Andrew Sullivan posted a reader comment to his blog yesterday. It was a mixture of mea culpa and cheerleading to a football team down 7 to 28 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The comment started with a standard neo-con statement of fact. A statement of fact that with just a little editing becomes a far left wing call to arms. Let’s see…
The basic liberal premise for going getting the Republicans out of office is to effect democratic political and social change in Washington and in America, where the ruling kleptocracies and totalitarian evangelicals have crushed all hope in the general population and created a rancid environment in which hate and extremism is rampant. This basic premise – that the root of the problem in America lies with its dysfunctional ruling classes – is correct as far as it goes. It of course, needs to be more honest and further note that much of the present structure of Washington is rooted in its historical culture and social development going back literally hundreds of years, and is one in which Christianism and its lack of a church/state divide is a major contributing factor. Nevertheless, the intervention into Washington politics is being made with the prospects of bringing, by demonstrations and by softer means, a change in this governing ethos in America.
Now look at the original.
I’ll make a neo-conservative critique of Iraq that is honest. The basic neo-conservative premise for going into Iraq was to effect democratic political and social change in the Arab world and in the Middle East, where the ruling kleptocracies and totalitarian states have crushed all hope in the general population and created a rancid environment in which hate and extremism is rampant. This basic premise – that the root of the problem in the Middle East lies with its dysfunctional ruling classes – is correct as far as it goes. It of course, needs to be more honest and further note that much of the present structure of the Middle East is rooted in its historical culture and social development going back literally thousands of years, and is one in which Islam and its lack of a chuch/state divide is a major contributing factor. Nevertheless, the intervention into Iraq was made with the prospects of bringing, by force and by softer means, a change in this governing ethos in the Middle East.
Interesting huh? Neo-con blathering – indeed political blathering of any color – is simply a case of effective search and replace with the correct wording. * Sigh * Politics and content –the two shall n’er meet.
But the commenter tries to point out that he while he was a little naïve in thinking that a change in policy would be easy, the basic premise was sound.
The reader argues that there were a couple of factors that created the current quagmire. First, years of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein destroyed any infrastructure and any real opportunity for success. That coupled with failures in the current administration caused the current chaos. It was Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush, their incompetence and lack of realistic post conflict planning that lead the great “Iraq experiment” astray.
A couple of things this reader seems to have completely forgotten.First, calls for a realistic post conflict plan were few and far between, not just from the right but from the left. Any attempt to inject realism into the political process in that pre-election, post 9/11 wave of nationalism, excuse me, patriotism were quickly hushed. The poster comments that General Shinseki, chairman of the JCS, was sacked for giving a realistic estimate of the number of troops (“several hundred thousand”) necessary for rebuilding Iraq. He (she?) forgets that the reluctant comment was only in response to the pointed probing from a single Democratic senator, Carl Levin. The next day Wolfowitz, (neo-con extraordinaire) casually dismissed the idea. None of the neo-con pundits questioned the idea that nation-building would be necessary.
The Free Republic analysed the situation on February 28, 2003 thusly –
All of this points at a core problem. The Bush administration’s desire to make Iraq appear a stand-alone operation, without any strategic purpose behind getting rid of a very bad man, is highly vulnerable to attack from many directions. It’s only virtue is that it keeps the administration from getting involved in complex questions that can complicate the war. It also makes officials look — at one and the same time — simplistic, devious and incompetent. When the deputy secretary of defense and the chief of staff of the Army cannot, within 48 hours of each other, provide Congress with consistent information — and Wolfowitz must cover the strategy by making Shinseki look like he doesn’t know what he is doing — the situation is getting out of hand.
Once the war is concluded, if it is concluded well, these contradictions will be forgotten and the next strategic steps will unfold — or so the administration’s theory goes. That may be correct, and indeed, much of this is simply Washington chatter, of no consequence outside of Washington. Nevertheless, the intense strains of unarticulated strategic plans are showing.
Sullivan’s reader conveniently ignores the classic neo-con plank – that nation-building as such is wrong. That the military should not be used to rebuild democracy. The reader simply forgets those heady days in the 1990’s when democracy would just pop into existence – Poland, Germany, Hungary.
Oh. Yeah. There was that Kosovo thing. From James Baker’s classic “We don’t have a dog in that fight” to Bush “I’m worried about an opponent who uses nation building and the military in the same sentence.” There would never have been support for an ‘Iraq experiment’ if more than a few troops were involved and nation-building a strategic objective.
Hindsight now is like saying that you shouldn’t have been wearing that blindfold while driving. Mea culpa? Yeah right. I just get tired of the same ol’ – same ol’. “Wrong place, wrong time”? No WRONG REALITY! The world doesn’t allow itself to be reduced to a few soundbites, pundits and Power Point presentations. The real world is messy. The ‘experiment’ could never have worked because democracies don’t flower – they evolve.
Why does this person still stake a claim to any hope for the future after having been so blind in the past? The current debate of whether America should leave Iraq is flawed. Iraq is lost. A very few Americans are paying the price for this chaos now. The current moves by Saudi Arabia in recent days show a realistic attempt to keep the region under control while isolating Iraq (and the US) show just how far the situation has deteriorated.
It took Germany many tries, each more bloody and damaging than the previous, to finally reach some measure of Western democracy. The Middle East and Iraq specifically is no different.
It would do the neo-cons or post-cons or mea-cons good to remember that.