Monday, February 05, 2007

I Don't Get It

An interesting letter in the latest American Conservative:
Is Mr. Buchanan for or against the war? In print, he's obviously opposed. On TV, I can't tell, but he seems determined to defend President Bush's "surge." How can you be against a war but favor something that will prolong it and get more people killed" It's an act of desperation in a lost cause. I don't get it.

I've witnessed this phenomenon before. It's almost as if Buchanan feels compelled to become a Republican loyalist in front of a TV camera. I stopped watching the McLaughlin Group a couple of years ago when he started rooting for a Bush victory in 2004 and I have seen him on Tucker Carlson's show seeming to endorse the surge. Like Mr. Quinlan, I don't get it


Daniel Larison said...

I have had occasion to disagree with Mr. Buchanan when he has seemed to rally in support of bad administration decisions taken in the name of "national security" (wiretapping or the secret prisons in Europe, for instance), but I am less convinced that this is the same thing that he has been doing lately. At least, it isn't quite the same level of support for an administration policy. Certainly, I was less than thrilled by his endorsement of Bush in '04, but on the very specific and limited basis of the issues he cited in his endorsement I could at least grasp why he was doing what he was doing.

Here again, I think I understand what he may be doing, but again I don't agree. With the surge (and I must confess that I have not seen many of his TV appearances, so it is difficult for me to gauge just how pro-surge he seems to be) I think the idea behind any apparaent support for it would have to be that the opponents of the surge are mostly ridiculous in that they refuse to put up or shut up. On this point, I actually have to agree to some extent, since all of the anti-surge babble has nothing to back it up. I think Mr. Buchanan has been fairly consistent in warning about the calamities that would follow withdrawal and he has never really given the impression that he favours such a course. I imagine he may be lending the surge some measure of support because he regards the consequences of the only real alternative to be too grim such that he cannot advocate pursuing the alternative of withdrawal. Visions of Cambodia seem to haunt everyone. However, as someone recently pointed out, the Khmer Rouge came into existence at least partly as a result of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, which suggests that escalation and "going wide" are sure-fire ways to guarantee the genocides that everyone is so concerned to avoid. I don't know that Mr. Buchanan's is really a very sustainable position, but I think this dread of the disaster that would probably follow withdrawal may be why he is sending out signals that are mystifying to his regular readers.

The pessimist in me says that we should never underestimate how bad things can get in the Near East after a withdrawal, so it will hardly do to cross our fingers and hope for the best. Of course, I don't think a lot of opponents of the war are actually engaged in any kind of blind optimism--I think a lot of us are more concerned about the safety of Americans there than about people in the Near East (as you would expect). BUT, and this is the crucial point, it seems to me that this expectation of disaster makes it all the more imperative to get all Americans out of Dodge before the whole place goes up in smoke. Likely disaster in the Near East caused by Iraqi chaos is reason #1 for getting out as soon as possible, because the chaos will unfold whether or not we are there and will only suck us in deeper the longer we remain.

Remaining in Iraq at this point is rather like a bomb squad that realises it can't defuse the bomb and knows that no members of the squad will survive the inevitable explosion, but which nonetheless still stays right next to the bomb to show the world that they are a bomb squad that is not to be trifled with. In any other situation, we would say that this is a very stupid bomb squad. When it comes to Iraq, we say that this attitude is "responsible" and "serious."

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