Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hagel's dialectic

Would you take a Titus Andronicus from this man? Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, via Wikipedia.

I'm generally very hesitant to take issue with anything Marcy Wheeler says, because I realize she has tens of thousands of pages of legal filings, some incredibly technical, virtually committed to memory, and woven into an apparently nearly coherent narrative, and when I can't follow her arguments I have to assume it's my fault because I'm not smart enough, but the fact is that when I can penetrate the narrative I'm not completely sure I can differentiate it from the kind of narrative that shows how the Earl of Oxford wrote all of Shakespeare's plays and poems (you can make up a story, but it only makes sense if you really want it to), and yesterday, when the folks at Emptywheel were dealing with documents I can understand and vying amongst each other over who can be angriest about how poor pacifist Chuck Hagel was tossed out of the Pentagon because of his interference with the president's plan to plunge the world into perpetual war as Emperor of Mesopotamia, I just got fed up.
In recent days, the press has reported that President Obama signed an order (or on second thought, maybe it’s just an unsigned decision that can’t be FOIAed, so don’t start anything, Jason Leopold) basically halting and partly reversing his plans for withdrawal....
And now that Obama has made it clear he will spend his Lame Duck continuing — escalating, even — both forever wars he got elected to end, he has fired forced the resignation of the Secretary of Defense he hired to make peace.
Aside from noting that there is no reason to suppose that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is being in any way halted, let alone reversed, "basically" or otherwise, as opposed to what has been announced, that the boots are going to be in some sense slightly more on the ground than seemed to be the plan, Hagel has been fighting the cuts he was hired to implement in the defense budget from July 2013 until four days ago. His chief firing offense, according to the Times account, was his hysterical public disagreement with the president's hopeful suggestion that the "Islamic state" was less than an existential threat to the entire world:
directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad. Mr. Hagel, facing reporters in his now-familiar role next to General Dempsey, called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful...
And it's clear that in the case of the Afghanistan rules of engagement Hagel was on the more belligerent side, which ended up being the president's side as well, which the president may now be regretting.
Mr. Obama’s decision, made during a White House meeting in recent weeks with his senior national security advisers, came over the objection of some of his top civilian aides, who argued that American lives should not be put at risk next year in any operations against the Taliban — and that they should have only a narrow counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda.

But the military pushed back, and generals both at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan urged Mr. Obama to define the mission more broadly to allow American troops to attack the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants...
Hagel also found himself unable to understand why the US couldn't participate in attacks on the Caliphate and its most direct enemy, the Assad regime in Syria, at the same time, as he apparently wrote in a memo to National Security Director Susan Rice in October, and he was letting it show in public, being unable to answer questions on the subject without stepping on his tongue. And apparently he was so upset about the Stupid Shit shortage in the White House he went to complain about it to Stupid Shit King John McCain (via Steve M). Update 12/19: And he was stonewalling on the release of prisoners from Guantánamo in Republican dick style.

So Hagel has become a member in good standing of the Stupid Shit Caucus, which advocates Stupid Shit as a superior alternative to waiting. Which is not a firing offense—Obama wants them represented in the administration and they always have been in his would-be "team of rivals" approach; what he was fired for was taking the fight for Stupid Shit outside the cabinet and calling the president's non-stupid choices into public question, repeatedly. If he couldn't get on board with the policy he ought to have resigned anyway.

But the Emptywheel/Dudebro community is just out of touch with reality here.

Some new evidence on Obama's strategy in the Middle East being, as I've been saying, not military but political, showed up in remarks Obama made on the subject of Bashar al-Assad to reporters in Brisbane on November 16, after the G-20, quoted in a no-byline article in Al-Monitor:
On the role of Assad in the battle with IS and in a political transition in Syria, Obama said [November 16] “there’s no expectation that we are going to in some ways enter an alliance with Assad. He is not credible in that country. Now, we are looking for a political solution eventually within Syria that is inclusive of all the groups who live there — the Alawite, the Sunni, Christians. And at some point, the people of Syria and the various players involved, as well as the regional players — Turkey, Iran, Assad’s patrons like Russia — are going to have to engage in a political conversation. And it’s the nature of diplomacy in any time, certainly in this situation, where you end up having diplomatic conversations potentially with people that you don’t like and regimes that you don’t like. But we’re not even close to being at that stage yet.”
One huge thing that has to be taken care of if we're to get to that stage is the deal with Iran, which must participate in the political effort to get rid of Assad. The Al-Monitor article goes on to note,
Iran is not necessarily immovable on Assad’s survival. Iran’s four-point plan for Syria includes a decentralization of power away from the Syrian presidency. Iranian officials privately signal that Assad may not be untouchable, under the right conditions, but such conversations — if they are to bear fruit — can only occur with Iran in a spirit of collaboration, not confrontation. Otherwise, Iran will simply hunker down, and the war will go on.
The fundamental task is to get rid of sanctions on Iran, and the Stupid Shit Caucus is the reason it's so difficult.

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