Michael Rubin has had a very bad week. One wonders about the coaching staff over at the American Enterprise Institute and National Review. Referees across the country called strike one on May 18th. Rubin’s second strike immediately followed on May 19th.
What do we know about this minor-league neoconservative, Michael Rubin? Well, he is indeed a rookie. He is young. He trained at Yale in biology and history. What about his performance? In politics, people like Rubin can simply pass along fabrications as if they are true, and he has done so with abandon. On the other hand, in baseball you have to get it right. Actual performance, real events, the rock solid history, the numbers. This in mind, let’s look at the Rubin record.
In the Winter 2002 edition of the Middle East Quarterly, Rubin wrote on how to free Iraq, and rid ourselves of that damn Saddam Hussein. Rubin concludes:
"September 11 has helped to persuade the region that the United States isn’t going to take it anymore. Even onerous regimes are eager or willing to be part of the U.S. coalition against Usama bin Ladin’s terrorism. Under resolute U.S. leadership, some of this spirit could be mobilized against Iraq.… [Ankara, Amman, Kuwait City, and Riyadh] want to see a plan that is focused, determined, and close-ended. If the United States can produce one, its regional allies will fall into line."
Let’s see if I have this straight — as an advisor to the OSP inside the nerve center of the Pentagon, helping make Iraq policy leading to war, Michael advocated a plan for Saddam’s removal that was "focused, determined, and close-ended." I guess the focused, determined, and close-ended plan for the aftermath wasn’t Michael’s area.
In 2001, Michael wrote about his experience at universities in Northern Iraq, in the Kurdish autonomous zone. His premise? Sanctions are actually helpful for the Kurds. He said this because he saw a lot of selling, buying, trading. Lots of resources finding their way into the American-protected Kurdish north. Clearly, this young man did not spend much time on the role of the state and the individual, and the nature of markets. And why should he? Having demonstrated his economic expertise, young Michael concludes that while sanctions are helping northern Iraq, we really should pursue a sanction-free North. We should not worry that lifting sanctions there will further split the country, because "The Kurds themselves, many of them patriotic veterans of the Iraqi Army do not wish to split from Iraq; they do want a federal, unified and democratic Iraq. Their only problem is with Saddam Husayn himself. Until he is removed, nothing can proceed."
Having touched for luck the trusty "remove Saddam" mantra, he also said, "In all, compared to the rest of the Middle East, with the exception of Turkey and Israel, northern Iraq is a political utopia."
While inaccurate and nave, the statement has all the charm of a wide-eyed 16-year-old seeking to explain the world as he sees it, conjuring up the fantastical idea that one may use the words "political" and "utopia" in the same sentence and still be of this world.
To be fair, Michael is partially correct, in the sense that the US protected and sponsored Kurdish government in Iraq was still decentralized and had not yet become very confiscatory. In any case, Rubin’s ideas for partial sanctions or anything else contained in this article were never made US policy.
While neoconservatives in power may not listen to Michael, they do tend to use him as an attack dog. His May 2002 National Review article about the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights is entitled "Mary Robinson, War Criminal?" This inflammatory title reflects Mary Robinson’s interest, among other things, in Palestinian human rights. She had initiated a drive to investigate the Jenin killings. Such bias and double standards, laments Michael. He wrote this scurrilous attack while attached to the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University. In any case, the UN did not try Robinson as a war criminal, and the world did not listen to Michael Rubin. I think we are seeing a pattern here.
Again in 2002, Rubin predicts how Iraq will fight. He wrote,
"The Republican Guard may be Iraq’s military elite, but, unlike the fanatical soldiers of Al Qaeda, they are basically mercenaries — Saddam’s Baathism having long ago become the ideological equivalent of 1980s-era Soviet communism. The Republican Guard serves Saddam because of fear and money. When the United States attacks, that fear will surely be counterbalanced by the prospect of facing America’s much more fearsome army if they resist."
This bit of the neoconservative theme song has been proven, again and again, to be ignorant and wrong. American soldiers pay the price in Iraq every day and night.
To be fair, Rubin’s coaching is obsolete. The National Review after its purges of right individualists and paleo-conservatives in the 70’s and 80’s is, like the old Soviet Union, feeble and sclerotic. As Murray Rothbard observed in 1992, "…Bill Buckley [was] the Mikhail Gorbachev of the conservative movement." Clearly, Rubin’s whole team is in trouble.
Not surprisingly, Michael Rubin is not quite ready for the major leagues. The History Channel had Rubin scheduled in New York City this week. In the wake of Rubin’s first wild swing at me, they kindly asked if I’d like to come on the show with him. I ran to the bullpen, eager for my chance on the field.
The History Channel called later in the day, and said, alas, Mr. Rubin rather nervously refused appear with me. Since the game would be about the hard facts of our respective words and actions, he ran off the field.
The current neoconservative dilemma, a fading twilight shadowed by increasing legislative and judicial interest compounded by an ever distracted frat boy in the executive suite, reminds me of a great poem. You know it well, and it contains several lessons for the neoconservatives — most of whom have never set foot on a baseball diamond.
After all, it is not a social-democratic game.
“Rubin at the Bat” with apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer
It looked extremely rocky for the DC nine that day; The score stood two to four, with but an inning left to play. So, when Rummy died at second, and Wolfie did the same, A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest, With that hope which springs eternal within the human breast. For they thought: “If only Rubin could get a whack at that,” They’d put even money now, with Rubin at the bat.
But Feith preceded Rubin, and likewise so did Perle, And the former was a pudd’n, and the latter was a girl. So on that stricken multitude a deathlike silence sat; For there seemed but little chance of Rubin’s getting to the bat.
But Feith let drive a “single,” to the wonderment of all. And the much-despised Cheney “tore the cover off the ball.” And when the dust had lifted, and they saw what had occurred, There was Cheney safe at second, and Feith a-huggin’ third.
Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell- It rumbled in the mountaintops, it rattled in the dell; It struck upon the hillside and rebounded on the flat; For Rubin, mighty Rubin, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Rubin’s manner as he stepped into his place, There was pride in Rubin’s bearing and a smile on Rubin’s face; And when responding to the cheers he lightly doffed his hat, No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Rubin at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt, Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt; Then when the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip, Defiance glanced in Rubin’s eye, a sneer curled Rubin’s lip.
And now the leather-overed sphere came hurtling through the air, And Rubin stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there. Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped; “That ain’t my style,” said Rubin. “Strike one,” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar, Like the beating of the storm waves on the stern and distant shore. “Kill him! kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand; And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Rubin raised his hand.
With a smile of neo-charity great Rubin’s visage shone; He stilled the rising tumult, he made the game go on; He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew; But Rubin still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered “Fraud!” But one scornful look from Rubin and the audience was awed; They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain, And they knew that Rubin wouldn’t let the ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Rubin’s lips, his teeth are clenched in hate, He pounds with cruel vengeance his bat upon the plate; And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go, And now the air is shattered by the force of Rubin’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright, The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light; And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in AEI: Mighty Rubin has struck out.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.