(Sultan Knish)While Maureen Dowd warns that the neo-conservatives are coming back, an event surely worse than the siege of American embassies and the murder of American ambassadors, she can rest her head easy on that account. The neo-conservatives died in the siege of Benghazi, much like Mubarak they are still around, but completely irrelevant in the way that most ideas are once they lose their meaning.
Dowd would know better than to celebrate the death of neo-conservativism, if she understood what that really meant, beyond the shadowy menace that her dinner party guests tell her about before the main course is served.
In the Middle East, neo-conservatives offered a middle ground between appeasement and belligerence that blended Cold War politics and Third World democracy outreach. The ideas that made so much sense when former liberals were confronting the nightmarish repressive powers of the Soviet Union met their end in the Middle East for reasons that neither they nor their ideological enemies can explain.
Democracy only works when the character of the people is better than the character of their government. It works very badly when the character of the people is actually worse and the existing system serves much the same purpose as bars in a tiger cage do. The neo-conservatives were unprepared to grapple with such troubling notions. They were very methodical in laying out the moral case against Saddam Hussein, but they were unprepared to cope with the notion that Iraq’s ruler might have reflected the moral level of a significant portion of Iraqis.
The Baath Party, unlike the Bolsheviks, was not an external ideology imposed on the Iraqis. Like most regional Socialist movements, its ideology was a fig leaf for tyranny and tribal alliances. Saddam was a cheap mass murdering thug with dreams of even bigger empires and atrocities. Removing him made a certain amount of geopolitical sense, but replacing him with purple fingers and democratic elections was never going to lead to a better Iraq.
Many neo-conservatives backed Obama’s own democracy experiments in the Arab Spring and his invasion of Libya because they seemed to resemble their own ideas. But Obama had actually reached back for Carter’s Green Belt playbook with the goal of defusing Islamic terrorism by giving their supposedly more moderate Islamist cousins what they wanted– their own countries to play with.
This wasn’t neo-conservatism, though it looked a lot like it, enough that Maureen Dowd should have blushed before beginning a tirade about the neo-conservative threat, it was appeasement politics dressed up in the same old democracy colors. The tyrants we were overthrowing were men who had made deals with us, and who were for the most part fairly benign by the standards of the region. That is what made them easy targets for the knife in the bag and the Islamist mob in the square.
By the light of burning embassies, it is somewhat redundant to even mention that this policy failed. Turning Islamists into rulers has upgraded their “extreme” wings from terrorists to militias and the September 11 attacks were an announcement that everyone, except the idiots in Washington DC still wailing about the video, understood. When armed militias and mobs besiege your embassies and plant their flags on your walls, it’s a territorial claim, not a protest rally about a dead pedophile.
The Arab Spring was the red line of democracy promotion. It pulled the trigger that Condoleezza Rice had been nervous about pulling and it did it to disastrous effect. And aside from the death toll, what all that noise really means is that neo-conservatism of the democracy intervention flavor is dead. The only people who still believe that local democracy works also believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is misunderstood and that we need to kill the Bill of Rights to appease Muslims. These are not, for the most part, neo-conservatives, they are the sort of appeasers who show up at Maureen Dowd’s dinner parties and at White House press conferences.
The death of neo-conservatism, unmourned as it may be, leaves few options between belligerence and appeasement. The neo-conservatives held out hope for a more rational order that fused the classic idealism of FDR, Ike and JFK as a formula for a foreign policy that would allow American to transform its enemies, rather than bombing them to bits.
That was why so many Democrats, especially in the most conservative Senate, got on board the George W. Bush express. Much as the left’s revisionist history might try to paint Bush as a wacky cowboy off on a shooting spree, his policy was an extension of what Clinton had done, and before liberal political calculation got in the way, had brought the senior leadership of the Democratic Party on board… not to mention Tony Blair.
What we are witnessing is the death of any such middle ground in the Middle East’s graveyard of idealism. The future will, as it turns out, not be one of purple fingers and people cheerfully accepting elections as a means of political representation, rather than a non-violent way of seizing power and then making sure that no one else can win an election again. The same mechanisms that kept Saddam in power made Maliki’s war on Sunnis and Kurds equally inevitable.
The Muslim world is not individualistic, nor is it made up of individuals seeking their own version of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a collectivist place, even more so than the United States is becoming, where tribe and religion matter because they are the only ways that individuals get ahead. We were not dealing with meritocracies, not even the damaged affirmative action kind we run now, but with tribal systems with a smattering of modern politics on top, where local nationalism is also economic survival. The family’s social capital counts for much more than empty talk about freedom and old hatreds against neighbors can be pursued by men who wear army or police uniforms, but who identify with old vendettas more than with new governments.
We have already seen the left’s answer to neo-conservativism, if we hadn’t already seen it earlier in the Carter years. Shameless appeasement tethered to a reflexive hatred of the United States where all violence is incorporated into blowback theory. The Carter Doctrine rewards the worst enemies in the hopes that doing so will eventually make them our friends and blames all setbacks on new anger for some real or imaginary offense by us. The Carter Doctrine is now the Obama Doctrine and it’s why our embassies are burning brightly in the night.
The only good thing about the Carter/Obama Doctrine is that it cannot be sustained for long, not because our boys and girls in DC and the UN can’t keep it up, but because the Islamists won’t let them. The Salafi raids ruined a perfectly good Arab Spring because the raiders couldn’t resist rubbing the noses of the infidels in their own weakness. And those raids will only escalate because Islam, like a steroidal weightlifter, is so insecure that it constantly needs to show off its power.
But that doesn’t leave much of an alternative on the conservative side. Republicans liked neo-conservativism because it was idealistic, and by the standards set by the decaying left, had become conservative. It allowed Republicans to cheer American Exceptionalism as the solution to all global problems, without understanding that its aggressive good cheer was completely misplaced.
Exceptionalism is exceptional. If American Exceptionalism can be plonked down in Iraq or Afghanistan, then it isn’t exceptional anymore. And in fact, it can’t be. The United States has conquered and reconstructed several countries before, and only the ones with a tradition of democracy that predated the need to conquer them, are worth mentioning today. And none of them are little Americas and have, at best, a conflicted relationship with the United States.
Romney is still echoing vaguely neo-conservative talking points, but it’s doubtful that he, or anyone, besides McCain, really wants to invade Syria for the Muslim Brotherhood. Americans didn’t want the Libyan War, and aside from some of senate fixtures like McCain, few Republicans really want to do it either.
The second set of September 11 attacks may have finally begun convincing Republicans that Muslims really don’t want to be Americans and they aren’t going to be turned into Americans any time soon. It has not quite led them to the logical conclusions to be drawn from that, but it still might. The death of the middle ground of neo-conservativism leaves few options but appeasement and belligerence, not democracy belligerence, but plain old fashioned saber rattling.
If Muslims can’t be taught to be nice people and won’t leave us alone, then there are two alternatives. Give them what they want or give them hell. Obama has tried the former with the expected results. The window on giving them hell is slowly starting to creak open, though I wouldn’t expect many prominent Republican politicians to start talking like Patton any time soon.
The Israeli example has demonstrated that Muslims never miss an opportunity to sabotage their own appeasers. It’s why the Israeli left has a death grip on unelected government positions, but is about as popular with the voters as cholera on a stick. The American left could learn from its example, but if it could learn from examples, it wouldn’t be the left. Instead it banked its political capital on appeasing Muslims and it if gets a second term to do so, it will be that much closer to becoming completely unelectable– especially when Muslims decide to celebrate another September 11 in an even flashier way and with a larger death toll.
The Israeli left did everything possible to appease Muslim terrorists and the terrorists repaid them by politically destroying them with constant violence. Now Obama is on the receiving end of the same treatment and had he been as familiar with the Muslim world as he claimed to be, then he would have known to expect that. And the same process will likely kill Eurabia in its own cradle.
The ball is in the court of the right. It can choose between fake moderation and assertive action. It can rediscover the military as a force for defending the country, rather than a means of introducing Muslims to the concept of elections, and it will be pursuing the popular course. But to do that it will have to believe in America, rather in the universal goodness of human nature and the other pablum that led us into this mess.
People are not interchangeable, apart from the governments. Governments reflect the people. No country will last for very long under a government that does not reflect its national character unless that government is backed by foreign armies. It is best to treat other governments as reflective of their peoples and to treat their peoples as reflective of their government. And it is best to keep a wary distance from any people and country that are under a system too different from our own for our own safety.
Above all else, it is important to make clear to our own people and to theirs, that we have borders and nations for a reason. That if foreign nations and peoples would like to use force to tell us what movies we can make, then we will use force to tell them what protests they can have, and that in a contest of force, we will win.
It is time for a new way, a way in which Muslims will no longer have to learn about America and Americans will no longer have to learn about Islam, where we will give up on winning each other’s hearts and minds, and stick to watching each other’s property lines. That is the argument that needs to be advanced in the face of Obama’s catastrophic Arab Spring failures and the alternative to it is four more years of terror and appeasement.
(Reuters) U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has ended talks with President Bashar al-Assad and left Syria with little sign of progress on halting the country’s growing political bloodshed. “I am optimistic for several reasons,” Annan said in Damascus on Sunday. “The situation is so bad and so dangerous that all of us cannot afford to fail.” There was no clear response from Assad to Annan’s “concrete proposals” for a ceasefire, dialogue and humanitarian aid. Assad told Annan opposition “terrorists” were blocking any political solution. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York on Monday when the U.N. Security Council holds a special meeting on Arab revolts. Russia, long an ally of Syria, and China have blocked attempts to pass a Security Council resolution condemning Damascus for its attempts to crush a year-old rebellion by force, in which thousands have died. Moscow and Beijing want any international blame for the violence to be apportioned more evenly. China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said in Riyadh on Sunday both Syrian sides should stop fighting and aid should be sent to strife-torn areas – but he also warned other states not to use aid to “interfere”. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken a hawkish line against the Syrian government. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Feisal on Sunday repeated calls for the Syrian opposition to be provided with weapons. This was the only way to end the conflict without foreign intervention, he said. “The regime in Syria is committing a massacre of its own citizens,” he added, after talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Riyadh. “We cannot accept the completely unreasonable continuation of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Assad regime against its own people,” Westerwelle said. The United Nations says Assad’s forces have killed more than 7,500 people in their crackdown on protesters and insurgents. Authorities say rebels have killed 2,000 soldiers. Annan’s mission coincided with a Syrian military offensive against opposition strongholds in the northwest. Activists said at least four people were killed in the town of Idlib on Sunday after troops and tanks moved in a day earlier. Three soldiers and a civilian were also killed in fighting in the village of Janoudiya in Idlib province on Sunday morning, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. State news agency SANA said “terrorists” shot dead a former boxing champion, Ghiath Tayfour, in the city of Aleppo and also killed a leading Baath Party member in Homs province. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are both ruled by autocrats and espouse a strict version of Sunni Islam, are improbable champions of democracy in Syria. Riyadh has an interest in seeing Assad fall because this could weaken its Shi’ite regional rival Iran, which has been allied with Syria since 1980. The exiled opposition Syrian National Council ruled out talks while Assad is in power. “Negotiations can never take place between the victim and torturer: Assad and his entourage must step down as a condition before starting any serious negotiations,” it said. (Andrew Roche and Dominc Evans)
((blog.foreignpolicy.com) Posted By David Kenner Monday, February 6, 2012 – 6:28 PM) As my boss Blake Hounshell noted this morning, Syrian activists are having a field day trawling through the hacked e-mails of officials in President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. One particularly interesting note was sent by former British parliamentarian George Galloway to Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban.Galloway was writing to request the Syrian government’s help in organizing a convoy to the Gaza Strip. The plan was for vehicles to travel over land from London and the Gulf to the Syrian city Latakia, at which point they would board the Mavi Marmara – which had been the scene of a deadly raid by Israel Defense Forces solders only months earlier, as it tried to breach the Gaza blockade — and travel to the Egyptian port city of al-Arish. From there, they would enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. While the convoy did complete its mission, the Mavi Marmara does not appear to have ultimately taken part. In securing Assad’s help, Galloway recited the Baath Party’s own rhetoric back to Shaaban. “Syria is as I have often said is the last castle of Arab dignity,” he writes.
Betreff: Fwd: IMPORTANT – private and confidential
Datum: Sat, 14 Aug 2010 06:03:38 +0300 (14.08.2010 05:03:38)
Your Excellency Dr Bouthaina Sha’aban
Special Advisor to President Bashar al Asad
President of the Syrian Arab Republic
Your Excellency, dear Dr Sha’aban
I hope this letter finds you well. Please be assured of my warmest fraternal greetings always. I am writing on behalf of Viva Palestina whose world-wide family of solidarity organisiations and registered charities will soon be setting out for beseiged Gaza again with our fifth convoy of aid. You will recall the outstanding assistance afforded us in Syria on previous occasions over the last period. I am writing once again to ask for Syria’s co-operation although I do not doubt it for one moment. Syria is as I have often said is the last castle of Arab dignity. My only regret is to have to ask for your help again.
This convoy sets out simulataneously on September 18th 2010 from London, from Casablanca and from the Gulf. The London and Gulf columns of vehicles would like to converge on Latakia and sail from there to Al Arish. The Casablanca column hopes to join us in Al Arish and we hope all three columns – hundreds of vehicles strong – will enter Gaza through Rafah without hinderance.
The aid on board the vehicles will be 50% medical equipment and 50% educational, construction and other aid. The organisers of the convoy are Viva Palestina UK, Viva Palestina USA, Viva Palestina Arabia, Viva Palestina Malaysia, Viva Palestina Ireland, the Turkish NGO IHH,the International Committee to break the Seige on Gaza, Kia Ora – the Viva Palestina sister organisation in New Zealand, Viva Palestina Australia, Viva Palestina South Africa, Viva Palestina Spain, Viva Palestina Italia, and Viva Palestina France.
It is intended that the vehicles and passengers should sail to Al Arish on board the Mavi Marmara, which as you know is owned by IHH. If His Excellency the President Bashar al Asad and his government can accept this proposal in principle perhaps you could nominate partner organisation(s) and individuals with whom my colleagues could liaise about the practical details? The liaison from our side would be Mr Kevin Ovenden and Mr Zaher Birawi of Viva Palestina UK (as we believe 2 is enough).
In any case please convey my respect and my admiration to His Excellency the President.
With all good wishes
more will come out later.