Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Power to Make War

Bob Herbert once again bemoans the relative few in this country who are actually sacrificing for Mister Bush's woebegone war in Iraq. This time, Bob calls for the children of the privileged to serve along with their less fortunate "warrior class" contemporaries.

I appreciate your sentiments, Bob, but it won't happen. Even if we were to reestablish the draft, we'd have the same thing we had in Vietnam. Poor kids would slog rifles; rich kids would get deferments or serve in safe, cushy billets. The Bush twins would serve as flight attendants with the Texas Air National Guard.

This war should serve as a wake up call to American on several fronts, among them the reality of the inverted pyramid of wealth and privilege. The neoconservative cabal that concocted the war in Iraq was able, due to their positions in life, to evade serving during Vietnam. They grew up to assume vital positions in government (largely during the Nixon administration) and industry (specifically energy and defense contracting.) Their children, raised to take their places in positions of power, have no intention of serving in this war.

The private energy and defense sectors have become one and the same with government (as witnessed by Mister Bush's recent appoint of a Northrup Grumman executive to Secretary of the Navy). The governing elites continue to borrow money for this war--that they pay, in essence, to themselves--leaving a suffocating debt for succeeding generations of the working classes to make good.

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I heartily support the efforts of Cindy Sheehan and others in demanding immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. I especially appreciate Ms. Sheehan's debunking of Mister Bush's "stay the course to honor the dead" mantra. We don't honor the dead by adding to their number for no real purpose, and it's quite clear that Iraq will most likely not become the friendly, cooperative federal republic the neocons envisioned when they lured us into this excursion. We may in fact, find ourselves in any of a number of scenarios far less favorable than the one we had when Saddam Hussein was in power. (One of the most likely is a pan-Shiite coalition between Iraq and Iran that is friendly to China.)

I don't think, however, that an "immediate" withdrawal is entirely practical. We need to see Iraq through it's next election (which needs to happen on schedule) and then we need to start packing.

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But I also think the "out now" groups need to keep up the pressure on the administration, which I'm afraid will cling to its vision of military domination of the Middle East (and control of the region's oil) through a base of operations in Iraq. That's what they had in mind since before they chose Mister Bush as their presidential candidate, and the dreams of power mongers don't die easily.

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We need to figure out how to keep another disaster like Iraq from happening again. That will require a change of some kind in our electoral process. I'm not a socialist by any stretch of the imagination, but we have a political problem with the way wealth is distributed in this country. As things are, one percent of the population has the fiscal clout to determine the outcomes of elections (and subsequently control the elected officials).

The first thing we should change is the Electoral College process that selects the president. At present, the power brokers play red state blue state strategies, and are able to target big campaign bucks at a handful of key states. We could break up this paradigm by eliminating the state-by-state winner take all bloc votes. We'd keep the current distribution of electors (i.e., Rhode Island keeps a 3 to 1 per capita advantage over California), but the electors' votes would reflect the distribution of votes within their respective states. This would bring several immediate benefits.

-- Every vote really counts. If you live in a red state but vote blue, your vote will be reflected in the Electoral College.

-- Emergence of the center (swing) vote. When every vote counts, more people will be motivated to vote. The more people who vote, the less impact the polar fringes will have on election outcomes

-- Big money influence wanes. When every vote counts, campaign money has to be spread throughout all 50 states, diminishing its effect to such an extent that at some point, it has little to no effect at all.

-- Diminishes/eliminates ballot fraud. Party machines can't focus battalions of lawyers in an Ohio or a Florida.

Changing the character of presidential elections will have a trickle down effect on other elections as well. Federal congress races won't be tied so closely to partisan support of party presidential candidates. Senators and representatives will need to focus on local issues.

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Of course, there's a major problem with this scheme. The people who need to decide to make the change are the very people who benefit from maintaining the status quo.

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Nonetheless, I firmly believe a change like this is vital to reversing the militaristic trend the neoconservatives have foisted on contemporary America. Only by breaking up the big money paradigm can the citizens who actually fight and pay for war become empowered to decide which wars to fight and how long to fight them.

20 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:32 AM

    Just like you mention, with these guys in control of everything there will be no change. Congressional oversight no longer exists, other than quid pro quo for pork and Chairmanships. They impeach Clinton for a stupid affair, and literally get away with murder. Unbelievable.

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  2. And yet, it happened. I firmly believe this country needs to come to terms with that and get past it. (But we won't get past it till we come to terms with it.)

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  3. Both major parties bear responsibility for laying the groundwork which has given us the current rubberstamp Congress. Slowly but surely Congress has granted the executive branch many of the responsibilities that the Constitution explicitly gave to Congress.

    I strongly concur on the inverted pyramid problem. I'm not in favor of mass redistribution of wealth, though. I like your proposal for the Electoral College. I'd rather address the inverted pyramid by equalizing the power inequities rather than the financial inequities.

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  4. Just as a follow up on my first point...

    Witness just a few years ago when the vast majority of Congressional Democrats joined Congressional Republicans in formally attempting to abdicate their solomn DUTY by voting to give Bush a blank check to wage war without having to follow the explicit Constitutional requirements for the same.

    It's not just a Republican problem or even a Conservative problem. Both ideologies and both political parties are to blame. Which is just one of many reasons why I am an Independent.

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  5. Kevin,

    Yes, yes, yes...

    Agreed. The wealth distribution isn't the problem--the political power distribution that goes with it is.

    And yes, both parties are guilty of military-industrial fraud. (That's the big reason I don't ally myself all that closely with the Democrats or "liberalism" as an ideology in general. (In fact, I'd be hard pressed to say what liberalism or conversativism are these days).

    That's a big reason I like the idea of electoral college reform. I believe it would put a dent both in big money interests and the party political machines.

    Thanks again (to you and everyone) for posting your thoughts.

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  6. Interesting article about Finland. It's such a sharp contrast to how we live here, it makes me think I am living in the jungle, looking in on the civilized world Finland Article

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  7. Renata, funny you should mention Finland. My best writer buddy comes from there, and she feels the same way about the place as you do.

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  8. "-- Every vote really counts. If you live in a red state but vote blue, your vote will be reflected in the Electoral College."

    If and only if, Diebold, ES&S, etc. get out of the computerized vote counting business.

    Until that happens Jeff, republicans will continue to win elections, by ever greater margins, totally at odds with exit polls. The media will shake their collective heads and wonder why exit polls are so inaccurate.

    Paper ballots! National elections separate from all others! A maximum of three choices on each ballot, Pres/VP, Representative and in 1/3 of the states, senator.

    That's it. Oh yes, manual counts.

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  9. kevin said:

    "Slowly but surely Congress has granted the executive branch many of the responsibilities that the Constitution explicitly gave to Congress."

    I wonder why the question of whether the congress could, in keeping with the constitution, delegate powers granted to it by that constitution to the executive branch, was never answered or asked for that matter.

    Perhaps it is past time for an organization to do more than just complain about it.

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  10. Bob,

    I personally think it's time for the Dems in the Senate to drop the nuke on everything. Are they serious about being the "last vestige of opposition" or not?

    Jeff

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  11. "I personally think it's time for the Dems in the Senate to drop the nuke on everything. Are they serious about being the "last vestige of opposition" or not?"

    I wholeheartedly agree!

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  12. Well, I often think it's either that or just join the GOP.

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  13. Mary Clare11:52 AM

    "...its vision of military domination of the Middle East (and control of the region's oil) through a base of operations in Iraq...."

    I read somewhere that we are building the largest CIA station in Baghdad and about 14 permanent military bases scattered throughout Iraq. Is this true and if so then we are never leaving Iraq and the neo-con perpetual war will continue far beyond after they have left office.

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  14. MC,

    I haven't heard specifically about the CIA station, but have seen plenty to indicate the 14 bases ("14 enduring bases) are true fact.

    Like you, I think that's another clear indicator of why we really went there and that we (I mean the neocon jobbers) have no intention of stopping short of their privately held objectives.

    And I think that's why Bush and Rummy and the rest of the yes men keep tossing out vague objectives like "stay till the job's done."

    I cry for what's happened to my country.

    Jeff

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  15. Ever think about running for office, Jeff? Oh, I forgot: you wouldn't pass the military service litmus test, since you actually served ;o)

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  16. LOL Doug. A couple thoughts on that notion. If I wanted that kind of madness, I would have stayed in the Navy. Plus, I'm a little concerned for my mortal soul. I've had a smidgen of power in my time, and I know first hand what it does to its owner. (Actually, that's ass backwards. You don't own power--it owns you.)

    Jeff

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  17. Ah! Like that movie Laser Blast. Ever see it? (circa 1978) It had this really clever theme. Oh, what was it . . . absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    So what you're saying is, all politicians are going to hell.

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  18. ...Easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a politician to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Jeff

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  19. Anonymous9:23 AM

    That's some mighty fine plain talking. Or maybe I just strongly agree with you. In the best of worlds, both.

    post by serial catowner

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  20. Thanks for the nice words, serial, and for stopping by.

    Jeff

    (serial dogowner)

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