Reading this NY Times article (via TPM’s Yglesias) of what went wrong with training Iraqi police is yet another reminder of what’s wrong with the conservative system as a whole.
The main point is clear: They don’t believe in expertise, but instead believe that one guy is as good as any other. To them, expertise is just about obtaining the proper terminology and attitude; and that anyone with the right attitude can do anything. And so they send corrupt cop Bernard Kerik to Iraq without a clue or a plan; and he fails. Sure, as Yglesias points out, there are people with expertise in building and training police forces, and that Kerik wasn’t one of them. But who cares. He’s a cop. He’s famous. And most of all, he’s got attitude. That’ll be enough.
To conservatives, experts are just folks who specialize in certain areas so that they become better at faking it. To them, everyone’s faking it; and the so-called “experts” are just specialized fakers. People trying to psych you out with their credentials and fancy words. And to some extent, that is correct. But to conservatives, there’s nothing else. There is no knowledge. There is no truth. There is just attitude.
Hell, guys like Cheney and Rumsfeld built their careers on faking-out experts with their bullying and menacing attitude. They’re so good at it that it’s easy to see why they think they’re smarter than the experts. Because they’re louder and firmer, and those experts are so willing to back down…eventually. It’s all about the attitude, and these guys are experts in attitude. That’s why, to anyone paying attention, the people with the strongest attitudes are usually the least competent. Competent people don’t need strong attitudes; and for incompetent people, it’s all they’ve got.
And for that matter, this belief that anyone is as good as anyone else is apparent in their system of nepotism and favoritism. If Mr. Big’s Son is just as competent as anyone else; doesn’t it just make sense to please Mr. Big by hiring his son? And if Mr. Important Alumni’s Son is just as good as any other Yale applicant; doesn’t it make sense to please Mr. Important Alumni? And why bother hiring any experts? If one choice is good as any other, why focus on competence? Why not create a system of loyalists and favorites instead? Rather than getting so-called “experts” who will constantly try to flaunt their so-called “expertise”; they can hire sycophants who owe their career to their conservative benefactor. That’s clearly the Bush Admin’s attitude, and it shows.
Again, to conservatives, expertise is just about attitude. Attitude can be learned, but loyalty to the conservative cause cannot be. So they don’t hire experts. It sounds stupid, but is obviously what they believe.
Faking the Police
And it’s not just the folks we sent there. Conservatives apparently applied this Faker Knows Best policy to training the Iraqi cops and military. As if there’s nothing to being a cop but carrying a gun and shouting alot. As if training cops was just a matter of giving them a gun and having them do a few summersaults while shouting alot. And it’s not. It’s not just about attitude. The attitude is something you get from proper training; but it’s only the tip of the police training iceberg. And as with almost all important jobs, the most crucial stuff can only be learned on the job. And if you can’t rely on that, you better have a damn good training regimen. But in Iraq, we got neither.
And then there’s the conservative military fetish. Why mess with police actions? Just send in your biggest gun and clear everything out. That’s how it works. If a cop with a handgun is good, then a soldier with a machinegun is better. If a cop car will scare the baddies away, then a tank is just that much more effective. And don’t even get me started on the effectiveness of the nuke. Totally awesome.
Conservatives firmly believe that the best card to play is your strongest card; and that if it works once, you should keep playing it again and again. Somehow, it hasn’t occurred to them that the only way they can keep playing the same card is when they cheat. And while cheating in elections, politics, the media, and other unreal forums is easy; it really doesn’t work in real life. And so they do well in elections, politics, and the media; and completely screw-up everything else.
And again, this goes to show you how little the conservatives know about policing. Military guys shoot first and ask questions later. Survival is almost always the military’s top priority; as it’s the best way to ensure that we can live to shoot another day. But police work is different. Sure, they shoot people too. But that’s not the goal. The police goal is crime prevention. To catch bad guys. To allow a justice system to met out the punishment. And most of all, to give people a disincentive to doing bad things. To show people that there is more to justice than a bullet to the head.
That’s the goal. Not survival. Not victory. But peace. And that requires a completely different mindset. When someone shoots a soldier, the soldier is obligated to shoot back. When someone shoots a cop, that cop needs to find the shooter. This is a fundamental difference, but is one that conservatives just can’t understand. They don’t do finesse. It’s all about using your biggest gun all the time. Even if the big gun will destroy what you want.
The Hollywood Life
And this obsession with fakery also undermined our efforts in Iraq. Because the Bush Admin just couldn’t admit to any of this stuff. Their Iraq policy has always relied on trickery and lies in order to make it sound palatable to people who really aren’t into this kind of stuff. War supporters like war. Bombs. Shooting. That kind of stuff. And so that’s all the Bush Admin wanted to give them. And after the war’s over, you pull the troops home, throw a parade, and everyone’s happy. That’s how this was supposed to work.
And so it’s natural that they couldn’t make contingency plans, or plan to rebuild the police force, or send the proper troops, or the proper equipment. Because that all involves stuff that war supporters don’t like. These people have seen a lot of wars, and know that they always end with closing credits and patriotic music. And that’s what they wanted from this one. We send our troops, drop our bombs, and come back. The end.
And so why shouldn’t the Bush Admin just give that to them? Why muck around with endless plans and stupid redtape? Particularly if the dreaded “doves” get a hold of them and tell everyone about these plans? And after all, plans are just the things that people develop when they’ve got nothing better to do. Kind of like whittling.
And long after it became obvious that planning was necessary, the Bush Admin could never admit to this. Fakery had gotten them that far, and they were stuck with it. In essence, political reality had forced them to deny the real reality. But then again, even without political pressures to make Iraq look good, it’s unlikely that they’d have been able to take the proper actions. Bullshitters rarely do.
Processes for Pussies
Overall, the Conservative Way just doesn’t work. Because it relies on faking and cheating and fantasy to work; and can’t work otherwise. And that’s how they think we do it. They think we’re all cheaters, and that maybe they’ve just run into bad luck. But it’s not. That article highlights lots of Bush Admin screw-ups, but if you look into it a little further; you’ll realize that it couldn’t be any other way. Sure, the Bush Admin is incompetent, but their biggest incompetence was in getting us involved in this war. As I’ve been arguing since long before the war, wars are a risky thing with too many unknowns. But these people were just too stupid to understand that.
As is typical of incompetents, they have no idea that they’re incompetent. Nor do they understand why the “experts” are fussing so much. When a conservative fusses about something, they’ve got another goal in mind. They’re not raising a real objection. They’re putting the brakes on. The objection is just a ruse; in order for them to get their real goal. And so that’s what they think everyone else is doing too. They think it’s all about the end result; and that processes are for pussies. Doing actual work and planning is just redtape by people who have different goals. The ends justify everything.
And so they really do believe that environmental scientists are inventing data of global warming. And they really do believe that the CIA is too liberal and/or wimpy and is purposefully skewing their results. And they believe that democracy is a stupid label that stupids latched onto as a security blanket, and that you can still obtain the benefits of a democracy while instituting a dictatorship. Just as they believed that Saddam’s police force would be a good choice for policing Iraq; and that a corrupt police commissioner can build a foreign police force from scratch.
After all, if one person is as good as another, you might as well pick the guys that benefit you the most. And if things continue going as they are in Washington, conservatives will be learning that first hand come November. Namely, how easy it is to replace them for people who are more likely to benefit the voters.