“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, February 16, 2008

Not Since Solomon

The Queen of Sheba at Solomon's Temple

"Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair."
Barack Obama

Barack Obama is a phenomenon.
Not since King Solomon has a man been so wise.
What would the world be like if we had only listened to him?

Taking our cue from the latest NIE, we can say with a high degree of confidence that Barack Obama may be the next Commander-in-Chief. With that in mind, let us look back so that we may look ahead. Here's what he said about the invasion and the subsequent prosecution of the war:

October 2002
"I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil.

I don't oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil.

I don't oppose all wars. After September 11, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.

I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that...we vigorously enforce a nonproliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair."

November 20, 2006
This kind of realism has been missing since the very conception of this war, and it is what led me to publicly oppose it in 2002. The notion that Iraq would quickly and easily become a bulwark of flourishing democracy in the Middle East was not a plan for victory, but an ideological fantasy. I said then and believe now that Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator who craved weapons of mass destruction but posed no imminent threat to the United States; that a war in Iraq would harm, not help, our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and finish the job in Afghanistan; and that an invasion would require an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

Jan 30, 2007
Mr. President, today in Iraq, we sadly find ourselves at the very point I feared most when I opposed giving the President the open-ended authority to wage this war in 2002 - an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences in the midst of a country torn by civil war.

The American people have waited and the American people have been patient. We have given chance after chance for a resolution that has not come, and, more importantly, watched with horror and grief the tragic loss of thousands of brave young American soldiers.

The time for waiting in Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close. And the need to bring this war to an end is here.

That is why today, I'm introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007.

This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation, more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces with the goal of removing of all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by March 31st, 2008 - consistent with the expectations of the bipartisan Iraq study group that the President has so assiduously ignored.

The redeployment of troops to the United States, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the region would begin no later than May 1st of this year, toward the end of the timeframe I first proposed in a speech more than two months ago. In a civil war where no military solution exists, this redeployment remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve the political settlement between its warring factions that can slow the bloodshed and promote stability.

March 21, 2007
There is no military solution to this war. No amount of U.S. soldiers – not 10,000 more, not 20,000 more, not the almost 30,000 more that we now know we are sending– can solve the grievances that lay at the heart of someone else’s civil war. Our troops cannot serve as their diplomats, and we can no longer referee their civil war. We must begin a phased withdrawal of our forces starting May 1st, with the goal of removing all combat forces by March 30th, 2008.
Feb 11, 2008
"I strongly disagree with the administration's plans to 'pause' the long overdue removal of our combat brigades from Iraq," Obama said in a statement.

"We cannot wage war without end in Iraq while ignoring mounting costs to our troops and their families, our security and our economy.

"While the administration puts our drawdown on permanent pause, (Osama) bin Laden is on the loose, Afghanistan is sliding toward chaos, and we're spending billions of dollars a week in Baghdad instead of helping Americans who are struggling here at home."

When the World Trade Center Twin Towers were still smoking, when Saddam Hussein was corrupting the world with the now hardly mentioned "Oil for Food" program, when the post Gulf War containment stategy was failing, and when most of the world's intelligence agencies were sure that Saddam had WMD and was a threat to use them, Barack Hussein Obama "knew that Hussein posed no immediate threat." He also "knew " that General Petraeus would fail. Obama has said that unlike George W. Bush, he is a man that admits his errors but it seems that Senator Obama can only see the errors of others.

In hindsight, Obama and his supporters claim that he was right about deposing Saddam, but have they considered what effects a free Saddam might have had on Afghanistan? They do not address Hussein's corruption of the United Nations and refuse to acknowledge that the "containment" was breaking down. They do not, in any meaningful way, address Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Salafist ideology or the concept of good and evil. They do not ask hard questions about Islam. They are unwilling to project kinetic military power and the question should be raised as to whether a President Obama would have invaded Afghanistan or under what circumstances he would resort to military force in the future.

Peace keeping and multi-lateral diplomacy; that is their way and there is some doubt whether Obama and his supporters would go beyond the use of soft power. Will President Obama roll back the calendar to a pre-9/11 mentality? We can say with a moderate degree of confidence that he will. We are less confident about the consequences of doing so.


  1. Don't dispair, Whit. If memory serves, he said in one debate we ought to get into north west Pakistan:)

    More seriously, he may have hidden his truer beliefs. This business about islam in his background is enough for me, regardless of the myriad other issues one can raise.

    Hillary is a scoundrel to be sure, but she at least is a known quantity. Obama's had Nation of Islam staffers. Who is this magician?

  2. We will soon get to see what the Democrats bought. I do predict enough buyers remorse to turn the tide.

    On another matter, I have made six international trips on the last ten days. There is a marked difference in security and document verification. More time and much more scrutiny. Something up?

  3. You really travel around, deuce. I haven't been on a plane in years. Used to go to Hawaii each year after the farming was done, standby out of Seattle, on a Thursday. Only couple hundred bucks round trip. 747. Always sparsely seated, plenty of room. Those were the days. Then I got married.

    There was something in the news the other day too about increased security between USA and Europe. Maybe something is up.

    The dems are going to have a fight, looks like. Billary wants to seat those delegates from Florida and Michigan. Best thing that could happen to America right now--a brawl at the democratic convention.

    Bill Clinton asked some crowd the other day--"I'm asking you to vote for me."


  4. If one takes the commercial airline, perhaps, duece.

    But if a person wished to enter the country, from Cuba, through Mexico...

    Why they could do so, unmolested.

    That the US, in Iraq, is right where we were on 28JUN03, waiting for local elections, is a sad commentary indeed.

    While the level of violence in Iraq has fallen, so have the Goals of US policy. Failure to achieve those Goals, and the surrender in any further attempt to achieve them, have led US back to the future.

    Local leadership, which was previously offered and refused, is now the vanguard of success.

    Sharia rules in Basra, Iraq.
    Where we have claimed success.

    We could have toppled Saddam and been right where we are, today, D-Day plus 180 days. The failure to do so, not even part of the debate.
    No responsibility for failure taken, no lessons learned.

  5. After considering the options of continuing the present policy of sitting back and getting hit by rocket attacks, and then retaliating against targeted bad actors, and a policy of more negotiations, and rejecting both these options as not feasible, the writer at Middle East Strategy at Harvard recommends this---

    Option 3

    All-Out Assault. This strategy would utilize Israel’s technological superiority to end, once and for all, the rocket firing from Gaza. After a carefully prepared diplomatic offensive in which Israel would inform the world that it will no longer tolerate rocket attacks on its citizens, Israel would give Hamas an ultimatum that unless all rocket attacks ceased, Israel would use the full range of its military might to attack Gaza. Israel would state that Gaza would be treated just as Germany was after Hitler began World War II. Israel would point out that just as U.S. and British bombers attacked German cities to weaken German military capability and prepare the way for a ground invasion, so too would Israel begin a major artillery and bombing campaign against Gazan cities to pave the way for an Israeli army attack.

    Such an ultimatum would pose a strategic dilemma for Hamas, and would be much more likely to split the organization than a long-term ceasefire. If Hamas wished to avoid the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure, the deaths of thousands of Gazans, and the uprooting of the institutions which Hamas has created in Gaza, it may choose to accept the Israeli ultimatum.

    Should it not do so, and the IDF were compelled to invade Gaza, the end result could well be positive as far as the peace process is concerned. First, after the destruction of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure, Israel would restore control of Gaza to Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization, thus recreating the unity between the West Bank and Gaza that was destroyed when Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007. This, in turn, would make the signing of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement possible, something that cannot be done so long as Hamas controls Gaza. While Hamas would undoubtedly claim that Abbas’s Fatah organization is a group of Quislings—indeed they are already asserting this—it must be emphasized that Fatah is committed to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict while Hamas is not. Israel’s destruction of Hamas would help both Abbas and the peace process.

    There are three objections to this strategy.

    First, it would involve the deaths of Israeli soldiers as well as Gazans. Yet for Israel to wait until Tel Aviv comes into the range of Hamas rocket fire is a more dangerous option, for then many unprepared Israeli civilians would be killed as opposed to trained IDF soldiers.
    A second objection is that world opinion would not tolerate such an Israeli attack. To counter this, as noted above, Israel must carefully prepare the diplomatic ground for the ultimatum, especially in the United States and Europe. Olmert could help Israel’s diplomatic position by closing the illegal West Bank settlement outposts prior to the attack on Gaza, and thereby strengthen Abbas as well as Israel’s position in the world. In any case Israel is already being heavily criticized for its limited actions in Gaza.
    Finally, it is argued, such an attack would threaten Israel’s relations with Jordan and Egypt, the two Arab countries that have made peace with Israel. In this context it should be noted that the Egyptian regime of Husni Mubarak, and the Jordanian regime of King Abdullah II detest Hamas, because it is an ideological ally of their main domestic political opposition—the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Islamic Action Front in Jordan. While these groups may lead public demonstrations against Israeli policy—much as they did during the Al-Aqsa intifadah—it is doubtful that either Mubarak or King Abdullah II will change policy as a result of the Israeli attack.
    In sum, an Israeli ultimatum followed by a full-scale attack on Gaza would appear to be Israel’s best option for stopping the rocket attacks.

  6. May be, but it's hard not to see how all hell wouldn't break loose, if we vamoose.

  7. Big changes coming to law enforcement in Phoenix, according to Drudge--

    All those arrested on criminal charges like drunken driving and murder will be asked by officers whether they are in the United States legally.

    Well I'd quess.

    But not if you just get a speeding ticket, article said:(

  8. A poster at another blog has it about right--

    Party: Democrat Reply #: 6
    Date: Feb. 16, 2008 - 8:19 AM EST

    Dems may be willing to get caught up in Obama hysteria but it will hit a brick wall with the more sober general electorate.

    Let's see McCain's national security experience and legislative record against Obama's...

    What is Obama's national security experience - zero

    National security policy - bomb in Pakistan and meet immediately with the Presidents of Iran and Cuba - that clip from the debate will be shown again and again and again on national TV spots for the republicans

    What is Obama's legislative record in the Senate....? He has sponsored exactly two bills that have become law:

    1. a bill that sought to promote democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    2. a bill that named a post office.

    Stop the MADNESS

  9. Gentlemen, tell us - the great unwashed outside CONUS with nil votes but real interest on this - is this Obama really likely to be elected running against McCain?

    I guess its a question whether the ballot will reflect the US public genuflection to minorities or no? 'Cause his sole qualification for the post appears to be being 1) nice and 2)black.

    I gotta say the whole thing scares the crap outta me. America still as an illusion of security, that in a really bad international and economic climate one goddamn fool president couldn't actually sink the whole country more or less overnight (or in an election cycle or two anyway). Doubly so if the Dems still control both houses.

  10. PK, I think Obama will fall short by 5-7%.

  11. 8 Fewer Obama Voters

    "We were just standing there, my child, my dad, and me, and this Bastard driving in the middle of the nite with his lights off plowed into us."
    (In the middle of the road at 3am)

    ACCOKEEK, Md. (AP) - A car plowed into a crowd that had gathered to watch a drag race on a suburban road early Saturday, killing eight people and injuring at least five, police said.
    Police said the white sedan was not involved in the street race but accidentally drove into the crowd of about 50 people that had spilled onto the highway to watch two racing cars speed off.

    "There were just bodies everywhere; it was horrible," said Crystal Gaines, 27, whose father was among the dead.

    Gaines said she grabbed her child but could not help her father, William Gaines Sr., 61.

    "He wasn't breathing, he wasn't moving," she said. "His body was in pieces."

    Gaines said the car did not have its lights on, but police could not confirm that.

  12. Project Orion: 1957 Nuclear Saturn Rocket

  13. Pamelia Kurstin: Plays the Theremin

  14. I said several years, ago, I would never vote for McCain. I, also, won't stay home. This means I WILL vote for Obama. Are there any more like me? I really don't know. Will a lot of people like me just stay home? I kinda think so; but, again, I don't know?

  15. I said several years, ago, I would never vote for McCain. I, also, won't stay home. This means I WILL vote for Obama. Are there any more like me? I really don't know. Will a lot of people like me just stay home? I kinda think so; but, again, I don't know?

  16. If it's Obama, how many of Hillary's girls, who might once in a while worry about the security of the country, flip over to the charismatic McCain?

    One can only hope there aren't a lot more like you, Rufus.:) But, then, all of us here know there can't be any more like Rufus!:)

  17. We'll have to see who's going to be McCain's running mate. If it's Huckabee, then I think Rufus might have something to his argument.

  18. The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon--

    (or, Tribute is paid to a Horse Trading Warlord, including an example of the political theory of the Divine Right of Kings, shewing that the Escape from Egypt to Freedom in the Promised Land was no such thing, but that the Children of Israel did simply Fall again unto Servitude to One of Their Own Kindred; and a relation of the Destruction of the last of the species Almuggim Wood--bob)

    1 kings 10:1-13

    The fame of Solomon having reached the Queen of Sheba, she came to test him with difficult questions. She brought immense riches to Jerusalem with her, camels laden with spices, great quantities of gold, and precious stones. On coming to Solomon, she opened her mind freely to him; and Solomon had an answer for all her questions, not one of them was to obscure for the King to expound. When the Queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the accommodation for his officials, the organisation of his staff and the way they were dressed, his cup-bearers, and the holocausts he offered in the Temnple of Yahweh, it left her breathless, and she said to the King, "What I heard in my own country about you and your wisdom was true, then! Until I came and saw it with my own eyes I could not believe what they told me, but clearly they told me less than half, for wisdom and properity you surpass the report I heard. How happy your wives are! How happy are these servants of yours who wait on you always and hear your wisdom! Blessed be Yahweh your God who has granted you his favour, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because of Yahweh's everlasting love for Israel, he has made you king to deal out law and justice." And she presented the King a hundred and twenty talents of gold and great quantities of spices and precious stones; no such wealth of spices ever came again as those given to King Solomon by the Queen of Sheba. And the fleet of Hiram which carried gold form Ophir, also brought great cargoes of almuggim wood and precious stones. The King made supports with the almuggim wood for the Temple of Yahweh and for the royal palace, and lyres and harps for the musicians; no more of the almuggim wood has since come or been seen to this day. And King Solomon in his turn, presented the Queen of Sheba with all she expressed a wish for, besides those presents he made her out of his royal bounty. Then she went home, she and her servants, to her own country.

  19. Notice that in this narrative, the wisdom of Solomon consists mostly of conspicuous consumption--

    When the Queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the accommodation for his officials, the organisation of his staff and the way they were dressed, his cup-bearers, and the holocausts he offered in the Temnple of Yahweh, it left her breathless.

    Not a damned thing about a better theory of how to make the beans grow.

  20. "Blessed be Yahweh your God who has granted you his favour, setting you on the throne of Israel!"

    And this is why we should want nothing to do with that Yahoo.

  21. And the harem girls lived happily ever after.

  22. A good moral to the story, Mat, and the advisability of a decent endangered species act, as well.

  23. Sorry, Bob. It must be all that German Rivaner wine, but I can't seem to decipher your last msg @ 09:34 - "advisability of a decent endangered species act"?

  24. And the President of the United States of America, having heard of the Wisdom of the King of Saudia Arabia, came to test him with difficult questions, bearing gifts of F-16's, intelligence data, 400,000 carts of ammunition, two and a half million talents of gold and............

    Mat, its seems they cut down the last of the almuggim wood to fancy up the palace. We have a rule here, The Endangered Species Act, that mandates we don't totally wipe out any species from our realm.

  25. Hmm,..

    via: wiki

    The botanical identity of algum is not known for certain, though some references suggest it may be juniper (Juniperus). Several species of juniper occur in the Middle East region, including Juniperus excelsa (Greek Juniper), Juniperus foetidissima (Stinking Juniper), Juniperus phoenicea (Phoenician Juniper), and Juniperus drupacea (Syrian Juniper). It is likely that the woods of these species, which are all very similar in woodworking properties, would have not been distinguished from each other in the wood trade. The difficulty in identifying this wood is due in part to uncertainty over the location of the Biblical city of Ophir. If Ophir is located in India, as some think, the wood likely would be red sandlewood or Pterocarpus santalinus.

  26. Supporters Swoon Over Obama

    Feinters, or fraudulent fakers, that is the question. Is there a swooner gap developing? Can Billary possibly keep up? Would anyone actually swoon to death for Obama? Who in his right mind would swoon to death for Billary? These are questions raised on this year's democratic campaign trail.

  27. I think I'll be following the financial news from now to November. I'm completely bored by these characters.

  28. Compare This--Sheba Displays The Results of Her Indulgence to the picture of Our Lady of Albania, below. Images of and the perception of beauty change over time.
    You might be able to track the political news from the financial markets Mat, without reading a thing about the political side.

  29. A wide variety of Fainting Couches-Chaise Lounges are available and should be stationed at all the Obama rallies by the campaign manager. No Victorian gentlewoman should be expected to 'settle' into anything less.