Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I'm inclined...

21 Comments:

Blogger Don said...

I'm not. Surprised?

He writes very well but his assertion that this President doesn't feel is founded only on his disagreement with the war. Of course it's true that Eisenhower knew death, had seen death, had personally sent thousands of men to their deaths, whereas Bush is a country-club lightweight. But Bush is known for a strong and sincere personal empathy. It doesn't translate well the way he consorts before the cameras, not nearly so well as Clinton's expertly faking it in "townhall meetings". But Doctorow's fundamental point really isn't just anti-Bush or anti-war.

Clue: "he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty"

Feel? For who? I know this could sound crazy, especially since I can't back it up right now, but true poverty in this country is nearly a myth, when something like 50% of people "in poverty" have air conditioning and 90% have a car. And what's with his disingenuous "us"?

"But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind."

I am beginning to understand this was the wrong war for the wrong reasons, finally; but those protestors knew no better. We were not ceding our role, but rather squandering our capital in a misunderstanding of it. To cede it means someone else has to pick it up. There is no one else.

Obviously I could go on forever on this sort of thing. :)

11:59 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Not at all. In fact, to be accurate, I don't really deeply agree with everything in there, but I do with his remarks on the war. I don't think it's based solely on being antiwar. It's based on how the war has been presented to the American public, on things like restricting access to the return of dead and wounded service members. It's based on Bush's behavior throughout the whole business. If it were just another antiwar rant, I'd probably not have bothered, but he brings up certain things that resonate, such as:

"He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to."

It was pretty clear that war was not the last option.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

By the way, where do you get your percentages?

4:23 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

In our country, it is practically required that you have a car. A/C is pretty commonplace as well. Places in the Texas and the midwest give away air conditioners to poor old people, like we used to give them window fans, when the weather gets lethal. Our poor have those things. I wish all that was required to lift someone out of poverty, and the mire that goes along with it, were those two things, but that is not so. Bush is out of touch. That's the point, and it's accurate enough. Most people who sit aruond and chat on the Internet are, too, to a lesser degree, I would hope, but we're all guilty.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

"He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to."
That's the chilling part. That, and that to so many people it makes sense.

-Baby boomer.

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Wiggy said...

He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.

This says it all. Thanks for sharing this, Harry - I'm passing it on.

but we're all guilty

Very good point, Roy.

And sorry to pick on you, Hip ;-) but...

But Bush is known for a strong and sincere personal empathy.

How do you know? And...

To cede it means someone else has to pick it up. There is no one else.

Semantics. Perhaps he meant the ceding was to something more nebulous (artistic license): moral decay... chaos...

8:58 AM  
Blogger Don said...

you go not because you want to but because you have to

How do you know when you really have to? Did Lincoln or Wilson really have to? Also, though intelligence has since pulled the rug out, Bush was right to say it will be far too late if we wait for a mushroom cloud over Manhattan; and concerning that intelligence, I'm still not inclined to say he lied rather than that he made a paranoid risk assessment on the few known facts. After all, his father's CIA supposedly missed the imminent collapse of the USSR. Intelligence of that sort requires big grains of salt and lots of risky judgment calls.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Don said...

By the way, where do you get your percentages?

Made 'em up. Oh wait, no. Here's a quote of a quote of a quote from billo's blog:

Some people may be surprised to learn that 50% of Americans defined by the government as “poor” have air conditioning, 60% have microwave ovens and VCRs, 70% have one or more cars, 72% have washing machines, 77% have telephones, 93% have at least one color television, and 98% have a refrigerator. Not only are poor Americans today better housed, better clothed, and better fed than average Americans were half a century ago, in many respects they live better than the average western European does today.

My point was only that invoking the 35 million "poor" in a country like ours points to a fundamental dishonesty of motive.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Don said...

How do you know?

I've gathered from several years of reading that he's very personable, and tends to build strong personal bridges with foreign leaders and common citizens alike. Clinton had a similar gift. It seems to be the era for such talents in a President. In other times, we liked 'em distant and dignified and "presidential".

He could talk to Mrs. Sheehan and they'd probably end up crying and praying together. But he shouldn't. Here's another take: WSJ (where else?)

10:45 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

"How do you know when you really have to?"

Well, in this case, when you have someone like Gen. Zinni (ret.) talking about how successful the bottling up of Saddam was, you have to think that another option was operating effectively while we turned our attention to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In other words, another option was lready in place and working.

As for intel, there were numerous uppoer level CIA people and MI5 people discussing the weakness of the intelligence. The Downing Street memo should tell you something about how the administration was handling it. To say the the CIA failed here is to buy the administration's line that it was handed bad intel. In fact, they had people telling them that the case for war was not strong. The "mushroom cloud over New York" was a blatant fear tactic. They didn't have anything to indicate that Saddam even had plans for such a thing.

Aside from all that, the manner in which they pushed the nation into the war with hopelessly bad planning in a rush to get it going, was in excusable. They've learned nothing from history, or maybe just didn't care.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Don said...

As for the ceding semantics, I get your point and that's undoubtedly what he meant. But we are fighting, at least nominally, for the freedom of a distant people. And the initial theory of this whole thing was to prevent the growth of an oil-rich nuclear power with the stated aim of damaging our country and/or the global economy such that our ability to stand as the last best hope is forever compromised. A poorer country can't defend anyone's freedom, even its own.

Iraq was the target of opportunity; Iran may be the greater threat. But like I said at top, given today's reality, we have to deal with Iran non-militarily. And considering the tenor of the Iranian population, they could evolve into a decent ally if we choose the path wisely. The mullahs are, after all, getting old ...

10:52 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

"Did Lincoln or Wilson really have to?"

In Lincoln's case, how long would the slave economy been sustainable in this country? I think he probably took a calculated risk, but I need to do more reading on it. As for Wilson, I think he had few choices remaining. If the U.S. was to be a presence on the world stage, it had to take a hand in the struggle in Europe. I think Wilson saw the importance of being tied to Europe, and didn;t he try to make sure that a reasonable peace reigned afterward? I don't think the war in Iraq even comes close to either the Civil War or WW1 in terms of scale or importance. Even looking at them both at their beginning, there was far more at stake. This Iraq War was clearly something the neocons had decided on a long time ago. 9/11 only provided an excuse.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

"And the initial theory of this whole thing was to prevent the growth of an oil-rich nuclear power with the stated aim of damaging our country and/or the global economy such that our ability to stand as the last best hope is forever compromised."

The Iran should've been the major target. Saddam's Iraq was in nowhereland because of the embargo. It was nothing more than an easy military target, with the potential for what we are seeing now. Is it any wonder the Gen. Scowcroft was sent by Daddy Bush to advise GW against invasion?

10:58 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Slavery would not have been economically or politically sustainable. In time, given more free states, a free-majority Senate would have outlawed it. Southerners would have seceded, without regard to Lincoln, over the prospect. Lincoln's peculiar genius was to wage a war as brutal as it had to be to prevent the secession. It wasn't to end slavery - it was to uphold a legal principle against secession that even today few people recognize or understand. So did he HAVE to go to war? No.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Don said...

You just stated that Wilson entered us into WWI to ensure America's position as a major player on the world stage. How cynical is that? Did he then HAVE to go to war? No and hell no.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Trouble with Iran being the target was it hadn't, and still hasn't, violated a shitload of UN resolutions, as Saddam consistently did. Nor has it made overt threats and taken overt actions against America and her allies, as Saddam did. Iraq made herself an easy target and even so, there was a lot of protest. It would have been politically impossible to drum up any support for a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

If you have to start a war, start one you can win.

You know, young Iran wants to integrate with the world economy and the aging mullahs need them to so they don't overthrow them. We can give them that economic connection by partnering with them in return for a reversal on its support for terrorists and help in settling down Iraq. We really don't need to war over Iran's nukes. Saddam was crazy - he needed a slapdown. Iran, different story.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Slavery was an issue for Lincoln. You can find it in speeches he gave as far back as the 1850s.

What would've happened in Europe had we not entered the war? A great portion of western civilization would've been crippled for more generations than it already was. We helped end it. I repeat, the case for war in both 1861 and 1917 was much stronger than in 2003.

As for Saddam, he HAD been slapped down...and contained effectively. Iran, meantime, actively suuported things like Hezbollah and had also stated a desire to bring down The Great Satan. Just because a pre-emptive war is easy is no reason to wage it. It might explain their motives, but it doesn't excuse them at all.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Yes, Lincoln was an abolitionist at heart but he didn't pursue the war on the slavery issue until after the first couple years, and then just to keep the Brits etc. from backing the South. That's what the Emanc. Proc. was all about: politics. My point was and is: He didn't HAVE to pursue the war. The CSA was not a threat to the remaining USA. Yet he did and we're glad he did. So my point was and remains that this business of only going to war when you "have" to is wide open to political interpretation, and Iraq really wasn't any further out of line than some, at least, of our others.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Don said...

What would've happened in Europe

I don't know. But in a sense it was Europe's Civil War, and we really didn't need to get involved. We could have dealt with the aftermath, though it didn't seem like it at the time, because we didn't have any idea yet just how unsafe the world was going to become for democracy. I wonder: The Bolsheviks would have come to power anyway, and the Kaiser would not have cared much for them. Maybe if we'd stayed out of the Great War, there'd have been another between Germany/Austria and the Russians in, say, the late 1920s. Japan might have picked on a weakened USSR, got to their oil and had less motive to knock us out of the Pacific. Who knows? Point is, did we HAVE to go to war? At what point does Doctorow, or you anyway, think we HAVE to go to war more than we "want" to? In an era of potential black-market nuke-tipped ICBMs, how restrained can we really afford to be?

9:35 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Just because a pre-emptive war is easy is no reason to wage it

Agreed; but if things are clearly spiralling out of control and you have several options to do about it, it only makes sense to weigh the easier ones more than the strategically defensible ones. I mean, if the best target is also the easiest, great. But never really the case. Even yet it makes sense to me (from a 2003 perspective) that taking down Saddam was not only do-able, but might have scored points with the Iranian population (which points we squandered by saying stupid things), and maybe freed the large educated Iraqi middle class to build something new and wonderful in the land of two rivers, plus ended Saddam's direct support of Palestinian terrorism, plus put a big booted foot on the road between Tehran and Damascus, and so on and so on.

The sales pitch differed from the real reasons, of course. It always does. After all, as abolitionist as Lincoln clearly was (he didn't just join the Republicans for kicks), he was very clear that the war was not about slavery. Why? Because he couldn't afford to lose the border states. In his heart he probably wanted to take this opportunity to abolish the institution. But publicly it was about union and law; about working within the system.

Come to think of it, that's what we said in 2003: upholding UN resolutions etc., while in Bush's deep dark heart it was really about the neocon agenda. (Which isn't all bad, btw.)

Looks to me like the same basic machinery at work.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

"After all, as abolitionist as Lincoln clearly was (he didn't just join the Republicans for kicks), he was very clear that the war was not about slavery...publicly it was about union and law; about working within the system."

It was about what the institution of slavery was doing to the Union. The issue of slavery threatened to erode the union, which Lincoln saw as his duty to preserve. It seems to me he did have to go to war when states started to secede. What the hell else could he have done?

As for 2003, the UN business was eyewash. We were already bombing Iraq before or just about the time Bush was talking about doing anything possible to avoid war. He clearly wasn't doing that. The whole thing was a lie. This war was about some neocon vision ofa pre-eminent US controlling he flow of oil. I think the Israel/Palestinian question was secondary to it all beyond guaranteeing Israel's security. I just don't buy the threat of nukes from Saddam. From Iran? That's different.

11:10 AM  

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