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July 17, 2007

Late Night Chutzpah Watch

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Pardon the interruption, oh great and wondrous Ezra Klein, but I want to point readers to the C-Span webcast of the Senate. The audio feed is preferable, as the video feed seems to be on the fritz.

Be prepared for statements from GOP backbenchers that are completely divorced from reality.

July 17, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Be prepared for statements from GOP backbenchers that are completely divorced from reality.

And the statements from Democrats about how things will improve in Iraq if we leave?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 2:43:52 PM

No, mostly an honest admission that military might won't solve the problems of Iraq, and that we ought to return to using diplomacy to negotiate away as much violence as we can.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jul 17, 2007 2:55:51 PM

[S]tatements from GOP backbenchers that are completely divorced from reality.

There's something redundant there, but I can't quite figure out what it is. Maybe "GOP" and "divorced from reality"?

Posted by: Steve H. | Jul 17, 2007 3:11:46 PM

No, mostly an honest admission that military might won't solve the problems of Iraq, and that we ought to return to using diplomacy to negotiate away as much violence as we can.

Everyone agrees about that, Nick. That hardly implies we should withdraw. The Democrats haven't been the slightest bit more realistic about Iraq than the Republicans. Republicans ignore reality about what we can do in Iraq; Democrats ignore reality about what will happen if we leave.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 3:22:18 PM

Sooner or later, the U.S. is leaving.

The question at hand is: given that you're in a burning building, and the only tool you have is a flamethrower (U.S. military), how long should you continue to stay and try to put out the fire using your tool?

Posted by: Anon | Jul 17, 2007 3:27:31 PM

Yeah, man, like give peace a chance.

Anon, what do you think would happen if we left within the next 8 months, as many are proposing?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 3:30:31 PM

"Democrats ignore reality about what will happen if we leave."

I think that's part of it; there's disagreement about what the probability is that things will get worse, and just how much worse they will get. Things are already unbelievably bad as it is. The US Army isn't really doing much to directly control violence.

The Democratic plan for leaving says "look, the Army can't control the violence; there aren't enough of them, they don't have enough Arabic speakers; they can't distinguish friend from foe; there's not enough trust with the locals. We don't seem to have a good way of improving on any of these things. Therefore our options are to leave now and minimize the damage, leave later and minimize the damage, or sit around, praying someone comes up with a way for us to break through the current morass. Option B makes no sense, and C makes very little sense. A is unpleasant, to be sure, but appears to be the least bad option."

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jul 17, 2007 3:34:47 PM

Unless we want to stay for ever, the things that will happen if we leave in 8 months will be the same as the things that will happen if we leave in 50 years, and perhaps worse, because the population of Iraq would have increased substatntially by then, leading to the existence of greater number of bodies to be killed.

Even if we stay for ever, there will come a time when we will be forced to leave.

Lord Clive and Warren Hastings cannot be resurrected, and even if they are, they cannot ensure that what happens is the opposite of what is inevitable.

Posted by: gregor | Jul 17, 2007 3:36:35 PM

Sanpete, why don't you enlighten us as to what would happen if we leave.

Posted by: x | Jul 17, 2007 3:49:22 PM

BTW, President Jackass just reminded us all that he opposses the House approved military pay raise of 3.5%, and his holiness is of course also opposed to the measure directing pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide the Department of Defense with same-price discounts for Tricare retail pharmacy network that are provided on medicines dispensed from base pharmacies.
Wonder if this can get some discussion in the Senate tonight.

Posted by: ChowChowChow | Jul 17, 2007 3:53:21 PM

The US Army isn't really doing much to directly control violence.

What's this based on? It's plain that the US presence is having a huge effect on the activities of militias and other large groups. The present violence is almost entirely done on a small scale: a single bomber, a few men kidnapping and killing, etc. Mass actions are ruled out by the security we provide, and the direct threats to militias and their leaders we represent. As long as we're the difference between the horrible mess that's Iraq now and the far more horrific mess it would probably be without any effective security forces, we have an obligation to stay. We should also be training Iraqis to provide security, negotiating, facilitating, building, etc., but there's currently no substitute for our presence there. Your analysis underestimates the current necessity of our presence.

Unless we want to stay for ever, the things that will happen if we leave in 8 months will be the same as the things that will happen if we leave in 50 years

Um, unless something changes. If all else fails, we can keep the main parties from engaging in mass slaughter while a partition occurs. But we can't just say, "well, they'll all kill each other someday anyway." We have a responsibility to do all we can to prevent that.

X, I think you can infer my view from the above. You have a different view?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 4:01:06 PM

"What's this based on?"

I'm having a hard time digging up the article. But there are numerous bits of reporting that show that the militias really control the streets, and we just prance around for show.

"Um, unless something changes."

But what's the something? What's the magic bullet that makes the Iraqis lay down their arms?

"If all else fails, we can keep the main parties from engaging in mass slaughter while a partition occurs."

The partition has already occured in most places.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jul 17, 2007 4:10:00 PM

I always love it when the Keyboard Kommandos base their argument for staying on their prediction of what will happen if we leave. Because, you know, their predictions of what would happen in Iraq have been so spot-on so far. I would think one would be embarrassed to make the argument, but then again, that probably requires a level of reflection and self-examination that is utterly foreign to them. Besides, who needs introspection when God -- that's our God, dammit, not that false Allah one -- is showing you the way?

Posted by: Glenn | Jul 17, 2007 4:16:01 PM

In Iraq, the U.S. is the ref. The ref never wins the game.

But, in this case, we are paying for the game, and prolonging the game, increasing the cost to ourseleves.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Jul 17, 2007 4:17:24 PM

Nick, the militias control some areas, and have all along, which is in general not a big problem. What would be a big problem is a war between militias, and of militias and the populations of areas other than their own. That would be the likely result of our leaving, as certain insurgents, in addition to bad militia actors, are already trying to cause such an all-out war by provocations, which are all too easy to make, and some militia leaders think they can win.

I doubt there's any magic bullet. It was never realistic to suppose we could remove the very repressive government of Iraq and set up a functioning democracy among three groups at odds in a few months, or even a few years. I've never thought it would be possible without a longer effort, and it's one reason I thought the invasion was insane (despite what Glenn wrongly infers). All we can do is provide security, training, and facilitate. Iraqis on the whole want a political solution, but the institutions required take a long time to set up. If it can't be done, the partition, a much more thorough one than what you refer to, would be preferable to all-out war.

In Iraq, the U.S. is the ref. The ref never wins the game.

But, in this case, we are paying for the game, and prolonging the game, increasing the cost to ourseleves.

Very true.

To return to my original point, you're unlikely to hear these points debated this way in the Congress. There will be a careful avoidance of reality on both sides.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 4:33:51 PM

Ah, it's another example of the Sanpete Method, in which we must seek for the pearl of wisdom in all Republican positions, even when buried in a mountain of shit. The Senate debate is in a context of the Bush position, which is 'make it through to January 2009 and dump it on whoever takes over, ideally a Democrat that can be blamed for losing Iraq.'

I'll quote Atrios from April on the dynamics here:

Leaving is losing. That's the Bush doctrine. You either embrace what the Democrats are offering, or you embrace Bush's "leaving is losing" plan. The Magical Pundit Pony Plan, which will never happen, is only about gazing at yourself in the mirror so you can marvel at how much smarter you are than all the politicians, instead of bothering to make the choice between the actual options.

4 years later I am so sick of every "what we really need to do in Iraq" column which gets published. None Of That Is Going To Happen. We either stay there under George Bush, or we start to get the fuck out. You don't get to micromanage the war.

The reality is that you either give Bush a blank check till January 2009, or you don't. And the former option makes it much easier for him to double-down on Iran.

I'm somewhat grimly in agreement with Gary Brecher:

Maybe I should make a bumper sticker out of this, call it Brecher's Law of CI War: "Bribe'em, Nuke'em or Just Leave'em the Hell Alone!" Either way would have a chance of working, but let me say it plain: this half-assed occupation has no chance at all.

But if you feel some kind of moral obligation that will ensure even more young Americans return as emotionally-damaged, trigger-happy shells of humanity, I'm sure that's your bloody prerogative.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Jul 17, 2007 5:29:44 PM

Well, alright -- while my earlier comment is, I believe, an accurate one for most of the proponents of staying in Iraq, I accept Sanpete's representation that he was an initial opponent of the war but deems it necessary now to remain. Here, then, is my less snarky point.

I start from the proposition that our military should not be actively engaged in another country unless there is substantial reason to believe that such engagement is creating a situation that is significantly better than the alternative, as judged by US national self-interest or humanitarian goals. I do not, in other words, believe that it is the incumbent upon those who would have our troops come home to prove that things would not get significantly worse. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't -- I do not claim to have the ability to make accurate predictions here. But I have not heard or seen any significant evidence that leads me to believe that our presence is, in fact, making things significantly better, and I believe it is imperative that persons who want our troops to continue fighting -- and dying -- to justify that call with something more than vague predictions. I say the burden is on these people, and I do not believe we will hear anything from them tonight that is likely to carry that burden.

Posted by: Glenn | Jul 17, 2007 5:39:11 PM

Pseudo, as usual you ignore what I actually say and respond to some fantasy you have. You probably consider that reality-based. As I said, neither Republicans or Democrats are being realistic. My own views on this have nothing to do with what either side claims.

As I've said before to you (I believe) when the Atrios blurb was quoted as though it were scripture, what Bush is doing now is preferable to withdrawing, for the reasons I already gave, and which you don't deal with.

I do not, in other words, believe that it is the incumbent upon those who would have our troops come home to prove that things would not get significantly worse. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't -- I do not claim to have the ability to make accurate predictions here.

Glenn, this agnosticism is another way to avoid the reality that we do have very good reason to believe that if we leave things will very probably get far worse. I've just outlined some of the basics of that. (There are more detailed versions available, of course.) These things can't be ignored; we have to face them.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 5:59:17 PM

Sanpete,
It doesn't look like out presence is stopping much violence.

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/07/17/iraqd-massacre-in-diyala/


I notice how you dodge any question that is asked of you.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience | Jul 17, 2007 6:21:09 PM

Mr. Conscience, I'm sure you can figure out for yourself whether the fact that there is terible violence in Iraq implies that it couldn't get far worse if we left. What question do you think I dodged?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 6:52:48 PM

And as usual, Sanpete, you pull the disingenuous 'that's not what I said at all' trick. It got dull a long time ago.

See, the 'horror scenario' argument is actually the flip-side of the 'it's not a civil war' argument. It's premised on a vague, KenBurnsish sense of an Iraqi Gettysburg.

Um, unless something changes.

i.e. until the Magic Pony comes along.

This may sound chauvinistic, but Iraqi politicians are working on Arab Standard Time (or bukra). The idea of setting and moving deadlines or guidelines or benchmarks to fit American time-management models is almost laughable, as the kerfuffle over the August recess made clear.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Jul 17, 2007 7:06:32 PM

I'm sure you can figure out for yourself whether the fact that there is terible violence in Iraq implies that it couldn't get far worse if we left

Oh noes! If it's all about imagining horrible things, the fact that large trucks sometimes crash implies that Sanpete might get flattened by an eighteen-wheeler.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Jul 17, 2007 7:10:59 PM

And as usual, Sanpete, you pull the disingenuous 'that's not what I said at all' trick.

If this were true, pseudo, you could have quoted me saying what you implied I did instead of waving your hands like this.

The Magic Pony exists on both sides, in different ways, but I think something is likely to change for the better in the 50-year time frame the comment you quoted referred to.

I can't tell how the rest of your peculiar comments are supposed to relate to what I've said, and I doubt you can either.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 8:04:20 PM

I can't tell how the rest of your peculiar comments are supposed to relate to what I've said, and I doubt you can either.

Ooh, stick you.

The Iraqi government isn't going to do anything unless and until their collective asses depend upon it. Pretending that stern talk about benchmarks makes a difference, absent convoys heading south out of Baghdad, is dumb.

"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

In the meantime, enjoy the wonderful feeling of a fence-rail between your buttocks.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Jul 17, 2007 8:50:04 PM

Pseudo, I haven't said anything about benchmarks, but I think you might want to post your remarks on that in this thread, which addresses such views.

You didn't compare yourself to a splinter this time, but your interest in my butt continues.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 17, 2007 9:11:13 PM

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