Various & Sundry, 1/23/08

Some thoughts on life, the universe and everything:

* I’m feeling much better today, probably due to the fact I spent about 30 of the last 36 hours dead asleep. This is how my body works when I’m sick: It pretty much shuts down completely and fixes itself while I’m unconscious. I wouldn’t say I’m operating at 100% at the moment, but at the very least I can stay awake for more than 45 minutes at a time, which is a good start.

* Some good news yesterday: The Android’s Dream has made its second foreign sale, this time in Germany (the previous foreign sale was in Russia). This foreign sale comes with its own interesting milestone: Thanks to the current exchange rate between the euro and the dollar, I’m actually getting paid more for the German version of TAD than I got paid for the English language version. Go, me. Yesterday I also got my delivery check for The Rough Guide to the Universe, second edition, which means I’m done with that, and also I can pay my mortgages this month. Go me again.

* Heath Ledger: Bummer. One of my favorite young actors who could make even the silly crap he sometimes did (cf: A Knight’s Tale) tolerable. Here’s to hoping his turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight is brilliant; if he had to go, we can hope he goes on a high note.

* The Bush Administration made hundreds of false statements leading up to the war in Iraq? That’s unpossible! Honestly, don’t know what else to say about something this obvious.

* Fred Thompson out of the presidential race: Meh. We knew this was coming. The real question at this point is why Giuliani is still in it. Yes, I know he’s betting everything on Florida, but I don’t think it’s going to turn out the way he wants.

* Yesterday I pretty much existed on sleep and water, which means that I was unconscious through any caffeine withdrawal I had. That being the case, I’ve decided that today is an excellent day to radically downstep my caffeine consumption. I’ve been sucking down four to six Coke Zeros daily, which is not a great thing, so this morning I went to the store and stocked up on a whole bunch of caffeine-free drinks. The plan is to get myself down to a single caffeine jolt in a day, and thus to avoid the twitchiness that invariably engulfs me in the early afternoon. We’ll see how this works in reality, but that’s the plan for now.

And that’s what’s going on in my world.

56 thoughts on “Various & Sundry, 1/23/08

  1. Glad to hear your feeling better, and good luck with the caffeine withdrawals. Most of my friends drink Yerba Mate, swearing that it’s not addictive like caffeine while sucking it down like the desperate and twitchy addicts that they are. To each his own.

  2. I’m psyched about the Rough Guide.

    I’m ambivalent about Fred’s bowing out.

    I’m sad and annoyed by Heath Ledger’s untimely departure.

    I’m unsurprised by Bush Co’s. lying.

    GAH!!! 4-6 Coke 0’s?! Argh!!! I am John Scalzi’s frayed nerves and deadened intestinal cilia!!!

    I’ve been there, though. No fun. I used to get by on a couple molto venti soy latte’s from Starbark’s until they were linked to the crippling migraines. Now it’s a few cups of tea a day.

    Glad you’re better. We like you when you’re better. You get grouchier when you’re better.

  3. Glad to hear you’re recovering.

    And good luck with the caffeine withdraw, man. It took me almost a month to get over the symptoms completely. (But then, I’m migraine-prone to begin with and was drinking more of it than you, so Your Mileage Will probably Vary like a Hybrid to an H2).

  4. Good luck with kicking the caffeine thing. I did notice that Coke Zero was everywhere at Confusion and that you always seemed to have a can in your hand.

    Back in school I got hooked on Mountain Dew (yeah, tastes horrible, but the caffeine rush, that was totally worth it). Really, I don’t remember when I slept those last two years. It took me a long time to get over it. I still can’t drink it. Like an alcoholic, if I start drinking it again, I won’t be able to stop.

  5. John, I have one word for you: espresso.

    Provided you don’t overdo it, it’s one of the healthiest caffeinated drinks out there. Really! Low acidity, lots of antioxidants, all that good stuff. And it really is a jolt — which I find tides me over through most, if not all, of the afternoon.

  6. I should clarify that I’m talking about making espresso at home — going to Starbuck’s for espresso is like going to Denny’s for steak. You can do it, but you ain’t gonna get a lot from it.

  7. Amateur. I heard John Scalvi drinks 10 Coke Zeros a day, and washes them down with a six pack of Red Bull.

  8. Drink lots of plain, filtered water. Every time I cut down the sodas (caffeinated or otherwise) and drink more water I feel better.

    Also, upon consideration, I’ll be posting under my name (Ian McCullough) instead of Bookninja. Because, honestly, who cares?

  9. You know caffeine prevents Alzheimer’s right? Or did you forget that already? Hope it works.

    As to the Bush Admin’s lying, let’s review… How can you tell a politician is lying? The lips are moving. Seriously. Most of ‘em wouldn’t tell the truth if it were more beneficial than lying. They might get out of practice. I think they’ve undercounted. (And I’d still vote for him in Y2K and 2K4 if given a do-over.)

  10. I became a Diet Coke fiend on accident. Once I did, I could no longer drink regular Coke, but I’d sooner consume that than Coke Zero, which I deem a foul mutant. (The taste doesn’t agree with me.)

    Good luck cutting down. You may find it to be trickier than expected. The body develops its own special fondness for the neurotoxins in the stuff ;-)

  11. As you mentioned book check$ this might be the time to ask a question that has been bugging me. What is the split like for authors on hardback sales vs paperback? I am talking general authors good/popular enough to get both hardback and paperback releases but not the “superstars” like King and Rowling. I assume hardbacks sell far fewer copies but they have a much higher cost. Are there royalty differences or just a fixed percentage or “it depends”

  12. It is my principle to ensure that at all times there is at least one practice or substance from which I am abstaining. At present I am abstaining from parsnips and have found the withdrawal symptoms to be light. Last month I abstained from oxygen, albeit only in fits and starts since the ubiquity of this substance makes it difficult to avoid.

  13. As a general rule the concept that politicians lie is an accepted law of nature.

    In the case of the “Bush Lied” article you cite … the two “independent” organizations share the same board of directors and get the majority of their funds from George Soros. That puts their credibility somewhere below the Onion but without the humor.

    BDS is a terrible thing to go through without caffeine. You might want to hold off on your de-tox plans until after the election.

  14. Re: Fred Thompson dropping out of the race: as someone else said, “how can they tell?” While I agree that Giuliani’s “strategy” probably won’t work, at least we can all agree he’s been running for president. Fred’s just been kind of showing up and hoping people would vote for him.

    In a way it’s a shame, since he was one of the least-offensive candidates in the Republican field. Possibly even less-offensive than McCain. I mean, I don’t want any of those guys in the White House, but if one of them does win, you want the least evil guy, right? Thompson seemed like a good “Earthy” candidate (i.e. “mostly harmless”).

    As for other matters: am I a total asshole for selfishly hoping that Heath Ledger’s untimely demise doesn’t screw up my Batman movie this summer?

    John, hope you get to feeling better, soon.

  15. I just wanted to say that I am in AWE of drew (post 16). It must be terribly comforting to have such ferocious and impenetrable convictions.

  16. There’s a Batman movie coming out this summer?

    ::pats bullwhip and adjusts leather jacket and fedora::

  17. I’m a fan of OJ and vodka; vitamin C to heal, vodka so you don’t care how long it takes. Glad you’re feeling better.

    OT —

    The idea that Iraq never had WMD is a non-starter; there are too many dead. That they had had WMD and used them all up during their internal disputes and their war with Iran is possible, but not a good way to plan for future encounters.

    A better idea is to figure out where they went, not hope that they no longer exist.

  18. “am I a total asshole for selfishly hoping that Heath Ledger’s untimely demise doesn’t screw up my Batman movie this summer?”

    Whether yea or nay, it won’t. Filming’s done and the movie’s in post.

    Poor Terry Gilliam, though. Man can never catch a break.

  19. But, but, but…

    George Will just said, in his latest column, “So far, Romney has won the most Republican votes and delegates, but Rudy Giuliani could bolt to the front in both categories on Feb. 5. ”

    If George says it, it must be true! Rudy’s going all the way! How could you doubt the inevitability of America’s Mayor?!?!

  20. Drew:

    “In the case of the ‘Bush Lied’ article you cite … the two ‘independent’ organizations share the same board of directors and get the majority of their funds from George Soros. That puts their credibility somewhere below the Onion but without the humor.”

    Well, you know. Facts are facts. If there’s evidence that those incidents in which the administration is said to have lied actually turn out that they were actually speaking truth, I imagine we’ll know about it soon enough.

  21. I’ve gotta confess: I’m actually feeling a slight sense of dread about Crystal Skull. I still have faith in Spielberg, but only 1.5 of Lucas’ last three movies were any good and Harrison Ford… I don’t want to say it, but… Ford’s looking kind of… he’s looking kind of old for this sort of thing. I’ll be in the theater for it, but… I sorta wish they hadn’t done this.

    The Dark Knight, on the other hand, has at least two things going for it. One, the preview is pretty awesome. Two, I have a theory… behold the pattern:

    Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace”

    Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman And Robin

    X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand

    Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3

    Do you see it? The first film in the franchise is great. The second one is somehow even better, and then the rest of the sequels suck unholy ass. If that holds true–and the Dark Knight trailer suggests it might–then The Dark Knight is going to be freakin’ sweet. And Batman 3 will be directed by Brett Ratner and feature Christian Bale disco-dancing in a codpiece. (Shudder.)

    I didn’t realize Ledger was supposed to be in Gilliam’s next… poor Terry, you’re right, he really can’t catch a break.

  22. An item in yesterday’s NYT suggests that the phosphoric acid in colas can increase the risk of kidney disease, which for the first time makes me concerned that I drink way too much Diet Coke. (I have never credited the various rumors about aspartame, even after I learned that Donald Rumsfeld shepherded that sweetener to market.)

  23. Unless you’re really symptomatic (heart palpitations, gut hypermotility, severe insomnia) what’s the point of giving up coffee? It’s cheap, it’s legal, it makes you feel good, and you aren’t doing your body any favors by sucking down high-fructose corn syrup or aspartame or whatever the hell it is they put in diet soda these days.

    Oh, and guess what the active ingredient in yerba mate is? Yep, good old caffeine, along with a host of other chemically related compounds called methylxanthines.

    Sorry to geek out on you, but the woo, it burns.

  24. Man, sucks about Heath Ledger. Sucks more that he’s leaving a young child fatherless.

    Ah, Thompson. For a nanosecond I had high hopes for him, then he promptly did a great impression of a bump on a log. He seemed very disinterested. Little wonder he garnered little interest.

    Glad to hear of continued success, and that you are feeling better.

    The best thing I ever did was kick my soft drink habit. Yes, I was addicted to the full-blown Classic Coke, no Coke Zero, no Diet Coke. But still. I’ve managed to supplant it with water. Actually, a friend introduced me to “La Croix” which is just carbonated, flavored water. I drink those instead of soft drinks. And I’ve managed to get my water intake up to 8x 8oz servings per day. Good stuff, and it helps out with my dieting as well.

  25. Misanthrope:

    I don’t drink coffee at all, actually.

    re: Caffeine: I just want to see how well I can function without the stuff, basically.

  26. The only reason I’d like to see Rudy take the nomination is to watch the Republican ‘Family Values’ wing’s collective head explode, as they try to rationalize his personal life.
    Although I’m happy to say it was never a real issue here in NYC. Other than occasional gossip column items.

  27. 1) An Eric, regarding Thompson being relatively inoffensive: GWB seemed fairly inoffensive at first to the majority of Americans (though he creeped me out from the beginning – I voted for Gore in 2000, even though I voted for Nader in ’92 and ’96). Until the events on 9/11/01, most people – myself included – thought he would occupy the White House for only one term without causing too much damage. We all know how well that went.

    2) Heath Ledger’s death genuinely shocked me. I’m always somewhat saddened by these sorts of things, but this time it’s hit me in a place I didn’t realize was there. Probably because he was such a talented actor. Hell, he had me at 10 Things I Hate About You.

    3) Count me in as a yerba mate lover, but not for the caffeine. I’ve never been addicted to caffeine – and actually prefer decaf coffee over the leaded versions – but the somewhat earthy taste of yerba mate appeals to me. Especially if I add a little milk and turbinado sugar. Yum!

    4) John, glad you’re feeling better – good luck with your decaffeination!

  28. I strongly reduced my caffeine intake by switching to tea (hot or iced, depending upon mood, time of day,and ambient temp). Luzianne is mellow and seems to work well for both, as some black teas can be too acidic for me.

    When I want bubbles seltzer water with a splash of fruit juice has become my favorite. Regular colas seem too chemical and cloying to me now that I’ve been off them for a few years. It reminds me of your reaction to beer, “Hey, that tastes like ass!”

    I’ve found that tea gives just enough caffeine to take the edge off cravings and grogginess without any up/down cycle effects. There’s also the research which suggests that the stuff is fairly healthy, but the jury’s still out on that.

    I also seem to crave carbonated drinks, so seltzer flavored wtih something does the trick for me there. I don’t like to drink too much fruit juice due to all the sugar, but just a splash in a glass of bubbly water is nice. Most juices seem to do well for this.

  29. I should note that I brew the tea fairly weakly, one or two teabags per pot, both hot or iced. Enough to have a nice tea flavor but not too caffeinated or acidic.

  30. Damn! You have the ability I always want when I’m sick — the ability to just sleep through it all. I always say, “Can’t you just knock me unconscious and wake me when it’s over?”

    Seriously envious.

  31. Carol: absolutely true, and the illusion that Bush was relatively harmless was part of the reason I voted for Nader in 2000. (If the Al Gore we see these days had been running instead of the bloodless Gore-doppleganger of that year, I would have voted for Gore; as it was, I saw no difference between candidates and my vote in a red state meant nothing–except that I hoped a vote for Nader would at least make a difference for ballot/matching funds purposes in future races.)

    What I find worrisome–and this was why I alluded to Thompson’s seeming innocuousness–are those folks who are hoping that the Repubs nominate a Huckabee or Paul on the gamble that they’d be easy to beat. I don’t trust the Dems not to screw things up, and I don’t trust voters in states like my home state to vote more wisely than they did in ’04. So I hope the Republicans nominate someone who, if the Dems lose, isn’t be a religious wingnut or an unrepentant racist bigot. Which pretty much strikes Huckabee and Paul, and if you exclude “intolerable assholes who are even hated by their own children,” there goes Giuliani. So you’re looking (now that Thompson’s gone) at Romney and McCain, and while I’ve lost a lot of respect for McCain (particularly since he spoke at Bob Jones last year), I really don’t trust Romney.

    In other words, I think Thompson was a better person and candidate than almost anyone else in the Republican field, and that he at least appeared to be harmless, not that he was a good choice.

  32. Glad you’re feeling better.

    And yay for kicking the soda! Even the no sugar stuff isn’t very good for you.

    Try to switch from soda to water or tea, although I have to admit that I’m partial to grapefruit Izzy.

  33. Did Booosh lie or did he just listen to the wrong analysts? It is all a moot point because he can’t run again and we can’t get rid of him. I wonder if our system leaves who ever gets a second term to geting beat mercilisly in the press at about their sixth year in office. Think about Regan, Clinton and GW Bush. All of them got worked in their second term.

  34. I wonder if our system leaves who ever gets a second term to geting beat mercilisly in the press at about their sixth year in office.

    Aboslutely. Kicking the crap out of lame ducks is a favorite political pasttime, one we’ve played forever. It’s fun and profitable and there’s no real downside. Who could resist? All they can do is quack.

    Right after the off-year Congressional elections all their people bail out on them to cash in while their connections and references still mean something somewhere. And they lose most of their sway with their own side in Congress because they no longer have a massive re-election machine going that can assist Congresscritters. When the VP’s not shooting for the nomination there’s not even the follow-up guy having a good memory to worry about.

    Get a second term, get past the mid-term elections after that, and you become the designated piñata not just for the opposition, but for your own party as well.

  35. To lie, you have to know the truth of the matter.

    What is being claimed is that statements made by the Bush administrations (and others) later turned out to be false.

    That is not the same as proving that they lied.

    If they wanted to be non-partisan, they would have included Democrats, foreign leaders, and talking heads who basically stated the same things. But what does that prove in the grand scheme of things?

    Look at our history of getting into wars and you’ll find all the same characteristics, bad intel, overblown rhetoric, and bad decisions made all along the way, from start to end.

  36. Tully, Congresscritters is pretty darn funny.
    John, I wasn’t thinking of a single six year term but you are right in that it is a an idea worth thinking about.

  37. I’ve found one serious advantage to not being addicted to caffeine (I never have been, since I hate coffee, don’t like tea, and hot chocolate gives me migraines). That is: if I seriously need to stay awake, it doesn’t take much to do it. One good mug of black tea will keep me awake, not even a tiny bit sleepy, for hours, under pretty much any conditions. It’s handy sometimes.

  38. Hmm, I suspect that PNH is right now arranging for cases of Coke Zero to be delivered to the Scalzi Domain on a regular schedule until he has the final copy of “Zoe’s” in his inbox.

  39. Look at our history of getting into wars and you’ll find all the same characteristics, bad intel, overblown rhetoric, and bad decisions made all along the way, from start to end.

    Well… not all of them. The most significant parallel situation I can think of would be Vietnam, and I certainly blame the Democrats in Congress for not learning from the Tonkin Gulf Resolution that giving a President a blank check for war is a bad idea. (And before anyone tries to “educate” me about LBJ’s political affiliation, yes, I know; Democrats have led the United States during more major wars than the Republicans, despite their supposedly dovish reputation. Move along.)

    World War I (another Democrat’s war) also involved misleading information, but in all fairness, it’s likely that the intel was massaged well before it reached Washington. Ditto for the Spanish-American War. What does that leave for the 20th century: Korea? Bad judgement was exercised in Tokyo more than Washington–I’m not sure it fits very well as a comparison to Iraq.

    The bottom line may be that comparing Iraq to Vietnam is hardly flattering to the Bush administration’s use of intel, decision-making process, or integrity. It’s certainly not a defense, nor an excuse.

  40. Oh–I realize I left WWII off the “major 20th century wars” rundown. I’m not sure how you’d say that was the resuly of bad intel or bad decisions, unless you’re wanting to discuss twenty years of American foreign policy and particularly the ins and outs of our 1930s Asia policies. Anyway….

  41. John,

    The problem with your “facts are facts” argument is that we are looking back at the situation with the certainty of hindsight.

    At the time, there was a legitimate debate about how to interpret the facts. And indeed at the time more people on all sides of the aisle thought that Saddam had WMD then thought that he was bluffing. And the people who thought he was bluffing weren’t willing to bet their lives on it, hence the rather lopsided vote to go to war and the multiple UN resolutions, and the huge order for chem suits and body bags.

    I know it’s hard to remember back 5 whole years but at the time the debate wasn’t whether or not he had WMD, the debate was whether or not we should go after him. And the argument for leaving him alone was mostly driven by estimates of how many people would die when he used his WMD.

    Now that we know Saddam was bluffing, there are some who would like to look back and accuse the President of lying. That is a very partisan reading of a complex situation. It also attributes a level of sophistication and intelligence to Bush that I don’t think you are willing to concede him. It’s also not his style. He is not known for complex schemes or strategies. He is caricatured as a simpleton for a reason.

    Soros has stated repeatedly that it is his life’s mission to destroy Bush. To that end he spends millions of dollars annually funding front groups like this to generate press releases critical of Bush.

    It’s his money, he can spend it how he likes. However for the AP and others to treat it like a neutral “non-partisan” news story is a joke.

    That you think Bush is a liar is curious.

    Isn’t it more likely that he was “wrong” ?

    Doesn’t that fit your image of him as a moron better?

    Do you think Clinton is a liar?

  42. Drew:

    “The problem with your ‘facts are facts’ argument is that we are looking back at the situation with the certainty of hindsight.”

    Actually, there is no problem with my “facts are facts” argument, other than that the facts turned out to be dreadfully inconvenient for the Bush administration. Nevertheless it remains that facts are facts.

    Now, of course, the question is, was the administration making false statements because it was ignorant of the truth, or was it making false statements because it was actively intending to deceive, or was it doing both, with the former becoming the latter at a certain point? My personal suspicion that it was the third option here, although when you get right down to it none of these reflect particularly well on the Bush administration.

    I’m not entirely sure why you seem to think that if Bush was a liar that it makes him some sort of tactical genius, however. Could be he’s just a liar with the entire apparatus of the United States government at his disposal, and a group of fellow travelers interested in supporting his lies. Which would give him a lot of advantages when lying.

    Re: Moron — I’ve called Bush lazy, incurious and incompetent, but I’m not aware of calling him a moron. Indeed, I’ve allowed that he isn’t many times here, for example:

    I don’t doubt Dubya’s a nice man and not traditionally what one describes as stupid, but his thought processes are shallow and stagnant, like week-old water in a unused kiddie pool. It’s painful to watch the members of his administration with the capacity for subtle thought twist themselves like pretzels either to get him to comprehend the world’s complexities, or to explain their bosses’ clear but tragically uncomplicated positions to a world that understands that clarity of moral vision doesn’t always mean you’re looking at the right thing. It’s hard to generate a head of enthusiasm about that sort of thing, even to mock it.

    So you’ll need to revise accordingly.

    But I do enjoy that you’ve tried to drag Clinton into it, as if any of his (or her) failings somehow mitigates or excuses Bush’s failings. It’s a tried and true ploy, but not one I credit much.

  43. I didn’t believe Bush regarding WMD’s, but in all fairness I’m not privvy to the nation’s intelligence data. The claims I was hearing just didn’t sound logical. And there was at least one former weapons inspector–I’m afraid his name escapes me now (and, again in all fairness, there were some discrediting allegations raised against him)–who was skeptical of Hussein’s ability to produce WMDs.

    Also for what it’s worth: I think Bill Clinton lied about sex, if that’s what you’re referring to. I was angrier about him lying to gays about equal treatment and what I consider to be a betrayal over national healthcare–lying about sex strikes me as trivial, even under oath. And there is absolutely no equivalence between lying (even under oath) about a hummer and lying about why American men and women should risk their lives and why American political capital should be spent in an invasion of a dangerous and diplomatically fragile region vital to our interests.

    You aren’t seriously telling me that you think there’s any parallel between denying that you had sex with a woman who isn’t your wife and claiming that a country in the Middle East has links to al Qaeda and is trying to purchase yellowcake uranium for weapons development and so we should send young men and women over there to be shot at and blown up, are you? Please tell me that’s not what you’re suggesting at all. That cannot possibly be what you’re trying to insinuate.

  44. Bummer for Heath’s death. Incredulous bummer to the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church creeps intending to picket his funeral because he played a gay character, and Fox newsreader John Gibson openly mocking him on air.

    I think the only weapons of mass destruction around are the minds and tongues poisoning public discourse in your country. :-(

  45. who was skeptical of Hussein’s ability to produce WMDs.

    Except that the reports (CIA and DIA) generated after the fact, after we went in and did a thorough inspection, indicated that Saddam could have started chem and bio production relatively quickly. That members of his own military and government thought they had bio and chem weapons programs. And that Saddam was basically maintaining a facade to counter the threat he felt from Iran.

    Now, say what you will about the aftermath, taking out Saddam was a good thing. The aftermath is the only thing to argue about, and it’s been badly managed. But, history will show, that almost every war is like this.

  46. Now, say what you will about the aftermath, taking out Saddam was a good thing. The aftermath is the only thing to argue about, and it’s been badly managed. But, history will show, that almost every war is like this.

    Oh really?

    Name one.

    The American Civil War, maybe? That’s about the only one I can think of off the top of my head, and whether the outcome of that was “mismanaged” is a fairly debatable proposition considering that the result was a cohesive and truly united nation within 20 years that was a world power within 30 years and one of two superpowers well within a single lifetime born during the Civil War. An outcome that seems frankly improbable with Iraq, although I’ll grant you that only time will tell.

    Or were you referring to our bloody difficulties in the quagmires of the Philippines and Vietnam? In which case, aren’t we talking about the conduct of the actual wars and not merely the aftermath?

    Certainly the reconstruction of Japan and Germany after WWII counts as successful occupation and ought to provide some kind of illustration or example? Perhaps, for instance, showing that a country can be rebuilt if there’s a commitment of soldiers and finances that the Bush Administration tried to dodge when they initially failed to send in enough properly-equipped soldiers to hold the country–not surprising, really, from a man who repudiated nation-building as a presidential candidate.

    But suppose I grant you that the outcome of “almost every war” is a mess–after all, I’m being parochial and writing of my country and its 200-year history and you might be referring to the Roman invasion of Gaul or the Brits’ difficulties in South Africa after the Boer Wars. Surely, if that’s the case, one might have gone into planning a war with Iraq (if one properly planned it, that is), and said, “the aftermath of almost every war is badly managed, how shall we avoid repeating the same mistakes.” As opposed to acting surprised that it takes more effort to hold territory than to seize it, a lesson that could probably be explained by any junior high-schooler who’s played more than two games of Risk and ought to be fairly obvious to a Secretary Of Defense with decades of experience. Ought to be.

    Nor does it wash that “taking out Saddam” was a good thing, and therefore all sins ought to be forgiven: nobody is disputing that Hussein was a terrible man when he was our terrible man in the 1980s and when he was a thorn in our side in the ’90s. But I’m afraid a noble end doesn’t justify the means and the aftermath isn’t the only thing to argue about: there’s how we did it, and why, and whether it was the right time. Not to mention that Saddam’s evilness is only one of the excuses proffered for the war: had the Bush administration gone to Congress for a war of liberation, it would have been more honest than claiming Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake or that Hussein had links to al Qaeda; these were the justifications that were actually offered, and they’ve been questioned. To say that it’s enough that Hussein is gone is to say that transparency and integrity in governance are secondary to the good intentions of the governors–that may be true in monarchies, but it’s poisonous to a republic.

  47. We would have had to deal with Saddam, sooner or later, and it’s likely no matter what we did, it wouldn’t have been good enough for some people.

    Saddam Hussein initially didn’t think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.

    Saddam still wouldn’t admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, “For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq,” he tells Pelley.

    He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. “Saddam] still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there,” says Piro. “He wanted to pursue all of WMD…to reconstitute his entire WMD program.” This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

    ************

    By “this” I’m also including my earlier statement:

    Look at our history of getting into wars and you’ll find all the same characteristics, bad intel, overblown rhetoric, and bad decisions made all along the way, from start to end.

    War, by it’s very nature, is messy. The aftermaths are no less messy. They may led to good enough results, but they are never perfect, and there have always been missteps, or miscalculations, along the way. And to often, we have to go to war with what we have, on the information and estimates available at the time.

    The Civil War, how many generals did it take for Lincoln to find one who could win. And then you peg the US as being truly united after 20 years. Tell that to the blacks in the South, who were still being lynched in the 1960’s. And isn’t it possible that the whole thing have been avoided through diplomacy. Slavery probably would have ended on its own, and the racial resentment that was the legacy of the Civil War might have been avoided. And the increased power of the Federal government may never have been realized.

    WWII: We ignored intelligence regarding Japan. We didn’t do much to stop the appeasement of Hitler. We entered the war with to few troops, and generally horrible equipment. The only thing we had going for us materially was the amount we could produce. The Sherman tank was a death trap, and mostly had to be lucky and used in greater numbers in order to defeat the Germans. The list is pretty extensive of the errors made during WWII. Heck, the system setup to produce weapons, such as the Sherman tank, had 3 or 4 competing commands, each with different requirements, and so designs which were cheap won out over designs that could have been more effective.

    And then leaving Eastern Europe to the Soviets was a success? That lead to the Cold War, and the enslavement of Eastern Europe, and 40 years of M.A.D.

    And there weren’t still Nazi terrorists running around after WWII? Just goes to prove that even with the massive amounts of troops we had, and all that money, insurgents were still a problem.

    Do you really want to claim that the “peace treaty” after WWI was a good thing? We’re still paying for the bad decisions they made then.

    Learning from examples in history only go so far. The societies of Germany and Japan were different, and experience the war differently from Iraqis. We did not use “total warfare” in Iraq, as we did in Germany and Japan. In fact, we went out of our way to spare the Iraqi citizens as much as possible.

    Large bureaucracies are slow to change, and slower to admit error. The left hand will complain that the right hand isn’t moving fast enough, even though the left hand has tied down the right with regulations and overly generous amounts of paperwork, to prevent fraud, and promote property diversity in contracting work out.

    One lesson we should never forget, but always do, is that the assumptions you start with are usually wrong.

  48. 1) Again, you’re mixing war and aftermath. And while neither is pretty, you seem to be suggesting that incompetence is par for the course… it isn’t. The only people who apparently believed that the aftermath of a war in Iraq would (literally) be all roses were Bush and some of his top advisors.

    Unless I misunderstand you, you keep attempting to justify a lack of planning and an unwillingness to learn from mistakes as normal. I characterize these failings as stupid and possibly dishonest.

    I could stop there, because everything else is a sidetrack. But:

    2) After Reconstruction, the states were united as a nation under a strong central government: the fact that we continue to oppress minorities and that there remain deep ethnic, religious, and political rifts within this republic misses the fairly obvious point I was making. By your interpretation, there’s still no such thing as the United States, which would probably confuse our treaty partners to no end.

    3) The Bush administration’s comparison of Iraqi insurrgents to German “Werewolves” died pretty quickly because it was ahistorical and discredited in fairly short order–I’m impressed you’re bringing it up, since I thought everyone had already forgotten about it. The Werewolves were ineffectual and quickly disposed of. What was most interesting, however, about the Administration’s poor analogy was the way in which (yet again) Bush’s defense is more puzzling than the original charge: if we suppose the Werewolves were a substantial factor, surely that would teach us something about counterinsurgency? But no: the Bush administration would rather cite history than learn from it.

    4) We ended WWII in less than four years. In roughly a decade (1936-1945) we went from being an isolationist state to a superpower capable of crushing one superpower (Japan) almost single-handedly and leading an international coalition to defeat another (Germany).

    Naturally, we didn’t do much to stop “appeasement.” Isolationists, remember. Not that it might have made a difference: there’s a fairly persuasive argument (made in Overy and Wheatcroft’s The Road To War and elsewhere) that so-called appeasement may have been an inevitable strategy given the way democracies work–e.g. an aggressive stance by Chamberlain would have lost him his office. There are also questions of whether France and Britain could have mustered enough force to stop Hitler in Poland, and matters of Allied policy regarding the USSR in the 1930s. And it should be noted, to the extent the U.S. pursued an active foreign policy in the 1930s, our concerns were westward, with the containment of Japan a far higher priority than anything in Europe.

    5) Similarly, you seem to think we had a choice about Eastern Europe and the Soviets. Sure, because we knew we could win the Pacific Theater without Soviet help and were ready and able to prolong WWII for another decade after Germany’s defeat squabbling with a former “valued ally” over formerly-Nazi territory, taking on an enemy that the combined forces of the Wehrmacht couldn’t defeat. Yeah, damn that Truman for selling us out to the commies, etc., etc.

    Whatever.

    6) I will concede the Treaty Of Versailles was wrought with mistakes. Counting it as a seperate war (some historians argue that WWI and WWII were essentially one war with a cease-fire), you are correct.

    7) “Left-hand” and “right-hand”? What on earth could you possibly be trying to say? Is there some sort of thinly-veiled symbolism there? Hang on, I’ll probably figure it out in a few minutes….

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