Political Animal

SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA….Dan Drezner has

SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA….Dan Drezner has a post up today outlining the possible ties between Syria and al-Qaeda and wonders what others think of this.

My reaction is pretty simple: doesn’t practically every country in the Middle East have ties to al-Qaeda? Iran and Saudi Arabia do for sure, Pakistan probably still harbors al-Qaeda members, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if both Yemen and Syria had ties too. In fact, one of the things that struck me about Iraq was not that they might have had some ties to al-Qaeda, but the fact that their ties were quite obviously tenuous at best. They actually showed remarkable restraint in this regard considering that they were smack in the middle of a region in which sympathy for al-Qaeda is practically part of the air you breathe.

The Middle East is a seething cauldron of terrorism. We surely need to do something about this, but if we’re planning to take military action or even impose diplomatic and economic sanctions against every Mideast country that harbors terrorists ? well, then we might as well just set up an empire and call it a day.

UPDATE: Todd Mormon of Monkey Media Report points out that Syria has actually been quite helpful in our fight against al-Qaeda and that the Syrian government is generally hostile to al-Qaeda. Syria does, of course, support the odious Hezbollah terrorist group, but that’s another matter entirely.


IRAQ AND EMPIRE….I like to make fun of John Derbyshire, but even I admit that he can sometimes be interesting even if I disagree with him. But what can we possibly make of this long article in National Review Online today in which he analyzes the looting of the Iraqi National Museum? He says that not only should we not worry about it, but in fact it was probably a good thing:

In what sense do these ancient artifacts belong to Iraq?s heritage?….The ethnic and linguistic connections between, on the one hand, modern Iraqis, and on the other, the people of Babylon, Nimrod, Nineveh, and Ur, are tenuous, to say the least of it. In the case of the Sumerians, they are probably nonexistent.

….To describe the contents of the Iraqi National Museum as being ?Iraq?s ancient heritage? is, therefore, to stretch a point. In fact, since everything we know of as civilization began in Mesopotamia back in that dim past four or five thousand years ago, it would be just as correct to refer to these treasures as comprising humanity?s ancient heritage. They belong to us all.

….Besides, there is the point I started out with. Whether you think these treasures belong to Iraqis or to all mankind, they are treasures nonetheless. They should therefore be stored and displayed in the safest place we can think of. Where would that be?

Where indeed? I think you can guess.

This article is so breathtaking I hardly know what to say. After all, those artifacts managed to survive for 5,000 years while residing in Baghdad, right up to the moment when we invaded the city and then ? apparently deliberately ? stepped aside even though we had been warned repeatedly about the likelihood of highly organized looting efforts encouraged by foreign collectors.

But at least Derbyshire is consistent: his argument that just because artifacts come from a particular geographic area doesn’t mean they actually belong to the current occupants of that area is very similar to his argument for why Iraqi oil actually belongs to the West. I wonder what Derbyshire would think if someone had tried to apply this logic to Stonehenge during World War II while carting it off to Atlantic City for permanent display?

War partisans, including those at National Review, have worked feverishly to disclaim any interest in an American empire. Why then do they let Derbyshire spew imperialistic drivel like this that gives the game away?


ARE THE NEOCONS GOING SOFT?….Ron Brownstein writes in the LA Times today that the neocons are backing off:

Even as President Bush and his aides are talking tough about Syria, the neoconservative foreign policy thinkers who provided much of the intellectual justification for the war with Iraq are talking down the possibility of further military action in the Middle East ? at least in the near term.

“I just don’t think there is a tremendous appetite on the part of most people for endless military operations, even among people who think things turned out reasonably well in Iraq,” said Aaron L. Friedberg, a neoconservative professor of international affairs at Princeton University.

I think that’s completely correct, but of course the question remains: are the neocons genuinely changing their tune or are they just biding their time until the American public is ready for some more fighting? Brownstein doesn’t really come to any conclusions, but it’s a good article anyway.

Elsewhere in the Times today, Hezbollah has “issued a new call to arms against Americans in the Middle East” and gays in the military still have a pretty tough time ? unless they’re kicked out altogether, of course.

And in still other news, the Times is apparently dead serious about making their site the most annoying news website in the world. I now normally get four popunder ads, one of those weird semi-transparent floating ads, and an even weirder invisible ad that prevents me from cutting and pasting text unless I reload the page. All this is on top of one of the lengthiest and most intrusive registration surveys around. Sheesh.