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?"