Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So let me get this straight ...

We need to pull out of Iraq (but not Afghanistan?) because of some general indictment of the United States, yet we should also be concerned over the plight of Christian persecution. This doesn't strike me as a terribly well-thought out or consistent position (say what you will about Buchananite isolationism, and believe me I have, but at least it's consistent). Why Mark's general critique of the United States doesn't apply to Afghanistan, or for that matter any future war imaginable, is completely beyond me. And if one of Mark's primary concern is the plight of oppressed Christians, then he should be praying to God every day that the United States stays in Iraq. Not because the Iraqis are the crude barbarians he appears to regard them as, but because any of the potential victors in the event of a US defeat are unable to think of them fondly.

I could make a lot of points here in reply to Mark's generalized indictment against both the Bush administration and the United States as a whole, but let me make the following statements:

* To once again try and invoke the sacrifice of Andrew Bacevich's son as well as his grieving father's remarks for political points strikes me as every bit as repugnant as what Cindy Sheehan did following the death of her own son Casey. Bacevich's arguments against the war were made long before his son died and I will be more than happy to debate them on their merits. I will not, however, attack a grieving man whose son is not yet one month dead for being angry. Unlike Mark, I'm not willing to resort to that level of base opportunism.

* Invocations of traditional anti-war tropes like what happened at Walter Reed and the issue of body armor are red herrings for Mark's argument, and rather late red herrings at that. If he wants to debate them on their merits, I'm up for it and I probably agree with him on much of it. That said, they're basically filler for the real reason that he is writing this post: to declare the war in Iraq lost and to call for an immediate US withdrawl. Let's not beat around the bush by majoring in minors. He admits as much in the comments and I don't have any problem with that, so long as he removes some of this filler and tells us what's really on his mind. The issue of body armor, for instance, is brought to the fore by intelligent people because they want our soldiers to be equipped to the best of our ability possible so that they can win in Iraq. Mark clearly doesn't want that anymore (as evidenced by his comment about the need to bring the troops home), so his comment about the body armor at least is insulting.

* Infiltration of the Iraqi security forces by the insurgency has been an ongoing problem for the last several years now - I would refer you to the Fallujah Brigade for details. It certainly hasn't been a secret, as the well-documented involvement of some Iraqi police and interior ministry units has illustrated. However, one of the effects of the surge has been that the infiltration issue is gradually being addressed rather than ignored as it had been under Petraeus's predecessor General Casey. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes in an outstanding criticism of how the war in Iraq is understood in the United States:
For example, after my first night on patrol—when the civilians we saw were clearly happy to see U.S. troops and felt comfortable around them—a conservative journalist might write a piece countering the stories about Iraqis hating us and wanting us to leave. Fine—but what about polls indicating that a shockingly high percentage of Iraqis think it’s okay to kill American troops? What about neighborhoods where U.S. troops would encounter a very different reception? On the other hand, a liberal journalist could write a very funny piece about the Iraqi army’s sloth and trigger-happy approach to the world, and conclude that we need to leave immediately because the Iraqi security forces are hopeless and at least a withdrawal will put some fire in their belly. Fine—but what about Iraqi soldiers’ improvements? What about the likelihood that pulling out would guarantee the Iraqi army’s failure?

I think it's pretty clear now that all of Mark's concern about the fate of the Iraqi people in general or the Chaldean Christians in particular doesn't amount to a hill of beans in terms of actually caring about their fate enough to want to do something about it. And given Mark's preference for an isolationist foreign policy, I don't want to hear any complaints about Darfur either. If he wants to inadvertently empower al-Qaeda and its allies, he can't very well complain about their results. Awhile back he criticized Derbyshire's "To Hell With Them Hawks" attitude, but now his position is virtually indistinguishable from it near as I can determine.

* Andrew Sullivan, with whom Mark seems to increasingly identify with these days on matters of foreign policy (both in admiration and apparent support of Ron Paul and in their Ahab-like fixation on the evils of the Bush administration), is quite frankly full of crap when he talks about how Iraq has been a boon to al-Qaeda. While it is certainly true that Pakistan is deteriorating and may well be a nuclear-armed Taliban by the end of the year, the Bush administration is not the sole cause for these events. Pakistan's deterioration is the result of a complex array of social, political, and religious factors that date back to at least the 1980s if not earlier. Moreover, if anyone thinks that a United States defeated in Iraq is going to be in any position to politically or militarily oppose a nuclear Taliban short of anything resembling a nuclear detonation on American soil are beyond delusion. So far, Americans have comforted themselves with the knowledge that maybe India will do the hard work for us, but this approach (much like its Middle Eastern analogue of how maybe Israel will destroy the Iranian nuclear program and spare us all the trouble) is a dangerous one in international affairs. Has it not occurred to anyone that maybe the bright boys in New Delhi harbor similar hopes that a Islamicized Pakistan will attack America first, thus bringing an overwhelming US military response and saving them the trouble?

At any rate, Sullivan's reference to Anbar as an al-Qaeda sanctuary is anachronistic. Assuming that Mark ever cared enough to actually follow rather than criticize the war, he would know that the situation in Anbar has improved dramatically (as acknowledged by Joe Klein, among others) from last year due to resistance by local tribes led by Sheikh Abdul Sattar and his followers. I personally doubt that Mark even follows the news from Iraq closely enough that he knows where Anbar is, but that's neither here nor there.

* Mark brings torture into his rant against the Iraq war, which I think says a lot more about how these issues have become conflated in his mind with his general hatred of Bush than anything else. He also says that torture has become "a legal and everyday part of the American approach to war," though I'm not sure how that jives with his prior claims that the military is untainted by the evils of the Bush administration because they successfully protested a number of the proposed interrogation techniques. To state that torture is an "everyday part of the American approach to war," however, is to horridly overstate the case by the most maximalist views available on the issue. How this statement is all that different from the Vietnam-era trope that all of our soldiers were war criminals is completely beyond me.

* As far as Bush's incompetence goes, this has already been acknowledged and I do not think that I am alone in agreeing with every word that Bottum wrote. This part stands out in particular, though:
The reason is President Bush. His administration has mishandled the logistics of the war and the politics of its perception in nearly equal measure, from Abu Ghraib to the execution of Saddam Hussein. Conservatives voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because they expected him to be the opposite of Bill Clinton--and so, unfortunately, he has proved. Where Mr. Clinton seemed a man of enormous political competence and no principle, Mr. Bush has been a man of principle and very little political competence. The security concerns after the attacks of September 11 and the general tide of American conservatism carried Republicans through the elections of 2002 and 2004. But by 2006 Bush had squandered his party's advantages, until even the specter of Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House was not enough to keep the Republicans in power.

Victor echoed much the same criticisms in his Akagi Bush post, so please don't keep acting as though we are blind to the man's flaws. We simply don't have the borderline hysteria and paranoid fantasies of him preparing to declare a dictatorship that Mark was quite willing to harbor as soon as the opportunity arose. That is a necessary distinction between criticism and hatred, at least in my mind.

Mark invokes a cult of personality as evidence that conservatives are unwilling to accept criticism from Bush. While I do think that the lionization of Rumsfeld by some conservatives (notably talk radio and National Review) due to the fact that he was so hated by the press prevented them from recognizing the folly of his policies in Iraq until it was too late (as can be seen from the fact that the surge strategy we are currently pursuing and enjoying at least some success at is the direct inverse of that which he and General Casey pursued in 2006), the idea that Bush is protected among his supporters by an invincible cult of personality is patently false. If you don't believe me, start talking with most conservatives about Bush's immigration policies and see how much vitriole you receive. If you want anyone who was maintained by a cult of personality among his supporters, it was Rudy Giuliani until the debates intruded and the reality of his positions made them incapable of being ignored. Actually, now that I think of it there is another candidate whose supporters maintain a similar mindset: Ron Paul, and Mark was happy to embrace him despite some still-unsettled racial remarks that I'm absolutely certain he wouldn't be nearly as charitable about were they coming instead from Michael Ledeen.

* Mark ends with a comment about Iraq that is just as applicable to Afghanistan. As a result, I think that it's worth posing the question to him of why, if Bush is so evil and the deaths of our troops are nothing more than a sacrifice to his cult of personality, does he continue (I presume) to support military operations there? And under what circumstances, if any, might he favor extending military operations to say Pakistan, which is universally acknowledged to harbor al-Qaeda.

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for an answer.


paul zummo said...

Anyone who at this point thinks there is a conservative cult of personality surrounding Bush is either ignorant or a liar. Richard Cohen published an article yesterday that suggested Bush was a liberal, and most of the commentariat agreed or thought it was a compelling argument. Other than the occasional blogger like Anchoress, it's hard to see much support for Bush anywhere.

As for Iraq, what I'd like to know from those who favor a pullout: and then what? Unless you're an isolationist - and perhaps Mark is in that category - you must think that we have to continue to fight the war on terrorism in some fashion. Do we just put all our egs in the Afghanistan basket until something else catastrophic takes place that justifies sending our troops elsewhere?

In fact, that's my question to all who opposed going to Iraq in the first place. Was the entire base of operation for the war supposed to be one country that is not even technically in the Middle East?

Phillip said...

I had heard about Andrew Bacevich before and read some of his opinions. While I disagreed with his position on the Iraq War I always held him in respect as a fellow officer. I also respect those officers who, when out of uniform, express opinions contrary to the leadership when those opinions are reasoned and well informed.

That's why I lost a great deal of respect for Mr. Bacevich when he writes something like this:

"To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works."

If that's what he believes, then it is either a very sad commentary on our country or a sad commentary on why Bacevich opposes the war. It also gives insight into why the Lt. Col. left the Army at such a promising stage in his career. This opposition seems to come not from reasoned ideals but rather from jaded cynicism.

Bubba said...

In quoting that Chesterton poem, is Shea implying that he laments the fact that George W. Bush is alive and that he wishes he were dead?

Susan B. said...


It wouldn't surprise me in the least if that is what Shea is implying.

BTW, I would like to say Victor and torquemada05, thank you so much for this blog. It is like a soothing balm after being continuously irritated by blogs by the Catholic/Christian Hatriots (great word, BTW...most appropriate). Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I really don't think these people give two craps about our troops. If they did, they wouldn't be continuously demoralizing them and calling them killers and torturers. I also don't believe they give two craps about the defense of this country and in fact probably wish for its destruction. After all, in their mind, we all deserve to be destroyed because we aren't morally perfect.

Phillip said...

Susan B,

I don't think Mark would want Bush/Cheney dead but I think there is something to your suggestion that such people want America destroyed. Given that the greatest threat in their minds is Western culture which is, according to Mark, the future source of the Antichrist, this makes sense.

In a way, they are like those ultra-orthodox Jews who wouldn't mind if Israel was destroyed since it was not founded by the Messiah.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Everyone must remember why Mark is so passionate on this subject. It has nothing to do with torture, Chaldean Christians, the Bush administration or any other secular reason. It has everything to do with the fact that Mark's One True God, John Paul II, opposed American intervention in Iraq and questioned (at best) whether it fit into "just war" criteria (That's why Mark hasn't criticized American intervention in Afghanistan; the late pope supported it).

What Mark (and most Catholics) refuse to recognize is the fact that JPII, while being a Churchill regarding Communism, was a Chamberalain regarding Islam, as these articles (some of them written by moi) illustrate:

http://chiesa.espresso.repubblic...p?id=6973& eng=y

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w...& s=braude041105

http://www.geocities.com/ emorser...n_appeasers.htm

http://www.islamophobia-watch.co...with- islam.html

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Arti...le.asp? ID=15865

http://www.frontpagemag.com/ Arti...ReadArticle.asp?

http://www.frontpagemag.com/arti...le.asp? ID=11662

JPII even opposed international intervention during the 1990-91 Gulf War, designed to free Kuwait from Iraq. Had the world listened to the late pope, Kuwait would have been annexed as an Iraqi province, and the Kuwaitis would have experienced Saddam's tender mercies.

But for John Paul the Great (Dhimmi, Fraud, Appeaser, et al), throwing innocent Kuwaitis to Saddam's wolves would have been a small price to pay to avoid the "clash of civilizations" that he feared -- and that few in the West, let alone Catholics, want to admit is already upon us.

paul zummo said...

So Pope John Paul II was a "fraud" because he had less belicose feelings towards Muslims than you, Joe? I didn't agree with the Pope's prudential political judgment, but I respected his viewpoint and completely understood where he was coming from. There's no need to attack the Pope for his cautious attitude towards war.

Phillip said...



Shawn said...


As usual, I see a lot to concur with in your article.

Hi Joe:

Everyone must remember why Mark is so passionate on this subject. It has nothing to do with torture, Chaldean Christians, the Bush administration or any other secular reason. It has everything to do with the fact that Mark's One True God, John Paul II, opposed American intervention in Iraq and questioned (at best) whether it fit into "just war" criteria (That's why Mark hasn't criticized American intervention in Afghanistan; the late pope supported it).

I would not put anything past Shea these days but frankly, the Afghanistan invasion was much easier to support for reasons which should be obvious.

What Mark (and most Catholics) refuse to recognize is the fact that JPII, while being a Churchill regarding Communism, was a Chamberalain regarding Islam, as these articles (some of them written by moi) illustrate:

If the first article is the one that Magister wrote titled "Between Venus and Mars" on Vatican geopolitics, I cannot recommend it higher as a solid interpretive hermeneutic on that subject.

JPII even opposed international intervention during the 1990-91 Gulf War, designed to free Kuwait from Iraq. Had the world listened to the late pope, Kuwait would have been annexed as an Iraqi province, and the Kuwaitis would have experienced Saddam's tender mercies.

As someone who knew a native Kuwaiti during the time of the 1990 invasion, I understand some of the emotion involved in this. However, at all times one has to make decisions of what wars will be fought with weapons and which ones will be fought using other means. Furthermore, it does no good to play "woulda, shoulda, etc" with this Joe. Those who review the Magister thread on Vatican geopolitics will get a good glimpse of the operative view of the Vatican on these matters at the time of the 1990 invasion.

I also think we should cut JP II some slack on the 1990 invasion and that we should avoid anachronistic condemnations. The paradigm shift of 9/11 is what altered the landscape geopolitically and judging his 1990 stance by what happened in 2001 is not fair. John Paul supported the Afghanistan military endeavour which frankly was a slam dunk to justify. The incursion into Iraq in 2003 was a different matter and not so self-evident. Furthermore, one could view his position as a necessary one to take to avoid the perception that this was a war of Christians vs. Muslims. Pretty darn difficult to make that claim when the head of the largest Christian church in the world did not agree with the decision to go into Iraq.

But for John Paul the Great (Dhimmi, Fraud, Appeaser, et al),

Joe, with all due respect this tone sound downright Shea-like.

throwing innocent Kuwaitis to Saddam's wolves would have been a small price to pay to avoid the "clash of civilizations" that he feared -- and that few in the West, let alone Catholics, want to admit is already upon us.

As I have noted before, the 1990 situation and the 2003 situation were significantly different. A lot of criticisms could be legitimately made about how the pope made as his standard of acceptance of the 2003 campaign criteria that was met in the 1991 war which he opposed. This was contradictory and that is really all that needs to be said on the matter there other than the late pontiff did not fully grasp the significance of the changed geopolitical landscape after 9/11. Magister wrote well on this which is why I recommend that people read his article on the matter -he basically crystallized in an explicit fashion what my intuitions were on the matter but that is not the only reason I recommend the Venus and Mars piece.

I understand and share some of the frustrations you have with some of the interventions of the prudential order by the late John Paul II. However, I do not see how opposing them in the fashion you are contributes to possibly improving matters in this area. John Paul II was a beloved pope, a towering intellectual force, a saintly man, and more. He made some mistakes but we all do. I do not believe that harshly criticizing him for failing to realize the significance of the geopolitical paradigm shift of 9/11 is appropriate -it suffices to point it out and leave it at that. As far as the 1990 situation goes, there is more room for criticism but if one understands the presuppositions he was operating from, the position makes more sense even if there is some inconsistency in his stance to that war. (Again, if suffices to point this out and not play the same agit-prop approach that the Hands and Sheas of the world take on these matters.)

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Well put, Shawn. As usual, you make very solid, sound points. And, as usual, I tend to overreact to most things Wojtylan. Appealing to my ability to out-Shea Shea is usually a good way to get me to calm down.

Still, it should be pointed out that, regarding the 1990-91 Gulf War, one didn't need the 9/11 paradigm shift to criticize the pope's prudential judgment on this matter. Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Deladier offered the Sudetenland to Hitler in the hopes of forestalling a wider war; essentially, JPII offered Kuwait to Saddam for the same purposes (though the late pope never advocated that publicly, that was the consequence of his stand).

JPII's de facto blindness to Islam as part of a wider geopolitical strategy (as opposed to anything he wrote concerning Islam as a religion in relation to Christianity) also cannot be ignored. One might be able to argue that Roosevelt and Churchill did the same thing with Stalin to fight a more immediate enemy: Hitler. But Churchill had no illusions about Stalin in particular, nor about Communism in general (Roosevelt might have, but he never lived long enough to see Stalin become a bigger threat than Hitler).

The fact that a pope who did more to encourage better relations with Jews than any of his predecessors -- even becoming the first head of the Holy See to recognize Israel -- did not publicly rebuke either President Assad or the head imam of the Damascus mosque for public anti-Semitic remarks during his last visit to the Middle East illustrates, I believe, how far he was willing to go not to upset Muslim sensibilities -- even when they should have been upset.

In any event, it would take only a modicum of research to find that Islam's imperialist lust had not changed since Lepanto and Vienna, despite the sentimental interpretation many Catholics give Nostra aetate concerning Islam.

From my research, JPII not only wanted to avoid a "clash of civilizations" but also feared the development of a unipolar world. For him to fear the U.S. as a unipolar power after his various visits to this nation meant that he did not receive a solid understanding of its values.