Thursday, December 13, 2007

Victor Davis Hanson - Lancing the Boil

VDH wrote a column called "Lancing the Boil" in 2005. It's important to note that there's nothing wrong with making predictions and for someone to go around taking what a pundit says and having a laugh at their expense because they turned out to be wrong is kind of a childish exercise.

EXCEPT when that pundit is just, well, completely and utterly wrong and should have his pundit privileges taken away from him for being so goddamned ridiculous in public. Just when you think VDH has done enough damage at NRO, you can always find Derbyshire. A little Derbyshire goes a long way, though. And I definitely do not have the requisite fourteen hours per day to parse the insanity of a John Derbyshire and expose it to the light of reason.

I won't do the whole thing--no one has that kind of free time--but here's a few classic examples from "Lancing the Boil" that are good for a laugh. Click the link and go find others if you are so inclined. That's what comments are for.


--For some time, a large number of Americans have lived in an alternate universe where everything is supposedly going to hell. If you get up in the morning to read the New York Times or Washington Post, watch John Murtha or Howard Dean on the morning talk shows, listen to National Public Radio at noon, and go to bed reading Newsweek it surely seems that the administration is incommunicado (cf. “the bubble”), the war is lost (“unwinnable”), the Great Depression is back (“jobless recovery”), and America about as popular as Nazi Germany abroad (“alone and isolated”).

Now, VDH probably couldn't have forseen the collapse of the ownership society, the devaluation of the dollar, and the beginning of a long march towards seeing entire neighborhoods abandoned because the homes are built on debt and lies, but he should have forseen that if we continued with our policies in Iraq, we would see a decline in our stature. He knew in 2005 that we were torturing people, and when you go down that path, you lose your soul.

--But in the real adult world, the economy is red-hot, not mired in joblessness or relegating millions to poverty. Unemployment is low, so are interest rates. Growth is high, as is consumer spending and confidence. Our Katrina was hardly as lethal as the Tsunami or Pakistani earthquake. Thousands of Arabs are not rioting in Dearborn. American elderly don’t roast and die in the thousands in their apartments as was true in France. Nor do American cities, like some in China, lose their entire water supply to a toxic spill. Americans did not just vote to reject their own Constitution as in some European countries.

Notice how he looked at Katrina in 2005 and predicted that, because several hundred thousand people weren't killed, it wouldn't be considered a real "disaster." Well, the incompetence that was apparent in 2005 has reared its ugly head, and he should have forseen that it is still an issue. It's just not an issue anyone talks about in the media. American cities may not be losing their water to chemical spills, but Atlanta might lose its drinking water because the governor would rather pray for rain than actually change public policy (you know, raise taxes to fix the crumbling infrastructure? heard of doing that?). And interest rates are low because the Fed has enacted a policy of rewarding bad behavior. They simply can't go much lower. You can't have interest rates at zero.

--The military isn’t broken. Unlike after Vietnam when the Russians, Iranians, Cambodians, and Nicaraguans all soon tried to press their luck at our expense, most of our adversaries don’t believe the U.S. military is losing in Iraq, much less that it is wise now to take it on. Instead, the general impression is that our veteran and battle-hardened forces are even more lethal than was true of the 1990s — and engaging successfully in an almost impossible war.

Our veteran and battle-hardened forces are desperate for any kind of relief, and the most pressing relief they need is support from a medical support infrastructure that isn't meeting their basic needs. Their suicide rates are skyrocketing and are being hidden from view, covered up, and barely reported upon. When an Army wins a war, the injured and sick need to be taken care of just the same as when they lose or when they're caught in a perpetual meat grinder. Generally, homelessness, poverty, mental illness and suicides don't go through the roof when someone is winning and doing a good job of running things. Every time someone tries to get them relief--more funding, equal time at home for time deployed, etc., the Republican Party fucks over the Democratic Party in order to win a trivial political point.

On a side note, VDH says that the military isn't broken. Well, certain people know that it is, and they're taking advantage of it to line their pockets.

One egregious example, Borochoff said, is Help Hospitalized Veterans, which was founded in 1971 by Roger Chapin, a veteran of the Army Finance Corps and a San Diego real estate developer. The charity, which provides therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized veterans, reported income of $71.3 million last year and spent about one-third of that money on charitable work, the philanthropy institute said.

In its tax filings, Help Hospitalized Veterans reported paying more than $4 million to direct-mail fundraising consultants. The group also has run television advertisements featuring actor Sam Waterston, game show host Pat Sajak and other celebrities.

Chapin, 75, the charity's president, received $426,434 in salary and benefits in the past fiscal year, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service. His wife, Elizabeth, 73, received $113,623 in salary and benefits as "newsletter editor," the Post's review of the tax filing showed.

Generally, scams that prey on the generosity of the American people come and go with the times. It's scary how many are able to use the lies surrounding the Iraq war to make a nice profit. And it looks like they've turned over a barrel full of rats by looking at the charities that are taking advantage of the Iraq war. So many of them get "F's" that there isn't time to look at all of them.

Anyway, back to VDH:

--Nor are we creating new hordes of terrorists in Iraq — as if a young male Middle Eastern fundamentalist first hates the United States only on news that it is in Iraq crafting a new Marshall Plan of $87 billion and offering a long-oppressed people democracy after taking out Saddam Hussein. Even al Jazeera cannot turn truth into untruth forever.

Stop. You're embarrassing yourself. The war in Iraq has created scads of new terrorists and that "Marshall Plan" you're talking about has been pissed away by the most corrupt government in the world. Iraq's ministries are more corrupt than anything we've ever seen before. They're setting new standards for blatant thievery and corruption.

--Like it or not, wars are usually won or lost when one side feels its losses are too high to continue. We have suffered terribly in losing 2,100 dead in Iraq; a vastly smaller enemy in contrast may have experienced tens of thousands of terrorists killed, and is finding its safe havens and money drying up. Panic about Iraq abounds in both the American media and the periodic fatwas of Dr. Zawahiri — but not in the U. S. government or armed forces.

VDH didn't know anything about asymmetrical warfare in 2005, and it shows. It doesn't matter what the body count is. It never matters how many of them you kill versus how many of yours gets killed. It's a discussion about political solutions versus military solutions, and we're over four years down the road, and trying to save the egg by hitting it as hard as we can with the hammer, and it's not working any better today than it was in 2005.

I'll skip the rest--it's just boilerplate anyway--for this kicker:

--Donald Rumsfeld’s supposed gaffe of evoking “Old Europe” is trumped tenfold and almost daily by slurs that depict Abu Ghraib as worse than Saddam, Guantanamo as the work of Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot, Bush as the world’s greatest terrorist, the effort to democratize Iraq as unwinnable, and American troops terrorizing Iraqi women and children.

"Old Europe" sure looks a hell of a lot smarter than we do. Are they bogged down in the war? Of course not. The British and the Poles are abandoning the Iraqi theater as quickly as they can. Those aren't "slurs" that are being used to describe what is actually going on in Iraq. Unfortunately, those are the proceedings from various courts martial, and they become all too familiar each day. As in, more unnecessary bombings from the air, more unnecessary shootings from skittish guards who are forced to drive politicians and VIPS everywhere for dog and pony shows.

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