Sunday, October 08, 2006

Democracy in action

The place where nothing is ever quite as it seems isn't the Twilight Zone. It's apparently Washington, DC. Here are three interesting stories from recent news or opinion articles describing the workings of Government 101. From Selig Harrison, Peggy Noonan and Christopher Hitchens.

Case Study A: Negotiating With North Korea and Herding Cats

To the question of how to prevent North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons, the State Department's own team was divided even while it was negotiating. Selig Harrison of Newsweek recounts how the US reached an agreement in which North Korea pledged to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" in exchange for a declaration that the United States and North Korea would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations." Four days after this, the Treasury Department imposed sweeping financial sanctions against North Korea designed to cut off the country's access to the international banking system, branding it a "criminal state" guilty of counterfeiting, money laundering and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

It was no secret to journalists covering the September 2005 negotiations, or to the North Koreans, that the agreement was bitterly controversial within the administration and represented a victory for State Department advocates of a conciliatory approach to North Korea over proponents of "regime change" in Pyongyang. The chief U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill, faced strong opposition from key members of his own delegation at every step of the way.

It was particularly galling to Victor Cha, director for Asian Affairs in the National Security Council and to Richard Lawless, assistant secretary of Defense, that Hill agreed to conduct intensive bilateral negotiations with North Korea in Beijing prior to the six-party talks. In their eyes, bilateral talks amount to implicit diplomatic recognition, and the "steps to normalize relations" envisaged in the agreement would legitimize a rogue regime. When Hill hosted a dinner in Beijing for the chief North Korean negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, Cha and Lawless refused to attend. When a draft agreement was finalized, they held up final agreement for three days, unsuccessfully attempting to get the White House to insist on tougher terms.

Case Study B: Washington Spies on Itself or Batman Returns

Peggy Noonan cites instances from Bob Woodward's State of Denial to illustrate just how savage the infighting was to control policy over Iraq. Yes, Virginia, Batman really does exist.

The almost epic bureaucratic battle of Donald Rumsfeld to re-establish civilian control of the post-Clinton Joint Chiefs of Staff; the struggle of the State Department to be heard and not just handled by the president; the search on the ground for the weapons of mass destruction; the struggles, advances and removal from Iraq of Jay Garner, sent to oversee humanitarian aid; the utter disconnect between the experience on the ground after Baghdad was taken and the attitude of the White House--"borderline giddy." This is a primer on how the executive branch of the United States works, or rather doesn't work, in the early years of the 21st century.

There is previously unreported information. Former Secretary of State George Shultz was top contender for American envoy to Baghdad, but there were worries he was "not known for taking direction." Spies called "bats" were planted in American agencies by American agencies to report to rival superiors back home.

Case Study C: Withdrawing from Iraq Before Even Invading It

Not to be outdone, Christopher Hitchens focuses on Henry Kissinger's role in shaping events in Iraq. Kissinger, who was against toppling Saddam Hussein from the first, may yet get his way.

The other two members of the Kissinger Associates triumvirate, Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger, have stayed true to form and opposed regime change in Iraq more or less on principle. And Kissinger's own line was not so very different. In a long syndicated column published on Jan. 13, 2002, he did appear to argue that it was time to deal with Saddam Hussein, but only if certain conditions of "stability" were met. ... he feared both Kurdish destabilization of Turkey, via the Kurdish population of that country, and the unwelcome effect that a successful rebellion by "the Shiite minority in the south" might have on the Saudi oil fields. "The Shiite minority"? Yes, that's right. Most fascinating of all, Kissinger made a point of saying that we had to "enlist the Sunni majority, which now dominates Iraq."

Then the Bush administration took the decision to appoint Paul Bremer, a former partner of Kissinger Associates, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Our best friends in Iraq—the Kurds—were immediately alarmed by this fantastically tactless decision. ... It might also help explain a lot. During the Bremer period of governance in Baghdad, both the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis and the calling of elections were fatally postponed (perhaps when it was hastily discovered that a combined Kurdish and Shiite list could win a vote).

Hitchens ends by resurrecting the word "Vietnam" but this time to turn it against Kissinger.

Of course, Woodward's book has handed a free gift to those who cannot engage their minds on any foreign-policy question without using the word "Vietnam." I have written all that I can on the ahistorical falsity of this analogy, but if Kissinger really does have anything to do with the conduct of Iraq policy, then what we should fear is not just another attempt at moral blackmail of those who call for withdrawal. For the analogy to hold, we should have to find that while this militant rhetoric was being deployed in public a sellout, and a scuttle was being prepared behind the scenes. We are not fighting the Viet Cong in Iraq but the Khmer Rouge. A bungled withdrawal would lead to another Cambodia, not another Vietnam. It would be too horrible for Kissinger to live to see two such triumphs.

It's been a long time since Mr. Smith went to Washington. Maybe that was just a movie.


Blogger Teresita said...

North Korea is now saying they will ditch the nuke test if the US comes to the table in bilateral talks. Which is downright silly. I thought excluding the input of other nations is what made the Iraq War "illegal".

10/08/2006 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

That "sellout" or "scuttle" which Hitchens warns of in the last paragraph is the not-so-secret James Baker Commission on how the US is going to pull out of the Iraqi Quagmire. As Sen. John Warner recently declared, the whole Wilsonian project is "drifting sideways" and some new options need to be put on the table. The US can not "stay the course" when the course means handing power over to the pro-Iranian Shiite coalition. See's (7 day pass) analysis of Iran's deep infiltration of the ruling Iraqi government.

The infatuation of some confused conservatives with Hitchens the Trotskite provacateur shows the depths of their ideological dissonance. The man is Communist scum, and anyone who's read Tom Piatak's The Purest Neocon: Christopher Hicthens, the Unreconstructed Bolshevik Finds His Natural Home in The Pro-War Right has to agonize over the confluence of "revolutionary" agendas.

From The American Conservative:

10/08/2006 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

sirius_sir said...
If so, explain how doing so redounds to our benefit or credit.

Our credit is already shot on this one and will take awhile to recoup. I trust Sirius, that you've heard Sen. Warner's contention that this whole Iraqi project is "drifting sideways"? The benefit of a withdrawal lies in the ensuing Islamic war between Shi'as and Sunnis. A war that will occupy a great deal of energy and extremism from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia as they back their respective co-religionists. Nothing sucks the oxygen from a foreign crusade (jihad) like a civil war. Pull out. Let it bleed. The benefits for us are obvious, as were the benefits from the Iran-Iraq War.

Why are we spending our precious troops keeping the two sides of Islam from slaughtering one another? They both hate us, why are we supplying family counseling? It is only a matter of time before a militia infiltrated Iraqi Amry or Interior Ministry betrays one of our platoons. That is my fear. If you want to defend the status quo or tell me where "stay the course" is headed, Sirius, I'd love to hear it.

10/08/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

sirius_sir said...
Why isn't it in our interests to defend those on either side who have aligned, even tentatively, with us against the Islamists? We are making friends and allies and hold at least some power to influence events in Iraq and the surrounding region as long as we stay there.

Your prescriptions always lack specifics, which makes you appear uninformed of the very basic facts of this conflict. Who are these "friends and allies" of ours in Iraq? Chalabi? Allawi? Pachachi? None of them has a real following, indeed, all but Allawi are now out of politics. Are you talking of Maliki's Dawa? Do you know anything, ANYTHING, about Dawa? What the name means, what its agenda is, where they were headquartered duing the Iran-Iraq War, where former PM Jaafari was based during that time, where current PM Maliki was? Has Dawa dissolved its militia for the sake of national unity, as their party leader, Maliki has allegedly called for?

To apply actual referents to your abstractions is to see them crumble. If you really believe in what you write, then please provide this forum with the Iraqi political party you trust, the one committed to fighting Islamism that is winning over a sizable portion of Iraqis. Please.

But those choices taken or not taken are now history. In both instances we left the problem to fester, a course of action which I put to you is exactly what we will be doing again should we decide to simply leave Iraq to the Islamists.

A fire left to burn itself out does not fester so much as it is purged. Iraq is the battle zone between two irreconcilable visions of Islam, and there can be no moderation within the Islamic world until these two forces bleed each other into tolerance. Since we are hated by both sides, we ultimately can not influence a peaceful outcome between them. We've tried and failed for three years now and the situation in getting worst. There can be no post-conflict solution without the total defeat of one side. If we back the Shia's, we are backin IRAN, and that is not in our interests. Obviously, we can't back the Sunnis either, hence the present stalemate of which we are caught in the middle.

I'm sure by now you read the State Department's poll showing that the vast majority of citizens in democratic Iraq want us to leave. Do you wish to defy their wishes and remain a hated occupying force just to prove our courage in the face of the obvious? It is only a matter of time before Iraqi political parties begin to reflect the will of their people.

You would have us declare defeat and go home. I doubt that course is liable to enhance our ability to impress or sway anyone--least of all the mullahs and jihadists.

This is the very reason why I oppossed going into Iraq in the first place! The conviction that the US could not re-engineer a liberal, secular democracy out of the tribal stew and Islamist goo of Iraqi society. The situation is no longer about trying to impress anyone, it's about hauling our asses out of a futile quagmire before we sink anymore blood and treasure for a lost cause. Sirius, a wthdrawal is already being considered and you don't even know it. Here, plug this link into your browser and listen to Fmr. Secretary of State James Baker tell Clinton Toady, George Stuffin' Envelopes, all about how "stay the course is done":

That is not the admission of a man who lightly surrenders American credibility or purpose. Baker heads the Congressional commission on how to withdraw from Iraq and he's been meeting with the President regularly now. Even Hicthens knows what's up on this score, so he's chosen to lash out at . . . Henry Kissinger! Silly Bolshevik.

And if we aren't going to stay then we should also understand that in the eyes of the enemy that will amount to surrender. We should ask ourselves now how far we are willing to retreat.

As in Vietnam, and though a heavy price, our republic did not fall. Ultimately we lost that conflict because we could not socially engineer a functioning demcoracy (or even a functioning state) out of the poor materials of South Vietnam. We knew the horrors of the enemy we were fighting against but we had no understanding of what we were fighting for: a failed South Vietnamese state. So too with you and Iraq, you have no idea of what are fighting for. You talk of "friends and allies" as if they exist in a significant size or force worth supporting. If you can prove me wrong, then please do so.

10/09/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

sirius_sir said...
If we leave Iraq, then we leave the Kurds, as well as your hated Shia and Sunnis. . . what do we say to the Kurds? Fool you once, shame on me? Fool you twice, shame on you?

Leaving Iraq doesn't mean leaving Kurdistan. If the appropriate SOFA can be reached, it's quite possible for the US to maintain bases in Kurdistan. They'll need protection from the Turks, Iranians, Syrians and other Iraqis. It's worth considering.

Not for nothing did Hitchens invoke the name of Cambodia in his assessment of what our high-tailing out of Iraq would entail. Cambodia taught us there is indeed such a thing as a domino effect, and right now we are holding the forces that would tip those dominoes at bay.

You seem very confused. What domino fell after Cambodia? Or do you mean that Cambodia was the domino that fell after Vietnam? If that's the case then you know nothing of history. In late '78 the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and a few months later, in early '79, China invaded Vietnam. What "domino effect"? Furthermore, because the Vietnamese were opposed to them, the CIA backed the Khmer Rouge for a number of years in order to bleed the Viet Minh through guerilla war. No one was crying "domino effect" then. Look it up.

But of course the Islamists will force those dominoes the other way should we leave Iraq to the tender mercies of the mullahs and jihadists, to what ultimate effect on the entire Middle East no-one can honestly say.

What uninformed claptrap! If you must argue in simplistic terms of "dominoes" then you must acknowledge that there is no singular line of Islamist "dominoes" present in Iraq. There are at least two, Sunni and Shiite and they can not coexist. That is what the Civil War (so named even by the Neocon Charles Krauthammer) is all about. What ultimate effect? All out civil war, most likely followed by a reformation. Look to European history and the Thirty Years War followed by the Treaty of Westphalia. Iraq will have to be redrawn and it will be excrutiatingly bloody but myself and hundreds of other Cassandras predicted just such an occurrence.

Lastly, I see that you have failed to identify even a single political party or significant social base that constitutes our "friends and allies" in Iraq, as I challenged you to do so. I invite you to take up the challenge once again, for if you don't then you will not have anything worth fighting for in Iraq. Have you given up? If not, then what are we fighting for in Iraq? Shiite Islamists? Sunni Extremists? Kurish separatists?

10/09/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

sirius_sir said...

That seems to me more support than rebuttal. In any event, the point being, absent our countervaling influence the people of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were left vulnerable to the depredations that followed, no matter whose Peoples Party was responsible.

No, no, not at all. You were arguing discredited "domino theory" and my point about competing dominoes was indeed a rebuttal. You can read your concession in the phrase "In any event". Lastly, utilizing your arguments it should be point out that the Cambodians were rescued from the "depredation" of their own government (which we supported) from the intervening Vietnamese. Pack that into your obfuscating pipe of domino theory and humanitarian arguments and tell me how it taste.

One possibility would be that Iran would end up having even more power and influence in Iraq than it presently enjoys.

Iran will not be able to control and consolidate the Anbar province any better that we can. Especially since Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia's support for Sunni Arabs will be much more intensive and above board once we leave. (And you know now, after watching the Baker-Stephanopoulos video I provided that it's likely we're leaving sooner rather than later). Iran will not be able to fully incorporate all of Western Iraq after the conflict becomes a real regional war. Besides, why are you objecting to Iran's growing power? Who do you think WON the elections in January '05? Go ahead, list the parties of the United Iraqi Alliance and tell me who there are allied with. It's you who's so eager to turn Iraq over to the Shiite mullahs under the fig leaf of democracy!

I've challenged you twice now to come up with a political base of liberal, secular Iraqis that can unify the nation and are unambiguously our "friends and allies". Not Kurdish separatists, for their interests are too obviously narrow and sectarian, but a Mandela like figure that can bridge the Sunni/Shi'a divide and has a political party behind him. If you can't (you can't, Bush can't) then there is no center for us to save in Iraq. The failed nation has already been polarized beyond repair. Read the following from another pro-War Hawk who has thrown in the towel:

10/09/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

More on the Baker plan here:

10/09/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

sirius_sir said...
Please note that the period April 1975 to January 1979 corresponds to the worst of the atrocities following our evacuation, so your insinuation that it was our hand at work does not seem to hold up.

Where do I insinuate that? I certainly don't believe it.

Further, dominoes that fall independently are still dominoes that fall, pushed over by the same murderous ideaology. How is it an obfuscation to note an obvious--communist--connection?

Sigh. Dominos falling independently negate the theory. The domino theory is premised on countries falling in a line, a Communist line in which the states were comletely controlled by the Communist bloc. The idea was that Moscow/Beijing was a single monolith. The contries that assumed communist government DID NOT ALLY. In fact they turned on each other: Vietanm invaded Cambodia and China invaded Vietnam. There was no functioning bloc of unified communist states in South East Asia afer the fall of Vietnam. The primary conflict was between Vietnam/Laos/Russia and China/Khmer Rouge. Aside from these quarreling communist states, the dominos that were predicted to fall didn't: Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

As for Iraq, you should know by now that my intention is that Iran not be given free reign to take over that country.

Then you will be opposed to a "democratic process" that gives power to Shiite dominated parties allied with Iran, right? Have you switched positions?

Not even Sistani meets that requirement, despite his working in opposition to al Sadr and having very helpfully suggested that religion should be kept seperate from politics.

You're behind the times yet again. Sistani threw in the towel back in March, crying that no one listened to him anymore:

It's too bad, but in times of anarchy its the Leninists who tend to take power. Fortunately, there are rival Leninists in Iraq, if only we stop trying to keep them apart.

If we leave then al Sadr and his ilk, backed by Iran, will gain in influence and power to the exclusion of others. . . you seem not to want to recognize the fact, there is a natural tension between the Arab Shiites of Iraq and the Persian Shia of Iran.

The tension and my disagreement lies between your first sentence and the second. You acknowledge a tension between Sunnis and Shiites (second sentence) yet you think al Sadr can gain power "at the exclusions of other". No, the Sunnis will not bend to a Shiite theocrat, that is why there is a civil war on. It is beyond our power to reconcile these squabbling Islamists . . . let them have at each other to our benefit. The tensions between the Persian and Arab Shiites are not that great: Sadr who was very anti-Persian has had make up sessions with Iran and recieves money and logistics from Iran. Surely you know this.

But if your fervent desire that we leave comes to fruition then it is likely voices like Sistani's will become muted or even silenced, and your prophecy of doom will look like nothing so much as self-defeating wish-fulfillment.

As cited above, Sistani has already gone silent. The center has not held. Things fall apart. The blood dimmed tide is loosed . . . and it has little to do with my wishes. I wish we had never gotten to this point in the first place, which is why I so fervently advocated against this war on conservative grounds. Check out some past issues of The American Conservative and come over to the Right side, Sirius:

10/11/2006 06:02:00 PM  

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