Democrats & Liberals Archives

Hardliners Having Hard Times

Some of the more rabid Republicans and right-wingers accuse Democrats of wanting to cozy up to Ahmedinejad, since we advocate more negotiation and things like that. That’s really not the case, as most people on the left know, and the moderates on the right acknowledge. Democrats want to ease tensions with the people of Iran, and would be glad to see obstacles to the easing of these tensions go, President Ahmedinejad being one of them.

Which is why this is such good news. While the Bush administration is playing its fruitless game of escalation, the people of Iran have registered their profound disapproval of the destabilizing policies of their leader.

It seems we can agree on something after all: neither of our countries need idiots in charge who want to escalate things, and cause trouble for everybody else.

If you want to know why Democrats so heavily criticized Bush's run-up to the war, then you should take a look at all the efforts they're going through to get to the next one, trying to silence those who advocate alternatives, and once more playing games with the evidence.

The administration doesn't want to talk, or negotiate. That is not to say that the polar opposite position should be done. If we negotiate, we should do so intelligently. But we should be open to using diplomacy to further our interests, and not tie that hand behind our back.

The elections in Iran show why: leaders come and go. It's our relationship to the people in those countries that matter. The Shia in Southern Iraq might have been much more willing to overthrow Saddam when we next came around, if we hadn't left them out to dry the last time.

Iran is a country with a strong generational divide, between those who were part of the Revolution, who fought the Iran/Iraq war, and those now who are too young to have been part of those historical events. Many times, the Mullahs who form the highest leadership in Iran have had to put their foot down on those who would reform Iran further. It's worth noting that many of the hardliner's in Ahmedinejad's party gained an advantage because reformists were barred from the election. These latest results indicate a revulsion among the voters towards the hardliners, and also helps paint the broader picture of a population in tension with those leading it.

That tension can work to our advantage, and if the Iranians can unleash it, to theirs.

There are three ways in which tyranny can die: old age, heart conditions, and strokes.

No tyrant can live forever. Castro is finding this out fairly well, as he has become ill to the point of no longer running the government. The Ayatollah Khomeini, charismatic as he was, couldn't escape death. Immortality was not granted to Lenin nor Stalin. No party of ideologically committed souls can do so either. It's a very good question what happens to China as its elderly leaders pass on. When a system relies on a strong leader for its power, the death of a strong leader can bring compromise and oblivion to the once strongly held beliefs. As new generations are born with their drive to figure out the world for themselves, the value of the revolution can come into question.

Tyrannies are not immune to the disappointments and disasters that strike any society. In fact, they can not only become more sensitive to their effects, but more likely to run into such disasters, as the arbitrary decisions of the leaders can contribute to a disaster or even cause it. The effect of seeing such bungling, of coming to see their government as incompetent meddlers rather than helpful leaders can have a devastating effect on the willingness of the people of the country to support their leaders. At some point, the leaders might need to call on the support of the people, only to find it isn't there. Slobodan Milosevic suffered this fate after the American bombing campaign brought the pain and suffering of the civil war back to his supporters, while rolling back his gains. The communist nations of Eastern Europe suffered similar fates as governments supported merely by force from the Soviets evaporated, and years of public disapproval made itself known. Reagan might have told Gorbachev to tear down the wall, but it was the people of Berlin who wielded the pickaxes.

Tyrannies often try to cover these things up, but rumors spread anyways, and the secrecy about the matters sows distrust. Conditions of the heart and head are often connected. Many in Iran disagree with the provocative course that their leaders have taken. If it weren't for the self protective measures of the Mullahs, it would be even worse for them. But those self-protective measures can come at the expense of softening the brains of those who use them. With every intervention that counters the public will, a tyranny endangers its intellectual respectability, the feelings of the populace. When the cognitive dissonance starts to pile up, and the leaders lose touch with the people, the regimes begin to die.

Are these nations guaranteed, when they die, to be reincarnated as Democracies?

No.

Democracy is a government reached by agreement. One tyranny can be replaced by another, as the Kaiser was replaced by Adolf Hitler. Democracies can be longer lived, since they rest their power not in hands of a few mortal individuals, but in the will of the community, but that takes the community's will to work together towards a government that represents the views of different majorities on different issues.

Democracies can be poisoned by unresolved political issues that play on people's humiliation by others, or their hatreds of others within their country, or by fear of an enemy and the reactions that strain the freedoms and limitations on government. Those limitations are crucial to keeping the Democracy alive. Otherwise the social forces within the country tear it apart, or help elect a government that puts a monkey wrench into the gears of democracy.

The reason why we should talk to Iran, and take a more moderate stance is that a hardline stance in Iran feeds off of the threat we pose. Naturally, we should defend our country and its interests. Preventative defense is a contradiction in terms. We have a country full of people in Iran who simply do not want a war. They are scared and dismayed with the direction that the situation is taking.

The fear of hostilities on the other side lessens the chances of Ahmedinejad initiating hostilities with public support. Without public support, any hostilities or moves towards greater hostilities cost Ahmedinejad more support, which weakens his government, and the mullahs by extension.

One of the beauties of working from an attitude of defense is that you do not make the first mistake. Unless a leader goes into a war with solid support, a solid notion of what he or she seeks by the military action, backup plans to deal with screwups, and the resources to sustain the war as long as it needs to be sustained, that leader is making a mistake that their opponents can exploit.

If Ahmedinejad is the guy who initiates hostilities or escalates the situation, then we can exploit that.

In the meantime, we should negotiate, and offer in good faith terms that moderates can accept, but that he cannot. Make him the guy who either has to soften his stance, potentially alienating his masters, or keep a hard line in the face of a good deal. The more he does that, the more stress he will put on his support, and the support for the mullahs. Don't give him evil to fight against that will make him look like a good guy to the Iranians. Don't give him a war that will let him unite his country in defense behind him. Give him a good to fight that will make him unreasonable in the eyes of his countrymen. Give him a peaceful solution that he will reject, and by rejecting provoke greater resistance to him in his country. Make him sacrifice political capital to keep his hardline.

What America needs to do is play the hardliners of the world off of their own people, playing the reasonable bargainers rather than the unreasonable threat. We need to understand how we can create greater support for Democracy, and those who support it. We need to be consistent in our application of our American values, and position ourselves so our enemies are forced to betray their values and virtues first. America must regain its moral power, it's ability to plant the seeds of freedom without resorting by default to the alienating use of force by the military to do it. Democracy is much easier to spread by the point of an argument than at the end of a gun.

Let's back Ahmedinejad into a corner politically. Let's have him make the first mistake. Let's have him pay the price for his inflexibility and lack of concern for his own people. Let's not pass up the opportunity to make this man more unpopular. Let's not resort to actions that will lead people to extend him the deference of a defender of the realm. In short, let us aid and not postpone this man's political self-destruction.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 8:32 AM
Comments
Comment #199800

Stephen,

“Pentagon considers naval build-up”:

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/12/19/us.iran.ap/index.html

Meanwhile, Abram Shulsky, a PNAC signatory and Staussian right-wing nutjob, currently serves in the Iranian Directorate, providing an alternate intelligence channel to Cheney. He used to perform the same function in the Iraq Office of Special Plans.

As usual, Stephen, good aritcle!


Posted by: phx8 at December 19, 2006 2:19 PM
Comment #199806

phx8-
The scariest thing isn’t people who make big mistakes like Iraq. The scariest thing is people who make mistakes like Iraq, and then get set to make them again. People wonder why we argued so vehemently about how we got into the last war: they can look at this and know why. Simply put, if you don’t call them on it the first time, they’re going to do it again.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 3:16 PM
Comment #199808

Right on Stephen, i’ve been arguing much the same point in this forum for quite a while. The younger Iranians have long been seeking normalisation in relations between their country and the rest of the world. Lets help them to win and not alienate them by forcing them into Amedinejads corner by sabre rattling. I’m sure they love their country no less than Americans love theirs.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 19, 2006 3:22 PM
Comment #199817

I read a comment today something to the effect, what does the Iranian president’s setback mean? Will he act all contrite over his loss, fire a few cabinet members and then procede with his hard line agenda just as our president is doing?

The administration knows full well that there is a generational gap in Iran. It’s just that the neocons are nuts. They think that if they carpet bomb the hell out of Iran and then send special forces units in, the young Iranians will rise up and overthrow their government. The neocons evidently think that the only patriotic people in the World are the 22% of Americans that still support them. It is hard for me to believe that 22% still do support their actions.

In my opinion, the biggest problem we face with the Iranians and indeed the World is what are we offering them? Our we offering them complete control over their lives by corporations instead of dictators or religious fanatics? Isn’t that the road we are heading down?

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 4:07 PM
Comment #199829

They would rather confront and defeat Iran than engineer its fall through what they would consider weak means of forwarding foreign policy. If they knew the history of the place, they’d know that Iranians are modernists in their attitudes, even under the Mullahs. The Mullahs haven’t dared to impose as much control as the Taliban did. If you look at their government, women play a rather liberated role.

We don’t have to be the hero all the time. We can play the wise man behind the scenes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 5:34 PM
Comment #199830

Stephen

The will of the people for democracy is a necessary, but often not a sufficent ingredient.

The E. German people (or the Poles, Czechs etc) had sought freedom for many years w/o success. Milosevic would have been around until the grim reaper took him had it not been for U.S. airpower.

The Bush Administration is actively talking to the Iranian people, just as we did the captive nations under communism. Negotiating with their current leader.

Take a look at this. It is funny and really hits the mark.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 5:38 PM
Comment #199842

“The Bush Administration is actively talking to the Iranian people”

Jack,

Please show me an example of Bush “talking” to the Iranian’s. Threatening maybe, but that hardly qualifies as “talking to”.

The hubris with which Bush created the “axis of evil” so soon after 9-11 was astonishing. North Korea, Iran and Iraq hardly qualified as “an axis of evil”. They each presented threats but each threat was seperate from the other. Outside of North Korea possibly sharing it’s nuclear technology at a price it’s doubtful that there were any significant ties between the three nations. But that speech alone was the equivalent of waging war on all three nations at once.

Well, $h!t Friday, we couldn’t even handle Iraq!!!!! And we never will under this incompetent a$$h@le. It’s obvious that our dufus in chief has relegated the ISG report to the outhouse (possibly a good thing as copies of the constitution were running out) and there will be no attempt at renewing a dialogue with Iran or North Korea.

The greatest threat to America and the whole damn world now is none other than GWB.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 19, 2006 7:23 PM
Comment #199845

KansasDem, whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad. Or to put it another way, pride comes before a fall. The neo cons thought they would make short work of the towelheaded sandniggers. They worshipped their false gods of high tech weaponry and slimmed down military, squandering more than the rest of the world combined, thinking that this would make them invincible. The whole world would be cowed by their idolatrous golden calf (pun intended). Well its turned to dust in their hands, with no honourable way out, and no prospect of victory. There is a God in heaven after all. It seems almost Biblical.

I regret to have to say this, as a friend of the US, but its good enough for America. You allowed yourselves to be misled into a war on a country that was no threat to you. You believed the shrill cries of an obvious buffoon and sent your precious children into harms way needlessly and stupidly, believing in the myth of your military invincibility. You forgot Vietnam very quickly. As I said above, pride comes before a fall. War is something which must be only engaged in for the most compelling of reasons. Compelling enough for the people waging war to get behind it as a people, and make whatever sacrifices necessary to win it. Instead of that, Bush tells you to go shopping, and cut taxes. You people are not for real. Well, you again have an opportunity to relearn the lessons of the past.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 19, 2006 7:48 PM
Comment #199846

Stephen Daugherty,

Rumsfeld resigned and I was hopeful.

The ISG released it’s report and I was downright optomistic.

Now I’m back to just facing the reality that nothing will get better until both Bush and Cheney are relieved of power. Our Commander-in-Cheif is obviously mentally incompetent, he should be immediately removed from power by Congress and replaced by Cheney. Impeachment proceedings against Cheney should begin almost immediately thereafter.

As things stand we’re deploying more troops at least as far as Kuwait and we’re advancing one more Aircraft Carrier to the region. I believe that Bush is going to go forward with an attack on Iran. I hope I’m wrong, but if not I believe this will spell certain doom to thousands of our troops now deployed in Iraq. We’ll likely find ourselves with a horribly undermanned ground force for activities anywhere in the world and we’ll be left with no option but to bomb entire cities resulting in casualties that will make Nagasaki and Hiroshima look like a childs game.

We’ve nearly passed the point of defending “our way of life”. We’re dangerously close to becoming the “agressors”. Or maybe we already crossed that line. It used to be important to be “the good guy”, maybe that ideal is gone.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 19, 2006 8:05 PM
Comment #199847

Liberal Democrats are so good at perverting the messages of the Bush Administration. We never went to war against the people of Iraq. That is why the insurgency and those that abhor peace with Israel and the U.S. are not killing Americans in any large numbers. Our enemies are killing the Iraqi people by car bombs, marketplace explosions, kidnapping and beheadings, etc.! It is an attempt to gain rule over the people by fear; making them fearful of exercising their own freedom. Everyone is talking about a civil war. The truth is that there is a war between the United States and supporters of terrorists, and the Iraqi people are caught in the middle; caught in the middle because one side has no problem with targeting the Iraqi people rather than the Americans.
Some of the arguments here such as the U.S. offering them corporations to rule over them instead of Dictators is just amazingly absurd. I honestly can’t remember the last CEO that beheaded an underling can you? You guys have no clue who the enemy is, and think that the leaders of these countries would just turn it over to the people because the people have decided to love the United States’ lovely words and good intentions. Oh, please!

We are also not interested in going to war against the people of Iran. We war against those radicals who support terror. That is why we defined the Axis of Evil. The leadership of those nations were diabolical fruitcakes! We successfully got rid of one, and we are trying to protect that country from falling into the hands of others. We are certainly not done with the leaders of the other two nations. They know that. However, showing weakness in Iraq is sure going to reduce our chances of dealing with the others when the time comes. We made it clear before entering Iraq that our fight was not with the people. We are making that clear in other countries as well. It is only when people make ridiculous assertions that Bush is Hitler II, or the enemy of the world, that his message is overshadowed by hatred. You guys are starting to sound like the terrorists!

JD

Posted by: JD at December 19, 2006 8:25 PM
Comment #199848

Kansas

The USG is spending millions to reach the people of Iran in terms of broadcasts, speakers, internet etc. It is the same sort of thing we did with Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. As Stephen points out, the people of Iran are not as weird as their leader.

As for speaking to the guy who just came back from sponsoring a conference that says the Holocaust is just a big joke and who wants to kill the Jews, I am not sure how much good can come from that. If you look at my post on the other side, you will see what kind of luck our British friends had with a similar guy some years back.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 8:32 PM
Comment #199849

Perhaps the relatives of the 650,000 Iraqis killed since your invasion JD will be pacified by the thought that your fight was not with them. Or maybe they think that people like you sound like terrorists. As for showing weakness in Iraq? How about showing cluelessness as now? Is that not just an absurd kind of weakness? No way forward, and no way out except tail between legs, without honour. Never mind all the dead Arabs, the US doesn’t count them anyway, but hell, iwith 3,000 dead, and tens of thousands of your own children (25,000?) maimed, was it worth it for the US?

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 19, 2006 8:38 PM
Comment #199850

Kansas

For example, this is a blog taking comments from the people of Iran.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 8:43 PM
Comment #199852


Ninety perent of the people in the World want peace, prosperity and happiness. The other ten percent keep convincing us that we have to make war.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 8:50 PM
Comment #199855

Very convincing Jack, if you speak persian or arabic, whichever that is. I can find nothing on the english version of your state dept site that indicates what iranians are blogging about. And even if I could, well, I don’t mean to be impolite, but this is a US govt site. What are blogs posted there going to say? Duh!!

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 19, 2006 9:22 PM
Comment #199856


Jack: Since I can’t read Farsi let me guess. Half of them hate their president and love the great satan and the other half are calling them traitors.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 9:22 PM
Comment #199857

“We never went to war against the people of Iraq.”

Holy freakin’ DUH! Who do you think died when we bombed?

I’ll not waste my time on such pathetic remarks.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 19, 2006 9:25 PM
Comment #199858

Paul In Euroland-
The thing to understand is that while we might not trust the president, we believed at that point that he had better intelligence than us. Speaking from hindsight, we can say we should have been more skeptical, but we never thought that Bush or any US President would be that cavalier with intelligence. Unfortunately, we were wrong. We underestimated just how partisan and how heedless this president could be.

Jack-
We’re going to pretend to negotiate with Ahmedinejad. In reality, if we took my approach, we would be aiming past him to the Iranians, showing them how willing we are to be reasonable. Only we angle our demands and concessions so that Ahmedinejad would be required to make concessions and take offers that would conflict with his hardliner sensibilities. We take his inflexibility on such issues and use it against him. We have a great range of options between a Munich-style Appeasement and starting a new war we can not afford.

JD-
You folks had the chance to change things long ago, to put a plan in the way of the terrorists what would have stopped the free rein with which they acted in the country could. Unfortunately, Bush supporters were too busy apologizing for the man and dismissing all negative reports about the war as liberal propaganda to actually do something about it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 9:31 PM
Comment #199862

Paul In Euroland has replied quite well to any dissent regarding my comments. He writes better than I so I’ll leave well enough alone other than to stress my belief that Bush & Co. are hell bent on escalating the armed conflict not only in Iraq but in the entire Middle East.

I’m beyond even wondering whether it involves Christian ideology (ie: Crusades), OIL, or just plain stupidity. What matters is that every time we escalate the threat to the Islamic world it feeds the fear that provides the fuel for the extremists. We’re our own worst enemy in this regard.

Jack wrote an article recently regarding how smart a leader must be. Well, a leader should have a damn good knowledge of history. Iraq was just as likely to abandon Sharia law as I am to convert to Catholisism.

We “de-Baathified” Iraq and we unleashed centuries of internal hatred. It’s now become impossible to tell the difference between those who want to kill other Iragi’s and those who want to kill us.

We opened Pandora’s box!

Posted by: KansasDem at December 19, 2006 10:18 PM
Comment #199863

“we believed at that point that he had better intelligence than us”

Stephen,

I always respect your opinions, but please don’t include me in that. I listened and watched and I especially listened to Hans Blix. He almost “begged” for more time. He was denied the time and now we need to find a way to bring nearly 3,000 American troops back to life (not to mention how many arms and legs we need to pull out of our butts).

Just don’t include me in the delusion of “we acted based on the best intel we had” crowd. I was never part of it. OTOH I’ve always been a “we broke it, now we have to fix it” kind of guy.

IMO that means full occupation for several years at least which means troop levels that can only be sustained by a full draft and the depolyment of about one million troops to Iraq alone.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 19, 2006 10:32 PM
Comment #199864

Paul, Kansas et al

It is Persian. When we call it Farsi it is an over correction. Sort of like calling German, “Deutsch” when speaking English. It also has a political component.

I did not expect most people to understand it. Persian is not one of my languages either. I include it only to show an example of what is being done AND in the local language.

The blog is about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Most of the Iranians (whether they are for or against their government) want their country to have nuclear power and probably nuclear weapons. It is a discussion of the various permutations and possibilities. He explains that the U.S. supports Iranian aspirations for nuclear power.

It is one of many such outreach activities. It may or may not be working, but the idea that the U.S. is doing nothing to communicate with Iranians is just untrue. I find it kinda interesting. We always get these wide-eyed guys coming around saying something like, “Golly, why don’t we just talk to them or try to reach the people.” I think of it as the Rodney King school of foreign affairs - “why can’t we just all get along.”

Posted by: jack at December 19, 2006 10:35 PM
Comment #199868

I think the main sin of the Republican party, and in many of us who supported the war was mistaking directness of force with directness of results. When Von Clausewitz said war is just policy brought about by other means, he wasn’t kidding. Thing is, your goals don’t just happen. Certain approaches will work, others will not, and how you make progress will depend on the means you employ. The Bush administration was just not willing to admit that the means it had invested so much effort in gaining, and the strategy it invested so much in executing didn’t work.

The problem with Bush is that he’s always been too afraid of vindicating his political enemies at home and real enemies abroad to change course substantially. He thinks that as long as he doesn’t appear to falter, he’ll avoid losing, and won’t appear weak.

He fails to understand that weakness can consist of doing something wrong and continuing to do, even to the point of exhausting one’s resources, that by keeping us on a coure that hasn’t worked, he’s made it seem like America doesn’t have the brains, the will or the courage to change course.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 10:45 PM
Comment #199873

Jack, you can read most of the same statements in English here:

http://www.uspolicy.be/issues/iran/iran.asp

Unless you’re digging for the real propoganda. What kind of proganda network do we have in place in Saudi Arabia? Or in Jordan?

Beyond anything else it’s obvious that Bush diplomacy consists of one major precursor: “You must not have or be pursuing nukular technology”!

And the horribly pathetic threat is, “we’ll blow you all to hell if you don’t listen”. So, we’re creating the threat they’re determined to protect themselves from. It’s all insanity doubled.

Bush obviuosly remembered one quote from history: “NUTS”!

Posted by: KansasDem at December 19, 2006 11:30 PM
Comment #199875

When Cheney recently said Iraq is going “remarkably well,” has it occurred to anybody that perhaps he really means it? When Cheney called Rumsfeld the greatest SECDEF in the history of our country, what if he really thought it was true?

After all, we now have permanent bases in Iraq, and the oil contracts have been wrested from Chinese, Russian, and other other foreign multinationals, and will be awarded to Coalition Big Oil corporations.

The signatories of PNAC & other conservatives still hold key positions of power. Elliott Abrams holds a significant position for advising on Middle East policy. To counter the ISG, Bush appointed a PNAC signatory and a few hawkish generals to give a counterproposal. Negroponte controls intelligence.

They should be in jail.

Abrams was pardoned, unfortunately. The butchers from the Somoza National Guard, the Contras, were cut off, and Nicaragua went on to become a successful democracy. Negroponte ran the death squads of El Salvador from the embassy in Honduras.

These people are butchers, and their hands are covered with human blood.

And they are not finished. There are stories of a naval group deploying to the Gulf, and tens of thousands of soldiers being to for a surge in Iraq. The ISG recommendations have been essentially ignored. Rice stated that we will not talk with Syria or Iran. The other day, the Saudi ambassador abruptly left.

Bush and his Neocons have nothing left to lose. We have good cause to be concerned.

Posted by: phx8 at December 19, 2006 11:40 PM
Comment #199879

“I find it kinda interesting. We always get these wide-eyed guys coming around saying something like, “Golly, why don’t we just talk to them or try to reach the people.” I think of it as the Rodney King school of foreign affairs - “why can’t we just all get along.””

jack,

That’s far from true. Baker and Hamilton made it very clear for those who failed to read the ISG report that we can engage our foes in talks limited to one aspect of mutual interest. We did so with the USSR for decades.

At some point the Neo-Cons convinced America that an “Olive Branch” was equivolent to a white flag and that “carrot and stick” was for pu$$ie$! Bush obviously believes that peace can only be achieved by the use of bombs and bullets.

This actually brings us back full circle to Stephen’s original comments. When did talking to ones rivals become a sign of weakness? Hell, we should have had several of our own greatest historians present at that Holocaust Denial Conference. We could even have requested to film the whole damn thing. We could offer to host the next one. Insanity hates the light of day.

Bush and Ahmadinejad have a lot in common. They both refuse to acknowledge dissent. Unfortunately they both present a huge threat to millions. Time is on our side if we can only slow the progression of their rush towards Armageddon.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 20, 2006 12:01 AM
Comment #199881

“Bush and his Neocons have nothing left to lose. We have good cause to be concerned.”

phx8,

I’d personally amend that to “they never have to pay for the evil they perpetrate”, otherwise I agree with everything you said. History makes it impossible to do otherwise.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 20, 2006 12:21 AM
Comment #199927

I read these comments, and I see an overuse of the word and the implication of evil in regards to these people. Not that some of the things that they have done are evil, no, I don’t deny those things.

What I find problematic is that this turns the whole argument towards the unprovable, towards demagoguery, making our arguments lazier and our points more dependent on what the person already feels for its acceptance.

JD talks about Democrats becoming like terrorists, but the argument is so ideosyncratically Right Wing, that it hardly serves any purpose but to irritate and alienate people on the more moderate end of things.

Arguments that we make concerning evil draw skepticism from those who know many of the motivating intentions behind these policies, and may even hold some themselves. Reading those, it registers to them as sheer irrational hatred.

This is a game of communication and persuasion. If we play in a way that only suits convincing ourselves, we lose.

The key problem to an aggressive attitude towards Iran is that we’ve got precious little deterrence to spare. We can’t back things up, and they know it. However, many Iranians realize that if their leader pushes things as far as he hopes to do, he could cause serious problems for them.

Our strategy should center on using that anxiety against Ahmedinejad, using his extremity against him. Iraq has shown that it’s difficult to impossible to force a sentiment on people, even at gunpoint. Iran’s underlying modernism shows that as well. Instead of trying the Bay of Pigs manuever we did with Iraq, hoping that people of a nation under a native party would greet invading forces as liberators (an approach 0-2 so far.), we should try a different approach which tries to encourage the growth of countervailing movements within societies.

This ability to bring folks into sympathy with us, in fact, is what Bin Laden and his people hate about us. They fear that we would make what they consider apostasy, heresy, and sinful attractive to people. Ending its influence is their goal.

Much of what we have done has contributed to their goal. The time has come to start working against it, to defeat their attempts to confound our positive influence.

Not all means will bring us to such an end. Our approaches must have integrity. If our words say “freedom”, our actions must communicate that too. If our words say “human rights”, our actions must respect those rights, or else our message is confounded.

The Bush administration thinks it can cheat at this game, that it can say one thing and do another. It cannot, and win all the fights smudged together as the war on terrorism.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2006 11:30 AM
Comment #199972

Kansas

The difference between the site you gave and the one I gave is interactivity. One has questions, comments and responses from and to the people of Iran, or at least Persian speakers. The other is like a newspaper. Both are okay, but the one is more of a dialogue.

My point is that we never stop talking to these guys. It is just that there is sometimes little to say among leaders. Even if we assume good faith, we do not need high level contacts.

Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 5:09 PM
Comment #199995

Jack-
If Iran was a full Democracy, you’d have a point, but it’s not, and Ahmedinejad (or at least those behind him) have a measure of power.

As long as their government has the force and the power to abrogate the popular will, we must engineer our response so that the popularity and power of the government is ground down against the desires of the people.

This worked once before. We didn’t destroy the USSR in a massive World War, we appealed to the average Soviet Citizen, and gradually ground down their government against their people.

The point is not to be the conquerors, but the friends, not their enemy, but their buddy. The Neocon’s problem is that they picked the most difficult way to democratize the country, yet were unwilling to do the hard work necessary to get things in order.

It’s often best to leave most of the work to the people with the greatest interest. If you want to fight your way to Democracy, be prepared for an ordeal. But talk your way to one? That’s a hell of a lot easier, and it gets you a hell of a lot more friends.

And no, it doesn’t help if you get belligerent. Strength only matters where you can display it, or where somebody thinks you can display it. Persuasion can often be a subtler and more wickedly successful game than warfare.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2006 8:21 PM
Comment #200063

Paul in Euroland,

Yes, I think the Iraqi people are pacified with the help they are getting from the United States. I believe their frustration is not with our guys in Iraq, but rather those who keep the killing going; the radicals and insurgents. I, like Bush, am confident that in the end the Iraqi people will persevere and win this clash of cultures, and the radicals will be put down. The 650,000 number that you use were not killed by U.S. soldiers. Our initial War on Terror to topple Saddam went very quickly and relatively short on Iraqi deaths in terms of what we could have done. I believe they saw the concentrated bombings upon only government institutions and strategic infrastructure. Though it was certainly inconveniencing to the Iraqi people we spared a great deal of them because we did not want bloodshed among the people. The terrorists on the other hand, want as much bloodshed among the Iraqi people as possible. This furthers their cause, not ours. Your blame is aimed in the wrong direction. That is getting more and more typical of the Europeans these days!

JD

Posted by: JD at December 21, 2006 12:59 PM
Comment #200068

Stephen Daugherty,

I did not say that Democrats were becoming like terrorists. I said that they are sounding like the terrorists.
Many of their arguments are extremely anti-American in nature. Our culture is at War with the Islmic radical extremist culture. However, our culture does not attack and kill civilians, women, and children. We are not driving around in cars packed with explosives headed for the local supermarket. To equate our military and our President with these people is ludicrous and nearly treasonous. Don’t put words into my mouth. When liberal Democrats start strapping bombs to themselves and going after innocent people, then I will say they are becoming like the terrorists. I hope that’s clear now!

JD

Posted by: JD at December 21, 2006 1:13 PM
Comment #200106

saying-
Let me acquaint you with some difficult truths about the current military situation, facts that I find pretty tough to stomach, but which unfortunately we all have to face.

We simply do not have the forces available to do what you’re imagining we’ll do within the next six or eight months.

Many folks who fantasize about military action neglect things like the readiness of the troops. Our readiness at this moment is crap. We have people in our military actively getting out there and saying that our forces are on the verge of being broken.

And that’s just if we stay in Iraq.

Unless you’re willing to propose a draft, we don’t have the army left to invade anybody else.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 21, 2006 5:20 PM
Comment #200126

JD-
Nobody’s really saying that our soldiers are killing most of these people. It’s the policy. The policy has had humanitarian results that have rippled out from the failures to get the country under control, and to prevent the sectarian fighting that now consumes the country.

We’re not as bad as the Terrorists, and they truly deserve to be despised for what they’ve been doing. However, good intentions can be a road to hell when they aren’t pursued with the right plans and the right attitude towards victory.

Some people have taken the exact wrong lesson from Vietnam, and tried to make this war about the media and the will of the American people naked of any feedback relationship with what’s going on. People are expected to be positive and report positive things regardless of what’s happening on the premise that this can somehow redeem the war.

However, the foothold that the insurgents and terrorist got was one that we unfortunately left open for them, and which the political obstinacy of the president has kept open. All the things he talks about doing now, he should have been doing more than three years ago.

I think you’re familiar, if you’ve lived long enough, with a bad situation that gets out of control because something wasn’t done in time. Iraq is such a situation, and the real sad part about it, the part that infuriates me and others like me, is that if Bush had merely listened to certain advisers, all this could have been avoided, or at least curtailed.

As for Democrats becoming like or sounding like terrorists, I think that is a very personal thing to say to the modern Democrat, Post 9-11.

It’s been the constant blunt object of browbeating for the Right, really. They say what they want people to do, and if you disagree, or have reservations, or believe that your country has to treat even terror suspects humanely, why then you must be a terrorist sympathizer.

Instead of actually proving your argument on the merits, which might actually bring people to your side, or ward you off from making an argument you can’t support, you instead choose to accuse people, due to their honest concerns and stands of principle, of treasonous inclinations, as if there was only your way on one side and treachery on the other.

One of the most tragic reasons why we’re facing what may be potentially a lost war, was the same divisive sensibilities. They simply would not listen to the people who felt differently than them about the war. Because of that, they were unprepared for problems that the skeptics on the issue forsaw, or told them about.

Ultimately, when the question about who has credibility boils down to what side a person is on, not their expertise or their insight, then these disasters are bound to happen, because such a bubble is ripe for infection by groupthink that denies undesirable outcomes are possible, and pushes aside evidence that does not prove the partisan points they seek to apply.

The Democrats made that mistake with Vietnam, with almost eerie resemblance to the mistakes of Iraq, at least in terms of how they got in their own way on choosing, analyzing, planning, and executing the fight. LBJ and the hawks, Democrat and Republican alike, got it wrong, and persisted in going through with things that way until the problems became too obvious and too pervasive to deny. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot willpower and raising morale could do at that point.

We have to recognize that wars can be lost because we are wrong, not merely because we lack the stomach. Those who can’t admit their mistakes can’t reform them. Those who can’t learn from them, and put and end to them, set themselves on the course to defeat. Those who ignore the warnings of history are bound to have their life stories become cautionary tales for future generations.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 21, 2006 7:14 PM
Comment #200154

You criticize my way of thinking because you say it does not consider another way of thinking. However, liberal Democrats refuse just as strongly to think any other way than their own way as well. When such anti-Capitalist rhetoric, such as I mentioned above, is spewed on this blog am I supposed to agree with this stuff? Would that make you feel better?
You say Bush and Co are stubborn because they don’t see things your way. However, if you look at the figures of the number of soldiers killed in Iraq in four years it averages to two per day. We have lost more soldiers in one battle in previous wars than we have lost in this entire War on Terror. Perhaps, Bush is seeing a bigger picture than the two soldiers we are losing per day, and he thinks that we are winning.
Also, we lost nearly 60,000 troops in Vietnam. For the Iraqis to have lost 600,000 in this war, (the number that the Press seems to insist upon using), it is the equivalent of losing more than 400 PEOPLE EVERY DAY for the last four years. (Yes, that is EVERY day!) That means the Iraqi people are said to be losing people on a scale of four hundred Iraqis to every two Americans every day. It is highly unlikely that such figures are correct. Yet, they are being touted by the Press continually. Do you not consider it odd that the Press was running specials on the major networks counting up the first 1000 American deaths? When has that ever been done in American war history. In WWII they could have surpassed that total on the first beach taken. They displayed an attitude of “let’s count how many kids get killed today”. How can we ever again win a war with this kind of outright defiance of the decisions made by a sitting President and his Administration? The bottom line is that you don’t have to agree with the President, but you don’t have to willfully try to orchestrate the United States’ defeat either. At first the Press was counting the number of American soldiers, but then, it just wasn’t turning out to be another Vietnam. So, they switched gears and started counting dead Iraqis. After all, 600,000 sounds a lot better than 2,800 when your intention is to sway public opinion against the War, right? It also helps a lot when those numbers can not be verified, because you might just have the opportunity to make them up, and increase them as the need arises. I just think it’s interesting that when they weren’t getting enough numbers on our side, they had to start counting those on the other side, then blaming Bush for it, as if our guys were the ones doing the killing.
The truth is that some still think that we were justified in going to both Afghanistan and Iraq with the information that we had. Some saw through the utter disdain and lack of respect the Press and the Dems have shown this President from the moment he took office. But the Dems have been very successful in discrediting the United States, its President, and its military over the last four years. It is this gleeful exuberance to attempt to discredit your own country, the President, and our military that sickens many of us on the right. Sorry if that offends, but it is just the way I see it!

JD

Posted by: JD at December 22, 2006 4:46 AM
Comment #200209

Stephen Daugherty,

Another thing you may wish to consider regarding the so-called number of deaths reported in Iraq (600,000):

The number of deaths in Hiroshima from our atomic bomb was 140,000. The number of deaths in Nagasaki was 70,000. Added together that is approximately 211,000.
If the insurgents have had that successful of an Iraqi massacre why aren’t other countries, (perhaps I should direct this to Paul in Euroland), jumping in to prevent the insurgents from doing so? Wouldn’t three times the death toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at least spark some interest between other nations not previously aligned with us to stop the killing in Iraq? Hmm? Or, maybe they think this number is as bogus as I do!
Also, the Press and Dems were criticizing the Administration for fighting this War on terror instead of going after Iran or North Korea, who are trying to manufacture crude nuclear weapons. I suggest that al Qaida and terrorists are much more a threat if they can successfully butcher three times the number of people killed by our crude nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Right?

JD

Posted by: JD at December 22, 2006 4:11 PM
Comment #200212

JD, why do you have such problems dealing with reality? The Lancet is a highly respected Medical journal. It’s study said that 655,000 more Iraqi have died than would otherwise have been the case if the US had not invaded. The study was overseen by Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg school of public health.

As to why other countries are not jumping in? Well, you guys let the genie out of the bottle. Do you seriously think that other parties are going to step into the horrific mess you have created. With all of your much vaunted military power and all of your bluster, you have only succeeded in creating a tragic, catastrophic civil war. And you expect other players to enter this cauldron, even while the US is still there? You refer to insurgents. Would these people perhaps be Iraqis fighting to defend their country from an illegal invasion? Fighting to ensure that their country can follow its own genius, and not have the will of the US neo cons forced on it?

As for terrorists, well, there weren’t any there while Saddam was in charge. No one who challenged his power was let sit for too long. While the country was under the “control” of the US, the terrorists came in and gained traction. This was a massive US failure. Instead of advancing your “War on Terror”, you have advanced greatly the interests of those you claim to be fighting it against. Well Stanley, another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into. But hell, just blame any and everyone else. It’s not your fault, it’s those lefties, Dems, MSM and whatever you’re having yourself. Even Bush’s own Sec of State told him beforehand, “if you break it, it’s yours”. Well he did break it. Only it’s not his. It’s Americas. It’s also the problem of the rest of the world. Because this has global ramifications that affect us all. And if Bush had his way, you’d be into Iran also. And if he does go in there, it will likely be the end of the US empire, with it’s blood and treasure strewn in the desert wind. And if he does go in there, it’s what you guys will deserve.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 22, 2006 5:22 PM
Comment #200227

JD-
The real problem with the body count is that this is supposed to be the postwar period. You’re not supposed to have any kind of a big body count after you’ve conquered a place.

Another thing to consider is that in most previous wars, medical technology was far worse. In WWII, 40% died of wounds. In Vietnam it was 25%. In Today’s war, it’s 10%. Do the math; it’s the wounded that show how vicious this “postwar” period has been.

If the worst of the violence, the sieges and the turmoil is happening post war, then you have to admit, somebody screwed up.

The Bush administration will not really ever admit to that. Those who can’t admit to their failures remain unready to confront them, lest they imply by their actions that their strategies are a failure.

And they are. The enemy has gotten what they wanted, what we should have denied to them from the start: a situation of civil unrest, and Iraq as a failed state.

If you don’t see things in terms of what the enemy wants, then you don’t know how to defeat them. Is it any wonder why violence has continually escalated? It’s not in response to the media; the insurgents have not fought what is mainly a media war. They have fought a war of provocation and against the infrastructure of Iraq, crippling our occupation and their government’s ability to bring and keep order. You folks keep on obsessing about the media, because you think by changing the coverage, you can change the course of the war.

Nothing could be further from the truth. From day one, the problem is not that the media has been focusing on the screwups, but instead that there are screwups of this kind for the media to see at all. We never should have seen the looting and the rioting and the loss of control that we saw after Saddam was ousted, especially since such disorder was actually part of his strategy. Even someone like Newt Gingrich faults the way we started this war.

The truth is, Bush never saw the big picture. He saw the pretty little picture that his aides painted for him, and continues to be shown just those things that people think he can handle.

As for the Casualties, I wouldn’t trust them as exact numbers, but I’d advise you that not all of these deaths, if they are real, are due to combat. It could be something so simple as the undependable power taking out a life support system, poorly treated drinking water bringing a fatal GI tract illness, starvation, or some other problem. In short, you’re dealing with the ripple effect of an ongoing war.

I think this is my problem with the way most Republicans and even some Democrats think about war: y’all don’t think about it thoroughly.

It’s always been easy for societies to cut to the chase in describing war, to focus on action and hardware to the exception of strategy and logistics. Our modern video game/movie culture, which tends to pare things down to action and adventure, only aggravates this shortsightedness.

Some wars are more classic pitched combat conflicts, with fronts and clear definitions of combatants. Iraq, for the bulk of the time we’ve fought it, has not been one of those. Either way, though, there are practical issues beyond simply how many soldier you have, how many die, and how many battles you win or enemies get killed.

This is an expensive war, a war that has been sliding steadily downhill for its entire duration, and which has killed more soldiers than any other war in the last thirty years. It’s reasons for existing were discredited by the very evidence we found. There are a lot of reasons for people to dislike this war that have nothing to do with the tone of the media. You could say that the media even lagged behind to a great extent.

The problem with maintaining that this was a media problem is that such a rationalization can be made for any war, and the denial that comes of that can cripple the ability of a country’s leaders to truly fight a war well. If it’s the media’s bad coverage, then one absolves oneself of sins that one might be better off repenting and confessing.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 22, 2006 11:15 PM
Comment #200238

Stephen Daugherty,

So, you’re not supposed to have any body counts after you have conquered a place. Hmm?

Maybe we should count the bodies of Israelis killed by terrorists in their nation since their government was formed 58 years ago? Hmm?
Or, perhaps those terrorists are just a bunch of heroic freedom fighters in your eyes as well? I’d certainly like to know the numbers on that one. Maybe we could compare that to Iraq since it is much more comparable in nature than Vietnam? Perhaps, the formation of Israel was just one big mistake as well in your opinion, since there have been so numerous an amount of bodies on both sides?

JD

Posted by: JD at December 23, 2006 3:50 AM
Comment #200361

JD-
No, you’re not supposed to. The whole point to things being post-war is that you have secured the country, and the territory is under your control.

You can throw in all the provocative red herrings you want to, but the simple fact is that the Bush Administration never got full control of the country. Common Sense tells you that if you don’t get control of a country, you can’t give it away to somebody else. We never gave ourselves or the Iraqis the advantage of having a secured country in hand. Should we let things go to shit? Not at all. But our ability to positively influence events has been affected by Bush’s policy, whether you like it or not.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 25, 2006 6:21 PM
Comment #200373

Stephen Daugherty,

The biggest complaint I have heard from the guys coming back from Iraq is that Iraq is divided into eighteen different regions or provinces at this time by the military. Out of those eighteen regions, only four are not completely secured by the U.S. military. Furthermore, several of the eighteen have now been handed over to Iraq and is in their complete control with only minor backup from the United States. However, the only news coming out of Iraq is from the Press entrenching themselves in the four regions that continue with fighting. In other words, the complaint is of all bad news - no good news. I believe this is the same complaint registered by the President, First Lady, Vice President, and Mrs. Cheney during the elections. Four out of eighteen regions does not a Civil War make, or even a major catastrophe as being reported by the Press. As the other fourteen regions begin to rebuild and work toward a stronger government, the other four will be forced to look inside themselves to the harm they are causing their country. At some point, the people will get tired of the insurgent’s and fanatics’ bloodshed.

JD

Posted by: JD at December 25, 2006 9:36 PM
Comment #200442

JD-
First, the fact that we have only four provinces to deal with depends strongly on the whims of Moqtada al-Sadr.

Second, these provinces, Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala and Salah A-Din are in the geographical center of the country, and losing them cuts the country literally in half. They constitute a disproportionate amount of Iraq’s territory and population.There is, of course, the quite inconvenient fact that one of these provinces contains the capital of the country.

Recent reports within the Marine Corp have essentially given up the very center of the al-Qaeda presence in Iraq as lost to them. Is this your idea of winning the war on Terror? The Bush administration has essential taken this giant sized province and put mere hundreds of soldiers to work trying to tame it.

This is what bugs me about Bush’s policy, and the rhetoric of his defenders: tough in words, really fricking weak in execution. You talk about how intimidating you are, about how you’re doing what it takes to avoid making us look weak to our enemies, and we’re reduced to this bullshit.

Weak action is worse than weak words, and the inability of American to tame the Sunni center of the country, not to mention our dependence on the good graces of that bastard al-Sadr to keep the rest of the country together is simply disgusting. You say our words make America look weak. The Bush Administration’s policies do worse: they make us weak not merely in appearance, but in reality.

That weakness makes me sick. This whole history of weakness in Bush’s policies is the very reason I started writing for this site. I can’t stand to see my country hamstrung by such incompetence, such obstinence on keeping a path that drains our resources and strength without giving us victory in return.

I’m sick of this brainless repetition of the Vietnam talking points. I’m sick of leaders who fucked up their responsibilities blaming the average American’s “lack of stomach”, and the media’s coverage of their screw-ups for what they did wrong. I’m sick of people covering for this kind of stupidity. I would rather us walk out of that country on our own two feet, rather than hobble out when circumstances force an exit.

If you don’t like that, then take it up with Bush, because he’s the one who set us on this path, and kept us on it against all better advice. We can’t strategize in fantasy land. We can’t fully redeem this war. If we try, we will lose all the chance we have of even partial redemption. It’s time to face the fact that we screwed up the operation, and we can either let the patient die as we try to succeed in the operation, or we can do our best to close up the patient and let them heal before we try to redeem the early failures any further.

The time where we had good options is long past. I hate to say that, being an optimist myself, and a perfectionist to boot. But I prefer if we can’t get it perfect or right to not make a total failure of it, or destroy our ability to defend ourselves elsewhere.

Saying-
I wanted the troops to have a winning war, but they don’t give themselves their orders. They get those from the top. I don’t blame them for the screw-ups of this war. I blame the leaders that put them in this position.

These aren’t idiots or psychopaths we sent there, these are people just like you and me. I doubt they are going to report the story you do. In my experience, the right wing picture of Iraq has been totally deficient on the facts. Soldiers report that it’s just as dismaying that their supporters seem to have no idea what’s really going on, as they are dismayed at the lack of knowledge of what has gone right.

You folks are just looking for reasons not to see what your rivals, and your competitors see. You’re so keyed in to all the trash about morale and faith in your leaders being essential to winning the war, that you don’t realize what a vicious cycle of rationalization that becomes.

People lost faith with this war because they lost faith that the leaders were going to correct the very obvious problems.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 26, 2006 5:01 PM
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