Forget the Democrats

Posted by Cutler on September 27, 2006
Iraq, Right Arabists

As mid-term elections approach, it is reasonable to expect political partisans to try to make Iraq and terror into issues that divide Democrats and Republicans.

William Kristol is certainly correct to point out that Clinton’s red meat slap at Fox and the “right-wingers” behind ABC’s “The Path to 9/11″ was a calculated piece of political theater. And Kristol is candid enough to acknowledge the flip side:

Republican efforts (engineered by the dastardly Karl Rove) to paint Democrats as unreliable in the war on terror… Bush and Rove have had a few good weeks on this issue.

The crux of Rove’s strategy is to transform all discussions of Iraq into discussions of terror. And Democrats will surely be tempted to try to claim this turf for themselves by suggesting that Iraq is now about terror because of Bush’s misguided war (good luck with that!).

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal seems to rejoice in all this.

When the New York Times published elements of a classified National Intelligence Estimate report suggesting that the war in Iraq had fueled terrorist activity, the Journal essentially begged for more. They published an editorial entitled, “Declassify the Terrorism NIE” (subscription only):

So here’s our suggestion for President Bush: Declassify the entire NIE…

As for the substance of the 2006 NIE’s alleged claims, does anyone doubt that many jihadis are rallying against the American presence in Iraq? The newspapers tell us that much every day. Whether the war in Iraq has produced more terrorist hatred than would otherwise exist, however, is a matter of opinion and strategic judgment.

The White House promptly adopted this strategy. More recently, in an editorial entitled “The Decision to Declassify,” the Journal‘s editorial page focuses on the response from Democrats:

The one policymaker who appears to have been swept away on the basis of the leak is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. After Mr. Bush made his announcement, Ms. Pelosi called for the House to go into a “closed” session — the first since 1983 — to discuss the NIE. We’ll set aside the manifest absurdity of the House going into “secret session” to discuss a classified document being made public. The point of Ms. Pelosi’s stunt is to gain traction for the Democratic campaign strategy of telescoping the national-security debate down to her party’s proposal to withdraw from Iraq, thereby neutralizing the GOP’s advantage when the debate is on the broader war on terror

We will hold an election in this country in six weeks and a bigger one in 2008. The war on terror — with or without Iraq — will be central to those votes. If declassifying this national intelligence estimate helps voters in that decision, so much the better.

Hmmm. Hardly shaking in their boots.

The weakness in the Pelosi’s position is not her “proposal” to withdraw from Iraq. The key problem there is that the rest of the Democratic Party refuses to embrace a populist anti-war position.

Instead, the weakness in Pelosi’s position is the effort to try to link Iraq and terror–to use Iraq to say that the war on terror is more serious than the administration acknowledges.

I believe that is what is called an own goal. “So much the better,” as the Journal says.

An “Establishment” Insurgency

On the war in Iraq, the Bush administration does actually face a political insurgency on the home front.

The base of that insurgency, however, arises from within the [Right Arabist] Foreign Policy Estabisment itself–the State Department, the CIA, and the military brass.

This, at least, is the common complaint among Right Zionists.  In a May 3, 2004 article at the National Review Online Michael Rubin of AEI lamented:

The State Department, CENTCOM, and CIA [argue] that only a strongman or benign autocrat can govern Iraq…

Who leaked the NIE to the New York Times? Was it a partisan democrat loyal to Pelosi? Not a chance.

Forget the Democrats.

All the likely suspects come from within the “Republican Establishment.”

The “Establishment” war against the Right Zionists began with the earliest factional fights over Afghanistan and Iraq. The insurgency has been relentless and it has all been “friendly fire” from within a divided Republican administration.

Who argued against toppling Saddam before the war, while most Democrats were preparing to vote for the war? Brent Scowcroft. No Democrat, he.

Who leaked Major General Antonio M. Taguba’s fifty-three-page report on Abu Ghraib to Seymour Hersh at The New Yorker?

Who published Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror? (Answer: Michael Scheuer, CIA.)

Who published Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror? (Answer: Richard Clarke, NSC).

Who has repeatedly slammed the administration for “De-Baathifying” and “Disbanding the army” in Iraq? Retired General Anthony Zinni.

Who went public with charges against a Neocon “cabal” within the Bush administration? Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Who continually calls for the head of Donald Rumsfeld? The military brass, most recently a group of retired officers including Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste.

Are these folks in a marriage of convenience with Democrats? Yes.

Are they anti-war pacifists or isolationists? Hell no.

The point was made by Dana Milbank in his Washington Post column, “For Democrats, Welcome Words on Rumsfeld–If Not the War.”

“Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader,” said Batiste, wearing a pinstripe suit, calling himself a “lifelong Republican” and bearing a slight resemblance to Oliver North…

“Our world is much less safe today than it was on September 11,” Batiste said, echoing the administration’s newly leaked intelligence estimate.

Batiste, who retired in protest rather than accept a three-star promotion, was a persuasive witness — and Democrats were joyous…

But Democrats, while celebrating Batiste’s criticism of the administration, exercised some selective listening at the hearing when Batiste and his colleagues offered their solution: more troops, more money and more time in Iraq.

The “real” domestic insurgency is led by Right Arabists who lost control of the ship of state after 9/11. For better or worse, the “real” domestic insurgency is not led by Democrats. It is led by Republicans.

Specifically, Right Arabists.

Right Arabist Republicans like George H.W. Bush.

5 Comments to Forget the Democrats

  • Two great examples of this are Lincoln Chafee (Senate Republican–RI) and Tom Friedman. Chafee famously said that he didn’t vote for George W. Bush, he actually wrote in the name of his father! (Ironically the GOP is still sending millions his way for the Senate race since they need to hold on to every seat and they don’t think they can win with anyone more conservative.) Friedman, lover of liberal empire, has also been highly critical of the war and pined for the days of Bush Père. ( The elder Bush, of course, served as both UN Ambassador and Director of the CIA and he had Colin Powell as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during his presidency.

    You can also check out this summary of the establishment foes of the current policies:
    Note who penned this as well–none other than Katrina vanden Huevel, editor of The Nation. She critiques the Bush administration from essentially and establishment/realist poition. Yet, would it be too hard to find pieces in The Nation critiquing realism and the support authoritarian regimes, especially during the Reagan/Bush era? Critiques that, today, we now might identify as neoconservative? For me the issue isn’t even so much that others on the left will jump back and forth between those standpoints (that can be chalked up to political expediency) but the lack of understanding of what they’re signing up for. I may fight alongside the enemy of my enemy, but that doesn’t make him my friend.

  • I hadn’t thought of it like that, the intervention of Woodward also makes it clear. What I am confused by though is the whole Kissinger business, speaking as a UK citizen with which group does he fit.

  • Interesting blog, Gracchi.
    The “whole Kissinger business” is, indeed, quite challenging.

    On the one hand, there are signs that he looks out for the Saudis. In a 2002 Washington Post Op-Ed, he argued that the key to any move to topple Saddam would be the contour of “the political outcome,” especially insofar as Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to cooperate in the formation of a “Shiite republic” that “would threaten the Dhahran region in Saudi Arabia, and might give Iran a new base to seek to dominate the gulf region.” This is a Right Arabist warning to Right Zionists.

    On the other hand, it is arguably “Kissinger’s World” that Right Zionists have been struggling to recreate ever since it was lost in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. By Kissinger’s World, I mean a US-strategic tilt toward a pro-US Iran allied with Israel. And it was Kissinger who first floated the idea in the mid-1970s of seizing the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

    The “old” Kissinger earned the eternal enmity of Right Arabists like James Akins.

    Did a “new” Kissinger make his peace (and/or his money) with the Saudis?

    Unclear to me. He is quite hawkish about the incumbent Iranian regime. But that may not preclude an effort to renew a long-term strategic tilt toward a “reformed” or “transformed” Iran–what Right Zionists call “eternal Iran.”

    Of his two recent Op-Eds on Iran (here and here), the first offers the most interesting hint of a strategic vision, beyond tactics.

    “It is often asserted that what is needed in relation to Iran is a diplomacy comparable to that which, in the 1970s, moved China from hostility to cooperation with the United States… The challenge of the Iranian negotiation is far more complex… If Tehran insists on combining the Persian imperial tradition with contemporary Islamic fervor, then a collision with America — and, indeed, with its negotiating partners of the Six — is unavoidable… At the same time, an Iran concentrating on the development of the talents of its people and the resources of its country should have nothing to fear from the United States… [A proper] approach [toward Iran] would imply the redefinition of the objective of regime change, providing an opportunity for a genuine change in direction by Iran, whoever is in power.”

    Of course, the idea that Kissinger is promoting another “Nixon in China” (“Bush in Iran”) is the most tantalizing aspect…

    Any thoughts?

  • I’ve always thought of Kissinger as something of a modern day Metternich (the subject of his doctoral dissertation actually). There’s a nice Council on Foreign Relations interview with him here:

    There’s been a lot of rhetoric from the administration, particularly in Bush’s inaugural address, about democracy and reform in the Arab world. And the Arabs themselves seem interested in this subject. But are we being too idealistic?

    It’s important for the United States to stand for something else than simply a display of its power. I support the concept that this is what the United States would stand for. I’m more cautious on the ability to implement this as an administration program in a brief period of time. I’m also more cautious about involving ourselves in the details in the various countries where we have a tendency to lecture. So I support the concept, I support the attitude, but we should keep in mind that we also support stability. It’s difficult to apply this in every country, but if you take Iran, you can make that case. But you can also make the case, historically, that attempts to force feed democracy in the [President Jimmy] Carter administration produced [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, or contributed to producing Khomeini. So the line one has to walk here needs to be very sensitively drawn.

    Basically, democracy is great in the abstract, but when you get down to specifics its better to stick with your Pinochet/Suharto/Operation Condor/Savak/etc. Might it be described as aggressive realism? Or perhaps drawing some distinction between Right Arabists akin to the Right Zionist/Unipolarist distinction that you drew.

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