“What do you mean ‘we’?”
Here, Ezra Klein mentions that he likes Fareed Zakaria's latest foreign policy think-piece enough to recommend it without reservation.
Well I've got one.
Ezra is a fine writer and noble blogdweller on a less fuck-you-heavy and more ivy-hushed thoroughfare than my own, but on this I must take issue.
Here he misses the forest for a lot of the pretty trees.
See if you can spot the forest.
Here are some snips from the Newsweek article, interspersed with a little of this and a little of that, and some emphasis added to guide the eye...
Zakaria: How to Restore America's Place in the World
What the world needs is an open, confident America.
By Fareed Zakaria
June 11, 2007 issue - In the fall of 1982, I arrived in the United States as an 18-year-old student from India. The country was in rough shape. That December unemployment hit 10.8 percent, higher than at any point since World War II. Interest rates hovered around 15 percent. Abroad, the United States was still reeling from Vietnam and Watergate. The Soviet Union was on a roll, expanding its influence from Afghanistan to Angola to Central America. That June, Israel invaded Lebanon, making a tense situation in the Middle East even more volatile.
Yet America was a strikingly open and expansive country. Reagan embodied it. Despite record-low approval ratings, he exuded optimism from the center of the storm. In the face of Moscow's rising power he confidently spoke of a mortal crisis in the Soviet system and predicted that it would end up on "the ash heap of history." Across the political aisle stood Thomas (Tip) O'Neill, the hearty Irish-American Speaker of the House, who personified the enormous generosity and tolerance of old-school liberalism. To a young foreign student the country seemed welcoming and full of promise.
Today, by almost all objective measures, the United States sits on top of the world. But the atmosphere in Washington could not be more different from 1982. We have become a nation consumed by fear, worried about terrorists and rogue nations, Muslims and Mexicans, foreign companies and free trade, immigrants and international organizations. The strongest nation in the history of the world, we see ourselves besieged and overwhelmed. While the Bush administration has contributed mightily to this state of affairs, at this point it has reversed itself on many of its most egregious policies—from global warming to North Korea to Iraq.
In any event, it is time to stop bashing George W. Bush. We must begin to think about life after Bush—a cheering prospect for his foes, a dismaying one for his fans (however few there may be at the moment). In 19 months he will be a private citizen, giving speeches to insurance executives.
America, however, will have to move on and restore its place in the world.
To do this we must first tackle...
Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option…
...we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face.
In a global survey released last week, most countries polled believed that China would act more responsibly in the world than the United States. How does a Leninist dictatorship come across more sympathetically than the oldest constitutional democracy in the world?
More troubling than any of Bush's rhetoric is that of the Republicans who wish to succeed him.
See the pattern?
Fareed moves back and forth between excoriating Republicans for being arrant fucknozzles…and exhorting "Americans" to rise above the last years (decades, I would argue) of reckless ideology and rhetoric.
As if the Republican Party had just been out walking the doggy when it was suddenly tasered, bagged and thrown unconscious into the back of James Dobson’s Christopath Clown Car and has been forced to do unspeakable things against it's will in the basement of Fox News for the last thiry years.
And somehow in Fareed's American Daguerreotype the millions and millions of good, decent, hardworking Liberals who have vehemently opposed the Regime of the Pig People for years somehow don’t exist at all. We are just crudely drawn cartoon crowd-scene fillers. Irrelevant little oval faces that blur by in the background while the Important Battle for the Future of America is fought in the foreground without us.
Uh-uh, Fareed. I call 32 flavors of bullshit.
A third of this beautiful country is already well ahead of the curve. Get's everything you said. Got it years ago. Has been waiting all-too patiently for the rest of the country to sober up from it's Neocon bender and get to work fixing the mess they -- not we -- have made.
And we're still waiting, because another third are moral CHUDS who are quite beyond redemption.
And the last third needs to have the shit metaphorically slapped out of them until the Wake The Fuck Up and quit siding with the CHUDS.
In a lot of ways it really is that simple.
The notion that the United States today is in grave danger of sitting back and going on the defensive is bizarre. In the last five and a half years, with bipartisan support, Washington has invaded two countries and sent troops around the world from Somalia to the Philippines to fight Islamic militants. It has ramped up defense spending by $187 billion—more than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, India and Britain. It has created a Department of Homeland Security that now spends more than $40 billion a year. It has set up secret prisons in Europe and a legal black hole in Guantánamo, to hold, interrogate and—by some definitions—torture prisoners. How would Giuliani really go on the offensive? Invade a couple of more countries?
The presidential campaign could have provided the opportunity for a national discussion of the new world we live in. So far, on the Republican side, it has turned into an exercise in chest-thumping…
The competition to be the tough guy is producing new policy ideas, all right—ones that range from bad to insane. …
Fareed asks the following question:
Though Democrats sound more sensible on many of these issues, the party remains consumed by the fear that it will not come across as tough. Its presidential candidates vie with one another to prove that they are going to be just as macho and militant as the fiercest Republican.
But then answers it himself:
Unfortunately, our fears extend well beyond terrorism. CNN's Lou Dobbs has become the spokesman of a paranoid and angry segment of the country, railing against the sinister forces that are overwhelming us. For the right, illegal immigrants have become an obsession. The party of free enterprise has dedicated itself to a huge buildup of the state's police powers to stop people from working.
To recover its place in the world, America first needs to recover its confidence.
No, Fareed. America first needs to cover the Conservative movement with three feet of lime and bury it in a deep, deep hole. Because first you have to excise the cancer; then you can heal the body.
And when it comes to addressing this very issue -- “...the party remains consumed by the fear that it will not come across as tough...” -- I must ask, “Come across to whom?”
To millions of Liberals like me who are not taken in by the fascist speedmetal roar of fearfearfear from the Right?
The people Fareed is implicitly refering to are the Jello People of the mushy middle, who skitter and scamper hither and thither and who need to be shown, once and for all, that in the Age of Dubya, a vote for the GOP is a vote against America. And the reason this preliminary battle must be fought and won before any permanent progress can be made elsewhere is because, like it or not, the Wingnut Hate Machine is huge, well-funded and terribly effective.
There has been a lot of very legitimate criticism of the Dems for not sealing Dubya under an avalanche of Iraq Funding Bills with hard deadlines and then letting him veto himself deeper into ignominy. A lot of talk about how the Dems are haunted by ghost of the Cold Stove of Vietnam ™
“The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won't sit upon a cold stove lid, either.” -- Mark Twain
But ghosts are conjurations of the fearful (or hopeful) imagination, whereas the GOPs Pretty Hate Machine is no mere fantasy or bit of Johnson-era muscle-memory body thetan that clings to Democrats and affects their behavior long after the real danger has passed.
The GOP's Pretty Hate Machine is as real and tangible and corrosive as ever, and if you need a recent example that bears directly on the timorous behavior of some Democrats in the pre-Memorial Day vote, I would direct your attention not to 1964 or 1974, but 1994.
To the Assault Weapons Ban: a much less controversial issue than the Iraq War, and one which is at least as instructive when trying to understand the roots of Democrat's collective memory of what happens when they to the right thing, as examining NAFTA is useful in understanding them when they shamefully triangulate.
remember that in 1994, Clinton got a lot of Dems to go out on a political limb, “do the right thing” and vote for the ban.
Dems then got mashed like mint leaves in a mojito in the Fall elections, with 19 of the 24 candidates who were specifically targeted by the NRA going down.
After the election, Clinton wrote that those who warned him that it would cost his Party the House "were right, and I was wrong,''
This, let me remind you, ushered in the era of Gingrich/DeLay/Impeachment/Bush/9-11/Iraq.
Postscript: In the end the 2004 GOP Congress let the ban lapse with virtually no debate.
Lesson: While splendid bravery is what we should absolutely demand from our public servants especially during these tragic times, we also are caught in a universe that is circumscribed every bit as much by the politically possible, as it is by the morally correct. And when politicians see that when they do the difficult-but-right thing nobody will be there to cover their asses, that sends a powerful message to those that survive.
In order to begin reorienting America's strategy abroad, any new U.S. administration must begin with Iraq. Until the United States is able to move beyond Iraq, it will not have the time, energy, political capital or resources to attempt anything else of any great significance. The first thing to admit is that our mission in Iraq has substantially failed. Whether it was doomed from the outset or turned into a fiasco because of the administration's arrogance and incompetence is a matter that historians can determine.
There is a great deal more that is all well written, but the implicit assumption is just wrong.
Again, I am compelled to turn the prose back on itself and ask Fareed, when you say “The first thing to admit is that our mission in Iraq has substantially failed”, who the fuck are you talking about?
Admit to whom?
The notion of the conquest of Iraq and the rapid, serial decapitation of other unfriendly Middle Eastern regimes was a morally bankrupt idea since the day the Neocons starting laying their eggs in the skull of the weak-minded George Bush. The true motives for the war were perverse. It was built on a foundation of lies, and rammed down our throats by criminals using propaganda techniques ripped right from the pages of “Joseph Goebbels for Dummies”.
I know it. You know it. Presumably Fareed knows it. Millions upon millions of intelligent, thoughtful Liberals know it.
So who exactly is supposed to do this “admitting” that doesn’t already know the truth?
And to whom are they supposed to do it?
The administration has—surprise—tried to play up fears of the consequences of a drawdown in Iraq (which is always described as a Vietnam-style withdrawal down to zero). It predicts that this will lead to chaos, violence and a victory for terrorists. When we listen to these forecasts, it is worth remembering that every administration prediction about Iraq has been wrong.
Again, lovely trees, but the true name of the Forest remains conspicuously unspoken as Fareed attempts to frame the epic tale of the rise, hubristic apotheosis and catastrophic failure of the Modern Conservative Movement on every front and the degenerate freaks who still stand loyal to the criminal junta that runs it…down into a short story about a couple of bad seeds.
The story of Crazy ‘Ol Gee Dubya; sleazy skulker who wrecked the world all by his lonesome firing from the windows of the Textbook-Conservative Depository.
A loner. Disgruntled, with a fetish for guns and violent video games.
A phony-brave dimwit who mumbled a lot about smokin’ ‘em out and bringing ‘em on. Who somehow got his hands on the United States Government and caused a lotta ruckus.
You know the type.
A Lone Gunman whose Magic Bullet managed to take out the courts, maim the electoral process, turn around in midair and kill habeas corpus, wipe out New Orleans, level Iraq, trash our international reputation, set superstition in the Throne of Science, defile genuine Christianity, etc, etc, etc, etc ad nauseum.
Conservatives now flail around like Daffy Duck having a grand mal seizure trying to explain that Dubya was some kind of goofy accident. That they…uh…they….just sneezed too hard and…uh…sorta pooped their pants a little, and there he was.
Just a case of temporary Constitutional Incontinence! So can’t we just forget the whole thing and go back to the Conservative Happy Days of Potsy, Richie, Ralph and President Ronald Wilson Fonzarelli?
Call do-over and go back to hating Negroes and queers, slaughtering the Middle Class blaming Liberals for every-fucking-thing?
No, Fareed. Because without a seething mass of millions of pinheaded, Rush-Drunk, Fox-Blind, Falwell-Gelded imbeciles to play to, Dubya would either be selling mobile homes in Midland or our Ambassador to Paraguay; either way drinking himself blind in the heat, shooting at the neighbors dogs for spite and screaming at his houseboy that his fucking pancakes aren't round enough.
No, Fareed, it is time to think about life after Conservativism and how to get us there. Because as long as the GOP remains a plural electoral marriage of homophobes, Segregationists, militia nuts, Hate Radio and Fox News elites, and Christopaths dowried by brownshirt billionaires and anti-American Corporatists, then the Dubya Legacy will live on and on, always just below the surface, always ready to sprint another 30 yards towards fascism when they sleaze or cheat out a win, and always eager to deploy every filthy trick in the world at a million decibels to sabotage the will of the people when they lose.
Because not until Conservativism as it is currently constituted is sandblasted from the walls of our Democracy like so much smutty, racist grafitti – not until voting Republican, agreeing with GOP talking points or even having any visible vestige of a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on one’s vehicle is treated as something on the public shame spectrum between masturbating on the subway and passing out drunk into the host during communion -- do we stand a chance of becoming the open, confident, compassionate nation of your dreams and mine.