“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."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Facing the obvious.

Yesterday, I talked about doing the doable and trying to establish a sustainable united policy for Iraq. The premise is simple, If President Bush has lost support of the people that put him in office, the Iraqis will not risk their lives for a Bush plan that has no future. A paragraph from a NYT article contains some remarkable details about a new spirit of independence in the Congress:
"...“We have got a lot of free agents,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, referring to the Republican backlash over the president’s proposal for a troop increase in Iraq.

Facing as much internal party dissension as he has seen since taking office, Mr. Bush invited Republican leaders of the House and Senate to his Camp David retreat this weekend to plot strategy only days after his plan for a troop buildup ran into scorching Republican resistance on Capitol Hill. While Republican unrest about Iraq was the most visible party division, others were starkly reflected in the ease with which House Democrats pushed through initial elements of their 100-hour legislative program with substantial Republican backing.

Only one House Republican opposed changes in ethics rules. Eighty-two Republicans joined Democrats in approving an increase in the minimum wage; 68 Republicans backed the new majority’s measure that puts into force remaining recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission; 48 supported a return to pay-as-you-go budget rules, and 37 endorsed expanded embryonic stem cell research.

The numbers dipped a bit on Friday, when only two dozen Republicans voted with Democrats to allow the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices, an issue where Republican free-market ideology clashes with the Democratic vision of the role of government. But in the often-polarized House, crossing the aisle in such numbers on major legislation is rare."...

Equally telling was a little-noticed procedural vote when more than 50 Republicans rejected their party’s alternative to the Democratic minimum wage legislation, normally a statement of party loyalty. “I thought it was a sham,” Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said of his own party’s substitute."

Are these Republicans disloyal? Do they have BDS? Politics and governance are evolutionary. A successful political leader, such as a Ronald Reagan, has a sense for where the body politic is and where it can go. He can convince his core supporters to be joined by those on the periphery and draw off additional support from the opposition party. A successful practitioner of politics will be able to persuade others to accept and share his vision and direction. But that is procedure. There has to be an underlying good idea or vision. President Bush is failing to demonstrate to the majority of the American people, American allies, American enemies and the members of his own political party that he has the vision and skill to lead. Facing the obvious can be painful to watch.


  1. Disloyal, burka wearing Republicans.

    That's all there is to say about those fellows, like Mr King.

    If only they'd realize that, in 30 or 40 years, the brillance of Mr Bush's intellect will outshine all those that have come to doubt his policies.

    We certainly do not hear much about Mr Rove, that political genius, any more. Wonder why?
    Nor about the permanent Republican realignement of the US. Wonder why?

    The GOP will be down to the old Confederacy by '08, if they can hold even that, cause it seems they've already lost Richmond, as Mr Webb's election proved so forcefully.

  2. If Mr McCain becomes the GOP standard bearer, I'd vote for Hillary, just to get someone with some balls into the Oval Office.

  3. "The GOP will be down to the old Confederacy by '08, if they can hold even that, cause it seems they've already lost Richmond, as Mr Webb's election proved so forcefully."

    So where will the capital of Dixie move to? Atlanta? New Orleans? Durham NC?

  4. You think that I'm not human
    And my heart is made of stone
    But I never had no problems
    And my body's pretty strong
    I'm a
    Man, yes I am, and I can't help but love you so

  5. Looks like this slipped through the cracks:

    Tribes IV

    During a month-long operation, Iraqi security forces along with Coalition forces seized 31 caches of weapons, explosives, and ammunition, while gaining the support of four more tribes in Ramadi.

    Our strategy is increasingly being vindicated, the rapport established, now reinforced by Bush's initiative to get tough with Shiite militias. The various personal accounts of Sunnis fighting the Shiites instead of Americans all signify a certain glimmer of hope that perhaps something workable can be engendered from the continuation of tribal engagement.

    dr, I'm not so sure of Bush's intellect capable of outshining his critics, who are emerging from the woodwork and multiplying by the tens and hundreds. Despite whatever achievements he may have accomplished at the end of his term (and it seems increasingly doubtful, impossible even, to contain the fallout - nuclear or otherwise - of the disintegration/implosion of the Iranian regime within the limited timeframe), he will be viewed with immense scepticism with regards to how he scraped through an incoherent foreign policy and failed to garner public opinion in his favour.

    Certainly, the Decider has decided to stake everything on this latest venture of a "surge", putting the onus on Maliki once and for all; clandestinely preparing for an assault on Iran, leaving nothing to chance. History will judge him accordingly - nevertheless, he is the lone ranger amidst back-stabbing, self-serving bandits.

    Who is in such a position of power to confer upon him the necessary resolve? Not the Republicans, certainly not the Democrats. He will have to face this baptism of fire all by himself, and may he find the strength to do what is needed of him - what the Democrats and Republicans all know must be done but are afraid to risk their careers, salaries and reputations; what the short-sighted public cannot see past the MSM whitewash; what our enemies fear will expose the fragility and weaknesses of their pseudo-ideological infrastructure.

  6. I guess no one had any duct tape:

    Saddam aides hanged
    Mon Jan 15, 2007 8:21 AM GMT

    By Mariam Karouny

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two of Saddam Hussein's aides were hanged before dawn on Monday, the Iraqi government said, admitting that the head of his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al- Tikriti was also ripped from his body during the execution.

    But, conscious of international uproar over sectarian taunts during the illicitly filmed hanging of the ousted president two weeks ago, spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told a news conference that there was "no violation of procedure".

    "The convicts were not subjected to any mistreatment," he said, describing the beheading by the rope as a rare mishap. "Their rights were not violated. There was no chanting."

    A government adviser, Bassam al-Husseini, told the news conference the damage to the body of Barzan, Saddam's feared head of intelligence, was "an act of God".

    Dabbagh said: "In a rare case, the head of Barzan was detached from his body during the execution."

  7. Trish!

    I have to agree with you about Hillary's balls. She's gotta be the ugliest man I've ever seen! No wonder Slick plays the field.

  8. Bobalharb said this:

    "Whit, the Iraqi government statement says it was 'an act of Allah'. What can you do?
    Sounds grim though, doesn't it?"
    Mon Jan 15, 08:06:02 AM EST

    Then, bobalharb said...

    Bob. Allah must have been listening and has you typing in tongues.

  9. Allen said,

    "You think that I'm not human
    And my heart is made of stone
    But I never had no problems
    And my body's pretty strong
    I'm a Man, yes I am, and I can't help but love you so"

    Sometimes its hard to be a woman
    Giving all your love to just one man
    You'll have bad times
    And he'll have good times
    Doing things that you don't understand
    But if you love him you'll forgive him
    Even though he's hard to understand
    And if you love him
    Oh be proud of him
    'Cause after all he's just a man
    Stand by your man

  10. Dabbagh said: "In a rare case, the head of Barzan was detached from his body during the execution."

    Back in the 90s Washington State hung people on death row, and there was a Mr. Rupe who started eating taxpayer-funded Twinkies by the bushel every day, until he was 400lbs, and then his lawyer got him out of the hanging because it could have taken his head clean off, which would be cruel and unusual punishment. So Washington changed to lethal injection, but long before they could get Mr. Rupe on the gurney, he died of natural causes related to obesity.

  11. dave h

    The Iranian nuke, if it exists is not a threat to US.
    To Israel, KSA & Europe, there would be a viable threat, which historicly has been met with MAD deterence. There is no evidence Iran would not be detered in a similar manner.

    A "preemptive" US strike against Iran, could easily be answered by a different type of "swamp gas" in NYC. Such a chemical attack would not gain Mr Bush a "pass". He'd be seen as the trigger to massive civilian casualties in the US.
    But perhaps the Iranians do not have the capacity to strike the US. In which case we have no concern, and no reason to strike Iran, in the first place.
    It is still a MAD world.
    The Mohammedan nuclear capacity has been detered by MAD policies, for the past decade. The Pakistani devices kept in check, by just that prescription.

    But, by all means let US debate War with Iran. A Decalaration would require such debate, except in a retaliatory scenario.

    Should the US go to a policy of overt War with Iran, to secure Mr Maliki in Baghdad?
    That is a debate I'd watch with interest.

  12. Hard to say, whit.
    But the Iranians cannot reach the US with the device, even if they had one.
    Their missiles are Continental, not Intercontinental.
    The Pakistani are in a similar shape. Do not doubt for a moment that the General President knows the Indians could absorb a first strike, then destroy Pakistan.
    MAD at it's best.

    Now if aQ were to obtain the Government of Pakistan, if the ISI were to gain the General Presidentcy, then who knows. But they still could not reach US, with their missiles.

    Nerve agents, blood agents and biological agents, those are the "real" threats. Much easier to produce, transport and just as casualty productive, if not more so.

    The Japanese cultists proved just how easy it can be. They were inept, to be sure, but not State backed or internationally financed.
    To assume continued incompetency on the Mohammedans part is no defense.
    It is a MAD Mohammedan world, or it would not have to be a "Long War", to be kept inside the PC lines.

  13. Iran has used proxies against proxies. She likes to do things on the cheap. There is arguably a better chance of a nuclear strike coming from Pakistan than there would be from Iran, if Iran had fifty nuclear missiles.

    There is no evidence through experience that a strategic bombing campaign will solve an Iranian problem. Air campaigns work when they augment ground campaigns. The Army had it right when they called it the Army Air Corps. All the strategic bombing in Europe did not end the WWII. It took troops on the ground. The nuclear weapon strikes on Japan did because the Japanese already had a taste of American troops face to face and they lost their appetitte for war with the lethal combination of manpower and then nuclear weapons.

    We do not have an army left to take on Iran. It is insane.

    I am not impressed with the actual outcome and results of a singular bombing campaign. Look at the last five:

    1. Getting Saddam:
    Bombing- 0
    Troops on ground-1

    2. Tora Bora:
    Bombing- 0
    Troops on ground (with air support)-1

    3. Afghanistan:
    Bombing- 0
    Troops on ground (with air support)-1

    4. Kosovo:
    Bombing- 0
    Troops on ground-1

    5. Iraq Desert Storm
    Troops on ground (with air support)-0

  14. an obvious error:


    5. Iraq Desert Storm
    Troops on ground (with air support)-1

  15. To set off a nuclear weapon is no small feat. If it had never been tested, you really have no assurance that it would work. MAD does not apply because if Iran got as far as attempting to use a nuclear weapon, the only nation that would be assured od destruction would be Iran.

    The goal is not to fall in love with a tactic. The goal is to achieve the desired outcome of a strategy. Our strategy with Iran should be containment, dimishment of her influence and the forcede expenditure of financial assets with the desired outcome of internal regime change. That is achievable. That is a win.

    The US has tremendous assets and prestige. It kills me to see them frittered away by sloganeering and wishful thinking.

    Warren Buffet is successful because he uses a formula that he has proven time and time again. What formula has this administration used on anything that has won time and time again?

  16. Rufus, you are the man when it comes to being on the sunny side of the street.

  17. 2164th wrote, "MAD does not apply because if Iran got as far as attempting to use a nuclear weapon, the only nation that would be assured of destruction would be Iran."

    What's really mad is how the Palestinians are egging Iran on to go ahead and nuke Israel, which is about as smart as some banditos on the roof of your car egging on the other car rushing at you in a game of chicken not to swerve.

  18. Bobabalharb said, "T., now you mention it I remember that Rupe case. Quess we know what he would have requested for his last meal."

    He wanted to eat Jenny Craig.

  19. Rufus said, "Interestingly, The Iranians were shocked when they got to Saudi Arabia (the Hajj) to find that THEIR currency was totally unwanted."

    I suppose the equivelent would be a bunch of Protestant tourists from Northern Ireland trying to pass off their funny orange bills with 'enry the 8th on them in a Vatican gift shop.

  20. I feel bad for President Bush. He's been so viciously attacked by the MSM for being verbally clumsy, that he's really turned gun shy trying to communicate his vision to the greater public.

  21. For all the criticism of Bush regarding his frustrating inability to clearly elucidate what our mission is in Iraq, amid the firestorm and demagogic verbiage everyone seems to have forgotten that the Democrats have still been consistently unable to state their stand, or display the resolve to stick to their position without succumbing to the tendencies of a tumbleweed in the desert. That impotency has riddled the Democrats up till today: they have been trying so, so hard to bring the president down so that nobody will ask them what they think.

    If we somehow “lose” Iraq, it would be interpreted by the Sunnis not as a triumph of Arab/Islamofascism over civilisation/West, but rather more painfully, as a harbinger of Persian hegemony, as an insult to Arab pride. Similarly, if we “won” Iraq, it would be regarded as a victory over Iran by Sunnis, not that of us over Arabs/Islamofascism. How could Arabs ever allow us to claim victory on our terms? One can always count on them to paint their own triumphs – even the 1973 War of Attrition was depicted as a victory for the Arabs over Israel.

    Therein lies neither “defeat” nor “victory” ahead for us, whatever those terms may mean. Gone is the quest for a glorified romanticism of triumph, or the self-pitying, self-indulgent, self-induced depression of a “loss” abroad: there is only “peace” or “death”. I don’t think even the Democrats will be willing to sacrifice their lives for whatever they stand for (what exactly do they stand for, again?).

    Thus, in either case should the dice roll, the wider implications will be felt much more viscerally in the Middle East between the Arab nations than directly at home: as Edward Luttwak has saliently opined:

    The Iraq war has indeed brought into existence a New Middle East, in which Arab Sunnis can no longer gleefully disregard American interests because they need help against the looming threat of Shiite supremacy, while in Iraq at the core of the Arab world, the Shia are allied with the U.S. What past imperial statesmen strove to achieve with much cunning and cynicism, the Bush administration has brought about accidentally. But the result is exactly the same.

    The seeds of Iraqi nationalism have been sown, and the geopolitical conditions - the steady temperature maintained by the equilibrium of countervailing forces in the balance of power between Shiites, Sunnis and Persians - are promising, to say the least.

    The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I would like to believe that we are not as foolish as that.