Friday, December 08, 2006

Tim Lee (via Jim Henley) doesn't see much new in the vaunted Iraq Study Group report:

The line has always been that we’ll withdraw our troops when the Iraqi troops are ready, and we’ve always been told that that will take a year or two. So while it’s good to see a “bipartisan” panel admitting that the strategy to date has been a disaster, I don’t see how the ISG has recommended anything other than more of the same.

But someone perceives a difference:

Mr. Bush, making his first extended comments on the study, seemed to push back against two of its most fundamental recommendations: pulling back American combat brigades from Iraq over the next 15 months, and engaging in direct talks with Iran and Syria. He said he needed to be “flexible and realistic” in making decisions about troop movements, and he set conditions for talks with Iran and Syria that neither country was likely to accept.

He still wants not just a stable state in Iraq, but a truly democratic government. And not just a truly democratic government, but a government that will simultaneously be truly democratic, and as subservient to his own whims as, say, Tony Blair's.

But he did promise, two days ago, that "we will act on [the report] in a timely fashion".

What does that mean, in the light of his more recent remarks? Like two days ago, I envision him in the oval office, tripping over every third word in Shakespeare's St. Crispin's day speech while standing on a copy of the report.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

If you're distressed about the current American government's tolerance of torture, take heart --- even they have limits. They just issued an indictment in Miami demonstrating those limits. An indictment of a Liberian government official, for torture of other Liberians, which allegedly happened in Liberia.
Quotes of the day:

Whatever the final impact of the Iraq Study Group report being issued today, for the 10 commission members this was an exhilarating experience, a demonstration of genuine bipartisanship that they hope will serve as an example to the broader political world.

In essence, the study group is projecting that a rapid infusion of American military trainers will so improve the Iraqi security forces that virtually all of the American combat brigades may be withdrawn by the early part of 2008. ...

Jack Keane, the retired Army chief of staff who served on the group’s panel of military advisers, described that goal as entirely impractical. “Based on where we are now we can’t get there,” General Keane said in an interview, adding that the report’s conclusions say more about “the absence of political will in Washington than the harsh realities in Iraq.”

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

—Richard Feynman

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The blurb for this article on the New York Times's online front page presently reads:

A bipartisan, independent panel studying the war in Iraq presented its findings this morning to President Bush, who said he would take their ideas “very seriously” and act on them “in a timely fashion.”

My brain has been seized by an image of Bush in the Oval Office, tripping over every third word in Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V while standing on a copy of the report.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

You always find something new and unexpected on the shelves at Brookline Booksmith. Today's find: "Triumph Forsaken", by one Martin Moyar of the Marine Corps University. His thesis, says the blurb:
Drawing on a wealth of new evidence from all sides, Triumph Forsaken overturns most of the historical orthodoxy on the Vietnam War. Through the analysis of international perceptions and power, it shows that South Vietnam was a vital interest of the United States.

That's right: this is the first book ever to properly survey the toppling of the dominos after the fall of Saigon, and the way that the subsequent erosion of both regional interests and American prestige contributed to the collapse of America's dominant position in the former Western alliance during the 1980s. It's only through a scenario like this that Vietnam could be shown to be not merely an "important" interest, but "vital" --- and yet, if you read the stuff coming out of more conventional universities, dominated as they are by liberal scholars, you'd think that none of this stuff had ever happenned at all.

And yet, strangely, this blurb didn't tempt me to page through and look further, much less to actually buy the book.

Brookline Booksmith isn't exactly hurting; over the past year I've bought at least a dozen volumes from them in hardcover, though nothing with a thesis quite as revolutionary as Moyar's...