Monday, December 11, 2006
Personal Asides: Lovies Leather Explained Baker-Hamilton on Iraq and Old Man Bush Weeping The Bush Doctrine Examined and Appreciated Jeane Kirkpatrick: Whats She Thinking? But Fondly, R.I.P.
Lovies Leather explains it all to you in Readers Comments the other day which still remains for you to peruse. Hes a very valuable commentator and his explanation of the name is enlightening. Thank you, Lovie and keep on writing.
I am not disturbed by the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report which counsels evacuation from Iraq as the only valid choice. After all, James Baker is only reacting to his old prejudices and to the needs of client, Saudi Arabia and former Congressman Lee Hamilton has never been known to exhibit any independence of thought other than the one proscribed. The first important thing to remember about the Iraq Study Group is that it was mandated by Congress as election approached which is in itself a repudiation of serious intent and the second judgment to make is that nowhere does it leave room for the prospect of winning in Iraq. Beyond that, the report is not a surrender as the Right maintains nor repudiation of American foreign policy as the Left believes. But because it is Baker-contrived, it is worth examining, as is the non-qualifications of some of its members.
And as for some of the establishment members? Evidently Leon Panetta was picked for this and the Catholic bishops pedophilia probe probably because of his stunning vision of gay rights and foreign policy along with his visage which so often adorns the pages of Gentlemans Quarterly. Sandy OConnor because she was such a bastion of principle on the Supreme Court which earned her the reputation as wheeler due to her ownership of a jealously guarded swing vote on the Court. Ed Meese was picked but didnt belong there because he added a conservative flavor but is so nice a guy he was gulled by silky Jim Baker, who gulled him all through the Reagan administration. This is the group excluding Meese who was probably outvoted and wished he had stayed home that excoriated Iraq and subtly sought to undermine the Bush Doctrine. And what qualifications does Vernon Jordan have other than his role as power lobbyist and African American leader? The reports only value is that it does underscore a fundamental truth: that the Iraqi people, by and large and to this date, have not stepped up to the plate to help quell Islamo-fascism. The reports chief defect is that it leaves no room for the option of winning. And that enemies of Bushand the United States, actually, in the arrogant personage of the insouciant NBC White House correspondent, David Gregorywant to bury the Bush Doctrine (about which more later).
The cynicism of the report represents Jim Baker at his worst. He represents the official State Department view that favors his own heavy involvement with Saudi Arabia, a view I came into contact with as a the number three foreign service officer with the Peace Corps and former service with Walter Judd, the ranking House member on Foreign Affairs. That view is this: Whatever the West does, Muslims want and strive to continue life under corrupt tyrants; therefore it is our goal to make kissy-face with those corrupt tyrants and make them our corrupt tyrants. Believe it or not, this is known in the State Department as the pro-Arab view. But it does not show a knowledge of the Arab past, just cynicism and opportunism which dovetails with Bakers own opportunism which is on a scale with Jim Thompsons (to draw the former governor into this where he really doesnt belong: but whose opportunism is akin to Bakers).
But this is wise-guy, side-of-the-mouth thinking with little relevance into Arab history as none other than the U. S.s greatest expert on the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, has so clearly demonstrated throughout most of his scholarly life. Even a cursory reading of Lewis gives the following insights: Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Assad family of Syria do not extend to the Islamic past. Indeed, as early as 1786 the common diplomatic wisdom was, in dealing with Muslims was that things in, say, Turkey were not as autocratic as in king-led western Europe. Diplomats dealing with the Ottoman government had to inform their own governments that the sultan has to consult to consult with whom? Former holders of high offices, leaders of various groups etc. What happened to change this to the situation of the present?
Believe it or not, modernizationrecognition by Middle Eastern rulers that their societies could not keep up with the West with the cumbersome consultative process. The consequences of this modernization were disastrous. They increased the power of the state by placing at his feet the forces of repression and indoctrination. That was the first stage; the second came in 1940 when France surrendered to the Axis and set up a quisling government in Vichy which prompted the French colonial governments in Syria-Lebanon in the Arab-East to fall into the lap of the Nazis. The Nazis set up a fascist-prone government which was the antecedent of the Baath party. The West finally drove the Nazis out of the Middle East but when they the allies left in 1945 the Soviets moved in, setting up a powerful presence in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and sponsored Soviet-style political practice. So there is nothing there that is the product of many centuries as the old State Department bureaucracy insists and which Jim Baker, out of loyalty to his commercial clients, supports.
The break with the past came with a theologian called Ibn Abd al-Wahhab who lived in the area of Najd in desert Arabia known as the Wahhabi who was a Muslem reformer with a vengeance, literally. He led a movement which he claimed would restore pure, original Islambut it had little relevance to Islam as it existed from the earliest ages. Wahhabism didnt cause a problem until two things happened: the mid-1920s when local tribal chiefs of the House of Saud, Wahhabis, conquered Mecca and Medina which gave them control of the pilgrimages millions of Muslims make to the same place at the same time each year and the discovery of oil also in the mid-20s. This militant sect not only held Medina and Mecca but wealth beyond their greatest dreams. As result what normally would have been a lunatic fringe now became a major international force: operating through Jim Bakers favorite Saudi government and non-governmental organizations such as the ones in Chicago who run evening religious classes funded by the Wahhabis.
Lewis points out that there are elements in Islamic society that very well can adjust to democracy. The anti-American feeling is generally generated by what is called by the media friendly governmentsJim Bakers friendswhich are the most tyrannical and hated by many of their own people. The second Jim Baker became the head of the Iraq Study Group I knew the fix was in. He comports himself ideally with the left wing media which is determined to punish not just Bush but the United States for fancied sins. You have New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who certainly knows better, saying on the radio that the Iraqi insurgents have actually defeated the U. S. Army. Friedman, a Minnesotan, is a guy whose feeding at the trough of the Times and his winning of so many establishment-run Pulitzer prizes has made him quite drunk with arrogance.
But the goal of all Baker, Friedman, Gregory and the Washington Beltway punditocracy to which now can be added George Will is to bury the Bush Doctrine.
Which leads to an interesting questionirrelevant to some but not to me. At the recent public meeting in Florida where Governor Jeb Bush, a stunning success as governor, stepped down due to term limits, George H. W. Bush broke down and wept like a baby. Why? Because his son was stepping down? There is little reason to believe that. Many observers, I included, believe the old mana decent individual and always brimming with sentimentalitywas weeping at the contrast between Jeb, full of honors and adulation because of his success and the prospect of George W., searingly criticized by many, toppling in the polls and regarded by the establishment as a terrible president. Old man Bush is too much a child of the establishment himself not to feel it keenlyand tears rolled down his cheeks to the point where he almost collapsed in anguishat the occasion.
Touching as the scene was, George H. W. Bush was a generally mediocre president and putty in the manipulative hands of Jimmy Baker as Ronald Reagan was not. I remember well as president of the City Club when the Club marked its 75th anniversary and then Vice President George H. W. Bush came here to toast the Club. A nice thing of him to do but fate made him take his dinner next to me. I was ready to be properly edified at my dinner companion. I can tell you that the hour and a half passed like two days and I was overwhelmed with unutterable tedium. Luck of the draw had put me in reasonably close contact with most of the political leaders of the latter 20th centuryReagan, Humphrey, McCarthy, Nixon and a good many lesser. It wasnt that GHW Bush wasnt talkative; it was that clichés ran the hour and a half with no insights or no pretended insights withheld because of the majesty of governmental power. Here is a man totally captured and captivated by the establishment who, sadly, has been convinced by it that his presidential son is unworthy: which was the cause for the flood of tears, Ill bet anything. Well, I hope the old man lives to recognize how wrong he has been about his eldest son and the magnificence of his Bush Doctrine.
The Bush Doctrine.
The Bush Doctrine rests on three fundamental pillars. The first is a repudiation of a relativistic notion of terrorism whereby my terrorist is your freedom fighter. Knowing anything about Baker and Hamilton at all tells you that they are the worlds champion relativists. And the remainder of the panelSandra Day OConnor and that perennial Leon Panettasay it all. Were I Ed Meese, a very capable individual, I would be angered that I was gulled to join a commission that was riggedbut that it beside the point.
The second pillar of the Bush doctrine is to change the concept of punishment of terrorists from the old criminal system to the concept that they are def facto troops of the nation-states that spawned them. And the third: to take preemptive action to ward off an anticipated attack. Here is where he made his most striking break with the past: I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the worlds most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the worlds most destructive weapons.
Here it is essential to disprove contemporary liberal suggestions as to what Bush meant and stick to what he enunciated. Bush didnt say he would act unilaterally. He did not say he would ignore world opinion. He did not say he would dismiss the views of allies. He did not say he would ignore the UN (although I wish he had said it). But what he meant was what he said later: If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long [T]he war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.
To me the essential wisdom of the Bush Doctrine made imperative the attack on Iraq no matter whether or not it had weapons of mass destruction. There was no need to enter the war just to stop the genocide of Saddam Hussein, as hideous as it was, nor to find w.m.d. however nice it would have been to locate them, but to end the role Iraq undeniably played in the world terrorist conflagrationand. And to serve as a lesson to others that this will not be tolerated. Already Egyptian democratic activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim has said that the Iraq War has unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleons 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against [the reformers]. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to become midwives.
Of course the Iraq War is a slog; it is not going swimmingly. And the pragmatists in both parties are unhappy. Some Republican conservatives are unhappy. But the right role for the U.S. is to continue Bushs courageous Doctrine and to gut it out in Iraq. Just as the Truman Doctrine of containment was condemned by sadly some Republicans including the malleable Richard Nixon as the College of Cowardly Containment the Bush Doctrine is terrifying the squeamish. In both cases, Truman and George W. Bush, we have presidents who were determined to stand their groundproof that the United States is not only great, but is the luckiest nation in the world to have had such presidents.
A definite good that can come out of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group is that the president can use it to shuffle his military command if needed just as Lincoln did with his multiplicity of generals. The departure of Donald Rumsfeld, as it proves, is no tragedy. A decent man, he was never gifted with firmness no matter his media reputation. It turns out his facility was to stand by his president on Iraq even if he had doubtseven if he shared the inner-contention of James Baker. Better Rumsfeld is gone.
What the imbroglio following Baker-Hamilton tells me is this: who was the first potential presidential candidate to criticize the report? John McCain. Suffice-it to say that with all his failings, he may well be the best one to follow through to implement the Bush doctrine which I firmly believe is a philosophy of great intrinsic worth to the nation. Yea, I am coming to believe that McCain-Giuliani is the only ticket that can win for Republicans.
Jeane Kirkpatrick, R. I. P.
I had heard about the Kirkpatricks, of course, when I was running around as a journalist and later as an adversary of Hubert Humphrey. They were Washington, D. C. liberals decidedly interested in his becoming presidentand why not? She was a domestic liberal and interested for the most part as a young scholar is domestic governmental concerns where Hubert was at his best. In foreign affairs, Hubert was an anti-Communist, a bold articulator of vision and a somewhat valiant warrior which fit the Kirkpatricks views entirely. But, of course, with the triumph of McGovernism in the Democratic party an infection that remains with it yet and the rise of Ronald Reagan who assumed much of the old-line liberal Democratic mantle...it was natural for Jeane Kirkpatrick to write the Commentary piece she did and see to it that Reagan saw the article personally. He did and boldly named her ambassador to the United Nations.
Jeane Kirkpatrick lived for a time in downstate Mount Vernon, Illinois. During a period after she served as UN ambassador, she was thinking of running for president. She came to Illinois as a private citizen and professor at Georgetown often around 1988 for major speeches, one of which was to the United Republican Fund during a brief period of its modern glory days. In those days I was at Quaker Oats and attended the dinner, finding myself visiting with an executive whose company had arranged for a Lear jet to pick her up and return her to Washington following her speech that night.
With some effrontery, I hitched a ride on her return trip and deadheaded back to Chicago late that night while my wife wondered where the hell I was and bemused and not a little vexed when, returning home quite late, I said I had been to Washington, D. C. and back. But on the ride to D. C. we talked about her wish to run for president. I said then and I felt that way throughout her later life that she would be just what the doctor ordered for the GOP. The comparison between she and Maggie Thatcher is inevitable. So, I wouldnt be me without examining her on the domestic social issues.
Frankly, she said, herself the mother of two sons, I have been so involved in foreign policy that I havent kept up on the abortion issue. In your estimation, does one really have to present a unified, comprehensive blueprint of when life begins and how long it should exist before a doctrine of merciful release be invoked in order to seek the Republican nomination?
I said she certainly should be aware of therapeutic advice on both ends of the life spectrum just as she would want to be briefed on the latest domestic or foreign policy issues. She wrinkled up her Irish face and pursed her lips in that familiar way she always did when thinking much, frankly, like one preparing to kiss or be kissed. Then she said, It seems rather arcane. What role would I have in something so scientific?
A question that was so entirely naïve that I wondered what she took me for: and I looked at her sharply. But her lips were still pursed in thought. She wasnt kidding. With a veritable lifetime in public policy not involved in sexual ethics or reproduction she frankly hadnt given it much thought.
Why, I said, in Supreme Court appointments, assuredly. And in all manner of other appointments: in the annual battles over the Hyde amendment.
She said, Comon, are you suggesting I apply a Catholic view to all this politically? But I am not Catholic.
I said: Im suggesting that the base of my party is composed quite heavily of people who, less Catholic than evangelical, sadly for me, believe strongly in certain issues of this kind and that you should determine what your own position is.
And if it is not as you say pro-life?
Then I would imagine you would have more trouble with the base than you would normally expect given that you please it so much with your laudable foreign policy views.
Enough to get by? I meanmy foreign policy views. Are they sufficient with the base to, in your estimation, get by?
I would say they are not. Look, you have great admiration for President Reagan. His views changed from a pro-abortion governor who signed a very, very liberal piece of legislation to one who points out his earlier mistake and supports pro-life inherently. I am not sanguine that if he had not changed his view, he would have managed to get the wholehearted support he needed to win the nomination. Perhaps but I am in great doubt that he would have.
Oh come on!
No come on. Youre in a perfect position to find out. Ask him! Hes a close friend of yours.
Ask him what?
Now she was being coy.
Ask him this: Mr. President, in your estimation, by adopting a pro-life stance after having signed the abortion bill in California, was your political career helped or limited by that decision?
Oh, come on! That would indicate I felt that he did it for political purposes!
But ambassador, you come on! No candidate for the presidency can afford to make decisions without taking into account the political realities. It so happens I think President Reagan not only made the right decision but, weighing it, knew he would get adversaries in the Republican party as well as supporters.
Then she said a very strange thing which made me think she could never be a candidate for the presidency a statement sounding very like a sophomore in high school civics. And I have never been able to deduce whether she was putting me onor really was that idealistic.
I wouldnt want to have to sit down with issues like that and have to make decisions based on the politics of the moment.
Which meant she was pro-choice. I changed the subject and we passed the time talking about other things. Later she dropped the idea of running for president and wanted to be chosen for vice president with George H. W. Bush in 1988. What a tragic mistake that old man Bush didnt choose herbut chose Dan Quayle instead. His failure to choose her underscored a big problem with his team: resolute establishmentarians led by realist Brent Scowcroft who wanted no one more courageous than they in their way, they settled for a neophyte who never proved to be more than a star-struck boy for a first-class intellectual mind and international strategist. Rest in peace, Jeane Kirkpatrick; as our ambassador and the greatest woman figure in foreign affairs of her time, you have served our nation well.