While I regarded Gen. Wesley Clark as a terrible candidate, I had respect for his experience in uniform and his outlook on foreign-policy issues. However, in his essay in The New Republic, Clark endorses a series of proposals more rooted in fantasy than reality and demonstrates his unsuitability for involvement in the war on Islamofascist terror — in which he would surely play a significant role during a Kerry administration.
Clark argues for a course correction in Iraq without clearly explaining why the current course is a failure, except by pointing at polls that says people think it’s failing:
But today, 14 months later, the mission is in shambles, scarred by rising Iraqi popular discontent, continued attacks against U.S. forces, infiltration of foreign fighters, mounting civil strife, and no credible sense of direction.
Despite President George W. Bush’s calls for staying the course, American public opinion has clearly turned against the mission. Some have already pronounced it a failure.
This is nonsense. We’re dealing with two minor conflicts in Najaf and Kufa that have mostly burned themselves out, and a lousy deal in Fallujah that we should have thought through better. Other than that, the news has been mostly unremarkable for its success, as the soldiers and Marines on the ground have been saying in their letters and blogs. Power has been mostly restored, human-rights groups are flourishing, and the Iraqis can look forward to self-government for the first time ever. Clark hits the panic button far too early. No one said it would be smooth, but we remain in control and the insurgents become more desperate every week. Saying that we’re losing Iraq is akin to claiming that California was about to collapse entirely into chaos during the Rodney King riots.
Who knew an American general could get that hysterical?
While our troops should help secure the borders and handle internal threats that are too large for the still-nascent Iraqi forces, they should, as soon as possible, stop policing the country for one simple reason: They’re not very good at it. Instead, we need to involve Middle Eastern countries and the larger international community in building a unified Iraq with a representative government that doesn’t threaten its neighbors or serve as a magnet for Al Qaeda recruiting and that exerts enough control to ensure domestic stability and promote economic development. …
n essence, the Bush administration has scared Iran and Syria into believing that, if the United States is successful in its occupation of Iraq, they will be the next targets. To the Iranians and Syrians, the implication is that their survival depends on dragging the U.S. mission in Iraq into failure. Furthermore, America’s perceived pro-Israel bias, and its failure to engage seriously in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has fed the poisonous atmosphere fueling Arab anger toward the United States and its efforts in Iraq.
Clark blames the US for the Palestinian’s refusal to stop bombing Israeli pizza parlors, a stance that should draw hysterical laughter from everyone except Yasser Arafat. The US has hosted at least two drawn-out conferences between the Irsaelis and the Palestinians, which produced plenty of serious plans and absolutely no desire on the part of the Palestinians to do anything about them. During the Clinton administration, Ehud Barak handed them a state on a silver platter, and they launched the intifada in response.
Memo to Clark: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only reach resolution when the Palestinians decide to accept the existence of Israel. No amount of American pressure not already applied will make them understand this. The nations of the Middle East do not help this problem, they exacerbate it. Iraq clearly was among the leaders, paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers as payment for murder in its multi-threaded support for terrorism. Iran and Syria openly support terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezb’ Allah, which aim for the annihilation of Israel. Does Clark seriously believe that they’re going to convince the Palestinians to lay down arms, or to turn up the heat?
Similarly, Clark’s notion that we should invite the neighboring kleptocracies, thugocracies, and mullahcracies into Iraq and expect the end result to be a representative government is so incredibly naive as to challenge all credulity. In reading this, I had to ask myself if Clark really believes this, or is just flacking for the Democrats. Clark keeps straining the imagination by claiming that we should use our experience in the Balkans to accomplish this, when we have spent most of a decade in the Balkans working with neighboring governments, all of them Western democracies, and still haven’t established representative government where it didn’t exist before. In Kosovo, we haven’t even established whether a separate representative government to be our goal, despite the several years the West has spent there as “peacekeepers”.
Whether or not we’re failing in Iraq, an assessment that in either case would be premature at this point, Clark’s essay clearly shows that Clark is not the man to lead this nation or its foreign policy. Casting blame on the US for the obstinacy of Palestinian anti-Semitism while believing the Iranians and Syrians to be partners in democracy shows a disconnect from reality so severe that I wouldn’t have believed it unless I read it for myself.
Addendum: William Safire seems to get more news than Wes Clark. Perhaps the general should read more than Mother Jones for information.