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Wednesday, October 06, 2004



Yes. Cheney would have.

Republicans were making arguments along such lines in the 1990s concerning the Balkans interventions http://slate.msn.com/default.aspx?id=27730 (found it from: http://www.techcentralstation.com/092004E.html)


Here's the link again


Michael Turner

Ever read Irving Janis' classic, Groupthink? If you have, ever notice that you can see Donald Rumsfeld in a groupthink role?

I'm firmly of the opinion that Rummy has, since that books appearence, calculated the political advantages of merely appearing to have succumbed to groupthink. "Peer pressure made me do it - it happens to the best of us! Look at Kennedy!"

"Groupthink" was, after all, the Senate committee's diagnosis of all these supposed intelligence blunders. In politics, it's better to be seen as stupid but well-intentioned than to be seen as conniving. So if you can connive to appear stupid but well-intentioned, in a move that commits others to a course of action you want to take, you've got a smokescreen for your real agenda.

The invasion force was undermanned for the job of 'winning the peace'? Yeah? And so what? 400,000 troops would have required a draft, blowing a lot of political capital, and lots more money as well.

So has this all been a disastrous miscalculation? That depends on the exit strategy. Bush Sr. was heard to mumble something about not seeing any exit strategy. I'm sorry but that's crap.

You want an exit strategy, I'll give you an exit strategy: Kurdistan (which now, according to the Iraqi constitution, includes the very rich, very accessible oil deposits around Kirkuk). If all else fails, the Bushies can let the rest of Iraq go to hell in a handbasket, and the bottom line will still be approximately a trillion dollars worth of oil (at today's prices), and only at the cost of patrolling the Kurdish border, not at the cost trying to control whole cities.

With Kurdistan as a fallback position, Bush (or Kerry) can say: "Look, we've safeguarded democracy in at least part of Iraq, our troops aren't dying in any significant numbers - in fact we've brought most of them home -- and the U.S. is assured a strategic supply of oil in the event that Saudi Arabia becomes Al Qaeda Arabia." And with about $1 trillion of oil secured, the costs to date will have been covered with plenty to spare.

These people aren't stupid. They are smart enough to appreciate the advantages of looking stupid, that's all. It may feel good to talk about what idiots and blunderers they are, but that's never a safe assumption.


Yeah. That's what I also thought. If Iraqi Freedom fails, ultimately, then Kurdistan can still be used to salvage some of the damage.


The Democrats vs. Republicans arguments vis-a-vis WMD's might hold water if the Democrats had not trumpeted the same "Get Saddam" mantra from 1997 through the fall of '02 based on the "existance" of WMDs. Oh, and note the first three years of the "mantra" were under a democratic administration using the same sources of intelligence.

Hindsight is great isn't guys.... Replys welcome, but no partisan spin allowed.

Tom Grey

The stupid UN insistence on Proportional Representation, instead of geographic districts (first past the post), increases the chance of breakup, because it increases the power of ethnic/ nationalism.

Yes, "having the desire", PLUS the unwillingness to prove that he didn't have the capability is enough to support booting Saddam. You do not prove to my satisfaction comprehensive "real threat level" assessment. Iraq, as a state attacking the USA, I didn't fear (though I DID fear for Israel; and DO fear for Israel from Iran). Iraq officially supporting terrorists, by paying families of suicide murderers, is also incontrovertible. And the climate in support of terrorism was getting worse.

Please be honest, Marc. You do not accept that Bush did a good thing in using the US military to change Saddam's regime. Attacking Bush's Iraq war = support for Saddam. I support one, you "support" the other (in nuanced denial). It's simple, not nuanced -- like the two missing towers are gone.

You'd rather have a world with Saddam still in power, still allowing inspections with small violations, still telling all the other leaders, off the record, that he's fooling the UN, and the US, and he's just better at hiding than they are at finding.

Saddam's game was to create the perception, in the world and his neighbors, that he DID have WMDs.

When a thief uses a realistic fake gun to try to rob a store, and gets shot "in self defense" by the owner with a real gun, I do NOT have sympathy for the fake-gun thief. None.

1) I'm supporting Bush because he demonstrated that he would attack, even without the UN. Kerry hasn't, and I don't believe he would; and I'm fairly sure a LOT of terrorists won't believe he would, either -- if Kerry is elected I'm sure the terrorists will be claiming that "terrorism" won, as in Spain, and the unsure possible supporters and enablers of terrorism will agree that the terrorists are on track to win. As the N. Viet future genociders correctly thought they would win as Kerry gained attention in 1971.

Marc, what simple message will the terrorists understand from a Kerry victory?

2) I do think a Pres. Gore, after success in Afghanistan, might have attacked Iraq (20%). The Reps would NOT be as rabid Gore-haters, because the Reps, especially the (big-gov't) Christian Right, DOES believe in the moral superiority of the USA.

I'm sure the Reps would be following, whole-heartedly, support for Gore's "attack Iraq, export democracy" as a good idea, messed up by Dem failure to do it "right" (however they did it). But the support for using the military to export democracy would be fairly solid -- although some elite CATO Libertarian / Pat Robertson Isolationists would be complaining very loudly about the costs. [And of course, without the tax cuts, there would be higher taxes/ lower growth; the dot.com bubble pop would have included a much worse recession; much higher unemployment]

But I think it more likely (80%) that Gore would NOT have actually gone into Iraq; nor surround it first, so there might not have even been inspections; and certainly Libya would not have come clean on ITS more advanced than intel suggested nuke program. Perhaps the Pakistan nuke-sharing scheme would have continued, with both Libya and Iran benefiting from faster nuke tech research while the Dems ensure a prolly-better than Rep Afghanistan election.

The key difference is that Reps believe in "America the good" (if imperfect), or at least much better than the alternatives, and too many Dems do not.

Your own unbalanced critique of Pinochet, relative to Vietnamese leaders, or even the Islamists (who got early funding by America to fight Soviets), shows a naive idealism. Naive because it seems, too often, to reject a likely imperfect US supported result, in favor of some idealized alternative which seems unlikely. And, when this anti-US control belief was accepted, SE Asia '75; Iran in '80; the Left which opposed the US refuses to accept any responsibility for the disastrous results.

If Kerry is elected, 50% chance that Iran will have nukes within 4 years. You should be frightened. I am.

Tom Grey

++ New simple answer. The US gov't will often make mistakes due to bad intellegince. In this case the two are: false attack, false not attack. You accuse Bush of false attack because of bad intelligence. The other error is false NOT attack because of bad intelligence. I'm pretty certain Kerry will make at least one such false NON-attack (fail to attack when he should). Most micro-manage critiques of Bush, on looting, border control, picking up Sadr early, subduing Fallujah in April, are claims of false non-attack errors.

The world is safer when the US accepts a few more false attack errors in order to avoid more false non-attack (ie, successful terrorist attack) errors. Expecting Unreal Perfection is naive.

Wagner James Au

Marc, I think Duelfer's revelations from Saddam's interrogation must fundamentally alter our analysis of his WMD program (or the lack thereof.) All along, it turns out, most of us in the West have been interpreting Saddam's behavior from a totally skewed perspective. The main threat wasn't really that Saddam would give WMD to terrorists, or use WMD to attack Israel or Saudi Arabia. All along, the real danger WAS THAT HE CONSIDERED HIMSELF TO BE IN AN ARMS RACE WITH IRAN:


"Much of his motivation in the quest for weapons of mass destruction came from neighboring Iran and the two countries' 'long-standing rivalry over the centuries,' including the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. 'From Saddam's viewpoint, the Persian menace loomed large and was a challenge to his place in history,' the report says. 'This was an important motivation in his views on WMD _ especially as it became obvious that Iran was pursuing the very capabilities he was denied,' said the report..."

This is key, because it means that he would have *never* fully cooperated with the UNMOVIC inspectors. To admit he had no active WMD program or stockpiles would be an effective declaration of surrender to Iran and its nuclear ambitions. (And who knows what the mullahs would do, when they learned Saddam had no arsenal to defend against *them*.) So it's wrong for Kerry to state, as he often does, that if Bush had allowed the inspections to continue, the inspectors would have come up with nothing. No, they *never* would have been allowed to fully finish the job, because Saddam would always act to leave some doubt. In the end, even if the UN continued its inspections, they would eventually run up against Saddam's intransigence, and so no full final declaration could be made. And *then* what would the right choice be?

Of course, the counter-argument here is if Saddam resisted this final inspection attempt, the Security Council would then be willing to affirm 1441, and sanction war, giving us international authorization to validate it. But then, Duelfer's report kills that hypothetical, too:


"'At a minimum, Saddam wanted to divide the five permanent members and foment international public support of Iraq at the U.N. and throughout the world by a savvy public relations campaign and an extensive diplomatic effort,' the report said."

Marc, your hypothetical is well-taken: of course Republicans would excoriate a Democratic President who took us to war on the flawed rationales Bush did. But answer this counter-hypothetical: If inspections were rejoined once again, and Saddam was still intransigent, and due to internal corruption, the UN Security Council was still unwilling to authorize war, what then would the correct decision be?


Grey seems to live in Black & White: America is always good, if sometimes misguided (to think otherwise is to be "naive"), but at bottom it has only the best interests of every citizen at heart. And every country America attacks has it coming, since, again, America is good, and therefore always fights bad. It can slaughter tens of thousands (as in Iraq) or millions (as in SE Asia), but never doubt the eternal goodness that is nourished by so much righteous bloodshed.


The unfortunate thing about this whole mess is that it took this long to make official what sensible people knew all along. Saddam Hussein, however tyrannical, had no connection to Al Qaeda and had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no threat to the United States. Basically completely destroying two tiers of the administrations fragile case for war.

A Humanitarian case for war, supplemented with uncertain tales about the connection to and harboring of terrorists, and the implication, however speculative that while Saddam had no WMD power, he would have liked to have had it, make an understandable case for war. At least in the hindsight sense, as if "Yeah we were wrong about WMDs and Al Qaeda, but here's a few reasons why invading Iraq was probably the right thing to do anyway" I can accept that. That's taking responsibility.

But this administrations' stubborn refusal to admit it's mistake, combined with an unapologetic, even reactionary tone when confronted with these mistakes, doesen't gather them much sympathy from me.

Woody McNair

Football season and presidential elections brings out the Monday morning quarterbacks.

Bush made the right decisions on Iraq based upon the best information available AT THAT TIME. Kerry agreed with him, then didn't, then did, then didn't.... Kerry cannot say that he could have done better because it's obvious that he would have done NOTHING--nothing except talk.

To answer Marc, if the shoe were on the other foot, Cheney would be criticizing Kerry for the same points he made the other day--Kerry is afraid to be a leader and do what is necessary.

You cannot wait for perfect information, a unanimous vote, overwhelming consent, or polls to act on critical matters. That is not leadership. It puts this nation at risk and makes me feel less secure.

Further, Hussein did have WMD. He used tham to kill thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq. Bush, in his state of the union address, said that we should NOT wait until a threat is imminent to act. (Note that the Democrats intentionally mislead when they leave out the word "not" in reference to that speech.) Bush didn't wait and Hussein was put out of business before he could turn the poison against Americans at home or abroad.

On a current note, if we accepted Kerry's way and waited for global permission to back up the U.N. resolutions, then he would have had to come up with more than $1.78 Billion in bribes to get France to change their support. Here's the story.


Woody, about those WMDs...exactly when did Sodom have them?


"Further, Hussein did have WMD. He used tham to kill thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq."

With our blessing. When Saddam was at his worst, we helped him and gave him political cover. When he was at his weakest, we screamed about what a threat he was and invaded, leading to the present paradise-in-progress. The only guy who got it right, if memory serves, was Scott Ritter, who said before the invasion that there was no way Saddam had the destructive capabilities Bush and Cheney claimed he had. Oh, how he was mocked! Funny -- the same Liberal Media that put him on to be berated back then seems to have misplaced his rolodex card now that he's been proven right.


Glenn Rangwala in Britain also got it right and Brits were very familiar with his excellent categorical picking apart the myths of Iraqi "WMD" possession on the eve of the official invasion. This was one of the key reasons Powell's speech backfired at the UN in Europe, Rangwala picked it apart within one day and was featured in the British media prominently. He was, of course, ignored by the US media:

Mavis Beacon

"When a thief uses a realistic fake gun to try to rob a store, and gets shot "in self defense" by the owner with a real gun, I do NOT have sympathy for the fake-gun thief. None."

-yeah. but when you kill the fake-gun thief's family...

Also, great hypothetical statistics!


"yeah. but when you kill the fake-gun thief's family..."

. . . and bomb the fake-gun thief's neighborhood, then the neighborhood next to that, then a few more many miles down the road, and you invade the houses you don't bomb and drag people out of their beds and torture and humiliate them on camera for the world to see . . .

Woody McNair

What's your point? Hussein murdered the villagers of that region after the first Gulf War with poison gas. The U.N. certainly didn't do anything about it, and it's not like Hussein couldn't hide other chemical weapons if he had to.

Mavis Beacon--
First, you have nice typing.
Second, surely you're not saying that the butchering sons of Sadam Hussein were like innocent family members caught in the cross fire?

Scott Ritter was no where close to having all the facts at the time of his conclusions. He just went wherever he was directed, and each location he viewed was given advance notice to clean up before he got there. Ritter is like so many people who get a little attention from the left and enjoy the celebrity of it. They, then, continue saying the things that make them popular despite the flaws in their arguments.

Folks, it is so transparent that Kerry and Edward are weak and will put us further behind in the fight against terrorism. Don't let idiology blind you. We went down this same road with communism (Dems vs. Reps), and I don't want us to lose ground early in this fight.

That's it for me on this. It's like talking to a wall.


"Scott Ritter was no where close to having all the facts at the time of his conclusions. He just went wherever he was directed, and each location he viewed was given advance notice to clean up before he got there. Ritter is like so many people who get a little attention from the left and enjoy the celebrity of it. They, then, continue saying the things that make them popular despite the flaws in their arguments."

I'm sorry -- what were the flaws in Ritter's pre-invasion assessment?


And how did his take on Saddam's WMD stack up against the Bush admin's? Seems to me that Ritter, and the other inspectors, did a pretty good job disarming Saddam. Why, even the USG admits as such today! But if you have counter-info or proof that Saddam hid or shipped off massive amounts of WMD before the US invaded, this wall's all ears.


Woody, I think you need some memory tablets with re: the Iraqi massacres of Kurds?


Marc Cooper

People and governments make mistakes. Indeed, Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. Further, the Clinton administration made some of the misjudgements. And Kerry and Edwards both went along with the pack in the build-up to war.
That said: We now need to recognize that it was indeed a MISTAKE (or worse). What we're getting from the admin is instead denial and new rationalizations for the present course.

There are some positives in having removed Saddam-- for sure.

There are also some negatives.

Intelligent people (as opposed to ideaologues) will draw a balance sheet.

My calculation: remove the WMDs and and the "clear and gathering threat" and the hocus-pocus about Saddam's links to Al Qaieda/9-11 and you get to a marked negative balance.

The economic cost of this war is monstruous and unsustainable. The international repercussions are ominous.

The dogged intrasigence of the admin can lead only to speculation that they are making domestic political calculations. That's unforgiveable.


Some mistakes are forgiveable. In some circumstances, even starting a war on the basis of erroneous intelligence might be.

What is not forgivable is that the Administration did not simply make the mistake, but it systematically misled people about the quality of the intelligence it had, and routinely undertook despicable attacks on the character and patriotism of anyone who questioned what they are doing.

An honest mistake goes only to competence, not character, and is therefore morally forgivable (although you might take the view that the person ought not be given the opportunity to make more mistakes in future).

But this was not an honest mistake.

P. Greanville

Radical media review Cyranos Journal endorses Kerry while holding its nose...

WE WON'T WASTE YOUR TIME with a long screed on the reasons for our endorsement. If you're reading these lines, you either landed here by accident or you are a sophisticated observer of our political realities. In the latter case you would expect that a site populated by left-leaning activists would only consider Kerry or Nader as a possible ticket, but never Bush. And in that you'd be perfectly correct.

But we endorse Kerry with enormous reservations. His campaign is one of the most ineptly run efforts in recent memory. Vacillation, equivocations, tardy responses and generally less than smart handling--not to mention very transparent opportunism and pandering to the right on many issues (about which more below)--mark this campaign as one characterized by missed opportunities and self-inflicted injuries.

It's not so surprising that with a target as large as a stranded whale, and with Bush's obvious failures in plain view, in late October, with hardly two weeks to the election, Kerry is still not able to break out ahead of Bush but remains embarrassingly mired in sagging polls and controversy surrounding his clumsy and unnecessary remarks about Dick Cheney's daughter. (It's painful to watch loyal Democratic partisans as they try to put a brave face on what was, by any fair assessment, a serious faux pas on Kerry's part.)

The really frustrating thing about Kerry is that--rhetoric aside--he obviously continues to march under the bankrupt script concocted by the top Democratic party tiers of playing to the center and right in the hopes of stealing the wind from the Republican agenda--the infamous "GOP lite" formula--while shamelessly betraying their own base on the many urgent and basic issues confronting the masses.

Granted that it isn't easy or politically wise to speak clearly and honestly to a population so profoundly crippled by rightwing mythologies and backward notions, including the widespread religiosity and self-righteousness that still afflict the American polity. In that sense, a man like Bush, riding on the most undeveloped, traditionalist sectors of the population, and one capitalizing on the numerous confusions and fabrications that continue to appear unchallenged in the mainstream media, can sail ahead without having to strain his brain unduly to strike the "right chord." Leaving aside the inevitable priming, Bush has the luxury of being able to be himself, as his obvious deficits have already been largely discounted by the electorate.

Not so with Kerry, who, emerging from a bruising primary season, could at any time easily hurt himself by speaking out of turn. What's more, as things stand in our society, a candidate that needs nuanced explanations for his positions is a lame duck in a political culture built on soundbites and knownothingism. In sum, while Bush has been able to coast, Kerry has faced a topical minefield. All of this we acknowledge as true and weigh in Kerry's favor as an attenuating circumstance.

Heading toward self-destruction

But, even in a close election where some expediency may be in order, attention must be paid to core principles, principles that we have seen much too often breached or applied only haltingly and with stunning miscalculation. Kerry, if he had been strong and clear from the very beginning about his allegiance to a progressive agenda, ideally following his gut feelings about social justice, peace, and an environmentally sane planet, would be riding a comfortable, solid lead by now.

As in almost any country with enormous disparities in income, the majority in the US is objectively on the left, for the majority of the American people continues to experience in their daily lives a huge number of problems, threats, and frustrations chiefly issuing from a governance that, while claiming to be democratic, is, at bottom, oligarchic and thoroughly anti-democratic. How else do we explain the fact that the people need special lobbies to defend their agenda? What are Congress and the President for?

Kerry's gyrations are hard to explain. Tactically, he probably made the biggest mistake in this election by allowing his persona to be defined by his foe. In this, there is corroboration coming from an unexpected quarter, an ad executive who sees the whole thing in terms of a "branding failure." In a political culture in which spin, focus groups, marketing techniques, dirty tricks, and public relations are almost everything and substance and principle little or nothing, it scarcely suprises us that the problem should be framed as one of misguided "advertising." So, consider for a moment Abe Novick's impassioned plea against the "political hacks" in charge of shaping today's campaigns, and Kerry's in particular. Even allowing for the fact that it apparently comes from a true believer in the alchemy of Madison Avenue, it's worth a read:

"Imagine this: It's Wednesday, November 3rd and John Kerry just lost the election. Since he ain't going to Disneyworld, what should he be thinking? What went wrong?

One big word jumps to mind: branding. Brands stand for something and Kerry never gave a clear, consistent message. He was, from the outset, the anti-brand. He was not Bush. The chant from Democrats even supported this argument by declaring, "Anyone but Bush!" he was never the challenger brand, offering up something better.

Imagine if Pepsi's tagline was "Anything but Coke"? Or BMW claimed, "We're not Mercedes." It doesn't happen that way for good reason. Rather, when you think of BMW, you think performance. With Pepsi you think youth. Clear. Simple.

When you think Bush, you think "tough on terror." And terror was the issue in this election. Had Kerry realized it early on and made the case that he can fight it smarter, better, and safer than Bush by hammering away for a good solid year, it would have been a different race and a different outcome.

I get annoyed when I hear how politicians can't be branded. I'm told they're not Pepsi or BMW and that branding can't work the same way for a person as it would for some silly consumer product. Bunk![...] The problem with Kerry was he was never properly launched. He was never introduced in a way that voters would say. "Oh yeah, Kerry. He's [fill in the blank]." instead, he let his opposition define him.

Unless and until the parties, politicians and, in particular, the Democrats understand the power of branding, they will lose elections. Until they depart from what are used-car ads, as opposed to the great work agencies consistently do for the likes of car brands--Saturn, Volkswagen and BMW--they will be lost in the woods unable to see the forest." *

I'm afraid the woes of the Democratic Party and the Kerry candidacy run far deeper than a mere question of technique. But let's go back to Kerry for a moment. While elections in hotly contested races are won by catering to the marginal voter--the infamous "undecided"--there is no justification to stray so far from your base as to start denying the very principles that fuel it. This, as mentioned earlier, has been a long-embraced tactic of the Democratic Leadership Council. Democratic apparatchiks like Joe Lieberman, Al Gore, and even the hallowed Clintons, who, for all the hatred and fury they caught from the right would hardly qualify in any international political arena as anything more than a pair of yuppie centrists, have long played and continue to play opportunistic politics. These people are so deeply ensconced in the pockets of the corporate status quo that even when the American people back an initiative 3 to 1, they falter. Such was the case with the short-lived proposal to secure universal health care under the stewardship of Hillary Clinton. There are many other examples.

So this lack of "product differentiation" is now coming home to roost to actually hurt the Dems and possibly lose them an epochal election. Who could blame the public for this? Kerry's position on the war is for all intents and purposes congruent with Bush's--we gotta win, stay the course, bla, bla, and all the rest we have heard before. Heck, it's Bush's policy but better administrated. Is an immoral policy more virtuous if better administrated? Is an unjustified war suddenly justifiable because of a switch in management? Kerry, of all people, should know better.

This unraveling of Democratic Party principles--never too heavily encumbered by such things--was witnessed throughout that long and shameful season preparatory to the Iraq war during which the Dems literally folded as an effective opposition. Compounding this cowardice, the Party went on to stage a coronation in Boston (what else are we to call this tightly-scripted extravaganzas?) during which Kerry, once more, opportunistically tilted against his honorable record as a Vietnam War critic, thereby helping to whitewash the criminality of that intervention. Only Al Sharpton had the intelligence and true leadership DNA to speak off script. He was a breath of fresh air.

Of course, the spin doctors had figured that Bush was outstripping Kerry on the "patriotic" index, the "tough hombre" talk, and that he needed a strong dose of flagwaving to prove his having some gonads to confront the "terrorist threat." But again, need we go so far? Has anyone paid close attention to the Kerry ticket's utterances on Israel, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela? Simply appalling, especially for a duo that promises more maturity in the use of American power. But, friends, patriotic or idiotic, will we ever see the day when liberals stand up firm against the baiting of the Right? (Don't hold your breath.)

Incidentally, those who grow apoplectic at the mention of Ralph Nader's name should direct their fury elsewhere. Scapegoating Ralph or any other small-party candidate is an exercise in futility, besides being eminently unfair. The Democratic Party has been selling out for many decades, in broad daylight. For generations it has happily played the "good-cop face" of a single party representing only one class interest. Liberals, who apparently never learn from history, are suddenly appalled at the horrors inherent in rightwing rule. Where were they as the right kept on accumulating more and more cultural and political power?

Trouble on all sides--and perhaps catharsis at last

Whatever the outcome on Nov. 2, the Democratic Party, as we know it, is in big trouble. If it loses, there is a high probability that the fissure between the opportunist right-wing leaning top tier and the left-leaning base will--like tectonic plates under enormous tension--snap and cause a huge convulsion likely to split the party into two irreconcilable factions.

If it wins, trouble will not manifest itself so rapidly, due to the "honeymoon effect," and the celebratory afterglow issuing from the Republican defeat, but the contradiction will surely re-emerge in time. The reason for this is actually quite simple: no party wedded lock, stock and barrel to the current brand of American capitalism and the obsolete myths underwriting it (see our article, whitewashing the face of capitalism) can hope to escape for long the mounting social turmoil caused by the sheer intractability of the unfolding global crisis. They can buy some time with stopgap measures, but they can never really snuff out the underlying dynamic. For that, we'd need an entirelu new paradigm, and plenty of real leadership, something that we clearly won't find in the present Democratic Party version.

Consider job loss, about which there is much equivocation.

Over the middle and long-run, the shrinking of the job base is likely to continue unabated here and abroad since it is inexorably embedded in the dynamic of replacing human labor with machines. (See our companion article on this topic.) Upticks may register here and there--economic activity is inherently uneven--but when we look at the whole field, over a period of years, it's obvious that, unless we stop technological progress altogether, fewer and fewer workers will be needed in any sector of the economy. This will hold true in both the developed and underdeveloped world.

Machine labor should not be feared because higher productivity in and of itself promises liberation from toil. The problem is that under the current set of property rules, the lion's share of the additional income goes to the owning and managerial classes, while the vast majority are forced to make do with sharply reduced incomes or no incomes at all. Thus, all the talk about "outsourcing," with its controversial and faintly chauvinist overtones, is a mere distraction on the road to the real crisis, which is structural. No amount of retraining or education will cure it.

The election may have been lost more than 20 years ago

The wits said that Napoleon lost Waterloo in the fields of Eton. We say the Democrats, to explain a defeat in November, will have to take a hard look at the past 20 years. For it is at least that long that is required to start telling the truth to the American people, educating them about the real causes for the intractability of the problems they face, the ostensible madness and confusion they see around the world, and to start forming a broad movement capable of sustaining and implementing a new vision. Until that essential work is done, the Democrats or any party purporting to offer real solutions--a new economy capable of meeting people's needs here and abroad, and the determination to stop the pillage of our planet and fellow creatures--will be either a witting fraud or a prisoner of the narrow status quo enforced by the Right. It isn't too hard to see how these limits have crippled the Democratic Party's ability to fire up the masses.

The straitjacket can be broken, all right, but it takes dedicated, courageous work. In 2004 the Democrats are asking for our vote without having done any of this essential work. Their rhetoric and formulas are shopworn; their solutions woefully inadequate to deal with the deepening crisis. Their accidental triumph, should it happen, may give the world a respite from the accelerating chaos induced by the Bush administration and, no doubt, there are a few important areas, such as the judiciary, where the dictinctions between the parties may actually amount to something. In that sense the Demos are clearly and compellingly preferable to the Republicans. But, for a real solution, we must all look beyond the Democratic Party in its current incarnation.

D.P. Greanville
For the editorial board

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