New at Reason: I stick up for Paul Wolfowitz.

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  1. excellent piece. Tim Cavanaugh has been a nice addition to Reason.

  2. I generally agree with dc. This is an article of some thoughtfulness. Except for this throw-away statement: “The Bush administration’s foreign policy has been credibly tagged with many faults: imperial hubris, mercantilist greed, congenital dishonesty, etc.” Nonsense. We could debate the accusations, but the qualifiers used in conjunction with them tend to inflame.

  3. Tim, perhaps you could expand on how “the administration’s visible haste in seeking an exit from Iraq is sharply at odds with that missionary spirit [seeking liberal democracy in the Mideast].”

    “Exit from Iraq” seems to conflate two issues – the hand-over of civil authority to Iraqis, and the withdrawal of American troops and support for Iraqi security. The administration is certainly hastening the former, but it is not hastening the latter as far as I can tell.

    It seems to me that the American hand-over of governing power to the Iraqis is the consummation of the mission to install liberal democracy there. Haste in seeking the hand-over seems perfectly consistent with the “missionary spirit.’

    I note that no one in the administration is talking about a total pull-out of American troops next year, and that in fact long-term security guarantees and arrangements are being worked out right now.

  4. I saw that Georgetown speech on C-Span: I remember thinking that Wolfowitz in person is far more sensible than Wolfowitz the caricature (i.e. democracy’s Trotsky).

    I’ve noticed that the America First crowd often cops the same liberal human rights rhetoric as the neocons and anti-war left these days: although, in practice, I think the American First version of foreign policy in the Middle East would exceed even the most reactionary, strong-man friendly moments of American realpolitick (I’ve heard more than a few comments from Cato foreign policy types about the security-enhancing outcome of a Baathist conquest of the Middle East). At least Pinochet listened to Univ. of Chicago economists…

  5. “…a genuine belief in the very airiest and most Wilsonian ideals” is a good thing?

    Leave aside the fact that Saddam was not overthrown by Wilsonian ideals but by the 3rd Infantry and the Marines. Assume also, as I do, that transforming backward and inferior foreign cultures where we have the power to do this is nothing to be afraid of and may sometimes be in our interest. There are still fights we can win and fights we cannot. The responsible practice of foreign policy is in large part about being able to tell the difference.

    Henry Kissinger was right — we shouldn’t be confusing foreign policy with social work. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein and leaving Iraq a better place than we found it is entirely consistent with American interests. Creating an Arab liberal democracy for the first time in recorded history goes way beyond what our interests require, and would require American troops in Iraq for years longer than the public will stand for. We need to accept that not every bad situation in the world is our responsibility to put right — the things we can fix while assuring our own interests we should, and the rest we will have to leave for later. I do not know if Wolfowitz will come around to this thinking on Iraq, but I suspect other administration officials will before too long.

  6. Some libertarians still believe that US defense forces should be used for (wait for it) defending the US. Pointing out the similarities between left and right, world domination ambitions, only illustrates how disgusting both the left and the right are. Wolfowitz is every bit the demon his most vocal detractors paint him as. Thing is, so are his most vocal detractors.

  7. Tim, perhaps you could expand on how “the administration’s visible haste in seeking an exit from Iraq is sharply at odds with that missionary spirit [seeking liberal democracy in the Mideast].”

    I think I’m within the mark in saying the administration has been all over the map in its timetable for handing over power, and that the general direction has been toward accelerating the timetable as the violence has increased. L. Paul Bremer III disbanded the Iraqi army, but now is essentially moving to reconstitute it; insisted on appointing members of the governing council, then gave in to Ayatollah Sistani’s fatwa that they had to be democratically elected; felt confident enough to take a vacation a month and a half into his administration (during which Baqir al-Hakim was assassinated, a real pants-down moment in American history), but now is full steam ahead on forming the provisional government, etc.

    I’m not Chicken Little, and I don’t know whether Bremer is a good or bad administrator; but clearly the chaos is at the very least a factor in driving the schedule, and is prompting the U.S. to scale down its ambitions in Iraq.

  8. Tim,

    Yeah, it’s pretty obvious they’re desperate to have some government, ANY government in place to hand over sovereignty to within breathing room of the 2004 elections.

  9. Perhaps the title of this thread should have been;
    “Lapsed-Neocon” since many of the Wolfowitz pronouncements cited by Tim are “anti” or at least, non-neocon. Unless, of course it’s all part of a Wolfowitz ruse to enhance his credibility. Would a neo-con do really something like that? If not a ruse, the different perspective is welcome.

  10. … make that “really do something like that” BTW, whats that “PREVIEW” button for? None of these threads are about movies…

  11. Excellent piece, Tim. I predict that liberals of the future — if there are any left — will have much admiration for Wolfowitz.

    I also appreciate your candor in admitting that you don’t care about the Iraqis. I haven’t heard any lefty anti-war people admit that, though it seems to be true about many of them.

  12. Fred:

    Any cites of those “comments from Cato foreign policy types”?

  13. Conventional wisdom has been that early elections in Iraq would be a step in the wrong direction, away from successful transition to democracy, for at least two reasons.

    The first is that there hasn’t been time to do an accurate census.

    The second is that early elections would unfairly favor groups that are well organized, over those that haven’t had time to organize. This is compounded by the favored groups being the most undemocratic in ideology – the Baathists and Islamists.

  14. Left-liberal analysis of Bush’s policies mostly conclude that “ideals” being used to “sell the Iraq war” are just a smokescreen for an agenda of power and profit. It’s not consistent with such an analysis to expect that the administration would start to “live up” to those ideals with just a little pressure.

    So, Tim is being fatuous by superciliously telling people the implications of their own views, while ignoring what those views actually are.

  15. Thus spake Zathras! Good post.


  16. . . . I have no idea what you are talking about.

    What part don’t you understand? If you like, I’ll try to be clearer.

  17. I can’t shake the feeling that much of this is a desperate need to say, “I told you so.”

    Of course the administration is ‘all over the map’ on timetables. They are being harangued for specifics by allies, by the media, and by soldiers’ families. There is no good answer. The best you can do is say, “Well, when such and such conditions are met, we’ll leave. If the costs escalate, we will compromise up to X level, but not on Important Things A, B, and C.”

    This is essentially what they have done. They are HOPING to be out by mid next year, but it is really hard to say. How that becomes an indictment of incompetence, I don’t understand.

    It is a very difficult problem, and we have to decide, given rising costs, what kind of Iraqi government we can live with. Why is it so unreasonable for people in the same administration to have differing views about that?

    It is entirely too easy to sit in our chairs during the time when we are seeing more costs than benefits, knowing that the mission is not yet complete, and say that we don’t see any benefits after less than a year. Well, no sh1t.
    This is the same mentality that criticized the military campaign for incompetence during the advance.

    Yes, we can criticize. Of course we can demand results. It would help to have a sense of perspective for the size and complexity of the task at hand, and more importantly, for the conflicting values being played out here. The continual assault from the Raimondo type critic is that ‘we were all told that the war was for This One Reason!’ Now look at them, acting as though there were a bunch of reasons and debating over a complex outcome. Please stop acting as though this is surprising, incompetent, or, worse, deceitful.

  18. You could irrigate the planet Mars with the crocodile tears that have been shed for the Iraqi people over the past 18 months, and the war’s hawks have been as lachrymose as its doves.

    Tim, I’ve been a pretty big hawk on Iraq, and I was wondering if you could elaborate a little further on my lachryomse crocodile tears over this.

    I was in the Army during GWI and had to do a lot of humanitarian relief type work with refugees streaming south out of Iraq, especially during the massacre of the Marsh Arabs right after the ground offensive stopped. This involved briefly interviewing them to find out why they were leaving Iraq, searching them for weapons, then packing them off to a refugee camp. I spoke to hundreds of Iraqis each day.

    A good number of refugees – a couple each day – were women who’d been gang raped and tortured for their husbands’ opposition to Saddam. Ever had a coke bottle broken up your ass? Apparently, it’s not as nice as it sounds, and leaves you with permanent incontinence problems. They would plead with us troops to remove Saddam, to kill him, as if we had the power to change U.S. policy. I would have liked to do so, but it wasn’t my call.

    I also met some guys – maybe a couple dozen over a month or so of doing this – who had criticized the regime for its battlefield failures. They told me… well, they didn’t tell me much. Their tongues were ripped out and their teeth were broken. They invariably staggered into our checkpoint with a brother, or a friend, who would explain what happened. Funny enough, the missing tongues aren’t the image that still sticks with me. I still can remember exactly what their eyes looked like, and I remember all the blood encrusted around their mouths. When your tongue is torn out with tin snips and a pair of pliers, and you are denied medical attention, you apparently keep bleeding for quite a while.

    But the real treat was giving first response level medical treatment to a lot of little kids whose hands had been blown into hamburger (or sometimes just chopped off) by the security police. It seems that if your brother or father surrendered on the battlefield, or was killed, or was with the rebelling Shiites, they’d stop by your house, stick your middle finger down the barrel of an AK-47, and shoot your hand off. This would leave most of the bones in the hand and forearm splintered into little tiny pieces, and on a small child, it would remove most of the muscle from the hand and wrist. We’d unwrap their blanket or T-shirt from around their hand, scrape off the gangrenous flesh, bandage them up, and send ’em on to the refugee camp.

    Yep, I sure remember how lachrymose those crocodile tears tasted at the time. I guess as a chikkenhawk – one who was advocating preemptive war this time while not being in the armed forces, I suppose I’m the mirror image of those ANSWER anti-war protestors too. I would have argued that ANSWER and most of the progressive anti-war left are neither progressive, nor anti-war, just anti-U.S. and anti-any-war-in-the-U.S.-interest, but that’s just me.

    Your “pox on both their houses” approach to folks like me, who supported the war, and to the “Bush=Hitler” folks, is a credit to Reason. In showing how apples can be compared to and deemed the functional equivalent of oranges, you show how Reason, and reason, can ultimately triumph in heated debates over contentious issues like the war.

    Well, I must go know. I’m off to browse a couple web sites with strikingly different approaches to this problem: Discernment, and Principles.

  19. Some people seem to be overlooking the fact that Wolfowitz is not presently employed in the private sector. Part of his job is to defend his boss’s policies.

  20. I always knew if I worked hard and payed attention in school, I could be fatuous and supercilious at the same time. Other than that, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  21. I also appreciate your candor in admitting that you don’t care about the Iraqis. I haven’t heard any lefty anti-war people admit that, though it seems to be true about many of them.

    I wish the hawks would admit it too. It makes me sick to see all this mooning about bringing democracy for the Iraqi people coming from people who wouldn’t know an Iraqi from an arachnid.

  22. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/28/2004 12:38:01
    An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger

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