So the secret’s out now – remember those invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? Well it wasn’t by coincidence that they’re in pretty much the same part of the world. Ever since Israel invaded Lebanon again, our fearless leaders have suddenly dropped the terror ruse and started talking about the transformation of the Middle East. Condi Rice spoke of the Lebanon war as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” Nevermind that Lebanon was already supposed to be part of a new Middle East – apparently you have to transform the Middle East with the democracies you have, not the democracies you’d like to have. If one of your blossoms of freedom votes for the terrorists, then blow it up and start all over again – once you’ve cowed the free people into submission, they’ll vote for whatever democracy you tell them to vote for.
Or at least that’s the theory, I think. But really, how do we know? George Bush certainly didn’t run for president on the platform that he was going to use the military to bomb the Arabs into the twenty-first century, even though it’s certain this was on the agenda at the first National Security Council meeting in late January of 2001. There’s a whole trail of position papers put out by neocon thinkers (I know, it’s sorta like Iranian moderates, but bear with me) on how we could turn the whole Muslim world into a wellspring of democracy if only they would stand still and let us administer the beat-down they so richly deserved.
But who knows if this is the whole plan or just the part of it they feel like telling us right now? If Bush really had campaigned in 1999 on invading the Middle East until they bent to our wishes, do you think he would’ve won? He would’ve been relegated to the wing of the Republican party reserved for mutants and evolutionary dead-ends – the short bus of the small tent party – and fifty years from now his likeness would adorn Madame Tussaud’s between Ross Perot and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead he hooked up with some ex-Nixonites, who apparently came away from their impeachment experience with the lesson that Nixon was too forthcoming and open with the press. The Nixonites dragged in a raft of neocons who liked to describe themselves as starry-eyed idealists – in much the same way that John Lennon would’ve been an idealist if, instead of making music about peace and love, he had instead written songs about conquering the Holy Land and converting the heathens at the point of a spear.
And taking their oil. Because you know they’re not just doing this in order to make the world a better place – or, in the case of the End-Timers, a worse place, then a perfectly horrid place, and then a much, much nicer place. No, the starry-eyed Johnny Appleseeds of freedom know you can’t just export democracy at the point of a gun – at least not without drafting all of Mexico. If it’s not possible to threaten the entire world with violence, then you can at least threaten them with economic misery. It’s called the stick-and-stick approach, and while it doesn’t win over any hearts or minds, they’re not worried about that – they can blame the media for that failure later.
For all I can tell, this is only to maintain an approach to the world that sees every other country as innately hostile and in need of subjugation. This, I suppose, stems from the idealistic notion that the world is always just one massive military beat-down – one Operation [Your Nation Here] Freedom – one preemptive war – away from complete perfection. For instance – in the Palestinian Authority, Bush first wanted to get rid of Yasser Arafat, saying he wasn’t a legitimate representative of the people. After Arafat’s death, his political party was exposed for being massively corrupt. In the following elections, Hamas won control of the Palestinian parliament and was promptly ostracized by the US and Israel – notwithstanding their status as the only legitimate contender to Fatah’s political supremacy. Now our governments make the lives of everyday Palestinians even more miserable than usual in the hopes that this will somehow cause a legitimate and highly popular appeasement candidate to spring from the populace. It’s like the dad who yells “Come here” to his son, and when the kid complies, smacks him upside the head. The dad’s taught his son a lesson, but he may be surprised to know it’s not the lesson he intended.
About two years ago, in the last throes of the election cycle, John Kerry and the Democrats were widely ridiculed for allegedly building a foreign policy around being liked by other countries. This, we heard, was not the way to fight the war on terror. Only lily-livered Neville Chamberlains sought out middle positions ever since Everything Changed. And now that it has, we don’t need to make any excuses about telling the world to obey – when you have the moral clarity to insist that you’re always right, facts just get in the way. But in a number of places – Gaza and Lebanon and maybe Iraq and Iran as well – when you’ve scraped the layers of opposition down one by one, at some point it should occur to you that it’s opposition all the way to the core. There’s no secret moderate majority among your enemies waiting to embrace your arrival. The only surprise in the neocons’ strategy is that they’ve arrived at this point so quickly.