I Have A Cunning Plan, My Lord

Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian on changes to American foreign policy

After Bush’s speech the other day:

Consider. Three years ago, when the Bush administration started ramping up the
case for invading Iraq, Afghanistan had recently been liberated from both the
Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorists who had attacked the US. There was still a
vast amount to be done to make Afghanistan a safe place. Iraq, meanwhile, was a
hideous dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. But, as the United States’ own
September 11 commission subsequently concluded, Saddam’s regime had no
connection with the 9/11 attacks. Iraq was not then a recruiting sergeant or
training ground for jihadist terrorists. Now it is. The US-led invasion, and
Washington’s grievous mishandling of the subsequent occupation, have made it so.
General Wesley Clark puts it plainly: “We are creating enemies.” And the
president observes: our great achievement will be to prevent Iraq becoming
another Taliban-style, al-Qaida-harbouring Afghanistan! This is like a man who
shoots himself in the foot and then says: “We must prevent it turning
gangrenous, then you’ll understand why I was right to shoot myself in the
foot.”

Which is fair enough, I suppose.

On European onlookers:

It would be suicidally dumb for any European to think, in relation to Iraq, “the
worse the better”. Jihadists now cutting their teeth in Iraq will make no fine
distinctions between Washington and London, Berlin or Madrid. Any reader tempted
to luxuriate schadenfreudishly in the prospect of a Vietnam-style US evacuation
from Baghdad may be woken from that reverie by the blast from a bomb, planted in
Charing Cross tube station by an Iraq-hardened terrorist.

Indeed.

But it is a fair and justified historical observation that American policy has
got better – more sober, more realistic – at least partly because things in Iraq
have gone so badly. This is the cunning of history.

Which is a bit like saying that it is more sober and realistic for a heavy drinker to switch from Buckfast Tonic Wine to Carlsberg Special Brew: correct, but of little cause for celebration among concerned onlookers. As for what ‘the cunning of history’ is, well, I’m stumped.

No, wait:

It is an error to imagine that civilization and savage cruelty are antitheses.
On the contrary, in every organic process, the antitheses always reflect a
unified totality, and civilization is an organic process.

From Richard L. Rubenstein, The Cunning of History

found here. Search engines are fun.

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