The Daily Brew

Wednesday, August 21, 2002:

Common Sense // 1:59 PM


How Not To Run a War

Assume for the sake of argument that it is a good idea for the US to kick Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. You might as well, because in case you haven't figured it out, sooner or later Bush is going to do just that. If you were 43, how would you go about it? How would you instigate an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation without making the United States an international pariah?

41 might opine that a prudent course would be to let your actions speak for you. Begin by mobilizing a massive build-up of force in the region, thereby signaling to all of our allies that you are serious. That way, when you sent your diplomatic team out to get the rest of the world on board, they would know that it was time to stand up and be counted.

43's plan was to first blather a bunch of bellicose rhetoric, and then to send Cheney out to call in the chits. Predictably, with no attack imminent, most of the world politely demurred. Bush had left them plenty of time to change their minds, so why show their cards now? 43 simultaneously gave the rest of the world a pass from standing beside the United States while painting himself into a corner. As stated by his own subordinate, Richard Perle, "the failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism."

Once the build-up was clicking, 41 took his case directly to the public. If there is one golden rule for the use of US military force, it is get the public behind you. Get on the TV. Look us in the eye. Tell us what you are going to do, and why you are going to do it.

43 had a big advantage over his dad here. Two months ago, better than 70% of the public approved of military action to remove Saddam. But almost as soon as Bush put the issue on the radar, he stopped talking about it in any meaningful way. If one disregards Bush's off the cuff statements from the golf course (watch this drive!), most of the play in the media has come from leaks at the Pentagon as amplified by the punditocracy, hardly a formula for rallying America to sacrifice its sons and daughters on some foreign battlefield. Predictably, support for the invasion has dropped steadily. The defection of prominent Republicans on the Sunday talk shows and in the editorial pages of the nation's newspapers only sped the descent of public approval.

The coup de grace will come when Bush finally decides it is time to make the case why young servicemen should die to clear the blight of Saddam from Daddy-one-term's legacy. But by then, Bush will be forced to trot out a bunch of lame reasons that the media have picked apart to show they don't make any sense. Establishing democracy in the Middle East? Sorry, tell that to your oil partners, the monarchy that rules Kuwait and the Saudi Royal family. Weapons of mass destruction? Not very compelling. Experts are already lining up on the cable shows to say Iraq doesn't have any capabilities, and even if they do, the national press has spilled the beans that Iraq got their start in the chemical warfare business with the complicity of the Reagan administration. Iraq is harboring terrorists? That logic can be extended all the way to Pakistan, and contrary to the nonsense spouted by Perle, any attack on Iraq is going to make it infinitely harder to earn the cooperation of such nations in rooting them out. Saddam is a danger to his neighbors? That would explain why every country that borders Iraq is against the invasion.

There is one saving grace for Bush. However idiotic he has been in conducting the build up to the war, Israel has been even more so. Back when 41 was in charge, a liberal government in Israel held itself in check while Saddam rained scuds on Tel Aviv. The Israeli silence in the face of Iraqi attacks gave the world a stunning portrait of who was the aggressor in the Middle East. Not this time.

The Israelis have been out in front, publicly encouraging Bush to attack. Sharon is set to visit 43's kid brother on the eve of the Florida primary. Has anyone in the Knesset thought this through? Rightly or wrongly, the larger Arab world has long viewed America as far too complicit in furthering the interests of Israel. Yesterday's defeat of Muslim backed incumbents like Cynthia McKinney to Jewish backed challengers has hardly changed that view. With all of the Arab world lining up against an invasion, why on earth would Israel want to be viewed as instigating the attack? If the war destabilizes any of the other Arab states, who do you think they are going to blame? If Saddam does have weapons of mass destruction, who do you suppose he is going to use them on? If Sharon responds by nuking Baghdad, how long do you suppose it will be before the Arab world responds in kind? Too bad for the United States and Israel that neither Bush nor Sharon have ever learned that sometimes discretion truly is the better part of valor.

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Common Sense // 1:57 PM

Common Sense // 1:51 PM


Tuesday, August 20, 2002:

With both McKinney and Barr getting the big heave ho from the voters, the conclusion I draw is that this is going to be the year of the centerist. Not only did the average IQ of the House just go up ten points, but for the first time since the election of '92 our congress critters have reason to believe that extreemism is bad for their political survival. Call me an optimist, but I view this as the most healthy development since the theft.
Common Sense // 8:08 PM


Sunday, August 18, 2002:

If watching Republicans attack each other amuses you, or if you want to see a video of Bob Barr's kid attacking a Yosemite Sam guy mocking him at a rally, you have to check out these two sites.
Common Sense // 12:34 AM


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