Wednesday, December 20, 2006

America never forgives the correct

A fascinating debate at Tapped (here, here, here, and here) about how to keep the Democratic Party from being blamed for the end of the Iraq War. Frankly, I don't know if there's a way out of this trap. The Democrats were elected partly on the belief they would do Iraq "better" somehow, but while Americans theoretically support withdrawing troops from Iraq, they seem to oppose any specific Congressional act to force Bush to withdraw. Cutting off funding or forcing a timetable is much less popular than the vague "withdraw troops within X months" poll question. I don't know how close those polls are to reality, but it's clear those are the numbers Dem pols are acting on.

I think Scott's got the long-term problem exactly right:
If the stylings of Glenn Reynolds have taught us nothing else -- and they certainly haven't -- it's that precisely because they're unfalsifiable tautologies "stab-in-the-back" arguments can be deployed irrespective of the evidence on the ground or what the Democrats do. (After all, it's not as if the narrative was a plausible explanation of Vietnam either.) There's simply no question that the Republican Party and its lickspittles will blame everyone but the people responsible for conceiving and executing it for the failure of the Iraq war, and whether the narrative will have political force is dependent on factors (press coverage, future election results, etc.) that are both unforeseeable and not fully within the Democrats' control.
Fundamentally, America is never going to forgive the people who were right about this war. If anything, they'll be blamed for not clapping harder. If you have any doubt of this, please take a look at the continuing treatment of European nations in American discourse. The execrable Anne Applebaum:
BERLIN -- On the day James Baker's Iraq report was published, I gritted my teeth and waited for the well-earned, long-awaited, Franco-German "Old Europe" gloat to begin. I didn't wait long.
By "gloat", she means "accurate assessment":
"America Faces Up to the Iraq Disaster" read a headline in Der Spiegel. In the patronizing tones of a senior doctor, Le Monde diagnosed the "political feverishness" gripping Washington in Baker's wake. Suddeutsche Zeitung said the report "stripped Bush of his authority," although Le Figaro opined that nothing Baker proposed could improve the "catastrophic state" of Iraq anyway.
Sounds about right, actually. What's your beef, Anne? After years in Washington, don't know what reality looks like?

The whole column reads like a child wrote it - sure, every other major power in the world (sans the UK) warned the US not to invade Iraq. Sure, America ignored and ridiculed their advice. Sure, it's turned out to be a perfectly predictable disaster. Obviously, that means Europe needs to help America out! After all, Iraq is closer to Europe! QED.

What Applebaum has yet to grasp is that "helping America" and "fixing Iraq" are not the same thing. Indeed, they may be mutually exclusive, unless America changes course.

Finally, we get the inevitable "Europe has no alternatives to America" line beloved by the imperial mindset:
Maybe now the Germans, and even the French, will finally come to realize that there is no alternative to the transatlantic partnership, no better international military organization than NATO, no real "role" for any of us outside the Western alliance -- even if only because all the alternatives are worse. Maybe the Old Europeans will find inspiration to support and contribute further to the alliance, diplomatically and ideologically if not militarily. Maybe the United States will come to the same realization, too.
Riiight. Can we finally, at long last, begin to dismantle the "Transatlantic Community" myth? There is no Community - there's America and everyone else. This was obvious during the Clinton years, for God's sake. Britain has exactly zero "special relationship" with the US, and the same is true for the other 100-odd countries on the planet. (Something Canadians should remember.) When Thatcher asked Reagan for help with the Argentinians, she was rebuffed. Believe me, the Thatcher/Reagan relationship was at least as close as the Bush/Blair one. America has allies and interests, but no friends.

As if we needed clear evidence of this fact, Chatham House said this week:
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair's foreign policy has failed because of his inability to influence Washington and his successor must carve out a leading role for Britain within Europe instead, a report said on Tuesday.
This is a pretty Tory-friendly, Euro-skeptic think tank, and still they recognize that Britain is best served by parting with the US and concentrating on Europe instead. Why? For the same reason European countries won't be rushing to help America out of Iraq - America doesn't reward it's friends. Tony Blair has been as slavishly devoted to Bush as one can be and still have a separate spinal cord, and he's been rewarded with nothing.

So ask yourself: If Blair hasn't managed to influence American thinking under Bush, why in God's name would Chirac, Merkel, or any other European leader join up? Why would our own Prime Minister Harper decide to do so? Is he as stupid as Tony Blair? Does he want to end up as pathetic and as humiliated?

1 comment:

Chester N. Scoville said...

"Is he as stupid as Tony Blair?"

No, stupider. Blair came in at the beginning of the Bush era and had to learn the hard way that he can have no influence over Bush. Harper has the benefit of watching Blair's failure in real time, yet he still hasn't figured out its importance.