The Logic & Peril of Bush’s Foreign Policy

The logic of Bush administration foreign policy from 9/11 on has consistently been that we—the good guys, with God as our guide—face the Devil incarnate in a battle to the death that justifies putting “all options” on the table, including making war on cities (remember Fallujah?), incarcerating whole ethnic groups as punishment for their leaders’ policies (reminiscent of the logic of al Qua’ida that 9/11 was excusable because in a democracy Americans are all responsible for the behavior of their leaders), allowing countries we chose to invade to collapse into chaos because fighting is more important to us than rebuilding societies we have destroyed, or launching nuclear wars of choice against countries who pose no threat simply because we claim they might pose a threat in the future. If the Bush premise is correct—if the collapse of the world is at hand and we are in holy combat against the devil—well, then what’s the mere destruction of societies and death of thousands of bystanders?

Unfortunately for the Bush place in history and the neo-con hopes of remaining in power, things aren’t working out:

  • Al Qua’ida, which pretty much got a pass when the neo-cons in the Bush Administration moved their focus from Afghanistan to the unrelated issue of whether or not to do something about the Iraqi Frankenstein those very same neo-cons had created during the Reagan Administration, remains very much in existence. Moreover, the logic of al Qua’ida’s foreign policy—that they, the good guys, with God as their guide, face the devil incarnate in a battle to the death which justifies all options, including slaughtering innocent civilians in both the enemy camp and among Moslems, provoking civil war among Moslems, and laying traps to trick the “far enemy” (that’s us Westerners) into invading and getting bogged down in Moslem countries—remains intact and possibly more widely accepted across the globe than ever before.
  • Afghanistan, apart from its booming heroin export business, is a disaster. Despite rising NATO commitments, the Taliban resurgence continues.
  • Iraq went downhill from the invasion until 2007, when things appeared to improve slightly as a result of a decision by Moqtada al Sadr temporarily to avoid confrontations with Washington, rising disgust on the part of Sunni Iraqis with the obscene excesses of al Qua’ida, and a decision by Washington to buy off the very Baathist forces whom we invaded to defeat in the first place. But the fundamental problems of a broken polity, destroyed economy, and wrecked society resulting from the U.S. invasion have yet to be effectively addressed.
  • Iran has during this period made such progress in its efforts to become accepted as a regional force that it can successfully celebrate its new-found status in, of all places, the very U.S. colony we just bought and paid for with 3,000 dead Americans, 100,000 dead Iraqis, and 50,000 Americans whose battlefield injuries have permanently ruined their lives. (I did not mention the odd TRILLION dollars spent on the Iraqi invasion because that is not a cost – that is a “transfer” from the generous American people to the loyal American military-industrial complex.)
  • Palestine has become a war zone in which the power of Hamas grows daily. Was that part of the deal the U.S. neo-cons promised their pro-expansion Israeli neo-con buddies: “trust us, rely on our forward-leaning policy of strength through force, and we will deliver unto you a world class political power called Hamas!?!?”
  • Lebanon is on the verge of becoming another war zone (though if it does, it is not likely to remain separate from the Palestine war zone for long). After Israel’s retreat from Lebanon nearly a decade ago–19 years after its 1982 invasion, an apparently (at the time) overwhelming Israeli invasion in 2006 designed to destroy the Hezbollah organization that arose in reaction to the earlier invasion and a yearlong standoff between the government of Lebanon (energetically backed by Washington, Paris, and sundry Arab dictators) and the poor one-third of its population that has always been ignored by official Beirut, there is only one modern political party in Lebanon: Hezbollah. Are we to believe that the strengthening of Hezbollah constituted yet another promise of Washington’s neo-cons to their Likudnik friends?
  • Somalia…the fact that Somalia is even on the list of Bush failure spots tells it all. Somalia is the example par excellence of the rapid spread of American problems around the globe during the Bush years. Needless to say, with the apparent weakening resolve of Washington’s Ethiopian proxy, Somalia looks like another problem the next administration will have thrown in its lap.
  • And then there’s Pakistan, where the incoming elected administration is talking about talking to Islamic militants, while the outgoing dictator winks at U.S. strikes on Pakistani territory.

In sum, the Bush Administration has a problem: by the very logic of its own foreign policy, it has failed. It is very active everywhere but seems in control of almost nothing. If all these wars were designed to take over global oil supplies, they have in fact forced prices over $100 a barrel (for Americans – not for those who pay in Euros), providing nice profits to Venezuela and Iran. If the wars were designed to pacify regions we deem threatening, the threat has in fact greatly increased. And if the wars were after all designed to defeat the Devil, well, the Devil seems to be doing just fine…and the Devil is not a lame duck.

That raises the question of what Bush, in his last months, is going to do about his legacy and the political survival of the neo-cons. The answer is fraught with peril for us all.

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