Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Overton Window, Bush's Apostasy & Wizard's Complaint

The Overton window is a concept in political theory, named after its originator, Joe Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Overton says there always exists a “window” which includes the range of all possible of public policies which are discussed within a political community.Imagine that this window is superimposed upon a long continuum on which all possible political options are represented. Imagine further, that the window is centered on that scale at a point where traditional current policies exist. As one looks away in either direction from the center, one sees options which progress in turn to:
  • Popular options
  • Sensible options
  • Acceptable options
  • Extreme options
  • Unthinkable options
In the normal times, in the course of human experience, Overton’s Window would be expected to shift, incrementally, by degrees.

In the case of an ideological movement however, it would be possible to push the window in a comparatively violent and sudden shift in one direction or another. I haven’t checked this out with Joe Overton, but I think this could be managed in one or two (or a combination of both) ways:
  1. One of the agents powerful enough to do this would be a cabal of influential think tanks, drawing upon resources independent of the status quo. Such institution(s) would pound on the reasonableness of extreme options and ideas with such a depth of repetition that the unthinkable becomes more familiar, even if extreme. The more think tanks and their proxies in the MSM repeat wild-eyed notions, the more they become just squint-eyed notions. Eventually they become common-place and commonly discussed ideas or debated options.
  2. Shocking and unexpected events can call into question the traditional, customary, conventional and currently central point(s) of the continuum. Such an event causes Overton’s Window to gyrate sideways in the policy landscape toward the extremities.
Such an event would present an opportunity for an extremist ideological movement. Theoretical preparation for the implementation of a previously unthinkable set of ideas and policies as plausible options, could be facilitated by an unforeseen cataclysmic event. For example,an entire population could be stampeded into uncritically accepting stuff they previously regarded as beyond the pale of reasonableness.

The Bush Apostasy

As laid out in the Shock Doctrine, this is precisely what happened in the advent of al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on 9-11. Although narrowly selected by a 5-4 margin by the Supreme Court, Dick Cheney with only a week’s hesitation after the attacks, rolled out a program designed by Project for a New American Century (and allied think tanks) which envisioned the aggressive imperial enforcement of a Pox Americana abroad as well as a unitary executive domestically. The former they cast as the Global War on Terror and the latter they wrapped in the robes of “War-Time President". The PNAC program quantum-jumped the Overton Window to the right side by violating the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Constitution of the United States. The government of Bush and Cheney:
  • Invented a doctrine of preventive war and ordered the invasion and occupation of another country which did not a threaten to America, nor constituted a credible threat to do so.
  • Abused their office by directing high officials to distort intelligence reports to Congress which presented an erroneous and fictitious image of Iraq’s capabilities and intentions.
  • Directed America’s air, land, and sea forces to invade and occupy of foreign government for the purpose of overthrowing its government.
  • Illegally transferring $700 million from the budget for the war in Afghanistan for war preparations in Iraq in July 2002, without Congressional approval.
  • Authorized the torture of prisoners by United States military personnel.
  • Permitted staff to evade the Presidential Records Act of 1978 by using outside communication systems during working hours and to violate the Hatch Act by directing government employees to engage in political activities as part of their government duties.
  • Permitted or directed the disclosure of a covert CIA agent’s identity as an act of political revenge and intimidation.
  • Used signing statements as de facto line item vetoes, in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling that line-item vetoes are unconstitutional.
  • Violated the voting rights of thousands of citizens by permitting his partisans to illegally challenge voter registrations, intimidate voters at the polls, file false charges of voter fraud, and enact laws that place undue burden on certain classes of voters.
  • Issued numerous Executive Orders overriding and undermining federal laws.
  • Directed the firing and hiring of Federal Attorneys officials for partisan political reasons, in violation of federal laws.
All of these items taken together amount to high crimes and misdemeanors referred to in the Constitution (seven times?) as justifying the sanction of impeachment. The most egregious arena of these out-of-the-window transgressions has to do with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nothing else Busheney have done has more isolated America in world opinion, more squandered our economic resources, more exhausted our military assets, or more confirmed Osama bin Laden's branding of the United States.

Wizard’s Complaint

There are the complaints against the Busheney policy in Iraq which fall short of what the circumstances (violation of the established Overton window) call for. I call it the Weimar Republican viewpoint. Ironically, the prime poster boy adherent of this ‘moderate’ viewpoint is the former First Lady and current front-running Democrat. But I’d rather draw from Wizard, a frequent, articulate, and eloquent commentator in my pages. Recently, on his own (recommended) site, Wizard followed the Weimar Republican/Democrat line which is, simply, that we’re there:
But what about today? The world and the Middle East are vastly different today that they were six years ago. And our ill begotten invasion and occupation of Iraq are part of the reason for the different dynamics at play.

But we cannot undo the last six years. This isn't golf and we don't get a mulligan. Instead we must play the ball where it lays. And it lays in the slowly healing Iraq.
And besides,
. . . .the real issue is Iran. While Bush screwed up with invading Iraq and providing textbook lessons in how not to occupy a country, Iran has emerged as the leader in the Middle East . . . .

And there are, in fact, no solutions to Iran, no options, even in Bush's far-reaching playbook. Posturing and bluffing are the best the West can do . . . .

So we face a nuclear Iran. Period. There are no options. Bush will not bomb. Bush cannot invade. Israel will not be our proxy . . . .

Given these facts, and they are facts, the only logical, intelligent course is to stay and rebuild Iraq from the ground up. A strong, democratic, Iraq is the only solution, even if it take years. The United States must maintain significant forces in Iraq until that job is done.
In other words, let bygones be bygones? Make lemonade out of lemons?

No.

We share
with the Iraqis - admitedly to a much lighter degree - the experience of being an occupied country. Many Americans, however, are much taken with the impression that our 'occupation' observes a time line and will lift from our necks in January 2009. I will not say what I think of that delusion because it’s not my purpose here to puncture fragile clouds of optimism.

I don't speak for Democrats or Liberals, as I consider myself a fighting Progressive. When I call for immediate impeachment and immediate withdrawal from Iraq (whichever comes first), I am looking forward, not backward. The moral imperative which is facing my once-great country is to (a) repudiate Bush-Cheney and (b) deny them their spoils in Iraq:
Make Bush and Cheney
eat their illegal and ruinous war
before they are excused from the table.
Wizard’s expression – a ‘Mulligan’ – is exactly what we need. If you want me to work with you and the Iraqi people and support/prolong this insidious and ill-begotten occupation, you have to first join with me and expel from American soil this political occupation of the American people by Busheney’s imperial presidency.

Bush and Cheney are our own home grown, state-sanctioned terrorists. They have done more harm to America than Osama bin Laden. If we don't save America from them today, their Neo-Conservative thugs will be back in four to eight years with more of their toxic Straussian thinking. These radical apostates have to be torn up from American soil, from whence they have burrowed into these past seven years. They must be cast out into the nearest desert.

To remain in Mesopotamia and prolong the occupation is to use Iraqis’ oil, soil and peoples as a buffer against demonized Iran. To remain in Iraq for years to come exactly and perfectly completes Neo-Conservatism’s original Mein Kampf for the Middle East. That would mean that Bush and Cheney win.

This is not a concession that America needs to make. America needs to annul or shatter the current Overton Window. Restore it to its pre-2001 location. The time to cancel and rollback the 21st Century as the Anti-American century was yesterday.

5 comments:

  1. Yes, the dung hill, popularly known as the Bush and Cheney legacy, has to be cleaned up before the stink is permanent. Get out the pooper-scooper!

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  2. The United States has negotiated with the mayor of the Green Zone, Nouri al-Maliki, a bilateral relationship of principles and friendship in which the so-called government will receive U.S. military guarantees and protection against coups or any other internal subversion.

    This seriously constrains the next administration's options for ending the U.S. presence. Even if Bush doesn't take the audacious step of signing a so-called Status of Forces Agreement -- the basic document for garrisoning U.S. forces on foreign soil -- while he's a lame duck, the simple fact of negotiations will create a diplomatic expectation that his successor will find difficult to reverse.

    The permanent occupation of Iraq is assured.

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  3. vigilante, Thank you for highlighting my recent essay on our future in Iraq.

    Our frame of reference (or the Overton Window) cannot possibly ever revert to 2001 simply because the world has changed.

    We are faced with the very real decision of what to do next in Iraq..... and in Washington.

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  4. It's fascinating to me how easily people can gloss over the crimes of the Bush administration. He's our President, and we are responsible for him. It's not as if we can wash our hands of his crimes, we must seek justice for our country. I don't get the resistance; it's just our JOB to keep this country in the light of justice. Do we tell out children that Bush wasn't impeached for crimes because Clinton was? Clinton did break the law and he DIDN'T get away with it, he just didn't get completely impeached. Bush is getting away with this and that's on OUR shoulders. The "agreements" Bush makes with the U.N. should not constrain the next President one bit. We and our Congress give this man too much power; when shall we strip him of his corrupt office?

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  5. No, I'm feeling pretty spirited, pretty good about life, and have made the decision to come before you so I can explain the NIE. And I have said Iran is dangerous, and the NIE doesn't do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world. Quite the contrary. I'm using this NIE as an opportunity to continue to rally our colleagues and allies.

    . . . .

    And so, kind of Psychology 101 ain't working. It's just not working. I understand the issues, I clearly see the problems, and I'm going to use the NIE to continue to rally the international community for the sake of peace.

    Thank you very much.

    (December 4th, 2007)

    ReplyDelete