by Jeremy Young | 12/02/2008 12:55:00 AM
Thanks to idiosynchronic for keeping the front page running in my absence -- he did a great job.

The new History Carnival is up at Frog in a Well -- Japan! Congratulations to my two nominees this month, both of which made the Carnival: Vote for President Convict #9653, by midtowng, and Black People Can't Swim, &c., by Scott Eric Kaufman.

If you're looking for a cool calendar to give as a Christmas gift, keep my advertiser in mind. (And no, they didn't pay me to say that, just to put the ad in the sidebar.)

Our own Lisa Pease has a very interesting essay on JFK's team of rivals at Consortium News. I don't know whether she's up for discussing the piece here or not, but I'll be provocative anyway by saying that I don't really agree with her thesis in this one. The gist of it is that JFK was forced into Vietnam by his national security and foreign policy team, who consisted of rivals and opponents whom Kennedy couldn't control and dared not oppose. I've read similar stuff by Gareth Porter and David Talbot, among others -- Porter in particular promotes an amazingly convoluted theory that has Kennedy actually ordering troops to leave Vietnam while lying to his entire national security team and telling them he's increasing the troop commitment. The problem with this line of argument is that it doesn't actually end up absolving Kennedy of his militarism; it just makes him look like a weak reed who let his subordinates lead him around by the nose. If you're a shrewd politician, there's always a way to get rid of Cabinet officials who are trying to undermine your administration, even if they're wildly popular. In a classic case, Abraham Lincoln eliminated failed "Team of Rivals" member Salmon Chase, who was scheming to steal renomination away from Lincoln in 1864, by kicking him upstairs to the Supreme Court. If Lincoln could do that to his Secretary of War, why couldn't Kennedy control a mere ambassador like Henry Cabot Lodge? We're forced to conclude either that the shrewd Kennedy was actually an inexplicable coward, or that he really was more militaristic than we like to think.

Another interesting article with which I disagree: KC Johnson's piece on Sean Wilentz, in which he implies that Wilentz should be ashamed for getting his presidential predictions wildly off this cycle. Despite how vehemently I disagree with him on the general subjects of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Wilentz shouldn't be attacked for having his predictions fall flat. Prediction is an art, not a science, and even people who do it for a living frequently get it wildly wrong. I personally have had a really nice couple of cycles for my predictions. In 2006, I came in 53rd in a prediction pool of 50,000 for House and Senate races, and correctly called every single Senate race. This cycle, I correctly called every Governor and Senate race decided on election day (it appears that I've miscalled the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff, though I did correctly call the positions of the candidates on Election Day), forty-nine states' electoral votes (minus Missouri and one vote in Nebraska), and all but a handful of House races; two thousand voters in Missouri kept me from placing first in a Daily Kos prediction pool of 7,000. Does that make me smarter than Sean Wilentz? Absolutely not. Both of us made educated guesses; I got lucky, and he didn't. Sure, his were a bit warped by his excessive partisanship this cycle, but that doesn't necessarily make them wrong either. I predicted in mid-February 2003 that Howard Dean's campaign, which had barely any cash and a virtually nonexistent website, would become a movement that would sweep the country; I was right, even though my judgment was clearly warped by my own partisanship. Cut Wilentz some slack for being wrong; he deserves credit, as I've argued before, for engaging with politics in a serious way in the first place.

OK, that's enough from me. What's on your mind?



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Blogger Ahistoricality on 12/02/2008 9:04 AM:

Remind me not to bet against you next cycle!

As it says at the top of the HC, “In retrospect, historians are usually right.” — Der Spiegel interviewer (11-11-08).

That's going in my quote file, for sure. I got a little mention there, too. Fun stuff.


Anonymous Anonymous on 12/02/2008 12:07 PM:

At this point, it strikes me as denial to believe that Obama is going to pursue a significantly less hawkish policy than Bush. His team of rival strategy probably indicates that Obama is either weak and easily manipulated or that he really agrees with the likes of Gates.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 12/02/2008 4:59 PM:

I think Obama is going to be about as hawkish as Bill Clinton -- which is too hawkish for my blood, but one heck of a lot better than Bush.


Anonymous Anonymous on 12/02/2008 6:20 PM:


In what respect was Bill Clinton "better than Bush"?

Number of combatants and civilians killed, maimed? Cities/countries destroyed?

Aren't they about equivalent as far as unleashing unprovoked aggression on innocent people/governments?


Blogger Ahistoricality on 12/02/2008 8:28 PM:

Aren't they about equivalent as far as unleashing unprovoked aggression on innocent people/governments?

Oh, come on!

There's no rational basis for claiming equivalency.

Aside from that mess Clinton inherited in Somalia, and the mess Clinton inherited in Iraq (see a pattern here?), about the only "aggression" you could cite would be Yugoslavia, and there was already enough aggression on the ground that you'd have to work pretty hard to prove that the US made it work.

Frankly, it's Clinton's inaction in the case of Rwanda that I'd cite as most troubling....


Blogger Real History Lisa on 12/02/2008 11:36 PM:

Hey, Jeremy. Question. Is it your thesis that Kennedy had no plans to leave Vietnam?

I make no such claims in my article that Kennedy was solely a victim in Vietnam. He wasn't, and he lived to regret some of his earlier moves there. But there's now a very lengthy record of him saying one thing in public and another thing in private.

I didn't go into, in this article, how Kennedy also foresaw how he might well be killed for opposing the military a third time. Third, you say?

The Bay of Pigs was DESIGNED TO FAIL. It was simply a pretext to start a war. But Kennedy bailed in a way the CIA hadn't expected. The Navy was nearby and the CIA fully expected Kennedy to launch airstrikes and to send in the forces when the anti-Castro Cuban brigades failed. But Kennedy cut it off. The plot had been sold to him as a 'native uprising' we were covertly supporting. When he saw the only way to win would be a full military effort he said no way. That infuriated the Joint Chiefs and the CIA.

Kennedy did it again during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the tapes Zelikow somewhat mistranscribed (according to others who listened with his transcripts in hand to see what he had miswritten), it's clear that the Kennedy brothers were isolated in opposing military strikes against the Soviet Union in retaliation.

Kennedy was asked if a "Seven Days in May" scenario was possible, referring to the popular novel which had just been made into a movie (with Kennedy's urging, and White House access). Kennedy said if a young president opposed the military three times, he could see such a thing happening. Vietnam was his third thing, and he knew very clearly how much it might cost him.

He honestly didn't think he could get enough support for withdrawal before reelection. After reelection, he thought he could swing it, and had already ordered the initial reduction in troop levels, which the Pentagon offset by rearranging deployments.

Another pair of authors, Charlotte Dennett and Gerard Colby, called the Kennedy Administration the "Rockefeller Administration," noting how many of Kennedy's appointees actually came from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which sat at the of the heart of the Rockefeller financial empire. But where else could Kennedy go for men of experience in government?

I sympathize with Obama's predicament. But I fear he's making some mistakes that are going to cost him down the line. But is there any other way for a cocky young man to learn that the president has only limited power?


Blogger Real History Lisa on 12/02/2008 11:40 PM:

And re Lodge, Kennedy WAS planning to get rid of him, but again, after reelection. He had only just appointed him, and of course, by the time the coup happened, it was too late to replace him and do any good.

Kennedy understood, as Obama doesn't yet, that ordering people around doesn't always work. Obama's going to have to learn that one the hard way. We'll see, though. Jeremy, I really hope YOU are right and I am wrong on this one! ;-)


Blogger Jeremy Young on 12/03/2008 6:29 PM:

Anonymous, Ahistoricality speaks for me on this one. I'm much more upset about what Clinton DIDN'T do -- didn't insist on fair trade and human rights laws, didn't reform the UN to make it a more powerful organization, didn't sign Kyoto, etc.

Lisa, perhaps I'm arguing against Porter here instead of against you (I've recently read some Porter and some of his critics). I don't know what Kennedy was planning in Vietnam, but I do think that Porter reached for an absurdly farfetched conclusion based on the evidence he uncovered.

I don't have a problem with the idea that Kennedy said one thing in public and another thing in private -- lots of politicians do that. What I have a problem with is the idea that he supported escalation in Vietnam to the public, all of his aides, and his entire national security team, and opposed it to a couple of one- and two-star generals in the Pentagon -- and that then we're supposed to accept that what he told that handful of generals was the truth, and what he told everyone else was a lie. That's Porter's thesis, and I think it's insane. It makes Kennedy out to be even more secretive than Henry Kissinger, whom we know was secretive half the time out of peevishness rather than necessity, even though he was violating federal and international laws -- and even he told Nixon and a few trusted aides what he was doing. There's no rational reason for anyone to be as secretive as Porter thinks Kennedy was, even if he thought he would be assassinated for telling the truth -- particularly if he was afraid of the military, as you claim (since the military was the one group of people he was supposedly being truthful with).

Now, I don't know why Kennedy would approve a drawdown plan while telling everybody else he was for escalation, but I think the idea that the drawdown plan was the primary thrust of his strategy is patently ridiculous. Could he really trust no one in the entire White House, not even his own brother? I don't buy it.


Blogger idiosynchronic on 12/03/2008 8:43 PM:

Well, I can't say I kept the seat warm, but I did Carpe my Holiday Diem. But y'all are welcome.


Blogger mark on 12/03/2008 9:19 PM:

"The gist of it is that JFK was forced into Vietnam by his national security and foreign policy team, who consisted of rivals and opponents whom Kennedy couldn't control and dared not oppose"

I can't buy that either as you have described Lisa's argument. Kennedy added his own tweaks to the Bay of Pigs plan that made it worse than it already was - and it was pretty bad from an operational standpoint.

However, when you read how Keystone Kops-like some successful CIA actions were - like Operation Ajax or the toppling of Arbenz, the Bay of Pigs looks less like an anomaly in terms of planning and execution.

The truth is that governments are often far more fragile than anyone realizes. Sometimes all they need is a good shove to collapse like a house of cards. Read LaFeber's Inevitable Revolutions sometime on how easy it was to buy a short term "army" and overthrow a Central American government. Or for a more dramatic example, the total implosion of the once mighty Soviet Union after the bungled August Coup against Gorbachev.

On a related note, nor I buy David Kaiser's effort to absolve JFK of responsibility in the assassination of Diem and his brother Nhu ( though that notwithstanding, I'd still give a high marks to American Tragedy as a good read).

That said, I really need to go read what Lisa actually argued firsthand before commenting further.


Anonymous Jesse Hemingway on 12/06/2008 2:09 PM:

The sociopath & chief, enabling media, and pant load politicians

The parade of national shame

By: Jesse Hemingway

Remember Impeachment is off table!!! By who’s authority?

The foundational question is could the George W. Bush criminal enterprise have exponentially spawned without the complicity of the national media, history has empirically proven that it is a key critical component in the mass population manipulation process. One person selected George W. Bush as President of the United States of America in 2000 the media failed miserable to challenge that person integrity, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and his uncertain past. It is well known fact in criminal prosecutions that a notorious key ingredient to define a criminal enterprise by its existence is the use of blackmail and coercion by Quid pro quo to protect a person alleged status in life such as United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Just this manifestation at face value of this questionable perception of a created reality is a self indictment; that requires a through follow up investigation into George W. Bush criminal enterprise below is a quote from that criminal enterprise circa 2002.

''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

The following reference below “The Battle for the Control of the Press” emphases that an elaborate orchestrated relationship existed between the media and its willing participation in the George W, Bush criminal enterprise.


Transcript: Charlie Gibson Interviews President Bush

'I Made Tough Calls,' 'I Did Not Compromise My Principles,' President Says

Dec. 1, 2008

The following is an excerpted transcript of Charlie Gibson's interview with President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at Camp David, on their reflections over the past eight years, the current state of the country and their greatest disappointments and accomplishments, for "World News."


Page 5

GIBSON: You've always said there's no do-overs as President. If you had one?

BUSH: I don't know -- the biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. And, you know, that's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.

GIBSON: If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq war?

BUSH: Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld. In other words, if he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely.

Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq
Paul R. Pillar

From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006


Page 3

“That is what happened when the Bush administration repeatedly called on the intelligence community to uncover more material that would contribute to the case for war. The Bush team approached the community again and again and pushed it to look harder at the supposed Saddam-al Qaeda relationship -- calling on analysts not only to turn over additional Iraqi rocks, but also to turn over ones already examined and to scratch the dirt to see if there might be something there after all. The result was an intelligence output that -- because the question being investigated was never put in context -- obscured rather than enhanced understanding of al Qaeda's actual sources of strength and support.

This process represented a radical departure from the textbook model of the relationship between intelligence and policy, in which an intelligence service responds to policymaker interest in certain subjects (such as "security threats from Iraq" or "al Qaeda's supporters") and explores them in whatever direction the evidence leads. The process did not involve intelligence work designed to find dangers not yet discovered or to inform decisions not yet made. Instead, it involved research to find evidence in support of a specific line of argument -- that Saddam was cooperating with al Qaeda -- which in turn was being used to justify a specific policy decision.”



Some Council Members Press for More Time, Strengthened

Inspections; Others Insist That Iraq Has Not Made Strategic Decision to Comply


March 7/2003

MOHAMMED ALDOURI (Iraq) said that the possibilities of launching a war of aggression against Iraq had become imminent, despite what the Council would decide and despite the official and public international stance, which strongly rejected aggression and war and demanded a peaceful solution. The French, German, Russian and Chinese positions clearly indicated there was no need for a second resolution. They had demanded the continuation of the work of the inspectors and giving them enough time to complete their task peacefully. The position taken at the most recent Arab summit unanimously confirmed the rejection of attacking Iraq because that constituted a threat to Arab national security and to the need to resolve the Iraqi crisis peacefully.

He said the Non-Aligned Movement, at its latest summit, also condemned military action and the threat of the use of military action, and considered that a flagrant violation of the principle of non-interference. The heads of State and representatives of 57 Islamic countries, recently meeting in Al-Duha, declared their absolute rejection of any aggression against Iraq and considered that a

threat to the security of all Islamic States. He also expressed his appreciation for the efforts being made by all churches towards peace and by the Pope in insisting on peace and rejecting war. On behalf of the Iraqi people, he saluted all the peoples of the world who had taken to the streets in the millions expressing their attachment to peace and rejection of war.

On the other hand, he said, the United States and British Governments continued to attempt to “trump up” facts and evidence, pointing to Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, but they had fallen short in convincing the international community. The inspectors had proved that there were no such weapons and that the allegations were false. Iraq had taken the strategic decision to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction in 1991. The UNSCOM had worked for eight years, during which Iraq handed over many of those banned weapons. That was in addition to the weapons it had destroyed unilaterally in the summer of 1991, which had included all banned biological materials. That was the central fact of the matter.

Since then, nothing had been unearthed to contradict that fact, he stressed. Any proscribed weapons had been declared or unilaterally destroyed. It was for the accusers to prove otherwise, if they had any evidence. Regarding Iraq’s VX programme, Iraq had no VX weapons agents to declare. It had never produced stable VX and never “weaponized” it. No one had any evidence, whatsoever, to the contrary. Mr. Powell should not jump to such hasty conclusions, as he had about aluminium tubes and the claims about importing uranium. The inspection chiefs’ reports had asserted otherwise. And, when asked if Iraq represented a threat now, Dr. Blix said everyone agreed that Iraq had very limited military capacities, in comparison to 1991, and that the country was being monitored and very closely guarded by the inspectors. Regarding interviews, Dr. Blix said that those were now yielding results.

He said the statements made today by the United States and the United Kingdom showed “a state of confusion” because they were unable to provide any evidence proving the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They had also been unable to mask their own private agenda in the region and the world. There were allegations that Iraq was destroying the missiles, on the one hand, and manufacturing them, on the other. Then came talk about a regime change. All of that talk was an attempt to mask the issues and the real agenda, the objective of which was the complete takeover of Iraq’s oil, domination of the entire Arab region, both politically and economically, and the remapping of the Middle East region.

When Iraq had accepted the Council’s resolutions, it had sought justice from that esteemed body, but the tabling of the latest draft and its amendment did not relate to disarmament. The aim was to “drag the Council” into detrimental consequences, not only for Iraq, but for the United Nations’ credibility, as well. He was grateful to all those opposing the draft. Iraq would not waiver in its continuing, proactive and rapid cooperation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. The Council should shoulder its responsibilities, especially today’s, by thwarting aggression against his country. Let it not allow a new crime to be committed in its name, the impact of which would far surpass any crimes of the past century. War against Iraq would not unearth any weapons of mass destruction, but it would wreak destruction. All those who abetted in the commission of that crime, without a direct interest, would be sorry indeed, he warned.

References: William Rehnquist questionable past

The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court
by John W Dean

Rehnquist FBI File Sheds New Light on Drug Dependence, Confirmation Battles
Tony Mauro
Legal Times
January 4, 2007

William Rehnquist testifies during his 1986 hearings to become chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist's Senate confirmation battles in 1971 and 1986 were more intense and political than previously known, according to a newly released FBI file that also offers dramatic new details about Rehnquist's 1981 hospitalization and dependence on a painkiller

Rehnquist's Drug Habit the man in full.
By Jack Shafer Posted Friday, Jan. 5, 2007, at 11:52 AM ET

The Battle for the Control of the Press