Don't you just love it when a soft-handed, soft-bodied, lisping, chinless neo-con nebbish like Thomas Friedman gets all butch?
"We hit Iraq because we could," concludes the Stone Cold Steve Austin of the New York Times op-ed page, who establishes his bad-ass bona fides by exclaiming, "Well, suck on this!"
That defiant challenge to the Iraqi insurgency and the Muslim world at large was issued from the comfort of a soundstage on the Eastern Seaboard. It's of a piece with the faux machismo of the Imperial Dim-Wit in the Oval Office, whose most notable pronouncements regarding Iraq are "Bring it on!" and "We're kicking ass."
Not for the likes of Thomas Friedman are the actual terrors of the battlefield; such chores are not assigned to members of the Cognitive Elite. Instead, he gets to prance around the world on a bottomless expense account, collecting anecdotes to feed into whatever mechanism he possesses that extrudes the banalities he ends up publishing between book covers.
Meanwhile, as Friedman himself put it, "boys and girls [are] going house-to-house from Basra to Baghdad" carrying out the needless, pointless, useless war Friedman now justifies by displaying his dubious and implausible grasp of streetfighter patois. (By the way, what kind of macho man sends girls out to fight wars?)
So the whole point of invading Iraq was to show we could do it -- to "burst the bubble" of post-9/11 Arab confidence. The occupation would over-awe the Muslim world and leave it pliant, tranquil, subservient to Washington's whims, from Friedman's perspective.
And how's that workin' out for ya?
Make no mistake: Friedman is a bully -- albeit one who outsources the actual bullying to more physically accomplished people -- and the foreign policy he supports as a "public intellectual" is bullying writ large.
In fact, all the Establishment Right has left is the desperate, erratic bellicosity of a bully in irreversible decline. And that trait has come to define how most of the world sees our nation.
Wilt Chamberlain -- whose plentiful allotment of flaws did not include a bullying disposition --once lamented that nobody roots for Goliath. The Bard captured another facet of the same truth: "'Tis excellent to have a giant's strength, but it's tyrannous to use it like a giant."
Six years ago, the United States learned that, despite decades of quasi-imperialist global meddling, we were still respected and even loved in much of the world. The day after Black Tuesday Queen Elizabeth instructed the Coldstream Guards to play "The Star-Spangled Banner," a gesture the memory of which even now brings tears to my eyes.
"We Are All Americans," proclaimed a banner headline in France's leading newspaper. That headline expressed an outpouring of sympathy soon to be repaid by snide, untutored digs at French valor and national pride from the likes of Jonah "The Pantload" Goldberg, who also dissed Canada as a girly-man country. A large and expanding carbohydrate sculpture whose gelatinous form threatens to become a quantum singularity, Goldberg would load his pants with used food were he to find himself in a fist-fight, let alone a fire-fight.
In the wake of 9-11, expressions of support and sympathy for America were found on the streets of Tehran. And the regime ruling the unfortunate Iranians actually offered to sit down with the Bush administration and hold open-ended discussions on all of the long-standing disputes and conflicts between our nations. The Bu'ushists didn't deign to reply to that initiative. And now the Regime in Washington is working frantically to concoct an excuse to attack Iran, with a nuclear strike conspicuously left "on the table" as an option.
Around the world, people who once admired and respected the United States are now disgusted with us because we have permitted our government to launch and prolong an unjust, aggressive, bullying war against a country that never threatened us and couldn't defend itself.
"Well, it's better to be feared than loved," retort the mock-macho pundits on the GOP-dominated Right.
We're neither loved nor feared, as much as our government understandably alarms much of the world. The preponderant sentiment is one of contempt, particularly among most of the Muslim population whose "bubble" Friedman seems to think we've burst.
Nobody likes, let alone admires, a bully. Those who cower behind a bully -- the Friedmans and Goldbergs of the world, along with the Sean Hannitys, Bill O'Reillys, and countless lesser specimens of the same despicable breed -- seek vicarious vindication as Men Not To Be Messed With. And when one bully is defeated, those who followed in his wake will simply attach themselves to another.
Poised to make a comeback: A post-WWI German propaganda poster depicts the "stab-in-the-back" myth, a version of which will likely become a political fixture in the post-George W. Bush era (see below).
Now that the Swaggering Fool is a spent force, the bully-boy right is taking a long look at Rudy Giuliani, the GOP's Count Orlov. But then the GOP might consider losing the White House next November as a strategic advantage, since the winner -- most likely Madame Hillary -- would have to deal with the unfolding debacle in the Middle East. This would give time for the "Stab-in-the-back" narrative to percolate through the ranks of the right, eventually creating a movement that would fall into ranks behind the Sainted One, the All-Knowing Pillar of Military Integrity and Strategic Genius David Petraeus. Let no one take his name in vain! (Except, of course, for CENTCOM C-in-C Adm. William Fallon, whose assessment of Petraeus strikes me as sound.)
Already, as Justin Raimondo points out, Saint Petraeus has started to hear "Hail To The Chief" in his head whenever he enters a room. He has gazed longingly into the mirror and seen a President staring back, perhaps one sitting astride the proverbial white horse.
What is "The Man on Horseback," after all, but the incarnation of bully-centric politics?
*This essay revisits themes touched on in an essay I published a year ago, shortly before losing my job at The New American.
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