Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Fire Ted Rall

To the editors,

Ted Rall's Veteran's Day column was offensive to me. I am a veteran who served from 1987-1995 in the US Navy. While I do not require all people to bow and scrape to me for my sacrifices on this day, I do appreciate at least a modicum of respect for my efforts.

I understand the need for balance in the opinion columns, and if there was the slightest indication that Ted Rall had any interest in balance I would not be writing this. There is no reason to believe that Ted Rall respects me, the other members of my family who have served, my friends who have served, or anybody who has ever made this nation possible. There is every reason to believe that he welcomes our death at the hands of vicious genocidal criminals for presuming to free slaves. This is not a view that I can see benefits, educates, or enlightens me. This is a view that functions to glorify the sworn enemies of my nation.

I do not begrudge Ted Rall's right to say these things. As far as I'm concerned, he can go to any street corner in America and shout them at the top of his lungs. He can go to and publish them to his heart's content for free. He can print stacks of his articles at Kinko's and distribute them everywhere. I will not call for his arrest or harm upon his head.

However, Ted Rall should not be paid for this hateful rhetoric. Not by a major news agency that intends to present factual reporting with integrity. I ask for his dismissal for cause. He has violated any contract by presenting odious views as reasonable commentary. He does not deserve to be paid for hating me.

Patrick S Lasswell
Portland, OR

Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Informed Planning

What are the power requirements for Mosul? How much food needs to be transported in every week during the drought season? What are the essential goods that need to be brought into the city on a monthly basis? Which are the bad neighborhoods and which ones have a strong and cooperative community spirit? What contractors can do the reconstruction work that we need done? Which local tribal leaders can be trusted to stick with a deal?

Some people thought there were WMD in Iraq before the war, some didn't, but it appears certain that almost nobody knew. There is some moderately compelling information that indicates Saddam Hussein did not have a clear understanding of the WMD stockpiles before the war. In the face of an information shortage that fundamental, how exactly did you expect to develop projections for power requirements in Mosul? Which data was more critical to obtain? Where would you have put your information gathering assets?

We surely did not know the power requirements for Mosul or a million other important answers useful for the reconstruction plans in Iraq. This "failure" is due to making a priority of WMD attacks against our country, our allies, and our troops in the region. This is a choice, and although the WMD attacks never materialized, it still is an infinitely defensible one. We may not have had the Golden Fleece, the Holy Grail, or the Perfect Plan for Reconstructing Iraq, but our troops and the CPA are doing fine work with the job they have.

Monday, November 10, 2003
We Had A Plan Once…

There has been a lot of criticism of the Iraq invasion because the coalition forces did not have a plan. There is not much one can say in response to this, which is why it is such a damaging, and therefore repeatable, meme. If you are in charge and anything goes wrong, you had a bad plan. Have you stopped beating your wife, yes or no answer only?

That meme does have a problem, though. Every once in a while somebody repeating the meme gets the notion that the US has not learned from history. Then we get to tell a funny story. After WWII, we put a lot of folks in charge in Germany and Japan who had never had civilian authority before and a few who had. But Washington never sent in a plan for them to follow. Part of this is because after Roosevelt's death, a lot of things were left unfinished. Most of this was because Harry S Truman had been a combat commander and knew how to trust competent subordinates. One of the results of this is that we now talk about the Marshall Plan, the vision of a trusted subordinate who handled a problem excellently, after he had seen the problem on the ground.

The communist invasion of South Korea caught the US flat footed, and there was a lot of scrambling. Towards the drawdown of that war, the US started looking at where we were likely to become engaged next. Plans were drawn up. Extensive, elaborate plans were made. New methods of planning were put into place. People fell in love with the plans. Eventually the plans were put into place, in a nation called South Vietnam…

It is important to remember that the map is not the terrain and that the plan is not the situation. That is a great lesson that we have learned from history, make plans according to reality, not projections. Iraq is not Vietnam.

UPDATE: Thanks to Michael Totten for his link. If you are arriving here from there, welcome. Please enjoy the blog and don't be afraid to explore. I am not doing comments yet, but feel free to send me an email.

Sunday, November 09, 2003
New Yahoo Game: Biased Headlines

Yahoo has a new game: how many times can you put headlines on the main page for the same anti-administration story? Here's the thing, when called on this sort of behavior, the Yahoo news staff claims that they don't write the stories. But when they link the same story by the same writer twice, they are displaying bias. Perhaps they feel they can excuse themselves on the basis of actually stalking Jennifer Kerr, but I'm not buying it.

Come on, admit that you are biased, that's much better than just being incompetent, right? If you actually wanted to get a message across, don't look stupid doing so. Linking the same story with different headline twice makes you look dumb. I would rather have at least single helpings of biased headline selections and compositions, double helpings gives me a tummy ache.

Gore Accuses Bush of 'Big Brother' Policy
Sun Nov 9, 5:34 PM ET Add Top Stories - AP to My Yahoo!
By JENNIFER C. KERR, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites) accused President Bush (news - web sites) on Sunday of failing to make the country safer after the Sept. 11 attacks and using the war against terrorism as a pretext to consolidate power.

Gore: Bush Has Failed to Make U.S. Safer
1 hour, 11 minutes ago Add U.S. National - AP to My Yahoo!
By JENNIFER C. KERR, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites) accused President Bush (news - web sites) on Sunday of failing to make the country safer after the Sept. 11 attacks and using the war against terrorism as a pretext to consolidate power.
And Your Point Is?

I have seen in the comment arguments of several blogs a train of logic that is starting to bug me. Stick with this carefully, the train of the discussion goes something like this.

Blogger: Invading Iraq was certainly a good thing; we freed oppressed people.
Rude Commenter: George Bush is an idiot forever, he never does anything right!
Supportive Commenter: Well, he has liberated fifty-odd million people in the last couple of years, and that was good, correct?
Rude Commenter: But W doesn't understand complexity! Why didn't he invade Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Burma, Liberia, Malaysia, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands Antilles? If invasion is good once it should always be good everywhere or it is a bad policy and Bush is an idiot!
Supportive Commenter: All those places are different situations and the President is dealing with them differently. There are a lot of complex issues and the administration is using a variety of methods to deal with them.
Rude Commenter: There, you said complex, so I'm right and Bush is an idiot!

Have other people seen this? The accusation becomes: Bush is an idiot and a liar because he is not giving all people freedom immediately and is attempting to avert thermonuclear exchanges on our allies' territory. According to this logic, Lincoln lacked moral fiber because the Japanese were planning to subjugate Korea during his Presidency and he did nothing to stop it while fighting the Civil War. Is it just me or is this insane?

There seems to be an impression that attitude and repetition replaces convincing logic in a discussion. Their only real complaint about current trends in foreign policy is the leadership accomplishing it, but for some, that's all that seems to matter. I would be bothered less if I didn't suspect that a lot of people are going to make a Kool Aid dissent after the election in 2004 keeps Bush in power.

P.S. I'll be getting back to arguing with Sean soon, life got in the way.


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