Sunday, March 27, 2005

Iraq War: Conservative antiwar sentiment

What's with the rightwing advocates of "supply-side" economics being down on Bush's grand adventure in Mesopotamia?

Via "pessimist" at the Left Coaster blog, I came across this post by longtime conservative stalwart and former Business Week columnist Paul Craig Roberts: Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself Counterpunch 02/12-13/05.

Roberts uses from fairly, shall we say, "shrill" rhetoric about the Iraq War.  Describing Bush, Dick Chaney, Rummy, Paul Wolfowitz and Condi-Condi as "the Five Morons", he writes:

You see [according to the Five], the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis' homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts [according to the Five] are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America "bringing democracy to Iraq." ...

Why didn't Americans realize that it is dangerous to put a buffoon [he means Bush] in charge of the US government who hasn't a clue about the world around him, what he is doing or the consequences of his actions?

I'm a little surprised at the amount of ridicule he employs.  Although given his history as a polemicist, I probably sholdn't be.  I must admit it's hard to argue with the following observation.  (Especially since I've been saying pretty much the same thing.)

... [T]he US has proven to the world that it cannot occupy Baghdad,much less Iraq...
What is the point of the Bush administration's bellicosity when it has been conclusively demonstrated that the US has insufficient troops to successfully occupy Iraq, much less Syria and Iran? The American people should be scared to death that they have put in power such deluded people. ...

This point shouldn't be overlooked.  As reckless as they are, the Bush team is severely limited in what they can actually do militarily against Syria and Iran.  And that's not just because of public and international disapproval.  Without a massive draft, they simply don't have the troops to make much of a credible threat.  And if they try to substitute air power to attack one or both those countries, they can retaliate by pushing to escalate guerrilla attacks in Iraq.  Iran could even intervene directly in Iraq in that situation.

Roberts at least recognizes that the economic aspects of the Bush Doctrine are sadly deficient in practice:

The US Treasury is empty. The once "almighty" dollar is tottering. The US military is stretched to the breaking point. Former allies look askance at America. Hatred of America has reached an all time high. ...

But here's a definite conservative twist: they hate us because of sex!

By its behavior the Bush administration is confirming Osama bin Laden's propaganda and breeding more terrorists. Much better to address the causes of Muslim discontent--America's enabling of the Israeli government's mistreatment and dispossession of the Palestinians, and America's export of "culture" that glorifies the sexual promiscuity of women. [my emphasis]

And I never quite know what to make of criticisms worded this way:

It does not serve America for Bush to impose Ariel Sharon's agenda on the Middle East. Bush's insane policy ... has managed to create a Shi'ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon.

On the one hand, it's true that the Bush administration tends to back Sharon's Likud Party hard line on the Israeli-Palestine dispute.  But this makes it sound like the White House is taking orders from sinister Jews in Tel Aviv.  It would be closer to the facts to say they are taking order from delusional zealots of the Christian Right who weirdly support an Israeli hardline because they think it will hasten then end of the world and the slaughter of most of the Jews in the world.

But the recognition that we're helping to boost the organized power of Shia Islam in the Middle East is accurate, and one that Congress should be paying a lot more attention to.  That is, if they weren't too busy trying to phase out Social Security and pandering to the Christian Right over the Schiavo case.

Another Republican supply-side luminary from the 1980s, Jude Wanniski, also holds forth on the problems of the Bush Doctrine on Al Jazeera's Web site (Al Jazeera?!?): America's gunboat diplomacy by Jude Wanniski, Al Jazeera Online 03/25/05.

Wanniski accurately notes that much of the outlook behind the Bush Doctrine was the unwholesome spawn of the Nixon administration:

To appreciate the ironies of the moment, we can recollect that the outlines of President Bush's call for a worldwide democratic crusade were hatched a dozen years ago by the intellectuals around him.

These were the young men chosen by president Nixon for his foreign-policy team: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney, the elder George Bush; and the "neo-cons" who were nominally Democrats: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey.

But though Wanniski is clearly critical of the Bush Doctrine, his criticism is more measured, and less scornful, than Roberts'

... As an admirer of Nixon's world-view, I've often believed that he would not have followed the course plotted by the neo-cons in subsequent years, which has left us with such a mess today. ...

Nixon's followers obviously ignored the old man's counsel when they devised their Project for a New American Century in 1994, whichwas an explicit design for a New World Order based on the exercise of America's economic and military might.

There's certainly plenty for conservative members of the reality-based community to criticize about Bush's foreign policy.  And, as I've mentioned here, some of their points are good ones.  Still, politics makes strange bedfellows, as the old saying goes.  And conservative criticism of the Iraq War is not all coming from the same perspective.  Some Pat Buchanan-type conservatives see it as a Jewish conspiracy.  Others may just be opportunistically trying to distance themselves from an obvious disaster.  Still others may be rightwing isolationists who may be just as militaristic and as hostile to international law as the neoconservatives but just think the Iraq War is a bad bet.

In a related vein, a friend of mine last week called my attention to this article, which discusses the worries of Paul Craig Roberts, Justin Raimondo and the obnoxious neo-Confederate Lew Rockwell (who tries to pass himself off as a "libertarian") that the Bush administration is headed for fascism:  Hunger for Dictatorship: War to export democracy may wreck our own by Scott McConnell American Conservative 03/14/05.


Anonymous said...

I love the Paul Craig Roberts piece.  His tone may be a little over the top, but he is so on target!  

How America has permitted the five morons another four years is a mystrey that cannot be explained by reference to Kerry's lack of appeal.  

In years to come, as the full nature of the Bush mismangement and strategic failures become unavoidably clear, we will all wonder along with our friends in Europe how the hell we could have let these bumblers remain at the helm.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, some of the best criticisms of the Iraq War fiasco are coming from pragmatic-minded conservatives.

Roberts has a new article out that gives additional clues as to where he's coming from on this:  "Draft Needed to Bail Out Neocons" 03/28/05

In that one, you see more of his conservative outlook.  He's criticizing a recent article by Phil Carter and Paul Glastris in *Washington Monthly* about the draft.  Roberts is faithful to the fond dream of Republicans that we can have a huge military establishment that pumps lots of tax money to private businesses but that doesn't require the public to make any kind of noticeable sacrifice.

I think he (and also the liberal blogger Steve Gilliard, who criticized the article for other reasons) missed one of the main points of the Carter/Glastris piece.  And that is, the US needs to make a real choice about what role we're going to play in the world.  If it's really in our interest - or our divine mission - to fight wars of liberation in the Middle East and other oil-rich areas of the world, and to maintain long occupations while fighting insurgents, the Army needs to staff up to do that.  Because it's not set up to do it today.

Conversely, if the draft is too much of a price for the public to pay, then we need to pursue a foreign policy that doesn't require a draft.  And it won't look like the Iraq War.  In fact, it would mean getting out of the Iraq War sooner rather than later. - Bruce