the COGENT PROVOCATEUR


COGENT PROVOCATEUR:
free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

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the COGENT PROVOCATEUR:
free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
CAMP ENRON:
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.


OTHER GOOD STUFF:
Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Monday, March 17, 2003

 
--- War Opposition Matters Now More Than Ever ---

The world at large will necessarily react to Plan Iraq ... and not in a good way. (See immediate preceding post.) Those abroad who stand with Bush will not stand long in office, and even while they stand they must task defense theorists to game out contingencies in which history finds them standing against us.

If all this plays out badly, the American Era is over ... and that may not be the worst of it.

Vocal, visible, vigorous war opposition is terribly important. We'll be booed off the world stage unless the world sees our role in Plan Iraq as an aberration -- not typical US behavior. Most hope for reconciliation and recovery lies in leading the global audience to view the action as psychodrama, not melodrama. In other words, we have to construct a temporary insanity defense:
It's not the real USA ... it's reaction to the trauma of 9/11. We're hurt, we're scared, we lash out. Understandable, and understandably temporary.

It's not the real USA ... it's unfit leadership. Our fault -- one of those drawbacks of democracy in action -- but we can correct it democratically.

It's not the real USA ... it's an intelligence glitch. We can learn from it and do better (as with any of several Cold War near-disasters).

It's not the real USA ... it's the intoxication of unchecked power. Tough one, that. Can we promise to "grow into" our newly-acquired unique superpowers, like some comic-book hero? Or is our fate sealed in advance, like a protagonist in Greek myth?
The more clearly we express home-grown opposition ... the more bravely and proudly we stand up for the OTHER America ... the more quickly and decisively we dump the people who got us into this fix ... the better a case we can make for clemency and probationary re-entry to the community of nations.

Stop the War. Now More Than Ever.




 
--- Choice of Evils ---

Plan Iraq had been pressed to the extent that there is no benign alternative. On every side there is the prospect of manifest harm to US principles and interests. What are we up against?

Suppose US refrains from invading Iraq at this point.
Emboldened, Saddam may resist inspection. Saddam may underestimate US/allied resolve, with serious consequences in future encounters. Other international actors may miscalculate likewise, with dire consequences.

Saddam's ruthless regime stays in power.

In domestic politics, a "Who lost Iraq?" faction emerges to blame so-called "appeasers" for every subsequent misfortune.
Suppose we invade Iraq, against the express or implied will of the Security Council.
US maintains on the order of 100,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, taking sporadic casualties ... sometimes in triple digits. The burden is aggravated by developments outside the dotted lines -- downstream regional conflicts (whether incidental or deliberate), loss of allies, demise of peacekeeping institutions, opportunistic thrusts by unrelated actors out-of-region. As a result the familiar all-volunteer, reserve-heavy US force structure becomes unsustainable.

Containment of unchecked US power becomes a widely shared concern. China, France, Russia and others gain stature (and economic clout) as preferred strategic partners and defense vendors. US loses basing rights, overflight privileges and other military concessions (in nearly 130 nations at present). US air power, sea power and global reach are compromised.

US-friendly factions lose influence everywhere. Noncommitted states become overtly anti-American. Anti-US alliances develop. Terrorists win new state sponsors. US (predictably) resorts to 1960's-style regime puppeteering (with predictable blowback). Military factions gain influence, some develop into dictatorships, and some of those become Saddam clones.

With the US isolated, Israel is isolated by proxy. Postwar domestic reaction and overextended defense programs may make US an ally in name only.

In Iraq's democracy after Saddam, US is the all-purpose scapegoat. Organized anti-US factions are major (if not dominant) political forces. International terrorist habitat improves by orders of magnitude, even under US military governance.

Immediate reactive terrorist acts may occur, but should not be chalked up against the war. Most will be works-in-progress moved up on the calendar (with corresponding reduction in near-future deliveries). Long term prospects are harder to assess, but the incidence of global terrorism increases in most variations.

International intelligence and law enforcement relationships are compromised. Transparent political gamesmanship creates fertile ground for a new generation of high-clearance turncoats like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.

Identifiable US brands, US-based multinationals, US tourism are disadvantaged in global markets. Favorable exchange rates and foreign capital inflows -- both premised on positive US economic outlook -- are reversed. Multilateral trade declines. World economic output declines. Military budgets absorb larger fractions of remaining output.

[Most of the consequences above are at the optimistic end of the scale. Pessimistic scenarios include pandemic plague and WW III. The mid-scale portfolio would include a Chinese embassy bombing, extended regional warfare, major disruption of oil supplies, small-scale nuclear exchange, immediate proliferation of nukes to radical Islamic states.]

In light of best current information (and misinformation), it's possible no WMD caches exist. [Call it 3 chances in 10.] This would be more than embarrassing.
Either way, Plan Iraq was destined to estrange Americans from each other, bitterly, perhaps violently, in ways that will persist after all of us are gone.

Either way, a large fraction of US citizens -- maybe an overwhelming majority, maybe a permanently embattled minority -- will eventually learn they've been driven warward (in Tom Friedman's words) "on the wings of a lie".

Suppose we had waited.
The situation would have changed markedly when and if a single US "solid intelligence" lead had ever panned out on the ground.

The situation would have changed measurably when and if inspectors met increased resistance.

The situation would have changed markedly when gamma ray surveys confirmed or disconfirmed presence of a nuke program.

The situation would have changed (perhaps not favorably) if US revealed an explicit post-Saddam plan of governance.

The situation would have changed if US conveyed a more disciplined, less bloodthirsty impression to its diplomatic peers.
The war now cranks on of its own momentum ... as large projects are wont to when interim findings separate The Plan from its reasons for being.