Friday, May 28, 2004

Fisking "The Australian" and those anti-war conservatives 

Speaking of Daniel Drezner, I noticed his earlier post "Where are conservatives on Iraq?" where he analyses a piece by Reihan Salam in "The New Republic Online" (unfortunately available only to subscribers), who in turn notes that increasing numbers of conservatives are starting to be critical either of the war in Iraq generally, or at least of President Bush's handling of the war and post-liberation.

As it happens, "The Australian" has today published a collection of quotes from prominent right-of-centre opinion-makers, "Right turns on an unnecessary war". There is no doubt that among the general chorus voicing objections to either the means or the end (or both) of the liberation, lately we can hear more and more of the conservative baritone section coming through. But as I was reading through "The Australian"'s compilation I was struck by how disingenuous it was.

John Mearsheimer, an University of Chicago political scientist, for example, is quoted as saying that "Bush's handling of foreign policy - particularly the decision to invade Iraq - has turned me and other realists into some of the administration's sharpest critics." True, but foreign policy realists have been against invasion of Iraq right from the beginning (take Bush Sr, or his foreign policy team members like Brent Scowcroft). Mearsheimer himself has been against the war way before the war actually started - you can find his position here and here. So what's the news?

Francis Fukuyama gets quoted too. But Fukuyama has been critical of Bush's foreign policy for quite some time too. Another quotee, Fareed Zakaria, as early as August 2002 thought that the Americans might have problems implementing successful nation-building in Iraq, and strongly recommended the UN involvement in reconstruction. Again, hardly a change of heart on his part. Robert Kagan doesn't have a change of heart either (far from it), he's just noting that some others do.

David Brooks might be quoted as saying that "It's not too early to begin thinking about what was clearly an intellectual failure," (the actual piece here, and even that is not a wrist-slashing stuff) but he's not quoted as saying that while "[n]o other nation would have been naïve enough to [try to bring democracy to the Middle East] this badly... [n]o other nation would be adaptable enough to recover from its own innocence and muddle its way to success, as I suspect we are about to do." Again, hardly "Right turning on an unnecessary war."

Then there is George Will with "[t]his administration needs a dose of conservatism without the prefix." The problem again is that Will has been saying almost exactly the same thing only one week into the start of the war in March 2003. Again, what's the news?

Which leaves CNN's Crossfire moderator, Tucker Carlson, with his "I supported the war and now I feel foolish." He does seem to be the only one quoted in "The Australian" piece who did change his mind on Iraq. But if Tucker Carson is the only one that "The Oz" can find to support their argument, then we can all take a deep breath and go back to whatever we were doing before.


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