Democrats & Liberals Archives

Five Questions With Benjamin Orbach

benjamin orbachBenjamin Orbach, a nice Jewish boy from Pittsburgh, lived in Jordan and Cairo and traveled throughout the Middle East for a year right after 9/11 and during the US invasion of Iraq.

His book, "Live from Jordan", is a chronicle of the "Arab street" during that period and an important resource for Americans who want a better understanding of the Middle East and its people's attitude toward the United States.

Ben Orbach (BO) was kind enough to play five questions with me (AP), so here we go:

AP: President Bush and Vice President Cheney told us in graphic detail how Islamic jihadists want to cut our heads off and kill our children and grandchildren. Why were you able to spend 2002-2003 living in the Middle East and come home with your head still attached? Is there a clash of civilizations taking place or not?

BO: Well, I was lucky and I was good. First, and perhaps most important, I was lucky in that I didn't come face to face with any Islamic Jihadists, that very small minority of people in the Middle East who have no respect for life and who kill people in what they believe is the path of God. Al-Qaeda militants did assassinate Laurence Foley, a USAID diplomat in Jordan, in October of 2002, when I was living in Amman. So I was aware of Jihadists potential to enter my everyday life in a direct way.

Second, I was good. At the risk of sounding naïve, I had positive intentions and I treated people with respect and decency. I listened to people. This doesn't mean that I agreed with their arguments, but I demonstrated respect for them by listening to their concerns. This bought me a lot of personal good will among people with opposing opinions.

I don't think there is a clash of civilizations. We may disagree about varying issues, but I met more people that had similar core values and hopes to me than people who I just couldn't relate to at all. One could argue that I might not be representative of mainstream America in this regard, but I tend to think that we are engaged much more in a clash FOR civilization than a clash of civilizations. Bin Laden and his ilk just don't offer much that is tangible, and that deserves to be labeled as a type of "civilization."

AP: Everywhere I traveled in Muslim Southeast Asia I got the 'Bill Clinton was here' story. Everybody loved Bill Clinton because he listened to them and treated them with respect -- even when there was disagreement on policy. Conversely, I was asked quite a few times if President Bush planned to invade Indonesia and Malaysia as part of the war on terror. Did you have a similar experience in the Arab East with respect to people's perceptions of the last two administrations? Is it better for America's long-term strategic goals in the Middle East to be loved or feared?

BO: After the Saddam statue came down in Baghdad, people in Egypt and then Jordan asked me with great sincerity who would be next. George Bush was feared and respected that week, but it wasn't sustainable. To be feared, as Middle East despots are by their people, you have to reinforce the lesson in a punishing way, but you also have to enable people to go about their daily lives in a consistent if not stable and regular way. In this day and age, that is hard to do as a foreign occupying force.

I don't think the United States can remain the world's strongest power if forced to occupy foreign countries and to take responsibility for foreign populations and their problems. It is in the best interest of the United States to have the ability to pursue our interests worldwide by any means necessary, but we are much better off following our core values (justice, equality, and the pursuit of opportunities) and dealing with the majority of the world -- with certain exceptions, like the Islamic Jihadists -- as partners. We'll secure more of our interests and attain more of our desires; we can always fall back on our power if that is what the situation dictates. Bottom line: it is best to be considered just, rather than to be loved or feared.

AP: Ok, I agree that it's detrimental to the US to continue unilaterally occupying foreign countries. Now, the UN has had some success in rebuilding countries -- I'm thinking of East Timor and Eastern Slavonia and even Kosovo. Would greater UN involvement have made any difference in Iraq? What is the general feeling toward the UN in the Arab East?

BO: It is hard to say what kind of difference the UN would have made in Iraq. It might have equaled more troops, more world wide support -- those are important variables. I will say that there is a lot of respect for the legitimacy of the United Nations -- both the Security Council and the General Assembly -- throughout the Arab East. To many, the United Nations represents international law and a process of deliberation and consensus building, especially in the General Assembly, where people see an equality among all nations. Also, UN soldiers can make good peacekeepers. In some cases, it is much more palatable to accept a multi-national force representing international law than a foreign power or certainly a regional power as an occupier

AP: I was constantly asked (with great excitement) whether Hillary Clinton would be the next President. Female leaders are common and respected in Muslim Southeast Asia, but what challenges would a female President of the United States face in the Arab East?

BO: Honestly, I think this is a non-issue. Female diplomats (including Dr. Rice) and other government officials do their jobs in the Middle East with great effectiveness. If they fail, it is for other reasons, not their gender. The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world, no matter what his or her gender. That's a reality that every foreign leader faces.

To me, the question is really one more of confidence, experience, and intellect. It would be a problem if a female president felt she had to prove her strength through the unnecessary use of force. It would also be a problem if the President (female or male) did not have the experience or intellect to know when other foreign leaders are lying to them or flattering them.

AP: I found that, due to America's cultural and economic influence in Southeast Asia, people there felt they had a stake in America's future. In fact, many felt that America had such a large influence on their daily lives that they should have a vote in our Presidential elections. How strong is the people's association with America in the Arab East? What is the state of America's "soft power" in the region?

BO: It’s funny, I've heard Jordanians, Israelis, Egyptians, Iraqis, Turks, and even South Koreans claim to be our 51st state. U.S. foreign policy has a huge impact on people's lives around the world. On this front, in the Arab East, I found one person in my travels who thought U.S. foreign policy was having an overall positive impact on people in the Middle East. He was my driver in Syria who thought I was a spy and he told me that he loved George Bush, Hafez al-Assad, and all Presidents everywhere! Everyone else I met was critical not just of U.S. foreign policies in principle, but of the impact policies had on their lives. On the other hand, I met many people who identified with American pop culture, the minimum wage, and democratic processes. As I wrote in my book, people love Mariah Carey but hate George Bush. As many see it, American culture provides them with inspiration and hope, and US policy makes their lives more difficult.

AP: In your book, you write a lot about Israel's relationships with its neighbors. The United States has apparently stopped trying to be an impartial actor in the region, actively siding with Israel -- the free reign given to Israel's campaign in Lebanon last summer is the most recent example. How is our no-questions-asked and no-criticism-given support for Israel vital to US national security?

BO: During the Cold War, U.S. administrations looked at the Middle East (and the rest of the world) in an America vs. the Soviets prism. In that regard, Israel is a democracy and since World War II, has been the United States' most consistent ally in the Middle East. After the Cold War, the Clinton Administration looked at the Middle East within the prism of reaching a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. From that perspective, Israel benefited greatly from the largesse offered to those willing and eager to pursue peace. The governments of Egypt and Jordan have benefited from this largesse as well.

After September 11th, it seems as if the Bush administration has looked at the Middle East from the perspective of combating radical Islam. In the days after 9/11, no one knew how the attacks would impact the Arab-Israeli conflict. As it turns out, from an American perspective, the attacks have led at least some decision makers to group al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hizballah together, as a single problem, rather than three different complicated problems that have a common string of Islamism running through them.

At the same time, this administration took a look at the failed Clinton efforts and the al-Aqsa intifada -- within the context of their "global war on terrorism" -- and decided to take a pass on the peace process. They haven't held any of the main actors accountable for actions detrimental to reaching a peace accord and they've missed opportunities to push each side to work for a settlement.

That's sad for them, but also for us. It is undoubtedly in Americans' interest to see a just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The lack of a just settlement contributes (even if it is in an indirect way) to Islamic radicalism, authoritarian rule, and a lack of economic and educational opportunities for young people in the Middle East.

AP: One of your suggestions for healing the breach between America and the Arab East is to encourage Americans to travel there as "unofficial ambassadors". The very thought of traveling to the Middle East brings terror to the average American (for some reason), but you obviously survived -- you not only survived, but you met some wonderful and friendly people, saw some amazing things, and had a rich and fulfilling experience. Where in the Arab East would you recommend that I spend my summer vacation?

BO: If you have two weeks, Egypt is a great place to visit. There are thousands of years of history between the pyramids, the temples of Luxor, and the colorful tombs of the Valley of the Kings. But there are also majestic desert oases, world-class scuba diving, and Cairo, a city with personality, culture, and 10 million car horns. Egypt is also cheap, but the food is bad, very bad.

If you only have a weekend, go to Petra, the pinkish purple ancient city in Jordan. It ranks with the Sistine Chapel, the Taj Mahal, and Angkor Wat. The city's buildings are facades carved out of rock that change color based upon the time of day.

If you are looking for an Old City, nothing beats Jerusalem, home to the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock. Its walls and alleys are something out of a storybook about knights and bazaars.


Thanks again to Benjamin Orbach for the interview. You can read my review of his book, "Live from Jordan" right here. If you're too much of a wuss to visit the Arab East yourself, Orbach's book is the next best thing.

Posted by American Pundit at August 3, 2007 2:29 AM
Comments
Comment #228236
Everybody loved Bill Clinton because he listened to them and treated them with respect — even when there was disagreement on policy.

That’s the key right there. That’s what they want. No need to give in on any issues. It doesn’t cost anything and nobody has to die for it.

Posted by: Schwamp at August 3, 2007 10:07 AM
Comment #228237
“It is in the best interest of the United States to have the ability to pursue our interests worldwide by any means necessary, but we are much better off following our core values (justice, equality, and the pursuit of opportunities) and dealing with the majority of the world — with certain exceptions, like the Islamic Jihadists — as partners. We’ll secure more of our interests and attain more of our desires; we can always fall back on our power if that is what the situation dictates.”

Dick Cheney couldn’t have said it better.

I could be wrong, but as vital resources such as oil, water, and arrible land decline in the next 20-30 years, I suspect ‘the situation’ will ‘dictate’ a whole lot of ‘falling back on our power.’

What dictates this dependence on power isn’t so much the situation as it is this country’s steadfast refusal to ameliorate approaching climate change, peak oil, terrorism ,nuclear proliferation and population pressures with wise and innovative policies. (BO’s statement above isn’t a national foreign policy. It is a veiled threat worthy of some Mafia cappo.)

This refusal to see the world as it is, rather than how we wish it to be, is in keeping with a delusional capitalist/imperialist arrogance, and an insane self-assurance that we’re somehow special, annointed by God to bring the light of democracy to the heathen and ignorant darkies who are sitting on our oil.

Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are right. Somewhere, William McKinley is smiling the smile of the damned.

Posted by: black & red at August 3, 2007 10:12 AM
Comment #228241

“…but we are much better off following our core values (justice, equality, and the pursuit of opportunities)…”

Ah yes, justice and equality and opportunity aren’t principles to live by, they’re tactics to be employed in the game of realpolitik.

If you shake this guy’s hand, be sure to count your fingers afterwards.

Something I’ve noticed in this game of realpolitik: there’s always this insane game of trying to show the other guy how tough and mean you are. It invaribly gets a lot of innocent people killed and maimed to prove it. Is this something we as a nation and a species can afford anymore??

Posted by: black & red at August 3, 2007 10:42 AM
Comment #228247

The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world,… the world’s strongest power, etc.

If the most powerful person in the world is an incompetent ignoramus, then it just makes it into a pissing contest, not anything of value to anyone in this country or elsewhere. This administration is so arrogant that the rest of the world is justified in their negative views of the US, including our non-democratic republican institutions that we try to export elsehwere. The presidency is part of our system that we should stop trying to export, because people holding that office in foreign countries tend to act like monarchs or dictators, not unlike GWBush.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 3, 2007 11:23 AM
Comment #228256
Dick Cheney couldn’t have said it better.

Hmm… I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dick Cheney say that our foreign policy should rest primarily on our values and NOT on our military might, which is what Orbach is saying.

“I don’t think the United States can remain the world’s strongest power if forced to occupy foreign countries and to take responsibility for foreign populations and their problems,” he says. Orbach’s right.

As for our core values of “justice, equality, and the pursuit of opportunities,” I also found those values to be universal. Those values are the reason America and Americans are loved around the world even though our President and his foreign policy are hated.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 3, 2007 12:15 PM
Comment #228257

AP,

Kudos to both you and Ben. I absolutely must get his book. Should you happen to correspond with Ben in the future, and if he’s maintained any contacts in Jordan, I’m very curious just what impact the Iraqi refugee crisis is actually having on the lives of the Jordanian people.

It’s one of many issues often under-reported in the MSM.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 3, 2007 12:16 PM
Comment #228258

Orbach’s book sounds worth reading and I’m glad to hear about it, but what an awful job of conducting an interview.

I mean, starting with a complete howling-at-the-moon falsehood like “President Bush and Vice President Cheney told us in graphic detail how Islamic jihadists want to cut our heads off and kill our children and grandchildren.” I surprised Orbach didn’t walk out of the room (or hang up the phone) right then and there.

Care to point to even one example of Cheney OR Bush speaking in “graphic detail” about any such thing? What a load of baloney.

And then, notice how the interviewer goes on to generally parade his own partisan opinions, to ignore the nuances of the interviewee’s views, and basically answer his own questions. Orbach had what sounds like some very interesting experiences, but instead of talking about those, our liberal Democrat interviewer grabs the wheel and starts going on about his own experiences and his own Democratic agenda.

Note that the interviewer himself is the only one talking here about how much Bill Clinton is supposedly loved by Muslims, and how excited Muslims supposedly are at the prospect of a female Clinton as President. And watch how Orbach skillfully adds nuance and depth to the interviewer’s hatchet-job of a leading question: “How is our no-questions-asked and no-criticism-given support for Israel vital to US national security?”

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 3, 2007 12:19 PM
Comment #228260

AP:

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dick Cheney say that our foreign policy should rest primarily on our values and NOT on our military might, which is what Orbach is saying.”

If you think that’s what Orbach is saying then you are deluding yourself. I’ve highlighted the relevant mendacity. If you chose not to see it, you’re in Dick Cheney’s neighborhood.

Posted by: black & red at August 3, 2007 1:11 PM
Comment #228267

AP:

Great job!

This interview sure shows how a Democratic administration would be different from the “tough” Bush administration. A Democrat - Clinton or Obama - will treat the Arab people with respect. Treating people with understanding, empathy and respect is the first step in what we call “changing hearts and minds.”

“Changing hearts and minds” is what we must do in order to “win” against al Qaeda and other extremists.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at August 3, 2007 2:33 PM
Comment #228273

AP,

What Paul Siegel said.!!!!!!

The whole way through your interview, I kept saying to myself “you think?” This is my cynical way of indicating that I strongly agree with what is being communicated to me.


Red & black,

I think you’re taking Mr Orbach’s comments out of context when he is referring to “American core values.” I think from the tone of his entire interview it is apparent (at least to me it is) that Mr. Orbach makes room for the fact that it is not only the responsibility but the RIGHT of each nation to determine what justice, equality and pursuit of opportunities is for their society while taking into account factors that will encourage, permit and stabilize peaceful co-existence with other nations of the world.

I don’t interpret Orbach’s statements as saying “everyone in the world just needs to adopt our culture, our political system, or our economics”—God forbid!


All,

I think perhaps the most important statements Benjamine Orbach made were his comments of how the US political leadership has tended to view the Middle East over the past three decades or so. Having perspective and understanding about how our policies affect that daily lives of other countries AND the daily lives of American citizens is an important characteristic for a US President to possess. The one we’re stuck with for now had never traveled beyond his own country until he took office—there’s a big YIKES right there! He admittedly didn’t know anything about foreign political leaders, their nations or their culture—YIKES!!! again. Just in case some of you Bush fans are tempted to bring up Jimmy Carter—I ready for you so “make my day, please.”

Posted by: Kim-Sue at August 3, 2007 3:56 PM
Comment #228288
…but what an awful job of conducting an interview.

LOL! Ben and his publisher seemed pretty happy with it. :)

To be serious for a second about the interview techniques, this one is a little stilted because of the format. It wasn’t a dialogue, it was a list of questions I emailed him followed by his answers so it doesn’t flow like a conversation — my fault entirely, to be sure, but I blame the email Q&A format.

But I realize you weren’t criticizing my technique, LO. :)

Care to point to even one example of Cheney OR Bush speaking in “graphic detail” about any such thing? What a load of baloney.

Bush just did that recently, LO. — “They viciously attacked us before we were in Iraq, and they’ve been attacking ever since. They are a threat to your children.”

This one was a doozy — “They kill the innocent; they kill children and their mothers on a commuter train, without conscience, without mercy. They cause suffering and grief and they rejoice in it.”

Here’s another — “They view the world as a giant battlefield, and will strike wherever they can. The killers who behead captives and order suicide bombings…”

I could go on, but you only asked for one example.

As for the rest, it’s clear that your problem is that you’ve never spent time in an Islamic state and so some of the questions and answers don’t fit your pre-conceived notions of Muslim lands. Ben Orbach lived in Jordan and Cairo for a year (I believe he’s in Jeruselem right now) and I lived in Southeast Asia for three.

You’re Ben Orbach’s target audience, LO: An American who doesn’t have a clue what it’s like outside the US, but who isn’t hesitant to tell us all about it. Go visit the Arab East, LO, or Indonesia or Malaysia. Talk to the people. Then come back and tell us how they view the last two administrations.

I suspect your story will sound similar to mine and Ben’s.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 3, 2007 8:51 PM
Comment #228294

AP

Some of the premises of the questions are wrong.

For example, president Bush has gone to great lengths to emphasis that this is NOT a clash of civilizations.

Re Kosovo or Bosnia. Do you think either of these places would have been in a position to be rebuilt w/o U.S. power? W/o the U.S. Kosovo would probably be peaceful and largely free of ethnic Albanians. Maybe you think that is a good outcome, but the UN did absolutely nothing to help us in protecting them and actually stood in our way. We would be delighted to have the UN really help in Iraq. They would be effective as they have been in Darfur, maybe, Rwanda, or Congo. I am sure they would have done as good a job protecting civilians as they did at Srebrenica.

I also think that both you and your subject assume that decision makers are dumb. Everybody who knows the Middle East understands the important differences between Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaida. They sometimes also understand that even guys who ostensibly hate each other can have common goals and similarities. It is a very complex situation.

One of my constant complains about both Dems and Republicans is that they always assume the other side has not thought of very simple things. Golly gee, if we just got the UN involved and all the neighbors cooperated, wouldn’t that be better. Good idea, sort of like that idea about belling the cat.

Re Clinton being popular, people often say they love American presidents after they are gone and they sometimes use that as an offensive weapon against the current president.

I remember how Clinton was viewed when he was actually active. Kosovo was a big Clinton success. It drove the Russians nuts and risked splitting NATO, even though we did all the heavy lifting. You may recall that the Chinese were particularly upset about that unfortunate incident with their embassy. They even declared cyberwar on us. And for all the sound and fury re the Middle East, it still was no closer to peace when all the dealing was done.

Posted by: Jack at August 3, 2007 10:10 PM
Comment #228297

American Pundit,

Bush just did that recently, LO. — “They viciously attacked us before we were in Iraq, and they’ve been attacking ever since. They are a threat to your children.”
This one was a doozy — “They kill the innocent; they kill children and their mothers on a commuter train, without conscience, without mercy. They cause suffering and grief and they rejoice in it.”
Here’s another — “They view the world as a giant battlefield, and will strike wherever they can. The killers who behead captives and order suicide bombings…”

Are you trying to tell us that this stuff doesn’t happen? There have been terrorist attacks all over the world in the past few years. Yes, there have been beheadings too.
I don’t think you and Mr. Orbach are on the same page. From what you’ve written, I think you want to play down the threat of terror. Orbach doesn’t do that, at least from the quotes you gave.
I think while you are simply anti-Bush, he is anti-current American policy. Huge difference.
I agree with what you say about the Southeast Asia, but you have to remember, that part of the world is drastically different from the Middle East. President Clinton was well liked in the south east. In the mid east, not so much. All Bush did was take Clinton’s stated policy toward the mid east and put it into action. Of course, given Iraq, some might say it was too much action. Something in between probably would have been better. But terror does have to be dealt with somehow, A.P. We shouldn’t overblow it like bush, but downplaying it does nothing to help the people of the Mid East, especially since it so often targets them. I wonder if you would support Senator Obama’s plan to attack Al Queda in Pakistan?

Posted by: Mark at August 3, 2007 10:51 PM
Comment #228300
Some of the premises of the questions are wrong.

Says you.

…but the UN did absolutely nothing to help us in protecting them and actually stood in our way.

Yes, Russia stood in the way. Initially. But after the NATO operation, which included US and Russian forces, the UN took over negotiations, peacekeeping and Kosovo’s government itself — quite unlike the role President Bush allowed the UN in Iraq.

Without the UN, Kosovo would be like Iraq today.

We would be delighted to have the UN really help in Iraq.

I’m not sure who you mean by “we”, Jack. President Bush repeatedly turned down UN offers for a larger role in Iraq.

The Bush administration has abandoned the idea of giving the United Nations more of a role in the occupation of Iraq as sought by France, India and other countries as a condition for their participation in peacekeeping there, administration officials said today.

“The administration is not willing to confront going to the Security Council and saying, ‘We really need to make Iraq an international operation,’ ” said an administration official. “You can make a case that it would be better to do that, but right now the situation in Iraq is not that dire.” — NYT, August 14, 2003

And here, too:

Newsday reported on Oct. 18 that “President George W. Bush rebuffed a plan last month for a Muslim peacekeeping force that would have helped the United Nations organize elections in Iraq, according to Saudi and Iraqi officials.” Initially, the Saudis pressed to create a full-fledged peacekeeping force, possibly made up of several thousand Muslim troops. But the Bush administration objected because the special force would have been controlled by the U.N. instead of by the United States. — Oct. 2004

You’re right, Jack, that a bigger role for the UN in Iraq was a big ‘duh’. Too bad the Bush administration rejected it. Duuuh.

As for Clinton, I don’t know about Russia, but I do know that he was generally loved in Southeast Asia and everyone I spoke with in China thought he was a far better President than Bush.

The almost universal dislike of and contempt for Bush around the world is not a partisan issue. It’s a fact.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 3, 2007 11:13 PM
Comment #228301
Are you trying to tell us that this stuff doesn’t happen?

No, Mark. LO was trying to tell us it didn’t happen.

while you are simply anti-Bush

Wrong.

All Bush did was take Clinton’s stated policy toward the mid east and put it into action.

Absolutely false. President Clinton tried to solve the terrorism problem by solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bush rejected that approach. And President Clinton never ever advocated invading and occupying Iraq.

I wonder if you would support Senator Obama’s plan to attack Al Queda in Pakistan?

Mark, you’re apparently unfamiliar with my writing. I absolutely support going in to Pakistan after bin Laden. Bush’s biggest blunder in the war on terror was to get sidetracked in Iraq. I’d even support a real plan to win in Iraq, like sending the 500,000 troops the military originally wanted for securing the country, but Bush screwed us on that, didn’t he.

My problem with President Bush is that he couldn’t lead our military out of a paper bag. He is the most incompetent Commander in Chief in this country’s history. The sooner Bush is gone, the sooner America will win the war on terror.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 3, 2007 11:23 PM
Comment #228305

AP

How many bombing runs did Russians make? They “participated” only after all was done and then mostly to try to protect Milosevic’s interests.

Your say, “Without the UN, Kosovo would be like Iraq today.” W/o the U.S. Kosovo would be like Darfur today.

The UN does not actually established peace. SOMETIMES they can help keep it. The UN can sometimes play a role, but only if all the major parties agree. That happens, but not often and so far not re Iraq.

The U.S. had a much easier time in the 1990s. It was a fantastically benign foreign affairs environment. Even then, we had the problems of Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia etc. When the U.S. took ACTION, we got criticism.

The Iraq war has made us unpopular. I do not deny that. But I have been watching world public opinon for more than 20 years. There was never a golden age during that period.

I defend my president overseas no matter who he is. I was dissapointed at how the Euros dissed Clinton in his first years. Later they got to like him better. The same happened with Reagan, BTW. It is always easier to love someone who is gone.

Remember also how everybody loved us just after 9/11, but this faded with AFGHANISTAN.

I do think your questions were a bit misplaced at times. Although I do not question your sincerity, I do not think you adequately understand the Bush policy. It has changed with conditions. Liberals attack a straw man on many occassions. It is very interesting how Bush-like Obama sounded on foreign policy a couple days ago. You guys just do not see it.

BTW Bush always tried to minimize the clash of civilization model. High administration officials spend a lot of time saying Islam is a religion of peace and attending Iftars etc. Sometimes, I even think they go too far.

Posted by: Jack at August 4, 2007 12:04 AM
Comment #228308

Jack, I never said the US military didn’t have a roll in UN operations. I’m not sure where you’re going on that tangent.

The UN does not actually established peace.

That’s not true either. There were several UN actions where military forces under UN command established peace. Korea is the big one, then there’s Congo in the 60’s, Eastern Slavonia and East Timor to name a few examples.

Even then, we had the problems of Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia etc. When the U.S. took ACTION, we got criticism.

Sure. But it was nothing like the criticism we got after unilaterally invading Iraq.

There was never a golden age during that period.

In relative terms, there was. It was any time before Bush’s invasion of Iraq (not counting the trough during the Reagan years). All you have to do is look at opinion polls to verify it.

Remember also how everybody loved us just after 9/11, but this faded with AFGHANISTAN.

No. It faded with IRAQ. Jack, there’s tis thing called the internet. It make it very easy to fact check. International opinion polls show a sharp decline for the US after the invasion of IRAQ. That’s the facts.

I do not think you adequately understand the Bush policy.

I understand it very well, Jack. I think you sometimes confuse conservative foreign policy with Bush foreign policy. Heck, Lugar still sounds like Obama who sounds like Romney who sounds like Clinton. The latest issue of Foreign Affairs is a good example. You have foreign policy essays by both Obama and Romney that are almost identical.

But Bush policy is different. Up until recently, Bush’s foreign policy was neo-conservative policy. President Bush really thought he was going to usher in a new era of peace in the Middle East by remaking Iraq. Go back and read any foreign policy paper pre-9/11 — left or right — and you won’t find anything like that.

No, Jack. You are the one who forgets that Bush’s foreign policy is not the same as mainstream Republican and Democratic foreign policy.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 4, 2007 1:46 AM
Comment #228314

AP,

“And President Clinton never ever advocated invading and occupying Iraq.”

I hate to be the one to say so, but that’s not altogether true. The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which Clinton signed into law on October 31, 1998, clearly states:

“Section 4 (a) (2) MILITARY ASSISTANCE- (A) The President is authorized to direct the drawdown of defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense, defense services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training for such organizations.

(B) The aggregate value (as defined in section 644(m) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961) of assistance provided under this paragraph may not exceed $97,000,000.”

“SEC. 7. ASSISTANCE FOR IRAQ UPON REPLACEMENT OF SADDAM HUSSEIN REGIME.

It is the sense of the Congress that once the Saddam Hussein regime is removed from power in Iraq, the United States should support Iraq’s transition to democracy by providing immediate and substantial humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, by providing democracy transition assistance to Iraqi parties and movements with democratic goals, and by convening Iraq’s foreign creditors to develop a multilateral response to Iraq’s foreign debt incurred by Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.”

I also recall Clinton defending Bush’s Iraq policy on Larry King Live during a memorable joint interview on Bob Dole’s birthday in 2003 shortly after we’d cornered and killed Saddam’s sons. By the time he was promoting his autobiography he had begun tempering his defense of the war by adding that we should have waited for Blix to complete his inspections.

Clinton’s not ready for sainthood just yet. It always irks me when the right does that with Reagan…………so in the sense of fair play :^)

Posted by: KansasDem at August 4, 2007 3:11 AM
Comment #228316

KansasDem, there’s nothing in that doc that says anything about invading and occupying Iraq. In fact — as you rightly include — it says,

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces

So Clinton keeps his Sainthood in that regard.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 4, 2007 3:47 AM
Comment #228317

AP,

It says, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.””

The, “(except as provided in section 4(a)(2))” is in the actual text of the bill.

““Section 4 (a) (2) MILITARY ASSISTANCE- (A) The President is authorized to direct the drawdown of defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense, defense services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training for such organizations.”

Clinton was certainly savvy enough to know that “defense services of the Department of Defense” is super inclusive. All it took was Bush and a little PNAC spin with a good dose of AEI to really set the ball in motion.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 4, 2007 4:34 AM
Comment #228336

It wasn’t just the Iraq Liberation Act, but both Clintons’ public support of the Bush-led invasion (including a vote from Hillary authorizing it).

AP, I wasn’t suggesting that Bush or Cheney have never mentioned threats posed by terrorists—they obviously have. What I dispute is that they’ve talked about cutting off heads and the other things you mention in “graphic detail.” Maybe you just have a very different definiton of “graphic detail” than I do. When I think of “graphic detail” I think of something more along the lines of a Quentin Tarintino film than just the mere use of a word like “beheading.”

As far as Clinton thinking that the key to success was “solving” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how did his efforts in that direction work out for him? Or for Israel and Palestine for that matter? Those “solving” a problem are not necessarily those who talk about it the most, or have the most White House photo-ops with people like Arafat. If Clinton had come anything close to actually “solving” the problem in his 8 years as President, then Bush would never had to deal with it in the first place. The inescapable fact remains that this Clinton-style approach that you find so superior simply DID NOT WORK.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 4, 2007 11:45 AM
Comment #228341

AP

Korea was a unique situation because the Soviets boycotted the UN and it got authorized. It was mostly a U.S. and U.S. allied operation. E. Timor, a country about the size of a large Texas farm, depending on our good friends the Australians. Congo? Good job there. We are not even sure within a million how many people have died. Eastern Slavonia. Another small time operation trending toward peace anyway.

My problem with UN and the U.S. ROLE is that we usually get to do most of the actual fighting and take almost all the blame. The current Iraq occupation - BTW – is UN authorized. The U.S. role is for us and our allies to do all the work.

Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia got less criticism because they did not last as long. Rwanda is a very interesting case, lots of people died, nobody did much to stop it. It seems to have had few consequences for the non-actors.

The UN is as reliable as the government that make it up and a majority of them are less than efficient or democratic. Many are actual corrupt despotism. To all that, we add the additional level of bureaucracy and need for consensus that allows individual despots to shut down operations, as in Darfur.

Re the decline of U.S. standing, it began with Afghanistan. I do watch these polls. I also remember that some people in Europe called Bush Hitler because of Afghanistan. Afghanistan became the “good” war because people liked to pretend they were on board until Iraq.

Re Bush policy - Bush overreached. It probably was a good idea to try to get away from the policies of the previous 50 years where we emphasized stability over liberty, since we were beginning to get neither, but he moved too radically.

It is disingenuous of liberals to criticize some of the real politic of the older times and then advocate more of the same today. I have nothing against real politic, BTW, but I recognize that it should not be the only tool AND we have to recognize that sometimes it does not work out. I object to the general Dem idea that they will do the same things, or in Obama’s case even more aggressive ones, but that it will just work out better. Clinton’s policy success can be listed on an index card. His Middle East policy did not work out. Kosovo was a success. Bosnia was a success, but it was implemented very badly and resulted in many more deaths than necessary. I suspect Iraq might yet work out in this fashion if the Dems do not pull the rug out too soon.

Rwanda, as I wrote above, is very interesting. It shows that you are more popular when you do nothing. Genocide happens. Everybody feels guilty, but does nothing. Lots of people feel the pain, some more than others.

Posted by: Jack at August 4, 2007 1:06 PM
Comment #228347
Clinton was certainly savvy enough to know that “defense services of the Department of Defense” is super inclusive.

No it’s not, KansasDem. That clause was put in there specifically in case it made sense to arm and train Chalabi’s militia as an anti-Saddam insurgent group. Don’t try to pick nits with me, I don’t have the patience. Nowhere in that document does it advocate invading and occupying Iraq.

As far as Clinton thinking that the key to success was “solving” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how did his efforts in that direction work out for him? Or for Israel and Palestine for that matter?

I thought Ben Orbach answered that question pretty well in the interview, LO. I’ll stand with his answer.

The current Iraq occupation - BTW - is UN authorized. The U.S. role is for us and our allies to do all the work.

Because that’s the way President Bush wants it. Bush repeatedly turned down a larger role for the UN in Iraq.

Another small time operation trending toward peace anyway.

Says you. If you don’t want to deal with the facts on UN operations, then I accept your surrender and we’ll move on. BTW, James Dobbin’s book, “The UN’s Role in Nation-Building: From the Congo to Iraq” is an excellent resource if you want to get up to speed on the subject.

I also remember that some people in Europe called Bush Hitler because of Afghanistan. Afghanistan became the “good” war because people liked to pretend they were on board until Iraq.

That’s just absolute rubbish, Jack. Try backing that up with facts. Name some names.

It is disingenuous of liberals to criticize some of the real politic of the older times and then advocate more of the same today.

Again, I don’t know who you’re talking about. I’ve never criticized real politic. In fact, I’ve advocated it as an alternative to Bush policy. As I’m sure you remember, while you were praising the Palestinian elections that brought Hamas to power under a banner of the destruction of Israel, I said it was a dumb idea.

Why would you hold elections when you know terrorists will win? You said Hamas would become moderate. Still waiting…

Posted by: American Pundit at August 4, 2007 2:23 PM
Comment #228408

“Don’t try to pick nits with me”

AP,

That’s not my intent I simply think that we (collectively as the voting public) tend to put our past leaders up on pedestals without always considering both their greatest accomplishments and their mistakes. As I said previously, the Republican’s have done a whopping job of rewriting the history of Reagan. I just want us to always be better than that.

All things considered Bill Clinton was IMO the best POTUS since perhaps Ike.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 5, 2007 12:02 PM
Comment #228414

KD, I wasn’t trying to put Clinton on a pedestal. I just pointed out that he in no way ever advocated invading and occupying Iraq.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 5, 2007 12:25 PM
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