Back in the U.S.S.R.

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"Back in the U.S.S.R."

Dick Cheney channels Bernard Lewis at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy:

Dr. Bernard Lewis explained the terrorists’ reasoning this way: “During the Cold War,” Dr. Lewis wrote, “two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: ‘What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?’” End quote.

I’ve heard this before, and always thought it was a good reason to decide that whatever the merits of Lewis’ academic scholarship, his political judgment is terrible. After all, the Soviet Union was (a) vicious and horrible, and (b) spectacularly unsuccessful. The United States, after all, won the Cold War. Why would you conclude that the United States ought to emulate the Soviet Union? Because our practices have failed to render the country 100 percent immune to terrorist violence? Even from a 9/12 vantage point, as bad as 9/11 was for the United States, the Soviet imperial adventure in Afghanistan was much worse for the Russians. But in keeping with this bizarre mentality, Lewis and his fans like Cheney went on to advocate an imperial adventure in Iraq that, like the Soviet policy initiatives they admire so much, has dealt a more severe blow to the United States than al-Qaeda ever would have been able to pull off on its own.

This is all via Greg Djerejian who aptly notes that “from this premise, use of torture and black-sites and detention without habeas corpus makes all the sense in the world, doesn’t it?”

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