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Tipping competition

September 15th, 2006

Tim Blair is always keen to correct any errors I’ve made, and jumps in on the latest revelations in the long-running Plame-Wilson scandal. My response is over the fold, but I thought it might be a good idea to check on some of his earlier corrections. One of the first is this one from May 2004 when Tim noted my observation that “the anniversary of Bush’s declaration of victory looks as good a time as any to date what seems increasingly certain to be a defeat [at least for the policies that have been pursued for the last year]” and suggested that I should “Try Footy Tipping”.

Given, the implication that I’m not much of a tipster, I thought it might be a better idea if I organised a tipping competition, allowing Tim and others to do better than me. The obvious topic is the date of the victory in Iraq, which I foolishly suggested, back in 2004, that Bush might not actually deliver. To get a definite winner, I’ll specify some rules corresponding to a conservative interpretation of the desired outcome of US victory culminating in a “democratic, stable and prosperous” Iraq. So here are the conditions
A No more than 30 000 US troops in Iraq
B A democratic government with control over the entire country
C Stability defined as no more than 100 deaths in a month from insurgency, civil and sectarian strife, kidnapping and so on
D Prosperity defined as restoration of 1990 levels of income per person and electricity supply per person

To enter, just nominate the first month, during Bush’s remaining term in office, when all four conditions will be satisfied, or vote “Not under Bush”. One nomination per person, please. Only comments nominating a date will be accepted.

To forestall disputes, I’ll offer a second competition, allowing entrants to nominate three of the four conditions and a month for their fulfilment.

The Plame game

Tim quotes (a little selectively) a post in which I said

I’m not a huge fan of scandals, and I haven’t followed the Plame spy scandal very closely. Still, anyone who reads blogs has known for at least a week that Karl Rove, Bush’s closest advisor, leaked the name of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative, as part of a political vendetta against her husband, Joseph Wilson.

Checking back, it appears that Rove advised Time reporter Matt Cooper that, in Cooper’s notes “it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized Wilson’s trip to Niger” (the subject of the dispute between Wilson and White House). No one appears to have challenged this: the recent news is about another leak to Robert Novak, who named Plame in a story published shortly after the leak to Cooper. This turns out to have come former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and not, as many people suggested, from Rove. Just to add to the confusion, Cheney offsider “Scooter” Libby is facing charges over a third leak, to ace NYT WMD reporter Judy Miller – Tim links to a post defending Libby.

In a second post, Tim Blair states “Days since Professor John Quiggin called on Karl Rove to resign for leaking Valerie Plame’s identity to Bob Novak: 430”. It’s easy to check that this is incorrect: I never mentioned Novak, and my post linked to a story about the leak to Matt Cooper of Time. Not only that, but Tim had already linked to my comment noting that the leak was to Time, not Novak, when he posted this. I guess we can start the clock on his apology for this error.

UpdateTim has graciously apologized, so we can stop the clock within the first hour. The lesson I draw from this is that trying to untangle scandals, leaks and so on is nearly always a waste of time, as it has been this time. Next time something like this comes up, I’ll try to stick to my original judgement and ignore the thing altogether.

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  1. Don Wigan
    September 15th, 2006 at 17:12 | #1

    My vote is for, “Not under Bush”.

  2. fatfingers
    September 15th, 2006 at 17:17 | #2

    Not under Bush.

  3. cp
    September 15th, 2006 at 17:46 | #3

    Not under Bush, I’m afraid. It’s all just too depressing.

  4. taust
    September 15th, 2006 at 17:50 | #4

    Not under Bush

  5. September 15th, 2006 at 18:02 | #5

    For context, Riverbend’s latest post is pretty sad. Well, they’re all pretty sad. I find it interesting that many people equate the invasion of any middle eastern country with women’s liberation. The C.O.W. wading into this country, destroying infrastructure and creating a vaccuum into which warlords and fanatics have rushed, has had the opposite effect.

    Riverbend used to have a job, and she used to go out in normal clothing without a hijab. Not any more

  6. Mike Pepperday
    September 15th, 2006 at 18:21 | #6

    Not under Bush.

  7. Hal9000
    September 15th, 2006 at 18:43 | #7

    Not under Bush.

  8. Dave Surls
    September 15th, 2006 at 18:46 | #8

    “Tim Blair is always keen to correct any errors I’ve made…”

    Tim must be a busy fellow.

    I’ll let this one by, but future meta-comments should be in the Weekend Reflections thread – I’m keeping this one for the tipping competition. I’ll assume people who don’t nominate a month are choosing “Not under Bush” – JQ

  9. David Allen
    September 15th, 2006 at 19:10 | #9

    Not under bush. Or the next guy

  10. September 15th, 2006 at 19:50 | #10

    Not under Bush.

    Not in the next decade for that matter…

  11. September 15th, 2006 at 20:38 | #11

    My guess is “not under Bush“. Of course I should qualify that by saying not George.W.Bush because one of his daughters might be president one day. Or perhaps his brother.

    I’m not sure why 1990 is the income benchmark. Why confuse the economic impacts of sanctions with the economic impacts of invasion?

    Does the winner have to split the prize with everybody else that gets it right also? I’m starting to feel like there will be too many winners in this footy tipping comp. Can’t we just draw lots like on Melbourne cup day? If I do win first prize can you donate my funds to help build democracy in Iraq?

  12. September 15th, 2006 at 21:01 | #12

    Not under Bush. See B is the real killer, as 100% of the country is a problem.

  13. wilful
    September 15th, 2006 at 21:05 | #13

    Oh c’mon conservative apologists, who’s going to start quibbling with the Professor’s terms?

    Putting on my loonie right winger hat for a second, I can certainly see the US justifying more than 30 000 troops in a coupleof mega-bases ‘for stability’ and ‘regional security’. Perhaps a better measure is when they cease providing the day-to-today security services for the State.

    And a ‘democractic’ government with ‘control’ of the entire country. From the loony persepective that has dominated US foreign policy for the past 5 years, these are simple terms to redefine.

  14. snuh
    September 15th, 2006 at 21:23 | #14

    not under bush, nor under his successor/brother.

  15. MarkL
    September 15th, 2006 at 22:02 | #15

    As advised, OT comment marked as “not under Bush”


  16. September 15th, 2006 at 22:37 | #16

    Not under Bush, and if
    1. The next POTUS is a democrat maybe 2012.
    2. A neo-con is a elected in 2008, not until at least 2020.

  17. rog
    September 15th, 2006 at 22:47 | #17

    It doesnt matter what date it is; Tim has graciously apologized.

  18. September 16th, 2006 at 06:04 | #18

    Not under bush, nor under his successor/brother. (same as Snuh)

  19. Paul Williams
    September 16th, 2006 at 09:07 | #19

    Anyone know if the number of US troops in Germany is under 30,000, and if so, when that happened?

  20. jquiggin
    September 16th, 2006 at 09:29 | #20

    Paul, I’m assuming this is an entry for the “three out of four” competition. Since US-occupied Germany attained conditions comparable to or better than B,C and D by 1950, I’ll enter you at March 2008, unless you want to nominate a different month.

  21. Paul Williams
    September 16th, 2006 at 10:31 | #21

    Thanks John, why not make it March 2008 for my tip. Good to see you acknowledge your original four criteria were ridiculous.

    Just for the record, do you have links to the information on income levels for Iraq (and Germany).

    When was the last time Iraq enjoyed stability, as defined by you? I would include government sanctioned killings, kidnappings, etc. You may remember a chap, S Hussein, who was meeting three of your four criteria prior to 2003.

  22. Neil
    September 16th, 2006 at 11:03 | #22

    I’m puzzled by the “not under Bush” response. Do you really think that anyone has a realistic chance of installing a truly democratic government in Iraq in the next decade?

  23. September 16th, 2006 at 18:08 | #23

    Not under Bush.

    Democracy and markets evolve through time, something that creationists such as Bush obviously did not factor into their timeframes for victory.

  24. Jill Rush
    September 16th, 2006 at 21:47 | #24

    Not under Bush.

    Helen, Your link was very sober reading although it reminded me to some degree of the writings of Salam Pax – the insecurity, the tension and thuggish behaviour. It is easy to see why the hijab is preferred by women in this situation.

    The problem with Bush and his neo con crowd is that they had no understanding of history and its lessons – just as John Howard had no understanding of the history of the countries that have been invaded. For instance Afghanistan has not been controlled by outside forces for a long time. The British Empire couldn’t subdue it, the Russians in the 80s were unable to and it seems that the Nato and American forces are struggling too.

    Without sorting that mess out first and spending the kind of money required the Americans on a flimsy pretext went into Iraq. There were plenty of other dictatorships that could have caught the attention of the Americans but they just happened to choose a country with huge oil reserves and then went in and made sure that Americans were the beneficiaries.

    This was not a strategy for a peaceful transition and until the military industrial complex in America ceases to benefit from wars there will be no resolution. That is the biggest difference between now and the 1940s and 1950s. The power of that complex has grown and feeds on conflict. Could it be, not in my lifetime?

  25. rog
    September 16th, 2006 at 22:51 | #25

    “no understanding of the history…”

    Prior to the Wright Bros history told us that a controlled, powered, and heavier than air flight had never been done.

    The lesson that history tells us is that new ground is being broken all the time.

  26. September 16th, 2006 at 23:58 | #26

    not under bush
    (unless one of rog’s pigs get off the ground)

  27. melanie
    September 17th, 2006 at 13:07 | #27


    Unfortunately for the quality of commentary from inside Iraq, Salaam Pax is now a US citizen. As Riverbend once noted, anyone who can leave Baghdad leaves. See http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/

    Riverbend’s window width has narrowed dramatically over the last 3 years.

  28. September 17th, 2006 at 21:22 | #28

    Shorter Quiggin: the Blue Coats didn’t really “win” because Dixie didn’t become even close to passable as a modern democracy for more than a hundred years.

    What a ludicrous concept.

    The Iraq War is over. The Coalition won easily and millions of Iraqis have demonstrated their eagerness for democracy. It took Australia half a century to end its squabbling about governance and we didn’t have any deadender terrorists to deal with; John thinks the Iraqis should have done it by now – in THREE years.

    Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein is on trial for genocide – something the Western left is still very angry about. (They believe he was “unlawfully” removed from office).

    Here’s a challenge for you, John: tell us how many years it would have taken for the Husseins to be brought down by those “internal contradictions” which the left believes should have been allowed to degrade and end his reign in the course of time? Ten years, 25, 30, half a century? Imagine the body count in even the best-case scenario of ten years – far more than 100 deaths a month methinks.

    The Iraq War: generally, a success. Thank God Saddam can’t use WMD against his own people again. And thank you Bill Clinton for making regime change American policy! (No points, Bill, for letting bin Laden get away on half a dozen occasions – but nobody’s perfect).

  29. Bring Back EP at LP
    September 17th, 2006 at 21:45 | #29

    stop blithering around here CL and write something very soon at your blog or you will be personally escorted to listen to the full ‘sermon’ at the Lakemba mosque in Arabic of course

  30. milano803
    September 18th, 2006 at 01:59 | #30

    I’d have to agree with CL. Even the US wouldn’t meet the conditions John sets out. It seems unreasonable to expect a country like Iraq, with so many problems than Germany did not have, to be on track to US style democracy is such a short period. I think the Iraqis themselves will take at least one generation to create a stable, peaceful democracy. Is that unreasonable? I don’t think so. It would be faster than the US accomplished it. It really isn’t about GWB or any US president. All any US president could ever do was to provide conditions under which peaceful democracy could be possible. It wasn’t possible under Saddam.

    Like CL I think Bill Clinton deserves much of the credit for making regime change in Iraq official US policy. No one should have to live under a monster like Saddam. And his sons were in position to make life, if possible, even more horrible after Saddam died.

  31. jquiggin
    September 18th, 2006 at 06:36 | #31

    Milano, since you say “at least a generation”, I’ll put you down as under “not under Bush”.

    As a general observation, I think the debate over the Iraq war would have been clearer if its advocates had indicated that we were looking at an occupation of up to a decade, causing tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths. Perhaps we would have looked more carefully at alternative strategies.

    My short reply to CL – It’s clear that the rate of violent death in Iraq has risen markedly since the invasion. Based on observations the collapse of past dictatorships, it’s possible, but far from certain, that the same thing would have happened whenever Saddam fell. The effect of the invasion, and the mismanagement of the occupation, has been to convert the possibility into a reality.

  32. milano803
    September 18th, 2006 at 08:35 | #32

    Actually, if you udnerstood my comment you would say “not under any US president. It won’t happen under a US president. It will happen under Iraqi leadership. Even the US doesn’t meet the conditions you laid out.

    No one could possibly have known how long an occupation would take. But it’s clear that we’re past the actual occupation point in that Iraq does have an elected government and Iraqi troops and police are beginning to function.

    Clearly there are people who want to take Saddam’s place in power over Iraq, without being elected to do so. All the US can do for Iraq is stand in the way of that. And it is.

  33. Katz
    September 18th, 2006 at 10:52 | #33

    Not under Bush

    But let’s disaggregate:

    A No more than 30 000 US troops in Iraq: Early 2010.

    B A democratic government with control over the entire country: Not in the foreseeable future.

    C Stability defined as no more than 100 deaths in a month from insurgency, civil and sectarian strife, kidnapping and so on: Late 2010.

    D Prosperity defined as restoration of 1990 levels of income per person and electricity supply per person: Not in the foreseeable future.

  34. Hal9000
    September 18th, 2006 at 11:34 | #34

    “But it’s clear that we’re past the actual occupation point in that Iraq does have an elected government and Iraqi troops and police are beginning to function.”

    By that definition, Vichy France in 1942 was not under occupation. Neither was Quisling Norway. Preposterous.

  35. milano803
    September 18th, 2006 at 12:24 | #35

    The Vichy government was elected by the French?

  36. milano803
    September 18th, 2006 at 12:25 | #36

    Vidkun Quisling was elected?

  37. Katz
    September 18th, 2006 at 12:36 | #37

    “The Vichy government was elected by the French?”

    Well, actually, Milano 803, Vichy France represented a continuation of the legitimacy of the pre-war French government. President Albert Lebrun appointed the Pétain as Prime Minister, under the French constitution. The US was among several countries to recognise the legitimacy of the Vichy regime.

  38. Stephen L
    September 18th, 2006 at 12:37 | #38

    I’m with Katz on this one, except I predict that D will occur before C. If you’ld said 100 deaths a week you might have been looking at a realistic timeline, but it will be decades before they get below 100 a month. 100 a week might also be a more useful measure, as it is probably comparable to the numbers being killed by Hussein’s goons in the last couple of years before the invasion. Given that these days the figure is probably over 100 a day it’s certainly clear that on the single most important measure things are worse than pre-invasion, and will be throughout Bush’s term.

  39. milano803
    September 18th, 2006 at 13:12 | #39

    The Vichy government was not elected. The Iraqi government has been.

  40. Katz
    September 18th, 2006 at 13:19 | #40

    “The Vichy government was not elected. The Iraqi government has been.”

    If you think the distinction is important Milano, then you can thank Sistani for it.

    And before you go off half-cocked about it, may I suggest that you get up to speed on this issue by Googling several long threads on the issue of Sistani’s role in derailing Bush’s plans for post-invasion Iraq.

  41. milano803
    September 18th, 2006 at 13:51 | #41

    I think the distinction is most important. Something like 12 million Iraqis voted in national elections.

  42. Hal9000
    September 18th, 2006 at 14:43 | #42

    milano806, it’s not the voting, it’s what it achieves. Over 90 percent voter turnout in the old Soviet Union didn’t make it a democracy, and 12 million Iraqis voting don’t make Iraq sovereign either. Since opinion polls show overwhelming majorities of Iraqis want the occupation forces out (http://www.iraqanalysis.org/info/55) your suggestions that Iraq is a) democratic and b) sovereign don’t bear scrutiny.

  43. milano803
    September 18th, 2006 at 14:51 | #43

    Few people, and none accurately, would claim the Soviet Union ever had free elections. Iraq has.

  44. FDB
    September 18th, 2006 at 15:01 | #44

    NUB. Too easy.

    What do we all win, BTW, and how to divvy it up?

    I like Katz’s idea of breaking it down for bonus points:

    A) No more than 30 000 US troops in Iraq

    -March 2009

    B) A democratic government with control over the entire country

    -By 2015, there will not be one ‘entire country’. If part of what is now Iraq still goes by that name, not till 2030. Not sure of the month.

    C) Stability defined as no more than 100 deaths in a month from insurgency, civil and sectarian strife, kidnapping and so on.

    -Not in the foreseeable future, even WITH my magic goggles on.

    D) Prosperity defined as restoration of 1990 levels of income per person and electricity supply per person.

    -2010. I’m an incorrigible optimist, I guess.

  45. Majorajam
    September 19th, 2006 at 06:33 | #45

    I posted a few comments at Tim Blair only to be covertly banned. When I log in under the username of my original registration a faux “Site under repair” message appears. The whole thing was rather humorous to me as I’m into caricatures, but I felt I had to finish commenting in the thread so I deleted his cookie and re-registered. Point being the man and his partners in crime have no interest in debate, fact, truth or justice, only ruthless bone-breaking demagoguery. I don’t know why you pay any attention JQ.

    As to the question, from what we know of the objectives of this war- ostensibly to enhance the security of the United States and its allies and their interests, but in any case not to produce a terrorist printing press- it is long since lost, to say nothing of the negative externalities of our trying to achieve them (from a degraded military and military deterrent, to an ebb in the international communities will to confront problems- e.g. Sudan, Afghanistan- to the multi trillion dollar price tag, to the nearly 3000 deaths and tens of thousands of casualties, to the breathtaking degree to which the invasion has exacerbated friction between the Muslim World and the West).

    If Iraq were to up and excrete Gandhi or Tito some other powerfully charismatic uniting leader tomorrow, there is a chance given the democratic processes at its disposal that it could improve its circumstances, achieving A, B, C and D within relatively short order. But given the chronic myopia, corruption and cronyism of the central players- rivaling even the majestic levels achieved by the Bush administration- the chances are so slim as to not be worth prognosticating. The real question is whether this will end in pan-regional armed conflict, especially if/when the US ability to bear the financial costs of fielding an army there goes by the wayside along with its massively leveraged economy. Did anybody catch the net international investment income component of the current account release today? Look out below.

  46. September 19th, 2006 at 12:32 | #46

    If Bush invades properly with twice the amount of troops and a more ruthless attitude he could stabilise it and be out by early 2008. It’ll be expensive though.

  47. Paul Williams
    September 19th, 2006 at 14:18 | #47

    100 deaths a month from civil strife is 1200 a year. In a population of 25,000,000 that’s about 5 per 100,000. For comparison, the murder rate in Colombia is over 60 per 100,000. And the US rate is 5.5.

    While it may be true that the rate of violent death in Iraq has risen since the invasion, how does it compare to pre-invasion?

  48. Hal9000
    September 19th, 2006 at 22:14 | #48

    Paul, the Lancet study calculated violent deaths over and above the underlying pre-invasion rate. I’m not aware that anybody else has attempted the feat, although those who were embarrassed by its findings heaped scorn and derision upon it. See http://www.iraqanalysis.org/local/041101lancetpmos.html

  49. Nabakov
    September 20th, 2006 at 00:49 | #49

    “100 deaths a month from civil strife is 1200 a year.”

    Actually Paul old chap, it’s more like a around 100 deaths a day from civil strife or around 3000 a month.

    If you’re out by that order of magnitude on a basic stat, why should we harken to whatever other points you want to make?

  50. Paul Williams
    September 20th, 2006 at 09:29 | #50

    Nabakov, I’m referring to JQ’s criteria, that should be obvious. Try not to be a complete knob, old chap.

  51. Katz
    September 20th, 2006 at 09:54 | #51

    “If Bush invades properly with twice the amount of troops and a more ruthless attitude he could stabilise it and be out by early 2008. It’ll be expensive though.”

    Ah, irony. One of my favourite moods.

  52. September 20th, 2006 at 23:47 | #52

    A) No more than 30 000 US troops in Iraq

    The US will not have less than 30,000 troops in Iraq for many decades. The USA still deploys 70,000 and 40,000 troops in Germany and Japan respectively. Unless you believe Iran will be subjugated to become the main US base in the ME, then it is hard to see which other country this regional US army could be moved to. Iraq is the best fit for the job.

  53. September 22nd, 2006 at 11:53 | #53

    NUB of course.

    I was also banned from Tim Blair’s site after posting only one or two innocuous comments. That was quite some time back, and I have always ignored him since. I believe he banned me prematurely because he already knew my reputation as a “troll” (their word) commenter at Iraq The Model (ITM), where I was also banned (repeatedly).

    Jeff Jarvis also banned me in a hurry. Not surprisingly, Jarvis helped the Fadhil brothers set up ITM. The Fadhils ended up meeting Bush and Wolfowitz in the Oval Office. Wolfie used to cite their blog as an example of the “good news in Iraq” that journos kept overlooking. Even the Fadhils can’t seem to find much “good news” to report these days.

    Blair has all the depth of wisdom you are likely to find at fellow wingnut sites like LGF and Protein Wisdom. These people mistake snide sarcasm for intelligence, and blindly follow the pro-Bush pack in a frenzy of adrenalin-pumping hate.

  54. September 22nd, 2006 at 11:57 | #54

    I’ll try to stick to my original judgement and ignore the thing altogether.

    Sadly, this seems to be the best option: any meaningful direct dialogue with these people is impossible. Best to win the argument in the public arena, show them up for the fools they are, and then laugh at how quickly they disown all their previous statements.

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