Friday, October 31, 2008

Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Iran?

Clifford Orwin serves up plenty of nothing in an editorial that refuses to endorse either Obama or McCain, but attempts to attack Obama who Orwin clearly expects to win.
Fact No. 1 is that the new president will face very bad times. Already last spring, when lecturing at a leading U.S. political science department, I learned that a majority of my colleagues there, regardless of their leanings, held that each party should hope the other won this race. And that was before the financial meltdown.

Is Mr. Obama the man for such a dire moment?
Orwin attempts to insulate himself from criticism of this point by refusing to endorse McCain, but the obvious retort is, "Is McCain?" or "Is anybody?" As Orwin notes,
Already last spring, when lecturing at a leading U.S. political science department, I learned that a majority of my colleagues there, regardless of their leanings, held that each party should hope the other won this race. And that was before the financial meltdown.
So what we have here is not really so much a point about Obama or his qualification as Presidency, but Orwin setting himself up to say "I told you so" if things don't quickly come up roses without actually having to put his neck on the chopping block by suggesting how McCain might be more qualified or what a candidate might do to make roses grow from the fertilizer into which G.W. has transformed most aspects of American government.
Look at Mr. Obama's domestic plans. Behind his rhetoric of unity shelter the same old Democratic policies that the two parties have wrangled over for four decades. If that's what Mr. Obama means by Change We Can Believe In, well then Yes We Can.
So Democrats support Democratic policies, and believe that implementing Democratic policies in the place of Republican policies constitutes change? Is Orwin unfamiliar with the meaning of the word, "change"?

Now if he means to argue that the Democratic policies he chooses not to identify are somehow worse than the Republican policies they would replace, I'm eager to hear the argument - to me, that's red meat and, as with pretty much any policy debate, a robust debate can follow with valid points to be made on both sides. But the way Orwin goes about this? It's a cop-out.

Orwin's only specifics come in relation to "foreign policy", by which he apparently means war, war, and only war:
Here, the best news is that not even Mr. Obama's own advisers believe he intends an early withdrawal from Iraq.
Given Orwin's open support for the Iraq war, and ability to find self-vindication in any outcome, it's no surprise that he apparently finds perverse pleasure in the difficulty of ending that war. But what nonsense:
Al-Qaeda has declared again and again (contra Mr. Obama) that the main theatre of its struggle with the United States is not marginal Afghanistan but geopolitically crucial Iraq. Lately, it has been absorbing a royal beating there. Nothing would delight it more than for the Americans to abandon Iraq prematurely to chase Osama bin Laden. Handed a new lease on life in Iraq, it would press on with renewed confidence in Kandahar.
This man is a political scientist who has been writing for years in favor of the Iraq war, yet he is ignorant of Al-Qaeda's actual goals? In their wildest pipe dream, Al-Qaeda doesn't imagine gaining control of Iraq, and it's absurd and dishonest for Orwin to pretend otherwise. Their unambiguous goal has been to drag the U.S. into a perpetual conflict that bankrupts us as a nation, in much the same manner as Russia's war in Afghanistan contributed to its own collapse. Orwin tells us that we're in "an era of shrinking resources" that would force us to forego policies that might improve the lives of Americans - well, you know, that's kind of what Al-Qaeda wants, isn't it.

If Orwin were more honest, or is it more knowledgeable, he would be aware that a Shiite-dominated Iraq is not going to tolerate Al-Qaeda. They'll be vastly less tolerant than Hussein's Sunni government and, despite various specious efforts to tie Hussein to Al-Qaeda, they weren't connected. Odds are they'll be significantly more ruthless in rooting it out, once the U.S. is gone and they are no longer limited by western sensitivities or insistence upon "reconciliation".

Even if we assume that Orwin is engaged in the all-too-typical sleight of hand, conflating Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) with Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, really, does he think that the Shiite government is going to make any sort of home in Iraq for an aggressively expansionist, militaristic, fundamentalist brand of Sunni Islam, openly dedicated to its overthrow? Where in the Shiite world is Al-Qaeda tolerated, let alone welcomed? Meanwhile, there's a real price being paid for turning Iraq into a proving ground for AQI and other terrorist groups:
Despite debate over the extent to which AQI fighters are dispersing to new battlefields, there's little question that the organization's methods are increasingly being employed outside of Iraq. The number of suicide attacks, for example, rare in Afghanistan and Pakistan before 9/11, has grown exponentially; according to Pakistan's intelligence service, in the first eight months of this year, there were 28 suicide attacks in Pakistan and 36 in Afghanistan, together claiming over 900 lives. (During that same period, for the first time, suicide bombers killed more people in Pakistan than in Iraq: 471 versus 463.) "Whether or not the actual people migrate, the tactics and techniques are [migrating], and they're going to change the nature of warfare," says [Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University]. "The people coming from Iraq have expertise almost across the board in insurgency, from suicide tactics to force-on-force attacks to sophisticated standoff attacks with remote-controlled missiles or rockets to IED types of technologies. It just means that the learning curve for insurgents is now short, and they're able to learn from previous experience and adapt almost immediately, almost in real time."
The disingenuous nature of Orwin's argument is only amplified by his suggestion that Obama's policy in Iraq would "hardly differ from Mr. McCain's". If that's true, what happens is going to happen under either leader.

So far, Orwin's offerings have been pretty generic. At best, he can be said to be criticizing Obama for offering "change" that doesn't involve ideas that are new enough, while refusing to endorse McCain who I guess we are to infer is offering "more of the same". So what's the one point of distinction that Orwin is willing to openly make?
Which brings us to Iran, whose impending nuclear weapons (in tandem with its global terrorist network, advanced ballistic missile systems and proneness to messianic delusions) is the real sum of all fears confronting the next U.S. president. Mr. Obama has declared that a nuclear Iran is absolutely unacceptable to him, and I believe him. I believe that he'll talk just as hard as he can to prevent it, "without preconditions" if necessary. But what will he do once talking has failed?
I guess we are to presuppose that McCain would bypass any attempt to resolve Iran's nuclear ambitious through diplomacy, and would skip straight to the song and dance? If Orwin wants us to go to war with Iran, without bothering with so much as an attempt at diplomacy, he should have the courage and honesty to say so. If not, then we're first going to take steps short of war.

What Orwin appears to offer here is his disappointment that Obama isn't going to advance domestic policies that he prefers (but won't specify), and that neither candidate is likely at this point to endorse a never-ending war in Iraq or expanding that war into Iran.

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