Monday, 27 October 2008
You're still here?
In the unlikely event that anyone's still reading this blog (or checking its RSS feed), three years after I put down the pen and stopped blogging, I've started up again at a new address. Let's see how long I last this time.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 7:02 am. comments.
Sunday, 13 February 2005
The Doctor is in:
If it weren't for Howard Dean, I'd still be on the sidelines of American politics: Interested, but not involved. Dean's grassroots organizing, and his call to civic duty, galvanized millions of people around the world — myself included — and his pull-no-punches presidential campaign changed the tone of the Democratic Party. I always thought the Democrats of 2000-2003 were bringing an olive branch to a knife fight: Offering the hand of bipartisanship to an uncompromising opponent who sought their political destruction. On the national stage, Dean was the first and strongest voice to say Bush couldn't be trusted to put country ahead of party… and he recognized that you don't win elections by letting your opponent define you. You win them by standing for principles worth fighting for.
So, naturally, I'm delighted to have Dean as Chairman of the DNC — and I like this quote from his acceptance speech:
We know that we're the party for young Americans looking for a government that speaks to them… we know that we're the party for working Americans desperate for a government that looks out for them… and we know that we're the party for older Americans and veterans and members of the Armed Services expecting and deserving a government that honors them.
And we know that no matter where you live or who you are, what you look like or how you worship, ours is the diverse party that welcomes you.
But right now, as important as all of that is… it is not enough. We have to move forward. We cannot win if all we are is against the current President.
Republicans wandered around in the political wilderness for 40 years before they took back Congress. But the reason we lost control is that we forgot why we were entrusted with control to begin with.
The American people can't afford to wait for 40 years for us to put Washington back to work for them.
It can't take us that long.
And it won't take us that long… not if we stand up for what we believe in… organize at the local level… and recognize that this Party's strength doesn't come from the consultants down, it comes from grassroots up.
Amen. I don't expect miracles from Howard Dean, but I do expect him to fight the good fight more effectively: Where Terry McAuliffe was an effective fundraiser, Dean will be that and more. He'll be able to put the GOP on the defensive, to draw them out and draw their fire, and he'll give our candidates the time and money to define themselves before the GOP does it for them. For those of us who supported Dean as a presidential candidate, his second act as a DNC Chair is the best news we've had all month.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 10:58 am. comments.
Monday, 17 January 2005
Two worth reading:
- A commenter at The Peking Duck declares that what we now have in Iraq is "the equivalent of a kind of Vichy Government being set up," and that morally the insurgents are right to resist and the quislings are wrong to cooperate. Richard presents the opposing view with a powerful summary of why — in spite of all Bush's failures and screw-ups — we can't abandon the Iraqi people to the hands of the murderous few.
- Andrew Sullivan and Greg Djerejian take John Kerry to task for not denouncing Abu Ghraib loudly enough to satisfy them — and The Poor Man gives them exactly what they deserve. If you didn't hold Bush accountable for torture, then you can't avoid your share of the shame.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 7:55 am. comments.
Sunday, 16 January 2005
Often in error, never in doubt:
Glenn Reynolds marks the occasion of the Iraq Survey Group giving up the search for Saddam's nonexistent WMD stockpiles (link via One Hand Clapping) by tartly noting there were other reasons to go to war too, y'know, and that Bush's only mistakes were (a) listening to the CIA and (b) going to the United Nations in the first place.
I've noted elsewhere the problem with Glenn's assertion that the UN road was a mistake: At the time, he praised the Bush Administration's strategy and lauded their diplomacy skills. As for the claim that the Bush Administration was following the CIA's lead, as opposed to grabbing the CIA by the nose and frog-marching them to a pre-ordained conclusion, well… let's just say the reality-based community would take exception to that premise. There's also the issue that bypassing the UN would have made it difficult for Tony Blair to build his case for war, leaving Bush with a "coalition" of America and Poland.
Meanwhile, what I wrote at the time was disappointingly prescient. The Iraq war has been a success only in that it removed Saddam Hussein from the list of world leaders; in all other aspects, our efforts in Iraq have failed to deliver what Bush and Perle and Rumsfeld promised. We've turned Iraq into a latter-day Lebanon, a breeding ground for terror and torture, and it's grinding down our armed forces, increasing the threat to our homeland security, distancing us from our allies, and disgracing our reputation abroad. Iraq's upcoming "elections" will have the same effect as the "transfer of sovereignty" we had last June, and the same effect as the capture of Saddam: Things will continue to get worse, and we'll shift our focus to the next milestone.
I supported the decision to use force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. I supported it because I believe Saddam committed crimes against humanity — and I believe the world would be better served if we enforced our calls to end genocide, and held world leaders to some minimal standard of respecting human rights. I would love to further establish that precedent; it's the direction America was heading in when we put Milosevic on trial.
But the Bush Administration's case for war barely touched that argument — in spite of recent claims to the contrary. Bush's case was "all about" smoking guns, mushroom clouds, and falsely connecting Saddam to the 9/11 attacks; the case for invading Iraq on humanitarian grounds just didn't have enough sizzle for an administration that was busy linking Saddam to 9/11 at every opportunity. Dubya's case for war was noteworthy not only for the falsehoods it loudly proclaimed to be true, but also for the truths it shoved aside to make room for them: It's disingenuous to pretend that beating the drum for war, with repeated wolf cries about they'll-have-nukes-in-a-year and we-think-Saddam-met-with-Osama, will not drown out the remainder of both sides of the discussion.
I'm still willing to make the argument that deposing Saddam was the morally right thing to do, and that military force was the only means to that end. But, unlike my neocon "friends," I accept that my opinion may be in the minority. I'm not prepared to pad my argument with false premises and scare tactics, to build up a temporary majority just long enough for me to get the tanks rolling in, because that would be wrong. If I can't win over at least half the voting public, then either I'm a poor advocate or my argument is flawed — but in neither case do I gain the right to mislead people in pursuit of my goal.
There are people who believed that the risks of war, the downside risks and consequences of sending our troops into hostile lands, outweighed the advantages of removing Saddam. To date, these people have not been proven wrong… and the Bush Administration's disastrous mishandling of the post-war has strengthened their arguments. On bad days I'm reduced to arguing that Bush's incompetence at post-war strategy was not foreseeable in advance — and I'm arguing with people who predicted the Bush Administration would be incompetent at post-war strategy, so you can imagine how well that goes.
Right-wing bloggers can claim, in some cases justifiably, that their argument for war included the case against Saddam on humanitarian grounds; if so, good for them. But they can't argue retroactively that Bush made the case for war on humanitarian grounds, or that he argued the case for enforcing international law. Aside from one excellent speech that Bush gave on September 12, 2002, Bush's case for war relied on 9/11 ties that didn't exist… and on weapons that weren't there.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 5:40 am. comments.
Wednesday, 12 January 2005
Inter Arma Silent Leges:
…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
—Fourteenth Amendment, United States Constitution
Australian Mamdouh Habib will be released from the United States's prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without charge.
The US has told the Australian Government it does not intend to bring charges against Mr Habib, who has been at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.
—ABC News Australia (link via Southerly Buster)
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 10:30 am. comments.
Tuesday, 23 November 2004
I said my peace about the election results in another forum — and, indeed, a lot of the time and energy I would have spent blogging these past few months was given over to Democrats Abroad instead. The election was a disappointment, to say the least, and perhaps more so because it was so close: Not as close as 2000, but close enough that you could point to almost any one thing and say that it could have changed the outcome. Should Kerry have spent more money in Missouri and Arkansas, and kept less in reserve for post-election legal battles? Should he have hit back harder and faster against the Swift Boat liars? Should he have done more to keep Bush on the defensive?
Well, yes, yes and yes. But Monday- (or Wednesday-) morning quarterbacking is always easier than playing the game, and John Kerry certainly gave Bush a run for his $200 million. I think history will look back on Bush's term in office, and perhaps the decade, as an era of lost opportunities — a time when a greater, more visionary President could have united America as never before, when we could have really struck a blow for freedom and democracy in the Mideast, and when we could have avoided a financial meltdown which any economist worth his salt can see coming… but didn't.
I've read a few analyses of the poll results, and the one that had me nodding my head the most was about the difference between pathos (an appeal to emotion) and logos (an appeal to the mind). John Kerry, and Al Gore before him, were candidates who appealed on an intellectual level: They appealed to voters who made a rational decision, based on logic and issues and results. George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton before him, made a stronger appeal to emotion — to people who voted their gut instincts and chose the more "likeable" candidate, although both Clinton and Bush inspired irrational hatreds. And the pattern for the past thirty years (at least) has been in favor of charisma over competence.
I liked Howard Dean in the primaries in part because he was a budget-balancing centrist, in part because he was clearly going to put Bush on the defensive, and in part because I genuinely liked Dean. He was bold. He took risks. He wasn't a typical politician. Kerry was a typical politician, albeit one with an interesting backstory, and like many I warmed to him over time more than I was fired up by him initially. I think the Democratic grassroots nearly forced Kerry to take John Edwards as a running mate, if only to give him a boost in the charisma department; I can only imagine a Kerry-Gephardt or Kerry-Vilsack ticket doing worse, even if that choice brought Missouri or Iowa into the fold. The enthusiasm wouldn't have been there.
But I do think this election was a watershed in other ways. The Republicans never stopped campaigning after the 1992 election — they just switched from attacking the Democratic candidates to attacking the Democratic incumbents — and I think this year the Democrats will finally start catching up. Planning for 2006 starts in 2004, and hundreds of thousands of Democrats now have experience with organizing, speaking, campaigning and other skills that will come into play two years from now. In two years we'll have a strategy for countering the GOP's attacks on our values and our religion, and for pointing out their hypocrisy. We're gradually getting better at making our voices heard over the noise of the right-wing hate machine, and at learning how the GOP frames its message to deceive the audience. We're not going to adopt the tools of the enemy, but we're going to learn how to defeat them.
I'm not optimistic about four more years of the Bush administration, especially with Powell leaving, Rice taking his place (ye gods, was the captain of the Exxon Valdez not available?), with the father of Abu Ghraib moving over to the Attorney General's office, and don't even get me started about Rumsfeld — but if the nation survived six years of Richard Nixon, it can survive until 2006 with George W. Bush in charge.
I do have to admit I'm feeling good about earning my salary in a foreign currency, though. Four more years of Bush's borrow-and-spend policies will leave a smoking crater where the Treasury used to be.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 12:37 pm. comments.