The President's Dream World

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To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Zbig’s Assessment

The Gallup Poll last week reported that 46% of respondents said
President Bush should be impeached if it could be shown he purposely
misled the nation to war with Iraq. But unless living in a make-believe
world is an impeachable offense, I don’t think that idea is going
anywhere. Senator Chuck Hagel [R NB] thinks the administration is
“disconnected from reality,” which is how I’ve always thought of
the President’s disconnect. It was his underlings, the neo-cons
who misled him into war – by building a phony story and implanting
it in his mind, a story to which he still clings to justify the
costs of the war in blood and treasure. His speech to the nation
in prime time on Tuesday, trying to rally the nation to his side,
completely failed in its objective, as the American people can now
see the disconnect from reality and know Iraq is a quagmire as impossible
to win as Vietnam was in its last stages.

The best assessment I saw of the speech was the op-ed in Thursdays
Financial Times by Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security
Advisor in the Carter administration. He also sees the President
living in a dream world, one of his own making, and offers constructive
criticism of the kind we have not seen from any of the elected Democrats.
That’s probably because Zbig correctly sees the Palestinian issue
as part and parcel of the conflict in Iraq, and neither political
party wants to take on Israel on that issue.

hollow fiction of Iraq war

By Zbigniew Brzezinski

Like a novelist who wishes to inject verisimilitude into his fiction,
George W. Bush, US president, began his speech on Iraq with a reference
to a historical fact all too tragically well known to his audience.
The evocation of the monstrous crime of September 11, 2001 served
as his introduction to the spin that followed: that Iraq was complicit
in 9/11 and thus, in effect, attacked the US; that the US had no
choice but to defend itself against Iraq's aggression; and, finally,
that if America does not fight terrorists in Iraq, they will swarm
across the ocean to attack America.

Since fiction is not ruled by the same standards as history, Mr
Bush was under no obligation to refer to his own earlier certitude
about Iraqi u201Cweapons of mass destructionu201D (or, rather, to their
embarrassing absence), or to the inept sequel of the initially successful
US military campaign; or to the fact that the occupation of Iraq
is turning it into a huge recruitment centre for terrorists. Similarly,
there was no need to deal with the perplexing fact that the Iraqi
insurgency does not appear to be in u201Cits last throes,u201D or with the
complex choices that the US now confronts.

But a more disturbing aspect of the speech was the absence of any
serious discussion of the wider regional security problems and their
relationship to the Iraqi conundrum. That connection poses the danger
that America risks becoming irrelevant to the Middle East — largely
through Mr Bush's own doing. Much depends on how long the US pursues
unrealistic goals in Iraq. And on whether the US becomes seriously
engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, on how the US
relationship with Iran is managed and on how the advocacy of democracy
in the Middle East is pursued.

The reality in Iraq is that 135,000 American soldiers cannot create
a stable u201Cdemocracyu201D in a society rent by intensifying ethnic and
religious conflicts. US military commanders, contradicting Mr. Bush,
have publicly stated that the insurgency is not weakening. It is
useful to recall in this regard Henry Kissinger's wise observation
(made in regard to the war in Vietnam but pertinent here) that guerrillas
are winning if they are not losing. The longer US troops are involved
in Iraq, the more victory will remain u201Con the horizonu201D — that is,
a goal that recedes as one moves towards it.

the Iraqis can establish a modicum of stability in Iraq, and that
can be achieved only by Shia-Kurdish co-operation. These two communities
have the power to entice or to crush the less numerous Sunnis. Hence
the immediate goal of US policy should be to develop a dialogue
with self-sufficient Shia and Kurdish leaders about the circumstances
in which they could issue a public demand for American disengagement.

All this would be far less risky if accompanied by serious progress
in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. That progress has to go
beyond the Gaza disengagement or a renewal of reciprocal violence
is to be expected. Progress requires US involvement and a willingness
to press both parties with real resolve and towards clear goals.
Equivocation, partiality toward one side and the temptation to evade
this issue are prescriptions for continued conflict.

Similarly, US withdrawal from Iraq could be made more difficult
and costly by any escalation in US-Iranian hostility. Iran has not
taken full advantage of the opportunities for mischief but the temptation
to do so would increase if American policy towards it again conflated
the issue of nuclear power with the pursuit of u201Cregime change.”
There is little indication that the White House is sensitive to
this reality.

Democracy in the Middle East is a worthy goal but one that the people
of the region can pursue only on their own terms. Public hectoring
by US officials is likely to promote the emergence of radical populist
regimes motivated by strong anti-American (and anti-Israeli) passions.

The fictionalised account of America's war against terror in Iraq
failed to take into account the reality that the conflict there
mobilises hostility towards the US, that the persistence of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict stimulates regional anger against America,
that continued US threats of u201Cregime changeu201D in Iran harden Iranian
enmity towards the country and that heavy handed advocacy of democracy
poses the risk of legitimising populist hostility toward it. In
explaining the causes of imperial failure, Arnold Toynbee ultimately
ascribed it to u201Csuicidal statecraft.u201D Of course, he was dealing
with history and not fiction.

4, 2005

Wanniski [send him mail] runs
the financial/political advisory service

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