web counter Media Lies: Getting to the crux of the matter

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

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Getting to the crux of the matter

Norman Podhoretz, writing in Commentary Magazine, (hat tip to Counterterrorism Blog) presents a lengthy exposition of the issues surrounding the Bush Doctrine and its opponents. Dealing first with the scoffers who claim that Bush will back away from the Doctrine in his second term, Podheretz argues persuasively that they have misread the signals and completely misgauged the determination of President Bush.
Finally, we come to the most plausible of all the reasons that have been given for predicting (or rather hoping) that Bush will spend his second term backing away from his own doctrine. This one can be summed up in a single word: Iraq.

The idea here is that Iraq represents the first great test to which the Bush Doctrine has been put, and that the count is now in on its miserable failure. The retrograde "red-state voters" may have been hoodwinked by the lies emanating from the White House and the Pentagon and amplified by Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News Channel, but everyone who knows anything knows that Bush's entire foreign policy now lies buried under the rubble of Baghdad and the smaller cities of the Sunni triangle.

Apart from all its other faults, this analysis is vitiated by the implicit assumption that, in his heart of hearts, Bush himself has come to agree with its take on Iraq in particular and the Bush Doctrine in general, and that he will now bow to reality and act accordingly. Yet if Bush believes that Iraq has been a disaster, why would he have decided to keep Donald Rumsfeld as his Secretary of Defense?

As the architect of the battle for Iraq, Rumsfeld has been blamed for almost everything that opponents of the invasion (and even some of its vocal supporters) tell us has gone wrong there. He has been accused of underestimating the number of boots that would be needed on the ground; of doing nothing to prevent the looting and the general breakdown of law and order that followed upon the capture of Baghdad; of failing to anticipate, and therefore to deal effectively with, the insurgency that developed; of creating a climate that fostered the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other such crimes. In short, "having ignored the State Department's postwar planning" (as the Washington Post delicately put the conventional wisdom in its story on Rumsfeld's reappointment), he led this country into a great debacle that has discredited the very policy whose viability it was intended to prove.

But if Bush accepted this version of how and why the battle for Iraq has gone and is going, it is unthinkable that he would have come down on the side of the adviser supposedly responsible for all the "mistakes" and "crimes" instead of embracing Powell, the putatively wise counselor whose spurned advice could have averted the whole disaster.
Rumsfeld's continued employment has evoked such consternation precisely because the opponents of the Bush Doctrine assume that even Bush must surely see the error of his ways by now. They do so because they continue to "misunderestimate" the man.

The imperception of Bush's critics stands in stark relief to the perspicacity of his opponents in the Middle East.
In Iraq, the insurgents—a coalition of diehard Saddamists, domestic Islamofascists, and foreign jihadists—have a simple objective. They are trying to drive us out before the seeds of democratization that we are helping to sow have taken firm root and begun to flower. Only thus can the native insurgents hope to recapture the power they lost when we toppled Saddam; and only thus can the Iranians, the Syrians, and the Saudis, who have been dispatching and/or financing the foreign jihadists, escape becoming the next regimes to go the way of Saddam's under the logic of the Bush Doctrine.

The despots tyrannizing these countries all know perfectly well that an American failure in Iraq would rule out the use of military force against them. They know that it would rob other, non-military measures of any real effectiveness. And they know that it would put a halt to the wave of reformist talk that has been sweeping through the region since the promulgation of the Bush Doctrine and that poses an unprecedented threat to their own hold on political power, just as it does to the religious and cultural power of the radical Islamists.

But the most important thing the insurgents and their backers in the neighboring despotisms know is that the battle for Iraq will not be won or lost in Iraq; it will be won or lost in the United States of America. On this they agree entirely with General John Abizaid, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, who recently told reporters touring Iraq: "It is all about staying the course. No military effort that anyone can make against us is going to be able to throw us out of this region." Is it any wonder, then, that the insurgents were praying for the victory of John F. Kerry—which they all assumed would mean an American withdrawal—or that the reelection of Bush—which they were not fooled by any exit polls into interpreting as anything other than a ratification of the Bush Doctrine—came as such a great blow to them?

But too much is at stake in Iraq for them to give up now, especially as they are confident that they still have an excellent shot at getting the American public to conclude that the game is not worth the candle. General Abizaid again: "We have nothing to fear from this enemy except its ability to create panic . . . and gain a media victory." To achieve this species of victory—and perhaps inspired by the strategy that worked so well for the North Vietnamese—they are counting on the forces opposing the Bush Doctrine at home. These forces comprise just as motley a coalition as the one fighting in Iraq, and they are, after their own fashion, just as desperate. For they too understand how much they for their own part stand to lose if the Bush Doctrine is ever generally judged to have passed the great test to which it has been put in Iraq.
This is precisely the point at which Vietnam and Iraq divurge. The difference? Alternative media. Americans have many more sources of information now, and they are no longer fooled by the gatekeepers.

Podhoretz goes on to discuss the forces in America aligned against the Bush Doctrine. This "motley" coalition is indeed a strange admixture. What could be more antipathetical than the views of Patrick Buchanan and Noam Chomsky? Yet those two, aligned with others, comprise the coalition.
So, too, with the isolationists of the hard Left. These—exactly like their forebears in the late 1930's who fought against America's entry into World War II—have made common cause with the paleoconservatives at the other end of the political spectrum. True, the isolationism of the Left stems from the conviction that America is bad for the rest of the world, whereas the isolationism of the Right is based on the belief that the rest of the world is bad for America. Nevertheless, the two streams have converged, flowing smoothly into the same channel of fierce opposition to everything Bush has done in response to 9/11.
There's a great deal more, and you should read it all.

Podhoretz closes with this.
Which is why I think (to say it one last time) that the amazing leader this President has amazingly turned out to be will—like the comparably amazing Harry Truman before him when he took on the Communist world—have the wind at his back as he continues the struggle against Islamist radicalism and its vicious terrorist armory: a struggle whose objective is the spread of liberty and whose success will bring greater security and greater prosperity not only to the people of this country, and not only to the people of the greater Middle East, but also to the people of Europe and beyond, in spite of the sorry fact that so many of them do not wish to know it yet.
We reach then the ultimate conclusion. The Bush Doctrine is this; when all men are free, the world will have peace. Startling in its simplicity it defies the "experts" who always seem to know the right answers yet never seem to solve the world's problems.

Who could have guessed that a plain-spoken man from Texas with an Ivy League degree in business administration would not only grasp what the world needed but have the courage and tenacity to implement it against the opposition of multitudinous entrenched interests?