What’s Wrong With Appeasement? You Really Want To Know?

Chamberlain and HitlerMaybe some people have to have the tragic error of appeasement explained to them. Like Bruce Ramsey, a writer for the Seattle Times. Here is something he actually wrote Friday. I’ve left nothing out, contrary to usual blog practice. I don’t want anyone to think he mitigated his idiocy with lines I left out.

Democrats are rebuking President Bush for saying in his speech to the Knesset, here, that to “negotiate with terrorists and radicals” is “appeasement.” The Democrats took it as a slap at Barack Obama. What bothers me is the continual reference to Hitler and his National Socialists, particularly the British and French accommodation at the Munich Conference of 1938.

The narrative we’re given about Munich is entirely in hindsight. We know what kind of man Hitler was, and that he started World War II in Europe. But in 1938 people knew a lot less. What Hitler was demanding at Munich was not unreasonable as a national claim (though he was making it in a last-minute, unreasonable way.) Germany’s claim was that the areas of Europe that spoke German and thought of themselves as German be under German authority. In September 1938 the principal remaining area was the Sudetenland.

So the British and French let him have it. Their thought was: “Now you have your Greater Germany.” They didn’t want a war. They were not superpowers like the United States is now. They remembered the 1914-1918 war and how they almost lost it.

In a few months, in early 1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of what is now the Czech Republic—that is, territory that was not German. Then it was obvious that a deal with him was worthless–and the British and French did not appease Hitler any more. Thus the lesson of Munich: don’t appease Hitlers.

But who else is a Hitler? If you paste that label on somebody it means they are cast out. You can’t talk to them any more. And it has gotten pasted on quite a few national leaders over the years: Milosevic, Hussein, Ahmadinejad, et. al. In particular, to apply that label to the elected leaders of the Palestinians is to say that you aren’t going to listen to their claims to a homeland. I think they do have a claim. So do the Israelis. In order to get anywhere, each side has to listen to the other. To continually bring up Hitler, the Nazis, the Munich Conference and “appeasement,” is to try to prolong the stalemate.

I trust that Barack Obama does not possess the same historical ignorance.

Hitler telegraphed exactly what he intended to do in his book, Mein Kampf, written years before 1938. Also by then he had violated the Versailles treaty and begun rearming.

There was no evidence that Sudetenland wanted to be part of Hitler’s empire. Hitler had destroyed German democracy. Britain and France presumably understood the difference between democracy and dictatorship, since both countries operated under a democracy.

There was already a flood of Jewish refugees. News of Hitler’s atrocities, albeit downplayed in the British and French press in order to massage public opinion, was still known to the U.K. and French leadership. Winston Churchill and his friends in British intelligence made sure of that. His parliamentary speeches exposed Hitler repeatedly. Prime Minister Chamberlain’s naivete about Hitler and his aims was willful. He had plenty of facts at hand to demonstrate to him that Hitler did not deserve the trust he was vesting in him.

Ramsey writes as if he thinks Hitler is unique in history, and that attempts to compare contemporary enemies to Hitler is…unfriendly? I can’t tell what he means by this: “If you paste that label on somebody it means they are cast out. You can’t talk to them any more.” I don’t think the comparison of “Milosevic, Hussein, Ahmadinejad” to Hitler is inapt, given what they did and what, in Ahmadinejad’s case, he’s openly threatened to do.

I realize the cries of “Munich!” have begun to bore some people. Bore, or agitate. It struck me as strange that Obama and other leading Democrats would rush to identify themselves as the targets of Bush’s remarks to the Knesset. Maybe Bush was trying to be crafty — which is always cute to watch, like watching a toddler try to kick a ball — but the smarter Democratic play probably would have been to say, “What he said.” Because appeasement is still something to be avoided, if you define appeasement correctly as:

  • Letting your enemy know you will do anything to avoid war.
  • Letting your enemy take this knowledge and use it to their advantage.
  • Making excuses for enemy actions and policies that violate law and conscience.
  • Giving your enemy concessions based on a flimsy rationale that ignores indisputable facts.
  • Convincing yourself that your concessions are trivial — a cheap way to avoid war.
  • Using PR spin to isolate domestic opponents to your appeasement policy as “warmongers.”
  • Continuing to make excuses for the enemy until you have no choice but to fight back.

That last point is the ultimate folly of appeasement. It is a policy pursued by peacemakers that leads inevitably to war. True, it postpones war, which is sometimes politically desirable to the appeaser, who might only be thinking of the short run, i.e. the next election. But it also gives your enemy time to get stronger, a process accelerated by the act of appeasement, which convinces some fence-sitters that the future belongs to the enemy and not to you.

No one calls him or herself an appeaser. It’s not a philosophy. It’s a verdict, based on objective facts. Saying “I’m not an appeaser” does not prevent you from acting like one. In the moment, it is often easier for a politician to be an appeaser than not to be one. It takes a lot of leadership strength to overcome appeasement’s gravitational pull. The truly chilling thing about Chamberlain’s appeasement was the wild public enthusiasm it generated among French and British citizens. Within two years, members of these cheering crowds would be slaughtered by Hitler’s forces.

The big question Obama will have to deal with when he takes office is whether to fulfill his promise of rapid withdrawal from Iraq, at risk of making it appear to the radical Islamic world that by doing so, he’s appeasing them. Perhaps there is a way to do it and preserve our strength in the region. But if there isn’t, he’ll have to show a lot of strength, the strength to look his most fervent supporters in the eyes and tell them he’s changed his mind. This decision will define his presidency, and it will come at him early.


Bold Wankers

The Iraq war is a failure. The surge is a failure. General Petraeus? Impressive man, but a failure. If we pulled our forces out now, or as soon as possible, things in Iraq would improve. Meanwhile, that would free up resources to fight terrorists, who are in a lot of other places, but not Iraq.

That’s what we’re supposed to think unless we’re part of the dwindling-yet-vast right wing conspiracy. It is no longer a position. It is an orthodoxy.

So how bold was it for two liberal think-tankers, Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack, to publish this op-ed in the New York Times today? And to title it “A War We Just Might Win.”

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with. Continue reading

The Abyss: Two Versions of War in Iraq

When one person talks about the “war in Iraq,” he or she doesn’t always mean the same thing as another person.  There’s a disconnect, factually and emotionally, an abyss of meaning, a condition of double vision where people see just one and not the other.   

Here’s the “war in Iraq” as seen by the leaders of Congress:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw down a new gauntlet Friday before President Bush and Republicans in Congress, saying the House will vote in July on legislation to withdraw almost all American troops from Iraq by April.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said there also will be votes on the future course of the Iraq war next month, although he said he is consulting with other top Democrats on exactly what the legislation might entail.

The statements by Congress’ top two Democrats mean that the renewed confrontation with Bush over Iraq won’t wait until September, when the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, are scheduled to issue a report on how the surge of American troops has worked to quell sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital and other cities.

Pelosi and Reid, talking to reporters in the Capitol as Congress left town for its weeklong July Fourth break, made it clear that they want to pressure Republican members on their continued support for the war. They think a major break in GOP support for Bush is possible, after statements this week by senior Republican Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and George Voinovich of Ohio, who said Bush’s strategy isn’t working and called on him to start withdrawing the 160,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.

“We will put everyone on record,” Pelosi said. “We’re encouraged by the public demand for this. Hopefully, it will be heard by the president and the Republicans in Congress. I see some signs that that is happening.”

Fundamentally, for Reid and Pelosi, “war in Iraq” is a political issue.  The big event?  “Statements this week by senior Republican senators.”  To Reid and Pelosi and the people who take them seriously, these press releases landed with the force of a shoulder-fired rocket.   After those statements, why, everything is different now!  We can pass different resolutions.  Those who thought we would hold back until September:  Not!   The time to attack is now.

The embedded blogger Michael Yon describes a series of events from a completely different “war in Iraq” in this post:

On 29 June, American and Iraqi soldiers were again fighting side-by-side as soldiers from Charley Company 1-12 CAV—led by Captain Clayton Combs—and Iraqi soldiers from the 5th IA, closed in on a village on the outskirts of Baqubah. The village had the apparent misfortune of being located near a main road—about 3.5 miles from FOB Warhorse—that al Qaeda liked to bomb. Al Qaeda had taken over the village. As Iraqi and American soldiers moved in, they came under light contact; but the bombs planted in the roads (and maybe in the houses) were the real threat.

The firefight progressed. American missiles were fired. The enemy might have been trying to bait Iraqi and American soldiers into ambush, but it did not work. The village was riddled with bombs, some of them large enough to destroy a tank. One by one, experts destroyed the bombs, leaving small and large craters in the unpaved roads.

The village was abandoned. All the people were gone. But where?

Yon presents many photos of Baqubah villagers — men, women, children and their farm animals — after they were murdered by Al Queda during the period of occupation and retreat.  Children and animals that had been rigged with explosives.  Mass graves.  I won’t show the gruesome photos — if you can stomach it, you should go look for yourself — but here’s one caption:

Soldiers from 5th IA said al Qaeda had cut the heads off the children. Had al Qaeda murdered the children in front of their parents? Maybe it had been the other way around: maybe they had murdered the parents in front of the children. Maybe they had forced the father to dig the graves of his children.

And here’s more from Yon’s post:

Later in the day, some of the soldiers from the unit I share a tent with, the C-52, told me that one of their Kit Carson scouts (comprised of some of our previous enemies who have turned on al Qaeda) had pointed out an al Qaeda who had cut off the heads of children. Soldiers from C-52 say that the Kit Carson scout freaked out and tried to hide when he spotted the man he identified as an al Qaeda operative. Just how (or if) the scout really knew the man had beheaded children was unknown to the soldiers of C-52, but they took the suspected al Qaeda to the police, who knew the man. C-52 soldiers told me the Iraqi police were inflamed, and that one policeman in particular was crazed with intent to kill the man who they said had the blood of Iraqi children on his hands. According to the story told to me on 30 June, it took almost 45 minutes for the C-52 soldiers to calm down the policeman who had drawn his pistol to execute the al Qaeda man. That same policeman nearly lost his mind when an American soldier then gave the al Qaeda man a drink of cold water. 

I’m not trying to make Pelosi, Reid, Voinivich or Lugar look bad.  They’re reacting as politicians should to the pleas of the people who elected them.   They’re reacting, one hopes, to their own consciences, which are probably telling them Iraq is a lost cause, and it’s immoral to sacrifice American lives to a lost cause.  The war itself, and the blundering, lying Administration running it — that’s the enemy.  It’s a political enemy, one that can be defeated by press releases.

But the “war in Iraq” they’re talking about couldn’t possibly be the same war Michael Yon describes. Yon’s war is a war against pure evil.  There’s no withdrawing from that war, because it will follow you.

More specifically, Yon describes a war in which US soldiers fight alongside Iraqis, against invaders.  To be sure, Al Queda in Iraq has indigenous supporters, but essentially they are turncoats.  The Iraqi Al Queda members aren’t fighting US invaders.  They’re fighting to destroy any hope of civil peace in Iraq on terms other than their own. They will kill anyone in pursuit of chaos, fear and failure, and then booby-trap the bodies of their victims to kill more.

This vision of the war is not consistent with the one Pelosi, et. al. describe.  Linguistically, to square their policies with the war Yon describes, the politicos would have to say things like:

  • “The war against Al Queda is lost.”  
  • “Al Queda will control Iraq, and there is nothing further we can do to stop them.” 
  • “We must redeploy to other countries where Al Queda is not strong, so we won’t have to fight them.” 
  • “Al Queda is killing too many American soldiers, so we have to retreat.”

Are any of these comments untruthful representations of the meaning of a U.S. pullout right now?

If the anti-war members of Congress spoke in those terms, how much would that change the politics around this issue? 

Like Bob Kerrey Says

I’ve just about given up trying to make the case for the Iraq war. Not because I don’t believe it was the right thing to do, because it was. Not because I mind sticking out like a sore thumb among virtually all my friends and family, because I don’t. Not even because Bush and (especially) Rumsfeld repeatedly made bad decisions and blunders that complicated what was already going to be a hard slog, because their mistakes don’t undermine the philosophical or strategic rationale.

No, I’m ready to throw in the towel because it’s obvious nobody cares anymore. I don’t think Democrats and liberals are stupid: They see the peril in ditching Iraq, and the rising tide of blood our departure would cause. They just don’t give a damn.  Republicans are starting to feel the same way.  Their insouciance is the flip side of arrogance, both of them a privilege our vast military might affords us.

I’ve worked for people whose philosophy of life is, “I’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.” If a power vacuum at the heart of the Middle East causes horrible problems there and here, fine. We’ll deal with them when they arise — and maybe score a few points by blaming that idiot Bush. It’s cynical, but it’s not hidden, and people seem to be buying into it.  This question has never been polled but I suspect a majority of Americans believe that if we pull out of Iraq, and that it turns out to be a mistake, well, hell, we can just roll back in.

One of my arguments — one that everybody hates and shoots down — is this: If we hadn’t invaded, and had just waited for Saddam Hussein to die or be overthrown, the warfare between Shi’ite and Sunni militias would have commenced then. And Al Queda would have tried to capitalize on it, as would have Iran. The only way that could have been avoided was if Hussein had successfully gotten a nuclear weapon. Ex-CIA director George Tenet believes that probably would have happened between now and 2009.

So, the Iraq of 2008 would have either been in a state of bloody civil war and in danger of falling into the hands of Al Queda or Iran, or Hussein’s regime would have still been in place, equipped with a nuclear weapon to sustain his rule or the rule of his sons. And we would have been forced to deal with Iraq then, from an even less advantageous position than the one we have now — including, possibly, military action.

I have been told repeatedly this is a stupid argument. And maybe it is. But at least I now have the validation of being joined in my stupid argument by former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, a Democrat, the one-time presidential candidate who is now president of the New School in New York. In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal he restates the case for the war “from the U.S. point of view”:

The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were “over there.” It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the “head of the snake.” But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.

As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

Okay, so far, all this does is put Kerrey in the same “wanker” category where netroots bloggers put Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman due to his robust support for the war. But then, Kerrey continues with this:

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn’t you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

He closes by saying that a U.S. withdrawal would hand Bin Laden an immense “psychological victory,” and carries his argument one step further with an insight I’ve not read anywhere else — a powerful refutation of those who say our invasion “created terrorists.”

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.

Right.  The presence of democracy, and its desperate struggle to root itself in Iraqi soil:  That’s what’s drawn the brigades of poisonous wasps that are Islamists into Iraq.  Contrary to Rep. John Murtha’s assertions, if we leave, they won’t leave; not until they can kill secular-based self-government once and for all.  Optimally, they want an Islamist fundamentalist government.  But if that can’t be achieved, then any other option is better than a functioning democracy with a functioning civil society, because that’s a threat to the Islamist movement’s growth, worldwide.

The US is no longer in the business of installing friendly dictators — let’s hope. We’ve chosen a much harder path. It would have been nice if we’d taken that path without all the well-documented mistakes, but we should be proud we took it, and we need to stick to it.

Oh, hell, now I’m back in this debate again.

The Iraq War Books to Come

George Tenet, the head of the CIA from 1997-2004, has just published a book, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA.  He was interviewed about it on 60 Minutes last night, and will be on Larry King tonight.  I’m sure we’ll see him soon on Charlie Rose, The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, Jon Stewart’s show, and, if it was still on the air, you might see Tenet in animated form on Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

You probably know what this book’s all about, what makes it newsworthy:  Tenet’s claim to have opposed the invasion of Iraq, and his denial that when he told President Bush that evidence of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs was a “slam dunk” that he really meant it was true.  The NY Times’ Michiko Kakutani reviewed the book:

Alternately withholding and aggrieved, earnest and disingenuous, “At the Center of the Storm” is interesting less for any stunning new revelations than for fleshing out a portrait of the Bush White House already sketched by reporters and former administration members. Mr. Tenet depicts an administration riven by factional fighting between the State and Defense Departments, hard-liners and more pragmatic realists, an administration given to out-of-channels policymaking, and ad hoc, improvisatory decision-making.

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” he writes of a war that has already resulted in more than 3,300 American military deaths, at least 60,000 Iraqi civilian deaths and already cost more than $420 billion. Nor, he adds, was there “a significant discussion regarding enhanced containment or the costs and benefits of such an approach versus full-out planning for overt and covert regime change.”

Mr. Tenet’s book also ratifies the view articulated by former military, intelligence and Coalition Provisional Authority insiders that the White House repeatedly ignored or rebuffed early warnings about the deteriorating situation in post-invasion Iraq. Mr. Tenet writes that the C.I.A.’s senior officer in Iraq was dismissed as a “defeatist” for warning in 2003 of the dangers of a growing Iraqi insurgency, though it was already clear then that United States political and economic strategies were failing. Although the trends were clear, he adds, those in charge of policy “operated within a closed loop.” In that atmosphere, he says, bad news was ignored: the agency’s subsequent reporting, which would prove “spot-on,” was dismissed.

 Tenet’s book has not gone down well with either Bush supporters or Bush foes.  Arianna Huffington is one of many to ask the sensible question, “Why Didn’t George Tenet Just Resign?”

Poor George Tenet. Flogging his book, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, on 60 Minutes, Tenet tells Scott Pelley about how his phrase “slam dunk” was misused by the Bush administration. Tenet, you see, didn’t mean it was a “slam dunk” that Hussein actually had WMD, he only meant it was a “slam dunk” that a public case could be made that Hussein had WMD.

I can’t really see that the distinction matters, but Tenet apparently does. “I became campaign talk,” Tenet tells Pelley, “I was a talking point. ‘Look at what the idiot told us, and we decided to go to war.’ Well, let’s not be so disingenuous. Let’s stand up. This is why we did it. This is why, this is how we did it. And let’s tell, let’s everybody tell the truth.”

Great — except he’s about four years too late. Tenet seems to believe there’s a major distinction between lying and standing by silently while others lie, and then proudly receiving a Medal of Freedom from the liars.

And Christopher Hitchens reminds us in his Slate review that Tenet was not just ineffectual and wrong about the invasion of Iraq; he was ineffectual and wrong about 9/11.  Hitchens recalls one of the creepiest things I remember reading about the immediate post 9/11 response. It was in Bush At War by Bob Woodward.  Hitchens uses that quote as a launching pad for an irate attack on Tenet’s credibility and character:

…(I)t was a very favorably disposed chronicler (Woodward) who wrote this, in describing Tenet’s reaction on the terrible morning of Sept. 11, 2001:

“This has bin Laden all over it,” Tenet told Boren. “I’ve got to go.” He also had another reaction, one that raised the real possibility that the CIA and the FBI had not done all that could have been done to prevent the terrorist attack. “I wonder,” Tenet said, “if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.”

Notice the direct quotes that make it clear who is the author of this brilliant insight. And then pause for a second. The author is almost the only man who could have known of Zacarias Moussaoui and his co-conspirators—the very man who positively knew they were among us, in flight schools, and then decided to leave them alone. In his latest effusion, he writes: “I do know one thing in my gut. Al-Qaeda is here and waiting.” Well, we all know that much by now. But Tenet is one of the few who knew it then, and not just in his “gut” but in his small brain, and who left us all under open skies. His ridiculous agency, supposedly committed to “HUMINT” under his leadership, could not even do what John Walker Lindh had done—namely, infiltrate the Taliban and the Bin Laden circle. It’s for this reason that the CIA now has to rely on torturing the few suspects it can catch, a policy, incidentally, that Tenet’s book warmly defends.

So, the only really interesting question is why the president did not fire this vain and useless person on the very first day of the war. Instead, he awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom! Tenet is now so self-pitying that he expects us to believe that he was “not at all sure that [he] really wanted to accept” this honor. But it seems that he allowed or persuaded himself to do so, given that the citation didn’t mention Iraq. You could imagine that Tenet had never sat directly behind Colin Powell at the United Nations, beaming like an overfed cat, as the secretary of state went through his rather ill-starred presentation. And who cares whether his “slam dunk” vulgarity was misquoted or not? We have better evidence than that. Here is what Tenet told the relevant Senate committee in February 2002:

Iraq … has also had contacts with al-Qaida. Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides’ mutual antipathy toward the United States and the Saudi royal family suggests that tactical cooperation between them is possible, even though Saddam is well aware that such activity would carry serious consequences.

As even the notion of it certainly should have done. At around the same time, on another nontrivial matter, Tenet informed the Senate armed services committee that: “We believe that Saddam never abandoned his nuclear weapons program.” It is a little bit late for him to pose as if Iraq was a threat concocted in some crepuscular corner of the vice president’s office. And it’s pathetic for him to say, even in the feeble way that he chooses to phrase it, that “there was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat.” (Emphasis added.) There had been a very serious debate over the course of at least three preceding administrations, whether Tenet “knew” of it or not. (He was only an intelligence specialist, after all.)
Despite this assault, Tenet stands to profit handsomely from this book, a fact that will not go unnoticed by others currently still serving the Administration.  If a policy goes wrong or becomes unpopular, Tenet’s success shows that no mea culpas are necessary; anyone can distance themselves from unpopular decisions they helped make, even someone as high up as the Director of the CIA.

Still to come: 

The Army I Wanted Wasn’t the Army I Had: Unknown Unknowns Known, By Donald Rumsfeld

Paul Wolfowitz: It Ain’t All About the WMDs, by Paul Wolfowitz

More Years of Magical Thinking, by Laura Bush

The Audacity of Audacity, by Dick Cheney


A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy President, by George W. Bush

And it turns out none of them wanted to invade Iraq.  Who knew!?

David Broder, Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

If you read the left-wing blogs, you quickly learn there is no journalist or commentator more despised than David S. Broder, the “Dean” of Washington columnists.  In recent writings, Broder has been less than thrilled with the performance of the new Democratic Congress and its leadership.  To the netroots, it’s still the honeymoon phase; but here’s this old guy, an uncle you sort of have to listen to, standing at the back of the reception saying “You stink!”

What they despise about Broder is his reputation as a liberal, which derives in part from his position at the Washington Post.   The netroots disagree that the Post is actually all that liberal, or that Broder is “one of them,” and it really steams them that Broder’s critical comments about the Democratic party are seen as coming from a sympathetic corner.  

Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter leave no mark; they’re dismissed easily as right-wing crackpots.  But Broder disrupts what the netroots repeatedly call “the narrative.”  When a liberal says what conservatives say, the conservatives’ viewpoints are legitimized.  The netroots don’t really enjoy debating conservatives; they’d rather dismiss them from the debate entirely. It’s harder to do that when they can cite liberals like David Broder as agreeing with them. 

I’m beginning to think David Broder likes provoking the netroots.  What else would explain today’s column, in which he compares Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to…omigod!… Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez!  

The column was prompted by Reid’s much-criticized comment last week that “this war is lost.”

…Reid’s verbal wanderings on the war in Iraq are consequential — not just for his party and the Senate but for the more important question of what happens to U.S. policy in that violent country and to the men and women whose lives are at stake.

Given the way the Constitution divides warmaking power between the president, as commander in chief, and Congress, as sole source of funds to support the armed services, it is essential that at some point Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be able to negotiate with the White House to determine the course America will follow until a new president takes office.

To say that Reid has sent conflicting signals about his readiness for such discussions is an understatement. It has been impossible for his own members, let alone the White House, to sort out for more than 24 hours at a time what ground Reid is prepared to defend.

Instead of reinforcing the important proposition — defined by the Iraq Study Group— that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can still succeed.

The Democrats deserve better, and the country needs more, than Harry Reid has offered as Senate majority leader.

Broder’s comparison with Gonzalez is, in fact, quite apt.  The problem with Sen. Reid is that he is an incompetent Senate Majority Leader.  As Michael Dukakis said, “It’s not about ideology. It’s about competence.”  The AG is manifestly unfit for his job, and so is Reid.  Reid can’t manage his own mouth; how can he be expected to manage the U.S. Senate? Vice President Cheney’s stinging retort to Reid drew blood because he mostly just quoted Reid’s own incredibly contradictory pattern of statements about the war over the past few months.

But to the netroots, even pointing out obvious incompetence screws up “the narrative.”  Here’s what diarist mcjoan says on Daily Kos regarding Broder’s column:

It’s just so sad, so disconnected from anything even remotely resembling reality. We had ample warning that it was coming, but maybe somehow didn’t think it could really, really be as bad as expected. It is. You can go read it, if you like. But there’s really hardly any point any more.

I do have to give this to the Dean. He is somehow adroit enough to hammer the final nail into the coffin that holds all that was left of his ability to reasonably comment on current events. What more is there to say?

And here is what Greg Sargent, a TPM Cafe blogger, says:

Boy, oh, boy. Will Broder really argue that Reid is as inept as Gonzales, despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that Reid has refused to back down on Iraq while simultaneously maintaining public approval of his approach? He’s also maintained a respectable 46% approval rating — far higher than Bush, who Broder says is on the verge of a comeback. What is it that’s so profoundly threatening about Reid’s success to the Broders of the world?

In the respective comment threads, the “blogswarm” goes on a Broder-bashing spree.  Kos himself weighs in:

 What more is there left to say? (22+ / 0-)

That finally it’s clear as day that Broder is simply another run-of-the-mill beltway partisan hack. Once upon a time, he convinced everyone in DC that he was a non-partisan arbiter of conventional wisdom. That fiction is now blown apart. Broder is no better or different than Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly. An inglorious conclusion to a career in hackdom.

by kos on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 10:56:27 PM PDT

Here’s one from Sargent’s thread:

Its time for the blogshere to do some investigative reporting on Broder and the like.

It’s pretty clear that the Bushies/necons will do anything to advance their cause, protect themselves and manipulate public opinion.

Why has Broder nor Wapo disclosed Broder’s close relationship with Rove?

Broder is either being paid off financially or blackmailed. Cayman Island bank accounts, junkets, or compromising personal information. All of the above?

Posted by:erict
Date: April 25, 2007 08:26 PM

And how about this one from the Washington Post’s own comment thread:

Take the package, Mr. Broder. Retire now before you shred what reputation you have left any further. Old windbag. If the war is so great, why arent your kids and grandkids there? Harry Reid is right. The war is lost. Its time to come home and stop playing cowboy with American lives, which is just making everything in Iraq worse. Bush is the worst disaster in the history of the United States, and Broder was one of his sycophantic cheerleaders after nine one one. The emperor never had any clothes.

By snoopydc | Apr 26, 2007 12:32:42 AM |

Throughout the comments you find the view expressed that Reid’s “war is lost” comment is true, and that polls show the public agrees with it.  What they are overlooking is the American public doesn’t prefer to lose this war.   Reid seems to be egging on that result, especially when he says things like this:

“We’re going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.”

Broder isn’t a hack, and he isn’t on the take.  He has a memory.  Memory curses dreams like the netroots’.  

Here’s an inconvenient analysis that draws on my own memories.

At the end of the Vietnam War, the Democrats facilitated the final defeat, denying President Ford’s request for funds to fulfil the promises the U.S. made after we pulled out. In 1975, the politics of that move looked pretty good; the public was sick of Vietnam.  In 1976, Carter beat Ford — but it should have been a landslide because of Watergate, and instead it was a squeaker.  Why?   In 1978, Republicans reversed most of the gains the Democrats had made in Congress in 1974.  In 1980, Reagan clobbered Carter, and the Republicans took the Senate. 

I believe the atrocities that followed the ignominious end to the Vietnam War, and the U.S.’ impotence to stop mass genocide and annihilation of our former supporters fueled those Democratic setbacks.  For the first time in decades, Republicans started talking about an aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union, and after the horrors of postwar Southeast Asia, the message resonated.

Losing Iraq would be another bloody business. It’s not hard to imagine.  Suicide bombings would increase. Civil war would widen. Any Iraqi individual or institution committed to democracy would be targeted for murder. Al Queda could well end up effectively in charge of parts of Iraq. 

And Harry Reid thinks this will help the Democrats win elections?  It’s absurd.  And he’s incompetent for thinking so, much less saying so.

Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street: Lining Up to Run America

Joel Kotkin sees a new power elite and a new political paradigm emerging from behind the ruins of George W. Bush’s failed administration.   The whole essay is worth reading. Here’s a taste:

How much things have changed in the past few decades! Hollywood once split its loyalties carefully among the parties; its only president came from its right. Now, as much as 80 percent of its largesse flows to the Democrats. The schism between Obama supporter David Geffen and those hanging tough with Clinton is important, not only because of how it reflects Hollywood’s endemic pettiness, but because much of the party, instead of regarding these wealthy prima donnas as deluded minstrels, now treats them as enlightened policy gurus.

Not long ago, Silicon Valley was a bastion of middle-of-the-road Republicans like former Congressman Ed Zschau. But as power once vested in industrial firms like Hewlett Packard has shifted to software and internet-based companies, high-tech politics have shifted both left and dark green. The rising powers of the 21st Century Valley, firms like Google and eBay, generally don’t worry about trifles like groundwater regulations or factory emissions since they don’t manufacture anything. Nor do they worry much about labor laws, because their own employees tend to be young, well-educated and well-compensated. This makes it easier to curry favor with enviro-friendly, left-leaning politicians like former Vice President Al Gore.

Perhaps most important of all have been the changes on Wall Street, whose power extends deeply into both Hollywood and Silicon Valley and which now stands as one of the predominant sources of funds for federal office-seekers and related political action committees. Long the bastion of the old Republican establishment and a backer of Bush in his two presidential runs, Wall Street in 2006 gave more money to the Democrats, and that trend seems to be accelerating along with the implosion of the Republicans.


How did this corporate power shift occur so quickly and dramatically? To a large extent, the answer lies in the utter failure of George W. Bush and his administration. Bush came to office with the support of a Sun Belt elite that drew its wealth and power from the great economic surge west and south after World War II and for nearly a quarter-century dominated American political life

Donors from this group of businesses propelled the careers of such substantial figures as Arizona’s Barry Goldwater, and California’s Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Arguably, their final triumph, helped by the demographic shift to the South and West, lay with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 congressional takeover.

Back in the late 1970s, founding fathers of the Sun Belt power grab, such as oilman Henry Salvatori and Litton Industries founder Tex Thornton, shared with me their conviction that the old Eastern establishment lacked the power and conviction to lead the country. They felt America needed to be guided by more vital, more clear-headed leaders. Economic malaise of the Jimmy Carter years, as well as the perception of America’s weakness both against the Soviet Union and terrorist states such as Iran, lent credibility to these beliefs among a large part of the public.

Like most successful elites, these leaders possessed a relatively coherent agenda. It centered on gaining a free hand over the nation’s natural resources, a low-tax economic policy and support for a strong national defense. The divisive moral agenda, particularly helpful in wooing working-class and Southern voters, was grafted on later but was never widely embraced by the right’s corporate funders.

Bush’s disastrous tenure has pretty much destroyed his backers’ credibility on all three issues. High energy prices and shifting climate-change politics have decimated the traditional agenda of oil and gas companies. An uneven and poorly shared economic expansion has convinced many middle-class erstwhile conservatives that Bush’s low tax, pro-business policies do not really work for them. Finally, the catastrophe in Iraq has undermined support for the overt, aggressive national defense policy long supported by Sun Belt conservatives and their defense industry allies.


Once they recover from their post-Bush euphoria, however, traditional liberals should realize that the ongoing power shift does not necessarily signify the rise of a populist agenda. The wealthiest fifth of Americans are now equally likely to be Democrats or Republicans, a shocking shift from the nearly 70 percent Republican cast of this same quintile just two decades ago. The “party of the people” increasingly now must appeal as much to the affluent as the working-class voter.

I’ve been struggling for a “big picture” that explains the changes in politics in the past couple of years that goes beyond the tactical novelties like the netroots and YouTube.  Kotkin’s is pretty coherent. 

A possible flaw, however, is that his analysis completely omits 9/11, the jihad against the West, the “war on terror.”  Or, is he implying that 9/11 is no longer pertinent, the war on terror is quiescent, and that whole policy arena doesn’t cut politically anymore?  That would come as a huge, rude surprise to the blogospheric right, who think the war on terror is the only issue.  But maybe that’s the case.