Archive

  • THE FANTASY TENSE....

    THE FANTASY TENSE. President Bush's tortured grasp of the English language is legendary, but I submit that during this morning's presser he actually provided an important clue to understanding what it is he's been saying about Iraq. He is speaking in a new tense that the rest of us have thus far failed to note the existence of: the fantasy tense. He explains it himself in his response to the following question: Q Mr. President, less than two months ago at the end of one of the bloodiest months in the war, you said, "Absolutely we're winning." Yesterday you said, "We're not winning, we're not losing." Why did you drop your confident assertion about winning? THE PRESIDENT: My comments -- the first comment was done in this spirit: I believe that we're going to win ; I believe that-- and by the way, if I didn't think that, I wouldn't have our troops there. That's what you got to know. We're going to succeed. My comments yesterday reflected the fact that we're not succeeding nearly as fast...
  • NOTES FROM THE...

    NOTES FROM THE SNIPER'S PERCH. Julian Sanchez asks : You think we're [Libertarians] toxically nuts? Try hitching your wagon to a movement that will use your nice rhetoric about environmental and labor standards as a fig leaf for raw xenophobia. Won't that be fun? I don't know, but since Libertarians have long hitched to a movement that used their nice rhetoric of individualism and liberty as a fig leaf for rank racism and regressive traditionalism, I hardly think they occupy such unimpeachable moral ground here. Democrats are betting that if they can ease economic anxieties through social welfare policies, the rumbling xenophobia powering Dobbsian populism will calm. It seems a decent bet. Much better than the Liberaltarian gambit, at least, which counsels ignoring these people in favor of the three percent of the vote that doesn't like the welfare state. Relatedly, Julian warns that the entitlement explosion is coming "either way," which he seems to think militates towards bringing...
  • SECOND VERSE, SAME...

    SECOND VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST. The New York Times reports today that Republican former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore plans to form a presidential exploratory committee to look into a possible '08 bid. Close readers of the Prospect will recall that Gilmore, like former Va. Gov. George Allen before him, served on the board of directors of troubled high-tech firm Xybernaut . That involvement became an issue for Allen late in his campaign, and will doubtless be one for Gilmore, as well. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • MORE ON LIBERALTARIANS.

    MORE ON LIBERALTARIANS. Brink Lindsey 's response to Jon Chait 's critique of "Liberaltarianism" clarifies things considerably. If Democrats completely give up on entitlements, Lindsey promises they can expand voucher schools, unemployment insurance, and programs to help urban kids. Such riches, doth mine eyes deceive!? There's a disturbing lack of specifics in what Lindsey wants to concede and a troublingly large amount he wants to destroy. But in the end, the question is simple: Universal health care, at least in principle, is the sine qua non of modern liberalism. Does Lindsey support it? I don't mean HSAs, or insurer deregulation, or subsidies to the very poor. I mean a restructuring of the health care market that guarantees comprehensive coverage, insulates individuals from the vagaries of fate and genetics, ends the discrimination based on health status, and controls cost with an eye towards cutting corporate profits, not consumer care. If not, then there's nothing to talk about...
  • HORSING AROUND. ...

    HORSING AROUND. The horserace surveys don't mean much this far out, but it's worth noting that, over the past month, the big-name Democrats have opened a real lead over the big name Republicans. A new CNN poll has both Hillary Clinton and Al Gore beating John McCain and Rudy Giuliani ( Obama loses to both candidates, Mitt Romney loses to everybody, and no other match-ups were tested). More generically, 52 percent of voters say they'll definitely or probably vote for the Democrat, while only 32 percent are oriented towards the GOP (and only 10 percent are "definite" Republican votes!). Again, it's early, salt heavily, etc. But for now, the GOP is suffering from a serious image crisis. --Ezra Klein
  • RULES OF ENGAGEMENT.

    RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Matt has a point that bears emphasis . Among the wingnutty , the argument that restrictive rules of engagement are ruining Iraq has become all the rage. Now, it's possible that rules of engagement for U.S. troops in Iraq are too strict, but the wingnuts have conspicuously failed to make their case. The methodology thus far has been to ask NCOs and enlisted personnel whether they'd like to have more lenient rules of fire. I love NCOs; they're the backbone of both the Army and the Marine Corps, and the U.S. military could not function without them. Their primary responsibility, however, is to keep their men safe and effective, and they aren't paid to make big picture strategic decisions. This is why the Army has officers to determine the ways and means to engage the enemy. Of course the NCOs think that the rules of engagement are too restrictive; they would think any ROE so, because they work counter to the primary job that an NCO has. That some sargeants don't like...
  • LIBERALS DON'T TAKE THEIR OWN SIDES IN AN ARGUMENT.

    LIBERALS DON'T TAKE THEIR OWN SIDES IN AN ARGUMENT. About our preemptive who-lost-Iraq back and forth, I have to say Scott makes an excellent point . Of course the right will blame liberals, the press, the public, etc., for losing the war -- especially if it's a war the right prosecuted exclusively. My concern is that, right now, it's precisely the neoconservative project that bears the exclusive blame for the war, and in the broader sense of the public, my guess is that most people think it's Bush 's war, full-stop. As liberals, with a better answer to the pressing challenges of national security, we owe it to ourselves to make sure it stays that way. Scott is surely right that the conservatives will shift the blame. But we shouldn't forget how readily we as Americans don't want to accept having lost a war. It was a mere five years between the fall of Saigon and the return-to-glory election of Ronald Reagan , who successfully peddled the noble-cause myth -- and remember, Vietnam was...
  • SISTANI GETS HIS HANDS DIRTY.

    SISTANI GETS HIS HANDS DIRTY. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has evolved politically, and he has a plan. In short, he seeks to form an anti-Sadr government of "national unity" between his SCIRI party and their Shiite bandwagoners; the largest Sunni party; and the Kurds. Left out in the cold are all the rejectionists -- the hardcore anti-occupation Sunnis; the more intransigent Sunni political bloc, led by Saleh Mutlaq ; and Moqtada al-Sadr and his Shiite satellites, including PM Nouri al-Maliki . Now, according to The New York Times , Hakim has the backing of the once-indispensable Shiite figure, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Well, sort of. Sistani loudly withdrew from day-to-day politics last year, recognizing that he was diminishing his influence by association with a government that couldn't deliver anything. According to the Times , he's backing the Hakim faction out of frustration with the civil war. You might be surprised to learn I think this is fraught with peril for Sistani! The...
  • THE ARMY AFTER IRAQ.

    THE ARMY AFTER IRAQ. The president's plan to expand the military , particularly the Army, reminds me of a discussion I participated in last week at the Naval War College. When the United States finally withdraws from Iraq (whether in 2009 or 2012 or 2015), what's going to happen to the Army? In spite of the forces that work to keep the defense budget high, the end of every major conflict over the last sixty years has seen a significant decrease in the defense budget. The elimination of the direct costs of the Iraq operation will cover part of this decrease. However, the Army, even in this period of high budgets, has been unable to maintain its equipment stocks and is having to cut corners on future procurement and R&D. In an environment of declining budgets and what I expect to be anti-interventionist sentiment, the Army may suffer disproportionately. In particular, I think that the kinds of missions that only the Army can do (conquest and occupation of foreign countries) will...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: SURGING TO DISASTER.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: SURGING TO DISASTER. Lawrence Korb and Max Bergmann offer more reasons why a troop level surge in Iraq is a terrible idea. --The Editors

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