Across the Bay

Monday, February 07, 2005

Goldberg Digs the Cole Mine

Jonah Goldberg has responded to Cole with a lengthy, comprehensive rebuttal that's well worth reading. Goldberg takes the surest route to debunk Cole: use his own record to highlight his hypocrisy! Here's a perfect example:

    Let me appeal to one more expert. In 2004 a noted Middle East scholar observed that the 'free and fair' elections being demanded by Iraq's Ayatollah Sistani posed an 'implicit challenge to the hard liners in Iran.' Sistani's belief, the expert continued 'that legitimate government must reflect the will of the sovereign people echoes Enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau and Jefferson, and promises a sea change in Middle Eastern politics.' The scholar lamented that the United States still appeared intent on 'stage-managing' the elections a year ago. Overstating things a bit, this professor believed that if the Coalition Provisional Authority didn't go along with Sistani's plan it would make the Iraqi elections no more democratic that the Iranian ones where 'the clerical Guardianship Council has excluded thousands of candidates from running, including sitting members of parliament' giving the Iranian system 'more of the form than the substance of democracy.'

        'Iraqis must feel that the procedures that produce their interim government, even if not perfect, are as fair and democratic as possible under the circumstances,' he concluded. 'Should the United States disappoint them, it could give democracy a bad name and hurt not only the stability of Iraq but the fortunes of reform in Iran.'

    As we all know, President Bush gave into Sistani's demand and agreed to Sistani's 'free and fair' elections. You would think this would have pleased the above scholar. Alas, it didn't, because the above scholar was Juan Cole himself writing in 2004. Funny how Cole once believed that if Sistani got his way Iraq would be much more democratic than Iran. But once that actually happened Cole suddenly said the opposite. It seems to me that Cole decides whether something is wise or unwise based upon whether it is bad or good for Bush. If it's good, it must be unwise and vice versa.
    Anyway, to sum up the substance of our own spat one more time: He predicted that these elections would be a disaster. After they weren't he dismissed the Iraqi election system as if it was especially flawed or undemocratic even though he seemed to support that system a year ago. Moreover, he deliberately concealed the fact such systems are used widely around the world including in South Africa in 1994. Does he think Nelson Mandela was undemocratically elected? He won't say. He oddly dismissed the election as being more like a "referendum" as if referendums are somehow alien to democracy. This is even more odd when you consider this election wasn't seen as a referendum on a bond for a sewage-treatment plant, but a referendum on Iraqi democracy itself. He suggests I'm a gruesome human being for supporting the war even though he pretty much did too. While dodging the issues he claims I'm unqualified to address the issues because I don't have his credentials. This is simply an extension of the chicken-hawk logic. Without the right paperwork, my ideas cannot be sound. Period.

As for Goldberg's wish to see Cole "debate Fouad Ajami, Adeed Dawisha, Patrick Clawson, Michael Rubin, or Martin Kramer," I'd say don't hold your breath. For his view of Ajami, see my previous post "Don Juan." He considers that Ajami's work is not only not original, it's also lacking any discernible thesis! Rubin? He's a warmongering neocon bent on fulfilling Sharon's wish to send American boys to die in Iran! Martin Kramer? You clearly don't know MESA! The mere mention of Kramer's name at these meetings results in hisses and boos! So ix-nay on the Ramer-Kay! You'll also notice that his site barely mentions Kanan Makiya or Yitzhak Nakash (two times each, both in passing)! Nakash by Cole's own admission is an expert on Iraqi Shiism (and that's the extent of his mention on Cole's site!!!), and Makiya has written one of the most (if not the most) scathing and penetrating critical studies of the Iraqi Baath (the only way he earns a mention on Cole's site is because, as a supporter of the war, he was critical of some of the earlier tentative moves by the US way back in the early days of the occupation!). One would think that their ideas and writings would earn more appearences on Cole's site (instead of the numerous useless guest editorials by the likes of Mark LeVine and Keith Watenpaugh!). You get the drift.