Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

ENGAGING WITH THE MIDDLE EAST....Matt Yglesias writes, and Atrios endorses, the following critique of the Bush Doctrine:

America's strategy for the Middle East is centered on transforming its states into liberal democracies, but our main local partners in this effort are...sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs. Nobody seems to talk about it anymore, but this is obviously dumb.

....The bulk of American elite opinion has switched over to the Bush view that we need to democratize the Middle East, but as we've been seeing in the port controversy the bulk of American elite opinion, like Bush himself, thinks the Arabian peninsula's monarchical elites are wonderful people who we should be supporting to the end. You can't do both.

This is a topic that deserves considerably more than just an assertion of "obviously dumb," I think. Let me offer a few half-formed responses.

First, America has lots of strategic partners that aren't liberal democracies, and always has. What's more, everybody talks about this. I can hardly swing a dead blog without hearing George Bush condemned for not being tough enough on Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, and this criticism isn't exactly foreign to dead tree op-ed writers either. I'm a little mystified at the proposition that this paradox at the heart of American foreign policy never gets any attention.

Second, has the bulk of American elite opinion really bought into the Bushian view that democratizing the Middle East is Job 1? I'm really asking here. There's no question that this is a major preoccupation among a certain sort of opinion maker, but it's far from universal. I think democracy promotion is a fine idea, for example, but I'm actually a lot more interested in things like economic reform, institution building, a free press, better treatment of women, religious tolerance, and so forth.

Third, is it really true that you "can't do both" i.e., support democracy and work with nondemocratic regimes in the Middle East? The Bush administration certainly pushes hypocrisy to the limits sometimes on this score, but what's the alternative? Outside of Israel, sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs are the only partners available in the Middle East. This means that if we want to engage with the Muslim world, instead of simply bombing and invading it, we're going to have to engage with some fairly disagreeable regimes. There's no question that this is a tricky line to walk, and I myself think the Bush administration appeases nasty but useful allies far too often, but carrots and sticks are still the name of the game here.

None of this is directly related to the Dubai port deal, which can be supported or opposed on its merits. Still, there's an instructive lesson to be taken from the latest talking point among the deal's opponents, namely that Dubai Ports World is a nasty company because it supports the boycott of Israel. Surely this is an opportunity, though, not a reason to scuttle the deal? If we make approval of the deal conditional on DPW abandoning the boycott, that's a big win. It would mean we've used American leverage in a good cause and a major Arab company would be publicly committed to allowing trade with Israel. That's a small step, but with rare exceptions that's how progress is made.

UPDATE: Matt makes some eminently reasonable points in response here.

Kevin Drum 1:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (122)

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Comments

Turkey is, for the purposes of this discussion, outside the Middle East?

Posted by: S Ra on March 1, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

To the extent we've succeeded in democratizing Iraq, have we also succeeded in intensifying its communnal divisions? Is that a good thing for Iraq?

To the extent we succeed in democratizing Arab countries, will the chief beneficiaries of our success, at least in the short run, be Islamists? Is that a good thing for the United States?

The notion United States should make it its business wholeheartedly to play the role of sovereign and democratize other countries--why should that be a widely accepted view?

Posted by: Autocrat on March 1, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Second, has the bulk of American elite opinion really bought into the Bushian view that democratizing the Middle East is Job 1?"

The bobbleheads support the "popular" Bush, and slam / ignore the Democrats. So, since these are the smart people who really love America, and Bush is all about Democracy and Freedom, then yes.

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on March 1, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Is Iran considered democratic?

Posted by: Chris on March 1, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

There are no democracies in the Middle East outside Israel, after all.

How many elections do Iraq and Palestine have to stage before we can no longer make this statement? And what exactly is Lebanon at this point?

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 1, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Point No. 1: It's an attractive idea, but I fear that in practice, any action by the U.S. demanding that the UAE end its boycott of Israel would be the deal breaker. The only advantage to this course of action would be to demonstrate once again that the Arab countries are at about the same level of tolerance as the mobs burning down embassies over the cartoons. It might serve to get GW off the hook.

Point No. 2: I notice that more and more, this comment section is being used to take pot shots at the authors, cheap shots at some minimal factual error, or just plain partisan irrelevancies. This is the internet equivalent of graffitti vandalism. That having been said, perhaps the more sane posters could understand that replying to these nastygrams doesn't help. As in other forums, the proper response is, as always, "Please don't feed the trolls."

Posted by: Bob G on March 1, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that we're not gonna be MORE popular, if there was more popular sovereignty in the region.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 1, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Second, has the bulk of American elite opinion really bought into the Bushian view that democratizing the Middle East is Job 1?

Yes; yes they have. That's why you keep hearing about it. Did you see the Economist a couple of weeks ago with the cover proclaiming "the only thing that Bush got right"? This "Bush Doctrine" is the reason so very many people have given Bush a pass on Iraq from thet get-go.

Posted by: Halfdan on March 1, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"There are no democracies in the Middle East outside Israel, after all. "

Interstingly, Iran is more democratic than most. We missed a great chance to engage quietly with Iran and encourage the more moderate factions there over Afghanistan. This in fact may have been our big chance to help the spread of democracy in the Islamic states.

Instead Bush gave the oh-so-clever "Axis of Evil" speech and thereby encouraged the most radical and dangerous elements in Iran. Once again his tough-talk Cowboy approach -- the very opposite of Teddy Roosevelt's "Walk softly " -- strengthened our enemies, made things worse, and worked against the nation's long-term interests.

We need to keep in mind that democratic is not the same as "allied with the U.S."

Posted by: peter Alexander on March 1, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

There's been a fair amount written about thed results of elections so far in the Middle East, but two things are guaranteed to undermine the Bush doctrine, and the Bushies are doing it to themselves: (1) defining "democracy" entirely as holding elections, and (2) refusing to deal (have continuing formal relations with) subsequently with the legitimately elected governments we don't like (see Shiite majority in Iraq, Hamas in Palestine, etc.).Having set ourselves up to define eletion winners in Middle Eastern countries as "legitimate" governors, to then immediately turn around and try to manipulate the winners (as in Iraq--never mind who got the most votes, you need a "unity" government) or discredit the winners (as with Hamas) is to strangle the democracy promotion policy in its crib. You think other Middle Eastern countries will rush toward the opportunity of being discredited, too?
Charles

Posted by: Charles Moore on March 1, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

The bulk of American elite opinion has switched over to the Bush view that we need to democratize the Middle East, but as we've been seeing in the port controversy the bulk of American elite opinion, like Bush himself, thinks the Arabian peninsula's monarchical elites are wonderful people who we should be supporting to the end.

Atrios and Yglesias are wrong of course. Bush IS promoting democracy across the middle east even among allies.
1. Lebanon. Cedar revolution which overthrew the Syrian imposed dictatorship.
2. Egypt. First multi-party elections to elect parliament and president.
3. Saudi Arabia. First elections will be held in a few years.
4. Iraq. Overthrew Saddam's despotic murderous autocracy for free elections.

Liberals like Atrios and Yglesias can't even see what Bush has accomplished.

Posted by: Al on March 1, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

"This means that if we want to engage with the Muslim world, instead of simply bombing and invading it, we're going to have to engage with some fairly disagreeable regimes."

Okay, I have an honest question here: is it possible to engage with the Muslim world and bypass the disagreeable regimes? I mean, is there a way to interact directly with the people of these countries without whoring ourselves out to their governments? I'm asking this in all seriousness.

Posted by: EM on March 1, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs is too restrictive.

The term must include Ahmadinezani and Musharraf and Mubark etc. who are by any stretch of the meaning of the phrase do not fall into the category.

Posted by: lib on March 1, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK
Turkey is, for the purposes of this discussion, outside the Middle East?

"The Middle East" seems to have been redefined to mean "the Arab states plus Iran and sometimes the occupied Palestinian territories". Turkey and Israel are, apparently, excluded.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 1, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the UAE port deal is a good idea, for reasons particular to domestic control of critical infrastructure, but were a deal to be made to allow the UAE to run these ports, the Israeli boycott should be 3rd on the list behind a firm commitment to massively increase port security investment (1st) and the UAE accepting the right of workers to collectively bargain.

Even NAFTA, if I recall correctly, had written into it protections in terms of the right to collective bargaining, and this is seen as a basic economic right.

If we are to allow the UAE to run these ports, which I think is a bad idea on its own merits in terms of critical infrastructure, we need to get these 3 things done, since it's one thing to trade with whoever happens to be trading, but it's quite another to give favored status to regimes that hardly deserve it.

In my mind, no regime gets favored status, especially in terms of mission-critical stuff on American soil, unless they support human and economic rights. Only then also can we truly trust such a regime, enterprise or society, in terms of built-in accountability. The Israeli boycott thing comes in last here in terms of consideration, but wouldn't be a bad deal to throw in the pot.

Posted by: Jimm on March 1, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Democratizing the middle east only became job one when there were no WMD found in Iraq. Don't kid yourself. There is no coherent (or otherwise) policy for the middle east. It is scattershot nonpolicy policy because the people in charge of policymaking are incompetent, misguided and deluded.

Posted by: lina on March 1, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

On review, it seems possible that "Middle East" is actually being used as a synonym for "the Arabian peninsula", certainly, the descriptions are more accurate that way.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 1, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Look, everybody Bush doesn't care about democracy. He just uses it as a stick to beat up countries he doesn't like (Syria and Iran). We prop up the Saudis, the Jordanians, Kuwait and the Emirates, all of which are monarchies and not the least bit democratic. In fact, democratically elected governments in the Middle East would look like the ones in Palestine and Iran--not in our best interest. The U.S. is now hated throughout the region and for good reason. Oh, and go ahead and make DPW renounce the Israeli boycott--Al Qaeda would love that--just more evidence of America controlling Arabs.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on March 1, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

In what sense is the "bulk of American elite opinion" actually "elite" or ?

Wouldn't "the bulk of the thoughtless chatter spewing forth from the American media commentariat" be more accurate?

Posted by: cmdicely on March 1, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking the sweethearting of this deal had more to do with the fact that we've been in debt in several different ways to UAE for the past five years (keeping our ships docked since the invasion of Iraq, for a big example), and this is part of their collecting on that debt. So I don't see how Bush has any wiggle room to negotiate dropping the boycott of Israel, or much else.

To be graphic, UAE's got us by the short hairs in this one.

Posted by: Omphale on March 1, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Surely this is an opportunity, though, not a reason to scuttle the deal? If we make approval of the deal conditional on DPW abandoning the boycott, that's a big win.

And how about the idea that if we PUNISH these heriditary monarchies by denying them and corporate flunkies business, then they won't engage in this kind of crap in the first place?

You talk about sticks and carrots with these people, but where in your arsenal, or that of Bushco, do you ever use a stick they give a damn about?

The message is always to these people: you can get away with just about everything your heart desires with us. You go right ahead and go on hunting trips with Osama and engage in a boycott against Israel, and we can give you a nice lecture afterwards, and make a few adjustments so our little people don't get too mad.

Don't worry -- you'll NEVER miss a single penny when it comes to picking up all the American money you might ever want! We're not being THAT serious for Christ's sake!! I mean, are you kidding?

Posted by: frankly0 on March 1, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like I'm the first one to introduce this word into the discussion:

OIL.

It's all about the oil.

Everything that the USA does with regard to the Middle East is all about the oil.

For that matter, everything that any and all of the world's major powers do with regard to the Middle East is all about the oil.

The one and only reason that the world's "great powers" have any interest at all in the Middle East is the oil.

The one and only reason that "American elite opinion" concerns itself with the Middle East is the oil.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 1, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Holding "free" elections doesn't equal democracy. That is the problem with the Bush doctrine. He think you can dispense freedom like its Coke that you hand out to the poor grateful people of the world at the back of the truck. The truck speeds away and the people are left with empty containers.

Posted by: Randy on March 1, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I mean, is there a way to interact directly with the people of these countries without whoring ourselves out to their governments? I'm asking this in all seriousness.

No. Think about how well attempts by foreigners to engage politically with Americans without "whoring themselves out to our government" work. (Viz. the British attempt to appeal directly to voters in Ohio in the 2004 elections.) It's not a matter of "whoring", actually; it's a matter of taking a respectful and realistic approach to other people's countries.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 1, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

First it's not liberal democracies the American elte and Bushco are interested in, It's utopian neo-conservative ones. Second the Bushians don't do details, they do campaign slogans. Your post is full of the kind of questions they simply aren't interested in. Their sycophants parrot whatever "deep" thoughts Rove and crew belch up during staff meetings. Until Bush is gone and forgotten there will never be any meaningful policy either foreign or Domestic, period.

Your points are valid though, and ya it would be nice to see some pressure come to bear. Is it really that hard to negotiate out Dubai's boycott? Can't out first self proclaimed "CEO" President make that happen?

Posted by: Sauce on March 1, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Certainly the hypocrisy of a pro-democracy rhetoric while we prop up dictators and meddle in elections is old hat, though 9/11 was supposed to change all that.

What's really horrid and gets little attention is Bush's with us or against us rhetoric while he coddles his rich Al Qaeda loving buddies on the Arabian Peninsula.

Posted by: Boronx on March 1, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, secular, STFU.

You can die for it,
and you can kill for it,
but you sure as hell can't talk about it.

Posted by: Boronx on March 1, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: I can hardly swing a dead blog without hearing George Bush condemned for not being tough enough on Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, and this criticism isn't exactly foreign to dead tree op-ed writers either.

I swing dead blogs, and horses--even quails--all the time and I hear very little condemnation of Bush "for not being tough enough on Egypt," et al. What I do hear is condemnation for his hypocrisy over his habit of having different standards for different countries based on factors unrelated to the issues he purports to be his primary concern. In other words, it seems to me that blog and op-ed writers are less likely to opine that Bush should be tougher on country x, than they are to say that if you're going to give country x a free pass, you should do the same for country y, since it is, if anything, a less severe violator of U.S. priority a.


DRUM: Second, has the bulk of American elite opinion really bought into the Bushian view that democratizing the Middle East is Job 1?

No, but, unfortunately, they have, like you, bought into the Bushian lie that democratizing the Middle East is their Job 1. Job 1, of course, is world domination and exploitation, the very antithesis of democracy.


Posted by: jayarbee on March 1, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

The point here isn't that a few monarchs ruin the whole plan, or that Democracy is a bad idea. The point is that Bush's "democracy-building" plan is as half-assed as every other grand scheme he's ever had.

How do I know it was half-assed? Look at our reaction to Hamas's election in Palestine. America is not popular in the Middle East, and there is enough popular support for anti-American extremists that we can expect in free elections, a number of them would be elected to office, and perhaps take over a country. A serious democracy-building initiative would have had to face the following question: What do we do when a Mideast democracy legitimately elects people we don't like? And it would have come up with some sort of contingency plan--some way to either stop it from happening, or deal with it when it did.

Bush didn't do this. He seemed to just say, "throw down fertilizer and only good things will grow." And now we're in a situation where Hamas has been elected into power and we're just now trying to figure out how to deal with that. I swear, it's like Iraq and Katrina--we're reeling in the face of a problem that everyone knew wasn't a vague possibility, but a near-certainty.

I believe Democracy really IS a solution for the Middle East. The problem isn't that George Bush is trying and failing to get Democracy in the middle east, the problem is that whether he realizes it or not, he isn't really trying. This will make it immeasurably harder for anyone coming after him to achieve a goal that I think absolutely MUST happen.

Posted by: theorajones on March 1, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I would say that the media elite has indeed floated along with the Bushies to thinking that more democracy in the Mideast would be a good thing. But there is no plan, or any concrete steps, actual or advocated, to bring this about.

The reason for this is fundamental. If we accept that these regimes are going to be with us for a while, then (as everyone seems to agree) we should be engaging with them. But cooperation means giving them something they want in exchange for something we want, and mainly they want enhanced security.

Much of the confused and paradoxical nature of this discussion flows out of an underlying assumption, on all sides, that the US has vast powers of some sort, with the fundamental issue in foreign policy being how to direct these. But for democratization this isn't so: invasion may be a lousy way to bring about regime change, but there's really nothing else in the tool box.

Posted by: Andy McLennan on March 1, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
So remind me again why the United States Government backed a coup against the democratically-elected President of Venezuela?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 1, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your post it disappointingly non-reponsive to Matt's post. Your first point just flat misses his. Of course the US has lots of non-democratic strategic partners. So, yes, you can rely on sickening, repressive hereditary oligarchies to dock your ships, or sell you oil, or buy your I-pods, or give you intelligence, all kinds of things. What's "dumb" is expecting sickening, repressive hereditary oligarchies to help you end the rule of sickening, repressive hereditary oligarchies and to usher in a brave new world of people-power democracy in the neighborhood. Your second point is concededly less a point than a question, but it almost seems to answer itself. You wonder whether it's really true that elite opinion now favors democratizing the Middle East as a primary objective, but to prove that there are other viewpoints, you cite . . . yourself. Which is Matt's point. Liberal bloggers, Prospect writers, and some backbench Congressmembers may have all kinds of grand designs for US Middle East policies -- but nobody who actually matters cares. In other words, by "elite" I don't think Matt means "smarty pants," but rather "in charge of policy and issuing policy-shaping opinions." Your third point insists we can "support democracy" and "work with non-democratic regimes" at the same time, but Matt's point was that elite opinion-makers don't want just to "work with" sickening, repressive hereditary oligarchies, they want to support them actively, provide them special economic deals, and to insult and condemn anyone who suggests that these regimes should be identified as *exactly* waht they are. To your last suggestion, which is not a bad one (though it assumes away all security concerns with the deal) -- this to me falls in the law of "And A Pony". Sure it would be nice if Bush conditioned the deal this way, but he won't, so why should critics of the deal get caught up debating themselves over a better way to do it, instead of just criticizing Bush for giving such economic favor to a country that so openly yearns for Israel's destruction? He makes policy, not us, and that's the policy he's chosen. He didn't have to, but he did. He should be forced to defend it. Period.

Posted by: jon on March 1, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

America's strategy for the Middle East is centered on transforming its states into liberal democracies,

Call me unduly cynical, but really, where is the evidence for this? Because W says so? Gee, what else has he said that turned out to be self-serving bullshit?

I'll believe this statement is true when I see policies that reflect it. Until then, it's all RNC spin to me.

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Strategic partners, my ass.

US foreign policy is about as logical as cutting off your nose to spite your face.

we're going to have to engage with some fairly disagreeable regimes. There's no question that this is a tricky line to walk, and I myself think the Bush administration appeases nasty but useful allies far too often, but carrots and sticks are still the name of the game here.

Engage with and support are two entirely different policy decisions, Kevin.

Posted by: ChrisS on March 1, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

So let's see, Kevin's idea is that we should engage the heriditary monarchies so that we can convince them to become democratic?

How's that working out, do you think, Kevin? Especially if they know we'll never be serious about punishing them by, say, ACTUALLY denying them business?

Why, I'm sure any ol' century the people will all get a vote, including the women.

Great plan, you know?

Posted by: frankly0 on March 1, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

The Middle East ex-Israel does have some countries that are more or less democratic, but the problem is that none of them are at all stable and can become un-democratic in a flash.

Posted by: Peter on March 1, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

if we want to engage with the Muslim world, instead of simply bombing and invading it, we're going to have to engage with some fairly disagreeable regimes

no. if we want to engage corrupt hereditary monarchs, we have to engage those people. if we want to engage the people....

Posted by: cleek on March 1, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

>>>Surely this is an opportunity, though, not a reason to scuttle the deal? If we make approval of the deal conditional on DPW abandoning the boycott, that's a big win. It would mean we've used American leverage in a good cause and a major Arab company would be publicly committed to allowing trade with Israel. That's a small step, but with rare exceptions that's how progress is made.

So you've decided it's okay to kill this deal? Including this clause is a deal-breaker under another name. I agree this would be good thing to do, but don't be confused about what it means.

Posted by: Dale on March 1, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Turkey is, for the purposes of this discussion, outside the Middle East?"

Turkey is a strange duck. It's at least as much Europe as it is Middle East, which is to say it doesn't fit neatly into either.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish on March 1, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your post is, well, it's just dumb. Do you honestly think the national interest is served by anything other than letting the Bush presidency fail in as spectacular a fashion as possible?

These bastards have not allowed a sliver of nuance to enter the debate since (at least) 9/11. E.g: point out the Iraq War has no relationship to an effective war on terrorism, and you are an appeaser, probably a gay one, at best, and at worst you are a traitor.

When our political opponents are beating us over the head with the most dishonest rhetoric and slander I've ever seen in American politics, why are you so eager to find common ground?

There is a valid debate over granting a great deal of control over our ports to a country that has had, and very may well still have, ties to terrorist groups in the Middle East. On the other hand, I don't see how allowing a handful of autocrats to make themselves even more obscenely wealthy is going to enhance our image with the average Arab. There's no huge downside to blocking this deal, and there's a big political upside. This is, or should be, the Democratic position on this issue. So why do you insist on calling the people you allegedly agree with racists and demagogues?

Posted by: brewmn on March 1, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

cleek wrote: "no. if we want to engage corrupt hereditary monarchs, we have to engage those people. if we want to engage the people...."

yeah, so how do you finish that sentence?

Posted by: EM on March 1, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin assumes that we are in agreement that the Israeli boycott is a BAD THING...

it is most certainly a GOOD thing if you are in their concentration camps.

Posted by: Ashley on March 1, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Still, there's an instructive lesson to be taken from the latest talking point among the deal's opponents, namely that Dubai Ports World is a nasty company because it supports the boycott of Israel. Surely this is an opportunity, though, not a reason to scuttle the deal?

I haven't read the comments yet, but in case no one's mentioned it. It's actually against US law to do business with countries that support the Israel boycott.

So legally this deal can't go through unless Dubai changes it's stance or the law changes.


AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Sorry, couldn't keep a straight face on that one either. Obviously we all know that obeying the law is the last thing the Bush administration wants to do, especially if there are lucrative contracts or other advantages in peril.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 1, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ignoring Ashley,*

I mean, is there a way to interact directly with the people of these countries without whoring ourselves out to their governments

Radio. TV. The internets.

(Yes, problems of censorship with all three, but hey . . .)

Posted by: Dan S. on March 1, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

America's strategy for the Middle East is centered on transforming its states into liberal democracies,

Bullshit.

but our main local partners in this effort are...sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs.

Yes. That's how I know it's bullshit.

Nobody seems to talk about it anymore, but this is obviously dumb.

Yglesias is obviously dumb, since we talk about it all the time.

....The bulk of American elite opinion has switched over to the Bush view that we need to democratize the Middle East, but as we've been seeing in the port controversy the bulk of American elite opinion, like Bush himself, thinks the Arabian peninsula's monarchical elites are wonderful people who we should be supporting to the end. You can't do both.

No shit. But you can do one while pretending to do the other. Are you all caught up now, Mr. Yglesias? Because waiting for people like you to pull your head out of your ass is getting old.

If Yglesias were doing nutrition instead of politics, he's spend all his time singing fast-food jingles.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on March 1, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

The strategic reality is that the global economy cannot forgo the consistent extraction of the oil in the Persian Gulf, absent catastrophic pain being inflicted on just about everybody, pain that the citizens of just about every country in the world are not going to be willing to tolerate. Switchgrass, solar panels, or nuclear energy aren't going to change that reality except in the somewhat long term.

Furthermore, despots who control large oil reserves are pretty much immune to outside pressure to liberalize, unless "outside pressure" is defined as a couple of armored divisions parked on the despots' border. There is nothing the U.S., or anyone else, can do to the House of Saud, in terms of economic pressure, which can modify their behavior significantly, because they know that no one can forgo what they are selling. As long as they control the oil, we, and everybody else, has to do business with them, and they know it.

The oil of the Persian Gulf will be extracted. It will either be extracted via our participation in the enslavement of the population which sits atop the oil, which has been the model employed for most of the past eight decades, or it will be extracted after a very large percentage of that population is killed, or it will be extracted after the population gains control of those oil reserves, and decides it is in their interest to trade that oil peacefully and profitably. There ain't any other options.

Unless a person is willing to confront this reality, as ugly as it is, and clearly states which option is preferred, and acknowledges that option's implications, and how that option it is to be accomplished, they haven't anything to say that is worth listening to.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Turkey is, for the purposes of this discussion, outside the Middle East?"

Generally, yes. Turkey is a bit of an anomaly, straddling as it does both Europe and Asia. While the Turks are Muslim they are of course not Arabs and, unlike the rest of the Middle East, have a secular, democratic, Western-oriented polity.

My personal preference for a (very) rough definition of "the Middle East" has been those countries, except for Turkey, formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th/early 20th century.

Posted by: Stefan on March 1, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Mine was a mostly rhetorical question; if you get your Comment in fast enough sometimes Kevin responds to them.

Turkey is geographically 95% in the Middle East and is population-wise 99.8% Muslim. And it's a democracy, albeit with occasional backsliding and repression of various groups.

However, they have had several peaceful transfers of power, which is the true hallmark of a democracy. Anyone can hold elections.

If you're going to address Muslim and/or Middle Eastern democracy, you have to address Turkey. Otherwise you need to specify the Arab world.

Mostly I wanted to know whether Kevin was ignoring Turkey because they aren't Arabs, because having had coups he feels they aren't a real democracy, or because he just forgot about them.

Posted by: S Ra on March 1, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: Outside of Israel, sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs are the only partners available in the Middle East.

Now, this is pretty stupid.

You mean the only people we can deal with are the ones currently in charge?

There are no individuals or groups in the Middle East who aren't sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs?

Please!

That's like saying "Saddam is in charge so what choice do we have but to befriend this tyrant and hope to sway him to democracy."

Which, of course, is exactly what the GOP said, except they left off the part about "hope to sway him to democracy" which they, of course again, never tried to do or even indicated any desire to see happen.

Try to think outside the box of current "allies", Kevin.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 1, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen's right; Unless you want to pull a Stalin, it's the landlords over there who call the shots.

Posted by: S Ra on March 1, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: This means that if we want to engage with the Muslim world, instead of simply bombing and invading it, we're going to have to engage with some fairly disagreeable regimes.

What utter bullsh*t.

Hey, Kevin, why didn't we try to engage the Vichy government in France, a fairly disagreeable regime, during WWII instead of allying ourselves with the French Resistance?

We already tried your suggested tact with the Taliban, the Shah, and Saddam, not to mention the Saudi monarchy, with predictable results.

But, hey, enlighten us about why we should ignore the lessons of history, eh.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 1, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think that your post is pretty good.

People porport to believe that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" and "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness" -- but then fall to bickering over the one step or one candle. If the creation of a new democracy in Iraq is one step or one candle, then it is clear that we need help to take that step or light that candle, and our help can not come from all pure bright sources.

If we hadn't joined with the USSR in defeating Nazi Germany, then Germany and Eastern Europe almost for sure would not be democracies now. With an American presence in the gulf, and with one actual democracy maintained for a sufficient time, it is possible that more liberalizations will occur. Without the assistance of some detestible governments, there will be no progress at all. There may be no progress anyway (as people here frequently write), but help from the Gulf states is required in order to have hope of progress.

Posted by: republicrat on March 1, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"If we make approval of the deal conditional on DPW abandoning the boycott, that's a big win."

A big win for who? Why would American Ports be negotiating chips for Israel's national interest?

Posted by: still working it out on March 1, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

another example: say for the sake of argument that we could agree with China on a way to halt the genocide in Darfur (I don't think this is possible, but it might be.) Would we object that China has too gruesome a domestic regime for us to end the Darfur genocide?

Matt Yglesias is right that foreign policy is incoherent, but that is because we have to cooperate with nations we don't like in order to achieve any progress at all. Anybody can write out a coherent foreign policy, but it couldn't then be enacted.

Posted by: republicrat on March 1, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen wrote: The strategic reality is that the global economy cannot forgo the consistent extraction of the oil in the Persian Gulf, absent catastrophic pain being inflicted on just about everybody, pain that the citizens of just about every country in the world are not going to be willing to tolerate [...} The oil of the Persian Gulf will be extracted.

I suspect that you are probably correct in your prediction that the remaining oil reserves of the Persian Gulf will be extracted, and burned, as will all the other remaining oil reserves in the world.

However, if this occurs it will lead to the amplification and acceleration of the anthropogenic global warming that is already having disastrous effects all over the Earth, which will cause "catastrophic pain" almost beyond imagination, which no one will be able to avoid or escape, and will very likely cause the extinction or near-extinction of the human species.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 1, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe: How many elections do Iraq and Palestine have to stage before we can no longer make this statement? And what exactly is Lebanon at this point?

Good questions to keep in mind. And is Turkey both a democracy and in the middle east? And how about Iran -- is Iran a parody of a democracy, like S. Africa under apartheit?

Not whole answers but:

1. the elected Iraqi government has to defeat the insurgency and continue to hold freely contested elections.

2. the Palestinians need to hold a series of regularly scheduled, freely contest elections. the elections are erratic at best, and certain contestants are killed or bludgeoned.

3. Lebanon doesn't seem to be a single country, and it isn't clear where, if anywhere, the elected government actually governs.


Is the ongoing survival of the democratic Israel against repeated assault a sign to other countries that democracy is something good to be achieved? Or do the enemies of democracy hava a confident belief that they can still destroy Israel and rid the Middle East of democracy entirely? (obviously, these are not the only possibilities)

Posted by: republicrat on March 1, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

It's actually against US law to do business with countries that support the Israel boycott.

I'd really like to have some laughs reviewing the wording of this law, because it has to be so worded to allow for exceptions like oil.

Posted by: Jimm on March 1, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Outside of Israel, sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs are the only partners available in the Middle East.

I don't think Kevin Drum should be allowed to post on the Middle East. The last time I checked in he suggested that possibly invading Arab countries to shake them up was really a good idea. Now this.

Egypt, the largest country in the Middle East, is not a "sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchy". Nor are Yemen, Turkey, Lebanon, or Syria. Or even Iran which was a montachy when we supported it.

Israel, like most countries in the Middle East, "enforces sharia" to the extent of allowing religious law to govern many civil institutions such as marriage and divorce. There is a very broad spectrum in application of sharia. Iraq has, of course, has under our tutelage become more rather than less reliant on sharia.

Could we let go of this delusion that it's our project to transform these societies, by force if necessary. It's not our right. If we try we'll make things worse - as we have shown to date.

Posted by: No Preference on March 1, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

The key in the phrase is Liberal. Those monarchies have liberal societies. Democracy is a means to an end. Our Representative Democracy was created to protect our liberal society. It so happens that our system also caused/allowed our liberal society to slowy become more socially liberal.

Posted by: aaron on March 1, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kevin, why didn't we try to engage the Vichy government in France, a fairly disagreeable regime, during WWII instead of allying ourselves with the French Resistance?

We pretty much did that in Morocco, though the details are complicated. Eisenhower's "Crusade in Europe" contains a lively account of dealing with the "legalistic" government in Morocco, and the ineffectuality of the opponents of Vichy. And he contrasted this later in the book with his difficulties dealing with DeGaull and others.

Posted by: republicrat on March 1, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

This "is democratization a great thing" debate has been going on in IR circles for a long time. It's comical that it suddenly seems new now that Bush has taken upon himself to cloak his aggression in Iraq and to define success in the war on terror (and thus preventing future terror attacks) with democracy.

Let's review the debate...democracy comes in many flavors of "liberal". Democratic outcomes can lead to less liberalism, and to less democracy (even to no democracy), if a particular regime gains power through the balloting. Hitler would be one example, and one I would not put in the same sentence as other examples, lest I "stain" them with Hitler/Nazi rhetorical emotionalism.

It would seem wise not to preemptively invade an Arab country in the Middle East (against world opinion) as a prelude to spreading democracy throughout the region, since it pisses off most of the residents, who are going to take their democracy and stuff it up our ass, since Islamist and other opposition parties to American influence and American-propped autocrats (who ineffectively govern without accountability) will stoke the anger and discontent with America to their own political benefit.

Soon, we'll see the natural cycle of this kind of "elite opinion" in regards to democratization, as the elite opinionators herd back to a more "realist" position when democracy leads to regimes coming to power that are not as liberal as we would like and also less willing to kiss our butt and give us preferential treatment.

Then, we'll hear about how democracy can be dangerous, and that what may be need in the interim is a strongman who can keep order while incrementally being pushed to liberalize by American economic and military support. Saddam Hussein comes to mind as a model for this kind of
American meddling and opinionating.

Posted by: Jimm on March 1, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

So, the cycle goes like this:

1. We need democratization!
2. Oh my, look who won the election!
3. We need less democratization and a strongman who can keep order and slowly liberalize (or at the very least keep our interests at heart, no matter what he does with his own people)!
4. Oh my, look what this strongman is doing...he is the essence of evil and Hitler!
5. We need regime change (and an excuse for regime change)!
6. We need democratization!

So it goes...

Example: Iran has a popular election and elects a leader in the 50s; we overthrow the guy because he threatens our economic interests; he gets overthrown by an Islamist revolution; we support a strongman next door, build him up, and encourage him to attack his neighbor; the strongman next door gets out of control and we decide Iraq needs democracy; we start making a bunch of demands to Iraq's elected leaders about how they should run their country; in the end, our elite opinionators will just agree with whatever the elite strategists are currently spinning, the moral relativism is nothing short of obvious, and the elite strategists really don't care about the democracy debate, but raw national interests.

Posted by: Jimm on March 1, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I don't purport to know what the outcome will be of extracting and burning the oil the Persian Gulf, but I do know that billions of people in India, China, and South America, to say nothing of hundreds of millions in North America and Europe, are not going to be willing to forgo consuming that oil.

If you are correct in your estimation, Secular Animist, then about 98% of the debate in this forum is a waste of time.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK


A post and discussion from Bizarroland.

After WW II, liberal democrats didn't need our help kicking out autocrats. Democracy broke out everywhere.

And we spent the next 60 years stamping it out. Those oil-selling autocrats are our stooges, installed by us to prevent democracy, which might take control of their own national resources.

Even so, millions of foreigners came here, and all we needed to do to support the spread of our form of democracy was to treat them fairly. They were happy to work here, send their earnings home, and often agitate from here for democratic changes in their own lands. Where we did treat them fairly, they became quasi-Americans, often more fanatic than ourselves about spreading our way of life.

But the demagoguery of the Bush gang has ruined our public image, and discouraged people from coming here.

However, as we are the most self-centered people on Earth, the question becomes- shouldn't we support the dictators we installed in order to further Democracy? Because we all know we're in favor of Democracy.

This kind of lunatic mumbling is the senile raving of a demented aging Empire.

If we wanted to support democracy, we would do so, in Haiti, Palestine, Iran, Venezuela- you know, all those places "we" disapprove of, because their leaders are "thugs".

That's right, Bush and Cheney think leaders who were actually elected are "thugs". Like I said, senile mumblings of aging empire.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 1, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Secular,

I agree - i wonder at what point every cubic inch of atmosphere will have gone through a compression/combustion cycle in an internal combustion engine - makes you want to take a nice, deep breath of "fresh" air, doesnt it.

thats why if we had even half a brain in our collective heads, we would pitch headlong into alternatives - the most promising, of course, being the controlled release of energy from the fissure of the atom.

jesus man, we got the uncontrolled part down 60 years ago - what the hell have we been doin since?

Posted by: christAlmighty on March 1, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK


SERIAL CATOWNER: After WW II, liberal democrats didn't need our help kicking out autocrats. Democracy broke out everywhere. And we spent the next 60 years stamping it out. Those oil-selling autocrats are our stooges, installed by us to prevent democracy, which might take control of their own national resources.

Spot on.

And it continues, changed only by the current crowd's greater brazenness and their determination to stamp out the limited democracy which had been in place in this country.

Posted by: jayarbee on March 1, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

From the editorial page of Canada's Globe and Mail - just to give another perspective on the Dubai controversy - this really isn't playing well internationally. I'm not convinced that dragging even explosive issues into the fray, such as the boycott of Isreal, is much of an answer.


Ports in a storm
U.S. politicians are raising a ruckus because Dubai Ports World, a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates, is set to take over terminal operations of major ports on the U.S. East Coast. Critics of the deal, which is part of a 3.9-billion ($8-billion Canadian) purchase of British ports operator Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., cite security concerns for their opposition. Yet it is obvious that this has little to do with genuine security issues and everything to do with an uglier side of the American reality since the events of 9/11. The real problem with the company is that it is Arab-owned; and it has become a political football inflated with the foul air of protectionism and bigotry.

Dubai Ports World is a respected operator or partner in dozens of port facilities covering every continent and including such shipping centres as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney, Southampton, Antwerp, Buenos Aires and Vancouver. Its U.S. holdings already include terminals in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Newark, whose security has suddenly become so paramount to U.S. state and federal politicians. Yet the company's acquisition of the international ports business of U.S. freight giant CSX in 2004 did not raise a murmur. The takeover of rival P&O will enable the company to consolidate its position in North America and boost its share of the world market. But it would control none of the ports, bear no responsibility for port security or even have a say in the selection of the work force at most of its facilities. In most cases, it would be just one of several international groups with a commercial stake in the port.

This is a fact of life in the shipping trade, which has long been globalized and multinational. It would be extremely damaging for Washington to signal to the world that certain foreign companies are less welcome than others simply because they have Arab ownership. And in this case, it would embarrass the United Arab Emirates, a steadfast ally in a region where the United States needs all the help it can get. The fact that some terrorists have used Dubai as a transit point or that nuclear contraband was shipped through the port has everything to do with security (which has been considerably beefed up thanks to U.S.-prompted initiatives) and nothing to do with the manager of the container terminals.

Nevertheless, the Dubai company is well aware of American sensibilities. Eager to assuage any concerns, it has agreed to yet another investigation of the possible security risks posed by the P&O deal, after passing an earlier review by U.S. intelligence agencies. It had previously acquiesced to certain restrictions on its business operations. These include placing all the U.S. operations in a separate business unit that would not be controlled from Dubai. Management of the ports would be in the hands of U.S. citizens and security would be solely the responsibility of local port authorities, federal customs agents, the Coast Guard and various police forces, as has always been the case. That should be enough to allay the concerns of any reasonable U.S. legislators.

There are plenty of reasons to be worried about the security of North American ports, which have long been considered vulnerable to terrorism. But ownership of the terminals is not one of them, particularly when the company in question is regarded throughout the shipping world as thoroughly reputable and reliable. Those who still oppose the deal are simply playing a parochial political card that may resonate with an uninformed public but does considerable harm both to the U.S. image among moderate Arabs and to the cause of globalization

Posted by: Aidan on March 1, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush "plan":

"WE BRING YOU CHAOS. And chaos is the way to go"

Be it the Ports, Iraq, New Orleans...

You want plans, rationales, etc- VOTE for the other guy.


Posted by: Rootless Cosmopolitan on March 1, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Apologies to Kevin Drum about the overly anti-Drum tone of my previous comment. I should have read his whole post before typing.

Posted by: No Preference on March 1, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, serial, being elected in no way logically precludes the possibility that a political leader is a thug. Senility, indeed.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: If you are correct in your estimation, Secular Animist, then about 98% of the debate in this forum is a waste of time.

I have said as much. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. However, I expect that within five years, ten years at the most, global warming will be pretty much the only thing anyone talks about, because the effects will totally overwhelm everything else.

But by then it will be too late to avert a global ecological cataclysm. It may already be too late, even if the human species completely stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, and I agree with you that that is extremely unlikely. Probably a good "business as usual" scenario comes from the IEA which forecasts that worldwide annual greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels will increase by 50% in the next 20 years or so. If that happens, we're toast.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 1, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

from,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4763520.stm

"It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats."

The writers said they refused to accept that Muslim men and women "should be deprived of their rights to equality, liberty or secularity in the name of respect for culture or tradition".

They also said they would not give up their critical spirit out of fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

"Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present," the writers added, saying it is nurtured by fears and frustrations.

Posted by: cld on March 1, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

No sense in doing any long range planning of any sort then, right? Hell, let's cut taxes, and increase spending, even more!

During some of the worst days of the Cold War, I once had a morbid conversation as to what I would do with my remaining thirty minutes when the buttons were pushed. Depending on the company I was in at the time, it involved sensual pleasure of either an erotic or alcoholic nature, or perhaps both. This seems to be a more drawn-out scenario, reaching the same conclusion. Maybe I should take out a 2nd mortgage, spend 95% of it on women and good whisky, and in the words of Phillies relief pitcher Tug McGraw, the other 5% I'll just waste.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as long as you have to pay for both whisky and female company, Will, I say break the bank.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, serial, being elected in no way logically precludes the possibility that a political leader is a thug. Senility, indeed.

Sure, just look at Bush and Cheney.

Posted by: Stefan on March 1, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Depending on the company I was in at the time, it involved sensual pleasure of either an erotic or alcoholic nature, or perhaps both.

And now I need a shower....

Please, please, let me never again read the words "sensual pleasure" connected in any way to the lunatic Will Allen....

Posted by: Stefan on March 1, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody has paid for company with people that they are attracted to in some way, shortstop, with differing currencies and with differing levels of directness. Hell, if one is honest about it, our culture has entire holidays devoted to the activity.

Stefan, to be called a lunatic by the likes of you, who consistently exhibits all the warmth and humor of a shrew, is indeed a complement. Thanks!

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Could we let go of this delusion that it's our project to transform these societies, by force if necessary. It's not our right. If we try we'll make things worse - as we have shown to date.

I second that. It has been a spectacular failure to date, and the Israeli model that the US is following is not inspiring.

Posted by: Guy Banister on March 1, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Engaging the Salesman or Why is the product so shoddy?

Spreading democracy, as I have said while arranging the deck chairs, is a hackneyed campaign slogan. It is an antique cover story. No one means it, no one knows how to deliver it and no one knows what it is- except that it means something like what we have in America. Nearly every expansionist project initiated by the United States from the war with Mexico, that got the US some lovely Spanish-language real estate, to the texas-tea war in the Middle East, has had three elements: hysteria about some unseen threat, a casus belli (Remember the Alamo, the Maine, Pearl Harbor, September 11), and THE cover story, unlike the European and Asiatic powers, Americans spread democracy. The Europeans also said this, and promised culture too, but never mind.

The evidence for spreading democracy is thin. I know purple thumbs are thrilling benchmarks for the viewing audience but if you travel around the dusty parts of the world you soon realize they are just PR theatrics for crude oligarchies. No one serious has ever believed a word of the democracy for export stuff. Why do people never tire of this snake oil? Certainly sales are higher in the homeland than they are in the benighted lands of our creditors.

Posted by: bellumregio on March 1, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody has paid for company with people that they are attracted to in some way, shortstop, with differing currencies and with differing levels of directness.

Will, you do realize this is the standard rationalization employed by people who want to feel better about having to pay for sex, right? I have a friend who works with prostitutes looking to get out of the biz, and she tells me this is actually a professional joke. There are others, too, but let's see if you use them yourself before we mock you for them.

Stefan, to be called a lunatic by the likes of you, who consistently exhibits all the warmth and humor of a shrew, is indeed a complement. Thanks!

Compliment, Will, compliment. Complement is what your clip-on tie does to your unfocused blue eyes. This is the second time in as many days that a humorless troll has flung pathetic charges of unfunniness at someone universally regarded as hilarious. It's simply comedy envy.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Golly gee, shortstop, you're now reduced to spelling corrections? Having never hired a prostitute (not that there is anything wrong with that), I wouldn't know about common rationalizations of those that do, but if you wish to lie to yourself about the transactional nature of a good many of human pairing interactions, easily observable in our society's Valentine's day traditions, or in the way jewelry is marketed, or in countless other traditions, well, you just go right ahead.

Yes, I know in the tiny little echo chamber that is this forum, pinheads such as yourself consider it to be universally funny that anybody who deviates from ideological purity is denounced, and the more rudely the better. You, like Stefan and many others here, have all the charm of a Political Commissar for the Soviet Central Committee, in charge of Agriculture, ever-vigilant, ready to pounce on any wreckers who are engaging in agitation which is found to be in contradiction with correct thought. What a laff-riot! Comedy Gold, I tell ya'!

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

Both this Atrios and Yglesias have no idea what they are talking about.

Firstly, of course, refering to the Emirates as "Sharia enforcing" royals merely underlines the fact they obviously have never, ever come close to visiting Dubai (or for that matter Sharjah or Abu Dhabi, for all that they are more conservative).

This is mere ignorant stereotyping as "criticism."

The sins of the Bush Administration are multiple in the Middle East, but this is absurd.

Posted by: collounsbury on March 1, 2006 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK
STEFAN: Sure, just look at Bush and Cheney.
You're right, they're thugs; but the discussion was about leaders who had been elected, not purchased and appointed.
WILL ALLEN: Golly gee, shortstop, you're now reduced to spelling corrections?
The correction was obviously for the purpose of setting up the joke about your tie and eyes. Anyway, she let you get away with "ain't" earlier.


Posted by: jayarbee on March 1, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

(Pay up, secret pal--I got three out of five, so by my lights you owe me 15 bones.)

Will, you never fail to disappoint. Stick around and make me some more cash, wouldja?

Love,
shortstop

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Bush got caught in a bait and switch con job on the American people. Show me one speech he gave prior to March of 2003, where the reason for invading Iraq was given as spreading democracy. It was all about WMDs and the fear of a mushroom cloud over an American city. Now the Smirking Chimp is stuck trying to sell this turkey endlessly or he risks getting impeached. Bush has about as much interest in spreading democracy in the Middle East as he did in serving out his term in the Texas Air National Guard or in getting a real job when he was young.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 1, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Commissar.

Jayarbee, yet another example of Comedy Gold! When will the hilarity stop! Gosh, maybe Commissar Shortstop will start correcting Twain as well! Wouldn't that be a thigh-slapper!!!!

Insulting people who deviate from ideological purity; what comic genius could come up with something so original! Gee whiz, how does anyone post here, having to see through the tears of laughter! Stop, yer killin' me!

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Bwa ha ha! You're just not fucking furious enough all the time, Will. C'mon. You can actually burst that vein in your forehead if you just apply yourself, sugar. Grrrrrrr!

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Angry, Commissar? Heck, I can barely steady myself, being made to endure the convulsions of laughter provoked by universal hilarity of watching you and your fellow comrades pounce on the wreckers who happen to visit this den of humor and correct thinking. Somebody call Jon Stewart, or at least Bill Maher!

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK


WILL ALLEN: Jayarbee, yet another example of Comedy Gold!

Which bit you referring to? The non-joke about Bush not being elected, or the friendly jibe about "ain't?"

Fact is, I thought your Tug McGraw reference was mildly amusing. Didn't slap my knee, mind you; but coupled with your reasonably coherent and thoughtful comments up-thread, I certainly wasn't feeling disposed toward taking a serious jab at you.

But now . . . N O W . . . Well, nothing now. As I said, didn't find any particular fault with your earlier posts. So I don't have any material to work with, dang it. But I'm sure you'll give me something in time.

Pretty scary, huh?

Besides, there's also the matter of my having just been slammed hard on another thread -- by one of the good guys!

(Don't tell him I'm coming.)


Posted by: jayarbee on March 1, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Jayarbee, I was referring to the Commissar's tie and blue eyes bit. Anyways, thanks for the civility. You've never struck me as one of the ideological deputies which patrol here, but I must be a slow learner, in that I am still frequently surprised by the level of vitriol which tends to be directed at anybody who enters here not Conforming to Approved Thought, along with being somewhat amused that those who start out a conversation with an extremely insulting tone find it notable when that tone is imitated.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

You, like Stefan and many others here, have all the charm of a Political Commissar for the Soviet Central Committee, in charge of Agriculture, ever-vigilant, ready to pounce on any wreckers who are engaging in agitation which is found to be in contradiction with correct thought...

So funny! Conmparing Democrats to Soviets! Laugh? I almost did."

Yawn.

Posted by: floopmeister on March 1, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

BTW

Or can it be they are fairly arbitrary distinctions?

Posted by: floopmeister on March 1, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

argghh. Ate my post. Should have been:

----------------------

BTW, if Turkey is part of the Middle East, and also (soon to be) part of the EU, where do we draw the line between Europe and theM E?

Or can it be they are fairly arbitrary distinctions?

Posted by: floopmeister on March 1, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

BTw Drum, to reduce your illiteracy just a mite, it is Dubai Customs that enforces (for entry into Dubai) the boycott against entry of Israeli goods into the Emirates via Dubai.

The operating company DPW has never been associated (ex being held in the same umbrella organisation as Dubai Customs) with enforcement of a boycott of Israeli goods. DWP container terminals in Asia and Europe ship normally.

While there is a legitimate issue of associatation via the holding entity, indicating DPW enforces the boycott is false. Of course if one argues that merely participating in the boycott by playing ball with customs is ding, all port operating companies in the MENA region are so besmirched.

That would include Maersk Sealand (currently operating partner with P&O at NJ port), and other port operators in the MENA region (P&O operates Port Qasim in Pakistan. Does anyone want to bet collusion with Paki boycott of Israeli goods can not be found?)

Posted by: collounsbury on March 1, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Floopmeister, in a stunning exercise in logic, has come to the conclusion that Stefan, Shortstop, and many others in this thread comprise a set identical to that set known as "Democrats". Just to be very clear, floop, many Republicans often display the overarching need for ideological purity that the Commissars in this forum do.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 1, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Haven't read thread comments yet, but I certainly will because this is an interesting topic.

Wanted to get this response out:

Regardless of what we think of illiberal, shariah-supporting hereditary Middle Eastern monarchies, supporting them serves one major useful purpose for us --

They happen to be targets of al Qaeda and despised by radical Islamists with even more fervor than they despise us (an apostate is always more odious than a mere infidel). It's very useful to keep in mind the difference between conservative Islamic states and radical IslamIST stateless actors.

And this is why if we're going to criticize the Dubai deal (criticize away; it's more Bush crony capitalism), doing it by calling the UAE "terrorist sponsors" is completely misplaced and amounts to libel.

In the interim, we need to continue supporting and working with conservative Islamic states (including Iran). It's the only way to hasten an ongoing reform process made inevitable by the access to the world provided by globalization.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 1, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of what we think of illiberal, shariah-supporting hereditary Middle Eastern monarchies, supporting them serves one major useful purpose for us --

They happen to be targets of al Qaeda and despised by radical Islamists with even more fervor than they despise us (an apostate is always more odious than a mere infidel). It's very useful to keep in mind the difference between conservative Islamic states and radical IslamIST stateless actors.

I'm not sure how you get a useful purpose of that. Oppressive Arab governments -- including the sharia supporting monarchies that directly support the Taliban, thus supporting al-Qaeda, and who fund the Islamic schools around the world that produce extremists who al-Qaeda and their ilk easily recruit, are also one of the primary reasons for the existence of radical Islamist stateless actors like al-Qaeda. Particularly, the misery that is the direct result of these regimes and their support by foreign great powers (the US is, historically, nowhere close to solely responsible) is what provides the fertile breeding ground, the poverty, the desperation, the anger which al-Qaeda and others channel.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 2, 2006 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Bush got caught in a bait and switch con job on the American people. Show me one speech he gave prior to March of 2003, where the reason for invading Iraq was given as spreading democracy.

You're right, I remember being sold on the line that there were some hospitals and schools dscovered in Iraq that needed painting real bad.

Posted by: Alf on March 2, 2006 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone notice how Bush not so subtly pressured Pakistan today? Flying into Afghanistan and delivering a speech in Kabul (even as the MSM proclaim that the Taliban are about to re-take that country on the strength of suicide bombers) then hopping over to India to shore up a natural alliance that Pakistan has to contemplate.

The pressure is definitely on Pakistan right now and I think we should all expect that infamous mountainous border region to be a real happening place this summer.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 2, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

> "They happen to be targets of al Qaeda and despised by radical
> Islamists with even more fervor than they despise us (an
> apostate is always more odious than a mere infidel). It's
> very useful to keep in mind the difference between conservative
> Islamic states and radical IslamIST stateless actors.

> I'm not sure how you get a useful purpose of that.

Well, it's less about getting a useful purpose than avoiding a
negative one. I fully concede that my view here is entirely
realist and entirely short-term. Bottom line is, if we help
these particular countries agitate for democracy, we'd likely
get Islamists in power who are as if not more fond of Sharia.

Dubai might be a monarchy, but as collounsbury says (and he lives
and works in the region) it's not exactly an illiberal society.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but my intuition tells me it may not be the
right historical moment for it. I'm open to further argument.

> Oppressive Arab governments -- including the
> sharia supporting monarchies that directly
> support the Taliban, thus supporting al-Qaeda,

Well, this is trotted out often enough, but I must add that until
very late in the game we directly supported the Taliban as well.
We praised them for cutting opium production and provided aid.
Only when they began shooting women in soccer stadia and blowing up
ancient statuary (late '00) did we join the UN consensus that the
regime was severely dysfunctional. Bear in mind that we also armed
and trained the gestational al Qaeda when it was fighting the Soviets.

> and who fund the Islamic schools around the world that
> produce extremists who al-Qaeda and their ilk easily recruit,
> are also one of the primary reasons for the existence of
> radical Islamist stateless actors like al-Qaeda.

I don't know the exact breakdown, but I do believe that it's Islamic
charities much more than governments that directly fund and set up
madrasses around the world. It's private Saudi citizens who provide
the funding, and since 9/11, these charities have come under intense
scrutiny (cf. the scandal of Prince Bandar's wife contributing $10k
to a Saudi 9/11 soldier thinking she was paying for a woman's medical
bills), not only in the West, but in the these countries as well.

The oil sheikhdoms have begun to realize that funding madrasses
also underwrites an ideology that directly threatens their regimes.
Takfiri Salafism teaches it's righteous to kill apostate rulers.

Takfiri Salafism is also not equatable to conservative Wahabism.
The madrasses merely create a climate where radicals can poach from
minds already prepared by Koranic literalism and hatred of the West.

> Particularly, the misery that is the direct result of these
> regimes and their support by foreign great powers (the US is,
> historically, nowhere close to solely responsible) is what
> provides the fertile breeding ground, the poverty, the
> desperation, the anger which al-Qaeda and others channel.

Well, this is the standard liberal view of the causes of Islamist
terrorism, and I don't think it's a sufficient answer. I think it's
more salient addressing local issues; sure, the misery of a Gaza
refugee camp can produce a hatred for the Israeli oppressor so severe
that suicide bombing a busful of schookids seems almost rational.
But I think this kind of terrorism is much different in quality
than the kind of abstract ideological hatred that Mohammed Atta
nursed in Hamburg as he got his advanced degree in urban planning.

One of Bush's great failures of imagination is to equate global
jihad with Communism and argue that fixing material conditions
and addressing human aspirations will crush out this ideology
by demonstrating its failure, as the example of the Western
prosperity and liberalism did for the East Bloc. Wrong. Religious
ideology is not materialist and addresses an entirely different
set of thirsts of the human soul. Notice that the recent Western
suiciders have all been educated in the West and lived comfortable
existences. Notice how American properity hardly clamps
down our own religious radicals. Rather, material prosperity
inflames the religious thirst for the pure and uncorrupted.

The answer to global jihad will come from the moderate Muslim world
as it feels free to confront its radicals -- much as the Christian
right felt comfortable to slap sense into abortion clinic bombers.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Bush policy of "spreading democracy".
Pay attention : this is the purveyor of Orwellian truth you're quoting here. Serious consideration is not where it's at.
This is a hack to excuse the lies and invasion/occupation of Iraq. Otherwise it would be hysterically funny as a prime example of how the "Big Lie" reduces everyone to idiocy.

Posted by: opit on March 2, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Dubai might be a monarchy, but as collounsbury says (and he lives and works in the region) it's not exactly an illiberal society.

Dubai is not a "society", let alone a liberal society. It is a playground for ultra-rich elites, and women are for display and sale.

Collounsbury has a not surprising tone of conceit given that he appears to be one of these elites.

It is the height of absurdity to describe the UAE as a "liberal" society.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 3:21 AM | PERMALINK

Jimm:

I didn't call the UAE a liberal society. I said it was not illiberal -- and meant it in the context of the ME, not the West.

I mean look -- you can hate on the UAE all you'd like, but at least be consistent. You can't trash them on the one hand for being women-oppressing Islamos and on the other for having "their women for display and sale." Which is it?

And as far as collusonbury goes, I don't know his economic class. Do you? Why the self-righteous ad-hom? The fact is, unlike you and I -- he lives in the region. Regardless of his snarky style, he might have some input here. Why are you being so rigid-minded?

My argument isn't about the UAE qua the UAE. It's about the dynamic between modernity and Islamism. Would you rather the UAE have an election, put Islamists in power and ban prostitution and "women for display" (oh the horrors!) and mandate burkhas instead?

Societies evolve according to their own dynamics and not what Western idealists -- either progressives or neocons -- would like.

Frankly, Dubai being a trade center at least confronts Islamism with cosmopolitan influences. Isn't that better than closed-off society like Saudi Arabia which is administered by foreign technocrats?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

Jimm:

And where do you get off saying that the UAE isn't a "society"? By what criteria?

Jesus ... lefty puritanical self-righteousness is *so* flippin' annoying.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 4:14 AM | PERMALINK

Jimm:

Arrggh. It's late, I'm cranky and I should be in bed.

But this conflict we're having really bugs me. We shouldn't have a conflict *at all*, Jimm. We're both liberal internationlists, both left of center (you more than me perhaps, but the difference is marginal), both share the identical analysis on Iraq and American foreign policy in general. We've fought side by side against trolls, right-wing and centrist. But you have this major bug up your ass about Dubai to the point where if someone who mentions it without dripping with scorn, you feel the need to pounce.

This bugs me for several reasons. First, because I don't like to hate on countries. Hating on countries is something that nationalists do, that right-wingers do. People are people. Maybe certain regimes suck. Maybe there needs to be more genuine democracy in the world. Maybe the global business elite who likes to hang out in Dubai are a parasitic class the world would be better without. But still -- I can't get a hard-on for hating an entire country -- even if that "country" amounts to a tiny city-state. Call it a weakness; broad-brush hating based on nationality's just not my thing.

Mainly though, it's eerily reminiscent of the flack I'd encounter during the buildup to the Iraq war when I'd try to describe Iraq, to argue why we shouldn't invade, and people would *inevitably* confuse this as support for Saddan's regime. Look, bro -- I carry no brief for an obsecely wealthy oil sheikhdom tbat the US promotes as free-trade paradise and which serves as a hub for international organized crime and all the attendent cultural decadence thereunto.

Just so, you know, we're clear on this.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

obsecely = obscenely

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 4:54 AM | PERMALINK

I mean look -- you can hate on the UAE all you'd like, but at least be consistent. You can't trash them on the one hand for being women-oppressing Islamos and on the other for having "their women for display and sale." Which is it?

It's you who's missing the point here, Bob, which I made obvious, and which is made in reference specifically to Dubai, not the UAE, and I make this distinction strategically to emphasize the point.

There is no contradiction in my point, and women are oppressed both ways, at least in Dubai.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 5:08 AM | PERMALINK

I mean look -- you can hate on the UAE all you'd like

I don't "hate" on the UAE, or Dubai (not the same). I merely call them as I see them, and I could care less about the UAE and Dubai. If they have stuff we want to trade with, like oil, great. If they want to run critical infrastructure in America, no thanks. We're talking about a backwards ass, tiny country in a remote part of the world that wants to run American ports because 1% of them have huge oil riches. Fuck no.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 5:11 AM | PERMALINK

How big are we? How tiny is the UAE? How representative of the actual people who live on the land do both of us represent? Explain to me why we need some hick hip Arabic backwater with oil money to run our ports? What is their population? What their economic position? What is our population? What our economic position? How many of their small number of people are actually free and represented by the even smaller (miniscule) number of fuckwads who run that backwater? How many of our people are free?

Last, explain to me how state-owned plutocratic firms in tyrannical nations fit into the free market model.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 5:15 AM | PERMALINK

Societies evolve according to their own dynamics and not what Western idealists -- either progressives or neocons -- would like.

I don't give a fuck how the UAE evolves, that's the whole point, at least in terms of making wise decisions in terms of strategy. The UAE is about a percentage of 1 percentage point of the people in the world. We could knock them out in a heartbeat should we care to...nothing stops us. I don't care to remake the UAE, and with that in mind I don't care to have the UAE have any signifigant influence in my life or our critical infrastructure that is wholly unnecessary.

Frankly, Dubai being a trade center at least confronts Islamism with cosmopolitan influences. Isn't that better than closed-off society like Saudi Arabia which is administered by foreign technocrats?

Yea right. Islam and Arabs have always been traders, even as they are able to harmonize with cosmopolitanism while preserving tribalism. There are lots of crazy contradictions in the world, but Dubai is nothing new, and is certainly not "liberal" by any stretch of the imagination. As I mentioned, it's a playground for rich elites who manipulate various "captives", whether they be women, labor, Arab citizens, faithful Muslims, etc.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 5:23 AM | PERMALINK

And where do you get off saying that the UAE isn't a "society"? By what criteria?

You're losing it Bob...put down the bottle. I said "Dubai" was not a society, since you were conflating the UAE with Dubai. The UAE is a whole lot uglier than the pretty face that Dubai puts up.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 5:27 AM | PERMALINK

Look...so everyone is clear on this too...in my mind this has little to do with the UAE or Dubai. My position is that marginal characters and regimes do not get keys to the house, or trusted and favored positions within our society to run our critical infrastructure. I'm not talking about trade...I'm talking about who is in control and accountable for our mission-critical services in terms of American national security.

I've never suggested we not trade with the UAE, that we not vacation in Dubai (though maybe I should), or that we should "hate" on Arab nations that respect none of our values except wanton display of wealth and disrespect for international human rights and law. Let that be clear...these straw men do not apply to me, or any of my arguments. If the UAE and GOP wants this debate, then I'm going to bring it Thomas Paine style. Period.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 5:31 AM | PERMALINK

Jimm:

Well, I *do* care about whether or not Dubai and the UAE evolve and in what way, and how, consequently, we should deal with them, and the Mideast Muslim world more generally.

That's the point of this thread and it was the point of my post to cmdicely, which engages these bigger issues.

You seem to want to get into yet another pissing match over the port deal. I'm not interested at this moment in the port deal. I am remaining studiedly agnostic, and part of that reason is that I've heard nothing from the vehement opposition to change my view that there's an ugly undercurrent in it.

Way too much "they" talk for my comfort zone. I'll wait until further specifics come out and make my decisions on them and how they relate to the deal itself -- not sweeping generalizations about Arabs and "societies of captives."

Sheesh, if I thought that was edifying, I'd read Bernard Lewis ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 5:46 AM | PERMALINK

Jimm:

> And where do you get off saying that the UAE
> isn't a "society"? By what criteria?

> You're losing it Bob...put down the bottle.

Cut the ad-homs. The only thing I'm consuming at the moment is
coffee. If you insist on relating to me as if I were a troll,
Jim, then we really have nothing further to say to each other.

I'm serious, too ...

> I said "Dubai" was not a society, since
> you were conflating the UAE with Dubai.

It was a brainfart; replace UAE with Dubai.

To start denying nations the right of being called a
society is like denying the humanity of individuals.

As I say, there's an ugly undercurrent in this kind of rhetoric.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 2, 2006 at 5:57 AM | PERMALINK

Outside of Israel, sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs are the only partners available in the Middle East.

Thats a pretty dumb statement... Egypt, Libanon, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Palestine etc?

Secondly, whats so damn wrong with boycotting Israel because what is does to Palestinians? I should remind you that during the past year US itself has used economic sanctions against Israel to stop an Israeli company buying a gold mine in North Korea and another one selling hi-tech weapons to China...

Posted by: JustMe1 on March 2, 2006 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

craigie: Gee, what else has he said that turned out to be self-serving bullshit?

I know! [waves hand]

"No one anticipated the breach of the levees"!

Posted by: Gregory on March 2, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Unless a person is willing to confront this reality, as ugly as it is, and clearly states which option is preferred, and acknowledges that option's implications, and how that option it is to be accomplished, they haven't anything to say that is worth listening to.

Maybe this is just my well-known illiteracy again, but since Will Allen, as far as I could tell, didn't "clearly state[] which option is preferred, and acknowledge[] that option's implications, and how that option it is to be accomplished," would I be correct in assuming that he hasn't anything to say that is worth listening to?

Or is it just that Will Allen, once again, is attempting to assert from on high the terms of debate (as in his previous act of insisting critics of Abu Ghraib decry what he claims is political support for torture in US prisons)?

Posted by: Gregory on March 2, 2006 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Goodness gracious, Bush is going to Islamabad! He will basically depend on Pakistani military forces to provide his security. The Secret Service must be pulling all their hair out. If I were an officer in that entourage, I'd make darn sure I have all my affairs in order and say goodbye to the wife and kids properly.

If nothing else, this should put to rest the claim that Dubya "hid" in the Texas Air National Guard out of personal cowardice.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 2, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

No, Gregory, im this case it is an instance of your inferior memory, in that I have consistently stated that if the population of the Persian Gulf does not somewhat rapidly gain control of the natural resources, and see it in their interest to trade it peacefully and profitably with the rest of the world, the likely result is going to be violence on par with what was witnessed in the middle of the last century. I have also stated that since despots in control of oil reserves are immune to diplomatic or economic pressure, that some direct military measures in the region are required to destabilize these despots' regimes, although this does not mean direct military intervention in every country. I have also stated that this course is fraught with many dangers, with no assurance of success, and but given the bleak nature of the status quo, it is about all that can be tried.

Now, Gregory, just once, instead of yelping pointlessly, make a choice: do you want to kill the people who live in the Persian Gulf, do you want to enslave them, or do want to take measures that might actually result in their gaining control of their oil reserves?

Posted by: Will Allen on March 2, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, Bill Clinton, Sen. John Edwards, and most recently Al Gore have ventured to Dubai to deliver paid speeches full of things that the United Arab Emirates want to hear. That takes courage, of a sort.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 2, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, I see. Will Allen says he stated in the past what his position was, and apparently expected everyone else, who of course treasure his every word of wisdom, to recall it immediately. Gotcha.

Hate to break it to you, Will, but I suspect that the concepts most readily associated with you by the readers of these threads aren't your previously stated position on the Middle East.

Well, since Will has now met his own criteria, I suppose we could presume he has something to say worth listening to. But past experience indicates otherwise.

But in truth, I stand corrected, for sure. Obviously it's just that Will Allen, once again, is attempting to assert from on high the terms of debate.

Posted by: Gregory on March 2, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Let it be noted that Gregory does indeed prefer yelping to saying anything substantive. I wonder if he is house-trained?

Posted by: Will Allen on March 2, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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