Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush at Annapolis: Memo to a President


Today’s speech was horrible. I’m sure no one in the White House will tell you that, but it was. You might as well have dropped in a DVD and projected yourself delivering any number of speeches you’ve already given onto a giant screen. The reaction of the media and the audience would have been the same.

Rallying the troops to the cause we are fighting for is totally unneeded. Rallying the American public to that cause by delivering yet another "same as the last time" speech is clearly not going to work or it would have on some many previous occasions. Since a new, ground breaking speech is either beyond the abilities of your speech writers or considered politically untenable by your advisors it is time for a new approach.

If getting the Iraqis to step up and take control of the future of their country is the right approach, and I certainly think that is a good strategy, it is long past time to implement that strategy. The path to the success of this approach is obvious and simple. You must take your case directly to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people need to be shown that by taking control of this process and meeting the goals of creating a stable and democratic country the result will be an Iraq run by Iraqis for Iraqis secured by Iraqis. Goals and results need to be set. Promises need to be kept.

You have stated that we want to leave. US public opinion indicates Americans want us to leave. Demonstrate our willingness to leave and then prove it when they meet security related goals. Tying progress to defined security results, rather than an arbitraty timeline, does nothing to aid terrorists or insurgents. By definition, successes by Iraqis towards democracy and security are the result of failures by"rejectionists" (whoever they are). Iraqis win, terrorists lose and America can leave on acceptable terms.

Mr. President, you need to be talking to Iraqis, not Americans, to convince Iraqis that they can and will be successful on their own. If you believe in your case, take it to the people who can actually make it a reality. Inspire Iraqis to action, challenge them, and reward them for success.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Without a Clue

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I saw, for the first time, the CBS show Without a Trace. Perhaps I'm being a bit rash, but my overall impression is tha the name of the show needs to be changed immediately. It would be more accurately characterized as "With More Than Enough Evidence to Solve in One TV Hour" perhaps the sub-title "And More Predictable Than Law & Order" would not help the marketing of the show, but truth in advertising folks would certainly be warmed by the honesty.

How do these things get on TV? And, do executives need anything other than a copy of one of these shows to realize why viewers are flocking to cable stations like Discovery and HBO?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Quaterly Reports and Senate GOP Motivations

Writing about some non-story concerning George Bush isolating himself in light of recent political troubles, namely Plame and Iraqi War fallout, Matt Yglesias points to a Bill Kristol piece on this week’s Senate vote demanding quarterly updates on progress. Certain Democrats/progressive that I have read, including Yglesias, and heard, on Air America, seem to think this is somehow the GOP losing their grip on power. Conservatives like Kristol argue that GOP Senators are simply lacking “spine.”

Like most things in life, though, the popular binary theories put forth overlook any number of other possible explanations for action, or inaction. Pragmatically, concerns related to the Democrat advanced proposal and a counter proffered by Republicans do carry some weight. They are, however, incomplete.

If one accepts that Republicans actually disagree with Democrats on the chances of victory in Iraq (not an unreasonable theory), then another viable reason behind Senate GOP actions looks like a likely motivation for their actions. Expecting a positive result in next month’s Iraqi elections Republican Senators would be the quarterly progress reports revealing more and better news, repetitive news cycles marching to victory if you will. Each one better than the last.

This may or may not come to fruition, or even be the plan behind this week’s vote. It is, from what I can tell, a better theory than either of the popular binary “reasons” currently populating this meme.

Monday, November 14, 2005


As an organized religion, Islam is approximately 600 years behind Christianity. If we roll back our clocks 600 years it may be informative to see where Christianity was at the time. Around 1400, the Roman Catholic Church, was deeply divided by a schism that resulted in the establishment of a second papacy in Avignon, France. If today were 1405 instead of 2005, we would be nearly 70 years away from the beginning of the Renaissance and an even more distant 112 years away from the beginnings of the Reformation.

It occurs to me that organized religions are not unlike nearly every other organization in the course of human history. There are periods of movement and momentum and periods of stagnation and maintenance. Just as in 1405 with The Church in the earliest stages of succumbing to the momentum of change and reform, Islam, in a very macro sense, appears to be in the opening stages of dealing with momentum. Of course, it is unclear if the momentum currently brewing will be won by reformers (students, modernist Islamic reformers) or by traditionalist, establishment factions (Wahabists, al Qaeda). One side attacks and so does the other. Both sides are struggling to get an upper hand in the race to capture and ride the gaining momentum to victory.

Something is now becoming very clear that until recently I had only suspected based on my own reasoning while trying to rationalize the strategy of al Qaeda and its choice in targets. Watching the coverage of the 9/11 attacks I couldn’t help but think how poorly they had chosen for an attack of such scale. I’m not sure it is a good analogy, but I did and do think of it as a sucker punch to the buttocks. At first, and for some time to come I attributed this to a dearth of intelligence and a mindset of choosing targets that meant more to terrorists than to Americans. That is not to say that Americans did not like the WTC or The Pentagon, just that since terrorists didn’t know any better they hit the targets that provided them with the most instant gratification possible.

This block from the Scotsman article is both concise and revealing.

At first al-Qaeda announced that "a group of our best lions" had carried out the attacks to punish Jordan for supporting "the Jews and Crusaders".

Then late at night it posted a second statement on the internet "to explain to Muslims part of the reason the holy warriors targeted these dens." It said it had ordered the suicide attacks on the hotels "only after becoming confident that they were centres for launching war on Islam and supporting the Crusaders' presence in Iraq and the Arab peninsula and the presence of the Jews on the land of Palestine."

A third statement on Friday also had a defensive tone. It said the bombers were four Iraqis, who had chosen the hotels "after a month of surveillance and information gathering".

The war that al Qaeda is fighting, indeed the war they have always been fighting is a defensive one. They maintain the cover of good defensive positions against traditional attacks by the US and they are defending an establishment that has and will use oppression in ways as bad as or worse than anything ever employed during the Inquisition. Not only are the tactics of terrorism defensive, but the strategy employed by al Qaeda and its many remoras is defensive. Its strategy of defending the most extreme form of Islam through the most extreme actions has finally revealed the figurative “leak in the dam.”

For at least some time to come, perhaps many years, al Qaeda and its ilk will be able to plug the dam with a well placed finger, bomb, or press release. Eventually, though, the Middle East will give birth to its own Martin Luther and an unknown number of figurative theses will surely be posted on the a website somewhere in the future, perhaps he or she will be Jordanian and this recent attack will serve as a catalyst, though maybe not.

What is clear is that momentum is still up for grabs and that al Qaeda and the like have lost any upper hand that either had or more importantly believed they had. It must be very demoralizing to have to come so close to an outright apology for killing infidels.