TPM’s got some funny stuff out of the DOD document dump on their defense consultants propaganda project, but as Alyssa Rosenberg points out at the end of the day, the joke’s on us here. I’d go further and just note that though public derision may be fun, that’ll be the only consequence anyone involved suffers.
Fred Hiatt’s descend into the worst kind of wingnutty foreign policy continues as we learn that we should blame the U.N. for the fact that SLORC is horrible and people are dying in Darfur. As Michael Cohen points out, this is senseless, the U.N.’s not a world government and it can’t intervene anywhere unless member states want to. On Darfur, as he says, when Ban Ki-Moon said the U.N. needed to send more helicopters to Sudan, nobody ponied up the choppers.
But the U.N.-bashers who want to blame the organization for “inaction” on these points are the last in line for proposals to give the U.N. more money, and more institutional capacity. It’s all absurd — the idea that the U.N. Charter is the only thing standing between the world and an efficacious intervention in Sudan or Burma doesn’t stand up to even cursory scrutiny. On Burma, meanwhile, it’s worth asking what Hiatt even thinks should have been done — the junta is behaving horribly, but it’s not like we’d be able to invade the country, overthrow the government, and then stand up a new regime all in time to distributive disaster relief in a timely manner.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Commentary‘s Gabriel Schoenfeld warned of a “growing pro-Obama/anti-McCain axis,”* an Ecumenical Legion of Doom that, in Schoenfeld’s telling, includes Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the leaders of Hamas, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il:
The obvious possibility…is that one or more of these players might do everything in its power to hurt Mr. McCain and help Mr. Obama. Dramatic action keyed to our internal politics is, after all, already a page in some of our adversaries’ playbooks.
Today, Alex Koppelman notes that Schoenfeld’s argument manages to ignore everything that we have learned about the way that groups like Al Qaeda use media:
Schoenfeld…reached back to the 2004 presidential election, writing, “In 2004, Osama bin Laden’s television appearance only a weekend before the presidential election may have been a naked attempt to influence the outcome by reminding voters that he was still at large and President Bush’s policy had failed.”
Conspicuously absent from Schoenfeld’s argument that these various groups would want Obama as president and would take some action to help him, and from his discussion of the 2004 bin Laden videotape, is one very important point: The CIA believed that bin Laden wanted the tape to help President Bush, not his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry.
Indeed, it’s important to recognize what a propaganda bonanza the neoconservative “war on terror” has been for Osama bin Laden, as well as for extremists, Islamic and otherwise, throughout the world. (The only thing that Kim Jong-Il, Ahmadinejad, Putin, and Hugo Chavez really have in common is the extent to which Bush’s arrogant unilateralism has helped justify the further consolidation of their political power.) The attacks of 9/11 made bin Laden a major figure in Arab media and culture; the decision by Bush and the neocons to cast him as the sinister leader of a global Islamofascist movement made him a legend. Simply put, Bush’s policy response to 9/11 has done more to promote bin Laden’s ideology than a hundred 9/11s. John McCain’s insistence on treating “Islamic extremism” as the “the transcendental challenge” indicates that he simply doesn’t grasp this.
*Why do neocons love that word, “axis” so much? Partly because the World War II allusion allows them to indulge their Churchill fetish. But mostly because it enables them to create the impression of an enemy “alliance” where there is no real evidence of any such thing, in order to conflate various extremist groups with differing, and often conflicting, goals and ideologies into a single Islamofascist Frankenstein’s monster, which they can then use to scare the simple villagers who read their magazines into voting for their preferred candidates.
There’s no denying that there are real threats out there in the world. The problem is that conservatives by and large have demonstrated over the past seven years that they are incapable of actually tackling the 21st century threats. They are stuck in a World War II mindset that is irrelevant to today’s challenges – after spending nearly a trillion dollars and grinding down our military, terrorist attacks have increased, the Al Qaeda threat remains real and present, and the positions of autocrats from Pyongyang to Moscow to Riyadh has gotten stronger.
Our guest blogger is Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Sheikh Majid Abdul-Razzaq Soliman, chairman of the Iraq Chieftans and Notables Council, was in Cairo over the last few days. In an interview summarized here, he made clear his plea – “The Arabs have to join hands to stop Iran’s influence in Iraq.” Sheikh Soliman, the head of the Dulaim tribe, talked about how his country is “groaning” under two occupations – referring to the United States and Iran. The council’s board, which includes “39 chieftains and 19 notables,” has set up its headquarters in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
Soliman and his colleagues might have to wait a long time for any support – most countries in the Arab world have done the bare minimum on Iraq and aren’t likely to do anything significant while the United States maintains an open-ended commitment. The best way to motivate Iraq’s neighbors to actually do something is to announce that the United States plans to redeploy its troops from Iraq within a specific time frame.
On CNN’s American Morning earlier today, Kyra Phillips reported that during a recent trip to Baghdad “dozens of Iraqi soldiers and dozens of students at Baghdad university” told her that they “don’t want to see a Republican president.” “Out of every single one that I talked to, one person said they supported John McCain,” said Phillips.
Asked to respond, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who is an ardent supporter of McCain, dismissed what the Iraqis told Phillips as an “unscientific poll.” He claimed that on all the visits he’s made to Iraq, “the Iraqi people on the street, the Iraqi military, the Iraqi government that I’ve talked to, don’t want us to just pick up and leave.”
Lieberman then noted that the Iraqis don’t want the U.S. “to stay there forever,” which he claimed was consistent with McCain’s position on Iraq:
The Iraqi people on the street, the Iraqi military, the Iraqi government that I’ve talked to, don’t want us to just pick up and leave, which is what Sen. Obama, Sen. Clinton have been advocating. They want us, obviously, not to stay there forever. Sen. McCain wants the war to stop and to have us pull back into bases and be on a path, a reasonable path of withdrawal.
As Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) told ThinkProgress last year, congressional trips like Lieberman’s are shrouded in a “Green Zone fog” that makes it hard to get a real sense of the reality on the ground. But, as Phillips noted during her March report from Baghdad, she didn’t have a public affairs official present when she interviewed the soldiers and students, which she says allowed for an “uncensored” and “candid” two-hour discussion.
Additionally, in making the claim that like the Iraqis, McCain doesn’t want us “to stay there forever,” Lieberman completely ignores the fact that McCain has said it is “fine” with him for the U.S. to stay in Iraq for 100 years, which would essentially be forever. Also, while the Iraqi people have rejected permanent U.S. bases in the country, McCain has said they may be “necessary.”