mm487: A Truman for our times?

September 2, 2008
© Oleksii Sergieiev | Dreamstime.com

© Oleksii Sergieiev | Dreamstime.com

This one got me.

But, in recognition of Republican week, I don’t have a problem with having the infamous George III smirk atop this post.

I might have a problem with the thesis, but it’s worth exposing, since it represents a point of view that had never occurred to yr (justifiably) humble svt.

prospectuk

A Truman for our times

The received wisdom is that President Bush has been a foreign policy disaster, and that America is threatened by the rise of Asia. Both claims are wrong—Bush has successfully rolled back jihadism, and the US will benefit from Asian growth

August 2008 | 149 » Cover story » A Truman for our times | Edward Luttwak

That George W Bush’s foreign policy has been a total failure is now taken for granted by so many people that one usually hears it stated as a simple truth that need not be argued at all.

It has happened before. When President Harry S Truman said in March 1952 that he would not seek re-election, most Americans could agree on one thing: that his foreign policy had been a catastrophic failure. In Korea his indecision had invited aggression, and then his incompetence had cost the lives of some 54,000 Americans and millions of Korean civilians in just two years of fighting—on both counts more than ten times the number of casualties in Iraq. Right-wingers reviled Truman for having lost China to communism and for his dismissal of the great General Douglas MacArthur, who had wanted to win it back, with nukes if necessary. Liberals despised Truman because he was the failed shopkeeper who had usurped the patrician Franklin Roosevelt’s White House—liberals always were the snobs of US politics.

Abroad, Truman was widely hated too. The communist accusation that he had waged “bacteriological warfare” to kill Korean children and destroy Chinese crops was believed by many, and was fully endorsed by a 669-page report issued by a commission chaired by the eminent British biochemist Joseph Needham. Even more people believed that Truman was guilty of having started the cold war by trying to intimidate our brave Soviet ally, or at least that he and Stalin were equally to blame.

How did this same Harry Truman come to be universally viewed as a great president, especially for his foreign policy? It is all a question of time perspectives: the Korean war is half forgotten, while everyone now knows that Truman’s strategy of containment was successful and finally ended with the almost peaceful disintegration of the Soviet empire.

For Bush to be recognised as a great president in the Truman mould, the Iraq war too must become half forgotten. The swift removal of the murderous Saddam Hussein was followed by years of expensive violence instead of the instant democracy that had been promised. To confuse the imam-ridden Iraqis with Danes or Norwegians under German occupation, ready to return to democracy as soon as they were liberated, was not a forgivable error: before invading a country, a US president is supposed to know if it is in the middle east or Scandinavia.

Yet the costly Iraq war must also be recognised as a sideshow in the Bush global counteroffensive against Islamist militancy, just as the far more costly Korean war was a sideshow to global cold war containment. For the Bush response to 9/11 was precisely that—a global attack against the ideology of Islamic militancy. While anti-terrorist operations have been successful here and there in a patchy way, and the fate of Afghanistan remains in doubt, the far more important ideological war has ended with a spectacular global victory for President Bush.

First thing you have to do when confronting an essay such as this is to consider the source.

Edward Luttwak is one controversial bloke. Even Luttwak’s biography in Wikipedia is controversial.

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mm484: Whiners, take back America from the crass

August 30, 2008
© Stephen Finn | Dreamstime.com

© Stephen Finn | Dreamstime.com

Mudge's musings

Seldom are the battle lines as clear as they are in election season 2008.

Establishment conservative versus up from the streets progressive.

Moneyed comfort (via marriage) vs. up from food stamps, self-made comfort.

Explosive, short-fused temper vs. articulate, Ivy League erudition.

Chiseled in stone libertarian capitalism vs. government as proper societal safety net capitalism.

Bomb first, ask questions later approach to foreign affairs vs. talk first, inclusive globalism.

Pandering to the women’s vote with a barely qualified vice presidential choice vs. persuading women that progressive positions trump empty symbols (Sarah Palin is this generation’s Dan Quayle) every time.

The marketplace is the proper solution to the crisis in health care vs. too many families forego medical care because health insurance is out of reach and this must end.

There’s no problem with the economy that ceasing whining won’t cure vs. the last eight years have been economically unpleasant for nearly everyone who has less than $5,000,000 a year in income, and downright catastrophic for far too many working people.

NYTimes economist Paul Krugman put it very well:

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mm479: Change Before It’s Too Late

August 25, 2008
© Debra Saucedo | Dreamstime.com

© Debra Saucedo | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Confession: Yr (justifiably) humble svt has been watching these past couple of months of virulent right wing zingers aimed at Barack Obama, that are apparently drawing blood among responders to polls, with more than a little tinge of déjà vu.

The rabid Rovian mudflood machine buried John Kerry last time around, using his war record, and his wealthy wife, as its prime weapons. Now, enough true believers are buying Jerome Corsi’s latest fantasy smearfest to make it a best seller. Uh oh.

However, Obama is facing a war hero with a wife so wealthy that he can’t keep track of how many homes they own. Do the Democrats have the bare knuckled instincts to strike back against McCain’s rabid Rovians? Frank Rich of NYTimes is urging that the time for polite cheek turning is long past.

nytimes

Last Call for Change We Can Believe In

Op-Ed Columnist | By FRANK RICH | Published: August 23, 2008

AS the real campaign at last begins in Denver this week, this much is certain: It’s time for Barack Obama to dispatch “Change We Can Believe In” to a dignified death.

This isn’t because — OMG! — Obama’s narrow three- to four-percentage-point lead of recent weeks dropped to a statistically indistinguishable one- to three-point margin during his week of vacation. It’s because zero hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country’s full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to take out John McCain.

“Change We Can Believe In” was brilliantly calculated for a Democratic familial brawl where every candidate was promising nearly identical change from George Bush. It branded Obama as the sole contender with the un-Beltway biography, credibility and political talent to link the promise of change to the nation’s onrushing generational turnover in all its cultural (and, yes, racial) manifestations. McCain should be a far easier mark than Clinton if Obama retools his act.

Obama’s message of change needs an update, Rich says, and he makes a strong case.

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mm473: If only it were actually oil they spew in such quantities

August 19, 2008
© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

How can you tell a Rovian Republican is lying?

His lips are moving.

It’s less than three months to election day, and the Rovian machinery of mis- and disinformation has lurched into gear.

Jerome Corsi’s new No. 1 bestseller is beneath contempt; the Obama campaign seems to have learned from the stricken paralysis that was the Kerry campaign’s reaction to Corsi’s Swift Boat slander, and one can only hope that the Corsi’s latest spurious attacks will be swiftly deflected.

But there’s a lot more going on in the Fantasyland that is the Republican commentariat.

Take oil, for example.

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mm468: And the band played on

August 14, 2008
© Catia Amadio | Dreamstime.com

© Catia Amadio | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

In case current events in the nation of Georgia haven’t made the fact crystal clear, yr (justifiably) humble svt is unhappy to inform you that the U.S. military hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory over the past nearly 20 years since the end of the Cold War.

And the diplomatic corps has similarly shown itself to be overstressed and undermanned.

Nicholas Kristof made the point this past weekend: the U.S. has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats!

And what Kristof’s story omits, due to rapidly breaking events, is the failure of both U.S. diplomacy and U.S. military strength during the Russian invasion of Georgia this past week.

Military strength? Well, we can’t simultaneously put sufficient boots on the ground to meet our objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan, much less come to the aid of a strategically critical ally, Georgia.

Diplomacy? A strong diplomatic corps might have foreseen (yes, hindsight is always 20:20) that Georgia was simultaneously taking U.S. and NATO support as more than words, while underestimating Vladimir Putin’s urge for regained empire, and warned Mikheil Saakashvili away from his adventuristic invasion of South Ossettia.

Or a diplomatic arm with some heft might have been able to forestall, or at least mitigate, Russia’s response. Putin may now be emboldened to exercise his brand of “diplomacy” over other, West-leaning, former states of the old Soviet empire, and the U.S. will be hard pressed to protect them, diplomatically or militarily, if it even figures out that this would be a useful strategy.

But George III is a happy warrior, as befits a civilian who took giant steps to avoid substantive military service, and diplomacy apparently doesn’t mean much to him, or it appears, to Congress.

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mm467: Happy Left-Handers’ Day!

August 13, 2008

lefthandday02

MUDGE’s Musings

Today (or, what’s left of it in the Western Hemisphere, this post having been delayed an hour at least thanks to a weird PC glitch), 13 August, is Left-Handers’ Day.

We have this information on the authority of www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk , an online commerce site that one might well believe has an incentive (indeed, if it is not responsible for the event altogether) to celebrate.

I’ve been a member of this organization (read: shop’s mailing list) for several months, but shortly after reading the announcement in email this morning, found a link to the above site in my hometown newspaper’s online instance, seemingly as news, not paid advertising.

As a publication that takes pride in its left-handedness in every way, what else could we do but create a suitable graphic representation of the day, with the help of MUDGElet No. 3, the only one of the three MUDGElets who, like his father, is left-handed.

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mm466: The Age of Obama … is a problem

August 12, 2008
© Halina Yakushevich | Dreamstime.com

© Halina Yakushevich | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Grumpy old men. And women. And the grumpitude is a significant challenge to Barack Obama’s candidacy.

Bill Clinton was younger than Obama is now, in 1992, but that was a different generation of over-65 people.

Clinton spoke to that age group about what they cared about most, Social Security, and in so doing secured their votes.

It was prior to the age of the Internet, and it was a different generation of young voting age kids, who, in the main after growing up in the vacant era of Reagan and George II, were apathetic.

Nobody bothered speaking to that age group, because they simply weren’t paying attention anyway.

Now, the new, “millennial” generation of today’s young people are paying attention, and it’s Sen. Obama to whom they are paying all that attention, to an extent that the current generation of post-65 grumpy voters apparently finds off-putting.

After all, how good can anything or anyone be if kids favor it. I hate their music, their movies, their clothing, their refusal to act their age. So I guess I hate their presidential candidate.

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mm464: Shoot back!

August 10, 2008

© Scott Maxwell | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

It may be election year silly season, that interim time before the nominating conventions ignite the run to Election Day, but, as Sara Robinson notes so colorfully below,”McCain’s shooting live rounds; and as usual, the Democrats are refusing to fire back.”

The roots of progressive candidates’ failure to respond in kind to the lying liars of the right can be found in this nation’s earliest history, if the socio-history referenced in Robinson’s blog post has validity.

campaignforamericasfuture

Why We Don’t Shoot Back

By Sara Robinson | August 5th, 2008 – 6:44pm ET

Drew Westen and Mike Lux both have cogent and persuasive posts up that deftly explain — and raise the alarm about — the timidity that’s recently settled into Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain’s shooting live rounds now; and, as usual, the Democrats are refusing to fire back. If that doesn’t change — this week, before the Olympics starts — this could all too easily turn into Dukakis-all-over-again. …

We’ve all got our short lists of books that changed the way we look at things forever. One of the ones I keep going back to is Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, published in 1989 by Brandeis historian David Hackett Fischer. Fischer’s basic argument — which he supports with a weighty and richly researched sociological survey that runs to 700 pages plus another 200 pages of footnotes — is that most of America’s most enduring cultural and political conflicts can be traced back to essential differences between the first four groups of English settlers, who brought four very different worldviews with them, and set deep patterns that continue to influence America’s identity and choices to this day.

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mm454: It’s going to take a liberal quantity of BOLD

July 31, 2008

dreamstime_4341351_thumb[1]

© Michaeljung | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

We observe the first anniversary of the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis (August 1, 2007) with some sadness, and furious anger.

Sadness due to the thirteen lives lost, and 100+ injured.

Anger because the danger embodied in this country’s aging and dilapidated bridges, highways, levees and schools is criminally no closer to alleviation than 366 days ago.

Meanwhile, the economy is faltering: banks are failing, foreclosures are at record highs (three million empty houses!), the ranks of under- and unemployed growing apace.

What is it going to take to repair this country’s infrastructure osteoporosis?

What is it going to take to kick start the economy, to get people working and once again able to meet their mortgage obligations, perhaps even afford that $4.299/gallon gasoline?

It’s going to take a liberal quantity of bold.

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mm443: Don’t you feel like this guy?

July 18, 2008

 

MUDGE’S Musings

Can anyone still doubt our national (perhaps global?) economic distress? Runs on the banks. A tank of gas edging toward Benjamin territory. Someone you know (or mayhaps many someones you know) out of work and/or looking. Or giving up looking. Starbucks (Starbucks!) closing 600 stores.

Let’s have a show of hands: How many of you (U.S.) readers believe that this Spring’s tax refund “stimulus” could have been an order of magnitude larger (that’s 10 times), and still not been enough?  Two orders (that’s times 100)? smile_sad

It doesn’t go away, our concern with the dire state of the economy.

Paul Krugman, economics professor and columnist of the NYTimes has been consistent in identifying our present financial dismay, and he has some grim news — it’s not going to get better very quickly.

nytimes

L-ish Economic Prospects

By PAUL KRUGMAN | Published: July 18, 2008

Home prices are in free fall. Unemployment is rising. Consumer confidence is plumbing depths not seen since 1980. When will it all end?

The answer is, probably not until 2010 or later. Barack Obama, take notice.

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