October 26, 2004

DEFENDING DEMOCRACY:

THE BELIEVER: Paul Wolfowitz defends his war. (PETER J. BOYER, 2004-10-25, The New Yorker)

On the night of October 5th, a group of Polish students, professors, military officers, and state officials crowded into a small auditorium at Warsaw University to hear Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, give a talk on the subject of the war in Iraq. [...]

He recounted the events of Poland’s darkest days, and the civilized world’s acquiescence to Hitler’s ambitions which preceded them. When Hitler began to rearm Germany, Wolfowitz said, “the world’s hollow warnings formed weak defenses.” When Hitler annexed Austria, “the world sat by.” When German troops marched into Czechoslovakia before the war, “the world sat still once again.” When Britain and France warned Hitler to stay out of Poland, the Führer had little reason to pay heed.

“Poles understand perhaps better than anyone the consequences of making toothless warnings to brutal tyrants and terrorist regimes,” Wolfowitz said. “And, yes, I do include Saddam Hussein.” He then laid out the case against Saddam, reciting once again the dictator’s numberless crimes against his own people. He spoke of severed hands and videotaped torture sessions. He told of the time, on a trip to Iraq, he’d been shown a “torture tree,” the bark of which had been worn away by ropes used to bind Saddam’s victims, both men and women. He said that field commanders recently told him that workers had come across a new mass grave, and had stopped excavation when they encountered the remains of several dozen women and children, “some still with little dresses and toys.”

Wolfowitz observed that some people—meaning the “realists” in the foreign policy community, including Secretary of State Colin Powell—believed that the Cold War balance of power had brought a measure of stability to the Persian Gulf. But, Wolfowitz continued, “Poland had a phrase that correctly characterized that as ‘the stability of the graveyard.’ The so-called stability that Saddam Hussein provided was something even worse.”

Finally, Wolfowitz thanked the Poles for joining in a war that much of Europe had repudiated, and continues to oppose. His message was clear: history, especially Europe’s in the last century, has proved that it is smarter to side with the U.S. than against it. “We will not forget Poland’s commitment,” he promised. “Just as you have stood with us, we will stand with you.”

Wolfowitz, who is sixty, has served in the Administrations of six Presidents, yet he is still regarded by many in Washington with a considerable measure of puzzlement. This is due partly to the fact that, although his intelligence is conceded by all, and his quiet bearing and manner suggest the academic that he used to be—at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies—he has consistently argued positions that place him squarely in the category of war hawk. He began his life in public policy by marshalling arguments, in 1969, on behalf of a U.S. anti-ballistic-missile defense system. Like his mentor at the University of Chicago, the late political strategist Albert Wohlstetter, Wolfowitz was skeptical of a U.S.-Soviet convergence, embraced a national missile-defense system, and argued for the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

But most puzzling to some, perhaps, is the communion that Wolfowitz seems to have with George W. Bush. How can someone so smart, so knowing, speak—and even apparently think—so much like George Bush? Except for their manner of delivery—Wolfowitz speaks in coherent paragraphs and Bush employs an idiom that is particular to himself—the language used by the two men when discussing Iraq is almost indistinguishable. It is the stark tone of evangelical conviction: evil versus good, the “worship of death” and “philosophy of despair” versus our “love of life and democracy.” Alongside Bush himself, Wolfowitz is, even now, among the last of the true believers.


You know you're in Blue Country when someone writes that there are only a couple of Americans left who believe in the efficacy of democracy and that the world pits good vs. evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2004 9:29 AM
Comments

"But most puzzling to some, perhaps, is the communion that Wolfowitz seems to have with George W. Bush. How can someone so smart, so knowing, speakand even apparently thinkso much like George Bush?"

I believe we refer to that as substance over style.

Posted by: Jeff at October 26, 2004 9:42 AM

A smart person realizes that depending on others for defense is inherently risky.

"Peace through superior firepower" is time-tested.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 26, 2004 10:19 AM

The writer apparently expects a Kerry landslide. Possible in his America; N.Y.C. upper Westside.

Posted by: Genecis at October 26, 2004 11:54 AM

"BUT HOW COULD BUSH HAVE WON? NOBODY I KNOW VOTED FOR HIM!"

Posted by: Ken at October 26, 2004 1:02 PM

For the first time in its history the New Yorker has endorsed a presidential candidate. Guess which one.

Posted by: George at October 26, 2004 2:21 PM

Eustace Tilley?

Posted by: ratbert at October 26, 2004 7:19 PM
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