Democrats on Defense II

I was pretty dismissive of the bulk of the Democratic defense plan; it may be that I was premature – the ‘real’ document (pdf) – 120+ pages of it – was released yesterday.

I’ll be going through it and commenting. There’s obviously more flesh on this than on the press summary I commented on. Let’s hope it’s steak and not bologna. But you ought to go look yourself.

36 thoughts on “Democrats on Defense II”

  1. Here’s my quick summary. Its a long document, but i have braved it and picked out each actual proposal i could spot for winning the GWOT.

    -Get Bin Laden. (absolutely no word on how)

    -double special forces. (no word on whether they will be dubbed Somewhat Special Forces. ).

    -Increase active army 30k men. (Good proposal, should have been done in 02).

    -scan all incoming containers at point of departure (and hence be force to do the same to all ourgoing containers. should manage to choke off international trade by a few hundred billion dollars- this may not be a bug see anti-globalization zealots)

    -top 3 priorities in Iraq (i kid you not)
    1.transfer responsibility to Iraqis asap
    2.’insist’ that the Iraqis make political compromises to get their butts in gear
    3.”Hold the Bush admin accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence and contracting abuses…”
    (Yep, making Bush pay is one of their key planks in winning in Iraq. For a document so bereft of substance its flat out stunning this is one of them. One-third of the Democratic plan for turning Iraq around is assumedly to impeach Bush).

    Of the 123 pages, at least 100 are devoted to explaining why everything Bush has done has been wrong. There are maybe half a dozen pages on veteran funding and pentagon reform that seems substantative.

    About 10 pages are dedicated to documenting that they invented the patriot act. Im not kidding.

    About 5 pages of their Iraq report card. Needless to say- Fs.

    About 5 pages on energy independence. Buy a Honda Pius.

    Conclusion: ok, certain parts were a lot better than i thought, certain parts a lot worse. The stuff on veterans affairs and reforming the military seemed like winners- but i dont know a ton about the nuts and bolts to say. The stuff on Iraq and Afghanistan is absolutely dreadful, all hat and no cattle. Its even worse than the original because now they are purporting to have specifics, but in fact their are none. This is frightning because it begs the question of whether they understand what specifics mean. Bottom line, i’ve come back feeling marginally more confident in the Dems willingness to do the ‘mommy’ stuff for our military- but am even more depressed at their lack of vision for the actual shooting part. Its to the point i dont think they really even know how to approach the issues, and that is scary.

  2. “The stuff on veterans affairs and reforming the military seemed like winners- but i dont know a ton about the nuts and bolts to say. The stuff on Iraq and Afghanistan is absolutely dreadful, all hat and no cattle.”

    The reasons for that are several. The Democrats can safetly, or rather safetly, deal with issues like veterans affairs and current spending because they haven’t invested much into in talk wise. They don’t have to worry about back-tracking or possibly angering a signficant part of their base. However, they have staked a lot on discrediting Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan, and thus their policy must be constructed in a way such that it doesn’t run counter to what they have already said, and doesn’t anger the large block of their party which focuses on this issue to exclusion. Freedom of action is the primary limiting factor for the Democrats. There is no on individual in the party strong enough to bring their views into a strong coherence.

  3. Mark-

    It does not matter if it is a repub or a dem plan, we need to re set in Iraq because the stated objective of promoting a democratically elected radical Islamist regime is not in the best interest of the United States. Conservatives and liberals alike, know this. The only ones still living in fantasy land in Iraq are the Neo Conservatives. They will insist, while never addressing the issue of the powers that we are now promoting, that their macro level managment of this war has been correct, even though it has been flawed, in every way…from soup to nuts. When the Strategic Goal has been fundamentally flawed for years, playing catch up is never going to be pretty, even on paper. Cut the Democrats some slack. Remember, the stated objectives of the this administration are “stay the course” and “a job for future presidents”. The Democrats plan may be ugly and full of hyperverbalization, but it beats the whole “freedom is on the march” fiasco.

  4. Fine PC. But what does that mean in real terms. If I hand you or the Dems control tomorrow, reality isnt going to care much that you have a raw deal. What specifically will you do. You dont like democracy? Fine, what do we replace it with?

  5. PC: That’s the sort of tripe I read from self-styled ‘liberals’ that makes me sick to my stomach, and its the sort of stupidity that Mark is criticizing when he reads the Dem document.

    In order:

    1) You are advancing no plan whatsoever.
    2) To the extent that I can read between the lines to construe what your plan is, it seems to be that we should install a ‘tame’ strongman in Iraq. Correct me if I’m wrong, but not only is that arguably the policy that got us into this mess, but exactly the sort of actions which the liberals in the US cite in order to prove that America is the great Satan? Why should we imagine that such actions aren’t going to blow up in our faces, as Iran did and as Eygpt and Pakistan likely will in the coming decades? What in the heck do you think is the viable alternative to Democracy, and how in the world can you suggest such a plan and be a believer in Liberalism at all?
    3) Didn’t you here the part about the Dems having no plan whatsoever? I’m sorry, but I’m of the school that says a bad plan is better than no plan at all. Realize, we can’t ignore this problem. It will not just go away. And for the record, I don’t feel that the strategic basis of the Bush doctrine is unsound. I can prove that the above ‘plan’, to the extent that it has any substance at all, as described by the Dems is unsound.
    4) Cut the Democrats some slack? Why? As best as I can tell, they have a plan only for winning elections, not for protecting my children. Why don’t you cut Bush some slack? Afterall, he’s the one trying to clean up the mess of 50 years of failed US foreign policy. Yes, he’s a mediocre man when the situation calls for a great one, and yes his administration has made various mistakes, but at least he’s actually got a vision, a plan, and the guts to put them into action. “Stay the course.” is not a bad plan at all, and generally far superior to the ‘cut and run’ doctrine which has marked US foreign policy for the last 30+ years. “A job for future Presidents.” is far preferable to the alternative, or are you suggesting you want to give up on elected Democracy in the US as well? And that is to say nothing of the fact that that is hardly the whole of the current administration’s plan.

  6. “It does not matter if it is a repub or a dem plan, we need to re set in Iraq because the stated objective of promoting a democratically elected radical Islamist regime is not in the best interest of the United States. Conservatives and liberals alike, know this. The only ones still living in fantasy land in Iraq are the Neo Conservatives.”

    I don’t know, PC… as a libertarian, I’m much less bothered by an openly Islamist regime with democratic support, than I am one seething under a totalitarian surface…

    as as a small-l libertarian, I see nothing in this document that would convince me to vote for the Dems… even besides the sop to the unions on container-scanning, therefore guaranteeing that everybody who isn’t rich will have to “buy American”…and I’m one of the folks with serious foreign-policy concerns and not even a smidgeon of loyalty to the Republicans at whom this document should be aiming. I do see a lot of stuff on the domestic side of the military equation that’s already being done (like trying to make it easier for older citizens to join up — heck, that was covered months ago in the NYT!) Similarly, they sing for the choir in wanting to go back to the “2 major ground wars” thesis… but what does this have to do with counter-terrorism, besides giving somebody a shot at trying to rehabilitate the Crusader?

    I could be wrong. Many, if not most, of the people who post here are WAY better-briefed on this stuff than I am, but it sure reads like a combo of ’04 campaign rhetoric and congressional district spending issues. Cognitive dissonance at the thought of post-Nunn Democrats actually spending on the military, “we will spend more on the military’s domestic programs than they will” doesn’t strike me as a strategy.

    Crying darned shame. If this is what they run with into ’08, me and mine won’t have any choice but to hold our noses again.

  7. I honestly cant get over the fact that 1/3rd of the Democratic Partys proposal for saving Iraq is to get George Bush. To me, that is the biggest part of this story. It ought to front and center on Instapudit, HH, etc. How utterly irresponsible. This paper was a major lost opportunity, and they showed glimmers of getting it right. Instead, its demonstraby apparent that it is just another clumsy swipe at Bush. I mean, you read all this build up about how Bush has bungled, and all these quotes about it, and you are just ready to hear the Democratic plan to save the day, and the first two proposals are absolutely worthless and empty, and the third is dedicated to getting our president. I really cant believe it. They could have filled 130 pages with wonky details (even if they were pretty meaningless buzzwords) and come off 1000x better.

  8. Mark,

    They are politicians. And Bush’s name is mud right now.

    As to solutions in Iraq, there are none, get used to it. We can take the WOC approach and cheer louder, but that’s no solution. We can take Trent’s approach and throw some major news media types in prison for treason, but that’s no more effective than clapping louder although I’d imagine there would be some great show trials.

    As to getting bin laden, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to accomplish that. Just someone actually committed to doing so.

    But lets be honest here. Had the dems copied your play book word for word you wouldn’t be satisfied. That could be because your plan is no better than theirs, but I doubt it.

  9. “As to solutions in Iraq, there are none, get used to it.”

    Not much of a rallying cry. In that case i’ll take the devil i know.

    “As to getting bin laden, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to accomplish that. Just someone actually committed to doing so. ”

    Please, for god’s sake enlighten us. I, for one, am not a rocket scientist and am apparently too dim to figure it out. Humor me. How do we get him?

    “But lets be honest here. Had the dems copied your play book word for word you wouldn’t be satisfied. That could be because your plan is no better than theirs, but I doubt it.”

    The point is, if there was a real plan we could have that debate. Since there isnt the point is moot and remain where we started. We have no clue how the Dems would handle our foriegn policy. That’s utterly unnacceptable from a major party asking for our votes during wartime.

  10. PC –

    When you say “we need to re set in Iraq because the stated objective of promoting a democratically elected radical Islamist regime is not in the best interest of the United States.” you’re being silly.

    That’s not the stated objective; the objective is, simply to try and implement/create/empower/ whatever some governments in the middle east that will be responsive to their people, because in the intermediate and long run, we believe that will temper the crazyness that we’re seeing now.

    Obviously, like taking the restraints of a pissed-off person, this involves no little risk and some significant problems in the short (read

  11. This is just an inside-the-Party ploy. This so-called plan is not intended to be something real, or aimed at any audience outside the Democratic Party. It is only intended to take some Democratic heat off of other Democrats and, much more importantly,

    It is a fund-raising tool – a means by which some Democrats entice potential contributors to give campaign contributions.

    “Follow the money. Always follow the money” – D. Throat

    “Hey guys, we gotta plan! See? Here it is! Give us money!”

  12. That’s not the stated objective; the objective is, simply to try and implement/create/empower/ whatever some governments in the middle east that will be responsive to their people

    I find it hard to reconcile this with our treatment of the duly-elected Palestinian government of Hamas. Furthermore, whatever Hamas’s failings, there isn’t any suggestion that it’s like the tyrants who sometimes would win the last fair election. Now, I’m not saying we should resume relations with the Hamas government, although I’m not at all sure that Hamas’s stated goal towards the destruction of Israel represents the way it intends to govern (just as there are elements of the Republican Party Platform that have little relationship to Republican Party praxis). Nonetheless, something here is relevant to the point you are trying to make. It would seem, with Palestine, that the near-term objective of blunting anti-American feeling trumps the long-term objectives you propose.

  13. AJL,
    You build better straw men than most, Hamas would be an entirely acceptable ruling party except for their failure to disavow the murder of innocents and their failure to recognize the only democracy in the Middle East.
    You could have at least created a “hay” man, by relating all to the Afghan government and the total lack of religious freedom allowed by this democratically elected government and it’s adoption of Shar’ia as pre-emptive of any enuciated constitutional right.
    BTW, while everybody claims Bush is, if not a neo-Con, then controlled by them, he was far and away a realist when elected in 2000, leading neo-con spokesmen Kristol and Kagan both opposed him. 9/11 showed Bush the inadequacy of the Realist/Kissinger line of foreign policy. And, please, don’t give me the old list of all the Jewish 2nd level or lower advisors to the Administration. Reminds me of the Mearsheimer/Walt Israeli Lobby paper.
    Whenever I read “neo-con”, I always, usually correctly, see the total lack of a rational argument.
    Mike

  14. A.L.-
    Ok. Who is the elected gov in Iraq, that we are supporting right now? You think they are going to turn around and elect a gov that is friendly to the United States, that promotes our interests in the region, in a decade? Our guy got what % of the vote? Give it a rest. No matter how you try to dress it up, the fact is, they elected a Fundamentalist Islamic Gov, and we are supporting it by training them in the art of war and providing them with direct combat support.

    “Obviously, like taking the restraints of a pissed-off person, this involves no little risk and some significant problems in the short (read

  15. Mike-Call it neo con doctrine,call it the doctrine of humpty dumpty, WHO CARES. You have to call this new stated policy of Democratic Nation Building and Pre Emptive War something… if not neo con, what then? Calling it what it has been named, saves the time of having to repeat, the new stated objectives.

  16. “The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country,” William F Buckley

  17. Uh, Congress has already upped the authorized size of the military by 80k. Are the Dems asking for another 30k? Or are they just going to take credit for something already done?

  18. BTW Joe, A.L. etc.,

    If you are interesting in republishing the piece let me know.

    I have a new e-mail.

    msimon 6808

    @ yahoo. com

    just eliminate the spaces.

  19. Here is part of what I wrote:

    Note the vote. Better than 4 to 1 in favor. Also note that Tom Lantos is a Democrat and is the Ranking Democratic member of the House International Relations Committee. He was the founder in 1983 of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and is still its Co-Chairman. Not only that but he survived the Nazis. He is an American by choice.

    I wonder if the Dems would consider running him for President? Did I mention that he was a Professor of Economics for 30 years? Too bad he has the Schwarzenegger problem: not born in this country.

    So I guess our policy in Iraq is not a neo-con policy any more.

    Which says that there is a lot of ignorance here and elsewhere about tthe real American foreign policy goals. What a surprise, eh PC?

  20. The quoted bit is actually:

    Note the vote. Better than 4 to 1 in favor. Also note that Tom Lantos is a Democrat and is the Ranking Democratic member of the House International Relations Committee. He was the founder in 1983 of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and is still its Co-Chairman. Not only that but he survived the Nazis. He is an American by choice.

    I wonder if the Dems would consider running him for President? Did I mention that he was a Professor of Economics for 30 years? Too bad he has the Schwarzenegger problem: not born in this country.

  21. So PC your statement should read “The Congressional hubris…”.

    I think you are going to have to work to get the Dems to move farther towards your position. Now what you will do to get the Rs to move is…..

    But I like arguing with you PC. It is like fishing in a barrel with dynamite. So easy. Keep posting. You are making this ignorant old fool look really good.

    Neo-cons indeed.

  22. AJL,

    Just because the Palis got elected on a policy of the destruction of Israel (one of the elected Hamas guys was nicknamed Hitler – you can look it up) is no reason to not hold them accountable for that policy.

    Which is the beauty of promoting democracy. The people get held accountable for their choices. How else can they learn?

  23. bq. “As to getting bin laden, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to accomplish that. Just someone actually committed to doing so. ”

    Don’t you mean someone committed to invading Pakistan?

  24. Maybe, just maybe, the Democrats could run to the right of President Bush on the Iraq War, just as Kennedy ran to the right of Ike and his successor Nixon on the Cold War.

    Ike was taking a pretty peacenik position for a retired General — his paring conventional forces to the bone, reliance on an overwhelming nuclear response, and his “military-industrial complex speech.” Kennedy’s plan was reconstituting conventional forces, introducing Special Forces (Green Beret’s), and closing the “Missile Gap.”

    Of course the Missile Gap was a sham — if Kruschev’s Russia was turning out missiles “like sausages”, well the Russia of that day was short on real sausages as well, and we knew from U-2 and Corona/Discoverer photos that the Russians had just two launch pads to fire off what turned out to be six R-7 rockets — it was all bluff. Ike knew this, and Kennedy knew this too when he was briefed, but who was to let inside but secret information like that change Kennedy’s campaign platform.

  25. Of course it is our policy to promote Democracy. That has nothing to do with the WAY in which it is currently being promoted in the middle east. Nice attempt at a dodge though. Next time, address this administrations handling of the war, and the current power porjection, which is the issue here, not a “cherrie picked” house vote.

    Oh, how the Neo Cons love the spin, and hate the accountability.

    From Meet the Press, Sunday.
    ZINNI: I saw the – what this town is known for, spin, cherry-picking facts, using metaphors to evoke certain emotional responses or shading the context. We know the mushroom clouds and the other things that were all described that the media has covered well. I saw on the ground a sort of walking away from 10 years’ worth of planning. You know, ever since the end of the first Gulf War, there’s been planning by serious officers and planners and others, and policies put in place – 10 years’ worth of planning were thrown away. Troop levels dismissed out of hand. Gen. Shinseki basically insulted for speaking the truth and giving an honest opinion.

    The lack of cohesive approach to how we deal with the aftermath, the political, economic, social reconstruction of a nation, which is no small task. A belief in these exiles that anyone in the region, anyone that had any knowledge, would tell you were not credible on the ground. And on and on and on, decisions to disband the army that were not in the initial plans. There’s a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the Secretary of State say these were tactical mistakes. These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here. Don’t blame the troops. They’ve been magnificent. If anything saves us, it will be them.”

    Now I know, how much the Neo Cons love Zinnie, or anyone else, who holds their feet to the fire!

  26. PC,

    Sad isn’t it that we have a Congress full of Neo-cons.

    Bwaaa ha ha ha ha ha.

    BTW the Iraqi Army wich in the main was an internal security force disbanded itself.

    Now why would we want to keep in being an army trained in fascist tactics to maintain internal security?

    Having nostalgia for the Stalinist Principle (a favorite of Saddam) are we?

    Sure it is tough without them. Would we be better off with an army of Sunni coup plotters and docile conscripts?

    But this is the usual. Lots of talk of what is bad with out a look at the alternatives.

    BTW just a hint. Wars never go well. Lots of mistakes are made. The question always is who can stand the strain before breaking? Obviously the strain has already broken PC. My condolences.

  27. Disbanding the army was the smartist thing we ever did. Its better to have a beef with Sunnis than with Shiia, the numbers dont lie. Had we attempted to retain the Sunni/Baathist dominated Iraqi Army, the Shiia would have freaked (rightly so). We made enough stupid moves to freak out the Shiia early on (taking up residence in Saddams old palaces and putting his prisons back to work- meet the new boss, same as the old boss). Disbanding the army was a necessary evil. The hindsight brigade notwithstanding.

  28. M Simon- Trying to hook a stated policy of a support for Democracy that the United States holds, as a hook to claim that Democrats are Neocons…well, a stretch. No comment on Zinnie, I noticed.
    Ending a foolish policy is not quitting. You know, a lot of Conservatives happen to agree with me on these issues. They are not quitters either. What they are, is smart. Germany never withdrew from the eastern front, and that what…served them oh so well in WW2?
    Give it a rest. You think this current crew is going to “stay the course” or come up with an imaginative way to quit? You think this is smart policy? You think it has been well executed? Not many people agree with you. Just because the opposition (Democrats) offers a weak posture that is easily exploited, that does not mean that the neo cons are doing well. One weak party, and one foolish party, not a great nation makes, my friend.
    The Dem plan still beats the one being currently offered.

    Still waiting for a real Hawk to run. Perhaps McCain will offer a vision of a power projection that cleans this thing up. Then again, I doubt the religious right noiminates him.

  29. My comments on generals:

    Not all of them are right about every thing.

    Take French Generals fer instance. Or closer to home old Doug McArthur. Slightly above average on the battle field, very good at maintaining home front morale, terrible at understanding who his immediate superior was.

    So Zinnie might be good at handling tactics but may be an idiot when it comes to grand strategy. It is why we have a general staff. It is why the President is the CinC. Decisions on what to do militarily to correspond to political needs are above his grade level.

    BTW all wars are full of huge mistakes. He who wins is he who has the time to correct them. Which is why in war one must be patient in the face of disaster.

    Churchill knew us “Americans will do the right thing after they have tried everything else.”

    So where you see disaster I see the usual wartime muddle.

    And you know – I just love Rummy. But that might be a point of friction there. Lincoln’s Secty of War Stanton was not well loved. And yet history treats him kindly.

  30. “Lincoln’s Secty of War Stanton was not well loved. And yet history treats him kindly.”

    It does? Seems to me between Stanton, Halleck, and McClellan the war was darn near lost in the first two years. I suppose Stanton grew into the job to some degree but his jealousy of Lincoln early on and inability to get along with his generals was disasterous. A lot of the key decisions on the Union side were made via Lincoln subverting Stanton. I suppose the guy has a bit of a bum rap considering a lot of his positions were Lincoln’s positions, but one wonders whether the cart was before the horse considering Lincolns inexperience in military matters (the paranoia for protecting Washington DC from phantom invaders for instance, it seems likely Stanton frightened this into Lincoln instead of vice-versa considering their relationship at the time).

  31. Mark,

    Stanton was not Lincoln’s first Secretary of War. He was the second – Lincoln fired Simon Cameron and replaced him with Stanton in January 1862.

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