Friday, April 11, 2003

Talking Points Memo has always been a little too pro-war for my tastes. But it's always been well written, and has a good bit more depth than the average.

But today, Josh said something so incredibly blind about the looting and rioting that it blew me away:

But I think we should recognize that in the short-run this sort of ugliness may have been close to unavoidable.

Huh? It could have been avoided if there hadn't been any invasion yet, I would think.

This is just another of the numerous analyses that start from the proposition that the war itself was inevitable, that we simply had no choice but to confront Hussein's regime. TPM has apparently decided to get in on the widespread media revision of how this whole mess started.
Jack Balkin has a very well written post on just how the US invasion of Iraq will change the political calculus of regimes around the world.
If the U.S. could use its military force to launch a full scale war only infrequently, the argument went, certain types of foreign policy strategies would be off the table. In particular, the U.S. could not get into a series of wars designed preemptively to eliminate threats or displace troublesome regimes.

The victory in Iraq upset those calculations. Rumsfeld’s idea was to retool the U.S. military so that it could attack early and often, with comparatively minimal cost and with comparatively little loss of American life. Those two features– low cost and low American casualties-- were essential in order to ensure support at home for a series of military adventures. (Note that low American casualties does not mean low casualties in general– lots of enemy forces can be annihilated without losing domestic support).

Rumsfeld has been proved right, at least so far. The American public, doubtful about the war, has changed its views in the last three weeks and now largely supports the war. As the saying goes, victory has many fathers, defeat is an orphan.

Proving that the U.S. can overthrow regimes it does not like with relatively low cost and low American casualties changes the world because it now means that the United States can make a credible threat to engage in a series of wars against small to midsized regimes that it dislikes or regards as potential threats. That of, course, is a necessary precondition to the strategy of preemptive attack against the nation’s enemies favored by Assistant Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, which is now part of the country’s larger foreign policy strategy, as outlined in by President Bush in June of 2002.


It's sad, but true, that in a certain sense, Rumsfeld has been proven right: we can win cheaply and quickly. (Whether we can hold onto our military gains, though, has yet to be established. If we can't actually hold Iraq easily, the doctrine may not be applied so quickly next time around.)

What's especially scary to me about this episode is that it sends a very scary message: No army can protect you from the US.

The neocons have the weird notion that when confronted with the fact that their armies can't protect them, Middle Eastern powers will choose to get with the program, rather than, say, turn to non-army methods like terrorism or North Korea-supplied nukes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

In his column The Ring of Truth?, Kristof closes with the following:
At U.S. briefings, from Mr. Bush on down, we're always on plan, and our coalitions are always the largest in history. The U.S. effort to manufacture a huge global coalition involved an embarrassing effort to recruit microdots in the Pacific, and the White House proudly put out a list of supporting countries that included the Solomon Islands. When reporters asked the Solomon Islands' prime minister about the support, he said he was "completely unaware" of that.

Even China's propaganda officials can do better than that.
Not much to say here, except that I find it interesting that Kristof uses the word 'microdots' so freely.

Monday, April 07, 2003

The Finishing Touches


'Reluctant hawks' everywhere hold out hope that once the Bush administration has solved the Iraq problem, conditions will finally permit the US to get serious about leaning hard on both Israel and the new Palestinian government to get serious about cutting a deal. Jackson Diehl's Which Road Map? (washingtonpost.com) discusses the far more likely outcome:

Even as U.S. and British forces closed in on their joint military objectives, it appeared the allies were contemplating widely diverging paths for the postwar Middle East. Along one lay Blair's vision of a U.N.-sanctioned reconstruction of Iraq joined by the European Union and possibly NATO, and an Israeli-Palestinian settlement brokered by the "quartet" of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations. The other begins with a postwar Iraq managed exclusively by the United States, as sought by the Pentagon's hawks. With the bond to Blair's agenda broken, U.S. policy would no more be governed by the "road map" than by the Security Council. A U.S. showdown with Syria or Iran would be more likely than one with Israel.


Coniditions will be tilted dramatically in Sharon's favor after we've taken out Iraq. And there is very little reason to suspect that Karl Rove will allow G-Dub to alienate AIPAC and other pro-Israel PACs by insisting on even the most basic building block of future negotiations: a settlement freeze.

Sharon's defenders insist that he genuinely wants a peace accord with the Palestinians. So why the well-worn stalling tactics? Because, as Shalom [Israel's Foreign Minister] made clear, his Likud Party still stoutly opposes the first major concession required of Israel, which appears in the road map's opening phase: a freeze on further Jewish settlement of the West Bank and Gaza. Asked in a meeting at The Post whether Israel would accept a freeze, Shalom repeated the Likud's longstanding position that "natural growth" of settlements must continue -- a cover under which their numbers and size have been vastly expanded over the years. "I don't see the problem that the settlements will remain where they are even if there is a provisional Palestinian state," Shalom added.


Tony Blair will come to realize that the Bush team's promises to make good on Middle East peace were just another ingredient in their zesty gumbo of lies. When he does, it will be intriguing to see whether he gives up on his commitment to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in order to keep healthy ties with the US, or whether he has to admit to his own citizens that he was taken in by a highly implausible argument--that the Bush team had good intentions for the region.

Diehl thinks that the Bush team hasn't made up its mind as to which way to go:

Along one route, as the Israelis see it, is cooperation with Blair's vision of a non-negotiable road map, along another continued comity with Sharon. As the gears of the postwar Middle East engage, abandonment of the multilateral road map would likely mesh with a unilateral American administration of Iraq. Both risk a deeper breach with European allies, maybe even with Blair himself, and an Arab backlash against the United States that builds rather than wanes after the war. It might not all turn out that way -- a more muddled result is likely. But that is the nightmare that now haunts the dream of a postwar peace.


He's wrong. The Bush team will doubtless push harder on Syria and Iran, strengthening the hand of our Israeli and Iraqi proxies. They don't know the meaning of the word 'negotiate.'

So now the question is whether this final indignity will be the one to lose us our last real ally.