Democracy Arsenal

« We Win: Then What? | Main | Relief and Redemption »

November 07, 2006

Armitage: A Referendum on Fear
Posted by Michael Signer

Among many, here's one key thing this election is about:  the American people's gradual decision, after five years of reflecting on the Bush Administration's particular foreign policy of fear and fear alone, that fear alone won't work as a response to 9/11. 

For its power to sustain, a unilateral power must attract admiration as well as awe.  Neocons have never understood this.  People Michael Ledeen have wrongly cited Machiavelli's supposed adage "it is better to be feared than loved" for stuff like the following:

"We can lead by the force of high moral example, [but] fear is much more reliable, and lasts longer. Once we show that we are capable of dealing out terrible punishment to our enemies, our power will be far greater."

Machiavelli actually said something much different.  Machiavelli never it's better to be feared than to be loved. He says instead that it's safer to be feared, "if one of them has to be wanting."

It seemed like no one inside the Administration really ever recognized this, which is why it's seemed like such a harsh, almost willfully unreflective pocket of groupthink.

But we can read today about a fascinating shaft of light today from Richard Armitage, the leading member of Colin Powell's what-might-have-been team.  In a speech in Australia, he said:

The message I think from the electorate is that fear doesn't work. You've got to go back to what is traditionally ours, and we've got to go back to those things that made us important in the eyes of the world.

And then Armitage offers this incisive (and I think right) bit of pop-psych analysis of what drove us to the Iraq war in the first place:

"We were exporting our anger and our fear, hatred for what had happened," Reuters quoted him as saying. "I think it's understandable to a certain degree, but we're well past that now and it's time to turn another face to the world and get back to more traditional things, such as the export of hope and opportunity and inspiration."

For all the attention given negative ads and an easily-manipulated electorate, I think that Bill Clinton had it right

So all I want the American people to do is to remember what it was like before, think what it's like now, recognize that ideas and policies have consequences. And the American people usually get it right; that's why we're all still around here after more than 200 years.

Today is not just about negative ads and character attacks.  Most of that is noise, an attempt to distract from the larger and more basic superstructure of the campaign -- the American people considering, and most likely rejecting what has been a strong, radical, and (from the looks of it in Iraq, North Korea, and Iran) failed response to 9/11.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Armitage: A Referendum on Fear:


Let's stay positive and keep hoping, recognizing that hope is probably misplaced in the current crop of Dems, who shouldn't (with a few exceptions) be taken for progressives or even be taken seriously. Donkeys.
Consider: The continued Dem votes for funding Operation Iraqi Fiasco, Pelosi's enthusiatic support for the rape of Lebanon and her dissing of Conyers' push for impeachment, Senator Clinton's pushes for 80,000 more army troops and an attack on Iran, Rangel's bill to re-institute the draft, the 42 House Dems who voted to endorse Bush's crazy Global War On Terror (HR 861), the Dem support for Bush's domestic repression and undemocratic Justices, and their lack of support for Cynthia McKinney and Russ Feingold when he was anti-Bush, the Dems obedience to The Lobby (AIPAC), --the list of examples of their general spinelessness goes on.

Quoting Bill Clinton is hopeful, but the seemingly sagacious remarks of the butcher of Kosovo and and deadly sanctioneer of Iraq are merely a paraphrase of something Rumsfeld has said repeatedly: "The good news is that most Americans, though understandably influenced by what they see and read, have good inner gyroscopes. They have good center of gravity. So, I'm confident that over time they will evaluate and reflect on what is happening in this struggle and come to wise conclusions about it." Of course it's hogwash and they know as well as we do that the American people can be easily influenced by US government propaganda, e.g. most Americans think that Iran is a major threat and our principal enemy in the world.

Let's continue to be hopeful while we search for the truth, keeping our shoulder to the wheel, our nose to the grindstone, our ear to the ground and our eye on the prize.

And, besides the Dem incumbents, selecting a Dem Senate candidate at random, James Webb, let's look at his proposals for Operation Iraqi Fiasco:

1. "We should say clearly to the people of Iraq and of the region that we have no plans for a long-term presence in that country." [The government has already said that, and no one believes it.]

2."We should not build permanent bases in Iraq. If we’re leaving, we don’t need them, and it sends the wrong message." [Hello! We already have built permanent bases, complete with theaters, gymnasiums and fast-food franchises.]

3."In the short term, we could move our troops out of the country but within the region – strong possibilities could be Jordan and Kuwait." [Really. In the short term. When is that? How do Jordan and Kuwait feel about US bases and troops in their countries? What happens when our troops are attacked and killed in those countries? What will happen to our Iraqi oil, that so many died for?]

4."From there, we could then bring them home when we’re sure the withdrawal is working."[Working? Define "working." Why won't the civil war in Iraq continue?]

5."Begin immediate discussions with those countries that are culturally and historically invested in Iraq, and arguably aligned with us, to become overtly involved in a diplomatic solution." [Oops. Who is that? It seems to me that the countries who are culturally invested in Iraq are not aligned with us, e.g. Syria and Iran, and certainly Muslims and Arabs in general are not aligned with us. The UK is the only other country I can think of that has been historically invested in Iraq, and they can't be part of any solution. Help me, Jim! Or Michael!]

Just another Donk that challenges our hopefulness.

Don, I think Webb's fifth proposal is the most important. My hope is that at least some prominent Democrats will recognize that a rapprochment with Iran is now the key to improving US fortunes in Iraq and the Middle East, and that they will have the guts to articulate this position and force the issue. It's time to make a deal.

Today is our day to voice ourselves! But is that really true? Do we live in a democracy or is this ployarchy (think Will Robinson's book Promoting Polyarchy)?
Today we stand up for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; for our values as US citizens.
However, how can we say that we believe in our values with 37 million people within our great free nation live in poverty, the majority of them children? How can we say that this is life?
Today we need to get out and vote for liberty, for life, for ESC rights! Vote for people who will address issues of poverty, especially the Millennium Development Goals! The Millennium Development Goals will be the greatest achievement of our time!
The Borgen Project, a Seattle-based non-profit, is working to achieve these goals! Let's end poverty and improve the lives of others!!!

Dan, I don't know and can't discern WHO Webb wants to talk to, as I indicated. He rules out Iran, it seems to me, with his "arguably aligned with us"--but what the hell does that mean exactly.

I try to stay hopeful but when a smart guy like Webb comes along--I know he's trying to get elected--and spouts such gibberish, it can be discouraging. This guy has medals from Marine service in 'Nam, has a law degree, has written six best-selling novels, been Secretary of the Navy, knows twice as much as me, Dan and Michael put together, okay, just me, and gives us this bunch of crap?

Guys and gals, I know that I appear radical compared to many cool keyboardists, but times are serious and it's a time for some clear thinking. It's been irrefutably documented that 655,000 people have died in Iraq, over forty per cent of them children. Can you imagine 250,000 dead kids? I have trouble with it. Around three thousand patriotic Americans, mostly young ones, have died also and more died today and more will die tomorrow and more will die the next day. For nothing. Thousands more with crippling injuries, not only to their bodies but in larger numbers to their minds. Broken marriages--unrecognizable, unlovable men returning to their sickened wives or leaving them again for another tour in hell. And again, the children. And it goes on, while politicians WHO KNOW BETTER talk about talk, and talk about the short term, and talk about supporting the troops, the yellow ribbons just floating from their lying mouths. Bring the troops home, now. Now.

Don't blame Webb. It's a problem witih no real solution, and he has nothing to gain by admitting that.

Look, our MOUT doctrines (our tactics for fighting in urban areas) came directly from the israelis. This was not exactly unreasonable, they had the most recent experience. But their tactics were designed to maximise enemy casualties while minimising attacking casualties with no regard for civilians whatsoever. They don't care if arab civilians hate them -- it's a given.

Every time we attack an iraqi town or city we multiply our enemies. We started out with the iraqis not all that much against us, but now we don't have any friends outside kurdistan -- which we didn't attack.

Our soldiers are good at following their training. They can re-take an iraqi city quickly and efficiently. Then they officially leave it in somebody else's hands, somebody who has no particular authority or power except for the US backing. And a few months later we have to move in and take the city again. It works that way wherever we oppose whatever local group appears to be in charge. It works that way wherever nobody's in charge and we intervene to put somebody in charge.

How do we get off that tiger? If our military guys were to stop assuming that every civilian is a likely suicide bomber, the suicide bombers would give us unacceptable casualties. But every innocent civilian they shoot gives us about 10 new enemies. How do we give iraqis security when we shoot them on sight for getting too close?

Our MOUT doctrines are unworkable for a long-term occupation. But we couldn't change even if we had something better. Institutional inertia. To actually change course, at a minimum we'd need to withdraw all the guys with the obsolescent training and replace them with guys trained the new way once we had enough of the new-trained people.

Contact between US troops and iraqi civilians has turned almost completely counterproductive. We can save face by retreating into bases where we have no contact with iraqis, but how does that help anybody?

Opinion is still divided enough that it's dangerous for politicians to say to just admit defeat and pull out. 2% is easily enough to lose an election, other things equal, and the guys who can't admit defeat are more than 2% and they have long memories. 6 years from now the politician who says now to pull out won't get anything from it, most of the population will accept that as a simple sign of sanity. But as much as 10% of the voters will remember him as one of the craven defeatists who's responsible for every terrorist event that ever happens, because they still believe that if we'd held on in iraq all the arab nations would have turned into america-friendly israel-friendly democracies and all the terrorists would have disappeared. They'll blame everything that ever goes wrong from here on, on the guy who said we should get out of iraq. He'll be right up there with Jane Fonda, a traitor to the troops. For the rest of his political career. And 2% is usually enough to lose an election.

It's dangerous for politicians to admit defeat until 99%+ of the population thinks we've already lost. And even then it's still dangerous.

I don't blame Webb but use him as a symbol of smart people who "give us a load." He knows that the government has said that we're not permanently in Iraq, he knows that we have built permanent bases, he knows that moving 140,000 US troops into tents in the Jordanian and Kuwaiti deserts is just plain silly, he knows that there is no country "arguably aligned with us." -- he knows all this, and much more besides because he still has contacts in the Pentagon, and he's a brilliant man, and yet he talks to us like we are stupid children. Maybe we are.

In Iraq, our troops have never "taken" a city. Typically the troops move through residential and business units, kick in doors (they say they knock, but that's dangerous so they don't), ransack interiors, take stuff, take all young men 18-35 into custody, later to be imprisoned and often tortured. And that's just the mild actions--the operations using air and artillery bombardment are much worse. Then there are the road checkpoints where so many Iraqis of all ages have been indiscriminantly killed. So I would say that these cities were not "taken" but instead "given away" in a military policy which has created a huge resistance to our occupation. What would you and I do if a foreign military force moved into our state and did these things? Would we hide under the bed, or avenge the losses of our family and friends? We've been tortured, do we just forgive and forget?

Your last point that no politician has the courage to speak the truth is exactly my point. After all, their jobs are on the line and that's the most important thing. Americans are dying and suffering crippling physical and mental injuries just so politicians don't lose their jobs. They would "lose face." Unlike a politician, some young American will lose face today as an Iraqi sniper takes careful aim and pulls the trigger. Better that than a politician being in danger, you say.

Thank you for your sharing! I like i very much!

I was truly hesitant to check out your post the first time I saw the page layout of your blog.But I was greatly astounded on the post you have created .This is what I've been looking for. I learned so much about it. It's very creative and one of a kind. Hope to see more of this. Great job!

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use