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February 15, 2004 - The Evolving Consensus View for Perplexed Americans

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David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale University and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard.  That publication is often called "The Bible of the Neoconservative Movement" - what with Kristol and Kagan and the rest pretty much explaining the Cheney-Wolfowitz vision, which Bush fronts when he's not napping.  The Weekly Standard is our guide to why things are as they are, and as they should be.  

Last weekend Gelernter laid out the latest version of the Bush Doctrine (version 3. 5 by now) and we need to get behind this one, or at least understand it.  We put these guys in office - so we are accountable for this doctrine.  We own it.  

In a syndicated column that I caught in the Los Angeles Times but is probably available elsewhere, Gelernter explains it all to us.  

See The Happy Error: It took phantom WMD to rid the world of a great evil.  
David Gelernter, The Los Angeles Times, Sunday, February 08, 2004

Here's the opening, the set-up:


Thank God for those phantom Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.  Politically, they are a nonissue.  Morally, they are an amazing piece of luck. Strategically, they are a guide to the future.  The missing WMD were not merely an honest mistake; they were a providential mistake.  

Saddam Hussein was the slaughterer of his own people, benefactor of Palestinian terrorism, enemy of the United States.  But political realities here and abroad meant that all we could do was draw a bead on the man and tell him, in effect: Make our day.  And he was so stupid, he did.  

When do the informal, uncodified rules of international politics allow a foreign nation to invade, occupy and rebuild a monstrous tyranny?  How does a dictator qualify for mandatory relocation?  Not merely by unspeakable savagery to his own people.  Not even by posing a threat to the prospective invader.  He must be seen to pose a threat.


This of course is followed by a long history of recent events, indicating how threatening things seemed.  This was not a view shared by any major governments but those of the UK and Australia, and not the view of the UN, nor of the UN weapons inspectors like Hans Blix and Scott Ritter who we pretty much labeled blind, incompetent fools.  

Not important - all these folks were looking at the meager facts, not a how things seemed.  

Yeah, yeah.  So what does all this mean in term of future policy?

Here 'tis ...


What happens now? We institutionalize the phantom-WMD maneuver.  It was all a mistake, but it worked beautifully.  

The end of the Cold War brought big changes to the moral universe.  Any nation has a duty to alleviate suffering.  Any totalitarian dictatorship is a threat to world stability and therefore to the United States.  Yet the Hippocratic Oath applies: If forcibly removing a tyrant generates more net suffering than leaving him, leave him.  

The end of the Cold War greatly expanded our scope of action and, therefore, our moral obligations.  How do we react to our new, expanded duties?  Today there are lots of tyrannized nations we could liberate without provoking world war.  But we can't march into them all, all at once.  What procedure do we follow?

The Bush method.  We publish an official list of tyrants we consider it our moral duty to overthrow


The implied next sentence is obvious: Give us an excuse and we'll do it.  Play games with the UN; show us your true colors.  Meanwhile, we might pray for the strange, accidental wisdom to make another providential mistake.


You get the idea.  We have the moral duty to overthrow selected governments.  And we really don't need facts about any threat.  And this is how you get things done in the world - how you make things better.  

Look for this in the upcoming campaign.  

As for the opposition? 

Political Evaluations from the "Bush Is As Good as it Gets" Side of Things


One of my friends has followed the career of the journalist-gadfly-intellectual Christopher Hitchens in some detail.  Hitchens seems to have been everywhere and seen everything, and has morphed for a left side critic to an ardent supporter of George Bush and this war against the fanatical Islamic world.  Here he sizes up the opposition to Bush.  And it is curious:

See All Against Bush: Whom should the Democrats nominate?
Christopher Hitchens, SLATE. COM, Posted Sunday, Feb.  8, 2004, at 9:39 AM PT

First of all, the surprise.  He likes the man from Cleveland!


Dennis Kucinich is the sort of guy who we need in politics.  He thinks long-term, and he doesn't think that in the short or long term it pays to trade principles for compromises.  That's the attitude one wants in a president, of any party.  This, however, is probably not the year for a man who basically believes in the downsizing of the United States.


Well, that's matched by this mixed review of Wesley Clark.  


Wesley Clark is a loss to the United States armed forces, and President Clinton and Defense Secretary Cohen ought to have been excoriated for firing him when they did, as well as for how they did it.  Many Kosovars owe their lives to Clark, and the victory won in that war also helped to bring at least a semblance of democracy to Serbia.  But there's something bizarre about a conceited man in uniform who now can't remember which regime-change he favored or why, which party he belongs to, or which "faith-based" community he espouses.  He also has a weakness for half-cooked conspiracy stories and gets snappish when he's questioned on the last weird thing he said.  Again, beware of those who run to pacify their internal demons.  


Yeah, yeah.  Clark is gone.

But the real surprise is this:


A couple of years ago I wrote a profile of Sen. John Edwards for Vanity Fair and decided that he is a good man who is in politics for good reasons.  He voted for the essential measures on Iraq, but has also made some trenchant criticisms of the Homeland Security farce.  I'd add to this that he has since - unlike Joseph Lieberman, say - given up his very promising Senate career in order to run.  I leave to you the calculations about his Southern roots, his trial-lawyer connections, and all the rest of it, except to say that he earned his money from fighting large and negligent corporations rather than from fawning on them.  I'm totally bored with the idea of "small town" origins, since for generations most Americans have lived either in big cities or suburbs, and it's high time for someone to advertise himself as urbane.  However, a good man can be glimpsed even through the necessary hypocrisies of election time.  He has a terrific wife, as well.  


But then, here's why he thinks you'd be a fool not to vote for George Bush.  


I'm a single-issue person at present, and the single issue in case you are wondering is the tenacious and unapologetic defense of civilized societies against the intensifying menace of clerical barbarism 


If in the smallest doubt about this, I would suggest a vote for the re-election of George Bush, precisely because he himself isn't prey to any doubt on the point.  There are worse things than simple mindedness - pseudo-intellectuality, for example.  Civil unions for homosexuals, or prescription-drug programs, are not even going to be in second or third place if we get this wrong.  And presidents can't make much difference to the stock market or the employment rate or to income distribution.  But they can and must uphold their oath to defend the country.  So, having said that "issues" are only tangential to campaigns, the best estimate I can make is one about the seriousness of individuals.  I was open-mouthed at the idea that anyone would even consider entrusting the defense of the United States and its Constitution to Howard Dean, but that problem appears to have taken care of itself, even if only through the sort of voter-intuition that one is ultimately forced to recommend.  

Make up your own mind, is my own best recommendation, and put "electability" (once a Dean property, for heaven's sake) to one side.  An Edwards-Kerry ticket would be made up of serious men, at least, and this is a test that people and politicians have to pass whether they are looking for votes or not.


The fellow who claims to be a real intellectual has spoken.  For what it's worth.