I had a roomate in college that displayed a singularly annoying habit. Everything that was new to her was new to everybody else. Thus- her daily discoveries about different cultures, politics, government and all the other things she either wasn't exposed to, or didn't spend time to think about in the small town in which she went to high school, were all carefully explained in excruciating detail to me each evening as if I had come out of the same insular world and had no idea what the hell she was talking about.
For some reason this roomate has come to mind while reading a sampling of recent columns by conservative writers. Their columns brought flashbacks of sitting on that cheap apartment couch listening to my roomate prattle on about the separation of powers or the importance of family in latin-American culture. Conservatives are the last people that should be lecturing us about the state of Iraq.
David Brooks puts his imagination to work (always a sure sign that he's about to run off the rails) and presents us a picture of a dystopian middle east future that results from the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
The essence of all this disorder was that the Arab nation-states lost control. Subnational groups Â like Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army Â and supranational groups Â like loosely connected terror networks, the new Sunni and Shiite Leagues and the satellite television networks Â went from strength to strength while central national governments toppled and fell. The collapse of national governments led to a power vacuum that the more authentic and deeply rooted social groups sought to fill.
This war had several stages. The first was the disintegration of Iraq. No national institutions could survive the onslaught: There was no impartial justice, no effective law enforcement, no political organization that put loyalty to nation above loyalty to sect or tribe. Absent a government of laws, government by death squads emerged. Militias Â with their own hospitals, schools and indoctrination systems Â sought to impose order through assassination and revenge.
Put aside for the moment that Brook's middle east nightmare could easily come about regardless of whether or not our troops remain in Iraq the fundamental question remains- "David, where the hell were you during the debate leading up to the Iraq war?" The issue of the power vacuum that could arise with the overthrow of Sadaam and the collapse of Iraq and the rest of the middle east into chaos was a primary argument advocated by those against the war. Just because you dismissed that argument out of hand because it was made by damn, dirty hippies doesn't mean it's any less correct.
At least the infamous Jonah Goldberg actually makes an effort to offer a solution to this ensuing chaos. In his Los Angeles Times column entitled Iraq needs a Pinochet he argues that Iraq needs a strongman, a benign dictator, to bring all the disparate warring factions in the country into line. He compares and contrasts two models as examples- Pinochet and Fidel Castro- declaring Pinochet the hands down better example of a dictator. I guess he cracked fewer skulls. Or threw them out of helicopters.
Goldberg does close with one of the most unintentionally amusing paragraphs I've read in some time:
But these days, there's a newfound love for precisely this sort of realpolitik. Consider Jonathan Chait, who recently floated a Swiftian proposal that we put Saddam Hussein back in power in Iraq because, given his track record of maintaining stability and recognizing how terrible things could get in Iraq, Hussein might actually represent the least-bad option. Even discounting his sarcasm, this was morally myopic. But it seems to me, if you can contemplate reinstalling a Hussein, you'd count yourself lucky to have a Pinochet.
Realpolitik? The neocon clowns like Goldberg wouldn't know realpolitik if, to paraphrase the Black Adder, it sat on their face and wiggled singing "realpolitik is here to stay!"
So let's do the math. Two of the leading neocon deep-thinkers have independently concluded that an Iraqi dictator would be the best option to unify Iraq and thus keep the middle east from descending into violent chaos. I guess hindsight really is 20/20.
I feel like the parent who cautioned a small child against touching the stove because he might be burned, only to watch him touch the stove and burn his hand only to spend the rest of the day listening to that child explain how dangerous stove's are.
Or like I'm back in college.