Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Hitchens and Wolfowitz

From Lenin's Tomb  (I saw it somewhere else first, but I can't find it now) : 'Democracy Now has hosted another debate between Tariq Ali and Christopher Hitchens'. Hitchens, asked whether he's joined the ranks now of the neo-conservatives :
...there is a division within the neo-conservative movement, which is, by the way, one of the tests of its authenticity as a tendency. I would say I was a supporter of Paul Wolfowitz, though.
...
Now there are some of the neo-conservatives, I think, thought by taking out the main rejectionist dictatorship in the region, they would make Eretz Israel, or Greater Israel, more secure, or more feasible, alternatively, whether you think Greater Israel has been achieved or not. ...Wolfowitz and others took exactly the opposite feeling. If you took out the rejectionist dictatorship, you were in a stronger position to bring the leverage on Israel about the settlements and about expansionism...
There is a bit about Algeria too, but I don't want to be distracted by that just now. The main thrust of the argument is worth quoting in full and at length.
Wolfowitz and Kissinger disliked each other and disagreed very strongly with each other for a long time. I think the origin of the disagreement and the origin of Wolfowitz's political career is that he argued it was important to dump the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Base or no base, let it go and take the chances that this would have a ripple effect in the rest of Asia, which was just what Kissinger didn't want. As a result, there were outbreaks of democratic insurgency, starting with the Aquino election, in South Korea, in Taiwan, eventuating in Tiananmen Square, in fact, in 1989, which of course, Kissinger also opposed and took the side of the Chinese Stalinists. On the Middle East, the victory of the neo-conservatives is very paradoxical, because contra Bush, Eagleburger - Bush Sr., that is - Eagleburger, Scowcroft -- I've just mentioned, by the way, the two leading members of Kissinger Associates -- and others, Colin Powell. The argument of the neo-conservatives, or at least of the Wolfowitz wing, was, "We can't go on like this, running the Middle East as a kind of political slum of client states. We have to take the chance that destabilization would be worth it in the long run." That's what, that's still why the extreme right in the country, people like Buchanan and others, oppose it. Precisely for that reason. They and the pro-Saudi conservatives.
'Lenin' also provides a link( Paul Wolfowitz: A man to keep a close eye on, Tim Shorrock) that gives a different view, specifically about East Asia. This can be summarized as follows. Wolfowitz defended US support for the dictators in the 1980's [hardly surprising when he was a relatively junior member of the Reagan administration]. Then, when their downfall became inevitable, due to 'millions of students, workers, and ordinary citizens pouring into the streets day after day', he claimed all the credit. Well, maybe he is not due all the credit, but some of it. Small point of consistency : how could he be 'Holbrooke's immediate successor in the top Asia slot at the State Department, serving there from 1982 to 1986' ?

I think Wolfowitz has said some admirable things, notably about Turkey. On the other hand, you have to have a realistic strategy to achieve your objectives. Hitchens mentioned Colin Powell. We're back to Iraq. According to Woodward, Powell 'wanted the bastard gone as much as anyone' (PoA, P272-3), but with the support of allies and enough troops. ' Wolfowitz was like a drum that would not stop.' He had this "crazy" plan to seize the Southern oil fields - the "enclave strategy" (P26).

It all comes down to security, having enough troops. As a recent analysis put it :

a country must first have a state before it can become a democracy. The primary requirement of a state is that it hold a monopoly on the use of violence. By that measure, the body that the United States transferred power to in Baghdad on June 28 may have been a government - but it was not a state. What Went Wrong in Iraq, Larry Diamond, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2004
It was barely reported in Britain, but Kerry wanted John McCain to be his running-mate. McCain refused and has fallen back into line in the Bush campaign, in spite of the shabby treatment he received in the fight to be the Republican candidate in 2000, which Kerry still mentions. It is thought that he still hopes to get the 2008  Republican nomination. McCain is known to favour the lack of sufficient troops argument. So, if there had been a Kerry-McCain ticket, would it not have focused on this, rather than the sub-Deanesque themes of 'the money could have been better spent on health etc' or 'it's a distraction from the hunt for al Qaeda in Afghanistan' ?

PS : more Hitchens here ...

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