Sunday, December 10, 2006

Now Republicans Turning on Republicans

The major voices in the Republican Party who still support George W. Bush are running out of people to scorn. However flawed the report from the Iraq Study Group may be, it is a major, overdue indictment of Bush's foreign policy. The principles of unilateralism and preemptive military action are dead. Just about every policy Bush favors concerning Iraq has been a fiasco.

Committee reports, particularly bipartisan committee reports with ten members who decide on a unanimous position, are often a compromise that satisfy few people, but the Iraq Study Group report is damning and it dispels any illusion that Bush may still manage to grab and hide behind in order to avoid reality. Reality has come home to Washington and is now sitting like vultures in the trees in sight of the White House. That's an ugly metaphor but scratch the surface of Bush's public relations paint job and there's rot underneath.

The neoconservatives are watching their power decline and they don't like it. They've been wrong about so much it's a bit hard for them to swallow their saliva, and so they and their right wing enablers are still making plenty of noise. The neoconservatives who still defend Bush, or support more war but blame Bush's poor performance, still have the arrogance to ignore reality. Baker and his bipartisan report is now their latest target. Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory has some useful points to make:
The one positive aspect of the Baker-Hamilton report is that the reactions it is provoking -- both positive and viciously negative -- have shed as bright a light as one could hope for on our current predicament. Never before have the reasons we are in Iraq -- and staying indefinitely -- been as clear as they are now.


As I argued immediately after the election, the disaster of the Iraq War and the resulting rejection of Bush-Republican policies presents a real opportunity to isolate, and relegate back to the fringes, the neoconservatives and more generic crazed warmongers who have dictated our foreign policy over the last five years -- the Bill Kristols, Rush Limbaughs, John McCains, Charles Krauthammers, Joe Liebermans, American Enterprise Institutes and Rich Lowrys, who have an insatiable appetite for endless wars that degrade America's credibility, resources, strength, security and national character.

At a time when most Americans have recognized that this war is a disaster and want to withdraw, this group of radical warriors continues to insist not only that the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do, but that we need more of it -- more troops, more fighting, more threats, less diplomacy, less concern for world opinion, more regime change, more wars. John McCain and Bill Kristol favor a policy -- i.e., deploy as many more American troops as possible to Iraq -- which only a tiny percentage of Americans (ranging from 8% to 16%) support. Although the media has yet to realize it, this group is already on the outer fringe of our political spectrum.

Greenwald goes on to discuss the obsession the neoconservatives have with Israel. I don't have much to say on that issue except to point out that it's astonishing to me that anyone would allow another nation, even an ally, to overly influence our foreign policy. We should help Israel when it makes sense and, frankly, when their own policies make sense, but there are far too many other issues involved to allow our foreign policy to be obsessed with what Israel wants. It's a mystery to me why the media hasn't challenged neonconservatives on that issue.

There's nothing new about the neoconservatives and their right wing allies. There have been ultraconservative intellectuals and right wing blowhards since the 1930s selling a strange mix of nationalism and xenophobic isolationism at the same time. And there have also been bandwagon hawks of both parties who fear they might lose an election if they aren't hawkish enough. None of this is a way to run a foreign policy.

The other day Rumsfeld talked about the need for patience, but the lack of patience is exactly the single greatest flaw in Bush's foreign policy. You can't impose democracy in the space of a year or two; you can't launch an optional war without take time to figure out what happens after the country is occupied; you can't rush to war because you don't want to negotiate with the UN or because you don't want to let the weapon inspections process be finished. Unilateralism implies a president too impatient to build alliances. Preemptive strikes (or preventive war, whatever semantics one prefers) suggest a president too impatient to allow diplomacy to do its work and too impatient to continue working on containing people like Saddam Hussein.

The one opportunity Bush completely blew was the year after the fall of the Taliban. He had the attention of every nation in the broader Middle East and could have used the period even up to now to accomplish much without war, including real progress towards democracy. But the war in Iraq now appears to have been about making a point that was utterly without value and that had little to do with democracy.

Should I also mention that Bush and the neoconservatives are too impatient to be imaginative or to understand the real powers of the United States? I'm not a pacifist but it seems fundamental that military force should be pursued as a last resort. There are good reasons why people in the last sixty years have worked hard to develop the broad tools of diplomacy and international engagement. Easy answers from the radical right only cost us more in the end. That is why rational Republicans (even if they are conservative) are now turning on Republican ideologues.

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Blogger verity said...

". . . there are far too many other issues involved to allow our foreign policy to be obsessed with what Israel wants. It's a mystery to me why the media hasn't challenged neonconservatives on that issue."

I don't want to come off sounding anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, because I am neither. However, I refuse to join those who see Israel as the de-facto 51st state and expect the rest of us to do likewise.

The Israel/American Jewish lobby is big, extremely well heeled and extremely well connected in Washington.

To understand the media's timidity about all this, look at the names of many of the big movers and shakers in the industry, not just writers and editors, but publishers, media empire owners, executives, media lawyers and board members.

I'm not suggesting any kind of devious conspiracy, necessarily. I think it's just the way things have worked out.

Even if subconsciously, I suspect many in the news business realize doing commentaries, exposés or even just highly critical stories about Israel or the Israel lobby could be a bad career move. At the least, doing so with any regularity could trigger sniping about being anti-Semitic.

More than Social Security, an almost unquestioning pro-Israel policy is a third rail in American government, politics and society that few dare touch.

Anyone who doubts that should consider how we've repeatedly caught Israelis spying on us or buying secret information from traitors over the years. With most countries one such incident, two certainly, would be grounds for chilling of relations and a clampdown on the other country's diplomats and agents in this country. But not for Israel.

This business of Israel being regarded by so many as a de-facto 51st state risks landing us and Israel in an extremely dangerous situation. But it's the way things are, and I don't see any change on the horizon.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Craig, the previous comment is mine. I neglected to click "other" when signing in.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

S.W., in general, I support Israel (and a Palestinian state), but Israel has neoconservatives and right wingers just like we do and their neoconservatives and right wingers don't make any more sense than ours do.

On the other hand, for six years, the Bush Administration hasn't even tried to do anything to help resolve diplomatically the problems in the Middle East. It's a strange situation. Bush has damaged America's interests in the region and, as far as I can tell, Israel has gained nothing from our clumsy foreign policy.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Prior to Bush's blunder war, our reputation in the region was one of strength based on three actions: 1, helping perpetuate the Iran-Iraq war by supporting Saddam; 2, driving Saddam's forces out of Kuwait and smashing them in the Iraqi desert; and 3, routing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Having a reputation for strength has particular advantages in that part of the world. Now, thanks to Bush's Iraq fiasco, our reputation is that of a clumsy giant brought low by rag-tag insurgents and guerrilla fighters.

Potential opponents see our forces overstretched and fatigued, with the American public in no frame of mind to support a big military buildup or send large numbers of additional troops to Iraq.

Potential opponents also see our military equipment rundown and they read news stories about the burden on U.S. taxpayers of $2 billion a week just to tread water, so to speak.

Bush has foolishly helped create a template for enemies in how to effectively deal with U.S. military might in places such as Iraq.

This is a perfect invitation for mischief and provocations. That could very well augur to Israel's disadvantage because Israel would be a likely target for mischief and provocations. Especially now while its major ally is tied down and strapped in the Iraq quagmire.

10:11 PM  

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