'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Kristol Again, The Land of Crickets, and a Lightbulb Lights Above My Head 

For as big as this story is -- the story of the recent calls for Rumsfeld's dismissal -- it's surprising how few of the major pundits are talking about it. In particular, I'm fascinated that Bill Kristol's Post op-ed didn't make bigger waves. This is Bill Kristol, firstborn son of neoconservativism's royal bloodline, calling for the head of Rumsfeld, the man who instantiated the neocons' grandest dream, a shiny, shocking, red white and blue invasion of the Muslim world. Quite a surprising turn of events, you would expect to hear a cacophony of voices taking sides and picking fights in the rightwing and moderate media landscape, but mostly what you hear is the sound of crickets.

So here's a little survey of the land of crickets...

Horowitz's rag, in a piece by someone named Anthony Gancarski, mostly just attacks Buchanan for the rant I keep on linking to in which, as I keep on mentioning, Pat calls Kristol's Post piece "the backstab of the year". I've read Gancarski's anti-Buchanan dispatch a couple of times now and -- and I don't believe I'm a stupid man -- I'm really not 100% sure it's supportive of Rumsfeld, but I think that it is; it attempts to downplay Kristol's message:

What Kristol is saying, essentially, is that the Iraq strategy may require fresh thinking. In saying that, he merely asserts that such fresh thinking may require fresh leadership. There are arguments to be made either way on the subject, but there are those also who are using this issue for purely political purposes.

So I guess we can say that Horowitz's rag dealt with the Kristol thing by claiming Bill Kristol didn't really call for the firing of Rumsfeld.

Little Green Fascists didn't seem to have anything to say about this topic. But I must admit I have a very weak stomach for wading through that particular cesspool so I figured I might have missed something, decided to do some journalism, and before the holidays sent an email to the guy who edits LGF Watch (I call it "journalism" any time I send an email in the process of writing a post). To the query "I was just wondering if the Little Green Footballers had anything to say about Bill Kristol's recent call for Rumsfeld's resignation?" X from LGF Watch said

Not as far as I can tell. The only mention is in http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=13979 where one person mentions it. Charles is pretty good at sticking his head in the sand over news he doesn't like, such as the Kristol thing or the death of 18 US soldiers in Mosul...

Time Magazine's "Blog of the Year" Powerline mentions twice that Kristol has "joined the anti-Rumsfeld cause" but as far as I can tell offers no blog of the year commentary on the backstab of the year.

Moving leftward to the land of moderates, we get Joseph Galloway, staff writer for Knight Ridder, basically presenting a toned down version of Buchanan's take on the story, that Rumsfeld is being set up of as a fall guy for the neoconservatives:

So what happened? Why is Rumsfeld being stabbed in the back by those he trusted the most to back his play? By the very people who have argued for years in favor of taking out Saddam Hussein, installing democracy and creating a bully pulpit, and the military bases, from which the Middle East would be weaned from dictatorship and an implacable hatred of Israel and the United States.

Simple. They want someone else to be blamed besides themselves for fouling up their marvelous plans and schemes -- someone who is a handy lightning rod and who is NOT a card-carrying neo-conservative. So who better than Rumsfeld?

I guess this has become the standard explanation for Kristol's action, but, as I have said before, I don't buy it. I don't think the neoconservatives are in a dire enough situation to start eating their own.

And that's about all that's out there. Honestly.

This poverty of opinions annoyed me for several days. I wanted to understand why Kristol turned on Rumsfeld. It didn't make sense to me, and nobody's informed comment offered any help. But anyway the issue of the poverty of opinions is moot to me now because I have it all figured out. There was one other piece that seemed more plausible than the whole neocon-scapegoat narrative, and god help me it came from the libertarians. I largely agree with this press release from the Cato Institute: (man, did I never think I'd write that sentence)

Tom Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute agreed, predicting that "the protection of the embryonic Iraqi democracy" would be a "duty that will likely extend for decades." Writing in the pages of the Weekly Standard, Donnelly called for a "quasi-permanent American garrison in Iraq" to protect American interests there. Donnelly elaborated in an interview with the Washington Post, saying "we have a political commitment and a huge amount of chips bet on whether political reconstruction in Iraq is going to work."

That analogy is appropriate. Like a compulsive gambler desperate to recover his losses, neoconservative talking heads stare at the setbacks in Iraq and conclude not that theirs was a bad bet, but rather that more should be wagered.[ ...]

Such recommendations are very un-conservative. Not surprisingly, those in favor of a long-term Iraqi occupation are finding themselves at odds with an increasingly vocal conservative chorus anxious for a change of course in Iraq, one that does not include more U.S. troops. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak predicted in September that President Bush would seek a substantial reduction in the number of troops in Iraq early in his second term. Novak and other conservative war skeptics have been joined by such writers as William F. Buckley, Jr., George Will, and Tucker Carlson. [...]

Rumsfeld's greatest strategic misjudgment was his belief that a long-term occupation of Iraq would not be necessary following the removal of Saddam Hussein. [ ... ] But while his political antenna seem to have malfunctioned during a brief interval in late 2002 and early 2003, Rumsfeld's instincts seem eminently sound, based as they are on a more realistic assessment of the limits of American power. He has never embraced a long-term occupation of Iraq, and he has consistently, even stubbornly, insisted that the road to peace and prosperity will be paved by the Iraqi people. For this, he has faced repeated calls for his resignation.

President Bush has resisted pressure to send many more troops into the Iraqi theater. Rumsfeld's opposition to plans to expand the size and scope of the U.S. occupation has helped to stiffen the president's resolve.

It may be too soon to expect an end to the occupation. But if Rumsfeld is replaced by someone with more expansive plans for Iraq, we can expect an escalation of the conflict there that will surely result in more lives lost, and billions more dollars squandered.

I had forgotten about the Novak piece, forgotten about Buckley, forgotten about Carlson, and didn't really know about Will, but it all seems pretty clear to me now. Bill Kristol called for Rumsfeld's dismissal because he is afraid that Bush, Karl Rove, and Rumsfeld are serious about getting the hell out of Iraq after the Iraqi election at the end of this month.

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