Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weekend reading: Podhoretz again -- updated

[Saturday morning:]

Two highly-regarded sites (and probably more) that I follow have linked to this Commentary piece by Norman Podhoretz.

(The Right Coast link.)
And Donald Sensing links in an update to a lengthy post he put together before the Commentary piece.

These are very smart people. If they say something is worth reading I feel obliged to read it.

Another ten pages or so printed out, including footnotes.
Quick scan indicates he has serious misgivings about Brzezinski has said lately. Or some time ago, for that matter. I will try to read with an open mind.

Back later...

[Later, Sunday night:]

(Thanks Donald Sensing for the link. And welcome to readers from One Hand Clapping. I hope my take on Podhoretz doesn't turn you off too much.)

Okay, I read it. No need to pick it apart since the writer is a famous, well-respected professional and I am just somebody from the street. Nevertheless, I don't buy all he is selling. His main point is that Mr. Bush's war is about to pay off and there is a large and growing body of nay-sayers at home that is intent on grabbing defeat out of the jaws of victory. He refers to Thomas Paine's famous words about "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots" to discredit those who have changed their minds about supporting the war, now ready to bring it to an end. He is somewhat less harsh on those who have been opposed all along, comparing them to those during the American Revolution who were closet Tories all along, who when the going got tough showed their real loyalties by emerging from their dark corners to speak openly about quitting the American Revolution!

For me it is a stretch to compare the American Revolution with events in Iraq, especially if the intent is to cast aspersions on the patriotism of those who find sincere reasons to oppose the policies of Mr. Bush. Calling Cynthia McKinney and Howard Dean the "Tories of today" makes for clever prose, but those of us who find ourselves as much in disagreement with them as the administration get swept into the same heap without nuance.

His remarks about Zbigniew Brzezinski are seriously off base. He joins the latter day cottage industry of maligning Jimmy Carter and by association all that happened on his watch. Describing the hostage crisis of those days three decades back he credits Brzezinski, who was Carter's National Security Advisor, as "the man who in the late 1970's helped shape a foreign policy that emboldened the Iranians to seize and jhold American hostages while his boss in the Oval Office stood impotently by for over a yearbefore finally authorizing a rescue operation so inept that it only compounded our national humiliation."

The man is good. Really good. He's able to lay aside the fact that that was then, this is now. Those were times, I recall, when it was almost routine for airplanes to be diverted to Cuba because some crazy man successfully held everyone hostage. Human safety was held in high esteem, so much so that political capital and material considerations took second place. The hostages in question, I recall, were not harmed, and Jimmy Carter took the fall politically, in part for their safety. I have to admit that human safety seems no longer to be an obstacle to policy.

Twice in the piece he refers to the Brits and the French as having created (the word was once in italic so the reader would not miss the point) the despotism of the region that the US is now trying to replace with democratic regimes. He said such despotism only came about after World War One, but if I remember what I learned in World History virtually everything before the eighteenth century could be called "despotic" reaching back to the start of written history. Seems to me, by the way, that Saddam Hussein was one of our guys back there in the beginning of his rise to power, so casting stones at the Brits and French for fostering despotism puts the US in something of a glass house.

Finally, there is this revealing paragraph:

[If] American forces are drawn down only at the rate and to the extent that they can be replaced with similar numbers of Iraqi soldiers and policemen fully capable of taking over, the joy now being felt by the Islamofascists will commensurately be replaced by dread. For no one knows better than they that, once up to snuff and on their own, the new Iraqi forces will be less inhibited than the Americans by moral considerations and accordingly much more ruthless in the way they fight.
True, indeed. These are the people whom we now leave in charge. These are the enforcers and goons of the Badr Brigades that constitute the "Executive Branch" of this pristine new federation we have cobbled together. And it is fair to say that "moral considerations," putting it lightly, are not high on their list of priorities.

I am encouraged by this piece. It reveals that the war is, in fact, being brought to an end. And it shows that the sponsors of that war are fully prepared to discredit any and all who failed to be entirely supportive. Constructive criticism does not exist. You are either for it or against it. There can be nothing inbetween.


kevinb said...

Every strained, contorted effort to compare Iraq to Vietnam is accepted and a comparison to the US Revolution is intended is to cast aspersions. Yeah right.

Hoots said...

Uh, I didn't bring up Thomas Paine and the American Revolution, Mr. Podhoretz did, for the expressed purpose of discrediting critics of the administration. That is, by definition, casting aspersions. I got it. He does it awfully well. But as I said, without nuance. With us or against us. Nothing inbetween.

As for the Vietnam/Iraq comparison, I'm guilty. Strained, contorted, whatever...I guess I'm just one of those Tories. But a summer soldier or sunshine patriot I am not.