Media, Obama Administration, Politics, Rants

Andrew Sullivan’s Further Descent Into Hackery

Andrew Sullivan went from being an astute conservative columnist to a frothing partisan hack somewhere around the 2004 elections. His latest column in The Sunday Times amply demonstrates his fall into hackery. Now, because the Republicans have the sheer audacity to defy the Leader and go against a budget-busting spending bill in a time of fiscal turmoil, they are akin to the Taliban.

So much for not questioning the patriotism of others.

For instance, Sullivan makes this blatantly silly argument:

From the outset, the Republicans in Washington pored over the bill to find trivial issues to make hay with. They found some small funding for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases prevention; they jumped up and down about renovating the national mall; they went nuts over a proposal – wait for it – to make some government buildings more energy-efficient; they acted as if green research and federal funds for new school building were the equivalent of funding terrorism. And this after eight years in which they managed to turn a surplus into a trillion-dollar deficit and added a cool $32 trillion to the debt the next generation will have to pay for. Every now and again their chutzpah and narcissism take one’s breath away. But it’s all they seem to know.

Which conveniently ignores the very nature of the bill—a trillion-dollar giveaway to Democratic special interests. It is hardly “narcissistic” or an act of “chutzpah” to cry foul when the Treasury is being raided in a time when America’s debts are already threatening our fiscal future. But Sullivans M.O. is already well established—Republicans are always evil schemers seeking to establish their own power while the Obama Administration is always pure of heart. His simple morality play has little to do with reality, but it is a constant struggle for Mr. Sullivan to ignore what is in front of his nose.

The Republicans are an opposition party, and they have finally rediscovered the idea that they are supposed to be the party of small and responsible government. Apparently to Sullivan, their job now is to roll over at acquiesce to whatever the Great Obama wishes them to do. That someone who so frequently quotes George Orwell cannot see the Orwellian implications of our times is distressing.

That Sullivan adds some faint condemnation of the Democrats is only due to it allowing him to show how magnanimous and post-partisan the Obama Administration is. That the Obama Administration is attempting to politicize the Census is ignored. That the Obama Administration’s attempts at partisan “compromise” is largely window dressing is ignored. The ethical scandals that surround the Obama Administration is immaterial to Sullivan’s worldview. The resignation of Sen. Gregg as Commerce Secretary? To Sullivan, this had nothing to do with the Obama Administration’s evisceration of the post in favor of having Rahm Emmanuel run the show, it was clearly an act by the Republican base.

Sullivan is capable of deep though, but he choses not to exercise it, instead going for the rhetoric of a third-string Daily Kos blogger. How tiresome must it be to be yet another unquestioning mouthpiece for the Obama Administration. One would think it to be intellectually deadening after a while. But perhaps Mr. Sullivan has become tired of thinking and would rather trade his insightfulness and relevance for the adulation of the “netroots” mob.

The loss of such a formerly insightful thinker, alas, diminishes our political rhetoric at a time when it’s at one of its lows.


Why The Surge Is Sustainable

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting response to yesterday’s piece on the surge in Iraq that asks some critical questions about whether our success is sustainable:

Surely this gets well ahead of what we actually know. The causes of the current lull are, by most accounts, tactical success against “AQI” or some of the worst Islamist and Sunni terrorists, some Iranian restraint, Sadr’s cease-fire, increased ethnic separation, Sunni abhorrence of al Qaeda, and exhaustion from chaos. But all of this is undergirded by a more solid US “surge” presence, which will depart next spring. After that? We just don’t know. We do know that national political reconciliation hasn’t happened, and may be further away than ever. We do know that this was the actual point of the surge. . . .

I’m obviously much more optimistic than Sullivan is: I see the arrival of the various “Awakening” movements in places like al-Anbar and Diyala and now in the Shi’ite provinces as a sign of a major new development in this conflict. The reason why the previous security gains were so ephemeral is that there wasn’t a strong Iraqi security effort to sustain them. Once we left, some Iraqis fought bravely and lost, some fled, and some joined the terrorists. In the end, the terrorists had what they needed: enough popular support to blend in and take over.

They’ve lost that advantage now. Because of that, they don’t have any place to hide. The only way that this sort of “insurgency” can be successful as if it’s a popular movement that has enough support to allow the insurgents places to hide weapons and fighters. If they lose that, they’re exposed and vulnerable. What has happened in Iraq is that AQI is now left out in the cold. The Shi’ites hate them, so they get no purchase there. The Sunnis have no convincingly rejected them, so they have no hiding places in al-Anbar or the region surrounding Baghdad to the north and west. They’ve been systematically isolated, and once we know who the bad guys are, it’s a straightforward matter of capturing or killing them.

In fact, that’s exactly what Ayman al-Zawahiri was fearing might happen in Iraq two years ago:

(2) In the absence of this popular support, the Islamic mujahed movement would be crushed in the shadows, far from the masses who are distracted or fearful, and the struggle between the Jihadist elite and the arrogant authorities would be confined to prison dungeons far from the public and the light of day. This is precisely what the secular, apostate forces that are controlling our countries are striving for. These forces don’t desire to wipe out the mujahed Islamic movement, rather they are stealthily striving to separate it from the misguided or frightened Muslim masses. Therefore, our planning must strive to involve the Muslim masses in the battle, and to bring the mujahed movement to the masses and not conduct the struggle far from them.

What is happening in Iraq is exactly that loss of popular support, and exactly the nightmare scenario that al-Zawahiri worried about in 2005.

I also disagree that the purpose of the surge was to create political progress. That’s not an obtainable goal of a military mission. The purpose of the surge was to create the environment where political progress could be achieved. We can’t force Iraq’s disparate groups to come to the negotiating table at gunpoint, but we can ensure that terrorists don’t keep them away at gunpoint. We’ve managed to achieve that much, it’s now up to the Iraqis to decide the future of their own country.

Ultimately, it’s because of that internal Iraqi commitment to fighting terrorism that the current gains aren’t like those previously made in Iraq. The Iraqis are finally stepping up, and it’s becoming more likely that we can step down. If that happens, the line between the Democrats and Bush becomes an academic one. The Democrats want to see withdrawals, and Bush will end up withdrawing the troops. That may deeply annoy the “netroots” who want to see an immediate withdrawal, but for most of the country the immediacy of the Iraq issue would be greatly reduced.

Iraq wasn’t the key issue in 2006, and I don’t see it being the key issue in 2008, especially if Hillary Clinton continues her path towards the nomination. Yes, there’s always the chance that Iraq could explode into violence once again, but as AQI is rapidly diminishing in capability, that seems less likely. Could Moqtada al-Sadr re-mobilize the Mahdi Army? Yes, but to what end? He narrowly escaped with his life in 2004 and 2006, and he’s already faced a minor civil war in his ranks between those who observed his cease-fire and those who didn’t. Could Iran cause more trouble? They could, but the fact that they’re backing off is suggestive. Whether Tehran has realized that they’re better off with a somewhat friendly government in Baghdad rather than chaos on their border or whether they’re worried that President Bush is just waiting for the provocation he needs to justify an attack, they have chosen to ratchet down their involvement in Iraq. So long as that calculus doesn’t change, their actions are unlikely to change.

Iraq is still unsettled, but there’s reason for cautious optimism that things are markedly different than before. The political calculus here at home is interesting, but the real significance is that the Iraqi people are standing up against terrorism in a way that has not happened on this wide a scale before. That has to be worrying al-Qaeda to no end—and may signal a real turning point in this long and difficult war.