19:46 pm
"Audacious Shake of the Dice"

As we prepare to hear the, what, fifth (?) announcement of a "plan for victory" in Iraq since "Mission Accomplished", it's instructive to wander down Memory Lane and visit the hollow reams of punditry that helped convince the American people that the war was a good idea. Particularly appalling are those arguments that seems based solely on a desire to pitch the biggest tent in the camp: As Tom Friedman wrote, "something in Mr. Bush's audacious shake of the dice appeals to me."

Radar has done a lot of the stomach-turning work, in a feature that compares the post-invasion careers of pundits pro and con. The verdict? The wrong have gotten rich (Friedman has since bought a $9.3 million mansion in Bethesda and a second home in Aspen) and the right have gotten squat (Jonathan Schell notes, "There doesn't seem to be a rush to find the people who were right about Iraq and install them in the mainstream media").

17:31 pm
It's an Iraqi Initiative!

One of the more outlandish conceits of Bush's speech tonight, is that he will pretend that the escalation is, essentially, an Iraqi initiative--and we're just there to back up and help out. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Iraq doesn't have a coherent government, much less "ideas" or much motivation for finding ways to knit together the society we shattered.
But here's a question: Where are these new Iraqi brigades who'll patrol Baghdad coming from? My guess is they're predominantly Pesh Merga, coming down from Kurdistan. If so, you'll have Kurds policing the other two sectarian tribes, Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs. You've got to wonder how stable--or volatile--that will be.

17:25 pm
Watch This Space

Live-blogging the Surge Speech @ 9pm. Has anyone come up with a drinking game yet?

16:18 pm
I Always Lie. I Am Lying to You Now.

One of those slick reporter types tried to trip up a Senior Administration Official this afternoon by pointing out that, you know, "nothing short of victory" (past Bush assertion) is not exactly compatible with "our commitment is not open-ended" (current Bush assertion). And, of course, there's this:

Can you tell us whether the President is going to use the phrase "victory" the way he did in his "victory in Iraq" speeches in the end of 2005, and whether he defines it the same way that he did then?

Think fast, SAO! And, he does:

I think you'll see some words like "success" and "victory," but we're in a very different context, we have a very different strategy. And I think you'll find that that will affect how he uses those terms.

Still using words like "success" and "victory" but in a different context? Like, preceded by "no hope of" and "cannot pay the price for"? Or, I know! Hey, everyone, it's opposite day!

And Bush is really at 73 percent approval!

15:48 pm
Good Point

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, one of the wisest Democrats on national security issues, made an important--and overlooked--point at the Dems noon press conference today: Bush's implausible escalation is going to increase public skepticism about any U.S. policy actions in the region (and, I'd add, the world). Some of the public skepticism is justified: Never again should the U.S. take military action alone unless we're attacked. But there's a long war still to be fought against Al Qaeda and other extremist elements. It's not World War IV as the neocons insist; but it is an episodic, potentially dangerous situation in a part of the world that Bush has made markedly less stable because of his actions. It needs to be pursued in concert with a broad coalition of other nations, especially our NATO allies.
I'd hate to see a crypto-populist isolationism be the end result of Bush's policies. The new era of global problems--viruses like terrorism, environmental threats, Aids and transnational corporate depredations--are going to require America to be more a part of the world than ever before. But I suspect we're in for a heavy-duty bout of isolationism, another collateral effect of Bush's arrogant unilateralism. I wonder which left or right wing populist will try to exploit it.

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