“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Begin the Beguine, Doing the Doable.

A long time ago, on a far different planet, I did some stand-in work as a radio jock for AFRTS, The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. AFRTS was started in WWII and continues today, providing programming for the US military.

Every military base had either a remote feeder broadcast or an on-base facility. Programming arrived weekly in the form of massive 20 inch vinyl records that had the latest music or professionally recorded shows. The local radio station could set up programming which was usually a combination of music and the AFRTS programming.

The studio was simple with two turn tables, a cigarette stained microphone, a 24 hour clock and a library of 20 inch vinyls with music and programs, many going back to the forties.

My regular duties were on shift so in off- time I could fill in for regulars, who were sick or on leave. It was a fun break from the stress and tedium of my job. I always was true to the program of the regular slot, so for me it could be anything from bluegrass to classical.

I occasionally substituted for a rifted Lt Col, bomber pilot, reduced to a technical sergeant, who then jockyed turntables instead of jets. The chain smoking colonel told great stories and played great music from the forties and fifties. I learned to love the elegant music of the period.

One of the colonel's favorites was "Begin the Beguine", a song written by Cole Porter for a Broadway musical, Jubilee. Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell did a classic dance to an instrumental version in the Broadway Melody of 1940. Every time the colonel played it he would say, " Begin the begin, and remember to do the doable." That would be some good advice for President Bush about Iraq.

The president is a goose with clipped wings. He can honk but he cannot fly. He talked about being humble and events have reduced him to it.

This paradoxically chains him to his past but also frees him from it. It presents him with an opportunity to develop a sustainable realistic plan to replace his broken if not failed dream. To do this, he needs to do what he claimed when he ran for President and that was to be a consensus builder. He needs to sit with some sensible and responsible Democrats and Republicans that know and understand the absurd posture that the US faces in Iraq. They need to be Americans first, and recognize that Iraq is a generational problem and will not be solved in six months. A weekend gathering in Camp David would be a good place to start.

He could start with a pleasant dinner, accompanied by some Cole Porter. Assume this could be done and you were setting the agenda. I ask you three question:
  1. Which Democrats and Republicans would you invite?
  2. What would be the most realistic goal to be accomplished?
  3. What practical program could the US commit to that would be sensible, politically acceptable and sustainable to the American voting public?
If that cannot be done, if we cannot "Begin the begin and do the doable", then we have a very, very big problem indeed.


  1. Well, to start, Mr Biden & Mr Lieberman. Ms Clinton & Mr Rengal. James Webb and Ms Pelosi. Even Mr Durbin, of course the Senator from Nevada, Mr Reid, as well.

    Senators Hagel and Coleman would have to arrive, along with Mr McCain. The G Team should be invited, in fact all the Presidental contenders in '08 could be on the short list.

    But to what real end?
    What is doable in Iraq, with the Iraqi?
    Decisions made in DC or Camp David are much less important than the decisions made in Baghdad, by the Iraqi. An knowledge of what is "doable", there, is required long before any real "understandings" can be obtained in DC.

    Regards habu, he was the most anti-Administration poster we've had. Belittling the efforts of the President and totally rejecting his strategic and tactical policies. No embeds and no training for the Iraqi, not even conventional weaponry or tactics were acceptable, just nuke 'em all in Baghdad. Level the slums and kill a million or two folks in Sadr City.

    Anything less, which is where Mr Bush and all sane folk reside, well that was never going to be successful.
    No worries though, habu will never post at the EB again, not if he awaits the destruction of the Iranian nuclear capicity before making his return.

    Unless, of course, he is scum, whose word means nothing. Which is the case, with ol' habu and his pet possum, in all reality.

  2. I have to admire your restarint when he went at you and your son. I admire teresita for enduring his cruelty and allen who took him on with words and facts and crushed him. I did not see it as my place to inervene, but he taxed my patience when he signed on as anonymous and started his critique and then attacked my service and the blog.

    Since his departure, we have less comments,15% more visits and page views have increased by 20 %.

    Back OT, I think that leaving Iraq in the state it is in itself tempting. Biden's suggestion seems the most likely. The Iraqis have alot to say about that.

    Iraq will not morph into some democracy. My thinking has changed with time as certain facts rear their unpleasant looking heads from the sand.

    The fact is Iraq is a crisis of leadership in Iraq and in the US. Diplomacy will dictate the outside bands of reality and a solution has to be found that is within those bands.

  3. Armed Forces Radio, my fondest memory of that service involves rappeling training in Panama.

    We were training for night rappels out of a Huey and I'd been tasked as the Rappel Master. We had two choppers assigned and my buddy and I went over to the airfield at Howard AFB to rig 'em.

    After night fell we loaded up and bounced over to Kobbe, to pick up the first lift. The WO handed me a headset with a long cord that I plugged in, expecting to hear control tower & pilot chatter and the like.
    Instead, as we started to the LZ with our first load of 8, it was the Boss, "Born to Run", as we swung out over the Canal, headed to Empire Range.
    Shades of Apocalypse Now, which I had just seen in Panama City, with subtitles, ran through my head.
    Each chopper made three lifts that night, before we were done.
    We were rockin'

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Having begun at the end, I must begin at the beginning to learn what has transpired in my absence.

    Without knowing more than the two comments on this thread suggest, I would like to say that I am proud to be associated with this site. It is, by far, one of the most foresighted and thought provoking on the web. Deuce and Whit have every reason to be proud.

  6. Well, duece, compared to this trendline almost anything is better.

    I think W had the same challenge at the BC. Some would lay the cause at the commenters, as I think W did last August. The subsequent trends do not support that idea, though. I think that the drop off in interest follows declining support for both Mr Bush and the "War". Also as 9-11-01 fades into history the interest in TWAT is dropping as well.
    The trendline at BC mirrors that, I think.
    If you compare the Bar to the Club, you'll see we had a "blip" at the end of December. At least we were in the arena and on the scoreboard, for a while.

    Keep on keepin' on.

  7. There is a whistling tea kettle in Pakistan in need of decantation. Here’s hoping that Admiral Fallon is listening.

    From Waziristan to Afghanistan, and Back

  8. rufus,

    I'm with you on the traffic. It is quality that counts. The other day for some reason, I quoted from a great French whit. In recalling that, I believe the EB has the best attributes of the best French salons: a place to spend the day or just drop in for a flute of Champaign and repartee.

  9. Oh, how true, how true. I applaud the efforts of whit, deuce and the commenters here who always manage to sustain meaningful and entertaining discourse.

    Hear, hear!