Dead enders

by Henry Farrell on August 20, 2006

Perhaps I should comment further on Norman Podhoretz’s “ruminations”: in the forthcoming issue of _Commentary_, but surely the piece itself says it all.

I must confess to being puzzled by the amazing spread of the idea that the Bush Doctrine has indeed failed the test of Iraq. After all, Iraq has been liberated from one of the worst tyrants in the Middle East; three elections have been held; a decent constitution has been written; a government is in place; and previously unimaginable liberties are being enjoyed. By what bizarre calculus does all this add up to failure? And by what even stranger logic is failure to be read into the fact that the forces opposed to democratization are fighting back with all their might?

Surely what makes more sense is the opposite interpretation of the terrible violence being perpetrated by the terrorists of the so-called “insurgency”: that it is in itself a tribute to the enormous strides that have been made in democratizing the country. If this murderous collection of diehard Sunni Baathists and vengeful Shiite militias, together with their allies inside the government, agreed that democratization had already failed, would they be waging so desperate a campaign to defeat it? And if democratization in Iraq posed no threat to the other despotisms in the region, would those regimes be sending jihadists and material support to the “insurgency” there?



mythago 08.20.06 at 9:48 pm

Whaddaya know. Ignorance IS strength.


Delia 08.20.06 at 9:50 pm

He’s right, of course. Let’s declare victory and leave.


Guest 08.20.06 at 9:50 pm

What a retard.


snuh 08.20.06 at 10:04 pm

“and previously unimaginable liberties are being enjoyed”


Scroop Moth 08.20.06 at 10:15 pm

Like it or not, tempermental contrarianism at this level does require tedious engagement, because this is not mere “commentary;” it’s bad, even lethal, behavior.


norbizness 08.20.06 at 10:46 pm

Man, old dude’s got some ether the likes of which us mere proles have NEVER seen.


Jeffrey Kramer 08.20.06 at 11:09 pm

I must confess to being puzzled by the amazing spread of the idea that Communism has indeed failed the test in the U.S.S.R. After all, Russia has been liberated from one of the worst tyrants in Europe; dozens of elections have been held, with the government winning resounding mandates each time; the constitution is a thing of beauty; and previously unimaginable rights and privileges are being enjoyed by the workers. By what bizarre calculus does all this add up to failure? And by what even stranger logic is failure to be read into the fact that the forces opposed to socialism are fighting back with all their might?


RobW 08.20.06 at 11:32 pm

If this murderous collection of diehard Sunni Baathists and vengeful Shiite militias, together with their allies inside the government, agreed that democratization had already failed, would they be waging so desperate a campaign to defeat it?

Wish I was smart enough to write this kind of gibberish.


bi 08.20.06 at 11:48 pm

Guest: “What a retard.”

EAAARGH! Is this the best that The Left(tm) can come up with? Look, the l33burul 31337z are using foul language! Hey look, I have the constitutional right to get my daily news from T3h Blogosphere(tm), and what do I get but mad rantings from freedom-hating librulz? RAAARGH! Stop oppressing me now! I tell you, we fought in WWII so that we can voice our opinions without censor–


Andrew Edwards 08.21.06 at 12:02 am

I must confess to being puzzled by the amazing spread of the idea that Anarchism has indeed failed the test in the Somalia. After all, Somalis have been liberated from one of the worst tyrants in Africa and previously unimaginable privileges and freedoms are being enjoyed by those who now live unconstrained by the limits of a state. Why would people think simply that the massive violence is evidence of failure? Is not a better interpretation that the bitter struggles of warlords are caused by their fear of the success of Anarchism? Isn’t their attempt to seize power and form a state evidence that they are afraid of how successful the lack of a state has been?


Martin James 08.21.06 at 12:18 am

Just because the war has been too expensive in lives and money doesn’t mean he is incorrect on his points.

In order.

1. Tyrant deposed. It doesn’t seem that events have shown Saddam to NOT have been a tyrant and I believe he is still locked up.

If only the same were true for Castro.

2. Three elections have been held. Is this in dispute? Even if the government sucks does that mean that elections weren’t fairly held?

It seems to me that Iraqi’s are being represented.

3. Decent constitution. Again, does the continuance of fighting show that the constitution was poorly drafted? It may be a less than decent constitution but one would need to make a case about it.

4. A government is in place.

This may be a weaker argument. It is hard to tell if its a real government or not from a practical standpoint. But again, the evidence seems to be that the PEOPLE can’t agree on a government not that a government is not in place.

5. OK, 5 seems extreme if for no other reason than that people have very good imaginations.

The primary disconnect to me seems to be between people who see the variations of history (wars: civil, religious, revolutionary and otherwise) as real and legitimate and those that think new rules not only should but do apply.

Both sides of the war debate seem to be full of the same sound and fury and I think both lack signification.


Martin James 08.21.06 at 12:28 am

Here’s an even more retarded argument.

The fundamentalists want the infidels out. The infidels are not out. Therefore the fundamentalists are losing.



james 08.21.06 at 12:45 am

There seems to be a variable definition of success in intervention. The UN peacekeeping “success” in Sierra Lione came after UN intervention created more than 6 years of civil war. After this there was a coup and a complete break down of the state. Using this definition, Iraq is also a success.


Walt 08.21.06 at 1:03 am

bi: Guest forgot the “motherfucking”. “He’s a motherfucking retard” totally settles the issue.

James: You realize that is an argument that Sierra Lione is a failure, not that Iraq is a success.


bad Jim 08.21.06 at 2:29 am

It’s hard to make fun of so craven a screed, perhaps because we’ve heard it before:

Saturday April 12, 2003

On one of the bleakest days since the invasion began, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday shrugged off turmoil and looting in Iraq as signs of the people’s freedom.

“It’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy,” he said, jabbing his hand in the air. “Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things.”

Would Podhoretz argue that a peaceful, acquiescent Iraq was proof that democratization had failed? If the present outcome doesn’t discredit his prescription, what would?


Jeffrey Kramer 08.21.06 at 3:40 am

It’s possible for a sane person to argue that, when all this horrible bloodletting is over in Iraq, the practice of regular fair elections will survive and the rights proclaimed by the new constitution will become meaningful. It’s not possible for a sane person to argue that a mere state of civil war and a paltry few tens of thousands of casualties therefrom shouldn’t cause us to doubt the obvious success of the Bush legacy, since it has given the Iraqis a beautifully worded constitution.


abb1 08.21.06 at 3:46 am

What is ‘the Bush Doctrine’? I thought it had something to do with attacking states that harbor terrorists or something. Or was it version 1.0?

Anyhow, there seems to be a new release in the pipeline:

NYT, August 17, 2006:
“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

Did Mr. Podhoretz miss the memo? Those damn spam filters.


Henry (not the famous one) 08.21.06 at 4:16 am

Pravda 1934 or thereabouts: the forces of reaction always fight their fiercest at the eve of the triumph of socialism. Of course that was a justification for the oppression of largely imaginary internal enemies, rather than a way to convert ethnic cleansing, as it teeters on the verge of becoming the war of all against all, as proof of the imminent arrival of the Western democratic paradise, but the device is the same. We’re giddy with success.


Bruce Baugh 08.21.06 at 5:42 am

I don’t want to push a very limited set of data very far, but…I was thinking recently about conservative and libertarian arguments against universal health care, and there’s this same pattern at work. They present a scatter-shot of specific points, like “you can get this particular surgery 2.4 weeks faster in the US” and “there are 39% more machines that go ‘ping’ in the US”, without ever looking at the larger perspective. Questions like “Do people live as long under this regimen?”, “How much of their lives do they spend healthy?”, and “Are they satisfied with their care?” just don’t come up unless someone forces them in.

Podhoretz is doing the same kind of thing here. “Look at this bit! And this!” But he seems to have no awareness of people as people, or interest in questions like “Are they trying to leave?”, “Do people feel at liberty to pursue their work safely?”, and “How does the rate of violence and disorder compare to the First World, and what would we think of it if it were here?”


Steve LaBonne 08.21.06 at 6:25 am

Yeah, bring on those Improvised Explosive Opportunities! Mr. Podhoretz, meet Mr. Mandvi.


nick s 08.21.06 at 7:44 am

By what bizarre calculus does all this add up to failure?

Shorter Pod Sr: “Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”


james 08.21.06 at 8:47 am

walt: Sorry, I was unclear. I postulating that the bar for success in international military interventions is exceedingly low. Seirra Lione intervention is an example of this.


fred lapides 08.21.06 at 8:50 am

A simple test to apply: would you vist as a tourist, go there for a honeymoon, buy a second home there? If not, why not?


Guest 08.21.06 at 9:04 am

In re “retard.” That’s all he gets. Would you argue with a drunk? It’s a big mistake for the left to keep snapping after the right’s red meat. Nobody, no matter how retarded, really believes that kind of crap, unless they’re “drunk.” So what’s to be gained? A pavlovian response mechanism has been established whereby the left wastes all its time and resources jumping after patently retarded crap. Time to stop taking it seriously and start coming up with better ideas. Thinking about retarded shit just ends up making you stupid, too.


Eamonn Fitzgerald 08.21.06 at 5:03 pm

Fred’s honeymoon test is great. Well, kind of. While we’re thinking about its deeper meaning, here’s more bad news: “Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein refused to enter a plea on the opening day of his trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.”

I mean it’s bad news if you are a dictator, or a dictator on honeymoon. Right, said Fred!


minneapolitan 08.21.06 at 5:25 pm

I realize that #10 is meant in jest, however, I would protest that Anarchism and the situation in Somalia have about as much to do with each other as Hippiedom and the situation in Singapore.
Somalia and, to some extent, Afghanistan are under a regime of Warlordism, not anarchism. A warlord represents all the power of the state concentrated into one individual who has ultimate control over the lives of others as long as he or she is in power — really, that’s just the exact opposite of anarchism.
I think this underscores a point about the situation in Iraq as well. The problem is hardly an absence of state or civil authority, but rather an excess. It’s fine to say that Iraq has a nice new constitution, but the problem is not its niceness but its durability.
Having said that, I agree with #24. The Podhoretz piece is just sane-people-baiting at its most ridiculous.


Andrew L. 08.22.06 at 5:44 pm

What a sick motherf***er! “The fact that thousands of Iraqi civilians are piling up in the morgues every month, the victims of Sunni and Shiite death squads just goes to show how swimmingly Bush’s plans are proceeding.” This man should be shunned from civil society — spit at in the street, forced to wear a sign that says “moral monster”.


Seth Gordon 08.22.06 at 8:43 pm

By this logic, if a certain neighborhood in your city has a high crime rate, it must be the good neighborhood. If it weren’t good, the criminals wouldn’t be so devoted to making it bad.

Comments on this entry are closed.