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July 28, 2005

Hillary, Take it Back!
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Okay, now that I've come to terms with the fact that raising yucca plants and goats in New Mexico may be a fine career switch for  me, I must comment on the recent DLC proposals--contained in the new issue of Blueprint called "How America Can Win Again" put forward and roundly endorsed by many Democrats in Congress,  including Senator Clinton. Liberal bloggers are an editorial target in the issue--which has caused all kinds of fine rumpus online.

First, there's the call to unity"Less than four years ago, the attacks of Sept. 11 united Americans like no event since Pearl Harbor. For a brief, shining moment, country -- not party -- was all that mattered."

Yes, politics is ugly, but it was the rabid ideological pyromaniacs of the conservative "revolution" in 1994 that paved the path we are treading today. Maybe politics are polarizing further because some liberals have finally realized that since we're not even allowed in the ring anymore we might as well stand and fight on principle. The prevailing conservative mind-set is NOT a two-way street. It thrives on absolutes. As my dad (a former Republican) said --their ownership society is "I have mine and now I want yours!"  After watching this president and his cohorts on Capitol Hill bully their way into Iraq, and the conservative leadership of Congress capitulating on its own prerogative of checks and balances--I think some serious rabble rousing may be in order. They started it.

"We challenge Washington to increase America's Armed Forces by 100,000 troops. Iraq isn't the last war we'll have to fight, and we need a bigger army. We need to challenge more Americans to serve, and give them the means to do so. "

Okay, now stop this calling for all these new troops. This is a throwaway line unless you tell me exactly what items in the defense budget you are willing to cut in order to pay for the personnel.  Even the Defense Department has now cast into doubt the F22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. Why? WE CAN'T AFFORD THEM. Also, this expansion of troops assumes the normalization of pre-emptive war and you'd think that our experience in Iraq would diminish that option somewhat. Our future looks like Afghanistan, not Iraq.

The DLC could contribute much more to the debate by calling for a Manhattan Project-like effort to counter the problem of improvised explosive devices (IED) and embarass the defense industry for being such slackers about real warfighting needs. Or how about convening a joint conference with the Air Force entitled "Beyond Airpower"?  Secretary Rumsfeld is right about smaller, expeditionary forces being the need of the future. Where he's wrong is to stress technology over human beings as the way to achieve it. We need commanders who can take a city and then reorganize their battalion on the spot to restore the city. No Flash Gordon widget can do that.

"Washington ought to close the revolving door, so that members of Congress and administration officials can't become lobbyists as soon as they've left office."

Agreed. But there should also be much stricter controls on military officers who retire and then go into the defense industry. Yes they provide reality tested advice, but they also contribute to the hypnotic chant that more defense spending will purchase more security.  Who wants to argue with a military professional? Why doesn't the DLC help create an entire think tank for returned soldiers and retiring officers who would like to make a living doing something other than shilling for Boeing? Like advising policy makers?

"We challenge Washington to put its own house in order. It should cut congressional and nondefense staff by 10 percent, reduce federal consultants by 150,000..."

This one requires a little cognitive mapping.  This is trying to get a little bit of the "we hate government, too" action away from the Norquist trolls. Congress is broken. It is overwhelmed. It can no longer even perform basic functions of oversight. We need more talented congressional staff across the board, not less. Besides, if this order is carried out with the Republicans still in power, guess who is going to take it in the shorts?  How about roundly standing up for all public service? The reason we have so many consultants is because of the malarial fevered downsizing promoted by conservatives for thirty years.  The Agency for International Development is little more than a contracting shell because it has been stripped of its permanent professional specialists: the institutional memory so vital for capacity building is lost along with them.  Even the conservative's sacred cow--the military itself-- is being sacrificed in their "free market" . Witness the privatization of military duties in Iraq and the morale busting salary differentials that go along with it.

The overall problem with the DLC's ideas is that there's not much new in them. In the security sections, they still rely on the military to solve all our problems for us. Knowing this is the furthest thing from being "anti-military".  Civilians need to grow up.  Indeed, at the Marine's Irregular Warfare conference a few weeks back, one of the sessions inspired a lively Q and A.  It was about the military's ability to foster conditions leading to stability and IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield). Because Marines generally don't worry about manhood issues during policy discussions (unlike Karl Rove) it became clear that paying attention to   psychological and societal aspects of a culture is vital--as is institution building.  The military is in a process of learning backward. One marine said "if we had done the planning for phase four (rebuilding) we would not have fought this war."

It was the smartest thing I've heard in a long, long time.

I just watched the premier episode of "Over There" the FX series about the Iraq war. I liked it. I thought it was compelling, had enough of a story and was not preachy (the producers have insisted that it will not take a political stand). 

Maybe this type of television programming can either substitute for or else jump start a more reality based understanding of the military--which has been so abused by politics over the last four years.  What do other people think about "Over There?"

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» GWOT vs. G-SAVE from Political Animal
GWOT vs. G-SAVE....Over at Democracy Arsenal, Lorelei Kelly has an interesting critique of the DLC that's a little more substantive than the pie throwing that's absorbed the blogosphere for the past few days. Specifically, she's not too impressed with ... [Read More]

» GWOT vs. G-SAVE from Political Animal
GWOT vs. G-SAVE....Over at Democracy Arsenal, Lorelei Kelly has an interesting critique of the DLC that's a little more substantive than the pie throwing that's absorbed the blogosphere for the past few days. Specifically, she's not too impressed with ... [Read More]

» GWOT vs. GSAVE from Political Animal
GWOT vs. GSAVE....Over at Democracy Arsenal, Lorelei Kelly has an interesting critique of the DLC that's a little more substantive than the pie throwing that's absorbed the blogosphere for the past few days. Specifically, she's not too impressed with t... [Read More]

Comments

I think the military started getting abused by politics a lot longer than just four years ago. Try a decade ago when it was salami sliced to produce a peace dividend. And since we couldn't cut back too much on shiny new weapons made in Congressional districts, we reduced personnel by 40%.
And wasn't it Al Gore who boasted of cutting 200K or 20% or something of the government work force when he was in charge of a Presidential commission on personnel management?
There is plenty of blame to go around--and Rumsfeld certainly deserves his share (along with his sycophantic generals)--so please don't try and dump it all on the conservatives or this administration.

Yes, politics is ugly, but it was the rabid ideological pyromaniacs of the conservative "revolution" in 1994 that paved the path we are treading today.

How is today much different from the rabid ideological partisanship of the 80s? Or the 70s? Or the 60s? Come to think of it, a guy named Thomas Jefferson had some interesting comments regarding partisanship in the press, and that was a couple of centuries ago.

Do you really think what's going on today is anything new, or due to one side of the political spectrum?

I think congressional narrow selfishness is our achille's heel on security all-round, homeland and national defense. Yes on Gore and "reinvention" but I would love to hear his opinion on how this efficiency argument became a rampaging way cry in the hands of those who don't really value the public sector. Rosignol, yes, its always been yucky...i've only been in the middle of it since the late 90's though...so that is my perspective. I think things like messing with institutional precedent a la "nuclear options" are something new and extra devious, however.

"Okay, now stop this calling for all these new troops. This is a throwaway line unless you tell me exactly what items in the defense budget you are willing to cut in order to pay for the personnel. Even the Defense Department has now cast into doubt the F22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. Why? WE CAN'T AFFORD THEM. Also, this expansion of troops assumes the normalization of pre-emptive war and you'd think that our experience in Iraq would diminish that option somewhat. Our future looks like Afghanistan, not Iraq."

I agree with your point that progressives/Democrats should not implicitly support the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war, but I think calling for more soldiers in the armed forces makes sense in both political and policy terms. The real impetus for expanding the active-duty military right now is to eliminate the "Back Door Draft" and the undue burden on our Reserve and National Guard units (which is also weakening our emergency preparedness here at home).

While the DLC may not have the packaging/messaging exactly right, I think progressives as a whole need to stop bickering about how to precisely calibrate their arguments in the context of current political debates and take a wider view.

Your assertion that "WE CAN'T AFFORD THEM" presumes that we continue with current tax and fiscal policies. What if we rolled back the Bush tax cuts? Asking the wealthy to pay for national defense, especially in "wartime", is the right thing to do. Progressives need to be much more emphatic on this point -- that it is the conservatives who mock the notion of "shared sacrifice" while at the same time claiming to be stalwart supporters of our troops.

But while we're talking about strengthening the military, let's not forget that we should be doing much more to enhance American diplomacy. This is another area where progressives can highlight the retrograde approach of conservative ideologues and point out how they have eroded our prestige around the world (which puts our troops in greater danger!).

I think these two arguments in addition to your point about the need to support and train better civil servants could be summarized in the following way: In pursuit of their narrow ideological goals conservatives have failed to invest sufficiently in the institutions that make America strong (Military, diplomacy, homeland security, and civil service), and they have abandoned the concept of shared sacrifice.

This message might encapsulate your father’s point about the so-called “Ownership Society” (how it’s really all about greed and selfishness), and it might also be an effective way to erode the conservatives/Republicans traditional advantage on national security by highlighting the gap between rhetoric and reality.

Rosignol, yes, its always been yucky...i've only been in the middle of it since the late 90's though...so that is my perspective.


What happened in the 90s was payback for what went on in the 80s. The 80s were payback for the 70s. The 70s were payback for the 60s. The 60s were payback for the 50s...

What you describe in "They started it" has literally been going on since the colonial assemblies that existed prior to the founding of the Republic. It used to be put on a back burner during wartime, but that tradition got tossed during the Viet Nam war.


I think things like messing with institutional precedent a la "nuclear options" are something new and extra devious, however.


Not at all. I suggest you look into what Senator Byrd did with regards to how many votes were needed for cloture back in the 70s, and perhaps re-consider exactly what the 'instituional precent' might be... a fair bit of that guy's clout is due to his expert understanding of the Senate's rules and procedures, and he has no compuctions about (ab)using them on the behalf of his agenda. At least he's not using that expertise to block civil rights legislation any more...


One thing I want to point out from your original post: Maybe politics are polarizing further because some liberals have finally realized that since we're not even allowed in the ring anymore we might as well stand and fight on principle.


Consider carefully: the people who decided the Democrats are 'not even allowed in the ring anymore' are not the Republicans, but the electorate.

Still, anger is a sign that you've progressed past the 'denial' stage a lot of Demorcrats were in after the 2000 election, and some democrats seem to have gotten to the 'bargaining' stage. Hopefullty, 'depression' and 'acceptance' will pass more quickly, because the Democrats aren't going to reform and come up with new ideas until then... all we're going to get is attempts to re-package, er, 'frame' old ideas.

Please hurry up. Our system of government works best when there are two viable parties, and right now, there aren't. That's not good for the country.


ps to Jeremy: Did you not notice the irony of saying Asking the wealthy to pay for national defense, especially in "wartime", is the right thing to do, immediately followed by Progressives need to be much more emphatic on this point -- that it is the conservatives who mock the notion of "shared sacrifice"?

The message I'm getting is "progressives support the troops so much that they want rich people to pay for them". Is that really what you meant by "shared sacrifice"?

Rosignol -- That is exactly what I mean.

Here's how U.S. Marine Paul Hackett (a reservist running for Congress in Ohio's 2nd District) put it:

" Hackett has criticized Bush's decision to invade Iraq and backs intensified training for Iraqi security forces by pairing them with U.S. troops. He condemns Bush's failure to ask Americans at home to share the burdens of war, complaining about politicians who "use the war to wrap themselves in the American flag."

"You can't fight three wars, support the troops and have a tax cut. It's irrational," he said in an interview, calling the administration's approach "patriotism light." Prolonged engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans have strained the economy and military, he said, and "the only people sacrificing are the ones over there." "

http://today.reuters.com/News/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-07-28T163108Z_01_N28126001_RTRIDST_0_USREPORT-POLITICS-OHIO-DC.XML

I also like this quote from Ellen Steinbaum contrasting the national effort during WWII with today's situation in Iraq:

"We aren't collecting scrap metal. We are driving Hummers."

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/29/opinion/l29military.html

Kudos, Lorelei, for hitting the nail on the head. Since I'm a nobody-blograt, I can beat my drum all over the place.

The number one training the military should institute, for as many troops as possible is language, language, language. No present or future war, wherever it's fought, will involve armies going out to a desolate plain to square off - as you say, it will involve a lot of shoe-leather in-town work, sometimes with a tank, and sometimes with a backhoe. If we had 150,000 intelligence gatherers running around on the ground in Iraq, there's no way we'd be in the absurd situation of not having any real clue who the insurgents are. I say nobody that commands more than 50 people should be deployed without basic proficiency in 1 or more local languages, except in a few cases like an attack on the homeland. From what you quote, I'd be surprised if people haven't already discussed this within the military leadership.

I also like your point about the defense industry - given how strongly the military values looking out for fellow servicemembers over a lifetime, of course they are going to try to get each other jobs in fields they're in. So if we want people to look for jobs in areas other than the defense-tech industry, we need to open those pipelines ourselves.

once again Rosignol, you have some almost-valid points that you then proceed to drown in utter horseshit.

What you describe in "They started it" has literally been going on since the colonial assemblies that existed prior to the founding of the Republic.

this kind of sad, world-weary "it's always been this way" sighing is an old trick, and intellectually disingenuous at best. Yes there has been payback and further recrimination in Congress. But they went after each other. NOTHING compares to the savage and cynical dismantling of the bureaucracy itself, the very capability of the institution to survive, that these new-school Mongols carried out in the mid-90s. Ms. Kelly lived that first-hand and I'm sure she'd be happy to educate you on what actually went on; unfortunately, she's also too nice to give you the literary curb-stomp your comment deserves.

and he has no compuctions about (ab)using them on the behalf of his agenda

again, you make the erroneous comparison of understanding and using precedent and procedure, as opposed to flat-out chucking that procedure (for example, LOCKING minority members out of meetings they had always allowed in previously.) if you insist on making that allegation, then you move from disingenuity to outright dishonesty.

Consider carefully: the people who decided the Democrats are 'not even allowed in the ring anymore' are not the Republicans, but the electorate.

cute-- you can cut n' paste from RNC talking points. but wrong. Read my above example; now, actually point to a time (outside Reconstruction) where one party in this country has so systematically disenfranchised the minority. you can't.

your next paragraph...well, let's just call it a insultingly sad attempt at patronizing a far better and brighter person than yourself, dust the dirt off our hands and 'move on'. heh.

"progressives support the troops so much that they want rich people to pay for them". Is that really what you meant by "shared sacrifice"?

interesting, your points get more churlish and wrong as you go-- perhaps the metamucil wasn't working? WRONG. the point is, in a time of ballooning debt and huge war expenses, you don't roll back the estate tax, (yeah, that was really hurting the middle class, wasn't it?) amongst others, screwing first-responder abilities in the process.

Man, I can't decide if you're slow or just a jerk.

On language training, I can't agree with Eric E.
With the exception of French in Africa, all the languages we need--RU, Chechnean, Indonesian, Farsi/Dari, Pushtun/Urdu, Arabic(in its various dialects), Somali, Tagalog, Thai and so on--not only require long periods of study for a basic proficiency, but also require continual use to maintain that proficiency. So, a company commander in Iraq might find it useful to be able to speak Arabic, but his career path doesn' allow him to establish that language proficiency before his company command. And, what if he never needs that language again; finding his next experience with foreign troops being in Georgia (the country) or Uzbekistan?
The SF overcome that by making their Groups regionally oriented. But that is impractical for entire US Army; just as it is impractical to think we can train and maintain several thousand additional foreign language speakers (every platoon leader/platoon sergeant and up), along with the several thousand linguists we are currently training and maintaining.
And as for rolling back the estate tax: while the estate tax will never hit me hard in any form, I still oppose it completely. The estate was already taxed multiple times (salary/capital gains/property/dividends/interest) no matter what form it may exist in. Why should it be taxed again just because the owner died? And if the answer is because the recipient didn't earn it and so shouldn't get to keep it all, then IMHO supporting anything other than total confiscation would be hypocritical.

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