Category Archives: Neoconservatives

Fukuyama and Kagan

Blogging heads.tv have a fascinating discussion between Francis Fukuyama and Robert Kagan providing as good a critique of the neoconservative project as you will see.  Robert Kagan is probably one of the smartest neo-cons since Fukuyama departed over the Iraq war but Fukuyama is quietly brilliant and in a different league.  It just leaves my shaking my head in disbelief that someone of this calibre got sucked up in the neoconservative project.  Kagan make sone very revealing comment about the way that good historians will trace the origin of the recent American hubris not to the start of the Bush administration but to ’90s and the Clinton administration (and the first Bush administration).  He is quite right of course, even if the neocons took it to pathological extremes.

M.E. Nuclear Follies: Hersh, Ritter, … and the Failed States Index

Jamal Dajani’s latest Mosaic Intelligence Report looks at what has been going on in Afghanistan. The outlook for victory in the ‘good war’ looks incredibly bleak.

Gordon Prather has an article arguing that the Bush administration legacy will be “the deliberate destruction of the existing international nuclear-weapons proliferation-prevention regime,” and Scott Horton has interviewed him on the subject. Prather shows a touching incredulity that nothing the Bush administration does in this area seems to make much sense.

Iraq has gone from second to fifth in the Foreign Policy Failed States Index, illustrating perfectly the success of the ‘surge’. William Pfaff has a truthdig article, The Illusion of Saving Nations from Themselves, reminding us of how we got here:

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Ye shall know them by their fruits (I am back!)

I hit quite a block after posting that acknowledgment of what a superior blogger Yglesias is. To what extent was it ego? I don’t know: it is difficult to be sure, but I suspect it was one of several factors.

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Yglesias Responds (and Nails It)

Matt Yglesias has responded to my request for his take on the Goldberg/Walt disagreement over Ahmadinejad’s unpleasant rhetoric over Israel and produces a beautifully concise explanation of why it is a bad idea to exaggerate it (here is mine for comparison). While I can’t seem to stop being impressed by his articles, the way he has dispatched this has confirmed and amplified my sense of respect. This kind of thing is really not that easy to do.

I am disappointed by the absence of a link but I know I haven’t earned one either.

McBush?

Robert Fisk has an article in the Indie about a Dutch press photographer putting on a photograph exhibition on Iraq based on images that Iraqis have captured with their mobile phones. The reason he is using Iraqi’s amateur collection is that Iraq is still too dangerous for anybody with any sense who has any option to be elsewhere.

The refugee statistics are so appalling that they have become almost mundane. Four million of Iraq’s 23 million people have fled their homes – until recently, at the rate of 60,000 a month – allegedly more than 1.2 million to Syria (a figure now challenged by at least one prominent NGO), 500,000 to Jordan, 200,000 to the Gulf, 70,000 to Egypt, 57,000 to Iran, up to 40,000 to Lebanon, 10,000 to Turkey. Sweden has accepted 9,000, Germany fewer – where an outrageous political debate has suggested that Christian refugees should have preference over Muslim Iraqis. With its usual magnanimity – especially for a country that set off this hell-disaster by its illegal invasion – George Bush’s America has, of course, accepted slightly more than 500.

This collection of pictures is therefore an indictment of us, as well as of the courage of Iraqis. The madness is summed up in an email message sent to Van Kesteren by a Baghdad Iraqi. “This summer,” he wrote, “a workman wanted to quench his thirst by putting ice in his tea. A car pulled up, the driver stepped out and began to beat and kick the man, cursing him as an unbeliever. ‘What do you think you’re doing? Did the Prophet Mohamed put ice in his water?’

The man being attacked was furious and asked his assailant: ‘Do you think the Prophet Mohamed drove a car?'”

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The SOFA Fiasco

Smintheus:

On the supposition that finetuning the provisions that Iraqis find obnoxious to their sovereignty will bring them or their government around, Bush remains optimistic about the outcome.

President Bush said Saturday he is confident the United States can reach a long-term security agreement with Iraq, one that will not establish permanent U.S. bases there.

“If I were a betting man, we’ll reach an agreement with the Iraqis,” Bush told a news conference in Paris.

Bush has been wrong about virtually everything having to do with Iraq. He overplayed his hand one too many times, and SOFA is done for.

Goldberg is also Wrong about Ahmadinejad

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Jeffrey Goldberg) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

[Update: Please read the companion article, The Love Buzz, explaining why it is important to seek out everyone’s point of view, especially those of people that you find offensive, and that this process in no way condones their actions.]

In an eerie coincidence, as soon as I completed my essay, Why Fisk is Wrong about Ahmadinejad, that finished with Jeffery Goldberg, I read Goldberg’s article, Mearsheimer and Walt: Apologists for Ahmadinejad, responding to Stephen Walt comments in a lecture in Jerusalem:

A professor criticized the authors for failing to condemn Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map. “I don’t think he is inciting to genocide,” Walt responded.

Goldberg starts with the infamous mistranslation:

October, 2005: “Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine… I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world. But we must be aware of tricks.”

despite it being well known that more accurate translations exist.

The Imam [Khomeini] said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.

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Martin Rowson on Dubaya

As President Bush makes his valedictory visit to our shores Martin Rowson reflects on his victim, skewering him as effortless in words as he did in pictures.

As it is, taking the piss out of the way he looks (which he can’t, after all, do much about) was more than justified by the way he behaved, demonising and often seeking to criminalise all opposition in the name of “Freedom” while pursuing the violent export of free-market democracy (just tell ’em about it in Florida) and wallowing in a heady mixture of incompetence, incomprehension and mawkish militarism. And all of this heading up an administration which showed every sign of being run by the Corleone family, but where they’d picked Fredo as Godfather instead of Michael.

Why Fisk is Wrong about Ahmadinejad

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Robert Fisk) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

[Update: See also The Love Buzz, an important companion article without which this article may seem a little puzzling, and Goldberg is also Wrong on Ahmadinejad.]

Latest reports suggest that there could be a resolution to the nuclear dispute between Iran and the USA on the horizon? If it is so then Ahmadinejad had better if the Iranians kept Ahmadinejad out of the way. But before I come to these reports I would like to look at how the President of Iran may have influenced the process. He is portrayed, even by great instigative journalists as insane, but others have detected method in his madness. To do that you have to avoid getting distracted by the hysterical projections of his detractors and treat him seriously.

The great instigative journalist is Robert Fisk, who has a new article in Saturday’s Indie, The Middle East never tires of threats. Until the end of the article it is vintage Fisk, looking at the absurd, boastful theatrics that makes up so much of conflict, and especially Middle Eastern politics. His best shot comes when the boasts stop.

The problem about threats, of course, is that once you’ve made them, you’ve either got to carry them out or pretend you were misunderstood. I never believed George Bush would invade Iraq; not, that is, until I turned up at UN headquarters in New York and actually heard him ranting on about the powerlessness of the UN. And then he actually did invade Iraq. And I still have my notes of an interview with a certain Osama bin Laden, and his last words to me were: “I pray that God permits us to turn America into a shadow of itself.” And I wrote in the margin the one word “rhetoric?”. September 11 cleared that one up.

For those that haven’t already read Commander Huber’s essay on how we all walked into the trap, I recommend it, for it America has become a shadow of herself, even if, despite extensive south-west-Asian commitments, her ability wreak death and destruction remains formidable . I mean the American brand is a shadow of itself, though its not irreparable (and already underway?).

Unfortunately Fisk gets carried away with his story and finishes with the most hackneyed of comparisons, and following a narrative lovingly constructed by the purveyors of the meaningless, lazy and empty rhetoric that Fisk despises so much.

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The Iran Fiasco

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Mosaic Intelligence Report) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

These waves of diplomatic offensives against Iran and attendant meaningless references to abstract entities remaining on tables are starting to become comical, at least that is the analysis of the latest Mozaic Intelligence Report, and Commander Huber and Gordon Prather recap the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the whole shabby parade.

I do really hope nobody does anything really, really stupid.

Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Trita Parsi) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of
Israel, Iran and the United States

by Trita Parsi (2007)

This is one of the best books I have read. I read it over six months ago yet it seems as clear as if I had read it yesterday and still feel excited about what Trita Parsi has achieved with this book, demonstrating that while the evolution of the relationship between Israel and Iran has had a deeply ideological face, underneath this façade geopolitical factors have been the real drivers and the real causes of their gradual transition from allies to enmity. Again, their current enmity is not founded in the Iranian revolution at the end of the 1970s but the termination of the cold war and the defeat of Iraq in the first Persian Gulf war in the 1990s. Parsi bases his analysis on 130 interviews of senior officials in charge of the foreign policy of the three countries covering the period from the decline of the Shah to the 2006 Lebanon war.

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Powell’s Chief of Staff Spills the Beans

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here RealNews) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

Paul Jay provides a typically incisive three-part interview with Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell 2002-5. In the first part Wilkerson explains that the 2003 strategic bargain offered by Iran was turned down by Cheney on the grounds that such negotiations would legitimise the Iranian regime. This is quite timely as I am in the middle of a discussion on the merits of this Neoconservative approach to foreign policy with Hey Skipper on the Obama’s Realist Iran Policy article. As Wilkerson makes clear the issue is one of Neoconservative policy, not conservative policy, or Republican policy, or even Bush administration policy (the Bush State Department under Powell wasn’t Neoconservative). If any episode illustrates the total folly of the Bush/McCain approach then this story does, Wilkerson underlining in the second and third interviews the horrible stupidity of it all and why he won’t be voting for McCain in the election (but he is waiting for more details from Obama).

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100 Years

Marc Ambinder still doesn’t understand why John McCain should be held accountable for his ‘100 years’ remark:

The differences between McCain and Obama are clear enough; Obama wants a bare-bones U.S. presence in Iraq, and McCain is willing to tolerate a much larger one; Obama believes that the presence of U.S. troops exacerbates the tension and gives Iraqis a crutch to delay political reconcilliation. McCain does not. One would think that those differences are a sufficient basis upon which to launch a political attack.

If I tell my parents that I really don’t want to burn the family home down yet keep playing with matches, and proclaiming that I will keep on playing with them, what are my parent supposed to think? Of course I don’t want to burn the house down, but obviously it isn’t a very high priority, and anyway, whatever my professed intentions, my actions are going to lead to these consequences anyway.

For people that oppose the war, the occupation of Iraq is a neo-colonial operation and a continuation of the war and the fact that John McCain can’t see this is of great significance.  It would be incompetent and irresponsible of any anti-war candidate to gloss over and ignore McCain’s remarks and his continued defence of them; this issue should be attacked until it is properly understood, the kid of confused thinking it betrays being responsible for the current Iraq disaster.

It is really no wonder that Obama supporters take issue with Marc Ambinder’s professed neutrality.

Obama’s Realist Iranian Policy

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here The Daily Duck) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

In an article over at the Daily Duck I opined that Barack Obama had most realistic policy on Iran, and Susan’s husband demurred.

If you think Obama has a good grasp on the strategic issues surrounding Iran, we’d love to hear what that is. Talks without preconditions? Talks with preconditions? Different from the Bush Administration how, exactly? Everything I have heard from Obama on Iran leads me to the exact opposite conclusion, that he has no idea whatsoever what’s going on there or what to do, but is just winging it, shifting his position moment by moment to dodge the incoming flack.

Fair enough. I have listened carefully to Obama on Iran with some trepidation, expecting the usual nonsense but I saw no major mistakes (I am thinking especially of the Russert interview). That is not to say that he really does understand the issues but I think it does suggest that his advisers understand the situation and that he has mastered the brief.

Note that while it is not my reason for supporting his policy, recent polling suggests that the public seems to be swinging behind Obama’s readiness to deal with Iran diplomatically.

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On Anti-Semitism

I have today received a comment on the Neanderthals article which expressed much resentment at the influence of Jews in American politics, touching on some traditional antisemitic themes. I have left the comment to stand but I won’t repeat it here. I will repeat my reply however.

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George Monbiot and Our Guilty Taboo

I am generally wary of empty, vain gestures and am well aware of the trap so it was with great interest that I read about George Monbiot’s attempt at a citizen’s arrest on John Bolton. My first thought was how is this going to work and that no way would I have the bottle to attempt it. I agree with Monbiot that the Iraq war is a vast war crime, the worst and most distressing aspect of it beyond the fact of the millions of lives smashed and countries destabilised being the normalisation of the crime.

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Huber on War

Commander Huber has an excellent article, War and Peace in the Hegemonic Age, over at the Pen and Sword.

I read and listened to a lot of horse whinny in the course of pursuing my master’s degree in war more than a decade ago. Today, Jeff Huber’s essential laws of armed conflict are few and simple. First is that, like it or not, the history of humanity is the history of its wars, and the fundamental nature of war (and possibly humanity) hasn’t changed since smart apes first used sticks and bones to beat the monkey snot out of other apes and take their food away from them.

My favourite paragraph:

The tricky part of this sovereignty distinction between war and peace in the American hegemon age is that the sovereignty model is crumbling. That phenomenon has been the same in previous hegemonic eras. When one nation decisively dominates all others, balance of power moderations erode and individual as well as national sovereignty (of nations other than the hegemon, of course) become quaint notions, and as liberal republics approach hegemony, they also become tyrannical. The Roman Empire and Napoleon’s France are two of the more obvious examples of this.

Enjoy.

Iraq: the next phase?

Juan Cole reports that Grand Ayatollah Sistani may be about to withdraw his support of the Anglo-US occupation and back those opposing the Americans. Needless to say this could ruin Petraeus’s entire day, and Crocker’s and their bosses, etc. Sistani being as inscrutable as ever Cole makes some shrewd guesses as nto what may have precipitated it. Some are quite predictable, such as the usual tensions between occupier and occupied–the commander’s wishing to look after the men in their charge at the expense of Iraqi citizens in deciding whether to call down that air-strike, but Cole speculates that this Iranian may not be too happy about assisting to keep the rear quiet and provide a serviceable platform for the decider and Vader to use the long arm of the USAF to put those pesky Persians in their place.

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Apeasement

By way of Yglesias here is Arlen Specter quizzing Robert Gates on Iran. The graciousness and integrity of some of the people in the Grand Old Party is really quite something to behold (considering it is their own administration they are criticizing).

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‘Big’ Ethics and the War on Terror

How to end the War on Terror, quickly

[Here I try to pick apart many issues that get tangled in the debate on the ethics of the War on Terror taking a recent discussion between Megan McArdle and Daniel Drezner. It boils down to the importance of drilling for the real motivation in making ethical judgements and loving the sinner while hating the sin.]

If anyone hasn’t listened to any of the bloggingheads.tv diavlogs (what I think of as divalogs) then I suggest you do, especially if you like witty, intelligent discussion of American politics and current affairs.

I picked up the latest divalog between Megan McArdle and Daniel Drezner from Megan’s blog at The Atlantic and was intrigued by the section that started about 40 minutes in where Megan says she is more interested in ‘small’ (manageable?) ethical issues rather than the ‘big’ issue of whether the US prosecution of the War on Terror is evil. (I am paraphrasing a bit here, but I think this is the sense.)

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