October 24, 2007

Thuggish Madness


The NYO on N-Pod's WWIV:

Norman Podhoretz believes that America needs to go to war soon with Iran. As far as he knows, Rudy Giuliani thinks the same thing.

“I was asked to come in and give him a briefing on the war, World War IV,” said Mr. Podhoretz, a founding father of neoconservatism and leading foreign policy adviser to Mr. Giuliani. “As far as I can tell there is very little difference in how he sees the war and how I see it...”

...“My view has been, and I very much doubt that Giuliani would disagree with what I am about to say, what we are doing is to try and clear the ground that has been covered over at least since WWI,” he said. “Draining the swamps is the beginning of the process of clearing the ground, and planting the seeds from which institutions can grow the foundations of a free society.”

In the context of a broader, longer war that he expects will take at least three decades to win, the casualties that the United States has so far endured are “miniscule.” He says that fretting about whether to attack Iran sends only a message of weakness to the combined Shiite and Sunni enemies in the Middle East. And, like Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Podhoretz thinks that the creation of an independent Palestinian state would now only create another terrorist state.

Instead, America should be working to overthrow governments in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt and “every one of the despotic regimes in that region, by force if necessary and by nonmilitary means if possible,” he said. “They are fronts of the war. You can’t do everything at once. And to have toppled two of those regimes in five years or six years is I think a major achievement. And maybe George Bush won’t be able to carry it further, but I think he will. It may have just been given to him to start act one of the five-act play.” [emphasis added]

Notice the language Podhoretz uses. "Draining the swamps". "Clearing the ground". A "five-act" play. This is like a breezy parlor game, isn't it? Here we are, approximately 5,000 dead Americans (including contractors) in Iraq, over a hundred thousand dead Iraqis, 4 million displaced or refugees, $500 billion plus down the hole, the peace process moribund (Annapolis, if it comes to pass even, will be a risible affair), Afghanistan faltering, ditto Lebanon, Pakistan under significant strains, and so on (believe me, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list)--and amidst this chaos we have the leading Republican Presidential candidate being briefed by his chosen eminence grise (as the Observer article notes, the Giuliani campaign has become "something of a lifeboat for neoconservatives shipwrecked after the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq") that we are just starting Act II (Afghanistan & Iraq ostensibly just Act I), and must proceed to Iran, Syria, Saudia Arabia and Egypt?

Imagine such insane policy prescriptions being (even remotely) implemented as foreign policy, let alone by a man with well noted authoritarian tendencies, and to top it off, with the policy execution being delegated to Bernie Kerik caliber pit-bulls? This is a recipe for a Presidency exponentially worse than even Bush 43's (yes, I know, it's hard to imagine). Look, if this means holding one's nose for another dynastic turn with Hillary so be it, even if we need to suffer though the Michael O'Hanlon gaggles advising her on the deep nuances of Iraq 'bottom-up' reconciliation ad nauseam. The alternative is simply unthinkable, and cannot be allowed to pass.

Put differently, let's all be careful not to think of N-Pod as some adorable, avuncular mensch sparkling with apercus in a book-lined UES apartment, one whose ideas deserve serious attention. His policy recommendations, if we can call them that, are more reminiscent of the brutish tactics of street gangs battling for turf. It is shocking more sane individuals aren't shouting same from the rooftops. Especially as, transplanted from street corners to the global stage, this parody of principled pugnaciousness amounts to madness. Thuggish madness.

After all, the teeming masses in Teheran, Cairo and Damascus don't want to be bombed into freedom because of the dying schoolyard fantasy-like gasps of a totally discredited intellectual movement.

Posted by Gregory at October 24, 2007 03:56 PM

Well, if you've read his article "My Negro problem -- and ours", you'd see where his thuggish tendencies come from.


I think it goes without saying that the Giuliani campaign is by far one of the most cartoonish presidential campaigns in a while. Podhoretz's policies read like bad op-ed pieces and comic stips.

Posted by: Nouri at October 24, 2007 05:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As someone who has to live directly with thise mate, I have to express a sense of desperation.

I frankly can not reall any great power having its foreign policy so hijecked - except the queer disasters that was Bolshevik FP in the 1930s.

I have been calling these insane madman Right Bolsheviks for a reason, and bloody hell, it is not without real - not rhetorical, real.

Frankly once the US - in very recent memory -was to reasonable persons (never mind Left whingers) a real reference point. Your father I am sure contributed to this.

But to be frank what comes out of the US of late fairly stinks of Bolshevism, and not in a superficial sense, but quite profoundly of the evil that created Stalin or allowed Stalin to emerge. The agitprop regarding "Islamofacism" reminds me rather of the political cover given to the various totalitarian movements in the 30s off of the reaction to WWI.. Well I confess the later is poorly expressed but good enough.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at October 24, 2007 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, the fascination with "draining the swamp" of an entire region seems closer to the ideas esposed by the 3rd Reich towards the Slavs.
In view of Godwin's Law I would prefer not to draw the parallel, but it does seem that the shoe fits.

Posted by: DCA at October 24, 2007 07:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Look at it this way: Rudy Giuliani gained himself a Kill Everyone war czar and Commentary picked up an incompetent, inept, snot-nosed editor, John P. Normanson, who gave his interview to The New York Observer on his hiring from a most fitting locale.

Walt Disney World.

Oh, and John P. Normanson is 46. He tells you this fact in the Observer story. Over and over.

Care to guess who is more demented: Podhoretz or Normanson?

Some See Nepotism in Commentary’s New Editor Choice
by Leon Neyfakh

Published: October 23, 2007

John Podhoretz did not consult his father when Neal Kozodoy, the editor of Commentary, called him last spring and asked if he would consider succeeding him.

John’s father—that’s Norman, if you’re not aware—had been the editor of Commentary for almost half a century; more than anyone, it was Norman who turned it into the flagship publication of the neoconservative movement. In many ways, even though he passed the wheel to Mr. Kozodoy in 1995, it remains his magazine to this day.

So it would only have been natural for John—who until last Friday was a columnist for the New York Post—to have asked his father for some advice when the opportunity to inherit his magazine presented itself. Instead, John said in an interview, he kept it to himself, and told his father he’d taken the job only after he finalized the agreement with the governing board of Commentary, Inc.—just a few days in advance of the public announcement.

“I’m 46 years old,” John said yesterday, speaking to The Observer by phone from Disney World. “I wanted to make this decision on my own without reference to my father or his views.”

According to the elder Mr. Podhoretz, that’s exactly how it went: Asked last week if the appointment was a palace coup, he said that if it was, it wasn’t staged by him. “I know that it looks like that,” he said. “But oddly enough it isn’t. … It was Neal’s idea.”

Some skeptics are not so sure. “Of course Norman was involved,” said a longtime contributor who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. “Neal is brilliant but spineless. His entire role in life is to be the Podhoretz family steward. Neal defers to Norman about everything and looks to Norman for everything.”

“On the one hand it’s obvious, but no one saw it coming,” the contributor said. “The nepotism is shocking. This is a magazine, not a little family business.”

The contributor went on: “The people who have worked there a long time have been misled about the succession. These are people who are in the prime of their careers who would not have been putting in year after year as editors if they knew Norman’s son was going to jump over their heads.” Several Commentary editors contacted by The Observer declined to comment.

John dismisses the nepotism charge as an ad hominem attack motivated by ideological differences. “People are criticizing me in that way not because they have any problem with me or even care that much about it,” he said. “It’s a way of belittling and disrespecting the ideas that I express.”

In 1995, John teamed with Bill Kristol—himself the son of a seminal figure in the creation of modern-day conservatism, Irving Kristol—to found the conservative opinion magazine The Weekly Standard, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Still, several writers and editors associated with Commentary and interviewed for this article wondered whether John—who writes a column for The Standard about movies, and is known for using pop culture as a lens through which to assess politics—is intellectually serious enough to lead a magazine like Commentary without sacrificing its analytical rigor.

“A lot of people think John is a hack,” the longtime contributor said. “He writes a well-written, entertaining tabloid column. He’s written books, but the books are also very playful. The Commentary universe is meant to be a little more serious. Even his father had a Ph.D. in English literature.”

John said he finds such criticism absurd. Why, he asks, should the fact that he is well-rounded count against him? “My interest in pop culture is not overpowering,” he said. “I’ve been working as a political columnist for 10 years, and I’ve written three books on American politics. It’s a preposterous notion.”

He seems to have the journalistic credentials. He was the Post’s editorial page editor for two years, from 1997 to 1999, and part of that time he doubled as the paper’s arts and features editor, editing 13 pages a night. “I burned out,” he said.

Still, he admits that he was not always ready for this job: “I don’t think I could have done it 10 years ago,” he said. “But you know, I’m 46, I’ve had a very long and established career, and I feel that I can take it on.” His last Post column appeared last Friday, two days after he visited the Commentary offices to meet with his new team.

The younger Mr. Podhoretz certainly has his supporters, and they are not shy about voicing their enthusiasm. The editors of The New York Sun published an editorial after the announcement was made calling him “a leading voice of the younger generation,” and his appointment at Commentary an “inspiring transition for those of us who cover the battle of ideas.” And Richard Lowry, editor of National Review, speaking to The Observer, praised his ability “to do high and low and in between.”

“I don’t think we’re going to see pieces about, I don’t know, Smallville—we’re not going to see that in Commentary,” Mr. Lowry said. “Just because he’s interested in pop culture doesn’t mean he can’t do the highbrow stuff extremely well.”

He may also offer other advantages: “The thing about Commentary is it seems to aim to influence three elections from now rather than the next one,” says Ramesh Ponnuru, a writer for National Review. “John Podhoretz’s writing has been much more immediate in its ambitions, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Commentary takes a little bit less of an above-the-fray sort of approach and spends a little bit less time to set the intellectual tone. … One thing about John Podhoretz is he certainly does like mixing it up. He likes being in what ever argument’s going on.”

Even Mr. Podhoretz’s detractors, like the longtime contributor quoted above, said he could make the magazine livelier and help bring in younger readers. That could be essential, as several prominent political journalists interviewed for this article said they’d stopped reading Commentary years ago because it had grown tedious and predictable. “Commentary was interesting because it was not fully an organ of the conservative movement,” said one conservative writer. “Some of the things they said were interesting not just on their own merits but because Commentary was saying them.”

In the past few years, several journalists said, the magazine that once published such adventurous writers as Clement Greenberg and Hannah Arendt has become little more than an official organ of the Republican party. “At a moment where there should have been a venue for the intelligent debate over various Bush administration policies,” one writer said, “they have enforced whatever the party line is. Commentary takes too seriously that its job is to define neoconservatism for the ages.”

Posted by: Mark at October 24, 2007 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Really, Greg, you think the Saud lease on the Arabian Republic is viable. Or the Mubarak principate; Gamal & Co. Wouldn't Saad Ibrahim be a better choice as Zaghul was in the 20s.That Bashir has any idea what do with Syria; that he can outwit the Salafis by ceding space to Abu QuaaQuaa, Yakhan, et al. That Iran deep in the thrall of Hojattieh like Ahmadinejad and Sadilli have anything like the right course. If you say, yes, I won't darken these screens again;

Posted by: narciso at October 24, 2007 09:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have disagreed completely with the Iraq invasion from the start, but I could at least have more respect for those labeling the post-9/11 events as "World War IV" if the actions of the Bush Administration and its enablers showed that they really meant such a comparison. This "life and death" "struggle for civilization" is being carried out by 150,000 volunteer military personnel with no tax increase to pay for it and zero sacrfice demanded of the general populace (unless you consider removing your shoes in an airport to be a sacrifice). Contrast this with the 600,000 drafted soldiers in Vietnam -- a proxy war, not even a war with our real enemy.

You have to conclude that they really don't believe their rhetoric. But then I can't figure out what's the point in their actions.

Posted by: Tillman Fan at October 24, 2007 10:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As I have never considered Giuliani a viable candidate for the GOP nomination over the long haul (and because I think a Republican victory next November highly improbable) I haven't troubled much as to who his advisers are.

But I'd hope any candidate seriously pursuing the American Presidency would have enough self-respect to draw on advisers primarily concerned about the interests of this country. All Podhoretz's enemies in this Fourth World War he is so enthusiastic about are threats to Israel much more than they are to us, yet if he has called on Israel to launch an effort to overthrow the governments in Damascus, Cairo or any of the somewhat lengthy list of Middle Eastern capitals on his target list it has escaped my notice.

I'd be tempted to suggest he do just that, and let Israel absorb a goodly share of the resulting "miniscule" casualties, were I not conscious of how unfair the thought is to the Israelis themselves, most of whom probably think Podhoretz is as crazy as I do. As for Giuliani, I understand both that he has no background in foreign policy and national security affairs and that his personal experience on 9/11 must have tested his nerve. He kept it then; I'm sorry he seems to have lost it since -- and that his historically bad judgment in choosing close associates appears not to have improved at all.

Posted by: Zathras at October 25, 2007 12:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But the Neocons are tough, especially with other peoples' children.

And that is the state of today's right-wingers...they are so tough, they will advocate the mass death of other people.

Very brave movement.

Posted by: someotherdude at October 25, 2007 01:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

re: The neocons are so serious about this war that they don't want a draft, and they don't want to pay for it, and they threw away all the plans for how to succeed. ... "I can't figure out what's the point in their actions."

I tend to the think that the major point is to control the oil reserves in Iraq. The US has -- what? a 10 million bbl a day problem? The Cheney Energy Plan spelled out that his foreign policy (and therefore, Bush') is to increase US reliance on MidEast oil, and to try to gain control of MidEast production facilities in order to let US companies invest in pumping infrastruture, to increase flowrates. The Cheney Energy Plan also spelled out that the US will use force to grab and secure oil. They tried to push the Iraq invasion as a response to 9/11, but couldn't quite make it fly then. So they waited a while, made up some ridiculous stories (and some idiotic conflation of al Quaida with Saddam, for the really ignorant US fans), and then pushed it successfully.

I think it is a "fortuitous" byproduct that the Iraq invasion and occupation, although apparently disastrous and bank-breaking, also funneled and continues to funnel billions to buddies of Cheney and Bush, both through US companies and through shell Caribbean companies.

Posted by: Sally Rand at October 25, 2007 02:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Winston, you f$#!%@& warmonger.
The nerve, the cheek, THE F$#!&@& IRRESPONSIBILITY!!

Us Belgravians'll show you a thing or two, we will.

Oh, and by the way, so what if you weren't all that wrong?! So f$#!%@& what? Does that mean it gave you and your ilk, mostly Jews (yes, we know, Winston), the right to start mouthing off about threats here and threats there, under the covers, in the closets, under the beds, in the pantries, in the WC....??

You know, when it comes down to it, all you really are is a measly disturber of the peace. A threat to society, you are. An Enemy of the People, yes that's right.

So do us all a favour, why don't you, and shut your meally little trap. Who needs you anyway?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 25, 2007 09:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In view of Godwin's Law I would prefer not to draw the parallel, but it does seem that the shoe fits."

I really don't see how you can escape the comparison, given the genocidal rhetoric ("draining the swamp...clearing the ground") and obvious imperial ambitions.

WHat bothers me is not that there is this one batsh^t crazy guy out there who controls a once respected magazine --- its that there are dozens and dozens of these maniacs with access to this nation's mass media.

Is is because of people like Podhoretz that we are in the current mess in Iraq. The international community will not help stabilize Iraq, because it knows that the Iraq quagmire is the only thing keeping the Bush regime from further wars of conquest.

But its also annoying to have Greg acting surprised at outraged here. Back in 2003 when he was still cheerleading for the war --- in the immediate aftermath of the invasion --- the debate among his peer group (including himself) wasn't whether to invade another country, but whether Syria or Iran should be invaded first.

Posted by: p_lukasiak at October 25, 2007 10:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is high time for these Jacobins themselves to be taken to the guillotine!

Posted by: centrist at October 25, 2007 10:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p lukasiak,

Look, Greg D can defend himself. But I'm all for encouraging people to change their minds regarding this Admin.

And on that note, P, you wrote:

>>>>Is is because of people like Podhoretz that we are in the current mess in Iraq

Not exactly. It is because the nation, for the most part, listened to people like Podhoretz. Or at least listened to a distilled, and dumbed down MSM, Sun morning talkshow version of Podhoretz et al toxic theories.

The responsibility here squarely rests on a substantial majority of the American people.

Posted by: jonst at October 25, 2007 11:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Several thoughts -

Well, Greg, if the choice is between Mussolini and Queen Clinton II, I'll vote for the Queen. I won't like it much, and will be muttering darkly during all of her eight years. But it sure will beat Mussolini making sure the train to perdition runs on time. (But, Dems -- I'd really prefer Obama. Same policies without the dynastic pretensions and in-house slime machine)

As to Lounsbury's thought that old Norm sounds like an old Bolshevik, that's not a coincidence. He used to be a Bolshevik. A lot of people who change political stances over time do not change their habits of thought.

As to worries that Giuliani might actually be President, I'm in Z's camp that it's unlikely. (Though I can see him being the GOP nominee.) Nevertheless, a candidate should be taken to task if he solicits policy advice from people who have an obvious lust for a nice long war. If I were a reporter, I would be hounding Giuliani's people for statements about whether the candidate agrees with specific thoughts from Norm's works.

As for Luka -- I understand your annoyance. But Norm has been the crazy old man in the attic for years. This is the first time I can recall he has actually been a major advisor for a candidate with a plausible chance of winning a nomination.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 25, 2007 11:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Podhoretz is no worse than the execrable Daniel Pipes, another key Guiliani adviser, who has repeatedly called for the collective punishment and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Perhaps it was their combined influence which led Guiliani to publicly state his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state. Savor that for a moment, if you will.

However much I doubt the sincerity of Clinton, Guiliani is the only reputable (?) candidate who has openly said such a thing, which contradicts the current Annapolis blather of Rice. Think anybody will ask her opinion on Guiliani?

Posted by: Odradek at October 25, 2007 11:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People like Norman Podhoertz should be locked in a room with an audio copy of Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer" blaring at them until they pee their pants and promise never to write or speak again.

Posted by: James F. Elliott at October 25, 2007 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fascists argued that an “organic nation” and a strong state that was prepared to use violence to “knock heads together” could transcend the conflicts, especially the class conflicts, rending modern society. We also see the fascist core constituencies: social locations that were at the heart of the nation or closely connected to the state, and people who were accustomed to use violence as a means of solving social conflicts and who came from those sections of all social classes that were working outside the front lines of class conflict.

Michael Mann is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles,
and Visiting Research Professor at Queens University, Belfast.

Copyright © 2004. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.

Posted by: someotherdude at October 25, 2007 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Alas, Barry Meislin doesn't quote one of Churchill's more famous lines: " 'Jaw, jaw' is better than 'war, war'." A philosophy that Podhoretz and Giuliani don't seem to agree with, or even to understand. Do you see any sign that these two hysterical klutzes would make any attempt at all to put diplomatic pressure (even with a tacit threat of military force in the background) on Iran before swooping in excitedly like the Punisher to bomb everything in sight, heedless of the side effects?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at October 26, 2007 01:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It may have just been given to him to start act one of the five-act play."

Gosh, it almost sounds like NormPod thinks there's some group, let's call it a 'lobby', which is calling the shots.

Posted by: Jon H at October 26, 2007 01:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm relatively optimistic that the worst won't come to pass in the next elections - unless extreme circumstances occur. If normally right-leaning sensible moderates like Greg are so openly opposing Giuliani, I fail to see how he should manage to sway enough voters.

But then again, I absolutely wouldn't put it past the Bush administration to create these extreme circumstances. The least I expect is a shooting war with Iran just in time. Excuse me, a terrible incident which just FORCES the hand of Bush. Isn't there even a provision in the Patriot Act which allows to break the electoral chain?

Posted by: Mentar at October 26, 2007 05:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Imagine such insane policy prescriptions being (even remotely) implemented as foreign policy, let alone by a man with well noted authoritarian tendencies, and to top it off, with the policy execution being delegated to Bernie Kerik caliber pit-bulls?"

If that happens then this country needs to be forced to stop, as would any other rogue aggressive state.

Posted by: MNPundit at October 31, 2007 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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