Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

DEEP STUPID # 13 - I am So Sick of the Right Wing

Charles Krauthamer is living proof that the nuts have become the psychiatrists.  I can't do a DEEP STUPID on this WaPo Op-Ed, because it doesn't quite meet the criteria.  (Upon further review - Yes, I can.)  Instead, it's just mean-spirited, wrong-headed, lame, and - you know: nuts.  Let's check it out.

Uncertain trumpet

Friday, December 4, 2009 

We shall fight in the air, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields, we shall fight in the hills -- for 18 months. Then we start packing for home.

We shall never surrender -- unless the war gets too expensive, in which case, we shall quote Eisenhower on "the need to maintain balance in and among national programs" and then insist that "we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars." 

We could pretty much just stop right here, having established that the right wing, after recieving at least 75% of everything they wanted from this outcome, and left with nothing of substance to whine about, have to resort to criticism based on style points.  But Chuckie goes on, at great, tedious length, and, alas, so must we.

The quotes are from President Obama's West Point speech announcing the Afghanistan troop surge. What a strange speech it was -- a call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative,

You see, the problem is that Obama doesn't sound like Churchill - never mind that Churchill was talking about defending the homeland at home, against military aggression in an actual war, and Obama is talking about escalating the occupation of a remote, mountainous Asian location with no inherent economic or strategic value,  that most Americans couldn't find with a GPS, flashlight, and multicolored map.  As we will learn later, he also didn't sound like G.W. Bush.  Compounding that already unforgivable flaw, he did manage to sound a bit like Dwight David Eisenhower, a Republican president (from back when Republicans actually stood for something rational) and former general who might possibly have known what the hell he was talking about.  But I digress.

Which made his last-minute assertion of "resolve unwavering" so hollow. It was meant to be stirring. It fell flat. In August, he called Afghanistan "a war of necessity." On Tuesday night, he defined "what's at stake" as "the common security of the world." The world, no less. Yet, we begin leaving in July 2011?

Well, why not?  According to Mayan prophecy the world ends in 2012. so lets give our brave troops six months of R&R before the apocalypse. But looking at it another way, who needs to be stirred?  Obama has a plan that I trust to have been made on something more than seat-of-the-pants-guess-work, and after 8 long years everybody's opinion is pretty much cast in granite anyway.

Does he think that such ambivalence is not heard by the Taliban, by Afghan peasants deciding which side to choose, by Pakistani generals hedging their bets, by NATO allies already with one foot out of Afghanistan?

Does Chuckie think that the Taliban - who, like it or not, are far closer to Churchill's position than we are in this conflict - really give a rodent's hind end what the leader of the Great Satan says or does?  Or that Afghan peasants, whose illiteracy rate approaches 100% are dialed in to CNN, and hang, fence straddling, on Obama's next word?  Or that Pakistani generals make their decision on what they see on TV?  That NATO allies don't get a more nuanced and strategic view in military meetings than they do on the tellie?  Upon further review, maybe this does quality as a DEEP STUPID entry.  (VERIFIED.)

Nonetheless, most supporters of the Afghanistan war were satisfied. They got the policy; the liberals got the speech. The hawks got three-quarters of what Gen. Stanley McChrystal wanted -- 30,000 additional U.S. troops -- and the doves got a few soothing words. Big deal, say the hawks.
But it is a big deal. Words matter because will matters. Success in war depends on three things: a brave and highly skilled soldiery, such as the 2009 U.S. military, the finest counterinsurgency force in history; brilliant, battle-tested commanders such as Gens. David Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from the success of the surge in Iraq; and the will to prevail as personified by the commander in chief.

Having established that the right wing, after recieving at least 75% of everything they wanted from this outcome, and left with nothing of substance to whine about, have to resort to criticism based on style points . . . Oh, wait.  I'm repeating myslef.   But more importantly, you have to realize that will = words.  Further, the judgement of battle-tested commanders is above question.  Except when they're wrong, and the President has to go against them.*  But - not to worry - that didn't happen here.

There's the rub. And that is why at such crucial moments, presidents don't issue a policy paper. They give a speech. It gives tone and texture. It allows their policy to be imbued with purpose and feeling. This one was festooned with hedges, caveats and one giant exit ramp.

Policy, you see, is irrelevant.  It's all about feeling.  Nuance, strategy, and a real definition of purpose are as nothing when compared to tone and texture.

No one expected Obama to do a Henry V or a Churchill.

Wait - what?  Chuckie, did you even read your first paragraph?

But Obama could not even manage a George W. Bush, 

 I warned you.

who, at an infinitely lower ebb in power and popularity, opposed by the political and foreign policy establishments and dealing with a war effort in far more dire straits, announced his surge -- Iraq 2007

Who, as a lame duck who cared nothing about popularity, since he had already enriched Cheney's oil-industry friends and the Saudi Royal family beyond the dreams of avarice, still had the power to stick his greasy middle finger in the eye of anyone unpatriotic enough to dream of criticizing . . . 

-- with outright rejection of withdrawal or retreat. His implacability was widely decried at home as stubbornness, but heard loudly in Iraq by those fighting for and against us as unflinching -- and salutary -- determination.

What was heard in Iraq was that were were bribing people to pretend they were on our side - or a least to stop shooting at us for a while.
Obama's surge speech wasn't that of a commander in chief but of a politician, perfectly splitting the difference. Two messages for two audiences. Placate the right -- you get the troops; placate the left -- we are on our way out.

Interestingly bifurcated statement: starts off as faint damnation, and winds up as faint praise.

And apart from Obama's personal commitment is the question of his ability as a wartime leader. If he feels compelled to placate his left with an exit date today -- while he is still personally popular, with large majorities in both houses of Congress, and even before the surge begins -- how will he stand up to the left when the going gets tough and the casualties mount, and he really has to choose between support from his party and success on the battlefield?

One might instead note that Obama has a clear resolve to carry out what he promised as a candidate, despite its unpopularity on the left.  Anyone who questions his commitment and leadership ought to ponder that for more than a millisecond.  And, in case anyone hasn't noticed, Obama is not, and has never been, a liberal.  He is a centrist conservative.  I'm much more worried about his caving in to the right on domestic issues, when he so clearly indebted to big business interests.

Despite my personal misgivings about the possibility of lasting success against Taliban insurgencies in both Afghanistan and the borderlands of Pakistan, 

This is the first bit of evidence that Chuckie maintains a tiny grain of sanity.

I have deep confidence that Petraeus and McChrystal would not recommend a strategy that will be costly in lives without their having a firm belief in the possibility of success. I would therefore defer to their judgment and support their recommended policy. 

I have that same confidence in their belief.  That doesn't mean that their judgment is correct, credible or wise.*  If they didn't like war, they probably wouldn't be generals.

 But the fate of this war depends not just on them. It depends also on the president. We cannot prevail without a commander in chief committed to success.

Is there any serious, valid, or substantive reason to believe that Obama lacks this commitment?  Hasn't he already demonstrated his willingness to defer to the generals?  Really, Chuckie - what in the hell are you talking about?

And this commander in chief defended his exit date (vs. the straw man alternative of "open-ended" nation-building) 

Whoa. Just hold it right there.  If you think the prospect of "'open-ended' nation building" is a straw man, you're going to need to back that up with something more than a naked assertion.

thusly: "because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own."

Remarkable. Go and fight, he tells his cadets -- some of whom may not return alive -- but I may have to cut your mission short because my real priorities are domestic.

Remarkable.  The president is lacking because he recognizes that he has more than just an undeclared foreign war against an amorphous, denationalized enemy on his plate, and is capable of nuanced reasoning on a number of levels.  And the real priorities, even in war, are always domestically rooted.  Twit. 

 Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?

Well, Chuckie, since this occupation has been going on for the greatest part of a decade, and the issue is escalation, not initiation, a call to arms isn't exactly the prime item on the agenda.  What you apparently miss is the single- minded determination of a ruler who would always "stay the course," no matter how situations changed and developed; the mindless stubbornness of a disconnected commander, unconcerned about the conditions at home or the realities of the battlefield, as long as he could claim, "Mission accomplished!" before the real fighting had even begun.

Unless you are even more stupid and crazy than I think you are, you do realize that that Obama will react to the realities on the ground continuously between now and 2011, and adjust his strategy accordingly.  You nitwits on the right must give in to your deep psychological urge to react negatively to anything Obama says and does - even when you agree with it - because he is Obama, and you are filled with hate. 

Having nothing of substance to say, you flail at the edge of semantics, trying in vain to find some detail to carp at.  Has there ever been a more dishonest, absurd, and misdirected critique of a president's speech?  What a sad, horrible and ugly thing it must be to live with a hateful right-wing brain in your head.

The hate - it burns.

*  "Unanimously, the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed that a full-scale attack and invasion was the only solution. They agreed that the Soviets would not act to stop the U.S. from conquering Cuba . . ."
Quote taken from this reference.

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