Across the Bay

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Kindergarten School of Politics

Let me start with a warning. This NYT editorial is not suitable for children. It might also frighten the faint-hearted. So please, excercise caution.

The NYT editorial board amassed the entirety of its impressive foreign policy genius, and came out with this terrifyingly awesome statement:

Damascus must also be told that it will pay a high price — in scorn, isolation and sanctions — if it is found to have ordered Mr. Gemayel’s death, or the deaths or maiming of a half-dozen other anti-Syrian politicians and journalists. Hezbollah must be told that it will be shunned if it tries to grab power through further violence or intimidation.

Did they just say "scorn"? Oh snap! Wait, and they got away with "shunning" Hezbollah?! They could do that?! Damn... that is cold! Take that Nasrallah and Khamenei! How you feel about that?!

This is what a friend of mine calls "the kindergarten school of politics." Bad boys to the corner! No friends for bullies! This editorial might as well have been written by a grade-schooler.

Russel Berman actually thinks the NYT editorial only "looks clean," but in fact masks ignorance, political amateurism ("kindergarten school of politics") and maybe worse. I tend to agree:

In other words: talk with Syria while denying its key policy objectives. Hardly realistic. The NYT advocates selling out democracy (in Iraq and elsewhere), while trying to keep its hands clean, presumably hoping to be able to leave the dirty dealing to the State Department. (The suggestion that the Europeans might carry this message is almost as hilarious as the suggestion that Putin will talk tough to Assad. What is that editorial board smoking?)

Berman is right in questioning the "realism" of this approach. I and others have been doing the same. There is nothing "realist" about this. In fact, one could argue that this approach is antithetical to realism. It's what I've recently called "missionary work."

Berman's remark about the regime's objectives are on the mark. This was also noted by David Schenker:

[W]hat Syria wants, their priority is an end to the Hariri investigation and the international tribunal.

Naturally, the by-product of this is the re-domination of Lebanon.

Those points and more were also articulated well by Michael Young in two recent pieces (one, which proved prescient, was published before Gemayel's murder by the Syrians), as well as in a very good piece by Michael Glackin.

Michael Young's WSJ piece is particularly relevant when considering the NYT's really laughable editorial from November 15. The name Rafik Hariri, or the term "tribunal" does not even appear in the text! Such is the depth of the NYT's understanding of power politics and "realism" (naturally, this is not even to mention rule of law or support for democracy!).

You could contrast that with the Washington Post's editorial from that same day. They understood exactly what's at stake. (The NY Sun's editorial today is also worth a look.)

It seems lost on people (the kindergarten and/or missionary variety who would like to flatter themselves by calling themselves realists) that this is, as Lee Smith recently put it, how Syria "dialogues."

Unlike the geniuses of the NYT editorial board, they don't put a dunce cap on your head. They bust a cap in your and your friends' heads. So please, enough with the idiocy.