“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"If al-Qaida was not in Iraq before we invaded, why did we invade?" Buchanan serves it up.

We have some real zingers from Buchanan this morning. Buchanan must have dined at the Palm for inspiration for this column. - Hat tip: Cutler


Onward the Revolution!
By Patrick J. Buchanan
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Having cheerfully confessed he knows little about economics, John McCain is advancing himself as a foreign-policy president, a "realistic idealist," he told the World Affairs Council of Los Angeles.

But judging from the content of his speech, McCain is no more a realist than he is a reflective man.

Speaking of our five-year war in Iraq, McCain declares, "It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possible genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal."

Fair point. There is surely a great risk in a too-rapid withdrawal.

But if a U.S. withdrawal, after 4,000 dead and 33,000 wounded, and a trillion dollars sunk, runs the risk of a genocidal calamity, what does that tell us about the wisdom of those who marched us into this war?

What threat did Saddam ever pose comparable to the cataclysm McCain says we face if we pull out? Who, Senator, put American on the horns of so horrible a dilemma?

"Whether they were in Iraq before is immaterial," McCain warns, "al-Qaida is there now." And that is surely true.

But if al-Qaida was not in Iraq before we invaded, why did we invade? And if al-Qaida is there now, what was the magnet that drew them in, if not the U.S. occupation McCain himself championed?

Like Condi Rice, who regularly disparages the policies of every president from FDR to Bill Clinton, McCain enjoys parading the higher morality of his devotion to democracy-uber-alles.

"For decades in the Middle East we had a strategy of relying upon autocrats to provide order and stability. We relied on the Shah, the autocratic rulers of Egypt, the generals of Pakistan, the Saudi royal family. ... We can no longer delude ourselves that relying on these outdated autocrats is the safest bet." Speaking of self-delusion, does McCain believe the "democrats" lately elected in Pakistan will be tougher on al-Qaida and the Taliban than Pervez Musharraf, who has twice escaped assassination for having sided with us?

Does McCain think this new crowd in Islamabad will be more pro-American than the general, when the people who voted them in are among the most anti-American in the Islamic world?

From Richard Nixon to George Bush I, we expelled Moscow from Egypt, won the Cold War, brought peace between Egypt and Israel, and created a worldwide alliance, including Hafez al-Assad of Syria, that drove Saddam's army out of Kuwait.

What has the Bush-McCain democracy crusade produced, save electoral victories for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas? And if we dump the sultan of Oman, President Mubarak, and the king of Saudi Arabia, who does McCain think will replace them?

If undermining Arab autocrats is good for America, why is that also the goal of Osama bin Laden?

McCain proposes a "League of Democracies" to unite a hundred nations for peace and freedom. "Revanchist Russia," however, is to be black-balled from McCain's league and thrown out of the G-8.

What would this accomplish other than undoing the work of Reagan in bringing Moscow in from the cold, driving Russia into the arms of China, restarting the Cold War and recreating the Beijing-Moscow axis it was Nixon's great achievement to break up?

What McCain is proposing is a re-division of the world into the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Moral clarity at last! Has he forgotten the fate of that earlier rabbit warren of the righteous, the League of Nations?

Does our "realistic idealist" think a NATO of 25 nations that has mustered a piddling 16,000 soldiers, most of them noncombatants, to stand beside us in Afghanistan is going to confront a nuclear-armed Russia?

"Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests," said Lord Palmerston.

What is critical, especially in wartime, is not whether a regime is autocratic or democratic, but whether it is hostile or friendly.

Gen. Washington, at war with democratic Great Britain, is said to have danced a jig when he heard we had Louis XVI as an ally. During our Civil War, Britain built blockade-runners for the Confederacy, while the czar docked his ships in Union harbors. Russia "was our friend/When the world was our foe," wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes.

When Nixon launched his airlift to save Israel in the Yom Kippur War, autocratic Portugal let us use the Azores. Democratic France denied Reagan over-flight permission in the 1986 raid on Libya. Two brave U.S. pilots died as a result. When McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton, British and French ships were unloading goods in Haiphong, while Ferdinand Marcos and the South Korean generals sent troops to stand with us and fight beside us.

To root one's attitude toward nations based upon their internal politics rather than their foreign policies is ideology. And policies rooted in ideologies, from Trotskyism to democratism, end up on the Great Barrier Reef of reality.


  1. Wouldn't you love to see a Presidential debate moderated by Buchanan?

  2. The Iraq war was won when Saddam was captured and his WoMD programs were verifiably dismantled.

  3. We are told that if we start drawing down our forces that al-Qaeda in Iraq will take over the country. A tiny Sunni minority will take over a Shi'ite majority country with a powerful, nearly nuclear Shi'ite neighbor.

  4. What I love is the delusional view of the R's that the Arabs are sitting around reading the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers waiting for the USA to come sailing in a la LaFayette to their Sheikh George al Washington. McCain continues the fantasy.

    Stuck. On. Stupid.

  5. GWB has worked tirelessly to bring Democracy to Baghdad, and Socialism to Washington.

  6. The first phase line was passed when Saddam was captured and his Army disbanded.
    But the "War" was not over.

    It was at that point that the next Phase line had to be determined, while some advocated "On to Damascus" or driving into the Iranian oilfields as the next objective. The US made a fateful decision to redisgned Iraqi socierty, such is the strength of US arms. That we could move to the end game, before the opening was finished

    We bogged down, stuck to that Iraqi flypaper, until defeat in Anbar could be spun as a success.

    Oh well, no one is respnsible and McCain's fifty years of experience will destroy the legacy that Ronnie Reagan left US, continuing the project that GWBush has begun.

  7. Interesting read at westhawk

    Coulda, shoulda, woulda ...

  8. What does it tell us that decades-old critiques of American foreign policy seem so strikingly apt and useful in critiquing today’s “neoconservative” foreign policies? What it tells us, quite simply, is that what many consider the neoconservative aberration may not be such a great aberration after all. The tendencies associated these days with neoconservatism are more deeply rooted in American traditions than the critics care to admit, which means they will not so easily be uprooted, even by the coming epochal presidential election.

    In fact, the problem for those who have sought to end this history of American expansiveness, both in decades past and today, is that this tendency toward expansion, this belief in the possibility of global transformation, this “messianic” impulse, far from being aberrant, is a dominant strain in the American character. It is certainly not the only tradition. There are counter-traditions, conservative, “republican,” pacifist, socialist, and realist. But in every generation these forces have done battle, and in almost every generation the expansive, moralistic, hubristic American approach has rolled over its critics, sometimes into victory and success, sometimes into disappointment and calamity.

    What are the sources of its enduring power? One source is the American commitment to universal principles embedded in the nation’s founding documents, and the belief that these principles are not debatable but are, as Hamilton suggested, written in the stars by the hand of God. Americans believe they know the truth, and they do not admit alternate truths. Democracy is the only legitimate form of government, and America as the greatest democracy is the most legitimate of all. American foreign policy’s most astute critics have always understood that it is not conservatism but this liberal and progressive idealism that is the engine of American expansionism and hegemonism.
    ... The story of America’s first century is not one of virtuous restraint but of an increasingly powerful nation systematically eliminating all competitors on the North American continent. The story of its second century is not one of caution and a recognition of limits but of a steady and determined rise to global dominance. Patrick Henry failed to defeat the Constitution; John Randolph failed to stop the rush to war and big government in 1812; conservatives did not steer the nation away from Manifest Destiny or prevent war with Spain, or World War I, or the many interventions of the twentieth century. Five years after the end of the Vietnam War, which seemed to presage the rejection of the Achesonian principles that led to the intervention, Americans elected Ronald Reagan, who took up those principles again with a vengeance.

    Today, many hope that the war in Iraq will quench once and for all Americans’ messianic impulses and their belief in the virtues of power. But will it? Are Americans, either Democrats or Republicans, prepared to forfeit either their power or their belief in America’s exceptional role in the world? Back in the 1960s, the historian Stanley Hoffmann posed a choice for Americans in the title of his book: Primacy or World Order? He knew then, and it remains true today, that for Americans this is not a choice. As the former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine observed (during the Clinton administration), most “great American leaders and thinkers have never doubted for an instant that the United States was chosen by providence as the ‘indispensable nation’ and that it must remain dominant for the sake of humankind.” And as Robert W. Tucker observed (during the first Bush administration), Americans may have sought international order, but for them “international order implies [American] leadership.” That leadership imposes “special responsibilities others do not have,” but in the American view it also “confers a degree of freedom others do not enjoy.” As prominent liberal Democrat and former Clinton official Ivo Daalder has put it, “without American primacy—or something like it—it is doubtful that the rule of law can be sustained.”

    Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism, c. 1776

    Robert Kagan
    Rather interesting piece

  9. John Adams prevented a war with France. When the French started messing with out shipping during the Revolution(their Revolution), and got into it with the British, there was a war fever in some quarters in our new nation to take on the French. Adams wasn't in favor of that, and diplomated his way around the idea.

  10. I still say, if you've made a mistake and planted a stinky spring wheat like that damned Larker, you still got to harvest it, best you can. Lest your accounts look even worse, at the end of the year.

  11. After having given away the Southwest, Absolut celebrates with Gay Sex Upshot is, after drinking the Absolut, the sinner will probably forget the condom, and die of AIDS.

  12. The Wholey Trinity:
    What would Reagan do?
    What would the Muslim Farmer Do?
    What would Doug Do?

  13. Let's do a little cost/benefit analysis and the throw in an opportunity cost:

    Iraq's invasion of Kuwait;

    We already paid for that. During the process Saddam set fire to hundreds of oil wells. We put them out. The benefit to the US is a concession price on oil? No?

    Marsh Arabs:

    Actually Shiites. How many tens of billions are they worth to us? What benefit do we get from them? Aren't the Shiites in the south the smae who are in Basra?

    Gassed Kurds:

    That sounds like a UN mission to me a la Kosovo.

    Al Gore and Democrats:


    Oil for Food:

    Show me one Arab or Muslim country that is not corrupt.

    $25,000 rewards to families of Palestinian martyrs:

    That was worthy of Saddam being assassinated. But was that a US obligation?

    Saddam's bluffs:

    No cost there.

    Saddam's death wish:

    He wanted to live and make a comeback.

    September 11, 2001:

    All the suspected hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon or Egypt. Iraq was one of the more secular states before the fall of Saddam. This is no longer so. Here is what the Shiites are now doing in Basra. Saddam had to deal with a tough neighborhood

  14. "It was at that point that the next Phase line had to be determined, while some advocated "On to Damascus" or driving into the Iranian oilfields as the next objective."

    I've got a theory, Rat, that your newfound libertarianism, such as it is, is principally a response to the administration's unwillingness to follow your questionable counsel in just this matter of expanding the war. Your libertarianism, in other words, is for the most part a bunch of sour grapes and has little if anything to do with a rejection of big government adventurism.

    I don't know who or what ever led you to believe that either Syria or Iran were in the cards, though you surely are not the only one who anticipated either or who's been subsequently disappointed, but most of the disappointed don't then head off as a result into the fever swamps of conspiracy, which certainly has a greater hold on you than any fresh discovery of small government conservatism.

  15. All true, but what's the cost if we leave? I'm not sure of the answer.
    Iran announced 6,000 new centrafuges today, as a side note.

  16. I've noticed--just as a very rough general rule--that moslems with moustaches are a small cut above those with beards, in my sense of things.

  17. Bob and Whit,

    You are both correct in that we have already scrambled the eggs.

  18. I wouldn't say that, trish.
    It was that I beloeved the US was attacked by a cabal of conspirators.
    Originally led to believe that this cabal operated out of Afghanistan and were Saudi funded, motivated by a radical religious ideology, Wahhabism.

    The United States declared that war powers were appropriate for the President to employ.

    Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday, the third day of January, two thousand and one, a States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

    Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and
    Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and
    Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and
    Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and
    Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

    Section 1 - Short Title
    This joint resolution may be cited as the 'Authorization for Use of Military Force'.

    [edit] Section 2 - Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces
    (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force
    against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    The case was made that there were operators, Osama, Doc Z, etc, that were the heart of the threat.
    The Taliban were offered a "pass", if Osama were handed over.
    The ISI had and continued to operate with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    The concept of the continued War, in preemptive defense, called for the destruction of those States that, "... or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States ..."

    This Authorization, plus Mr Frum's speaches, read by GWBush, outlined that the US would prosecute a major War in it's defense.

    Iraq was just a battle in that War, as is Afghanistan, but the War, per the Authorization is much more expansive than just those two theaters.

    War making, in defense of the US, that is justifiable to a librarian.
    Destruction, in an expedited manner, of the enemy is what War is about.

    The occuppation of Iraq is not part of the "War" but now has become an end unto itself.

    I'm opposed to a militarilry extended US empire, but had been supportive of war against those threats that were posed to US and their hastened destruction.

    Thus, as the Mission was proven to have changed, so did my oppossition to those that propound its' extention. For reasons that are unclear, as relates to the original mission.

    This is also true in regards the Resolution to Use Force in Irag.

    So, as the Government abuses its' authority, both in its' warmaking misjudgements or its' refusal to defend the southern frontier of the US, so does my oppossition to the men running the Government.

    When I turned 18, back in '73, I registered as a Libertarian, because of the ideology, not the people.

    To participate in the Primaries, in AZ, one must belong to the Party to vote. To have some affect in local elections, I registered as a GOPer, in the 80's, after I returned to the US.

    My ideology had become tempered by a large dose of reality.

  19. The threat then expanded to all those "radical" Islamists, to include the Mullahs of Iran.
    Who were prepping to achieve nuclear military capacity.

    This was deemed, "unacceptable" by the US.
    It continues apace.
    Despite the Authorization to Use Force, the US demurs.

    So while War was authorized, for a variety of reasons the US stopped before the war was over. It is now in a quandry on how to continue.
    Neither fighting, nor winning, a "war", but engaged in a "Mission Impossible" without the acting talent.

  20. Bobal: After having given away the Southwest, Absolut celebrates with Gay Sex Upshot is, after drinking the Absolut, the sinner will probably forget the condom, and die of AIDS.

    That would still be better than having to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon like they do in NASCAR States.

  21. The Primacy of Islam over the sectarianism of that faith was often spoken of, back in the early days at the BC.

    The threat was a cabal of Islamic conspiritors, All the terrorists worked together, in common cause. With State sponsors.
    Pakistan had sponsored the Taliban
    Iran was sponsoring Hezzbollah, in all its many variations.
    Iraq was paying $25,000 USD bonuses to the families of Palistinian homicide-bomber.

    The Golden Chain reached to the Emirs and Princes of Saudi Arabia.

    We went to War against Iraq, which was not involved in terrorism, as much as it was "easy pickins'".
    First in a series

    How to fight that War, was discussed
    Proxies examined, theories postulated.

    We are where we are.

  22. Desert Rat: The Golden Chain reached to the Emirs and Princes of Saudi Arabia.

    Who in turn buy their own protection by spreading their spare change around in the Beltway, or through buying military hardware produced in the districts of certain Senators.