In case things were unclear, Joe Lieberman seizes advantage of her passing to re-iterate that he is a conservative Republican on foreign policy issues. Kirkpatrick, as Lieberman observed, “lived a life of a tribune of democracy” if by “democracy” we mean “right-wing military juntas.”
Alongside the silliness of the Baker-Hamilton Commission and Tom Friedman’s newfound commitment to good sense, there’s yet another new brand of liberal hawk madness bopping around town. This week’s New Republic editorial, for example, perspicaciously observes that “On the question of withdrawal, which is politically the most sensational question, the report is evasive” before going on to evade the question of withdrawal. In the same issue, Peter Beinart complains that “across ideological lines, American politicians and pundits are finally coming to a consensus on Iraq: It’s the Iraqis’ fault” and concludes that “If we need to leave; we need to leave. But let’s not pretend the defeat is anyone else’s but our own” but doesn’t say whether or not we need to leave. Likewise, George Packer groused in The New Yorker that withdrawal advocates were being unduly rosy about the potential outcome of withdrawal without saying whether or not he favors withdrawal. And here we had Jason Zengerle charging me with undue churlishness in my estimation of Robert Gates’ support for the continuation of the war, combined with an unwillingness to express a view on the underlying policy issue.
To dust off an old term, I think we need to have a conversation about “moral seriousness” here. This passion for nitpicking and meta-commentary is a serious abdication. If you’re going to spend your time writing about Iraq, you have some responsibility to form a view on the central Iraq-related question: The wisdom of continuing the war. If we should stay, then, fine, complain about the rhetoric of withdrawal advocates. But if we need to leave not only do we need to leave, but people who think we need to leave need to say we need to leave.
On the issue Beinart raises, I agree with him. The “blame the Iraqis” account of the war is somewhat offensive and factually misguided. That said, it’s a lot less misguided than continuing the war. If politicians who need to stand for election choose to put the most-politically-palatable possible spin on that policy view rather than the most exactingly accurate one, I don’t think that’s seriously problematic. Practical politicians are in the business of putting positive spin on their policy preferences, and there’s no sense calling 911 every time you hear it happening.
One of the core recommendations of the Iraq Study Group was direct engagement with Iran and Syria without preconditions. President Bush quickly dismissed the idea:
If people come to the table to discuss Iraq they need to come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country. And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn’t bother to show up.
The American people, however, overwhelmingly support direct talks with both countries. From a new poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org:
Check out the whole WorldPublicOpinon.org poll here.
Well, waddaya know, I agree with Charles Krauthammer — there isn’t proof up to the standard of criminal liability and never will be, but the odds seem overwhelming that Vladimir Putin was responsible for killing Alexander Litvinenko. At best, it’s somewhat plausible that he didn’t issue any specific orders on this subject, but just set up some kind of political opponent killing apparatus that does this stuff without forwarding the details to the boss. That said, I’m not totally sure why Putin’s sins mean we’re now all supposed to become super-credulous about whatever a Putin opponent says or does.
Here’s Krauthammer: “Litvinenko claimed that the Russian government itself blew up apartment buildings in Moscow and elsewhere in 1999, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, in order to blame it on the Chechens and provoke the second Chechen war. Pretty damning stuff.”
Sure, I mean, damning if true but the fact that some shady ex-KGB dude and his corrupt sugar daddy say it’s true hardly does make it true. I’m not going to claim a great depth of knowledge on this subject (on the merits, the 9/22/99 Ryazan incident seems suspicion, but the “false flag” theory of the apartment bombings also has many of all the marks of a conspiracy theory in the worst sense), but it seems odd that this account is so widely endorsed by the very same people who are so at pains under normal circumstances to tell us all that we need to take Islamist terrorism more seriously. I mean, I doubt Krauthammer is especially impressed by 9/11 conspiracy theories holding that the whole thing was a Bush administration false flag operation.
In another context (“Violence and Islam,” December 6, 2002) Krauthammer was happy to believe in Chechen terrorism: “On the northern tier of the Muslim world, even more blood flows — in Pakistani-Kashmiri terrorism against Hindu India, Chechen terrorism in Russian-Orthodox Moscow and Palestinian terrorism against the Jews. (The Albanian Muslim campaign against Orthodox Macedonia is now on hold.) And then of course there was Sept. 11, 2001 — Islamic terrorism reaching far beyond its borders to strike at the heart of the satanic ‘Crusaders.’” Basically the approach is that whichever interpretation of the Russia-Chechnya conflict better suits the promotion of American hegemony will be adopted on any given day.
Tom Friedman’s more-or-less just a figure of derision in the blogosphere, but in real life unless I’m mistaken he’s the most influential foreign affairs writer in America by some margin, so it really matters when he starts writing ledes like this:
The brutally honest Baker-Hamilton assessment of the Iraq morass implies that we need to leave Iraq if the factions there don’t get their act together, but it also urges a last-ditch effort to enlist the help of Syria and Iran to salvage something decent. Both are good suggestions, but they will only have a chance of being effective if we go one notch further and set a fixed date — now — for America to leave Iraq.
He makes good on his earlier “ten years or ten months” column and calls for us to set a fixed date about ten months in the future for our troops to be gone.