“The Mendacity of Hope” Richard Cohen

242020pearl20harbor20memorial2020ha "You can appreciate the usefulness of this false claim. It says something compelling about the plight of young, black males that is essentially true — their condition amounts to a calamity and something has to be done. But this particular comparison is wrong, and Obama must know it by now. Ought to be true is not the same as true. "  Cohen

"After all, it ought to be true that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It ought to be true that he had ties with Osama bin Laden. It ought to be true that aluminum tubes were intended for a nuclear weapons program, and it ought to be true, really, that none of this mattered since what mattered most of all was a larger truth: Hussein had to go and the Middle East had to be urban-renewed for the sake of democracy."  Cohen


Richard Cohen wrote this column for the Washington Post a couple of days ago.  I have been thinking it over, amidst the hubbub of the holiday season.

The profound truth of the line in red is impressive.  One of the things that I claim to have learned is that humans are prone by their very nature to believe whatever they wish to believe. 

This feature of the human mind is endlessly repeated in the pages of the history of intelligence analysis.  People often misinterpret or ignore the obvious conclusions that available data lead to.  Instead of applying Occam’s Razor to a problem they (often collectively) believe something that satisfies their inner desires and needs.  This frequently leads to disastrous results.  The failure of allied military intelligence to see the possibilities for a German offensive in the Ardennes in 1944 and the earlier American failure to anticipate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor are good examples.  In the Ardennes, the command wanted to "thin" the line somewhere and convinced itself that the terrain in the Ardennes made that a good place to do that and also a good place to place inexperienced units for "seasoning."  They chose to believe that in spite of the fact that the Germans had attacked across that terrain in 1940.  At Pearl Harbor the command convinced itself that the Japanese would first strike at US possessions in the Far East and that this would provide "warning" and time for the Pacific Fleet to sortie from Pearl Harbor.  There are many, many examples of similar behavior.  I have lived through a few of them, not least the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Now Cohen is telling us to remember that there is a danger of doing the same thing in choosing a president.  There is a danger of seeing what you want to see in someone, of accepting the crude image building that modern political campaigns depend on for shaping our weak minds.  In the case of Obama the danger is increased by the desire we all have to feel good about ourselves, to believe that he and we are now better and purer than we were.

This danger is not limited to Obama and his campaign.  It is everywhere.  Take care and think sceptically.  pl 


This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

81 Responses to “The Mendacity of Hope” Richard Cohen

  1. Hudson says:

    Sorry, anyone who leads off a column with a charge that a candidate “lied about his haircuts” (a charge that happens to be false) is announcing that he loves to gorge on whatever easy, cheap fast food his media compatriots are dishing out in lieu of analysis and substance. Cohen shows himself right off the bat to be as superficial as those he aims to skewer.

  2. bob randolph says:

    Remember that Rich Cohen is still trying to atone for having been a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq and having gullibly bought in to the lies/lines that Saddam had WMD, was connected to Al Qaeda and was an existential threat to the US (read Israel); and is backing away from more recent pre-NIE columns making the same arguments about Iran.
    There may be a larger point to be made about the madness of crowds but Obama’s fib, if fib it is, is hardly the vehicle to drive home the moral of the story.

  3. J says:

    it appears that our nation has lost their ‘critical thinking’ processes that it once had. military endeavors by their nature forced critical thinking to the forefront.

  4. Jim says:

    And it ought to be true that a politician who speaks the word “democracy” all the time must truly love democracy. Unfortunately, you can train a thousand parrots to say “democracy” all the time, but it won’t necessarily produce democracy. In fact, it doesn’t even establish that their intent is democracy.

  5. Michael Singer says:

    What exactly is the comparison Cohen and you are talking about? I have read this posting over and over and I don’t get it. Obama has put forth as many policy positions as the other top contenders for the Democrat nomination. They all differ in minor ways. Their rhetoric mildly separates them. Edwards had a lack luster Senate performance which makes it hard to believe he can be more effective as President. Hillary, in my view, is really a part of the Washington swamp; her style is her content,for example, her votes for the war and on Iran’s Quds forces reinforce her commitment to the Washington of Bush and the rightist Congress, her attack politics and slurs
    are the old style. Mark Penn, her campaign director, is old style numbers crunching polls shape policy actor. No one with any experience believes what Obama “hopes for” is true now. He is trying to articulate an America he wants to work toward. He is not saying that the calamity of young black men in this country is his single or primary focus. On the other and, if he is able, with a new pliant Congress to turn some of his proposals into law it may very well help young black males. And what would be wrong with that? Both he and HRC have worked for change: he on the streets of Chicago, her in trying to change health care. He is not calling for utopia but it feels like HRC is comfortable is the dystopia that is Washington now and what it stands for: neo-con views of the world and the US role in it, a nearly reactionary Congress which denies health care to millions of children, sanctions torture and refuses to limit government’s desire to increase citizen surveillance.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “What exactly is the comparison Cohen and you are talking about?” Comparison?
    It seems that we have a few Obama supporters here. pl

  7. Enobarbus37 says:

    Super post.
    Unfortunately, the desire to believe what will make you feel good is now also rampant in the American financial sector.
    LIBOR is a measure of banks’ willingness to lend to each other. It has skyrocketed, i.e. banks just don’t want to lend to each other.
    Well, now tell me, if banks don’t want to lend to each other, why should individuals lend to banks…because that’s what a bank deposit is: a loan to the bank?
    There has been one run on a bank already in England: Northern Rock.
    Not too many more will be necessary before American troops will be leaving Iraq at warp speed.
    Dishonesty rules, decent people drool.

  8. sheerahkahn says:

    This part stands out the most to me… ” In the case of Obama the danger is increased by the desire we all have to feel good about ourselves, to believe that he and we are now better and purer than we were.”
    And perhaps, sir, with all due respect, that the current sentiment isn’t so much of “Oh lordy, I want to have Obama’s children!” as it is, to my particular experience with people which can be paraphrased with, “Well, he reek’s less than the other candidates.”
    Perhaps, people have started to really pay attention to all of Hillary’s jabbering and have found her…to much a clone to the current lot that seems to haunt our government, and it’s time for a change.
    Perhaps, people have taken a good long look at Mr. Edwards and are thinking “well, maybe.”
    Just perhaps a majority of the American people are finally using their offactory senses in conjuction with cognitive recollective capabilities and realizing that just punching a hole next to whomevers name is at the top of the media’s darling list isn’t really a good way of selecting leadership.
    Just perhaps, we’ve actually had the spirit of our nations forebearers descend upon us like a firestorm and we’re actually taking our citizenship seriously.
    Who knows…but I would like to think that we’re finally taking our citizenship seriously, and that cognition is finally trumping the media’s pandering of political entertainment.
    All in all, I find it refreshing to see the lay people actually debating the virtues of their candidates.
    IMO, this is a good thing.

  9. undecided voter says:

    Shorter Richard Cohen: Lying is okay if you have “experience”
    “…after describing Obama’s statement that there are more young black men in prison than in college as incorrect (which it is [UPDATE: apparently the statement would be true stated either as 1. All black men or 2. All young black men in prison *and on parole or probation*]), he says this: “Ought to be true is not the same as true.” Ought? Ought?? This ought to be true? Either Cohen doesn’t know what “ought” means, or he has some profoundly weird ideas about what the state of the world should be.
    And lest you think this is a rhetorical goof, he follows it up with a truly wankerrific list of further “oughts” — …The finishing touch is when he says that John McCain lies, but that’s okay because Cohen knows McCain’s character and McCain has a lot of experience. I kid you not — lying is okay if you have experience and good character, according to the piece. But Obama doesn’t have any experience and so his lies mean he’s a bad person. Or something….”

  10. john in the boro says:

    Richard Cohen’s article conflates moral obligations with preferred statements of fact. Cohen seemingly can not decide whether to believe in Barak Obama’s promise or in John McCain’s experience—an example of the mendacity of hope. If only Obama corrects the record and makes Richard “delusional” like John did once upon a time. Sadly, the things I take away from his article are that President Bush lies, “Cheney and truth cannot be found in the same sentence”, and we ought to have a better field of presidential wannabes: caveat emptor. Geez, 2008 sucks already.

  11. Michael Singer says:

    Dear Pat,
    In the 4th line you or Cohen say”But the comparison is wrong,” or something to that effect and I still don’t get it. And yes I am a n Obama supporter, not because it makes me feel like I’m a better person for it, but because I would like to be a citizen of a country which upholds the best of our legacy and values of which I am proud. I think BO has a better chance at getting there.Other smart commentators are telling readers to consider the source when it comes to taking Richard Cohen seriously anymore.
    Michael Singer
    Michael Singer

  12. Cieran says:

    I think that the key quote here is from Col Lang, not from Richard Cohen:
    Instead of applying Occam’s Razor to a problem they (often collectively) believe something that satisfies their inner desires and needs
    This sentence gets to the heart of the leadership problems of today’s political scene. A good leader must first and foremost be clear-eyed in understanding the circumstances at hand, and the first step towards that clarity of thought is, as always, to know yourself, and in particular, to understand what your own inner needs and desires are.
    Only by fully appreciating these emotions can we honestly assess their effect on the choices we make. That’s why delusional people (I’m sure we can all think of a few in the executive branch) make such awful leaders — their choices are not guided by what’s right for the people they should be serving, but by their own hidden agendas.
    I especially like the Colonel’s parenthetical addition of “collectively”, because our collective desires are further shaped by our shared culture, e.g., we don’t as a nation think clearly about Israel, because it lies at the emotional center of western religious belief systems, and that emotional attachment hijacks our intellects when it comes time to make informed foreign-policy decisions.
    And in the fear department, we accept silly airport security measures not because they are based on rational expectation of how terrorists might attack our flights (they aren’t!), but because we are collectively afraid of aircraft crashing into buildings as on 9/11.
    Anyone who has learned to make successful leadership decisions knows that one must first account for one’s own biases, and that these distortions arise primarily from our emotions, not from our capacity for reason. But our nation is increasingly dominated by childlike desires and fears instead of by intelligent choices. And to the current crop of crafty politicians, this is not a problem to be solved: it’s an opportunity to be realized.
    And finally, that’s why I wince every time I see someone characterize our western culture as representing “modernity”. Our fears and desires are anything but modern, and until we learn to rise above them and use the brains that God gave us, we will never deserve to be called “modern”.
    Our weapons are the products of modernity. Our desires and choices are generally not.

  13. JohnH says:

    “One of the things that I claim to have learned is that humans are prone by their very nature to believe whatever they wish to believe.”
    Or, in the case of Richard Cohen and the media’s stable of hired pens, “You can’t make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it.” (Mark Twain)
    The real travesty on the Democrats’ side is that none of the leading contenders has a resume that is presidential. None has a track record of accomplishment on issues. None has done anything that suggests they have the character of a leader. What a sad lot!

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Seems like the comparison is clearly stated as being between the number of young black men in college and those of the same description who are in prison.
    I don’t care who you favor. I have decided to suport HC in spite of the fact that she and I have differed on a number of things in the past. I think she would be the best president who can be selected from among those running. I would like to see Senator Webb as her running mate but that may well not happen. pat

  15. sglover says:

    Scepticism is probably the most underrated virtue. But it’s really jarring when verbiage from **Richard Cohen** leads you to that reflection. Cohen’s practically the poster child for uninformed, head-up-his-ass, narcissistic “decision” making. The guy’s a dope! I’m honestly surprised Col. Lang even wastes time on him — or for that matter, *anyone* on the WaPo op-ed wasteland.

  16. Marcus says:

    “Hussein had to go and the Middle East had to be urban-renewed for the sake of democracy”
    The Big Lie?
    Yea I see a lot more democracy here at home and in the Middle East. What a sick joke.
    I’ll take timid inexperience any day over the destructive foolishness in place now.

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Hussein had to go and the Middle East had to be urban-renewed for the sake of democracy”
    Surely you see that this is what is called “irony.” pl

  18. Mark K Logan says:

    “2008 sucks already”
    “What a sad lot”
    I feel I must confess my little bit of wishful thinking. For the first time in my young life, I feel certain that whomever among the current frontrunners gets the nod,(Rudy excepted)
    we are going to be better off than with what we have
    now. Knock on wood.
    “Don’t worry, be happy?” Yeah, but there it is.
    There is something very odd
    about the view many of the people in the blue collar world I inhabit have concerning HC. They will
    vehemetly state “I’ll NEVER
    vote for that bitch”. But
    where I’ve seen an opening to do so, I’ve asked “Why?”
    and never once gotten a reply based on anything specific. “I just don’t
    like her”, or some such.
    But the response is frequently not matched by the proper facial expression. There is a blankness, a look of searching. Victims of the
    propoganda? Your guess is as good as mine. But I think here goose is not as cooked as some may think. Her “negatives”, touted as barring her chances may not
    be all that solid.

  19. jon says:

    Most of what we see of these campaigns is marketing. Most of the candidates are not terribly well skilled actors. I’m relieved that there are chinks and a lack of believability in their portrayal.
    The candidates seem to have reduced themselves to caricatures in order to catapult their truthiness more efffectiveness: Hillary’s a dependable Buick; Obama’s new, NEW!, new!!; Rudi knows how to stand on rubble, Romney will say and do absolutely anything to close that deal, ad infinitum… Kinda makes you appreciate that floor wax ad in a whole new way.
    We are not seeing leadership on display right now. That comes later. We only get occasional glimpses of character. We do get to see slight variations of strategy and tactics being played out and modified on the fly.
    Of mendacity (thank you Tennessee!), our cups runneth over. But that isn’t only limited to the campaign, so we should try to be a little fairer there.
    In school, we read an SI Hayakawa text that drummed in the message that ‘the map is not the territory’ somewhat repetitively. True that. And well worth remembering in most circumstances.
    But at times it can be quite helpful to have hope. Hope can find victory where only despair loomed. Hope can tide you over till better days. But hope certainly cannot make victory happen on its own.
    That said, I’m not sure I would agree with much that Cohen said, nor with the thrust behind it.
    Better we should choose a President who seeks to create opportunities and to improve the country, than one who sees only to patch leaks in the dike. Better to set many high goals and achieve some of them imperfectly, than to entrench the status quo.
    None of the candidates will have any chance of wreaking a complete change in Washington, and certainly not in one term. We do need a President who can make things happen, and whose idea of progress isn’t just making a mess, otherwise we’ll be stuck with a whole lot more of exactly what we’ve got right now.

  20. Marcus says:

    Sorry Pat,
    In today’s climate or culture I have a hard time diferentiating.
    Wasn’t Cohen for this mis-adventure?

  21. Publius says:

    Richard Cohen is a hack, a has-been. I’ve been reading him and his fellow-traveler on the Post, Broder, for more than 30 years now. Where they might have once been fresh and incisive, now they’re only old and tired inside the Beltway “deep thinkers,” believing themselves charged with defending business-as-usual in political circles. Their stock in trade is being “even-handed,” but in reality, they’re all about supporting the old D.C. establishment against the threats posed by those who would intrude into their comfort zone.
    It’s already been noted, but it’s amazing that Cohen can—presumably with a straight face—forgive McCain and others their prevarications, but then excoriate Obama for doing the same thing all politicians do, i.e., exaggerating to make a political point, a point that’s pretty compelling, regardless of the numbers. When one considers all of the lying by the establishment that Cohen loves that’s gone into our current “war on terror,” it’s hard to fault Obama for this particular sin.
    This is nothing more than a political hit piece by one of the establishment’s hired guns. I’m not an Obama supporter—although I will vote for him if he gets the nomination—but, despite Cohen’s clear intentions, it does nothing to alter my view of Obama. OTOH, it says a lot about Cohen.
    It’s my sense that Col Lang actually intended this post to make a point about the dangers of intelligence analysts getting too close to the problem, a thesis with which I heartily agree. I’ve seen that many times and, although I’m not an analyst by trade, I’ve been guilty of it as well. Parenthetically, Col Lang, you might wish to visit the role of case officers in the process, inasmuch as it would seem to be pretty hard for an analyst to get “too close” without someone providing a roadmap.
    I think you might have been able to find a better vehicle to make your point.

  22. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Coupla things:
    1- You have to learn to forgive the fallen if they show signs of remorse or learning.
    2- What could be better than being able to find a good “lesson” in the work of someone like this man.
    3- He doesn’t “absolve” any of these guys for their lies. He is just using their examples to dump on Obama.
    4- This wasn’t about analysts. It was about life. I just used analysts as ana example. They are a good one. So are case officers. It’s easy to see someone you are “working on” however you want to. That’s why case officers are required to fill out voluminous evaluations of sources and these are reviewed by people who usually don’t see the source. pl

  23. None of these people inspire me. Voting gives me the right to bitch and moan and complain and whine and whinge (for you Brits out there) and generally stomp my feet between elections.
    If you don’t vote, you have to shut up and take it.
    Only two people actually impress me: Webb and Clark. Oh-well.

  24. lina says:

    Col.: Don’t worry. Sen. Obama will choose Webb as his running mate.
    It’s time for the torch to pass to a new generation.
    You heard it here first.

  25. The word “mendacity” means deliberate falsification of what one knows as a past or current truth that one doesn’t want to acknowledge. In other words, “mendacity” means overt “lying.”
    The word “hope,” on the other hand, refers to an uncertain future that no one knows for certain. In other words, no one can lie about a future that hasn’t happened yet. Richard Cohen and his irrational ilk ought to think at least briefly before constructing obvious and silly oxymorons.
    Saying this doesn’t necessarily make me a Barack Obama supporter. It does make me a supporter of political punishment for any and all public officials who had anything to do with lying my country into the greatest unforced disaster, both domestic and foreign, that it has known in at least half a century. I’ll go with H. L. Menken this time around and say: “I never vote for anybody; I always vote against.”
    I do not know whether “hope” belongs in America’s future or not. I do know, however, that orchestrated official lying, or what I prefer to call “manufactured mendacity” and “managed mystification,” has occurred and does belong to America’s present and past. Therefore, I wish to see such larcenous liars as still live drummed out of office and publicly humiliated for all time. If that means that someone more “hopeful” gets their chance to tell me the truth or lie to me in the future, well, I guess I’d prefer to give someone else a chance to make that decision for themselves. Many well-known (or “experienced”) liars — such as Senator You-Know-Her and her parter-in-pathos Bubba Bill — have already had their chance and blown it, “big time,” as the dishonorable and duplicitous Sheriff Dick Cheney likes to say.
    Personally, I refuse to participate in giving any of our “experienced” liars another chance to gain any more experience at deceiving me. I want to see them in jail for fraud and not in the White House foisting further fabulous falsifications upon an already-fleeced flock of sedated, somnolent sheep.
    Anyway, I’ve already elsewhere expressed my own thoughts on this subject in just one of many poetic episodes of Fernando Po, U.S.A. entitled “Boobie Official Mendacity.” Those interested can find it at:

  26. David W says:

    Col. I appreciate your ability to post thought-provoking comments wherever you find them, and in this case, it appears that you would like us to consider the message, but not the messenger. Fair enough. Just beware of the ‘concern troll,’ a.k.a. in this case the Wise Village Elder, who after a few years of metaphorical hard drinking with the good ol’ boys, now tells the kids to stay away from the sauce, and live the sober life.
    While I can personally accept the message, I have a hard time applying it to the political landscape, given that the Reagan and Bush eras were all built on the way the world ‘oughta be,’ according to Republican eyes.
    Morning in America, anyone?

  27. Jose says:

    “This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.” – Richard Cohen on Scooter Libby from Wikipedia
    Disclosure I am a Republican, but will vote for any Democrat until my party is freed from the Neocon menace.
    I believe Mr Cohen is stating that maybe our Democratic process is beginning to fail because in the information age people are easily manipulate by instantness of information.
    So where do most of us get our information which is so easily manipulated and instantly being fed to us?
    Remember most Americans still believe that Saddam was involved in the 911 attacks yet nobody has been held accountable for the practice of the darker politics in that belief.
    A few weeks ago, all the information being feed to us was about the Hillary versus Rudy match up in the Fall, now it’s Obamma versus McCain yet we are only starting to vote now.
    We missed information on everything involving Iraq, the failures of Democracy in places where it has never existed nor implications of the GWOT’s current strategy in creating more problems than it has solved.
    I’ll skip Iran, the Middle East Peace process and Pakistan for the sake of brevity.
    Perhaps if we where kept in the dark, our information would be better thought, sourced, analyzed and implications understood or debated.
    “Ought to be true is not the same as true”

  28. Marcus says:

    Richard Cohen
    “In a provocative recent essay for the New Republic’s Web site, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz coined the phrase “the delusional style in American punditry.” He applied it to Obama’s fans in the American press. His argument is that certain journalists are so enthralled by the sheer Obama-ness of Obama that they are willing to overlook everything they know about the fundamental value of experience.”
    So Cohen arbitrarily defines young as “18-24” and says the statement is still false if you go up to 35 years old. What about under 40 Richard?
    For Cohen to compare this to the treasure and life risked in the Iraq debacle by “experienced” men such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, through misinformation and obfuscation–aka deceit– is absurd.
    How can anyone take a man like this seriously.

  29. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    I’m not sure who I will vote for but I know I do not want a religious fanatic as president. It seems to me much of the world’s problems are due to religious fanatics, in Iraq, Afganistan, Pakistan, Israel and alas in the US.

  30. Publius says:

    What? First you post Cohen’s inane thoughts—approvingly, I might add—and then you slip out of the trap by noting it was only done as an object lesson. And after I’d spent all that time working up my riposte. Very disappointing, but also instructive.
    The way this turns out is that you’ve done a good job in conveying an important teaching point. Not bad. Not bad at all for an old MI dude.

  31. Buzz says:

    On May 29, 2007 I read my last and final Richard Cohen article. It was titled
    “Bush the Neoliberal”.
    It was the single stupidest article I have ever read by a professional journalist.
    I don’t think that Cohen contributes anything that justifies his job.
    Any truths or interesting ideas that may emerge from any Cohen article can undoubtedley be found expressed more intelligently elsewhere.
    When it comes to human self delusion and politics Mark Twain (quoted by JohnH in his post above) seems to have it covered.

  32. T.S. Wittig says:

    Just thought I would throw in my cuts of the Razor:
    BO: There is a big gap between what he hopes to be and what I want him to be, and he hopes that the presidency will be his opportunity to narrow that gap. Risky, to say the least.
    HC: A competent yet corrupt and corrupted scion of the original With Us or You Will Be Destroyed family. America’s Benazir?
    JE: An otter. Hard working and likable, but somehow not impressive.
    Kucinic: Communist
    McCain: A great man who was lost but now is found, maybe. All we have to do is elect him to find out. An experienced Obama?
    Mitt: Worthless.
    Rudy: Fascist.
    RP: Right questions, (mostly) wrong answers.
    Huck: The raft ride down the river would be an adventure and perhaps not that bad, but don’t expect Aunt Sally/America to sivilize ol’ Huck.

  33. bstr says:

    The field of candidates in Iowa has demonstrated to each of us the supreme value placed on organization by political parties. Each of the Col.’s readers shows a knowledge of bureaucratic habits. The idea that a party having gained a useful tool would lay it aside out of feeling for the common good strains what we know of group behavior. The progress made by the Bush Administration in construction of a “Unitary Executive” is more likely to be built upon than taken apart by the wining party, Democrat or Republican. That political theory presents a more realistic threat to the system of checks and balances thru the manipulation of Party Leadership than any single candidate.

  34. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    I disagree with the comment that Huck’s ride down the river would be an adventure, perhaps not that bad. The last thing the US needs now is a religious zealot for a president. Isn’t that what we are fighting against in Iraq and Afganistan. Do we need a president that polarizes this country even more. I don’t want my president to sermonize to me about Jesus and family values. I want a presidnet who can lead, who can lead us out of the mess this last president got us into.
    I’m not sure who I will vote for, but it won’t be Huckabee and of that I am positive.

  35. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"There is a danger of seeing what you want to see in someone, of accepting the crude image building that modern political campaigns depend on ...">
    Indeed, so what do we know with precision about Obama and his family?
    Unlike the traditional centuries old African-American community which derives its heritage from the western coast of Africa and the Congo region, Obama’s father was from East Africa, Kenya.
    Apparently, his father was from the Luo tribe in western Kenya which traces its origins to southern Sudan. His home village, Nyangoma-Kogelo, according to press reports, is in the Siaya District. For which see Wiki
    The Luo were known for their acceptance of western education in the English language and modern forms of dress under British colonial rule. It is said many accepted the Christian faith, although some press reports indicate Obama’s father’s middle name was “Hussein” indicating an Islamic influence. “Baraka” is itself an Arabic term, and via Swahili in East Africa, is in the family naming pattern.
    On the Luo see Wiki at
    His father’s family, apparently converted to Islam. “His grandmother, Sarah Hussein, who only communicates through an interpreter, treats him like any other grandson. His father, who rose to become senior economist in the Treasury department died in 1982 in a car crash. He left three wives, six sons and a daughter. Obama’s grandfather, Onyango Hussein, was one of the first Muslim converts in the village.”
    Perhaps a SST reader would know whether the Mau Mau activities spread into this area?
    Obama’s father, who must have had some influential sponsors, came to the US on a student scholarship (US government?), prior to Kenyan independence (1963) then, leaving family behind, returned home to work in the government. Would this have been under the patronage of Tom Mboye (Luo) in the Economic Planning Ministry or under whom? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Mboya
    Did the father survive the political split between the Kikuyu and Luo after 1966? While the Luo had originally teamed (KANU Party) politically with the Kikuyu tribe, there was a political split. “Oginga Odinga, a prominent Luo leader, became the first Vice President of independent Kenya, after declining to take the Presidency and leadership of Kenya from the British Colonists, citing the freedom of Jomo Kenyatta. However, differences with Jomo Kenyatta led Oginga to leave the government and the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) party in 1966. With Oginga’s departure from the government the Luo were politically marginalized under the administrations of Kenyatta and Moi.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luo_(Kenya_and_Tanzania)
    Obama’s secondary school education was at the elite Punahou prep school which, as an able student, positioned him well for Columbia and Harvard Law. For which see their website:

  36. Andy says:

    “Confirmation bias,” as it’s known in the biz, is an inherent human limitation that affects everyone to greater or lesser extent. The comparison to intelligence analysis is a good one but obviously it extends to many facets of human activity. Scientific methodologies, such as the double-blind study, are purposely designed to limit the effects of confirmation and other cognitive biases, for example.
    Since we are discussing the political here, I thought this portion of the confirmation bias wikipedia article was interesting:

    Another completely unrelated study was carried out during the pre-electoral period of the 2004 US presidential election on 30 men, half of whom described themselves as strong Republicans and half as strong Democrats. During a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, the subjects were asked to assess contradictory statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry. The scans showed that the part of the brain associated with reasoning, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was not involved when assessing the statements. Conversely, the most active regions of the brain were those involved in processing emotions (orbitofrontal cortex), conflict resolution (anterior cingulate cortex) and making judgments about moral accountability (posterior cingulate cortex).

    Is it any wonder politicians lie? They’ve understood what this study shows all along. In my view it’s why “ought to be true” is usually more successful than actual truth in politics. It reminds me of the old joke, “How can you tell if a politician is lying?” – Their lips are moving.
    ISTM the internet has exacerbated the problem of confirmation bias since it frees individuals from the burden of having to hear contrary ideas or arguments – though I will freely admit this perception of mine may be wholly or partly based on my own bias.

  37. David Habakkuk says:

    ‘ … the first step towards that clarity of thought is, as always, to know yourself, and in particular, to understand what your own inner needs and desires are.’
    I think your point is absolutely crucial.
    The only qualification I would want to make to your admirable comment on Colonel Lang’s admirable post is that it may be slightly misleading to say that our ‘fears and desires’ are ‘anything but modern’. In all times and places, ‘fears and desires’ shape human behaviour, and bias human judgements: quite how fundamentally different we really are from our ancestors seems to me something of a moot point.
    In my experience, people who are enormously convinced of their own ‘rationality’, and of the depth of the gulf separating themselves from the ‘irrational’ — or ‘backward’ or ‘primitive’ — often turn out to be, in some measure, failing to face up to the truth about themselves. And unacknowledged ‘fears and desires’ can make apparently ‘rational’ people hold beliefs which are close to crazy.
    Needs, fears and desires whose existence one can confront — rather than rejecting them in order to maintain an idealised self-image — do not, commonly, have the same capacity to bend one’s judgement as ones of which one is ignorant. It follows, of course, that in talking about the conditions which make intelligence failure less rather than more likely, one is necessarily talking about moral virtues, as well as purely intellectual ones.

  38. Interesting to me to watch the threads develop on this blog. Events shaping up so that only after Iowa, N.H., and S. Carolina will there be a feel for the standings of the candidates. After that Bloomberg will decide whether to enter. Hope there is no rush to judgement after the three primaries listed above. The willingness to attack with skill and imagination the current US foreign policy will be decisive because educated Americans, certain ethnic groups, and academics know that the only truth evidently in circulation is the “Long War” theorem.

  39. rjj says:

    “HC: A competent yet corrupt and corrupted scion of the original With Us or You Will Be Destroyed family. America’s Benazir?”
    What does this mean?

  40. jonst says:

    T.S Whittig,
    What, in your opinion, makes John McCain a “great man”?

  41. Chatham says:

    “If you don’t vote, you have to shut up and take it.”
    Why? You think spending 15 minutes every 2-4 years doing something that will never make a difference gives you the right to complain, but others that don’t do that don’t have the right? Perhaps you could say that it’s important for people to become informed and involved. Just voting and then thinking you’ve done your part is a mindset I find harmful, and it is one of the reasons I don’t habitually vote (as I don’t habitually do anything).

  42. jamzo says:

    cohen does not seem to be interested in the plight young black men
    he seems to be “negatizing” someone he does not approve of
    he equates the bushie spin on iraq with a campaign speech by a presidential candidate
    he uses a
    generalization- “Ought to be true is not the same as true” to suggest that “that
    barrack fellow is deceiving “you” the same way the bushies
    deceived “you””
    in the cohen style
    “writing words to make it look like you are saying something important is not the same as writing words that say something important”

  43. Mike says:

    Colonel, you say that the statement “Ought to be true is not the same as true” is itself a profound truth. True. And it is important to be aware of the truth of any situation in order to formulate appropriate policies and strategies. The problem very often, however, is to know what the truth really is. Military and diplomatic intelligence, surely, can never give the complete truth of a situation. There will always be uncertainties about the intentions and capabilities and resources of an enemy force. What policy or strategy to follow in response to possible threats calculated from incomplete evidence must be decided by an estimation of probabilities. You refer to the Ardennes offensive of 1944; what of the French failure to anticipate the Ardennes offensive of 1940? The French worked from their experiences of the German assaults of 1914-1918 and perhaps reasonably enough calculated that a massive set of static fortifications from the Swiss border to the “impassable” Ardennes would suffice to deter any German offensive in the future; the result – the Maginot Line. What had seemed to be true – the impossibility of attacking France through the Ardennes – was not true. But had it not been reasonable of the French, with the understanding they had, to build their Great Wall?
    A perhaps cynical Pontius Pilate famously asked of Christ “What is Truth?” Perhaps he was an early post modernist – one who might argue that there is never an objective truth, merely truths for particular cultures, societies, viewpoints. How men act is determined, not by what is true, but by what they percieve to be true – or hope to be true: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…..” these “self evident” truths were hoped to be true and firmly believed to be true. But are they true? Personally, I, a subject of a descendant of George III, am in harmony with your nation’s Founding Fathers beliefs and declarations, but I have to recognise the possible truth that men may not be equal, that there may not be a creator, and that humans were not endowed with inalienable rights etc. The “truth” of the Declaration of Independence is surely proven by its benign and beneficial consequences in history. Is it not an example of what ought to be true, rather than what is (probably) true?

  44. fasteddiez says:

    Senator Webb is from my G-G-GGG-GGGGG-GG-Generation, unlike Obama, but I guess despite being an old goat, he fills in nicely as a “Fresh New Face,” and can actually bring some critical thinking, leadership, and problem solving skills to the fore. The problem is he might be too much of a bright light beside Obama.

  45. Paul says:

    The sad truth is that too many American fall on the side of “belief” rather than truth (facts). Has the Bush administration ever done anything based on fact? Hardly! On that note, let’s all gather ’round the television tonight and watch the pundits give us the corporate take on who is best suited to be president.
    America is getting what it deserves for being so lazy and going along with the media fluff.
    Thank you Col. Lang for creating this thought-provoking string.

  46. john in the boro says:

    When I first read Cohen’s article I took him literally. His assertion that Saddam’s removal was a greater good that justified the administration’s lies sounded quite like most Washington opinion purveyors to me. The shifting rationales for Iraq are well known in any event. Pat suggests that Cohen was being ironic: plausible but entirely unexpected on my part. In effect, I assigned a role schema to Cohen based on my evaluation of his motivations for writing the article and missed what he wrote about—self-generated false expectations. So, to borrow from Pat, “What could be better than being able to find a good ‘lesson’ in the work of someone like this man.” I should have remembered Roland Barthes’ “Death of the Author.”
    We all entertain hopes and fears about the future of the United States. My own hope is that America awakens from this long nightmare which I attribute to neoliberalism and its close ally, neoconservatism. My fear is that America continues this waking nightmare. Perhaps Richard Cohen implies a relevant line of inquiry. Are hope and fear mendacious like a young child or a politician? Do they promise me that which they never intend to deliver? Am I delusional? Have I imbibed Norte Americanismo, that mad unreason which sees only the shining city on a hill and not the effluent that is eroding its foundations?

  47. sheerahkahn says:

    No worries PL, I’m all for open debate, and for me, short of Kucinich, I’ll vote Democrat…cause bascially, the Republicans have not repented of their past seven years.
    As for Cohen’s “Come to Jesus” moment…hmm, we’ll see about that. I’ve often given credit where credit should’ve been withheld till a certifiable historical trend was established.
    A mistake I will not make again.

  48. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Someone observed here that the intelligence process of collection and analysis does not produce absolute truth. Thst is correct. The information on which the analysts’ judgments are based is always incomplete but judgment as to the extant reality is still demanded because decisions as to combat courses of action or policy must be made whether or not the information is incomplete.
    That is why the work demands special people, broadly educated and aware of human nature who do not believe that history is linear. pl

  49. Martin K says:

    My question is: What are Obamas backers? Who owns him? From a foreign point of view, mrs Clinton is unfortunately closely tied to the Military Industrial Complex. WHat does mr. Obama bring to the table of alliances? (He should get Schwarzenegger as VP…)

  50. frank durkee says:

    there is an emerging field in economics that has bdgun to demonstrate that emotions are a significant factor in so called “rational” decisions. gettin clear about that for o neself is at leat the beginning of comming to grips with bothe the complexity and contingency of makin any historical jucgement; especially in real time. that we often do as well as we do ought to be celebrated. Any projection that does not begin with that awareness should be relgated to one of the check out counter news papers.

  51. JohnS says:

    My problem with Obama is his aeire-faerie contention that bi-partisanship is our new way forward. The crowd in Washington now on the GOP side are the direct descendants of Dick “bi-partisanship is another name for date rape” Armey. They just ain’t ready, or willin’ — Obama appears to have a major case of what “ought to be true is not the same as true.”
    Both Edwards and Clinton get it. Progressive Democratic domestic issues and Bush-related foreign policy horrorshows will take huge efforts on the parts of Democrats to change/fix. There will have to be bloody political battles fought and won before the other side[s] will be forced to the table. Obama is delusional if he thinks they will come voluntarily.

  52. T.S. Wittig says:

    Short Answer: Hilary is a product of nepotism and the Clintons started the destructive politics that Bush has accelerated.
    Long Answer: The Clintons (because it was both of them) practiced a politics in which opponents are enemies and friends are expected to be loyal to the point of sacrificing principle, and the institutions of American democracy exist to serve the leaders rather than vice versa. This is the same politics that many in the Gingrich Congress practiced and the same politics that the Bush administration has perfected. No need to revise history just because the current crew is so horrendous. The Bhutto analogy, which admittedly can’t be stretched that far, is that while she would be an improvement from the current regime and may have some good ideas and perhaps even suffered politically and personally because of them, she is nevertheless a beneficiary of nepotism and corruption who in my view would without hesitation sacrifice democratic principle on the altar of her own ambition.
    I believe McCain deserves much of the hype around him, but for reasons I don’t quite get he triangulated himself into an ethical and political hole.
    On Huck: America is probably Big Jim in this analogy – unnecessarily down the river on a raft while actually being free from bondage the whole time.

  53. JohnS says:

    That should have read: “It will take a huge effort by Democrats to initiate domestic policy reforms and fix Bush-related foreign policy horrorshows.”

  54. Matthew says:

    Yes, there are some Obama supporters here. We have learned painfully the lesson that the ancient Greeks taught: character is fate. Of course, Obama will disappoint us. He’s a politician. But what he brings now is a mind that questions and thinks, not polls and triangulates.
    We will be facing many challenges in the next decade. Experience–especially of the HC type (Patriot Act, Iraq War, Kyl-Lieberman, etc)–is the most overrated commodity in the world. Some politicians only get it right when they have gotten everything else wrong first.
    As we say in the legal game, some people have 25 years experience as a first-year lawyer.

  55. jon says:

    Martin K. asks “What are Obamas backers? Who owns him?”
    Here’s one place to turn:
    Bingo. Says Obama is mainly supported by FIRE: Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate industries, with additional large blocks of funding from the legal profession. Of course, that seems to pretty much describe them all….
    I can’t vouch for any of the work above, but it may help fill in one more piece of the puzzle for some. YMMV

  56. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    I’m still not sure who I’m voting for but I like the idea of the USA electing Barak Obama for many reasons. I also like Edwards and I think a female president would also be amazing.
    Part of me fears that Barak isn’t electable because he is an African-American, Hilary isn’t electable because she is a woman and a Clinton and Edwards is just too good looking. What a predicement the Democrats are in.
    The Republicans have it easier. The religious right will vote for Huckabee. White men are not threatened by him and he does play a mean bass, and he is not black, a women, or handsome.

  57. Cieran says:

    David Habakkuk:
    I agree completely with your qualifications about the nature and effect of our fears and desires, and thank you for your kind words as well.
    And I admit that my own desires colored my posted thoughts here on modernism, namely my insatiable desire never to confront the term “post-modernism” again!
    Thanks for your thoughts here, and elsewhere on the Colonel’s site.

  58. fasteddiez says:

    Oh Nancy:
    Your opinion of potential voting white men, writ large, is quite negative. We should be grateful, I suppose to become merely castratii in the forthcoming Reich (Repub or Dem). Some will think that the occurence of Obama reaching the presidency will be a sure bet to trigger an assassination. I can just picture Chris rock doing a riff on same. I don’t think however, that if this occurs that the Agency, nor some associated vagrants caught near a grassy knoll will be suspected. They have learned their lesson with the current crowd.

  59. My mother’s 81. She had an intriguing suggestion that combines experience with populist hope: Jim Webb/Jon Tester.
    It takes only a small amount of research, a little bit of objective historical knowledge, and the ability to structure a feasible interpretation of a given policy picture, to understand that a presidential campaign is all marketing and all surface. On the rarest of occasions this prophylactic system breaks down and one gets a glimpse.
    I’ll be pithy: it seems to me that the problems of manikind are so immense and furious that we’d just as soon kill any messenger with a shred of sense to offer than spend time listening to their message.
    Example: it seems that you need a big time intelligence, investigation and law enforcement effort, and, lots of cooperating international bridgework to mitigate the odds of being victimized by a jihadi terrorist cell/network. In fact this is the unsexy effort that helps protect us but it would be suicidal for any candidate to promote unsexy complexities and responses to be either the principal solution or as being evidence of being a sound leader.
    Which brings us to the difference between what we dump into someone willing to eat up our projections about leadership, versus, someone who can lead people to accomplish hard tasks.
    So we’re subject to these obscene branding efforts. In fact, one could say, having read George Kennan (for example,) that for a man or woman to be able to promote their actual capabilities and to offer details about their ability to descend with analytic gravitas into the grey grain of challenges facing all of us is: in this climate, political hari kari.
    Of course social psychology suggests that our projections fill the blank canvas of the candidate and then the candidate confirms our cherished biases in a satisfying magical participation. (See Levi-Strauss)
    If I get Colonel Lang’s point, this can work out very badly.
    One who has obtained a qualified ‘cognitive complexity’ and ability to dig a bit into the data should tend to rip the packaging off and see, if possible, what one is really dealing with. The tentative conclusion of intelligence gathering requires, also, knowledge of the countervailing contingencies and possibilities. For example…
    I don’t know who will be on Obama’s team. I don’t know who will give him information that will unsettle him and move him to close consideration and inspire real critical intelligence. A lot rides on his ‘human resource’ philosophy.
    I don’t really care to be warmed and inspired. I’d rather be scared (at the very idea!) that someone is brave enough to offer me disturbing evidence that they are deeply thoughtful and that they don’t already know all that they need to know.
    Branding alone of course fills our cabinets with stuff that seemed worth buying but then came to seem ridiculous.
    I’m undecided. I do believe that Obama at least is smart and maybe he has read Kennan and Locke and Mill and Madison and Jefferson.

  60. jonst says:

    T.S. Wittig,
    I believe McCain deserves much of the hype around him, but for reasons I don’t quite get he triangulated himself into an ethical and political hole”
    Shorter T.S.,
    McCain sold out to advance presidential ambitions.

  61. At least in Iowa among Democrats and Independents, “hope” comfortably came in first; anti-corporate “populism” came in second; and “experienced corporate mendacity” came in third. Good. More than two-thirds of Iowa Democrats and Independents voted for someone other than “Buffaloed Girl” Senator You-Know-Her (currently) from New York. As-yet-un-bombed foreigners no doubt breathe somewhat easier tonight.
    Republicans, for their part, indulged in an orgy of fratricidal, holy-rolling animism. They don’t matter.
    Soon, perhaps, You-Know-Her will take her mindless militarism back to her comfortable back-bench fiefdom in the Senate where she can return to “working with Republicans” to amend the U.S. Constitution so as to ban that awful plague of flag-burning in America, et cetera. Usually, the consensus Democratic Party nominees for President wait until after the Democratic Party primaries to sell out the despised “left” that got them their nominations. Senator You-Know-Her made the fatal mistake of trying to sell out the “left” (meaning a majority of the American electorate now) during the Democratic Party primaries. Only one word properly describes this strategy of campaigning for Republican votes in a Democratic Party primary: “Stupid.” Really stupid. Bob Shrum must surely have had something to do with this.
    Yes, I know that duplicitous denizens of the Bush/Clinton dynasty will point to the expensive, private universities where they once matriculated. They will claim that just because they think stupid things and say stupid things and do stupid things, that these empirical traits do not, in fact, make them stupid. But, uh: yes, they do.
    It looks like the “young people” have finally gotten off their collective asses and realized what a bleak future they will inherit (like they haven’t already) if the present gang of “experienced” corrupt Republicrat cronies has anything more than one additional desultory year in office. As an old song from my own youth once put it: “The kids are alright.” Carpe Diem, kids. The day belongs to you if you seize it. Richard Cohen may choke on that, but let him.

  62. Will says:

    the mendacity or r. cohen. peggy noonan put it in context
    “Hillary Clinton, the inevitable, the avatar of the machine, lost.
    It’s huge. Even though people have been talking about this possibility for six weeks now, it’s still huge. She had the money, she had the organization, the party’s stars, she had Elvis behind her, and the Clinton name in a base that loved Bill. And she lost. There are always a lot of reasons for a loss, but the Ur reason in this case, the thing it all comes down to? There’s something about her that makes you look, watch, think, look again, weigh and say: No.
    She started out way ahead, met everyone, and lost.
    As for Sen. Obama, his victory is similarly huge. He won the five biggest counties in Iowa, from the center of the state to the South Dakota border. He carried the young in a tidal wave. He outpolled Mrs. Clinton among women.
    He did it with a classy campaign, an unruffled manner, and an appeal on the stump that said every day, through the lines: Look at who I am and see me, the change that you desire is right here, move on with me and we will bring it forward together. ”

  63. W. Patrick Lang says:

    With Obama’s star rising, it is appropriate to ask what change it is that people think he will bring? pl

  64. jonst says:

    I suspect the younger voter has bought into the meme that Obama’s election would, in way, end the battle/s of the 60s, that, as meme goes, have been going on, in different iterations, for the past 3+ decades. I think this is a simplistic hope, and a poor read of history. But there it is. And so the meme goes, when those sharp battles of partisanship are done, and the smoke has clear, ‘we’ll all get together again and get America moving into the 21st Century.
    Shorter jonst…..the 60’s are finally over. The Who, Clapton, et al can cancel their ‘farewell’ tours. Or else book them solely in Las Vegas and Branston.

  65. taters says:

    With Obama’s star rising, it is appropriate to ask what change it is that people think he will bring?
    Of course, Col. Lang. Just don’t get specific or look for consistencies. I truly don’t get Obama and despite initially trying to get behind him, I found him severely lacking. If the bar for POTUS has now been set to GWB, Obama may be your guy. My opinion.
    Off topic, Larry Johnson warmly stated he was fortunate to have visited some Civil War battlefields with you and that it was nothing short of amazing.
    I envy him.

  66. Jose says:

    Col, Obama and Huckabee both represent the change that America wants; not a Clinton, not a Bush.
    The Neocons are hurting because Rudy is not going to win Florida and McCain is not acceptable to the Religious right.
    Sic semper tyrannus (THUS ALWAYS TO TYRANTS)

  67. rjj says:

    “Look at who I am and see me, the change that you desire is right here, move on with me and we will bring it forward together. “
    Reads like a bodice ripper. The Mendacity of hope wankery of wishful thinking is not the fast track but the chute to “sadder but wiser.”
    Wittig, short and long answers read like American Spectator humbug.

  68. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Perhaps not much major change in US foreign policy except for style, cosmetics, and atmospherics.
    Tony Lake is said to be one of his foreign policy advisors, so it would follow that the main lines of an Obama Administration foreign policy would reflect the “Princeton Project” recommendations. This group, which I have noted on several threads, was chaired by George Shultz and Tony Lake as a way to an Establishment (“bi-partisan”) policy consensus for 2008 and beyond. http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ppns/
    With Susan Rice as a reported advisor one would expect increased attention to Africa and necessarily then to the new Africa Command. Issues such as energy and counterterrorism, etc. Other advisors are experts on international human rights issues, etc.
    Zbig Brzezinski endorsed him so more of same old-same old geopolitics from that front.
    Imperialism lite…

  69. lina says:

    “With Obama’s star rising, it is appropriate to ask what change it is that people think he will bring?” pl
    Obama’s popularity stems from the fact that Americans are tired of hating each other. Americans are tired of fear. Americans are tired of Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore.
    Obama is like a fresh green salad after two decades of red meat. Americans are ready to detox. Obama is selling Unity and Hope. America is ready to buy.
    How will he govern? Who knows. All we know is he’s a 180 from what we’ve had for 8 years. It might carry him all the way to the White House.

  70. JohnS says:

    T.S. Wittig
    the Clintons started the destructive politics that Bush has accelerated.
    That is a pretty unusual reading of the Clinton Presidency. And that’s coming from someone who’s not a Clinton fan. I would recommend that you read “The Hunting of the President: The Ten-year Campaign to Destroy Hillary and Bill Clinton ” by investigative reporters Gene Lyons and Joe Conason for a better understanding of the Clinton’s “bunker mentality” during a sustained and well-funded right-wing effort to bring that presidency down.
    Also well documented is the “liberal” NY Times’ collusion in that effort…

  71. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Frank Anderson says that finds my statement about ISI support for the Taliban questionable and a year off. He says that the Taliban didn’t appear until 1994 (like a rabbit popping out of a hat. But he may well be right (his sources are certainly better than mine, given his career in the area), and my date is probably off by a year. I was told Bhutto began support of the Taliban at the beginning of her second term as Prime Minister (1993-1996).
    In any case, what I was told was that in her second term, Bhutto tried to avoid conflict with the ISI by not opposing the appointments of Gen. Abdul Waheed Kakkar and Gen. Jehangir Karamat, the chiefs of the army staff, to head ISI. But somewhere in the early part of her tenure, she did act to transfer the responsibility for Afghan operations from ISI to the Interior Ministry headed by Maj. Gen. (rtd) Nasirullah Babar, who formerly headed Afghan operations during her father’s tenure as PM. It was at that time Bhutto ordered Gen. Musharraf, who was then Director-General of Military Operations, to work closely with Babar. I apologize for getting the date wrong. Clearly, the Intelligence Bureau, basically a police outfit, was also used by Bhutto in coordination Pakistan’s support for the ISI, as Anderson asserts
    The second point about Bhutto’s tenure as perhaps providing a basis for a new counteroffensive against Pakistan’s spreading jidhadis Anderson labels “laughable.” I was simply reporting what I was told. In my own judgment, I thought it preposterous, but I was told this by one US official who acted as if the advent of Bhutto for a third term as PM would prove to be some sort of miracle. I asked how, if Pakistani forces could not exert their control over Swat or other places in the Pashtun belt, who or what was going to be the agent to mount the offensive? Given the poor state of Pakistan’s security and counter-terrorism forces, the inference was that US forces, to be given free rein by Bhutto if she was elected, would be the instrument, but the one person I discussed this with, retreated into platitudes about the struggle against terrorism in Pakistan being a “long-drawn out process.” But personally I thought it was fatuous. There has been an upsurge of violence in the tribal areas that in my opinion, gave every sign of continuing or worsening over the short and medium term.
    In any case, I appreciate Anderson’s correction on the date. What I bridled at was his tone of superior, contemptuous disdain. I apparently made an error of fact, that I have here tried to correct. But there are errors of tone as well.
    With greetings to all,
    Richard Sale”

  72. Will says:

    One often hears that Irak is the wrong war and that Afghanistan is the right one w/ respect to “terror.” I disagree as to Afghanistan and to “terror.” The “terror” term is out of context but that is a different thread. Afghanistan is also the wrong country. Pakistan is the correct target.
    And a kinetic response is not the solution. Soft Power is more appropriate- discussed below. Sheikh Mohammed, the 9.11 chief was a Baloochi from Pakistan. Afghanistan is a rural country that doesn’t have the international links and infrastructure of Pakistan.
    Ronald RayGun is given the credit for bringing down the Soviets through prolifigate defesnse spending the soviets couldn’t match so they cried Uncle. But the real credit goes to two Polacks. Zbigniew Brezinski, Carter’s sec’y of state, and his holiness the Polish Pope who answered Stalin’s famous rhetorical question “how many divisions does the Pope have?” The Pope works thru Soft Power not kinetic divisions.
    At one time when communism existed, there was bond b/n Muslims and America in opposing the Godless ideology but with collapse of Communism the long festering Arab and Muslim hatred spread by the Ziocons in the U.S. took center stage. It was no accident that Sheik Mohammed’s hatred was formed while attending schools in the U.S. at Chowan and A&T. Similarly the Qutb whose writings inspired Al-Zawhari caught fire while studying in the U.S.
    The use of US soft power to stand in the face of the ZionCons and impose a peace settlement on the Israelis and make them obey UN resolutions would go a long way to defuse anti US sentiment against us among Muslims especially in Pakistan.
    That Zbigniew supports Obama Husein is a powerful signal for me.
    The second powerful signal of change is the way his campaign is financed- numerous small donors contributing through the internet.
    the third powerful signal of change is his refusal to vote for the kyle-lieberman iran piece of garbage.
    the clincher would be his choosing of Webb as VP

  73. john in the boro says:

    “With Obama’s star rising, it is appropriate to ask what change it is that people think he will bring? Pl”
    Speaking for myself, Obama is not Bush or Clinton. I recall another time about thirty years ago when I was younger and weary/wary of Washington insiders. I voted for smiling Jimmy Carter. Just could not vote for the guy who gave Nixon a pass. I have no idea what kind of president Obama might become if elected. Although I did not vote for Bush either time, I did not expect him to be this bad. Sort of figured the entrenched federal bureaucracy would restrain/contain him (the argument of institutions v. personalities). After all, his first six months of on-the-job vacation back at the ranch did not present the image of a dynamic leader. However, I misunderestimated his bunkmates who apparently were and are running the family business. The big question for me is not so much change as an expression of progress, whatever that means, but remedial action as in the misfire of a weapon. Bush and friends misfired the executive branch. But there is a part of me that recognizes the grave possibility of a defective weapon: scary thought that

  74. eaken says:

    Care to tell us all how today’s LIBOR rates compares to that of a year ago, or even 3 months ago?

  75. TSWittig says:

    Jonst: Your take on McCain makes my point much more concisely, thank you.
    RJJ & JohnS: I take you mistaking my critical take on the Clintons for crazed Clinton hating as evidence that the political mess we are in has its roots in the Clinton years. Like I said originally, the Manichean approach to politics and politicization of civic institutions was perpetrated by both sides, but only a revisionist would deny that the Clintons were not just as guilty as those who were indeed out to destroy them.
    At best, the Clintons learned from their opponents and ended up like them. At worst, they are cut from the same cloth. Just as paranoids can have enemies, scoundrels can also be unfairly treated. Maybe my view is unsophisticated and overly cynical, but I see clear parallels between how the Bush and Clinton administrations exercised power and dealt with opposition, not to mention their common senses of entitlement and penchant for secrecy.

  76. Martin K says:

    It is interesting to see that so many of Clintons foreign policy-team are supporting Obama. Robert Malley, Dennis B. Ross, Sarah Sewall, Phillip Gordon, Mona Suthpen. Many new names. (For full lists of advisers on all sides, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinions/documents/the-war-over-the-wonks.html)
    I have just picked up “Fear and loathing on the Campaign Trail 72” by H.S. Thompson. Again. I miss Hunter.

  77. Martin K says:

    John in the boro: I think the mood of the land is that they would rather have a “defective weapon” than homicidal maniacs. The coming president will be one who must do a hell of a lot of cleaning up after the final days of “Apres moi, le deluge”-theme partying Bush will do.
    I think one of the main parameter shifts the US could benefit from as a nation is to shift focus away from weapon and towards tool. Practical solutions, UN, lots of staterun engineering-projects towards enviromentalism in poor countries, full steam ahead and no more missiles for a while. A settling down and an offering for peace and pashtuni selfrule in Afghanistan, gradual withdrawal from Iraq. Wouldnt that be someting?
    I think China might go very green very soon. The watertable is sinking fast over there.

  78. john in the boro says:

    Martin K.
    “John in the boro: I think the mood of the land is that they would rather have a “defective weapon” than homicidal maniacs. The coming president will be one who must do a hell of a lot of cleaning up after the final days of “Apres moi, le deluge”-theme partying Bush will do.”
    Yes, I’m with you. I used weapon as a metaphor. When a weapon system misfires, the round fails to go downrange: in the metaphor, the executive branch fails to achieve its goal. In such an event, the operator waits a bit, ejects the round, and inspects for deficiencies. If none noted, he reloads and fires again. This appears to be what the Bush administration is doing. It refuses to see a faulty round—policy. Is this solely because of the administration, or, is there an institutional defect in the executive branch? In other words, maybe it’s another type of malfunction as well.
    Yes, the next president is going to have a mess to clean up. But, is changing the operator in 2009 sufficient to prevent homicidal maniacs at some future date from running amuck? We are looking at this in two different ways: you appear to see a “defective weapon” as preventative, I see it as facilitating. Or, my metaphor just sucked. Otherwise, I am all for more talk and less war.

  79. martin K says:

    john in the boro: My problem with mrs. Clinton is that I dont trust her to clean up properly. I think mr. Obama might actually burn a few folks who deserve it, and so I fear for his safety. I hope the SS is serious.

  80. Maxx says:

    Just getting back to this fine blog after the holdays, hence I’m a bit behind…
    And it ought to be true that Gore was Pre’z in 2000; that the USSC more readily demur from expedient ‘potentially necessary’ political judgments to vitally necessary, inescapable judgments. Or it ought to be true that GWB be held accountable for ignoring the laws; that the national press be more beholding to principles than profits.
    Obviously two wrongs can’t make right, but can anything be worse that eight years of GWB, including the inexperience of Obama?
    Not that much is needed to find what is lacking, or to realize that the best candidate is a mix of what’s available, and something more. The difficult trick, however, is to account for unforeseen consequences and their influence on the office-holder.
    Bush is a failure of a particularly undesirable sort, and perhaps Obama will be a failure as well; but maybe we’d benefit such a change in failures, if for no greater purpose than to spark again the notion of striving for something better collectively.
    When all is said and done, we don’t know the future and the future we fear is not the future that will be, all in all.

  81. taters says:

    I’m curious as to why Obama’s camp decries experience as the same old same old – all the while touting former Clintonites Susan Rice, Tony Lake and the others. Some of his supporters seem to be blissfully unaware that Zbig did not work in the Clinton admin.
    Also, Obama bragged that he actually had more former Clinton folks than HRC. However, when proven wrong (Is there another word for deliberate misstatement?) Camp Obama stated that they simply couldn’t give out all the names.
    In the lefty blogosphere, many of them come across as rather rude, ill informed and might have spent a lot of time voting for American Idol picks. It reminds me of a jr. editor at the Boston Globe where I had posted something that they wanted to print (Nothing of consequence, mind you)- my signature there had an Omar Bradley quote attributed to Gen. Bradley. When I was emailed. the jr editor thought my name was Omar Bradley.

Comments are closed.