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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Friday, March 28, 2003

Pre-emptive Props To Professor Paul Krugman: Praise For The Phrase That Pays

Krug 3.28 contains what can only be interpreted as a subtle cry for help:

So the [Cheney energy] task force was subject to what military types call "incestuous amplification," defined by Jane's Defense Weekly as "a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation."

NO, I am not praising Krugman for "great moments in self-awareness", although one wonders whether non-defense types, such as cloistered academics, could experience a similar amplification.

The huge props are for popularizing what I have no doubt will become "the phrase that pays" of the next week. As of early morning on March 28, "incestuous amplification" returns a mere nine Google hits (6 are presented, 3 are suppressed as duplicates). We will monitor the popularity of this phrase closely. Could it become this week's "shock and awe"? That's asking it to fill some mighty big footsteps - currently 17,600 Google hits.

Shall I address the content of this piece? Groan (yours, I expect, not mine). As I read it, the theme seems to be, "Cheney was wrong about energy, and now he is wrong about the war". Pointed excerpt:

Right now, pundits are wondering how Mr. Cheney — who confidently predicted that our soldiers would be "greeted as liberators" — could have been so mistaken. But a devastating new report on the California energy crisis reminds us that Mr. Cheney has been equally confident, and equally wrong, about other issues.

Let us go back to Mr. Cheney's "confident prediction".

CHENEY: ...Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. And the president’s made it very clear that our purpose there is, if we are forced to do this, will in fact be to stand up a government that’s representative of the Iraqi people, hopefully democratic due respect for human rights, and it, obviously, involves a major commitment by the United States, but we think it’s a commitment worth making. And we don’t have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S. Clearly, 12 years after the Gulf War, we’re back in a situation where he does constitute a threat.

And, a bit later:

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Now, if we get into a significant battle in Baghdad, I think it would be under circumstances in which the security forces around Saddam Hussein, the special Republican Guard, and the special security organization, several thousand strong, that in effect are the close-in defenders of the regime, they might, in fact, try to put up such a struggle. I think the regular army will not. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces, and are likely to step aside.
Now, I can’t say with certainty that there will be no battle for Baghdad. We have to be prepared for that possibility. But, again, I don’t want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there’s no doubt about the outcome. There’s no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action. And there’s no question but what it is going to be cheaper and less costly to do it now than it will be to wait a year or two years or three years until he’s developed even more deadly weapons, perhaps nuclear weapons. And the consequences then of having to deal with him would be far more costly than will be the circumstances today. Delay does not help.

MR. RUSSERT: The army’s top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we’ve deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

Clearly we have not quite seen parades and flower-strewn streets that Cheney might have expected. However, my impression is that it is Saddam loyalists that are motivating the resistance, rather than the Iraqi people generally. As to the determination of the Republican Guard, it looks as though we will soon find out.

I think it is fair to say that we (among the great unwashed) have been surprised by Saddam's tactics and their effectiveness. As to the mood of the Iraqi people, the jury is out. It seems like we only took half the lesson from the uprisings back in 1991, and forgot about Mark Twain's cat.

UPDATE: The Natives Appear To Be Friendly

Iraqis seem to be willing to welcome us, but have terrible memories of 1991, when we stood aside and let Saddam crush their revolt.

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