Monday, January 15, 2007

Right Wing Philosophy Leads to a Staggering Level of Incompetence

Bush's cake-walk war never came to pass. Instead, he continues to dig a hole and insists it's the road to victory. In 2002, the Bush Administration cherry-picked through the evidence to come up with a case for war despite a preponderance of evidence that contradicted its claims. Now we have a situation where the Bush Administration is beginning to approach the war a little differently by cherry-picking a menu of tactical options, most of which should have been implemented three years ago as part of a coherent strategy run by pragmatists instead of right wing ideologues.

And we're now about to send troops to Baghdad with the hope that Iraqi insurgents, Islamofascists, jihadists, militia soldiers, murderers, Iranian proxies, corrupt moles among government troops, angry revenge seekers, Baathist dead-enders and/or 'terrorists' (what new labels will right wingers give us any day now?) will stand still and let us shoot them when it is likely they will go underground or disperse to other Iraqi cities until our troops leave Baghdad. The latest strategy has been concocted largely by neocons inside and outside the administration despite their record of failure and despite the strong objections of many in the military and the Iraqis themselves. The new tactics largely ignore the Iraq Study Group, the Democrats and the American people. The 'new' plan or whatever it is also ignores the Iraqi government, or rather dictates to the elected government in Iraq what will be done (no wonder Brzezinski talks about a new colonialism).

I bring these things up because there are signs that Bush is finally recognizing some issues that have been on the table for the last three to five years. The time to have dealt with these issues was three to five years ago. It's as if a large building is burning down and an incompetent fire chief by the name of Bush keeps ignoring his lieutenants who keep telling him he needs to bring in extra fire companies immediately. They tell him several times and it's become obvious not much of the building is going to survive when Bush the decider-in-chief finally calls in a couple of extra engines. Shortly after the extra fire engines arrive, the building collapses and he turns to his lieutenants and says, "But I did what you told me."

Now metaphors are exaggerations but it's very close to where we are. What we have been witnessing for some years are right wing ideologues very adept at concocting stories but nothing else. The Republican noise machine is proficient at concocting stories after the fact and they get away with it to some extent because Americans sometimes forget even recent history. The radical right wingers have an explanation for everything, an excuse for every blunder and scapegoats coming out of their ears, but they have no capacity to look in the mirror and see what's truly there. The Republican Party has for decades tended to be conservative but at least it had a reasonable number of pragmatists in power. In this era, the pragmatists are a dwindling minority.

Going to war in Iraq was a strategic blunder in the first place. But once there, we had an obligation to get it right. As I said, some problems have been obvious for a long time. In Squandered Victory, a book published in 2005 by democracy expert Larry Diamond, he writes:
If Iraq is to become a democracy, it must avoid becoming ... another Lebanon. When I was traveling around southern Iraq in March 2004, an experienced CPA hand pointed out to me that Iraq had "all of the major ingredients" for a Lebanon-style civil war: deep ethnic and relgious divisions that were intensifying, a society with a power vacuum, strong neighbors interfering in the conflict for competing purposes, and (another) U.S. intervention. One could have added the absence of national leadership, the rise of militias, the economic implosion, and the struggle over resources.... "This is heading toward Lebanon and the Congo writ large," he warned. ...

Now here's an article in The Washington Post by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (emphasis mine):
Timothy M. Carney went to Baghdad in April 2003 to run Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Minerals. Unlike many of his compatriots in the Green Zone, the rangy, retired American ambassador wasn't fazed by chaos. He'd been in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, Phnom Penh as it was falling to the Khmer Rouge and Mogadishu in the throes of Somalia's civil war. Once he received his Halliburton-issued Chevrolet Suburban, he disregarded security edicts and drove around Baghdad without a military escort. His mission, as he put it, "was to listen to the Iraqis and work with them."

He left after two months, disgusted and disillusioned. The U.S. occupation administration in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), placed ideology over pragmatism, he believed. His boss, viceroy L. Paul Bremer, refused to pay for repairs needed to reopen many looted state-owned factories, even though they had employed tens of thousands of Iraqis. Carney spent his days screening workers for ties to the Baath Party.

"Planning was bad," he wrote in his diary on May 8, "but implementation is worse."


The decision to send Carney back to Iraq -- and to abandon the policies that so rankled him in 2003 -- represents a fundamental shift in the Bush administration's approach to stabilizing the country. Desperate for new approaches to stifle the persistent Sunni insurgency and Shiite death squads that are jointly pushing the country toward an all-out civil war, the White House made a striking about-face last week, embracing strategies and people it once opposed or cast aside.


The plan unveiled by Bush last week calls for many people who lost their jobs under Bremer's de-Baathification decree to be rehired. It calls for more Sunnis, who were marginalized under the CPA, to be brought into the government. It calls for state-owned factories to be reopened. It calls for more reconstruction personnel to be stationed outside the Green Zone. It calls for a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes providing security to the civilian population over transferring responsibility to local military forces.

Carney believes such measures could have been effective three years ago. Today, he worries they will be too little, too late.

I highlighted the factories because it seems such an obvious thing to deal with, regardless of whether they were state-owned or not (if that were the issue, though sheer incompetence is the more likely answer). The shut factories are in a sense no different than the complete paralysis of the Bush Administration during more than the sixteen months that have passed since Hurricane Katrina. Too many officials in the Bush era seem to come up with ideological reasons to do nothing or to ignore anyone outside their 'base' (though some seem devoted to handing out lucrative contracts that do little for those who need help). Republicanism, under its current leadership, is mean-spirited, at times indifferent, at times corrupt, and frequently incompetent. It is philosophically dead. Those politicians, including some Democrats and independents, who give a nod to such idiocy need to think long and hard about why they choose to ignore the many failures of the current Republican era. If we do not make our way to an age of reform, the current Republicans in power will continue to weaken our democracy, our economy and our position in the world.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Another excellent post, hitting one nail after another squarely on the head.

As a commenter on another blog pointed out recently, one of the most urgent and vital tasks facing the next president is rooting out the incompetents and ne'er-do-wells Bush has infested every nook and cranny of the government with.

God help us all if the next president fails to realize that and fails to do a thorough job.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

S.W., we've talked about how it's going to take years to repair the damage Bush has done. And it's likely the next president won't get much traction during the first couple of years since Bush and Cheney will have so many termites eating away at the federal government.

Civil service rules in some cases may make it difficult to fire some of Bush's people. So maybe the next Congress will have to create an agency based in Fairbanks Alaska where all these characters can be sent!

3:58 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

OK, but I think somewhere east of Suez would be more expeditious.

11:20 PM  

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