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Wow. Tom, I don't know what to say other than great post. We'll see how this all turns out, I am and have been a very strong supporter of our strategy.

In answer to your question, I think all liberals must do is get in the game. In my view, politics has trumped ideology on the liberal side of the debate. I've posted on this because, although I generally disagree with the liberal point of view, we need balance and wisdom that I know exists on the liberal side.

There is much left to do. Iran is number one, and frankly I see liberals on the sideline once again taking pot shots at Bush instead of pitching in. What should we do here?

On this topic.

It all reminds me a lot of the flap over Ronald Reagan and his "Evil Empire" comments. Liberals fretted that we were going to upset the communists and we needed to be nice to them and pacify them, while Reagan did exactly the opposite at every opportunity. In the end, whether we atribute it to Reagan or not, Communism fell and we never felt the wrath of the Communist backlash.

I see much the same thing happening here with the Middle East situtaion. I think your supposition will prove to be correct, and whether he fudged or not, history will look back at the Bush term in office as the time when a strong willed Texan President orchestrated the liberation of the Middle East.

Getting a little ahead of ourselves aren't we?

I hope not. Not just because I hate being wrong, but also because somewhere, deep inside, I just don't believe any good can come from unprovoked violence.

I just don't believe any good can come from unprovoked violence.
Are you referring to our unprovoked violence, or al Qaeda's unprovoked violence, or Saddam's unprovoked violence, or ...

What you SHOULD do (as a Democrat) is apologise, both to President Bush for your churlish behavior and that of your fellow Democrats; and to your fellow citizens at large, for repeatedly placing your partisan agenda ahead of the good of the nation.

What I EXPECT TO SEE, based on observations of people who share your beliefs, is an increase in the mealymouthing and aid-and-comforting ("... Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us...") that our nation has become so used to.

Oh, whatever, DaveP. Did you actually read the post, or just have a knee-jerk politically-based reaction, hmm? Don't lump him in with some other random interview, and I won't assume you're bugging the offices of your competitors, okay?

Is it too much to ask that our leaders not lie to us- abuse us- if their goals and intentions are, in fact, honest and as such durable enough to withstand scrutiny?

Are we satisfied with ends- weakly anticipated, poorly planned for, hideously carried out, rife with damaging side effects- justifying the means?

Unprovoked violence? UNPROVOKED VIOLENCE? My God.

My God.

[Sixty seconds pause trying to think what to say first.]

My God.


If Michele is ever getting raped, I will be sure to stand carefully out of the way rather than assault her attacker with my unprovoked violence. If he's not doing anything to ME, then what business is it of mine what happens to her? What good would come out of my interfering by directing unprovoked violence against him? Michele has just assured me that she "just doesn't believe any good can come from unprovoked violence."

"What if our most conservative President goes down in history as a great contributor to the liberal ideals of freedom and tolerance, while we Democrats -- we liberals -- go down as cold-hearted and fearful, unconcerned about the suffering of our fellows while we sit contentedly in our affluence?" Michele is apparently scratching her head with a look of confusion..."What, there's something wrong with being unconcerned about the suffering of other people as long as we're well-fed and our gym subscription is paid up and there's plenty of money in our Starbucks budget and we're not on the receiving end of what's happening to a bunch of dark-skinned fundamentalist Muslims? I mean, I don't see the problem...he isn't provoking ME."

If he wasn't doing it to us, you see, then he wasn't provoking us. Let the Kurdish women and children die; they aren't Americans, so who cares? Let the Shi'ites be forced to watch their wives get shot in the forehead and then be forced to pay for the bullet; they're just Muslims, so who cares? It's not like he's PROVOKING anything -- he isn't doing it to us. Let soccer players be brutally tortured every time they lose a match...hey, no pain, no gain, and it isn't happening to us, so why should we consider ourselves provoked?

My God.

My God.

One reason the majority of Americans are disenchanted with the U.N. and international law is that, after all these years, some of 'em have actually gotten around to reading the U.N. Charter and realized that according to the U.N.'s view of "sovereignty" -- and, it would seem, Michele's views of morality -- you can do whatever you want to your own people, and as long as you don't go after the people in other countries it's not any of their business. They can protest, but if they actually step in and make you stop, then they're being naughty warmongering persons, in clear violation of Article 2, Principle 7, and probably also in violation of Principles 1, 3 and 4 as well. (Telling tyrants you disapprove of their behavior has always been SUCH a successful tactic in making them stop.) Despite the desperate efforts of international lawyers to come up with rationalizations for forcible human-rights interventions from outside -- the only possible hope that people living under someone like Hussein can have -- the Charter is clear and all the international outcry about international law was pretty much justified...at least given the fundamental assumptions of international law as encoded in the U.N. Charter.

But thank God the American people as a whole (discounting inhabitants of Manhattan, of course) have not yet sunk to the moral level of being able to sit and watch a woman get murdered in Central Park without even lifting a phone to call 9-1-1, on the grounds that it's none of their business -- the guy's not provoking THEM.

I suppose, actually, I'm too optimistic. Probably the majority of Americans are comfortable sitting by if there's not also a perceived threat to themselves; we did, after all, stand placidly by while our government encouraged the Shi'ites to rebel and then calmly left them hanging, and we did stand placidly by while our government participated in the morally repugnant economic sanctions that could have had no conceivable outcome except the misery and utter enslavement of the common people under the tyrant's thumb. Not all of us did, but I can assure you from many discussions that few people were interested in the horrific toll those sanctions were taking on Iraq's innocents and in the outright positive effect it was having on Saddam's regime. Now, granted, this was under Bush the Elder, who had Clinton's ethics and moral vision without Clinton's charm and intelligence, and then under Clinton, about whom the less said the better. But it's still shameful that the American public as a whole allowed our nation to be a part of that -- especially since all it would have taken to make Clinton call off our participation in the sanctions would have been a single poll showing that 50.01% of Americans were opposed to them.

But at least most of us have never reached the point where we would criticize a person who DID step in to save a woman from a murderous mugger, on the grounds that he had no business interfering with a private dispute between two parties neither of whom had provoked him with violence. "I'm morally superior to you because I stood aside and let her die, while YOU went and interfered with something that wasn't any of your business -- the mugger had done nothing to you." Oh, yeah, history's gonna buy that one. Or, "Well, you shouldn't have gone in and interfered unless all of the rest of us had taken a vote and decided to authorize your violence, you nasty mean unilaterally violent person, you."

Unprovoked violence.

My God.

Nony Mouse - heh, good one.

You know what? I owe Michele a profound apology. She just got blasted with a lot of pent-up frustration over stuff that other people have said over the last couple of years (especially overseas...I have spent lots of time overseas and read lots of overseas news coverage). Michele, forgive me; you didn't deserve that. At least not for your little one-sentence post. Who am I to assume that all your opinions are identical to those of people who've frustrated me in the past, just because you say one sentence that sounds like something they'd say?

Feel free to flame away at me; I deserve it and won't complain if you do.

I really am very sorry.


Rob L, could you clarify one thing?

...hideously carried out...

Does this mean you think getting Iraq to the point of holding successful elections was so easy that it should have been done in six months rather than two years? I mean, the war itself was clearly so brilliantly executed that the Democratic party had to start talking immediately about "winning the peace." So I'm presuming you're saying that Bush has been incompetent at nation-building?

Now I myself have spent the last two years bitterly complaining that Bush must think us all utter morons to buy the idea that you could have successful elections in Iraq in just a couple of years. And I've had very specific criticisms of his tactics, as well...what kind of moron does anything with Abu Ghraib except raze it, much LESS reopen it for business???!!! I thought the election was likely to be a complete disaster, precisely because I've thought for two years that Bush's nation-building was being badly (not hideously, but badly) carried out. There has been a steady drumbeat of criticism from the left about how this election was going to fail and how the whole idea was a crock...but look what happened!

For two days after that election I was offering apologies to my Bush-ite Republican friends who had had to listen to me talk about how Bush was insulting our collective intelligence by pretending you could pull off a successful election, in a country that had no history of democracy and a nation full of people whose common characteristics were mutual hatred and well-founded distrust of anyone in power, in less time than it took us to hold even local elections in Germany after WWII.

If the job was impossible to begin with, and then Dubya carried it out "hideously," then how the heck did we suddenly wind up with purple fingers everywhere and Sunni leaders begging to be allowed to climb back into the sandbox and play with the other children? It seems to me that either this whole Arab democracy thing must have been WAY easier to pull off than we naysayers were saying (in which case why didn't Clinton or somebody do it long before now?) or else Bush has to have been doing at least a halfway decent job of nation-building over there.

I still think that the guy's a total moron at domestic policy, by the way. "No Child Left Behind" -- God have mercy on our upcoming generation of illiterates. But on Iraq I have had to admit that Dubya knew something I didn't and has been doing a better job than I thought.

So, anyway, do you think nation-building is really, really easy and that any state governor or Democratic Congressman could have done better in Iraq than Bush has, or what? 'Cause my impression is that Bush has taken on a task so daunting that no Democrat would have been willing to attempt it at all, and against formidable odds has actually pulled off something fairly remarkable.

I enjoyed the post. I've also thought about what a Palestinian Ghandi could accomplish.
"The only thing that keeps the Palestinians from achieving their goals is their acceptance of people who blow up city buses and pizza joints." The other thing that has kept them from doing so is moderate leaders who wished for non-violent solutions didn't stand much of a chance with Arafat in control. Has anyone ever done more good in the world by dying?


While I'm inclined to agree with you on ideaology, your message is.....very strong. Lets remember we're guests here my man.

I posted a recipe for Manhattan's on my site last month. Its a wonderful drink, I suggest that you have two!

"the smugness of Bush Republicans just makes me want to vomit. "

Well, we're smug because we were right all along about Iraq and we knew it. Wouldn't you be smug?

(BTW I am a former Clinton and Gore voter and still liberal, just not on foreign policy.)

Also, Bush WAS honest. And we knew that too.

"If the job was impossible to begin with, and then Dubya carried it out "hideously," then how the heck did we suddenly wind up with purple fingers everywhere"

Actually the coalition enacted most of the smart ideas and accumulated wisdom about nation-building that has come from people who worked on these things in Haiti, Eastern Europe, South Africa (some successful, some not, but there has been an accumulation of "best practice").....

That's another reason I knew there was a good chance it would work. The occupation was NOT that "chaotic, unplanned, ill-thought-out," etc.

Also, some of us believed that the desire for self-rule and impartial law is innate in all human societies, not culture-bound, not foreign to the Mideast. We didn't think Bush was "imposing Western ideas on others," we thought he was removing obstacles to those people being able to act on their innate desire for liberty. The Iraqis and Lebanese and Afghanis obviously think so too.

What a wonderfully honest, introspective piece about the Middle East and how it might be changing under the Bush Doctrine.

It is still a "might," not a done deal, by any sense of the imagination. However, I, too feel that there is a change in spirit -- a contagious feeling among middle eastern peoples that a better life is now more solid than a mere dream.

Whether you are a democrat or a republican, the attainment of a freer society, in other parts of the world, should be applauded and supported. We are becoming more and more a global society, rather than just fragmented countries. What effects the Middle East also effects us, which is a concept that I think Bush believed in, and was indeed a component in his broad brush that preemptedly dealt with Iraq.

Bush felt that the idea of freedom, once established in one or two middle eastern countries, would spread to neighboring ones. He didn't guarantee this notion, only believed in it. That is all that anyone can do with a vision. Promote the possibilities and await the outcome.

If this works, then give the man credit. If it doesn't work, still give the man credit for trying. For trying a new way is better than just standing still and holding a paralyzed finger in the wind, hoping for a fortune telling breeze to tell you what to do.

Tom, that was a very gutsy essay. It takes a lot of integrity to indicate a willingness to be fair and change one's mind if facts warrant. While my own outlook, as detailed on my blog, is different from yours, I respect anyone who is honest. Congratulations.

I agree. Nicely, and bravely, done.


It is regrettable to say, but in the long run, yours will be a voice in the wilderness.

Already, some in the media are beginning to come around to your line of thinking, but it is referred to in so desultory a fashion as to basically shuffle it off in order to go on to the next Jackson Trial update.

For those of us who have wholly supported the war, it has been indeed a pleasure to watch Jon Stewart practically crying in his hands on the air over the recent movements in Lebanon and Iraq, but for every Jon Stewart there will be ten Paul Krugmans or MoDos or Molly Ivins who are so implacably anti-Bush and/or anti-neocon that they will engage in their own version of Waiting for Godot - waiting for any sign of failure or problems in the Middle East, whereupon they can jump up and down and yell, "See! See! I toldja! What'd I tell ya?"

It is what it is. Events are, truly, out of our control now. However, in this case, Success is truly only going to have one father - and the Mainstream Media are going to do their level best to see to it that this Success is an orphan.

As to the Palestinians and Gandhi - it is my belief that the only reasons the Palis did not, and are not going to, win that conflict is that for some reason no one is willing or able to translate "We Shall Overcome" into Arabic.

Events, JD, are not out of "our" or anyone's control. All those who act have some effect, and acting constructively and forcefully now, in the middle of a major "tipping", is likely to have not just major but vastly amplified effects for a long time to come.

It's that passivity, I think, that this blog entry was on about in great part. Perfection truly is the enemy of the good.

Tom, a really fine essay. I echo the admiration for your integrity from the earlier posters. Oh, how I wish your fellow Dems could think like you do! Last time I filled out biographical information, my choices for "nationality" didn't include either Democrat or Republican, only "American." Where have all the statesmen and women gone? With you, sir, there is still hope for our two-party system.

Oh, and Kenny? I admire your passionate response to Michele and the thinking behind it. Over the top? Perhaps. But your subsequent apology exuded nothing but class.

A point for discussion: Dems (and I consider myself an Independent, NOT a Republican) make a big deal out of "Bush Lied." I don't happen to agree with that. I think, simply, that he's a politician. And there IS a difference. Politicians who don't stretch the case seldom get what they want, an unfortunate aspect of our political landscape these days, perhaps forever. Let me ask you: Would outright honesty pay? If Bush had said, "I think Saddam is a murderous bastard, I think he's got WMD, but I'm not sure because the Intel is unclear, and he tried to assassinate my daddy, so we're gonna take him out," do you think Congress would have gone for it? Would you have gone for it?

I used to work at a major manufacturer and, as with almost every company, in order to "sell" a project, you had to show that the project's internal rate of return was greater than 30%. Well, put it this way, that's damn near impossible to get, using only the "facts." So what did people do? They lied. And the people that got ahead and got their projects through were the best liars. That's the kind of political environment we have in this country. Why don't all of us, regardless of our party affiliations, spend our energy working on THAT problem, rather than call each other names?

It was my first visit here, Tom. I like your style. I'll be back.

Brian - Apologies to you and all; I misspoke (mis-typed?) regarding "Events" being out of our control - the events to which I was referring were in the MSM, not worldwide.

There are a lot of folks on the port side of the 'Sphere who are wondering which nation is next on the Bush Target List. For a long time the smart money was Syria, followed by Iran. As it becomes apparent that Lebanon may flip of its own accord, with many thinks to the utter stupidity of Boy Assad, the final true Baathist thugocracy will stand surrounded - with an imbecile at the head of it. My crystal ball sez Syria flips within twelve months without direct U.S. intervention.

Strange days indeed.

It is great fun, tho, to go back into the MSM writings and transcripts of six, nine, twelve months, even two years ago, and see what the Great Solons of the Media were saying then, and compare it to what they are saying now.

And all the while, the Bush folks have been saying the same damn thing.

Again, we hear the comments: Bush did the job "hideously", Bush "didn't have plan..."

For a job that no one, in the whole history of the Middle East, had ever even attempted before. Seriously. When, ever, did any power attempt to truly empower democracy and freedom in the Middle East on this scale (on any scale?)? You'd have to go back to the Romans, and their version of the job involved torches and salt.

Yet Bush is damned for doing this unprecedented job "hideously." That's like damning Wilbur and Orville Wright for not inventing Jet Blue.

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