The Long View 2004-09-21: You Can't Make This Stuff Up

I was never able to take Pat Buchanan's critique of the Iraq War seriously because of statements like the one quoted in John's post here. While Buchanan was pretty right about the war overall, I still think the reason Iraq is unstable is that it is full of people who hate each other, for tribal, ethnic, and religious reasons.


You Can't Make This Stuff Up

 

Viewers of the CBS cartoon show, The Evening News with Dan Rather, are aware that the title character is based on the anchorman, Kent Brockman, in the Fox reality show, The Simpsons. Last night's Evening News segment about the National Guard memos was apparently a take-off on an incident in the Deep Space Homer documentary on Fox. An accident with an ant farm on the Space Shuttle caused the misapprehension at Mission Control that the shuttle had been commandeered by giant alien insects. Mr. Brockman promptly surrendered to the insects, and offered his services for the pacification of Earth. When it became apparent that the insects had merely been walking across the lens of the shuttle's cabin camera, the anchorman offered this measured retraction: 

Well, this reporter was... possibly a little hasty earlier and would like to reaffirm his allegiance to this country and its human president. It may not be perfect, but it's the best government we have. For now.

What more could a reasonable man ask for?

* * *

Meanwhile, here in the Third Dimension, or at any rate at New York University, Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, tried to put some distance between his position on Iraq and that of President Bush:

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?" Bush's presidential rival said at New York University..."Is he really saying to Americans that if we had known there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is resoundingly no because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe."

It is perhaps unfair to take Senator Kerry literally on this, since we now know the intent of the Baathist regime before the invasion, something that one government scarcely ever knows certainly about another. Still, one must remark that we know that Iraq did not have stocks of WMDs (I still think some arsenals will come to light, but let that pass), and that the regime intended to resume its WMD programs as soon as the sanctions were lifted. So, we must imagine a situation in which we knew that Iraq was in substantial compliance with the disarmament directive, so that the sanctions would have to be lifted. We must also suppose that we knew that Iraq would then go into WMD production again. Post-911, would that not be sufficient cause for war?

* * *

Has the political system taken on the prospect that the Terror War could last a generation? One suspects the public understands the matter better by this point:

With fighting in Afghanistan (news - web sites) and Iraq (news - web sites) far from over, a Pew Research Center Poll found that 51 percent of voters surveyed said they do worry that Bush, if re-elected, would lead the country into another war..."The Bush administration is on a crusade to make the world safe for democracy and part of that ... is eliminating countries of anti-Western aggression," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank in Washington.

Do they "worry that Bush, if re-elected, would lead the country into another war," or have they grasped that we are involved in a war on many fronts, and are prepared to vote for Bush in the belief that he will wage it more effectively?

Then there is this further signal from Planet Think Tank:

"It's this process of bluster and threat and escalation that could lead to war," said Michael O'Hanlon of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute. "I don't want to say that the chance of war is particularly high, but I think it would be higher under Bush than under Kerry."

Actually, a little bluster seemed to work very well with the Libyans, and even the Iranians, until the latter realized that the Europeans would be taking the diplomatic lead on nuclear non-proliferation issues.

* * *

Robert Novak had this impish piece in yesterday's Sun-TimesQuick exit from Iraq is likely:

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go...In the Aug. 29 New York Times Magazine, columnist David Brooks wrote an article (''How to Reinvent the GOP'') that is regarded as a neo-con manifesto and not popular with other conservatives...''We need to strengthen nation states,'' Brooks wrote, calling for ''a multilateral nation-building apparatus.'' To chastened Bush officials, that sounds like an invitation to repeat Iraq instead of making sure it never happens again.

Troop levels may well decline next year, but I doubt that this column evinces much insight into the state of debate in the Bush Administration. What we have here is a restatement of the Buchananite view that the nature of foreign regimes, or chaos in foreign countries, cannot be a security question for the United States, so any attempts at regime change or nation-building are mere Wilsonian mettlesomeness.

The reality is much more serious. Regime change now, in Iraq and elsewhere, is the alternative to precautionary nuclear strikes in the future, when we are not sure where a WMD attack in the West came from.

Speaking of Buchananism, I watched The McLaughlin Group last Sunday, for the first time in a long while. I came across it by accident; it was news to me it was still being broadcast. Anyway, there was Pat Buchanan himself, repeating his new slogan, "The cause of instability in Iraq is the presence of American troops."

I suppose you could say that about any war when you are on enemy territory: just withdraw and the fighting will stop. In this case, of course, it is the insurgency that is keeping US forces in Iraqi soil, as the insurgents know very well. The only question that interests them is who will be running the country when the US leaves.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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