March 01, 2005
What Is Going On In the Blogosphere?
Juan Cole has, don seatbelts please, written the phrase "positive development" (ya gotta scroll to the bottom to spot this rarest of birds). Matthew Yglesias is wondering why, er, conservatives aren't more excited about Egypt. There's always something to complain about with regard to those dastardly Bushies, isn't there? They're not, you know, happy enough about what Bush has wrought in Egypt (though doubtless John 'palsy walsy with Hosni' Kerry must be duly gratified, eh?) That said Matt, to his credit, is calling developments underway in Egypt a real positive and at least a partial, mid-stream, vindication of Bush's democratization policies in the region. Even Atrios is forced to write something at least arguably positive re: Bush: "George Bush might actually be sincere in his new mission..." Though on the other hand, and true to bumbling form, he simultaneously serves up this sad tripe to this readers:
Republicans have never stopped being isolationist and anti-nation building (true of most of the US population, actually). They don't think tyranny leads to terrorism (nor am I claiming there's necessarily a strong connection), and don't really want to expend any treasure helping out "the other." What they do like is killing bad guys, and when George Bush says "spreading freedom and democracy" what they hear is "killing bad guys." They like killing "bad guys," and they're a bit lost without an enemy, so the actual spreading of democracy just doesn't excite them that much.
Wow, that's deep! What cheap snake-oil Duncan peddles hither-dither! Tell Lech Walesa that "Republicans have never stopped being isolationist." Or the many Romanians, Hungarians, Czechs for whom Reagan was a hero. Tell Sarajevan intellectuals that Richard Perle, Maggie Thatcher, George Schultz, Bob Dole were "isolationist and anti-nation building." What utter bunk. Note too Black's derisive mention of the American people, rather typical of de haut en bas leftists: ("true of most of the U.S. population, actually"). But does the empirical evidence even prove out that most Americans are isolationist? I doubt it--and readers are invited to send in more poll data. But, regardless, how could the boorish masses not be so bovinely self-centered, in snide and so drearily bitchy mondo Duncan? And don't miss this further sad Atrios think--he chastises Republicans for not really believing that tyranny leads to terrorism but then, lest he be accused of buying into Bush-think, hastens to add: ("nor am I claiming there's necessarily a strong connection.") Heh. Heaven forbid he ever flirt with Chimpie-think! Then, continuing the moronic bluster, Black avers that Republicans simply like to kill the bad guys and don't give a damn about democracy. Quick, someone get this man tenure! He's so, er, nuanced.
But I digress, and back to the top of this post--namely, why all these odd blogospheric happenings? Let's review the bidding, shall we?
1) Iraqis stood up, en masse (with the Sunni angle not as grim as some have portrayed) against fascistic terror tactics and turned out in numbers that surpassed all but the most optimistic prognostications--in what proved a moving and historic event that loudly showcased a key yearning of the modern era--namely, to have one's voice heard through democratic governance structures;
2) The Arab world watched this historic election with real fascination and intrigue, and it is probably fair to say it proved a significant strategic blow to the prestige of the insurgents (though they remain resilient and capable of mass carnage as today's massive suicide bomb showed);
3) Bush's increasingly direct admonishments to Egypt to further democratize communicated both in his SOTU and by his representatives from diplomats on the ground in Cairo to Secretary Rice is evidently bearing some fruit (yes, with details to be worked out about how real Mubarak's moves will be--but most analysts appear to see rather important reformist moves in the works);
4) Syria, where I think it's fair to say our relationship is at somewhat of a crossroads, has basically agreed to withdraw all its troops in Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley and has started turning over big Iraqi Baathist fish to the Americans (it's gettin' crunchtime for Bashar, and he is starting to belatedly really get that, it would seem);
5) The Cedar Revolution is filling the streets of Beirut showing the Arab world that, indeed, Bush was right to say Syria was 'out of step' in a region that is, yes, becoming somewhat intoxicated with these first blushes of real democratization from Baghdad to Beirut;
6) Constructive initiatives are underway vis-a-vis the poisonous Israeli-Palestinian dispute, with Bush having pledged over USD 300MM to the PA, and Sharon and Mazen still doing business post the Islamic Jihad bombing;
7) Saudi Arabia, as Dan Drezner has noted, is making some reformist strides (also reacting to Bush's prodding in his SOTU and a robust dialogue via our Embassy in Riyadh and elsewhere);
8) Condi Rice is to spearhead a revitalized public diplomacy effort as she indicated in her Senate confirmation hearings--doubtless helping better explain our intentions in the region (and no, they're not about perma bases in Mesopotamia, helping Zionists take over the Tigris and Euphrates, or making oil grabs in Iraq and Iran) and such a PD initiative will doubtless, in part, thematically link inter-connected developments like the Iraq elections, the civic unrest in Beirut, the reformist resentiment in Cairo;
9) Afghanistan continues to make forward progress towards democratization and greater stability as do other countries in the broader region like Bahrain; and
10) Bush looks to have wisely deemphasized a short-term military option on Iran and is looking to swing Pollack-Takeyh on Iran policy in greater coordination with the Europeans.
Would it be sophomoric of me to yelp out, "scorecard"? Or as Andrew Sullivan has put it, more succinctly:
I think even the fiercest critics of president Bush's handling of the post-liberation phase in Iraq will still be thrilled at what appears to me to be glacial but important shifts in the right direction in the region. The Iraq elections may not be the end of the Middle East Berlin Wall, but they certainly demonstrate its crumbling. The uprising against Syria's occupation of Lebanon is extremely encouraging; Syria's attempt to buy off some good will by coughing up Saddam's half-brother is also a good sign; ditto Mubarak's attempt to make his own dictatorship look more democratic. Add all of that to the emergence of Abbas and a subtle shift in the Arab media and you are beginning to see the start of a real and fundamental change. Almost all of this was accomplished by the liberation of Iraq. Nothing else would have persuaded the thugs and mafia bosses who run so many Arab nations that the West is serious about democracy. The hard thing for liberals - and I don't mean that term in a pejorative sense - will be to acknowledge this president's critical role in moving this region toward democracy. In my view, 9/11 demanded nothing less. We are tackling the problem at the surface - by wiping out the institutional core of al Qaeda - and in the depths - by tackling the autocracy that makes Islamo-fascism more attractive to the younger generation. This is what we owed to the victims of 9/11. And we are keeping that trust. [emphasis added]
Indeed he is keeping that trust--which is why I supported him. And couldn't Kerry. Triumphalist notes in the midst of a hugely sensitive time for a region that could still totter back into anarchic conditions? Oh, perhaps, a tad yes. But only the most boorish Bush haters can still deny that his robust, forward-leaning democracy strategy (tethered to realist tenets) is bearing fruit in the broader Middle East at this juncture. And that's big news--by any measure.
Posted by Gregory at March 1, 2005 12:49 AM
"Would it be sophomoric of me to yelp out, 'scorecard'?"
Yes. Been a good year so far, though. Good post. Still not sure if you're right about the bases, but it's not a big deal at the moment.
Not to pick a nit ... but I think some Bahrainians would take exception to being lumped together with Afghanistan. Just sayin'.
Actually, it's interesting that Bahrain's liberalization has also played a role in Saudi Arabia's de-ossification (in addition to Iraq). Brutally oppressed Shi'a in the Eastern Province are only a short drive away from merely moderately oppressed Bahranian Shi'a.
Here's why we shouldn't be more thrilled with Egypt right now, from a Scripps Howard story:
"In particular, Mustafa is waiting to see if any restrictions will be placed on candidates, who will need parliamentary approval to run. Parliament is dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), and this requirement is likely to keep Islamist candidates from competing."
"The danger is that reform will stop after the constitution is amended to permit more than one candidate to run, leaving Egypt with a superficial veneer of democracy, say opposition leaders."
The way it's set up now, only opposition parties approved by the government may run. So, let's see just what rules Mubarak lays down before we pop the champagne.
Your catalog of Bush foreign policy triumphs in the Middle East was not complete: Dr. Kahn is out of business. India and Pakistan have kissed and made up. Kaddaffi has turned in his nukes, and the Saudis are now killing al-Quaeda for us! We cannnot know if the end is actually in sight in Palestine, or if Egypt will reform, or if Assad will fall, or if the students will rise in Teheran, but we could easily get all of those positive things, too. We do know enough now to recognize how much is owed to George W. Bush--and those who fought, donated and voted for him in 2000 and 2004. Iraq would still be under Saddam, and Al Gore would now be starting his second term, if we and the world had not lucked out in Florida.
Yeah, the country has an isolationist bent. I have a isolationist streak. But two world wars, a cold war against totalitarian Communist states, and 9/11 have only reinforced the core conviction that as long as totalitarian regimes and ideologies are out there, the US will never be safe. Thus the need to push for democratic change in the world, so as to make the world safe for isolationism. Of course you can never publically admit to the idea that you are trying to make the world safe for isolatism, because to do so would invite those regimes that you are trying to undermine to try hit you hard in an effort to push you into the isolationist stance.
And you can bet your last dollar that Eastern Province Shi'a have--and continue--to watch what's going on in Iraq.
I believe the USG has been sold a bill of goods about Shi'ism, lumping every variety into something that looks amazingly like what happens to be in Iran. (Granted, Hezbollah's presence in Lebanon helped that along.) That has led to a sort of knee-jerk panic when the word "Shi'a" arises in a policy session.
But there are enormous differences between Arab and Iranian Shi'ism, even if they all look toward the same religious leaders for guidance. The major difference is that in Arab countries, the Iranian mullahs are only religious guides, not statesmen. The Arabs will be very happy to make their own political decisions.
Hey, John, have you seen any photos of Sistani in the Eastern Province? Because there were tons of placards of him in Bahrain this Ashura.
Bill Peschel correctly notes a potential problem in Egypt, and by extension elsewhere: that the powers in charge will apply a veneer of democray to escape the Bush Doctrine, hoping that the veneer will last until January, 2009 (heaven help them if Condi is elected). I strongly suspect the Bush team knows this and will keep pressure on Egypt and other sides that make only surface moves towards democracy. Bloggers can certainly keep score on this.
It would be sophomoric, especially since you're lumping together the confluence of a number of events unrelated to the Iraq War. I'm waiting for someone to tell me that the war in Iraq was what drove Arafat to his deathbed.
Of course, I never was a fan of this war, nor was I against it on it's face. I wrote at the time on my own blog that I thought the administration could be on the right course, but by screwing up every bit of public and private diplomacy along the way, they made it real hard to support them.
Liberals also don't like being lied to, even realist ones. Hand wave away the misleading attempts by the administration to sell this war if you want, but to do so makes it impossible to understand why so many people of otherwise sound political and foreign policy judgement don't trust this President. It's one thing to make a bold yet unpopular policy statement and move forward. It's another to sneak the bold policy by the American people by scaring them with Anthrax and nukes and imminent threats.
Sullivan and Djerejian are right, though... the broad policy stroke seems to be working in the short term. I remain unconvinced that war was the only way to achieve this, but can't argue with any of the broad policy results.
Curious thought by "just me" - "the broad policy stroke seems to be working in the short term" yet "by screwing up every bit of public and private diplomacy along the way, they made it real hard to support them." Funny how they could be right yet still screw up "every bit of public and private diplomacy along the way (not entirely true - Bush seems to have gotten himself re-elected, despite it all...) without even a passing glance toward the notion that opposition to "every bit of public and private diplomacy along the way" was bought and paid for by bribes from the UN's "Food for Oil (Bribes and Palaces) Program courtesy Saddam.
Anyway, Atrios or whatever is three-quarters right - we are isolationists and, yeah, we do like killing bad guys - not because we like killing, but because they are bad guys, and we don't like bad guys, especially when they want to kill us. Something about self-defense. If, in the process, we can give the not-so-bad guys democracy and other ways of expressing themselves without killing us, so much the better.
As for Sullivan, someone please tell me I'm not the only one wondering if his latest assessment (I guess the engagement with John F. Kerry fell through...) doesn't flip with Bush's next pronouncement on gay marriage...
To start with, the "imminent threat" business is a liberal lie, so they should learn to live with that one, I guess. It's also not to hard to go back to the MSM at the time and Powell's speech to the Security Council to discover at least 7 reasons to go to war. The MSM was even complaining that Bush was offering too many reasons. But, then, I don't really expect liberals to have memories that are accurate or last more than a few minutes where Bush is concerned.
As for all those "many people of otherwise sound political and foreign policy judgement," can you give me a list of their ME foreign policy successes?
Just askin' you know.
Excuse me, but did Sullivan say "glacial" pace of change? How ridiculous! It's happening right on schedule, Sulli, you just missed the fact that the election happening would BE the catalyst that started the dominoes falling, and jumped off the band-wagon too quickly! The election couldn't have happened any more quickly than it did, even if the "insurgency" had been much more limited. It took that much time to set the damned thing up! Cripes, that's just Gobsmakingly Vile that he would say that!
Great list, Gregory. Yes, it IS sophomoric -- but it is also important to wonder why CNN NYT media keeps using the same analysts as "experts", when they have been so wrong, so often. And keeping score seems a reasonable way to track their lies -- like "just me" and all the "mistakes". Like what, exactly?
Too few troops? More troops means less training means more Abu Ghraid type poor-training problems.
Too little emphasis on democratization? Ha! It's there, over and over, in Bush's words in his speeches -- but the MSM seldom quoted "those lines", so the MSM chose to focus on WMDs, almost exclusively. And the Left bases its critique on MSM groupthink.
"Screwing up diplomacy" is laughable. Either Bush used too much force, or not enough. His critics think too much (except when they think not enough troops!), there isn't any way Bush could stop that disagreement by nearly impotent Euro bureaucrats.
Bush is pushing democracy. Now the Bush-haters are about to claim he's "not serious" enough on Russia, or Uzbekestan or other dictator-stan. Bah.
Democracy is a process, and after a dictator is replaced, the growth of democratic institutions is slow and uneven and nationalistic and personal -- dependent on the personalities of new local elected half-dictators (if competent) or uncompromising dissidents (if not politically competent).
Sudan and Congo show the example of the UN leading -- where the Left has its alternate hopes. It's going to look like Bush and the US are far better than the UN in supporting democracy and human rights.
A World Without Dictators -- Bush wants to go there; what's the best way? It's not excessive Unreal expectations and being too upset at reality; how much to criticize which regime? Like Russia and Pakistan?
I'll wager: a year from now, US troops will still be dying in Iraq at a rate of approximately 1 per day. The violence in Iraq will not be significantly decreased, that the Egyptian elections will have been more show than substance , and that if the Syrians do leave, we will see a return of communal violence in Lebanon.
And to me, none of this is worth
If you want a scorecard -- I'll give you 1500 American kids.
BTW -- which countries did Reagan invade - Granada!
Boy TG-LD, they came right on schedule. To SM and antiph: Bah.
Patience, my dears, patience.
SM and antiphone,
So snap your fingers and stop those outrageous killings. Perhaps you aren't concentrating hard enough. Obviously, you think there is a magic spell or silver bullet which stops those events. So why aren't you providing it to your government, so it can stop that evil persecution of innocents?
I guess we'll all just have to wait for time and good examples to work their way into those evil regimes. But since you know it all anyway, you already knew that.
I love watching the liberals sqirm, even in the comments threads. Let me see if I can summarize. "I still can't forgive Bush for all of the things our side said about him, true or not, in an effort to defeat him."
I think that about covers it. And you liberals should read it carefully before responding. You claim you don't like being lied to, but your own side lied to you about "imminent threat", among other things, or left out important facts that were inconvenient to your arguments.
"BTW -- which countries did Reagan invade - Granada!"
"Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" --RR
Could it be that Ronaldus Magnus was more nuanced than our blinkered poster? Goes without saying.
I think you and many of your posters confuse rhetoric with action. Reagan just happened to be in office and had the opportunity to complete a 30-year strategy to bankrupt the Soviet Union out of existence. Does that mean he can take credit for Poland and the rest of the Warsaw Pact's emergence from the shadow of the "evil empire?" I doubt it.
Similarly, can Bush take credit that invading Iraq for WMDs - oops I mean for democracy - is causing a domino effect, or is it that the continuing influence of capitalism and global economy is finally catching up with Islamic states that were stuck in the past? You're confusing coincidence with strategy.
I really laughed when I read your last bullet - "Bush looks to have wisely deephasized a short-term military option on Iran." I'm sorry, did he have a choice? More likely he was/is chomping at the bit to launch a few cruise missiles, and perhaps (one would hope) someone in DOD showed him the numbers and pointed out that there was no way in hell any viable military options existed.
Maybe what Duncan and company are trying to point out, contrary to your witicisms, is that the Repub's continued trend of underfunding foreign aid support (especially to countries outside of the Middle East) and continued increases in defense spending point out a conscious strategy to give the American public what it thinks it wants - a strong military to strike out at evil-doers and minimal "nation-building" efforts. Meanwhile, the Repub leadership can keep making those great speeches about "freedom reigns" etc. without really putting themselves out.
"More likely he was/is chomping at the bit to launch a few cruise missiles..."
Good to know your telepathy is working so well for you.
Uh, before you go knocking the idea of permanent bases in Iraq being a US goal any further, you might want to read this. It looks like they're kind of already there.
McM: I suspect we may well be welcome in Iraq for a long time to come. However, if we aren't, it will be because Sistani no longer wants us there.
Praktike, I'm no longer in the KSA, so can't answer about Sistani posters directly. But I'll ask around.
The war in the ME is over. Nothing but some mop up left. If you're still worried it'll all go bad, relax.
We're deeper into the endgame than most folks realize.
Was containment of Iraq worth the lives of over 3000 Americans? Because the probability of 9/11 and the various other terror attacks having occurred goes down drastically if we did absolutely nothing about Saddam from the moment he invaded Kuwait.
Right, the Republicans were just in the right place in the right time. All of this was just destined to happen at this moment of time regardless who was in the White House. But of course things like 9/11 happening while Bush is in office isn't a coincidence, but purely his fault.
So many things to discuss and so little time.
Antiphone: Make up a list of those countries (prioritize please) we should invade after Iraq settles down so we can invade them in an order more pleasing to you. Remember, only one at a time. And do remember that central asia might have oil when you make the list. I found it interesting that you did not mention the Sudan, how come?
SM: I also expect that you are rather pleased that 1500 "kids" (since when are 30-50 year NCO's kids?, Just asking) are dead. After all we lost over half a million real kids (including an 8 year old dummer boy) freeing the slaves, I guess that wasn't worth it either. Please put a life value on freedom so we can use it for future reference.
We invaded Haiti (this last time anyway) to reinstall a left approved dictator, not to kick start democracy. But Haiti is a problem I have no idea how even start to solve.
McM: I am not saying that we won't have a long term presence in Iraq, but we have stated that we are going to build facilities slated for eventual use of the Iraqi Army and interestingly Camp North is one of those (one I suspect we may "share" for awhile, perhaps as an Iraqi boot camp, but that is just me speculating)
ATM: And world trade I, Cole, etc was all Bill Clinton's fault. NOT.
Ah yes, J. The fortuitous developments that some mistakenly credit to leadership decisions made by Reagan and Bush are really just the result of happy inevitabilities.
Gee, I'm amazed some of us couldn't figure that out before; it just seems so obvious!
Could somebody turn the Yahoo URL in stari_momak's comment into a link so this page doesn't render as 2 screens wide in Mozilla? Thanks.
"Because the probability of 9/11 and the various other terror attacks having occurred goes down drastically if we did absolutely nothing about Saddam from the moment he invaded Kuwait."
Yeah and after Saddam invaded Saudi Arabia, I'm sure he would have done nothing nefarious with the hundreds of billions of pertro-dollars he would have reaped.
Especially since he had the fourth largest Army in the world at that time . . .
Must be a subscriber to M. Moore's vision of pre-war Iraq as "peace, love and free medical care for all".
It is obvious. The wheels of history spin on, regardless of who is in power and whatever they do. All of the ancient empires were doomed to fail; Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan were mere cogs in History's giant unseen machine, the Black Death was inevitable; William the Conqueror really wanted to stay at home eating brie instead of invading England in 1066; the writers of the Magna Carta thought they were issuing an invitation to an ale-fest for some young maidens; Columbus went fishing and found the New World instead; the indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America were doomed to lose their lands to WHITE MALE EUROPEANS; many Africans were slated, against the good intentions of their slave-masters, to become slaves; the European colonial powers were never going to be able to keep their possessions in the New World no matter how much they didnít want them in the first place; Jefferson intended to write planting instructions instead of the Declaration of Independence; Lincoln hoped all the states would succeed from the Union so slavery could expand but History wouldnít let him; Germany was supposed to invade Italy in August 1914; the Germans intended to smuggle Lenin via boat to Mexico instead of Russia by train until History interceded; the allies were supposed to surrender at Versailles instead of the Germans; Smoot-Hawley was supposed to be a free-trade agreement; Hitler just wanted to wall paper the German Chancellery; Chamberlain really thought he gave the order to attack Germany at Munich; the Japanese thought they were delivering Christmas presents to the U.S. troops in Hawaii that December but History turned flowers into bombs and torpedoes; Roosevelt intended to ally the U.S. with Vichy France against the English; Churchill meant to warn the U.S. against unprovoked hostility against the Soviets at Fulton but History twisted his words; Reagan sought to expand the detente policy and tried to warn Gorbachev to rebuild the wall as an East Berlin jobs program but the Soviets fell anyway; Bush really wants the middle-eastern oil fields for Halliburton instead of democratic states; all but save Bill Clinton are responsible for all bad that happens and deserve no credit for any good but save Bill Clinton; courtesy of History.
Itís a good thing we went through the Enlightenment. Imagine how awful liberal thinking would be today if we hadn't...
Why was it necessary to invade Iraq? We liberated the Afghans with air power, special forces, and native troops. We liberated northern Iraq with air power alone (backed by peshmerga). Why not the rest of Iraq?
"Liberals also don't like being lied to, even realist ones. "
The story that "BUSH LIED" has to be one of the most annoying political myths ever invented.
We live in an era where every fault in intelligence, every changed circumstance, and every difference of opinion is now a "LIE" told by someone.
I was not a Bush fan in 2001-2002, but Bush has ALWAYS been clear that one of our goals was to democratize the ME in order to combat terrorism. The naysayers ASSUMED he didn't mean it, so they just tuned out that part. Now, they act like they've never heard it. NO, folks, he's been saying it all along, as those of us with open minds can attest! Geez Louise!
The only subject that Bush has glossed over is the precise nature of the enemy--it is not "terrorism," it is radical Islam. I wish he could come out & speak plainly about the Islamicists who want to destroy all secular law, but I understand that he cannot do so. No matter how carefully he chose his words, he would get *immediately* reinterpreted as attacking all of Islam itself, which he wisely has been careful to refer to as a religion worthy of respect.
Bush assassinated Arafat and Hariri? Did I miss something?
Bostonian: I'm speaking about lies to bolster claims... aluminum tubes (documented/corrected prior to the public claims), that on one ever thought to use planes as missiles (FAA briefings and CD-ROMs sent out), and other similar items.
fling93: come on, now, catch up with the newspeak. Those were dominoes! dominoes!