« Kerry's Secret Mission to Cambodia | Main | Holiday In Cambodia »

Some Thoughts On Mallaby

Sebastian Mallaby gets in some licks on John Kerry, but I'm seeing some factual and logic errors.

"Bush smashed the Taliban in Afghanistan, even though large parts of the Democratic foreign policy establishment opposed any strategy involving boots on the ground." For one thing, I remember the Afghan War, and I certainly don't recall any "large parts" of the Democratic foreign policy establishment opposing a strategy involving boots on the ground. I also don't recall very many boots being put on the ground. My recollection is of a war fought by air power, special forces, and local allies and that John Kerry criticized the failure to put more boots on the ground as having led to the debacle at Tora Bora. And speaking of Tora Bora, I don't recall the Taliban as having been so much "smashed" as "driven out of the major urban areas and then largely allowed to escape" as a result of their having been, contrary to the advice of John Kerry, too few boots on the ground.

Then we hear that Kerry is a captive of Vietnam Syndrome but "the United States does not have the option of withdrawing from the war on terrorism in the way that it withdrew from Saigon. Kerry's inclinations seem wrong for the times that we live in."

This strikes me as illogical. Isn't the point precisely that, as Mallaby says, we don't have the option of withdrawing from the war on terrorism while we did have the option of withdrawing from Saigon. We seem hear to have been infected with a vicious case of "one dimensional foreign policy syndrome" where the operative question about any figure is how "hawkish" or "dovish" he is. But just as it would be silly for the government to run a pacifist foreign policy, it makes very little sense for a leader to be simply "hawkish" in the sense of being in favor of fighting wars just for the hell of it. One wants a president who is eager to use force when force is appropriate, but not otherwise. One who wants to put more boots on the ground when this is a good idea, but not when it isn't. Vietnam in the late 1960s was not a good moment to put more troops on the ground, Afghanistan in late 2001 was. Kerry's "inclinations" were right in both instances.

At any rate, if you accept all his premises, his conclusion is all wrong:

So which should I prefer? A candidate whose foreign policy instincts are wrong? Or one whose implementation discredits his good policy? [...] There are ways to balance these factors, and I'll do that another time. But if people see this as an easy choice, they see something I'm missing.
I don't think that's a hard question at all. If you think Bush's goals are good, but he is not capable of realizing those goals, then there is no reason whatsoever to think that George Bush will run a good foreign policy. Indeed, according to Mallaby, we can be absolutely guaranteed that Mallaby won't like the results of four more years of George W. Bush. Conversely, Kerry seems to have bad instincts. But maybe Mallaby has misjudged him and those aren't his instincts at all. Is that a small hope? Perhaps, but it's bigger than zero, which is what Mallaby has for Bush.

August 10, 2004 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8345160fd69e200d83421244353ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Some Thoughts On Mallaby:

» More on Mallaby from coffee grounds
Matthew Yglesias shows us that there are more errors of fact and logic in Sebastian Mallaby's column: Sebastian Mallaby gets in some licks on John Kerry, but I'm seeing some factual and logic errors. "Bush smashed the Taliban in Afghanistan,... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 11, 2004 11:51:05 AM

Comments

I want Clinton back.

It is astonishing how prevalent among Republicans the theme of "Bush is totally incompetent, but his heart is in the right place" has become. I think they need to write the New York acceptance speech on these lines."

"Well, I screwed up Afghanistan, but at least I tried!" Crowd roars
"And I screwed up Iraq, but at least I tried." Crowd stamps feet and does wave.
"And I have totally screwed the economy"....Bush pauses with a sly grin
And the Republicans delegates, as one, answer:"But at least you tried!"

Luntz needs to focus group this in Ohio.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 10, 2004 7:40:42 PM

Mallaby's attempt to muddy the waters between Bush and Kerry is unworthy of him. It is good to quash this meme before it starts.

The entire Bush approach to foreign policy has been extremely shallow and unserious. The choice of Goss as a potential CIA director reinforces this unreported truth. Goss's main qualification at least within the hallways of the Repub party in Florida appear to be his "yes man" cloak. To quote another Floridian "he will be a great team player". Its the insular and myopic environment of Bush's current advisors that has got the nation into its current mess.

Further Team Bush is smart enough to know that Goss, is a grossly inappropriate choice and will cause an unholy congressional confirmation hearing, whether Dems have prepped for it yet or not. So Team Bush main objective in announcing him is to try turn the media focus away from the 911 commission reforms and onto ground of their own choosing, so if history is any guide, they can try to paint the Dems as foot dragging, anti-americans. Therefore appointing a CIA director in time of national crisis has been used by Team Bush knowingly as a potential PR image builder, which if it passes gives Bush more friends in his inner circle. If anything Team Bush viewed Tenet as not friendly enough to Team Bush. While the Dems via Gore and others viewed Tenet, ironically, as too friendly.

So Bush's response to the serious demands of the 911 commission, is too pretend to publically embrace them, while privately gutting them. And to change the topic in any highly partisan way they can instead of addressing the issues.

Back to Mallaby; under these circumstances it is even unnecessary to compare Bush to Kerry in terms of policy choices, because Team Bush time and time again doesn't do policy. Team Bush takes every policy question no matter how serious and uses it as a partisan power grab. Cleary whatever Kerry decides he may or may not do is beter than
Bush's agenda of continual party power mongering. For any journalist anywhere to compare Bush "policy" to Kerry policy proposals is an entirely dishonest proposition.

Can you or anyone else name one "policy" proposed and passsed, domestic or foreign, that was passed under Team Bush in the last four years, that is not a media image band-aid or pork for closely held lobbying group? With Bush EVERYTHING is partisan politics, and any position taken based solely on how much power can be aggregated back to Team Bush and friends. This aspect of the presidency has yet to be explored fully in the mainstream media. In the next 100 days the main stream media lens must pass through the packaging to tell the unfiltered story of the last four years.

Posted by: patience | Aug 10, 2004 7:43:20 PM

I don't think that's a hard question at all. If you think Bush's goals are good, but he is not capable of realizing those goals, then there is no reason whatsoever to think that George Bush will run a good foreign policy. Indeed, according to Mallaby, we can be absolutely guaranteed that Mallaby won't like the results of four more years of George W. Bush. Conversely, Kerry seems to have bad instincts. But maybe Mallaby has misjudged him and those aren't his instincts at all. Is that a small hope? Perhaps, but it's bigger than zero, which is what Mallaby has for Bush.


I think that Matthew has this entirely wrong.

Even accepting Mallaby's judgement about the execution of Bush's policies (which I don't): Execution can be improved. Instincts can't.

Posted by: Al | Aug 10, 2004 8:29:24 PM

Interesting. Al thinks Matt is wrong.

Moving on -- patience, I think the diesel stuff was good. Of course, it was a Clinton administration idea.

I think the question of whether or not a second Bush term is something I can conceivably support is whether guys like Cheney, Feith, Bolton, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz retain their level of influence, or whether folks like Armitage, Blackwill, and Powell gain influence. Rice I view as out of here depth, but not crazy like the other guys.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 10, 2004 9:02:33 PM

"even though large parts of the Democratic foreign policy establishment opposed any strategy involving boots on the ground."

This is really an amazing statement. Can anybody point to anyone in the Dem FP establishment who opposed going into Afghanistan, or putting boots on the ground, whatever?

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 10, 2004 10:39:20 PM

"Bush smashed the Taliban"? Wouldn't it be a good idea for columnists at major newspapers to actually read their paper? Karzai, really the mayor of Kabul, is talking about giving the Taliban some cabinet portfolios.

Testosterone flow is a dangerous measure for presidential candidates. The Iraq adventure was/is a series of blunders in intelligence, military planning (well, the plans were there, but the politicos ignored them), and diplomacy on an unprecedented scale.

Mallaby seriously understates the damage to America's standing in the world by the Iraq invasion & occupation. Iraq isn't some global backwater like Vietnam still is. It's the middle of the freaking oil supply to the entire world. There's a very real chance that this will mark the beginning of the beginning of the end of U.S. domination.

On just about every conceivable front, the Bush administration has rolled back the conceptual underpinnings of 20th century federal domestic policy, aiming for a return to the McKinley administration Rove admires so much.There was no real mandate for this, but Bush pulled it off while managing to max out the credit cards.

Other than picking those nits, nice job, Sebastian.

PS to praktike. I can't share your optimism about Armitage, Powell, etc. gaining power in a 2nd Bush administration. All indications are that Powell wouldn't stay. Goss, a political operations cowboy, is a pretty good indicator for who might take over at State, if it even matters. No one who wants to fix the CIA's analytic wing could possibly think he's the man. Feith, Bolton, etc. are still there, they've just gone into hiding until 11/2.

Posted by: social democrat | Aug 10, 2004 10:52:48 PM

hmmm. A sobering point by social democrat. The Goss appointment surely bodes ill, as does the intelligence "czar" bullshit he's trying to pull. Tonight, maddeningly, I saw CBS news report this as somehow in line with the 9/11 commission recommendations, which, of course, it isn't whatsoever.

Bush/Rove remind me of a chess player who specializes in "forking" type moves wherein they plop a knight down. putting your King in check and then taking your rook. The appointment of Goss puts the Dems in a quandary: denounce this bit of douchebaggery for what it is and get accused of loving Al Qaeda, or accept this bullshit silently and hurt American national security.

Dealing with a political opponent who doesn't give a fuck and values loyalty and forking moves uber alles is a very difficult political problem.

Perhaps the best strategy is for the official party to pass him easily, but for partisans in the media to denounce this for the complete and utter bullshit that it is.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 10, 2004 11:35:49 PM

The appointment of Goss puts the Dems in a quandary: denounce this bit of douchebaggery for what it is and get accused of loving Al Qaeda, or accept this bullshit silently and hurt American national security.

praktike: that's not even the half of it (the extent of politicization of the Goss appointment). Goss represents a district in Florida. Some prominent Dems are rumbling about opposing his nomination. If a full scale partisan battle erupts, Rove's going to have some nice nice coverage of a bunch of pointy-headed libruls pickin' on a good ole boy from the Sunshine State who's just trying to serve his country. If Democrats new what was good for them they'd roll over on this one. Goss may be a political animal, but that doesn't mean he's unqualified (they say he actually served as a spook at some point himself). A President Kerry could always replace him if need be...

Posted by: OJ | Aug 11, 2004 12:20:41 AM

Al,

Performance can only be improved if people are able to look at what they've done and recognize their mistakes. Bush says he can't think of a single mistake he's made in office. In fact, he stumbled so badly over the question that it's clear he's being entirely honest about that.

That means, quite simply, that Bush will not perform any better in a second term. WHat you see is what you'll get.

Posted by: Kevin Brennan | Aug 11, 2004 10:53:22 AM

Rolling over is a hugely bad idea. What can he do in office between now and november but make trouble for Kerry? While Team Bush made a big deal about Clinton's people sabatoging the white house, it was really Bush I team's surprises that kept Clinton off balance till late 93.

Just realizing the purpose in the nomination is primarily for media points gives an outline of the correct way of opposing The nomination. Clinton's Dem Convention speech should serve as a tempkate for how to knock out the pillars of the opponents position while not falling into stereotypical posturing. The same could be done during the hearing. especially since Dems have almost a month to prep. It will be very easy to turn the spotlight within the Goss nomination back to the 911 commission report. Rove and co are in grape shot mode. It's like February where they proposed three unannounced initiatives, one of them was going to mars, just to try to create and seize new media battleground.

Team Bush is losing and they know it.

Posted by: patience | Aug 11, 2004 11:47:03 AM

Another chess metaphor:

"a team of cognitive scientists has worked out how to think like a chess grand master. As those attending this week's Cognitive Science Society meeting in Chicago, Illinois, were told, the secret is to try to knock down your pet theory rather than finding ways to support it - exactly as scientists are supposed to do."
--from Nature magazine. http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040802/full/040802-19.html

Posted by: social democrat | Aug 11, 2004 12:11:48 PM

Praktike:

"I think the question of whether or not a second Bush term is something I can conceivably support is whether guys like Cheney, Feith, Bolton, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz retain their level of influence, or whether folks like Armitage, Blackwill, and Powell gain influence. Rice I view as out of here depth, but not crazy like the other guys."

Even taking the most favorable possible view of both the likelihood and outcome of this, it just fixes the foreign policy problem. Bush's butchery of the economy is just as serious, and I don't see the opposition to that in the Republican party because they see it as a continuation of Reagan, their patron saint.

Posted by: Martin Bento | Aug 11, 2004 3:40:18 PM

JOHN P. SUTER
P. O. Box 670144
Chugiak, AK 99567-0144
(907) 688-3103
suter@gci.net

September 13, 2004

Greetings

Airlines employees and their contractors have a law (www.faa.gov/avr/afs/whistleblower/) that protects them when they speak out on aviation safety/security issues. I would note that local government (city, county, state and municipality) airport maintenance employees who work at America’s 450 FAA towered airports do not have this protection. If they are caught speaking out on such issues they can be retaliated against for doing so. What can be done so that local government airport maintenance workers can have the same protection as airline employees, is to contact the congress to put in an amendment that would include them in this law. In doing so, this would protect them from retaliation. Without this protection local government airport maintenance employees will be afraid to report any unsecured doors, gates or other potential safety violations.

Some of the congressional representatives that you could contact that are in position to put in this amendment are transportation chairman Congressman

Don Young 202-225-5765, Fax 202-225-0425. House or Representatives
2111 Rayburn House Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20515-0201

Senator on the aviation committee Ted Stevens. 202-224-3004, Fax 202-224-2354. United States Senate 522 Hart Building, Washington, DC 20510-0201

Senator Lisa Murkowski who personally told me she could do it and will look into it could use some encouragement 202-224-6665, Fax 202-224-5301. United States Senate 322 Hart Building, Washington, DC 20510-0202

Thank you for your prompt and courteous attention.

Sincerely

John Suter

Posted by: John Suter | Sep 14, 2004 6:15:00 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.