Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Right-on-Right Violence

Where there's a Will, there's a fray -- by George! It's a rhetorical drive-by -- and it ain't pretty:

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything .

"No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria . . ." You get the drift. So, the Weekly Standard says:

"We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions -- and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

"Why wait?" Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq. And if Bashar Assad's regime does not fall after the Weekly Standard's hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?

As for the "healthy" repercussions that the Weekly Standard is so eager to experience from yet another war: One envies that publication's powers of prophecy but wishes it had exercised them on the nation's behalf before all of the surprises -- all of them unpleasant -- that Iraq has inflicted. And regarding the "appeasement" that the Weekly Standard decries: Does the magazine really wish the administration had heeded its earlier (Dec. 20, 2004) editorial advocating war with yet another nation -- the bombing of Syria?

Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.

More on this later.

UPDATE: The column was forecast on Sunday's This Week With George Stephanopolous, as noted by Steve Clemons:
George Will let loose on Kristol in a similar way during a discussion between George Stephanopoulos, Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, and Fareed Zakaria on This Week. (Podcast audio of the show available here).

In reaction to the editorial that William Kristol penned this week in the Weekly Standard titled "
It's Our War" which advocates initiation of war against Iran, George Will remarked about Kristol and the neocons: "The most magnificently misnamed
neoconservatives are the most radical people in this town."

George Will goes on to comment that America has its hands full with Iraq and that Iraq may, in fact, get worse because of the flare-up around Israel.
Josh Marshall might feel somewhat prescient. This was his article from three years ago:
Imagine it's six months from now. The Iraq war is over. After an initial burst of joy and gratitude at being liberated from Saddam's rule, the people of Iraq are watching, and waiting, and beginning to chafe under American occupation. Across the border, in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, our conquering presence has brought street protests and escalating violence. The United Nations and NATO are in disarray, so America is pretty much on its own. Hemmed in by budget deficits at home and limited financial assistance from allies, the Bush administration is talking again about tapping Iraq's oil reserves to offset some of the costs of the American presence--talk that is further inflaming the region. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence has discovered fresh evidence that, prior to the war, Saddam moved quantities of biological and chemical weapons to Syria. When Syria denies having such weapons, the administration starts massing troops on the Syrian border. But as they begin to move, there is an explosion: Hezbollah terrorists from southern Lebanon blow themselves up in a Baghdad restaurant, killing dozens of Western aid workers and journalists. Knowing that Hezbollah has cells in America, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge puts the nation back on Orange Alert. FBI agents start sweeping through mosques, with a new round of arrests of Saudis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and Yemenis.

To most Americans, this would sound like a frightening state of affairs, the kind that would lead them to wonder how and why we had got ourselves into this mess in the first place. But to the Bush administration hawks who are guiding American foreign policy, this isn't the nightmare scenario. It's everything going as anticipated.
Why prescient? Well, the first part of Will's column today reads:
"Grotesque" was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's characterization of the charge that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was responsible for the current Middle East conflagration. She is correct, up to a point. This point: Hezbollah and Hamas were alive and toxic long before March 2003. Still, it is not perverse to wonder whether the spectacle of America, currently learning a lesson -- one that conservatives should not have to learn on the job -- about the limits of power to subdue an unruly world, has emboldened many enemies.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Rice called it "shortsighted" to judge the success of the administration's transformational ambitions by a "snapshot" of progress "some couple of years" into the transformation. She seems to consider today's turmoil preferable to the Middle East's "false stability" of the past 60 years, during which U.S. policy "turned a blind eye to the absence of the democratic forces."

There is, however, a sense in which that argument creates a blind eye: It makes instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress. Violence is vindication: Hamas and Hezbollah have, Rice says, "determined that it is time now to try and arrest the move toward moderate democratic forces in the Middle East."

But there also is democratic movement toward extremism. America's intervention was supposed to democratize Iraq, which, by benign infection, would transform the region. Early on in the Iraq occupation, Rice argued that democratic institutions do not just spring from a hospitable political culture, they also can help create such a culture. Perhaps.

But elections have transformed Hamas into the government of the Palestinian territories, and elections have turned Hezbollah into a significant faction in Lebanon's parliament, from which it operates as a state within the state. And as a possible harbinger of future horrors, last year's elections gave the Muslim Brotherhood 19 percent of the seats in Egypt's parliament. [Emphasis added.]
One argument is that this might turn out all to the good if it draws out the extremists: The distinction will be made moot between the terrorists and their "state sponsors." However, there is also the other possibility -- that the democratic moderate forces could end up being crushed by the extremists. Lebanon currently has a very fragile democracy that came to life a year ago in the so-called "Cedar Revoloution." Is that democracy strong enough to excise Hezbollah from its parliament -- or is it more likely that Hezbollah might use the Israeli onslaught to strengthen its popularity among the Lebanese people?

What if the end result of this is indeed a further radicalized Lebanon, not necessarily a client-state of Syria -- but wholly grown from the inside?

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