Sunday, August 27, 2006

Is it really likely that leaving before the job was done would be a disaster in Iraq and the region?

Many Democrats quivered in their boots when they heard President Bush say at his recent news conference that:

Leaving before the job would be done would send a message that America really is no longer engaged or cares about the form of governments in the Middle East. Leaving before the job is done would send a signal to our troops that the sacrifices they made were not worth it. Leaving before the job was done would be a disaster. And that’s what we’re saying.

Sure, I agreed with the essence of that statement, but on second thought I do believe that it may be fundamentally flawed.

At heart, it is a commitment to the misguided concept of a "Domino Theory" in which one failure inexorably leads to another and another and so on all the way down the line.

But we do have a little experience with the so-called "Domino Theory", with Vietnam.

Sure, dramatic chaos ensued when the U.S. abruptly pulled out of Vietnam. It was arguably a "disaster". And Vietnam invaded Laos and Cambodia. Two more dominos falling to the Communists. But, then, the dominos stopped falling. The theory stopped working in practice. Vietnam pulled back to its own borders. They had stretched too far. They retrenched. Incrementally Vietnam evolved, and today is a far cry from the obvious "disaster" that it was when the U.S. abruptly withdrew in 1975.

Would Iraq follow a similar path as did Vietnam? Hard to say, but we simply cannot deny that it is possible.

I do not advocate a Vietnam-style abrupt departure (nor do many Democrats), but we shouldn't cringe in such horror at Bush's "warning".

Is there going to be some major "point" in time when leaving Iraq works, but leaving a few months earlier "courts disaster"? Actually, I don't think so. I am not so sure that there is even a scale of "disaster" based on when we leave. It may matter more how we leave than when we leave.

The really, really, really important thing to do right now is to loudly and clearly deliver the message to Iraq, its people, and its political and community leaders that our departure clock is ticking and they had better get their act together ASAP.

Ultimately, it may in fact be better to simply have Iraq go "cold turkey" and depend on the needs of the current political and social environment to "forge" a leadership that works for them.

Ultimately, the Iraq war planners, especially Doug Feith, had it precisely right by insisting that it simply wasn't possible to have a detailed, specific plan for post-war Iraq and that facts on the ground would determine the path. I think they expected that path to be a lot less bumpy, but I don't know of anybody who is honestly and sincerely proposing a detailed and specific plan at this time, or at any other time.

There are of course some details that some people do care about. In particular, many of the Neocon elite dearly wish to see out a complete and successful de-Baathification of the political leadership in Iraq. Others argue for an accommodation with the former Baathists that would alleviate the "insurgency", but the Neocons are rather adamant. My view is that we have probably done as much as is humanly possible on that front, so there really wouldn't be a lot of downside to exiting without further effort on our part on that front, and there would be significant benefits to allowing the Iraqis to resolve the lingering issues on their own.

There is also the issue of whether Iraq might do better as three distinct political units, but once again we have already done the heavy lifting and if that isn't enough, maybe nothing would be enough. Besides, I'm not hearing a lot of clamoring for a true political division. Some form of loose federalism is probably good enough, at least for now.

Disaster? No, I think the mess would get somewhat messier, but gradually evolve towards as non-mess a situation as we have any right to hope for.

I would personally prefer a much more gradual, incremental, nuanced withdrawal, but I could live with as abrupt a withdrawal as Pentagon logistics planners can muster.

How about "Home for Christmas" as a campaign theme for dealing with Iraq?

-- Jack Krupansky

"I absolutely refuse to be manipulated by Karl Rove and company"

"I absolutely refuse to be manipulated by Karl Rove and company."

If you catch anybody claiming that they "absolutely refuse to be manipulated by Karl Rove and company", you can instantly presume that the speaker is one of those people who is easily "manipulated by Karl Rove and company." Not to suggest that they believe what "Karl Rove and company" have to say, but that they are obsessed and driven by whatever "Karl Rove and company" have to say and are easily sidetracked off their own path anytime "Karl Rove and company" say anything.

For an example, see:

-- Jack Krupansky

Current Neocon views on the situation with Iran

The so-called Neocons (neoconservatives) are a key faction of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. A number of them are part of "AEI", the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, sometimes referred to as "Neocon Central" or "The Cabal". Without commenting on the merit or lack of merit of any of their work, at least it is useful to hear what they have to say, straight "from the horse's mouth".

They currently have a web page subtitled "Featured Topic: Iran Rebuffs the UN Security Council" which has the following items:

Featured Topic: Iran Rebuffs the UN Security Council

Iran appears emboldened in the Middle East, supporting the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Even as it calls for further negotiations on its nuclear program, Iran has vowed to continue enriching uranium. With Russia and China backing Iran’s call for further negotiations, will the United States be able to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons?

“Iran's Nuclear Impasse: Next Steps,” by Michael A. Ledeen
Congressional testimony, July 20, 2006
Related article
Related book

“Why Did Bush Blink on Iran? (Ask Condi),” by Richard Perle
On the Issues, July 2006
Related book coauthored with David Frum
Related article by Reuel Marc Gercht
Related article by Michael Rubin

“Diplomatic Déjà vu?: Nuclear Deal-Making with Iran”
Panel discussion, June 30, 2006
Speakers included Nicholas Eberstadt, Danielle Pletka, Michael Rubin, and Gary Schmitt

More on the Iranian threat . . .

Take a look at the dozens and dozens of articles list in that last item, "The Iranian Threat" and you can get a sense of how deep and broad the "Stop Iran" lobbying is down there in Washington, D.C.

And now try to imagine that you were in Present Bush's shoes and hearing a constant stream of all of that stuff stuff flowing into your in-box "briefs" and into your ears at every turn.

-- Jack Krupansky

Will the U.S. attack Iran?

Will the so-called "crisis" over Iran's so-called "nuclear ambitions" lead to an attack or invasion or "liberation" of Iran by the U.S.?

My answer: No.

Sure, there may be some scenarios where the U.S. could perform surgical strikes against specific facilities, but I don't see any realistic scenarios for a full scale (or even partial scale) invasion.

I see the administration's policy intent as simply to keep a lot of heat and attention focused on Iran. It does appear that the administration accepts that there is only so much that they can do, but they also remain committed to not simply turning a blind eye to Iran and the security concerns of Israel.

BTW, we're not going to be invading Syria either.

-- Jack Krupansky

When to leave Iraq

Within an article in the NY Times by Jennifer Medina entitled "Lieberman’s Run Shadows House Campaigns in Connecticut" I read the following passage concerning Connecticut Representative Christopher Shay's current position on Iraq:

Like Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Shays has come under fire for his ardent support of the war. But he has also criticized the president’s handling of the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s ouster. Mr. Shays has backed Mr. Lieberman in the general election and refers to him as a friend whose views on the war he shares.

On Thursday, however, speaking to reporters as he was returning from his 14th trip to Iraq, Mr. Shays said he would support considering a timeline for withdrawal of troops and planned to hold hearings in Washington next month to help determine a “realistic” timetable for withdrawal.

“I am concerned that without a deadline, they will not do it soon enough,” Mr. Shays said in an interview on Friday. “We see that this has not been progressing. The Iraqis cannot believe that this is an open checkbook from America, but they can also not believe that we will leave too soon.”

Mr. Shays’s shift in position put Mr. Lieberman in an awkward position. In the past, he has sharply rejected the idea of setting any deadlines for removing troops from Iraq. But on Friday, when asked whether he could support Mr. Shays’s proposal, Mr. Lieberman hedged.

“It seems to me that Chris is saying, ‘Maybe we ought to set some goals for when we want to get out,’ and I’d like to see what he has in mind before I comment on it,” Mr. Lieberman said in New Haven.

He added, “As I’ve said to you over and over again, the sooner we get out of Iraq, the better it’s going to be for the Iraqis and us, but if we leave too soon for reasons of American politics, it’s going to be a disaster for the Iraqis and for us.”

I honestly don't see anything unreasonable there. You could argue that these guys wouldn't be taking such positions if there wasn't such sharp criticism from the anti-war Left or if Iraq was going a little bit better, but nonetheless, this is where we are today, and we should be encouraging such pragmatism. That is not to excuse the horrendous manner in which we stumbled into the "liberation" of Iraq, but we need to focus on how to move forward and how to enable reall progress.

-- Jack Krupansky

Lieberman or Lamont: good luck to both

After discussing the merit of both Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont, I somehow forgot the most important point I wanted to make, which is that I wish both of them good luck.

I sincerely hope -- actually, I expect -- that the voters in Connecticut show great wisdom and pick whichever of the two candidates for the U.S. Senate will best represent the interests of the citizens of Connecticut.

Pundits, commentators, experts, and others "in the know" may think they "know" who will be the "best" winner in any political race, but the most important thing is to let the voters decide. Some people actually aren't that committed to true democracy or the raw power of representation, but I do believe that it is the source of all social wisdom. Maybe not in the short run in an individual election, but over the long run it surely is.

Good luck to both of you.

-- Jack Krupansky

Lieberman or Lamont

Who would make a better U.S. Senator for the state of Connecticut, Joe Lieberman or Ned Lamont?

My answer: Either will do fine.

My politics are hard-core centrist, so Lieberman would be my personal choice (despite his Middle East foreign policy misjudgments), but Lamont is fresh blood and we always need "change for the sake of change". If people are really that upset about "The War" (in Iraq and on terrorism), then by all means they should send a loud and clear message to Washington, and electoral choice is the *best* way to send such a message.

Somehow, I think we will eventually muddle through Iraq, and even Iran and Syria and the "clash of civilizations", but the simple fact is that a lot of people don't have the passion, vision, patience, resolve, and fortitude for such a long, slow slog. We as a nation should be focusing on as wide and deep a vision of the future as we can collectively muster, no more and no less. I can't blame a lot of people for feeling that we've bitten off much more than we can chew, but at the same time I am not so sure that we have bitten off *enough* to make some real and lasting progress towards a better world.

If Lieberman does win, hopefully he will go back to Washington with a chastened and renewed sense of what his constituents in Connecticut really expect from him, whatever that is.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Iran: deja vu: connecting the dots

There was an article in the NY Times by Mark Mazzetti entitled "Some in G.O.P. Say Iran Threat Is Played Down" which basically tells us that the Bush administration is up to the same tricks with Iran that they used to "justify" going after Iraq. The core problem is a methodology which is extremely popular within the Neocon crowd and the Pro-Israel Lobby called "connecting the dots", whereby one identifies some "dots" or vague, fragmentary, dubious pieces of evidence and then presumes that the dots are connected and then treats these presumed pseudo-connections as if they were incontrovertible facts. In short, such a methodology is a really, really, really bad idea, and this same administration has proved it so over the past several years with Iraq.

The lure of such a fallacious methodology is that it preys on emotions and demands that the respondent "prove" that the presumed dot could not possibly exist, which is always a fool's errand no matter what the argument.

The beauty of "connecting the dots" is that it enables one to persuade people of an argument even if the argument has no merit whatsoever and even if there is absolutely no solid evidence of any aspect of the argument.

It was very telling that Colin Powell fell it necessary to explicitly tell the United Nations Security Council that his dossier on Iraq WMD was fact and not "assertions". The truth is that he had to make such a disclaimer because the so-called "facts" really were a bunch of loose, vague, unconnected "dots" that only made a good "story" once an imaginative and inventive mind had creatively "connected" those dots. We know now that the story was false, but yet here and now after all that followed, people within the Bush administration are actively pursuing the same misguided storytelling technique with Iran. I feel sorry for Powell that he was treated so poorly and hoodwinked by those damned dot connectors.

It is high time that some of the sane people of the world stood up and answered a resounding "No" to this insanely misguided approach of "connecting the dots".

-- Jack Krupansky

Is it really inevitable that Iran will "go nuclear"?

An opinion piece by Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist, in the Washington Post entitled "Iran is Going Nuclear, the UN Can't Stop It" does not persuade me at all that it is inevitable that Iran will develop and deploy nuclear weapons. In fact, he hedges slightly by phrasing it as "if (as seems certain) it chooses to develop nuclear weapons".

My personal view has three parts:

  1. Every sovereign country inherently has the right to develop nuclear weapons.
  2. There is a reasonable probability that Iran may eventually develop such weapons.
  3. There is no clear and convincing evidence that proves that Iran either intends to develop such weapons or that such weapon development program is actually in progress or even on the drawing boards.

The un-credible argument of Ms. Rice and the Neocons is that we shouldn't wait for a "mushroom cloud" before acting. AT least that was their argument with Iraq. That may be true, but there is a very, very, very long road from where we are today to any mushroom cloud here in the U.S.

If Iran does pursue a nuclear weapons program, we only have five main reasons to blame:

  1. The U.S. has proved that having nukes means having power, having a deterrent.
  2. Israel already has nukes.
  3. The U.S. has resisted the push to declare the Middle East a "nuclear-free zone".
  4. The U.S. is telling everybody that Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear wapons.
  5. The U.S. is pursuing the kind of bullying foreign policy that only encourages countries like Iran to do precisely whatever we command them not to do.

I'm actually not sure how Mr. Emmott intended for us to read his opinion piece. Maybe it was merely a lame attempt at sarcasm and meant the opposite of what he said. Who knows.

My real position is that we should take reasonable measures to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but that does not mean we should take extreme measures and it certainly does not mean that we should do what we did with Iraq and act without a firm foundation of solid evidence that is truly credible by sane people outside of the cabal that is lobbying to "Stop Iran".

The short answer to the question is: No, it is *not* inevitable that Iran will develop nuclear weapons.

-- Jack Krupansky

Is it really all about oil?

Popular conspiracy theory holds that much of our Middle East foreign policy is dictated by the interests of the big oil companies and their patrons and pawns. I don't quite buy it, at least not all of it.

Sure, big oil companies have a significant interest in oil production in the Middle East, but that grossly oversimpilies the "equation" of politics in the Middle East. Back in the Cold War, the struggle to pevent the spread of Communism was a huge factor. And the interests of the Pro-Israel Lobby have been a major factor, if not the dominant factor, at least in recent years.

Besides, if the oil companies wanted access to oil (which some people claim was a key reason for "liberating" Iraq), they would have been lobbying much more strenuously for a U.S. foreign policy "accommodation" with Iran that would permit U.S. oil companies to develop oil fields in Iran.

I'm no fan of "Big Oil", but their financial interests are served by limiting the amount of oil on the market, which enables them to get a higher price per barrel, rather than in opening up vast new access to additional oil.

In truth, it does all get very complicated very quickly, but I don't think we need to look to Big Oil to expalin our foreign Policy in the Middle East.

-- Jack Krupansky

Iran is not the big "crisis" people say it is

There is way too much misguided chatter these days about the Iran "crisis" and how big a threat Iran and its "nuclear ambitions" are to "America" (or "American Interests").

For the most part, the "crisis" is an invention of the infamous, so-called "Pro-Israel Lobby". AIPAC made a big stink about Iran ("Now is the time to stop Iran") back at its big annual convention in Washingtonl, D.C. in March and really stirred up the pot, but many (most) right-wing Christian politicians, plus a fair number of liberal opportunistic politicians all have jumped on the same "Stop Iran" bandwagon. Nuclear weapons are only the latest or most popular "club" that these guys are trying to use to goad everybody into ganging up on Iran. Sad to say, but the Clintons and Senator Joe Lieberman, and quite a few liberals who should know better are also part of "The Pro-Israel Lobby", far too willing to support positions that are more in sync with Israel's policies (or sources of political campaign contributions) than the interests of the vast majority of citizens living here in the United States. The "liberation" of Iraq is a perfect example of how bad things can get when a lobby pursues "interests" that are *not* aligned with the interests of all Americans.

An editorial in the NY Times entitled "Wanted: Scarier Intelligence" says:

... the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, released a garishly illustrated and luridly written document that is ostensibly dedicated to “helping the American people understand” that Iran’s fundamentalist regime and its nuclear ambitions pose a strategic threat to the United States.

It’s hard to imagine that Mr. Hoekstra believes there is someone left in this country who does not already know that.

I hate to break the news to the NY Times, but their claim is false, unless they are implying that a citizen such as myself is not a "someone." Yes, Iran *is* a concern, but *not* rising to the level of "posing" a "strategic threat". The only strategic threat here is the mind-numbingly misguided policies that the U.S. is promoting in the Middle East (and elsewhere).

This is still a free country, and these prople are entitled to peddle their pet foreign policy objectives, but I do object to all of the intellectual dishonesty. Put simply, Iran, even a nuclear-armed Iran, is *not* a security threat the the Unites States. I'm not even so sure that a nuclear-armed Iran would even be a significant threat to Israel. After all, Israel does have its own nuke arsenal and more than enough weapons to deter Iran.

Yes, Iran raises a number of "concerns", but *none* are at the "crisis" level.

Whether the misguided foreign policies of the Bush administration might have the desire or result of *inciting* a violent or painful confrontation with Iran is of course a separate issue, but Iran itself (with or without nukes) is *not* the *cause* for such a posible crisis.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My politics: Centrist and Independent

It is not my intention to promote any particular partisan political agenda. My own personal politics lean towards being a Centrist and Independent. On specific political issues I may lean towards the left while on other specific issues I may lean towards the right, and my position will evolve and shift to suit real-world needs. I lean more towards expediency and less towards ideology.

-- Jack Krupansky

Welcome to my political desk

This blog will contain my occasional political commentary, primarily on national politics and policy and international politics and policy as well.

Previously, I had published my political commentary on AOL Journals (Poli Ticks) and on my main blogging blog (Jack Krupansky on Blogging). My intent is that this new blog will be my primary channel for my political commentary.

My AOL Journal blog was simply an experiment. It worked, but had no provision for earning revenue from ads.

I may still post some of my political commentary on my blogging blog for added distribution, but this blog will now be my main distribution forum for my political commentary.

-- Jack Krupansky