Oh What A Wicked Web We Weave…

When you stop to look at the nature of the foreign policy debate over the past few years here in America, you find polarized on opposite sides not subscribers to any particular faith or theory on how nation security should be conducted, but instead those who are members of the reality based community and everyone else.

Now, as I recall the quote that turned “Reality based community” into something of a sub culture catch phrase, the significance of those words, many believed spoken by the dubious Karl Rove himself, have become fully apparent. We have seen the true divide in the debate over foreign policy, one that stretches across the boundaries of reality itself.

It’s now day two, the day after the release of an NIE whose implications hit the wires with a resounding thunderclap; Iran’s nuclear program, much like Iraq’s, is long since defunct. The information alone would not be nearly as significant if it wasn’t for the fact that the current administration has been using harsh and often times terrifying language to describe the ambitions of Iran. Critics have claimed that this has been war mongering from the beginning, an attempt to drive public fear against Iran making a decision to exact military action against the country acceptable, while the counter argument has been that the tough talk was little more than saber rattling in order to leverage Iran into complicity.

The estimate itself shows the proximity of the administration and its foreign policy soul mates to reality. The fact that by most reports this NIE was available to the administration even while it was engaging in some of its toughest talk shows the grand chasm between what is real, and what is not, and on which side of that divide the administration stakes its claim. Recall those words again, “we make reality”.

If nothing else, the past few years have been a lesson in the failures of neoconservatism, however perhaps it is not its precepts that are the most to blame, but instead the mindset of its greatest subscribers. That’s not to say that I think neoconservatism can be safely wielded by a member of the reality based community; I think the imperialistic nature of the ideology as a whole is ill suited for the world today. But greater is the willful ignorance of outside evidence and opinion, that core belief that reality can be created, and is not something that is influenced at an infinite number of points by a vast number of players.

Thus we see the characterization of the two sides of the foreign policy debate far more clearly. On the one side, you have faith in one’s ability to create, change, and distort. Saying something is so, makes it so (I think of at this point the lack of journalistc ethics of Judith Miller, the irrational attribution of everything to Saddam Hussein by Laurie Mylroie, and Paul Wolfowitz’s tendency to believe her), and saying something isn’t so makes it impossible. Evidence is replaced by belief.

On the other side of the argument, the reality based side, there is a completely different story. We have faith in very little if anything at all. There is the understanding that while in physics every action may result in an equal and opposite reaction, in the realm of foreign policy reactions are not bound by such limitations. A misstep in foreign policy has triggered world wars and mired America in long, ugly, and deadly wars. And so we are prudent in evidence, we are hesitant to act, and distrust much of what we see. Indeed, my personal faith in the NIE comes not solely from the NIE itself, but the months of work and reports on behalf of the IAEA which seem to validate the central point of the NIE. And even through this, I do understand that there is still the possibility that we very well might have it wrong.

But still, the reality based community doesn’t like guess work because it understands that reality is governed by an incalculable number of influences, that it is not merely a construct of what we wish, and if we seek to alter reality, there will be repercussions, repercussions that are beyond our control.

Why would any rational thinking person give credibility to the former over the latter? That’s simple. Certainty. There is something incredibly safe and comforting in the certainty of the neoconservative, non reality based community. They immediately “know” what is going on, and they immediately “know” what best to do next. By contrast, the reality based community is never sure. From an outsider’s point of view, it may seem like the only thing that we are ever sure about is not being sure, and not doing anything. We take longer to convince, and we take longer to act. Now this may be because we want to get it right, but this is hardly an enticing argument in times of great fear when all you want is to see something done.

It doesn’t really matter if that something is effective or successful.

All of this has been my core argument against the Bush administration from the very beginning. It is not because they went to war, because they lied about it, or anything else. All of that is, indeed, very bad. But the continuing argument, the reason why this administration needs to have control wrested from its grasp is for the very simple reason that it refuses to engage reality in a responsible manner. And with as powerful a revelation as this most recent NIE serves, we see them doing it all over again.

We see Stephen Hadley spinning this report not as a gaping hole in the claims of the administration, but instead a vindication of the doomsday talk that Bush and Cheney have been peddling. Meanwhile, Norman Podhoretz is off peddling conspiracy theories against the intelligence community.

Strangely enough, Podhoretz’ approach at least has the guise of logical approach to it; attempting to poke holes in evidence (though, through wild innuendo and negligent ignorance of outside sourcing).  Hadley, on the other hand, more purely represents that rose colored Orwellian intent of the non reality based community with his assertions that the report is not what it actually is; a refutation of everything we’ve been sold for the past year.

And this shows us the fault of the non reality based community, it is the final moral of the boy who cried wolf.  It is yet another cautionary tale that the Bush administration and those who continue to cheer it on will continue to ignore.  Despite whatever prowess you may believe you have over the perception of reality, actual reality, true unstoppable reality is constantly moving, constantly shifting, and very much unmindful of your attempts to control it.

Recognizing it allows you to cope with it, ignoring it, however, does not make it go away.  It’s still there, and eventually you will be forced to face it whether you like it or not.

The Bush administration is already damaged goods.  The failures of Iraq, from the lack of honesty in making the case to go to war there, up to present day and the lack of honesty in characterizing what is really going on in Iraq have tainted this administration to no end.  And now, the NIE.  Now we have been struck powerless in the course of Iran.  Now, because Bush has proven himself so utterly and totally incapable on the stage of foreign policy, there is no way he could feasibly be asked to act on the world stage and be taken seriously.

The entire backdrop of neoconservatism is painted in deception.  It takes its cues from ignoring reality and seeks to weave its own web of reality to fit the narrative that allows it to do as it pleases.  Unfortunately, what the administration and subscribers to the neoconservative faith fail to grasp is that their web serves as their own trap, that at every slight twitch of foreign policy they grow more entangled and encumbered by their own misdirection and dishonesty.

Had Bush been not so eager to create a reality of Iran as a nuclear threat, this NIE would mean nothing, it would be a buried headline, and Bush would be free to pursue whatever agenda with Iran that reality would deem necessary.  But he didn’t, and now he’s trapped, his own intelligence report contradicting a year worth of rhetoric.

At this point, Bush wouldn’t even be effective in giving Iran a brisk slap on the wrist now.

2 Responses to “Oh What A Wicked Web We Weave…”

  1. mick says:

    Who’s Helen Milner? Don’t you mean Laurie Milroie?

  2. oh

    wires got crossed, thanks for picking up on that.

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