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January 02, 2006

Comments

I feel obliged to link to Wolcott's blog post on this, entitled The Pericles of Petticoat Junction.

To be clear: as before, I have thrown up my hands on the question whether we should pull out now. It will be really bad either way, and whichever we do, I think that this administration will do it ineptly. Since nothing at all turns on my having an opinion -- this administration isn't about to start asking my advice -- I don't see much reason to decide which is worse.

What I am completely certain of is this: we never had to confront anything like such terrible alternatives. We never had to go into Iraq to start with. We should have kept after al Qaeda. Having gone in, we could have done things a lot less disastrously. That we face such horrible alternatives is entirely the Bush administration's fault.

Victor Davis Hanson raping history? Surely you jest...

It would appear that we liberals are always to blame. If Bush pulls out and leaves complete devastation inhis wake, that too will be the liberals fault for sure.

Perspective is an incredible force. I read your post hilzoy and subsequent comment and smile. To me it reinforces most of what Hanson has written. From my eyes you could have shortened your post to "I resemble that remark".

Perspective is an incredible force. I read your post hilzoy and subsequent comment and smile. To me it reinforces most of what Hanson has written. From my eyes you could have shortened your post to "I resemble that remark".

Then your perspective is, to be charitable, "not even wrong".

I'm not sure that no one thought the war wouldn't involve casualties. Of course, that's nothing to do with the evil liberals.

Anarch, your charity drips a bit. In these circles my perspective's more from http://www.bartleby.com/59/3/itsnotwhethe.html>this vantage point.

Here's what Hanson and all of the other blood and glory types appear to forget.

Iraq was not a threat to the US. Al Qaeda was. We stepped back from a concerted effort to eliminate Al Qaeda to pursue a protracted, expensive, and purely voluntary war against an opponent who presented no credible threat to us.

The reason people aren't supportive of the war in Iraq is not because they failed to eat their wheaties and as a result are lacking in spine, will, or the requisite complement of testosterone. It's certainly not because they are ignorant of the lessons of history.

Folks aren't supportive of Iraq because the reasons they were told it was necessary have proven to be false. The folks making the false claims have been shown to have had sufficient information to know they were false at the time they were made. As each claim was shown to be false, another was selected from a shifting grab bag of rationales and presented for public consumption. At no point has anyone taken any meaningful responsibility for any of this.

The reason support for Iraq has weakened is that folks no longer believe the President and his crew. They suspect they have been sold a false bill of goods, at an enormous price, and they aren't happy about it.

The responsibility for all of this falls on the heads of those who argued for this exercise in stupidity.

The historically minded may wish to dust off their copies of the Peloponnesian wars, or perhaps le Roman de Fauvel.

Thanks -

"Either way the result is the same: a historically ignorant populace who knows nothing about past American wars and their disappointments — and has absolutely no frame of reference to make sense of the present other than its own mercurial emotional state in any given news cycle."

Taking that paragraph in a vacuum, he has a point. This is the wail of anyone who reads military history, and then reads the newpaper, or engages in conversation (on the internet, say) with people in general, and in particular as regards discussions of the military with those who have never paid any attention to military culture.

As many have discussed for many years now, at least since the end of the the Vietnam era, the gap between those in America with some knowledge of or sympathy for, aspects of the military, and those in the larger culture, who do not, has only been expanding at a deeply alarming rate. I'd commend Robert D. Kaplan's various pieces in The Atlantic over the years on this, among many others.

So:

(3) Liberals are very disappointed, because, having no sense of history, they expected everything to be perfect.

(Huh?)

So, his specific argument from there is bollocks, but the root is not at all entirely so.

Witness, for example, the recent kooky debate about white phosphorus, between those who know perfectly well what it is and how it's been used since WWII, and those to whom it was OMG, A Horrible Chemical Weapon Just Revealed!!!!

It's hard to have a sensible debate about a topic with people who have no clue about it except for a newspaper article they just read that morning. And, unfortunately, that loosely describes the majority of the American public when it comes to matters military and matters of intelligence collection.

It's like trying to discuss physics with someone who just found out about gravity in the morning's paper. OMG, there's a conspiracy to pull us down to earth! They want to kill us if we happen to walk off a cliff!

"Let's just pass over the last point in silence -- the idea that anyone thought that the war in Iraq would not involve casualties is too ludicrous a straw man to waste time on."

Yes, applying that point to Iraq is wrong. But it's not at all wrong about the prior American attitude from, say, 1974-2001. Witness Somalia.

What he's saying there is actually correct, not crazy.

Stressing again that, yes, casualties were expected by most in Iraq. On the other hand, one can hardly say that those opposed to the Iraq war took to the idea with equanimity, although they would have -- and this is the point Hanson falls down on -- if they had thought the war as justified as the overwhelming majority felt the invasion of Afghanistan was.

"Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators."

I hate to seem to be defending Cheney, but I'm not when I note that that wasn't a comment about how the war would go, but a (wildly wrong) prediction
about the civilian reaction after the war was won. Ditto the Rumsfeld quote. Ditto most of the rest of your cites. You're missing the point that they (not thee or me) were distinguishing between the battle between the two militaries, and the aftermath, whereas you're talking about "the war" as a seamless event, from invasion until today, which is a perfectly and utterly valid thing to do. It was not, however, what those you're citing were talking about.

And Hanson's point wasn't that the Admin had confidence that the war (between militaries) would be won quickly, but that the critics said it would be not. That's accurate, regardless of the political issues over the wrongness or rightness of the war.

"Iraq did not turn out better than anticipated by the people who chose to go to war."

The battle to knock out the Iraqi Army and occupy the country did. It all fell apart after that, and that was predictable, and was predicted, and that's where the Admin went utterly bonkers, criminally wrong.

But it's better to refute Hanson on that, then to swing at the other stuff, I'd suggest.

From the point on where you start "I opposed the war for many reasons...," I agree completely with you.

"And I also predict that whatever happens, Victor Davis Hanson will take it to be evidence that liberals are wrong."

That, too.

blogbudsman,

Perhaps you could clarify your first comment. I honestly have no idea what you were trying to say.

"I know less about the Shi'ite militias, but it would surprise me a lot if the army had not been similarly infiltrated by militias in the Shi'ite areas of Iraq."

More the police and Interior Ministry troops, is my inexpert, arm-chair, possibly wrong and misleading, impression.

On pulling out, I'd like to note to all who consider him an authority on Iraq (my own opinion is fairly complex, as I've noted on various occasions in various places), Juan Cole consistently maintains that we must not pull out immediately, and that to do so would be morally criminal. This tends to be oddly (not so much) overlooked by those who think immediate withdrawal is the proper act, and like to cite his other descriptions of what's going on as justification.

I do, of course, believe we should be acting on the basis of drawing down as reasonably quickly as is prudent. Beyond that, I'm not offering much specific strategic advice at this moment. (I have so many other World Problems to settle, you know. And, seriously, I should post on Darfur again; it's still there, even though everyone's radar screen has moved on, of course.)

Gary persuasively argues that if we take Hanson to be talking about something other than what Hanson's talking about, then Hanson actually makes some good points.

blogbudsman,

Perhaps you could clarify your first comment. I honestly have no idea what you were trying to say.

I do, and tried to give my own perspective. If bbm has a heart attack, I only wish he had a webcam. (I do not mean this as a cruel and serious comment, but merely as a lighthearted joke, if that isn't obvious.)

Gary: I think I was treating (the war through the capture of Baghdad and the toppling of Hussein) and (everything that came after) together for two reasons. First, Hanson's article makes even less sense unless you take him to be talking about both. Liberals are complaining about the war, he says: are any of us complaining about the casualties we took en route to Baghdad, or the quagmire we got into while awaiting Hussein's fall? No.

Second, I think it's a version of the ahistoricism Hanson is talking about to imagine that the two can be cleanly separated, at least for these purposes. To my mind, "the war" is still ongoing, and it's ongoing in part because capturing Baghdad did not solve everything, and because we were not "welcomed as liberators", at least not by the "dead-enders" who were supposed to fade away once we had definitively won.

I agree with you that Hanson's points are true of someone. (That's why I put in all the administration quotes, and I might have added the one about Bush 'looking for a new challenge', when Iraq is hardly ready to be moved on from.) I just really mind someone who's defending an administration that seems to me to incarnate a lot of the things he complains about saying that it's mainly their opponents who have these problems.

"Gary persuasively argues that if we take Hanson to be talking about something other than what Hanson's talking about, then Hanson actually makes some good points."

No. Gary points to specific points, and then says other things about other specific points.

I realize that "From the point on where you start 'I opposed the war for many reasons...,' I agree completely with you" is difficult to understand, and I knew that someone (I figured three, at least, minimum, actually, but let's give it more than a minute) would respond as you did.

There are times that the inability of many to follow that one can agree with point A and point B, and that this does not mean that one agrees with points C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, and P, nor with the conclusion that the speller is making, makes one weary. Since I have to spell it out.

It's idealistic of me to wish that people could more easily analyze arguments without engaging their emotional prejudices first.

It's a useful exercise to read an argument before finding out who it's from, and thus knowing what you think of the argument before you've read it, for instance.

But I have an active fantasy life.

Gary writes: "Let's just pass over the last point in silence -- the idea that anyone thought that the war in Iraq would not involve casualties is too ludicrous a straw man to waste time on."

Yes, applying that point to Iraq is wrong. But it's not at all wrong about the prior American attitude from, say, 1974-2001. Witness Somalia.

What he's saying there is actually correct, not crazy.

References to "Somalia" or "Mogadishu" in Hanson article: zero.

Hence Anderson's snark, supra. It is Simply Not True that anyone worth mentioning (because it's a Big Internet) thought we would take no casualties in Iraq, a conflict which just isn't comparable to any endeavor since the Gulf War, & before that, Vietnam.

Rather, those casualties were thought to be acceptable because they would be relatively low and because we were supposedly taking out a direct threat against the U.S.

Our lack of tolerance for casualties in Somalia derived from a general public lack of a good answer to "exactly why are we getting killed over there???"

In short, the American public, whatever their failings, are smarter than Hanson. Thank god.

P.S.--Lighten up a tad, Gary. The people teasing you may be your friends.

"I think I was treating (the war through the capture of Baghdad and the toppling of Hussein) and (everything that came after) together for two reasons...."

I agree with everything you say in this comment, but I agreed before you said it. I'm trying to be shorter in my comments as one of my New Year's resolutions.

I wrote "whereas you're talking about 'the war' as a seamless event, from invasion until today, which is a perfectly and utterly valid thing to do," and said the phrase in italics because I meant it.

And purely for the benefit of someone coming later in the thread, I'll repeat again (I'm seriously thinking about repeating crucial points three times the first time, and then not responding further on said point, and seeing if that helps those for whom once is not enough -- not you, Hilzoy, of course, or most people here, including you, the person reading this): I agree with everything you [Hilzoy], say in this comment.

One thing I would like to do this year is spend somewhat less time bogged down in repeating myself. Life is too short to spend much of it repeating things for those who can't or don't read closely, unless it's my fault for sloppiness or lack of clarity. But I digress.

For instance, instead of commenting here, I could and should be blogging this.

"We never had to go into Iraq to start with. We should have kept after al Qaeda."

This starement is part of the reason that Hanson thinks liberals are clueless.

Let's ask a simple questions. Where would Al Queda go after Afghanistan? Into what countries would we pursue them?

The list seems to be:

Pakistan
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
U.S.
All of Europe

So tell me Hilzoy. Where would you have begin your pursuit and what would the implications be of YOUR plan? Give some details please.

"P.S.--Lighten up a tad, Gary. The people teasing you may be your friends."

Good point. Thank you.

It's hard to tell, and easy for me to assume not. Extremely easy, to put it mildly, for me. That's my problem, and I regret when I take it out on others. Apologies.

"References to 'Somalia' or 'Mogadishu' in Hanson article: zero."

Sure, but there are times I can mind-read, and that one doesn't need to be said. It's simply obvious.

And to be clear, I've not bothered to read Hanson's piece, because I can't recall the last time I read him making an original point. I was merely responding to what seemed to me to be isolated gaps in Hilzoy's piece, whose main point I otherwise agree with.

But adoring Hilzoy as I do, I show my adoration in my own peculiar way, which is attempting to strengthen her arguments for the future, on the very rare occasions I might remotely be able to be of the faintest aid in that regard, so that she can in future be best able to crush her and our foes beneath her mighty feet and keyboard, because even when the fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot has still been thrown into the melting pot.

"Our lack of tolerance for casualties in Somalia derived from a general public lack of a good answer to "exactly why are we getting killed over there???""

The answer, of course, was to try to save the lives of millions of suffering people, and hundreds of thousands of starving people.

It was a noble effort. And I'd trade 18, or 180, American lives, to save 180,000 dark-skinned foreigners, even though they are not mine to trade, and the morality is complex and arguable, and yes, I'd have to be willing to volunteer myself by some moral arguments, but let's not for now, shall we?

But that the American public either didn't understand that, or didn't care, was tragic. Just not for us.

The Shoah tends to be my moral touchstone on these matters, if that isn't clear and obvious. There are no easy moral answers, ever, in such issues as "when do we kill to save lives?" And I despise those who either pretend there is, although I try to be forgiving of those too simple to understand that. But I find it very difficult.

crcb: I have discussed my views on what we should have done instead of going into Iraq earlier. Here I'll just note three points.

First, "going after al Qaeda" does not necessarily involve invading countries. It did in the case of Afghanistan, but often it doesn't. I am willing to pursue them by other means into all of the countries you mention.

Second, we have not yet secured Afghanistan, so talking as though we had is a bit premature. (Want to know what I would have done instead? See here.)

Third, by invading Iraq we have created a brand new place for al Qaeda to use as a base. See here. This is a completely needless result of the war, and one more reason not to have gone into Iraq.

"The list seems to be:"

There's an entire continent of Africa that, as ever, is always forgotten, actually. Plus Malaysia, the Straits, and, well, there's a long list you left out. Not even to mention various chunks of South America, such as the triangluar region... oh, right, shorter comments.

We probably don't have to worry about Antartica for now, though.

This starement is part of the reason that Hanson thinks liberals are clueless

Hanson is a GOP shill. his actual opinion of "liberals" is irrelvant, since it's always going to be based around what he thinks is best for the GOP.

want to know what Al-Q would have done after we invaded Afghanistan? look around - they went everywhere. it's become a franchise. and invading Iraq helped bring that about.

""Our lack of tolerance for casualties in Somalia derived from a general public lack of a good answer to "exactly why are we getting killed over there???""

The answer, of course, was to try to save the lives of millions of suffering people, and hundreds of thousands of starving people."

Gary: I think I agree with both you and Anderson here, and in the spirit of argument-strengthening, I offer this:

I don't know how many casualties we would have been willing to take to save the lives of millions, but I bet it would have been more than 18. My sense, though, was that it seemed to people at the time that we had somehow, who knows how, allowed a humanitarian mission to be transformed into a hunt for Aidid, and that that was a lot less comprehensible. I think that the unwillingness to take casualties had more to do with that than with support for the original mission in Somalia.

In general, I think the public is a lot more willing to take casualties than politicians think, as long as: (a) they understand why they're being asked to, and accept the rationale, and (b) have some degree of confidence in their leadership, and so don't think they're just throwing the lives of their children away needlessly.

I really must remember how to spell "Antarctica" someday.

Am I the only one who has to reload ObWings twice, each and every time, to get the whole page to load, and whom this drives absolutely crazy, given how often I comment? The last clause: presumably "no." The rest? (It's doubtless less painful if you're not on dial-up, where one has to sit and drum one's fingers for half a minute each. And. Every. Time.)

"My sense, though, was that it seemed to people at the time that we had somehow, who knows how, allowed a humanitarian mission to be transformed into a hunt for Aidid, and that that was a lot less comprehensible.'

That's a correct assessment, of course. But I do fault and blame Bill Clinton here, whose foreign policy I generally tend to think well of, reactive as it tended to be, for acting on the basis of feared domestic reaction, rather than making an address to the nation explaining what was going on and why it was worth the loss of American life, and fixing the policy.

"I think that the unwillingness to take casualties had more to do with that than with support for the original mission in Somalia."

Alas, I think it had more to do with Clinton's willingness to engage in the mission up until the point it would have domestic costs, at which time he threw up his hands and said "screw this," figuratively speaking.

I do think it would have taken a lot of bully pulpit to get the American public to pay attention and understand, although reshowing the footage of starving people over and over again would have gone a long way on that front.

But, unfortunately, we have to remember that we live in a country where a major part of the population couldn't tell you where Canada is, let alone what continent Somalia is on, according to every survey ever done, and I'm not a cynic about these matters. The people who show up on ObWings, even the most subliterate idiots, are an elite, alas alas alas alas.

"In general, I think the public is a lot more willing to take casualties than politicians think, as long as: (a) they understand why they're being asked to, and accept the rationale...."

Which is why it's so damned hard to get to "a" if it's not a matter of an attack on an American city, or something of equal American-attention-getting value.

This is why FDR's weekly Fireside Chats explaining the progress of the war this week, in simple terms, were so absolutely crucial to maintaining support for the war, particularly through 1942, when it was only bad news for so long, even with the propaganda value of the Doolittle Raid.

Trying to get the American public to pay attention to foreign affairs -- well, you pretty much have to kill a few thousand Americans at home to get them to. We were attacked at the WTC in 1993, after all, as well as at our embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, and what did we do about it then?

For anyone not a resident of NYC, 1993 was a two-day story, and I'm quite sure that if you did a survey today, fewer than 25% of Americans could tell you what countries the above cities are in, and I'll bet that if you asked random people on the street "where were the embassies attacked in 1998?" that only a similar number could tell you, and that a pretty significant percentage would say "what attack?"

And that's with multiple, simultaneous, attacks on American soil (before I have to point it out subsequently, embassies are native soil, by law and treaty), murdering multiple Americans. (And the 12 or so American dead, of course, count endlessly more than the mere 4,000 or so non-American wounded, and 200+ killed.)

But this isn't cynicism, I think. It is, I'm afraid, our reality. (Though a bit less so after 2001, for better or worse. Not remotely enough, though.)

So much for shorter comments.

The only way the situation in Iraq can be seen as a success for the Bush administration is if one is extremely flexible about defining success.
If succes is determined by measuring the results against goals, this war has been a failure already.
Unless Bush INTENDED to create a pro-Iranian theocratic somewhat democratic (for now) government that will not let us establish bases or help with an attack on Iran!
I don't count getting rid of the evil dictator as a success because the US has no policy of getting rid of dictators just because they are evil.. Saddam's evilness was an excuse for attacking him, not a reason.
It remains to be seen if this war will cause an outbreak of democracy thoroughout the region, but since the subject of historical illiteracy has been raised, I suggest that people who base their predictions of the future on the misapplication of the lessons of a recent historical event are themselves behaving like historical illiterates. Saddam is not the Soviet Union.
Of course there were no WMD's, so no success there.
It is a matter of faith that spreading democracy will eventually bring an end to anti-Western terrorism. Such a belief has no basis in fact and no connection to the root causes of terrorism.
There are people who feel a strong need to win mostly for vanity's sake ( by the way I do not believe von is in this catagory). The williness of Bush's faithful supporters to redefine success over and over again is proof to me that they have no real goal except to feel like winners.

lily: The only way the situation in Iraq can be seen as a success for the Bush administration is if one is extremely flexible about defining success.
If succes is determined by measuring the results against goals, this war has been a failure already.

If we assumed that Bush meant what he said when he was initially selling the war in Iraq to the US public, and that he honestly believed that Saddam Hussein had WMD which were potentially a threat to the US and to any other country Iraq didn't like, then the war was a failure from the very beginning, when Bush gave no instructions to see that the stockpiled WMD we are supposed to assume he believed in* were found, secured, and destroyed. We've known this since October 2004.

If we assumed that Bush meant what he said when he said that he wanted to create democracy in Iraq, then the war in Iraq was a failure from the very beginning, because Bush did not permit plans to be made for the occupation of Iraq. We've known this for a long time, but we certainly knew it by October 2004.

(Bush's war in Iraq, in fact, might have been modelled on his business career: one failure after another. But I'm sure that back when Bush was running one oil company after another till they broke, he always made good presentations about how things were going to work out Real Soon Now.)

*by those who still assert that we don't know for sure that Bush was lying.

I agree that VDH produces by and large polemics, but what the heck is this?:

They will not face up to the consequences of their idiotic, ahistorical predictions; they will not admit error; they will simply declare victory and hope that some Scott Peterson or Jon Benet Ramsey comes along to distract us.

Saddam Hussein could not be trusted. He had designs on seizing control of Kuwait, and Saudi oil fields even after the 1st Gulf War, think 1998, and other post-1991 feints against Kuwait. I think that he tried to co-op or enlist terrorist support for his regime and in return gave state support to various terrorist groups when it worked in his interest.

It is refreshing when liberals acknowledge that spreading freedom and democracy is in fact a good thing. That's why I visit Harry's Place and Norm Geras from time to time. Labour is in power in the UK, so they don't feel it necessary to be always negative, all of the time.

It is refreshing when liberals acknowledge that spreading freedom and democracy is in fact a good thing.

    "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building.... I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have a kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not."

yes, how refreshing it must be.

DaveC, I was just thinking about how I had meant to tell you how much I'd regret it if you lived up to your stated resolution to comment less, and then had preceeded to regret not having posted that thought while it was still reasonable to expect you might read it.

So: pshew!

Alas, I think it had more to do with Clinton's willingness to engage in the mission up until the point it would have domestic costs, at which time he threw up his hands and said "screw this," figuratively speaking.

As I've noted previously, that's incorrect: it had domestic costs before Clinton was even elected. To recap my story briefly, Republicans of my acquaintance in Orange County after the election in November 1992 were vocally hoping that Somalia would "turn into another Vietnam" so "it would f*** Clinton". IMO, the real problem wasn't the casualties in Somalia per se, it was a huge, vociferous assault -- the first in a lengthy series, as we're all aware -- on the Clinton Presidency.

"It is refreshing when liberals acknowledge that spreading freedom and democracy is in fact a good thing."

Um, those are liberal ideas. (Not un-conservative, either, but never un-liberal.)

But this is the problem with reducing anything to a couple of simplistic labels. It typically obscures far more than it reveals.

It is refreshing when liberals acknowledge that spreading freedom and democracy is in fact a good thing.

I don't believe many, if any, liberals have disputed this in recent years. What we've disputed is a) how to go about it, b) whether the current tactics are actually going to accomplish that aim, and c) what it actually means (usually dismissing oft-arbitrary benchmarks as being precisely that).

"To recap my story briefly, Republicans of my acquaintance in Orange County after the election in November 1992 were vocally hoping that Somalia would "turn into another Vietnam" so "it would f*** Clinton"."

No argument, but this didn't take away from Bill Clinton's ability to make a choice.

"...the first in a lengthy series, as we're all aware...."

In my memory the first assault after his election was the Republican "Clinton wants to put f-gs in the military, and we must attack him so he must respond, and then we can claim he's taking the initiative in wanting to put f-gs in the Army and Navy!"

(Apologies to anyone for use of nasty language for the sake of semi-realism.)

But I've not gone back and looked at the sequence of events, to be sure.

And, to be sure, that political strategy was extremely effective for the Republicans. They put a just-elected President who hadn't even embarked on a honeymoon onto the defensive before he could find out which stairway went to the Lincoln Bedroom.

I think every American would like our foreign policy to be focused on spreading freedom. I would.
Unfortunately "freedom" and the spreading thereof has often been used as a slogan for a policy that was, in fact , the opposite. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have played this game.
"Spreading freedom" has also been used by individuals to justify killing tens of thousands of people in wars that had nothing to do with the actual spreading of freedom.
So when discussing US foreign policy it is important to have a functional bullshit detector.
I am, like most Americans, in favor of taking actions in the Middle East that will have the effect of lessening tolitarianism and increasing democratic institutions. However I have yet to see or hear a fact-based argument that links our involvement in Iraq to that goal. By the way I routinely read blogs of invasion supporters (Winds of Change, Belgravia Dispatch, Outside the Beltway).
There is no logical conection between the invasion of Iraq and the spreading of democracy in the Middle East, especially since the last thing the Bush administration actually wanted was a democratic government there.
The phrase "spreading freedom" or "spreading democracy" often means "spreading US power". Sometimes spreading US power is a legitimate goal, but it should be labelled honestly.
If the US was really interested in spreading democracy in the MIddle East we would be enthusiatic supporters of Al Jezeera.

Last one for the nonce:

Anarch, your charity drips a bit.

Perhaps, but that doesn't change the fact that you're wrong. Or "not even wrong", to channel Pauli.

In these circles my perspective's more from this vantage point.

Myself, I'd be more worried about effectively communicating my position and bolstering it with facts, arguments and reason instead of blind faith and cryptic snark but hey, if that helps you sleep at night, good on ya.

DaveC: It is refreshing when liberals acknowledge that spreading freedom and democracy is in fact a good thing.

It would be even more refreshing if "conservatives" acknowledged that spreading freedom and democracy is in fact a good thing, and that the US should actually do it rather than talk about it a lot but in fact support dictators rather than democracy, and slavery in preference to freedom.

WaPo


The Americans, said Zaid Saleem, 26, who works at a market in Baghdad, "are the best in destroying things but they are the worst in rebuilding."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

No argument, but this didn't take away from Bill Clinton's ability to make a choice.

Depends on what you mean "take away from [his] ability". I certainly agree that he should've kept his eye on the ball and not on the polls; otoh, at the time I think it wasn't clear both that a Democrat could defy public opinion in that way, nor what would ensue if he tried to play along.

In my memory the first assault after his election was the Republican "Clinton wants to put f-gs in the military...

If memory serves, the Somalia remark I heard was the week after the election (though it might've been the Thursday or Friday of the following week) when rumors started emerging that Bush might send troops in; the gays-in-the-military fiasco didn't ensue until 1993, although it might've started a bit in December.

our troops are all that's standing in the way of an all-out civil war, which would be a disaster.

How exactly are they standing in the way? This is not a rhetorical question. I think our troops have been effectively acting on behalf of two sides of a three-way civil war for at least two years.

Juan Cole has not yet answered this question, or the one that follows from it: What is it that U.S. troops can or should be doing to allow a "responsible" withdrawal?

This question has to be answered by anyone opposing withdrawal, because simply remaining there indefinitely, even if there is some actual buffer effect, is not an option. Military and logistical realities, not to mention political ones, require substantial withdrawals during 2006.

and that the US should actually do it rather than talk about it a lot but in fact support dictators rather than democracy, and slavery in preference to freedom.

What would be best is if we could get people who post comments like this to do anything other than complain.

It would also be helpful if we could get the Europeans to do something other than allow countries like Iran to get nukes.

crcb: do you have any way of knowing what the people who post comments here do with the rest of their time?

If not, why on earth do you say things like:

"What would be best is if we could get people who post comments like this to do anything other than complain."

By the way I routinely read blogs of invasion supporters (Winds of Change, Belgravia Dispatch, Outside the Beltway).

Which is a very good thing, and I commend you for that, lily. I think that it is a very good exercise to read points of view that you disagree with. (This is a general comment, not just directed to lily, and it is quite evident that by and large, ObWi posters and commenters do this)

Tacitus (pre-Scoop, but it is still pretty darn good) and ObWi are my two favorite blog comments sections, by the way. I'm going to try not to look at the internet so much at work, mostly at night and in the mornings.

By the way, a Clinton voter, I supported Clinton in Kosovo/Serbia for much the same reasons as Bush in Iraq and realize that things turn out messy, with a lot of bad results mixed in with the good.

It's hard to have a sensible debate about a topic with people who have no clue about it except for a newspaper article they just read that morning. And, unfortunately, that loosely describes the majority of the American public when it comes to matters military and matters of intelligence collection.

It's like trying to discuss physics with someone who just found out about gravity in the morning's paper. OMG, there's a conspiracy to pull us down to earth! They want to kill us if we happen to walk off a cliff!

Gary, that so aptly describes the worries I have about my reaction to stories like the Total Information Awareness program, etc.

Don't drum your fingers waiting for the page to load. Just load some long web article in a different window and read that while the dial-up loads this page.

And check here to see if you're eligible to get Verizon DSL for $15/month. It's a new deal. I just switched from dialup myself, after canceling cable modem two years ago for being too expensive. Works great.

ccrb: What would be best is if we could get people who post comments like this to do anything other than complain.

What would be best is if we could get people who post comments like this to do anything other than complain.

What, precisely, are you, ccrb, doing to make Bush's war in Iraq a success, other than complaining about people who point out that in fact it's really a crashing failure?

It would also be helpful if we could get the Europeans to do something other than allow countries like Iran to get nukes.

I don't think that this Americo-centric viewpoint is even worth deconstructing.

What would be best is if we could get people who post comments like this to do anything other than complain

i don't intend to disparage the person who posted this, but this is a new standard GOP talking point.

Hilzoy,

First, "going after al Qaeda" does not necessarily involve invading countries.

Police action? That really hasn't worked that well in the past. Lots of dead people from that strategy.

Are you proposing Special Ops going into Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Europe? Please more details on how we fight terrorists that fled Afghanistan.

Or are you proposing that we work with countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? Then you are going to make Jesurgislac angry because you are supporting dictators.

Should Bush have invaded Saudi Arabia?

Or is your plan just to fix Afghanistan? That's not really going after terrorists. Did all the Al Qaeda stay in Afghanistan?

Are you claiming that Al Qaeda is openly operating in Afghanistan? That they have freedom of movement? If going after Al Qaeda is the most important issue it looks thats been taken care of rather well in Afghanistan.

If one applied that logic to New Orleans you would have perfectly rebuilt part of the levee only to see everything around you get washed out. Not really a good overall strategy. A better stategy would be to have people repairing all the weak spots that you can get a hand on. Especially if you think the part you're working on is headed in the right direction and will hold for the next big threat.

Fixing Afghanistan is a poor strategy for fighting terrorism in my opinion.

You really don't offer much. We can hunt Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That we can agree on. But do you not acknowledge that Al Qaeda mostly fled Afghanistan?

Third, by invading Iraq we have created a brand new place for al Qaeda to use as a base.

So let me make sure I understand you. We need to fight Al Qaeda, but fighting them in Iraq is bad. Please suggest your choice for the battle field.

You claim that you want to fight Al Qaeda. Sounds like that's what you wanted. Isn't your goal to pursue Al Qaeda?

Please don't talk about the strain on the military. You don't hear those men and women complaining, only signing up for more duty.

As far as I can tell your strategy is to do more in Afghanistan. That's awfully weak with respect to pursuing Al Qaeda.

Sorry, to ramble but all the arm chair quarterbacking by people who don't even remotely sound like they have tactical military experience is just frustrating. If I am mistaken in that assumption please share with everyone what your military tactics and strategy background is.

Middle Eastern potentates warned us of chemical rockets that would shower our troops in Kuwait.

I love it - war opponents expected Iraq to have WMD, were wrong, and should now STFU because of that.

Actually, as measured by the latest poll in Military Times, support for Bush in the armed services has dropped ten points in the last month to ( if I remember correctly) about 50%
Thirty six veterans are running for Congress in 06 as Democrats. All opposed the initial invasion although they have differing views on what to do now. See Band of Brothers website.
WE wouldn't have to fight Al Quaida in Iraq if we hadn't invaded in the first place.
One should not invade contries without a valid reason. No valid argument has been presented for the invasion of Iraq. That's why the Bush administration definition of success there changes every five minutes.
Since the war on terror mostly has to be won on a hearts and minds basis, staying committed to the creation of a healthy, peaceful Afganistan would have been enormously helpful.

I get tired of all the talk about how we can "win the War on Terror." The War on Terror will never be won. Period. There will always be people who want to cause damage to United States' interests.

The best that we can hope for is to minimize the damage that they do. We will never eliminate the people who want to harm us. Never. Because they constantly change.

This is why we can never cede the moral ground. We have to win the War of Ideas much like we won the Cold War.

Torture. Alliances with Uzbekistan. Secret prisons. Ignoring sovereignty of nations. These actions hurt us far more than they will ever help us.

"To this day, that's one of the few actions by this administration that I find literally incomprehensible."

With no offense, I think you are not comprehending most of the actions of this administration.

"We are stuck in a disaster of our own devising"

1) They are liars. Even the "unnamed sources" criticizing the administration from within are lying. Believe only indisputable facts on the ground. Accept no analysis or interpretations, especially mine.
2) This is one of the most brilliant, able, competent administrations in the history of the United States. They know exactly what they are doing in Iraq, foreign policy, macroeconomics, domestic politics and are achieving their aims with astonishing success. It isn't what you want them to do, or what they are claiming as their goals(see 1) but Iraq is a complete success.

Since the war on terror mostly has to be won on a hearts and minds basis, staying committed to the creation of a healthy, peaceful Afganistan would have been enormously helpful.

I think that this has been done by and large. There is a tricky compromise between imposing a US friendly regime and allowing for political conflict in emerging democracies. By and large the uncertainties in today's Iraq reflect the commitment to an open political system. Afghanistan's politics are even more tribal and strongman oriented and I believe the rate of progress is in fact realistic towards the ultimate goals.

"If memory serves, the Somalia remark I heard was the week after the election (though it might've been the Thursday or Friday of the following week) when rumors started emerging that Bush might send troops in; the gays-in-the-military fiasco didn't ensue until 1993, although it might've started a bit in December."

Respectfully, your hearing remarks is not the same as Congress debating, and the issue being on the front page of all the newspapers. I'm kinda not following how one is the equivalent of the other.

A bit of quick googling reminds me that, yes, it had become a huge national issue by November, 1992:

The JCS has been fighting with Clinton's advisers since November - - first with Washington lawyer John Holum, representing the Clinton transition team, and more recently. with Defense Secretary Aspin. Led by Chairman Colin Powell, the chiefs in mid-December warned Clinton's aides that they would resign as a group if the incoming administration chose an unacceptable plan for legitimizing the military status of gays.
In other words, long before Clinton took office.

I'm sort of vague how remarks you heard are the equivalent of this. Apologies if I'm not putting this gentlely enough, because that is not at all my attention. I'm just genuinely not quite understanding you, I think. (This is also in the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. window when I pretty much can't see my computer screen, which doesn't help prompt responding nor comprehension on my part, I'm afraid, he said, waving his hand back and forth in front of his face and screen, trying to make out anything but glare.)

DaveC: I think that this has been done by and large.

Then you have the same low standards for a healthy, peaceful Afghanistan as George Bush had when he abandoned Afghanistan to be torn apart by warlords. George W. Bush has done the same.

Afghanistan's politics are even more tribal and strongman oriented and I believe the rate of progress is in fact realistic towards the ultimate goals.

"Realistic" as in returning Afghanistan to the lawless state which enabled the rise of the Taliban to seem preferable to the reign of the warlords?

This is goalpost moving. Afghanistan is neither healthy nor peaceful, nor is it moving in that direction. It is realistic that it could have been, if the US had been sufficiently interested to invest a trivial proportion of the cost of invading and occupying Iraq in making that happen. It is not realistic that George W. Bush would ever have been interested in doing that.

It's fair (if unpleasant) for crcb to argue that Afghanistan is unimportant, therefore the US is not going to trouble itself with working to make Afghanistan healthy and peaceful.

But it's goalpost-moving for you to argue that Afghanistan is healthy and peaceful so the US has already "by and large" succeeded in Afghanistan, when your standards for "healthy and peaceful" are, it appears: as healthy and peaceful as realistically imaginable in a country being run by warlords.

"This question has to be answered by anyone opposing withdrawal, because simply remaining there indefinitely...."

Is there anyone left, anywhere (outside some outlying crazies), arguing for such a stance?

It was my impression that, in fact, a quite loose, but quite obvious, consensus had formed on both most of the left and most of the right, by the end of last fall, that the direction pretty much all sides agreed upon was "Iraqification"/withdrawal, basically speaking, with the major debate being over timing and details. I simplify vastly, to be sure, but who is arguing for "remaining there indefinitely," exactly? Cite? (From no earlier than December 1st, please.)

I'm entirely willing to believe I've missed them. My attention has been rather distracted of late.

One of the ddifficulties in discussing the future of our involvement in Iraq is the discussion gets all cluttered up, and (deliberately, I think) confused by spin. I think in realpolitick terms the two opposing positions are this:1. We (Republican leadership) are going to pull out gradually, call it a victory, and denigate critics as unpatriotic losers and 2. We (Democratic leadership)are going to watch the Republican leadership pull out of Iraq and call it a defeat.
What actually happens in Iraq has no relevance to the Republican leadership and not much relevence to the Republican followership who will simply redefine victory as many times as necessary to convince themselves that they have won something.
Democrats will obsess about the facts, point out the problems, and get blamed.

crcb: " -- "Third, by invading Iraq we have created a brand new place for al Qaeda to use as a base."

So let me make sure I understand you. We need to fight Al Qaeda, but fighting them in Iraq is bad. Please suggest your choice for the battle field."

Did you by any chance read the post I linked to? (It seems only polite to do so, what with you lecturing me on the need to explain things I have already explained.) Iraq would not have been a possible safe haven for al Qaeda had we not invaded. Now it is. Whatever my strategy might have been, the fact that it doesn't include invading Iraq puts me one potential al Qaeda safe haven ahead of Bush. Doing Afghanistan right ups that number to two. Personally, I think that one of the things a terrorist group of al Qaeda's size needs that we can deny them is countries in which they can operate with impunity. Bush isn't doing so well on that score: far from eliminating such countries, he's creating whole new ones.

As for special forces, I think they did a wonderful job in Afghanistan. I wish the regular military had given them better support at Tora Bora and in Operation Anaconda, but I think they (along with police actions, tracing finances, etc.) are exactly how we should be dealing with al Qaeda now that we've ousted the Taliban.

Last I heard, al Qaeda is still operating with impunity in Afghanistan, and (among other things) getting financing via the heroin trade. Goody gumdrops.

And for what it's worth, I respect Jes, but the response "you can't do X! Jes would disapprove!", um, overstates her influence on me.

"And check here to see if you're eligible to get Verizon DSL for $15/month."

If I could spare $15/month, I'd first put it towards the ~$120/month I don't have for medications, or... anyway. (My dialup is a free donation, or you wouldn't hear from me at all; I only just didn't have my phone cut off because of the $141 I owed on that.)

Thanks for the thought, though. Truly. (I yearn for broadband access more than I year for sex. Honest.)

I do have multiple tabs open at all times. See here for how that works out for me.


At ObWings, it's not the pageloading time that bugs me particularly, it's the having to reload twice every time (resisting manfully, like the truly manly man that I am, the urge to scream that all in CAPS). Isn't there anyone out there who knows from Typepad who can advise these folks on how to get under the hood? I've grown ever so much more displeased with the limitations of my Blogger template, and the fact that I know squat about HTML, but I can't imagine using a system where you can't open up the hood and do what you please -- when you know what you're doing -- with your template. To imagine paying for the privilege of not being able to change things, well, whatever works for people.

If it worked. As in, was fixable.

Heavy sigh of frustration.

"i don't intend to disparage the person who posted this, but this is a new standard GOP talking point."

You have to admire the certain meta-ness of complaining about complaining with an utter lack of self-awareness of the meta.

It's almost elegant. Circles are perfect. Ouroboros a tad less so.

I shouldn't feed the troll. But, okay, on this:

Are you proposing Special Ops going into Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Europe? Please more details on how we fight terrorists that fled Afghanistan.
First, you please explain how it is that we're fighting "the terrorists" in Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Europe when we haven't bloody invaded them, then.

Your "logic" seems to be that invasion and conquest is the only means of fighting terrorism. Not really a good overall strategy. You really don't offer much.

It's also worth noting that fighting terrorism can go only so far on a purely military basis, of course. If you read me much at all, you'll have a clue that I get the frustration of talking about military matters with people who only know what they read in the papers. But if you want to toss out "what are your qualifications" arguments, you'll get return fire of "where's your doctorate in history/political science/sociology/Islamic studies/anti-terrorism/etc." and soon the missiles will be flying back and forth and the only one happy will be Herman Kahn.

I, for one, won't stand for a mine-shaft gap, ladies and gentlefolk, rest assured.

We need to fight Al Qaeda, but fighting them in Iraq is bad. Please suggest your choice for the battle field.

"battle field"? i guess when all you have is a hammer, every problem really does look like a nail.

we should fight them everywhere. but we shouldn't give them recruiting opportunities.

ccrb -

You appear to be arguing that the invasion of Iraq in March of '03 was the logical next step after invading Afghanistan in a long term strategy to defeat Al Qaeda. Please advise if I'm misunderstanding you.

If I *do* understand you correctly, as far as I can tell there is absolutely and positively zero basis for your claim. Care to back it up?

Thanks -

Gary: Forgive me for standing outside the sensible consensus, but I'm not arguing against a straw position.

Hilzoy and Cole and a large number of other people maintain that U.S. troops are all that stands between Iraq and full-on civil war, and that therefore we can't withdraw right now.

Hilzoy said: We are, therefore, pinned down in Iraq: unable to leave without disaster, but equally unable to change things for the better. She then went on to condemn the choice of just leaving, which she expects the Bush admin to do. (I don't, exactly, but let's move along.)

The conclusion I draw, and I think it is a natural one, is that, without some specification of what U.S. troops can do in order to be able to leave responsibly at some future point, that moment will keep receding indefinitely into the future.

That is indefinite occupation, as opposed to setting dates for beginning and ending withdrawal. (I like Murtha's: tomorrow and six months away.) The date approach forces the moment of departure to arrive at some point.

Anyone who does not favor a specific timetable for withdrawal is obliged, in my view, to explain what it is U.S. troops must accomplish in order to justify their presence, and what steps they can take, if any, to make it possible to leave in the future.

Russell,
"logical next step"

It was a logical next step. Iraq is strategically located and was run by a dictator that hated the U.S. and was more than capable of causing us problems. Feel free to argue it was a difficult/idealistic next step, but I don't think one can seriously argue there was no logic involved in taking that step. It may not be the one you would choose, but it certainly was a logical next step.

But my core issue is this: Any step after 9/11 was a questionable step. Just ask yourself the question; Does a strong response create more radicals or discourage them? It's not a question that can be answered with certainty by anyone.

There is zero basis to backup any claim in any direction. Do more of the same, escalate our response to an intense police action combined with some military actions or an intense police action and wage the WOT. Come up with any combination you want. All steps in any direction to any degree has consequences.

No one can say for sure that their plan was better. Any moron can be pick apart a plan after it is implemented.

Let's just follow Hilzoy's logic somewhat. We spend tons of money/blood in Afghanistan. It becomes the perfect democracy. Where do all the bad guys go? Do they just change their minds and stay in Afghanistan and become good citizens?

We put more people in Afghanistan, do they start to resent us even more so than they might already? Do some of their corrupt leaders steal the money we invest and give it to radicals?

I personally think the worst left Afghanistan for Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.
Do you disagree with that statement or do you think they were/are still hanging out in Afghanistan?

So climbing into the way back machine its 2003. What do we do?

Please you and Hilzoy feel free to outline an overall response to terrorism.

Hilzoy's first step is to pick up the slack in Afghanistan. I say good idea, but what does that get you when all the bad guys go to other parts of the world? So Afghanistan becomes nirvana. That's great and all, but I doubt that puts much more of a dent in radical terrorism based out of Afghanistan than what Bush has been doing these last few years. Especially if the worst are sitting in Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.

Maybe you don't believe in a WOT?

crcb: I don't think the worst left for Iraq, for reasons I have outlined elsewhere. Denying them safe haven in one place after another is part of my strategy. Creating new places for them to go seems to be Bush's. Oddly, I prefer mine.

Hilzoy: And for what it's worth, I respect Jes, but the response "you can't do X! Jes would disapprove!", um, overstates her influence on me.

Drat.

Nell: Anyone who does not favor a specific timetable for withdrawal is obliged, in my view, to explain what it is U.S. troops must accomplish in order to justify their presence, and what steps they can take, if any, to make it possible to leave in the future.

What I fear is that "withdraw the troops" will mean withdrawing most of the troops on the ground, while increasing bombing raids. This has the advantage from Bush's point of view that he can continue to appear to be doing something in Iraq, while risking few American casualties. (Increasing Iraqi casualties, we can fairly assume, is not something that worries Bush one whit.)

Gary,

"Your "logic" seems to be that invasion and conquest is the only means of fighting terrorism."

No it isn't. That's you creating a straw man. Hilzoy wants to critique the plan. Fine let her. I just want to see her let me know how she knows what would have been a "better" plan. If time allows then I can critique her plan. Her post about Afghanistan was weak in overall strategy. It's perfectly fine to say invest more in there, but I just want us all to acknowledge the shortcomings in that strategy. Using resources that don't necessarily need to be directed there when the enemy isn't there anymore.

Obviously you can see that a strategy invovling all of our resources is the most effective. Intelligence ops, Special Ops, working with other countries and much more. Why would leave out invading Iraq as one step of the plan? Can anyone here acknowledge the advantages of an Iraq without Hussein in the WOT? Can anyone here even acknowledge that Iraq was a logical step, even if they disagree with it needing to be next?

Cleek,

"we should fight them everywhere. but we shouldn't give them recruiting opportunities"

Are you serious? Isn't fighting them at all giving the recruiting opportunities? Is your strategy to compromise somewhere between giving up and responding strongly. Please draw the line that is the right mixture. Heck just explain to me what the line would look like to minimize creating recruiting opportunities.

Hilzoy,

The link wasn't relevant. All you did was criticize why it was a bad idea. You never spoke to the issue of what we would do when Al Qaeda wound up in Iraq. And you don't even acknowledge that Al Qaeda had fled to Iraq after Afghanistan.

So the link says the invasion was a bad idea. That's not really much of a strategy is it?

Could you bring yourself to help us with some of the benefits of invading Iraq?

Please try it. I dare you.

"Can anyone here acknowledge the advantages of an Iraq without Hussein in the WOT? Can anyone here even acknowledge that Iraq was a logical step, even if they disagree with it needing to be next?"

It is a huge leap to go from saying that the world is better off without Hussein to saying that we should have invaded Iraq. In the perfect world, we could do things without cost. But, in reality, we cannot. We have to weigh the benefits of committing our military and financial resources at one place against other possible targets.

In my mind, we could have spent the same money and accomplished much more without having our military stretched thin. I do not claim to be a military strategist, but when I look at the dollars spent on Iraq and the 9/11 Commission recomendations, it seems to me that we chose poorly.

crcb: And you don't even acknowledge that Al Qaeda had fled to Iraq after Afghanistan.

Why should Hilzoy "acknowledge" a mad theory for which there is no evidence? (Al Qaeda is operating in Iraq now, apparently, but that's because the US has, post-invasion, created a state in which al Qaeda can operate with impunity - which was not the case under Saddam Hussein.) There is no evidence that al Qaeda operatives "fled to Iraq" following the US invasion of Afghanistan.

crcb: And you don't even acknowledge that Al Qaeda had fled to Iraq after Afghanistan.

Why should Hilzoy "acknowledge" a mad theory for which there is no evidence? (Al Qaeda is operating in Iraq now, apparently, but that's because the US has, post-invasion, created a state in which al Qaeda can operate with impunity - which was not the case under Saddam Hussein.) There is no evidence that al Qaeda operatives "fled to Iraq" following the US invasion of Afghanistan.

What benefit is there to having invaded Iraq? According to the latest poll even the majority of Iraqis don't think the invasion was to their benefit, and there has been no benefit to us in terms of fighting terrorism.
If we wanted to fight an evil dictator, why not Korea or Mynammar? Or the Sudan? There's lots of evil dictators aound. If we wanted to attack an evil Islamic goverment with terrorist connections, why not Saudi Arabia?
We didn't attack because Saddam was evil or because he supposedly had connections to terrorism. We attacked him because Bush thought it would be easy and it would make Bush a war President, a hero in his own eyes, able to use the war for domestic spin purposes.
That's all.
And now that the war isn't useful for domestic spin he will declare victory and leave, a process already started.
If Bush was serious about fighting terrorism he would take domestic security seriously and chemical company CEO's would't be nixing plant security plans and we wouldn't be shovelling DHS funds into Wyoming.

ccrb -

Here's why I think invading Iraq in '03 was a stupid idea.

Al Qaeda was centered in Afghanistan, also in the northwest provinces of Pakistan. After we overthrew the Taliban, many jihadis did disperse, but if I'm not mistaken the core leadership of Al Qaeda and their strongest base of indigenous support is still in those areas. That's where we should be focusing our attention. We are not.

I'm not sure if Iran is all that friendly to Al Qaeda or not. I think some of the Al Qaeda partisans in Iran are spending their time there in jail. Iraq was not friendly to Al Qaeda, and in fact Iraq was unique among all middle eastern countries in having little or no meaningful Al Qaeda presence before we invaded there. That last is per the CIA.

Zarqawi had a presence in Kurdistan after leaving Afghanistan, but that was an area outside of the control of Hussein, and in fact in the military control of the US. As an aside, I have no idea why we allowed him to establish a training and poison development facility there prior to our invasion of Iraq proper, and have never heard a satisfactory answer to that question.

You are correct that Iraq was ruled by a despot who was hostile to the US. You are incorrect to say that there was a damned thing Hussein could do, or was likely to do, that would present a threat to us or our interests in '03.

Iraq is centrally located but I fail to see the relevance of that to any effort against Al Qaeda. It is relevant to other geopolitical issues, but I'd hope those are not why we're there.

What would a better plan be? Find and capture or kill active members of Al Qaeda wherever they are. Lather rinse and repeat until done. Prior to our invasion of Iraq they were not there. They are now.

What would a worse plan be? Commit enormous numbers of US forces to an effort from which we cannot extract them without incurring a disaster, and which makes no contribution at all to finding and defeating active operational members and leadership of Al Qaeda, but which in fact gives them a new environment in which to thrive.

So, I call it a dumb idea. Phenomenally dumb. Think of invading Spain as a response to Pearl Harbor, that's the kind of dumb I mean. And, that's leaving aside the numerous other vulnerabilities in terms of domestic and international politics that our adventure there has created. My two cents.

"Can anyone here even acknowledge that Iraq was a logical step, even if they disagree with it needing to be next?"

I'll go this far: I see the argument for it, and I don't agree that the argument is -- quite -- "mad." Just wrong.

I do think, and you may not have noticed that I've been saying this for about three years now, that there were decent arguments for invading Iraq. I put some forth, as you might on the upper left sidebar of my blog, where I have three links of opinions of mine about Iraq at various stages.

I think, however, that the decent arguments all had next to nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

I do think, in point of fact, that you've said some reasonable things in the course of this thread, along with some silly things, but that's par for the course. I don't, however, I'm afraid, wish to spend the time going through your comments point by point. Sorry, but I'm sure you'll live.

I do think, however, that you're no longer acting like a troll, and that should be rewarded with at least a "thank you." Almost as good as chocolate and hugs and puppies, isn't it?

So, tell me, have you outlined your Comprehensive Stratergery For Defeating Worldwide Terrorism someplace we might peruse it, should the urge overcome us? It's only fair that you should put make available that which you demand equally from Hilzoy (and which she's under no obligation to give, I point out; I note that we are a guest in the home of the blogowners, just in passing).

"And you don't even acknowledge that Al Qaeda had fled to Iraq after Afghanistan."

What's curious here is that you speak as if al Qaeda was like a boy scout troop, or an Army battalion, or some other body with a fixed membership, rather than a non-hierarchical body that is essentially now a franchise. I presume you'll agree that the primary problem nowadays is not people with a direct line to the Big Laden, following a fixed plan of operation, but perhaps not.

What's your strategy to best interfere with a constant flow of new recruits to the cause being self-organizing nodes, precisely?

"Al Qaeda is operating in Iraq now, apparently...."

I could be wrong, but I charitably assumed that that's all crcb was saying there. That's hardly "mad."

(I'm also not concerned that they'll wind up in control of the Iraqi government. This is why; read the full article I linked, not just the tiny excerpt I gave as enticement.)

"If we wanted to fight an evil dictator, why not Korea or Mynammar? Or the Sudan?"

The entirely obvious answer the pro-war side gives is, of course, practicality. It's not like this wasn't discussed three years ago. There are endless valid arguments to make as to why the war was a bad idea, or a dreadful and horrible and tragic and horrific mistake, but the answer of the pro-war advocates to that question is not a mystery. It may be wrong (and I think it is), but it is not a mystery.

I have to say that I, for one, am pretty well uninterested by now in arguments about whether or not we should have invaded Iraq. It's not as if anyone has had a single goddamned new thing to say in the past two years on it, so so far as I can see, people just enjoy hearing themselves say "I told you so" on both sides when they continue to flap their mouths about the topic. (Yes, I exaggerate; yes, it's an important question; history will settle it, not people on a blog thread, for god's sake.)

At this point it's only faintly less relevant to dealing with our current problems that arguing whether the Dieppe Raid was worth it. The answer is likely "no," but what frigging difference does that make now?

But that's just me. Impatient sometimes, when I'm not showing my Boddisatvahood.

Respectfully, your hearing remarks is not the same as Congress debating, and the issue being on the front page of all the newspapers. I'm kinda not following how one is the equivalent of the other.

I'm kinda not following how you came to the conclusion that I said anything of the sort.

A bit of quick googling reminds me that, yes, it had become a huge national issue by November, 1992:

Then I stand corrected; I misremembered it as coming to a head in January 1993. [My various Google searches didn't yield particularly useful results.] That said, if you read your own cite above...

Led by Chairman Colin Powell, the chiefs in mid-December warned Clinton's aides that they would resign as a group if the incoming administration chose an unacceptable plan for legitimizing the military status of gays. [Emph mine]

which, if you read my post above, does fall within the parameters of what I said. So, with respect, I'm thinking that part of the problem here is that you're either not reading what I'm writing or not reading what you're citing.

For that matter, I'm not even sure what you're disagreeing with, what with the reference to Congress and the like. If you want to dispute the notion that the desire for a Somalian fiasco was specifically the first in a series of attacks on the Clinton presidency, that's fine; from your writing, though, it seems like you're taking issue with something else and I don't know what. Could you possibly try rephrasing what your central contention is here?

I'm sort of vague how remarks you heard are the equivalent of this.

I've told the story a gazillion times so I elided some of the details under the apparent misapprehension that people would remember. My apologies. The expanded-but-still-short version was that this sentiment was rife throughout Orange County -- at the time, proud bearers of the label "Most Republican County in the United States"; I leave to you the factuality of the moniker, only the fact that it was adopted with pride being relevant here -- and AFAIK one of the first areas truly steeped in the cult of Rush Limbaugh and modern conservativism; the particular remark I overheard was exemplary of this attitude, not merely a singular expostulation out of the blue. Based on these experiences, therefore -- which I consider, perhaps unfairly but probably not, as having been a direct pipeline into the id of the nascent conservative movement -- I read the domestic pressure on Clinton to withdraw from Somalia as sublimated (or outright transferred) hostility towards him from the election campaign. [Specifically the various accusations of adultery that the OC locals felt rendered Clinton morally unworthy, but that may have been specific to the locale; I don't claim any generality there.] IOW, it was to my eye a direct continuation of election-based politics of destruction -- and to my recollection, at least, the first in such a series of attacks whose escalation was concomitant with, and arguably an essential part of, the rise of modern Movement Conservativism.

Hope that explains both the context and the relevance of the remark as recounted above.

"Could you possibly try rephrasing what your central contention is here?"

Simply that the first major political assault by Congressional Republicans, and the rest of the Party, against Clinton, even before he took office, was to throw the gays-in-the-military issue at him so as to force him to defend a stance that would be problematic with much of middle America at the time, and thus badly wound him politically before he even too the Oath of office.

What I said at 2:31 p.m. today:

In my memory the first assault after his election was the Republican "Clinton wants to put f-gs in the military, and we must attack him so he must respond, and then we can claim he's taking the initiative in wanting to put f-gs in the Army and Navy!"

(Apologies to anyone for use of nasty language for the sake of semi-realism.)

But I've not gone back and looked at the sequence of events, to be sure.

And, to be sure, that political strategy was extremely effective for the Republicans. They put a just-elected President who hadn't even embarked on a honeymoon onto the defensive before he could find out which stairway went to the Lincoln Bedroom.

You responded at 2:33:
To recap my story bbriefly, Republicans of my acquaintance in Orange County after the election in November 1992 were vocally hoping that Somalia would "turn into another Vietnam" so "it would f*** Clinton". IMO, the real problem wasn't the casualties in Somalia per se, it was a huge, vociferous assault -- the first in a lengthy series, as we're all aware -- on the Clinton Presidency.
At 2:48, you responded to me:
In my memory the first assault after his election was the Republican "Clinton wants to put f-gs in the military...

If memory serves, the Somalia remark I heard was the week after the election (though it might've been the Thursday or Friday of the following week) when rumors started emerging that Bush might send troops in; the gays-in-the-military fiasco didn't ensue until 1993, although it might've started a bit in December.

So: how the "the Somalia remark [you] heard was the week after the election" demonstrates that the Republican Party did not use the gay issue first, but rather Somalia, I don't follow. Maybe that's not what you were trying to say. (I take it not.) What was your purpose in quoting me saying "In my memory..." etc., then?

So: how the "the Somalia remark [you] heard was the week after the election" demonstrates that the Republican Party did not use the gay issue first, but rather Somalia, I don't follow.

Uhhhh... by virtue of it being done first? Hence my invocation of a particular chronology?

I'm really not following your argument here. It's entirely possible that I have the chronology wrong and that gays in the military issue was invoked prior to the Somalia issue, I'll certainly grant you that -- but you haven't yet established it. If your contention is that it wasn't Republican Congresspeople who were leading the way on the Somalian issue, I suppose that (might be -- again, facts are not yet in evidence) a legitimate point, but it's tangential to the above series of quotes, where you'll note that neither of us invoked Congress at all, merely "Republicans" as an (inchaote?) whole.

I should be clear here: I think we're quibbling over trivialities here, but I'm still not entirely sure. [That is, I think we're both saying that A and B happened VerySoonAfter the election, just disagreeing on the order in which they happened.] If it makes things any better, the "as we're all aware" is meant to modify "lengthy series" not "the first in a lengthy series"; I realize upon re-reading that that might have been unclear. I can't really help you beyond that, because I genuinely don't know what you're querying me about: I'm saying that A preceded B which, while it may be wrong, doesn't seem to me to be the slightest bit confusing.

> Actually, as measured by the latest poll in Military Times, support for Bush in the armed services has dropped ten points in the last month to (if I remember correctly) about 50%

I bet the officer corps would still show up conservative. Like universities, where polling the student body would give a mix of conservative and liberals but the professors are liberals. But no one complains about the Army being that way.

Gary, perhaps whoever's donating your dialup would rather be buying you broadband for just a little more. But it sounds like your situation is going to be complicated beyond my advice.

Isn't fighting them at all giving the recruiting opportunities?

invading a country that was irrelevant to al-Q, killing 30,000 of it's citizens and providing years and years of footage of totally innocent Muslims dead at American hands is giving them recruiting fodder.

you want to fight al-Q using military force? go right ahead. find them, kill them. don't bomb the houses of innocents in the process.

you got a problem with my neighbor? fine. but don't decided you're going to fight him in my living room. cause, if you do, you've just made yourself a new enemy.

Is your strategy to compromise somewhere between giving up and responding strongly.

beat that strawman. beat it good.

just by coincidence, i left this page, went to CNN.com and saw this: 6 more Iraqi civilians dead at US hands.

untold numbers of Islamic youth radicalized upon hearing the news.

Cleek, I've got to fight him in your living room so I won't have to fight him in mine. Are you saying there's something immoral about that?

A minor sidenote. I found blogbudsman's second post more puzzling than his first. Anarch told him, basically, that he was so wrong his post amounted to meaningless jabber. Blogbudsman responded with a link to the motto "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." Why? It's as if he wanted to show that Anarch was right.

"Cleek, I've got to fight him in your living room so I won't have to fight him in mine. Are you saying there's something immoral about that?"

We didn't have to. That point has been established.

Next, the guy whose living room we're tearing up may not like what we've done to him. Therefore, we get a new enemy.


VDH also mocked the idea of a "quagmire."

I will leave it to others to defne how deep this one is, but it definitely has the prerequuisites to meet the term quagmire.

- If we pull out we may unloose tragedy in Iraq, perhaps inflame the middle east and possibly set up 2 terrorist producing states.

- If we stay we may have years of dead and expences, we may be caught in the middle of sectarian conflicts.

Now we can tromp out of this mess if we want to, but it's still pretty deep mud strethcing out a long way. The fact that the potentially terrible things that Graner *did* prepare for didn't happen does not prove that all other concerns are false. VDH may be an expert on the classsics, but he didn't get to Aristotle and the other logicians.

And VDH does not note that fears of the terrible things were based on the assumption of Iraqi WMD.

So here is VDH on logic

Some opponents said x, y
Of course some oppinents also said y, z or a, b leaving out x, but Hansen deduces

all opponents said x.

Then he concludes because x was false y is false without showing any dependance and he neglects to show that

x depended upon what VDH swore was the truth and probably claims is still the truth because people like him tend to argue (with a knowing smirk) that there was lots of WMD and now it's in the hands of the Syrians, Iranians and various terrorist groups thus showing the war was a success and that it's time to invade Syria, Iran and Lebanon.

And to prove it will go swimmingly just look at Iraq which is a brilliant success. There is a reason this giy can't farm worth beans and can only make a living teaching in a second rate school.

VDH also mocked the idea of a "quagmire."

I will leave it to others to defne how deep this one is, but it definitely has the prerequuisites to meet the term quagmire.

- If we pull out we may unloose tragedy in Iraq, perhaps inflame the middle east and possibly set up 2 terrorist producing states.

- If we stay we may have years of dead and expences, we may be caught in the middle of sectarian conflicts.

Now we can tromp out of this mess if we want to, but it's still pretty deep mud strethcing out a long way. The fact that the potentially terrible things that Graner *did* prepare for didn't happen does not prove that all other concerns are false. VDH may be an expert on the classsics, but he didn't get to Aristotle and the other logicians.

And VDH does not note that fears of the terrible things were based on the assumption of Iraqi WMD.

So here is VDH on logic

Some opponents said x, y
Of course some oppinents also said y, z or a, b leaving out x, but Hansen deduces

all opponents said x.

Then he concludes because x was false y is false without showing any dependance and he neglects to show that

x depended upon what VDH swore was the truth and probably claims is still the truth because people like him tend to argue (with a knowing smirk) that there was lots of WMD and now it's in the hands of the Syrians, Iranians and various terrorist groups thus showing the war was a success and that it's time to invade Syria, Iran and Lebanon.

And to prove it will go swimmingly just look at Iraq which is a brilliant success. There is a reason this giy can't farm worth beans and can only make a living teaching in a second rate school.

Sorry, Kyle, I was just snarkily calling attention to the fact that if the ridiculous flypaper strategy made sense (which it doesn't), it would be morally equivalent to using innocent people as human shields.

"Gary, perhaps whoever's donating your dialup would rather be buying you broadband for just a little more."

Nobody is buying it. It's free from the company. They don't offer broadband. So it wouldn't be "just a little more." It would be the entire cost, which isn't going to be in my budget until I up my monthly income by at least another ~$200/month or so.

Thanks muchly for the thought, of course.

Anarch:

"So: how the "the Somalia remark [you] heard was the week after the election" demonstrates that the Republican Party did not use the gay issue first, but rather Somalia, I don't follow.

Uhhhh... by virtue of it being done first?

We seem to be talking past each other. I'm consistently discussing how the Republican Party led the national agenda/discourse during the weeks and couple of months after the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, and savagely weakened his ability to set the agenda by a national campaign that was on the front pages of every newspaper and magazine in the country, every talk radio show and tv news show, and that was the primary political debate in Congress and the nation, with the "gays in the military" issue.

You're talking, apparently, about some remarks some guys made to you. I don't get the comparison.

"I'm saying that A preceded B which, while it may be wrong"... had no affect on the national discourse whatever.

I mean, millions of people chatted about millions of things before the "gays in the military" issue was thrown up as the first major assault against Clinton, but so what? Where's the relevance? Either the first major political assault against Clinton was gays-in-the-military, or it wasn't. (And I was prepared to believe that I was wrong, and if you cited, say, a half dozen magazine covers, or even a single major one, from those weeks, or some equivalent evidence, I'd think I might be misremembering, but some random conversation? I completely don't get it.)

You're talking, apparently, about some remarks some guys made to you. I don't get the comparison.

Then since I don't feel like getting into a knock-down drag-out fight about the definition of "first" -- a concept which is apparently still eluding you, though I can't imagine why -- I guess we'll leave it at that.

[And incidentally, I'd've thought the relevance was clear from my posts above but, again, if it isn't already clear it ain't worth my time trying to make it clearer.]

KC,

"it would be morally equivalent to using innocent people as human shields."

The Hussein regime was innocent? I guess we have very different morals. It may be that Bush's approach was too nuanced for many, but that doesn't make it amoral.

1) Remove Hussein's evil regime
2) Try to establish a democratic Iraq
3) If anyone especially, Al Qaeda tries to prevent that from happening then kill them.

No where does it say we sould use innocent people.

Are you trying to say that it was "more" moral to leave the millions of Iraqi people to suffer under the control of a ruthless dictator?

"Then since I don't feel like getting into a knock-down drag-out fight about the definition of 'first' -- a concept which is apparently still eluding you, though I can't imagine why -- I guess we'll leave it at that."

"First" is utterly clear. What I'm completely missing is why what some guys said to you is or was important to the national dialogue. Okay, it was your impression. I guess I don't understand how one can offer an impression as anything other than an impression, or as evidence of anything beyond subjectivity.

You're trying to say that there was a national debate/attack on Clinton over Somalia prior to the Republicans attacking him on the gay/military issue, I take it If so, fine. But what are you putting forward as evidence, if so? Do you have some cites?

I have no interest at all in "fighting" about it. I do find it frustrating that I'm not making sense of your argument, given that you are such an articulate and sensible guy.

I'm perfectly prepared to believe that it's some blindness on my part, or something. That's kind of why it's bothering me. I get bothered when I don't understand something that should be perfectly simple. That's all. It frustrates me.

Looking back again: "If you want to dispute the notion that the desire for a Somalian fiasco was specifically the first in a series of attacks on the Clinton presidency,"

First in a series of attacks by the national Republican Party? Well, I'm not so much disputing it, as saying that I certainly don't recall that, but my memory is quite unreliable, so, sure, maybe you're right, and if so, what's the evidence? What are you citing?

Looking back again, the only support I see that you mentioned was that you assert that: "this sentiment was rife throughout Orange County." Which is just circularly repeating that you believe it because it was your impression. I'm perfectly willing to believe it was an entirely correct impression. I don't understand, though, what you think I should make of that, other than that was your impression.

But: "...AFAIK one of thethe particular remark I overheard was exemplary of this attitude, not merely a singular expostulation out of the blue. Based on these experiences, therefore -- which I consider, perhaps unfairly but probably not, as having been a direct pipeline into the id of the nascent conservative movement...."

Um, okay, I guess I should drop it. I don't understand how this is anything other then supporting an assertion by saying "yes, I assert it was my impression."

Uh, okay. [scratches head] Maybe I've been drinking too much coffee.

Entirely separate digression: "nascent conservative movement"? In 1992? Say what?

Oh for crying out loud get over the idea that we attacked Saddam bwecause he was evil. If that was the case. why did we give him money during the period that he was, with our knowledge, killing the Kurds? Why haven't we intervened in the Sudan? Why is there nothing from this administration about Myanmar? Why is Bush cozying up to that awful governmentin Uzbekistan (which I know I misspelled)? No administration has ever attacked another country simply because the leader of that country was evil. Saddam's evilness was an excuse, not a reason. As a matter of fact the Saudi govenment is pretty bad and Saudi citizens have extensive connections to terrorism, but we're friends with them. Evilness is relevent only for publicity purposes.

My rant is addressed to crcb, not Gary.

crcb, the flypaper strategy says that it's better to have suicide bombers in Baghdad than in Birmingham. The goal is explicitly to attract terrorists to somewhere outside the United States where they weren't before and "fight them there so we don't have to fight them here". Those suicide bombers are not attacking Hussein's regime -- they're attacking innocent Iraqis, and those are the "human shields" I was referring to.

The "flypaper strategy" doesn't relate to the "Saddam was a bad man" reason for the war or to the "spreading democracy" reason. It goes back to the "protecting America" reason. And I'm saying that if it worked as described it would be an immoral method of self-defense.

Lily,

Yes crying outloud does seem accurate from many on the left. Did I say somewhere that Bush only invaded Iraq because Hussein was evil?

"Oh for crying out loud get over the idea that we attacked Saddam bwecause he was evil."

I guess you missed the 2003 State of the Union.

Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.

If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.

And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country.

"If that was the case. why did we give him money during the period that he was, with our knowledge, killing the Kurds?"

Have you ever heard of a country called Iran? Before 9/11 we thought Hussein was the lesser of two evils. And if we are going to be honest we both know the money was negligible compared to other countries like Russia and France.

"Why haven't we intervened in the Sudan?

Wouldn't that be unilateral? Shouldn't you be applauding Bush for not acting unilaterally? You would think the U.N. could do something on their own. But the probably the real reason is that they don't threaten us with the same type of weapons that Hussein desired.

"Why is there nothing from this administration about Myanmar?"

Are they pursuing WMD? Did they have 12 years of violating UN resolutions related to WMD? Have they plotted to kill a US president?

"Why is Bush cozying up to that awful governmentin Uzbekistan (which I know I misspelled)?"

Cozying? No nuance on you. So can you define a best path for every single country? It seems that you are implying that we should never have anything to do with any country that is bad even if it could help us. Wouldn't that mean that we can't have a relationship with ourselves?

"No administration has ever attacked another country simply because the leader of that country was evil."

So this is the one administration in history that only had one reason to attack a country? Your logical house of cards just fell down. Are you saying that the sole reason Bush attacked was for WMD? I guess he really is a blip on the presidential radar. Please answer the quesiton. Did Bush only invade Iraq for one reason or more than one? Be careful. You might have to accept Bush at his words, like the ones above if you think he may have had more than one reason.

Not that I'm keen to join in on what appears to have escalated into a bit of a contentious (if somewhat trivial) issue but...

Anarch, Gary is right - it's in Bill Clinton's autobiography:

"On the night of [January] the twenty-fifth [1993], at their urgent request, I met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the gays-in-the-military issue. Earlier in the day, the New York Times had reported that, because of strong military objection to the change, I would delay issuing formal regulations lifting the ban for six months, while the views of senior officers, as well as practical problems, were considered.

[...]

"The Joint Chiefs' early request for a meeting created a problem. I was more that willing to hear them out, but I didn't want the issue to get anhy more publicity trhan it already was receiving, not because I was trying to hide my position, but because I didn't want the public to think I was paying more attention to it than the economy. That's exactly what the congressional Republicans wanted the American people to think. Senator [Bob] Dole was already talking about passing a resolution removing my authority to lift the ban; he clearly wanted this to be the defining issue of my first weeks in office.

[...]

In the short run, I got the worst of both worlds - I lost the fight, and the gay community was highly critical of me for the [don't ask, don't tell] compromise, simply refusing to acknowledge the consequences of having so little support in Congress, and giving me little credit for lifting another ban on gays, the ban against serving in critical national security positions [what, arab translators aren't considered critical by 43 and co.? -mb], who were working throughout the administration. By contrast, Senator Dole won big. By raising the issue early, and repeatedly, he guaranteed it so much publicity that it appeared I was working on little else, which caused a lot of Americans who had elected me to fix the economy to wonder what on earth I was doing and whether they'd made a mistake."

(cite taken from volume 2 of the Vintage mass market paperback edition, pgs 20-23)


Bush 41 first authorized military intervention in Somalia in December 1992, only a few weeks before Clinton took the oath of office; The military operation didn't become a detrimental issue until later that summer, with the now-infamous 'black hawk down' debacle. Clinton doesn't even mention Somalia as having an impact on his first few weeks in office.

I think it's safe to say, judging by his own words, that President Clinton saw the gays-in-the-military controversy as the first significant GOP attack against one of his policy initiatives.

...and, upon re-reading in full what went on prior to my butting-in, I'm gonna step away, as I seem to have (also) misinterpreted the point that Anarch was attempting to make.

Sorry 'bout that.

[/delurk]

But what are you putting forward as evidence, if so? Do you have some cites?... Um, okay, I guess I should drop it. I don't understand how this is anything other then supporting an assertion by saying "yes, I assert it was my impression."

Gaaaah. I agree it would be nice if I'd made, I dunno, transcripts of all the conversations I had in the second week of November 1992 so as to provide you with greater evidence about the factual underpinnings of my experiences... but if I had those, don't you think I'd've offered them up by now? [After the umpteen years of therapy I'd've needed if I were that kind of person to begin with ;) ] Hell, I can't even find reliable transcripts of Rush Limbaugh's broadcasts during that time-frame -- and having looked, I need to take a shower -- and they would've been a hell of a lot more likely to have been archived online than the primary sources I'm trying to relay to you here.

Which, ultimately, is part of the point I was trying to make: I'm relaying to you, in an abbreviated form, primary oral evidence towards my contention. [It's arguably more "sesquinary" evidence than primary, lacking the transcripts, but the hell with precision.] I'm saying that this particular issue -- and again, I'm not talking about Blackhawk Down, which as you and matttbastard have bother noted was several months later and after the "gays in the military" issue had blown up, but rather the immediate desire for Somalia to "turn into another Vietnam" so as to hurt Clinton -- was nonetheless the first strike of the Republicans* against the Clinton Presidency; that it was distinct from election politics in certain key ways, specifically in the desire to hurt the country (and even more specifically the military) in order to hurt Clinton, but also in the fact that it was, well, after the election; that it had non-trivial currency amongst the GOP faithful; and, though I didn't expound this far in my original arguments, that it (to my eye -- and yes, this part is an impression of mine) was a sort of trial balloon that emboldened the Republican attack machine immediately thereafter, in large part because it showed that there really weren't any calumnies the GOP faithful weren't prepared to countenance.

So of course I can't give you any cites, and yes, I'm sure if you were inclined to dismiss me you could argue that this was merely "my impression", the remarks of "one random guy"**, despite my claims to the contrary. And I'm not in the slightest surprised that other people aren't aware of these events since I have no idea what kind of national currency it had. But in the same way that a storm can begin with a single drop of rain or a war can begin with a single shot -- both insignificant on their own terms, acquiring meaning only in the context of later events -- so too I maintain that this was the first shot of the true War On Clinton with the subsequent fireworks of which we're all aware.

* Note again that I didn't say the Republican Party because I have absolutely no idea whether there was any GOP involvement in the spreading of this meme. [And note again that, in your original post, neither did you, which accounts for some of the confusion, I think.] My experiences, summarized in a single anecdote about a single remark, were solely with the diehard GOP faithful (and supposedly Rush Limbaugh but lacking transcripts I can't tell you for sure, nor am I willing to stake even a fraction on my reputation on it), which led me to believe that this was actually encouraged by the, well, emanations and penumbra of the GOP, people like Limbaugh who are their aiders and abettors but not actually within the formal political framework.

** As an aside, it was actually a girl in my high school French class who I'd never heard utter a political sentiment before or since, which is part of why I was so surprised, and part of why I remember it so vividly.

Entirely separate digression: "nascent conservative movement"? In 1992? Say what?

Ah, that. My basic contention is that, while the movers and shakers of movement conservativism remained roughly the same, and while the basic organizations remained in place -- so yes, there was and had been a successful conservative movement for at least a decade at that point; don't worry, I'm not completely crazy -- they morphed into such a radically different form (and with either such radically different aims or such radically different mechanisms, depending on your interpretation) during and immediately after the 1992 election as to warrant designation as an entirely new conservative movement. Or, to put it another way, 1992 to me marks the transition of the Conservative Movement to the GOP Consolidation Movement (for lack of better descriptors).

Again, there's no particular personnel change associated with this transition; it's more that the old cause -- some variant on small government, free marketeering, {their interpretation of} traditional Christian values, etc. -- became (gradually, natch) the new cause -- Republican hegemony, for lack of a better term. I can't put my finger on it more directly, again for lack of time and resources, but there was a real sea change during 1992 that I think doesn't get enough attention, since other demarcations (in particular 1980 and 1994) are so much more obvious.

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