Sunday, May 20, 2007

David Broder Hails Bush and Blair "Courage"

David Broder makes another original contribution to the genre of astoundingly bad punditry in today's Washington Post. His column, titled "Western Allies In the Twilight", is a sentimental tribute to Bush's and Blair's war-like courage. No, really.

Broder writes:
The 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington and the 7/7 London subway and bus bombings shook both Bush and Blair from any sense of complacency and armed both men with a conviction that their preeminent mission was to combat the forces behind those assaults. Both men now believe -- no, are passionately and permanently convinced -- that the terrorist threat from radical Islamists is one that must be resisted at all costs. (Bold mine)
Set aside the "9/11 shook Bush from any sense of complacency" spin, which strikes me as patently absurd. Focus instead on the words Broder uses to describe the not-complacent Bush and Blair: they were "armed" with a conviction that their "preeminent mission" was to "combat" Islamic extremists, who had to be "resisted at all costs".

The "Mission Accomplished" military fantasy world that George W. Bush inhabits? David Broder lives there too. Broder actually appears to regard Bush as some sort of virtuous military action figure.

Here, Broder approvingly quotes Blair:
"It's not about us remaining true to the course that we've set out because of the alliance with America. It is about us remaining steadfast because what we are fighting, the enemy that we are fighting, is an enemy that is aiming its destruction at our way of life and anybody who wants that way of life. And in those circumstances, the harder they fight, the more determined we must be to fight back. If what happens is, the harder they fight, the more our will diminishes, then that's a fight we're going to lose. And this is a fight we can't afford to lose."
This is the kind of moronic wingnut stuff that Bush says all the time. It is moronic in that (1) it makes a carricature of Islamic extremists' goals -- no, their primary aim is not to destroy the American/Western way of life; (2) it vastly exaggerates the threat posed by Islamic extremists -- no, these people do not have the ability to destroy the American way of life; and (3) it assumes that the only alternative to Bush's and Blair's catastrophic policy is to capitulate to the evildoers, convert to Islam and impose sharia law in America. Here is Broder's take on what Blair had to say:
Those are brave words, and a grateful Bush spoke from the heart when he said, "What I know is the world needs courage. And what I know is this good man is a courageous man."
Those are brave words! Which brings us to Broder's conclusion:
History will record that both of them saw the threat to the West posed by terrorism and responded courageously. The wisdom of their policy and the conduct of their governments are not likely to be judged as highly.
Will history "record" that they "saw the threat" and "responded courageously"? It seems to me that history's judgment will be that they thoroughly misjudged the threat and completely bungled the response. But was it a courageous bungle? That seems to be what Broder is suggesting by sounding a skeptical note about the wisdom of the Bush/Blair policy, after having drooled all over Bush/Blair's manliness. Does that make any sense? What exactly was "courageous" about Bush's and Blair's reponse to the threat posed by Islamic extremism?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tom Friedman: Still a Clown on Iraq

Tom Friedman has a column (behind the subscription wall) in today's New York Times, titled Only Halfway There. Here's the central point of Friedman's column, in his own words:
But if Democrats really want to be taken seriously on foreign affairs, they need to recognize that they have only half a policy on Iraq.
I don't know about you, but my jaw just about hit the floor when I read that. Can you think of anyone less entitled "to be taken seriously on foreign affairs," less qualified to be giving foreign policy credibility lessons in the wake of the Iraq debacle, than Thomas Friedman?

But hey, "don't play with matches" is good advice, even when it comes from an arsonist, right? So let's see if Friedman has a point, despite having served as one of the most influential cheerleaders for the disastrous Iraq war and notwithstanding his near-perfect record of total misjudgments concerning Iraq since 9/11.

Here is Friedman's first paragraph, in its entirety:
I’m glad Democrats are keeping the pressure on President Bush for a withdrawal date from Iraq. It’s the only way to keep him and Iraqis focused on the endgame. But if Democrats really want to be taken seriously on foreign affairs, they need to recognize that they have only half a policy on Iraq. And it’s the easy half.
So Democrats need to come up with the "other half" of the Iraq policy in order to be taken seriously on foreign affairs. And what would that be? Friedman purports to answer his question in the following paragraph:
You can’t be in favor of setting a date to withdraw from Iraq without also being in favor of a serious energy policy to radically reduce our dependence on oil — now. To call for withdrawing from Iraq by a set date, no matter what the situation is on the ground there — without a serious energy plan here — is reckless. All we would be doing is making ourselves more dependent on an even more unstable Middle East, because any U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is likely, in the short run, to be destabilizing.
Sorry, but that doesn't make any sense.

First, "being in favor" of a serious energy plan to "radically reduce our dependence on foreign oil" is very different from actually reducing America's dependence on foreign oil in the near-term. The Democrats -- who have just re-taken the House and the Senate and do not control the White House-- don't have the ability to implement a radical change in energy policy in the short term. Can Friedman really not understand this? I am tempted to think that Friedman's emphasis on Democrats "being in favor" of his preferred energy plan is a concession to this reality.

Incredibly, Friedman never makes clear whether he is saying that (1) Democrats cannot credibly advocate withdrawal unless they also advocate Friedman's energy plan, or (2) any credible Iraq plan must make withdrawal contingent on first implementing Friedman's energy plan. But it doesn't really matter, since both arguments are basically absurd, for essentially the same reason.

For either of the arguments Friedman might be making (i.e., (1) or (2)) to make sense, it would have to be the case that staying in Iraq somehow mitigates the effects of lacking Friedman’s preferred energy policy. In other words, not having (or not advocating) Friedman’s preferred energy policy only counts as a reason not to leave Iraq (or not to advocate leaving Iraq) if staying in Iraq somehow compensates for not having (or not advocating) Friedman’s energy policy.

After all, Friedman isn’t just saying “Hey, I have a good idea for a new energy policy.” Rather, he’s saying, “It doesn’t make sense to leave Iraq unless you also implement (or advocate) my ideas for a new energy policy.” But… why? Whether or not Friedman’s ideas about energy policy are good ones, why should accepting them be pre-conditions for leaving Iraq? Here’s the best that Friedman can manage:
All we would be doing is making ourselves more dependent on an even more unstable Middle East, because any U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is likely, in the short run, to be destabilizing.
But how would leaving Iraq make the United States more dependent on Middle East oil? It's almost certainly true that any U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is likely to be destabilizing in the short run. But how does short term destabilization entail increased dependence on foreign oil? Put differently: how is it that staying in Iraq makes the United States less dependent on Middle East oil than it otherwise would be? None of this makes sense.

Thomas Friedman, ladies and gentlemen. Still a clown when it comes to Iraq.