A typical example of the indictment appears on the leftwing website, Counterpunch: "Five Years of High Crimes and Misdemeanors." (http://www.counterpunch.org)
If Clinton failed to focus on UBL in 1998 and 1999 and 2000 the Republicans share part of the blame. As I have noted repeatedly the impeachment of Clinton always came with a price that Republicans were unwilling to acknowledge. In a complicated world it served as a distraction for both the media and the political establishment. And although it often seemed like opera bouffe the consequences were serious.
A contrary viewpoint is expressed at Media Matters by Jamison Foser, who argues that Clinton never allowed impeachment to distract him. I find his accumulation of evidence fascinating but unconvincing.
I haven't yet had a chance to watch the broadcast. I've TiVo'ed it and plan to watch it later this week.
But there's a fascinating take on the show by a blogger named Farangi. Click here. (Thanks to Ralph Luker for the tip at Cliopatria.)
VP Dick Cheney even dropped a clue about dark matter during an interview with Tim Russert on September 16, 2001, when he said,"We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side ." Had astronomers tuned in to the Prez's press conference on Monday, they would have found lots of dark matter and energy, not only dark matter as evilness and mean-spiritedness but dark matter as in being-in-the-dark or as incompetence, idiocy, and cluelessness. (See, "Missing Links." ) Even Republicans like Joe Scarborough believe the president might be an idiot.
Idiot or not, I'm taking a break from bloging for a while. In part this is because there's little more to say after British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott used the "C-word" to describe Bush's Mideast policy—a word that many believe applies to all of his other policies.
The way of thinking called American exceptionalism comes in two major varieties. One is more or less religious: A faith that the United States has a special place under heaven’s watchful eye. Sometimes this involves a literal belief that the country has a role in the divine plan; in other cases, it’s just a matter of rhetoric verging on national egomania.
The other form of American exceptionalism has a more left-wing genealogy. It emerged from debates over the peculiarities of the United States compared to other highly industrialized nation-states — especially the lack of a labor party or a mass-based socialist movement of the kind that became standard elsewhere in the world. That, in turn, raises some interesting questions about what distinctive factors might explain the “exception.” Was it slavery? The lack of an aristocracy? All those natural resources on the frontier, ripe for the plucking?
In either version, the United States stands as a nation apart — somehow the product of forces cutting it off from the rest of the world’s history. But [this book] takes a different and rather paradoxical approach to American exceptionalism....
From our vantage point today it appears to me that 2008 will either be 1920 or 1952.
In 1920 the country repudiated Wilsonianism and highfalutin make-the-world-safe-for-democracy rhetoric. After several years of war Americans simply wanted to return to normalcy. Trading in their soldiers' uniforms for shirts and ties and coveralls, they went to work and made money.
In 1952 the country was in the middle of a war (Korea) and the country once again was tired of high-flown rhetoric. They wanted the war to end and they wanted to get on with their lives. But unlike 1920, they were not prepared to shuck their global responsibilities and withdraw ostrich-like behind Fortreess America.
So is this 1920 or 1952?
From the vantage point of the summer of 2006 it would appear that Americans are closer to the feeling of 1952 than 1920. People are sick of the war but they aren't ready to wall themselves off from the rest of the world. The polls indicate that people are not even ready to establish a timetable for withdrawal.
In other words, what they want is to feel secure and still have hope for better days ahead. President Bush gives them a feeling of security (why I don't know). But no hope. By focusing so esclusively on our fears the president has left a vacuum the size of Iraq for somebody who can play on our hopes to fill.
Unlike 1952 we don't have an Eisenhower who can promise both hope and security.
And that's our dilemma.
To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go into an election with the candidates you have. And unfortunately our candidates, like our army in Iraq, are ill-equipped to meet the challenges we face.
Any candidate can offer hope if they wish to (Bush never wishes to). But security? That is a lot harder to convincingly convey.
John McCain might have fit the bill but because of his pro-war stance he's hardly in a position to offer either hope or security. Iraq has made us less secure and less hopeful.
Condi? She's tarnished by the war, too.
Hillary? She is also tarnished by the war.
Wesley Clark? I'd love for him to be taken seriously as a candidate but he's barely registering in the national polls.
And that leaves (among the top candidates listed in the Pew polls) ... Al Gore. Gore might just be the man for the hour. He's solid on defense. He's opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. And he is in a position to offer hope.
But will he run?
Juan Cole makes the case at Informed Comment.
Michael R. Gordon, Mark Mazzetti, and Thom Shanker write in the New York Times today (August 17):
"Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. . . .
" 'The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels,' said a senior Defense Department official who agreed to discuss the issue only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution. 'The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.' . . .
"Taken together, the new assessments by the military and the intelligence community provide evidence that violence in Iraq is at its highest level yet. And they describe twin dangers facing the country: insurgent violence against Americans and Iraqi security forces . . . and the primarily sectarian violence seen in Iraqi-on-Iraqi attacks being aimed at civilians.
"[S]ome outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq's democratically elected government might not survive.
" 'Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,' said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.
" 'Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,' the expert said, 'but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.'"
Considering all this, it seems that Bush's own"exit strategy" is to fight on in the same old way 'til he exits office, leaving it to the next president to evacuate Iraq in defeat.
A fuller and more accurate answer, I believe, would have been to acknowledge America's very coherent but failing Realpolitik approach to difficult social, economic, and political problems around the world. Great powers through history have frequently pursued such a policy and relied on apparently incoherent but"Realist" alliances to achieve their ends—often in opposition to their professed ideals. As the Realist saying goes, the ally"may be an SOB, but he's our SOB." As we must all know by now, this policy sometimes works, but just as often it fails, backfires, or produces blowback.
John from Cincinnati, the caller, was also complaining about the U.S. tendency to choose the"most violent alternative." I take this to mean that John thought that diplomacy might sometimes be a better alternative. Realpolitikers usually if not always respond to this suggestion in one of two ways: (1) diplomacy is only useful as a strategy; i.e., one must use a big stick and maybe a carrot or two to get the other side to give in to one's own terms; (2) you cannot negotiate with evil people—in this case, that means terrorists like Hamas or Hezbollah.
These are big, complicated questions. For now, I simply want to observe that any"diplomacy" that attempts to get the other side to give away what one could not get through war is not only going to fail but is not real diplomacy. Codoleezza Rice's recent shuttle"diplomacy" failed, for example, because it was phony diplomacy. Rice served as the face of diplomacy for the American and European media, yet she mouthed the administration's line—the neocons' line—about achieving"real peace" only by disarming Hezbollah. If the United States and Israel cannot do that through force, it is not likely that they can do it through phony diplomacy (see, e.g., what the Egyptians have to say). ( Also see, editor's blog. ) The other purpose of Rice's shuttle diplomacy was to give the neocons an excuse for failure in Lebanon. What is their excuse? It is not that Bush/Cheney and Olmert committed another monumental blunder but that Rice's diplomacy failed.
What we need in the region, first, is the recognition by key players that the military conflict is deadlocked, cost-ineffective, and extremely dangerous. Therefore, real diplomatic (aka"political") compromises have to be made by all parties. A second step is for the United States and Israel to talk to Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah without preconditions or demands (and that goes for both sides). A third step is for Republicans and Democrats to pursue a bipartisan and"honest broker" approach to the issue. A fourth step is to assist Arab and Islamic moderates and secularists in the region through an honest broker approach as opposed to a militaristic approach that only helps extremists. Unfortunately, for all their Realist talk, the neocons in Washington are not realistic.
If the United States of America can't disarm the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, how can wwe expect Lebanon to do so?
We have been trying for 3 years. We have spent upwards of $300 billion. And we have had the use of an army of 140,000 soldiers.
Lebanon has nowhere near our resources or unity.
So I ask again: How can we expect them to do so?
Whether that is possible or not, should that be our goal?
I should have thought that by now, after Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, we would have gotten over the infatuation with democracy. What we want in the states of the Middle East are regimes that foster liberty. LIBERTY. If we are lucky democracy will follow. But first must come a respect for liberty.
Readers may think--what's the difference. Aren't they the same?
In America they end up being the same. But if we remember our history we will remember that a love of liberty preceded democratic norms.
This is too big a topic for a blog. I just thought I'd mention it.
The New Hampshire contest was about the Vietnam war and Johnson's leadership: doves voted for McCarthy because he ran in opposition to both the war and Johnson's role in its escalation; many hawks voted for McCarthy because they were unhappy with Johnson's management of the war. The Connecticut contest was mainly about another misbegotten conflict, the Iraq War and Occupation, with opponents of the war and of Bush's management of it voting for Lamont and against Lieberman, who had not only endorsed the rationale for the invasion of Iraq but had subsequently defended Bush against his critics.
The New Hampshire results contributed to Johnson's decision to withdraw from the presidential race, encouraged antiwar critic Robert Kennedy to throw his hat into the presidential ring, and emboldened other candidates, both Democratic and Republican, to question the wisdom of the war. Even Richard Nixon, who defeated Nelson Rockefeller in the New Hampshire primary, did so in large part because he had recently adopted a position that seemed to indicate to moderate Republicans and independents that he wanted to get the country out of Vietnam and had a "secret plan" to do it.
The political consensus about Lamont's victory is that whether he wins or loses the November election—in which Lieberman will apparently run as an independent—he has shaken up the Democratic establishment. No longer will incumbents in the blue and purple states be able to support the war or straddle the fence without negative political consequences. This may apply to some Republicans as well, because a majority of the American public believes the war to have been a mistake. Nineteen-sixty-eight was a turning-point year in the course of the war in Vietnam and of politics in America. Perhaps 2006 will become a turning-point year in foreign affairs and the political scene at home and an old adage will come true: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Writing about the credibility trap and other analogies between the Iraq War/Occupation and the Vietnam War in a recent op-ed, Judith Coburn—who had served as a correspondent during the Vietnam War—quoted George Orwell's famous 1936 essay,"Shooting an Elephant," in which he confessed that the lesson he had learned while serving as a police officer in Burma was that"my whole life, [and] every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at."
Orwell told the story of a"tiny incident" that gave him"a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism—the real motives for which despotic governments act." Summoned to investigate the destruction wrought by a tame elephant that had broken free of its chain during the mating season, Orwell found himself in a situation in which the villagers expected him—the official who carried a rifle—to kill the elephant, because it had destroyed a hut, killed a cow, devoured a fruit vendor's produce, and trampled a man. But Orwell didn't want to kill the elephant, because he knew that the mahout could bring it under control when he returned to the village. Besides, this working elephant was valuable to the mahout and the local economy. In the end, Orwell shot and killed the elephant."I often wondered," he wrote,"whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool."
I believe in credibility. Historians need it, and so do teachers, parents, and governments—so do we all in our dealings with others. But there comes a time when Great Power credibility—the credibility of military force—is just an excuse for trying to avoid looking like a fool and not wanting to be laughed at. That's not a good enough reason for continuing the waste and bloodshed.
Vietnamese resistance, along with several other complex, interrelated causes, produced a policy defeat for these policymakers in Vietnam during those days of yore, which, as it turned out, however, did not seriously undermine America’s great-power credibility, mainly because America’s allies and clients did not have any place else to go for protection from real or imagined enemies. Plus, America's main rival, the Soviet Union, soon collapsed from equally complex causes. America remained a great hegemonic power. (Another reason for its hegemony was that despite losing its economic supremacy in manufacturing, it retained a more or less robust manufacturing economy. Yet another reason for hegemony was that America had a powerful military machine and lots of nuclear bombs and delivery vehicles – more than everyone else combined.)
Eventually – after a confusing period from President Ford to President Clinton – George W. Bush was elected president (although no one is really certain whether he really got more votes than the other guy, and in fact most doubt that he did). Once in power, he and his policymaking advisers decided that they, too, wanted to maintain and expand America’s great-power credibility (and all the benefits that came to certain groups with that credibility), which is one of the major reasons they invaded Iraq.
Unfortunately for everyone (except Halliburton and their ilk), the war is not going well. In addition, Bush and other policymakers, such as Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney, have lost all of their truth-inspiring credibility. It is therefore very likely that America will, this time, lose even its great-power credibility, for it has squandered the good will it has enjoyed around the world, its moral reputation, its military power (except for its nuclear bombs), and what remained of its economic strength. Of course, this loss of credibility has not disheartened the diehard, true-believers, because in the past couple of weeks, the president has told them that he is on the road to victory in Iraq and prosperity at home.
Rep. John Conyers seems to share this view. In a blog post today, Conyers commented about his release of the final version of his report, the "Constitution in Crisis": "We have seen so many transgressions by this Administration," he wrote,"that it is easy to forget last week's scandal amid this week's new outrage. I am hopeful that compiling all of these events of the last few years will help wake all of us up to the gravity of these matters and the cumulative damage to our country."
Now we have heard from some of the country's leading law professors. They also object to the Bush practice, but on different grounds.
In Vietnam top military brass harbored great doubts about the war plans of the civilian leeadership--and largely kept quiet. Then they mislead Congress about those plans, claiming we had not shifted to an offensive war when we had (in 1965).
In the lead up to the Iraq War, once again top brass harbored grave doubts about the war plans drawn up by the civilian leadership (in this case, by Rumsfeld in league with a bamboozled Tommy Franks) and spoke out on occasion (as Army Secretary Shinseki did).
Different responses, but the same outcome: mess.
One of the post-mortems on this war will have to be rethinking the military's relationship to civilian leadership. How many more wars do we have to fight where the civilian leadership ignores the objections of the military officials who have to wage their wars?
There's got to be a way to provide a forum for military leaders to thrash out the weakneses in military plans without their being accused of insubordination. One wants the government to speak with one voice in a war so as not confuse the enemy or demoralize The People. But surely we can devise some means by which the dissenters can express their views. Miliarty historians--what say you? Any suggestions? Has any government in history been able to address this conundrum? I don't want to keep reading books like this one. I want the public made aware in advance of the doubts of significant players.
Recently declassified documents reveal that during Richard M. Nixon's first year as president, advisers on his White House staff were willing to revisit the question of whether to employ nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Senior officials and policy advisers in the administrations of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson had previously considered the possibility of using nuclear weapons to deal with military crises, influence negotiations, or terminate conflicts, but their deliberations had come to naught because of a deeply ingrained"nuclear taboo." The same considerations shaped the Nixon White House's thinking on nuclear weapons regarding Vietnam and, it seems, the Bush White House's thinking about the"nuclear option" vis-à-vis Iran.
Click this link for an"electronic briefing book" on this subject, which Bill Burr and I co-authored, and which the National Security Archive posted on its Web site today (July 31).