« Cheney Shoots Friend. Digby Smells Rat. | Main | Moral Responsibility Made Easy »

February 14, 2006

Comments

There is no incompetence.

"...just to score a cheap political point."

This is just conventional wisdom, mind-reading, and a judgement of motivation that ignores the fact that the PNAC crew has been obsessed with Iran for twenty years. It presumes some very extraordinary coincidences, and ignores evidence and players (Chalabi,Ledeen). But you know why they do what they do. They're petty and stupid. Katrina, Iraq, Part D, Iran, all incompetence because you assume their goals are your goals, or their expressed goals, to whatever extent they tell us. Not that this administration is secretive or deceptive. Just idiotic.

"There is no incompetence."

I know you mean that specifically about These People, but, Bob, back up a second, and I'll ask you if you believe that's an accurate description of humans in general.

If your answer is "yes," we don't have much more to discuss on that front, I guess.

If your answer is "no," I'd ask if -- setting aside a wide and deep and long variety of specifics I would grant arguendo -- you are also actually suggesting that, in fact, along with the Purposefully Evil Decisions, appointments, etc., that this Admin has committed, they also are Perfectly Super-Humanly Competent, and thus never, ever, also make any mistakes whatever, and thus All Their Acts Are Wilfully Part Of The Plot, which is what your above statement (and many times repeated variants of it) seems to say.

Of course, maybe you were just over-generalizing for effect. But, if so, you can't, I think, fairly blame me for not-mindreading, and for replying to what you wrote, rather than what you meant.

"...that the PNAC crew has been obsessed with Iran for twenty years."

Not 26+?

"...all incompetence because you assume their goals are your goals...."

I'm pretty sure that Hilzoy believes no such thing.

"Not that this administration is secretive or deceptive. Just idiotic."

Quite sure Hilzoy believes no such thing.

Bob: "Katrina, Iraq, Part D, Iran, all incompetence because you assume their goals are your goals, or their expressed goals, to whatever extent they tell us."

Their goals are certainly not mine. (What on earth would make you think that?) And I think that what I wrote implies that their goals are not their expressed goals either. They claim to be deeply concerned with national security. For all I know, they believe that they are. I claim they are not.

For all that, I think they are incompetent. Incompetence doesn't imply that they have no other problems, of course.

And for that matter, did I ever say, here or anywhere, that outing Valerie Plame was the result of incompetence? I think it was the result of Cheney, Rove, et al wanting to kneecap their political opponents to discredit them publicly, and to send a message to anyone who ever thought of joining them. That's not incompetence; it's thuggishness combined with a blatant disregard for both the people involved and our national interest.

I think I will just ignore you Gary, since you have not a constructive contribution to make, but just attacks on fellow commenters that range from mischaracterization of arguments to spelling corrections. Whatever is available.

Outing Plame, according to simplest explanation, might have been motivated by the desire to out Plame, to remove her from a position of power and influence.

Can we start with that as a possibility? Outing Plame motivated by a desire to discredit Wilson doesn't seem an extraordinarily radical measure?

Bob: from a normal human being, it would seem extreme. From Karl "spread rumors that someone who has spent his life helping children is a pedophile" Rove, no. Plus, it's a very good way of warning off other people from going public, if, like Rove, you happen to lack any shred of decency.

Why not call it a twofer? Hurt Wilson, hurt the obstructionist CIA, scare would-be-critics.

Uhh, threefer.

hilzoy, we have seen them attack one country based on a mischaracterization of their WMD capacities and potential. Now I am not the only person in the world who believes this administration wants to attack Iran, for whatever real reason, publicly justified on a mischaracterization of their WMD capacities and potential.

Just coincidentally the person and group most knowledgable about Iran's WMD capacities and potentials has been accidentally, or as a stupid side effect, or whatever, been removed from their position and that group seriously weakened.

All because the President, this President's credibility was attacked and threatened? Tht happens every day for five years, and in most cases they don't sem to give a darn? What exactly did Joe Wilson threaten?

On the other hand, what did Valerie Plame threaten?

"if, like Rove, you happen to lack any shred of decency."

According to my best information, this did not start with Rove, but began in Cheney's office.

"I think I will just ignore you Gary, since you have not a constructive contribution to make, but just attacks on fellow commenters that range from mischaracterization of arguments to spelling corrections. Whatever is available."

I'm fairly disappointed you would think and say that, Bob.

I'll have to leave to othe3rs to judge whether I have "not a constructive contribution to make, but just attacks on fellow commenters that range from mischaracterization of arguments to spelling corrections," and I don't see how my question to you was other than fair and substantive, nor how it was in any way an "attack" on you, but, naturally, I have no control over your interpretations or reactions.

I presume that the fact that I was correct about what Hilzoy would say is irrelevant? Well: sigh.

I hope you'll reconsider in the morning.

"because you assume their goals are your goals, or their expressed goals"

Okay, if "either" is inserted between "assume" and "their" is it better?

In any case hilzoy might think it was a good idea to have accurate information about Iranian WMD capacities and Central Asian proliferation, and the White House might think that accuracy would get in their way. Opposite goals.

Okay, if "either" is inserted between "assume" and "their" is it better?
My strong suspicion: Hilzoy will reply in the negative.

I don't say this to be disagreeable, Bob, but to attempt to test who is better at predicting Hilzoy's responses, i.e., who is better grasping what she thinks, i.e., who is better grasping what people such as she and me think. I.e., what the more accurate model of reality is or is not.

Of course, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. But testability is interesting for some those of us still into the "facts can be useful" thing. It's interesting to me, at any rate.

Gary, you are still just commenting on my style...actually you are just involved in some weird kind of competition. Ok, she likes you better. I already knew that.

You have not yet addressed the substance of hilzoy's post or added anything of your own. Just talkin about Bob.

"...but just attacks on fellow commenters that range from mischaracterization of arguments to spelling corrections..."

I find that Gary's comments range from thought provoking questions, through interesting asides, past inadvertant mischaracterizations of arguments all the way to spelling corrections.

But as I discussed in an earlier thread noting the range doesn't always give you an accurate look at the whole. So long as the bias is to the first two, the latter two are tolerable. He has to have some flaws. You wouldn't want him to be perfect, people would resent that.

That's why I make so many spelling 'mistakes'. It helps people empathize with you.

...

...

...

Ok, I admit it. I'm just awful at spelling. But the pratfall effect argument is always so fun when you make a silly mistake.

"Ok, she likes you better."

I have absolutely no idea, and not remotely relevant. The point was who better understands her position, and the position of similarly minded people. Given that you put forth opinions on that matter, which you are, of course, perfectly entitled to do, it seems entirely irrelevant to discuss whether or not you are, in fact, right or wrong.

"Gary, you are still just commenting on my style...."

[head scratch] I don't see that I said a single thing about your "style." What words or sentence are you referring to?

"Just talkin about Bob."

Bob, I'm replying to things you've said, and I asked you several things here, which you declined to answer in favor of a personal attack on me. I said nothing about you in turn, so it hardly seems to me as if there are grounds for criticizing what I say on grounds that I'm being personal.

This is, to be sure, inevitably a purely subjective judgment on my part, and naturally I expect others would be shy about weighing in, in between us, but certainly if anyone wishes to opine that I've been out of line in this thread, I'd welcome a more objective view (rilkefan excepted; I've ceased regarding him as remotely objective as regards me, I'm afraid).

As regards the Raw Story piece, I read it Monday morning, and don't have anything particular to say about it. I've hardly been shy in speaking my mind about Plame/the Admin, the admin's behavior towards the CIA, or any other topic I understand to be of relevance. I don't have anything new to say just now that I've not said a few hundred times in the last few years.

Feel free to ask me any questions on those subjects, if you feel you lack clarity on my positions.

Uhm, not to jump in here, but I think Gary is answering the substance of your arguments. You may be reasoning from completely inconsistent starting points, but he is hardly engaging in personal attacks.

For the sake of argument, how do Hilzoy's examples fit into a theoretical plan to "get" Iran?

"Given that you put forth opinions on that matter, which you are, of course, perfectly entitled to do, it seems entirely irrelevant to discuss whether or not you are, in fact, right or wrong."

Argh. Entirely "relevant," of course.

And, why, yes, I only make these errors so as not to drive people mad with jealousy over my perfection! Yes, that's it! It's all perfectly intentional!

I'm feeling the need to compose a poem about this post.

My initial reaction was that replying to this was unnecessary, because I've certainly stated my opinion on both questions about one jillion times, in one million threads here, and on my own blog, but for the sake of redundancy:

Outing Plame, according to simplest explanation, might have been motivated by the desire to out Plame, to remove her from a position of power and influence.
Sure, it might have been. I don't see that she was really a particularly significant player, compared to a number of more senior people the White House, and their tool, Porter Goss, have forced out, but, sure, it's possible and not a grossly unreasonable hypothesis.
Can we start with that as a possibility?
Arguendo, sure, speaking for myself.
Outing Plame motivated by a desire to discredit Wilson doesn't seem an extraordinarily radical measure?
Of course not. That is, of course it's not a radical notion, in the faintest, remotest, degree.

Who on the general Democratic/liberal/left idea disagrees with that, or have you seen disagreeing with that? I've totally not seen anyone on this "side" do so, though clearly you and I only overlap to some degree in our reading matter.

"They claim to be deeply concerned with national security. For all I know, they believe that they are. I claim they are not."

I do believe they are deeply concerned about national security, but have a concept of how the nation is best served that is radically different than your own. I could say so different that they cannot even speak of it, but in fact they have, early in the administration.

They said no power, or collection of powers, should be allowed to become strong enough to be competitive with or dangerous to the United States, and pre-emption was an acceptable tool to avoid such scenarios. They might not have meant it, and were only using it to justify an attack on Iraq.

Some would also fill this with the proper cites, but Bolton at least is famous for his distrust of proliferation agreements and contempt for inspections. They might possibly feel that Plame's group was not only obstructionist, not only useless, but directly counterproductive.

They might have felt that way a few years ago, and decided that force was the only means of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Plame telling them that Iran was five or ten years from completion might have been a hindrance, for perhaps they can't trust the next administration to be resolute enough, and must act earlier than would be optimal.

The only game I can't play is the "they don't know what they are doing" one. I just can't call them stupid. I guess that removes me from the reality-based community.

Again Gary, you are responding to me, not hilzoy's post. Appears to be a pattern.

Steve Clemons

Steve Clemons is on this. I can't seem to cut-and paste. He mentions my wild speculations as a possibility, but favors pettiness as a more sensible explanation. Has some mysterious, or unexplained discussion, about Niger,yellowcake, and Iran.

I am missing my curling. :) Gotta go.

"Again Gary, you are responding to me, not hilzoy's post."

Well, yes, Bob. Is there some new custom in which commenters don't respond to each other, and it's offensive if they do?

[more head-scratching]

And, just assuming arguendo for a moment that there were, how would it work that it would be Good for you to respond to me, but Bad for me to respond to you? [bafflement]

"inadvertant mischaracterizations of arguments" ...Sebastian

"Is there some new custom in which commenters don't respond to each other, and it's offensive if they do?"

Within the context of the thread and preceding comments, this is an "inadvertant"
mischaracterization?

"but Bad for me to respond to you?[bafflement]"

Because I have attempted to occasionally be on topic, and you haven't bothered. But then I have never considered it my job to be a cheering section for particular posters, and run interference for them.

You been paid to get me banned, Gary?

I am going to somewhat agree with Bob here, I think.

For a long time I have believed that Plame was outed to get rid of her or make her work ineffective, or to damage the CIA. Wilson's op-ed became an opportunity to do so and make it look more political than it actually was.

As to why 9working from bob's assumption that these people are not stupid), Juan Cole has an interesting look at it today.

I realize that Cole has his own bias and agenda, and try to put that into perspective when I read him. And he does point out that he is just speculating.

(And I have never figured out how to put in a link, but finding his blog is not that difficult, is it?)

Sometimes when looking at this adminsitration, we focus too much on the "incompetence" angle. That can be dangerous, because it gives the impression that different people with the same ideas would do a better job.

I think when we see what we call incompetence, we should wonder what method lies behind the madness.

RF -- you're just trying to waste my morning completely, aren't you?

"...And I have never figured out how to put in a link...."

See here. Scroll to "Link Something."
cut and paste the URL where says "URL". You're done.

I'm sure I haven't followed the Plame thing as closely as most of you -- is there any actual evidence (as opposed to speculation and/or inference) that there was any intention on the part of the malefactors to do more than simply discredit Wilson's yellowcake report by suggesting that his wife got him the assignment?

"...any actual evidence (as opposed to speculation and/or inference) that there was any intention...."

Evidence about intentions tends to be difficult to come by. One more usually locates it by inference and circumstantial evidence. It's only occasionally that a prosecutor will be lucky enough to find a tape or memo that says "and the reason we/I did this is so as to...." (And then you still have to weigh how plausible/honest that statement may be.)

Evidence about intentions tends to be difficult to come by.

You bet. Which is why I shy away from reaching definitive conclusions about them.

One more usually locates it by inference and circumstantial evidence

And those techniques are more apt to be influenced by one's pre-existing opinions.

To me, at this moment, the most likely explanation is simply that they wanted to defuse Wilson's editorial by suggesting nepotism; "outing" Plame was just a necessary consequence in order to make that suggestion stick, not a goal in itself. I was just wondering if there were any facts that I had missed that would clearly rule out this explanation.

kenB, I agree that determining intent is difficult.

My problem with them just wanting to discredit Wilson is that they themselves admitted that Bush should not have put that statement in the SOTU speech.

So in the process, they were admitting that what Wilson wrote was accurate.

BTW, although I see some merit in the theory that the real target was Plame and her work, I am not in anyway declaring it as definitive.

We may never know the real rationale.

"One more usually locates it by inference and circumstantial evidence."

Boy this has become a long-massaged story.

1) That Plame was mentioned by name. Her name appears in Miller's notes. Or by position and relationship:"Joe Wilson's wife works at the CIA" for much of Washington outed her. Was that necessary?

2) The very concept that backgrounding the story would discredit Wilson is not completely plausible. I know many on the right say that Valerie sending Joe to Niger (she didn't, but arguendo) discredits Joe Wilson's findings, but I have never really understood why it would. Unless Valerie's motivations were suspicious, which just turns it back to Valerie. And it actually did not do the job. So the explanation for the leak to Miller and Novak does not make complete sense unless, again you think the WH is very silly and stupid.

3) This main story has stunk for ages, to the point where Josh Marshall tried to connect it to the Italian Niger Documents without success. Very few have found it on its face a rational act, so have fallen back on irrationality. But it was a quite expensive well orchestrated and risky fit of pique and petulance.

4) The press was extraordinarily careful about this story. Now I don't know who knows what in Washington, but very early on I concluded that Plame's Central Asian activities involved watching WMD and Iran. Afghanistan had no possible development capacity, and Pakistan didn't need it. If you are talking about parts and technology, and not actual bombs to al Qaeda, the logical focus is Iran. So the revelations yesterday do not surprise me, tho apparently they shocked Washington to its core. Right.

"RF -- you're just trying to waste my morning completely, aren't you?"

Anarch, I live to serve.

And finally, on the general "No Incompetence" theme, I am trying to do some work this week.

Arms Control Expert Exodus ...Arms & Influence today

This connects to some posts I read and comments made on a general weakening of the middle layers of government by the Bush administration, that I consider intentional.

Comment on Katrina

A link to a comment I made at Next Hurrah, which in turn links to posts about the QDR and Greenspan. There have been some responses. In particular to Katrina, Brownie was not put in place only because he had high-placed friends, but because the Bush administration preferred a weak and dependent person in that position to a strong, resourceful, independent one. I posit that this is a management style intended to concentrate power at the top.

Throughout the Executive Branch, career experienced bureaucrats are leaving, replaced by loyalist party hacks. DOJ, State, FEMA, etc and yes CIA. The incompetence of these hacks is presumed to be a bug, a consequence of a patronage system gone amok, i.e, the incompetence and/or indifference at the top. I posit that it is a feature, not a bug. Not a matter of indifference, but the desire for control.

Harriet Miers being another example. Her lack of qualifications would have made her dependent on others, and her only safety from criticism would have been in loyalty.

Bob, your arguement does make a perverted sort of sense. This of course does not make it accurate.

However, the appointing of incompetent people does not make the appointer incompetent. Not if that was his original intention.

I am not ruling out incompetence throughout the system, but keep in mind this administration has accomplished so many things it wanted to, even if they did not campaign on these issues.

Those at the top do not want their policies questioned, which competent mid-level people would do. They are also very good at deflection of attention.

I'm not so sure that Bush's rather "incompetent" approach to the whole Social Security issue last year was not to keep the public's attention away from other things it was doing, i.e. the atrocious bankruptcy bill.

As an alternative theory, that could account in some ways for points (1) and (2) made by Bob, how about that it wasn't to just discredit Wilson - it was to intimidate him and others?

The reason Valerie Plame got mentioned, by name, was to completely destroy her career as well. Perhaps to undermine the work of the CIA in that area, but also because it would do far more personal damage to Wilson than just discrediting him. I'm thinking they discredited Plame because Wilson didn't have a prize racehorse they could saw the head off of.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad