Peggy Noonan: Iraq “Half-Killed” the GOP

freepersrally

I never thought I’d be quoting Peggy Noonan to the extent I do in this post, but her latest column is an enjoyably slashing critique of the effect of the Iraq war catastrophe on the Republican Party.  It also coincides nicely with my series of “anniversary cards” to the Iraq invasion. From my perspective, she’s not right on the money on everything she says–as usual, e.g. she gives the mediocrity that was President Ronald Reagan way too much personal credit for “vision” and “stewardship” during his administration–but in general, her points should be well-taken by the bloodied remains of her party. The rest of us can just enjoy the spectacle of the good ol’ party beating up on itself.

Did the Iraq war hurt the GOP? Yes. The war, and the crash of ’08, half killed it. It’s still digging out, and whether it can succeed is an open question….:

It ruined the party’s hard-earned reputation for foreign-affairs probity. They started a war and didn’t win it. It was longer and costlier by every measure than the Bush administration said it would be. Before Iraq, the GOP’s primary calling card was that it was the party you could trust in foreign affairs. For half a century, throughout the Cold War, they were serious about the Soviet Union, its moves, feints and threats. Republicans were not ambivalent about the need for and uses of American power, as the Democrats were in the 1970s and 1980s, but neither were they wild. After Iraq it was the Republicans who seemed at best the party of historical romantics or, alternatively, the worst kind of cynic, which is an incompetent one. Iraq marked a departure in mood and tone from past conservatism.

It muddied up the meaning of conservatism and bloodied up its reputation. No Burkean prudence or respect for reality was evident. Ronald Reagan hated the Soviet occupation of the Warsaw Pact countries—really, hated the oppression and violence. He said it, named it, and forced the Soviets to defend it. He did not, however, invade Eastern Europe to liberate it. He used military power sparingly. He didn’t think the right or lucky thing would necessarily happen. His big dream was a nuclear-free world, which he pursued daringly but peacefully.

It ended the Republican political ascendance that had begun in 1980. This has had untold consequences, and not only in foreign affairs. And that ascendance was hard-earned. By 2006 Republicans had lost the House, by 2008 the presidency. Curry quotes National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru at a recent debate at the American Enterprise Institute: “You could make the argument that the beginning of the end of Republican dominance in Washington was the Iraq War, at least a stage of the Iraq War, 2005-06.” In 2008 a solid majority of voters said they disapproved of the war. Three-quarters of them voted for Barack Obama.

It undermined respect for Republican economic stewardship. War is costly. No one quite knows or will probably ever know the exact financial cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, which is interesting in itself. Some estimates put it at $1 trillion, some $2 trillion. Mr. Curry cites a Congressional Budget Office report saying the Iraq operation had cost $767 billion as of January 2012. Whatever the number, it added to deficits and debt, and along with the Bush administration’s domestic spending helped erode the Republican Party’s reputation for sobriety in fiscal affairs.

It quashed debate within the Republican Party. Political parties are political; politics is about a fight. The fight takes place at the polls and in debate. But the high stakes and high drama of the wars—and the sense within the Bush White House that it was fighting for our very life after 9/11—stoked an atmosphere in which doubters and critics were dismissed as weak, unpatriotic, disloyal. The GOP—from top, the Washington establishment, to bottom, the base—was left festering, confused and, as the years passed, lashing out. A conservative movement that had prided itself, in the 1970s and 1980s, on its intellectualism—”Of a sudden, the Republican Party is the party of ideas,” marveled New York’s Democratic senator Pat Moynihan in 1979—seemed no longer capable of an honest argument. Free of internal criticism, national candidates looked daffy and reflexively aggressive—John McCain sang “Bomb, Bomb Iran”—and left the party looking that way, too.

It killed what remained of the Washington Republican establishment. This was not entirely a loss, to say the least. But establishments exist for a reason: They’re supposed to function as The Elders, and sometimes they’re actually wise. During Iraq they dummied up—criticizing might be bad for the lobbying firm. It removed what credibility the establishment had. And they know it.

Pre-Iraq War Flashback: Ron Rosenbaum’s Red Herring (October 2002)

Did anyone ever actually trust this man?

Did anyone ever actually trust this man?

I wrote the article that follows in response to a cutting dismissal of the brand new anti-war movement that sprung to life in the fall of 2002, just as it became clear what the Bush-Cheney administration was up to with its pot-stirring war preparations. It was intended as a letter to the editor for the New York Observer, where the offending article I was responding to was published,  but became too long for that purpose. I tried to place it at DemocraticUnderground.com, but they passed on it.

In any case, reading old  pablum from George Packer  and Bill Keller in the “liberal hawk” organ of record (Judy Miller‘s New York Times), I thought of this piece which expressed my disgust with the useful idiots of the center left pundit class lending aid and comfort to the Bushist program. Truly nauseating stuff, these guys wrote, if you can stomach it.

Anyway, without further ado, my response to “all that.” Continue reading

Happy 10th Anniversary, American Catastrophe in Iraq!

iraq-war-games

Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, shares his mordant thoughts on the anniversary of what he calls American’s worst foreign policy blunder. Read the whole article here:

The Iranian leadership watched carefully as the American imperial version of Iraq collapsed, concluded that Washington was a paper tiger, backed away from initial offers to talk over contested issues, and instead (at least for a while) doubled-down on achieving nuclear breakout capacity, aided by the past work of that same A.Q. Khan network. North Korea, another A.Q. Khan beneficiary, followed the same pivot ever farther from Washington, while it became a genuine nuclear power. Its neighbor China pursued its own path of economic dominance, while helping to “pay” for the Iraq War by becoming the number-one holder of U.S. debt among foreign governments. It now owns more than 21% of the U.S. debt held overseas.

And don’t put away the joke book just yet. Subbing as apologist-in-chief for an absent George W. Bush and the top officials of his administration on this 10th anniversary, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently reminded us that there is more on the horizon. Conceding that he had “long since given up trying to persuade people Iraq was the right decision,” Blair added that new crises are looming. “You’ve got one in Syria right now, you’ve got one in Iran to come,” he said. “We are in the middle of this struggle, it is going to take a generation, it is going to be very arduous and difficult. But I think we are making a mistake, a profound error, if we think we can stay out of that struggle.”

Think of his comment as a warning. Having somehow turned much of Islam into a foe, Washington has essentially assured itself of never-ending crises that it stands no chance whatsoever of winning. In this sense, Iraq was not an aberration, but the historic zenith and nadir for a way of thinking that is only now slowing waning. For decades to come, the U.S. will have a big enough military to ensure that our decline is slow, bloody, ugly, and reluctant, if inevitable. One day, however, even the drones will have to land.

And so, happy 10th anniversary, Iraq War! A decade after the invasion, a chaotic and unstable Middle East is the unfinished legacy of our invasion. I guess the joke is on us after all, though no one is laughing.

A Sufi View on the Proper Islamic Response to “Innocence of Muslims”

Sheik Imran Hosein is an Islamic scholar of the Sufi tradition, born in Trinidad and educated in Pakistan and Europe. He’s been a diplomat in his native Trinidad and Tobago and imam at a Long Island masjid, among many other accomplishments.  His academic specialty is Islamic eschatology, which, like Christian eschatology, concerns the end times. He gives a hint of the flavor of his scholarship at the end of the video posted above, the final segment of a three-part interview with a British vlogger who calls himself 108Morris108.

I’m posting the video here because, in a sense, Sheik Hosein answers a comment from Sreenivas on a previous post marveling at the audacity of Islamic protests against the film Innocence of Muslims in Libya and Pakistan. I have to say I think  Sreenivas’s main point about the irrationality of the attacks is hard to argue against. And in fact, Hosein expresses a similar disdain for what he suggests is a non-Islamic reaction that, without reflection and in pure reflex, lashes out violently at the wrong targets. He suggests the protestors behave like puppets on a string being yanked by their enemies. Protestors should peacefully target their own governments, he says, as the Tunisians and Egyptians did in the spring of 2011. Why? Because their governments are enabling the enemies of Islam.

Oddly, he criticizes governments in the Arab world (namely Saudi Arabia) that are lending moral and other forms of aid to the Syrian rebels. Is it because he thinks the Syrian rebellion is essentially violent and “un-Islamic?” Actually, he implies that it’s because the Syrian government, whatever evils it has done in the past, is a steadfast bulwark against Israel. And here is where the Sheik’s eschatology comes in. Just like George W. Bush, the imam believes end times are nigh.

What a mad world we live in!

“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” Bush told Chirac.

Whenever I read an account of the lead-up to the Iraq war, I usually marvel over how much the critics of the war got right. We guessed Saddam was not lying about weapons of mass destruction. We knew from the beginning the Bushists were going to have the war no matter what anyone else said. We knew they had been planning it all along. We knew they were not going to topple Saddam and *poof* like magic a wonderful new Iraq would appear. We knew they had let the sectarian monster out of the labyrinth. We knew they didn’t give a shit about the members of the military they were using and reusing and reusing again and again to fight their war. We knew!

Now I find out, the truth was probably even weirder than we suspected.

Vanity Fair has a six-page excerpt from Kurt Eichenwald’s 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars up on its site and its an eye-opening read. Most of it confirms what critics suspected. I always did know Bush was an embarrassment, but if the following scene Eichenwald describes actually took place… well, there just are no words!  This is alleged to have occurred in a phone call between the two world leaders as Bush was trolling for support for his Iraq policy from UN Security member nations, at the insistence of Tony Blair, in the late fall of 2003:

But before Chirac could elaborate on that point, Bush veered into another direction.

“Jacques,” he said, “You and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord”

Chirac said nothing. He didn’t know where Bush was going with this.

“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” Bush said. ‘’Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.”

Gog and Magog? What was that?, thought Chirac.

“This confrontation,” Bush said, “is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a new age begins.”

Chirac was bewildered. The American president, he thought, sounded dangerously fanatical.

After the call ended, Chirac called together his senior staff members and relayed the conversation.

“He said, ‘Gog and Magog.’ Do any of you know what he is talking about?”

Blank faces and head shakes.

“Find out,” Chirac said.

DemocraticUnderground and the Fracturing of the Democratic Grass Roots, Part I

A couple of days ago, I accidentally stumbled upon a fascinating American subculture I was not well aquainted with:  the prickly, stranger-shy cluster of rightist (though many self-identify as “liberal”) Hillary Clinton voters who were so enraged by the alleged (not to imply falsely alleged) chicanery between Team Obama and the DNC during the 2008 Democratic primaries that they picked up stakes and headed for any hill they felt sure Obama or the Democrats hadn’t defiled with their presence.

In my ramblings on the internet over the last few years, I have encountered many a Clinton supporter of the left who was driven to internet purgatories where other disaffected or disaffiliated Democrats gathered to share solace and critiques of Obama’s America with lefties (Greens, Naderites, Marxists) who had given up on the Democrats as the best hope for progressives long, long ago.  Indeed, I’ve lately felt much more comfortable with the left-wing victims of Obama’s serial betrayals than with Obama supporters, one of which I nominally was in 2008. But this was my first encounter with the radicalized centrists and center-rightists in the Clinton contingent who felt the sting of the Party’s betrayal.

Let me tell you:  radical centrism is a trip!  I’m sure my new friends in this subculture would find such an amused anthropological assessment of them annoying. To them I can only say, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. You’d be laughing at yourselves too if you could only see yourselves through my eyes.  But I’m going to try to set aside my amusement with them, which owes mainly to their strangely and almost uniformly vicious defenses against anyone not in their club–e.g., me, in my clumsy attempts to learn more about them–and try to focus on my observations about what this group tells us–tells me, anyway–about the Democrats’ prospects in 2012 and beyond. My main interest is in how the party’s recent past and future connect with the rise of #OccupyWallStreet. My hypothesis: The story of grass roots Democrats in the 21st century is one of numerous parallel threads of ordinary Americans’ political desires being thwarted by indifferent or even hostile political institutions, and this may be the beginnings of a new American Revolution. Continue reading

9/11 Flashback: No Excuses

I wrote this in response to an analysis of George W. Bush’s actions in the wake of 9/11 by R.W. Apple of the New York Times. It was published on Democratic Underground just a week and a day after the event that supposedly changed everything. As far as I was concerned it did nothing to change my perception that the man in the White House was illegitimate. I believe that the deterioration of the American ethos that we’ve seen since that day is due largely to that central fact, which the media continue to prefer to sweep under the rug.

No Excuses
September 19, 2001
by Burt Worm

R.W. Apple and the New York Times are at it again: trying to bestow legitimacy on a president whom many people in the United States and around the world sincerely – and reasonably – believe was not legitimately elected. Continue reading