“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, February 04, 2007

Pious Pronouncements and other Nonsensical Insincerities

If you go to Real Clear Politics and look at the index for articles, you will find this one:

A Terrible Ignominy
How many Republicans will desert the troops?
by William Kristol
02/12/2007, Volume 012, Issue 21

Without getting into the merits of the article, I pose a question. What constitutes either support for the troops or deserting the troops? To begin with, military service is based on orders and your compliance is expected. That is why they are called orders. You are not consulted and neither ask for an explanation nor are offered one. You train for a mission and when the mission is presented to you, it is done with compliance expected.

Opinions, happiness or lack of appreciation and enthusiasm is irrelevant. Pious pronouncements about supporting the troops are absurd. The mission begins when you are ordered to start and ends when you are ordered to stop. The commitment is between parenthesis. A soldier, sailor, airman or marine is a professional that is told to fire or hold fire. He is given rules of engagement. He is trained to follow instructions and conventions. There are no consultations with politicians.

"Supporting the troops" is one of the many dishonest and insincere phrases that roll too easily off the forked tongue of politicians. "Have a nice day", "you are in our thoughts and prayers" and "thank you for your service" all ring hollow to my ears.

The idea that men in combat need to stay in combat, because some politician claims that they need to do so based on some bizarre sense of momentum of public support, is laughable. I can speak from experience, that when in the middle of some difficult and unpleasant assignment, had someone said, do you want to pack it in and go home, the resounding expression would have been many variations of:

Thanks, have a nice day, you will be in my thoughts and prayers, and I will see you at the airport.


  1. Whether you read the article or not, look at the accompanying photograph and read the caption. Where have I seen such smiles on perps before? Oh, yeah, South Central LA.

    Soldiers in Iraq view troop surge as a lost cause

    The Sgt. is probably wondering when he will see those expanded, liberalized ROE.

  2. ...But in the Fars report, the Iranian source strongly denied the theory, saying that the Israeli intelligence agency "is basically incapable of running operations inside Iran."

    "Such reports are released to serve propaganda purposes," he said, adding that "Iran's nuclear scientists are continuing their efforts to master civilian nuclear technology for peaceful purposes."

    Earlier on Sunday, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iranian vice president and head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, also denied the reports, saying that all the country's "nuclear experts, thank God, are sound and safe."

    Tehran Denial

  3. What a picture! Cox and Forkum also have had it with “Punky” Bush. This cartoon hurts, as well it should.



  4. Bush's new budget on Monday will ask for $100 billion more for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year - on top of $70 billion already approved by Congress for the current year. The budget will call for $145 billion in war spending for 2008.

    The spending request covers Bush's new war strategy, including the increase in troops, White House budget director Rob Portman said Sunday.

    "It's extremely important that we support our troops," Portman said. He described the requested money as the amount needed "to be sure our troops have the equipment they need, that they are taken care of well."

    New Budget

    Great cartoon, Allen. Thanks.

  5. sam,

    I thought it expressed the reality of the present policy about as well as anything I have seen or read. But, G-d, it is depressingly devastating.

  6. sam,

    An added thought -
    When accused of BDS, I scratch my head and wonder, "I wish".

  7. Thank you Allen. I admire your honesty. You do not shirk from the truth. I read your posts when you dismantled a fraud. thank you again.

  8. trish,

    Perhaps you as concerned as I about people not understanding what has happened (happening) to our military culture. That photo I linked on my first comment here is truly disturbing in so many ways. What is going through that NCO's mind as he plays "catch me, chase me" with the two scumbags.

  9. Deuce,

    I appreciate your confidence. Much more to the point, I am eternally grateful for the work you and Whit do here. This site is a breathe of fresh air.

    It would give me so much more satisfaction could I direct my comments more positively. But, there is no point in fooling ourselves. As Trish has often rightly observed, we are served a "shit sandwich". What in Hell do you do with that, and can a spoonful of sugar really make the medicine go down.

    With each passing day, I find less and less to recommend the completion of the Bush presidency.

  10. trish,

    They're killing us for sure. And I don't mean the Iraqis.

  11. While not altogether to my liking, this sober assessment of the situation in Iraq is worth a read.

    “He said that during his meetings with Iraqi officials, it was painful to ‘hear what each Iraqi faction wants to take from Iraq. I never heard them talk about what they have to give Iraq.’"

    “Lamani said he ultimately blames Washington for Iraq's deterioration. ‘Its ways of dealing with the Iraqi problems, including the Iranian intervention, are not right. ... They need to change their policy in an urgent way,’ he said.

    “Lamani also faults the 22 nations of the Arab League, saying they did not give Iraq ‘the necessary priority or seriousness.’ Arab governments were so detached from Iraq that it was ‘as if it were on the moon,’ he said.”

    “If Iraq falls into outright civil war, ‘it will burn down everything, and not only in Iraq,’ he said. ‘God alone knows how far it will go.’"

    Arab diplomat resigns after Iraq mission


  12. allen, did you notice how Bush phrased his reply?

    "It makes common sense for the commander in chief to say to our troops and the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government that we will help you defend yourself from people that want to sow discord and harm."

    Common sense, eh? PC, no?

  13. Look, we're helping!

    Syrian customs officers last week stopped an Iraqi truck attempting to smuggle arms into Lebanon, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Sunday. The truck - said to be carrying 95 9-mm handguns, an assault rifle, a Russian rifle, 190 bullets and 290 ammunition clips - was seized at the Arida border crossing en route to the North Lebanese city of Tripoli, SANA quoted a Syrian customs official as saying.

    The news agency said the arms were to be delivered to a restaurant owner in Tripoli. The smugglers, whose identities were not disclosed, have been arrested and handed over to Syrian authorities for questioning, SANA said.

    But how did the arms get into Iraq in the first place? Saniora chose to defer the case to the military instead of addressing that crucial question.

    But the Iraqis ain't buying it:


    After a series of talks during the January visit, Talabani and his Syrian counterpart President Bashar al-Assad expressed a joint "readiness to work together and do everything possible to eradicate terrorism."

    But Dabbagh charged Saturday that despite Syrian promises to the contrary, "terrorist groups in Iraq receive all kinds of aid from people set up in Syria."

    Which begs another question: what good does it do for Syria to contradict itself in either of its motives? Clearly, Talabani has shown that he distrusts the Syrians, and that he might threaten to forsake Syrian investment - which in recent months have proven to be potentially substantial; perhaps Assad is trying to feel its way around and see whether Maliki is another Olmert, delusional and gullible.

    Motives for stopping arms from Iraq into Lebanon? Intriguing, indeed.

    Clearly, the major players that have benefited from the spotlight on Iran are the KSA, and to a lesser extent, Syria. The very fact that nobody is actually looking that way is worrying in itself.

  14. Into the fray

    This does not sound good at all. Would the Kurds retaliate, or acquiesce in ethnic cleansing of Sunnis by Shiites?

    The series of explosions appeared to be an organized effort to undermine the local government and raise public fear, where two of the car bombs detonated near separate offices headed by Kurdish political parties.

    Intended to achieve political aims, probably to warn the Kurds against interfering with the Shiite-Sunni conflict, and to discourage them from sending soldiers to bolster the surge.

    But how soon before political aims are discarded in favour of bloodshed? If they could do it while we offered them a way out of this sectarian madness, it seems natural to assume the Sunni insurgents would resort to the same means to get their way no matter what.

  15. As has been the case, harrison, for over 42 months. The Sunni have rejected every overture & outreach.

    The US rejects that reality, out of hand. There is always some evidence of this Sheik or that "moderating". It is usually due to a short term "payoff" to the Sheik.

    Well and good on a Tactical level, but Strategicly lays US low. Trying to play Arab tribal politics with one hand tied behind our back.

  16. harrison,

    re: Bushism

    Occasionally, the President is so publicly vacuous, inane, devoid of sense (common or otherwise) as to leave one speechless. Moreover, there is not a single word known to me that wholly captures the contempt I feel for the gentleman and his administration. May Mr. Bush get what he deserves, nothing more, nothing less. And may G-d preserve the United States of America, because at this conjuncture, I think nothing less will do.

    A generation of fools, led by a dunce.

  17. allen, perhaps he is living testament that sense is at most only "common" and not universal.

  18. Intriguing that recently, Nasrallah was unhesitant to declare that Iran was channelling funds via Syria to Hezbollah. Everybody knows it, as he says.

    Which seems rather coincidental that Syria is actually preventing weapons shipments from Iraq into Lebanon - as aforementioned, perhaps this is simply a mere trick. Or that Iran's intentions to nudge Nasrallah towards instigating civil war in Lebanon runs counter to Syrian interests there - therein lies the potential of a split.

    Syria benefits from covert intelligence, networked informants and spies - in short, the status quo. Hezbollah with too much power leaves the Syrians with too risky a degree of unpredictability to continue the latter's support for the former. Besides, Iran wouldn't be the one absorbing the contagious effects of civil war in Lebanon.

    Alternatively, a Hezbollah uprooted and uncertain of its future prospects in Lebanon underscores its partial dependence on Syrian cooperation. Just like the mullahs keep Assad on a short leash, so will Assad on Nasrallah.

  19. I am not a big fan of any of these nonbinding resolutions floating around at this point.

    One, they are nonbinding, so on the face of them they are meaningless.

    They serve the politicians who vote for them well in both parties, for it enables them to vote in a manner that demonstrates they are in tune with the national mood right now (ie sick and tired of the war), yet leave all responsibility to find a way forward in the hands of the President.

    These resolutions provide no concrete vision to achieve success in Iraq, and yet they offer no check or balance to cease or depart from what they purport to identify as failed policy.

    If a majority in either party believes there is no hope for success in Iraq, then do something more concrete than a meaningless resolution; threaten to cut off funding by a certain date, propose an alternative vision for a way to succeed in Iraq, threaten to impeach the President for misconduct, etc. Soldiers are risking their lives in combat day in and day out in Iraq, so they have a right to expect a little bit more political courage from their congressmen and senators, one could argue.

    I would add my humble opinion, respectfully, that while Kristol may have been a bit jingoistic in his column, gestures like these being debated by Congress will do little good if anything, for Soldiers prosecuting this war. The resolution will demonstrate lack of confidence that Soldiers will succeed strategically in a fight that they are executing, risking their lives in, at the tactical level; yet the resolution will not relieve them of their responsibilities, or initiate a change of mission where they have an arguably better chance of success.

    So I hope these resolutions just wither away in endless debate, at least until Congress wants stand up and do something substantive in one direction or the other.

    The beer was a Guinness, and as always, it was quite tasty and in good company here at the Elephant Bar!

    I defer to you all, esteemed commenters.