Maureen Dowd Finds No Good Options For Iraq

Maureen Dowd writes that we are Lost in the Desert:

It’s hard to remember when America has been so stuck. We can’t win and we can’t leave.

The good news is that the election finished what Katrina started. It dismantled the president’s fake reality about Iraq, causing opinions to come gushing forth from all quarters about where to go from here.

The bad news is that no one, and I mean no one, really knows where to go from here. The White House and the Pentagon are ready to shift to Plan B. But Plan B is their empty term for miraculous salvation.

From there she looks at the options and comments of several people, with no good options to be found. She doesn’t have much confidence in a solution from James Baker:

Aside from telling Israel to be nicer to the Palestinians, as if there lies Iraq salvation, James Baker will mostly try to suggest that the U.S. talk to Iran and Syria. Yesterday, after the Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, an opponent of Syria, was assassinated in Beirut, President Bush said he suspected that Iran and Syria were behind the murder.

Maybe Mr. Baker had better find Plan C.

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John McCain’s Call For More Troops

Robert Reich has come to the came conclusion I have about John McCain’s reasons for calling for more troops for Iraq. Earlier today, in the comments, I wrote:

McCain might be playing a political game here. Who ever is President in 2009 will have a real mess to deal with, and will have to face the reality that we must get out, but getting out will make things worse short term. He might be doing this for political cover should he be elected. In 2009 he could say that we are in this mess because he was not listened to in 2006 when he called for more troops.

Robert Reich says pretty much the same thing this evening:

I think McCain knows Iraq is out of our hands – it’s disintegrating into civil war, and by 2008 will be a bloodbath. He also knows American troops will be withdrawn. The most important political fact he knows is he has to keep a big distance between himself and Bush in order to avoid being tainted by this horrifying failure. Arguing that we need more troops effectively covers his ass. It will allow him to say, “if the President did what I urged him to do, none of this would have happened.”

Facing The Reality of Big Love

Liberal support for gay marriage creates a dilemma when confronted by those who advocate legalization of polygamy. Most of us outside of Utah probably gave little consideration to the issue until it became popularized on HBO’s Big Love. Big Love, as well as an episode of Boston Legal last season, present polygamy sympathetically and raised the question of whether this is yet another case of needing to keep the government out of people’s bedrooms.

The Washington Post looks at the fight by polygamists to gain acceptance and legality. It it was simply a matter of privacy in the bed room there would be little controversy. After all, if a few adult women decided to shack up with one man it might raise some eye brows but very few would see any justification for government intervention. Divorce but continued cohabitation was the proposed solution on Boston Legal.

While I am reluctant to make decisions about a complex issue based upon a television show, Big Love does show both the positive and negative sides of polygamy. On the one hand, the main family on the show has a voluntary arrangement in which all members receive benefits. At times it seems like the husband has the worst end of the deal in needing to maintain three homes, and I wonder if he wouldn’t have been happier sticking with his first wife (who also happens to be the most appealing). The Washington Post does state that often it is the women who support polygamy due to the bonds with other women as well as the husband. “Usually the women tend to be the biggest advocates of this way of life and men enter it more timidly,” he said. “If you are going to do it right, it’s a huge responsibility.” On Big Love, I suspect Barb, the first wife, agreed to polygamy to avoid losing her husband, but once involved does seem to thrive as the first wife in charge of the others.
Big Love also shows the downside of polygamy, including banishment of young males so that they don’t compete with the more powerful older men for wives, and young girls being forced into arrangements with older men which appear more like child molestation than voluntary marriage.

One compromise solution which appears to be in place is to concentrate on the problems where there is a clear victim and ignore others, providing de facto decriminalization for polygamy. The Washington Post gives examples, such as, “in April, Washington County prosecutors in Utah charged Warren Jeffs, the 50-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice on suspicion that he forced a 14-year-old girl to marry her first cousin, who was over 18.” Prosecution of clear victims while ignoring other polygamists has even received praise from some polygamists.

Keith Olbermann on the Lessons of Vietnam

Keith Olbermann had another Special Comment, this time on the lessons of Vietnam. Video is here and transcript follows:

And now, as promised, a Special Comment about the President’s visit to Vietnam.

It is a shame — and it is embarrassing to us all — when President Bush travels 8,000 miles, only to wind up avoiding reality, again.

And it is pathetic to listen to the leader of the free world, talk so unrealistically about Vietnam, when it was he who permitted the “Swift-Boating” of not one but two American heroes of that war, in consecutive Presidential campaigns.

But most importantly — important, beyond measure — his avoidance of reality is going to wind up killing more Americans.

And that is indefensible — and fatal.

Asked if there were lessons about Iraq to be found in our experience in Vietnam, Mr. Bush said that there were — and he immediately proved he had no clue what they were.

“One lesson is,” he said, “that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while.”

“We’ll succeed,” the President concluded, “unless we quit.”

If that’s the lesson about Iraq that Mr. Bush sees in Vietnam, then he needs a tutor. Or we need somebody else making the decisions about Iraq.

Mr. Bush, there are a dozen central lessons to be derived from our nightmare in Vietnam, but “we’ll succeed unless we quit” is not one of them.

The primary one — which should be as obvious to you as the latest opinion poll showing that only 31 percent of this country agrees with your tragic Iraq policy– is that if you try to pursue a war for which the nation has lost its stomach, you and it are finished. Ask Lyndon Johnson.

The second most important lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: if you don’t have a stable local government to work with, you can keep sending in Americans until hell freezes over and it will not matter. Ask South Vietnam’s President Diem, or President Thieu.

The third vital lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: don’t pretend it’s something it’s not. For decades we were warned that if we didn’t stop “communist aggression” in Vietnam, communist agitators would infiltrate and devour the small nations of the world, and make their insidious way, stealthily, to our doorstep.

The war machine of 1968 had this “Domino Theory.”

Your war machine of 2006 has this nonsense about Iraq as “the central front in the war on terror.” (more…)

New York Times Rejects The Draft

In an editorial today, The New York Times is “distressed to hear that Representative Charles Rangel of New York plans to reintroduce his annual measure aimed at resurrecting the draft.” The note it is politically impossible, but that is not the only reason for their oppositon:

But the idea is flawed as well. Because of the dire situation in Iraq, the Army is indeed having trouble meeting its yearly quota of 80,000 recruits. Yet military leaders nevertheless oppose a draft. They believe you don’t get a highly skilled Army by forcing people to serve against their will, and they are right.

The draft would not demonstrate to young people that everyone must do his or her fair share. It is more likely to convince them that the demand for sacrifice is made mainly on those too poor to avoid it. The volunteer force in Iraq has been a truer cross section of America than the force created under the last draft, which ended in 1973, before the end of the Vietnam War. The wealthy and well-connected could get deferments then or assignments to safe alternatives, and many did. While there are plenty of underprivileged in the current force, at least they are there by their own choosing…

But the urgency of the Army’s current needs requires a different solution. There are many ways for the armed services to meet their recruitment goals outside of general conscription. After all, the Army’s annual quota of 80,000 recruits is barely a drop in the ocean of some 60 million Americans between 18 and 35. Forcing the issue, with a draft, is no solution.