It's Almost Scapegoat Time

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I’m sorry it went down like this…
But someone had to lose.
It’s the nature of the business…
It’s the smuggler’s blues.

~ Glenn Frey

This past week appears to mark the beginning of yet another Sunni offensive in Iraq. According to numerous military experts, the rebels have settled into a 4-month cycle, including 4 to 6 weeks of intense military attacks followed by 2—3 months of relative inaction while they rearm and retrain new cadres. The previous Sunni offensive was launched last spring during Ramadan and saw the country very nearly spiral out of control.

Numerous attacks have occurred in just the past 7 days, including the mortaring of our military headquarters and an assault on Abu Ghraib prison. These incidents, and the debacle that occurred when a helicopter rocketed a disabled armored personnel carrier (killing numerous bystanders), have given the situation a renewed sense of crisis.

It is reasonable to assume that the Sunni offensive will increase in intensity over the next month or two leading up to the November presidential election. America has been lucky that the Sunni and Shiite militias have thus far remained independent and have not risen simultaneously. A Shiite uprising during the coming month’s Sunni offensive could make things extremely dicey.

To make matters worse, our leaders do not seem to have a definite end-game in mind. Listening to this administration, it sounds as though they are muddling along, hoping for things to get better somehow. But if the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, or if we should find ourselves in an additional conflict with Iran over her nuclear program, the public may soon begin to wonder when and how we are going to extract ourselves from the sands of the Middle East (and this doesn’t even address the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has taken effective control over a large swath of the countryside).

And just to keep things really exciting, we have a looming economic crisis on the horizon. These wars, and the metastasizing nanny state, are accumulating debt at a rate never before seen in our history. This tide of governmental red ink, along with our out-of-control trade deficit, is ultimately unsustainable. Every 12 months we are sinking trillion dollars more into the mire of indebtedness. Almost all of this is financed by Asian investors, who may one day begin to wonder if we will ever be able to pay them back. If they decide not, and cease buying new bonds, our goose is cooked

My prediction is that the Iraqi situation will continue to deteriorate over the next year or two. At some point, the American people will then rise up and demand answers. Any number of things may be the final straw, such as the initiation of a draft or the extension of hostilities outside of Iraq. But whatever the underlying cause, the American people will not continue to bleed in Mesopotamia indefinitely.

At that time, our good friends the neocons are going to be in a serious bind. Having agitated for this war based on dubious arguments and questionable political maneuvering, they may find themselves in the spotlight.

In an honest culture, the neocons would stand up and take the blame. They would admit that this whole debacle was their idea, and that they were being deceptive when they sold it to the American people. They would offer sincere apologies and then fall on their swords as a way of making amends to their fellow countrymen.

But, alas, we live in foul times. And the neocons do not follow the code of the Samurai. So in keeping with America’s degenerate contemporary culture, what they really need is a "fall guy." The neocons need to find a sucker to whom they can pass the buck while they lick their wounds and live to fight another day. And being the helpful guy that I am, I have decided to lend them a hand and suggest possible targets on whom to slough blame while they scurry for cover.

Option #1: George W.

In many ways, President Bush cannot be considered a "fall guy," since he is the commander in chief who ultimately ordered these military adventures.

But this assertion raises an interesting question that has vexed many observers since almost the beginning of this administration. As a good friend puts it, "Is that goofy look just a clever disguise, or is he really that slow?" In other words, just how "with it" is Bush? Does he run things, or is he a mere figure-head for those who are really setting the agenda?

I can’t make up my mind, to be honest. Sometimes I think that he is "playing possum" with us all, intellectually speaking. At other times, I think that he really is as clueless as he appears.

Assuming for a moment that the latter is the case, one cannot consider him to be ultimately responsible for this mess…which makes him the perfect guy for the neocons to leave holding the bag.

In practice, this would be simple. Rummy and Wolfie would merely have to resign, while stating that their plans were brilliant but that Bush lacked the brains and courage to carry them through. They could point to numerous incidents where he disagreed with their proposals or allowed other White House factions to influence him. Cheney and Feith could write memoirs claiming that they begged Bush not to do X or Y…or claiming that they were just "following orders."

Bush probably wouldn’t know what hit him. And the neocons could use the commotion to retreat to their think tanks while they plot their comeback. Maybe they could switch back to the Democratic Party and latch on to a future Kerry or Clinton administration, where they could continue their machinations without missing a beat. Imagine waking up several months after a Bush defeat and finding Ledeen and Perle running Kerry’s Pentagon (these guys remind me of that old children’s toy commercial, "weebles wobble but they don’t fall down").

And who knows what they would do at that point. Iran? Syria?

The possibilities are endless.

Option #2: The Antiwar Movement

Whenever one finds oneself in a war gone bad, especially a war that has been cooked up based on deception and distortion, the easiest way to "spin" out of trouble is to heap blame on the antiwar crowd. After all, if it wasn’t for them, everything would be going wonderfully.

In practice, the neocons could begin one of their famed character assassinations aimed at the leaders of the antiwar movement. The targets could be accused of "helping the enemy" and "eroding our will to win." Dark accusations could be leaked to the media about alleged plots and evil intentions.

This maneuver has another added benefit. Namely, it would allow the neocons to set up the public for another power grab. If they spooked the masses with stories of a "fifth column," they could probably scare congress into passing a new "Super Dooper Patriot Act."

This strategy could thus kill numerous birds with one stone. Not only would the neocons deflect blame for the wars onto someone else, but they could also engineer another authoritarian coup against the Constitution. And, as icing on the cake, they could subsequently toss some of their political enemies into the gulag. With dangerous collaborators like Pat Buchanan and Lew Rockwell breaking rocks in the Gitmo Hilton, the neocons would be free to pursue even more audacious plans with minimal dissent.

This option just keeps getting better.

Option #3: The Military Brass

This maneuver is tricky to pull off and fraught with danger. The big problem is that most Americans have enormous respect for the military, and generally don’t like to see it blamed for lousy policy…especially by bureaucratic hacks who have never served themselves.

But this is not to say that, given the right circumstances, this is impossible. The military leadership was dragging its feet from the very beginning of the Iraq war, and they suspected that things would go badly. Numerous retired generals spoke out in the lead-up to the war, expressing fears that America was stumbling into a quagmire.

In practice, the neocons could take two routes. First, they could claim that the generals were acting with malice. Maybe they sabotaged the neocons’ dazzling war plan due to beltway political rivalries? Or perhaps it was Rummy’s restructuring of the military that was the motive? The generals felt threatened, so they intentionally allowed things in Iraq to deteriorate into chaos as "institutional revenge."

The second, more feasible route would be to blame the military leadership for corruption and incompetence. Perhaps the brass prefers to sit in comfy offices instead of being out with the troops? Maybe they were receiving kick-backs from contractors? Or possibly they were just too inept to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion?

After all, you can hardly blame Wolfie for the fact that the generals couldn’t comprehend his brilliant strategy. Clearly, what is needed is a thorough house-cleaning of the Pentagon brass so that outrages like this never happen again.

Overall, this option has some pitfalls, but it might do in a pinch.

Option #4: The American people

This alternative is usually reserved for megalomaniacs facing their final Gtterdmmerung. Think Napoleon at Waterloo or Hitler in his bunker.

When things were going up in smoke, they turned their wrath on their own people, accusing them of being undeserving of their grand visions.

As the situation finally becomes unglued in the Middle East, I’m sure that we will be hearing some of this from various neocons pundits. They’ll claim that their vision was sound and their dreams were achievable. Sadly, though, they were undone by a timid and isolationist population that was simply unwilling to sacrifice the blood and treasure necessary to impose "benevolent world hegemony."

Basically, the American people are simply unworthy of the neocons.

While this option may not work too well for the neocons’ public relations, it might do wonders for their psyche. There’s nothing quite so liberating as pawning blame off on society while simultaneously elevating yourself above the ignorant masses.

It’s a last resort, but it definitely has merit.

Conclusion

The airplane of our Middle East policy is trailing smoke and losing altitude. We are sunk deeply into a quagmire in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our allies are looking for the exit, or have already made their escape. Each of the rationales for the invasion of Iraq has crumbled, leaving the world deeply suspicious of our real motives.

Clearly, the neocons manipulated America into this conflict, and they must see the disaster looming. But they are also veritable political Houdinis. I have been astounded by their military incompetence, but simultaneously awed by their political maneuverability.

It is going to be fascinating to watch them squirm their way out of this.

But whoever ends up being the ultimate "fall guy" should just remember one thing: the neocons really are sorry that it went down like this…but someone had to lose.

Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.

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