AUTHOR: Slublog DATE: 5/10/2004 10:12:00 AM ----- BODY: Huh? - Maybe someday I'll get tired of my new hobby of criticizing Andrew Sullivan. But not today. I actually read today's post last night and it didn't make any sense then. I chalked it up to being tired and re-read it this morning. Nope. Still can't figure out just what the hell he believes anymore. Consider:
if I knew before the war what I know now, would I still have supported it? I cannot deny that the terrible mismanagement of the post-war - something that no reasonable person can now ignore - has, perhaps fatally, wrecked the mission.
An annoying feature has crept into Sullivan's writing of late - the subtle ad hominem. Sullivan makes points, then adds a sentence to assure that any criticism of his point is already defined. Note - he says the war is mismanaged, and that no "reasonable person" can ignore it. Thus, he's made his point and at the same time defined any possible response as unreasonable. Nice. Let us continue.
But does it make the case for war in retrospect invalid? My tentative answer - and this is a blog, written day by day and hour by hour, not a carefully collected summary of my views - is yes, I still would have supported the war. But only just. And whether the 'just' turns into a 'no' depends on how we deal with the huge challenge now in front of us.
So in retrospect, I'm just going to cover all my bases by basing my support on how Bush responds to the latest crisis regardless of any impassioned argument I may have made in the past about why the war is important. So basically, with a few words, Sullivan has admitted that principle has little to do with his stance - it's all about the results. I do like that he admits this isn't a "carefully collected" summary. It provides cover for the truly atrocious mess this post becomes.
The narrative of liberation was critical to the success of the mission - politically and militarily. This was never going to be easy, but it was worth trying. It was vital to reverse the Islamist narrative that pitted American values against Muslim dignity. The reason Abu Ghraib is such a catastrophe is that it has destroyed this narrative. It has turned the image of this war into the war that the America-hating left always said it was: a brutal, imperialist, racist occupation, designed to humiliate another culture. Abu Ghraib is Noam Chomsky's narrative turned into images more stunning, more damaging, more powerful than a million polemics from Ted Rall or Susan Sontag. It is Osama's dream propaganda coup. It is Chirac's fantasy of vindication. It is Tony Blair's nightmare. And, whether they are directly responsible or not, the people who ran this war are answerable to America, to America's allies, to Iraq, for the astonishing setback we have now encountered on their watch.
What. The. Hell. So a few Americans abuse some prisoners and this somehow invalidates the liberation of millions? Sullivan makes no attempt to put this into context. The Muslim world has done much worse and the left has said and done nothing. But rather than point this out, Sullivan would rather condone the overheated and hateful criticism and says that the mistreatment of prisoners legitimizes everything the left has said about this war. Sullivan, meet deep end. Deep end, Sullivan.
The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively.
Uh, when was that criticism made exactly? The left has said many things about this war, but I've never heard them say it was noble and defensible. Sullivan, I think, is refusing to take ownership of his own opinions by casting them onto a faceless, nameless "other." The left has called this war unjust, racist, the cowboy actions of an out-of-control president. They have never made the case for war. Sullivan, who has already indicated support for the "rebranding" argument (Bush is damaged goods, the war should go on under a different president) is simply trying to prepare people for a long, anguished polemic on why he supports John Kerry. By the way, I'm skipping around his post quite a bit. It's long, and so convoluted that I don't feel like fisking the whole thing. So go read it yourself if you want to see the whole thing.
By refusing to hold anyone accountable, the president has also shown he is not really in control.
In other words, fire Rumsfeld, who Sullivan has always disliked. Why not just come out and say it? He then goes on for a few sentences about how we need to win the war. By this point, though, his words ring hollow. He's spent too much time justifying the criticism of the left for the words to sound real coming from his blog anymore. Now, the big ending...
And then, when November comes around, we have to decide whether this president is now a liability in the war on terror or the asset he once was. How he reacts to this crisis - whether he is even in touch enough to recognize it as a crisis - should determine how the country votes this fall. He and his team have failed us profoundly. He has a few months to show he can yet succeed.
Bush failed? The Bush administration has toppled two totalitarian regimes, prevented any terrorist attacks from happening since September 11, and has kept the economy from falling into a deep recession after the attacks with a pretty good tax cut plan. But in Sullivan's world, some attacks on American troops during wartime and the stripping naked of a few Arab men invalidates all of this. I really wish Sullivan would be honest with his readers and admit that nothing the president does between now and November would garner Sullivan's support. What made Sullivan's blog so good in the past is that he was willing to speak truth, even if it was unpopular. Coming out for John Kerry now would not win Sullivan any kudos from the right, but it would be more honest than the posturing he's doing now. --------