Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Department Store Democracy

Atrios provides us with our blog fodder for the day: A Q&A with WaPo Congressional Reporter Shailagh Murray.

The question asked is:
Why won't the politicians follow the polls when it comes to leaving Iraq?

To which Shailagh responds:
Would you want a department store manager or orthodontist running the Pentagon? I don't think so. The reason that many politicians are squeamish about hard and fast goals of any kind in Iraq is that there is no simple response or solution -- it would have emerged by now. A withdrawal by year's end carries enormous, very serious implications.

First off, let’s give a big WTF?!? for the withdrawal “carries enormous, very serious implications” line. What the fuck does that mean? Exactly which option doesn’t carry enormous, very serious implications in Iraq? He’s clearly using the “seriousness” as a device to dismiss this option; despite that it applies to anything we choose to do there. I suspect that this is more evidence that the Washington Establishment still refuses to acknowledge that staying in Iraq might be significantly worse than leaving.

And sure, that’s a debatable point. Yet Shailagh is clearly using the “seriousness” of it as a means of ending debate. Or specifically, to show that he doesn’t even see that there is a debate. All he knows is that withdraw is a bad option, so we’re stuck with “Stay the Course” or escalation. STC has been proven to be untenable politically, so we’re stuck with escalation.

Shailagh never says that, and probably would refuse to do so if prompted. But that’s obviously the only option he thinks we have. Sure, Americans continue to roundly dismiss that option; but the Washington establishment is convinced it’s the only way they can save their bloody war from being declared an official disaster. Just as McCain and Bush have done. The reality is that the “enormous and very serious implications” that Shailagh refers to are those associated with promoting the war; in that a withdraw would seal their fate as having been proven wrong on Iraq. But as long as they can keep troops there, everything is still in play.

Civilian Idiots

And then we have his idea that regular citizens like department store managers and orthodontists shouldn’t run the Pentagon. I suppose failed businessmen born with silver spoons would be much preferable over people who had actually accomplished things in life. After all, they already picked their expertise; whereas Bush was clearly the blank slate looking for something to finally succeed at. Odd that after six years, Shailagh still hasn’t noticed that governing isn’t Bush’s forte either. Would it be too late to get the store manager?

And then there’s the fact that civilians are supposed to be running the Pentagon. The civilians tell the military guys what we want done and the military guys then figure-out how to do it. But the military should have absolutely zero say in whether we stay or leave. Or perhaps not zero, but as much as say as any other citizen has. They can give opinions on how likely it is to work, but then the civilians need to choose the strategy. And Shailagh clearly knows that, as he continues to refer to civilian Bush as the guy pushing the “surge” and not the generals. But when it comes to his anti-democracy talk, this is the best he’s got.

Just to be sure it wasn’t a mistake, Shailagh clearly says this same line again. Like this:
One could certainly argue the Iraq strategy should be determined by the military and others who are running the war, and not by public opinion.

And despite his coyness, it’s obvious that the “one” who could certainly argue this would be Shailagh himself. This is his argument. Sure, one could also argue that Iraq strategy should be determined by the civilians who have been hired to run the military. And that one could also argue that these civilians should probably take cues from the people who hired them. But Shailagh won’t make that argument, because he’s completely lost his grip on how our government is supposed to operate.

Ignoring the Weather

This is also obvious when he responds to Rockville, MD, who didn’t ask a question, but merely stated that “polls do change a lot and to use them would be like following a weather vane”. To which Shailagh responds: “Where are the crazies today? You people sound so reasonable.”

Reasonable?? Nobody has suggested that politicians base their opinions on each and every poll that comes out. But these particular polls haven’t been changing like weather vanes; but rather have been building in the same direction for years. And in directions that almost the entire establishment has been wholly against. Had they allowed things to fall as they would, we would have been out of Iraq years ago. But then again, we wouldn’t have been there in the first place. This is the Washington Establishment’s war, and they haven’t given a damn what the “polls” tell them. And the “reasonable” people are those who agree with the establishment.

Moreover, people DO use weather vanes and they can be quite helpful. That’s why people have them. In fact, it would be stupid to ignore them if you needed them. And again, there’s the fact that these “polls” reflect the wishes of the people who hire the civilians who run the military. Imagine a corporation that went so entirely against their shareholders’ wishes. It’s almost as if the entire establishment has become convinced that the people vote as a reflection of God’s desire for who we should elect. Our opinions aren’t important. Our wishes are frivolous. All that’s important is to see who God told us to vote for on Election Day. We can be wholly ignored the rest of the time, as God already made his choice on that day. And as I suggested in my last post, perhaps “God” is just a shorthand way of referring to themselves.

One questioner actually follows up on the orthodontist line by saying that Jordan is being run by a dentist (something I’d never heard before); and that people there are happy with him. Upon hearing this, Shailagh can only make a joke about dental insurance and leaves it at that. But the point is irrefutable: Dentists and other regular citizens can run governments. And they do. And they run ours. The really weird thing isn’t that regular experts like doctors and lawyers can run things, but rather that we got saddled with a legacy president like Bush, with no sign of expertise whatsoever.

But Bush had the right breeding and background, and that’s always so important to these establishment types. And as long as the Washington Establishment stays tied to Bush’s fate, they’ll continue to consider his opinion to be far more valuable than store managers, orthodontists, and the rest of us rabble who are actually expected to do stuff successfully.

No comments: