A friend pointed me to this post on AMERICAblog, including a clip from the wonderful Blackadder series, which, for some reason, was thought to be reminiscent of Bush's new plan for Iraq:
GENERAL: Now, Field Marshal [Haig] has formulated a brilliant new tactical plan to ensure final victory in the field.
CAPTAIN BLACKADDER: Ah, would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy, sir?
CAPTAIN DARLING: How could you possibly know that Blackadder, it's classified information?
CAPTAIN BLACKADDER: It's the same plan that we used last time, and the seventeen times before that.
GENERAL: Ex... ex... ex... actly! And that is what is so brilliant about it! It will catch the watchful Hun totally off guard. Doing precisely what we've done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time!
There is, however, one small problem.
CAPTAIN BLACKADDER: That everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds?
GENERAL: That's right. And Field Marshal [Haig] is worried that this may be depressing the men a tad. So, he's looking to find a way to cheer them up.
CAPTAIN BLACKADDER: Well, his resignation and suicide would seem the obvious.
(In our current circumstance I'm not bloodthirsty enough to demand the latter, but the former sure would be nifty.)
Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig was the stolid, unimaginative, plodding Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, who was responsible, along with a lot of other generals, for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of his own men by sending them "over the top" of the trenches to walk in a line at a slow pace directly into German machine gun fire coming from the high ground on the other side of the Western Front.
It happens that I'm in the middle of doing some reading about World War I -- I just finished Tolkien and the Great War and I'm in the middle of Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory. (I've got the one-volume Hew Strachan history of the war on order -- I read the John Keegan some years ago, along with Stokesbury's Short History, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August and a couple of others.) So the reference to Haig seems doubly appropriate to me.
Here's what Fussell writes about General Haig -- it's interesting to compare and contrast with Bush:
One doesn't want to be too hard on Haig, who doubtless did all he could and who has been well calumniated already. But it must be said that it now appears that one thing the war was testing was the usefulness of the earnest Scottish character in a situation demanding the military equivalent of wit and invention. Haig had none. He was stubborn, self-righteous, inflexible, intolerant -- especially of the French -- and quite humorless. And he was provincial: at his French headquarters he insisted on attending a Church of Scotland service every Sunday. Bullheaded as he was, he was the perfect commander for an enterprise committed to endless abortive assaulting. Indeed, one powerful legacy of Haig's performance is the conviction among the imaginative and intelligent today [Fussell was writing in the mid-70's] of the unredeemable defectiveness of all civil and military leaders. Haig could be said to have established the paradigm. His want of imagination and innocence of artistic culture have seemed to provide a model for Great Men ever since.
Paul Fussell The Great War and Modern Memory (1975)
John Keegan says of Haig:
Haig, in whose public manner and private diaries no concern for human suffering was or is discernible, compensated for his aloofness with nothing whatsoever of the common touch. He seemed to move through the horrors of the First World War as if guided by some inner voice, speaking of a higher purpose and a personal destiny. That, we now know, was not just appearance. Haig was a devotee of both spiritualist practices and fundamentalist religion. As a young officer, he had taken to attending seances, where a medium put him in touch with Napoleon; as Commander-in-Chief he fell under the influence of a Presbyterian chaplain whose sermons confirmed him in his belief that he was in direct communication with God and had a major part to play in a divine plan for the world. His own simple religion, he was convinced, was shared by his soldiers, who were inspired thereby to bear the dangers and sufferings which were their part of the war he was directing.
John Keegan The First World War (1998)
Finally, in his study On The Psychology of Military Incompetence, Norman F. Dixon devotes the large part of a chapter to examining Haig's character. He says, in part:
For a start he was conservative, conventional, and, in his attitude toward the French, ethnocentric. His diary and dispatches suggest that he was unemotional and totally anti-intraceptive (i.e. not one to reflect upon his own motives). He was manifestly lacking in compassion toward his fellow men. He was a confirmed believer in the direction of events by supernatural powers (according to research a common correlate of authoritarianism), and reserved almost to the point of being totally inarticulate.
Haig also betrayed the triad of traits which, according to contemporary  research, defines the obsessive character and is correlated with authoritarianism. He was obstinate, orderly and mean.
It will be recalled that according to Rokeach people differ along a continuum of open-mindedness. At one end are those who are open to fresh ideas, and at the other end those who find it hard to accept and act upon information which does not accord with their systems of belief. Haig, like many authoritarians, seemed to have belonged to the latter category. Certainly his behaviour before and during [the] Third [Battle of] Ypres appeared to reflect the workings of a mind that was impervious to contrary information. Nor did he make up for his 'closed' mind by having a fertile imagination; for about Haig's lack of this faculty there has been almost complete unanimity of agreement. Lloyd George had no illusions on this score when he wrote: 'I never met anyone in a high position who seemed to me so utterly devoid of imagination.' Wavell described Haig as having 'a one-track mind'; and even Haig's chaplain, Duncan, whose adulation of his chief bordered on the sycophantic, was forced to admit that there may have been grounds for supposing Haig to have been unimaginative. [...]
Now, whether or not the Third Battle of Ypres, which was described by A.J.P. Taylor as 'the blindest slaughter of a blind war' and which cost the British over 300,000 casualties for 'trivial gains', exemplifies incompetence is perhaps debatable. People are still divided on this issue.
What is certain is that Haig's conceiving of this battle, his conduct of the fights,and his apparent inability to let go are consistent with the personality of the man and not attributable, as some would have it, to stupidity.
Norman F. Dixon On The Psychology of Military Incompetence (1976)
There you have it, Haig and Bush.
Although there are surely significant differences, I think there's quite a bit of overlap between Haig's character and Bush's, and Cheney's as well, which is to be expected considering that they share the same authoritarian outlook.
Haig, at least, knew better than to declare victory before anything had actually been been accomplished. Ultimately, the Allies won World War I not because of Haig, or any other Allied general, but because Germany couldn't sustain the fight, and the United States entered the war. For Bush in Iraq, there is no deus ex machina, no great power to come into the fray and change the balance, and insurgents, by definition, live off the land and don't have supply lines or dissent back home to worry about (since they are the dissent). There's really no hope for George Bush's War, no matter how fervently the dead-enders and true believers wish for it, and certainly no small-scale escalation is going to make a significant difference.
I began writing about the Bush administration’s infallibility complex, the president’s Captain Queeg-like inability to own up to mistakes, almost a year before the invasion of Iraq. When you put a man like that in a position of power — the kind of position where he can punish people who tell him what he doesn’t want to hear, and base policy decisions on the advice of people who play to his vanity — it’s a recipe for disaster.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.