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Well, no, not really

Well, no, not really June 23, 2010

Taegan Goddard reports:

President Obama has relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his command over remarks made to Rolling Stone magazine.

Well, no, not really.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal lost his command because he had lost the map. Those remarks showed that he seemed to think he outranked the democratically elected civilian government it was his job to serve.

McChrystal's remarks, and even more so those of his staff, showed that he was openly contemptuous of not just the particular civilians of this particular government, but of the whole idea that generals should be accountable to such mere civilian representatives of mere civilian citizens.

He was openly contemptuous, in other words, of democracy.

And since a huge part of his job in Afghanistan involved nurturing and developing the habits and institutions of democracy, McChrystal's remarks showed that he wasn't up to that job. His remarks displayed a preference for the habits and institutions of a military Banana Republic.

A general does not outrank the vice president of the United States. A general does not outrank the vice president of the local Lions Club. A general does not outrank the vice principal of the local elementary school.

Generals who forget that tend to start giving orders to such civilians. And then they start enforcing them.

* * * * * * * * *

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman thinks a continuous stream of millions of gallons of oil into the ocean is analogous to a train crash:

A federal judge struck down the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as rash and heavy-handed Tuesday, saying the government simply assumed that because one rig exploded, the others pose an imminent danger, too. …

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and has owned stock in a number of petroleum-related companies, sided with the plaintiffs.

"If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?" he asked. "Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing."

Well, no, not really.

See, a plane or train crash happens and then it's over. It doesn't go on for a whole week, and then another week, and then another and another and another — with no end in sight, continually crashing, crashing, crashing for months and months.

And when a plane or a train crashes, we know how to respond. We can't magically undo the loss of life or property, but we know what to do next.

What BP's Deepwater Horizon debacle proves — day after day after day — is that no one, anywhere, has any idea what to do or how to stop this thing, this never-ending trainwreck of a manmade disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP claimed they could handle this. They claimed that they could drill a mile below the surface and still be able to deal with any problems that might arise that far down.

But it turns out they can't. Their claim of competence was, at best, mistaken.

That same false claim was made by every other company operating every other deep-water well in the Gulf of Mexico. That same false claim of competence was the premise — the condition and prerequisite — for their being allowed to open and operate all such deep-water wells.

What happens if something goes wrong? They all have the same answer: We have no idea, something with robots maybe?

The point of the moratorium is that such wells cannot be allowed to operate until they come up with a better answer. Until they come up with a workable plan. Until they demonstrate that they are competent.

Judge Feldman doesn't seem to understand that. Or perhaps he doesn't understand trains and planes. In either case, his analogies — the basis of his decision — are pure bunk. The moratorium was not based on the fear of more explosions, it was based on the fact of no solutions, no Plan B, no way of stopping the next train wreck from continuing for months and months and months.

The government is appealing Feldman's decision, but I don't think they ought to be pushing for a reinstatement of the six-month moratorium.

Instead, I think they should tell every other company operating every other deep-water well that they are shut down until BP's leak is shut down.

Want to demonstrate that you really do have an effective plan in place for dealing with this kind of leak? Here's your chance. Show me. Prove you're competent to run this kind of operation. Fix this mess, and we'll know you have the know-how and technology to do this job right.

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