Tuesday, March 11. 2008
William R. Polk: The Iraq War and the Presidential Election. Well, not so much about the election, which is just as well. The first long section is about what the war is costing "us" -- which at this point is probably the Achilles heel of the misadventure. It seems impossible to reach any sort of consensus on whether Iraq would be better off or worse off without US troops there, but deep down it's hard to find any Americans who actually care about Iraqis -- from day one the war has always been about us, and the Iraqis have never been more than pawns or collateral damage. On the other hand, the question of whether our costs justify the cheap thrills and petty vanities of the politicians who started the war -- that's a question that deserves to be kept front and center. I don't think Polk has identified all of the costs, and many of them are incalculable -- e.g., the war was presumably the reason Bush was elected in 2004, leading to four more years of all sorts of mischief. But this is a good list to start from, to show to doubtful friends and to consult for 5th anniversary speachmaking. Polk writes:
Polk also summarizes some of two of his books. One is called Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq, which takes about ten cases widely scattered in space and time and draws out common themes, like the near impossibility of crushing such insurgencies. The other was coauthored with George McGovern, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now -- would be a very useful book if anyone in a position to get out of Iraq actually wanted to.
Dean Baker: The War and the Recession. Baker writes usefully about the present costs of the Iraq war and cites some chilling modelling on future costs of extended war ("by the tenth year, the economy was projected to have lost about half a million jobs, mostly in manufacturing and construction"), but he argues that the real cause of the recession is the $8 trillion housing bubble collapse.
News today (aside from the 8 US troops killed in Iraq, a bit of a bump from the usually reported tranquility): Admiral William Fallon resigned at Centcom commander. Fallon has recently been quoted as saying that the US won't attack Iran on his watch, so I guess that promise has expired. It seems likely that's what did him in: the Bush hawks like the principle of keeping the option of nuking Iran on the table even if they don't intend to do it. Otherwise, like, the enemy might think we're rational, and, like, we can't have any of that get out.
PS: Also looks like Fallon was pushing to draw down some troops from Iraq, and clashed with Petraeus over that.
Other news is that Obama won the Mississippi primary today, something like 60% to 38% for Clinton. It looks like that was closer than it would have been due to open votes. Salon reports some exit poll breakouts: Republicans voting in the Democratic primary favored Clinton 77-23; voters with favorable opinion of John McCain favored Clinton 71-29. Some guess as to the size of the crossover vote can be made based on the fact that the race breakdown of voters was 49-49, where normal expectations were that the Democratic primary electorate would be 60-70% black. This doesn't look like just some casual drift. Of course, it could just be Republicans trying to fuck with Democrats heads. It doesn't necessarily mean that Republicans like Clinton more than Obama, or hate Obama more than Clinton, but most likely it does mean that they'd rather run against Clinton. Maybe she's not as vetted as she thinks?
PS: Here's a report about Republicans crossing over in the Ohio primary.