Archive for March, 2008

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Brainstorming An Iraq “Super-Surge”

March 28, 2008

Last night I took a few hours to watch FRONTLINE “Bush’s War” on the PBS site.  My reaction was mixed.  Part of me felt vindicated for some of the things that I’ve been posting here in the Chamber and elsewhere, another part felt angry at people like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and yet another part felt just…depressed (which is probably the overriding feeling, but I do encourage everyone to watch it in case you’ve missed it).  

I gave myself a few hours to digest what I had just watched, and although there was quite a bit of material that I was already familiar with, this documentary chronicled the entire Iraq adventure in a way that I hadn’t yet seen.  This led to a small epiphany on my part concerning what to do next, and I figured I’d just throw it out here for debate, so bear with me ’cause there may be some flaws in my thinking. 

The proposals coming from the presidential candidates for our course of action going forward in Iraq have pretty much fallen into two main categories.   McCain is politically wedded to the strategy he championed (the “surge”) in a way that would put him in the same position as Bush insofar as he’s going to keep up the “stay the course” mantra, and has even gone as far as to say that he’d support a permanent American presence in Iraq long after the period of shooting stops (and if it takes 100 years, so be it).  On the other side, Clinton and Obama have rejected the notion of an open-ended commitment, and while the rationale behind a responsible withdrawal may bounce between a few concepts,  the end game is the same:  leave Iraq for the Iraqis as soon as reasonably possible.  Critics on both sides have, rightly or wrongly, argued that McCain’s plan is untenable in the long run while the Obama/Clinton plan is a recipe for eventual chaos and genocide.

Other options for Iraq have gained much less steam.  For example, former presidential candidates Sens Brownback and Biden have proposed a sort of soft partition.  This proposal has probably been less popular because, the way I see it, it involves undoing a lot of what has been done already and is essentially going back to the drawing board in many ways.  That, and there is reason to believe that the idea isn’t popular amongst the Iraqis themselves.

So, I enter another proposal, one that I will call the “Super-Surge”, based on a few facts/assumptions gleaned from the documentary and elsewhere:

-Before the invasion, Gen Shinseki stated the opinion before Congress that success in the months after Saddam’s regime fell would require “several hundred thousand” troops, while people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz urged a much smaller number.  The eventual plan was somewhat of a compromise, but today, it is pretty much considered conventional wisdom that one of the major errors in the mission was that there weren’t sufficient forces to keep the peace during that critical timeframe.

-The “coalition of the willing” was never much of an actual coalition, as 98% of the troop commitments came form the U.S. and Britain.  Brent Scowcroft,  national security adviser for President George H.W. Bush and a leading figure in the U.S. foreign policy establishment, believed from the very beginning that attacking Iraq would dissolve any kind of coalition we had built in the aftermath of 9/11, and more recently suggested that the best hope for pulling the country from chaos would be to turn the U.S. operation over to NATO or the United Nations — which, he said, would not be so hostilely viewed by Iraqis.

-The doctrine of “clear, hold, build” had shown itself to be successful on the micro scale in the city of Tal Afar.  Originally credited to Col. H.R. McMaster, it eventually became the rough blueprint for the “surge” in that it simply took more troops to employ such a strategy.    Or, in the words of McMaster himself, when asked if additional troops would help the mission:

Yeah. I think one of the critical elements of improving security is the number of forces you have to be able to carry out that security mission, along with the other missions that you have. Securing the population is obviously first and foremost. And this is a mission … for American and coalition forces working alongside Iraqi forces.

The other mission is to develop Iraqi security force capability, … and that takes a lot of soldiers and Marines to carry out that effort: to train these forces, to help them organize and then to introduce them initially in the context of multinational operations where we operate alongside them until they develop the ability to operate on their own.

Also, just securing critical infrastructure, lines of communication — I mean, there are a lot of demands on our forces, and our soldiers and Marines are just doing an amazing job with multiple tasks simultaneously. So I think additional forces will certainly help. Is it the answer in the long term? No. The answer in the long term is still very much the same: that the Iraqis have to develop their own ability to provide the kind of security that is necessary such that economic development and political development can proceed. …

-The current troop surge will come to an end for logistical reasons.  In fact, the troop drawdown is right around the corner:

A senior Pentagon official said earlier this week that the US “surge” is likely to end in July with more troops in Iraq than the 132,000 who were there before five extra combat brigades were sent in more than a year ago.

-Staying in Iraq until the shooting stops (and beyond), as McCain has suggested, is likely to be financially untenable.  The estimates for the cumulative cost of the war have been projected to be as high as $3 trillion.  And although many nations have a significant stake in a stable Iraq, the United States has taken on the vast majority of the burden in terms of monetary sacrifice.

So, you toss some of these things into a pot and stir.  I’m left with a few questions.

  1. Is it too late to deploy a peacekeeping force of “several hundred thousand” troops to stabilize Iraq, or has that ship sailed?  If not, then…
  2. Is it too late to bring together a meaningful coalition to share the burden of the effort, or have those bridges burned?  If not, then…
  3. Could a new, charismatic, inspiring and internationally popular U.S. president (*cough*Obama*cough*) bring together the nations of the world to address the issue?  If so, then…
  4. Would it work in a way that would ultimately save Iraq from descending into chaos, prohibit the formation of a terrorist safe haven, and allow the troops to come home a lot faster than the current proposals?   If so, then…

It’s something to think about.

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Post Hiatus Open Thread

March 26, 2008

I’ve been on a short break here in the Chamber.  Frankly, I don’t have much to add right now because it appears that the “silly season” of 08 race has reached some sort of pinnacle; a plateau of such incredible elevation that the rarefied air that exists up there causes the candidates to make ridiculous claims of things like “sniper dodging”.   It’s pretty disappointing.

So, instead of dragging this kind of stuff in here and pretending that its impact is significant to the important issues of the day, I’ve been spending some time commenting on others’ blogs.    Don’t worry though, I’m still checking in here, and I suppose if something that I find particularly intriguing comes up, I’ll offer up a thread.   For now, however, I’m on “roam”.

And if you’re interested, you can check where I’m “roaming” by following the “track CZ sightings” RSS feed in my sidebar or by visiting my coComment page (just a reminder).

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Flame Warrior Profile: Reliapundit

March 21, 2008

Any political blogger who checks out the memeorandum page from time to time will probably recognize today’s featured netizen.  In fact, I’ve seen (on more than one occasion) the work of this blogger show up on the site’s “featured posts“, thereby sucking an unwitting passerby into clicking his/her way right into the den of unhinged right-wing rants of Reliapundit,  the not so gracious “host” of the group blog THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS.

At first, I went over there to do what I do when I visit just about any blog, which is to leave a comment that adds to the discussion or initiates an honest debate.  However, after being labeled a “troll”, “asshole”, or a “jerk” for my efforts, I’ll admit that lately I’ve been going over there mostly to push Reliapundit’s buttons.   As it turns out, this isn’t hard to do, since the poor guy appears to have a marginal grasp of deductive reasoning and (even) spelling.  Part of me feels kind of guilty;  almost as if I’m picking on the special-ed kid at recess.  On the other hand, there is a part of me is feels a sense of responsibility to take this guy down a notch (he did call me names, after all) and refute some of his wild assertions,  so maybe that makes it a wash. 

Anyway, most of what I read over there I find to be borderline comical from an ideological standpoint.  It’s like listening to Hannity.  But what really gives me the LOL’s,… is his rather unique blog syntax.  You see, Reliapundit’s unexplainable love affair with the use of excessive “bullet points” is funny enough, but the thing that earns him the recognition of a bona fide flame warrior variant is his true signature; a downright relentless deployment of ALL CAPS.

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ALLCAPS attempts to compensate for his limited rhetorical weaponry through the extravagant use of capitalized words – something netizens refer to as SHOUTING. Sure, a sprinkling of capitalized words can add some zip to a thrust, but they should be used sparingly. Even worse from a tactical point of view, too much shouting alerts other Warriors to the opponent’s verbal WEAKNESS and emotional EXCITABILITY.

Of course, the best is the combo;

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(Although, I think he got the hint when I called him out on the bullet points, cause I noticed that the latest post uses an ordered list instead.  )

Update:  Just as some more proof that this guy really doesn’t have any game in him, check out this childish move:

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Obama/Richardson ’08?

March 21, 2008

Capt. Ed asks the question: Richardson’s bid for VP?

Ed, of course, is asking in the context of Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Barack Obama.   Given the rather dramatic fashion with which the endorsement was delivered (I was watching it live on CNN), I think he might be on to something.   There was a vibe there that went a little beyond the superficial political maneuver that would otherwise define an endorsement like this.

If we’re right, I suppose that I should point out that I called it on the very same blog a couple weeks ago:

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Based on Richardson’s significant amount of experience and his position on the issues, I think he’d be a fine choice as a running mate. 

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Obama Takes The High Road

March 19, 2008

In my previous post, outlined my disappointment with Barack Obama’s response to the sudden controversy surrounding him and his campaign.  The issue that had come to a head had to do with his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Obama did what would be expected of a competent leader:  He addressed the issue head on.  This address came in the form of a speech that was delivered today; a speech that prompted the largest blogburst I’ve ever seen on memeorandum’s main page: “A More Perfect Union”. highroadbdo.jpg

Predictably, most of those who were inclined to dislike the speech disliked it, and those inclined to like it, well, really liked it.  For the Chamber, I’m going to comment on it not only out of a feeling of obligation as a member of the political web and (especially) as an Obama supporter, but because it’s almost as if Barack took my “open letter” to heart (of course I don’t think he or anyone in his campaign read it, but at least it appeared that others had the same concerns).    Even better, he did it in a way that brutally honest, personal, mature, and elevated the entire discourse up a level by challenging the listener (or reader) to think about the underlying reasons why the speech had to be delivered in the first place. 

As for how Obama addressed the concerns I had in my previous post, here’s what happened…

I posted:

No one is going to believe that you’ve suddenly discovered that Rev. Wright says controversial things now that ABC has broad-casted clips of his sermons for all the world to see, so why give anyone the incentive to scour through church records, interview parishioners and keep the issue in the spotlight while the drooling minions that are hell-bent to take your campaign down try to catch you in a GOTCHA! moment?

Obama:

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.  For some, nagging questions remain.  Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy?  Of course.  Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church?  Yes.  Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views?  Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.  

Of course, this is already being viewed as evidence (or, perhaps, an admission) that he lied when he went on the networks the other day to talk about this.  I look at it as more of a clarification or correction, since he was fairly careful to parse his words in the sense that he alluded that he hadn’t heard Wright’s specific comments that were being replayed over and over again.  Yes, he should have said this from the very beginning, but I think that this should be enough to keep the aforementioned minions at bay long enough for them to lose interest and move on to digging into the next accusation (like implying that Obama is a radical Buddhist, or something). 

I also said:

You alluded to some of the good things the church has done for the community, but you had a hard time making the case for one important aspect: You.  The fact that you have had a successful life and are closer than anyone in history to being America’s first black president reflects favorably upon the church, doesn’t it?   I would think that a black church that can list among its long-term membership a state and U.S. Senator and the frontrunning candidate for the oval office would suggest that the church might have a positive influence on people, an influence that helped inspire you to answer the call to public service. 

Obama:

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society.  It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.  But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change.  That is true genius of this nation.  What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This comment achieves even more than what I was suggesting, as he both touched on the fact that one of the church’s own members went on to do so much while using it to make the point that he doesn’t subscribe to all of Wright’s rhetoric.  He was obviously stressing the latter more than the former, but along with these remarks earlier in the speech…

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man.  The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor.  He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

..he effectively delivered the message that, overall, Wright and the church have had a positive influence on his life and the community, even if he doesn’t like everything that his pastor says.  

I said:

Or to address the accusation that Wright “hates America”, you could say, “I think Rev. Wright loves America like a parent loves their child, and sometimes he believes there’s reason to be angry”.  

Obama:

For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years.  That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends.  But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table.  At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

This is just one relevant portion, but overall Obama was successful in addressing that specific accusation (and it’s definitely out there) by painting a picture in an empathetic manner.

Overall, I am very impressed with what he’s done here.  This was more than merely a strategic political maneuver to confront a controversy, insulate himself from his own previous comments, and an attempt to put this all behind him.  Even on that superficial level, though, it was brilliant.  But it went further than that.  He took the opportunity to raise the bar on what political discourse means in this country.   And, apparently, he wrote the speech himself, staying up until 2AM to craft a piece that was able to accomplish the task of clarifying his relationship with the church (without throwing Wright completely under the bus), offering a heartfelt and sincere dialogue on race relations, and challenging Americans to work to come together and move beyond our differences.   I think even the detractors would have to find that pretty amazing.   I’d call it presidential.

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Open Letter To Barack Obama

March 16, 2008

(this is my first “open letter” here in the Chamber, so bear with me)

Don’t throw your pastor, Rev. Wright, under the bus.

Of course, it’s probably too late, as you’ve already repudiated his cherry-picked remarks, taken him off your campaign, and, apparently, erased his testimonial from your website, so I guess I’m writing this less in the vein of don’t and more in the vein of …why?

Doing all this reeks of political expedience, inherently calls into question your judgement (on why you chose to stick with the church for so many years), and overall, comes off as insincere.  No one is going to believe that you’ve suddenly discovered that Rev. Wright says controversial things now that ABC has broadcasted clips of his sermons for all the world to see, so why give anyone the incentive to scour through church records, interview parishioners and keep the issue in the spotlight while the drooling minions that are hell-bent to take your campaign down try to catch you in a GOTCHA! moment?

I watched as you went on 3 networks (FOX, CNN, and MSNBC) and clumsily attempted to distance yourself from the remarks that they kept playing in ad infinitum fashion.  You alluded to some of the good things the church has done for the community, but you had a hard time making the case for one important aspect: You.  The fact that you have had a successful life and are closer than anyone in history to being America’s first black president reflects favorably upon the church, doesn’t it?  I would think that a black church that can list among its long-term membership a state and U.S. Senator and the frontrunning candidate for the oval office would suggest that the church might have a positive influence on people, an influence that helped inspire you to answer the call to public service.    I understand that you can’t really come out and say all that, but to me, it appeared that you were more concerned with denouncing whatever rhetoric was deemed offensive instead of focusing on defending the church. 

The bottom line here is:  He’s your pastor.  You’ve made donations to the church.  There’s no escaping it, so why avoid it?  You shouldn’t have to cave and cast him aside simply because, suddenly, people are grilling you on the remarks that were made years ago.    

If one of the networks’ pundits asks you about his statement that America caused the AIDS virus or whatever say, “Fine, call up Rev. Wright and invite him to debate that position, I’m sure he’d be happy to.  Personally, I don’t subscribe to that view.  I’m sure many people out there don’t agree with absolutely everything that their minister or priest says, but I’m sure that most would say that they’ve had a positive influence on their lives.  It’s no different in my case”.  Or to address the accusation that Wright “hates America”, you could say, “I think Rev. Wright loves America like a parent loves their child, and sometimes he believes there’s reason to be angry”.   (After all, Wright is hardly alone when it comes to delivering negative rants on American culture from the pulpit.   Somebody is sinning, somewhere, after all.*) 

See, that sounds a lot more sincere than going so far as to whip out the knee-jerk CONDEMNED stamp.  That, and they can’t really go anywhere with it.  It’s like saying, “Yea, he’s my pastor, live with it.  Let’s move on.”  

In conclusion, I’m afraid that your reaction here has done more harm than good for your campaign.  You’ve put yourself in a hole on this that is going to be a distraction from the debate over the issues and why you’re the best man for the job.    For myself, I’ll continue to support you here in the Chamber, but I’ll say that I’ve been a little disappointed with how you and your campaign has handled these recent events. 

*In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t been to a church service in many years.   Watching what is said by the televangelists, I sometimes wonder why people still go, quite frankly.  So, in this regard, I am not going to consider myself an expert on the range and scope of unhinged sermons, but I think it’s safe to assume that there are some strange things that get said out there.  For myself, I left the church because one person “possessed by Satan” was enough for me.

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Is Obama A Radical Muslim Or A Radical Christian?

March 14, 2008

I had really hoped that the political discourse in America would actually focus on the issues of the day and be conducted in an intelligent and respectful manner.   Now, I’m not going to say that there haven’t been a few moments of this thus far, because clearly there have been, but lately it appears to have gone off the rails and taken a detour into the land of the bizarre.  The internet has been especially burgeoning with wild theories and attacks that have little to do with any of the candidates platforms (not that the net is known for reasonable voices, but still), and its beginning to get just plain ugly out there.  Accusations about (and implying) racism, sexism and bigotry are becoming more prevalent, along with trying to hold the candidates accountable for statements that someone else made, or who endorsed who (a sort of guilt by association/identity politics run amok).  

For just one example of how crazy this has become, let’s take this post from Gateway Pundit:  Obama’s Gave $22,500 to Racist Church in 2006

There are mosques that preach Radical Islam.
There are churches that preach Radical Christianity.
Unfortunately, the leading Democratic nominee for president attends such a church.
Unfortunately, its really not a surprise.

Not a surprise?  Well, just two weeks ago the same blog highlighted Obama’s supposed connection to Radical Islam: Obama’s Militant Muslim Brother Abongo Is Luo Activist

The “Obama is a closet Muslim” angle is a meme that trailblazing bloggers such as Atlas have been pushing for quite some time.  They’ve apparently had a hard time making it stick, since only 13% of Americans think that Obama is a Muslim (although that % has increased since December).   

The rightosphere really ought to make up its mind, ’cause it’s getting confusing and I’d like to get back to the issues.

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