Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Cons, neocons, and neo-neocons

Bob Dreyfuss at TomPaine.com says on September 20 that he's
not sure what to make of the latest insider leak from the Bush administration to Robert Novak of Plame fame. In a column titled "Bush's Escape Route," Novak says that "well-placed sources in the administration" say that in 2005 Bush will pull out of Iraq and leave that country to its own (Shiite) devices. Even Paul Wolfowitz, angling to be the next secretary of defense, wants to get out of Iraq fast, says Novak.
Dreyfuss says that he thinks Novak is just blowing smoke, but I can think of another possibility: Novak is being used as a (willing?) foil for one side in an internal debate among the Shrubberies.

There are "straws in the wind," Dreyfuss notes, "that the neocons are losing debates in the administration." In the face of the unmitigated disaster of Iraq, some are having second or third thoughts and there are even some open hints, even if vague ones, that an end may be in sight. On Friday, one day after telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that more US troops may have to be sent to Iraq before the January elections there, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said
[t]he United States does not have to wait until Iraq "is peaceful and perfect" before it begins to withdraw military troops from that troubled country....

Responding to questions from reporters, Rumsfeld said Washington was determined to provide security for scheduled January elections in Iraq, where nearly 140,000 American troops are now fighting a growing insurgency.

But "any implication that that place has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and U.S. forces, I think, would obviously be unwise," he told a press conference after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
Not much substance there, obviously, but also a significant step back from the "beacon of stability and democracy" Iraq was supposed to be by about this time. Now we're just trying to get it to somewhere - it's not clear where, but somewhere - this side of "peaceful and perfect." I was initially tempted to think of this as an election gambit, a way of hinting to voters "don't worry too much about this, there will be an end." But the lack of followup now leads me to wonder if it's a different sort of gambit, one for after the US election, having actually to do with the question of what happens after January.

In that light, Novak's column becomes the preemptive strike against moves for withdrawal, as fed to him by the neocons who still dream of a Pax Americana across the entire region. After noting the sentiment for withdrawal, he says (as quoted by Dreyfuss)
[w]ithout U.S. troops, the civil war cited as the worst-case outcome by the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate would be a reality.
That is, their policy would lead to the unthinkable, so "everybody" - meaning the Republican Congressional leadership and reactionary media mouthpieces - should rally around our policy and yes, save the dream! Or at least our favored positions and our contracts with think tanks for when we retire.

The only good thing about this is that if I'm right, it means there actually is a debate inside the White House - which means it is not literally impossible for at least some members of that cabal to be affected by events in the real world.

A small favor, admittedly, but at this point I'll take what I can get.

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