Andrew Sullivan, Max Boot and the American non-Empire [Karl]
PJM’s Richard Fernandez notes the debate between Excitable Andy and Max Boot over AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s postwar relationship with Iraq.
Sullivan once asked how having 50 long-term bases in Iraq was not empire, only toÃ‚Â adopt a modified, limted hang-out position on his own question about two weeks later.Ã‚Â He still gets itchy over Boot invoking postwar Germany as any sort of historical analogy for a long-term presence in Iraq, arguing that a presence in Iraq will be a perpetual irritant in Iraq.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Fernandez quotes from Boot’s response:
PerhapsÃ‚Â [Sullivan] doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t realize that the U.S. already has a string of bases in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and other Middle Eastern countries. Having visited many of these installations I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t noticed a lot of fighting there. In fact they are peaceful and relatively uncontroversial. Granted, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia was more controversial: Osama bin Laden cited it as a justification for his campaign of terrorism. But we now know that was simply a pretext, since his calls for violence in his homeland have not ended even though we have withdrawn our troops.
Indeed, two of the 19 Islamists who took part inÃ‚Â 9/11 attacks said in videotaped statements that their actions were inspired by an urge to avenge the suffering of Muslims in Bosnia and Chechnya.Ã‚Â The US helped protect Muslims in Bosnia and had nothing to do with their plight in Chechnya, which underscores Osama bin Laden’sÃ‚Â own commentÃ‚Â in October 2001,Ã¢â‚¬ÂThis battle is not between al Qaeda and the US. This is a battle of Muslims against the global crusaders.Ã¢â‚¬Â
As for internal Iraqi objections to the security pact being negotiated, Sullivan seems to believe he is a superior judge of what Iraqis will tolerate than increasingly strong Iraqi government (whose position is bolstered, not weakened,Ã‚Â by popular protest)Ã‚Â and the US officials negotiating with that government.Ã‚Â Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, has said the US was showing “great flexibility” and that he was confident the deal would be finalizedÃ‚Â before the current UN mandate expires.Ã‚Â Amb. Ryan Crocker anticipates thatÃ‚Â the agreementÃ‚Â will expressly forswear the establishment ofÃ‚Â permanent bases, even if such is an exercise in taqiyya to obscure an inconvenient truth, or a face-saving measure in a shame/honor culture.
Thus, it becomes difficult to avoid suggesting — as Boot does — that Sullivan’s objections are similarly obscuring an inconvenient truth, i.e., that Sullivan is now so heavily invested in having the mission in Iraq be seen as a failure that any objection that falls to hand will be wielded as a convenient cudgel.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â A US-Iraqi security agreement would make it easier for Sullivan’s favored candidate, Barack Obama, to shape Iraq policy should he be elected president.Ã‚Â But that irony is equally inconvenientÃ‚Â — and equally overlooked — byÃ‚Â Sullivan.