As the always-excellent Chris Kelly points out in these "pages," over at Commentary Norman "The Pod" Podhoretz is holding forth -- did I say forth? I meant froth -- once again, this time on "The Case for Bombing Iran."
You can read it, of course -- but, to paraphrase the Jewish mother whose pampered doctor son is carried everywhere in a sedan chair ("Can't he walk, madame?" "Of course he can walk. Thank God he doesn't have to!"), thank God you don't have to.
Still, if you did, you would discover the Pod clearing his neo-con throat for a few paragraphs before finally getting down to it with this, with ref to the Cold War:
At certain points in that earlier war, some of us feared that the Soviets might seize control of the oil fields of the Middle East, and that the West, faced with a choice between surrendering to their dominance or trying to stop them at the risk of a nuclear exchange, would choose surrender. In that case, we thought, the result would be what in those days went by the name of Finlandization.
He then goes on to do two remarkable things. Thing One: he concedes that that entire analysis was wrong, and that whatever "some of us" feared didn't take place. No one got Finlandized, or Swedenized, or even Martinized, which readers as old as or older than I will recall is a dry cleaner's term of art meaning absolutely nothing.
Thing Two: The Pod, having introduced an analysis that was wrong and a scenario that didn't take place, goes on to use a similar analysis and warn against a similar scenario ("...looking at Europe today, we already see the unfolding of a process analogous to Finlandization: it has been called, rightly, Islamization.") on which he dilates at length until, during, and after the homecoming of the cows.
Yes, he's hinting, we were wrong then -- about the nature of the Soviet Union, about its health as a society and an "empire," about what it would do to us and therefore about what we should do, both pre-emptively and in response, to it, yes, totally and utterly wrong. But now we're right.
(Actually, if you read the article expecting it to do to the mind what a roller coaster does to the body, it's sort of fun. On page two the Pod exhorts us to "listen to what Bernard Lewis, the greatest authority of our time on the Islamic world," has to say about deterrence. On page three, Podhoretz sighs, with regard to the overthrow of "the mullocracy" by a secular, modernizing force in Iran, "Once upon a time, under the influence of Bernard Lewis and others I respect, I too subscribed to this school of thought. But after three years and more of waiting for the insurrection they assured us back then was on the verge of erupting, I have lost confidence in their prediction."
Fun? You bet. Plus, of course, "Hitler" this and "impotence" that, "humiliation" this and "kowtowing" that -- and, as a reward for hanging on to the end and holding your arms up during the biggest plunges, a splendid finale in which he describes none other than George W. Bush as "a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it.")
Bonus points for dragging much-neglected "contumely" out of retirement, but otherwise it's babbling-as-usual over at the Pod Works. The notion that the Preznit knows evil when he sees it is, depending on one's mood, either science fiction or comedy gold.
But we would be doing ourselves and our own sense of intellectual honesty (something by which the writers of the right are completely unburdened) a disservice if we failed to admit of a still, small voice inside that asks, however meekly, Could he be right?
For behold: He is Podhoretz, to whom wingnuts great and small do genuflect on bended knee. His wife, Midge Decter, has graced the world, not only with the seductively-entitled The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women's Liberation, but with Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait. Aren't those the good kind of portraits? The personal ones? And aren't husband and wife sire and dam to wingnut columnist John "Li'l Pod" Podhoretz? Might, therefore, and in spite of everything, Norman have a point?
Because, look, Iran wants to "go nuclear." The Iranian religious leader Ahmadinejad has stated, in a famous (but, alas, mixed) metaphor that he wants "to wipe Israel off the face of the map." (It's either "off the map" or "off the face of the Earth." But what do you expect? The man's an insanian Iranian!) Surely (to the extent that he actually said it and it hasn't been misquoted or mistranslated) he means it just as literally as anything any other religious or political leader says, not for political purposes, not for public consumption as a way of posturing to retain power.
Doesn't that force us to conclude that we have to bomb them now, just as we took Khrushchev's vow "we will bury you" literally back in the early 60s, when the Soviets were developing their nuclear arsenal (which actually existed)? Because didn't we bomb them, and with such famously successful results that the w--
What? Bad analogy? Iran isn't the U.S.S.R.? (Slaps forehead.) But of course not. It's Nazi Germany, except for the lack of Nazis and the absence of Germanies. As Michael Lind notes, "For the neocons, America is the Britain of Churchill and Chamberlain, and it is always 1939."
Still, what if this judicious, wise-man fear-mongering is right? Isn't it better to do whatever the high-class alarmists say, so long no Podhoretzes are harmed in the making of this policy? Shouldn't we take this essay seriously, just in case?
The answer to that question is, We don't have to answer that question.
The neo-conservatives (or whatever they now call themselves), the financial-ideological-moral sinkhole of corruption known as the Republican Party, the Bush administration (those still in office and those kicked out; those indicted and those yet to be indicted; those who may never be indicted and those replacing those indicted and who, eventually, might be indicted), the Commentary-ists and the Weakly Standard-bearers, Kristols Irving and Bill, Davids Brooks and Frum, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Fox News, the radio haters, the unbelievably stupid morons on most of the pro-Bush blogs and the mildly intelligent morons on the others: with regard to their analyses and calls for action, WE MAY IGNORE THEM ALL.
Sorry for shouting. But somebody has to yell truth to power, so there you have it. WE MAY --
No, wait. Make it: WE MUST IGNORE THEM ALL.
It doesn't matter if they're even partially correct or supremely and utterly wrong. They have forfeited, for-freaking-ever, the right to be attended to and taken seriously by people of good will.
Why? Because of the lying, you see. And the complete and utter wrongness of their predictions to date.
I don't know about you, but in what I laughingly call "real life," when someone gets something repeatedly and profoundly wrong, I stop listening to him or, of course, her. When someone lies to me over and over and over and over and, when caught, accounts for the lies by telling other lies, sooner or later I think in the mind of my brain: Hey. I can't believe this person any more even if he or she happens, in this one case, to be telling the truth.
Isn't that sophisticated? Isn't it deeply insightful? No, it's common sense. The conclusion, the perception, the attitude ("sorry, I can't believe a word you say any more") arises of its own accord, and why? Because -- and you'll excuse my understandable pride -- I'm not insane.
This response ("I don't believe any of you swine") should arise in all of us vis a vis the gang who called for, sold, and cheer-led the invasion of Iraq. Thanks to their proven mendacity, their demonstrated ineptitude, their proud refusal to acknowledge reality, their finger-pointing and blame-dodging, their falsification of everything from history to their resumes, and their sheer unending wrong-ness, they have proven themselves to be, to a man and a woman, of that special socio-intellectual caste of Persons One Need Not Bother With Any More.
In fact, not only are we entitled to ignore them for our own convenience, we are required to ignore them for the sake of our understanding of the world.
Because ask yourself this: Has there been anything they have said with regard to the invasion of Iraq, other than that military victory would be relatively easy, that has proven true? With regard to its reasons? No. With regard to its financial cost? No. With regard to its human cost? No. With regard to its results? No. With regard to any damned thing at all, up to and including freedom being on the march? No.
As Lind said in an essay three years ago:
For at least two decades, in foreign policy the neocons have been wrong about everything. When the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, the hawks of Team B and the Committee on the Present Danger declared that it was on the verge of world domination. In the 1990s they exaggerated the power and threat of China, once again putting ideology ahead of the sober analysis of career military and intelligence experts. The neocons were so obsessed with Saddam Hussein and Yasir Arafat that they missed the growing threat of Al Qaeda. After 9/11 they pushed the irrelevant panaceas of preventive war and missile defense as solutions to the problems of hijackers and suicide bombers.
They said Saddam had WMDs. He didn't. They said he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn't. They predicted that no major postwar insurgency in Iraq would occur. It did. They said there would be a wave of pro-Americanism in the Middle East and the world if the United States acted boldly and unilaterally. Instead, there was a regional and global wave of anti-Americanism.
So we're allowed and entitled and, in fact, obliged to ignore them -- not only for our own sake but, more importantly, for the children.
And that's swell news to everyone everywhere. It brings the exhilarating sense of liberation one enjoys when one decides, finally, to throw out the Sunday newspaper. All of it -- the stuff you've read, the stuff you "plan to" read, the stuff you should read but won't, the stuff you're afraid to read, the ads, the comics, the tv listings, Parade, the inserts, the classifieds -- you make the journey from the hazy bog of Good Intentions into the brightly sun-lit Land of Efficiency, you chuck the whole damn pile, and you're Free.
Same with these jokers. Let Tony Snow respond to questions by enacting his Tai Chi moves ("The Elegant Hair-Split," "The Forthright Evasion," etc.); let Dick Cheney "report back" from his latest visit to whatever hellhole he's helped to create; let John Bolton lecture at will, and wag the admonishing finger at this or that example of "fecklessness" or "appeasement."
Ignore them. Those who were sincere were not only wrong but completely wrong. Those who knew better lied not only once or twice, but repeatedly. Their wrongness and their lies have brought hundreds of thousands of people inexpressible misery and have cost us unrecoverable billions. All of which continues.
Any conservative with an argument to make or a warning to issue had better be one no one has ever heard of, because the ones we have heard of have engendered the worst catastrophe in American foreign policy in our, and their, lifetimes.
If intellectuals could be fired, or stripped of their licenses and sued for malpractice, these clowns would all be out on the street looking for real jobs. Instead, they get to hide in their think tanks and issue their doomed predictions and write their essays and publish their self-exculpating memoirs for each other's heartily approving blurbs.
Oh, and: to receive their Presidential Medals of Freedom. Podhoretz -- go be shocked -- got his in 2004. Consoling Fun Fact: So, at the same ceremony, did Doris Day.
Let them. It is, as the Medals remind us, a free country. Just bear in mind that, when called upon by these imperial fantasists to act, we should immediately never do whatever they think we should do, now and forever, until further notice.
After all, like the feller says: "Fool me once..."
Want more Pod lunacy? For a 1977 write-up, by Alexander Cockburn, of Norm's theory that WWI made Brit intellectuals decide to be homosexual, and that therefore revulsion at war and pacifism are totally gay, go here.
For the Michael Lind evisceration of the neo-cons (of which group he used to be a member) quoted above, go here.