Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Empire Strikes Out

Andrew Sullivan detects the odor of rot wafting from the neoconservative camp:

The raging and chaotic civil war in Gaza (and incipiently in the West Bank) is hard to deny. Marty Peretz sees the same pattern as Iraq. So here's a question for Marty: if Arab cultures are completely immune to democratic life, as he has long argued, why does he support the coercive democratization of Iraq with the blood of young Americans? By his own logic, isn't it doomed to abject failure? And isn't staying there therefore a fool's errand?...By neoconservative logic, the U.S. has undertaken about the least viable, most intractable, self-defeating task on Planet Earth. Why? Once the WMD rationale was exposed as a delusion, why haven't neoconservatives cited the pathologies of Arab culture to argue for withdrawal?

While I don't agree with the neoconservative diagnosis of Arab pathologies, the contradiction is nevertheless hard to miss. Sullivan posits an explanation for the apparent inconsistency: the primary motivation is not democratization per se, but rather the pursuit of empire, or quasi-empire - to be distinguished, somewhat, from prior British imperial expansions. Alas, empire just ain't what it used to be:

If the occupation had gone swimmingly in Iraq, then envisaging a few thousand residual troops for the indefinite future as a geo-strategic act of support, is a fine idea. But after this occupation and in this global struggle, what we're envisaging is an imperial outpost for decades ahead - a permanent casus belli between us and every Islamist on the planet. I think we have to be firm on this point: no. Unless we want to become Israel. And please don't give me that crap that somehow if we leave there, they'll follow us home. They've already followed us home. They can now. They always will be able to target us in the modern world. The question is simply whether ineptly occupying a country that even the Brits couldn't pacify makes us less or more safe. I don't see how any sentient observer of the last five years can believe it has made us more safe. It has certainly made us less free.

Right. A firm "no" to prolonged occupation, regardless of what brand of wool sweater that particular wolf is draped in - that goes for mega-embassies, permanent bases, training Iraqi troops, al-Qaeda hunting units, etc.

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