Saturday, July 29, 2006

Chamberlain and Churchill, or, How About A Real President For A Change?

I always thought the "Bush is Churchillian" comparisons were really overwrought and strained. If, in a hundred years, his way proves to be right, I will, scout's honour, be first to say, "Thank god he won that one for us," but he still won't be Churchill.

I'm getting nervous, though, that he's actually Chamberlain.

Chamberlain's been judged too harshly by history, I suspect - he was no sissy pantywaist afraid of Hitler. He was afraid of war, and having just lived through the Great War, had every justifiable reason to try and avoid another one.

Chamberlain's mistake was not cowardice - it was drastically misjudging his foe. He didn't realize that Hitler was an evil maniac.

Bush is no appeaser, and good on him for that. But I'm growing, daily, more anxious that he's drastically misjudged his foe.

Iraq was never Public Enemy Number One. Saddam Hussein was a cruel and sadistic killer who paid money for suicide bombers - if he died of a snakebite, it wouldn't be a loss. But Iran was always the bigger threat and the greater enemy, it was always the real menace. North Korea was already a nuclear concern.

Is the world better if Saddam Hussein is dead? People can argue that he was stopping a civil war from erupting, but I'd make a long story short and say that yes, the world is better off without him.

But it would be safer if we'd supported a democratic revolution in Iran, and assassinated Kim Il-Jong.

I'm wrong lots of the time and could be now. But I said then that Iran and North Korea were bigger worries, and they've sure turned out to be more than just headaches.

All is screwed up, but all is not lost. After Chamberlain came Churchill. After Bush, let's hope the US can give us a real President - one who can rally a real war effort to crush and destroy Hizbullah and Al-Quaeda and their state-backers. We need global leadership who can tell us all that it's time to sacrifice and chip in, to knit socks, to mail new razorblades, to write letters, to buy bonds, to sign up - that this war is our war, and that it's about our freedom.

We need Presidents and Prime Ministers who will tell us, "When you ride alone, you ride with Bin Laden," who can whip us into frenzies to fight on the beaches and in the streets and never ever give up. We need leadership to tell us who the enemy is and why we must defeat them and how we're going to win - I don't think Bush ever even really knew who the enemy was.

23 Comments:

Blogger Brian C said...

I would hope that genocide, as occurred with the Kurds in Iraq, would take precedence over which country, such as Iran or N.Korea, really pisses us off the most. It's not even about WMD.

There is no leader even remotely inspiring in the states to lead a charge as you indicate. Besides, personally I sell myself on any issue, I wouldn't want a leader like Clinton with style and no substance to tell us who to git.

Saturday, July 29, 2006 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Hi Brian,

I don't think the matter is over who pisses us off most, but about who poses the greatest threat and menace.

I'm very anxious that we are possibly living in the Gathering Storm years - the years that the Nazis might have been stopped with far greater ease.

The Iraq war was not about genocide. That was, what, 1984? It was about the Sept 11 attacks.

We face an army that few people realize the strength and capability of. It isn't Iraq's.

I'm not sure who in the States is remotely inspiring either. Which is even more depressing...

Sunday, July 30, 2006 4:55:00 AM  
Blogger RGM said...

Isn't that "when you ride alone, you ride with bin Laden" quote the title of a Bill Maher book?

There was a great quote that I read somewhere recently that said something to the effect of, "At the dawn of the Cold War, the U.S. had men like Harry Truman, George Marshall, George Kennan, James Vandenburg, and Dean Acheson running the show. Today it's George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Frist, and so forth. It's not fair." And to some extent I can see that being a legitimate complaint. I do think that Bush has more of "the vision thing" than people give him credit for, they just don't see him actually working on it. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but the portrayal of the news is so wide but not deep today that there really isn't much delving into the deeper motivations and objectives. People see another bombing in Baghdad and immediately think, 'well this one's a lost cause.'

Part of the problem too is that there's a wide gulf between the U.S. and everybody else in terms of power, perception, and posture. America is very strong, the rest of the world isn't. America sees enemies lurking behind every shadow, the rest of the world doesn't. America thinks the best way to deal with the threat is military; the rest of the world, having been dealing with domestic terrorism for decades, sees it more as a police and law enforcement action.

This is a huge point, and major kudos to you for saying it: "We need global leadership who can tell us all that it's time to sacrifice and chip in, to knit socks, to mail new razorblades, to write letters, to buy bonds, to sign up - that this war is our war, and that it's about our freedom." Because there hasn't been any real sacrifice called for; business still goes on, people still accumulate things, in a lot of ways it's kinda hard to tell that there's a supposed Global War on Terror happening, despite seeing it every day on the TV. By and large, people are going about their lives without the greater sense that their way of life is being threatened. And to some extent that is true, after all, there's not going to be an Islamic caliphate set up in the American heartland. But there are still monsters to go out and destroy before they can do the death by a thousand pinpricks thing that undermines America's willingness to maintain its role as global leader.

Anyways, I'm ranting. It's a good thing that history isn't written by polemics because they've already cast Bush as either the best or the worst president ever; the reality will most likely be somewhere in the middle, moving towards the upper half if things turn out right. And the next one will have to inherit this conflict, too.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 6:22:00 AM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Hey Richard,

I sure believe Bush is vastly smarter than his detractors give him credit for. I do believe he has a strong vision, for sure - I worry that it's the wrong (tactical) vision.

I believe he is a general failure, though not through incompetence, and that he isn't the "worst ever". His failure, I think, is in not rallying America (and the West) to a war he created. The loss of support for the Iraq war is his own fault - for not making it everyone's war. He made a choice (which probably seemed like the sincerely best choice to him at the time) to foster a mindset that it was still okay to hit Disneyland and the shopping mall and the beach, while troops were off fighting. The war isn't personal to folks, and so support for it is slipping away.

I know you disagree on Iran/North Korea, which I respect. Personally, I think his "leave the fighting to the soldiers" idea was the topping to a bad choice on which enemy to go to war against.

I'm just feeling gloomy lately, thanks for the listening. :)

(I don't know if Maher used that as a title or not - I know he said it, that's for sure, based on those old "When you ride alone you ride with Hitler" posters.)

Sunday, July 30, 2006 7:56:00 AM  
Blogger SouthernOntarioan said...

Well, I'm a little touchy on this topic so take what I'm about to say with some (okay a lot) of salt.

S.O.'s source of bias: I'm Czech, and Chamberlain sold us out to the Nazis. *throws darts at Chamberlain's picture*

S.O.'s source of complaint: Chamberlain didn't just fail to understand his enemy, he was unwilling to take direct action to stop him until it was too late.

He also failed to understand that appeasing tyrants will only lead to more demands.

Munich originally only sold out the Sudetenland to the Germans, but the ink was barely dry on the paper when Germany invaded the rest of the country, occupying Praha. He then used Chamberlain's 'surrender' as a propaganda tool in order to induce (a heart attack in the Slovak President) the surrender of the remaining country.

For more, please read "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by Shrirer.

S.O.'s view on the current world:

Today, we have Bush, who was drastically underestimated by Osama and others.

Terrorists expect that Western countries will back off if threatened/attacked (ahem.. Spain) and when they do it emboldens them.

For example, neither Hezbollah nor Hamas expected Olmert to react so ... violently to their kidnappings. They expected that negotiations would result in the release of their prisoners as they had in 2002 with Sharon (of all people).

The question of whether or not Iraq is the right target is more or less irrelevant then, because Bush has proven that they are willing and able to strike hard and first.

S.O's relevant example:

The real target of Israel's fury shouldn't be Lebanon but rather Syria and Iran. However, because Israel has proven its ability and willingness to fight, Syria and Iran will back off.

S.O's apology:

Sorry for making such a long response. If you let me go on, I could talk all day.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Please, do go on all day - that was pretty terrific.

One quibble - if it's irrelevant that we attacked Iraq instead of Iran/Syria, then why is relevant that Israel should attack Iran/Syria and not Lebanon?

(Frankly, I'm quite concerned about turning Lebanon against us, I think they might have made a great democratic ally in the Middle East -- though I understand, of course, that Hezbollah is there and needs be taken care of)

Hm, I never thought about them being taken aback at Olmert's reaction, SO - but you know what... I was taken aback myself, so maybe you're right.

Man, if Israel was able to take care of this without the whole West being drawn in - boy, wouldn't that be great. I wish them the best, believe me, for a quick and decisive victory.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 5:54:00 PM  
Blogger SouthernOntarioan said...

Be careful what you wish for.. lol..

Did you know that Hitler was shocked when Chamberlain declared war on him after the attack on Poland? He furiously asked his aides why the blazes Chamberlain felt the need to defend Poland (which was militarily hopeless - as everyone knew) but none to defend Czechoslovakia (who could have likely defeated Hitler).

Nevertheless Chamberlain's talent for abandoning his allies showed up again during the Norway campaign when he pulled out the remaining British troops (to the chagrin of his Norwegian allies) just when the situation there looked to be stabilizing with the vital northern coal mines still in allied control.

As for your quibble, why shouldn't Israel go after Syria? Quite simply, there isn't enough justification. The Hezbollah militants were attacking from Lebanon, not Syria. So there was greater justification for attacking Lebanon than Syria.

Same with Iraq.. think of it as a 'target of convenience' tactically.

I'm not saying its correct, I'm just saying this is likely how people (like Bush, Blair, Olmert) are seeing it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 7:32:00 PM  
Blogger SouthernOntarioan said...

Forgot to post a link to prove my statements concerning the 'surprise'..

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=2236341

Sunday, July 30, 2006 7:35:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Oh, I'm not saying Chamberlain was a good PM. He probably would have been a good PM in different times, perhaps. I'm just saying he was probably not the sissy that I was taught he was, and that I can see how, if i'd lived through WWI, I too might try very hard to avoid another one, that's all.

I'm starting to suspect "quibble" means disagree -- I was trying to say, "I have some confusion over this statement", not "I disagree".

Never heard that story about Hitler's surprise -- that's a good one, wish I'd been in the room.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 7:58:00 PM  
Anonymous e said...

What is to be gained by war? Who should we attack? When will we know that we've won? How will we stop the war from being the justification for another round of terrorism?

The US is currently stuck in the quagmire of Iraq. Many soldiers, and, more importantly, civillians are dying because of poor planning on the part of the invaders. As Iraq's infrastructure is slowly being ground to dust, the next generation of angry youth is being driven into the hands of extremists. Now the same thing is happening in Lebanon, albeit faster and more efficiently.

A shooting war is not the answer. Iran had been flirting with more and more open governments in 90s. Neither Iran nor Syria pose a major threat to the West. Considering the Israeli body count, they don't pose much of a threat to Israel either.

I don't know what the best approach to the problem is, but I see a few options:

- buy less oil, and stop shovelling cash into the hands of the psychotic governments in the region. The current Middle East is a symptom of western energy policies.

- wage a propaganda war. There is a history of the Iranian public undermining the current theocracy. With support, that could be enough to topple the current government and replace it with something a little less dangerous.

- support less odious regimes. Before being elected, the PLO used to provide hospitals for Palistinians, essentially providing government services to a people that felt forgotten. They earned themselves a lot of respect and support by doing that. Western governments could probably buy good will by supporting the creation of hospitals, schools, and other basic infrastructure that people need.

Monday, July 31, 2006 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger SouthernOntarioan said...

e, although I agree that shooting wars are unpleasant I disagree on a few points.

1) replacing a despotic regime ALWAYS comes with bloodshed. Waging a propaganda war, although a good idea, must be understood as simply a method for starting said war.

Otherwise you'll get a situation like in Iraq after the first Gulf War. Where the Shia and Kurds rose up after a successful US propaganda campaign only to be slaughtered like lambs.

2) Iran's flirtations with pro-Western governments was brought to an abrupt end recently by the rigging of an election.

Monday, July 31, 2006 2:24:00 PM  
Blogger Cherniak_WTF said...

Good posts all around.

Congrats!

Monday, July 31, 2006 4:34:00 PM  
Anonymous e said...

Hey South,

I hope things are no hotter in your neck of the woods than here in eastern Ontario.

As to your points: replacing a despotic regime does not have to cost human life. Need I mention Ghandi and India? Romania in 1989? The Phillipines in 2001? What about the velvet revolutions of Eastern Europe at the end of the cold war? Portugal's Carnation Revolution? Arguably, the current peace in Northern Ireland is also due to nonviolent pressure.

A great example of the success of relatively peaceful, relatively bloodless revolution is Lebanon's Cedar Revolution. Lebanon managed to eject Syria from their country with little cost of life.


And I have to disagree about your assessment of the Kurdish uprising as the result of a propaganda war. The US said that it would support a Kurdish uprising in the north of Iraq. The Kurds rose up, and the Iraqi government stomped on them. The promised US military support was nowhere to be seen. That is not a propaganda war. That is deceit or incompetence.

Similarly, the propaganda "war" that was executed before the last Iranian election was idiotic. In order to support democracy, the population of Iran was encourage not to vote. Explain how people are supposed to get angry about a rigged election when nobody votes.

Monday, July 31, 2006 7:17:00 PM  
Blogger SouthernOntarioan said...

Thanks e, things are awful hot down here, oh well, its life right?

Okay, you have a point, but remember that each of those successful revolts in Eastern Europe were preceded by bloody repressions. The Czech uprising in the 60s was brutally supressed. (read the "Czech Black Book" about this or "Oppression 1961" about previous repressions in the Phillipines) And in the 90s the Czech government attempted to do it again but the Soviets weren't willing.

The revolt against British rule was, well, good timing. Ghandi knew that the British government was no longer willing to simply mow under large crowds of people (as they were in the past - see articles concerning the revolt in the 1800s).

I guess I should have said 'as long as the despotic regime has the willpower to mow under people propaganda wars will always result in shooting wars'. Where that willpower is lacking, then the propaganda wars will succeed bloodlessly.

A good book to read about this topic is by Tom Clancy and General Zinni. It covers the attempted 'propaganda war' that was waged in Somalia by the UNOSOM II. (which ended in a full fledged war when the UN underestimated their enemy's willpower).

As I said, propaganda wars are good but they will start full-fledged wars. So, as in the Kurdish case, we need to be ready to go in and 'clean up' if they do.

PS. Syria still occupies parts of Lebanon doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 7:05:00 AM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Hey e,

I do think that there are some justifiable wars - WWII was one. I'm getting awful anxious that this is another one coming up.

However, that said, I quite agree:

1) Buying less oil. Oh man, if people could've only woken up years ago to this one. If only for the reaso n of not supportig oppressive dictatorships - that Electric Car movie shows me how different the world could like today if GM had been honest and California had stuck to principle. I swear, I could fucking cry over it.

2) Progoganda War - exactly what I meant by "supporting Iranian democracy", or whatever the hell I said. You are absolutely correct. My fear: have we missed that chance???

I don't say that rhetorically as a know-it-all - I'm just some guy trying to find out stuff, and that's just my fear. But you are a thousand percent on the money. We should have been on this years ago - Sept 12 2001 after all that pro-America sentiment in Iran should have started this. (It could have started under Clinton, too) (Again, I could just cry)

3) And yeah, if we took 10 billion of the $300 billion spent in Iraq and built some hospitals and schools, or gave thousands and thousands of scholarships to Western universities for Middle East students - that'd make a BIG difference. I always said so - you're right, my man.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 8:11:00 AM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

e and SO,

Good ones, guys. Fair points all around on bloodless/bloody takedowns of dictatorships. I guess that me, in my amateur opinion, I think Iran might've had real success with our help awhile ago - not so sure about now, though. Don't really know.

Man, I sound so depressing today.... I should be a stand-in for Woody Allen or something.

The revolt against British rule was, well, good timing. Ghandi knew that the British government was no longer willing to simply mow under large crowds of people (as they were in the past - see articles concerning the revolt in the 1800s).

Huh. Amazing. Never thought of that before. That's really interesting, SO.

Although I can generally retain lessons learned from history, I really have little memory recall for dates and specifics - you guys both really put me to shame, man.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 8:16:00 AM  
Blogger Chuckercanuck said...

yup, great thread.

jason,

With North Korea, you have the delicate matter of China, which you must address. Equally, you have South Korea's capital in the range of NK's first round of fire.

With Iran, you have better chances without violence than in any of the the three.

With Iraq, you have involved all three Syria, Iran and Iraq in the same situation.

True, Iran and Syria influence Iraq's insurgency.

But guess why? They are pissed scared that one day soon, Iraq's gonna be influencing them - and they will find their citizens pretty happy with the influence.

With Iraq - you had a UN sanctions regime that proved IMMENSLY CORRUPT involving people like Annan's son.

Iraqis suffered and died as a result of those regimes which UN officials profited from, along with German firms building SAddam's bunkers for him. Oh, and Saddam himself.

In 1998, regime change was a short-lived ambition.

These conditions do not exist for Iran and Iraq.

Anyway, gloom away.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 4:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Hey ChuckerC.,

True, Iran and Syria influence Iraq's insurgency.

But guess why? They are pissed scared that one day soon, Iraq's gonna be influencing them - and they will find their citizens pretty happy with the influence.


What do you mean by this? Soon Iraq's going to be influencing them-insurgency, or them-Iranian-Syrian-citizenry?

I'm a little stunned that Annan is still SG of the UN. He should have been kicked out by now. I don't know how exactly the whole system there works, but if he can't be fired, can he be impeached? That's obvious and blatant nepotism - and at the UN, symbol of hopeful virtue, that's a betrayal deserving of being dragged out of town by horses.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 6:48:00 PM  
Anonymous e said...

Hey SO,

The point of a propaganda war (in this case) is to convince the population of a country that its government is no longer legitimate, and that there is some alternative available inside the country; and to trigger a bloodless regime change.

There are two important points here.

- The population includes the government and its functionaries. Ideally, government workers will join with the peaceful protests. Tiananmen Square was close to being successful on this count, as the local military refused to suppress the protesters, and an external unit had to be brought in from the countryside.

- The goal is cause the country to throw out the existing regime, and choose the next regime internally. It isn't to soften the country up for a military attack.


My limited knowledge of Iran suggests that it would be a good candidate for an internal regime change brought about (in part) by propaganda. The country has a good communications infrastructure, including Internet access, and cell-phone networks, meaning that protestors could organize and get their message out easily. In addition, the population is very young, and relatively liberal. What's more, there have been periodic pushes for liberalization over the past 15 years, meaning that there's already a network of people who support regime change.

A shooting war, like the one going on in Lebanon, or the one that Jason suggested, will help unify Iranians under their government. There's nothing like a common enemy to bring people together.

e

Wednesday, August 02, 2006 8:39:00 AM  
Blogger SouthernOntarioan said...

Agree with you completely e on most of what you say. Just one quibble..

My friends work in the Iranian opposition and have been fighting for years for attention from anyone. (that's actually why she liked Bush - at least he supported them.. kinda)

My friends from inside Iran talk about some of the brutal and bloody oppresion that goes on in there. (people 'disappearing' for instance).

Perhaps I'm a pessimist, but I think any attempts to influence a regime change in Iran will result in a brutal crackdown without some fundamental weakening of their power

Wednesday, August 02, 2006 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Chuckercanuck said...

"What do you mean by this?"


I mean this in the most stupid neo-con way: democracy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006 7:20:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Hold on there, tiger!

Actually, I didn't suggest a blood war on Iran -- although in the context of my not-Iraq-but-rather-Iran idea, i can understand why you'd believe so.

"if we'd supported a democratic revolution in Iran" is what I said.

(Of course, if that failed, I'd be all for targeted assassinations, mind you. And if that too failed - well, I don't want a nuclear Iran. At least, not a nuclear theocratic oppressive Iran.)

Thursday, August 03, 2006 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

e, SO - great points, sure appreciated hearing these - especially the ingredients to a propaganda war.

SO, I've never known anyone to even visit Iran.

Off-topic, I knew a girl once from Alberta who worked in Saudia Arabia, and used to fax her mom letters - which she herself would personally fax.

One day, her mom gets a fax -- with parts of it BLACKED OUT, like CIA documents! It had been interrupted in-transmission and edited.

She came home the week after.

I didn't know that was even possible to do.

Thursday, August 03, 2006 12:29:00 AM  

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