Monday, August 25, 2008

Joe Lieberman Never Liked the Whalers

Oh, look, William Kristol thinks it would be just fabulous if John McCain picked Joseph Lieberman to be his Vice President. Shocker. (BTW, what the f*ck does Kristol mean by "Obama's glass ceiling"?)

Kristol and Lieberman, the ubiquitous poster children of the neocons, share a unique talent: despite being wrong about everything they continue to maintain positions as "foreign policy experts."

We can all look forward to seeing good ol' Joe Lieberman speaking at the Republican Convention a week from today, to champion John McCain and his candidacy, which seeks to maintain tax cuts for the rich, ensure a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, continue our ruinous economic policies, and, most importantly and dear to Lieberman's heart, continue to bomb Mohammedans into oblivion. Good ol' Joe Lieberman is eager to sink his former party's chances to change the course of the country after the ruinous eight years we've all just lived through. Joe Lieberman is a vengeful, hateful man. The state of Connecticut will never again elect him to any office.

All of that brought to mind another unrepentant windbag -- Kenneth Pollack. In this past Sunday's NYT Book Review, Economist writer Max Rodenbeck absolutely dismantled Pollack's latest work of deep thinking scholarship (his last was his book offering intellectual cover to liberals who felt sort of bad about wanting to like the invasion of Iraq [see, e.g., David Remnick])
Pollack commits errors that, despite his years in the corridors of power and some 70 pages of footnotes, betray a lack of genuine intimacy with his subject. It is not true, as he asserts, that education in the Persian Gulf emirates is largely private. Nor is it true, any longer, that virtually the only foreign investment in Arab countries goes toward pumping more oil: real estate, tourism, banking, telecoms and even heavy industry now lure investors, too.

It is an outdated generalization to state that “Arab bureaucracies . . . create interminable delays with customs regulations, inspections and other red tape.” Try telling that to Dubai Ports World, a company that runs 45 container terminals in 29 countries, or to the operators of the giant, state-of-the-art transshipment hubs in Egypt and Morocco that are set to dominate Mediterranean trade. It is even more misleading to assert that “the Arab regimes have implicitly or explicitly backed a range of terrorist groups.” Pray, which Arab governments does he mean, and which groups is he talking about?

Pollack also shows a shaky grasp of history. We know that the Ottoman Empire declined and fell, but to have endured for five centuries, and for half those as the biggest state in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, does not make the Ottomans “unsuccessful.” Elsewhere he tells us sagely that “over time, the stagnation of the Arab economies has created considerable poverty,” as if there were no poor Arabs before, and as if one of the most startling modern examples of mass impoverishment was not the Clinton-era sanctions on Iraq, which destroyed its middle class and set the stage for postwar chaos.

America gets off rather lightly in gen­eral, in Pollack’s account, compared with the sad Arabs whom we must help to be like us. We are told, for instance, that the United States only grudgingly became involved in the grisly Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s when it nobly undertook to reflag oil tankers in order to protect the flow of oil. No mention here of Donald Rumsfeld’s back-slapping with Saddam Hussein or the supply of satellite intelligence to him or the exchange of American weapons to Iran for hostages — all of which helped prolong the slaughter.

Pollack seems oddly unaware of history’s motivating forces. To assert that “what triggers revolutions, civil wars and other internal unrest is psychological factors, particularly feelings of extreme despair,” is plain silly. The Boston Tea Party could not have been prevented by Prozac. Similarly, he ascribes feelings to broad categories of Middle Easterners, devoid of any context or explanation. They are “angry populations” who suffer “inchoate frustration” and “a pathological hatred of the status quo.” We repeatedly hear of “Arab rage at Israel” and “Arab venom for Israel.” Nowhere is there a hint that such attitudes might bear some relation to the plight of the Palestinians, the agony of military defeat or the humiliation of life under Israeli occupation.

It was quite bracing to read Rodenbeck's piece in the Times. It felt like someone had slipped up at the Book Review and let his piece through without remembering to quash or neuter it. I guess I'm just accustomed and resigned to pablum like Walter Russell Mead's recent piece in Foreign Affairs.

So Lieberman on Monday at the GOP convention and Giuliani as the keynote. One word: FLORIDA!


MK said...

"The Boston Tea Party could not have been prevented by Prozac."


But say, why did you post the same post twice?

Octopus Grigori said...

Trying the GOP's repetition-makes-it-true approach. Just kidding, that was a blogger glitch.