God bless the incomparable Bob Somerby and his Daily Howler. Just when I think nobody else is noticing that the media has ushered us into an elective war while discouraging any substantive debate, the Howler howls.
What do Admin insiders intend? Pundits have shown little interest in knowing. Nor have news divisions at papers like the Post dared to explore the larger aims which may lay behind our war policy. As David Broder did when Gore gave his speech… our major press organs have slumbered and snored as we’ve drifted into defining war. But what does the Bush Admin really intend?
Hey, that's a good question. Has anybody thought about this? I mean, aside from those who actually think that the Bush Administration's stated intentions are the Bush Administration's real intentions (hi kids!), does anybody out there have a clue as to what the overall game plan is here? Remaking the Middle East, no doubt. But what's the next big step?
The Howler points us to a story by Joshua Micah Marshall in the Washington Monthly:
Imagine it's six months from now. The Iraq war is over. After an initial burst of joy and gratitude at being liberated from Saddam's rule, the people of Iraq are watching, and waiting, and beginning to chafe under American occupation. Across the border, in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, our conquering presence has brought street protests and escalating violence. The United Nations and NATO are in disarray, so America is pretty much on its own. Hemmed in by budget deficits at home and limited financial assistance from allies, the Bush administration is talking again about tapping Iraq's oil reserves to offset some of the costs of the American presence–talk that is further inflaming the region. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence has discovered fresh evidence that, prior to the war, Saddam moved quantities of biological and chemical weapons to Syria. When Syria denies having such weapons, the administration starts massing troops on the Syrian border. But as they begin to move, there is an explosion: Hezbollah terrorists from southern Lebanon blow themselves up in a Baghdad restaurant, killing dozens of Western aid workers and journalists. Knowing that Hezbollah has cells in America, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge puts the nation back on Orange Alert. FBI agents start sweeping through mosques, with a new round of arrests of Saudis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and Yemenis.
To most Americans, this would sound like a frightening state of affairs, the kind that would lead them to wonder how and why we had got ourselves into this mess in the first place. But to the Bush administration hawks who are guiding American foreign policy, this isn't the nightmare scenario. It's everything going as anticipated.
Heresy! Oh, wait, no–possibly it's the truth. Marshall's anti-American commie terrorizing continues:
In short, the administration is trying to roll the table–to use U.S. military force, or the threat of it, to reform or topple virtually every regime in the region, from foes like Syria to friends like Egypt, on the theory that it is the undemocratic nature of these regimes that ultimately breeds terrorism. So events that may seem negative–Hezbollah for the first time targeting American civilians; U.S. soldiers preparing for war with Syria–while unfortunate in themselves, are actually part of the hawks' broader agenda. Each crisis will draw U.S. forces further into the region and each countermove in turn will create problems that can only be fixed by still further American involvement, until democratic governments–or, failing that, U.S. troops–rule the entire Middle East.
There is a startling amount of deception in all this–of hawks deceiving the American people, and perhaps in some cases even themselves…
Wha–? American hawks deceiving even themselves? Why, that's crazy! It's just plain–oh, wait. It just happened with Operation Cakewalk, didn't it?
…But their confidence also comes from the curious fact that much of what could go awry with their plan will also serve to advance it. A full-scale confrontation between the United States and political Islam, they believe, is inevitable, so why not have it now, on our terms, rather than later, on theirs? Actually, there are plenty of good reasons not to purposely provoke a series of crises in the Middle East. But that's what the hawks are setting in motion, partly on the theory that the worse things get, the more their approach becomes the only plausible solution.
So that's what's been keeping me up at night. I haven't heard it articulated so perceptively before this. And now that I know what it is… well, I guess I'll still be up all night, but I'll have a better idea as to why.
Marshall describes how the neoconservatives, originally a group of mostly Democrats who thought libs didn't take the Soviet threat seriously enough, fooled themselves into believing the Soviet threat was stronger even than the high estimates coming out of U.S. intelligence. Of course, now we know that those estimates were in fact extremely inflated.
This willingness to deceive–both themselves and others–expanded as neocons grew more comfortable with power. Many spent the Reagan years orchestrating bloody wars against Soviet proxies in the Third World, portraying thugs like the Nicaraguan Contras and plain murderers like Jonas Savimbi of Angola as "freedom fighters." The nadir of this deceit was the Iran-Contra scandal, for which Podhoretz's son-in-law, Elliot Abrams, pled guilty to perjury. Abrams was later pardoned by Bush's father, and today, he runs Middle East policy in the Bush White House.
To encourage war advocates to click on over to this excellent article, let me say that Marshall goes on to describe some very sensible aims of the neoconservative hawks. It actually makes the plan sound pretty attractive.
I'd be interested in hearing the pro-war side spell out in some comments below exactly where you see this Middle East venture headed. What happens in Iraq? And then what do we do? As JFK says to Dean Acheson in 13 Days, "How does this all…play out?"
And, just as an aside, do you feel President Bush has been open and honest about what the overall plan is?