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America swings to the Right. The Left loses. How has the Left dug itself into this hole?

28 March 2014

Summary: Today we look at one of the defining political trends of our time — America’s movement to the Right. Like most political evolutions in our history, it’s bipartisan. Previous posts have examined how the Right has won. Today and tomorrow we look at how the Left has accomplished this (it didn’t just happen), and how they have responded to this long series of defeats. These are just sketches about vast and complex trends. At the end see links to other posts in this series.

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America has been moving to the Right since roughly 1980. Not in all things. The 1% cares about power and money; as a class it does not care who marries who. The US health care system’s decay, and the Right’s indifference to reform, allowed the Left to pass ObamaCare.

But the overall trend has been to the Right. A few examples…

  1. Defunding public colleges.
  2. Cutting taxes on the rich and businesses, shifting the tax burden down (as the GOP is doing in the States today).
  3. Reducing the safety net (e.g., . Reducing the minimum wage (in real terms), Clinton “ending welfare as we know it” in 1996).
  4. Crushing private sector unions.
  5. Deregulation of corporations, especially banks.
  6. Eroding away the 1970s reforms on the military and intelligence agencies.

We can debate the wisdom of these changes (I’m mostly against them all), but let’s leave that debate for another day. How has the Left responded? Today we’ll see how the Left has worked to gain public support — and failed. Tomorrow we’ll examine how they addressed the equally important (in an operational sense) task of maintaining internal cohesion during their long defeat.

The Left fights back

The Left responded its efforts on use of two tactics.

(a)  Legal leverage

The Left used its strength in the Courts to effect public policy measures they could not do through democratic means. Most notably, expansion of environmental protections, plus expanded rights to abortion and same-sex marriage. Although this produced some wins, the long-term effect has been catastrophic for the Left.

The focus on legalistic tactics led to an atrophy of grass-roots organizing, and a loss of legitimacy for the agenda. Legitimacy in the political sense, people’s acceptance of governmental authority. From bussing to abortion to closing logging in the NW to save the spotted owl, court-driven policy measures produce powerful backlashes unless supported with deep measures to gain public support — which step the Left has often skipped. An increasing fraction of the public believes the Left uses anti-democratic (even authoritarian) means to change public policy.

Now the real weakness of this strategy appears, as the increased strength of the Right results in more conservative judges at all levels. Judicial activism works just as well for the Right as the Left. Indeed for most of American history the Courts have been a conservative, even reactionary force. We might return to this old normal.

(b)  Gaining strength by sounding alarms

 

Read more…

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The Ukraine crisis gives us a peak behind the curtain into the workings of our government

27 March 2014

Summary: Every geopolitical crisis provides us with information about our nation and our world. They provide peeks into the machinery hidden behind the government’s secrecy and journalists’ narratives. The Crimean crisis, a small area inside Russia’s sphere of influence, hyped by our hawks into a world-shaking incident, provides a rich lode for mining insights. Helping us, doing the heavy lifting, is one of our top defense analysts, Chuck Spinney. See the last section for links to other useful articles about this.

Military spending

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Ukraine: Manna From Heaven for the Green Line and Beyond Crowd

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney

From his website, The Blaster
26 March 214

Posted with his generous permission

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Most Americans know very little about the immediate origins of the crisis in the Ukraine and their government’s involvement in it. They know even less about its deeper roots, that reach back into Russian view of American duplicity in breaking its verbal promises not to expand NATO and the European Union eastward (useful summaries can be found here and here).

These promises were interpreted quite reasonably by the Russians as a quid pro quo for Mikhail Gorbachev’s agreement to

  1. the unification of Germany,
  2. the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and
  3. the withdrawal of Soviet forces from eastern Europe.

Gorbachev’s dream of a common European Home was always fanciful, but today, Ukraine proves it is in tatters.

If one is to believe the reportage in the mainstream media, the duly elected but decidedly corrupt government of the Ukraine was overthrown by a spontaneous revolt of the freedom-seeking Ukrainian people. But it is also clear from leaked recordings of phone conversations and the bloviations of U.S. “pro-defense” legislators that members of the U.S. government were at least tangentially involved, as were Ukrainian neo-fascists.

There is much more, however.

 

Read more…

Richard Koo gives a “Post-QE forecast: sunny, cloudy, or stormy?”

26 March 2014

Summary: Prosperity, perhaps even survival, in the 21st century might require learning which experts we should listen to. In economics its a short list, if we limit it to people who have understood large aspects of the great recession and the aftermath.  Richard Koo certainly deserves to make that short list. Here he tells us what to expect next.

Storm

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“Post-QE forecast for leading economies:
sunny,cloudy, or stormy?”

Richard Koo, Chief Economist
Nomura Research Institute

25 March 2014

Excerpt

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{People} were roiled by Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s first press conference last Wednesday, where she suggested a rate hike could come as soon as next spring. The fact that {people} reacted so much led some in the media to question her communication skills, given her predecessor’s skill in this area.

{People} also appear to have been surprised and disappointed that the supposedly dovish Ms. Yellen indicated the possibility of a tightening of policy. “This wasn’t supposed to happen” seemed to be the general reaction.

Marketsand media unaware that US is in QE trap

Nevertheless, it was easy enough to predict that the Fed would have to move in this direction when it began normalizing policy after years of quantitative easing. The media’s criticism of her dialog and {people’s} complaints about the lack of further accommodation tells us that most of them have yet to realize the US economy has fallen into the QE trap. Their ignorance is of far greater concern, in my view.

{People} and members of the media simply do not understand that an economic recovery in a country that has undertaken QE is going to be very different from a recovery in a country that has not.

Read more…

Nate Silver goes from hero to goat, convicted by the Left of apostasy

25 March 2014

Summary: The climate refuses to warm as predicted, the IPCC refuses to endorse claims of extreme climate, public supports fades, and the Left grows desperate. So they use their influence in the media to punish any deviance from their orthodoxy. Nate Silver and Roger Pielke Jr are the latest to feel their wrath. See the links to other posts in this series in section 8.

Paraphrasing an ancient legal aphorism:

When the facts are against you, argue the theory.
When the theory is against you, argue the facts.
When both are against you, loudly smear your opponent.

Truth in science

Designed by Idea Tree Inc

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The arbiter of good journalism speaks
  3. A typical attack from the Left
  4. Krugman is loyal to his tribe, not science
  5. Rare, brave defenders speak out
  6. A climate scientist looks at the commentary
  7. Update: peer-reviewed research on this issue
  8. For More Information

(1)  Introduction

Pity Nate Silver. Hero of the Left for his successful take-down of GOP’s election forecasts, shooting down their delusions about Romney’s chances of victory. Good Leftists like Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman heaped praises on Silver, catapulting him into a sweet gig at ESPN. The poor guy thought the applause was for his use of numbers in pursuit in truth, when it was purely tribal. Their applause were just tribal grunts — we good, they bad — in effect chanting…

“Two legs good. Four legs bad.”

Right out of the box at his new venture, ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, Silver committed apostasy, and the Left reacted with the fury true believers mete out to their betrayers. He posted “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change” by Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder), 19 March 2014. Also see his follow-up article, with more detail.

(Note that Brad DeLong was originally mentioned above in error. He praised Silver’s election reporting, but had not written about Pielke Jr’s 538 article at the time of this post. He has since joined the Left’s lynch mob, displaying their indifference to the climate science literature.)

(2) The arbiter of good journalism speaks

FiveThirtyEight’s disappointing science section“, By Alexis Sobel Fitts, Columbia Journalism Review, 2014 — ” Science journalism could use an infusion of analysis, but FiveThirtyEight isn’t yet doing it rigorously or objectively.”

The internet hates Nate Silver today — at least the small quotient closely following the launch of his new site, FiveThirtyEight, this week—and with ample reason. When Silver wrote, “It’s time to make news a little nerdier,” in his site-launch manifesto, he was issuing a call to arms against the mainstream press. Because by nerdier, he really meant better. “Plenty of pundits have really high IQs, but they don’t have any discipline in how they look at the world,” he told New York magazine last week, promising to produce a site free of such “bullshit.”

But it’s always risky to bite the hand that publicizes you …

Read more…

What did we learn from our intervention in Libya?

24 March 2014

Summary:  As the cries for war rise again in America, let’s reflect on the consequences from our last several interventions. We bomb foreign nations hoping to build better societies; repeated failure doesn’t discourage our hawks. Third in a series about lessons learned from our wars after 9-11.

Three years ago:

“Yesterday, in response to a call for action by the Libyan people and the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council passed a strong resolution that demands an end to the violence against citizens. It authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing … We have made clear our support for a set of universal values, and our support for the political and economic change that the people of the region deserve.”

Speech by President Obama, 18 March 2011

Libya war cartoon

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Contents

  1. An important moment in time
  2. Assessing the results
  3. Lessons learned
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. For More Information

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(1)  An important moment in time

Before our intervention in Libya, I cautioned that it likely would have bad — perhaps horrific — results. A well-known expert in military and foreign affairs disagreed, advocating humanitarian military action. Here is his rebuttal to my analysis:

You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.

As I wrote before Obama’s speech, that’s an emotionally compelling response.  It claims the moral high ground, seeking to preserve life and end tyranny.  It claims authority through the speaker’s military experience, since we believe that Yoda was wrong and wars do make us great.  If said loudly and firmly to a crowd it evokes applause (to American audiences; probably not so much in Europe or Asia).

Now the echoes of our bombs have died away. Our special operations forces have mostly left. Now we can tally the results. Now begins the vital task of learning from our experience. My first conclusions is that America’s foreign policy will continue to be a series of failures so long as views such as this are heard without revulsion.

We don’t own the result in Libya. There is no “pottery barn rule” (believe nothing Thomas Friedman says). The people of Libya have agency, and have the final responsibility for their nation. But as a superpower we have great power. For both our future and the world’s we must learn from our experiences.

So what has followed our intervention in Libya, which we were told was almost certain to produce great results?

(a) Political Killings Still Plaguing Post-Qaddafi Libya“, New York Times, 11 March 2014 — Excerpt:

Libya has suffered widespread bloodletting in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. Over 1,200 people have been killed nationwide in the last two years, victims of revenge, power clashes and spiraling crime.

Political divisions within the elected General National Congress, with groups backed by rival militias, have rendered the appointed government almost powerless. The power struggle kept Prime Minister Ali Zeidan under threat of dismissal for months before he was voted out of office on Tuesday, and left the country without an interior minister since August, when the last one resigned.

No place has been harder hit than the country’s second-largest city, Benghazi, the birthplace of the Libyan uprising. More than 100 prominent figures, senior security officials, judges and political activists have been assassinated in two years, and the wave of killings is decimating local leadership and paralyzing the government and security forces.

Read more…

A warning about the end of the world (doomster scenario #137)

23 March 2014

Summary: It’s time for yet another warning of doom. As usual, based on a flimsy foundation of data and analysis. As usual, the news media eats it up. And the public, mostly on the Left, applaud. No matter how often these predictions prove false, the Left uncritically believes the next. Too bad for them that the public no longer cares.

Only One World

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Contents

  1. The trumpets of doom sound again
  2. NASA pushes back
  3. What’s the fascination with doom?
  4. Articles debating the study
  5. Scientists comment on the study
  6. For More Information about dooms
  7. This would be doom!

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(1)  The trumpets of doom sound again

The blog post that went viral: “Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?“, Nafeez Ahmed (journalist, director of Institute for Policy Research & Development), blog of the Guardian, 14 March 2014 — “Natural and social scientists develop new model of how ‘perfect storm’ of crises could unravel global system.”

It’s based on this paper: “Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies“, Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas, & Eugenia Kalnay, Ecological Economics, in press.

There are widespread concerns that current trends in resource-use are unsustainable, but possibilities of overshoot/collapse remain controversial. Collapses have occurred frequently in history, often followed by centuries of economic, intellectual, and population decline. Many diff erent natural and social phenomena have been invoked to explain speci fic collapses, but a general explanation remains elusive.

In this paper, we build a human population dynamics model by adding accumulated wealth and economic inequality to a predator-prey model of humans and nature. The model structure, and simulated scenarios that off er significant implications, are explained. Four equations describe the evolution of Elites, Commoners, Nature, and Wealth. The model shows Economic Strati cation or Ecological Strain can independently lead to collapse, in agreement with the historical record.

The measure “Carrying Capacity” is developed and its estimation is shown to be a practical means for early detection of a collapse. Mechanisms leading to two types of collapses are discussed. The new dynamics of this model can also reproduce the irreversible collapses found in history. Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at maximum carrying capacity if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably.

A provocative piece of early-stage research in an important (if immature field), greeted by the public (especially the Left) as the latest chapter in the endless series of doomster porn. It’s the end of Life!  Again.

NASA

(2)  NASA pushes back

If NASA expects the world to end soon, I’ll book passage on a trip to somewhere else!

Nafeez Ahmed and the media ech0-chamber focused on the “NASA-sponsored” aspect to give the study undeserved emphasis. The push-back was fast:  “NASA Statement on Sustainability Study“, press release from NASA, 20 March 2014 — Excerpt (red emphasis added):

“{the paper} was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity. As is the case with all independent research, the views and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors alone. NASA does not endorse the paper or its conclusions.”

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), at which one of the study’s authors works, elaborates further on NASA’s role (red emphasis added):

Read more…

Japan leads us into a new future, taking the next step in the great monetary experiment

21 March 2014

Summary: A first step to understanding comes from appreciating the wonders before us. Recognition of extraordinary events that lie before us. Not unique events (those are seldom seen), but event of unusual magnitude. Old Faithful, not the usual steam kettle on the stove. Today we look at one such, one of the greatest experiments ever: sustain large-scale monetary stimulus.

In “Forbidden Planet” a great distant civilization — far away, long ago — built a planetary-scale machine to grant their every wish. It didn’t end well for them, but they deserve high marks for the boldness and scale of the project. Today economists are attempting something less ambitious, but still bold beyond any precedents.

ATLAS experiment

In the basement of the Federal Reserve

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Size of central bank balance sheets for the major nations (2014 IMF estimate):

  • China: $4.8 trillion, 49% of GDP
  • Japan: $2.0 trillion, 39% of GDP
  • UK: $0.7 trillion, 25% of GDP
  • US: $4.2 trillion, 24% of GDP
  • EU: $3.0 trillion, 23% of GDP

These are mind-blowing numbers, become familiar to us in the five years since the crash.

Combined with artificially low interest rates (near-zero in all of the above but China), the major nations have sought to restore growth using extreme and unconventional monetary policy measures. The first phase — first aid to stabilize their financial systems during the crash (2008-09) were a success. The results since then, using monetary policy for extended treatment, remain unknown until the experiment concludes and monetary policy returns to normal.

As with any bold experiment, economists will learn much from the results. If successful, it will be a new world. Economic policy of the 21st century will look nothing like that of the post-WW2 era, any more than the dark nighttime cities of Victorian London resemble its brightly lite 21st century version. Future downturns — and even more so with future crashes — will be met with tsunamis of newly printed cash. Perhaps we’ve built a monetary savior, like the discovery of antibiotics.

We’ll know when the experiment is concluded. So far the results are cloudy; we’ll have to ask again later.

Japan leads the way

Haruhiko Kuroda

Haruhiko Kuroda

Japan is the cutting edge of this experiment, going boldly to where no nation has gone before. While other nations look to slow the monetary engines, they’re revving them up even more.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said there were “no limits” to what the central bank can do if it saw the need to adjust monetary policy in the future, signaling readiness to expand stimulus further if risks threatened its price target {2% inflation}. … He also said it was “not as if there weren’t any steps left” for the BOJ to take if it were to ease again, countering views held by some market participants that having delivered a massive stimulus last year, the BOJ had no tools left to deploy.

— Interview on 13 March with Japan’s Jiji news agency, as reported by Reuters

Read more…

Stand by for political realignment in America!

20 March 2014

Summary:  I’ve long believed that our political system has rapidly accumulating strains, soon to rip the system apart so that new coalitions emerge, centered on new issues — political realignments (see Wikipedia), as has happened before in American history. Not the widely anticipated move to the “middle” (a two-dimensional line), but political reshuffling in multiple dimensions.

Perhaps we now have the first signs of it happening. On the other hand, just as the first Robin doesn’t mean Spring has begun, rising stress does not mean the realignment has begun.

American Extremists

On the Right

The Right, and especially its vanguard — the Tea Party movement — have become servants of the 1%. They’re helping the 1% build the New America described in scores of posts on the FM website. They are one possible future for America.

  1. A belligerent foreign policy, supporting a mad unprofitable empire.
  2. Political divisions between hostile races and religions.
  3. Growing inequality and falling social mobility (e.g., defunding public schools and universities).
  4. Tax burden shifted, as the GOP is doing in the States, from the rich to the middle class.

It’s a common pattern in history. It’s a change from the America-that-once-was. It’s a slow-motion revolution. It might push some into defecting from the Right to a new movement closer to their conservative principles.

Looking to the future, neither the GOP nor its Tea Party faction are all grey-hairs. As shown by this Pew Poll, published 16 October 2013. The Republicans are slightly light on Millennials (born after 1980, so age 18 – 33) and slightly heavy on Boomers. The Tea Party movement is catastrophically light on Millennials and over-weight on Boomers. The cutting edge of society in terms of youth and energy is not with the extreme Right.

Pew Poll of Tea Party Movement

Pew Poll, 16 October 2013

On the Left

There is no equivalent of the Tea Party on the Left. After decades of decay, the Left’s too decrepit to have a broadly political movement; all that remains are single-issue groups. Like the unions and the environmentalists. With an aging membership, and a slow loss of public support.

From an article by Paul Voosen in E&E Publishing, 13 April 2012 (unrelated to this post, which I highly recommend):

Read more…

Americans begin to learn, and change our views about our mad empire.

19 March 2014

Summary:  We’ve built an empire, but like its British predecessor, it provides little benefit to the people who pay for it with blood and money. Recent polls suggest that we might be catching on to the con, but it’s too soon to speculation about the effects of this change on US foreign policy.

… it is a fact that Kipling’s “message” was one that the big {British} public did not want, and indeed, has never accepted. The mass of the people, in the 1890’s as now, were anti-militarist, bored by the Empire, and only unconsciously patriotic. Kipling’s official admirers are and were the “service” middle class …”

— “Thoughts on Rudyard Kipling” by George Orwell, Horizon, February 1942

Clear world

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America burst upon the world in the Spanish-American War (1898), with succeeding waves carrying us into broader and deeper involvements around the world. With each wave our military grew larger.  We have become the world’s hegemon, running a mad unprofitable empire.

The cost in money has been borne by American taxpayers.  The cost in blood by America’s young men (and some women).

Each wave has fought and overcome a deeply-rooted isolationist sentiment. But a new generation has arrived, whose views might mirror the disinterest of the British mass public during the late Empire era. Decades of futile and failed wars might finally have had an effect.  Especially on fresher minds, as shown in this interesting result from “Millennials in Adulthood“, Pew Research, 7 March 2014:

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Pew poll: patriotismPew poll: patriotism.

Polls show the effects of this evolution of pubic opinion, as in “America’s Place in the World 2013” by Pew Research, 3 December 2013:

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Pew:  Mind Our Own Business

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Our hawks screech, learning nothing by our expensive defeats since 9/11, but see that he public no longer follows. As in Condoleezza Rice’s (Secretary of State 2005-2009) op-ed in the Washington Post (7 March 2014): “Will America heed the wake-up call of Ukraine?” The always-insightful Ta-Nehisi Coates gives a rebuttal:  “As Though Iraq Never Happened – The short memory of Condoleezza Rice“, The Atlantic, 11 March 2014:

Condoleezza Rice was an important member of an administration that launched a war on false pretense and willingly embraced torture. … It takes a particular historical blindness to claim that such actions should have no effect on all our crowing over “democracy and human rights.”

War-mongering is self-justifying. If you bungle a war in Iraq, it does not mean you need to sit back and reflect on the bungling. It means you should make more war, lest Iraq become a base for your enemies. If Vladimir Putin violates Ukrainian sovereignty, it is evidence for a more muscular approach. If he doesn’t, than it is evidence that he fears American power.

If there are no terrorist attacks on American soil, then drones must be right and our security state must be effective. If there are attacks, then our security state must increase its surveillance, and more bombs should be dropped.

Violence begets violence. Peace begets violence. The circle continues.

David Brooks gives a more sophisticated analysis than Rice’s straightforward war mongering in “The Leaderless Doctrine“, David Brooks, op-ed in the New York Times, 10 March 2014. Conor Friedersdorf gives a powerful rebuttal in “The Decline of the American War Hawk“, The Atlantic, 11 March 2014 — “There’s been a backlash in the United States against foreign interventionism — but David Brooks and others just don’t get it.” He explains what’s happening.

What Americans are actually sensing, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan reminded them about the limits of military force, is that the law of diminishing marginal returns holds, even if, left to its own devices, the Pentagon would spend without limit.

… Americans who want the U.S. less engaged in world affairs are saying no more than what Brooks, for reasons I can’t fathom, finds “amazing”: that there are limits to the changes that American politicians and soldiers can bring about, and that those limits ought to be obvious to anyone looking at Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Ukraine.

This point is being made with increasing insistence by the American public because they perceive, correctly, that there is a cadre of Washington, D.C. insiders — bureaucrats, military contractors, think-tank fellows, editors like Bill Kristol, writers like Max Boot — so oblivious to America’s limits that they can’t even see the last military intervention that they successfully advocated as a mistake, even though, in that case, the catastrophic results have already played out.

It might be a new day in America — if we put to work our new, more-sophisticated view of the world. The funds squandered on foreign adventures can help rebuild our rotting infrastructure and better prepare America to compete in the 21st century.

Clear vision

Clear vision is power

For More Information

If you find this post useful, consider hitting the tip jar (in the right-side menu bar).

About our foreign policy:

  1. Mitt Romney and the Empire of Hubris. Setting America on a path to decline., 10 October 2011
  2. Advice from one of the British Empire’s greatest Foreign Ministers, 18 November 2011
  3. Continuity and dysfunctionality in US foreign policy (lessons for our conflict with Iran), 13 January 2012
  4. Look at America’s grand strategy. Why do we believe this nonsense?, 5 March 2013

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The best way to celebrate the 11-year anniversary of our Expedition to Iraq

18 March 2014

Summary: On the 11th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, let’s remember who was right, who was wrong, and the consequences of our actions. Our amnesia about these things prevents us from learning. It keeps us weak and easily led. It’s unworthy of a free people, and makes effective self-government impossible. Let’s honor those who sacrificed their lives for this nation in Iraq by learning from that war.

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson, no known source (perhaps apocryphal)

Operation Iraqi Freedom

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That our actions were both wrong and unwise was quite obvious at the time. For evidence see these articles from the 19 March 2002 issue of The Republic, powerfully summarized by Katrina vanden Heuvel (Editor and Publisher) in “This Week in ‘Nation’ History: The Horrific Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq“, 14 March 2014. It deserves your attention.

We should regard those writers with respect for going against the belligerent madness that held both Right and Left in its grip during those days, a mental fire skillfully fed by the senior officials of the Bush Jr team. Their articles read today as prophetic, although they were mostly statements of the obvious overlaid on sound journalism.

Building on their accurate predictions — and coverage since then — they summarize the results of our invasion and occupation (too mildly, in my opinion): “Iraq: Revisiting the Pottery Barn Rule“, John Feffer, The Nation, 27 January 2014 — Excerpt:

You might remember Powell’s famous quip about Pottery Barn. In his advice to President George W. Bush before the Iraq invasion, Powell warned the president of the Pottery Barn rule: you break it, you own it. The United States would be responsible, Powell implied, for whatever wreckage the military incurred in its headlong dash to unseat Saddam Hussein.

Pottery Barn actually has no such a rule, and it was New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman who “made up the whole thing.” But Powell, who apologized to Pottery Barn, still embraces the message.

“We were essentially the new government until a government could be put in place,” he told David Samuels in The Atlantic. “And in the second phase of this conflict, which was beginning after the statue fell, we made serious mistakes in not acting like a government. One, maintaining order. Two, keeping people from destroying their own property. Three, not having in place security forces — either ours or theirs or a combination of the two to keep order.”

We did none of those things, and Iraq, as a result, is broken. Nor has the United States made much effort to own it—that is, to own up to our responsibility for breaking the country. We gave up trying to sweep up the pieces. At this stage, all we do is take photographs of the damage, putting them in the newspaper accompanied by descriptions of the carnage. We mull over the consequences. We hope that our chickens don’t come home to roost.

Read more…

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