Wednesday, August 25, 2021

News From Bothsides

Evacuees at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. AP Photo by Matthias Schräder, via The Australian


Fred Hiatt at WaPo came up with such a classic ("In justifying one blunder, Biden may commit another"):

President George W. Bush let a foreign policy fiasco push him toward a sweeping pro-democracy doctrine that contradicted his prior aversion to nation-building and ended up doing more harm than good. Now, President Biden is in danger of making a similar mistake, in the opposite direction.


He has maintained that the central purpose of his presidency is to rebuild and defend democracy and democratic values, in the United States and around the world.

But facing criticism for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, he at times has retreated to a realpolitik that might make Henry Kissinger proud.

“Look, let’s put this thing in perspective here,” he said last week. “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al-Qaeda gone?”

If I can prove that two sequences of policy decisions are perfectly symmetrical, that proves they are the same thing, so

  • GWB campaigned on a "realist" policy of declining to build democracies abroad;
  • GWB entered war in Iraq on (false) "realist" premises (the supposed threat of weapons of mass destruction);
  • caught conducting a war for no reason at all, GWB changed his mind about nation-building, at least in Iraq and, inadvertently I guess, Afghanistan, and offered "idealist" explanations of the war;
  • this was a bad thing.


  • JRB campaigned on an "idealist" platform of furthering democracy throughout the world;
  • JRB abandoned war in Afghanistan for some reason Hiatt doesn't think it's necessary to mention;
  • caught conducting a retreat that didn't seem, a week ago. to be working out very well, JRB changed his mind about democracy, at least in Afghanistan, and offered "realist" reasons for the retreat;
  • this was obviously an equally bad thing, probably.

OK, dead-horse assault-and-battery time.

First of all, Bush's aversion to "nation-building", was, like his commitment to a "compassionate" conservatism, about as meaningful as Donald Trump's ambition to "stick it to the hedge-fund guys". Not that Bush was secretly in favor of "nation-building", in my opinion. I don't believe he cared about it one way or another, at all. But in turning over the actual power of the executive branch to Fourth-Branch Richard Bruce Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, I. Lewis Libby, Douglas Feith, and the rest of those clowns, Bush ensured that nation-building on the neoconservative model was going to be part of his administration. 

Bush may not have understood personally, at least at first, that the grounds for attacking Iraq were fraudulent, but everybody else understood that he was carrying on the wishes of the Project for a New American Century, clearly articulated in 1998. Hiatt still doesn't know that

The only appreciable mind-change on Bush's part, as I keep saying, was around 2006, when he finally realized he had some responsibility for the ongoing horrors of his administration and got some of his father's paleoconservative cronies to help him out, isolate Cheney and fire Rumsfeld, and muddle through the rest of his term until it was time to swallow hard and vote for his hated rival John McCain, who fortunately lost. 

Meanwhile, Biden's idea of rebuilding and defending democracy is, in the first place, not on the neoconservative model; he was totally clear on that during the campaign. It is very precisely keyed to the idea of competition with China under the sway of what we now need to call Xi Jinping Thought (which the Ministry of Education has just announced, per BBC, is being integrated into all educational curricula from kindergarten through university in order to "help teenagers establish Marxist beliefs", "to cultivate the builders and successors of socialism with an all-round moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetic grounding"", and emphasize "absolute authority of the party over the people's army", among other things), and to be carried out on a strictly economic basis through the cooperation of our allies, which will show the world that democracy makes everybody rich.

There was no democracy to "rebuild and defend" in Afghanistan. There was a massively corrupt and rigged government that happens to allow some truly valuable freedoms to women and girls in urban situations, journalists, and educators, who are all wonderful people deserving to be evacuated, which the administration is managing with increasing success, and the Taliban government increasingly hoping ("this ‘stay at home’ guidance for women is temporary, and it is necessary because some of the militants have not yet been trained not to hurt women") they don't all leave

“We are not in favour of allowing Afghans to leave,” Mujahid said. “This country needs their ­expertise. They should not be taken to other countries."

“Do not encourage our engineers, our doctors, our military. We need them.”

Hiatt is so wrong you just have to wonder. 

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