Dumb quote of the day: so dumb it accidentally circled around and became smart (but probably not in the way the speaker intended) edition

>> Thursday, May 21, 2015

Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question
- Rep. Louie Gohmert, as quoted by Miranda Blue,
Right Wing Watch, May 20th, 2015.


Soooo... if I understand what Representative Gohmert is saying, he's saying that President Bush shouldn't have invaded Iraq?  Gee, who'd'a ever thunk I'd agree with Louie Gohmert on anything?

I mean, let's totally set aside the point that Rep. Gohmert is talking through both sides of his ass as far as President Obama's foreign policy is concerned.  Whether or not you like the President's efforts or the consequences, any problems aren't the product of the President not supporting "the right people" and not "helping our friends" and his "helping the enemies."  Rather, let's consider the actual proposition Gohmert is unwittingly making, which is that an American President doesn't control his succession (in a first term, he isn't even guaranteed he'll have a chance to succeed himself), and therefore probably ought to factor that into his policy making to whatever extent its practicable to do so.

Or, put another way: let's just assume for the nonce that Gohmert's premise that President George W. Bush was succeeded by an incompetent is correct; why, let's double-down on it, and propose that Bush was followed by a drooling idiot who can barely work the Velcro straps on his shoes and dresses himself backwards some mornings, who gets stuck pushing or pulling on doors with hinges that swing the other direction, that he once got lost for several hours because he turned out a bathroom light before exiting, that he is what that great American icon B. Bunny would have characterized as "a real maroon".

Well, then it seems Mr. Bush himself was a fool not to at least consider the possibility the reins of his little Middle Eastern adventure would be taken up by such a half-witted dunce, yes?

Indeed, let's walk things back a little and simply suppose that our imaginary President Obama is not a complete blockhead, but that he's some kind of blockhead savant, who is particularly good at some singular aspect of American foreign or domestic policy and merely Bad At War.  Surely Mr. Bush should have thought about that.

Why, come to think of it, he should have even considered the possibility he'd be succeeded by someone less capable from his own party, even!  Supposing we weren't talking about "President Obama" at all, but about "President McCain"!  I mean, Bush might suppose that Senator McCain would be a capable successor, notwithstanding the infamous 2000 South Carolina primary campaign during which "somebody" (surely not Lee Atwater, who'd never think of doing such a thing) supported Bush's first presidential bid by suggesting that McCain was at best mentally ill from his treatment as a POW in a North Vietnamese prison and at worst a brainwashed "Manchurian Candidate".  But maybe not.  Indeed, in the unlikely event Bush believed any of the garbage from the South Carolina whisper campaign, our scenario becomes one in which the sitting President starts a war with a strong possibility that it will be continued by a treasonous puppet controlled by Vietnamese Communists.

Besides, even if Bush (as is likely the case) didn't believe the slanders leveled at his former rival, who is his successor's running-mate?  William Henry Harrison kicked a bucket a month after his inauguration.  Sure, medicine's come a long way since the 19th Century, when the chief criterion for calling yourself a doctor was the ability to say "doctor," but (as Job so wisely teaches), shit happens.  (I mean, really, really fucked-up shit, too.  Just sayin'.)  As it happened, we certainly could have had "President Palin".  (She probably would have resigned three years into her term, but still.)

Now, there's an obvious hole in that, only that hole is actually the entire point of this.  To wit: that when George W. Bush launched the Iraq war, he of course had no idea Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama would eventually seek his office, or that McCain's running-mate would be Governor Sarah Palin, any more than he might have known that he himself would run against Senator John Kerry (instead of one of the other likely Democratic nominees) in 2004 or would be assured a win in that election; indeed, it's very likely Bush hoped his Iraq war would be over quickly and the capacity of his successor irrelevant in that regard, and had no idea the war would still be a thing in 2008.  But all of that's really the point, isn't it?  He didn't know.

And of course you never do, never can, because the future is uncertain and comes with few guarantees beyond the fact the Earth will still be spinning around the Sun and the Sun spinning around the Milky Way and the Milky Way zipping whichever direction it's zipping in, whether or not you're here tomorrow morning or next month or next year or next decade to notice any particular step in our cosmic dancing.

But given that you do know that much--is this what the poet Rumsfeld meant by "known unknowns"?--isn't that something you should try to factor into your plans as best you can?  If you're baking up some kind of plan (whether for a fine little war somewhere or for something else), and your plan depends on This One Guy and you don't know if This One Guy is going to be in play one day or the next (because you can't), isn't that a flaw in your plan?  If your plan is completely contingent upon never being screwed up by idiots, isn't that a flaw?  Shouldn't you do your best to come up with contingencies and escape routes?  And if you can't, then isn't that a warning flag that maybe you should scrap the plan altogether, especially if the plan is for something that isn't entirely and absolutely necessary?  I mean, maybe things are so dire that a bad plan is better than doing nothing (that could easily be the case), but if it isn't that kind of crisis?

In other words, this is part of the problem with Bush's Iraq war.  It's not at all clear that anyone involved in the operation had a clear idea of what to do if the war turned into an occupation and the occupation turned into a grind.  It'd be one thing if it looked like they planned things out and the plan just didn't work, but I don't think they did that much.

There's a point here, by the way, that's better than Bush-bashing, which is probably what the people who gave up several paragraphs ago think this is.  Bashing Bush is kind of pointless at this stage, what's done is done and what is fucked is fucked.  But there is an object-lesson here, one which many leaders have neglected, sometimes even more catastrophically than the Bush Administration did.  (For all his greatness as a President, Abraham Lincoln's acceptance of Andrew Johnson's nomination as his running-mate in 1864 has to top our list of American presidential decisions made with stunningly poor foresight.)  The lesson, and point, is that any President ought to be thinking more than twice about the unknown future and (among other things) whether he might be succeeded by a mouth-breathing lummox or knuckle-dragging meathead.  Or even an ordinary scissorbilled clod, dunderheaded nitwit, cretinous dingbat, dumb-assed sap, foolish peabrain, or doltish boob.  (Let me just say that a thesaurus has been my best friend in drafting this post.)  If you're President, and you're contemplating a policy that could turn into a fiasco because of the unknown next administration's imbecility, maybe it's a bad play.  And even moreso when the plan (and its continuation) involves the spilling of American kids' blood.

Maybe you should think about that, yeah.




Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question. - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gohmert-bush-wouldnt-have-invaded-iraq-had-he-known-obama-would-succeed-him-and-fight-wrong-#sthash.OzfbP1mc.dpuf
Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question. - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gohmert-bush-wouldnt-have-invaded-iraq-had-he-known-obama-would-succeed-him-and-fight-wrong-#sthash.OzfbP1mc.dpuf
Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question. - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gohmert-bush-wouldnt-have-invaded-iraq-had-he-known-obama-would-succeed-him-and-fight-wrong-#sthash.OzfbP1mc.dpuf

3 comments:

John the Scientist Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 7:36:00 PM EDT  

And maybe, just maybe, our adventures in a little place called Vietnam should have been a cautionary tale about planning military adventures that last beyond the purview of one Administration?

Not the "quagmire" that those on the left were so fond of repeating at the beginning. Quagmire really requires a major foil, such as the USSR. What I'm talking about is sustained political will to support chronic combat operations long after the Gulf of Tonkin ... errrr... Yellowcake Uranium, is long forgotten.

Eric Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 10:46:00 PM EDT  

Indeed. And even of planning non-military adventures: I've long been of the opinion that the Kennedy Administration's approach to Vietnam and their treatment of LBJ as a sort of gatecrasher both contributed to Johnson's getting sucked into Vietnam.

Kennedy's approach to Vietnam can be seen as a kind of early version of Nixon's "Vietnamization" strategy with more of a reliance on JFK's beloved covert ops skullduggery, but LBJ was largely kept out of the policy loop that created this strategy. And one of the ways LBJ was kept out of that loop was by keeping him out of D.C. by sending him off on largely symbolic and useless foreign junkets; including, ironically, at least one trip to Vietnam where he was wined and dined on snake oil and bullshit.

The upshot of that being that LBJ, I think, inherited the Presidency largely unaware of his predecessor's skepticism towards the South Vietnamese and the administrations role in the Diems' deaths, and that Kennedy was trying to navigate the situation without repeating the "Who Lost China?" fingerpointing of the early 1950s while not actually making a substantial enough boots-on-the-ground commitment to wreck his chances of re-election. Rather, I think, LBJ only saw that his predecessor had been making unfulfilled commitments to a people who (from what he saw on his tour of the place) could be an effective anticommunist force if they got what he thought Kennedy was implicitly promising but dragging his heels on for no obvious reason. So LBJ decided to make good on what he thought JFK's policy should have been or was supposed to be (and certainly what he thought was right for various personal and political reasons), and... well, we all know how that turned out.

Point being, a lot of the fault for Vietnam ends up on Kennedy's doorstep. There's plenty of blame to go around through the tenure of four administrations (even Eisenhower's, though he often gets cast as the wise isolationist prophet whose warnings were ignored). But if (going back to the theme of the post) Kennedy had considered the possibility he might die in office, he might have treated Johnson and the responsibilities of succession with more respect, and who knows. (And it has to be mentioned: JFK had some fairly serious health problems; while they were manageable and responded to treatment, he wasn't the glowing model of health the press portrayed him to be and his mortality was of legitimate concern.)

TL;DR: a great point about Vietnam, John, and you can extend it by adding secret wars and realpolitik limbo-dancing to things that are likely to extend past your current administration into the next.

Eric Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 10:51:00 PM EDT  

P.S.: just so I'm not unclear: when I say that LBJ thought the South Vietnamese could defend themselves if they had enough support, I don't mean to suggest he was right. The S. Vietnamese regimes never had the stability, cohesion or dedication to stand up to a committed revolutionary force devoted to national unification and independence receiving support materiel from two major powers.

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