Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Americans for Sanity

Billmon, in a post that may actually merit the term “important,” debriefs us here, on a conference co-sponsored by the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. Unsurprisingly, “solutions [for Iraq & the Middle East] -- strategic as well as political -- were as scarce at the conference as problems were abundant.”

It is useful, however, to re-visit the thinking that led us to this point:

The three key elements of the original neocon strategy, [the University of Chicaog’s John] Mearsheimer argued, were:
  • Unilateral action, which would allow the United States to avoid the inevitably restrictions of a UN or even NATO-sanctioned operation

  • Creating a "bandwagon effect," in which uncommitted players (either inside and outside of Iraq) would jump to follow an America that acted decisively.

  • A strategic and political transformation of the Middle East, one that would sweep away anti-American and anti-Israeli regimes and lay the groundwork for "democracy" -- or at least, for an unbroken network of pliable pro-American goverments.

As described by Mearsheimer, these three elements were all intended to be sequential and self-supporting. By moving unilaterally, the neocons hoped to gain a free hand to remake Iraq as they saw fit -- in defiance of international opinion and even international law. This display of U.S. resolve would create the desired bandwagon effect, which in turn would promote regional transformation.


It's easy -- and Mearsheimer wasn't the only conference speaker to find it so -- to poke huge holes in this "strategery," which really does sound like something Shrub and a bunch of his old frat brothers might have dreamed up in a lost weekend at Camp David. I guess you could write this off as another example of perfect hindsight, if not for the fact that so many of these flaws were pointed out before, during and immediately after the invasion -- by Mearsheimer and others, including Whiskey Bar's humble proprietor. .

Recounting the political, physical, and all-too undeniable military reasons for the failure, Billmon concludes:
In other words, the neocons may have screwed the pooch (to borrow a bit of pilot slang from Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff) so ferociously the poor beast can't be patched back up again. Instead of World War IV, America may find it's been dragged into a Middle Eastern version of the Thirty Years War, if not the Hundred Years War.


We seem to have reached the point where a half-baked strategy for endless war in the Middle East is actually easier to sell politically than a sensible energy policy, an end to America's fawning subservience to worst instincts of the Israeli national security state, and a focused, relentless campaign to destroy Al Qaeda while drying up the pools of hatred in which jihad festers and grows.

Clausewitz, that ultimate realist, once said that "he who neglects the possible in quest of the impossible is a fool." And that just might end up being the epitaph for America's insane imperial adventure in the Middle East. .



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