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September 24, 2009

Oh! The Humanity!

Andrew Sullivan, on the McChrystal report two days ago:

...The way in which this man seems to be trying to bounce the administration into a deeper longer war, and threatening to resign to exact political damage if he doesn't, is outrageous. It is one thing to recommend a new military strategy; it is another thing to enter politics. McChrystal is lucky that his recent history of presiding over some of the worst torture and abuse of the Cheney era was glossed over by the Senate in confirming him. He shouldn't push his luck.

Andrew Sullivan today, happening upon someone who actually read the McChrystal report:

George Packer, who is always worth listening to, approves of McChrystal's report on Afghanistan.

Amazing what a little knowledge will do to calm those night terrors, isn't it?

One might think, given his previous fit of arm waving, that Sullivan might give us some idea of what McChrystal actually said in the report. But no. We get a lot of blather about 'Obama's JFK moment', no day in the ObamaSphere being complete without reminding the populace of the uncanny similarities between our 44th Prez and Abraham Lincoln, the Gipper, or JFK. So what did Packer actually think of the report?

The only surprise is the impressiveness of McChrystal’s analysis. I was wrong in May when I questioned the appointment of a special-operations man to run this war. McChrystal’s report is written in plain English, it’s self-critical, and it shows more understanding of the nature of the fight in Afghanistan than most journalism and academic work. The U.S. military now believes that the Afghan government is just as much a threat to success as the Taliban. That’s a bold conclusion, one that our civilians have not been willing to reach, publicly at least. And the description of the different Taliban networks is as clarifying as it is disturbing.

So this is what the general whom Obama rushed into the field earlier this year has to tell his commander-in-chief: it will take time, it will take more resources, we will have to get smarter. Again, no surprise. The policy McChrystal is working within was set in March, by the President himself, and it called for a renewed counterinsurgency in Afghanistan in order to “dismantle,” “disrupt,” and “defeat” Al Qaeda. Obama’s strategy-review team didn’t want to go looking to get America deeper into the mess in Afghanistan—they looked at all the alternatives and decided that the narrower approaches wouldn’t work against an Al Qaeda network that’s so entrenched and interconnected with other groups in the region.

...The McChrystal report is a shining example of intelligent military thinking—of the military’s capacity for learning and self-transformation through the searing events of the past eight years. Its author or authors will have a right to feel a little bitter if it appears at the very moment when the political class has decided that it just doesn’t work.

This glowing assessment is surrounded by a lot of caveats, so I highly recommend you don't skip reading his entire post. It's not long. I find it extremely amusing that two days ago, the Lefty blogs were all in a lather over what a horrid, horrid man McChrystal is and HOW DARE HE OPPOSE OUR PRESIDENT... OMG OMG OMG, IT'S A MILITARY COUP!!!! Blah, blah, blah. What causes these folks to go ballistic over such thin gruel?

Dr. Sanity wrote something I thought very perceptive the other day. I wanted to link it but hadn't yet figured out where it fit:

One great hope for the American black community, implicitly recognized and understood by black and white Americans alike, is embodied in the smart, extremely articulate, good looking black man who has a beautiful family and the consummate political skill to gain the highest office in the land. If Barack Obama is now found to have feet of clay, or far worse, if his presidency fails, this would be a disastrous blow to the community so identified with him. For many blacks, and a great many liberal whites, the unacceptable thought, handed down from the racists of the past, is that blacks are not as smart as whites. Their accusations of "racism" toward anyone who criticizes President Obama's policies is a reaction to the worry that President Obama will prove to be an ineffective President, thereby confirming their worst (mostly unconscious) fears.

... The accusations of racism whenever the President is criticized have taken on a Shakespearean tenor: the unconscious says, "President Obama is failing to convince people of his ideas; maybe he, and by extension all blacks, are not so smart" and the conscious mind reels and replies, "No, he is the smartest, he is the One, and the only explanation for his failings is that those who oppose him do so because they are racists!"

Methinks they protest too much.

Methinks so, too. These folks really need to get a grip. Have some confidence in the man you elected.

I'm not the slightest bit concerned about Barack Obama's ability to handle criticism. Fragile flowers don't make it through presidential campaigns. The guy isn't going to fold up and blow away because a few people who didn't vote for him; who rejected the ideas he espouses long before they'd ever heard of him ... gasp! ... still reject those ideas.
Their opposition to Obama has nothing to do with his skin color, with white privilege, or any other such idiocy. If you think I'm rough on Obama, look up my old posts on John Kerry.

The difference between me and Andrew Sullivan is that I don't go into an emotional decline or get my Hanes UltraSheers all in a wad over predictable political opposition. Why? Because, as I noted during the overheated flap over Carrie Prejean, we really need to get over the idea that one refutes an idea by attacking its adherents. This is arguably the most poisonous notion in American politics. It pushes us into the twin errors of defending the indefensible and attacking the messenger, the goal of both these tactics being to either defend or attack the real target: an idea whose merits have little to do with that individual.

Regardless of whether an idea is "liberal" or "conservative", it's easy to find at least one whack job who espouses it. Pointing out the nuttiness of that one person does precisely nothing to refute the idea, though. Likewise, even if Barack Obama turns out to be another Jimmy Carter, that won't mean blacks are stupid, or incompetent, or that it's a bad idea to elect another black President. I can think of plenty of reasons Obama might fail, not the least of which is that this is the first executive position the man has ever held in his lifetime. If his Presidency is a failure, frankly the first thing I'd attribute that to would be lack of experience, not his essential Blackitude.

We really need to learn to overcome anxiety and have a little faith. The longer I'm alive, the more I begin to believe the reason the Left are always hyperventilating and accusing others of being bad, scary people who "fear monger" is because some of these folks walk around in a perpetual state of scared-to-deathness. It only takes a butterfly landing on the end of their noses to send them careening down the otter slide to Prozacville.

That's no way to live, especially when you're fortunate enough to be a citizen of the most affluent, free, powerful and secure nation on earth. Relax. Take a deep breath, people.

Everything will be fine.

Posted by Cassandra at September 24, 2009 05:39 PM

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...really need to get over the idea that one refutes an idea by attacking its adherents.

Seems like I read some contrary advice recently. I think it was: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. I cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. I go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions."

I guess it's worked out pretty well for some people.

You've got to hit the bad guys, of course -- the really bad guys, I mean. The ones who, say, write tax laws that drive the little people out of business... while forgetting to pay their taxes, year after year. Guys like that have it coming, and if they don't get it, it encourages bad public hygiene.

The ones who are just wrong, it's good to be nice to them when you can. After all, you could be wrong someday too. I mean, not you personally, Cass. "One" could be wrong, I should say.

Posted by: Grim at September 24, 2009 10:49 PM

...people hurt faster than institutions...

That is bullying, pure and simple. Not sure where you read that. Sounds like something Alinski would say though.

And I've been wrong before. After all, I'm female, aren't I? :)

*running away*

I read somewhere that people who take offense at breaches of decorum and civility are like canaries in the mineshaft of public morality. I think that's true.

It's like what happens when someone breaks a window and no one fixes it. That encourages more vandalism.

I know you all get tired of my moralizing, but again, I'm female :p That is what we do. I will leave chastising the UnGodly to you, my friend. You are far better suited for it than I.


Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 11:07 PM

Do I chastize the unGodly? Oh, dear. I wasn't aware of it: it must be one of those unconscious bad habits, like scratching your head in public. You'll have to point it out the next time I'm doing it. Discreetly, of course!

Yes, you're right about the quote's source. The effect of the bullying is to drive ordinary people out of politics. That's how we got here, really: it's become too difficult and too painful for an ordinary person to enter the arena. Who would want to be a Congressman? Even our military leaders, who are apolitical as any military in human history, immediately come under personal attack the moment their names enter political stories of any sort.

Posted by: Grim at September 24, 2009 11:31 PM

You chastise me all the time, Grim. But I don't mind. I imagine I'm a better person for it.

Before I began blogging, people used to tell me all the time that I should get into politics.


I do not think I would last very long. I'm good at coaxing cooperation out of people but I don't have that thick a skin. And I would never subject my family to the vitriol I see in my hometown.


I would probably make a good speechwriter.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 11:44 PM

Or a damn' good blogger.

Posted by: BillT at September 25, 2009 06:09 AM

Yeah, yeah, thwack-thwack.

Posted by: BillT at September 25, 2009 06:11 AM

Their accusations of "racism" toward anyone who criticizes President Obama's policies is a reaction to the worry that President Obama will prove to be an ineffective President...

Oh, I dunno -- he has a pretty impressive list of accomplishments, so far. What other President has succeeded in insulting most of our allies, tripling the national debt, creating a federal bureaucratic staff with no accountability or oversight, bestowing US civil rights upon foreign nationals who have taken a holy vow to kill Americans, and establishing a cult of personality rivaling that of Chairman Mao?

*And* he's made the world aware that some people actually *eat* Tuscan kale rather than merely using it as garnish.

Posted by: BillT at September 25, 2009 06:35 AM

McChrystal’s report is written in plain English, it’s self-critical, and it shows more understanding of the nature of the fight in Afghanistan than most journalism and academic work.

Thank you for emphasizing that particular line, because I think it's one of the most telling. This individual you quote is surprised that a mere military man would have the ability to be self-critical and understand HIS PROFESSION better than learned journalists and academicians. What a SHOCK!

The very IDEA that a neanderthal who volunteered to make a career of the military and who has only been commanding men in combat for nearly two decades should have a clue about military matters is, frankly, astonishing! Why who could believe such a philistine could be so thoughtful and knowledgeable!

I guess I really shouldn't be surprised that he's surprised. But I am sadly disappointed.

Posted by: MikeD at September 25, 2009 09:11 AM

Andrew Sullivan, on the McChrystal report two days ago...
Andrew Sullivan today...
Amazing what a little knowledge will do to calm those night terrors, isn't it?

That and a Midol drip...

Posted by: BillT at September 25, 2009 09:57 AM

When Obama was running for the presidency and it was becoming all too clear that he would probably win, I was saying, basically to myself, the Union will survive. Unfortunately, I was not all that aware of the fact that I might just be speaking of the Soviet Union.

As noted above, he has never really managed anything in his life, and he seems bound and determined to prove it. Making this man the leader of the this nation was somewhat akin to making a recent college graduate the president of IBM.

Suddenly, he is a military genius - Ala, Hitler. At least Hitler had experience as a Corporal. Obama, on the other hand, has a military background limited to a Cub Scout pack, at best.

So, how many days to the next Presidential election?

Posted by: RIslander at September 25, 2009 12:41 PM

The next opportunity to elect a qualified PotUS? That would be in 1137 days and a wake up.

To do some House cleaning, 402 days and a wake up. Not that I'm counting or anything...

In the interim, we would do well to follow the advice tattooed upon Joe Plaice's fingers. Aye, "hold fast", mate.

Posted by: bthun at September 25, 2009 01:37 PM

You chastise me all the time, Grim. But I don't mind. I imagine I'm a better person for it.

Ah, yes. "And for my sins, they sent me Grim." :)

I don't mean to chastise you for anything at all. You're a fine lady, and I'm proud to know you.

Now, you and I do have some basic philosophical differences. Some of your ideas, I'd like to challenge. But you? You're all right with me.

Posted by: Grim at September 25, 2009 09:41 PM