The deed is done. Sad to see even something as justice for a major-league war criminal rendered tawdry by this administration. Here’s a report on the infamous Anfal Campaign that Saddam wasn’t tried for in order to spare Donald Rumsfeld embarrassment.
“In the general condemnation of neo-conservatism,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, “we forget, at least as it pertains to foreign policy, it arose from a variety of causes, not the least as the reaction against the moral bankruptcy of both rightist realism and leftist appeasement.” He continues:
We were reminded of those poles these past few days with news that confirmed Arafat’s order to murder American diplomats in Khartoum. That apparently had made no affect on Bill Clinton, at least if it were really true as legend claims that such a terrorist much later was the most frequent overnight foreign guest to the Clinton White House.
Suffice it to say I don’t see things this way. The news was that Arafat ordered the killing of American diplomats back in 1973. But it’s been a long time since Palestinian nationalist groups deliberately targeted Americans. In other words, violent Palestinian nationalism used to be a problem for American security and now it isn’t a problem anymore. Why’s that? Well, appeasement. The process of engagement initiated by Henry Kissinger, significantly advanced during Jimmy Carter’s administration, and pushed further down the road by George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton succeeded in making the problem go away. Along the way, this diplomatic process also managed to significantly enhance Israel security by leading Egypt to drop out of the anti-Israel coalition in the Middle East. What’s more, during the Clinton years the engagement process came close to achieving a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians that would have further enhanced Israeli security and removed a significant diplomatic problem for the United States of America.
At the end of the day and for various reasons, that ultimate goal was not achieved. But the process that came close to success did achieve a great deal. It didn’t do so quickly or easily, but it did achieve a lot. And there’s every reason to believe that an American administration willing to continue down that path would be able to achieve much more. Certainly, the Bush administration’s alternative approach has managed to be enormously more costly while bringing about essentially nothing in the way of positive results.
Naturally, I agree with Ed Kilgore’s basic sentiments regarding Joe Lieberman’s op-ed today. But as a slightly — but only slightly — pedantic point of clarification, I think we should be clear that Lieberman doesn’t have a blind spot about Iraq, the “blind spot” extends to the question of American foreign policy throughout the region, if not the entire region. What’s more, I don’t really think “blind spot” is the right word for it. Lieberman’s ideas about Iran, Iraq, al-Qaeda, escalation, and how this all relates are crazy, but they’re not idiosyncratic.
You can find the same ideas in The Weekly Standard, at the American Enterprise Institute, and from all sorts of other outfits around town. Lieberman’s not saying anything that dozens of other neoconservative foreign policy analysts are saying. Indeed, this is exactly what Marshall Wittman was saying before he left the DLC to go work for Lieberman, so there’s no real surprise here. But there’s the rub; on the question of national security policy Lieberman’s not just a “moderate” he’s on the other side, following the trajectory of an earlier generation of neoconservatives from relatively hawkish Democrat to total agreements with right-wing Republicans. Maybe he thinks he’ll be John McCain’s running mate in 2008.
Robert Farley doubts that “anything that happens in Somalia is going to have a significant impact on foreign opinion outside of, well, Somalia and Ethiopia.” I think there’s a pretty strong case for that. Nevertheless, it’s important to recall that the group of truly threatening anti-American terrorists in the world is really small. One one level, this should give us considerable comfort. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 it appeared plausible that the United States was going to face waves of sustained terror attacks implemented by a reasonably deep pool of people. That turns out not to be the case. On the other hand, it should make us worry. There were very few people interested in mounting large-scale terrorist attacks on the United States and nevertheless that small pool of people was able to pull off a pretty nasty operation.
What there is, however, is a much larger pool of people in some sense drawn to Islamist political movements and to various nationalist causes that involve Muslim populations. Under the circumstances, inserting the United States into disputes that involve Islamists fighting non-Muslim invaders is always very dangerous — it risks slippage of people from the big pool into the small pool. After all, the reason why the small pool is so much smaller than the large pool is that despite widespread dislike of the United States relatively few people believe Osama bin Laden’s message that these localized conflicts are all inextricably linked to the need for jihad against the far enemy. Our actions in the Horn of Africa probably won’t have a big impact on people doing there thing in Cairo or Riyadh or Islamabad but it clearly will have an impact on people living in the Horn.
Now that said, sometimes you do have to back the non-Muslim side in a local conflict. Maybe the Islamist side is threatening some crucial American interests. That, however, isn’t the case here. We simply don’t have any interests in that area that are more important than our interest in trying to avoid a situation where young Somali men cut their teeth for a few years in a guerilla war with Ethiopia and then decide to take the fight to the far enemy.
Joe Lieberman goes for this full neocon:
While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought.
And what about al-Qaeda? Lieberman appears to be arguing later in the article that Iran and al-Qaeda are collaborating in Iraq since otherwise it’s hard to make sense of the claim that “If Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran. Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism.” Needless to say, he’s backing the Bush/McCain escalation plan.
One problem here is that to the extent you see the dark hand of Iran behind all events in Iraq, the situation should logically be viewed as more rather than less hopeless. The reason, of course, is that Iran can escalate every bit as much as we can. Whoever’s equipping, say, the Mahdi Army clearly isn’t equipping them very well — Hezbollah is much better-armed. Suppose we escalate and the Iranians counter-escalate by giving our foes wire-guided anti-tank missiles, katyusha rockets, Iglas and so forth — then you’re talking about a really bad scene. Obviously, though, that’s logic and hawks aren’t into logic.
Showing at least some vague measure of good sense, the Bush administration is officially against Israel’s plans to construct a new settlement in the West Bank, though they don’t seem inclined to actually do anything about it. New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz explains that the new settlement is a good idea because “there needs to be a sliver of land between what will ultimately be a Palestinian state and Jordan.” The benefits of such a policy are clear: “An Israeli buffer between Jordan and nascent Palestine will not only protect Jordan from its mischievous neighbors to the west. It will protect Israel from what would otherwise be a new Jordan. Also called Palestine, and part of it.”
Back in the real world, obviously, if Israel insists on such a policy there’s never going to be peace with the Palestinians, but I assume that’s fine by him.