Wednesday, December 17, 2003

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The process critique

I have a new Slate essay on criticisms of the Bush administration's management of foreign policy. Go check it out.

[Hmmm... this sounds familiar--ed. Yes, this is a theme I've touched on a fair amount in the past few months -- click here for one example.]

On research, I'm much obliged to Joe Katzman for the U.S. News and World Report link and to Virginia Postrel for the Newt Gingrich link.

Three caveats that don't appear in the actual Slate essay, but are worth mentioning. First, although the process critique is coming primarily from the right, they don't have a monopoly on the story -- Josh Marshall has been hammering this point home for some time now -- click here for an example.

Second, although I think the process critique is a powerful one, Democrats are unlikely to use this line of attack. Why? Process is boring. “Policy Coordination Needed” might not be as dull a headline as “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative,” but it’s close. In the primaries at least, the Democrats one would expect to adopt this approach – Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, John Edwards – haven’t gotten a ton of traction in the polls. Candidates and campaigns prefer a simple message to a complex one – and in choosing between attacking Bush’s foreign policy on substance or process, Democrats will opt for the former.

Third, it's possible that the administration is trying to fix this problem, which is why Bush 41 people seem to be sprouting up. First there's Bob Blackwill, whom I've talked about here. Now there's James Baker, who seems to be having some success in his European trip.

posted by Dan on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM


“To sum it up, Bush's management of foreign policy has been too detached for his own good. The president would proudly admit that he's not a detail guy...”

Yup, this is a fair criticism. President Bush has done many thing right---and he is vastly superior to any of the Democrat candidates competing against him. Still, he is ultimately responsible for letting matters get so out of whack between the State Department and the military. Why is Colin Powell still in position of authority? The President has to do more to rid the State Department of its Madeline Albright clones. These liberal white wine and brie cheese clowns must find other employment. Why is President Bush hesitating to clean house?

“The latest process screw-up was last week's decision to bar allies outside the coalition of the willing in Iraq from receiving reconstruction contracts..”

“Writing about the contract screw-up, William Kristol and Robert Kagan were blunt: "[I]nstead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing." George Will described the decision as "a tantrum tarted up as foreign policy."

This is not at all accurate. The exact opposite is the truth of the matter. I am amazed that Daniel Drezner still holds this view after the events of the last few days. Isn’t our host contradicting himself by pointing out, “Now there's James Baker, who seems to be having some success in his European trip?” Didn’t the Defense Department memo get the Old Europeans' attention and encourage them to strike an agreement with Mr. Baker?

posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

to be fair to the Dems, it's unlikely they'll score big points with the electorate by attacking process, although that's where the Bush errors lie, as you point out. Bottom line is that they have to find a way to get elected. Clinton (Hillary, that is) has been a war supporter but process complainer for some time. You wanna talk traction? She'd like an easier run at the office, but if she'd enter the race, would get traction like a monster truck in a mud pit!!!!

posted by: Dan on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

I figured there'd already be a ton of comments here. Anyway...

I came here to make sure Josh got his credit, but I'm pleased to see you give it here (not sure why it didn't merit a paren in the real thing tho'...). I want to add that Josh has been far from alone. Indeed, as "left-wing European cosmopolite" Daniel Davies recently pointed out, the whole "Bush is a moron" crowd has been implicitly making this argument for years. Somehow, this argument was dismissed as unserious or irrelevant. But how can competence be irrelevant? As the serious right has increasingly come to realize, having an "uncurious" (to use a very generous term) President can be problematic.

posted by: JRoth on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

The price I pay for double-checking my quotes - beaten by David Thomson and another Dan.

I think Dan (the commenter) is exactly right that attacking Bush (correctly) on process has been a non-starter for every Dem whose tried it (which has been nearly all of them). Since shortly after 9-11, Dems have been saying, first quietly but then more loudly, that Bush has been screwing up Homeland Security by catering more to his base (no on the TSA, no on searching gun records) than to security experts. But somehow it's Bush who, by talking tough, has gotten credit for being tough. Arguably this is in the second category of criticism (policy), but I think it points very directly to process, because it shows Bush letting Rove and Ashcroft push politics and ideology over the policy recommendations of Bush's own experts.

As for David's contemptible rhetoric, which equates in an infantile and flatly dishonest fashion food preferences with policy wisdom (do you think Bush brought 5 chefs to Buckingham Palace because he thought that would be the only way to get a grilled American cheese?), he proudly displays, once again, his absolute ignorance of actual European politics. In contrast to his fevered imaginings of Chirac and Schroeder holed up in a bunker, striving to undermine rightful American hegemony, the reality is that Europe has been looking to mend fences with Bush since before the war began. It has been Bush's childish rhetoric that has maintained tension and mistrust. Those of us occupying the real world recall that the international community was expecting Bush's big UN speech in September to smooth things over, not by being abject, but simply by being, in the words of a recent presidential candidate, "humble." Instead, Bush took the opportunity to heap scorn on his allies, while praising lackey states that have done little to better the world. Followed, of course, by walking out on Chirac and taking Negroponte, whose job it is to sit at the UN, with him.

Oh, and in case Thomson somehow missed it, the "clowns" he derides were the ones who were right about virtually every particular of the Iraq war. The steely-eyed rocket men David fetishizes were wrong about WMD, about Saddam-Al Qaeda, and about the stability of post-war Iraq. So, by all means, reward them!

posted by: JRoth on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Yes, this administration makes foreign policy boo boos in an epic manner. But they never seem so wedded to a plan or a policy or pattern that they can't change it, when it starts to look like it's not working. (Not that they ever admit they do it.) My guess is both traits come from the seat of the pants gut level decision style that one would expect from someone like this Commander in Chief.

Example #1 -- the infamous additional 87 billion. The way the Bushies went from "we don't need much money to fix stuff" to "we need a whole bunch of money" was really rather astonishing. (See also, Department of Homeland Security, the whole change from a "humble" foreign policy skeptical of nation building, to a preemptive foreign policy remaking as many nations as possible into democracies.)

The "look of Bush bumbling" has now appeared in the political Zeitgeist. Look for continued changes in the foreign policy team until the look of bumbling disappears-- at least for a little while.

posted by: appalled moderate on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

“As the serious right has increasingly come to realize, having an "uncurious" (to use a very generous term) President can be problematic.”

The main thing is that President George W. Bush has got the BIG Picture right! He correctly understands that the West is being attacked by evil monsters and is not hesitant in saying so. Secular Liberals childishly feel uncomfortable with moral statements highly influenced by religious belief. I am a religious modernist and I could care less. The pragmatic results are all that should interest us.

The President is to be applauded for his major decisions regarding both Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush’s apparent lack of interest in details is a problem---and I will concede this point. Nonetheless, in this imperfect world we must deal with less than perfect people. Who currently has more to offer at this time in history? Senator Joseph Lieberman is the only Democrat with something valid to offer---and his campaign is going nowhere. The rest of the field is not up to snuff.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

In Slate, Dan writes,

"There are three ways to criticize the Bush administration's approach to foreign policy. The first way is both simple and simple-minded: Bush is the evil creature of corporate interests, pursuing militarized disputes merely to reward his cronies. Adherents to this line suspect there may be something to the conspiracy theory that Bush knew something about the Sept. 11 attacks before they took place. Most serious people—with the possible exception of Howard Dean—reject this line of argumentation out of hand."

This is of course an appeal to reason, but not an actual argument. Galileo's dedication to me of his work rebuts it:

“I can readily imagine, Holy Father, that as soon as some people hear that in this volume I ascribe certain motions to the terrestrial globe...they will shout that I must be immediately repudiated together with this belief... Those who know that the consensus of many centuries has sanctioned the conception that the earth remains at rest in the middle of the heaven as its center would, I reflected, regard it as an insane pronouncement if I made the opposite assertion that the earth moves.”

posted by: Pope Paul III on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

"novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation."

"frameworks must be lived with and explored before they can be broken."

Plate Tectonics, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Bill of Rights, ....

posted by: T. Kuhn on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

“But they never seem so wedded to a plan or a policy or pattern that they can't change it, when it starts to look like it's not working.”

Absolutely correct. President Bush’s basic humility allows him to change course (like a good executive should) if it is necessary. The man is not an ego tripper. He shuns ideological rigidity and is actually far more pragmatic than many people realize. This is why Bush often humiliates his opposition which repeatedly underestimates him.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]


Great Britain, Spain, Poland, Italy...

Lackey states?

Look, I could have as much fun with the coalition of the unwilling -- which consists of such superpowers as Luxemburg, Belgium, and Austria. This "states you can buy on e-bay" thing is a cute meme, but kinda offensive and narrow-minded.

posted by: appalled moderate on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]


Are you still arguing that the "no contracts for you" line was an ill-timed bungle with regard to debt-repudiation?

I'm not going to go with the people who say it was a bargaining chip in order to get debt-forgiveness because really the one has little to do with the other. The debt was going to be repudiated anyway; the Euros had nothing to lose by making a gesture giving the appearance of magnaminity. I would be curious if this announcement is followed up by an American gesture to save European face by permitting France, Germany and Russia to bid on general contracts, to give the appearance that the debt forgiveness was some kind of genuine material action, and not the glossing over of the inevitable.

posted by: Norman Pfyster on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]


Keep in mind that much of the problem here is due to structural defects in the national security apparatus. IMO personnel management is the lesser cause. We'd have the same problems with different top officials, or with a more hands-on President.

President Bush is obviously unwilling to make significant personnel changes, let alone structural ones, and the latter would be much more difficult to effect. Amy Zegart argues that any President would have these problems.

The way to break the log-jam is with the bully pulpit - the President has to educate the American people on the need for this change, and then enlist their help in getting the necessary reorganization through Congress.

That is the traditional means, though. Computerized gerrymanders have made the House less susceptible to public opinion.

And President Bush has shown little inclination to use the bully pulpit to date.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Just read your piece in Slate and by the way as your link clearly shows Dean DID dismiss the 9/11 theroy out of hand.

posted by: dan on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Both Dan and Josh seems to have a standard of friction-free history. Is the contracting policy timing a slip-up, a "hey well, things get hectic around here, sorry, where's the debt relief?" or a horse of an entirely different color?

At this point, who cares. It's working. Diplomacy can't be transparent.

posted by: russ e on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

“The debt was going to be repudiated anyway; the Euros had nothing to lose by making a gesture giving the appearance of magnaminity. “

The main thing is that it’s better sooner than latter to repudiate this debt. It’s currently a dark cloud hanging over the Iraqi people. They need to get this behind them as quickly as possible. The Old Europeans previously planned to drag this out as long as they could. The Bush administration's bad cop-good cop routine is forcing their hand.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Dan, when you write:

"A third criticism has slowly emerged over the past six months. It agrees with the logic of Bush's grand strategy, but questions whether the policy implementation has been up to snuff."

I would be very curious to know what "grand strategy" you are talking about. As far as I know, the justifications for invading Iraq have been varying and never been convincing. We still don't know why the US army is in Iraq.

It is difficult to admit that a head of state can decide to initiate a war without any obvious or serious strategic interest or necessity.

It is particularly unsettling when it is a democratic country which does that without any effective check and balance (the medias acting as cheerleaders rather than counterweight).

It becomes very unsettling when this country has by far the strongest military in the world.

Yes, much of the world opinion is a bit scared by the US.

posted by: amusedfrog on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Bush's speech to the U.N. on Seot. 12, 2002 listed our demands to Iraq:

"If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people."

Failure to comply was the justification for war.

posted by: russ e on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

David Thomson, I respectfully suggest that you go to Europe, read about Europe (WWII movies don't count) and maybe learn a second language before talking about a subject you understand so little.

Here are the facts:
1) The Iraki debt by the Paris Club (Western nations, including the US) of debtors amounts to only 40 billion, while the rest of the more than 100 billion in debt is held by arab states and others.

The biggest Iraki debt owner in the Paris Club are: Japan (4 billion),Russia (3.4 billion), France (3 billion), Germany (2.4 billion) and the US (2.1 billion).

2) Chirac (and to lesser extent Schroeder) said they would work to reduce Iraki debt in the context of overall debt reduction to all the countries owing to the Paris Club of nations. In other words, if all Club nations (US included) agree to reduce the debt owed by Iraq, there'll be a deal.

This serves two purposes: France tells the US it will only proceed throught multilateral arrangements (a pointed contrast to the US unilaterism in Irak). Furthermore, the Paris Club will only reduce debt by direct negotiation with the debtor nation, meaning there will have to be a valid accepted sovereign Irak government from which the Club members can possibly get assurances that they can participate in getting fair access to the economy. This is much more money than the reconstruction contracts we froze France out of. Smart move from the French, while we look silly, vindictive or plain disorganized.

Hardly the success of a so-called planned bad cop/good cop routine.

posted by: ch2 on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Russ e :

I do not need to have the list of the justifications given for invading Iraq (some of them like WMD or the link with Al-quaeda having been proved completely bogus). I would like to know the real strategic reasons. (No I don't think it was only for Oil, but I understand why so many people believe that, the alternative explanations are usually even less convincing).

posted by: amusedfrog on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Isn't this sort of what we're talking about:

"I would have probably said the same thing," he said of the president's warning to Taiwan not to even think about independence. "But I wouldn't have said it sitting next to the premier of China" because it undercut another American ally, he added.

Similarly, Dean said he would strike all hard-edged references to pre-emptive strikes in the United States national security strategy - without actually abandoning pre-emption as an option.

"Of course we're going to use our force at our discretion to protect the United States," he said. "To say that we've never had a pre-emption policy would be foolish..."

"It's all about nuance,"

posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

It must be nice to be a Monday morning qb. The fact of the matter is you'll never be able to talk these people into peace. You and Howard Dean can try all day but it just isn't going to happen. The old liberal "the rich get richer" rhetoric just doesn't fly anymore. To blame the president and big corporations for the war is insane. Luckily, most people are smarter than that and don't buy your rhetoric. I was in New York on 9/11 and I have to tell you that I would personally do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening again.I appreciate the fact that you are entitled to your opinion. Its just too bad that it doesn't hold much weight anymore.

posted by: Gary on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]


The Bush Administration grand strategy Mr. Drezner refers to can be found here:

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]


Actually, I just asked a simple question about Howard Dean. I don't happen to support Dean for a host of reasons, including some you mention. But the post here was about process versus substance and why the Democratic candidates won't address that. Dean seems to be making a point here about form versus substance, which seems pretty close. I also think that the criticism, as far as it goes, is justified.

posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

As for Daniel Drezner's article, I just found it interesting that it seemed so one sided. I really only saw it as a list of current criticisms of the Bush Administration. I didn't really see any new information listed. Then for Daniel to base his views on that with no really specific information to back it up wasn't really a good idea.

posted by: Steve on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

One reason that process criticism is not effective politics is that much of it has proved to be wrong-headed.
- Bush was criticized for the wrong strategy in Afghanistan -- then the Taliban/al Qaeda fell.
- He was criticized for wrong strategy against Saddam -- than Saddam's government fell.
- He was criticized for not finding Saddam -- then he found Saddam.
- He was criticized for not allowing France and Germany to have reconstruction contracts -- then both countries agreed to renegotiate their Iraq debt.

No doubt some of the process criticism is correct, but much of it comes from people with an ax to grind. They simply claim whatever Bush has done was the wrong approach. Some of the critics don't even say what their preferred alternative would have been.

posted by: David on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]


Do you think we would be safer had President Bush replaced CIA Director Tenet and/or FBI Director Freeh after 9/11?

Process has a point when the leaders of national security bureaucracies are incapable, or their agencies are incapable, of doing their own jobs and/or obstruct other agencies performance of official duty.

This President Bush seems to feel most comfortable as chairman of the board a la President Reagan, but he doesn't have a chief executive officer for national security affairs the way Reagan did. The elder Bush served in that role for Reagan, and their division of labor worked. That doesn't mean the younger Bush should emulate that particular relationship, but he needs to get the coordination job done somehow.

I agree that results are what counts, but we shouldn't wait for another 9/11 before improving the process.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Applaus to Tom Holsinger's comment. We shouldn't have to wait and debate until something else horrible happens to our great nation. Time for debate is over. We got to back up our resolutions and show the world we will not allow this to happen. We are showing the world we are fighting back.

posted by: Steve on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Well, process critiques are boring. Dean's most recent foreign policy statement was largely a process critique. And he got blasted for it.

"Misplaced Priorities have made our Nation Vulnerable"


  • There are no mandatory security standards at the 123 chemical facilities in the United States, any one of which could, if attacked, put up to a million people at risk.
  • The creation of the Department of Homeland Security has triggered a bureaucratic turf war, drawing resources and attention away from the real war on terror. The color-coded national threat advisory system has needlessly scared the public and failed to provide any useful information.
  • Far from being destroyed, terrorist network al-Qaida has dispersed and been reconstituted - with Osama bin Laden reported to have convened a terrorist summit in the Afghan mountains just last April. The Taliban is again on the move, threatening the safety and security of whole swaths of Afghanistan.

  • He doesn't get into the Iraq reconstruction stuff, but it's the same kind of criticism: Bush just doesn't sweat the small stuff. But we know that work is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.

    posted by: p mac on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    I understand Tom Holsinger to have said that the elder Bush served President Reagan as "...a chief executive officer for national security affairs." This is an interesting view of GHWB's role as Vice President; quizzed by a Congressional panel about his role in planning the Iran/Contra maneuver, Bush claimed he was "out of the loop." There is no reason to believe he was not being truthful, or that his foreign policy role otherwise was not in the tradition of past Vice Presidents -- that is, mostly limited to attending funerals.

    The elder Bush's expertise in foreign affairs rested entirely on his personal contacts with myriad foreign leaders. Conceptually, he was a cypher, and he was advised by men whose concern was to avoid short-term geopolitical risks (Scowcroft) and domestic political risks of any kind (Baker). This is the background needed to understand the younger Bush's approach to foreign policy. George W. Bush is a very able politician, better than his father, and sees very clearly that the passivity and reactiveness that distinguished his father's administration (not just in foreign policy) led to electoral disaster. If the younger Bush sometimes seems imprudent in his conduct of foreign policy, it is fair to ask what prudence got his father.

    But this is only part of the puzzle. Another important piece is what we all knew of Bush before he was elected -- that he had met few foreign leaders, had rarely traveled abroad, had little interest or experience in anything related to American relations with any country except Mexico, and not much in that area either. This applies also to his experience with defense, with intelligence agencies, with Congress: with anything, in fact, that might help him run a foreign policy process disciplined enough to avoid some of the mistakes his administration made in planning for postwar Iraq and on other subjects.

    This is not a partisan polemic. Like Dan Drezner, I voted for Bush in November 2000 and expect to do so again next year. But we are talking about a man who entered office not expecting or in any way prepared to run a foreign policy of any kind, let alone lead American through the post-9/11 world, This has had consequences from the devastating bureaucratic wars fought among the Pentagon, State and CIA over Iraq to the mangled relations between the United States and numerous friendly governments to the administration's really lamentable tendency toward being either behindhand or inarticulate in explaining every move it makes, thereby allowing America's enemies time to circulate their own interpretations of American policy. We are talking also about a man whose experience with government before about 10 years ago was restricted almost entirely to experience with electoral politics, and this has had its consenquences as well -- consequences that those who study carefully the record of the Clinton administration will find familiar.

    So, in sum, we have a President inclined to boldness, largely ignorant of the subject matter concerning which he must make decisions, and preoccupied above all things with the election campaign looming next year. This is an interesting combination, capable of producing much good but also considerable misfortune if we are not very lucky.

    posted by: Zathras on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Tom Holsinger asks whether we would be safer President Bush had replaced CIA Director Tenet and/or FBI Director Freeh after 9/11. My guess would be to answer yes, although I'm no expert on their qualifications. Also, it would depend on who their replacements were.

    Gov. Kean, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, is now saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented. It seems likely that the commission report will assign a lot of blame to Tenet and/or Freeh.

    posted by: David on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]


    AFAIK, the elder Bush objected to Iran/Contra as dumb when proposed, and was told he didn't have to work on it. This might have been true given the silly manner in which the whole thing was implemented. But he sure as hell knew about it in advance.

    As far as his prior national security background, keep this in mind:

    He had been director of the CIA
    He had been ambassador to China

    The ship which carried troops for the Bay of Pigs invasion was named "Barbara" and owned by the Zapata Oil Company.

    You are allowed one guess each as to who owned the Zapata Oil Company at the time, his wife's name, and their eldest son's present occupation.

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    The second kind of criticism is more substantive. It holds that the costs of Bush's pre-emption doctrine—weakened international legitimacy, fraying alliances, increased global public hostility to the United States—are greater than the benefits. Click on any Democratic candidate's Web site (including Dean's) and you'll find a version of this criticism. It will be with us at least until November 2004.

    I think you totally gloss over this critique and state it in the mildest way possible to deemphasize it.

    You could have easily said instead that the Bush policy "raised the risk of another 9/11 by allowing a resurgence of AQ, leaving nuclear material unguarded, increasing radical Islam in places like Indonesia, decreased our real (non-state sponsored) antiterrorism capabilities by fraying alliances, spread ourselves too thin with special forces and muslim interpretors etc."

    It serves your argument well to dismiss the second argument as kind of boring but its the one with the facts on its side. All the same magazines that describe the process argument also typically take issue with substantive critique that we have increased terrorism (e.g. New Yorker, Newsweek).

    In my mind the process argument will not be talked about much ten years from now except for the players ("we could have won Vietnam") The second argument will be the one that will be important in retrospect.

    An Economist for Dean

    posted by: lerxst on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    people on the left have been making your criticisms for years now. not just josh marshell, but others. for that we've been called traitors, accused of treason, and generally smeared.

    and your snide comment about dean continues that theme - he commented that the bush administrations poor cooperation with the 9/11 commission (not to mention the slow startup of it) leads people to think that there is something to hide.

    again, this is a continuing theme with the right in america. understanding the root causes of a problem does not absolve people of responsibility. understanding that the bush administration's reticince leads people to these theories does not mean those theories are correct or valid.

    a more realistic theory is that they're trying to cover up their failure to prevent it. and the statements from the republican chairman seem to imply that might be the case.

    i wonder what left wing positions being smeared today will be championed by the right in two years time?

    posted by: kevin lyda on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    above where i said "republican chairman" i meant to say "republican chairman of the 9/11 commission." sorry.

    posted by: kevin lyda on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    "However, this disengagement has encouraged bureaucratic rivalries to fester, diverting the attention of officials from the actual substance of foreign policy."
    Gee, the clueless of the bureaucracy think it's more important to squabble than to do their jobs in service of the Country? [I really do not want to get into a rehash of validity of the Bush Doctrine as manifested in Iraq, since it appears to me to be valid a priori and is perhaps now being proven as valid by some results: any more 9/11's yet? North Korea not multilateraling yet? Economy not proceeding normally?] Maybe Bush wants to find out who the Country's friends are, rather than being obligated to Nanny them, leaving them instead to self-destruct if not really on board. Anyway, I always thought the State and Defense departments were supposed to fight, but genuinely.

    As to alienating traditional allies by not obeying alleged rules of process , it was rather these "allies" who alienated both us and themselves. What kind of wonderous process was manifested by the [in]action of the U.N. against us and its own vaunted Resolutions? Was it attentive to reality? Has the U.N. yet defined what 1441's "serious consequences" really are, or defined any policy regarding current terrorism? They must be good at process, very focused. Did the U.N. even try to formulate a resolution opposing U.S. action? [Maybe it did do these things, and I am ignorant of them. At any rate its successful process, often comfortingly smooth, seems to equally often have no actual effects in relation to conditions addressed.]

    Independently, in the case of France enc., what enlightened process caused them to effectively vaporize their own existing contracts with Iraq before the War even started -- thinking we were not going in, and would not probably win? This was strange. Were Cirac enc. buying protection?

    Both groups -- U.N. and "allies" -- seem to be bent on self-destruction as a process in itself. In this they appear to be efficient. Even now Cirac is currently dedicated to eliminating Muslim and Jewish fashion from the schools of France, to say nothing of "big Crosses". What kind of focus on process is this? ADD? What kind of person is this? Let's see if the European sophisticate gets it done, then what the fallout is.

    Need we be reminded of Cirac's most favored technique of process, known as the vacent-impossible-ultimatum, in particular that we exit Iraq two months ago or else? Or else what? Whatever it was, it didn't happen. I like that kind of ultimatum when it applies to us.

    And what kind of process is Koffi Anan, in his supreme finesse, employing in essentially rejecting Iraq's demand for attention to its people after 25+ years of putative U.N. responsibility? Annan's "process has taken a recess" -- Bo Diddley.

    How does one deal with "allies" who still oppose our action in Iraq when it comes to rewards to these friends, necessitated on the absurd notion that otherwise they will get more mad and we will lose more credibility [=popularity]? So that they will then not be our friends anymore. Bush has them by the balls to boot, as was just proven by their quick move to make-nice in forgiving Iraq debt. And it's their own fault. There is no other way to deal with friends like these. They chose the weapons, as a direct result of their techniques of process, thus defining process as various attempts to throw 110mph fastballs at the head. Bush seems pretty good at this kind of process, despite the fearsom loss of popularity involved.

    The question of France enc.'s long term [commencing in the near future] economic relation to Iraq is not what is involved here in regard to debt forgiveness/contracts. Certainly they will be back in Iraq, even if Saddam is not reinstalled. Unless France continues to sabotage itself, which can be a question.[What happens in 50 years when everyone in France is retired as a result of their extreme devotion to Socialistic process?]

    In short, I maintain that Bush is doing exactly what he wants to do regarding "process", and this is not due to inattention, though it is necessarily not smooth nor comfortable. Those who strongly disagree with this view sound randomly chaotic to me [as I probably do to them], or at least in search of a perfection of process which is not well defined and may not be too related to outcomes. I like Bush's [alleged] vision of process, though it necessitates that the achievement of perfection as smoothness is on some levels, in some cases, not too relevant.

    posted by: Joe Peden on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Dan said "Adherents to this line suspect there may be something to the conspiracy theory that Bush knew something about the Sept. 11 attacks before they took place."

    So what are we make of this:

    9/11 Chair: Attack Was Preventable

    If anyone in the administration knew, then Bush is culpable.

    posted by: casualworker on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    "Argumentation"? Sheesh. What's wrong with "argument" or "reasoning?"

    Silly Ph.Ds.

    posted by: Galileo on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    It would seem to me that you and many more that don't seem to get it, must be "educated beyond your intelligence" as the old saying goes. To us less educated but maybe with more "street smarts" see very clear what the President's strategy is. I think even the Europeans know exactly what he is up to, but you and others want to over complicate it. Keep up the good work though it does make good reading, hang in there you will eventually get it.

    posted by: wwhite on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Articles of a true liberal thru and thru educated in the liberal schools and think tanks. And from the great liberal base of Chicago Illinois.
    Just wait,you will eat crow!!!!!

    posted by: Dave Popp on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    J Roth wrote:

    In contrast to his fevered imaginings of Chirac and Schroeder holed up in a bunker, striving to undermine rightful American hegemony, the reality is that Europe has been looking to mend fences with Bush since before the war began.

    Really, how so?

    posted by: Thorley Winston on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    came over here from Josh Marshall's link...

    The process critique is certainly something he has done, but I think it's irrelevant. It's a Washington measure of success.

    Jonathan Chait's "Case for Bush Hate" made this point, but really it was pretty lifeless.

    The candidates most able to profit from competence have been the prowar Senators and Wesley Clark. They said, we want to have the war but we would do it better: more troops, more allies, better reconstruction, blah blah blah. It's all bullshit.

    I'm not a big Dean fan, I expect him to get clobbered in Nov, but he is succeeding precisely because he doesn't take the process approach.

    posted by: wellbasically on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    There are so many ways to illustrate this point and I'm sure books have been written touching on the matter, but isn't it obvious to anyone these days that the "Old World" (Europe) is about PROCESS and the "New World" (America) is about RESULTS?

    This is exactly what infuriates the Left beacuse they have entirely adopted the principles of the Old World (self-absorption, moral relavance, self-deprecation) whereas GWB personifies everything New World and American (morality, progress).

    Can you just imagine GWB asking someone "tell me how you feel about that?" More likely one can hear him say: "thanks for your opinion, now get it done and I don't care how, but get it done!"

    Remember "I feel your pain"?

    GWB is a manager. WJC was a psychotherapist.



    posted by: Doug on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    I haven't read all the comments, maybe somebody has explained this...

    A "process-oriented critique" is a method of saying whether somebody is a success or failure on a more objective basis.

    Basically you start by asking "did this person do what they set out to do".

    So a process-oriented critic would say something like "Bush campaigned on having a humble foreign policy... as a compassionate conservative..." etc. and you then consider the evidence and give an opinion about whether the person succeeded or failed.

    On the one hand, this kind of critique is useful in allowing the critic to set aside his/her personal prejudices and make some sort of editorial judgement.

    But on the other hand, it doesn't really address the big issue ie whether we should have had the war or not.

    I see it as a way for antiBush Democrats who were for the war to jump on the bandwagon now that the war is turning into a long hard slog. I say welcome aboard, but let's realize that the reason Dean is winning is that he was against the war, not because he is smarter or more capable.

    posted by: wellbasically on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    For instance, if you were a professional lobbyist or journalist or staffer or beaureaucreat in Washington, and you had to work there whether the prez was a D or an R, you would have to take a step back from partisanship and use the process critique. Otherwise you'd end up quitting every four/eight years.

    posted by: wellbasically on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Dear Dan,
    I must say, I agree with a lot of what you said in your Slate article. I differ with you on only two points:

    1. I find the MSN comments pathetic. Why is it that all the super-patriots in America exhibit such a uniform lack of information coupled with a complete lack of skill in their native language?

    2. I've never once heard Dean or the campaign accuse Bush of anything like being an "evil creature of corporate interests, pursuing militarized disputes merely to reward his cronies." I've been involved in the local grassroots Dean campaign for nearly a year. I've heard him speak so many times I can recite many of his lines from memory. I read the campaign website regularly and participage in assorted volunteer blogs, meetings, and other activities. He doesn't say it.

    But I'm glad you did. I, for one, completely agree. Chris

    posted by: Chris Finnie on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Although I agree w/ your process critique of President Bush's handling of postwar Iraq and the chaos which is resulting from beaurocratic mismanagement, I am confused by your light dismissal of Bush's administration corporate cronyism. You are correct in saying no evidence exist which supports any theory that Bush had prior knowledge of the attack. But, neither does any evidence exist that Iraq had any involvement or prior knowledge of al Queda's attacks on the Pentagon and the World trade Center. What is evident is that companies like Halliburton, Bechtel, and the Carlyle Group who have extensive ties to virtually every top executive in Bush's administration is receiving disproportionate numbers of contracts in Iraq and Suadi Arabia. These companies appear to have considerable influence as these contracts were awarded on a no bid basis. Some question the ethics of this influence and possible corruption of the political process.

    posted by: Gary on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    What a great idea!

    If only a leading Democratic candidate would say something like this!

    "[A]s President, I will renew America's commitment to the men and women who proudly serve our nation and to the critical missions they carry out.

    That means ensuring that our troops have the best leadership, the best training, and the best equipment.

    It means keeping promises about pay, living conditions, family benefits, and care for veterans so we honor our commitments and recruit and retain the best people.

    It means putting our troops in harm's way only when the stakes warrant, when we plan soundly to cope with possible dangers, and when we level with the American people about the relevant facts.

    It means exercising global leadership effectively to secure maximum support and cooperation from other nations, so that our troops do not bear unfair burdens in defeating the dangers to global peace.

    It means ensuring that we have the right types of forces with the right capabilities to perform the missions that may lie ahead. I will expand our armed forces' capacity to meet the toughest challenges like defeating terrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction, and securing peace with robust special forces, improved military intelligence, and forces that are as ready and able to strengthen the peace as they are to succeed in combat.

    When he ran in 2000, this president expressed disdain for "nation building." That disdain seemed to carry over into Iraq, where civilian officials did not adequately plan for and have not adequately supported the enormous challenge, much of it borne by our military, of stabilizing the country. Our men and women in uniform deserve better, and as President, I will shape our forces based not on wishful thinking but on the realities of our world.

    I also will get America's defense spending priorities straight so our resources are focused more on fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and honoring commitments to our troops and less, for example, on developing unnecessary and counterproductive new generations of nuclear weapons.

    Leadership also is critically needed to strengthen America's intelligence capabilities. The failure of warning on 9-11 and the debacle regarding intelligence on Iraq show that we need the best information possible about efforts to organize, finance and operate terrorist groups; about plans to buy, steal, develop, or use weapons of mass destruction; about unrest overseas that could lead to violence and instability.

    As President, I will make it a critical priority to improve our ability to gather and analyze intelligence. I will see to it that we have the expertise and resources to do the job.

    Because some terrorist networks know no borders in their efforts to attack Americans, I will demand the effective coordination and integration of intelligence about such groups from domestic and international sources and across federal agencies. Such coordination is lacking today. It is a critical problem that the current administration has not addressed adequately."

    posted by: Hesiod on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Mr. Drezner begins his essay by dismissing the views of those (not serious) people who view Bush as an "evil" man pursuing armed conflict in order to make money for his corporate allies (presumably in the oil and military contracting industries). Let's put aside the idea that Bush is "evil" and that the SOLE motivation for an invasion of Iraq was either control of Mideast oil or more military contracts for Bush's friends and contacts in the defense industry. It still seems to me that there is a very strong case to be made that the whole agenda of defense via preemptive strike and American global "empire" laid out in Project for American Century documents is, among other things, in the pecuniary interests of major corporate contractors Bush, Cheny, Rumsfeld and others (Condoleeza Rice with Exxon) have connections with.

    It also seems to me that a "libertarian-leaning Republican" would be aware that people tend to pursue their own material self-interest, and that national leaders tend to pursue their own material self-interest. Or are Republican defense contractors exempt from this rule of "human nature"? I would suggest that profit for major corporations tied in with the US government is one motivation for the Bush foreign policy agenda...not the sole one. A complex ideology of "patriotism" and a certain amount of paranoia about the world outside the United States(I use the quotes advisedly because I don't view most of these people as real patriots) has grown up to justify the aggrandizement of what that left-wing radical Dwight Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex."

    One reason that Bush's foreign policy might be distorted and unpragmatic is precisely that he and his advisers cannot see the world in a clear-eyed way. Their view is distorted both by their own material interests in the ongoing "war on terrorism" and their acceptance of an ideology of "patriotism" that justifies their own profits and careers (everyone needs to feel they have a purpose...).

    I am also amazed by libertarians who fail to see the development of a large national security apparatus (in some ways a necessary development, I would say) as the major threat to liberty in America since the late 1940s. Instead they wail about AFDC and other relatively low-funded welfare programs (I'm not talking here about the sacred middle-class entitlement program social security). Do you view the "war on terrorism" as a potential threat to American liberties, or not, Mr. Drezner?

    So that we can avoid the usual name-calling, let me make clear that I am not a pacifist and that I supported the attack on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. But I wonder why the US is involved in a "war on terror" and not in a more narrowly defined, and pragmatic "war on al-Qaeda". Part of the reason for this, I submit, is that many people have careers and money invested in the American national security state, and they were looking for a big project to pursue after the end of the Cold War.

    I'd appreciate a reply from Mr. Drezner on these points. Also, to avoid the usual condescension of right-wing intellectuals, let me state off the bat that I'm a U of CHicago BA, MA, and PhD, I had classes with Leon Kass and Allen Bloom and etc. I'm also a strong supporter of Howard Dean. Dismissing intellectual opponents as "not serious" does not an argument make, Mr. Drezner, as you should know.

    Matthew Lenoe
    Assistant Professor of History
    Assumption College
    Worcester, MA

    posted by: Matthew Lenoe on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    For a person who is continually described as incompetent, Bush seems to have had amazing success in Afghanistan and Iraq. All the disasters that his critics predicted (hundreds of thousands of casualties, famine, refugees) have not happened; the French and Germans are falling into line, and Iraq is being prepared for self-government. All this has been accomplished in a short while in spite of constant sabotage by the Democrats in Congress.

    Give Bush credit for pulling the country together after 9/11. Remember too, the Clinton administration castrated the CIA and diminished our military capacity -- the only government jobs eliminated in Gore's reinvention of government were in defense.

    Best of all, Bush doesn't gloat. We, his supporters, however, do!

    posted by: Margaret McCarthy on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Ms Margaret,

    While it is your right to support any politician you chose to, frankly you are coming off as an uncritical booster for President Bush than an honest commentator. While President Bush should be able to expect such uncritical commentary from his mother, the rest of us are under no obligation.

    While the "sky-is-falling" left hasn't been vindicated by disasters in Iraq or Afghanistan, the best that can be said about our situation there is that we're treading water with choppy conditions. In short, we have failed to achieve any truly lasting benefits to the United States or substantially find evidence to vindicate our actions.

    Al-queda still remains at large, Iraq is far from pacified, reconstruction in Afghanistan has sputtered almost to a halt, we have found no evidence of WMD in Iraq despite allot of searching, we have expended allot of money, and we have lost credibility in dealing with the genuine WMD situations in Iran and North Korea.

    Over all our national security situation is at best described as "stale", and hardly a smashing success. Just as in your hometown randomly rounding up a few criminals and shooting them summarily in the street would not be accepted as giving justice to a crime victim, it cannot be said that we have truly avenged the victims of 911.

    The harshest arguments furthermore have come not from political opponents, but many Republicans who worry that this country is on the wrong course. I am a Republican and voted for the elder Bush and came out against Clinton's re-election. The article Dan writes also cites many prominent Republicans or conservatives. Your statement while kind-hearted hardly stacks up to a strong endorsement for conservatives worried that Bush is indeed muddling and bumbling his way through things.

    Contrary to doomsayers, things may yet turn out alright. However it is far from certain that they will, and given the resources and risks this nation has taken we deserve better than a "maybe".

    posted by: Oldman on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Matthew Lenoe
    Assistant Professor of History
    Assumption College
    Worcester, MA

    Dear Matthew,

    I’m not Daniel Drezner but I can’t avoid this challenge. I feel like a home runner hitter seeing a slow pitch coming over the plate:

    “A complex ideology of "patriotism" and a certain amount of paranoia about the world outside the United States”

    “But I wonder why the US is involved in a "war on terror" and not in a more narrowly defined, and pragmatic ‘war on al-Qaeda’. “

    Surely you jest? Rational thought and not paranoia can easily determine this to be the reality of our current predicament. The attacks of 9/11 prove that one not need be paranoid to perceive that real threats exist outside the United States. Al Quaeda and the other Mid Eastern radical groups, both religious and secular, intensely hate the United States simply because of our Western values and material successes. It is obvious that you have failed to read the brilliant works of Bernard Lewis. The stuff has hit the fan over the collapse of the Islamic World. This has resulted in a nihilistic suicidal mindset bent on destroying the hated and dominant West.

    “... of what that left-wing radical Dwight Eisenhower called the ‘military-industrial complex.’”

    I entirely agree with President Eisenhower’s warning. It is truly disgraceful that so many retired military officers seek to become rich after their retirement. And yes, human nature is such that people will rationalize their behavior for their own personal gain. But your argument doesn’t hold much water because the evidence is overwhelming that a true threat actually exists. You are, at best, addressing a secondary issue.

    “Do you view the "war on terrorism" as a potential threat to American liberties, or not, ...?

    Indeed I do. This is why our Founding Fathers instituted systems of checks and balances to minimize this risk. Can we entirely remove the possibility that abuses might still occur? Of course not---and welcome to the real world.

    Cordially yours,

    David Thomson
    Second Rate Eric Hoffer Imitator
    Houston, Texas

    posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    "Process" is what people bitch about when they can't complain about results. The American people care about results, and with W they are getting the results they want.

    Afghanistan - check.
    Iraq - check.
    Saddam - check.
    No more terrorist attacks in the US - check.

    For the 5% percent who really follow the details:

    Iraqi debt relief on track - check.
    Iraqi reconstruction on track - check.
    Afghan pacification on track - check.

    The 1% who give a crap about internal bureaucratic sniping about process are probably equally divided between those who are horrified the internationalists at State haven't gotten their way, and those pissed that the internationalists at State still have a job.

    For my money, most of the bitching about process ("We need a plan"; "State and Defense and fighting again"; "The Bush administration is too flexible and keeps changing tactics"; "Bush is being mean to France again") betray an amusing naivete about how the world works.

    posted by: R C Dean on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    "For a person who is continually described as incompetent, Bush seems to have had amazing success in Afghanistan and Iraq."

    Define "success."

    Most people who are making the above claim, sort of stopped looking at the reality of BOTH Afghansitan and Iraq after the "war" was over.

    Given the massive mismatch in military power and resources between the United States and the Taliban, and even the Iraqi military, a chimpaznee sitting in the Oval office would have had military "success" in both of those countries.

    The hard part is the aftermath, and the rebuilding process.

    That's been, so far, a disaster.

    posted by: Hesiod on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Matthew Lenoe -- " avoid the usual condescension of right-wing intellectuals, let me state off the bat that I'm a U of CHicago BA, MA, and PhD, I had classes with Leon Kass and Allen Bloom and etc. I'm also a strong supporter of Howard Dean."

    My god! You've come so far, yet backward, resorting to an appeal to the alphabet and name-dropping in a rather vain attempt to shore up the already blatantly elitist and condescending hallowing achieved by the speciality of your request directly to Drezner, who is seen as a similarly hallowed equal presumably because he writes for a magazine, and who must respond also as an obligation of the alleged independent incisiveness of your points, which seem instead remarkably ossified to me, in spite of the fact that I am not a right wing intellectual. [People have not made knives from bones in a long time.]

    It is no surprise, then, that Dean [who thinks the U.S.S.R. still exists - or is this only a wish?] speaks for you. Why in hell did you not simply e-mail Drezner, rather than publicly challenging him to a public duel? It would have been less embarassing, though I must admit that the weight of the alphabet should have surely carried you through this preliminary phase -- were this to be the Bone Age, that is, which seems to nevertheless exist still in the hallowed halls of Academia.

    posted by: Joe Peden on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    I have to disagree. I don't really think that the rebuilding process has been a disaster. It may seem that way only because the media either puts all the emphasis on the "body counts" or they only report how many american soldiers have died so far. There are some things to consider. One, if it were truly a disaster we would not have caught Saddam Hussein. Describing something as a "disaster", generally means it would be a failure and we wouldn't have accomplished anything sugnificant. We however did catch Saddam Hussein. That is a major victory for us. We are continuing to catch insurgents. The second main point was going to point out is that even some of the troops are upset at the fact that the progress or "good" that they are accomplishing in Iraq is not being reported as the "body counts" is. It is extremely hard to find that information in the media. The average American wouldn't know where to look or even know its existed since that particular news is so hard to find.

    The last thing I would like to point out is that there are many people who complain that the situation in Iraq should be done already and that we are loosing soldiers in Iraq. To those people complaining for those reasons please listen carefully to what I am about to say. First, overthrowing a government such as Saddam's and rebuilding it from scratch will take time. It does not happen over night or in a few months. We have to be patient and things will get done. As for the soldiers, they knew what they were getting into when they joined the military. You cannot expect to join a military without going into battle. That is what the military is for. Unfortuneately, many people also believe that the American military can win wars without loosing life. News flash......war causes death on all sides. It is not normal to go into battle or war without loosing life. Please don't misunderstand me. I have the upmost respect and admiration for our military men/women and are great leaders. What I said was to point out the truth to the people who have the illusion that we can win wars without loosing life and that the reconstruction of countries cannot happen over night or in a few months. All we should do is be patient, honor our military (live and deceased) and support our leaders through this.

    posted by: Steve on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    My last comment was in response to Hesiod's posting.

    posted by: Steve on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    In my comment I stated the following "What I said was to point out the truth to the people who have the illusion that we can win wars without loosing life and that the reconstruction of countries CANNOT happen over night or in a few months." I meant to say "What I said was to point out the trut to people who have the illusion that we CAN win wars without loosing life and that the reconstruction of countries can happen over night or in a few months." The changes in text are capitalized.

    posted by: Steve on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    Today is not my day. In my comments I meant to say that "What I said was to point out the truth to the people who have the illusion that we can win wars without loosing life and that the reconstruction of countries CAN happen over night or in a few months."

    My apologies for multiple postings. When I went to make the changes the first time. I corrected the wrong things in the posting just before this one. Again my apologies to everyone.

    posted by: Steve on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

    R.C. Dean-YOU ARE THE MAN(see 12/19/03 7:21 am posting)
    Quick note for those highly educated liberals still struggling to grasp the reason behind our policy of refusing construction contracts to the French et al. Please study The Little Red Hen. It is a quick read and it has pictures.
    Graduate of Pace Elementary

    posted by: Rocketman on 12.17.03 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

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