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December 21, 2004

If Only Batiushka, the Little Father, the Czar Knew...

Blogging from the root cellar as he watches the depredations of the cossacks who are the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Gregory Djerejian closes his eyes and desperately repeats the myth that if only the cossacks weren't misleading the Czar, Batiushka, the Little Father, he would do the right thing and all would be well. George W. Bush needs "better advice on the Iraq war than he is currently getting from the civilian leadership of the Pentagon." Well, Gregory, the cossacks work for and always have worked for the Czar: George W. Bush has the advisors and gets the advice he wants:

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH: Another Rightist Anti-Rumsfeld Voice: ...what is really needed now is leadership and straight talk--including an honest facing up regarding the resources we may need to ensure we get the job of Iraqi democratization done.... Bush... to his immense credit, is trying to see this hugely difficult endeavour through, which is far and away the main reason why I supported him. But he seems to be hoping the elections (and a too hasty train and equip program) will prove panaceas of sorts. Put differently, and even beefing up to 150,000 (albeit too many of these overstretched, underqualified reserves), he's trying to do it on the cheap, with fingers crossed, hoping things will get better after January 30th. But as Kagan and other adult, non-chest beating, non-breezily self-congratulatory conservatives are pointing out, that may not be the case.... Don Rumsfeld doesn't seem capable of honestly reckoning with those contingencies (nor, it appears, do the other pet budget-interested, transformationalist cheerleaders around him). So in my view, and it's getting increasingly important, the President (whom I believe truly cares about the Iraq project and has the conviction to match--but doesn't appear to fully appreciate the quantum of prospective dangers ahead) needs to get better advice on the Iraq war than he is currently getting from the civilian leadership of the Pentagon....

It is indeed very hard work to make sure that the blame for everything is laid not at the feet of Batiushka, but at the feet of the leader of the cossacks:

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH: A Catalogue of Shame: Stuff happens, after all. And quite frequently, it appears. Still, war is an ugly business, of course. And Rumsfeld can't be held accountable for every last action of a private in some far-flung penal colony (though a different man, confronted with such dismaying torture scandals over the past odd year, might not have written last June: "(h)owever, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?") But anyone with half a brain who continues to insist that the torture (sorry, "abuse") story is about a few bad apples taking a frat hazing a tad too much to heart at Abu Ghraib alone are full of it and doing the country a disservice through their intellectual dishonesty. It's clear that, while not some God-awful American gulag archipelago--torture has manifestly occurred in detention facilities from Afghanistan to Iraq to Cuba. Likewise, it's time to say loud and clear that the fact that those tortured are Arab and South Asian detainees is noteworthy. Why? Because it's reminiscent of the different treatment afforded the Japanese... during WWII... race matters.... Islam has too often been conflated in the popular imagination with the radical jihadists who would so gleefully kill thousands as they did in lower Manhattan that fateful day.... [I]t's time for intellectuals who care about the moral fiber of our polity, on both the Left and Right, to start speaking more loudly about these worrisome trends. America's better angels, and our more aspirational national narratives, simply demand it.

I would say it's at least nine months past time for the intellectuals of the right to start "speaking more loudly about these worrisome trends."

Posted by DeLong at December 21, 2004 02:12 PM


I wish I had a dime for every self-described conservative or moderate or rightist who went for bush during the election, only to turn around and start spouting off about how he should now be more inclusive and listen to the full range of voices here.

My local paper did this. It endorsed him, then, after it was over, urged him to start conciliating.

I almost wrote them to say they had me confused-- I thought they endorsed George bush?

Why would the leopard change the spots that win for him?

Posted by: Altoid at December 21, 2004 03:04 PM

Nice pastiche.

The phrase "Intellectuals of the right" is, of course, an oxymoron.

Posted by: Aladdin Sane at December 21, 2004 03:21 PM

Partly it's buyer's remorse. Some people have an insensate liberal-hatred that forced them to vote for Bush. Others were bought off, and worried about the consequences of public dissent. Others were intimidated.

I think that the condition of David Brooks' contract, for example, as an affirmative-action hire-the-handicapped Republican bringing "balance" to the Times, is that he support Republicans. If he deviated from that, there'd be no reason to keep him on.

How much of the enormous Bush deficit is pure vote-buying pork controlled by Rove. My guess is, most of it.

All those people are shamed for life and should never be forgiven, but I doubt that that will make any difference, since for better or worse I think the Bush people will remake the US in such away that memory of the transition we're going through now will be obliterated.

"Social security? What was that? Oh, yeah, I remember -- it was that corrupt, wasteful government giveaway that almost bankrupted the US".

Posted by: John Emerson at December 21, 2004 03:25 PM

Q: to recall or to not recall?

Posted by: Peatey at December 21, 2004 03:29 PM

We're all in a beer barrel going over the Niagra. Maybe some of us on top when it hits will survive.

Yes, there is a lot of welfare for Wyoming out there.

Posted by: christofay at December 21, 2004 03:30 PM

The part about Bush getting better advice is total BS. Bush is president. Bush got us into the mess in Iraq. Bush had better figure a way out of the mess. All the blame goes to Bush Bush authorized the torture at Abu Graib and in Cuba. Bush hires his minions. Bush keeps them on. This is all about Mr. Bush. This is not about Cossacks or Czars or other abtractions. We have a president that has flunked most of his performance evaluations. We just granted him tenure. What to do now? ISOLATION!

Posted by: bakho at December 21, 2004 05:32 PM

Well no, bakho, it's not all about Bush. It is, as Brad sadly makes clear, also very much about the people in this country who would have kept on pushing the voltage up in Stanley Milgram's experiments.

Posted by: Aunt Deb at December 21, 2004 05:54 PM

At the risk of violating Godwin's Law (or whatever the hell it's called)I should point out this passage from a paper by Eberhard Jackel, a professor of history at the University of Stuttgart:

Characteristic is a joke that was making the rounds in 1945: If only we hadn't started this war that was forced upon us! More than a few thus seem to have had an inkling that not everything had been right and proper. But only a very few were prepared to draw the conclusion that the country had to be liberated from its criminal government. Most importantly, the people were not ready to see Hitler as the main perpetrator. While the Party's image got increasingly worse, Hitler remained exempted from all criticism. Many even deluded themselves that he was not informed of the true situation. `If only the Fuhrer knew this' was another widespread saying.

Posted by: billmon at December 21, 2004 06:17 PM

Anybody who can say the following with a straight face is hopeless. Maybe he knows how bad things are, but doesn't want to admit it.

(whom I believe truly cares about the Iraq project and has the conviction to match--but doesn't appear to fully appreciate the quantum of prospective dangers ahead)

Posted by: sm at December 21, 2004 06:48 PM

Nice post Brad. At the advice of Eric Martin of Total Information Awareness (a very excellent blog by an attorney, BTW) I have attempted to appreciate Djerejian as an exercise in building a bridge between left and right, or some crap like that.

I've been visiting his site since before the election. As Brad sort of points out, the guy is in complete denial. He just can't bring himself to admit that there is something wrong with Bush. Any thing but that!

Djerejian is a classic Bush enabler and, thus, an enabler of the torturers of Abu and Gitmo. These rightwingers just can't get their heads around what it is that their party has come to represent. They will go through all kinds of mental contortions to avoid facing the truth.

The nerve of Djerejian to suggest that the left must join the right in protesting prisoner abuse. The right has has spent much time and treasure shouting down the left every time it protests violations of American values, including the torture of prisoners.

The left has been called treasonous for suggesting that prisoner abuse was anything more than the actions of a few rogue gaurds.

Time for Djerejian and the rest of right wing America to face the truth about their party and do something to fix it.

Posted by: avedis at December 21, 2004 07:15 PM

I'm going to have to defend Greg here from the scurrilous depredations of avedis. He's a good dude, and I agree with him as often as not. America needs more Republicans like Greg Djerejian; alas, they're a dying breed.

Posted by: praktike at December 21, 2004 07:21 PM

Sorry Praktile, but what America needed was Republicans who could face what their party had become and vote for someone other than Bush this past November.

Djerejian is not such a Republican. He is the more typical variety that votes Republican out of party loyalty regardless of what he sees or should see. I was reading his posts pre-election. He was then as he is now, unwilling to see for Bush for who and what he is despite evidence, just as Brad's post points out.

Djerejian is an intelligent worldly man. He had to perform some weird mental gymnastics to throw in his support of Bush. Scapegoating Rumsfeld was just one of those tricks. Another was that he was just really really sure that W term 2 would be all nice and different..........he's got a bag full of them.

Willful and wanton misconduct on Djerejian's part. Now he doesn't like reaping what he helped sow. And he still won't even discuss the possibility that Bush bears responsibility.

Greg Djerejian hasn't done America any favors.

Posted by: avedis at December 21, 2004 08:42 PM

Brad, this is another post in which you have supported a perfectly sound point with a vivid, widely agreed, but WRONG metaphor. It's the same thing you did when you brought out the idea that there was some flaw in the DESIGN (as opposed to the OPERATION) of the Titanic and the Hindenburg, though of course the designers' real achievements may have fed the hubris and delusion of invincibility of the whole operation.

But I digress. Here, the error is the claim that the Cossacks work for the Czar. They don't, either historically or in terms of their working relationship. A far better analogy for what they were like is "good bacteria", which mostly don't harm the host but only other bacteria, but still have the capacity to take advantage of the host's weakness by becoming opportunistic infections, and which prey on what they prey on regardless of the host's agenda - they haven't been fully tamed. The same sort of thing arose in groups of escaped slaves who found a modus vivendi with their former masters that involved kicking the ladder away after them.

You don't believe it? Look at what the Russian puppet imitation Cossacks in Persia did when the Czar fell - their leader started a new dynasty. Or look at why the Ural River had its name changed - the local Cossacks had revolted against the Empress and lost.

As much as anything, the peasants' error was supposing that the Czar could do anything to stop the Cossacks in any but individual cases (which he genuinely didn't know about, he only knew the general sort of thing Cossacks did). If the Czar tried to stop the Cossacks across the board, not only would it take a long time if indeed it could be done, at the end of the day it would leave the Czar without his friendly bacteria and no on the spot means of keeping the populace in order. There was nothing in it for him, though of course he might not have realised it any more than the British realised that stopping the French threat to their American colonies wasn't a wholly beneficial development.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence at December 22, 2004 03:51 AM

Is it time yet to say "We told you so," or shall we, as the NYT points out this morning, wait for the next Iraqi "milepost"?


Posted by: charles at December 22, 2004 06:35 AM

Now that I've wasted a couple of hours, I seem to has scribbled down things rather similar to some other posts. But what the heck...

The problem seems to be that Djeregian wants Bush to be the good guy, so goes hunting for a bad guy. Starting from the desired conclusion and working backward to create supporting analysis is, we all know, the wrong way to go. Sure is popular, though.

Evidence that Djeregian begins from the conclusion of Bush virtue and then makes up supporting analysis? "…Bush... to his immense credit, is trying to see this hugely difficult endeavour through, which is far and away the main reason why I supported him." Seeing the "endeavor" through was not in debate. Kerry acknowledged Powell's "Pottery Barn" intervention ethic. He knew that, while Bush broke Iraq, it is still the country that must take responsibility - we still bought Iraq when we broke it, even if Bush had turned the White House keys over to Kerry. There would very likely have been big differences in detail between Bush and Kerry policy in Iraq, but supporting Bush because he would see the Iraq endeavor through is partisan self-deception. We have every reason to think Kerry would have done what he could to put Iraq on a sound footing, and we also have reason to think that Kerry's judgement on big issues is better informed and would take what history has to teach into account.

Posted by: kharris at December 22, 2004 07:50 AM

It's great that Praktike takes value at Greg's site, as he does at Bird Dog's, but the real problem is the people that helped Bush into office. Avedis is, correctly, holding Greg and the Republican minions responsible since they're the ones that got him in. As I see it, Greg is responsible for the deficit, for the war, for the torture and 1400+ American dead. They have the government they want and it will be the ruination of us all. I tell this to every Bush supporter I talk to.

Posted by: LowLife at December 22, 2004 08:01 AM

It is incorrect to translate Russian term 'batyushka' as 'little father'. It is more like 'beloved father'.

[Nevertheless, "little father" is the genuinely accepted (even if incorrect--it is certainly true that the loading on the diminutive is much more affectionate than size-related) translation, is it not?]

Posted by: a at December 22, 2004 12:26 PM

Nevertheless, "little father" is the genuinely accepted translation, is it not?

Hm, generally (genuinely?) accepted translation for the term that is almost never used in English and obsolete in original Russian. :)

Posted by: a at December 22, 2004 01:26 PM

Write out a thousand times:

Posted by: Thomas T. Schweitzer at December 22, 2004 04:21 PM