Monday, May 28, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government TERTIUS DECIMUS - Special Memorial Day Fishing Holiday Edition

UPDATED: Friday, June 1, 2007- It's a long wait until the next carny scheduled for July 4, so we added some recent and overlooked posts - introduced below in red.

Welcome to the May 28, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Divided Government TERTIUS DECIMUS - Special Memorial Day Fishing Holiday Edition. This edition brought to you from the global headquarters of the DWSUWF blog, temporarily relocated to an undisclosed location near a bass lake and trout stream in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

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 edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream 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 and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

Fishing for Divided Government Posts
Our first catch is from the Boston Dissentator, who secured top billing in this carnival by employing a fishing metaphor in support of his thesis that blogs can be a posiitve influence in moderating the polarizing partisan divide in "Uniting Our "Divided" Nation" posted at The Dissentators:
"Our impulses and our emotions may sometimes cause us to take the bait when media and politicians dangle the partisan hook, but deep down inside I think we all know that the divisive culture is not helping at all and in fact doing real damage, and we also know deep down inside that no one agrees with everything every politician from one party believes. So we are ready for this change, and I think that this change can only come from the blogs, since the media and the politicians all benefit from the increase in attention they get from keeping the divisive atmosphere alive."
There is a lot to like in this essay. It is thoughtful, optimistic and the dissentator practices what he preaches, maintaining an engaging, respectful and high level discourse with his fellow dissentators around the globe. But alas, "deep down inside", as a skeptical realist, I conclude that the BostonDissentator makes more than a few mistakes in this essay. He assumes that a "unified" America is a desirable, even normal state, that partisanship is bad, and then compounds these errors by implying that polarized partisan bickering is a relatively new phenomena that can be attributed to modern main stream media and politicians. This blogger finds those assertions to be a bit naive and practically Un-American. This is ground that DWSUWF covered in the post "Unity08 and fellow travellers Tony Snow and David Gregory promote Un-American activities", in which we outline the historical case that "Polarized Partisan Politics Promotes Popular Participation." There is something to be learned about the postive effect of divided government and partisan wrangling in the recent legislative efforts on Iraq, immigration, and Congressional oversight.

Divided Government and the Emergency Iraq War Funding Bill
Consider this stringer of keeper posts we caught nibbling at this recent David Espo AP story - "Analysis: an Iraq Bill No One Loved":
"The Iraq war funding bill cleared by Congress represents a triumph of divided government, beloved by none, crafted to avoid a protracted veto struggle that neither President Bush nor Democrats wanted..."
Captain Ed calls the bill a victory for the President in his post "That Wasn't So Hard, Was It?":
The Democratic-controlled Congress finally accomplished something after over four months of the 110th's session. They managed to pass a supplemental funding bill for the troops in Iraq, even though it took them 108 days to figure one out -- and they managed to vote overwhelmingly for it... A majority of Democrats agreed to fund the troops without timetables for withdrawal. Only 14 opposed a bill that many Democrats promised they would never support, which they now have to explain to an enraged base. The White House will sign this at the first opportunity. Why not? They spent the last four months fighting for this victory, and George Bush will want to ensure it lasts all summer long."
Thereisnospoon bitterly agrees this was a defeat for Democrats in "Democrats: The Party of Pork!" posted at There is no Blog:
"...In other words, the Dems didn't give the GOP everything they wanted on a silver platter--this was just politics as usual in Washington. A give and take. Compromise. Sausage-making at its finest, leaving both sides relieved but discontent. The Republicans got what they wanted and Democrats didn't (a never-ending occupation) and Democrats got what they wanted and Republicans didn't ($8 billion in spending). Sounds like a fair trade to me! Epso's article continues with quotes from both sides supposedly signaling the difficult complexity of the issue, but instead demonstrating the incredible capacity for mendacious bullshit on the part of elected officials on both sides of the aisle."
Outraged Liberal takes a more measured view in "Wrong Target" posted at Massachusetts Liberal:
"We are in the midst of divided government, in every sense of the word. The Democratic majority rests on slender roots and there simple are not enough votes to get things done as we would prefer, at least not yet... But the list of bitter-enders who will support him until the end (of his term) is growing shorter. Let's not build it back up by attacking those who chose a strategic retreat to fight another day with more tools at their disposal. Cancel that circular firing squad."
Madeleine Begun Kane was moved to limerick as it her wont in "Democrats, Heal Thy Selves!"
The Dems disappoint once again,
Caving in to Dub’s warmong’ring yen.
Timeline’s gone from the bill.
Checks on Bush? Nothing! Nil!
Bush says, “Heel!” and the Dems reply, “When?”.
Henry Neufeld sums it up best in his post "Tensions of Constitutional Government" posted at Thread's from Henry's Web:
"Anti-war forces need to simply realize that, as angry as you may be, it takes more than one election to change the course of the country. If you don’t have the staying power to carry this through the next election, you shouldn’t have bothered to start. (I use “you” rather than “we” here because though I oppose the war, I think it’s appropriate that policy be a compromise between congress and the president in a divided government. I’m not angry. Things are about as expected... )"
Finally, you gotta love Bret's take and the title in his post "I Love Divided Government! I really do!" posted at the Great Guys Weblog:
"Congress ultimately backed down, but they put the Iraqis on notice first. That fact is that if there is no progress in Iraq over the coming months, we may actually leave and leave them to their own devices (and civil war, and mayhem, and genocide, and famine, and mass refugee migration, etc.). My feeling is that the American people, in their infinite Wisdom of Crowds, correctly put the Democrats into office all so this showdown would happen and enable progress in Iraq. We're good, we are!"
Bottom line: The acrimonious, polarized partisan debate over the Emergency War Funding Bill, resulted in a better outcome than we would have gotten had either party held single party control of both executive and legislative branches. This is exactly as predicted in this DWSUWF April 16 post:
"After the veto, a compromise bill with less pork and softer language on the withdrawal timetable will be passed by the legislature and signed by the executive. Both parties will declare victory. The country will get a better, more rational, and less wasteful funding legislation. Chalk up another win for Divided Government."
The pork was reduced in this bill as a result of the veto. On the off chance that the military surge strategy will create enough breathing room to secure a stronger negotiating posture by this fall, it yields a slim hope for a better long-term result for the Iraqi people, and is probably a risk worth taking. The stage has been set for a bipartisan bill in September to begin disentangling ourselves from Iraq when the Defense Appropriation Bill comes before Congress.

Divided Government Fish Stew
Immigration to Surveillance to Congressional Oversight and more.
Athenae quotes an Allison Hantschel Sun-Times News Group article in "Columnwhoring: Oversight, Bitches!" posted at First Draft:
"That President Bush re-asserted his support for Gonzales following his dismal performance and that Gonzales refused to resign in the face of his failure hardly matter. The hearings proved one thing, and one thing only: The executive branch no longer has a blank check to run the country into the ground. Divided government can be good for America. The questioning by one party of policies implemented by the other can result in stronger legislation and more fair and equitable distribution of resources."
J.D. Tuccille asks "Did you hear that?" in the wake of revelations of F.B.I. abuses of security letter provisions posted at Disloyal Opposition:
"Congressional Democrats don't seem too keen on the idea. The Bush administration's misuse of existing surveillance powers gives them pause and, besides, they just don't like the Republican-led executive branch. You gotta love divided government."
Jim Harper agrees in "Congress Moves Against NSA Spying" posted at The Technology Liberation Front:
"Ars Technica reports that an amendment to the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act “upholds the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Backed (FISA) as the only means by which to do electronic surveillance—and … requires continuous judicial oversight of requests.” Divided government is a real boon."
Blog Goliard likes divided govenment but asks "Why Teddy" sould be selected as the Republican partner for immigration reform legislation, posted at Blog Goliard:
"There’s so much to write, and so much already being written, about the new immigration deal. Here’s the one thing I’ll never understand. Striking bipartisan deals is often both good and necessary, especially when you’ve got a divided government. But why is it so often Ted Kennedy that the Republicans—especially W.—go running to when they make these deals?"
Marc Parent quotes David Lindroff making the dubious claim that the election of a divided government is a justification for impeachment in "Impeach Bush or Get Rid of the Impeachment Clause" posted at Crimes and Corruption of the New World Order News:
"Excuse two is that impeachment is divisive. This seems the height of absurdity. When voters handed Congress to the Democrats, they knew they were setting the stage for divided government. That was the whole point. Moreover, divisiveness in Washington has largely emanated from the White House, not from Congress."
Baltimoron quotes Cato and asks "What Becomes of the Pays-As-It-Goes War?" posted at Left Flank:
Hell's Handmaiden helpfully corrects another blogger's flawed moronic understanding of checks, balances, co-equal branches of government, and the Constitution in "Morning dose of Irony" posted at Hell's Handmaiden:
"More chilling than the White House’s weak Constitutional argument is the suggestion by Left Wing = Hate that the President simply dismiss Congress until the end of his Presidency. That… just… seems… so… monarchical. Dictatorial. Tyrannical. I’m really not sure how you go about convincing yourself that such a thing is sensible– hell, that such a thing is sane. Hasn’t history proven time enough that giving one man that kind of power is absurdly dangerous? I’m not sure how it is possible that anyone this side of the last century’s dictatorships can argue for creating another one, and removing Congress would be doing exactly that."
HoyStory snickers about the hypocrisy of Democratic party promises to "drain the swamp", showing why the most trustworthy government is a divided government in "Cleaning House" posted at Hoystory:
"We’re five months into the Democrats tenure in charge of both houses of Congress and thus far we don’t have much in the way of substantive legislation passed. The count often repeated lately in newscasts is that 26 bills passed by this Congress have been signed into law by President Bush — and 12 of them do nothing more than rename federal buildings. This may be divided government at its best — and worst."
DWSUWF is not sure where Hoystory sees "the worst", as it all looks pretty darn good to us.

Jack at Wang Chi's House of Pancakes has an epiphany remarkably similar to the one that prompted DWSUWF to start this blog in his post "A Modest Proposal":
"But if things were different-- If we had the opportunity to consciously select divided government or gridlock or whatever you want to call it. If we already knew what we had in the White house when we voted for Congress (or vice versa).... How different things might have been."
Indeed. And as I mention in a comment on his post, we do have that opportunity and should think about how different things still can be if we, as voters, consciously continue to select divided government as our preferred form of leadership in Washington D.C.

George Will ruminates on how we may yet maintain a divided government in 2008 in his column "Republican plan still adds up to divided government" posted at Recordnet and in the Washington Post:
"Although Cole is playing to win, and expects to win, in 2008, retaking the House may be, he says, "a two-step dance for us." He thinks Republicans have a good chance of winning control even if they do not win the White House.... But Republican House candidates may get considerable help from the Democrats' presidential candidate. Cole thinks that Democrats, who he says have more litmus tests for their presidential candidates than Republicans do, are so convinced that they are going to win the White House, they are not resisting what they enjoy surrendering to -- the tug from the party's left... Americans seem to like the government at least somewhat divided. They are apt to have that for a while."
George is reporting on Tom Cole's strategy to retake majority control of the house in 2008 even if the Republicans lose the presidency. DWSUWF thinks they are both whistling in the wind, and ignoring the "100 year Rule". Since the US has directly elected Senators (more than 100 years), the House has never changed majority control unless the Senate did also (as in 2006). The first chance the Republicans will have to retake a majority in either house will be in 2010. The only chance for continued divided government past 2008 is to elect a Republican president.

A single off-topic catch of the day.
Athough we normally throw back any off-topic (non divided government) catches, we will continue the longstanding tradition at The Carnival of Divided Government of frying up one "off-topic" submission as a grudging acknowledgement and symbolic proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. The winner for this edition is ...

Emo Mom
presenting "Will the Real Republican Please Stand Up?" posted at Emo Mom's Daily Podcast - just because I am amused by Emo Mom's handle, and despite the fact that she gets the Ron Paul/Rudy Giuliani debate "moment" completely wrong in her post. For a somewhat less "emo" analysis, check out Jesse Walker's post here, and Andrew Sullivan's post here.

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 Quârtus Decimus - Special Independence Day Edition, to be posted July 4th, 2007. Blog articles may be submitted for the carnival of divided government using the carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Finally, if you enjoyed this carnival, you should also check out these other recent fine collections:

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gone fishin' & fishin' for submissions.

World Headquarters for the DWSUWF Blog has been temporarily relocated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the next few weeks. The blog will be active, but at a slower pace as bass, bluegill, pike, brookies, and 'bows will have a higher priority than new posts and moderating comments.

The next post will likely be the Carnival of Divided Government TERTIUS DECIMUS - Special Memorial Day Weekend Fishing Edition, to be posted sometime during Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28, 2007. In this special edition we will be trolling in the blogospheric lakes and wading into the creeks, tributaries and rivers of mainstream media for articles and blog posts on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties. As in all of the CODGOV series, the primary only criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. If the words "divided government" are in the post, it almost certainly will be included. If the words "divided government" are not in the post, it almost certainly will not be included.

Actual date of posting will depend on weather and how the fish are biting. Blog articles may be submitted for the carnival of divided government using the carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Friday, May 18, 2007

DWSUWF reader Eric Dondero running against Ron Paul

Hat tip to Dave Weigel at Reason Hit & Run for alerting us that Eric Dondero has announced that he either has announced or soon will announce his candidacy to run against Ron Paul for the Texas congressional district 14 seat in 2008. Unless he doesn't. In which case he won't. Actually I am not 100% sure if Eric is an actual DWSUWF reader, but he is a frequent, occasional, cut-and-paste "drive by" commenter on this blog. His comments would indicate that he does not actually read anything more than the titles, but be that as it may, some of the drive-by comment grenades he has lobbed in the DWSUWF window can be found here, here and here.

Now before going on, I will disclose right up front that Eric is a better man than I am. I know this because he frequently posts and comments at REDSTATE, while I was banned by REDSTATE after only two blog posts and a few comments. This despite the fact that I am absolutely committed to supporting a Republican for President in 2008 in order to preserve divided government. Please don't get the wrong impression, I am not complaining. I deserved to be banned. You see - now this is going to be difficult for me to say - but - I am a threadjacker. Allright - it is out now. I have take the first step to recovery and out of the threadjacker closet. I cannot tell you what a relief this is to finally come clean. One cannot solve a problem, if one does not admit one has one. REDSTATE is the only blog with the courage to make me face the ugly truth about myself.Last week I completed a long and extended rehab and believe I am ready to rejoin the civilized commenting community.

But I digress. This post is not about me.

This post is about Eric Dondero. Now, I don't know Eric Dondero. Eric Dondero is not a friend of mine. But I do know that Eric Dondero is no Ron Paul.

Eric's complete announcement on REDSTATE:

I am declaring for Congress against Ron Paul in Texas CD-14
Good morning,

I am making this announcement on my favorite website Many of you here have urged me to take this course. And now, after last night's GOP Presidential debate, I've decided to move ahead with my plans.

I have spent the early morning scanning the major political blogs, and news sites. It's unanimous. Ron Paul got slammed by Rudy Giuliani last night for suggesting that we - the United States of America - are to blame for the attacks on 9/11. He even had the audacity to cite Osama bin Laden.

While everyone is hailing this as a "Great moment" for Rudy Giuliani, I think just as importantly, it was a horrible moment for Ron Paul. My former boss looked like a complete nutcase. He looked frail. His hands shaked. He showed his age. He was completely unprepared for Giuliani's romping response.

Is this the man that should be representing South Texas Congressional District 14 in the US Congress?

I think not.

I am calling on Ron Paul to resign his seat, sooner rather than later. Otherwise Congressional District 14 voters from Victoria to Galveston will appear to be endorsing his treachorous, and near treasonous views on foreign policy.

I am sure I speak for many CD 14 voters, and certainly the vast majority of CD 14 Republicans, when I say, Ron Paul, it's time for you to exit the stage.

I am calling on the three to four Republican individuals who have expressed an interest in this Congressional seat, and challenging Ron Paul in the primary, to now enter the race.

Many are aware that libertarian conservative Friendswood Councilman Peden has suggested he would run. Bobby Eberle of GOPUSA, and former Texas YR Chairman also has been mentioned. Even former Congressman Steve Stockman now lives in this CD.

I would back any of the three, particularly Bobby.

But if any of them hesitates to come out in the coming weeks, I will officially declare against my former boss. I will not have nearly the amount of money that Ron Paul will have for the primary challenge. But I do have the most kick-ass grass roots experience and resume of any Republican political activist in the country. I am the very person who got Ron Paul elected to Congress in 1996 as his Campaign Coordinator. I know what it takes. I know every inch of Texas CD 14 like the back of my hand.

Some other resume highlights:
  • Fluent in Spanish (our Distict is fully 40% Hispanic)
  • I speak 10 to 15 other languages
  • US Navy Veteran, (hon.)
  • 20-year Federal Appointee, Selective Service Board, Houston Region
  • VFW & American Legion Member
  • Author of two books on World Travel
  • Traveled to 30 nations on 5 continents
  • Founder, Republican Liberty Caucus
  • Fmr. Libertarian Party National Committeeman
  • FSU Graduate (Political Science)
  • Homeowner and 12-year resident of Angleton, Texas in the heart of CD 14 (Brazoria County seat 40 miles south of Houston)
I am this morning, declaring my candidacy for Congress in the GOP primaries against Ron Paul. If he does not resign his seat, and if another Republican candidate does not declare against him, I will run a balls-to-the-wall campaign for Congress in Texas CD 14. I am the guy that got Ron Paul elected to Congress in 1996. I can and will defeat him in 2008.

Eric Dondero

This announcement has taken the blogosphere by storm. As a service, I have compiled a fair and balanced selection of reactions to the announcement from a variety of sites:

From NoEric Commenting at

Eric Dondero? Are you serious? Why don’t you go to and see what they have to say about Mr. Dondero and his “Libertarian” views.

In fact, here is a link to the site’s posting of Dondero’s announcement:

Mr. Dondero has been BANNED from posting on that site for the comments he makes. It appears as if he holds a personal grudge against Ron Paul and has an axe to grind.

Here are some golden words from Mr. Dondero:

“Mr. Stephens, you are a f*cking *sshole

Stop lying you pr*ck!

You repeat only tired old Communist/Fas*ist leftwing talking points in regards to brave libertarian petitioners who stood out in the blizzard cold, and then 95 degree heat, to collect 80,000 signagtures for property rights all over Montana. And instread of praising those of us who petititioned you accuse us of engaging in “fraud.”

How f*cking dare you, asshole!!! I want a mother-f*cking retraction.

I’m a Veteran you f*cker. I served 4 years in the Navy. I have three medals and an honorable discharge to show for it.

How many years did you serve? If your a non-Vet than shut the f*ck up.

You are on shaky ground Sir. If I ever, EVER hear you accuse me or my fellow libertarian petititioners again of “engaging in fraud” on an on-line Forum, I will slap you with a liable lawsuite so quick it will make your head spin.

Notice you didn’t say a word about the left-wing petititioners in MT for Minimum Wage and Stop the Lobbyists. You want some examples of serious shenanigans in petitition gathering. Check your own side. Oh, and btw, we libertarians and conservatives are no longer going to sit by and let you leftwing f*ckers get away with blocking us. We may have been polite in 2006. But expect us to fight you all every step of the way in 2007 and 2008. You’re hereby on notice.


Libertarian Republicans

Fiscally Conservative, Socially Tolerant & Pro-Defense!

Dondero is a US Navy Veteran, former Libertarian Party National Committeeman, fmr. Senior Aide to US Congressman Ron Paul R-TX, and Founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus.“

Truly a class act, very well spoken. And you are saying this guy is the voice of Libertarians? Get real, he is nothing but an angry hawk and if he think he is going to win an election against a congressman who has served nine terms running on an issue that 70% of the American people oppose, well, good luck with that, buddy.

From Chris Elam commenting at Reason Hit & Run:
Eric Dondero?

As far as Eric getting Dr. Paul elected to the Congress again in 1996, what a joke. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

A "balls to the wall campaign" eh, Eric? I surely hope rhetoric like this e-mail exchange dated 2/28/07, from the Texas RLC e-mail listserv doesn't come back to bite you in those testicular appendages...

"Legalization of Prostitution is one of my top three issues. Not sure where you got the idea that I don't support legalized prostitution from? I'm an ex-Sailor. I absolutely used the services of Prostitutes overseas in the Phillipines, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, all over the world, when I was a young buck Sailor. And each time was worth every penny.

As a matter of fact, it's an absolutely tragedy that the US Military is not allowing servicemen these days to utilize prostitutes in Iraq. There are severe restrictions on prostitution for Military Personnel nowadays. We Libertarian Republicans need to work to overturn that. "

I'm not so sure that these comments will endear you to the voters of CD14 over the experience and professionalism of a medical doctor who served in the Air Force, has been married for over 50 years to the same woman, raised five children, and delivered over 4000 babies. But it will be fun to see you try. =)
It is only fair that I also post Eric Dondero's reply to Chris at Reason
Apparently Chris Elam is unaware that Congressional District 14 has changed dramatically since the redistricting. Its largest city is now Galveston. That's right, Galveston, Texas, home of the Nation's wildest and most outlandish annual Mardi Gras celebration. Galveston is hardly what one would consider to be a "prudish" city. It is rather a socially libertarian city. As are many other parts of CD 14. You think my stance in favor of legalized prostitution will prove to be problematic. No more problematic than Ron endorsing legalized drugs, including cocaine and heroin in his past races. I dare say, most CD 14 voters are more tolerant of legalized prostitution than crack... And how is being a defacto supporter of Islamo-Fascism consistent with Conservative Texas District 14?
Kn@ppster also shares his thoughts in "If you can't beat'em, shut'em the hell up":
The cherry on top: Osama-Enablertarian Republican Eric Dondero has announced his intention to run for Paul's US House seat. This is a winner all around!
  • If Paul decides not to run again and if the Republicans can't find a man, woman, child or three-legged goat to contest the primary with Dondero, the GOP loses yet another seat in Congress, accelerating its demise.
  • If Paul decides to run again, Dondero wastes his time and energy getting his 2% of the primary vote instead of on his more generalized campaign to destroy the Libertarian Party, the libertarian movement and western civilization.
You may also want to check out sam i am who offers: "Dondero dirt, dished dirt cheap"

Compelling. And much more interesting than the Republican Debate that prompted Eric's decision.This is a very tough call for me, but after carefully considering all the arguments, I have decided to throw the full support of the DWSUWF blog behind Ron Paul over Eric Dondero in the CD 14 race. This despite the fact that Ron Paul has never commented on my blog. Sorry Eric.

Because I am a man of my convictions, I will also take this opportunity to announce the formation to a new advocacy group:
Head off the
Election of
Asshats like

Click on the acronym if you'd like to contribute to further the goals and objectives of BUTTHEAD.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Live blogging the live bloggers - Republican debate redux

UPDATED: May 16, 2007
Isn't it too soon for another Republican debate? Isn't it the Democrats turn? Apparently not, as the declared Republican presidential candidates will go at it again tonight in South Carolina, this time moderated by Britt Hume on FoxNews. The important question is the one I asked for the last debate:
"There are plenty of bloggers covering the Republican debate live tonight, but is anyone covering the live bloggers? DWSUWF rushes in where other, more sensible bloggers, fear to tread. "
I think I can improve on my previous results (a very low bar to clear), so your fearless derivative blogger will once again attempt to monitor and report real-time on other bloggers covering the debate live. As before, we'll include Daily Kos, Heading Right, Wonkette, for a "left", "right" and "whatever" perspective and will add the Reason Hit and Run Blog for a libertarian point of view. I'll also add a moderate blog if I can find one blogging live between now and 6:00 PM PDT.

See you then... or not. Here we go ...
Pre-Debate Comments:
Wonkette: "Despite the tragic death of Jerry Falwell, the heartless GOP presidential candidates will still have their debate in South Carolina tonight."
Daily Kos: DevilsTower: "Look for more of that "liberal media bias" at work in tonight's debate, as Republican candidates are forced to field tough choices between whether they think mom, apple pie, and Jesus are merely great, or really, really super cool."
Heading Right: Edward - "Did Fred Already Win The Debate?... He has already come up with the best line of the day: “A mental institution, Michael … might be something you want to think about.” Unless it’s a big gaffe, I can’t imagine anything that could be said tonight that carries the same gravitas as Fred’s shot at Moore."
1st Question Iraq -
Daily Kos: Steven R- "Bringing in the Regan Beruit angle to speak reason to these Republican Patriothumpers is a great angle, maybe that'll wake 1 sleeping mind up..."
Heading Right: Edward - "McCain: Still an Idiot, Still Cocky -He just couldn’t pass up the “mishandling” comment. Still trying to play the “I’m not Bush so vote for me” card."
Wonkette: "McCain has history on his side, because he notes that the Viet Cong didn’t follow us home. Wait, what?"
Daily Kos: MissLaura- "MCCAIN: Good lord, how often is he going to tell that drunken sailor joke?"
Edwards Hair -
Heading Right: Rickm- "Fire up the lefty blogs, Huckebee just hit the “Breck Girl” right between the eyes."
Wonkette: "Huck got in a good (and obviously scripted) lines about handsome-boy John Edwards"
Daily Kos:Omen "...gee didn't see that John Edwards joke coming /snark"
Abortion -
Heading Right:macranger- "Giuliani DODGES: Interesting. And he gets called out on it. Nice. But “come together?” OH! And he flubs the abortion question again. “Reducing abortion” doesn’t count if you did it by handing out condoms a few grades earlier in school."
Wonkette: "Ha ha, that’s exactly what the Founding Fathers said about slavery: We abhor it, but you can do it. Okay, well most of them actually said: We actually own slaves."
Daily Kos: MissLaura- "GIULIANI: If he thinks he's going to get anywhere by talking about reducing abortion, his candidacy should be disqualified on account of he's delusional."
Ummm -
Heading Right:Edward- "Romney’s Gun Grade: F Assault weapon ban? When are people going to get the point of the Second Amendment? I am banging my head against the wall here."
Wonkette: "Rudy McRomney? Jim Gilmore, are you as drunk as we are? Wait, you are Jim Gilmore, right? Wait wait, we think he’s going to reveal that there’s a candidate on this stage who has personally performed an abortion. While… raising taxes?"
Daily Kos: MissLaura- "HUCKABEE: At least Giuliani is honest about his position (slam at Romney?), but I'm better because "I value life" and that's "what separates us from the Islamic jihadist."
Immigration -
Heading Right:Edward- "McCain On Immigration - Tancredo still can’t keep his answers concise and clear. McCain has moved away from McCain-Kennedy and towards border security first, one of Tancredo’s “Road to Des Moines” conversions, but he made a better argument than Tancredo. He’s just better at handling this format."
Wonkette: "Tancredo: “McCain sponsored a bill a little while ago that would’ve given amnesty to everyone who is here, illegally.” WHAT DOES HE KNOW ABOUT MITT?"
Daily Kos: GreenSooner - "Tancredo: In a world of dog whistle racist politics, it's nice to see an old fashioned, xenophobic race baiter."
Beat up Ron Paul -
Heading Right:rickm- "Rudy’s moment: Rudy’s “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Breen…” moment. True emotion always comes across on TV.
Wonkette: "Ron Paul: AMERICA HAD IT COMING. 9/11 WAS OUR FAULT. He’s no Mike Gravel, this one. He did provide a brilliant opportunity for for Giuliani grandstanding, though — how much is Rudy paying him?"
Daily Kos: MissLaura- "GIULIANI: 9/11 gives me my moral authority and I will hammer that. Demands that Paul take back saying that US foreign policy had something to do with 9/11."
Reason:Comments - Terrorific -Giuliani's head almost blew off....I wish Ron Paul was wittier to put down that nonsense with flair, but I liked his reply / Anastatia - yeah, but ron paul just imploded. he's not going to live this one down.
DWSUWF - glad to see someone at Reason turned on the TV
Terrorist Attack! Torture! Jack Bauer!-
Heading Right:Edward- "Torture Question - Interesting hypothetical … McCain says that he says that torture is bad, but that he’d do it anyway if he had conclusive knowledge about the nature of their knowledge. Rudy has a better answer — “no torture, but everything short of it”. Romney has a good answer, too, about focusing on prevention. Also, he supports Gitmo and wants it “doubled”.
Wonkette: "10:21 This is seriously everyone’s time to shine right now. Would Brownback go to the UN? NO, HE WOULD NOT, YOU STUPID HOMO.
10:17 The audience just applauded waterboarding."
Daily Kos: MissLaura- "GIULIANI: 9/11 gives me my moral authority and I will hammer that. Demands that Paul take back saying that US foreign policy had something to do with 9/11."
Reason:Comments - B -Sweet Jesus on a pogo stick...McCain's the only one with his head on straight about torture. I, for one, welcome our new Democrat overlords.
DWSUWF: I am seriously depressed right now.
How about the debate itself -
Heading Right:macranger- "Chris Wallace useless question of the night Pulled the “Race Card”, no “minorities on stage” We had Michael Steel, but the left blackfaced him and well, …..
Wonkette: "Oh, god, Brit Hume just said there’d be “many more debate.” WHAT DID WE DO TO DESERVE THIS."
Daily Kos: Steven R- "Fox News Debate: Mock Terra
Question 1: How would you Torture
Question 2: HOw much shady evidence/innuendo do you need to Bomb"
Reason:Comments - Jozef -"Here we go... Next debates may have a reduced field because "second tier" candidates "slowed the debate down". Can't wait for more Jack Bauer quotes."

Allright. I'm done. I'll update with additional thoughts tomorrow

One thought keeps going through my head -

Update: May 16, 2006 - A vicious bummer...
Watching alpha dog Rudy Giuliani snap at Ron Paul, followed by the rest of the Republican presidential wolf-pack tearing his carcass to shreds was bad enough. But then came the "Jack Bauer 24" hypothetical questions carefully scripted to elicit support for torture. With the notable exception of Ron Paul and John McCain, the wolf-pack ripped into the chunk of raw meat tossed on the stage by Britt Hume with nauseating relish. I am dating myself here, but watching that spectacle was what the late, great gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson used to call a "vicious bummer." Forget the candidates, they don't actually believe what they are saying. Who were the people in the audience? The strongest reaction of the night was huge applause for supporting "waterboarding" and torture. They cheered for the expansion of off-shore prisons to hold people on suspicion without trial or protection of the law. This actually happened. I was stunned. Who are these people? Do they call themselves Americans? Do they have the slightest concept of what this country is about?

Other reactions of note:

Andrew Sullivan reviews the "Palmetto Punditry" at The Daily Dish:
"For me, the moral question of torture in many ways settles this race. Just hearing Brit Hume curl his lips around the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" was a brief moment of insight. I was glad that McCain called these hideous methods by their proper name, and that Paul described Hume's weasel words as "newspeak." I was surprised to see Romney so aggressively embrace torture and Gitmo."
Joe Gandelman on John McCain at the Moderate Voice:
"His stance on torture, including torture renamed so it isn’t called torture but is still torture, was strong: “There’s more to war than the battlefield,” he noted and noted that most politicians and officials who have military background agree with his position. That may not matter to primary voters, who may feel McCain is too wobbly in a terrorism-filled era."
David Weigel wonders about the Republican field at Reason's Hit & Run:
"Basically, it was a question about how the candidates would behave if they were president in an episode of 24. Tom Tancredo cleared that up with his answer: "I'd be looking for Jack Bauer at that time." Please note that this was perceived in and outside of the debate hall as an awesome answer... Guys, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but Jack Bauer is a fictional character. He's played by Keifer Sutherland, star of such classics as The Lost Boys, Young Guns, and Brotherhood of Justice. He can't save us and neither - again, I'm sorry - can Green Lantern. Michael Brendan Dougherty tried to get at the GOP's Bauer obsession in a recent, brilliant American Conservative cover story, but here's the short version: too many conservatives fantasize about the war on terror in lieu of studying the actual war on terror and making morally uncomfortable decisions about whether we can "win it." What's it say about the GOP field that they're more comfortable answering hypothetical questions about a terrorist plot on a TV show than answering questions about the Iraq War - which, you know, actually exists? Nothing good."
Mike Boyer at the Foreign Policy Passport blog looks at "Romney on Torture":
"One has to wonder whether Romney understands the fundamental nature of the war the United States is fighting. It is a war of ideas. You don't win that kind of war by sinking to the terrorists' level, or by forfeiting the principles that separate enlightened, modern society from the dark, desperate world of radical Islamists. I also worry that Romney's remarks are further evidence of how profoudly lost the Republican party is today. On the stage last night was a leading candidate for the party's nomination, droning on endlessly about his deep and profound "respect for life" —and advocating torture in the same breath. The only thing more disappointing was the room full of party faithful who seemed to miss the irony."
Tom Watson sums it up with "I'm I'm the King of Torture (No I'm the King of Torture)":
"Mitt Romney: Close Gitmo?! Hell, I'll double Gitmo! Rudy Giuliani: "Every method" that can possibly be construed as not being the T-word. The Other Guys Nobody Knows: "I as President will authorize extreme measures." [Roughly paraphrased]. With two notable exceptions, they all did the manly-man dance of faux toughness. Tom Tancredo, the immigrant-bashing fencing contractor, actually said he was "looking for a Jak Bauer." The exceptions to the torture bandwagon were the actual torture victim and the actual conservative."
Bill Bradley at PajamaMedia has a more comprehensive and dispassionate coverage of "South Carolina GOP Debate":
"McCain said he would take responsibility for aggressive interrogation if he knew the information was available. But he said that torture does not gain more than what we lose. It’s not about the terrorists but about us. What kind of country we are. The more pain that is inflicted, the more they tell us what we want to know. If we agree to torture, we do ourselves great harm in world... John McCain returned to the question of torture. Are enhanced techniques torture? Yes. He noted a sharp division in the debate between those who have served in the military and those who haven’t. If we do it, what happens to our people when they are captured? Veterans, he said, from top generals on down, support my position and I’m glad of it."
I'll wait for the next debate, but McCain is moving back up the stack rank. I'm going with an all veteran top three on the GOP side - Hagel, Paul, McCain.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Monday, May 14, 2007

End Game: The face of "Victory in Iraq"

Good News / Bad News. The good news is that we have entered the "End Game" of our military involvement in Iraq. The bad news is that the man making the smart moves on the chessboard is Moqtada al-Sadr, likely future leader of Iraq, and the face of "Victory in Iraq" as defined by United States policy. To be clear, this is a prediction and not a preference. I dearly hope to be wrong about this. Few in the U.S. would be happy about a Moqtada al-Sadr led Iraq. Nevertheless, it may be the best least bad outcome that we can expect and, believe it or not, is completely consistent with the administration's continually evolving definition of “Victory.” Make no mistake, al-Sadr is a consummate politician. Like Republicans railing against "defeatocrat" Democrats, like Democrats railing against "war-mongering" Republicans, al-Sadr will rail against the "The Great Satan" America to play to his base of support. And like Republicans and Democrats, he will work with his opponents to achieve his personal ambitions for power. I'll return to why I think an al-Sadr "End State" is a likely outcome later, but first we need to talk about some words. Specifically the words "victory" and "defeat", "win" and "lose", "success" and "failure" in the context of our military involvement in Iraq.

Victory in Iraq - The DWSUWF Rant
Harry Reid says "this war is lost", but is unable to clearly explain exactly what he means. In his State of the Union speech, George W. Bush lectured Congress that "nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America … to succeed in Iraq" continuing with the admonition "whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure." More recently, he said "Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure", but while he warns about the dire consequences of failure, he has been unable to clearly explain to the American people exactly what it means to achieve victory. Bloggers on the right and left, Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls, columnists and pundits weigh in on whether the war is won or lost, how to achieve victory, how to avoid defeat, who will take the credit, or who will be blamed.

Absent the context of a specific End State description, these statements are equally meaningless and completely asinine. Their purpose is to pander to a political base, or excite and maintain a partisan response, but not to communicate anything meaningful. These statements cannot have meaning unless they are tied to a specific and explicit Iraqi End State - an easily understood, objectively ascertainable description of Iraq after we leave. To use the words victory or defeat with meaning, one must describe an End State for context. Then, and only then is it possible to have meaningful discussions about whether that particular End State can be "won" or "lost", and whether a policy will lead to “victory” or “defeat.”

The problem is not that there is a dearth of Iraq End State descriptions. The problem is that there have been too many, and there is too much ambiguity about which specific End State is the explicit goal of US policy.

The fact that we will eventually leave Iraq is a given, only the timing is in question. The president himself said as much in 2003:

"The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected. Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more." - President George W. Bush - February 26, 2003

Imprecise? Yes. But the goal of leaving is explicit. Perhaps I am grasping for straws. To the degree that Iraq is a viable country (To Be Determined), it is their country, not our country. Iraq enemies and friends alike, live there, we don't, and therefore they will outlast us in Iraq. How could it be otherwise? As President Bush said, the Iraqi’s will decide the form of their government. How long it is “necessary” for us to stay, and what Iraq will look like when we leave remains an open and legitimate question. And therein lies the honest debate: What is the end-state and how do we get there?

By contrast, the mindless sloganeering and abject nonsense about "winning" or "losing" presented in a vacuum, as illustrated by this exchange on Chris Matthews “Hardball” Friday 5/11/07 between Ron Christie and Eugene Robinson, is not an honest debate:

CHRISTIE: Let me push back and disagree with you, Chris. We‘re there now. One of the things that I find most distressing of what you hear in the media is our troops are over there. Our people are in harm‘s way. Let‘s talk about how we‘re going to win this thing, Chris.

MATTHEWS: But nothing that‘s happened over there was not predictable. Gene, what‘s the surprise? I keep waiting for somebody to tell me what‘s happening over there is surprising. It is consistent with the regional history.

ROBINSON: It is consistent with the history of, you know, this patch of Mesopatmaia that is called Iraq, but is not really a polity of a nation that holds together. What is—what—maybe this will cause people to ask the question that I‘ve been asking all along, which is, at this point, what is victory in Iraq?

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this: maybe this is race; maybe this ethnicity, but do you really think we would have dared go back into Yugoslavia after the end of the Cold War and insisted that all those countries that are now independent sovereign states rejoin each other and become Yugoslavia again. We wouldn‘t presume to do that to a European country. We would allow self-determination to be the natural order of things in Europe. So why are we doing it in the Middle East? Why are we presuming, as Westerners, that we can go into a country that doesn‘t feel like a country and dictate their political organization? Anyway, thank you Gene Robinson. Ron, you and I are getting Closer.

CHRISTIE: No, we‘re not getting closer. We've got to win this war.

I'll tell you when we are going to win it Ron - when this administration stops the mindless sloganeering and explains to the American people exactly what "Victory in Iraq" really means.

Victory in Iraq - The Objective
This post strives to analyze relevant original source material in an effort to gain a real understanding of what “victory”, “defeat” and “End State” in Iraq mean today - in mid-surge, May, 2007.

There are exactly two meaningful sources to define these terms and to explicitly understand the target End State. One source is the Commander in Chief that set the policy and specified the mission that committed our military to this action, and the other is the military commander responsible for executing that mission. In this quest, President George W. Bush and General David Petraeus are the only sources that matter.

Victory in Iraq – The Commander in Chief Definition
Part of the reason why the American people do not seem to clearly understand or agree on the meaning of those terms can be seen in a February 14, 2007 Press Conference by the President:

Q: Mr. President … you talk about victory, that you have to have victory in Iraq; it would be catastrophic if we didn't. You said again today that the enemy would come here, and yet you say it's not an open-ended commitment. How do you square those things?

THE PRESIDENT: "You know, victory in Iraq is not going to be like victory in World War II. It's one of the challenges I have to explain to the American people what Iraq will look like in a situation that will enable us to say we have accomplished our mission.

First, the -- Iraq will be a society in which there is relative peace. I say "relative peace" because if it's like zero car bombings, it never will happen that way. It's like -- the fundamental question is, can we help this government have the security force level necessary to make sure that the ethnic cleansing that was taking place in certain neighborhoods has stopped.

Look, there's criminality in Iraq, as well as the ethnic violence. And we've got to help the Iraqis have a police force that deals with criminals. There is an al Qaeda presence in Iraq, as you know. I believe some of the spectacular bombings have been caused by al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, Zarqawi -- the terrorist Zarqawi, who is not an Iraqi, made it very clear that he intended to use violence to spur sectarian -- car bombings and spectacular violence to spur sectarian violence. And he did a good job of it.

And so there -- and then there's this disaffected Sunnis, people who believe that they should still be in power in spite of the fact that the Shia are the majority of the country, and they're willing to use violence to try to create enough chaos so they get back in power.

The reason I described that is that no matter what you call it, it's a complex situation, and it needed to be dealt with inside of Iraq. We've got people who say civil war, we've got people on the ground who don't believe it's a civil war. But nevertheless, it is -- it was dangerous enough that I had to make a decision to try to stop it, so that a government that is bound by a constitution, where the country feels relatively secure as a result of a security force that is even-handed in its application of security; a place where the vast resources of the country -- this is a relatively wealthy country, in that they've got a lot of hydrocarbons -- is shared equally amongst people; that there is a federalism that evolves under the Constitution where the local provinces have got authority, as well; and where people who may have made a political decision in the past and yet weren't criminals can participate in the life of the country; and is an ally in the war on terror. In other words, that there is a bulwark for moderation, as opposed to a safe haven for extremism. And that's what I would view as successful.”

Ok. You got that? Me neither. Fortunately, the President was more articulate and succinct when he stuck to the prepared text in his November 30, 2005 address at the US Naval Academy entitled President Outlines Strategy for Victory in Iraq:

"Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation."

That, at least, is understandable. In the same address he references a document posted on the White House website the same month, that remains to this day the apparent official definition of “Victory", the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”

It begins with the President Bush "2003 definition" of "Victory in Iraq" quoted above, then continues with an updated, wordier, more expansive, less precise, and considerably less clear definition:

As the central front in the global war on terror, success in Iraq is an essential element in the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism. Unlike past wars, however, victory in Iraq will not come in the form of an enemy's surrender, or be signaled by a single particular event -- there will be no Battleship Missouri, no Appomattox. The ultimate victory will be achieved in stages, and we expect:

In the short term:
  • An Iraq that is making steady progress in fighting terrorists and neutralizing the insurgency, meeting political milestones; building democratic institutions; standing up robust security forces to gather intelligence, destroy terrorist networks, and maintain security; and tackling key economic reforms to lay the foundation for a sound economy.
In the medium term:
  • An Iraq that is in the lead defeating terrorists and insurgents and providing its own security, with a constitutional, elected government in place, providing an inspiring example to reformers in the region, and well on its way to achieving its economic potential.
In the longer term:
  • An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency.
  • An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.
  • An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region."

Problematical undefined terms in this definition include: “steady progress”, “key economic reforms”, “an inspiring example to reformers”, “defeated the terrorists”, and “proving the fruits of democratic governance” among others. In reality, everything beyond the first stage “short term” definition is flowery rhetoric, and while a noble statement of hope, completely useless as benchmarks to guide our military participation.

Victory in Iraq - The Military Commander Definition
For better clarity on hard objectives, we can look to another source. General David Petraeus, co-author of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual [BTW - Does anyone else think it odd that the current counterinsurgency playbook for our military, written by the very General leading the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq is available for anyone to download? You can get yours by clicking on the image below. You might as well read it, I can assure you that Moqtada al-Sadr has a dog-eared, well read, underlined, highlighted and annotated copy.] :

Victory is achieved when the populace consents to the government’s legitimacy and stops actively and passively supporting the insurgency.” - Page 19

"In addition—and as in Iraq at present— different insurgent forces using different approaches may form loose coalitions when it serves their interests; however, these same movements may fight among themselves, even while engaging counterinsurgents. Within a single AO, there may be multiple competing entities, each seeking to maximize its survivability and influence—and this situation may be duplicated several times across a joint operations area. This reality further complicates both the mosaic that counterinsurgents must understand and the operations necessary for victory. - Page 25

” It is easier to separate an insurgency from its resources and let it die than to kill every insurgent. Clearly, killing or capturing insurgents will be necessary, especially when an insurgency is based in religious or ideological extremism. However, killing every insurgent is normally impossible. Attempting to do so can also be counterproductive in some cases; it risks generating popular resentment, creating martyrs that motivate new recruits, and producing cycles of revenge… As the HN government increases its legitimacy, the populace begins to assist it more actively. Eventually, the people marginalize and stigmatize insurgents to the point that the insurgency’s claim to legitimacy is destroyed. However, victory is gained not when this isolation is achieved, but when the victory is permanently maintained by and with the people’s active support and when insurgent forces have been defeated… In the end, victory comes, in large measure, by convincing the populace that their life will be better under the HN government than under an insurgent regime. " - Pages 37 –38.

"The long-term goal is to leave a government able to stand by itself. In the end, the host nation has to win on its own. Achieving this requires development of viable local leaders and institutions. U.S. forces and agencies can help, but HN elements must accept responsibilities to achieve real victory. While it may be easier for U.S. military units to conduct operations themselves, it is better to work to strengthen local forces and institutions and then assist them. HN governments have the final responsibility to solve their own problems. Eventually all foreign armies are seen as interlopers or occupiers; the sooner the main effort can transition to HN institutions, without unacceptable degradation, the better." - Page 39

"While security is essential to setting the stage for overall progress, lasting victory comes from a vibrant economy, political participation, and restored hope." - Page 140

"Real success does not appear as a single decisive victory. To ensure long-term success, commanders clarify their desired end state for training programs early. This end state consists of a set of military characteristics common to all militaries. Those characteristics have nuances in different countries, but well-trained HN security forces should:
  • Provide reasonable levels of security from external threats while not threatening regional ecurity.
  • Provide reasonable levels of internal security without infringing upon the populace’s civil liberties or posing a coup threat.
  • Be founded upon the rule of law.
  • Be sustainable by the host nation after U.S. and multinational forces depart.
Whatever else is done, the focus must remain on gaining and maintaining the support of the population. With their support, victory is assured; without it, COIN efforts cannot succeed.” - Page 195

Victory in Iraq: End State Options
So where does this leave us? Extracting from these sources, these are all the possible end-states [In order of preference]:

1) SECULAR IDEALIZED DEMOCRATIC - FRIENDLY: An Iraq Jeffersonian Democracy possibly led by Ahmed Chalabi spontaneously springing into existence after the removal of Saddam Hussein. A free, prosperous and secular Iraq with a government by, for and of the Iraqi people who gratefully ally with the United States in the Global War on Terror after being liberated by coalition forces and serving as a “shining city on the hill” beacon of freedom and democracy for all of the Middle East. (The “Project for the New American Century” end-state.)

2) SECULAR STABLE DEMOCRATIC - FRIENDLY: A stable mostly secular democratic federalist state capable of providing security and protecting the rights of all Iraqis in a pluralistc and tolerant and unified Iraq that is strongly allied to the U.S. (The 2003-2005 Bush Administration End Etate)

3) SECULAR STRONGMAN – FRIENDLY: A secular strongman allied to/coopted by the US and capable of imposing security and creating stability in Iraq (A US supported Military Coup “keep the toothpaste in the tube” no sectarian violence/civil war end-state).

4) DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST LEADER – ACCOMODATIVE: A democratically elected sectarian Islamic fundamentalist leader capable of providing security and stability for Iraqis and an accommodative but arms-length relationship with the U.S. (The Moqtada al-Sadr end-state Option A).

5) SECULAR STRONGMAN - HOSTILE: A secular strongman indifferent/hostile to the US but capable of imposing security and creating stability in Iraq (The Saddam Hussein end-state. Been there. Done That ).

6) PARTITION: Iraq broken up into two or three nation-states, maybe federated, maybe not, which presumably would each independently evolve into one of these other end-states. Perhaps each winds up better, perhaps worse. This may or may not actually be a distinct option, as each partitioned state would default to one of the other choices. The only real benefit, is that at least the Kurdish Sate would make Option 1 or 2 available again for that state – if it is not over-run by Turkey.

7) HOSTILE ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST STRONGMAN: A sectarian Islamic fundamentalist strongman capable of imposing security and creating stability in Iraq but allied with Iran in opposition to US interests (An alternative Moqtada al-Sadr end-state - lets call it his "Option B")

8) VIOLENT COLLAPSE: The collapse of Iraq society into warring sectarian factions, war-lords, and un-controlled violence, massacres, “ethnic cleansing”, and all out civil war a/la Somalia.

Those are all the possibilities for an end-state. Take your choice, then we can talk about “winning” or “losing” that particular state. If you choose 1, then Harry Reid is correct. We lost. Choose 8, then George Bush is absolutely right when he says we cannot afford to lose.

Here is my take. One and two are eliminated as realistic possibilities, because neither the Bush administration nor David Patreaus is talking like those are objectives any more. Number 3 has been, and probably still is discussed both here and in Iraq. It might be the actual infamous "Plan B” that nobody wants to talk about. Number 8 is regularly invoked as a bogeyman to justify the current course of action in Iraq. Clearly, we cannot allow number 8 to happen, but there is no reason to assume that it is an inevitable or even probable outcome, even if we were to leave precipitously, a course that no one is advocating. The Iraqi’s would find number 7 preferable to eight, so even in a power vacuum left by an unlikely precipitous US withdrawal, number 8 is still a highly unlikely End State.

The most likely End State scenario is an “accommodated” (or if you prefer “co-opted” or “bought-out”) Moqtada al-Sadr, or someone just like him. A popular theocrat, elected into leadership in Iraq, still railing at the “Great Satan” from his bully pulpit, but behind the scenes working with the US at the precise intersection of US interest in a stable Iraq, and his lofty personal ambition for power on a world stage. Strange bedfellows indeed.

This photo from the office of Rear Admiral Fox was taken by RedState blogger Jeff Emanuel, during his recent trip to Iraq. This is a nicely distilled fusion of both documents linked above. It shows that our military does talk about Iraq in terms of victory or defeat, but in terms of End State. Note that there in nothing in this End State Mission Statement that precludes a Moqtada al-Sadr led Iraq, as long as al-Sadr chooses to play along.

TO BE CONTINUED: In the next (and concluding) post of this series, which I hope to complete early next week (operative word being "hope"). We’ll explore why it is likely to be specifically Moqtada al-Sadr that ultimately takes the reins in Iraq (assuming we don't kill him first). Net net, this is a case where it is literally true that “What does not kill you, makes you stronger.” We missed opportunities to kill al-Sadr in ’03.’04, and ’05. Now the United States is likely to be both the agents of and reason for his emergence as the most powerful man in Iraq.

If you can’t wait for my analysis, you may want to check out Stormwarning’s Counterterrorism blog. While I don’t always share his perspective, he has been following, thinking, and writing about al-Sadr longer than most and my thinking was shaped by his work, examples in posts linked here, here, here and here.

If you enjoyed it, Vote for this post at Real Clear Politics.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.