Sunday, October 20, 2002
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THE OBSESSION WITH THE 'OBSESSION'
THE OBSESSION WITH THE 'OBSESSION' WITH IRAQ: One of the criticisms of the Bush administration has been that it has erroneously tried to link all foreign policy problems with Iraq. This Onion story carries this criticism to its satirical extreme. I think this criticism is exaggerated, but certainly not beyond the pale of reasoned debate.
However, this criticism can run both ways. These same foreign policy critics tend to exaggerate the link between all of our foreign policy problems and the Bush administration's Iraq policy. North Korea has nuclear weapons? It's due to our obsession with Iraq. An explosion in Bali? We'd have thwarted it if the administration wasn't obsessed with Iraq. Anti-war advocates are so convinced that attacking Iraq is a bad idea that anything bad in the world is linked to our supposedly wrong-headed policy.
For exhibit A, see Tony Judt's New York Times op-ed. The killer grafs:
"The worst thing about Mr. Bush's pre-announced war with Iraq is that it is not just a substitute for the war against terrorism; it actively impedes it. Mr. Bush has scolded President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia for not cracking down on Islamic terrorists. But thanks to the war talk spilling out of Washington, heads of states with Islamic majorities are in an impossible position.
If they line up with the Bush administration against Saddam Hussein, they risk alienating a large and volatile domestic constituency, with unpredictable consequences. (Witness this month's elections in Pakistan, where two provinces adjacent to Afghanistan are now controlled by a coalition of religious parties sympathetic to Osama bin Laden.) But if they acknowledge popular opposition to a war with Iraq, they will incur Mr. Bush's wrath. Either way the war on terror suffers."
I am a big fan of Judt's writings, which is why it's so painful to conclude that his reasoning here is as incoherent as a live Bob Dylan performance. Consider:
1) Does Judt seriously believe that the growth in fundamentalist support in Pakistan has anything to do with Iraq? Wouldn't the conflict next door in Afghanistan be the much-more-likely proximate cause? And would an expanded U.S. presence in Afghanistan -- which is the common anti-war critique -- do anything other than rile up Pakistani fundamentalists even more?
2) Can anyone name me a Muslim majority country that has "incurred Bush's wrath" by openly acknowledging Muslim opposition to an invasion? Come to think of it, have there been any large-scale protests on this issue in the Muslim world? (I'm serious about this question -- I don't remember reading about any, but if someone can point me to a protest, I'll update this post).
3) Given that the war on terrorism involves the coordination of customs agencies, financial intelligence units, and other low-profile government organizations, why would opposition to an Iraq attack necessarily derail the war on terror?
4) Does Judt seriously believe that a U.S. climbdown on Iraq will somehow appease Muslim public opinion about the U.S.-led war on terror? Wouldn't it be more likely that a policy reversal would be perceived as part of the same pattern of U.S. retreats and half measures -- Mogadishu, Khobar Towers, the embassy bombings, Operation Desert Fox, the Cole bombing -- that leads to a perception of an American paper tiger?
5) Does Judt think that the bombings in Bali and Manila are somehow going to rally Muslim support in Asia for Osama bin Laden?
Finally, Judt claims later in the essay that "Hamas in the Middle East would desist if all their demands were met." Given that Hamas wants to see the state of Israel extinguished, is Judt suggesting that there is a basis for negotiation?
Judt warns in the essay that we should not "universalize what are often local animosities." Fair enough. Then Judt shouldn't assume that U.S. policy on Iraq will spill over into local animosities in Indonesia.posted by Dan on 10.20.02 at 01:20 PM