Monday, May 05, 2003

Here is a useful, if ultimately unsatisfactory, effort (in the Chronicle of Higher Education) by Robert J. Lieber, a professor of government and foreign service at Georgetown University, to debunk the myth that the Iraq war was a conspiracy by a "small band of neoconservative (read, Jewish) defense intellectuals, led by the "mastermind," Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (according to Michael Lind, writing in the New Statesman), has taken advantage of 9/11 to put their ideas over on an ignorant, inexperienced, and "easily manipulated" president (Eric Alterman in The Nation), his "elderly figurehead" Defense Secretary (as Lind put it), and the "dutiful servant of power" who is our secretary of state (Edward Said, London Review of Books)."

The effort is useful because there has indeed been a lazy propensity to simply assume a neo-con conspiracy without actually getting bogged down in checking out the details possibly contradicting it; unsatisfactory, because (a) Lieber artificially pastes together different views of different people (as the above passage shows) in such a way that he attributes a unity of purpose when none might exist (why should Alterman be made to speak in the same voice as Said?); and (b) as in most debunking efforts, Lieber often tends to overstate his own thesis, to the extent that those aspects of the conspiracy theory which might be relevant, are instead lost in his general criticism.

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