Operation Yellow Gasbag
How? By peppering each of them, their sponsors, and the media that give them voice, with demands for accountability. Why should our troops alone bear the burden of failure heaped upon them by this administration and its apologists?
We can separate the apologists from the politicians by putting the chattering class on notice that it too bears responsibility for the fiasco, and that any escalation will increase its own culpability. Without his gasbags, let's see Bush try to sell more-of-the-same.
We need an "Operation Yellow Gasbag."
Caught between continued support for a failed presidency, on the one hand, and the prospect of exposure as incompetents, demands for actual accountability for their incompetence, ridicule for their hypocrisy, and an existential threat to their cushy profession of gasbaggery, on the other, they'll gladly push George Bush off a cliff. There's a reason for that peculiar gleam in their eyes; for that s**t-eating grin they flash on air; for that indifference to fact and argument. They're committed to expediency.
There is no point in hoping that decency or sense will prevail on them to oppose the escalation. They've been consistently wrong about Iraq from the outset, they've spun the Bush administration's fantasies, they've endorsed and excused its mistakes. More-of-the-same is the best option, for now, for themselves. Always has been.
It was the same in earlier, disastrous wars of choice. The people who rightly opposed the wars are excluded immediately from debates within the government, and in the public sphere they're all but shut out by the war-mongers. No matter how disastrous and prolonged the war, those who are consistently in the wrong retain their grip upon the debate about "the way forward". It was the story during the Vietnam War. Advocates for sanity were ridiculed as fools, and as the casualties mounted, the determination of the hawks to keep them marginalized from the public debate also increased. The situation during the First World War was the same as well. There was never any accountability for the hawks, never any real chance for those who'd been right all along to get heard much less to influence policy.
In every instance, the result is that governments keep propounding more-of-the-same as the way out of the mess. The slightest variation in tactics is dressed up as a glorious innovation, the secret to the success that had until that moment eluded the nation's brilliant leadership. It always has to be more-of-the-same, however, because any true innovation would call into question the brilliance of those who had been advocating the failed policies. More-of-the-same usually looks like escalation. What the nation needs is not wholly new policies to replace the disastrous one, nor wholly new leaders to replace the ones who dreamed up the disastrous policies; what the nation needs are bigger and better versions of the policies that have not yet had sufficient time to succeed.
Anything else would be an admission of incompetence, which practically demands accountability. And we can't have that, can we?
Well, maybe we can. If not from Bush Co., then at least from the gasbags who would happily facilitate another round of more-of-the-same. Some in their professional positions are more vulnerable to criticism than others. But each of them is subject to personal humiliation and none can count on access to the media appearances they crave. Hit them there hard, now, and the acclamations that greet Bush's announcement of the "new" way forward will not be quite what he's bargained for.
I'm proposing that, by every avenue possible, these wankers should be peppered with questions about competence and accountability.
Why is President Bush listening to advice only from people like them, who have been wrong consistently about Iraq?
Wouldn't it be preferable to hear instead from people who have been right from the beginning about Iraq?
Why should anybody any longer listen to pronouncements about Iraq from those who have been consistently wrong?
Why don't they have the decency to retreat from public view and cease making pronouncements about Iraq, when they've demonstrated that their expertise consists in getting things wrong?
When and how are they going to be held responsible for their incompetence? Is there any accountability for those who advocate for a disastrous war?
When are they going to enlist and join the escalation in Iraq that they advocate?
Since they cannot answer these questions, if pressed the yellow gasbags will have to retreat. The other day one of these wankers, war-monger Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings, appeared on the call-in program Radio Times (WHYY, Philadelphia). He endorsed escalation "reluctantly", while admitting that it probably won't work and that a year from now Bush will have to come up with a "Plan B". O'Hanlon also advocates expanding the Army by enlisting foreigners and promising them citizenship. Shades of the late Roman Empire.
The first question put to him, 'Why should anybody pay attention to what you have to say when you've always been wrong about Iraq?', led to something that sounded, on my radio, like a gasbag explosion. O'Hanlon hemmed and hawwed, and sputtered that he'd actually been right before the war about a few (trivial) things, which (he claimed) had momentarily discomfited some of the more shameless Bush-apologists.
Such questions cut close to the bone. The wankers are desperate to avoid them, as O'Hanlon demonstrated. The host pressed him on the question of why Bush is consulting only with people who've been consistently wrong on Iraq, and he immediately volunteered that Bush should have fired all his advisors because of their incompetence.
A few simple, barbed questions about accountability, and suddenly it's every man for himself. It shouldn't be too terribly difficult to turn these war-mongers against each other, snarling like rabid lambs, each trying to retain a seat in front of the microphones. You can see that that is exactly what O'Hanlon prizes from the boast in his Brookings bio:
O’Hanlon has appeared on the major television networks more than 150 times since September 11, 2001 and has contributed to CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and FOX some 300 times over that same period.
Who in the hell counts up their television appearances? And who subdivides the tally between major and minor networks? It's pathetic, but all too characteristic. These people are desperate self-promoters living in fear that their pretensions to omniscience will be exploded and the microphones snatched away. O'Hanlon, for example, claims to be an expert in eleven areas of national and international policy (including expertise in several Asian countries). Yet he speaks only a single foreign language (French) and his undergraduate degree was in physics.
This know-it-all has been wrong about virtually everything important in Iraq (one of his proclaimed areas of expertise), such as when he congratulated Bush for denying that a civil war had broken out this spring. That was, by his own admission, the day after 30 headless bodies were discovered en masse. And a full year after we began seeing headlines regarding the systematic kidnapping and torture committed by Iraqi Interior Ministry forces, he writes drivel like this:
If the country begins to descend toward civil war, the temptation of many [Iraqi security forces] will be to take sides in the sectarian strife rather than stop it.
Puffed up experts such as this are frauds who can only retain their grip upon respectability by avoiding scrutiny of their record. The targets of "Operation Yellow Gasbag" are easy targets, like WWI-era dirigibles tethered overhead. That is all the more true now that the plan for "choosing victory" involves an escalation with troops the US simply doesn't have, a plan the public is overwhelmingly against in any case.
Why shouldn't wanker of the month, Fred Kagan ("The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period."), be asked to put aside his military studies, pick up a rifle, and escalate his own fanny over to Iraq? He's been wrong more often than not about Iraq, so he'd be doing a public service by leaving the pontificating to others.
Who needs O'Hanlon's foreign mercenaries? We have enough war-mongering Yellow Gasbags floating around Washington to sustain any size escalation in Iraq for as long as Fred Kagan would like. Some are just a tad doughy—Jonah Goldberg springs to mind—others are smart alecky and smarmy—William Kristol will have a rough time of it—but the Marines are used to whipping clowns like that into shape.
How can we introduce the Yellow Gasbags to the idea of accountability? Let's hound the heck out of them in coming weeks, beginning with private correspondence. A raft of humiliating questions, hurled over the transom, can be paralyzing to the self-proclaimed expert, the fragile public intellectual, and the paragon of manliness. It's hard to make your prose strut and swagger, when you're dodging questions such as...
Aren't your particular skills better suited to cleaning latrines in Anbar Province?
The more publicity the Yellow Gasbag seeks, the easier it becomes to demand accountability. His opinion columns call for pointed rebuttal via LTEs. And his network appearances ought to be greeted, in advance, with a deluge of questions about accountability. There's no reason why he should not be asked by every host on air: What if anything he has gotten right about Iraq, why he doesn't defer to those who have been right from the start, and when he's going to hold himself accountable for what he got wrong?
The Yellow Gasbag will distance himself from this escalation in Iraq only when it becomes clear that Bush's apologists face continued humiliation and, even worse, creeping irrelevance.