Radical theories at hand

I got up early this morning to watch the Sunday talk shows, starting with Kerry on Meet the Press and Rice on several shows. Turned out to just be a lot of talk. McLaughlin Group was all right, they played a little clip of Prof. Khalidi. However, as usual hours of network TV teach us little or nothing. Wolf Blitzer somehow forgot to ask Ehud Olmert about the settlements.

60 Minutes featuring Bob Woodward's critical new book on the drive for war is going to be published this week, and already the stuff in there about Powell is quite stunning.

This weekend I saw the new phase of the Israeli-American hegemon begin to coalesce in all its oily glory. Rita Cosby on FoxNews says that "we" took out Hamas' operational leader Rantissi, and MSNBC's Abrams' Report editorialized about how unfair it is when people say that U.S. troops--and Israeli troops--are intentionally harming civilians when they are merely going after The Terrorists.

They are trying to merge the Terror Threat into one unitary force, with us and the settlers as one spunky crew of do-gooders. It seems that Richard Perle still has some persuasive influence.

All these God damned retired military officers appearing constantly on TV scare the hell out of me... the body count is all they care about. It's appalling.

I have to run now, but please enjoy this roundup on the no-strategy strategy on Iraq, Woodward's new book and the continuing fallout from Washington's merger with Jerusalem. Also some shocking quotes on Iraq... from Timothy McVeigh?

If the invasion was an integral part of the war that began Sept. 11, then Bush will generate public support for it. The problem that Bush has -- and it showed itself vividly in his press conference -- is that he and the rest of his administration are simply unable to embed Iraq in the general strategy of the broader war. Bush asserts that it is part of that war, but then uses the specific justification of bringing democracy to Iraq as his rationale. Unless you want to argue that democratizing Iraq -- assuming that is possible -- has strategic implications more significant than democratizing other countries, the explanation doesn't work. The explanation that does work -- that the invasion of Iraq was a stepping-stone toward changes in behavior in other countries of the region -- is never given.

We therefore wind up with an explanation that is only superficially plausible, and a price that appears to be excessive, given the stated goal. The president and his administration do not seem willing to provide a coherent explanation of the strategy behind the Iraq campaign. What was the United States hoping to achieve when it invaded Iraq, and what is it defending now? There are good answers to these questions, but Bush stays with platitudes.

This is not only odd, but also it has substantial political implications for Bush and the United States. First, by providing no coherent answer, he leaves himself open to critics who are ascribing motives to his policy -- everything from controlling the world's oil supply, to the familial passion to destroy Saddam Hussein, to a Jewish world conspiracy. The Bush administration, having created an intellectual vacuum, can't complain when others, trying to understand what the administration is doing, gin up these theories. The administration has asked for it.
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The problem that Bush has created is that there is no conceptual framework in which to understand these maneuvers. Building democracy in Iraq is not really compatible with the deals that are going to have to be cut. It is not that cutting deals is a bad idea. It is not that the current crisis cannot be overcome with a combination of political and military action. The problem is that no one will know how the United States is doing, because it has not defined a conceptual framework for what it is trying to accomplish in Iraq -- or how Iraq fits into the war on the jihadists.
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Obviously, the administration has a strategy in Iraq and the Islamic world. It is a strategy that is discussed inside the administration and is clearly visible outside. Obviously, there will be military and political reversals. The strategy and the reversals are far more understandable than the decisions the Bush administration has made in presenting them. It has adopted a two-tier policy: a complex and nearly hidden strategic plan and a superficial public presentation.

--Stratfor (this URL will cease to work soon)

A report on the Agonist about how the new American stance on Israel and the occupation will harm efforts to stabilize Iraq: "Optional Pain: Into the abyss." According to this piece, the ceasefire in Najaf will not hold, and this week finally generated for Arabs the "linkage" between the U.S. and Israel.

Prof Juan Cole has a new piece on Salon.com, "Turning into Israel?" which everyone should read. Just sit through the Salon ad like a good child.

Neoconservatives, many of them ardent defenders of Israel with strong ties to the Likud, were among the chief intellectual architects of the war on Iraq. The American neoconservative linkage between Iraq and the Likud was first revealed in a position paper, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," written by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and other neoconservatives for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996. They advocated an Iraq war, the destruction of the Oslo peace process, the refusal ever to return territories occupied by Israel in 1967, and using a conquered Iraq as a means of pacifying the Lebanese Hezbollah.

At the time, such positions were regarded as wildly radical: Today they have become U.S. policy. ....
The siege of Fallujah made the American military look to many Iraqis and Arabs as though it were imitating the tactics of the Israeli military, which had long launched punitive raids into Gaza (and before that Beirut) and targeted places like civilian apartment buildings and crowded streets with bombs and missiles from jets and helicopter gunships..... The upshot: In many minds, there are now two major occupations of Arab land by outside powers, the West Bank and Iraq. This perception is a very dangerous development for Americans seeking legitimacy in Iraq and the Muslim world.

The massive U.S. assault on Fallujah created a situation in which political forces not on very good terms with one another put aside their differences to unite against the U.S. Palestinians and Iraqis tend to differ about whether the U.S. removal of Saddam Hussein from power was a good thing. Almost all Iraqis agree that it was. But both concur that Israeli occupation and punitive measures toward Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are wrong.

Likewise, radical Sunnis and radical Shiites do not for the most part like each other very much. But they were capable of joining together to send tens of relief trucks in a convoy to aid Fallujah. This forging of new bonds among forces that reject both the now-formalized process of annexation by Israel of Palestinian territory and the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq signals that the U.S. is losing the battle for hearts and minds. Once such attitudes harden, they are extremely difficult to overturn. Fallujah may be one of those historical turning points, where the stronger power wins militarily but loses all legitimacy in the eyes of those for whom it is supposedly fighting.

Thank you, sir.

It's rough in Husaybah, the last Iraqi city on the Euphrates before the Syrian border. Apparently several marines were just killed this weekend there.

Rumor has it that a Kurdish splinter group is going off to fight the Turks. Watch out for KONGRA-GEL... acronym of doom.

Spain is getting the hell out now that Aznar is gone. Bad things going to happen with the Brits in Basra? An Army think tank condemns 'war on the cheap.' Nice to know that the institutional gears are grinding.

Here is a real weird shocker: there's a new book out about Timothy McVeigh, including a number of statements from our most well-known domestic terrorist. It seems that during his service in the first Gulf War, he was deeply troubled by having killed an Iraqi from 19 football fields away:

McVeigh received a medal for his deed, but "the would-be Rambo was emotionally torn about what he had done ... as he reflected on his actions, McVeigh found that his first taste of killing left him angry and uncomfortable. The carnage and sadness he saw in the hundred-hour war left him with a feeling of sorrow for the Iraqis." It was too easy: McVeigh, who according to the authors always hated bullies, felt like one himself. In an extraordinary quote, he says, "'What made me feel bad was, number one, I didn't kill them in self-defense. When I took a human life, it taught me these were human beings, even though they speak a different language and have different customs. The truth is, we all have the same dreams, the same desires, the same care for our children and our family. These people were humans, like me, at the core.'"

It's not easy to know what to make of this quote, which sounds like it could have been uttered by "All Quiet on the Western Front" author Erich Maria Remarque. How could the man who claims to feel no remorse after killing 168 people, including many children, suffer such conscience pangs over the killing of two enemy soldiers? But his feelings become more comprehensible when we consider that McVeigh had grave doubts about the war in the first place, because Iraq was not directly threatening the U.S. and because he was serving as part of a U.N. force "that, he feared, was eventually planning to take over the world." In any case, if we assume his statement is sincere, it becomes more difficult to picture him as an unfeeling sociopath.

This is a textbook example of FOXNewspeak, "Palestinian Homicide Attack Wounds Four" at "an industrial zone between Israel and Gaza," whatever limbo space that might be. (Erez is in fact located inside Gaza; my point is that their terminology is warped)

EJ Dionne in the WaPo attacks the administration for multiplying radical theories atop each other in the invasion of Iraq, citing a new book Rick Atkinson's "In the Company of Soldiers" on the 101st Airborne:

...Our troops and Iraq confronted looting and chaos. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson's fine new book about the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, "In the Company of Soldiers," picks up the story. Atkinson contrasts Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus surveying "a great river of loot" with Rumsfeld's denial of the reality on the ground. The television images, Rumsfeld said, were of "the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase."

Atkinson writes: "The Pentagon press corps laughed, but Rumsfeld's remark was inane. . . . Too little thought had been given, by the Army or anyone else in the Defense Department, to securing Iraq, except for oil fields and the WMD depots, which would prove nonexistent. . . . The military had barely enough troops to wage war, much less to simultaneously put a country bigger than Montana into protective custody."

So Bush pursued one radical theory about planting democracy in Iraq and doubled our nation's bet by pursuing another radical theory that underestimated the number of troops we needed to create the order essential for democracy.

Bob Woodward is releasing a new book wherein he basically acts as an anguished Colin Powell's mouthpiece, adding further to the tumult in Washington. Woodward says that "Top administration officials barely speak to each other" now that the acrimony has reached this level, further evidence that Washington is a house divided against itself, bucking and swaying wildly... The WaPo broke some nice quotes from it yesterday although it was this exclusive AP story that broke it open.

Maureen Dowd remarks on what Powell actually told Bush about taking over Iraq, 'the house of broken toys.'David Brooks finally admits that he was wrong, but he'll be proven right in 20 years. Ok then...

Marines abandon cultural sensitivity training in Fallujah. I thought the bit about "Sniper Bob" at the end was interesting.

The full text of Brahimi's plan for Iraq, and Prof Cole's view on it.

The shockwaves of Bush's declaration for the settlements continues to radiate. Egypt's president claims to be "shocked," as if he didn't see this one coming. Not surprisingly, a writer in Lebanon's Daily Star sees it as election-year pandering to fundamentalists.

"This statement secures for Bush the support of both Jewish electors and of hard core evangelical Christians," he said. But the real winner in the matter, according to him, is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon because he will be able to make use of that position in his own favor by both appealing to the Likud Party and continuing in the construction of the controversial separation fence.

"This position is the first American position of its kind in decades and its first beneficiary is Sharon," he said. He added that international observers were linking the developments in Palestine to those in Iraq, in that both were seen as an example of US-Israeli hegemony over the region.

Australians grumbling about the whole damn thing, as is Marwan Bishara, who if memory serves used to be in the Israeli Knesset.

Josh Marshall says in for a dime, in for a dollar with the Likud:

I think it's clear that Israel will never allow a right of return for the descendents of anyone who lived within Israel's current border before 1948, having the US rule it out altogether simply makes us the enforcer of the policies not just of Israel but of this particular Israeli government.

And that brings us one step closer to the complete identity of viewpoints, interests and policies between the United States and Israel, which is really not a good thing for either Israel or the United States -- particularly not when this Israeli government is in power.

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