Proportional response in the Obama era — “Let’s pretend it never happened”

Congressional Republicans have been working hard lately at something we all should care about — talking to the Benghazi survivors.  Sen. Lindsay Graham has been making it something of a personal crusade.  As far as he’s concerned, there’s a cover-up going on:

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, in an extensive interview with Fox News, alleged that the injured survivors of the Benghazi terror attack have been “told to be quiet” and feel they can’t come forward to tell their stories — as he urged the House to subpoena the administration for details if necessary.

The South Carolina senator said he’s “had contact” with some of the survivors, calling their story “chilling.” He told Fox News that “the bottom line is they feel that they can’t come forth, they’ve been told to be quiet.”

I have no doubt but that this is true.  I mean, this is the same administration that lied for weeks about what happened in Benghazi.  If they’d lied a a ruse to lure the attackers out from cover to kill them, that would be one thing.  But the administration, from Obama on down, seems to have lied solely to hide two facts:  (a) contrary to Obama boasts, al Qaeda is not dead, and (b) Hillary is incompetent.

Hillary is also hiding what went on.  When she appeared before the Senate to testify about Benghazi, and was asked about the fact that four men died on her watch, her response was the equivalent of “Come on!  Stop crying over spilled milk.”

The fact is we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?

To answer Hillary’s question (not that she wanted an answer), it makes a big difference.  It makes a difference because we should weed out incompetents before it happens again; it makes a difference because the dead deserve justice; and it makes a difference because the living deserve justice.

If this seems like I’m rehashing an old issue . . . well, maybe I am.  But it’s back in the news because of Sen. Graham’s push for info.  It’s also back in my mind for a funny reason.

My kids love the TV show Psych, which they watch on Netflix. Every kid in the neighborhood loves Psych.  It’s a cute show about a flaky, extremely observant young man (James Roday) who pretends to be psychic to help solve crimes, and his knowledgeable eccentric sidekick (Dulé Hill). The kids especially love Hill’s character, and it’s no wonder that they do. He’s a charming comedic presence, and he and Roday work well together.

If Dulé Hill’s name seems familiar to you, you might remember him as the president’s personal assistant in the Aaron Sorkin TV Show The West Wing.  That show, of course, was about the perfect Democrat president.  As far as Sorkin was concerned, President Bartlet was Bill Clinton without the character flaws and with all of his past mistakes corrected.

My kids wanted to see a young Hill, so we managed to find (again on Netflix) the episode in which Hill first appeared.  He did a nice job, but what really captured my attention was a bit of dialogue that Sorkin put in the mouth of the “perfect Democrat president.”  The episode is entitled “A proportional response” and one of its plot points revolves around the fact that Bartlett is figuring out how to respond to a terrorist attack in the Middle East that brought down a plane on which his personal physician was flying:

President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is furious about a plane carrying his personal physician being downed in the Middle East. After initially requesting a retaliatory attack that would kill a great many people, Bartlet’s military advisors try to convince him to take a more cautionary maneuver.

So, keep that in mind — one American dead in an attack against an American plane.  Here is what Sorkin would have the perfect Democrat president do under those circumstances (emphasis mine):

Bartlet: What’s the virtue of the proportional response?
Admiral Fitzwallace: I’m sorry?
Bartlet: What is the virtue of a proportional response? Why’s it good? They hit an airplane, so we hit a transmitter, right? That’s a proportional response.
Admiral Fitzwallace: Sir, in the case of Pericles 1 —
Bartlet: [talking over him] They hit a barracks, so we hit two transmitters.
Admiral Fitzwallace: That’s roughly it, yes, sir.
Bartlet: This is what we do. I mean, this is what we do.
Leo: Yes, sir, it’s what we do. It’s what we’ve always done.
Bartlet: Well, if it’s what we do, if it’s what we’ve always done, don’t they know we’re going to do it?
Leo: Sir, if you’d turn your attention to Pericles 1 —
Bartlet: I have turned my attention to Pericles 1. It’s two ammo dumps, an abandoned railroad bridge and a Syrian intelligence agency.
Admiral Fitzwallace: Those are four highly-rated targets, sir.
Bartlet: But they know we’re gonna do that. They know we’re gonna do that! Those areas have been abandoned for three days now. We know that from the satellite, right? We have the intelligence. [over Leo’s attempt to speak up] They did that, so we did this. It’s the cost of doing business. It’s been factored in, right?
Leo: Mr. President —
Bartlet: Am I right, or am I missing something here?
Admiral Fitzwallace: No, sir. You’re right, sir.
Bartlet: Then I ask again, what is the virtue of a proportional response?
Admiral Fitzwallace: It isn’t virtuous, Mr. President. It’s all there is, sir.
Bartlet: It is not all there is.
Leo: Sir, Admiral Fitzwallace —
Admiral Fitzwallace: Excuse me, Leo…pardon me, Mr. President, just what else is there?
Bartlet: The disproportional response. Let the word ring forth, from this time and this place, gentlemen, you kill an American, any American, we don’t come back with a proportional response. We come back with total disaster! [He bangs the table]
General: Are you suggesting that we carpet-bomb Damascus?
Bartlet: I am suggesting, General, that you, and Admiral Fitzwallace, and Secretary Hutchinson, and the rest of the National Security Team take the next sixty minutes and put together an American response scenario that doesn’t make me think we’re just docking somebody’s damn allowance!

President Obama might want to start studying a few old episodes of The West Wing. Maybe if he familiarizes himself with it, he’ll figure out that it’s no response at all, let alone a “proportional one” to let the deaths of four Americans, including an Ambassador, get buried in order to hide the President’s (and his team’s) lies and mistakes.

By the way, if you have followed Sorkin’s career, you’ll know that he’s a drug-fueled genius with a true gift for words and a passion for using TV and movies to convince people of the Democrat Party’s virtues.  He also runs to the well a few too many times:

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  • jj

    If only Lindsey Graham were something other than a horse’s ass himself I might believe there’s an outside chance of getting somewhere.
    I’m uncertain where the doctrine of “proportional response” got started, but it’s been around for a while now, it seems.  It was never an American sort of thing, though.  We were always a nation of the non-proportional response, and history shows that reacting to provocations somewhat in the manner of a pissed-off Godzilla worked pretty well.  Pancho and his boys raid across the border, they get the US Army and half their country devastated in response.  They cease raiding.  Japan kills 3,000 people and sinks a bunch of obsolescent ships at Pearl Harbor, they end up with several hundred thousand dead, their empire gone, their country flattened out, and two of their cities glowing in the dark. The Germans didn’t even kill anybody: they just declared war on us – they talked – and we left their cities smoking ruins.  This works well.  Stalin maneuvers to try to add Austria to his post-war bag, and all of a sudden there’s a wing of B-29s with atomic ordnance aboard parked at Vienna’s airport.  Even he says: “Jesus Christ, these people are crazy!” pulls back, and Austria stays in front of the iron curtain.  Proportional response: keep screwing with Austria’s internal politics, we’ll atomize the Kremlin.
    Reagan wasn’t much of a believer in proportional responses.  Take a bunch of American medical students hostage, you have the Marines kicking down your door.  Not good.  Smart, though: it made the world sit up and pay attention, and worry and think twice, because with him in charge who knew what America would do?  G.W. Bush was the same way: Muslims knock down the buildings, we knock down a couple of their countries, in an obvious disproportionate response.  This kind of stuff is good now and then, it makes the bad guys think.
    But the democrat party, firm believers in “proportional response” – or something, I don’t know what the hell they believe in, it certainly isn’t America – will never allow a follow-through to be completed, or a job to be finished.  And that, regrettably for us all, is the take-away the bad guys have absorbed.  We no longer have the stomach to finish the course, and everybody knows it.  our response is incremental, proportionate – and stupid.  Our stick-to-itiveness is non-existent: we finish nothing.  We will be pulled down by ants. 

  • Jose

    I don’t have much doubt that the Benghazi survivors are being kept hidden because they are spooks, or at the least involved in covert activities, rather than official State Dept business.  I doubt the State Dept is the place to look for answers. 
    I believe the State Dept did nothing much to help them because they wanted to pretend nothing was happening in Benghazi.  And perhaps the White House was hoping the whole thing would go unnoticed if they didn’t respond to the attack.
    As far as getting answers, well, we are still waiting to find out what was the real story behind Fast and Furious. 
    I like the old saying that one should never attribute anything to conspiracy that can be explained by incompetence.  But with this most transparent administration, I am certain this is another cover-up.

  • Mike Devx

    Proportionality is for losers.  WIn, and win decisively.  What appears to be most critical is that you must win in such a manner that *your enemy fully accepts and admits that they have been defeated*.
    Most of the time, “proportionality” merely ensures that the enemy does not truly believe they’ve been defeated.  If that is the case, in the long run you have achieved NOTHING, and misery will revisit everyone, and horror will continue.  You must crush the enemy in every way necessary such that they completely, and I mean COMPLETELY, accept and admit defeat.
    (I’m discussing war here, not “conflict”.)   We haven’t seen war since World War II.  We *should* be at War against fundamentalist Islamic jihadists and terrorists, but we’re not.  Or if we are at “war”, we’re engaging in this damned “proportionality” bullshit, and that is why the misery and horror will endure far far longer than it ought to.

  • 11B40

    One of my father’s witticism went, “You shouldn’t have to drink the ocean to know it’s salty.”
    Republicans in Congress, even in the House of Representatives, have been way too accommodating for way too long to the Obama administration minion’s propensities to deceive or delay when called upon to provide information to the oversight committees. The committees insist on using a time-consuming step-by-step approach that the Obama-ites routinely ignore or subvert knowing that the public and the media will soon grow tried of “yesterday’s news”. A formal letter requesting information is not the way I see to go. Try starting with a subpoena. When the US Attorney General’s view of being found in contempt of Congress is “So, what?”, the game has changed. If members of Congress preclude taking these issues to the courts, they have sacrificed their responsibilities on the altars of comity and re-election.
    As my high school basketball coach used to say, “The opposition determines our tactics.”

  • lee

    BTW, Dule Hill was also “Bud,” Rudy’s friend.

  • Ymarsakar

    Israel loves proportional responses. They have had a lot of conflicts and wars with their neighbors, the Arabs and pseudo Arabs (Iranians).
    The proportional response is also how Americans treat Leftists, Democrats, and other proto/pseudo socialists.
    In all of those cases, a victory has yet to be seen on a strategic level.
    I think I stated something relevant now, a few years ago. That the Left would decide whether you got to live or die and how much you got to pay them for that privilege. People thought they had seen the worst excesses of the Left, the President Obama, in 2010. Then 2011 they thought the same, while I always kept thinking, “they haven’t seen anything yet”.

  • lee

    Oops! Wrong actor…
    Hated “West Wing.” LOOOOVED “Sports…” whever-the-hell-it-was. It didn’t last long.
    It’s too bad Sorkin is such a deep drinker of the Democrat Kool-aid, because he does do some very nice “real-world-ish” stuff, that I was much fonder of in my own left-leaning days. But I still recall with a certain fondness.
    As far as proportionality…
    Yeah–how did we get to this tit-for-tat business where we have to carefully measure out the “tit” for their “tat.”  And apparently, the more successful the country (i.e, “meaner” in the world of the Leftiness), the less their response can be in order to be considered “proportional.” V. Israel and Hamas.
    The left is kuh-raaaaa-zee!

  • Charles Martel

    I like Dule Hill, too. He has great comedic chops, works incredibly well with Roday, and should have been a world-famous shirt model by now. 
    I enjoyed and agree with jj’s take on America’s history of disproportionate response. The Yank willingness to drop woe on enemies kept the peace for several decades after WWII. In that respect, we were much like Rome—cross us at your own risk.
    Now we have a eunuch in the White House and eunuchs in the Pentagon, so Pax Americana is coming to an end. Unfortunately, we will not be able to attach RIP to its demise.


    Three selected snippets from the article.  Anyone wondering why we still have 30,000 troops separating North and South Korea for the past sixty years.
    “War has an endpoint. Peace does not. A peace in which you are constantly at war can go on forever because while the enthusiasts of war eventually exhaust their patriotism, the enthusiasts of peace never give up on their peacemaking.”
    “This vulgar worship of peace as a religion, a creed that restores the faith of faithless men and women in humanity is a combination of empty sentimentality and calculated ignorance.”
    “Peace leads to war because peacemaking rewards the warmakers. It rewards the obstinate killers who refuse to stop killing. And the more it rewards them, the more they kill.”

  • Jose

    Proportionality is simply another term for Fairness

  • Caped Crusader

    I second everything jj said above. We have not settled an offense to our nation since WW2, wasting countless lives and treasure, for no good purpose. Hell, we whipped the whole damn world i a little over 3 years starting from a dead stop. There is no excuse for these endless wars that settle nothing, except for Democrat insistence not to win or offend anyone.
    Try this instead. Invade Iraq. Inform the populace we will be governing and supervising their development into a stable prosperous representative republic for the next 30 years. We will pump oil at market prices for the benefit of the country and to pay ourselves back for the expense of this inconvenience. During this time everyone should have a decent home, education, food, medical care, and a nice life. If, after 30 years or so they cannot develop into a decent country we will leave, and decimate the country on the way out. Get in the way and you lose your head. Bet t would work better than what is going on now. This is basically what we did with Japan and Germany and it worked!

  • jj

    Interesting, the Pax Whoever concept.  Peace, which you’d think would be the most natural state of mankind, or at least the most desired, clearly isn’t; despite what we were told in grade school.  Peace doesn’t brew up spontaneously, it has to be imposed.  It has to be imposed by somebody a lot stronger who says, in effect: “all right, you bastards, you’re going to be peaceful and go about your business quietly and with decorum or we’re going to slaughter you.”  This is of course, along with being a simple truth a sad commentary on the general inclinations of mankind.  Whoever it is who imposes the peace also has to be willing to spend the treasure necessary to maintain the strength to enforce it which, as we have noticed, becomes expensive.  They also have to maintain the attitude, which may be impossible.
    There have been three that the world talks about: Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, and Pax Americana.  The Roman peace lasted longest of the three, some hundreds of years, and it was also probably the most broadly peaceful, in a relative sense.  (It’s always in a relative sense, there’s never complete peace in all precincts.)  The Romans of course dealt with a smaller world, they didn’t know two-thirds of it existed, but that wasn’t their fault.  They took care of what they knew about, and were smart enough not to expand beyond what they could swallow.  They mastered the maintenance of peace early, and knew that it took organization, discipline, and ruthlessness.  When it was time to administer lessons, they did so, perhaps sometimes sadly, perhaps occasionally regretfully: but always thoroughly.  They didn’t just defeat Carthage, they destroyed them for all time, so effectively they haven’t raised their heads again in more than two thousand years.  They didn’t just shut down the Jewish revolt: they dismantled it, just like the temple itself, brick by brick.  These were very good lessons for the rest of the (known) world: screw with us at your peril.  The Romans could – and did – sow destruction that was total when they felt they needed to.  The result of that was they didn’t need to much: their world was pretty peaceful.
    The British were a fundamentally different bag of tricks.  They conquered more by guile than they did by force.  They saw the world as a business opportunity, and business suffers when the employees are disgruntled, so you try to keep ’em gruntled.  If you can.  If you can’t, well, the lesson remains the same, and the teaching of it remains the same too: you have to be able to step down hard, and you also have to be willing to do so.  They made a number of people sorry over the two centuries or so of their imposed pax, though they didn’t go in for slaughter the way the Romans did, except when absolutely necessary, and usually on a much smaller scale.  But everybody got the message, and there were always elements of that goddam globe-girdling fleet in every body of water bigger than a backyard swimming pool – you were never allowed to forget they were there.
    Pax Americana has been, and will have been, the shortest-lived.  Owing to the attitudes of many of our Founders, we had little interest in the world beyond our own borders for a long time.  We shut Spain off in Cuba, but we didn’t follow them home and burn them down: we didn’t care.  We just wanted them out of Cuba.  When they left that was good enough, we had no object lesson in mind, and didn’t pursue.  In fact we didn’t know or care much about Europe until we somehow or other – for no good reason in the eyes of most Americans, then or now – wound up fighting in WWI.  The end result of that so disgusted most Americans that we again retreated back inside and resumed ignoring everybody.
    Then in 1938 war started in Europe, and we resolutely didn’t care, even when Britain got involved in 1939.  As a nation we weren’t particularly Anglophile through the 20s and 30s in spite of their best efforts.  Then Pearl Harbor got bombed in December of 1941, and we discovered that we had a bit of Rome inside.  China and Japan had been going at it for a solid decade before Pearl Harbor: WWII for them was nearly 15 years.  Mainland Europe was preoccupied with WWII for, in some cases, seven years.  England fought for six, nearly seven.  The Japanese bombed us three weeks before the end of 1941, when we had a small – though growing – military, and not much equipment.  We spent about six months getting ourselves organized, and off to Europe and into the Pacific.  We didn’t start until the summer of ’42 in Europe, and the wastes of the Pacific were less organized than that.  For us, WWII lasted, for real, from about June/July 1942 to August 1945 – thirty-six months we devoted to not just defeating, but destroying Germany and Japan.
    When it ended we were the military and economic colossus.  An unaccustomed position, and we didn’t know what to do with it.  Being children on the international stage we gave far too much away to Stalin, and that we let Mao live at all was an awesome mistake.  No nation was ever in the dominant position we were at the end of WWII, and we were clueless.  We were led by a provincial little jackass from outer Buttbite, Missouri, who’d never – except for military service in WWI – been anywhere, never done anything, and never known anybody worth knowing.  Truman had about as much experience as Obama, and he didn’t kjnow what to do anymore than Obama does.
    So Pax Americana, except economically, was over more or less right then.  Under Truman and Eisenhower we half-assed Korea into a bit of unfinished business that haunts us to this day; we abandoned our allies the British in the Middle East, thereby contributing to root causes and f****ing that up for all time; and then we did whatever the hell it was we thought we were doing in Vietnam for more than a decade.  
    So Pax Americana lasted about twenty minutes, not because we didn’t have the strength, militarily and economically, but because since the democrats took over congress in 1954 we’ve been a little short on will.  Turns out that’s the most important component.  Morons who lurk in alleys know that you don’t let anybody come back: you put them down so they stay down.  Between 1942 and 1945 we knew that too – but that’s about the only time.  Reagan was never allowed to finish anything, GW Bush was never allowed to finish anything, and this is the new normal: bullshit that drags on forever, no resolution in sight.   

  • Charles Martel

    One key to the Romans’ success in controlling 3 million square miles of territory (about the same area as the continental U.S.) with only 180,000 legionnaires was a two-prong approach: The first was that the empire’s constituent kingdoms and satrapies were pretty much free to run their own affairs as long as they paid their taxes, bowed–however half-heartedly–toward the emperor, and didn’t rebel. The Romans were instinctive federalists in that respect.
    The second prong was always, always, always keep your word to honor your treaties and protect your allies. The empire lasted as long as it did because every region in it knew that Rome would send legions 1,000 miles in defense of her and her allies’ sovereignty. It might have taken them a couple of months to arrive, and a few more weeks to get set up before taking on a miscreant, but, to paraphrase Mr. T, “I pity the bastards.”
    America is long past honoring her treaties. Our cred has been destroyed by the ball-less wonders that now own the federal government. There is no “good” hegemon waiting in the wings to take our place, only the sons and daughters of such perpetually and irretrievably semi-savage cultures as the Arabs, Chinese, and Russians. I pity us bastards.

  • Mike Devx

    I’m reminded of the playground fight ‘rules’ in effect when I was growing up.  A fight often ended when one combatant had the other on the ground, and forced him to yell “Uncle!” such that *everyone* else could hear it.  It was a formal admission of defeat to “the world”.  In this case, the world that mattered was everyone else on the playground.
    Our diplomats and military experts these days could learn a lot.  From the mouths of babes.
    I remember a scene from a book (Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’?) where a class nerd took on the playground bully and beat him soundly.  This one ended with a slightly different flourish:
    “Say, ‘Uncle’!”
    “Say, ‘I’m a big fat turd!'”
    “I’m a big fat turd!”
    The pont being, additional measures were needed to ensure admittance and recognition of total defeat.  And that was true in WWII: Conditions for (admittance and recognition of) total defeat were different for each of Italy, Germany, and Japan.  The same would be true of fundamentalist Islamic jihadists, were we to seriously take them on as a matter of true war.  I suspect in this latter case, we would achieve their total defeat only when their theocratic, hardline legitimacy was spurned by *all other Muslims* due to them getting their asses thoroughly thrashed.  When they become an object of scorn and ridicule among their own, in other words.