Monday, July 31, 2006

Neocons and the Enablers At It Again

I've always made a distinction between the Bush inner circle and the neocon intellectuals who have provided them with cover. Cheney and Rumsfeld are throwbacks to an earlier era that simply believed in empire and power. Bush goes along with Cheney and Rumsfeld when it's conventient, hides behind the neocons when he needs PR cover, and turns to Powell or Rice when he wants to project the image of diplomacy; it might almost look clever if it weren't for the complete castastrophe that his foreign policy represents. The real neocons are people like Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz; Richard Perle is a neocon too with his hands in other pies. Then there are wannabes like Newt Gingrich who would like nothing more than World War III. Is the best Republicans can offer America?

I worry sometimes that the media still doesn't get how dangerous these right wing Republicans are, whatever their motivations. But here's an excerpt from an article from Bonnie Erbe of U.S. News that suggests I may have to revise even further what is happening even in conservative magazines even if they're just providing other perspectives:
Just as America made an unforgivable mistake listening to the neocons' hawkish, bloodthirsty desire for war anywhere, at any time, and at any cost, we are making a mistake this time. We should not permit neocons' desire to give Israel free rein against Hezbollah to allow this conflict to turn into World War III. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice must change course and press for a cease-fire. Israel is no longer militarily capable of beating terrorism into submission. Islamic terrorists are too well-hidden, too well-financed, too well-populated, and too spread out. The same type of thinking that led us into Iraq is now leading us to let the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict mushroom into full-fledged war.

I have no use for terrorists and I have no use for people who wish to destroy Israel and I wish it were possible to bring stability to Iraq before we leave, but there are some things to keep in mind. Our nation was founded on an insurgency. The British had overwhelming military power but they kept making blunders over a period of years, largely because of their own arrogance and sense of superiority; the British made so many blunders they kept alienating loyalists and neutral Americans who didn't want to be in the fight. By the time the British left, they were loathed by an overwhelming number of Americans. And yet, the world went on; we traded with them and eventually became allies with them. Great powers are not immune from making mistakes but life goes on. This is a way of saying that I also have no use for right wingers who have crazy ideas about fighting to the death or whatever. It's past time for them to wake up from their fantasy world.

Over the last two hundred years, other countries have studied the tactics that our forefathers used. It's too bad the neocons never understood our first war. The attempt to restore empires and colonies is about the dumbest thing the American right has ever engaged in.

Israel, of course, has the right to exist, but their right wingers and our right wingers have no business dragging us into a much bigger war because.... Well, I wish someone would fill in the blank with something rational. I don't believe it's possible.

Republicans like the senior Bush, Reagan, Nixon and Eisenhower believed in the powerful uses of diplomacy. It's a tragedy of historical proportions that Bush talks about diplomacy but has no talent or use for it. Bush and his advisers, however, have already shown a talent for miscalculation. Republicans in Congress might want to think about that.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

I think maybe you're missing something. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have at least three absolute compulsions: 1, anything to win; 2, never appear weak and indecisive; and 3, never do what their predecessors did, but instead, wherever possible, do the opposite.

We're all familiar with outrages committed because of compulsion No. 1, so I won't belabor them now.

No. 2 relates directly to your post. Diplomacy requires a genuine interest in listening to and learning from others, and a willingness — an eagerness, even — to bargain. Implicit in bargaining is willingness to compromise.

Bush and the rest aren't interested in any of those things and are contemptuous of people who are. For one thing, bargaining has about it the stigma of Nos. 1 and 2.

Remember, Bush is the decider. He gets to make the decisions and set the terms. Anyone who's not on board with that and with the decisions he makes must face consequences.

At least, that's the compulsion and the image to be projected.

Bush's initial, apparently unprepped reaction to the Israelis incursion into Lebanon was that if Hezbollah would just stop fighting, then we could have peace and the Israelis wouldn't have to keep pounding the Lebanese and their hapless country.

Simple, no?

In reality, Bush is no more willing to go up against real industrial-strength power than Neville Chamberlain was. Only with Bush it's not a matter of being a doctrinaire pacifist. Rather, it's more like being a Saddam-type bully who blanches in the face of greater power. Recall Bush's lame, spineless response after the Chinese damaged our P-3 Orion over international waters in 2001 and then looted it after it made a forced landing.

Recall, also, what Bush did after his bosom buddies, the Saudi royals, turned completely uncooperative on the eve of the Iraq invasion. With telling quietness, Bush ordered abandonment of our huge, fabulously expensive and disastrously sited Prince Sultan air base, out in the middle of the Saudi desert. That had to be at least a $4 billion windfall for our poor Saudi "friends."

China and Saudi Arabia are U.S. creditors and producers of things absolutely vital, on a massive scale, to the U.S. economy. Either could wreck the U.S. economy in very short order. That's a kind and magnitude of power even Bush understands.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

S.W., your list of three is right on and I don't think we're too far off. I would add a fourth compulsion: the compulsion to double the bet when things aren't going well but their egos are involved. That's similar to No. 1 but beyond the point of being able to rig the game for certain.

The Chinese and Saudi affair are good examples of Bush figuring he had to fold his hand, and take his stakes elsewhere. You can add Pakistan to that list on several issues. Three months ago, Bush was acting like a man who was folding his hand; hence the so-called diplomacy with Iran.

I agree with you about No. 2 but even the wildcatter cares about what others think (though not what you and I think) and Bush in particular cares about the polls, at least so far as they provide the lever for his power every two years; for this crowd, it's part of the whole point but when things don't go well pathology takes over and we start seeing weird tics and delusions (these days Bush and Rumsfeld keep having bouts of incoherence). I can guarantee when the cameras and reporters are gone, Bush and Rumsfeld are in a rage or full of themselves. Cheney, on the other hand, just goes off somewhere to get quietly drunk; in some ways, Cheney is the scariest one.

Bush is the decider but it's never as simple as that. At Enron, Kenneth Lay, for example, thought HE was the decider and the company blew up in his face.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Craig, your fourth compulsion fits perfectly; I should've thought of it.

Bush reveals himself as a dwarf among U.S. presidents.

After commenting last night, I got to thinking about the contrast with Kennedy and Johnson. After the Bay of Pigs debacle, Kennedy owned up. After a lot of initial carping, people's respect for him increased.

As the 1968 election season approached, Johnson summoned the grit and intellectual honesty to forgo a run for re-election. He had to admit to himself he had made a horrendous mistake. It broke his heart. I'm sure some part of him wanted to bully it through, insist he was right and people would see that before it was over with. Insist that with all the good things he had done on the domestic side, he deserved a second chance and could win again. That he didn't do that restored much of my respect for him.

As for Cheney, I read him as being the most cynical and devious pol to ever reach as high as the vice president's office. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he has intrigues going on that Bush knows little or nothing about.

11:44 AM  

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