by Jonah Goldberg

Matt Yglesias writes:

OFF TO THE RACES. The rich, rich irony of George W. Bush warning Iran and Syria to stop their “meddling” in the internal affairs of Iraq, a country he’s invaded, occupied, and whose current prime minister he appointed, is rich and should be savored. More interesting, however, are the similar warnings coming from Iyad Allawi and — especially — from Defense Minister Hazim Shalan, like Allawi a secular ex-Baathist Shiite. Most observers think this crowd is going to get beaten in the January elections by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s United Iraqi Alliance, which is led by parties with ties to the Iranian government….

” by all accounts it’s certainly the case that Tehran has built up a substantial intelligence infrastructure in Iraq with unknown capabilities. So far, however, that network seems to have mostly lain dormant — something Iran will break out to retaliate against a U.S. military strike or if they don’t like the direction in which events are headed. You see a certain amount of breathless reporting on this fact, but I don’t know what, exactly, people expected would happen. If Iran invades Canada, occupies it for over a year, stations 130,000 troops there, and commences construction on military bases, I would certainly hope that the U.S. would work on building an intelligence network. The notion that we could take over a country sandwiched between Iran and Syria, maintain hostile relations with bost Tehran and Damascus, and expect our regional rivals to accept that with equanimity is pretty absurd. Everyone is “meddling,” the United States included — there’s hardly any choice under the circumstances. “

Of course, Yglesias is correct that it’s not surprising that Iran and Syria are meddling in Iraq. But why should Yglesias relish the “rich, rich irony” so? Maybe I’m over-reading, but I think a fair interpretation of Yglesias’ point is that Bush is a hypocrite and/or a fool for telling these countries to back-off. Indeed, he seems to be implying sans evidence that Bush expected otherwise.

Would it really be better for Bush to be “consistent” and tell Iran and Syria to go ahead and meddle all they like? Keep in mind, if we’d found WMDs in Iraq we’d still have “meddled” in exactly the same way Yglesias describes above. In other words, even if the war had been a huge success according to the (now accepted) standards of success, he would have still been just as open to the charge Yglesias levels. But, under those circumstances, I think people would better understand how petty this complaint is.

This is another example of liberals willfully refusing to grant Bush even the slightest benefit of the doubt when it comes to public diplomacy. What else should Bush do now? What would Kerry have done under the same circumstances if he’d been elected? This is, simply, how the game is played and Yglesias surely knows this. The question is why can’t he even acknowledge it?

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