My Photo

« Shifting Resources | Main | Tanta »

December 01, 2008

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2369e201053625c5e6970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Centrist Like a Fox:

Comments

Obama's the decider.

Obama's the decider.

Obama's the decider.

I still can't believe people are citing objections to Clinton (some foreign policy disagreements with Obama - seriously, you know, though - there wasn't much to choose between them on policy...) in the same breath as objections to Gates.

Choosing Hillary Clinton may or may not be a prime choice, but it's a reasonable choice: disagree, agree, it's a question of whether you trust Obama's judgement or not.

Retaining Robert Gates says so much that's so effin' disappointing about Obama's future regime.

I mean, not just the internal-to-US-politics Democratic cringe that only a Republican will do, or that George W. Bush is soooooo much better as a picker of senior administration with regard to the military than Barack Obama could be if he tried with both hands for a month. That ought to matter a lot to anyone who thinks Bush was a disaster-area President, but it is a matter of US party politics.

If Gates is Secretary of Defense, that means Obama sees nothing much wrong - certainly nothing deserving of investigation/prosecution - either with extrajudicial detention of prisoners, which is a crime in itself, or with torturing prisoners because they are "suspected" of involvement: and the reports that he intends to set up a separate judicial system for Bush's prisoners, retaining their status as people not entitled to fair treatment under the law, suggest that he intends to cringe to Bush's regime in more ways than just Democratic party politics.

I was hopeful that Obama's Presidency would mean some real international change: that the US would be making a definite step away from being a criminal nation, the top Mafia don in the international community. Clinton's appointment wouldn't affect my hopes.

The retention of Gates as Secretary of Defense dashes them against the wall. I somehow doubt, now, whether any gulag but Guantanamo Bay will be closed... and certainly, Obama can't have plans to weed out the torturers from the US military.

Long comment in moderation or possibly spammed. :-(

i think you've got Obama's game plan sized up right.

the question now--to my mind, it's ALWAYS been the key question--is whether he can execute. i've been a big proponent of Clinton as SoS, Gates as SoD, etc. since they were first floated, but for all the upside there's a real and present danger. You might call it a two-sided sword: these are the titans of the political world, the big guns. If you're strong enough to control them, they become your firepower. But if you're not, then you're the one who's gonna get smoked.

we haven't seen a cabinet and white house staff like this for decades. "Team of Giants," as politico called it the other day. But the biggest giants fall the hardest--cramming all of them into one government, can obama really control them and their titan-size fights? here's one thing we can be sure about: you won't get mediocrity from this crew. Brilliance or disaster, no in-between.

let's hope Obama is really the world historical leader we all hope he is. i think he is; he thinks he is. But none of us can know.

raft: Would a world historical leader trust George W. Bush's judgement above his own when picking a Secretary of Defense? Obama just did. So we do already know.

Jes, Gates was not really GWB's choice (one could call him GHWB's choice though).
As far as I can see, Rummy was ousted because
a) he was seen as a main reason for the 2006 desaster (from the GOP POV)
b) he began to show tiny signs of reason concerning Iraq (i.e. he committed treason against Chain-Eye). If it had been really up to "teh decidah", Rummy would still be with us as SickDeaf.
It looks to me like Gates was forced on Bush jun. by sen.'s old team.
I also understand the Gates-keeping as a temporary measure during the Iraq withdrawal and that he will resign at about the time of the next midterm elections.
There are reasons to not be in favor of Gates but that he was the Dubya's Choice is imo the smmllest of them.

Jes, Gates was not really GWB's choice (one could call him GHWB's choice though).
As far as I can see, Rummy was ousted because
a) he was seen as a main reason for the 2006 desaster (from the GOP POV)
b) he began to show tiny signs of reason concerning Iraq (i.e. he committed treason against Chain-Eye). If it had been really up to "teh decidah", Rummy would still be with us as SickDeaf.
It looks to me like Gates was forced on Bush jun. by sen.'s old team.
I also understand the Gates-keeping as a temporary measure during the Iraq withdrawal and that he will resign at about the time of the next midterm elections.
There are reasons to not be in favor of Gates but that he was the Dubya's Choice is imo the smmllest of them.

Jes, Gates was not really GWB's choice (one could call him GHWB's choice though).
As far as I can see, Rummy was ousted because
a) he was seen as a main reason for the 2006 desaster (from the GOP POV)
b) he began to show tiny signs of reason concerning Iraq (i.e. he committed treason against Chain-Eye). If it had been really up to "teh decidah", Rummy would still be with us as SickDeaf.
It looks to me like Gates was forced on Bush jun. by sen.'s old team.
I also understand the Gates-keeping as a temporary measure during the Iraq withdrawal and that he will resign at about the time of the next midterm elections.
There are reasons to not be in favor of Gates but that he was the Dubya's Choice is imo the smmllest of them.

Jes, Gates was not really GWB's choice (one could call him GHWB's choice though).
As far as I can see, Rummy was ousted because
a) he was seen as a main reason for the 2006 desaster (from the GOP POV)
b) he began to show tiny signs of reason concerning Iraq (i.e. he committed treason against Chain-Eye). If it had been really up to "teh decidah", Rummy would still be with us as SickDeaf.
It looks to me like Gates was forced on Bush jun. by sen.'s old team.
I also understand the Gates-keeping as a temporary measure during the Iraq withdrawal and that he will resign at about the time of the next midterm elections.
There are reasons to not be in favor of Gates but that he was the Dubya's Choice is imo the smmllest of them.

The great post devourer is at it again.
I can't recover my last post. Drat! Try again (abridged).
---
I think that Gates was Dubya's choice is the smallest of reasons to be not in favor of him (there are more valid ones).
I do not think Gates can be even seen as GWB's choice (maybe GWHB's choice) but one being forced on him. If it had been up to "teh decidah", he would have kept Rummy who had to go because
a) he was seen by the GOP as a main reason for the 2006 election disaster
b) he committed treason against Chain-Eye, Lord of Neocon by showing tiny signs of reason concerning Iraq.
As I understand it, the Gates-keeping is intended as a temporary measure for the time of the Iraq withdrawal and he will resign around the time of the next midterm elections.
Let's wait and see (and would you have preferred the Son of Cain, soon to be succeeded by Not-the-other-Palin?).

First my post is eaten (not displayed), then displayed 3 times despite me just sending it once? Gremlins, Gremlins all around!

The stress on post-conflict reconstruction in Susan E Rice’s expertise, and in the general Obama approach to foreign and security policy, is very timely, and not only because of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some interesting sites on this include:

http://www.csis.org/isp/pcr/

http://www.iiss.org/conferences/global-strategic-review/global-strategic-review-2008/keynote-address/

and across the pond - http://www.stabilisationunit.gov.uk/

At this time when Keynes is flavor of the month in economic policy, it’s interesting to think how far our approach to post-conflict reconstruction has come since, at and after the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, he had to argue against a veangeful “peace” (on this, see J M Keynes, “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, 1919, and D Markwell, “John Maynard Keynes and International Relations”, 2006).

Choosing Hillary Clinton may or may not be a prime choice, but it's a reasonable choice: disagree, agree, it's a question of whether you trust Obama's judgement or not.

right. choosing to retain someone who seems to understand the Iraq situation means Obama's "regime" is going to be a torture-supporting warmonger.

but choosing a Democratic hawk Iraq-war-supporter, who wasn't definitively against torture until last year when the presidential campaign started, why that's "reasonable" and not a sign of anything at all.

"...a torture-supporting warmonger. "

make that

"...that of a torture-supporting warmonger."

There's nothing surprising about any of these appointments. Like most leading Democrats, Obama (and, of course, Clinton, too) always promised militarism with a somewhat more rational face. I certainly hope he honors his promise to take the troops out of Iraq. But all along he was also promising to pour them into our other clusterf**k war of choice in Afghanistan. I fully expect him to do both these things. One of the advantages of Obama over Bush is that he does seem to be fairly open and honest about what he's up to.

I would love it if this were all part of a fiendishly clever plan to demilitarize American foreign policy. But that would surprise me.

If the Obama administration instead pursues the policies that I expect, I hope that most of us who opposed the Bush administration's foreign policies do not suddenly become avid Eustonian "responsible leftists" just because the guy in charge of the death and destruction is a Democrat. What's wrong is wrong, even if it's being done by someone we voted for.

Of course it makes major change more likely. When will people get away from this obsession with personalities and remember its policies that matter. Also remember Disraeli's description of the best form of govt. Tory men, liberal measures.

I'm inclined to agree with Hartmut. If you read the latest Woodward, it looks like Gates was this sop to the Iraq Study Group crowd, so that the Bush Admin (i.e., Hadley) could circumvent them, and him, and Surge. In any event, word around the campfire is that the Gates appointment will be temporary. And yes, Mr. Alpers, Afghanistan was a "war of choice." Alas, the choice was made by Osama Bin Laden when he attacked Washington and New York, *before* we retaliated, if memory serves.

Another point in favor of picking Gates to stay on as SecDef, keeping in mind that this decision seems to have been baked in weeks if not a couple of months ago: it puts Obama's SecDef in a position to block any last minute mischief by Bush and Cheney.

It wasn't so long ago I seem to recall that many of us were greatly concerned that one of the last acts of the B/C admin. would be to "gift" the new administration and the world with another war by using airstrikes against Iran. That door is closed now. Having Gates stay at the head of DOD means that effectively Obama is the President now, not waiting until Jan 20th., so far as defense policy is concerned.

I'm often amazed at how such ill-informed people can string together so many words.

The reason Publius, that you are continually being proven wrong, is that you don't have a clue.

"Do national security..." That explains a lot about your level of ineptitude.

And drop the pseudonym of Publius. You're light years from reaching that level of thought.

And yes, Mr. Alpers, Afghanistan was a "war of choice." Alas, the choice was made by Osama Bin Laden when he attacked Washington and New York, *before* we retaliated, if memory serves.

Ossama bin Laden ≠ Afghanistan, last time I checked.

I believe the argument in favor of the war on Afghanistan was actually that the Taliban, which then controlled Afghanistan more of Afghanistan than it now controls (including Kabul), was harboring Osama bin Laden.

I think a good case can be made that the Afghanistan War, unlike the Iraq War, was legal and justified. But that does not mean that it was a good idea.

Arguments in favor of the war on Afghanistan ought to proceed from some assessment of what that war has actually accomplished, and what it might reasonably accomplish in the future.

it's customary, when calling someone "ill-informed", to provide examples and counter-arguments.

on the other hand, it doesn't take any intelligence at all to just name-call.

I'm often amazed at how such ill-informed people can string together so many words.

Well, string some together youself and make an actual case.

Go ahead, dazzle us.

Hartmut: Gates was not really GWB's choice

*looks at facts*

Nope.

There are reasons to not be in favor of Gates but that he was the Dubya's Choice is imo the smmllest of them

Oh, sure. It's just very, very embarrassing for Obama, to have to say that he thinks George W. Bush is such a wonderful picker of personnel that Obama can't find anyone better to be Secretary of Defense than the man GWB wanted.

Or at least it would be embarrassing, if not compared to the utter shame and disgrace of appointing someone as Secretary of Defense who is implicated in the war crimes of the Bush regime.

Gates "understands the situation in Iraq", Cleek? Got any actual evidence of this? Like Gates telling Bush that the "surge" was a waste as appalling as ridiculous and that the US occupation of Iraq had to come to an end as of 2007?


Hartmut: Gates was not really GWB's choice

*looks at facts*

Nope.

Jes,

There was a fairly widespread perception in the US press at the time Gates was picked that his nomination (coming as it did on the heels of the ISG report) fit into a pattern of events from W's earlier career in the private sector- in which Bush junior would screw things up, and then Bush senior would send in the family's hired help to clean up the mess. This was in noted contrast to the Rumsfeld appointment, as Rumsfeld's relationship with GHB was adversarial.

So the perception at the time was that W did not so much choose Gates as that Gates was foisted off on him.

How accurate these perceptions were, I don't know. We'll have to wait until the tell-all memoirs come out and then try to sift thru all the self-serving lies, I suppose.

Gates "understands the situation in Iraq", Cleek?

why, yes. unlike many of his colleagues, Gates seems to understand that there are limits to what we can actually achieve in Iraq. and, he was part of the thinking that helped usher-in the current era of relatively low levels of violence in Iraq.

i'm sure this makes him much worse than someone who voted to give W the power to start the war, though.

also on Gates, this article does a good job of explaining why he's a good choice.

Like Gates telling Bush that the "surge" was a waste as appalling as ridiculous and that the US occupation of Iraq had to come to an end as of 2007?

Gates opposed the Surge.

It's just very, very embarrassing for Obama, to have to say that he thinks George W. Bush is such a wonderful picker of personnel that Obama can't find anyone better to be Secretary of Defense than the man GWB wanted

It would be embarrassing if Obama were saying that. Luckily, he's not.

What he's saying is that Gates could serve a purpose - an effort that Obama views as more essential than the optics that you are focused on.

Obama sees Gates as useful for a few purposes, such as withdrawal from Iraq and keeping the Pentagon behemoth in check.

Gates was, and is, rare in the sense that he actually wants to pare back the purview of his fiefdom at the DoD. Very few leaders take such a position.

Rumsfeld greatly expanded the DoD's portfolio, and Gates wants to, er, redistribute it back to the appropriate agencies.

Thus, Gates could be a useful ally - who provides bi-partisan cover - for the imminent showdowns between the White House and the Pentagon.

Accordingly, I’ve come around to the idea that this decidedly less-progressive national security team is the right call.

The reason, I’ve decided, is that this particular national security team – with Obama at the helm – makes true progressive reform more likely.

What makes you think Obama is a progressive on national security? Outside of Iraq, nothing I've seen or heard has given me that impression.

So the million dollar question isn’t so much about Obama’s appointees, but about whether you believe that Obama really means what he says, and has the ability to push them to make it happen.

I'll believe it when I see it. The problem with the people he's appointing is that they are captive to the same DC-groupthink that brought us the finanical ruin (not to mention the Iraq debacle). Even now, as Glenzilla wrote, history is being rewritten so that the only problem with the Iraq war was botched execution. Iraq may be wound down but that just means more spending and war in Afganistan and a "peacekeeping force" for Darfur.

All of these people have a history of missing the forest for the trees because they have not had to, personally, deal with the consequences of their flawed assumptions.

back to the financial business you can see the flawed thinking in the universal belief that, even with household debt at record levels and defaults evereywhere, the answer is even more credit and debt.

There may be tinkering at the edges but so much of what needs to be done has been declared "unacceptable" by the DC establishment that little will change until total collapse.

I love the pretzel logic of Obamites when defending Obama.

According to them, everything Bush-related is wrong and evil, except when Obama agrees with Bush, in which case it's brilliant. Gates, who served under Bush and at Bush's behest (and who opposed the successful surge that McCain promoted) is a great choice. Bush appointments aren't *really* Bush appointments when Obama says they aren't.

McCain, however, who opposed the Bush-Rumsfeld strategy in Iraq and who opposed the Bush-Cheney energy bill (which Obama voted for) and who championed campaign-finance reform and compassionate immigration reform represented a third term of Bush. McCain is a Bushie. Gates isn't. You follow?

Clinton was evil for voting for the Iraq war. Biden, who also voted for the war, was a great choice for veep. But now Clinton isn't evil anymore because Obama says so.

This is the consistency of Obamabots: they will consistently make excuses for Obama no matter what he does. When Obama obviously gives his liberal base the finger, it really secretly means that he's hugging them.

In truth, I don't know why anyone's worried about progressives turning on him. They're such unthinking, drooling sheep they'll excuse anything he does. His FISA flip-flop? Who cares. They fact that he destroyed campaign-finance reform? So what. The fact that he's now turning to pro-war hawks to run his foreign policy? Oh, he's going to be the BEST President EVER.

Back when your grandparents were kids, this kind of behavior used to be called self-serving hypocrisy, but now it's all just a part of Obama's brilliance you see.

I wonder when people are going to stop making excuses for him and recognize him for what he is: a lying, pandering status quo politician who isn't going to change anything. But being familiar with battered woman syndrome, I'm not holding my breath waiting. Besides, we all know what happened to Rev. Wright when he called Obama out for being a self-serving politician: he got disowned (but you thought Obama said he could never disown him? Oh, it's just a part of his brilliance. Silly me.)

Gates, who served under Bush and at Bush's behest (and who opposed the successful surge that McCain promoted) is a great choice.

No, but he could be a useful choice.

Clinton was evil for voting for the Iraq war.

Do you have a cite to publius actually saying this?

McCain, however, who opposed the Bush-Rumsfeld strategy in Iraq...

No he didn't. He was a consistent, zealous, loud and almost unequivocal supporter.

...and who championed campaign-finance reform and compassionate immigration reform represented a third term of Bush.

See, he stopped championing those during the election. Kind of matters.

His FISA flip-flop? Who cares.

Um, lots of people. On this Site and elsewhere in said progressive community that supposedly doesn't care. Ever read Greenwald?

They [sic] fact that he destroyed campaign-finance reform? So what.

Destroyed? Single-handedly? Really?

Back when your grandparents were kids, this kind of behavior used to be called self-serving hypocrisy, but now it's all just a part of Obama's brilliance you see.

Back when your great great great great grandparents were sperm and egg, this kind of rant used to be called attacking a straw man. But now it's all just a part of your brilliance you see!

I wonder when people are going to stop making excuses for him and recognize him for what he is: a lying, pandering status quo politician who isn't going to change anything.

A politician he is, warts and all. But he will change many things, from day one on. See, ie, Bush's executive orders and the overturning thereof (soon to come).

Ah Matt, I was already feeding when you posted. I should have refrained.

Mattbastard, which person is the PUMA? I thought that referred to a diehard Clintonite. I wouldn't go as far as DJK because I try to avoid unnecessary flamewars, but I have a lot of sympathy for that POV and you can find even harsher versions of what he/she is saying at some of the far left blogs, from people who weren't Democrats in the first place.

What I expect from Obama is a fairly progressive economic policy, because things are so bad even many centrists want a massive stimulus package. I don't trust him on foreign policy. Maybe he is this Machiavellian genius who's picked an exclusively centrist foreign policy team to provide political cover, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Someone who doesn't think Obama is a Machiavellian genius--

Link

I was surprised to see the name--he's written for the NYT Sunday Magazine once or twice, IIRC. Though that was a long time ago.

@Donald J: PUMA refers to diehard somethings, all right -- but not really Clintonites. People so opposed to Obama that they supported McCain.

The particular combination of arguments being made by DJK is not made by left-of-Democratic commenters.

If you visit DJK's website, it's obvious he/she is a PUMA.

Eric--

I didn't think to look for his website. Okay, I'm wrong.

Nell--

I haven't seen defenses of McCain from lefties, so you're right. But most of the rest I've seen on lefty blogs. The battered woman syndrome analogy, for instance--I just saw that earlier today (referring to the relationship between the mainstream Democrats and their leftist supporters) and I sort of automatically assumed DJK was coming from the same perspective when I saw it here.

Obama is a pragmatist first, an idealist second. Expediency will always trump his highest ideals in the short-term, and he's perfectly comfortable with that.

Have you noticed that the word 'peace' is a dirty word in politics? It didn't get any play during the election, really. It's sad, cos it used to be an ideal that our leaders could allude to without looking like a hippie peacenik. I like to believe that peace is one of Obama's ideals. He can't say it directly, though, for fear of shoring up hawkish rhetoric to the point of no progress. His cabinet choices, therefore, do not surprise me. Certainly, if he had been all "peace peace peace" instead of "hope hope hope" during the campaign, he would have lost the election.

"If you find you're going through hell, keep going" is attributed to Winston Churchill, a warrior who brought peace. I believe that Obama's choices indicate an expediency that accepts that we are still at war and that the world is a politically unstable place. The fact that Gates is already commonly known as a temporary choice indicates that Obama sees efficacy as the best short-term goal to achieve the long-term goal of peace.

oh noes. now, thanks to DJ-PUMA, i've seen the light! Obama is a politician!

and now i am going to send a sternly-worded email demanding that Obama return all my campaign donations. and tomorrow i'm going to request that my local Board of Elections if they'll switch my primary vote to Clinton. cause she is no politician, and has never pandered to anyone over a single thing, ever! for she is as pure as God's own tears!

fncking idiot.

This
is a better link than the George Kenney one in my earlier post It summarizes Gates's history and points out that Obama's choice is consistent with his fondness for the bipartisanship of the Bush I foreign policy. I'd forgotten that--if Obama does turn out to be a centrist it's not as if he hadn't given fair warning.

This is only tangetially related to Donald's link, but I thought it was worth a mention, which is Richard Holbrooke's review of a book on McGeorge Bundy, entitled lessons in disaster. While I am under no illusions that Gates has experienced some conversion at Damascus, I do hope that he has learned from those Reagan era experiences. I also think there is a bit of conflation when the article that DJ links to says

With Bush I, he pushed the first war against Saddam Hussein, even when it seemed that Saddam was preparing to withdraw from Iraq.

I'm assuming that he means Kuwait, but I'm not sure if Saddam was ever preparing to withdraw from Kuwait.

A politician he is, warts and all. But he will change many things, from day one on.

Yes he is and yes he probably will. So in the future praise him for his accomplishments, but please resist the urge to rationalize, explain away or sweep under the carpet his failures. This urge is only human, because now "our guy" will be in charge, but I sincerely hope that people on this blog will not fall into the same trap many Republicans have, when they tried to excuse everything the Bush administration ever did, even when it went against their deeply held beliefs, because he was on "their team". A sober, detached and objective analysis is the only way out of this, else it is almost certain the cognitive dissonance will become unbearable at some point.

So in the future praise him for his accomplishments, but please resist the urge to rationalize, explain away or sweep under the carpet his failures.

Hey, you know, good advice, and noted. Regarding Obama, I am firmly in the "trust but verify" camp.

Two things:

1. The man is not even President yet. Talking about sweeping his failures under the carpet seems a little premature.

2. George W Bush has been, not just a bad President, but an astoundingly bad President. If Obama is merely pretty good, he will, in comparison to what he have seen for the last eight years, seem like manna from heaven.

I expect to have serious objections to many of the positions Obama stakes out over the next four to eight years. I've had some already.

Whether I agree with his point of view or his actions, Obama appears to bring a fundamental, bedrock level of thoughtfulness and competence to pretty much everything he does.

That inclines me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I'll be very, very happy to settle for someone who approaches problems pragmatically and effectively.

"Settle" is actually the wrong word. I'm thrilled at the prospect of a President who is realistic, pragmatic, and effective.

In the end, Obama's probably not really on my "team", although he's closer than most. That doesn't really bug me, because I think he'll just be really, really good at the job.

Thanks -

I'll wait to see how Obama's foreign policy team performs before making any judgment on his choices. That said, I'm extremely nervous about Clinton as Secretary of State for some of the predictable reasons (e.g. her AUMF vote, her support of Kyl-Lieberman, her support of cluster bombs etc.) But above and beyond that I have doubts about her ability to conceive policy in broad terms--a skill which is desperately needed when dealing with some of the most intractable problems in the Middle East and South Asia. I've seen plenty of evidence that Clinton is brilliant when working within established parameters. That's why people characterize her as a wonk. But I've never seen her articulate a game-changing strategy based on political principles. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying she has no principles. I'm saying I can't remember an instance when she articulated a policy based upon a deep-seated understanding of governance, state theory or diplomancy. For better or for worse she's not a politician who refers much to theory. I hope my fears are groundless and she proves to be a visionary diplomat.

I'm saying I can't remember an instance when she articulated a policy based upon a deep-seated understanding of governance, state theory or diplomancy.

I'm not sure it makes sense to blame Clinton for this. She's more than smart enough to have noticed what happened to Howard Dean when he said the word "encirclement"...our political media don't seem capable of engaging with candidates who coherently apply academic IR theory to practical policy problems. As a result, a politician speaking in those terms is just handing lots and lots of ammunition to the other side for attack ads. Our political culture is premised on the notion that expertise is a bad thing, and so discourse using terms of the art is naturally discouraged.

That doesn't mean that politicians don't speak about theory, but they seem to dumb it down so that it can be explained in a sound bite that can't easily be misinterpreted. But perhaps I'm wrong here. Can you think of any US politicians who have done what you claim Clinton has failed to do in the last few years?

I think all depends on how strong Obama really is. If he is able to keep all the strong personalities in his cabinet under control and to direct them according to his stated visions, then there is hope. If not, he'll be Phaeton not Helios (and the results as catastrophic).
Benefit of the Doubt and Wait and See for me at the moment. There will be enough in his first month in office to pass judgement on 'is', not just 'might be'. But don't expect Bush being condemned by Executive Order to be eaten alive by chipmunks however pleasing that thought might be.

Eric: It would be embarrassing if Obama were saying that. Luckily, he's not.

Obama's accepted George W. Bush's choice of Secretary of Defense as much better than anyone he himself could pick. You feel that it would only be embarrassing if Obama actually said it?

What he's saying is that Gates could serve a purpose - an effort that Obama views as more essential than the optics that you are focused on.

"Optics": investigating the culture that allowed US soldiers to torture prisoners, and prosecuting the torturers and those responsible for ordering torture. Hm, amazing how many euphemisms people can come up with when they really don't want to use the word torture.

Yeah, I'm kind of focussed on that. I think torture is evil. I think a national military that supports the use of torture is badly in need of a Commander in Chief that thinks torture is evil.

I don't know if I'm disappointed that Obama doesn't think ending torture by the US military matters all that much, but I know I'm disappointed that so many people here, who appeared to be vehemently against torture when it was Bush, are apparently just fine about letting the US military stay filthy with torture when it's Obama.

PS Oh yeah - Cleek, yes, if we're going with bad votes: Clinton's vote in 2002 helped enable Bush to take the the US into war against Iraq. Obama's vote in 2008 will enable Obama to wiretap Americans without a warrant. Bad votes both of them: both Obama and Clinton deserve to be condemned for them.

Torture is worse.

Clinton's vote in 2002 helped enable Bush to take the the US into war against Iraq. Obama's vote in 2008...

now hold on just a second. you were telling us how Obama's choice of Gates is a dark and sinister sign. now tell us what Obama's choice of Clinton means. she voted for the war. that says something non-trivial about her character, IMO.

Torture is worse

on an abstract level, certainly.

and torture might even be worse than war, on an abstract level.

but the war and the actual torture inflicted are not abstract. they actually happened. and you can compare the effects and the number of people affected. and when you do that, it's clear that the scale of death and destruction the war in Iraq has caused dwarfs that caused by Bush's dabbling in torture by several orders of magnitude. you know the numbers of dead and displaced. you've seen the pictures of dead children and limbless orphans, burned corpses and headless bodies in ditches. this war is not an abstraction.

(and don't forget that as of 9/07, Clinton was still OK with torture in the "Ticking Bomb" scenario.)

Clinton enabled this war. now tell us why what we shouldn't be concerned about her because of it.

Cleek, part of my problem with this post is that it presents retaining Bush's Secretary of Defense as a choice equivalent to nominating Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

I cannot respond to your comment because you are making the same presumption. You're demonizing Clinton, which is SOP for this blog. That's standard insider party politics, too. Yes, I can see it's obviously important to you to set Clinton up as the Big Bad. And yes, it's possible to make substantive criticisms of Clinton, just as it's possible to substantively praise Clinton. Likewise Obama.

Deciding to leave George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense in charge, even temporarily, is much more important than insider party politics. It means Obama has no intention of instigating any fullscale investigation and prosecution of torture in the US military, and that, Cleek, is way more important than any silly crap about how awful and bad Hillary Clinton is.

You're demonizing Clinton, which is SOP for this blog.

So, why aren't you doing it, if it's SOP? YOU'RE BREAKING THE RULES, JESURGISLAC!

Also: cleek, try not to be so overt about being part of this blog. People might suspect us of sockpuppetry. I realize that being part of this blog condemns you to unthinking, knee-jerk Hillary-hate, but try to dial it back a bit.

Jes, I'm with cleek on this--I don't see the big difference between Gates and Clinton. Torture vs. authorizing an unjust war when she should have been trying to stop it--not a big moral difference to me. I'd put Biden, Clinton, and Gates into the same category of "people Obama picked that make me suspicious of his progressive motives".

LJ wrote--

"I'm assuming that he means Kuwait, but I'm not sure if Saddam was ever preparing to withdraw from Kuwait."

I don't know either. It's a common claim on the far left, but I've never looked closely at the accounts of what happened leading up to the Gulf War and so don't know whether it's the lefties or the mainstream accounts who are BS'ing on this.

Turbulence: "Can you think of any US politicians who have done what you claim Clinton has failed to do in the last few years?"

Yes. Check out Fareed Zakaria's interview with Obama a few months ago. They were talking about multilateralism; Obama explained the principle of alliances ("mutual self-interest") first before going into various possible alliances the US could forge internationally to deal with Iran's nuclear program, Norh Korea, stability in Iraq, etc. For me, Clinton stands out for her inability to think broadly, especially about international relations. FWIW, I would have been quite comfortable with her as Secretary of Health and Homeland Security. Her pragrmatism is made for that agency. How she'll perform as SoS remains to be seen. As I said before, let's hope all my worries prove groundless.

Jesurgislac: What does the Secretary of Defense have to do with torture explicitly prohibited in the military? The Sec of Def is not the Director of the CIA and has no influence over the CIA.

You're demonizing Clinton, which is SOP for this blog.

frankly, i don't give a shit about Clinton. i'm just amused by your eagerness to excuse her actions. Obama chooses Gates = Obama excuses torture! Obama chooses war-enabler Clinton = nothing in particular!

. It means Obama has no intention of instigating any fullscale investigation and prosecution of torture in the US military,

of course he isn't. he never said he wanted to. he didn't run on those things. he didn't mention them in debates or speeches. he never promised to clean up Washington. he was never that guy. and anybody who expects him to do any of that wasn't paying attention to what he actually said.

it's absurd to be outraged by the fact that his choices suggest he's not going to do something he never said he would do.

First of all, I voted for Clinton in the primary and, as part of this blog, that should make some heads explode.

Jesurgislac: What does the Secretary of Defense have to do with torture explicitly prohibited in the military? The Sec of Def is not the Director of the CIA and has no influence over the CIA.

Exactly. Gates' DoD was not authorizing torture. The military is not allowed to torture any more. Only the CIA.

Obama's accepted George W. Bush's choice of Secretary of Defense as much better than anyone he himself could pick. You feel that it would only be embarrassing if Obama actually said it?

"Much" better? Why "much"? Why not "just slightly"?

Also, you seem to have missed my argument. It's not that Obama decided that, in a vacuum, Gates would be MUCH better than anyone he could pick. He (I'm hoping) decided that in the actual world (with an out of control Pentagon and Iraq/Afghan wars), Gates would be the smartest pick from an expediency point of view.

Have you no appreciation for pragmatism? Do you not accept that, at times, a purist's sanctimony can be counterproductive?

"Optics": investigating the culture that allowed US soldiers to torture prisoners, and prosecuting the torturers and those responsible for ordering torture. Hm, amazing how many euphemisms people can come up with when they really don't want to use the word torture.

Jes: I've, um, actually used the word torture a lot. Have you ever read my writing? I mean, do a word search.

As for your point, you don't really have one. Neither Gates, nor a different pick at DoD, would be in charge of investigating said culture.

I don't know if I'm disappointed that Obama doesn't think ending torture by the US military matters all that much, but I know I'm disappointed that so many people here, who appeared to be vehemently against torture when it was Bush, are apparently just fine about letting the US military stay filthy with torture when it's Obama.

The military is not allowed to torture any more. Only the CIA. And Obama has pledged to end that.

But retaining Gates has nothing to do with Obama's decision to stop the CIA from using torture.

Also, Cleek:

You violated the posting rules upthread with the personal attack on our recent PUMA visitor.

Please refrain.

The military is not allowed to torture any more. Only the CIA.

I just have to say, reading that is depressing.

Jes, what the HELL are your sources about torture in the Gates DOD? You have been asked multiple times for any by multiple people & have failed to provide them & it is pissing me off. I am not prepared to say that torture by the U.S. military is not occurring at all and has not occurred under Gates--I think torture in Iraq by special forces troops continued a whole longer than people realize, though I don't know if it continued into Gates' tenure, & have heard credible reports of inhumane treatment at GTMO--though not for interrogation purposes. Who knows for sure what's going on at Bagram. But, the revised military field manual prohibits torture; I believe it is being enforced. GTMO, I've heard it said, is abusive in the way that any maximum security prison is abusive--with the difference that people held there have never had anything resembling a fair trial or hearing--it is no longer an interrogation chamber. Indefinite detention without trial is, of course, its own awful thing, and I wish I knew where Gates stood on it--he came in saying "close GTMO," then adopted the line that it's not possible to do so, & I don't know what he really thinks or how he's likely to react when Obama tells him to close GTMO. So I have all sorts of doubts about the pick. But you're just flailing around accusing the posters here of apologizing for torture without a shred of evidence. It's not helpful.

Please refrain.

evs.

respect's a 2-way street.

I just have to say, reading that is depressing.

I had the same reaction typing it. It made me pause.

respect's a 2-way street.

True, and I'd offer the same thought to him/her if I thought he or she would be back.

Just trying to keep it civil (and readily admitting that I also step over the line at times).

cleek: you're wrong about what Obama said during the campaign, though not far wrong--he was asked about this stuff exactly once that I can tell, & said that he would instruct his AG to see if crimes were committed. I damn well will be outraged if there's no investigation & I'm outraged at your support for no investigation. I was paying very close attention indeed to the information I was given--based on that information, Obama was the best bet on these issues--it's not my fault that the media is too stupid & lazy to know to ask what questions about this to really pin Obama down.

I'm outraged at your support for no investigation.

I'm not sure where cleek said he expressed his support for no investigation. At least on this thread.

and according to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/01/AR2008120102891.html>WaPo, Gates' deputies are being replaced. which is being read as a sign of real change in the Pentagon.

said that he would instruct his AG to see if crimes were committed.

yeah, he said he'd tell his AG to look at the info that's already out there (ie. no more digging). and then said he didn't want to make his administration look like a "partisan witch hunt" in the eyes of Republicans. that's reeealllly close saying "no, i'm not going to do anything".

if i were you, i wouldn't hold my breath waiting for indictments.

I'm outraged at your support for no investigation

awesome.

Katherine : I think you’re going to be outraged then. At least at the outcome. If there is an investigation it will be nothing more than a “truth commission” of some kind.

I pay more attention to what he (or advisors) has had to say since winning the election.

Two Obama advisers said there's little _ if any _ chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.

As for Obama’s AG, post 9/11 he seemed squishy on the topic at best:

Yes, it seems to me this is an argument that is really consequential. One of the things we clearly want to do with these prisoners is to have an ability to interrogate them and find out what their future plans might be, where other cells are located; under the Geneva Convention that you are really limited in the amount of information that you can elicit from people.

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohammed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not.

And yet, I understand what Secretary Powell is concerned about, and that is we're going to be fighting this war with people who are special forces, not people who are generally in uniform. And if unfortunately they somehow become detained, we would want them to be treated in an appropriate way consistent with the Geneva Convention.

He does go on to say:

I think the way to resolve it is, in fact, the way Secretary Powell has proposed, which is to say these are not people who are prisoners of war as that has been defined, but who are entitled to, in our own interests, entitled to be treated in a very humane way and almost consistent with all of the dictates of the Geneva Convention.

But it seems to me that he was at least torn on the question back then. Given that, I hardly expect him to go hard after anyone who did support torture. Certainly any defense lawyer will insure that “they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention” will be the sound-bite of the week.

(I’m just pointing out Obama’s backpedaling and Holder’s previous remarks; I’m not saying that no one should be prosecuted.)

This might be good news on the appointment front. I don't know anything about Dan Kurtzer beyond what the blogger and the Ha'aretz article he links says, but I trust the blogger I linked here. Maybe Obama will make a serious,evenhanded effort to reach an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal.

Katherine: Jes, what the HELL are your sources about torture in the Gates DOD?

And I have replied. (Though thanks to these new broken threads, I don't blame anyone for picking up on this reply.)

I do not believe that torture of prisoners by US soldiers simply stopped when Gates became SecDef. This seems neither probable nor realistic. Once torturing prisoners had become endemic, with a list of torture techniques approved, I think it would take a major investigation and systematic rooting out of those responsible to get rid of the practice.

Even if we are to suppose that all torture for which US soldiers are directly responsible, whether because the acts of torture were committed by the soldiers or because prisoners they were guarding were being tortured under their supervision by civilian interrogators, had come to an end by December 2006, plainly the prisoner regime which took for granted that prisoners would be tortured to provide evidence for their "trials" had not. (Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld became a prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay in 2007.)

Finally: without an investigation, Obama cannot possibly know that Gates is clear of all responsibility for the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and the other gulags at Bagram Airbase and in Iraq during his previous two years as SecDef. Obama could plan on making use of Gates as a fall guy, figuring that he can't count on any appointee of his own to be clear either, and safer just to blame Bush for Gates, but that would be a bad management decision, and I do think - whatever else - that Obama is a good manager.

But you're just flailing around accusing the posters here of apologizing for torture without a shred of evidence. It's not helpful.

Say rather that I can definitely say that people here who are defending Obama's appointment of Gates without saying a word about the issue of the US military's torture of prisoners are certainly colluding, whether they think about it that way or not, in dismissing all issues of torture as yesterday's news, not worth mentioning, discussing, holding people to account for.

After all these years, I don't see that I have to cite the already-ample evidence that the US military tortures prisoners, and that most of the soldiers responsible for torture have never been charged with their crimes, let alone been prosecuted or convicted. Nor do I see why this topic should now become something that we just don't talk about when discussing Obama's confirming Bush's Defense Secretary in office.

Publius did not cite any evidence in his post for believing that torture stopped in December 2006 or for why he believes that Gates ought not to be held responsible for torture in the US military: he treated it as a non-issue. And while for many Americans it may be, I don't think it ever will be for me.

Donald: Jes, I'm with cleek on this--I don't see the big difference between Gates and Clinton. Torture vs. authorizing an unjust war when she should have been trying to stop it--not a big moral difference to me.

I guess a key difference for me is that Gates became Defense Secretary in December 2006, knowing that he was taking on responsibility for a US military fouled by torture: for gulags where prisoners had been murdered by US soldiers and when guarded by US soldiers.

Hillary Clinton voted in 2002 "to give the President of the United States authority to use force in Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail to dismantle Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons and his nuclear program." Reference to this vote is invariably, on this blog at least, treated as if Clinton had sole responsibility for the Iraq war because of this vote. At my count, 28 Democratic Senators voted for Bush to take the US to war in Iraq, including Joe Biden, and I've never seen any such criticism of Biden for this vote - or Obama for choosing him as Vice President - as I have seen of Hillary Clinton.

Not that I defend this vote: I just don't see where the singular demonization of one Senator is coming from, other than she's Hillary Clinton and it's considered appropriate to attack her viciously without regard for the justice of the case against her. If Clinton isn't appropriate as Secretary of State because of how she voted on this in 2002, Biden isn't appropriate as Vice President for the same reason... yet I've never seen this said.

Nor does anyone know how Obama would have voted had he been in the Senate then. There's not a hell of a lot to choose between Obama and Clinton for hawkish policy.

Apologies in advance for incoherence. I want to weigh in on torture and Gates, but due to several days' trouble sleeping am not up to a high standard of diplomacy, acknowledgment, making fine distinctions, etc. So am simply laying points out there.

Members of the U.S. military continue to torture.

1 - The revised Army field manual, though still containing the old language prohibiting torture, also now explicitly permits several techniques that are in fact torture. Blogger Valtin has covered this doggedly:

By making waterboarding, slapping, and freezing of prisoners what torture is all about, the DDD [Debility, Dependency, and Dread] paradigm of coercive interrogation is kept out of sight. This is the same strategy used with great effectiveness in the reissuing last year of the Army Field Manual for interrogation.

This new AFM was lauded for banning the beating of prisoners, threatening them with dogs, sexual humiliation, performing mock executions, electrocution of prisoners, and waterboarding, among other noxious techniques. But in an appendix to the manual, the following procedures are authorized for certain prisoners: complete separation, sometimes with forced wearing of goggles and earmuffs, for up to 30 days (after which approval for more must be sought); limiting sleep to four hours a day, for 30 straight days; and other concurrent techniques, including "futility", "incentive", and "fear up harsh". In the latter, fear within a detainee is significantly increased, through knowledge of the person's phobias, if possible.

In the press, and in the speeches of politicians on both sides of the aisle, the new AFM was praised as a model of reform. [But]... the AFM has maintained a core DDD operational capacity (isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, fear).

2- Special Forces and regular military work with the CIA. They also can be deputized as temporary CIA personnel. This is part of what makes the CIA loophole such a serious obstacle to ending U.S. torture.

3 - Even in military-only environments, the abuse has been tolerated so long that to end it completely in practice would require a systematic change of signal from the top all the way down through the ranks. It would require a demonstration that the doctrine of command responsibility is back in force, with examples being made of some high-ranking officers who permitted and covered up torture. (For the full-out old school era of prisoners hung from ceilings and beaten to death, Gen. Dan McNeill. For the continuing use of stress positions, death threats, and other tortures, whoever commands the Special Operations interrogators in Iraq that a former participant wrote about in the Washington Post Sunday.)

The Obama administration has no intention to punish military officers for past torture, and takes the approach that military torture was entirely in the past.

The focus, if accountability is going to be sought at all, is going to be on those who ordered and illegally "legalized" the torture: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Haynes, Rice, Tenet, Bush...

With respect to the military, the administration's approach and that of its supporters is that U.S. military torture is over, that it was an aberration, and that the Detainee Treatment Act means that remaining problems exist only with the CIA. Eric's comment is a clear statement of this view.

As I've written elsewhere, contrasting Obama's situation with that of Gerald Ford's at the beginning of his term:

A popular incoming president elected by a wide margin with a mandate for change and strong, increased majorities in both Houses of Congress who has explicitly promised to end the policy of torture and close the prison at Guantanamo, Obama is clearly counting on being given time to deal with the mess created by the previous administration's policies before facing the question of how to hold its officials accountable.

This doesn't please or satisfy me. Nor do I agree with or approve of the decision to keep Gates on. But the two are separate things. Gates is most likely a temporary appointment, there are pragmatic benefits to holding him over (among them: he's not likely to countenance any final flings of "Bush Doctrine" aggression), and the Obama approach to ending U.S. torture was never going to involve a thorough housecleaning inside the military.

Thanks Nell. I'm posting this in hopes that someone will see this thread isn't dead and will read your post.

Jes--Agreed about Biden and Clinton deserving the same level of criticism. However, I have seen people on the far left point to Biden when he was appointed the VP candidate as evidence that Obama was not the progressive champion people want to think he is.

Donald,
I agree with the points Nell makes, but, as someone who has astutely pointed out the problems that lie within the American electorate in terms of their view of America, I'm wondering if you view this as a fundamental deception on Obama's part or an unavoidable reality that any presidential candidate would have to face?

LJ--I don't know what Obama thinks, of course, but in a way it doesn't matter.
What matters is whether there's enough pressure from the left either to pull him in that direction (my force metaphor there is mixed up) or (if he wants to go left anyway) give him cover for going that way.

However, I have seen people on the far left point to Biden when he was appointed the VP candidate as evidence that Obama was not the progressive champion people want to think he is.

I never understood why anyone thought Obama was going to be a "progressive champion", actually.

Good comment, Nell.

His FISA flip-flop? Who cares. [DJK]

Um, lots of people. On this Site and elsewhere in said progressive community that supposedly doesn't care. Ever read Greenwald?
[Martin]

DJK's point -- however obscured by vitriol -- remains a valid one in view of the argument publius makes in the post at the top of this page. Whether or not "lots of people on this site" and "Greenwald" were deeply disappointed and forewarned by Obama's 180 on FISA, publius doesn't mention it, concluding,

"So the million dollar question isn’t so much about Obama’s appointees, but about whether you believe that Obama really means what he says, and has the ability to push them to make it happen. As for me, I do. For now."

True, publius is talking about a slightly different subject -- the foreign policy aspect of "security". But in view of FISA (and arguably campaign finance, regardless of the merits of the position), it's a little starry-eyed to argue that Obama always means what he says and will make it happen when push comes to shove. Between that event and the conservatism of his appointments, it's fair to argue the arrow is pointing the other way. More to the point, pushing him to actually do the right thing might not be well served by "Obama's secretly on our side, you'll see" posts.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


  • visitors since 3/2/2004

October 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  
Blog powered by Typepad

QuantCast