That just leaves the little things, like happiness, character, point of view…

The National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian held a national competition and choose 51 portraits for the final exhibition. The first prize winner salutes the beauty of imperfection. Shaela and Elliott remind me of, and I mean this in the most complimentary way, Grant Wood’s American Gothic. I’d make a lousy judge, they’ll all so great. Each has their own unique vision. A downloadable copy of the exhibition flyer is here.

Democrats never seem to get credit for anything by the fringe right. It is telling of how not just obscure right-wing blogs accuse Democrats of being on the side of terrorists, an assertion so bizarre that in this layman’s eyes it borders on psychosis, but in so many words we hear the same rhetoric from editorial pages of our most prominent newspapers and cable news pundits. It was all rather simple from our point of view, Bin Laden and his henchmen were responsible for 9-11. The bad guys were in Afghanistan. Gather a posse and go get him. Since the Taliban wouldn’t cooperate things did ratchet up quite a bit, but instead of a proportional response the administration turned a large swath of the country’s population into collateral damage. Little did we know at the time that this was the neocon style. They used a sledge hammer where a scalpel was called for ( Lesson learned:never be operated on by a neocon) Still many of us marked it up to human error. They were doing their best and so forth. Where the Soviets had failed, we won. The population was truly shocked and awed. While Bush lost Bin laden at Tora Bora, there was still a nation to rebuild. I’ve lost the original link, but I remember Matthew Yglesias made the point that with Afghanistan so isolated if there was ever a country that was ripe for nation building we had a better chance there then Iraq. Who doesn’t like that kind of scenario. Bush daisy cuts a nation into pieces and lets the bad guy get away, but maybe there is something to be salvaged here. I wistfully remember the press stories about women’s rights on the rise and children going back to school. Losing Ground in Afghanistan

The plan is for European and Canadian NATO forces to step in and provide security for civilian teams in southern and eastern Afghanistan while the remaining Americans concentrate on fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This is a new variant of the Bush administration’s misbegotten theory that Americans should be war-fighters and leave nation-building to others.

There are two big problems with this. First, in violent situations like that in southern Afghanistan, NATO can assure security only if America, its leading member, provides reconnaissance, transport and combat support. Second, the idea that American troops are there not to bring security to Afghans but to hunt down the Taliban — and too bad if Afghan civilians are caught in the cross-fire — is a disastrous approach to counterinsurgency warfare. It has not worked in Iraq and it is not working in Afghanistan.

In the end, international military efforts can only buy time to build an Afghanistan its own people will fight to defend after Western troops leave. In addition to foreign aid, that will require improved performance by the government of President Hamid Karzai, which has been plagued by corruption and hobbled by the alliances it has made with local warlords to extend its authority beyond Kabul.

We could mark all this up to the incompetence excuse. Different faces would make all the difference. It’s not the faces, its the thinking. Another group of conservatives may move a different pawn first, but the point of view would be the same. No preplanning. No looking at all the consequences for every move. The conservative mantra to think with your gut while using a mother’s son’s blood. If whole nations like Afghanistan are low priority then the life or death consequences for Private Sixpack don’t even enter the picture.

Yesterday I posted a little about the right-wing fringe’s assertion that Democrats were too far out from the mainstream, which would make the center somewhere around Dino Grandi. Should the average American consider Alan Dershowitz the new moral center when he writes,

Nor can women and children always be counted as civilians, as some organizations do. Terrorists increasingly use women and teenagers to play important roles in their attacks. The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit.

Children are easily used as tools, that someone thinks children make fully informed decisions about political alliances and are in full control of their physical location and thus deserve to be bombed pretty much obliterates any claim to being in the moderate center of political thought.

Are you going to the reunion?

No. I’m not going. Is that why you’re

That’s part of it.

Well, you’ll have a ball. You seem
to have everything everybody wants
when they go back. The car, the suit,
the watch. The look. That just leaves
the little things, like happiness,
character, point of view…

It’s always the little things.

from the screenplay GROSSE POINTE BLANK
First Draft: Tom Jankiewicz Revised
Draft: D.V. deVincentis, S.K. Boatman and John Cusack