That said, as Mark's Bush Derangement Syndrome continues apace, he now appears to have settled on a villain and at least a partial explanation as to how the administration can be both Wilsonian idealists and realpolitik Machiavellians. He still gets it wrong (what the hell is "idealistic certitude with realpolitik brutality [that] tends to result in huge promises, big blunders and hopes betrayed for a great many people?" Is this supposed to be anything more than sloganeering?) and of course thinks that he is ever-so-clever by arguing that Dick Cheney has too much power and/or really runs the White House. That particular caricature might be more appealing were it not, you know, repeated ad nauseam since Bush assumed office. If one is going to seriously criticize the administration to the degree that Mark has, he might as well grow a pair and note that Bush is ultimately the one responsible, not some shadowy puppeteer.
Oh, and Mark also regards Bush as an idiot because the Methodist doesn't know the exact nature of the relationship between the Patriotic Church and the Underground in China. I would be extremely interested in asking him or those who yuk-yuk at these types of comments to explain their own understanding of the relationship on the basis of memory.
Also, he once again appears to regard the idea of spreading political freedom as "a classic American secular messianic vision of our national mission." If only we had known during the Cold War that all of our opposition to communism was nothing more than a secular messianist dream! For someone who is quite intellectually aware of the death toll caused by communism and its adherents (among whom he apparently ranks Michael Ledeen), this is once again an example of Mark not understanding the implications of his positions. That he has the gall to call Bush an idiot while doing so is yet a further demonstration of his own hubris.
But when it comes to Ron Paul's support of libertarianism to the extent of wanting to legalize prostitution, Mark is quite happy to shill for the man because "he's said some honest things and he seems to me to keep the rest of the GOP field relatively honest." How this is even remotely true given that no one is following the man outside of the political fringe is beyond me, but this isn't the first time that Mark has had such delusions. So while he continues to condemn legalizing prostitution, he can't quite bring himself to condemn Ron Paul for holding that position. One strongly suspects that had another GOP candidate said anything even remotely similar, Mark would have trumpeted it from the rafters as yet another sign of the Torture Millionnaire Monolith at work. Yet Paul gets a pass because his heart is in the right place.
I also found this quote quite interesting:
Likewise, in the first essay here, he says everything I have tried and failed to say about the stupid charge that if you don't back the Administration then you must hate the troops. He articulates exactly the reverence I have for the people in our military, who are motivated, as a general rule, by an incredible degree of selflessness. It is just because I hold them in such high regard that I am so angered by a ruling class that has used its power to put them in danger both physically (by sending them into a dubious war) and spiritually (by laboring with might and main to make them tools of a new torture regime, courtesy of the newly created Cheney Branch of Government).
Because the "ruling class" has not done either, the duly-elected government of the United States has. The individuals that Mark would refer to as the elites, near as I can determine, would be quite opposed to both the Iraq war and torture due to their reflexive dislike (which he now largely shares) of the Bush administration. I would also note that his statement is worded in such a way that it is unclear to me whether it is putting our troops in harm's way (what is the purpose of having a military, for instance if not to fight our enemies?), a dubious war, or some combination of the two that is the cause of his ire.
In an unrelated, in his latest denunciation of Joshua Muravchik is a classic demonstration not of Baby Boomer narcissism but rather of the two greatest threats in the last hundred years (which I suspect was the time frame he had in mind when he wrote "modern"): World War 2 . In both cases, the tyrants who led both the Axis and the USSR whose expansionist agendas were predicated around the notion that democracies were weak and unable to withstand a real fight. Bin Laden has offered a fairly similar rationale. Mark and Larison can major in minors by offering counter-examples, but Mark fails to completely address his point. As I said, no doubt he thinks that he is being terribly clever.
And while there are some much-needed chastening that comes from this New Republic article, among it a continuing need to correct the degree to which Rumsfeld is still held in all manner of high esteem by the National Review crowd despite his handling of the Iraq war, at the end of the day it is basically little more than a hit piece by an Independent columnist who seems to have gone out seeking to confirm his biases about the nature of American conservatism and done exactly that. While I have no doubt about the quotes, one will forgive me from distrusting the writer to have given a dispassionate account of what was said there. I think that there is much about the current nature and make-up National Review that is quite worthy of criticism, but I suspect that Mark's acceptance of criticism this biased has more to do with the fact that Norman Podhoretz has advocated an attack on Iran than anything else.