Josh Marshall is indeed on fire at the thought of his nemeses – the dreaded, evil, incompetent neocons – getting their comeuppance in Iraq. The rhetoric he’s using, however, seems to me a little overwrought. The White House is in a “meltdown,” a state “of pandemonium and implosion.” Huh? Don’t get your hopes up, Josh. Marshall has staked a certain amount of cred on being just, well, so much smarter than anyone in the administration, but a hawk as well. But his hyperbole strikes me as somewhat undermining of his case. Let’s concede for a moment that his premises are right (I don’t actually concede that, but let that go for a moment). Let’s say that the light, Rumsfeldian strategy didn’t pull off the immediate victory the White House hoped for. Why is that such a disaster, prompting “pandemonium and implosion”? It would be a disaster if there was no back-up. But it seems quite clear that the Iraq invasion was based on a plan that was flexible enough to shoot for the stars at first, but prepared for the earth if needs be. Yes, part of the motive for “shock and awe” was also presumably a global deterrent – a signal to Syria, Iran and NoKo that we could do it elsewhere. (Why is that such a bad idea?) But that’s still not essential for victory. Fighting ambitiously is no sin. Fighting ambitiously without a back-up is. What I don’t understand is why a two-month campaign that ends up with major forces in Iraq, the liberation of Baghdad, and the end of Saddam isn’t still a huge success. Just because it isn’t an amazing, sudden victory doesn’t mean it isn’t a victory. Josh thinks our bombing of Baghdad is turning civilians against us. I don’t know how he knows this. As far as I can tell, we have the power to be patient, and the resources still to win. It seems crazy to me to panic and point fingers at this point, although I don’t begrudge people with axes to grind from doing so (old Pentagon officials who believe in the old methods, neolibs trying to be hawks without being neocons, et al.) The Mickster unearths a useful quote from Kenneth Pollack, the acceptable face of hawkery for the liberal elites, about a future war against Saddam:
Probably the most likely scenario would be about one third of Iraq’s armed forces fighting hard, limited use of tactical WMD, and some extensive combat in a few cities. In this most likely case, the campaign would probably last four to eight weeks and result in roughly 500 to 1,000 American combat deaths.
If that’s your standard, instead of Marshall’s irrational exuberance, then the war is going better than predicted. I may still be proven wrong. Wars are unpredictable. But Marshall’s statement that the entire enterprise is now doomed to military and/or diplomatic and/or political failure strikes me as something that may come back to haunt him.
The media’s, that is. Jack Shafer nails it. Somewhat cruel to Johnny Apple: “he’s a large, slow target that bleeds profusely when hit.” But Apple’s piece was such a hilarious piece of self-parody he deserves all he gets.
Want Saddam to prevail against the U.S. and the U.K. As I’ve said before: not an ally.
What a surprise that the Stanford and Columbia professor, Nicholas de Genova, is also on the record about other matters:
Once before in his time at Columbia has De Genova incited critics by making political statements that he says were taken out of context. During a pro-Palestinian sit-in in the April of last year, he stated at an open microphone, “The heritage of the victims of the Holocaust belongs to the Palestinian people. The state of Israel has no legitimate claim to the heritage of the Holocaust. The heritage of the oppressed belongs to the oppressed–not the oppressor.”
Yes, it all comes down to the Jews, doesn’t it? But notice de Genova’s impeccable Ivy League credentials. These are the far left extremists who now dominate many humanities departments in many top-notch schools. And notice also from this piece de Genova’s explanation: these remarks were taken “out of context.” In what context would they be ok?
What caption would you write for a photograph that shows an anti-war protestor with a head-scarf emblazoned with the slogan “Kill Jews.” The Times of London went for: “A university student protests against the war in Iraq.”
Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, could it? Good for NBC.
ANTI-WAR = ANTI-ISRAEL: One thing to remember in the somewhat hysterical anti-war mood in France: this was a country that gave unprecedented support to a neo-fascist only last year. At least part of the French anti-war movement is really about the Jews. And as the movement has grown apace, so too has the phenomenon of anti-Semitic violence:
In its annual report on racism in France, the National Consultative Committee on Human Rights said there had been a sixfold increase over 2001 in acts of violence against Jewish property and persons. Of 313 acts of racist violence documented in 2002, 193 were anti-Semitic, it said. In a second category of racist acts – threats, graffiti and insults – more than 70 percent of the nearly 1,000 incidents were aimed at the Jewish community, while most of the rest were aimed at the North African immigrant community, the report said.
That’s today’s France: the home of Euro-enlightenment, sophistication, nuanced objectivity and Jew-hating.
A long, long time ago, I voiced an offhand fear that some parts of the left (and far right) in this country were so disenchanted with America, so contemptuous of president Bush, so full of misplaced attraction to the thugs and despots of the developing world, that they could mount what amounts to a fifth column in the event of serious conflict. For the new class especially, the journalists and academics and chatterers, some of whose loyalties extend only to their latest publicist, the notion of simple loyalty to country is and was, as Orwell, noted a contemptible emotion. I was denounced for such a thought – even though it was an aside in an essay devoted to celebrating America. But it turns out I was right. My piece opposite deals with the fulminations of a Columbia University professor, Nicholas de Genova, who blurted out what some of his fellow leftwing academics truly feel: that they want the United States to lose this war, and if that means that Saddam wins, so be it. There is no question in my mind that that is also a simmering sentiment among several important media institutions, like the BBC and, to a lesser extent, the New York Times. (Reading the Sunday New York Times yesterday was to read a paper whose editors have already assumed – or can barely conceal the conjecture – that the war is lost.) And now we have Peter Arnett, mouthing Ba’ath Party propaganda, lying about declining support for the war in the U.S., sucking up to the Stalinists who control the Iraqi police state, and generally making a huge ass of himself. This interview is disgusting. It is propaganda. It could demoralize Iraqi resistance to Saddam; it could therefore increase the likelihood of a longer war and cost American lives. This after barely two weeks of warfare. Two weeks.
THE AMERICAN PRIME MINISTER: Blair has an approval rating in the U.S. of 72 percent – five points higher than the president. Here’s why.
Here’s what I’m beating myself up about. I long believed that Saddam was a Stalinist; that he ran a brutal police state; that totalitarian regimes – again, as Orwell noted – are often extremely successful at what they do. (Remember Orwell’s fear was that totalitarianism would work.) So why did I believe that Saddam’s shock troops would not put up that fierce a battle? In retrospect, of course they would. They’ve been terrified into obedience; and the higher up you go the more that terror is manifested by terrorizing others in turn. It’s one big police state. The experience of the collapse of the Soviet Union perhaps lulled us into over-confidence. But Saddam’s terror-state is younger, more Stalinist than end-of-empire USSR, and is allied with some of the most fanatical barbarians in the world. I should have thought of that. Not that it changes much now. After the initial adolescent disappointment that we didn’t have insta-victory, the longer this goes on, the more confident I’m becoming. Above all, observing the methods of this police state confirms my feeling that this was always the right thing to do. There was no alternative to war, it is now transparently clear, except leaving Saddam entrenched and getting more dangerous. Now to finish the job.
THE NYT ON THE BBC: The Axis of Bias now exists. But check out the simply glorious Times’ description of the BBC’s coverage of the war: “nuanced objectivity.” I think I’m going to rename our regular media bias updates as “Nuanced Objectivity Watch.”
A friend was actually at the Columbia meeting where far left professor de Genova called for the murder and mutilation of American troops. My account was based on Newsday’s story. Here’s an alternative version:
You’re right that no one objected to the Mogadishu line: I sat there astonished he was even saying that. But it’s bullshit to say the final line of his speech drew “loud cheers from an Ivy League audience.” A significant portion of the room (I’d guess a quarter) did start clapping, but I heard no cheers, much less loud cheers. Of course, I was in shock, hissing, shaking my head that ANYONE was clapping rather than booing. All I can tell you is that I paid close attention to see if further speakers over the next few hours would repudiate those comments. And when two speakers did disagree with him (including Foner), the applause was louder. It says something that Columbia students are not willing to stand up en masse and disagree with such disgusting comments, but it does not say that most of them agree with what was said. He certainly was not representative of the other professor’s thoughts. On the contrary, the speaker was a last minute addition replacing someone who was sick, and he was alone in the type of comments he made.
I’m glad Foner objected at the time.
THE MARKETPLACE BOMB: I don’t know what to believe about the explosion in the Baghdad market place that the BBC is touting as more American criminality. In general, my rule of thumb is to find out what Robert Fisk is saying and believe the opposite. But this story in the Daily Telegraph was interesting. It will probably take the allied occupation of Baghdad to get to the truth.
Here’s a very insightful piece by Stephen Glover in the London Spectator. It deals with some of the emotional and ideological reasons behind some reporters’ and pundits’ eagerness to portray the dark lining of every silver cloud in Iraq. Money graf:
There were lots of reasons for opposing the war against Iraq. But even anti-war people would always admit that Saddam Hussein is a dictator who has tortured and killed many people, and impoverished his nation. They worried about legality and fretted about whether it was right to invade a country which had not made a declaration of war. I shared these anxieties. The anti-war brigade has also been sustained by anti-Americanism. Now that the allies have embarked on war, it is natural that many of the opponents in the media should want to be proven right. This helps to explain why the BBC and the anti-war press have seized on every small setback as potentially a vast misfortune. There is the war between the allies and Saddam Hussein, and there is the other, hidden war between the opponents of war in the media and those in the field who seem to be prosecuting it with remarkable success.
And yes, Glover is right to point out the success. What has struck me forcibly so far is not so much the “Simpsons”-like backseat-driving of the media (“Are we there yet?” “No.” “Are we there yet?” “No.” “Are we there yet?” “No.” “Are we there yet?” “No.” “Are we there yet?” “No.” “Are we there yet?” “No.” “Are we there yet?” “No.”) than the absolute refusal of the military brass or the administration to concede even an inch. Like you, I don’t know what’s really going on. The press could be being babyish; the military could be putting on a brave face. One day, we’ll know. But if I had to believe someone, it would probably not be the BBC.
FIGURE THIS ONE OUT: Check out this story in the Washington Post. It’s about Bush’s advisers “splitting.” I can’t tell who they’re talking about, except the vague description of “former senior Republican government officials and party leaders”; what the split is precisely about; who may be leaking; and much else. Whoever was the source for this piece is so deeply on background he or she or they are completely invisible. Scowcroft? Baker? Eagleburger?