January 5, 2008

Quick Poll

While I’m finishing up my next piece from Fallujah, how about a quick poll?


If America goes the way of Iowa, who would you vote for?
Barack Obama
Mike Huckabee
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

For the record: Rudy Giuliani is my first choice, but between the two Iowa winners I would have to go with Barack Obama.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2008 9:40 PM
Comments

While I would prefer not to vote for either of these candidates as they both seem terribly inept, and I would under normal circumstances always vote for a governor over a junior senator, Huckabee strikes me as a bit unstable. Fortunately, there's no way this country will ever vote an evangelical preacher into office.

None of the Democratic candidates seem very presidential to me.

I'm also behind Giuliani, but for a Catholic to get elected, he's just going to have to destroy everybody else in the debates and hope the directing of his resources to super Tuesday and skipping the caucuses isn't a fatal error.

Posted by: James Author Profile Page at January 5, 2008 10:01 PM

Can I resurrect and vote for the last good president we had, Thomas Jefferson? I would have to go with Obama if those are my two choices though, since Huckabee is pretty wishy-washy and clueless on foreign policy (see Hot Air post where he claims he always supported the surge, but he actually didn't).

Posted by: LT Nixon Author Profile Page at January 5, 2008 10:09 PM

Ouch. Michael. There are certain things I didn't want to know about you. Oh well. RP08.

Posted by: bdunn02 Author Profile Page at January 5, 2008 11:06 PM

Bdunn02,

I don't know if you're annoyed by Giuliani or Obama. Either way, just forget it. Whoever I end up voting for, or nor voting for, will not affect what I write in any way whatsoever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 5, 2008 11:08 PM

Michael,

Could I just drill holes in my kneecap instead? As a foreign policy voter, the poll you put up is between naive optimism and even more naive optimism and I'd rather have a go with Black and Decker and a 1/8ths inch wood drill bit...

I was debating going the Stephen Green route and seeking solace in an ethanol filled conical glass, and once again you put in a convincing argument in favor of a determined course of action. Since preparedness is my personal mission, it probably won't surprise you to learn that I have a bottle of Stoli in the freezer and a jar of garlic stuffed jumbo olives in the fridge.

I do agree with your choice in that Huckabee is even more pathetically Carteresque than Obama, but that is hardly an endorsement.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at January 5, 2008 11:34 PM

"None of the above"

I'll write in Donald Duck if it comes down to those two.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 12:01 AM

As a Californian I'd sit it out, which would be a vote for Barak, indirectly. With those two as a choice I figure the US has quit being a great nation through collective mental atrophy. So I figure pick the worst of the two candidates. Let the country expire quickly and get this agony over with. Maybe he'd be bad enough to jar Americans into taking back their country from the idiots.

Either Rudy or Mitt gets my vote in a split second. Fred in two split seconds. Ron Paul, I'd vote for Kucinich before that idiot. He's the chief reason I am NOT a Libertarian. He's the sort that epitomizes the idealists who infest that party. Now he's trying to infest the Republicans.

I wish we had a Barry Goldwater to pick.

{O.O}

Posted by: jdow Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 12:20 AM

Given those choices, I prefer Mr. Daniels and a game of Russian Roulette.

I hope you're not discourage by all the sarcasm Michael. You were dealt a bad hand when you chose to do this. If you choose to do this again, hopefully you'll be given better hand. And for the record, I prefer Thompson. I just could never in good conscious vote for either offered. It would be the first election in my young voting life that I would skip past the Presidential candidates. Of course this will only be my 5th presidential election.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 12:45 AM

Haha
Between Patrick's preference for a drill bit and rosignol's preference for Donald Duck, I get the feeling we will be seeing a Clinton-Giuliani contest?
Ha When I read both I was laughing it up. But in a "that's good, that's funny" kind of way. Not the kind of way I was laughing during last night's debates...

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 6:50 AM

Heh, concur with the drill option. Pretty funny. It is going to be a long year on the political front.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 10:02 AM

You said that you support Giuliani. Do you agree with his latest statement:

It seems to me if you don't face this squarely, to have an Islamic terrorist threat against us, it's an existential threat, it has nothing to do with our foreign policy; it has to do with their ideas, their theories, the things that they have done and the way they've perverted their religion into a hatred of us.

And what's at stake are the things that are best about us -- our freedom of religion, our freedom for women, our right to vote, our free economic system.

Our foreign policy is irrelevant, totally irrelevant.

If you read what they write, if you bother to listen to what they say, this comes out of their own perverted thinking.

After your travels in the Arab and Muslim world, do you think that American foreign policy really has nothing to do with anti-Americanism?

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 10:27 AM

Barabbas,

I think American foreign policy does have something to do with garden variety anti-Americanism. But American foreign policy has little or nothing to do with the anti-Americanism of those who would be happy exploding a nuclear weapon in New York.

If you want to understand those people, read Sayyid Qutb.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 10:30 AM

What a brutal choice.

I was county chair for the John Anderson (I) campaign, so I guess that proves my bona fides. I will not vote for either of these two men.

Give me a Republican I can vote for and I'll move heaven and earth--to the best of my ability--to see that he's elected.

Posted by: OregonGuy Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 10:55 AM

Rudy Giuliani is my first choice, but between the two Iowa winners I would have to go with Barack Obama.

Me too. Giuliani has a record of successfully fighting crime and mafia-style organizations, which would make him the best terrorism-fighter of all the candidates. But of all the candidates, McCain and Obama are also likely to change things for the better. Hillary is too old-school. If the race was between McCain and Clinton, I'd vote for McCain.

This batch of candidates is definitely better than 2004's group.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:24 AM

Adding my opinion from the Czech Republic.
Hillary is hands-down the most popular pick here, and quite frankly its because we hate Bush but we're too rascist to go for Obanma.
I pernally love Obama, simply because Americans can't understand whatthe USA means to us as a symbol. Bush represents a stereotype of an arrogant richboy pushed on the world by corporate interests, and Obama represents the idealistic America with Elvis, Martin Luther King Jr, the 60's counter culture, rock & Roll and everything that made us envy America and inspired people to resist communism. Right wingers may get get teary eyed over Reagen, but quite frankly Lou Reed and John Cale had just as much a profound impact on my homeland.
On a persoanal note, whomever Laswell derides I support, and Guiliani seems rather pathetic, trying to make 9/11 all about him.
Frydek-Mistek

Posted by: Frydek Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 2:01 PM

Frydek-Mistek,

Ron Paul, what a tool! Go ahead, I dare you to support that truther.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 2:44 PM

At least Ron Paul has the courage to speak his opinion in a public debate, crackpot or not this is essential in a democracy.
I actually know what its like to live under a oppressive regime who would put crackpots in jail even if their political views were popular or not. This may not be a great defense of Ron Paul, but it can be annoying to listen to Americans bitch about an actual democratic process.
Mr. Laswell,
My advice to you is celebrate the system you live in and appreciate that the politicians you hate at least have right to say what they have to say.

Posted by: Frydek Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 3:10 PM

Obama oozes with the charisma of a television president, and Huckabee is as likeable as the friendly neighbor down the road. But when it comes to foreign policy, Huckabee is severely underinformed, and Obama is downright naive.

Huckabee gets my vote between these two choices because of his support for shifting our tax system to a pure consumption tax, but if I can choose from the wider field of candidates, I'd go with McCain. (Here's hoping Joe Lieberman changes his mind and joins McCain as his running mate!)

I gotta say, though, Bill Clinton has a tremendous understanding of foreign policy and diplomacy, and I think any adminstration would be foolish not to give him serious consideration as either an ambassador or even as Secretary of State. I can't make the same recommendation for Hillary, though, because she never speaks her mind frankly enough for me to really get a feeling for her understanding of those issues.

Posted by: Barry Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 3:10 PM

Neither. I wouldn't vote for any of the Democrats, and Huckabee is another Carter in Republican clothes who's conservative on God, Guns and Gays... and absolutely nothing else.

I'd vote for Fred. Hunter too, except his campaign died before it even started.

RINO Rudy? No thanks, Mr. Sanctuary City gun-grabber.

FlipFlop Mitt? Nope. Not buying the act of pretending to be the conservative you've never been.

McCain? We're still trying to remove the knives you've deposited in our back, Maverick.

Ron Paul? An ignorant, delusional nutjob who blames America for all the world's ills.

Since Fred is a longshot and Hunter even more so, I'll likely just sit this one out- something I've not done since I was old enough to vote. The rest of you have fun waiting in line though.

Posted by: Hollowpoint Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 3:28 PM

Nice choice, morality or popularity. I'm not surprised which way the poll is leaning, it's the same insanity that put Bill Clinton in office for 8 corrupt years. The abasement of our American society is the same weakness that led to the fall of the Roman empire. And I can already here the fiddle being tuned.

Posted by: Kevin China Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 3:49 PM

[...]I'll likely just sit this one out- something I've not done since I was old enough to vote.

Please reconsider. Even if the Presidential candidates are unappealing, you're still going to have a Representative and probably a Senator to vote for (or against). Maybe even a Governor, and very likely a host of other local candidates, maybe an initiative or three (depending on the state).

I've skipped exactly one election since I turned 18- the last midterm. I've regretted it ever since.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 4:55 PM

Oy ya yoy, I hope it doesn't come down to these two. I've heard Senator Obama speak and I find him to be a smug ignoramus. I never thought I'd be saying, months prior to an election, that I hope my Republican favorites pick up the pace and that the Democratic frontrunner makes my blood curdle. Mr. Giuliani is my first choice. We need a good administrator who has his head screwed on properly when it comes to the war we're in, who is not mealy-mouthed about it and who is inspiring. Senator McCain is a decent second choice especially if he teams up with Senator Lieberman.

I read Andrew Olmstead's staggering final post and I will set aside time to read more of what he wrote.

I watched Iraq in Fragments twice this weekend. What a difference between the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish portions of the documentary. I threw my arms up in the air in an involuntarily victory sign as the Kurdish part began and found myself laughing at this adolescent but spontaneous gesture. The Kurds they focused on were brilliant. And the Sunni boy, Mohammed, his boss was a terrible pig.

I watched Voices of Iraq also which I enjoyed more than Fragments even though it was less cinematic.

It would be fascinating to see documentaries like these if were made during late 2007. Few American soldiers appeared in either documentary but I suspect films made similarly, only in winter 2007, would show U.S. troops integrated into the Iraqi general public and I wonder what flavor such works have then.

Posted by: scottmoshen Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 5:32 PM

Michael -- Sorry, should have included a couple emoticons or at least an LOL. It doesn't matter to me who you vote for or what your political beliefs are -- your reporting is objective and reasonable and based on observing what's actual rather than justifying what's hoped for. Something I wish we had more of.

Posted by: bdunn02 Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 5:44 PM

Guilliani is a 9/11 whore. I'm a lonely European Iraq war and Petreus supporter who believes in the surge. Quite frankly Guilllanni is a worthless prostitute who has made millions off a security firm full of shady characters while silently allowing worthless losers(Ann Coultier) to rail on the 9/11 widows.
Quite frankly, and for whatever it is worth, Mr. Totten and commenters on this blog make it almost immpossible for somemone like me to rationally support the war.
Supporting Guillani is supporting Bush's incompetance and quite frankly make me want to vomit. Why can't American Republicans openly support rational Mcain and denounce Bush. Anybody with a half a brain knows that Bush's incompetance is why the USa needs hundreds of thousands troops seven years after, "Mission Accomplished".
Frydek-Mistek

Posted by: Frydek Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 5:49 PM

Frydek,

Who I choose to vote for should have no bearing on whether you support the war in Iraq or not. And Rudy Giuliani is not able to stick a sock in Ann Coulter's mouth. We live in a democracy, and she can say whatever she wants. (For whatever it's worth, I think she's insufferable.)

I don't agree at all that supporting Giuliani is "supporting Bush's incompetence." You could make the same unconvincing assertion about your favorite candidate John McCain. I would rather have either McCain or Giuliani as president than Bush. I am as tired of him as everybody else.

And anyway, I am not a Republican. If I were, I wouldn't support Barack Obama over Mike Huckabee.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 7:00 PM

I started out leaning towards Giuliani, too. But the more I see of him, the less impressed I am -- which seems to be the effect he has on a lot of people, actually.

And while Obama does not have a lot of experience in foreign affairs (and how many of us commenting here do, I wonder?), he does show signs of having actually thought about the subject. And come to some reasonable-sounding conclusions about what does work, what doesn't work, and what might be worth trying.

Too many of the other candidates appear to have no ideas on foriegn affairs, outside whatever the latest poll or focus group suggests will sell well. Even those who do have experience and should know better.

Posted by: wj Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 7:15 PM

Michael Totten,
Your blog is excellent, I tell my students and everybody I know to read it whatever their feelings about the war. I'm not writing this to suck up in any way, I simply respect you and your journalism. Anybody with half a brain and any interst in the middle east should read your blog.
Whatever,
Rudolph Guilliani is a worthless 9/11 whore who has quite frankly cashed in on a world tragedy. Yes it affected the USA first and foremost, but quite frankly those of us in Europe who actually believe the threats of Islamic fascism are real and prevalent understand that a united and serious military response are necessarry. Dirtbags like Guillani who can't utter a sentance without 9/11 in it reduce themselves to pathetic caricatures. While your support of Guillani may not affect my philosophical support of the war, it certainly reinforces my distaste of the American pro war movement.
I belive it is essential to denounce, Bush Cheney, Rumsfield and Guliani. for the US military committment to achieve long term success in the middle east. Mcain is at least willing to do this on a certain level.
Frydek-Mistek

Posted by: Frydek Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 7:45 PM

Frydek:

I can't speak for others, but my disdain for McCain has a lot to do with the McCain-Feingold campaign finace deform law, which many see as a serious threat to the First Amendment.

The fact that he was also one of the senators willing to sic Big Government on Small Tobacco in what is little more than a money grab.

Of course, my vote doesn't matter: I live in a state that's going to go Democrat regardless of who they run, and in a House district that didn't put up a Republican last time out. The Democrats will win, and we'll get stuck with somebody like a governor who has no qualms about using state police to spy on his political opponents.

Posted by: Ted Schuerzinger Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 7:50 PM

Living in a country where corporate/political corruption is status quo, even an ineffectual law like Mcaain Feingold would be a godsend. While I underestand the first amendment arguments, shouldn't any nation look at what is free speech and what is bribery.
Frydek-Mistek

Posted by: Frydek Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 7:59 PM

Frydek,

We can agree to disagree on candidates. I am not going to turn this blog into a campaign vehicle for any candidate at any time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 8:09 PM

I really cannot decide which candidate is the least repulsive. However, if Obama makes it to the general election and loses, then we will hear an endless load of crap from the media and left wing about what a racist country we are and how a black man just can't make it in this land of inequality. I suppose that would make sense, given that his only credentials are his skin color and charisma. He is obviously intelligent, but that does not set him apart from the field.

Given the risk of having to hear about what a racist country we are, I would probably vote for Obama. I think that this country is ready for any qualified candidate of any race, color, sex, creed, et cetera, but it is that pesky adjective "qualified" that keeps getting in the way. Quite frankly, I am hoping for a viable candidate whose parents hail from two different minority backgrounds and came here illegally, who is handicapped, female, of a non-Christian religion or athiest, and gay. Then we can get past all of these stupid firsts in one fell swoop.

In the mean time, I am still hoping that (in order) Romney, Thompson, or McCain gets the nod. None of the candidates make me all that enthusiastic, but those three at least seem reasonable. Most importantly, I think that each one can beat Hillary, which is the most important objective.

Posted by: Saint in Exile Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 8:12 PM

OT, but,I thought it might interest any recent visitors there:

Falluja, Jan 6, (VOI)- Falluja local police said on Sunday a U.S. base near the Sunni city was rocketed and five explosions purportedly inside the base were heard all over Falluja late on Saturday.

"Five explosions ripped through the U.S. base in al-Mazraa, 3 km east of Falluja, late last night," the source, who requested anonymity, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source added "the explosions were a result of a rocket attack." The police source could not tell whether the attack left casualties among the U.S. personnel. The U.S. army could not be immediately reached to confirm the incident.

an unidentified source??

US Army could not be reached?

Michael, any comments?

Posted by: Tom in Texas Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 8:34 PM

I don't know what to say, Tom. Maybe a base was hit with rockets, and maybe it wasn't. Let's see if anyone else reports it. I haven't seen or heard of anything anywhere else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 9:20 PM

I just fired off some emails to Fallujah. Will update if I come up with anything interesting.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 9:22 PM

MJT: I have read Qutb and al-Banna, and I've watched Ben Laden tapes many times. If it were really just democracy and women's rights that made these people so angry, there'd also be bombs in Scandinavia and Germany. But there aren't. Not to mention, Ben Laden, contrary to what Giuliani says, explicitly says that it's American policy not freedom that makes him attack the US.

Also, do you agree with Giuliani's other views on the Middle East? His advisors are people like Norman Podhoretz (who believes the US should attack Iran), Daniel Pipes (who believes in "razing [Palestinian] villages from which attacks are launched") and Martin Kramer. Giuliani thinks that there is no difference between Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaida and might as well be a Likudnik, his support for right-wing Israel is so strong.

Giuliani has said that too much emphasis has been placed on negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and that it's not in the interest of the US to create a Palestinian state.

Are these the kinds of views that you agree with after your time in the region?

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 10:01 PM

Oh come on, Barrabas, there are Al Qaeda attacks all over the world. And you know very well, if you read Qutb and aren't lying to all of us about it, that the US is singled out because it's the most powerful of the secular democracies. Qutb obviously wasn't pissed off about the Iraq war.

Do I agree with all of Giuliani's views of the Middle East? No. I don't agree with all of anyone else's views either.

"might as well be a Likudnik, his support for right-wing Israel is so strong."

Blah blah blah blah blah. You're going to get exactly zero traction with me if you keep talking like that. Obama supports Israel, too. So do most Americans. Get over it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 10:17 PM

Barrabas,

Take a look at this piece by David Hazony, at Norman Podhoretz's magazine where I also contribute, to see why I'm rolling my eyes at you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:05 PM

Right, and where were those other al-Qaida attacks? Madrid and London, both capitals of countries in the American-led coalition in Iraq. There were also those in Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Does al-Qaida covet the Algerians' freedom? I don't think so.

As for Qutb, he's dead and has no say on what gets attacked. Milestones came out in 1964, two years before he was executed; things have changed since then. (And incidentally, I'm sure if Qutb were alive, the war in Iraq would be high on his list of reasons for opposing the US.) But if you think that a defunct Egyptian educator is the be all and end all of militant Islamist thinking, then you should broaden your horizons and read up a little. I suggest Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel, for a start. Another place to start would be Robert Pape, who shows that most suicide attacks throughout the world are motivated by a military occupation by a force of a different religion.

As for support of Israel, all support is not equal. As a matter of fact, Haaretz has gone so far as to put a numerical rating to that support, a rating that puts Giuliani as the most supportive of Israel and Obama as the least, as far as presidential candidates go. (Hillary Clinton was right after Giuliani). http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/rosnerPage.jhtml

Finally, I didn't ask if you agreed with all of Giuliani's views, I asked if you agreed with the ones that I listed:

1. the US should attack Iran (although, he seems to have softened his stance a little lately)
2. Palestinian villages where attacks on Israel have been waged should be razed
3. there is no difference between Hamas, al-Qaida and Hezbollah, and each is a vital part of America 's(and Israel's) war on terrorism
4. the US should not emphasize negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, and especially should not help create a Palestinian state.

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:07 PM

Here's a question for you, Barrabas:

If Al Qaeda is only motivated by American foreign policy, why do they kill Iraqis for smoking cigarettes?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:07 PM

Barrabas,

Since I asked you a question, I'll answer yours (assuming you're accurately relating Rudy Giuliani's positions):

Do I agree with the following?

1. the US should attack Iran (although, he seems to have softened his stance a little lately)
2. Palestinian villages where attacks on Israel have been waged should be razed
3. there is no difference between Hamas, al-Qaida and Hezbollah, and each is a vital part of America 's(and Israel's) war on terrorism
4. the US should not emphasize negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, and especially should not help create a Palestinian state.

1. No.
2. No.
3. No.
4. No.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:10 PM

Got the following email from the Public Affairs Office at Camp Fallujah:

No attacks of indirect fire have occurred or popped up on our radars. Additionally, about three to four kilometers east of the city (depending on what you call the city limits) is Camp Baharia. It is quite possible that the source quoted in this article heard the sounds of our EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team detonating some small caches that were recently found in the area.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:14 PM

Well I've got news for you: it isn't because of your freedoms.

The reason why al-Qaida kills Iraqis is because they think that the Ummah has lost the true way. They believe that this fact has caused a political deterioration that has allowed Western nations to come and occupy their countries and defeat them on technological and economic matters.

The fight that al-Qaida wages against Muslims is not exactlty the same as the one they wage against the "West." If the the US were to stop supporting regimes like those in Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (not to mention supporting Israel) and generally leave the region to its own devices, al-Qaida would no longer have qualms with the US and would focus its energy on the "near enemy," regimes that it sees as insufficiently Muslim.

This is not to say that they would love America or agree with the American way of life, but they would, "let sleeping dogs lie." The decision to attack the US was a shift in Islamist strategy, one that seems to have worked out fairly well for them, judging by US actions after 9/11.

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:18 PM

I'm confused. If you don't believe in any of those positions, then why would you support Giuliani?

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:21 PM

Frydek,

This statement is substantially flawed on a number of levels, I'll try to address a few.

Anybody with a half a brain knows that Bush's incompetance is why the USa needs hundreds of thousands troops seven years after, “Mission Accomplished”.

1. Time. Insurgencies take time. Democracy is not available in a convenient microwavable package, it has to be built and that takes time. There are enemies present, and not all of them are incompetent, and they are certainly not bounded by the moral considerations we operate with. Finally, the "Mission Accomplished" gaff occurred in May, 2003, less than five years ago; not seven.

2. Military. The US military provided by congress is heavy on bases (that employ constituents), conventional forces (that employ many senior staff officers), and expensive equipment (that put money into corporate donor's hands). None of these strengths are of critical value in fighting an insurgency. It took a lot of effort to educate our military on the requirements of successfully fighting an insurgency. By comparison, the effort to educate congress has delivered much more mixed results. These are substantial obstacles that exist regardless of who is president.

3. Numbers. We do not have hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq. We have more than one, but less than two hundred thousand troops.

4. Intelligence. There are things that people with "half a brain" know that are not true. I've pointed to several of them above. I've heard quite intelligent people make abysmally ignorant statements about the war because they did not take the time and effort to understand it.

I'm sorry to take you to task so strongly on this statement, but you allowed anger to taint your reasoning in a way that diminished your purpose. Anger is not enough. This is too important to let anger direct the course.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at January 6, 2008 11:55 PM

Barrabas: I'm confused.

Yes, you are.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 12:01 AM

Let me tell you why you're confused, Barrabas.

You think we should ditch the Saudi regime. So do I. And you know what else? The only candidate running for president who has publicly disowned the Saudis as an ally is Rudy Giuliani.

You think the U.S. should ditch Musharraf in Pakistan. The only right-wing magazine I have seen that takes that position is the one run by your nemesis, Norman Podhoretz, who is an advisor to Rudy Giuliani.

I am not even going to try to convince you to support him. I will not use my Web site to campaign for anybody. But Giuliani obviously is not who you think he is.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 12:10 AM

Giuliani also wants a "surge" in Afghanistan. This should be a freakin' no-brainer since that strategy is working in Iraq while Afghanistan is falling apart. But most Americans think Afghanistan is going well and Iraq is going badly. They have it backwards. Giuliani doesn't.

Believe it or not, Barrabas, I have my reasons for supporting Giuliani that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with something Daniel Pipes may or may not have said at some point in the past. Daniel Pipes is not on the ballot.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 12:20 AM

Wow, zing!

But really, why do you support Giuliani if you disagree with much of his stronger foreign policy ideas about the Middle East? Do you weigh domestic concerns over foreign policy ones? And why go from Giuliani to Obama? Isn't Huckabee closer to Giuliani on most issues than Obama is?

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 1:05 AM

Barabbas: But really, why do you support Giuliani if you disagree with much of his stronger foreign policy ideas about the Middle East?

Which would those be? The ideas of other people, not Giuliani himself? I don't think a single cherry-picked quote from Daniel Pipes (whom I never read) counts as one of Rudy Giuliani's "stronger foreign policy ideas." Nor am I aware that Giuliani wants a war with Iran because of something Norman Podhoretz wrote a while ago.

Do you weigh domestic concerns over foreign policy ones?

No, but I am somewhat left-of-center on domestic questions.

And why go from Giuliani to Obama?

Because I am overall a political centrist, and Huckabee combines the worst of the left with the worst of the right. It is not possible for me to vote for him under any circumstances. He is a right-wing authoritarian with the foreign policy instincts of Jimmy Carter. His political orientation is the precise opposite of mine. (I am a weird combination of liberal, libertarian, and neocon.) At least Obama gets it right some of the time. And he's a lot smarter. He'll grow in office better than Huckabee would.

Isn't Huckabee closer to Giuliani on most issues than Obama is?

I don't know, but I don't agree with everything Giuliani says anyway, so that is not relevant.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 1:25 AM

P.S. FYI: There seems to be some sort of bug with the comments when I preview a post. Sometimes it bumps me back to a different kind of posting system and sometimes it logs me out of typekey.

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 1:48 AM

Frydek,

Too much Heroin. I did see Lou Reed/Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead live on the same bill at Winterland if it is any consolation.

Fred Thompson for me.

If you want to know more about Obama look for his connections with Trinity Baptist Church. A very racist bunch. Or read Obama's first book which is pretty racist.

He may look like America to you. Racism (black or white) is not my America.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 3:25 AM

Michael asks:

Here's a question for you, Barrabas:

If Al Qaeda is only motivated by American foreign policy, why do they kill Iraqis for smoking cigarettes?

Were they American cigarettes?

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 3:34 AM

barabbas,

Would you care to explain why the jihadis started fighting America around 1785? And why Jefferson and Madison fought the jihadis without a declaration of war in 1801 (Jefferson) and 1815 (Madison)?

No doubt it was our support of the Egyptians, Saudis, and the Israelis. Plus those Presidents total disregard of the Constitution.

I'd greatly appreciate if you could sort all that out for me. Especially all those evil conniving Israelis and how they managed to incite the jihadis in 1785. They got technology we haven't heard of yet? Flux capacitors?

I often ask the above question (1785) to people with your position. So far no satisfactory answers. You could be the first.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 3:56 AM

I think the creation of a Palestinian State is a very good idea. If attacks on Israel come from that State then Israel should do a regime change on it. Rinse repeat. Until clues set in.

Such a situation would be indistinguishable from the current situation. IMO. Except that the state of war would be official. Which might be a good thing. Combatants out of uniform could be summarily killed.

You know it is looking more and more like the Palis have a de facto state.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 4:04 AM

Trinity United Church of Christ is Obama's Church.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 4:08 AM

Much improved comments interface and functionality MJT. Thanks for the upgrade.

Ron

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 4:38 AM

Perhaps you haven't gotten a satisfactory answer because it's a stupid question. There were no "jihadis" at war with America in the 18th century. There were Barbary pirates, and those pirates acted like pirates the world over. Their religious justifications were perfectly in sync with European religious motivations of the time. To call them "jihadis" is to argue for an anachronism, like similar (but converse) rhetoric calling Western troops in the Middle East "crusaders." It's unhelpful and historically inaccurate.

If you'd like to talk about another case of jihad, one that prefaced the contemporary incarnation of jihad, then you'd do well to read up on the Mahdi state in 19th century Sudan.

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 4:40 AM

Michael,

May I ask you a favor?

Please, could you add third option: "Skip the vote"? Because this is exactly what I intend to do when if it will come down to Iowa-like choice.

Thank you

PS. I want Giuliany.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 5:52 AM

Giuliani? Giulani? Michael, I thought you were a somewhat thoughtful person, not the stereotypical arab hating neocon that liberals want to paint you as. Giuliani is the candidate of foaming at the mouth maniacs, not people who have America's interests at heart. Anyone who's lived in NYC can tell you that Giuliani is an egomaniac who is fine on a small stage but will only make things much much worse if he tries to muck around if foreign policy. If you really believe in America's mission in Iraq and think it should continue, then Romney should be your candidate - at least we would have competent leadership with a focus on real strategic gains for the US rather than blind blood vengeance. McCain is a decent choice as well, but Rudy would be a complete disaster, worse by far than simply pulling out. I have to say that your endorsement of Giulani is one of the most disappointing things I've ever read on this blog, I can only hope you haven't done any real research.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 8:49 AM

Vanya: the stereotypical arab hating neocon that liberals want to paint you as.

Maybe Giuliani isn't the Arab-hating neocon that liberals paint him as.

It should be obvious by now that I don't hate Arabs.

M. Simon: [Obama] may look like America to you. Racism (black or white) is not my America.

I've heard the racist slander against Giuliani before, but this is the first time I've heard Obama called a racist.

Look, all. I'm glad it's unacceptable in this country to be a racist. But can we please dispense with "racist" as the standard insult against our political opponents? Sheesh.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 10:43 AM

M. Simon: I think the creation of a Palestinian State is a very good idea. If attacks on Israel come from that State then Israel should do a regime change on it. Rinse repeat. Until clues set in.

Many Israeli leftists support a Palestinian state for exactly that reason. They would have someone to go to war with if that Palestinian state started something, and they would be morally in the right because the Israeli state wouldn't start it.

That isn't the only reason to support a Palestinian state, but it is sound logic that should appeal to the Israeli right.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 10:47 AM

Ouch. I think that I'd have to go 3rd party if it comes down to those two, because I dislike the foreign policy naivity of Obama, and the populism (especially on economics) of Huckabee. I'm supporting McCain.

Posted by: davidbwade Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 10:48 AM

Well, I have yet to see anyone I am happy about voting for... Rudy isn't a terrible option, nor is Richardson, as far as I can see. I like Ron Paul and Dennis for at least being open and honest about their craziness (whereas the rest of the bastards are just better at hiding the crazy). Hillary is a bad idea, not because of Hillary, but because half the country actively hates her and we've already had close to 16 years of half the country hating the President... its no good.

Huckabee seems almost, but not quite ENTIRELY unprepared to deal with being President, as does Obama. I have yet to hear anything from Mitt that makes me think he actually has original ideas on how to fix the current mess (international and domestic).

One issue I haven't seen tackled by any President is how we fix the US citizens. Everyone has a plan for fixing the economy (though the economy almost always does its own thing). Everyone has a plan for Iraq, for Al'Queda and for which imaginary story we're gonna tell kids in school (the imaginary one with the dude in the sky, or the imaginary one with everything coming from one single chain of proteins). All of them have plans for all sorts of things that seem important in some sense. But I have yet to hear how the next President plans on healing the horrific divide within the nation that has sprung up over the past 15 years. Bin Laden or no Bin Laden, Saddam or no Saddam, WMDs or Global Warming or any other threat is immaterial if our own house remains utterly divided.

We don't all have to sing Kumbaya, but at least if we could stop accusing each other of being traitors every other week....

Posted by: dclydew Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 12:47 PM

That being said, I'd probably vote for McCain if it came down to him and a Dem... maybe Rudy if it was him and a Dem... but probably Obama before Huck, Fred, Mitt and the rest of the gaggle of GOPers.

Posted by: dclydew Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 12:56 PM

Q: But really, why do you support [candidate] if you disagree with much of his stronger [issue] ideas about [something important]?

A: Because Americans don't expect to agree with any candidate on every issue.

To win an election in the US, you don't need to win a majority of the votes, you just need more votes than the next guy. This pretty much inevitably leads to the various political factions merging until there are two dominant parties and a handful of very minor parties. So voters are presented with a choice between backing one of the dominant-party candidates, who will have positions generally compatible with the agendas of the various political factions that compose the party, but are unlikely to match the voter's views exactly, or voting for a minor-party candidate who the voter knows will not win (this is known as a 'protest vote').

We are compelled to approach choosing our elected leaders as a matter of setting priorities and compromising with others to get some of the things we want, because it is not possible to get everything we want.

ps: MJT- your assessment of Huckabee matches my own.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 6:51 PM

barabbas,

May I suggest reading your history before responding. The pirates were state supported. You can look it up.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 8:00 PM

Here is a bit on Obama's Church:

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan received the "Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright,Jr. Lifetime Achievement Trumpeteer" Award at the 2007 Trumpet Gala at the the United Church of Christ.

More at:

Trinity United Church of Christ

====

I would be hard pressed to choose between Obama and the Huckster. Hopefully I won't have to choose.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 7, 2008 11:19 PM

And what history, pray tell, do you suggest Simon? It would be pretty hard to have state-sponsored pirates in North Africa at that time, since the concept of the nation state didn't exist there until around the 20th century.

At the time, the ships were funded by wealthy capitalists who received a return on their investment. They were captained by independent reises, who usually kicked up a percentage of their loot to whomever was in charge in their main port city (usually Algiers or Tripoli or Tunis). These cities were only nominally part of the Ottoman empire after the middle of the 17th century. Most were run by independent warlords.
This is why, in English, the Barbary pirates were called privateers, pirates or corsairs: they were not part of an armada.

Perhaps you should read your history (or your wikipedia, as I imagine the case may be) a little more carefully.

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 12:50 AM

Barabbas, the Barbary pirates were indeed controlled by ruling authorities in North Africa. Your calling them "warlords" instead of governors is just spin. The fact that 20th Century style nation-states didn't exist there then is irrelevant.

The Adams Administration paid 20 percent of the American federal budget in the 1790s to these "warlords" to keep them from attacking our ships and enslaving our sailors. That didn't work, and it led to war.

It hardly matters if they were state-sponsored actors or not. It was a big deal. A big enough deal that the Marine Corps still commemorates the battle in the famous song. "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli..."

Last year I interviewed historian Michael Oren about this. Here is a relevant passage:

MJT: When speaking of the Barbary War you used the word “jihad.” I don’t think you used that word in your book, though, did you?

Oren: No, I didn’t really have to. There was the case in 1785 where Thomas Jefferson is sent to negotiate with the envoy of the Pasha of Tripoli. Jefferson says to him that America only wants peace with the Barbary states. And he says to Jefferson “No, we want war with you. We have a holy book called the Koran which says that we have to conquer and enslave all infidel states. And the United States is an infidel state. And moreover our holy book the Koran tells us that if we are killed in the course of carrying out this war that we’ll go directly to Paradise.” So I didn’t think I even had to put the label jihadist on there. I figured that remarkable report of Jefferson’s at the Continental Congress would suffice to alert contemporary readers what Jefferson was dealing with in the Middle East.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 1:00 AM

Well it's pretty strange that one should draw that conclusion, because it's pretty much the only reference to religious rhetoric on the part of the pirates in the 60+ pages Oren devotes to the Barbary wars in his book. The rest of the three chapters explicitly, and repeatedly emphasizes that the pirates were motivated by financial profit.

As a matter of fact, the very next sentence (p. 28) after the quote you mention reads as follows (emphasis mine):

Adams had heard enough. The North Africans were guided solely by greed...

Later, Oren describes the Dey of Algiers like this (p.36):

Hassan Dey was coarse, rude, and temperamental. "If I were to make peace with everybody, what should I do with my corsairs?" he humored the American. "Surely they would take off my head." Fears of mortality did not, however, deter Hassan from demanding a monumental ransom of two million dollars doe the hostages. He also insisted on receiving two frigates from the United States, each with thirty-six guns.

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 7:11 AM

The Barbary pirates were originally organized by the Ottoman Empire as privateers during the 1500's. This is no different than what the French, English and Spanish were doing at the same time (unless you want to consider them Christian Jihadists... it seems unfair to call the others Muslim Jihadists). To presume that the goal was Jihad seems idiotic, to presume that the Muslim pirates were not religiously motivated seems also idiotic, since they did not prey on Muslim ships, but only those from Christian nations... though this may be more about 'brotherhood' that Jihad.

Before the Barbary pirates, we could look at the example of Hassan I Sabbah (assuming that Marco Polo and others weren't lying). Again, religion was a part of the driving force of the Hashishem, the promise of Virgins etc... but the core motivations of Sabbah's men and of the pirates appears less religious than secular. Power and riches fueled these two far more than religious idealism (which appears more as a convenient hook). They seem extremely similar to the period of The Crusades in the West. The Crusades were, for the most part a political move, a move to gain power, money and secure a trade route... but the hook was religion. Sheep go to the slaughter so much easier if they're assured a spot in the afterlife.

Based on history, I would not be surprised if Bin Laden is not also following the same formula. Many of his followers are very obviously religious nutjobs, dogmatically addicted to death. He, on the other hand (particularly if you study his past history and how he came to power etc) seems much more secular with his focus on religion, maybe being more convenient than credible. I am of the opinion that his attacks on the US have much more to do with a bruised ego (When the Saudis chose US help over Bin Laden's when facing off against Iran), than a holy decree. Jihad is good for press, good for recruitment and good for loyalty from your minions... but I would not be surprised to find the roots of our current problem are more closely aligned to the secular.

Posted by: dclydew Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 7:44 AM

dc,

I called them jihadis because that is what people in Jefferson's day called them. You can look it up.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 10:25 AM

barabbas,

The nation state officially came into being with the Treaty of Westphalia. 1648 I believe.

Doesn't any one study history any more?

You know b, you are so far off I'm almost inclined to believe your ignorance is willful. Do you actually believe that France wasn't a nation in 1750? Or Great Britain? Jeeze.

Posted by: M. Simon Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 10:36 AM

I called them jihadis because that is what some people in Jefferson's day appear to have called them. You can look it up.

I'm sure that's what you meant, unless you have more quotes than a single one from the ambassador. As I stated above, certainly religion was a part of their lives, but if we read the whole history of the Barbary Pirates, we find a story of privateers, not mujaheddin. Privateers that did the same thing other privateers for other empires did (many of whom thought they were Christian and doing God's will for King and Country... many of the were of the opinion that they would go to heaven when they died).

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about our current predicament without the need to raise the ghosts of history and put them in fancy dress to parade in front of everyone.

Posted by: dclydew Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 10:57 AM

Simon: Do you know how to read?

I wrote: It would be pretty hard to have state-sponsored pirates in North Africa at that time, since the concept of the nation state didn't exist there until around the 20th century.

But you're right, I apparently don't know my history, since the Maghreb was obviously a part of the Peace of Westphalia. I suppose I don't know my geography very well either.

As for the idea that "some people in Jefferson's day appear to have called them [Jihadis]": I find it interesting that you keep trying to be snarky about people knowing their history when you insist on trying to use anachronisms to support your argument, if one could even call it that. I sincerely doubt that Jefforson or any of his contemporaries ever called anyone a "jihadi," since the word is a twentieth century neologism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term first appeared in 1920. I didn't realize the founding fathers lived so long!

Thanks for helping me to see the error of my ignorant ways!

Posted by: barabbas Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 12:57 PM

Barabbas,

A very good point.... We have a single piece of evidence (that I'm aware of) where an ambassador used the words Jihad and Mujaheddin in relation to the Barbary pirates.

In most other communications, Jefferson didn't refer to them as anything other than pirates. Nor did anyone else as far as I've been able to tell. Maybe M. Simon is channeling dead spirits that are telling him the real story?

Posted by: dclydew Author Profile Page at January 8, 2008 1:41 PM

MJT;
Ugh, you realize you just joined forces with Kerry? Repent, my son! It's not too late!

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at January 11, 2008 2:11 AM
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