Another postcard from the 'responsibility era' ...
It's reassuring in a way when an apparent scoundrel reveals his scoundrelhood straight-out. Straight, no chaser, shall we say. Today, in case you hadn't heard, Don Rumsfeld told reporters that (in the words of the Post's Dana Priest) "critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the ongoing U.S. war on terrorism."
Rumsfeld went on to say that ...
To the extent that terrorists are given reason to believe he might, or, if he is not going to, that the opponents might prevail in some way, and they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities, or that leads to more recruits, or that leads to more encouragement, or that leads to more staying power, obviously that does make our task more difficult.
In other words, the problem is not any shortcoming in the president's policies, but the president's domestic critics who are emboldening 'the terrorists' by pointing out the shortcomings of the president's policies. A week ago I said I saw the first signs of "a 21st century version of the 'stab-in-the-back' charge German militarists used against the fledgling republic which replaced Kaiserdom in the aftermath of World War I."
But I have to confess to some surprise at seeing it so quickly.
In fact, a friend alerted me today to a slightly more literary-minded version of the Rumsfeld storyline in a piece by Stanley Kurtz in the National Review Online.
Kurtz says that internationalizing the mission in the Middle East isn't an ideal solution, but rather a poor one that has nonetheless been forced upon us by unamerican liberalism and the culture war. "The best foreign policy requires not the United Nations," says Kurtz, "but a united nation. Unfortunately, our nation is not united. The occupation of Iraq is not the occupation of Japan or Germany. This is even more because of the fact that we are different than we were back then than the fact that Iraq is not Japan or Germany."
Continues Kurtz ...
A nation where the political opposition stands against our foreign policy, and even secretly (and not so secretly) hopes for its failure, cannot reform a region as recalcitrant as the Middle East. A nation whereâeven after an event like 9/11âa draft can be offered as a political tactic against the hawks, is a nation unready to manage social transformation on the other side of the world. Our culture war is real. Now it has taken its toll. In many ways we are strong. Yet disunited we are weak. Our turning to the U.N. is not necessarily a disaster. But it is a sign that our internal divisions have finally exacted a cost.
Rumsfeld says that the struggle is harder than it should be because domestic critics are making the country's enemies stronger. Kurtz says our hopes for true success are diminished because the electorate has been degenerated by liberalism.
So here the whole sordid business comes full circle. The administration games the public into an endeavor by exaggerating the gains and minimizing the price. Then the gains are revealed as not quite so great. And the price is revealed as very much greater. And if all that weren't bad enough, the operation is bungled on several fronts. So the gamers and the scammers say it's the fault of the critics who tried to carve through the mumbo-jumbo in the first place. And when the public has a touch of buyers' remorse over a product that was peddled on false advertising, the answer lies in the public's own degeneracy and division.
It's everyone's fault but theirs. 'The terrorists', domestic enemies, cultural declension, the French, perhaps tomorrow the decline of reading, the end of corporal punishment in the schools, permissive parenting, bad posture, rock 'n roll, space aliens. The administration is choking on its own lies and evasions. And we have to bail them out because the ship of state is our ship.