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Drawing A Smileyface On The War
I'm not a liberal. I'm not a dove. I think we should have flattened the mountains of Afghanistan after 9-11 to get Osama. But, what I'm not for, as a true fiscal conservative/libertarian is the "nation building" George Bush promised not to do -- and certainly not on bullshit Gulf of Tonkin-type reasons.

What's shocked me most, vis a vis Iraq, in the past few years, is the way "conservatives" (or rather, people who call themselves that -- often mainly because they're religious nutters) have stood behind the president no matter what he does.

Jay Rosen has an interesting piece about this on Pressthink. He writes of Rich Lowry's National Review column of December 19:

Speaking to fellow conservatives (and directly to warbloggers, I thought…) Lowry started slowly: “The conservative campaign against the mainstream media” has certainly “scored some notable successes.” Dan Rather’s national guard investigation and Newsweek’s Koran desecration story are mentioned. (And how great would it have been to add the Jamil Hussein saga?)

He’s right: we’ve had a conservative campaign against the mainstream news media. But has this campaign been good for conservatives? Not in Iraq. “The mainstream media is biased, arrogant, prone to stultifying group-think and much more fallible than its exalted self-image allows it to admit,” Lowry wrote. “It also, however, can be right, and this is most confounding to conservatives.”

That such a discovery—hey, the press can be accurate, people—would be confounding to conservatives is important to know. I give Lowry a lot of credit for saying that. (Prompting Ed Morrissey to agree.) For it shows how far things had gotten.

In their distrust of the mainstream media, their defensiveness over President Bush and the war, and their understandable urge to buck up the nation’s will, many conservatives lost touch with reality on Iraq. They thought that they were contributing to our success, but they were only helping to forestall a cold look at conditions there and the change in strategy and tactics that would be dictated by it.

Yes, and by helping to forestall that cold look they were helping to create the huge failure that our policy in Iraq has become.

As I argued in my Dec. 18 post (and the 214 comments it drew) the Bush government’s retreat from empiricism is not some unfortunate tendency or bad habit that George W. Bush fell into. It’s part of an emancipatory impulse in the political style that he and Cheney invented, right in front of our eyes. I draw attention to its down side when I call it a retreat. The upside is you are much freer to act, to invent, to surge and conceal your surging from the enemy.

There’s a story I want to tell you from Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks, Pentagon correspondent of the Washington Post. That’s the book that recently made Republican Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon “heartsick” because it documents, on page after page, the retreat from empiricism and lack of professionalism (as well as failed oversight) in the making of the war.

Ricks is discussing Retired Lt. General Jay Garner’s preparations to head to Iraq and take charge of post-war operations for the White House. This is Bush’s man on the ground, hand-picked. On Feb. 21-22, 2003 Garner convened experts from across the government for the one and only meeting they would have to bring war policy roughly in line with what they could roughly predict would happen. (The effort failed.) Ricks goes on:

Of all those speaking those two days, one person in particular caught Garner’s attention. Scrambling to catch up with the best thinking, Garner was looking for someone who had assembled the facts and who knew all the players in the U.S. government, the Iraqi exile community, and international organizations, and had considered the second-and third-order consequences of possible actions. While everyone else was fumbling for facts, this man had dozens of binders, tabbed amd indexed, on every aspect of Iaqi society, from how electricity was generated to how the port of Basra operated, recalled another participant.

“They had better stuff in those binders than the ‘eyes only’ stuff I eventually got from the CIA,” said a military expert who attended.

“There’s this one guy who knew everything, everybody, and he kept on talking,” Garner recalled. At lunch, Garner took him aside. Who are you? the old general asked. Tom Warrick, the man answered.

“How come you know all this?” Garner asked.

“I’ve been working on this for a year,” Warrick said. He said he was at the State Department, where he headed a project called the Future of Iraq, a sprawling effort that relied heavily on the expertise of Iraqi exiles.

“Come to work for me on Monday,” Garner said.

And Warrick did just that. A few days later Rumsfeld takes Garner aside and tells him he has to get rid of Warrick. “I can’t,” says Garner. He’s good, he’s smart and he knows a ton about Iraq. Rumseld says there’s nothing he can do; the order comes from above. Garner goes to see Stephen Hadley, deputy director of the National Security Council. Hadley can’t do anything either. Later Richard Armitage explains it to Ricks. “Anybody that knows anything is removed.” And Warrick was removed from Garner’s team, undoubtedly on Cheney’s orders.

Now why would the White House (Cheney) hamper the White House (Garner) in that particular way? The retreat from empiricism is replete with puzzles of this kind. That’s why it’s important for conservatives and warbloggers to ask how it happened on their watch.

Links within are live if you go to the original piece.

via Romenesko

Posted by aalkon at January 10, 2007 11:44 AM

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Comments

I agree. I backed the Iraq war at first, but now think it's been a waste. I brushed off much of the MSM criticism at first, but there's no denying that, at best, the execution has been botched.

Sadly, the Democrat's approach doesn't have much to recommend it either.

It seems to me that the ball is squarely in the Islamist's court now. Nobody I'm aware of, from whatever ideological stripe, is offering a really compelling strategy. So we'll just have to go to reactive mode and wait for the next big attack.

Not that I have any confidence we'll know what to do then.

Do I sound pessimistic? You bet!

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at January 10, 2007 12:32 PM

Well, it is much tidier to make sure that the "reality" on the ground fits the policies; all sorts of messes can result if you have to make policy changes due to reality.

Posted by: justin case at January 10, 2007 1:56 PM

I think the government should employ tabula rasa: examine all that has happened so far only with respect to the probability of success (zero) and tolerable cost (zero) of stabilizing Iraq. Then leave.

Metaphorically, the grenade was already live, we just pulled the firing pin. You can't reassemble a grenade.

Posted by: Dave at January 10, 2007 2:37 PM

I think the government should employ tabula rasa: examine all that has happened so far only with respect to the probability of success (zero) and tolerable cost (zero) of stabilizing Iraq. Then leave.

Metaphorically, the grenade was already live, we just pulled the firing pin. You can't reassemble a grenade.

Posted by: Dave at January 10, 2007 2:38 PM

I was against the invasion in 2003. My support for Bush ended after the whole axis of evil speech. Now, I am not against preemptive military strikes. What I am against is making the policy public to the whole world. Use it sparingly and only with special ops.

In the early 1990s, I was a student/correspondent of the late George Kennan (aka Mr. X) and he always told me that real diplomatic action occurs behind close doors, back channels and through the various 'deputy secretaries'. Keep the big personalities out of it, like the President, Sec of Defense and State. They actually cause more harm with the whole buck stops here mentality.

Kennan was advocating dialogue with friendly communist nations like Yugoslavia and Romania in the 1950s, but the Dulles brothers overpowered him and gained Eisenhower's sympathies through scare tactics like a potential missile gap (Allen Dulles and DOD) and the naive concept (John Foster Dulles) that the WHOLE Communist bloc nations were united in a single purpose of creating a workers' paradise. A whole good versus evil scenario. Does this sound familiar? Differences between the various communists nations do exist and the US should exploit them. Dr. Kennan admitted that he had no opinion on Mao's China, because he was an expert on Russia and Eastern Europe. Also, a lot of the State Departments' China experts were purged by J.F. Dulles for losing the mainland in 1949 or were smeared as communist agents. Splitting the communist world didn't occur until the late 60s and 70s.

Is the Muslim World united with one single teaching? One interpretation of the prophet's teachings? I've spoken to many African Americans who converted to Islam and hate the treatment they receive from Arab-Americans as 'second class' Muslims. Does this happen to African, Asian and other non Arab Muslims? Start exploiting the cultural and ethnic differences instead of uniting them under the present antics of the Bush Administration.

My solution to the present Iraqi crisis would be an eventual pull out of US forces out of the Shiite and Sunni controlled areas and replace them with an all Muslim (Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey) UN Peace Keeping force. Start neogotiating with native insurgent leaders and isolate the foreign "al-Qaeda" fighters. Use a token US force in northern Iraq by creating a sovereign Kurdistan state. An independent Kurdistan will help destabilize Iran. Why? Iran's population is not entirely Persian. They have a large minority of Kurds and if they see an indie Kurdish state... they may start problems with the hardliners in Tehran by joining the new Kurdistan. It will weaken the hardliners position and possibly make the more moderate elements bolder.

This is not a perfect solution, far from it, but better than the present situation and the President's plan to increase the troop presence.

Posted by: Joe at January 10, 2007 6:37 PM

I was against the invasion in 2003. My support for Bush ended after the whole axis of evil speech. Now, I am not against preemptive military strikes. What I am against is making the policy public to the whole world. Use it sparingly and only with special ops.

In the early 1990s, I was a student/correspondent of the late George Kennan (aka Mr. X) and he always told me that real diplomatic action occurs behind close doors, back channels and through the various 'deputy secretaries'. Keep the big personalities out of it, like the President, Sec of Defense and State. They actually cause more harm with the whole buck stops here mentality.

Kennan was advocating dialogue with friendly communist nations like Yugoslavia and Romania in the 1950s, but the Dulles brothers overpowered him and gained Eisenhower's sympathies through scare tactics like a potential missile gap (Allen Dulles and DOD) and the naive concept (John Foster Dulles) that the WHOLE Communist bloc nations were united in a single purpose of creating a workers' paradise. A whole good versus evil scenario. Does this sound familiar? Differences between the various communists nations do exist and the US should exploit them. Dr. Kennan admitted that he had no opinion on Mao's China, because he was an expert on Russia and Eastern Europe. Also, a lot of the State Departments' China experts were purged by J.F. Dulles for losing the mainland in 1949 or were smeared as communist agents. Splitting the communist world didn't occur until the late 60s and 70s.

Is the Muslim World united with one single teaching? One interpretation of the prophet's teachings? I've spoken to many African Americans who converted to Islam and hate the treatment they receive from Arab-Americans as 'second class' Muslims. Does this happen to African, Asian and other non Arab Muslims? Start exploiting the cultural and ethnic differences instead of uniting them under the present antics of the Bush Administration.

My solution to the present Iraqi crisis would be an eventual pull out of US forces out of the Shiite and Sunni controlled areas and replace them with an all Muslim (Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey) UN Peace Keeping force. Start neogotiating with native insurgent leaders and isolate the foreign "al-Qaeda" fighters. Use a token US force in northern Iraq by creating a sovereign Kurdistan state. An independent Kurdistan will help destabilize Iran. Why? Iran's population is not entirely Persian. They have a large minority of Kurds and if they see an indie Kurdish state... they may start problems with the hardliners in Tehran by joining the new Kurdistan. It will weaken the hardliners position and possibly make the more moderate elements bolder.

This is not a perfect solution, far from it, but better than the present situation and the President's plan to increase the troop presence.

Posted by: Joe at January 10, 2007 6:42 PM

I work with a couple of guys who think Bush is the greatest think since sliced bread. One for religious reasons and one because he is a Republican. They think our involvement in Iraq is good because "the terrorists are fighting us over there rather than over here". I thought that was why we went to Afghanistan!

Posted by: Kevin Wilder at January 10, 2007 7:03 PM

I work with a couple of guys who think Bush is the greatest think since sliced bread. One for religious reasons and one because he is a Republican. They think our involvement in Iraq is good because "the terrorists are fighting us over there rather than over here". I thought that was why we went to Afghanistan!

Posted by: Kevin Wilder at January 10, 2007 7:03 PM

"...Bush government’s retreat from empiricism is not some unfortunate tendency or bad habit that George W. Bush fell into. It’s part of an emancipatory impulse in the political style that he and Cheney invented, right in front of our eyes."

Our whole government structure has an "emancipatory impulse" that disregards facts from the front. Ross Perot beat this drum. Maybe Ross is not the answer, but we need to start electing politicians who don't make promises about what government can do for you.

Posted by: d at January 11, 2007 4:49 AM

> Well, it is much tidier to make sure that
> the "reality" on the ground fits the policies;

I like where this is going...

> all sorts of messes can result if you have
> to make policy changes due to reality.

And the payoff is golden.

> Posted by: justin case at January 10, 2007 01:56 PM

Wish I'd said that, and now I have.

Posted by: Crid at January 11, 2007 3:59 PM

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