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February 12, 2007

Why Michael Gerson is Responsible for a Nuclear Iran headed by a Deranged Millenarian President
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Ok, I realize it's a bit dubious to indulge in the wonderful art of counter-factual hypothesizing, but...Anyway, the point is that it's very unlikely we'd have the kind of nuclear standoff we're now having with Iran if it wasn't for Michael Gerson (and by extension Condi and President Bush's) stupidity in inserting Iran into the inane axis-of-evil speech. Via Matt Yglesias, we learn that:

[Gerson] says Iran and North Korea were inserted into Bush's controversial State of the Union address in order to avoid focusing solely on Iraq. At the time, Bush was already making plans to topple Saddam Hussein, but he wasn't ready to say so. Gerson says it was Condoleezza Rice, then national-security adviser, who told him which two countries to include along with Iraq.

What a surprise there - the Bush administration puts politics over our national security, in the process setting a chain of events that would put us (and the rest of the world) at risk of nuclear confrontation. Well, there you have it, Michael Gerson's an idiot. I would say that stupidity should now be declared an impeachable offense, if it wasn't for the fact that Gerson is actually quite intelligent (not to mention a pretty damn good speechwriter when he pretends to be sane). Condi is, as far as I can tell, brilliant - with the caveat that brilliance can be a rather dangerous asset in the wrong hands.

In any case, the "axis-of-evil" speech came just a week after Iran had committed nearly $500 milliont to reconstruction in Afghanistan. Apparently, this is how we reward good behavior. The Bush administration, as is its wont, empowered the very people we don't like - hardline Iranian clerics for whom the speech was a godsend. Not so good, of course, for Iran's reformists:

Once again, Iran's reformists were knocked back on their heels. "Those who were in favor of a rapprochement with the United States were marginalized," says Adeli. "The speech somehow exonerated those who had always doubted America's intentions." 

Perhaps its worth recalling Arthur Schlesinger, Jr's criticism (made nearly six decades ago) of approaching "foreign policy as a means of expressing sentiments...not of influencing events." The thing is that the Bush administration is great at influencing events. It just so happens that it influences events in favor of our enemies.


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A lot of people profess to think Sec. Rice "brilliant." This suggests either that the word does not mean quite what it used to, or that too many people who spend too much time with academic types are easily impressed by one who has been granted high office outside the ivory tower. Or, perhaps, that a winning smile and flawless fashion sense go as far in Washington today as they used to in Hollywood.

Brilliance is as brilliance does. Like them or not, one can fairly apply the word to people like Acheson or Kissinger, among Rice's predecessors at the State Department. Both men had the record (and the writings) to prove it. Rice does not. If she's brilliant, I'm brilliant. So are about half of every 100 people picked at random from the Kansas City phone book.

Look, I have nothing against Sec. Rice personally; I'm sure she's very nice, and though I think niceness is overrated generally it's still a fine quality to have. But for heaven's sake, the woman is not very good at the job she has now, and was not very good at the job she had before either. It isn't because she's insane or crazy (how often the idea that people must have left the world of reality in order to be wrong and inept in public office recurs in political commentary is a subject for another time).

She's simply out of her depth. Public appearances in which she clings for dear life to prepared talking points; vacancies that appear at the top levels of her department and remain for months at a time; foreign trips announced with great fanfare that rarely lead to anyting but press releases; department heads and the Vice President's staff running roughshod over her as NSA...just how much evidence do people need?

The unworthy thought occurs that many Americans, whose threshold of inspiration is substantially lower than mine, had the idea once that the appointment of a black woman as Secretary of State said great things about America, and that they still believe it. They're wrong. It would only say great things about America if Sec. Rice were a successful Secretary of State. She hasn't been, and it isn't a close call. The first black woman to fall on her face as Secretary of State is not, to me, an inspiring milestone.

So "brilliant" is a poor adjective to use in this case. How about "articulate"?

yea, perhaps "brilliant" wasn't the most appropriate word. that may be giving her too much credit.

shadi, if you actually believe that tripe, you're not the intellectual i had thought you were. this is disappointing in its cursory childishness.

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