Economics professors have a standard game they use to demonstrate how apparently rational decisions can create a disastrous result. They call it a 'dollar auction.' The rules are simple. The professor offers a dollar for sale to the highest bidder, with only one wrinkle: the second-highest bidder has to pay up on their losing bid as well. Several students almost always get sucked in. The first bids a penny, looking to make 99 cents. The second bids 2 cents, the third 3 cents, and so on, each feeling they have a chance at something good on the cheap. The early stages are fun, and the bidders wonder what possessed the professor to be willing to lose some money.
The problem surfaces when the bidders get up close to a dollar. After 99 cents the last vestige of profitability disappears, but the bidding continues between the two highest players. They now realize that they stand to lose no matter what, but that they can still buffer their losses by winning the dollar. They just have to outlast the other player. Following this strategy, the two hapless students usually run the bid up several dollars, turning the apparent shot at easy money into a ghastly battle of spiraling disaster.
Theoretically, there is no stable outcome once the dynamic gets going. The only clear limit is the exhaustion of one of the player's total funds. In the classroom, the auction generally ends with the grudging decision of one player to 'irrationally' accept the larger loss and get out of the terrible spiral. Economists call the dollar auction pattern an irrational escalation of commitment. We might also call it the war in Iraq."
This may be the best explanation of where Bush & Co. are in terms of their Iraq war policy. Bush is desperately trying to keep the game going and hand it off to the next president.
This has been a neocon fantasy for a long time, that we could have won in Vietnam if we had stayed long enough. It shows a complete lack of understanding about how military and political power work together in wartime.
I've seen some of their so-called evidence to support this theory, showing how U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were making headway against the enemy before they were forced to pull the plug. The mistake here is to think that small military progress would affect the root causes of the war, that the people had no confidence in the corrupt puppet government set up by the U.S., and that they wanted the Americans to get lost.
I guess Bush might have a point here. If we hadn't left Vietnam, we would not have the mess in Iraq, since we would still be there, fighting the war he refused to serve in.
Heck, if Bush wants historical references, try this one. If you want a good view of what a long-term occupation looks like, check out Israel. Think about how much more firepower the Israelis have in relation to the Palestinians. Think about how much easier it is to occupy territory that is just across the border and not half way around the world. The Israelis have a much better justification for their occupation than the U.S. does in Iraq. Yet they have been there for 40 years, and still they cannot control it, and in fact are forced to give the territory back.
That's what America has to look forward to if they buy this historical fantasy being peddled by Yale's most famous slacker student. Someone get that man a history book, fast.
Let's see. If you were the president and you saw your approval rating nosedive into Nixon territory, what could you do to piss off even more people?
Oh, you could make it harder for children to get health insurance.
Glenn Greenwald points out why no amount of pressure, no prodding by the wise old men of Washington, not even single-digit poll numbers will make George W. Bush change his mind:
This has been the great unexamined issue of the Bush presidency -- the extent to which Bush's unwavering commitment to Middle East militarism is, as Bush himself has made clear, rooted in theological and religious convictions, not in pragmatic or geopolitical concerns. That Bush's foreign policy decision-making is grounded in absolute moral and theological convictions and therefore immune from re-examination or change is an argument I examine at length in A Tragic Legacy because it is one of the principal -- and most dangerous -- forces driving the Bush presidency.
This is a religious war for Bush, between good and evil. He answers only to a higher authority, not to the people who elected him.
After not using the veto for most of his presidency, George W. Bush is warming up to the power in a big way.
Update: Harry Reid calls their bluff.
In testimony before Congress this week, U.S. intelligence officials were straightforward in saying they believe Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan and freely operating there.
"It's not that we lack the ability to go into that space," said Tom Fingar of the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"But we have chosen not to do so without the permission of the Pakistani government," Fingar told members of Congress who demanded to know why the U.S. did not take more decisive action against a known enemy.
U.S. officials say Pakistan consistently denies the U.S. military permission to go after known al Qaeda training camps.
If this was Bill Clinton refusing to go after Bin Laden without another country's permission, the Wingnuts would blow a gasket. I can hear them now, "How dare the president let a dictator dictate to us on national security!"
But since it's their boy Bush who refuses to go after Bin Laden, that's OK with them.
I think it's time for the Dems to go on the attack. The Republican party has just proven how bankrupt they really are.
Ever read something that makes you spit out your nose whatever you happen to be drinking at the time?
Here's a good one, from Bush spokesman Tony Snow:
"The president believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government."
Yes, commuting the sentence of an aide who covered up for his boss serves to increase faith in government. Wanna try that again, Tony?
For more on Snow's snow job, see Froomkin.