Modestly proposed by Jon Swift:
Unfortunately, misconceptions about the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq have led some to criticize McNamara and Rumsfeld, but I think history will show that while they made all the right decisions, the generals and soldiers on the ground did a poor job executing many of their directives so they really shouldn’t be blamed. They also would have done better if they didn’t have to contend with being second-guessed by the liberal media. Rumsfeld revealed some of his irritation at having to be judged by people who are a lot less intelligent than he is when he said at yesterday’s press conference that the War in Iraq is “complex for people to comprehend.” But I don’t think the fact that they had to deal with so many people who just weren’t as smart as they are should be held against them.
Both McNamara and Rumsfeld subscribed to the doctrine of “underwhelming force,” that is, using as few resources as possible in prosecuting a war in order to lose less. That is why Rumsfeld and McNamara both overruled their generals, who believed that more troops were needed, in favor of smaller, nimbler fighting forces. Rumsfeld also didn’t believe in expending a lot of scarce Pentagon funds on such equipment as body armor or armored vehicles, which would just have drained the funds available for sophisticated weapons systems.
The whole thing, I promise, will crack you up.
On a completely unrelated note, blogging on my end will be light for the next few days. Ted Stevens has somehow gotten all the tubes in my house completely clogged with information — it’s not a big truck, you know — and the whole system has gone completely screwy. And because I live in one of the most incompetent states in the union, no one from my internet provider can come with a plunger to clear the tubes until Monday. Unbelievable.
Shorter Verbatim Dan “How can I be homophobic? I left my gay brother to die alone in a San Francisco flophouse” Riehl: “I’d rather the enemy wore the right uniform. With Chafee, I always had the sense Catholic Schoolgirl was his uniform of choice – for wearing, not chasing.”
Um, gee, that’s fascinating, Dan [backs slowly away...]
As Donald Rumsfeld is finally thrown under the bus, it seems appropriate to return to Jon Chait’s recent account of the Rumsfeld-worship of the early Bush era. (The nadir was probably Midge Decter’s book, which seems to have been expanded after Seventeen rejected her initial article because it was too puerile and starry-eyed.) Here’s one characteristic example:
To plunge back into the conservative idealization of Rumsfeld, given what we know today, is a bizarre experience. You enter an upside-down world in which the defense secretary is a thoughtful, fair-minded, eminently reasonable man who has been vindicated by history–and his critics utterly repudiated. The pioneering specimen of the genre was a National Review cover story from December 31, 2001, by Jay Nordlinger, cover-lined “The Stud: Don Rumsfeld, America’s New Pin-up,” with a cartoon portraying the defense secretary as Betty Grable in her iconic World War II image. The central premise of the article was that Rumsfeld epitomized manliness and virility. (This turned out to be a recurring theme in the Rumsfeld iconography.)
Nordlinger’s article consisted mostly of the sort of unprovable, impressionistic personal assessments that are the usual grist of the conservative character industry. As one Rumsfeld friend was quoted as saying, “People look for a different kind of person to run Washington–as far away from the Clinton type as you can get.” (This was largely a continuation of a conservative theme that President Clinton had surrounded himself with wusses–”pear-shaped” men, as conservative author Gary Aldrich described them, or, as Bob Dole put it in his 1996 presidential nomination acceptance speech, “the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed.”)
This kind of silliness makes it doubly appropriate that it was George Allen’s defeat which finally put an end to Republican rule in the Senate. You may recall that the National Review ran a similar hagiography of Allen which said little about his substantive merits but a great deal about the character that could be inferred from his football-throwing and tobacco-chewing abilities. I would like to hope that if the spectacular policy and political flameout of Bushism teaches conservatives anything, it’s that propping up mediocrities and empty suits based on unfalsifiable attributions of “character” is good in the long run for neither the country nor the Republican Party.
[Cross-posted at TAPPED.]
Shorter Michelle Malkin: The fact that an obscure ex-Congresswoman wrote a book about impeachment provides irrefutable evidence that the Democratic leadership will try to impeach President Bush. Similarly, my book proves that the Bush administration has already rounded up every Muslim in the United States and put them in concentration camps.
Yeah, we’re going to be seeing a lot of this stuff.
Markus Wolf has shuffled off his mortal coil. In addition to having the best name ever for an elusive super-spy, Wolf placed over 4000 agents in the west, including most famously a top advisor to Willy Brandt. That one brought down a West German government. Many of his spies in NATO weren’t uncovered until after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of East Germany. Wolf rejected offers to work for the CIA as the GDR fell apart.
Of course, Wolf also participated in and helped enable the murderous tyranny of the security services of the German Democratic Republic, activities for which he received a two years suspended sentence. Nevertheless, credit where due. Farewell, master spy.
Aside from sportswriting, is there a species of news coverage more thick and swampy with ignorance than financial journalism?
Aside from watching Rumsfeld walk the plank, do you know what I really love?
Catching my first plagiarist of the year. It never fails to satisfy my inner rent-a-cop, that little, irrelevant man with a badge and a minimal sphere of authority. From what I hear on the street, the anti-plagiarism speech I deliver on the first day of class is nothing short of terrifying; depending on my judgment of the audience, the phrase “I will post your head on a spike” may or may not actually be used, but I do explain to my students that I have a long and successful record of identifying academic misconduct, and that I will treat such cases with a cold, inhuman lack of sympathy for the accused. Nevertheless, there’s always someone who takes up the challenge and tries to put one over on me. Today’s catch was easy — five seconds with my good friend Google turned up two web pages from which every single word of the student’s paper had been pilfered. S/he didn’t even bother writing an original introduction, a transitional sentence, or a conclusion. Like the Fiji Mermaid, this paper looked like a monkey’s head sewn to the body of a fish. I could have been half asleep or even — just speaking hypothetically here — terribly, terribly hung over and I would still have rooted out the fraud.
All this, of course, made me think of that lovable scamp Ben Domenech (whom I see has his own entry in Wikipedia. Born in Jackson, Mississippi? Who knew?) In case you’re wondering what the hell ever became of the man formerly known as “Augustine,” he appears to have started a new project called The Critical — a print journal with an unbearably awful title that compiles some of “the best online writing” and asks you (and the phrase “I shit you not” leaps to mind here) to actually pay for it. As near as I can tell from the journal’s website, this brilliant idea didn’t make it past the first issue and the launch party in August (which appears nevertheless to have boasted some compelling appetizers and — am I to assume illegal? — Cuban cigars). I mean, who would want to cough up $9 to read Josh Trevino’s comparison of DKos to the John Birch Society?
In light of the exceedingly close outcome in Montana, it must be said that the NSCC decision to throw in the towel on this race several weeks ago looks particularly boneheaded in retrospect. I assumed the NRCC knew what they were doing here. I’m not sure if they underestimated Montana’s conservatism or Allen’s incompetent buffoonery, but either way it appears to have cost them the Senate.
Also on the Republican boneheadedness front, one of the many glorious moments last night was watch Fred Barnes straining to understand why Missouri’s stem cell amendment didn’t sufficiently energize the base and sweep Talent to victory. I can only assume that a contemptuous elistist like Barnes thinks his parties “values voters” will respond like pavlovian dogs to any hot button social issue they throw on the ballet. It must be frustrating for Barnes that there’s a practical limitation on the number of times you can put gay-bashing on the ballot.
CNN calls Montana for Tester.
After linking to The Ole Perfesser for — I don’t know — the 115th time in the last two weeks, here’s Althouse, complaining briefly about the Times’ post-election wrap-up:
I love the way the Democratic victories count extra because there was a “legendarily efficient White House political machine” artificially boosting the Republican side. When the Republicans win — don’t you know? — it’s not because people actually want them to win, but because they have devious ways of jacking up the numbers. That way, if Democrats win even a modest margin, it’s a dramatic turnaround, a sea change.
I suppose it’s implicitly a commentary on the late irrelevance of Congress, but I’m wondering how Althouse is capable of arguing that Democratic control of (most likely) both houses represents a “modest” shift. She claims to have had a mere two glasses of red wine last night, so I know it’s not the booze talking. I suppose perhaps she’s an idiot.
The defeat of South Dakota’s abortion ban is evidently good news on the merits, and will also hopefully put to rest the ideas that abortion criminalization necessarily represents popular majorities. Even in one of the most conservative states, an even minimally consistent (and the South Dakota legislation still flinched when it came to applying legal sanctions to women who were purportedly guilty of a serious crime) pro-life position is a political loser even in on of the most conservative states in the country.
What this means, alas, is a return to silly, unprincipled abortion regulation that attempts to roll back abortion access through the back door. Appropriately enough, today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Gonzales cases, which concern the constitutionality of federal legislation banning so-called “partial birth” abortions. Nothing represents the extent to which the American “pro-life” movement is reduced to empty symbolism and intellectual dishonesty than these ridiculous laws. I will have a longer piece about this in the near future, but in the meantime Judge Posner explained the nature of the laws well in his dissent in Hope Clinic v. Doyle:
The wave of “partial birth” abortion statutes that broke over the nation after a description of the D & X procedure was publicized–does not exhibit the legislative process at its best, whatever one thinks of abortion rights. Whipped up by activists who wanted to dramatize the ugliness of abortions and deter physicians from performing them, the public support for the laws was also based–as is implicit in Judge Manion’s defense of the laws– on sheer ignorance of the medical realities of late-term abortion. The uninformed thought the D & X procedure gratuitously cruel, akin to infanticide; they didn’t realize that the only difference between it and the methods of late-term abortion that are conceded all round to be constitutionally privileged is which way the fetus’s feet are pointing. Opposition to the bills that became these laws was at first muted not only by ignorance of the character of a late-term abortion but also by the fact that few women are likely to be affected by the laws. Circumstances conspired, as it were, to produce a set of laws that can fairly be described as irrational. [my emphasis; cites removed.]
The bad news is that this ludicrously arbitrary legislation–which doesn’t protect fetal life even in theory, although it may force women to use procedures that are less safe–is almost certain to be upheld by the Supreme Court, which may well lead to the gutting of Roe‘s health exemption. The difference is Alito replacing O’Connor, which should emphasize both the importance of the two outstanding Senate seats and the election in 2008.
I have to hand it to him, Jonah manages to put together a great line every now and again. Were he not his mother’s son, he might have amounted to something in this world, perhaps becoming a minor pop culture pundit instead of an embarassment.
I for one welcome our new Democratic overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted rightwing personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.
Of course, one difference between the left and right blogosphere is that no one on the left would need to have that joke explained…