“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, May 11, 2008


This election is like a circus sideshow: "Step and see the woman with a thousand faces." "Step up and see the incredible weightless man." While we are distracted, higher-purpose persons at State and various think tanks are scheming about foreign policy.

Their thinking and their writings are often ponderous which dissuades many people from reading them but their policy deliberations need to be exposed to a much wider audience. So, read them we must.

The Arabists or the Corporations seeking to expand their markets pose their own kind of problems but it is the do-gooders, the Wilsonian Interventionists, and Multilateralists, etc. who want to expand the influence of American ideals by breaking down national borders (an oxymoron if there ever was one) and exporting democracy.

Right now, we see examples of this in the unrestricted illegal immigration allowed by the current administration, which is a de facto obliteration of the border with Mexico, and the quixotic mission in Iraq (which Doug has briefly commented on, once or twice). If these two examples aren't enough to cripple America you can be sure that, somewhere, our self appointed nobility are planning and executing more foreign entanglements e.g. the U.S. - Columbian Free Trade Agreement. The United States is already a member of NAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the Security and Prosperity Partnership, etc. Many feel that there is a growing trend towards a trilateral North American government.

These "can't we all get along" fantasists, must be repudiated but they can't be unless we get to know them better; get to know their underlying theories and marshal arguments against them. Toward this end I bring you two of the usual suspects: Robert Kagan and his partner in crime, Bill Kristol.

Bill Kristol is editor of the Weekly Standard and chairman of the American neo-conservative think tank Project for the New American Century, or PNAC and he is the son of Irving Kristol, one of the founders of the neoconservative movement, and Gertrude Himmelfarb, who is now Professor Emeritus of the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Bill Kristol is mentioned here because he is a close associate of Robert Kagan (whose latest effort is printed below) and part of a much larger network of Neo-cons that we should become familiar with.

Robert Kagan is a Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is, also, a foreign policy advisor to John McCain, the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.

Kagan's bother is Fred Kagan who is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Fred Kagan is married to Kimberly Kagan, Assistant Professor of History at West Point and Executive Director of the
Institute for the Study of War.

His father is Donald Kagan, who is a fellow at the Hudson Institute. Fred, along with his brother Robert, who is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, and their father Donald are all signatories to the Project for the New American Century manifesto titled Rebuilding America's Defenses.

Fred Kagan is said to have have the ear of President Bush and strongly influenced his plan for a troop surge to change the course of the Iraq War. Kagan is credited as one of the "intellectual architects" of the troop surge plan.

This brief biography of the Kristols and the Kagans doesn't even scratch the surface of the neo-con connections and think tank cross links. And please remember the McCain - Robert Kagan - Fred Kagan - Bush connection.

This Robert Kagan's latest effort.

Spring 2008
Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism, c. 1776
Robert Kagan

Original Kagan essay Here

Condensed version below: about 1/4 original length.

The conventional wisdom today is that a small group of neoconservatives seized the occasion of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, to steer the nation into a war that would never have been fought had not this group of ideologues managed somehow to gain control of national policy.

This version of events implicitly rejects another and simpler interpretation: that after September 11, the Bush administration weighed the risks of leaving Saddam Hussein in power against the risks of fighting a war to remove him and chose the latter.

The decision to invade Iraq might have been correct or mistaken in matters of judgment, tactics, and execution. But they would raise broader issues of foreign policy doctrine and grand strategy.

In his book The Assassins’ Gate, George Packer claims that he is unable to explain why the United States went to war without recourse to the larger doctrine behind it. His premise, and that of most critics, is that neoconservatism was uniquely responsible for the United States going to war in Iraq and that, had it not been for the influence of neoconservative ideas, the war never would have occurred.

Packer thinks neo-conservativism connotes a potent moralism and idealism in world affairs, a belief in America’s exceptional role as a promoter of the principles of liberty and democracy and the exercise of military power, as a tool for defending and advancing moralistic and idealistic causes, as well as a suspicion of international institutions and a tendency toward unilateralism.

A central contention of those who insist that neoconservatism explains the Iraq War is that the doctrine is not only new but outside the foreign policy traditions that have guided the United States throughout its history. The point is, according to those same critics, is that the “neoconservative” foreign policy of the Bush years needs to be understood as an alien presence in the American body.

Is this right? Is it true that moralism, idealism, exceptionalism, militarism, and global ambition are alien to American foreign policy traditions?

To understand where the idea of promoting American principles by force comes from, one could begin with the Republican Party’s campaign platform of 1900. The party leaders congratulated themselves and the country for their recently concluded war with Spain. It was, they declared, a war fought for "liberty and human rights” that had given “ten millions of the human race” a “new birth of freedom” and the American people “a new and noble responsibility."

John Quincy Adams considered the United States “destined by God and by nature to be the most populous and powerful people ever combined under one social contract.” Hamilton, even in the 1790s, looked forward to the day when America would be powerful enough to assist peoples in the “gloomy regions of despotism” to rise up against the “tyrants” that oppressed them.

This young, muscular America was “the just man armed,” and when World War I came, Roosevelt and others of his generation regarded it as America’s second great moral crusade. The Civil War had been the first. “As our fathers fought with slavery and crushed it, in order that it not seize and crush them,”

Woodrow Wilson, in his message to Congress in 1917, said, “The right is more precious than peace." The day had finally come when America was “privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness.”(my italics)

The first decades of the twentieth century saw a steady stream of military interventions in the affairs of Latin American and Caribbean peoples, often launched with the professed aim of “teaching them to elect good men” (Woodrow Wilson) or lifting them “up out of the discord and turmoil of continual revolution into a general public sense of justice and determination to maintain order” (Elihu Root).
Then there was the great moral crusade against Nazism and fascism — a battle for democratic civilization.

In the middle there was John F. Kennedy proclaiming America’s determination to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

It is hard to believe that Americans today have really forgotten this long history. The idea that today’s policies represent a decisive break from the past would certainly come as a surprise to the many critics of American foreign policy across the generations, for there has not been a single criticism leveled at neoconservatism in recent years that was not leveled at American foreign policy hundreds of times over the past two centuries.

A big, expansive foreign policy requires a big, powerful central government to advance it and such a government imperils American liberties. It also imperils its democratic soul. As John Quincy Adams memorably put it in 1821, America might become “the dictatress of the world,” but she would “be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

In the “Wilsonian” twentieth century, conservatives fought Wilson’s interventionist foreign policies partly because they saw in them the extension of his progressive domestic policies, which they regarded as bordering on despotic. The more radical progressives like Randolph Bourne believed the war to make the world safe for democracy would undermine democracy in the United States, and given the undemocratic excesses of the Wilson years — which dwarf anything that has occurred since September 11 — Bourne was not entirely mistaken.

Robert A. Taft, the “Mr. Republican” of his day has long been in bad odor for opposing the war against fascism. But his objections to America’s global involvement, including against Nazi Germany, were not those of a bumpkin but of a highly sophisticated conservative critic of American ambition and hubris. “We should be prepared to defend our own shores,” Taft warned, “but we should not undertake to defend the ideals of democracy in foreign countries.” Otherwise the United States would become a “meddlesome Mattie, interfering in trouble throughout the world,” with “our fingers in every pie.”

What does it tell us that decades-old critiques of American foreign policy seem so strikingly apt and useful in critiquing today’s “neoconservative” foreign policies? What it tells us, quite simply, is that what many consider the neoconservative aberration may not be such a great aberration after all. The tendencies associated these days with neoconservatism are more deeply rooted in American traditions than the critics care to admit, which means they will not so easily be uprooted, even by the coming epochal presidential election.

What are the sources of its enduring power? One source is the American commitment to universal principles embedded in the nation’s founding documents, and the belief that these principles are not debatable but are, as Hamilton suggested, written in the stars by the hand of God. Americans believe they know the truth, and they do not admit alternate truths. Democracy is the only legitimate form of government, and America as the greatest democracy is the most legitimate of all.

American foreign policy’s most astute critics have always understood that it is not conservatism but this liberal and progressive idealism that is the engine of American expansionism and hegemonism.

The expansive, moralistic, militaristic tradition in American foreign policy is the hearty offspring of this marriage between Americans’ driving ambitions and their overpowering sense of righteousness.

The story of America’s first century is not one of virtuous restraint but of an increasingly powerful nation systematically eliminating all competitors on the North American continent. The story of its second century is not one of caution and a recognition of limits but of a steady and determined rise to global dominance.

Today, many hope that the war in Iraq will quench once and for all Americans’ messianic impulses and their belief in the virtues of power. But will it? Are Americans, either Democrats or Republicans, prepared to forfeit either their power or their belief in America’s exceptional role in the world?

These days few people are more vigorous spokesmen for the conservative critique than George F. Will. “On foreign policy,” he writes, “conservatism begins, and very nearly ends, by eschewing abroad the fatal conceit that has been liberalism’s undoing domestically — hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled.”

And of course exhibit “A” of this misguided hubris was the intervention in Iraq — a war fought for the “delusory goal” of implanting a democracy there “that would inspire emulation, transforming the region.” Conservatives ought not to have had to learn “on the job” about “the limits of power to subdue an unruly world,” or succumbed to the “generous but preposterous assumption” that a people like the Iraqis could “spontaneously” flourish under a democratic regime “without long acculturation in the necessary habits and mores.”

A “constant” of America’s “national character,” Will explained, and “a component of American patriotism” had always been this “messianic impulse.” It derived from the belief that America’s “national identity is bound up with acceptance of a responsibility to further democracy.”

And while there had always been “many Americans who reject that premise” and who have insisted that America “has no responsibility toward democracy abroad,” nevertheless a majority of Americans have “always thought otherwise.” The “restoration of democracy” was part of “a tradition with a distinguished pedigree.

Which brings us back to the question of whether “neoconservatives” dragged the United States into war in 2003. As a purely practical matter, the suggestion has always presented a puzzle. How did they do it?

The Bush administration had not brought a new doctrine to bear in considering the Iraq question. The specific rationale for the war it inherited from the Clinton administration. The fear of Saddam’s weapons programs, the concern that his weapons might someday end up in the hands of terrorists, the belief that containment was failing, that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and a serial aggressor — all these arguments had been made in public and in detail in the years when the Clinton administration grappled with the problem of Iraq.

Americans have an image of themselves as a peace-loving people who generally mind their own business unless blatantly provoked. This self-image is profoundly at odds with reality.

- Robert Kagan


  1. Boise--AP--

    A student was arrested and security tightened at a southern Idaho high school in a week of racial tension that began when a teacher confiscated a Mexican flag of a student celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

    Student protests and counterprotests, faculty sanctions, desecration of Mexican and American flags and threats of legal action have rocked Minico High School in Rupert, a town of 5,600 people near the Snake River.

    As a precaution, security was increased Friday when about 40 students planned a protest over school administration treatment of two teachers at the center of the controversy.

    During the demonstration, a male student was arrested after being accused of threatening violence on school grounds, Minidoka County Sheriff's Deputy Vic Watson said.

    "It was a verbalization that he made that upset other students," Watson said.

    No other arrests or disturbances were reported before classes ended for the weekend, authorities said.

    Emotions rose Monday when Clint Straatman, a physical education teacher, threw in the garbage a Mexican flag brought to school by
    Froylan Camelo, 16, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of Mexico's victory over the French army in 1862.

    Straatman said he was trying to prevent any animosity between white and Hispanic students, who account for nearly 40% of enrollment in the Minidoka County Joint School District.

    Contacted by the ACLU, Camelo said he was considering whether to sue the teacher. The next day, Hispanic students protested and drew a counterprotest from some of their non-Hispanic classmates.

    Later in the week, Dan Luker, who teaches English as a second language....
    And so it goes as our school system goes to shambles here.

    Sue the teacher
    English as a second language
    Court mandated education of illegals
    Flag fights
    Counter threats
    Sheriff's department got to get involved
    That's public education for you these days.

  2. What a shame it is that one of the most consistent defenders of free trade, the Weekly Standard, is also one of the most vocal defenders of promiscuous military intervention.

    That's why I go with Cato.

    I take it you reject both, viktor.

  3. (Then there are those who have a deep and abiding dislike of free trade - and an inordinate love of military intervention. All THEY lack is a movement to get behind.)

  4. And in LA, 600 rumble, and the school is Locked Down

  5. What about Cuba? A good argument can be made that we'd have prevented a lot of human suffering if we'd gone in and gotten rid of Castro right in the beginning. It's hard to know how to judge these things.

  6. Bobal quoted: A student was arrested and security tightened at a southern Idaho high school in a week of racial tension that began when a teacher confiscated a Mexican flag of a student celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

    How many of our problems would be solved if people upheld the Constitution of the United States of America, just like in the oath I took at MEPS in March of 1984 and again in May of 1990 as a civilian federal employee.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Mexican and American flags are religious icons, and their worship should never be prohibited.

    Celebrating Cinco de Mayo by waving Mexican flags is speech that should never be abridged.

    When these rights are trodden on, the people should be allowed to peaceably assemble to protest that. Perhaps they could even get the ACLU involved, petitioning the courts for a redress of their grievances.

  7. Trish, my sympathies lie along the CATO way, being an ex-Randite, a laissez-fair capitalist, and having more than a passing interest in gay rights, but for some reason the Libertarian view never gets any traction in Washington, except in a few cases when the GOP cherry picks their platform to create a "Contract on America" or something.

  8. A good argument can be made that we'd have prevented a lot of human suffering if we'd gone in and gotten rid of Castro right in the beginning.

    - bob

    A good argument can be whom?

    Provoke a war with Russia? Who's suffering did you have in mind? And how much?

  9. The center is not holding, T., and a national flag is not a religious icon, and what are these people doing here anyway, and why is it our responsibility to try and educate them? It's chaos is what it is.

    English as a second language.

    We got a guy down there in Rupert teaching English as a second language.

    We may have a President whose church has a primary allegiance to Africa, and millions of immigrants whose primary allegiance is to Mexico.
    Those are good questions, Trish, that's why I asked. Cuba would be better off with a different type of government, I do think that is true. And different basic laws than they have under the Castros.

  10. You know I never even heard of Rand until, upon PCSing back from Germany in 92, I picked up a copy of Liberty magazine at the Inner Harbor - she featured in an interview with Roy Childs.

    Read all of her books inside of the next two years.

    Her dogmatism and stridency, though. Can do without.

  11. And sadly her protege, Leonard Peikoff, has gone over to the extreme dark side of war-mongering.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Well, bob, there were a few million people on Cuba, in 1960, some casinos and a lucrative business model for those that were modeling.

    The common folk were suffering, there and across Central America.
    There is little arguement, on that score. How to allieviate that suffering, the crux of the debate, then and now.

    We have chosen a course, and it will be stayed, regardless of the results of the November election.

    Love it or leave it.

  14. Might as well love it, cause I have no place to go:)

  15. I would like to stick around and answer Trish's 5:36 post but I can't for a while.

    It's 5:15 PST. I'm cooking dinner and then I'm taking my wife to the movies: Ironman with Robert Downey Jr. We'll be back about 9:30 PST.

    However, I will say that there was a piece that was Pt 3 of the series previously posted that would lead into the Neo-Con article.

    I don't think I will be giving away too much by revealing this paragraph:

    "Is advancing civilization that end? Is that our purpose? I would answer, "yes." This is the only inference I can draw from Man's history. If so, what do we mean by advancing civilization and how do we do it?"

    If you are up later, we can talk.

  16. Ironman--wife went to that alone, last night. She said it was great. Not my kind of movie. Enjoy.

  17. That's a shame, Bobal, Iron Man is definitely worth a ticket. I saw the first 7 minutes of "Speed Racer" on the internet and I wouldn't go to that one if you paid ME. So next on the plate is Narnia.

  18. Trish: And sadly her protege, Leonard Peikoff, has gone over to the extreme dark side of war-mongering.

    The body and soul of Objectivism suffered the same fate of all other cultic bodies and souls. It was, in fact, little more than a personality cult with Aristotlean window dressing.

  19. And yet, leaving 72 boxes of books behind, I brought her books with me. Yes I did.

  20. I would just grab them as .PDFs off of USENET, at alt.binaries.ebooks. Which shows you how far I've strayed away from Atlantis, Colorado.

  21. Nice place, Atlantis?

    I prefer Garden of the Gods. 'Specially at night.

  22. I thought you would get the reference. It refers to "Galt's Gulch" and I was using it metaphorically.

  23. Actually, I prefer Manitou Springs even more.

    Unlike Bisbee, AZ, one isn't seized by the urge, after a couple of hours, to grab someone by the shirt collar and shout, "Get a hair cut!"

  24. Bisbee, County seat.

    Not typical of AZ, by any means, red brick, every where.

    But there are more than a few "artists", there.

  25. I like Bisbee, despite many of its residents. Adore it, in fact. I like old mining towns.

    Boy, our old 240 wagon chugging up that hill...


    I've spent many hours perusing.

  27. Used to be "the" town in AZ, there and Jerome.

    Jerome was a woodframe silver mining town, looking ou over the Red Rock pallisades of both Oak Creek and Sycamore Canyons.

    Oak Creek was developed, Sedona is sited at the mouth of the canyon, Sycamore Canyon is pristine wilderness.
    Long way from no where.

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Bobal, I think there was one last remaining light on I-90 between Seattle and Boston until the early 1990s or so, I forget if it was in Wallace or Kellogg. I also seem to remember I-90 went up the hill around Lake Coeur d'Lane in kind of a raspy setup, nothing like the freeways Ike envisioned. I don't know if it's been straighted out.

  30. I guess that was still Highway 10 I remember.

  31. Been straightened out, and there's a mighty high bridge as you leave the lake area.

  32. If I'm thinking where you're thinking you are thinking, I think.

  33. Thanks for the links.

    Whatever it is about the old, it puts me at rest. It's cathartic.

    Someone said (I've got her book) we are grieving, we Americans. We've seen the past vanish more than once in each lifetime.

  34. Think how the Nez Perce must feel.

  35. viktor:

    What do we do? I agree with bobal, this is a very complicated issue. One we all wish that we did not have to think about.

    As to the idea that it was neo-conservatives that got us into Iraq, I don't see it that way. I prefer not to recount the history and events which led us to the invasion of Iraq but I will say that I think the outcome was foretold at the end of the first Gulf war.

    I just watched The Kite Runner. It was a reminder that everyone is not bad but the Taliban were and are very bad men. It is a shame on all humanity and if we choose to ignore the evil in the world, we have to live with ourselves just as we did throughout the 1990's as one embassy after another was bombed and we watched the dead and dying as they were removed from the rubble. We watched as the Taliban executed men and women in the name of Allah. We watched as the ancient Buddhas were destroyed. We watched as bin Laden hatched his plans while under the protection of the Taliban.

    I am not advocating intervention all over the world in fact I lean toward more a isolationist, non-interventionalist foreign policy. But with Hezbollah taking over Lebanon, drugs destroying Mexico and Chavez threatening South America, do we really think we can live in a cocoon?

    Evil will find us, eventually.

  36. They did it because they couldn't take a chance on a nuclear-armed (and, he would eventually have been nuclear armed) Saddam in the middle of all that oil.

    Taft was a tool.

  37. Trish

    Re: 5:36 post.

    Free trade? I'm all for the free flow of goods and services. But I am against the free flow of labor.

    The problem with free trade agreements is that in invarably interfere with the sovereignty of the respective governments and hand it off to conflict resolution tribunals. The question then becomes: who has the tribunal's loyalty?

    Military intervention should only be used when, to use the cliche, there is a clear and present danger.

    Forcible democratization and other exercises in the promotion of goodness puts the lives of our citizens at risk when there is no danger.

    No politician has the right to put my son's or my daughter's life at risk or anyone else's either. No politician has the right to go out and kill other people because they disagree with them, no matter how vehemently.

    In matters of a mutual defense pact, we can and do attack other nations that are not a direct threat to us. But, presumably, there is an indirect threat otherwise the mutual defense pact should never have entered into.

    This respose does not begin to cover the subject. I intend to write the subject in the near future with a more comprehensive opinion.

  38. After we elect Obama we will find out how the world goes without the American involvement that is claimed to be so bad. For my part I think we've generally left things in better shape than they would have been, particularily in Europe. All this talk about an American empire seems gas to me. Influence yes, empire no. After some years of Obama we may not have enough of a military to intervene if we wanted to.

  39. Ditto, Rufus.

    Containment was breaking down as Saddam increasingly used a corrupt UN in the Food for Oil scam.

    He thumbed his nose at authority. It was his misfortune and folly to do it during the same time bin Laden was rising.

    Saddam fought the law and the law won.

  40. This war hasn't even started, yet.

    Al Queda finally figured out how much it will hurt if they can (and they can) take out Nigeria's oil exports.

    Who's next? Equador, maybe? Did you all know that Equador is on our top ten list of oil providers?

    Mexico next? That'd be pretty easy. There are pipelines all over the world; and, in a world of tight, and, soon to be, declining oil supplies It will be one Hell of a bang for the buck.

    What happens when we have ten dollar gas, the economy is terminal, and we find out that Hugo Chavez financed an attack on Equador's, or Mexico's pipeline - the one that feeds the tankers that bring oil to the U.S.?

    Nah, this deal ain't even got off the starting blocks, yet.

  41. "No politician has the right to put my son's or my daughter's life at risk or anyone else's either."

    Buddy are you wrong.

    See you in the morning.

  42. I time in Iraq is drawing to a close. According to Fred Kaplan, we have no more troops to send to Afghanistan unless we send more troops from other theatres such as S. Korea and sadly troops from Iraq.

    We need to turn our attention back to Afghanistan (Whack a mole)and Kaplan thinks the drawdown will soon be begin in Iraq because we are not going to take troops from elsewhere.

    Personally, I would close every base in Europe, Japan and S. Korea but apparently that's not going to happen.

  43. Rufus said:
    This war hasn't even started, yet.

    I fear you're right and we're just kidding ourselves to think otherwise.

  44. Yeah, me too; G'Nite.

  45. Where's whiskey_199 when we need him?

    He's at that OTHER dumber blogsite.

  46. Whit

    You might remember a couple of posts that I did last year: The White Man's Burden and Daisy Cutter, Daisy Cutter, Give Me Your Answer True.

    In them I stated clearly that I thought that it was not only justified to go for regime change in Iraq but that it was imperative.

    The Iraq war had two clear phases: the overthrow of Saddam and the democratization of Iraq. When the Saddam regime was defeated the legitimate reason for war was over. The democratization of Iraq was not only illegitimate (because after the fall of Saddam the danger from his regime was over) but was a fool's errand. I repeat what I have said many times: democracy is only a means to an end. It is not an end in and of itself.

    Bad people do not become good people because they get to vote. If you were to argue that in dictatorships the rank and file citizens are basically good and would use democracy to achieve civilized ends then I would ask you to provide an example.

    We can't police the world, Whit. And how would you decide who would be the beneficiary of our largesse?

    I repeat: it is the lives of the sons and daughters of this nation that would be expended to save the lives of others. Whose lives are the most important to us?

    I used the word "quixotic" to describe the Iraq mission. I would remind you of its definition: extravagantly chivalrous, impractical, or impulsive.

    I don't, for a minute, doubt the sincerity of your motives, Whit, but I believe they would fall under the category of misguided chivalry.

    The role of the U.S. military cannot be that of a standby liberation army.

  47. Trish

    Clearly, politicians have the legal right to put our military in harm's way. But my comment has to be read in context.

    Just to make the context clear: they do not have the moral right.

    If you disagree with that point of view, then make your case - if you are able.

  48. ...if you are able.

    Sun May 11, 01:49:00 AM EDT

    My goodness!

  49. Trish feels like Gary Cooper at High Noon. Which would make her son die of laughter.


  50. The thing is, getting rid of Saddam and sons leaves a vacuum. Somebody's gonna fill it. Who? Another Sunni general? A shia general, or cleric? Who? We just walk away? No, we stay and try to set up a functioning elected government. This may be a fool's game, but it is as rational, and risky, a choice as the others. Maybe the best thing to do would have been to break the place up into thirds. I've often thought that might have been better. You break the antique, you own it, for awhile at least. If we go high tailing out of there, under Obama, my hunch is things will go no better, probably worse. An argument can be made we shouldn't have gone in in the first place, but we did.

  51. Clearly, politicians have the legal right to put our military in harm's way. But my comment has to be read in context.

    Just to make the context clear: they do not have the moral right.

    Sure they do--sometimes. Sometimes they have a duty to do so. The argument is over under what circumstances.

  52. Bobal: Maybe the best thing to do would have been to break the place up into thirds.

    Let it break up into the natural pieces it wants to be in, just like Yugoslavia did. Iraq was an artificial entity anyway, slapped together by the Brits on their way out.

  53. It's the GREAT GAME.

    You Can't Win,

    You Can't Quit.

    Only Great Powers Can Play,

    To Be a Great Power You Must Play.

    The job of the U.S. Military in the Early 21st Century is to Occupy the Middle East, and Protect the Oil.

  54. The good news in California is the Austrian governor has admitted they need to build nuclear power plants there, now. A voice in the wilderness, but things are changing. Those gas prices, those electric bills--owiee...

  55. The mistake America made can be reduced to a current but declining phrase, "mission creep". I am not talking about Iraq. the problem is far worse than Iraq and you begin to understand it by reading or second best, watching "John Adams". You appreciate the intellectual quality of the men who conceived and implemented the "American Mission".

    To have a good and successful mission you need a vision, a statesman (as opposed to a spokesman) to articulate it, a willing, worthy and appreciative subject. Most of all you need good missionaries.

    The United States, through the mindless expansion of democracy in the US, has flipped the triangle of leadership and thoughtful responsibility upside down. The dumbed down enfranchised, entitled have all been invited top-side to the USS Mission America, but without any requirement of them having the education or understanding required to sail such a ship. They come and stay and now rule the ship, equipped with the nautical skills of barnacles.

    When the left seized the controls of the mass media and education, it controlled the tools necessary to diminish, and diminish it did.

    Consider just one result:

    Being a community organizer is put on a par with real public service and accomplishment.

    Sorry, but barnacles make poor sailors. We had better keep the ship closer to port.

  56. Gosh Bobal, only 20% of our power comes from nukes, 40% comes from coal-fired plants, including one they actually built in Centralia, WA. They're the dirtiest, carboniest ones going. Those cheese-eating surrender monkeys in France get 90% of their juice from nuclear, why can't we be like them?

  57. 2164th: The United States, through the mindless expansion of democracy in the US, has flipped the triangle of leadership and thoughtful responsibility upside down.

    Our dynamic society is able to produce true leadership at great need, from both parties. Washington. Jackson. Lincoln. FDR started like a proto-Bill Clinton with all these loopy ideas for ending the Hoover Depression, but World War II soon swept all that away, and he stepped up to become one of America's greatest Presidents. Truman was a safe beta-male of a VP pick who wouldn't overshadow FDR, but when it was his turn he stepped up, nuked Japan, unleashed Marshall, leashed McArthur, and went on to establish the policy of containing world Communism. Reagan articulated an America that was good and strong again, and like magic America stepped up to become the way he envisioned it.

    But at the same time, when the need is gone, our democracy (and that of the UK) is liable to turn its back on those kind of leaders and become silly and stupid again. After World War II Churchill was turned out on his ear, and America crafted a Constitutional Amendment to limit Presidential terms, lest another FDR was waiting in the wings. It was Bush-41 who initiated the draw down of Reagan's military so we could enjoy a post-Cold War "peace dividend."

  58. With the sooner than expected fall of Saddam there may have been a period of imperial hubris. Those were heady days before the insurgency organized itself and before the jihadists answered the call to arms throughout the Muslim world. During this lull the grand neo-conservative ideas were entertained and considered as the purple fingers were raised and a Cedar Revolution was birthed in Lebanon. We were hopeful then.

    But as often happens reality interrupted reverie. The party was over in Iraq and the Cedar revolution died in its infancy along with the conversation about Neoconservatism. Nobody wants to hear about it anymore.

  59. 2164th-Your comment about the enfranchising of the unsuitable strikes a chord, but what choice do democratic nations have, really?

    I remember a comment elsewhere lamenting our worshiping of democracy as god, except that it was anything but that. Some of us would suggest a minimum requirement for the right to vote, like a certain income level, or just the ability to do simple arithmetic.

    But we would be derided as racist, elitist, or worse.

    There will always be barnacles on any ship. The trick is minimizing their number. Easier said than done, unfortunately, with the aforementioned Gramscian march through education, media, and government.

  60. Wobbly, we think it important to pass a driving test...

  61. ...Antonio Gramsci’s name is not exactly a household word. Many people concerned about political correctness have no doubt never heard of him. To describe him as important, however, is probably the understatement of the new year. He sketched, in works such as Prison Notebooks, the basic outline of the agenda that would begin to be implemented in American colleges and universities, and then carried to the rest of society, in the final quarter of the 20th century.

    Wobbly, it sounds like an interesting guest post. Step up.

  62. Trish

    "if you are able"

    I"m an old man and it was late at night.

    Hugs and kisses

  63. Those cheese-eating surrender monkeys in France get 90% of their juice from nuclear, why can't we be like them?

    Not only that, they export power to Germany and elsewhere.

    Plus, they have a sane anti-terrorism law, where the state can have a look see, but not use the evidence in an ordinary criminal case, if they find something. If that's how it is, it makes some sense.

    Who makes up the literacy test? That's what I used to ask dad. Gramsci? Pat Robertson? Bob?

    It might make some sense to raise the voting age to about 55.