seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Last Page Dread

I love reading The New Republic -- until I reach the last page. Leon Wieseltier is frequently featured as their "Washington Diarist" and I generally find him to be

  1. Wrong
  2. Dumb
  3. Arrogant
  4. Incomprehensible

Not always all 4, but always at least one. Occasionally I agree. Today was interesting - the November 5, 2008 issue has his "The Ballot Blues."

But before I go into that, I should note that I don't place a lot of blame on him when I find him incomprehensible. I blame myself for not having the energy to sort out writing when the author is intentionally trying to be hard to read - which is his mission in some pieces from what I can tell.

I believe good writers make themselves easy to understand, but some brilliant writers are well worth reading even when they make themselves hard to understand. It seems like an art - but I have never found anything Leon made hard to understand worth reading. I'm sure others have.

But I found a brilliant quote in this piece

I like capitalism, but not religiously, and I feel the same way about diplomacy. I do not trust bankers to understand American values and poets to understand American interests.

True to Leon form, after writing something brilliant, he has to balance it with something moronic. He says McCain was "splendidly right about the surge, which is not a small thing; and the grudging way Obama treats the reversal in Iraq, when he treats it at all, is disgraceful."

Leon should be smart enough to realize that the surge has not brought victory in Iraq. In exchange for fewer lost lives each month, we continue to spend billions for little gain for any American (and possibly humanitarian) interest. The "success" of the surge came largely from paying our enemies not to attack us - which is to say about 10x worse than "appeasement."

So many Americans want to kill the insurgents who dared attack our liberation-bringing troops. Listening to people call into radio shows whenever Guantanamo is brought up is instructive - it doesn't matter if someone materially supported attacks on our troops or not - if they are down there, they should be executed. These same Americans love that the insurgents we didn't catch are now drawing a paycheck from the same imperial army they once attacked.

So if we caught you, we should kill you. But if you were sneaky enough, we pay you.

But let's be clear - I support paying the insurgents. We should have done it long ago. It is well worth saving American lives who never should have been in Iraq anyway - and if committed to Iraq, should have been better supported by their military and civilian commanders. But let's not pretend the surge brought about the decline of violence from unacceptable to acceptable levels. It is largely the result of intelligent policies created before the surge that should have been embraced years ago if not for the fact that the Bush Administration cared more about keeping Rumsfeld in power than putting America's needs first.

And such as it is, the surge set a number of political goals and practically none have been met. But we can ignore that because Americans are not dying - and being grievously wounded - in large enough numbers to merit media coverage when we can talk about a campaign that will never end.

Should we be attacked in the first 10 months of an Obama administration - in an attack planned from Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, we will undoubtedly find many blaming Obama despite the fact it was Bush who refused to honor his pledge to hunt down bin Laden. But this is the nature of politics - never let facts get in the way of your predisposed notions.