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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
you are guilty:
Reuel rejoinders to Larry Korb in a manner that's pretty beneath him:
I can understand--though not appreciate--Americans who don't want to see Americans dying in Iraq because they value American lives more highly than they do Iraqi ones. This sentiment, more common on the right than on the left, inevitably leads to a bigoted isolationism that allows nefarious forces to run amok. Dressed up by a higher education, it usually depicts most foreigners as too culturally retrograde to sustain liberal and democratic values--and therefore not worth the loss of American life. Saving people from slaughter, even genocide, isn't worth the effort for this school of thought, since such calamities are, in part, condign punishment for having retrograde political cultures. Foreigners would have to be real innocents being butchered by easily defeated bad guys before these folks would be compelled to dispatch American soldiers to stop a slaughter. Even if the United States were in part responsible for provoking a humanitarian catastrophe, this group doesn't feel guilt long, at least not sufficiently to stop the mess, especially if we have to spill much blood and treasure for natives deficient in reasonableness and gratitude.This is a gussied-up version of saying that withdrawal advocates are motivated by racism. An honest assessment would grapple with the idea that the war is already lost; that America has more to gain by mitigating the regional effects of a lost Iraq war than by increasing U.S. deaths for the preservation of an Iranian-allied sectarian government; that any obligation to the Iraqis is nullified by the sheer inability of the U.S. to stop the nightmare (ought, the philosophers tell us, implies can); and that sending 21,500 more troops into the meatgrinder in order to "try" God-knows-what is immoral. Indeed, Reuel adopts the voice of people who argue this, but never to refute them; only to sneer at them.
Gerecht will not directly say what he means. "What important," he writes, "... is that the Iraqi political system among the Shia is still functioning." What's significant, however, is that this dubious assertion -- working in the sense of not having formally collapsed? Does Gerecht deny that the most powerful Shiite political actor, Moqtada al-Sadr, steps out of the process whenever he feels like, and only reaps more prestige as a result? -- is contrary to the strategy of the surge, which he advocates. Bush said last week that the issue is sectarianism. Gerecht, as his Islamic Paradox monograph demonstrates, rather likes sectarianism. He believes the best case is one in which the "Shiite Crescent" rises across the Middle East to smite the Sunnis and somehow create a democratic/theocratic awakening that will, by some alchemy, undermine the Teheran regime. It's crackers, but fair enough -- he should argue for that explicitly, and then we can debate its merits. The most-recent troubling thing about the neocons is that they are hitching their star to the surge despite
1) not believing enough troops are being devoted to make it "work"
2) half-conceding it will probably fail
3) disbelieving, in significant ways, that it supports a wise strategy
A generous person might say that the neocons are doing this in order to preserve the rhetorical gambit that the war is winnable, now that there's a presidential option on offer to "make it work," Tim Gunn-style. More cynical readers might say that they're doing this to show some politically loyalty to the GOP at a time when the 2008 candidates, except for McCain, are inclined to throw them out on their asses. Either way, it's a lot easier to call your opponents racists. I now propose that if the neocons are going to say this about us, we should rally our efforts to say this about them, over and over and over. I suspect we'll have an easier time making our case.
Gerecht's arguments are also consistent with the neoconservative penchant for creating poorly thought out and insincere moral arguments. Yes, the invasion of Iraq was all about selfless love for the repressed Iraqi people. Apparently, the United States has a moral obligation to see x thousands of its citizens killed in battle if it believes it will save x thousand + 1 citizens of another country.