March 09, 2005

Let the Bragging Begin

The NY Times says Bush is not bragging about spreading democracy in the middle east. I don't believe that he's not bragging, but they can't let reality get in the way of a cool headline. So they pretty much let other people brag for him, including Holy Joe and the Big Dog. Thanks again, guys.

He has gone out of his way not to crow, or even to take direct credit. But not quite two years after he began the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and not quite two months after a second Inaugural Address in which he spoke of "ending tyranny," President Bush seems entitled to claim as he did on Tuesday that a "thaw has begun" in the broader Middle East.

At the very least, Mr. Bush is feeling the glow of the recent flurry of impulses toward democracy in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and even Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where events have put him on a bit of a roll and some of his sharpest critics on the defensive. It now seems just possible that Mr. Bush and aides like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz were not wrong to argue that the "status quo of despotism cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or cut off," as the president put it in a speech at the National Defense University here. ...

An article on follows the implications and talks about the implications of this lucky set of coincidences (link in text is in the original):

... Syria has a secular Alawite government. Now that Shi'ites are taking over in Iraq, Shi'ites in Lebanon and especially the Iranian-sponsored and -controlled Shi'ite Hezbollah movement are likely to gain additional political traction as well. Today, we are witnessing the creation of precisely the Shi'ite geopolitical bloc the "Shi'ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon" of which King Abdullah of Jordan warned, without effect, a deluded President Bush.

...Syria had absolutely nothing to gain from the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Hariri. In fact, the assassination was a catastrophe for the Syrian government. It is Osama bin Laden's aim, and perhaps Iran's, to destabilize Lebanon and Syria in order to draw the U.S. in deeper. Instability serves bin Laden's revolutionary purposes and aids Iran by creating new problems for the U.S. in the region.

... The U.S. invasion of Iraq has brought to power long-suppressed Shi'ite majorities and shown Islamists that secular rulers can be overthrown. Change has begun that the U.S. cannot control, change that will exhaust American resources and will.

Which would be every bit in keeping with America's other classic blunders. Look at Afghanistan. It was a 'triumph,' the US had broken the Soviet Union's hold on central Asia. The move led to the breakup of the USSR, even better.

For door prizes, we got Bin Laden and a generation of jihadists who participated in taking down one global superpower during a proxy war and became convinced they could do it again. They were helped along because botched follow through let Afghanistan fall into ruin, and left neighboring countries in the hands of despots.

I guess we all know how that turned out. Today, the bright spot in Russia's other former holdings is that the Eastern bloc nations are doing better, but like Russia, they're major centers of smuggling, human trafficking, unemployment, government corruption, poaching of endangered species and petty thuggeries. In Russia itself, the former KGB morphed into a mafia who still controls the government. Much of Russia's adult population is drinking itself to death, they face a looming AIDS epidemic, and there isn't much work because privatization was carried out as a payoff to the powerful. Both regions are exporting many of their best and brightest.

Oh yeah, and now instead of the Kremlin controlling a big stockpile of closely guarded nuclear weapons that the US was always able to talk them out of using, those weapons are no longer all accounted for.

Other than the psychological thrill of winning, it's hard to say that we're safer in any fundamental way than we were before the USSR faltered in Afghanistan. In fact, in many ways, we're measurably less safe. Threats formerly concentrated are now dispersed. The many guerrilla armies trained up by both sides for proxy fights have left a wake of resentment, paramilitary groups and crime syndicates. It's worth noting that many of today's basketcases once had widely lauded elections or other trappings of democracy, only to fall prey to civil war, successive dictators, or both.

US policy was dictated by a belief that the end always justified the means because our enemies were so evil. When that threat fell, there was nothing useful left to fill in. No one wants the return of the Soviet Union, but maybe thought should have gone into replacing them with something besides chaos and pandemonium. It's offering up foes so much more progressively evil that pretty soon, enemies of the US will no longer be compared in evil to just one hated despot, but to combo packs. Having used up Stalin and Hitler on successive villains, the next badass will have to be a Fidel with a dash of Somoza and an Idi Amin twist presented in a Pol Pot.

These patterns persist because the behavior that creates them persists. We win today, through the same highhanded methods as always, and have to clean up the mess later. Why? Because the story doesn't end like a frakking Jerry Bruckheimer film with a fadeout on a happily ever after when the plainly labeled bad guy and all his possible successors have been dispatched. Something happens today, and miraculously, it can continue to generate consequences for years to come.

There was a lot of gleeful crowing going on when Dubya proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. Did you see that footage used in the 2004 campaign? Me neither. Their tactics haven't changed, no new allies are forthcoming, and US troops aren't getting any more popular in Iraq.

How are they going to get different results tomorrow from perpetuating the same damn things they did yesterday? They're not. We'll win through today's challenges to find a whole set of new and exciting problems similar in degree, which these same people will find old and tedious ways to worsen.

Posted by natasha at March 9, 2005 02:11 AM | International | Technorati links |