Post-9-11 events and analyses
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Talking Points Memo: Josh Marshall is a great read, this time on the right-wing blame game: "How'd we get into this? After 50 years of pretty consistently prudential foreign policy, managed mostly on a consensus of bipartisan agreement (yes, there are exceptions, but by and large, true), they decided to bet the national ranch on an idea. Actually it was a series of ideas, wrapped together in an odd tangle that could look like an odd jumble when viewed from outside. The key, however, was betting the national ranch on steep odds. Only, they weren't confident the country would get behind such a riverboat gamble. So they lied about what they were doing. They didn't trust the people -- which might be an epitaph we should return to.
Now, what do we expect of people who make reckless gambles with other people's money? Of people who can't discipline themselves enough to distinguish between their hopes and reality? What do you expect of that ne'er-do-well relative who's always hitting you up for a loan because he's come up with a sure thing? Do you expect those sorts of folks to take responsibility when things go bad? Or do you expect them to blame others?
Character, alas, really does count. " 1:38:21 AM
"Confidence Men" by Joshua Micah Marshall
: More from Nov 2002 on the Bush administration governing style. "Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, the administration insisted they were going to do it anyway, believing that if you project confidence and invincibility, others will come around. And to a remarkable extent that's just what happened. In the Bushies' lexicon this is called "leadership." And to some extent it is. Getting people to follow you by force of personality, persuasion, and will is the essence of leadership. ... But mostly, what the Bushies call "leadership" is just a confidence game. And over time, that kind of leadership will get its butt kicked by reality every time. There's no better example than the Bush administration's bungling in the Middle East. " 1:07:56 AM
"Vice Grip" by Joshua Micah Marshall
: Great summary of Cheney's incompetence -- from Jan 2003, no less -- with a diagnosis. "They see themselves as men of action. But their style of action is shaped by the government bureaucracies and cartel-like industries in which they have operated. In these institutions, a handful of top officials make the plans, and then the plans are carried out. Ba-da-bing. Ba-da-boom.
In such a framework all information is controlled tightly by the principals, who have "maximum flexibility" to carry out the plan. Because success is measured by securing the deal rather than by, say, pleasing millions of customers, there's no need to open up the decision-making process. To do so, in fact, is seen as governing by committee. If there are other groups (shareholders, voters, congressional committees) who agree with you, fine, you use them. But anyone who doesn't agree gets ignored or, if need be, crushed. Muscle it through and when the results are in, people will realize we were right is the underlying attitude.
The danger of this mindset is obvious. No single group of people has a monopoly on the truth. Whether it be plumbers, homemakers, or lobbyist bureaucrats, any group will inevitably see the world through its own narrow, mostly self-interested, prism. But few groups are so accustomed to self-dealing and self-aggrandizement as the cartel-capitalist class. And few are more used to equating their own self-interest with the interests of the country as a whole.
Not since the Whiz Kids of the Kennedy-Johnson years has Washington been led by men of such insular self-assurance. Their hierarchical, old economy style of management couldn't be more different from the loose, non-hierarchical style of, say, high-tech corpor-ations or the Clinton White House, with all their open debate, concern with the interests of "stake-holders," manic focus on pleasing customers (or voters), and constant reassessment of plans and principles. The latter style, while often sloppy and seemingly juvenile, tends to produce pretty smart policy. The former style, while appearing so adult and competent, often produces stupid policy. " 12:59:01 AM
: Robert Wright's interesting website: "Welcome to meaningoflife.tv, which addresses big, cosmic questions (Is the universe imbued with purpose? Does life have meaning even if the universe isn't imbued with purpose?) as well as some littler, but still significant questions (How do you keep from going crazy in the modern world?). I've gone around asking scientists, social scientists, philosophers, and theologians such questions, and the results are here for you to see." 12:30:17 AM
Democratizing Iraq, piece by piece. By Robert Wright
: Interesting speculations on the value of early, incremental elections. And the implications of anything resembling democracy for US goals: "One big obstacle to implementing this plan is the mindset of the Bush White House. Administration officials would have to accept a reality they never quite acknowledged before the war: that a democratic and truly sovereign Iraq may do things the United States doesn't like. In particular, they would have to let go of a primary, if rarely articulated, motivation for the war: to use Iraq as a platform from which to project American military power.
From the beginning, this goal was essentially incompatible with the professed goal of democratizing Iraq. A democratic and sovereign Iraq was never likely to let American troops use its soil to intimidate its various neighbors. How President Bush and his advisers mentally reconciled the idealistic and realpolitik rationales for this war is a question for future psycho-historians to answer. In any event, the contradiction is now manifest, and we don't even have the luxury of choosing between the two scenarios—between a democratic but unwieldy Iraq and a non-democratic but strategically valuable Iraq. Only a stable Iraq would be useful as a strategic platform, and an Iraq being used as a strategic platform is unlikely ever to be stable." 12:26:24 AM