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Not a positive evaluation at all, and from someone whom I've generally found to be quite fair-minded, thoughtful, and serious about the war on terror. I'm not sure whether Rauch is right — among other things, the article doesn't discuss how much credit Bush should get for the lack of other major attacks on American soil since 9/11, something that I suspect that few people expected in late 2001. But it seems an article that's much worth reading, whatever one's views of the Administration. Rauch's criticism of the Administration's actions on searches, detentions, and interrogations seems especially important (again, whether you ultimately agree with it or not), partly because it acknowledges that fighting terrorists may in fact call for searches, detentions, and interrogations beyond those we would normally endorse for fighting ordinary criminals:

If the country seriously intends to prevent terrorism, then spying at home, detaining terror suspects, and conducting tough interrogations are practices that the government will need to engage in for many years to come. Instead of making proper legal provisions for those practices, Bush has run the war against jihadism out of his back pocket, as a permanent state of emergency. He engages in legal ad-hockery and trickery, treats Congress as a nuisance rather than a partner, and circumvents outmoded laws and treaties when he should be creating new ones. Of all Bush's failings, his refusal to build durable underpinnings for what promises to be a long struggle is the most surprising, the most gratuitous, and potentially the most damaging, both to the sustainability of the antiterrorism effort and to the constitutional order.

One may agree with Rauch or disagree with him, but his criticisms can't, I think, be easily dismissed.

G.dc LeatherRoom:
One may agree with Rauch or disagree with him, but his criticisms can't, I think, be easily dismissed.

Words to live by...
9.9.2006 5:58pm
John (mail):
What reason could Bush have had for avoiding Congress other than that the "loyal opposition" would do everything in its power to obstruct him while trying to gain P.R. points in the process?
9.9.2006 6:08pm
fishbane (mail):
What reason could Bush have had for avoiding Congress other than that the "loyal opposition" would do everything in its power to obstruct him while trying to gain P.R. points in the process?

Indeed. Why not just abolish Congress? They just get in the way, even when the body is stacked with your supporters.
9.9.2006 6:21pm
Cornellian (mail):
If one has the re-assertion of executive power as an additional agenda item, along with fighting terrorists, then avoiding Congress has a certain logic to it, but Rauch's point is a good one. One day (maybe soon) the Congress will be much more hostile to the President than it is today and he will have missed his chance to have his view of how much latitude the executive branch needs to fight terrorists solidified in statutes.
9.9.2006 6:28pm
G.dc LeatherRoom:


Notre Dame up by 27 over PennState
9.9.2006 6:44pm
Donald Kahn (mail):
"abolish Congress?" Not a very constructive piece of sarcasm. What is very likely the case is that the President and his Congressional aides counted the votes, and saw that they could not get their program enacted.

Should they then has pressed the issue? Doing so and failing would invite a disaster which I need not describe.

When FDR insisted on pushing his Supreme Court "packing" proposal in spite of Jack Garner telling him "Captain, you don't have the votes", not only did he did not succeed, but faced a brutal decimation of his Congressional forces in the 1938 election.

We have here matters much more crucial than the composition of the Supreme Court. I believe (don't you?) that Mr. Bush's first duty is to protect his fellow citizens in this time of great danger. That is what a President is supposed to do.
9.9.2006 6:51pm
Derrick (mail):
What reason could Bush have had for avoiding Congress other than that the "loyal opposition" would do everything in its power to obstruct him while trying to gain P.R. points in the process?

It's a little to easy to claim obstruction from the other side, when as a matter of pratice you spent months behind closed doors working on your legislation with ZERO input from anyone else and then demand that they pass your bills. This strategy has never worked with Congress. Hell, it wouldn't work at your local PTA meeting. When Bush has acted in good faith on legislation such as No Child Left Behind he has found Democrats willing to compromise, but quite frankly that is the rare exception rather than the rule.

There is defintely a need for some serious fleshing out of the policies for the probably long-term War on Terror, but this President has refused any semblance of a debate or even a discussion with the Congress or the American people. I think you would be suprised how many Democrats would be willing to work in good faith with this president if he were willing to do the same. But he's not. Leadership is more than just demanding that people follow your lead.
9.9.2006 6:51pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Rauch is avoiding the more fundamental question: Can any democracy fight terrorism in today's world? The think the answer is no. Fighting a war involves doing some very nasty things to people, and in today's world those nasty things get instant, graphic, emotive worldwide publicity. Look at what happened to Israel. The photographs of (some faked) civilian suffering and ensuing worldwide rancor were enough to inhibit Israel to stalemate if not defeat.

Suppose Bush had gone to Congress and asked for authorization to use torture (if necessary) to interrogate captured prisoners. Does anyone think Congress would have granted that authority? He had to do an end-run by sending the prisoners to other countries for interrogations. As long as democracies continue to think that "we can't stoop to their level" or "we have to take the moral high ground," we will have a very difficult if not impossible task trying to subdue our enemies. Eventually this will change, but not before a lot of suffering happens.
9.9.2006 7:11pm
BT:
Also remember that Bush's party has had control of the congress for, I believe, four of the six years he has been in office. It actually could be more but I can't remember how long the Jeffords saga played out. That being said, it would be understandable if the D's controlled things but they don't. Bush has a tin ear and has done a poor job selling his ideas and getting imput from the other side as well as his own.
9.9.2006 7:17pm
fishbane (mail):
Not a very constructive piece of sarcasm.

I'm sorry you feel that way.

I believe (don't you?) that Mr. Bush's first duty is to protect his fellow citizens in this time of great danger. That is what a President is supposed to do.

I believe (don't you?) that his first duty is to uphold the constitution.

Conflating existential threats like 1930's Germany and Japan with today's terrorists is simply not serious. As others have noted, in this time of "great danger", you're 66 times more likely to die by drowning while swimming or in the tub than of terrorism (based on National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine figures).

That isn't to say that it isn't a problem, but hyping fear for political payout is (and I've been saying this since 9/11, and I live in NYC) not only wrong, but in fact doing the terrorists' work for them.
9.9.2006 7:19pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Note how the posters here who do not like President Bush or his policies define "opposition" as solely consisting of Democratic Congressmen and Senators. Not to mention the misuse of Senate rules - filibusters, secret holds, etc.

This is classic salami-slicing and, here, it well demonstrates why the Bush administration has acted as it has.
9.9.2006 7:32pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Conflating existential threats like 1930's Germany and Japan with today's terrorists is simply not serious."

In 1928 or even 1933 the National Socialists did not seem like an existential threat either. Britain opted for appeasement (as they do now) and the US had the America First Committee. Bear in mind that the 800,000 memberships in AFC went beyond right-wingers, to include socialists like Norman Thomas, Sinclair Lewis, and Gore Vidal (he's still around causing trouble). Now it's true that today's Islamofacists currently lack the military resources of a Germany or a Japan, but their methods are different and Iran is on the way. We simply don't know when we get to 1939.

" … you're 66 times more likely to die by drowning while swimming or in the tub than of terrorism."

Now that's true, but not really irrelevant. Israel has lost more people to automobile accidents than to terrorism. On that basis would you say that Israel should not worry all that much? It's the fear that counts. After all the threat's not called "terrorism" for nothing. The point of terrorism is to change national policy through intimadation. It worked for the IRA, it worked for Algeria, it worked for the Arabs against Britain, and most recently it evidently frightened Spain enough to change their last election.
9.9.2006 7:54pm
SG:
fishbane,

It's absolutely an existential threat. Look at the aftermath of 9/11. We've got active debates about warrnatless surveillance and the permissability of torture. We take off our shoes to board a domestic flight. We've occupied two countries. And by and large, the public has supported the actions.

Now imagine what happens in the aftermath of another mass casualty terrorist attack or two. What of our current civil liberties will be left untouched?

It speaks to a tremendous lack of imagination to fail to see how fragile our current way of life is. I don't think it would take much at all to tip the apple cart. It certainly doesn't require an enemy military force capable of conquering the United States. We the people will gladly do it to ourselves.
9.9.2006 8:09pm
Just an Observer:
Suppose Bush had gone to Congress and asked for authorization to use torture (if necessary) to interrogate captured prisoners. Does anyone think Congress would have granted that authority?

Actually, Bush has done essentially that this week, and the consensus among pundits is that Congress will comply.
9.9.2006 8:21pm
fishbane (mail):
A. Zarkov: Now that's true, but not really irrelevant. Israel has lost more people to automobile accidents than to terrorism. On that basis would you say that Israel should not worry all that much? It's the fear that counts. After all the threat's not called "terrorism" for nothing. The point of terrorism is to change national policy through intimadation. It worked for the IRA, it worked for Algeria, it worked for the Arabs against Britain, and most recently it evidently frightened Spain enough to change their last election.

And it is currently working in the U.S. Which was a big part of my point. Relatedly,


SG: It's absolutely an existential threat. Look at the aftermath of 9/11. We've got active debates about warrnatless surveillance and the permissability of torture. We take off our shoes to board a domestic flight. We've occupied two countries. And by and large, the public has supported the actions.

What I said is that terrorism is not an existential threat. If everyone in the nation lined up in a buy-the-world-a-coke fashion, and waited to be beheaded or blown up, the terrorists simply don't have the manpower to do more than a few bathtub-drownding deaths/days of death (That was awkward, sorry. I'm sure there's an excepted standard for writing about that sort of thing, but I don't know it.). The point is that "teh terrorists!" are used by what amounts to enablers for political reasons.

Saying that the nation will dismantle 200 years of freedom because of a few thousand deaths, thus we need to dismantle 200 years of freedom to stop it isn't persuasive.

Saying that we will fight the bastards while respecting 200 years of freedom is.

Lest anyone mistake me, I'm not arguing that we are fully regressed. I am arguing that we are regressing. Infantile airport checks are really the least of it.
9.9.2006 8:55pm
Mark Field (mail):

Actually, Bush has done essentially that this week, and the consensus among pundits is that Congress will comply.


I have to add: disgracefully.


We simply don't know when we get to 1939.


"Never" seems like a good guess. Unless you're seriously arguing that Iran is likely to produce more deliverable nukes than the Soviet Union, or a larger army, or more armored divisions. Or, for that matter, anything whatsoever besides oil.


What reason could Bush have had for avoiding Congress other than that the "loyal opposition" would do everything in its power to obstruct him while trying to gain P.R. points in the process?


Well yeah, and that 98-1 vote on the Patriot Act is alone enough to prove your point.


Can any democracy fight terrorism in today's world? The think the answer is no.


This is, in fact, the driving philosophy of the Bush Administration. I'm sure you'll forgive the rest of us if we don't feel inclined to play Seneca to his Nero.
9.9.2006 8:58pm
SG:
fishbane,

I didn't miss the world existential. Surely your existence means more to you than just continuing to respirate, no? If you only ocnsider a threat existential to the extent that it credibly threatens genocide then neither Imperial Japan nor Nazi Germany represented an existential threat to the US either.

I would consider a threat existential if it can plausibly cause the loss of our way of life. Islamic terrorism punches way above it's weight class in that regard.

BTW, that's why I detest the "War on Terror" terminology. The random nutjob (Timothy McVeigh) doesn't represent that sort of existential threat, because there's not a line of people behind him wait. That sort of terrorism does deserve to be treated as a criminal matter. Jihadism is different.
9.9.2006 9:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
… the terrorists simply don't have the manpower to do more than a few bathtub-drownding deaths/days of death …

That's not how an enemy would do it. They would use bioweapons, which are capable of destroying the United States. Richard Garwin certainly takes the bioweapon threat very seriously. Bear in mind Garwin opposed nuclear testing, and the Strategic Defense Initiative. Developing bioweapons is less costly than nuclear weapons, and given enough time and effort Iran could certainly attack us in this way. If a super-lethal epidemic broke out, who would even retaliate against if no one took credit? That's the frightening part aspect of bioweapons-- deterrence breaks down. Only someone in deep denial would ignore this very real existential threat to the US.
9.9.2006 9:47pm
Hank:
I find it dishonest and repulsive that Rauch uses the phrase "conducting tough interrogations" when he should use "torture (to death in numerous cases)." "Reality-Based Community" (the link is to your right) at the moment has a list of crimes Bush has committed, some of which could get him the death penalty.
9.9.2006 9:49pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Actually, Bush has done essentially that this week, and the consensus among pundits is that Congress will comply.

Congress has specifically banned the use of torture, unless I'm missing something really new.

"Never" seems like a good guess. Unless you're seriously arguing that Iran is likely to produce more deliverable nukes than the Soviet Union, or a larger army …

You're fighting yesterday's war. It doesn't take tens of thousands of nuclear weapons to destroy the US. Fifty would do the job if designed properly. Fifty bombs in fifty missiles using massive fallout on a country with a very brittle economic system.
9.9.2006 9:55pm
fishbane (mail):
You're fighting yesterday's war. It doesn't take tens of thousands of nuclear weapons to destroy the US. Fifty would do the job if designed properly. Fifty bombs in fifty missiles using massive fallout on a country with a very brittle economic system.


This I can agree on. Relatedly, it is so strange that Pakistan's cease fire has attracted so little attention.
9.9.2006 10:08pm
Just an Observer:
Congress has specifically banned the use of torture, unless I'm missing something really new.

Congress also has banned, in the War Crimes Act of 1996, acts that violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva convention. But some of those acts are almost certainly among the "alternative set of procedures" that Bush boldly announced (wink, wink) have been applied by the CIA in the secret prisons. His new legislative proposal would legalize those acts, retroactively and prospectively.

See Marty Lederman's analysis.
9.9.2006 10:13pm
fishbane (mail):
That's not how an enemy would do it. They would use bioweapons, which are capable of destroying the United States. Richard Garwin certainly takes the bioweapon threat very seriously. Bear in mind Garwin opposed nuclear testing, and the Strategic Defense Initiative. Developing bioweapons is less costly than nuclear weapons, and given enough time and effort Iran could certainly attack us in this way. If a super-lethal epidemic broke out, who would even retaliate against if no one took credit? That's the frightening part aspect of bioweapons-- deterrence breaks down. Only someone in deep denial would ignore this very real existential threat to the US.

This, however, I cannot.

Why worry about Teh Terrorists doing this? Why not worry about any other nation state that might have ambition?

Any nation state (China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, even N. Korea) will be significantly more capable of developing and deploying something like this. The usual argument is that they don't want to be seen as responsible. But that's silly, if they should be the ones placed to pick up from the results. If you need additional reasons, ask yourself why ~10% of exports go to Walmart.

Back here in reality, I think there are very, very few people who are willing to use bioweapons. Among that group, there are very, very few who are capable of sourcing and or creating them. And doesn't this start to look like an intelligence, rather than a military, matter?
9.9.2006 10:17pm
Truth Seeker:
...you're 66 times more likely to die by drowning while swimming or in the tub than of terrorism (based on National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine

...the terrorists simply don't have the manpower to do more than a few bathtub-drownding deaths/days of death


Okay, fishbane, in your world we'd sit and do nothing until a nuke went off in NYC killing millions and then we'd either become a police state to fight them or adopt sharia law. Sorry, I'll take the Bush approach.
9.9.2006 10:20pm
fishbane (mail):
Sorry, I'll take the Bush approach.

I believe that. Which is why I have a bit of faith for the outcome in November.

It doesn't matter, but your illustration of my thought is a straw man. Nobody argues that. Name a name of someone who wants to "sit and do nothing until a nuke went off in NYC killing millions and then we'd either become a police state to fight them or adopt sharia law".

As I've said previously, I live in NYC, and if these people are out there, please let me know who they are, because I want to talk to those types. Names, please.
9.9.2006 10:43pm
Lev:
I hate to break in like this, but does someone have a link to the Rauch article?
9.9.2006 10:54pm
alkali (mail) (www):
Lev: Here's the link, but it appears to be subscribers only. (I might be wrong about that.)
9.9.2006 11:21pm
Reg (mail):
"One day (maybe soon) the Congress will be much more hostile to the President than it is today"

I think this is the reason Bush took the course he did. Sure, Bush could have gone to Congress and gotten authorization. But I think it's clear this administration believes that the presidency ought to be a much more robust institution than it is now. For example, I think Cheney is on record saying that since Nixon, the presidency has taken too much of a back seat to Congress and the Supreme Court, using the War Powers Resolution as an example of an unconstitutional infrignment on the president's powers.

I think there is a lot to Cheney's point. Presidents exercised a pretty free hand in national security throughout the history of this country. For example, Lincoln suspended habeas on his own, then ignored for years court rulings saying that was unconstitutional. A lot of critics of Bush's assertion of article II powers ignore the history of the presidency. No link to Rauch, so I don't know what his argument is.
9.9.2006 11:35pm
Steve:
Rauch is avoiding the more fundamental question: Can any democracy fight terrorism in today's world? The think the answer is no.

And yet the cornerstone of the President's strategy in the War on Terror is the promotion of democracy. You must think he is the worst President ever, doing exactly the thing that will ensure the terrorists' victory.
9.9.2006 11:49pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Any nation state (China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, even N. Korea) will be significantly more capable of developing and deploying something like this."

Actually I had nation states in mind—particularly Iran. Russia certainly had a robust and very scary bioweapons program. We went out of the bioweapons business circa 1972, but the USSR cheated on the treaty and went full out with their program. In 1979 anthrax leaked from one of their production facilities in Sverdlovsk and killed 68 people. The Russians put out a bogus story, about contaminated meat, and initially the US bought the story. Later we learned it was lie. The Russians fully intended to use bioweapons in the event of war as we now know from Alibek. They also weaponized smallpox making it infective over long distances.

We're hoping Russia and China will remain sane. But what about rogue states like NK and Iran, or even Pakistan? Either you think they can't develop bioweapons or for some reason won't.
9.9.2006 11:54pm
Phil W (mail) (www):
Fishbane asks, disingenuously, "Who argues that we should 'sit and do nothing until a nuke went off in NYC killing millions?'" He pretends that he, himself, has not argued right here that the threat from terrorists is not serious compared to, say, taking a bath in your own home. Now he wants to pretend that he really DOES think there's a serious threat.

So, why the comparison to taking a bath, fishbane? What POSSIBLE reason could you have had for raising that statistical comparison if not to make the point that there is no threat worthy of taking action?

Fishbane also asks of bioweapons, incredibly: "Why worry about The Terrorists doing this? Why not worry about any other nation state that might have ambition?"

Because, meine fischele, they're the ones who have expressed willingness to use such weapons, and who lack appropriate fear of self-destruction. Please tell me you already knew the answer to that question.

The level of discourse here is several orders of magnitude more literate than, say, yahoo message boards, but liberals play the same disingenuous games here as they do there. I guess the tactics are predicted by the political position, not by education. Tell me, does the DNC offer training classes in how to argue dishonestly?
9.10.2006 12:09am
Allen Asch (mail) (www):

Of all Bush's failings, his refusal to build durable underpinnings for what promises to be a long struggle is the most surprising, the most gratuitous, and potentially the most damaging
That's because Bush is just not a strategic thinker. I'm not saying the guy's an idiot like some people do. I'm just saying he's not a deep thinker and doesn't really much ponder long term consequences. For more proof, see my YouTube video at this link: Does Bush Know Who is in Charge of Strategy?
9.10.2006 12:13am
Lev:
Thanks alkali, it is members only.
9.10.2006 12:22am
Phil W (mail) (www):
Allen Asch, I watched as much of your video as I could stand. Bush understands the difference between strategy and tactics; the reporter does not. She was asking about strategy, and Bush's reply, in a nutshell, was "The increasing violence does not require a change in strategy, but rather a change in tactics." Perfectly reasonable answer, completely cogent, and also, by the way, correct.

Your quibble about who's in control of strategy is laughable. At various points during the past three years, critics of the President have complained that he does not listen to theater commanders enough. Now you're complaining that he WOULD listen to them. Do you imagine he bases his assessment of his Iraq strategy on his OWN observations while in Baghdad? It's somehow inappropriate for him to accept an assessment of progress toward a strategic goal from theater commanders? Ridiculous. They are PRECISELY the people from whom he should, and does, receive reports on progress toward strategic goals.

This is what happens when you take a single college course, read a single textbook, and then imagine you're sufficiently expert to criticize the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military force in history. You thought you were displaying the President's foolishness, but in fact, you were only displaying your own.
9.10.2006 12:28am
godfodder (mail):
I'm not sure I agree with much of Rausch's criticism. For example, where has it been demonstrated that Bush has failed to work with Congress? I mean, the Democrats constantly say such things, but are they credible sources of anything having to do with President Bush?

Congressional Democrats like to feign ignorance when it suits their purposes. If you listen to them, the dreaded NSA program was cooked up in a smoke filled room in Crawford. Then the truth comes out, and we learn that numerous members of Congress were briefed literally dozens of times on the program-- both Dems and Reps. How much of this briefing stuff is enough? Especially when we are talking about a super top-secret program? I'm guessing that nothing Bush did was going to be enough for Senate Dems... once they realized that there was political hay to be made from the NSA story.

As I recall, the Clinton administration wasn't exactly known for working all that well with Congress. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
9.10.2006 12:50am
plunge (mail):
This administration has hordes of people trying to find ways to destroy Democrats. And yet, there is not any a single person who's job it is to catch Bin Laden, just the exact same turf wars between different agencies, none of which have to take responsibility for failing.

"Then the truth comes out, and we learn that numerous members of Congress were briefed literally dozens of times on the program-- both Dems and Reps."

And forbidden to talk or do anything about it if they disagreed. Some "oversight."

"As I recall, the Clinton administration wasn't exactly known for working all that well with Congress. In fact, it was quite the opposite."

Heh, at least Clinton vetoed some spending bills.
9.10.2006 1:01am
fishbane (mail):
So, why the comparison to taking a bath, fishbane? What POSSIBLE reason could you have had for raising that statistical comparison if not to make the point that there is no threat worthy of taking action?

Perhaps because that was precisely my point. Drug dealers don't tend to gun you down, enraged bikers have not, last I checked, busted down your door, and Islamophychopaths, as far as I know, don't actually exist.

Call my conflation a red herring all you like, But the fact is, terrorism is a marginal theat. If you disagree, go vote for more bridges to nowhere. That's your right, after all. But over the last five years, what have we seen? Stevens. Rumsfeld. If you want more, by all means, go for it.
9.10.2006 1:18am
fishbane (mail):
Upon re-reading, I should rephrase this:

and Islamophychopaths, as far as I know, don't actually exist

I did not mean that mental ilness could manifest in the population of muslims; I was talking about a very narrow number of silly people. "don't exist" was hyperbole. Of course, given any population, you get insanity.
9.10.2006 1:25am
fishbane (mail):
Gah. YHBT. Self promoting types who managed to read a book are now recomending themselves here.
9.10.2006 1:40am
Mark Field (mail):

For example, Lincoln suspended habeas on his own, then ignored for years court rulings saying that was unconstitutional.


This is a significant exaggeration. Lincoln did suspend the writ on his own when Congress wasn't in session. However, Congress then suspended it as well a few months later.

The Lincoln example is a red herring. That was a rebellion, one of the specified grounds for suspension of the writ in the Constitution. The nation had, literally, over a hundred thousand enemy soldiers on its soil attempting to defeat our armies. The current threat from terrorists is so far down the scale that any comparison is laughable. We faced FAR greater threats in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, WWII, and the Cold War. What's remarkable today is not the threat, it's the hysterical fear shown in every post by Bush defenders. You all need to go see the wizard and ask for some courage. Then maybe you can make Patrick Henry proud.
9.10.2006 1:51am
Steve:
Tell me, does the DNC offer training classes in how to argue dishonestly?

This, from the commentor who thinks "liberals want to sit and do nothing until a nuke went off in NYC killing millions" is the epitome of a serious debate position.
9.10.2006 1:51am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Point of information about biological weapons.

While some methods of manufacturing weaponized anthrax, notably Soviet methods, are relatively simple and require few really skilled technicians and expensive equipment, developing a brand-new method of weaponizing anthrax requires an industrial-scale research and development team. One so large and expensive that only a government can do so secretly.

The anthrax used on us after 9/11 was weaponized by a process entirely unknown to the U.S., any of our allies, and the Russians. As of early 2003, all the resources of the U.S. government had been unable to reverse-engineer the weaponization process used to produce the anthrax used on us after 9/11.

That process was developed in secret by a foreign government, almost certainly one hostile to us.

And that secret is still out there.
9.10.2006 2:17am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Whoops, the article is here, and the post has been changed to include the links.
9.10.2006 3:06am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
A.Zarkov pointed to several cases where terrorism "worked". What he failed to mention is that in each of these cases (and many more, including Vietnam), the anti-terrorism measures--equal to those demanded by the current administration--failed miserably in combating terrorism. In fact, they only served to antagonize the population further and create more terrorists. In case of the Bush-Cheney White House, this seems to be a lot more than mere ignorance or contempt for history. Let me suggest a couple of words that, no doubt, will bring the ire of Republicans: war crimes. The trouble is, there is no war. These idiots are first to point out that we are not operating under normal war conditions. So there is no declaration of war because you have no state to declare the war against. Sure, the battle can be fought on the soil of sovereign states, but not against those states. Iraq seems like an exception, but it's the exception in the opposite direction--the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism. But, if anyone tries to argue that the US top command is guilty of war crimes, they'd be first to deny that there is a war going on. That's been their repeated explanation for the reasons why the Geneva Convention does not apply. And now they are trying to push Congress to strip the ability to charge anyone in the executive branch with war crimes.

One ironic twist is that Eugene falls for one of the dumbest arguments made on behalf of the administration--their desire to take credit for the terrorists' inability to mount a major operation on the scale of 9/11 on the American soil. Well, they did not mount one under Carter either. So what? Does that mean that Carter was better than Bush at combating global terrorism? After all, 9/11 happened on W's watch, even if nothing happened since then.

Worse yet, the DHS seems to be a sham, with most of the money misspent, if spent at all, many of the new initiative amounting to little more than propaganda and fear-mongering. The successes often touted by the administration in capturing or disrupting potential terrorists either are due to classic police work and cooperation with the target community, such as what happened with the "gel bomb" scare, or are simply overhyped arrests of some poor shmucks who could not tie their shoelaces, let alone carry out a massive terrorist attack. Among those incarcerated on suspicion of terrorist activity (and few of those have been charged with anything), the number of even potential terrorist, let alone actual ones, is less than 10%. If a police department arrested 10 times as many people as were actually suspected of having committed a crime, any community would rebel against it. Such methodology is the hallmark of a totalitarian, not a democratic regime.

And after all this, the bastards come back and try to take credit for no new attacks?? Sometimes even people of above average intelligence, such as Eugene, fall for the dumbest arguments.
9.10.2006 3:21am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Allen Asch sez: 'That's because Bush is just not a strategic thinker. I'm not saying the guy's an idiot like some people do. I'm just saying he's not a deep thinker and doesn't really much ponder long term consequences.'

I agree, but I'd go back one more step. First, you have to identify your enemy.

You might think this is easy, but it isn't. In the runup to the First World War, the British were long uncertain whether their real enemy was France or Germany; in the 1930s there was huge uncertainty whether the more serious enemy of the democracies was Germany or the USSR; in the 1950s and '60s, the Russians were confused about whether their chief antagonist was the U.S. or China -- examples could be extended.

Bush thinks the enemy is 'Islamofascism' and has chosen to appease Islam.

If, as I believe, the enemy is Islam plain and simple, then it doesn't much matter whether his strategic thinking is inept or not. Even if he wins, he loses.

And while I agree that Bush is not 'stupid,' he is the most incurious man ever to become president. Worse, his closest advisers are also incurious. It isn't easy to find an important figure in western history as incurious as Bush. The last tsar, perhaps.

He is a perfect twin of bin Laden in his pure faith. A bad combination, and what's really scary is that everybody the Democrats have is even worse.
9.10.2006 6:00am
A. Zarkov (mail):
What he failed to mention is that in each of these cases (and many more, including Vietnam), the anti-terrorism measures--equal to those demanded by the current administration--failed miserably in combating terrorism.

A better example would be Chechnya where Russia has committed real war crimes like raping female prisoners and then tearing their bodies apart, or drowning a whole family in their well. While organizations like Human Rights Watch have picked up on this, most governments including the UN remain largely silent. On the other hand, sometimes anti-terror measures do work-- for example Korea. The Korean conflict really started in 1945 with the partition of the former Japanese colony at the 38th parallel. Like Vietnam, the north created an insurgency in the south; only in this case the US and SK successfully fought the insurgency. Frustrated Kim decided to turn a cold war hot and launched an invasion (see The War for Korea: 1945-1950 by Allan Millett). Most of the time insurgencies succeed (Algeria) because the conflict drags on for a long time and the other side wears out.
9.10.2006 6:31am
SG:
Buck, you wrote:


Among those incarcerated on suspicion of terrorist activity (and few of those have been charged with anything), the number of even potential terrorist, let alone actual ones, is less than 10%.


I didn't know that. I agree, that's certainly more representative of a police state than anything I would recognize as a modern deomcratic state.

Out of curosity, what's the source of that statistic? How many people have been incarcerated, charged and convicted on suspicion of terrorsim vs how many were determined to be potential terrorists? What's the methodology used to distguish potential terrorists from non-terrorists? Do you have a link?
9.10.2006 11:22am
Allen Asch (mail) (www):
Phil W,

It seems pretty harsh of you to accuse me of "foolishness" without even watching my whole video (if you want to finish, it's here: Does Bush Know Who is in Charge of Strategy?) If you don't think I'm qualified to criticize the President's strategic thinking (which both misunderstands my qualifications and is incredibily elitist), what about the John McCain criticism I included in my video? What about the Barry McCaffrey clip? Are these two unqualified to criticize the President, too?

You also failed to address the main point of my video, the "Bushism" that shows Bush not only has a problem talking about strategy, but thinking about strategy. If Bush has no problem, explain the meaning of this Bushism:

"If I didn't think it would work, I would change the str... our commanders would recommend changing the strategy."

That's not just misspeaking, that's misthinking.


Anyway, you should really watch the whole video, particularly if you are going to make such harsh, baseless attacks on me.

Thanks for the comment on my video, though :-)
9.10.2006 11:54am
Syd Henderson (mail):
"Bush broke the back of the deficit and closed out the Cold War peacefully" {Bush I that is).

The second's true, but we had the highest deficits until that time under Bush (including his last budget, which carried over into Clinton's first year in office). I don't see how anyone can claim "Bush broke the back of the deficit."

Bush II now has some deficits even worse than his fathers.
9.10.2006 12:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If Bush were to try to regularize his techniques through the conventional political process, he'd be trying to arrange for more efficient ways to deal with Islamonutters.
His opposition would not be looking at different ways to deal efficiently with Islamonutters. They'd be looking at the best way to screw Bush, not dealing with Islamonutters.
That's another kind of asymmetrical warfare.
The hamstringing of the administration's efforts against Islamonutters would be collateral damage which the administration's opponents would neither acknowledge or worry about.
9.10.2006 1:45pm
Stating The Obvious:
Tom H:

"The anthrax used on us after 9/11 was weaponized by a process entirely unknown to the U.S., any of our allies, and the Russians. As of early 2003, all the resources of the U.S. government had been unable to reverse-engineer the weaponization process used to produce the anthrax used on us after 9/11.

That process was developed in secret by a foreign government, almost certainly one hostile to us."

Wow! Weaponized anthrax! That sounds incredibly dangerous!! And how many Americans died from that? I don't recall--was it 3...5?
9.10.2006 7:34pm
Stating The Obvious:
As SG pointed out to fishbane, in describing how fragile our liberties are:

"It's absolutely an existential threat."

The problem, of course, is that if existential threats are sufficient for modifying or ignoring the Constitution, one can anticipate that government officials, always eager for more power (to "do good," of course) will have every incentive to find more existential threats. What do you think Hayek was talking about when he pointed out that the worse rise to the top?
9.10.2006 7:39pm
r4d20 (mail):


Harry said:

the enemy is Islam plain and simple


Buck said:

Among those incarcerated on suspicion of terrorist activity (and few of those have been charged with anything), the number of even potential terrorist, let alone actual ones, is less than 10%.



Is it that hard to connect these dots?
9.10.2006 9:14pm
Houston Lawyer:
I seem to remember something called the Patriot Act. I believe it was held up by the Democrats in the Senate in order to preserve union priorities. Democrats are still bitching about the beating they took on that one. I'm trying hard to recall any legislator from any party offering legislation other than this to help with the terrorist threat. I also remember that the left demonized the patriot act and acted as though it was the greatest threat to liberty since Hitler himself.

Bush tends to put up the hard votes just before an election. We have one of those coming up and now he is asking the the legislative authority he is being criticized for not having before. I'm sure we'll see lots of bitching about the timing of these votes as well.
9.10.2006 9:37pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Tom H.

Wow! Weaponized anthrax! That sounds incredibly dangerous!! And how many Americans died from that? I don't recall--was it 3...5?

According to Wikipedia a total of 22 infections occurred. Exactly half were inhalation cases and the others were cutaneous cases. All the inhalation cases died. Much controversy surrounds the question weaponization. The amateur sleuths like Lake seem to be better than the government. I'm not surprised, as many government agencies and groups seemed to be reaching a state of disfunctionality as a result political correctness, bureaucratic infighting, affirmative action, poor leadership and general CYA behavior. Note according to Lake's website the lawsuit by Hatfill against Foster, Vanity Fair, Readers Digest is headed for mediation. Hatfill v. Ashcroft is focusing on how much compensation for Hatfill for damage to his reputation.

It's been several years since I studied this matter. Shortly after the initial attacks I wrote a proposal for how we would deal with anthrax attacks. I did some rough calculations that made me take this whole thing very seriously. Don't scoff the danger is real.
9.10.2006 9:49pm
SG:
Stating the Obvious:

By definition existential threats involve damage to our society, either by us or by others. The fact remains that by and large the populace is willing to trade liberty for security, and while the Constitution can delay it, it can't (and shouldn't) stop it.

Now you can vote for those who aren't leading us down the slippery slope and you can try to persuade others to follow you. But given sufficient provcation, you're not going to stop the stampede. For many, 9/11 was sufficient provocation.

I'm torn. On the one hand, many of the Bush adminstration's policies strike me as dangerous precedent. Yet on the other had, there's...nothing. (Islamic terrorism is less of a threat than the bathtub? Sorry, but my bathtub passes a risk/benefit calculation that jihad doesn't begin to approach).

Not everything (should) neatly divide down a Republic/Democrat, conservative/liberal, left/right axis. This is a classic wicked problem. There are no good answers, only differing degrees of bad. It would be nice to be able to stop bitching about the other party long enough to discuss what tradeoffs are acceptable and which ones aren't. Not that we'll all agree, but these things ought to be decided through the democratic process.
9.10.2006 10:53pm
Speaking the Obvious:
SG, thoughtful as always, makes a number of important, if disheartening, points. He notes:

"For many, 9/11 was sufficient provocation."

And yet the irony is, for those who live in other countries, Americans are happy to adopt policies that bring to their lands far worse than 9/11. 9/11 was catastrophic, and struck a strong blow against American insularity, but it was less than 4,000 deaths in a country of 300 million. What are the per capita deaths in Iraq, in Baghdad, since Bush's war? What would the response of Americans be if foreign troops came to our country and (either caused or didn't prevent) death and destruction of such magnitude? The future bodes ill, and it is not the stars we'll have to blame.
9.10.2006 11:04pm
SG:
But 9/11 occurred well before "Bush's war". (And I believe that after receiving congressional approval it ceases to be "Bush's war" and becomes "America's war"). And as I recall, Iraqi sanctions were claimed as one of the motivating factors behind Al Qaeda's attacks against the US along with troops based in Saudi Arabia to protect the oil fields from Iraq.

So unless you're prepared to say that the US should have withdrawn from the Persian Gulf and left the world's economic well-being to the mercies of Saddam Hussein (and we can certainly agrue the wisdon of that) I'm hard-pressed to see the relevance of post-9/11 US foreign policy decisions to the 9/11 attacks.

I'm not arguing that the Iraq War has proven itself to have been a good idea, but you can't pin jihad on it. Post hoc ergo proper hoc is a well known logical fallacy, but ante hoc ergo proper hoc? It's certainly a fallacy, but it's not logical.
9.11.2006 12:15am
Jeff Davidson (mail):
Hi -

Houston Lawyer wrote: "I seem to remember something called the Patriot Act. I believe it was held up by the Democrats in the Senate in order to preserve union priorities."

My memory may be wrong, but I didn't think this objection was specifically raised with regard to the Patriot Act, which passed by something like 98-1. In any case, I've never understood why police officers, fire fighters, and other rescue workers who are the first line of defense should receive less workplace protection than, say, auto workers or grocery store clerks. When we rescue you from the fire or the criminal, we're "everyday heroes" blah blah blah... but when you don't need us we're just another special interest you can bash.
9.11.2006 12:45am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
There is a precedent for a enemy foreign government giving WMD to a terrorist group to use on the United States.

It happened after 9/11. The WMD was biological.

We still don't know which enemy foreign government did it.

So it can happen again. And probably will.

Scores to hundreds of thousands of Americans would be killed, and New York City rendered uninhabitable for a generation or more, by an exceptionally feasible release of several pounds of this variety of weaponized anthrax in the subway system. I recall reading that the U.S. Army tested that means of delivering weaponized anthrax in the 1950's, using a benign spore.
9.11.2006 1:08am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Speaking, I wouldn't say Americans 'are happy' to adopt warlike policies. Some were, not many, the loudmouth 'turn the desert to glass' crowd.

If America 'were happy,' then it'd be all over over there.

You seem to be making the 'proportionality' error that was so widely on display last month in Lebanon.

They (Islam) attack us. They cause us 3,000 dead. We are allowed to cause them only 3,000 dead? That's not how it works.

I do believe that many Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, do think that way. They believe they can prod and provoke and kill and attack our economy, and we will never respond disproportionately, or at least, not massively disproportionately, and they can slowly grind us down.

Many, many in the west have been terrified sufficiently -- with ONLY 3,000 dead -- to be ready to surrender. That is where the existential threat arises.
9.11.2006 1:18am
TruthInAdvertising:
For whoever was asking what Dems have done about terrorism, one could (for better or worse) take not that it was the Dems who first proposed a Department of Homeland Security. Bush initially opposed the proposal but later embraced it when he found he could use it for political advantage against the Dems.

I appreciate that someone brought up the Anthrax attacks. We keep hearing about how there's been no terrorist attacks on the US since 9/11. So what were the anthrax attacks? They were clearly aimed at the federal government and as others have noted, we have no clue as to who was behind them. Like Osama Bin Laden, apparently Bush and Co. can't be bothered to catch the perpatrators of those attacks.
9.11.2006 1:42am
r4d20 (mail):

I do believe that many Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, do think that way. They believe they can prod and provoke and kill and attack our economy, and we will never respond disproportionately, or at least, not massively disproportionately, and they can slowly grind us down.



I do believe that many terrorists believe that they can provoke guys like you into fighting with your dick instead of your head and support foolish policies that are GARAUNTEED to involve us in tons of small, regional, conflicts that WILL BE what slowly grind us down.

Its an amateurish trap, but we are walking right into it.
9.11.2006 2:33am
Lev:
Houston Lawyer wrote: "I seem to remember something called the Patriot Act. I believe it was held up by the Democrats in the Senate in order to preserve union priorities."

Are you sure it was The Patriot Act? My vague recollection was that it was part of the "Department of Homeland Security" legislation, particularly with respect to the Transportation Security Administration and, among other things, federalizing airport security so no terrorist would ever again be able to get on a US airplane. But I could be wrong.
9.11.2006 2:37am
Lev:
Syd Henderson - "Bush broke the back of the deficit and closed out the Cold War peacefully" {Bush I that is). The second's true, but we had the highest deficits until that time under Bush (including his last budget, which carried over into Clinton's first year in office). I don't see how anyone can claim "Bush broke the back of the deficit."

Part of the reason for the large deficits was the final resolution of the Savings and Loan mess by lancing the boil.

Two major reasons for the breaking of the back of the deficit are, first and most importantly - in 1990, if memory serves, Bush The Elder got Paygo going, a severely objective budget spending control mechanism that was reauthorized until allowed to expire in about 2000 or 2001, secondly - Bush The Elder raised taxes (if Clinton gets credit for deficit control because he raised taxes, so should Bush The Elder, and Reagan too, for that matter, since so much of the budget balancing was from Social Security taxes, which Reagan increased).
9.11.2006 3:03am
Lev:
Someone up there commented about Bush The Younger being incurious and that causing problems.

I think an equal issue is his lack of experience going into the Presidency. Essentially his experience was as a managing partner of a baseball team, running for election, and being the governor of a weak governor state.

When Rauch says:

]many Americans—I should own that I was one of them—looked at Bush and thought they saw a Churchill, or at least a Truman: a leader fortuitously equipped for a difficult job at a critical moment.

he is no doubt describing his actual feelings, but it was an emotional assessment. There is nothing in BTY's background even remotely comparable to the life experiences that Churchill and Truman brought to their positions as head of government.

When Rauch says:


Carter's weak leadership drained American confidence and prestige, and his clumsy regulation of energy markets and dithering on inflation damaged the economy.


one does wonder how he can give credit to BTE for breaking the back of the deficit, since Carter, after all, was the one who appointed Volcker, was the one who broke the back of inflation.

Similarly, by omission:


By the end of Reagan's first term, Carter's mistakes were memories. Carter took only a few years to undo, which made him more a downer than a disaster.


one wonders if Carter might have made some mistakes in dealing with Iran, mistakes that live on into Iran's nuclear weaponized future.

I agree with Rauch on the fiscal mess - the spending has been completely out of control, and BTY didn't make any pretense towards keeping it in control.

Iraq is a gamble in one direction. The other direction was to gamble on "containment". Neither is attractive and, as the weapons inspector reports said, containment might have been the more dangerous gamble.

Re: International opprobrium. - BTY is not a Democrat. "The World" does not like Republicans.

Re the extra legal stuff - I think this is way overblown. There is more than a kernal of truth in this part though:


Of all Bush's failings, his refusal to build durable underpinnings for what promises to be a long struggle is the most surprising,


One thing I just don't understand is why this Administration cannot get its act together to explain and reexplain ad nauseum what is at stake and why the WOT matters etc. etc. There are occasional burst of activity followed by long periods of somnolence. It doesn't help that BTY is so incredibly inarticulate.

Rauch writes in reaching for a conclusion:


All in all, a reasonable guess is that unwinding Bush will take more than a decade but less than two, meaning the job will be harder than unwinding Carter but easier than unwinding Nixon. In doing it, however, Bush's successors will have one useful ally: Bush himself.


If BTY is unwinding himself, how bad can he actually be?

This is partisan twaddle:


Bush has two years left to unwind himself; and if he's lucky, he'll have a Democratic House or Senate to help. He has been cursed with a Republican Congress that has indulged his worst tendencies


Any bets that BTY will veto anything a Dem congress passes?
9.11.2006 3:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
There is nothing in BTY's background even remotely comparable to the life experiences that Churchill and Truman brought to their positions as head of government.

What was Truman's experience before becoming president?

In this early career he held clerical jobs. Then he ran a men's clothing store and it went bankrupt. His government experience was as follows: (1) Jackson County Judge. An administrative not judicial position-- essentially a county commissioner. (2) Senator. Service in the Senate provides poor experience for president as it provides no executive experience. It's not surprising that only two Senators were ever elected to the presidency from the Senate. (3) Vice President. He served a whole three months as a vice president, a position that historically carries few real responsibilities. He wasn't even briefed on the Manhattan Project.

Most people regard Truman as a sleeper. He had a reputation for being a bagman for the corrupt Pendergast machine in Missouri. After being sworn in as vice president he attended the Pendergast's funeral—the only elected official to do so. He was the only president since 1870 not to have a college degree.

So I don't see how one can say that Truman's experience before becoming president was superior to Bush's.
9.11.2006 4:16am
Medis:
One general point to keep in mind: as another poster mentioned, it is quite clear that people like Cheney, Addington, and so on, came into office with a pre-existing conviction that the presidency had been weakened too much as a result of Nixon. Accordingly, while in office these folks have done everything thing they can to expand the powers of the president and exclude interference from the other two organs of government, and in ways which are not limited to national security issues. Accordingly, I think it is important to understand that at its root, their thinking on this subject is not based on anything in particular to do with 9/11, the threat posed by Al Qaeda/terrorists, or so on.

Anyway, I believe that democracies can fight terrorism, and indeed that it is ultimately highly-counterproductive to sacrifice our basic political and moral values as a society merely in order to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks. And I actually think that should be quite obvious: terrorists are ultimately fighting a psychological/propaganda war, and many of the arguments and actions suggested by people here simply help the terrorists achieve their goals.

For example, terrorist groups like nothing more than to be treated as extremely important, and all this talk of "existential threats" only makes them sound as important as they could ever hope to be to Americans and the world. Similarly, terrorist groups like to claim that they are exposing the fundamental weaknesses and immoral underpinnings of democratic societies, and of course arguing that democracies are in fact incapable of dealing with terrorists simply lends credence to those claims. And so on.

So if this is so obvious--that these arguments and actions are only helping the terrorists achieve their propaganda goals--then why have so many Americans (albeit an ever-decreasing number) fallen for this stuff? I think a large part of it is partisanship, and indeed I suspect we would see a lot of people making arguments on the other side (in both directions) if a Democrat was in the White House. But most fundamentally, when the political leadership of this country is effectively cooperating with the terrorists--in that helping the terrorists achieve their propaganda goals also helps the political leadership achieve its goal of concentrating power into its own hands--then that becomes a very powerful propaganda combination.

Hopefully, however, the tide has turned and eventually the American people will choose new leaders who will prioritize effectively fighting terrorism over using terrorism to increase their own power.
9.11.2006 2:15pm
Lev:

So I don't see how one can say that Truman's experience before becoming president was superior to Bush's.


I guess I can because I read a biography of Truman by some guy named McCullough, and there isn't much resemblance between that guy and Bush The Younger.

book by some guy named McCullough
9.12.2006 2:24am
Brent (mail):
You quote Rauch:

If the country seriously intends to prevent terrorism, then spying at home, detaining terror suspects, and conducting tough interrogations are practices that the government will need to engage in for many years to come. Instead of making proper legal provisions for those practices, Bush has run the war against jihadism out of his back pocket, as a permanent state of emergency.

As a father and American citizen, I could really care less how the torture of terrorists takes place, if it provides information that will keep my family safe. That may of course be a great conversation starter for eggheads that want to think the law is about coloring inside the lines. Fine.

As long as people that I trust are in the drivers seat - that's why elections are so important - they have my unspoken permission to get information from Islamofascists and their sympathizers by going all Malcolm X on their terrorist ass: by any means necessary. I just don't want to hear about it. The lawyers can fight over it afterward. Particularly those that care more about the due process for a terrorist than protecting my family.

Would I feel differently if someone I didn't support took over in this country? Possibly . . . nah, I'm just playin with ya. This nation survived the Wild West with both Western style justice AND the Constitution. It can survive recognizing evil and stamping it out.


And you do know - and some of you are actually fearful - that millions more Americans feel exactly the same as me.
9.12.2006 3:51am