The New U.S. Irrelevance

07/17/2006 09:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I wish had had something brilliant to say about Israel and Lebanon, et al.  Ethan Bronner's piece here is so far the most useful piece I've read explaining what the hell is going on and why.  I don't know if my analysis would be any different, though I'm considerably less sanguine about the likely results of creating so much more hatred among people who can cause your society so much damage so easily.  Actions like Israel's not only cause "disproportionate" suffering, they also strengthen the support of the extremists you're trying to destroy.  Then again, no government in the world would sit still for missile attacks into its cities, and the Israeli public is probably more hawkish than its current government.  Certainly, given the government we've got, we hardly have reason to criticize.

Speaking of which, there are two obvious points that need to be pointed out in the din, though I don't profess to be original here:

  1. Look how irrelevant Bush has made us.  By backing Israel to the hilt and creating virtually nothing but hatred in the Arab world, we have as much ability to influence events in this conflict as say, Singapore, stupid swaggering aside.

  2. Thanks again, Ralph.  Bush's invasion of Iraq has given Iran free reign to act as a chaos-causing, peace-threatening Great Power in a way it never had before.  Whatever role they are playing in encouraging the violence, the geopolitical loss of Iraq as a counter-balance has made it worse.  This is just one more reason the American invasion is the worst mistake I think any American president has ever made.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq:  Here are your tax dollars at work:

The speaker of parliament Thursday accused "Jews" of financing acts of violence in Iraq in order to discredit Islamists who control the parliament and government so they can install their "agents" in power.

Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani hinted that the Americans and Israelis did not want to see officials of Sunni and Shiite parties running Iraq because "this is not their agenda."

"They will say that we brought you in a democratic way to the government but you are sectarian people. One of you is killing the other and you don't deserve to become leaders because you are war lords," al-Mashhadani told reporters after a parliament meeting.

Al-Mashhadani is a member of the Sunni Muslim Iraqi Accordance Front while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member of the Shiite Dawa party.

"Some people say, `We saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor,'" al-Mashhadani said. "These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew."

"I can tell you about these Jewish, Israelis and Zionists who are using Iraqi money and oil to frustrate the Islamic movement in Iraq and come with the agent and cheap project."

Remember when Richard Perle specifically tried to sell an invasion on the basis of the fact that Chalabi government would immediately recognize Israel?  No really, you can look it up.

And who finally, does this guy remind you of?

Mission Accomplished Update from Today's Papers:

[A]s the LAT points out, the city has seen a "much-noted deterioration, despite a state of emergency that has throttled commercial and civic life."  For example, the number of people killed in Baghdad in June: 2,020, of which 1,360 were killed by short-range small arms fire.  (The number of homicides in Washington, D.C., during the same month, in case anyone is interested in comparing: 20.)  A suicide bomber killed 26 people in a cafe in northern Iraq.

Al Gore, Democrats, take note.

Robert Wright may be right in this mega-big think piece on foreign policy and the Democrats.  The problem with it however is that he glides over its salability.  It's not so hard to come up a sensible-sounding foreign policy that makes sense on an op-ed page or in a Council on Foreign Relations presentation--or even one that will make Joe Klein stand up and scream, "The liberal wing of the Democratic Party hates America."  But it's damn hard to come up with one about which Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and ultimately, Tim Russert and Chris Matthews will not whine that it's wimpy and does not allow for enough chest-beating and innocent-people-killing.  Wright may be right, which would be great; but if he's serious, he's going to have to spend a lot more time figuring out how to sell it.  (And right now, liberals/progressives/Democrats have no bigger problem.)

Did you notice Frank Rich takes a shot at Tom Friedman?  "Last week, the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, allowed that there would be 'adjustments' to the plan and that the next six months (why is it always six months?) would be critical."  --Here.

Quote of the Day, in which the autocrat, Vladimir Putin punctures a big fat hole in the hot air balloon that is George W. Bush.

In the sharpest exchange, Mr. Bush said he had told Mr. Putin during a private dinner here Friday night about "my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq -- where there is a free press and free religion -- and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope Russia would do the same thing."

Mr. Putin, standing bolt upright in a dark blue suit, responded dryly, "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly."

With the Middle East ablaze, Tom Engelhardt explores who the true fundamentalists on this planet really are.  "Consider the possibility that the most fundamental belief, perhaps in all of history, but specifically in these last catastrophic years, seems to be in the efficacy of force -- and the more of it the merrier.  That deep belief in force above all else is perhaps the monotheism of monotheisms, a faith remarkably accepting of adherents of any other imaginable faith - or of no other faith at all... The Bush administration came to power as a fundamentalist regime; and here I'm not referring to the Christian fundamentalist faith of our President. After all, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and our Vice President seem not to be Christian fundamentalists any more than were Paul Wolfowitz or Douglas Feith. Bush's top officials may not have agreed among themselves on whether End Time would arrive, or even on the domestic social issues of most concern to the Christian religious right in this country, but they were all linked by a singular belief in the efficacy of force -- and by an overwhelming faith in the awesome power of the American military to change history.

"In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, this administration launched a force party in the Middle East. Now it's in full swing; the club's pilled high with dancers; many of the exits are bolted shut; the bouncers are no longer at the front door; and, on stage, the performers are brandishing blowtorches, while the Earth's last hyperpower and its hyper-commander-in-chief President are watching, helplessly, from the sidelines."

What's up with Showtime series and single-moms-with-vibrators-and-no-battery-scenes? I saw one last season on "Weeds" and this season on "Huff." Will we see one on "Brootherhood" too? It was funny, once...

Happy Tenth Birthday to  As I recall, we began on July 15, 1996.  I was here, both on cable and on the net.  I lasted two years on cable, but hey, I'm still here and grateful for the opportunity to make whatever contribution I've made, and to offer my views on the news with useful editorial guidance but absolutely no political or commercial censorship.  In fact, the only time I can remember anyone asking me to say anything about anything related to the company, was when an editor--long gone--asked if I'd be willing to write a column criticizing Bill Gates' gift of computers to libraries.  It's been a rare opportunity in this media environment that I've been given on this site, and I want to go on the record, just this once, to say I'm happy to be here.

My condolences to my friend (and knee doctor) Steve Nicholas, on the death of his father (and here).

And hey, how about you know who?