Sunday, January 14, 2007

Notes from the flight forward...

So apparently our Glorious Leader wants to set the whole Mideast on fire now. More fresh bodies for the meat grinder in Iraq, plus exciting new wars in Iran and Syria, and no doubt that's just the tip of the iceberg. Even with a Democratic congress, it's looking increasingly like there's nothing anyone can do to rein the guy in.
Naturally, nobody in the administration's giving any straight answers on what they intend to do about Iran. They make all sorts of threatening noises day in and day out, but we still get the "no definite plans to attack" charade, just like we did in the buildup to Iraq. That little stunt avoids having any public policy debate about what to do. They already know what they want to do, and they don't want the other 300 million of us to get a word in edgewise about it. And if past history is any guide, there probably is no detailed plan hidden deep in a Pentagon vault somewhere. The plan will just be to roll the dice again and assume a miracle will happen this time.

The title refers to a classic Billmon post from last April, which seems more prescient with each passing day:

What we are witnessing (through rips in the curtain of official secrecy) may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne, the "flight forward." This refers to ta situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.

Some people take comfort in W's recent statement taking responsibility for mistakes in Iraq. But even that statement is phrased in a very curious way. What he said, essentially, is that he takes responsibility to the degree that a CEO is responsible for any (purely hypothetical) failings by his underlings. He didn't admit to having personally screwed anything up. That's something we'll never hear from him. I imagine getting him to say the limp words he uttered was like pulling teeth, and he only agreed to it strictly as a PR move, not an actual change of heart on his part. If he'd had a change of heart, or a eureka moment, or any such thing, the response would not be to do even more of what we've been doing without success for a few years now.

Apart from the immediate situation, it's never a good idea when national policies are so closely intertwined with the personal psychological needs of the guy in charge. He won't believe he can make mistakes, and he won't change course, and we all have to pay the price. He's been reading all those history books lately, to the expected round of cheap shots about him reading books for once, but taking cheap shots at the guy just obscures the alarming "lessons" he says he's learning. He knows he's right, he's absolutely sure he's right, he's surrounded himself with toadies and cronies who praise him constantly and tell him he's always right, and now he's got what in his mind is "historical proof" that everyone will realize he was right in a century or two. Therefore, he's free to ignore public opinion, expert opinion (the Pentagon included), world opinion, etc., since he's totally sure that everyone will laugh at all those opinions someday. There's just not going to be any communication into the bubble at this point. He's all defense mechanism, all the time, and nothing gets through.

Reasonable people can disagree, of course, on whether Iran is really the global threat Cheney and friends say it is. I very much doubt that, but even if I was totally convinced, at this point I wouldn't put any faith in the current administration dealing with that threat successfully. They botch everything they touch. If you're a hawk, you probably aren't interested in my advice, but my advice is to find a competent successor for the current guy, and work to get him or her elected in 2008. And please, just put your remaining foreign policy goals on hold until after Inauguration Day. Don't ask anything more of the current bozos, and don't jump on the bandwagon if they're itching to start something new. They've done more than enough damage already.

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