model is simultaneous, massive, immediate combined air and land forces, period."

Now, some people see much of the Afghan campaign as a failed strategy, particularly the battle of Tora Bora, which was roundly condemned for its misjudgment of the Afghan “allies” and a failure to put adequate troops on the ground. (Sound familiar?) This was the battle from which Osama bin Laden was believed to have escaped. The guys on horseback with cell phones didn’t quite get the job done.

After Operation Anaconda was proclaimed a victory, (why, we do not know) Junior turned to Condi and said “what’s next?” Immediately, the planning began in earnest for the invasion of Iraq. News reports said that Rumsfeld and crew initially believed that the operation would only require 50-60,000 troops, in keeping with the rapid deployment of “niche” special forces theory. And although they were ultimately persuaded that a much larger force was needed, events of recent days suggest that the adjustment was badly planned and then micromanaged.

Certainly, it would seem that the planners badly miscalculated the Iraqi response to the invasion, sent in light armor when heavy armor is more appropriate and is now scrambling by putting forces into areas for which they are not specifically trained. Perhaps most importantly, their exquisite intelligence was very selective:

Intelligence officials say Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilians ignored much of the advice of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in favor of reports from the Iraqi opposition and from Israeli sources that predicted an immediate uprising against Saddam once the Americans attacked.

Perhaps this is the fatal flaw of this 3rd wave Information Warfare theory (although there are many.) Relying upon rosy scenarios is a human failing, particularly amongst those who are invested in certain beliefs and ideals. No matter how good the information, if ignored it is useless.

(All of this was, of course, predicted by the Millenium Challenge wargames played earlier this year in which they simply refused to adapt to the idea that “the crazy middle eastern dictator” was not going go along with the script.)

This article from the Intl. Herald Tribune from last fall is interesting in light of Rumsfeld calling it “Franks’s Plan” today. Newtie himself said at the time:

Gingrich, who also is a member of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, said he was confident that General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, would not be swayed by suggestions that he include more reinforcements and plan a more cautious attack.
He said that Franks, an army general, "will probably have a more integrated, more aggressive and more risk-taking plan."

"If the chiefs wanted to be extremely cautious, extremely conservative and design a risk-avoiding strategy, that would be nothing new," he said in an interview.

It appears that the high command of the military is not as smitten with the Toffler’s New Age vision as a military plan of action. They came through Vietnam and their desire for political support and a clear goal makes them McClellans to the civil war buffs like Cheney and the RMA types who read too much Tom Clancy. Derision toward the traditional idea of overwhelming force is emblematic of Newt and his 3rd wave super true believers.

I do not know how much Gingrich has been involved with the war planning since 9/11. There have been numerous reports that he has been advising Rumsfeld and we know that he is a member of the Defense Policy Board. But, even if he isn’t, in his own way, he has been as influential on the thinking in military affairs as any of the neocons (which he isn't, really) and his influence is being felt today and will continue to be felt for many, many years to come. He’s the man who brought pop futurism into the American military and got a lot of people to believe that we can run the world militarily without having to commit human beings in great numbers to face the enemies that result from such adventures. Perhaps someday that may be true. kosovo worked out ok, but Milosevic wasn't laboring under any illusions that his neighbors might join the fray or that he could leverage world opinion. The Afghanistan campaign was a very middling success considering the circumstances and Operation Exquisite Intelligence is turning out to be messy and ill-planned at the very least. The post war scenario looks quite grim.

I have no great quarrel with the Tofflers. They are pop futurists and they have had an enormous influence on the way we think about change and the information age. But, it is truly amazing to me that their thesis has become a serious basis for military planning. While these concepts are intriguing and give one plenty of food for thought about how the future will play out, they are also extremely limited. Their prescriptions for how to deal with new challenges in a non-military sense are almost entirely utopian nonsense and have no practical application. There is no reason to believe that their thinking about military strategy is any more realistic.

The vision of Information Warfare is premature at best. We would like to fight a 3rd wave war. But, it appears that Saddam, still mired in the 2nd wave, refuses to cooperate.

In “Creating a New Civilization, The Politics of the Third Wave,” the Tofflers define their ideas as this:

“The way we make war reflects the way we make wealth and the way we make anti-war must reflect the way we make war.”

I know that I will always be grateful to Newt Gingrich for introducing that kind of clear thinking into our military back in 1983. We can only be more secure as a result.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Goin' Courtin'

Souter wonders why Texas doesn't limit sodomy among heterosexuals. "Because it can lead to marriage and procreation," says Rosenthal...

Wow. And I thought California had some unusual dating rituals.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Even If They Hate Him

I have often wondered how anyone could accept the Perle Wolfowitz claque's rose colored glasses scenario with a straight face. Perhaps they've all been watching "Patton" on a loop with Michael Ledeen and believed that it would be just like the scene of the Americans liberating Paris. (And when Condi said that the Americans had liberated the German people from Hitler, I just assumed she was carried away with the moment.) But, now that I fully realize how completely these people depended upon the Iraqi people to welcome them with open arms I'm convinced that their biggest problem, from diplomacy to war planning, is that they are completely clueless about what motivates and animates human beings. They are psychologically crippled.

Clearly they never gave even a moments thought to the fact that average Iraqis might assume that a bunch of American guys in uniforms running around shooting at Iraqis aren't really a whole lot different from a bunch of Iraqi guys running around shooting at Iraqis. Except for one thing. The Iraqis, at least, have not invaded their country under circumstances that many people in the world, much less the citizens of Iraq, find suspicious. And after our ignominious bail-out in 1991, it's not hard to predict that those most likely to rebel might just be a little bit gunshy. We don't exactly have a good reputation for follow through.

And, did it not occur to the neocon planners that our determination to overthrow and occupy Iraq without international sanction or support would be looked at askance, even by the victims of Saddam Hussein? Merely proclaiming yourself to be "good" and Saddam "evil" is unlikely to persuade anyone but silly red-staters who carry around signs that say "W Is A Hottie." Nobody else is going to buy it. Certainly not Iraqi people who have every reason to be a teensy bit skeptical of politicians who talk and act tough. They've learned the hard way that strong men aren't particularly thrustworthy.

And they underestimate the fact that just like people everywhere the Iraqis love and will protect their home, their country from a foreign invader. It's instinctive. One would have thought that if the Bush administration were depending upon a popular uprising against Saddam (or at least a passive reaction) they would not have cavalierly dismissed the value of international support, particularly from the UN, nor would they have neglected to make their post-war plans for a free and democratic Iraq known to everyone in great detail. It might, at least, have helped to allay the obvious fear that the Iraqis are trading a horrible Iraqi dictator for a horrible American one.

Via a great post on Liberal Oasis I found this article in the Washington Post from a couple of days ago that puts it in terms most Americans surely should be able to understand -- national pride:

When it came to the cause of Iraq's predicament, family members pointed to Hussein, describing him as rash. He invaded Iran, trapping them in an eight-year war. He seized Kuwait, bringing on the Persian Gulf War and the devastation of sanctions that largely wiped out Iraq's middle class. After that war, they were ready to overthrow him themselves.

But they bitterly denounced the war the United States has launched. Iraq, perhaps more than any other Arab country, dwells on traditions -- of pride, honor and dignity. To this family, the assault is an insult. It is not Hussein under attack, but Iraq, they said. It is hard to gauge if this is a common sentiment, although it is one heard more often as the war progresses.

"We complain about things, but complaining doesn't mean cooperating with foreign governments," the father said. "When somebody comes to attack Iraq, we stand up for Iraq. That doesn't mean we love Saddam Hussein, but there are priorities."

Tom Tomorrow said it best:

We took a lot of lessons from 9/11, but it occurs to me that there's one we might have overlooked. When you attack a nation, people tend to rally around their leader --- even if they hate him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

An Angry Dutchman

Martin Wisse tells it like a REAL leftist:

You may have noticed I have not blogged much this week; with the war now officially started I really have not felt like it. Now more then ever it feels like shouting into a vacuum. I just feel so helpless, you know? Bush finally has his war, innocent people are dying already and many more iwll die before this war is over and I get the feeling none of the socalled adults is taking this fucking serious. William Hague smirking his way through the war debate in the Commons on Tuesday, making oh so clever jokes about Claire Short. Bush and his cronies mouthing platitudes about peace and democracy, Blair and his cronies blaming France for this war because they opposed this war. The fucking reporters on the fucking BBC sounding so fucking pleased with the bombardments going on right now in Baghdad, getting their hardons from all this kewl military stuff. Finally, here's the New and Improved Gulf War for all those boys and girls who missed the first one: now they too can do the Hero Reporter from Beleaguered Baghdad or Tel Aviv or Kuwait or where fucking ever. Then, escaping to the wonderful world of blogging, I get the same sanctimonious pricks who all along told me I Was Doing it All Wrong that mass protests or direct action is sooo passe and shouldn't I just vote Democratic and get involved into nice, respectable ways of doing politics. You know the same sort of politics that DIDN'T WORK BEFORE EITHER?? Fuck 'em.

There's a war going on. It's time to get serious.



The marines are aggrieved: aggrieved that the Iraqis aren't more grateful, aggrieved that the Iraqis are shooting at them, aggrieved that the US army's spearhead 3rd Infantry Division tore through Nassiriya earlier in the invasion without making it safe.

"They didn't clear the place, and then they left, and now the marines sure have to clear it," he said. "Just like the goddam army."

And the Iraqis are aggrieved at the marines. A 50-year-old businessman and farmer, Said Yahir, was driving up to the main body of the reconnaissance unit, stationed under the bridge. He wanted to know why the marines had come to his house and taken his son Nathen, his Kalashnikov rifle, and his 3m dinars (about £500).

"What did I do?" he said. "This is your freedom that you're talking about? This is my life savings."

In 1991, in the wake of Iraq's defeat in the first Gulf war, Mr Yahir was one of those who joined the rebellion against Saddam Hussein. His house was shelled by the dictator's artillery. The US refused to intervene and the rebellion was crushed.

"Saddam would have fallen if they had supported us," Mr Yahir said. "I've been so humiliated."

Under the bridge, Sergeant Michael Sprague was unrepentant. The money, the marines said, was probably destined for terrorist activities - buying a suicide bomber, for instance. "The same people we determined were safe yesterday were found with weapons today," he said.

Marine scouts shot two Iraqi men yesterday when they were seen carrying Kalashnikovs. Each man was found to be carrying three magazines, but they never fired at the marines before they were killed.

"They were pointing their weapons in an aggressive manner, and they were taken out," said Sgt Sprague.

Nathen had been captured the previous day, along with dozens of others, and like them, had been let go, Sgt Sprague said. Then they caught him again with a Kalashnikov in mint condition and 3m dinars.

"So the question I would like to be asked is, if this person already went through EPW [enemy prisoner of war] questioning and was found to be OK, why on earth would he come back? The problem with these people is that you can't believe anything they say."

Could he understand the locals' distrust of the US after what happened in 1991?

"If it weren't for the liberal press, we might have taken Baghdad last time," said the sergeant.


So closely entwined were some populated localities with the tentacles of the VC base area, in some cases actually integrated into the defenses, and so sympatheic were some of the people to the VC that the only way to establish control short of constant combat operations among the people was to remove the people and destroy the village....

That it was infinitely better in some cases to move people from areas long sympathetic to the Viet Cong was amply demonstrated later by events that occurred when the discipline of an American company broke down at a place called My Lai.

--General Westmoreland in his memoir A Soldier Reports,

"We must necessarily appear to them in the nature of supernatural beings -- we approach them with the might as of a deity. . . by the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power and good practically unbounded."
Heart of Darkness

Neocon Ecstasy

Josh Marshall has some really interesting stuff up today, but this quote by looney tunes Michael Ledeen is just a pip:

I think it all depends how the war goes. And I think the level of causalities is secondary. It may sound like an odd thing to say. But all the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people. And that we love war. And one of my favorite comments on American character, which is Patton's speech at the beginning of the movie, where he says "Americans love war. We love fighting. We've always fought. We enjoy it. We're good at it. And so forth." What we hate is not casualties but losing. And if the war goes well, and if the American public has the conviction that we're being well-led, and that our people are fighting well, and that we're winning, I don't think causalities are gonna be the issue.

I guess Patton is his idea of a great intellectual. And, for an AEI "freedom chair" scholor, you'd think this idiot would know that the speech he is referring to actually took place and it took place on a very auspicious day --- June 5th, 1944. (But yeah, the movie was like, cool too.) Patton was speaking to his men on the eve of the Normandy Invasion and he knew that huge numbers of them were going to die. So, what he was doing was pumping up the troops. Here's (more or less) what he is supposed to havesaid:

Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Third, you are here because you are real men and all real men like to fight. When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."

Now, I don't know what other "scholors" Ledeen may have been referring to, although Tom Hanks made a good speech in "Saving Private Ryan" and John Wayne was positively riveting in the "Sands of Iwo Jima."

One thing is very, very clear. It's damned easy being a war loving American when you are a flabby middle-aged doughboy sitting behind a desk and talking the big talk. This really is one of those situations where the chickenhawk label is completely apt. Ledeen is still a little boy in a grown man's think tank. Had he proved his manhood in Vietnam instead of onanistically watching Patton and absorbing it as "reality," this country would be a safer place today.

What an utter embarrassment. He makes Newtie's silly military history book reviews sound like Sun Tzu.

He Knows Something

Wampum posts this heartfelt plea for a call to your Senators to protest this outrage on the part of our own favorite Dr. Catkiller.

She believes that his relentlessness in getting this provision passed has to do with a larger ambition toward "tort reform" and capping medical malpractice awards. But, I actually think it may be more sinister than that.

That explanation makes a lot of sense as it pertains to Frist the majority leader, but it doesn't really explain his prior undeviating focus on what is surely a rather obscure issue in the entire medical malpractice scheme. Long before he was responsible for bankrupting the trial lawyers to cripple the Democratic party, he was trying to get this bill passed. He has been rebuffed again and again, but he keeps coming back. As we all know, he even stuck it into the Homeland Security bill and forced poor, drunk Dick Armey to take the fall.

No. There must be more to this. The best spin is that he is owned by Eli Lily and this issue is of extreme importance to them. He's a typical senate whore doing what he's paid to do. Simple. They do not want any liability on anything. And, one can easily see how it might be that Frist and his cronies want to raid the vaccine trust fund as Wampum speculates. I certainly wouldn't put it past them.

But, none of this explains why he specifically snuck the thimerosol issue into the Homeland Security bill in the dead of night.

In an earlier post Wampum links to a story about the new tobacco case that John Ashcroft apparently let slip through the cracks:

Five big cigarette companies and a public relations firm sat down to devise a fraudulent scheme "to preserve and enhance the tobacco industry's profits by maximizing the number of smokers . . . and to avoid adverse liability judgments" linked to smoking-related diseases, the government charges.

That's what these greedy bastards do. I think it's about the thimerosol. And Frist knows it.

correction: Dick Armey, not Bill.


...to Eric Alterman of Altercation who, at Jeralyn's kind suggestion, added this humble site to his blogroll. I understand that if I want to stay there that I must shamelessly plug an obscure little book called...what was it? ...oh yes, "What Liberal Media?"

Has anyone heard of it?

I must say, it sounds ludicrous. Is he suggesting that the media are not run by left-wing socialists whose sole purpose in life is to steal the hard earned inherited wealth of the most deserving citizens and pass it out willy-nilly to lazy, low born losers? How ridiculous.

Buy it if you want to. But, anyone who thinks that careerist social climbers who work for giant media corporations run by billionaires aren't liberals to their bones just doesn't know what he's talking about.

All Resistence Is Terrorism

Rumsfeld just said that Iraqi troops who dress in civilian clothes or fake a surrender are terrorists.

We have invaded a country and their troops are fighting back employing guerilla warfare against our vast technological superiority. This is now called terrorism.

In a war zone.
Against armed troops.

It would seem that the only form of warfare that Rumsfeld considers legitimate combat against Americans is standing up in uniform and walking into the line of fire. Perhaps if you shot your gun in that situation Donald Rumsfeld would not consider you a terrorist. But, you never know.

One wonders if our special forces, stealthily living by night in Baghdad for the last week or so, (and presumably not wearing their navy whites on the streets) are similarly considered terrorists. Or is this another of those situations where the distinction must be made between good (us) and evil (them.)

Am I not correct in saying that terrorism is specifically defined as violence against a civilian population for the purpose of spreading terror? (Unless it's called "Shock and Awe," of course. Then it's called "liberation.") Can we not assume that the battlefield is not exactly the prime location for that activity? Our soldiers, after all, do have guns and they know how to use them. And, while I have no doubt that they are frightened, they are trained professionals whom I think we can expect will react with something short of terror.

I would have thought he was being hyperbolic, but he's probably just laying the groundwork to justify "unlawful combatant" status for Iraqis caught out of uniform. They don't like treaties, as we know. If they try very hard they may just manage to trash the Geneva Convention as the coup de gras.

Fear Sells

In another chapter in the ongoing debate about whether we will scare off moderates with strident liberal rhetoric I must note Kevin’s post on Calpundit about the marketing of ideas and the politics of fear. If you read the article by Chris Mooney to which he links you see that it is about framing ideas. It's interesting in and of itself.

But then Kevin hurls a zinger at the misplaced idea that only a positive message will work.

It's true that doom-and-gloom messages by themselves don't sell, but something similarly negative does: fear. And it sells big.

Not fear of things like eventual environmental collapse (she's right about that), but fear of people. Conservatives have very successfully gained ground by convincing moderate swing voters to be afraid of liberals: liberals "blame America first," they have contempt for traditional values, they are atheists, they're soft on child molesters, etc. etc. These are not people who should be in control of our government…

Fear sells…

I could not agree more. It works and it works well. And, there is nothing more important than taking back the realm of what is considered “normal” in political discourse in this country. "Permissive liberals” have been so successfully demonized many have actually stopped calling themselves that. They have even made us believe that our ideas are offensive.

I would once more like to point out that there is no evidence that the vast majority of Americans are as conservative as the right wing ranters like to pretend. At least by any definition of conservative I’ve ever known. For instance, this survey found that 70% of employees admit to viewing or sending adult-oriented personal e-mail at work.

According to U.S. News & World Report, March 2000, the pornography industry brought in revenues of $8,000,000,000 (8Billion) in the year 1999. That exceeds the total revenue of the Rock and Roll and Country Music Industry combined.-

The south has the highest divorce rates in the country and the highest numbers are amongst born again Christians.

ABC averaged 24.1 million viewers during the first hour of the "Bachelor" finale … opposite the controversial "Victoria's Secret" special on CBS, which drew an audience of 10.5 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Oh , and by the way, the Dixie Chicks album went from number 6 to number 4 on the Billboard chart this last week.

Popular culture tells the tale. The idea that liberalism is something confined to a few deadheads on the coasts is a shibboleth. It is a highly successful propaganda ploy that has convinced many millions of Americans that they aren’t what they are and has created a straw man in its place to conveniently set aflame. It is quite brilliant and it will not be turned around by mealy mouthed appeals to sunshine and happiness.

As for the other side, David Niewert has some words for the left on the politics of fear:

The mainstream left has been content to make jokes about the stupidity of militiamen instead of recognizing the actual threat they represent. There has been little recognition of the way the far right is able to insinuate its ideas and agendas into the mainstream; indeed, the left's dismissive attitude about right-wing extremists has only helped further their ability to penetrate broader society.

Americans aren’t radicals. The right wing of the political spectrum actually is hurtling headlong into radicalism and a lot of that is due to their acceptance of truly freaky and dangerous elements into their mainstream. The Lott affair provides a lesson. They have developed a need to be seen as not being racist. Yet, the party is crawling with confederates, anti-semites and anti-immigrant haters. They have also made common cause with a bunch of end-days fundamentalists and self-styled militia. There should be a concerted effort to make the urbanites who profess such solidarity with the pick-up truck crowd confront this and explain it.

Of course I agree that the democrats have to offer a positive agenda. But, survey after survey shows that Americans already agree with the Democratic domestic agenda. And even though I believe whole heartedly that national security is going to be the number one issue in 2004, it consistently polls lower than the economy and education, areas in which the Dems traditionally hold a large advantage, particularly when jobs aren’t plentiful. So, clearly it’s not liberal ideas per se that so-called moderates don’t like. In many ways they are quite liberal themselves, at least compared to the stereotype we are fed of the “average” American from the heartland. But, still the Republicans hold enough of an edge nationally to control the congress and (sort of) win the presidency while rendering the political opposition virtually impotent .

Fear trumps everything. They created a monster and called it “liberal” then scared everybody into believing that it is extremist and dangerous.

Nothing we say will get past that until we expose the other side. What Neiwert has pointed out in his series on Rush, Newspeak and Fascism is that something actually is happening and it’s dangerous as hell. We don’t have to make anything up. We don’t have to construct a straw man. It’s real. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing this out. Indeed, it is an obligation

Kevin said:

…we must convince the middle third of voters that they should be afraid of what extreme conservatives are doing. When they are more afraid of them than they are of extreme liberals, then the real work can start.

Yes. Playing by the old rules is going to kill us.

Newtie's Strategery

So Wolfie and his safari jacketed cohorts finally realized that war isn’t a movie or a video game. Actual humans are getting killed. I’m relieved they woke up. The surreality of videophone wargasm was really starting to get to me.

There is also the beginning of some rumbling that while there is still no uncertainty as to the outcome of the war, there is some question about the timing and the strategy. General Wesley Clark says in his interview in Salon today:

Well, I said two to three weeks. But that was all premised on our having our force there and being ready to go at the outset. Of course we weren't. The 4th Infantry Division was in ships off the coast of Turkey. The 1st Armor Division was still in Germany. The First Cavalry was still at Fort Hood.

Why would the Pentagon start the war if not all the troops were in place?

I can't explain it. I can't defend it; I've never seen the plan. This is the decision that was made. It might work out; then again, it might not.

Does this mean you'll change your prediction from two to three weeks?

It may be longer than that, but it's still early. So I'm not changing my prediction at this point

Of course, he says there is absolutely no chance that we will be defeated, but he echoes here again this question of why we adopted a plan that leaves our rear flank vulnerable and what in the hell was the hurry? (And how could we let things get so out of hand in Turkey?)

I think I have the answer buried in a little
Washington Whispers
column in US News and World Report from earlier today:

Travels with Newt

The universe of ousted House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to expand. Not only is he giving advice to war planners at Central Command, but he's also suggesting policy strategies to the White House and offering lines for Bush speeches.

Seriously, this is not the first we’ve heard of Newt being involved in the war planning.

Paleotraitor Robert Novak said as much way back in October:

Hawkish civilians, in and out of the government, have been suggesting that Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard will throw up its arms in surrender. No serious person believes that. The question is whether an uprising of the persecuted Shia majority will be enough to overthrow the Baghdad regime without heavy application of U.S. force. If there is no effective revolt, the generals and their friends on Capitol Hill worry that the unknown plans may not call for sufficient U.S. forces.

The concern goes to the executive style of Don Rumsfeld, who recalls the forceful and abrasive qualities demonstrated by war secretaries in the mold of Edwin Stanton during the Civil War. To his credit, Rumsfeld has attempted to toughen up the officer corps, softened by standards of political correctness during the eight Clinton years. However, the officers who thought that happy days were here again on the day that George W. Bush became president have been disappointed.

Their disappointment stems from Rumsfeld's inclination, born of a turbulent lifetime in governmental and corporate affairs, to make decisions within a restricted circle. That includes war planning. According to Pentagon sources, the secretary does not consult the uniformed service chiefs. Participating in the immediate planning are Gen. Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the Central Command, and a few officers from the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

What most bothers the generals, however, is Rumsfeld's preference for outside advice.For example, Pentagon sources say a frequent consultant with the secretary is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an amateur military expert and member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. There is no distribution through the Pentagon of such advice.

Generally, this advice probably follows the longtime line by Richard Perle, the Policy Board's chairman, that indigenous Shia forces will do most of the fighting to dislodge Saddam…

True, I cannot prove that Newt Gingrich is an architect of a battle plan that appears to have split the difference with the military --- theoretically giving them their requested number of troops, but not deploy them on time and insist that they rush to Baghdad and mop this thing up by May so the medal ceremonies can give FoxNews a needed lift for sweeps. But, it sounds so like him. Filled with hubris and macho bravado, sure that all he has to do is snarl convincingly and the other side will give up. It didn’t work with Clinton so he thought he’d try it on Saddam.

However, I know for a fact that Dick Cheney has a history of sticking his chickenhawk beak into battlefield planning. Frances Fitzgerald writes in the New York Review of Books:

In “A World Transformed,” the memoir that he and Bush senior published in 1998, [Brent] Scowcroft makes it clear that while all Bush senior's top advisers had different perspectives, the fundamental division lay between Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and everyone else. By his account, and by those of others in the administration, Cheney never trusted Gorbachev. In 1989 Cheney maintained that Gorbachev's reforms were largely cosmetic and that, rather than engage with the Soviet leader, the US should stand firm and keep up cold war pressures. In September 1991 Cheney argued that the administration should take measures to speed the breakup of the Soviet Union—even at the risk of encouraging violence and incurring long-term Russian hostility. He opposed the idea, which originated with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, that the US should withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and South Korea. As a part of the preparations for the Gulf War he asked Powell for a study on how small nuclear weapons might be used against Iraqi troops in the desert.

This is the guy who has almost unlimited power today. Only Junior could stop him and, well…no need to even go there.

Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf related some even stranger stuff in his memoir, reviewed here in 2000:

Following one White House meeting at which he'd asked for more time and more troops, Stormin' Norman reports; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell called to warn the Desert Storm commander that he was being loudly compared, by a top administration official, to George McClellan. "My God," the official supposedly complained. "He's got all the force he needs. Why won't he just attack?" Schwarzkopf notes that the unnamed official who'd made the comment "was a civilian who knew next to nothing about military affairs, but he'd been watching the Civil War documentary on public television and was now an expert."

And then, twenty pages later, Schwarzkopf casually drops the information that he got an inspirational gift from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney right before the air war finally got under way. Cheney was presenting a gift to a military man, and he chose something with an appropriate theme: "(A) complete set of videotapes of Ken Burns's PBS series, The Civil War."

But that wasn't the only gift that Dick Cheney had for Norman Schwarzkopf. Having figured out that the general was being too cautious with his fourth combat command in three decades of soldiering, Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq, hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being "as bad as it could possibly be... But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait." (Throw in a Pete Rose rookie card?) None of this Walter Mitty posturing especially surprised Schwarzkopf, who points out that he'd already known Cheney as "one of the fiercest cold warriors in Congress.

I certainly believe that policy and goals should be left to the elected and properly appointed civilians. But, the actual battles really need to be conceived and run by professional military planners. And, maybe they were. But, these reports of interference by Rumsfeld’s claque of armchair generals and political hacks rings very true. Rumsfeld is a micromanager of epic proportions and his good friend and closest confidante Dick Cheney has a history of liking to play GI Joe with real GI Joes.

It sounds like the generals won on the issue of troop numbers, but that the political leadership was so enamored of their “they’ll greet us with rose petals” scenario that they may have jumped too soon, discounting the military’s caution about their rear flank. Turkey, we know was a complete screw up from the get-go and probably has resulted in some serious last minute scrambling to make up for it. Josh Marshall expands on
this piece
in the Washington post and explains why it was so damned dumb:

Buried in the last graf of this article in Saturday's Washington Post comes this ...
But one senior U.S. official acknowledged that U.S. pressure in recent months has backfired, saying that at one point Pentagon officials insinuated to Turkish politicians that they could get the Turkish military to back the request for U.S. troop deployments in Turkey. "It was stupid stuff. These are proud people," he said. "Speaking loudly and carrying a big stick wins you tactical victories from time to time, but not a strategic victory."

I am still hoping for a quick win and minimal loss of life. I don’t want to see anything bogging down. It’s bad for everyone. But, if Don Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney are micromanaging the battle and overruling the military as Cheney sought to do in Gulf War I, this could get very bad. Rumsfeld and Cheney are very likely running the war and they have brought in the brilliant Gingrich to write the Contract on the Middle East.

It pays to remember that Newtie was stabbed in the back by his own best friends and lost his speakership when he miscalculated and thought the Republicans would gain 30 seats and ended up losing 5 instead. As a strategist, he leaves a lot to be desired. But, it is not impossible to believe that he and others might have insisted on a half assed battle plan that is making the job more difficult than it should have been if they’d listened to something but the sound of their own voices.

And by the way, in case anybody had remaining illusions that this dream of taking on the long term responsibility of rebuilding the country and establishing democratic government was for real, the newspapers report:

[Out of a request for 74.7 billion] Bush's request had only $543 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq, $1.7 billion to rebuild the country and nothing for a peacekeeping effort after the war. Prior congressional and private estimates suggested the long-range expenses for those efforts would be many billions of dollars, though administration officials are hoping allied nations will help with the financing.

Let’s hope they don’t have the crack team that negotiated with Turkey do the asking.

Note: For a little bit of insight into Newtie's thinking --- not to mention a fine list of all the Tom Clancy novels and spy thrillers he reads, check out his copious book reviews on Amazon.

(Strangely, reading them almost made me like him just a little bit. He obviously loves books.)

"The Secretary of Defense cut off the flow of Army units, saying this thing would be over in two days," said a retired senior general who has followed the evolution of the war plan. "He shut down movement of the 1st Cavalry Division and the1st Armored Division. Now we don't even have a nominal ground force."

He added ruefully: "As in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, we are using concepts and methods that are entirely unproved. If your strategy and assumptions are flawed, there is nothing in the well to draw from."

In addition, said senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, Rumsfeld and his civilian aides rewrote parts of the military services' plans for shipping U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, which they said resulted in a number of mistakes and delays, and also changed plans for calling up some reserve and National Guard units.

"There was nothing too small for them to meddle with," said one senior official. "It's caused no end of problems, but I think we've managed to overcome them all."

uh oh

Monday, March 24, 2003


I know that it is old news now in this whirlwind of information we are living in, but I wanted to make one comment about the Oscars, Michael Moore and Adrian Brody before it all disappears into the ether.

First, if Michael Moore had not said what he said, his career would be over. His audience of strident liberals would have rightly treated him as a pathetic sell-out if he had not made that comment when and where he did it. So, you could almost say that Moore was just being a good careerist and looking out for number one.

But, of course, he wasn't. His words spoke for a good number of Americans and they have a right to have their furious, righteous anger heard just as much as the furious right wing Dittoheads have a right to have oh...50 to 60 hours per week devoted to non-stop liberal-hating vitriol broadcast all over the country. For more than 10 years they have owned the AM dial, developed their very own news network and run hundreds of newspapers within which anti-Clinton diatribes were delivered with a viciousness and relentlessness that Michael Moore can only dream of emulating (and, if he's very lucky, get a 250 million dollar contract to disseminate.) The only difference here is that the stakes are higher and many, many lives are at risk. And, that is not Michael Moore's fault; it is George W. Bush's fault.

Moore is a left wing polemicist. I'm sorry if his polemics offend people, but I'm pretty damned offended by Rush, Sean, Neal, Peggy, Annie, Charles, Michael, and the rest. Nobody seems to give a damn about ME being offended by a juggernaut of right wing polemicists who are blatantly and obnoxiously disrespectful of everything I believe in. Now, why is that? All I can say is that it seems to have worked pretty well for them.

As for the rest of Hollywood, I think it’s fair to say that there has never been much of a political flavor to the Oscars, even during the height of the antiwar movement during Vietnam when Hollywood was much more politically outspoken. The Academy Awards are almost sacred to movie people and they worry about devaluing their status as a high honor. Nobody liked Satcheen Littlefeather, either.

But, I was still disappointed that so few made any kind of statement, political or otherwise, about the huge elephant in the middle of the room. Adrian Brody was the only one who managed to bring some sorely needed humanity into the event by acknowledging that war...is...well, hell. That is indisputable whether you are for this one or agin' it, and I would have thought that more artists, purveyors of emotional catharsis, would have felt some necessity to infuse this strange event with some feeling.

But, nobody seems to be able to talk about this war in human terms. Yes, there are the little CNN profiles of the wives and the kids and the send-offs and the features about what the grunts are eating and how they wear a gas mask. But, these stories are modeled on the coverage of the Olympic moments, canned and artificial and completely without any sense of who these people are. When I watched the foreign footage yesterday of the POW's, unavailable in our clean and tidy media script at the time, I was struck once again by how very young and scared these soldiers are. One of them looks just like my next door neighbor, a carefree motorcycle loving kid who has a slew of girlfriends and passion for Eminem. He's over there somewhere.

I also forced myself to watch al-Jazeera and some of the photos on their web-site were so disturbing I had to shut down and take some time for reflection. Where our coverage is sanitized for public consumption, theirs is sensationalized. They are looking at rivers of blood in hospitals and crying children and desperate refugees. While we were seeing a war of overwhelming technological force, they were seeing bloodied Arabs bravely beating back the invaders.

After that, watching the battle plan unfold, compulsively following the war news, riffing on my blog and making pithy comments on others just seemed like another form of denial. I'm disassociating from the reality. And, it occurred to me that maybe we are all doing that to some degree -- maybe because we are biologically programmed to do so just to keep ourselves from going crazy in times of war. (Perhaps Richard Dawkins could shed some light on that.)

So, when I watched the Oscars last night, something I normally enjoy and go out of my way to see, I was just hoping for someone to say something heartfelt about peace. I was actually hoping that a lot of them would say something about peace --- not necessarily in the political sense, but in the universal value sense. Instead, sadly, most of them just pretended that nothing was happening.

But a few -- foreigners mostly -- did say some words about peace. Almodovar said, “I also want to dedicate this award to all the people that are raising their voices in favor of peace, respect of human rights, democracy and international legality. All of which are essential qualities to live.” (Thanks, Pete. At least the Europeans love us, even if our own timid political brethren want us to tone down the rhetoric and let Rush Limbaugh dominate the discourse.)

But then Adrian Brody, the guy nobody expected to win, came up and let himself be human and emotional --- for his win, naturally, but also because of the the nature of the role he was being rewarded for playing. He said:

“My experiences of making this film made me very aware of the sadness and the dehumanization of people at times of war,” he said. “Whatever you believe in, if it’s God or Allah, may he watch over you and let’s pray for a peaceful and swift resolution.”

Dehumanization. That’s what I’m feeling when I see the scared faces of those POW’s and the horrors of decapitated children.

This is why civilization was supposed to be beyond the superficially logical rationalizations of "preventive war" and grand global ambitions of world domination through military force. While tallying up the 20th century’s horrific body count we were supposed to have recognized that war must be a last resort in the face of NO OTHER OPTION. There can be no excuse but immediate self-defense to justify it. If Vietnam didn't teach us that, then it taught us nothing. Wars of aggression, by definition, cannot be glorious.

This war never met that test. And we have opened up Pandora’s Box.

The historians will sort out the rightness and the wrongness of the policy. But, as I was watching that glamorous telecast being held just a few miles from where I live, I could not help but be struck, once again, by the fact that we Americans are the luckiest people on the planet. I hope that we stay that way. We are good people, decent people, but we are being led astray by a leadership that is perpetrating a wrong. We simply cannot expect to remain safe and prosperous if we create a world in which it is the prerogative of one country, our country, to decide that a potential future threat is enough to justify a war. It is a dehumanizing undertaking that devalues every single one of us. It is not the America I know.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Uh Oh.

He's into the Viagra and Makers Mark again. How much do you want to bet he's been listening to that CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic," too. The fog of war (and bourbon) is making even him believe that 9/11 and Iraq are connected.

And the French should be embarrassed?

Update: Maybe this is what he's been swilling.

Practical Politics

Mary at the Watch posts some useful advice on how to deal with bullies. Considering that liberals like to deal in actual information it would seem obvious that we consult the experts. What they say is very interesting.


So what do we do? Orincus advocates shining a light on those that use intimidation to advocate violence. Some others say that if you keep your head down and don't disturb your neighbors, then you shouldn't have to worry about bullying. Others advocate noisily rallying against bullies. So what really does work?

One of the world's experts on bullying in schools can help as we try to find a way to counter the bullies in the White House. Dr. Ken Rigby has been studying bullying for a long time and has come up with a thesis that says the success of stopping bullying is based on the level of commitment that teachers (or adults) bring to that goal. He recommends that people who are serious about trying to counteract bullying begin by understanding how to get a commitment on what approach the group thinks will work. He says a concerted approach is more effective than a more ad-hoc, everyone do their own way approach. And he provides a worksheet that can be used by schools to help decide on tactics to confront bullies. I suggest we study the techniques and find ones that we think will work.


It would be very interesting to hear what people think is the right way to deal with it.


Thank you Kevin. Sometimes I think Americans are under the impression that California is a region of France or something.

Bad signs

From Tacitus

ABC News just aired a very troubling report from John Donvan, who was able to travel unescorted today in Safwan and other areas already overrun by Allied forces. He reports general hostility and suspicion among the locals (apparently they wanted to know if the Israelis were coming to take over), demands for immediate aid, and, disturbingly, active Iraqi irregulars still mounting attacks along the Kuwaiti border. (One wonders whether they had anything to do with today's attack on Camp Pennsylvania.)

Going on Donvan's anecdotal evidence, it seems that the local hostility stemmed mostly from a fear that self-government would be denied, and that aid would not be forthcoming. Three countermeasures immediately spring to mind:

Whatever reorganization of the civil administration is planned needs to follow as soon as possible behind the advancing Allied armies. If it does not include a strong component of local self-rule, it should. Whatever administration (and American administrator) is set up on high in Baghdad, the people of Safwan and every other hamlet in Iraq ought to feel in reason control of their own governance.

Civil affairs and psyops units have to do a much better job if Shi'as (who ought to welcome us) in Safwan think we're the leading edge of an Israeli occupation. Granted, they're probably concentrating on coaxing surrenders from conscript units on the front, but this is a task that cannot be ignored.

CA and psyops won't be able to do much of a job, though, unless aid -- lots of aid -- is delivered ASAP. Why we didn't have container ships loaded with pharmaceuticals ready to offload at Umm Qasr as soon as we took it, I'll never know. The Iraqis probably aren't starving, but they have lacked for decent medical care for over a decade. American aid personnel curing childhood ailments, conducting vaccinations, and rendering assistance to those wounded in the crossfire would go a long way toward establishing goodwill.

All in all, a rather discouraging development. This isn't going to be over this time next week. Not by a long shot.

UPDATE: This NYT piece has a surrendering Iraqi colonel who hates Hussein because -- get this -- he's almost certainly a secret American agent.

Building a civil society here is going to take a while.

All I can say is good luck. The Bush administration doesn't do nice and it doesn't do smart. It does bully. Look what they do to their fellow Republicans if they don't get with the program. Does anyone think they are going to futz around with a bunch of villagers?

All of you irrelevant anti-war protesters out there get out your pens and papers right now and writea firm but polite note to your congressman telling him that you want him to make Bush stop cutting taxes for his rich friends and spend some time getting the world stop hating us. Insist that he demand that George W. Bush allow us to be in on the planning for post war Iraq so that it can be done right. Stomp your little feet and threaten to hold your breath and turn blue if he refuses to do it.

Oh, and be sure and tell him you are a Republican. Democrats are best seen and not heard.

slightly edited for clarity.


Minneapolis, Minn

So, where did the signs come from?


What will we tell the children?

Doing Iraq Right

I am reading more earnest advice about how the war protestors should stop their bellyaching and get to work holding the Bush administration’s feet to the fire on its promises to build a democratic paradise in Iraq.

First, this assumes that war protestors even think it’s possible for such a thing to happen under current circumstances. I, for one, don’t think the analogies to post WWII Japan and Germany have ever made any sense. Aside from all the obvious arguments about the different cultural environments, the most salient issue is that the people of Germany and Japan were completely conquered, with no hope of any future allies and living in world that was totally in ruins. Both countries had been engaged in full out, nonstop war for many years.

Despite the public relations value of the term “shock and awe,” even if the United States completely levels Iraq in the next week, it will not have the same effect. Throughout the Middle East are excited and outraged young Muslims animated by the idea of fighting the foreign “occupiers.” Does anyone seriously believe that the al-Jazeera pictures of massive bombardment and American ground invasion are not being seen in the exact same context as Israeli troops in Gaza? And the pictures in the coming days, of American troops rolling through cities– even if many of them are being greeted with smiles – are far more likely to evoke the more recent images of Lebanon rather than scenes of European liberation in WWII. (This should have been one very good reason to have engaged in the Israeli Palestinian crisis before last Friday.)

By invading Iraq, virtually alone and with the disapprobation of the vast majority of the world, we have emboldened these jihadists to step up the fight. It should not be forgotten that al-Qaeda believe they were responsible in large part for destroying the Soviet Union.

From an interview with Dr. Ayman aL Zawaahri:

Here in Afghanistan, the course of history changed, when the Soviet Union, the largest land-based military force in the world, was dashed to pieces on the boulders of the Afghan Jihad. The Afghan nomads, villagers and their young comrades from the Arab and Islamic world, who destroyed the empire of the Soviet tyrant, were, Praise be to Allah, not affected by these opinions. For if they had, then the Soviet forces would today be in the Arabian Peninsula. The defeated Soviet Union fled from Afghanistan, turning their back only to face their own political break-up and intellectual collapse.

Clearly, they have a deluded view of their own potency and this operation, even if militarily successful, is unlikely to change it because of the fact that most of the world remained opposed, particularly the populations of the Arab world. He undoubtedly believes that he is isolating us, and in some ways he is right.

Unless one indulges in wishful thinking and believes that a miraculous democratic domino effect is likely, “doing Iraq right” is simply not possible as a unilateral American endeavor because no matter how many seeds of democracy are planted in Iraq, there is a much stronger and growing backlash against unchecked American power. “Doing Iraq right” really means that we must reverse the course of this administration’s foreign policy and it has to be done very, very quickly and unambiguously.

Under these circumstances, not to mention the obvious political realities in Washington, I simply don’t see how working the system can possibly accomplish much in the short term. The Democratic leadership, particularly the presidential candidates, threw away their ability to have any real effect when, in spite of receiving an unprecedented number of letters and phone calls from constituents begging them to vote no, they opted to give George W. Bush a blank check. (They may be in the process of doing the same with their capitulation on yet more tax cuts, ridiculously pretending that enacting 350 rather than 750 billion more is really a big win for our side.) Since the Democratic Party is too impotent to institutionally challenge the GOP’s radical policy agenda, you can’t blame people for thinking that the only way they can make their voices heard is though large public protests.

This grassroots public opposition to the Bush administration may be the only way that Americans of all stripes, and elected Democrats in particular, can see with their own eyes that Bush’s policies are not universally supported. Combined with the continued protests in the rest of the world, it may be the only way to actually stop Bush’s wider global plans at least until after the election.

Whether we can keep Iraq from disintegrating into chaos or being the ongoing catalyst for more anti-American terrorism is largely a matter of good luck until we can replace the current administration and begin the hard task of rebuilding trust with our allies. Only then will we be able to confront the terrorist threat and the dangers of proliferation with any hope of long term success.

William Saleton is joking here, isn’t he?