A View From The Handbasket

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Hall of mirrors
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:10 PM

Jeez, look at this. I leave for a week, try to have a nice vacation, and you guys go and start World War III (or IV or V, if you believe the wingnut talking heads). How am I supposed to enjoy decadent scenes like the one below when Israel and Hezbollah are trading atrocities? How inconsiderate.

Narcissism aside... well, not so fast. Let's stay with the narcissism for a second. Surveying the carnage from his bunker at the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol intones:

The right response is renewed strength--in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions--and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.

But such a military strike would take a while to organize. In the meantime, perhaps President Bush can fly from the silly G8 summit in St. Petersburg--a summit that will most likely convey a message of moral confusion and political indecision--to Jerusalem, the capital of a nation that stands with us, and is willing to fight with us, against our common enemies. This is our war, too.

Somewhere in a cave in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden is chuckling as his plan comes to fruition. It's an insane plan, to be sure -- the sort of combination of hubris and recklessness that lesser minds admire as heroism. Osama understood during the heady post-Oslo days that a moderate US Middle East policy (one that did something other than mindlessly enable Israel) would defang his rhetoric and influence. 9/11 had a single, simple purpose -- to poke the biggest stick possible into the eye of the United States, then sit back and watch as moderation was thrown out the window of the Humvee.

What actually happened, of course, was beyond Osama's expectations. The Bush White House quickly discovered that their self-interest intersected with Osama's in maintaining a radical position toward the Middle East. Bush mirrored Osama by pursuing an absolutist policy that eschewed statesmanship in favor of scorched earth in Iraq. By invading Iraq, we went well beyond simply enabling Israel -- we became Israel, with Iraq playing the role of Palestine. For a few years, the US and Israel pursued mirror-image versions of reality, in which both attempted to pawn security issues off on a "sovereign" government while nervously eyeing "democratic" elections that promised to produce more problems than solutions.

Of course, we were told before the invasion that overthrowing Saddam would actually stabilize the Middle East. When asked about this, Condi announced that only positive effects could be attributed to the Iraq invasion:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But before the war in Iraq many argued that going into Iraq would stir up a hornet’s nest. The administration strongly disagreed and here’s what Vice President Cheney had to say in August 2002.

CHENEY (VIDEO): I believe the opposite is true. Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region, extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad, moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli/Palestinian peace process would be enhanced.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Extremists now appear to have been emboldened. The moderates appear to be in retreat. There is no peace process. There is war. How do you answer administration critics who say that the administration’s actions have unleashed, have helped unleash the very hostilities you hoped to contain?

RICE: Well, first of all, those hostilities were not very well contained as we found out on September 11th, so the notion that policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque.

If good stuff happens, we can credit invading Iraq. If bad stuff happens, blaming the invasion of Iraq is "grotesque." Such is the kindergarten thinking offered with a straight face by the astonishingly out-of-her-depth Secretary of State.

The end result of this funhouse is the unrestrained saber-rattling of Kristol and his ilk. Osama wanted to ensure the continued conflation of Israel and the US, and Kristol eagerly puts us exactly where Osama wanted us to go.

I heartily recommend visiting the Whiskey Bar for some excellent analysis of the rapidly (d)evolving situation.

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