October 10, 2006
Dana Allin and Steve Simon, writing in the FT:
The recently declassified findings of a US National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism have caused a furore by stating the obvious: the Iraq war has radicalised Muslims and rallied many of them to the terrorist cause. The findings are controversial only because George W. Bush refuses to entertain any second thoughts in the war against what he now calls Islamo-fascism. Not long ago Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, said that raising questions about this “war” was tantamount to appeasing “a new type of fascism”. Newt Gingrich, former House speaker, says we are in a third world war.
This mindset is dangerous. The concept of an all-fronts war against Islamist extremism – and its conflation with the separate problem of Ba’athist despotism – was part of the intellectual trap that carried us into Iraq. That adventure has not gone well, yet the same illogic is now applied to Iran. There is no doubt that Iran’s thuggish regime poses a serious obstacle to Middle East peacemaking and, if it develops nuclear weapons, a potentially existential threat to Israel. The tools to contain that threat must include the deterrent power of US military force. But dismissing diplomacy with Iran or Syria as “appeasement” is not serious. And the idea that Israel’s recent battles in Lebanon were to be encouraged as part of a proxy war between Washington and Tehran shows ignorance – or indifference – to the narrative impact of the televised bombing of Muslim civilians.
The Lebanon war illustrated why it is dangerous for the US president to confuse himself with Winston Churchill. Israel is a close ally of the US and the commitment to its security is a pillar of US foreign policy. This does not mean, however, that Israel’s security strategy and US interests always coincide. Israel has to fight its own battles, but the way it fights them can worsen America’s own problems with the Arab and Islamic world. Neoconservatives may look at Israel’s Lebanon war as the moral and strategic equivalent of the anti-fascist struggle in the Spanish civil war, but many Arabs surely looked at the bombing of Sidon as their own Guernica...
...The world does have a problem with Islamist revivalism. Much of this revival is driven by local conditions, shaped by a simple but compelling set of beliefs spread by global communications, and has taken the form of a global social movement. There is no question that jihadism is fuelled by this sort of hard Islam and that its Shia variant is backed by Tehran to revive its own revolution, boost Iranian influence and challenge US dominance. But the Islamist resurgence is not monolithic and it is not something that we can be “at war” with in the sense that we can defeat it with military force.
As for Mr Gingrich’s third world war, what on earth could this mean? In the last century the US fought in two world wars and a global cold war. The first butchered a generation and set the conditions for the rest of the 20th century’s disasters – not a promising precedent. The second laid the groundwork for something better but it was a total war against powerful states that had conquered much of Europe and Asia.
The cold war was different. It had various phases and a variety of campaigns. But in the long run, the west’s success derived from sober principles of containment, laid down at the outset by George F. Kennan, a prominent US foreign policy planner. These principles are relevant now. Build up strength and resilience in the west rather than destroying the strength of our opponents. Keep the moral high ground and keep our nerve. Contain challenges against us “by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force” and be ready to follow up with diplomacy. Do not go off half-cocked into ill-considered wars without understanding whom we are fighting, or how.
P.S. For more such sanity, be sure to pick up Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman's "Ethical Realism". I'm only halfway through, but it's a very good read so far. Highly recommended, and I'll be discussing it in this space as soon as I'm able.
P.P.S. Sanity, and well, a little spot of insanity. Is this what it takes to get an op-ed in the NYT these days? Throw Anzus into NATO (plus Japan, S. Korea and an observer seat for Taiwan!), salivate over the prospect of a nuclear Japan, cut off all humanitarian aid to North Korea, and so on? Wowser! Must be cool to be a new paradigmist and creative destructionist! There is also this unintentionally hilarious bit from Frum: "(n)ot only would the nuclearization of Japan be a punishment of China and North Korea, but it would go far to meet our goal of dissuading Iran — it would show Tehran that the United States and its friends will aggressively seek to correct any attempt by rogue states to unsettle any regional nuclear balance..." Always about Iran with these guys, eh? But, let me understand: the way to dissuade Iran from getting the bomb is to push Japan to go nuclear, as that showcases that we "will aggressively seek to correct any attempt by rogue states to unsettle any regional nuclear balance". Tell me David, who would we enlist to do so with Iran? Israel already has nukes, so I take it you'll be cheerleading getting Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to go nuclear if Iran does, per your prescription of having North Korea's nuclear capability balanced by a Japanese bomb? Nah, that can't be right. Frum: "The analogue for Iran, of course, would be the threat of American aid to improve Israel’s capacity to hit targets with nuclear weapons". But of course. As if Israel doesn't already have such capacity in spades, friend--and as if ratcheting up an Israeli-Iranian stand-off in such fashion is in any way a convincing way to disincentivize the Iranians from going nuclear. Quite the opposite, I'd think. Shorter Frum: roll the dice and see where the chips fall. But we tried that in Iraq David, and it has proven a disaster. It's time to grow-up, and get serious now, I'm afraid--not upset the apple carts further by stoking a crisis with the Chinese and, with grotesque recklessness, chomp at the bit to re-militarize Japan come what may.
Posted by Gregory at October 10, 2006 05:30 AM
You forgot Frum's point about how Operation Panacea (i.e. missle defense) is bound to save us. When fresh insanity is laid before us, the old insanity seems to become classified as sane; but missle defense still seems insane to me.
So, does Frum's nonsense reflect the thinking of this administration or any of its influencial members, or is this just the rant of a single lunatic? I suppose we can be somewhat reassured that Bush rhetoric has been carefully chosen thus far, and maybe a sign that a more thoughtful approach will be taken to deal with a nuclear NK, not just regime change at all costs.
What I would like to know is, if the biggest national security threats are nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue nations Iran and North Korea, why did the administration reject outright Iran's offer to discontinue it's nuclear program in exchange for a promise not to seek regime change, and why did the administration undermine the September 19, 2005 agreement with North Korea with severe economic sanctions? Could either of these agreements succeeded in providing a first step toward disarmament?
Also, who thinks Selig Harrison is correct in assuming that this test is just a cry for attention and bilateral talks?
Greg, President Bush has clearly been a train wreck waiting to happen since he was first elected by the Supreme Court justices, I mean, the American voters. But finally after all these years, you have been blinded by the neocon light on your personal road to Damascus. Welcome back to the real world! And doesn't it really suck, big time?
The lack of leadership, demonstrated over and over again, by President Bush and his administration officials has resulted in a malaise and drift in foreign policy last seen during the LBJ administration. The war on terror, specifically the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have completely spun out of control, and events on the ground in these two theaters of operation now follow their own convoluted and absurd internal dynamics. Yet President Bush continues to pound his bully pulpit about the coming nuclear showdown with Iran at that big OK Corral in the sky, having just sent a naval task force steaming toward the Persian Gulf. We're just a tad beyond reading a book called "Ethical Realism." Ethical Realism? Is that one of those Yeatsian oxymorons like intelligent design? Or Islamofascism?
Victory is the only exit strategy? Wait a minute, Herr Kissinger, I thought victory was a goal based upon sound military tactics buttressed with an overall, coherent strategy. Oh, I forget, Henry the K is still fighting the Vietnam War. Allowing the troops to redeploy would be the political equivalent of giving the American voters salt peanuts. Once they tasted just one, they would demand more. Maybe Henry the K could suggest a fine German lager to go with the salt peanuts as we belly up to the diplomatic bar called The Quagmire, which features in his honor the Dr. Stranglelove banquet room for power meetings among the neocon shakers and movers inside the Beltway. After a fine repast, these bumbling idealogues can adjourn to The End of History cigar lounge to plot their next disastrous military misadventure. But I wonder if they will tip the waiters twenty percent? After all, they are the poor and hapless fools who will have to prosecute these future fiascos when the Bush administration tries to resume a national draft. I just don't see Mr. Lowry in uniform as an army grunt. He has other priorities at The National Review. Other priorities? Where have I heard that phrase before? I mean, he has his career to think of! And as we all must acknowledge, the all-volunteer army that Donald Rumsfeld destroyed is over-stretched and even has had to lower its admission standards. Oh I forgot! we'll fire Rummy. Of course, the army will still be broken, and there are many future military conflicts yet to be played out in the remaining years of President Bush's term. Gee, I long for the good old day. Don't you, Greg? Remember when President Clinton's much criticized "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy referred to a soldier's sexual orientation rather than his or her criminal rap sheet in civilian life?
Do I sound just a bit Swiftian in my cynical critique of President Bush's foreign policies? Well, Greg, my road to Damascus occurred during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
Oh, I forgot! I'm living in the past. Iraq is not Vietnam. The looney tunes show of WMD's and Saddam's link to Al Queda has nothing to do with Vietnam. But wait a minute. Didn't I read in the April/May 2006, issue of Foreign Affairs an article by Paul R. Pillar, who headed the CIA desk for Near East and Southwest Asia from 2001 to 2005 that the run-up to the invasion of Iraq reminded him of how LBJ used an ambiguous encounter in The Gulf of Tolkin to ramrod a war resolution through Congress to escalate the war in Vietnam? I guess Paul R. Pillar is living in the past too. And after all, Paul is really just another federal bureaucrat that the Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal at the White House need to push aside in order to cherrypick the intelligence reports to justify the war in Iraq, as Lawrence Wilkerson, retired colonel and Powell's chief of staff at state, said during a blistering speech at the New America Foundation. Oh, hell, what do these officers really know except to follow orders and finally decide after they are comfortably retired with their pension checks to finally come out against the prosecution of the Iraq War like Batiste recently did. As Hemingway once pointed out, generals die in bed not on the battlefield. Am I being just a bit unpatriotic? Should I wrap myself in the flag like the Bush administration officials have since coming to Washington? Didn't Dr. Johnson once observe that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel? How cynical of him.
I mean how on earth could I possibly still care for my country after an experience such as Vietnam? Robert McNamara did the honorable thing; he resigned from the LBJ adminsitration to head The World Bank. Hey, does Paul Wolfovitz also head that organization now after he retired from the DOD? What's with The World Bank anyway? Is it some kind of political rehab clinic for architects of unnecessary and unwinnable wars? There I go again, living in the past. Just a cranky old Vietnam veteran, who has a slight grasp of reality on this entirely different war in Iraq.
Well, let us march arm and arm, Greg, toward Damascus. Or, to quote Yeats: Are we merely "slouching toward Bethelem?"
"Neoconservatives may look at Israel’s Lebanon war as the moral and strategic equivalent of the anti-fascist struggle in the Spanish civil war, but many Arabs surely looked at the bombing of Sidon as their own Guernica."
And you people wonder why you cant understand Rumsfeld et al.
Good stuff george.
Now, if you'd only learn how to write in paragraphs... :)
no one seems to have considered the idea that NK was actually testing a relatively small nuclear device -- and that the test was a success.
The fact is that the technical know-how necessary to build a nuke is not that great. Much harder is the development of accurate and reliable ballistic missiles -- and the bigger the missile, the harder it gets.
Given NK's lack of a delivery system for a "regular" sized nuke, its certainly within the realm of possibility that NK tested something along the lines of a "suitcase bomb"....