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July 04, 2005

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It's too soon for Dems to put up their own competing policy ideas. Now is the time to let GOP policy do all the talking about the effectiveness of GOP ideas.

IIRC, the GOP's Contract with America was unveiled in September of 1994, just a few months before the election. Spring/Summer of 06 is the right time for Dems to pitch their vision.

Umm... Why *should* we want a political party with Big Ideas at all? I would much, much rather someone run on a platform of being a competent centrist (rather like the Bush/Gore platforms of 2000), than have a Big Idea to remake something.

You'll recall that it was Clinton's Big Idea to institute his health care plan that caused 1994. The GOP's Big Idea WRT Social Security could still lead to similar results. And on a simply practical levels, grand, sweeping policy decisions in the service of a Big Idea usually lead to a grand sweeping mess that is quite difficult to correct if they go wrong.

No Big Ideas!

i like how conservatives are strutting around calling themselves the party of Big Ideas.

black is the new white

Thanks for showing me I don't ever have to pay any attention to anything from opinionjournal.

And, really, if you went to the trouble of reading a few of the mainstream liberal blogs, you'd find a plethora of refutations of this meme. In my opinion, intellectual honesty behooves you to link to a couple along with your take.

Charles: Speaking of better ideas for ultimate victory in Iraq, Kenneth Pollack outlined five of them in the New York Times last Friday.

No offense, but Ken Pollack isn't exactly the most credible source on Iraq.

rilkefan: And, really, if you went to the trouble of reading a few of the mainstream liberal blogs...

Or, heck, even this one right here.

Bird Dog, you are a week behind Timmy. Just to add a few more statistics though from the poll:

While you are correct that the Republicans are at a robust 43%, and within the MOE of the Democrats, their "warm feeling" level is down 4% points since March. Using your metric, the Republicans strategy is also failing. Also, their polling had Hillary defeating Jeb, respondents saying that would vote for the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate for Congress in 2006, Bush with a 50% disapproval rating and only 36% believing that Bush has the country on the right track.

Somehow those findings escaped your story.

(Of course, Republicans should be talking about these ideas also.)

Ya think? 'Cause, you know, they're the party in power and could actually implement policy based on those ideas. They're the ones who have the ear of the President. They're the ones who are responsible for the current situation.

But you choose to write a post on what the Democrats aren't doing. Nice job.

I think what Charles was talking about was better ideas not big ideas,at least those are the words I saw. I would settle for just plain ideas but I won't sit on a pin cushion waiting for them. Charles didn't or wouldn't say so but Reid and Pelosi are stunningly pathetic. Apart from refining second guessing to an art form there's nothing there,and as for Biden,I suspect he's seen what Hilary is doing and feels he can hop in the pool and swim in the same direction. Always the plagiarist but at least he has good hair plugs. Mr Pollack appears sane therefore he will be ignored,in any case think tanks in Washington are to politcal inspiration what ice deliveries are to eskimoes,they get left outside the igloo.

Let's take a look at that OpinionJournal article.

As best we can tell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's main suggestion Tuesday night was that we spend more on veterans benefits.

Why the ridicule? You want to support the troops, how about starting by improving, rather than cutting, veterans' benefits? It might even help recruitment.

Besides, after Nicholson's billion dollar arithmetic mistake I don't think conservatives are too well-placed to criticize Democrats on the subject of veterans' benefits.

Former General Wesley Clark--a man who should have something valuable to say on the subject of waging modern war (he wrote a book with that title)--lamented that Iraq has become a recruiting and training ground for terrorists, as if Abu Musab al-Zarqawi only entered his current profession in April 2003. And as if jihadists aren't also still hitting us in Afghanistan, which is a campaign General Clark says he supports.
By the logic of Mr. Clark's critique, the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq immediately because the terrorists will then leave us alone.

This is a wild and shamefully dishonest analysis of Clark's statement. What he is saying is not that al-Zarqawi wouldn't be a terrorist. It is that he would have many many fewer recruits if Bush hadn't made such a mess of Iraq. There is no implication that withdrawal would stop terrorism. This is sheer mendacity on the part of OpinionJournal. Shocking, I know.

It is also unclear why the fact that jihadists are still hitting us in Afghanistan argues against Clark's views. The level is nowhere near that in Iraq, and would be even less than it is if we had paid proper attention to the country.

I think what Charles was talking about was better ideas not big ideas,at least those are the words I saw. I would settle for just plain ideas but I won't sit on a pin cushion waiting for them. Charles didn't or wouldn't say so but Reid and Pelosi are stunningly pathetic. Apart from refining second guessing to an art form there's nothing there,and as for Biden,I suspect he's seen what Hilary is doing and feels he can hop in the pool and swim in the same direction. Always the plagiarist but at least he has good hair plugs. Mr Pollack appears sane therefore he will be ignored,in any case think tanks in Washington are to politcal inspiration what ice deliveries are to eskimoes,they get left outside the igloo.

Using your metric, the Republicans strategy is also failing.

SD, the point is that the "no" campaign is not raising Democrats' numbers. In fact, they're going lower. Without putting out better ideas, the response from the general public is a pox on both, which really benefits no one.

And, really, if you went to the trouble of reading a few of the mainstream liberal blogs, you'd find a plethora of refutations of this meme.

Missing the point, rilke, which is that the leaders of the party are not refuting my "meme", they're reinforcing it. Kos (which is another leader of the party) is also on the "no" bandwagon, as I wrote in the earlier post. This is not small potatoes because they're by far the mostly highly trafficked left-of-center blog out there.

I think we are entering a time of political fragmentation in which neither party is coherant. The Republican's have seemed so, but few are comfortable with their dominanyt solutions for legitimate critiques.

More importantly I think the Republicans are entering into a point of fragmentation. There has been a great deal of bullying and hypocrisy on the right fringes and more moderate and principled individuals are drawing lines.

Just examples from the headlines of the last few days. How can one be uncomfortable with the recent Supreme Court decision on condemning property and being fully comfortable with a president who claimed his fiest success when Arlington Texas condemned land of unwilling land owners, paid them a fraction of value (a sum the president felt no need to meet despite court rulings,) floated bonds to finance the process and otherwise enriched individuals with inside connections. We are now getting this crony capitalism in Iraq. Almost none of the money authorized by Congreess for reconstruction has been used, instead Iraqi funds have paid for the work. Little of it was given to Iraqi firms. Indeed Iraqi cememt plants were blacklisted because no buyers had been found and they were thus officially government owned, thus politically incorrect and the list goes on and on with huge sums of missing money, questionable deals and projects Iraqis can't mantain.

It's going to make the UN oil for food scandal look innocent. And it will be hushed up and denied just as the right claims a very uneven support of decent governement (I won't use the word democracy) consistenmt with our past is somehow a new path. It isn't and declaring Egypt, saudi arabia, Pakistan (which sold nuclear technology to our enemeies)
"free" is nonsense, yet this is what NRO's hansenm claims, that he and his friends aer the only ones who satnd for justness against those nefarious Europeans.

The list goes on and on and the dogma is enforced by bullying. Given serious economic dysfunctions about to break, dysfunctions which (fairly unusually) the adminsitration has real responsibility for the orthodoxy is about to swept away, in which case both Dems and Republicans will not have a coherant central ideology. I'm not sure this is bad.


Wow. When did it become the Democrats' obligation to come up with a winning strategy in Iraq?

Did I wake up in an alt.u where Democrats control the WH, Senate and House?

Did I wake up in an alt.u where Republicans listen to Democratic ideas, and discuss them on the merits, and maybe even adopt a few?

Or am I still in the one where Democrats are reviled, mocked and ignored; where quotes attributed to them are misquotes, distortions, and outright lies?

Regarding the war in Iraq: If our troops are still there in '08, if the insurgency is still gaining in '08, if the US casualty count has topped 2500 by '08, my guess is that the GOP's claim that only the GOP can be trusted with national security will have gone the way of Humpty Dumpty, and not all the Rovian spin and all the media echo-chamber of that spin will be able to put Humpty together again.

That goes double if we're also fighting in Iran or Syria.

I'll even hazard a guess that another big terrorist attack on US soil won't help the GOP.

The problem isn't that "the GOP has all the big ideas and that Democrats don't have any." The problem is that all the GOP ideas suck. Big time.

Amen to Opus' 12:48 comment.

Rep: Social Security is going bankrupt. The trust fund is gone. We've got to put the money in private accounts to fix it.

Dem: I disagree with you. The most pessimistic projections say that 75% of benefits will be paid in fifty years, and full benefits until that time. The trust fund is backed by the full faith and credit of the US government. What exactly are the details of the President's plan?

Rep: Yeah? Where's YOUR plan? Where are YOUR ideas for fixing Social Security?

**************************************

Rep: We're going to attack Iraq to get rid of their weapons of mass destruction. We're going in with a lean fighting machine. We'll smash them, and be out of there in a few months.

Dem: We'd rather you go to the United Nations and get some international backing. We'd like to UN inspectors to verify that there are actually weapons before we commit our soldiers when we're trying to fix Afghanistan and get the terrorists

Rep: We're actually fighting for freedom and democracy. We're fighting terrorists in Iraq.

Dem: The terrorists are only there because we've screwed the pooch. They weren't there before. What little support we had from other countries is dwindling. We can't meet our recruiting goals, and our army is weakening. Every time we accidentally kill innocent Iraqis we encourage more people to become terrorists. And more than half of our country thinks the President got us into this situation dishonestly.

Rep: Yeah? You're just complaining! How would you fix it, smart guy?

**************************************

Rep: I know exactly where I'm going. Shut up and let me drive.

Dem: But you've just driven the car off a cliff and we're plunging to our certain doom

Rep: Yeah? Well, fine, you go ahead and steer if you think you're so smart!

Democrats have put out plenty of good ideas. Republicans are welcome to still as many more was they like. But this President has never honestly negotiated with Democrats, won't negotiate with himself...which means his public position is always my way of the highway til the last minute, so if he wants to pass Social Security reform or change plans in Iraq he need to public argue it out with the people who actually have the power to do something, the Republican Congress. But Democrats should never provide a couple votes of cover.

I mean we saw it this weekend, where so-called "moderate" Lindsay Graham says any SCOTUS nomination at or to the bare left of JR Brown should be acceptable to Democrats.

Those bipartisan Democrats need get to get a speculum and a smear. They must have been drunk.

Just to give a couple of concrete examples of bob's post (and to be a little more serious than my post above)...

When the $87B supplemental appropriation for the war came up in 2003, the Democrats tried to attach some restrictions. They wanted the $20B for Iraq to be a loan, not a gift (an arguable point), and wanted strict reporting requirements on monies spent on reconstruction. Got voted down. And all we ever heard was sneering about how Kerry "voted for it before he voted against it." He voted against it because he didn't want to write a blank check.

When the House passed a law making it a crime to take a minor across state lines for an abortion, Democrats tried to put in exceptions. For instance, a taxi driver might not know he was carrying a pregnant passenger and shouldn't be liable. Not only was it voted down, but Sensenbrenner put it in the record as the Democrats proposing an amendment to allow taxi drivers who were child molesters to get off scot free.

The Democrats have had a lot to say over the last few years. The President doesn't listen, the Republican leaders ignore and mock them, and the press doesn't report it. So I don't have much patience for posts like this about how all the Democrats do is say No. It's a good line, I suppose. But if all you're hearing is "No" you haven't been listening.

"As best we can tell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's main suggestion Tuesday night was that we spend more on veterans benefits.

Why the ridicule? You want to support the troops, how about starting by improving, rather than cutting, veterans' benefits? It might even help recruitment."

Because if that is the best you can come up with you have some pretty pathetic ideas.

"Wow. When did it become the Democrats' obligation to come up with a winning strategy in Iraq?"

This is precisely the whole problem Democrats have had on Iraq all along. When you are at war it is EVERYONE'S problem to contribute to winning strategy. When the decision for war was publically announced, Democrats could have been immensely useful in crticizing the prosecution of the war. That isn't what happened. What actually happened was the Democratic leadership went either silent, or complained about how we shouldn't have ever gone to war for almost two years. Far better for the country would have been a push to do more and do it more quickly once we had decided to go to war.

Saying that you didn't like the idea of invasion so screw it all may be morally gratifying from a Pharisitical point of view, but it is deeply wrong from an American citizenship point of view. The worst thing about it is that the strategy didn't even pay off for the Democrats. They didn't contribute anything to successfully prosecuting the war and they didn't even win politically.

And this is not blaming Democrats for how the war is going. Just a rant against the idea that Democrats should feel they don't need to contribute anything.

BTW is the comment box really tiny? I can only type a few words before wrapping.

Just to add to zmulls list - Democrats are advocating a commission to investigate treatment of detainees.

Bush is opposed of course, as he was to the 9/11 Commission. Who is saying "no," again?

"When the $87B supplemental appropriation for the war came up in 2003, the Democrats tried to attach some restrictions. They wanted the $20B for Iraq to be a loan, not a gift (an arguable point), and wanted strict reporting requirements on monies spent on reconstruction. Got voted down. And all we ever heard was sneering about how Kerry "voted for it before he voted against it." He voted against it because he didn't want to write a blank check. "

This is a great example of one of the Democrat's awful ideas. More accountability in spending is one thing. Making it a loan is another thing entirely--a horrible idea. The pairing of a good idea with a truly horrible one isn't particularly helpful.

It is also rather classic on the abortion issue.

Here is the text of the proposed statute in question: cite

See especially:

GENERALLY- Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly transports a minor across a State line, with the intent that such minor obtain an abortion, and thereby in fact abridges the right of a parent under a law requiring parental involvement in a minor's abortion decision, in force in the State where the minor resides, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

See also the exceptions already in the bill:

1) The prohibition of subsection (a) does not apply if the abortion was necessary to save the life of the minor because her life was endangered by a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

`(2) A minor transported in violation of this section, and any parent of that minor, may not be prosecuted or sued for a violation of this section, a conspiracy to violate this section, or an offense under section 2 or 3 based on a violation of this section.

See also the affirmative defenses provided on behalf of defendants:

It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for an offense, or to a civil action, based on a violation of this section that the defendant--

`(1) reasonably believed, based on information the defendant obtained directly from a parent of the minor, that before the minor obtained the abortion, the parental consent or notification took place that would have been required by the law requiring parental involvement in a minor's abortion decision, had the abortion been performed in the State where the minor resides; or

`(2) was presented with documentation showing with a reasonable degree of certainty that a court in the minor's State of residence waived any parental notification required by the laws of that State, or otherwise authorized that the minor be allowed to procure an abortion.

In short, the Democratic rider was unneeded to guard against the problem you present.

Sebastian:

I appreciate your point. But to me, the only sensible strategies involve a lot of international support.

We don't have enough soldiers on the ground, we aren't recruiting enough new ones -- a lot due to how the war was prosecuted -- where will they come from? If we had an infusion of troops from other countries that would be a major help.

We are spending a hell of a lot of money, and need more countries to share the burden -- but that means sharing the pie as well (contracts, bases, etc.)

We are being fought simultaneously by insurgents who don't trust us, and jihadist terrorists who just want to shoot Americans. Representatives from other countries give them a less clear target (yeah, some will shoot whomever they see, but some I think will be less happy about shooting people other than the hated Americans).

Also, with more support from other troops, and more coverage, you might up the recruiting numbers in the US.

But getting to a point where the rest of the world will help fix the problem requires the US eating a lot of crow and admitting mistakes. And not torturing people in secret prisons. And giving them open and public trials and letting innocent people go.

So you see my problem. Anytime we start trying to address the underlying problems, we're unpatriotic. Ask for international support and we're pussies and anti-American. Call for a draft, and it'll be used as a cudgel in the next election by the amoral cynics who got us into this mess.

How can we contribute anything when every utterance we make is treated as treason? (Bit of hyberbole, but not much, if you listen to talk radio at all).

Until President Bush starts admitting errors and firing those reponsible, we're stuck. And that's not the Democrats' fault.

sebastian: This is precisely the whole problem Democrats have had on Iraq all along. When you are at war it is EVERYONE'S problem to contribute to winning strategy.

Indeed. Unfortunately, Bush & Co weren't interested in anyone's contributions to a winning strategy except those that fitted their own Chicago Group style ideology. Any suggestions that (a) maybe it would be a good idea to have more troops on the ground (b) maybe it would be a good idea to let the UN inspectors finish the job of finding out if there are WMD (c) maybe it would be a good idea to have security to hand to secure weapons (d) maybe it would be a good idea to have rested/readied troops for peacekeeping there on the ground, instead of mininal numbers of tired battle-ready troops who weren't able to stop mass looting (e) maybe it would be a good idea to pay Iraqis to do reconstruction work (f) maybe it would be a good idea to start reconstruction work immediately, rather than mess around awarding contracts to big US corporations and wait for them to get their act together (it's being a long wait) ... and we're barely out of the first month of suggestions ignored by Bush.

They're the ones who are responsible for the current situation. But you choose to write a post on what the Democrats aren't doing. Nice job.

Touchy, opus. It's not like there haven't been commentaries here on what the Republicans are doing and not doing well enough. I count nine posts here in the last eight days specifically related to Iraq and what the administration is doing and not doing. Surely the Democrats can stand a little scrutiny regarding their strategy.

Who made those suggestions? I remember complaints that we were losing the ground war, but I don't remember Democrats asking for higher troop levels to be authorized. I remember whining about insufficient security, but I don't remember asking for more troops. I remember complaints about troop recruitment, but I don't remember any Democrats saying that we should put off the awful Medicare reform and instead raise troop pay. I remember attacks on Cheney via Halliburton, but I don't remember anyone suggesting other organizations which were capable of doing the work.

I also remember Democratic insistence that we should ignore Sadr while he was building up a terrorist movement and providing a dramatic example of exactly how the US was unwilling to engage against terrorism in Iraq. Why does Bush only listen to the Democrats bad ideas? ;)

"But getting to a point where the rest of the world will help fix the problem requires the US eating a lot of crow and admitting mistakes. And not torturing people in secret prisons. And giving them open and public trials and letting innocent people go.

So you see my problem. Anytime we start trying to address the underlying problems, we're unpatriotic. Ask for international support and we're pussies and anti-American. Call for a draft, and it'll be used as a cudgel in the next election by the amoral cynics who got us into this mess."

No I don't see your problem. Or rather I see it, but it isn't what you identify. Your problem is found here: "But getting to a point where the rest of the world will help fix the problem requires the US eating a lot of crow and admitting mistakes"

Counting on 'the rest of the world' is relying on a fantasy. The response of the 'the rest of the world' on Afghanistan over the past three years shows that the international community is either unwilling to give lots of help or is incapaable of giving it. If you are relying on the international community for your solution, you might as well just say "I hope God comes down from heaven and fixes everything". You can hope for miracles, but planning for them is stupid. The international community can't even get its act together on super-obvious threats like nuclear proliferation. Counting on it for things like Afghanistan or Iraq or the Sudan, or Zimbabwe or Ethiopia, is really failing to notice the state of the world. Europe could only deal with Bosnia because of US involvement. It can barely keep things together there now. And that is right on their doorstep. If your plan for Iraq is international involvement, it would be far more honest to say that you just give up, withdraw, and hope that the terrorists from there only kill a couple of million people in the next big attack against a US city.

This is precisely the whole problem Democrats have had on Iraq all along. When you are at war it is EVERYONE'S problem to contribute to winning strategy.

I'm a little curious about this proposition. You're saying that, although many of us opposed the war, suggested alternatives for war, offered suggestions for the improvement of the aftermath and occupation -- and have generally been denounced as traitors, unpatriotic and un-American for so doing -- it's nevertheless still our fault that the Administration has its head lodged firmly up its ass? That it's somehow illegitimate to point out that we've been shouting at the top of our lungs for the past three years in the teeth of outright derision, and some of us are more than a little tired of being ignored?

Codependent doesn't even begin to describe the pathology on that one. How's about the Republican party -- and the Bush Administration in particular -- stepping up to the plate and *gasp* taking some accountability for the colossal failures of our Iraq policy? How's about you address your scorn towards the political establishment that, having screwed up so horrifically, now petulantly whines that the people they've minimized and ignored aren't helping fix the mess they created?

Or, to be really blunt about it: how's about the Republican party grows the f*** up and actually tries to work with the Democrats instead of foisting responsibility for their manifest failings onto those without the power to address them? It'd sure make a nice change of pace from all this puerile name-calling and navel-gazing, at least.

Regarding the war in Iraq: If our troops are still there in '08, if the insurgency is still gaining in '08, if the US casualty count has topped 2500 by '08, my guess is that the GOP's claim that only the GOP can be trusted with national security will have gone the way of Humpty Dumpty, and not all the Rovian spin and all the media echo-chamber of that spin will be able to put Humpty together again.

Maybe; or maybe they'll return to their increasingly-irrational-but-nevertheless-unstoppable position:

"Yeah, the Bush Administration sucks... but the Democrats would be worse."

[Insert your favored spin on the Dolchstosslegende here.]

Who made those suggestions? I remember complaints that we were losing the ground war, but I don't remember Democrats asking for higher troop levels to be authorized. I remember whining about insufficient security, but I don't remember asking for more troops. I remember complaints about troop recruitment, but I don't remember any Democrats saying that we should put off the awful Medicare reform and instead raise troop pay. I remember attacks on Cheney via Halliburton, but I don't remember anyone suggesting other organizations which were capable of doing the work.

Um, once again, if you think those are such great ideas, you should be criticizing the Republican party for not advancing them. They're the ones who control all three branches of government. Unless you're conceding in advance that the current Republican party leadership is so unforgivably stupid that the Democrats need to come up with all the good ideas.

Seriously, assuming that the ideas you list above are good ones, which you support, which Republicans advanced them in the House or Senate?

George W. Bush does not even listen to his own commanders in the field, preferring instead to listen to Donald Rumsfeld. What the hell makes you think he's remotely interested in Democrat suggestions for the conduct of the war?

Charles, I'm actually glad -- up to this point -- that the Democrats have been effective at "no." The party was an unorganized, undiscipled mess for so long that I'm happy they can hold ranks on issues in the Congress and elect a radically different (and occasionally controversial) DNC leader who fires up the base.

I'm especially amazed and thrilled that thanks to Democrats holding their ground and using things like Reid's rapid response office, more and more of our citizens have realized the significant problems the Bush administration has introduced.

Now, I agree -- I'd love for the Dems to put together a pro-active plan of action on several fronts (though they're doing more than they're getting credit for), and I'd like to see more than one poll on how they are being perceived. But for a long while post-9/11, Bushco (with DeLay and others' help) was a bulldozer that couldn't be stopped.

I'm so glad that's not true anymore.

I will respond to the non-Iraq parts of this later. But on Iraq: first of all, we had a very good idea to start with, which was to finish Afghanistan and rely on intrusive inspections in Iraq. Then we had another one, which was to let Hans Blix finish his work before invading. Then we had a third, which was to seek broader international support. All of these would, imho, have been much better than what we actually did.

After the invasion, we also had a lot of good ideas. Clark, the candidate I know best, suggested higher troop levels, working very seriously to secure the borders, altering the force mix, redeploying intelligence, getting more international support, moving quickly to train Iraqi forces (this was back in 2003, when we weren't), and moving equally quickly to create a transitional government (ditto). You can read it in more detail here. Kerry also had a bunch of good ideas, not that anyone bothered.

Those were all ideas that we had when there seemed to be some remote chance that we might have an effect. At the moment, there is none. We are still offering ideas -- like Biden's, for instance, or Clark's (if the Opinion Journal wants constructive ideas, I don't see why it hopes to find them in the post-speech commentary, as opposed to, say, here.)

However, there are several real problems with offering a full-blown, detailed plan. One is that it's pointless, since there's no reason at all to think that this administration is interested. Another is that the administration alone knows a lot of the relevant facts. A third is that a lot of the good alternatives have already gone glimmering. We were in a much better position right after the invasion, or even six months later, than we are now. It is not clear to me how to wrest victory from the jaws of defeat at this point, especially since it's this administration that is going to do the wresting. And it's hard to know what to say we should do when one of the few things you're certain of is that it will probably be done incompetently.

All that said, this has not prevented Democrats from offering suggestions and ideas. It might well have, but it hasn't. One might well ask why we bother, since the Weekly Standard, paragon of journalistic excellence that it is, seems determined not to notice most of them, and instead complains that people don't answer the extremely difficult question what to do in Iraq in the few seconds they get to speak while commenting on a speech on Fox. But we do, and it's disingenuous to pretend that we don't.

But we do, and it's disingenuous to pretend that we don't.

And particularly disingenuous to continue pretending this after it's been pointed out to you half a dozen times before. If I seem irascible above, well, that would be why.

Without putting out better ideas, the response from the general public is a pox on both, which really benefits no one.
I wouldn't be so sure. When one party controls all parts of the government, generalized anti-incumbent sentiment hurts them more than the other. The Republicans have certainly shown that in the past (including whipping people into a frenzy over the fact that the House bank provided overdraft protection like other banks).

This BD post translated -- if your own ideas stink, then trash the enemy. Its the Republican strategy -- claim credibility by trashing Dems. And it does not matter if the garbage throwing is made-up nonsense a la Rove -- just do it. And then dead-pan how its those Dems always being so negative.

Republicans are in control of all branches of government, and approval ratings for the president and Congress are at historical lows. There is a stink coming off the Republican government at all levels, but no problem! Just claim the Dems stink worse, and that awful odor must be coming from them.

It seems that most of the country is saying "no" to the Republican "ideas" without regard to whether or not the Dems sound the same message. That's what those poll results mean. Saying "no" to bad policies is exactly what should be done.

The fact is that weak valueless Republicans are the biggest problem in this country -- they meekly mutter while their leader mucks along, but dare not criticize and be a "no" voice.

P.S.: it is way too late for Pollack's ideas to take hold, and let's be clear. They are not being implemented and will not be implemented by the Bush administration, which is causing failure.

In other words, it takes a powerful myopia to claim that the Dems are weak because they don't press for Pollack's suggestions, when Bush continues to screw things up by rejecting all advice that his policy is a failure. This is a failure of Bush -- get it?

PPS: Where were you in 2003 when myself and others pointed out how the Iraq post-war mission was severly undermanned and would lead to failure? Busy parroting the talking points that we had enough troops there. God forbid you might have a "no" moment about the failures of your party.

This BD post translated -- if your own ideas stink, then trash the enemy. Its the Republican strategy -- claim credibility by trashing Dems. And it does not matter if the garbage throwing is made-up nonsense a la Rove -- just do it. And then dead-pan how its those Dems always being so negative.

Republicans are in control of all branches of government, and approval ratings for the president and Congress are at historical lows. There is a stink coming off the Republican government at all levels, but no problem! Just claim the Dems stink worse, and that awful odor must be coming from them.

It seems that most of the country is saying "no" to the Republican "ideas" without regard to whether or not the Dems sound the same message. That's what those poll results mean. Saying "no" to bad policies is exactly what should be done.

The fact is that weak valueless Republicans are the biggest problem in this country -- they meekly mutter while their leader mucks along, but dare not criticize and be a "no" voice.

P.S.: it is way too late for Pollack's ideas to take hold, and let's be clear. They are not being implemented and will not be implemented by the Bush administration, which is causing failure.

In other words, it takes a powerful myopia to claim that the Dems are weak because they don't press for Pollack's suggestions, when Bush continues to screw things up by rejecting all advice that his policy is a failure. This is a failure of Bush -- get it?

PPS: Where were you in 2003 when myself and others pointed out how the Iraq post-war mission was severly undermanned and would lead to failure? Busy parroting the talking points that we had enough troops there. God forbid you might have a "no" moment about the failures of your party.

Richardson/Vilsack '08

Sebastian asked: Who made those suggestions?

(a) maybe it would be a good idea to have more troops on the ground - Got suggested by Eric Shinseki, first of all, and he (and the idea) got shot down by Rumsfeld. (b) maybe it would be a good idea to let the UN inspectors finish the job of finding out if there are WMD - Got suggested, as far as I remember, by practically everybody except the Bush loyalists (c) maybe it would be a good idea to have security to hand to secure weapons - Actually, I can't remember that this was specifically suggested in public: certainly I'd have taken it for granted that since Bush & Co's whole justification for invading rested on stockpiled WMD that they knew existed, they'd have plans to secure/dispose of those stockpiles: but, as we discovered in October 2004, not only had they made no plans, no Republican voter seemed to think they should have made such plans, or that perhaps they were to blame given that failure to plan for securing/disposing stockpiles had meant the resistence in Iraq got access to a large amount of conventional explosives. Still, since this news broke shortly before the election and yet Bush & Co did not lose the election, perhaps securing/disposing of weapons just isn't that good an idea when you're invading a country with plans to occupy it. I don't know. Perhaps you could explain? (d) maybe it would be a good idea to have rested/readied troops for peacekeeping there on the ground, instead of mininal numbers of tired battle-ready troops who weren't able to stop mass looting - Again, I recall this being suggested by many people, and I also remember who claimed it didn't matter in the least: Donald Rumsfeld, again. (e) maybe it would be a good idea to pay Iraqis to do reconstruction work - Suggested by many people, even a few Republicans, as I remember. Ignored by Bush & Co, who seem to feel that reconstruction money for Iraq should not be diverted from US corporations. (f) maybe it would be a good idea to start reconstruction work immediately, rather than mess around awarding contracts to big US corporations and wait for them to get their act together (it's being a long wait) - Again, suggested by a lot of people, and utterly ignored by Bush & Co, now as much as two years ago.

I remember attacks on Cheney via Halliburton, but I don't remember anyone suggesting other organizations which were capable of doing the work.

Perhaps you have a selective memory? Seriously. I remember the notion that perhaps it would be a good idea to pay Iraqi companies employing Iraqi workers to reconstruct Iraq coming up again, and again, and again. But Halliburton, and other big US companies, invariably won the bidding wars... even though they seemed to want far more money than the Iraqi companies.

A mightly fine rant, dm. Question. Why does James Carville disagree with you?

it is way too late for Pollack's ideas to take hold, and let's be clear. They are not being implemented and will not be implemented by the Bush administration, which is causing failure.

Why too late? BTW, some of Pollack's suggestions, for example joint American-Iraqi patrols and "let them learn", are being done.

Where were you in 2003 when myself and others pointed out how the Iraq post-war mission was severly undermanned and would lead to failure?

I was in favor of more troops since 2003.

OMG!!! James Carville disagrees with me? Well, that settles everything.

about social security, but somehow particularly apropos here from Chait to Klein via Brad Delong (highly recommended by Chas, if I recall correctly) comes this:

I can't tell you the enjoyment I get from watching professed followers of Edmund Burke demand that Democrats stop protecting old ideas and realize the many virtues of newness. That no policy or idea can last more than 70 years without requiring radical overhaul is such a violent attack on the philosophical foundations of conservatism, not to mention the dictionary's definition of the word, that it's beyond belief, particularly in a party where so many sniff about their deep immersion in conservative intellectual traditions. But as Chait says elsewhere in the piece, the conservative superiority in "ideas" often reflects nothing more than a greater capacity for hypocrisy. Seems the same would go for their advantage in philosophy...

On the bright side, I suppose this means that Chas is admitting that things are going badly in Iraq. God forbid that the scales fall from the eyes too quickly.

Charles: I was in favor of more troops since 2003.

No one in the Bush administration was, and anyone outside the Bush administration who was didn't dare propose it, after Shinseki got shot down for pointing it out. I guess that's why you've been so solidly and publicly against the Bush administration since 2003, right?

People with more patience than I have already given specifics of "better ideas" that Democrats offered, before during and after the run-up to war, along with the details of how each one was hooted down.

Why were they hooted down? Because supporters of Bush and the war were in full gloaty triumphalist mode. You guys could do not wrong and we could do no right, and there was no lack of "you guys" eager to say so. Over and over again. In the most insulting fashion possible.

But now that the little dream of a New American Century is going down the toilet, now you're demanding we come up with answers?

Here's a newsflash for ya: There's a funny little thing called "cause and effect" here in Old Reality Land.

Actions have consequences.

An illegitimate war, entered into for reasons at once mendacious and unclear, with mutually-contradictory strategies because the reasons for the war (so far as we can tell what they actually were) are mutually exclusive, with planning that willful disregards intelligence and expertise that doesn't say what the war planners want to hear... is a chain of grotesque actions that could not help but have equally grotesque consequences.

Every bad decision forecloses courses of actions that might have worked, might have improved things. The more bad decisions made, the more courses of actions that are foreclosed. Eventually you reach a point where there aren't any good choices left.

Asking Democrats for ideas now is like Yasir Arafat saying in 2003 that he was willing to accept the Camp David deal Clinton offered in 2000.

No, I think it's even more dishonest than that.

I think you want Democratic ideas now so that, when Bush ignores them, or implements them ineptly, or does just the opposite and says he was following Democratic advice... you, and the rest of the pro-war crowd, can go back to doing what you do best:

Blaming it all on Democrats, moderate Republicans, generals, diplomats, liberals, anti-war protestors, the news media, Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, the UN, the French, the Man in the freaking Moon - everyone and anyone except the actual architects of the war.

Hold on, something apparently went clean past me.

"Improving Veterans' Benefits" is a bad idea now? When you're trying to increase recruitment and retention?

Why? For the love of God, why?

I guess that's why you've been so solidly and publicly against the Bush administration since 2003, right?

So because I think they've shorted manpower, therefore I must retract all support from Bush? Illogical. Do you agree with every plank in political party? If not, why are not solidly and publicly against your party?

Why were they hooted down? Because supporters of Bush and the war were in full gloaty triumphalist mode.

Why are so afraid that you'll get hooted down? Why are you so afraid to defend your ideas when they've been made public? So what if conservatives challenge them.

You know, I missed the part of Pollack's advice in which he recommends calling up the reserves. Does he imagine they haven't already been called up so thoroughly that they are breaking?

Charles: So because I think they've shorted manpower, therefore I must retract all support from Bush?

Certainly with regard to the Iraq war, yes, I think so - if you have any consistency at all.

There are other errors that Bush & Co made that had no connection to the shortage of troops, but the fact that Bush & Co invaded Iraq with a force that was too small to run the occupation successfully is a big part of why it's been such a crashing failure.

You may, of course, feel that Bush & Co have done a smashing job at home and in other aspects of foreign policy aside from the invasion/occupation of Iraq, and that you will therefore support them because, to you, the invasion/occupation of Iraq was just not particularly important - so it failed, and was bound to fail given how they went about it, but if you regard it as an unimportant detail, well, no, you shouldn't withdraw your support from them.

Do you agree with every plank in political party? If not, why are not solidly and publicly against your party?

True. I don't necessarily agree with everything the party I support does. Where it's something that I don't consider important, I don't necessarily bother to mention it every time. Where it's something I consider very important, that will cause me to shift my allegience from the party I usually support to another party. In fact, over the Iraq war and over various privatization issues, this is exactly what has happened, because I consider the Iraq war to be a vitally important issue in foreign policy, as I consider privatization to be an important issue in domestic policy.

Why are so afraid that you'll get hooted down? Why are you so afraid to defend your ideas when they've been made public? So what if conservatives challenge them.

Ask Eason Jordan. Or Dan Rather. Or Joseph Wilson.

Eh, I don't want to drag Rather into this, since I think he really screwed up. But we can also ask all the Democrats who have been accused of treason by Republicans recently, which basically includes all of us. -- I mean, I recall when Ted Kennedy was called 'near treasonous' for suggesting that we draw down the number of troops after the Iraqi election to signal that we would not be there indefinitely, an idea which Bush actually carried out shortly thereafter, though oddly enough he was never called 'near treasonous' for doing so.

Here's a newsflash for ya: There's a funny little thing called "cause and effect" here in Old Reality Land. Actions have consequences.

A recurring motif in my thoughts of late is that the vast bulk of our problems (both in Iraq and elsewhere) arise from an extension of the above observation: actions have consequences, but no accountability.

Which raises a subsidiary question: how important is it that the Bush Administration be held accountable for its misdeeds, whether by rank incompetence or something darker? The more I think about it, the more important I think this is -- if only to eviscerate Bush's Cult Of Personality before it can metastasize and infect the rest of the country with its pseudo-Nietszchean "Great Man" and "Will to Power" BS. What I can't determine, and what's been occupying my mind of late, is how important this is in the greater scheme of things. The best I've come up with is that it's actively non-trivial: to not do so would inflict positive, meaningful harm on our country and its future; beyond that, I can't say.

"Why are so afraid that you'll get hooted down? Why are you so afraid to defend your ideas when they've been made public? So what if conservatives challenge them."

WTF? What do you think this is about, a debating society?

1700+ US dead, a hundred thousand or so Iraqis dead, at least that many US and Iraqi citizens maimed for life, and you think this is about scoring points?

I'm not "afraid" of getting hooted down, you silly git. It's not about my freaking feelings.

"I remember attacks on Cheney via Halliburton, but I don't remember anyone suggesting other organizations which were capable of doing the work.

Perhaps you have a selective memory? Seriously. I remember the notion that perhaps it would be a good idea to pay Iraqi companies employing Iraqi workers to reconstruct Iraq coming up again, and again, and again."

Great, then I'm quite certain you won't have the slightest bit of trouble pulling up say three major references on the topic? I won't even hold you to Democrats. But I will hold you to specific company names publically discussed instead of generalized 'let the Iraqi people do their own reconstruction'--which is mere rhetoric.

"Why are so afraid that you'll get hooted down? Why are you so afraid to defend your ideas when they've been made public? So what if conservatives challenge them.

Ask Eason Jordan. Or Dan Rather. Or Joseph Wilson."

Thanks for those three specific examples. I presume you reference them for some reason, but I can't imagine what it is. Dan Rather was involved in peddling forged documents even after any reporter who cared about accuracy would have known they were forged. Wilson personally documented a report from the former prime minister of Niger that Saddam was seeking uranium, and after finding that out publically went on a tirade against Bush for saying that Saddam was seeking uranium. Jordan abandoned any semblance of journalistic objectivity and blatantly pandered to anti-Americanism in front of an audience he knew would be friendly to it. What in the world was your point dragging those three into it?

" I recall when Ted Kennedy was called 'near treasonous' for suggesting that we draw down the number of troops after the Iraqi election to signal that we would not be there indefinitely, an idea which Bush actually carried out shortly thereafter, though oddly enough he was never called 'near treasonous' for doing so."

Hilzoy I think you are using two different concepts of 'draw down' as if they were interchangeable. Kennedy's 'draw down' was a massive number of troops. Bush's draw down (which by the way seems inappropriate in my view) was a far smaller number.

But on Iraq: first of all, we had a very good idea to start with, which was to finish Afghanistan and rely on intrusive inspections in Iraq. Then we had another one, which was to let Hans Blix finish his work before invading. Then we had a third, which was to seek broader international support. All of these would, imho, have been much better than what we actually did.

Finish Afghanistan? Afghanistan won't be done for a decade at least. Should we have finished rebuilding Italy before going into Germany in WWII? Finish rebuilding France before dealing with Germany? When dealing with Kosovo and Bosnia should we have spent ten years rebuilding the one before dealing with the other? And even more importantly, why is the international community so stingy with respect to Afghanistan? Isn't it the super-clear case?

Intrusive inspections? In January 2002 France, Germany and Russia were trying to end all sanctions and give up on inspections. The only reason they were willing to authorize inspections at all (which they had ignored for 4 years including 2 under multi-lateral Clinton) was because Bush had spent nine months building up troops in the theater. In December we were already having stupid fights with Saddam over spy plane over-flights when there were inspectors in the country and other non-compliance issues--see Blix's famous "he isn't fully cooperating with our 'last chance' so we need to give him another 'last chance'" report.

International support was sought. That was why we didn't invade in the fall of 2002. That is why the focus was so much on WMD--the UN doesn't really care much about terrorism, Middle East craziness, or Saddam's long exhibited interest in doing damage to the US. The problem with seeking international help, is that if it involves actually doing something more than talking, they aren't interested. See the Sudan, see Zimbabwe, see Ethiopia, see North Korea, see nuclear proliferation and Iran. When you have France resisting even sanctions against the Sudan in 2004, and when France resisted for months sending more troops to Afghanistan during elections, when you can't even get much help in the very clearest cases, saying that we should rely on international help is precisely the same as saying that we shouldn't do anything to address the problem. It isn't treasonous to rely on international help, it is mere setting up an inevitable case for non-action.

And for a good example of what I wish Democrats (or hell any senator) was regularly focusing on with respect to Iraq, see here .

instead of generalized 'let the Iraqi people do their own reconstruction'--which is mere rhetoric.

Actually, to me it sounds like a solid statement of principle. And a very useful one. Are you saying you, in principle, oppose this?

You might find, then, these opposing viewpoints about the role of Bechdel in Iraqi reconstruction interesting. You might also find Hend Adnan's comments worth thinking about.

Several Democratic lawmakers have criticized the fast-track bidding process that allowed only a few experienced companies to submit proposals. ... Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, one of the Democratic critics, said the contract showed that "a troubling pattern is beginning to emerge, as some of the most powerful business interests in the country continue to receive these huge contracts without ... open, transparent bidding." cite

What in the world was your point dragging those three into it?

Thank you for again making the point. They were three honest men who stood up and spoke out against the Bush administration: and for this, as you've just outlined, they've been publicly traduced.

Sebastian: I'm with you on the RPM cafe post. But what Kennedy actually said was that we should signal to the Iraqis that we did not intend a permanent presence (and there i think he's absolutely right), and that among other steps, like not building permanent bases, was this:

"At least 12,000 American troops and probably more should leave at once, to send a stronger signal about our intentions and to ease the pervasive sense of occupation.:

Now: our troop levels seem to have peaked in Feb., just after the election, at 155,000. By April they were at 142,000, which is more than Kennedy's 12,000 reduction. And now they are at 135,000. By my count, we have implemented that suggestion. Personally, I have always thought that if we want to send a message of this kind, the best way to do it would be to stop building permanent bases. But the fact remains that this particular step, as Kennedy recommended it, was taken.

(Oh: troop strength numbers from Brookings' Iraq Index.)

Great, then I'm quite certain you won't have the slightest bit of trouble pulling up say three major references on the topic?
here and here

Now, the duck and parse brigade might suggest that the call is for _Iraqi_ companies, but isn't that a bit like the child's reponse to 'eat your peas, there are kinds starving in China', which is 'oh yeah, name two'?

Also, Sebastian: iirc, Germany declared war on us after we declared war on Japan. Had Iraq posed one tenth the treat to us that Germany did, I'd think differently. Also, had it been connected to Afghanistan and/or al Qaeda in anything like the way Germany was connected to Italy, ditto. But it wasn't. And we are, imho, much less safe now than we would have been had we finished the first job we started, and also concentrated a lot more on al Qaeda.

For what it's worth, I would have been perfectly happy to build the troops up in SA in order to bring about inspections. There are some versions of high-stakes poker I'm prepared to play. But invading countries without a plan is not one of them.

Charles: So because I think they've shorted manpower, therefore I must retract all support from Bush?

Yes with regard to this war, unless you prefer ongoing failure in the war. This is not some minor point for which you can agree to disagree.

Our guys are dying for a failed policy which is not going to get better precisely because they've shorted manpower.

By the way, your guy just gave a big speech in which he made it absolutely clear that he is not changing anything with regard to his failed policy. And you liked the speech, right?

"Counting on 'the rest of the world' is relying on a fantasy. The response of the 'the rest of the world' on Afghanistan over the past three years shows that the international community is either unwilling to give lots of help or is incapaable of giving it."

As an inhabitant of "the rest of the world", I might add to the conversation here that we would be glad to help anyone who we actually trusted to fix the problem. Sadly, we perceive that the people currently in charge of fixing the problem do not seem to be particularly interested in taking the job seriously. So we have a choice - either Afghanistan and Iraq go to the dogs, or Afghanistan and Iraq go to the dogs and take some of our soldiers and money down with them.

Pardon us if we choose the first option. Our choice may change when your government does.

Liberal Japonicus you are going to have to quote what you think is relevant. I can't figure out how you think your links answer my question.

Hilzoy, I'm all for better planning about Iraq (both in the past if I could change it and the future which hopefully we can). My point in this post has been that Democrats did not make that their focus even when the war was actually being prosecuted. For example, Joe Wilson's lie that there was no evidence of Saddam seeking uranium in Africa--when in fact Wilson had already been personally told by the prime minister of Niger that he believed Saddam's personal envoy had done so--was hyped AFTER the war was already well underway. The kind of recriminations swirling around that are far more typical of the Democratic response to the war in Iraq than TPMCafe post. MOVEON.ORG, the UN, and especially the French were constantly agitating for near immediate withdrawal from Iraq--something which would have been at least as bad as what has actually occurred and a course of action which certainly would not have led to even the fragile democratic structure which exists now.

You said
"I remember attacks on Cheney via Halliburton, but I don't remember anyone suggesting other organizations which were capable of doing the work.

The links describe the reaction to the administration's decision to only channel reconstruction aid to "Coalition" countries. Now, if you would like to argue that all of these countries didn't have any companies that were capable to performing the work (or at least some of the work) that Halliburton has done (and, if you think about it, incorporating companies from those countries might have made those countries more willing to take up the peacekeeping work), that's up to you, but I am curious how shutting out those firms squares with your notion that only Haliburton was capable of pulling off the reconstruction ('let the market decide', anyone?). At the moment, it doesn't seem to be happening, so even if your argument is true, maybe it might be better for you to reconsider the whole idea of invading Iraq. Or were you also saying that it was a bad idea back in the day, but now that we are Waist deep in Big Muddy, we have to stay the course?

I don't think I'll argue any such thing. I'll let you identify the candidate firms which you believe were well qualified. I'm taking a page from your style of argument so I'm sure you will appreciate it. Cheers.

BTW l_j I note that you assume an international community which wants to help in the tough case of Iraq but refuse to deal with the counterexample of the very tepid ongoing international involvement in the clear case of Afghanistan. From the tone and statements of your last post, I'm certain that you are the type of person who would reconsider hypotheses when faced with contrary evidence, so I am sure you can provide an excellent explanation which reconciles the problem.

Sebastian,

You haven't addressed all the examples given by Jesurgislac and Hilzoy but more importantly you seem to shift the point. When Hilzoy says: "...to finish Afghanistan..." you answer by refuting the idea as unsound. So are you still saying that Democrats don't suggest anything or that they don't suggest anything you like?

Because if it's the latter then we can let go of the 'Party of NO' rhetoric and go back to thrashing each other's ideas, which seems healthier (if done with arguments and facts).

Also you say that when there is a war it becomes everyone's problem to contribute a winning strategy. Ok. But I'm curious: has the administration issued an invitation for suggestions from Democrats? I'm genuinely curious: if your claim is so morally obvious then I expect the party in power to try to collect all those winning strategies everyone is thinking of.

Furthermore as you are fond of asking for quotes, I would be interested in evidence of the *constant* agitation by MOVEON.ORG, the UN and the French for near-immediate withdrawal. Not that I wish to defend my country, mind you.

Finally I must agree with you, the comment box seems awfully small.

"You haven't addressed all the examples given by Jesurgislac and Hilzoy but more importantly you seem to shift the point. When Hilzoy says: "...to finish Afghanistan..." you answer by refuting the idea as unsound."

Finishing Afghanistan is important. But refusing to do other things out of a misguided desire to not start anything until you have finished everything else is not only not important, but is actively problematic.

"Furthermore as you are fond of asking for quotes, I would be interested in evidence of the *constant* agitation by MOVEON.ORG, the UN and the French for near-immediate withdrawal. Not that I wish to defend my country, mind you."

Actually I'm not fond of asking for quotes. In fact I almost never do so because I trust that relatively well informed people know enough about the subject they are talking about to be trusted to have basic knowledge.

Jesurgislac and Liberal_Japonicus have never shared that theory. Both of them (though Jesurgislac more so) are quite fond of demanding an endless series of links and quotes on things that anyone who was paying the slightest bit of attention to the topic should be aware of.

I used to be quite willing to do the research. It was quite time-consuming but I genuinely didn't mind helping people find things that I had come across. Unfortunately I learned that the ever-increasing demands for time-consuming searches were just being used as a weapon. When I had time to find the links they would be ignored. When I did not have time it would be hammered as if it were positive evidence of the untruth of my claims.


So, are you actually unaware that the UN and especially France called for near immediate withdrawal of nearly all US troops? If you are willing to affirmatively say that for whatever reason you believe that they DID NOT do so, I will spend the time it takes to illustrate that they did. But I suspect you just want to waste my time. But if you honestly don't know, I will spend time looking it up--though I would prefer that you did so.

Jesurgislac and Liberal_Japonicus have never shared that theory. Both of them (though Jesurgislac more so) are quite fond of demanding an endless series of links and quotes on things that anyone who was paying the slightest bit of attention to the topic should be aware of.

Irrespective of whehter that's an accurate assessment of their debating strategy, you're aware that they didn't originate that particular tactic, right?

Sure, there is nothing new under the sun. The tactic existed even before internet debates. Just because a debating game is old doesn't make it helpful to discussion.

I honestly don't know, but mostly because of the *constantly* which you omitted in your restatement, the other reason being that I have a very weak memory. But this was mere curiosity and you need not waste your time on it, and please do not suspect that wasting your time was what I wanted. I don't have much time and I asked in case you had references handy, not to make you do some web searching for me.


I do not think you have addressed my main point though. You argue once again about finishing Afghanistan versus other endeavours. But the question is the old one of whether Democrats have suggested other ideas, regardless of your opinion on the validity of these ideas. Mostly, like others here I guess, I would like the 'Party of NO' posts to end. Maybe a 'What is your strategy for Iraq' post would be welcome, although I would not be informed enough to comment much.

I think hilzoy's recent post on what should be done is an interesting springboard for discussion.

Sure, there is nothing new under the sun. The tactic existed even before internet debates. Just because a debating game is old doesn't make it helpful to discussion.

Perhaps I was being too subtle: the popularizer of this technique here, and perhaps around much of the blogosphere, was/is a gentleman on your side of the aisle. [I assume you're "relatively well-informed enough" to know who I'm talking about.] Had you been more vociferous in your displeasure to him, perhaps the tactic would not be so widespread. Or perhaps not. But to decry it at such a late hour seems a little, well, silly.

And two more points:

* FWIW, my very limited experience with your fracases (fraci?) suggests to me that your characterization of LJ's debating tactics is unfair. I can't speak to your debates with Jes because I generally walk a country mile to avoid them :)

* As for this:

Unfortunately I learned that the ever-increasing demands for time-consuming searches were just being used as a weapon. When I had time to find the links they would be ignored. When I did not have time it would be hammered as if it were positive evidence of the untruth of my claims.

You're aware that this very post (i.e. the OP) is a testament to that kind of slipshod strategy of ignorance, right? Could you maybe spare some of your ire towards this, too?

From the tone and statements of your last post, I'm certain that you are the type of person who would reconsider hypotheses when faced with contrary evidence, so I am sure you can provide an excellent explanation which reconciles the problem.

My goodness, the bile goes on for miles. You pull an assertion out that Haliburton was the only one able to do the work and ask for references, I give a relatively well known incident that underlines the whole point of the criticism and after professing un-comprehension, you shift the subject to Afghanistan. Never mind that had the resources used in Iraq been put there, we'd be looking at an entirely different situation, you suggest that somehow, these nations can compartmentalize their distrust of this administration in such a way that they can disagree with our handling of Iraq but still jump in to help us with Afghanistan. At some point, you stop offering a line of credit, even if the reason the person needs it is perfectly legitimate. (this would be akin to ceasing to give internet references because they aren't being paid attention to, which just goes to show how damn petty these nations are, right? Can you imagine how stupid anyone would look trying to pull this?)

But fortunately, since there is no other company (and one supposes no other nation) that could have handled this, we are in the best hands possible, so we should just lay back and enjoy the ride. We can't rely on anyone else, so who needs 'em? Hell, it's not like our economies are connected or anything like that. But if things are going so well, why are you in such a bad mood?

Hilzoy, I'm all for better planning about Iraq (both in the past if I could change it and the future which hopefully we can).

There was a point before which I was hopeful for future change in American planning for Iraq. Unfortunately, that point was 2nd November 2004, and nothing will bring it back. The next point at which I can hope for change in the future is 7th November 2006 - but I fear it will be too late by then for Afghanistan or for Iraq.

"[I assume you're "relatively well-informed enough" to know who I'm talking about.]"

Actually I'm not sure who you are talking about. I don't remember Moe doing that. Does von do that? I know Jesurgislac was doing that before Charles got here so I really don't know who you are talking about.

On to my very favorite sarcastic voice from across the ocean:

Never mind that had the resources used in Iraq been put there, we'd be looking at an entirely different situation, you suggest that somehow, these nations can compartmentalize their distrust of this administration in such a way that they can disagree with our handling of Iraq but still jump in to help us with Afghanistan. At some point, you stop offering a line of credit, even if the reason the person needs it is perfectly legitimate.

This would be an interesting point if weren't for the fact that Afghanistan's stability is allegedly an independent concern of the international community because of the international community's allegedly serious stance on terrorism.

If your framing is correct, the international community would rather pique the US than deal with the only super-clear case tied to the 9-11 terrorism. We are constantly reminded that of course the international community takes that kind of thing very seriously. Invading Iraq was a US distraction from dealing with that very serious threat, etc., etc., etc. If you would like to argue that the international community does not in fact worry much about terrorism, or if you would like to argue that Afghanistan doesn't have much to do with it, please feel free. It seems to me that the premise of your argument doesn't hang well with the available evidence. But if you would care to resolve the contradictions I would be thrilled to hear it.

"But if things are going so well, why are you in such a bad mood?"

Who said things were going 'so well'? I have articulated the need for more troops for more than a year. I have articulated the need for better pay for more than a year. Since Sadr I have openly worried that by coddling him we were training insurgent groups in how to be effective and more dangerous. I am constantly worried about Iran getting nuclear weapons with the apparent indifference of France and Germany. North Korea has been troubling me for a decade. Who says well? Could be worse? Certainly. But well? I don't believe I've said that. In fact at the time of the elections I specifically cautioned against too much exuberance.

Why am I in a bad mood? Many reasons. My personal site is so overrun with spam that it is depressing for me to try to write. My Japanese grandmother is dying. My maternal grandfather is descending into Alzheimers. My parents are possibly getting seperated after 40 years. The once stimulating discussions I used to have here have devolved into little more than name-calling for months. There are plenty of reasons to be in a bad mood.

And even more importantly, why is the international community so stingy with respect to Afghanistan? Isn't it the super-clear case?

The US was attacked by Bin Laden and wanted him and his group. The Taliban didn't want to deliver him unconditionally. You didn't want to negotiate about conditions and invaded their country - promising the poor inhabitants that it would be in their best interest in the long term because the US would NOT let them down like they had done in the past. This time they would rebuild the country, Bush said.

The international community provided approximately 2/3 of the troops and resources - and still does, years later. It is nice to see how well appreciated that is.

Intrusive inspections? In January 2002 France, Germany and Russia were trying to end all sanctions and give up on inspections. The only reason they were willing to authorize inspections at all (which they had ignored for 4 years including 2 under multi-lateral Clinton) was because Bush had spent nine months building up troops in the theater. In December we were already having stupid fights with Saddam over spy plane over-flights when there were inspectors in the country and other non-compliance issues--see Blix's famous "he isn't fully cooperating with our 'last chance' so we need to give him another 'last chance'" report.

Powell also wanted to change the sanctions, since he deemed that Iraq was not a threat and according to many people the sanctions were doing more damage than good.
And as the Downing Street Memo's show the fights about planed and bombing before the invasion of Iraq were justified since they seemed to be intended to provoce Saddam in agressive action.


International support was sought. That was why we didn't invade in the fall of 2002. That is why the focus was so much on WMD--the UN doesn't really care much about terrorism, Middle East craziness, or Saddam's long exhibited interest in doing damage to the US. The problem with seeking international help, is that if it involves actually doing something more than talking, they aren't interested. See the Sudan, see Zimbabwe, see Ethiopia, see North Korea, see nuclear proliferation and Iran. When you have France resisting even sanctions against the Sudan in 2004, and when France resisted for months sending more troops to Afghanistan during elections, when you can't even get much help in the very clearest cases, saying that we should rely on international help is precisely the same as saying that we shouldn't do anything to address the problem. It isn't treasonous to rely on international help, it is mere setting up an inevitable case for non-action.

Maybe you should wonder why you have not a lot of support anymore - whilst the US had lots of support in the past. Compare the coalitions of Bush sr. with the coalitions of Bush jr. for instance, if we talk about Iraq.

International politics is complicated. It is not a matter of deciding who you think is the bad boy this week and beating him over the head. Doesn't Iraq show you that that is a bad idea? Had Afghanistan in the past not proven that just fighting the bad folk and departing when they are gone is recepy for future disaster?

As Andrew pointed out; the current administration has failed miserably and you can hardly complain that others do not want to pick up the mess, or the check, of want to participate in the next fight.

Seb
I'm very sorry that things aren't going well and I certainly suspected as much. Slart was correct in his assumption about me a while back, in that my mother had cancer, but the operation seems to have gotten it all. Unfortunately, it means that the two weeks we were going to spend together this summer is now going to be us squeezing in a weekend so that she can see her newest granddaughter. It did get me to install Skype, and we now talk twice a day, but had I had my druthers, I would have preferred a different path to have taken.

However, I would really ask you to seriously if this place has 'devolved'. I occasionally click on the spam messages that appear that go back to some thread a year or more in the past and end up reading them. They don't seem to be that much more elevated than the current ones. I admit, the current background makes everything a lot worse, but I don't think you can blame the people commenting here for that. I basically haven't 'talked' to you in over a month, and except for a comment in another thread, and in this thread, where I put up links. Certainly they were aimed at refuting what you said, but I don't think you can say that your response was focussed on moving the debate forward. I apologize for responding with more snark and I'll try to remember that in the future.

So again, I'm sorry that things are going well, and there's not a lot to suggest (though I would suggest that you take the comments and trackbacks off your personal site and cross post a link here if dealing with spam is sapping your energy to write) I'm going to assume that you would prefer that I forgo commenting in response to you, which I will do, as it seems to cause you grief, which is not my intention. Best wishes.

My Japanese grandmother is dying. My maternal grandfather is descending into Alzheimers. My parents are possibly getting seperated after 40 years.

I'm really very sorry to hear this, Sebastian. My sincere sympathies.

I'm really very sorry to hear this, Sebastian. My sincere sympathies.

What she said.

For example, Joe Wilson's lie that there was no evidence of Saddam seeking uranium in Africa--when in fact Wilson had already been personally told by the prime minister of Niger that he believed Saddam's personal envoy had done so--was hyped AFTER the war was already well underway.

I'm to understand you're some sort of attorney, yes? If you ever, in a courtroom, tried to get away with asserting that "Mr Smith says that Mr. Jones said 'X'" meant that "X" was true, I suspect you'd be subject to some very serious and well-grounded objections.

If your framing is correct, the international community would rather pique the US than deal with the only super-clear case tied to the 9-11 terrorism.

No, the international community would rather not continue supplying time, resources and people to be placed under the supervision of an entity which seems determined to muff the whole thing.

Our country faces a lot of challenges right now. It would be best if we could find a way to unite the left and the right and face these problems as one people. I don't see that happening while George Bush is in the White House. I would guess that most Democrats agree with me about this.

We have learned from experience that there is no benefit in trying to negotiate with George Bush. It is a mistake for the Democrats to even try at this point. The only way for us to change the policies of our country is is to get rid of Bush in 2008 and/or get rid of the Republican controlled Senate in 2006/2008.

Until then there is no benefit for us to give the Republicans the cloak of bipartisanship.

Also, after Karl Rove's speech two weeks ago it is pretty clear the White House doesn't have much interest in what liberals, I mean, Democrats have to say.

Why am I in a bad mood? Many reasons.

I had not read that before I posted. I am sorry to hear it Sebastian. There are times where everything seems to go wrong and you appear to be right in the middle of one of those times.

Maybe this anti-spam plugin list will help with the spam. The personal issues are harder to resolve I'm afraid and I can just wish you strength and luck.

Why am I in a bad mood? Many reasons.

I had not read that before I posted. I am sorry to hear it Sebastian. There are times where everything seems to go wrong and you appear to be right in the middle of one of those times.

Maybe this anti-spam plugin list will help with the spam. The personal issues are harder to resolve I'm afraid and I can just wish you strength and luck.

sorry about the double post

Slart was correct in his assumption about me a while back, in that my mother had cancer, but the operation seems to have gotten it all.

Sorry to hear it (about the cancer, I mean), LJ, and hope she continues to do well. And know that I take no particular pride or joy in being right, especially about things such as that.

And, Sebastian, my condolences go out to you, to the extent they're wanted.

Best wishes to those here whose pain my new bible inadequately describes.

Best wishes to the rest of you, too.

first, i'd like to add my condolences and best wishes to SH. Please take care of yourself and come back to this blog only when you feel better. This amateur debating society should not be a source of misery.

on the substantive issue, it seems that the conservatives who post here are guilty of the Candide syndrome -- this is the best of all possible worlds.

yes, european govts are prickly and reluctant to commit troops to our foreign adventures. Not so odd, considering that that's an accurate reflection of the people who elected those govts.

but as another commenter noted, GB 1 built a very large coalition for Gulf War I, in part based on the commitment that the coalition would pursue limited and pre-defined goals.

so european diplomacy is possible. or rather, was possible once. We simply do not know whether there were concessions to be made by the US govt which would have brought in substantial foreign troops.

i also find it hard to take seriously the conservatives' claims that they want more troops. The only available troops are from foreign countries. Unless the troops are pure mercenaries, the govt supplying the troops will require that it be consulted on their use. The White House is not notable for its concern over its reputation with foreign govts.

As the president has said, either you're with him or against him. I don't see how anyone can be pro-this-war but critical of the major policies decisions on how the war is being fought.

Put another way, I think that if someone believes that more troops are needed, and this belief is a core, critical belief on how the US is prosecuting this war, then that person should be strongly anti-administration. for there are now no more troops available, domestic or foreign.

btw, the response of some of the College Republicans to Operation Yellow Elephant demonstrates quite clearly that a good chunk of this country believes this war is very important, so long as someone else's skin is at risk.

Because, as we all know, some of the College Republicans constitutes a good chunk of this country.

Certainly with regard to the Iraq war, yes, I think so - if you have any consistency at all.

Nonsense, Jes. I supported removing Saddam in March 2003, and I still support it. Even though a bunch of mistakes have been made (where have there ever been mistake-free wars?), the effort remains worthwhile and it is ever more critical that Iraq become a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic. I voted for Bush in 2004 because I thought he would be better than Kerry at delivering victory. I can still support Bush and still urge that he make necessary changes. Working for change within your own party is a time-honored tradition. There's no inconsistency here.

Working for change within your own party is a time-honored tradition.

Charles, I hope you succeed but I don't think much of your chances.

"Where have there ever been mistake-free wars?"

Gaugamela. Actium. Agincourt. The 6-Day War.

Sebastian, I add my sympathy and support to the others'. Best wishes for clear understanding, wise decision-making, some happy surprises, time to grieve, and all the rest of the complex hassle that rises in such moments.

As for the discourse here (and a lot of other places), from my point of view the problem is simply that developments in the realm of applied policy are stalled dead. I don't think I'm being perjorative when I say that the Bush administration isn't interested in ideas it didn't invent, unless they are very strongly in accord with the administration's overall priorities. No suggestion fo the form "make this a lot more important, and do it this way" is going to go anywhere. Nor will any of the form "make this a lot less important, and use those resources this way". These folks simply don't do that.

Which means that there's basically nothing to say. We can hash out among ourselves what we'd like to see, but it's irrelevant. Communicating with my representatives has always felt like a bit of a shot in the dark - my views seldom match up with theirs on important-to-me issues - but more so now. I actually agree with many of them more...to no avail. Things they and I would like to see happen can be expected not to happen.

And that's as true for, say, Charles' preference for a war fought with the resources required to support a plausible analysis of costs and risks as it is for stuff that libertarians, Democrats, and others would like. The administration has a fort within the fortress of the party, and not all guests are invited up to the high keep. He's spinning his wheels as much as I am, pretty much.

There are very rare moments of exception, where there is some chance of using sufficiently strong leverage to compel a change in policy or get something done despite administration objections. It is worthwhile compiling information and thinking about what you'd like to see if the opportunity arose. But basically it's sterile.

This takes a toll on all of us, whoever we are, if we ever have any significant disagreement with the current policies of the Bush administration. A lot of the tools we'd use to push something out of favor but (we think) desirable simply don't work. It's very easy at that point to end up taking out the stress on any convenient target. But in truth, the problem isn't here - it's in the people who've decided not to listen, no matter how much it would benefit them to do so, except on their own terms, which can themselves not be discussed or negotiated.

Democrats can look ahead to the next couple election cycles, and in the meantime think about the structure of opposition parties. Libertarians can, as always, try to wait things out and look for opportunities hither and yon. Republicans who disagree with anything major in some ways have it worst, I think, since they tend to get it from both sides - those who want the Republican Party as a whole to bear responsibility for Bush administration policy, and Bush supporters who regard all dissent as disloyal no matter where it occurs. (I'm not here getting into the question of how much other Republicans should feel responsible, just thinking about the plight of those who wish both to be counted as Republican and to disagree on some major policies.)

One of the things people with depression learn is to make sure you identify your provocations right, and deal with them rather than collateral targets. That's been handy for me here sometimes. No matter how much I disagree with you or Charles, you can't make Bush's staff more interested in negotiation. I have to remind myself of that....

Charles, do you mind if I ask what you, personally, have sacrificed to support the war effort in Iraq? Is that too forward or personal a question?

Oh, Sebastian, my best wishes to you. I have to second lj, the comment spam sometimes sparks me to look at old threads and I don't really see that much difference. Perhaps my threshold of annoyance is higher than that of some others -- things don't seem so bad to me (particularly not in comparison to say, Political Animal). Take care.

"Oh, Sebastian, my best wishes to you. I have to second lj, the comment spam sometimes sparks me to look at old threads and I don't really see that much difference."

I'm talking about spam on my personal site. I get about 1,000 per day and have to spend at least an hour clearing it out before I can write anything there. I despaired and it ran for a month--now I can't get in to clear it out things are so slow. Ugh.

I was talking about lj's comment regarding the quality of discourse here at ObWi:

However, I would really ask you to seriously if this place has 'devolved'. I occasionally click on the spam messages that appear that go back to some thread a year or more in the past and end up reading them.

But I certainly sympathize with you re. killing spam (I deal with e-mail spam). Drop me a note if I can help with a technical issue (I don't know whether you run your own server, but if so perhaps I could assist you). I sign my real e-mail address -- I get so much spam already it would hardly pay to hide it.

Charles: I voted for Bush in 2004 because I thought he would be better than Kerry at delivering victory

And on what, exactly, did you base that assumption?

Bush, after all (as you acknowledge) had invaded/occupied Iraq without the necessary troop numbers to succeed. He's made many other mistakes, not least the mistake of failing to take Abu Ghraib seriously - an independent investigation should have begun January 2004. And these are just the ones I know we agree were mistakes. (I'd assume that the failure to make plans to secure/destroy all weapons stockpiles found would also be a mistake we could agree on, but I seem to remember Slartibartfast actively defending that mistake, so perhaps not.)

As Kevin Drum (I think) said, the inarguable reason for picking Kerry over Bush last year is simple: If you're in a restaurant and your waiter trips over his own feet just before he reaches the table, throwing all the food all over the place, including you and your partner, and then does an appallingly-bad job of cleaning up, do you say "No, no, we'll stick with the same guy - he's got to be given a chance to correct his original mistakes!" or do you ask for a new waiter for the rest of the evening? And if you stick with the first waiter, and it turns out that he routinely spills and drops things, mixes up your order, and is rude to boot, do you give him a big tip and ask for him by name next time?

I do not recall that you were able to criticize any ideas Kerry had about Iraq, beyond the constant (and false) meme that "Kerry says we should pull our troops out now!" (In fact, as best as I recall, consistently the Republicans on this site were criticizing mass media reports of Kerry's proposals, never the actual content provided on Kerry's website.)

You knew Bush had done badly: you didn't - purposefully you didn't - know a thing about Kerry except his public track record as a man who gets things done. (Judging by Kerry's track record alone, one can be sure this is a man who would have taken the Abu Ghraib reports seriously. Which may have been the real reason for the military opposition: who knows how far the corruption has spread?)

So: What, exactly, made you feel that Bush would "deliver victory" - and Kerry wouldn't?

This is, of course, digging up the past. But since the US will be still fighting a no-win war in Iraq in 2008 (unless Bush simply decides to "declare victory", and withdraw all the troops, just before the Presidential campaign for 2008 starts) it seems important to know how you're going to judge the next candidate for President: by the catastrophic errors of the past and the hot air he blows in the present and the "I want a pony!" nature of his plans for the future, as you appear to have judged for Bush?

Jes: there were significant chunks of the (higher-level) military who did not support Bush. A lot more than would normally be the case.

Sebastian and LJ: my condolences to you both.

Charles, do you mind if I ask what you, personally, have sacrificed to support the war effort in Iraq?

I have sacrificed a massive chunk of time writing, Phil, both in support of the effort and in support of making the effort more successful. Time is money, and I've foregone thousands of dollars of income writing on weblogs in lieu of writing in my paying job. This endeavor has been a major sacrifice to the economic well-being of my family. What has been your sacrifice?

And on what, exactly, did you base that assumption?

In short, Jes, because Kerry has consistently been on the wrong side of history since his political debutante ball in 1971. As it relates to Iraq, I became convinced that he was more interested troop withdrawals than victory. Tac explained it well.

Charles Bird: In short, Jes, because Kerry has consistently been on the wrong side of history since his political debutante ball in 1971.

If you can't explain it for yourself, Charles, except in such vague terms as "on the wrong side of history" don't bother linking to Tacitus.

So (apparently) you don't want to support Kerry because he opposed American atrocities in Vietnam: he thought the US should withdraw from a war it couldn't win: he opposed Reagan's and Bush's support for terrorism: and he seems to have better ideas than Bush does about how to achieve success in Iraq.

With that track record, it is pure superstition to declare vaguely "he's on the wrong side of history, therefore he'd be a worse President than the current disaster area". Either that, or you simply mean "always side with the winners, rather than do what you think is right".

Hilzoy: Jes: there were significant chunks of the (higher-level) military who did not support Bush. A lot more than would normally be the case.

I'm sorry if I gave the impression that the military would all want the atrocities of Abu Ghraib covered up rather than exposed and the culprits - however high up the responsibility goes - made to take responsibility. I know that is not so: I know that a lot of military people are outraged by Abu Ghraib and by the coverup. Nevertheless, there is a consistent meme from first to last among some military people that it's more important to cover for your buddies than it is to have atrocities ended. (And I suspect there is a strong element of self-protection, too.)

I have sacrificed a massive chunk of time writing, Phil, both in support of the effort and in support of making the effort more successful. Time is money, and I've foregone thousands of dollars of income writing on weblogs in lieu of writing in my paying job. This endeavor has been a major sacrifice to the economic well-being of my family.

Oh, dear. Well, you truly stand among the heroes, my friend.

What has been your sacrifice?

I don't support the war. The question is irrelevant.

What has President Bush asked us to sacrifice?

I should add that I hope that tales of your sacrifices never reach the ears of Iraqis. The outpouring of grief and thanks would probably overwhelm both them and you.

"Yes, we lost our home and ten members of our family, but Charles Bird had to cut back to buying ground chuck! He lost a tier on his cable TV plan! He went to buying the grande latte instead of the venti, and only three days a week instead of five!!"

Cheering bombs to their destinations in somebody else's country, while sitting and complaining about the opportunity cost of blogging, goes beyond chutzpah. It goes beyond immoral, into simply amoral.

If you can't explain it for yourself, Charles, except in such vague terms as "on the wrong side of history" don't bother linking to Tacitus.

That's just plain silly, Jes. If a writer's views mirror my own, there's no crime in not reinventing the wheel by linking to him. I also have a lengthy essay on where Kerry falls on the wrong side of history defensewise.

Cheering bombs to their destinations in somebody else's country, while sitting and complaining about the opportunity cost of blogging, goes beyond chutzpah. It goes beyond immoral, into simply amoral.

That's a blatant misrepresentation, Phil. Don't put me in the category of "cheering bombs to their destinations". What's next, a chickenhawk epithet? FYI, I'm too old to serve so you work with the tools you have. Let's keep it civil, pal.

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