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Wrong Man, Wrong Place, Wrong Time
February 13, 2002
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world, and demonstrates that the Bush administration is incapable of shedding the straightjacket of its tired, old, and outdated world view.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 and Iraq.

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 proved correct.

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 measure.

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 world.

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.

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