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June 05, 2005

Comments

You know, Hilzoy, you really are a fine person and an American in the original sense of the term, as maybe de Tocqueville or someone or other meant it.

This I know from e-mail exclusively, which goes to show how shallow I am.

But, I've been thinking about Rilkfan's insistent little jabs that maybe the gibbering voices of the Left (weird, since I voted for Nixon in 1972 (forgive me, I was up close and personal with the rhetoric of the hard left then) and Reagan in 1980 (absolve me)) are a little too over represented here and maybe it's time to give Sebastian and Von a little breathing room, and even Charles, so I'm backing off for a time, not that it matters.

Don't misundertand me; I recognize the voices I hear today from the hard folks in the Republican Party; they are very similar to the Hard folks in the Left all those years ago. They wanted something awful.

So, Hilzoy, you go for it. Convince them. I think you are wrong about Bush. But, I hope rational discourse works. I'm done for now.

Easy for you to say, since you've never misjudged a political situation.

Never on that scale, 100,000 Dead Iraqis, lord knows how many wounded or crippled, or how much genetic damage all the DU we have dumped thru out the countryside will cause.

1,500+ Dead Americans, 12,000+ Wounded, lord knows how many crippled for life.

The problem with that is that those were the stakes in either case. By which I mean that if the arguments for the war had been valid opposition would have been a mistake as least as big as that, probably bigger. Your claim is like saying that, while you may have bet wrong some of the time, you never have when the amount of money at stake has been large. Unconvincing, I'd say.

The problem with that is that those were the stakes in either case. By which I mean that if the arguments for the war had been valid opposition would have been a mistake as least as big as that, probably bigger.

How exactly was Iraq ever a threat to the US? It had no air force, no navy and no ability to project force outside of it's borders.

In re the Downing Street memo and kenB’s 9:30 comment:

What does anyone make of the comment by Wolfowitz (spring 2003?) that the WMD rationale was “the one thing we could all agree on”?

Muslims had to pay for Bin Ladden's move.

The rest of the world sees this “coalition of the willing” for the paranoid and greedy lynch mob it is.

Since the main “darky” was off limits, the other “darkys” could pay for it.

I think this is called “moral certainty” .

Bernard Yomtov,

Thanks for the call (9:08). My question was more the result of a biased assumption and an emotional response (apologies to von) than a desire to ask an honest and non-rhetorical question.

kenB: but imagine for a minute that the memo suggested instead that Bush & friends were still hoping for a peaceful resolution -- would that on its own have been "proof" enough to convince you of their sincerity?

It would certainly have made me look at Bush's public behavior (moving the goalposts, etc) in a new light. As best I recall, at the time that memo was written, several of my American friends were hopeful that the whole threat-of-war was a gigantic bluff to let the US inspectors finish the job they started. Had the memo been solid on "we hope for a peaceful resolution" and "we must first get access to more information" it would have made me (at least) seriously consider that perhaps my friends were right: Bush did intend a gigantic bluff that got away with him. (At the time, I was respectful of their hopes; and I did hope that UN inspectors getting back into Iraq would change things.)


Since the main “darky” was off limits, the other “darkys” could pay for it.

Oh good grief, DQ, knock it off already.

Hilzoy: But that's because I am not convinced that he's sufficiently concerned about the truth to notice one way or the other, which is scary.

Well, yes: it sounds like you think Bush really is insane, if he literally cannot tell that he's lying.

"Well, yes: it sounds like you think Bush really is insane, if he literally cannot tell that he's lying."

Without arguing about Bush, with whom I have no telepathic contact, and thus prefer not to argue mind-reading conclusions (nor to, you know, defend), have you ever run into people whom you have some respect for whom, nonetheless, don't seem interested in the details of the truth of a particular debate that, nonetheless, you know perfectly well you are right and they are wrong about? But, yet, without concluding they are "insane," as opposed to, say, that they are wrong, or not clearly thinking about the issue?

I realize that it's hard to give G. W. Bush any benefit of any doubt, and I'm not much inclined to do so these days, but surely there's some excluded middle between "insane" and consciously lying, here and there? From time to time? (Yes, yes, I'm being hopelessly middle-of-the-road, etc., here, and therefore laughable.)

" surely there's some excluded middle between "insane" and consciously lying"

Yes, I suspect Hilzoy did imagine a middle of the road position between probity and insanity, namely the one explored in Harry Frankfurt's book "On Bull****". I quote from the editor's blurb:

"Bullshitting, as he notes, is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether it's true or false. The difference lies in the bullshitter's complete disregard for whether what he's saying corresponds to facts in the physical world: he "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.""

I suspect it was phrases like Frankfurt's that lay behind hilzoy's formulation.

"Yes, I suspect Hilzoy did imagine... [...] that lay behind hilzoy's formulation."

Did I miss Jesurgislac posting as her little-known pseudonym of "hilzoy"?

I have heard of Frankfurt, although this doubtless sounds more disrespectful than I feel after the number of essays on his work I've read (although not the book, alas, which I've neither been offered or asked a review copy of, nor otherwise afforded).

I'm going to write a book entitled 'On Grabassing', which should guarantee near-constant citing, regardless of content.

I don't recall, incidentally, what was the line at which Charles said he was going to accept results in Washington State (though I recall he stating it, and, incidentally, could a blog-owner please fix the search engine, and if no one feels inclined, could you please find someone who feels moved to bother, pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty please?; it just takes cutting and pasting a few lines of archive URL, I suspect, last I looked, as I last mentioned some time ago -- to be honest, I have no idea who is in charge here these days, and thus whom to hold responsible -- who feels up to stepping up?), along with suggesting that we all needed to do so elsewhere in 2000 and 2004, so I kinda just mention this in dropping.

Gary
While it is a bit of a pain, if you go to Google and click on advanced search, you can enter obsidianwings.blogs.com into the domain.
In fact, you simply type
site:obsidianwings.blogs.com
into google after your search terms, voila, you are set. As always, using quotes and minus signs can narrow down your search much faster.

The only caveat is don't search handles, because every "posted by: whoever" will come up in your search.

Tad: Yes, I suspect Hilzoy did imagine a middle of the road position between probity and insanity, namely the one explored in Harry Frankfurt's book "On Bull****". I quote from the editor's blurb:

Sure. But if Hilzoy is arguing that in private Bush is saying (as we know) "Let's attack Iraq!" and in public Bush is saying (as we know) "Let's hope that Saddam Hussein will let the US inspectors in and we won't have to make war on Iraq" and that Bush is absolutely unaware that there is any difference between the two statements, then Bush is insane. If he is sane, then he is lying.

"While it is a bit of a pain, if you go to Google and click on advanced search...."

...you'll find that in my very limited experience, it misses endless amounts of stuff. This is why I never adapted it as a personal search engine. Because, in my limited experience, it works very poorly for individual sites. I may, to be sure, merely be guilty of limited and faulty experience in this. (Also, when it works at all, it takes days to update.)

Because, in my limited experience, it works very poorly for individual sites.

Really? I admit it's not good for active threads, but anything that is finished (like Charles' WA gubernatorial musings) pop up pretty readily. (jftr I punched in Charles Bird Rossi)


Since the main “darky” was off limits, the other “darkys” could pay for it.

Oh good grief, DQ, knock it off already.

While I don't entirely disagree with the sentiment, it wasn't my observation. I can be plenty offensive on my own, I don't need anyone's help.

First off, to our loyal liberal commentators: please don't "lay off". One of the advantages of dealing with conflict every day (yes, Virginia, it's not all pumpkins and puppy dogs in Lawyer-land) is that you develop a pretty thick skin.

Second, to Jes (and others): I can't "admit" that Bush has been lying because I don't know whether Bush has been lying. Nor do I necessarily see goalpost shifting on his part. Here's what I do see:

1. Bush offered a variety of reasons to support the invasion of Iraq, and has emphasized different reasons based on his audience and the facts best known to him at the time. Indeed, as you can see from my November, 2002, quote (above), democracy building was a feature of the pre-war arguments; it wasn't all about WMDs.

2. I do think it reasonable to assume that Bush reached a decision that Saddam must go before publicly announcing it -- unless, that is, Saddam did some pretty extraordinary things (things that, as a practical matter, Saddam probably could not do and continue to run Iraq). I don't have a problem stating that Bush may have feigned more contemplation and deliberation then there actually was.

3. I'm still left with the nagging issue of what else could we have done with Iraq. The no-fly zones were becoming a farce. Sanctions were increasiningly unpopular, and there was a great deal of talk about lifting them. In other words, the containment policy -- which turned out to be fairly successful -- was about to disappear. Yet, Saddam remained Saddam, and there should be very little doubt in anyone's mind that he would move to acquire WMDs at his earliest opportunity.

4. In short, it seemed (and still seems) that the Iraqi status quo was untenable, and that there were no good options. All that existed were a range of less bad and more bad options. This is not to say that invasion was the least-bad option; but it is to say that leaving Saddam in place would not have generated an abundance of happy-faces or make us more secure.

5. All that said, the conduct of the War in Iraq has been hopelessly mismanaged. We tried to fight on the cheap, and we're in real danger of losing. I can excuse the failure to find WMDs on bad intelligence; I can explain the Bush Administration's occasional overstatements on the basis of realpolitik. I cannot, however, excuse or explain incompetence -- which is why, ultimately, I voted for Kerry. (Despite the fact that I have serious doubts that he would have been any better.)


The sentiment, among many pro-war types, was exactly that!!!

ALL Muslim nations were so screwed up, that they all had to reform themselves for Bin Ladden’s crime. And the United States was the self-righteous nation to get the ball going.

And we were prepared to act like a nation of hillbillies from the cast of Deliverance">http://www.geocities.com/vicecitysunderground/flix/deliverance.html">Deliverance .

"C'mon boy! Squeal like a piggy!" was our battle cry.

Not exactly the right forfula for liberty and justice.

A better background on my metaphor:

Deliverance.

Most lynch mobs were filled with self-righteous anger, when they went to get their “justice” and “protect their way of life” among the darker members of the republic.

And if some blood-lust could be quenched while protecting their mis-understood culture…so be it.

Excellent taste in strawmen, Neo.

"1. Bush offered a variety of reasons to support the invasion of Iraq, and has emphasized different reasons based on his audience and the facts best known to him at the time. Indeed, as you can see from my November, 2002, quote (above), democracy building was a feature of the pre-war arguments; it wasn't all about WMDs."

As said best by Julian Sanchez, if you wanted a red sports car with a hot sound system for $30K, and ended up with a (rust) red junker, with a hot sound system, for $200K, the fact that the sound system was indeed good wouldn't count for much. And that analogy should be extended to that the car and the sound system were 'hot' in the 'stolen' sense, and you're now in a mess of trouble, from which you won't get out soon.

"2. I do think it reasonable to assume that Bush reached a decision that Saddam must go before publicly announcing it -- unless, that is, Saddam did some pretty extraordinary things (things that, as a practical matter, Saddam probably could not do and continue to run Iraq). I don't have a problem stating that Bush may have feigned more contemplation and deliberation then there actually was. "

IIRC, Bush, in various speeches, offered Saddam a chance to avoid war - all he had to do is to disarm.
If Bush had decided to go to war at that point, then he was certainly deceiving the American people about matters of war, which makes him worthy of impeachment and removal from office, at the very least.

"3. I'm still left with the nagging issue of what else could we have done with Iraq. The no-fly zones were becoming a farce. Sanctions were increasiningly unpopular, and there was a great deal of talk about lifting them. In other words, the containment policy -- which turned out to be fairly successful -- was about to disappear. Yet, Saddam remained Saddam, and there should be very little doubt in anyone's mind that he would move to acquire WMDs at his earliest opportunity. "


4. In short, it seemed (and still seems) that the Iraqi status quo was untenable, and that there were no good options. All that existed were a range of less bad and more bad options. This is not to say that invasion was the least-bad option; but it is to say that leaving Saddam in place would not have generated an abundance of happy-faces or make us more secure."

I wouldn't accept the argument that the status quo had significant problems, as an excuse for screwing up things by a factor of 100.

"5. All that said, the conduct of the War in Iraq has been hopelessly mismanaged. We tried to fight on the cheap, and we're in real danger of losing. I can excuse the failure to find WMDs on bad intelligence; I can explain the Bush Administration's occasional overstatements on the basis of realpolitik. I cannot, however, excuse or explain incompetence -- which is why, ultimately, I voted for Kerry. (Despite the fact that I have serious doubts that he would have been any better.)"

Von, by now it's clear that any bad intelligence was ordered up by the Bush administration (extra stinky, with a side of aged BS). That's not an excuse for the administration, or its supporters; it's an additional crime, and an additional reason to distrust the honesty of anybody who continues to support the administration.

They didn't even bother to secure suspected WMD sites, which implies that the administration either knew that they didn't exist, or that they were criminally incompetant.

And the administration's 'overstatements' strikes back at #1. Take away any involvement of Saddam in 9/11, and any WMD threat by Saddam to the US, and the case (to the American people) for putting 100K+ troops in Iraq collapses. The smoking gun mushroom cloud of propaganda wasn't an incidental; it was central to the fraud.


Von, by now it's clear that any bad intelligence was ordered up by the Bush administration

And if there had been good intelligence, it likewise would have been ordered up by the Bush administration. Intel doesn't just deliver itself, you know.

Von: Bush offered a variety of reasons to support the invasion of Iraq, and has emphasized different reasons based on his audience and the facts best known to him at the time.

Well, that's another possibility. When Bush claimed there was a real risk that Saddam Hussein might have nuclear weapons, he wasn't lying: it's just that Bush staffers have no idea how to use Google, and therefore Bush was seriously uninformed. Yes. So, okay, your argument is "Bush wasn't lying: he was badly served. He thought the guff he was peddling was true." Perhaps staffers were lying to him?

Indeed, as you can see from my November, 2002, quote (above), democracy building was a feature of the pre-war arguments; it wasn't all about WMDs.

Except that - again, as we now know, from the Downing Street memo, and as was clear from at least six months into the occupation - "democracy building" was not anything the Bush administration had actually thought about it in any more than hot air terms.

But, again, Bush may not have known this. So, again, not actually lying: he was just being lied to by his staff. (None of whom have actually been fired as a result of this consistent program of lying to the President.)

do think it reasonable to assume that Bush reached a decision that Saddam must go before publicly announcing it

Okay, fair enough: you don't have a problem with Bush lying about his decision to invade Iraq. That is rational. (I don't agree with it: but it's more rational than asserting that you don't know that Bush lied. We know he did: you've just acknowledged that.)

I'm still left with the nagging issue of what else could we have done with Iraq.

I can think of a number of options, none of which - I can pretty much guarantee - would have entailed killing thousands of Americans or over a hundred thousand Iraqis, or all the other horrible consequences of deciding to invade instead. Many of them have been described in detail on anti-war sites.

All that existed were a range of less bad and more bad options. This is not to say that invasion was the least-bad option; but it is to say that leaving Saddam in place would not have generated an abundance of happy-faces or make us more secure.

And - as I think you implicitly acknowledge - invading Iraq and occupying it has not generated "an abundance of happy-faces" and has, it is generally acknowledged, probably made the US less secure.

Point 5 we agree on completely, so leave that aside. I will acknowledge that I didn't expect Bush & Co to make such a mess of the invasion and occupation: to take just two instances - (A) with all their talk of WMD, it would have seemed a basic CYA act to ensure that all known stockpiles of WMD were secured, and that an action team was ready to secure freshly-discovered stockpiles. But, as we knew back in October, no such plan was made - either because Bush & Co knew, by the time of the invasion, that there were no such stockpiles as they had repeatedly claimed, or because Bush & Co are so hopelessly incompetent they are unfit to run a whelk stall. And (B) it would have seemed just a basic immediately post-invasion to have units ready to carry out basic policing tasks and prevent looting, rather than have the army actively encourage looting of government ministries (except of course the Ministry of Oil) and refuse to protect hospitals and museums even when asked.

(A) wasn't just an obvious contingency: it was the public rationale for the invasion. (B) was an obvious contingency that the merest amateur could have pointed out. I never expected Bush & Co to be so incompetent that they didn't even think to cover their tracks over (A). But then, given that so many people were so willing to overlook even that failure, I guess they were right: they didn't have to bother.

SO, just to be clear on what I meant about Bush above (since, whatever Quine said, I do not have to mindread myself):

The passage from Frankfurt that Tad quoted does sum up my view: "Bullshitting, as he notes, is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether it's true or false. The difference lies in the bullshitter's complete disregard for whether what he's saying corresponds to facts in the physical world: he "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are." (Fwiw, it's odd to see frankfurt getting all this celebrity for this essay, since I first encountered him as the author of essays like 'Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person', and as the inspiration for a whole cottage industry involving the creation of what are called 'Frankfurt-style counterexamples' by people who write on freedom of the will.)

To engage in pure speculation for a moment: I think a couple of things are crucial to George Bush's psychology. One is that he was, for years, the disappointing son of a famous father, and he plainly both minded this and did not react to it by e.g. sitting down and thinking: OK, then, how can I become less disappointing, since it matters so much to me? I have known people like this, and since my extended family made it possible that I might become one of them, I devoted a lot of thought to the question: what are they doing? and how can I avoid it? Bush reminds me a lot of them, especially in his early years.

There's the oscillation between attempts to emulate one's father in what I think of as the wrong ways (going to the same school, getting into the same industry, etc., to a much greater degree than could be predicted by chance; not: trying to figure out how to live one's own life in a genuinely impressive way) and conduct that it's hard not to see as attempts to torpedo the comparison or escape from its burdens (alcoholism and the various bits of unfortunate behavior that resulted from it); also, the willingness to use his father's connections to get by, and to let himself be seen largely as his father's son, because (I generally suspect) people like this are really unsure how they could function without those props, while simultaneously striking out against them in various ways, since this stuff really is corrosive to one's self-esteem. And so forth.

Now: if one is a person like this, among one's most basic motives is: to avoid the recognition of being a disappointment, of having failed to measure up. This is a motivation that at times requires the active suppression of the truth, and that more generally gets one into the business of trying to present a good front, even to yourself, at the expense of serious and realistic self-examination (e.g., of asking yourself: so am I, in fact, a disappointment? if so, what should I do about it?) It takes a kind of confidence to examine yourself while being open to the possibility of really bad answers, and people like this do not have that kind of confidence, though they often have a kind of bluster instead. This motive, in other words, is exactly the sort of motive that leads to bullshit, in Frankfurt's sense. (As does alcoholism, with its many and various attempts to conceal the truth, from oneself and from others.)

Now: lots of people undergo temptations of this sort, and many of them get over it one way or another. One thing that can help you get over the hostility to truth is the recognition that you are at risk of really, truly failing, and failing completely. That thought, as they say, concentrates the mind, and forces one to look honestly at one's situation and say: OK, what is the truth here? and what do I really and truly have to do to avoid this failure?

But because of his background, Bush never really had to encounter a moment like this, at least not in either financial or social terms. He could always "fail up", and when you fail up, you can kid yourself about what's really going on. The closest thing, I think, was when Laura gave him the ultimatum about drinking. That was for real, and he couldn't bullshit his way out of it. But that didn't require him to really, seriously think about what was actually going on, in the way that (for instance) trying to figure out how to avoid bankruptcy might. The answer was simple and straightforward: stop drinking. So this ultimatum gave him a reason to stop drinking, but not a reason to think seriously about what was actually true and what was just (in Frankfurt's sense) bullshit.

For these (and other) reasons, I tend to think of Bush as someone who is fundamentally defensive towards, not curious about, reality; and as someone whose basic modus operandi is, in Frankfurt's sense, bullshit, not truthfulness. I think that he was almost certainly lying about being open to the possibility of non-military solutions in Iraq, but I am much less clear on whether he was lying about the reasons for military intervention, because I am not sure that that wasn't just, in Frankfurt's sense, bullshit. And I'm not sure he had any clear conception of the reasons, as opposed to various lines of bullshit.

I should also say something that I should have said earlier, namely: I really do not regard this as exoneration. I think that there are people in whom one can excuse this sort of attitude towards the truth. Children leap to mind. But we expect adults to have some concern for the accuracy of what they say, and if they don't, that's not any sort of excuse; in its way, it's a lot more damning than a real lie. Moreover, the more responsibility you assume, the more obvious is the question, am I really doing the right thing here? Have I thought it through? If not, shouldn't I? And for this reason, the more responsibility you have, the less excusable this sort of attitude towards the truth is.

Analogy: when, in some corporate scandal, the CEO says: heavens, I had no idea what was going on in my company, I tend to think: if what's at issue is something tiny, like the fact that someone once stole a paperclip, then this is a good response. A CEO is not supposed to be literally omniscient. But if what's at issue is (for instance) the fact that your company said for years that it was profitable, but only because creative accounting allowed it to conceal the fact that it was hemorrhaging money, then this supposed "excuse" says much worse things about you than the claim that you did know would say. If you did know, then you are a liar. If you didn't, however, you are a complete and total failure as a CEO, since it ought to be as basic as breathing that a CEO should know the basic financial situation of his or her company. Moreover, the idea that this is an 'excuse' shows that you don't take your responsibilities seriously at all.

Likewise here. Lying is one moral failing. Having no real regard for the truth at all is another, especially in someone who is old enough to know better, and who has assumed a truly enormous set of responsibilities. I think the second is far worse. I should have been clearer about that.

"I can think of a number of options, none of which - I can pretty much guarantee - would have entailed killing thousands of Americans or over a hundred thousand Iraqis, or all the other horrible consequences of deciding to invade instead. Many of them have been described in detail on anti-war sites."

Fortunately, since this is a topic everyone agrees upon, that description makes solutions so obvious, they simply need not be described here, nor any cites given, on this site where everyone reads and agrees with all "anti-war" sites, which we all agree provide preferable solutions in detail.

Although possibly there's a flaw in the above paragraph. Possibly. (A careful reader might even note that this doesn't necessarily suggest that I, in fact, necessarily disagree, although a less careful reader might find that evidence of either my personal dishonesty or writerly incompetence, rather than evidence of my simply suggesting elaboration.)

With respect to "what do do" with Iraq:

I defer to Gary Farber's perception,
and adopt the same as my own objection --
if the record would so reflect.

Von: and adopt the same as my own objection --
if the record would so reflect.

To be honest, I simply didn't want to create an even longer comment with a list of all the possible alternatives to war. That those alternatives existed, I assumed to be a known fact, but one should never assume....

If the record will permit, I will go write this up for my own livejournal, and link to it from here. ;-)

And, the record now "clear," I will now take it one step further:

Tell me what we should have done with Iraq, knowing that "doing nothing" would most likely have resulted in Saddam-led Iraq, unconstrained by sanctions and/or no-fly zones. Really: I'm interested.*

von

*Again, for those interested in debating persons other than me: Please recall that I, for one, have not said (with the benefit of hindsight) that war was the "least bad" option. Indeed, I rather suggested to the contrary.

von: I thought, at the outset, that Saddam had WMD, although (as I've said earlier) I came to doubt this before the war began. I also thought he was revolting and vile, and that the world would be a much better place if he were not in it. On the other hand, he did not pose anything like a direct threat to the US, nor was he involved with al Qaeda -- and the idea that he was always seemed to me bizarre, both because of their huge ideological differences but also, more importantly, because I did not think that Saddam would have tolerated a group so obviously uncontrollable operating in an area he controlled, since he wanted to control everything.

That said, I saw nothing wrong with continuing the regime of intrusive inspections. Especially after we got Blix in, inspections were doing a really good job of containing Saddam, and I never saw why we should do anything else, given the costs. And to me, the costs very specifically included both the costs in terms of our future freedom of action (military occupied with Iraq, reputation squandered, etc.), and also the costs of taking our focus off al Qaeda.

I thought we should have maintained the Blix inspections, while taking advantage of the time that gave us to really do a good job of reconstructing Afghanistan, which would have been both the right thing to do, a prudent thing to do in terms both of denying al Qaeda one of its favored bases and of the drug trade, but also a very good thing in terms of Middle Eastern public opinion. (Do a great job of reconstructing it; then leave, attaching no strings. That would confound anti-Americans in the region at large, and especially in neighboring countries like, oh, Pakistan and Iraq, whose people would come into contact with Afghans and hear about it firsthand.)

To the reply, but maintaining the inspections would just have kicked the can down the road, I say, so what? With the Blix inspections in place, Saddam would not have been able to take advantage of delay to strengthen his position; it would have been pure delay. And time would have been on our side. Saddam is mortal. We had other things to do. And the costs of invading were enormous.

To the further reply, but we only got those concessions by moving all our troops into position etc., I say, what good are threats if, once made, you think you have to act on them, whether it makes sense or not? I would much rather have moved the troops into position and then moved them out again whenever it made sense to do so than have the war we have now.

Me:
" Von, by now it's clear that any bad intelligence was ordered up by the Bush administration"

Slartibartfast:
"And if there had been good intelligence, it likewise would have been ordered up by the Bush administration. Intel doesn't just deliver itself, you know."

Slartibartfast, I meant ordered up in the sense of ordering that the analysts agree with pre-ordained conclusions.

Now, this is a tricky point, and I wouldn't blame you for missing it; my humor tends to ironic, and most people miss it. However, the next phrase was:
"(extra stinky, with a side of aged BS)", which should have made my point clear.


Perhaps you didn't see it? Perhaps your cut-and-paste just happened to miss a crucial part of what I wrote?

In all seriousness, I do think that "do nothing" would have been a better starting point than what we got. But even better...

My own personal concern is the arrest and public trial of Osama bin Laden and as many members of his organization as possible. That should always have been job #1. And doing it right should have been a much larger engagement with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, along with the continuing rooting out of Al Qaeda, and its network of sympathizers and supporters. I think that a genuine commitment to Afghanistan would have radically changed our options with regard to Iran - much better intelligence, and the presence of a lot of folks in position to handle things like the distribution of aid to the needy.

On the other hand, that wouldn't have happened under Bush. I don't see any reason to believe they'd have handled Afghanistan any better than Iraq. Which makes me fall back on "do nothing" as a fairly good alternative, until such time as a competent and interested-in-results administration comes along.

Slartibartfast, I meant ordered up in the sense of ordering that the analysts agree with pre-ordained conclusions.

You mean that Bush ordered the fabrication of said intel before he even became President? Or was there some radical shift in the story regarding Iraq that happened while I wasn't paying attention?

Perhaps you didn't see it? Perhaps your cut-and-paste just happened to miss a crucial part of what I wrote?

I try to respond to statements that have something resembling clear meaning. "Extra stinky" and "Aged BS" don't fit the description, although "aged" in this context might be worthy of pursuing.

I second Hilzoy's 12:36 PM post.

Oh, and BTW:

Economic Left/Right: 0.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.79

Although I found myself disagreeing with statements whos meaning changed radically depending on what word I chose to emphasize. So maybe I'm actually closer to Hitler.

I think the test might be better if there was another option for an answer; maybe something like "That's a value judgement that I would not impose on others". But I don't feel strongly enough about that to design my own test.

Slarti, your comment brings into focus my other objection to that quiz, and many like it: often I'd like to say "I want to do that...but not for the reasons you gave". Decoupling policy and motives would help clarify a lot of issues, I think.

Slarti: You mean that Bush ordered the fabrication of said intel before he even became President?

I don't know if I speak for anyone else, Slarti, when I say: "Huh?" But I sincerely don't get what you're getting at, unless your argument is that Bush - intending to invade Iraq, and knowing he would be appointed President - had infiltrated supporters into the various intel agencies to give him the right answers to support his decisions rather than as much information as possible from which to make his decisions... but now this is beginning to sound like a bad movie, a worse one than Joss Whedon would ever make...

so I'll just say "Huh?"

unless your argument is that Bush

This is not my argument, Jesurgislac. Barry made some comments to the effect that Bush had Iraq intel manufactured to order, and I was simply wondering how he'd done that without the benefit of time travel. Because that's the only explanation I can come up with for the notion that Iraq had WMDs already having been in place for years when Bush took the oath of office.

"I don't know if I speak for anyone else, Slarti, when I say: "Huh?" But I sincerely don't get what you're getting at...."

My bet would be on those whole "Bill Clinton attacked Iraq because of WMD" and "Bill Clinton more or less supported both the general idea of invading Iraq, and the need to win there" notions that tend to, I note, often be conveniently forgotten by my fellow Clinton voters. (Note: Clinton leaves, thankfully, plenty of room to club Bush over both execution and other minor details.)

I could be all wrong, of course, as to whatever it is Slarti had in mind.

"I don't know if I speak for anyone else, Slarti, when I say: "Huh?" But I sincerely don't get what you're getting at...."

My bet would be on those whole "Bill Clinton attacked Iraq because of WMD" and "Bill Clinton more or less supported both the general idea of invading Iraq, and the need to win there" notions that tend to, I note, often be conveniently forgotten by my fellow Clinton voters. (Note: Clinton leaves, thankfully, plenty of room to club Bush over both execution and other minor details.)

I could be all wrong, of course, as to whatever it is Slarti had in mind.

Slartibartfast, perhaps you weren't paying attention in 2002-03. Or have caught the same 'causality disorder' which we've seen affect the Nixon apologists.

During the Long Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity that lay between the Bush Reigns, there had been a quite reasonable belief that Saddam had some chemical weapons, maybe bio, and nukes were alway a low-level worry. Which is another thing entirely from a belief strong to require invasion. For those of us who are members of the reality-based community, at least.

During 2003 an Evul Librul UN-ist named Hans Blix, with some UN comrades (if you know what I mean, wink wink) went into Iraq, and checked out a bunch of sites which were high on the US intelligence list of suspected WMD sites. The results, as in 'new data', didn't support the previous beliefs (I believe that the phrase 'chicken shit was removed by the editors of the report'). One technical phrase for this would be 'dry wells', something that Bush II was very familiar with. These were supposed to be the most likely sites, so this was disturbing to those of us in the reality-based community. Those of you in the faith-based community were, of course, not bothered in the slightest.

The Bush administration also came up with new novelty items, such as the aluminum tubes, attempted niger yellow-cake purchases, and the really great, highly deniable phrase 'British Intelligence has learned'.

A music teach demonstated to me, way back in junior high, how important rhythm is to a piece of music - it makes all of the difference in the world. Similarly, understanding the timeline of things can be very important, as well.

Those of you in the faith-based community were, of course, not bothered in the slightest.

Ease up, Barry. While you're easing up, I'm going to try to subtract the content-free invective from what you wrote and perhaps respond. I sincerely hope that your point doesn't reduce to something like "we went to war over aluminum tubes and yellowcake".

Because that's the only explanation I can come up with for the notion that Iraq had WMDs already having been in place for years when Bush took the oath of office.

There's subsequent bad intel, however -- e.g. the fiasco involving the aluminum tubes and supposed Iraqi centrifuge designs -- that is specific, WMD-related and not found prior to Bush's oath. Don't confuse the general assertions re Iraq's WMD programs found in, say, 1999 (that is, post-bombing) with the specific assertions being stovepiped post-9/11.

There's subsequent bad intel, however

Sure, I'm not disputing that. There was bad intel before 9/11, too, that went accepted as fact until events showed otherwise.

I defer to Gary Farber's perception,
and adopt the same as my own objection --
if the record would so reflect.

Haiku are precise;
Learn to count syllables, von -
Please try that again.

Sure, I'm not disputing that. There was bad intel before 9/11, too, that went accepted as fact until events showed otherwise.

Assuming you're talking about WMD, "Events" == Hans Blix's inspections, though; the invasion of Iraq and subsequent explorations only confirmed what was already known (or, to be more accurate, what had been deduced from what was already known) prior to March 2003.

or, to be more accurate, what had been deduced from what was already known

I take issue with "deduced"; I'd say that some had made that conclusion, while others declined to make that conclusion. The idea that Iraq had destroyed its unaccounted-for materials without the required UN oversight was not all that popular even in the (D) party, as I recall.

von and hilzoy, regarding the "status quo" and "intrusive inspections,"

A scenario I don't see discussed, but that seems at least plausible to me, is that with intrusive inspections backed up by U.S. troops on the border, it might have come to light that really Saddam didn't have much of anything in the way of WMD.

A question has been posed repeatedly, usually in the context of explaining why "everyone thought Saddam had WMDs": why was Saddam playing a game of cat and mouse if he really had disarmed? He could have avoided the war that way. As I recall it, Colin Powell (or maybe Condoleeza Rice) said something like this, contrasting the nuclear disarmament of South Africa with the obstructionism of Iraq.

The best answer I know is that much of Saddam's power within Iraq rested on the belief that he could use WMDs against his own population if necessary to retain power. If that bubble had been popped, he might well have been deposed without the need for an attack by the U.S.

That result would have been a real triumph for President Bush.

von: “All that said, the conduct of the War in Iraq has been hopelessly mismanaged. We tried to fight on the cheap, and we're in real danger of losing.”

If one accepts the argument that the US went to Iraq for reasons of security against a dangerous, otherwise uncontrollable (by means other than military, a blind spot in American problem solving and a hallmark of Cold War thinking) bad man, where it would fight a short war, set up a stable democratic government and then leave, then yes, the war has “been hopelessly mismanaged.” If the reasons were control of Iraqi resources and regional hegemony with the US’s principal imperial rival in mind, China, then the war is going less poorly.

There seems to be a tendency by many from both the Right and Left to dismiss the Administration’s public arguments for the war but then to use those very arguments as a reference point to explain why the US is “failing.” For example, if the illustrations of US behavior in Iraq that Jeurgislac offers above are legitimate, why does one then judge the war by a different standard instead of asking what this behavior might tell them about the reasons for the war? I appreciate that American exceptionalism is an article of faith for many, but such a perspective works to inhibit a thorough understanding of this war.

For the looting question, this was not an example of poor planning. The US military knows very well that this sort of thing occurs. They have at least the recent example of Panama in which to refer.

Although I don’t agree with the way Don Quijote and NeoDude framed it, the white man’s burden element of this war is pretty strong.

As far as the non-military options to the problem of Saddam are concerned, it was not so much that no one offered any or that a military solution was necessarily the least bad option, but that they did not receive the same treatment nor did they have the rhetorical power or influence among the American people (why?) of the military solution offered. Appeasement and negotiation were roundly trashed by the Administration, Neo-cons, and many others from both the Left and Right in the lead-up to the war – the US did not want to appear as a Chamberlain.

What exactly is wrong with a “Saddam-led Iraq”? Was there nothing that could have been done to contain Saddam other than military force? Why the tendency to view Saddam as an irrational actor? This appreciation is similar to the excuse often heard in military circles that the only thing the Iraqis understand is force, which is a justification for its use, not an accurate reflection of Iraqi national character (this argument not infrequently pops up when the US is dealing militarily with racial “others” or third-world nations). Assessments of Saddam by both the British and the US from his emergence in the Ba’ath Party to just prior to his invasion of Kuwait paint a different picture of the man than we have gotten since (“I should judge him, young as he is, to be a formidable, single-minded and hard-headed member of the Ba'athist hierarchy, but one with whom, if only one could see more of him, it would be possible to do business.” - from a telegram from the British ambassador to Baghdad, Dec 1969.). But now he has morphed into an irrational boogeyman who “we all agree” needed to be removed or could only be dealt with by military means. While this may indeed be the case, I am suspicious.

Ral,

Indeed. How was Saddam to project the impression to neighboring nations, and to his own people (he wants to remain in power, of course), that Iraq was still a militarily formidable nation if he was supposedly emasculated by UN?

Raj, Saddam did (laregly) cooperate with UN inspectors. He released (IIRC) 12,000 pages of documents, 8,000 of which were so sensitive that the Bush administration grabbed them, lest the wrong eyes see them (what I called 'Saddam-level clearance', which US citizens don't have).

Slart, as for the theory that Saddam didn't have WMD's being unpopular amongst Democratic politicians, please review your decision theory.

Ok, done. Next?

"Ok, done. Next?"

This couldn't possibly be a response anyone finds unsatisfactory or unresponsive. In fact, no one could ever find that sort of response or style unresponsive or unsatisfactory. In fact, one could make a huge number of insults, and then cover them with such a response. In fact, I'm damn sure I could make quite a few number of statements that this sort of thing covers, and yet you might not be happy with them. Why? Done. Next?

Haiku are precise;
Learn to count syllables, von -
Please try that again.

Eh, ain't a haiku. Just a rhyming thingamakig.

Incidentally, I'm paraphrasing an actual exchange between counsel and judge in federal District Court -- before Judge Hinojosa of the Southern District of Texas (McAllen Division -- not a bad Sheraton Four Points in town, as such things go). It was a moment of spontaneous poetry, from the best lawyer with whom of I've ever had the privilege of working.

I think given his abrasiveness up to and including the comment I wrote that in response to, I'm being the very model of decorum, Gary. Besides, what sort of response would you suggest might be appropriate to "please review your decision theory"?

Gary,

I think its called "moral certainty"

Gary Farber: ...(although not the book, alas, which I've neither been offered or asked a review copy of, nor otherwise afforded).

Gary, you can read a long excerpt here (perhaps you have already done so).

I'm sorry, Slartibartfast; I need to make things more explicit.

Many people assumed that Saddam had *something* which could be called "WMD's";
which, I think that I need to add, doesn't by itself justify an invasion. Publicly opposing the invasion, or the idea that Saddam had WMD's, carried risk. Applying a minimax loss function explains the rest.

Back on topic, the other test...

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -5.00
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.69

As expected. Well, at least I'm in good company (the Dalai Lama) according to the diagram.

"Haiku are precise;
Learn to count syllables, von -
Please try that again."

Electrons swim the summer wind
Between your terminal and wikipedia
Returning, they carry word of Jiyuritsu

Publicly opposing the invasion, or the idea that Saddam had WMD's, carried risk.

Every position carries risk. The question of whether the risk is considerable, though, probably need substantiation.

Applying a minimax loss function explains the rest.

I think you need to elaborate, here. It may explain it to you.

I'll try to explain it even more clearly. This will be my last attempt for you.

Publicly objecting to the war carried a signficant risk of being tossed out of office if the war went 'well'. This has been demonstrated quite thoroughly by the 2004 election, where Bush and the GOP won, even though their predictions were, how should I put it, 'no longer operative', and explaining them away was a thriving business.

So there was quite an incentive for Democratic politicians to go along with the administration.

Publicly objecting to the war carried a signficant risk of being tossed out of office if the war went 'well'.

So, it's your contention that the war was going "well" by last November? Interesting; this is probably going to be a point of disagreement between you and the more liberal commentators here.

So there was quite an incentive for Democratic politicians to go along with the administration.

Of course, the incentive appearing after the decision to go to war makes it look as if you've got your time sense all mixed up. Seriously, if Democrats knew that opposing the war could get them oustered, why take half measures? And is the possibility of losing one's office ever a decent excuse for abdication of one's principles?

This is simply supposition. Dressing it up as an inevitable result of some optimization process doesn't make it any less of a supposition.

Slartibartfast:
"So, it's your contention that the war was going "well" by last November? Interesting; this is probably going to be a point of disagreement between you and the more liberal commentators here."

Slart, are you capable of non-deceptive comments?
By this point, the idea that I'm not be clear or that you are misinterpreting is gone; you are clearly being dishonest.

In terms of time sense, people are able to anticipate likely future results. I would be asking why you can't perceive that, but that your perception is clearly not the issue here.

It was obvious **beforehand** that if the war went well, that opposition would be dangerous. It was also a d*mn good bet **beforehand** that it'd take a major disaster to make pre-war opposition safe. As it turned out, a major disaster, in slow motion, wasn't enough; the GOP did very well in the 2004 election.

Nothing mysterious, just common sense and honesty.

Slart, are you capable of non-deceptive comments?
By this point, the idea that I'm not be clear or that you are misinterpreting is gone; you are clearly being dishonest.

Barry,
I think you have a point (the quotations around 'well' clearly require the reader to take it as a contrary to fact assertion), but I believe you could have made your point separately. I say this because I would prefer not to see you bounced from here.

Slart, are you capable of non-deceptive comments?

Are you calling me a liar, Barry?

Nothing mysterious, just common sense and honesty.

I agree! If everyone had simply voiced their views on the war instead of abdicating responsibility for their views by pasting them to some perceived future probable outcome, there wouldn't have been a problem. That said, I recall a great deal of opposition to the war from the very point that we committed ourselves. Where was the fear? If it had any effect at all, how could we tell? Is there anything at all to this supposition that you can hang your hat from? Any observable at all?

I say this because I would prefer not to see you bounced from here.

And I agree, mostly because I would prefer not to bounce him. Even temporarily.

calling folks "liars" is a bouncable offense here though...Barry, please stop short of that. Slarti has more than earned the right to have his opinion accepted as earnest.

Reading Barry's 7:24 comment, I thought of this:

There's a line from a new song out ("Road to Joy" by the band Bright Eyes) that goes, "So when you’re asked to fight a war that’s over nothing, It’s best to join the side that’s gonna win."

My response to that, otto, is "oops".

Edward_, I apologize to you, for causing you undeserved trouble, and abusing your hospitality.
I will refrain from calling people liars.

I got 83 on fiscal issues (strong conservative) and 68 on non-fiscal issues (moderate conservative). I'm still not sure whether the term "moderate conservative" is the same as saying "right-leaning moderate" or if moderate conservative is more conservative or what. I mean, can you classify john mccain, someone who is often termed a moderate, as a moderate conservative? He is pro-life, pro-war, pro-free trade, pro-death penalty, moderate-right on illegal immigration, strong fiscal conservative, and a little bit of a neocon.

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