[lit-ideas] Piggy-eyed wonder

  • From: "Andreas Ramos" <andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 09:49:09 -0700

Bush speech alarms even the war enthusiasts
Carolyn Lochhead
Chronicle Washington Bureau
 Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Washington -- Even the staunchest supporters of President Bush's Iraq
enterprise were less than cheered by his speech to the nation Monday night
outlining the path forward, some describing the administration as being in a
state of panic.

In particular, the neoconservatives who provided the intellectual argument
that an invasion of Iraq could provide a template for democracy in the
Middle East are expressing open alarm that this effort is dangerously off

"There's no question the administration has been in total panic mode, and
they don't need to be, because Iraq is salvageable," said Danielle Pletka,
vice president of foreign and defense studies at the American Enterprise
Institute, a conservative think tank that has been a hotbed of support for
the war. "But I think there is still so much indecision about what to do
that it's going to be hard for them to do the right thing."

Many administration hawks were drawn from the neoconservative intellectual
ranks, notably deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the chief architect
of the idea that the United States could make Iraq a democratic beacon.

Their dismay comes as some Republicans in Congress fear that Bush's Iraq
policy has become unhinged, given the relentless bad news coming out of
Iraq: a multiheaded insurgency among Shiites and Sunnis, the assassination
of the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, the Abu Ghraib prison
scandal and the steady rise in U.S. casualties.

Others on the political right, as distinct from their more interventionist
neoconservative colleagues, have begun openly attacking the administration.
Wall Street Journal contributing editor Mark Helprin called Abu Ghraib "a
symbol of the inescapable fact that the war has been run incompetently, with
an apparently deliberate contempt for history, strategy, and thought." He
asked why the administration was trying to occupy Iraq with current troop
levels, "even as one event cascading into another should make them recoil in
piggy-eyed wonder at the lameness of their policy."

Some of Bush's supporters concede the administration has committed blunders
over the past year. Many suggest a sharp change in course -- such as adding
thousands of troops, or moving up elections or forcefully quashing
insurgents -- which they contend Bush did not promise Monday.

"It was important for Bush to remind the American public of the cost of
failure," said Michael Rubin, an analyst at the American Enterprise
Institute and another neoconservative war supporter. "Basically, Bush was
letting us see the forest through the trees."

However, he said, "the devil's in the details, and with the stakes so high,
we can't ignore the details."

Yet while criticizing the administration for failures of execution, few
neoconservatives have abandoned their belief that the war was a good idea or
that it is intimately linked, as Bush insisted Monday, with fighting

Joining the neoconservatives in support of the basic war effort are
Democratic hawks such as Rep. Tom Lantos of San Mateo, the ranking Democrat
on the House International Relations Committee.

"Iraq is clearly waiting to see if we will help develop a more open society
or whether we will tire, declare a Pyrrhic victory and leave," Lantos said,
urging persistence and greater international involvement.

"Nobody is admitting defeat, and if anything they are taking an even harder
line," said Charles Pena, head of defense studies at the libertarian Cato
Institute, which opposed the invasion and urges a speedy withdrawal.

Some contend that neoconservatives resemble the communists they once
ridiculed, blaming the failures of communist ideology on the Kremlin's

"It's an argument that shows that they didn't understand the problem to
begin with, that you just cannot use military force to dictate outcomes
everywhere in the world," Pena said. "It's based on this presumption that
somehow we have to turn Iraq into a democracy, that that will somehow make
us safe, which presumes Iraq was a threat to begin with."

War supporters have been emphasizing the bright spots in the occupation,
such as the relative calm in some parts of the country.

Many compare the current situation in Iraq with the darkest moments of World
War II, when rampant despair clouded victories that lay ahead.
Neoconservatives warn, however, that the administration seems headed on a
dangerous course. Pletka charges the administration with "subcontracting"
the political process to the United Nations. Many are particularly worried
by the decision to enlist a former Republican Guard general to pacify
Fallujah, site of a bloody Sunni insurgency last month. Handing over
security to factional militias is a recipe not for elections but for civil
war, they contend. They urge instead a crackdown by U.S. forces.

"The truth is it wouldn't take much actually to turn this around, not that
they necessarily will," said Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project
for a New American Century, a leading neoconservative think tank. "There are
a lot of very positive trends going on in Iraq, and I think if you take care
of the security situation and the political trend lines toward real
elections, in fact I think Iraq is more than salvageable."

But their critics say the hawks' predictions have nearly all gone awry. The
weapons of mass destruction used to justify the war were never found, and
the war's cost, rather than being self-funded from Iraq's oil revenues, has
reached $170 billion with no end in sight.

Neoconservatives widely predicted an easy occupation followed by an
immediate peace, followed by "a flourishing democracy which would cause a
domino effect across the region creating democracies elsewhere," said Peter
Singer, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution. "And then
the very first foreign policy position taken by this new democratic Iraq,
run by their exile friends, would be to recognize Israel, and that would
somehow end the Arab-Israeli conflict, and bunnies would dance in the
streets, and we would find life on Mars."

Singer said the plan was "incredibly ambitious to the point of absurdity,
and of course reality stepped in, and that's where we are now."

Neoconservatives contend they predicted no such thing.

"I'm on the record as saying the occupation would require several hundred
thousand troops and the process would take five to 10 years," said Schmitt.
"So you didn't get the cakewalk stuff from us. That said, the administration
made it harder on itself because, frankly, they planned a military campaign
that was quite efficient at getting rid of the government but didn't plan on
getting rid of the regime, and the result allowed a lot of Baathist
Republican Guard and other insurgents to get their feet under them and
create the insurgency we face today.

"I'm willing to say policy was still correct, but I'm not willing to take
the blame for people's inability to carry it out in an effective fashion."

E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at clochhead@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: