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July 31, 2006

Comments

So what, you might be asking, should we have done instead?

What can "we" do? Condemn in no uncertain terms the immoral and lunatic policies of Bush. It is pointles to talk about the 99 out of 100 other ways that are infinitely better than the current warmongering policies, since none of them are going to be adopted or considered. This is not about using poor means to implement policy --- its about evil policies, period.

What has been happening is exactly what the Bush adminstration wants -- the only exceptions being that they are surprised that the Israeli terror compaign was not immediately successful in smashing Hezbollah (nor can it be), and that Israel's warmongering has not matched their bluster.

The Israelis are busy bombing into rubble most of southern Lebanon -- the bombing in Qana was not an "accident" except in the sense that they would have preferred to flatten the village when it was occupied with fewer people as opposed to committing such an obvious act of mass slaughter with those precision bombs. Just like you have to destroy the village to save it, the Israelis have to terror bomb Lebanon in order to fight against the terror bombing of Hezbollah rockets. Right? The Israelis look like they are trying to depopulate southern Lebanon as part of their attack on Hezbollah.

The fact that the doomed Israeli raid to "crush" Hezbollah is failing simply means, according to Bush, that we must redouble the killing to make sure the job is done. He will react to Hilzoy's parade of horribles with the same pigheaded blindness and lunacy as he has reacted to his failed Iraq policy --

Stay The Course. Anything else means you are a terrorist lover.

The quote about Rice being enamored of the domino theory brings to mind a review of Rice's book (which I assume was her dissertation) on the Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, which is mentioned in this column and Google reveals that the entire review reprinted in Counterpunch here

Rice's selection of sources raises questions, since he [sic] frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation. He passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts. It does not add to his credibility when he uses a source written by Josef Hodic; Rice fails to notice that this "former military scientist" (p. 99) was a communist agent who returned to Czechoslovakia several years ago. Rice based his discussion of the "Sejna affair" (pp. 111, 116, 144) largely on communist propaganda sources and did not consult writings and statements by former General Jan Sejna who had access to Warsaw Pact documents and is the highest military officer from the Soviet bloc to defect to the West since World War II.

Rice's generalizations reflect his lack of knowledge about history and the nationality problem in Czechoslovakia. For example, in 1955 Czechoslovakia was not yet "the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic" (pp 83, 84). In May 1938 Ludvik Svoboda was serving in the Czech army, not organizing a Czech military unit in Poland. In the fall of 1939 he was captured by the Soviet invading forces in eastern Poland; he did not "[escape] to the USSR" (p. 43). Rice's discussion of the "Czechoslovak Legion" that was "born during the chaotic period preceding the fall of the Russian empire" (pp. 44-46) is ridiculous. (It was "born" on September 28, 1914.) He is clearly ignorant of the history of the military unit as well as of the geography of the area on which it fought.

[...]

The writing abounds with meaningless phrases, such as is its "last word": "Thirty-five years after its creation, the Czechoslovak People's Army stands suspended between the Czechoslovak nation and the socialist world order" (p. 245).

Considering that this is where she is supposed to be an expert, is it really any surprise she would be floundering so badly in the Middle East?

A consequence I didn't think of:

" The Israeli onslaught in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s daily victories in the regional public relations war over the conflict threaten to claim a victim in Iran: whatever hope remained of resurrecting the political reform movement.

Day by day, even as Iran’s officials assess the military setbacks of Hezbollah, they have grown more and more emboldened by the gathering support in the Islamic world for the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia on the front line with Israel. They have grown more and more emboldened by what they see as a validation of their confrontational approach to foreign policy — and in their efforts to silence political opposition at home.

That is the view of at least some opposition figures, analysts and former government officials who say they find themselves in the awkward position of opposing Israel and sympathizing with the Lebanese people, yet fear what might happen should Hezbollah prevail.

Such an outcome, they say, would strengthen the hand of the hard-liners now in control of Iran’s government, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose firebrand opposition to the West has taken Iran back to the early days of the Islamic Revolution, when the country’s leadership focused more on exporting its revolutionary ideas than on integrating Iran with the rest of the world. (...)

“It seems that the law is the law of the jungle and such acts strengthen the position of those countries which favor violence,” said Hermidas Davoud Bavand, a political scientist at Tehran University. “It gives a free hand to radical governments to say that they will not be attacked if they have powerful military capability to act as a deterrent force for them.”

The reformist newspaper Etemad Melli said in an editorial on Monday that the carnage in Lebanon had united the region and that even if Hezbollah was defeated, “Muslims will deal a blow” to the United States and Israel. Then, reflecting on the broader significance of that prediction, it said: “This silence will cost a lot for the West, a price that might not be good for humanity and the stability of the region.”"

Hilzoy, have you thought about that all this might be about the November elections? Rove is covering his bases (just like the stem cell veto).

Any Democrats opposing the Great Leader will be painted a friend of terrorists and a fiend to Israel. The new crisis also buries (for Bush) nicely the mess in Iraq. The American population at last, at last!, has come to see that Iraq is a failure. Old ties with Israel blind many to the realities on the ground in Lebanon. Lebanon is thus a convenient fig leave for Bush, distracting the people and media from his Pandora's box of failures.

A continuing crisis up to the elections helps the war president (Carter in reverse).

PS Thanks LJ for the Rice pointer. I was disappointed that she refused even to speak a few sentences in Russian. Now even her dissertation is full of holes. Yale, Stanford and Harvard, what kind of leaders have you produced?

jaywalker: Hilzoy, have you thought about that all this might be about the November elections? Rove is covering his bases (just like the stem cell veto).

You're probably right. This assault by Israel on Lebanon played very well to Bush's base, just like the recent attempt (again) to amend the Constitution to make gays and lesbians permanent second-class citizens in the US.

I don't think it's about the elections at all, except in the very limited sense that not supporting Israel would be bad for the elections. I think they were surprised by this whole thing, that it's working out very badly for them, and that it will do them real damage in the elections, especially once it becomes clearer what the end of this is.

I mean, suppose nothing goes horribly wrong, and there is a ceasefire that does not disarm Hezbollah, but that might involve some sort of multinational force that does not have a mandate to disarm them. At that point, people will have to ask themselves: was that outcome remotely worth the price? Does it herald the transformation of the Middle East? Does it lay the foundations for a lasting peace, etc., etc.? Or did we just let a country get blown to bits and a lot of people get killed for basically the same outcome we could have gotten a lot sooner?

And I should add: at that point Bush's base, who accept the Green Lantern theory of military power, will think that Israel could have destroyed Hezbollah and -- hey, why not? -- maybe Syria and Iran as well, if only we had backed them with sufficient will, and he will suffer. People in the real world will think what I said above. He'll be slammed from both sides.

Hilzoy: I think they were surprised by this whole thing, that it's working out very badly for them, and that it will do them real damage in the elections, especially once it becomes clearer what the end of this is.

Why would it do them real damage in the elections? The Bush base won't notice that it's made anything worse (or rather, will claim that any reports that things are worse as a result are mere liberal spin, and the truth is whatever the Bush administration says it is) and for everything else, there is Diebold.

It surprises me that you think this, Hilzoy. I thought the same by October 2004 - that things were by now so publicly, disasterously wrong in Iraq, and the disaster was so plainly of the Bush administration's making, that this could not fail to do them real damage electorally. And maybe it did - certainly the determination to swing the election illegally suggests that senior members of the Republican party believed that it did. But Bush got back into the Presidency anyway, never mind who voted for him, and I see no reason to suppose there'll be any difference this time. What matters is that the Bush base - that 29% determined to believe that Bush is right - should be energised enough to make it look half-way convincing that he might have won. Nothing else matters.

29% is well short of what it will take to hold the Congress, particularly since fewer people vote in off-year elections. And while it's possible the base will be pleased with Bush's actions (and I think hilzoy is on the right track, that he'll take heat from both sides), this isn't the kind of issue the base is likely to see as worth going to the polls over.

As for 2004, the Democrats managed to pick a dismal candidate. It's my theory, actually, that presidential elections are lost, not won. President Bush faced two dismal campaigners in Gore and Kerry, President Clinton beat the first President Bush and Bob Dole, the first President Bush beat the woeful Mike Dukakis, President Reagan got to beat up on Mondale and President Carter, and President Carter beat President Ford on the strength of Ford's pardon of President Nixon. Presidential votes tend to go to the least bad candidate, I think.

I have no sense, as yet, of what Bush's true core constituency -- the corporate upper crust -- thinks about this war, what their goals are and if they're likely to be met. Nor do I have knowledge of what the corresponding group might be on the Israeli side.

Jes: the thing is, the base is quite capable of getting furious with Bush when they believe that he has gone against one of their basic principles. That the proper response to, basically, anything is the use of military force, untrammeled by wimpy considerations like humanity, is one of their basic principles.

At some point, Bush is going to have to accept a solution to this. Reality being what it is, it is going to have to be a solution that his base will equate to appeasement. (They will equate any ceasefire that leaves Hezbollah armed with appeasement.) So the problem is not (just) that Lebanon has gone badly; it's that Bush will have to publicly accept a solution that will be anathema to them, since the real world does not contain any other sorts of solutions.

If we take the neocons statements as fact, then what they want is a war with Syria and Iran, in which the US and Israel destroy the existing regimes. Their vision is that these regimes will be replaced by more US-friendly governments.

I don't know if they actually believe that democratic governments in Syria, Iraq, and Iran would be friendly to the US and Israel, but that's their claim. The results seem to me much more likely to be millions of arabs dead, and tens of thousands of US soldiers killed, as well as the eventual installation of new dictatorships, either islamists or secular US puppets like the Shah and Saddam.

"If we take the neocons statements as fact", there would be a Bush Square in Baghdad with a Walmart and the McBacon would be the no 1 choice of the converted Muslims.

As much as a reverse of congressional control is necessary for the health of US democracy, I remain sceptical (burned from the previous "obvious" elections). Bush has weathered far larger catastrophes. Who paid politically for Abu Ghraib, Katrina, ...?

Gerrymandering and incumbent protection as well as Republican media control, deep coffers, higher discipline/turn-out and the usually squabbling Democrats make this a close call.

Facts on the ground are irrelevant. Americans probably know more about crappy Babylon 5 (sorry Andrew, but horrible make-up and FX make it unwatchable for me) than the Middle East (or any other region).

The 40 % Bush base will simply ignore it. In a normal country, a photo op with Bush would be regarded as toxic by now. Even fake artists like American Idols would shun it ...

Hilzoy: So the problem is not (just) that Lebanon has gone badly; it's that Bush will have to publicly accept a solution that will be anathema to them, since the real world does not contain any other sorts of solutions.

Thanks for the further explanation. I'm not entirely convinced - it seems to me that the Bush base can swallow any spin.

Andrew: 29% is well short of what it will take to hold the Congress, particularly since fewer people vote in off-year elections.

It doesn't matter: I don't expect the 2006 election to be any more honest than the 2004, the 2002, or the 2000. For there to be honest elections in the US, there will need to be a public acknowledgement that at present elections are not honest, and a public grassroots-to-the-top movement towards fixing this: and I don't see any sign of that happening this year. The Republicans will retain control of Congress, regardless.

As for 2004, the Democrats managed to pick a dismal candidate. It's my theory, actually, that presidential elections are lost, not won. President Bush faced two dismal campaigners in Gore and Kerry

Unfortunately for this theory, Gore won the 2000 election - by the usual democratic measure of getting more people to vote for him than voted for Bush, and by the Constitutional US standard of getting the majority of the votes of the electoral colleges (once all the votes had been counted in Florida, which didn't happen until well after Bush had taken office).

As has been pointed out, no one actually knows who won the 2004 election - all we know is that the Republicans were so uncertain that Bush would win that they used a plurality of dirty tricks to take votes from Kerry.

Bush didn't actually win either time. The people of the US preferred the "dismal candidates" about whom the pro-Republican media and the Rove spin machine were telling them lies, to the candidate they knew to be incompetent.

I really wonder about the risk reward calculation for this escalation from Israel. Pretty clear what Hezbollah wants. It wants a bigger piece of Lebanese politics, and it was willing to use Israel as leverage to get it. Hezbollah was *mostly* -- though of course not entirely -- sitting back, claiming to be a deterrent force. They really have no long-term dispute with Israel -- their situation is not at all like Hamas. In other words, once a prisoner exchange and some kind of formal treaty with Lebanon would be signed, no reason to think this conflict would not have gone cold. There is simply nothing for Hezbollah to agitate towards. I know what Lebanon is losing by this. I know what Israel is losing. I'm just not sure what they think they are gaining that they could not have gained at much lower cost just as easily with fewer risks.

there will need to be a public acknowledgement that at present elections are not honest

I'll regret asking this, but I suppose you have evidence to this extent? (And if it's the RFK article explaining the accuracy of exit polls, try again.)

Ara: Ha'Aretz reports that the initial decision to go to war was made very quickly, and that a plan the military had available was more or less the only one that got discussed. If that's right, I suspect that the answer to the question 'why did they start this?' had a lot more to do with instinctive reactions, Olmert not wanting to look weak, etc., combined with the idea that of course the IDF would be vastly better than Hezbollah.

Then, after that, it would have been hard for them to stop without either a clear victory or a reason. (That's one reason why, early on, I said we should pressure them: they needed a reason to stop that was not of their own choosing. Sometimes it would be awful to stop doing something by your own choice, even though you're just as glad not to have to go on doing it.)

By now, I think, the calculus has changed a lot, as a result of Hezbollah's having done so well. Now, Israel needs to win in some serious way -- or at least Hezbollah needs to lose. Israel's deterrent capacity is at stake. The trouble is, it's not at all clear what that winning might be, or that (supposing we can identify something that would be 'winning') Israel can achieve it.

My best take, anyways.

Andrew -- move away from that dial...

If Slarti and Jes get going on Florida, there's no telling what might happen.

Very well, I withdraw the question.

. . . by the Constitutional US standard of getting the majority of the votes of the electoral colleges . . .

Oh, dear. There's only one of them, you know. Electoral college, that is. Or, hell, maybe you don't.

Andrew -- aw, go ahead. It's sort of a rite of passage.

Phil -- you mean all that time I spent filling out my electoral college applications, buying the USNews guide to the best electoral colleges, and so forth was a waste?

Not if you got accepted to one of the really good party electoral colleges! Whoooooo!

Very well.

Jes,

You are aware that the media recount showed that Gore lost Florida under the standards he was demanding at the time the Supreme Court closed the recount? I'm of the opinion that Gore probably would have won Florida if voters in Palm Beach had paid a little more attention to their ballots, but voting is a responsiblity, not just a right, and you have a responsibility to make sure you fill out the ballot properly.

Furthermore, if Gore wasn't a lousy candidate, Bush wouldn't have been in a position to 'steal' the election anyhow. Gore was the VP of a popular president during a time of economic prosperity. He should have wiped the floor with Bush (who wasn't a great candidate either).

no one actually knows who won the 2004 election

I presume you're of the opinion no one can no that evolution actually happens either, based on your apparent standard of proof?

And I'm curious, do you have any curiosity whatsoever about why more people voted in Milwaukee than there are registered voters? Or does Democratic malfeasance not matter, because the ends justify the means?

IIRC, if overvotes were counted as well as undervotes, Gore would have one (admittedly not the standard asked for or imposed by anyone at the time; but shouldn't that be the standard?) by a slim margin.

I will stick to my position that the 2000 election was a de facto tie broken by the Supreme court (though not in a "coin flip" kind of way).

Ugh,

I believe that is correct as well, which is why I phrased my sentence as I did. Even had the Court not stopped the recount, under the standards Gore wanted, he would have lost.

Statistically, of course, your description is the most accurate one. Might have been a lot simpler if they'd just flipped a coin the day after, too. Or maybe they could do something similar to soccer, and have some penalty kicks or something. Make politics more exciting.

Or maybe they could do something similar to soccer, and have some penalty kicks or something. Make politics more exciting.

I would suggest the Burr-Hamilton approach.

CNN story on recount here.

Hilzoy: I think you're right, unfortunately, about the shifting calculus and the quick decision. Really awful to watch innocent people die over the mistakes of statesmen.

My only question is: deterrence against whom? Against other Arab states? Against Hamas? Against Hezbollah itself? But unless they anticipate changes in Hezbollah's objectives, why do they need deterrence against Hezbollah, first and foremost? That is, if there are easier ways of establishing peace along the northern border, why not take them?

Ara: I just meant: as long as people -- any people, really, who might attack -- think that the IDF is invincible, they will be that much less likely to attack. That might not matter if their goals do not require 'defeating' the IDF in any normal sense, but it can't hurt.

I think it's really, really bad for Israel that someone did as well against the IDF as Hezbollah did, and really, really bad for the world that Hezbollah was that someone.

Andrew: You are aware that the media recount showed that Gore lost Florida under the standards he was demanding at the time the Supreme Court closed the recount?

Sure. It's a pity that there was and is no one in Florida with the authority to say "No, it's who the voters' wanted that counts: we will hand-count every vote, and the candidate whom the majority of people in Florida wanted gets the electoral college votes." Had they done that, Gore would have won handily. That Gore didn't ask for that is a pity: that the Republicans didn't want anything like it is a disgrace. Pity or disgrace, it doesn't change the fact that, well, Gore won, and criticising him for being a lame candidate is misplaced - lame candidate or not, more people actually wanted him to be President than wanted Bush to be President.

Andrew: I presume you're of the opinion no one can know that evolution actually happens either, based on your apparent standard of proof?

Interesting. If I get your analogy, you're saying that although we witness the evidence that evolution happens, we rarely actually see it happening. (We do, of course, in a scientific sense "witness" it in the microrealms.) Similiarly, although there is no evidence that Bush actually got more votes than Kerry in the 2004 election - given the number of errors made in Bush's favor and the fact that independent electoral observers were not allowed to observe - we have the end-result, which is that Bush is President again.

You have a fascinating definition of 'won,' as I'm of the opinion that the winner is the guy who ends up taking the prize.

there is no evidence that Bush actually got more votes than Kerry in the 2004 election

Ah, I see. Silly me, I was of the impression that all the Secretaries of State reporting that President Bush had more votes than Senator Kerry were evidence. Again, your ability to define terms to reach your desired result is most impressive.

And, you might recall, I mentioned my theory that the less-inept candidate tends to win the election previously, which is what spawned your comments regarding the outcome of the past two presidential elections in an attempt to refute the theory. Yet it is precisely the closeness of the 2000 election that demonstrates the theory, as had Gore been a remotely capable campaigner, he wouldn't have had to depend on a 200-vote margin in Florida to win.

"the less-inept candidate ..."

Come on, there is hardly a candidate as inept as Bush. Just watch him and cringe. Even Reagan in his final presidential years (with the onset of Alzheimer) was better.

Only in restricting access to fawning admirers and a prostrate press could the Republicans create the image of a "great, decisive leader", the term CNN relentlessly hammered home (mostly by the purring blonde Dana Bash). And you better not ask how you translate great decisive leader into German.

Kerry let himself by bullied by wimps. He was defensive when he should have attacked (Joe Johnston in Civil War terms). The big problem was not Kerry but his meek, mediocre Democratic lieutenants.

that the Republicans didn't want anything like it is a disgrace

No, I think what Republicans didn't want was the floating of the notion that once it was done, a do-over was possible.

The overvote issue wasn't recognized as a factor in the election until long after the action was finished. Gore's own attorney argued that it wasn't an issue:

MR. BOIES: There's nothing in the record that suggests there are such votes. If anybody had contested the over-votes, it would have been a relatively simple process to test that because you could have simply tested as to whether the double vote was a write-in vote or was another candidate.

So, if your point is that in contests where the count is very close, it's difficult to even identify all of the factors that might throw the results in one direction vs. the other prior to a reasonable deadline, granted. If your point is that this result was the result of sloppy statute law in the state of Florida, also granted. If your point is that we should therefore retroactively grant Gore the Presidency: ok, then.

As far as Bush's ineptitude, we ought to have elected Kerry. The ongoing tragedy in Lebanon would not have happened had Kerry been elected. Of course, since Gore won in 2000, Kerry wouldn't have stood a chance.

So there goes that theory.

Andrew: Silly me, I was of the impression that all the Secretaries of State reporting that President Bush had more votes than Senator Kerry were evidence

Not really: not unless all the Secretaries of State were reporting that all US citizens who went to an electoral station on polling day got to vote, and that all votes cast had been counted. As we know, that didn't happen. Of what value as "evidence" is it that Secretaries of State report what they think may have happened, when they themselves have do not have paper ballots tallied by hand to back up their testimony?

No, I think what Republicans didn't want was the floating of the notion that once it was done, a do-over was possible.

"Once it was done" appeared to mean, to the Republicans vehemently opposing a recount, that once a result had been achieved that showed Bush won, they didn't want to look at the ballots again - or have anyone else look at them - in case once the ballots were handcounted, all of the ballots, it showed that Bush actually lost...

Counting the ballots accurately and completely isn't a "do-over" in any democracy I know of. It's simply good electoral process.

what if calculator for the 2000 elections

So no one wants to talk about our vulnerable supply lines in southern Iraq, or the horrible new popularity of Nasrallah, or to tell me why my alternate course of action is idiotic?

And Jes: we aren't used to the time frame being more important that the democratic proces because we don't have this rigid scheme for elections...

Hilzoy: I totally agree with you. I'm not the targeted audience though, since I allready agreed from the beginning.

This pile of stupid foreign policy decisions makes me so angry and sad, that I tend to go for distraction.

jaywalker,

For the record, Johnston was one of the better Confederate generals. Note that when Hood took your advice and attacked the Federal forces, he got his army shot out from under him. That's irrelevant to Kerry's situation, but I hate to see a talented general being underrated.

Jes,

Oh, I see. We know that. Out of curiosity, how do we know that? I mean, you couldn't mean you believe that, do you? I'm sure you have piles of evidence that conclusively demonstrate that the votes weren't counted accurately. I look forward to seeing it.

hilzoy,

Those are hard questions. We don't have predefined scripts to fall back on to answer them. I'm reading Billmon's article now, though, so I'll offer up my thoughts once I've had a chance to review them.

Andrew, not to turn this into a civil war thread, but I selected Johnston precisely because he - like Kerry - was good at defense but bad at winning. He lacked the ruthlessness of a Lee ("we should grow to fond of war").

I thought more in terms of 1862 than 1864 (Johnston out, Lee in). 1862 was the decisive year where with a little better planning (concentration of reserves) the gray armies could have won. Although my sympathies lie clearly with the Yanks.

Hood, like another stupid, faux Texan, was an inept overpromoted commander whose lack of strategic finesse resulted in slaughter. At least, he paid with his own blood - losing a limb a year. Hood's Franklin and Nashville campaigns remind me tragically of the Monty Python knight, an exercise in strategic helplessness.

Okay, Hilzoy: I don't think you and I disagree on anything here. My hunch is you have what they are thinking pegged. I'm just really critical of this concept of deterrence. The reason I asked whom this is deterrence against was because it seems to me that this conflict won't affect the deterrence for the other Arab states. That the IDF does not perform so well against guerrilla warfare, I would think, will give no confidence to antagonistic states. For example, it is hard to see how it changes the perception of power between Israel and Syria. The Israelis could still easily topple Damascus in a hurry. That is, deterrence seems relative both to what parties are willing to tolerate (Syrian Baathists do not want to be overthrown) and the kinds of engagements they would find themselves in (again, conflict with Syria would be conventional warfare).

I'm just not sure any state army I know of has a deterrence against guerrilla warfare. As I recall, the Soviet army tried everything (kidnapping, brainwashing children, religious desecration) against the Afghans. I generally think state power is much easier to deter, because state political actors have much more to lose. I can see why deterrence has strategic priority in a state's relationship to other states, where a first strike could be overwhelming, but I can't really see its priority against guerrillas who will fare better the longer a conflict draws on. It just seems to me that the goal of deterrence against Hezbollah or Hamas should be secondary to goals which will accomplish much more at much lower cost. That is, the failure of deterrence to work has given ammunition to people who see this as a much greater threat than save the Soviets -- "Look, they will stop at nothing!" -- these people think. But this is not because Hezbollah is an indefatigable foe who will stop at nothing, only that their incentives aren't much changed by this. That is, I'm not sure there is any deterrence against these groups to be had, and I am even less sure that it is worth fighting for, relative to the nature of the threat they pose -- as opposed to all the other goals we might have in our relationship with them. Deterrence seems much less a strategic priority when a party does not hold the power of immediate annihilation over you.

Let me be clear what I assume when I say this: I assume Hezbollah will take whatever action which empowers it as a political group. I think this better predicts how Hezbollah will act than assuming they have any regard for the people of Lebanon, for the civilians around them, for their supporters. If Hezbollah cared enough to sacrifice it own political future for it, many many things would be different.

I also really wonder what the deterrence is that could be established by this. Keep in mind that Hezbollah's big argument has always been that Israel will do this once every five years or so. That is, Hezbollah has been pursuing deterrence too, in their weird way, or at least that is their political spin. I'm going to assume, rightly or wrongly, that the real perceived threat to Israel is not the occasional border raid but Hezbollah's amassing near the border. Now I thought deterrence meant -- anyone feel free to correct me -- that a group would not initiate conflict, despite the ability to, for fear of the overwhelming response. But this amounts to saying that you can't deter buildup in the same way that you can deter deployment. And that makes perfect sense -- we had deterrence with the Soviets despite or perhaps because of huge stockpiles. This war was provoked, of course, but I don't feel too far out on a limb to say that it has the character of peremptive war, no longer really defensive. Why this matters: I'm pretty sure few Lebanese now think that they need to fear peremptive war, not just defensive war. And this provides as much a motive to find a deterrence as it does to disarm. Now I can see that peremptive war might establish deterrence against conflict initiation, but it is certainly going to incentivize your opponent's search for deterrence. So it seems we need a distinction between deterrence1 (deterrence against conflict initiation) and deterrence2 (deterrence against rearmament).

jaywalker,

I'd argue that Johnston was bad at winning because the Confederacy was so thoroughly outgunned. He understood that, and tried to utilize a 'force in being' strategy to exhaust Federal resolve, just as Lee did after Gettysburg. Had Lee not been more aggressive (say, by sending Picket on a suicide mission against the Federals on Cemetary Ridge), he might well have achieved his ends, as without the Federal victory at Gettysburg, Grant would have faced a much more robust Army of Northern Virginia and Lincoln might well have lost the 1864 election.

Also, I'm not sure Kerry was all that good at defense. The attacks on him seemed to be pretty effective, which suggests to me his defensive abilities were mediocre at best.

Andrew: Also, I'm not sure Kerry was all that good at defense.

Ok, I concur.

Regarding the force in being strategy, it only works against a McClellan not a meatgrinder Grant. Atlanta and Richmond had to be defended at all cost, so the force in being strategy would not work.

Lee was also doomed to failure because his logistics were broken. In 1864, he could barely sustain the army he got. More soldiers would only have increased the suffering.

Re Lee at Gettysburg, I always suffer with the pleading and plodding Longstreet when he sees Lee's generalship at its worst, first not supervising his inexperienced new corps commanders and then ordering a doomed frontal attack.

Ara: I think we're in basic agreement. -- If I were running a small country surrounded by hostile neighbors, like Israel (or Lebanon), I would want two things to be generally known:

(a) If you do something bad to us, something really bad will happen to you, and

(b) Our army is really, really good.

These propositions would need to be generally known, and so their audience would be wider than, say, the specific party that attacks them on a given occasion.

However, as you say, Hezbollah might not be deterrable. Moreover, when I think about this, I also think:

(c) thinking of your opponents in these essentially game-theoretic terms requires that you think not only about deterring attacks, but also about not doing things that will make it rational for your opponents to do other things you don't want them to do, like amassing arms and troops on your border. Ideally, you want to move your relation with them to the point where deterrence, though still extant, is entirely in the background, and plays as little a role as, say, the idea that if Canada attacked the US we would respond plays in our relations with Canada. It's probably true that if Canada invaded, we would react in a way that Canada would not like, but since that's wildly unlikely, no one pays much attention to it. (Or: you gain most in these game-theoretic terms when you arrive at a relationship in which, rather than thinking this way, you can just e.g. talk and work out your differences.)

(d) There are limits to game theoretic rationality which should always be borne in mind, since we're not doing this in some ideally rational universe. In particular, when people are really angry at you, they are often willing to incur very serious losses themselves so long as they can inflict losses on you. You do not want, other things equal, to get this dynamic going.

Or, shorter me: deterrence matters; it doesn't work against everyone; the general view underlying it isn't all about threats anyways, and that view has very real limits which must also be borne in mind.

Tom Schelling is the classic exposition of the application of game theory to this stuff, and his work on this (and everything) is excellent and quite readable.

jaywalker,

It's been a while since I reviewed the Atlanta campaign, but as I recall Johnston was driving Sherman nuts because he could never come to grips with him, and he couldn't move on Atlanta until he neutralized Johnston's army.

As for Richmond, if Lee doesn't burn out the heart of his army at Gettysburg, how much longer does it take Grant to pry Lee out of his entrenchments? And if, in October-November 1864, Grant was still struggling with Lee in front of Richmond and Sherman was trying to grapple Johnston outside Atlanta, could McClellan have won? I don't know, but I suspect he'd have made a pretty good showing of it.

I note the following, from Ricken Patel at TPMCafe, who has apparently been talking to politicos in Israel:

"The hawkish military leadership has been dragging civilian leaders into escalation by only offering them one military plan to choose from. The civilian leadership might have secretly appreciated the U.S. to come in and, like a good friend in a schoolyard fight, restrain the Israel response, but the U.S. just egged them on."

As I said: one thing we can do for Israel that Israel cannot do for itself is to provide it with a reason to get out that does not reflect its own choice. It could have chosen a limited strike for which the question 'why stop now?' did not arise. Since it did not, there had to be a decision to stop. We could have provided a reason for making that decision that was not connected to e.g. Israel's sense of how the war was going, or anything like that, and that would thus (once things started not going so well) not have required Israel to clearly acknowledge anything like that. And it would have been the act of a friend.

I regularly swear off commenting on the 2000 election, and will do so again. After just one remark: no one knows at all what the ultimate findings of the Leon County Circuit Court would've been had it been permitted to continue its statewide count. It doesn't matter what Gore was asking for, what Jes believes would have been found, what jounalists or historians ultimately conclude, or what a zillion goons shouting at vote counters thought: there's no objective truth about what numbers the court would've ended up with. The Supreme Court thought (I believe) that it would be greeted as a liberator, and is sadly mistaken: it shouldn't be, inasmuch as it chose the side that doesn't believe in its legitimacy.

What ifs from the Civil War are even less ponderable. Everything affects everything else. I was talking the other day with a visitor about the skirmish that took place in my front yard. Had the Alabamans broken through (my back yard was defended by Pennsylvanians), and maybe captured some serious luminaries -- Seward, Stanton, Lincoln even, who knows -- events would've gone a very different direction.

Andrew, Sherman as a newly independent commander was extremely cautious. Johnston did the best he could with the weak forces he had. But he also neglected good counterattack opportunities. Albert Castel's Decision in the West is recommended (even if I'd have liked more operational detail, usually he only presents one map per action with only large unit positions). I find other strategic retreats like Napoleon's 1814 campaign more interesting to study.

"offering them one military plan to choose from". Apart from the semantics that a single alternative offers no choice, it sounds like 1914 en miniature. Did nobody read Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August or March of Folly? Or Kagan's On the Origins of War ... Extremely unprofessional from the usually brilliant IDF.

Over and out, it is night here in Europe. I have to catch some sleep.

The tangents around here have been really interesting--to me at least. I know just enough about the Civil War to more or less follow this discussion, but not enough to push any ideas of my own.

For the next open thread, I propose a Civil War tangent. (Or we could combine LOTR with the Civil War--would Theoden's charge have carried the day at Gettysburg?)

On Lebanon, I'm interested but I have little to say, unless it's a discussion about whether or not Israel's bombing is morally justified (No.). I don't want either side to come out thinking it has "won", because both sides have behaved despicably and shouldn't be rewarded for it. But I'm not sure what scenario would give my preferred result.

jaywalker,

Thanks, I'll add that to my reading list.

Donald: "I don't want either side to come out thinking it has "won", because both sides have behaved despicably and shouldn't be rewarded for it."

Probably the most accurate comment on this whole mess I have read.

And like Donald, I don't know how that could happen. My best guess is that something willhappen in which both sides can call themselves winners, the Israelis will have created enemies among those Middle east countries who have developed tolerance of it, and the US will have lost further credibility.

And of course, there will be too many dead people.

The latest interesting development in the Israel-Lebanon war is that European leaders are setting up meetings with Syrian and Iranian officials, filling the vacuum left by the Bush Admin's refusal to talk to Iran and Syria. I don't know what will come of this, and await further developments with great interest.

That's an incredible summary of what's wrong with our whole approach. I couldn't duplicate it if I tried, so I've linked to it at my blog; hopefully those who visit us will take the time to come over here and read for themselves.

Gore was the VP of a popular president during a time of economic prosperity. He should have wiped the floor with Bush (who wasn't a great candidate either).

Since we're retreading this ground, I'll point out that one reason Gore failed to wipe the floor with Bush was that the media was hellbent on lying (and disseminating others' lies) about Gore and, to a lesser extent, whitewashing the hell out of Bush.

Andrew, I dunno if you caught this old thread, but if you do choose to beat this dead horse some more, you might want to consider What Has Gone Before, here at OW. I'm sure there are threads previous to this that have similar disagreements, but I can's summon enough caringness to Google them forth.

I find it hard to consider either Gore or Kerry particularly inept, considering that both came within a hair's breadth of actually winning the presidency. For inept, see George McGovern, who managed to lose 49 out of 50 states running as the anti-war candidate against another authoritarian president fighting an unpopular and divisive war. While winning counts, the Democrats could have done a lot worse than either Gore or Kerry.

I find it hard to consider either Gore or Kerry particularly inept

Where are all our ept candidates? I mean the really ept ones?

Slarti, I had, in fact, decided not to give the dead horse one more kick in this thread.

Where are all our ept candidates? I mean the really ept ones?

Good question. All you smart and able people out there, what are the odds you're going to run for elected office anytime soon? I think that's worth a poll.

"All you smart and able people out there, what are the odds you're going to run for elected office anytime soon? I think that's worth a poll."

Zero. I would make a lousy politician, as I would not make any decisions based upon the preferences of my constituents, and I would loudly defend my decisions based upon my own set of values, even though they greatly differ from the average voter. Even if by some miracle I could be elected once, when up for reelection, I would go down to defeat in the greatest landslide of all time.

I believe Hayek talked about this in The Road to Serfdom. Because the route to power in democratic societies is through elections, people who seek power go into politics.

People who are looking to do good things tend to see what the political process requires and decide it's not worth it. I used to think about someday running for office, but I realized I couldn't do it. The Republicans won't have me because I'm prochoice, anti-death penalty, against prayer in public schools, etc., but the Democrats won't touch me with a ten foot pole because I don't have any interest in universal health care, Roe uber alles, affirmative action, etc. My positions are well placed to make me radioactive in both parties.

Andrew, I dunno if you caught this old thread, but if you do choose to beat this dead horse some more, you might want to consider What Has Gone Before, here at OW

I am bemused by the comments on that thread (in 10/04) about the then high price of oil. Looking here oil is about 50% higher now.

The Republicans won't have me because ... Democrats won't touch me with a ten foot pole because ...

But what about the Libertarian Party? I bet with some strong campaigning, you could *double* Badnarik's 2004 vote tally. :)

I bet with some strong campaigning, you could *double* Badnarik's 2004 vote tally.

Indeed. But the Libertarians are too doctrinaire to have me. I don't believe taxation is theft, for example.

There are limits to game theoretic rationality which should always be borne in mind, since we're not doing this in some ideally rational universe.

I took a class on economic analysis and public policy once. We did the dollar auction exercise, and one guy's first bid was two dollars. His explanation was "I just want to win."

As I am not a member of teh smrt and abel, I am clearly not qualified to respond to Slarti's question - which lack of ept may make me an othewise perfectly acceptable candidate for public office - I think I see things too much from the viewpoint of ethics to be acceptable to the public. In the end, it is also true that while I have become increasingly liberal as I age, I don't actually resonate with many "liberal" issues. I don't disagree with gay marriage for example, I just don't resonate with it.

I do disagree with Andrew wrt universal health care. What we have now is semi-universal health care that works to the disadvantage of mostly the poor. As a system, that sucks on it's face. It needs fixin'.

I approve of infrastructure, which pretty much requires taxes, so I surely am not anti-tax, and I make enough that taxes ARE an issue in my life. I pay more in taxes than my adult children make. Is that weird or what? And yet as a nation we are STILL massively in debt, and borrowing more all the time. Something stinks in DC.

Anyway, like I said, not being of the teh smrt and abel, I really can't answer Slarti's question.

Jake

You could always go Independent, but that would mean somehow displacing Pat Buchanan, and any fanbase that he might have there. You'd have to steal the party BACK, in other words.

Or, you could go Independent and rub elbows with Pat. That'd be a trip, eh?

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