Friday, December 01, 2006

Panic! (Hang the DJ)*

A funky odor of panic and denial is wafting from the pundits and pols in the Beltway. The Great American Wet Dream in Iraq is over, and its visionaries are left collectively with the evidence of their own dirty linen, which they are furtively trying to deny, hide, clean, or destroy as fast as their sticky hands will let them.

Glenn Greenwald strings up onanist Thomas Friedman as a prime example of the "frivolous, dishonest, and morally bankrupt public intellectuals burdening this country." For the last four years, Friedman (whose Geraldo Rivera shtick has never struck me as particularly intelligent or believable) has offered a curious, but hardly unique, brand of sophistry, which Greenwald neatly encapsulates for the PowerPoint generation:

(1) If the war is done the right way, great benefits can be achieved.
(2) If the war is done the wrong way, unimaginable disasters will result.
(3) The Bush administration is doing this war the wrong way, not the right way, on every level.
(4) Given all of that, I support the waging of this war.

Now, of course, Friedman and his ilk are claiming justification of sorts, having said as early as in 2003 that "I have to admit that I've always been fighting my own war in Iraq. Mr. Bush took the country into his war [emphases added]." In other words, the war was justified and good and the right decision, but Bush wasn't the man to implement the policy. Such disingenuousness allows Friedman to say: see, I was right all along.

But this was never Friedman's war. Greenwald politely describes this entire line of reasoning as the product of an "adolescent fantasy world," and it's true: Friedman may as well argue that, gosh, we would have won the war if only we had a bigger army and bionic hornets and atomic jet packs. The truth Friedman will never face is that he consistently supported the war with the full understanding that Bush was president and that our army's resources are limited and that futuristic weapons are the stuff of science fiction.

(Update: As I was finishing this post, Greenwald added a pointer to Harold Myerson's 2005 article that anticipates my response to Friedman's "my war" inanity: "Was it too much to ask the nation’s most important foreign-policy journalist to focus on Bush’s war -- particularly because, well, it was Bush, and not Friedman, who was president?")

The second and unguardedly related symptom of the Great Pundit Panic of 2006 is the blitheness with which they try to shift the blame of our Mideast catastrophe from themselves to the Iraqi people (i.e., we gave them democracy on a silver platter and then they went and voted in a bunch of douchebags who we would never supported had we given ourselves the power to install a better dictatorship).

Worst of all, as Walter Shapiro quotes with delicious irony from the now-infamous Hadley memo about Maliki, Iraqis have elected someone who "is the captive of 'a small circle' of advisors who are 'coloring his actions and his interpretations of reality.'" An American-style democracy would never have done something like that.

More desperately, these self-anointed Magi and their neocon allies have taken to blaming the American people as a whole (excluding, of course, themselves). As Digby says,

Blaming the American people is an excellent political strategy, however, and I hope these conservatives keep it up. There's nothing that betrayed voters like more than to be called stupid, cowardly and traitorous.

Desperation has rarely been quite so transparent--and so ugly.

* Here's a handy reference for you kids who are too damn young to recognize the allusion.