Sometimes, it Really Isn't About You

|

I sincerely hope that Slate's Fred Kaplan is speaking only for himself, and not for even a minority bloc of Blue-state Nation (or for isolationists of whatever stripe), when he says this:

A question is haunting the blue states of America: Could George W. Bush be right? Is freedom indeed "on the march"? Did the war in Iraq uncork a white tornado that's whooshing democracy across the region and beyond?

Haunting? Really? I dislike Bush as much as the next guy, have long been worried about his foreign policy, and don't believe this last week somehow proves that his approach has been 50 percent right, let alone 100 … but sometimes it's OK to be happy, not "haunted," when scores of millions of your fellow humans languishing in messed-up countries lurch impressively in the direction of freedom. Doesn't mean that they'll get there, or that the policy debate is over, or that you have to suddenly accept the Max Boot version of history. But if concern over how this affects the domestic political struggle overwhelms the smile muscles in your face, it might be time to step back from that computer keyboard, and take a nice long walk.

NEXT: It's Against the Law to Forward, Against the Law to Link...

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Because they have to keep up their intellectual dishonesty by not giving credit to Bush for ANYTHING, lest they become an Evil Bushbot (TM) and lose credibility.

  2. See, your problem here stems from [i]reading Slate[/i].

    Lithwick’s [i]Supreme Court Dispatches[/i] are the only part of Slate worth the mouse-click.

  3. The difference between loyal opposition and partisanship:

    The loyal opposition hopes that the leader is right but fears that he is wrong, and so they oppose his policies because they fear that the policies are bad for the country. If the leader should be vindicated by events, well, that means that things worked out and there should be much rejoicing.

    Partisans hope that the leader is wrong and fear that he is right. If he’s right that means they’ll lose the next election (again).

  4. The only thing that bugs me is the fact that they never would have had elections in Iraq if Ayatollah Sistani hadn’t insisted on it. Watching that fun fact go down the memory hole is rather annoying.

    I think the plan was to have a quick war, install Chalabi, and get out. They never anticipated the insurgency, and if the insurgency hadn’t happened, I doubt the elections would have happened. Where we are now is a long series of unintended consequences. Unintended consequences aren’t always bad.

  5. I am very happy for the people of Iraq and Lebanon, and I would never describe myself as “haunted” by any of this. My only problem is that Bush will use his success in the Middle East to justify his retrograde evangelically-driven social policy initiatives in this country. These are not people who celebrate their victories humbly.

  6. The administration has certainly come a long way from the days of backing the coups in Haiti and Venezuela.

    In recent weeks, their reaction to indigineous democratic agitation in the Middle East has been quite effective – unabashed in siding with the people in the street, but careful not to overplay their hand and undermine the protestors’ legitimacy in their own countries.

    Does this reflect the shift in influence from the ideological Pentagon civilian leadership to State?

  7. It should haunt anyone who’s concerned that Bush will use recent events as justification for more wars.

  8. Rhywun, with troops bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq for the foreseeable future, I don’t see starting more wars as a realistic scenario.

  9. Because they have to keep up their intellectual dishonesty by not giving credit to Bush for ANYTHING, lest they become an Evil Bushbot (TM) and lose credibility.

    You don’t become a Bushbot by giving the president credit for “anything.” You do it by giving him credit for everything.

  10. joe,

    I dunno, Haiti remains a shitpile. The level of violence there right now makes Baghdad look safe. Its just not being reported in the news.

  11. Oh, and does anyone remember Liberia? Its still shuffling along as its usual awfulness. There were supposed to be a series of corruption trials; those have either been bought off or have been drawn behind closed doors.

  12. I guess Kaplan has never heard the phrase, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

  13. Brian, you are exactly what the author is talking about. Thank you for providing a perfect example of someone who will make up the wildest stories to keep from giving the man credit.

  14. But if concern over how this affects the domestic political struggle overwhelms the smile muscles in your face, it might be time to step back from that computer keyboard, and take a nice long walk.

    Maybe I’m a bastard, but I think people who let the onset of political freedoms on the other side of the globe distract them from the dim prospects of their immediate environment are the ones who need to turn off their TVs and go outside.

    Smiling is for amateurs and husslers with something to sell you.

  15. C’mon Joe, Rhywun gotta be right. “Four More Wars”, that what it says on those bumper stickers, right?

  16. Nope, “Thank you for providing a perfect example of someone who will make up the wildest stories to keep from giving the man credit.”

    Brian made the following points:

    “The only thing that bugs me is the fact that they never would have had elections in Iraq if Ayatollah Sistani hadn’t insisted on it.”

    “I think the plan was to have a quick war, install Chalabi, and get out.”

    They never anticipated the insurgency, and if the insurgency hadn’t happened, I doubt the elections would have happened.”

    Which of these do you consider a “wild story?”

  17. Nope,
    What are you talking about? We wouldn’t have had the elections in the current form if Sistani hadn’t have led protests and leaned on us. That isn’t mentioned very much nowadays. Brian’s paragraph about the intentions migh be incorrect, but they’re not unlikely. I think it’s very likely that was the original intention (then there’s the whole thing about the best laid plans and war).

    However, Bush has handled the events that occured very well and using these events to lean on other regimes (not to mention Lebanese using our saber rattling at Syria to their advantage).

    Just because Brian doesn’t think that this was the intended plan all along doesn’t mean he’s one of those “haunted” liberals upset about success. Sounds like he’s happy about them, even though the flowed in unintended ways.

  18. Apparently, if you don’t credit George Bush with causing a thing to happen, you’re not actually happy about it.

  19. Brian and Joe:

    There never would have been elections if Saddam Hussein hadn’t been forcibly removed from power. Obviously. But yeah Sistani played it smart.

    Matt’s point is about giving Bush and company credit for the positive developments in the Middle East. You don’t have to give full credit to Bush to acknowledge the facts about what is happening in Egypt, Lebanon, etc.,etc.

    But what do the latest developments say about the theory that the war in Iraq would increase terrorism?

    This I don’t understand:
    “Then never anticipated the insurgency, and if the insurgency hadn’t happened, I doubt the elections would have happened.”

    Yes they didn’t anticipate the “insurgency,” but didn’t the “insurgents” tell the Iraqi electorate “you vote, you die”? If it had been up to the “insurgents” there wouldn’t have been an election, right?

  20. Let’s not forget that this only represents a certain kind of reactionary leftist; plenty of lefties are happy about what is hopefully a trend in the mid-east.

  21. “There never would have been elections if Saddam Hussein hadn’t been forcibly removed from power.”

    I haven’t seen anyone claim otherwise. The question at hand is whether large numbers of people in Lebanon would have protested Rafiri’s murder absent the Iraq War.

    “You don’t have to give full credit to Bush to acknowledge the facts about what is happening in Egypt, Lebanon, etc.,etc.”

    You don’t HAVE to give him any credit at all to acknowledge that here are positive developments in those areas. You don’t even have to credit the Iraq War with causing those events to give the administration credit – Rice’s decision to loudly snub Mubarak didn’t require the invasion. In fact, the administration could have been doing a lot more of this sort of thing over the past three years, were it not for the invasion and the required allied support.

    “But what do the latest developments say about the theory that the war in Iraq would increase terrorism?” Nothing at all. Terrorists killed 125 people in Iraq two days ago. Cities in central Iraq are crawling with terror cells, who are making a habit of slaughtering Iraqis by the score.

  22. Peter K.,

    But what do the latest developments say about the theory that the war in Iraq would increase terrorism?

    Well, clearly it has increased terrorism in Iraq.

    I don’t think it makes much of difference to Al Qaeda’s world-wide plans though. Its readily apparent to me that they do shit in their own sweet time.


  23. “The only thing that bugs me is the fact that they never would have had elections in Iraq if Ayatollah Sistani hadn’t insisted on it.”

    “I think the plan was to have a quick war, install Chalabi, and get out.”

    They never anticipated the insurgency, and if the insurgency hadn’t happened, I doubt the elections would have happened.”

    Which of these do you consider a “wild story?”

    All of them are. Is this some sort of trick question?

  24. Joe:
    “You don’t HAVE to give him any credit at all to acknowledge that here are positive developments in those areas. You don’t even have to credit the Iraq War with causing those events to give the administration credit – Rice’s decision to loudly snub Mubarak didn’t require the invasion. In fact, the administration could have been doing a lot more of this sort of thing over the past three years, were it not for the invasion and the required allied support.”

    In fact, 12 years were lost to diplomacy over Saddam Hussein. I believe he was kept in place to placate the Saudis and Jordan, kept as a buffer against the great Shia masses to the West. Meanwhile the Iraqi people were impoverished, etc., which is partly why the “insurgency” and violence is so bad. 12 years eaten by the locusts.

    “”But what do the latest developments say about the theory that the war in Iraq would increase terrorism?” Nothing at all. Terrorists killed 125 people in Iraq two days ago. Cities in central Iraq are crawling with terror cells, who are making a habit of slaughtering Iraqis by the score.”

    I’d submit that over the long term terrorism eminating from the Middle East will decrease if democracies replace autocracies and a viable Palestinian state is allowed to emerge. Recent events show this scenerio not out of the realm of possibility. People who deny the FACT that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power helped make recents events possible are denying reality and being highly ideological and partisan, in a bad way. Spare me the quibbles that Sistani forced Bush into an election or that the occupation’s been a disaster. You’re being churlish.

  25. The Shia masses are to the East, not West. Except Hezbollah’s up in Lebanon. Sorry.

  26. You know, Peter, I knew you were echoing the Bushbot line even before I saw that you chose the adjective “churlish.” Can’t you people even think up your own insults?

    Hussein was kept in power after the first Gulf War because GHW Bush didn’t want the United States to be in charge of running Iraq for the foreseeable future.

    I’d certainly agree that the rise of a liberal, democratic order in the Middle East could recude terrorism over the long term. But that wasn’t the question – the question was whether it was wrong to predict that the invasion would increase terrorism, and to this point, it has done exactly the opposite. Whether a long-term dynamic will mitigate this remains to be seen.

    You can keep asserting that the invasion led directly to the protests in Lebanon, the deal with Libya, and the dry cleaners’ getting your collars exactly right, and I’m sure you will, but your assertions don’t make it so. Even if you crib serious-sounding words (“ideological,” “partisan,” “churlish”) from hawkish websites.

  27. Peter is right – deposing Saddam was the end of a BAD policy of keeping him around for 12 years. And Kerry offered only more of the same kind of thinking, with plans to put Arab troops IN Iraq. How effective would American “pressure” to reform be, in the context of trying to please everyone in Europe, the UN and the ME police states?

  28. Sometimes bad decisions have good consequences. I’m willing to live with that.

  29. “Hussein was kept in power after the first Gulf War because GHW Bush didn’t want the United States to be in charge of running Iraq for the foreseeable future.”

    surely that’s not the only reason, joe. kinda of an oversimplification, dontcha think?

  30. I think Sistani probably speeded up the timeline for an election, but I would be very interested to see a link or two to any well-sourced story that the Bushies planned to never have any elections in Iraq, ever, until Sistani forced their hand.

    Face it, with Hussein in charge, there was never going to be an election in Iraq. After the Americans threw him out, it was only a question of when. Sistani may have pushed up the date, but lets not forget that many of those falling over themselves to give Sistani credit, were saying in late January that the January 30 elections would be a disaster, that the elections were too soon, that in effect, Sistani was wrong and the original Bush go-slow plan was right.

  31. R.C.: There eventually would have been elections, but they would have looked rather different. In addition to speeding up the vote, Sistani’s protests also made them more democratic, relatively speaking, than the previous plan, which was for an indirect caucus system. (And even that proposal was offered only after grassroots protests.)

    Just as important, by approving an election plan that Sistani was willing to endorse, the US got a lot more people at the polls on election day. Those images of Iraqis voting, touted as helping to inspire the recent ferment, would not have been the same if Sistani had told his followers to stay home.

  32. By the way, R.C., this isn’t about not giving Bush credit. Not for me, anyway. I’m happy to give him credit for realizing the position he was in and adapting ably to the circumstances. That’s no small thing.

  33. How about this analogy?
    If you get to break when you’re playing pool, and you hit the cue ball so hard some numbered balls fall into the pocket, does that mean you’re Minnesota Fats?

  34. If anyone believes the Administration has been pursuing the policy of Mid East democratic transformation too timidly, I urge them to join Michael Ledeen and the other the neo-conservative commentators in a chorus for greater boldness and daring.

    C’mon joe, thoreau, Ken and GG!

    All together now:

    FASTER PLEASE!

    …I’m down with that.

  35. I suspect that recent events in all the places we’ve been talking about are related to Iraq, and I think that the administration was always intent on elections. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the Middle East.

    But not about terrorism in the middle term, whose implementors are ever more desperate. The death cult of militant Islamic terrorism has been a factual dead end since the Berlin Wall came down; each terrorist attack since then can be seen as pathetic desperation.

    Al-Qaeda and those few who truly share their outlook are in fact so opposed to the well-being of the human race that they might as well be worshipping Cthulhu.

    As it becomes increasingly unlikely that the Caliphate will be re-established and (insert your favorite Elder God) returns to Earth to bring a new eon of pain and suffering to humanity, the death cults will grow increasingly desperate in their attempts to immolate the world.

    So I’m happy, but with the same tempered feeling I had in 1989, because I know the shit is comin’.

  36. > they never would have had elections in Iraq if
    > Ayatollah Sistani hadn’t insisted on it.

    Isn’t this the sort of adaptation you want from an invading power?

  37. Wow! Andrew actually busted out a “Kerry would have been worse” argument in the context of the argument. Well done!

  38. R.C. Dean,

    I think Sistani probably speeded up the timeline for an election, but I would be very interested to see a link or two to any well-sourced story that the Bushies planned to never have any elections in Iraq, ever, until Sistani forced their hand.

    Remember, you’re the idiot who claimed that there were no demonstrations outside of Iran prior to the invasion of Iraq.

    The Bush administration drug its feet on elections, arguing that it was too soon, blah blah blah. It was the French – you know, the folks you want to commit genocide against (now there’s what typifies R.C. Dean’s reasoning) – who were the first nation to actually press for early elections. The Bush administration mumbled that it was too early and that the French were being unrealistic, etc. Turns out, in typical Bush administration fashion, they did a volte-face and adopted what Sistani, the French, etc. were calling for all the while they were dragging their feet. No idea isn’t good enough for the Bushies to steal and then claim as their own original idea.

    After the Americans threw him out, it was only a question of when.

    Now you are dishonestly changing the locus of debate (typical). The point is that despite all the Bush administration’s later rhetoric about “trusting” the Iraqis and so forth, until they were forced to actually deal with the opposition’s demands, and by their incompetance in dealing with the insurgency, they didn’t trust the Iraqis at all.

  39. Andrew,

    I wholeheartedly agreed with the French position as it was discussed in the summer and fall of 2003; pushing for early elections and a quick resolution of the sovereignty issue. If that makes me less timid than the Bush administration, so be it.

  40. But if concern over how this affects the domestic political struggle…

    Sounds like the concern the Bush administration has over the word “intifada.”

  41. “If anyone believes the Administration has been pursuing the policy of Mid East democratic transformation too timidly, I urge them to join Michael Ledeen and the other the neo-conservative commentators in a chorus for greater boldness and daring.”

    Hey, I’ve been calling for Bush to show more respect for democracy for four years – glad he’s finally gotten on the ball.

    But if you’re referring to the realpolitik-motivated invasions of countries that has set back and distracted from the “City on the Hill” strategy of promoting global democracy, no, I’m not going to call for any more of that. Handing Iran a ready excuse to silence its domestic opposition was quite enough for me, and I’d be just as happy watching the military arrangements propping up the likes of Islam Karimov come to an end.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.