Kurtz on Marshall

Not a sexy title (Hot, hot Kurtz on Marshall Action?), so I apologize. I also apologize for linking to a firmly entrenched right-wing source, but as it’s a tempered response to a moderate by a moderate (at least on the war and reconstruction issue), it seemed like it wouldn’t be too inflammatory. And finally, we all know that there’s someone around here who tends to repeat certain “talking points” of Mr. Marshall’s on a regular basis. As you read the characterization of Marshall’s viewpoints lately, they’ll probably seem familiar. Hint: His last name also begins with “M”. Don’t mean to criticize. After all, I’m the one regurgitating National Review articles.

Anyway, here it is.

http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz040803.asp

[size=2]Edit: Added one last disclaimer.[/size]

When you take a good hard look at the reality of the Democratic party’s position on the war, it is exceedingly difficult to imagine entrusting the safety of this country to the opposition… Even a bellicose and overly optimistic democratizing neocon is reformable (or at least controllable). Nancy Pelosi and her constituents are not.

In general, Democrats tend to explain the ongoing war on terror as a political conspiracy, instead of squarely facing the new realities of our world, and shaping a party that can take them on.

This is sad truth. I’ve never cast a vote for anyone other than a Democrat. I deeply loathe and hate the Billionaire Bible Club of the current administration. But my party is not leaving me much choice.

Here’s a simple platform for the Dems in 2004: “We take the apocalyptic threats of the 21st century very seriously. We’re going to do what’s necessary to keep our cities from getting corn-holed by terrorists or rogue states and their proxies. That means more than just ‘killing them with kindess’ – it means killing them with bombs. And as we secure the nation, we’ll rein in the bible-thumpers, civil-rights tramplers, Roe-whittlers, and corporate CEOs-turned-Cabinet members. Vote for me.”

That’s all it would take. The current suicidialist hand-wringing is not going to cut it.

You are what was once called a “Henry Jackson Democrat”. Senator Henry Jackson, back in the late 60’s & 70’s, was a hawkish democratic senator from Washington State. There’s no inconsistency between being a foreign policy hawk and being a social liberal. I’m sort of in the same boat you are – the current economic and social policies of the Bush administration seem completely nuts, but the objections to the war by the Dems seem to come from people who spent to much reading the Illuminati Conspiracy.

sigh

As ever,

Loyd Case

Daniel - your candidate would get my vote right now.

I dunno, guys, as well as Democratic Imperialism may play in the halls of the Heritage Foundation I have trouble seeing any other nation really embracing the idea of America six-gunning its way to complete world dominance even in the names of self-defense or idealistic reform. I also have trouble imagining how we’d keep would-be terrorists from making bombs or poison gas one way or another unless we own, or blow up, every chemical factory or fertilizer plant in the world. In fact, attacking Saddam only seems to be telling North Korea that they’d better just never agree to allowing weapons inspectors in the first place or signing onto any disarmament treaties, as a diplomat recently stated, so the U.S. never has justification to attack.

I really have trouble seeing this move for ‘democratization’ by military force as simply a way to protect ourselves. What if a democracy becomes unbalanced and controlled by interests inimical to us and the opposition feels so politically cowed it’s unable to resist? Perle’s quote elsewhere stated that a democracy is desireable because democracies don’t spend massive sums on military budgets, wage unilateral or preemptive wars. We’re setting a brilliant example. Let’s just limit this discussion to Iraq. What if the majority Shia win an election? What if they decide to impose Islamic laws? What if they /vote/ to dissolve the democracy? It’s their democracy, right?

And it’s also vital to remember the idealists of the neoconservative movement are only holding so many seats at the table of this political banquet. Rove is the thinker in The White House and while he’s aligned with the neocons for now he’s also firmly aware of the political debts he and Bush owe to the Christian Right and, Cheney is sure to remind him, big energy companies. How does he say no to them? He doesn’t. That’s why your hearing worrisome stories about how the oil will be handled and why they want to keep it out of U.N. hands (aside, possibly, from some aspects of oil for food). I can link to some stories that describe the ‘devil in the details’ about how this is being handled if anyone likes.

Lastly, it is horrifyingly true that Americans simply didn’t get what this war was about, IMHO, and they certainly don’t understand the implications of promoting an ideology by pure military might and, in doing so, alienating the world as we’re clearly doing. They were told that Saddam is buddies with Bin Ladin and, well, we’re gonna go get him. There were platitudes about ‘reforming the middle east’ and ‘axis of evil’ but nobody really thought that was more than rhetoric until we started seeing what, and who, was behind all that. For me it was, Chris Matthews and Howard Feinman on Hardball that clued me in. No intellectual, I. But it did get me reading more deeply into these ideologies. I can say with a great amount of assurance that here in the heart of conservative country very few folks I talk to have any understanding of the revolutionary context of this war that they so enthusiastically support.

That scares me.

I am not suggesting we carry around TR’s “Big Stick”. I am saying if a candidate would stand up and say “We will defend ourselves with approriate levels of force when attacked by a foreign power OR terrorist organization” AND not turn into a bible thumping warmongering aggravate the whole world super power. Then I would sign up. I thought and still do think the action in Afghanistan was called for. I think some action against Iraq was justifiable. I am not certain it had to happen the way it did. I would have preferred we had not come off as the heavy. I hope to god we find some justifications for our actions that are not manufactured and incontrovertible. What I really want is a country where abortion is still a legal option for the future, where my children are not forced to pray to a god in schools they may not believe in. Where major corporations are not above the law, especially the criminals who run them. Have any of you noticed that not one of our friendly scandals has yet to result in a conviction? Adelphia, Enron, WorldCom, the brokers on Wall St who endrorsed it all? The only thing broken so far is Arthur Anderson. And if you think the other big accounting firms are as dirty as they were…I got some land in Florida to sell ya.

Bush and the republicans have no plan or vision to fix our economy, they are in the pockets of big industry - not saying some dems are not either, and this neocon path is just going to stir up a hornets nest of anti-American fervor outside the US.

“Complete world dominance”? Brian, what the hell are you talking about? Do we dominate Japan now, since we set up a democracy there? I don’t think you can say that we dominate a German democratic system whose leadership owes its position to blatant America bashing. So, how does setting up a democracy in Iraq – even if we went with a WWII style military occupation for years, which we won’t – mean that we’re dominating Iraq… much less THE WORLD?! Did you read the article I linked to? If you did, you might be less inclined to use ignorant conspiracy terminology like “complete world dominance.”

Brian, we spend “massive sums” on our military (debatable, by the way) not because we are a democracy, but because we are the superpower. We have to be able to take actions like we did in Iraq because no one else is willing to. No one is claiming that a democratic Iraq would universally friendly to the US. Contrary to your conspiracy theory, we don’t want Iraq to be our lap-dog. We just want a government that acts reasonably, knows that WMD are not in its best interests, and can play nicely with its friends. Democracy, even an imperfect one, can accomplish this AND bring unprecedented freedom to the Iraqi people.

That’s funny. Seems like Russia and France have mostly shut up recently. And Germany’s been back-pedaling. I think time will tell if we’ve really “alienated the world.” As for Americans understanding what the war was about, I think they know that it was about security. I think Bush has been clear on that point. A democracy in Iraq is just another tool in ensureing security for us and all the other nations out there who could be threatened by Saddam, whether they’re grateful for it or not.

Yeah, Marshall’s just making up “conspiracy theories.” Kurtz sure did find a lot of points of evidence in his articles to refute!

It’s just moving the goalposts. Sure, maybe we have a secret plan to invade the entire middle east, but we’re not hiding it from the public! Why, we started talking about it in low-circulation conservative journals a week ago!

I’m honestly not following you, Jason. WHAT’S moving the goalposts? Moving the goalposts is usually what people who are losing do. We’ve all but spiked the ball in the end zone as far as the war is concerned. Why would we move the goalpost now?

And, I suppose you could say Kurtz does less refuting of Marshall’s theories than pointing out all the obvious stuff he doesn’t account for. It’s easy to see a secret plan for world domination and believe the public doesn’t know why we’re really fighting… IF you ignore the administration’s oft-stated security and anti-proliferation goals in Iraq and elsewhere. I believe there’s a fellow named Kenneth something or other who wrote a book talking about why Saddam really is dangerous to the US and the world. You might want to check it out.

I really do respect Marshall – and McCullough, too – for being a liberal who is smart and honest enough to, at one point, recognize the sound reasoning behind the war effort. The usual desire to rail unequivocably against the religious right or the backstabbing neocons and that moron Bush must have festered and boiled in their stomachs for weeks and months until the failure of diplomacy finally gave them a reason to tear into Bush once again, declare him incompetent, and take conspiratorial shots at their former allies who already had taken a real, brave step to the other side of ideology over earlier issues greatly resembling Iraq.

So you’re saying that we do have a plan to invade the entire middle east, or we don’t? What percentage of the public do you think knows about this plan? Hell, what percentage of the pro-war public knows about this plan?

I’m saying “we” – presumably the Bush Administration itself – is implementing no such plan. Has it been discussed? Almost certainly. Has Bush endorsed it? Never. He’d be silly to at this point and, likely, at any point in the future. Honestly, I don’t think anyone – even the neo-est of the neocons – has suggested straight invasion of every country in the Middle East, so I’m not sure where you’re getting this proposition in the first place. The most radical idea I’ve ever read was that a democratic Iraq would bring about uprisings and regime collapse in neighboring countries by its example, without military help from the US beyond the passive threat of our troops in the general vicinity already. Did I miss something? Maybe I skimmed Josh Marshall too quickly.

Still, you didn’t answer my question about what “moving the goalposts” means.

Ok, I exaggerated; the plan is a combination of factions advocating endless invasions (Perle, I think?) and the others thinking that having a heavy presence in the region will get the same result.

Marshall’s fundamental charge in “Practice to Deceive,” is that the White House and its neocon supporters have been dishonest with the American people about the true purpose of the war in Iraq. The White House has presented the war as an effort to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction and passing those weapons to terrorists. That much, Marshall acknowledges, the American people support.

But the real purpose of the war, says Marshall, is a sort of secret neocon plan to democratize the entire Middle East. Since the administration knows that the public would never embrace the dangers and sacrifices entailed in that sort of de facto imperialism, the Bush administration has hidden the real purpose of the war. According to Marshall, the administration’s secret plan is to take control of Iraq, thus setting in motion a series of hostile reactions throughout the Middle East. Those reactions, in turn, will force America into an extended imperial role, whether the public favors this or not.

This is a pretty accurate summary of what Marshall’s detailing. From then on, he:

  1. Calls Marshall paranoid.
  2. Says the administration “has been clear” that we might invade a bunch of other people (Iran, NK). Leaves out Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, which have no connection at all to the nuclear proliferation angle he approaches this from.

Marshall’s piece has very little to say about nuclear proliferation. His basic claim is that, while the administration would like to put a stop to nuclear proliferation, it is really using proliferation as a smokescreen for its democratizing plans. That misses the fundamental point. The main reason to democratize the Middle East is to prevent it from developing weapons of mass destruction, or the terrorists who would use them.

So here he’s saying that Marshall’s right: there really is a plan to democratize the entire middle east, by force if necessary.

I’m honestly not following you, Jason. WHAT’S moving the goalposts? Moving the goalposts is usually what people who are losing do. We’ve all but spiked the ball in the end zone as far as the war is concerned. Why would we move the goalpost now?

Don’t listen to Jason, that’s his favorite new non-specific criticism. Full of suspision and insinuation, but completely lacking in anything that even resembles actual meaning. When the argument starts getting away from him he just has to complain that what’s being discussed now is different from what it began as. I suspect he read it in one of his favorite liberal collums, because I’ve seen him repeat it twice now in 24 hours. We all know Jason likes to let others do his thinking for him.

“Complete world dominance”? Brian, what the hell are you talking about? Do we dominate Japan now, since we set up a democracy there? I don’t think you can say that we dominate a German democratic system whose leadership owes its position to blatant America bashing. So, how does setting up a democracy in Iraq – even if we went with a WWII style military occupation for years, which we won’t – mean that we’re dominating Iraq… much less THE WORLD?! Did you read the article I linked to? If you did, you might be less inclined to use ignorant conspiracy terminology like “complete world dominance.”[/quote]

Yeah, I read the article and I wasn’t very impressed with the refutation. You think I make grandious assumptions? This guy is the prize winner.

Marshall’s charge is unfair — and frankly, a bit paranoid. Since President Bush’s famous “axis of evil” speech, it has been clear that the war on terror could spread beyond Afghanistan and encompass Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Clearly, these countries were placed in the axis because each of them has the will and capacity to develop nuclear weapons and sell them to terrorists. And of course, the administration’s decision to openly announce a strategy of preemption has set off a furious worldwide debate. If the administration had wanted to deceive the American people into thinking that the attack on Iraq would be the definitive end of the war, why would it have been so foolish as to issue these intensely controversial and ambitious proclamations?

I don’t think many people really believed that Bush was going to act on his axis of evil comments. In fact, it was downplayed by many in the administration after the huge furor it caused. Frankly, while I knew Bush was gunning for Iraq, I didn’t suspect his minders would let this spiral into a series of preemptive wars around the world. Read the reporting from back then. Hardly anyone was calling this a bold and wise statement - most people were scratching their heads and wondering what the fuck this had to do with stopping Al Qaida. I think the first inking he was serious, since the campaign and administration was so full of shucking and jiving up to this point, was when the security strategy came out. Oh, then it dawned on us what was going on but only those of us that read articles about U.S. security strategy. The photo-op moments for the evening news were still filled with broad rhetoric. I wonder if a poll taken even now would support the U.S. following the neoconservative, and this administration’s, plan for the middle east.

As far as I can tell, Marshall’s writing lately has been long on conspiracy theories and short on analysis of the actual world situation. As noted, Marshall has little to say in “Practice to Deceive” about the continued and very real dangers of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and North Korea. Nor does he seem to realize that prewar diplomacy failed, not from the administration’s incompetence, but because the real interest situation of America and its erstwhile allies are being pulled in different directions. Ultimately, we and our allies would be best advised to hang together. But the belief of many in Europe and Canada that they can prevent themselves from becoming targets of terror by distancing themselves from America has everything to do with the fiasco at the United Nations. The emergence of large and relatively unassimilated Muslim populations in France and Germany is also a key factor (among others).

Listen to this guy. He’s telling you that Europeans aren’t siding with us in an unprovoked attack against Iraq because they’re afraid of terrorism and are willing to sacrifice America to terrorists to save themselves. How about the idea that Europeans (and the vast heaping majority of the world community) don’t like the idea of an international norm where anybody can indulge in unprovoked, unilateral and preemptive wars. The U.N. was created during the blossoming of the Cold War and it included China and Russia on the Security Council. Why? Because the goal of the U.N. was to promote dialogue in leiu of wars. We’ve got a problem because it’s doing what it was created to do? There are precidents for ignoring the U.N. without creating the popular international backlash we’re seeing right now - take Kosovo. What’s different about Iraq? Could it have to do with the unprovoked (at least by Iraq) aggressive stance of the most powerful nation on earth? Or the history of arrogant dismissiveness this administration has shown to the world community, the reality of the world community with embarrasing warts and oozing sores, embodied in the UN? Could it have to do with the fact that the U.S. is a massive consumer of energy which is invading the country with the second largest oil reserves in the world and seems to be hinting it plans to ‘transform’ the rest of the Persian Gulf in the same manner?

You don’t see where countries might get a little sketchy here?

What would happen to Europe if America did become ‘victimized’ on a massive scale by terrorism. They know as well as we do that their economies are mortally tied to ours. Our welfare is their welfare. As we go, goes the world. You think they’d just shrug if they believed there was a real threat to us from Iraq?

And saying that Germany and France are playing to an unnaturalized Arab minority makes as much sense as saying the United States is playing to a Jewish/Israeli constituency. Hmmm. Or, perhaps, saying that the U.S. is in no position to make decisions about politics in regards to South America because of all the Spanish speaking minorities in the U.S. and lord knows we’ve meddled in affairs down there for far longer, and likely with far worse direct effects, than the roles of some French and German companies in Iraq.

I think the opposition, the popular opposition, comes from a fear that the U.S. is an unstoppable power on the world stage that is imposing its will by fiat anywhere it choses. Columbia, Phillipines and most dramatically Iraq.

Rational people may have thought ‘axis of evil’ was a turn of rhetoric concocted by a speechwriter, and it was, but when it turns into policy we’ll see where the public stands. I don’t think they’ll tolerate eternal war for eternity. That’s where this doctrine of preemption and unilateralism will take us. The cozy comparisons Kurtz paints with Victorian India (even though he discounts it as a bad example) make me extremely uncomfortable. This guy has thought about Empire far too much for my liking.

Brian, we spend “massive sums” on our military (debatable, by the way) not because we are a democracy, but because we are the superpower. We have to be able to take actions like we did in Iraq because no one else is willing to. No one is claiming that a democratic Iraq would universally friendly to the US. Contrary to your conspiracy theory, we don’t want Iraq to be our lap-dog. We just want a government that acts reasonably, knows that WMD are not in its best interests, and can play nicely with its friends. Democracy, even an imperfect one, can accomplish this AND bring unprecedented freedom to the Iraqi people.

We spend more than, I think, than any ten other governments (perhaps not as a percentage of GNP but that’s something we can check though I am sure it’s very high compared to other nations). We didn’t have to take this action in Iraq. That’s an assumption but not a fact. Had we bothered to get international support or possibly pursued an innovative strategy (SNL’s Wolfowitz character “War wasn’t our first option for resolving the matter. It was the only one we considered.”) this might have been cleared up without all this furor. However, the neocons want to sideline the UN. They did it with a stick in the eye. Now we’ve got an American war.

We don’t want Iraq to be our lapdog? Then how do we get a return on investment? How do we pay for reconstruction if we don’t use Iraqi oil revenues? How do we get Iraqi oil revenues if the Iraqi government doesn’t approve of it? Well, easy, we make sure that the government will. It’s the old lawyer axiom - never ask a question if you don’t know the answer. I suspect those backing the war know the answer and it’s probably not the one the neoconservatives have been pushing. Sure, Iraqi democracy is great. Give us 10 years to rebuild the country (with Iraqi revenue and American corporate knowhow) and a friendly Iraqi ‘transition’ authority and then we’ll do that, whatchamacallit, constitution thingy. In the meantime there’s Syria, Iran and North Korea that need dealing with and democracy brought to them. If Egypt or Saudi Arabia look at us funny we’ll democratize them into a fine red mist too. With all that going on we’ll be thinking about Iraq the same way we’re thinking about Afghanistan now. Af-what? BTW, reports are coming out that the Taliban is reconstituting and offering resistance since we haven’t seen fit to properly fund or support the central Kabul government in favor of tactical alliances with regional warlords (who obviously aren’t helping out that much). Mark my words, we’ll be hearing about a new Air America any day soon - how the CIA and the warlords are shipping opium overseas to fund black operations elsewhere. Happened before. It’ll happen again.

That’s funny. Seems like Russia and France have mostly shut up recently. And Germany’s been back-pedaling. I think time will tell if we’ve really “alienated the world.” As for Americans understanding what the war was about, I think they know that it was about security. I think Bush has been clear on that point. A democracy in Iraq is just another tool in ensureing security for us and all the other nations out there who could be threatened by Saddam, whether they’re grateful for it or not.

Yeah, it’s about security. And deregulation of the energy industry was about keeping utility prices competatively low. Look, I just don’t know who to trust anymore. This administration seems to be playing games with the truth and reality all the time. Most of the folks I talk to think this war is about Saddam giving weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaida and I’ve seen very little out of this administration attempts to do anything other than coyly encourage this - mouthpieces on the right are doing this all the time outright. We hear broader rhetoric this administration has conditioned us to dismiss as, well, broader rhetoric based on past performance. Now we’re seeing it really take shape as a preemptive war segues into a preemptive peace that will be controlled - not by the UN and not by the State Department but The Pentagon and exiles those folks have known, personally, for decades as golfing buddies.

You’re telling me this is what the American people went to war for? They support a war whose causes they don’t understand and whose result they may well end up reviling in time.

You know what? Despite the fact that we almost always disagree, I find that Jason generally makes intelligent contributions to our political conversations. I appreciate his viewpoint usually. At least he’s not ravingly extreme like some other people who posted just above me or who are named Elhaaj.

On the other hand, I have noticed Jason’s recent compuction to post little snarky nuggets more than real analysis. And I’ve seen him use the goalposts analogy before, and I didn’t get what it meant then either. Oddly, the last time I read this phrase used in the context of Iraq was when Andrew Sullivan was debating Josh Marshall. Sullivan used it (appropriately) to describe how Marshall was extending the definition of success for a war on Iraq. I would bet money that Jason’s was reading that debate… Come on, Jason. What’s the deal with the goalposts??

It’s a neologism for changing the terms of the debate to your favor - say, if Bush suddenly started talking about how he’s kept us out of a great depression, when previously he was talking about gettting the economy going again, that’d be “moving the goalposts.” There’s nothing devious about the phrase; I’ve heard it for years.

Okay. Deep breath, Brian. If you want to call two wars a “series,” you’re welcome to do so, I suppose. But if you ask me, this just sounds more and more like exactly the sort of paranoid conspiracy talk Kurtz accuses Marshall of. So does this:

an international norm where anybody can indulge in unprovoked, unilateral and preemptive wars.

…and this…

Could it have to do with the fact that the U.S. is a massive consumer of energy which is invading the country with the second largest oil reserves in the world and seems to be hinting it plans to ‘transform’ the rest of the Persian Gulf in the same manner?

…and these…

U.S. is an unstoppable power on the world stage that is imposing its will by fiat anywhere it choses.

…eternal war for eternity. That’s where this doctrine of preemption and unilateralism will take us.

How do we get Iraqi oil revenues if the Iraqi government doesn’t approve of it? Well, easy, we make sure that the government will.

If Egypt or Saudi Arabia look at us funny we’ll democratize them into a fine red mist too.

Mark my words, we’ll be hearing about a new Air America any day soon - how the CIA and the warlords are shipping opium overseas to fund black operations elsewhere.

…and you saved the best for last…

a preemptive peace that will be controlled - not by the UN and not by the State Department but The Pentagon and exiles those folks have known, personally, for decades as golfing buddies.

Ah, that favorite conspiracy element, the GOLFING BUDDY. I’m glad all the ingredients taste nice in your paranoid pie, Brian. But can you not see why this might taste absurd to the rest of us?

There are precidents for ignoring the U.N. without creating the popular international backlash we’re seeing right now - take Kosovo. What’s different about Iraq? Could it have to do with the unprovoked (at least by Iraq) aggressive stance of the most powerful nation on earth?

The UN was created to solve problems without conflict. Dialogue is part of that process, but so is presenting a united front against problematic regimes. As for Kosovo, are you saying that the US didn’t take an unprovoked aggressive stance there? I’ll give you a more substantive difference: The Serbian government had a lot less unenvofred UN resolutions against it than Iraq did.

Rational people may have thought ‘axis of evil’ was a turn of rhetoric concocted by a speechwriter, and it was, but when it turns into policy we’ll see where the public stands.

I think the public, rightly, sees things in a completely opposite light. When George Bush named an Axis of Evil, most people said, “Iran? North Korea? I thought this was about Afghanistan and Al Qaeda.” Since that time, there’s been plenty more evidence of the perspicacity of Bush’s statement. Intelligence and security folks already knew of its validity, but lately the public has heard more directly about the nuclear programs of Iran and NK and has watched NK’s games of brinkmanship and Iran’s treacherous dealings in post-war Afghanistan and mid-war Iraq. Of course, this all will make more sense to your feverish brain if I said, “The Bush administration has purposefully leaked such stories and exaggerated their claims in order to justify yet another preemptive attack.”

(SNL’s Wolfowitz character “War wasn’t our first option for resolving the matter. It was the only one we considered.”)

Oh, THAT’s where you get your political ideas from.

We don’t want Iraq to be our lapdog? Then how do we get a return on investment?

Yeah, it’s about security. And deregulation of the energy industry was about keeping utility prices competatively low.

I guess if you can’t for one second believe that the US might willingly be doing something that will not have an economic return for decades, if ever, and you don’t believe security can be the goal of a war, then you’re never ever going to understand why we did this.

Sure. But what goalposts are being moved here? What’s the debate that Bush, et al, are losing that they’re needing to reframe the question?

Specifically, I was annoyed that Kurtz’s answer to “does the public know about this plan to remake the entire region”:

(paraphrase)
‘We’ve been talking about it obliquely in conservative magazines, so it’s not a hidden conspiracy.’

TPM has a much better response up now.

Aww, bummer. I thought you guys meant Scott Kurtz.