Saturday, December 30, 2006

Will the ones who got us in, be the ones to get us out?

I'd like a different question please. To be fair, this happy group convening in Crawford, Texas are not exactly the same ones that got us in. There is at leasat one new subordinate in the picture.

The Washington Post reports:
"One idea gaining currency in the administration is to send between 15,000 and 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, at least on a temporary basis, to help improve security, but there are questions among senior military leaders about how effective this move would be...The political component of the emerging Bush package would set up benchmarks for long-overdue steps, such as amending the constitution to help address the objections of Iraq's Sunni minority and dismantling 23 predominantly Shiite militias. But it is unclear whether the Iraqi government would go along with such milestones... In brief comments to reporters here, the president made clear that the focus of his review is to strengthen the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has been struggling to quell militia violence and bring about political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites. "The key to success in Iraq is to have a government that's willing to deal with the elements there that are trying to prevent this young democracy from succeeding," Bush said. "We want to help them succeed."
Conventional wisdom informs us that the nascent plan for a troop "surge" is not a strategy to win but a tactic to not lose. Readers of this blog will not be surprised by the reports coming out of Crawford. Earlier this month we revealed a confidential memo from the Secretary of Defense to the President of the United States outlining his recommendations - edited excerpts here:
"We should not even rule out, as part of the strategy, changing key subordinates in the US Government to meet the charge that "Washington is tired and Washington is stale."... Not to panic because of a belief that the enemy must be made to capitulate before the elections. No one's proposal achieves that end.... Move the newly elected government to a political settlement... a settlement to transform military opponents to political opponents... Limit force increases to no more than 30,000... concentrate on the infiltration routes.. improve the negotiating environment within a limited deployment of US forces by combining continuous attacks with slow improvements in pacification (which may follow the new constitution, the national reconciliation proclamation, our added efforts ... ) The strategy ... is based on their belief that we are in a military situation that cannot be changed materially by expanding our military effort, that the politico-pacification situation will improve but not fast... this course implies a conviction that neither military defeat nor military victory is in the cards... Their government might collapse under the strain. We would then have to decide whether to snip a piece of stem, plant it, nurture it, and start over again, or to force a compromise under our own auspices."
Confidential memo from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to President Lyndon Johnson:
"Subject: Future Actions in Vietnam - May 19, 1967"
As I write this post, CNN announces Saddam is dead and is broadcasting video of Iraqi's dancing in the street. Good. The butcher is gone. The regime is irrevocably changed. There is no WMD threat in Iraq. The military objective that was the justification for the occupation is accomplished. Yet, we still await a new plan for Peace with Honor from our President, that will apparently assure at least two more years of involvement indistinguishable from where we are today. "Stay the course" by any other name, will smell as bad.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Carnival of Divided Government OCTAVUS - Winter Solstice Edition

Welcome to the eighth edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - The Special Winter Solstice Edition. As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration, in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series.

In this Carnival of Divided Government OCTAVUS - Winter Solstice Edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to use the words "divided government" or "gridlock" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless confusion, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

Ahh - the winter solstice. The shortest and darkest day of the year. At precisely 4:22 PM PST, 21-December-06,the earth leans a maximum 23 degrees off of our orbital plane, and then starts leaning back. It is the moment that we in the northern hemisphere begin to observe the return of the light. It is the most optimistic of holidays, pregnant with the promise of spring, the hope of fertility, and the bounty of a new year. Is there any other calendar observance that offers such a mix of science and myth? Inspirational art and precision mathematics? Mystery, tradition, sex, archaeology and history? Religions and cultures, ancient and modern, find reason to note and celebrate the day. The only thing missing is politics. Who better to remedy that gap than DWSUWF? If not us, who? If not now, when? Teresa Ruano at Candlegrove offers an ancient Rumanian Solstice tradition that DWSUWF finds to be a particularly apropos political metaphor for this election year. In this tradition, the head of the household walks into the orchard with an ax on his shoulder, and threatens to chop down each tree if it is not productive. So on this solstice, the American electorate walks among the felled politicians, and look forward to emerging from the darkness of Single Party Control and into the light of a Divided Government in the new year.

Gengis Conn at Connecticut Local Politics writes that Congressman-Elect Joe "Courtney Sees Fiscal Mess Left by GOP":
"I have to hope that the Democrats will, in fact, act responsibly in fiscal matters. The out-of-control spending of the past six years simply can't continue. Perhaps divided government will help: President Bush will almost certainly veto more bills during the next two years than the single one he's vetoed so far. It's worth remembering that divided government during the 1990s led to budget surpluses."
Courtney is referring to the bloated pork-laden funding legislation that was left unpassed by the outgoing congress. This will be the the first test of the divided government hypothesis with the new congress. DWSUWF holds no illusions about the funding legislation, and expect it to still be stinking with pork when it is finally excreted by the new congress. We do expect it to contain slightly less bloat and fetid pork after being subjected to the dynamic of divided government compromise and promised earmark reform.

Diane Rogers writes in the Think Tank Town column at the Washington Post that we may be "Returning to Bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility":
"Since last month's elections, there has been a mood of optimism among the deficit hawks around town, whether they are Democrats or Republicans. Most of these budget wonks freely admit that the change of power in Congress had nearly all to do with the war in Iraq and hardly anything to do with the fiscal irresponsibility that has plagued our federal government since 2001. Yet most also astutely observe that the resulting re-divided government -- last seen with a Clinton White House and a Republican Congress -- is likely to bring some urgently needed discipline back to the budget process."
Laura Young presents an appropriately new-age-ish "Is There a Buddha in the White House?" posted at Dragon Slayer, asking, "Have you hugged your "inner Cheney" today?"...
"While we are debating what could or could not have been done to prevent the many disastrous events we have experienced as a nation during the Bush administration let us not forget to learn the lessons inherent in these events for each of us. Where and how do the lines within our divided government get drawn and in what ways are we contributing to that division? Let us check our own hearts and make certain we are doing what we can to root out the causes of such devastation and dissension in our own hearts and minds for the sake of preventing future disasters and truly promoting peaceful relationships abroad as well as within our own neighborhoods."
An interesting post, even if the somewhat more cynical DWSUWF believes that it is actually the very dissention, division, and drawn lines of divided government which will help to prevent "future disasters". Unity created this disaster in Iraq. Unity is over-rated.

Eric Zitzewitz oulines his research in "Prediction Markets for the CFO" posted at Midas Oracle:
"We examine market reactions to the House and Senate control shifts in 2006, the Senate shift in 2002, and the 1994 shifts. We can get an especially good estimate for the Senate in 2006, where the probably of the GOP keeping it fell from 90 percent to 10 in an hour as the final vote tallies for Missouri and Virginia reversed early GOP leads. We find that a “control” of a house of Congress is about 10-30 percent as important as the Presidency in affecting economic policy, across a number of indicators. Contrary to some pontificating, we do not find any evidence that the stock market prefers divided government."
As one of the leading pontificators on the virtues of divided government, DWSUWF is compelled to point out that evidence (or the lack thereof) for the stock market preferring divided government says absolutely nothing about the evidence for greater fiscal responsibility and better governance under divided government as cited by economists and historians like William Niskanen, Norman Ornstein and others.

Two bloggers make their second sequential appearance in CODGOV with theese additional observations on divided government...

Ed at Captain's Quarters writes that "Democrats Disappoint Bono" laying the blame on divided government:
"Acclaimed U2 rocker and aid activist Bono tried getting the Democrats to support George Bush's commitments to African aid after they take control of Congress, but left disappointed. It seems that Bono has discovered the blessing and curse of divided government ... where the West clings to political correctness and bogus environmentalism, avoids the hint of colonialism, and allows the bullies to abuse the weak, aid will make no long-term difference except to make those situations even worse than they are now. In this case, the Democrats probably have it right."
Agreed. Is this another early indicator that divided government will actually restrain the excesses of big government spending? Perhaps.

Moon, bitter at the resignation of John Bolton complains that "Sometimes it just doesn't pay to endorse someone" at Moonage Political Webdream. The poor fellow is already nostalgic for a Congress that rubber stamps every GWB appointee and decision:
"The next two years are going to be the epitome of a useless and incapable Congress and Senate. Some people think this "divided government" is a good thing. I think it's dangerous as hell at this time."
Following this logic to its conclusion, I suppose the least "useless and incapable" government is one in which there is no Congress to interfere, and a President can simply lead by fiat. I'm still not sure why Moon thinks that is a good thing.

Turk at Kung Fu Quip nicely summarizes the dynamic between two of my favorite topics in his post "Unity08 And The Celebrity Pitch":
"Honestly, I’m not sure how relevant this is going to be now that we have a split government. I think moderation can be achieved in one of two ways. Unity08 was one of those, but the other is the tried and truth method of divided government. Now that the Democrats have reclaimed the control of Congress, our government can go one of two directions - compromise and cooperation or total, chaotic gridlock. I hope for the former, but I suspect we’ll probably get the latter. Either may render the Unity effort mute."
I think he means "moot", but regardless I bask in the truth and wisdom of his words, considering how they reflect on my own thoughts on the subject, as posted here: "Disnuity06 kicks Unity08 butt" .

Finally, we conclude with the longstanding (three month) tradition at The Carnival of Divided Government to include one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgement and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. The winner for this edition is ...

Hakim Abdullah presenting "Notes & Dialogue on Family and Liberty" posted at Wa Salaam. Despite impenetrable and possibly meaningless statements like this - "I think we all will agree that liberty in the true sense of the word should protect society from “enslavement”, but remember it is the execution of liberty that enslaves." - DWSUWF selected Hakim's off-topic post for it's subtitle: "Discussions of Difference with Red State". In the post Hakim relates what he calls "an intriguing dialogue with a community of conservative, right-wing Americans" on RedState. This got DWSUWF's attention, and Hakim this link, because DWSUWF remains banned from RedState for the transgression of posting a truly innocuous comment on a Denny Hastert thread before the election. Keep up the good work Hakim. You are a better man than me.

With that we conclude this edition.Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government NONUS - Special New Years Resolution Edition, which we have resolved to be posted on Monday, January 1, but in anticipation of having too much fun New Years Eve, expect to break that resolution and will actually post on January 2. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

If you enjoyed this carnival, you shoul also check out the Carnival of the Vanities: The Early Christmas Edition hosted at Silflay Hraka, which has seen fit to include a recent DWSUWF contribution among many other fine posts.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bartender! One more Rum & Mac for the road.

Time Magazine Covers from 2004 and 1966
It is closing time here at the Repeating History Bar. We are way past final call, but I'm a regular, and the bartender slipped me one more Rum & Mac for the road. Hey, I'm a big tipper, he takes care of me. I didn't think much of this drink when I started sipping it here, but after pounding down doubles all night, I'm beginning to appreciate the peculiar character of this drink more and more.

Speaking at Donald Rumsfeld's retirement ceremony, Dick Cheney hailed Rumsfeld as "the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had." In Sunday's interview with Bob Schieffer on on CBS News' Face the Nation, Colin Powell declined to agree:
SCHIEFFER: "Let me ask you about the retirement ceremony they had for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The vice president said Secretary Rumsfeld is the finest secretary of defense in the history of this country, or words to that effect. What is your assessment?

Mr. POWELL: "Well, that's the vice president's judgment. I've known many fine secretaries of defense: Caspar Weinberger comes to mind, and Dick Cheney comes to mind himself. But it's history that will judge the performance of all of us in this troubling time of history, and it is a history that I think will ultimately be written as a result of what happens in Iraq."
Sometimes, a judicious amount of alcohol helps one to see things more clearly. With the copious quantities of R&M's I have ingested here at the RHB, I have developed a GWB-like capacity to peer into the soul of my fellow man and read their innermost thoughts. For the benefit of my loyal reader, a transcript of what Colin Powell was really saying:
Mr. POWELL: "Well, that's the vice president's judgement. As we all know, Rumsfeld had his nose so far up Cheney's fat ass, I am surprised they could pull him out to fire him. I've known many fine secretaries of defense: Caspar Weinberger comes to mind, and Dick Cheney comes to mind himself. I wouldn't put Don ahead of Bill Cohen, Les Aspin or William Perry either. Now that I think about it , he wasn't better than Frank Carlucci or Harold Brown. Of course, Don couldn't carry the jockstrap of James Forrestall, George Marshall, Bob Lovett, Charles Wilson or Thomas Gates. And I'd definitely put Elliot Richardson, Melvin Laird, Neil McElroy and James Schlessinger ahead of Don SecDef-wise. Clark Clifford ... now thats close, but I'd have to give Clifford the edge. McNamara! Thats it! He is a marginally better secretary of defense than McNamara. No doubt. Don was better than Bob. But it's history that will judge the performance of all of us in this troubling time of history, and it is a history that will ultimately be written as a result of what happens in Iraq. I just hope I don't find myself burning in historical hell right next to Rumsfeld for all eternity. "
Bartender, could you freshen this up? Whenever I drink R&M's I feel the need to ramble on a bit about our outgoing Secretary of Defense. You know, I am not the only one that noticed the parallels between Don and good ol' Bob. Richard Galli of the Galli Report scooped DWSUWF by several months with a press release last June - excerpted here :
"I have a Thinkpad now" confident Vietnam warrior assures skeptics - "George Bush informed Donald Rumsfeld yesterday that one of his resignation letters had been discovered under a pile of unread security briefings, and the President had belatedly accepted it...In a statement released shortly after the press conference, Robert McNamara said he will be honored to answer his country’s call to service once again. “I have spent the last 30 years of my life educating the American people about the War in Vietnam without ever being held accountable for it,” McNamara said. “I have the experience and the skill set that the White House desperately needs right now.”
Hey! Is that Robert Scheer from TruthDig at end of the bar? He must be drinking Rum & Macs too - You know he's got the same mind-reading skills as me - look at this column where he's channeling Rumsfeld - gives me the willies just to think about it...
One Last Lie for the Road
"Did I write a secret memo saying that I don’t believe in this thing anymore? You bet! But you can’t let the public in on that and just cut-and-run. Jeez, how would that look for the Rummy Legacy? ... I’m not going down that negative road that finished off old Bob McNamara’s legacy. What a disappointment—this is a guy who could sell us the Vietnam War and then blows it by suddenly getting all squishy about the truth when he’s long retired. Jeez Louise, he was once my role model. No secretary of defense ever sold a losing war better. They think I’ve got a frozen smile, just look at those old pictures of Mac flying into Saigon and giving an upbeat assessment in the midst of carnage. Talk about whistling past the graveyard. And he stayed on the “We’re about to turn the corner” message right to the end when LBJ fired him, just like Georgie Porgie did me. "
Ah yes. The confidential memo. One last unexepected and somewhat astonishing bit of synchronicity between the outgoing SecDefs - 39 years apart, writing hand-wringing memos to their respective commanders in chief, outlining options for a failing war policy, and getting canned shortly thereafter. I pull a crumpled piece of paper out of my pocket, smooth it out on the surface of the bar and wave it in the bartenders face. "Look at this!" I said. "I couldn't believe when I heard about the Rumsfeld memo. I had to see for myself how it compared to McNamara's 'Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson' ... I actually looked up the orginal text of both messages to compare them." The bartender, seemingly unimpressed, topped off my glass and retreated to the other end of the bar, leaving the paper behind. "McNamara was a lot wordier." I mumbled under my breath to no one in particular. "But ... definite similarities... definite... similarities...."
"Subject: Future Actions in Vietnam - May 19, 1967"

"Subject: Iraq — Illustrative New Courses of Action - Nov 6, 2006"

MCNAMARA: "This memorandum is written at a time when there appears to be no attractive course of action. The probabilities are that Hanoi has decided not to negotiate until the American electorate has been heard in November 1968. Continuation of our present moderate policy, while avoiding a larger war, will not change Hanoi's mind, so is not enough to satisfy the American people; increased force levels and actions against the North are likewise unlikely to change Hanoi's mind, and are likely to get us in even deeper in Southeast Asia and into a serious confrontation, if not war, with China and Russia; and we are not willing to yield. So we must choose among imperfect alternatives."
RUMSFELD: "The situation in Iraq has been evolving, and U.S. forces have adjusted, over time, from major combat operations to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence. In my view it is time for a major adjustment. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough. Following is a range of options."

MCNAMARA: "The Vietnam war is unpopular in this country. It is becoming increasingly unpopular as it escalates--causing more American casualties, more fear of its growing into a wider war, more privation of the domestic sector, and more distress at the amount of suffering being visited on the non-combatants in Vietnam, South and North. Most Americans do not know how we got where we are, and most, without knowing why, but taking advantage of hindsight, are convinced that somehow we should not have gotten this deeply in. All want the war ended and expect their President to end it. Successfully. Or else."
RUMSFELD: "Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi Government and the U.S. — political, economic and security goals — to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made)."

MCNAMARA: "Publicly, emphasize consistently that the sole US objective in Vietnam has been and is to permit the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future, and declare that we have already either denied or offset the North Vietnamese intervention and that after the September elections in Vietnam we will have achieved success. The necessary steps having been taken to deny the North the ability to take over South Vietnam and an elected government sitting in Saigon, the South will be in position, albeit imperfect, to start the business of producing a full-spectrum government in South Vietnam."
RUMSFELD: "Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist... Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start “taking our hand off the bicycle seat”), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

MCNAMARA [Course A - Not Recommended] : "... neither military defeat nor military victory is in the cards, with or without the large added deployments, and that the price of the large added deployments and the strategy of Course A will be to expand the war dangerously."
RUMSFELD [Below The Line - Not Recommended] : "Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces in Iraq substantially."

MCNAMARA: "Move the newly elected Saigon government well beyond its National Reconciliation program to a political settlement with the non-Communist members of the NLF--to try to arrange a ceasefire and to reach an accommodation with the large number of South Vietnamese who are under the VC banner; to accept the non-Communist members of the NLF as members of an opposition political party and, if necessary, to accept their individual participation in the national government--in sum, a settlement to transform the members of the VC from military opponents to political opponents."
RUMSFELD: "Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period... Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it."

MCNAMARA [Recommended Course of Action - Course B] : "Limit force increases to no more than 30,000; avoid extending the ground conflict beyond the borders of South Vietnam; and concentrate the bombing on the infiltration routes south of 20 degrees. Unless the military situation worsens dramatically, add no more than 9 battalions to the approved program of 87 battalions....A part of this course would be a termination of bombing in the Red River basin unless military necessity required it, and a concentration of all sorties in North Vietnam on the infiltration routes in the neck of North Vietnam... We recommend Course B because it has the combined advantages of being a lever toward negotiations and toward ending the war on satisfactory terms, of helping our general position with the Soviets, of improving our image in the eyes of international opinion, of reducing the danger of confrontation with China and with the Soviet Union, and of reducing US losses."
RUMSFELD [Recommended Options - Above the Line]: "Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi Security forces (ISF), to further accelerate their capabilities by refocusing the assignment of some significant portion of the U.S. troops currently in Iraq....Retain high-end SOF capability and necessary support structure to target Al Qaeda, death squads, and Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other Coalition forces, except those necessary to provide certain key enablers for the ISF... Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Government.
GATES: - Recommended Course of Action- TBD
The glass is empty. No one else is here. I steady myself on the bar as I roll off the stool. After the room slows to a manageable shimmer, I make my way to the door and out into the cold night fog. "This is not going to feel good in the morning." I think to myself, adding - "I'm not drinking those anymore."

Hangover Update 12/21/06: 06/11/07 Corrected Typos

I didn't drive in that condition. Still got caught in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Thank You Mr. Powell

DWSUWF welcomes Colin Powell's reappearance on the national stage. I never received a reply or acknowledgment to my open letter sent to Colin Powell on September 25. In the letter I thanked him for weighing in on the interrogation of enemy combatants and called on Mr. Powell to speak out on the war that he helped to justify and launch. Excerpt:
"The question of interrogation of detainees is not the only issue where your opinion could be influential. Since resigning as Secretary of State, you have maintained a low public profile, choosing to either reserve judgment or simply not to share your thoughts with American public at large regarding the war in Iraq... Quite frankly, you are doing the American people a great disservice by not sharing your detailed views on the war in Iraq. From my perspective, there are disturbing similarities between your words describing Vietnam and the current conflict in Iraq, and even more disturbing similarities between McNamara’s public silence in 1968 and your public reticence on the war now... Permit me to be blunt. As an American citizen that supported this war to a large extent because of your support of it and your eloquent argument before United Nations in January of 2003, I do not find it acceptable for you to withhold your assessment of the status and outlook for this war. You owe this country the benefit of your honest assessment now. You owe us your complete, unexpurgated, unvarnished view."
I have no way of knowing whether Mr. Powell ever read or received the letter. I suspect it never made it past the flak catchers. Regardless, I was delighted to see that Sunday last, on CBS News' Face the Nation, Mr. Powell delivered the goods. Some quotes from the show (transcript here):
"I agree with the assessment of Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton. It's grave and deteriorating. And as Secretary-designate of Defense Bob Gates said at his confirmation hearing, we're not winning. So if it's grave and deteriorating, and we're not winning, we are losing."

"I see a situation where the government is having difficulty extending control...and nothing seems to be improving. It seemed to me that this looks like a civil war, and we ought to call it that."

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purpose of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work... There needs to be a clear mission that these additional troops are going to be performing."

"...I think you have to talk to a country like Syria. It's a little--not--it's a little discordant to see that we're not talking to them, but the Iraqis have just opened their embassies in Damascus and Tehran."

"Iran is a little difficult... they're difficult to deal with, and they're acting very, very badly. But at the same time, I think that low-level conversations of the kind we had earlier might give us some channels of communication..."

"I'm suggesting that what General Schoomaker said the other day, before a committee looking at the Reserve and National Guard, that the active Army is about broken. General Schoomaker is absolutely right, and all of my contacts within the Army suggest that the Army has a serious problem in the active force, and it's a problem that will spread into the Guard and Reserves: Backlog of equipment that is not being repaired, soldiers--especially officers and noncommissioned officers--going on repetitive tours."

"The current active Army is not large enough, and the Marine Corps is not large enough, for the kinds of missions they're being asked to perform. And we need to let both the Army and the Marine Corps grow in size, in my military judgment."

"... we are a little less safe in the sense that we don't have the same force structure available for other problems. I think we have been somewhat constrained in our ability to influence events elsewhere."

"But sooner or later, you have to begin the baton pass. Passing it off to the Iraqis for their security and begin the drawdown of US forces. I think that's got to happen sometime before the middle of next year, at least the beginning of this. You cannot--we cannot walk away."
Predictably, Powell takes shots from both wings of the political bird, and stimulated comment across the political spectrum. From the right, Cassandra at Villainous Company posts "Why Colin Powell is impractical" saying this is "just more of Powell's woolgathering disguised as stunning feats of insight". From the left, David Mark at Jabbs is equally dismissive in his post "Good Soldier Powell" claiming "it's same old, same old." And from the unrepentant center, Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice, notes that the "Isolation Of Bush Administration Over Iraq Apparently Widens".

McQ at the QandO Blog takes a reasoned approach, linking Powell's comments to the the IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield), a prerequisite to defining any military mission, in his post "Why Colin Powell is concerned":
"Unless we give them the "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" mission, this may be mission impossible, militarily speaking. And given that, you have to then question the utility of more troops. That's precisely where Colin Powell is coming from. So when I see Powell talking like this, I'm not at all put off by it, nor do I hear "defeatist talk". I hear a commander who, during his entire time in the service, demanded answers to those very questions and ensured that they were answered satisfactorily before he ever approved an operation. In fact step 2 in the Powell Doctrine asks "do we have a clear attainable objective?" That is the same question as that found in his quote. At this point, unless I've missed it, the answer is no."

In the mainstream media, the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson used Powell's comments as a platform to also decry the lack of clarity on the mission in Iraq in his column "A Surge in Wasted Sacrifice":
"Here's an idea: Let's send more U.S. troops to Iraq. The generals say it's way too late to even think about resurrecting Colin Powell's "overwhelming force" doctrine, so let's send over a modest "surge" in troop strength that has almost no chance of making any difference -- except in the casualty count. Oh, and let's not give these soldiers and Marines any sort of well-defined mission. Let's just send them out into the bloody chaos of Baghdad and the deadly badlands of Anbar province with orders not to come back until they "get the job done."
Powell's unique perspective has moved the debate in a positive direction. As I said in the 9/25 letter:
"You were in Vietnam. You shaped our victory in Desert Storm. You participated in and argued for the decision to occupy Iraq in 2003. Your experience with the military, with this administration, with the field of conflict in Iraq, with both failed and successful US wars, makes you uniquely qualified to help the American people find the right path by shedding some light on the problem."
The reaction to Powell's statement show why we need to continue to hear his clear, strong perspective. Doubtless, my letter was never read. Powell's likely motivation to speak out now is to serve as a public proxy for his friends and colleagues in active service that are legally constrained from publicly airing their concerns. Whatever the motivation, his reappearance on the national stage is reason for me to say once again:

Thank you Mr. Powell. You are at least two years later than I would have liked, but still in time to make a difference.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Da Bears. Da Barack. Da Boomers.

As a Chicago ex-pat living in San Francisco for these last 23 years, I have managed to steadfastly "stay the course" with my Chicago sports loyalties. This has not been easy, living among the wine-sipping 49er "Team of the Decade " fans in the eighties, defending the 1987 Mike Ditka "gum wad assault" in Candlestick Park, and suffering through the Chicago Cub collapse against the San Francisco Giants in the 1989 National League Championship Series. Sure I can cling to the memory of the 1985 Bears (regarded by knowledgeable football fans as the greatest team in the history of the NFL - if not the greatest team of any sport in the history of mankind) and of course there was the "Golden Age of Sports" - characterized by the Michael Jordan #23 leading Chicago Bulls to a pair of three-peats in the nineties (kicked off with a stirring victory against our California neighbors to the south - the Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers).

On Monday night, the 2006 Chicago Bears continued their inexorable march to the Superbowl in Miami, and Barack Obama, chose to make his presidential candidacy all but official with this stunning video taped introduction to the ESPN game:

With this video, Barack boldly placed the first big-time political bet of the 2008 political season, locking down the 21 Illinois electoral votes, and completely abandoning the 21 electoral votes in Wisconsin and Missouri. A gutsy early move, prompting DWSUWF to revisit our 2008 Presidential Candidate Stack Ranking:

DWSUWF 2008 Presidential Candidate
Stack Ranking V 2.1

  1. Chuck Hagel (R)
  2. Joe Biden (D)
  3. Rudolf Giuliani (R)
  4. Barack Obama (D)
  5. John McCain (R)
  6. Bill Richardson (D)
  7. Duncan Hunter (R)
  8. Hillary Clinton (D)
  9. Condi Rice (R)
  10. Wesley Clark (D)
"Bear-ack" Obama leaps 6 spots up the DWSUWF stack ranking, leapfrogging Clinton and Richardson into the #2 Democratic spot. With this move, he has now firmly established his bona fides as a presidential contender. But with his new stature, we can no longer overlook the single biggest obstacle he must overcome as a presidential candidate. Lets get real. There is a lot of stereotyping, prejudice, and outright bigotry in America. This is an unfortunate, but simple political fact of life. Americans tend to vote for their own. And in case nobody but DWSUWF has noticed...

Barack is not a Boomer.

I was born in 1953, squarely in the center of the Baby Boom bubble. Barack was born in 1961, and missed the cut.
The "Greatest Generation" had a - um- "Great" presidential run: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (41). Even Nixon, the one unambiguous black spot in the "Greatest" presidential record can claim the opening of China as a moment of truly historical import. What do we boomers have? Bill Clinton and George W Bush. Give me a break. The first impeached president since Andrew Johnson, and arguably the "worst president in history". That's it? That is supposed to represent the boomer generation? After these two clowns we are going to skip the Boomers and move on to Generation X? I don't think so. Let us not forget that the impact of the Baby Boom generation cannot be overstated. "Baby boomers presently make up the lion's share of the political, cultural, industrial and academic leadership class in the United States... To date, baby boomers also have the highest median household incomes in the United States." Some have claimed that the Boomer generation tends to be narcissistic. I prefer to think of us simply as "The Only Generation that Matters."

The fact is, it is only half-time in our generational political football game, and we are just not going to be satisified with "two and out" in the Oval Office. Won't happen.

Someday, Barack will make a great President, but not in 2008. He is just going to have to wait his turn.

UPDATE: 12/14/06
I can only assume that George Will, a well known Chicago Cub fan, has (unlike your faithful blogger) let his Chicago sports fanaticism overwhelm his otherwise razor sharp critical faculties and advises Barack accordingly in his column "Run Now, Obama".

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.