June 26, 2007

Will No One Rid Me of This Meddlesome Man?*

[*Becket, 1964]

When last we visited Joshua Muravchik in November of 2006, we came to understand how wildly comedic advanced dementia could be. We learned that the neoconservatives are depised only because they are so beautiful and approach as close to perfection as is possible to imperfect Man. Their ideas are good and true, and universal in their applicability. Oh, the neoconservatives may have made a few mistakes, but such is life. And perhaps most importantly, we must:


Muravchik was particularly insistent on that last point:


More than half a year later, as the immoral and criminal occupation of Iraq worsens by the hour, and as things fall apart throughout the Middle East -- in largest part as the direct result of the infernal meddling by the United States, a course of action which has never ceased since World War II -- one might think Muravchik would feel a bit chastened. Perhaps he might even entertain a few second thoughts -- only very gingerly and with extraordinary reluctance, to be sure, but perhaps, just perhaps, he might consider questioning the previously unchallenged and unchallengeable axioms which have supported his worldview.

You might think all of that. You would, of course, be wrong. We have long resided in Backwards World, where failure necessitates that one cling to precisely those policy prescriptions that have resulted in disaster with ever greater ferocity. The greater the failure, the more stubbornly one must refuse to reexamine even the smallest particle of the tiniest notion of the most minuscule principle that has brought one closer to the most dangerous precipice of all. Even that is not enough: one must significantly enlarge the scope of one's actions -- precisely those actions that have already resulted in widespread calamity, and the murder of over half a million innocent human beings.

In Backwards World, none of this is our fault or our responsibility in even a microscopic degree. This is a longstanding principle of neoconservative thought. Almost four years ago, in analyzing Irving Kristol's tendentious and profoundly dishonest retelling of the history of American foreign policy, I wrote:
Kristol's intellectual legerdemain accomplishes one objective, and it is a significant one: it absolves us of all responsibility for our past decisions in the foreign policy sphere. In effect, Kristol's analysis entirely negates the element of moral judgment when it comes to issues of war and peace, at least so far as the conduct of the United States is concerned. Wars, endless bombing raids, huge troop deployments, massive domestic taxation, a military draft (during the long period we had one), endless foreign entanglements, and large-scale death -- it's all just "bad luck." It just happened. It's not enough that Kristol engages in intellectual suicide before our eyes: he also wishes to prevent anyone else from engaging in critical analysis of historical events, in an attempt to ascertain if there just might be any lessons to be learned from such a study. And Kristol thus hopes that this intellectual paralysis will continue in the present, and into the future. Why, we can't question the means or methods by which we are now fighting the war on terror. It just happened. It's just our "bad luck." Whatever we do now or in the future, there are no judgments to be made about any of it.
Most importantly for the proponents of this worldview, we never have any responsibility for whatever might happen. It doesn't matter that we launched a criminal war of aggression against a nation that represented no serious threat, or that we have illegitimately occupied that nation for more than four years. It doesn't matter that we ceaselessly threaten to attack Iran, despite the fact that no reason in morality, strategy, or even common sense would justify it -- or that millions of people might die. None of it matters, for -- just as Cho Seung-Hui maintained -- "they" made us do it, whatever "it" might be.

(It must be noted that, although they try to be somewhat subtler about these detestable dynamics and their meaning, the Democrats drink deeply at this same trough of moral iniquity. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both advocate a militantly aggressive interventionism, and they make frequent threatening noises in Iran's direction. And Hillary Clinton also refuses all national -- and not insignificantly, personal -- responsibility for the catastrophe in Iraq: "[Our troops] gave the Iraqi people a chance for elections and to have a government. It is the Iraqis who have failed to take advantage of that opportunity." We have been failed by "our little brown brothers," still one more time. Our burdens are immeasurable.]

Muravchik has learned his lessons well. Note the subhead of his article from yesterday: "Iran is making a mistake that may lead the Middle East into broader conflict." Why, there aren't somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 U.S. troops sitting right next door to Iran, and one or more of our national leaders don't issue almost daily threats to attack Iran on the basis of a possible danger at some indeterminate point in an imagined future.

Always remember the primary principle: Nothing is ever our fault. They made us do it.

I could spend all day refuting the numerous dishonesties in Muravchik's summary of recent events in the Middle East. It's futile, and it's beside the point. This is the point:
The apparent meaning of all of this pointless provocation and bullying is that the axis of radicals--Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah--is feeling its oats. In part its aim is to intimidate the rest of us, in part it is merely enjoying flexing its muscles. It believes that its side has defeated America in Iraq, and Israel in Gaza and Lebanon. Mr. Ahmadinejad recently claimed that the West has already begun to "surrender," and he gloated that "final victory ... is near." It is this bravado that bodes war.

A large portion of modern wars erupted because aggressive tyrannies believed that their democratic opponents were soft and weak. Often democracies have fed such beliefs by their own flaccid behavior. Hitler's contempt for America, stoked by the policy of appeasement, is a familiar story. But there are many others. North Korea invaded South Korea after Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that Korea lay beyond our "defense perimeter." Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after our ambassador assured him that America does not intervene in quarrels among Arabs. Imperial Germany launched World War I, encouraged by Great Britain's open reluctance to get involved. Nasser brought on the 1967 Six Day War, thinking that he could extort some concessions from Israel by rattling his sword.

Democracies, it is now well established, do not go to war with each other. But they often get into wars with non-democracies. Overwhelmingly the non-democracy starts the war; nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, it is the democratic side that wins. In other words, dictators consistently underestimate the strength of democracies, and democracies provoke war through their love of peace, which the dictators mistake for weakness.
I could write many posts about the inaccuracies and distortions in these three paragraphs alone. Very soon, I will have much more about the origins of World War I. Almost everyone across the political spectrum appears to have fully internalized the mythological propaganda about The Great War.

For the moment, let's examine that last paragraph. I note that Muravchik is alleged to be "a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute." No, I'm not kidding.

"Democracies, it is now well established, do not go to war with each other."

This is either colossal stupidity, monumental ignorance, or an outright lie. As I did on an earlier occasion, I will turn this over to Jim Bovard:
Faith in this "democratic peace" doctrine has revived in recent decades. President Reagan declared that "the surest guarantee we have of peace is national freedom and democratic government." Clinton also embraced the doctrine and used it to sanctify his foreign policy time and again. As Thomas Carothers noted, "Clinton officials stock almost every general foreign policy speech with the argument that promoting democracy abroad advances U.S. interests because democracies tend not to go to war with each other, not to produce large numbers of refugees, not to engage in terrorism, to make better economic partners, and so on."

But no president has been half as liberal with invoking the doctrine as George W. Bush. . . .

The only way that history supports this doctrine is to exclude all the cases of wars between democracies. This theory can survive only as long as people look at history in a way that is so contorted that it makes the typical political campaign speech look honest. Some of the advocates of the "democratic peace" doctrine are slippery regarding categories, as if the fact that a nation starts a war proves that it is not a democracy.

There are plenty of cases to dismiss the democratic peace imperative. . . .

Britain's Boer War, 1899-1902, involved the brutal crushing by one democratic government of another democratic government, as well as pioneering concentration camps and other methods of suppression that would become far more widespread in the twentieth century.

The First World War was by far the bloodiest conflict in human history up to that time. Schwartz and Kiner noted, "Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a war for democracy against 'Prussian dictatorship,' but that was propaganda. Germany had civil rights, an elected parliament, competing parties, universal male suffrage, and an unparalleled system of social democracy." Germany was far more democratic than either the British or French empires.
And Muravchik writes: "[D]emocracies provoke war through their love of peace..."

Of course. Nothing says "peace" like wars of aggression. I'm hardly referring only to the Iraq invasion and occupation. Bovard again:
Another key to the myth of "democratic peace" is to disregard the long record of democracies attacking nondemocracies. Bush, defending U.S. military action in Iraq, declared, "Free societies are peaceful nations. What we're doing for the long term, we're promoting freedom." However, since World War II, the United States either attacked or invaded the following nations:

Korea 1950-53
Lebanon 1958
Vietnam 1961-73
Laos 1964-73
Dominican Republic 1965-66
Cambodia 1969-70
Lebanon 1982-84
Grenada 1983
Libya 1986
Panama 1989
Iraq 1991-2005
Somalia 1992-94
Croatia 1994
Haiti 1994
Bosnia 1995
Sudan 1998
Afghanistan 1998
Yugoslavia 1999
Afghanistan 2001-2005

Johns Hopkins University professor John Harper noted, "America's imperial career does little to support the view that the United States, by virtue of its democratic norms and institutions, is inclined to solve international disputes pacifically and to promote democracy abroad."
In that earlier entry, I added:
Bovard's book was published in 2005, so the entries for Iraq and Afghanistan should now read "1991-2007" and "2001-2007," respectively.

Stunning, isn't it? Yes, sir, we sure are some peace-loving, democratic folks. Just the other day, I wrote: "They hate us because we won't leave them the hell alone, and because we won't stop killing them." I suspect some readers may think me guilty of overstatement on this subject. The facts would indicate otherwise.
Ever mindful of the benevolent overseers who might peer upon my scribblings in their determination to root out Evil wherever it may appear, I should emphasize that, unlike Henry II whose remark I appropriated for my title, I surely do not wish to encourage anyone to commit even the merest hint of violence upon the person of Muravchik. That would be entirely wrong, and it is completely unnecessary.

Flat Ass, Alabama, is my town of choice at the moment, when it is advisable to pry especially dangerous pundit-"scholar"-propagandists from their very comfortable sinecures. I suggest that Muravchik be relocated to Flat Ass posthaste, and installed as the Fourth Assistant to the Director of Sanitation and Removal. He will be personally responsible for collecting and disposing of excrement in all its endless varieties.

It is always important, just as it is only minimally decent, that people be made to feel comfortable, and placed in a situation with which they have a demonstrated and extensive familiarity.

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