Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Wolfowitz In Creep's Clothing

His reputation was already soiled, but Paul Wolfowitz looks more and more like a jackass as the days go by.

Consider the latest ("Another") Downing Street Memo, which is too meaty to quote appropriately, but is short enough to read on its own. Even the Brits could tell that Wolfowitz was a hack for Chalabi. Wolfy was pushing the Saddam/Atta/Czech connection, which we know was crap. Even through the memo's diplomatese one can discern Wolfowitz's blaming other elements in the administration for emphasising the WMD claim (honestly? or as Kissinger put it in a rare moment of candor, "to deflect the guilt from [his] own person?") instead of the Human Rights claim, and he then blew off a "coup" scenario, presumably broached by the Brits, laughably claiming that the Ba'athists that would have to be employed in such an operation had too much blood on their hands -- as if the first caretaker puppet government we installed wasn't full of former collaborators anyway!

Then there's this, which Catch -- rather appropriately, I thought -- caught. Wolfy the dissembler and revisionist, who did not, repeat, not, emphasise the WMD argument. Except that he did. Yeah.

Juan Cole reminds us that Wolfowitz, even in his new project at the World Bank, still pushes versions of the "My Opponents Are Objectively Pro-Saddam" argument that serves the 101st Keyboarders so well.

You know, there is something about Wolfowitz that set him apart from all the other hacks in Bush's cabinet: he seemed almost human, maybe even a decent person, or at least he roused those suspicions. He does seem to have a charm. I read Eric Alterman's account of a cocktail party meeting with Wolfowitz, and was relatively impressed. Hitchens, of course, is a rabid Wolfowitz partisan, and his description of the man emphasised an alleged bleeding-heart philosophy; the implication being that Wolfy isn't the liberal's stereotype of a ruthless rightwing hack. Alterman and Hitchens both cite as evidence an episode occuring early in Wolfowitz's tenure as deputy DoD Secretary where he told a crowd of Likudistas to bear in mind Palestinian suffering, something that clique isn't, to say the least, used to hearing in Washington. This is indeed evidence of even-handedness and sobriety.

But in the end, it's not enough, and I decide that Alterman was simply charmed while Hitchens is gullible and, frankly, such a fanatic now that his judgement is worse than useless. I think Wolfowitz told these guys exactly what they wanted to hear; Alterman had low expectations, Hitchens was told the Palestinian anecdote and apparently snowjobed on a little of Wolfowitz's Cold War history, and that was that. Sure, all politicians do this, but the trick is to not be fooled by them.

Paul Wolfowitz's biography at the DoD is in typically bland bureaucratese: nothing to be learned there.

Now, what I have always wondered is what Wolfowitz did in the 70s. Like so many Bushies, he was close to the Ford Adminstration. Later, Wolfowitz worked for Reagan in Indonesia. Hitchens calls him a moderate -- i.e., not a Kirkpatrick-esque supporter of dictators. I think Hitchens is optimistic. Now, for background reference, I'll mention that Henry Kissinger, while serving the Ford Administration, gave Indonesian dictator Suharto the greenlight to commit genocide in the then-breakaway province of East Timor. The Indonesian army used our weapons in the operation; indeed those arms deals were done with it well-known to both parties what they would be used for. At Kissinger's urging, most of the murders were done quickly in 1975, yet the United States continued to prop-up Suharto until the 90s -- in other words, all through Wolfowitz's term there under Reagan.

Tim Shorrock is instructive on Wolfowitz's history:

If that sounds like hyperbole, consider Wolfowitz's recent public comments on Indonesia. As late as May 1997, he was telling Congress that "any balanced judgment of the situation in Indonesia today, including the very important and sensitive issue of human rights, needs to take account of the significant progress that Indonesia has already made and needs to acknowledge that much of this progress has to be credited to the strong and remarkable leadership of president Suharto".

Uh-huh. Now Wolfowitz, as an ambassador, might have had to issue this sort of shit for consumption while he was in Indonesia, to the Indonesian press (such that it was), but for him to say it here and at that late date is inexcusable. He knows full well that this is the same Suharto who murdered 500,000 "communists" (actually, merely his political opponents of all ideologies) some of whom came from lists helpfully furnished by Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Then, of course, the mass murders in Timor, which were blessed by Kissinger (and, by extention, Ford) with a "do it and do it quick" slap on the ass.

Now let us consider Wolfy's revisionism with regard to other Asian trouble spots he dealt with as a Reagan hack:

In his Heritage speech, Wolfowitz also took credit for the downfall of Marcos. The "private and public pressure on Marcos to reform", he asserted, "contributed in no small measure to emboldening the Philippine people to take their fate in their own hands and to produce what eventually became the first great democratic transformation in Asia in the 1980s". Once again, Wolfowitz was rewriting history, implying that the Filipino people, like the South Koreans, ignored two decades of massive US military and financial support for Marcos. In both countries, US policy toward these dictators (which in Korea would include Park Chung-hee, Chun's assassinated predecessor) only began to weaken when US officials decided that their continued hold on power would lead to further instability, thus threatening US "interests".

"Bleeding heart"? Hitchens, you fool, Wolfowitz is plainly the most craven sort of realpolitiko. Marcos was propped-up as long as possible by Reagan, which Wolfowitz knew full well. Marcos wasn't allowed to "retire" because the US suddenly embraced ethical foreign policy, no, it was because he could no longer hold back the reaction against him. The reaction of the Filipino people stopped Marcos, but Wolfowitz wants himself and Ronald Reagan to take credit for it. Fred Kaplan asks the right question: How does Wolfowitz keep a straight face? But not just "these days", how did he ever?

I don't really care, aside a generic objection to Republican hypocrisy, about Wolfowitz's alleged marital infidelities, but in reading about that story, I came across this funny article in the Sunday Times:

The US, Wolfowitz prescribed, should be sure of “deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”, including Japan and Germany. He envisaged the use of nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry pre-emptively, “even in conflicts that do not directly engage US interests”.

In 1997 Wolfowitz and colleagues including Cheney, now vice-president, and Richard Perle, dubbed “the Prince of Darkness” when he was Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of defence, founded a think tank called Project for a New American Century. In a 2000 document, the group speculated that “some catastrophic and catalysing event, like a new Pearl Harbor” was needed to assure US global power.

Uh, the sentiments expressed in that are a little stronger than even PNAC, which is of course bad enough on every level. But there's more:

after gaining a maths degree from Cornell University, he decided he preferred the world of international affairs and pursed a PhD in political science at the University of Chicago.

There he fell under the spell of Albert Wohlstetter, a military thinker who instilled in Wolfowitz the belief that sophisticated arms technology was the key to American supremacy. Wohlstetter and his nuclear theories became the supposed model for Dr Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick’s film, while Wolfowitz himself inspired a character in Saul Bellow’s novel Ravelstein.

Wohlstetter, huh? Hmm. Wohlstetter. Oh, you mean Wohlstetter, the Father of Team B? Yes, I think that's the guy:

How did the Team B notion come about? In 1974, Albert Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Chicago, accused the CIA of systematically underestimating Soviet missile deployment, and conservatives began a concerted attack on the CIA's annual assessment of the Soviet threat. This assessment--the NIE--was an obvious target.

Team B was the original Straussian fraud that destroyed detente. It was useless as research, a real tissue of lies. But it gave a "factual basis" by which Ronald Reagan could call Gerald Ford "a communist", an appeaser, Scoop Jackson could procure even more contracts for Boeing, and the world could enjoy the fruits of a renewed nuclear nightmare. But Team B's "research" got rid of the doctrine of coexistence for the sake of averting nuclear annihilation -- the object of the exercise. By the time it was found out to be worthless propaganda, it was too late. And Wolfy? Well, like teacher, like pupil:

"Team B members, all approved by the CIA, were hardly outsiders to the national security establishment. They included political scientist Richard Pipes, General Daniel Graham, who had headed the Defense Intelligence Agency, Paul Nitze, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, General John Vogt, the former Air Force Chief of Staff, Thomas Wolfe, a top Rand Corporation executive, General Jasper Welsh, the head of the Air Force's system analysis and Paul Wolfowitz, who was at the Arms Control Agency.

It was there all the time, people. Wolfowitz was Machiavellian, a menace to peace, an apologist for tinpot dictators, and a manufacturer of propaganda way back then. A leopard does not, as the saying goes, change its spots.

About Wolfowitz's recent move, Kaplan is hopeful:

Some who know Wolfowitz tell me that he wanted to fill the impending vacancy at the bank. He may be, in this sense, a latter-day Robert McNamara—a war-weary Pentagon master seeking refuge to wring the blood from his hands. McNamara suffered something close to a public breakdown when he moved from secretary of defense to president of the World Bank in 1967, as the Vietnam War spiraled out of control. Lyndon Johnson had been complaining to aides for months that McNamara had "gone dovish" on him. It's unlikely that Wolfowitz has exactly turned tail on George W. Bush or Donald Rumsfeld. Still, Wolfowitz is a smart guy, smart enough to know that Iraq has not gone at all as he thought it would, and perhaps he sees McNamara's personal exit strategy as a model to emulate.

Well, that'd be nice, but, well.. I doubt it. I think that Bush moved Wolfowitz mostly because the Satan of Texas has something nasty planned for the Third World (or, had -- that may be put on the backburner now because of Blair, G8, Live 8, etc.). I can easily see Wolfowitz cackling as he dispenses "Argentina remedies" to various and sundry among the global south.

For a parting shot, illustrative or not I don't know, I'll share this anecdote from Al Franken's book:

Speaking of pissing off a neo-con: Later, at the after-party given by Bloomberg News, I went up to Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense and the architect of the Bush preemption doctrine. "Hi, Dr. Wolfowitz. Hey, the Clinton military did a great job in Iraq, didn't it?"

He looked at me for a couple of seconds, then said, "Fuck You."

That Wolfy. At least he's funny. Told you he was different than the rest of 'em.


PS: this Billmon post on Wolfowitz is a good one.

See also Wolcott, who has as good a take as any on Wolfowitz.

*** Edit 6/16/05: Read this essay on Wolfowitz, too. Yes, there is a certain cootie-factor given the source, and some of the conclusions therein can be charitably described as retarded (no, he's NOT an idealist, he's a realpolitik hegemon), but it's still worth reading.