March 03, 2005

Catastrophe Theory and War

Those who claim the invasion and election in Iraq didn’t cause the upheaval in Lebanon are absolutely correct. One did not cause the other. Those of us who have been advocating the destabilization of tyrannical order in the Middle East mustn’t mistake cause for correlation.

When you press your foot on a car’s accelerator you cause the car to speed up. The proof is that it’s predictable. If the car is in good working order, if the engine is running and it’s in gear, you know well in advance that pressing the accelerator will make it move forward – or backward if it’s in reverse. You can conduct this experiment over and over again and always get the same predictable result as long as the car is working correctly and has gas in the tank.

No one was able to predict the Arab street revolution in Beirut at the time of the invasion or the election in Iraq. The events are related, but their relationship is not a cause-and-effect one.

It’s more nuanced and slippery and unpredictable than that. The fact that some upheaval would erupt somewhere in the Middle East was predicted by lots of people. This wasn’t like predicting “it is going to be warm somewhere in the world at some point in the future.” Any idiot can do that. Rather, it was like predicting a general warming trend in the face of skepticism. There hasn’t been any successful new revolutionary turmoil in the Middle East since the 1970s, and that was in Iran. The Arab Middle East has been revolution-free for longer than that. Yet all of a sudden – bang - right after the Iraqi election, almost on schedule, revolutionary street-level fury toppled a government.

Fellow blogger TmjUtah succinctly summed up the indirect connection between these events in my comments section.
The weapon that will kill the mentality that has generated transnational terrorists/jihadis is not one that we can use. We can carve out a bloody breathing space, but the final act of victory will not be by our hand. I have never doubted this. The ultimate weapon is hope. In the end, victory will be bought ONLY with the sacrifices and efforts of the people who live in those countries.
I’m not saying we don’t deserve some of the credit. We do. The demolition of Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime and the free election that followed sent a powerful shock wave through the region that changed the emotions, the politics, and the psychology of its people. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we control the chaos that we have unleashed. (Remember that the Sunni Baathist insurgency is also something that wasn’t caused, but was made possible, by our actions.) In the Washington Post David Ignatius explains the dynamic.
There's an obscure branch of mathematics known as "catastrophe theory," which looks at how a small perturbation in a previously stable system can suddenly produce dramatic change. A classic example of the theory is the way a bridge, after bearing immense weight for many years, can suddenly collapse because of a new stress.

We are now watching a glorious catastrophe take place in the Middle East. The old system that had looked so stable is ripping apart, with each beam pulling another down as it falls. The sudden stress that produced the catastrophe was the American invasion of Iraq two years ago. But this Arab power structure has been rotting at the joints for a generation. The real force that's bringing it down is public anger.

Glenn Reynolds made a different but related point three years ago in Tech Central Station.
This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly…Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it - but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers - or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they're also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.

One interesting question is whether a lot of the hardline Arab states are like this. Places like Iraq, Syria, or Saudi Arabia spend a lot of time telling their citizens that everyone feels a particular way, and punishing those who dare to differ, which has the effect of encouraging people to falsify their preferences. But who knows? Given the right trigger, those brittle authoritarian regimes might collapse overnight, with most of the population swearing - with all apparent sincerity - that it had never supported them, or their anti-Western policies, at all.
A blogger who calls herself Neo-neocon is a professional therapist who addresses this phenomenon from yet another angle.
If you happen to have read my earlier post on intrapersonal change and how it occurs, I want to add that this knowledge about the desire for liberty has comes to us through images that affect us on both the cognitive and the emotional level, through observation. We view the photos and are moved; at the same time, we are processing them cognitively for what they mean, and we (even the NY Times) are changed as a result.

I believe that one of the reasons this "purple finger revolution" has been able to move with such rapidity is that the worldwide media are able to spread those images quickly and effectively to people who in years past would never have had access to them. These people see those images, do the same sort of processing, and come to their own changed conclusions: it's possible; we can do this, too. And, for those people who actually participate in the demonstrations or the elections, and directly experience their own newfound power, further personal change occurs not just through observation but through action. The whole thing is a feedback loop in which the observations and the attendent feelings and cognitions lead to action, and that action leads to other feelings and cognitions, which can in turn lead to changed beliefs and even further action.

Interesting times ahead. Fasten your seat belts.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 3, 2005 11:08 AM


Don't everyone jump on my case at once!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 3, 2005 01:01 PM

Holy crap.

I've been mentioned in print my Michael,and in company with David Ignatius, Glenn Reynolds, and Neo-Neocon.

Lightning strikes!

We have pushed back the inviolability of some dictatorships for some people. What will follow is unpredictable... but DAMN I like the early returns.

Democratization is also our best long-term strategy for averting the classic solution to a clash of civilizations. That would be a good thing; no, a great thing. We can make the world a better place - and better in every liberal sense of the word.

Winning this fight is very much not a zero-sum solution to the conflict, either. Winners = free societies. Losers = despots.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 3, 2005 01:17 PM

Where is Michael Ledeen's Faster, please?

It really helps when so many share agreement that the current status quo is SO bad that ANYTHING is better. Thus, in 1979, the anti-Shah demonstrations were surprisingly effective. But they, like the anti-Vietnam War protests (favoring N. Viet victory), did NOT really live up to the "anything is better" idea.

The feedback display is powerful FOR change. We can do it, too.

But likely more powerful is the reduced FEAR -- of massive reprisals by the death squad governments. Once a dictatorship allows anything close to a free press, it becomes much more difficult to murder hundreds of protesters without horrible images of brutality. (Sudan does NOT allow a free press in Darfur.)

In the Candlelight Protest for Religious Freedom of 1988, referenced by Bush in Bratislava last week, many of the commies who broke up the protest were drunk. Somebody got a recording of the secret police communication channel, so the public could hear the commie incompetence, as well as the obvious fact that the protesters were peaceful. Still, that protest WAS broken up, and some dissidents were jailed. But it increased the desire to oppose the injustice.

Interesting, and invigorating, times. Imagine what's coming, something never before in history ... a world without dictators.

It's really coming.
Maybe even in my own lifetime.

Posted by: Tom Grey at March 3, 2005 01:23 PM

"Don't everyone jump on my case at once!"

Ok, I'll help with some ramblings of my own then :)

I sorta disagree - I would describe it as a causal relationship. It's just not the only cause, or even the main cause (and yes, I do know the difference between cause and correleation and, through years of math classes it was beat into my head "correlation does not imply causation"). It is, to use a phrase, the straw that broke the camels back. The rest of your article I agree with.

I would also point out that in you analogies (such as the bridge) the new stress is, at the least, one of the causes of the collapse - it is more than simple correlation. Correlation would be along the lines of noticing that bridge cracks first (the stress causes the cracks, the cracks do not cause the stress - thus correleation but not causation).

Nor does not being able to predict where it would occur remove causation. If I fire a gun up into the air I can't predict who or what (or even if) it will hit but I'm still causing it to happen.

I also agree that we can not control it, but I don't really think most people think we can. I don't even think we should (I can't say what the administration thinks). We shold be ready to help and take advantage of any oppertunity that presents itself though.

Posted by: at March 3, 2005 01:51 PM

So is it now the official goal of the neocons to unleash uncontrollable chaos in the ME and let the chips fall down where the may? And "liberal hawks" think that's a good thing and worry solely how much credit the US can take for the whole mess? And if a couple of ten thousand innocent lives are lost in the glorious process of democracy on the march, then that's just the way the world turns?

I knew that admirer of revoltionary fascism, arms dealer and propagandist of "creative destruction" Ledeen went bonkers quite a while ago, but I had some hope he was an outlier even among neocons. It's sad to see that his wild fantasies have become accepted wisdom among the "liberal hawks" now.
Why do I not feel safer?

Posted by: novakant at March 3, 2005 01:53 PM

Indeed, sometimes when the golden apple gets rolled, its impossible to figure out what will happen in the end. (After all, who figured that a silly wedding on Mt. Olympus would provide the environemnt for the Trojan War?)

Now the real question is "What do we do?"

I think, that what may be the best strategy for the US at this moment is Look and Listen. Syria is backpedaling, Lebanon seems to be taking care of itself and the House of Saud thinks women are smart.

Maybe its time to watch the dominoes we set into motion, instead of trying to knock over more?


Well, this is as good a place as any to say:

Bush may have been right. If so, my hat is off to him. If now, he can get a handle on the anti-libertarian, pro-statist bent in his administration... I might actually become a Bush supporter.

Stranger things have happened.


Posted by: Ratatosk at March 3, 2005 01:53 PM

Novokant: Why do I not feel safer?

I guess somebody has to turn good news into doom and gloom. Politics would be so much less interesting otherwise.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 3, 2005 02:17 PM

I heard an interview on NPR yesterday with the Syrian ambassador. The fellow told the interviewer that Syria has been reducing troops in Lebanon for quite some time, in an orderly fashion. He also said that they made clear to the Leboneese government that as soon as they were asked to go, they would go (in an orderly fashion so there would be no power vaccum).

Now, if this is true, then I don't know that we're seeing worlds change, as much as a process already underway, simply being sped up. Of course, I don't have verification that the guy was doing anything more than blowing smoke.

It is interesting, however.


Posted by: Ratatosk at March 3, 2005 02:23 PM

Tosk, Syria has been saying the same damn thing over and over again for years. He was blowing smoke. Except that this time the Syrian military probably really will be pushed out because people demand it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 3, 2005 02:41 PM

Of course it's an indirect effect, I don't know how we could force events directly across the region outside of some spy novel plot. But in the real world that's how you have to get things done. If the White House assessed that the people of the region were ripe for change, and the status quo locked in place, a destabilizing act like toppling Saddam is not quite a random roll of the dice. If you blow up a dam, you may not know exactly where the flood will go, but there will be a flood.

Of course, these things can go against you or have unexpected repercussions. This is a good time to be moving very carefully and taking steps to see that "the flood", as it were, stays where we want it. We are also acting largely on faith here; the faith articulated in the Inaugural speech. Not that "anything is better", but that any more-free society will be a better global neighbor than a repressive dictatorship.

(PS: Your Trackback button seems to be busted, and the page has some formatting issues in Firefox)

Posted by: jay dean at March 3, 2005 02:46 PM

A good argument but somewhat unrealistic.If the American Army was not in the region this protest would have been crushed.

Posted by: Patrick at March 3, 2005 02:48 PM

He also said that they made clear to the Leboneese government that as soon as they were asked to go, they would go (in an orderly fashion so there would be no power vaccum).

Blowing smoke. Given that the Lebanese government was firmly under the control of the Syrians, it wasn't going to ask them to leave at all. That was the whole point of the protest rallies. Also, they have probably been reducing the number of Syrian troops for years, but maintaining only as many as they needed to prop up their little puppet government (which was never going to ask them to leave at all). The little Syrian ambassador sounds like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He wasn't going to take the cookie, he was just checking to make sure they were safe. If that were true, there would have been no need for a cedar revolution in the first place. If that were true, the Syrians wouldn't have blown up Hariri. They would have had no need to.

But leave it to NPR to enable the Syrians in their counterspin. We wouldn't want "Bush" to get any credit for this. And I'm not going to argue with anybody that Bush should get any credit, but it's being perceived that Iraq had something to do with it, so NPR's interview with the Syrian ambassador shouldn't come as a big surprise.

Posted by: Carlos at March 3, 2005 02:54 PM

MJT, get your story straight. In your own words:

But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we control the chaos that we have unleashed.

== the US has unleashed uncontrollable chaos

My take: unleashing uncontrollable chaos is not a feasible foreign policy and will consequently make neither us nor the ME safer. This much seems pretty obvious to me, but then your mileage may vary.

Posted by: novakant at March 3, 2005 02:59 PM

I think we do deserve a bit of the credit for what's happening in Lebanon and elsewhere. Because for the first time, all of the protestor's feel like there is somebody backing them up (backing them up would be in italics if I knew how to format it).

For decades the dictator's have had little to fear from the West, and the dissident's little to hope for. Now they both have a counter-example. It's a shot of courage for the democrats, and bullseye painted on the tyrant's.

Posted by: Mark at March 3, 2005 03:03 PM

novakant -

All I can tell you about "not feeling safer" is that if you suddenly did while Bush was president, you would probably lose a lot of friends.

Just a guess, of course.

"So is it now the official goal of the neocons to unleash uncontrollable chaos in the ME and let the chips fall down where the may?"

Life is chaos, novakant. Our previous paradigm of stability in international relations just held the chaos way out beyond the woodshed. We've said goodbye to all that. The old order meant that we bought oil at their prices and went about our lives pretty much as we pleased. That worked passing fair for us for over half a century; not so well for the people who lived where the oil came from. The real cost of stability - and n, if you want to talk about fear, these are the folks you need to chat with - was borne by the victims of the regimes we sought to just get along with. For generations. If you keep a pack of dogs on half rations and toss in a healthy kick now and then over literally years, someday you will get bit.

We are paying in part for standing silent, novakant. That's part of the obligation we are meeting by fighting this war. It's one that I'll own up to without reservation. I am not indicting anyone - our policy was consistent over decades and across administrations. And in hindsight, it set us up, at least in part, for the situation we ended up facing on 9/11.

We are working to rectify past mistakes as much as we are to implement positive change. I can say that with no problem. I understand that trying to sell that argument at the national level would probably be fruitless, if not outright counterproductive, given the inclinations of the opposition.

Bush has been pretty clearly spoken on what our aims are; that the tide is rising in unexpected quarters without our direct influence should be counted as a blessing as far as I'm concerned.

Thousands of people are dying right now - dying in the friction of war against state or religous sanctioned terror. The mideast, Africa, lately southern Europe and SE Asia... pick a spot on the map. Nobody today knows exactly where the trail will lead, true. But thousands have died in those places for years, for decades, and public opinion in the stable part of the world just assumed that was the way things were meant to be.

Until now.

I'm with Tom Grey. A world without dictators would be something to see. I grew up believing the Berlin Wall was a timeless feature of my world. I was wrong then, to, as it turned out.

That wall didn't come down because of correlation. Neither will the old stability.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 3, 2005 03:03 PM

My take: unleashing uncontrollable chaos is not a feasible foreign policy and will consequently make neither us nor the ME safer.

Posted by: Carlos at March 3, 2005 03:20 PM

My take: unleashing uncontrollable chaos is not a feasible foreign policy and will consequently make neither us nor the ME safer.

In other words, you are a conservative and you favored the status quo.

Posted by: Carlos at March 3, 2005 03:21 PM

Michael – good distinction between correlation and causation. I don’t think any behavioral (i.e. social sciences) theory can ever rely on “causation” as in the physical realm. The social sciences IMO simply pretend to be sciences because human behavior doesn’t display those kind of simple cause-effect relationships. Perhaps Skinner came close to demonstrating such behavioral laws on a basic mammalian level, devoid of any complexity resembling actual human behavior, but I don’t recall that any of his rats ever went on a hunger strike, did they? I don’t think “meaning” (a human phenomenon) conforms to cause and effect laws.

A good part of your post certainly brings to mind Natan Sharansky’s point about “doublethink” amongst folks living under totalitarian systems - and it is rumored that Sharansky has had quite an impact on Bush’s thinking on these matters. So perhaps it wouldn't be totally implausible to suggest that current history is testing Sharansky’s hypothesis?

Re the unpredictability of the outcome of all this shake-up of the status quo – I think one of my very first posts on your site way back was about a mountain climbing movie I had just seen, called “Touching the Void”. Two mountain climbers get into an impossible situation and one guy cuts the other guy’s rope. The latter guy finds himself on the edge of a precipice with no way off and no help coming and facing certain death. After days of waiting and contemplating his impossible predicament, he does something very bold. He lowers himself deeper into the precipice itself – into an even darker and lonelier and scarier place. While it seems suicidal, he really has no choice. It’s a big gamble. But it turns out to be a gamble worth taking. Bush has probably never even heard of the movie but I can’t help but think that he would totally identify with that mountain climber from the movie (it was Joe or Simon - I think it was Joe).

Posted by: Caroline at March 3, 2005 03:40 PM

Novokant: “And if a couple of ten thousand innocent lives are lost in the glorious process of democracy on the march, then that's just the way the world turns?”

Novokant – I don’t think Bush would have even considered going even deeper into the precipice (it wasn’t his nature) if he didn’t appreciate the real fact that tens of thousands of lives were going to be lost anyway, even if we just sat there on the edge of the precipice doing nothing. And incidentally – when did the leftist revolutionaries ever really concern themselves with “feeling safer”?

Posted by: Caroline at March 3, 2005 03:56 PM

Anyone could have predicted that there would be some upheaval would have erupted. But it didn't have to be one associated with democratic ideas. It could have been something quite different. Invading Iraq helped push the upheaval in the right direction.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at March 3, 2005 04:06 PM

TMJUtah - it's funny that one paragraph in I can always guess that it's you posting - even before I can see the byline. That must mean you have a distinctive voice!

Tom Grey - I have to say - I really appreciate your drumbeat posts about the death squads. I think your POV has inspired me to think of the Baathist "insurgents" in Iraq - as properly termed - the Sunni "death squads". I like that term. And I have to say that for all the talk about the death and destruction caused by our going into Iraq (the lancet article and so on) - my feeling is that everyone dies. How one dies makes a big damn difference. FEAR ultimately compunds that inevitability in a way that cannot be underestimated. No human being should ever have to live in fear of that ominous knock on the door in the middle of the night. And live with that every day all day of one's life. Knowing that one can be locked away in that dark Syrian prison or that someone can come and torture your children in front of you. Anyone can be killed in a car accident of course but it's just different.

Tom Grey - I sense that you viscerally get that difference. It seems to me that that is what we have to end - and will quite possibly end in our lifetimes.

And I sure hope no lefties take this opportunity to make some stupid point about Gitmo, in order to derail this thread. It's simply on a different level compared to what is hopefully unfolding in the ME right now. (and I sure hope that if anyone wants to take this opportunity to compare Gitmo to Abu Ghraib under Saddam - they will be shouted down as a troll.)

Posted by: Caroline at March 3, 2005 04:23 PM

I read novakant's rant and all I could think of was that this played right into the hope for stability in the world. We had stability in the world due to the Cold War and look how people had to live. I think that what Bush and Co have done is throw the door open to freedom. The countries in the ME can either work on freedom or slink back into the way they were before. It looks so far as if Bush and Co are winning this one. The people are opting for freedom and that is a good thing for us in the long run. Dictatorships are always a threat because they can fund the terrorism that causes the world its problems. If we can erase the dictatorships in the Middle East we just might possibly open the world up to real security in the long run. Novakant apparently does not like that option because it means we might have to give up stability for a while. However, what good is stability if it can be blown away by events like 9/11.

Posted by: dick at March 3, 2005 04:36 PM

To tie together my point about Natan Sharansky and my post directed towards Tom Grey about "death sqauds" - I think this post from frontpagemag is apropos:

Natan Sharansky

"Free societies are societies in which the right of dissent is protected. In contrast, fear societies are societies in which dissent is banned. One can determine whether a society is free by applying what we call the “town-square test.” Can someone within that society walk into the town square and say what they want without fear of being punished for his or her views? If so, then that society is a free society. If not, it is a fear society."

I have to say - if that is where we might be heading in the ME, then I am hard pressed to think that things are moving in a negative direction, however crazy and unpredictable it all seems at the moment.

Posted by: Caroline at March 3, 2005 04:38 PM

Caroline -

Ma'am, read the first paragraph and then scroll down eight or ten paragraphs and don't see a signature yet -

that's how you tell my posts.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 3, 2005 05:15 PM

I can spot a lot of people's posts without seeing the byline: TmjUtah, Tom Grey, Caroline, Ratatosk, Grant McEntire, Dougf, and some others I can't think of off the top of my head. Yes, that's a compliment to you all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 3, 2005 05:17 PM

Darn - and I thought I was unpredictable - in the moment and all that. I guess the fact that you recognize my posts means that while I may be in my own moment, I’m still in someday else’s past . Oh – how I love the endless, intricate, philosophical conundrums of zen :-)

Posted by: Caroline at March 3, 2005 06:34 PM

I can spot a lot of people's posts without seeing the byline: TmjUtah, Tom Grey, Caroline, Ratatosk, Grant McEntire, Dougf, and some others I can't think of off the top of my head. Yes, that's a compliment to you all.

Now that you mention it, Where has Grant been lately? Don't seem to hear from him much anymore...

Best regards,
da Gunny

Posted by: Citizen Dave at March 3, 2005 06:51 PM

Caroline, thanks so much for the kind words. If you ever visit my blog (hint, hint) you'd see I now live in Slovakia -- married to a Slovak who actually WAS at the 1988 Candlelight Protest for Religious Freedom that Bush was refering to his Bratislava speech last week, the only one (?) he gave to a public audience.

I came to Central Europe in 1991 as a Libertarian Free Marketeer supporter of Truth, Justice, and the American Way (of capitalistic wealth creation), en route, I thought, to the Free Market Foundation of South Africa ... but "life happened" instead.

Slovakia WAS a fear society, and it changed. Now it's free enough for many cosmopolitan Slovaks to be against Bush, just like the US.

N. Sharansky is great, I've quoted him a few other times. Your link is worth quoting him again on those who are sceptical of freedom:
The three main sources of scepticism are first, that not every people desires freedom; second, that democracy in certain parts of the world would be dangerous; and third, that there is little the world’s democracies can do to advance freedom outside their countries.

This scepticism is the same scepticism I heard a generation ago in the USSR when few thought that a democratic transformation behind the iron curtain was possible. Just as the sceptics were wrong then, I am convinced they are wrong now about the possibility of freedom spreading to the Middle East.

In this book, I explain why I believe in the power of freedom to transform our world.

I'm living my own life so as to, I hope, help transform the world. Like you mention, I now believe there are two kinds of gov't: by democracy, or by death squad. Most of those who oppose Bush's war in Iraq are intellectually too cowardly to admit they prefer death squad gov't over paying the cost for democratic regime change.

When it comes to USSR nukes, or commie nukes in China, I prefer accepting commie death squad gov't -- but I don't like it. Part of the cost of regime change is soldier mistakes like in Abu Ghraib; a true cost, just as are those lives lost that Novakant mentions.

Freedom DOES have great value -- not infinite, but very large.

Yet I don't see Novakant or other Bush haters comparing Iraq and Sudan -- Bush change vs. UN change. I'm angry at the implicit Unreal Perfection as the unspoken alternative.

And chaos uncontrolled by the US is NOT uncontrollable chaos -- it is more like the creative destruction of capitalism. Compaq is no longer a company, nor is Arthur Andersen. And Iraq is no longer a dictatorship.
Imagine there's NO DICTATORS. It's easy, if you try.

Especially if you think America is willing to fight for freedom; for Life, for Liberty, for those unalienable rights endowed to us all by Our Creator.
And I'm so happy that Pres. Bush makes me feel that, for at least 4 more years, America will be actively on the side of Democracy.

I just wish the Democratic Party was, too. (Even though I'll remain libertarian Republican. Predictable, I guess.)

Posted by: Tom Grey at March 3, 2005 07:23 PM feeling is that everyone dies. How one dies makes a big damn difference.

I couldn't agree more. "Give me Liberty or give me death," "Live free or die," to see people in other countries adopting the ideas that our country was founded on is very exciting. Jefferson stated, "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate objective of good government." Happiness. Free choice and self-determination. The more people that have it the better for the world. I'll take freedom and chaos any day over tyranny and security.

I see similarities between what Bush is doing and what Reagan did. Reagan broke Russia with the arms race (even though we were hurt in the system of escalation). He was going to spend whatever money it took to break the Russians and he did. "Chaos" happened in Russia and then Eastern Europe become much more free too. I doubt you would find many Eastern Europeans wishing Reagan hadn't won the Cold War. Winning the Cold War is Reagan's legacy.

I see Bush using an escalation system in the Middle East in this context, "who is going to have more influence in the Middle East over the next four years?" Al Qaeda? Taliban? Saddam? Wahabis? The UN? Islamofascists? Or the US? Turns out 100,000+ well-trained, professional, extremely well-armed troops can have a lot of influence. And Bush, like Reagan, doesn't seem to care how much money it costs - it's worth it to him and he wants to "win." It seems to me that he wants the transformation of the Middle East to be his legacy. But I still think that democratizing and bringing freedom to the Middle East were secondary goals. I believe the primary goal was to improve the security interests of the US by eliminating Al Qaeda, draining the swamp of troubles in Iraq, and reducing the influence of terrorists and despots in the area. If freedom for the people were the primary goal then Bush wouldn't be touting Libya as a success - Bush would be telling Ghadaffi that he hasn't gone far enough and that he wants the people of Libya to have a democracy. Ghadaffi seems to be the only "smart" dictator in the area - he gave up his weapons programs, is supposedly on the right side of the GWOT, and can now, at least for a while, remain dictator. If the rulers in Iraq and Afghanistan had done the same then I doubt that Bush would have invaded either of them. But since those countries didn't play along like Libya did, they get to be smashed and rebuilt in the way the US chooses, accomplishing both the primary goals of US security and the secondary goals of freedom. We'll see what happens in Iran and Syria - I really don't think Bush will back down. So I guess we should be happy that Saddam and the Taliban didn't do what the US originally asked them to do, because, as a consequence, the people there now have freedom and democracy. Did people die? Yeah. Was it for the greater good? I think so. And the good news is that freedom movements are starting to spread in unpredictable and chaotic ways. (Also, I haven't heard Pakistan and India threatening to nuke each other lately like they were a few years back - don't know what happened there but it's a good thing.)

I'm optimistic.

Posted by: Brian at March 3, 2005 07:47 PM

The whole thing is unraveling: Mubarak, Assad--Even the Saudis are telling Assad to get his troops out of Lebanon, although, (and I'd love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting), I'm sure it was along the lines of:

"You Fool! Use some of that eye-doctor training of yours and see what's going on! Do you want to give the Americans an excuse to invade you too?!"

I'll hazard that Assad will not be in charge in Syria by the end of the year.

Now, Novakaine wants to feel all safe and stuff, and seems worried about entropy, but frankly, it's real easy to feel safe. Just turn off the news. Hell, turn off the TV. Ignore the rest of the world. Its not hard. Plenty of people do it. Ignorance is bliss. I'll guess that Novakaine is white, middle class and someplace in North America. (Alabama maybe?) So it actually would be pretty easy to just tune out. Stop reading all these blogs, man! MJT, Crooked Timber, Calpundit, Marc Cooper, Roger Simon---They're obviously upsetting you. Do yourself a favor.

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 3, 2005 08:14 PM

Caroline -

Ma'am, read the first paragraph and then scroll down eight or ten paragraphs and don't see a signature yet -

that's how you tell my posts.

Well, either you or Tom Grey...

Hey, some people write long posts, others like a bit of brief snark. Surely there's room for both in the big wide blogosphere? On that note, I do sorta miss Den Beste...

Posted by: Dave Ruddell at March 3, 2005 09:02 PM


First, it is great to have you back. Second, this post very much vindicates neo-neocon's characterization of you as... always thinking.

Now I agree with most of what you posted. In a sense you took a long-winded route to basically say...

Brace yourselves, don't claim too much credit, gloat, or celebrate too much. We didn't cause the process, we accelerated the process, yet remember, we still control very little. Let's control what we can, and here's to hoping.

Now I do think you are graciously erring on the side of caution and downplaying success or the extent any "neo-con" aspect of the policy can truly claim credit. But of course I am a neo-con and very much agree with Max Boot's Neocons May Get the Last Laugh...,0,2000923.column?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

As you may know I have paid a high personal price for my political transformation and feel a little entitled. In other words personal vindication may seem selfish with all that is going on in this world, but it does mean much to me.

What is more significant is that in a sense wasn't going into Iraq a huge calculated risk to begin with? Of course there was always great risk in using Iraq, in the Words of Rich Lowry, as a "bank shot" to achieve greater leverage in the WOT and greater peace in the Middle East.

Yes I agree we don't control as much as we would like, but we also proved we control more than we thought, that may not make sense to some, but it makes perfect sense to me. Which leads me to...



I see similarities between what Bush is doing and what Reagan did. Reagan broke Russia with the arms race (even though we were hurt in the system of escalation). He was going to spend whatever money it took to break the Russians and he did. "Chaos" happened in Russia and then Eastern Europe become much more free too. I doubt you would find many Eastern Europeans wishing Reagan hadn't won the Cold War. Winning the Cold War is Reagan's legacy.

While I mostly agree with the above, please don't let the fact that I never did vote for Reagan but did this time around for Bush cloud what I am about to say because in retrospect I wish I had voted for Reagan. What Bush has done blows what Reagan did away by miles!. Why do I say such? Because what Bush did was way more of a risk to us and him personally then what Reagan did. In many ways Reagan's War was even more then now a rhetorical war mixed with a war of economic attrition. Reagan like Bush accelerated the process, but with nowhere near the risk to his own political career or lives of Americans. In fact when lives of Americans were on the line, he would usually chose to move them out. (Beirut bombing)

What Bush has done is to take Reagan's rhetoric, neo-con ideas, and most importantly Andrew Jackson's temperament to the task at hand. Bush is no neo-con, he is a resolved Jacksonian that has made up his mind. Sure he carries a unique respect for Reagan's idealism, he believes neo-con strategies are what is needed to win, but again it is the temperament of a hard resolved Jacksonian that has decided defeat is not an option (nor cutting loses and declaring defeat), in a word nothing short of victory. He would rather lose his political office then not fight. If he is not finished when he leaves office then he will set the table to where his succesor has no option but to continue on.

Had Bush not risked it all in Iraq he would have won re-election by a huge landslide, I think he is more then smart enough to realize that. I have said many times George Bush is the one President I think would have also dropped the bomb like Truman and still slept at night. Many of his opposition might say this is because he has no conscience, ironically I would say it is becasue he does have a conscience. He gives every fight and good deed his best shot, he will leave office knowing he did all he could and will again sleep well they day after he leaves office.

It is very personal I will admit, but Bush to me is greater then Reagan because he risked more then Reagan, plain and simple. I'll end with the following little snippet from the Jon Stewart interview of Nancy Soderberg...

Soderberg: It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.

Stewart: He's (Dubya) gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.

Hey Jon let me be the first to say... "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy."

Posted by: Joseph (formerly Samuel) at March 3, 2005 09:48 PM

I see you read my email. :-)

Posted by: Yehudit at March 3, 2005 10:52 PM

"So is it now the official goal of the neocons to unleash uncontrollable chaos in the ME and let the chips fall down where the may?"

Honey, that's been the plan all along. Sorry it scares you so much. Actually, controllable chaos, with support systems in place to nudge the chaos toward a new and different order: all the nation-building activities we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, all the killing of terrorists we did, the alliances we built.

Posted by: Yehudit at March 3, 2005 10:56 PM

Yehudit said...

Honey, that's been the plan all along. Sorry it scares you so much. Actually, controllable chaos, with support systems in place to nudge the chaos toward a new and different order: all the nation-building activities we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, all the killing of terrorists we did, the alliances we built.

Since we are getting somewhat philosophical let me ask and theorize... The world was created in theory by a "big bang", was it not? Ironically this does not settle the question as to whether or not G-d exists nor does it prove that life started here on our planet, but for our purposes life does start here. I personally believe it does beg to question, did a higher intelligence set in motion the means for chaos to be controlled in a way so our universe and life can exist? Obviously a topic for another day.

One thing that can't be denied is that we are here with the opportunities we have because very profound things happened that afforded us to be here complete with the chances to argue, hope, and even discuss these things. This "chance of life" we find us in guarantees us nothing other than opportunity to make of life what we will. So here we are, in a sense part of that chaos, yet we have the intelligence and means to influence that very chaos do we not? Is that not why we fight the WOT, to minimize chaos? This is why there will never be a "War To End All Wars", because chaos and opposition will always exist, it is part of nature.

Now in such a context I will compare in positive terms us indeed "playing G-d" in the WOT especially the Middle East. Again, as an Agnostic Jew I do not mean to use such an example to be accused of blasphemy, I respect religion and simply use such to draw a picture or analogy. In a sense we have used Iraq as a major part of our own "Little Bang", an explosion to set in motion chaos in a way that more affords those, especially in Arabic nations, but eventually Iran, Korea and in other less free parts of the world more of a chance or "to nudge the chaos toward a new and different order", as Yehudit has aptly put forward. It makes me desire to repeat what I said earlier

...we don't control as much as we would like, but we also proved we control more than we thought, that may not make sense to some, but it makes perfect sense to me.

As a Neo-con, I absolutely believe in pro-active influence over chaos. We divert water with damns, we influence the flow paths of volcanic eruptions and we endeavor to do much else to save people, the WOT is similar, Iraq was a means to take some control over the chaos as we redirected the "flow path" of the WOT moving the front to where we wanted. So far it is working and we dare not rest yet because at any moment we may need to redirect the chaos, I am with those who believe it is our duty to do so.

Posted by: Joseph (formerly Samuel) at March 4, 2005 12:48 AM

novakant , Ratatosk

You're absolutely wrong that we don't know what happens to systems when you stir them up. There are whole sections of mathematics devoted to that topic.

Look at it this way:
Look the probability that an unfree society will become free under stress is high and the probability that a free society will become unfree is low no matter what the stress.

So little knowledge of thermodynamics answers the question, where will things end up, not in the medium term but eventually.

You just need to add enough to energy to the system to break the parts out of their local minima and they'll eventually find their way to global minima.

Look up "annealing". You might also look up Boltzman

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 4, 2005 01:46 AM

Sorry forgot an "n"
That should have been Boltzmann

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 4, 2005 01:50 AM

Nothing to add(and that is news,because?),but I always enjoy reading the well-developed thoughts of those who post here.
Great comments on this thread,once again.Thanks to all for some interesting ideas.

One of my favourites though was :
"You Fool! Use some of that eye-doctor training of yours and see what's going on! Do you want to give the Americans an excuse to invade you too?!"

For some reason,I can honestly see the Saudis saying something like that(off the record).Cuts right to the chase,and focuses the mind admirably.The 'eye-doctor'bit would have really hit home.

Posted by: dougf at March 4, 2005 03:27 AM

time to sum up:

glorious catastrophe - bloody breathing space -
unable to control the chaos, but chaos is good
because ANYTHING is better than the status quo -
life is chaos - who needs a plan, when you have a goal - give up stability for a while - shake-up of the status quo, it might be bloody, but it's cathartic - push the upheaval in the right direction - everyone dies anyway -
creative destruction - give me Liberty or give me death - security is for sissies - stability is for dictator-lovers - real men (and women) bravely face the ugly reality daily on CNN, Fox and the blogs...

all this coming from people who would throw a major hissy fit if someone put a scratch on their car, if their internet connection went down for a month, if their credit card got stolen, incapable of imagining what it must be like if their house got searched and devastated, their relatives and friends wounded or shot, their street ruled by terrorist thugs, their car blown up, not to speak of constant electricity outages and no running water, all of this an ongoing threat without recourse to insurance, law enforcement or proper courts


Posted by: novakant at March 4, 2005 05:51 AM


Sigh ---- Dougf

Posted by: dougf at March 4, 2005 06:29 AM

"..., their relatives and friends wounded or shot,..."

I lost my first in November 1983, n. The latest was buried in Washington state last week.

There was a day when "Give me Liberty or give me death!" was mildly celebrated here.

But for some - stability is more important. Even if it's a construct powered by a boiler fueled by the pulverized hopes and dreams of a billion people.

Those terrorists trying to rule the streets today? They were the ones ruling the same streets three years ago, n., and ten and twenty years ago. The people and the slogans may change, but the strategy is the same. The difference today is they operate out of caves and hideouts, not palaces.

Pretty soon, they won't be operating at all. A whole bunch of kids from a car/internet/credit card culture are working very hard to see that the people over there live in freedom, and not fear.

Just who are the liberals in this conversation?

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 4, 2005 07:11 AM

Novokant: "..incapable of imagining what it must be like if their house got searched and devastated, their relatives and friends wounded or shot, their street ruled by terrorist thugs, their car blown up, not to speak of constant electricity outages and no running water, all of this an ongoing threat without recourse to insurance, law enforcement or proper courts"

Sounds like your describing life under Saddam to me (houses searched, friends/family killed, streets ruled by secret police and informants, electricity and water shortages for the less favored, no recourse to proper courts, an ongoing environment of threat and fear and intimidation). You are wrong that we are incapable of imagining it. Only we also imagined how it would be to live one’s whole life that way, with no possible end in sight. (Of course now the Iraqis also have to worry about their new cars, their credit cards, and their internet connections.)

Posted by: Caroline at March 4, 2005 07:48 AM

To those that may think that trying to redirect or control chaos had little to do with Bush's plan, Gerard Baker in today's British Times Online ends this way:

As a foreign policy thinker close to the Administration put it to me, in the weeks before the Iraq war two years ago: "Shake it and see. That’s what we are going to do." The US couldn’t be certain of the outcome, but it could be sure that whatever happened would be better than the status quo.

And so America, the revolutionary power, plunged in and shook the region to its foundations. And it is already liking what it sees.

People who take calculated risks rightly have to take responsibility for failure that may result, but that also implies the right to recieve credit for any gains or benefits, at this point neo-con's are looking quite visionary. The world's gains from Bush's actions to this point are clearly on the positive side of the ledger. To those desirous to gloat take care things can still go wrong, but to those predicting failure or incapable of enjoying the sweetness of the moment, keep predicting catastrophe and failure at even greater risk to your own credibility.

Posted by: Joseph (formerly Samuel) at March 4, 2005 07:53 AM

...incapable of imagining...

Oh, I don't know. I can imagine quite a bit.

For instance, I can imagine that not long ago, people were fed up with the Saddam regime, but could do nothing about it. I can imagine that the quietest whisper of dissent was greeted by a knock on the door early in the morning. I can imagine that a father, a brother, a son was torn away from a family and never heard from again. Jailed and tortured, I can imagine quite a bit of suffering on his part for daring to defy the leader of Iraq.

Now, I can imagine that people are sick of the insurgents in their midst who would so brazenly kill their own people for whatever reasons. And, for the first time, I can imagine those people, who lived in fear for so long, doing something about it. They can protest, join the police or the army, and oppose them with every fiber of their being. I imagine many young Iraqis becoming proud of their country and willing to fight for it.

Maybe that's why people call me a dreamer...

Posted by: Shawn at March 4, 2005 08:09 AM

This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly…Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it - but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

Novakant – What do you think a totalitarian regime has to do to have this kind of control over many millions of people? Just imagine.

Many people who have lived under a totalitarian regime, and who have since tasted freedom support American actions. Many believe that war is bad, but they know that there are worse things than war.

Posted by: mary at March 4, 2005 09:32 AM

To scroll back a bit, I don't even know why there's a debate that US Iraqi occupation and the subsequent election was a primary cause of the Lebanese intifada. THE LEADER OF THE INTIFADA SAYS SO HIMSELF:

The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus...

Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Posted by: Wagner James Au at March 4, 2005 12:58 PM

Novakant, you're projecting. Clearly you're the only one here who's nervous system is so jumpy that you prefer tyranny to change.

You're pathetic. But thanks for just assuming that we're all underserving of freedom, you ass.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 4, 2005 01:18 PM

And Novakant, I think your answer to Orwells "...imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever" is to throw a hissy fit about how inconvenient stop the oppression and why don't we all think about YOU for a change and stop annoying you with the world's problems.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 4, 2005 01:26 PM

Regarding "uncontrollable chaos" versus the alternative, the late, great Michael Kelly once wrote:

I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I cannot see why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghani, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something desperately to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?


Posted by: Mark Poling at March 4, 2005 01:40 PM

If you strike a match, have you caused it to burn? No way! All you have done is increased the probability that all those molecules whizzing randomly about are going to react. In a sense, there is no human causation. It is all a matter of where you want to draw the line on what you consider a "certainty." Nothing is certain, right? Not even conservation of energy on small timescales. So I think one can be forgiven for saying current events in the middle east were caused.

Posted by: chuck at March 4, 2005 02:15 PM


"...imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever"

I believe the original phrase was due to Jack London, or least from the book cover of a 1930's edition of his "The Iron Heel." Orwell first used the phrase in his review of the book, but I don't recall if it was original to him or London.

Posted by: chuck at March 4, 2005 02:23 PM

"unable to control the chaos" is not quite true.
Unwilling to fully control the chaos is the Bush plan. Democracy is never fully controlled.

In fact, Bush and Bremer were doing too much attempting to control, and should have had muni elections much earlier, with local mayors getting more US supported power/ money/ influence. And even now, having proportional representation instead of districts, might well result in the Kurds wanting a Velvet Divorce, or a shotgun divorce.

But the election, with millions of Shi'a voting, was always to be a "turning point". So, let us active pro-democracy folk gloat a bit; and support more pro-democracy movements of opportunity.

Who's next? Syria ... (though I also think Sudan should be discussed more.) Iran and No. Korea will most likely be resolved before Bush is done.

And the world can come a few countries closer to an end to dictatorship on earth.

Posted by: Tom Grey at March 4, 2005 02:43 PM

>>But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we >>control the chaos that we have unleashed.

>== the US has unleashed uncontrollable chaos

the logical flaw is in assuming that because the US doesn't control it no one controls it. What's happening in the Lebanon is far from uncontrolled. I would like to say that it is the people that are controlling it but it seems pretty clear the traditional political groups are providing a lot of the organization. If Syria goes it will however be popular self organization from scratch. I'm optimistic that the people would be able to build anew. But things like that can go very wrong.

The fall of communism wasn't all positive. In Yugoslavia those who did control better manipulate developments were very dark indeed.

But the Baath in Syria will fall one day and that danger will have to be faced.


Posted by: Daivid at March 4, 2005 03:53 PM

chuck, actually I seem to remember that it was one of the Dadaists who said it first, but a google search attributed it to Orwell so I went with that.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 4, 2005 04:42 PM

Tom Grey, if N. Korea falls it will be the doing of the Chinese taking them off the tit, not us.

If China holds back on trade with Korea, they'll fall immediately I think.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 4, 2005 04:45 PM

And chuch, don't try that "I didn't make the match burn" sophistry in court.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 4, 2005 04:46 PM

Daivid: "the logical flaw is in assuming that because the US doesn't control it no one controls it."

No - the logical flaw is in failing to recognize that if the U.S. doesn't control it, someone else will. And that someone else is not always benevolent. It should be obvious that just because we don't see the daily toll on human beings wrought by the alternatives every single day on our TV screens and in our morning papers, it doesn't mean that all that horror isn't actually happening. We see the horror now because the press is allowed into Iraq. Maybe it just takes a little imagination to see what was going on before we went in there.

Posted by: Caroline at March 4, 2005 06:52 PM

Daivid, thx for the measured and thoughtful response, I agree in part, let me clarify.
The US has unleashed chaos in Iraq which it apparently cannot bring under control. If, almost two years after the war, the road to Baghdad airport can't be secured, so that incoming airplanes have to take a nosedive in order not to get shot down and people travelling to the airport only dare do so in heavily guarded convoys for fear of being abducted or killed (cf. then one has to conclude that things have gone horribly wrong. I blame it mostly on the lack of contingency planning due to ideological blindness and a general lack of true commitment. It's sad because a lot of people have suffered as a consequence and what it shows us is that toppling a dictator or regime in itself is not sufficient to change the lives of people for the better. The real work starts afterwards and requires planning and preparation that take worst-case scenarios into account, as well as a massive long-term commitment. Soft skills like peacekeeping, local knowledge and diplomacy are then needed. The US administration has failed in most of these areas in Iraq and so my confidence, that they can play a benificial role when it comes to future developments in the larger middle east region is quite low, but who knows maybe they have learned something. I am not at all interested either to blame or credit the administration's Iraq policy for subsequent developments in Syria, Lebanon or whathaveyou, I'll leave that to the historians.

What really irks me though is when people start gloating in the face of the many thousand civilians who have already died and the mess that Iraq is right now, as if these past actions should be a blueprint for a remaking of the whole region. If the future US foreign policy is to be shaped by reckless triumphalism and concepts like "creative destruction" then we are truly in for a disaster. I don't think that the US administration really subscribes to such views (and even if, they are probably realistic enough to see that they are simply not feasible) and hope that these are limited to people like Ledeen and a few commenters on blogs.

I personally know the feeling of elation when a hated regime is going down, I happened to live in Berlin when the wall came down and it was a great time to witness. But Kohl didn't instigate the east-germans to take up arms, instead people met in endless round-table discussions and the GDR continued to exist for another year, after which it quietly vanished and not one person got shot. Yet, as you point out, the tragedy in Yugoslavia was soon to follow and nobody knew what to do. Jelzin standing on a tank defying the reactionary generals was a great sight for the media, yet he turned out to be a corrupt leader who sold out the whole country to a bunch of thugs, who helped create the hopeless mess that Russia is now.

If the Lebanese people can steer clear of such pitfalls, wonderful, and if something similar should some day happen in Syria, bravo, but hope is not a good guideline for foreign policy and we might as well flesh out the plans for a major humanitarian intervention now...

Posted by: novakant at March 4, 2005 07:54 PM


You preach failure and like to talk about woulda, coulda, and shoulda. Pray tell me what major war in our nation's past has been better executed? The Civil War? WWI, WWII, Revolutionary War? You could also naysay those Wars to death, in fact most did in their days as well, unfortunately you won't be writing history so it matters little. You go on and continue to look at this as if through the scope of a proctologist if you must, I am more a big picture kind of guy. You paint a picture of chaos from mistakes, but the picture you paint more reflects chaos in your thinking because I guarantee your picture will have little semblance to reality when viewed in historical context. I would suggest you set aside your partisan proctologist scope and step back a little.

The worst executed war by far was the done by the Union Army during the Civil War, yet President Lincoln is arguably considered one of our greatest President's. Many advocates of States Rights say he was our worst President, so it is a matter of perspective but this is of course a minority view. Lincoln did much to trample the Constitution, even as he tried to save it. Hell, even West Virginia was annexed illegally and never made a State through proper Constitutional means. Patriot Act? Lincoln didn't need no damn Patriot Act, FDR was also very undermining of Civil Liberties in terms by comparison to today, just ask the Japanese and other less talked about oppressed minorities in those days..

Keep trying to pop every pimple and point out any other blemish, but you aren't revealing anything, or even putting a dent in the historical context of where we are and the successes being achieved. History will rightly trample such silliness. The early failures in the Civil War and WWII were catastrophic by comparison. George Washington lost every battle he personally led save one! I actually agree with Jon Stewart, no Bush supporter, when he implies that Bush will exceed Reagan in greatness in the eyes of most when it is all over, also remember I never voted for Reagan and didn't much care for him. I suggest you at least step back a little and give some heed to what I am saying, you will spare yourself much. You are saying very similar things I said about Reagan. The weight of history will have none of it. It presses out the unnecessary wrinkles and leaves us with a properly wrinkle free version of the more important truths. The biggest truth's will never be found in what you believe are this President mistakes or shortcomings, by historical standards he has made fewer mistakes then his greatest predecessors.. History will judge whether he was visionary, understood the stakes, and overcame the obstacles and saw his vision through.

Everything you say means nothing unless we lose, that is not where my bet is. History likes a winner, history doesn't care as much if some of it goes wrong as it always does, besides, to be at war is to start at a point of failure period. General Grant in his day was seen as willing to callously sacrifice lives in the process, maybe even drank a little (or a lot) to deal with it.. History sees him as someone willing to do what it took to win. Every General before him sacrificed less and lost, Grant won. Bush had many President's before him not willing to risk what he has. Al Gore wouldn't have taken such risks, hell he would have quit bombing during Ramadan in Afghanistan, a time when we made very critical gains. He certainly woudn't have gone to Iraq, very few would have.

Bush has executed as well as any President, FDR, Lincoln, Wilson. If you don't like the War in Iraq then fine, I view it more as a battle in the larger WOT, but we must realize history and historical context is important and I predict history will not carry most of the bylines you have written. I sure don't see the ones I wrote during Reagan's days either, they damn started to fade shortly after the Berlin Wall fell. Now if "the wall" is beginning to crumble in the Middle East, like mine I expect your criticism will also fade and disappear. I'll leave you to play the role I played during Reagan, been there done that. Success trumps failure, and my money is that failure is in the process of being trumped.

Posted by: Joseph (formerly Samuel) at March 4, 2005 10:32 PM

Auf unserer Seite finden sie tolle Vergleiche

Posted by: Kreditvergleich at March 5, 2005 10:41 AM

Joseph: Sometimes history does look at the cost. Hague has always been remembered (here in Britain) for the high cost paid not that he commanded the army that broke the German army in Flanders.

War is chaotic and mistakes are inevitable. But the fact that the elections in Iraq were held so late was not an oversight it was part of a policy that had to be jettisoned.

If you don't face up to the fact mistakes were made then how can you lean from them?

What makes me optimistic about the future is that what is happening in the Mid East is no longer something that Bush can control. Maybe he no longer even wants to.


Posted by: Daivid at March 5, 2005 02:43 PM

Since your trackback function seems broken... This will serve as a trackback of sorts.

I cited this fascinating post in a piece I put up yesterday at my blog:

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