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Militarist Joshua Muravchik: Stoking the Conflagration in the Middle East

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Viewers of the November 15, 2006 airing of Democracy Now were given the treat of seeing Amy Goodman's interview with former Senator George McGovern, current Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the American Enterprise Institute's Joshua Muravchik. The subject under discussion was titled: "Out of Iraq or More Troops?" A "treat?" Yes, viewers (or readers of the transcript) were able to see Mr. Muravchik, an acerbic-tongued neoconservative militarist, in action.

Mr. McGovern started the debate by recommending a gradual withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, commencing in December and ending in June 2007. Congressman Kucinich supported Mr. McGovern's gradual withdrawal, but proposed to give it teeth by having Congress cut off all future funding for the war. Mr. Muravchik advocated sending "a lot more troops" "until we can bring some order to Iraq."

Muravchik seemed oblivious to a few well-known facts on the ground: (1) The very presence of American occupiers fuels the insurgency (2) the United States is unable to commit "a lot more troops," except in the short run, (3) such troops would become sitting ducks in the escalating civil war, and (4) the American public would not long tolerate an escalation that didn't bring immediate results.

But, beyond allowing his neocon ideology to blind him to such facts on the ground, Mr. Muravchik cannot yet admit to how "catastrophically wrong" (like his neocon brethren) he was to recommend regime change in Iraq in the first place. Listen to his limited hang-out mea culpa: "Things that we did in Iraq may have been mistaken, may have been misguided, and so on." And so on? How about criminal and immoral? And why are you appearing on television and writing Op-Eds when you should be rotting from within, conscience stricken, and in well-deserved ignominious isolation for you egregious error?

Instead, Muravchik appeared on Democracy Now and despicably slandered McGovern, a World War II hero: "Listening to Congressman Kucinich sounds like listening to a broken record from the '60s or the people who wanted to follow Senator McGovern's advice and give up and surrender in the Cold War."

Senator McGovern not only rebutted the slander, but also noted: "a lot of these so-called hawks, who sound so belligerent vocally, never have been near a battle scene. They know nothing of war from firsthand experience."

Yet, skeptical readers of Commentary magazine would have been familiar with Mr. Muravchik's decades of slander, militarism and error.

Consider that, in June 1988, Muravchik gratuitously attacked The Nation when he wrote: "Thus has the Nation progressed from its long and dishonorable history as an apologist for Soviet tyranny to the still bolder and more dishonorable role of accomplice." Or consider that, in October 1990, he complained about Nelson Mandela's "unrelievedly triumphal" tour of the United States.

Writing in May 1991, Muravchik expressed the hope that the U.S. victory in Iraq had destroyed "some very wrong ideas [concerning reluctance to use American military force] from our Vietnam debacle. And, in July 1992, he wrote in defense to the 1992 Defense Policy Guidance, penned by fellow neocon Paul Wolfowitz, which aimed at nothing less than America's military dominance of the world.

Given his expressed enthusiasm for the use and efficacy of U.S. military power, one can see how Muravchik committed his catastrophic blunder of recommending regime change in Iraq. One also can understand why he recommends sending more troops to die for his initial blunder there.

Finally, given his militarism, one can understand why this armchair chickenhawk urges the United States to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Witness his recent Op-Ed, "Bomb Iran," written for the Los Angeles Times. There, Muravchik accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, an accusation that currently has as much validity as the Bush/Cheney lies about Iraq's WMD. Perhaps, like Cheney, he has his own one percent doctrine, when it comes to evidence.

He also claims that Iran "is a country on a mission," as if Iran's goal of regional leadership hasn't' been abetted by the neocons' own failed mission of regime change in Iraq. Finally, Muravchik provides his real reason for wanting to bomb Iran: "An Iranian bomb would constitute a dire threat to Israel's 6 million-plus citizens." But, beyond falsely assuming an Iranian bomb, Muravchik fails to mention the threat posed to Iran by both Israel's and America's nuclear arsenals.

Were he a serious scholar, rather than an advocate for Israel, Mr. Muravchik would read the chapter by Dan Reiter ("Preventive Attacks against Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons Programs: The Track Record") found in the recent book, Hitting First: Preventive Force in U.S. Security Strategy.

Reiter reaches two basic conclusions about such attacks: "First, limited attacks such as air strikes almost never work, in that they rarely delay NBC [Nuclear, Biological, Chemical] programs significantly. Further, any minor successes in the past are not likely to be repeated in the future, as in anticipation of such attacks regimes are concealing and dispersing their NBC facilities. Second, attacks that change regimes might help remove NBC threats, though even when successful, war does not always change regimes durably. Moreover, the uncertain benefits of such wars must be weighed against the very high costs. Resources might be more efficiently spent on counterproliferation and counterterrorism priorities other than preventive attacks against NBC programs." [p. 28]

Thus, Mr. Muravchik should reconsider his numerous errors and eat some humble pie before recommending military escalations that will only deepen the hole that the Bush administration has dug in the Middle East. Either that or put his own smacked-ass on the front lines.
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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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