Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

At least someone appreciates the momentous changes Bush has brought about

Martin Peretz, the Editor in Chief of The New Republic, which is for liberals what The National Review is for conservatives (medium deep, high quality political thinking), has written a glowing encomium for President Bush, and coupled it with disdain for those on the left who refuse to acknowledge what he's done:

If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold — perhaps even somewhat reckless — instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids? No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy — the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats — never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so. Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.
There's more, much more, including a well-deserved swipe at the Clinton administration for its "above and beyond the call of duty" efforts to ignore Al-Qaeda's increasing threat:
The Clinton administration seized on every possible excuse — from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, right through the atrocities in Kenya and Tanzania, to the attack on the USS Cole — not to respond meaningfully to Osama bin Laden. This aggressively dilatory approach was set early on, when Bill Clinton's first secretary of state, dead-man-walking Warren Christopher, proposed that a special bureau be set up to deal with drugs, crime, and terrorism in a single office, as if terrorism is a problem for policemen and not for strategists. The 9/11 Commission Report records that only congressional opposition aborted Christopher's concoction. Attorney General Janet Reno always worried about retaliation against any moves by the United States; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, preoccupied with her "push for a peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis," was concerned that military strikes against the bin Laden operations in Afghanistan would strengthen the Taliban; National Security Adviser Sandy Berger fretted that a shoot-out might be seen as an assassination, and, always the trade lawyer, he consistently held out hope that some sort of carrot would turn the Taliban against bin Laden; General Anthony Zinni was more concerned about human rights abuses by the Taliban than by its hospitality to Al Qaeda and worried also that a mosque might be damaged in the course of bombing operations; Pentagon officials warned that a missile aimed at bin Laden might kill a visiting Emirati prince instead (but why was a UAE prince hanging out with bin Laden anyway?); and CIA Director George Tenet had so many objections to decisive action that it would be nearly impossible to enumerate them. Clinton, it is true, resolved to eliminate bin Laden, but soon he eliminated his desire to eliminate him. The Clinton administration's true desire was to arrest bin Laden, to indict him, and to put him on trial — to "bring him to justice," as these men and women pompously exhorted each other. Except Berger also feared that bin Laden would be acquitted in a U.S. court of law. CIA personnel trying to cut a deal with the Northern Alliance to capture bin Laden warned that, if the Afghan "tribals" — that's the orientalism of liberals — did not bring him in alive but, heaven forbid, actually killed him, they would not be paid for their labors. The charismatic leader of the Afghan opposition and our best contact with it, Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was assassinated two days before September 11, thought he was dealing with madmen.
By the way, please note that the disastrous Christopher Warren policy of just treating terrorism as another crime, a policy Clinton eventually embraced, is precisely the policy Kerry wanted to enshrine as part of his "squabble with" (as opposed to "war against") terror tactics. Bottom line, as I heard an Israeli soldier say decades ago: When you've got a cancer, you remove it aggressively; you don't just hope it will go away with some bandaid remedies. I should add that Peretz includes an equally well-deserved swipe at Bush, Sr., and the other status quo foreign policy republicans who also pacified the Arab despots. I included above the quotating attacking Clinton both because its rare coming from a liberal and because Clinton had 8 years before Bush came to the Presidency to do something about the problem -- a problem that was increasing in severity and visibility during his presidency. Peretz devotes some time to detailing Iraqi's hidden ripeness for the democratic changes we see (a ripeness I'll give the Bush administration credit for recognizing very early), the good luck that came to Bush (Arafat's death being the best bit of business), and the wonderful changes in Lebanon. He then turns his attention to the Left's lose-lose strategy of vehemently refusing to acknowledge these changes and their consequent inability to create a coherent Democratic vision:
So the situation is certainly complex. But complexity is not a warrant for despair. The significant fact is that Bush's obsession with the democratization of the region is working. Have Democrats begun to wonder how it came to pass that this noble cause became the work of Republicans? They should wonder if they care to regain power. They should recall that Clinton (and the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter even more so) had absolutely no interest in trying to modify the harsh political character of the Arab world. What they aspired to do was to mollify the dictators — to prefer the furthering of the peace process to the furthering of the conditions that make peace possible. The Democrats were the ones who were always elevating Arafat. He was at the very center of their road map. After he stalked out of a meeting room in Paris during cease-fire talks in late 2000, Albright actually ran in breathless pursuit to lure him back. It was the Democrats who perpetuated Arafat's demonic sway over the Palestinians, and it was the Democrats who sustained him among the other Arabs. And so the cause of Arab democracy was left for the Republicans to pursue. After September 11, the cause became a matter also of U.S. national security.
I can just close my eyes and see Madam Albright sprinting down the hallway to beg and plead with a blood-soaked despot to return to the table and dictate terms to her. Blech. Because Peretz's is a dense, thoughtful article, it also takes on the Arab nations' successful use of Jews in their historical role: scapegoat. Thus, he points out that these despots managed to run rings around the Clinton administration by keeping the focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict -- a conflict largely manufactured by these corrupt governments precisely for its ability to engage the Left and distract everyone:
The great diversion from the real politics of the Arab countries, and from the prospect of political reform, was the Palestinian grievance against Israel. In the early years of their conflict with the Zionists, the Palestinians thought that these countries would fight their battles for them, at the negotiating table and on the battlefield, which they did. But what happened in reality was that the various Arabs exploited the Palestinians as pawns in their own ambitions to pick off pieces of Palestine for themselves. That is why there was no Palestinian state in the West Bank or Gaza after the armistice of 1949, as one might have expected from the Partition Plan of 1947. The West Bank was annexed to Jordan. Gaza was not annexed but administratively attached to Egypt. Syria's armies won no decisive battles against the Jews; otherwise, they also would have taken a piece of Palestine. In any event, until the Six Days War, the Palestinian groan against the Jews was focused on the very existence of Israel within narrow and perilous borders, without strategic depth, without old Jerusalem, without the West Bank, without Gaza. And Arab governments deflected the ample internal plaints of their own peoples with mobilized hysteria against the Jews. Every domestic grievance was dispersed with rousing rhetoric against Israel. The sun of Gamal Abdel Nasser rose and set with Cairo's failures in its wars with Israel. Hatred of the Zionists levitated the Baath dictatorships of both Iraq and Syria. In the end, after five wars and two intifadas, the Palestinians still seethed. But it had all come to nothing. And, finally, the angel of death unilaterally attacked Arafat. Bush had had the good sense to pay no attention to him, despite the urgent imprecations of the usual apologists: the European Union, the United Nations, France, Russia, and the editorial page of the Times. Had Bush made even a single accommodation to Arafat, Arafat's way in the world would have been enshrined in Palestinian lore for yet another generation as the only way.
Bush, bless him, unlike any other Western leader, refused to be distracted. He kept his eye on the ball, which was the total failure of Democracy in the Muslim nations, and drove the Arabs in a frenzy by marginalizing the Palestinian's blood lust:
But Bush didn't [try to appease Arafat], and Ariel Sharon didn't, either. Now that there is some real hope among both Israelis and Palestinians about the future, let us examine the reasons for it. The first is that Bush made no gestures to the hyperbolic fantasies of Palestinian politics. He gave them one dose of reality after another. The second is that he gave Israel the confidence that he would not trade its security for anything — which means that Israel is now willing to cede much on its own. (Israeli dovishness for American hawkishness: This was always the only way.) The third is that Bush is holding Sharon to his commitments, and everyone who is at all rational on these issues now sees the Israeli prime minister as a man of his word and a man of history. After all, Sharon has broken with much of his own political party. Not for nothing is he now the designated assassination target of the Israeli hard right. Still, holding Sharon to his word also means holding Mahmoud Abbas to his. So far, the record is mixed. The serious shutting down of the terrorist militias has not yet begun, but the Palestinian Authority did run reasonably free local elections, and they were not accompanied by killing. It is true that Hamas won more of these races than makes either Sharon or Abbas comfortable, and its strength may even increase in the coming parliamentary voting. But this, too, is a part of the gamble of democracy; and, to the extent that the Palestinians are taking this gamble and following the newest fashion among the other Arabs, it is a tribute to the inked purple fingers of Iraq, which is to say, a tribute to Bush and his simplistic but effective trust in the polling place.
I'd call this an article worth reading.