Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talking Points

And when justice is gone, there's always force...
--Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson was one of my favorite artists when I was a young man. She collaborated with with other interesting artists like William S. Burroughs, and she ended up marrying Lou Reed, of all people. I liked her vaguely absurdist lyrics on  albums that were avant garde but very listenable.

When I listen to people like Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, characterizing not waging another full blown insurgency suppression in Afghanistan as "walking away in defeat", I'm impressed by the absurdist nature of the republican party's talking points.

I'm being won over by Joe Biden's idea that we should get out of Afghanistan. We've become pretty good at killing high-level Al Quaeda leadership by raining down hellfire missiles on them, which is really to say that we are penetrating their organization and are able to get good intelligence on where the leadership are. At that point, hitting them with the missile is the easy part. We don't need a military presence in Afghanistan to kill Al Quaeda people there. And anyway, the problem is Pakistan not Afghanistan - I don't care if Al Quaeda do gain control of Afghanistan's weapons (rocks and sticks?) but Pakistan has nukes.

The republicans really don't seem to have anyone who is able to talk intelligently about this - because Pakistan is a nuanced and difficult problem. So, like a baited bear, republicans roar their talking points, and argue for more of the same mess the Iraq occupation turned into under Dick Cheney's leadership.

I admire their brazenness, though. Liz Cheney, clearly an educated, intelligent woman, but a consummate ideologue, republican talking point spouter, and not a deep thinker, was on This Week, George Stephenopoulis' show, and sat at the table where brilliant people like Paul Krugman are often found. Today the smart people were Robert Reich, Walter Isaacon, and George Will.  It's got to be daunting, knowing that your talking points could be deconstructed by people like that, and on live TV.

Daunting indeed. Not unlike the first time you get to wear long pants and sit at the grownup table for the Thanksgiving meal. You have to participate in the discussion with the grownups, and much of what they are talking about is complicated, hard to understand, and the grownups know a lot more than you about what it all means.

It's Thanksgiving week coming up. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.



  1. Bob, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    I guess what I don't know about the Biden strategy is what level of support is needed to continue to rain down hellfire missiles on the Al Quaeda leadership. Can that be supported from ships? I haven't been following as closely as I should these last couple of weeks.

  2. CIA has local bases. They shoot at them from UAV's. It's pretty easy, and they are already doing it.

    The US Navy, my old employer, are pretty marginalized in this war. They pretty much only contribute SEALs.

    The argument I'm making is that let's be light, and smart. Use intelligence and special forces, UAVs, etc. to kill leadership. Let's not send hundreds of thousands of ground troops to Afghanistan just to get some bad guys to come out so we can shoot at them. Because that's all it ever was under Cheney in Iraq, and that's all it will be in Afghanistan. Let's shoot smart from far away, and send in Delta Force when we need boots on the ground.

  3. Hi from New Zealand and an ex professional army officer. Love your blog and comments.

    I think the reality on the ground is that in Afghanistan, whilst the whole of NATO does not need to be there in numbers a considerable number of boots on the ground are required because technology is not effective without eye and the eyes needed for these chaps are not electronic. They are smart and savvy and know how to defeat technology.

    My thoughts!

  4. Hi Kendall

    I'm ex-US Navy. Intelligence. What part of the army and where did you serve?

    And what you are advocating is pretty much exactly what Obama is going to announce next week.