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October 11, 2004

Comments

Why are you surprised?

What in heaven's name would have made you think the current administration was more concerned with winning the war than with winning the election?

This is new information for you?

I'm not really surprised, but I always hope that I might be wrong. There's something about actually reading "senior administration officials" saying it that I find incredibly depressing.

There's something about actually reading "senior administration officials" saying it that I find incredibly depressing.

You still have the power to change these things, there's a month to go and lots of work to be done.

It's our country.

This is the only good news in the article:

"U.S. officers in Baghdad said the biggest difference between the Samarra operation and the failed U.S. offensive in Fallujah in April was that select units of the Iraqi national guard held their ground under enemy fire. In April, the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces in Fallujah capitulated soon after the U.S. offensive began.

"You've got to have a credible Iraqi security force that the local populace has confidence in," said Army Col. Bob Pricone, chief of operations at the U.S.-led coalition forces' headquarters in Baghdad. "Four or five months ago, the populace didn't have a lot of confidence in the Iraqi national guard."

I'm sure we chose the best units for the assault in Samarra, but that's encouraging, and actually more surprising to me than the rest of the article--such is my faith in the Bush administration.

This is hard for me to understand - why would a SAO say something so detrimental to Bush? Well, perhaps because it's true and the SAO is outraged and hoping to change the policy. Or perhaps he/she disagrees with a hypothetical admin evaluation that the situation won't change in the short term and it won't hurt at all to wait three weeks and train a few more Iraqi soldiers. This would have been a nice question for the debate...

In other hard-to-fathom news, Christopher Reeve just passed away.

rilkefan -- that's awful about Christopher Reeve.

Felix: as far as working, I'm there. And to avoid confusion: surprise is not the only thing that can leave me speechless.

If the administration is deciding the timing of our military operations based on political concerns, then it is not deciding them on the basis of military and strategic concerns, like finding the best opportunity to achieve our goals while minimizing loss of life and other adverse consequences. If they are subjugating military and strategic concerns to politics, then they place more importance on Bush's winning a second term than on achieving whatever their goals are in this offensive with minimal loss of life and other adverse consequences. If so, then they are willing to get people killed, and to let our strategic aims be thwarted, in order to secure Bush's reelection. I do not really see how else to take this. And it leaves me speechless.

On the other hand, hilzoy, what a gift for the Kerry Debate Team Juggernaut.

On the other hand, hilzoy, what a gift for the Kerry Debate Team Juggernaut.

If so, then they are willing to get people killed, and to let our strategic aims be thwarted, in order to secure Bush's reelection. I do not really see how else to take this. And it leaves me speechless.

Don't mean to repeat a point until my fingers are bloody, but really, where have you been the last four years?

This is new to you?

Either way, you've got a month to change things. Posts like this are just preaching to the converted, there is real work to do and only a few weeks to do it in.

Less outrage, more work.

Felix: As I said, surprise is not the only thing that leaves me speechless, so there's no particular reason to assume that I'm surprised, or to wonder where i've been for the last four years. Nor, for that matter, (as far as I know) do you know what I do while I'm not at my computer. I have been working very hard for about a year, first to get us the best possible candidate, and now for Kerry. I don't make assumptions about you; I can't see any real need for you to make them about me.

Sorry, that came out grumpier than I intended.

Sorry, that came out grumpier than I intended.

Don't apologize. You're pissed off, that's all good stuff.

Still not clear to me this means what you think, not that I'd put anything past this admin. There was some debate recently over at tacitus.org about whether in fact it was a good idea to go in now vs preparing a bit more first.

Also, to play devil's advocate or something - imagine a world in which Kerry wins in Nov, then in four years faces W again (man this is not good for my headache) and is contemplating whether to follow the marine commander's advice to launch the 5th battle of Fallujah or the army commander's advice to wait a bit for the latest Missouri draftees to be trained. Say Secy Def Clark prefers going in now, but W is mounting an effective campaign based on, uhh - here my imagination fails. Would you, Nat. Security Advisor hilzoy, feel bad advising Kerry that it's more important to win the election first then devote his full attention to a not particularly pressing but potentially messy and distracting battle in a war which is expected to continue unabated for the forseeable future?

This is mostly a non-story -- and I speak as someone who's been wanting to see Fallujah, et al., stormed NOW for, oh, the past six months.

Four things to consider, here:

1) Pace Hilzoy, the separation between the military and the political is more or less illusory; we shouldn't be outraged when one affects the other. The real question lies in the relative merits of the interplay on a per-case basis.

2) Delaying a full-on offensive for three weeks isn't going to strengthen the insurgents any. If anything, the wait period benefits us, as that many more Iraqi forces can come onto the line in the interim. As we saw in Samarra, this makes a difference.

3) If you believe that a Bush victory is a sine qua non to winning the war -- an outcome I consider extremely unlikely under Kerry -- then of course it makes sense (yes, even military sense) to do what you can to maximize the chances for that victory.

The irony here is that the folks most likely to be outraged over this LAT piece are also by and large the folks most likely to denounce a major US offensive in Iraq. As such, the denunciation of a delay in a policy goal they're opposed to is difficult to take seriously.

"The irony here is that the folks most likely to be outraged over this LAT piece are also by and large the folks most likely to denounce a major US offensive in Iraq. As such, the denunciation of a delay in a policy goal they're opposed to is difficult to take seriously."

Yes, and the anti-war protesters who asserted that the WMD were a load of old cobblers were difficult to take seriously as well.

Quite honestly, (ya see, I was one of those 'liberal hawks' that saw the invasion of Iraq as a desire to hold countries to a 'global test', which is why I am thankful I didn't blog then and why I'm planning on never blogging on geopolitics in the future) I have no idea what to support or denounce in terms of what policy is appropriate in Iraq, unlike the wide range of bloggers who seem to know exactly what we need to do, when we need to do it and moreover, how we should think when it is being done. However, what I have found as a general rule of thumb is that whatever this administration suggests, one is generally correct to assume that the choice 180 degrees in the opposite direction is the best course.

Yes, and the anti-war protesters who asserted that the WMD were a load of old cobblers were difficult to take seriously as well.

Irrelevant to this, really. And I speak as a pro-war type who also didn't buy into the WMD thing.

....I have found as a general rule of thumb is that whatever this administration suggests, one is generally correct to assume that the choice 180 degrees in the opposite direction is the best course.

I wouldn't abdicate your rational faculties in quite this fashion -- especially considering how much of the Kerry proposals on this subject are cribbed from the Administration.

hilzoy - "I have been working very hard for about a year, first to get us the best possible candidate, and now for Kerry."

Funny, It's to your credit you hung in there having been unable to get us the best possible candidate. Don't forget the work it took to turn one of the best moderate blogs into a fringe extension of Atrios and The LA Times. It least it's not unhinged, due mainly to the thin skins of some of the principles. Right, f-rayman? No offense, she's had me whimpering just like you.

I see why it could theoretically be a good idea to wait. It seems like a hell of a coincidence that it is a good idea to wait exactly until just past the election. I don't approve of indiscriminate airstrikes or of razing Fallujah, but we can't just give the insurgents sanctuary in a major city.

blogbudsman, you did not, if I recall correctly, comment here before hilzoy came on board. (If I'm wrong about that I apologize.) Perhaps you read, but if you did, it seems like you would know that she replaced me and is less Atrios-like than I am. (I supported That Awful Howard Dean.) The reason the ideological balance of this place has shifted is because: 1) Moe is taking a long break from partisan posts and 2) I have been guest posting for two weeks. #2 is temporary and will end shortly. I hope #1 is also temporary, but I'm not sure.

Tacitus claims that the argument is irrelevant, but my point is that the argument is of the construction:

Those who believe X
Are from the set of those who believe Y.
(I think) Y is wrong, therefore those who feel that X is problematic must be wrong about that too.

Of course, there is the point of "the folks most likely to denounce a major US offensive in Iraq". At the moment, I'm probably one of those, but I would have like to have seen us actually spend all of the reconstruction aid that was budgeted, ideally through locals to pump up the economy rather than in the top down way that it has been done. Does this count as a 'major offensive'?

I imagine that this is why, when it is claimed that the greatest threat facing us is Islamofacism, it becomes necessary to attack Kerry's stance on abortion.

blogbudsman, on the other hand, seems to be suggesting that the LATimes is just making this stuff up, so anyone who believes it and wonders what is going on is thin skinned.

Now, I realize you can disagree with each other, but which do both of you think it is, a manufactured crisis by the LATimes, or an actual slow down in tempo? If it is a slowdown in tempo, do you think it is dictated by actual conditions on the ground or domestic considerations? And finally, if it is a slowdown, why do we have unidentified sources telling us about it? I have to think that the insurgents can google the news, and if they can, then don't they take advantage of this 3 week lull?

katherine, I liked Howard Dean. I assumed he was 'the best possible candidate' before Kerry snuck in the back door. I thought Dean's enthusiasm in Iowa was refreshing and the way the MSM and the liberal hyena's attacked him was criminal. I'm not so sure I would be so solidly in Bush's camp today if that had turned out differently. Eeeeeeeeeeyah!

A Bush voter made so by Dean's absence? Ah, the internet.

I'm not following you, LJ. Noting irony, and the lack of personal credibility on the part of some denouncing X, doesn't mean their denunciations are without merit. Just that it's, well, ironic.

Does this count as a 'major offensive'?

Spending reconstruction aid money? It might. However, I'm not sure you can do so in the absence of prior political control.

....a manufactured crisis by the LATimes, or an actual slow down in tempo?

Neither. I suspect the LAT is broadly accurate, and I also think, given the seizure of Samarra, the stepped-up airstrikes on Fallujah, and the ongoing sweeps south of Baghdad, that the optempo is slowly increasing. Just not nearly as much as it will post-election.

I have to think that the insurgents can google the news, and if they can, then don't they take advantage of this 3 week lull?

By doing what, exactly? They've operated on the assumption that the Americans will come after them from day one. I don't see what they're going to do now in terms of preparation that they weren't before.

Perhaps it is simply ironic (though the dean-made Bush voter takes the cake in irony), but a bit tenuous IMO. I also find questioning personal credibility with such a broad brush to be a bit problematic.

the whole 'why is this happening now and why does someone feel the need to tell a reporter about it' is what I'm trying to figure out, so pointing to supposed personality flaws of the people telling the story don't get us very far on that track, unless it is the flaw of the LATimes.

As for reconsruction aid, I would argue that we had a lot better political control 8(?) months ago, so this is along the lines of missed opportunities rather than a call for an immediate shop til you drop offensive.

I would think that giving them a 3 week lull and telling them about it is not the smartest thing to do. Dispersing and arranging smaller stockpiles of weapons, re-arming, focussing attacks on the Green Zone because of the down tempo (assuming they are this organized, I really don't know if they are) You may be right that tempo is actually increasing, and this is just disinformation. I don't want to make this sound too snarky, but though you know what assumptions they are operating under, I find it hard to sort through the chaff to acquire that knowledge. I mean, for a while, we were told they were foreign jihadists, and now I understand that they aren't foreign, but disaffected Iraqis. Given the changes in CW over the course of the war, do we really know for certain what assumptions are being made and who is making them?

Hi -- I have no idea when the best time to attack is, obviously, and so for all I know it might be right after the election. But if that were true, it would still be just a coincidence that we attacked at the best time. That's what I think is wrong. I also recognize that political and military considerations are intertwined, at least in the sense that (it would seem to me) a good military commander would try to avoid political consequences detrimental to his/her ability to secure his/her objectives. But that's not what we're talking about in this case; the people who are holding off are, as best I can tell from the article, the civilian leadership, not the military, and they are not doing so for the sake of some 'political' goal like preventing the country from turning against the war (to pick an example of a political consideration of clear military relevance), or because they are setting the general goal of the operation and some limits on permissible means of attaining it, which is their right, but for the sake of electoral politics.

It is, of course, possible that they think that only they can do a good job in Iraq, as some have suggested. I can imagine cases in which I might buy that, but only given (a) some previous record of success, and (b) some sign that the people in question were willing to seriously entertain the possibility that they might be self-deceived in this respect. (I mean: it seems to me that whenever you start thinking "only I can do this right", you need to ask yourself whether this is actually true; all the more so when you're proposing to put lives at risk for this belief.) I don't see either in this administration.

For the record, I did oppose the war, but I also think that now that we're here, we need to do it right. I don't tend to be thrilled about assaults on urban areas, other things being equal, but other things are not equal, and I can imagine circumstances in which I thought: well, we have to. I can also imagine (actually, I can remember) Republican administrations in which I would have had confidence that if they made such a call, there was a reason for it. But this administration, the one that ordered both the assault on Fallujah and then the withdrawal over the objections of the commander on the ground, does not give me such confidence.

And finally, three weeks may not be a long time to wait, but is anyone here confident that this delay hasn't been in place for a while already? People have been talking about storming Fallujah 'in November' for over a month now. They just haven't been this explicit about why.

Tacitus at 05:07 :
"If you believe that a Bush victory is a sine qua non to winning the war -- an outcome I consider extremely unlikely under Kerry -- then of course it makes sense (yes, even military sense) to do what you can to maximize the chances for that victory."

So then, Tacitus, do you thus positively favor adjusting the timetable of military operations to impact elections (or, for that matter, any other political factor)? Or just those that positively effect the candidate of your choice? One would think, given your well-blog-documented support for the Iraq war, that you would be in favor of our forces planning their operations regardless of their political ramifications (viz. your comments ealier this year re Falluja), and with a emphasis, rather on their maximal military utility - with mission effectiveness/casualty minimization being the overriding considerations - not whether it makes George Bush look good/bad or not.
Oh, and while we're at it: you mention (as you do a great deal) the "winning" of the war - what, in your estimation would a satisfactory (to you) "victory" entail? And, also, why you consider this so "unlikely" under a Kerry Presidency (who will, after all, if elected, inherit precisely the same military/political situation in Iraq).

I can see an argument for why we're militarily no worse off waiting. I mean, ideally we wouldn't be telling them exactly what date, but presumably we're not coming in guns blazing the minute the polls close on the west coast.

I'd be be less worried about the insurgents preparing then melting completely into the civilian population.

It also seems to me that you want to do this as long as possible before the Iraqi elections.

disclaimer: it is not possible to underestimate my knowledge of military operations.

In October 1864, Abraham Lincoln authorized the furlough of massive numbers of Union troops in the field so they could go home and vote. This political act assuredly weakened the Union armies, at least until the furloughed troops returned. Shelby Foote asserts that the votes of these men carried Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maryland, and Indiana for Lincoln.

Imagine, if you will, the catastrophe of the alternative -- a President George McClellan, and the probable survival of American slavery.

I don't condemn Lincoln's politicization of military policy then, and I don't condemn the (purported) same act from the Bush Administration now. Each is an example of politics in the interest of winning the war, and as such I give it the benefit of the doubt.

One would think....that you would be in favor of our forces planning their operations regardless of their political ramifications (viz. your comments ealier this year re Falluja)

The political calculations attendant to the April retreat from Fallujah were flatly and foreseeably wrong. (By the bye, contra Marine Gen. Conway, the equally political decision to attack the city was quite correct.) Had they been right, I would have supported it.

....what, in your estimation would a satisfactory (to you) "victory" entail?

A functioning, generally nonviolent, non-anti-American Iraqi democracy. And yes, I do think it will take years and years.

And, also, why you consider this so "unlikely" under a Kerry Presidency (who will, after all, if elected, inherit precisely the same military/political situation in Iraq).

He won't inherit precisely the same situation, because the planned offensives will have been well underway by late January. As for my doubts about Kerry's commitment to victory, I would think that the man who didn't have the policy fortitude to stand up to the Vietnamese communists, the Soviet Union, Grenada, the Sandinistas, Iraq 1991, and Libya 1986 (this last from a man who wants to wants to lead a war on terror!) probably hasn't changed his stripes all that much. The unerring instinct for conciliation and withdrawal seems well enough ingrained.

It also seems to me that you want to do this as long as possible before the Iraqi elections.

Yes -- that is actually an excellent point. My suspicion is that, given that we're only now able to field an Iraqi force capable of seizing and holding a single objective (in this case, the Samarra Golden Mosque), that the delay has been one of manpower more than anything. I forget when Administration officials began acknowledging that the Fallujah Brigade, et al., were failures, but it was some time ago.

Tacitus:
Re your definition of "victory" - I quite agree - although how one would enforce the "non-anti-American" clause of this definition beats me - unless, as I assume, you mean "not acting overtly counter to American interests".
I am surprised, however, that you did not add what I (and I am sure millions of my fellow citizen) would take to be the MOST important qualifier:

"A functioning, generally nonviolent, non-anti-American Iraqi democracy with a minimal US military presence and NO US military or civilian casualties"

THAT is true "victory" - i.e. when the war is over - and so far, the Bush Administration has shown little more than wishful-thinking unrealism about how (and when) anything like this might be accomplished (and to be fair, neither has Sen. Kerry) - if there has indeed been any substantive "exit strategy" articulated for Iraq, it has escaped my notice (any links appreciated).

Shorter Tacitus: It's fine and dandy to subordinate military and foreign policy to political operatives so long as they're the right political operatives. Onward, O Glorious Republic!

W: "I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics."

via Kevin Drum.

To say that later is as good a time to attack as now is sheer apologism for a choice that places politics ahead of winning the war.

For one thing, the Iraqi elections are scheduled in less than three months! The ground needs to be secure today, not at some unspecified date down the road. Every day's delay in providing security makes the elections less likely to occur and less likely to be legitimate if they do occur.

Secondly, this is war and war is above all things powerfully unpredictable. Absent a compelling reason for delay, the time to attack is always when the opportunity presents itself, because no one knows what if any opportunity will be available in the future. And anyone that thinks we can predict the future in Iraq hasn't been noticing reality over the last 20 months.

Finally, as has been noted, not only are these leaks occurring but it's just profoundly predictable that we should postpone the attack for political reasons and then attack shortly after the election. Attacking on a predictable timetable is a tremendous boon for the defender.

JayC here's the http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18883-2004Oct8.html>Plan! It's the one Kerry parrots without the French and German dream sequence. See, it's not a difficult plan. It doesn't change from week to week - dad, are we there yet? How do we assure it will end anywhere near what you've all recognized? Military presence and the promise of billions of dollars of aid. The cost of which will be provided partially by redirecting similar tactics from WWII regions where it's no longer effective. See, it's not an overly complicated plan in the broad brush perspective. It's the details of course that drive the engine. The less we take over by force and the more the Iraqis reclaim by their own accord, the more legitimate the result.

I am sure the Bush administration justifies many of its own actions to itself in exactly these terms: "Kerry will lose the war. So doing X* for our re-election campaign isn't subordinating national security to politics; it's actually necessary for national security."

But Bush isn't Lincoln, and Kerry's not McLellan. And once you start down this road it's hard to see where it stops.

I mean, possible* values for X already include:
--politically timed homeland security alerts
--making ominous, vague threats about how a nuclear attack is inevitable the first time they are seriously challenged after 9/11
--writing a dishonest speech for Allawi that can only harm his credibility in Iraq
--cutting a deal with Pakistan not to interrogate A.Q. Khan in return for their aid in looking for bin Laden, hopefully leading to his capture before election day
--classifying and desclassifying information for political reasons
--misleading the public about the extent of Iraq's nuclear threat before the war
--outing a CIA agent
--the timing of the original attack on and withdrawal from Fallujah

So what wouldn't X include? Where do you draw the line? Presumably you would draw it well short of election fraud or vote suppression or intimidation of political opponents, but where is it?

The Khan deal, if true, is the least excusable item on that list to me.

*note that I say possible--some of these are confirmed and some aren't.

Kudos to IL for grasping that politics and policies are not value-neutral. Moving on....

Jay, you're right, "not acting overtly counter to American interests" would be a better way to phrase it. However, I disagree with your formulation about low troop levels and no casualties. Kosovo meets both those criteria -- and it's the spot on the planet where American and NATO forces have the dishonor of essentially presiding over ethnic cleansing. No victory there.

I don't think you're ever going to hit zero casualties in the short to mid terms, barring total withdrawal. There's some sort of asymptotic limit there, and the best you can do is reduce it to that point.

To say that later is as good a time to attack as now is sheer apologism for a choice that places politics ahead of winning the war.

Not necessarily. Do you have figures on the Iraqi forces coming online and when? Do you know how the (intra-Iraqi) political (ie, the negotiations on Sadrist disarmament and the possible capitulation of the Fallujah Shura) and military (ie, consolidation of south-of-Baghdad and Samarra) prep work and timeline ties in to the big assaults down the road? If so, you're one step ahead of me.

Absent a compelling reason for delay....

I would think allowing Iraqi forces the time to equip, train, and enter battle is a very compelling reason.

And anyone that thinks we can predict the future in Iraq hasn't been noticing reality over the last 20 months.

Several people -- including, I acknowledge, many on the left, have predicted things quite well. Including me vis a vis Sadr and Fallujah.

Attacking on a predictable timetable is a tremendous boon for the defender.

Only if the defender is able to use that time to his advantage. Again, what is he going to do that he hasn't already?

Katherine's right that you have to judge these things on a case-by-case basis, and not accept them as ipso facto valid. In this case, I'm fine with it because it's pretty clear that the Kerry-McClellan analogy is distressingly apt. He has a history, and I see no evidence that he is a fundamentally changed man.

This is a great series of ramblings about an assumed premise. The American public is all too willing to believe a story that discredits the President.
"A senior official... speaking on condition of anonymity" doesn't exactly make it official policy. Besides, the LA Times is one of the most liberal papers in the nation.
Interesting to watch how people will eat this garbage up!

especially considering how much of the Kerry proposals on this subject are cribbed from the Administration.

That's very funny. It has been Kerry who makes the statements about what SHOULD be done and what HE would do which is then followed in short order by BushCo. You have things factually turned 180. Bush hasn't done a thing lately in Iraq that Kerry didn't push for first.

Yes, opposing the end the Vietnam war and aid to the contras is just like opposing the Emancipation proclamation. Oy.

Since I believe Kerry's policies are much more likely than Bush's to prevent Al Qaeda from getting a nuclear weapon they could use to kill my family, when may I begin registering dead people and sending Republicans to the wrong polling place?

I've read enough judicial opinions to know that "on a case by case basis" is a total dodge.

Yglesias puts it better than I have: "The president genuinely believes that his own re-election is a vital, strategic military goal that should take precedence over narrower tactical considerations."

This president, I might add, also demonstrably believes that national security trumps the rule of law and individual rights.

katherine - "*note that I say possible--some of these are confirmed and some aren't."

Just like LJD explains. That LAT story was a hoot. Take the verifiable quotes and you could almost construct a positive story about the successful strategies in Iraq, in spite of the normal military/diplomatic conflict. Throw in a little 'possible' twists from "... a senior official... speaking on condition of anonymity..." and you have the typical MSM blather.

katherine, most of the points you suggest reflect evil intent can just as easily be argued as benign.

Most of the democratic argument is not even an argument, but contrarian smoke and mirrors dredged up to create a shadow of a doubt for voters who should expect more from you.

You folks have an agenda, pure and simple. And it has little to do with the future welfare of our country.

Having voted for Lincoln twice in the 1860's, I am slightly disappointed in the man, but would not change my vote.

I've met Lincoln, and believe me, etc, etc.

"You folks have an agenda, pure and simple. And it has little to do with the future welfare of our country."

I'm sorry... whose president just reshuffled the schedule in Iraq to fit his re-election needs?

katherine - "Since I believe Kerry's policies are much more likely than Bush's to prevent Al Qaeda from getting a nuclear weapon they could use to kill my family,..."

Don't you know, Kerry believes your concerns are a nuisance, ranked up there near prostitution.

And for your desire to inflate Kerry vote totals, see Cook County, Illinois. They've had it down pat for generations. Or the democratic precincts in Dade County, Florida - they've gotten away with some pretty slick stuff.

"You folks have an agenda pure and simple. And it has little to do with the future welfare of the country."

Gosh, I hope he was talking about me. If he was talking about Hilzoy and Katherine and Edward, then the chasm dividing the country just opened a little wider and I suspect discussion just stopped.

Or at least the part of the discussion I relish is just getting started.

Praedor, I invite you to familiarize yourself with both NATO involvement in Iraq and the present expansion of the armed forces as they pertain to the corresponding Kerry proposals. Might be enlightening.

On Katherine....

Yes, opposing the end the Vietnam war and aid to the contras is just like opposing the Emancipation proclamation.

Sorry, who are you speaking to, here?

The parallel lies, of course, in the near-consistent advocacy of policy positions that render indirect aid to America's enemies.

Since I believe Kerry's policies are much more likely than Bush's to prevent Al Qaeda from getting a nuclear weapon they could use to kill my family, when may I begin registering dead people and sending Republicans to the wrong polling place?

You're engaging in pointless hyperbole. No one is arguing that immoral means are justifiable in the service of a moral end. The burden is on you and yours to establish that the means in question -- namely, the purported delay of military operations due to political considerations -- is immoral. That remains undone.

I've read enough judicial opinions to know that "on a case by case basis" is a total dodge.

Let me know when the world begins operating on a legal basis. Or when I start speaking legalese.

Yglesias puts it better than I have: "The president genuinely believes that his own re-election is a vital, strategic military goal that should take precedence over narrower tactical considerations."

Okay. I agree.

This president, I might add, also demonstrably believes that national security trumps the rule of law and individual rights.

And Hitler was a vegetarian.

So....is there an argument here?

"You folks have an agenda, pure and simple. And it has little to do with the future welfare of our country."

Whoa, there. Two days in the woods may have balanced my chi a tad, but not that much. Agendas are one thing, but Katherine (frex) doesn't wake up in the morning and say "Hmm. What's on the schedule today? Oh, yes, the agenda that's detrimental to the future welfare of the country. I wonder if that new Thai place delivers?" It's one thing to think that somebody is wrong and quite another to think that somebody's being pernicious. I often think that Katherine is the first - but she's NEVER been the second.

So behave. On the advice of my dentist I'm trying to make it through a week without having to threaten to ban anybody*. I'd like this resolution to last more than a day and a half.

Moe

*Well, not in so many words, but he wants me to stop grinding my teeth.

katherine, you've nearly convinced me with your 3-months-minus-3-weeks argument - I had lost track of how late in the year it is. Does anyone know what Sistatni thinks about a) this delay b) the possibility of holding an acceptable (to him) election in January?

"You folks have an agenda pure and simple. And it has little to do with the future welfare of the country."

Sacre bleu! Il a decouvert mon plan furtif de donner aux Francais la commande de notre militaire! Tout est perdu!

iron - "I'm sorry... whose president just reshuffled the schedule in Iraq to fit his re-election needs?"

That's the point. Who did? I wasn't able to determine that from the facts of the LAT article. Although you might have from the head line.

And Moe, I know. There's no doubt that katherine is concerned about the future welfare of our country.

And katherine, you have every right to believe in something I don't.

I just wish we could meet somewhere near the middle. I'm not so sure it's the current administration doing the dividing here.

blogbudsman: "You folks have an agenda, pure and simple. And it has little to do with the future welfare of our country."

Would you mind explaining who "you folks" are, why you think that we/they are motivated by an agenda that has little to do with the welfare of the country, and how this does not violate the posting rules?

As you have no doubt noticed, I disagree with your politics. But I have never suggested, nor do I believe, that you are not concerned with the welfare of the country; or that you have an agenda that you think is more important than our country itself. If you disagree with me, fine: that's what this is all about. But if you want to suggest that I am not just wrong about what is in our country's interests, but willing to sacrifice them for some other 'agenda', as far as I'm concerned you've crossed a line. And if you were talking not about me but about Katherine, who has done something truly noble by publicizing provisions of HR 10 that would have allowed our government to be complicit in torture without breaking the law, and which might otherwise have slipped by unnoticed, then words fail me once again.

Ah, everyone else got there first. Story of my life.

(And everyone else has discovered my French is atrocious.)

"No one is arguing that immoral means are justifiable in the service of a moral end."

No, you are arguing that the end makes the means moral.

Back to that list I made. I'll add numbers, and my opinions about which ones have been verified by a preponderance of evidence:
1. politically timed homeland security alerts. (not verified.)
2. making ominous, vague threats about how a nuclear attack is inevitable the first time they are seriously challenged after 9/11. (verified)
3. writing a dishonest speech for Allawi that can only harm his credibility in Iraq (verified)
--cutting a deal with Pakistan not to interrogate A.Q. Khan in return for their aid in looking for bin Laden, hopefully leading to his capture before election day (deal verified, election related motivation not verified)
--classifying and desclassifying information for political reasons (verified)
--misleading the public about the extent of Iraq's nuclear threat before the war (verified)
--outing a CIA agent (verified)
--the timing of the original attack on and withdrawal from Fallujah (verified)

You may disagree about my conclusions as to whether they've been verified, of course...you don't have to agree to answer this question: Which items are the list are immoral?

Not in any way arguing blogbudsman's case, Katherine, but I'm a little stunned at what you're claiming to be verified. I think you're over the edge of the cliff like Wile E. Coyote on this, and cartoon gravity just hasn't kicked in. Yet.

"Verified" is probably the wrong word. Substitute "very well supported by the available evidence" if you like. Heck, while I'm doing disclaimers, add "in my opinion," for good measure. You can even take them as pure hypotheticals if you like.

The question remains: Which of those actions are morally justified because Bush's re-election is necessary for national security?

...You can even take them as pure hypotheticals if you like.

Ok, no further argument.

"I just wish we could meet somewhere near the middle. I'm not so sure it's the current administration doing the dividing here."

I once told someone "if you can't stand the heat, I'm not saying get out of the kitchen but at least put down the blowtorch"....Cast dark aspersions about my hidden "agenda" that "has little to do with the future welfare of our country", or imply that I'm dividing the nation, but please don't do both in consecutive posts.

Ah, what's the use.

hilzoy, I still have trouble believing you support John Kerry. Very little of the substance of your posts promote much, if anything positive about him other than he isn't George Bush. Most of your arguments take every suggested malfeasance of the current administration and transformed implication into fact. I believe the current Democratic contender will weaken out country. I also believe that in four years both parties will nominate stronger candidates. I watched Pete Coors and Ken Salazar on one of the Sunday shows this weekend. What a refreshing change from the debates we've been subject to. Two intelligent men with different beliefs regarding the direction of our country, stating their cases to some fairly tough questioning in passionate, civil discourse. I felt like a moderate again.

katherine - "Ah, what's the use."

Because it's important. And argument is vital.

Which items are the list are immoral?

Please, Katherine. Either argue the point at hand, or don't argue. These things are irrelevant to that, and I'm not getting sucked into the outrage-vortex with you.

Because it's important. And argument is vital.

or...here's another thought on that subject,

Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing. ---Oscar Wilde

Blogbudsman: I went through those of my reasons that relate to defense, homeland security, and constitutional issues (other than Iraq, about which I felt that the issues had been hashed through enough already) rather thoroughly, I thought. Then there's that trifling matter of the deficit, Bush's tax plans (which strike me, as one of their beneficiaries, as both economically unsound and morally indefensible), his health care policies, his environmental record .......

I am more anti-Bush than pro-Kerry: I think that Bush is a disaster on more fronts than I would have thought possible, while Kerry strikes me as a basically moderate solid guy. I do think his health care proposals are very good, though, and I am completely with him on nuclear non-proliferation issues. And he is very good on environmental issues. But he wasn't my candidate, he doesn't thrill me to the very core of my being, and it would be silly and dishonest of me to pretend that he does.

About divisiveness: please don't take what follows as written in a mean hectoring way; I mean it only as a thought from one (hopefully) decent person to another. When one of us is accused of not having the interests of the country at heart, it would be incredibly easy to respond in kind. ("So you have the interests of the country at heart, mister let's-reelect-the-most-disastrous-president-in-history? Etc., etc." You can come up with the rest.) We try not to, not just because it would start a war on the blog, but much more importantly because if we are ever going to overcome the divisions in this country, we have to proceed on the assumption that our opponents are good people until we have proof that they are not. If we do this, then we can disagree vehemently without making it personal, without impugning one another's character or motives. If not, then it will be a lot harder to get over this stuff.

But if it's important not to respond to personal attacks by attacking back, it's all the more important, it seems to me, not to attack in the first place. To say that someone does not have the best interests of this country at heart is to say something really bad and really personal. It would nonetheless be appropriate if Katherine or whoever had just been arrested with a briefcase full of nuclear secrets that she planned to sell to the highest bidder. In a case like that, you don't have to ask yourself, don't I owe her the benefit of the doubt? But in the absence of anything like that, if you care, as I'm sure you do, about not making the divisions between liberals and conservatives worse, I think it would be good not to say stuff like that. Plus, as I and others have said, it violates posting rules.

hilzoy, the worse thing about my 'future welfare' comment is that it created a new argument. My thoughts were from feelings I have about certain elite special interests whose intentions are strictly selfish, to get their political party in power, so they can stay in power. I should know better by now than to use general indictments while sparring arguments with specific posters. And I accepted Moe's yellow flag. I truly feel we need the strength of committment shown by President Bush, and not empty shirt of Senator Kerry. 2008, it's a whole new ballgame.

"I'm not getting sucked into the outrage-vortex with you."

Or worse yet, the shame spiral.

Seriously: you have said that making military decisions to aid in Bush's reelection is justified because we need Bush reelected to win the war. I obviously disagree, but I don't really know how to argue the point with someone comparing Bush to Lincoln and Kerry to McLellan.

I asked what the limits were on the means that could be justified by the end of aiding Bush's reelection. You said "on a case by case basis". This did not tell me anything about how you would decide any case. You also said that "immoral means" could not be justified. This did not tell me much either, because I don't know what you consider immoral and especially because you think the ends served help determine the morality of the means.

I assume you agree that it would be immoral for a general to make military decisions based on his own interests rather than the interests of the troops or the mission or the country. I assume you think the same would normally apply to the President. However, you say that Bush's interests are the interests of the country.

I don't see why that argument doesn't apply equally well to the other things I listed. If you will not give specifics about what Bush's re-election does and does not justify I cannot have a useful discussion with you.

Tacitus: Please, Katherine. Either argue the point at hand, or don't argue. These things are irrelevant to that, and I'm not getting sucked into the outrage-vortex with you.

Katherine is most definitely arguing the point at hand.

You said: 3) If you believe that a Bush victory is a sine qua non to winning the war -- an outcome I consider extremely unlikely under Kerry -- then of course it makes sense (yes, even military sense) to do what you can to maximize the chances for that victory. (October 11, 2004 05:07 AM)

and: I don't condemn Lincoln's politicization of military policy then, and I don't condemn the (purported) same act from the Bush Administration now. Each is an example of politics in the interest of winning the war, and as such I give it the benefit of the doubt. (October 11, 2004 10:41 AM)

I find your premise absurd on many levels, but for the sake of argument, if a Kerry victory will doom the nation to a fate comparable to either southern secession or the re-institution of slavery in the union, then just how far is the Bush administration justified in going to achieve that end? I'm speaking hypothetically here, since I don't know quite what to make of the LA Times story just yet, but should they limit themselves to timing military offensives for maximum electoral impact, or can other facets of national security be justifiably politicized?

"My thoughts were from feelings I have about certain elite special interests whose intentions are strictly selfish, to get their political party in power, so they can stay in power."

bbm, with all due respect, if you don't think this concern applies just as well to Republican 'special interests' as Democrat 'special interests', you need to back away from the struggle and look around a bit.

"I assume you agree that it would be immoral for a general to make military decisions based on his own interests rather than the interests of the troops or the mission or the country. I assume you think the same would normally apply to the President. However, you say that Bush's interests are the interests of the country."

Okay, I now realize I gave you several other openings to use semantic points to dodge the question. So:
1) let's make it more concrete: say the general in question knows that a superior officer will be more likely to promote him if he attacks in a month instead of a week--and this is not for any military reason, but because attacking too soon would spoil his superior's vacation plans. Is it immoral for the colonel to consider that in deciding when to attack?

2. I should have said "However, you say that Bush's interests are the interests of the country and the mission", but it doesn't change my point at all.

Assuming all the quotes in the LA Times story are accurate, there's still nothing in there that says military action is being suspended specifically in order to assist Bush's election chances. Major military action right before the election could be seen as an attempt by the Bush administration to manipulate the election by generating some last-minute good news, so they're kinda damned if they do, damned if they don't. I don't think the bare fact that domestic politics is being factored into military decision-making is enough reason to be outraged -- it's simply an acknowledgement that every single decision at this point is going to be scrutinized for potential "wag the dog" motivations.

Gromit - "but for the sake of argument, if a Kerry victory will doom the nation to a fate comparable to either southern secession or the re-institution of slavery in the union, then just how far is the Bush administration justified in going to achieve that end?"

All they can do is try to get re-elected. The incumbancy is definitely a home field advantage, and the media has become a determining factor. It's ironic to me that Bush has attempted to stay the course at his political peril, while being accused of a spectrum of atrocities from incompetence to evil genius, almost all of which has been debunked at some level. I'd think it was more obvious that Kerry has given up all sense of decency to get elected, not the other way around.

....you have said that making military decisions to aid in Bush's reelection is justified because we need Bush reelected to win the war.

More accurately, the contention "we need Bush reelected to win the war" is defensible and reasonable. You don't have to agree with it to acknowledge that this is a legitimate point of view -- and that courses of action premised upon it are therefore not ipso facto immoral.

I obviously disagree, but I don't really know how to argue the point with someone comparing Bush to Lincoln and Kerry to McLellan.

Indeed, you don't even have to buy into the parallel on persons to again acknowledge that the parallel on process is a reasonable one. (By the bye, I don't equate Bush to Lincoln -- I do argue, though, that Kerry is a very good McClellan figure.)

I asked what the limits were on the means that could be justified by the end of aiding Bush's reelection. You said "on a case by case basis". This did not tell me anything about how you would decide any case.

The drive to draw forth universals from this stems, I think, from a failure to press the case at hand. This should be enough: it's no surprise, and not inherently wrong, that an elected official would utilize legitimate policy options to enhance his/her chances of reelection. We have Bush's purported actions; I've given Lincoln's example; and we all remember Clinton's targeted legislations and attendant Rose Garden ceremonies. These things are okay.

You also said that "immoral means" could not be justified. This did not tell me much either, because I don't know what you consider immoral and especially because you think the ends served help determine the morality of the means.

Well, we all do, don't we? Most of us recognize a moral difference between shooting a healthy horse, and shooting one with a grievous wound. Same means, but the different ends affect the morality.

I assume you agree that it would be immoral for a general to make military decisions based on his own interests rather than the interests of the troops or the mission or the country. I assume you think the same would normally apply to the President. However, you say that Bush's interests are the interests of the country.

History offers several examples wherein the interests of a particular President coincided well with the interests of the country. Lincoln is again given; Washington's personal ascent was indispensable to the new United States; FDR winning in '32 was almost as important; I would argue that Reagan in '80 was in such a position. Bush today is as important as none of these -- but he is indispensible to the war in Iraq. Again, you need not agree -- just acknowledge that this is a defensible and reasonable viewpoint.

I don't see why that argument doesn't apply equally well to the other things I listed.

An application of common sense would show you well enough. If you can't discern that I might not condone illegal or objectively immoral things in the course of Bush's reelection effort, then I think the habits of legal reasoning are serving you ill.

....if a Kerry victory will doom the nation to a fate comparable to either southern secession or the re-institution of slavery in the union....

Wow. People do read what they want to.

....but should they limit themselves to timing military offensives for maximum electoral impact, or can other facets of national security be justifiably politicized?

Is the action in question a legitimate function of the Presidency? Does it appear unreasonable to most Americans? Does it demonstrably harm the United States? Does it demonstrably harm those for whom the United States bears a moral responsibility?

I would have thought that giving insurgents greater time to lay IEDs and move in supplies of ammunition would be a reason not to delay. But I will defer to those with military expertise.

[Somewhat off-topic -- the NYTimes online has two photos of weapons being turned in. One shot appears to show very rusty mortar bombs. Are these usable weapons, is the US getting played by Al-Sadr's militia for political gain, or something in between?]

Back on topic. Those who do see Kerry as McClellan to Bush's Lincoln are right to use every legal advantage to win the election. Fear-mongering, ramp-down in the operational pace (especially if the slowdown has legitimate military reasons), controlled leaking and October surprises are all perfectly legal. If the situation is reversed in 4 years I would expect the democratic president to do the exact same thing.

but crucifying the incumbent for doing so is a legitimate tool of the opposition. Clinton got blasted for wag-the-dog military adventures. He was put in a no-win situation; now the democratic opposition is doing the same to the incumbent.

maybe the world would be a better place if the dems and repubs didn't play as much hardball, and focused instead on finding common ground. but maybe not. hardball opposition is probably the only way to keep the party in power from becoming completely corrupt. look at mexico and china.

Francis

"The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective."

-W 2/04

Tacitus: Wow. People do read what they want to.

Yes, that is plainly the problem here:

Imagine, if you will, the catastrophe of the alternative -- a President George McClellan, and the probable survival of American slavery. (October 11, 2004 02:41 PM)

(By the bye, I don't equate Bush to Lincoln -- I do argue, though, that Kerry is a very good McClellan figure.) (October 11, 2004 07:00 PM)

cleek - ""The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective."

Thanks cleek for clearing up how our President feels about the subject. Just more proof that recent unfounding accusations are inaccurate. Great quote.

If you believe that a Bush victory is a sine qua non to winning the war

How can anyone believe such a thing? Iraq to date is a disaster, brought to us by the Bush Administration. People are not mutual funds. Past performance does predict future results, and Bush's past performance is dismal, in Iraq as with everything else he's ever touched.

I would say about Bush what tacitus says about Kerry:

He has a history, and I see no evidence that he is a fundamentally changed man.

Indeed, Bernard. The difference is one of sticking to chosen courses of action versus cutting and running.

The difference is one of sticking to chosen courses of action versus cutting and running.

No. There should have been more of an emphasis on what course was chosen and whether or not to embark on that course without a good map.

Sticking to a badly chosen course may be an obligation with regards to making sure we leave Iraq better than we found it, but it in no way implies we're obligated to reward the folks who made the collosal error in judgement in the first place.

The difference is one of sticking to chosen courses of action versus cutting and running.

you've constructed a fine strawman.

"The difference is one of sticking to chosen courses of action versus cutting and running."

The difference is between policy based on facts and policy based on ideology and a belief in one's own infallibility.

They keep making the same three foreign policy mistakes, over and over and over again:
1) They overestimate the threat from states and underestimate the threat from non-state groups.
2) They focus on the states where there are "good targets" and wars that can be won quickly, rather than the states that pose the greatest danger.
3) They overestimate the usefulness of military force and underestimate the usefulness of every solution other than military force.

They've been proven wrong over and over, proven wrong in spectacular fashion at least twice, and they have not budged an inch.

Well, I suppose focusing on this as an opportunity to vent is somewhat more palatable than continuing the faltering defense of the original post.

Ahh, that's what I get for going to sleep. Accursed time zones!

I had to throw gas on the fast fading embers, but blogbudsman wrote "I just wish we could meet somewhere near the middle. I'm not so sure it's the current administration doing the dividing here." You know, it was (apparently) Kerry who actively sought to have McCain on the ticket and it was actively spun as an admission of wishy-washiness by the right spinmeisters. It is clear that the goal is to pen Kerry in a corner with what was assumed to be the small minority of fervent anti-war types to win the prize. Looking at this is the long term, if it is successful, we are going to have a country with an isolationist mindset that will make the 30's look like a league of nations love fest (or not, I may be exaggerating, I admit) But I am left with the opinion that this administration prefers to occupy that middle ground of dismissing tactical problems as irrelevant to the shortterm , but at the same time blithely ignoring the existence of long-term problems. This middle ground seems to be a place where almost anything goes.

Tacitus,

I don't see your point. My claim is that, the virtue of various plans and courses of action aside, Bush is a bungler and always has been. His business career and his Presidency are ample evidence of that. I do not expect that to change.

I expect him to continue to make poor decisions, to reject advice that does not accord with his own uninformed notions, and generally to make an even bigger mess of things.

And, along with many others, I fail to see why sticking resolutely to a chosen course of action is necessarily wise.

"The difference is one of sticking to chosen courses of action versus cutting and running." Fallacy of the excluded middle, anyone?

Since the chosen course of action includes torture, gulags and civilian casualties so high that they are no longer reported, cutting & running could be less dangerous for america's future. since, however, howard dean is not the democratic candidate, c&r is not actually being proposed by either major candidate.

Francis

"I had to throw gas"

That should have been "hate". Really.

You can hardly make a comment like that and not expect people to respond. Well, I guess you can, but it's silly.

Here's our dispute, maybe--I think it's immoral to do some things for political reasons that wouldn't be immoral (though maybe still stupid) if you did not do them for political reasons. You either disagree with this, or you agree but think it's okay to use the political reasons as a tiebreaker in close cases.

The clearest example on my list of allegations (and one I can back up is #2.) The President and his various underlings certainly have the power to warn the public about the likelihood of another terrorist attack & inform them about intelligence indicating one. It is not objectively unreasonable to do this. It does not demonstrably harm the United States--people get scared; big deal--maybe they should be scared, and maybe their caution or alertness will help them escape on attack or help us catch terrorists. It's not like anyone's going to die or risk death.

Does this mean it's okay make warnings about terrorist attacks based on political considerations as well as intelligence?

katherine - "Does this mean it's okay make warnings about terrorist attacks based on political considerations as well as intelligence?"

No it's not. That's why it would be foolish to do so. And that's why it wouldn't happen.

BY - "And, along with many others, I fail to see why sticking resolutely to a chosen course of action is necessarily wise."

Unless, of course, the course is wise.

lj - " Kerry who actively sought to have McCain..."

I thought that would have been a great move. Apparently McCain was never really interested. Too bad.

katherine - " They've been proven wrong over and over..."

No, they've been accused of being wrong. Failure cannot be declared until they give up and fail.

edward - "to reward the folks who made the collosal error in judgment in the first place."

What colossal error?

fdl: since, however, howard dean is not the democratic candidate, c&r is not actually being proposed by either major candidate.

I think you are confusing Dean with Kucinich. Dean thought the invasion was a boneheaded idea, but he made it clear during the primary that abandoning Iraq now would be equally irresponsible.

What colossal error?

Don't ask Bush, he can't think of one either.

Blogbudsman,
At the risk of raising the temp in here, I have to ask you how you can move from Dean to Bush, based on your comments about 'staying the course'? As I noted. Kerry seems to be more willing to bridge the divide than Bush, which seems to completely undercut your position, but I'm willing to hear you out. How do you feel that Dean represented a stay the course philosophy that is mirrored by Bush? Is it as fdl suggested, that Dean also thought that Iraq was a really bad idea, but that we can't withdraw? If so, what points on resoluteness did Dean bring to the table that you feel George Bush has been unable to?

Hilzoy, "words fail me" is understandable if you take the headline as the story and pretty much dismiss most of the content of the piece. In my case, it's more "writer fails me". I made the same point on Kevin Drum's site. I'm just pasting it in:

+++++++++++++++++
Recently Kevin moaned about the unfairness of some headlines related to how dishonest the campaigns have been. His point: Bush has been more dishonest, but that the headline wouldn't have suggested that.

If you read this entire (and poorly written, i.e., disjointed) linked story, you will find a lot more and different things than suggested by the headline, or by Kevin's brief excerpt. As they say on some blogs, "read it all".

Given the headline. would you expect to find a comment by the Chief of Ops for the Coalition HQ that "we'll work through as many cities as the Iraqi government wants us to." Or the comment that both Allawi and the Commanders say the timing of military actions needs to be based on "circumstances and nothing else."

How about the discussion of the surprising success in Samarra using primarily targeted air strikes, leading to the thought that it may not be responsible (casualties-wise) or effective (results-wise) to roll in right now with hundreds of tanks in other locations (like Fallujah)? If, as suggested, waiting a bit longer while using air strikes to soften the resistance and allow time for negotiations, how is that not a good idea?

How about the assertion that there have been no direct orders to commanders to pause operations before the November elections? Or the assertion that coalition forces are "scrambling to enable voting in as many Iraqi cities as possible."

Look, I'm not a strong supporter of the war, and am a critic of the way we've (the US) underplanned for and underreacted to many things that would have been beneficial. I'm probably kind of mainstream in those opinions. But, at the same time, I would appreciate more sober journalism, presented with a logical flow. And an accurate headline. The "headline" here is that there appears to be conflicting information within the story itself --- and that either should be the focus of the story/headline or else the story should be researched more carefully before publication so that we have more "meat" and less internal contradiction.

To me, a moderate on most things, it seems as if the author had a philosophical agenda and when he got a quote that supports it he wrote the story based primarily on that. He's smart enough or enough of a CYA writer to put in more than the one(?) anonymous officials' remarks. But it's pretty clear to me how he felt about what readers should focus on. I kind of resent that.

I liked Dean. Straight shooter, no pretense. I disagree with Bush on several issues. I'd disagree with Dean on several issues. I'd like to have seen that campaign. I might still vote for Bush, but not necessarilly minded if Dean won. Kerry makes me ill.

blogbudsman, I can relate -- it's about the same way I feel about McCain, even though I disagree with him most of the time. Dean was real, not just a vessel for bland platitudes and inoffensive statements. So of course the media and the voters chewed him up and spit him out. After all, the one thing the majority of voters of both parties seem to agree on is that integrity and candidness are intolerable attributes for a presidential candidate.

Blogbudsman and KenB:

There is a coalition forming here. Bush and Kerry are at the bottom of almost list I can compose of "serious candidates" for the past several Presidential elections. I may be a little different in terms of how I evaluate.

First, it's a matter of which one, or both, of the candidates is "worthy" of serving, and I have 4 criteria that I have spelled out. Then if only one is worthy, he gets my vote. If both are, I go into "positions" and fine tune the ratings on my 4 criteria... and pick one. Both fail? I write in someone whom I believe passes the test. McCain this year. (Could have been Bradley or McCain last time around).

I never applied the criteria to the Democratic field that entered the primaries, but I had Lieberman and Clark on the "maybe" list. Biden would have been there "if". Now, if someone told me that I HAD to pick either Bush or Kerry, or my dogs would be fed to the "land shark", I'd come up with a decision. Flip a coin or something. But I could see how someone COULD go from Dean to Bush, if they were picking on character and felt differently than I do about GWB on that dimension. Or, if they were a single issue voter and felt Bush was strongest on that issue.

Political philosophies come and go, the partisan pendulum swings, the Congress goes this way or that and sometimes stalemates the whole process (generally we win then), and we "mush on". We are very resilient and flexible. But what could kill the spirit of the republic is "unworthy" Presidents, in succession. Unworthy in the sense that many of us would not want the person to join our family business, let alone leading us in the theater of the world.

Terry Ott: Strange to say, I did read the article in its entirety. I thought that the part I highlighted was the most striking part. Your mileage may vary, of course. I didn't mean to say that there might not be reasons why waiting to go into Fallujah might be a good idea, although there would also seem to be reasons why it's not, including the fact that we have a very short time before the election. What I do think is that if, as the administration officials quoted say, we are deciding the timing on the basis of its impact on the Presidential campaign, then we are not making it on the basis of military considerations, and it will be a coincidence if the time we choose to go in is also the time that is, militarily, optimal.

I would also note that some of your quotes are taken out of context. For instance, you quote this sentence: "U.S. officials point out that there have been no direct orders to commanders to halt operations in the weeks before the November 2 U.S. election." The next sentence, which you don't quote, reads: "Top administration officials in Washington are simply reluctant to sign off on a major offensive in Iraq at the height of the political season." Taken together, I take these to be saying: no one has ordered anyone not continue any ongoing operation; they have just withheld permission for nay new ones, like for instance invading Fallujah, until we are not "at the height of the political season" -- e.g., until after the election.

Without violating or invoking Godwin's Law, which I have violated elsewhere, and in a purely bipartisan manner, let me say that democracy by its nature permits insincerity to rise to the top. I don't want candidates who say what they mean and mean what they say and promise to never violate their principles or ideologies.

That stuff kind of stifles whatever compromise and give and take that is required to keep the peace of the polity.

Promising to never raise taxes again for the duration of the Republic or promising to raise taxes until Bill Gates is handing over 100% of his wealth is plain dumb.

As for me, I promise to keep the upper marginal tax rate at 39.6% in perpetuity, having already compromised
on the 91% rate extant in 1951, the 70% rate in 1979, and having won a little back over the past 20 years or so.

Moderate agenda, radical means.

I also draw the line at radical insincerity. Like now.

Terry Ott: sorry, wrote a confusing post. When I wrote 'the election' halfway down the first para., I meant the Iraqi election. When I then went on to refer to 'the Presidential campaign', I meant ours. Serves me right for not checking.

"There is a coalition forming here. Bush and Kerry are at the bottom of almost list I can compose of "serious candidates" for the past several Presidential elections. I may be a little different in terms of how I evaluate."

I am sure you're sincere, but since so many people say this every four years let me for once disagree. I was a Dean supporter, and like all Dean supporters I still pine for him occasionally and went through a period of not being able to stand Kerry. But I got over it. I think Kerry will not only be a better President than Bush, but a better President than Gore would have been and than Clinton was. (I was probably less of a fan of Clinton than many people as liberal as I am...it's not because I feel sold out because he was a free trader or whatever, either.) Since I am not so enamored of Bush the Elder, Reagan, or Carter either, though all had some good points, I would not be at all surprised if Kerry turned out to be the best President of my lifetime to date--though I'm not betting any money on it either. Que sera sera.

I do worry a lot that he will not have enough political courage or political skill, but I am totally convinced of his fundamental competence and decency.

Katherine: I do worry a lot that he will not have enough political courage or political skill, but I am totally convinced of his fundamental competence and decency.

Agreed.

I disagree with John Kerry politically more ways than I have room to list. But he's real: he's sound. He's proved himself to be a man of integrity throughout his public career.

katherine & jesurgislac, from you both I'm feeling that you can accept a weak president, one who has enjoyed a career of not rocking the boat, playing the odds, riding the populist wave. I'm sure you historians frequenting this blog can assure us that we have suffered similar fates and our Republic has survived. I still have to argue, that for this point in history, for what has developed on our planet as it pertains to the future of our country, we need President Bush's staunch determination and resolve. Not only does the 'axis of evil' need to see what we're capable of when riled, the rest of the world, especially the three powers in cahoots with Saddaam, needs some remedial training in global gamesmanship. We'll know a lot in four years, and I don't agree with the doom and gloomers. I believe we'll end up more moderate, which is a more of a shift to the right for lefties than the mirror image.

from you both I'm feeling that you can accept a weak president, one who has enjoyed a career of not rocking the boat, playing the odds, riding the populist wave.

That's odd: I oppose George W. Bush as President, so why would you think I would want one like him?

we need President Bush's staunch determination and resolve.

I agree America needs a President with staunch determination and resolve - but I can't see how you manage to fit George W. Bush into that. Thus far Bush's "staunch determination and resolve" seems to consist entirely of "I'm never going to admit I made any mistakes, nor ever change what I planned to do even when it's obvious it's going wrong".

Contrast that with John Kerry's determination and resolve in Vietnam, in the anti-war movement, in the Senate (BCCI, Iran-Contra, the links to drug-running)... and we're not even out of the 1980s. Kerry has real, solid, accomplishments to his credit, through a lifetime of public service. Kerry's proved he's got backbone and principles, and is prepared to stand up for what he thinks is right. Bush... hasn't.

Blogsbudman, had it been Dean, you would have matched his determination with Bush's and not had a second thought? And do you think that Dean's straight talk against Bush now is meaningless? I suppose it is possible, but I would really like to know the nuts and bolts of it. I personally think that the country needs a uniter, not a divider, and it is hard to imagine Bush uniting this country, whereas Kerry seems to have clearly offered his hand across the aisle. The country has to be united for us to have any success in Iraq, and I personally believe that Bush cannot do that. Do you think that he can and if so, what makes you think that?

lj - "The country has to be united for us to have any success in Iraq, and I personally believe that Bush cannot do that."

Actully, the country does not have to be united to have success in Iraq. Be that as it may, united is an interesting concept in itself. Maybe hilzoy's already chimed in on previous posts, but that has to be a great ethical question. What is united? How much united? Is complete unitedness healthy? Or even necessary? We are a great diverse society. To what extent does diversity unite? I used the word bobblehead to my peril in a previous post - is that united? Judging by the reaction, I suspect not. Would the mainstream media be able to pay professional news readers millions a year if we were truly united. Our modern version of united will be 51-48-1, the percentages of the votes cast for the three candidates. Dictatorships are united, not democracies. Too many wonderful di/tri/multi-cotomies in this great land. Too many legitimate mysteries to solve. Besides, me thinks your definition of united has something to do with agreeing with you.

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