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May 03, 2006

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» Into the Twilight Zone from Pajamas Media
Obsidian Wings didn't like Shelby Steele's piece in WSJ's OpinionJournal, White Guilt and the Western Past, that Protein Wisdom commented approvingly yesterday.... [Read More]

» Breaching the Dike from The Debate Link
I thought my post on Shelby Steele's explanation of our Iraq failure (short version: we were too soft on them) was pretty good. But Hilzoy and Glenn Greenwald put me to shame. What's amazing, as they point out, isn't the piece itself so much as th... [Read More]

» A Response Demanded Provided from Pseudo-Polymath
David Schraub at The Debate Link is horrified it seems by a comments offered by Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush who in turn was commenting on an Op-Ed piece by Shelby Steele in the Opinion Journal. Mr Schraub asks for a sane conservative vi... [Read More]

Comments

Hmm, I think his argument overall sucks. But I do in fact think that the US showed undue restraint early on in the insurgency (we acted as if we had already won and were just cleaning up). This was especially so in Sadr's first and second rebellion. He should have been shot during the first one.

Seb: I'm not sure 'restraint' is the right word. Carelessness, maybe. But I definitely agree that we should have been a lot more active in trying to control the looting, securing the borders, and getting a handle on the insurgency from the outset.

I think that the fact that we didn't do this wasn't due to any sort of squeamishness, though, but to our troop levels, which in turn are due to Rumsfeld's idiocy. (I have just finished Cobra II. I didn't think it was possible for my opinion of Rumsfeld's prosecution of the war to get any lower. Imagine my surprise.)

I'm not with Steele, but I'm not with Greenwald either. Steele is too vague and generalized for my taste, and Greenwald is just Greenwald. Overlooked by Steele is that, since WWII, we have adopted the Geneva Conventions and set forth well-defined rules of engagement (with notable exceptions). It makes our job harder, but it saves civilians' lives.

SH, there was no "rebellion", we closed his news paper and put out an arrest "warrant" for the man (tantamount to a come get tortured and killed warrant). Unsuprisingly he didn't take the deal. That's when the violence started, it was entirely because we decided to have a go at him. The second "rebellion" was actually a second botched attempt to capture him on the same "warrant". Anyways, he beat us both times, and now is the second most powerful person in Iraq, if we had wanted to avoid that we probably shouldn't of picked a fight with him we couldn't win.

Sebastien writes

"But I do in fact think that the US showed undue restraint early on in the insurgency (we acted as if we had already won and were just cleaning up)."

This is an, um, odd description of restrained behaviour. Arrogant, yes. Myopic, yes. Restrained? Hmmm.

Sorry Sebastian, I'll spell your name right next time.

right--Asteele's point goes to the role of Sistani and the Shia street in all of this. Sistani has kept Baghdad relatively calm. Had we gone after Sadr, and had Sistani unleashed his people, then we would have had many delightful opportunities to show how guilt-free we are. We would have had a lot of blood in the streets, ours and theirs.

And, hey, if that would have achieved America's strategic objectives, then I'd say it's worth doing. But it would not have. At the end of the bloodletting, we still would be back where we started: stuck with the job of reconstructing Iraq without enough troops, without any real buy-in from Rumsfeld, and with a president who is too bored and confused to do it right, but too paralyzed by fear to get out.

Look--Rumsfeld and Bush have been in total control of this show from the start. They remain in total control of it. This Steele stuff? It's just the English for Dolchstosslegende.

Holy crap, that Jeff Goldstein is retarded:

In short, the only way this guilt works is if we come to believe that we are, by virtue of certain cosmetic or superficial or logistic similarities, responsible for the actions of those in the past who were in many other respects “like us”. And this can only come to pass if we internalize certain historical occurrences as a form of cultural “memory”.

But it makes no sense to say we “remember” things that we took no part in, and so it makes no sense to culturally hamstring ourselves over events that we are under no obligation to take ownership of.

Ah, yes, the hazy memory of racism, lost to the distant past. Of course, I myself only missed being born into the segregation era by six years, but I'm sure it's quite vivid to Condoleeza Rice, whose best friend was blown up in a goddamned church bombing.

Seriously, how can he write this stuff?

I mean, some of the people who helped to perpetrate these distant, hazy evils were still serving in the Senate during the GWB administration. How can we be expected to remember that?

Charles: Overlooked by Steele is that, since WWII, we have adopted the Geneva Conventions and set forth well-defined rules of engagement (with notable exceptions). It makes our job harder, but it saves civilians' lives.

Possibly Steele has noted that the US had been in blatant disregard of the Geneva Conventions both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, both those governing treatment of civilians and of combatants - formally, officially, openly and with support from the highest levels of US government.

Though it wouldn't surprise me if Steele interprets concern for the US's kidnap victims, hostages, and other illegally-held or illegally-treated prisoners as "white guilt".

Great post, hilzoy. Stirring ending.

It's the old "the beatings will continue until morale improves" routine, isn't it? That's funny as a joke, and horrifying as an actual policy.

We seem to be leaning more and more to the policy side.

No one knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Well, now we do. Glenn is right (correct) - at least the racist heart of the remaining support for this administration is out in the open.

Not that it still doesn't make me ill.

Jake

This line of reasoning is one that I've been hearing more and more over the last few months. Apparently it's now "obvious" that sending too few troops was due to fear that the Arabs would get angry rather than Rumsfeld's great experiment. That's just one example -- it seems that the talking points are now geared towards tying up a consistent and convenient explanation for 'Why things tanked' rather than 'why things are going great.'

I really think this op-ed is only partially about Iraq. Yes, it sends the message (incorrectly IMO) that we weren't tough enough when wwe went into Iraq.

But it is really (again IMO) a set-up for much more drastic measures that this administration may be contemplating for Iran.

When we do saturation bombings there, it will show we are no longer hampered by the "white guilt" they are talking about.

This is part of a campaign to soften the public for some possibly very nasty doings.

he argues that "since Vietnam, America has increasingly practiced a policy of minimalism and restraint in war", that this restraint is why we can't seem to defeat the insurgency in Iraq, and that the reason we practice it is ... white guilt!

He had me right up until the "white guilt" part. I personally think that the "restraint in war" is not something that started with Vietnam, but has been evolving gradually over time. It doesn't make war all that much less brutal, but it does tend to make it less brutal in theory. I also think that showing restraint in war is a good, desirable thing, even if it tends to make the objective harder to reach.

That said, it's possible that we could have actually reduced the amount of bloodshed by being more aggressive and decisive with, for example, Sadr and his crew. That's an idea that I'd tend to find more credible coming from someone of Lt. Colonel rank or above, in a position to know, than some newspaper columnist or weblogger. I take it with many, many grains of salt coming from someone whose background is in race relations as opposed to, for instance (and I don't have anyone particular in mind, here), someone who's been embedded with the troops for months on end.

That's one of the problems I have with Monday-morning quarterbacking from all corners of politics: mostly, you just don't know. Especially you just don't know when you're not particularly well-connected with those who do.

In general, I think you also have to recall that because the author has made his entire career out of race relations, his observations are as surely colored (give it a rest, already) by that as mine are by my background in defense engineering.

I think notAsteele (@ 5:55) is on the right track: Sure, Shelby Steele's WSJ Op-Ed is a masterpiece of delusionary blather - no argument there - but I think its main purpose is not so much to actually push for "white guilt" as an "explanation" for US shortcomings in Iraq, but to provide a sort of intellectual cover for the inevitable finger-pointing and blame-shifting that the pro-war Right will be forced into as that pesky "reality" thing conspires to trash their high-minded neo-imperial project to "re-make" the Middle East.
We see a lot of it already in the starboard-side blogosphere: they have long since adopted the standard talking-point that setbacks in Iraq are mainly "The Media's" fault for not reporting all the "good news". That disillusioned warhawks
and their amen chorus will turn to looking for scapegoats to blame should not come as much of a surprise (and God forbid they should actually attach any responsibility to Dear Leader Dubya and his gang!).
Dolchstosslegende indeed. This, I fear, is just Round 1.

Jeff Eaton writes: it seems that the talking points are now geared towards tying up a consistent and convenient explanation for 'Why things tanked' rather than 'why things are going great.'

Bingo.

Great post Hilzoy. When I read Steele's piece, and then Jeff G.'s psychotic extensions of it, I felt, really, that I had entered some deranged parallel universe. The title of Jeff's post pitched the discussion of a mismanaged war as involving "language" and the "Other." Poor rhetoric, it seems, has impeded Jeff's preference for fewer "smart" bombs and more "thorough lethality." But although more lethality would have led to victory we are, you see, constrained by fear of bloody pictures on TV. So, we don't/didn't kill enough people. And this is all becasue of "white man's guilt" as stoked by the left: thus may we lay the blame for the mess in Iraq at the feet of....ta da! -- LIBERALS! (Glenn Reynolds has been preparing the way to blame the MSM.)

(slartibartfest writes: In general, I think you also have to recall that because the author has made his entire career out of race relations, his observations are as surely colored (give it a rest, already) by that as mine are by my background in defense engineering. And Jeff G.'s is in English and literary theory; not exactly the tools for diagnosing strategic failure in a nation torn assunder by insurgents and sectarian violence.)

This appalling behavior is called failure to take personal responsibility, a trait I thought conservatives valued. In my own case, I voted for Bush in '04 and chose to believe those who said he would properly and competently prosecute the war in Iraq and foreign policy in general. Well, I was as wrong as a person can be. But the day you see me running around saying Rumsfeld (Rumsfeld!!) was constrained by effete angst over his nation's racial sins, well, someone should cart me off to the psych ward. Especially in light of the growing consensus (see Cobra II) that failure to secure borders was an initial and horrible blunder. But no...much easier -- if deranged and risible -- to say the error was that we didn't raze a few cities and get some Dresden-style carpet bombing going, cuz of "white man's guilt."

I thought that after removing Saddam, we were then fighting for the people of Iraq, to build them a functioning democracy. By all that is freakin' holy, how do you do that by turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots or whatever versions of "thorough lethality" Jeff has in mind? Truly, the idea that the democracy project in Iraq is failing becasue Americans are hamstrung by guilt over their past racial sins, thus causing them not to kill lethally enough in a nation-building context, is so sick and demented that anyone promoting it should be cast from the universe of serious thinkers.

My reaction is a little different than everybody else's. I thught both Steele and Goldstein were expressing pretty openly the evil that lurks in the heart of the extreme right wing: the conviction that foreign policy is an extention of personal ego and that the only matter of importance in time of war is wining in order to gratify one's ego. This is particularly apparent in Goldstein's comments since he doesn't care how many Iraqi civilians die so that he can say we won, and, as Mona points out, that completely contradicts the (lastest) reason for being there in the first place.
It's the Swiftboat liar mentality. It isn't what yu fight for , it isn't how you fight that matters. All that matters is wether or not your team wins.

wow... "white guilt" . it has a bit of an, err, Aryan ring to it, no ? as if the cure for white guilt would be a bit more white pride ? i suppose that's ironic, if we're talking about killing Iraqis and Iranians, given that "Iran" literally means "land of Aryans".

sure, Steele works hard to try to play down that White Pride, White Power thing, but he utterly fails.

i can't believe this was published.

yeah, i suppose it's even more ironic, given that Steele is black. but the fact remains that the words he chose have connotations he can't avoid, and he knows it.

sure, Steele works hard to try to play down that White Pride, White Power thing, but he utterly fails.

Shelby Steele is black.

Um, cleek: Steele is, by all appearances, relatively nonwhite.

la la la la

By all that is freakin' holy, how do you do that by turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots or whatever versions of "thorough lethality" Jeff has in mind?

With respect, Mona, it'd be wise to dial it back a bit. Claiming that Jeff is saying something when he's already corrected you multiple times doesn't do anything to make your point.

"it's Donald Rumsfeld's insistence on treating the war as a testing ground for his theory that we could fight with half as many troops as the military recommended"

Conventional wisdom not completely supported by "facts" as I understand facts, and again a flattering explanation,repeated in comments. "Rumsfeld's theory of warfighting" involves offensive operations and not occupation, peacekeeping, maintaining order and so may not even be relevant as an explanation. Further, I think this:

"it can't possibly be because our Secretary of Defense convinced himself that we didn't need to plan for the occupation of Iraq,"

somewhat contradicts the first explanation. Did we go with insufficient troops because Rumsfeld didn't think we needed them or because he didn't plan for the occupation. They are not identical.

The next step in the chain of implausible idiocies is that Rumsfeld didn't believe there would be an insurgency or civil disorder, which requires ignoring his own quotes about "Stuff happens."

How about maybe we didn't provide sufficient troops to adequately do the job because if we had insisted on 300k more the war would likely never happened? If they had waited 6 months or more the WMD rationale would have collapsed;if they had compromised to get additional allies the control and neo-con aims might have been jeopardized.

As to why I am willing to be skeptical about all the expert narratives, there is a strong institutional tendency to protect a President and certain military theories. Have we yet abandoned the concept that strategic bombing can be effective? Iraq seems to demonstrate not.

slartibartfest: With respect, Mona, it'd be wise to dial it back a bit. Claiming that Jeff is saying something when he's already corrected you multiple times doesn't do anything to make your point.

Oh codswollop. Jeff's "corrections" were utter evasions and misdirection; a total refusal to specifically identify exactly what he mens by rejecting "smart" bombs in favor of more thorough "lethality."

Language has meaning, as one ought not have to tell a literary theorist like Jeff. His words signify that we need to abandon targeted "smart" bombs and employ more "lethal" means that would make ugly pictures on TV. That's what he wrote. I gave him multiple opportunities to "explain" all that if his outrageous commentary didn't mean what it manifestly does, and he declined to get specific. Going on and on about how "sad" it is that I don't "understand" him and blah, blah.

What drivel, but it isn't a new MO from Jeff. He routinely adopts the posture of unfairly maligned martyr, and did it with hilzoy over his call to "civil war," and there are legions of other examples; Jeff should never be held responsible for his own rhetoric. Attempts to hold him to it are examples of "misunderstanding" him.

Bullspit.

Incidentally, at the time the war began I did wonder why a strategy wasn't followed, which may or not have been more brutal, possibly could have required only the troops available, and might have worked.

Why could they have slowly moved up the Tigris toward Baghdad, conquering, pacifying, and disarming one province at at a time? Obviously, with air dominance, no counterattack was likely. And the problem wasn't and isn't Sadr, it is Sadr with guns.

Oh codswollop. Jeff's "corrections" were utter evasions and misdirection

Like this one? Saying he's not talking about nukes and carpet-bombing, while not exactly clarifying what he is talking about, nonetheless clearly rule out your picture of Goldstein.

Flat-out making things up still fails to compel, Mona.

Bob: the slightly longer, yet still too brief, version of me on Rumsfeld:

He thought that we could make do with fewer troops, since technology and special operations had to some extent removed the need for lots of people.

One reason he thought this was: that he (and other civilians in DoD) thought it was silly to think that you needed more troops to keep the peace than you needed to fight the war. (Most of the military disagreed.)

He was disinclined to rethink this for several reasons, among them: (a) that it would challenge his ideas about transformation, but also (b) that he hated the idea of nation-building, and wanted to somehow "move past" it. Also, the whole administration did not want to have anything to do with anything Clinton had done, which in this case means: anything like what they did in Kosovo.

This contempt for nation-building (maintained in the complete absence, as best I can tell, of any serious answer to the question: well, if you're going to take down a country, what are you going to do instead?) led to both the inadequate troop strength (since we don't need to think about the number of troops needed to deal with a country once we've defeated its army), and also to the lack of planning for the occupation.

Denial is a beautiful thing. Especially when it has its grip so firmly around the imperialists and apologists.

If they actually wake up and decide to fix those mistakes, I would recommend arms and influence.

Saying he's not talking about nukes and carpet-bombing, while not exactly clarifying what he is talking about, nonetheless clearly rule out your picture of Goldstein.

Yeah, emphasis on "not exactly clarifying what he is talking about." That's called wanting to make extreme and obscene statements without having to take responsibility for them: rejecting the strategic use of "smart" bombs in favor of more "thorough lethality," without having to be held responsible for the common options that constitute more "thorough lethality."

He rejects smart bombs as insufficient. He calls for more lethal means being employed and says we ought to be willing to accept greater civilian casualties and ugly pictures in the media. Well, just what does that mean? The ever-coy Jeff isn't saying, and if you raise the obvious methods of escalating to more thorough violence than rendered by the smart bombs he rejects, then you are oh-so-unfairly maligning Jeff.

That is so intellectually dishonest -- a great sin in my book -- as to be unbelievable.

Nevertheless, he's told you exactly what it doesn't mean, so portraying him as advocating something he's specifically said he's not advocating is, well, a lie.

Now, if you want to engage Jeff on his own points, please feel free to go over to his place and do so. I'm pretty sure you remain unbanned over there.

Or, you know, you could agree with him to conduct your debate over here, where the posting rules are a bit more restrictive, as long as you realize that they constrain both of you.

Slarti, in the comment you link to, Jeff says:


I gave as an example a neighborhood that allows insurgents to hide out because they don’t fear retaliation from the US military. Razing the whole neighborhood rather than trying to drop a JDAM in through a chimney sends a message to others who think it perfectly safe to allow insurgents to operate in their neighborhood.

He's advocating collective punishment here. And that's a war crime (Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention).

Mona isn't far wrong.

It is, however, a far cry from "turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots", which is (and always has been) my point.

Billmon on Steele

Well, out of context and used simply as a lead, without prejudice:

"He calls for more lethal means being employed and says we ought to be willing to accept greater civilian casualties and ugly pictures in the media. Well, just what does that mean?"

Folks, FWIW, in my current mood, when I read stuff like Steele and Goldstein, I worry that they are really not talking about Iraq at all.

They are preparing us for Iran.

So: yes, Mona is exactly wrong on this point.

I had an intermediate reading of Jeff's post. I thought that if you read it carefully, a lot of it was about how we shouldn't show too much restraint; there was a time for really letting loose, and so forth. Which is all well and good: I imagine we can all agree that in a just war of self-defense against a brutal invader, a commander who just sits there, ganglia a-quiver, unable to bring himself to actually hurt anyone in the course of defending his country, is showing "too much" restraint. Fine.

But what does any of this have to do with Shelby Steele's article, and/or our present circumstances? Precisely nothing. What would make anyone think that our primary danger, just now, is that our leaders are too worried about being seen as too brutal and mean? Again, nothing. Jeff's post, however, makes no sense except on the assumption that this is somehow apropos; and he sometimes says as much, bringing his argument out of the realm of "it is sometimes necessary" and into the present:

"And why the enemy has come to count on our restraint has to do with a number of factors—most of them social, and nearly all of them tied, in some respect, to a sense of hyperpower guilt and arbitrary “respect” for the culture of Other, which often paralyzes us by giving us the out of refusing to conclude with any certainty that our cause is objectively (or at the very least, contingently) just." (Emphases added.)

I think that it makes no sense to read him as though he's just making the point that there is such a thing as excessive restraint, as opposed to the claim that this is a problem we have now, in Iraq. Mona is trying to call him on it, and he is retreating into "well, I only said that this is sometimes true", which is, I think, disingenuous.

Slart, I know you never engage in hyperbole and get upset when others do. And perhaps Mona did.

It is obvious, however,t hat Jeff G displays little regard for the planned deaths of innocents. I am sure he would argue that if they are letting insurgents operate in their neighborhoods, they are hardly innocents.

Rather specious arguing, however. I truly believe that most people who live in gang areas are not guilty people.

However, it is important to recognize the reactions of those reading his words, who won't let their thinking be limited by his attempts at clarification.

Bush may be right when he said he never said that Saddam was not involved in 9/11. However, things he and others said definitely gave many people that impression.

Likewise, Henry may not have meant death when he said "will no rid me of this meddlesome priest" but it was interpreted that way.

I am not as much conerned about what Jeff G feels he meant as I am about how some people will interpret what he meant.

Bob, as I mentioned earlier, you and I are on the same wave length here, and that is what scares me.

Not that we are on the same wavelength, but that our interpretations may be right.

It is, however, a far cry from "turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots", which is (and always has been) my point.

when I read it, Mona's full sentence was:
By all that is freakin' holy, how do you do that by turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots or whatever versions of "thorough lethality" Jeff has in mind?

bob,

You may be right, but I read him more as preparing the groundwork, as Tacitus's No End But Victory site did (though I haven't read it after its first week), for an argument that the reason we lost in Iraq is because of the stab-in-the-back by liberals.

Slartibartfast: Flat-out making things up still fails to compel, Mona.

"Still"? I thought you too voted for Bush in 2004, proving that when the Bush administration flat-out makes things up, that does compel.. you, at least.

Slart, I know you never engage in hyperbole and get upset when others do. And perhaps Mona did.

No, it's not that Mona did so once, here. It's that Mona has done so, serially, here and over there, even after being corrected. And then complained about intellectual dishonesty.

Hyperbole isn't an aid to understanding or debate. It's just another blowoff valve for the spleen. If you want to debate, debate. If you want to spleen, don't waste my time.

Mona is trying to call him on it

And failing, largely because she's calling him on things he's not saying. Again, hyperbole is not your most effective tool here.

I have no idea whether Goldstein is making a valid argument or not. I tend to look at such things as exercises in academics wherever they come up, unless they're being made by people who have been rather closer to the action. If Michael Yon, for instance, had made claims of this nature, I'd sit up and take notice. Regardless of that, you cannot treat this discussion as a discussion of Iraq in aggregate. Whether we've been on average too precipitous or too hesitant in Iraq has almost nothing to do with whether we may have lost opportunities to neutralize folks like Sadr by being more aggressive in disposing of them.

And now that I'm sucked into the same sort of discussion-sans-authority, I'm going to stop.

Nevertheless, he's told you exactly what it doesn't mean, so portraying him as advocating something he's specifically said he's not advocating is, well, a lie.

Oh piffle, I wrote: " By all that is freakin' holy, how do you do that by turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots or whatever versions of "thorough lethality" Jeff has in mind? " I put it that way precisely becasue the dishonest Mr. Goldstein calls for more civilian deaths, more pictures of carnage on TV, and more "thorough lethality," but he steadfastly won't say how he wishes to effect all that. He will holler like a stuck pig if you suggest the standard means of escalating beyond the methods he rejects as effete, but he ain't sayin' just what more "lethal" methods he does endorse. But he wants them, he does, whatever they are -- but again, he's not to EVER be held to any specific method, just insisting it must produce more bloody civilian carnage, which can only come about if we remove ourselves from the grips of this liberal-induced and unjustified guilt.

Whatever.

But the over-arching issue is not Jeff; he is but one example of the sordid displays we have started to see, and will continue to see. It is a pro-war, pro-Bush contingent that very clearly is in a mad search for parties to blame for a mess in the ME produced by an Administration they have doggedly defended. And so, along comes Shelby Steele's febrile, incoherent ravings that our failure is due to "white man's guilt," and Jeff and many others are all about it. Jeff signs on, and yessirree, the problem is "Language, intent and the Other"; we are losing because of identity politics and liberal-induced angst over past national sins. We didn't kill thoroughly and lethally enough, because we (and Rumsfeld!) have been "hamstrung" by liberal social constraints.

Never will it be allowed to blame them, or the Administration they have defended to the death on foreign policy. Nauseating, really.

What. Rot.

Looking at Jeff's thread, I have to say that the best argument by far counter to Jeff has just been made by beetroot. Which is kind of a shocker for me, because I don't normally see beetroot saying things that incisive.

The first time I read Shelby Steele's article I confused him with Shelby Foote, and wondered how such an erudite historian could be so far off-base.

As other posters have pointed out, a counter-insurgency campaign must involve a degree of restraint that wasn't necessary in the war against Germany and Japan. Any fool should know that.

For the record, I am one conservative who is willing to put the blame for losing this war squarely on Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

Somehow I doubt the WSJ would have run this piece had it been written by a white person. Which says something about the objective worth of the argument (if it has any merit it shouldn't matter who articulates it), but more importantly shows that even the WSJ is held back by this pernicious political correctness! Those lefties at the colleges and their meddling dog have ruined war for everyone!

re Jeff Goldstein, his notion of razing whole neighborhoods for tolerating insurgents in their midst is at least a step or two in the direction of the mentality of "destroying the village in order to save it." Maybe that'll work out better this time around, who knows. Was the whole "winning the hearts and minds" thing ever officially rescinded, or was that just sort of understood after about Abu Ghraib?

Slart, I wasn't that impressed with the Goldstein comment you linked. If I understand correctly, Mona says he implied he wanted to use tac nukes or carpet bombing or something equivalent. It would have been simple for Goldstein to have refuted her line by writitng, "I oppose tac nukes and carpet bombing and favor the use of conventional munitions such as blah". I find it unlikely Goldstein actually would approve of tac nukes, but it's trivial to straightforwardly deny and "razing a neighborhood" doesn't have positive connotations in my book.

From the beetroot comment: "Now, the Bush admin could say, “We’re changing the policy. We’re not rebuilding. No more schools, no more elections, just war.”"


I thought we had run out of money for rebuilding. Is that me overgeneralizing from hospitals and some particular projects?

I think it's about Iran, and that this is another side of the same coin shown when someone told Hersh that tactical nukes might be used in Iran. To build support (among The Base) for whatever it's to be in Iran,* it's important to distinguish it from the current situation in Iraq. No mollycoddling of brown people this time -- we're going to go in, give it all we've got, and get out. If they can't fix what wrong with their society after that, well, that's hardly our problem. And anyone who objects is not only a traitor, but a weakling disabled by 'guilt' as well.

There's a constituency for this kind of thinking.

* IMO: sell-job, build-up, and strike, if necessary for domestic politics, by fall. If not necessary for domestic politics to strike in the fall of 2006, a strike during early 2007.

rilke, I'm not here to defend Goldstein; he's perfectly capable. I was simply pointing out that Mona's flailing away at a strawman of her own device. And doing so in a decidedly dishonest way, given that she's been corrected multiple times.

Given Goldstein's ambiguity, I think there might be a spine in that strawman.

Mona v. Jeff: an analogy. (I know: mind-reading foul admitted to in advance.)

Jeff: Here's a brilliant piece claiming that white guilt makes us too scared to run up the kinds of real deficits we need to fix this country. How true: sometimes, you just have to be willing to break the bank when your country needs it.

Mona: Us? Too scared to run deficits? We're running huge deficits! What would you like to see: deficits of a trillion dollars a year?

Jeff: I never said a trillion dollars; you're just putting words in my mouth. I just said sometimes.

Mona: Well, what would you like to see us spend? Seven hundred billion dollars a year more than we take in?

Jeff: I just said sometimes. Now I am going to retreat into abstraction punctuated by insinuations about Mona performing peculiar acts on Glenn Greenwald.

-- Like I said: disingenuous.

Let me say, though, that I think Sherman's march was necessary. And as ugly as the mass death always is, so were Hiroshima and Nagasaki, imo. Hamburg too, although I think Dresden might have been superfluous. Of course, once you've unleashed the thing, it's hard to stop at Hamburg, and not do a Dresden.

Slarti, you accusing Mona of "flailing away at a strawman of her own device" when you have blithely invented the strawMona yourself and are flailing away at it...? At least acknowledge you misread what Mona wrote.

Slarti- I am going to pile on here. Mona is obviously right, and you aren't making any sense.

I'm not here to defend Mona, who I don't know - but when A says B's statement S means X, and C says B's remark R refutes B, and I see that remark R contains a subjunctive in reference to X and not simple refutory statement Y, I tend to tell C that I'm not convinced. If A has been chasing B around and B has been failing to make statement Y, then I would tend to think B doesn't actually believe Y and might in fact mean X, or at the least isn't interested in clarifying matters in which case I don't much care what B's position is and arguing about A seems unuseful.

rilkefan writes: If I understand correctly, Mona says he implied he wanted to use tac nukes or carpet bombing or something equivalent.

In my first comment over there, I very calmly and politely stated how a reasonable person would read what Jeff wrote, observed that it was the case, however, that he frequently claims he has been misunderstood, and so I asked whether my understanding of what he was arguing was correct. Many of his commenters then began filling in the blanks; Dresden and Hiroshima, bombing the crap out of the place & etc...were all endorsed. But Jeff was silent for a good long while, even after I objected that Dresden and Hiroshima were absurd suggestions in the context of building Iraq up as a peaceful democracy -- we are engaged in nation-building and are not at war with the people of Iraq.

Jeff wouldn't say what he meant, finally jumping in to yammer about accusations he is a chickenhawk and various other non sequiturs and ad hominems (I have never accused him or anyone of being a chickenhawk), tho apparently finally he mentioned razing neighborhoods where terrorists are hiding. Well, how many neighborhoods, and how is that different from "turning vast parts of the nation into a glass parking lot"? How does it fit with building up the nation of Iraq both politically and in terms of infrastructure? I don't know, and he isn't getting specific, last I checked over there.

But all of this is to obscenely argue over absurdities. The real issue is the right-wingers who have enthusiastically glommed onto the inane theories of Mr. Shelby Steele, to wit: we can blame the liberals who, doncha know, make us feel guilty. We would have won in Iraq if only they weren't doing their awful liberal things and inducing "white man's guilt."

That's what so outraged me; the transparent and grotesque blame-shifting. Taking responsibility, and honestly examining what goes wrong when what one has endorsed has gone wrong, is the only option for people of integrity. Those who rushed to embrace Steele's nonsense are repulsively dishonest.

rilkefan, you just made my head explode.

I read the whole thing with Shelby Foote in mind too, and I kept thinking, "How could that cute man say things like this? And isn't he dead?"

TGB, my apologies - sending all the king's horses over stat.


Poll: do my A says x and B says Y and etc. comments generally suck?


What's going on with the discourse? Can I not read?

At least acknowledge you misread what Mona wrote.

So, you're saying this Mona is a caricature of the real Mona? I sure hope so. I mean, what sort of real person would endlessly invent positions of her opponent that her opponent has not taken? Even after these positions have been denied by said opponent?

So, yes, I'd hope we're seeing strawMona, here.

For those who haven't been following this, there's a history of animosity between Mona and Goldstein that predates this thread by months, at least. So Jeff's reluctance to clarify just for Mona has a certain context. Said context being, in my book, insufficient excuse for making up arbitrarily silly positions, assigning them to your opponent, and then taking those elsewhere and pointing said opponent out as a monster.

But, as in most other things, YMMV.

It's gratifying to see Slarti give Jeff G. the intellectual cover to make his calls for 'revengance,' while nodding and winking towards his true intentions the whole time. No idea is worthy of condemnation so long as your code words are sufficiently clever is the lesson, I suppose.

Slarti, a straightforward question - are you seriously contesting that Goldstein's thesis is that we need to Kill More Brown People Now?

Not being a big fan of the Brown People subterfuge, I'm not sure how to answer that.

As for your other comments, I have no idea what you're talking about.

Mona: how is [razing neighborhoods] different from "turning vast parts of the nation into a glass parking lot"?

Orders of magnitudes of deaths, for one. First use of nukes since the consensus against them (esp. against non-nuke-armed foes), for another.

Slart's a good person to pitch one's arguments to, in my view. You've taken a blunderbuss to Goldstein's position and thereby lost him. Why not drop the nuke bit and go with the entirely satisfactory "Goldstein wants us to use indiscriminant force and is afraid to say so."

entirely satisfactory "Goldstein wants us to use indiscriminant force and is afraid to say so."

Not entirely satisfactory, in my view. First, if I'm reading Jeff correctly, he's saying that we ought to be using (and I'm quoting him, here) "a show of strength and military professionalism that is politically disinterested and tactically thorough and lethal". So, not indiscriminate.

As for the "afraid to say so" part, that involves telepathy far beyond my puny skills.

I just want to note that for the first time in living memory, rilkefan has either misspelled a word or made a typo.

This would not be worth noting if it weren't such a complete and total break with the entire previous history of the universe. It makes me wonder whether the sun will, in fact, rise tomorrow.

This would not be worth noting if it weren't such a complete and total break with the entire previous history of the universe.

Could be one of those statistically insignificant possibilities that laugh in the face of probability and go ahead and occur anyways.

Bastards.

The first time I read Shelby Steele's article I confused him with Shelby Foote

Foote's been dead for nearly a year and he could still write a more sensible column than Steele.

Re: Goldstein. If the nature of these discussions are all academic anyway, I can't fathom why anyone would waste their time reading someone who's a caricature of the theory-sodden lit'ry type that conservatives have loved to mock for decades.

Said context being, in my book, insufficient excuse for making up arbitrarily silly positions, assigning them to your opponent, and then taking those elsewhere and pointing said opponent out as a monster.

Actually, this site is the only place, to the best of my recollection, that I have had anything to say about Jeff outside of his own blog. And that was to agree with Hilzoy in her calling Jeff out on various matters.

With one other exception, that Jeff himself invited. He chose to update a post with the false accusation that Greenwald had censored a guest post of mine for the reason that it was going to say approving things about Jeff, which Greenwald purportedly found intolerable. That was totally false, and I said so at Greenwald's blog, to defend primarily myself, as one who would allow her commentary to be censored. I pulled that post, not Greenwald.

The truth is, between the time I wrote my post, and when it was to go up, Jeff made his call to (non-violent) civil war, in which he and those like him might choose to live in separate parts of the nation from the liberals he was (again) maligning. For me to then put up a "can't we see what bridges might be built" among pro- and anti-Bush partisans who agree on many social issues, would have made me look foolish, indeed. But Jeff was deeply offended, chose to publicly post about it, and I offered my explanation at the site he was falsely accusing of censorship. And I moved on to post about the abomination that is the war on people who use (some) drugs.

hilzoy - "refutory"? Late for my wife's O.B. appt.

Actually, this site is the only place, to the best of my recollection, that I have had anything to say about Jeff outside of his own blog.

If I'd said anything at all about you having done this before, this might have been good point.

Mona, I agree with the underlying idea you're working on here -- that Jeff is tossing out a 'weasel-word' version of 'Kill them all and they'll respect us.' But in many cases, I've found that bending over backwards verbally to suggest the 'palatable' interperetation, and asking, "Perhaps this is what you meant?" is a better approach.

Often, the sort of ploy you're objecting to only works because people CAN find a way to make it sound acceptable to themselves. "Surely, he means X..." and so on. Spelling out that potentially acceptable interperetation, and asking, 'Surely this is what you mean, right?' offers an opportunity for agreement, but also forces the other speaker to explain in more detail any of the deeply objectionalbe portions of his or her idea.

If it's all a misunderstanding, things turn out well. If it's not, and you're right in your interperetation, speakers tend to hang themselves rather quickly.

just a note, sand will fuse into glass below the temperatures produced by many conventional weapons (given the right type of sand).

Slart's a good person to pitch one's arguments to, in my view. You've taken a blunderbuss to Goldstein's position and thereby lost him. Why not drop the nuke bit and go with the entirely satisfactory "Goldstein wants us to use indiscriminant force and is afraid to say so."

If I were to say that, Jeff would deny it, insist I am maligning and misunderstanding him, and slartibartfast would agree, no doubt continuing with accusations that I am erecting a strawman.

The bottom line is this: Jeff explicitly rejected targeted bombings, i.e., smart bombs. He called for a "thoroughly lethal" display of force, and long refused to give any indication what he meant by that, even as his commenters invoked Dresden and Hiroshima. The only example he (finally) offered was razing neighborhoods. Is that "all" he meant by calling for some thorough lethality? Is "white man's guilt" preventing us only from razing a few Iraqi neighborhoods?

Goldstein is a former literary theorist; he is arguing for more vicious and lethal rhetoric.

And through the magic of speech-acts, that's what we all get.

Jeff Eaton writes: Mona, I agree with the underlying idea you're working on here -- that Jeff is tossing out a 'weasel-word' version of 'Kill them all and they'll respect us.' But in many cases, I've found that bending over backwards verbally to suggest the 'palatable' interperetation, and asking, "Perhaps this is what you meant?" is a better approach.

That is essentially what I did. My first comment was this, first quoting Jeff:

Jeff: I believe this is true—and I believe that the source of much displeasure with Bush and co. from supporters of the war stems from what they see as fear of appearing too brutal.

Me: Jeff, I’m trying to be certain I understand what it is that you (and Mr. Steele) seem to be arguing. Is it your position that to whatever extent we are “slogging” along in a less than ideal situation in Iraq, it is because Rumsfeld et al. were constrained by “white guilt” and a consequent fear of prosecuting the war properly? (I confess to finding that idea risible, about Mr. Rumsfeld.)

You believe that if we bombed more massively, with more death and disruption of Iraq, we would win? And be regarded as benevolent liberators by the surviving population?

I mean, at some point doesn’t that sad trope of burning the village in order to save it come into play? But—and outside of non-specific, airy recommendations that we adopt a “show of strength and military professionalism that is politically disinterested and tactically thorough and lethal”— just exactly what is it you think should have been, or should still be, done? (emphasis in original)

He didn't say, for some time. Apparently, he eventually did offer that he endorses razing some neighborhoods.

Slarti, apologies for both my lack of clarity and civility earlier (posting before coffee should be a no-no).

To me, JeffG is doing the classic 1st Ammendment protected-but-still-odious version of incitement. Am I putting words in his mouth by suggesting that he's essentially saying 'I can't actually say what I'd like to say, but you all know what needs to be done anyway?' Well, yeah, but given the reaction in his thread, it seems clear that his readership 'got it.'

And when Mona, bless her heart for taking him on over there (so we don't have to over here, har har), calls him on it, he questions the meaning of "is".

Or the meaning of "nuclear", possibly.

What a cleverly crafted op-ed. Clearly prep for Iran, and aimed like a laser scalpel at the base GOP constituency which has lately shown signs of wavering... Bravo whoever coordinated it. Also quite possibly the most transparent nationwide invocation of the white nationalism southern strategy since, well, jeez... Reagan, maybe?

BTW I thought Vercingetorix's comment in the PW thread was a good summary of the "kill more" position.

Implication that "international incidents" never get out of hand? Check. (odd that somebody with such a fine moniker would overlook so many of history's major moments -- maybe Caesar's gallic campaign is all he knows about?)

Implication that APCs that currently can't defend themselves from roadside bombs will somehow be more effective if only they have the ability to cook anybody who gets too close instead of shooting them? Check.

Complete failure to recognize that most of the insurgency is already experiencing very heavy (but of course non-nuclear) airstrikes and invasive patrolling? Check.

Short of some sort of concerted long-term carpet-bombing (possibly effective assuming we care only about insurgency and not about global terrorism), mass relocation of Sunnis (probably totally ineffective), and making central Iraq one big free-fire zone (who knows?) there's not a lot of non-NukeBioChemo options that haven't been tried. Oh yeah, and anybody remember "shock and awe?" The point of that little exercise was to persuade the insurgents (formerly known as the Iraqi army) that US military force was utterly unstoppable.

It's all just a video game to some folks, isn't it?

"I just want to note that for the first time in living memory, rilkefan has either misspelled a word or made a typo."

Are you so sure that you know the correct spelling? This is the kind of thing that would cause me to question myself. ;)

For thirty years we have been listening to right wing nonsense about what went wrong in Viet Nam (i.e., everything was going fine until those evil Dems allegedly cut off funding in 1974) -- our own Charles Bird being on the the purvayers of this nonsensical rewriting of history.

It seems that we are now into that phase of right wing think for Iraq -- dreaming up illusory reasons why things have gone wrong that are as fact free as the lines about Viet Nam.
_______

As for the "we should have taken the gloves off" school of thought regarding Iraq, a few thoughts.

1. Basic counter-insurgency doctrine teaches restrained use of force since the key to the struggle is winning the support of the populace. That's why you don't use maximum firepower in guerilla wars -- it doesn't work. Gee -- you would think someone would pay attention to that when writing on the subject. Charles Bird points out the influence of the Geneva Convention regarding unrestrained killing in the war zone, but there is a more practical reason why its not wise in a guerilla war.

Even with restraint, there has still been significant civilian deaths in Iraq -- perhaps Steele could explain how a greater killing toll would further our goals.

2. As for not laying waste to the Sadrists in 2004 as was Sebastian's point, one very big reason for restraint was that we could not afford to have the guerilla struggle spread into the Shiites -- we would have been in a very bad place due to inadequate forces if we had decided to wage war on large Shiite factions. Since, you know, their militias were providing most of the security that we failed to provide.

Not entirely satisfactory, in my view. First, if I'm reading Jeff correctly, he's saying that we ought to be using (and I'm quoting him, here) "a show of strength and military professionalism that is politically disinterested and tactically thorough and lethal". So, not indiscriminate.

This is the point where I call total bullschtick, Slart. What part of this--

Razing the whole neighborhood rather than trying to drop a JDAM in through a chimney sends a message to others who think it perfectly safe to allow insurgents to operate in their neighborhood.

--is inaccurate to describe as "indiscriminate"?

There is NO WAY to spin the example he have, an example intended to clarify his position. No way at all. It is at best a callous disregard for collateral damage inflicted on noncombatants, something that we have been moving away from for the last century. At worst, it is the desire to inflict indiscriminate damage on an area known to contain combatants with the expressed purpose of terrorizing the population into being afraid to harbor insurgents--a war crime under both US and international law, the perpetrators of which I would have no problem seeing put against a wall and shot.

And ultimately, what Goldstein is advocating is not just a war crime--it's an stupid, stupid policy that would serve only to further radicalize a population, turning those who support us against us. Is Goldstein really so mentally and morally retarded as to think that only insurgency sympathizers would be caught in his hypothetical neighborhood-razing--and that this would actually benefit us? The insurgency recruitment posters practically print themselves.

--is inaccurate to describe as "indiscriminate"

No, that particular passage I think is over the top. Including the bit about shooting anyone who flees.

What that has to do with vast parts of Iraq into glass parking lots, though, is anyone's guess.

As far as Iran goes, too late. We've got Marines in Iran now, according to Dennis Kucinich.

I think, unfortunately, that the urge towards fairness and restraint and giving the ole' benefit of the doubt is cutting against the sane folk here.

Certain ideas need to be stomped on VERY HARD. Take -- just to throw out an example -- the notion of nuking Iran.

There's two possible responses to this (assuming you are against it).

1) Make a long post detailing how, in calm detail, how this is a "bad idea".
2) Say "Are you CRAZY? Nuts? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? My god, you are INSANE!".

The first renders nukes a topic of discussion, upon which reasonable people can disagree. The second indicates that the urge to peemptively nuke Iran places one outside the bounds of civil discourse.

I think Steele falls into the latter. Yes, we can point out in detail how he's wrong -- god knows, there's plenty of things to point out. But in reality, that's a fake reaction. I didn't read Steele's piece and think "Goodness, this man is off base for a variety of reasons which I should tell my friends".

I thought "This man is clearly crazy, a moron, or living in an alternate dimension". And I'm sticking with it -- if he believes this, he's either a moron or insane. If he doesn't believe it, he's a monster for trying to justify the unjustifiable.

Either way, it's nuking Iran or torturing terrorists again. When you're debating the merits of torture, or preemptive nukes, or whether our problem in Iraq was "being too kind to Iraqis" -- the sane ones have lost. We are not merely negotiating what flavor of insanity we're willing to accept.

Sorry. "We are merely negotiating which flavor of insanity we are willing to accept.".

One does not reason with fools, or the insane, or the pathologically criminal.

CharleyCarp: "Let me say, though, that I think Sherman's march was necessary"

Me too, I guess. But in the Goldstein mode, I'm ambivalent about its ferociousness. Unfortunately, racist southern Democrats were spared to pollute the Democratic Party until the lightbulb went on over Nixon's head. More ferocious next time.

Jackmormon: "he is arguing for more vicious and lethal rhetoric."

I don't know. I think "more lethal" means to him that he will print his stultifyingly sophomoric rhetoric in leaflets and drop them over Iraqi cities, thus killing all of the inhabitants with either boredom or excessive giggling (because we are all about consumer choice). My stultifyingly sophomoric rhetoric, while stopping short of the nuclear option, would be more lethal, but, like Bush, the man has made up his mind on his choice of weapons.

Once upon a time, I actually believed that sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. That was before I stumbled on Protein Wisdom...

I'm reminded of a line from one of Tom Clancy's old books, back in the day. One of the characters was reflecting on Soviet responses to terrorism during the Cold War. They, he said, just grabbed the bad guys, tied them up, and started taking off fingers. There was a sort of ambivalent admiration inherent in the statement -- they may be the bad guys, it implied, but they really knew how to get things done.

This seems to be an extension of that philosophy -- a frustrated sort of chafing that comes with the conviction that Bad Guys are hiding behind Protections that are really only meant to keep Good Guys safe. With that emotional 'truth' as a starting point, the rest rolls out pretty easily.

scrolling down, I see that:

Sebastian wants to execute (murder?) a popular cleric and politician. About 2,000 years ago the Romans tried that and the planet is still paying for the consequences. SH, you're a smart guy. Please research the concept of "martyr". (For extra credit, apply the concept in recent settings. Suggested areas of consideration include Palestine and South Africa.)

Charles Bird accuses Greenwald of being himself. This is a bad thing?

Slarti starts by saying something true: That said, it's possible that we could have actually reduced the amount of bloodshed by being more aggressive and decisive with, for example, Sadr and his crew.

[after all, just about anything is possible, especially in Iraq. it would be nices to know, though, what being more "aggressive" toward a popular Iraqi politician and cleric means. Killed more of his followers? Bombed more of his mosques?]

then goes around the bend. Slarti, Mona has raised an entirely legitimate point here and at PW. (i've only skimmed the thread there.) What is the appropriate level of violence against Iraqi insurgents?

[it is noteworthy that the US has recently deployed gunships to Iraq.]

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason By Sam Harris. Reading this is leading me to believe that an overwhelming response is required but not so much physical as rhetorical. Doubling the invasion force would not have made much difference to the insurgency. A doubling of deaths but no lack of pious and enthusiastic replacements.

Anyone else read this unflinching book?


On a related point, there's a nasty little argument going on between the left and the far left over Iraq Body Count's numbers, with IBC being the left and their opponents the far lefties (of which I am one of the more moderate members) strongly suspecting that IBC numbers are both a significant undercount and also likely to be a biased sample. You can find some of the shouting at Tim Lambert's site Deltoid. My argument is that the press is largely dependent on official or semi-official sources for its casualty statistics and cynic that I am, I suspect that the US and Iraqi governments would probably try to cover up civilian casualties inflicted by the US or its lovely allies, the death squads it probably helped to train in some cases. I know I've read of cases where reporters were able to go to a scene and check up on US government statements, and (sit down for this) they found that the locals gave a very different account of what happened and who died from what the US military said. And one hears rumors that this happened in Vietnam too and when I read Alistair Horne's book on the French war in Algeria, I noticed his numbers got all vague when it was a question of the number of civilians killed by the French, because there was no official count for that category.

Iraq Body Count's own case is up on their website--John Sloboda has been unfairly abused by people like me who are more inclined to be nastier than I am in emails (at least, I don't think my emails to him were nasty) and so they responded in a somewhat heated way. They say their critics are wrong on virtually everything and then Sloboda goes and admits in a BBC interview with Steve Fuller that the true figure might be as much as twice the IBC maximum, but certainly not five or ten times, as some Lancet-influenced critics have claimed. They argue that air strikes are unlikely to be killing large numbers of civilians now because the numbers of air strikes are so low compared to the opening months. I don't think that proves much unless you know the population densities of the areas hit by the air strikes. Lots of sloppy reasoning going on on all sides, including by me, IMHO.

Anyway, part of what got me riled up was when I read the Iraq Body Count two year analysis (which you can find on their website if you look around and came out last summer), they make a big production of how the US is the largest single killer of civilians, but when you look at the details, the vast majority (7000 or so) of the Iraqi civilians killed were killed in the opening stages of the war. Since then, except for Fallujah (maybe a couple thousand more deaths, by IBC's reckoning), our troops have been a bunch of Mother Teresas. The overwhelming majority of the civilian death toll since the first two months (the invasion phase, as IBC terms it) are Iraqi-on-Iraqi deaths--insurgents, death squads, criminal murders. A March 2006 update said that in the previous year coalition forces (or US forces, I forget which) had killed 370 civilians, though they added that the culprits in the violent deaths of a great number of people were unknown.


In all seriousness, when I read their stuff I wonder what our troops are doing--it's hard to believe they could be killing very many insurgents in urban areas without also killing a large number of civilians.

I think Mona has the better of the meta-argument. I find it very annoying when someone talks in deliberately vague code phrases and then stridently refuses all invitations to clarify the meaning. "How dare you assume I meant X! No, I absolutely did not mean Y! Only a fool would claim that I said Z when I didn't!" But what DID you mean? *crickets chirp*

The point is that it's all well and good to say "we should be more ruthless," but when you try to translate that into real-world recommendations, suddenly none of the options look palatable. Which should lead one to reconsider the original recommendation, but in Jeff G.'s case, he simply retreats behind a shroud of vagueness.

then goes around the bend. Slarti, Mona has raised an entirely legitimate point here and at PW.

Mona's also raised one or more illegitimate points that I've taken her to task on. In fact, her illegitimate points are really about 95% of my participation in this thread.

Unless, of course, you buy that Jeff was in fact advocating the nuking or carpet-bombing of any other country. In that case, I'd have to say that you're also completely off-base. Or, as you say, "around the bend".

The statement "the vast majority of civilians killed, 7000 or so" referred to civilians killed by the US, according to Iraq Body Count. That wasn't clear. In their study last summer of the first two years of the war they attributed about 9000 deaths to coalition forces, of which 74 percent were inflicted in the invasion months. In the first two years they counted 24,000 civilian dead and the US was the largest single contributor, but mostly from the invasion. The second largest contributor were criminals. Insurgents caused, if memory serves, about 9 percent at that stage, but obviously by their reckoning our fraction has been dropping the insurgent fraction rising.

Again, I tend to take all this with a truckload of salt.

As others have pointed out several times now, I think the point was no one knows what Jeff was actually "thinking", Slarti.

Slarti: If he wasn't advocating carbot bombing or nukes, what WAS he advocating?

That's something at the core of Mona's point -- if "white guilt" is preventing us from acting as fully as we should militarly, obviously Jeff feels there is SOME military option we are not pursuing. Mona has guessed at what that might be, as Jeff is not forthcoming.

Speaking for myself, carpet bombing -- whether Dresden-style or merely obliterating half a neighborhood rather than a single house -- seems the next logical step up the military escalation tree.

I can see why Jeff might not want to admit to this -- but the fact of the matter is that about all the US military HAS held back is carpet bombing and nukes. There's not really any other escalation to be found.

So I'm forced to conclude that Jeff either endorses the US Army escalation it's actions to carpet bombing (I doubt he's considering nukes) OR he is completely ignorant of the US Army's current activities in Iraq (and it's abilities) -- neither looks good for Jeff.

But tell you what -- since Jeff won't say what he considers reasonable escalation, what do YOU think? What sort of changes in the US approach in Iraq would fit the definition of "Taking the gloves off" (to an extent, at least)? Bear in mind we already routinely violate the Geneva Convention (including the kidnapping of non-combatants), have admitted to torture, and appear to be funding and training death squads.

slart writes: Mona's also raised one or more illegitimate points that I've taken her to task on. In fact, her illegitimate points are really about 95% of my participation in this thread.

Take me task all you like, but you misread my statement. I allowed for whatever "thorough lethality" Jeff might otherwise mean, if not the glass parking lot scenario. As many have now noted, Jeff was purposely vague, having made a call for increased blood and civilian casualties that would look bad in the media, all as part of his desire for "thorough lethality." Certainly many of his readers thought that was swell, and had an idea what that should mean.

And moreover, and to return to Hilzoy's post, it is manifestly absurd for anyone to take seriously, much less embrace, that nonsense that Shelby spewed. Yet Jeff did just that. This tells me he does not recognize insanity when he encounters it. Do you?

Mona, you're conflation of Jeff's more "thorough lethality" with use of certain classes of existing more lethal weaponry is obviously worse then the call for the use of "more thorough lethality," so Slarti finds it more important to call you on the former while not offering much of an opinion on the second.

In this regard, Slarti appears to have obsorbed something from the Eustonites.

I suppose we could have short-ciruited the whole meta-narrative by simply asking Slarti what he thinks of the idea of Just Needing to Blow More Stuff Up as a panacea. Is it a good idea, or the best idea?

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