Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thoughts on Rumsfeld and the Democratic Takeover

There are few things more jarring than driving through Middle-of-Nowhere, Connecticut, thinking that you should be coming up on your destination soon and seeing that you are:

Walking inside was equally breathtaking:

Thanks to a conference that my employer sent me to I spent most of last week there.

The downside was the timing. Because I've been away from a computer I've been subject to the free USA Today outside my hotel door and TV news shows to keep me informed on the happenings of Rumsfeld resigning and the Democrats taking over Congress. If anything it was a stark reminder of why I get nearly 100% of my non-local news from the internet. Seriously, CNN and the rest are painful to watch, they seem so unserious, so juvenile, so shallow.

As for the Democrats taking control of Congress, well, I'm agnostic at this point, so here are some pros and cons from 35,000 feet.

The Good:

1. All things being equal (or close enough) I generally like to see incumbents lose.

2. The Republicans get the message that they cannot take voters for granted, spend like drunken sailors and continue to count on Democrat ineptness to keep them in office.

3. We'll get to see how the Democrats govern, rather than how they ankle bite. For years they've been complaining about government spending, we'll get to see if that was principled criticism or just political posturing.

4. Split executive and legislative branches means government gridlock. That's a feature not a bug. The government not being able to get anything done means the government stays out of our lives. During wartime, I think you could make a compelling argument that this belongs on the bad side of the ledger, but for now I'll mark this as a positive, things are too gloomy otherwise.

The Bad:

1. Our first female speaker of the house and she doesn't even understand a high school level concept of eminent domain and the role of the Supreme Court.

2. Tax cuts may be repealed leading to larger deficits and a slower economy.

3. Rumsfeld's departure. I've always thought Rumsfeld to be a brilliant man of vision. Not many government officials have the ambition to attempt to remake an entrenched institution such as the military before it fails. Josh Manchester has a nice write up on Rumsfeld that I am in complete agreement with, while Victor Davis Hanson summarizes his record:

(1) Tried to take a top-heavy Pentagon and prepare it for the wars of the postmodern world, in which on a minute's notice thousands of American soldiers, with air and sea support, would have to be sent to some god-awful place to fight some savagery - and then be trashed live on CNN for doing it;

(2) less than a month after 9/11 he organized the retaliation against al Qaeda in the heart of primordial Afghanistan that removed the Taliban in seven weeks, when we were all warned that the U.S., like the British and Russians of old, would fail;

(3) oversaw the removal of Saddam in three weeks - after the 1991 Gulf War and the 12-years of 350,000 sorties in the no-fly-zones, and various bombing strikes, had failed.

(4) Ah, you say, then there is the disastrous three-year insurgency - too few troops, Iraqi army let go, underestimated "dead-enders" etc.? But Rumsfeld knew that in a counterinsurgency (cf. Vietnam 1965-71) massive deployments only ensure complacency, breed dependency, and create resentment, and that, in contrast, training indigenous forces, ensuring political autonomy, and providing air and commando support (e.g., Vietnam circa 1972-4) is the only answer - although that is a long process that can work only if political support at home allows the military to finish the job (cf. the turn-of-the-century Philippines, and the British in Malaysia).

He was a good man, and we were lucky to have him in our hour of need.


4. The possible return to cynical Cold War realpolitik in our foreign policy.

This, if it comes to be, is the one that could be really really bad. The cost of short term comfort today will likely mean disaster on a humanitarian and civilizational level in a decade or two. No, that's not hyperbole. Dean Esmay sarcastically comments on the 'Neocon Idiocy'

The Neocon idiocy was always to believe that Arabs and Muslims actually wanted things like democracy and self-determination and free speech and free press and political rights for their women.

Any realist could have told them that this was just a grand illusion, an imperialist imposition, and that the real Muslims and Arabs wanted nothing more than stability under the mighty hand of a strong but benevolent dictator. So long as that dictator was an Arab and a Muslim anyway.

I'm so very, very glad that George W. Bush has finally tuned in to this reality, and appointed foreign-policy "realists" like James Baker to take over the last 2 years of his Presidency. The world will be a much better place as a result.

The stupid idiot chimp George W. actually once believed that this was all a bad idea, and tried to make its repudiation the cornerstone of his Presidency. No wonder he'll be reviled by history. What American President could be so stupid as to believe such things?

Ahh yes, the so-called realpolitik that got us to where we were in 2001. The one where post-Gulf War I we encouraged the Shiites to rise up against Saddam and then passively watched as he slaughtered a hundred thousand or so. In my opinion that was one of the most shameful things our country has ever done, but at least it wasn't us that did the killing right!! At least we didn't have to hear about Hussein's next 15 years of torturous rule. And since it wasn't us, it wasn't on the front pages of our newspapers, so it was almost like it wasn't even really happening!! If only that were true.

In the past we've been demonized for supporting strongmen, for going the route of 'yeah, he's an a*shole, but he's our a*shole! And he balances out Iran after all!! And it keeps all the Arabs killing each other instead of us!!'

Fascinating how today, when we actually remove a few tyranical regimes and make the spread of democracy and freedom the cornerstone of our long term foreign policy, we're equally demonized.

Well, multi-lateral alliances with strongmen is hardly a moral position to take, and perhaps it was successful for a little while, but it eventually brought us mass murder in lower Manhattan. A return to realpolitik might be comforting now, but it will only kick the can down the road another decade or so. As long as the region is run by thuggish dictators then poverty, misery, and murder, will continue to fester and bread fanaticism in the Middle East until someone finally detonates a chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapon here in the United States. Care to ponder what our reaction might be when that happens? Since that is the road that realpolitik travels, you ought to.

It really is a race against time, we must reform a large part of the world sooner, or else we may have to cause mass civilian casualties later. It was done with the firebombing of Dresden, and it was done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we flatteringly refer to those who did it as The Greatest Generation.

Don't think we're incapable of doing it again.

This post started with such a beautiful sunny photo, yet ended on such a contrastingly dark note. Such is the absurdity of life - capable of supplying so much joy and happiness, yet more than apt when it comes to inflicting tragedy.


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