Thursday, October 30, 2003

Even the Broken Clock is right twice a day...

So said the wise sage and loveable Papa Kaufman on Tom Friedman many months ago when I commented favorably on one of Friedman's articles. Well, time and Thomas largely coincided again today with this article, entitled appropriately, "It's No Vietnam." He first grabbed me with this passage:
"The great irony is that the Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists — they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world."
He then followed it with something you can only find in a Post-Raines NYTimes:
"Most of the troubles we have encountered in Iraq (and will in the future) are not because of "occupation" but because of "empowerment." The U.S. invasion has overturned a whole set of vested interests, particularly those of Iraq's Sunni Baathist establishment, and begun to empower instead a whole new set of actors: Shiites, Kurds, non-Baathist Sunnis, women and locally elected officials and police. The Qaeda nihilists, the Saddamists, and all the Europeans and the Arab autocrats who had a vested interest in the old status quo are threatened by this."
Outstanding stuff and right on the money. But alas, time moves on and the clock reveals itself to still be what it is most of the time...broken; Tommy just couldn't help but slam Bush and cast angst-ridden doubt on Bush's ability to follow through:
Can this administration, whose national security team is so divided, effectively stay the course in Iraq? Has the president's audacity in waging such a revolutionary war outrun his ability to articulate what it's about and to summon Americans for the sacrifices victory will require? Can the president really be a successful radical liberal on Iraq, while being such a radical conservative everywhere else — refusing to dismiss one of his own generals who insults Islam, turning a deaf ear to hints of corruption infecting the new Baghdad government as it's showered with aid dollars, calling on reservists and their families to bear all the burdens of war while slashing taxes for the rich, and undertaking the world's biggest nation-building project with few real allies?
Did he just feel he had to throw in this littany to re-establish his left credentials? What the hell does tax policy have to do with an analysis of whether Bush has the staying power for Iraq? Is his foreign policy team that divided? Calling up reservists is wrong because.... (in fact, doesn't it demonstrate his conviction). Look, PLENTY of administration mistakes to talk about. But this was just an add on. And a badly thought-through add on. Whatever one thinks of Bush, only the loopiest would conclude that he invaded and overthrew TWO Muslim countries for political gain. The political risk involved in these ventures, particularly Iraq, where HUGE. And still are. Bush isn't playing politics here. And Thomas just can't fathom that.


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