OF CONSERVATIVES AND NEOCONS AND BRENT SCOWCROFT
Today's Houston Chronicle carries a Charles Krauthammer column that is scathing in its response to Brent Scowcroft's well-publicized opposition to the war in Iraq and, for that matter, Scowcroft's unwavering conviction that any form of regime change is wrong. Scowcroft was National Security Advisor under Bush '41. Krauthammer is unsparing:
Of course, Scowcroft's opposition to toppling Saddam is neither surprising nor new. Indeed, we are now seeing its third iteration. He had two cracks at Saddam in 1991 and urged his President Bush to pass them both up — first, after Saddam's defeat in the Gulf War when the road to Baghdad was open, and then, days later, during a massive U.S.-encouraged uprising of Kurds and Shiites when America stood by and allowed Saddam to massacre his opponents by the tens of thousands. (One of the reasons for Iraqi wariness during the U.S. liberation 12 years later was the memory of our past betrayal and suspicions about our current intentions in light of that betrayal.)
Terming Scowcroft a foreign policy realist, Krauthammer goes on to define such "realists" in these terms:
Realists prize stability above all, and there is nothing more stable than a ruthlessly efficient dictatorship. Which is why Scowcroft is the man who six months after Tiananmen Square toasted those who ordered the massacre; who, as the world celebrates the Beirut Spring that evicted the Syrian occupation from Lebanon, sees not liberation but possible instability; who can barely conceal a preference for Syria's stabilizing iron rule.
Even today Scowcroft says, "I didn't think that calling the Soviet Union the 'evil empire' got anybody anywhere." Tell that to Natan Sharansky and other Soviet dissidents for whom that declaration of moral — beyond geopolitical — purpose was electrifying, and helped galvanize the dissident movements that ultimately brought down the Soviet empire.
It was not brought down by diplomacy and arms control, the preferred realist means for dealing with the Soviet Union. It was brought down by indigenous revolutionaries, encouraged and supported by Ronald Reagan, a president unabashedly dedicated not to detente with evil, but its destruction — i.e., regime change.
For realists such as Scowcroft, regime change is the ultimate taboo.
Scowcroft, writes Krauthammer, is undeterred in his criticism of the Bush Administration and the neocons he's convinced pushed the president into taking out Saddam, embroiling the United States in a difficult and costly war in the Middle East.
Krauthammer concludes with this dagger to the heart:
It is not surprising that Scowcroft, who helped give indecency a 12-year life extension, should disdain decency's return. But we should not.
From the piece in "The New Yorker" (linked above), Scowcroft's pessimism about the efficacy of the war in Iraq is described in kinder terms:
He is not terribly optimistic. He feels very heavily the weight of history, and history isn’t telling him that things will turn out well. He’s hoping they will, I believe, and, from what I can tell, this is a sincere hope, even if a good turn of events in Iraq would prove him wrong in his analysis. This is an eighty-year-old man who wants to see his country safe and secure and prosperous. I’m not sure he’s right, of course—sometimes the realists overestimate the difficulties that come with change. But I think it’s fair to say that the country would be better off if Scowcroft was at least heard out by the current Administration.
The "New Yorker" article probes the so-called "rift" between traditional conservatives and the so-called neocons over the war and the belief by some conservatives (e.g., George Will) that many of the neocons (e.g., Paul Wolfowitz) are "liberals with guns."
Are the conservatives turning against the neoconservatives?
They’ve been doing so for some time. Just read George Will. Their complaint is that neoconservatives aren’t conservative; they’re liberals with guns. Conservatives tend to take Scowcroft’s more jaundiced view of human nature. Paul Wolfowitz, on the other hand, is a liberal, but a liberal who believes that transformation can be brought about by force, not just persuasion. Obviously, there are other breaches within the Republican Party, on the Harriet Miers nomination, on spending, and on and on.
Both sides, in their support or criticism of the war, come across as a touch extreme, but if the terrorist insurgency in Iraq can eventually be corralled, the WMDs issue as an ill-founded, faulty intelligence-based pretext for war will simply become the background noise for a stunning foreign policy victory in a part of the world that has been known for any number of diplomatic peace initiatives that proved as hollow and failed as the covenant Neville Chamberlain forged with the devil incarnate. To Bush's credit, he has braved the criticism and persisted in his unflagging belief that freedom and liberty must prevail in the face of the harsh realities of Islamofascism-spawned terrorism.
POSTSRIPT: This post at "Big Lizards," which includes a link to "stirring words" published at "Iraq The Model," is apropos of why Scowcroft's criticism of George W. Bush may be misplaced. Do read it.