Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stark Choices for Vacationing President Bush

What we need is this:
It is the sort of moment when peace and history could be hanging in the balance for a generation to come—the kind of tipping point when American presidents can no longer leave the negotiating to underlings. They must take the world stage themselves to find a new way out, simply because no one else has the globo-oomph to do so...


With matters flying out of control, the president can no longer merely hold occasional news conferences and utter his simple, already hoary formula that all terrorists are the same and that they all want to halt the advance of liberty. Not at a time when it's clear to everybody that the advance of liberty, messy as it is, has actually empowered Islamist parties in Iraq, in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories, and when Hezbollah and Iran want something quite different from Al Qaeda. Even Bush's domestic audience—to which he mainly directs his comments—no longer buys the absurdly one-dimensional notion that all terrorists are the same, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll that shows a majority of Americans now separate what's happening in Iraq from the war on terror.

Nor can Bush merely rely on making the occasional phone call, as he did to Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday over the North Korea problem.

The world faces more than a security vacuum. What we are suffering is a vacuum of global leadership. That is why the "international community"—always a tenuous concept at best—seems to be coming apart at the seams, why China and Russia are going their own way, why the Europeans are clucking around like headless chickens, why the moderates in the Mideast have fallen silent. Bush must recognize that the world is not following his lead, if it ever did, and that he needs to change his tack. He needs to jump in with both feet.

But what we may get is this:
Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

Some policy makers have accused intelligence agencies of playing down Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s recent attacks against Israel and overestimating the time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

The complaints, expressed privately in recent weeks, surfaced in a Congressional report about Iran released Wednesday. They echo the tensions that divided the administration and the Central Intelligence Agency during the prelude to the war in Iraq.

The criticisms reflect the views of some officials inside the White House and the Pentagon who advocated going to war with Iraq and now are pressing for confronting Iran directly over its nuclear program and ties to terrorism, say officials with knowledge of the debate.

Michael Hersh of Newsweek is on the right track in the first article though he makes concessions to the usual neoconservative nonsense about Iran, etc., and I doubt that Bush is even capable of being the kind of global leader we need at the moment, but Bush is capable of recalling Colin Powell and bringing along a couple of more prominent figures to a series of summits on these issues; Bush could also help himself by leaving behind the usual PR flacks who tend to slow things down. And maybe journalists around the world could stand to have their own conference to hash out some of the misconceptions flying around.

In the second article above, Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times does us considerable service by reminding us that many of the incompetents who gave us the Iraq fiasco are anxious to attack a major oil-producing nation with a population nearly three times bigger than Iraq without any serious effort at diplomacy; with this group, war is never a last resort and paranoia is found under every potted plant; once again, the worse kind of thinking from the Cold War era rears its head:
The consensus of the intelligence agencies is that Iran is still years away from building a nuclear weapon. Such an assessment angers some in Washington, who say that it ignores the prospect that Iran could be aided by current nuclear powers like North Korea. “When the intelligence community says Iran is 5 to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon, I ask: ‘If North Korea were to ship them a nuke tomorrow, how close would they be then?” said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

If Gingrich is going to fantasize, he might as well go all the way and assume that Iran has already has a hundred nuclear weapons in secret locations around the world; in which case, neogotiations, not war, would make far more sense. It is astonishing that Newt Gingrich wishes to be taken seriously after his many miscues. Fantasizing about the state of world affairs without a shred of evidence is not a good qualification for president. Unfortunately, Bush has people who work for him that think like this:
“The people in the community are unwilling to make judgment calls and don’t know how to link anything together,” one senior United States official said.

“We’re not in a court of law,” he said. “When they say there is ‘no evidence,’ you have to ask them what they mean, what is the meaning of the term ‘evidence’?”

Given the dismal record of this kind of thinking so far, Bush could make a great stride towards world peace simply by firing any number of neocons and other members of the gang that can't shoot straight, and then hiring some adults with some measure of sanity. We survived the Cold War because adults were in charge; without question, the adults were not flawness, but they were far preferable to any number of characters on the far right who had an itch to nuke anybody on a feeling or a rumor without much regard for considering what the consequences might be.


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