“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."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Political Stupidity, Historical Ignorance and Naive Ideology.

We must have gotten something right in Iraq. No? Maybe? Something? There must be something. Well maybe not. Read this:

Bush's Lost Iraqi Election
By David Ignatius Washington Post
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ayad Allawi, the former interim prime minister of Iraq, hinted in a television interview last weekend at one of the war's least understood turning points: America's decision not to challenge Iranian intervention in Iraq's January 2005 elections.

"Our adversaries in Iraq are heavily supported financially by other quarters. We are not," Allawi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We fought the elections with virtually no support whatsoever, except for Iraqis and the Iraqis who support us."

Behind Allawi's comment lies a tale of intrigue and indecision by the United States over whether to mount a covert-action program to confront Iran's political meddling. Such a plan was crafted by the Central Intelligence Agency and then withdrawn -- because of opposition from an unlikely coalition that is said to have included Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was then House minority leader, and Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser.

Allawi looks like Tony Soprano. Can he bring the families together?

As recounted by former U.S. officials, the story embodies the mix of hubris and naivete that has characterized so much of the Iraq effort. From President Bush on down, U.S. officials enthused about Iraqi democracy while pursuing a course of action that made it virtually certain that Iran and its proxies would emerge as the dominant political force.

The CIA warned in the summer and fall of 2004 that the Iranians were pumping money into Iraq to steer the Jan. 30, 2005, elections toward the coalition of Shiite religious parties known as the United Iraqi Alliance. By one CIA estimate, Iranian covert funding was running at $11 million a week for media and political operations on behalf of candidates who would be friendly to Iran, under the banner of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The CIA reported that in the run-up to the election, as many as 5,000 Iranians a week were crossing the border with counterfeit ration cards to register to vote in Iraq's southern provinces.

To counter this Iranian tide, the CIA proposed a political action program, initially at roughly $20 million but with no ceiling. The activities would include funding for moderate Iraqi candidates, outreach to Sunni tribal leaders and other efforts to counter Iranian influence. A covert-action finding was prepared in the fall of 2004 and signed by President Bush. As required by law, senior members of Congress, including Pelosi, were briefed.

But less than a week after the finding was signed, CIA officials were told that it had been withdrawn. Agency officials in Baghdad were ordered to meet with Iraqi political figures and get them to return whatever money had been distributed. Mystified by this turn of events, CIA officers were told that Rice had agreed with Pelosi that the United States couldn't on the one hand celebrate Iraqi democracy and on the other try to manipulate it secretly.

Ethically, that was certainly a principled view. But on the ground in Iraq, the start-stop maneuver had the effect of pulling the rug out from under moderate, secular Iraqis who might have contained extremist forces. (Asked about the withdrawal of the intelligence finding, spokesmen for Rice and Pelosi declined to comment.)

"The Iranians had complete command of the field," recalls one former U.S. official who was in Iraq at the time. "The Iraqis were bewildered. They didn't understand what the U.S. was doing. It looked like we were giving the country to Iran. We told Washington this was a calamitous event, from which it would be hard to recover."

Allawi, in a telephone interview Tuesday from Amman, Jordan, confirmed that the United States had shelved its political program. "The initial attitude of the U.S. was to support moderate forces, financially and in the media," he said. "This was brought to a halt, under the pretext that the U.S. does not want to interfere." Allawi said the American decision was "understandable" but ceded the field to Iran and its well-financed proxies.

Allawi said he is trying to gather support for a new coalition of Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shiites as an alternative to the Shiite religious coalition that installed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power. Some commentators see Allawi's recent decision to hire a Washington public relations firm as a sign of the Bush administration's support, but the opposite is probably the case. If Allawi had U.S. government backing, he wouldn't need the lobbyists.

Future historians should record that the Bush administration actually lived by its pro-democracy rhetoric about a new Iraq -- to the point that it scuttled a covert action program aimed at countering Iranian influence. Now the administration says it wants to counter Iranian meddling in Iraq, but it is probably too late.


  1. Day late, dollar short.

    With the legitimacy all with Maliki and Sistani, al-Sadr, too.

    As Professor Lweis said:
    "America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend."

  2. ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Associated Press) -- President Gen. Pervez Musharraf rejects "any pressure or ultimatum" to decide whether to quit as army chief, his spokesman said Thursday, after an opponent said he would step down as head of the military under a pact to restore Pakistan to democracy.

    Still, officials were either unavailable or declined to comment directly on the accuracy of Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assertion Wednesday that Musharraf had already decided to leave his powerful military post.

  3. Lewis, not Lweis

    Wonder if habu would notice?

  4. These things happen when you get hooked on a feeling.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Mr. Maliki is the logical product of the system the United States created. The creation was not based on fact or observation nor experience nor advice, not history, tradition or culture. Iraq and our Islamic nation building experiment is advancing from a cluster fuck to something more on a galactic scale.

  7. The Republican versus Democratic debate of who will win or lose Iraq is a continuation of the naïveté. I am not sure who were the architects but George Bush is the promoter and developer.

  8. Yes, it seems so.
    One can discuss that Bremer said this, while the Marines did that...

    Rumsfeld was a ... fill in your own blank. Fallujah I or Fallujah II, how the Insurgents back was broken, before it wasn't.

    But none of that matters, really. Those events were, many still are, representative the US efforts.
    As in China with Marshall, Vietnam with Mr Ford, Iran with Carter or Iraq and the Bush family dynasty. It is the United States that is acting, not individual players.
    The US is a team, sport.

    Who lost China, the US. Or Vietnam, or Iran or stability in Iraq. The US did it. All of US, together.

    Some of our governments are more inept and feckelss than others, that seems sure from a historical perspective, but Mr Lewis's sentiment streches through time. Touching each Administration for the last fifty years.

    That the US has done so well, vis a vie the rest of the planet, not to be credited to the US governmnent, but achieved despite its interference.

    Now I give credit to Teddy Roosevelt, he made Arizona bloom with public works projects. He and other Presidents expoused great public works projects, the Panama Canal, Grand Coolie, Hoover Dam and the Inter State Hiway System, but a few of the good quantifiable works done.

    But the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, Wars in Korea and Vietnam ...
    The more recentFederal efforts, wallowing in failure and division.
    Until we reach today, where we war aganst the fog. Each day bringing a new challenge, directly from yesterday's "solution".
    No one in the government can tell US who we fight, nor why. Each explaination is mired in the hypocricy of yesterday's explaination or tomorrow's excuse.

    Oh, and the Iraq Asventure, another $50 BILLION USD, supplemental, if you please.
    We must expand upon the current success, you know.

    Each of the defenders of "Staying the Course", fade to black. After the name calling diatribes, there is no depth to the discourse.
    And like good soldiers, they fade away.

  9. ..there is no depth to the discourse.

    But there's a guiding force. Money and Corruption.

  10. If George is the promoter and developer, then we must be the lender. This makes me uncomfortable, as I don't see we have adequate securtiy on the project. I think I might rather be in the position to pick up the project cheap, after it is foreclosed upon, and auctioned off.

  11. Olli says everything is ok, Iran is coming round.

  12. Hewitt interviewed a General that was very optimistic about events in Iraq.
    He also interviewed a War Historian or some such from Harvard that just came back from Iraq.
    Both the General and the Professor agreed that Iran has been matching our surge in kind, with record numbers of explosively formed penetrators and etc.

    Luckily, we continue to pretend this aspect of the war does not exist, so we are not responsible, and don't need to do anything about it.

  13. I thot Oliver North had lost his mind!

    Looks like a fat version of Bill Gates ten years ago.

    Put your trust in Iran.

  14. "IAEA inspectors are taking seriously threats by Iran's leadership that the country will drop the initiative to cooperate more closely if additional Security Council sanctions are imposed, said the UN diplomats."
    We must not learn from History.
    We Must be doomed to repeat.
    Stay the Course!
    Say the Curse!

  15. We do, doug, that is why they recieved $220 million USD in subsidies from US this year, with another $820 million in the pipeline.

  16. DAMN!
    Goin' into town to get the fish wrap, see what the latest skinny is on Senator Wide Stance. If there is anything good, or humorous, I'll give you a report.

  17. "(Well-armed) Sheep amongst lions."

  18. Thankfully for our history, the French were willing to intervene in American internal affairs to balance out the British.

  19. "But my favorite is his claim that he only pleaded guilty because he didn't consult a lawyer or understand his rights. Another lie. Eleven days after his arrest, he specifically asked for a police contact with whom his lawyer could communicate. He arranged a plea deal; his staff is full of lawyers. Senator Craig had easier access to legal counsel than 99 percent of those charged with crimes in this country."--Susan Estrich, on Craig, whom I ususally can't stand. She needs a voice coach, but she's got the Senator figured out.

    The Idaho pols seem to be circling the wagons in defense of Craig. Big mistake. 'Butch' Otter, our governor from Simplot Company, a real horses arse, says, I've had my troubles too,etc. Representative Sali, whom his republican colleagues have called 'brain dead', coming to his defense too.

    Say the curse, Doug.

  20. pissing in the wind
    betting on a losing friend
    making the same mistakes we swore we'd never make again ...

  21. I think this is fascinating. Lost Tribe of Israel Returns Home There must be something to this, as I can't understand how a group could keep up the basics of a tradition for so long otherwise.

    If I understand the Mormons, and I am not saying I do, I think they believe the 'lost tribes' or some of them were here in the Americas. I think this highly unlikely to say the least.

  22. Unlikely, bob, come on!

    Just a hop, skip and a jump from the Levant to Mexico, or Missouri.

    They got to Mexico and were so home sick for Eygpt, they built the pyramids at Teotihuacan.

    Everyone knows that.

    Then Christ came, after the crucifiction, and preached the good word.
    It's historical Mormon fact.

    Those Teotihuacan pyramids a damned impressive sight to behold.

    The desencents of those Jews, then branched off into the Aztec and Mayan peoples, just look at the noses in the wall reliefs, Jewish ancestry, plain as day.
    All that are missing is the little skull caps. :)

  23. My Nez Perce friends wouldn't buy it. Besides, DNA seems to tell a different story.

    I remember talking to a LDSer in Hawaii years ago, nice lady, she held to the truth of it, it's in the book. :)

  24. God can manipulate DNA, bob.
    That is no proof, either way, if one believes.

    That is part of the story of intellegent design and the blessed Earth doctrine.

    God's manipulation of the science, it easily explains away those objections to the truth.

  25. Maybe God can manipulate DNA, but it seems no one is manipulating the Idaho Statesman, who enthusiastically endorsed Craig last time around, and now is calling for him to exeunt, stage right.

  26. an interesting article in atimes had this in it:

    "But the real source of China's power lies not with American consumers reclining in their Barcaloungers, with their Wal-Mart-bought chips and soft drinks, watching the latest Adam Sandler digital video disc that they picked up at the checkout counter while waiting to pay for the Wal-Mart big-screen TV. Americans may be unable to control their addiction to Chinese consumer products; it's a lot more important that the US ruling corporate sector is equally or more addicted to Chinese profits.

    Just as a religious believer might trumpet the growth in a society's virtue, a believer in the religion of free-market capitalism holds no value higher than growth in productivity. Productivity growth, making an equal quantity of a product with less cost, or making a larger quantity of a product with the same quantity of value of input, is capitalism's glorious bright Elysium; it is the core process by which profit is generated.

    Wal-Mart and other US retailers have managed to keep many of their prices stable in an era of general 2-4% retail inflation. Others have declined; they actually have been at Wal-Mart. However, this has only been accomplished through the enormous reduction in labor input costs made possible through non-unionized Chinese labor; save 80% or more on your labor costs, you can roll back prices on a $3 tube of toothpaste a few quarters and still make out like bandits. It is this process, the globalization two-step, fire in the US and hire in China, that is in large part responsible for the massive shift in US national income away from wages and salaries toward profits: the US profit-wage ratio is at its most extreme value since 1966.

    Seen this way, the addiction of the US corporate class to profits from ships arriving from China represents perhaps the most significant great-power naval victory since Jutland in World War I. The addiction of the US consuming classes is nice but, ultimately, it has its limits; once you have two or three plasma TVs in your house, your appetite for more is probably moving toward being slaked.

    However, for the corporate classes that comprise America's ruling elite, there will always be that one bigger next artificial high, be it from a grander beach house, a shinier Ferrari, a faster private jet, an older classical painting or a younger trophy wife, that continuing to mainline the Chinese profit needle might get one closer to. On the unlikely possibility that there still are a few communists left in the Chinese Communist Party, they must find the irony nothing short of ambrosial - once again, just as Vladimir Lenin said they would, communists are selling capitalists the rope with which they will hang themselves.