Monday, December 28, 2015

I have serious doubts about the 1964 analogy, but ...

If you have to make the analogy,  I think it works better with Cruz than Trump.

The invaluable Robert Bateman provides the background:
Last night, Senator Ted Cruz demonstrated the depth of his ignorance about all things military when he said (and quoting him exactly is important):
BLITZER: Would you carpet bomb Raqqa the ISIS Capital, where there are a lot of civilians? CRUZ: You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops, you use air power directed, and you have embedded special forces to direct the air power. But the object isn't to level a city, the object is to kill the ISIS terrorists...
Except earlier Cruz said, like, with his outside voice, this: 
We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don't know if sand can glow in the dark, but we're going to find out."
I don't know if you caught that. Senator Ted Cruz proposed that as President of the United States, he would use nuclear weapons to bomb, indiscriminately, civilian population centers where ISIS holds people hostage. 

Carpet bombing is a tactic, and a measure of last resort. It is also now widely understood to be effectively illegal under the Law of Armed Conflict, which would make the United States' use of this tactic a war crime. It is different from precision bombing, guided by Special Operations Forces, the standard tactic for our armed forces today.


Today, with precision weapons, we drop bombs that go precisely where we want them. We do not drop unguided bombs indiscriminately on civilian population centers, as we have in the past. We, unlike some others, have precision weapons now. The Law of Armed Conflict is pretty clear that if precision is an option, you are not allowed to "carpet bomb" in civilian areas. (You are not allowed to anyway, but there is a mitigating factor that deals with "proportionality" as well. We'll leave that for another time.) ISIS, for its part, does not occupy a whole lot of conventional military-like defensive positions out in the desert either. Its operatives are embedded in the population centers, the villages, towns, and cities. Flattening entire cities to kill a few dozen or even a hundred ISIS fighters would be "disproportionate," just as it would be if we were fighting a conventional military force.

But there is one place the analogy definitely breaks down. Goldwater was, when you got past the scary stuff, likeable. 

From Josh Marshall:
Cruz, on the other hand, is not likable. And thoroughly unlikeable people do not win the presidency.

As I've written, in part from personal experience, there does not seem to be any social milieu in which Cruz has spent any amount of time in in which virtually everyone didn't dislike him. College, Law School, high profile legal work, Senate, etc. He has the uncanny and almost ingenious ability to radiate both intensely grating insincerity with wildly convincing true-believer-ism. His political appeal is geared to people who are alienated and angry enough that the mix of aggression, indifference, and exploitativeness he radiates is one that these people can identify with.

Second is simply ideology. Cruz is way too rightwing for a national campaign. This is almost mathematical. He's very right wing and unlike George W. Bush presents his hard right politics in a pure and unmediated form. That is a recipe for a staggering defeat in a national election. Just as importantly, I do not think Cruz is either temperamentally capable, interested or able to significant shift off those views in a general election. Part of it is character and part of it is simply that he's created to long a paper trail. There is no credible softer, gentler Ted Cruz who cares about people like you.

He would certainly have impassioned and intense support from the base of his party and some of the more conservative elements of the financial services community - something that Trump might struggle with. But beyond that he would have great difficulty.

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