Thursday, May 31, 2007

Foreign Affairs, the leading establishment international relations journal, published the first of a series of foreign policy essays by the top-rung presidential candidates, first among them Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, respectively the presumed centrist candidates for the Dems and GOP. Without poring over minutia, there doesn’t seem to be a hair’s breadth of difference between them.

In “Renewing American Leadership,” Obama effectively refrains much of the so-called Bush Doctrine: dismissal of “outdated thinking” in service to “visionary leadership,” the United States’ divine “promise and purpose,” etc. It is not simply rhetorical. Toward “the broader Middle East,” we must use “tough-minded diplomacy” in which, for example, “we must not rule out using military force” against irritants like Iran. More worrisome is that he declares that he “will not hesitate” to “unilaterally” use force (“if necessary”), to protect undefined “vital interests” under the specter of being “imminently threatened,” whatever that may be. Our role is to fight the “evils” of the world, in the name of the “ultimate good.”

As for the other, “Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges,” Romney is stuck with boilerplate extremism dressed up as calm, cool-headed statesmanship. There is “a new generation of challenges,” he writes, to which we can face with our “power and influence,” which “stems from [our] values and ideals.” A “bold” new struggle is needed; the U.S. “cannot remain mired in the past.” Public opinion on foreign policy matters, particularly viz. Iraq, is folded into neatly packaged contempt: “…we cannot let current polls and political dynamics drive us to repeat mistakes,” etc. All of this, of course, in the name of exporting “moral leadership” and our status as “a unique nation.”

Obama and Romney are correct in asserting that, respectively, our obsession with militarism must be pared down and that we are up to our necks in trouble. Their solutions reflect a very narrow range of policy choices that the parties find acceptable; the people are probably far ahead. There is no pretense, in any case, that you are going to find peace plans on this page, ever. It is just a bit threatening when there is little disagreement about supporting, and avidly promoting, the same sort of ideas that resulted in the mess we’re in now, and in the blood on our hands.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter that is worth quoting at length because it reads as the most eloquent case for impeachment yet. Dan DeWalt of South Newfane, Vermont writes (“The Call Goes Out From Vermont: Impeach!”, A15):

While the Bush administration’s attempts to change the constitutional balance of powers by establishing a unitary executive of government is radical, following the proscribed constitutional remedy for such a breach, impeachment, is an act of conservation. To declare himself to be above the law, as the president has done in his signing statements, is both radical and unconstitutional. Calling on Congress to investigate these actions is an act of conservatism. To expect our representatives to honor their oaths of office to defend and uphold the constitution is an act of citizenship, neither left nor right.”

DeWalt also has (needed) harsh words for the Dems, who

have made a crass political calculation to let the president stew in the disaster that he has had simmering for six years. The thousands of lives to be lost in the next year and a half of unchecked war, as well as the tattered Constitution that will have suffered under the Bush administration for eight years, are, apparently, collateral damage to be sacrificed for the greater good sure to come when the Democrats regain the White House.”

I sure hope someone is listening to this guy.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

After revelations like these, from Eugene Robinson’s condemnations based on the testimony of former Justice Dept. deputy James Comey, it turns out this writer was completely wrong about Alberto Gonzales. The day he became Attorney General of the United States was not the day Lady Liberty was punched in the face.

No. It was the day she was raped, repeatedly, without shame. What a disgusting human being. The fatal assumption here had been that the man would be decent enough to stop and cry for his repentence after clocking her jaw and wounding her pride.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The past is not always prologue; however, a “failure of generalship” appears to be plaguing the Iraq war, much like (though not identical) with past conflicts. An excerpt from Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment deputy commander (in the Armed Forces Journal), below:

After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America’s general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that ‘there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq.’ The ISG noted … ‘Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals [my emphases].’ … America’s general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq’s government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. … The intellectual and moral failures common to [the corps] in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship. Any explanation that fixes culpability on individuals is insufficient.”

Iraq is not Vietnam; it’s its own war, and it’s worse, perhaps immeasurably. One can only imagine what its memorial will look like, in blood, treasure and the brightest lights of this country.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The breaking news is that the Rev. Jerry Falwell has died, at the age of 73. My thought here is that although he denied humanity to the victims of 9/11 by casting the atrocities of that day as God’s retribution, we should not, in turn, deny him his humanity. For a man is dead, and his family grieves.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Little is more obnoxious than when political commentators appropriate ancient verse to lend “moral clarity” to (clear-as-day) aggressive and thoroughly illegal, seemingly never-ending occupation — all the more irritating when it’s done in the name of supporting our fighting men and women. For the sake of fairness, Dennis Prager’s intentions seem to be in the right place: fight evil, good soldiers; we support you, don’t listen to the nay-sayers. All well and good. Here’s his passage, which is quoted from the Book of Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.” Here’s the rest, which is omitted: “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who … acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!”

It makes sense to not include these, because no one can reasonably apply them to the soldiers themselves. But it is quite clear that our occupation has entailed the very sort of hypocrisy, corruption and denial of human rights that the prophet Isaiah rightly condemned those “two-and-a-half millennia” ago, as Prager can tell you. His letter to our Armed Forces in Iraq, who have been shafted at every turn by policies that Prager supports as immutably holy, is simply a dishonest pose, masked with the trappings of false patriotism and dishonest piety.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Nature can be so terrible (Greensburg, Kansas/AP).

Friday, May 04, 2007

Just a note on the MSNBC-Reagan telecast of the “debate” last night. It is a real shame that the only GOP candidate who actually supports anything remotely republican (lower-case) has no chance of getting the nomination, namely Ron Paul. These guys seem awfully cooked, anyway.