Three Counts for an Indictment Posted by: Dale Franks
on Friday, August 18, 2006
Gerard Baker of the Times of London lays three charges on the Bush Administration for making the Global Wart on Terror, among other things, more difficult.
The first count is that the Administration failed to diligently exercise it power in reconstructing Iraq, leading to the current crisis there.
You invaded Iraq because you argued you would be able to bring about a peaceful, democratic society in the heart of the Arab world, a step vital to the eradication of modern terrorism. Many of us supported the project because we believed the stakes were so high that you would not stint in committing the resources necessary to achieve it.
But you tried to do it on the cheap. If many of us miscalculated the scale of the threat Iraq posed, there was no excuse for the woeful lack of preparation by your Administration for the task of pacifying the country.
The outcome? A broken nation on the verge of civil war, prey to the avarice of tyrannical regional neighbors, violently immolating itself and nurturing new generations of terrorists.
The second count is that the President supported Israel's action against Hezbollah, then backtracked when public opinion went against Israel, supported an unwise UN Cease-fire that will most likely accomplish none of the objectives of weakening Hezbollah.
[Y]ou supported and perhaps even encouraged Israel to invade Lebanon last month, after repeated provocations by terrorists. The aim — a good one in principle — was to crush Hezbollah, weaken its Syrian and Iranian sponsors and put Lebanon on a path to long-term, terror-free stability. But when the largely aerial campaign predictably failed and equally predictably led to the world’s media reaching their one-sided conclusion about Israel’s “aggression” , you quickly backtracked. You encouraged Israel to accept a ceasefire that amounts to the country’s most serious defeat in its 57-year history.
The result? A strengthened Hezbollah and a new Arab hero, Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah; a reprieve for the beleaguered Assad regime in Damascus and a further fillip to Iranian ambitions; a strategic setback for Israel and the condemnation of Lebanon tragically to replay the turmoil of the 1980s.
The third count is that the administration has completely bungled the Iranian situation.
You rightly identified Iran as the gravest threat to the West’s long-term security and you pledged to bend US policy to ensure that it did not gain the regional hegemony that would allow it to blackmail the world into acquiescence of its hateful ideology. Above all, Iran would be stopped from getting the bomb.
The result? The despised regime in Tehran has emerged as the true hegemonic power in the region, leeching on the battered bodies politic of Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, elevating its brand of Shia fundamentalism into position as the dominant force in the Islamic world and continuing on its path towards nuclear status.
If I were a conspiracy theorist I would be starting to conclude that you were some sort of Iranian Candidate, an agent of Tehran, brilliantly executing a covert strategy to enhance the prestige and power of the ayatollahs.
Mr. Baker goes on to explain:
The events of September 11, taken together with the other, steadily escalating acts of terrorism committed against the West in the past 30 years, required a radical new departure for the international system. Preventing the lunatics from blowing us all to the hereafter was going to require that the US, the only country with the power to stop it, break a bit of crockery.
But the US could take the risk of alienating the world and discarding international law only if its leadership was going to be effective. Instead its leadership has been desultory and uncertain and tragically ineffective.
It tried unilateral pre-emption in Iraq, but never really had the will to see it through. So with Iran, it went all mushy and multilateralist. In Lebanon, it thought it would cover all the bases — start by aggressively supporting Israel, then go all peacenik, holding hands with the UN in a touching chorus of Kumbaya.
Now we have the worst of all worlds. Not only is the US despised around the globe, it can’t even make its supposed hegemony work.
It’s one thing to be seen as the bully in the schoolyard; it’s quite another when people realise the bully is actually incapable of getting anybody else to do what he wants. It’s unpleasant when people stop respecting you, but it’s positively terrifying when they stop fearing you.
Mr. Baker concludes that the lack of decisive leadership on the part of the president and the resulting failures have made the world a more, not less, dangerous place, and made a destructive conflict of the West against the Islamic world more likely.
It's hard to argue with any of the above, at least in terms of the outcomes Mr. Baker rightly decries. It does, however, ignore an important facet of the Bush Administration's operating environment: Domestic politics.
Daniel Henninger, in the Wall Street Journal, encapsulates part of the problem.
Over the past year the Democrats have built a political case that President Bush's conduct of the war on terror is trampling civil liberties and the rule of law. There is a list for the Bush assault on "our values": the NSA's warrantless wiretaps, Guantanamo, phone-call data mining and of course his Supreme Court nominations.
Whatever the merits of all this, Congress's Democrats are publicly committed to making this version of the Bush civil-liberties record a voting issue for their party in November and beyond. So presumably they will remain deaf to Secretary Chertoff's plea for a legal system tailored to fight Islamic terror, at least until after 2008.
The opposition to the Bush Administration's GWOT policies has been unrelenting. It's hard to think of any initiative in foreign policy for which he has not been criticized. For instance, in Iraq, he was a unilateral cowboy, going it alone, against the wishes of the world. In Iran and North Korea, conversely, he has failed to exercise American power, instead relying on essentially useless transnational organizations or coalitions to deal with those pressing problems.
What do you think would happen if the president, following the best military advice, announced he was going to increase the number of troops in Baghdad to 35,000 soldiers, in order to pacify the city, and provide security? That's a rhetorical question of course. Irrespective of the soundness of the military reasoning behind such a decision, the outcries of "Quagmire!" and "Another Vietnam!" would be instant and prolonged. I have to wonder if that isn't at least partially responsible for the Bush Administration's timidness when it comes to fully committing to his own policies, no matter how often he utters, "Stay the course!" in public.
At this point, you have to be very careful not to equate opposition with disloyalty. I don't think that opposition to the Bush Administration is, in and of itself disloyal. At the same time, opposition for opposition's sake—or for purely political reasons—is often outstandingly stupid. To the extent it prevents the president from effectively conducting the GWOT, it can be an active danger to American security.
For instance, look at the recent airline plot that was foiled in Britain last week. It was apparently foiled by a) the use of surveillance measures that would be highly controversial—and quite possibly illegal—in the US, and b) the use of torture on a suspect by Pakistani security forces. Absent those two things, it is quite possible that we would, even now, be shocked again at watching several hundred people dying at the hands of Islamic terrorists. At the very least, this should serve as a warning to us that many of the issues for which the Bush Administration is pilloried are not black and white. They are complicated, and require serious thought about how to balance civil libertarian concerns with the very real threat of massive death and destruction.
Moreover, in an atmosphere of unrelenting, politically-motivated, partisan sniping, no administration from any party can act without considering the possible domestic political implications of their acts. That might be perfectly acceptable for peacetime domestic politics. But it can present a dangerous state of affairs in foreign policy.
This used to be a commonly-held insight. The rule used to be, "All politics stops at the water's edge." For most things, the President was recognized to be the primary voice of American foreign policy, and Congress was fairly restrained in its criticism—at least, until election time rolled around.
That's all changed, now. Senators feel perfectly free to comment publicly on foreign policy matters, in direct opposition to the president. They are, of course, perfectly free to do so. But it is disingenuous to pretend that when they do so while the country is in a state of conflict, it doesn't send mixed messages to our enemies. It is equally foolish to presume that our enemies will not, if they are given a chance, attempt to exploit that gulf in official opinion, or otherwise attempt to use it to their advantage.
But, what if the president is a microcephalic moron? What if his policies are a danger to our security? In that case, failure to oppose them does a disservice to the country. And, many Democrats do feel the president's policies are a danger to the country. So, there are no simple prescriptions for conducting wartime opposition either. But active, constant, and vociferous opposition does take a toll—and perhaps a dangerous one—on a president's ability to pursue foreign policy objectives with firmness and dispatch.
Ironically, it is the Republicans, as much as anyone, who brought us to this fever-pitch of partisan bickering. For the entirety of the Clinton Administration, the Republicans acted as if everything the man did was inspired by Satan. In the end, they even got the impeachment they so obviously wanted. At no point did it ever occur to them that they were debasing the political process, and that, eventually, a Republican president would have to deal with the consequences of that debasement.
But that's what happened. And, to some extent, I think it's made prosecution of the GWOT more difficult than it should be. When you couple that constraint with a president who seems predisposed to exert the minimal—or less than minimal—effort necessary to pursue his policies, that doesn't, needless to say, make us much safer. It's bad enough if the president is a minimalist—irrespective of his rhetoric—when it comes to the GWOT. If the political environment incentivizes an already minimalist tendency, well, that's not good. Nor is it good if the operation of the political system sends mixed messages to our enemies, which ours surely does, at the moment.
I'm not optimistic that it will change any time, soon, either, no matter who the president is, or will be in 2008. If it's a Democrat, I'm sure the Republicans will revert to Clinton Mode overnight. If it's a Republican, the Democrats will keep on the way they are.
The only way it will change is if something happens to unify the country through a shared realization of the threat we face. If 9/11 wasn't enough to have a lasting effect, then I'm afraid of what might be required to do that. Clearly, it's a case where the cure is worse than the disease.
But, what if the president is a microcephalic moron? What if his policies are a danger to our security? In that case, failure to oppose them does a disservice to the country. And, many Democrats do feel the president’s policies are a danger to the country.
That would be a lot more believable if there were some concrete proposals upon what to do from them other than "Don’t do that" or "I wouldn’t have done it that way."
Ironically, it is the Republicans, as much as anyone, who brought us to this fever-pitch of partisan bickering. For the entirety of the Clinton Administration, the Republicans acted as if everything the man did was inspired by Satan. In the end, they even got the impeachment they so obviously wanted.
The man lied under oath; what did you expect to happen?
Ironically, it is the Republicans, as much as anyone, who brought us to this fever-pitch of partisan bickering. For the entirety of the Clinton Administration, the Republicans acted as if everything the man did was inspired by Satan.
If only we could return to the days of political harmony such as the Reagan years... or the Carter years... or the Nixon years...
Far be it for me to excuse the Burton-led witch hunt of the 90’s, but to ignore our long history of political infighting to lay blame on one side alone is disingenuous. Both parties are culpable in the creation of the political climate we see today.
I think Mr. Frank’s point about the impeachment was fairly made in the context of his argument. However, anyone who says that a President who lies under oath (and must resign from the Bar in order to avoid being disbarred for his action) should not be impeached for such a lie, doesn’t have much respect for our rule of law.
The only way it will change is if something happens to unify the country through a shared realization of the threat we face. If 9/11 wasn’t enough to have a lasting effect, then I’m afraid of what might be required to do that. Clearly, it’s a case where the cure is worse than the disease.
You got that right.
Some people believe there’s a war on, and while having disagreements with some policies, or tactics of the administration, still maintain a certain level of respectfull discourse.
What angers many of the Presidents opponents, is that people aren’t spittin’ mad with the President. It isn’t enough to say, well the NSA wiretapping should be looked into, and decided by the courts or legislation. You just aren’t putting your heart and soul into opposing what to them is an article of faith, the NSA wiretaps are illegal, and so the President and all his cronies should be frog-marched to Levinworth.
"Foiled terrorist plot"? Bulls*it. Bush did 9/11, as many of us now realize, in order to have a pretext for attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. It would only be standard modus operandi to blow up (or threaten to blow up), say, a dozen more planes, as an excuse to attack Iran. You underrate the man’s perfidy and villainy if you don’t think so.