Be Afraid

Posted by Cutler on November 05, 2006
Iraq, Right Arabists, Right Zionists

Some important dynamics of the war in Iraq have been influenced, if not driven, by Washington politics. The mid-term elections and the coming Democratic victories will mark another turning point.

But do not expect cut and run. The next two years are likely to mark a major intensification of the war in Iraq and a renewal of the Neocon project.

Here is a time line that helps explain why:

2002 Midterms: Prior to the 2002 mid-term elections, the Bush administration sends lots of mixed signals about policy in the Middle East and alienates Right Zionists with Cheney’s tour of the Arab world.

Neocon Aftermath: With the 2002 elections out of the way, the Bush administration moves toward its most strident Right Zionist policies with the invasion of Iraq and a radical program of de-Baathification in Iraq.

2004 Presidential Elections: Ahead of the 2004 elections, Rove allegedly demands “no war in ’04” and the Bush administration appears to moderate its policy in Iraq, appointing an ex-Baathist as its first Prime Minister, reversing previous de-Baathification orders, and handing Fallujah to a Baathist military officer. Brent Scowcroft predicts that a second term will see diminished Neocon power.

Neocon Aftermath: With the 2004 elections out of the way, the Bush administration reverses course and reinvigorates the Neocon project, launching a massive assault on Fallujah and sponsoring three major votes–elections in January and December 2005 and the constitutional referendum in October 2005–that alienate Sunni Arabs and empower the Shiite and Kurdish populations.

2006 Midterms: The Bush administration welcomes the formation of an Iraq Study Group led by Realist/Right Arabist James Baker and suggests that it is willing to consider all kinds of tactical changes, including quiet chatter about an anti-Shiite coup.

Neocon Aftermath: It is too early to fill in the blanks regarding the Neocon Aftermath of the 2006 midterms. But one can imagine the basic outlines: hang Saddam, further alienate Sunni Arabs through US support for Shiite regional autonomy via a new hydrocarbons law, renew push toward regime change in Iran, etc?).

The general pattern of pre-election hesitancy and post-election audacity looks set to continue.

Exhibit A: Dick Cheney vows “full speed ahead” in Iraq:

It may not be popular with the public. It doesn’t matter, in the sense that we have to continue what we think is right,” Cheney said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re not running for office. We’re doing what we think is right.”

“I think it’ll have some effect perhaps in the Congress,” he said of the election’s outcome, “but the president’s made clear what his objective is. It’s victory in Iraq. And it’s full speed ahead on that basis. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Won’t 2006 be different? After all, one might argue, the other elections resulted in Republican victories and this time the Democrats are going to win.

Let us stipulate, for the sake of argument, that the Dems win both the House and Senate.

What will the Democrats do?

The Los Angeles Times quotes Marshall Wittmann, the figure who perfectly embodies the common ground that unites John McCain/Bill Kristol Neocons and Dem Zionists:

“It will be a new day,” said Marshall Wittmann, a former aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who is now with the moderate Democratic Leadership Council. “The real factor [Bush] has to fear is a collapse of support among Republicans, as well as Democrats.”

Some analysts, including Wittmann, expect that Democrats would use any new leverage to push Bush to replace Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; his ouster has been demanded by a growing list of Republicans as well as Democrats.

I do not think they will manage to get Bush to dump Rumsfeld. No matter. The real issue is that Congressional pressure from some leading Democrats will be based on a bi-partisan McCain-inspired critique of Rumsfeld for not sending enough troops to win. The Democrat “critique” will function as a demand for more trooops.

In a fascinating interview on Fox’s “Studio B,” Bill Kristol recently suggested that after the mid-terms, everything would be possible. Like what?

More US troops to Iraq.

4 Comments to Be Afraid

  • I understand Israel’s and the Right Zionists’ former tilt toward Iran to counter Iraq when, in their view, Iraq posed more of a danger to Israel and thus to US strategic interests in the region. Why the desire now to topple or defang Iran? What has changed? Is its increasing threat to Israel — seen in its possible development of nuclear weapons and Ahmadenijad’s hostile rhetoric — the key factor here? Or do neocon plans assume Iraq will develop into a Shiite-ruled state (or confederacy) and thus we’d want to break up the Shiite crescent to diminish its threat to Israel and/or our basing of US troops in Iran-aligned Iraq?

  • Why the desire now to topple or defang Iran? What has changed?

    Great question. The simple answer is that Right Zionist hostility toward Iran simply mirrors Iranian hostility toward Israel. But there is more to it than that. In a previous post I noted, for example, that Michael Ledeen was frequently on record in favor of engagement with Iran up until some time after February 1991. There was some turning point, after which Ledeen appears to be all about regime change, with no hope of discovering/cultivating allies within the Iranian revolutionary regime.

    At some level, these are likely tactical issues that are dependent on the historical context. What remains quite constant for Right Zionists is that in the last instance, somehow or other, Israel must renew its alliance with “eternal Iran.” For a discussion of the distinction between “official Iran” and “eternal Iran,” see my posts here and here.

    The Neocons have cultivated the idea of a Shiite crescent, but one dominated by Najaf, not Tehran/Qom.

  • D: I don’t get it. Muravchik is a “Neocon”–albeit one whose niche has been to emphasize the “idealistic” democracy chatter, rather than Right Zionist real politik–and he is quite hardcore. I hardly see the FP essay as a “real mea culpa.”

    On Iran: he does not embrace diplomacy in relation to Iran. What he says, quite explicitly is: BOMB IRAN.

    Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office…. We need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.

    And his major “self-criticism” on Iraq is a set up for more troops in Iraq:

    Could things have unfolded differently had our occupation force been large enough to provide security?… One area of neoconservative thought that needs urgent reconsideration is the revolution in military strategy that our neocon hero, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has championed… Let’s now take up the burden of campaigning for a military force that is large enough and sufficiently well provisioned

    Neocons have been, at best, split on “boots on the ground” vs. “military transformation.” Bill Kristol has never wavered in his demand for more troops on the ground in Iraq. So this is hardly a radical departure within the Neocon camp.

    Finally, there is his fascinating discussion of “public diplomacy”–hardly a model of humility:

    The Bush administration deserves criticism for its failure to repair America’s public diplomacy apparatus. No group other than neocons is likely to figure out how to do that… Today, no one in the U.S. Foreign Service is trained for this mission. The best model for such a program are the “Lovestonites” of the 1940s and 1950s, who, often employed as attachés in U.S. embassies, waged ideological warfare against communism in Europe and Russia…. There is no way to reproduce the ideological mother’s milk on which Jay Lovestone nourished his acolytes, but we need to invent a synthetic formula. Some Foreign Service officers should be offered specialized training in the war of ideas, and a bunch of us neocons ought to volunteer to help teach it.

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