In honor of Halloween, we thought it useful to share a recent encounter in the Imperial City. And this one, to quote Henry the K, has the added benefit of being true.
We recently had lunch with a senior member of Dubya's cabinet. The individual is immediately recongizable by most Americans.
The lunch was arranged by a friend of ours who is a television news personality. We don't mean to be coy, but there was a fairly prolonged discussion whether the convesation was “off the record”, etc. As you may know, “off the record” is not the same as “not for attribution” and both are different from “deep background”. The discussion was sloppy and imprecise but I think a fair interpretation was that this individual did not want to be named and quoted directly. Even so, we will comply with that not out of obeissance to Imperial City etiquette but as a favor to our friend who set it all up.
Charisma counts in life and politics. And this individual has it in spades. More than one would suspect from media and public fora.
Yet beyond the charisma, here is what was said. Congress is not an effective participant in a democratic process because they are all safe and gerrymandered. All they do there is posture. Congress' input on national security policy accordingly should be curtailed and limited. Congressional oversight is inefficient, burdensome and a waste of time. Only the President can oversee the government effectively.
And it is no surprise to hear that the only legitimate democratic representative in America today is the President and the presidency. According to this view, the American people when electing (or re-electing) this individual essentially ratifies each and every decision, including those that are not fully disclosed (because those decisions were made for the benefit of the people in any event).
The judiciary because they are unelected have no legitimate role outside a narrowly constrained jurisdicitonal purview. The President should be seen to obey the law because it gives his actions the appearance of legitimacy. A fair approximation would be — “These unelected judges have sprinkled their magic of approval on what we have done!”
We were not surprised that the individual expressed concern that the Republican Party “doesn't have the will” to win this Fall. The RNC's capitulation on the Harold Ford commercial and Republican inability (shame? fear?) to address Michael Fox “properly” are signs of weakness.
All of the above sounds like a cut and paste from the Oppositionist blogosphere. Yet it was straight from the source. The disdain for democratic process. The zeal for the Leader Principle. And the cynical manipulation of democratic symbols and processes such as the judiciary to ratify matters.
These are the people who have been running the country.
Bush again declared a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable”. Yet Russia and China have walked back from U.S. efforts at confrontational diplomacy. At first we thought it another example of Bush's slipshod use of precise diplomatic signalling language.
But then this development came to light. Israel has just appointed Avigdor Lieberman as the new position of Minister of Strategic Threats (read Iran Affairs). Lieberman, who is not known in the U.S., is so extreme that he may only be compared as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He would be a cartoon figure but for his newfound prominent role in Olmert's government and as possibly the second most popular political figure in Israeli politics today.
The choice of the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around for this job constitutes a strategic threat in its own right. Lieberman's lack of restraint and his unbridled tongue, comparable only to those of Iran's president, are liable to bring disaster down upon the entire region . . .
Who will be employed in the Ministry of Strategic Threats and what will their areas of responsibility be? Who will control Lieberman's tongue, and has anyone taken into account the dangers inherent in his threats? Was he chosen for this nonexistent post solely because he wanted it? If there is indeed an Iranian threat, should responsibility for dealing with it be entrusted to a junior coalition partner? Does not his very appointment convey fear rather than deterrence? Can one conclude from this appointment that the Iranian threat will be handled with the same lack of seriousness as the decision to go to war in Lebanon, and will the results not be much worse?
The appointment of Lieberman - someone who not long ago demanded that Israel bomb the Aswan Dam - as the minister responsible for strategic threats indicates a loss of judgment by the Olmert government. The stability that this government will derive from the entry of Yisrael Beiteinu [Liebereman's extremist political party] thus bodes ill.
Perhaps a Democrat win in at least the House is the best speed bump on the renewed march to war with Iran. Although the Democrat record of resisting the AgitProp in that regard is not encouraging, open hearings may also allow professional military advice to circumvent the craven kowtowing to Rumsfeld and OSD by the servile Joint Chiefs. Lieberman as a Minister can be expected to provide JP-5 level fuel to the Neocon AgitProp here in the States.
Iraqi army officers are reportedly planning to stage a military coup with U.S. help to oust the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Cairo-based Iraqi and Arab sources said Monday several officers visited Washington recently for talks with U.S. officials on plans for replacing Maliki's administration by a “national salvation” government with the mission to re-establish security and stability in Iraq.
Maliki's immediate rejection today of Dubya's hasty coopting of the Democrat plan for a “Timetable” only fuels more chatter. As does the Sadr City special forces raid that apparently was not cleared with Maliki's government. Even so, no one seriously believes Maliki will be able to stabilize the situation. Mushareff is only the most obvious inspiration.
Germany will on Wednesday adopt the most radical restructuring of its military since 1945, turning the Bundeswehr into an international intervention force, according to an internal cabinet strategy paper obtained by the Financial Times.
The paper, which will be endorsed at a special cabinet meeting in the defence ministry, is the product of a review – the first of its kind since 1994 – begun by Angela Merkel, chancellor, after she won office last November. It will see Germany’s military officially abandon its primary postwar task of defending the country’s borders in favour of a more robust role for German troops on international missions . . . The 133-page strategy paper argues that the capacity of the Bundeswehr must be expanded to allow for the deployment of a total of 14,000 troops to five international missions simultaneously.
A European transformation of military capability for out of area operations has been called for under several administrations. This can be seen as a positive re-balancing of roles and contributions within NATO, although Germany, like the rest of non-U.K. NATO, lacks the logistics and infrastructure for sustained force projection.
Positioning Germany as a replacement junior partner for Western Greatness in lieu of exhausted and disgusted Britain will take additional time. They will not be ready to affect Iraq in any meaningful way, coup or not. But there is always Iran and the future.
One critique of contemporary America (out of many) seems undeniably true: we remain shamefully and blissfully ignorant of our past. Not just the average joe condescendingly mocked by Jay Leno in his “Jaywalking” segment. Our so-called intellectuals are as bad.
Consider the tawdry ending of the “American Empire Boom”, circa 2001-2005. To the casual follower of foreign policy, talk of Empire likely popped out of nowhere. Suddenly, pedigreed pundits discuss, debate and declare the advent of the American Empire. Many if not most of the youngish pundits fancied themselves as pioneering iconoclasts, bravely tossing the status quo aside to make room for a vigorous new Future.
How ironic then that these pundit pioneers merely recycled the latest manifestation of a debate initiated 60 years ago by the French anti-Nazi/anti-Communist intellectual Raymond Aron among others. Aron, however, while discussing an imperial America, also noted the drawbacks to such an approach — most notably to its essential character as a Republic.
Aron's balanced discussion notwithstanding, he was still lionized on this side of the Atlantic and his balance jettisoned in favor of unbashed Empire. Like 2001-2005, back then those discussing American Empire believed they had a chance to twist unguided American power to suit their ideological agenda. The whole debate largely went no where, of course.
Then, twenty years after that, during the first Reagan Administration, Irving Kristol (Kristol senior) and others again urged an American Empire. Kristol in particular argued forcefully to rename the National Security Council to the Council of Imperial Security, etc. That too amounted to nothing.
So another twenty years after that, behold yet another Empire Boom. Our latest Boom was somewhat different than its precessors. In keeping with our Nancy Grace - Fox News culture, the newest Empire Boomers largely were ignorant of this past or the constant participants in it, such as Harvey Mansfield, the Kristols, etc. Neocons such as Harvey Mansfield were instrumental in popularizing Raymond Aron the first time around, writing introductions to his English volumes, etc. So the past really was prologue but the new kids on the block did not realize how recycled their whole schitck was. (The question remains — who was the joke really on?)
The Brit historian Niall Ferguson is a fascinating exception in this latest Boomer generation. A calculated L'enfant Terrible, who assiduously cultivated controversy by arguing that Germany should have prevailed in WW I with British neutrality (he does not quite go the distance ala David Irving and argue the same in WW II), Ferguson revels in counterfactual speculative imperial history. Ferguson's erudition separates him from the domestic hack variety of American Empire Boomers such as Max Boot. Interestingly however, both he and Boot arrive at the same essentially tendentious and desolate intellectual cul de sac.
So here in 2006, when it is undeniable the dreams of Empire died in the sands of Anbar comes Ferguson with “America's Brittle Empire”. The essence of Ferguson's critique is not that the U.S. shouldn't be an Empire in the British tradition. Or that the trade offs as Raymond Aron set forth decades ago are worth it. But that U.S is too lazy or too undisciplined to pull it off. Tellingly, Ferguson regrets that it is so. “Rather cruelly, I compared the American empire to a 'strategic couch-potato … consuming on credit, reluctant to go to the front line [and] inclined to lose interest in protracted undertakings'.”
In other words, America is unworthy of being the modern Sparta. And even Israel after this summer's disasterous campaign may forfeit that moniker.
Doubtlessly such depressive thoughts come unbidden to Mansfield and the Kristols as well. But they know something young Ferguson doesn't. A failure in Iraq, a radicalized Middle East, de-legimization of Bush and Washington, are all fodder for the future. Even calamity may serve their purposes.
After all, Empire Booms come every 20 years. There is always next time.
Kaplan may recognize that essential logic now but his motive we suspect has deeper sources. Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia et al. must be Shanghai'd into action to spare Kaplan et al. the *moral* stain of a wider bloodbath. Kaplan is prepared to concede that he was wrong about Iraq. But what he and others are not prepared to accept is the moral consequences of the action and the death toll. That is borne he suggests by others — the “Administration”, Maliki, etc. Above all, the need to shift blame, to maintain pundit viability. How contemptible.
VDH, as is his wont, offers a more simplistic solution. Simply wave the past away. Acknowledge the mistakes in one sentence. And then note it happened in the past, thereby rendering it inert and inappropriate to seek responsibility for those who led us into this catastrophe. The past is irrelevant, except when it can be used to support whatever AgitProp construct he needs at the moment.
Yet the Administration remains the champ, the true Masters of AgitProp, teaching the posers How to Roll. As noted in Comments here, the Administration simply decided this weekend that it never said “Stay The Course” in Iraq. “Cut and run?” Never happened. Majesterial in its defiant chutzpah — and contempt for the American people. Mechanics of AgitProp transformed into performance art.
Terrifying that the Democrats as a social and political force are so ill-prepared for the historical responsibility they likely will assume. For that and other reasons we continue to believe Dubya is a transititional figure. If a Democrat victory this Fall will amount to more than a brief Interregnum before McCain's “National Greatness” (or some other man/woman (?) on a White Horse), they will have to demonstrate a newfound command of politics, history, philosophy and communication skills.
The World Island remains the central hub of human experience and natural resources. Indian, Chinese and declining Occidental outliers such as Russia and Europe are all far better positioned and even poised to fill the strategic vacuum created by the now inevitable American retreat. The U.S. re-adjustment back to its natural amphibian power projection state, over the horizon, will take time. We will accomplish this as a result of decided policy or stumble backwards to that same position imposed by circumstance.
American strategic skill or lack thereof will determine how graceful or messy and damaging this will be. So far there is little cause for optimism.
CNN ran yesterday some explicit footage provided by insurgents depicting their sniper teams hunting down U.S. soldiers. It was a thoughtless lunge for ratings and Iraq porn that should have never seen air. We are all in favor of honest depictions of the “helluva mess” in Iraq but CNN's portrayal was merely lurid voyeurism masquarading as “news”.
Even CNN concedes that the video is almost entirely an insurgent PSYOPS campaign designed to attack American domestic sensibilities. A viewer does not have to be hunkered down in the rubble in EOVP, the Oval Office or OSD seeing 'defeastism' everywhere to react this way.
Today CNN opened a blog seeking to explain their rationale for running the video appropriately entitled “Why We Ran The Sniper Video”. As far as we can discern, CNN's rationale comes down to: (a) it is news and we don't censor the news (except when we do); (b) we put 'context' around it; (c) we put 'black video frames' when the bullets impacted on or near American troops'; and (d) you can trust us because allegedly we debated about doing this for hours and hours.
You should know we dipped to black at the moment of actual impact of the rounds. A number of us felt airing that precise moment was simply too horrific. That decision, as well as the decision to build a piece around the sniper tape — in fact, all the decisions about this story — were subject to hours of intense editorial debate at the highest levels here at CNN.
All after-the-fact bullshit. CNN could easily report on insurgent sniper teams without running large portions of insurgent-provided-video that show actual shots at American troops. We can get news and the truth suppressed by the Administration without running insurgent commercials. CNN proves sophistry will always be the “context” provided for “exclusive” video.
How debased we all are in 2006.
CNN should know that snipers are a uniquely powerful pyschological weapon. This was true when the Imperial City was paralyzed by snipers a few years ago. In war snipers are particulary effective psychologically in urban battlefields as the Soviets discovered and wielded so effectively during Stalingrad. Whether Soviet sniper Zaitsev was an actual persona in the field or an effective propoganda construct remains a debate. No one questions that the rumor of Soviet snipers and media reports of Zaitsev's exploits had a profound impact on German morale.
Criticizing CNN's eggregious embrace of ratings and an “exclusive” has no link with Friedman's brain fart that a new Tet is underway. As you doubtlessly know, he makes the sophomoric claim that insurgents and militias are ramping up violence with an eye to the American elections like 1968. Implicit in this superficial and inaccurate comparison is the Neocon premise that Iraq will be decided by abstract tests of Will. History tells us otherwise. Tet was a last gasp effort by Giap and the NVA in 1968 to sacrifice the Viet Cong to score a psychological victory. It was a desperate roll of the dice. The VC were destroyed completely and the operation was a military disaster but it achieved its polmil goal.
Iraq today is no comparison. In contrast to 1968, even the American military in CENTCOM has stopped chugging its stale Westmoreland Ale (vintage 1967) and finally concedes its inability to control even Baghdad. Operation “Together Forward” failed the last 3 months. The insurgents and militia in Iraq are on the cusp of defeating the American military in the field (securing the streets of Baghdad) unlike 1968. Moreover, the insurgents and various militia are going from strength to strength. October 2006 in no way represents a roll of the dice for them. The contrasts to Tet could not be more clear.
This is the kind of “context” that CNN could provide. And also report the reality of sniper teams. Instead, CNN chose to shoot its wad over its “exclusive” insurgent video. Ratings and competition uber alles. If Democrats show a disturbing failure to internalize and act on lessons learned from the Wilderness Years, the traditional media are even worse. The schizophrenia between being crass profit centers focused on competitive pressures to deliver eyeballs and dwindling remnants of news-oriented professionalism shows no sign of improvement.
Of course, there's no reason to think the Amish - who lost five of their own in an Oct. 2 school shooting in Pennsylvania - had any plan for teaching us a lesson in Christian forgiveness. But sacrifice and martyrdom are deeply woven into the history of Christianity, and what the Amish offered all of us, whether or not we are Christians, was an enduring example of how to behave admirably in an hour of sorrow.
To use the modern language of cybertech that the Amish so resolutely reject, the message of forgiveness has gone “viral” across the culture.
We agree that the simple and powerful Amish example stood in stark contrast to the cacophany of Today's America and in particular the judgmental, sanctimonious Religious Right with its emphasis on punishment, destruction and fear. How tragic that Rove's cynicism and the Religious Right's desire for Power found perfect expression in their mirrors from 2001-2006. The Amish example was a beautiful reminder of true faith and a rebuke to the Administration's “Faith” of exclusionary divisiveness.
Amid the widespread damage done to the American social fabric by this incompetent Administration, among the most grevious of its acts was the crass manipulation of Faith into a wedge issue to tear Americans apart. Only the Administration benefitted from this political shell game.
We wanted to hear the scoop from people who were there and saw it all unfold in real time. So naturally we sought out those active in the Administration's Faith Based Initiatives around the Imperial City about David Kuo's book Tempting Faith. Here's what they told us.
First, they almost all agreed with the overall premise that Kuo asserts — the White House warped the idealism of the Faith Based Initiative for cynical partisan political advantage. (Duh). Second, they explained Kuo's background — he comes more from the Bill Bennet side of things than Jack Kemp at Empower America. To those who follow that community, this distinction is significant.
Kuo the Stiftung has been told was famous for being an ambitious political infighter among the Faith community. Indeed, the word we heard was that Kuo rarely “met a back he did not want to backstab.” The bitterness at his political gaming is real and immediate. For this reason, few in the Faith Based Initiative community are willing for come forward and support what they know to be true because of general dislike for him as a person. His boss, the ineffectual Jim Towey, especially is seen as just one example of that.
Having said that, just today, a leader in the Faith Based community told the Stiftung that Kuo's call for a “two year fast” from political engagment resonated strongly with rank and file social conservatives, evangelicals and the non-evangelical Right. We hope this occurs. Because it opens the way for inclusive messages of Faith, where the mere mention of Jesus and Faith are not code words for bigotry, hatred and discrimination. We echo E.J. Dionne's call:
I hope Kuo's book promotes serious discussions in religious study groups around the country about whether the evangelicals' alliance with political conservatism has actually made the world, well, more godly from their own point of view. What are evangelicals actually getting out of this partnership? Are they mostly being used by a coalition that, when the deals are cut, cares far more about protecting the interests of its wealthy and corporate supporters than its churchgoing foot soldiers?
In the interim Condi needs to consult with “her husband” about how to refer to mother-in-laws for same sex couples. At the swearing-in ceremony for new global AIDS coordinator Mark Dybul, Rice acknowledged Dybul's “mother-in-law” as among the family members there. Perkins is ballistic that the “mother-in-law” in question is the mother of the Dybul's same sex partner. Tony Perkins on the war path against Cher Condi and “her husband” is proof that God indeed has a sense of humor.
“Liberalism not only drove territorial and commercial expansion; it also provided an overarching ideological justification for such expansion.”
Robert Kagan, he famously of Mars and Venus effluvium, seeks via TNR to lay down his marker on how the post-Bush foreign policy debate should unfold. Selective misuse of quotes ripped out of context as factoids is long a Neocon-now-Neolib motif. Kagan assails a strawman that if it exists is at the extreme margin of Administration critics — his bogeyman is somewhere, someone may hold to an idealistic and “pure” vision of American motives and intent in the world untainted by the messy actions of other Powers.
Unfortunately for Kagan, a serious examination of American diplomatic and foreign policy past indicates that Bush's disasterous failure indeed has its roots in our history. And as important, the flaws of Kagan's policies urged upon us all were understood well long beforehand and the warnings made clear. Why he thinks he deserves a seat at the table going foreward eludes us.
Consider the roots of the Wilsonian tradition, the diplomacy and thinking of Thomas Jefferson. Bush and the Neocons took Wilsonianism, militarized it and married it a Dictatorship of the Punditcracy.
So let us indeed go to the source and examine it. What do we find? Jefferson did have notions of an “Empire of Liberty”. His belief was that noble minded purpose was enough and suffered no need for explanation. And certainly in foreign policy Jefferson believed in getting what one wanted because of American purity without having to pay for it or even having to consider the ramifications.
In this way, Bush is far more Jefferson's heir perhaps than even Wilson's. Bush's hyper militarization and Manichean view at home and abroad is an aberration to both.
. . . the swift success of the Gulf War will tempt America to a new imperialism: a sort of neo-Wilsonian order, but imposed by the very means Wilson wanted to disavow. The policy emerging from the Gulf War, they argue, amounts to the functional equivalent of “global containment” in the name of high principles, but at the expense of the American tradition: to use force with moderation and restraint, only if absolutely necessary.
The key is the latter clause of course, because Kagan et al. would drive a Hummer through “necessity”. And that will be the ground zero for much of the post-Bush debate. Bush's purist Jeffersonian policy of unthinking assertion of moral right has collapsed. James Baker may usher in the next, transitional, phase. If the Baker Commission can achieve one thing, it may be the capstone to the demise of the Neocon's Freedom/Democracy AgitProp meme. A ruling Junta ala the Greek Colonels in Baghdad is indeed a sordid ending to the AEI shilling.
Thursday Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and Nikolas Gvodsev of The National Interest chaperoned a first date among Progressives and Realists to consider the question “Beyond Neo-Cons and Neo-Libs: Can Realism Bridge Left and Right?” While the evening ended without a kiss, both agreed to see each other again. We doubt much will happen.
Panelists included Kai Bird of The Nation, Dmitri Simes, President of The Nixon Center and Publisher of The National Interest, Sherle R. Schwenninger of the New America Foundation and Dov Zakheim formerly from OSD and now at Booz Allen Hamilton. Anatol Lieven of New America Foundation was the eloquent moderator.
All rejected the Administration, Neocon and Neoliberal abstract concepts of American foreign policy based on a Will to Power. Yet profound differences remain. Imagine the Parisian emigre community after 1917 with S.R.s and Whites commingling and united in their disdain for the Bolsheviks. Now imagine that vibe transplanted to the antiseptic environs of an American think tank. You get the picture.
Initial statements by the panelists veered into restatements of hoary shibboleths. The Nixon Center's Robert Ellsworth helpfully urged all involved to get over their self mythos and grudges over policies dating back to Marines going ashore at Da Nang. We agree with Ellsworth that all in the room share a commitment to the Enlightenment.
The First Date's Rocky Start
Having said that, the basis for any agreement remains truncated. Both Bird and Zakheim questioned whether there was much common ground. And for good cause.
Bird's unabashed Progressive world view advances romantic notions of Rooseveltian American foreign policy: seen through the filter of anti-imperialism, international law and norms, regional power architectures, etc. As advanced today at least, Bird's vision omits Roosveltian macht politik actions such as oil embargo against Japan or the undeniably impeachable secret collaboration with the British before December 1941.
The Nation and Progressives choose to forget that Roosevelt went so far that American Catalina pilots secretly based in England located and helped sink battleship Bismark. Bird's correct that NSC-68 and Paul Nitze transformed Kennan's original limited notion of containment. Under Nitze, the initial concept of denying the Soviets specific economic and cultural resources morphed into a global architecture. But his critique is too monocausal and fails to account for the strategic vacuum caused by British decline, beginning in 1947, 1948 and the Brussels Pact, etc.
Zakheim refreshingly offered views beyond what one might expect by his DoD tenure and Neocon affiliations. He rejected universal messianic abstractions and supports a two state solution in the Levant. Yet Zakheim's intellectual vocabulary is premised on Power, its unapologetic uses, deployments, limits and benefits. His commitment to applying Power with granular understanding of tactical social, historical and cultural nuances is at odds with Progressive embrace on univeralisms and support for multi-lateral institution building. Reconciling Bird and Zakheim is probably a bridge too far.
As we knew from before, Simes offered a precise formulation of Realism predicated on an understanding of a ranking of U.S. strategic priorities. See our earlier “Incoherent Hegemon” (one of our favorite graphics) and the synchronicity of views should be apparent.
We also agree with Simes that Progressives and Realists should focus on finding areas of agreement and work together in those specific directions. It's probably the only way collaboration can occur. Both sides should agree to disagree on broader issues — whether it be tax cuts/social redistribution, etc. Here Simes echoed Ellsworth's invaluable suggestion that Lieven, Gvodsev and vanden Hueval create workings groups to drill down on these specific practical issues.
Even so, the gulf between the parties remains significant. Covert action (to the extent it is even feasible in an Internet Age) is one example — Allende remains a sore point for Progressives. Nixon and Kissinger were ably defended by Simes and Zakheim. And on Iraq, Realists urge that the U.S. make a distinction between terrible choices and utterly catastrophic ones. A terrible choice is a costly withdrawal drawn out over stages of time, bringing in regional players including Syria, Jordan and Iran in the hopes of some stability. A catastrophic choice in that view is precipitous withdrawal or Turkish intervention over an independent Kurdistan and inevitable wider regional war. Progressives mostly want a prompt withdrawal. Complicating analysis is that U.S. and U.K. presence is iteself a catalyst for social disintegration.
Where to begin work? The area of overlapping interests beyond stopping Neocons and Neoliberals is fairly confined as one might expect. But it does exist. See Diagram 1 below.
What Would A Second Date Look Like Among Progressives And Realists?
Progressive and Realist Venn convergence is limited to those areas where application of Power and institutions can support normative activities. Examples would include the environment, limited humanitarian interventions such as Dharfur, and possibly national economic/industrial issues contraposed to Friedman-esque globalization banalities. It's a fairly meager space. Yet perhaps that is enough to start constructive dialogue and work.
We agree again with Ellsworth that should Democrats take one or both houses of Congress the intellectual climate and policy environment will transform rapidly. There will be an initial void as politics seeks a new equilibrium. We hope that Lieven, vanden Hueval and Gvodsev can mobilize the good willl, interest and shared alarm over the Neocon/Neoliberal agenda to seize that opportunity.
Never has a US administration rolled up its sleeves and redefined terms more systematically or unnervingly with less attention to reality.
When a dynasty fell in ancient China, it was believed that part of the explanation for its demise lay in the increasing gap between words and reality. The emperor of whatever new dynasty had taken power would then perform a ceremony called “the rectification of names” to bring language and what it was meant to describe back into sync. We Americans need to lose the emperor part of the equation, but adopt such a ceremony. Never have our realities and our words for them been quite so out of whack.
Posturing aside, there is little that can be done to punish North Korea. China and the ROK both want to avoid a sudden collapse and the German burden after 1989 with oversoon re-unification. Abe sensibly has eschewed public talk of a nuclear Japan — although he doubtless knows that Kissinger, newly in vogue with Dubya, urged that very step in 1970.
Unlike in 1950, turmoil in the ROK will have an immediate impact on the global economy. The ROK is the leading supplier of many advanced industrial and electronic components. In some cases, it is close to being a sole source. The global economy can ill afford to have the Chinese economy rocked as well.
The Administration says a nuclear DPRK is “unacceptable.” So the question remains: the threat has been made, what is the Administration able to do to back it up?
P.S. We know some sound effects would help the game. Hunting for some appropriate Dubya audio . . .
We have the rare historical privilege of watching a nascent authoritarian regime tottering on the brink of downfall.
The failure is almost metaphysically complete. The regime's incompetence and cynical duplicity has betrayed every constituency, every Agitprop construct, every principle underlying the American experiment, every moral bond to the men and women it abandoned in the hellhole of Iraq. The regime's essentially hollow, empty core is revealed by its potentially easy collapse — like a billious cloud it may well simply dissipate in the wind with a sigh.
How karmic that the Foley scandal unfolds now. It is a concept that resonates genuinely across the heartland in every household. The Administration's contempt for the American people, democracy and its own base has been obvious for years. This scandal is the final veil for all but the most deluded. How fitting that even evangelicals are appalled at the lies and their own manipulation. That Ralph Reed played the Christian Right for suckers while filling his pockets with Jack Abramoff broke the ice. Now the deluge.
For the Neocons, how galling that the despised every man and woman on the street with their non-elite, grounded concerns and values are derailing years and months of Agitprop to manipulate the Nation to war with Iran. To be subdued by such common concerns by non-elites over non-realm oriented memes sends them to the brink of despair. Even now we see Krauthammer's feeble efforts to change the subject from Foley back to Iran. The “Woodward tsunami” Krauthammer refers to is a challenge Neocons at least know how to defeat — obscuring, distorting and fabricating memes is their speciality. But they are helpless before the undiluted common sense provoked by Foley, Reynolds and Hastert's wicked deceptions.
And now comes John Warner, gently brushing aside another deception — Cher Condi's pathetic visit to Baghdad with her vapid verbosity and exortations of [insert AgitProp phrase du jour here]. The idea of Condi circling in the air for 35 minutes in the air unable to land at Baghdad airport because of rocket fire says it all. To the average citizen watching via the media the last few years, it may not be apparent that Warner has actually been playing this role for a long time. Long before the Geneva Common Article 3 controversy.
The Stiftung has seen directly time and time again Senator Warner intervene and seek to stop, deflect, ameliorate or repair damage wrought by his Kool Aid colleagues and the Administration. Including taking up issues with Andy Card in defiance of the Republican Conference and at some personal political cost inside the Senate — all matters that did not make the press or the blogosphere. Most of the time Warner was overcome by the Kool Crowd. And there is no question the McCain, Warner and Graham dance with the White House over torture ended in an empty gesture.
But the fact that John Warner has been behind the scenes against the Kool Aid deserves recognition. He is one of the last lions of the Senate. Like Chuck Grassley, he will never be accused of being a Rhodes Scholar. But both have a basic common sense that is immune to the AgitProp contagion. He will pass this world proud that he was a U.S. Senator, something that can not be said for the recent House miscreants and others elected to the Upper Body who now undermine the Senate as part of an independent branch.
John Warner accepted personal responsibility and blame for his part regarding Iraq — something unheard of under the Bush regime. Warner conceded that he personally as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee failed the armed forces by failing to ask enough tough questions. And his position now, that all options must be on the table, is also a direct blow to George Felix Allen and an indirect endorsement of Jim Webb. (The Stiftung personally can testify to witnessing Warner's less than tepid, even, regard for Allen).
“One of our state's most venerable corporate institutions lost its way as its board sought to find out who leaked confidential company information to the press,” Attorney General Bill Lockyer said during an afternoon press conference here. “In this misguided effort, people inside and outside HP violated privacy rights and broke state law.”
The others charged were Kevin T. Hunsaker, HP's former senior lawyer; Ronald DeLia, a private detective; Matthew DePante, of data-brokering company Action Research Group; and Bryan Wagner, a Colorado man believed to have been an employee of Action Research, according to the filing in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Despite earlier reports, Matthew DePante, 27, was charged by Lockyer's office and not Joseph DePante, his father and the owner of Action Research. Up until now, the elder DePante has been the only one in his family linked to the HP case.
The five face four felony charges: fraudulent wire communications, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft, and conspiracy to commit those three crimes.
You've doubtless seen or read the high level summary of the more salacious bon mots. Woodward himself offered a curiously bland overview on 60 Minutes. We won't recycle the memes here. The book is a fast read and finally a Woodward product worthy of the reader's investment.
As with Woodward efforts such as The Commanders and his other Bush War products, the book is largely a stenographic report. Quotes and descriptions abound. There is almost no analysis as usual. Thus we see alot of “what” but almost no “why”. One thing becomes clear is that the systemtic failures within the Administration, from the White House, OSD, the intelligence community, the CPA and the uniform military refute emphatically Larry Wilkerson's (Powell's erratic former Chief of Staff) claims that all would have been ok but for a “cabal” which ruined the interagency process. The catastrophic breakdowns in basic rationality and management point to something far deeper. Dear Reader you know our contention about the viral ideology that underlies the Bush regime. But Woodward does not even attempt to examine or even ask “why”. He truly is the Imperial City Rain Man parrotting what he hears.
We found ourselves alternating between hilarity at the incompetence and juvenile behavior of these self-described Empire Builders and rage at what has been done in the name of the American people.
Over all, the book is a brutal indictment of Cher Condi. You can use the search bar to see how we have been on this theme for years. In fact, the Stiftung helped found the Condi Rice Is A Twit Club in 1989 when she went to the NSC. So we like to see our Club get its message out. The car wrecks that unfold on page after page are often a testament to the utter absence of any policy coordination or implementation framework — her raison d'etre as national security advisor. We loved former President George Herbert Walker Bush's assessment that Cher Condi was a failure, “not up to the job”. In the argot of Kennebunkport, damning. David Kay's assessment that she may well be the most inept national security advisor in U.S. history rings undeniably true.
She still gets an undeserved pass by history even now. On July 10, 2001 Tenet and Cofer Black asked for an emergency meeting with her and reported that Bin laden was going to attack the U.S., possibly inside the country. This meeting has been deliberately obscured by her protectors. Phil Zelikow, her friend and now counselor at the State Department, served as Executive Director for the 9/11 Commission. The July meeting curiously did not make the April 2004 televised hearings --- a gift from Zelikow, Tenet and Black. And it is not in the final report. But it is not news, as we and many others have known about it and talked about it for years. Nice to see the truth emerge.
Beyond the plastic and vapid Condi, Woodward paints vivid sketches of Rumsefeld's duplicity and bureaucratic games. Yet for all of Rumsfeld's efforts at spin by cooperating with the book, what comes across is not so much a keen infighter as much as petulant child pushing all others out of the entire sandbox. We have never had much respect for former Chairman JCoS Richard Myers, but the scenes of him covering his head in his folded arms on a table top, beaten down by Rumsfeld evoke a certain pathetic empathy. In a sane world Rumsfeld et al. would have been sacked long ago. We wonder how long he can survive this book. And we shake our head to to see how our old acquaintance Larry DiRita has been stained by his AgitProp role on Rumsfeld's behalf.
Jay Garner and others make clear how both Doug Feith and Tommy Franks set the Nation up to fail in the occupation. They also expose Bremer's lies seeking to evade his direct responsibility for much of the ruin. But Bremer does deserve credit for specifically asking Rice for 40,000 additional troops, along with the NSC's Robert Blackwill. A request that like Tenet's earlier July 2001 warning to her she simply smiled away into inaction.
Every dozen pages, other delights pop out as well. We love seeing Cheney himself and then Scooter Libby starting to pump the 'WMD are in the Bekaa Valley' meme. How funny to see the migration from AEI to The Corner to Cheney's office and then to Iraq. Scooter pushing AEI's Ghorbonifar Lebanonese GPS coordinates onto Kay screams out for a screen play.
The scale of dysfunction and incompetence is breathtaking. Bush, Cheney, Rice and the NSC, Rumsfeld, Tenet and the Community, Powell, Armitage, Gonzales, CENTCOM, OSD itself, the Joint Chiefs, the CPA apparat and Congress all failed consistently and glaringly. Government itself appears to be called into question only compounded by Katrina. How the Nation ever endured such incompetence demands an answer. Why the divergence between the AgitProp constructs and the reality was allowed to continue unmasked for years is another question. Woodward's unblinking stenography is therefore perfectly suited to his subject and time.