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Monthly Archives: July 2010
Beinart chats with friends in high places: Liberal “hawks” like him played a major role in enabling the Iraq debacle
In 2003, the United States launched an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, a country that had neither attacked nor threatened it — and we, and the Iraqis, are still living with the consequences. Going to war in Iraq was made possible — easy, even — for the Bush Administration not only by Republican hawks and neocon extremists (the wannabe Army Corps of Social Engineers) baying for blood, but even more importantly, by supposedly sober and moderate liberal voices — the Peter Beinarts, Ken Pollacks, George Packers and the editors of the New York Times — not only failing to challenge the basic logic of the case for war, but providing their own more elegant (although equally brutal when stripped of their high-minded rhetoric) rationalizations for invading Iraq.
It was the liberal “hawks” and the New York Times, by failing to ask the right questions of the case for war, that did more to make the war a “thinkable” option for America than any neocon. They allowed the question to be posed simply as one of whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction or not. And because nobody could give an absolute assurance in the negative, the argument became “better safe than sorry”. The liberals and the New York Times offered no challenge, and asked no questions, of the basic assumption that if Saddam had, in fact, had a couple of warehouses full of VX gas and refrigerator full of anthrax, that necessitated launching a war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of upward of half a million Iraqis (and thousands of Americans) and left America weaker and more vulnerable.
And the bad news is that they’re doing it again on Iran. Continue reading
Despite the escalating war rhetoric, conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. military establishment and even President Obama himself believe that the potential consequences of a military strike that plunges America into a third war in the Muslim world are so grave — and the prospects for such a strike preventing or deterring Iran from eventually attaining nuclear weapons so dubious — as to render it too reckless an option. Nor is there any legal basis for it; a U.N. Security Council authorization for military action against Iran is unthinkable unless Iran attacked another country or was moving to do so. And most of the international community — including most of those countries that backed the latest round of sanctions — would strongly oppose it. President Obama is an indefatigable internationalist, and if he were planning to launch a military strike against Iran, it’s reasonable to expect that he’d be engaged in the protracted process of trying to establish a basis for such action at the U.N. and in international public opinion. No signs of that, at least not yet.
Obama has, however, insisted that a military option remains “on the table.”
So how do you say “Duh!” in Urdu? There’s nothing new or remarkable in the suggestion that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has been aiding and abetting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, as highlighted in coverage of the massive leak of U.S. military documents published on Sunday. If anything, it’s conventional wisdom among Afghanistan watchers that Pakistan continues to treat the movement it helped bring to power in 1996 as a strategic counterweight against Indian influence on its western flank. The latest revelations, fantastical as some of them may be, are simply a discomforting affirmation that Pakistan, the beneficiary of $1 billion in U.S. aid every year, continues to pursue interests at odds with those of its Washington patron — just like everyone else in the Afghan war theater does. Contemporary American slang may not have easy Urdu equivalents, but Count Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (“Badshah”) — the timeless handbook on duplicity and cunning in statecraft — was translated into Pakistan’s main language in 1947.
Obama is unable to offer Abbas an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, because that is not what Netanyahu has in mind. Indeed, recent reports suggest that during his meeting last weekend with Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, the Israeli prime minister presented a proposed map of a Palestinian State that fell well short of the Arab League’s proposal for peace. Nor is Netanyahu under pressure from the US to offer more. In fact, Netanyahu believes that he can bend Washington to his will, as he so memorably explained to a family of Israeli settlers in a recently surfaced video clip from 2001: “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.”
The “right direction” that Netanyahu made clear in the video, was “to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders”. Unable to offer a state based on the Arab League’s peace terms, Obama hopes to entice Abbas into his “peace event” by offering him a flag pole – specifically, the right to fly the Palestinian flag outside the PA mission in Washington. This is not any flag pole either, but one that provides diplomatic immunity for his envoys there: Palestinian diplomats will soon be able to ignore parking tickets in Washington, DC. Can the “stamps, parades and carnival” predicted by Uzi Arad be far behind?