OCCAM’S RAZOR vs. Jehad

Map of the Muslim Population by Percentage in ...

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Today’s Joplin Globe editorial (11/12/10) on “National Security” opines that in combating Islamic jihad, military power in the form of a “war on terror” has “. . . not worked to the degree necessary.”  Instead, the editorialist suggests that, “If a country supports its own jihadists or foreigners on its sovereign soil promoting such ideas, those countries must be held accountable in some way.”  He adds that Islamic countries differ greatly, thus necessitating different treatments economically and diplomatically.

This analysis is correct in my opinion, in that military power is an inefficient way to combat religious fanaticism and nation-building is a bottomless morass, but it does not go far enough.  Since the 9/11 attack the U.S. and its NATO allies have tried both economic and diplomatic methods of dealing with the extremists with no better results than from military force, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Therefore the editorial offers

nothing new except for recognizing that military force is ineffective for nation-building.

The editorial, necessarily limited for space, does not mention the source of power for Islamic jehadism, but if we are to deal with it, this critical factor must be recognized.  It is money.  More specifically, it is oil moneyWikipedia has a list of Muslim-majority countries that also lists the GDP per capita income for each.  It is instructive to note how enormously oil has boosted the income of some above the others.

State of Denial

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In reading Woodward’s books, “Obama’s Wars” and “State of Denial” (⅔ through the latter) I have concluded several things.  One is that recourse to military force is an all too easy option for the executive branch.  Public outrage over 9/11 enabled the Iraq war. (As the Globe editorialist notes, another major strike would engender similar possibilities.)  Woodward, through a preponderance of records and interviews, makes it clear that George W. Bush wanted the war.  He saw it as an opportunity to relieve the public pressure for revenge, and that is not too strong a word.  At the same time he believed he could create a peaceful and stable Iraq that stabilize the Middle East, blunt criticism of his father’s limited Persian Gulf war, and would be a shining presidential legacy.  President Bush steadfastly allowed no facts or events to deter him from his goal and in fact felt he had a mandate from the Almighty to pursue it.

State of Denial” shows strongly that the president’s pursuit of the war was an exercise in wishful thinking and it had a critical flaw.  Plans for the aftermath of the war were based on rosy assumptions that the populace would greet us as saviors from Saddam’s despotism and would be cooperative in forming a democratic government.  Because of this and the lack of proper homework on Iraq’s sociology and religious divisions, there was no viable exit plan.  The religious hatreds ran deep, and still do.  Both Shi’a and Sunni’s still want to dominate the country and the Kurds still want to be independent.  There is absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t have been foreseen if the president had been receptive.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, via Wikipedia

President Obama has shown some political courage in striving to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  He seems to recognize that nation-building is fraught with peril.  Iraq even now trembles on the edge between success and failure, with a very real possibility of its becoming another Shi’a theocracy in the image of Iran.  But with the more bellicose party now in power in the House it appears that he will have diminishing support in ending the Afghan war.  The shrill rhetoric of the opposition, playing to public sensibilities, will be poised to criticize any moves seen to be less than aggressive and positive.

So, are there other viable options?  I say yes, there is an Occam’s Razor solution that will deal with terrorism and pave the way to a peaceful world.  It is not an easy one.  It has already been voiced, too timidly in my opinion, by the bi-partisan Debt Commission:  Raise the gasoline tax and deny income to the enemy. It’s just that simple.  Raise the gasoline tax. The Commission says 15 cents. Not enough. I say, raise it

USA Flag, Miami FL 1992

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incrementally until OPEC can no longer dominate us economically, until oil-rich third-world countries are denied the income that supports weapons and terrorist schools.  Subsidize the needs of the poor to accommodate transportation as needed.  Raise the gasoline tax and we will then have an economic war in which all citizens can participate, in which we can share the pain and the victory together.  This is the challenge.  Are we up to it?

P.S.  Thanks to Duane Graham in the first comment to this post, here is a LINK to a lucid, carefully thought-out plan devised by a bi-partisan commission (NSTIFC) to increase desperately-needed funding for the nation’s transportation infrastructure.  It was devised without thinking of the added benefit of thwarting our terrorist enemies, but it fits the bill.  The plan is there – all we need is the will.

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About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Independent, tending progressive as the GOP recedes from its Eisenhower roots.
This entry was posted in Economics, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy / War, Islam, Politics, Religion, War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to OCCAM’S RAZOR vs. Jehad

  1. Duane Graham says:

    Jim,

    I admit I have had a hard time warming up to your proposal for steep tax increases on gasoline, but I like the way you framed it in this post. I especially like the way you put it in terms of “an economic war in which all citizens can participate.”

    I will have to think about it some more, but if the impact on the poor and working folks (say, some kind of calibrated rebate) can be mitigated, I can be convinced.

    I found out something interesting about the federal gas tax: according to polls, most folks, including Dems and Republicans, think it goes up every year. The truth is that it hasn’t gone up since 1993, remaining at 18.3 cents per gallon. In that time, the revenue generated (about $32 billion)has lost purchasing power by 33%. So, that’s like we have a 12-cent tax today.

    The 1993 tax should have at least been indexed to inflation. It makes no sense to have a tax dedicated to surface transportation needs, when the cost of the needs goes up with inflation but the revenue source does not. But I remember the fight over what turned out to be a fiscally responsible 1993 tax package (part of which was repealed by the Bush tax cuts), and Clinton was called every bad name then in existence for the additional 4.3 cent increase in the fuel tax, so it’s understandable why indexing didn’t happen.

    I also found out that traffic congestion alone—due to inadequate highway systems—coast nearly 3 billion gallons of fuel a year. Additionally, the AP reports,

    Bottlenecks around the nation cost the trucking industry about 243 million lost truck hours and about $7.8 billion per year…

    In any case, let’s say the average American uses about 800 gallons of gas every year. A fifty-cent increase in the tax would cost $400 a year. That would likely bring in about $90 billion a year for highway needs (but which would pay for the wars we have going on for only about 8 months! ).

    However, the report of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Commission last year indicated that for the long term we should fund new infrastructure with mileage-based user fees, rather than the gas tax, which is grossly inadequate to do the job. The report suggests using the fuel tax for other priorities, which is where your “economic war” suggestion makes the most sense to me.

    As you can see, you’ve got me thinking.

    Duane

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Good thoughts, Duane, especially about indexing the fuel tax. The logic is impeccable and if we are ever going to be able to do something like this it should be when the patriotic thirst for revenge is pumping hard. I might mention too a small item I saw in the Globe this morning about Ike Skelton, D-MO. For others, Ike has been a long-time stalwart defender of rights and benefits for service men and women for decades and he is worried that the nation, despite the flag-waving and lip-service given, is beginning to take them for granted. After all the military only constitutes a couple of percent of the population now. Sacrificing through the fuel tax, IMHO, ought to be thoroughly wrapped in the flag when presented to the electorate.

      The NSTIC report you references blew me away. Thank you! I’m going to edit my post to insert it. This report is so clear it had to be written by engineers! Dang it, they have worked the thing out! (It’s not clear to me just how the VMT fees would be collected, though.) Where are the brave politicians who will embrace this, add the terrorism-killing aspect and sell it to the voters? What we need here, IMO, is Obama’s vision, the Gipper’s charm and some of Teddy Roosevelt’s grit wouldn’t hurt either.

      Jim

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  2. ansonburlingame says:

    To both,

    I begin with noting Jim’s premise that terrorism can be erradicated if we cut off the MONEY to terrorists (radical Islamists). A start for sure but MONEY is not the CAUSE of terrorism, it simply facilitates the means of such waging such a “war”. Going deeper into the real cause(s) of radical Islam is too long to debate herein.

    I agree wholeheartedly that ENERGY INDEPENDENCE for the United States, particularly independence from foreign oil, completely, is a good place to focus. Energy independence in both fuel for transportation and power production in the United States has my wholehearted support and I have written on several occasions on that topic, particularly in support of “green” power production BEGINNING NOW with the resurrection of nuclear power electrical production on a broad scale followed later as new technologies demostrate nation wide capabilities.

    Now honing in on the above discussion concerning gasoline taxes, I observe the following. Look at the outrage now being expressed over the Debt Commission’s recommendation. It is coming from all over the political map. Americans refuse to pay, as individuals, for that which is necessary for national security. How long would we have remained in Iraq and Afghanistan had Bush/Obama implemented an income tax surcharge of say 10-15% each year we were in such wars? Now the Debt Comm. calls for a gasoline tax increase (surcharge) to lead us to DEFICIT REDUCTION (not energy independence, per se).

    Jim, the middle of the roader herein and able to afford to still drive with such increases says raise the tax. Duane has to ponder how to rebate such tax increases back to the “poor”. I as a conservative say raise the tax BUT keep such revenue increases STRICTLY DEVOTED BY LAW to creating energy independence. DO NOT allow such revenues to be used to fund ever more entitlements or war.

    I just completed my car buying exercise and now have a new car as I suspected would be the case. I considered fuel economy for sure in my decision but guess what. I purchased a relatively low milage car, some 17-23 mpg rating. Why? Hybrides cost some $6000 to $8000 more for equivalent vehicles. Even with a tax increase I would never pay for that hybride “surcharge” over the life of the vehicle considering my driving habits.

    Clean energy costs money just like health care, wars and other entitlements. Voters “want” all of them but are unwilling to pay, individually for them.

    Now how do politicians untie that gordian knot??

    Anson

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  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    Anson,

    A minor correction: I did not claim that energy independence would “eradicate terrorism”, but rather “deal with terrorism and pave the way to a peaceful world.” Obviously no one would think that this or any other solution will be perfect until all of mankind becomes one big tribe. And even then . . . 🙄

    I am glad you at least acknowledged that money “. . . simply facilitates. . . ” terrorism. That of course is the point.

    You choose not to explore further the “causes” of terrorism, but it seems to me that if you look at the motivations, say for example the plight of the Palestinians, the underlying issue is money, a synonym for power and control and an antonym for poverty. While your average underwear bomber might be motivated by resentment, envy, and visions of 72 virgins, the guys who financed and trained him are IMO motivated by visions of power which is addictive. The planners are enabled by oil money. Cut their income and they are enervated.

    Your mention of hybrid technology is apt. If we were to raise the gasoline tax sufficiently the cost of driving a conventionally-powered car would be increased to the point where the hybrid would be competitive. Q.E.D. That’s the beauty of the solution – no C.A.F.E. standards, no inspectors, no paperwork and regulations, just the tax structure.

    The lack of political will is, as you say, the big problem. What to do? OK, let’s say I’m Tom Clancy and I’m writing the scenario. Tom posits a wily, intelligent president who never lets his advisors know what he’s really thinking or planning. President Smith knows it’s just a matter of time until one of the terrorists get it right and we have another 9/11. Together with his secret kitchen Cabinet of 3 advisors he plans his speech and prepares an outline of the gasoline-tax regulations ahead of time. When IT happens, in the climate of outrage and thirst for revenge following the hit he proposed to the nation, not the invasion of Turkmenistan or Yemen, but a full-blown vision of ENERGY INDEPENDENCE!

    Or whatever.

    Jim

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  4. Jim Wheeler says:

    P.S. And, it wouldn’t hurt if when President Smith announced his new Energy plan he was standing on a pile of smoking wreckage, baby in arms and flanked by a fireman, a cop and a soldier.

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  5. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    Frankly, I am sitting here with my mouth hanging open trying to form a reply.

    Imagine, just imagine, had Bush stood at ground zero a week after 9/11 surrounded as suggested above and with a baby in his arms, maybe a dead baby a la the fireman carrying the child after the OKC bombing. He and the country are grief stricken and thirsting for revenge. His solution, announced in such a setting is to raise the gasoline tax by 20 cents a gallon!!

    Raising a gasoline tax is a relatively minor event considering the whole scheme of things political. But you suggest that to be able to do it, a national calamity on the portions of 9/11 would be required to motivate the public to such a “leap” of effort. Well sir, what would it take to motivate a new war, nuclear weapons exploding over NYC??? (or would that be enough?)

    Tinkering with taxes, 15 cents for gasoline, even the relatively small increases in repealing the Bush tax cuts are MINOR TWEAKS compared to what really needs to be done to get this country on sound national security and financial footings. You know that for sure. Just try to figure out how to zero the $1.5 Trillion deficit today. Such cuts and/or tax increases are almost unimaginable to achieve just that first step in returning to a “live within our means” ultimate goal.

    My point is that NO POLITICAL PARTY, NO POTENTIAL NATIONAL LEADER, no one in the public or Clancy’s fictional President Smith has a clue how to do it, return to living within our national means, and have any chance at all of remaining in elected office. Go back to last summer wherein I wrote the blogs related to taking back our country, financially, and just look at the extraordinary things necessary to do so in say a five year period. Simply impossible to do so, politically, today.

    My guess is the Debt Commission is going to lay out a plan to do exactly that, MAYBE. And they will be run out of town, tarred and feathered and on a rail when they do so.

    The pertinent word for such an effort, a massive and unprecendented effort in our national history, is SACRIFICE by all Americans. We must as a nation expect less from government and pay more for that which is left standing. AND NO ONE WANTS TO DO THAT. They want to KEEP what they now have (SS, Medicare, TriCare for life, food stamps, public housing, etc), get SOMEONE ELSE (the rich for now) to pay for it and God forbid, keep on piling MORE on the entitlement pile like Obamacare.

    And at the same time cut and run from future (or current) foreign entanglements like the war in Afghanistan with our heads deeply embedded in the sand like an ostrich thinking that those that hate us and are willing to sacrifice a lot to kill us will just go away.

    All of that sentiment to demand all sorts of thing from government while calling for others to pay for anything keeps us headed with great resolution towards the “cliff” of financial and/or security DOOM. A gasoline tax increase would no more stop that headlong rush towards the cliff than a tumbleweed in front of a herd of longhorn cattle stampeding in the same direction.

    Using the herd example, please identify the “lead bull” (there is not one in my view) or the “cowboy” (leader) that can turn the herd to avoid the looming disaster. We are a nation (herd) of 300 Million souls rushing headlong into great danger, in my view, greater danger than ever before experienced in our 230 + year history. And all the herd has done in now three national elections (06, 08 and now 2010) is continue to gather momentum with little or no change in direction.

    Now wouldn’t it be nice if instead of a cliff the herd was only headed for a gentle downhill slope that lead to an ocean of potential disaster. In such a case only the leaders of the herd (liberals or Tea Party members or maybe both together) ran right into the ocean but the remainder of the herd saw the danger and came to a stop before becoming lost at sea.

    Oceans and cliffs do not move. They are there for the unwary to avoid. Normal herds do so as they wander through life. But let that herd get up a head of steam in panic and just watch what happens.

    So envision another 9/11 or something even worse, or a few banks collapsing with ATMs around the country shutting down, and see what the herd might do.

    Anson

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  6. ansonburlingame says:

    PS:

    I said above, “So envision another 9/11 or something even worse, or a few banks collapsing with ATMs around the country shutting down, and see what the herd might do.”

    Then just call me a crazy old man and that such will NEVER happen again, at least to us. I will then ask you to tell me WHY such is beyond the realm of deep concern.

    Anson

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  7. Jim Wheeler says:

    Ya got me confused here, Anson. First you express amazement that I think it would take a 9/11-sized calamity to motivate an increase in the gasoline tax and then you later point out how impossible it is to get the electorate to “sacrifice” in that or any other way.

    In case you didn’t get it, my suggestion in the Tom Clancy scenario was partly tongue-in-cheek. I was trying to lasso my tiny readership’s attention regarding the public’s intransigence on new taxes. It seems I was successful for one at least. But I do think, and apparently you agree, that no one has a clue on how to motivate them. And yes, I know that a gasoline tax is not a solution to the economic Cliff, which is a separate but related matter. But it would be a start on recognizing the country’s collective responsibility for our big problems.

    BTW, did you read the executive summary of the NSTIFC plan for fixing the transportation infrastructure that Duane found? Man, there it is, all laid out, how to do it and how to pay for it! And it’s going nowhere because, as we both recognize, no one wants to pay for it. I think this all reinforces a basic lesson of history, that economics and war are siamese twins, financially joined at the hip.

    Tribes of national size are only truly united in common cause, IMO, when they perceive a common threat. I find it ironic that nuclear weapons appear to have eliminated the kind of war that united citizens (enabling the draft and restoring the economy), as in WWII. The replacement relief valve for international tensions is the evolution of “limited war” and/or terrorism, now fought by a culturally-isolated professional military. That leaves the body politic disengaged. We have become a nation of self-interested navel-gazers. I think NATO countries are even worse.

    I am unsure how to summarize your comment, other than “ain’t it awful?” If that is it, I sure agree. But, I have to say I think it is worthwhile to continue public discussion of these issues in the HOPE that when, not if, WHEN another 9/11 occurs, we do something a little more intelligent than just want to KILL whatever scapegoat is handy. The towering lesson of Woodward’s “State of Denial” is that the national outrage following 9/11 was strong>squandered on the wrong target. (I’m 95% through it.)

    Jim

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  8. Jim Wheeler says:

    ed. corr. — “. . . national outrage was squandered on the wrong target.”

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  9. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    Go back to root causes for the situations in State of Denial AND Obama’s Wars. The gordian knots in both cases were a direct result of 9/11 were they not? We were attacked on the scale of Pearl Harbor and reacted with the War on Terror. And Congress and 80% of the public agreed at the time (fall of 2001 and spring of 2003) with such actions.

    Now having gotten our butts kicked in the War on Terror we are seeking scapegoats (Bush) and retreat from that War.

    I don’t recall if Bush’s comment was in State of Denial but I well remember it. He said that the War on Terror would be a GENERATIONAL war. Remember that? He implied a LONG and hard war against ideas anathema to America and proceeded to launch such a war. And throughout his presidency he stuck to it with tenacity, right or wrong. We have yet to see how Obama will ultimately handle the future though I would suggest that his slow withdrawal from Iraq (post surge) and escalation in Afghanistan are very similar to what Bush would have done in 2009 had we not had the election.

    In my view both Woodward books are NOT about the wisdom or lack thereof of engaging in the War on Terror. They are both simply historical accounts of HOW two administrations dealt with the facts on the ground once we were engaged. Two administrations struggled with how to fight the wars and try to win them.

    You seem to have read both books with the preconceived notion that going to war was wrong in the first place. I argue that was not the point of either book. Both were lessons of leadership or lack thereof on how we today try to fight today’s wars, politically and militarily.

    Now just imagine our current situation today had Gore won in 2000 and remained in place for two terms. We would have in all liklihood bombed the hell out of Afghanistan but put no troops on the ground (other than CIA covert troops). For sure no Iraq war would have happened. The housing bubble would not have been averted in all liklihood. Debt and deficit would not have expanded to the extent caused by two wars but who knows how they would have continued to grow due to increased entitlements.

    And given 10 years of Democrat rule in our federal government, do you think the cliff would be any further away or less disasterous than today? Personally I doubt it.

    Now go back further in “Woodward history” and read “The Commanders”. It is a recount of how decisions were made leading up to the First Gulf War. Bush I, Cheney and Powell were the principal characters with many others included as well. Transpose that decision making process forward to 2001 and then dream a little. It will make you cry for some older, wiser heads in making national security decisions for those days long ago now and forgotten by most Americans.

    When the First Gulf War is held in focus with Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan one must ask why the huge difference in duration and outcome. And you of course know my conclusions. LEADERSHIP, good, strong and essentially apolitical leadership in one out of four “modern” wars.

    Limited wars MUST have limited objectives. Only total war truly unleashes total commitment and effort. 3 out of 4 times since WWI (actually 4 out of 5 if Korea is included) our national leaders have missed that point. We the people expect WWII outcomes without the total commitment of all our national resources. And when our limited efforts are applied unsuccessfully we have Presidents go down in ignominity (Johnson, Nixon, Carter because of the Iran hostage crisis, Bush II and now probably Obama).

    We the people think that wars today might be won with an all volunteer force using technology unique to our side. Have we now learned or are at least learning that WAR is only won through tenacity, perseverance, blood and guts on the ground (as well as at sea) and a host of other historical benchmarks of winning wars.

    And when that simple historical fact becomes embedded in our decision making in a democracy that leads us to war, many will argue that we will never again so engage. War is HELL and democracies do not like to live in Hell at least voluntarily.

    Now take all those dire thoughts and apply them to our economic situation today. Returning to a nation that lives within its means will be a “war” unlike any that we have ever fought before, even the Great Depression, in my view.

    Combine the two, the war on terror which will NOT go away (like it or not) AND our current economic situation, and just imagine the pickle confronting us today as a nation.

    Given such dire thinking, our trilateral blogs seem to me to be merely pissing into the wind just as our national political debate is doing today.

    Now go read Truman’s quote in today’s Globe. I wonder if I am “speaking the truth”?

    Anson

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Anson,

      You said, “You seem to have read both books with the preconceived notion that going to war was wrong in the first place. I argue that was not the point of either book. Both were lessons of leadership or lack thereof on how we today try to fight today’s wars, politically and militarily.”

      I did indeed have a preconceived notion that the Iraq war (not the Persian Gulf war) was wrong. I have posted about it. However, I take much pride in an ability to weigh evidence objectively, which I consciously work at and which I did in this case. The book not only confirmed my notion but thoroughly reinforced it. I also believe that Woodward has high journalistic standards and tries hard to be objective. The point of the book IMO was to simply document the history of the Bush 43 administration in the context of 9/11 and the Iraq war, and to do so in the words of the decision-makers and leaders themselves. Writing it was no small project. It took years of concentrated effort, thorough documentation, careful editing and repeated interviews to confirm and contrast others.

      Your emphasis on the “leadership” aspect of the books is telling. What came through to me very, very clearly in “State of Denial” was W. Bush’s dogged determination to be chief cheerleader in the “fight against terror” long after it became obvious that the motives for the war and the planning for its aftermath were terribly mismanaged. The book confirmed for me that Bush caved to the popular demand for revenge following 9/11 and seized on Iraq as a target of opportunity. The war was a very good fit for him because his advisors were telling him it was a chance to establish a stable democracy in the Middle East, rid the world of a cruel dictator, and to strike back at a regime that had in fact supported Hammas with some financial support. That the Iraq war also presented him an opportunity to silence some of his father’s critics can not be denied. How strong a factor that was is unknown but to W.

      But it was all built on sand. Bush had surrounded himself with friends, buddies, yes-men. He let it be known in so many ways what he wanted to hear and what he didn’t. There were no WMD. The CIA had compiled a list of over 900 potential sites for WMD, mainly from second-hand and all from unverified reports. After the war teams searched every single one. Not one was valid. It was 100% confirmation bias!

      Leadership. People recognize it, they know it when they see it. Bush was steadfast, resolute, even when the post-war efforts were going awful, while we were pouring billions of dollars into Iraq and the insurgent attacks mounted into the thousands per month, while the Iraqi Army and the Baathist party management were banished with no one to replace them, while literal chaos reigned, he was steadfast. OK, he gets an A for that kind of leadership. But he lacked the courage, flexibility, humility, whatever you want to call it, to recognize that it was all a mistake. Bush was in the bubble. He had surrounded himself with yes-men, the most significant of whom was Donald Rumsfeld. The Secretary of Defense bureaucratically short-stopped numerous reports from reaching the president and out-maneuvered the State Department repeatedly. He was the archetypal bureaucrat, he knew the ropes, and Bush gave him a very long leash. I am reminded of a cartoon I saw in the New Yorker that I clipped years ago: Two business men are talking. One says to the other, “Yes, he hit the ground running, but he was going the wrong way.”

      9/11 was an outrage committed on our nation. Seen from a patriot’s point of view it DEMANDED a reaction. It DEMANDED revenge. The Iraq war supplied that demand. Even today George W. Bush is considered a hero by many, especially in the Republican party, for being a stalwart fighter against “terror”. Never mind that Saddam had zero connection with the 9/11 planners or attackers. Never mind that there were zero WMD. Never mind that now, after 9 years of pouring billions of dollars and thousands of lives into the effort Iraq still has no stable government, that corruption is rampant, that there is still no reliable 24-hour electricity, that the three religious factions still hate each other, that the whole enterprise is teetering on failure. All of this could have been foreseen if a skeptical approach had been taken.

      It would have taken monumental political courage at any point for the president to admit that it was a big mistake because we failed to answer the 8 Powell Doctrine questions in the affirmative, because in his haste to strike back he struck the wrong target. Once the dogs of war are unleashed there is no going back. To do otherwise could easily be seen as an abrogation of leadership duty. But here’s the rub: It WAS a mistake and history knows it. The book proves it. I think that Bush actually doesn’t believe it, hence the title of the book. I guess that proves he really is a man of faith.

      In this context I want you to know that it pains me to know the reality of what has happened here. It is very important to distinguish between our patriotic duty to support our armed forces and our patriotic duty to hold our political and military decision-makers accountable.

      As in Vietnam, history takes years to settle in, but it inevitably does. The seminal book on it has already been written.

      The Vietnam war was a mistake too. It took me personally a long time to come to terms with that. Just like that one, the Iraq war, once started, gathered its own unstoppable momentum. Anyone who opposed it was considered unpatriotic, unsupportive of the troops. I felt that way myself at the time, and very strongly too. There is logic to that. Once committed, the troops NEED to trust that they have been sent in harm’s way because there is no alternative, because all other options have been explored and exhausted, because our leaders are trustworthy. Well, in my opinion there has only been one war since WWII in which all that has been close to true, and that is the Persian Gulf war.

      You quote Harry Truman, Anson. I too have great respect for him and I very much like his quote today. Perhaps even Harry would not have admitted such a mistake after committing to the war. But I prefer to think he might not have fallen into the trap in the first place.

      In closing this comment I must ask you: Have you read “State of Denial”? All of it? I simply can not imagine anyone reading it, anyone who was not personally involved, and coming away with any other conclusion than that the Iraq war was a huge mistake to start and a colossal failure in its aftermath.
      Jim

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      • Jim Wheeler says:

        It appears that WordPress does not do lengthy comments smoothly – there were annoying repetitions that, I promise, I did not do intentionally. If these appear, please refresh the page. I have tried to fix it.

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  10. Duane Graham says:

    Both,

    By now you both know how I feel about the debt issue, but I will remind you that allowing all of the Bush tax cuts to expire would bring in about $4 trillion to the Treasury over ten years (I would wait two years to end most of them, as you know). That’s no small amount. And I will remind you that when those rates were in effect, we had budget surpluses.

    Obviously, future medical costs, due to demographic shifts, need to be addressed, but surely we could all three agree that returning to Clinton-era tax rates is more than a good start toward fiscal responsibility.

    Duane

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      I do agree, strongly, that federal fiscal policy should be “pay as you go”, which is the same as my policy for my personal finances. Except: long-term stuff, like a mortgage or, at one time, a car (neither of which I now have, fortunately.) Also Except: desperate times call for desperate measures and the greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression deserves special attention. Hence, this is no time to depress the economy. So the question is, will letting the tax cuts expire for the “wealthy” in fact do that? My opinion is that it would have little effect because people making over $250K per couple are unlikely to alter their lifestyles much if they do expire, but that’s purely subjective. I kind of doubt that anybody knows for sure. I did read somewhere that only a tiny percentage of those in the higher brackets have unincorporated businesses that would defer hiring or expansion as a result of not getting a tax-cut extension. And if there’s going to be ANY hope for getting a meaningful budget, ANY hope for correcting the GOP financial ethos that George W. Bush now admits was lost, ANY hope for fulfilling the Pledge by achieving a meaningful budget, then I say continue the tax cuts for the middle class only. If not, and I have searched for it in vain, I would like to hear some justification other than just desire. We live in a time of the greatest income disparity between rich and poor since the time of the robber barons, so just wanting it doesn’t cut much mustard with me.

      Jim

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  11. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    Com’on. Of course I read State of Denial. I recommended it to you as well.

    To me the book leaves unargued the decision to invade Iraq. It is all about the actions of a President and his administration in making decisions how to fight (or even to continue fighting) that war when it was going “south” in a big hurry.

    Two things are clear. It took Bush and his administration far to long to recognize just how poorly the war effort in Iraq had become. Remember the incessant arguments by Rumsfeld to “put them on the bicycles”. Historically Rumsfeld in Iraq will be like the SecDef in Vietnam is fighting a war with blinders, in my view.

    State of Denial is all about the process leading up to the surge, an apolitical description of astounding proportions. It does not as well critique the success or failure of the surge. It again is simply about the process leading to the decision of when and how to surge, leaving eventual arguments over success and/or failure to history.

    Same with Obama’s War’s. When, how and why did a new President decide to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

    Now compare the outcome of the two different administrations and the processes used to reach and ultimately execute significant military decisions. Forget if possible for a moment the politics of making those decisions. Just look at the military results seen thus far. BIG difference in the two in my view. But that is another argument.

    Hannity devote the entire hour last night to interviewing Bush II about his book. 9/11 and its 8 year aftermath was the focus. Forget the softball questions from Hannity or the very partisan audience of former Bush officials, “salted” with a few heros as well. Just consider the former President’s perspective. No stumbling idiot seen there. He is a man explaining his decisions, recognizes many will disagree yet remains steadfast and resolute in detailing what and why he made those decisions. He did so in a straightforward and undefense manner and seem to say “this is what I did and why I did it. Now take it or leave it.”

    I would have loved to see Racheal Maddox try to put a dent in Bush II before an audience filled with Obama supporters. I doubt that Bush’s words or demeanor would have changed one whit. Right or wrong, he is a man very comfortable with who he is and what he did and is now far removed from all the political clammoring of today.

    And unlike Clinton and Carter, he is staying out of today’s political fray and letting the people decide for themselves. I must admit that his cynicism comes through over both Republican and Democrat politics of today as well. AND unlike the two Dem former President’s he said outright, “We (the Rep party) lost our way” in the middle of the decade. Heard any Dems say that recently?

    Anson

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Anson,

      I’m glad to hear that Bush admitted the GOP had “lost our way”. That issue as you know accounts for my cynicism over the Pledge. But one has to be a little circumspect here, don’t you think? A politician’s opinion after retirement has to be different from one delivered when he is in the mix. Bush is above the fray now. Nothing he says now will involve accountability later.

      As for “State of Denial” leaving “unargued the decision to invade Iraq”, I can’t agree. I looked back through my highlights on the kindle and find a good deal on what to do about 9/11 and the decision to invade Iraq as a consequence. Here are some excerpts:

      .. . he reached Rumsfeld. “It’s a day of national tragedy,” Bush told him, “and we’ll clean up the mess and then the ball will be in your court and (Gen.) Dick Myers’s court.” But Rumsfeld and the Pentagon were empty-handed. His efforts at transformation had not taken hold. General Tommy Franks, commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), with includes the Middle East, had no plan to attack Afghanistan, where Bin Laden and his network had found sanctuary. He told Rumsfeld it might take months before they could put forces on the ground in the country. At an NSC meeting the day after the attacks, Bush asked what the military could do immediately. Rumsfeld replied, “Very little, effectively.” Later that day, at another NSC meeting, Rumsfeld asked Bush, Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? Rumsfeld was among those who thought Bush’s father had failed by not taking out Saddam. One night in 1995, on a trip to Vietnam with his friend Ken Adelman, Rumsfeld kept Adelman u until 3 A.M., giving him an earful on how badly the elder Bush had screwed up. He never should have agreed to a cease-fire that let Saddam survive in power, Rumsfeld said, and he should have destroyed more of the Iraqi military while they still had the cover of war. The president put Rumsfeld off, wanting to focus on Afghanistan, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

      Then, there is coverage of the CIA’s covert paramilitary team, code-named Jawbreaker, in Afghanistan. Then, there is evidence of Rumsfeld’s resentment of having to follow that CIA plan without having a Pentagon input. A short excerpt:

      Rumsfeld had been humiliated by McLaughlin, Armitage, the president, Rice, Hadley and Powell. Never again. The next month, when the president ordered him to look seriously at the Iraq war plan, Rumsfeld made it his personal project. This would be his.

      And this:

      On November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, 71 days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush asked Rumsfeld to start updating the war plan for Iraq. “Let’s get started on this,” Bush recalled saying that day. “And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam hussein if we have to.” He also wondered if this planning could be done so it would be kept secret. Rumsfeld said it could, because he was “refreshing” all the US. war plans.

      The above are just small samples. What I see clearly happening is that the war decision came first and the supporting intelligence came later. The evidence is chronological and overwhelming.

      I realize the Bush is comfortable with his record. He is a man of faith and convictions. His faith is solid and his convictions were wrong. He is an enigma to me. It may be the worst case of confirmation bias ever exposed, IMHO.

      Jim

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  12. ansonburlingame says:

    OK Jim,

    Now go read the draft ideas on taxes in the Debt Commission report. If you believe it, the draft ideas on taxes, you will find yourself in disagreement with the Commission initial thoughts, just like the rest of the country, it seems.

    So I assume in your view BOTH Republicans AND the Co-chairs of the DC have it wrong and Democrats have it right, right? Sure wish I had that kind of “faith” to answer all your “ifs” above.

    Anson

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      No, Anson, I think you are mis-reading me. I think the Debt Commission’s thoughts are not only good but actually too timid. What I am urging in my last comment though is that implementing strong medicine TOO SOON OR TOO DRASTICALLY could cause the G.R. to relapse. That’s all. Somehow we need to get our confidence back. The big banks are sitting on piles of money. Giving the wealthier small-percentage a tax bread now isn’t going to make the banks open up – I think only the middle class can do that now. Read my comment to your latest post for more.

      Jim

      Like

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