Category Archives: foreign policy

Focus

I told myself I wasn’t going to pay much attention to Bush’s farewell speech, but when he said this, I just can’t let it pass:

“As the years passed most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.”

If that were the case why did he lose focus on the obvious location of the the threat—the Afghan/Pakistan border region?   Instead he launched an unrelated war in Iraq.  It seems to me that Bush’s life returned to normal very shortly after 9/11.  He had wanted to overthrow Saddam long before 9/11 and, after launching an attack on Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, he quickly returned to business as usual.

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Legacy of Bush

From an LA Times op-ed:

“Reporting from Jerusalem — The images from the fighting in Gaza are harrowing but ultimately deceptive. They portray a mighty invading army, one equipped with F-16 jets that have bombed a civilian population defended by a few thousand fighters armed with primitive rockets. But widen the lens and the true nature of this conflict emerges. Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, is a proxy for the real enemy Israel is confronting: Iran.”

And why is Iran so powerful in the Middle East these days?  One obvious answer is that George Bush decided to remove Saddam from power in Iraq.  The foreseeable and foreseen consequence of this was the empowerment of a Iran-leaning, Shiite majority in Iraq.  A newly threatened Israel is one of the Bush legacies.

Strangely enough, the authors of this piece  welcome the new enemy because now “the Middle East conflict is no longer just about creating a Palestinian state but about preventing the region’s takeover by radical Islam.” This, they say, presents Israel with  “a unique chance to deal a strategic blow” beginning with their operation against Hamas.

Jeebus.  As to what form this “strategic blow” might take, we aren’t told (invade and occupy Lebanon, Gaza, Iran, Syria???).  All I can say is that Israel’s only real hope seems to be the “two state solution” and that will happen only when passions are defused, and moderates are empowered enough to negotiate it.

Radicals want the opposite.  Like al Qaeda, Hamas would like nothing better than to portray themselves a leaders of grand fight between Islam and the west, with themselves going eyeball to eyeball with Israel.  If the “middle east conflict is no longer about the creation of a Palestinian state but a fight between Israel and radical Islam”, I don’t see how this moves the process forward.

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Joe’s voyage to the dark side (cont’d)

Ever wonder how Joe Lieberman went from Al Gore’s VP to George Bush’s main cheerleader in less than a decade? Joe explains it today in the Wall Street Journal. It all began back in 2000 when Al Gore

…. championed a freedom-focused foreign policy, confident of America’s moral responsibilities in the world, and unafraid to use our military power. He pledged to increase the defense budget by $50 billion more than his Republican opponent – and, to the dismay of the Democratic left, made sure that the party’s platform endorsed a national missile defense.

By contrast, in 2000, Gov. George W. Bush promised a “humble foreign policy” and criticized our peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

Today, less than a decade later, the parties have completely switched positions. The reversal began, like so much else in our time, on September 11, 2001. … If the Democratic Party had stayed where it was in 2000, America could have confronted the terrorists with unity and strength in the years after 9/11.

Instead a debate soon began within the Democratic Party about how to respond to Mr. Bush… . [A]ctivists have successfully pulled the Democratic Party further to the left than it has been at any point in the last 20 years.

Where to begin… . Maybe by pointing out that there was virtually no “debate in the Democratic Party” when the response to 9/11 involved responding to the people who actually attacked us. That would be bin Laden in Afghanistan; Iraq did not attack us. Why do we need to keep pointing this out? Second, does Lieberman actually think a President Gore would have pursued Bush’s foreign policy and invaded Iraq? Maybe he missed Gore’s speech on the subject back in 2004.

Somehow Lieberman has convinced himself that the militant nationalism advocated by Bush and McCain is a natural evolution of the liberal internationalism of Roosevelt and Truman. Nothing could be further from the truth. But that doesn’t stop Joe.

He’s even adopted the “enemy within” rhetoric of the Bush-McCain crowd. Obama, he says, has “kowtowed to his party’s left wing” on national security. Democrats, he says, “have become confused lately about “the difference between America’s friends and America’s enemies.”

I can hardly wait for his speech at the GOP convention.

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Defenseless Dems

I was listening to a political talk show recently and the conversation went something like this:

  • Pundit A: It’s outrageous that Hillary is using these low-ball tactics like the “who do YOU want to answer the 3AM phone call” ad. It just plays into Republican strength on national defense. She even said that either she or McCain would be a better commander in chief than Obama”.
  • Pundit B: Yes, its terrible, but it might be irrelevant since this election could easily turn on the issue of the economy. The GOP’s only hope is to have everyone focus on security issues.

I know what they are saying. Republicans have the reputation for “strength” and “national defense”. But why? In one of the countless “if a Democrat had done that” thought experiments imagine the 9/11 attacks had happened with Al Gore as president. Clearly the GOP would be yelping and yowling about Democratic weakness on defense and security, but here’s the difference: large sections of the public would believe them. We’d all be convinced that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened with Republican in charge.

But given that the GOP was in charge—not to mention went on to a myriad of other defense and security fiascoes—why do Democrats still consider the GOP untouchable on defense issues.? “This election has to be about the economy”, they say. Frickin’ A.

I don’t know that I have an answer, but it seems to me the Dems need to confront this issue head on. My prediction is that if party A grants the national security issue to party B, Party A will only win 2 out of 7 presidential elections.

As it turns out, that’s exactly the number of times Republicans have won since 1980. Even then, the Dems only won in 1992 because Ross Perot sucked votes away from Bush I—Clinton won, but only got 43% of the vote. We could have had 28 straight years of Republican presidents—-and Supreme completely packed with Alito’s and Scalia’s.

After Bush’s 9/11 and Iraq fiascoes there should have been no way he could have won in 2004. In 2008, after more of the same, polls show McCain and whoever running very close. It shouldn’t be close. In my opinion it’s largely a perception, but whatever the reason, Dems have a problem with defense and security issues.

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Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at a rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan has created political chaos–and possibly civil war–in one of the most dangerous areas of the world. The punditocracy are worrying about the threat posed by an unstable Pakistan. What if al Qaeda or extremist Muslim groups take control?

Good question. But for me Bhutto’s assassination has simply highlighted what has been the case for 20 years: the threat of Muslim extremism emanates from Afghanistan and Pakistan–not from the place Bush and Cheney chose to emphasize after 9/11. So the question posed by an unstable Pakistan isn’t merely what to do, its why have we ignored it? Why did we risk encouraging and empowering al Qaeda by invading an oil-rich Muslim country unconnected to al Qaeda? Why aren’t Bush and Cheney and others who enabled that fiasco held accountable? Why doesn’t public opinion drive them from office?

Was Bhutto’s death avoidable? Who knows? But there is little question that our presence in Iraq empowered al Qaeda and the radicals inside Pakistan who are likely responsible for her death. There is little question that our military is weakened because of it, and our influence around the world diminished.

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