Don’t miss the latest collection of advice — mostly from warhawks — in the New York Times “Week in Review’ section today which once again features what the Times calls “nine experts on military affairs” (in the March 16 edition, they were described “experts on military and foreign affairs.”) three of whom are American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellows Frederick Kagan, Danielle Pletka, and Richard Perle. Consistent with his previous contribution (about which I wrote here), Perle once again shows himself to be an exemplar of chutzpah when he argues that it’s “time to cut the cord” and let Iraqis figure out for themselves how to sort out their problems without the benefit of more U.S. advice. Here’s the money quote:
“Stop! Iraqis know far better than we what makes sense for them. When administration officials and members of Congress, with their diplomatic, intelligence and political advisers — whose knowledge of Iraq is often recent, shallow and wrong — hector and lecture the Iraqis who are struggling to find a way forward, I wonder whether we have learned anything from our past mistakes.” [Emphasis added.]
Of course, this was the man who, as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, the dean of hard-line neo-con Middle East “experts” at AEI, and polemicist extraordinaire, played a major role in the campaign for invading Iraq in the first place and who, if he’d had his druthers, would have installed his friend Ahmad Chalabi as Saddam Hussein’s immediate successor, a man whose book, An End to Evil offered all kinds of advice about what how the Iraqis should be governed and how to deal with Ba’athists and other evil-doers there. Of course, if it were up to the Iraqis, poll after poll shows they are eager for the U.S. to leave altogether, but somehow I don’t think Perle believes that’s such a good idea.
Perle’s colleague, Pletka, also seems doubtful, because her latest contribution argues that “Americans must understand that we will need to maintain an imposing presence in Iraq for a long time to come, ensuring that all sides have enough of a stake in the new order so that violence loses its appeal.” [Emphasis added.] I leave you to look up the meaning of “imposing,” but I think it has something to do with getting your way.
Like Perle, however, Kagan also seems newly concerned about the possibility that the U.S. may be behaving in an imperialistic way; he even uses the word in his contribution to the latest collection. He’s most concerned at the moment that Congress may require Iraq to defray some of the financial costs that Washington has borne since its invasion, remarking that “…a dangerous note has crept into the discussion, a tinge of imperialism, in fact. The argument that Iraq should use its oil revenues to pay the United States sounds like the ultimate proof that we invaded Iraq for mercenary reasons,” he writes, warning that such a move would “do catastrophic damage to our image in the world, particularly the Muslim World.” As opposed, one presumes, to invading Iraq in the first place.
These people have been bobbing and weaving for years. Compare Pletka’s remarks in Vanity Fair, when the situation in Iraq looked far more dire than today. These people have an agenda from which they do not deviate — their rhetoric simply changes to conform to the political mood of the day.
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