A couple of tedious paragraphs into her paean
to George Bush, scribbler Suzanne Fields divulges triumphantly that she
hangs with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. These two Beltway Babes got
together last week to dish "over a Danish and a cup of black coffee."
Their tête-à-tête inspired a serenade for the man
whose testes, says satirist Jon Stewart, are now so large as to be visible
from outer space.
These are heady days for neoconservatives like Fields, their "crusade
for democracy" in the Middle East having, apparently, been vindicated.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who never stopped whooping it up for the war, expressed
the prevailing wisdom in his best (unconsciously) Orwellian manner: "War
leads to peace."
While the neocons crow, the liberals defect in droves. Comedy Central's Stewart
(a non-defective lefty) said in near despair, "They might have been right."
The usually intelligent Richard
Cohen was so stirred, he burst into a ditty for democracy. And the band
Not that the Second War Between the States is over just yet. Scarborough summed
up with the signature simple-mindedness red-staters have sought – and found – in
Bush: "The Democratic Party, the Arab Street, the broadcast networks, National
Public Radio, an odd assortment of college professors, and a slew of other pseudo-intellectuals
join the motley crew of left wing elites who, by ignoring historical trends,
became sad parodies of themselves."
There's a problem with Scarborough's taxonomy of losers. He has left out those
on the Right – libertarians, paleolibertarians, and Old School conservatives – who
opposed the war for principled reasons. But this is the strategy (as popular
among liberals as it is among neocons): forget principles, knocking down straw
men is just too much fun.
At the coffeehouse, over that Danish, our neocon crumpets concluded that
Dubya's preemptive invasion of Iraq (Rice termed it "the policy")
had lit the fuse of freedom under Middle Eastern hides. However, the certainty
of ditzes dissolves when exposed to moral – and careful – considerations.
In Iraq, now a lawless failed state, dames don't congregate over Danish – they
duck and dive to avoid bombs and bandits. (Amnesty International's report is
is it that obvious that Iraq will be freer when the elected majorities – the Shi'ite
Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq – come to grips
with their democratic empowerment. But when that time arrives, I trust Fields
will relocate her edgy reporting from the café to the field … in Iraq.
(And don't forget your abaya,
Suzanne. I have a nasty feeling that, like body armor, it'll be for years to
come a de rigueur accouterment of freedom in liberated Iraq.)
Like others of her ilk, Fields has hurrahed recent developments in Saudi Arabia,
Egypt, and Lebanon. But in the Middle East (bar Israel and perhaps Lebanon),
The Street is far more radical than the strongmen in power. In her joyous delirium,
Fields probably failed to notice that anti-Western militant Islamists walloped
pro-Western moderate reformers in the limited municipal elections permitted
in Saudi Arabia. As Time reported, the restricted elections in the Kingdom
saw Islamic hardliners outpoll nearly 650 other candidates. And the sight of
the Shi'ite Hezbollah Party, half a million strong, flexing its political muscle
in Beirut earlier this month didn't warm the cockles of this heart. I guess
Condi could always remove Hezbollah from our list of terrorist organizations
so the delirium could continue unabated.
Will the neocon sorority applaud when Hosni Mubarak is forced into allowing
the Muslim Brotherhood
to assume its rightful place in the "nascent" Egyptian democracy?
I won't: the Brotherhood murdered the peacemaker Anwar Sadat, begat Hamas,
and has fomented revolution throughout the Islamic crescent – Algeria, Syria,
Sudan, you name it.
These fabulous prospects notwithstanding, Geoffrey Wheatcroft of the Guardian
thinks that linking the ripples in the Middle East to Bush's conquest of Iraq
is simple post hoc ergo prompter hoc. He
asks, "Primitive peoples suffering from drought put a maiden to death
and the rains come. Did the human sacrifice change the weather?" Shouldn't
the Bush boosters, then, put the breaks on the bombast? A case-by-case examination
of the so-called thaw in the Middle East certainly supports circumspection.
Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution"was ignited by the assassination of
Hariri. The semi-kosher elections in the Palestinian Authority were facilitated
by the death of Arafat. Mahmoud Abbas, however, may be hanging on by the hair
of his chinny chin chin. Hamas is immensely popular in the PA. Its decision
to boycott the elections significantly diminished voter
turnout. Abbas' embrace of democracy is not likely to diminish the standing
of these terrorists among Palestinians.
Still, I happen to agree somewhat with the neocons that Bush's brute force
in the Middle East has probably played a part in the brute facts developing
on the ground. But the case against the invasion doesn't rest on denying what
can't be denied: bullying and bludgeoning do have outcomes.
The relevant questions are: What kind of outcomes and at what cost?
In the Middle East, majority rule may well unleash a pack of wolverines, as
Radley Balko puts it. Sadly, Americans (and our Fearless Leader) are capable
of grasping only a Disneyfied version of majority rule, not the Middle
Eastern version. This is why they doggedly conflate democracy with freedom,
and "the freedom to vote" with liberty. Here's a useful tip for Fields:
voting is synonymous with freedom only if strict limits are placed on the powers
of elected officials and only if individual rights are respected. Forget the
Magic Kingdom; these conditions do not obtain in the Saudi Kingdom – to give
but one example.
It's indisputable that Bush, much aided by laptop bombardiers like Fields,
has won the war – if "winning" means "spinning." However,
the crucial thing to bear in mind is that, even if the aftershocks of the invasion
were irrefutably beneficial – and they are anything but – they wouldn't expunge
the Original Sin. In Bushite theology, any injustice is pardonable so long
as, in retrospect, some good can be attached to it.
And make no mistake, the invasion of Iraq was an injustice.
Consequence-based "morality" doesn't alter the reality that the
attack on Iraq flunks every ethical consideration I can imagine. The Just War
criterion for preemptive war allows one to attack someone who would otherwise
directly attack you. Iraq, a Third World wreck of a place, halfway around
the world, posed no such danger to the American superpower or to any American
ally. On just cause, Alex
Moseley, Ph.D., adds, "Aggressive war is only permissible if its purpose
is to retaliate against a wrong already committed (e.g., to pursue and punish
an aggressor), or to preempt an anticipated attack." So Bush had no just
cause. The invasion certainly flouted the libertarian (or classical liberal)
axiom that prohibits aggression against non-aggressors. And it flouted the Christian
duty to do no harm to one's neighbors.
Nevertheless, Tim Russert, "good" Catholic that he is, has recently
absolved himself and his media colleagues for not getting it right on the war.
But contrary to Russert's intellectually dishonest claims, there were plenty
of authoritative and able people who could have assisted him and his colleagues,
intellectually and morally. There were other ways to deal with whatever problem
Iraq presented, and there were other people who knew how.
Back to the crumpets. After having prayed the requisite number of "Hail
Caesars," Fields finally gets a little perspective. She warns that "the
spirit of Patrick Henry has not emerged in Lebanon," and that "Mahmoud
Abbas is no Thomas Jefferson." True, but Genghis Bush is no Thomas Jefferson,
either. Bush's war also flouted what the Founding Fathers established and bequeathed.
A limited, constitutional republican government is, by definition, incompatible
with the hegemon America has become. And a government is guilty of treason when
it conscripts its own people and their property in the service of other nations.
Nothing nullifies the eternal verities that the Founders (of whom Fields
is justly proud) spoke. Remember John
"She [America] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners
than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would
involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest
and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors
and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would
insensibly change from liberty to force. ... She might become the dictatress
of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit."
"Children learn the fundamental principles of natural law at a very early age,"
observed another great American,
Lysander Spooner. "Thus they very early understand that one child must not,
without just cause, strike or otherwise hurt, another; that one child must not
assume any arbitrary control or domination over another; that one child must
not, either by force, deceit, or stealth, obtain possession of anything that
belongs to another. … These are fundamental principles of natural law, which
govern the most important transactions of man with man. Yet children learn them
earlier than they learn that three and three are six, or five and five ten."
The Bush administration is less clever than the merest child, for it believes
it has discovered "something
better than truth, and justice, and universal law." The deplorable
achievement of Fields and her fellow travelers is to have persuaded Americans
to adopt the same conceit.