The most damaging revelation about General David Petraeus did not come out during the two days of Congressional hearings. It came out in a small article buried deep in the New York Times. The Times’s intrepid reporter, Paul Vitello, visited Petraeus’s hometown, Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., and learned that as a young man the four-star commander was called . . . Peaches, “a nickname some impute to a rough reduction of his name, and others to the youth’s lack of facial hair.” Whatever its origins, that’s the kind of exposé no warrior would appreciate.
But aside from this blockbuster revelation, what was most striking about the article was this line: “Some said they were aghast at the dimensions of the problem, some awed by General Petraeus’s seeming grasp of the wildly irregular forces in play; but almost none seemed to foresee a happy result for “our side,” as many in this conservative, Republican-voting place put it.”
You’ve got to love those quotation marks around “our side,” as well as the sneering explanation. Apparently viewing the American war effort as “our side” is the kind of naïve viewpoint espoused only by country bumpkins in a “conservative, Republican-voting place” like Cornwall-on-Hudson (which is near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point). Presumably New York Times reporters and editors, who live in a liberal, Democratic-voting place, are far too sophisticated for that kind of thinking.
If you want to know why the MSM are having trouble re-establishing a relationship of trust with the bulk of the population, here you have it in a nutshell. They’re not on “our side,” or (to be charitable) they’re not willing to admit that they are.
In his most recent column George Will writes:
Many of those who insist that the surge is a harbinger of U.S. victory in Iraq are making the same mistake they made in 1991 when they urged an advance on Baghdad, and in 2003 when they underestimated the challenge of building democracy there. The mistake is exaggerating the relevance of U.S. military power to achieve political progress in a society riven by ethnic and sectarian hatreds. America’s military leaders, who are professional realists, do not make this mistake.
This is in keeping with what Will has written in recent years. He may be the most visible conservative critic of President Bush’s Freedom agenda—that is, the effort to bring liberty to the Iraq and the Arab world. For example, in his May 4, 2004 column, Will wrote:
This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how “all people yearn to live in freedom” (McClellan). And about how it is “cultural condescension” to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a “myth” that “our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture” because “ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit” (Tony Blair).
Washington Post columnist and Georgetown professor E. J. Dionne has written a thoughtful essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education on what he calls “The Liberal Moment.” With one eye on the polls—which show plunging support for Republicans among the young, Hispanics, and independent voters—Dionne writes that “American liberals and the Left now have their greatest political opening since the 1960’s and their greatest opportunity to alter the philosophical direction of the public debate since the 1930’s.” He’s right. But will liberals be able actually to seize the opening?
Dionne invokes the late social scientist Michael Harrington, arguing that the Left must embrace a program that “will radically improve the conditions of life of everyone in the society,” because “the politics of noblesse oblige simply will not mobilize a majority that includes a very large number of people who are not poor yet are still suffering from relative deprivation.” But the very mechanism by which the Left once was able to accomplish those goals—Keynesian pump-priming—has been obviated by the globalization of economies. And today the most frequent and vitriolic attacks on attempts by Democrats to use market mechanisms to advance liberal goals come from the Democrats: specifically, from the netroots activists. (The netroots, in other words, bring to the Democratic party the same blind and destructive partisanship Dionne rightly condemns in Karl Rove.)
“The government’s ability to eavesdrop on terrorism suspects overseas allowed the United States to obtain information that helped lead to the arrests last week of three Islamic militants accused of planning bomb attacks in Germany, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told Senators on Monday”–the New York Times, September 11, 2007
This is curious. Here we have our top spy revealing one of our nation’s most sensitive secrets, involving not only sources and methods but also that holy of holies: communications intelligence.
If, say, the fruits of an ongoing U.S. surveillance program had been something uncovered and published by the New York Times for all the world to read, would a whole host of critics, including me, be up in arms? What is going on?
At the end of last week, Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum completed its Inaugural Annual Meeting of the New Champions in the Chinese port of Dalian. Perhaps the most interesting moment in the Forum’s three days of platitudes came when Thomas Friedman, prize-winning New York Times columnist, got “the middle finger in the Middle Kingdom,” as journalist-blogger Rebecca MacKinnon put it.
Friedman accused Beijing of being a “free loader” in the international system, letting the United States carry the burden of global “guardian” by itself. He specifically mentioned that China needs to do more to stop the Iranian nuclear program and to halt the genocide in Darfur. China’s most interesting diplomat, Sha Zukang, told Tom off—and showed how unprepared Beijing is to assume a helpful role in global affairs. Sha, now a U.N. undersecretary-general, said that China believes that countries should not assume world leadership but be elected to it. Beijing, he noted, treats all others as “equals.” China, therefore, is not going to lend a hand to the United States—or any other nation—to solve problems.
Amusing as it is to see Friedman told off, we have to ask ourselves seriously: should he really be encouraging a disruptive force to take an even larger role in world affairs? His theory (and the Bush administration’s) is that the Chinese, as they become enmeshed in the international system, will become a “responsible stakeholder” in it. But the Chinese are not yet ready to play this role. They’re still supplying small arms to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, still providing material and diplomatic support to the North Korean regime, and, in all probability, still transferring nuclear weapons technology to Iran. Engagement with China may be a necessary long-term plan, but it’s the wrong approach for a world in need of immediate relief. Beijing is a large part of the problem, not the solution. Tom, did you hear that? Mr. President, did you?