alien & sedition.
Friday, January 19, 2007
  This Week in Conservative Organs: Life During Wartime

(Update: I characterized Brian Riedl as a "wealthy college professor." He is not in fact a professor, but a Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Whether or not he is "wealthy," I will admit, is beside the point. The point is that conservatives, unlike 79% of the American public, oppose the idea of lowering student loan interest rates. My apologies to Mr. Riedl.)

This week the conservative organs are throbbing (sorry) with a sense of urgency, as the 100 Hours roll past before many of the crew even get the chance to work up a proper huff, and the Iraqi government seems unable to remember that we've got deadlines to keep, here. This, as they say, ain't no foolin' around.

Twico Feature: It's Not a Major Disaster

We begin at the Weekly Standard, where the architects of the Great Surge of 2007 seem a bit disconcerted by the failure of the nation at large, and the Republican party in particular, to grasp the strategic genius at work in their plan. While William Kristol seems to have slipped wholly into bitter sarcasm, Frederick "Field Marshall" Kagan revisits the math: how many troops must a president send, before you can call it a surge? The answer, my friend, is about 35,000. So is Kagan disappointed that the Bush plan would only send 21,000? No, because it will actually be more than that, when you count support troops:
[T]he surge being briefed by the Bush administration now is much more likely to be around 29,000 troops than 22,000--in other words, close to the number of combat troops the IPG recommended, and, when necessary support troops are added, close to the overall numbers I had estimated before the IPG met.
It's left to Fred Barnes to make the requisite historical analogies. Bush, this week, is Lincoln, for "standing alone" (by which measure I myself have been Lincoln many times at parties), and for sacking his feckless generals. Also, he's Washington, because Washington alone was in charge of the Army during the Revolutionary war. I guess Churchill gets the week off.

Barnes also comments on many Republicans' disappointment with Bush's surge speech:
Some Republicans were disappointed in the president's speech. They wanted a rousing address that would electrify the public, spur support for victory in Iraq, and ease the war's political drain on Republicans.
Same as it ever was...

Meanwhile, Duncan Currie takes another look at all those "conservative" freshman Democrats, and realizes with creeping horror that they're all against the war. He also makes a strange argument that I've seen several times in conservative circles: that Democrats are somehow hypocritical because, having pushed for more troops in the past, now they've "changed their tune." It's as though the strategic situation in January of 2007 were just the same as it was in June of 2003. Just like the Japanese, having failed to take Midway in 1942, really should have tried again in June of 1945, instead of wasting all that time on Okinawa.

ALSO IN THE STANDARD, Cesar Conda suggests some actions Bush could take on the economy without having to consult Congress: among them, "provide relief from Sarbanes-Oxley," which, scandalously, has "forced management and corporate board members to spend more time on accounting issues and less time expanding their businesses."

AND, Matthew Continetti considers Hillary's "lonely" position on Iraq, one which "leave[s] her to the right of the antiwar left and most other Democrats." Continetti seems to be trying to write a "Democrats divided" story here, by pointing out that "the Clintons are 'not there yet' on retreat from Iraq." The problem, of course, is that it's the Republicans who are really divided by the issue. While it's true that Hillary is at the tail end of the general Democratic movement towards full opposition to the war, the spin Continetti wants to put on it highlights a conceptual dilemma that we'll see emerging in a number of other conservative articles about the war: the gradually-developing understanding that the right's pro-war position is very unpopular (a point in which, perversely, conservatives can take a certain comfort), at the same time that they seem unable to fully let go of the idea that opposition to the war represents some extremist position which will lead to electoral doom for the Dems. Thus Continetti argues: "For four years [Hillary] has resisted the pull of the antiwar left. If she continues down that path, it may help her in the general election." Your basic conservative cognitive dissonance: the right is always embattled, but non-right-wing positions are for marginal whacko nutjobs.

Up-Is-Downism Award: Cross-Eyed and Painless

This week's Up-Is-Downism Award goes to Thomas Sowell of the National Review, who insists that Bush may have made mistakes in Iraq, but the war's critics couldn't see straight either. Mistakes? You've made a few, Dems! For instance:
Critics have been proved wrong repeatedly in their claims that elections could not be held in Iraq or a government formed there. Iraqi-voter turnout, even in the face of terrorist threats, has exceeded voter turnout in the United States.
Indeed. In the spirit of reconciliation, let's all list our mistakes. The war supporters can go first. Hunter will help you:
[The war] stripped forces from the Afghanistan conflict, thereby potentially dooming rebuilding efforts in that country; it was sold under roundly (and insultingly) misleading WMD claims involving "aluminum tubes" and WMDs that we knew existed, but an entire phalanx of CIA, NSA and U.N. observers could never manage to find hide nor hair of; it had no links to 9/11 to begin with; Kurdish political conflicts and skirmishes were already demonstrating the likelihood of civil unrest and an unstable, possibly untenable end state; stated required troop levels that were widely manipulative, the far more likely expert-calculated numbers being unsustainable; similarly outrageous predictions of a zero-cost occupation; that the United Nations was being not just ignored, but their mandate corrupted; and so on. Oh, and add to that that according to terrorism experts, bin Laden was explicitly trying to engage America in a broader Middle East war, under the banner of solidifying Muslim support for a pan-Arab Muslim state -- meaning the Iraq War was exactly what the 9/11 attacks were intended to provoke.
Okay, our turn: we totally didn't anticipate how nice those purple fingers would look on our Congresspeople. Beats sticky fingers, I suppose.

ALSO AT NRO, Grover Norquist has his libertarian schtick. But when he makes the mistake of standing next to real libertarians, the results can be embarrassing. Seems Grover is blue with anger over H.R. 6, the Clean Energy Act:
The clean-energy bill represents an effort to hinder American energy independence and raise taxes on both domestic oil producers and American consumers.
Norquist is outraged that Congress wants to charge royalty fees on oil drawn from Federal waters. It's unprecedented!
[T]he new Democratic majority intends to violate binding contracts, forcing domestic producers to accept a $9 per barrel royalty fee from the leases. If they do not except [sic], they lose the right to bid for federal property in the future.
What's more, it will surely lead to higher gas prices: Ford imposed royalty fees once, and look what happened! The Energy Crisis! (Here Norquist suggested that the Act, combined with one cutting off funds for the Iraq war, would guarantee a GOP victory in 2008 - oddly, this sentence was later deleted). If that's not enough, it'll increase our energy dependence:
While gas prices are creeping back down to $2 a gallon, Democrats are devising a plan to manipulate the energy markets, despite the disastrous consequences. The oil-tax increase will, by the laws of economics, decrease domestic energy production and provide a boost for OPEC producers — thereby increasing our energy dependence.
Convincing! And look, here's another NRO article on the Clean Energy Act, by Jerry Taylor & Peter Van Doren of the Cato institute, and it... Uh-oh, Grover.
The case for oil subsidies is laughably thin. Proponents argue that the more you subsidize oil production, the more oil you’ll get, and that, after all, is a good thing for consumers when gasoline prices are around $2.25 a gallon. Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough unexploited oil in the United States that might be exploited as a consequence of those subsidies to greatly affect world crude oil prices.
As for the supposed bait-and-switch with the leases:
In principle, there’s nothing wrong with renegotiating leases. Contracts, after all, are renegotiated in private markets all the time. If Party A refuses to renegotiate with Party B, there is no reason why Party B must commit to doing future business with Party A. If the taxpayer is being unfairly taken advantage of, there’s nothing wrong a call for renegotiation.
What's the catch? Well, primarily that Taylor and Van Doren don't like the idea of reinvesting the revenue gained from oil royalties in companies developing alternative energy. To them, this is just more "corporate welfare." It may or may not be. That's simply a question of whether you believe that government can play a role in fostering investment in areas vital to national development, security, and the general welfare.

MORE NRO: A pair of wealthy professors [correction: only Vedder is a professor - see Update at top of post], Richard Vedder and Brian Riedl, generously decline student aid relief on everyone else's behalf (I'm sure their grad students will thank them), Stephen Spruiell praises the Porkbusters, Peter Kirsanow takes the old Republicans-are-better-for-blacks diatribe out for its roughly bi-annual public appearance, and Phil Kerpen sounds the alarm over a proposed rules change at the SEC that would allow pension fund holders to gain seats on corporate boards: "That's called socialism." Touche!


The American Spectator wobbles a little bit on the war, as William Tucker tells us a long, Big Muddy-esque tale of How I Once Got Lost in the Woods and Almost Lost My Dog, So Remind Me What the Hell We're Doing in Iraq Again? (Actually, it's not a bad piece by Spectator standards.) Quin Hillyer, though, is having none of it:
Now that the president has made his decision, what is the alternative? What good does carping do? President Bush has tried the equivalent of a difficult bank shot in pool; the only way it can work is if other officials don't rock the table. The more they voice dissent, the less likely the Iraqis -- in government and on the streets -- will be to do their part to make the plan a success. And the only way for Bush to hold a strong enough hand to bring other nations on board to help is if he is seen as having significant support here at home. Victory is very, very difficult when the home front is not united. Last I checked, victory is still a highly valued commodity in these United States.
The brilliantly named H.W. Crocker III, meanwhile, suggests that the difficulty may be the President's unrealistically high expectations of "our little brown brothers" in Iraq (yes, he actually uses that phrase).

ALSO AT THE SPECTATOR, James Bowman, who when we last checked was making the case for "corporal punishment [and] fagging," congratulates men for having the good sense not to go wild the way the girls always seem to be doing these days, and Christopher Orlet makes the interesting observation that, if women keep going to college, our great-grandchildren will be reduced to grunting like Neanderthals.

MEANWHILE, at the American Enterprise Institute-funded online magazine, Jurgen Reinhoudt, responding to former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson's denunciation of small-government conservatism, accuses Gerson of being a commie:
Gerson's arguments, though flawed to the core, present a grave threat to the philosophical underpinnings of limited government conservatism and the legacy of Reagan in the Republican Party. At heart, Gerson's arguments are old Christian Socialist arguments, falsely presented as being "conservative."
Reinhoudt argues that "civil society" can deliver social-service-with-a-smile, which beats the hell out of getting your Thanksgiving turkey from a faceless bureaucrat. He also disputes Gerson's contention that "during the Reagan years, big government got bigger." Au contraire, says Reinhoudt: "Reagan was the only president over the past forty years to have cut inflation-adjusted non-defense spending." Compare this to Bush, who "has massively boosted spending on those departments and across the board." Conservatives, it seems, argue over the True Reagan the way any other religious group bickers over its prophet. Precisely whose schismatic, highly-specific modern agenda did He really endorse?

ALSO, Aparna Mathur makes the insightful - if rather obvious - point that harsher bankruptcy laws have a way of smothering entrepreneurialism, Dick Martin examines America's brand problem and suggests we learn a thing or two from the private sector about "competence and sincerity," and Jonathan Bronitsky warns that even the great David Beckham won't get Americans to fall in love with the beautiful game.

AND FINALLY...Speaking of famous people... Contra the Captain and Tennille, David Robinson argues that in an age where the internet has radically fragmented audiences and attention, not information, is the real commodity, celebrities will keep us together: "they create a community of watchers who, by paying attention to the same subject, come to share knowledge and experiences with one another." Thus fame is the new speaking in tongues. Might there may be some utility to that Hollyweird left after all?

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"An obscure but fantastic blog." - Markus Kolic


Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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