Democrats & Liberals Archives

Material Support Beats Lip Service Every Time

I saw a fairly interesting ad which highlights the difference between the Republican style of supporting the troops, and what I think the average American would consider real support. Body armor is just one example of where the moral support of the Bush administration for our troops has not found expression in material support.

Put your money where your mouth is. Put up or shut up. Shoot, Luke, or give up the gun. Our culture has plenty of phrases to put those who will talk the talk but not walk the walk in their place. We like results better than we like people who promise but don't deliver.

The phrase "support the troops" is often used to imply that the other side does not. It's been used as a bludgeon to imply a second backstab, a second Vietnam where Democrats once more betray the men in uniform(that's the story they push, at least). We should note the special emphasis that is placed on the mission, and the almost absent emphasis on the results. The reason for this is plain: of what they can't speak, they remain silent.

The mission, the cause. In how many places and in how many ways has it been used to pound by one side futilely against another? How many places are there where both sides have their mission and neither side has their peace, where goal-oriented behavior becomes abstracted far beyond what's really in front of them, or far away from any sensible goal? In how many places has sheer rivalry and opposition become the surrogate for all other goals, and a poor replacement at that?

Let's talk about the goals we originally had. Maybe if we focus on that, we can end this war, or at least our involvement in it, if our presence won't change much for the better.

Well, the goals we originally had were to disarm Saddam, and disrupt his conspiracy with the terrorists, and destroy whatever al-Qaeda presence was being harbored there. It's our tough luck that we had no weapons to disarm Saddam of (useless weapons buried from the last war don't count), that the al-Qaeda ties were no greater than our own (we've got no collaboration with them, only conversations between agents), and no al-Qaeda presence beside the Ansar al-Islam presence, which we could have blown off the map without having to go through Baghdad first.

Everything that follows, the insurgency, the influx of al-Qaeda terrorists from outside the country, the rise of Moqtada al-Sadr, and the general state of lawlessness and disorder results from our actions. We're not to blame for everything, and it's obvious no-one in our government intended this to happen, but things are as they are because we invaded, did so improperly, and continued to engage the situation in a manner insufficient to head off the trouble that resulted.

Are we doomed to defeat? I don't believe that. I think it will become more likely, though, the longer Bush's current policy stays in place. Meanwhile, it's our troops that are expected to pull this victory out of nothing but the morale support of folks back home, and whatever convenient thin air or bodily orifice they have handy.

The Body Armor is just one example.

Again and again, Democrats like myself have challenged the Republicans on this issue, and their response has been to deny the need of the soldiers out there for this stuff. They say the generals of the Army are telling them they've got all they need to complete the mission. On the face of it, it seems simple, but politics being what it is, what the generals say is often what these folks back home want to here: Yes sir, we have enough troops. No sir, we won't do what that Army Chief of Staff did (the one whose career you ruined) and ask for more troops. We'll just redefine the mission until it fits the low number of troops you're allowing us.

Earlier, before the war even started, Rumsfeld threatened to fire the next person who came up with an after-war plan, a Phase IV, The invasion itself was going to be sufficient. Whether or not Rumsfeld had good reason to believe that is irrelevant to the fact that he denied us the planning or the troops to carry out any other plan in the near term. When that plan collapsed, we winged it for a long time, with disastrous results.

American soldiers are known for their initiative and creativity, but like all other soldiers, they take orders, even if they think they have a better plans. When command is especially incompetent, soldiers find ways to try to fulfill the purpose of what they believe their mission is, while adhering to the letter of their orders. Readers of Every Man A Tiger will recognize this. Drop your bomb on a convoy instead of the useless target you were given. Have a book or a cheat sheet ready when the management expects you to memorize a bunch of useless crap.

It becomes a problem, despite everybody's best intentions, or perhaps because of them. Bad policy is driving soldiers to desperate measures to try and achieve what their commanders want, but do not have the proper strategy for. It is typically a bad idea to force the soldiers in a war to win the ultimate victory when the generals haven't prepared that victory for them.

We need better leadership than that, so that our soldiers and our brass remain on the same page. We need people in charge not looking to protect their own asses, but instead to win wars. Democrats like myself believe that the only thing worse than an unjustified war, for everybody involved, is such a war fought poorly. Since the character of a post-war Iraq has long been one of our concerns, even now, when withdrawal is the most popular approach, our concern is that we fight this war better.

All the dark, vitriolic talk about backstabbing is just that: the scapegoating of those who have managed to mangle a war they had virtually sole authority to run. They did not have to run Iraq into the ground. They did not have to go in too light, too fast, and with not enough of a gameplan. Congress did not have to give up oversight. I know many Republicans bring up the specter of Vietnam's micromanagement, but they do so with Rumsfeld's control freak behavior very visible, as well as forgetting Vietnam's other sad lesson: an absence of management is just as bad.

I suggest everybody read The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam. The Failure of Vietnam was more complex than the revisionists of the right would recount. One of the major problems of Vietnam was the lack of true oversight, the lack of knowledge here in America about just how bad things worse. A number of factors contributed to this, but it all comes down to the fact that Americans and their representatives were not fully informed of what was going on, and therefore had no cause to react to get things back on course. The goal became to continue the war, to protect the brass, to protect the president, to protect the policy, anything but what the war was supposed to do. The media became a target as journalist began to piece together the problems long before the generals or the officials in Washington wanted to make that reckoning.

It's in this environment that America failed to make the policy decisions necessary to win the war, or to come out of it less debilitated. So to better leadership, we add better information and better flow of information. When we get into bubbles where we are unwilling or unable to learn what we need to know, we are more likely to fail, and worse, to persist in failure.

Which brings us back into troop numbers. In the Vietnam war, we had the disadvantage of want a South Vietnam when most Vietnamese just wanted an end to a Civil War and the unity of their country. We had the opportunity early on, in the war, but we squandered it, gambling on bad leaders and a policy suited to facing conventional, not asymmetric war-fighting. We ended up counting on attrition to win the war, which was a problem since one of North Vietnam's few advantages was its ability to recruit and reinforce. We could not match their ability to escalate on the ground. They had the homefield advantage. We had to bus in our players from halfway around the world at considerable expense.

Our opponents in this war have much the same advantage in terms of recruitment, but not the same advantage in terms of what Iraq itself wants. Iraqi's are ready and willing to create and defend Iraq. The question is what tools will they have to do so. We can win this war if we choose to provide them with the means to keep order and maintain sovereignty. Unlike the majority of the Vietnamese, Iraqis are motivated.

We, however, cannot repair the damage we inflicted by invading, and then disbanding the army, at least not with the soldiers we had. The repeated calls for more troops has simply been a matter of material support for this mission. Put simply, we cannot successfully occupy a country, if we cannot maintain military control.

In times past on this site, I've put forward the metaphor of fixing a flat tire. When you do so, you typically use a jack to take the weight off the flat. This only makes sense, because the weight of the vehicle is going to interfere with the safe removal of the tire.

The Iraq is running on a flat tire. The lawlessness and strife that our structural inability to secure the country has created is putting strain on every other effort to rehabilitate the nation. From infrastructure, to government, to even the recruitment of our replacements, our lack of manpower and a good plan to use those soldiers has been like the weight of the vehicle on that flat. Trying to withdraw on that deflated plan will be like trying to drive the car on that flat- not intelligent. We will do further damage if we attempt to leave under Bush's current plan, because there is insufficient material support in that plan to handle the problem. The sectarian fighting is good evidence of the stress this has engendered on the Iraqis, and the perhaps permanent damage to Iraqi society caused by the results of our insufficiently manned, planned, and supplied mission.

Getting armor (both vehicle and body), manpower, communications equipment and other things into theatre was not merely an attempt to score points on our part. We recognized that the lack of such things limited our soldier's ability to get a handle on the situation. The less our soldiers capabilities to freely work in the war-zone, the more our enemies could make progress at our expense.

I hear about morale all the time from Right-Wing pundits and commentators. This morale seems to be an abstract lifeforce to them, something that can be imposed, that can work miracles despite failures of policies. To me, it seems the right have watched one too many war movies where a speech turns the tide of a war, and inspiration pushes soldiers beyond their imagined capabilities. While the virtues of valor, courage, and inspiration should not be underestimated, we should not also underestimate the integrated quality of morale in the real world, nor the necessity to back that morale, when present, with the means to carry out the objectives. people can do amazing things when their back is to the wall, but one cannot win a war perpetually on the bleeding edge of failure. At some point, you either relieve the desperation of your situation, or you become overtaken by it. Additionally, we have to consider that continued desperation and frustration of things by those leading the fight will ultimately bleed the will to fight and win out of people. Hell, even normal combat, with its perpetual stresses will take it out of people. That's why, even with millions of soldiers, we're facing a crisis of readiness.

The unimaginable thing here is that the administration seems to have put us on that bleeding edge on purpose. If we have a morale problem in Iraq, it's not because of what's on the news. The news simply reflects the reality that the soldiers are immersed in. It's they who have to suffer for the policy mistakes, who have to deal with being a man short and an objective late. It's they who have to deal with the real results of our policies. The ad linked above brilliantly demonstrates the real world consequences of policies.

I imagine many of you on the right want victory, want what's best for the troops. So far, the war you've been most enlisted to fight is not the one in Iraq, but the one against your political opposition. Meanwhile, the real war, fought thousands of miles away, has been badly neglected, badly provisioned, badly managed. The support you've shown your troops is a divided America that where the Right naively opposes the very things that could allow you to win the war overseas for real. And why? Because it puts you in a bad rhetorical position.

To win this war, you have to concede that we are right, at least in your own hearts. Then you have to concede that the mismanagement has a source, and that your people are the source for that. Nightmare scenarios flash in people's minds of the Left taking over, the right having cut and run from supporting the Iraq war without question.

The thing to understand is that at the end of the day, the battlefield of punditry is an unreal one, all the politics and pontification products of imagination and logic. Already, we are at risk of losing war, though, based on the inability of people to retreat from the bulwarks and ramparts of the imagined citadels of debate. In short, the right is talking our soldiers to death, trying to defend a point which people will remember far less than the war that comes of it.

What we do here, in debate, in politics, is supposed to result in something real being done. If all the Republicans, independents, and Democrats can do is talk a good game, then no matter who is in office, America will suffer for it. For our arguments and screaming matches to mean anything, good things must come of what we write and say and vote.

We got to have something real we're aiming for, which we will abandon points, abandon political scores, abandon all that junk we pick up trying to win debates and offices for. We have to be willing to do what we must to ensure that things turn out well. The rivalry between our parties, the distrust bred into such rivalries, and the nakedly partisan rancor has been among the contributing factors to a government that has failed us already, and will fail us again.

The public will put in place those they believe they can trust to do the people's business. It's likely in this upcoming election that Democrats will pick up significant numbers of seats, perhaps even to the point of taking back the majorities of one or both houses. If we fail, though, in our duties, control of those seats may revert, or even go to a third party or other kind of movement. We Democrats cannot afford to get our guard up against our political rivals, and fail to deal with the current events and pertinent matters of government. You Republicans out there should reflect on the same truth. How much has it cost this country to engage in this 3 year experiment to prove the neoconservatives and Donald Rumsfeld right? How much has America suffered for the need to vindicate these few and their dysfunctional plans?

The real world beckons, everybody. Whatever we end up doing in Iraq, the plans we come up with must be made to work. If that requires more soldiers, the right answer will not be to mutate our goals to suit the limitations we've imposed on bringing more material support in. The right answer should be to communicate the needs of this war to our people, and then take action. If we need a draft to get the soldiers required to properly manage the pacification of Iraq and our withdrawal, then you should not hesitate for a moment to push for the draft.

Some on the right might talk about those on the left being hopelessly split into factions. Those people are good at categorizing and spliting up Americans into different categories. They're good at analyzing things and seeing no recourse but their own. I think most Americans, though, will look at it and say to themselves, if it succeeds, it leads. In my experience, Americans will lend their support to what seems to work, despite partisan differences. People will cross party lines to support things like budget balancing, wars, regulation and deregulation, when it appear like those measure will work.

This country wasn't meant to be run by parties for their own benefit. Our constitution was written for the sake of creating a government that would have to condescend from the level of political scheming to actually do things for the people they rule, or else be removed from their office. In no other form of government but a Democracy can the people put the brakes on the stupidity and incompetence of their leaders without needing to resort to violence.

That is the purpose of Democracy. If we partisans fail to give but lip service to the problems of the average person, to the problem of our nation, we will find ourselves at cross purpose in our actions to the purpose for which this Republic was founded: the good of the people.

Let's get a plan working in Iraq, for the good of all Americans, as well as the good of the Iraqis. Let's not B.S. about who's right and whose wrong, let's figure out what is right and what is wrong and seek to do the right.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at September 14, 2006 10:04 AM
Comment #181306

Fabulous, well thought out post. Of course, all discussion of this is pointless…..why not support the troops by keeping them out of harms way? Say… at home, where they belong. Bushco supports the troops by reminding us that if we “cut and run”, those who have died will have done so in vain. I am the only one who thinks that this demands more young people to die needlessly in a nation building attempt gone awry? And that as more and more of them die, in horrible and unpleasant ways, that THEIR deaths would also be in vain if the remaining soldiers and marines were to “cut and run”? A vicious cycle. Because our “leadership” lacks the balls to admit their error.

I talked with a close friend of mine who’s son is serving in Iraq. In the last week, one of his fellow marines was killed, and another badly wounded. She doesn’t see how this is fighting terror, or that the war in Iraq is in fact a war on terror. I agree with her. We are fighting some terrorists, who would never even have THOUGHT about visiting Saddam’s secular dictatorship.

Posted by: Steve Miller at September 14, 2006 4:19 PM
Comment #181318


We do not live in a Democracy, we live in a Representative Republic. Our founding fathers knew the difference. I believe they would take umbrage at your charictarization of the Constitution. They had no intention of having a government that “ruled” the people or one that was to “do things” for them other than a limited important few. These were laid out in the Constitution. This is one of the fundamental differences between conservatives and those who believe as you do. This is also why many arguments seem to come to an impasse.


Posted by: keith at September 14, 2006 5:54 PM
Comment #181323

Steve Miller-
Because it’s not as easy as taking them out. The collapse of Iraq would likely make the Anbar province a hotbed for al-Qaeda recruitment. It would become another Afghanistan, another failed state serving to bolster Bin Laden’s terrorists. Regardless of our profound disagreements with Bush’s policies, we must not let our low opinion of his intervention blind us to the realities of what happens should Iraq become a failed state.

Withdrawal, luckily enough though, is part of the definition of victory. We have to be able to leave at some point, and allow Iraq to stand on its own. We gain nothing but a round trip and more entanglement if we let Iraq fall, because then we have to return to clean out terrorists, as we did in Afghanistan, or we end up having to confront some new dictator who reunifies the nation and uses the grievance of our past intervention as a means to justify territorial agression and the like.

Or maybe we end up having to deal with crap in the surrounding countries as Iraq’s instability spreads. The point of my posting in general is that Bush’s mistake has set back the cause of our security. We have to take care of it now, or be forced to deal with it later.

We have to open to solutions beyond the campaign slogan simplicity of “stay the course” or “get them home right not” My underlying them here is that this is how we get out, and how we stay out. Let’s finish this off, and do it right. We’ve put enough burdens on our children to weigh them down with more unfinished business in the Middle East.

My “changing the tire” metaphor is implicitly one of withdrawal. We’re putting in extra support so we can leave something that can support itself. If we don’t withdraw right, we may end up putting ourselves in a worse, more entangled position.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 14, 2006 6:08 PM
Comment #181335

The Constitution gave quite a few duties to the national governments, things for it to do. We can argue until we’re blue in the face about what in particular a government should do, but I think we should agree on one point: Whatever we as a nation have empowered Congress, the Judiciary and the President to do, they should do well.

It’s difficult to sell people on small government if they remember big government doing better. Therefore, only the highest quality public servants and the most disciplined effectiveness in governance should be brought to play, if the Conservatives want people to go for the idea. They should embody the principle of governing best by governing least, not be an example of the statement’s folly

Additionally, you must consider that only if conservatism proves attractive to most people in the general public will the public willingly sacrifice all the fluff and stuff that a big government provides. Conservatives can’t force America to the right. Americans have to choose that on their own.

Given that America would have to evolve towards conservatism, rather than becoming so instant, your best bet would be to start from center and gradually prove the effectiveness of a government of conservative tendencies, ease people into it. Otherwise, you end up creating opposition to your policies, as Bush has done.

American politics is elastic. Put too much strain on it, and (like now) you will find your constituency stretched over far too great a range of interests and beliefs.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 14, 2006 6:56 PM
Comment #181360


Thanks for your thoughtful response. We should ask for a better government regardless of size. But remember, the larger something is, the slower it will respond, and the less likely it will be effective in it’s response.


Posted by: keith at September 14, 2006 10:01 PM
Comment #181364

The trouble I have with such axioms is that they pack a lot of prejudgment without providing a lot of answers. What if you’ve got no choice, given the size of a society? I think of bureaucratic inefficiency not as some inevitable limit, like the sound barrier, but rather as an endemic challenge.

Okay, large organizations naturally become more unwieldy as they increase in size. What do we do to deal with that, especially when reduction in size is not an option, or would only make another problem worse? A conservative might see finding ways to do more with less people a positive option, or eliminating unnecessary programs. A Liberal might consider reorganizing the bureaucracy to better do its job.

Each might have prejudices that might preclude them from seeing part of a good solution. Strict ideology can be too ivory tower to really grasp the problem. We have to be willing to sacrifice agendas to get the right things done.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 14, 2006 10:45 PM
Comment #181368

I am in agreement with you totally, at least in principle. I wonder, however, if the damage has already been done in terms of Iraq having become a fledgling failed state. At what point do we call it quits? 3,000 dead Americans? 4,000? 10,000?

I’m very surprised at the lack of comments such as “support a terrorist, elect a Democrat”, etc.

Posted by: Steve Miller at September 14, 2006 10:54 PM
Comment #181378

Steve Miller-
I think the time tables should be set up to have a set of thresholds, and appropriate paces attached. First threshold will be the one to move forward on, and it will be moderately paced. The second we could call remedial, and we’ll employ this if things are dragging a bit. The third we employ if things just go utterly to shit.

Regardless of which one we should try, we should run things according to the premise that our purpose is to win. It’s not much use going in their pessimistic. After all, we’re trying to encourage people to become independent. If we don’t show faith in them, what help are we?

The point is not to wait for a body count to get to a certain level. The point is to tell people: we plan on leaving, one way or another. Cause too much trouble, we’re out of here, everybody’s on their own, and you won’t like that. Cause some trouble, and we’ll hang around longer until you’re back in good shape. Make great progress, and we’ll both leave in a timely fashion, and we’ll give you all the material support you need.

The point of a timetable, I believe, is to ensure that folks know its in their interest to take charge of their country NOW. Stop depending on us to protect you, start building law and order. The faster we can get them to do that, the faster we acheive the goal of getting out.

As for the lack of “support a terrorist, elect a Democrat” comments? Oh well.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 14, 2006 11:38 PM
Comment #181539

Timetable or not, I believe the Iraq war is lost. And not because of the valiant efforts of our underequipped soldiers. Our invasion has created such instability in this part of the world I expect Iran to march into Iraq at the earliest opportunity. As we leave we will claim that we’ve trained the Iraqi army to defend their country (we’ll stand down as they stand up), but I see them as no match for the Iranians. All that oil money going to support terrorism. Bush has unleashed a nightmare.

Posted by: Steve at September 15, 2006 1:27 PM
Comment #181591

“These were laid out in the Constitution. This is one of the fundamental differences between conservatives and those who believe as you do”

I, for one, do not believe ‘conservatives’, as they are traditionally defined, even exist in America today. There is NO WAY a actual conservative could possibly have voted for bush. He has not one attribute that could be defined in any way as conservative.

Posted by: Observer at September 15, 2006 4:07 PM
Comment #181613

—-Stephen—- A different Perspective ——-

I believe our presence in Iraq has all the
makings of an America, making another permanent,
Military Base. With the Building of the 35 acre
Embassy in Iraq says it all. Just put all your known
facts together, an a little critical thinking.
I have my own facts, but more input from others,
would be essential before continuing with line of

Posted by: DAVID at September 15, 2006 5:12 PM
Comment #181626


You said

The trouble I have with such axioms is that they pack a lot of prejudgment without providing a lot of answers. What if you’ve got no choice, given the size of a society? I think of bureaucratic inefficiency not as some inevitable limit, like the sound barrier, but rather as an endemic challenge.

Okay, large organizations naturally become more unwieldy as they increase in size. What do we do to deal with that, especially when reduction in size is not an option, or would only make another problem worse? A conservative might see finding ways to do more with less people a positive option, or eliminating unnecessary programs. A Liberal might consider reorganizing the bureaucracy to better do its job.

Each might have prejudices that might preclude them from seeing part of a good solution. Strict ideology can be too ivory tower to really grasp the problem. We have to be willing to sacrifice agendas to get the right things done.

I was at a conference this week and heard an interesting idea that I think holds true for many things. It went something like this, “When you begin something, you have to make two or three key decisions, and after that the rest is all religious arguments over how to do it right.”

The notion that we have no choice given the size of a society is a prejudgement in of itself. You’ve skipped past the two or three decisions right to the religious arguments of how we do something better or worse.

In government matters, I think the key decisions that need to be made come before the implementation of any new programs.

They are:

1) Should the government be doing this? This one has three subdecisions that needs to be made:
a) Is doing something necessarily better than doing nothing?
b) If so, is there another organization in our society that can do this more effectively, more efficiently, or both?
c) If not, if the government does this, will the added benefit of the government doing this outweigh the additional costs of the goverment providing the service rather than providing grants to a more efficient third party?
2) If so, what level of government will be the best provider of this service? Two corrolaries to this one;
a) Is there a constitutional directive on who should provide this service?
b) If not, what organization closest to the populace (local, state, or federal in that order), has the best capability to provide the service?
3) When will the government stop providing this service? AKA What is the success criteria and the exit path for stopping this service?

Posted by: Rob at September 15, 2006 6:06 PM
Comment #181635

My emphasis on the question of population size is a logistical one. If you have tens of thousands of businesses, but the SEC is only big enough and well-funded enough to prosecute a bare few cases, how effective will it be?

A government that does not consider logistics in enforcement of laws and regulations is one that invites non-compliance, which should worry you because non-compliance, when it gets bad enough becomes the inspiration for further government.

I would agree with you if you said that arbitrary size is not a good guage of quality government, but sometimes, you simply need so many people to do such and such a job efficiently.

Your suggestions as to whether government should do something are logic, but they miss something. Sometimes, the imposition is onerous-the federal government has resources beyond that of the states. Sometimes, you’re just creating 50 additional bureaucracies and all the complexity thereof when you push things to the state level. Sometimes, legal questions and interstate problems arise that stretch jurisdictions across state boundaries. Then, having state laws being separated becomes a liability.

The efficiency isn’t merely about size, though size can bear on efficiency. Efficiency is about how things move through a process, and the order that emerges from them.

I understand your fears. I would recommend we do some sort of assessment to see wether those fears are well founded before we do anything.

I would have us leave off whatever bullshit we’re doing with those bases and that embassy and get to work making them relics of the past for us.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 15, 2006 6:33 PM
Comment #181749


This is an excellent post. Though we’ve had our differences, you now have my respect and admiration. You are correct that Americans will and should back policies that work and throw out those that do not. I applaud your call to end the bickering and back-biting and start to work on solutions. Both sides need to stop the name calling and recriminations. For awhile there was no joy in reading nothing but partisan sniping. Now, I look forward to reading these blogs again. Thank you for that.

Posted by: Charles Adams at September 16, 2006 1:35 AM
Comment #181965

I don’t see how John Kerry calling out troops “terrorisors of children in the night” is supporting the troops. The Bush administration had a program that was continually building up the armor of the troops. Pressure from the left forced the Bush administration to build it up faster…That worked out pretty well to my way of thinking. Both sides were for building up their armor. Building up their armor was already underway. Political pressure helped it move a little faster.

This is not an either or situation. The Republicans do not hold all the answers. The Democrats do not hold all the answers. America does best when all voices are heard. But radicals envolved in a cultural war often do not care to let reason, facts, or other voices be heard.

Nice job running Lieberman out of your party. He didn’t agree with you on Iraq…can’t have people in your party that have different opinons or anything! Talk about an intolerant crowd that tolerates no one elses view!

As I was saying, America is better when it practices tolerance and listens to all views.

Come to the big tent party, come on over to the Republican side moderate democrats, before the “progressives” run you out like they did to Joe Lieberman!

Posted by: Stephen at September 17, 2006 5:35 AM
Comment #182287


Not sure if you are still checking the thread or not at this point. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, I was busy last week.

Stephen your answers still evade my original point, though they do better justice to the argument than your original post.

The questions that I posed all could result in the decisions that you believe are right, but they have to be the first questions that are asked not the 5th or 10th. There are many ways to “do something.” We can disagree on how best to do them. However, we have to reach concensus on the first three questions before we can do anything close to effectively.

You also make assumptions that need not be true. First, the Federal government has resources beyond the State. I would argue that the resources to “do something” should be distributed to the level that needs them to do that thing. If we decided that a State is better poised to solve a problem than the Fed’s. Then the next step is to allocate resources appropriately to each state to make that thing happen. You also forget that the States have resources that the Fed’s don’t. They can coordinate activities at a local level much better than the Fed’s can. For instance, how would you have the Fed’s lead disaster recovery efforts for small towns. There are thousands of them across the country. The Fed’s can’t possibly muster the resources that the State and local governements can to meet that need.

You said, “Sometimes, legal questions and interstate problems arise that stretch jurisdictions across state boundaries. Then, having state laws being separated becomes a liability.” I agree that is specificially what I intended with decisions 2a and 2b. Somethings ar better suited to Federal organization; however, all things aren’t, and we need to recognize that and plan accordingly.

You seem focused on efficiency above effectiveness. Gains in efficiency do not always correspond to gains in effectiveness. Doing more things, quicker is of no help at all if they are the wrong things or done in the wrong way.

Take your SEC comment (which as a side note is interesting because you seem to think that the Bush administration has been derelict in this area; however, I would be willing to bet you a dollar, that they have had more effective prosecutions than any of the previous three administrations have). The passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill has basically killed the efficiency of companies in complying with audit and reporting. However, the goal was not to make audits more efficient, but rather more effective. Companies now spend much more time preparing financial disclosures and audit findings than they ever have. However, the effectiveness of the law requires less monitoring and oversight of the companies because the market now has more transparency into the real financial situations at the companies. This has resulted in a net gain in efficiency for the SEC. A gain that was achieved by a corresponding net loss in efficiency on the part of the companies. Overall, however, the more important result was an increase in the effectiveness of securities regulation.

You may disagree with this last statement. That is the religious nature. However, the important part is that the first 3 decisions were made correctly in regards to regulating the financial markets. As we move into the election season, the Democrats and Republicans will both pose new initiatives. It is those that need to be put to the test of those three decisions.

For instance, I for one do not believe that national health care would fare well in those areas, but there is a huge drive to do something. Will we do the right something?

Taking a non-partisan view, in retrospect, the War in Iraq does not pass the test either. Neither in my mind did the perscription drug plan.

As a country there are several looming decisions that have to be made that will be with us for a century or longer. We need to take the partisan blinders off and decide if we are going to do the right things.

You have been making this argument against the Bush administration quite effectively this year. You have convinced me in several areas that we could have done something better. As we move close to November, I challenge you to do the same thing with the nominees from your side of the aisle so that hopefully in 5 years we won’t be evaluating the mistakes because we made the mistake of thinking anything is better than what we have now.

Posted by: Rob at September 18, 2006 12:52 PM
Comment #182887

Dear Keith

Thanks for trotting out that old Republican canard that we DON’T live in a democracy. There is nothing contradictory about being in a representative republic and a democracy. The two are orthogonal. We live in a democratic, representative republic (kind of; strictly speaking we have weakened all three aspects of that descriptor). So, try not to sound so high-handed when trotting that old horse out, ‘kay?

Posted by: Mental Wimp at September 20, 2006 3:12 PM
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