The Widening Divide

The Pentagon is planning for the failure of 'The Surge.'.

"None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed."
Generals are telling Congress that questioning the President doesn't undermine the troops.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace: As long as this Congress continues to do what it has done, which is to provide the resources for the mission, the dialogue will be the dialogue, and the troops will feel supported.
Now we learn that the Pentagon has even released a report criticizing its own civilian leadership for misuse of intelligence in the months before the Invasion of Iraq.

From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 — A Pentagon investigation into the handling of prewar intelligence has criticized civilian Pentagon officials for conducting their own intelligence analysis to find links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but said the officials did not violate any laws or mislead Congress, according to Congressional officials who have read the report.

The long-awaited report by the Pentagon's acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, was sent to Congress on Thursday. It is the first major review to rebuke senior officials working for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the way intelligence was used before the invasion of Iraq early in 2003.

Working under Douglas J. Feith, who at the time was under secretary of defense for policy, the group "developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers," the report concluded.
Inspector General Gimble's assertion that no laws were violated was challenged by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV). Rockefeller will hold investigations into whether or not the Pentagon's failure to disclose what Gimble called "intelligence activities" violated the National Security Act of 1947.

Pointing out that the White House and it's appointed civilian leadership at the Pentagon 'cherry-picked' intelligence linking Saddam Hussein's Iraq to Al-Queda is unexceptionally. The fact is nearly universally accepted. The 9/11 Commission found "no evidence" of a link between the two. But when condemnations of pre-war intelligence comes from the Pentagon itself, something new is afoot.

When the White House's war effort has lost the Pentagon, change is sure to come soon.


Undermining the President, not the Troops

If you listen to the members of the minority party in Congress, you'd think that holding a debate - any debate - on the 'Surge' in Iraq would lead to unmitigated strategic disaster. The terrible consequences of debate would be to 'undermine the troops' or to send them 'mixed messages' resulting in very bad but unspecified things. How and why this catastrophic failure would happen (or how it would be any different from the current situation in Iraq) remains unexplained by Republicans or their media enablers.

On January 25, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a non-binding resolution stating, "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq." Asked what would happen if the Senate passed a similar resolution, Dick Cheney is on record saying "it would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops."

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has said, "I do not think you can send a message that is going to raise the morale of the troops while at the same time sending a message that we don’t support the mission."

It's a simple and pervasive talking point, but is it true?

As the Senate debated the non-binding resolution that Dick Cheney so feared, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace had this to say:

"As long as this Congress continues to do what it has done, which is to provide the resources for the mission, the dialog will be the dialog, and the troops will feel supported."
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress that the troops understand that debate is an effort to find the best way to execute the war, not an effort to undermine them:
"I think they [the troops] are sophisticated enough to understand that that's what the debate's really about."
So why all the effort to force this false meme upon the public? Why has the White House expended so much energy ensuring that a non-binding resolution supported by the majority of Senators never sees the light of day?

Because questioning the President's plan doesn't undermine the troops. It undermines the President.

The President and his party don't want to have any debate about Iraq just as the 2008 Elections appear on the horizon.

The President isn’t concerned about the psyches of our troops in Iraq. If he were, he wouldn't continue to order more extensions of duty, repeat tours in Iraq, and 'stop loss' measures. The President and his party are only worried about their own political skins.


I'm Still Alive!

The last three weeks or so have been very busy at work, preventing me from being able to post as much as I would like. Hopefully things will slow down a bit in the near future. Also, getting the internet at home (Gasp! I'm living in the 20th century!) will mean that even if work is busy, I will be able to pound out a few sentences now and again.

I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge that fatigue has a little bit to do with it. It amazes me that top-tier bloggers can put up quality posts day after day for years. Maybe it's because they get paid to do it...

Anyway, 300 Dollar Wonder should emerge from dormancy and be back up and running again soon. I'm also planning a few changes, so stay tuned.

Thoughts on and an Explanation of "Best Entertained, Least Informed..."

300 Dollar Wonder's subtitle "Commentary for the best entertained, least informed nation on earth" is essentially a reworking of the Neil Postman quote "We are the best entertained least informed society in the world." As such, I do not take credit for the phrase or the concept.

Neil Postman
(1931 — 2003) was a critic and an educator. He was a long time professor at NYU where he published many books and magazine articles examining the way that media and society interact.

His most well known work, Amusing Ourselves to Death, exemplifies the themes he pursued.

From the author of Teaching as a Subversive Activity comes a sustained, withering and thought-provoking attack on television and what it is doing to us. Postman's theme is the decline of the printed word and the ascendancy of the "tube" with its tendency to present everything - murder, mayhem, politics, weather - as entertainment. The ultimate effect, as Postman sees it, is the shrivelling of public discourse as TV degrades our conception of what constitutes news, political debate, art, even religious thought. Early chapters trace America's one-time love affair with the printed word, from colonial pamphlets to the publication of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. There's a biting analysis of TV commercials as a form of "instant therapy" based on the assumption that human problems are easily solvable. Postman goes further than other critics in demonstrating that television represents a hostile attack on literate culture.
Postman didn't just attack TV for dumbing down everything which it came into contact with, he examines how the inherent limitations of TV affect a society in which TV is the primary medium for all public discourses.

Every communication medium has an 'upper limit' to the level of discourse that it can sustain. Postman gives the example of trying to hold a discussion on philosophy using smoke signals to illustrate that the medium itself limits the depth of ideas communicated.

Postman shows that TV's 'upper limit' is far below that of print media. Then, using Aldus Huxley's Brave New World as a jumping-off point, Postman claims that TV acts as a "Soma," a drug that deadens society intellectually while leaving them happy.

* * * * *

I think that Postman's critique of TV media is especially applicable to politics. Trillion dollar budgets, intricate tax laws, far ranging foreign policy, intricate science funding and domestic policy are all forced, at best, to fit within a few minutes coverage. At the worst, debates on war and peace are reduced to 10 second sound bites.

TV's inability to investigate the intricacies and implications of various political initiatives is only compounded by treating news as entertainment. FoxNews' penchant for using TV news to reinforce its audience's pre-existing conclusions destroys what little ability was left.

Neil Postman passed away in 2003. It would have been fascinating to hear his thoughts and opinions on the emergence of the blogosphere, both as a phenomenon, as a means of communication, and as a political power.

I think he would approve.