September 4, 2008

“i hate war…shington”

Filed under: Uncategorized — blogsdon @ 11:50 pm

UPDATED: Response to comment about Obama’s stance on surge. Scroll to bottom to read John’s comment (under the Comments link) and my response.

(yes, new blog design. seeing if it works. I like it because there’s more room for text)

After a couple restless hours, I realized I had to get out of bed and write this post. The past two weeks of conventions, Veep picks, hurricane drama, media “attacks” and attacks on the media have been a whole lot to digest. How does one reconcile the numerous liberals and conservatives who interpret every single developing news item as irrefutable evidence that their candidate will be the winner of the presidential election? It’s kept me awake trying to work out a narrative of the past two weeks in my mind that reinforces my confidence in Obama’s chance of winning. I think I’ve worked one out. Almost.

Here goes…

1) Obama chooses Biden. Barack says over and over that his main criteria for selecting a VP is choosing someone isn’t a “yes-man” and who has enough experience to be able to step in and be the president. (Did he already know that McCain was leaning towards Palin?) Biden gives Obama exactly what he needs: credibility on foreign policy, years of experience, and a perfect guy to fulfill the usual Veep “attack dog” role (especially come debate time). So I’m happy with this.

2) The Democratic National Convention. Obama has a list of things he sets out to achieve and he does.

Monday – Who is Barack? Michelle tells the story of herself and Barack. They are the American Dream (with oh-so-precocious kids!). Check
Tuesday – What about Hillary? Hillary states in no uncertain terms that voting for McCain would be a mistake and to vote for Obama. Check.
Wednesday – Why should we care? Bill Clinton reminds us of the good old days. Kerry and Biden pick up the attack on McCain and the Bush administration. They describe, in detail, why America is in a state of utter disrepair. Check.
Thursday – Ok, but what is Obama going to do? He delivers an incredible thoughtful and heartfelt speech that covers EVERYTHING. He tells his own life story, attacks the current Republican policies that have led us to where we are, addresses and moves past every criticism launched by the McCain campaign, strictly outlines his plans for his presidency, and ends with an inspiring call to all Americans to unite. Check and mate.

It’s safe to say I was feeling pretty good about this time. Then…

3) McCain picks Palin. Suddenly I’m losing sleep. The whole media is in a tizzy. “Evangelicals love Palin.” “Palin tried to get her former brother-in-law fired.” “Palin was never fully vetted.” “Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.” “Palin is pro-guns, pro-life, pro-teaching creationism in schools.” “Palin has Big Oil connections.” “Palin was mayor of a small town and barely governor of an irrelevant state.” “Palin is a hockey mom.” “Palin has a child with down syndrome.” “Palin is a rising star in the Republican Party.” “Palin is a heartbeat away from the presidency.” The DNC is done. No more coverage WHATSOEVER, the media has its hands busy figuring out who the hell Sarah Barracuda is. In one swift move, McCain has completely stolen the thunder from Obama and the DNC, preoccupying the media completely with Palin coverage, which THEN allows McCain to rally the Republicans AGAINST the “liberal media.” Palin’s pregnant daughter appeals to both pro-life Christians and working-class families who have pregnant teenagers. She’s rallying the religious right base, attracting disenchanted Hillary supporters, and completely occupying the media. It’s insanity.

And we haven’t even got to her convention speech.

4) The Republican National Convention. The GOP’s big party gets slightly disrupted by Gustav, but still pulls off its calculated evil strategy.

Monday – Gustav Day. Bunch of Gulf State governors speak and its mostly boring. Points for Dems because it highlights how disastrously Bush handled Katrina. Points for Republicans for getting Bush and Cheney almost removed entirely from the RNC, thus divorcing them from McCain’s campaign completely.
Tuesday – Fred Thompson gives a weird speech on McCain’s service and Joe Lieberman gives his “I’m a democrat for McCain” bipartisan speech to lukewarm receptance. Absolutely no one cares about these speeches. Still, the media is only reporting on Palin.
Wednesday – The night of disgustingly vicious attacks. Romney and Giuliani lead off with character attacks on Obama, going as far as to laugh at him for being a “community organizer” as his first job in public service. No substance, all character assassination. Palin gives the easiest speech of her life (because she’s charismatic, has an interesting background, and had the half-truths written for her). She is again a media darling, despite her speech being fraught with outright lies and misleading statements. (see my previous post about this). Incidentally, the Obama campaign raised $10 million the night after her speech.
Thursday – McCain goes wayyyy the other direction by being relatively kind to Obama (except when he completely misinterprets Obama’s economic plan) and he focuses on his commitment to his country. He bashes Obama for lack of experience and thus his inability to handle the Iraq War (“he voted agin’ the surge!”) High points include admitting that the previous administration is a failure, that he has been through war and he “hates it” (showing that he’s not a warmongerer), and his compelling POW story. I have to admit, he did a nice job.

Now I’m not sure I’m going to get any sleep. The RNC bounce is imminent and likely to be a sizable one. And this doesn’t help…

5) Obama gets interviewed by O’Reilly. They show a clip of Obama’s interview with Bill O’Reilly, which just shows O’Reilly being a total dick and questioning Obama on terrorism, Iran, and “Why won’t you admit you were wrong about The Surge?” Goddamn it, Republicans love asking that. Obama does a decent job answering O’Reilly, but if you edit his statement down enough it sounds like he has flip-flopped about his decision to vote against The Surge. Conservative bloggers go nuts and say the campaign is over. I am pissed that this is still an issue and one that I can’t really see how Obama is going to address in a way that shows he made the right decision. He still hasn’t made it simple to digest.

BUT I THINK I’VE FIGURED IT OUT! And this, friends, is what is letting me get to sleep tonight. Obama admitted that The Surge worked “beyond his wildest dreams.” (For the record, he never said The Surge didn’t work. He just hasn’t been clear on why he voted against it.) In the interview, Obama says, “If you look at the debate that was taking place, we had gone through five years of mismanagement of this war that I thought was disastrous. And the president wanted to double-down and continue on open-ended policy that did not create the kinds of pressure in the Iraqis to take responsibility and reconcile…[O’Reilly interrupts him].” Now I get it, and I think Barack just needs to simplify his answer. To use an analogy, The Surge proposal was similar to placing a bet in roulette. Bush has been playing roulette the past five years, investing more and more money and claiming that he’s “lowering the odds.” Then, he decides to bet even more chips on Double Zero, AKA The Surge. The ball lands on Double Zero. The Surge…”worked.” Obama needs to express that The Surge was yet another bet placed after five years of rotten luck, and his skepticism was therefore completely valid. He held his chips, and so he didn’t get the payoff that McCain got. But Obama wasn’t in debt to begin with – he was against the war before it started! When someone has five years of rotten luck at the roulette table, would you put your chips next to theirs on Double Zero? NO. The Surge “worked” only in that it has temporarily decreased violence, but their are a myriad other issues at stake when it comes to maintaining stability in Iraq. The next President will be able to take advantage of The Lucky Surge, no matter who it is, and I think Obama has the right mix of diplomacy, leadership, and intelligence to make the right move. Sigh…I think I might be able to sleep now.


Also, the DNC gave Obama a nice little bounce, he’s way up in Iowa and Minnesota, statistically tied in Ohio, McCain is already dipping into his public financing, McCain still hasn’t cracked the margin he needs to with Latino voters, Obama’s supporters are just as fired up after Wednesday’s vicious RNC speeches, Palin is still a huge liability and a gaffe machine waiting to happen, and the debates are soon to come.

Good night.


I see where you are coming from. I made an analogy that Bush’s war strategy was like playing a game of roulette, which is obviously not a perfect analogy. Roulette is a game of complete random chance and obviously a lot of thought and consideration goes into each major military deployment. The odds are not exactly the same and certainly the stakes are much, much higher.

Your analogy of a classroom of unruly kids and sending in a teacher (the surge) rather than simply another student to quell the disruption is rather apt. The violence in the areas of surge deployment has decreased significantly. Thus, by all accounts, the surge was successful because Bush changed (or rather multiplied by two) the strategy he had been employing for 5 years in a row.

I don’t want to write a long paragraph about the complexity of this issue, but so I’ll simply bullet point the misunderstandings surrounding the surge as a political campaign issue.

  • There is a difference between Obama saying the surge “worked” and whether or not he thought he was wrong about voting against it. To use an over-the-top analogy, did the atomic bomb “work”? Yup. Do you think there’s a whole lot of people who still think we shouldn’t have dropped it? Yup. Obama has conceded that the surge worked, but the decision-making process leading up to the surge would make anyone concerned that this would be yet another failed strategy that would cost the lives of even more Americans. Given the circumstances, he was right to vote against a surge. So he hasn’t flip-flopped about his decision, he’s just acknowledging that the surge (coupled with a LOT of other factors) has decreased violence.
  • The Surge isn’t the only thing that decreased violence in Iraq. The Anbar Awakening is a huge factor here and we (yes, you and me) have no way of knowing how much it was the Anbar Awakening that contributed to the decrease in violence or simply The Surge.
  • The Surge has decreased violence, but there’s still a whole host of work to be done in maintaining stability in Iraq. The Republicans often write-off Obama’s stance against the Iraq war by saying, “It’s no use saying you were agin’ the war before it started, we’re in it now and we have to figure out a way to win!” Well, to use that strategy, “It’s no use sitting back and taking credit for supporting the surge, we’re at a moment of low-violence now and we have to figure out a way to take advantage of it!” This has been a horribly mismanaged war from the outset and Bush stumbled upon moderate success FIVE YEARS after he (and McCain, too) declared “Mission Accomplished.”
  • Obama is obviously better at former alliances with other countries, and this was mainly the point of his European excursion. He’s already establishes TRUST and CREDIBILITY with other nations. Instead of sending a surge of US troops, Obama would work to gain support from other nations so we wouldn’t have to keep wasting American lives.
  • I refuse to simplify the past five years of a horrible losing war strategy (and yes, look at every single analysis of the state of Iraq leading up to the surge) and frame it in the context of the last nine months. Bush proved to be an inept Commander-in-Chief and for him to “double down” on his strategy wasn’t “smart,” it was obvious. More troops on the ground will OBVIOUSLY have an effect on the level of violence. Every single battle ever fought would tell you that. The questions are, “Was this the ONLY option?,” “Did we have to force soldiers into second and third tours of duty for this?” “What else is being done to maintain political stability?”, “What else is being done to train the Iraqi army?”, “How many billions of dollars were sent to Iraq along with that surge?”, and “Are there any other conflicts going on right now that might require additional troop deployment?”
  • We are still fighting a war in Afghanistan and we still haven’t caught Osama Bin Laden, which is utterly unacceptable. Sure, we can start declaring minor victories in Iraq, but then we’re ignoring our monstrous failures in destroying the original threat (the one who actually attacked the US).
  • Obama did not vote for political reasons. He voted because he sees the deteriorating economy of our homeland to be a big issue right now and the Iraq war needs to stop sucking billions of dollars out of our country. Of course Obama wants to win in Iraq, but please tell me what you consider a “win” over there? I would love to hear a conservative define victory in Iraq. Is it “All insurgents are dead”? Is it “The insurgents are all sooooo dead?” I would say that a victory is giving the the Iraqi government the responsibility for handling the insurgency (which will never be completely dead) so that we can leave. The Surge has decrease violence, but it has not taught the Iraqi government anything about taking their own responsibility. To use your classroom analogy, eventually the teacher is going to leave the classroom again. We can’t keep threatening to send in the teacher or we’ll NEVER get out of Iraq. But we COULD make an announcement that either the class gets itself under control or there’s no more recess. We COULD send in an older kid to teach some of the younger kids how to maintain order themselves. We COULD ask another school (i.e. another country) to send in one of THEIR teachers to help us out on the payroll. Eventually, you have to let the kids grow up and take care of themselves, and you won’t by keeping a teacher on the payroll indefinitely.



  1. nice interpretation….i like it.

    Comment by Jack — September 5, 2008 @ 8:33 am | Reply

  2. I like your interpretation, but when do you find the time to write such lengthy screeds?

    Also, is “double down” used in roulette as well as blackjack? As a black Amish man, I’m not allowed to learn about these white English terms.

    Comment by Uncle Grumble — September 5, 2008 @ 9:17 am | Reply

  3. I’m glad you were able to get to sleep by making up a nice little analogy which equates war politics with a game of roulette, but as much as it helped illustrate your point, I think you left yourself and your candidate open to critique. I have an analogy of my own.

    Let’s say you have a group of elementary school children alone in a classroom. They’re all going crazy Lord of the Flies style. The bigger kids are taking away candy from the little kids. Boys are chasing the girls all over the place. Girls are pinching the boys when they get too close. Some kids are hiding in the corner because they fear that if they ally themselves with one side then they’ll be subject to the wrath of the other.

    Now I ask you, if you have a class of 30 kids all going crazy and you need to get them under control and restore peace to the classroom, are you going to send in another kid to do it, and if that kid fails another kid? Or are you going to send in the big guns – a teacher? Do you think the principal of the school should first try sending another kid in there to restore order, or do you think he should make the choice of sending in the teacher?

    Let’s imagine the principal sends in another child first. What are the consequences? Most likely, there will be little effect and the child sent in will also be endangered and possibly hurt. Then he sends in another kid with the same results. Let us then imagine that the principal sends in the most disciplinary, tough teacher in school. We’ll call him Mr. Surge. That person is going to be able to straighten up these kids.

    Obama opposed the war in the first place, a position with which I agree. However, America crossed the Rubicon and we can’t undo that. So the question becomes how do we effectively remove ourselves from this situation without it coming back to bite us in the ass later? The government finally picked the teacher. Call it a “lucky” decision if you like, but I personally find it hard to believe that it wasn’t purposefully thought out and would have been done sooner, effectively and with fewer American lives lost if some politicians of both parties weren’t wasting time whining about how we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place.

    In your analogy, Obama didn’t bet on double zero (the surge) and your analogy explains why Obama would make that decision. But the fact of the matter is, by not betting on double zero he didn’t come out ahead and now he wishes he had as evidenced by him saying “the surge worked beyond his wildest dreams.” He didn’t win anything by being “safe” and holding on to his chips. In my humble opinion, if war politics are a game of roulette, then McCain rigged the wheel to stop where he wanted it.

    Comment by John — September 5, 2008 @ 9:56 am | Reply

  4. Nice job BlogDog. A very thoughtful deconstruction of the latest election/political events.

    Comment by Lauren — September 5, 2008 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  5. I think a distinction needs to be made about the purpose of bringing up the surge in Iraq as it relates to this election. It’s an issue that at the time when a decision needed to be made, McCain supported the decision (which was unpopular at the time) which has been effective, which Obama admits was effective, and that Obama did not support at the time. Maybe he still doesn’t support it. I don’t know because as you mentioned in your original post, his position is difficult to understand in the language he uses to talk about it. The GOP is using this to illustrate the point that McCain can be an effective leader in times of military crisis, not that Obama is a flip-flopper. I’m not going to judge Obama’s ability to lead in a crisis, since it’s nearly impossible because he has no experience with it. He might be great at it, but now we’re back to the old roulette wheel.

    As far as violence being low, was it the surge or the Anbar awakening? The two aren’t mutually exclusive. For all we know it’s a combination of the two and one couldn’t have been effective without the other. Plus the Anbar Awakening, (many groups of which are funded by the U.S. Military to patrol certain areas) was happening before we surged, so it’s possible that the U.S. saw this as a sign that Iraq is becoming less and less sympathetic to Al Qaida and that an influx of troops would help support that effort. So now I’m going to use your standard for GOP talk in this situation and say that violence is low right now. And that’s a good thing. Is it not a good thing?

    You ask me to define “victory in Iraq” as a conservative. I think our responsibility as Americans is to stay in Iraq and help build the country until it has a stable enough government and infrastructure to be able to maintain peace on its own and allow their citizens to thrive. Otherwise, another generation of Iraqis are going to have it rough and will grow up with a negative view of America which would make the world more dangerous for us.

    As a case in point, Afghanistan attacking us in the first place is a result of America trying to help them defend themselves against the Russian invasion during the cold war. We provided them with weapons that are probably being used against us today and you know why? Because we had no follow through. We helped provide them with dangerous weapons (stinger missiles) to destroy their enemy and after they kicked the Russians out and their country was torn apart and vulnerable, we did nothing to help them rebuild it. How nice of us.

    To return to my classroom analogy, is it easier to teach kids who are running around like crazy or is it easier to teach them when the environment is calm and supportive? Also, the teacher will stay on the payroll until the class graduates. Bring in a bunch of substitutes and the kids are going to run amok. The less violence there is in Iraq, the easier it will be to teach the country how to sustain itself in the aftermath of this war, and America is best equipped to handle the implementation of this since it’s been doing so all along. If there is another way as effective as the one we are currently using, I would love to hear your opinion on it.

    Where American lives are concerned, I don’t want to waste their lives either, but last I checked, the military was voluntary and I don’t think it would be right for everything done by the people who are brave enough to be fighting this war, and not just blogging about it, to be in vain.

    I agree that there are problems in America right now, economically speaking, so I can see Obama’s point that we should focus on fixing that. But we’re also citizens of the world and there is no escaping the fact that we have influence on other countries and they have influence on us. We have to focus on dealing with those problems too, something McCain has far more experience with, or we’re making ourselves vulnerable and allowing others to threaten the way of life for all Americans.

    Comment by John — September 5, 2008 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  6. Boy…when I hear people say that we are “citizens of the world”, I start seeing Ronald Reagan spending the money he saved by shutting down State Hospitals and creating a new class of homelessness in America. Being a citizen in the world is not the same as being the world’s policeman or social worker(and I swear to god, if anyone mentions WW2, I’ll shit your pants). “…the easier it will be to teach the country [Iraq] how to sustain itself in the aftermath of this war…”. Who the fuck are we? What will we teach them? How to distribute the incredible wealth of a natural resource that they sit upon to benefit all? Or how to arbitrarily assign ownership to it and create “corporations” that merely approximate a caste system by labeling people upper-middle-lower class? “We” can’t teach them anything. Every single time we get involved in another country’s mess, we end up losing face globally and losing money domestically. And I don’t just blame Republicans for this. Look at Rawanda, and Bill Clinton’s policy fiasco there. Look at Reagan and Lebanon. Clinton bombed an aspirin factory in the Sudan and Reagan bombed Qaddafi’s house and Bush Sr. taught us all what a scud is. Iraq is Bush’s Star Wars, but with a body count. We don’t want to believe that the people fighting this war are dying in vain because we are afraid to think of war in any tangible terms. But real people are dying. If I told a soldier who died in the first wave of the war that the result of his efforts would be an Iraq that has a great, self-sustaining infrastructure, I would sure hope that hypothetical soldier wasn’t from New Orleans.

    Comment by Jimmy — September 7, 2008 @ 2:48 am | Reply

  7. funny stuff

    Comment by chrysteena — September 7, 2008 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

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