April 02, 2003

Fantasy Lives at Washington Monthly

To those of them what wants to read this long piece by Joshua Micah Marshall:

Practice to Deceive
Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario—it's their plan.

To the rest: my gloss with hefty excising of blah blah blah. Not nearly as long, at least twice as entertaining, and non-fattening.

Well, it certainly was long. and dull. and ultimately pointless. Look, policy articles need to be descriptive and prescriptive.

The entire prescription this makes is:

For God's Sake, don't do anything. Let the Muslims run over the West. Give them whatever they want. Let them blow up our towers, nuke our cities. Institute Sharia in France. Whatever it takes.

Let's just lie back and hope we live until we die. Even if it's in a fireball.

The fact that many neocons were Jewish, and outraged by Moscow's increasingly visible persecution of Jews, also caused them to reject both the McGovernite and Kissingerian tendencies to ignore such abuses.

Those darn Jews. There's always in there somewhere.

Hawks like Perle and William Kristol pulled their hair out when Kissingerians like Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell left Saddam's regime in place after the first Gulf War. They watched with mounting fury as terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists claimed more and more American and Israeli lives. They considered the Oslo accords an obvious mistake (how can you negotiate with a man like Yasir Arafat?), and as the decade progressed they became increasingly convinced that there was a nexus linking burgeoning terrorism and mounting anti-Semitism with repressive but nominally "pro-American" regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
When the Oslo process crumbled and Saudi Arabian terrorists killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, the hawks felt, not without some justification, that they had seen this danger coming all along, while others had ignored it. The timing was propitious, because in September 2001 many already held jobs with a new conservative president willing to hear their pitch.

Those darn neocons. Being right and all. Shit!

The pitch was this: The Middle East today is like the Soviet Union 30 years ago. Politically warped fundamentalism is the contemporary equivalent of communism or fascism. Terrorists with potential access to weapons of mass destruction are like an arsenal pointed at the United States. The primary cause of all this danger is the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, poverty, and economic stagnation. Repressive regimes channel dissent into the mosques, where the hopeless and disenfranchised are taught a brand of Islam that combines anti-modernism, anti-Americanism, and a worship of violence that borders on nihilism. Unable to overthrow their own authoritarian rulers, the citizenry turns its fury against the foreign power that funds and supports these corrupt regimes to maintain stability and access to oil: the United States. As Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, "The great indulgence granted to the ways and phobias of Arabs has reaped a terrible harvest"--terrorism.

I like how he actually gets at the truth here, also. It's refreshing in this otherwise fanciful article.

[... Much fantasy clipped out of here ... ]

Why do we imagine that our invasion and occupation of Iraq, or whatever countries come next, will turn out any differently?

Which occupation led to September 11? He can't mean the defense of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait after the brutal invasion by Iraq of that latter country in 1991. How is that the US's fault?

The Bush administration also insists that our right to act preemptively and unilaterally, with or without the international community's formal approval, rests on the need to protect American lives. But with the exception of al Qaeda, most terrorist organizations in the world, and certainly in the Middle East, do not target Americans. Hamas certainly doesn't. Hezbollah, the most fearsome of terrorist organizations beside al Qaeda, has killed American troops in the Middle East, but not for some years, and it has never targeted American civilians on American soil. Yet like Hamas, Hezbollah has an extensive fundraising cell operation in the States (as do many terrorist organizations, including the Irish Republican Army). If we target them in the Middle East, can't we reasonably assume they will respond by activating these cells and taking the war worldwide?

This is my favorite passage: where he asks us to
1) Leave Hamas alone (after all they only kill Jews)
2) Allow Hezbollah to run terrorist cells in the US.

No question these are problem countries. Their governments buy our weapons and accept our foreign aid yet allow vicious anti-Semitism to spew from the state run airwaves and tolerate clerics who preach jihad against the West. But is it really in our interests to work for their overthrow?

In other words, why change? They are only anti-Semites. That's acceptable.

The tyrannies in these countries are home grown, and the U.S. government has supported them, rightly or wrongly, for decades, even as we've ignored (in the eyes of Arabs) the plight of the Palestinians.

Home grown tyrannies are terrific. Let them kill, maim, imprison, torture and rape.
Why? Because we've let them for years. Good thing the cops in New York didn't treat the crack house on my street the same way. After all, it was here for almost five years. That's got to be some kind of grandfather clause.

"We need to be more assertive," argues Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "and stop letting all these two-bit dictators and rogue regimes push us around and stop being a patsy for our so-called allies, especially in Saudi Arabia."

It worked out so well so far, letting Saudi spew hate and provide support for terrorists had nothing to do with those 9/11 hijackers who grew up there.

  empire is our destiny and we might as well embrace it.

You say Unilateral Hegemon like it's a bad thing.

Such a strategy might keep the fundamentalists in power for years longer than they otherwise might have been.

Yeah. Better not encourage democracy in Iran either.

the assumption that we can turn it into a self-governing democracy--that the very presence of that example will transform politics in the Middle East. But what if we can't really create a democratic, self-governing Iraq, at least not very quickly?

God. You're right. Forget about encouraging democracy in Iraq.

And that's yet another reason why overthrowing the Middle East won't be the same as overthrowing communism. We did the latter, after all, within a tight formal alliance, NATO. Reagan's most effective military move against Moscow, for instance, placing Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, could never have happened, given widespread public protests, except that NATO itself voted to let the weapons in.

Here's where he really outdoes himself. Earlier, he told us that Communism collapsed from within, without the West's encouragement. Now it was NATO that did it.

Oh, and those wouldn't be the same Pershings that the people who are now demonstrating in Europe were so violently opposed to in the 80s. Nah. Got to be different. Those peace-loving folks would no more support the continuation of the Soviet gulag than they would argue to extend the regime of Saddam Hussein. Would they?

In the Middle East, however, we're largely alone. If things go badly, what allies we might have left are liable to say to us: You broke it, you fix it.

I see. So the French, who rely on Iraq's oil for a great part of their economy and the future growth of Europe will walk away at the end of the war. They'll be bellying up to the table demanding their cut soon enough. Already, in fact.

Franklin Roosevelt said he was trying to keep the United States out of World War II even as he--in some key ways--courted a confrontation with the Axis powers that he saw as both inevitable and necessary. History has judged him well for this.

But God forbid we should emulate him.

Far more brazenly, Lyndon Johnson's administration greatly exaggerated the Gulf of Tonkin incident to gin up support for full-throttle engagement in Vietnam. The war proved to be Johnson's undoing.

Ahh, the Great White Quagmire. Thar she blows!

When President Clinton used American troops to quell the fighting in Bosnia he said publicly that our troops would be there no longer than a year, even though it was widely under stood that they would be there far longer. But in the case of these deceptions, the public was at least told what the goals of the wars were and whom and where we would be fighting.

So some lies are OK, and some are not. Now who is showing moral cloudiness.

Today, however, the great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support.

Wait, wait. I thought you said the people have no concept what kind of conflict. Then you say its to depose Hussein.

I think they have pretty well signed on to this goal and will hold Bush's feet to the fire on this goal alone. I haven't seen any free passes handed out.

The author begs the question by assuming he has proved some case that we are on the road to this global US jihad. But you have to prove the case to the American people before you can claim that it is proven. Saying don't make it so. The beauty of democracy is the contention of ideas.

The problem for the antiwar fringe is not that Americans are not listening to their arguments. The problem is they've heard the antiwar argument (including all this stuff) and have rejected it.

[ ... clip much other mandated pulling in of taxes, social benefit stuff to show
how evil Bush is .... ]

Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition.

But we wouldn't want to try that.

Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense.

But we wouldn't want to try that.

Posted by campbell at April 2, 2003 12:45 AM | TrackBack