The dean of conservative pundits, William F. Buckley questions (here) whether our efforts in the Middle East are destined to be futile. Echoing the concept that there is no way to stop an idea whose time has come, Buckley warns that “if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, [the U.S.] cannot win against it.”
Buckley’s dour estimation of our situation in Iraq bucks what many of his conservative colleagues are saying. Echoing the Murtha talking points, Buckley writes, “It is simply untrue that we are making decisive progress in Iraq. The indicators rise and fall from day to day, week to week, month to month.”
Unlike Vietnam, Buckley says, where the enemy had an “operative headquarters …, we have no equivalent of that in Iraq.” All of the terrorist mayhem seems so spontaneous. Of course, that’s the nature of terrorism. Sponsors in Iraq and Syria remain in the shadows while semi-independent radicals carry out attacks that kill and maim innocents, striking fear into the hearts of citizens.
The sharpness of Buckley’s point is apparent when he writes, “What can a “surge,” of the kind we are now relying upon, do to cope with endemic disease? The parallel even comes to mind of the eventual collapse of Prohibition, because there wasn’t any way the government could neutralize the appetite for alcohol, or the resourcefulness of the freeman in acquiring it.” Echoing Senator Reid, Buckley is arguing that we are powerless to stand against terrorism and that the terrorists will eventually unavoidably carry the day in Iraq.
On that optimistic note, let’s look at another view of the Bob Kerrey article that I discussed yesterday. Conservative contrarian Andrew McCarthy critiques Kerrey’s positions in this article. McCarthy takes Kerrey to task for equating desire for self-determination with democracy. (Never mind that many of our Founders thought the same way.) Or at least McCarthy seems to think that Iraq’s style of Islamic-centric self determination stands in sharp contrast to the way we do it in America and/or that it won’t benefit American interests.
McCarthy agrees with Kerrey that liberals ought to be in love with the Iraq War, since it is a Wilsonian “exercise in democracy building, not just mere jihadist repulsion.” McCarthy agrees that “you don’t have to occupy a country to fight terrorism,” but he argues that “you do have to occupy a country to, as [Kerrey] puts it, impose democracy.” He demonstrates his point by citing the long-term occupation required in each of the examples Kerrey cited as positive models of imposing democracy.
However, McCarthy disagrees with Kerrey’s altruistic humanitarian focus on bringing democracy to the Middle East. He argues, “A war that Americans have come to regard, rightly or wrongly, as more geared toward Iraqi self-determination than al Qaeda suppression is a war for which American support was certain to flag. We did not, after all, occupy Germany and Japan to evangelize about the glories of freedom. We occupied them because they nearly defeated us in a war of national survival: The American people, fully invested back then in victory, understood instinctively that we had to stay until the peril was extinguished.”
McCarthy seems to ignore the fact that the war against radical Islam is more like the Cold War than WWII. Americans were far more ambivalent about the Cold War than about WWII.
Kerrey contends that we ought to be in the business of imposing democracy, but McCarthy asks why. Indeed, McCarthy sounds very much like a realist when he claims that bringing democracy to the Middle East will not improve our national security (and will probably make it worse). He cites the fact that terrorists have a track record of exploiting democratic freedoms to operate quite freely in Germany, Spain, the UK, and the US. He asks why we should think that they won’t also exploit newly minted democratic freedoms in the Middle East to achieve their wicked ends.
McCarthy argues that we should dump democracy building in favor of focusing our “finite attention … on determining what measures are necessary to eradicate jihadist networks, and on bluntly considering how such steps square with our regnant international law infrastructure — the legacy of a world that no longer exists … if it ever did.”
I find it interesting that staunch liberals can be found that argue fervently in favor the war in Iraq, while some died-in-the-wool conservatives argue just as fervently that we are on the wrong track in Iraq. Despite the media’s successful portrayal, there is not a clean partisan split on this issue. Is it any surprise that the opinions of Americans in general of this issue are scattered across the board?