"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

American Left Commits Seppuku

Salon gives Juan Cole the lead op-ed today where he discusses the Right's attempt to take credit for the spreading of freedom across the Middle East. Showing what a weak hand he holds, he trots out obnoxious rightwingers like Max Boot and Mark Steyn to put those who differ with him in the worst possible light. It's called guilt by association. He does acknowledge the reality that some liberals and war critics believe prospects for the Middle East have improved: "Even some of the president's detractors and those opposed to the war have issued mea culpas. Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star, a Bush critic, wrote, "It is time to set down in type the most difficult sentence in the English language. That sentence is short and simple. It is this: Bush was right." But then it's down the memory hole. If you disagree with Cole and Salon, George Bush is your hero and Boot and Steyn are your buddies.

Next, Cole tries to bolster his own authority by giving a little history:

"In fact, regime change in the Middle East has often come about through foreign invasion. Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser intervened militarily to help revolutionaries overthrow the Shiite imam of Yemen in the 1960s. The Israelis expelled the PLO from Lebanon and tried to establish a pro-Israeli government in Beirut in 1982. Saddam Hussein briefly ejected the Kuwaiti monarchy in 1990. The U.S. military's invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein were therefore nothing new in Middle Eastern history. A peaceful evolution toward democracy would have been an innovation. "

Israel in Beirut sounds more like an *attempted* regime change. There have been many more of those which Cole fails to mention. To take a few, there was the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. And let's not forget the Iraq-Iran war. Cole's being very selective here, especially by saying Hussein "ejected the Kuwaiti monarchy." Saddam did a bit more than that.

Following his selective history lesson, he comes out and says what appears to be the new pacifist/realist left's line:

"The Baath in Syria shows no sign of ceasing to operate as a one-party regime. When pressured, it has offered up slightly more cooperation in capturing Iraqi Baathists. Its partial withdrawal from Lebanon came about because of local and international pressures, including that of France and the Arab League, and is hardly a unilateral Bush administration triumph. "

A unilateral Bush triumph? Cole starts his polemic with the question "Is George W. Bush right to argue that his war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is democratizing the Middle East?" Did Bush claim the overthrow of Hussein is "unilaterally." I don't even think Boot or Steyn claimed that.

After pointing out Iraq is a mess and disparaging Egyptian and Saudi Arabian electoral reforms as minimal, Cole delivers his money line (shot): "Bush also wants Syria out of Lebanon, in part because such a move would strengthen the hand of his ally, Israel." Again, the strategy is to tarnish by employing guilt by association.

Look to the language and revel in the bias:

"On March 9 the Shiite Hezbollah Party held massive pro-Syrian demonstrations in Beirut that dwarfed the earlier opposition rallies. A majority of Parliament members wanted to bring back Karami. Both the Hezbollah street demonstrations and the elected Parliament's internal consensus produced a pro-Syrian outcome obnoxious to the Bush administration. Since then the opposition has staged its own massive demonstrations, rivaling Hezbollah's."

"Rivaling" Hezbollah's? According to objective news outlets, they "dwarfed" Hezbollah's.

"So far, these demonstrations and counterdemonstrations have been remarkable in their peacefulness and in the frankness of their political aims." Except of course for the Hariri assassination which started the whole ball rolling.

Next Cole contradicts himself by saying, in fact, Beirutis aren't habitually violent:

"Lebanese have been holding lively parliamentary campaigns for decades, and the flawed, anonymous Jan. 30 elections in Iraq would have provoked more pity than admiration in urbane, sophisticated Beirutis. " Excuse my sarcasm, but yes it's such a pity that Iraqis defied the murderous insurgents - those who are making Iraq a basket case - and it's such a pity that Iraqis are no longer voting 99% in favor of murderous thug. I doubt Beirutis pity the fact politics have returned to Iraq. Is Juan Cole just trying to provoke? Is this what Salon and the anti-war left/right have come to?

For instance, towards the end of the piece, Cole writes another remarkable sentence "Arab intellectuals are, however, often coded as mere American and Israeli puppets when they dare speak against authoritarian practices." Didn't Cole do a form of the very same "coding" earlier in this very same piece?

Cole ends with the guerilla war in Iraq and questions if there has been any progress. "The Middle East may open up politically, and no doubt Bush will try to claim credit for any steps in that direction." At the very least, he should decide if the Middle East has opened up politically. The list he provides at the beginning suggests it has:

"In the wake of the Iraq vote, anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon, the Egyptian president's gestures toward open elections, and other recent developments, ..."

I'd give it a 9.0 on the Cognitive Dissonance scale.
Never Follow Bad Money with Good Money

Matt Yglesias reports:

"In what's probably the most important Social Security development of the day, The Washington Post reports, that "The Financial Services Forum, an association of 19 chief executives of large financial services companies, has decided to withdraw from Compass, the group that is leading industry's effort to gin up support for the president's plan outside the Beltway."

Did someone say something about rats and a sinking ship?"

They did win on bankruptcy "reform" however.