10/28/2005

In Defence of General Scowcroft

Fresh from his acclamation yesterday as Wise Sage, Village Elder and Cleverest Man In The Universe, Charles Krauthammer descends once more from the Olympian heights in order to trash someone whose service to the United States has been vastly more valuable than his own - General Brent Scowcroft.

One can merely imagine the disdain with which he wrote,

"Now that Cindy Sheehan turns out to be a disaster for the anti-war movement -- most Americans are not about to follow a left-wing radical who insists that we are in Iraq for reasons of theft, oppression and empire -- a new spokesman is needed"

La Sheehan has her faults, for sure; but surely Krauthammer must possess more highly developed arguments than those required to characterise someone who doesn't swallow his pap all the time as a 'left-wing radical'? And, although she has opponents whose wartime losses have been equal to hers, her son was killed.

Just who is this arrogant scribbling hack Krauthammer to so casually dismiss someone with such experience?

He continues with this hackery -

"This week in The New Yorker he (Scowcroft) came out strongly against the war and the neocon sorcerers who magically foisted it upon what must have been a hypnotized president and vice president. "

Well, it remains to be seen whether the Vice-President was in on the act - perhaps The Bulldog will enlighten us soon enough. The President's record on so many issues, from catastrophe management to fiscal responsibility to upholding the rule of law by securing the borders, has been so poor that to imply he has been acting under suggestion for five years would be generous.

He castigates Scowcroft's record in the First Gulf War -

"Of course, Scowcroft's opposition to toppling Saddam is neither surprising nor new. Indeed, we are now seeing its third iteration. He had two cracks at Saddam in 1991 and urged his President Bush to pass them both up -- first, after Saddam's defeat in the Gulf War when the road to Baghdad was open, and then, days later, during a massive U.S.-encouraged uprising of Kurds and Shiites when America stood by and allowed Saddam to massacre his opponents by the tens of thousands."

Perhaps Krauthammer might consider Scowcroft's adherence to the norms of diplomacy and the rule of law in advising Bush I not to breach the terms of the UN Security Council's mandate to evict Saddam from Kuwait to be weak. For a demi-god like Krauthammer, considerations such as law as for the little people - like Air Force generals. It is just as well for his equilibrium that Krauthammer has pursued a career in which he rarely has to account for his actions to superiors, because if this piece is anything to go by I wouldn't like to see how he reacts when he writes one bad enough to be spiked.

He goes on to note,

"(One of the reasons for Iraqi wariness during the U.S. liberation 12 years later was the memory of our past betrayal and suspicions about our current intentions in light of that betrayal.)

It would be interesting to note whether General Scowcroft's counsel to Bush I was based on advice to the effect that to directly support such an ingursency might be illegal; might have fast-forwarded the fiasco of the current insurgency by 12 years; and might have raised the prospect of Iranian influence in Iraq a little bit sooner.

One is naturally disinclined to be generous to Saddam under any circumstances; but, as with the jihadists, at least he kept the Iranians out.

Krauthammer then spits the word 'realist' at Scowcroft, like an epithet -

"You care not a whit about who is running a foreign country. Whether it is Mother Teresa or the Assad family gangsters in Syria, you care only about their external actions, not how they treat their own people. "

For the most part no, one does not care who is running a foreign country. For the most part, it is none of our business. Krauthammer's choice of the Blessed Mother Teresa as an exemplar of good governance in this context is puzzling, given that she never assumed responsibility for the executive affairs of any corporate body larger than her own order. It is the nature of tyranny that tyrants will treat harshly those over whom they rule; and by the same token, as the history of the United States of America overwhelmingly suggests, it is only when those people decide they have had no more that liberty is gained. One is sure that the Imperial French did not give a damn whether the people of Massachusetts and Rhode Island freed themselves of British rule; instead, their limited support would have been in pursuit of their own agenda, which at all times was making life hard for the Brits.

According to Krauthammer, Scowcroft is supposed to hang his head in shame for being, 'the man who six months after Tiananmen Square toasted those who ordered the massacre'; perhaps Krauthammer might acquaint himself with the nature of an officer's duty to his superior before making such a sweeping aside, or ask Scowcroft himself whether the words stuck in his craw as they were coming out. They might have done, for all he knows. Given that Scowcroft's opinion of developments in Lebanon seems (according to Krauthammer) to be poor, because, "as the world celebrates the Beirut Spring that evicted the Syrian occupation from Lebanon, sees not liberation but possible instability", I suppose I must count myself as standing beside the general. 'The world' celebrates no such thing; what some in 'the world' see is an event far away from us, in countries with which we have no connection, which has given Krauthammer and his associates an opportunity to call for the shedding of yet more American blood, while they themselves live high on the hog in the capital's salons, enjoying the fat of the land.

Ah, the Soviet Union! Scowcroft is castigated for saying '``I didn't think that calling the Soviet Union the `evil empire' got anybody anywhere.'' Krauthammer may be implying here that Scowcroft was in some way sympathetic to the aims of the Central Committe of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But the phrase 'evil empire' was used in 1983. Its user, Ronald Reagan, had been elected on an anti-Soviet platform in 1980, and had been an ardent anti-Communist all his life, even when he was a New Deal Democrat. Has Krauthammer's own ruthless ideology made such a mental midget of him that he actually believes that the burden Reagan took on himself, the work of undermining the Soviet Union, was first picked up when he used the phrase 'evil empire'; a phrase Reagan used while addressing the same ghoulish cadre of tent-preachers and snake-handlers for whose support he had required to bargain, and the zenith of whose foreign policy influence has been the Iraq catastrophe?

The Alpha and Omega of the phrase 'evil empire' is that Dutch Reagan, God rest his soul, always knew how to work a crowd. He, and his advisers, would have opposed the Soviets with or without the evangelicals.

Krauthammer's knowledge of Russian history seems, at the very least, to be shaky -

"It (the Soviet Union) was not brought down by diplomacy and arms control, the preferred realist means for dealing with the Soviet Union. It was brought down by indigenous revolutionaries, encouraged and supported by Ronald Reagan, a president unabashedly dedicated not to detente with evil, but its destruction -- i.e., regime change"

And so he comes to it at last; the language of revolution. It follows the old Trotskyites around wherever they go, and wherever it appears it reeks like the corpses of the Great Purges, or the blood of Kansas farm boys killed in Najaf or Fallujah.
Precisely who were these 'indigenous revolutionaries' to whom Krauthammer is referring? It was Ronald Reagan's intention, at all times and under all circumstances, to maintain peace. How closely has Krauthammer read Reagan? Has he read him at all?
Reagan brought down the Soviet Union by outspending it. He knew it was weak; and yet, at Reykjavik, he was not only prepared to detente with it, he came to the brink of agreeing a massive reduction in warheads - it was Gorbachev who went too far, in demanding the scrapping of SDI. It was Gorbachev's foolish Cold War powerplay that ultimately brought his country down, right in line with Dutch Reagan's worldview.
If Gorbachev had not made that play, none of us can say how long the Soviet Union would have lasted.
Yes, Reagan encouraged Gorbachev to 'tear down this wall'; yet those who heard his message did not become guerillas, Reaganistas, throwing bombs and killing Soviet officials. The life's work of Ronald Reagan, one of history's greatest men of peace, ensured that the influence of Soviet communism ended peacefully, with the horrible exception of Romania.
That was the way the old union organiser would have wanted it; not for those who heeded him to be labelled 'revolutionaries', but as 'citizens' instead.
According to Krauthammer, Scowcroft is particularly scathing about the simulacrum of democratic politics being created in Iraq. He says,
"The difficulties there are indeed great. But those difficulties came about not because, as Scowcroft tells us, ``some people don't really want to be free'' and don't value freedom as we do. The insurgency in Iraq is not proof of an escape-from-freedom human nature that has little use for liberty and prefers other things. The insurgency is, on the contrary, evidence of a determined (Sunni) minority desperate to maintain not only its own freedom but its previous dominion over the other 80 percent of the population now struggling for theirs.

These others -- the overwhelming majority of Iraq's people -- have repeatedly given every indication of valuing their newfound freedom: voting in two elections at the risk of their lives, preparing for a third, writing and ratifying a constitution granting more freedoms than exist in any country in the entire Arab Middle East. ``The secret is out,'' says Fouad Ajami. ``There is something decent unfolding in Iraq. It's unfolding in the shadow of a terrible insurgency, but a society is finding its way to constitutional politics.''
If they have voted at the risk of their lives it has been in no small measure because of the demand that they bear a mark of death for having done so. They have ratified a constitution which makes the Sharia law a source of law, which within five (three?) years will mean the imposition of an Islamic republic; and you set yourself a very low bar to hurdle when your constitution grants more freedoms than any other country in the Islamic Middle East.
Believe it or not, I hope, and would like to imagine that General Scowcroft also hopes, that the project will ultimately succeed. There has been too much to be invested in it for it not to succeed. The time came some while ago for the Iraqis to stand on their own feet and defend themselves, which is why troops should be withdrawn now. We have done our part; and at this stage the indicators are pointing to the patient lapsing into a critical condition.
It remains to be seen whether it is Scowcroft's or Krauthammer's visions which come to pass; but I'd bet on a general rather than an upstart neocon windbag any day of the week.

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