Greg Djerejian And My Hard Heart

[Edited for clarity.]

I’ve always admired Greg Djerejian, over at Belgravia Dispatch. He’s intelligent, well-read, and thoughtful – qualities that are wider-spread than most of us fear but are still rare in the visible world of blogs and the media.

I’ve watched his change of heart about Iraq and worried, more than a little, over my own heart’s unwillingness to budge. I worry about that solidity, and about the fact that the events which drive him into what – for him – passes as vein straining paroxysms of rage only elicit a sad shake of the head when I read about them.

I’ve been amused at his attacks on the ‘six monthers‘ – those who think the next six months will see all as well. But then again, I’ve always been more of a ‘six yearer‘ myself. I do think, with some confidence, that the next six years will determine the outcome of this conflict.

In a way, I believe this because I think that the comic novels of George McDonald Frasier – the Flashman books – are closer to the truth of history than the neatly packaged, inevitable histories we all learned from and hang so much of our understanding – of ourselves and of others – upon. In the Flashman universe, incompetence, cowardice, and ignorance contest regularly with courage, skill and luck to decide the outcome of things. Frasier highlights the mess underneath the events we think we know, and in so doing renders them more real I’ll argue, than the historians who manage to edit it out.My professor Page Smith (famous for his book on chickens) wrote what is to me the best work of history that I know – his ‘People’s history ‘ of the Revolutionary War “A New Age Now Begins” (I sent my copy to the ITM brothers). What I love the most about this history is reading the contemporaneous accounts of the people who lived through the events and the sense of confusion, fear, and doubt that they felt and the overwhelming sense of contingency – of uncertainty about outcome – that they experienced.

Djerejian’s core position on Iraq today is best summed up, I think, by this paragraph from this post:

But, if you are like me, and you believe Baghdad is the strategic epicenter of Iraq, and that a Baghdad descending into Beirut like civil war means that the country will likely mostly disintegrate, then I’m afraid I am less optimistic than West. And so, again, on this Memorial Day, when we thank and remember the sacrifice of our troops over the decades, we must also ask, painful as it is, what precisely they are accomplishing at the present hour in Iraq? Yes, here and there they are making progress. Yes, they are staving off total anarchy. But, if you fear it’s a slow grind that we are losing, rather than winning, particularly given the continued lack of credible leadership at the Pentagon, the continued incorrectly placed concerns on ‘dependency’ theory, the continued dearth of troops, you must, at least to some extent if you are honest with yourself ponder, would it be worth my life (or the life of my son or daughter)? And the answer, it seems to me, is a very, very, very close call indeed.

We’re not clearly winning, so we must be losing. Boy, I’ve got to believe that sentiment would have made sense in the taverns of New England back in the day – but they pressed on regardless.

Why is the response to this uncertainty so different today? In no small part, I’ll suggest that it’s because of three things.

First, our sense of invulnerability. This was a war of choice, a war of revenge. We have nothing at stake, people would argue. We can’t really be harmed by our enemies. At worst, there is a kind of simple arithmetic (Greg again):

The bottom line is that more U.S. and Iraqi Army/Police forces (I’m not counting civilians, many of whom have died via generalized civil strife more than the insurgency, per se) have died since Cheney’s comment than perished on 9/11.

What’s really at stake there?

Greg goes on to discuss why it is that America is so badly regarded in the world today. He cites Roger Cohen in Times Select:

The image of the United States is in something close to a free fall.

There are lots of reasons, beginning with the fact that any elephant this big bestriding the world’s stage is going to irk people, especially when George W. Bush is riding it. But I suspect a basic cause is that in the 65-year period of 1941-2006, the United States has been at war in some form or another for all but 14 years.

There was World War II and then, after a two-year break, the Cold War, which ran until 1989, and then, after an interlude of a dozen years, the war on terror. These were different sorts of wars, of course, and among them were Korea and Vietnam. But somewhere along the way, most acutely in the past few years, people got tired.

They got tired of America’s insatiable need for an enemy; suspicious of the talk of freedom and democracy and morality in which every struggle was cast; forgetful of the liberty preserved by such might; alarmed at the American fear that appeared to fire American aggression; and disdainful of the distance between declarations and deeds.

In short they stopped buying the American narrative.

What’s missing from this, of course, is any sense of context at all for that narrative, any sense that – for example – there was an expansionist and brutal Soviet Union who would have gladly conquered all of Europe – and kept it conquered had we not opposed them. Or that there was a brutal China led my the mad, bad, and dangerous Mao Tse Tung who would have gladly enslaved all of Asia had we not opposed them. I’m more than a little puzzled by Greg’s failure to point out that gaping hole in Cohen’s logic.

So in that view, why is there war? Because America fights, of course.

I mentioned this in an email to neo-neocon:

I’ve thought for a while that this was a form (forgive me for stepping on your turf) of narcissism – they think that we (our culture, the West) are so powerful that we are, in effect, omnipotent. So of course we can get the bad guys without hurting them; of course we need rules to contain our strength. Because we’re so strong that everything that happens anywhere in the world is a reflection of something we do or have done.

And I do think it’s the strongest influence on our behavior and attitude toward this war. And, I believe that once it is gone – once the delusion of invulnerability slips away – we will be more brutal and bestial than the worst opponents of the wars today imagine us to be in their fevered dreams.

I’m reminded of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles – when my devoutly liberal friends suddenly spouted a core of racist invective and anger, and when they were enraged that I wouldn’t lend them guns because I thought they were unhinged with fear and rage.

Second, because we have no direct experience of loss. I’ve wondered how it is, isolated from the blood and meat of death, that we have become so fascinated with a pornography of violence in our arts. Things which were everyday to a farmer in the 18th century – privation, disease, death – the crushing hand of Necessity – are strangers to us. But not to most of the people in the world.

That means that we are shocked by it when we see it; we don’t accept it as a part of the natural context of life.

My father (as I’ve written) built high-rise buildings. Construction work – particularly heavy construction work – is dangerous. Height, tools, heavy steel, cranes lifting buckets of concrete all combine to make up a hostile environment to the unlucky or careless. I think there were seven or eight deaths on his jobs in his career. The days that happened were the lowest I ever saw him. Was it worth it? To build an apartment building for rich people or an office building for lawyers?

Would it be different if they’d fallen of a barn roof? Or been maimed by a thresher and bled to death in a field?

Bad things happen all the time as an inevitable part of the human condition; of society. Somewhere today in Iraq, a U.S. soldier is abusing an Iraqi. Somewhere in Iraq this month, a U.S. soldier is murdering an Iraqi (I’ll write about Haditha soon).

Do I forgive them and consider what they did understandable? No, of course not. They are vile criminals, and worse for being criminals in the uniform of our country. I think that our greatness as a society is that we self-correct better than any society that there has ever been.

Should we do it better? Of course we should.

Will we ever be perfect? Will we ever be able to point to anything we do, whether go to war, go to the moon, build a building, or cure a disease without waste, death, and folly? I know we won’t and I’ve got to believe that Greg does as well. Does that make those things not worth doing?

Which brings me to the final point, and to me the most frightening. It’s an adjunct to the first two, and simply put, it suggests that everything that happens isn’t really about the thing itself – the war in Iraq as an example – but it’s about us; how we feel about ourselves, who has political advantage, who profits and who loses in the courts of power, prestige and wealth.

I’m genuinely afraid that the ruling cohort, and those who enable it by participating in the political process, have so much lost touch with the realities that we face that they are incapable of looking at an issue like Iraq, or 9/11, or the economic straits we have spent and borrowed ourselves into as a nation except as a foothold in climbing over the person in front of them. I imagine a small table of gentlemen and -women, playing whist on a train as it heads out over a broken bridge. The game, of course maters more than anything, and the external events – they’re just an effort to distract they players from their hands.

57 thoughts on “Greg Djerejian And My Hard Heart”

  1. Here are two thoughts, both of which may not be too popular with many readers of WOC:

    1) the US cares about, and sends troops to, the countries surrounding the Gulf because of oil. Mathematically:
    oil = blood+money; or, commutatively, money+blood = oil.
    Not in the sense of some who suffer from BDS, as if all the $$$ goes and comes from Halliburton/Cheney’s pocket; rather, that our society (and the livelihoods of the people of which it is comprised) depends upon oil from the Gulf to feed the factories and transportation systems of the westernized world, of which the US is the largest and most successful nation.

    I remember when Saddam invaded Kuwait, how characteristically those lifetime professional leftist demonstrators started to criticize the immediate reflexive military response of the US. Especially, I remember when J. Baker III tried to make the case about how important it was for the US to respond, about the importance of oil, its importance to life, and how letting the majority of the Gulf oil wealth fall into Saddam’s hands would be a truly tragic mistake; I seem to remember too that *Mr. Baker’s comments were quickly shuffled off to the side by those who wanted to argue simply on the morality of the issues* (one nation invading another UN member, Saddam’s troops raping women in Kuwait, destroying the environment, etc.)

    Any analysis of Iraq that can’t come to terms with this strategic central theme (i.e., the importance of oil) is not looking at the whole picture.

    2) Humans by nature fight each other for dominance, always have, and probably always will. I’d suggest to Djerejian that the reason he perceives the US to always be at war, unlike some nations, is simply because the US has had the money and resources to do so, especially in a flashy way, while many nations simply exhaust themselves (money and resources) much earlier. We fight because we can. Just like other people do, when they are able.

    Both of the above positions very much look at the US, and the world, not in the light of _right or wrong_, but simply what is. Perhaps this is too mechanical, and detached, compared to moral arguments some would wish to make.

    That Djerejian seems to be going down the path of Iraq-the-quagmire mantra, or Iraq-the-misbegotten mantra, and that he now is harping on how bad Rumsfield et. al. are, is just a symptom of him missing the bigger picture.

  2. I agree that most commenters on the Iraq war fail dismally in seeing the larger context of the war. Arab islam is a cesspool prolific in exporting ignorance, terrorists, and fanaticism. The barbarianism must be confronted at close range until it is understood well, and fought to a standstill, for our future’s sake and the sake of the rest of the world that is too weak and too weak-willed to confront virtually any enemy. Oil is secondary, since fighting a war in the vicinity of most of the world’s oil reserves does not make oil more available or affordable.

  3. AL,

    Without America, there is only darkness. There isn’t a region on this planet living in freedom that wasn’t either made or kept so by American blood, treasure or ideals. Those in the world who hate America need to learn this lesson. If they must learn it the hard way, so be it.

    The relationship between America, the left and the rest of the world is unlike a parent-child relationship in one critical respect. There is no bond of unconditional love. A parent can let go of a child to discover certain lessons through hard experience when the consequences are not too severe. But if the consequences of poor choices are so severe that the child will never recover, then the parent cannot let go whatever the cost.

    America does not have an unconditional bond of love with the rest of the world. If we withdraw from the rest of the world, the rest of the world will suffer terrible consequences. I want the best for everybody. But if the rest of the world wants to condemn itself, so be it. I don’t have unconditional love for the rest of the world, so for those determined to go straight to hell, I say let ‘em.

    I’m sick and tired of these anti-American bastards.

  4. “…I’ve always been more of a ‘six yearer’ myself…”

    Bingo. That one sentence strikes at the heart of the entire debate. Whatever the global context, whatever the big picture, people on all sides of the debate want Iraq to “win” or “fail”. And can it happen in time for the Six O’Clock News?

    Pulling troops out of Iraq does not mean failure. Nor does it mean success. Leaving the troops in is also not an indicator either. As AL says, most of these arguments tell you a lot more about the people making the arguments than the conditions on the ground. Everybody desperately wants something that they can make a huge analogy from, and it’s not working that way.

    I think Iraq is doing fine. They are working towards a stable government that is going to have a couple suicide attacks every day. That’s reality. That’s the new normal for a democratically elected Islamic government in the region. We should anticipate that being the model for a free Iran and Syria as well. This is good information for us to have in the GWOT and well worth the losses we have incurred.

  5. “…I’ve always been more of a ‘six yearer’ myself…”

    We’ve been in Europe and Japan 6 decades. Nobody seems to mind any longer.

    HA is also correct when he says “Without America, there is only darkness.” Perhaps that is why it is a good thing we’ve been in Europe and Japan for 6 decades with no one calling for us to leave any time soon.

    America is neither omnipotent nor blessed with infinite resources. Because we bear substantially all the burden, we must chose our fights well. Bush went into this knowing that we had to clean up this mess to make the world safe for America, not only to protect a source of oil, but to destroy a hotbed of totalitariansim with the desire and resources to significantly change the world to our detriment. It is going to take more than one presidency, no matter how impatient we are. Only Bush seems to realize this. In my book his greatest failing has been his failure to communicate this truth, even in the face of MSM opposition, to the American people.

  6. HA:

    I’m sick and tired of these anti-American bastards.

    To whom was this directed? Greg Djerejian certainly isn’t anti-American. AL isn’t. The previous commenters in this thread don’t appear to be. So?

    freeto:

    Of course it’s about oil. Without oil much of the Middle East would just be Rwanda with sand at this point. “Oil” isn’t just a commodity. It’s a shorthand terminology for all of the things that are made possible by cheap oil. That includes the incredible growth of the U. S. economy and U. S. prosperity but it also includes the thousands or millions of Chinese, Indian, African, and South American kids who would starve without what’s made possible by cheap oil. It means economic and political stability for the entire world.

    In reference to Roger Cohen’s article:

    The image of the United States is in something close to a free fall.

    Most Iraqis have never met an American. Still. Most Europeans and Asians have never been to the United States and in all probability most have never met an American. The res damn well does not ipsa loquitur. They’ve arrived at their impressions of the United States based on the foreign and U. S. news media, American television and motion pictures, and the statements of their own politicians about us.

    If, indeed, “the image of the United States is in something close to a free fall”, it’s a freefall that’s being engineered by the news media more than it is by U. S. policies and actions.

  7. > The image of the United States is in something close to a free fall.

    I only worry when the image of the US is not in free fall.

    The US regularly commits a couple of unforgivable sins:
    (1) We ignore “our betters”.
    (2) We save “our betters”.

  8. I stopped Greg Djerejian some time ago. His commentary, while maybe not anti-American is so negative and, dare I say it, defeatist that it became hard to finish reading his comments.

    The shame of people like Djerejian is that, like Murtha, they bask in the light of their previous viewpoints as a way of giving credibility to their new point of view. If you take the time to read a range of commentary and background on the Middle-East and Europe then it is quick to see past the one sidedness of his comments.

  9. George McDonald Fraser also wrote “Quartered Safe Out Here,” an excellent memoir of his service in Burma. It goes well with “Defeat into Victory” by William Slim, the overall commander in Burma, giving a view of the same campaign from the top and the bottom.

  10. #6 Dave: One reason why I discount the _6 month_ folk is that they are not really willing to accept that if, as many of us believe, the primary strategic value of the Gulf is oil then *only* when the oil is no longer necessary will the US stop military intervention in the region.

    It is also why when I read Djerejian’s article that I was so disappointed; he has no place in his position for the idea that the US is on a multi-decade proposition of being the policeman of the Gulf. We are already into our second decade of having forces on the ground there, and before that we had sent our ships into the Gulf and flew our planes over the sky when needed. Bush and Cheney both, over and over, have emphasized that this is a long term issue…. we will be at it for years.

    I’m not discounting the importance of fighting Islamic extremism. Rather, it seems to me we are *critically compromised* in dealing with Middle Eastern extremism by our (meaning the US and all the other nations which are important to us, such as our major trade partners) absolute dependence upon Gulf oil exports.

    I visit all sorts of blogs and websites, and I’ve observed how uncomfortable it is for many of the stronger supporters of Bush’s policies in Iraq to agree to the idea that oil in the Gulf is the underlying strategic value… perhaps many people are afraid that admitting it is so believe that they would be giving tacit agreement to the hyper-polemical whiners (Sheehan et.al.)

  11. “And, I believe that once it is gone – once the delusion of invulnerability slips away – we will be more brutal and bestial than the worst opponents of the wars today imagine us to be in their fevered dreams. ”

    Bingo. It’s been something that I’ve been trying to get across to buddies in Europe for a while now… nobody seems to get that what they’re seeing now is the US being gentle. And that’s why we have to win — because if we don’t, we’ll have no choice but to take off the kid gloves and do it the old-fashioned way.

    The old-fashioned way stinks, and I don’t know anybody who actually wants to go there.

  12. Dave Schuler et al – there are two issues around oil. The first is, as stated, the dependence of the industrial (and growing) economies on it as an energy source. The second is the resources it gives the Islamists to grow their community and pursue their objectives.

    Osama Bin Laden with $50,000 is a crazy guy. ObL with $5 billion is a strategic threat.

    A.L.

  13. Following David Foster (#9), a second vote for “Quartered Safe Out Here.”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0002726874/qid=1149081569/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-5325941-1882268?s=books&v=glance&n=283155 The publics of Western countries (thankfully) experience combat vicariously, for the most part. We imagine that we can easily distinguish the moral character of Good Wars (necessary sacrifices, liberated civilians… from Bad Wars (our side’s atrocities, quagmires…). Among other things, MacDonald’s story reminds the reader that these are narratives imposed after the fact.

    To those of us who didn’t see it at the time, it’s clear in retrospect that the Happy Time Version of OIF was never in the cards. Similarly, we can fall into the trap of comparing the Iraq Nightmare to the Clean, Noble, and Worthwhile Wars–without recognizing the distance in space and time that allowed those adjectives to modify that noun.

  14. Freeto, about your #1 idea — oil appears to be a declining nonrenewable resource. If we’re going to stay strong while the oil industry declines, we need some cheap alternate energy. Fighting for oil is at best a stopgap, the time will come fairly soon that it costs more oil to fight for oil than we get as a reward.

    About your #2 idea, that we fight because we have the resources to fight while nations with fewer resources can’t fight as much — that’s clearly true, but our own resources are declining and maybe it’s time to schedule wars closer to home. Then as our resources keep declining we’ll eventually find ourselves unable to fight anybody but, say, mexico, and as they decline further we’ll have to split up and fight ourselves….

    Again we need a way to restore our resources, and maybe laying off the wars while we retool would be a good idea.

  15. Just a quick point..
    Oil is important, but it isn’t the only thing that’s important Middle East. If it was truly all about the oil, we would have cut a deal with Saddam instead of invading. That would have been a much more economically viable approach. The proof that’s it’s not totally about the economics is that Saddam is now gone, and we’re spending blood and money trying to reform Iraq.

    I think Iraq is more of a 10 to 20 year project. 6 Years is still not enough time.

  16. We are already into our second decade of having forces on the ground there, and before that we had sent our ships into the Gulf and flew our planes over the sky when needed. Bush and Cheney both, over and over, have emphasized that this is a long term issue…. we will be at it for years.

    This is a political problem. Neither of them gave much indication that the iraq war might take any significant time or expense — until after we’d won Baghdad and were thoroughly committed.

    Now they tell us that it will continue for a long time, but they aren’t willing to collect any taxes to pay for it.

    A lot of ways the Bush administration is acting like the world is going to end in 2008 and they don’t need to plan beyond that. Will we perhaps need to build up our troop strength for the long war? If we’d started building 3 years ago we’d have more of the needed troops today. But mostly we didn’t then, and mostly we aren’t now. They *talk* like it’s a long important war, but they *act* like it’s a temporary nuisance.

    I’m not discounting the importance of fighting Islamic extremism. Rather, it seems to me we are critically compromised in dealing with Middle Eastern extremism by our (meaning the US and all the other nations which are important to us, such as our major trade partners) absolute dependence upon Gulf oil exports.

    Totally agreed. Cheap alternate energy has become a strategic necessity for us. And we mostly aren’t funding it, instead we’re stuck borrowing money to pay for middle east wars. Maybe the chinese will develop that technology and we can lease it from them.

  17. “…They talk like it’s a long important war, but they act like it’s a temporary nuisance…”

    The “they” that talk like it’s a long, important war are the folks in the administration. The “they” that act like it’s a temporary nuisance are the Congress and the procurement departments at the Pentagon. We’re spending plenty Billions already to double the manpower at DoD, but nobody wants to kill a few fancy bombers to do it. Everybody wants big defense spending programs to fight the Chinese in 20 years instead of manpower to fight the war now.

    Having said that, there is a contingent of military officers that honestly feel that a) a draft is out of the question, and b) less people on the ground and more technology is the only path to victory

    This attitude, not Bush or Rummy, but this attitude, has been gestating at DoD for decades. Now it is full born and inside the whole department. If you don’t like it or agree with it, then I guess that’s tough. Maybe a new adminstration can change it. I seriously don’t think so.

  18. According to Freedom House, there are 89 “Free” countries today, accounting for 46% of the population. In 1975, there were only 40 “Free” countries. Freedom House wasn’t around in 1943, but I imagine there weren’t a lot.

    U.S. blood and treasure and moralizing. Also, missteps, envy and hypocrisy. Two steps forward, one step back.

  19. freeto, if oil is the only reason America would fight a war in the middle east, then why did America declare war on and crush the Barbary Pirates in the beginning of the 19th century?

    This is the same war, but a different battle. Oil is irrelevant to the underlying cause, which is islamic imperialism.

  20. As with most, I think that you forget one of the real reasons to be in Iraq or anywhere else. The US is the ONLY light in this world. You have the EUropeans making deals to keep their oil pipelines filled and the wolf from their door for a few more years – spending their national will on appeasement of the wolf, who cares not a whit for them.

    You have the Russians, still playing their old game of empire, it never really changed from the days of the Czars, just the context. Freedom translated from English to Russian to English comes out license. They cannot culturally understand what we mean – maybe in their hearts, but not in a debate about politics and government.

    The world of Islam is hoping the Islamofacists are right and their religion is also. That they will come to rule the world under the umbrella of the Caliphate, else their entire world view is wrong and that is a hard pill to swallow for any belief system.

    The rest of the world is hoping that they can keep some of the wolves roaming the world distracted elsewhere and they will be left alone to get on with the business of living.

    However, it must be said that if we (the US) turn our eyes from the world, let the chips fall as they may, we will still be vilified for what we DON’T do.

    Now, you make some points and I think they have to be examined:

    #1 – “our sense of invulnerability” – That went away with 9/11. And, I disagree. I do not think that most of us who are aware of our own history, even peripherally, ever felt invulnerable. We remember Pearl Harbor every year on December 7th. We need a national holiday to remember 9/11.

    #2 – “because we have no direct experience of loss.” Wrong, see the above.

    Final point – it’s about us; how we feel about ourselves. This is the one I agree with, but not for the reasons you might suppose. If you buy into what the MSM says about us and our politics, then, yes, we are doomed, dirty and not deserving of the world’s admiration. However, if you think they (the MSM) are just useful idiots for International A.N.S.W.E.R. and others who wish to have hegemony over the great thing that is the US or to bring us down out of any one of the seven deadly sins, but mostly jealousy, then we can ignore them and proceed with the dirty business we asked to take care of in the world. The US, as it exists today, is not without flaws. But it is still the best form of representative government to be found on the planet, the most egalitarian system yet. Else, why are there 11 million or so Illegal Aliens from Mexico here and tens of thousands of others trying to get in legally? We are the last, best hope against the forces of darkness that seem to gather at each new millennium, to try to impose their hegemony on the few forces of light and goodness to be found in the world. And, make no mistake, those forces of darkness do want to do just that ……. Because they think they can.

    The Hobo

  21. Russ,

    It is more “salvage and destroy”. We salvage what we can of the Middle East first. The rest will be shattered, and not merely by us. They’ll do it to themselves for the most part.

  22. AL,

    Excellent post, and excellent commentary!

    You echo my sentiments. I (only occasionally) stray back to Belgravia Dispatch, if only to see if Greg Djerejian has regained any optimism. I am always, of late, disappointed.

    I admit, I am a strong supporter of our effort. But critics like Djerejian give me pause.

    That as reasoned an intellect as his has turned against our purpose causes me no small discomfort; not that I waver in the rightness of our effort, but that the support of rational, middle grounders is essential for us to maintain national resolve, and national commitment.

    The politicians who led us into Iraq may not hold the reins of power for long, let alone for the duration of this multi-generational struggle. We shall need friends in the middle, and even in the opposition, for that is where we may be, before long.

    (More here
    http://dadmanly.bl*gspot.com/2006/05/delusions-and-war.html.)

  23. If you worry about the spent resources in Iraq and Afghanistan, the only important resources are the ones being built up rapidly—-experience in fighting arab/islamic fanaticism and arab/neanderthal tribalism. This is a resource the US military and intelligence cadres are building rapidly, which only the Israelis and a few anglosphere nations also possess.

    If you look at the demographics of Europe and other parts of the world, knowing how to fight this scourge of arab supremacism, islamic fanaticism, and atavistic tribalist barbarianism will be worth more than anything else for the remnants of civilization that survive WWIV, the worldwide civil war.

  24. good post AL, and something ive given a bit of thought to.

    BD and Sullivan are guys id never have paid much attention to (hell I almost gave up on TNR when he was editor) – I really have little patience for their views on domestic policy, the Clintons, etc. But I read them after 9/11.

    Note how BD focuses on Cheneys words.

    BD and Sully have a sense of betrayal I dont particularly fell, and I suspect you dont either. They were believers. They voted for Bush in 2000, and BD did in 2004. This is their precious GOP at stake.

    I voted for Gore in 2000, and wrote in a name in 2004. Ive never felt “ownership” of Cheney or Rumsfeld. I supported the invasion of Iraq DESITE the admin, not because of it. So to me, admin mistakes, lies, etc while troubling, do NOT invalidate the war, and certainly dont elicit the same degree of emotion that it does for them.

    Did you read Robert Kagan in the WaPo the other day? He talked about how important it is to have a Dem elected in 2008, to keep the Dem party responsible, and to reunite the country – to not let us fall into the trap of thinking of the WOT as the war of one party, or worse, one faction of one party. I feel that way more strongly than ever, though my list of Dem candidates I find suitable is not that long.

  25. Hobo, our sense of invulnerability is almost completely intact. We didn’t lose much at all on 9/11, not a single city. But we announced to the world that we were very very vulnerable.

    Then we did very little to protect ourselves. Instead we tried to wipe out al qaeda. If al qaeda was our only enemy in the world, that would make sense. But when we show the whole world how easy it is to hit us, we can expect every enemy that believes us to hit us that way, should they ever choose to attack. We feel invulnerable or we would start setting up some defenses.

    Likewise about that sense of loss. Most people know a few thousand others with any sense of closeness. When one of those few thousand dies it makes an important difference to us. When we lost about 3000 people on 9/11, if every one of them had had a different circle of friends that would have been 9 million who actually felt it. But a whole lot of them mostly had their friends in NYC. It was probably only about 2 million it actually hit personally. It seems like more because all of them post on the blogs.

    When we actually suffer a serious attack, then we’ll stop feeling so safe. God willing, that might be a century or more from now.

  26. Just curious AL.

    If this is indeed a six year project, would that mean we have 3 more years to go? Or did you really mean it was a 9 year project?

  27. If the US military actions keep oil abundant and not too expensive, we are saving the world economy by that alone. Especially the developing nations which are more impacted by price fluctuations.

  28. Dammit, Davebo – catching me out when I’m being rhetorical.

    I actually think it’s a decade-long project to know whether we’ll win in this iteration or not. So “six years” was a rhetorical flourish. I do think that seven years from now, this battle will be decided.

    I know that’s not good news to a lot of people…

    A.L.

  29. Tom,

    Yep. I’d rather live to see it than not live to see it, but I’d far rather see an out-and-out victory, without the widespread wreckage and rubble.

    That’s why I’m (personally) so down on this ’68er, ANSWER, pseudo-pacifist drivel. It makes us unable to practice the Churchill Doctrine, and tell the truth. The truth that the world should be hearing is “we’re either going to win nice, or we’re going to win in a way that makes the Soviets look restrained” — the leftists will merely be the ones braying for blood the loudest when it’s *their* interests directly at stake.

    But because of all the noise obscuring the signal, that’s not what the world hears. What the world hears is “maybe we’ll be nice, maybe we’ll pre-emptively roll over and waggle our feet in the air.” And the cognitive disconnect is very dangerous.

  30. I don’t mind Greg’s increasing negativity, though I found “this poll”:http://worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/174.php?nid=&id=&pnt=174&lb=brme a bit alarming:

    _Do you think Iraq today is generally headed in the right direction or wrong direction?_

    Right Direction:

    Kurds 76%
    Shia 84%
    Sunni 6%
    Belgravia Dispatch 0.5%

    No, its that his writing style has become increasingly peppered with ad hom asides on persons and groups that muddy his policy points.

  31. It seems like Roger Cohen’s remarks suggesting we were at war for all of the Cold War are disingenuous. We certainly were not fighting hot wars with US troops during much of that time. Further, because his analysis stops at WW2, it fails to note how often the United States had fought conflicts in various portions of Latin America and the Pacific for the forty three years previous, and thus makes it seem as if the U.S. has suddnely become more warlike. In fact, the U.S. was engaged in a much more costly (than Iraq) guerilla war in the Phillipines for much of that preceding 43 years.

    The United States has fought minor conflicts on/off for most of its existence (as is true for most major powers), and a major war about once a generation. The U.S. is not aberrational in this, as the same could be said for most of the major European powers, nor have our motives been uniquely good or bad in choosing those conflicts.

    We should expect at least this much conflict now, because as the sole superpower, the United States is uniquely positioned, and in some ways forced, to act as the police force of the international system. Like Rome and its endless series of border wars, we either must remain militarily capable of protecting our interests and the interests of our international order, or we will fall, and with our fall shall go the great international system of relative peace and prosperity and knowledge and freedom that the United States has created, with the help of its many allies past and present.

  32. If the US military actions keep oil abundant and not too expensive

    True, but that’s a very big “if”. And if the past is any judge, an unlikely “if”.

  33. If the US military actions keep oil abundant and not too expensive, we are saving the world economy by that alone. Especially the developing nations which are more impacted by price fluctuations.

    Well, no. By keeping oil abundant and cheap we make it harder to develop alternatives. We make the decline sharper and harder when it comes.

    That result is not worth the oil we burn achieving it — if we are achieving it. I tend to agree with nonmatch above that oil production is not a good reason to fight wars close to the oilfields. (But the tremendous amounts of oil we use to fight the wars are a good reason to fight close to refineries. Particularly, put airfields close to refineries, preferably refineries that are close to oilfields. Why give ourself a fuel transport problem?)

    If we want to save the world economy we need to find a way to develop cheap alternate fuels. Without that we get reduced to animals slinking through the ruins looking for the last scraps left behind from the good days.

  34. Davebo,

    We won’t, and can’t, start winning the war on terror until the Arabs lose their oil income. Until then we’ll just fight a holding action – minimizing the damage done to us while we wait for events to break our way. Which will happen when the Saud regime collapses, and the tidal wave of their refugees destroys the Persian Gulf oil shiekdoms.

    Oil income is the Arabs’ golden shackle and blindfold. It helps them deny, and export, their problems.

    We don’t need the Arabs’ oil income. We do need that they not have it, and this will happen from their own failings, not because we take it away from them. We just won’t give it back to them.

  35. Which will happen when the Saud regime collapses, and the tidal wave of their refugees destroys the Persian Gulf oil shiekdoms.

    I think you are making some big assumptions here based on pretty flimsy evidence. What happens if and when the Saudi royal family loses control is anyone’s guess. And will be greatly affected by what causes the royal family to loose their grip on the country.

    I’d add only one other thing to that. You’ve got a really lousy track record of predicting what’s currently happening, much less what will happen in the future in the middle east.

  36. Davebo,

    It is generally admitted now that the Saud regime is going down – the real question is what happens afterwards. Two factors are crucial there – the legitimacy of a successor regime, and the truly unusual nature of the labor force there.

    John R. Bradley unknowingly addressed the former in his Saudi Arabia Exposed – the tribal affiliations of the Saud people are collapsing fast. Additionally the Saud clan has had a long-standing policy of co-opting, destroying or exiling every possible person outside their clan who might help form a sucessor regime.

    Absent “legitimacy“, no SA successor state will last long.

    The labor force issue is that the Saud clan has also intentionally kept the Saud people from participating in the labor force – the place is a gigantic welfare state where almost everyone is dependent on regime handouts. Consider that something like six million of the @ 26 million people in Saudi Arabia are foreign workers, and that the foreign workers compose the great majority of the total labor force.

    And the foreign workers will go home when they cease being paid, i.e., when the oil income ceases and the Saud clan hijacks the treasury as they leave for foreign parts.

    The Saud population flat out lacks the skills and discipline necessary to operate the civil infrastructure required to support a locally born population of 20 million in the truly hostile environment of the central Arabian peninsula.

    In addition to the slaughter ensuing from a breakdown of order.

    The locally born population of SA won’t stay in place to die. They’ll stampede to areas where there is order, potable water, food supplies, etc. Those will tend to be on the coasts, including the Persian Gulf coast. Such a wave of refugees will swamp the tiny Gulf oil sheikdoms and break down order there. But those sheikdoms have oil and so we’ll take those over.

  37. Dave Shuler,

    To whom was this directed?

    My apologies for being imprecise. I was not referring to Greg Djerejian. I was referring to Roger Cohen and all those on behalf of whom he writes.

  38. “Until then we’ll just fight a holding action – minimizing the damage done to us while we wait for events to break our way. Which will happen when the Saud regime collapses, and the tidal wave of their refugees destroys the Persian Gulf oil shiekdoms.”

    Tom I think your seeing strategy where there is none to be found. I find it hard to believe that an administration which barely saw five minutes past the fall of Baghdad would be thinking in such terms.

  39. Superior piece of writing and analysis.

    I came her via Greg’s angst ridden post and frankly, had no good answers to his very penetrating questions.

    I’ve been thrashing about on Iraq for months, trying to reconcile the mission with reality of what’s happening. Unfortunately, we get little help from the media – not, I hasten to add because of any cowardice or laziness on their part but rather because of the unique dangers of being a westerner in a part of the world where you are targeted simply for that reason. And because they are forced to rely on various stringers and informants, there is simply no way to give context to what is going on there.

    What does dribble out from those who don’t seem to have much of a political agenda is a country in enormous pain, a place of shattered hopes and dreams where our presence is slowly becoming irrelevant to the everyday lives of the people. We can’t protect them. They know that. And they resent it.

    We are trapped – whether you believe by bad policy decisions or by circumstances it doesn’t matter. Going forward would require more political will (more troops?) than has been demonstrated in a long time. Going back is easy but is complicated by the fact that Iraq would surely become a terrorist magnet and something of a failed state. And always, looming on the horizon, is the presence of Iran and a nuclear threat the likes of which the world has never faced.

    I am at a loss about what to do. And frankly, I don’t trust the present crew at the Pentagon or the White House to guide us through safely to the other side.

  40. Why is the status quo untenable for the immediate (3-5 year) future? Surely its not desireable, not to mention ideal, but it seems to me that most people outside of the real angry fringe feel that abandoning Iraq is a nonstarter, and putting the resources necessary to really turn the place around is both politically questionable and probably too late to anything but cause more harm?

    I feel like there is a pretty strong mainstream current accepting the stay the course argument for the moment, but I think somebody needs to step up and say we need to be in Iraq for a long time, and things probably arent going to materially improve for our forces and casualties any time soon, but… we have a powerful military and a great nation and we can endure it. The English endured Northern Ireland for decades, for instance. In the meantime we could start taking rebuilding seriously- although we are now forced to work with the Iraqi elected bureacracy that has learned mountains about corruption and ineptitude from our own reconstruction follies. Staying the course seems the least bad of all the bad options. Its just not going to turn around in 6 months or 2 years. Horribly its our soldiers that are paying the price for some lousy execution of not well thought out policies vis-a-vis the rebuilding and handover of Iraq.

  41. “They got tired of America’s insatiable need for an enemy; suspicious of the talk of freedom and democracy and morality in which every struggle was cast; forgetful of the liberty preserved by such might; alarmed at the American fear that appeared to fire American aggression; and disdainful of the distance between declarations and deeds.

    In short they stopped buying the American narrative”

    There’s nothing more irksome than a diatribe against the American habit of being America-myopic that relies so completely on what America has and hasnt done in and to the world. In other words “The world is sick of America being so focused on itself and i’ll prove it by describing all of America’s failings around the world.”

    We have tried letting the world fend for itself, many, many times. It always ends horribly badly. When we are proactive things dont always (or often) end perfectly, but they rarely end as catastrophically as they did in the World Wars or other instances where we took our foot off the gas and tried to let ‘the world’ in on its own policing. Ask Tibet, or Iran, or Eastern Europe, or the Balkans, or Rwanda.

  42. Hey – GREAT to hear this from you A.L.!

    _I actually think it’s a decade-long project to know whether we’ll win in this iteration or not. So “six years” was a rhetorical flourish. I do think that seven years from now, this battle will be decided._

    In fact, I have a project I want you to contribute to –

    in the name of freedom, I am going to be working with some sign providers – and we are going to be papering Iraq with various slogans –

    “FreeDAM not IsLAM”
    “Get out the vote!”
    “Peace is the answer!”

    And other various slogans – contributions accepted!

    Now, with luck, papering these slogans all over Iraq will change the culture there. I figure we should have peace in about 10 years.

    But I need your help – you need to contribute at least 5 million a year to the cause.

    As I’ve said, don’t really look for any type of accountability – any accountability moment is at least 10 years out – and I am SO GLAD you are “with it” on that timescale of accountability!

    Just trust me – it will be great!

  43. #42 hypocrisyrules

    Once again you find the opportunity to read what you expect. Thanks for maintaining your standards.

    I’m sure your obdurate, nay, insurmountable equivocation of outcome and accountability — terms which lesser beings would distinguish — will serve you in good stead in whatever echo chambers you frequent away from WoC.

    Spare us the outreach, please. You’ve proven you are morally impeccable and fit to judge your lessers. Indeed, you are clearly the only person in existence with any moral clarity whatsoever. I bow before your majesty. Everyone who doesn’t burn with your flame will surely be tormented by eternal hellfire and damnation — of a secular sort, to be sure. Your work here is done.

    Have a nice day.

    Somewhere else.

  44. Dave,

    I didn’t say this was an official or unofficial strategy of the Bush administration. My point was that the Arabs’ oil income perpetuates the conditions which create an endless succession of replacement terrorists – that the fever swamp which is Arab culture will keep sprouting new terrorists as long as their birth culture has significant unearned income. Not to mention that their oil income also funds the terrorists.

    But I also said that the coming collapse of the Saud regime will end this situation.

    The Saud clan has had two for-real strategies for the past 30 years which I also described. The first is that they have continuously eliminated, co-opted or exiled everyone with the skills and political legitimacy required by a replacement regime. This is to keep us from creating a viable replacement regime if we ever decide to ditch the Saud clan.

    The one potential set of replacement regime personnel the Saudis could not eliminate – the dominant clans of the non-Saud tribes, has had its power so eroded, due to a more general collapse of tribal affiliations in SA overall, that IMO those too are incapable of providing the personnel required for a nation-wide replacement regime.

    This is the point Davebo failed to grasp – he thinks of SA as a typical Middle Eastern state, but it isn’t. He is not familiar with this first Saud regime-protection strategy. So I pointed it out to him. He’ll either have an open mind about this assumption or he won’t.

    The second Saud regime-protection strategy here is their use of oil income to create a welfare state as opposed to a functioning economy, as the latter would entail creation of a middle class which could in time pose a threat to their autocratic rule. The Saud regime doesn’t want significant portions of their population to have income sources beyond the regime’s control, which private income certainly would be. The Saud regime instead wants as much of their population as possible to be dependent upon government handouts.

    So they use many millions of short-term foreign workers to do the real work of creating and operating the massive civil infrastructure required for 20 million locally born to survive in an environment as hostile as that in Saudi Arabia.

    These two intentional Saud regime-protection strategies combined have IMO created an unavoidable demographic catastrophe when the Saud regime loses power – rampant political instability and disorder (regular meetings of the Regime Of The Month Club, widespread violence, etc.) and massive economic collapse.

    It is an error to assume that a change of regime in Saudi Arabia will follow the normal Middle Eastern pattern. The Saud regime has been following consistent policies for the past 30 years designed to maximize the catastrophe for everyone when they lose power.

  45. Tom;

    All the predictions you’re making about the future of Saudi Arabia are good ones, and entirely plausible,.
    What I don’t buy is that the West/U.S will see it coming and be ready to act on it in the ways you assume they will.
    I suppose a lot depends on the timeline, and how long peoples memories are.

  46. Dave,

    John Bradley, author of Saudi Arabia Exposed, says that the U.S. and Britain have had plans and forces ready for thirty years to seize the oil-producing/exporting region of Saudia Arabia.

    I haven’t said anything about preparations beyond that. I doubt there are any. IMO we should make some.

    The French, IMO, have planned on giving refuge to as much of the Saud clan as possible when the time comes, and in particular to their stolen money. The “Fair Maid of Money” will be a welcome refugee. Something like $900 billion will be up for grabs. I can see the novels and movies about scamming the exiled Sauds and their stashes now.

  47. Nortius,

    Boy, you use such fine and pretty language!

    Of course, the only content worth a penny in that comment was – “insurmountable equivocation of outcome and accountability — terms which lesser beings would distinguish”.

    Well, sure enough. There’s a difference. In the end, final outcomes are in the hands of God, or fate, or whatever.

    But God also helps those who help themselves.

    Given that, guess what? “Accountability” matters.

    Trashing the constitution, matters. Misleading to war, matters. Not sending enough troops to support the occupation, matters.

    All this is old hat now, and not really debated by those paying attention. It’s time to take off the ideological blinders you use – you are going to hurt yourself stumbling around like that!

  48. hypocrisyrules writes:

    “Trashing the constitution, matters. Misleading to war, matters. Not sending enough troops to support the occupation, matters.

    All this is old hat now, and not really debated by those paying attention. ”

    All of that(*) are myths. And was never “debated”, just partisan propaganda repeated ad infinitum without factual basis. I find the nonsense about “trashing” the Constitution especially ignorant given the real “trashing” of the Constitution done during the 20th Century. Mostly by Democrat Presidents.

    The failure of Democrats to engage in serious, adult discussion of the War on Terror has done this nation irreparable harm.

    (*) The matter of troop numbers is perhaps arguable, but hardly established. Controlling the size of the US footprint in Iraq was always a rational decision which you intentionally misrepresent.

  49. freeto wrote: “2) Humans by nature fight each other for dominance, always have, and probably always will. I’d suggest to Djerejian that the reason he perceives the US to always be at war, unlike some nations, is simply because the US has had the money and resources to do so, especially in a flashy way, while many nations simply exhaust themselves (money and resources) much earlier. We fight because we can. Just like other people do, when they are able.”

    Whereas I would suggest that at least in the post-WW2 period, the US has been consistently at war, in one way or another, not because it wants dominance but because others want to take its dominance away from it.

    AL, regarding your line about a six-year war rather than a six-month war, way back when the invasion of Iraq first occurred and I first started seeing people complaining about “how long it was taking to rebuild Iraq,” I dove into my general-history books and looked at how long, and how many attempts, it took for various nations to transition from autocracy to functioning democracy. A few of the examples I found:

    * After World War I, the Weimar Republic of Germany never established a stable democratic government.

    * In WW2, it took France nearly a full year after liberation to establish a proper elected government. And the Fourth Republic proved so unstable that twelve years later it was scrapped and replaced with the Fifth Republic.

    * After WW2, it took a year for Japan to establish a new constitution, and six years before the Allied military occupation officially ended.

    * After WW2, it took four years for West Germany to create a democratic government.

    * Great Britain gave independence to India in 1947; it was 1952 before India held democratic national elections.

    * England took a couple of centuries and a couple of civil wars to transition from monarchy to democracy.

    Even we ourselves, the mighty United States of America, took six years and two attempts to create a democratic government that could stand the test of time. Anybody remember the fiasco that was the Articles of Confederation?

    Am I concerned about which way Iraq will go? Absolutely. I’d be stupid if I wasn’t concerned. Do I think we should label the Iraq experiment a failure because it isn’t a utopia yet? Absolutely not. We should give them at least the same chance we gave ourselves.

  50. Interesting! One guy says that nobody who’s been paying attention denies it, and somebody immediately pops up and denies it.

    Robin Roberts argues that the Constitution *really* got trashed back in the 20th century. Wouldn’t we all agree that the big imperative now is to untrash it?

    Surely there’s no doubt about the “misleading to war” stuff. Of course Johnson misled us into Vietnam. It’s too soon to say whether the result this time will be worse.

    The number of troops needed for the occupation is of course a matter of opinion. There were some expert opinions presented on that during the planning, and Rumsfeld ignored them. It’s still a matter of opinion whether we have enough troops there. I’ve heard people say that we have enough troops in iraq, that if we had more they’d only be targets. But then I have to wonder, how many troops does it take before adding any more is just adding targets? Certainly the number of troops that would minimise the targets is zero….

  51. Reality check:

    “…the economic straits we have spent and borrowed ourselves into as a nation…”

    Our debt is not historically high, nor is it anywhere near the levels of most of the industrial world. It has been declining this year, in fact, relative to GDP. Recessions follow attempts to pay down the debt rapidly, as the most recent experience shows. It puts a pinch on the money supply. As a matter of fact, a moderate deficit is necessary to promote growth. We are much better off with high growth and a moderate deficit than we would be with no growth and no deficit. Furthermore, failing to run a large deficit in times of economic downturns is suicidal. A fetish with balancing the budget is what led to the Great Depression, and will lead to one again if we keep on riding this horse. The national economy is not anything like your personal finances. The government is a unique player in the economic arena to which the same rules simply do not apply. Chill out, everyone, and take a few courses in economics before you pontificate on matters of great subtlety and complexity. The US economic situation is just fine.

    And, by the way, to some of the commentors previous, there is no energy source today which can begin to replace the prodigious amounts of energy locked in those long organic molecules in oil save one: direct mass to energy conversion via nuclear power. Those are the choices. Deal with it.

  52. “And I do think it’s the strongest influence on our behavior and attitude toward this war. And, I believe that once it is gone – once the delusion of invulnerability slips away – we will be more brutal and bestial than the worst opponents of the wars today imagine us to be in their fevered dreams.

    I’m reminded of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles – when my devoutly liberal friends suddenly spouted a core of racist invective and anger, and when they were enraged that I wouldn’t lend them guns because I thought they were unhinged with fear and rage.”

    This is the most interesting thing I’ve read all day.. Especially that last bit, the hypocrisy is delightful.. Ban all _your_ guns until the natives get restless, then it’s hunting season… I doubt without appropriate instruction and practice all those liberal friends would be disarmed pretty quickly anyway..

  53. To be completely honest, I’m becoming increasingly discouraged – not so much by what’s going on over here (Note: for me, “over here” is Iraq), but back there.

    The Bush Administration’s two key flaws, inarticulateness (of which Bush himself is only the emblem) and ideological experimentation (which led to some brilliant successes, but also some catastrophic failures, and the latter have had ripple effects), combined with the “gotcha-at-all-costs”, “politics starts at the water’s edge” attitude of the opposition, which does (with honorable exceptions that are noteworthy for how few they are and how the vitriol directed at them by their own side rivals that which is directed at Bush himself) see everything in terms of a domestic political calculus, is disturbing.

    We’re on a six-to-ten-year time horizon to success but with a crew that’s doing all it can to hold on for just the next two years, and given the trajectory of things it’s difficult to see how what follows will be the Peter Beinart’s undertaking “The Good Fight”

    This piece is very telling:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/dhenninger/?id=110008458

    “The greatest danger at this moment is that the American public will decide it wants to pull back because it has concluded that when the U.S. goes in, it always gets hung out to dry. . .

    Good for Democrats? Don’t count on it. After this, the public appetite for a Democratic president’s “humanitarian” military intervention in a Darfur or East Timor will be close to zero.”

    All the result of people seeking to use problems and mistakes in the war to pursue short-term, narrow partisan advantage (while claiming that it is the other side doing that – a classic case of projection).

  54. “Am I concerned about which way Iraq will go? Absolutely. I’d be stupid if I wasn’t concerned. Do I think we should label the Iraq experiment a failure because it isn’t a utopia yet? Absolutely not. We should give them at least the same chance we gave ourselves.”

    Its a good point. Its ridiculous to expect the place to turn into Switzerland overnight. That said, there are legitimate criticisms of the way this whole business has been handled which have not been acknowledged by the parties involved. Under the circumstances, I can’t blame people for becoming sceptical over the idea.

  55. J Thomas,
    You miss the point entirely.

    First, if you acknowledged that the recent past of Democrat presidents at war held far far worse constitutional infractions, you might have some credibility in criticizing the Bush administration. But, second, you would have to also concede that what the Bush administration is doing is – at worst – literally trivial violations in comparison, and – at best – no violation at all.

    The rhetoric is such a misrepresentation that it is basically false.

  56. Robin, I haven’t seen evidence to support your claims. I’d be interested, if you have links to somebody who develops the ideas at length or even if you just want to go over the main points yourself.

    I don’t see that recent democrats at war have done constitutional infractions worse than what Bush is doing now. They may have led the way but the current administration hasn’t retreated but continues to do the same things and more. I’d be interested to find out I’m wrong about that, though.

    Some of the worst excesses of the Drug War came while democrats were in power. That one looks kind of bipartisan to me, though.

    I still think the important thing is to reverse the constitutional trashing, more than to decide exactly who’s at fault.I’m ready to support good candidates from either party, despite what both parties have done in the past But I’m kind of concerned about Republican party discipline. They seem to be particularly good at making sure republican legislators vote the party line whether they’re good or not. The Democrats appear more disorganised which allows more scope for good (and for bad too, though I’ll vote against that when I see it.)

    With the Constitution at stake it isn’t time for political bickering. Patch up the torn Constitution with help from anybody who wants that. Argue later about who’s more responsible for tearing it up in the first place.

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