Wednesday, January 02, 2008

One disagreement with Victor Davis Hanson

Usually I agree with Victor Davis Hanson.

But he posted something yesterday at NRO’s Corner that in one very important respect is wrong.

Hanson’s post begins:

Watching the debate over whether Huckabee’s withdrawn “attack” ad is over the top, and other assorted Iowa psychodramas makes interesting contrast with the rest of the world’s electioneering outside the Great Satan.

In Kenya they’re burning churches and rioting; in Pakistan riots lead to murder and arson. Hamas and Fatah are at it again in Gaza. At some point, someone might wonder how such a crass hyper-power can rather peacefully conduct voting in a way most abroad apparently cannot.

In the case of Pakistan, however, we are starting to see a disturbing pattern: the rioting and violence continues, the conspiracies mount, and the three general factions square off (the al-Qaeda/Islamists “death to the West” clique; the military/dictatorship “at least we provide order and secure the nukes” bunch; and the “reform” and democracy Bhuttoites [“forget our past corruption”]).

The common denominator is that it is somehow America’s fault for: either “propping” up a dictator,” or not pressing him enough to reform, or naively backing him up against a wall, or demanding he fight terrorists, or giving him a pass not to fight terrorists, or rigging an American-backed Bhutto return, or exposing a brave heroine to the clutches of her enemies without proper security, or this or that or that or this.
I’m with Hanson 100% so far.

And he’s right when he scorns:
[those] endless, and self-contradictory indictments … often voiced by Pakistani elites of two types. They are either opposition figures whose past careers are ample proof of corruption and lost opportunities-or expatriate intellectuals in European capitals and American universities (who sound like they had a little bit more opportunity at the good life than those who grow up in El Paso or Bakersfield), endlessly faulting some aspect of U.S. foreign policy—always forgetting why they are here and not over in Pakistan, and why perhaps they might do more good to match their idealistic and often vituperative rhetoric by returning to the land of their birth to enact real change on the ground, a country that sorely needs those with such international experience and expertise.

The media usually, but unknowingly, provides some exegesis: they have shown now for the nth time the shrieking rioter who serially beats the skeleton of a completely burned out and utterly destroyed bus with a long wooden stick—then cut away to the typical interview with some government grandee, ensconced in a beautiful home of tile and gardens, defending the indefensible of the government in mellifluous English.
But I disagree with one part of what he ends his commentary with:
Meanwhile, we are daily reminded that Pakistan’s 1998 detonation of a nuclear weapon remains the greatest foreign policy lapse of the last quarter-century.
We're daily reminded that Pakistan is a nuclear power. True enough.

Its obtaining nuclear weapons may well be "the greatest foreign policy lapse of the last quarter-century." Sure.

But we're not reminded that happened in 1998; at least not very often.

That's bacause 1998 was on President Bill Clinton's watch and you know the rest of that.


Anonymous said...

I think he was referring to the royal we.

Ralph Phelan said...

Calling the 1998 Pakistani nuke test a "foreign poolicy lapse" is the same class of mistake Hanson was just railing against: the assumption that the US is omnipotent and therefore responsible for all that happens in the world.

We are not.

When foreigners do stupid and annoying things, whether rioting or testing nukes, it is not a failure on our part. It is just people not under our control taking whatever actions they choose to take.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Certainly we ourselves are NOT daily reminded of the Pakistani nuke exploit, and most likely on account of whose Presidential watch it occurred on.

It's more a confirmation of the bad intelligence owned by the US and the rest of the world - who popped up after the first Pakistani nuclear explosion and said 'I've been trying to tell you?'

Small closely-held administrations like Pakistan's are far more likely to hold secrets than that of the US - which since the 70s and the gutting of the 'old' CIA by the Congressional left is unable to hold or to discover secrets with much success.

It wasn't a lapse of foreign policy, it was a lapse of intelligence (or a vacuum where intel should be). I think Hanson was trying a little too hard to land mud on Clinton - though Lord knows that in foreign policy, and in US national security, Clinton deserved it.