Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Unbearable Truthiness Of Fred

By Cernig

The next actor to audition for the role of Republican nominee to be The Most Powerful Person In The World, Fred Thompson, has an op-ed today at Townhall in which he calls for "“surrogate” broadcast network that included Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, often called "the Radios," to reclaim their place in "the front lines of pro-freedom movements all over the world" by offering an alternative to such as Al Qaeda propoganda and state TV in places like Venezuala.

It would actually be a decent opinion piece were it not for two pieces of truthiness and a general readiness to play on the emotions of those conservatives who long for the Reagan days. Between them sour it for any non-cheerleading reader and leave one instead wondering why this man should ever be considered as the new Decider Guy.
The first bit of truthiness is where he writes:
When Ronald Reagan was elected, he greatly empowered the private, congressionally funded effort and handpicked the Radios’ top staff to bring freedom to the Soviet Union. Steve Forbes led the group.

Cynics still say that the USSR fell of its own weight, and that President Reagan’s efforts to bring it down were irrelevant, but Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev say differently. Both have said that, without the Radios, the USSR wouldn't have fallen.[Emphasis Mine - C]
Even McQ at the conservative Q&O blog recognises this is a bit rich and writes that "Obviously Thompson is not saying 'the Radios' are the answer. In fact it would be rather naive to believe that the radio effort was what caused the Soviet collapse. But there is no question they had a key effect." It would indeed be rather naive - yet a casual reader who wasn't well-disposed towards "Fred!" in the first place could well come away with the impression that Thompson is indeed saying 'The Radios' were a necessary requirement for the Soviet collapse. Count me among the cynics on that one. Internal pressures for reform, spearheaded by national leaders and which were monumentally multiplied by the failed occupation of Afghanistan, seem far more important and in fact sufficient on their own without any input from "The Radios".

Which brings me to the other bit of truthiness, this one even more obvious. Thompson writes:
Then we won the Cold War. The USSR collapsed in 1991, and America relaxed. Military downsizing began and the Radios began to reduce broadcast air time to target countries.

Now, of course, we know that the Islamofascists, many trained by the old Soviets, were making plans and plots of their own.

...We'll never know if Afghanistan might have rejected al Qaeda if America had actively engaged that country as we did those Eastern Europeans.
What? He;s either being ignorant of the facts or deliberately obtuse here. This one passage disqualifies Thompson from the White House, surely. How can anyone realistically vote for someone who has such a poor appreciation of the origins of the supposedly defining struggle of our times?

Here's what the non-partisan Council on Foreign relations has to say about the origins of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the primary proponents of of spreading islamist ideology through terrorism.
Al-Qaeda grew out of the Services Office, a clearinghouse for the international Muslim brigade opposed to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the Services Office—run by bin Laden and the Palestinian religious scholar Abdullah Azzam—recruited, trained, and financed thousands of foreign mujahadeen, or holy warriors, from more than fifty countries. Bin Laden wanted these fighters to continue the "holy war" beyond Afghanistan. He formed al-Qaeda around 1988.
As Thompson acknowledges, the old Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and it was then that 'The Radios' began to be underfunded. Yet during the entire time the Reagan administration fed billions of dollars in arms to Afghanistan's Islamic resistance. When the Soviet occupation collapsed, Afghanistan fell off Reagan's radar screen. Although this was prior to the rise of Bin Laden, the preconditions for that rise were created by Reagan's policies.

Unsurprisingly, yet depressingly, none of the conservative bloggers listed on Memeeorandum as writing about Thompson's article take issue with his gloss over events. Not McQ, Not Captain Ed, not Blue Crab Boulevard or even Micheal van der Galen. From this we learn two things: firstly, that the Right is still willing to look the other way to stay in lockstep with its next generation of leadership even if many are deserting its current one and secondly, that Fred Thompson shouldn't be allowed to be the Commander In Chief at a time when a frank examination of the rise of Islamist terrorism is going to be of more use than a hagiographic attempt to rewrite history to exonerate the Legend Of Reagan. Garbage in - garbage out.

My colleague Libby, writing at her own blog, is scathing.
If I didn't know the author, I would have supposed the column was written by Cheney. He disdains diplomacy, celebrates forceful interventions and proposes Madison Avenue style propaganda blitzes that assume the Arab Street is as clueless and manipuable as the average American consumer.

Me, I'm not buying a new and better Bush and I have to believe that neither will the 70% of Americans that are tired of the one we have. And those are just his ideological problems.
Still, as McQ points out, the general point is a good one:
Positive and smart propaganda is one of the absolute key elements in any win against Islamic fundamentalists. It is an important extension of soft power, which when used as Thompson points out, in a smart way, can have an profound effect. It too is an part of the overall "GWoT" and it is one at which we are, at the moment, doing a very poor job.
The reason we are doing such a poor job is because truthy Repubicans, who would rather bomb and who see that "soft power" as an adjunct to military intervention rather than a replacement for it, are in charge. Let's not make that same mistake again.

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