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March 08, 2007
February 24, 2007
ean Baudrillard passed away in Paris
one day after the Scooter verdict.
One of his better known theories postulates that we live in a world where simulated feelings and experiences have replaced the real thing. This seductive “hyperreality,” where shopping malls, amusement parks and mass-produced images from the news, television shows and films dominate, is drained of authenticity and meaning. Since illusion reigns, he counseled people to give up the search for reality.
“All of our values are simulated,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “What is freedom? We have a choice between buying one car or buying another car? It’s a simulation of freedom.”
ewis Carroll likely welcomes the company. Although many misunderstood Baudrillard (the Times unhelpfully dwells on The Matrix films), how rare it is for someone to see their theories vindicated on the world historical stage.
It's fitting that the ultimate male-bonding/romantic militarist story, Sparta's stand against the Persians comes to the screen as '300'. This doomed defiance is reverently invoked across the years, particularly from a related subset — from many in the American Movement military porn enthusiast community to the Corporal losing an entire army on Volga. Baudrillard would have appreciated transforming the already derivative comic book '300' into the completely non-existant realm of CGI effects.
00” the movie could be the apotheosis of hyperreal imagining — it's current state of the art. Kid movies aside — you know the kind — fare designed specifically to replace cell-based animation with inside jokes as a sop to adults, Hollywood's CGI worlds in general, well, suck. And it is not just the specific actors. The latest Star Wars movies are too easy to cite because they were awful in so many ways. But others have failed, too — “Sky Captain”, “Final Fantasy”, “UltaViolet”, “Aeon Flux”, the last two Matrix movies. Now matter how compelling or awesome the initial CGI visions, no matter who is acting, after about 10 minutes a weariness sets in. The imagination rebels against mere pixels. Making matters worse, CGI is now available for everything. Special effects are no longer special.
Do politics follow our social imaginations? If so, what does a CGI imaginative cul de sac presage? Perhaps it is limited to flaws in that particular tool — CGI — and not against hyperreality per se
. American Idol, for example, with its equally synthentic and hyperreal narratives remains a ratings juggernaut. As do stories about Britney's head shavings and the Anna Nicole Smith saga.
Tags: Hyper reality
, Jean Baudrillard
, Frank Miller
February 21, 2007
Take up the White man's burden
Send forth the best ye breed.
ot so much Rudyard these days. Granted, the U.S. media mischaracterized Blair's remarks. The partial withdrawal of 1,500 still leaves a British footprint around Basra for some time. Blair is also prone to bold public declarations with tempered follow up. Even so, hard to argue Britain's largest military operation since WW II didn't fail. Or that the withdrawal isn't starting the next phase of Iraq's future.
We have been wondering why the U.S. media offer such atrocious coverage of our largest ally and its efforts in the south. Oh sure there have been a few books describing the British occupation here and there.
But if one doesn't catch BBC World News or purposefully seek out a specific website, goings on in the south might as well be a black hole.
The Stiftung thinks we know why. U.S. cable news producers don't know how to cram the south and now British withdrawal into a standard template. Court dramas follow predictable and comfortable arcs. Baghdad provides smoke, bombs and drama
. But southern Iraq?
So we want to help. Here's how. First, we have a sexy triangle struggle. Cable can approach it as either Springer-esque shoutfest or Anna Nicole Smith custody battle. At issue is a three-way Shia factional struggle for control of Basra and its vital oil and port facilities
. Obviously the latter part requires tarting up a bit. But if Monty Python can transform mollusks into riveting must see TV (“Yes, the mollusk is a randy little bastard!” or “Mollusks, thos t** sucking rapists of the ocean” ) we think American cable TV can sex up oil and port facilities.
We are lucky that we have three parties vying for control. They are perfect for a long running cable narrative like Anna Nicole. First we have the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The news producers could start off calling them the “Council” which sounds vaguely inert and PTA-ish. But later when ratings sag SCIRI can be used. Even the name when pronounced off a teleprompter to Americans will sound ominous and ethnic. Then there is the Islamic al-Fadhila party. Anything with “al” in front of it to an American is a terrorist ipso facto. And finally, when more evil mojo is needed to keep viewers after the tease at the 30 and on the hour, there is Moqtada al-Sadr's faction. He glowers well for the 'Breaking News' swoosh.
So we have three parties trying to control the Basra-Mollusks/oil export facilities. Then we have the failed/weak mediator, al Maliki. Maliki tried to broker an arrangement among the three parties and failed miserably. A failed mediator is perfect for cable news drama. Harpies and pundits will be able to pile on mercilessly. This drama will play out for at least the next year. More than enough time for CNN, MSNBC and Fox to write a theme song for “The Basra Custody Battle.” Even better when existing minor militia clashes escalate into full scale attacks. The end result will be regardless a brand new Shia-controlled state comprised of Basra and neighboring regions. Another 3-4 months of speculation about 'who lost the Mollusks/oil export facilities' and finger pointing — how did Iran win yet again.
Your mileage may vary.
February 20, 2007
. . . there clearly is a distinction to be drawn between constructive disagreement about the conflict in Iraq and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The former can be compatible with a genuine commitment to the troops and to their success, as well as their safety. It would, however, require the dissenters to propose other strategies for victory — not simply the use of code-words for defeat, like “redeployment” and “regional diplomacy” . . .
These critics, particularly members of Congress, must be held accountable for such destructive dissent. Our enemies believe their strategy for achieving a political victory by wearing down the United States is succeeding. They are redoubling their efforts as they perceive the rising power of irresponsible anti-war “agitators.” Abraham Lincoln understood the difference between constructive dissent and treacherous agitation. There is no mistaking his determination to “silence” the latter through means he judged to be constitutional. The question occurs: Will it take some further, even more catastrophic attack here at home — an attack made more likely by the irresponsible behavior of today's agitators — to silence their defeatism and reunify the country behind a necessary program for victory?
oor Frank. Having to devote 3/4 of a column to apologize
for putting words in Lincoln's mouth. Frank as the stand in for the remnants of the Christian Socialist Authoritarian regime would hold at least 15 generals traitor. A significant portion of the active force in region. Tony Blair. 60% of the American people. A majority of the Senate. And almost 300 members of the House.
rank and the regime only wish they could simply decree a modern Order No. 227
. Or the German 1945 equivalent. One can't help but think that Frank and the Weekly Standard staff would have been happier alive in April 1945, in the Berlin rubble chasing down those who surrendered or tried to find American lines. Moral clarity and treason indeed.
This is on our mind today — more than Blair and Cheney's response — because of the recent movie “Breach”. You've probably seen the ads. It's about Robert Hanssen, FBI counter intelligence official, Opus Dei activist, devoted Catholic and long time Soviet/Russian spy. As a movie, we'd give it a 3 out of 5. Hanssen arguably was the most damaging spy in U.S. history. We had dinner not that long ago with an official from an earlier administration who argued the Walkers were worse. They are right up there. Those are real traitors. As were Fuchs, the Rosenbergs, Pelton, Ames, Pollard, etc. Not insignificantly, the Gaffneys of the world don't seem all that pre-occupied with say, Larry Franklin and AIPAC. Or Amdocs. Or Chalabi's intensive interactions with Iranians and Iranian intelligence. In fact, they embrace Chalabi vociferously and wave away evidence to the contrary.
An ideological regime in its death throes almost never goes down to absolute zero in support. Even in May 1945, the regime there probably retained 10% popular support. Referring to the comments discussions elsewhere about Ian Kershaw, Kershaw has written that the regime enjoyed 90% approval ratings until March 1943. So no matter what size the debacle in the Middle East, the oceans of blood spilled, the strategic consequences, expect that the Bush Administration will likely never break a floor of 20+%.
here is one more connection between Hanssen and the Gaffneys of the world. Hanssen, writing his Russian control, described the U.S. as an overdeveloped child with great strength but little brains, easily manipulated. That basic contempt for America and Americans is also at the core the Neocon credo. Their anger? The so-called child refuses their manipulation.
All we can say is “Get used to it, Frank.”
Tags: Frank Gaffney
February 15, 2007
BC reports of an alleged U.S. strike plan against Iran
did not impress the Stiftung much. Practically, we know already of planning and wargaming on Iran. For several years now. CENTCOM and DoD would be guilty of incompetence if they didn't. Indeed, NORTHCOM likely has a plan somewhere for crushing the potential threat from Alberta.
This particular leak has the whiff of an Administration plant. The Beeb claims that the U.S. set “two triggers” for attack: (a) Iranian nuclear weapons; and (b) Tehran's direct and provable culpability in attacks on U.S. troops. U.S. intelligence via
former DNI Negroponte already is on record that Tehran is years away from (a). The Warlord has already accused them of (b).
ven at face value — a grim thought — the BBC report has a partial silver lining. It looks like Air Force ideologues might be reigned in, at least a little bit. John Warden with Desert Storm and then strikes against Belgrade helped turn Effects Based Operations into (controversial) articles of faith
in the military. EBO's rise flourished 2001-2006 as Rumsfeld lavished favor on the Air Force. EBO embodied kinetic precision, the preferred OSD expeditionary ethos, and as a service the Air Force embraced high tech the most. Accordingly, Global Strike and other missions lie at the center of Rumsfeld's second QDR.
All this institutional and intellectual momentum rested in large part on misreading air power's success in seemingly achieving victory in Belgrade by itself (and its promise hinted at in Desert Storm). Belgrade seemingly vindicated Douhet, Mitchell and Warden.
An “effects based” approach of “influencing” outcomes created a distortion in application of military power - pursuit of ill-defined aims and goals. We happen to agree with Vego supra
who argued that military planning works best when it focues on finishing specific tasks towards a clear objective. As he notes, EBO in essence substitutes the targeter's view of the world for warfare.
The U.S. was not alone. Our ideologically driven misunderstanding of air power helped lead the Israelis astray, too. The botched Israeli obliteration of the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon? An attack the Israelis patterned after U.S. Air Force doctrine and Belgrade. Even wingnuts could grok this
Israel's new chief of staff, an air force general, believed that most of Israel's future operations would be conducted from the air. Military leaders were convinced that with superior communications and air power they did not even need new U.S. “bunker buster” munitions to root out terror leaders in underground hideaways. Today, this vision of air power as a panacea has been shattered.
f the BBC report can be believed, the military-only target sets are a substantial move off the civilian targets so prominent in Belgrade and Lebanon. In other words, the wanton destruction of civilians and civilian infrastructure is avoided at least at the outset. Of course, a restricted target set is not in and of itself a repudiation of EBO. Even its harshest critics would concede that. In this case, It is entirely possible that the EBO mafia may claim compellence/coercion leverage on regime high value security and power assets. As Vego and others note, such thinking is likely wildly flawed - i.e., history teaches that EBO advocates almost always fail to underestand or predict accurately the secondary and tertiary impacts of their actions. Hezbollah's increased popularity after Israeli bombing is only one example. Iranian nationalism likely would do no less in rallying the people (of all ages and demographics) to the regime.
Is the Warlord stupid enough to initiate transitory violence and thereby ensure the Mullahs' rule for another three decades? Most definitely. Has he decided to do so? We don't think so, not yet. We base that on our temperature read of the Usual Suspects. They, like the Israelis, remain despondent. Will he be out maneuvered by Tehran? Almost certainly. How does one say 'paper tiger' in Farsi?
, Air Force
, Effects Based Operations
, air strikes
Text of communication as intercepted by Quds Force 'illegal', code named 'Hidden Imam', in place at Fox News. HI provided a copy to General Do Ming Hua of the Glorious Blossom LCD Electronics and Textile Enterprise
February 12, 2007
. . . (peering into video conference camera):
Joel Surnow? Hello? Joel ! Lynne and I love 24. It is, in my judgment, the funniest show on TV.
We just saw your 1/2 Hour News Hour clips at Mary's partner's house. The Cheneys like comedy. Comedy is always welcome in the Cheney house. The Cheneys are comedic people, if you will.
Lynne and I thought we would give you some feedback to help Fox with their remarkable success in downsizing their audience. That's the kind of effort that doesnt get reported enough by our critics.
Here's a skit that Hannah and Wurmser loved. It's called “Crying Wolf.” I took the liberty of providing this conceptual drawing.
This is someone hilarious from your show pretending to be me, inviting Wolf into MY situation room. After slapping his democrat loving face around, I ask Wolf “is it an approrpiate question”? No matter what he answers I take this power drill and drill holes in his shoulders
. That is comedy gold !
Plus Dick Durbin and those fucking Democrats will hate it! I suggest you save it for sweeps week.
Elliott Abrams and Addington came up with another one, "Stab In The Back.' It's a game show where the contestants are asked to come up with a policy for Iraq. A beautiful nubile aryan blonde woman represents America. A correct answer will save her from disaster. But it is rigged! No matter what decision they make, MsAmerica gets stabbed in the back by a Ted Kennedy look-a-like! Pure hilarity !
Joel, we know that with great comedic talents like you, Fox will continue its exceptional and industry-leading decline. Those mainstream liberal networks only wish they could lose key demographics as fast as Fox is doing currently. All the best wishes for continued catastrophic success.
And remember, if someone like Dick Cheney finds your show hilarious, you know you have a winner!
, Fox News
, Joel Surnow
, Wolf Blitzer
January 23, 2007
e agree with those that point to the U.S. ambling towards confrontation while thinking itself in a holding pattern. It may be true that no final decision appears to have been made for airstrikes on Iran.
Many, but not the majority of Neocons, also seek vindication of their romantic visions of another velvet uprising, or at least manufacturing the facsimile thereof via
traditional covert action to destabilize the Iranian regime. And it is also true that the hardliners, such as Meyrav Wurmser, lament that “There is not enough political will for a strike. There seems to be various notions of what the policy should be.”
We are back to 2002 but without the Warlord's a priori
decision for conflict — bureaucratic paralysis and those pushing to create binary decision-making. Thus we see poorly sourced and stale briefings of Iranian involvement in providing weapons and technology to the insurgents. So it is no surprise that the Chairman of Joint Chiefs disavow the briefing's assertion that the highest level of the Iranian government knows of the assistance.
The Corner omits this unhelpful development, focusing on CIA perfidy instead
. Of course, it is not explained why the Iranian government would aid Sunni insurgents who are using explosives and weapons to kill both Shia and the U.S. troops. HPSCI hearings this Thursday should help explain who made and promoted the briefing.
Sensing the drift and the urgent need to radicalize further Evangelical and other elements of the Administration's base, the Weekly Standard appears to have “turned it up to 11”
. We also see Sharansky, whose book so captivated the Warlord, weighing in, as well.
Neocons differ on the tactics for overthrowing the Iranian menace in the halls at AEI, Hudson, etc. All are relatively united, however, in claiming Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran an existential threat to both Israel and improbably the U.S. as well. They all understand that a U.S. in a policy flux represents an opportunity. What is today avowedly a posture for “containment” is also a posture for pre-positioning assets for strike.
How disappointing to them then that Nick Burns reportedly has salvaged a tentative agreement with the North Koreans.
The threat of peace breaking out in North East Asia is a blow. That Ahmadinejad today spoke of peaceful resolution and dialogue
while under pressure at home to dial back his inflammatory rhetoric must enrage and frustrate them further.
January 17, 2007
easured and firm response to the Warlord. Who knew, but the Democrats showed some political smarts in the right tone during the droning address and the SOTU response.
Interestng how Tweety still gushes over his man crush on the Warlord. It comes out in so many ways — via
his simmering misogyny expressed both by dwelling on how “gracious” the little boy was to Pelosi and his brittle interaction with HRC. Tweety loves HRC as the hot “get” but despises the “get” at the same time — a conundrum refelcted in his wildly uneven tone and contradictory commentary. We also noticed Tweety clearly uncomfortable sharing the co-anchoring duties with the undeniably more intelligent and wittier Olbermann (divergent political viewpoints aside).
Politically, the spin was also interesting. Timmy, NBC's Man in the Imperial City, kept repeating White House talking points that the Warlord was “surprised” by the reaction to his Iraq speech. According to Timmy, the Warlord's dwelling on Iran, the sending of Patriots, a carrier battle group, a new CENTCOM commander with expertise in airstrikes and the raids on Iranian consulates were all unrelated to any conscious policy about Iran. Timmy then underscored that by asserting that the Warlord never intended those signals to be perceived as directed against Iran. Moreover, he tells that to his staff, Timmy bleats.
Ponder that a moment, Dear Reader. If what Timmy said is true, then Nation is in even greater danger than ever before; a truly and utterly incompetent Warlord is at the helm causing international crises and alarms without even realizing it. And tells his staff that he is not causing crises because he says so. Potentially worse blundering about than the Agadir Crisis — there, the parties were at least talking to each other. And if the Warlord is making threats he has no intention of keeping, then he is beyond reckless.
How funny Timmy omits any of this obvious follow-up analysis to his “reporting”. Perhaps because he himself knows what he says to be untrue but feels professionally bound to say it on air. His “unnamed” White House sources allow him to still look connected and relevant in this age of Politico.com.
But we think he also wants to believe. Because that allows him to gloss over and ignore the explicit language in the SOTU about linking Hezbollah with both Al Qaeda and the Iranian Shia complex (long a Likud drum beat). How an NBC Bureau Chief can wave away explicit threats to a sovereign nation in two separate major presidential addresses in conformity with the EOVP/Likudite/Wursmer theology is astounding. Tweety seemed eager to agree with his fellow brother-in-Christ. NBC — for the night at least — officially decided that presidential words and actions do not mean what they say and are, to be safely ignored.
Williams we suspect weeped inwardly on behalf of the entire NASCAR Nation for the Warlord's misfortune. We waited for but did not hear Williams mention the Warlord's omission of New Orleans in the speech. Odd, given Williams' year long commitment to the city in his broadcast. (We turned MSNBC off around 11:00 PM).
verall? We give the Webb response 4 1/2 stars out of 5. The Warlord gets a 2 1/2 out of 5. NBC/MSNBC coverage a 2 1/2. The Russert and Tweety show is so 2004. They need some fresh “brands” to represent 'hard talk' that have not been compromised as Vichy Collaborators during the 2001-2006 Dark Years. And what exactly was MSNBC doing using NFL football-style music scores in selected promos of the SOTU coverage? How soon before NBC/MSNBC SOTU events have overt and official corporate sponsors? At least Buchanan didn't make any more jokes quoting convicted Nazi war criminals tonight (that we heard).
, Tim Russert
, Chris Matthews
, Keith Olbermann
, Jim Webb
November 21, 2006
any have observed that pundits most responsible for the death of the American Idea in international politics via calamity in Iraq continue to prosper
. They earn ever larger speaking fees, get new book deals and seemingly pay no price for sustained error over several years costing hundreds of thousands of lives. Neoliberals like Beinhart, Ken Pollack share a responsibility with blowhards like Friedman or the more blatantly manipulative such as Brooks, Hitch, Boot or Kristol. In an ethical society, Zakaria too would pay a steep professional price for concealing his direct role in 2001 via AEI's ridiculously self-complimentary “Bletchely II” war-fest which helped Wolfowitz and Bush himself launch this entire car wreck
merica of the 21st Century long ago abandoned Hester Prynne. So too with the pundits. All of these poor souls are in the end commodities. Products to be packaged and peddled by their media platforms to us for profit. They succeeded because they know (implicitly or explicitly) their ultimate societal function.
Their job or their purpose is not 'to be right.' That would be nice, to be sure. Makes things easier on management. But the key is: do they sell? Sell books. Sell advertising in print (helping with circulation is a nice double good). Sell webpage click throughs. Or sell demographics and TV ratings. And of course sell access — do whomever is in power like what they read? And will this help the organization's other reporters get interviews, etc.
All the rest is noise. If being “right” was even part of the overall job description the American media landscape would be as barren as the Moon.An Op-Ed page can have a wishy washy Ignatius here and there who are careful to make sure their back catalog says something on both sides, but they are a luxury.
Sell baby! (AgitProp constructs such as Weekly Standard subsidized and essentially immune to market forces of course operate on purely ideological parameters).
nce we understand their commodity status and purpose, alot begins to make sense. Useful media commodities have a couple of characteristics (I refer here to the general sense of a good, thing or res
, not the specific definition of interchangeable fungibility).
One, they should have a strong brand. Inattentive readers or viewers will know in an instant what memes are being downloaded/viewed/imparted. Two, they simplify complex things or deny they are complex for inattentive viewers/readers. And three, usually they will sell a course of action which will be emotionally and psychologically satisfying but will not impose pain, remorse or negative feelings which might bleed over onto enthusiasm for surrounding furniture ads or commercials.
Savvy media outlets break some of these rules and also mix and match. For Hitch to write in Slate and make light of the hundreds of thousand dead in Iraq by a flippant comment to the effect “we was jinxed, man”
is astoundingly narcissistic even for him. As well as self-serving and exculpatory (Bush failed the Cause, but the dream shall never die!). It also likely pissed off alot of Slate readers. But that intensity is essential and not a bad thing. Does Slate really care if Hitch is “right”? Or consistent? Or even “honest”? Slate one imagines looks to more measurable things than objective reality-- how many clickthroughs does Hitch get? Heck we read it, and are linking to it.
Similarly, for a struggling outfit for the L.A. Times, giving a column to a Jonah Goldberg might be mystifying to all rational people. But to management under attack and financial erosion, someone like aMax Boot tossing off the timorous claim that hoping we might secure Baghad is preferable to facing the grim consequences of a failed state
could be a good call. If he the delivers eyeballs.
Radar's piece mentions William Lind as one voice (among many) who warned against this regime before the madness started. The Stiftung actually believes that Lind in particular was handicapped by his respect for substance and ideas. His writings are informative, dense with insight and wholly inapposite to the USA Today-i-fication of Amercian media and the facile superficiality of the Neocon pundit class. He is also swimming against the tide explaining complexity to a media and audience that yearn for (demand?) its opposite.
For Lind and others, we must not forget the true fear from 2001-2005 most media outlets had of crossing this regime. Such a punitive, vicious and overtly aggressive political apparat was and is unique. Alternative media outlets that stood tall such as the progressive blogosphere and other new media ventures that formed for a while were all that stood in the regime's way. So building a brand persona in such an evironment was particularly difficult and tricky.
The Pundits, National Greatness and Iran
ur sense is that the Neocon/Neoliberal Punditry Noontide already is slipping away. They perfected their external media commercial public role well. Escalation in Iraq is so profoundly unpopular, however. Squaring their function of offering emotionally satisfying scripts at no cost to the American reader or viewer and helping sell furniture and Japanese automobiles is almost exhausted in that context. In addition, their access is limited to an ever diminishing circle around EOVP, the NSC and Oval Office.
A new Congress already is overturning the suffocating conformity of the 2001-2006 unified Christian Socialist Authoritarian regime. And the '08 cycle is already here. The Neocon/Neoliberals, like the Bush regime itself, must stake everything on two final rolls of the dice: a McCain or Giuliani presidency and war with Iran. There is a compelling logic to their radicalized world that the best way to make Americans forget this failed war (and who rah rah'd it) is simply start a new one. (Tomorrow we may write why the non-Likudnik Israelis want a different future and their covert talks with Syria).
After Bush, together you and us Dear Reader can determine the media fate of these creatures. We begin by just stop clicking on Slate when they have Hitchens. Now it is still necessary to keep an eye on them because of their Warlord patron. But after him? Stop reading whatever new flatulence Friedman comes up with. Ignore Boot, etc. Don't cross link video of more Beinhart immature historical mangling. Cross ownership and subordination of news to pure market forces is a done deal by now and can not be unwound. The Neocons manipulated market forces to peddle their Kool Aid. It is time the market responded in kind.
, Max Boot
, Tom Friedman
, David Brooks
November 19, 2006
itch. On Baker
. 'Nuff said.
November 13, 2006
ometimes they don't go quietly into the night
uravchik's rallying cry for Neoconism is not particularly memorable. On the one hand, we see his benchwarmer's excitement of getting playing time after the rout is beyond repair. Muravchik can get away with this silliness only because the public does not yet associate his name with the disaster. Perle and Adelman et al. quite sensibly are beginning their Self Criticism turn and leave such boosterism for the “B Team”. Muravchick's “Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” moment will fall on deaf ears from his own bench at the moment. But he is planting a flag (possibly sacrificially), as he does his current Foreign Policy piece advocating bombing Iran.
As badly as things have gone in Iraq, the war has not disproved neoconservative ideas. Iraq is a mess, and the U.S. mission there may fail. If that happens, neocons deserve blame because we were key supporters of the war. But American woes in Iraq may be traced to the conduct of the war rather than the decision to undertake it. In fact, despite the alarming spike of anti-Americanism worldwide, the political space in many Middle Eastern countries — such as Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and most of the Persian Gulf nations — has widened appreciably in response to Bush's pressure and advocacy.
In recent weeks, hopes have risen that Baker and the Iraq Study Group will devise an alternative approach to neoconservatism, one more in the mode of traditional conservatism. Rumor has it that this will rest on courting Iran. But why would a country whose president proclaims his goal to be “a world without America” pull our chestnuts out of the fire? Others suggest that Baker will link Iraq to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, but this has been sought for decades without success. Even if achieved, why and how would it make Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites stop slaughtering each other?
Until someone comes up with better ideas than these, the neocon strategy of trying to transform the Middle East, however blemished, remains without alternative. No doubt, the results of the midterm elections will produce some course corrections (as Rumsfeld has discovered). But neocon ideas are unlikely to be jettisoned — either by Bush or his successor — until a viable replacement is found. So far, there is none.
rofoundly misleading. Muravchik is intellectually and factually dishonest. Neoconism was not really about reform in the region. It was and remains an argument for “regime change” via
force of arms, coercion or covert action. And Iraq was to be beginning of a process that Perle and others have said in front of this writer was to end with the overthrow of the House of Saud. The reason the term “regime change” became part of the American lexicon was the Neocon conceit that societies adopt and cohere to the form of government given them — a top down approach rather than an organic, bottom up vision ala America circa 1776.
Under this formulation, simply changing the regime and imposing “democratic” process such as elections would, the theory goes, mould and shape the New Iraqi Man. This is the theoretical underpinning for the Administration's argument that formulaic electoral processes would yield success. Contra Muravchik, the Neocon top down model of imposed societal engineering via military force or covert action lies shattered in pieces.
Imposed leadership lobotomies and hastily concocted new political orders via
a “dictatorship of the transient and foreign electoral process” was and clearly is shown by Iraq to be impractical and dangerously delusional. (Even the Israelis backed away from American Neocon efforts to begin efforts to foment a coup in Syria).
Of course, that Neocon argument about top down social engineering was itself a distraction and an illusion. All of this was and is about harnessing American power, wealth and blood for other reasons. We must remain vigilant against future Trotskyite “infiltration” (Trotskyites call it “entrism” ) of our policy discourse (see this entertaining contortion by Trotskyite and Neocon Stephen Schwartz in NRO on the subject)
. And Muravchik's false dichotmy of their “New Islamic Democratic Man” and the strawman of 'militant status quo' can be ignored.
Societal reform in the region and policies to address and contain the demographic/educational bubble in the Islamic ecumenae will be needed. Now, perhaps we have a chance to do so on a rational basis based on American national interest.
November 02, 2006
attle for Rummy's legacy erupts while his political corpse is still room temperature. Roughly hewn, there appear to be three main narratives vying for quick historical primacy: (a) military reformer overshadowed by his Iraq failures; (b) a bureaucratic bully who got everything wrong; and (c) a traitor to the cause of Will and Power who single-handedly ushered back into influence the hated 'Realists“ with their pygmy vision of pragmatism.
Peter Boyer in the New Yorker
sets out the first and best argument via ”How Donald Rumsfeld Transformed The Army And Lost Iraq“
. Boyer correctly goes back to Andy Marshall and Soviet theoretical writings from the 1980s and early 1990s to show how serious military thinkers (including the late Art Cebrowski remembered here
) understood the need for military transformation long before Donald Rumseld arrived on the scene. We can attest to all of the above as being personally familiar with the original writings and some of the personalities Boyer describes there.
While it is true that ONA (the Office of Net Assessment) under Marshall after 2001 came to harbour some Neocon agitators and Feith allies such as Harold Rhode (who at least speaks several relevant languages), Marshall and ONA's commitment to creative strategic thought transcends Neoconism across the decades. Boyer's analysis tracks our experiences with OSD, the military transformation personalities and the Neocons. In truth, the Joint Staff had become too powerful and bureaucratically inert. And the Army did need reform. We recommend Boyer's piece as a relatively solid and incisive first cut at the Rumseld/transformation narrative.
As for the second line, as much as it pains us to say it, Woodward's State of Denial
probably remains the single best source integrating Rumseld's dysfunctional personality and events on the ground in Iraq. Woodward also shows how Rumsfeld's almost sociopathic need for control undermined his own transformation and reform agenda. Screeds like Kwiatkowsky's ”Rumsfeld's Legacy“ while entertaining in a rile up the base sort of way are just Kool Aid of a different flavor
In the end, the problem with this line of analysis is that for all of his obvious blundering and destructive impact on policy formulation and execution, the President tolerated it. So in the end, the entire critique by necessity must arrive back at the Oval Office.
And the third narrative is the one probably most familiar to you, Dear Reader, because we have enjoyed following it here so closely. Indeed quotes recently submitted here from Adelman, Perle, Ledeen and Dector and now part of the SLS blog are priceless. Neocon youngling Michael Rubin adds his own beginner's take in the WSJ as well
. Rubin interestingly now seeks to link Rumsfeld to the despised 'Realism.' Jim Hoagland also lashes out at 'Realism” in the WaPo as he bitterly complains that the wreckage of the Neocon Will to Power is the triumph of their hated enemy, pragmatism
President Bush lost more than a midterm election and a cantankerous defense secretary last week. He also abandoned any lingering chance of remaking U.S. foreign policy into a radical force for democratic change in the Middle East and elsewhere . . .But Bush's going on the defensive does not mean that the radical positive changes he had hoped for cannot come about on their own, even if on a different timetable and with much greater costs than he ever imagined. True realism lies in recognizing that his diagnosis of a crumbling order in the Middle East was sound, even if his prescriptions were not.
erversely, one can imagine Krauthammer hunched over one of his no doubt tedious chess games, invoking Teddy — “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
, New Yorker
November 01, 2006
alph Peters slinks away from his car wreck in Iraq hoping no one saw him help driving.
He finally bows to consensus reality and concedes Iraq is 'unwinnable'. But oh the delusions that remain.
Those of us who hoped that the Iraqis could achieve democracy were wrong — and their failure has implications for the entire region . . . Iraq was the Arab world's last chance to board the train to modernity, to give the region a future, not just a bitter past. The violence staining Baghdad's streets with gore isn't only a symptom of the Iraqi government's incompetence, but of the comprehensive inability of the Arab world to progress in any sphere of organized human endeavor. We are witnessing the collapse of a civilization.
All those who rooted for Iraq to fail are going to be chastened by what follow. And contrary to the prophets of doom, the United States wouldn't be weakened by our withdrawal, should it come to that. Iraq was never our Vietnam. It's al-Qaeda's Vietnam. They're the ones who can't leave and who can't win.
o to be clear, Peters concedes the Administration was less than competent. But to him the Iraqis are the ones responsible for provoking the half assed OIF in the first place and then turning their nation into another Lebanon.
eters remains deceitful to the last, shirking his responsibility as one of the coarse, third tier cheerleaders for violence and force. (He offers instead a Hastert-like hollow acknowledgement of responsibility that offers much but accepts nothing).
How he thinks Iraq a trifling failure not even on a Vietnam scale says alot. Vietnam was a minor geopolitical struggle on the periphery of the main contest to contain Soviet power. Pullout there left the central system strategic equation unaffected or any other core geostrategic interest. And within 10 years from that pullout we were on the cusp of winning the Cold War. We agree with Bill Odom (much as it surprises us, but that is a long story) that Iraq is the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.
Failure in Iraq by contrast has pulverized the stability of the region that is vital to the global economy — but then hated stability and Realists were always the true enemies of Peters and Neocons when launching this absurd CF.
Iraq has stirred the passions and hatreds of an ecumenae numbering approximately 1 billion. The balance of power in the region is decisively against the U.S. and its non-radicalized allies. U.S. prestige, soft power and political capital has been depleted by the Administration's reckless policies and incompetence. Not to mention the treasure and blood lost.
But Peters goes one further. He claims somehow Iraq is actually a victory for the U.S. somehow because it is Al Qaeda's Vietnam. For real. Read his piece again. We normally “grok” Neocon Kool Aid trips but not this one.
How Peters' audience reacts to his volte face will be interesting. Many undoubtedly already knew Iraq was lost, and no longer believed in elections, purple digits, or Dubya's secret plans and wunderwaffen
. Yet many also required Peters and others to continue to at least pretend to believe in Victory to assuage their own pain from cognitive dissonance. The penalty for Peters and others to peddle the Kool Aid is also high. Billmon's report that Fox News continues its ratings free fall
shows how thin the triumphalist gruel has become. (MSNBC is enjoying a ratings increase)
Fox News's total audience fell 24 percent in the past year, to 1.3 million viewers from 1.7 million, and its key primetime audience, viewers ages 25-54, was down 7 percent in October on a year-to-year basis, to an average 363,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data. In third quarter, Fox News suffered a 38 percent decline in 25-54s, to 409,000.
temporary blip, of course, until audience disenchantment, shame and anger is re-directed to the 'stab in the back' meme and then Iran.
Look for them beginning early Spring 2007.
March 20, 2006
ubya's warm embrace of Cheney and Rumsfeld today confirms the sour two years ahead of us. And effectively spikes Cher Condi's dreams of being more than a staffer and AgitProp queen.
We note with bemusement the recent and futile Imperial City parlour game played by some, breathlessly speculating on who might be Condi's deputy, etc. A pointless pursuit as Zoellick himself realized when he abandoned Condi and resigned in July. A fitting end to the tenure of a vacant mind and empty persona.
Instead, Cheney and Rumsfeld will remain in the saddle to the bitter end. This Administration, true, is not above political kabuki, and it is possible that with this affirmation, Rumsfeld could resign with political cover. But we don't think so. Conventional prefab wisdom believes Bush's actions are tied to protecting flanks on Iraq and other related decisions of the past. We believe it is really a prospective decision: i.e., about Iran.
dministration continued use of “unacceptable” to describe the Iranian nuclear program affirms it is a casus belli
. Today Michael Ledeen argues that we are already at war with Iran anyway
. And bemoans Bush's decision to not act immediately. Cheney and Rumsfeld will facilitate the implementation of actions in the remaining two years to make Ledeen's AgitProp a reality.
Whether Iraq is code orange or red in some CENTCOM PowerPoint presentation does not interest the Stiftung. The American force posture in theater, equipment burn rate and human capital depletion effectively removes a robust military threat against Tehran for the near and medium term. This is true whether Americans re-set the forces over the horizon or not.
Which leaves “precision” air/sea strike and integrated special forces action as the only remaining card to play. The naval exercises in the Gulf now would be an adjunct to any such unfolding campaign.
Lieberman as Minister of Strategic Threats in an Olmert Cabinet is a catalytic engine for those seeking to create the momentum of inevitability. Interestingly, as those who followed the Walt and Mearsheimer mau mau
know, a Democratic House may also inadvertently assist. The Democratic Party is even more vulnerable to AgitProp from that direction arguably than the Republican from the Evangelical/Neocon axis. It would be nice to be surprised.
Tehran also would welcome this development. Riding out American airstrikes and transient force would do much to further Tehran's bid for leadership in the Islamic world and overcome the Persian/Sunni taint. If Israel could not locate and identify Hezbollah assets next door after years of intelligence activity, Tehran must like the odds of American ability in even locating the important nuclear program elements let along reaching them. In any event, strikes would delay not halt Iranian progress.
What a poisoned chalice to leave the American people in 2008. Iraq in chaos. Iran resurgent in the Islamic world (think Hezbollah's PR triumph after the Israeli foray into Lebanon but on steroids). And Neocons and Bush defenders pointing to the wreckage as affirmation that we are in the war of civilizations that they yearn for.
The utlimate in burned bridges. And the Dubya/Cheney/Rumsfeld troika determined to pull it all down around them and us. All setting the stage for McCain and “National Greatness”, Guiliani's Neocon “Resolve” . . . or?
A Democratic victory next week is merely the first step on a long road to stopping this. One hopes they are up to it.
March 10, 2006
s a cinematic experience, the movie has much to commend it. Some critical observations about staccato verbosity, particularly at the outset, are not undeserved. For an adaption of the earlier 1980s comic piece it actually holds up quite well. Fanboy churlishness aside. The original's anarchist view (the V and the 1980s “A” for anarchy not accidentally similar) is and was self indulgently childish — especially when the reality Moore railed against is now so much more immediate than his overcooked imaginings just twenty years ago.
Does Evey suffer by transposition from streetwalker to tv newser naif? Not in our eyes. We give it four Leos out of five.
See it for yourself and make your own judgments. And btw, in 1969 that night at Madison Square Garden, the Stones really could lay claim to being possibly the best rock n roll band in the world. That night.
(revised 4:15 PM — clarifies some initial confusion on our part upon reading the original comment on GP's site over reaction to V)
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he Administration's anti-liberal democratic strands in its political base are right to rage against Hollywood, music, and videogames in one respect. Not just because their attacks resurrect the purpose of their Rightist predecessors in turn of the century Europe. But because this Administration as a political phenomenon is uniquely vulnerable to pop art.
80 years ago, the line in European anti-democratic Rightist circles was to denounce 'degenerate' (and 'Negro') jazz music, the jitterbug dance, Hollywood and 'Taylorism'. Overall, the political enemy was America as a horrid 'idea' of leveling and egalitarianism — a line that resonated with the bourgeois ethos of even non-reactionary Europeans.
Today's pundits and commentators attacking Hollywood mine this same vein as political gold. Most who resurrect this attack on Hollywood are ignorant of the intellectual history and purpose of their critique. The few who likely do understand the intellectual history (such as Buchanan, perhaps) are wise to dissemble and actively try to hide it.
But then as now, the neo-authoritarians understand the power of pop art (broadly defined) as a political act. Intimidating Hollywood and others such as pop stars is a major political objective. As Paul Weyrich said back in the 1970s, the purpose of the Rightist 'Movement' in America was always to be a radical agent to overthrow the American societal status quo . . .
A Movie and Popular Sentiment: Match to Gasoline?
ow the Rightists react to the upcoming 'V for Vendetta', based on the Alan Moore and David Lloyd comic book from the 1980s Thaterchite era U.K., will be interesting. The tale describes freedom fighters seeking to challenge the oppression of a future authoritarian regime in London similar to Orwell or Ridley Scott's 1984 Apple masterpiece.
That this particular pop art 'good' has a political aesthetic can not be denied. Consider this poster — it struck the Stiftung given its conscious adoption of Russian revolutionary art stylings. The obvious Bolshevik symbolism in the upper left corner can't be missed. The off axis lettering is also an homage to posters of that time, set in skewed text with simple color schemes.
The poster is obviously not advancing 'Leftism' per se — Hollywood is not seeking 'Peace, Bread, Land', etc. But the iconography is deliberate to touch the collective subsconscious of revolution and overthrow of the status quo. Weyrich's agenda thrown back at him.
Advance word on the movie is very good. Apparently the Wachowski brothers have recovered from the disasterous self indulgence of the two Matrix sequels and delivered a compelling narrative and arresting cinematography. Will it be enough to be successful in the market? Or is the public not yet ripe to embrace this art-as-manufacured-good-as-political-subtext?
For a post-modern regime that has avoided messy reality (this is the reason for the Administration's non-chalant incompetence) in favor of narrative control and psychological manipulation, pop art can be a blow to topple the entire edifice. It totters precariously even now: approval ratings in the low 30s, staggering debt loads, a failed war in Iraq, and so on. Pop art can crystalize a shared moment and political recognition far more effectively and explosively than 10,000 Op eds or talking heads on CNNMSNBCFOX.
If Not Now, Soon . . .
ill 'V for Vendetta' do that? Who knows. Was it designed to try? Perhaps. Frankly, the Stiftung thinks the time is not yet come.
Hollywood, of course, is not setting trends here against the Administration or 'American values'. The nation already has largely rejected this presidency and this president. As usual, Hollywood is actually following the zeitgeist. After making the 'Green Berets' etc. in the 1960s, only a decade later did Hollywood product tentatively explore Vietnam first in 'Coming Home', then in 'Apocalypse Now', the 'Deer Hunter', etc. Significantly, Hollywood quickly moved on to the more commercially viable revenge fantasy narrative of Rambo and Chuck Norris et al. As so often the case, pop art as a business is actually fairly conservative.
The point is that the Administration as a political phenomenon is uniquely vulnerable to art and pop culture. If this movie doesn't serve to crystalize inchoate popular sentiement, it is only a matter of time until something in the pop culture does. The post-modern political machine Rove built for Bush depended on control and manipulation of the nation's psychology because of their disdain for and rejection of objective reality.
The implosion will be ugly.