November 15, 2005

The Freedom Mono-Narrative

More from Packer's Assassins' Gate (p. 59):

If the war against radical Islamism must ultimately be a war for liberalism, the West's own history should be taken as cautionary. Liberalism didn't suddenly appear "one scorching July day in France in 1789," Leon Wieseltier...told me. It was a "violent rupture" after centuries of conflict within Western theocracy and autocracy. Liberalism is, by definition, difficult and destabilizing. It shouldn't be undertaken with missionary zeal. The attempt to bring it to the theocratic and autocratic Middle East from outside, by force, on the simple faith that people everywhere long to be free, end of story--this was a profoundly unliberal idea. "If there's one thing that liberalism has no time for, it's an eschatological view," Wieseltier said. "Liberalism is an essentially anti-eschatological view of the world. And now that various people have woken up to the rough political and philosophical realities of most of the world, the idea that the United States must send it troops everywhere to fix the world once and for all is stupid. They want a final answer. They want it over. And there is no final answer. There's slow, steady, fitful progress toward a more decent and democratic world." Nonetheless, Wiseltier supported a war, on the only grounds the administration gave for waging it: the threat from Saddam's arsenal of unconventional weapons and his history of using them.

I supported this war because I believed Saddam had chemical and biological WMD, and in a post 9/11 environment I thought he might be emboldened to use such stockpiles against the United States (either via Iraqi secret services or through proxies and assorted allies of convenience like, despite the obvious and massive ideological differences, al-Qaeda). In addition, and we forget this, Saddam was a monster on par with Radovan Karadzic or Slobodan Milosevic. He had engaged in genocidal actions against both the Kurds and the Shi'a Marsh Arabs. He must be counted among the most odious characters of the 20th Century (I think we are screwing up the way we are trying him, by the way, of which more another time). But I must say, the incessant talk of freedom being God's gift to the world, and the incredible talk that still persists in swaths of the right commentariat (on to Damascus and Teheran!) strikes me as hugely underwhelming. History is far more complex than the breathless mono-narratives offered up by so many in the Beltway these days. And we are increasingly, I fear, paying a price for the often so shallow national security prescriptions on offer by varied analysts and commentators.

Take Asia policy, for instance. We are losing influence to China through the region, not least because we march around the region speaking about America's interests in the war on terror, and America's interests in terms of exportation of freedom, and America needs this and America needs that. But we must speak of common interests too, if we wish to gain people's attention and amity and respect. We must still wade about in multilateral fora, doing the hard work of cobbling together alliances and regional understandings, and we must listen to our friends more. There has so much myopia and self-righteousness and hubris and arrogance these past years. People are uppity if they dare oppose us! Or ingrates! Or rank morons and asses! How dare they not join our noble campaigns? Yes, we were profoundly wounded by nihilistic monsters on 9/11. And yes, robust remedial action was and remains necessary. But Bush's Administration is always touting one Big Idea. Freedom! For everyone! Well, great. But we will never be able to pursue an unadulterated freedom strategy. We have interests with China, with Russia, with Egypt, with Pakistan, other countries besides. These countries are not democracies. And yet we must work, with each of them for different reasons, very closely indeed. This is not to say we do not pressure them and dialogue with them and move them towards greater liberalization. But we must still come up with a more adult, mature foreign policy--one that moves beyond breathless recitations about freedom for everyone everywhere for evermore. I see four main components: 1) realist underpinnings defined by the sober pursuit of the national interest, 2) some Wolfowitizian idealism thrown in, but not pursued in over-exuberant fashion (ie, too frequent resort to unilateral and/or military action), 3) "2" above must be tempered with Holbrookian multilateralism (moderate, reasoned neo-Wilsonianism, you might say), and 4) more McCainite (Reaganite?) 'national greatness' style foreign policy (increase our taxes if need be for the war, and the size of the army, and so on--treat us like adults prepared to sacrifice for the greater good, rather than minimize the 'last throes' in the far away so that all feels swell).

Just quick riffs here, but my point is that we really need to poke beneath the so thin veneer of 'freedom' as some grand cure-all for all that ails the earth. It's just not that easy. This is not to say that the spread of political liberties has not been one of the most awesome and significant stories coming out of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment through to the present day. Great progress has been made, and we are now trying to spread such democratization and liberalization to new regions that never even experienced the Enlightenment. But we cannot expect it to be easy, and we must be prepared to do things (like nation build) that was poo-pooed as 'doing kindergartens' by many in neo-conservative (cakewalk!) and Jacksonian (stuff happens! freedom is messy!) circles. Put differently, if we're going to take on massive, generational challenges, we must 1) be honest about the scope of the challenges, 2) devote adequate resources thereto, 3) seek out friend and allies in more than cosmetic, often haphazard guise (Ulan Batar is with us!), and 4) realize that no people have a monopoly on "good" or "morality" or "greatness".

Yes, there is something 'exceptional' about America's fine journey though the past two odd centuries, much to be proud of indeed (and dark chapters as well, to be sure). But we have to temper our crude idealist impulses now and again (unvarnished mega-boosting of variants of American exceptionalism, for instance), lest we buy into too much bluster and easy talk about how easy it would be to fix the problems of the world but for another regime change here or there. I am not writing this because I think disaster is necessarily nigh. The difficulties in Iraq, if not causing some springtime for realism, are at least causing a reassessment of the snake-oil that was and is being peddled about by some of our more deluded, simplistic and exuberant think-tankers and opinion leaders. And things are getting, if still very tenuously, better in Iraq. After grotesque mishaps, we are continuing to mount an increasingly sophisticated counter-insurgency in Iraq (more 'clear and hold', of late, and perhaps ink-spotting). Zalmay Khalilzad is keeping Kurdish federalist demands within reason (as are, doubtless, the Turks behind the scenes, via the thinly veiled threat of intervention), and Sunni buy-in to the political process seems to be improving of late. The Shi'a are remaining relatively well behaved, and one surmises Chalabi is back in vogue not least because he is helping (along with Sistani) to keep Sadr in check. So Bush can get plaudits for, in the face of 36% polls, sticking to the hard job at hand in Iraq.

But we have entered another sad political silly season, of course. Democrats are attacking Bush (he lied!) despite their votes for the war. Bush is stupidly taking the bait--resorting to petty counter-argumentation (will he clue us into to Nancy Pelosi's House floor comments, circa February 2003, in his next big speech?)--to the cheers of those who want him to 'fight back'. But he should instead remain above the fray, allowing lieutenants to respond to the embarrasingly empty revisionism of empty suits like John Edwards, and rather follow McCain's lead--and spell out, not only the stakes (which Bush did pretty well in a recent speech) but more detail on what exactly our success strategy is on the ground in Iraq (only McCain, it appears, can move beyond rote Iraqification talking points of 'as they stand up, we'll stand down'). Bush should also finally jetisson Cheney on the torture issue, and start becoming his own man on matters of critical import to our moral fiber. His Vice President has given him very bad advice, and I think part of the reason Bush's numbers are in the tank is that he looks weak--dependent on Rumsfeld and Cheney. He needs to break out and forge a decent path, the one that McCain is urging, on standards of detainee treatment. This, with more elaborations on our success strategy in Iraq, sheperding Alito through, and perhaps some staff re-shuffles--all might help him as we get towards 2006. Here's hoping someone's listening...if not, Bush supporters like me will have to abandon him and seek other pastures. Yes, the war is important, critical even. But I will not stand with an Administration that seeks to codify the allowance of torture tactics by agencies of the United States goverment. We as a people cannot stand for this. It is a drop-dead red-line.

Posted by Gregory at November 15, 2005 03:48 AM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

Don't you realize that by your own standards you should have abandoned Bush long ago? Well, months ago anyway. What on earth gives you the notion that Bush will suddenly become flexible, interested, subtle, forthright, spontaneous, alert, curious? The odds of that happening are roughly equivalent to the likelihood of Cheney suddenly taking on Kazakhstan citizenship.

And yet-- you hope. Sigh. Why didn't you vote for Kerry if you dislike Bush's primary virtues so much? I thought Bush supporters loved his singleminded enthusiasm over big, simple ideas. I thought his singleminded emphasis on stamping out terror was his great contribution to public discourse.

Sorry if I'm harsh, but you're too smart to be this naive.

Posted by: Martin at November 15, 2005 06:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So spreading Democracy is just a fig leaf? A pipe dream? Were the Neocons originally planning to replace Saddam with just another guy with a moustache? Oh, I guess when things got tough with the insurgency they suddenly decided that a consensual government was the only way to go.

Riiiight.

No one in the White House is planning to spread democracy at the point of a gun. We do this in Iraq because it is the only way forward.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at November 15, 2005 07:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
And now that various people have woken up to the rough political and philosophical realities of most of the world, the idea that the United States must send it troops everywhere to fix the world once and for all is stupid. They want a final answer. They want it over.

So the dishonest characterizations of American motivations and intentions has a new catch phrase, "the freedom mono-narrative". This is so weak Greg. Packer is a good writer and I enjoy just reading him, but this is such a stupidly simplistic characterization of US foriegn policy I can hardly believe you would quote it.

More than this China's influence in the region is growing because of regional expectations of the growth of China, not because loud American's are stomping about and yammering on and on endlessly about "War on Terror this" and "Freedom and Capitalism that". The notion that American diplomats are to represent the interests of the country they're stationed in, instead of the country they're from, is swamp headed State Dept. nonsense. Bush has always done things this way. Go out and ask for what you want, not what you think you can get.

Your framing of American diplomacy as consisting of Administration speeches about the virtue of liberty is childlike. You can't possibly believe that American diplomats ceased to be subtle, deft, diplomatic, after Bushco moved in to the White House. Foriegn offices may be complaining about not getting what they want from us, but it isn't because Bush's view of the world is limited to One Big Idea. It's insulting to even suggest it.

And if it weren't Bush pushing the Freedom agenda, who would do it in his place? Who, but Reagan before Bush was hammering it so hard? Who is responsible for the spread of liberty if not those who act on it's behalf and speak for those who've been silenced? Bush I? Clinton? The EU? The whole of Africa and Asia? Who? And yet you bemoan our President's obsession with the idea that man is born, nay crafted, to live free from chains. That man works best both unilaterally and multi-laterally when it is of his own free will.

Sociologists may have developed profound theories as to the origins of liberalism that serve to illustrate and articulate the idea and practice in novel, interesting, and even useful ways, but we hold that all men are created equal. Not just because it works, but out of a deep affection for it and the life it provides. Bush recognized the grave mistake of the myth of realism - compromise with despotism is counter-productive and dangerous. This is why it's done only when there is no alternative and never for convenience or a better deal.

I could say more but I'm tired and I think I've made my point well enough. You read the newspapers too credulously. And I've yet to see any evidence that American interrogation policy includes torture. McCain's mischaracterization's of Cheney's perspective here is ridiculous and only a fool believes McCain wholeheartedly anyway. Bush has made a serious error in not creating a classification for terrorists outside Geneva and the Constitution, but only because there is no real law governing treatment and prisoner's rights and so abuse is harder to discover, restrain, and correct. He should have set out an Executive Order that clearly defined who these guys were under the law if only as a matter of good governance. (No exercise of power without defined constraints and charactistics.) But suggesting that America has a policy of torture because it has happened is assinine. Allegations are investigated, substantiation leads to charges, charges to trial, conviction to prison. American military do not want torturers in their ranks. We Don't Endorse Torture. Cheney is fighting McCain on two issues; 1) Executive authority and 2) where to draw the line on coercive interrogation. You're either gullible or dishonest if you believe otherwise.

Unless you have evidence of orders given that I've not heard. If you think so, please offer it up.

Posted by: The Apologist at November 15, 2005 11:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

History is far more complex than the breathless mono-narratives offered up by so many in the Beltway these days.

Gee, thanks!

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 15, 2005 04:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think that this is more a sign that the diplomatic corps, and those that sympathise with them, forgetting who exactly they work for. It's a notorious cliche that any sales force tends to better lookout for the interests of their customers (along with their personal bonus/quota/commission) rather than the interests of their employer. It's management's job to temper that through executive action and better incentives. Within US Gov, it's hard/impossible to recraft the incentives (&#*@#*%* civil service rules), so one relies more on executive actions to counteract the natural impulses of the sales force/diplomatic corps.

Ergo, one only knows when one is approaching the right level of activity when the sales force is deeply pissed off. Your complaints seem to rather confirm that the administration is being successful in pursuing the US' self interests, rather than in making life easy for the dips.

I find it dispiriting and depressing when people argue that the US should look out for other's interests and nto their own, when all other countries foreign policies are excercises in base self-interest. See Fwance for a universally reviled fp/diplomatic corps that nakedly pursues self interest but that is still effective and engenders positive feeling of the part of most countries' elites. A useful excercise would be to study how the French succeed at being loved as well as nakedly self interested and base. Of course much of this is one's relative power, with reputation being inversely related to power.

As for Asia, China is rising, and people want to get on board with a country that is always going to be there and is already universally known for holding grudges and being beligerent in terms of diplomatic relations and trade issues. The Left's control of US diplomacy and their ongoing mission of hobbling US power and influence in the world make the US a bad bet. Everyone remembers what happened the last time to US' allies in SE Asia, they got killed cause the democrats screwed them, so why not sign up with a government whose foreign policy won't be second guessed and subverted by internal enemies. Purging the State Department and shoring up the R majority (so we don't have to count on RINOS like McCain, Snowe, Sununu, Chafee, Hagel...) is one of the most important things in improving relations in Asia, along with making further committments, which we are doing in Phil. and are getting a better hearing in Thailand. China's rise is also a factor that will push countries to cement stronger links, so that they can maintain a balance of power in the region and ensure their independence from resurgent China.

Posted by: hey at November 15, 2005 04:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"the idea that the United States must send it troops everywhere to fix the world once and for all is stupid."


Strawman alert - or is it again Richard Perle and John Podhoretz we need to worry about?

We're NOT sending US troops everywhere to fix the world. We sent our troops to ONE country, where a serious risk of WMDs, support for terrorism and opposition to the mideast peace process, a unique international legal situation, and a strategic location, combined with one of the worst totalitarian states on the planet. Elsewhere we ARE making democracy an important concern, from Ukraine to Uzbekistan to Lebanon to Sudan. and you know, what, that focus, esp in Ukraine and Lebanon, has helped us reconcile with our European allies, and to show people in the muslim world that we arent just in the ME for oil.

Yes we need to focus more on nationbuilding - the most vocal proponents of that, I think, have been those who supported a focus on democratization. Dont blame Paul Berman, or Chris Hitchens, or even Wolfowitz for Rumsfelds priorities.

And no, its not 1789 anymore. the last few decades have seen a very rapid expansion of democracy - the very existence of so many models has impacted the spread of liberal democracy in eastern europe, Latin America, and the far east. The big question of 2001 was = why has this NOT occurred in the Islamic world, for the most part, and what should we do about it. A pessimism about the process, based on the situation of 1789, will not properly address the situation of today.

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 15, 2005 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Where is a serious advocate for "too frequent resort to unilateral and/or military action?" Please quit setting up straw men, they detract from your argument.

Yes, McCain would have been a much better president than Bush for lots of reasons, but compared to the Empty Suit of John Edwards (a man I would have voted for had he been at the top of the ticket) or the rest of these disengenuous Dems there is really no comparison. I also think you overlook what ten months of supine response to a parade of charlatans and demogogues (Wilson, Clarke, Sheehan, etc.) has done to this President's ties to the apolitical portion of the population. I might agree that he should stay above the fray if his message would get out otherwise, but you ignore how vehement the MSM is in pushing the anti-Bush, anti-war narrative. Only a Reaganite over-the-heads-of-the-gatekeepers strategy can restore his reputation for truthfulness and sincerity.

"In addition, and we forget this, Saddam was a monster on par with Radovan Karadzic or Slobodan Milosevic."

I think you do a grave disservice to Milosevic, even Karadzic, with this quote. I have never heard of Milosevic turning his country into a game preserve for his deranged sons, with the women of his country the prey for beating and rape excursions. Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi was quoted by Fred Hiatt yesterday putting the civilian deaths of this war in context with the 30,000 murders a year by Saddam's goons in "normal" times in Iraq. That (in addition to Saddam's reckless meglomania) was my primary justification for this war. WMD's were the equivalent of getting Al Capone on tax evasion; a sincere charge more provable/salable to the international jury, but by no means the primary motivation.

Read Hiatt in yesterday's Washington Post, and for an interesting recent view of the WMD issue look at this site:

http://biglizards.net/blog/archives/2005/11/post_to_the_pos.html

Posted by: wayne at November 15, 2005 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi was quoted by Fred Hiatt yesterday putting the civilian deaths of this war in context with the 30,000 murders a year by Saddam's goons in "normal" times in Iraq. "


Ah, buts Mahdi's a Shiite, IIUC, a member of that group that neocons and liberalhawks like us are alleged to have a soft spot for.

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 15, 2005 06:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" 1) realist underpinnings defined by the sober pursuit of the national interest, 2) some Wolfowitizian idealism thrown in, but not pursued in over-exuberant fashion (ie, too frequent resort to unilateral and/or military action), 3) "2" above must be tempered with Holbrookian multilateralism (moderate, reasoned neo-Wilsonianism, you might say), and 4) more McCainite (Reaganite?) 'national greatness' style foreign policy (increase our taxes if need be for the war, and the size of the army, and so on--treat us like adults prepared to sacrifice for the greater good, rather than minimize the 'last throes' in the far away so that all feels swell). "


Again we've only done 'exuberant' wolfism ONCE. So im not sure what we'retalking about. Invading Iran? But no one serious (even Ledeen) is talking about invading IRan for democracy - there IS a real question of whether we can tolerate Iranian nukes, but thats not really about the "mono-narrative" of freedom. Is it true great an inclination to lean toward the Syrian opposition? But no ones calling for an invasion, and some reasoned outreach, and reluctance to cut Assad too easy a deal hardly seems exuberant to me. As for McCainite calls for sacrifice, i seriously doubt that Wolfowitz had any say in tax policy.

Again, all this is meaningless in the abstract. Is it just taking issue with the retrospective focus on democracy as justification for the war? Is it just an attempt to further lessen Cheneys influence? Cause I have a hard time relating it to specific for policy choices. Should we not have gotten tough with Uzbekistan over human rights? Was that too exuberant and not realistic enough? Should we be embracing Belarus? Was it a mistake to go easy on India on nuclear energy - was that exuberant opposition to China, or was it realist outreach to a major power? Should we pay attention to the folks worried about renewed violence in Darfur?

It feels more like an extended agon against certain pundits and bloggers (im thinking NRO, rather than say, LGF, this time) If thats what it is, links would be useful, if only to figure out what it is youre taking issue with. Im not sure if youre on the warpath against Jonah Goldberg, in which case I wish you luck, or if youre trying to get us to cut a new deal with Putin on central Asia (in which case Im worried, though open to argument)

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 15, 2005 06:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to echo Martin's comments. The prospect of "Bush ...becoming his own on matters of critical import to our moral fiber" is chimeral at best. To the extent that Bush is not an empty suit, its only because he's the kind of person who ensures that he hears only the advice that he wants to hear.

Cheney may be the architect of the torture strategy, and Rumsfeld the architect of the failed Iraqi military policy --- but Bush was the inspiration for both policies. The people that Bush surrounds himself with are those who can pander to him while pursuing their own agendas.

Finally, it really has to be acknowledged that success in Iraq depends on the support and co-operation of Iraq's neighbors and the international community as a whole. And nobody trusts Bush -- and with good reason. You yourself note the recent increase in 'who's next, Syria or Iran?' talk coming from the right. Bush would not see Iraq as a cautionary lesson if things start to go well at this point, but as vindication of his original approach -- and encouragement to go into Syria or Iran.

(I was opposed to the Afghan war for this very reason --- it wasn't that Afghanistan was right or necessary. I'd read Bush's character (or lack thereof) and realized that success in Afghanistan would result in something like Iraq.)

Posted by: lukasiak at November 15, 2005 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The right thing to spread is not "liberalism" or even democracy. It is capitalism, pure and simple. Most people everywhere want to be prosperous and to be able to keep the fruits of their labor. That's something everyone can understand. And that, not "neo-Wilsonianism" is in essence what America stands for. We have restored capitalism to Afghanistan and Iraq and it is prospering in China. Even in undemocratic venues like Pakistan and Singapore, capitalism is strong and serves the interests of most of the population. Freedom to start your own business and grow rich is the only freedom worth bothering about. America's interests lie in supporting capitalism wherever it exists.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at November 15, 2005 09:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"What on earth gives you the notion that Bush will suddenly become flexible, interested, subtle, forthright, spontaneous, alert, curious? "

Bush doesnt have to be any of those things. If Condi is those things, thats enough. I think the concern is that Cheney is still in Condi's way (for ex on the torture thing).

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 15, 2005 09:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm sort of half-way between Bush and Greg on the democritization issue. Yes, the neo-cons are crazy when they claim that democritization is quick, easy, and sure to succeed (look at Russia).

On the other hand, surveys that most people who live under authoritarian regimes don't like them and would prefer democracy.

On the whole, I think Rice has been stricking a pretty good balance on the issue.

Posted by: Les Brunswick at November 16, 2005 01:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your pseudo intellectual babble is hard to take. you sound as if you are audtioning for the debating team. No constructive vision just negativism hiding behind vapid big words. You writing would rank high on Glenning's fog meter.
Your fixation on 'democracy cannot be forced", has in a unfathomable short time been rebuted by political events in Iraq to date and your grudging admissions. We live in a much smaller world and information age, therefore you assumption that democracy will take as long to take hold as it did well over century ago is fallacious logic.
Your father did not teach you well about politics. If you think that when Bush fires Chaney and Rumsfeld that he will be hailed as doing the right thing as opposed to be hammered by the Democrats and MSM as having a failed administration then you are a fool .
You keep on contemplating your navel but as for me i am going to put my money on F-15's and the US military.

Posted by: moose at November 16, 2005 01:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, surely you do not hope for a true "springtime for realism." If I recall correctly, the realist school views all nation-states as black boxes -- i.e., we shouldn't care what goes on inside of them. Just identify those "I know 'em when I see 'em" national interests and obtain (buy) the friendship of those black boxes whose cooperation is necessary to secure those national interests. If "instability" threatens the friendly black boxes, well, we'll make it stop. Leaving aside the amoral/immoral quality of this approach, I thought we'd finally learned that as a practical matter our realist foreign policy bought us more harm than good. It put us in bed with the Shah. It lulled us into ignorance of the internal Saudi ferment that exploded on 9/11 (or, more accurately, exploded in the African embassies, Khobar towers, The USS Cole, etc. before that). (And let's not get into the moral lapses, such as allowing the Rwandan genocide to proceed unabated for lack of an identifiable national interest in that part of the world.)

And, most relevant to this discussion, after 9/11 we realized that the realist view has failed us because even if a state appears friendly or at least does not threaten us, actors at the sub-national level can do us substantial, and potentially even apocalyptic, harm. In other words, we could no longer ignore what goes on inside the black boxes because inside many of them was being spawned -- due to either authoritarian repression (Egypt) or regime support (Pakistan's ISI, Saudi's Qaida-friendly princes) -- such threatening sub-national actors. This was the price we paid for the realist-inspired pursuit of "stability."

Liberal capitalist societies do not go to war with each other, and do not foment transnational terrorist groups (at least of the al-Qaida, Caliphate-or-nothing variety). The goal, therefore, both because it's right for all men and because it serves our security and economic interests, is to promote, encourage, and assist the development of such societies where they do not exist. This is our national interest. This is all spelled out in the Administration's National Security Strategy (from 2002?). And while Bush may, fairly uneloquently, adhere to the "freedom" mantra without occasionally substituting "liberty" or "human rights" or some other synonym, quite clearly this administration's foreign policy has been largely one of "democratic realism" as Krauthammer put it. Our willingness to work with Mubarak and Musharraf, among others, while supporting the enlargement of real democracy and individual rights in their respective countries demonstrates that pure "neocon" exuberance controlled only for a short time, and only in one case -- Iraq. Not to discount the painful consequences of that episode, with which we are still dealing of course. But it is truly a strawman to hold that period up as the administration's ongoing approach to the world. The facts simply do not support it.

No one has gone charging -- nor, by any account, is the administration considering it -- into Saudi, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, etc., with big "freedom" decals emblazoned on the tanks. In reality, we are working with those countries Greg identifies -- China and Russia as well as Egypt and Pakistan -- and we are not hollering "freedom" in their ears while ignoring each of their unique circumstances. I would venture to say that the administration's democratic realism is in fact a sober, mature foreign policy. We shouldn't be, and aren't, in love with the Mubaraks and Musharrafs. But we recognize that the alternatives are likely far, far worse at the moment. And we are requiring them to move in the direction of liberalism. Any further return to realist underpinnings would have left us in Uzbekistan (another Iran c. 1979 waiting to happen), would have us buying off the Syrian Baathists, and doing a whole host of other things no one seriously could advocate, apart from Brent Scowcroft.

Posted by: Brutus at November 16, 2005 02:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, That post was right on.

Liberal Hawk, "..not even Ledeen...", huh? You must have very selective reading comprehension skills. If I was was motivated at the moment, I could you pull you numerous direct quotes from Ledeen and other neocons in which the call for invasion of Iran and Syria is called for post-Iraq invasion.

Though I'm getting sick and tired of re-stating this to people like you, if the invasion was for the purpose of removing the threat of WMD, then it was pointless because there were no WMD, there was no real evidence to support they belief that WMD existed in Iraq in 2001 and what scant shaky evidence existed was being decidedly rendered ridiculuous by the inspections which were proceeding rather nicely.

As for Saddam being a monster, true enough he was. However, he was trying to keep a country from splitting assunder. Let's see how many we ultimately kill to the same end. Then will we compare our monsterishness to his.

Hey, I thought right wingers didn't do moral equivalence.

So, we're doing it the name of democracy? Refer back to Greg's post. And what if democracy doesn't happen? It was a gamble worth taking you say?

We gamble with lives, we torture, we kill collaterally.......sounds like....Saddam; not good sound American foreign policy.

Posted by: avedis at November 16, 2005 02:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, this might be going on another tangent, but I think it's a worthwhile point. You wrote:

"I supported this war because I believed Saddam had chemical and biological WMD, and in a post 9/11 environment I thought he might be emboldened to use such stockpiles against the United States (either via Iraqi secret services or through proxies and assorted allies of convenience like, despite the obvious and massive ideological differences, al-Qaeda). In addition, and we forget this, Saddam was a monster on par with Radovan Karadzic or Slobodan Milosevic. He had engaged in genocidal actions against both the Kurds and the Shi'a Marsh Arabs. He must be counted among the most odious characters of the 20th Century (I think we are screwing up the way we are trying him, by the way, of which more another time)."

This is essentially the same argument Ken Pollack argued in his influential pre-war book, The Threatening Storm, which I found to be the best case for war. I just bought Packer's book today and didn't find Pollack's name anywhere in the book. I found this to be shocking. Packer's book is being regarded as the best book on America in Iraq, but the man that gave pro-warriors all our talking points is missing from Packer's "Fevered Minds" chapter on making the case for war. Is this because, based on Packer's reporting, the Bush administration didn't use Pollack's argument - or at least some of it? I find that hard to believe. Any thoughts?

Posted by: Matt at November 16, 2005 04:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Put down the Hemlock and get a grip!

Posted by: Donna at November 16, 2005 04:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"As for Saddam being a monster, true enough he was. However, he was trying to keep a country from splitting assunder. Let's see how many we ultimately kill to the same end. Then will we compare our monsterishness to his."

breathtaking. Truely breathtaking.

From everything ive read in fact Iraq in the 1950's was not coming apart. Baathism, and especially Saddams version of Baathism, tend to divide Iraqis by sect and ethnicity.

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 16, 2005 06:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"[Bush] should instead remain above the fray, allowing lieutenants to respond to the embarrasingly empty revisionism of empty suits like John Edwards..."

I think you're off-base here. It is embarrassingly empty revisionism, but it this revisionism has seriously infected public opinion. Have you seen the poll numbers? More people believe these empty lies than disbelieve it: 57% of Americans think Bush "deliberately misled" them, according to a recent WSJ-NBC poll. This, in turn, has had significant consequences for Bush's trustworthiness and approval ratings. A President with these kinds of poll ratings is seriously compromised in his ability to govern. He needs to turn these numbers around, and beginning with the "Bush lied about the WMD" canard is where he needs to start. Leaving it to subordinates would, I think, have very little impact on the polling. Only the President himself can effect any serious movement on these numbers, and he needs the movement badly.

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Posted by: Netpowersoft at November 29, 2005 04:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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