So Little Time, So Many Regimes to Change
interregnum between November's election and the formal launch in
January of U.S. President George W Bush's second term has a strange
it is that Colin Powell, who until now stayed as close to Washington
as he could to try to prevent Vice President Dick Cheney or Pentagon
chief Donald Rumsfeld from pushing phony intelligence and aggressive
policy advice policies on the president in his absence, has been
traveling virtually all over the world, assuring appropriately skeptical
foreign leaders that Bush will really REALLY be committed
to multilateralism in his second term.
that Powell has been informed his services will no longer be required,
the least-travelled secretary of state in the last generation is
finally getting out to see the sights, even if his credibility as
a spokesman for future US foreign policy is less than it was for
the past four years.
perhaps it is the sense of anticipation in some quarters, dread
in others, of what will actually happen in the coming term.
dread, of course, comes from Democrats, whose somewhat diminished
presence in Congress will make them even more marginal in the second
term than they were in the first.
it is felt by others who consider themselves on the "left"
of the very one-sided US political spectrum, and by "realist"
foreign-policy analysts who are just hoping against hope that the
over-extension of the US military in Iraq and the rapid depletion
of the US Treasury will force Bush to pursue a less ambitious international
agenda, sooner rather than later.
eager anticipation, on the other hand, comes from the now-familiar
coalition of nationalist, neo-conservatives and Christian Right
hawks who still believe that Afghanistan and Iraq were just the
"hors d'oeuvres" to a repast of at least five or six courses.
five-year-olds on Christmas Eve who just cannot wait to tear off
the ribbon and wrapping paper that separates their greedy fingers
from their Christmas presents under the tree, these individuals
are so manic and so fidgety that they just cannot restrain themselves
from blurting out or even shouting repeatedly what they think
Santa Claus had better bring them, OR ELSE!
is as if they had been told by their parents for months as
indeed the hawks had been told by Bush's "consiglieri,"
Karl Rove that if they keep talking about what they really
wanted for Christmas, Santa would not give it to them.
Rove had ordered the hawks to shut up lest they scare the hell out
of the electorate and Bush would lose the election. So, having bottled
it up inside all this time, they are now bursting forth.
course, toy fire engines, Lego and Barbie dolls are not going to
appease this crowd, which has rather bigger things in mind, above
all regime change. Unlike the wish lists that Santa's elves at their
workshops in the fast-disappearing Arctic are toiling overtime to
fill, these lists feature the names of countries and institutions.
one month ago, when "über-hawk" Frank Gaffney, the president
of the Center for Security Policy (CSP) and longtime protégé
of neo-conservative impresario Richard Perle, published what he
called his "checklist of the work the world will demand of
this president and his subordinates in a second term," prominent
hawks have been pushing their own favorite targets for regime change
or simple confrontation from Caracas to North Korea
on what sometimes seems like an hourly basis.
to that the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency,
changes that are already in the works.
calls to action have appeared in all the usual places the
editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New
York Post, the pages and websites of the Weekly Standard
and the National Review, on FoxNews, and the Washington
Times. Somewhat ominously perhaps, they are also reprinted in
the Pentagon's twice-daily "Early Bird" editions
compilations of must reading for senior national-security officials.
is common to almost all of these effusions is the sense that, while
Iraq might not have gone quite as well as anticipated, the "victory"
in Fallujah marked a turning point in the US occupation and January's
elections should permit Washington to begin drawing down its troop
presence in Iraq not long afterwards.
while the United States should still be committed to Iraq for the
long haul, it is time that it came to act on the threats posed by
other "evil" regimes be it by military force, covert action,
"support for the opposition," or simple intimidation.
the top of the list, as they have been for so long, of course, are
Iran and North Korea, whose possession of nuclear weapons is simply
"unacceptable," as the administration itself has said. But others
Syria, Venezuela, China, even Russia, and the latest target,
the United Nations itself are still seen as requiring policies
of active containment, if not "regime change."
news reports that quote "intelligence" and sometimes "military"
sources saying that Syria is now the financial, logistical and planning
hub of the insurgency in Iraq have prompted right-wingers to resurrect
their plans for Damascus, even as President Bashir Assad assures
Washington and Israel he is ready for peace talks without conditions,
and might even be willing to go to Jerusalem and negotiate an agreement
with the United States to secure his border with Iraq.
president's goals in Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, will not
be achieved until the Syrians are forced to halt all assistance
to our enemies," write three officials associated with the
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a neo-conservative
group behind the recent re-creation of the Committee on the President
Danger (CPD), in the Washington Times this week.
of course, gets the most ink, with a constant drumbeat of columns
underlining the duplicity/hypocrisy/naïveté of Britain, France and
Germany for negotiating a nuclear accord with Tehran and the necessity
of an ultimate confrontation, if not because of its nuclear program
than because of the regime's alleged infiltration and subversion
the hawks concede that a full-scale invasion of Iran is not a viable
option, at least for the moment, they insist not only that well-targeted
air strikes (by Washington or Israel) could, at the least, significantly
retard Tehran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon.
they seize on every report of discontent, such as this week's heckling
by university students of President Mohammed Khatami, as evidence
that, as in prewar Iraq, Washington is wildly popular with theologically
oppressed Iranian masses who will be eager, at the very least, to
accept money and rhetorical support already in the works,
according to recent reports from the Bush administration
to put an end to the regime, perhaps as peacefully, even, as in
Korea is another top-ranking target, with, as in Iran, right-wingers
seizing on even more dubious reports of widespread and growing discontent
with the government to bolster their argument for regime change
and at least the preparation for military strikes, despite the fact
that US intelligence does not have the faintest idea where key nuclear
facilities can be found.
about China, whose failure to "deliver" North Korea, along with
its recent multi-billion-dollar energy contract with Iran and persistent
tensions with Taiwan are seen as evidence of potential enmity, is
also being spurred by the hawks, who appear to have resumed their
campaign against "engagement" with Beijing after a three-year
notable in that regard, Dan Blumenthal, until recently Rumsfeld's
senior country director for China and Taiwan, moved recently to
Perle's American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he resurrected
the notion of China as a "strategic competitor" to the United
recent aircraft purchases from Russia have spurred a series of columns,
particularly in the Journal and 'National Review', reminding readers
how close President Hugo Chavez is to Fidel Castro and how determined
he is to curb US influence in the Americas.
the newest and easiest target, of course, is the United Nations,
beginning with Annan, whose resignation over the "oil-for-food"
scandal is being sought by a growing number of Republican lawmakers
in Congress and op-ed hawks whose hatred and contempt for the world
body dates back decades.
find his head in one of those nicely wrapped packages under the
tree would portend a very happy new year and a terrific second term.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service