Mr. Hitchens, and
Salman Rushdie, though the most famous, are incidentally far from
the only supporters the Bush Doctrine has had on the Left. Nor,
as Mr. Hitchens is also wont to explain, is President Bush short
of enemies on the Old Right, from the Brent Scowcroft Beltway
school of "realpolitik", to the isolationist heartland.
The view that Americans had better leave tar-babies alone, and
that "stability" is the only value they should pursue
in the oil-bearing Middle East, is rife not only outside the government,
but throughout State Department and CIA. Whereas Mr. Hitchens,
who describes himself as "not necessarily not still a Marxist",
applauds Bush and Blair for being "on the right side of history",
carrying the torch of democracy and secular modernity to the world's
most intransigent states.
Neither a Marxist,
nor a neoconservative (whatever that means), but still a militant
Tory, I don't believe in sides of history. It's just one gigantic
palpitating mess beyond the possibility of human comprehension,
but we try to make the best of it as we go along. Principles there
are, and none are relative, but there is the frequent embarrassment
of competing principles, and sorting through their hierarchy of
the moment requires something like prudence or tact. From the
beginning, a major and sometimes necessarily military effort to
eliminate radical Islamism from the available pool of the world's
ideological resources, has struck me as both prudent and wise.
(It was ditto with Nazism and Communism.)
What I'm getting at
here, is that the Bush Doctrine of physical intervention against
the worst evils, while seeding democracy on Mesopotamia's irrigated
plain, can be defended or attacked from several points of view.
The doctrine's principal defence has lain with its author, however,
and over the last few years, he has done a good job of keeping
it to himself.
In the last week,
both Mr. Bush and his vice president have, suddenly, counter-attacked
their domestic opponents. They have called the Democrats on the
floor of Congress for using facts and arguments against the U.S.
intervention in Iraq which are neither true nor, strictly speaking,
sane. Their idea that Mr. Bush dragged his unwilling country into
war, by means of some fraudulent intelligence data, is absurd.
He in fact made good on a Clinton administration policy (get rid
of Saddam), and on the basis of pretty much the same murky intelligence
we all had. Moreover, many of the same Democrats (and now, a couple
of unhinging Republicans) who supported him every step of the
way, now claim either they didn't, or they were fooled. Take your
pick, either claim is false.
There are other issues
clouding the political field; but in the main, the administration's
current effort to call the Democrats' bluff has not caused the
latter to crawl back into their holes. It has instead driven them
further into cloud cuckooland, with the mainstream media chasing
behind. It has resulted in a level of shrieking the like of which
I cannot recall in the august Senate chamber. And this, perhaps,
was the reason Messrs Bush and Cheney hesitated to try it on before.
They thought, perhaps, that just "being presidential"
might finally carry the day. Better, anyway, than provoking a
kind of bipartisan nervous breakdown.
I look at this business
from abroad. I note that polls now show the American isolationist
impulse being triggered. On both Right and Left, something approaching
half the electorate want to take their marbles and go home. For
some unaccountable reason, Americans sometimes respond to being
abused and slandered all over the world by turning in on themselves.
And this, in the present unsettled state of the world in question,
would be nearly the worst thing that could happen. It would leave
all of America's allies -- corresponding very roughly to the side
of the angels -- up a certain creek without a propulsive device.
The world has left
the United States to do too much heavy lifting. It is an urgent
matter for countries like Canada to stop mouthing off and heave