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(UPDATED) More on the Clinton Fox "blowup": Done on purpose?
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, September 26, 2006

That seems to be the developing explanation from the left. In fact, it seems to be the developing explanation from some on the right as well. William Kristol, in "The Daily Standard" says:
LET'S DO A THOUGHT experiment: Perhaps Bill Clinton, an experienced and sophisticated politician, knew what he was doing when he made big news by "losing his temper" in his interview with Chris Wallace. Perhaps Clinton's aides knew what they were doing when they publicized the interview by providing their own transcript to a left-wing website as soon as possible Friday evening, and then pre-spun reporters late Friday and Saturday. Maybe it was just damage control. Or maybe Clinton did what he wanted to do when he indignantly defended himself, blasted the Bush administration, and attacked Fox News.
Kristol, leaning toward the latter offers three reasons why this may have all been, in a larger sense, an acting job.

Point 1 - Help the Democrats in 2006. Says Kristol:
In this interview, Clinton rallied Democrats. He reminded them of their talking points on Bush's alleged passivity in his first eight months in office (remember Richard Clarke!), and on the alleged distraction posed by Iraq from the more worthwhile war in Afghanistan. He nicely laid the predicate for the leaked portions of the National Intelligence Estimate that appeared in the press the next day. If the Bush-Rove war-on-terror offensive stalls out this week (and much of the media is committed to making this happen), and Democrats do well in November, Bill Clinton can take credit, at a crucial moment, for discrediting the terror issue as a mere political ploy, and showing Democrats how "to fight back" and how "to stand up to the right-wing propaganda machine" (in the words of Howard Dean).
This puts Clinton in a better position with the extreme left blogosphere (found among the netroots and MoveOn.org crowd who are not big fans of the DLC or his wife).

John Dickerson of Slate agrees:
Did Clinton come across a little unhinged? Sure, but that's an advantage in a midterm election where party passion matters. Liberal activists want to see their Washington representatives fight back the way Clinton did. This was a rallying cry and a signal to other members of the party to do the same. Clinton can go to individual districts to campaign for competitive candidates, or he can sell the same message wholesale by banging the table in a single performance on Fox.

Clinton didn't just get the blood pumping among liberal activists. He made a policy critique aimed at the GOP election strategy designed to promote Republicans as the only party competent enough to handle terrorist threats. Each day people are discussing Clinton's performance or Wallace's questioning they will also be discussing which president did more to try to kill Bin Laden.
That's short term '06 stuff. But let's get real, it also had a long-term goal.

Point 2 - Helping Hillary in '08. As we'll see, this is obviously the main purpose and, it appears, part of an orchestrated campaign. Kristol:
Hillary Clinton has been having problems with the left wing of the Democratic party. With this interview, Bill Clinton has the entire left wing of the Democratic party rallying to him. Some of this solidarity can presumably be transferred to Hillary. And the dangerous move of the left-wing of the party toward Gore and Edwards, and their rise in national and Iowa polls respectively, can perhaps be stopped.
'08 is the best year for Hillary Clinton to run, period, end of statement. Bill Clinton knows that and has been seeking a public way to rally the party. Kristol thinks Chris Wallace and Fox News Sunday provided that means (and if you think about the stink Clinton raised about "The Path to 9/11" with the hope it would have that sort of effect (but apparently didn't) his point makes sense).

Says Dickerson of Slate:
The former president is also offering his wife the kind of help candidates don't usually get until they bring on their vice president. Bill can attack the right and mend fences with liberal activists, which benefits Hillary but also allows her the distance to stay above the fray.

If Bill Clinton becomes a hero of the liberal activists and liberal bloggers, it will be an extraordinary turnaround. Left-leaning bloggers who play a role in their party's politics usually savage him for triangulating and deal-making as president. Activists conjure him along with the DLC when describing policies that they consider too moderate, corporate, or otherwise insufficiently progressive. They have transferred onto his wife their suspicions about his willingness to deal away principle.
Dickerson essentially says "keep an eye on the liberal blogosphere" to gage the effect. I've pointed out here the animosity that exists between the DLC and most of that portion of the sphere. Will this help heal that rift? That's anyone's guess, but it will be important to Hillary in her run for the presidency in '08.

Point 3 - Intimidate critics. Kristol:
Clinton wants to make it incorrect, or at least impolite, to criticize his record on terror. Chris Wallace stood up to him. Will others? Will his next interviewer raise the same set of questions? Will they be willing to take the criticism of being "conservative hit men" or part of the vast, Fox-centered right-wing conspiracy? Bullying and intimidation sometimes work. Clinton has used both effectively in the past. Now he wants to put out of bounds certain perfectly legitimate and straight-forward questions. Can we debate which party—based on their practice when in power—can better deal with the jihadist/terror threat? No, according to Clinton. That's illegitimate right-wing propaganda. Whose personal reputation benefits from putting such issues out of bounds? Which political party benefits? Which 2008 presidential candidate?
Interesting point and reminiscent of Olberman's nonsense about Bush where he claimed Bush had said it wasn't permissible to disagree with him. However, in this case, Kristol is claiming that the propensity of future interviewers will be to throw softballs instead of taking the punishment Chris Wallace took from Clinton. That would leave his answers as the defacto final answers on the questions asked. And, as Kristol points out, also left out there as an unanswered charge (and I'm not sure how Wallace could answer it even if he tried) is that of conspiracy and propaganda.

Kristol asks the three salient questions at the end which point to why his tirade was most likely purposeful. Kristol concludes with a backhanded complement of the highest kind to a politician: "Bill Clinton is a smart (and calculating) politician."

Dickerson doesn't so much buy into the intimidation purpose as that of the opportunity to be on Fox News Sunday and knowing full well, given the kerfuffle over "The Path to 9/11" the question was going to come up. He expected it and he exploited it:
But Clinton's push-back against ABC over its 9/11 dramatization, which included unflattering fictional scenes about his administration, started his latest comeback. He even hosted a lunch with bloggers to plot strategy. The Fox interview is his second performance that not only attacks left-wing bogeymen but seeks to set the record straight against what liberals see as a tide of propaganda from the right and amnesia from the mainstream media. His attack on the "right wing" was an echo of his wife's famous complaint about the "vast right wing conspiracy" she claimed was out to get her husband during his tenure. Back then, Hillary drew attention to herself to help her husband's cause. Now, by defending himself, Bill Clinton helps hers.
See Kristol's point 2. The lunch with bloggers was indeed part of "helping Hillary". There was no other reason for it. Now on "intimate" terms with Bill, those bloggers, whether they'll admit it or not, are much more inclined to moderate their criticism. I mean, imagine getting emails from a former President of the US about his wife and her campaign. No effect?

Pogue Mahone was the first to pop this up on my radar screen yesterday. I found Kristol's article soon afterward. Dickerson's article only lent more credibility to the notion that this is all part of an orchestrated campaign. Karl Rove has nothing on Bill Clinton.

Fox had been trying to 10 years (it's entire existence) to get an interview with Clinton. In this case, you really do have to question the timing.

UPDATE: One who knows Clinton well and speaks as a former employee says:
From behind the benign façade and the tranquilizing smile, the real Bill Clinton emerged Sunday during Chris Wallace’s interview on Fox News Channel. There he was on live television, the man those who have worked for him have come to know – the angry, sarcastic, snarling, self-righteous, bombastic bully, roused to a fever pitch. The truer the accusation, the greater the feigned indignation. Clinton jabbed his finger in Wallace’s face, poking his knee, and invading the commentator’s space.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
The extra vehemence was similar to that seen from Clinton when he stated firmly, "I did not have sex with that woman" — which of course WAS a lie.

A LIE - An untrue statement made by one who knew it was untrue.

Unlike an untrue statement made by one who thought, or even "knew", it was true.

George Burns nailed Clinton in a general statement about show biz:
"If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made."

Politics on TV is show biz — infotainment.
 
Written By: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad
URL: http://tomgrey.motime.com
It probably was calculated. That said, outside of rallying the left, it’s a losing hand.

This is a debate the Dems have lost time and again. If this is how they want to re-engage on the topic, I’m sure Rove won’t mind a bit.

Amazing how desperate the left is all of a sudden that MSM trumpeted inevitable takeover of the house and senate is looking a bit iffy.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
With this interview, Bill Clinton has the entire left wing of the Democratic party rallying to him. - I read this and couldn’t help but think how shallow it makes the Democrats sound. No matter how much they dislike you, no matter how much they disagree with you, if you’re willing to slag on Bush, they’ll love you.

And we’ve already recently seen abundant evidence that no matter how much you agree with them, no matter how much they like you, if you’re not willing to slag on Bush, they hate you.

Now that we can see it working in both directions, it’s safe to say that the evidence indicates that "We Hate Bush" truly is their primary platform plank. No sarcasm, no snark, no exaggeration; the evidence is clear.

Is it any wonder that they have trouble coming up with actual concrete ideas about where to go? "Not doing what Bush would do" still leaves a gigantic set of actions open to them, and with no other principles to use to drive a decision, they end up lost in a fog of choices and possibilities.

Are they really going to run on "I’m not Bush" again?
 
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
URL: http://www.jerf.org/iri
Addendum: We already know that Leftism and "cults of personality" go hand in hand; it’s the usual path from Leftism to Totalitarianism. Is this an inverse "cult of personality" in action?

If the Left in this country has progressed this far on the path of the cult of personality, are they going to transfer their unblinking, unthinking (at this point) hate for Bush into unblinking, unthinking love of the next Democratic President? That may not be pretty...
 
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
URL: http://www.jerf.org/iri
The right wingers are out in force...yep, it’s election time. It’s funny how they always bring up Mr. Clinton’s big "lie" and ignore the one Bush told when leading our men and women to war - nobody died when Clinton lied!
I believe Clinton is one of the smartest men on the planet, and I wish we could vote him back in!
 
Written By: susan
URL: http://
susan said:
It’s funny how they always bring up Mr. Clinton’s big "lie" and ignore the one Bush told when leading our men and women to war - nobody died when Clinton lied!
A repetition of the BIG LIE while decrying a big "lie".

For the record, would Bush’s lie in your opinion be: ’Iraq has weapons of mass destruction’? Mr. Clinton stated the same thing. John Kerry said the same thing. The French said the same thing. Were they all lieing too? Or were they mistaken in their knowledge of facts?

 
Written By: Loren
URL: http://
" It’s funny how they always bring up Mr. Clinton’s big "lie" and ignore the one Bush told when leading our men and women to war"

Well, that depends on what your definition of lie is. Most of us right wingers use a definition like the one given by Tom Grey in the first comment. Most left wingers seem to use the definition "anything said by a Republican". Understandable, perhaps, but not very credible.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
It’s a shame that the masses don’t think critically enough to call YOUR motives into question.

Too many headlines are talking about Clinton’s "blow-up." I really don’t see it as such a big deal. Yes, he got frustrated and raised his voice a little. But I think it’s about time that someone called FOX on its "fair and balanced" reporting practices and a former president is the PERFECT person to do it. He raised a lot of good points and cited many sources for his defense.

While I don’t think that Clinton was a perfect president, or a perfect person, it looks like he’s settling into his role out of politics and into the brutual honesty of a senior citizen with the benefits of hind-sight. And I like what I see.

Perhaps it was his attempt to rally Democrats. They need all of the help they can get. At least his defense was immdiate - not a coordinated disinformation campaign via numerous media outlets.. *ahem*
 
Written By: Jeff
URL: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/
not a coordinated disinformation campaign via numerous media outlets.. *ahem*
Please...won’t someone EVER give specifics? What disinformation is being disseminated on this blog?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
The right wingers are out in force...yep, it’s election time.
Huh. So the left wingers aren’t out in force?

Oh, hi Susan.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It’s a shame that the masses don’t think critically enough to call YOUR motives into question.
Interesting that with a forum to do so, you don’t.
Perhaps it was his attempt to rally Democrats. They need all of the help they can get. At least his defense was immdiate - not a coordinated disinformation campaign via numerous media outlets.. *ahem*
*gasp* - you mean I, Dickerson and Kristol may be right?

And of course his defense was "immediate", right after two weeks of defense concerning ABC’s "The Path to 9/11".

Oh, and please, tell me he had no clue about what was coming, and then try to convince me it wasn’t seen as an opportunity to get his side out there.

Then tell me about that bridge in Brooklyn you have for sale.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Yeah I am pretty sure that it was all contrived. MY evidence is the Life of Bill Clinton. Absolutely everything he has ever done in public in his adult life was scripted.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
If so, it’s about time. When dealing with an administration that invades entire countries for the basic purpose of throwing red meat to its base, or an administration that decided the best time to write detainee-torture law was weeks before the November elections - coordination like this is obviously something the left needs to compete with a Bush administration that has made fools of Democrats who tried to hold the high ground in consective elections.

Having said that, I doubt it was prescripted, unless Chris Wallace was in on it. If you watch the transcript, they were supposed to be discussing his global warming initative. Wallace admits that himself.

Now, if President Clinton prepared his approach to a potential *shot to the groin* by Chris Wallace blitzkrieging him on the terror question for, ideally, *Republican* political advantage - good for him.

It’s about time someone got angry. The country is angry.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
But I think it’s about time that someone called FOX on its "fair and balanced" reporting practices
So, the tough questions that Wallace has asked of both Rumsfeld and Rice, don’t count as being "fair and balanced." I didn’t see those two become unhinged when their past and current actions were called into question.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://
When dealing with an administration that invades entire countries for the basic purpose of throwing red meat to its base ...
I was actually going to read all of your comment, glasnost, but when I got here I quit. These are simply not the thoughts or beliefs of someone I can take seriously on this subject.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Amazing how some folks will consistently assume the worst of President Clinton’s personal life and assume the best of President Bush’s actual presidency. Both are woefully flawed.

We don’t know if this spat was planned or not. We know that every president before 9/11 didn’t do enough - obviously.

It appears as though GOPs in this post are breaking out their old ’impeach Clinton’ t-shirts from the attic. Bush might be a swell guy who would never ’act’ on TV or have an extra-marital affair, but boy does he know how to run a country into the ground.

The walls are crumbling around us and GOPs only excuse is to shout all the louder ’look how weak those democrats are, you don’t want to be weak do you?!’
 
Written By: Ryan
URL: http://
PS I can’t wait until someone challenges me that the walls aren’t crumbling, or assert that Bush has had a perfectly competent presidency. Hooo-boy, you want to talk about ignoring facts...
 
Written By: Ryan
URL: http://
an administration that decided the best time to write detainee-torture law was weeks before the November elections
Err...didn’t the Court rule they had to? Now you’re going to complain when the administration FOLLOWS judicial decree?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Every single Presidency, from Washington to the current Bush, has been "woefully flawed".

Has Bush’s Presidency been exceptionally flawed? I’m much less convinced of that. A plausible explanation seems to be that he has the exceptional emnity of the press; I firmly believe that if we had a Democratic President right now that the same economy would be "pretty darned good especially after the bubble pop in 2001" and an identical war in Iraq would also be considered to be going pretty well, all things considered; probably not a single story would fail to marvel at the historically low casualty rate, for instance. And the press would be singing praises for Bush’s immigration plans if it came from a Democrat; instead Bush merely earned effective silence.

It’s really hard to tell honestly how well Bush is doing. There is so much negative noise and obvious bias and spin coming continuously from the press that when you remove it, there isn’t much "fact" left. There are so many stories that it’s obvious that if they liked the President they’d be telling it completely differently. Even many of the "criticisms" of Bush would be considered good qualities if the press liked him; "obstinate" becomes "steadfast", "cowboy" becomes "confident", etc.

You really should be suspicious of such negative reporting of his Presidency because if he was really that incompetent, we wouldn’t be talking about all the horrible things that are just right around the corner and have been for four+ years now, we’d be talking about "stagflation" or our "hundred casualties a day" or "20% unemployment" or whatever. (Economic reporting has been particularly bad; inflation rises, it’s bad news and Bush’s fault. Inflation falls, it’s bad news and Bush’s fault. You can find examples of this from the same news source in the span of just a couple of months. This doesn’t say "Bush sucks" to me, this says "the game is rigged".)
 
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
URL: http://www.jerf.org/iri
PS I can’t wait until someone challenges me that the walls aren’t crumbling,
Sigh... Okay, Ryan. Please enlighten us. Exactly HOW are the "walls crumbling?"

[/feigned interest]
 
Written By: Jeff
URL: http://
(To forstall the inevitable misunderstanding of my post as some sort of vigorous defense of Bush, the key graf is: "It’s really hard to tell honestly how well Bush is doing." If you think Bush is a disaster because you disagree with his documented and established stances on abortion, stem cell research, and other such issues, and that it is automatically a disaster that such a person gets to appoint Supreme Court justices, hey, more power to you. But if your primary reason for thinking that his Presidency is actually disasterous is what you read in the news, I don’t find that adequate. The press has been too busy telling what to think about things and who to blame for things that they haven’t actually reported very many actual things. Try to find a story about a Bush speech that doesn’t take an hour-long speech and seize on one single phrase, for instance.

The primary evidence that the world is falling apart and it’s Bush’s fault seems to be the claims that the world is falling apart and it’s Bush’s fault. This isn’t very compelling if you’re not already a believer.)
 
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
URL: http://www.jerf.org/iri
When dealing with an administration that invades entire countries for the basic purpose of throwing red meat to its base...
glas, I’m unable to convince myself that you really believe that. Would you care to restate what you mean?

Otherwise, I’m right there with McQ. It would mean you are allowing your allies’ derangement to begin infecting you, and therefore not someone to take seriously.

 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Iraq is already a failure, trying to win the unwinnable is insane. The anti-war side may have "lost" in 2003, but that doesn’t mean that the pro-war side gets carte blanche to continue a "war" that has cost hundreds of billions, lead to massive death and destruction, spawned increased anti-western sentiment, and if anything has helped Iran. In fact, the US is no longer respected and no longer feared because our failure in Iraq has revealed our fundamental vulnerablities. It amazes me how some pro-war types are so out of touch with reality that despite being wrong about "progress" and wrong about what’s going to happen next for three straight years are still unable to grasp the fact that this a hideous and costly mistake — as Gen. Odom put it, a strategic error of historical proportions.

There is one way out — recognize that military force will not create a political solution. Recognize that the Iraqis are not going to "stand up," as no majority or government can exist without being beholden to militias. The situation deteriorates and yet, bouyed by wishful thinking, it seems many people can’t admit that they were wrong, and this policy is misguided.

Here’s the solution: Iran and Syria. Syria is Sunni/secular, Iran is Shi’ite/fundamentalist. Each have influence in Iraq. The two states are nominal allies, and have expressed a desire for dialogue with the US. And despite bizarre claims Iran is like Nazi Germany (nowhere close — even a nuclear Iran would not be much of a power), Iranian foreign policy has been patient and prudent. The US can use diplomatic carrot and stick tools to help open dialogues with Iran and Syria, bring them in to help stabilize Iraq (the Kurdish situation will be touchy, but can be dealt with) and extricate the US from a disaster. We won’t get all the oil fields, we won’t have our ’model democracy.’ We’ll have to accept Iran is a religional actor. But dialogue can start undoing the damage down by the reckless, aggressive militarist path of the past few years, and perhaps preserve America’s waning superpower status.

We cannot afford to fail. But avoiding failure requires a fundamental change in strategy, and recognition that military victory is not a solution here.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
Iraq is already a failure, trying to win the unwinnable is insane.
And your metric for that conclusion is?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Failure is defined in terms of achieving goals. The goals were to create a democratic, stable Iraq, which would be a model for the region, and which would provide the US with bases to influence Iran and Syria. Vice President Cheney said he thought we’d be greeted as liberators, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said that he didn’t think it would take six months. By looking at the policy of 2003 and its goals, the high cost of the war, the sectarian violence, and on going insurgency are proof that these goals were not at all achieved, and the policy failed.

Moreover, there is no evidence that continued military action will alter the equation. While some of tried to point to "progress," the number of civilians killed, the level of sectarian violence, the level of anti-Americanism, and the level of corruption have increased. American society has been divided, with the majority thinking the war an error. To not conclude that the current strategy has failed is to engage in irrational wishful thinking.

The rational thing to do is to alter policy in a manner that can achieve the best possible result, redefining the goals and breaking from a stubborn unwillingness to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working. For three years I’ve been rolling my eyes as continual claims of progress, "finish the mission" and "things are getting better" and "the insurgency is in its last throes" have been made. That position has been disproven by reality — wake up! It’s not too late to come up with a strategy that can avoid disaster, but to stubbornly persist in one that hasn’t worked, based on wishful thinking of what might happen, well...I guess in blog world one can build nice arguments to defend that, but in the world of people suffering, dying, and hopeless, it’s not a moral approach.

The answer requires new thinking, and a realist style opening to Syria and Iran (similar to Nixon’s opening to the USSR and China the last time the US was caught in this kind of bind). It can work, and in fact could lead to reductions in tension throughout the region, as well as more international cooperation against terrorism. Sometimes military force isn’t the solution.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
The anti-war side may have "lost" in 2003, but that doesn’t mean that the pro-war side gets carte blanche to continue a "war" that has cost hundreds of billions, lead to massive death and destruction, spawned increased anti-western sentiment, and if anything has helped Iran.
Does this look like a corn field to you? Then what’s with the strawman?

No one is arguing for "carte blanche" anything, and continuing the "war" (as you derisively put it) means winning it. Pure and simple. Some very foolish people seem to think there is a prize for "getting it right" about the war (i.e. that we would lose), and therefore consistently push the "we’ve lost the war" meme. Well here’s some news for you professor: outside of public school, there’s no prize for losing. If we actually do lose the War in Iraq, that little victory dance you and your buddies think you’ll be doing will be short-lived and Pyrrhic.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
You can’t win the war with the current strategy. Things keep getting worse, sectarian violence increases, the American public is divided, the military overstretched, and there is no sign that a military victory is possible. You are in fantasy land if you want to close your eyes to the *realities* of the last three years. Face the facts: those of us who argued that this path was wrong headed have been proven right by events.

I don’t want to *lose.* I want to change strategy to make an exit with stability possible. That requires recognizing our weakened position in the region, and putting aside the impotent "rah rah" posturing. That isn’t reality. You can’t "win" by simply talking a good game or saying you have to win. That emotional fluff may make you feel good in a kind of emotive-rhetorical sense, but it’s meaningless. You have to deal with reality on the ground.

Keep your head in your sand if you want to. I’m sick and tired of how those who are too stubborn and proud to admit mistake keep trying to hide behind rhetorical prisms and avoid reality. Day after day, month after month, year after year...

Your choice: "stay the course" and deal with continued weakness for America and our position in the world. Or make some hard choices, admit mistakes, and change strategy and find a way to extricate ourselves without defeat. I don’t think you realize just how weakened our world position is right now.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
I’m unable to convince myself that you really believe that. Would you care to restate what you mean?
On mine knightly honor and all that, I here do bend knee and humbly request that this dastardly allegation of mine be struck from the record.

Now, you are free to move on to the rest of my comment. Or not. It’s still there, though.

I liked McQ’s analysis and all, but if Clinton planned it, then it would seem that Chris Wallace had to have been in on it. Since Wallace admitted on air that the interview was supposed to be about Clinton’s Global Warming initiative in the first place.

I read it more like Wallace went in for the ambush, albeit a predictable one, and had it backfire.



 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Err...didn’t the Court rule they had to?
How long ago was Hamdan, Jeff? 2005, wasn’t it?

Not only that, but the court explicitly avoided setting any timetable for compliance...
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I liked McQ’s analysis and all, but if Clinton planned it, then it would seem that Chris Wallace had to have been in on it.
"Planned" as in planned to take any opportunity presented to exploit a situation such as that presented by Fox.

You have to wonder why Clinton, who could get time on any network he wanted at just about any time he wanted, suddenly chose Fox after 10 years of avoiding them. Perhaps he knew he’d get nothing but softballs elsewhere and, for a change, that wasn’t what he wanted.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Failure is defined in terms of achieving goals. The goals were to create a democratic, stable Iraq, which would be a model for the region, and which would provide the US with bases to influence Iran and Syria.
OK. If we grant, arguendo, that is the goal, I fail to see how that’s finally decided at this point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Since Wallace admitted on air that the interview was supposed to be about Clinton’s Global Warming initiative in the first place.
Actually it to be a half-and-half deal. Half about the Global Initiative and half about whatever Wallace chose to talk about.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Moreover, there is no evidence that continued military action will alter the equation.
Actually there is. Where more of a military presence is extant, less violence is seen.

That is why it is critical that Iraqi forces continue to be trained and fielded as quickly as possible. The more we get out there the better our chances of seeing the sectarian violence dampened. Our experience shows us well trained Iraqi forces are very effective in quelling such violence.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Islam is going through a reformation, with most of the violence Muslim on Muslim — even al qaeda and Bin Laden’s main foes are fellow Muslims. The path to modernization and democratization will not be swift or smooth. We had slavery, no women voting, and other problems in our slow path to democracy; early European democracies morphed to fascism and chaos. Political cultures change slowly, and usually react violently and negatively to perceived external attempts to shape or manipulate political systems.

The goals are: weaken and make irrelevant violent Islamic extremism, create conditions for peaceful change and development (economic and political) in the region, and remove barriers to cooperation between Islamic states and the West.

Military force is not a good tool to achieve that; it creates animosity, emotionalizes the populations, aids extremists who can point to an external enemy, and ultimately we simply get used by those who want to have us help them persue their advantage (both the Sunni and Shi’ia do that with us in Iraq — then whine when we seem to favor ’the other side’). Ultimately, the US has to let the region change on its own; a mix of diplomacy, listening, respect and containment of extremism can help initiate greater cooperation, as well as marginalization of extremists (who are only a small portion of the population). Simply, we are committing a typical error of great powers: we over-estimate the ability of military power to shape political results.

In short, we probably agree on long term goals and desirable outcomes, but I think current tactics are not adequate and in fact have severe disadvantages. Military force can play some role, but this "war" will be won or lost in the diplomatic and socio-economic fronts. We play into the hands of extremists if we stick with our current strategy, or if we fall prey to the temptation to see this as some kind of "world war III" when in reality the foes we face are relatively weak, divided, and prone to conflicts with each other even more than with us. Break out of the mindset of the pro-war vs. anti-war discourse of the past three years, think creatively about alternatives, and don’t be too proud to admit that perhaps you were wrong. We’re all learning about just what this kind of war and this kind of enemy is all about.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
You can’t win the war with the current strategy.
And what strategy is that?
Islam is going through a reformation, with most of the violence Muslim on Muslim —
No. It’s not. It has no mechanism by which to reform. It is structured differently than religions which have been able to reform. And it is that structure which prevents it from a reformation.
The goals are: weaken and make irrelevant violent Islamic extremism, create conditions for peaceful change and development (economic and political) in the region, and remove barriers to cooperation between Islamic states and the West.
Those may be some of the strategic and long-range goals pertaining to the region, but they’re certainly not the short-range goals for Iraq as I’ve seen them enunciated.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I read it more like Wallace went in for the ambush, albeit a predictable one, and had it backfire.
Heh ... how in the world could a story like this ever "backfire" on a news guy? You want memorable interviews? How about this? Chris Wallace isn’t suffering because of this, I promise you.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Well, I didn’t expect such a, uh, florid way of getting past the over-the-top assertion about going to war for political advantage. But to go on to the rest of the comment.
Having said that, I doubt it was prescripted, unless Chris Wallace was in on it. If you watch the transcript, they were supposed to be discussing his global warming initative. Wallace admits that himself.

Now, if President Clinton prepared his approach to a potential *shot to the groin* by Chris Wallace blitzkrieging him on the terror question for, ideally, *Republican* political advantage - good for him.
I’m also in the "not scripted" camp. Clinton may have had a general idea of how he would respond to such a question, but his reaction did not look scripted to me. And the idea that it was all to shore up the base seems like far too deep a game.

As for the sandbagging accusation, I believe someone already addressed that. Yes, they were "were supposed to be discussing his global warming initative". But the discussion was not limited to that, and I believe neither side disputes this. Therefore the theory that the question was somehow unfair looks completely specious to me.

Given the kind of stuff Bush has to put up with regularly, I just can’t see the question as a "shot to the groin". Except for Lewinsky and other bimbo-related matters, I think the press has gone pretty easy on Clinton. The whole sheaf of pardons he issued just before leaving office, for example, smelled pretty bad, but if there was ever a clear question for him to explain himself about that, I never noticed it.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I liked McQ’s analysis and all, but if Clinton planned it, then it would seem that Chris Wallace had to have been in on it.
I seriously doubt that.
You have to wonder why Clinton, who could get time on any network he wanted at just about any time he wanted, suddenly chose Fox after 10 years of avoiding them. Perhaps he knew he’d get nothing but softballs elsewhere and, for a change, that wasn’t what he wanted.


I’ve got your answer, but first understand the angle; Chris Wallace, like his father, to my understanding of the matter, is no conservative. If anything, Wallace would have generated the softest pitches of anybody on Fox’s staff, I should think.

That said, consider the choice of interviewer, with respect to the people on staff at Fox. For example, Picture Bill Clinton trying that nonsense on Sean Hannity. You know as well as I the outcome would be far different.

But here’s why Clinton went in there at all, much less why he acted as he did;

Now, he doesn’t have to try applying the intimidation role on any of the leftist dominated MSM, and therefore has not cost of self any friends, rather having made several, for his attack on their biggest competitor.... Fox. Those are freinds the Democrats.. Hillary particularly, need just now.

All very cool and calculated, I think.

While we’re here, let’s think about something else... Bill Clinton’s biggest defense for his inaction as regards capturing BinLaden was that he couldn’t get a definitive FBI report on his guilt in the attacks, and ditto the CIA. Well, let’s put that one to sleep right now. Both agencies serve at the pleasure of the president. The FBI wasn’t the authority to go to. The CIA wasn’t the authority to go to. Bill Clinton was. That authority and that responsibility go with the nice round office.

It’s as Morris suggests; Mr. Clinton’s inability to fact, was self imposed. The reason that BinLaden is still at large today is because Bill Clinton was president when we had the opportunity to take him out of action.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
So now the clowns of FAUX News are asking why Clinton didn’t kill Bin Laden. Why they didn’t ask that question back in 1998? Why no conservative national-security-rah-rah did? Because they were too busy running the Monica Circus Show, that’s why. They were as clueless as the current president was the months before 9/11. All FAUX News cared back in the years before 9/11 was their liberal witch hunt, not national security. They have some nerve asking that question now.

Why don’t they ask the Bush administration if they have done enough to catch Bin Laden?

It’s not a coincidence FAUX News ratings are dropping with Bush approval ratings. People are waking up. People are fed up with the network that helped elect the most incompetent goverment in history. The network that has hurt American more than Al Qaeda.
 
Written By: FoxNewsLies
URL: http://
So now the clowns of FAUX News are asking why Clinton didn’t kill Bin Laden. Why they didn’t ask that question back in 1998? Why no conservative national-security-rah-rah did? Because they were too busy running the Monica Circus Show, that’s why.
I don’t suppose it’s occured to you, that acting on BinLaden as he should have, and declaring the 1993 WTC attack the national emergency it really was, would have deflected a good deal of that criticism and changed the national focus.... Hmmm?



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
What on earth is that horrible nitting little buzz in this place?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
nobody died when Clinton lied!

Jesus, but when will you lefties ever come up with some new material? Are you even capable of speaking in anything but pre-packaged sound bites?

What a bunch of brain dead parrots.
 
Written By: Pete Jensen
URL: http://
How long ago was Hamdan?...Not only that, but the court explicitly avoided setting any timetable for compliance
Hamdan v Rumsfeld
Argued March 28, 2006—Decided June 29, 2006

It’s not even 3 months later.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Perhaps he knew he’d get nothing but softballs elsewhere and, for a change, that wasn’t what he wanted.
Not to deliberately taunt h*ll to go ahead and freeze over, but, Yeah, could be true.


 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
No. It’s not. It has no mechanism by which to reform. It is structured differently than religions which have been able to reform. And it is that structure which prevents it from a reformation.
I suggest you read Reza Aslan’s *No God But God* where persuasively argues that this is an Islamic reformation with many similarities to the Christian reformation. And the claim that it is "structured differently" is vague and completely off base. It suggests to me that you need to look at the history and in fact the theological disputes within Islam. There are modern and reformist Islamic movements that have a following and can grow, and Koranic scripture is no less open to modern interpretations than Christian or Jewish scripture. The idea that there is something inherently wrong with Islam is based on a false and usually ignorant caricature of the religion. (Perhaps if you explained what you mean by ’structure of the religion’ I would have a better sense at why you make this rather bold claim).

As far as the current strategy working...well, gee, how many years of having things get worse, having the sectarian violence increase, having negative reports form the region continue will it take before you think, gee, maybe this isn’t working? Sure, one can always find tidbits here and there to weave into an argument that maybe things will work. But overall the steady increase in instability, the power of militias, the closeness of Iran to the Iraqi government, and the weakening of the US (as well as US reputation) is obvious. Will it take five years of bad news? Ten? How long until you ask really tough questions about whether or not your basic premises and core beliefs about this conflict are accurate? Forget the silly Bush bashing or even the questioning of the 2003 decision. I understand the logic, I even have some sympathy for the neo-conservative perspective. But how one can look at what’s happened and not ask serious questions about the strategy is beyond me.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
"Islam is going through a reformation,"

Where are all the reformers?

**********************

" but his reaction did not look scripted to me."

Me either. Too many little awkwardnesses and pauses while searching for words or ideas, not good enough flow or continuity.

Overly emotional? Indeed, but I don’t know if that was intentional or not. I am certainly amused by his shock, surprise, and outrage at being asked that particular question, particularly when he states his prior opinion of Fox as being deeply biased, dishonest, and out to get him. If he actually expected NOT to be asked an "inappropriate" question, he would be a lot dumber than I thought. AlGore, maybe, but not Mr Bill.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Tim;

without making any accusations, I will note that is one quality that I’ve noticed among all good communicators, the ability to convincingly fake spontaneity.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
I suggest you read Reza Aslan’s *No God But God* where persuasively argues that this is an Islamic reformation with many similarities to the Christian reformation.
I suggest you consider the differences.

No church head or church body. Literal word of God v. revealed word of God. No requirement for imams to be ordained or schooled or meet any minimum requirements.

How does reformation take place in that? How do you "reform" the "literal word of God", or the teaching which spring from that? And by what authority? How do you enforce the reformation if it could happen?
And the claim that it is "structured differently" is vague and completely off base.
Not if you actually know what you’re talking about.
As far as the current strategy working...well, gee, how many years of having things get worse, having the sectarian violence increase, having negative reports form the region continue will it take before you think, gee, maybe this isn’t working?
As noted, you have no idea what are strategy is so I see little benefit to a discussion of where we are and what is or isn’t working.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"I will note that is one quality that I’ve noticed among all good communicators, the ability to convincingly fake spontaneity"

He’s not that good.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I suggest you consider the differences.

No church head or church body. Literal word of God v. revealed word of God. No requirement for imams to be ordained or schooled or meet any minimum requirements.

How does reformation take place in that? How do you "reform" the "literal word of God", or the teaching which spring from that? And by what authority? How do you enforce the reformation if it could happen?
I’m not sure how any of that would deny the point that Islam is going through an intense period of rival, reform, and in fact to use Aslan’s words a reformation.

Note that there are numerous interpretations of the Koran, just like of the Bible (and of course many Christians believe the Bible is the literal word of God). Note as well that the tradition of the Ullamah (religious scholars) honor scholarship, training and work. Have you studied the various traditions, differences, and schools of thought within Islam? Do you know what you’re talking about here? I don’t mean that impolitely, I think (and in my courses I’m trying to address this) that most Americans are really clueless as to the traditions, history and internal debates/conflicts of the Islamic faith.
As noted, you have no idea what are strategy is so I see little benefit to a discussion of where we are and what is or isn’t working.
You’re evading. I’ve been following both political and military statements about strategy quite closely. I think you’ve fallen into the trap that you are seeking to find bits and pieces to support the position you want to hold (and in social science one can always do it — you can find people who still will piece together arguments that say communism can work), and are ignoring the obvious failure in Iraq. Did you see the poll that came out from Iraq about what Iraqis think about America and American presence? Is your view on the strategy simply General Casey’s vague timeframe?

Seriously, I can’t take it even as a legitimate perspective to claim that the Iraq war has not been a failure and has not severely weakened the US. Are you so emotionally invested in this position that they have lost their capacity to be self-critical? Perhaps your Vietnam experience makes you want to see a military victory for a variety of reasons that you lose sight of the strategic and political realities that limit possibilities. Meanwhile, sectarian violence and civilian deaths increase in Iraq, the Taliban in resurgent in Afghanistan, the American public does not support the Iraq war, and no one can point to any reason to expect success, or what success will look like. (And if you look at corruption levels, the internal politics within Iraq, and the reports from people there, things look even worse).

Three years of things getting worse rather than better not enough to convince you this strategy is wrong, or at least to seriously consider a major rethinking of our approach? How much longer will you wait?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
I’m not sure how any of that would deny the point that Islam is going through an intense period of rival, reform, and in fact to use Aslan’s words a reformation.
See my answer and then answer the points. How does a religion reform itself when it’s core is found in the literal word of God? How do you "reform" that? Who gets to make that call? Who decides what is ok to change and ignore and how to adapt it to modernity?

Who?

And how?
You’re evading. I’ve been following both political and military statements about strategy quite closely.
Really?

Then you’ll have no problem enunciating it.
Is your view on the strategy simply General Casey’s vague timeframe?
It isn’t at all vague unless you haven’t looked into the particulars. And given your questions it’s quite clear you haven’t.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
See my answer and then answer the points. How does a religion reform itself when it’s core is found in the literal word of God? How do you "reform" that? Who gets to make that call? Who decides what is ok to change and ignore and how to adapt it to modernity?
Christianity claims its core is found in the literal word of God. It went through a reformation. And there are vast debates, including modernist movements in Islam. Don’t you realize that? You are showing a profound and rather alarming ignorance of something you are trying to act like you understand. You do understand that there are intense disagreement about how the Koran is to be interpreted, don’t you?
It isn’t at all vague unless you haven’t looked into the particulars. And given your questions it’s quite clear you haven’t.
You are wrong.

Moreover, except for evasions and attempts to claim I don’t know the "strategy," you haven’t countered any of my arguments or given any defense of the current approach. You have nothing.

I’m amazed that three years of experience, data, statements, and continuation deterioration of the situation has proven those of us correct who argued that attacking Iraq was a mistake, and that trying to stay won’t work. Yet those of you, devoid of argument, evading, dancing, weaving and bobbing (but not saying anything of substance) try so hard to avoid accepting reality. Amazing, though a tad pathetic.

Oh well, I’ll just continue to professionally and personally point out reality and do everything I can to undercut support for and oppose this disastrous policy. We’re free to disagree, even though I’m absolutely astounded at how you can hold on to your illusion. Think about it. True minds are self-critical, and don’t evade real debate by vague little asides, but actually engage with substance arguments that are made.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
On the Islamic reformation:

From Reza Aslan, *No God But God*, preface, page xv-xvi:

"But i use the word reformation deliberately, not only to emphasize that the violence and bloodshed we are witnessing in large parts of the Islamic world are chiefly the result o fan internal struggle between Muslims (rather than a war between Islam and the West), but also to stress tha tthe current conflicts within Islam are those with which all great religions grapple as they face the challenges of modernity. And while there is no question that certain parallels between the Christian and Islamic reformations can seem strained, there are some similarities that cannot and should not be dismissed, because they reflect universal conflicts in all religious traditions. Chief among these is the conflict over who has the authority to define faith: the individual or the institution.

"In Islam, this issue is somewhat complicated by the fact that the religion has no central religious authority — that is, no Muslim Pope or Muslim Vatican. Religious authority in Islam is instead scattered among a host of smaller, competing, though exceedingly powerful clerical instituions that have managed to maintain a virtual monopoly over the meaning and message of Islam for 14 centuries. This religious authority is self-conferred, not divinely ordained; it is the result of scholarship, not devine decree. A Muslim cleric’s judgment on a particular issue is respected and followed not because it carries the authority of God, but because the cleric’s knowledge is supposed to grant him a deeper insight into what God desires of humanity. Indeed, it could be said that Islam’s clerical class has maintained its monopoly over religious interpretation simply by maintaining its monopoly over religious learning.

"That is no longer the case. Dramatic increases in literacy and education, widespread access to new and novel theories and sources of knowledge, and a swelling sense of nationalism and individualism have exposed many Muslims to fresh and innovative interpretations of Islam. A whole new generation of westernized converts and ’veiled again’ Muslims (lapsed Muslims who have returned to their faith and traditions) are increasingly uniting in worship, not in the Grand Mosques of their parents but in independent ’garage mosques’ that have sprung up all over the world. Muslim men and women, first worlders and third worlders, gay and straight, extremists and moderates, militants and pacifists, clerics and laypeople, are acitvely reinterpreting Islam according to their changing needs. By doing so, they are not only redefining Islam by taking its interpretations out of the iron grip of the clerical institutions, they are shaping hte future of this rapidly expanding and deeply fractured faith."

That’s just a snippet. I strongly recommend this book for those who really want to understand what Islam is all about, not just the kind of caricatured versions that the popular media portray.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
Christianity claims its core is found in the literal word of God.
Well that’s enough right there to know you have no idea about what you’re talking about.

Look, I have little patience for this sort of foolishness. Suffice it to say, you haven’t a clue about this subject.

Here’s a clue:
Islam needs to be reformed to bring it into the modern era, the Indian-born Muslim novelist Salman Rushdie argues.

A broader interpretation of the Koran would lead to better relations and cut alienation, he writes in the Times.
But:
He also argues that the Koran should be studied as a historical text rather than treated as "infallible".

This has rendered all scholarly discourse impossible, he says.

"If, however, the Koran were seen as a historical document, then it would be legitimate to reinterpret it to suit the new conditions of successive new ages.

"Laws made in the seventh century could finally give way to the needs of the 21st.

"The Islamic Reformation has to begin here, with an acceptance that all ideas, even sacred ones, must adapt to altered realities."
Begin where? By whom? Who has the authority to declare the Koran a "historical document" and not the literal word of God?

Rushdie is engaging is wishful thinking. "If, then". Well there is no "if" going to happen. Unlike the Christian church which had a ruling body, there is nothing similar in Islam. And even if there were, the Christian church was dealing with the REVEALED word of God while the Muslims believe their Koran is the LITERAL word of God.

A "revealed" word of God is open to interpretation. The "literal" word of God isn’t. The Pope makes the point quite well speaking of the idea of reforming Islam:
... there’s a fundamental problem with that because, he said, in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Mohammed, but it’s an eternal word. It’s not Mohammed’s word. It’s there for eternity the way it is. There’s no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it, whereas in Christianity, and Judaism, the dynamism’s completely different, that God has worked through his creatures.
Now until you can provide answers to my questions, you have no argument which can support an actual reformation of the religion.

And if that isn’t enough, there is this:
I claim no originality whatever in this matter, for I simply follow the leading Muslim authorities, who are unanimous that Islam is in no need of reform. The immutable character of Islamic revelation makes the subject of Koranic criticism into a minefield.

[...]

Strange as it may seem, the pope must whisper when he wants to state agreement with conventional Muslim opinion, namely that the Koranic prophecy is fixed for all time such that Islam cannot reform itself. If Islam cannot change, then a likely outcome will be civilizational war, something too horrific for US leaders to contemplate.
As to your reading recommendation:
That’s just a snippet. I strongly recommend this book for those who really want to understand what Islam is all about, not just the kind of caricatured versions that the popular media portray.
While you’re at it add Bernard Lewis’ "The Crisis of Islam" and for an excellent look at more than just Islam, read Raphael Patai’s "The Arab Mind", which covers both Islam and the culture in which it was founded.

You might, after all that reading, figure out why Islam isn’t going to "reform" and why any "reform" in the past has been to secularize the society and tightly control Islam through government authority while dragging it kicking and screaming toward modernity.

And as you might have noticed, that pendulum is swinging the other way now and at every opportunity presented in which those secular societies have been overtaken by Islam and they’ve turned back the clock to the 7th Century.

Any guess as to why?
Moreover, except for evasions and attempts to claim I don’t know the "strategy," you haven’t countered any of my arguments or given any defense of the current approach. You have nothing.
What arguments? You haven’t made any. You’ve presented a litany of poll data, wishes, hopes, desires, disappointments, opinion and and way-back machine alternatives to something which is already done.

We’re there. We’re committed. The best course of action is to finish the job.

The plan is to give the Iraqi government enough time and space to stand itself and it’s security forces up so it can take full charge of the country. The conditions based plan also encompasses the political, economic and infrastructure. Progress reports are issued quarterly and available on line.

You want to talk about how to finish the job, I’m game. You want to talk about how we shouldn’t be there?

Don’t waste your or my time.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Well that’s enough right there to know you have no idea about what you’re talking about.

Look, I have little patience for this sort of foolishness. Suffice it to say, you haven’t a clue about this subject.
Methinks thou doth protest. I’ve been spending all summer reading a variety of sources on Islam, from conservatives like Bernard Lewis to Muslim scholars and others, immersing myself in the subject because I’m teaching three courses that directly have to do with the Islamic world and its relations with the West. (And, in fact, I’ve been working on these issues for years and integrating sections on Mideast politics and Islam into my courses for quite awhile). Now, that doesn’t mean I’m right in all I say, but it’s pretty lame when, confronted with disagreement, you simply assert that the other person "has no idea" what they are talking about. In fact, that seems like bluster to hide the fact that you really haven’t looked into the issues, and you are too proud to actually accept that perhaps I know more than you on the subject and you may be wrong.

For instance, you try to assert that the Koran isn’t open to interpretation. That is utterly absurd and completely in denial of the fact that they are a variety of interpretations, not the least of which being very different views of what jihad means (note: the radical ’holy war’ version of Bin Laden is a minority interpretation), and vast differences between Shi’ia and Sunni interpretations. To try to claim there can be no interpretation is in denial of the reality of Muslim scholarship, and current conflicts within the faith. Perhaps you’ve read those authors whose views agree with your biases, but I don’t think you’ve truly investigated all voices (note: for one of my courses students are reading both Lewis and Aslan and making comparisons, as well as doing a variety of other on line research).

Read other academic scholars like Esposito and you’ll see that there has been a wide tradition of different interpretations of Islam and its meaning in the world. Not only that, but the Koran is only source of Islamic law and tradition, the Hadith and early biographies of Muhammad (not all telling the same story, many different versions of the first revelation from god exist) have status. Muhammad was an Arab reformer who improved the status of women, the poor, and challenged the economic and political authority of traditional Arab tribes in a truly progressive manner for its time. Many of the interpretations (such as dress for women) are not from the Koran, but afterwards.
What arguments? You haven’t made any. You’ve presented a litany of poll data, wishes, hopes, desires, disappointments, opinion and and way-back machine alternatives to something which is already done.

We’re there. We’re committed. The best course of action is to finish the job.

The plan is to give the Iraqi government enough time and space to stand itself and it’s security forces up so it can take full charge of the country. The conditions based plan also encompasses the political, economic and infrastructure. Progress reports are issued quarterly and available on line.

You want to talk about how to finish the job, I’m game. You want to talk about how we shouldn’t be there?
Saying "the best course of action is to finish the job" is meaningless. Moreover, the Iraqi government is close to Iran, riddled with divisions, close to militia groups, and very corrupt. The idea that if we "give them time" they can "stand itself" and "take full charge" is wishful thinking. My argument is that there is no reason to think that is possible, and if you look at the steady increase in violence (by political science definitions it is a civil war), and massive increase in civilian death, the growing power of the militias, and the continued corruption, things have been getting progressively worse; as Kofi Annan noted, the situation has been steadily deteriorating (and, of course, in Afghanistan the Taliban has been resurgent). So to me the statement you make above about Iraqis "standing" and "taking charge" is meaningless and vague, based on wishful thinking with no evidence to support the fact we are at all making progress.

Can you conceive of the possibility that the socio-economic-political conditions make this ’strategy’ one that cannot succeed? This isn’t a matter of military victory, it’s a matter of what is possible in the conditions in the region. Talk to experts on Mideast politics, and 9/10 of them at least will tell you they think we’re screwed the way we’re approaching it now. The best we’ll do is leave, and then watch it fall apart, and say "well, we gave them a chance, but it was the Iraqis responsibility and they failed." That would be an utterly immoral denial of our responsibility, but that’s the direction I see it going.

Do I want to just "get out"? No. But I don’t want to keep digging a hole. We have to, as I argued, recognize that two states have considerable influence in Iraq: Sunni-secular-Baathist Syria, and Shi’ite fundamentalist religious Iran. Two very different types of states, but yet allies. Two states which could pressure the different groups in Iraq to make peace, and potentially work against anti-state elements (neither the Iranians nor the secular Baathists have much love for al qaeda.) We should engage them. Not simply surrender to them, but engage in dialogue and talks on Iraq which give them a stake, while at the same time giving us a role, and allowing an orderly withdrawal of forces. Iran and Syria have an alliance that is also the key to regional stability — though I do not pretend that their alliance is necessarily strong, in many ways its an alliance of convenience. This is the kind of diplomacy that can allow the region to continue its own development, and remove the emotion of having the foreign invader killing and murdering (in their eyes) for oil and control (again, in the view of most Iraqis and most Arabs). That only emboldens the extremists. We have to find a way to leave, and find a way to leave while not creating pure instability. Iran and Syria are the key, we must engage them — not appease them, but engage them with strong carrot and stick diplomacy.

Where are Nixon and Kissinger when you need them?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
Begin where? By whom? Who has the authority to declare the Koran a "historical document" and not the literal word of God?
This is important: just because something is considered the literal word of god does not mean that it cannot be subject to different interpretations. That is why there are debates and differences about Koranic interpretation amongst those who agree it is the literal word of god.

Every text is subject to interpretation, both in its application to context, and in its actual meaning. Many Christians believe that God inspired the Bible and that it is to be taken literally (seriously — I know Christians who consider the Bible the literal word of God). Yet they also disagree on various interpretations. Every text has to be interpreted to have meaning.

One of the debates, for instance, amongst Muslim scholars is how to deal with Koranic verses that contradict earlier verses.

To claim that there cannot be alternate interpretations would be akin to someone arguing that humans cannot run a mile under four minutes. I could point out many who have, and if the response is, "no, that can’t be because the body is incapable of running a mile in under four minutes," that would be considered an irrational argument. The Koran *is* interpreted differently by different groups and different schools of thought. Read the excerpt from Aslan. One can’t rationally argue that it can’t be interpreted any more than oen can argue rationally that humans can’t run a mile under four minutes. There are different interpretations, ergo there can be different interpretations.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
Methinks thou doth protest.
Indeed. That’s because thou hasn’t a clue and you’ve now proven it ... again.
This is important: just because something is considered the literal word of god does not mean that it cannot be subject to different interpretations.
Yes, it does. And that, sir, is the problem. One you continue to duck.

And it has nothing to do with the ability to reform Islam which, I note, you have side-stepped.

Address the Pope’s criticism. He’s saying there is no mechanism to do what you claim. If you can imagine such a thing, I find his scholarship on the subject to be far superior to yours.
That is why there are debates and differences about Koranic interpretation amongst those who agree it is the literal word of god.
They all agree it is the literal word of God, for heaven sake, which is why other than debate, none will say they have a more valid interpretation than that extant. No one likes to be the blasphemer you see. Look what Salmon Rushdie’s different interpretation got him.

Again, and for the third time, who has the authority to make those changes and how will they be effected if Islam can be reformed?

And please, 10 paragraphs which do nothing to address the questions aren’t necessary. A simple identification of the person in authority and the mechanism by which such reform will be effected will do nicely.
Read other academic scholars like Esposito and you’ll see that there has been a wide tradition of different interpretations of Islam and its meaning in the world.
Islam isn’t being run by academic scholars like Esposito. Its being run by mullas like Omar and al-Sadr. And they’re not buying anything which is "different" just because academics think its a neat subject to debate.

Again, who has the authority to decide on the new interpretation of God’s literal word which would change Islam world-wide and describe the mechanism he will use to enforce the change?

Once you identify him, we can talk seriously about the idea of reform.

Iraq:
Saying "the best course of action is to finish the job" is meaningless.
No it’s not, especially in the context it was said.

Like I said, if you want to talk about that, I’m fine with it. Otherwise go bug someone else.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
" the violence and bloodshed we are witnessing in large parts of the Islamic world are chiefly the result o fan internal struggle between Muslims (rather than a war between Islam and the West),"

I think I am pretty clear on who the fundamentalists in this struggle are, but who are the reformers, and what are they doing to reform?

*****************

"One of the debates, for instance, amongst Muslim scholars is how to deal with Koranic verses that contradict earlier verses."

So how many more centuries do we have to wait before they settle the arguments?

********************

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that a reformation is under way, how do we know the reformers will be victorious?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that a reformation is under way, how do we know the reformers will be victorious?
I think modernism is a force that ultimately cannot be denied — but how long it will take and the damage that can be done could be huge, especially with oil in the middle.

Consider how long and how violent the Christian reformation was, and that was an internal process, while much of what is happening in the Mideast is pushed from the outside (technology, modernism, etc.)

I don’t think military intervention will help push this in a positive direction; nor can we "win" a war against Islam or even extremist Islam. There is something about an outside force trying to influence a region or state that inspires opposition and extremism.

I think Pope Benedict XVI in his speech at Regensburg Universitaet did the right thing in calling for dialogue — and he showed courage of his convictions when he continued to push for dialogue even after the bizarre misunderstanding of his speech in much of the Islamic world. Germany is engaged in an effort to improve integration of Muslims in Europe into German society (despite a rather stupid decision by the Berlin opera not to show a Mozart opera because it could be offensive to Muslims), and our best option is to step back and let them work through what their political culture has to work through.

I don’t think many truly support terrorism against the West, and that support will decline when images of Americans in Iraq stop being spread by Arab media. Still, there are two problems: oil and Israel. Israel has to be a line in the sand, we will not tolerate an existential threat to Israel; dialogue with Syria, Iran, and various Islamic states/actors will be predicated on their understanding of that fact.
-scott
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm

I don’t think military intervention will help push this in a positive direction; nor can we "win" a war against Islam or even extremist Islam. There is something about an outside force trying to influence a region or state that inspires opposition and extremism.
History doesn’t agree, Scott, and you of all people should know that.
Consider the case of the Japanese and the Germans during world war two. In each of these movements and there was an undeniably religious like connection. And yet military intervention was eventually the only thing that influenced those regions and those rulers, and negated their rabid followings.


 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
History doesn’t agree, Scott, and you of all people should know that.
Consider the case of the Japanese and the Germans during world war two. In each of these movements and there was an undeniably religious like connection. And yet military intervention was eventually the only thing that influenced those regions and those rulers, and negated their rabid followings.
You obviously don’t understand the situation if you think this is analogous to WWII. Germany was a modern, western state, and Japan was modernizing and had an attempt at democracy. This is not at all comparable to Islam. If you think one can win a war with Isalm, you are, quite frankly, an absolute idiot. You obviously don’t understand the situation or the nature of the current conflict. Political culture matters. If you don’t understand that now, you will!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
OK, I was rushed in that last comment and was less than diplomatic. I apologize for calling you an idiot. Here is the rationale for my position.

A major problem was the American belief that somehow democracy is natural and easy once you get rid of dictators or ’bad guys’ who don’t want it, is misguided. It’s not that most Iraqis don’t want democracy in theory — in theory they are in fact in favor of it. Rather, it’s the nature of politics, political culture and change — and this has been verified throughout history.

Iraq has three things working against it, and fundamentally working against democracy: massive corruption, ethnic disputes, and economic disruption. Moreover, the electoral system, designed to try to spread influence amongst ethnic groups, assures as well that governments will be weak coalitions involving a large number of parties, including those both involved in corruption and ethnic violence. The only way to build a democracy in this kind of environment is through slow development of rule of law, accountability, stable institutions, and only then a true move to democracy. Having people go out and vote seems to us with our western bias as good in any context. But it’s not. Voting can lead to more chaos and instability if not done in a situation where rule of law and a political culture embracing compromise and toleration of different perspectives has taken hold.

The fundamental mistake of the current policy is the emphasis on democracy as the means to an end, rather than the end itself. Democracy was put forth as a means to stabilize Iraq, bring about economic development, and ultimately have an impact on the region. But in reality democracy is not something you simply impose if you don’t have other cultural and socio-economic attributes in place. This doesn’t mean they simply should have installed an authoritarian (see September 18’s blog); the goal of democracy is sound. But the way in which this was done — through war and then an attempt to get Iraqis to the polls quickly without addressing the core problems that work against stability and democracy — is doomed to fail.

Now, you argue that Japan or Germany after WWII are examples of how Iraq can indeed be turned into a democracy through defeat in a war. Clearly that hasn’t happened. Iraq’s dictatorship fell three years ago, yet violence in Iraq is at an all time post-war high. Germany and Japan were, three years after WWII, moving quickly to stability. The differences are both in the nature of the war (Japan and Germany had been aggressor states pursuing empire, Iraq was a small weak state attacked by outside force without the legitimacy of either self-defense or international law), and the political cultures. Japan had been a stable, ethnically unified state, which had already dabbled in electoral politics and forms of democracy. That was built upon, but even then the development of a true democracy took decades. The LDP grip on power looked a lot like pre-WWII Japan in uniting government, business, and financial interests in a nationalist pursuit of power. The power was economic rather than military, but the shift fit with pre-war Japanese norms, and pre-war stability. Gradually Japan has become more like a "normal" democracy.

Germany was part of the West, and its Weimar experiment with democracy was remarkably successful given the horrible conditions in which it found itself. The fact that it weathered storm after storm until the Great Depression was too much for it to bear (the Nazis only had 3% in 1928) shows that there were underlying cultural affinities in Germany to make a democracy work. Germany was modern, had a tradition of rule of law (as did Japan), and had developed a political culture that allowed debate and dissent, even during the Wilhelmine period. What was done there can’t be replicated in post-Ottoman Arabia, or in a place like Iraq whose political culture has been defined by corruption, violence, and authoritarianism for decades.

Add to that the war and violence only reinforces the notion that authority comes from a gun, the situation is rife for a violent insurgency, for choice of sectarian violence (now a civil war, really), and for hatred of the foreign occupiers. Iraqis blame the US for the situation and want us out — our ability now to try to build institutions and stability is compromised by the disrespect and even hatred Iraqis have for us and what we try to do. Thus, looking at this as a war is doomed to fail.

That doesn’t mean that Iraq is doomed. If the US finds a way to leave, can work with Syria and Iran to try to promote regional stability, and let Iraq work through the difficult period of ethnic violence and corruption on its own (we can’t do that for them — and we’ve actually enabled much of the corruption), in time — perhaps decades — one might see an emerging stable democracy. Or, perhaps, Iraq will be partitioned. That creates problems, but can solve problems as well. The US has to have the wisdom to let go of the dream of "winning" this war by leaving behind a stable democracy. That isn’t going to happen, this war is already lost in those terms. Instead, we have to recognize that the initial goals were unrealistic, and that the best thing for both Iraq and America is to work with regional actors to negotiate our departure and recognize that we are not in a position to shape Iraq’s future. While that may not be victory in the usual sense, it at least might be away to avoid true defeat.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
...probably not a single story would fail to marvel at the historically low casualty rate...

The casualty rate of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is on par with the casualty rate in Viet Nam, so there would be no real or hypothetical reason for either Dems or Reps to boast much one over the other, would there?
 
Written By: abe
URL: http://www.qb3curbqando.net/details.aspx?entry=4652

 
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