beyond the fact that my non-blogging duties have reduced my output to a minimum during the last two months, it's actually getting harder to come up with original material, given that so many events have evolved so predictably over the still-short lifespan of this blog. (though not predictably enough for the mainstream press.)
i've never been particularly fond of listening to myself repeat myself, but given the denouments of this month, the midterm elections and the violence in iraq, i thought it was safe to indulge in a few classic reruns, with only the mildest hint of schaudenfreude.
regarding the midterms, i present first this graphic from my march post "karl rove: super-genius":
is there really anything more that needs be said?
also from march, i present "cry uncle", my death knell for the republican majority:
so much for the radical conservative plan for a permanent republican majority. it doesn't appear to have had any more staying power than the "thousand-year" reich.
i guess a taste of absolute power — or as much as could be had within our system — over both the government and the media will do that to a movement as morally bankrupt as this one proved to be.
if i could isolate the hamartia, the single critical flaw responsible for the downfall of the conservative agenda i would point to its rampant cronyism. cronyism is of course nothing unique to this administration, nor is it inherently evil; it is quite natural for people to want to extend their largess to those whom they like, a characteristic that makes cronyism impossible to eradicate.
cronyism is typically harmless when its beneficiaries are rewarded with positions that exist in title only, even if those positions do contribute to administrative bloat. but tangible harm looms when qualified people are prevented from assuming or are forced out of positions where their expertise is mandated. people like former treasury secretary paul o'neill, who disagreed with bush on his tax cuts. people like former counter-terrorism advisor richard clarke, who disagreed with bush on the threat of al quaeda. people like retired generals anthony zinni and eric shinseki, who disagreed with bush on invading iraq.
cronyism breeds incompetence when it elevates unqualified and untalented people into positions of importance and influence. people like former nasa press director george deutsch, who attempted to turn the science agency into a propaganda organ. people like former fema director michael brown, whose incompetence in the face of hurricane katrina delivered fatal consequences. people like president george walker bush, who of course needs no further introduction.
the bush administration is a potemkin government: by virtue of their elevation of politics over policy and appearance over substance, they eventually and inevitably reveal themselves to be completely inept in every instance where actual governance is required. disaster follows them like a love-sick dog.
it is actually quite amazing the speed with which the hard-line conservatives have burned through their so-called "capital". after forty years in the wilderness, they blew their gains in just ten years. so it looks like it's back to the desert for this sorry crew. the lesson has become painfully obvious to all, even to the members of a party so practiced in the art of denial:
time.com: former speaker of the house newt gingrich, who masterminded the 1994 elections that brought republicans to power on promises of revolutionizing the way washington is run, told time that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: "had enough?"
lastly, regarding iraq, i present, in condensed form, another march post, "can't stand up for standing down", an examination of bush's "strategy for victory in iraq":
while efforts to recruit and train iraqis into a competent, independent and professional fighting force have been purportedly ongoing, with halting progress, since the overthrow of saddam hussein, at the end of last november the president officially declared these efforts to be one of the linchpins of his exit strategy, during his "strategy for victory in iraq" tour, a series of speeches aimed at once again shoring up his dying support among increasingly skeptical americans...
his strategy has been compared to "vietnamization", nixon's handing over of military operations to the south vietnamese army — a comparison the administration understandably has ignored, not wanting to evoke unsettling images of the fall of saigon.
... meanwhile, either because of or in spite of the explosion of full-blown chaos after the bombing of golden dome, the newly-elected iraqi government remains stillborn amid intense sectarian disagreements, among them ibrahim jaafari's re-nomination to prime minister. it seems incapable of forming a "unity" government ...
can "iraqization" succeed under these conditions? not bloody likely. in at least one crucial aspect it is a very different process from "vietnamization". the government of south vietnam, corrupt and unpopular as it was, was not wracked to the core by sectarianism. the south vietnamese government could reasonably count on the loyalty of its troops, if not their strength.
there has been almost no reportage whatsoever on the issue of troop loyalties. to me it seems to be one of the elephants in the room regarding bush's exit strategery.
in order for "iraqization" to succeed, first, the mutually antagonistic elements of the duly elected iraqi government must come together as one and begin governing. until then it is a government in name only. second, the mutually antagonistic elements of the iraqi military and police forces will have to put loyalty to the government and its laws above loyalty to their particular family, tribe and imam. unfortunately, i don't see that happening with the current generation, certainly not while ethic violence continues in a self-consuming orgy. loyalty to the government cannot be taught in eight weeks of boot camp. what the bush administration calls "standing up", i call building american-trained and american-armed death squads.
if american troops are going home anytime soon, it won't be because the iraqi army is ready to "stand up".
(image courtesy of get your war on.)
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Saturday, March 04, 2006
(cross-posted at daily kos)
iraq: dateline, february 2006.
insurgents. jihadists. militias. suicide bombers. death squads.
in the midst of this abbatoir: a 20-something, over-extended guardsman from anytown u.s.a. who doesn't speak the language, doesn't look like the locals. her assigned task: "security". what can she secure? according to respected middle-east scholar juan cole, not much, not even her own safety:
"sunni arabs in iraq blamed us troops for not protecting sunni mosques and worshippers from violence. the us military ordered the us soldiers in baghdad to stay in their barracks and not to circulate if it could be helped. (later reports said some us patrols has been stepped up.) this situation underlines how useless the american ground forces are in iraq. they can't stop the guerrilla war and may be making it worst [sic]. last i knew, there were 10,000 us troops in anbar province with a population of 1.1 million. what could you do with that small force, when the vast majority of the people support the guerrillas? us troops would be useless if they hcad [sic] to fight in alleyways against sectarian rioters. if they tried to guard the sunni mosques, they'd have to shoot into shiite mobs, which would just raise the level of violence they face from shiites in the south."
it seems crystal clear that u.s. forces have been reduced to serving only one function in iraq: target practice. the majority of iraqis feel that attacks on u.s. troops are justified. with reconstruction effectively halted, and no further funds forthcoming, guess who bears the brunt of civilian frustration? as long as u.s. troops stay in iraq, they remain too convenient as scapegoats for everything there that continues to go wrong:
"on saturday, al-sadr's movement joined sunni clerics in agreeing to prohibit killing members of the two sects and banning attacks on each other's mosques. the clerics issued a statement blaming "the occupiers," meaning the americans and their coalition partners, for stirring up sectarian unrest." (AP)
having successfully alienated all the rival factions, the u.s. no longer can find any meaningful candidate to partner with. cooperation with the u.s. has become the literal kiss of death in iraq, delegitimizing and rendering impotent any iraqi that might still wish to help implement any american plan for recovery.
there have been many calls, out of feelings of both guilt and pride, to, in so many words, clean up the mess that iraq has become. such calls, even if somewhat narcissistic, might be lauded for their acceptance of our ultimate responsibility. others call for us not to allow iraq's oil infrastructure to become incapacitated or be altogether destroyed. such calls are compelling for their sobering practicality. still other calls demand that we keep the conflict from engulfing the entire region, for the sake of stability and security. but our guilt, pride, practicality, stability and security cannot be helped by staying in iraq if in fact our presence has no positive influence whatsoever.
withdrawal from iraq removes both a focus for much iraqi anger and an easy excuse for iraqi dysfunction. most importantly, withdrawal will save lives that can be saved. the time for withdrawal is long overdue.