2006 August 20 Sunday
Iraq Driving Political Right Against Bush
Peter Baker of the Washington Post takes note of increasing criticism of Bush by right wingers and war supporters about the Iraq war and American foreign policy.
For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"
But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."
The problem with the promoters of the rosy scenarios for Iraq is that they've made so many predictions that are wrong. Generally commentators and pundits can make lots of predictions that turn out to be wrong and they rarely suffer any career setbacks as a result. The general public has little memory for what big name pundits said a year or two ago. But anyone who defends the Bush Administration's Iraq policy has to tout Iraq as a success.The public can detect errors in such arguments without the need for long memories of what each war proponent has said in the past.
Rich Lowry sees Iraq headed on a downward trajectory. Well, better he figures this out late than never.
"Conservatives for a long time were in protective mode, wanting to emphasize the progress in Iraq to contrast what they felt was an unfair attack on the war by the Democrats and media and other sources," Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, said in an interview. "But there's more of a sense now that things are on a downward trajectory, and more of a willingness to acknowledge it and pressure the administration to react to it."
That "protective mode", that knee-jerk reaction of "If the Left is against it then I'm for it" has not served the Right well at all. Mind you, left-leaning commentators play the same game and harm their own side - and more importantly the cause of truth - just as much when they play that game.
I've had people showing up to comment on my blog in past years who assumed that since I'm very critical of Bush I must be a left-wing socialist pacifist appeaser. As the reality of the Iraq Debacle has sunk in with war proponents I've noticed a big drop-off in such commenters. I think it has been months since the Panglossians have told me I'm a pacifist. Any Panglossians reading this who want to defend their faith in Jorge W. Bush?
Lawrence Auster has been documenting increasing doubts and even total flips of Iraq war supporters . Read the extensive commentary by him and his readers. Ralph Peters, John Podhoretz, and Rich Lowry all show signs of feeling the bite of reality sinking in.
"better he figures this out late than never."
It's not a hell of a lot better. The question is whether pundits like Lowry made a mistake or are simply damned fools. I'm afraid it's the second. Look, Lowry doesn't know shit. He doesn't know the nitty-gritty of military affairs, doesn't know anything about military technology, doesn't know modern tactics or strategy, deosn't know counterinsurgency.
No one at National Review does.
He doesn't know history, has no feel for the historical process: he didn't know what a snakepit Iraq has been in the recent past. He didn't understand that the Baathists were (failed) modernizers, that with their defeat only militant Islam and tribalism would be left standing in Iraq. As far as I can tell, no one else at NR saw this either.
All of them seem completely unaware that imperialism is no longer in fashion: that when you occupy, you usually see resistance, barring a level of schreklichkeit that the US can't stomach. It as if they they have forgtten most of the history of the 20th century: never heard of Algeria or Afghanistan.
None seemed to realize that Iraq was and is one of the most unpromising candidates for democratization imaginable: backward, dependent upon extractive resources, schooled in politics a la Saddam, mostly illiterate - and the 'educated classes' haven't spent a lot of time reading the Federalist papers. Short on every kind of human capital.
And they didn't try: they didn't make any serious attempt to check the war out before they bought into it. They were warned by old friends & they ignored every warning.
And the way thay've _clung_ to the halfwit in the White House, despire all the evidence of his incompetence or _worse_ - they have no shame. We know they're willing to support ball-busting folly rather than let down their 'side'. Knaves as well as fools.
NR is fairly representative of the right-wing pundits as for the left, they're just as useless on any strategic question (note that the great majority signed on to this misbegotten war as well). They didn't stick with the sinking ship, but then they're on the other 'side' - but I see no evidence of good judgement or patriotism among them.
Truly a generation of vipers.
Somewhat related to this question, but I fear that the US is going to become quagmired in quite a few more Iraqs fairly soon, if for no other reason than our growing (mostly immigrant) population with such high consumption is pushing us in that direction. I know you talk about the ridiculous immigration levels to the USA on your site-- and the *legal* immigration numbers (over 1.2 million a year) are worse than the illegal ones-- and this is the connection between the immigration issue and the Iraq issue.
The United States is already importing, what, 15 million barrels a day, mostly from the Middle East to pay the costd of our population as it is (of 290,000,000)-- this makes our economy dangerously dependent on Middle Eastern oil, since even slight disruptions of oil supply would hit our oil-dependent economy extremely hard, much worse than other countries less dependent on crude and more focused on efficient technologies and renewable and innovative fuel sources. (Japan, Denmark and Germany with their wind towers and super-efficient autos come to mind.) In fact, the oil import situation is even worse since domestic production in e.g. Texas is declining more rapidly every year. Thus, the US political class is deathly afraid of oil supply disruptions, and both parties are pushed to intervene to control and regulate Middle Eastern oil supplies, such as those in Iraq.
From this, the math is pretty basic. If 290,000,000 high-consuming, many of them SUV-driving Americans are requiring 15,000,000 barrels of imported oil a day to function, then every time we import 1.2 million new people-- pushed to consume at American standards-- we're digging the hole even deeper for ourselves. With current immigration levels (and the high birth rates of the immigrant groups), we'll hit 350,000,000 people by around 2030 or so, if not much earlier. By then, and factoring in the continuing production declines in mature American fields, we'd require 25 MILLION BARRELS A DAY worth of imported oil for our economy to stay afloat-- which would probably signify an all-but permanent quagmire of US troops being sucked into Middle Eastern resource wars, with all the attendant increases in embittered anti-American terrorism and other nastiness.
I'd be interested if you've addressed this issue before, but this to me, if anything, is probably one of the strongest arguments against continued high immigration levels. Ridiculously high US immigration (predominantly of the legal immigration variety) traps the US even further in the catastrophic morass of imported oil dependency, which would make our current fiasco in Iraq seem like a Saturday beach picnic in comparison. The Bush Administration is already being pushed as it is to attack Iran, with the mullahs readying their deadly tentacles in a trap that would ensnare and chew up our military far worse than the Vietcong and NVA could have done either at their peak. But our oil dependency-- exacerbated by high immigration levels-- just mires us even further.
Another thing I'll note here, Randall, but-- is it just me, or is the United States basically slipping into a kind of "New Feudalism"? I'm serious.
Look at the structure of the US workplace these days, especially for professionals in technical fields like computer science and engineering, but also across the board-- it's awful. Pay rapidly declines while the workload rapidly increases, and employees are far too afraid to object to even obvious abuses since they're constantly reminded that they're easily expendable-- get out of line for a second, and Management will replace you with a Haitian or an Indian who'll work for half your salary and keep their mouth shut. Everyone's afraid to ask for a fair living wage, let alone to protest a ridiculous lay-off, and people are forced to work such long hours-- over 100 hours a week is common in comp-sci and engineering-- that they're too exhausted to build their skills or look for another job.
Starting a family? Bah, that's a joke. It's just like in Orwell's 1984-- the company basically owns you, and it will extract every ounce of labor from you until you're dried up and utterly burned out. Even think about starting a family, and you'd better find a nice box on the street to move to. Of about 40 of my good friends from college, most of them professionals and most of them having graduated with a desire to start a family-- and I'm at my 15-year reunion-- exactly 5, that's right about 10% have decided to have even one child, let alone two. Most are just far too overworked and exhausted to even consider starting a family, and they know that if they do, they'll be replaced on a dime by a cheaper import from Bangalore, India. This is another reason that the US is changing demographically so fast-- professionals, especially American-born Caucasians in fields like engineering, are far too overworked to start families, so they don't have kids.
It's gotten me very cynical, but it seems like both parties, liberals and conservatives are stuck in this racket. Liberals love mass immigration and affirmative action for the way it provides them with ready-made voting blocs, while big business conservatives love mass immigration since it breaks any prospect of collective bargaining and employee resistance, while enabling them to intimidate and weaken workers who try to speak up or ask for something better.
I've worked in other countries before, and I'm just shocked at the way professionals in general are treated here. In most places they're seen as valuable resources and given enormous respect. In the US, professionals in engineering and computer fields are treated like crap, and constantly reminded that they're easily replaceable on any given day. In fact, even if they do stay down and keep their mouths shut, Management quite often will lay them off anyway and replace them with bargain-basement imports from (or operations outsourced to) India.
One of my good friends in engineering was very nearly worked to death, literally, by his company. It made me especially angry, since this was one of the brightest and hardest-working guys I ever new. He didn't party much in college, worked hard and graduated with top honors in electrical engineering, then got an entry-level job with a decent (though not enormous) salary in a networking company that will stay unnamed for the present moment. He had all kinds of good ideas, but they were squelched or taken from him without him getting any credit-- the company just wanted to work him to the bone, extract labor from him for over 90 hours a week, week after week with no vacation time and relatively few weekends, until he was too ragged to stand up anymore, and they'd cast him aside. All this occurred in the midst of stagnant and even shrinking pay and declining benefits. He eventually had a sort of nervous breakdown, his blood pressure was through the roof-- he was basically on something like 3 high blood pressure drugs at the same time, his health was a mess, he was depressed and too burned out to function. So when he returned to the office one day-- without giving the poor guy even a day to recover-- he was instructed to remove all his belongings and get out. He, and about 6 other "dead weight" employees, were being replaced by cheaper imports from India, on top of dozens of other positions for which the same thing had happened. He very nearly went bankrupt-- we all chipped in to help him, and even then he was only barely able to pay his bills.
This isn't an isolated occurrence, and it makes me wonder if this country can possibly survive as a unified State anymore-- both the Left and the Right have collaborated to gut the earning power and simple, basic respect that any hard-working employee deserves for doing a good job, even the basic right to a living wage. Super-heavy immigration and outsourcing are being wielded as weapons against US workers asking for even the most basic forms of compensation. Our so-called unemployment rate is a ridiculous underestimate, yet another tool in the ongoing racket-- it doesn't count people who've been unemployed for years, who are stuck in temp jobs, given up job-searching or too sick or burned-out to work full-time.
Indians work for much less, are much more pliable and-- though quality generally suffers-- seem to be considered useful for cost-cutting.
And if you ever want to know how they help in cost-cutting-- well, you'll need a clothespin on your nose to find out at least one of the ways. I hate to kick up an old stereotype, and this doesn't apply to all (or even a majority) of the Indians at my friend's old company, but a very significant minority of them had probably never touched a bar of soap in their lives. If you think about it, basic personal hygiene is expensive and time-consuming-- all those showers every or every other day cost a lot of money for the soap, water, towels etc. Forgoing those, uh, niceties can save a good deal of money, and can help an employee to work for less, ask for less money. In fact there was a section of my friend's old company offices that the employees bitterly called "stink bomb alley," where a big fraction of the Indians worked-- it reeked so awfully that people avoided it at all costs, and the few remaining Americans were desperate to transfer. A few of them were even relieved to be laid off.
So this is what the current employment situation in the US is leading to-- a race to the bottom both in salaries and in personal hygiene standards, since the stinkiest workers will be cheaper ones too. Something to look forward to.
P.S. (sorry last post to this thread, I promise), a little nugget that I thought you might find interesting, Randall--
I do part-time weekend work at one of the local chain bookstores-- I'm one of those scorned middle-classers who has to take a second job to make ends meet-- and you'd never guess what the hottest-selling books at our shop are. Mystery novels? Nope. Sci-fi? Not in a while. Romance-novel potboilers? Always a mainstay but not #1. Books on tape? SAT prep? Self-help? Niches but they've been stagnant for a while.
In fact, the highest growth area for books at our shop is in foreign-language study books, especially for German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and Italian. Japanese and Mandarin Chinese (even Hindi, go figure) have also been getting briskly increasing business and purchases, but it's the European languages, even the ones for the smaller European countries, that are basically flying off the shelves. They've gotten to be such hot sellers that the manager decided, a month ago, to add an entire new set of shelves, with books, tapes and CDs from all kinds of obscure foreign-language teaching companies specializing in predominantly European languages. German, Italian and Spanish are especially hot, and French and Dutch are not far behind-- you can't put a German or Italian book on the market for two days without it getting snapped up.
There was one customer who, I kid you not, bought no less than 9 foreign language books/CDs when he brought them to the cash register. I looked at him a bit amused and out of curiosity asked if he was e.g. a foreign service officer or diplomat or something along those lines. He told me, no-- he was a software engineer, and he was en route to emigrating from the US, to Dortmund, Germany in this case! He figured that Dortmund would be a home base for other places on the Continent, and so he wanted to learn not only German but a few other European languages as well. He'd been laid off recently from his US job and, although he was staying afloat by temping (the guy was brilliant), he felt he didn't deserve to be treated like sh*t as a professional in US companies, he'd worked to hard to reach the level of training that he had. I was surprised b/c I thought that Europe had its own problems making it undesirable, but apparently it's much preferred by a good number of professionals here after all the crap they've had to endure, despite the language barriers initially. There were six other occasions when the reason for the foreign-language purchases came up, and on all but one occasion (when the guy really was seeking out a State Department job), I got a similar response-- the customers were sick and tired of the crap they were having to put up with in US companies, the declining pay and growing workload, the general lack of respect. At the same time, oddly enough, a few enclaves in Europe have started to really take off as centers of innovative technology despite the sclerosis in much of the European economy-- Dortmund, Leipzig and Krefeld in Germany, Strasbourg in France, Milan in Italy for example. So skilled engineers and programmers are leaving the US and setting up shop, marrying, having kids and establishing their careers overseas-- in Europe.
It was a total shock to me, because in the US we've always seen ourselves as the first choice for talented foreigners. But this time, it's we who are suffering the brain drain to other places. Talented, skilled, professional Americans are emigrating in droves from the US to get set up in Europe, Asia, even South America. Those places aren't perfect, but the vast majority of US expats in Europe that I've met are pretty happy. They still get decent pay there, albeit at higher tax rates, while getting a lot more respect and without having to deal with the same you-are-expendable-no-matter-how-talented crap that we encounter in technical fields in the US. Outsourcing from and mass immigration to the US are killing our economy-- that old story about the goose and the golden egg, I guess.
I'd like to understand the "realist" plan for dealing with Iranian nuclear weapons development. If Iran has 5 years to the bomb, but Steve Sailer acknowledges it will take 20 years following disengagement for them to stop hating us, where does disengagement leave us from years 5 to 20? The principal advantage of engaged neoconism is its aggressive interference with rogue govts., weapons programs, and terrorists, with an end goal of reducing risks of a society ending nuclear event. There seem to be two benefits of disengagement: (1) messy blow-by-blow news coverage is reduced, making evenings in front of the tv less jarring, and (2) we take some intuitive satisfaction from the fact that on the other side of the world, american interaction with muslims is low or zero. Steve Sailer takes a fatalist "Iran is going to get the bomb" view, which enables advocacy of disengagement, which gratifies anti-multicultural intuition. However Iranian nuclear weapons aren't a foregone conclusion, and conceding Iran the weapons in order to have "disengagement gratification" reflects some badly upset priorities and a kind of feelings first foreign policy typical of the liberal left. I favor an all out anti-WMD approach involving bribery of government players/terrorist groups, "decapitation" of irresponsible regimes, military action to disrupt WMD programs, positive public relations, and using/developing economic ties for maximum leverage. Much closer to Bush than to the "realist" critics. In the event we pursue these sort of policies and Iran does develop deliverable nuclear weapons, they would face the same retaliatory consequences to an attack as if we simply concede the weapons. No difference. The last thing we need in the middle east is an Iran with North Korean immunity. They hate us more, and they have more money than NK.
We're powerful. Incentives matter (to the "bad guys"). Also, disengagement may be a fantasy in an interconnected world. Cutting down the biggest rogue actor might tilt the good guys/bad guys ratio irrevocably in our favor. Of course, we'd likely be visited by some Iran sponsored domestic terrorism in the short term.