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Dennis Perrin: Savage Mules
Dennis Perrin: Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War (paperback, 2008, Verso)
Dennis Perrin: Demver -- Day Three. Looking at Glen Greenwald's blog last night, I noticed that he did a "radio" interview with Dennis Perrin, author of a short book called Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War. I can't recommend the interview, which mostly consisted of Greenwald trying to browbeat Perrin into admitting that Obama isn't as bad as McCain, and for that matter Gore wouldn't have been as bad as Bush, and Perrin trying his best to resist. If the art of the interviewer is to make the guest look good, Greenwald has a lot to learn, but Perrin could have made some useful points but didn't. Two probable differences between Bush and Gore are that Gore would have factored more reconstruction into war cost estimates and Gore would have been more realistic about what the US could afford. Bush hand-waived the whole postwar expense in order to rig the balance sheet, not that he ever had a clue how to rebuild a country anyway -- indeed, where he got caught was in his administration's failure to handle Hurricane Katrina. Whether those factors would have made much difference in Afghanistan is something one can argue many ways about: Gore would certainly have launched that war; the initial war itself would likely have been the same, given institutional constraints; Gore probably would have made a more concerted rebuilding effort, but many of the reasons "nation building" failed were deeply structured; it's impossible to say whether Gore would have done a better job of handling the critical diplomatic relationships with Pakistan, Iran, India, and Russia. Gore might have done better in Afghanistan if he had been able to defuse the major festering sores in the middle east -- Israel and Iraq -- but his whole past history was aligned with keeping those sores festering. Again, the only good reason for thinking Gore might have done better is how badly Bush actually did. Remember, though, that before Bush invaded Iraq, the sanctions and bombing programs under Clinton-Gore had undermined Iraqi living standards possibly with a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. Doing nothing in that context may have been better than doing what Bush did, but not much. But to do anything else would have required a mindset adjustment and political will that Gore (for instance) had never shown any proclivity towards. (Only by losing did he manage to free himself up to the point where now such a change seems plausible.)
On the other hand, Perrin's convention reporting takes some amusing digs at the Democrats, not least the donkey pics. The times mean that we're all Democrats now, but some sense of critical distance is still necessary. Greenwald kept pressing Perrin to admit that we would have been better off had Gore won over Bush in 2000. The obvious response is that we would have been better off still had Ralph Nader won.