Buying Time For History

Is the U.S. sliding into war with Iran? Sy Hersh may be right.

What most Oppositionists and certainly the ‘Left’ [sic] in the U.S. fail to understand is that the EU behind the scenes is on board. Rumblings from Brussels (not just Carla Bruni’s beau) are clearly hawkish. In fact, EU blatantly public worries are that the Crowned One ironically may undercut the UN like the Warlord – here, seeking to use personal charm for engagement while ignoring UN sanctions and other action.

Zbig’s weighing in on all this is getting stale. He needs to retire. His son is a lobbyist and law partner. His daughter is now a blondika version of J Fred Muggs to Scarborough. More importantly, Zbig’s argument that the Iranians sought the bomb *because* of the Warlord is simply specious. (Zbig is often an ass when he writes about things outside the Polish-Great Russian geopolitical corridor — his immature writings on Japan back on the day merely one example). The Iranian program according to most honest observers began to take shape during their war with Iraq.

Interestingly, while this unfolds, a leading Neocon, Jim Hoagland in the WaPo advocates a backhand strategy for Russia. He argues that the Russians are feeling American weakness and are pushing for the rollback of American power across the board. Hoagland is at least sober about in old Sov speak the relative ‘correlation of forces’ and how depleted American assets are under Cher Condi and the Warlord. Instead of the typical cant one expects from Neocons (and Hoagland) of standing firm, promoting democracy, freedom, Georgia in NATO, etc. Hoagland says something different. He offers that we should let the Russians push, until they exhaust themselves. Then he envisions a new equillibrium of punched out American and Russian visions — sobered and weakened. Very much like Manstein at Kharkov in 1943 (hence the back hand label) — although as we all know, ‘that whole thing didn’t end so good’ as the kidz say.

Is Tehran vaut bien un Conférence sur la sécurité en Europe on Russian terms? Would it even buy Tehran? We think not. Yet, oddly, this notion of talking as a strategy — or even accomodating to a rollback — is not too far from what is emerging from the Crowned One’s camp as the framing architecture of his world view and policy.

One must ask therefore if the Crowned One and his retinue understand Power. Sentiments are fine. Lofty rhetoric is a nimbus and neither here nor there. He holds a bad hand thanks to the Warlord et al. But the world is still anarchical and Power still determines how international law, international institutions and international discourse function. How will he achieve U.S. goals balancing the UN, Brussels, Moscow and Beijing with Tehran? If Zbig and the crowd we know tossing themselves at at future Administration are any clue, we truly fear a calamitous Kennedy – Khruschev summit in Vienna. With all the potentially catastrophic misjudgments that ensued. And that is merely one small example of the larger question: what is Obama’s principle about the purpose and role of American power in the world?

That question of course cuts both ways. Domestically, forget for a moment whether he wears a flag pin, ‘she rocks’ or if he says love of America (Amerikuh?) is a given. He has yet to explain and demonstrate to the American voter his vision in practical terms. Similarly, abroad, it is not enough simply to say he will reverse the Warlord’s policies. Across the globe, everyone is asking the same question: does the Crowned One understand how to use and impose Power? Many of those flocking to the banner of Change for appointments do not, in our opinion. Talk as a strategy for buying temporal space can make sense — engagement — if part of a coherent framework that is strategic and furthers both American interests and power (not necessarily identical). Even provocations domestic and foreign (read recent choreographed exercises) can actually be used as tools to make engagement appealing. Nimble opportunism can be a plus if the goal does not get lost. But in the end, it is all about understanding the application of Power. We do not mean the Warlord’s ultimately nihilistic (behind the facade) machtpolitik. The Crowned One’s position is unenviable. So much frittered away thoughtlessly the last 8 years.

We just wonder.

Comments

  1. Comment says

    Very interesting and Happy 4th to you – and to y’all (w/ a special shout out to Aldershot, our resident Kipling).

    We have always liked Kirsch for his very erudite culture/art/books columns. Indeed we often buy the NY Sun for his work. But he was not the right guy to take down Pat. He makes some good points, but his anger gets the better of him. (Incidentally, Pat citing MLK was funny) Hitch did a better job (because Hitch has basically written similar anti Churchill stuff and other things casting doubt on aspects of the war, so he ‘gets’ the subject) Incidentally, Hitchens was a big Irving defender for a while – as was Barbara Amiel. Both sort liked the frisson of that.

    Pat, we think, makes the same mistake as do his neocon adversaries re Iraq – He pieces together clever argument to defend a broadly bogus theory of the war. He does special pleading and selective facts – Polemicist, as you note. He looking for a reaction. Hitler was such a monster (so was Saddam – but w/ .01 percent as much relative power and potential) – sometimes argument sometimes miss that nuance.

  2. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Kirsch, the whole revisionist school re the Corporal and the Third Reich actually was started mainly by David Irving in his two tomes, “Hitler’s War” and “Churchill’s War”. (Irving, before he became a blatant holocaust denier and tried to fob the whole myth on to Goebbels actually wrote some decent history and did work the archives and interview actual people still living with their diaries). Ferguson and other children of today such as Max Boot are simply that.

    It is true that the Corporal did not want a general European war in 1939, planning for both that and a trans-continental war with America in 1945 or so (based on his naval Z plan and other re-armament timetables overturned by the British/French declaration). In his unpublished second book the Corporal makes clear his global vision and ultimate goals to confront America. The whole point of the 1942 summer offensive to the oil fields that resulted in Stalingrad is that the Corporal, alone, and not his narrow technical generals, understood he failed his roll of the dice and faced a war of attrition against the combined Anglo global powers and a weakened Soviet Union.

    We side with the wiser historians and scholars who have worked all three sides of the archives, German, Anglo and Soviet that the Corporal lost the war in 1939 by starting it. Pat as a polemicist is not really interested in technical details of historical fact. Kirsch is shooting airballs.

    The myth that the Germans came within an inch of winning the whole thing in December 1941 began because unemployed German generals after the war in Allied hands dumped everything on the dead man. The Germans even lost that campaign by late July when they failed to catch all the Soviet armies before the Dvina/Dnieper line. That was their logistical limit and the whole premise of a lightening campaign.

    They certainly lost it by Smolensk, the six week battle that the above mentioned retired German generals claim was a wasted halt and then diversion south to Kiev. The truth is the Soviets actually held firm at Smolensk, had their first successful counterattack there (not Moscow) and the Wehrmacht simply logistically was wiped out/exhausted. Smolensk and then Moscow turned the campaign into a war of attrition on all fronts. Germany could never win that no matter how many operational victories they racked up — something that the German General Staff never understood since Moltke. Operational battles of annihilation (the Japanese suffered the same mental/conceptual trap) divorced from an achievable strategic victory condition are in the end a wasted effort.

    Happy holidays to all in our little band here. And thanks for all the very welcome input. A blogger should be so lucky to have met so many talented and insightful souls.

  3. Comment says

    We just flipped on c-span. James Glassman (best known for writing Dow 36,000 at the peak of the bubble) is on explaining why he won’t take any blame for what was wrong with al-hura – that ridiculous Arab news channel the was set up to basically lie to to Iraqis and others until they ended up reporting some embrassing news and Congress went nuts.

    This is the media dilemma Glassman and others never acknowlege – Unlike the Cold War where America broadcast Truth into the Soviet vacuum, they set up al Hura to broadcast only propaganda to Arabs at the precise time Arab media is exploding with popular satellite channels.

    Why is Glassman an Under Sec for Public Diplomacy? He sits there nodding along to a WSJ Feith op-ed that is almost all garbage.

    Under Bush we have adopeted Soviet news attitudes (esp with the neocons) to go along with our Chi Com torture methods.

    Does Glassman really think a news channel with his POV will actually ever be popular in the Arab world?

  4. Anon says

    Is Kirsch being naive or gracious or correct, when he says Buchanan is ignorant of strategy and ideology? Does Adam really actually believe that Arendt could have convinced Pat to think otherwise? Hmm…

    Kirsch is correct that Pat’s thesis seems bogus – Had the Corporal smashed the Sovs, he would have obviously destroyed whatever he wanted to destroy. Kirsch (probably because he is angry) makes the typical mistaken form criticism (Pat did not read journals or archives) that no one really cares about when arguing recent events.

    Anyway – we should probably read the book. But it’s at the bottom of our list – Online, just Bsing is fine.
    http://www.nysun.com/arts/patrick-j-buchanans-know-nothing-history/79722/

  5. A Random Quote says

    “we [whites] are on a path to national suicide …”
    ~Pat Buchanan
    (Day of Reckoning)

  6. Comment says

    Brooks can be clever – Have to give him credit for maintaining a constant top ten presence on the NYT website for emailed columns.

    But – even when clever – he is annoying. His recent column about Obama contained many technical truths, but set in a package that was overall dishonest.

    We noted that Obama is correct that he gets 90 percent of his contributers from small donors – But in a brilliant self-refutation implies that is dishonest because the net money raised – only 45 percent comes from small (under 200 dollars) donors.

    Obviously, if the small donors sent more money, they would not be classified as small donors.

    But this is all to paint a picture of Obama’s campaign that jibes with Brooks sociology. Yes – if you highlight the money coming from hated lawyers – it sounds like a Yuppy horry show. But if you see that 18 million next to 200 plus million in donors, it means something else.

    Brooks may actually vote for Obama – He is actually closer to Obama in thinking and attitude. But self-hatred may forces him to vote for McCain, so as to honor some sort of National Greatness think he did much to create for St. John not so long ago.

  7. Dr Leo Strauss says

    There is the bubble growing on MSNBC to groom Smerconish for greater things in the Post Russert search for Real People. A signifier is David Gregory constantly having him on the show and referring to him in cloying frat boy nick name non-coital coitus “Smerc” — at least that is what we caught in passing. It would be completely appropriate if Gregory unknowingly calls him Smersh as well.

    And this other Real Guy is hosting Hardball for Tweety. To paraphrase a certain Corsican-Frenchman, “There is a Pabst Blue Ribbon in every knapsack!”

  8. DrLeoStrauss says

    Brooks was always a loon. How he got holy water sprinkled on his brow by McNeil/Lehrer we’ll never understand. Perhaps Mark Shields thinks he is simply a nice guy . . .

  9. Comment says

    Who recently made the following assertion in a major newspaper?

    “Over the past few years, people from Goldman Sachs have assumed control over large parts of the federal government. Over the next few they might just take over the whole darn thing.”

    A.) Robert Mondavi
    B.) Pat Buchanan
    C.) George Galloway
    D.) David Brooks
    E.) Barry Bonds.

  10. Anon says

    This woman has always carved out an odd place in left pundity – But this is really pushing – complaining about not being able to afford a playground for the rich. Also, what’s up with the sleveless thing? Is she trying to provoke an inappropriate joke or does she think she can pull off the Michelle Obama look?
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080630/ehrenreich

  11. A Random Quote says

    Besides, only Uncle Pat speaks for white people. Tweety speaks for normal people.

  12. A Random Quote says

    “… white Americans have made more moral progress in the last forty years than any people in the history of the human conditions.”
    ~Shelby Steele
    7-1-08

    – Now that’s kissing ass and playing the race game – Arbitraguer of various values of white guilt – Shelby Steele can have his criticism of Obama, but his are mostly ridciulous and easily refuted by a quick check of Obama’s web site- Because Steele’s motivations are suspect – He thinks he has good thing going and Obama will dilute his Brand. Btw – he’s already backtracked on the title of his book “why Obama Can’t win.”

  13. Comment says

    If Powell were wise – he’d become an Ambassador to someplace like the UK, where he’ll just collect accolades and live large and please his wife and create more distance from his errors – Maybe France or maybe Japan

  14. section9 says

    As I wrote to you privately, Powell will announce for Obama when it can do the most good for Obama: in the early fall, say, late September, early October.

    There is no change here. Just the usual suspects lining up for jobs and favors from the Young Jesus. Wonder what Powell’s going to get?

  15. Comment says

    Powell has held audiences with both McCain and Obama – He will pronouce in a few weeks.

    Still, Leo – You of all people should wish for Powell to endorse Obama. It’s already discounted in Obama’s future price . Electorally, it’s likely a wash.

    The presumption of Respect accorded Powell irks some. Indeed. He told 25 falsehoods to the UN and we think he knew most were false when he told them. Or else he is not too bright

    But the Powell endorsement will actually serve as catalyst for the neocons to finally turn on him with a vengence and expose his role in simultaneously sellling and leaking against the war.

    Initially , all anti Powell sentiment will be voiced by the likes of Hitchens and others and he will wrap his sensible attacks inside some sort package too big for the media to swollow. But it will eventually lead to some real critical examination of Powell’s role sending men into war.

  16. DrLeoStrauss says

    I feel a migraine coming on . . .

    ____________________

    http://hotlineblog.nationaljournal.com

    *****

    Sen. Barack Obama and retired Gen. Colin Powell met privately two weeks ago in Powell’s personal office in Alexandria.

    Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s spokeswoman, confirmed that the presumptive Democratic nominee and the retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chatted June 18, one-on-one for about an hour at the Armed Forces Benefit Association, where Powell rents space.

    “Just an informal conversation,” Cifrino told On Call.

    “There’s no looming endorsement,” she added. “They came to talk about issues.”

    Obama’s campaign declined to comment.

    Cifrino said that Powell and Sen. John McCain met the week prior in Arlington.

    The blogosphere is abuzz with speculation that Powell could back the Democrat, a sign of his disaffection with the Republican Party and the Bush administration. The nod could, of course, also carry weight with voters concerned about Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience. In poll after poll, the only consistent question in which McCain bests Obama is on the matter of who is best able to handle national security issues. A Powell endorsement of Obama would certainly be a blow to the Arizona senator’s chief selling point — that he is better prepared to be commander in chief.

    Conservative columnist Robert Novak penned a piece June 26 in The Washington Post speculating that: “Powell probably will enter Obama’s camp at a time of his own choosing.” Later that day, in an apparent effort to counter Novak’s suggestion, Juan Williams, NPR Senior Correspondent/FOX News Political Contributor, touted a McCain/Powell pairing.

    The GOP is concerned, with good reason, about the impact Powell’s endorsement would have on the presidential contest. Still, has Powell’s cross-party appeal been tarnished by his support for the war? Would he help or hurt Obama with his base and more moderate voters who want their next president to withdraw from Iraq?

    (JENNIFER SKALKA)

    Posted at 01:29 PM

  17. DrLeoStrauss says

    Hunter, that is a good point — the intellectual exercise must bow before political reality; for good or for ill our political system is a football game and one must be on one of two teams to have a voice. And true, McCain’s advisors are at the moment a watered down replay of the Warlord.

    Nonetheless, Cher Condi is exceedingly incompetent, regardless of her association with an ideology (close scrutiny of her record shows she craves approval above all, tacks with the wind and tells people what they want to hear when she is with them — all they way back to her DoD intern days). And so on.

    Ideologically, given the people McCain installed at the Republican Institute for International Affairs long, long before he was an obvious presidential candidate, one must concede that intellectual affinity. That does not mean, however, that McCain would have Paul Bremers bumbling around over Jay Garners with Tommy Franks writing a half assed war plan supervised by a sociopathic weakling at OSD determined to prove how ‘tough and decisive’ he was to hide his indecisiveness.

    In other words, McCain could still be a dangerous (to most of us here, one suspects) Cold War relic and neocon (small ‘n’) but we believe he would still be more competent at it than this crowd. Nothing envisioned on the horizon could make the Stiftung wish for Cher Condi et al. with nostalgia.

    Your summation of the power audiences is excellent. As you conclude, it is true that on the job training is the burden for most chief executives. One reason we were frankly overtly skeptical if not mildly hostile to the ideal of the Crowned One’s success during the primary was one of your points: the necessity for a sustained, focused, purge in the civil apparat that will require hands on POTUS attention day after day, even year after year.

    This last post is obviously about the international audience. We are concerned about the domestic, too. We join you in wishing the winner success; it would be nice to be proven wrong about the Peanut Farmer Pt. 2 appellation. Very nice.

    Otoh, we are also reminded of Nixon. His campaign advisors in both 1960 and 1968 were of the arch arch conservative mold, all promptly jettisoned and marginalized once their ornamental value ceased.

  18. Hunter says

    Also:

    “It’s a false binary you propose — i.e., the alternative to the Peanut Farmer Pt. 2 has to be the current posse of incompetents and fools.”

    Umm… looking at McCain’s advisors, and listening to his statements on most subjects recently, and keeping in mind that we do have (for better or worse) functionally a 2 (two) party political system, is it really such a ‘false binary’?

  19. Hunter says

    On Power in American politics…

    It seems to me that there are four major contexts in which an American president must exercise power. First, since we’re discussing Obama, is electorally. He seems fairly good at this, though the true test will be if he defeats McCain.

    Second is the context of the bureaucracy of the executive branch. Taking control of a major bureaucracy that someone else (esp. someone who violently disagrees with your goals) has spent eight years running can’t be easy, and bringing it to heel while still trying to keep it somewhat functional (i.e. not killing it) will be a monumental task. The current master at this game seems to be Cheney… all the worse for whoever comes after. A presidential campaign that involves taking in and then spending on the order of $100m in a year must have some bureaucracy associated with it, but still Obama’s never run a large corporation that he didn’t build for several years, and he’s never been a Governor, etc. Ultimately his skills in this regard are open to question and his challenges sure to be immense. This is where my worry is centered. Our continuation as a free republic depends on success in this area.

    Third is politically. This is distinct from electorally in that the president isn’t dealing with (mostly unmotivated, and powerless) voters, but with other powerful political interests and actors in the US government. This includes, of course, the House and the Senate, the Governors, and probably some Mayors (e.g. NYC), but does not include persons in the executive branch that are nominally under his authority. Of course these distinctions are a bit arbitrary, but I think useful nonetheless. I would also include persons high in the management bureaucracy of major corporations in this category as domestic political actors to be dealt with. Here is where Bill Clinton got screwed. Clinton was a good campaigner and a decent manager, but was unprepared for the onslaught of people who could and would effectuate the VRWC. Obama has hopefully learned enough from history and his ((un)fortunately) short stint in the Senate to navigate these waters, but only time will tell. Luckily it seems he’ll have a Democratic Congress at least for his first two years.

    Finally, there is the international context. Here is where your (i.e. the Stiftung’s) worry seems to be centered. As you say, the international ‘community’ is still essentially anarchic. Power is all. Well, to be fair there are distinctions to be made between, e.g., ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power, but still. Does Obama know this? His language on the subject is ambiguous at best. If he does know this, is he prepared to act on this knowledge? Can he be effective? All hard questions, but it should be noted that few presidents come to power with any real experience in this arena. GHW Bush did, and Ike too, I suppose, but not many others till you get back to the first three. Learning on the job in this area is ((un)fortunately) part of the job.

    Of course we hope success on whoever ends up with the job…

  20. DrLeoStrauss says

    Kōan Kyūka indeed. We do think he is going to be a Peanut Farmer redux. Taking down the Clinton ‘Machine’ is a far less formidable accomplishment than many of the Crowned One’s devotees seek to mythologize given the opponent. Beating someone with almost 50% negatives at the start and who is a terrible campaigner to boot is not a Long March accomplishment. Especially when all the self loathing media felt free to make up for their sense of shame defending Bubba against the Republican coup d’etat in the late 1990s. (It wouldn’t have been so appalling if she had been attractive — that is the brutal fact that both women and men admit and private and become outraged when hearing it in public). So we give the Crowned One a three for this one (the Bulgarian judge maybe gives a 2).

    It’s a false binary you propose — i.e., the alternative to the Peanut Farmer Pt. 2 has to be the current posse of incompetents and fools. No one with a functioning cerebellum is going to miss Cher Condi’s vapidity, empty verbosity and utter incompetence as both NSA and over at Foggy Bottom. And THAT assessment is made by almost ALL the people the Stiftung knows in the professional national security field, Dem and Republican (i.e., not the idiots who think she should be a VP, which is to laugh).

    Maybe you are right and Holbrooke or someone will emerge to salvage the Crowned One’s tenure. We think it is not a sure thing at the moment (hence ‘we wonder’, supra). If not, there will be a backlash in 2012, which the Stiftung for one does not look forward to.

  21. section9 says

    Oh, I see what you’re afraid of.

    Obama screws the pooch big time because he and his acolytes do not understand that in a world that respects power as the measure of all things, Words and a dime might get you a cup of coffee. Consequently, the Russians, the Iranians, Hugo, and our friends in Beijing go on the offensive.

    Leaving Zbig to explain to an increasingly angry and concerned American electorate why they shouldn’t dump the Neo-Carter for the Young Reagan from Baton Rouge in 2012.

    You can see this coming a mile away. That’s what’s got you anxious. You’re wondering if Barack is actually up to it.

    I actually wouldn’t worry. I’m a Republican and I think he is. I talked to a friend of mine in the Biz, and the smart ones respect Obama. Smart Pubs remember that this guy took down the Clinton operation. Both of Them. We were never able to do that.

    Of course, Ahmadhi-Nejad and Putin are different men. If I’m wrong and this clown doesn’t know what he’s doing, you’re going to wish you had Bush and Condi to kick around.

  22. Comment says

    re Zbig – We just came accross Zbig essay in New York Mag from 1975 defining the “malaise” of the West and the decline of the Democratic idea .

    We think this is Ur-text for Carter’s Malaise Speech. It’s filled with classic Zbig-ism (three point bullet points about vast stretches of humanity ete)

  23. Comment says

    We meant to say that we do not think McCain is power hungry in the traditional sense – Yes, he wants power — but its sort of like McCain Feingold or the Iraq war – its just something he wants to use for who knows what? But he is not like Kissinger or Mugabe or old Boss “I am the law” Hague from Jersey City. No – he is still tied to notions revealed in Faith of My Faithers – Incidentally, McCain technically rejected the Faith of His Father’s – They were Episcopal. He left that church (maybe they were becoming soft).

  24. Comment says

    McCain will be unpredictable – He has flipped on so many issues – virtually all the issues. It’s hard to know what he thinks. But he really does not think – He is looking for issues as a vessel. He is big government guy – His reasons for anything are just gloss for various urges that he does not fully understand. We actually do think he is power hungry in the traditional sense. He is sort of boxed in rehtorically too – He wanted to work the wedge between Bill Clinton and Obama, but the Obama people have a delectably long list of quotes that undermine McCains suddent respect for the Clintons. McCain is used to being able to get away with contradicting himself (“Do I contradict myself/Do turn off the straight talk/ Dare I steal a Sweet-In-Low/ From Dunkin Donuts …”~JS McCain) and he has had a tough time accomodating himself to the new reality youtube and digital recording

  25. DrLeoStrauss says

    Aldershot, all well said — McCain we doubt has the internal compass anymore to understand his is an antiquated view of the Old World. Oddly, the Russians may in fact be comforted by that — i.e., the instinctive Russian/Slavic interest in predictability is re-assured; no surprises. Several senior Russian analysts have said as much.

    Recall when Dobrynin was Ambassador here for so long, he and the Sovs actually welcomed a Reagan victory, thinking it would would herald a return to Nixonian hard headed realpolitik. That notion was disabused fairly early on when Dobryinin tried to use the backdoor private elevator he used to use under Henry the K and was forced to walk in the front door like everyone else, etc.

    Otoh, McCain did work with Feingold and liberals in the Senate before his ambition colored his actions. Our guess is that the McCain we will get is the McCain you describe. Which is an equally disquieting (or even more so) notion.

  26. Aldershot says

    “One must ask therefore if the Crowned One and his retinue understand Power.”

    Doc, what is your understanding of McCain’s understanding of power? For example, his recent suggestion that Russia be kicked out of the G8 seemed a bit backward to me. But is there some kind of power logic going on? Is this simply signaling to Russia to watch her Ps and Qs? His problems with discerning the difference between Sunni and Shia and the grumpy old man issues aside, will he be savvy in his understanding of when to walk softly and when to use the big stick? Is he irretrievably stuck in the Cold War mindset?

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