Again from the fever swamps of ‘The National Review’ comes a particularly apocalyptic scenario from the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), former Republican National Committee communications director, and New York Timesman Clifford May who asks in a recent column for Scripps-Howard: “What happen [sic] if America retreat from Iraq?” The column bears reading if for no other reason to get a sense of the argumentation and leaps of logic that neo-conservatives are resorting to in order to rally support for an indefinite U.S. presence in Iraq, which has been their number one priority for a year now, even surpassing – judging from the amount of space and time they’ve devoted to it — their interest in attacking nuclear and related targets in Iran.
Essentially the argument is the familiar Vietnam-era one of dominos and credibility, notably the inevitable triumph of “Militant Islamists” – including, of course, Sunni Hamas and al Qaeda and Shi’a Hezbollah and Iran, all presumed to be somehow working toward the same end – throughout the region, even including the Gulf states that have historically relied on the U.S. for security. (“[I]n international relations, nothing cools a friendship like defeat.”)
“Over time, the only Muslim-majority states to resist the Islamists will be those that accommodate the Islamists. The Europeans, too will cut their deals,” writes May, who then adds the kicker, which may well become a staple of neo-conservative writers in the coming months:
“Israel will hold on – or die trying. You can’t imagine a second Holocaust within a hundred years? Imagine harder.”
But May is not all doom and gloom, because he also wants to “imagine” an alternative future – namely, that Gen. David Petraeus pulls off a stunning victory. “If Petraeus and his troops are allowed to persists, if they are given the time, resources and support they need, the U.S. military presence in Iraq could be reduced – not eliminated – by this time next year. Iraqi troops would take their place, knowing we will continue to have their backs as they battle our common enemies.”
This latter point has been a leitmotif of the neo-conservatives, most notably Frederick Kagan, Max Boot, and Charles Krauthammer, and their hawkish fellow-travelers for months now, and is certain to be echoed once again by one of its most steadfast champions, The Weekly Standard’ Bill Kristol, who returns this week from his first-ever trip to Iraq. (Now, there’s something to imagine: a man who has been perhaps the most prolific source of advice on Iraq policy since 1997, let alone 2002, has just gone there for the first time!) My guess is that his enthusiasm for Petraeus and the Surge will not have diminished in the least; nor will his willingness to offer more advice, enriched as it now will be, with “on-the-ground” experience.
Moreover, chances are that Kristol may well have an opportunity to report his expert conclusions back to the Decider himself, having re-ingratiated himself with the White House after a series of (rather insulting) columns in which he questioned Bush’s manhood for delaying so long in commuting Scooter Libby’s prison sentence. (Kristol preferred a pardon which may still be forthcoming.) Writing in his weekly media column last week, the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, the first to report Kristol’s trip to Iraq, reported that Bush had actually read Kristol’s July 15 op-ed in the Post’s Outlook section and recommended it to his staff. The article, entitled “Why Bush Will Be a Winner,” argues that the president’s economic record, his Medicare prescription drug benefit, his two successful Supreme Court nominations,” his having found “his Ulysses S. Grant, or his Creighton Abrams, in Gen. David Petraeus,” could well result in the election of a Republican in ’08. As with May, Kristol argues that Petraeus will make the difference between whether Bush is a successful or failed president. And, imagine, that was before Kristol went to Iraq!