is no doubt more than a grain of truth in Maureen
Dowd’s thesis that the current foreign policy row over
Iraq is essentially a family feud between George W. Bush and
his father, and that the solution may have to be "family therapy."
But surely this is a somewhat, er, one-dimensional
view: leave it to a woman of Ms. Dowd's disposition to reduce
a complex and actually quite interesting foreign policy debate
to a matter of familial politics.
so interesting is that the opposition to the President’s rush
to war is not coming from the alleged "opposition" party,
his fellow Republicans. And not just any old Republicans,
but those most closely associated with the old-line GOP establishment.
Scowcroft, writing in the Wall Street Journal,
crystallized the arguments of the Antiwar Party in Washington
by making the irrefutable point that it represents a radical
diversion: "An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously
jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign
we have undertaken," he wrote. In making the vitally important
distinction between the war on Saddam and the war on the perpetrators
of the 9/11 atrocity, Scowcroft deftly pulls the rug out from
under the war propagandists.
the post-9/11 atmosphere, the War Party took full advantage
of the anti-Arab backlash and tried desperately, almost comically,
to divert popular anger from Osama to Saddam. There were all
those vague stories about a meeting in Prague between Iraqi
intelligence and Mohamed Atta, but none of them panned out.
To show just how far these people are willing to go, we had
Andrew Sullivan, the Boadicea
of the War Party, advocate nuking Iraq the moment he heard
about the anthrax letters. Bill Kristol’s little magazine
anthrax revisionism alive to this day, even as the BBC
is reporting that the FBI has positively identified the anthrax
terrorist is a "US
defense insider" motivated by "misguided patriotism."
establishment critics of the War Party, such as Henry Kissinger,
focus on the key question what do to after we’ve "won." The
New York Times cites one administration official as
those of us who don't see an invasion as an article of faith
but as simply a policy option, there is a feeling that you
need to give great consideration to what comes after, and
that unless you're prepared to follow it through, then you
shouldn't begin it."
is empire-building. Do we really want a Middle East
satrap, extending from Afghanistan to Iraq and Iran, and perhaps
even southward to the Saudi oil fields? If so, then let’s
debate it, let’s bring the real objectives of the War Party
out in the open. While not ruling out intervention, Kissinger
performs the invaluable service of helping to shift the terms
of the debate, averring that American policy "will be judged
by how the aftermath of the military operation is handled
the "President" of Afghanistan insists on being guarded by
Americans, rather than his own countrymen, the viability of
implanting Karzai clones in Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf states
seems all the more delusional, and Kissinger’s words are a
potent warning to the War Party: "Military intervention should
be attempted only if we are willing to sustain such an effort
for however long it is needed."
the aftermath of the war will be handled politically in
the US is really the question Kissinger and others are
posing. Will Americans support a war of conquest, a battle
to implant "democracy" from Riyadh to Islamabad, one that
will drain the Treasury and cost us many more lives than it
may be worth? Kissinger has good reason to believe that the
answer is no.
significance of this Republican revolt against the President’s
policy cannot be overestimated: it represents a potent challenge
to the War Party, one that must be defeated before the bombs
can begin to fall.. The
President’s response to all this was cautious, but there
seemed to be an undertone of surliness, too, like a schoolboy
who’s getting awfully tired of being publicly chastened.
am aware that some very intelligent people are expressing
their opinions about Saddam Hussein and Iraq. I listen carefully
to what they say. Listen it's a healthy debate for people
to express their opinion.... But America needs to know, I'll
be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and
how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies."
to whether he meant "the latest intelligence" about the
chances of his brother Jeb to pull it off in Florida is
a matter of speculation. But the key concession here is that
he hasn’t yet made up his mind – or, at least, he is forced
to keep up the pretense of indecision for political reasons.
domestic political pressures of various foreign policy lobbies
are always, I submit, a key indicator of the root causes of
any given war. There is value, naturally, in pointing out
just who stands to profit from any given intervention, and
there can be no objection to pointing out the usual suspects:
Big Oil, the armaments industry, and certain financial firms
with global commercial interests. But the way that anonymous
administration insider counterposed his own pragmatic stance
to the "war now" crowd, as cited in the Times, is enormously
significant: "For those of us for whom an invasion is not
a matter of faith…."
the militants of the War Party, an all-out jihad against the
Arab world is indeed a matter of faith. This is true for the
Christian dispensationalists who believe Israel’s predicament
means the "end times" are upon us, just as it is for fervent
Zionists of the Jewish faith. The latter mostly retain their
historical loyalty to the Democratic party, but are increasingly
switching their allegiances in what GOP strategists hope is
a realignment of sorts. Against the massed emotionalism of
these fevered fanatics, the measured arguments of Brent Scowcroft,
and the elegant formulations of Henry Kissinger, are so much
whistling in the wind. The President is under considerable
political pressure from these quarters, as underscored by
the recent evolution of US policy on the Palestinian question.
news that Ariel Sharon wants war is all they need to know.
Israel’s Prime Minister has gone so far as to declare, recently,
that Iraq, and not Hamas, Hizbollah, or the PLO, is the
greatest threat to Israel, and his amen corner in the
US – although careful not to phrase the issue quite so nakedly
– has naturally become the nexus of the War Party.
last time the US was lured into a major intervention on the
Asian landmass, the American elites were united in support
of the venture. It was only later, when the futility of such
a hopeless expedition became all too clear -- even to the
original authors of the policy -- that withdrawal was even
contemplated. This time around, however, if we go in, we go
in seriously divided. This very visible dissent within establishment
circles may not prevent war – but it could lead to the growth
of a very broad antiwar movement once Bush gives the order
lines are already being drawn, and the debate is getting acrimonious.
Ultra-hawk Richard Perle avers that the failure to go to war
will leave Bush without a shred of credibility:
think Brent [Scowcroft] just got it wrong. The failure to
take on Saddam after what the president said would produce
such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would
set back the war on terrorism."
response, Senator Chuck Hagel took up the theme, recently
developed in this space, that the blood-curdling battle cries
of our noisome war birds resemble nothing so much as an attack
of the chicken-hawks:
can take the country into a war pretty fast, but you can't
get out as quickly, and the public needs to know what the
risks are. Maybe Mr. Perle would like to be in the first wave
of those who go into Baghdad."
is right: put him right up there in the front lines, alongside
Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, and all the other
little pasty-faced pundits who fight wars from the cushy safety
of their subsidized thinktanks. The public does indeed need
to know what the risks are – including that voluble minority
of the public now demanding that we go to war no matter what
advice that "we need to think through this issue very carefully"
pretty much encapsulates the essence of what might be called
the Scowcroft Doctrine. Or, as Ms. Dowd would have it, it
is the voice of the father speaking though his most trusted
advisor: Look, George, before you leap.
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