A lot of liberals blame Colin Powell for persuading them to support the notion of getting into the Iraq war, but is Colin Powell also to blame for the Bush administration’s inability to get the United States out of the Iraq war? In a roundabout way, yes, suggests Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, in The Boston Globe’s “Ideas” section.
In a long essay arguing for the abolishment of the position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bacevich says Powell is indirectly to blame for the nation’s poor military leadership since he stepped down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Bacevich writes:

Having learned from Powell’s tenure that a talented, high-powered JCS chairman can produce big-time political headaches, the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have opted for officers who could be counted on not to make waves. They have done so by selecting anti-Powells to serve as JCS chairmen — officers who, whatever their other admirable qualities, have possessed few of the attributes that made Powell so formidable. Since 1993, the position of JCS chairman has been filled by a succession of colorless, compliant generals — honorable and good soldiers to the man, but none demonstrating anything approaching Powell’s smarts, flair, and shrewdness. Mediocrity can be a cruel word, but as a description of those who have succeeded Colin Powell as the nation’s top military officer, it is apt.

One of those mediocrities, Bacevich says, is the soon-to-depart General Peter Pace. He writes:

History will render this judgment of Pace, who succeeded General Richard B Myers as chairman in September 2005: As U. S. forces became mired ever more deeply in an unwinnable war, Pace remained a passive bystander, a witness to a catastrophe that he was slow to comprehend and did little to forestall. If the position of JCS chair had simply remained vacant for the past two years, it is difficult to see how the American military would be in worse shape today.

Almost without exception, Bacevich writes, Gen. Pace “has loyally accommodated himself to whatever the boss has wanted, even to calamitous policies that have done immeasurable harm not only to the country but to the armed services to which he has devoted his life.”

Perhaps Gen. Pace comforts himself, however, by telling himself that it’s all Colin Powell’s fault.


  • Michael Moore’s new takedown of America’s health care system, “Sicko,” doesn’t officially open until June 29, but it has been leaked in its entirety onto the Internet, something Moore says he doesn’t “have a problem with.”

    But Rob Port, writing at Say Anything (yes, that’s “North Dakota’s Most Popular Political Blog”) doesn’t believe the filmmaker’s relaxed stance: “Moore doesn’t care about copyright laws. Which isn’t surprising, since most socialists don’t care about private property. That’s why the left is always so eager to seize the wealth of citizens through taxes and redistribute it according to their whims.”

    Showing a distinct lack of faith in Moore’s statements, Port has posted the film himself. ”Now I fully expect that I’ll probably get a letter or an email at some point from Moore’s people asking me to take this down,” he predicts. “Which I will, because unlike Moore and most liberals I actually do respect things like copyright laws and property rights. But until they ask, I’m going to take Moore at his word. And if I am asked to take it down, I will be calling Moore a total hypocrite.” Well, that seems to be putting the cart before the horse right now, but Say Anything will certainly keep us informed.

  • The prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case, Mike Nifong, has been disbarred. K.C. Johnson, a professor of history at Brooklyn College, spent the weekend considering Friday’s North Carolina Bar Association hearing, and worries that things very nearly turned out differently. At his blog about the case, Durham-in-Wonderland, he writes:

    Though the case ended as it should—with the AG’s declaration of actual innocence and Nifong’s disbarment—this was a very close call. First, the defense demanded and then closely examined [lab director Brian] Meehan’s underlying DNA data not as a matter of course but only because the DNA was the only evidence even remotely implicating Brad Bannon’s client, Dave Evans. Had [the complainant] picked a lacrosse player other than Evans, the DNA conspiracy might have passed unnoticed. Second, the State Bar’s grievance committee voted to charge Mike Nifong with ethics violations by a mere one vote, with grievance committee chairman Jim Fox casting the tie-breaking vote.


An abundance of Fisking — described by Wikipedia as a “detailed point-by-point criticism that highlights errors, disputes the analysis of presented facts, or highlights other problems in a statement, article or essay” —­ was one of the original glories of the blogosphere, but the practice has fallen into disuse as an emphasis on briefer, pithier comments has blossomed. Marlo Lewis of Planet Gore is a throwback, however, and her current, very lengthy takedown of a speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on energy policy is, whether one agrees with her or not, a masterpiece of the form. For those too hurried to take it all in, here’s her point in a nutshell:

We are not addicted to oil any more than our ancestors were addicted to horses. We depend on oil ­just as we depend on electricity. As soon as someone develops a motor fuel superior to gasoline in price and quality, people will demand it, and profit-seeking firms will supply it. There is no economic crisis. The economy is strong despite high gasoline prices, in no small part because U.S. petroleum intensity (petroleum consumed per dollar of G.D.P.) continues its long-term decline.

While it’s no surprise that conservatives like Lewis are critical about alternative energy sources, did you know that flying rodents should be as well? Richard Morrison at OpenMarket.org directs us to a release from the Industrial Wind Action Group highlighting Congressional testimony by an expert for Bat Conservation International who stated the following: “[T]he estimated kill of bats may be from 400 to 750 bats per megawatt (MW) over the 25-year lifespan of wind turbines installed along Appalachian ridges in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Given the projected wind energy development levels for this one small portion of the U.S. — over 2,000 MW of wind turbines installed by 2020 — as many as 800,000 to 1.6-million bats could be killed over the operating lifetime of these machines.”

Then again, as Morrison points out, why shouldn’t bat lovers be just as worried about the ills of windpower as a certain high-profile environmental activist?

Even those who adamantly support alternative energy initiatives are falling down on the job, according to Bill Scher at TomPaine.com, who thinks Senate backers of a bill that would require that 15 percent of our nation’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020 made a grave mistake by pulling the measure from the floor when conservative opponents threatened a filibuster. “While Congress’ approval rating has plummeted to 23 percent, support for requiring more electricity to come from renewable sources is at 65 percent,” notes Scher. He continues:

Putting the clean electricity provision on the floor, and forcing conservatives to keep up a sustained filibuster would raise the issue’s profile and focus the nation’s attention. Instead of getting off the hook, conservatives would have to take the heat: explain to the voters why they are defending dirty energy, preventing the creation of clean energy jobs, and failing to act on global warming. And then we would see how long they last.

Time’s Joe Klein is also thinking green, and feels that even if Al Gore doesn’t run for president, he will set the energy agenda. “Global warming is, of course, global,” Klein notes:

But it will be difficult to persuade countries like China and India to do anything about the problem if the U.S. doesn’t practice some benign unilateralism and take the first step. In 2008 no Presidential candidate should get away with stumping for ‘energy independence’ without addressing both the carrots and, specifically, the sticks that will be needed. According to a recent Time poll, that will take some courage: only 35 percent of the public says it is willing to pay higher taxes to fight global warming.

So, Klein’s idea is that the candidates would stop making vague promises and start delineating exactly what sacrifices they expect Americans to make to fight climate change? To some, this might seem a clarion call of environmental sanity. To others, it might raise the question of how long it’s been since the author of “Primary Colors” was last on the campaign trail.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Vaclav Klaus as the former president of the Czech Republic. He is the current president of that country.

  • Communism is dead. So, what is the great groupthink threat of our times? Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, has a suggestion: the campaign against climate change. “Global warming hysteria has become a prime example of the truth versus propaganda problem,” Klaus wrote in Wednesday’s Financial Times. It requires courage to oppose the ‘established’ truth, although a lot of people – including top-class scientists – see the issue of climate change entirely differently… As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.”
  • Tim Haab at Environmental Economics points us to a study by University of Oregon researchers on the cognitive aspects of charitable acts that found “knowing your money is going to a good cause can activate some of the same pleasure centers in your brain as food and sex.” The social message, according to Haab: “So give in good conscience people. And then have a smoke.”

O.K., the presidential election is 17 months away, the frontrunners are hardly looking untouchable, and we don’t even know if Fred Thompson is running or not. So, obviously, it’s time to start arguing over who’s going to get the No. 2 slots on the tickets.

Today the Democrats have it out. Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic is going with former Virginia governor Mark Warner:

Warner is fairly well vetted, having survived a brutal election in Virginia and some of the pre-presidential scrutiny. He is undeniably smart and hard-working, has an attractive family and wife, has innovative ideas and knows how to run business. His political attraction, on one level, is unmatched. His advisers believe that, if he were on the ticket, he’d give the Democrats a real shot to win Virginia. On the other hand, he has no national security experience to speak of. Politically, he’d complement a candidate who polarized or a candidate who had experience but who wanted someone different.

Ambinder’s colleague Ross Douthat thinks Warner is a possibility, but not for geographic/electoral-college reasons. “Nowadays, though, the parties are more ideologically coherent, and regional loyalties are more attenuated; hence John Edwards’ failure to help John Kerry in the South in ‘04, and Al Gore’s failure to carry his home state four years earlier,” Douthat points out. He continues:

It seems to me that what you’re looking for these days is a nominee who gives you a narrative that the media can embrace, more than one who gives you a slight boost in a swing state or region … Here’s one example of what I mean: If Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination, he has an interest in picking a Southern running mate (like Mark Warner, say) less because the pick might help Obama carry some Southern states than because the narrative that such a pick projects - a black candidate with a white running mate from the old Confederacy! - dovetails perfectly with Obama’s ‘beyond our differences’ appeal.

Ezra Klein chips in: “Regional balance seems, at times, worse than useless — it draws attention to your perceived vulnerabilities without actually correcting them. By contrast, picking an amplifying choice — a war hero with a war hero, for instance — accentuates your strengths without admitting your weaknesses.”

So, Obama/Warner it is? Not so fast, says Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, who feels this race is Hillary Clinton’s to lose:

I wish to be wrong, and see Obama or Edwards get the nomination, but I honestly don’t see it happening from this vantage point, and it’s very frustrating. The Edwards candidacy was a longshot to begin with, and that he is still in it points toward how sound a strategy (combined with the luck of having Fiengold & Warner drop out), that he laid out; the frustration is more directed at Obama because he has the opportunity to lay claim with what’s grown in the netroots this decade and hasn’t grasped it at all, and it shows …

No, it’s the fake self-proclaimed “movement” that exhausts me of Obama. I say fake, not because ‘movement for change’ and “building a movement” are such vacuous slogans, but because the continual touting of having such a movement in the Obama campaign email slog is a sure-as-heck signal that there really isn’ a substantive movement behind the numbers.”

Right answer, wrong reason? “I think Jerome mars his message a little by focusing on the Netroots component here,” counters Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft. “I see how Obama being more engaged with the netroots could help him but that is not the issue. It is the disengagement from partisan Democratic politics. Obama could totally ignore the Internet as far as I am concerned so long as he remembers to be a partisan Democrat.”

So, Obama makes for the perfect general election ticket, but he can’t beat Clinton in the primaries? Well, it might be the first good news Republicans have heard in months.


  • Having previously denigrated Justice Clarence Thomas’s legal acumen, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now putting on his general’s hat, telling a group of liberal bloggers that Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is “incompetent.”

    This is too much for Betsy Newmark, a high school history teacher who’s made a mark in the blogosphere:

    Battles are never lost or won in the Congress. The losers are always ready to keep on proposing their causes. And so Harry’s hydra-headed push for surrender in Iraq goes on.

    Remember that these are the same sorts who kept pushing for “peace in the Middle East” by forcing Israel to pull out of the Gaza and the West Bank. Well, Israel unilaterally did just what was advised and pulled out of Gaza. And it descended into chaos with Hamas and Fatah conducting their own civil war. Hamas has now won in Gaza giving Iran their little terrorist puppet state there on the borders of Israel and Egypt.

    Do Harry Reid, the Democrats, and his blogger pals think that there would be any different fate if we just pulled out of Iraq now? Do they want to see Iraq becoming like Gaza except with more territory, more possible victims, and all that oil that can be used to fuel more terrorism abroad?

    Oh, and by the way, how does Nancy Pelosi, diplomat at large, think about her pals in Syria now that they’ve assassinated another democracy leader in Lebanon? With the assassination of members of the anti-Syria majority in the Lebanese parliament, Hezbollah is trying to literally exterminate that majority. Does she still think that the path to peace travels through Syria?

  • Remember the “coalition of the willing”? Remember Radar magazine? Both were institutions that many doubted really existed, but carry on today. According to the latter, however, it’s doing far better than the former.

    “In all, there are still about 12,000 foreign troops fighting for our president in Iraq, plucked seemingly at random from a battle-ready Epcot Center of 27 different nationalities,” reports Nick Curran, who has a detailed rundown of each nation’s role. “Some offered succor in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, others in a blatant bid for NATO recognition. Given the vastly disproportionate number of American boots on the ground (150,000), it’s hard to argue that the ‘coalition’ is anything more than international garnish on a U.S. venture. But it should be recognized that many thousands of non-American soldiers have gone to Iraq since 2003, and nearly 300 of them have died.”

  • Have lawsuits — and the advertisements that personal injury lawyers take out promoting them — against pharmaceutical companies led patients with severe psychiatric disorders to go off their medications? The National Council for Community Behavioral Health Care thinks so, and has a study — commissioned in unison with Eli Lilly — it feels proves so:

    The findings show fears raised by product liability litigation involving antipsychotic drugs may be putting patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder at risk for relapse. Almost all psychiatrists surveyed (93%) have had patients refuse to take an antipsychotic medication, with 48% of these refusals being fueled by fears about drugs involved in lawsuits. Of the 389 psychiatrists (97%) who reported patients stopped taking medication or reduced their dosage, 52% believe their patients did so because of law firm advertisements. The majority of these psychiatrists (93%) reported that their patients took this potentially dangerous action without consulting them first.