Friday, May 21, 2004

Another conservative sickened by this Administration's policies Edition Part 8

It's ironic that the columnist reviled by the left for his role in the Plame Affair, Bob Novak, has become a channel of dissent from behind the scenes Republican affairs. In his most recent Sun-Times column, Novak is signaling that all is not well in the party ranks of my favored party:

So, the question remains: Why would Devine stay seated at the dinner when everybody else was standing and clapping? To begin with, he shares concern with many Republicans about what the United States is doing in Iraq and where it is going. Businessmen I have talked to recently exercise limited patience in how long they will tolerate the bloodshed and confusion.

What most bothers Devine and other conservatives is steady growth of government under this Republican president. If Devine's purpose in devoting his life to politics was to limit government's reach, he feels betrayed that Bush has outstripped his liberal predecessors in domestic spending. A study by Brian Riedl for the conservative Heritage Foundation last December showed government spending had exceeded $20,000 per household for the first time since World War II. Riedl called it a ''colossal expansion of the federal government since 1998.''

Curbing this expansion surely has not been on the top of Bush's agenda for much of his time in the White House. Until recently, when a presidential political aide heard conservative complaints about runaway spending, he predictably would point to the partial-birth abortion ban and tax cuts rather than address the grievance. In the last few months, the president's men have talked a better game about spending. Nevertheless, it is too late to satisfy Republicans such as Devine who care deeply about governmental growth.

Bush is also under pressure from his conservative base to speak more clearly and more frequently against same-sex marriage. At the dinner, he drew one of his many standing ovations by declaring: ''We stand for institutions like marriage and family, which are the foundations of our society.'' That was all he said on the subject in a speech that went on at length about the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq.

Bush's saving grace for the 2004 election may be John Kerry. In the end, I am sure Devine will cast his ballot for George W. Bush, if only because the alternative is noxious. How many of the rest of that 19 percent of non-Bush voting Republicans in the Zogby Poll will fall in line may determine the outcome Nov. 2. That is the importance of Devine's little sit-down strike. [emphasis added]

As I've signaled before, I'm not the only conservative who has been profoundly unhappy about this Administration. However I've been ahead of the curve until about the last six months when the tensions have boiled to the surface. Since Republicans have better party discipline generally than Democrats, the conflicts just took longer to surface is all. In truth they were there all along. This is why Dan Drezner whom I like is just plain wrong about his analysis about where conservatives are about Iraq.

Most conservatives were gung-ho about booting Saddam and were willing to trust Bush. This doesn't mean that they were in the "The Standard Neocons: Dude, Where's My Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy?" or the "The Neo-Paleos: We Shoulda Known" group. Most conservatives I talked to were willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt on WMD, but fundamentally felt as if this was going to be a Panama Invasion (1989) or Gulf War I scenario. Remember, conservatives have never been fond of nation building as this American Conservative article reminds us.

Much has been made in the last decade of the sudden conversion of so-called communists to the virtues of capitalism. But the equal and opposite trend has gone largely unnoticed—the adoption by Western policy-makers of the key tenets of the discredited Communist creed. Foremost among these is the myth of revolution. From Bucharest via Belgrade to Baghdad, highly organized or totally artificial events are presented as the spontaneous actions of “the people,” like the silly charade organized outside the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad last month. In keeping with its new revolutionary ideology, the West encourages chaos and criminality, in order to tear down the old order and in order to keep the population too preoccupied with daily cares to organize any effective political resistance. Social chaos forces the population of an occupied country, like Iraq, to make a Hobbesian pact with its invaders and to look to the coalition soldiers for protection, thus lending them an apparent legitimacy they would otherwise lack.

Both Iraq and Serbia were subject, for a decade, to a stringent regime of sanctions. This gave rise, in both cases, to the same dramatic increase in criminality and to the same sense that the whole country is up for sale. Now, the U.S. State Department is backing Ahmad Chalabi in Iraq, a man sentenced to 20 years in prison for bank fraud in Jordan, while our allies in Iraqi Kurdistan are essentially gangs of people-smugglers. If the electricity in Kosovo has not been repaired after four years of occupation, there is little prospect of the lights soon coming back on in Baghdad; and with the West continuing strenuously to support criminal regimes across the Balkans, a peninsula it also occupies militarily, the message for the Iraqis is clear. [emphasis added]

As long as things were going well, certainly grassroots conservatives were willing to let GWB have a long leash. However given GWB's well reported propensity to pander to the base and that their commitment to nation-building was always expedient and a marriage of convenience at best and we suddenly realize why the Administration has been relentlessly promoting a panglossian view of Iraq. In the end it will not be the liberals of America who undermine the will to fight in Iraq, it will be that the conservative base wakes up one morning and decides that it's had enough of this liberal nation-building crap and decides to let the President know in no uncertain terms that his leash has just run short.

This is why The Economist by no means a leftist magazine can blatantly entitle an article "Bush, Blair, and Iraq: Seeking an honourable way out".

As public dissatisfaction with the coalition leaders’ handling of Iraq grows, and as morale is undermined by the prisoner-abuse allegations and the steady rise in casualties, Mr Bush and Mr Blair may be tempted to seek as quick and painless an exit as possible. But both pride themselves on being men of principle, and neither would relish going down in history as a quitter—both insisted on Monday that they would not, as Mr Blair put it, “cut and run”. The trouble is, staying the course will require more than just holding tight: it will involve sending yet more troops to run the gauntlet of the insurgents’ bombs and bullets, and perhaps even leaving them there for several long and uncomfortable years.

I'm here to tell you that conservatives in America have no long-term ideological or emotional investment in seeing things out in Iraq other than attempting to avoid a "Black Hawk Down" or Lebanon Withdrawal Redux syndrome effect. People who speculate that the Administration would like to stay in Iraq forever are being overly analytical. Of course the super-hawks and uber-imperialists would like this sort of thing, however at its roots the conservative movement and Republican party simply doesn't have the philosophical and cultural underpinnings that would lead them to support such a venture against serious opposition and costs political, military, and economic. Essentially the only reason why the base hasn't signaled to "cut and run" yet is that they're trying to avoid humiliation for the USA.


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