Open Thread for Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Her Majesty

I hate to give y’all two Open Threads back-to-back, but it’s just one of those kinds of days:

  1. Federal grand jury indicts ex-North Charleston cop in shooting of Walter Scott — Not terribly surprising, but an important step in an important case.
  2. Islamic State Bombings Kill Dozens in Baghdad — Making the success of this administration’s ISIL strategy just look farther and farther away. As James Clapper indicated in the latest Ignatius column, this problem will await the next president.
  3. Spurning Unity, Trump Claims ‘Mandate’ to Be Provocative — So apparently, the internal campaign memo says, “Let Trump Be Trump.” As if he would or could be anything else. Meanwhile, it’s being said on the eve of Trump’s meeting with Speaker Ryan that “Trump and GOP leaders might never be on the same page.”
  4. Google Announces It Will Stop Allowing Ads For Payday Lenders — This is some good news. Google gets a conscience…
  5. Queen filmed calling Chinese officials ‘very rude’ — And she was not amused. See above. The remarkable thing about this is that Her Majesty wasn’t “caught” on some stranger’s phone video. This was released by the Palace. So, all together now: Harrumph!

84 thoughts on “Open Thread for Wednesday, May 11, 2016

  1. Bryan Caskey

    You say that the federal indictment of Slager is “not surprising”. It isn’t surprising in the sense that the federal prosecutors certainly have charges warranting an indictment. Sure.

    But what is surprising to me is that the feds are jumping in on this right now. SC has already charged him. Sure, the feds can charge him also, but typically you don’t see the feds step in unless a state fails to act or charges less than what the feds are looking for. Everything I’m seeing is that the SC charges are going to wind up with life in prison for Slager. (With the caveat that everyone gets his day in court.)

    Are the feds going to seek the death penalty here? If not, it seems like a massive waste of some federal prosecutor’s time. My point being, I find it surprising that the federal government isn’t letting the state case play out.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Good points.

      I actually had similar thoughts after I posted this, and was listening to a radio report about it on my way to a meeting…

    2. Mark Stewart

      My first thought was about the ex-cop’s attorney’s statement that a fight had occurred before the filming and that he “feared for his life”; the Feds may be concerned that SC’s expansive beyond the castle doctrine of self defense assertable in all cases might see this guy given immunity from prosecution.

      In that case, they are pre-emptively setting a prosecution backstop – just in case the SC judicial system wobbles.

      It might be redundant grandstanding, or it might be shrewd negotiating. In either case, it certainly narrows the defendant’s strategic options. The death penalty, life in state prison, or life in federal prison are now his paths forward. Getting off scott-free is off the table now.

  2. Bill

    No. 2 sounds like more selective reading to me. You leave the impression that what Clapper favors is for us to get in there (the Middle East) and clean house. When what he actually said – the entire thrust of the article – was quite the opposite: go slow, work at things incrementally and, most of all, recognize your limitations, because: We can’t fix it.

    And as for that comment about us needing to “stay in town,” I didn’t read that as veiled criticism of his own administration. It seemed to be addressed more at folks who think like Trump, who way back in 1987 published an open letter to the American people, entitled “Why America Should Stop Paying to Defend Countries That Can Afford to Defend Themselves.”

    Oh, and by the way, car bombs blowing up in Baghdad is hardly a new thing. It was going on while we were still there in big numbers.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Absolutely. Which is why I said what I said, that this incident makes success LOOK farther away. Which is what it’s intended to do. ISIL is reaching out to further destabilize the regime and LOOK like it can go where it wishes, despite setbacks elsewhere. It was a political bombing, and probably achieved its desired effect.

      And I didn’t say Clapper was criticizing Obama. I said he said this problem would await the next administration. Which it will. I didn’t say he was blaming anybody.

      The ideas all go together: While we’ve had battlefield gains, all indications are that this is a long-haul thing, so we need to “stay in town.”

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I can see how my first sentence (fragment) was open to misinterpretation. I blame myself.

        But I don’t see how my second sentence in any way suggested he was somehow indicting the boss. I guess my first sentence just pushed your perception in that direction…

        1. Bill

          You called Clapper’s comment on sticking around a “respectfully disloyal postscript” — “disloyal” sounds pretty critical to me.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Of course, the “stay in town” part does fit better with my view of things than it does with the president’s.

        This is an important point — unfortunately, it will take more time than I have this morning to explain my position, but let me try to do so briefly.

        Let’s go back to 2003. There were arguments both for and against going into Iraq. But the arguments against were fairly weak, which is why the consensus in Congress was to go ahead (which the left continues to give Hillary Clinton hell about). Here’s a column I wrote at the time about how much trouble the very brightest detractors had coming up with viable alternatives to going in.

        Nevertheless, I respected those who opposed this “war of choice” as they termed it. I think you’ll see that in that column.

        But… once we DID go in, that was it. In keeping with Powell’s Pottery Barn rule, once we broke Iraq (and whether we had been right or wrong to do so was irrelevant at that point), we had created instability for which we were responsible. I saw NO way we could leave in good conscience any time in the foreseeable future. And I saw the Howard Dean approach to be grossly irresponsible. I found the “let’s just get out” position to be unthinkable on both ethical and strategic grounds, and I’ve never been able to respect it. Oppose the initial invasion (which relatively few did) or not, once we were in, that was it.

        As I wrote at the outset of the invasion in what I remember as my “Rubicon” column,

        GEORGE W. BUSH has crossed his Rubicon, and he has taken us with him….

        This is one of those moments when everything changes….

        In other words, it will create both problems and opportunities, as do all of history’s great turning points….

        The United States can’t back down now. To do so is to show the kind of faintheartedness that (among many other factors) led to 9/11/01. Osama bin Laden made certain calculations after we backed off from finishing Saddam the first time, and then skedaddled out of Somalia as soon as we suffered some casualties. He thought that all he had to do to defeat us was draw blood.

        “The long haul” means a lot longer than four years, and there’s no going back. …

        So is that an endorsement of the incumbent in 2004? No. Because we have to face the fact that the “long haul” is also longer than eight years, and at the end of that time, we will definitely have a new leader. Whether we change horses in 2004 or 2008, we’re still going to be in midstream. This Rubicon is wider than the one Caesar crossed.

        So what do we do about it? A lot of the burden falls on Mr. Bush himself. He needs to sell this war, both to the American people and to our sometime allies, with the same kind of relentlessness with which he has moved on Saddam.

        Sure, he has tried. He’s done speeches, and generally said the right things. But he needs to try harder. That’s because his strategy is not going to succeed unless there is a sufficiently strong consensus in this country to support it for many years to come.

        That consensus will determine who the next president will be. And whether Mr. Bush wants to think about it or not, there will be a next president at some point.

        Of course, as it turned out, Bush himself backed away from his determination to see it through — although not until after his success with the Surge.

        Iraq wasn’t ready for us to “leave town” in 2011. We’re seeing the result of our doing so now….

        1. Doug Ross

          I would love to know what you imagined the end game was then and now. What can we accomplish? What HAVE we accomplished in more than a decade? When the next region of the globe becomes unstable due to civil and religious wars, do we go there as well permanently?

          The Pottery Barn analogy is so incredibly weak. We weren’t casually shopping in Pottery Barn and happened to accidentally bump into a vase and break it. We stormed into Pottery Barn with the explicit intent of knocking over every shelf, stealing the cash register, killing the manager, half the employees, and several of the customers who just happened to be in the store, letting some of our gang get shot in the process by the security guard, and then expecting the blood stained and maimed customers and surviving employees to thank us for our efforts. We will never be perceived by the people in that region as conquering heroes from a magic wonder land of democracy.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “The Pottery Barn analogy is so incredibly weak. We weren’t casually shopping in Pottery Barn and happened to accidentally bump into a vase and break it. We stormed into Pottery Barn with the explicit intent of knocking over every shelf, stealing the cash register, killing the manager…”

            We didn’t steal anything. We DID kill the manager, or allow his disgruntled employees to do so.

            But you’re completely missing the point. If you INTENTIONALLY broke the pot, your obligation to stay and make things right is exponentially greater than if you’d done so accidentally. And yeah, we broke the pot intentionally.

            Finally, you are (apparently willfully) confusing me with someone else with your scornful, “We will never be perceived by the people in that region as conquering heroes from a magic wonder land of democracy….”

            That’s a favorite straw man of the antiwar position — that neocons thought it would be SO easy, and all sweetness and triumph. And there may have been some who did — Donald Rumsfeld comes to mind.

            But NOTHING I have ever said indicated I thought that. EVERYTHING I have ever said — including all my words above — indicates my belief, from the start, that this would be extraordinarily difficult and take a very, very long time.

            And I really don’t see how anyone could think I ever said or believed anything else.

            1. Doug Ross

              Ok, it’s difficult. Now tell me what “it” is. There’s a line you cross when difficult becomes impossible. If I ask you to drain a bathtub with a thimble, that’s difficult. If I ask you to drain the ocean with a thimble, that’s impossible.

              What is the objective and what are the success criteria. Be specific. Because I was really duped back in the day when George Bush did his Top Gun act and claimed that the “Mission” was “Accomplished”. We didn’t accomplish anything. We failed and still are suffering the after effects.

              1. Doug Ross

                “We didn’t steal anything”

                Just a billions of deficit funded tax dollars that would have been better spent on domestic issues. We paid to blow up infrastructure over there while neglecting the infrastructure over here. Makes sense.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                “Mission Accomplished?” You mean, like the way President Obama declared mission accomplished when he “ended” the war by completely withdrawing in 2011?

                By the way, just as I can’t sit still when people repeat the “Bush lied” lie, I can’t let one of these obligatory “Mission Accomplished” moments go by without stating the facts about that as well:

                Although Bush stated at the time “Our mission continues” and “We have difficult work to do in Iraq,” he also stated that it was the end to major combat operations in Iraq. A banner stating “Mission Accomplished” was used as a backdrop to the speech yet it was requested by the crew and referred specifically to the aircraft carrier’s 10-month deployment and not the war itself….

                Do I fault Bush for playing the fighter jock and arriving for the speech in an arrested landing on the carrier with a flight suit on? Yep. That was way too “Top Gun.” Even though Bush had personally piloted high-performance aircraft, he was no naval aviator, and such bravado was unbecoming.

                But the way his critics twist the “Mission Accomplished” story is unfair.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Yeah, it’s too bad the Commander in Chief wasn’t there to order them to take down the misleading sign.

                  But I’m guessing Dick Cheney was off duck hunting or killing baby seals with his bare hands for fun.

                2. bud

                  At least you fault Bush for SOMETHING. The man was a complete disaster and THIS is what you fault him for? But not to miss out on an opportunity to serve up some good ole false equivalency you throw in this bit of nonsense:

                  “the way his critics twist the “Mission Accomplished” story is unfair”.

                  Brad you have blinders on when it comes to W. Since you seem like a pretty smart guy I’m at a loss to explain this man crush.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            We never stay long enough to find out where that point is.

            Oh, wait — I forgot that we’ve kept a significant military presence in Korea 60 years, and Germany and Japan 70 years. Haven’t reached that point yet.

            As a nation, we used to have a longer attention span…

            1. bud

              And we should be long gone from both Korea and Europe and Japan and the ME. We don’t accomplish anything except spending enormous amounts of money and engender ever more animosity and hatred. How much proof do we need?

              1. Bryan Caskey

                You sound like Trump. Trump wants us to pull out of Japan and Korea. Doing so would directly lead to each country developing nuclear weapons and create a multi-polar environment in the Far East where all the powers still harbor old hatred of each other. Gosh, that sounds wonderful.

                You sound like Trump with respect to Europe, too. Trump has declared NATO obsolete and wants us out of Europe. Sure, let’s allow Putin’s Russia to have even more dominance over Europe. I’m sure that will work out well for the Baltic States.

                1. Bob Amundson

                  The America First Committee’s best known leader was Charles A. Lindbergh, and included critics of Roosevelt from the right (Col. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune) and the left (the socialist Norman Thomas), along with stolid isolationists (senators Burton Wheeler of Kansas and William A. Borah of Idaho) and the anti-semitic Father Edward Coug.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Yeah, but when your nickname is “The Lone Eagle”, you kinda have to be an isolationist. 🙂

                    All kidding aside, Lindbergh was an interesting guy. After Pearl Harbor, he did a complete 180 and supported the war. He even attempted to rejoin the United States Army Air Forces. Unfortunately, Roosevelt held a grudge and spitefully refused ordered that Lindbergh not be given a commission. Lindbergh was disappointed, and attempted to get jobs consulting for aircraft manufacturers, and was turned down over and over because Roosevelt (still holding a grudge) made it known that any contractor who hired Lindbergh would lose his contract with the US government.

                    Eventually, Henry Ford hired Lindbergh as a consultant because he wasn’t afraid of the US government pulling it’s contract. As Ford put it, “The US Government needs me more than I need it.” Lindbergh helped out with the design problems of the B-24, and also did some great work studying how aircraft handled in combat. He even flew some combat missions (as a civilian) and the guys flying with him sort of turned a blind eye to a few instances when Lindbergh actually became a combatant, rather than simply observing.

                    A great book about him, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Jimmy Doolittle is The Aviators. I read it last summer, and it’s a phenomenal book. There are over a hundred little stories packed in there, and it’s a great in-depth look at each one of these guys who are titans in the world of aviation.

                    P.S. The more I read about Roosevelt, the less I like him.

                2. Doug Ross

                  “. Doing so would directly lead to each country developing nuclear weapons and create a multi-polar environment in the Far East where all the powers still harbor old hatred of each other. ”

                  It’s a shame we don’t have any technology that would allow for monitoring the activities of foreign countries. I hope someone invents that one of these days. I will call it a “satellite”.

                  Sarcasm off. Our physical presence is no longer needed anywhere to prevent nuclear development. We can see anything going on from far away, can drop bombs in a matter of hours. What exactly are the troops on the ground in Germany, Japan, etc. DOING?

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    It’s a shame we don’t have any technology that would allow for monitoring the activities of foreign countries. I hope someone invents that one of these days. I will call it a ‘satellite’.

                    Sure. We can watch in real time as the combat unfolds.

                    “What exactly are the troops on the ground in Germany, Japan, etc. DOING?”

                    In Japan, we’re responsible for the defense of Japan. The main role is deterrence of foreign aggression against Japan. In Germany, our forces are there because it’s the center of gravity for NATO. But if you’re against us being in NATO, I can understand why you would see this as pointless.

                3. Doug Ross

                  I’m not opposed to NATO. I’m opposed to using ground troops in an age of drones, satellites, missiles, etc.

                  What do they do all day? Go through intricate “Stripes” style marching routines? “That’s The Fact, Jack!” How many troops are required to be there? Wikipedia says there are 50,000 plus 40,000 dependents plus 5,500 civilians. What the #%#% are they doing? And what is Japan giving us in return?

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “What the #%#% are they doing?”

                    Jeez. As a friend, I just want to let you know that comes across as really smug. What does the III Marine Expeditionary Force do all day? I’ve got a friend who graduated from Annapolis, was commissioned as Marine, and he’s forward deployed to Okinawa with his wife and child right now. He doesn’t just lay around on the beach all day, I can guarantee you that. Next time I e-mail him, I’ll ask him what the #%#% he does all day and see if I can get you a tick-tock.

                    I’m guessing the 3rd Marine Division doesn’t do too much close order drill (a/k/a “marching routines” as you put it) because I’m guessing that they aren’t doing basic training. My guess is that they’re probably conducting amphibious assault training since that’s what they do.

                    The Marines on Okinawa are a tangible sign of our defense of Japan. They deter aggression from China. They also probably project force in a supporting role to South Korea. I guarantee you that if we pulled out of the Far East, Japan and South Korea would immediately have to massively increase their military. They wouldn’t have a choice. That would include getting nuclear weapons.

                4. Doug Ross

                  Sorry, Bryan, but I will have to disagree with you that the physical presence of 50K troops in Japan is doing anything to stop China or North Korea from doing anything. China has 2.8 million troops. North Korea has upwards of 9 million. Our guys may be good but not that good.

                  The greatest deterrent to those countries developing nuclear weapons is them knowing we have them and will use them.

                  And I’ll ask again, what do we get in return for the protective service we provide?

                5. Doug Ross

                  And sorry if it comes off as smug. Unfortunately, it is considered bad form to question anything about our military’s actions by some people.

                6. Brad Warthen Post author

                  And for other people, if it’s military, it’s BAD.

                  I’ll tell you what they’re doing in those places — serving an actual useful PURPOSE, as opposed to being on bases within the U.S., where they are not.

                  And that purpose is preventing renewed war by their presence. Like control rods in a nuclear reactor. And if, contrary to expectations (based on all these decades of experience), trouble DOES break out in those places, they’re already where they need to be.

                  All of that said, the question of “what they do” reminds me of a bit of Navy chauvinism I learned from my Dad. He likes to say the Army — and to a great extent the other services aside from the Navy — don’t do anything most of the time except train, PRACTICING to do their jobs.

                  Whereas if you’re in the Navy, and you’re at sea, you’re DOING your job, day in and day out. You’re sailing the ship. Sailors have a dual purpose: They have to sail the ship, and they have to fight. They’re always doing the former, less often the second Bryan is probably seeing in the O’Brian books he’s reading how in the Age of Sail captains had to concern themselves with having enough sailors to do BOTH in the middle of a battle.

                  The Navy. while it’s seldom engaged directly in fighting these days (unless they’re SEALs, or among those sailors who’ve received infantry training to do land convoy duty, and there are probably fewer of those since we left Iraq), still has to sail the ships 24/7.

                  But wherever they go, they’re serving the same purpose as those people we have in places like Korea — serving as a counterbalance to instability elsewhere on the globe, and also being in a position to exert force quickly wherever trouble springs up…

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    There’s some truth to the Navy chauvinism, there. That’s because the Navy’s job inherently puts them on the front lines beyond our country’s borders. The whole point of a Navy is to have it be out there, (imagine me pointing out the window) keeping the high seas navigable for shipping and to project power in unstable areas. An ideal example of this would be our submarine forces, specifically our Ohio-class subs, whose entire job consists of finding a hole in the ocean and disappearing for months at a time.

                    The Army is more like a big, slow, bulldozer that mostly stays dormant. It takes awhile for the Army to wake up get going and to get places, but once it gets going…boy look out.

                    1. Bryan Caskey

                      Kaffee: Lt. Kendrick… can I call you John?
                      Lt. Kendrick: No, you may not.
                      Kaffee: Have I done something to offend you?
                      Lt. Kendrick: No, I like all you Navy boys. Every time we’ve gotta go someplace to fight, you fellas always give us a ride.

                      Video here.

                7. Brad Warthen Post author

                  But it’s really pointless trying to explain these things to Doug and Bud, because they want this to be a smaller, weaker, poorer country that just doesn’t have dealings with the rest of the world, and therefore doesn’t give a damn about collective security.

                  Their notion of what the country should be FAR predates 1945 — it’s probably more like 1845, if not earlier.

                  But we were never really that totally isolated nation of self-sufficient yeoman farmers that Jefferson dreamed of (as he showed he knew when he sent the Navy after the Barbary pirates), and to the extent that we once were, we really don’t have a realistic option for returning to that…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                So… going after the Taliban and al Qaeda after 9/11 was useless? And if it wasn’t, when was the magic moment when it BECAME useless?

                And for his part, Zakaria doesn’t think we should leave Afghanistan: “I am not opposed to a longer-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan, especially because the country’s elected government seems to want it.”

                But boy is he a pessimist about it… That’s why it’s depressing…

                And I’m not arguing with his assertion that nation-building is way, WAY harder than knocking over bad regimes. I’ve always agreed with that.

                But man, what a Captain Bringdown he is in that piece. Reminds me of Ecclesiastes:

                2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
                3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
                4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
                5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
                6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
                7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
                8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
                9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
                10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
                11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
                12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
                13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
                14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
                15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
                16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
                17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
                18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

                1. Bill

                  It certainly COULD prove useless – if it turns out like the parallel Zakaria points to: Vietnam. Our involvement there certainly turned out to be useless. (Though it sounds like you would still have us there, too, fighting the Vietcong.) Funny thing about Vietnam, though: Our goal in that war was a regime that was more or less friendly to us and our interests in the region. And that’s pretty much what we got in the end – despite losing that war. Which makes the war we fought and the losses it produced sort of doubly pointless.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Actually, no — Vietnam was part of our Cold War policy of containment. And if you’ll recall, we won the Cold War.

                    We no longer have that same problem with Vietnam. Not because we “lost” but because we won — the Cold War.

                    Of course that win, in keeping with Zakaria’s thesis, has led to other problems — the madness in the Balkans we had to deal with, Russia’s inferiority complex that has led to Putinism, the moves on Georgia and Ukraine, etc.

                    But on the whole, it’s good we won and the Soviets didn’t…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      And containment, by the way, is a perfectly respectable approach. It’s what we were doing with Saddam before 2003, and the most viable argument against our invasion was that we should continue that policy.

                      But because Vietnam for us was about containment, we were destined to “lose.” there. We could have driven on Hanoi and taken down North Vietnam, but that wasn’t even considered, because we were about containment. We were on perpetual defense, and you don’t win wars that way, not with a determined enemy. All the North and the Vietcong had to do was hang in there until American will to stay evaporated on the home front.

                    2. Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson

                      “We were on perpetual defense, and you don’t win wars that way, not with a determined enemy.”

                      Never mind the maneuvers, just go straight at them.

                2. Mprince

                  How did the war in Vietnam contribute to winning the Cold War? I’ll give you the answer: It didn’t. It was a massive waste of effort, money and lives that did not advance our cause in the Cold War, nor serve to help us “win” it. The same may well be true about our current conflict: Defeating Al Qaida or Daesh or whatever form they take next does not contribute to winning the GWOT – because, in essence, it’s not a war. It’s a conflict of ideas and ideals driven by the misuse of religion by zealots. For them it’s an ideological crusade – and one in which we (the US, the “West”) are, really, only bit players. The prize for the other side isn’t defeating the “unbelievers,” it’s winning over the Muslim world. Our mistake comes in acting as if it’s really all about us. And when we do that, we feel compelled to take actions that are not in our fundamental interest.

                  Great powers fall of their own accord, not by failing to counter real threats but by acting like control freaks, overextending themselves in pursuit of grandiose designs and trying to combat every perceived opponent.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    “How did the war in Vietnam contribute to winning the Cold War?”

                    I don’t know. How did the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest contribute to winning the Second World War? It was pretty much a mess, a miscalculation, some might say a disaster. But it was a battle fought in the context of that successful war. Which was my point.

                3. Mprince

                  It’s hard to tell whether you’re just obtuse or eager to embrace any absurdity you think furthers your argument – though the two may actually be one and the same. Because it is definitely an absurdity to say that because we “won,” everything we did must inevitably in some way have contributed to our “victory.”
                  Fundamentally, however, our “triumph” in the Cold War came merely of being the “last country standing,” so to speak. Because we did not defeat the Soviet empire, it fell of its own internal contradictions in pursuing those grandiose designs I mentioned before — with the final act of that effort directed at the graveyard of great powers: Afghanistan.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    “Because it is definitely an absurdity to say that because we ‘won,’ everything we did must inevitably in some way have contributed to our ‘victory.'”

                    That may be an absurdity, but I didn’t say that. Nor did I say Hurtgen Forest contributed to victory in Europe.

                    I said both were battles fought in the context of a larger war, and that larger war was successful in each case.

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    “Because we did not defeat the Soviet empire, it fell of its own internal contradictions…”


                    I’m still going to count that as a “win”. 🙂

                    1. Bryan Caskey

                      That’s like a losing baseball team saying: Your team didn’t really “win”. Our team just made a lot of errors which led to your team scoring lots of unearned runs. If we hadn’t made all those errors, we would have totally won the game.

                    2. Bryan Caskey

                      By the way, that’s the best kind of win, right? By that, I mean the kind that doesn’t end in a global thermonuclear war.

                      Having the Soviet Union crumble from within is like back in the day when the Plains Indians “counted coup” on an enemy by coming up to them and touching them without killing them and returning alive. We beat them without having to kill them…which is good.

                    3. General Jack D. Ripper

                      “By the way, that’s the best kind of win, right? By that, I mean the kind that doesn’t end in a global thermonuclear war.”

                      Speak for yourself, commie.

                    4. 'Buck' Turgidson Post author

                      Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks…


                4. Phillip

                  Bryan, that’s a pretty good baseball analogy. Also kind of similar to the ongoing fantasy that we would have beaten the Vietnamese eventually if we had really wanted to. We just didn’t play our big sluggers, right?

                  Vietnam would simply have denied the existence of a 9-inning limit, no matter what the score. And they would have kept finding new players. The game simply meant more to them, as it would have to us had the roles been reversed.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Vietnam would simply have denied the existence of a 9-inning limit, no matter what the score.”

                    You’re probably right about that, Phillip.

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      You know, if we could explain everything in the world with baseball analogies, the world would make a lot more sense than it does…

                5. Mprince

                  So, Mr. Warthen’s point, to the degree I can find a point at all, seems to be, it doesn’t matter that we wasted our time (and a considerable number of lives in Vietnam), because we won the Big’un. Hmm, how thoughtful.

                6. Phillip

                  And, of course, a Vietcong fighting near his home village would be intrigued to know that the foreign army he faced, 8000 miles from its home, was actually “on perpetual defense.”

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    How would you characterize it? Where were the big ground offensives? When did we try to take Hanoi and fail?

                    I’ll admit I don’t know nearly as much about that conflict as I should — it was too current to be taught as history when I was in school, and before I followed such things as news.

                    So there might have been huge initiatives I don’t know about — something by our side like the Tet offensive, or the North’s final drive on the South. But as I say, I just don’t know…

              2. Mprince

                Well, there were our “offensives” (i.e. undeclared wars) in Cambodia and Laos. Not altogether unlike our current undeclared wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc. War in one place bleeding into other places (a.k.a. “mission creep”).

  3. Doug Ross

    ” I said he said this problem would await the next administration. Which it will. ”

    And the administration after that one. And the one after that one. And the next one. And then another ten. There is no solution, no end game. Ignore them until they actually pose a direct threat to the U.S. and then wipe them out.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      “Ignore them until they actually pose a direct threat to the U.S. and then wipe them out.”

      See, the problem I have is that I really like to accomplish tasks. I love making To-Do lists, because I love crossing things off the list. Accordingly, I really don’t want to wait for these people to become a threat since we all know that, if left unchecked, they will. I just want to skip ahead to the “wipe them out” part since I know we’re gonna have to do that anyway.

      I’m just too Type-A, I guess.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, it doesn’t matter what else we do. I don’t care what Sollozzo says about a deal, he’s gonna kill Pop. That’s it. That’s a key for him. Gotta get Sollozzo….

      2. bud

        Accordingly, I really don’t want to wait for these people to become a threat since we all know that, if left unchecked, they will.

        LOL. What we KNOW is that by constantly meddling we’ve both created these radical groups AND served as a recruiting godsend to them. Starting with the British and to a lessor extent the French this ME meddling has been going on for a hundred years now. It’s a fools errand to continue the same strategy that fails over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Her Majesty

    BrienneoftarthThat police commander should drop to one knee rather than talk down to Her Majesty that way — even though she strikes a respectful posture, the optics are all wrong.

    Due to her towering (compared to the monarch) height, she comes across as a less deferential version of Brienne of Tarth. Brienne would be down on one knee, offering her sword to the queen — and the Chinese who insulted her ambassador would be in some serious trouble.

    People just don’t have proper respect these days, or in this universe. Harrumph…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Eh, that’s pretty weak tea. I’m not sure you can say he’s bought a seat on the bandwagon just yet.

      I bet Kasich ends up supporting Trump before Graham does.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      That story changes nothing. He’s still not voting for Trump and not voting for Clinton, but pledges to do what he can to work with whoever is elected. This is what he said last week.

      The person I’m disappointed in is John McCain.

      Here’s a story on the split between them over Trump from this morning’s post. I’ve been meaning to post about it today, but haven’t found the time…

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and Doug, I just can’t even begin to understand why you see this exactly backwards. Lindsey Graham has been the loudest, most insistent, most articulate and most widely quoted critic of Trump in the country. That’s not a description of a guy who “float(s) along as the political winds blow” — it’s the precise opposite.

      It seems to me that your capacity to look at white and see black has no limits. 🙂

      1. Doug Ross

        Lindsey bought the ticket for the bus. Once he finds out the bus is headed for the White House, he will hop on board. Trust me, if Trump starts showing signs of winning, he’ll find some way to walk back his statements.

        Read between the lines. He was loving the attention from Trump. I foresee a day a few months from now when he proclaims Trump a changed man. All it takes is a few strokes of Lindsey’s ego.

        1. Doug Ross

          According to Trump, Lindsey called HIM. If true, that’s a sign that Lindsey is trying to do some legwork in case he needs to back off his statements about Trump. He’s a political weathervane.

          Would any person with integrity call a guy who savaged him so badly in public?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            For the same reasons Paul Ryan would have meetings with him. They think they have to be loyal Republicans and TRY to deal with the guy being their nominee in some manner.

            But bottom line, for both of them, there are no good options, no good way to deal with the fact that their party’s standard-bearer is their worst nightmare…

            1. Doug Ross

              But Ryan has a position that would require him to work with Trump. Lindsey doesn’t have to be a partisan Republican, does he?

              Just wait. The rhetoric will change as the summer goes along… especially if Trump starts looking more viable. Lindsey does not want to be on the outside looking in if Trump manages to win.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                That’s right, as he is indicated — he wants to work with whoever the president is. That’s what he said last week, and again this week.

                It was the same after the 2008 election. He and McCain very publicly tried to work with Obama on foreign policy. But it didn’t last…

                1. Doug Ross

                  He can’t say he’s not going to vote for Trump and then expect Trump to pay attention to him if he wins. Lindsey will be on an island and look even worse than he has this year with his failed campaign and inability to deliver any voters to Bush in SC.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Well, he didn’t vote for Obama, either, but there was a time there when both sides were trying to build a working relationship. They made a public point of it, and I said very good things about it — while it lasted.

                    Of course, I wouldn’t expect that kind of maturity from Trump… BUT… the guy is so mercurial, changing from moment to moment, that you never know.

                    Let’s just hope and pray that we never have to find out.

                    As for Hillary — despite all the Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! nonsense, Lindsey already has a history of working with her constructively…

                2. Tex

                  “Benghazi nonsense”… I wonder if that’s how the families of the four dead men feel about it. Think they’ll vote for Hillary?

        2. Tex

          Lindsey is going to buy whatever ticket puts him in front of a camera. He spends more time on television than any other Tier III politician.

  5. Tex

    May 1961: President Kennedy
    “We will put men on the moon.”

    May 2016: President Obama
    “We will put men in women’s restrooms.”

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