Friday, July 01, 2005

More Guardian nonsense

In addition to Simon Tisdale, The Guardian’s Timothy Garton Ash also weighed in yesterday on President Bush’s Tuesday speech. While not quite as empty of substance as Tisdale, Ash demonstrates that he still doesn’t quite understand America.

Ash claims that, in returning to America after six months, he has discovered a new “sobriety”, by which he means simply that he thinks people are starting to think like him. Apparently only the tipsy, or perhaps the outright drunk, could possibly disagree with his views on Iraq. Citing Bush’s approval ratings, he congratulates America, with typical Guardianesque condescension, for finally facing up to the “reality” that Iraq is a “massive blunder”, informing his fellow European sophisticates that it turns out most Americans can’t, after all, be fooled most of the time...even by the dreaded FOX News.

But the one who has been fooled is Ash. Not, that is, in the seriousness with which Americans take the situation in Iraq, but rather in his understanding of all that has come before.

In listing the indications of this “new sobriety”, Ash says:
First of all, neocons are no longer calling the shots. As a well-informed Washingtonian tells me, the nominations of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank and John Bolton to be ambassador to the UN actually show they have been kicked upstairs.
The idea that the dreaded “neocons” were ever “calling the shots”, or that the term “neocon” was even coherently understood, has always been more legend than fact, propagated by a left in search of an ideological bogeyman on which to target its venom. But look at the Cabinet departures from Bush’s first term in office, effected in January. Who among his departing advisors could accurately be called a “neocon”? Indeed, the most notable change, replacing the dovish Colin Powell with the more hawkish Condoleeza Rice, could hardly be deemed an indication that the proponents of Iraqi liberation were falling out of favor. And citing the nomination of John Bolton as an indication that the “neocons” are being kicked upstairs is especially foolish. Who ever thought that Bolton, who worked under Colin Powell, was “calling the shots” anyway?

Ash continues:
There is little talk now of proud unilateralism and America winning the Gwot on its own. Everyone stresses the importance of allies.
Again, Ash has been fooled by the rhetoric of the left, for there was never any talk, from the Bush administration anyway, of “proud unilateralism”. If Ash had been listening to the administration itself, rather than simply accepting the characterizations of its critics, it would not come as a surprise to him, nor would it appear as a change in policy, to find Bush stressing the importance of allies. He always has. The refusal of other countries to work with the US ought not be confused with a US refusal to seek the support of other countries.
On Iran, which even six months ago threatened to become a new Iraq crisis, the US is letting the so-called E3 - Britain, France and Germany - take the diplomatic lead.Even with the election of a hardline Iranian president, military options are not being seriously canvassed.
When were such options ever being “seriously canvassed"? Again, the left has certainly long-been accusing the US of planning a “neocon” invasion of Iran, but there has been nothing in the Bush administration posture to suggest it was ever under serious consideration. Again, Ash has been fooled into thinking the rhetoric of his cohorts is an accurate representation of reality, and presents his stumble upon the truth as evidence that his political opponents are finally coming around to his way of seeing things.
And if the European diplomacy with Iran does not work, what is Washington's plan B? To take the issue to the United Nations! What a difference three years make.
Apparently Ash has never heard of UN resolutions 1441, 1483, 1490, 1500, 1511 and 1546 all of which were passed, with US support, by the UN with regard to Iraq in the last 3 years. Nor must he have heard of this, this, this, or this, all resolutions put forward by the United States itself in an attemtp to engage the UN in the process, also within the last three years.

Of course, Ash doesn’t want you to get the wrong idea. He still thinks Americans, or at least Republicans, are embarrassingly unaware.
One is still gobsmacked by things American Republicans say. Take the glorification of the military, for example. In his speech, Bush insisted "there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces". What? No higher calling! How about being a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, an aid worker? Unimaginable that any European leader could say such a thing.
I suppose it may well be unimaginable, which is probably why it fell to the US to spend 40 years and untold billions defending Europe during the Cold War. Such a virtue, that European disdain for the military. But really, who can take seriously a man who is “gobsmacked” by the notion that a national leader, speaking in front of a military audience and trying to rally the support of his fellow citizens, might suggest that serving one’s country during a time of war is among the most noble tasks one can undertake? Talk about embarrassing.

Ultimately he proves that, in addition to his misunderstandings of the past, he can’t even understand what Bush is saying now.
Then he made this extraordinary statement: "To complete the mission, we will prevent al-Qaida and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends."
Ash thinks this rather sensible sounding goal is “extraordinary” because, prior to the invasion, he says there were no terrorists in Iraq.
This is like a man who shoots himself in the foot and then says: "We must prevent it turning gangrenous, then you'll understand why I was right to shoot myself in the foot."
No, it isn’t. Bush wasn’t trying to explain “why he was right”. He was explaining what we must do. Although his critics, who think there couldn’t possibly be any justification for liberating Iraq, continually focus on the past, Bush is looking forward, something that his critics seem averse to discussing at all.

Again, as I said yesterday, a debate about what strategy should now be pursued in Iraq would be a welcome discussion. Unfortunately, we are not getting it from The Guardian, and if Ash is any indication, it is ill-equipped to provide it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent analysis.

I understand he is a history man at Oxford. I think I first came across his musings in the Spectator at just about the time I began to have my doubts about it.

I agree with him that medicine is a fine calling and so is serving in the military. What more can be asked of one than to risk one's life for one's country.

5:17 PM  

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