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Thursday, July 17, 2003


This is irresistable. Jonathan Chait, on the TNR blog, disses Dean for his anti-war position like this:

"The antiwar left and the pro-Bush right, oddly enough, share a glaring misapprehension: Both believe that it can be true that Bush was lying, or that the war was a good idea, but not both. Of course this is nonsense. It's pretty clearly that the Bush administration cut corners (at the very least) in its case for war. But it's also clear that whatever the administration got wrong was only a small subset of its overall argument for war, and that the Bush administration's arguments for war were, in turn, only a small subset of the broader arguments for war. Readers of TNR should by now be familiar with lots of arguments for war that deviated from, or frankly contradicted, the administration's own."

The TNR has set up its blog about candidates in school marm style -- they get As or Fs, depending on whether they've been good or bad students. This is what one would expect from a group whose identity has been shaped so exclusively by their trivial abilities to answer true or false questions in a classroom, and avoid putting glue in one another's hair. Probably ratting out the bad kids in the back helped, too. The pathos, or bathos, of this is not something we are going to comment on here. It parodies itself.

However, Chait's paragraph, in a little nutshell, tells us everything that was nutty about the pro-belligerent case going into the war. The case simply ignored one of the warriors. In place of Bush's war, Chait substituted his own -- in much the way Hitchens substituted his own. This becomes clear when he talks about "arguments" for the war, as if every argument pro or con was equally going to effect the event of the war. It is hard to fathom the sheer ridiculousness and pretention of this kind of thing. It is as if Norman Mailer, in The Fight, had substituted himself for Mohammed Ali in the Ali-Frazier fight. It is wish fullfilment as serious commentary.

So -- let's be clear about who fought and is fighting the war in Iraq. On the one side, there was Saddam Hussein -- and not Arab Nationalism, Osama bin Laden, or the Beverly Hillbillies. On the other side, there were the American troops carrying out Bush's war under Rumsfeld's strategic plan.

The question of the war wasn't which war will you chose (oh, I want the darling little war of liberation! I do so adore crowds coming out and cheering for secular democracy and the civil society, don't you? And let me have, hmm, that tinsy bombing campaign to compliment it, and afterwards, I'll chose an election, and autonomy for the Kurds! That's just the cutest little ensemble I've ever seen!). There was one war on display. Chait gives an F to Dean, when he should give a D -- for Delusional -- to himself.

That said, that was the last War. This one is much more up for grabs because it isn't clear who the opponents are. On the one side is an incompatible, and adhoc, group of Iraqi resistors -- on the other hand is the discredited "post hostility" strategy of the Rumsfeld set, still determined to spin off a couple more wars -- against Iran and Syria -- and still clueless about the seriousness of the one they are in. The cluelessness is, of course, shared -- how else does one explain the unquestioning acceptance of one of Bremer's principles in this war, namely that the longer the occupation lasts, the more popular it will be?

So the Dems, and the Chaits, have a chance to make "arguments" that will actually make a difference -- rather than arguing about couture in the one size fits all aisle. Now is the time to push for speeding up the election process, and setting up a real Iraqi army and police force. The 40,000 man force Bremer wants won't cut it. It doesn't even make sense -- Americans are understaffed at 150,000, but the Iraqis are going to be fine with 40,000 troops? And as for breaking up the Iraqi oil industry into bite sized chunks just right for Exxon and Shell, that looks like a non-starter. If American soldiers are dying for that plan, it is not just a crime -- it is a futility.

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