November 27, 2006

Did Somebody Say "Cakewalk", Or "Naive"?

Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Michael Rubin is resorting to "dowdification" of late, which is to say, Rubin takes a truncated quote from my father out of broad context and tries to play pretend that my father thought the Iraq conflict would be, a la Ken Adleman, a "cakewalk." By way of brief background, my father, a 33 year veteran of the Foreign Service, served as the United States Ambassador to both Syria and Israel, as well as Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East and South Asia. He is (or was, as the case may be) on good terms with political figures in the Middle East ranging from Arik Sharon, Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin to Hafez al-Asad, King Hussein (Abdullah’s father), Abu Mazen and Hosni Mubarak. (Incidentally, Rubin’s caricature of him as archetypal Arabist is wholly unpersuasive—as any of those Israeli leaders, past or present, would likely attest). Regardless and with apologies for being so plain about it, what a class of 1994 biology major from New Haven might think of him likely leaves him rather uninterested, I’m afraid. Still, with Glenn Reynolds entering the fray and calling my father's predictions “naïve” (quite a charge coming from that famed Middle East specialist Instapundit(!)—seemingly always at the ‘aw shucks, sounds good’ ready to link whatever neo-con swill du jour), it appears I have to wade into this recriminatory morass, if for no other reason than to defend a family member I respect.

The item Rubin linked to (over at the giddy spectacle that is The Corner) is this April 22nd '03 Bernard Gwertzman interview of my father. Rubin cherry-picked this portion of the interview:

What we’ve stated in our report is that we should have no illusions; that it’s going to take at least two to three months of a very strong military presence in Iraq to re-establish law and order, get humanitarian assistance going, get the water going, the electricity going, in other words establish the secure premise upon which reconstruction can take place both physically in the country and in terms of political evolution.

Note that the very next sentence (which Rubin conveniently omits) reads “(b)ut there should be a performance-based phase-out of the U.S. military presence,” which clearly indicates that my father more than held out the possibility that we wouldn’t necessarily be in and out of Iraq within 3 months. Elsewhere in the interview, my father states:

In 1991, I was assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs and met with the Iraqi opposition, including people like [Jalal] Talabani [of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] and [Massoud] Barzani [of the Kurdistan Democratic Party], the Kurdish leaders. They told me very directly that while a Kurdish homeland was always in their hearts, they knew that it would be a very risky thing to try to establish a homeland because the Turks would see their national security interests threatened, as would the Syrians and the Iranians, who all share borders with Kurdish populations. So they said, if we had a state and a government in Baghdad, in which we really had effective power-sharing, politically, economically, and culturally, we would opt for that. This is the challenge. Whether we can do that or not, or whether it will be done or not, is a major question.

Hardly “cakewalk” talk, no?

Further, and much more important, Gwertzman was interviewing my father, in the main, because he had recently co-chaired a Council on Foreign Relations/Baker Institute report entitled “Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq” (link to (PDF) report here) with Frank Wisner. In this report, which came out before the war, my father and Wisner, among other things, recommended: A) establishing an effective coordinating structure for US government decision making--not just handing that job over to DOD (meaning, for example, the Office of Special Plans Rubin worked in, which proved to perform, shall we say, rather underwhelmingly); B) assuring that forces on the ground were sufficient to assure law and order without which our strategy for post-Saddam Iraq could not be achieved (including importantly making mention that part of this approach meant not disbanding the Iraqi Army, as it would be needed to help serve as guarantor of peace and stability post-conflict); and C) proceeding with caution with regard to not expecting a bonanza from the Iraqi oil sector to pay the costs of reconstruction.

Such specifics aside (of which more below) the very first paragraph of the report, as it turns out, doesn't sound like a "cake-walk" prognostication to me:

Today’s Iraq debate is understandably focused on the run-up to possible military action. However, the question of how the United States and the international community should manage post-conflict Iraq is even more consequential, as it will determine the long-term condition of Iraq and the entire Middle East. If Washington does not clearly define its goals for Iraq and build support for them domestically and with its allies and partners, future difficulties are bound to quickly overshadow any initial military success. Put simply, the United States may lose the peace, even if it wins the war.

Here are more of the relevant recommendations, direct from the report (remember, it came out several months before the Iraq War):

Establishment of Law and Order. U.S./coalition military units will need to pivot quickly from combat to peacekeeping operations in order to prevent post-conflict Iraq from descending into anarchy. Strong U.S.-backing for an emergency government will be needed to fill the vacuum left by Saddam. Without an initial and broad-based commitment to law and order, the logic of score-settling and revenge-taking will reduce Iraq to chaos. The optimal strategy is for the United States to play a superintending role, one that maintains low visibility but is clearly committed to protecting law and order and creating a breathing space for a nascent Iraqi government to take shape. The U.S. role will be best played in the background guiding progress and making sure that any peacekeeping force is effective and robust enough to do its job.

"(P)eacekeeping"? A “commitment to law and order”? C’mon friends, let's not be silly. That was only for Schwarzeneggerian sissies and girlie-men over at civilian DoD, circa '02, didn't you know? “Stuff happens”, after all, and “freedom is messy”, right?

Here’s another recommendation from the report:

Do Not Dismantle the Iraqi Army. Initial efforts must also focus on eliminating the Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard, intelligence services, and other key institutions of Saddam's regime, while preserving the Iraqi Army (minus the uppermost leadership and any others guilty of serious crimes). The army remains one of the country's more respected institutions. How it is treated during the military campaign and after, including the removal of its top leadership, is one of the key pieces of a U.S. strategy. The army could serve as a guarantor of peace and stability if it is retrained in part for constabulary duty and internal security missions. Iraqi leaders whose crimes are so egregious that they can be tried as crimes against humanity must be detained and prosecuted


Next, on Iraqi oil revenue:

There has been a great deal of wishful thinking about Iraqi oil, including a widespread belief that oil revenues will help defray war costs and the expense of rebuilding the Iraqi state and economy. Notwithstanding the value of Iraq's vast oil reserves, there are severe limits on them both as a source of funding for post-conflict reconstruction efforts and as the key driver of future economic development. Put simply, we do not anticipate a bonanza.

Speaking of "prophetic" words, to quote Glenn again (incidentally, I wonder if Austin Bay agrees with the substantive merits of this Reynoldsian juxtaposition, he seems too fair-minded to, at least I'd think?), these cautionary words on oil reserves paying for the reconstruction appear rather far-sighted, no?

I could go on. And on. But notice what the report says. It says oil revenue won’t be able to pay for the Mesopotamian adventure, contra what some at the Pentagon had proclaimed. It says post-conflict management of Iraq must be run via an effective inter-agency process, not just a blundering, hubris-ridden DoD. It says de-Baathification should occur only at the very highest levels, and/or for those directly guilty of crimes, but not whole-sale through middle and lower-ranking swaths of Baathist officialdom. It says we cannot rely on Iraqi exiles, such as the unreliable Chalabi. It says, critically, don’t disband the Iraqi Army.

In other words, it provides sober, intelligent advice, advice mostly not taken, alas, with tragic consequences. Now, just for fun, let’s compare the above with what Michael Rubin was saying back in the day, shall we? To kick off things, here’s Rubin suggesting that the Hashemite Monarchy might be enlisted to help lead Iraq (an idea that would have gone just swimmingly with Sistani, Hakim and Sadr, eh?):

As one drives through the hills near Sarsang in northern Iraq, locals point with pride to the former Hashemite palace (now a hospital) perched on the hillside, while they treat with disdain the ruins of Saddam's ostentatious palaces. Iraqis are not alone in looking back fondly on bygone royalty.
Hey look, if "bygone royalty" means fire-brand descendants of distinguished clerics, Michael just might have a point! But seriously, this Hashemite nonsense is really quite rich, no? Time to get serious, and put down the imaginary Gertrude Bell novellas!

Here’s Michael again, sounding overly Panglossian notes I’m afraid, busily poo-pooing those crazy ideas that Iraq might be a bit on the difficult side or such:

If there's an emerging conventional wisdom uniting many of the pundits, military analysts, and former government officials who have taken to the airwaves and op-ed pages in recent weeks, it's that the United States can overthrow Saddam, but it will be messy and painful. In particular, commentators worry that a U.S. assault will bog down in urban warfare. "It's going to involve Iraqis hiding behind civilian populations, ambushing us from the basements and roofs of various buildings, trying to use shoulder-launched weaponry against our helicopters, and making life difficult. We will win, but we could lose a thousand or more people if things go badly," Brookings Institution scholar Michael O'Hanlon told CNN on August 9. One week later in the Wall Street Journal, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft opined that liberating Iraq "would be very expensive . . . and could as well be bloody." And this week a front-page, above-the-fold New York Times headline warned, "iraq said to plan tangling the u.s. in street fighting." But there's reason to believe that these predictions--like many of those that preceded America's military successes in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and the first Gulf war--are too pessimistic.

Or perhaps, too optimistic, as it were.

There’s much more: Rubin again, still ostensibly in la-la Hashemite Restoration and/or Chalabi booster-land, averring that Moktada al-Sadr doesn’t enjoy real grass-roots support!

Most Iraqis recognize that Muqtada al-Sadr is not a true grassroots figure [ed. note: but Ahmad Chalabi is, right?]. He receives money through Ayatollah Kazim al-Husayni al-Haeri, an Iraqi cleric based in Iran who himself is a close confidant of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Is that right? Pray tell more on this point Michael, with special attention paid to events ongoing these past few months in ye olde Baghdad town, OK? Not a "true grassroots figure" eh? Well, in a faith-based alternate universe, perhaps. But for those of us who dwell in reality things look, well, different. As Robin Wright and Tom Ricks report today:

Sadr is so powerful that if provincial elections were held now, he would sweep most of the south and also take Baghdad, said the intelligence officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his position.

Around the same time, Rubin also wrote: “As violence provoked by Muqtada al-Sadr's fringe Jaysh al-Mahdi militia enters its third day, Washington remains in a frenzy of misplaced panic.”

Ah, if only we all had such sang-froid. I feel a frisson of macho thrill just imagining how the stewardship of the ship of state would benefit so! But coolness under pressure aside, Mr. Rubin might want to get out of the predictions business, as in the same article (from April '04) he had written: "In many ways, al-Sadr's revolt appears to be a last gasp from a firebrand radical who has seen his domestic support hemorrhage." And what a "last gasp" its proven!

Later still, Rubin pours on with still more terrible advice, arguing for wholesale, massive de-Baathification, which of course, helped stoke the insurgency and still has it thriving today. What tugged his heartstrings so, so as to become a whole-sale proponent of shock de-Baathification (aside from its “ethnic chauvinism,” of course, favorite shorthand description of Baathism that those of Rubin’s stripe employ so as to facilitate trotting out all those racy Munich '38 analogies)? Well, here was the moment of epiphany, and it was a glorious one to behold indeed:

I became convinced of the need for de-Baathification when I accompanied an Iraqi friend into a repository of Baathist-party documents hidden under the shrine of Michel Aflaq [ed. note: A Christian Arab, fyi, for those who insist on hysterically gibbering on about "Islamo-Fascism" and the Gates of Vienna being crashed anew etc etc.], the man who, inspired by European fascism and national socialism, founded the Baath party in 1944. Amid musty books and scattered documents, an Iraqi scholar showed me a ledger containing the names of every secondary-school child, notes about his ethnic and sectarian background, and political details regarding their extended family. Marks next to names indicated that that child would be blacklisted upon graduation. Baathist schoolteachers, at least those in the upper-four levels of the hierarchical party, were not benign opportunists as Brahimi alleges, but rather the enforcers of one of the world's most evil regimes.

Oh those horrid, horrid schoolteachers (well, only the "upper-four levels" of them)! To the re-education boot-camps with all of them, post-haste!

And then, just for the comedic factor, there is this recent speech where Rubin uses the “N” word (no, not that one, rather the one I thought had been de facto banned by the hyperbolic herds that constantly harp on about the dearth of will at Foggy Bottom and Langley and other enemy encampments, or tut-tut on about their Manichean world-views to impressionable types so as to reduce complex regions to grossly dumbed-down 'good vs evil' narratives, that is, when not busily issuing that jingo-rallying call that excites them all so--real men go all the way to Teheran and Damascus!):

With violence and insurgency continuing in Iraq, television footage often presents the situation there as grim. Television cameras do not lie, but they also do not show the full perspective. Stability and security are lacking, but the situation in Iraq is more nuanced than it at first appears. Problems are complex. Some may be the unavoidable part of the transition from dictatorship to democracy, but many other setbacks are the results of Coalition mistakes which are correctible.

Ah yes, “nuance”. And thanks for letting on that "problems are complex". Indeed, they are. But spare us too much corrective, remedial action Mr. Rubin, no matter how complex the problems might appear, as I fear your policy recommendations will only make matters worse. Anyway, I could go on (really, there's a seemingly endless amount of bogus fare masquerading as high-brow policy recommendations to pick from), but I think we've all had enough, no?

Now, a word or two of clarification here. The point is not to comb through Rubin’s prolific ouevre to be mean, nor to embarrass him publicly. God knows, anyone searching through my archives will doubtless find much blush-inducing fare. But I’ve at least acknowledged my mistakes, including in hindsight gross errors of judgement, and at least I feel remorse (which isn't to say I expect Rubin to submit to an auto de fe and prostrate himself on a town-square overlooking the Potomac begging for forgiveness, but a smidgen of a mea culpa would not be unwelcome, and it would even show some character, dare I say). Further, at least I understand that our foreign policy is in need of critical course corrections (and not of the hitting the gas-pedal variety so as to create even more severe blunders). So I would never, ever be so arrogant as to mount a full-scale broad-side against a bipartisan task force trying to salvage something coherent from the Iraq wreckage—especially if some of the policies I feverishly advocated helped lead to it.

But no. For the neo-cons, like Trotskyites of yore, they are always right if only we had pursued their course without any deviationist cowardice (airstrikes on Iran, Damascus!, no to Bremer’s (so horrid!) “re-Baathification”, all A-OK if only we had handed the keys straight-away to Chalabi! and so on). At the end of the day, Glenn Greenwald sums it up much more succinctly than me:

Seeking input from the neocons on how to solve the Iraq disaster would be like consulting the serial arsonist who started a deadly, raging fire on how to extinguish it. That actually might make sense if the arsonist were repentant and wanted to help reverse what he unleashed. But if the arsonist were proud of the fire he started and actually wanted to see it rage...even more strongly -- and, worse, if he were intent on starting whole new fires just like the one destroying everything and everyone in its path-- it would be the height of irrationality for those wanting to extinguish the fire to listen to what he has to say.


A final word, to anyone who has stuck with me through this lengthy screed. Look, we're in an awful situation in Iraq right now, and I think this country needs to try to come together some and focus on constructive policy recommendations given how grave the situation is. Therefore I am in favor (and of course I am biased, as my father is involved) of at least giving the Baker-Hamilton Commission a fair chance at producing their report (without cheap pot-shots) and seeing if the broad centers of both parties can perhaps broach their differences and unite via the ISG on a plausible way forward.

Predictably, the Baker-Hamilton Commission is getting hit from both the Left (who view it as a fig-leaf for a 'peace with honor' type withdrawal that will delay the immediate troop withdrawals they favor) and the Right (where fevered total victory types like Rubin see the Commission as a defeatist, appeasement-loving stab in the back that will cheer jihadists from Jakarta to Alhambra). In an era that seems a long, long time ago--politics were supposed to stop at the water's edge. That bipartisan tradition appears to be mostly (if not wholly) dead, of course, but now we find ourselves in the worst jam since Vietnam overseas and we really need to start pulling together in serious manner in the face of major strategic challenges. This is not to say we cannot air our differences, debate is the life-blood of our democracy, and it is imperative. But let's at least try to be constructive (which isn't to say I've not been guilty of broad-sides not infrequently, but I do try to balance them with contributions to the policy debate, and I've seen precious little of Rubin attempting to suggest credible policy alternatives of late, rather than carp rather unpersuasively from the sidelines).

This, in a nutshell, was the main reason I was so disgusted by Rubin's drive-by preemptive strike on the Baker-Hamilton Commission--not only because of the gross display of arrogance in criticizing those trying to put out a fire that many of his ideological fellow-travellers played a key part in setting alight (to use Greenwald's analogy)--but also because he spent so much time busily poisoning the well (see his aspersions of various ISG study group members in the linked piece) rather than being at all constructive. In a word, it was low, but these days, par with the course, I guess.

Note: Emphasis added throughout.

Posted by Gregory at November 27, 2006 07:16 PM

One of the things that is so tiresome about neocons, Republicans, whatever they prefer to call themselves, is the way they throw around terms that seem to be intended as insults, though I'm sure they don't have the guts to admit it.

Like this:

"This April 2003 interview with Baker Institute director Edward P. Djerejian, a former Ambassador to Syria, reflects the advice of State Department Arabists at the time..."

I don't read the NRO, so maybe I'm being unfair and "Arabist" is a common term over there meant merely to identify people who actually know something about the Arab world, but if they use it the way they use terms like "liberal," "activist," "nuance," and "Democrat," I suspect that it's meant as an insult, as in: "Can't trust those Arabists, they're too damn close to the Arab countries they've visited, why, they even speak the language, which is highly suspicious, if you ask us."

Sorta like State Department employees who actually know something about China or Russia and dare to imply that they know more about those countries than, say, Rush Liimbaugh.

I'd prefer it if they (neocons/Republicans) just came right out and said that they don't trust anyone who actually knows something about other countries and knowing stuff about the countries we propose to work with or invade just makes it all too, too confusing. They really do seem to believe that knowing much about other countries besides their general location is an obstacle. One they will apparently never confront. Easier to just bomb and then issue insincere apologies later.

Posted by: LL at November 28, 2006 12:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Somebody tell Michael Rubin this one's gonna leave a mark. Seriously, Greg I have never seen such a group of unrepentant lunatics as these neocons. They are never wrong, you just didn't carry out their instructions properly. I am sorry to read that you have had to defend your father however, you did it very well.

LL: Rubin is using the term Arabist in the way people use the term Zionist. He is calling Greg's dad an arab appeaser and apologist.

Posted by: demkat620 at November 28, 2006 01:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I will be glad when the adults are in charge again. The foreign policy team we're stuck with has to be the worst in American history.

Posted by: sferrus at November 28, 2006 04:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

greg...your dad had me at.....

What we’ve stated in our report is that we should have no illusions; that it’s going to take at least two to three months of a very strong military presence in Iraq to re-establish law and order, get humanitarian assistance going, get the water going, the electricity going, in other words establish the secure premise upon which reconstruction can take place both physically in the country and in terms of political evolution.

how anyone in their right mind could interpret this (even out of context) as "naive" or implying that Iraq would be a "cakewalk" is beyond comprehension. Your father obviously understood the issues, and the ramifications of invading Iraq, and suggested an appropriate course of action if an invasion took place.

Two questions --- at the time his report was published, did your father assume that the invasion would have UN backing and/or widespread international support? (your quotes seem to imply that was an underlying assumption.) And did you father support the invasion when it turned out to not have the imprimature of the UN and/or widespread international backing?

(On a personal note -- I certainly found your father's one guest post here enlightening and informative, and was hoping to see more of them. Any chance that once the ISG is done, he will stop by here to discuss it?)


Predictably, the Baker-Hamilton Commission is getting hit from both the Left (who view it as a fig-leaf for a 'peace with honor' type withdrawal that will hold at bay an immediate withdrawal of our troops)...

well, its predictable, because it happens to be true. But that isn't why "the left" is criticizing the ISG, Greg. Its because NO ONE in the "primary" group of the ISG publicly and vocally opposed the invasion in the first place --- in other words, THERE IS NO ONE WHO GOT IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME in the group, and that raises a lot of very legitimate questions about the purpose of the ISG. If you don't have people who understood that this invasion was a mistake before it took place on the ISG, its recommendations won't be fully informed (I mean, face it Greg, the biggest problem we have with resolving Iraq is the idiot who sits in the White House -- the rest of the world is simply not going to help the US out while Bush remains in office, period ---and until we get far greater international help, there is no solution.

But is there anyone on the commission who has the balls to say "step one is to get Bush and Cheney to resign, and get a Democrat in the White House to show the world that we are serious and fully understand how badly our nation has screw this up!!!. Does you dad have the guts to say it?


Finally, it should also be noted that the situation on the ground in Iraq is deteriorating so rapidly that by the time the ISG comes up with its reports, it will already be outdated --- this is a group that is committed to operating by consensus, and by the time consensus is reached the underlying facts on which that consensus was formed will be different.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at November 28, 2006 04:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The worst part of Rubin's new responsibility shirking strategy is that, while the post cited (and several others on The Corner) is ostensibly designed as a takedown of "realists," it is transparently a jab at Greg.

While Greg has consistently challenged Rubin's opinions in print on these pages, Rubin ducks from responding to Greg's criticisms and instead choses to attack his father.

There's a show on MTV premised around this type of rejoinder, it's called "Yo Mamma" and Rubin's new strategy should be regarded with equal sincerity.

Posted by: Pb at November 28, 2006 04:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Rubin’s caricature of him as archetypal Arabist . . .

'Arabist' has at least two meanings. One is a person who specializes in matters Arab. In this since it parallels words like 'Sinologist' and 'Sovietologist'.

The other sense carries an ugly meaning, readily apparent to those of us who grew up in the American South. It is Zion-speak for 'nigger-lover'. It is assumed that decent people look down on Arabs, so those who regard Arabs as equals are peculiar and need a label.

Rubin seems to be using the word in the first sense. I don't think he was calling Djerejian senior a nigger-lover.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 28, 2006 07:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rubin's interpretation falls flat even without additional context. It's enough to note that Edward Djerejian's 'two to three months' was an 'at least', not an 'at most'.


. . . these cautionary words on oil reserves paying for the reconstruction appear rather far-sighted, no?

Not really. It was conventional wisdom in the oil industry. The only people who didn't know that were those who didn't ask. Wolfowitz knew. He lied.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 28, 2006 08:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wonder if Austin Bay agrees with the substantive merits of this Reynoldsian juxtaposition, he seems too fair-minded to . . .

I dropped in on Austin Bay's blog, and the first thing I saw was that he buys into, or pretends to buy into, the silly meme about Kerry insulting the troops. I think that rules out 'fair-minded' as a description of Bay.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 28, 2006 09:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm just sorry anybody has to take time to counter the idiocies of the inexplicably popular and/or cited Instapundit or NRO Cornerites.

But the Baker group is a fig leaf.

Posted by: norbizness at November 28, 2006 01:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wonderful post and comments. Very erudite company here. I feel like someone from the street who stumbled into an elite club. I linked to your post from my little blog.

It's good to learn my plebeian instincts are confirmed by more informed observers than I. When and if the US lets go in Iraq it is already about two years too late. Had there been a coherent Plan B after the fall of Saddam, coupled with more commanders that, in the words of Thomas Ricks, "got it," the last two years would have yielded a much different result.

What a waste. A sad, sad waste of human and capital resources.

Posted by: Hootsbuddy at November 28, 2006 01:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow. "Don't fuck with Djerejian," should be Rubin's minimum takeaway from this. Except that would imply the ability to learn from experience.

Posted by: Anderson at November 28, 2006 02:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We can always get a laugh from Michael Ledeen: his solution is to turn the whole thing into a regional conflict by bombing Syria and Iran.
These guys are like the energizer bunny: they keep going and going...

Posted by: gregdn at November 28, 2006 02:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Note that Instapundit also links approvingly to the following comment:

> "The bedrock political strength of Bush's Iraq policy is that it rests on
> the advice of the military, in which public trust runs deep and wide,
> whatever they may think of the war itself or the decision to invade.
> Democrats may have no qualms about calling Bush incompetent, but
> witnessing how quickly they ran away from Kerry's perceived knock
> on U.S. troops, it's safe to assume they will be very wary about
> voicing similar opinions regarding the commanders on the ground in
> Iraq. That public view of the military as nearly sacrosanct is a major
> difference between now and Vietnam, and it puts the Dems in an
> awkward position when they advocate a position the military
> vehemently disagrees with."

Fine -- let's "stay the course" in Iraq for another year then and see how the Republicans' "bedrock political strength" plays out with the American electorate. At least the Democrats(!) won't be blamed for it.
I think staying the course will be bad for the United States, the world in general as well as the poor folks doing the actual fighting. But at least the Bushes, Instapundits and Rubins will be so thoroughly discredited by it all that we won't see a repeat of these misguided policies for a long time.


Posted by: Marcus Lindroos at November 28, 2006 03:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

At least Rubin didn't go the Ledeen route and deny that he supported the Iraq invasion in the first place.

Nevertheless, the problem with Rubin and his ilk is that they substitute chest-thumping bluster and faux-macho rhetorical flourish for actual analysis.

So Rubin, et al, pale in comparison to an actual empirical analyst like Edward Djerejian when you present the record of policy recommendations side by side. Nobody is perfect, and mistakes are a fact of life, but Mr. Djerejian's track record isn't even in the same league as Rubin's.

Rubin was very clearly punching above his weight, and Greg brought him back to his proper bantam classification.

The result, if the pattern stays true to form, will be more vitriolic attacks on Greg and his father, with the thin veil on anti-semitism charges wearing even thinner.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 28, 2006 03:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But at least the Bushes, Instapundits and Rubins will be so thoroughly discredited by it all that we won't see a repeat of these misguided policies for a long time."

They already are - to about 65% of Americans, anyway.

The dead-enders will never come around. Never. As there are still Stalinists in Russia, Pinochetists in Chile, and Hitlerists in Germany, there will always be Bushists in America.

What's necessary is to never let them in power ever again. None of them: Not just the ones at the top, not just the ones with high visibility and puissant titles, but also their assistants, aides, staffers, writers and analysts. Including the enablers-without-portfolio, like Ledeen.

And not just the ones in the White House, but their enablers and protectors in Congress. Roberts, Hastert, Specter, DeLay, Frist, for starters. Above all, that means Lieberman and McCain, one possible and one definite candidate in 2008, both of whom still have admirers hereabouts. Do NOT support them.

There should be a price to pay for being so catastrophically wrong. There should be trials and convictions, but we all know that's never going to happen. So the mimimum should be to shun them, utterly and forever.

Posted by: CaseyL at November 28, 2006 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re Lindroos: Actually, of course, the military ISN'T enthusiastically supporting Bush's Iraq policy -- there's a huge number of publicly and loudly dissenting generals -- and the public is well aware of that fact, which is why they are also now furiously opposed to Bush's stay-the-course strategy in the polls despite the fact that there are still some generals supporting it.

Posted by: BruceMoomaw at November 28, 2006 04:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The other sense carries an ugly meaning, readily apparent to those of us who grew up in the American South. It is Zion-speak for 'nigger-lover'. It is assumed that decent people look down on Arabs, so those who regard Arabs as equals are peculiar and need a label.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 28, 2006 07:33 AM | Permalink to this comment

That's about right.

Posted by: me at November 28, 2006 04:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good work mate, good work.

Rather underlines why I took to calling these fools (who whatever they pretend are not conservative), "Right Bolsheviks" - they are bloody, positively Bolshevik in their approach to reality, more at home in the world of Lenin and Trotsky kind of delusional, magical bloody-minded thinking than in hard reality.

Re the Arabist label, queer thing it is, I keep getting labelled it myself, for the sin of speaking the language apparently and not really on the mendacity of MEMRI for my views.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at November 28, 2006 05:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've only ever seen Arabist used in the meaning of a specialist in Arab affairs (and often blurring into Persian, North African, and general Levant Islamic).

Posted by: Hank Williams at November 28, 2006 10:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent work. Just plain awesome.

Posted by: Stephen at November 28, 2006 11:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I recall a BBC World TV interview with Paddy Ashdown just before the invasion. He was all in favor of the invasion, said that it should have been done years ago. He said that one of the lessons of Bosnia, which they at least tried to apply in Kosovo, is that "security has to be established from Day 1, Hour 1. Otherwise, mafias move into the vacumn and it takes 20 years to dig them out."
He also said that the people he'd been talking to in Washington understood this perfectly, and they also understood that they were looking at a long term committment, at least 10 or 15 years. So who was he talking to, and what happened?

Posted by: Antiquated Tory at November 29, 2006 12:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Posted by: Lou Dobbs 2008 at November 29, 2006 04:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Posted by: Lou Dobbs 2008 at November 29, 2006 04:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


yet once again, let's look backward.

no better place to protect us from an....uncertain..... future.

Posted by: neill at November 29, 2006 05:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The answer is obvious. Just put Vernon Jordan and Sandra Day O'Connor in a small room, and let them work it out. What greater experts could we find on the MIiddle East?

Posted by: Larry at November 29, 2006 07:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The answer should be obvious. Just put Vernon Jordan and Sandra Day O'Connor in a small room, and let them work it out. What greater experts could we have on the Middle East? Maybe Harriet Miers and Clarence Page?

Posted by: Larry at November 29, 2006 07:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill (sarcastically):

yet once again, let's look backward.

no better place to protect us from an....uncertain..... future.

It seems Neill believes knowledge of the past is worthless for coping with an uncertain future.

That explains a lot.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 29, 2006 12:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


According to today's New York Times, Mr. Philip Zelikow, who is the 'Counselor' at the State Department, and, probably the 'brains' of the entire department at present, has announced that he is resigning. As per the Times, Zelikow claims that his resignation is due to reasons of finance. However, according to anonymous sources, the Times claims that Zelikow, while having won some important bureacratic victories, in the 19 months that he has been at the department, is frustrated by the inertia of American policy, particularly in dealing with the Near East (see: "Senior Aide to Rice to resign from Post," in As readers of this journal know, back in September, Zelikow made an important speech in which he attempted to re-position in American policy, vis-`a-vis both the Arab-Israeli dispute, and, the overall problem of 'extremism' in the region. Now, at the time, I was quite critical of Zelikow's thinking, judging that it did not go far enough in distancing the USA away from its, unthinking support for Israel. I also judged that relying upon the Sunni Arab regimes in the region to reinforce American policy was a non-starter, due to the very negative fallout in the region of both the Iraq debacle, and, Israeli assault on the Lebanon in summer. Make no mistake these regimes are pro-American and pro-Western, as well as being very antagonistic towards Persia and Shiites extremism. It is just that these regimes, are too weak both internally and externally to act as a sort of cordon sanitaire vis`a-vis Persia and its local allies (Syria, Hezbollah) in the region. What needs to be done, is a pro-active American policy, which: a) definitively settles the Palestinian problem along the borders of 1967; if that requires imposing economic sanctions, cutting off of military and economic aid on Tel Aviv, so be it....b) resolving in some manner or other the Iraq debacle, by either bringing in many more troops, or conversely redeploying said troops on the periphery of Iraq, as well as in Kurdistan; c) using intelligent and collaborative diplomacy in handling Persia, and the problems that it poses for stability in the region, and, especially the issue of its nuclear programme; d) the same with Syria, especially in the hopes of reducing its ties with Persia to an extent, and in arriving at a grand settlement involving the Golan Heights & the Lebanon; e) the use of intelligent and subtle diplomacy, of the 'Helinski-watch' / Soros 'Open Society' type, in combination with the EU, to move forward, in the longue dureetowards greater pluralism, stronger civil society and parliamentarism in the Near East and the greater Arab World.

Now, notwithstanding my own caveats about the shortcomings in his ideas (no doubt heavily watered down by Rice, et al.) and policy proposals, Robert Zelikow coming depature from the administration is most definitely a bad thing. In an administration, where competence as opposed to cronyism and ideology are the defining choices for assigning higher office, Zelikow, and the more recently departed, Robert Zoelleck (from Deputy Secretary of State position), would be occupying the posts that Rice has so far filled in this administration: National Security Advisor and or Secretary of State. The quick departure of both gentleman from office, having occupied the same for less than two years, suggest that inertia, lack of imagination and sheer incompetence are becoming the defining features of Rice's tenure at Foggy Bottom. Something of course, which as Mark Danner's recent article in the New York Review of Books, has shown was most ably demonstrated in her tenure a the NSC (see:"Iraq: The War of Imagination" in What this will mean concretely in terms of future American diplomacy, particular in the Near East, is that one should not have high hopes, on any great sea change in American policy there, on specifically on the war with Iraq. Indeed, Mr. Bush statement made today at the NATO Summit, in Riga that:

"There is one thing that I'm not going to do. I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete" (see:

Based upon this reading, notwithstanding the recent election results, and the appointment of Mr. Gates to replace the egregious Rumsfeld, one can only expect the US administration to muddle along, in the same policy pit that it has been occupying for the last four years. Sad, frustrating but all too true. Makes it all to clear why both Messers. Zelikow and Zoellick have chosen to depart the corridors of power when they did.

posted by Charles Giovanni Vanzan Coutinho, Ph.D @ 3:22 PM 0 comments

Posted by: Charles Coutinho, Ph. D. at November 29, 2006 02:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill has no problem "looking backwards" when it comes to culling history for in-apt analogies.

Posted by: Tom S at November 29, 2006 02:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We should be shaking our heads saying that "it's incredible that this inertia has not only not been shaken, it hasn't even been stirred" or something along those lines, but given that the election victory still hasn't seemed to have shaken or stirred Bush II into a more enunciated move towards a designated multilateral direction, then our good professor (I'm assuming he's one, what with the Ph.D and all) has the last word on this point (and no, I'm not trying to trump him by sneaking in one more last word).

A commentator either on this blog or another one (I can't remember which, and I'm writing this on the fly) expressed amazement that, in his/her words, went something like this: "the thing that's killing (me) is that the administration is so obviously NOT doing anything. Where's the special envoy(s)? Even Clinton would've had someone backchanneling through the UN" (or words to that effect).

So many have been so in awe of Condi for so long that it surprises them to find, when they shake and stir themselves into the reality that no matter how fluent she is in Russian and how great she can play the piano and everything, she serves the Bush Show and as a result, she's something like Dr. Johnson's dog for this administration - she gets a pass because she can do it at all. But Russian fluency and piano proficiency haven't seemed to get her outside the box, and do nothing for her when the admin keep putting her back in it. But I don't see anyone calling for her resignation, and I don't see who I still believe to be an uncommon woman of excellence and acumen voluntarily packing up the cardboard boxes. Is it that she too isn't really Dr. Johnson's dog and is just as much out of her depth as everyone else is in this admin? Well, it's just one shocker after another on Pennsylvania Avenue (yawn).

Posted by: sekaijin at November 29, 2006 02:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it worth mentioning that Greg once described Glen Reynolds as one of 'my two favorite bloggers'. (The other was Andrew Sullivan).

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 29, 2006 06:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to admit that I am experiencing a bit of schadenfreude in your latest post.
Let me quote: "now we find ourselves in the worst jam since Vietnam overseas."
Compare that observation with another quote from early in your blog: "Vietnam Syndrome, RIP Colin Powell, Vietnam Syndrome, RIP Colin Powell and other older policymakers certainly well remember the horrors of Vietnam, but the younger don't and are increasingly gung-ho. The doubts that gnawed at commanders and seeped down to soldiers of the post-Vietnam era until the overwhelming success of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 have long since vanished."
And ABC News recently reported the commanders of the 30,000 Marines in Anbar Province have given up on defeating the insurgents and are being redeployed to Baghdad.
How do you feel about the Vietnam Syndrome now?

Posted by: george hoffman at November 29, 2006 07:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I bought a Vanilla Ice cassette. we all make mistakes.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at November 29, 2006 11:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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