"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Monday, October 18, 2004

In a Nutshell... 

I have a very good friend who, despite his obviously excellent taste in drinking buddies, suffers from one inexplicable fault. He is what I call a "Eubie" - Undecided; leaning Bush. We recently engaged in one of our political discussions, and this one turned out better than most of our conversations on the subject (mostly because I refrained from screaming). He explained to me that his decision in this election will depend on two subjects: First, security. He is looking for the candidate who is most likely to keep him and his family safe from harm. Second, privatization of Social Security and similar government programs. He is looking for the candidate who is most likely to allow him maximum choice in the expenditure of his own income.

I hope to address my friend's second concern in a later post, but for now I will focus on the security issue (which he holds as most important). My rock-bottom thesis is this: George W. Bush is incapable of protecting America from any threat, regardless of its source, as a result of the incompetence, corruption, and fanatacism which pervades his administration and his Presidency. Not only do I think that John Kerry will do a better job of protecting America and Americans, I think a slightly dented can of tuna fish would do a better job of protecting America and Americans.

This weekend, I encountered three stories which, I think, illustrate this point to a fare-thee-well.

First, this from Republican apostsate Ron Suskind:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Think about that - "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." (An aside - how is it that an exegesis of the theory of a new American empire arose in the discussion of Karen Hughes, the White House communications director?) Suskind's article has been widely discussed around the blogosphere in the last few days, and most commentators have focused on the paragraph I quoted above. It's a real money shot, to be sure, but it only scratches the surface of Suskind's message (and you should certainly read the whole thing). He describes a White House in which faith replaces planning, in which belief replaces facts. That's fine if one is running a church, but less so if one is running a country. Not only is this supposed president ignorant of what's really going on (Suskind tells the "it would be funny if it wasn't so damned scary" story of Bush confusing Sweden with Switzerland, and insisting that Sweden has no armed forces), more to the point, he doesn't care. Facts have no bearing on his world view or his policies; all that matters is what he believes, or even what he wishes, to be true.

The second story is this from Knight Ridder:
In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions.

In fact, some senior Pentagon officials had thought they could bring most American soldiers home from Iraq by September 2003. Instead, more than a year later, 138,000 U.S. troops are still fighting terrorists who slip easily across Iraq's long borders, diehards from the old regime and Iraqis angered by their country's widespread crime and unemployment and America's sometimes heavy boots.

"We didn't go in with a plan. We went in with a theory," said a veteran State Department officer who was directly involved in Iraq policy....

"The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq is real and serious," warned an Army War College report that was completed in February 2003, a month before the invasion. Without an "overwhelming" effort to prepare for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the report warned: "The United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."

A half-dozen intelligence reports also warned that American troops could face significant postwar resistance. This foot-high stack of material was distributed at White House meetings of Bush's top foreign policy advisers, but there's no evidence that anyone ever acted on it.

"It was disseminated. And ignored," said a former senior intelligence official.

This is where we see the Boy King's faith-based policies in action. The planning for post-war Iraq was "to be provided." Reality be damned; there was a white whale to be hunted, and so hunted it would be. We would make our own reality when the time came; that's what empires do, after all. The sad part of this story is that, for all the pretenses to empire, the Junta missed the most essential lesson of history - successful empires (think Rome, or Victorian era England) are obsessive about planning. Ancient Rome invented bureaucracy as we know it, and Brittania perfected the art. Our Naked Emperor, however, found all of this "nuance" and detail work to be beneath him - we would simply create our own reality, because "that's what empires do."

Finally, the hard lesson of our failure. My last must-read story comes from Phil Carter at INTEL DUMP. A word about Carter - I often disagree with him; he's far more conservative than I, and has far more faith in the value of military power. However, he is also frighteningly intelligent, and utterly honest. He also knows far more about the nuts and bolts of military operations than 99% of us who pontificate on the Internet will ever know. And that's why this article scares the bejeebers out of me:
The Los Angeles Times provides a long report in Sunday's paper on the deployment of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, dubbed "Blackhorse" for the stallion on its shoulder patch, to Iraq for a year of combat duty. The regiment has long served as as the opposing force, or "OPFOR", for units from other installations coming to train at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Now, with the Army stretched to practically its breaking point over the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, the Army has turned to the Blackhorse regiment for help....

The article misses the most important point: deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn. This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That's like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform — but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that's a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren't going to get the same tough experience they would have with the Blackhorse regiment as OPFOR — and that means they'll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it.

(Emphasis in the original.)

Carter has said it more eloquently than I ever could - the Empty Flight Suit has reduced us to "eating [our] seed corn." Can there be any more stark evidence of failure than that? This is the inevitable result of ignoring - nay, taunting - reality. And it is no way to make America safe. Instead, it makes America weak and impoverished - isolated from the world (including poor, unarmed Sweden), bereft of a plan for success, and saddled with a mortgaged future (on this point, compare the Junta's war planning with its management of the economy). It is a quick and dirty recipe for failure, and it must not be allowed to continue.

If I could condense the lesson of these three important articles into one snappy message, it would be this: Relying on the Bush administration to keep America safe is very much like relying on my three-year-old to prove Fermat's Last Theorem. He is completely incapable of it, and anyway, he just doesn't care.

Do you hear me, Eubie?

 

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