Man, Wrong Place, Wrong Time
by Kevin Raybould (kcr)
It has been fashionable lately among conservative commentators
to credit God with placing George W. Bush in the White House
(we can only hope that they mean the Christian God, not Antonin
Scalia). Perhaps, but only if God really, really dislikes
the United States of America.
Despite the adulation of a subservient press desperate to
have its choice in 2000 validated, George W. Bush is in every
way conceivable exactly the wrong man to confront the challenges
that face America in the twenty-first century - and he is
not afraid to prove it.
In short order, the Bush administration drew international
concern for its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay;
abandoned fuel efficiency standards designed to lessen American
dependence on oil (potentially removing one source of terrorist
funding); fully committed the United States to propping up
the government of Columbia militarily; drew international
outrage with its designation of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea
as an "axis of evil"; attempted to push through "fast track"
trade authority under the guise of fighting terrorism; and
proposed a budget that is clearly inadequate for the challenges
that lie ahead.
At every turn, the Bush administration has chosen a direction
that weakens the United States, weakens the cause of democracy
around the world, and demonstrates that the Bush administration
is incapable of shedding the straightjacket of its tired,
old, and outdated world view.
The proposed 2002 budget provides a perfect illustration
of this phenomenon. The military budget includes not one,
not two, but three short range fighter jets, all designed
to fulfill essentially the same mission. It also includes
money for the development and purchase of the Carlisle Group's
massive and essentially immobile artillery system.
Apparently, the people who drew up this budget do not understand
that Al-Qaeda is not the Soviet Union - no regiments of Al-Qaeda
tanks are likely to sweep into the Fulda Gap anytime soon.
The military challenge presented by the Al-Qaeda is universally
recognized to require a more high tech, mobile, and flexible
military. The money wasted on three identical fighter jets
and massive, utterly useless artillery systems - among other
misdirected priorities - could be much better spent helping
to build the military needed to face our real challenges.
The Bush Administration's foreign, trade and energy policies
show this same alarming disconnect with present realities.
The United States is not engaged primarily in a clash of armies,
but rather in a clash of ideas. The Bush Administration does
not seem to realize this. Instead of strengthening democracies
and regard for the idea of democracy, their policies seem
designed to destroy whatever regard the rest of the world
has for the American system.
By abandoning easily obtainable higher fuel efficiency standards
and designing its energy policy around oil and other fossil
fuels at the expense of renewable sources, the Bush administration
has indefinitely prolonged American addiction to foreign oil.
Two of the largest suppliers of that addiction are Saudi Arabia
The official policy of the Saudi government is to spread
a form of fundamentalist Islam that is diametrically opposed
to such staples of liberal democracy as freedom of expression,
religious tolerance, and free and open elections. Iraq's oil
profits are supposed to go to humanitarian purposes, but most
foreign intelligence experts maintain that a large percentage
actually goes to propping up Sadam's oppressive regime and
furthering his chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programs.
As long as the United States is dependent upon these nations
for its energy, and hence its economic health, there can be
no serious attempt to steer them towards more democratic societies.
The Bush administration's inability to see past its beginnings
in the oil industry has committed the United States to a program
of supporting repressive regimes at the expense of supporting
democratic movements in the Arab world, and pushed back the
day of reckoning for terrorism.
The Bush Administration's trade policies follow the same
alarming pattern. One of the reasons terrorists find easy
recruits is the fact that their argument that globalization
and free trade is destructive to ordinary people is very often
The Bush administration is on record as believing that the
types of worker protections that could alleviate some of the
problems with globalization have no part in trade agreements.
In order to ensure that such protections are never introduced
to trade agreements, the Bush administration has pushed aggressively
for the right to negotiate trade agreements in whole, with
no input from Congress. Somewhat surprisingly, this retreat
from the battle of ideas is being hailed as a necessary anit-terrorism
Bush's Colombian policies only reinforce the terrorists arguments.
The Bush administration has decided to take a direct hand
in the Colombian civil war by providing extra money and advisors
to protect an oil pipeline. In doing so, it has aligned itself
with a government that is widely believed to be directly funding
right wing hit squads that are terrorizing unions and union
employees, often to the benefit of American corporations.
Once again, the Bush Administration's inability to recognize
the new world around them is aiding the terrorists.
Perhaps most disturbing, the Bush foreign policy seems almost
deliberately designed to increase world tension, alienate
partners needed to track the terrorists, and discourage the
spread of democracy. In his State of the Union address, Bush
did not announce new increases in foreign aid programs designed
to foster democratic societies, but did label Iran, North
Korea and Iraq as an "axis of evil," implying that the next
stage of the War on Terrorism would be directed towards them.
That policy seems almost deliberately designed to damage the
United States, and damage its attempts to build a democratic
Iran is in the midst of a power struggle between the reformist
lead parliament and the conservative religious authorities.
So far, the reformists have been holding their own, and are
clearly winning the battle for the hearts and minds of their
citizens. Now, however, the Bush administration has placed
the reformists squarely on the defensive by making their attempts
at détente with the United States a political liability. Very
few political factions survive associated with a nation bent
on their country's destruction.
North Korea is by no means a democracy, but it is a rapidly
weakening country who has recently proven amenable to trading
concessions regarding its missile and nuclear development
programs for food and economic aid. Unfortunately, the Bush
administration's fiery rhetoric has the potential of undoing
the last several years of progress, and plunge the peninsula
back to the brink of massive war. It should also be noted
that North Korea has no connection to Al-Qaeda.
Then there is Iraq, a nation that is not democratizing, and
not making serious efforts to rejoin the international community.
However, it also has not committed a terrorist act since 1993,
and its neighbors fear its dissolution more than its current
leader. In other words, the world sees an attack on Iraq as
pointless, dangerous, and unnecessary at this time - and we
need the world to fight terrorism. It is other nations that
have arrested the lion's share of terrorists since September
11th, and it is other nation's intelligence forces that will
enable the United States to track terrorists and their finances.
Unfortunately, it does not appear the Bush Administration
is aware of even this most basic reality.
Time and time again, the Bush Administration has proven that
it is tied to the past. Unfortunately for us, the year is
2002, not 1980, and the War on Terrorism is not a new Cold
War. It will require new ideas, new ways of doing things,
and a new appreciation for the power of democracy and democratic
ideals to combat the appeals of terrorists.
The Bush Administration has shown no appreciation for these
new realities, and no sign that it is capable of adapting
to the new world evolving around them. They are clearly adrift,
clinging to old ways and old rationalization to justify their
dangerous and counterproductive activities.
It is long past time for someone to say enough. It is long
past time for us to stop indulging the Bush Administration's
tired old, outdated ways. It is long past time for the United
States of America to start to earnestly fight this war of
ideas. The Bush Administration has watched as the world passed
by them, and it is long past time someone made them see reality.