Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, July 24th, 2006.

Good Point

Bush Administration, Middle East, War on Terror

Wolcott (emphasis added):

This afternoon Fox Newser Shepard Smith, stationed on the Lebanese-Israeli border, described the faces and demeanor of the Israeli soldiers returning from incursions into southern Lebanon. He said they looked “stunned” at the ferocity of the Hezbollah fighters. He added that even though the Israeli military knew Hezbollah had had six years to prepare defenses and traps in the southern area, they were unprepared for how lethally sophisticated the tactics were.* (I’m paraphrasing wildly, but I haven’t mischaracterized the gist of what he reported.)

Which brings me to one of the arch paradoxes of the War on Terror–that nearly five years after 9/11 we persist in both overestimating and underestimating our enemies. The hawks warn about a clash of civilizations, nuclear clouds as smoking guns, the global network of sleeper cells, an octopus with a thousand tentacles: a foe that kills without pity or remorse or discrimination, and ranks with Nazi Germany as a juggernaut of evil. Yet at the same time the politicians and pundits (particularly on the right) persist in deprecating the strength, agility, and ingenuity of the very foes they claim could bring down Western society, mocking Bin Laden in his cave (the greatest mass murder in American history, and the Bush administration treats his non-capture as a negligible detail), sluffing off the Iraqi insurgents as embittered Baathists and “dead-enders,” and deluding ourselves that massive air power will bug-squash guerrilla fighters and shock and awe the remnants into submission. We still regard them as savage primitives of low cunning who sporadically lash out. Our commentators and military strategists suffer from a catastrophic failure of imagination, unable or unwilling to see the world through our enemies’ eye and to think like them, assuming that our thought processes are superior, sufficient, and will prevail. Victor Davis Hanson’s Western way of war always wins, except when it doesn’t (Vietnam and, now, Iraq).

Today’s Bob Herbert column is good, too.

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A Billion Here, a Billion There …

Bush Administration, Middle East

The Associated Press reports

President Bush has ordered helicopters and ships to Lebanon to provide humanitarian aid, but he still opposes an immediate cease-fire that could give relief from a 13-day-old Israeli bombing campaign.

There was talk on cable news that Condi Rice had offered U.S. aid for rebuilding Lebanon. I agree we have a moral obligation to help rebuild Lebanon, but somebody might want to ask the Bushies about rebuilding New Orleans.

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Action Alert

Bush Administration, The Constitution

See Christy Hardin Smith at firedoglake.

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Chickens and Straw Men and Hawks, Oh My

Bush Administration, conservatism, Iraq War

Jeff Jacoby doesn’t want to be called a “chickenhawk.”

You hear a fair amount of that from the antiwar crowd if, like me, you support a war but have never seen combat yourself. That makes you a “chicken hawk” — one of those, as Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, defending John Kerry from his critics, put it during the 2004 presidential campaign, who “shriek like a hawk, but have the backbone of a chicken.” Kerry himself often played that card. “I’d like to know what it is Republicans who didn’t serve in Vietnam have against those of us who did,” he would sniff, casting himself as the victim of unmanly hypocrites who never wore the uniform, yet had the gall to criticize him, a decorated veteran, for his stance on the war.

“Chicken hawk” isn’t an argument. It is a slur — a dishonest and incoherent slur. It is dishonest because those who invoke it don’t really mean what they imply — that only those with combat experience have the moral authority or the necessary understanding to advocate military force.

Jacoby defends himself by scratching up a straw man argument. I, for one, would never argue that “only those with combat experience have the moral authority or the necessary understanding to advocate military force.” I don’t have combat experience, and I spout off about moral authority and military force all the time. Further, our two greatest war presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, had no combat experience. FDR was never in the military, and Old Abe claimed the most action he saw in the Illinois militia was swatting mosquitoes.

Yet Jacoby might still be a chickenhawk.

I like this definition of chickenhawk (emphasis added)

Chickenhawk n. A person enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person’s youth.

James Wolcott elaborates:

Those who wrestled with the decision to go to war I’m not inclined to call chickenhawks. A pro-war civilian does not automatically a chickenhawk make.

For me, the working definition of a chickenhawk is–a chickenhawk is a cheerleader. A cheerleader for war. And not necessarily just the war in Iraq, or regional war in the Mideast, but war in general. A chickenhawk glorifies war as an enterprise, enjoying the heroics inside his or her head, mocking those less enthusiastic military aggression as pacifists, appeasers (Michael Ledeen’s pet word), even traitors. Who patronize anyone with qualms, from the Quakers to the Chuck Hagel, with edgy impatience and disdain. Who treat the destruction of human life as a stupendous flourish as long as it’s the US doing the destroying–who, that is, propose “creative destruction” on a geopolitical scale as an instrument of transformation. Not to mention an opportunity to teach those desert folks in sandals a lesson upside the head.

The enthusiasm part is essential to the classification of the species pullus bellum diligo. Sometimes wars have to be fought. Sometimes people who recognize a war has to be fought have no combat experience and are not capable of combat — too old, too infirm, whatever. By themselves, these attributes do not make someone a “chickenhawk.”

As Jacoby’s argument is made of straw, just ignore it. Please also ignore Wikipedia on this matter, as the online encyclopedia gets neither the etymology or the definition of chickenhawk right. I assume a chickenhawk wrote it.

There is a big difference between acknowledging a war must be fought and being enthusiastic about it. There’s a difference between making a moral judgment for war and cheerleading. A person with no combat experience who makes a sober and reluctant decision to support war, and is unable to fight that war, is no chickenhawk. He or she may have made a wrong decision, but it wasn’t a chickenhawk’s decision.

But when you find an able-bodied enthusiastic cheerleader for war who has “other priorities” than to fight it — you’ve got yourself a chickenhawk. And I think the lowest form of chickenhawk is not only a war cheerleader who thinks himself too precious to fight; he also attacks and calls “cowardly” people who don’t support the war. Like it’s an act of courage to park one’s fat backside on the sofa and cheer the carnage on CNN.

Greg James writes in today’s San Francisco Chronicle,

You don’t have to be a psychologist to see a predictable pattern with this administration and its most vocal conservative supporters: They project one thing and do another. Or more to the point, they try to project a manly Teddy Roosevelt “rough rider” image; in reality they are a bunch of overweight middle-aged men who mostly avoid wars and real action in favor of sending others to do the dirty work.

In many ways, I suspect this is at the heart of why Iraq is going so wrong, and why our country is in such turmoil. Maybe the U.S. is finally waking up to the scare tactics, orange alerts and right-wing “talkers” and coming to terms with who they really are.

Recently, Rep. John Murtha took presidential adviser Karl Rove to task for his “cut and run” comments and called a spade a spade. He didn’t mince words as he described Rove as a fat Washington-based spin doctor who sits in an air-conditioned office and has no problem pushing a war in which he’d never die. Thank God someone finally found the guts to go after the cheerleaders and actually point out what they really are — sissies who talk tough but do little.

From President Bush all the way down, a quick look finds the “big talkers” in charge and promoting a kind of “do as I say, not as I do” agenda. As a veteran myself, it’s hard not to be outraged by this crowd. Bush, who has so vocally pushed the war in Iraq, was himself a cheerleader (yell king) in college and avoided Vietnam with a cushy job in the Air National Guard.

Vice President Dick Cheney took numerous deferments from the draft and, as the poster boy for the National Rifle Association and tough guy hunters, shot a friend in the face at close range while blasting pen-raised quail in Texas. Limbaugh, along with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Mike Medved and the majority of right-wing radio’s most vocal “tough talkers” also fall squarely into the “did not serve” crowd.

The most offensive thing about this bunch is they have no problem attacking people such as Murtha, Sen. John Kerry, former Rep. Max Cleland and retired Gen. Eric Shinseki (the guys who actually did fight in Vietnam) while they sit around sipping lattes in their protected, mostly white, upper-class enclaves.

As with Limbaugh and his constant attacks on Clinton, you have to wonder if this isn’t actually some type of perverse psychology playing out on a national scale where the sissies actually tear into the tough guys because they’ve developed sharp tongues as a response to their own perceived shortcomings. (In this case, a lack of real courage.)

And the punch line:

I suspect the Iraq war would have had a whole lot more thought put into it if the “cheerleaders” actually had to fight rather than sitting on the sidelines talking and urging others on.

I suspect so, too.

See also: “Chickenhawk” flash video; “The new world immaturity.”

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Rice and Beans

Bush Administration, Middle East

Condi Rice made a surprise visit to Lebanon this morning and met with Lebanon’s prime minister. She’s talking about a “sustainable” cease fire

“We believe that a cease-fire is urgent,” Rice told reporters on a flight from Washington to a refueling stop in Ireland. “It is important, however, to have conditions that will make it sustainable.” …

… “The really important thing here is that whatever we do has to contribute to Lebanon’s regaining sovereignty over all its territory,” said Rice.

“It’s just very important that we work urgently, but that we also work in a way that is going to push this forward, not backwards.”

It’s a brilliant position; she can pretend to be against war while cheering war forward. Maureen Dowd:

The more W. and his tough, by-any-means-necessary superbabe have tried to tame the Middle East, the more inflamed the Middle East has become. Now the secretary of state is leaving, reluctantly and belatedly, to do some shuttle diplomacy that entails little diplomacy and no shuttling. It’s more like air-guitar diplomacy.

Condi doesn’t want to talk to Hezbollah or its sponsors, Syria and Iran — “Syria knows what it needs to do,’’ she says with asperity — and she doesn’t want a cease-fire. She wants “a sustainable cease-fire,’’ which means she wants to give the Israelis more time to decimate Hezbollah bunkers with the precision-guided bombs that the Bush administration is racing to deliver.

“I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do,” she said.

Keep more civilians from being killed? Or at least keep America from being even more despised in the Middle East and around the globe?

Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press reports that President Bush is opposed to an immediate cease fire.

White House officials said President Bush remains opposed to an immediate cease-fire to stop violence in the Middle East, despite personal pleas from ally Saudi Arabia that he help stop the bloodshed.

Saudi King Abdullah beseeched Bush to intervene in Israel’s military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the death toll is approaching 400 after less than two weeks of bombing. Abdullah’s request was hand-delivered to Bush by Saudi officials who requested a meeting Sunday at the White House.

“We requested a cease-fire to allow for a cessation of hostilities,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters as he departed the West Wing.

To which the White House replied:

“Our position on an immediate cease-fire is well known and has not changed,” said White House national security spokesman Frederick Jones.

That position is that before there’s a cease fire, the terrorist threat from Hezbollah must be “addressed.” Exactly what that means isn’t clear. The Sauds want Bush to persuade Israel to stand down, because the U.S. is the only nation on the planet with any clout with Israel.

Seems to me there are a number of diplomatic opportunities here. Will Condi, finally, get something right for the first time in her sorry-ass career? Don’t hold your breath.

Right now Israel is in a position to demand terms. In a few more days of fighting that might be less true. Billmon writes,

Twelve days in, and even Ralph Peters thinks the Israelis are losing:

    Israel is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that’s a painful thing to write. But it’s true. And the situation’s worsening each day.

Now Ralph is the guy who spent a few days back in March riding around the safer parts of Baghdad (when such places still existed) and then came back and told his fellow true believers that the war in Iraq was as good as won. So if he now says the Israelis are losing, I would ordinarily expect the IDF to be accepting Hizbollah’s unconditional surrender some time tomorrow morning.

But it’s clear from many other sources that things aren’t going so well with Operation Midwife:

  • The Israeli Army — which dashed across the Sinai in two days in 1967, and surrounded an entire Egyptian army in 1973, has spent the past three days trying to secure Maroun al-Ras, a village about 500 meters inside Lebanon.
  • Securing that modest objective (and it may not be secure even yet) has cost the Israelis at least 20 soldiers KIA.
  • The number of rockets falling on northern Israel has been reduced only minimally, if at all, and Israeli civilians are still dying, despite 11 days of bombing and round-the-clock Israeli air cover over southern Lebanon.
  • U.S. military sources say that IDF claims to have destroyed a significant percentage of Hizbollah’s missiles are significantly “overstated.”
  • Jane’s Weekly reports that Hizbollah has emulated the Viet Cong and honeycombed the border area with underground tunnels and command posts that are virtually impervious to artillery fire and the Israeli Air Force’s existing stock of bombs. (It looks like those “precision” munitions the Pentagon is rushing to the front may be bunker busters.)
  • At least so far, it appears the Israelis have set extremely limited objectives for their ground forces. (This is one of Peters’ big gripes.) According to the Washington Post, the goal of the current operation is to secure four villages and a strip of territory six miles wide and 2.5 miles deep along the border. The significance of those villages and that particular piece of land is not stated. Nor is it explained how clearing them, and only them, will prevent Hizbollah from continuing to rain rockets on Israeli towns and cities — much less force the organization to disarm.

    Those glorious little wars just ain’t what they used to be.

    Righties, in their simple little binary way, assume that everyone critical of Israel’s recent actions must favor Hezbollah over Israel. So for the record — if it were up to me to choose one and discard the other, certainly I would keep Israel and pitch Hezbollah. The problem is that Israel, like the Bush Administration, puts far too much faith in war to solve its problems. Just as the invasion in Iraq has far weakened our nation and made us more vulnerable to attacks, Israel’s military aggression will likely sock Israel with more cost than benefit.

    Larry Johnson writes,

    Israel’s latest offensive to root out and destroy Hezbollah probably will fail and in the process will ignite a new round of international terrorist attacks that will put the United State squarely in the crosshairs. It is as if we are watching a plane crash in slow motion. We see the plane hurtling towards the earth, our mouths agape in a silent scream. We know it will explode on impact and can do nothing but watch. (Please check out Pat Lang’s take on the latest developments).

    Israel’s last invasion of Lebanon did not vanquish Hezbollah. This time around Israel faces a Hezbollah that is bigger, better armed, and well entrenched in highly fortified areas. Air power cannot extract Hezbollah from their bunkered retreats and caves. That will be the hard work of infantry. And as the Israeli Army tries to clear the caves, thousands of fighters on both sides will likely die.

    Condi Rice still holds the crazy belief that Lebanon’s Army, which is 50% Shia, will magically deploy and confront Hezbollah. She also deluded herself into believing that the radical groups, like Hezbollah and the insurgents in Iraq, are stirring up trouble because the US mission of spreading democracy is actually working. Maybe Condi also believes that the Tooth Fairy passes out coins for lost teeth, but believing in fantasies does not make fantasies come true.


    If the United States is perceived (emphasis on perceived) as encouraging or directing the Israeli response, the odds increase that Hezbollah will ratchet things up another notch by playing the terrorist card.

    We should not confuse Hezbollah with Al Qaeda. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international network. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international political and financial network. They have personnel and supporters scattered in countries around the world who have the training and resources to mount attacks. Hezbollah has no qualms about using terrorist attacks as part of a broader strategy to achieve its objectives. The last major Hezbollah attack against the United States was the June 1996 attack on the U.S. military apartment complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah also organized the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. But they also have exercised restraint when they felt they could achieve their objectives through political means. The ten year hiatus in major mass casualty attacks could come to a shattering end in the coming months, and American citizens are likely to pay some of that price with their own blood.

    For the past several days Michelle Malkin et al. have been screaming about Hezbollah sleeper cells in the U.S. and urging support for Israel’s war, as if a war to secure four villages and a strip of territory six miles wide and 2.5 miles deep along the Israel-Lebanon border will, somehow, make the terrorist cells in America evaporate. Again, as I argued in the last post, with righties you always need to separate reasons from motivations. And as in the last post, I think righties’ motivation is to punish — as in kill, maim, destroy — Muslims. Keeping America safe from terrorism — which their actions, IMO, are not doing — is just the excuse.

    Righties continue to believe war is the answer. Maybe they need to re-think the question.

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