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Speaking of Liberal Hawk Revisionism…

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

Although this isn’t quite the Atrios link he’s craving (to put it mildly), Yglesias has a good point about the frequent indisinguishability of the arguments of “hawks” and (at least American) “liberal hawks” here:

This business, in short, short, about how maintaining security in an Iraq-sized country requires 450,000-550,000 troops, while it was something you could tell from the historical evidence, was ignored not just by Don Rumsfeld, Doug Feith, and George W. Bush, but by essentially all war proponents across the political spectrum. The reason is pretty clear — there would have been no war had its advocates made accurate forecasts about the levels of resources required. Among other things, someone might have noted that the US Army doesn’t have enough soldiers to deploy several hundred thousands troops to Iraq on anything resembling a sustained basis.

Similarly, we also wouldn’t have had a war if Iraq wasn’t portrayed as a grave security that had to be invaded right now, before the inspections which would prove Saddam had nothing at all were completed. While democracy was mentioned as a side benefit by most supporters and perhaps emphaszied more by liberal hawks, there’s no chance that a “Iraq poses no threat to American security argument but is a despotism almost as repressive as his American-allied neighbor so we need to invade now” argument was going to fly.

Liberal Hawk Revisionism?

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

To add on brief point to Ezra’s follow-up to his merciless demonstration of how many ways liberal hawks erred, wasn’t Pollack’s original case based primarily on the alleged threat Saddam posed to the United States, rather than democratization? It seems to me that Packer’s characterization of the relevant argument as “Saddam has used weapons of mass destruction and has never stopped trying to develop them” is a little disingenuous; a more accurate rendering, it seems to me, would be “Saddam poses a major threat to the United States because he has WMDs and will inevitably acquire more fairly quickly.” I don’t recall a lot of liberal hawks claiming that Hussein didn’t have WMDs, even as the inspections were turning up bupkis, but maybe someone has some examples. A lot of liberal hawks, like hawks in general, claimed after the fact that Saddam’s lack of WMDs wasn’t a big deal, but I don’t think that argument was made contemporaneously very much.

…I ask, Atrios answers.

Better Dodges Needed

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

The fundamental problem I had with the classic “girlfriend in Canada” excuse is that it’s much less effective when you actually, ah, went to college in Canada. I am reminded of a friend who had a mythical girlfriend in Port Hope, or “Port of No Hope” as it was thereafter known on my dorm floor…

…Tracy Clark-Flory has more. Matt is right, of course, that the emphasis on (still almost certainly inaccurate) medians is to make reinforcing the virgin/whore complex easier. My favorite example remains Leon Kass’s assertion that “[m]any, perhaps even most, men in earlier times avidly sought sexual pleasure prior to and outside of marriage. But they usually distinguished, as did the culture generally, between women one fooled around with and women one married, between a woman of easy virtue and a woman of virtue simply. Only respectable women were respected; one no more wanted a loose woman for one’s partner than for one’s mother.” See, although logically men having premarital sex with women would logicially seem to have to be having sex with women, women who have sex before marriage aren’t really women at all, so why question the numbers? And call me crazy, but the existence of these norms (albeit usually in subtle form than when expressed by Bush’s favorite bioethicist) may just make self-reporting in surveys unreliable.

…see also zuzu.

Advantage: Blogosphere!

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Shorter Treason-In-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee: Those idiots in the MSM can’t even fact-check transparently obvious one-liners to establish their empirical validity! How can anybody take anything they say seriously? LOL!

Next week: Beauchamp writes that Iraq in the summer is “hotter than a blast furnace.” TIDOSY conducts an extensive investigation and finds, in fact, that a blast furnace is hotter than Iraq, further embarassing the illiterate editors at TNR.

. . . addendum from d: Bob Owens’ update is a true classic in the genre:

The first experience most of us had with Beauchamp was with his last article first, and his allegation that he verbally assaulted a burn victim. It doesn’t seem much of a stretch from abuser of the burned to robber of the dead, so I took his comments at face value as a real claim.

I completely understand. My first experience with Bob Owens was when he claimed that Google was deliberately pushing “Baby Jesus Buttplugs” on Christmas. From there, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to conclude that he’s an idiot.

50%+1 < 60%

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

One of the key grafs from the Atlantic article about Rove is this one, which contains the explanation for why Rove’s ambitions to create a McKinley-like realignment were always doomed (leaving aside Mayhew’s entirely correct point that realignments are longer-term and more complex processes than are usually assumed):

One of the big what-ifs of his presidency is how things might have turned out had he stuck with it (education remains the one element of Rove’s realignment project that was successfully enacted). What did become clear is that Rove’s tendency, like Bush’s, is always to choose the most ambitious option in a list and then pursue it by the most aggressive means possible—an approach that generally works better in campaigns than in governing. Instead of modest bipartisanship, the administration’s preferred style of governing became something much closer to the way Rove runs campaigns: Steamroll the opposition whenever possible, and reach across the aisle only in the rare cases, like No Child Left Behind, when it is absolutely necessary. The large tax cut that Bush pursued and won on an almost party-line vote just afterward is a model of this confrontational style. Its limitations would become apparent.

It should be noted that, for the first term, the “50%+1″strategy was, in fact a very effective governing tool. Bush was very successful at getting his agenda through Congress despite his narrow “victory” precisely because he ignored vacuous invocations of “mandates” and realized that your power in domestic policy is about how many votes you can get in Congress, and simply getting the minimum necessary coalition allowed for the maximum policy gains. But this strategy is entirely incompatible with a long-term realignment, which requires adding allies rather than simply paying off existing ones. Social Security, among some other New Deal policies, worked for FDR precisely because they created the large coalition of supporters (although this meant not getting some things he wanted and making some horrible compromises with Southern Democrats.) And because of this existing constituency, privatizing social Security was never going to be broadly popular or an effective coalition-building device. Seeking the minimum possible winning coalition is never going to be compatible with engineering a major realignment, and Bush’s historically narrow victory as a wartime president with a decent economy makes clear. And even worse for Rove, 50%+1 becomes a lot less effective as the President becomes less popular, and hopeless on domestic policy when you’ve lost Congress.

The Big "L"

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Marcy Wheeler lays out some theories for why Rove is leaving. I don’t want to discount the possibility that he’s resigning before scandal brings him down, but I suspect the “he’s a loser” variable in quite important. His reputation as a political genius has always been spectacularly overblown. (And it’s not just 2006; his win in 2004 was exceptionally unimpressive for a wartime president with a decent economy against a candidate nobody regards as particularly strong.) After 2006 and Social Security, however, the jig is up. I think the potential scandals wouldn’t weaken him much if he still had his unmerited reputation as a mastermind, but with that having evaporated everything else is enough to push him out. (More on this when I have a chance to read the Atlantic article.)

Thompson Out!

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Well, OK, it was Tommy.

I have a strange fascination with utter no-hope races for the presidency. This one, actually, seems somewhat explicable to me; Thompson used to be discussed as a potential nominee, and he probably thought of himself as one, so why not make the electorate tell you “no.” “Unintentional comic relief” was probably not how he wanted his career to end, though.

One of the most inexplicable runs was Orrin Hatch’s late entry in 2000. His platform, if I recall correctly, was pretty much “I agree pretty much entirely with George Bush and think he’s great, but I chiared the judiciary committee.” Oh.

Color Me Unimpressed

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

I was informed that the Yankees would quickly start losing as soon as they encountered the formidable Tribe, and I certainly wanted this to be true. Admittedly, such arguments would be more convincing had they, say, identified any aspect in which the Indians were better than the Yankees (the 2007 Indians, I mean; I’ll concede that the Yankees have a worse rotation than the 1954 Indians, although I’m not really persuaded that this is a relevant criterion.) I suppose some would say defense, but you would be incorrect. In fairness, however, the Indians have established unquestioned supremacy in the field of “getting picked off first base with the bases loaded.”
On to the wildcard!

Heartbreaking Ineptitude

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

The foreign policy stylings of George W. Bush:

But that skepticism had never taken hold in Washington. Since the 2001 war, American intelligence agencies had reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.

The American sense of victory had been so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan had long since moved on to the next war, in Iraq.

Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.

Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan.

In other words, the administration diverted resources from a country that it had the responsibility to build, and let a genuine threat to American security regroup and regain effective power in large parts of the country, in order to invade a country that posed no security threat whatsoever to the United States. Brilliant! Which leads us to another edition of What Hilzoy Said:

I remember hearing those speeches and thinking: oh, thank God. Back in late 2001 and early 2002, I was giving Bush the benefit of the doubt — I hadn’t thought much of him before, but 9/11 did seem to have concentrated his attention, and it truly seemed as though he had changed. (As indeed he had; just not in ways anyone anticipated.) I had supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and I heard those words — Marshall Plan, we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, we will not abandon Afghanistan — and thinking: we are really going to do something wonderful.

I think that some of the most inspiring moments in international relations are when serious, long-festering problems are actually decisively solved. When South Africa’s apartheid government handed over power peacefully to the ANC, for instance: South Africa still has enormous problems, but the ghastly ever-present nightmare of apartheid had actually gone away. When the conflict in Northern Ireland is finally laid to rest, it will be the same sort of glorious moment. Some problems aren’t solved all at once; still, you can see points at which things turn slightly from despair towards hope, and then, if you’re lucky, a point at which the process of transforming some problem that has haunted the world for what seems like forever into history starts to look irreversible.

Afghanistan had been one of those problems for decades. We weren’t in a position to do much about it earlier — naively, I believed that you don’t just go around invading countries out of the blue, ha ha ha — but suddenly we actually had a really good reason to invade, and there we were, the Taliban was in flight, the people seemed overjoyed, and I thought: dear God, we are actually going to do try to right by Afghanistan, whose people have suffered so much for so long. And back in that era of lost hopes, what gave me real confidence that we would do our best to actually help Afghanistan to transform itself from a failed state into a normal, functioning society was that for once, making a serious effort to do this wasn’t just a wild aspiration. It was feasible, it was the right thing to do, but most importantly, as far as its actually happening was concerned, it was clearly, obviously, overwhelmingly in our interest.

It still breaks my heart just thinking about it. Read the whole article and weep.

It’s infuriating because it’s true.

Who Says The U.S. Is Losing Its Influence?

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

Hey, Robert Mugabe likes the American move towards arbitrary executive power just fine!

The Invisible Women

[ 0 ] August 11, 2007 |

See Lauren and Jane Hamsher. Obviously, it’s a tough line to walk when you try to discuss the legitimate issue of the underrepresentation of women in the blogopshere without slighting the women who are there, but it seems to me that Goodman crossed the line into slighting. In particular, I think Lauren’s suggestion that “I suggest people venture out of their blogly cul-de-sacs and read some of the political blogs out there that don’t exclusively deal with electioneering” has considerable merit. But even among the more electoral politics-focused blogs, I definitely think that Jane and Christy and Joan McCarter (and the other Kos frontpagers) get overlooked in these kinds of meta-discussions.

…Commenters are right that, although she doesn’t strictly fit in the “electioneering” category, I shouldn’t have neglected the incomparable Digby.

Memo To The Indians

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

Prove me wrong!

There seems to be some dissension about my claim that the Yankees will win the wildcard. And while “mortal lock” is obviously hyperbolic (if the Mariners can have a better record for 110 games the Indians are certainly capable of having a better record for 50) I think it’s obvious that the Yankees deserve to be heavy, heavy favorites. A few points:

  • As you can see, in terms of offense and defense the Yankees have clearly been the second best team in the league this year. Indeed, in terms of run differential they’ve been basically even with the Red Sox, although once you adjust for strength of schedule and other kinds of luck the Yankees are worse: they should be about 67-47 while the BoSox should be 72-42. The Indians, on the other hand, should be 62-53 and the Tigers 60-54. This isn’t surprising, since the Yankees clearly have the best offense in the league (and the gap between them and the Tigers is more likely to widen than narrow), and at least decent pitching. The Indians could be better than they’ve been, but this largely depends on Hafner, who isn’t even going to play this weekend.
  • Several people have pointed out that the Yankees don’t have a “solid” rotation, but by the definition people are using (which seems to involve having five above-average starters) nobody does (even, for most of the year, Boston.) Moreover, the biggest weakness in the rotation (Igawa) is unlikely to pitch a meaningful inning again this year. And certainly, the Indians don’t. I like Sabathia and Carmona more than Wang and Pettite, but it’s hardly a mismatch in terms of established ability, and you’d obviously rather have Mussina/Clemens/Hughes than Byrd/Westbrook/Lemon #5 starter. Even if you give a slight edge to Cleveland, there’s no way in hell it makes up for the much better offense in the Bronx. And then the Yankees have the best closer of all time recovering from a bad start to post 18 straight saves with a K/W of 50/5, while the Tribe have proof that almost any stiff can get 30 saves in the right context (and ditto the Tigers, although they might be getting setup help.) I don’t see any basis for claiming that Cleveland is better than the Yankees, and the fact that the Tigers are underachieving gives the Yanks two cracks at the playoffs. The odds are overwhelming that they’ll beat one of these teams.
  • The Mariners, as you can also see, have been pretty much a stone fluke; their expected record is under .500. I still think they have an outside shot at the division because the Angels also aren’t as good as their record, and the Mariners have the chance to improve somewhat if Jones can force the way into the lineup, Weaver gets his ERA to within at least a run of a major league pitcher, etc. But it’s pretty obvious that they’re not nearly as good as the Yankees.

Anyway, the Yankees are clearly the best team in the AL except the Red Sox, and one of the other three can get lucky and beat them and they can still make it. They’re going to the playoffs.

…I would also take the Mariners more seriously if they weren’t being run by abject morons.

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