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What Voters Want

Gentle Readers outside Connecticut may not have seen Senator Lieberman’s essay in this Sunday’s Hartford Courant. Fortunately, somebody left a copy of the Courant outside my new residence, so I was able to smear the essay all over my fingers. Seriously, the Courant is as bad as the Boston Globe. I’m surprised I don’t get ink on my fingers from reading the website.

Anyway, the Courant asked two of the five candidates for Senator what they think Voters Want from their Senator. Ned Lamont’s response, headlined Someone Who Listens, was pretty dull but didn’t have anything in it that made me not want him to be Senator. Pretty dull job, Senator, and I have no objection to being represented by a pretty dull Senator. Senator Lieberman, on the other hand, appears to be completely insane.

I believe that the best way for us to win the war in Iraq is to come together—the administration, Congress, and Republicans and Democrats—to find a solution that will allow our troops to come home with Iraq united and free, with the Middle East stable and the terrorists denied a victory.
Just in case you missed that:
  • Step One: Congressional Republicans and Democrats come together with the administration
  • Step Two: Find Solution
  • Step Three: United free Iraq, stable Middle East, and no victory for terrorists.
Isn’t that pretty? Hey, now, Your Humble Blogger has a plan, too, and those Gentle Readers who spend way too much time in Left Blogovia will undoubtedly guess what it is:
  • Step One: Republican office-holders actually listen to Democrats, or for that matter to rank-and-file Republicans
  • Step Two: Find Solution
  • Step Three: United free Iraq, stable Middle East, no victory for terrorists and everybody gets a pony.
See? Every bit as likely as the Senator’s plan, and everybody gets a pony. As we used to say on APDA, he has been subsumed.

Now, some Gentle Readers may be saying to themselves, wait a minute, not only is Step One a preposterous fantasy, but Step Two has no substance whatsoever. This is true, and I admit that it is a flaw in my plan. On the other hand, YHB is just a schmuck with a blog. Senator Lieberman has been in the United States Senate for nearly eighteen years, and has access (I would hope) to a lot of information about the war that I don’t have, and his plan is still worse than mine—by one pony each. Let me reiterate: Joe Lieberman has Senatorial experience, a policy staff, access to Our Only President and his cabal of incompetents and crooks; I have DSL. His plan has peace, justice, stability; my plan has peace, justice, stability and a pony. His plan won’t work; neither will mine. But what does mine have that his doesn’t? Yep. A pony.

As for the rest of his essay, well, it doesn’t seem to overlap much with the universe I happen to perceive, but it does have this line: “My opponent Ned Lamont, represents the old politics of partisanship, polarization and negativism.” Remember, this is the incumbent Senator talking about the challenger. And besides, as far as I’m concerned, at this point I would support a candidate of partisanship, polarization, and negativism. I’m pretty negative about Our Only President, and I think our Party is the best way to put some halter on him, and furthermore I’ve been pushed so far out to the side of our politics that the only alternative to being at the pole is being off the planet altogether. But even better than a candidate of partisanship, polarization, and negativism would be a candidate of partisanship, polarization, negativism and a pony.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


Lieberman's plan makes me think of that Harris cartoon with the two scientists where there's a bunch of math on each side of a chalkboard and a step in the middle that says, "And then a miracle happens."

Only, of course, Step One also involves a miracle in this case.


While Step Two has no substance (and could benefit from a pony), it is optimistic -- and hence, very American. We will find a solution. Why? Because there's a problem, and America can solve or overcome any problem.

This may be one of those cases where optimism and arrogance are hard to tell apart. It can be a fine distinction. Optimism says we can solve or overcome any problem, while arrogance says therefore we might as well create some new problems. Optimism proclaims morning in America, and arrogance throws out the light bulbs.

Actually, I'm not against Step Two, because very often a miracle does happen. But it only occurs if Step One (a) makes it at all likely that it will happen, and (2) has any chance of happening itself.

I'm voting for you, V.

I want a pooooooooooooonyyyyyyyy!


In this case, what about Step One makes Step Two more likely? The Democratic leadership has offered exactly one idea -- leave Iraq sooner than the Republicans want to -- and they're in remarkable discord about even that one idea. How many troops should leave? When? Under what conditions or preconditions? How should the remaining troops be deployed? And while getting our troops home clearly helps us, how does it help Step Three?

There have been no Democratic suggestions on how to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure or essential services. No suggestions on how to establish an internal security system which will enable a safe or safer society. No suggestions on how to improve Iraq's economy or create a stable and sufficient economic system for the future. No suggestions on public or private jobs, educational system, health care, social safety nets, legal system, or balance of local and centralized power.

This has been a deliberate response by the Democrats to that portion of the electoral base which called for Bush to be reelected in 2004 so that we could continue to blame the Republicans for the failures of Iraq. But that response is also cowardly, destructive, and morally reprehensible. No more so than the similar unthinking advocacy of this continued murderous occupation by the Republicans, but not more than marginally better.

The complaint that the Republicans won't listen, and that the Democrats have no ability to implement any good ideas, is true as far as it goes. But it does not excuse the absence of good ideas, the absence of exploring those ideas, or the unwillingness to offer a clear alternative vision to voters.

The latest political message hailed by the the leftist blogs compares Iraq to a broken raw egg, and then excuses the Democratic unwillingness to suggest getting a mop by pointing out that the Republicans are still pretending that the egg is just fine. That leaves me not getting too hopeful about the prospects for achieving Step Three by electing Democrats, or too convinced that Step One is remotely relevant.

Now if you change Step One to involve listening to the military, experienced analysts, other countries, and the Iraqi people (who we were supposed to be rescuing from a fate better than this), well, at least those are all people who have had things to say. The possibility of a solution lies there, and the true criminality of this administration's arrogance lies in assuring failure by refusing to listen to any of them. Their failure to engage with Democrats or rank-and-file Republicans is another symptom of the underlying problem, but not an important symptom.

And in the hopes of gaining Matt's support, everybody gets two ponies.

Hee. I know this is a serious topic, but I cannot help but be reminded of a certain South Park episode.

Step 1. Steal underpants.

Step 2. ???

Step 3. Profit!

I think Senator Lieberman has been taking strategy lessons from the South Park underpants gnomes.

See, Michael. This is exACTly the issue you're talking about. You say I get two ponies, and that's supposed to make me happier than one pony, but:

There have been no Michaelian suggestions on how to build a two-pony infrastructure or essential services. No suggestions on how to establish an internal security system which will enable a safe or safer pony (or ponies). No suggestions on how to improve my ponies' economy or create a stable and sufficient economic system for the future. No suggestions on public or private jobs, educational system, health care, social safety nets, legal system, or balance of local and centralized power.

In short, two ponies is not the solution, it's just another problem!

V still gets my vote.



Your previous post is dead-on. I would love to hear someone talking sense in the political arena, but so far... no dice.

In my youth, I was planning on learning to play guitar, becoming a rock star, becoming a pirate on the Mediterranean, conquering Malta, and using Malta as my base of Rock/Pirate operations until such time (2008, as it happens) that I would be legally able to run for president of the US, then running for president on the strength of my many achievements. Sadly, of this list, the only one I've accomplished is learning to play guitar.

Vote for Matt in 2008?


Oh, I've made all those suggestions about a two-pony world, but the media won't report on them...

P.S.: Don't wait until 2008 -- for a mere $3125 you can run for DeLay's Congressional seat.

To have here among ourselves the conversation our politicians are too arrogant, stupid, craven, or vicious to start, I would ask: is there anything constructive that we could do for Iraq at this point except leave in an orderly fashion and help negotiate a real peace as we go?

There are a whole host of reconstruction projects in Iraq -- reconstructing infrastructure, security apparatus, economy, politics -- that should have been carefully planned for in advance of any invasion and that should have been intelligently and vigorously implemented long ago.

At present, however, it seems to me that no meaningful reconstruction can go forward until the civil war is ended, and that the civil war cannot be ended until American troops have withdrawn from Iraq (even though that withdrawal may be as likely to lead to intensified as to diminished conflict, especially if it not accompanied by a new political settlement in Iraq), and that once American troops have withdrawn, America will be in no position to either plan for or implement plans for the reconstruction of Iraq. Possibly, the U.S. could participate in some sort of U.N. mission, but my sense is that there is no longer any way for the U.S. to be helpful to Iraq. (Well, I expect we ought to pay very sizable reparations.) The only way that situation might change would be if there were a complete reorientation of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that would restore our credibility with the ordinary citizens of the region and greatly reduce hostility towards Americans active there.

Overall, then, it's not clear to me that there would be any point in the Democrats talking about what to do in Iraq, because there isn't anything that we, The United States, is has the capacity to do there, except to try to contribute to the establishment of the peace that is the necessary precondition for any reconstruction, but which we won't be around to work on, because for there to be peace we must leave.

Are there reasons to be more optimistic about the U.S.'s possible role in the region that I am overlooking? What could be accomplished by the Democrats talking seriously about plans for reconstruction in Iraq?

Well, my initial reaction is "Iraq needs PONIES!!" but that is of course fatuous in light of the very well considered comment Chris just made.

The problem for Democrats is not deciding what needs to be done with Iraq, and at large the Middle East, but rather getting into office, so that they have any power at all to have a say in what should be done with Iraq. So, at this stage, I don't think we'll hear any valid proposals, because valid proposals don't get you elected, rhetoric does.

Unfortunately, valid proposals on foreign policy don't get your constituents their pork projects, and once those are passed, they don't get you RE-elected either.

So, my operating theory on the US right now is that the Republicans (if by Republicans, you are referring to the Bush dynasty and their cronies, like the bin Laden dynasty) have won (if by won, you mean they have plunged us into yet another war with no enemy, no clear goals, and no clear way out, simply for their own profit).

This is (in my opinion) bad for the US. It is bad for our economy, it is bad for our people, it is bad for the forces of peace and love, and it is bad for the image and credibility of our flag.


We could provide security and aid for the Kurdish section in the north of Iraq, which seems to be fairly calm and self-governing right now. They're threatened by Turkey, who wants to prevent a secession of their Kurdish population and doesn't like having a Kurdistan on their southern border.

Given an environment in central Iraq that could best be described as either civil war or retributive ethnic cleansing, this is when other countries like the U.S. are supposed to intervene. If we weren't already there, and weren't the initial cause of the lack of security, and weren't arming the locals, we should be stepping in to secure safe areas for non-combatant refugees, disarming the locals, and trying to prop up a different local government that can govern. But that would require rather a turn-around at this point.

The spreading ink blot theory of stabilizing a region suggests that we should be starting with some areas on the outskirts of the country to secure. And we should be explicitly aiming to provide security for the local population rather than just for our troops. Those areas, once delineated and separated from central Iraq, need to be under non-U.S. control internally. The U.S. presence needs to be engineers, logistics experts, doctors, and envoys working with locals to facilitate locals building housing and infrastructure and factories. The locals know how, and they need the work, and it needs to get done. And we need to make it clear that our goal goes beyond stopping the violence and extends to true rebuilding. Basra was doing ok under this model until very recently, but the electricity supply there, for example, got worse rather than better in 2006. That's fixable. We had a decent start in Basra, and no follow-through.

We measure Iraq on how many people are killed, how many Iraqi troops and police we arm, how much money we've given to Halliburton and Blackwater, and how much oil is being exported. We need to be measuring Iraq on how much water and electricity is supplied, how many people are seen by doctors and receive the medicine they need, and how many people have paying jobs.

There is no role for the U.S. to legitimately play in brokering a peace or providing internal security within safe zones or taking reconstruction contracts. But we need to play a role in creating safe zones and enforcing their borders, giving reconstruction aid and expertise, and communicating a rational plan that includes a functional Iraqi society measured against standards we would recognize for ourselves.

To add to Matt's strong closing:

It's bad for our brave soldiers, bad for our children, and bad for our ponies.

For the love of Eris, THINK OF THE PONIES!!!

as long as there is even one person left standing who has the authority to sign contracts and distribute future oil resources in the country by fiat, WE MUST FIGHT to defend that person's isolation from the rest of society and his or her terror at the thought of popular government.

seriously, have you read some of the interviews with green zone iraqi dignitaries? "ABSOLUTELY the WMDs are in syria." "ABSOLUTELY we are ready to declare victory." "ABSOLUTELY this is a foreign-inspired insurrection."

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