On Analogy and Imperial Ambition

by matttbastard

What was that about Afghanistan not being even remotely analogous to Vietnam?

Andrew Bacevich:

Implementing the McChrystal plan will perpetuate the longstanding fundamentals of US national security policy: maintaining a global military presence, configuring US forces for global power projection, and employing those forces to intervene on a global basis. The McChrystal plan modestly updates these fundamentals to account for the lessons of 9/11 and Iraq, cultural awareness and sensitivity nudging aside advanced technology as the signature of American military power, for example. Yet at its core, the McChrystal plan aims to avert change. Its purpose – despite 9/11 and despite the failures of Iraq – is to preserve the status quo.

[…]

If the president assents to McChrystal’s request, he will void his promise of change at least so far as national security policy is concerned. The Afghanistan war will continue until the end of his first term and probably beyond. It will consume hundreds of billions of dollars. It will result in hundreds or perhaps thousands more American combat deaths – costs that the hawks are loath to acknowledge.

Bah — costs, shmosts. Remember, kids: Failure is not an option; No end but victory; Clap harder, etc. Positive reinforcement is like the platinum card of force projection — and one can always refinance the mounting debt if the interest proves too great.

Glennzilla (h/t):

Obama deserves some credit for at least refusing to capitulate immediately to the military’s demands without taking time to consider alternative options.  Russ Feingold just wrote another Op-Ed arguing for a withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan, but that option is not even part of the Washington debate.  The only issue is whether to escalate and, if so, by how much.  The Washington Post today reported that as part of Obama’s March order for 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, “the White House has also authorized — and the Pentagon is deploying — at least 13,000 troops beyond that number.”  With Democrats like Feinstein controlling the U.S. Senate, is it any wonder that our status as a perpetual war nation appears to continue indefinitely?

Ah well, if we can’t actually be granted meaningful Change in the direction of US foreign policy, at least we can vicariously cling to the imperial hopes and dreams of those who profit from the expansionist state.

Yes, we can.

Oh, and for us Canucks, the prospect of US forces committing to a protracted, NATO-lead COIN campaign in Afghanistan combined with soaring Tory poll numbers would appear to put Harper’s long-promised 2011 exit date for Canadian combat troops in serious question.

Ok, I guess there are some differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam — at least Canada knew enough to stay out of that tar pit.

Related: First Van Jones, now Joe Biden?! Seriously, Arianna Huffington (or her ghost-writer, natch) desperately needs to get over the notion that being out of power somehow magically imparts one greater influence (and PONIES!)

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“Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today.”

by matttbastard

Glenn Greenwald sees something all-too-familiar in the vicious, reality-averse wingnut invective directed towards President Obama:

In 1994, Jesse Helms, then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed that “just about every military man” believes Clinton is unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief and then warned/threatened him not to venture onto military bases in the South:  “Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He better have a bodyguard.”  The Wall St. Journal called for a Special Prosecutor to investigate the possible “murder” of Vince Foster.  Clinton was relentlessly accused by leading right-wing voices of being a murderer, a serial rapist, and a drug trafficker.  Tens of millions of dollars and barrels of media ink were expended investigating “Whitewater,” a “scandal” which, to this day, virtually nobody can even define.  When Clinton tried to kill Osama bin Laden, they accused him of “wagging the dog” — trying to distract the country from the truly important matters at hand (his sex scandal).  And, of course, the GOP ultimately impeached him over that sex scandal — in the process issuing a lengthy legal brief with footnotes detailing his sex acts (cigars and sex talk), publicly speculating about (and demanding examinations of) the unique “distinguishing” spots on his penis, and using leading right-wing organs to disseminate innuendo that he had an abandoned, out-of-wedlock child.  More intense and constant attacks on a President’s “legitimacy” are difficult to imagine.This is why I have very mixed feelings about the protests of conservatives such as David Frum or Andrew Sullivan that the conservative movement has been supposedly “hijacked” by extremists and crazies.  On the one hand, this is true.  But when was it different?  Rush Limbaugh didn’t just magically appear in the last twelve months.  He — along with people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Bill Kristol and Jesse Helms — have been leaders of that party for decades.  Republicans spent the 1990s wallowing in Ken Starr’s sex report, “Angry White Male” militias, black U.N. helicopters, Vince Foster’s murder, Clinton’s Mena drug runway, Monica’s semen-stained dress, Hillary’s lesbianism, “wag the dog” theories, and all sorts of efforts to personally humiliate Clinton and destroy the legitimacy of his presidency using the most paranoid, reality-detached, and scurrilous attacks.  And the crazed conspiracy-mongers in that movement became even more prominent during the Bush years.  Frum himself — now parading around as the Serious Adult conservative — wrote, along with uber-extremist Richard Perle, one of the most deranged and reality-detached books of the last two decades, and before that, celebrated George W. Bush, his former boss, as “The Right Man.”

Ah, the ’90s — good times. But I would look even further back for historical antecedants than Greenwald does, to a far darker period in US politics. Sam Kashner, from a profile of William Manchester, author of Death of a President:

“In that third year of the Kennedy presidency,” Manchester wrote, “a kind of fever lay over Dallas country. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed, ‘Impeach Earl Warren.’ Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas.…Radical Right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; corporate junior executives were required to attend radical seminars.” A retired major general ran the American flag upside down, deriding it as “the Democrat flag.” A wanted poster with J.F.K.’s face on it was circulated, announcing “this man is Wanted” for—among other things—“turning the sovereignty of the US over to the Communist controlled United Nations” and appointing “anti-Christians … aliens and known Communists” to federal offices. And a full-page advertisement had appeared the day of the assassination in The Dallas Morning News accusing Kennedy of making a secret deal with the Communist Party; when it was shown to the president, he was appalled. He turned to Jacqueline, who was visibly upset, and said, “Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today.”

This past weekend’s 9/12 rally — and the unremittingly paranoid iconography of right-wing backlash politics on display once more — should give pause to any student of American history, whether academic or lay. Hofstadter would certainly recognize the (lily-white) kid wearing a t-shirt pining for a “new era of McCarthyism.” I don’t pray (because I don’t believe there’s anyone up there to receive any spiritual SOS), but I truly hope (hope) the historical parallels ultimately turn out to be limited in scope and scale.

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Mary Jo.

by matttbastard

Amid the overwhelming coverage surrounding the historic passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy, one important name from his past has either been reduced to a footnote or, far too often, ignored completely: Mary Jo Kopechne, the civil rights activist and Kennedy aide who perished in a now-infamous 1969 car accident in Chappaquiddick, ME when a besotted Kennedy crashed his car into the ocean. The controversy surrounding these events would follow Kennedy throughout his career.

Melissa Lasky gives the 411:

Mary Jo wasn’t a right-wing talking point or a negative campaign slogan. She was a dedicated civil rights activist and political talent with a bright future — granted, whenever someone dies young, people sermonize about how he had a “bright future” ahead of him — but she actually did. She wasn’t afraid to defy convention (28 and unmarried, oh the horror!) or create her own career path based on her talents. She lived in Georgetown (where I grew up) and loved the Red Sox (we’ll forgive her for that). Then she got in a car driven by a 36-year-old senator with an alcohol problem and a cauldron full of demons, and wound up a controversial footnote in a dynasty.

We don’t know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she’d have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history. What we don’t know, as always, could fill a Metrodome.

Liss tries to balance the deserved accolades Kennedy has received for his lifelong work serving his constituents and the US with his despicable actions on that fateful day:

I suspect that Teddy, who knew himself well and could stare his flaws in the face, who carried the shame of his misdeeds in the furrow of his brow that never totally lightened even with a smile, also felt burdened by his own abuses of the privilege he knew he hadn’t earned. It was there; he couldn’t help himself using it, even when he knew he shouldn’t have. And it hung on him, as well it should have.

He’d made a terrible bargain with himself, too.

Teddy’s legacy, then, is complicated. A man of privilege, who used it cynically for his own benefit. A man of privilege, who used it generously to try to change the world. And maybe to salve his own conscience. Even as he believed fervently in the genuine rightness of his endeavors—and certainly would have, even if there wasn’t a scale to balance.

I have no tidy conclusion. It is what it is.

Daisy is far less charitable:

Sorry my dear liberal brothers and sisters, I respectfully sit this one out. Women first.

Further, as an alcoholic, I will not mourn a rich drunk allowed to make a deadly mistake and carry on as if nothing had happened.

I will mourn the working woman who was forgotten, as the actual circumstances of her death were covered up by a powerful family, who then arbitrarily assigned her slut status.

Imagine slowly, slowly drowning, water enveloping you inch by inch as you drown, waiting for the person to rescue you that never arrives.

Sorry, folks. Some things, I do not excuse.

Mary Jo represents all the nobody-women killed (or allowed to die, if you want to quibble over my terms) by all the powerful, rich men, because they were “evidence”–because they got in the way.

During this orgy of remembrance and sentimentality, of course, we won’t be hearing about her…once again, it will be considered somehow “rude” to mention Mary Jo Kopechne’s suspicious and untimely death. Well, let me be RUDE, then, and remind everyone that she existed. That she was a beautiful and lively woman, cherished by family and friends; she was a human being that was considered expendable by the Kennedy clan.

FUCK Ted Kennedy. Purgatory is hot, and he’ll be there awhile.

How this unresolved incident should affect the way we consider his legacy is, as noted by Will Bunch and myself, a difficult question that historians will likely struggle with for some time to come. Kennedy’s undeniably laudable accomplishments should not be allowed to mitigate his responsibility for and the subsequent irresponsibility and lack of accountability displayed following the death of Kopechne. That said, I’m not comfortable discounting a lifetime of tireless social justice advocacy and impactful legislating, no matter how horrible his actions were (should we solely refer to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson as racist slave owners, or Sen. Robert Byrd as a former KKK member at the expense of the overall historical record?)

Ultimately, like most truly great (though not necessarily morally upright) historical figures, an accurate summation of Sen. Kennedy’s life must take all aspects into account, even those we’d prefer to avoid; indeed, to merely indulge in hagiography does an unforgiveable disservice to both Kopechne’s memory and Kennedy’s.

Update: Welcome Feministing readers! Make sure to check out the latest thoughtful posts on Kennedy and Kopechne from Daisy and Bunch (much thanks for the linkage & kind words). [links corrected — mea culpa, is late.]

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New at GlobalComment: ‘Ted Kennedy and the paradox of class’

by matttbastard

As my CFLF coblogger Kathy kindly noted over at The Moderate Voice the other day, yours truly spent most of early Wednesday AM monitoring (and tweeting) the coverage following Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s passing. As long-promised, will post a best-of link round-up sometime soon (I know, am slacking). For now, please check out my latest @ GlobalComment, ‘Ted Kennedy and the paradox of class’:

Ted Kennedy ultimately believed his role — his responsibility — in the US Senate was to give voice to the voiceless, those who couldn’t afford to hire expensive K-Street lobby firms or embark upon expensive ad campaigns to raise public awareness. With over 300 pieces of legislation passed during his lengthy tenure in the Senate that bore his stamp in some form or fashion, it is not hyperbolic to say that Kennedy helped steer the direction of American civil society in the latter half of the 20th century. This is reflected by the broad cross-section of organizations that hailed his life and legacy upon hearing of his passing. The National Center for Transgender Equality, NARAL, the United Farm Workers and the NAACP; these disparate groups (along with countless others) all heralded the tireless social justice efforts of a man who never allowed his personal wealth to stop him from fighting to fully extend the inherent rights contained in US citizenship.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Also, make sure to check out Sarah’s inspiring piece @ GC on Kennedy, aptly summarized thusly in a recent tweet: “Health care. Now.”

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Backlash to the Future

by matttbastard

In which right-wing propaganda merchants double down on the ZOMG POTUS = SCARY NEGRO!!!1 strategy:

Yep, as far as the wingnuts are concerned, it’s 1968 to infinity, kids — the permanent campaign perverted in a manner designed to shatter post-racial dreams that would make Tricky Dick proud.

Let’s just hope the consequences of this cynical ploy don’t prove deadly.

h/t Campus Progress, video courtesy Media Matters for America

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Palin Resigns (ZOMG?!)

by matttbastard

Shorter: “You won’t have Palin to kick around any more!”

Yeah, yeah, I know — quitters never win.  Still, as Adele Stan warns, we (as in ‘progressives’) shouldn’t start singing the ‘na-na-na’ song just yet (h/t Jennifer Pozner):

For some reason, the very ambitious Sarah Palin finds the need to take herself out of public view. It’s hard not to speculate that there’s another shoe yet to drop. But don’t count her out; she’s as tenacious a political fighter as I’ve ever seen. She’ll no doubt put the time gained of her early exit from the governor’s mansion to good use — perhaps studying up on issues for her visits to the people of Iowa and New Hampshire.When I first speculated that she would be John McCain’s vice presidential pick, people said, Sarah who? Despite colossal missteps, she emerged from the 2008 presidential election as the darling of the Republican Party, her running mate returning to the Senate as a has-been. Mark my words: She’ll be back.

We (again, as in ‘progressives’) should remember what happened in 1968, after liberals and upper-class elites at the time had prematurely dismissed Sarah Palin’s political forefather, the man who wrote the book on exploiting class/racial grievance for electoral gain.

A book that the soon-to-be-former Governor of Alaska has studied well.

Much, much more over at Memeorandum.

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Iran: Dreams Underfoot

by matttbastard

(Image: sterno74, used under a Creative Commons licence)

Following the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, Tom Regan’s Terrorism and Security Briefing for the Christian Science Monitor became a must-read for anyone who wanted a daily general analysis of counterterrorism/counterinsurgency developments around the world. Unfortunately, Regan no longer compiles the briefing. But, late last week, he quietly emerged from an undisclosed location to pen this must-read take on the ongoing post-election turmoil in Iran.

Regan notes that the West may be projecting its own collective desire for transformative political reform in the region onto a murky, still-fluid situation that is not quite the widespread democratic uprising that the mainstream media and Western political establishment would have us believe:

…I strongly believe that what are seeing in Iran is something like a reality based TV show. It’s based on a real incident, but it’s still being shaped by the show’s writers and director (ie, the western media) to be the most interesting to a Western audience. We’re only seeing the bits of tape that conform to what the western media ([which] represent us) want the story to be. It’s real but it’s not reality.

First, this is most definitely NOT a national revolution. This is a protest largely based, as I said, in northern Tehran, the more affluent and prosperous area of the city where most of the universities are located as are (surprised) the hotels where most western journalists stay. As Time’s Joe Klein (who just got back from Tehran) noted in an interview on CNN yesterday, there is no protest at all in southern Tehran, the largest part of the city where the poor and less-educated live. This is Ahmadinejad ’s base. And there is almost no protest at all in rural areas. The regime is firmly in command in most of the country, and the more repressive elements like the Revolutionary Guard have yet to really make their presence felt.

You know, this beginning to sound like Beijing 20 years ago.

Now, there is always the chance that a revolt driven by a relatively small number of the country’s population will succeed in overthrowing the country’s regime. Especially in Iran, where one revolution has already done that. But that was a revolt approved by the large majority of the people against a hated despot. This is not the same situation. If there is hatred of Ahmedinejad it comes no where near close to the hatred felt for the Shah. It’s just not going to happen.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Karoli via Twitter

Related: Patrick Martin provides a history lesson on Mir-Houssein Mousavi, a most unlikely champion for Western-style liberal democracy, while John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Robert Faris of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society share an informative survey of the overall Iranian web presence (which–surprise–may not conform with what we’ve been voyeuristically observing via Twitter). Elsewhere, Dana Goldstein gives us these two mustread posts on the role Iranian feminists have played in the uprising (h/t Ann Friedman). Also see the one and only Antonia Zerbisias (taking a welcome respite from blogging about her thighs and pention [sic]) for more on how–and why–the women of Iran have taken the lead in demonstrations.

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Nothing Sez ‘Common Ground’ Like Hatin’ teh JOOZ

by matttbastard

Awesome:

This January, a week after Barack Obama’s Inauguration, a conference called “Holocaust? A Sacred Lie by the West” was held in Tehran. Ahmadinejad, in a greeting that he sent to the conference, said that Zionists had “ensnared many politicians and parties.” In a follow-up statement, he added, “An incident known as 9/11 occurred. It is not yet clear who carried it out, who collaborated with them, and who paved the way for them. The event took place, and—like in the case of the Holocaust—they sealed it off, refusing to allow objective research groups to find out the truth.”

Iasked Thomas Pickering why Ahmadinejad had chosen that moment to talk so provocatively about the Holocaust. “I think he probably felt encouraged by the Pope,” Pickering replied, referring to the news that week that Benedict XVI had lifted an excommunication order on a British bishop and Holocaust denier. (The Pope later asked the bishop to recant.)

Heartwarming. Who says the Vatican has been backsliding on JPII’s ecumenical outreach efforts? Heckuva job, Ratzi.

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Quote of the Day: “A crisis of the moral economy.”

by matttbastard

The greatest irony of the Thatcher crusade is that its economics pulled against its ethics. I doubt if the idealised abstinent, puritanical, self-respecting Grantham of her imagination ever existed in the real world. It certainly didn’t exist in her Britain. As a quick reading of the Communist Manifesto would have warned her, free-market capitalism is, of its very essence, subversive. It is restless, heaving, masterless, wonderfully dynamic and creative, but, in itself, utterly amoral. The hot breath of the cash nexus dissolves the ties of faith, community, family and tradition. And, as Friedrich von Hayek pointed out more vigorously than any critic of the free market, entrepreneurial success has nothing to do with merit or fairness. It is about satisfying wants and even at times about creating or manufacturing them; and the wants are as likely to be bad as good. The speculative frenzies and spectacular frauds that have studded its history are of its essence, too: among the forces that drive it, greed, credulity and the herd instinct loom much larger than the rationality that most economists celebrate.

– David Marquand, The warrior woman

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