Tag: Wolfowitz

Tripe for sale!

The burning question of the day: is Paul Wolfowitz and idiot or does he just think the rest of us are dumber than dirt?

In his latest missive, “‘No Comment’ is Not an Option,” Wolfowitz takes a little stroll down memory lane. He first reminisces about how Ronald Reagan dropped the ball and failed to call Philippine autocrat Ferdinand Marcos out for manipulating the results of the 1986 election. But, thanks to George Schultz’s efforts, the US got on the ‘right side of history’:

On Feb. 15, the White House issued a new statement: “The elections were marred by widespread fraud and violence perpetrated largely by the ruling party.” The following day, Marcos and Aquino each claimed victory. On Feb. 22, when Marcos ordered the arrest of two key reformers, as many as a million Filipinos poured into EDSA Square in Manila to block the arrests in a dramatic demonstration of “people power.”

Reagan’s final message to Marcos was delivered two days later, when the president’s close friend, Sen. Paul Laxalt, warned that Reagan opposed any use of force against the crowds and urged him “to cut and cut clean.” The next day, Marcos left the Philippines.

This was, in fact, a great moment for the Reagan administration. It withdrew support from a dictatorial regime; in doing so, it enabled a democratic transition in a US client state.

All of this would make for a nice analogy.. if Iran was a US client state. I don’t think the absurdity of the comparison should be particularly difficult to grasp: the major difference between the Philippines in 1986 and Iran in 2009 is that United States enjoyed tremendous leverage over the former, but lacks much of any in the latter. Marcos left because he knew the jig was up; the US even helped arrange for him to safely make his way into exile. He died of natural causes in Hawaii.

Wolfowitz, on the other hand, spins a little fairy tale in which the magical power of Reagan’s words (alone) worked an enchantment upon the Philippines, reaching deep into Marcos’ black heart and causing him to see the light.

But, at least in some respects, Wolfowitz’s second analogy strikes me as even more bizarre. He recalls the 1991 Soviet coup that threatened to restore Communist hardliners to power.

Responding early that morning, the [President Bush] refused to condemn the coup, calling it merely “a disturbing development.” He expressed only lukewarm support for Gorbachev and even less for Yeltsin, and neither was among the world leaders that he tried to contact about the crisis. He seemed focused on working with the new Soviet team, hoping that their leader, Gennady Yanayev, was committed to “reform.”

Although Defense Secretary Dick Cheney had argued consistently for the United States to support the peaceful aspirations of the Russians, Ukrainians and other Soviet peoples, it was Yeltsin — with a powerful personal letter — who persuaded Bush to abandon equivocation and oppose the coup. By late afternoon, the White House had reversed course, condemning the coup attempt as “misguided and illegitimate.” Bush then called Yeltsin to assure him of his support.

The thing is, Wolfowitz doesn’t even bother to pretend that Bush’s (rhetorical) position made one whit of difference. Which, of course, it didn’t.

Still, despite the total irrelevance of any of this to Obama’s public stance on unfolding events in Iran, Wolfowitz wants us to believe that a failure to hand Ahmadinejad and his associates a rhetorical loaded gun to use against the opposition will somehow leave the Obama Administration culpable should Ahmadinejad hold onto power.

Maybe I’m not being fair to Wolfowitz. After all, he does let us know that decisive action “does not mean that we need to pick sides in an Iranian election or claim to know its result. Obama could send a powerful message simply by placing his enormous personal prestige behind the peaceful conduct of the demonstrators and their demand for reform — exactly the kind of peaceful, democratic change that he praised in his speech in Cairo.”

Quite right. After all, it isn’t like Wolfowitz just implied that it was the decision of past American Presidents to “take sides” that “tipped the scale” in favor of democratic movements. At least Wolfowitz is calling on Obama to change course and say, well, pretty much exactly what Obama’s already said to the world about Iran.

I admit we may be approaching a time when the calculations change. Khamenei dashed reformist hopes yesterday and threw down the gauntlet. We’ve already seen signs that the Iranian police state is starting to fully mobilize. But if, and when, that time comes, I think we can safely say that Wolfowitz’s mess of column adds nothing to our understanding of how, and under what conditions, to proceed.

Washington Post Death Spiral Watch indeed.

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Weekend News Round-up

It wasn’t quite one of my best-laid plans, but it did go awry this weekend. I had intended to blog about 3 or 4 interesting stories I’ve been following over the weekend, but between feeding the new kid, searching for child care (if this were one of those so-called ‘mommyblogs,’ oh the stories i could post. but its not, so i won’t…) and of course the fantastic Taste of Wheaton today, time flew by and here it is, Sunday night watching the Mets – Yankees game (and I share Rodger’s view on this) and this is all that there is time to do. So, here goes:

Event I really really really really wanted to go to this weekend but couldn’t: The annual Joint Services Open House. The Security Studies Bombs and Rockets geek in me loves it. In fact, one might say that the annual Dayton Air Show at Wright Pat is partially responsible for my current career. Probably not a good place to take a 2-month old, maybe next year. We did see an F-117 flying over the Taste of Wheaton though, so I guess that counts for something.

From the Korean Peninsula–a big shift in North-South relations. The train tracks across the DMZ linking the DPRK and ROK finally opened, with the first train traveling between the two countries since the war. Is mostly symbolic, but holds promise for serious integration between the two countries at some point. Interesting point: My Freshman World Politics class in Fall 2005 predicted this. In their settlement to the 6 party talks, they had a special railroad deal that would link Korea to Europe via Russia. Lo and Behold, that’s what Korea wants out of this long term.

I was there two summers ago, and saw those train tracks. Its quite an amazing thing, to have a passageway across the DMZ.

Paul Wolfowitz resigned from the World Bank Presidency. My two observations on this: 1) It was bound to happen. Despite what everyone will publicly say, it was never just about the girlfriend, it was much more about the rest of the world, angry about Iraq and US Hegemony, finally finding a way to vent at the Bush Administration. 2) that said, it was not inevitable–Wolfowitz walked smack into this one. It not just the girlfriend issue, but the way he never fit into the Bank Culture. Part of the problem is that he’s an academic, a theorist, not an administrator. He’s got his theories about how to solve the world’s problems, and, in what has been one of the central flaws in decades of “development,” had the I know what’s good for you, do as I say and not as I do, don’t question my methods because I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good, oh lord, pleas don’t let me be misunderstood… He never figured out how to actually run an institution–not DoD, not Iraq, and not the World Bank. And he got his comeuppances.

Bush Appointed a 3-Star General to be the “War Czar” (or is it War Tsar?). Good luck General Lute. Its a job no one wanted, and so, in a trend noted by William Arkin, you have yet another Military Man taking what ought to be a Civilian Job. Because, of course, no civilian wanted it. Like all Czars, its a high profile job to solve an intractable problem that is probably doomed to fail. Like this 3-Star can really get 2 or 3 superiors in the Chain of Command (say Fallon, Petraeus, Gates) not to mention the Sec State or the National Security Adviser to sing from the same sheet of music. Like the DNI, its more bureaucracy in order to cut through the problems of bureaucracy. More to the point, it shows that no one in the Administration is actually doing their job, which is to avoid getting into situations that make such a job necessary in the first place. Besides, we already have a War Czar with all the appropriate authority and ability to cut through the bureaucracy, get the inter-agency process to cooperate and work, and keep everyone on the same page. Its called the President. Or at a minimum, his NSA….

And, from the we’re doomed in Iraq file, well, we’re… (can you tell its getting late, as my typing gets a bit faster and the language a bit looser?) Harpers recently published an article by Edward Luttwak on how there is no way the US can win in Iraq (hat tip to RNN on this one). He reviews the new Counter Insurgency manual that the top Army and Marine Generals developed based on successful in-country experience and are now attempting to apply in Iraq. Fundamental issue: its a ground war. (and, check out this from Intel Dump on how the Air Force is struggling to remain relevant in Iraq) More to the point–its a political ground war. The US Army is great at fighting ground wars against other armies. It doesn’t do politics, and all of its best abilities are useless unless it can solve the fundamental political problem that a) the people don’t believe that US forces are actually helping them, rather they are an occupying army intent on corrupting their way of life and b) without the political support of the local population, you can’t defeat an insurgency.

His conclusion: The US must either become something that it is not (or at least doesn’t claim to be)–a severely repressive occupying power that strictly and directly controls conquered territory OR face certain political failure in Iraq.

What I worry about is that, in the name of ‘victory for the forces of democracy’ those non-democratic impulses make inroads into US Foreign policy, fundamentally altering the identity of this nation in a very dangerous way. Its the danger of the Wolfowitz / Bush Administration way of doing business–if my intentions are good, don’t question the motive. But, bring in a little Ido Oren and John Ruggie and you can see not only how this threatens the fundamental underpinnings of US Hegemony, but threatens the very nature of the US itself (the quasi-cites make sense to me at least…).

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