The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, December 05, 2003

Paul Wolfowitz is the liberals' buddy...

It's a fair point that, in the interests of brevity, it's not uncommon to refer to the War Party, or neocons or whatever, in such a way as to suggest a single, undifferentiated mass. Any classification involves simplification, but it's a point well taken.

(The tendency to cleave to the cartoon image I've castigated regularly here - and no doubt succumbed to from time to time into the bargain!)

Tim Cavanaugh has a piece at Reason (December 4) - link via Matthew Yglesias - which criticises anti-war folks for failing to pick Wolfowitz as essentially one of them.

A likely story, you might say. The shtick is that PW is a bleeding-heart, and the anti-war mob are bleeding-hearts, so why can't they be friends - like the farmer and the cowman?
You could irrigate the planet Mars with the crocodile tears that have been shed for the Iraqi people over the past 18 months, and the war's hawks have been as lachrymose as its doves. Wolfowitz stands out in this milieu by his comparative guilelessness. If consistency of message and purpose is any guide, the Defense Department's number two man is guided, at least in part, by a genuine belief in the very airiest and most Wilsonian ideals that brought about the fall of Saddam Hussein. In interviews, in public statements, in his travel itinerary, Wolfowitz consistently personalizes the Iraqis, cites his own experiences in post-Saddam Iraq, and speaks with passion about the brutality of the late Ba'athist regime.

Wolfowitz is a Care Bear with fuel-air explosives! Since when has guilelessness been a recommendation in a politician [1]? And to have
a genuine belief in the very airiest and most Wilsonian ideals
after several decades of wars many on the pretext of the criminal Wilsonian promise of self-determination seems a cast-iron recommendation for a career in any field other than international relations.

The fact that PW, whether sincerely or not, is participating in the USG/HMG bait-and-switch on the rationale for the invasion is similarly no reason to suppose he is any friend of those opposed to pre-emptive war:
...during a recent question and answer session at Georgetown University...Wolfowitz's sometimes testy replies were revealing: He spoke movingly of malnutrition among Iraq's Marsh Arabs, called the war "not ideological," and "a moral issue," and pounded home the need to continue with the rehabilitation of Iraq even if George W. Bush loses next year's election (and by extension, Wolfowitz loses his job). It was a characteristic Wolfowitz comment, framing everything in terms of humanitarian duty and a belief in democracy for the Arabs.

Sincerity like this would fuel a dozen pre-emptive wars in the Middle East alone!

Similarly, war opponents are meant to take heart from the fact that PW
condemns settlement and the separation wall, and continues, seemingly unbidden, to voice support for grassroots initiatives such as the detailed Geneva Agreement on Israeli-Palestinian peace...

The piece points out that, in USG, he is out on a limb here. And what clout does a DDS have ex officio over Israel/Palestine policy in any case? If he's in meetings with Bush on the subject at all, it would be more in the role of a note-taker. Or yes-man. Or nodder - in the PG Wodehouse sense.

I'm not clear about the cui bono of Cavanaugh's boosting of PW to anti-war types: the arguments about human rights and well-being of the Iraqi people were available, and were made, in the pre-war period (though they did not form the crux of USG's case for war). Tony Blair's infamous throb in the voice was constantly waxing and (slightly) waning like a Hammond organ on a 1930s radio soap with moral blackmail directed at liberals viscerally opposed to tyranny everywhere. It was just that most of them were more opposed to pre-emptive war.

I'm also not clear what clout PW has in the general field of strategy: no doubt, the Iraq invasion involved a coalition of views within the Administration - of which WMD, he tried to kill my Daddy, and Iraqi suffering were no doubt components. But is PW driving the Damascus Express, or applying the brakes, or what?

(The Bush London speech (piece of November 23) was generally taken to involve a nod in the direction of the evangelising for democracy notion that PW seems to enthuse over. How far it will inform USG policy I suspect we have yet to have any firm information.)

And, even if there were a commonalty of interest between opponents of pre-emptive war and PW, how could this be given effect to? A write-in campaign suggesting he replace Rummy come January 2005?

It may be that Cavanaugh's piece is mere space-filling druthers. I like to think he has an angle, though. But I'll be damned if I can figure it out!

[For those, like me, who don't know Cavanaugh from a hole in the ground, the Village Voice has a piece (January 22) on his taking over as editor of the Reason site. He used to edit a now-defunct site called Suck. (The piece also made me look up the word duende - time not wholly wasted, then).]

  1. PW as Jefferson Smith! Sidney Buchman's eloquent plea for corruption over the demagoguery of the guileless in Frank Capra's Mr Smith Goes To Washington (oft noted here) deserves regular attention.

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