Saturday, April 15, 2006

Operation Kevlar Turban™: The Rollout

Seldom do the esteemed members of the Chimpco foreign policy team look as coordinated as they do when they're busily trying to desensitize an already numb American public to the prospect of another pre-emptive war. As with the subtitles of most bad sequels, This Time It's Nucular.

And already the marketing rollout has taken on that antiseptic sheen, the promise of a new day, a day in which a war can be waged cleanly and efficiently, without all those problematic pictures of hapless children, accidentally incinerated or shredded by errant daisy cutters. When those images perchance invade our nightly cocoon of commercials for hemorrhoid cremes and SUVs, safely ensconced within carefully chosen missives designed to further condition an already cynical populace, Our Leaders get a bit nervous. After all they, unlike most of us, know about Hume's Paradox, that force is always on the side of the governed, that if the control systems fail for them this time around, they might end up having to work for a living, or worse.

Fortunately for them, their control systems do have a great deal of effectiveness. For example, name one corporate media outlet that has portrayed this tiresome sabre-rattling with Tehran as anything but necessary rhetoric responding to a bellicose jerk elected under somewhat suspicious circumstances, who says he's been appointed by God to initiate conflict with the infidels.

Rather than point out the painfully obvious -- that this gang could find a way to fuck up a shit sandwich, that they've fucked up every single policy initiative, domestic and foreign, that they've attempted. With a Republican Congress, a largely complaisant and cowed opposition party, and a previously sympathetic post-9/11 public sentiment, they still managed to fuck up everything they've tried, from Iraq to Katrina to Medicare to the educational system. Nothing is worth doing unless it can be done in bad faith, apparently, by larding the appropriate commissions with useless cronies and spending more time selling the snake oil than bottling it.

So why the hell would an attack on Iran be any different, especially considering the fact that Iran is actually capable of defending itself, and we have long ago used up all our wolf cards? That is how a responsible media entity should be framing this nonsense, and that is exactly the approach they will never take. Why? Who knows? Maybe they're afraid of losing their cocktail weenie privileges, of no longer being invited to party with all the kewl kidz.

Or maybe the reason is much more plain and in our faces, that they, like their more blatant counterparts in the professional commentariat, know better, but they also know that that's where the money is, and the truth be damned. Pick an issue, any issue, and check the proportionate level of commentary. If you have an immigration rally of, say, 500,000 people demonstrating, and 200 or so counterprotesters to one side burning a Mexican flag in a bout of nativist paranoia, who will be the invited pundits to comment on this? Well, chances are that there will be one pro and one con, as if both sides were objectively and demonstratively equal, or you get one hard-right Pat Buchanan nativist/isolationist/closet racist, and one mealy-mouthed appeasing Joe Lieberman type who Just Wants Us All To Get Along.

Applying this "news commentary" model to any given issue, and keeping the extremely misproportioned level of debate intact, quickly reveals the systemic problem here. There is always a thumb on the scale.

Today's grandiose thumb of commentary, courtesy of Ron at Center Face and endless rehashings of the Peloponnesian War, is provided by the always hilarious Sage of Fresno, the lovely and talented VD Hanson. Ron performed a pretty surgical fisking of this chump already, but as he points out, I loves me some Hanson, so let's continue the pile-on.

Currently, there are many retired generals appearing in frenetic fashion on television. Sometimes they hype their recent books, or, as during the three-week war, offer sharp interviews about our supposed strategic and operational blunders in Iraq — imperial hubris, too few troops, wrong war, wrong place, and other assorted lapses.

Apart from the ethical questions involved in promoting a book or showcasing a media appearance during a time of war by offering an "inside" view unknown to others of the supposedly culpable administration of the military, what is striking is the empty nature of these controversies rehashed ad nauseam.

VD hits the ground running with his disingenuousness. First is his passive-aggressive dismissal of expert voices via the throwaway riff of "the three-week war", as if the subsequent three-years-and-counting had fuck-all to do with anything. Second is his insinuation that the generals talking out of school is less than ethical. This actually has some truth to it, but not for reasons useful to Hanson's plaintive jeremiad du jour. The "ethical questions" Hanson alludes to arise more from the fact that these ex post facto on-camera assessments provided by the generals might have had more utility to the troops under their command while they were still commanding them.

It's a problematic situtation any way you slice it, to be sure -- a civilian leadership that lets itself get pushed around by the military can end up as little more than the public arm of a junta in a banana republic. Still, Colin Powell is welcome to kiss my entire ass, okay? He knew that what he was doing was wrong, and yet he waltzed right into the UN, forcing the abject theater of covering up Guernica, and unfolded his little dog-and-pony show vetted through Curveball. And now he wants a do-over. Nice try, Chief.

(Oh, and by the way, as far as Hanson's sneering at the generals' putative book-pimping is concerned, be sure to read VD's byline at the bottom of the column, which, uh, pimps his most recent treatise on -- you guessed it, the Peloponnesian War.)

Imagine that, as we crossed the Rhine, retired World War II officers were still harping, in March, 1945, about who was responsible months during Operation Cobra for the accidental B-17 bombing, killing, and wounding of hundreds of American soldiers and the death of Lt. Gen. Leslie McNair; or, in the midst of Matthew Ridgeway's Korean counteroffensives, we were still bickering over MacArthur's disastrous intelligence lapses about Chinese intervention that caused thousands of casualties. Did the opponents of daylight bombing over Europe in 1943 still damn the theories of old Billy Mitchell, or press on to find a way to hit Nazi Germany hard by late 1944?

The implication here, for those of us too dense to get VD's meat-cleaver allegorical subtleties, is that victory is imminent; why are we still worrying about the few eggs we dropped en route to the foregone conlusion of success? Is there some special news channel that only Hanson and Bush get? I mean, even Faux News hasn't been this pathetically blindered, have they?

First of all, whatever one thinks about Iraq, the old question of whether Iraq and al Qaeda enjoyed a beneficial relationship is moot — they did. The only area of post facto disagreement is over to what degree did Iraqi knowledge of, or support for, the first World Trade Center bombing, al Qaedists in Kurdistan, sanctuary for the Afghan jihadists, or, as was recently disclosed by postbellum archives, Saddam's interest in the utility of Islamic terror, enhance operations against the United States.

Substitute "Pakistan" for "Iraq", and see if you can figure out what the difference is in the argument. I'll give you a clue -- it's an n-word that the preznit can't pronounce. Even a Fresno State perfesser should be able to understand that Iran sees that we invaded Iraq on false pretenses, while leaving Pakistan -- a country that had neck-deep involvement in 9/11 -- completely untouched, because one had the bomb and the other had bupkis.

And when some terrorist cell finally does get a bomb, and it has Abdul Qadeer Khan's fingerprints all over it, I fully expect assholes like Hanson to whinge that we simply must take care of the Iranian Problem, all the while artlessly dodging Pakistan's complicity. Suffice to say that everything in Hanson's above paragraph is either pure speculation, flat-out untrue, or far more true when applied to Pakistan, who again mysteriously managed to completely avoid being the casus belli scapegoat in all this. I mean, bin Laden has been hiding there for several years now, many of the al Qaeda recruits were trained there, and Pakisatan's intel chief was found to have wired $100K to Mohammed Atta, even as he sat there at breakfast on 9/11/01 with Porter Goss and Bob Graham and looked them right in the eye. Yeah, Pakistan's a friend like syphilis is.

Second, the old no-blood-for-oil mantra of petroleum conspiracy is over with. Gas skyrocketed after the invasion — just as jittery oil executives warned before the war that it would. Billions of petroleum profits have piled up in the coffers of the Middle East. Secret Baathist oil concessions to Russia and France were voided. Oil-for-Food was exposed. And the Iraqi oil industry came under transparent auspices for the first time. The only area of controversy that could possibly still arise would have to come from the realist right. It would run something like this: "Why, in our zeal for reform, did we upset fragile oil commerce with a dictator that proved so lucrative to the West and international oil companies?"

Yes, the oil companies have really taken it in the shorts, haven't they? Why, look what's happened to that poor ol' mom-and-pop operation down the street, ExxonMobil:

Under Mr. Raymond, the company's market value increased fourfold to $375 billion, overtaking BP as the largest oil company and General Electric as the largest American corporation. Net income soared from $4.8 billion in 1992 to last year's record-setting $36.13 billion.

Shareholders benefited handsomely on Mr. Raymond's watch. The price of Exxon's shares rose an average of 13 percent a year. The company, now known as Exxon Mobil, paid $67 billion in total dividends.

For his efforts, Mr. Raymond, who retired in December, was compensated more than $686 million from 1993 to 2005, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Brian Foley, an independent compensation consultant. That is $144,573 for each day he spent leading Exxon's "God pod," as the executive suite at the company's headquarters in Irving, Tex., is known.

Despite the company's performance, some Exxon shareholders, academics, corporate governance experts and consumer groups were taken aback this week when they learned the details of Mr. Raymond's total compensation package, including the more than $400 million he received in his final year at the company.

Hard times, my friends. If only the preznit had kept the little guys at Exxon in mind before running off on his little idealistic Crusade O' Jeebus' Love. When, oh when will someone be brave enough to step up and speak for the oppressed petroleum companies? Only the Cockpuncher of Thermopylae knows for sure.

A third dead-end subject is Iran. The Bush administration is hardly hell-bent on preemption, unilateralism, and imperial grandeur in blocking Iran's rapid ascendance to nuclear status.

Instead, there are, and always were, only three bad choices. First, we could let the multilateral Europeans jawbone, using the cowboy George Bush as the bad-cop foil while drawing in the United Nations, the Russians, and the Chinese, or the Arab League, in hopes of delay. Perhaps as we bought time we could pray that after 26 years either the Iranians would liberalize their regime or the democratic experiment in Iraq would prove destabilizing to the neighboring mullahs.

Yeah well, that Churchill fella -- you know, the father of the preznit, to hear Hanson and his ilk rub their musk glands on and on about it -- was known for the old "jaw-jaw is always better than war-war" bit. So yes, perhaps we press on with the tiresome, glacial procession of negotiations at this moment in time, unless Pierce Bush is signing up for combat duty, in which case we're listening.

The second tact [sic -- even a Fresno State hack should know the difference between "tact" and "tack"] was live with a nuclear Iran as if it were a Pakistan — and perhaps hope that something like a nuclear democratic India emerged next door to deter it.

Okay, let's break this little chunk down and walk it back, shall we? First is the obvious -- we have found a way to live with both India and Pakistan as nuclear powers (again, the latter of which has a demonstrably virulent anti-American streak). Second is that Iran, if Hanson is allowed access to a map at his cow college, is next to Pakistan. Third, and more to the point, Iran is sandwiched between two simultaneous American wars initiated against Iran's fellow Islamic nations (that would be Iraq and Afghanistan, for those of you who took a class from Hanson). What the holy hell did we think they were going to do -- invite us over for pork chops and tequila?

The third choice, of course, was to tarry until the last possible moment and then take out the installations before the missiles were armed. The rationale behind that nightmarish gambit would be that the resulting mess — collateral damage, missed sites, enhanced terrorism, dirty-bomb suicide bombers, Shiite fervor in Iraq, and ostracism by the world community — was worth the price to stop a nuclear theocracy before it blackmailed the West, took de facto control of the Middle East oil nexus, nuked Israel, or spread global jiahdist fundamentalism through intimidation.

Christ, don't these people ever run out of precious bodily fluids with which to wet their rhetorical bed? You'd think they'd be too dehydrated to move at this point, and perhaps they are. One day we will have to dig the warbloggers' (and that's all Hanson is when you get right down to it, a pedigreed warblogger) desiccated corpses out of their parents' basements, perhaps saving the swept Cheetos crumbs for posterity.

I try to read a newspaper oh, every month or so. I'll be damned if I have heard a peep out of Israel on any of this. Israel's nuclear arsenal is reputed to be in the 200-300 range, of operable warheads. If you have a gun cabinet full of AK-47s and M-16s and the like, and the crazy fuck down the road gets a .22, yeah, you might keep an extra eye on him, and maybe even lock your doors at night. But you're not going to run over there like an asshole and perforate him in the middle of the night while he's sleeping, unless you're even nuttier than you think he is.

As for control of oil, that may even be Iran's real goal. But you know what? It's time we got serious about weaning ourselves from that tit anyway. Something that Hanson's dark masters at NRO spouted off on the other day was prime grade-A bullshit right along this particular vein [emphasis mine]:

Not only does Iran's wealth come from oil — which no importing country is ascetic enough to deny itself....

Okay, this is a level of disingenuous that makes Hanson, in his twee Serious Thinker pastiche, look like a rank piker. First is the typical neocon trope of equating even basic common-sense conservation steps with Pol Pot-style enforced agrarian asceticism, or at bare minimum the smug, insufferable posturing at the very notion of using less of an ever-scarcer resource that comes mostly from a very unstable region. Let's see -- gas was over $3 last summer, we are in a disastrous war in Iraq, the political climate in Afghanistan has turned back against us, and we're seriously discussing a nuclear first strike against Iran. And we still refuse to conserve. It's nice that Prius sales are up and Hummer sales are down. I seriously doubt that they're correlated; I would be surprised to find a Prius owner who had previously owned a Hummer or an Excursion. I wager that the vast majority of them drove Volvos and Accords before moving to the hybrid. The point is that if that is the aggregate movement, then it is static from a conservation standpoint. I think the SUV owners are holding out for the promise of sweet, sweet domestically-produced ethanol, blissfully unaware that the EROEI on ethanol is dramatically lower than that of petroleum, and thus will either require much higher prices or (gasp!) government subsidies.

Do you want to subsidize these cocksuckers' compensatory vehicle follies? I sure as hell don't. If Hanson and the rest of the NRO hackerati want to pay for it, and crow about the magic of the free marketplace and the Holy Grail of free choice at all costs, let them. But the bottom line that the NRO editors elide in the above excerpt is that we could conserve enough to make a real dent in our level of energy dependence, without us all having to ride broke-down Schwinns to work like a bunch of worker ants from a Mao-era propaganda film. It is not nutty utopian asceticism to point out that our current level of consumption is wildly unsustainable. It's not even close. This is actually good news of a sort; it means there's a lot of room to close the gap, with relatively modest pain. It might mean that you can no longer drive a hotel room to the supermarket, but either you care about the troops, or you just say that you care about them.

Equally fossilized is the "more troops" debate. Whatever one's views about needing more troops in 2003-5, few Democratic senators or pundits are now calling for an infusion of 100,000 more Americans into Iraq. While everyone blames the present policy, no one ever suggests that current positive trends — a growing Iraqi security force and decreasing American deaths in March — might possibly be related to the moderate size of the American garrison forces.

Of course, more American troops have already been killed in April than in all of March, and Iraqi forces have been defecting in droves and engaging in revenge killings under color of authority, but what's a few details between fellow kool-aid drinkers?

More troops might have brought a larger footprint that made peacekeeping easier — but also raised a provocative Western profile in an Islamic country. More troops may have facilitated Iraqization — or, in the style of Vietnam, created perpetual dependency. More troops might have shortened the war and occupation — or made monthly dollar costs even higher, raised casualties, and ensured that eventual troop draw-downs would be more difficult. More troops might have bolstered U.S. prestige through a bold show of power — or simply attenuated our forces elsewhere, in Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and Europe, and invited adventurism by our enemies. Too few troops were the fault of the present Administration — or the chickens that came home to roost after the drastic cutbacks in the post-Cold war euphoria of the 1990s.

That one paragraph contains so much bullshit, so many instances of sheer intellectual irresponsibility, that only my desire to not protract this too much further keeps me from fisking it by the sentence, if not by specific phrases -- and indeed, Ron does exactly that in his fisking of Hanson's nonsense.

So let me just make this point about the "more troops" argument: Rumsfeld and Cheney were warned over and over again, in the pre-war planning phase, that more troops would be needed, not for the actual war, but for the post-bellum occupation phase. They knew this, they had been warned, they forced Shinseki out for warning them, and then they proceeded to do exactly what they were warned about -- let the army regulars melt into the woodwork with their weapons and ordnance, let looting go on unabated, get to repairing infrastructure long after it was too late. The lack of troops was not a condition caused by Clinton-era cutbacks and base closings, it was specifically an operative policy dictate from Rumsfeld. That Hanson even bothers trying to gloss over something that is so easily refuted in the public record is indication of either his stupidity, his cynicism, or his outright intellectual dishonesty. Probably all of the above.

And yeah, we weren't prepared for the chaos of fourth-generation warfare, and perhaps there is a touch of hindsight in scrutinizing how Afghanistan was handled in the immediate post-Taliban phase. But we were also willfully ignorant of recent history, that the Taliban came to power precisely because we had made a Cold War-era deal with the devil, and that fostering the Northern Alliance as a replacement for the Taliban was just another deal with another devil. Perhaps there was indeed no way to do Afghanistan perfectly right, but it seems to have gone back to horrifically wrong in a relatively short period of time. Much of this seems to be due to Pakistan's rather cynical (to put it diplomatically) use of its mountain borders and adjacent regions. And our idea of leaning on them is to give India a ludicrous nukes-for-mangoes deal that is getting laughed out of the (once again) Republican congress.

But to bring it all full circle, I reiterate what I said earlier, what needs to be tattooed on the foreheads of Hanson and his fellow chickenhawk tubthumpers -- even if you are able to make a solid case for action against Iran, why in the hell would you trust these idiots not to fuck it up like they have every other thing they've touched?


jj said...

write a book! too much to read on the screen. tho it do look brilliant.

Heywood J. said...

The book is coming out just as soon as Regnery comes through with that wingnut welfare dough they promised. It will be a compliation of the archives, which makes it less labor-intensive, but more coffee-table friendly.

freq flag said...

Yeah, lots of points to cover, but "energy independence" is a major concept at the center of this whole shitstorm.

Basically, every president and his administration needs to confront it, plus it's usually a significant plank in the platform of both parties during the presidential campaign.

The consistent, unwavering Republican/RW position has always been a spiteful dismissal of conservation and alternatives to crude oil as girly-man, namby-pamby, therapeutic, tree-hugger solutions favored only by America-hating, unhinged lefties. The only true, git-er-done, America-fuck-yeah energy policy worth a shit is "kick their ass and take their gas"--anything else is a bunch of PC, terrorist-appeasing crap coming from a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals who criticize their beloved DimSon for mispronouncing the word nuclear.

The seeds of this core value were sown during the Carter administration, and it became a little-acknowledged but powerful source of Reagan's "Morning in America" appeal.

This sentiment applies not only to the pry-it-from-my-cold-dead-hands allegiance to Hummers and monster trucks, but also extends to NASCAR and any other activity that flagrantly thumbs its nose at any recognition of market forces at work (e.g. Peak Oil). The only market force that they can grasp is Might Makes Right--we got the most firepower, so we should get the most oil.

Anybody who objects is un-American; anybody who gets in our way gets fried.

You got a problem wit' dat?
Mebbe a little white phosphorous dropped on your ass will improve your attitude.