"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Nature of the Beast

Courtesy of Instapundit, Steven Den Beste's case for fixing Saddam once and for all (July 2003) is getting a fresh look. (I would add a few things, like the Clinton Administration's sanctions were universally blamed for killing thousands of innocent women and children, not just in the Muslim world, but in the West as well.) The US wanted to make a statement in the Muslim world after 9/11. True. Let's get that out of the way.

It was a strategy, not a tactic. One does not strategically fight a forest fire where it's burning, but with fire breaks, isolating from the flames the parts next likely to go up. Watering the warm parts before they get hot.

Islamism and the New Caliphate of al-Qaeda were fed by tyranny in Muslim countries, tyranny that was often aided and abetted by the West in the interest of stability, tyranny that saps all hope and dignity from Muslim people. But how to break up the logs? How best to confront the beast? What tyrant in the Muslim world had it coming more than Saddam? He continued to butcher his own people, had a decades-long fascination with WMDs, and openly supported terrorists.

Those with good memories will recall that the "Arab street" raised barely a whimper in his defense. Everyone knew he and his lovely sons Uday and Attila had it coming. The rest was politics and posturing, and so it remains today.


The beast? The beast is tyranny, whether it be religious, like bin Laden's and the Taliban, or secular like Saddam's. The strategery of the Bush Administration was to confront the beast, in all its forms, sometimes with arms, sometimes with ideas.

But I do not think that the strategic reasons for the Iraq war would have been appealing to those who get their news from Jon Stewart, the "American street." It takes more than a minute to absorb the idea, and there are no commercial breaks to go take a pee and mull it all over.


Fortunately for the civilized world, the United States is not a democracy. Sorry for that newsflash, but we're a republic. We expect our representives to do the homework and the deep thinking that we're too busy or too disinterested to do. No commercials, no bathroom breaks.

As many (including Bill Bennett) have pointed out, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold made the rounds of the intelligence community on his own, heard the evidence, and voted against authorizing Bush to whack Saddam.

This is why men of conscience like Sen. Feingold are respected and not vilified among us on the right.

As for the 100-odd Democratic members of our Congress who are having second thoughts, well, you helped Bush break it, so you've bought it now too.

Shut the hell up and help us win, because quitting and losing is not an option.


Now, when Russ Feingold, in typically principled fashion, calls for a drawdown, well, people like me listen. And he's not wrong. The Iraqi people do need to get off the welfare of American military protection. I was just hoping, and I think many prudent people were, that such talk could wait until after the December 15 elections, when a legitimately elected and constitutional (as of the October 15, 2005 plebiscite) government, not an interim one, will be elected in Iraq.

Sen. Feingold has been OK by me, but I think he's jumped the shark, which is almost inevitable. The desperation to be relevant once again makes one irrelevant, because even if Sen. Feingold were right back then, we're here now. Bush may have screwed up and we arguably should have left Saddam in place (arguably), but we as a nation crossed the Rubicon long ago.

Can anyone deny that defeat or retreat feeds the militant Islamist beast? I've been thinking that implacability is the true definition of evil. These guys blow up their own people while they're worshipping at mosques. What is it about "unity" movements that's so cannibalistic?

To answer my own question, it's the nature of the beast. To ignore the beast's nature is to willingly participate in one's own destruction.

12 comments:

Winston Smith said...

Oh, c'mon, Tom.

It's not a strategy, it's a fantasy built on an orgy of speculation and wishful thinking. As I've made clear, I think Den Beste's reconstruction of the argument is admirably clear...but by thus clarifying it he makes it obvious that the thing is patently unsound. *No rational person would undertake the recommended course of action on the basis of this argument.*

Again I draw your attention to one of the critical bottlenecks, the abject failure of Den Beste's VI.B. in favor of--as I'll tendentiously put it--abandoning the war against al Qaeda in order to go questing in Iraq.

Now, I'm a liberal hawk, which means I've spent much of my life listening to simpering quasi-pacifists to my left chant the "violence never solves anything" mantra...but I've also had to listen to conservatives chant the "we can't be the world's policeman" mantra. (This they chanted against Carter and again against Clinton.)

I WANT us to use our military to make the world a better place. I think we have a moral obligation to do so. But Bush picked the worst possible time and one of the worst possible ways to do so. When attacked we have to respond forcefully and destroy our attackers, both because they deserve it and in order to dissuade others from attacking us. But Bush didn't do that. He made a half-hearted attack against our attackers and then--THEN--suddenly found the conscience of the Republican party and undertook an unjustified and poorly-planned war based on some vague hand-waving about reforming the entire Middle East. (I guess the idea is that freedom would trickle down from Iraq.) AND he lied about his reasons, AND his administration called those of us who called him on his lies and unwisdom unpatriotic.

Please, Tom, give it up. This is important. The soul of our country is at stake.

We DO have to win in Iraq--whatever the heck that means. But we also have to win at home. And that means being honest about the dishonesty and incompetence of our leadership.

Here endeth the rant.

S. T. Karnick said...

Excellent argument, Tom. I think that you've summarized the reality admirably.

James Elliott said...

Tom, this was easily the best thing I've seen you write here. Bravo.

That said, one must remember that the vote to authorize comes from both Chambers of Congress. While in the Senate, Russ Feingold was the lone voice of reason in the face of faux-patriotic jingoism, 60% of the House Democrats voted with him. Don't let's focus on one half of the equation.

Among those of us who are afficianadoes, if not professionals, of foreign policy, many of us understood how incredibly weak and unconvincing the case for any actual threat Saddam presented to the United States. "The enemy is tyrrany" would be a lot more convincing if we didn't have our collective lips puckered the the behinds of men like Pervez Musharraf, Islam Karimov, Nursultan Nazarbayev, or Lt. Gen. Omar Hasan Ahmed al-Bashir. Ah, but Musharraf "helped" us "hunt" for bin Laden while pardoning and denying access to A.Q. Khan. And we got some "valuable intelligence" from al-Bashir and blithely looked the other way while he lent helicopter gunships to the janjaweed, thus directly perpitrating the slaughter of thousands in Darfur.

Fighting tyranny is a post-cock-up justification, and to buy it is to be willingly myopic.

Can anyone deny that defeat or retreat feeds the militant Islamist beast? I've been thinking that implacability is the true definition of evil. These guys blow up their own people while they're worshipping at mosques. What is it about "unity" movements that's so cannibalistic?

In Iraq? Sure I can. Our own intelligence agencies but the number of jihadis in Iraq at about 5,000. That's a 9 to 1 ratio of insurgents to jihadis. Those same agencies believe that most of the insurgents are opposed to the occupation, not a new Iraq (though there is certainly a hardcore Baathist faction). A scheduled complete withdrawal (which may be planned as a series of benchmarks, not dates) would delegitimize the insurgents who want to see the U.S. out. The jihadists have post-facto legitimacy because they also want the U.S. out. Tom, your message is off because there is no one unified movement. Iraq's insurgency has Baathists, Sunnis afraid of pogroms and disenfranchisement, Shiite and Sunni groups who don't like seeing a foreign armed force in their homeland, and a small faction of jihadists. I'm sure I haven't delineated all the factions. There is no unified movement because the motivations are corporeal and spiritual, political and religious, idealistic and cynical. All they have in common is a few similar targets and one big one: the U.S. military. An occupying force has a tendency to attract ire from diverse opponents.

As Mr. Smith notes, we should use our military wisely and to the benefit of others. So, while we've messed around with a politcally arranged boondoggle in Iraq, we've done precisely jack and... squat... about Darfur for nearly as long.

Matt Huisman said...

Darfur? I thought the U.N. was on the case...yup, here it is...see no problem;-)

KeithM, Indy said...

Well, to be relevant Mr Feingold could also have agreed with the Presidents strategy, as Mr Leiberman is doing, with the added caveat that he (Feindgold) would "hold the Presidents feet to the fire" after the Dec elections in Iraq.

winston - show me how we've been "abandoning the war against al Qaeda"

In fact, we continue to pursue them where ever we find them in the world (except Iran)

James Elliott said...

Lieberman, who, like Feinstein is so rabidly pro-Israel as to give up his bona fides as a sane, rational man, probably sees two very good reasons for being all "rah rah war is good." First, he believes a democratic Iraq makes Israel safer. As we all know, this was one of the neocon rationalizations for the war in the first place when they drafted the sucker in the early '90s. Second, he's been paying attention the bull$#!+ coming out of the mouths of diverse bankrupt conservative religious institutions like the Family Resource Center to groups like Reform Judaism: Namely, that to fail to support the President, who is One Of Them, or to oppose conservative Christianity, is to throw mud in the faces of the Christian Zionists (you know, those End of Days Death Cultists) and to question such an agenda risks their pulling their support for Israel. Those are some powerful words from some scarily powerful people.

James Elliott said...

Darfur? I thought the U.N. was on the case...yup, here it is...see no problem;-)

Well, the inspectors in Iraq appear to have been doing a damn fine job that the ISG couldn't do any better, and that didn't stop us from blowing the crap out of that country, did it?

If tyranny really is the enemy, what's all this well-after-the-fact Clinton bashing, which we've seen here, over Kosovo? If tyranny really is "the beast," why quibble and hem and haw like so many have? It's absurd. It's the kind of crappy, sloppy relativism we see from Dick Cheney on torture. "It's bad because it was Clinton but good when it's Bush" is like when Cheney says "It was Bad when Hussein tortured People because he is Evil and Avaricious; it is good when We do it because We are Pure and Righteous (and Avaricious...)." I call bullhonkey.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, it was I who brought up the Clinton Administration's claim of "tens of thousands" of deaths in Kosovo as a justification for intervention, when the actual figure seems to be around 2,000.

Mr. Smith seems to think Dubya should be eaten for similar rhetorical flourishes, and that will somehow help with the stabilization of Iraq.

I disagree. The absence of a "Free Saddam" movement on the Arab street indicates that there is no disagreement that he had it coming.


And no, I don't think the Kosovo intervention was necessarily bad. McCain, Dole, and the Republicans got Clinton's back, contrary to popular myth.

Clinton (and us) did get lucky however, that Russia decided not to fight for its traditional hegemony over Serbia. But that shall wait for another day.

Matt Huisman said...

...and that didn't stop us from blowing the crap out of that country, did it?

But I thought we were supposed to wait for the U.N. to tell us when there is an international problem? Certainly you wouldn't want us to act unilaterally twice.

Not to mention that it is pretty unfair to expect us to take on multiple projects that the minority party doesn't support at the same time. All I'm saying is don't bring up Darfur without showing me the scalp of the Democratic leadership first.

Matt Huisman said...

Lieberman, who, like Feinstein is so rabidly pro-Israel as to give up his bona fides as a sane...

Wow. Someone actually holds a principled position, as opposed to one based on political opportunism - and he's the insane one?

Second, he's been paying attention the bull$#!+ coming out of the mouths of diverse bankrupt conservative religious institutions...

What would that be? That people with similar interests should support each other? Crazy, man.

the Christian Zionists (you know, those End of Days Death Cultists)

This notion that Christians support Israel to initiate some sort of tripwire to Armaggedon is a joke. The occaisional kook is hardly representative.

The political relationship between Christians and Jews is still in its infancy - the 'death cultist' line is used by those who fear the political fallout from this budding partnership.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Y'know, Matt, I'm so used to this sort of sliming from my friends on the left that I don't even notice it anymore. It's really quite ugly when you stop and think on it.

I mean, these are my friends and fellow Americans. I'm really not parsing their every word looking for insults.

Good that you call these things out.

Pastorius said...

Tom,

You know I don't promo my blog a lot, but I think this is an important post:

http://cuanas.blogspot.com/2005/12/new-nuremberg-rally-in-london-writer.html

I don't know if that story fits The Reform Club, but if it does, I'd love to read your take on it. I think it is a major story, and yet it is getting almost no attention.

Also, I lost my email address to a greedy SBC. My new email address is

cuanasblog@yahoo.com

Please note, I also no longer have your email address.