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President Bush and The Fury of the “Disdained,” or How to Get the 180s Back

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As critics of Israel begin to assemble, the horn of George Will is calling all the weary conservatives to join with long- and medium-term critics of the Adminstration under the banner of “anti-Weekly Standard.”  (They will find there Kosputin, whispering about the Liebrman-loving neocon owner of the New Republic, as well as many other folks with whom they do not usually lunch.)


There remain, thank goodness, many inside the Beltway who can still see clearly, and Charles Krauthammer today lays out the beginning of exactly what must be done in the Middle East:


The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran’s choosing….

Only two questions remain: Israel’s will and America’s wisdom. Does Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have the courage to do what is so obviously necessary? And will Secretary of State Rice’s upcoming peace trip to the Middle East force a premature cease-fire that spares her the humiliation of coming home empty-handed but prevents precisely the kind of decisive military outcome that would secure the interests of Israel, Lebanon, the moderate Arabs and the West?


The Washington Post is off on a hunt for conservative critics of the president’s foreign policy from the right, and pulls more than a few into the net.  The paper is eager to swell the cohort led by Will.  Note that the paper doesn’t ask the obvious question: Would you prefer that Kerry have won?  That the left be running the nation’s defenses and national security strategy?


And the article does close with an excellent reminder fromthe Hudson Institute’s Kenneth Weinstein:


Kenneth R. Weinstein, head of the conservative Hudson Institute, seemed more forgiving, recalling “the fury of the right” at Ronald Reagan in his second term for engaging then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. “Bush — like Truman and Reagan — is under attack from the left and the right,” he said. “Given the laundry list of global challenges, the administration has had to make dozens and dozens of tough calls — and overwhelmingly it’s been right.”


Not only “right,” but right when the consequences of “wrong” would have been disastrous.


Still, even with Krauthammer, Weinstein, the Weekly Standard and others quite rightly generally supportive of the Adminstration, the idea of “winning” the war against Islamist totalitarians is close to eclipse.


Many commentators have become invested –incredibly– in the failure of the Iraqi democracy, the failure of the North Korean containment, or the failure of the attempt to prevent Iran’s going nuclear or Syria going back into Lebanon.


Some formerly clear headed have been reduced to cataloging woes and snarking out college-paper level taunts.  Here’s an example from the formerly serious Belgravia Dispatch:


Nearly 6,000 dead in Iraq over the past two odd months. I predict some idiot blogger will mount a blogswarm, or whatever they’re called, to dispute the U.N.’s findings, and reassure us the number was really closer to 4,000 or such. Meantime, for the rest of us, you know, stuff happens. Oh, and we have a plan. As they stand up, we’ll stand down. So no need to worry kiddies, all is under control (especially if we attack a country or two in the meantime too, sayeth the Bill Kristols!) After all, freedom of religion and the press have been secured there Pootie, and hopefully one day you’ll get to be more like them up here! Just you wait, as they say! Meantime, a 9/11 a month in terms of fatalities? No biggie, guys, the Iraqi Army is growing–they’ve got the battle space under control, see, or at least, that’s what Don and Dick are tellin’ me….


An awful number, of course, full of misery that no American can glimpse or pretend to feel.


But it is a misery that deserves to be respected, not manipulated into a condemnation of a regime thrice voted for and even today defended by Iraqis willing to stand up in the face of a virulent Saddamist fringe and the menace of Iran-controlled militias.


How many would have died in May and June had Saddam been on his throne?  If his mad-as-hatter sons were still running the sports ministry after Iraq failed to advance?  How many more internationalist bribe takers would be sucking off the oil-for-foof-for-dictators-bureacrats-and-terrorist tit if America hadn’t liberated the country?


The front rank of the round-heeled commentariat are in a way far worse than the left’s pacifists or the Chomskyite America-haters.  It wasn’t long ago that GD was musing that Syria had replaced Saddam on the axis of evil, that it was right to worry that nerve gas had been distributed to the Republican Guard, or that Blair was the new Thatcher.


The same path has been traveled by Andrew Sullivan, who soured on the war as soon as it sunk in that same-sex married couples would not be allowed to fight it.Reread Sullivan’s posts from mid-March of 2003.  He approvingly quotes Churchill from The Gathering Storm:


THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed ; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.” – Winston Churchill, “The Gathering Storm.”


It’s Oriana Fallaci who has the high ground, and Andrew is reminding us that Iraq is “the second part of a long and perilous self-defense against the forces of Islamism and totalitarianism.”:


THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “I do not believe in vile acquittals, phony appeasements, easy forgiveness. Even less, in the exploitation or the blackmail of the word Peace. When peace stands for surrender, fear, loss of dignity and freedom, it is no longer peace. It’s suicide.” – Oriana Fallaci, in her stirring piece in the Journal this morning. It really is a tour de force. I don’t agree with all of it, but I do understand and believe in its fundamental message. We are at war; we are under attack; this new war against Iraq is not a pre-emptive war started by us. It is the second part of a long and perilous self-defense against the forces of Islamism and totalitarianism. In all the petty shenanigans of the new League of Nations, we should try not to forget that, as Fallaci rightly reminds us. Remember, remember the 11th of September. That’s still what all this is about.

Sullivan in March of 2003 is blasting away at Buchanan and praising Walter Meade Russel for writing this:


Sanctions are inevitably the cornerstone of containment, and in Iraq, sanctions kill. In this case, containment is not an alternative to war. Containment is war: a slow, grinding war in which the only certainty is that hundreds of thousands of civilians will die. The Gulf War killed somewhere between 21,000 and 35,000 Iraqis, of whom between 1,000 and 5,000 were civilians. Based on Iraqi government figures, UNICEF estimates that containment kills roughly 5,000 Iraqi babies (children under 5 years of age) every month, or 60,000 per year. Other estimates are lower, but by any reasonable estimate containment kills about as many people every year as the Gulf War – and almost all the victims of containment are civilian, and two-thirds are children under 5. Each year of containment is a new Gulf War. Saddam Hussein is 65; containing him for another 10 years condemns at least another 360,000 Iraqis to death. Of these, 240,000 will be children under 5.


And here is Sullivan from 40 months ago on pre-emption:


THE PRE-EMPTIVE OPTION: Which leaves us with very few good options. But the obvious one is pro-active pre-emption: going in and getting rid of such regimes and entities, destroying them, or occupying them. But doing so – invading terrorism-sponsoring states, before they have formally attacked us – violates the basic principles of the international order we have understandably come to cherish. So we have a profound – and new – conflict between security and sovereignty, between a catastrophe-free world and international law. You might be able to find a way to square this cricle if all the civilized countries in the world agreed about the nature of this new threat and exercized collective security against rogue states – but it would have to be collective security with one standard for the civilized world and one for everywhere else. Our current U.N. (which includes rogues states and makes no distinction between them and others) naturally doesn’t recognize such a double-standard. Moreover our civilized partners simply don’t believe that the threat is that grave. Even after 9/11, even many Americans don’t believe the threat is that serious. This is therefore the key context of our current impasse. Europeans simply don’t believe that we’re living in a radically more dangerous and unstable world. Or they think that mild measures can temporarily solve the problem – like porous and largely ineffective inspection regimes in Iraq. So we are at a deadlock. And if we cannot get consensus on Iraq – with umpteen U.N. resolutions and the precedent of a previous unprovoked war – what hope is there of getting consensus if Iran’s mullahs go nuclear? Or North Korea’s nut-case gets several nukes? Or someone else out there we have yet to hear from decides to go to heaven via a suitcase nuke in L.A.?


It is too easy, this returning to the written record of the defeatists and retreatists of today.  What happened?  Why did they go 180?


Some pretend that lousy tactical choices motivate their dismay, but fantasies of better tactics can’t obscure the fact that the strategic ends of the war haven’t changed:  The overthrow of Islamist totalitarian regimes and the denial to Islamist terrorists of WMD.  Using the excuse of imagined tactical failures to abandon strategic ends doesn’t make any sense.  Disastrous battles in W.W. II didn’t cause Americans to set aside the vision of the defeat of the Axis. 


So what occasioned the turning from advocates of force to proponents of appeasement?


Quite simply their hatred of Bush overwhelmed their understanding of the world.  What is the source of that hatred?


It isn’t because of Bush’s policies on the war.  Bush has done exactly what he said he would do on every issue that matters.  He has done what they cheered in March of 2003.


I don’t think it is the cost of the war, or some make-believe path not taken that would have produced harmony among Sunni and Shia from May, 2006 forward.


No, it has to do with who Bush is and who his former-supporters-turned-critics are. (In Sullivan’s case, the single issue that has transformed him is all too obvious.)


Jonathan Chait, the superbly undereducated BA from the University of Michigan was back at it Sunday in the pages of the rapidly collapsing Los Angeles Times, telling no truths about Bush, but banging his only, self-revealing drum again: “Is Bush Still Too Dumb to Be President?”


Chait, unlike Djerejian and Sullivan, was never a high profile supporter of the invasion of Iraq.  Until recently, he wasn’t a high profile supporter of anything, but his “The Case for Bush Hatred” piece of September, 29 2003 in The New Republic gave him a little platform.  (He still hates Bush, as he quite readily admitted in my most recent interview of him.)


“The trouble is,” Chait proclaims from the editorial pages of the country’s worst-run major paper,  “that Bush isn’t just a nonintellectual, he viscerally disdains intellectuals.” 


Blind pig.  Half an acorn.


In attempting to tell us what drives Bush, Chait is in fact revealing what it is that drives the former supporters of the war turned defeatists and the increasingly frenzied denouncers from respectable perches like the big papers, the Council, and the weeklies:  They feel disdained.


Djerejian, Sullivan, and Chait represent three of the four classes of the non-crazed lefty critics of Bush’s conduct of the war:  the talented and serious, the talented and unserious, and the not-talented and unserious. (There are scores and scores of the not-talented and serious.  We do not hear from them.)  Each wears their exclusion on their sleeve, and their bitterness is bubbling up with every column or post.


I think the disdain they feel is more imagined than real.  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc haven’t really got time to worry about the left behind and now embittered former supporters of the war.


Part of the Bush hatred is simply resentment at the exclusion from the councils of war.  It is doubtful if anyone charged with running the war even reads these or most of the other critics.  Anyone who has had a glimpse of the world inside the White House or the Pentagon knows the pace.  There just isn’t time for hand holding.


Hand holding may, however, be necessary.  It would be good if Karl Rove considered some way to at least address various members of this set.


It is summer.  Set the interns to finding the 180s, and have them over to the Indian Treaty Room.  Hear them out.  Have the president drop by for a face-to-face.  With less than 30 months to go in the Adminstration, it is time to start thinking about delivering the next president a country with a renewed commitment to the long war.  The smart ones among the 180s can be brought back around to the reality of the problem if given enough facts and a little face time.


Make sure the retired generals –all of them, not just the vocal critics– are in the room, and the Beinarts, Wills, Djejerians.  Keep the numbers relatively small, and hold a few of them if necessary.


The stakes are too high to allow such divisions to grow unaddressed.  Even if some are too far gone into opposition to be recalled, some will wake up.


Al Gore’s got a slide show on global warming.  The Administration needs one on President Ahmadinejad.  It needs the serious people back on the side of seriousness.


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