The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Head's I Win...

Tails You Lose...

You know that game? When someone plays it with you, it is obvious that the intent is not to distribute wins equally, but for the one who sets the rules to win every time, depending on what their definition of "win" is.

Well, now that the Iraqi Prime Minister more or less agrees with a 16-Month withdrawal plan (while maintaining the right to adjust for conditions), it will be very interesting to see how this shakes out. I am more and more certain that the bundle of reasons for being there includes things that everyone knows and talks about (The War on Terror) and things that everyone knows, but fewer talk about (Our Energy Crisis). But one thing I am more certain of every day: when someone says: "if conditions on the ground are good, it means its all right to stay." And "if conditions are bad on the ground, that means we need to stay" the real truth is that they want to stay, and are looking for reasons to do so.

In general, people have said "if the Iraqis want us to go, we will." Will 100% of Iraqis want us to go? Hell no. Never happen. There are undoubtedly Apaches who drooled at the thought of losing their land and being shut on wonderful, barren reservations. What becomes obvious is when some one desperately searches for the little group who wants us to stay, claiming that that's the real reason we're there: pure humanitarianism! Nothing to do with that ocean of oil, or the hope we can find a way to get back some of the 600-800 Billion dollars this whole thing has cost, let alone the after costs that could push this whole thing toward two trillion. The beauty of the honesty of the Bush "Time Horizon" concept is its unconscious precision: you cannot reach the horizon. No matter how fast or how long you run, you'll never get there.

I think that Maliki is gaining courage now that Bush is almost out of office, and McCain looks like a loser. They want us out, and it's been hard to say that with American hardware in their streets. Obama's visit gave them hope, and leverage. It will be nine kinds of fun to watch and see how people try to twist this. The Iraqis want us OUT. They believe they can handle their own problems. The only possible reason to stay is that either we believe they cannot, or there is something there we want. But respectful altruism is out the fucking window.

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So there's no way to ensure positive results in relationships, fitness, or finance. But there are some pretty solid ways to avoid disaster. In general, I'll settle for that. One major point of having goals in all three arenas is that as you develop unconscious competence in one arena, the positive effects take hold in the others as well. As you grasp that lying is a critical flaw in a life partner, you can see it also in a business partner, or a training partner. The world can begin to look like an externalization of your inner being.

There was a very reasonable question about martial arts: can you deceive an opponent without falling into the "lying" category I believe weakens our being? Yes...and no. I think a separate question begins to arise if one finds oneself in situations where we are attempting violence against others with regularity (not in a school context). I have known soldiers, police officers, bouncers, and security guards. Combat takes it out of you. The game is great fun, and the expression of a profound sense of responsibility to country, family, or God. But the maintenance of proper healthy balance in such situations...let's just say that the percentage of PTSD, divorce, alcoholism and suicide is way above normal. And these are in many ways our very best and brightest. It is not a flaw in the individuals. It is the difficulty of killing and hurting other human beings while keeping your own humanity.

It can be done. I know those who have. But they are extraordinary, and by definition, the average person is average. There is real moral peril lurking here. There is something I call "Brown Belt Syndrome" where someone standing at the threshold of sophistication NEEDS to test their chops. They just "happen" to get into fights in bars, parking lots, whatever. They become magnets for it, can't avoid it, but rarely actually directly instigate it. There is a creature inside us that ordinarily emerges only in dire circumstances.

But if it ONLY emerges then, you'll lose to someone who has been selectively bringing it out and polishing it over the years. So while we can turn farmers into soldiers, we need a warrior class--people who actually maintain that fire and can pass it on to others in emergency. They are career officers and NCOs, for instance.

That creature within us (I call mine "the wolf") has to be nurtured and controlled very carefully. It is a fire that can cook your eggs or burn your house down. Cultures that don't have much of it must either be protected by natural boundaries (mountains, seas) or live somewhere that no one wants (Kalihari hunter-gatherers, anyone?). But if you have ANYTHING that others want, and you don't have that killing spark, and those who keep it alive...your children will be slaves, and your women bear the children of the warriors who slaughtered your men. That's not 100% true, but we see the pattern repeated over and over again.

What this means is that lying can be considered a kind of violence, an interruption in the natural flow, a mini-seizure. Clearly, lying is better (in most cases) than being mugged or killed. But the goal is to live a life where violence toward others is never needed. Wanted, perhaps--in the context of sport. I'm not sure I'd want to live in a culture that had this all bred out of them. It is creativity and destruction together, in a dynamic whole, that create existence.

Each, out of control, is disastrous. Each, in its proper place, allows life itself. The problem is keeping them balanced.

28 comments:

Dan Moran said...

Nothing new here. When Bush took office in 2000, he announced that the nation needed tax cuts, because the surplus was too large, and that was "your money."

When the economy (coincidentally) turned bad after Bush took office, he announced that the nation needed tax cuts, to "stimulate the economy."

I'm unaware of any economic problem that Republicans can't solve by borrowing from China.

Frank said...

And when people say "We have to leave because we've lost" and then the very same people say, "We have to leave because everything is OK" you have to say that these people are just trying to find a way to leave.

And when people say "We need to raise taxes because we don't have enough of a surplus" and then say "We need to raise taxes because the economy is bad", you can conclude that people just want to raise taxes.

In all of these cases (yours and mine) the reasoning is absurd.

Dan Moran said...

We need to raise taxes because we don't have enough of a surplus

Who said that?

Josh Jasper said...

Lost or won, the majority of the Iraqis want us to leave. the PM seems to think that Obama's figures are about right, given the conditions.

Either they're a sovereign nation or not. If they're not sovereign, we're an empire, not a Republic.

This is beyond the question of should we ever have invaded, which is a separate question. If you say "we never should have invaded" that doses not mean the same as "I want us to loose". Conflating the two is part of the Republican playbook though.

It seems not to be working.

Steve's point in the political part of the post was about moving goalposts. Both sides do it to some extent, but the amount of goalpost moving by the Bush administration on the Maliki quote is particularly egregious.

Talking Points memo has a pretty good breakdown of the story

There are multiple posts, but this one gives a good breakdown of the major points in which the Bush administration just lied to us, and made Maliki lie too here.

Ordering a foreign head of state to lie on your behalf is about the most contemptible abuse of power I've seen Bush engage in... this week.

AF1 said...

Leaving because the Iraqis want us to seems like sound reasoning to me.

Steve Perry said...

How about, nobody invited us there in the first place?

Frank said...

AF1

Leaving because the Iraqis want us to seems like sound reasoning to me.

Clearly.

And if Maliki came out and said today: "I want all Americans to go home. Now." That would happen.

But he doesn't say that, and he won't say that; at least not in the immediate future.

And why doesn't he say that? Why won't he say that in the immediate future?

Because he knows what would happen to his country and his people if we left anytime in the immediate future.

So it is clear, what is going on is people (i.e. US and Iraq) trying to determine when we can leave a relatively stable Iraq in our wake.

Saying anything else is misrepresenting the situation and obscuring the facts for no good reason.

And I emphasize "good".

And it is not just that. We are trying to negotiate the conditions under which we will stay, not leave, in Iraq after the rules governing the UN mandate expire in December. I point that out here.

Dan Moran said...

Pretty much all Bush is looking to do is put this off on the next President. He's got American troops stuck in the middle of a civil war for no good reason, the Republican Party's going to get creamed in November because of it; Republicans are writing off '08 and looking to the future. They can't win the Iraqi civil war, only the Iraqis can do that, but they can shift the blame, and at the cost of only a few thousand American troops. Plainly they consider it cheap at the cost.

AF1 said...

"And if Maliki came out and said today: "I want all Americans to go home. Now." That would happen.

But he doesn't say that, and he won't say that; at least not in the immediate future."

Fine.

But he does mention a 16-month timeframe. Which coincides nicely with Obama's views.

And contrasts sharply with John McCain and his "we'll be there for 100 years" beliefs.

Josh Jasper said...

Maliki did, in fact, give a thumbs up to Obama's time frame, and when caught saying so, got a phone call from the White House telling him to retract his story. He then liked and said he was mistranslated.

So what is this nonsense about the US under Bush actually considering Maliki to be a sovereign ruler who gets to make his own decisions? Provably false.

The mistranslation claim? provably false

Why is anyone arguing over this?

Josh Jasper said...

Scott M. Stanzel, a White House spokesman with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., said that embassy officials explained to the Iraqis how the interview in Der Spiegel was being interpreted, given that it came just a day after the two governments announced an agreement over American troops.

“The Iraqis were not aware and wanted to correct it,” he said.


Except that Der Speigel let Maliki's office go over a draft of the interview before it was published, to clear up any misquotes or mistranslations.

This is what "heads, I win, tails, you loose" looks like.

Diplomats from the United States Embassy in Baghdad spoke to Mr. Maliki’s advisers on Saturday, said an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss what he called diplomatic communications. After that, the government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issued a statement casting doubt on the magazine’s rendering of the interview.

"Diplomatic communications" clearly meant pressuring Maliki to lie. Remember the Iraqi Information Minister? Comical Ali, AKA Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf. That's what this reminds me of. The lies are so blatant and stupid.

Marty S said...

This is a case of seeing things the way you want not the way they are. If we can really get out of Iraq in 16 months or less that is great. But if we can its because the surge worked. A surge supported by McCain and opposed by Obama. It is also within McCain's supported time frame. McCain 's position was never we will stay in Iraq for 100 years. It was we will stay in Iraq as long as conditions require that we stay there, EVEN IF IT TAKES 100 YEARS. This was the correct position also. You might like to retire at a given date say your 55 birthday, but taking a position at thirty that you are going to retire at a certain age without regard to what your financial situation or health situation is folly. The correct position is I will retire when conditions are right and the same is true for leaving Iraq.

Frank said...

AFI

But he does mention a 16-month timeframe. Which coincides nicely with Obama's views.

Yes, but Maliki has always overestimated the capability of his forces.

Recall the operation in Basrah. He sent in his Army without telling either us or the British. Which was fine, but then they got bogged down. And they got bogged down because a) they still don't have a good logistical operation and b) they don't have any tactical air.

So we had to help them with the supply lines and we had to help with the air support.

And no matter what you or he thinks, it will be a while before they have the logistical and air capability required.

Amateurs think fighting on this level is all pointy stick, but the fact is that a spear has to have a long shaft to be effective.

Iraq doesn't have logistics; Iraq doesn't have Air; Iraq doesn't have a Navy. It needs all of these things and once they have these things they need to be integrated in order to work together.

This takes time.

And then there is the matter of their NCOs. The backbone of any modern fighting force is their NCOs. You need a strong NCO corps in order to effect successful operations where squads must operate independently to exploit opportunities within the stated mission parameters. And experienced military trainer will tell you that it takes 7 to 10 years to develop an experienced NCO corps.

And then there is the biggest weakness in Iraq: the police. They have much farther to go than the Army.

Now Maliki is saying he'd like to see Iraq operating independently by 2010, but he is also saying it depends on the security situation. So as I have explained, Maliki is being optimistic, and he is putting the same caveat as Bush and McCain. McCain, however, is being more realistic about how this is likely to play out.

And Obama is either being naive or disingenuous.

Take your pick.

And contrasts sharply with John McCain and his "we'll be there for 100 years" beliefs.

Are you deliberately misrepresenting McCain's position or are you just uninformed?

Rory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Josh Jasper said...

Marty - This is a case of seeing things the way you want not the way they are. If we can really get out of Iraq in 16 months or less that is great.

Actually, it really is up to the Iraqis to continue to invite us to stay in their country. Otherwise it's not their country, it's ours.

The problem is not that Iraqis are or aren't ready, it's that we're not letting them make that choice, while at the same time lying to the entire world in saying that we are.

Either they are, or are not a sovereign nation. It's that simple. And the proof here is that they aren't. We're correcting their leaders statements to the media behind the scenes. When he says something that the Bus administration disagrees with for political reasons (in that it supports Obama) they get chided, and forced to lie.

You seriously need to quit ignoring that fact.

The correct position is I will retire when conditions are right and the same is true for leaving Iraq.

Then they're not able to decide to ask us to leave? The pretense that Maliki is making independent decisions is a really blatant fiction.

Steven Barnes said...

Who said: "We have to leave Iraq because we've lost?" I haven't heard that anywhere. Citations?

Steven Barnes said...

It seems to me that McCain said that if violence levels were down, IT WOULDN'T MATTER if we stayed 100 years. The Left-wing has distorted this into "he wants to stay 100 years." I twitch every time I hear that. It bothers me because it is exactly the kind of distortion I hear from the other side, and I wish "my" side was better than that. Apparently, no one is.
#
If Maliki says he wants a 16-month time frame, and we say "no," then they are not a sovereign country, and we are treating them with contempt. It is PERFECTLY reasonable to assume that people who are not saying that upfront, but feel it, will lie about other things too...for instance, their reason for wanting to be there?

Mike Ralls said...

If Bush said to Maliki, "Retract your statement or my troops will have you arrested," that's one thing. But leaders asking or presuring other leaders to give or retract statements is nothing new or even unusual, even if that means that the other leader has to lie.

Old joke: How do you know when a politician is lying?
Answer: Their lips move.

Frank said...

Steve Barnes

Who said: "We have to leave Iraq because we've lost?" I haven't heard that anywhere. Citations?

Where have you been?

April. 20, 2007

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday the war in Iraq is "lost," triggering an angry backlash by Republicans, who said the top Democrat had turned his back on the troops. The bleak assessment - the most pointed yet from Reid - came as the House voted 215-199 to uphold legislation ordering troops out of Iraq next year...

"I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and - you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows - (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," said Reid, D-Nev.

And then there's this from the New York Times

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 21 (2007) — Senator Barack Obama said Tuesday that even if the military escalation in Iraq was showing limited signs of progress, efforts to stabilize the country had been a “complete failure” and American troops should not be entangled in the sectarian strife.

Frank said...

Steve Barnes

If Maliki says he wants a 16-month time frame, and we say "no," then they are not a sovereign country, and we are treating them with contempt.

True. But what Maliki said, as reported by Der Spiegel, was

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.

(emphasis, mine)

Josh Jasper said...

Maliki later claimed he was misquoted in the Speigel article.

He lied when making that claim. He did so at the behest of the White House, who decided that no, Maliki was not a sovereign leader, he was a White House PR flack, and would take orders that were designed to hurt a Democratic party contender for the upcoming election.

It's not that we're saying "no", it's that we're making him dance for us in order to deflate the boost that this quote gave to Obama.

More goal post shifting.

Frank said...

Josh Jasper

Maliki later claimed he was misquoted in the Speigel article.

You'd like to think so, I'm quite sure.

But, no.

The prime minister was widely quoted as saying that in the negotiations with the Americans on a Status of Forces Agreement to regulate the US troop presence from next year, "the direction is towards either a memorandum of understanding on their evacuation, or a memorandum of understanding on a timetable for their withdrawal".

That was the version of Mr Maliki's remarks put out in writing by his office in Baghdad.

It was widely circulated by the news media, and caught much attention, including that of Mr Obama.

There is only one problem. It is not what Mr Maliki actually said.

Mixed messages

In an audio recording of his remarks, heard by the BBC, the prime minister did not use the word "withdrawal".

What he actually said was: "The direction is towards either a memorandum of understanding on their evacuation, or a memorandum of understanding on programming their presence."

Dan Moran said...

The surge has worked, so credit due there. The numbers of American soldiers dying each month has dropped from upwards of a hundred down to the the dozens. The question now becomes, is the Iraqi occupation worth 35 dead American soldiers a month?

Nope.

Bush had three options back when he decided to go with the surge: get out, surge, stand pat. Standing pat was patently insane, almost as insane as taking us into Iraq in the first place on a pack of lies. Getting out would have been an admission of failure no sociopath like Bush could ever allow. So we had the surge, and at the cost of only another thousand+ dead American soldiers. Cheap at the cost, I suppose.

Now we're down to an average of 35 dead American soldiers per month in Iraq over the last 9 months. And conservatives are jubilant over this.

We've lost over 4,000 soldiers in Iraq, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, in a war founded on lies. Conservatives can chant "the surge worked" -- great. Now we only have 35 soldiers a month dying for no fucking reason in a war based on lies. Congratulations to everyone concerned.

I'm looking forward to November. So are all the children who won't be orphaned every month once Bush is out off office, for absolutely no reason at all except Bush's ego and Republican politcs.

AF1 said...

"It seems to me that McCain said that if violence levels were down, IT WOULDN'T MATTER if we stayed 100 years."

McCain said that if violence was down, he'd be fine with us maintaining a presence in Iraq for 100 years.

That's a clear statement of his position.

He has since gone on to say there's nothing wrong with an ongoing miliatry presence in Iraq, much like we have in South Korea or Japan.

If you agree with that, Steve, that's cool. But I don't think I'm distorting anything.

Marty S said...

Dan: I was against the war before we went in. Lies or no lies it was a bad idea. But when we went in and overthrew Sadam we created a mess in Iraq. We owe it to the people of Iraq to do the best we can to clean up that mess. So we should leave when the government of Iraq decides it no longer needs our help, but we should not leave as long as they want our help.

Dan Moran said...

Marty, that's an honorable position, but I don't agree with it. We removed a dictator who'd oppressed them for a generation -- for reasons having nothing to do with them, admittedly; that war always had more to do with the '02 midterms than anything else. But this isn't Pottery Barn, and you break it, you bought it isn't a principle that works for me when American soldiers are getting killed.

If the Iraqis want a civil war, and certainly many of them do, I think we should get out of the way and let them go.

Josh Jasper said...

Frank, you're quoting something I never discussed here.

The key statement cited by Mr Obama and others was made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki last Monday in his address to Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates.

I've been talking about the interview in Der Speigel, not an address given the the UAE.

It's been established that Maliki's office actually read the translation for the interview, and signed off on it. details here

Josh Jasper said...

Marty - We owe it to the people of Iraq to do the best we can to clean up that mess. So we should leave when the government of Iraq decides it no longer needs our help, but we should not leave as long as they want our help.

So, telling them how long they need our help, and overruling the Prime Minister would be bad?

Because that's what we're doing. Go look at the evidence.