Wednesday, November 2

An unwilling revolutionary

"I'm assuming you heard Stephen Hayes on John Batchelor [show] last night but have you read his article for the Weekly Standard? I don't want to use the word treason, but I don't know what else to call Joseph Wilson's lying and the support he got from the CIA.

Also, I don't know what to make of Hayes' claim that the White House is spooked by the CIA's machinations. Do you think that's the right interpretation of Bush's unwillingness to strongly defend the US invasion of Iraq?
Aries in Los Angeles"

Dear Aries:
Everything that Wilson and the CIA did is wholly justified, wholly consistent with supporting the NATO alliance, which is held key to defending America. President Bush isn't spooked; he's caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The situation is rich in irony because by temperament Bush is the last person to be a revolutionary. He sees himself as a defender of the best of the old order. Thus, his decision after 9/11 to preserve American-led institutions such as NATO, UN and the World Bank by reforming and modernizing them.

Here we come to a snag: those organizations are dedicated to preserving the peace, which is not the same as promoting genuine democracy. That's the problem with revolutionary ideas; you can't both break with an old order and compromise with it.

That's also the problem for Republicans trying to muster arguments in defense of Bush's decision to invade Iraq. They're arguing about the price of tea unless they defend a purely American-oriented defense policy, which they're unwilling to do if it means taking an overt stand against the NATO alliance.

Thus, in the manner of ecclesiastics debating the size of angels, these Republicans nit-pick over the hideously complicated facts of the Wilson/Plame affair and US intelligence on WMD in Iraq -- and lose the American public in the process. *

Bush's democracy doctrine, when piled on top of his defense doctrine (which reserves the right to preemptive military strikes) is a direct challenge to the guiding principles of the NATO alliance. So Bush's attempts to preserve the alliance have backed the administration into a position that works against his decision to invade Iraq.

Peel away the layers of debate and you're left asking whether America's best defense is found in an alliance with other nations or adherence to fundamental American principles. Unless defenders of the Iraq invasion engage with that central debate, American political and business interests that view the democracy doctrine as plumb loco will continue to hack away at the Iraq invasion.

Invariably, people who find themselves an unwilling revolutionary try to get out of the dilemma by reaching for a compromise, as well they should. Nobody with an eye on history seeks revolution; it is horribly messy process that brings suffering to all.

Yet Bush's democracy doctrine rides on the tide of human progress, not the will of an American leader. There is no turning back now.

* I'm not familiar enough with Stephen Hayes' writings to judge whether he's among such Republicans. His latest article about the Wilson/Plame affair strikes me as simply well sourced reporting on a view that's gained coin among Republicans. They'd rather argue about whether Bush is spooked than grapple with the central debate.

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