Archive for category Iran

Iranians to Captured Hikers: ‘What About Guantanamo?’

Camp Delta

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, two Americans captured and held by Iran since 2009, had an interesting point to make at their news conference yesterday in New York (via Think Progress):

According to Bauer and Fattal, Iranian prison guards repeatedly used the harsh conditions of Guantanamo Bay and CIA prisons around the world to justify their own human rights violations:

BAUER: In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us. Not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.

According to the hikers, extended solitary confinement “was the worst experience of all our lives.”

It was already a well-known fact that torture and inhumane treatment of detainees by the USA helps other governments try to justify similar acts. In violation of the U.S. Constitution and international treaties, the Obama administration continues to hold people indefinitely without any charges being brought against them, under conditions similar to the Iranian prison Bauer and Fattal experienced.


The Weakness of Islam and the Evolution Toward Human Rights

Let me by very clear.  In the US, Islam is one faith among many; Muslims in the US are every bit as technologically sophisticated, committed to democracy, and citizens of a modern, pluralistic nation as are their Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist neighbors.  American Muslims in many ways are reflective of American culture.  They are “us.”

But, the weakness of Islam is an interesting challenge, captured in this phrase by Joshua Micah Marshall:

Indeed, the weakness of the world of Islam–an ideology and culture that sees itself not only as superior to the West and the world’s other great civilizations but as properly in the vanguard of history–is the kernel of the threat it poses, the heart of violent Islamism’s toxicity. At the beginning of the 21st century most of the world is, for better or worse, rushing along the current of globalization. By any measure, the world of Islam lags far behind. With the exception of a few countries with vast amounts of wealth based on natural resources, it is impoverished and trailing the rest of the world on numerous fronts. Where is the great Muslim power? There is none. Where is the world of Islam’s advanced technology-driven economy? There is none.

It’s a paradox for which there isn’t an easy answer. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us?

Times Square
Times Square

As I mentioned almost a year ago, in the last decade the U.S has been directly involved in military attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen (including two full-scale invasions and occupations). Our closest ally Israel has attacked Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, plus Turkish civilian vessels on international waters.

What national security consequences can we expect from these attacks on Muslim countries? Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani immigrant who pled guilty to an attempt to detonate a car bomb on a busy Saturday night in Times Square, tells us:

“Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow.”

Glenn Greenwald:

The very idea that we’re going to spend an entire decade dropping a constant stream of bombs and other munitions on and in multiple Muslim countries and otherwise interfere in their governments — and then expect that nobody will try to attack us back — evinces such a child-like sense of imperial entitlement that it’s hard to put into words. And yet this is exactly the mindset that pervades our discussions of Terrorism: why would anyone possibly want to do something as heinous and senseless as placing a bomb in the United States? I just don’t understand it. What kind of an irrational fanatic and monster would even think of something like that? Of course, the people who say such things rarely apply the same language to our own political leaders…

Our foreign and national security policy is irrational. We are provoking a threat that the Pentagon cannot defend us against, even with a budget that exceeds military spending in all other countries put together.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald: They hate us for our occupations

Related One Utah post:
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 20, 2009)


Canceling Bush’s European ‘Missile Shield’ Was An Easy Call

The Bush administration proposed a missile defense system that doesn’t work, to be deployed to the Czech Republic and Poland to (supposedly) counter Iranian ICBM’s that don’t exist. Eastern Europeans didn’t want it. Our Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t want it. It pissed off the Russians. The Obama administration just canceled it. It was an easy call if there ever was one. Naturally the neocons are screaming about it.

Ground-based interceptor missileThe Weekly Standard and the National Review led the cries of “appeasement,” “surrender,” and “weakness,” with the likes of super-hawk John Bolton calling Obama’s move “pre-emptive capitulation.”

On Faux News Charles Krauthammer complained that Russia can now take over all of eastern Europe, and the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes warned hysterically that Obama’s decision might lead to a situation worse than the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Originally proposed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, ballistic missile defense (aka “Star Wars”) is an enormous waste of money. It’s supposed to work like the scene in “Wanted” (2008) when a gunfight culminates in both shooters’ bullets colliding in mid-air, twice! That just doesn’t happen without Hollywood special effects. The Missile Defense Agency has spent well over $120 billion to prove that the system Reagan envisioned can’t work in the real world.

Matt Yglesias:

The right wants us to at great expense build a missile shield that doesn’t work, in places it’s not wanted, to protect Western Europe from Iranian missiles that don’t exist, in order to antagonize the Russians.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that criticism of the Obama plan is “not yet connected to the facts. We are not, quote, ’shelving’ missile defense. We are deploying missile defense sooner than the Bush administration planned to do so.”

Rather than building huge, fixed ground-based interceptor (GBI) complexes in Eastern Europe, President Obama wants to buy more small, mobile Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) weapon systems and place them, initially, on the U.S. Navy’s Aegis cruisers. The SM-3s are capable of shooting down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, unlike the GBI, which is designed to shoot down ICBMs (but can’t).

More info: Fact Sheet on U.S. Missile Defense Policy.

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The Question Helen Thomas Almost Got to Ask

Helen Thomas, the dean of the Washington DC press corps and one of the last real journalists covering the White House, is a national treasure. At yesterday’s press conference, without being called on, Thomas tried to follow up a softball question by CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux with some hardball (emphasis added):

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. Last question. Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Thank you. Back to Iran, putting a human face on this. Over the weekend, we saw a shocking video of this woman, Neda, who had been shot in the chest and bled to death. Have you seen this video?


SUZANNE MALVEAUX: What’s your reaction?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there’s something fundamentally unjust about that.

HELEN THOMAS: Then why won’t you allow the photos –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hold on a second, Helen. That’s a different question. (Laughter.) And I think it’s important for us to make sure that we let the Iranian people know that we are watching what’s happening, that they are not alone in this process. Ultimately, though, what’s going to be most important is what happens in Iran. And we’ve all been struck by the courage of people. And I mentioned this I think in a statement that I made a couple of days ago. Some of you who had been covering my campaigns know this is one of my favorite expressions, was Dr. King’s expression that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We have to believe that ultimately justice will prevail.

All right. Thank you, guys.

Helen Thomas interrupted to ask Obama to reconcile his statement about the importance of the Iranian images with his own attempts to hide photographic evidence of American human rights violations. Other so-called reporters in the room laughed at her question, the toughest question anyone asked in the whole press conference. They laughed.

Glenn Greenwald:

The premise of Thomas’ question was compelling and (contrary to Obama’s dismissal) directly relevant to Obama’s answers: how is it possible for Obama to pay dramatic tribute to the “heartbreaking” impact of that Neda video in bringing to light the injustices of the Iranian Government’s conduct while simultaneously suppressing images that do the same with regard to our own Government’s conduct?

In a post on Balkinization, law professor Alice Ristroph notes the parallel between the suppressed images of American government crimes and the images coming out of Iran. And she explains the importance of seeing and believing: “Sometimes, images convey ideas and information for which we have no words.”

Related One Utah posts:
Washington vs. The Rule of Law (June 1)
President Obama Lied About U.S. War Crimes (May 28)


Iranian Revolution 2.0

Well, it looks like Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei has a problem. The same kind of popular resentment that overthrew the Shah’s regime 30 years ago is now aimed at him and President Ahmadinejad. The theocrats who still support the “Supreme Leader” are not going down without a fight, and they might even succeed in clinging to power for now.

Khamenei has essentially declared all protesters enemies of the state. Security forces were deployed to stop demonstrations in the streets, escalating the violence. Regime opponents and reporters are being arrested. The million-strong Basij militia is tracking dissidents by day and beating and killing them by night, hoping as time goes on that the constant threat of violence will intimidate everybody.

Yesterday, thousands of people continued to march, shouting, “Don’t be afraid– we are together. Death to the dictator.” Today, the streets of Tehran were reported to be quiet.

The world is watching, as President Obama has pointed out. Thanks to courageous people with cameras and Internet access, we can see some of what’s happening. But there’s not much that we can do, for two reasons:

  • The U.S. is going to have to deal with whatever Iranian regime emerges from the crisis. It would be foolish to take sides in their politics. Even if Mousavi was our friend (he’s not), public or covert support for him would simply add substance to the constant accusations of foreign involvement in Iran’s internal affairs.
  • Americans are in no position to lecture Iranians on democracy, honest elections, and human rights. We’re the country that intervened to subvert Iran’s democratic government in 1953. Our recent presidential elections haven’t exactly been a model for the world. Worst of all, our own war crimes and human rights violations are serious and ongoing. Prosecutions have been few, most of those guilty haven’t even been fired from their government jobs.

Some have demonstrated in sympathy with the Iranian opposition. Yesterday on the steps of the Utah state capitol, ironically, there were more Utahns angry about Iran’s stolen election than we ever saw come out against our own stolen elections in 2000 and 2004.

The Iranian crisis has become an occasion for stomach-churning hypocrisy by American politicians in general, and Republicans in particular.

For example, last Friday enthusiastic defender of torture Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) treated the House to emotional rhetoric about “America’s moral responsibility to speak out on the protection of human rights wherever they are violated.” He went on to criticize President Obama’s lack of verbal commitment to Iranian rights, as if hot air were the answer.

Matt Yglesias: “It’s worth keeping in mind that the people trying to loudly position themselves as the Iranian people’s greatest friends are the exact same people who wanted to drop bombs on Iranians just a couple of weeks ago.”

UPDATE: A small gathering in Tehran today was attacked by Iranian government security forces.

Helicopters hovered overhead as about 200 protesters gathered at Haft-e-Tir Square Monday. Hundreds of anti-riot police quickly put an end to the demonstration.

At last count, 33 journalists are being held in Iranian jails.


Updated: Breaking Mousavi Arrested: Rafsanjani Resigns, Iranian Police Fleeing from Demonstrators

This post is currently on the DailyKos recommended Diaries. Thought you should know, there is a coup happening in Iran.

Update V: I’ve lost my translator (Payman) for the night. He promised a birthday dinner to a Bosnian friend. We’ll be back at it very early tomorrow. People are finding ‘other’ ways to get the news out, so we hope to have more news by morning.

Update IV:

Link: A committee of respected Ayatollahs (the spiritual fighters) have requested that the election be invalidated for the purpose of restoring the people’s trust in the Islamic Republic. “We request the people to stay calm and not to provoke the government agents.”

Pyknet: Mousavi has been place under house arrest. He was arrested on his way to Khamenei’s house. All communication has been shut off. Khamenei has issued a statement claiming that HE that he is leading this coup to SAVE the Islamic Government (Nezam)

Update: Sianat az ara (Protectors of Votes) Iran’ Election Commission, have called the result fraud and are calling for new election. They pointed to the suspension of text messaging Thursday night and the disruption of phone service for the campaigns and pthers, and ballot shortages. Sianat az ara is a group of election monitors chosen by the four candidates. Ahmadinejad campaign is rejecting the claim of fraud and dismissed the committee as pro-Mousavi.

It is almost 9:30pm in Iran. In the north (rich part) of Tehran, the curfew is being ignored.

Photos here. Mo’ pix here. is reporting; Translation –

Rafsanjani has resigned all duties in protest to Supreme Leader Khamenei’s endorsement of Ahmadinejad as winner of yesterday’s election.

This article from Forbes on Thursday provides recent background on Rafsanjani’s case.

Rafsanjani, known in many circles as the Godfather, responded in kind with an open letter to the supreme leader demanding punishment for the aggression. That was perhaps the fuel on the fire for the streets. The anti-Ahmadinejad protesters felt more secure and confident after the division among the ruling elite became public and the streets went wild with human chains and slogans demanding Ahmadinejad’s resignation.

****** First Diary from this morning ***** Just uploaded to YouTube, this video shows Iranian police and Revolutionary Guards (Bassiji) CLEARLY running away from the protesters. From a video from a popular independent Iranian website

Cliff here reporting for famous (around here :)) Iranian exile and writer Payman here in Salt Lake City. The title of the video is “Demonstrators Election Announcement.”

The guy in the white shirt in the center of the frame at 7 seconds in is ‘plain clothes guard.’

We will continue to post video from ‘the inside’ as they come up.

American news outlets such as NBC are reporting that the police are keeping things under control, but we are hearing and seeing otherwise. Iranians expect Khamenei will begin rounding up the more visible activist but also current public officials who did not support Ahmadinejad.

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Bush’s Final Gift to The New Administration: Yet Another War

Navy intercept boat

U.S. Navy special forces and Marines on an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat, conducting maritime interception operations in the northern Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron Peterson)

The Jerusalem Post reports that the U.S. Navy intercepted an Iranian-owned merchant vessel last week in the Red Sea. This operation was one of a number of interceptions and searches being carried out on the basis of the memorandum of understanding signed between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 16, aimed at halting arms smuggling into Gaza. The Bush administration committed to helping Israel enforce a blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Glenn Greenwald comments:

What possible justification is there for using American resources — the American military — to patrol the Red Sea in order to ensure that Gazans remain defenseless? That question is particularly pronounced given that the U.S. is already shoveling, and will continue to shovel, billions and billions of dollars to Israel in military and other aid. Why, on top of all of that, are increasingly scarce American resources, rather than Israeli resources, being used to bar Palestinians from obtaining weapons?

So here we are, directly involved in an armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, with no declaration of war or even a congressional authorization for the use of military force. Not to mention we’re increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran at the very moment when the Iranians are helping to keep the lid on Shiite insurgent activity in Iraq. Thank you, former President Bush. And wake up, President Obama– you’ve been punked.

President Obama, in an interview yesterday with al Arabiya television, said: “Americans are not your enemy… But ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration’s actions.” So, what about the U.S. Navy blockading Gaza?

Amnesty International investigates the undisciplined behavior of Israeli troops who invaded the Gaza Strip. These are our allies in the new war Bush bequeathed to President Obama.

Chris Cobb-Smith, a military expert and part of Amnesty International’s team, was an officer in the British Army for almost 20 years. He said he was staggered by what he saw and by the behaviour and apparent lack of discipline of the Israeli soldiers. “Gazans have had their houses looted, vandalized and desecrated. As well, the Israeli soldiers have left behind not only mounds of litter and excrement but ammunition and other military equipment. It’s not the behaviour one would expect from a professional army,” he said.

In most cases, the families had fled or were expelled by the soldiers. In some cases, however, the soldiers prevented the families from leaving, using them as “human shields”.

UPDATE: Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the Red Sea interception but said the ship was searched with permission. “We were not authorized to seize the weapons or do anything like that.”


Hersh: Cheney & Co. Discussed How to Trigger War With Iran

h/t ThinkProgress via Truthdig

You may have already seen this, but it bears re-posting far and wide: The inimitable Seymour Hersh gave truly disturbing details, during the Campus Progress journalism conference in July, expounding upon his article from that month’s New Yorker about the Bush administration’s attempts to find a cause for war against Iran in late 2007.

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Bush Embraces ‘Beehive Theory’

Bush BeeSorry, this has nothing to do with President Bush’s upcoming visit to Utah, later this month. Instead, it’s a remarkable glimpse of a mind that is fixated on what I would call the opposite of reality. Back in April 2003, Josh Marshall warned that the neocon strategy for the entire Middle East could best be described as “whacking the hornet’s nest” (BTW this was a prescient article, well worth reading today). “Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks’ nightmare scenario,” wrote Marshall. “It’s their plan.”

During an interview with NBC’s Richard Engel in Egypt, President Bush expounded on this theme– except he called it “a beehive theory.” And yes, our commander-in-chief thinks that the USA ought to give the Middle East a good whacking.

ENGEL: If you look back over the last several years, the middle east that you’ll be handing over to the next president is deeply problematic. You have Hamas in power, Hezbollah empowered, taking to the streets, Iran empowered, Iraq still at war. What region are you handing over?

BUSH: Richard, those folks were always around. They were here. What we’re handing over is a Middle East that one recognizes the problems and the world recognizes them. There’s clarity as to what the problems are.

ENGEL: The war on terrorism has been the centerpiece of your presidency. Many people say that it has not made the world safer, that it has created more radicals, that there are more people in this part of the world who want to attack the United States.

BUSH: It’s just a beehive theory. We should have just let the beehive sit there and hope the bees don’t come out of the hive? My attitude is, the United States must stay on the offense against al Qaeda two ways —

ENGEL: Smash the beehive and let them spread?

BUSH: Richard, two ways. One, find them and bring them to justice — what we’re doing — and two, offer freedom as an alternative for their vision. And somehow, to suggest that bees would stay in the hive is naive. They didn’t stay in the hive when they came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

Of course, the Bush administration’s global war on terror has been a costly flop. During World War II, America defeated both the Nazis and the Japanese in less than four years. After nearly eight years, Al Qaeda is not defeated, and intelligence reports say they are doing better than ever.

Video after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »


McCain: ‘Surge’ Not Really Working, But Vote For Me Anyway

John McCainDo not underestimate Senator John McCain. His candidacy ought to have ended with his embarrassing stroll through the Baghdad Thieves’ Market almost a year ago. Or when he followed that up by singing the chorus of “Bomb Iran.” Or when he told us about his plan to occupy Iraq for 100 years. In January, McCain basically promised/threatened to go to war with Iran if elected.

McCain is starting to remind me of The Terminator.

Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Alright, so the latest theory about McCain’s candidacy is that he is counting on the success of the so-called “surge” in Iraq. Except that it turns out he’s not counting on it. Instead of hoping for a decrease in violence, McCain now predicts that al Qaeda and other anti-occupation forces will ratchet up their attacks in an attempt to help the Democrats win the White House.

In other words, no matter what happens to the occupation of Iraq in the next 7-8 months, it means McCain was right. He can’t be reasoned with.


Experience as a Predictor of Presidential Greatness

Come one, come all pundits on this blog, to a penetrating quantitative analysis of Presidential greatness versus experience at–

(scroll down to “Is an Experienced President a Good President?”)


Conclusion: no correlation whatsoever!

My meditation:

According to this data, LBJ, with 27 years in the Congress, is the number two most experienced president and for my money, he was an exceptionally poor one. He was effective in the Senate but not in the White House. His presidency was proof positive AGAINST the argument that effective legislators make effective executives. Dramatic evidence that the executive and legislative arenas require two radically different skill sets.

Reagan on the other hand came from the executive branch, with eight painfully long years as governor and a whole lifetime on the campaign trail, but nonetheless for my money was one of drop-dead dumbest, silliest, clumsiest, least effective presidents in American history, running neck and neck with Bill Clinton in every department except intelligence–a most valid comparison oft-noted by presidential historians.

Reagan authorized arms for hostages, birthday cakes to the Ayatolla, a totally rogue-nation CIA that pandered to Iraq and armed Iran, coddling Saddam Hussein and other megalomaniacal tyrants all over the globe. Even while preaching the gospel of fiscal conservatism the Gipper ran up the greatest federal debt in the history of the world and then, for his last act, casually blew off the opportunity for total superpower nuclear disarmament offered to him on a silver platter by a genuflecting Gorbachev at Reykjavik–far and away the single greatest presidential blunder in all of American history–by many orders of magnitude more colossally stupid than anything Dubbya has ever done. In so many, many ways–fiscal, economic, domestic, foreign, environmental–Reagan set the stage for the eventual disintegration of America as a world power. What Dubbya has completed, Reagan began.

So I would be contrarian as to what constitutes, “effective” let alone, “great.” The dead-wrong-as-usual conventional wisdom is that Reagan was effective because he won two elections by large margins, reversing the polarity of the Congress, just as Clinton did 1992. This was the so-called Reagan “revolution.”

But I don’t buy that “effective” means “effective at winning elections” or “effective at political survival purely for its own sake”.

To me, “effective” means succeeding at some clearly defined political policy objective AND ALSO dealing adroitly with unforeseen contingencies–per Abraham Lincoln during the civil warm, or FDR during the Depression. “Effective” would in its penultimate expression mean being quite willing to LOSE an election in order to do the right thing for the country. It means having both vision AND stamina AND imagination AND integrity AND grace under pressure, all working together seamlessly.

Bill Clinton had no defined political policy objectives whatsoever, beyond longevity for himself in elected office. He was an airhead. He did exactly whatever pollster Dick Morris told him to do just about as mechanically as Dubbya did whatever Karl Rove told him to do, or Ronald Reagan did whatever his advisors thought General Electric and Bechtel–which supplied virtually his entire top management team–might wish him to do. Clinton’s single great domestic triumph is said to have been skillful “triangulation” of the Gingrich congress–e.g., promoting NAFTA on behalf of the military-industrial complex, and officiating over “the end of welfare as we know it.” Selling the poor mostly black folk down the river in order to fill up the campaign warchests and win elections.

But I don’t see much logic in crediting Clinton for balancing the budget or stimulating the economy. The ephermeral uplift of the 1990’s was very simply the ground swell of business cycle itself combined with a “perfect storm” of circumstance and convergent technology which temporarily spiked productivity even as energy prices and therefore inflation were at a cyclical low. Clinton was no more responsible for the behavior of the energy price/inflation cycle or the business cycle than Jimmy Carter was responsible for the behavior of OPEC.

Bill Clinton was “adroit” in handling unforeseen crises only inasmuch as he was shrewd enough to back down on whatever he had recently set out to do (gays in the military, national health care) or sufficiently timid enough to procrastinate on indefinitely (genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda)–either pulling back or flat giving up whenever a challenge proved difficult or dangerous. His greatest asset was his spectacular survival instinct whenever it was necessary to extricate himself–again and again; and again and again and again and again–from entirely self-engendered personal career crises, such as draft dodging, then Whitewater, then Geniffergate and Travelgate and Monicagate–et al. Wall to wall Bimbogate across two decades in elected office: the hidden “agenda” of the Clinton administration that presidential historians have long since conveniently forgotten….

We could very defensibly argue that the best president may well be the one who is so timid, so cautious, so utterly devoid of imagination, ideas, hutzpah or vision, so perfectly incapable of taking ANY initiative that he basically withdraws into a tortoise shell of inertia for his entire term. We want not the person “First in His Class”, but rather the phlegmatic student who SLEPT through class. We should aspire not to youthful idealism, but to advanced old age bordering on senility. Eisenhower would be the penultimate example. (“Is he ALIVE?”) The best offense is a strategy of uncompromising, isolationist, tortoise-like defense.

Are not the best presidents, like the best doctors, those wise and shrewd and zen enough to do nothing at all–to let time and the immune system do their work with minimal interference– as opposed to those who, like JFK declaring what would become the Cold War with his adolescent grandstanding and saber-rattling (“Let’s invade Cuba–that’ll show em!”), LBJ/Nixon in Vietnam, Truman in Korea, bush I and Bush II in Iraq, all making it their foremost priority to drive the nation straight into war at any cost whatsoever to the country and the people?

[Editors note: is this actually a back-door argument FOR the value of “experience”?  That depends upon what we mean by “experience”….]

What conventionally “great” Presidents do is make war, not policy or legislation. Nothing like a national security crisis to bring one’s personal approval ratings out of the toilet.

As Edward Abbey put it we have had “Roosevelt’s war”, then “Truman’s war”, then what might be called either “Kennedy’s War”, or “Johnson’s War,” or “Nixon’s War”, then “Bush War I” and “Bush War II”.

Our ambitious young men can think of nothing so glamorous as leading the nation into war.

But I would suggest that the conventional definition of “effectiveness” and “greatness” be reversed.

Instead of the hutzpah to rush into war, let’s acknowledge that true greatness is having the wisdom–and courage–to skillfully avoid it.



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