Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 28, 2005
WAR: No, No Natan?
Chris Suellentrop pens a silly, silly article for Slate on Natan Sharansky's book "The Case for Democracy" - much lauded by President Bush - and "where Sharanksy disagrees with the president's policies." The underlying silliness is that Suellentrop is trying to discredit Bush's overall strategy here by pointing out tactical disagreements. The details are sillier.
Let's review the charges:
1. "Sharansky directly criticizes the administration's haste to hold elections in Afghanistan and Iraq." Fair enough, although that's an issue on which a lot of fair-minded people can disagree, and we won't know the answer for many years.
2. "Sharansky also questions the legitimacy of the Palestinian elections won by Mahmoud Abbas" . . . Sharansky rips the "road map," . . . "Sharansky says Mahmoud Abbas desires only a "temporary truce" with Israel." Of course, Sharansky is looking at peace talks with Abbas from the Israeli perspective and asking if this will work. Bush has a broader issue to consider: will renewing talks with Abbas help alleviate anti-U.S. tensions elsewhere? Talking to Arafat truly was useless. But Abbas was elected, apparently reasonably fairly, and he has publicly called for a stop to terror. I understand well Sharansky's point - Abbas isn't renouncing Arafat's overall strategy, just shifting tactics. But there's reason enough to believe that Abbas may be a practical man we can do business with - like Gorbachev, who similarly wanted to change tactics in the face of reality - and it's worth finding out. In any event, Suellentrop isn't interested in these nuances, he's just trying to drive a wedge in the traditional "even Bush's closest advisers disagree with him" mold.
3. Check this one:
Sharansky sharply criticizes the way human rights "has come to mean sympathy for the poor, the weak, and the suffering," because "sympathy can also be placed in the service of evil."
Is Suellentrop really accusing Bush of being too concerned with battling international poverty? Boy, liberalism sure has changed.
4. This is a doozy:
Criticizing U.S. Policy Provides Aid and Comfort to Whom? Page xii: Reading The Morning Star, a London Communist daily, "would prove highly subversive" for young Sharansky. Rather than absorbing the content of the paper, he was astounded by "the very fact that people outside the Soviet Union were free to criticize their own government without going to prison.
C'mon, it has never been the Bush Administration's policy that all criticism is aid and comfort to the enemy, and I doubt you could ever find a quote where Bush says anything like that. That's an absurd canard. Yes, Republicans have argued that the tone and volume of some criticism, particularly the media drumbeat of negativity, has been a boon to our enemies. But how this shows Sharansky disagreeing with Bush's policy of promoting democracy is beyond me.
5. And this:
Let a Thousand Frances Bloom! Page 95: "The democracy that hates you is less dangerous than the dictator that loves you."
That's different from our policy of promoting democracy how? It's not like we're trying to replace Chirac with a Musharraf type.
6. Suellentrop also goes after a quote in Sharansky's book:
Sharansky says Arthur Schlesinger Jr. opined in the 1980s that "those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse, ready with one small push to go over the brink are wishful thinkers who are only kidding themselves." But Sharansky's footnote for this remark declares vaguely, "Schlesinger is reported to have made this statement after his return from a trip to the Soviet Union in 1982."
Well, I don't have an original source for that quote either, but a simple Google search shows it coming from a 1999 book and subsequent articles by Dinesh D'Souza; it's not like Sharansky made this up.