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WSJ Book Review: Feeling Down Just As Things Are Looking Up ("The Superpower Myth" by Soderberg)
Wall Street Journal ^ | March 22, 2005 | BRET STEPHENS

Posted on 03/22/2005 5:58:12 AM PST by OESY

Until recently, Nancy Soderberg was just another blissfully forgotten face of the Clinton administration.... But she gained some notoriety this month during an appearance on "The Daily Show," in which host Jon Stewart was half-marveling, half-despairing at the turn of events in the Middle East after the Iraq elections, which seemed to vindicate President Bush....

Soderberg: "Well, there's still Iran and North Korea don't forget..."

Begin with the simplest errors of fact....

[W]hen Ms. Soderberg snickers about how candidate Bush struggled through a foreign-policy pop quiz in 2000, one is compelled to snicker back.

Next ... errors of analysis. "It is now believed that [Abu Musab] Zarqawi operates independently, and even in competition with bin Laden." She must have missed Zarqawi's declaration of fealty to Osama bin Laden in October. (Bin Laden certainly noticed it: He recently ordered Zarqawi to widen the scope of his efforts beyond Iraq.) "While [Ahmed] Chalabi was popular in certain powerful circles in Washington, he had virtually no support in Iraq." Funny, then, that Mr. Chalabi did well enough in January's elections to be in serious contention for the premiership. "The war in Iraq drew the Bush administration's focus away from Afghanistan...." Ten million Afghan voters missed that nuance.

And then there is the Soderberg Whopper: ...."Whether other benefits of the war cited by the administration will materialize, such as promoting democracy and reform in the Middle East and a resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, will take years to evaluate. Early signs indicate the war set back rather than promoted these goals." Early signs being...Palestinian elections? Iraqi elections? The Cedar Revolution? The "Kifaya" ("Enough") movement in Egypt? The end of the intifada? As the lady says, you can always hope that "this might not work."....

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; Russia; United Kingdom; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: anthonylake; balkans; bookreview; bosnia; bush; cedarrevolution; clinton; coalition; egypt; elections; intifada; iran; iraq; jonstewart; kerry; kifayaenough; middleeast; nancysoderberg; nationalsecurity; northkorea; nsc; oecd; palestine; perle; serbia; soderberg; thedailyshow

Has the Iraq war really failed to promote democracy and reform?

"The Superpower Myth" by Nancy Soderberg (John Wiley & Sons, 404 pages, $27.95)

Mr. Stephens is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

1 posted on 03/22/2005 5:58:14 AM PST by OESY
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I was in Powell's Bookstore in Portland, OR last year, and I couldn't believe how many anti-Bush/Bush Admin books there were in print. My dad and I were just amazed. This one will fit nicely on top of the pile.

The libertarians have nothing on the left when it comes to conspiracy theories.

2 posted on 03/22/2005 6:03:09 AM PST by randog (What the....?!)
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Rush has been saying for some time that good news for the U.S. is bad news for the Rats.

3 posted on 03/22/2005 6:10:42 AM PST by Piquaboy (22 year veteran of the Army, Air Force and Navy, Pray for all our military .)
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To: randog

I was in a Borders store in Madison, Wisconsin (surprise) last summer, and my wife and I literally had to hack our way through the anti-Bush literature. I'd like to know what goes through the mind of the clerks behind the counter when someone like me puts conservative books (which were very scarce) on the counter. It would be highly amusing to say the least.

4 posted on 03/22/2005 6:18:10 AM PST by driftless ( For life-long happiness, learn how to play the accordion.)
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It is currently #6,391 on Amazon. That translates into what, a couple hundred sales?

5 posted on 03/22/2005 6:23:31 AM PST by kennedy ("Why would I listen to losers?")
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'But as an American . . .'
We hardly ever watch Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," but our TV happened to be tuned to it last night when erstwhile Clinton aide Nancy Soderberg, author of "The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might" (foreword by Bill Clinton, blurb by Madeleine Albright) came on. We're not sure what possessed us to turn on the sound and watch, but we're glad we did, for it was a fascinating interview. Here's a TiVo-assisted transcript of most of it:

Stewart: This book--it talks about the superpower myth of the United States. There is this idea, the United States is the sole superpower, and I guess the premise of the book is we cannot misuse that power--have to use it wisely, and not just punitively. Is that--

Soderberg: That's right. What I argue is that the Bush administration fell hostage to the superpower myth, believing that because we're the most powerful nation on earth, we were all-powerful, could bend the world to our will and not have to worry about the rest of the world. I think what they're finding in the second term is, it's a little bit harder than that, and reality has an annoying way of intruding.

Stewart: But what do you make of--here's my dilemma, if you will. I don't care for the way these guys conduct themselves--and this is just you and I talking, no cameras here [audience laughter]. But boy, when you see the Lebanese take to the streets and all that, and you go, "Oh my God, this is working," and I begin to wonder, is it--is the way that they handled it really--it's sort of like, "Uh, OK, my daddy hits me, but look how tough I'm getting." You know what I mean? Like, you don't like the method, but maybe--wrong analogy, is that, uh--?

Soderberg: Well, I think, you know, as a Democrat, you don't want anything nice to happen to the Republicans, and you don't want them to have progress. But as an American, you hope good things would happen. I think the way to look at it is, they can't credit for every good thing that happens, but they need to be able to manage it. I think what's happening in Lebanon is great, but it's not necessarily directly related to the fact that we went into Iraq militarily.

Stewart: Do you think that the people of Lebanon would have had, sort of, the courage of their conviction, having not seen--not only the invasion but the election which followed? It's almost as though that the Iraqi election has emboldened this crazy--something's going on over there. I'm smelling something.

Soderberg: I think partly what's going on is the country next door, Syria, has been controlling them for decades, and they [the Syrians] were dumb enough to blow up the former prime minister of Lebanon in Beirut, and they're--people are sort of sick of that, and saying, "Wait a minute, that's a stretch too far." So part of what's going on is they're just protesting that. But I think there is a wave of change going on, and if we can help ride it though the second term of the Bush administration, more power to them.

Stewart: Do you think they're the guys to--do they understand what they've unleashed? Because at a certain point, I almost feel like, if they had just come out at the very beginning and said, "Here's my plan: I'm going to invade Iraq. We'll get rid of a bad guy because that will drain the swamp"--if they hadn't done the whole "nuclear cloud," you know, if they hadn't scared the pants off of everybody, and just said straight up, honestly, what was going on, I think I'd almost--I'd have no cognitive dissonance, no mixed feelings.

Soderberg: The truth always helps in these things, I have to say. But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process--they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole--

Stewart: This could be unbelievable!

Soderberg:---series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which--it may well work. I think that, um, it's--

Stewart: [buries head in hands] Oh my God! [audience laughter] He's got, you know, here's--

Soderberg: It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.

Stewart: He's gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.

Soderberg: Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us.

Stewart: [crossing fingers] Iran and North Korea, that's true, that is true [audience laughter]. No, it's--it is--I absolutely agree with you, this is--this is the most difficult thing for me to--because, I think, I don't care for the tactics, I don't care for this, the weird arrogance, the setting up. But I gotta say, I haven't seen results like this ever in that region.

Soderberg: Well wait. It hasn't actually gotten very far. I mean, we've had--

Stewart: Oh, I'm shallow! I'm very shallow!

Soderberg: There's always hope that this might not work. No, but I think, um, it's--you know, you have changes going on in Egypt; Saudi Arabia finally had a few votes, although women couldn't participate. What's going on here in--you know, Syria's been living in the 1960s since the 1960s--it's, part of this is--

Stewart: You mean free love and that kind of stuff? [audience laughter] Like, free love, drugs?

Soderberg: If you're a terrorist, yeah.

Stewart: They are Baathists, are they--it looks like, I gotta say, it's almost like we're not going to have to invade Iran and Syria. They're gonna invade themselves at a certain point, no? Or is that completely naive?

Soderberg: I think it's moving in the right direction. I'll have to give them credit for that. We'll see.

Stewart: Really? Hummus for everybody, for God's sakes.

We've long been skeptical of Jon Stewart, but color us impressed. He managed to ambush this poor woman brutally, in a friendly interview. She was supposed to be promoting her book, and instead he got her to spend the entire interview debunking it (at least if we understood the book's thesis correctly from the very brief discussion of it up top).

She also admitted repeatedly that Democrats are hoping for American failure in the Middle East. To be sure, this is not true of all Democrats, Soderberg speaks only for herself, and she says she is ambivalent ("But as an American . . ."). But we do not question her expertise in assessing the prevailing mentality of her own party. No wonder Dems get so defensive about their patriotism.

Interesting too is Stewart's acknowledgment of his own "cognitive dissonance" and "mixed feelings" over the Iraq liberation. It's a version of an argument we've been hearing a lot lately: As our Brendan Miniter puts it, "The president's critics never seem to tire of claiming that the war in Iraq began over weapons of mass destruction and only later morphed into a war of liberation."

Miniter correctly notes that "this criticism isn't entirely right," but for the sake of argument let's assume it is. What does it mean? President Bush has altered his arguments to conform to reality, while his critics remain fixated on obsolete disputes. This would seem utterly to refute the liberal media stereotype. Bush, it turns out, is a supple-minded empiricist, while his opponents are rigid ideologues.

6 posted on 03/22/2005 6:37:04 AM PST by conservativecorner
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