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

Thursday, January 12, 2006

From Across the Aisle 

So there're a couple of interesting articles in the current issue of Pat Buchanan's rag ... Paleoconservatives seem to hate neoconservatives more than they hate liberals these days...

Robert Dreyfuss analyzes the US's posture towards Syria and concludes that military action is still on the table. These are strange times, and I am getting used to this sort of thing -- but, still, isn't it weird to read a guy who is a contributing editor at The Nation in a magazine called The American Conservative?:

But the news from Syria shows that the conventional wisdom [that the US cannot pursue military action in Syria because of the Iraq debacle] is wrong. The United States is indeed pursuing a hard-edged regime-change strategy for Syria. And it isn't necessarily going to be a Cold War--in fact, it could well get very hot very soon. In Washington, analysts disagree over exactly how far the Bush administration is willing to go in pursuing its goal of overthrowing the Assad government. In the view of Flynt Leverett, a former CIA Syria analyst now at the Brookings Institution, the White House favors a kind of slow-motion toppling. In a forum at Brookings, Leverett, author of Inheriting Syria: Bashar's Trial by Fire, announced his conclusion that Bush was pursuing "regime change on the cheap" in Syria. But others disagree, and believe that Syria could indeed be the next Iraq. For neoconservatives, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. For the rest of us -- watching the war in Iraq unfold in horror, lurching toward breakup and civil war -- the prospect ought to be both tragic and alarming. [ ... ]

On Oct. 6, in his saber-rattling declaration of war against "Islamofascism," President Bush not-so-subtly warned Syria that it might be next. "State sponsors [of terrorism] like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror," said Bush, speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy. "The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account." Echoing Bush, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad warned bluntly that "our patience is running out with Syria," and like other U.S. officials Khalilzad blamed the Assad government for America's troubles in Iraq.

Just before the president spoke, according to Knight Ridder, senior Bush administration officials met in a high-level powwow to discuss U.S. options for dealing with Syria. Among the alternatives reportedly discussed at the meeting was "limited military action," and despite the fact that intelligence on Syria's actual role in supporting the resistance in Iraq is hazy at best, the story, by reporter Warren Strobel, revealed that "one option under consideration was bombing several villages 30 to 40 miles inside Syria that some officials believe have been harboring Iraqi insurgents." On Oct. 15, the New York Times reported that the Bush administration was threatening "hot pursuit" and other attacks into Syrian territory. It added, "A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials."

Here is the Knight-Ridder article that Dreyfuss mentions in the above.

And Buchanan himself has piece amusingly titled "Might the Arabs Have a Point?" focusing on a recent Zogby poll of opinions about the US in the Muslim world:

A Zogby survey of 3,900 Arabs in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates has uncovered massive distrust of U.S. motives in the Middle East.

Unkindest cut of all, Arabs would prefer that President Chirac and France lead the world rather than us, and, rather than have us as the world’s lone superpower, they would prefer the Chinese.

While Arabs are not as rabidly anti-American as in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, still, by 77 percent to 6 percent, they believe the Iraqi people are worse off today, and by four-to-one, Arabs say the U.S. invasion has increased, not decreased, terrorism.

Designed by Arab scholar Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution, the survey reveals pervasive cynicism about the stated goals of George W. Bush. When asked, "When you consider American objectives in the Middle East, what factors do you think are important to the United States?" the Arab answers came as follows:

Fully 76 percent said the Americans are there for the oil, 68 percent said to protect Israel, 63 percent to dominate the region, and 59 percent to weaken the Muslim world. Only 6 percent said we were there to protect human rights and another 6 percent said to promote democracy. Asked directly if they believe President Bush when he says democracy is our goal, two of every three Arabs, 78 percent in Egypt, said that, no, they do not believe Bush.

Asked to name the two nations that present the greatest threat to regional peace, 70 percent named Israel, 63 percent the United States, and 11 percent Britain. Only 6 percent named our bete noire Iran.

Asked to name the foreign leader they disliked most, Sharon swept top honors with 45 percent. Bush took the silver with 30 percent. No one else was close. Tony Blair came in a weak third. Only 3 percent of the Arabs detest him most.

While only 6 percent agreed with al-Qaeda's aim to establish an Islamic state and only 7 percent approve of its methods, 20 percent admire the way al-Qaeda "stood up for Muslim causes" and 36 percent admire how it "confronts the U.S."

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