October 13, 2006

Leaving Iraq. The Tulip or the Star?

Rusty asks:

So, is leaving the answer? Or is there something else we should be doing?

Both, really.

Essentially we have to draw-down until we disappear, and the credit and legitimacy associated with victories over the Islamofascist insurgency accrues to the new government. But that leaves us with a dilemma.

Since I'm a bicycle enthusiast I've always felt that the dilemma is analogous to Lance Armstrong's choice of whether, and how, to allow Marco Pantani the win on the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour de France in 2002. Armstrong's "big idea" was that by making a magnanimous gesture he'd create a strategic ally in his overall effort to win the Tour. But it didn't work out that way. The problem was that he didn't pull up soon enough, so Pantani (and more importantly Pantani's fans) knew that the victory had been gifted. Had Armstrong been more clever he'd have made the arrangement far less obvious, and still have won Pantani as an ally.

So, borrowing from this analogy we need to leave early enough that any final victories won't be attributed to the US.

I think the best way for us to accomplish this tricky transition, without sacrificing our own reputation, is to simply move on to another military mission. We can rightly say that we didn't leave because we were defeated, but because we had pressing concerns somewhere else. The draw-down probably should be gradual, but still faster than would have seemed prudent a few months ago. Maybe the Baker Commission can give us some cover?

And where should the next engagement be? The tulip or the star?

Posted by Demosophist at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2006

Strike Two

It seems to me that the dire condition of the Republicans in congress is due, almost entirely, to their own neglect and incompetence. Their current electoral disadvantage is almost entirely a matter of their inability to respond appropriately to the propagation of two caustic memes: 1. That the US is losing the War in Iraq and the larger War on Terror; and 2. That Mark Foley's pederasty somehow tars anyone other than himself. During today's Meet the Press Bob Woodward was treated to a profoundly sympathetic interview by Tim Russert. Not only did Russert loft a few soft pitches directly over the plate, but it was clear that Woodward had been briefed on what questions would be asked so that he'd be able to prepare responses, ready with documentation and cites (something missing from most of his book). But the primary fault of the interview was that Russert failed to challenge the basic assumption of the book, without which it reduces to total incoherence: that the US is losing. If that assumption is challenged the entire premise of State of Denial becomes evidence of a state of denial by Woodward and his supporters, about the actual condition of the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. It's also an indictment of the mainstream media's ability to make sense of facts... a flaw from which the conventional wisdom would not recover were it given reasonable credence. And by their self imposed incapacity to make a defense one could almost suspect Republicans of complicity in their own demise...

Continue reading "Strike Two"
Posted by Demosophist at 06:37 PM | Comments (0)

The Foley Affair

For those who don't know, I've been posting on The Jawa Report and Winds of Change. At this point I'm not sure what direction I'll take with this blog, but may devote it specifically to issues related to analysis of complex social problems through various methodologies similar to John Warfield's "Interpretive Structural Modelling", which was used to help revolutionize the Department of Defense. I currently have a post up about the Foley Affair that's garnering a lot of interesting comments: Page Prank?

Posted by Demosophist at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2006

Forests of the Heart

VDH doesn't think very much of Woodward's latest. I don't recall exactly how many times Woodward insisted, in his interviews on FOX, that his facts were totally accurate and his analysis "tight", but the reality is that he can't verify more than half of what he says, let alone how he interprets it. Of the more controversial evidence, he probably can't verify more than 10%. If someone suggested that he were 90% false, Woodward would be correct in observing that such an the assertion can't be proved, but that's chiefly because the fellow who invented Gotcha Journalism, hasn't provided enough information to allow an objective observer to put his sources to test.

Continue reading "Forests of the Heart"
Posted by Demosophist at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2006

Popeye's Greens

I've had something of a problem with the hyperventilated warnings issued by the FDA about bagged spinach "infected" with E. Coli. As anyone who's taken a course in microbiology knows, E. Coli is rather ubiquitous in the human gut, so it didn't strike me as a murderous microbe on par with Bubonic Plague. Mainstream news hasn't really clarified the situation much, either... falling into a familiar alarmist rut without actually understanding or communicating the nature of the problem. It turns out that the danger is real, and created by a very specific strain of E. Coli called O157:H7. According to blogger and science writer Carl Zimmer it has some fairly unfriendly properties:

Continue reading "Popeye's Greens"
Posted by Demosophist at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2006

We the Un-British

There are either growing number of conservatives who've become opponents of the US policy in Iraq, or those that always were opposed are becoming less sanguine. Fred Reed, who I generally find interesting and amusing, just penned a venomous anti-Bush screed that suggests a rather stark decision tree:

Either Georgie Bush is the minor, depressing, witless ferret I think he is, or I am. It has to be one or the other. If things don’t start looking up pretty soon internationally, I’m going to be pretty sure which.
Continue reading "We the Un-British"
Posted by Demosophist at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2006

Brief Tastefully Ironic Review of The Life Aquatic

As competent and effective as Ehud Olmert's leadership of Israel.

Posted by Demosophist at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2006

12 Degrees of Freedom, and Still No Clue.

Stratfor has released a Special Report that doesn't even attempt to clarify anything:

The pressure on Olmert from IDF is intense. But it is also intense politically. Benyamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud, has remained virtually silent, holding off criticizing the government. He has even restrained some of his colleagues. Clearly, he does not want to destabilize the government now. Yet, at the same time, his relative steadfastness while the government tries to sort things out remains odd.

It may be odd, but it's not the oddest:

Continue reading "12 Degrees of Freedom, and Still No Clue."
Posted by Demosophist at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

The "Peace" Movement

TigerHawk has maintained for some time that the so-called "anti-war movement" is actually more like an anti-victory movement. It appears that the trend he noticed is creating some cognitive dissonance for a few genuine peace activists, like Mark LeVine, Professor of Middle East History at UC Irvine. Fretting over the recent petition in the Guardian he wonders:

According to the signers, the best approach is to offer our solidarity and support to the victims of this brutality and to those who mount a resistance against it.

Support for those who mount resistance? What exactly does this mean? Are my heroes Noam and Howard planning to pick up an RPG and start firing southward from the rubble of Qana? Should progressives be donating money to Hamas? Learning to crawl through tunnels and ferry the latest Iranian missiles to the front?

Continue reading "The "Peace" Movement"
Posted by Demosophist at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2006

Home Towns in the Age of the Terror War

The image below is from Google Earth, of the south Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil (Bint Jubayl).

Bint Jbeil.jpg

I've included the snapshot because this is currently the site of intense "close quarter" fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah, covered by Stratfor in this podcast. Stratfor presents the conflict as a trigger for a critical debate beginning in Israel. The "internal debate" concerns whether Israel has the fortitude to continue fighting under conditions where its forces sustain heavy casualties. It's ironic, in some ways, that Bint Jbeil is the locus of such a "bloody angle", because the town has prospered during peace, rapidly developing into a small city and commercial/administrative center. It even has its own website here. The text is in Arabic, but there's an English version here. The large red iconic letters introducing the town to the world send the message: "Resisting!"

This is how small towns in the age of the Terror War are likely to present themselves, if their culture is what the philosopher and sociologist, Ernest Gellner, called "charismatic." These places have the promise of economic growth and prosperity that could create a middle class, and a substrate for civil society and democracy, but they've "resisted" that fate in favor of another. Where Israel stuggles with the hot dilemma that a legal/rational society endures when faced with horrible sacrifice in a war it would prefer never to fight, Bint Jbeil (a city whose name literally means "daughter of byblos") has a self-image, lodged in its deepest heart, of a miniature Stalingrad.

Posted by Demosophist at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)