Man Without Qualities

Friday, December 19, 2003

Just Keep Chanting ...

... that the war in Iraq has not made America safer. Nope. No safer at all - just like Howard Dean and the angriest of the left keep saying.

And Libya's agreeing to let in weapons inspectors has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened in Iraq. And Moammar Gadhafi having secret negotiations with the United States and Britain and then agreeing to halt his nation's drive to develop nuclear and chemical weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's capture.

And it must all be a big mistake, anyway, because Gadhafi negotiated with the United States and Britain who scoff at international law - and ignored the sacred United Nations, the French and even the Germans! Mr. Gadhafi must have been on some kind of bender and is simply not responsible for his own acts.

And, in any even, it doesn't mean anything because Libya never threatened to attack the US. It just blew up commercial airliners. So it doesn't matter what happens there or what Mr. Gadhafi agrees to. The Democrats and the left can just keep chanting that - and win the election! Right?



UPDATE: The revisionism and attempt to distract from the Bush and Blair Administrations' accomplishments with respect to Libya of course begin immediately. The Washington Post provides an early and rather desperate signal of the left's future arguments that Libya's concessions had little to do with the Iraq or Afghanistan invasions:

Libya's stunning decision yesterday to surrender its weapons of mass destruction followed two decades of international isolation and some of the world's most punishing economic sanctions. ... The turning point in Gaddafi's undoing may have been the U.S. intelligence investigation that eventually tracked a tiny piece of the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, back to two Libyan intelligence agents, U.S. and British officials say. The evidence mobilized the world and produced an international effort that may now peacefully disarm Libya.

"What forced Gaddafi to act was a combination of things -- U.N. sanctions after the Lockerbie bombing, his international isolation after the Soviet Union's collapse . . . and internal economic problems that led to domestic unrest by Islamists and forces within the military," said Ray Takeyh, a Libya expert at the National Defense University.

So twenty years of ineffective "international efforts" are what did the trick - even though American boots were heading for Iraqi ground at the time Libya acted:

Whether by coincidence or fear that Libya might be targeted, Gaddafi's envoys approached Britain on the eve of the Iraq war to discuss a deal, U.S. officials said.

And then there's this pearl:

For all the Bush administration's focus on deadly arms, however, the United States may have missed an opportunity to act earlier because of its preoccupation with Afghanistan and then Iraq, said U.S. officials familiar with earlier overtures.

"Within months after September 11th, we had the Libyans, the Syrians and the Iranians all coming to us saying, 'What can we do [to better relations]?' We didn't really engage any of them, because we decided to do Iraq. We really squandered two years of capital that will make it harder to apply this model to the hard cases like Iran and Syria," said Flynt Leverett, a former Bush administration National Security Council staff member now at the Brookings Institution.

I don't know who Flynt Leverett is, or what his agenda might be, or why he resigned or was removed from the National Security Council. But the Brookings Institution is generally a Democratic redoubt. Mr. Leverett is not only at the Brookings Institution. He was at least until recently Visiting Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the The Brookings Institution. That would be "Saban" as in Haim Saban, arguably the Democratic Party's biggest financial supporter ever. From just February 2002 to March 2003 Dr. Leverett was Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council - that is, he departed after one year. It looks as if Ms. Rice was pleased to see him leave. Not that the Post bothers to mention any of that.

Anyone - including Dr. Leverett - who seriously argues that Libya's sudden decision wasn't overwhelmingly predicated on what had happened in Afghanistan and then Iraq, or that Libya's sudden cooperation was mostly the result of "international sanctions," is a poor student of history. Moreover, the United States didn't seem distracted from, say, possible Syrian overtures as Mr. Leverett reported things when he testified before Congress in last October, when he said:

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has had little success to date in getting Syria to modify its problematic behaviors or in cultivating a more constructive relationship with the Assad regime, despite letters and phone calls to Dr. Bashar from President Bush, personal meetings with Secretary Powell, and visits by other senior officials such as Ambassador Burns.

Really? All those calls and attention from the Administration? But Dr. Leverett told the Post that we didn't really engage Syria because we decided to do Iraq.

From his statements as they are reported in the Post, the nation is a safer and better place for Dr. Leverett's departure from the Council. Contrary to Dr. Leverett, the Post and other organs of the left, it is extremely unlikely that Libya, Syria or Iran were moved to more than lip service by September 11, and few sensible voters are going to buy such an argument. All of these countries were opponents of the US in UN votes and every other effort to stem terrorism since September 11. It's absurd to think they have been more resolved against the US since then because of US steadfastness.

I would be surprised if top Administration strategists were not right now hoping and praying that the Democrats will take up the message conveyed by this absurd Washington Post article. It is hard to imagine a approach that would undermine the Democrats more than their chanting with the Post and the Leveretts of the world:

It doesn't matter. And invading Afghanistan and then Iraq didn't make it happen. Afghanistan and Iraq were just distractions.

UPDATE: Even the New York Times senses how absurd the chant sounds:

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair are entitled to claim a large share of the credit for Libya's surprising announcement. To an extent that cannot be precisely measured, the fate of Saddam Hussein, who was ousted from power by the American military with British backing after endless prevaricating about Iraqi weapons programs, must have been an important consideration in Libya's decision.

There were other factors as well. ...

Over the past five years, by turning over two suspects for trial, acknowledging its complicity in the Lockerbie bombing and paying compensation to victims' families, Libya finally managed to persuade the United Nations Security Council to lift the international sanctions that had shadowed its economy and its international reputation for more than a decade. Those sanctions were lifted in September. This page recommended lifting American sanctions as well, but President Bush left them in place pending further steps, most notably Libya's decision to end its unconventional weapons programs. It is now clear that he was right to do so.

In other words, the "international sanctions" that the Post article credits with persuading Libya had already been lifted when Libya even approached Britain and the US.

It's superficially nice of the Times to credit Bush with maintaining American sanctions. But without the cooperation of the rest of the world, those sanctions would alone have been easily avoidable - and their economic impact could not have made much difference to Libya.

No, what made the difference here was a clear indication that the United States was willing to take direct military action that was not easily avoidable - or avoidable at all.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has its say.

A correction to the above post: The Libyans made their approach in march - which means that the international sanctions were in effect at that time, although they had been lifted by the time the most intensive negotiations were held and when the actual concessions were made.

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