moldybluecheesecurds 2

Thursday, June 15, 2006

There's a stand-up guy...

I'm so glad that President Bush can admit his mistakes and reply forthrightly to criticism. In all cases except in his role as President, of course. My favorite line?

[The reporter's] only complaint is that the president didn't answer his question at the news conference.

Friday, June 09, 2006

So why do we do it this way?

A new report on prisons does an admirable job of marking the worst aspects of the American prison system. In spending $60 billion a year for imprisoning 2.2 million convicts, we are buying:
  • A 60% recidivism rate (3/5 convicts reoffend when they leave).
  • Public health threats from poorly treated inmates (who bring diseases like tuberculosis back into society).
  • High rates of violence between inmates and between inmates and staff, often from overcrowding and cutbacks in prison programming.
What's disappointing is that no one should need this report to know that there are better ways.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Withdrawal from Iraq - at what cost?

We should consider withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Now that I've been labeled a cowardly commie or a "cut and run liberal" by 35% of registered voters, I'd like to consider a few pros and cons of ending American involvement in Iraq. After all, we've now paid close to $300 billion and over 20,000 killed and wounded Americans for our purposes in Iraq. Have we gotten what we paid for?

The White House has defined victory in Iraq in the short-, medium-, and long-term:
1) Short-term - Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.

Well, we're certainly still fighting terrorists in Iraq and we're making progress on these other goals, so I guess we can check off short-term victory. Of course, we already knew that.

2) Medium term - Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.

Since we're still in Iraq with no clear plan for exit, I'd say we're still losing in the medium-term (3 years and counting).

So at $300 billion and 20,000 casualties, we've only purchased short-term victory. So what are the consequences for early withdrawal?
  • We "lose face"
  • The military becomes demoralized
  • Iraq becomes a failed state and a haven for terrorists
  • A failed state in Iraq causes a domino effect of failed regimes in the Middle East
  • The failure of Iraq jeopardizes oil supplies for American consumers
I think the first two are the kind of issues adolescents worry about and not adults. You win some and you lose some. Adults learn to cut their losses and learn from them, not repeat them. The failure of Iraq could potentially create a safe haven for terrorists, but it could also revert to the leadership of a dictator with no real interest in attacking America. It's true that the collapse of Iraq could create instability in the Middle East, as well, but how does that differ from now? Iran is going nuclear, Iraq is mired in violence, and Palestinians and Israelis are still killing each other.

It should be noted that dire warnings were issued about withdrawing from Vietnam as well, and other than losing South Vietnam to the communists, the greater geopolitical strategic significance of Vietnam came to about nil.

What it really comes down to is the possible effects on the United States: a terrorist attack or another oil shock. As far as terrorism is concerned, we are responsible for at least 2/3 the number of American dead caused by 9/11. We re-elected a man who sent our troops off to sweat and die in Iraq and it won't be long before more servicemen and women have been killed than civilians who died in the twin towers. Draw your own conclusions.

As far as oil is concerned, it might be worth asking if the cost of losing oil supplies from Iraq are worse than the $300 billion and 20,000 lives we've spent trying to keep it.

So what about the potential benefits of withdrawal? Well, we stop paying with dollars and lives. We can restore faith and trust with the international community. We can free up resources to face more serious threats from nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran.

I know where my vote lies.

Dignity and democracy

As of today in Iraq, 2,475 soldiers have given their lives and another 18,000 have been wounded, many thousand returning home with debilitating mental and physical disabilities. But while the body count comes up reguarly on the news (although with decreasing frequency), viewers are often "spared" the sight of our war casualties.

In stark contrast, Vietnam was a bloodbath of media coverage, with the grave images of war leading to a popular backlash and American withdrawal (a withdrawal that, incidentally, did not lead to the domino-like collapse of neighboring countries to communism - more on that later). But Iraq is different, with most news agencies not even bothering to publish pictures, even when they have them. Ironically, this reluctance to publish comes amid strong demand for the fare when it is available, via "The War Tapes" or "Baghdad ER."

So what's the right thing to do? The problem is that while the death of a soldier is individually a very private and sancrosanct event, the death of soldier(s) is a very public and political issue. In a democratic society, we the people ultimately hold the responsibility for the war and the soldiers who die. Are we better off insulated from the graphic images or would it be more responsible to present American citizens with a pictorial consequence of their Election Day choices?