Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Argh... the west wing continues to frustrate. For some reason, it becomes a good inspiration to blog, not having done this really since last week's show. So, 2 things I don't like about the episode: 1) the donna plot. Why are we making the cliff-hanger hinge on the fate of a 3rd level character? Wells is bringing too much ER with him. Sure, I care, but the fate of the nation doesn't hang on the deputy chief of staff's secretary. She can't die--the sexual tension between her and Josh produces fantastic dialogue and without her the show would suck. But that is the small potatos.

The reall thing (2) that got to me was the Leo - Deputy Natn'l Security Advisor thing. She is quick with facts but really has no position--the symptom of a career government person, i suppose. Leo, though, is clearly trying to steer the Prez to a hawk solution.

Here is where it should start to commenting on today's world, I think.
Leo wants to respond, with bombs. With a military attack that kills the guy who killed our guys. It shows strength.
But, its how more bad wars get started. It is, as Bartlett said, the victory that they want, for it will give them the holy war that they want in which there is no end because each episode of violence begets more violence and more bitterness, AND each side has a seemingly limitless resource of ammunition and arms (missiles and planes and bombs for us, individual terrorists for them) that the other has no real way to stop.

If you read between the lines, it is a strong indictment of the war in Iraq, and how Bush is losing his war on terror. Its now politically "bad" to say that the war is unwinnable for us. I don't think that is necessarily the case, but it all depends on what you mean by "us," "win," and "Iraq." As Bush defines it, probably it is unwinnable.
But, if you start to think something else, that perhaps we can win by leaving, then, sure, there is something to be achieved.

But, once you start arguing that we are better off without Saddam, you start down the road to trouble.
An interesting article in the Nation (sent to me by my brother in law!) makes a powerful point.

I've started to ramble, so, perhaps I'll just watch Jay Leno and maybe post something else later.

(but, I am glad to see that there are still some readers for the summer!!!! Those of you in Albany, Boston, or anywhere not DC are missing the Cicadas. There are tons of them. They are all over my house.)

Friday, May 14, 2004

I didn't like how they almost killed Donna on the West Wing. Sure, they want to tug at you and play out the Josh and Donna might just love each other plot, but..... And then to preview that she has complications next week--you aren't going to kill her, why make it all that more fake-dramatic.
I also don't like them killing Fitz. I liked Fitz, and it sucks that he's gone. He was a really good and fun character for the show.

The President is in trouble, so the polls say.
Of course they are going to spin it in a positive way, but at this point, I buy the analysis that the election is mostly about the incumbent--should he stay or go--and right now it looks like more people want bush to go.

I think that the recent photos of prison abuse are particularly damaging to the Administration, in a way that has not yet been understood by the talking heads you hear out there. At a hearing in the Senate, Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) said that he was outraged by the outrage. Today on the Diane Rheme Show, Tony Blankley (conservative Washington Times columnist)said that the US would have to revisit the notion of torturing terrorists--other civilized nations do it, and, in the long run, he argued, so would we.

I don't think so, and I think that both miss the boat as to why this is such a big and important scandal.
Bush's sham justification for the invasion was the WMD thing, but the "real" reason and the reason that people who support the war still do despite no WMD is that Bush went there to make the Middle East safe for democracy. Like Wilson, he and his policy architects argued that Democracy would save the Middle East and save the US from terrorism. Like Teddy Roosevelt and George Washington, he argued that a strong America that eschews meddlesome ties and institutions and goes it alone is best fit and strong enough to re-make Iraq in the US's image.
Why? American Exceptionalism. We can do it, we should do it, and if Iraq is going to have a new government, it should be a democracy. We are not like other nations, we are better.

And therein lies the rub. Bush's entire foreign policy enterprise is founded on this historical notion of American Exceptionalism. The prison photos are so important because they show the seamy side of empire, that we are not all that exceptional. Americans are supposed to be better than that.
Hence the "bad apple" theory-- its only one or two renegades, rogues, not real Americans who are doing this.
But the pictures show otherwise, the reports and investigations hint that this goes up the chain of command, and it threatens to reveal that America is no better than anyone else in running a global empire. And if that is the case, if we are not exceptional, then why are we there?

that is the quesiton that Bush had not addressed, and its why these photos are rightfully such a big deal.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Well, for the audience of 1 or 2 who might now be out there reading this....

It has been quite a week on the Iraq front. The revelations of massive abuse at prisons in Iraq, and now it appears, Gitmo and Afghanistan as well, have placed this war in a whole new light. I think that we have reached a turning point, in that this is the type of thing that can and should make American citizens (voters) look at themselves in a new light and reconsider exactly what we are doing in Iraq.
The Administration will tote out the "bad apples" defense-- the few bad apples who were abusing prisoners shouldn't spoil the whole bunch, ie the overall "good" being done by the operation. But it now appears that this was a much higher-level decision than a few bad apples. It also appears that the Pentagon's senior leadership-- Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz not only created the conditions for this by renouncing the Geneva conventions and basic international law, but they really don't care all that much about it.
That should give you pause.

But that's not even the must-read of the day. The story of the day, i think, is Thomas Ricks's Washington Post story where he gets a lot of senior military folks to basically say that 1) we are losing the war, and 2) the senior civilian pentagon leadership (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and company) are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Its not that this is another Vietnam, except that it is. Last week someone talked about the war being "unwinnable" and said that saying that was an affront to all those fighting it. Well, I really hate to be the pessimist, but it seems that we are getting there awfully fast.

How can we "liberate" a people when all we do is abuse the ones we imprison.
Now Bush will say that we're somehow different from Saddam, and sure, I'll grant him that.
But, to the Iraqis who end up in prison, and to the Iraqis who are upset with the Americans and fear going to prison, its really starting to look as if there is just more of the same.
How is that a recipie for any kind of "success?"

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