Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Friendly Advice

In The American Spectator, long-time conservative William Tucker assess the Bush vision in Iraq and, like many of late, finds it crashing on the shores of reality:
Everyone who has had some experience with leftist radical politics ends up with a similar experience. (See P.J. O'Rourke, whose adventures were much more interesting than mine.) You encounter people with an idee fixe -- a vision so pure and intense that they don't mind slaughtering a few people in order to achieve it.

I hat to say it, but I'm starting to get the same feeling about the Bush Administration on Iraq. It started with a noble purpose, a noble goal and high ideals. But those goals don't match the reality. Rather than adjust, the President continues to pursue his noble ends -- even if it means slaughtering a few thousand more people in the process. As Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, wrote recently, the horrible thing about Iraq right now is that if you read all liberal criticisms of the past four years, you realize it is basically right.

We seem to have gone into Iraq for three idee-fixe reasons: 1) President Bush saw September 11th as a replay of the Gulf War and wanted to erase the legacy that his father made a mistake in not pushing to Baghdad; 2) neoconservative Jews (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, etc.) saw Saddam as a replay of the Holocaust and wanted to fight Iraq correct the mistakes of World War II; and 3) die-hard conservatives (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Project for the New American Century) saw Iraq as a replay of Vietnam and wanted to prove that America could project its military might any time and anywhere we chose (just like Napoleon projecting his military into Russia or the Athenians into Syracuse).

Make no mistake, there was noble purpose behind the invasion and good reason for thinking it might succeed. The idea of creating a democratic, stable Iraq where Sunni and Shi'ia calmly sat down to resolve their differences in parliamentary fashion was certainly a grand vision. But it hasn't worked. There are too many nihilists in the region, too many jihad warriors willing to blow up themselves and the whole world for the greater good of Allah (an idee fixe if there ever was one). Saddam may have been a brutal murderer but he wasn't out of character with the civilization.

While the Democrats certainly have the power to upset Bush's "surge" plans, it's these multiplying ideological defections ultimately pose a larger threat. Unlike three years ago, when a generally united intellectual Right combined with the political heft of the Republican Party to create a broad supportive informal organization to support the administration's plans.

That's all gone now. The public turned against the GOP congressional majority (albeit not solely because of Iraq), several remaining otherwise-loyal Republicans like Gordon Smith and Norm Coleman are offering demurring comments on the idea of adding troops -- and now another intellectual conservative voice is comparing Bush to 60s leftist radicals. It is ironic that even as Bush calls for more "boots-on-the-ground" troops, he finds far fewer allies among the intelligentsia than he had when the "mission" began.

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