Meta Debating Iraq with Kurt Andersen, Part II

Posted on July 4, 2007. Filed under: Humor, Iraq, Jokes, Main Stream Media, News, Politics |

The Great Pseudo-Debate
Meta-Debating the Iraq War with Kurt Andersen, Part I

I want to be clear that I’m focusing on Andersen’s piece because I care about this issue and because I share many of the same frustrations as he does about Iraq. This issue definitely needs to be debated. In short, his piece was a catalyst for me to write mine.

So what is bothering Andersen? If I understand him correctly it’s that the debate the presidential candidates are having about Iraq is, in his words, fake. The fake debate is “all about the comparatively minor, near-term details of the American military withdrawal-cum-redeployment.” The real debate, in his mind, begin when we all acknowledge that we are stuck in Iraq for many years.

Leaving aside what I think about that, it’s worth pointing out that the candidates debate as they do because of the way the party politics works in this country. At this stage of the presidential campaign, candidates pander to the most extreme members of their party. For the Democrats, these are the folks who would like to raise our taxes to the moon and lead us to nirvana. Those who oppose them will be sent to a penal colony where they will be taught to love and share. For the Republicans, these are the folks who want to crucifix and a camera over everyone’s four-poster. They want to live in a nation of door-to-door bible salesmen (“I’d like to talk to you a little about the Lord. [insert uncomfortably long pause] Is this a good time?”) and appoint Jesus as Secretary of Defense. If the candidates decide to ignore these folks, they won’t get nominated.

During the last presidential campaign, the Democratic Party choose Kerry when the “base” really wanted Howard Dean. Heroically but hilariously they choose a man who could pull off the amazing stunt of telling everyone exactly what they wanted to hear. Whereas Dean was blunt about his opposition to the war, Kerry was “complicated.” He was able to please the far left by talking tough about Bush’s management of war without committing himself to ending the war. It seemed to satisfy everyone in the tent, and it almost worked. In the end though, Kerry tripped himself up in his own rhetorical calisthenics (“I was for the war before he was against it”).

So the far left of the party held their noses and nominated Kerry, even though they were wildly against his politics. He was rich. He was a suit. He was an aristocrat. They had to keep from laughing when they saw him, dressed in a blue sport jacket, chatting up Iowan farmers in a diner about the price of hogs or seeds or manure. They wanted Dean, and if they couldn’t have him they would have happily exhumed Che’s body instead. They had to muzzle themselves and ask others to restrain them during Kerry’s acceptance speech. It was a selfless sacrifice for the Party, of course. The idea was to pick a candidate who could potentially be palatable to enough swing voters to take the White House. They didn’t like Kerry’s politics, but they thought he could win. Instead, the Democrats lost the election, and got two big conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court.

In this election cycle, abortion is basically off the table–a decided negative for the Democrats. It was a great wedge issue for them. With that alone, they captured the politically active “suburban soccer mom” market. Now the fate of a federally protected right to an abortion is in the hands of the Supreme Court–and it will probably be overturned. After that, the issue goes back to the states, where it will remain a local issue for years to come. But the Democrats still have the War. And it’s not just the War–it’s all the little villains who can be trotted out. Dick Cheney will have a staring role. And they’ll be global warming talk a plenty. Those are their aces in the hole, so to speak. Aren’t you excited?

The Republican side was far simpler. In George W. Bush, the far right got someone who truly believed in what they stood for, who wasn’t pandering to them, and if they had to hold their noses about some of Bush’s big government spending plans like prescription drug coverage and overhauling Social Security (another “entitlement!”) or the fact that he was candy-ass on immigration, they were willing to split the difference. They love him on stem cells, even if no one understands what the fuss is all about (“You see these cells over here? Take ’em. These cells you may not touch. Why? Because they come from over here, that’s why!”)

If this is bothering Andersen, I say just wait until the real campaign gets going.

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Meta Debating Iraq With Kurt Andersen

Posted on July 2, 2007. Filed under: Iraq, Main Stream Media, Politics |


“The Great Pseudo-Debate,” by New York Magazine’s “Imperial City” columnist Kurt Andersen, is a good example of meta debating. In Andersen’s view, no one is having an intellectually honest debate about the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq because the Bush Administration won’t own up to its failures and the Democratic presidential candidates are pandering to unworkable options like total withdrawal. As for what got us into the war in the first place, Andersen believes that “It was our weakness for childlike, black-and-white explanation that got us into the Iraq debacle.” Nothing could be further from the truth. And I would argue we are having a very healthy debate on Iraq in the country, but Andersen doesn’t like what he’s hearing. Picture a man sitting in a room with the music on full-blast, but becase it’s so loud it’s almost inaudible. If I understand his article correctly, that’s a good discription of Andersen.

This nation has a history with Iraq that dates back long before George W. Bush became president. Our nation supported Iraq during it’s war with Iran. The first Bush Administration invaded Iraq when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. believed that Iraq had biological weapons because allegedly the U.S. sold them to Iraq. The United States also believed that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. For years after the first invasion of Iraq, the U.N. conducted inspections to make sure that Saddam Hussein did not retain any WMD. These inspections became a pathetic game of cat-and-mouse that made a joke of the whole thing. Iraq was placed under a strict set of economic sanctions which became a joke over the next many years, as evidenced by the giant U.N. scandal. On top of all that, I believe the U.S. congress passed a resolution making it explicit U.S. policy to undermine Hussein’s regime and to fund opposition groups outside Iraq to overthrow Saddam. Apparently none of this is particularly important to Andersen.

The future was clear. The sanctions were going to end because the apparatus used to enforce them was corrupt. The inspections were going to end because Saddam would not cooperate. The scene was set for an arms race between dictatorships in the Middle East: Iraq vs Iran. After 9/11, the reality dawned on many people that the U.S. needed a strategy that accounted for the need to prevent attacks not just on U.S. interests abroad, but also at home. The argument was made (based on half-baked intelligence) that Iraq had attempted to restart its nuclear program. If you believe George Tenet, then the problem was how the intelligence was used, not the intelligence itself. At any rate, the U.S. congress debated the question of whether to stick with the U.N. program of containing Iraq or to use military force. It voted to support Bush’s eventual use of military force. Sen. John Kerry voted for it. Sen. John Edwards voted for it. Sen. Hillary Clinton voted for it. Barak Obama didn’t have to vote at all. How any of this qualifies as “childlike” is beyond me.

There is currently no indigenous counter-weight to Iran in the Middle East. The U.S., with its troops in Iraq, is the only force preventing Iran’s domination of the region. If the U.S. has learned anything from the last many years it’s that “regime change” does not happen from within very often. Dictators have made a science out of staying in power.

The road to the second Iraq invasion was a long time in coming.

Meta Debating Iraq with Kurt Andersen, Part II

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  • Quotes of the Day

    "Writing editorials is like wetting your pants in a blue serge suit. It feels good, but nobody really notices."

    --Jack Germond

    "Famous men and women, by the act of putting themselves on display, whether as politicians, actors, writers, painters, musicians, restaurateurs, or whatever, invite public appraisal. They are all, impressively or pathetically, acting on the presumption that their ideas, their fantasies, their music, their bodies are more original than those of, say, a plumber or a certified public accountant. They are all exercising the impulse, as Mencken put it, ‘to flap their wings in public.’ This is so obvious to the critic–and, I believe, to the ordinary reader or spectator–that it seems hardly worth saying. But resentment of the practice of criticism itself is strong among professional artists (and all Presidents of the United States). There is a psychological type among them that hates critics on principle as parasites or failed performers. This is very natural but surely very childish and, in any country claiming to be civilized, actually anti-social. The existence of critics, good, bad, or indifferent, is a firm clause in the social contract between the governors and the governed in any nation that is not a dictatorship. Public figures should accept with good grace the public response to their invitations to be admired and resist the temptation to retort, except in the face of flagrant malice."

    --Alistair Cooke

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