Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Ballad of Political Dependency

It's hard to tell which country is pursuing a stupider long-term plan, the United States or Israel. It's hard to tell because the plan seems to consist largely of reciprocal enabling. "I promise not to make a big deal about your snorting lines of coke off the dashboard, honey, since you haven't said a word about my fixation with mail-order au pairs from Moldova." There's no way that Israel would be destroying the infrastructure that made the Lebanese state functional and hundreds of innocent lives along with it if the Americans, conveniently nearby in the portable gated communities of a Road Warrior-esque Iraq, had ordered them to stop. And it's highly unlikely that the Bush Administration would be able to pursue its brand of Surrealpolitik in the Middle East if the Israeli military and intelligence services weren't willing to pretend, out of whatever self-interested motives, that creative destruction is the pathway to regional stability. As much as I hate to admit it, the arrogant Donald Rumsfeld is probably right -- though I love the editorial harshing on him in today's New York Times -- that we can't afford to pull out of Iraq now. Not only will Iraq continue its transformation into the Yugoslavia of the early 1990s, but Israel will probably find itself in a war with an Iran fortified by the Shiite majority in Iraq. And that would be a war that Israel wouldn't be guaranteed of winning, threatening as never before the oil supply that the American lifestyle demands. So I ask you, the voices of Peter, Paul, and Mary rising in my head, "Where have all the hobbits gone?"

August 4, 2006
The Sound of One Domino Falling

It’s been obvious for years that Donald Rumsfeld is in denial of reality, but the defense secretary now also seems stuck in a time warp. You could practically hear the dominoes falling as he told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that it was dangerous for Americans to even talk about how to end the war in Iraq.

“If we left Iraq prematurely,” he said, “the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East. And if we left the Middle East, they’d order us and all those who don’t share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines.” And finally, he intoned, America will be forced “to make a stand nearer home.”

No one in charge of American foreign affairs has talked like that in decades. After Vietnam, of course, the communist empire did not swarm all over Asia as predicted; it tottered and collapsed. And the new “enemy” that Mr. Rumsfeld is worried about is not a worldwide conspiracy but a collection of disparate political and religious groups, now united mainly by American action in Iraq.

Americans are frightened by the growing chaos in the Mideast, and the last thing they needed to hear this week was Mr. Rumsfeld laying blame for sectarian violence on a few Al Qaeda schemers. What they want is some assurance that the administration has a firm grasp on reality and has sensible, achievable goals that could lead to an end to the American involvement in Iraq with as little long-term damage as possible. Instead, Mr. Rumsfeld offered the same old exhortation to stay the course, without the slightest hint of what the course is, other than the rather obvious point that the Iraqis have to learn to run their own country.

By contrast, the generals flanking him were pillars of candor and practicality. Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. commander in the Middle East, said “Iraq could move toward civil war” if the sectarian violence — which he said “is probably as bad as I’ve seen it” — is not contained. The generals tried to be optimistic about the state of the Iraqi security forces, but it was hard. They had to acknowledge that a militia controls Basra, that powerful Iraqi government officials run armed bands that the Pentagon considers terrorist organizations financed by Iran, and that about a third of the Iraqi police force can’t be trusted to fight on the right side.

As for Mr. Rumsfeld, he suggested that lawmakers just leave everything up to him and the military command and stop talking about leaving Iraq. “We should consider how our words can be used by our deadly enemy,” he said.

Americans who once expected the Pentagon to win the war in Iraq have now been reduced to waiting for an indication that at least someone is minding the store. They won’t be comforted to hear Mr. Rumsfeld fretting about protecting Spain from Muslim occupation.
Tags: politics, rant

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