March 5, 2003

THE HAPLESS HEGEMON
George W. Bush stumbles toward the precipice

The U.S. military is doing its best to bluff it out, but Turkey's decision to opt out has dealt the War Party a crushing blow. They were counting on Turkish compliance, and when that didn't come through, you could almost hear the shifting of gears or was that the screech of brakes?

Occurring shortly after the President's stirring call to democratize the Middle East, the irony that this upset is due to a vote of the recently elected Turkish parliament is too delicious to require any comment. Suffice to say that it didn't take long for Colin Powell to pick up the phone and let the Turks know that they needed to reconsider. Meanwhile, as if to underscore American contempt for democracy, Turkish style, U.S. carriers offloaded 1,000 military vehicles and other equipment at the port of Iskenderun on Sunday, after the vote.

The new plan, apparently, is to airlift U.S. troops into Kurdistan, but the number of airfields that could receive them is limited, and there is still the question of using Turkish airspace which Ankara's ambassador to the U.S. says has to be negotiated. But even if Turkey relents, U.S. soldiers may not find themselves welcomed in Kurdistan. The price the Turks want is the quashing of any attempt by Kurdistan to declare its independence. In that case, American GIs may be caught in the crossfire between Turkish troops and Kurdish guerrillas, quite apart from any threat posed by the Iraqi military.

The Kurds, for their part, are not mollified by the Turks' apparent reluctance to get involved, and are preparing for war against Ankara, not Baghdad. Thousands turned out in the Kurdish city of Irbil the other day, as the Washington Post reported, carrying signs that said "Down with Turkey, Up with the United States!" Turkish television broadcast images of Kurds burning Turkish flags, while also filming the offloading of U.S. military equipment in defiance of the parliamentary vote. No wonder the Turkish government doesn't want to submit another resolution: it could easily lose by a bigger margin.

Aside from the political complications, however, even the smoothest transition to Plan B would result in a bottleneck on the northern front: General Barry McCaffrey estimates a three week delay in the administration's war plans. But that may be an understatement. While the Americans are not likely to be very forthcoming about the necessary change in their battle plans, the Israelis were quick to make a realistic analysis, as Ha'aretz reports:

"The United States could launch an attack on Iraq as early as next week if allowed by Turkey to use its bases, Major General Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash), Director of Military Intelligence, said Tuesday. 'If the United States is allowed to deploy its forces in Turkey, the attack in Iraq could open on any given day, beginning next week,' Ze'evi told Channel Two television. Without Turkish approval, the U.S. could postpone the war until April or May, he said."

Rumors of a temporary peace abound. The Israelis raise the possibility in a tone of disappointment, but others see hope in this scenario. Capitol Hill Blue reports that certain advisors to the President are so eager to avoid "a humiliating defeat before the United Nations" that they are for calling the whole thing off, at least for the immediate future:

"'We've always needed an exit strategy,' admits one White House aide. 'Circumstances have given us one. We shouldn't ignore it.'"

The only effective "exit strategy" is one that avoids war altogether, and these nameless "senior advisors" aren't alone in reaching this conclusion. Never mind the anti-war movement: the Old Guard in the Pentagon is still putting up roadblocks on the President's path to war. The grumbling has gotten so loud that the warmongering civilians of the chickenhawk persuasion were forced to publicly attack General Eric K. Shinseki's testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers would be necessary" to police post-war Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz deemed Shinseki's estimate "way off the mark." What does the Army's chief of staff know? Wolfowitz, after all, has plenty of combat experience, albeit of a different sort than Shinseki's.

The Wolf and his fellow wolves hunt the corridors of power, and the casualties lie thick on the ground. Inside this administration, and on the Right generally, the neoconservative faction has routed the enemy, purging all internal opposition. A small army of them former lefties (or liberals) turned right-wingers, for the most part invaded the conservative movement in the 1970s in droves. This war is their victory celebration.

As I pointed out last week, however, events may be conspiring to deprive them of their moment of glory. Readers of this space were not surprised by the Turkish reversal, having been forewarned well in advance that the deal was "by no means a foregone conclusion." Nor were they all that taken aback when Pyongyang fired up its nuclear reactor, and intercepted a U.S. spy plane. As I put it last Wednesday:

"And on the other side of the world, the North Koreans are demanding our attention. As Colin Powell, Japanese Prime Minister Junichero Koizumi, and other dignitaries arrived in Seoul to attend the inauguration ceremony installing Roh Moo-hyun as South Korea's new President, the North Koreans launched a missile into the Sea of Japan, as if to say: 'Trouble is on the way.'"

Remember, you read it here first.

It is not inconceivable that war in Iraq may yet be averted. But only because war in Eastasia is imminent. Last year, when the gnomish Kim Il Jong, like Mr. Mxyzptlk, first materialized this crisis out of thin air, I wrote:

"We may have been saved from the prospect of war in the Middle East only to be faced with an even greater crisis on the other side of the Asian landmass. We are out of the frying pan, and into the fire and isn't that the story of empires throughout history?"

It is all a matter of timing. North Korea's march toward becoming a full-fledged nuclear power has accelerated, and no one least of all the South Koreans doubts their willingness to launch a preemptive strike. One South Korean newspaper reports that the warhead of a North Korean missile has been found in Alaska! As more U.S. military forces are hurriedly deployed in the region, the Cowboy Caesar for the first time declares that war is not out of the question an imperial edict that must have sent a shudder of horror through Roh Moo-hyun and his newly-installed government.

The hapless hegemon stumbles over its own feet as it makes its grand entry onto the world stage. The Americans, the world notes, have none of the finesse of their British predecessors. A clumsy giant, apparently half blind, stumbles into a bottomless quagmire, and the world wonders: will he drag the rest of us down with him?

The complications caused by the Turkish defection, the North Korean eruption, the entreaties of our allies none of this shows any sign of deterring the Bushies. Not even the fast-softening domestic support for this war, and the President's simultaneous drop in the polls, have so much as slowed them down. That this administration is still hurtling toward war with Iraq at warp speed is the full measure of its utter recklessness, its fanatic irresponsibility, and its unfitness to rule.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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