Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The news analysis and op-ed pieces are coming in fast and furious. The one that opened the floodgates was the famous "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy" cover story in Time a few weeks ago

And now everyone's singing that tune. The alternative, of course is the reasoned, thoughtful approach of the Clinton administration--even the Bush 41 administration is mentioned positively here as well--which the pundits praise warmly in comparison to that of the present administration. Typical is Trudy Rubin's column in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, now offline, which hits all the right notes:

If the Lebanon tragedy is to be resoved without a victory for Hezbollah, and if there is any chance to save Iraq, the White House needs some kind of grip on realities in the region Yet...the rhetoric of the Bush team seems ever more removed from the facts on the ground.

Some in the administration, along with neocon pundits, see the Israel-Hezbollah battle as part of a global struggle that pits the West against "Islamofascists" But...combatting terrorists requires a far more sophisticated military and political approach.

An ungracious person would point out here that, to the contrary, the Hezbollah war has been one of the Bush administration's finest diplomatic hours, as the war goes on for weeks and weeks and weeks, and the much-discussed Muslim/Arab uprising never comes and the Western allies line up with the American hands-off position (less delicately known as the "Let Israel annihilate Hezbollah" position), to the total diplomatic isolation of the French. Which brings us back the the "realistic" and "sophisticated" position, since this was the French point of view all along, though they preferred the more French-sounding "nuance."

But there is a big problem with the "realistic" solution to the Middle East, and we all saw it together in one shared experience: 9/11. 9/11 was the offspring of decades of "realism" in Western policy toward the Arab world. Let's be clear: "Realism" meant and still means the maintenence of a worldview that pretends that Islamic fundamentalism doesn't exist, or at least doesn't exist as a problem for us, and if we just went back to leaving them alone and didn't meddle in their business, everything would go back to that way it was in 2000. No, scratch that, that was the year Mohamed Atta went to flight school. Let's say instead: Everything would go back to the way it was in 1998. Whoops, that was the year that two American embassies were blown up. What I meant to say was that everything would go back to the way it was in 1993. No, that was the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Damn.

But 9/11 is what it is, and can't be ignored the way those other terrorist acts were. We can't pretend it didn't happen. The only possible non-"Cowboy" responses to 9/11 are the exact opposite of "realism": Conspiracy theories, "controlled demolition" studies, etc., etc. The gradual mainstreaming of 9/11 revisionism--I watched in horros last Saturday as C-SPAN covered a 9/11 conspiracy convention from Los Angeles--is a symptom of the Left's unrealistic belief in "realism."

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