AGE OF DUPLICITY
Sept. 8th Associated Press report continued: "'The government
of Indonesia is responsible for bringing order and peace to
East Timor,' Cohen said. He did not spell out what U.S. reaction
would be but repeated assertions that the United States cannot
act as the world's policeman and has to be selective in crises
where it commits troops." Cohen didn't just deny that
the U.S. had plans to send troops to East Timor, he repeatedly
enunciated a broader principle: the United States cannot
act as the world's policeman. Now we find out that it
can indeed be the world's policeman, at least as far as East
Timor is concerned. What kind of two-faced double-talking
double-dealing is this? And what is even more astonishing
is that the lying passes not only unremarked on, but also
virtually unnoticed. Are we so inured to duplicity in everything
that we no longer bother to note that it is even occurring?
the Clintonians don't just lie out of high principle, or even
just for the fun of it (except, perhaps, in the President's
case): there is a strategic point to the complete lack of
honesty in foreign policy matters, and this is illustrated
in the Administration's use of Cohen to run interference with
the Republicans. For a week the Defense Secretary had the
Republicans sufficiently mollified to forestall any action
on their part, while the Administration furiously lobbied
for support among the internationalists of both parties. It
was a clever ruse, and it worked as it worked in Bosnia,
in Kosovo, and in every intervention (major and minor) undertaken
by Clinton & Company. They fall for it every time.
words are the language of this scurrilous Administration,
and their style of operation is almost more damaging to our
republic than their policies. For the fog of war has become
permanent: it is impossible to tell, in war or peace,
what rash action the U.S. government is capable of from one
moment to the next. This is what it means to be the World's
Only Superpower reckless, capricious, and highly egregious.
can't get much more weasely than the linguistic knots administration
officials tie themselves into in a futile effort to convince
us that this intervention is "limited," as you'll
note Clinton made a point of saying: But at the Pentagon,
it was a slightly different story, with Navy Vice Admiral
Scott Fry telling reporters that the U.S. could cave in to
Aussie demands for additional U.S. troops. "The door
has got to stay open,'' said Fry. And there was a slightly
different spin coming from Pentagon mouthpiece Kenneth Bacon:
"We're comfortable with the contribution we've made so
far. We're comfortable with our offer to consider additional
requests. And without ruling anything in or out, we'll just
have to wait and see what requests, if any, come forward."
(WIDE) OPEN DOOR POLICY
will Clinton do? In the words of our officials and their spokesmen,
the policy is: nothing is ruled in, nothing is ruled out
and anything is possible. From "The Yanks Are Not Coming,"
the song U.S. officials were singing last week, it has come
down to "Ask, And Ye Shall Receive" and that
inside of a single week! At this rate, I hate to think how
deep we will be sunk in this quagmire a month from now. The
same day Cohen denied we were sending any troops, Sandy Berger
chimed in with: "Because we bombed in Kosovo doesn't
mean we have to bomb in Dili." Dili my eye Jakarta
is more like it.
President was cautious enough to warn of the possibility of
casualties in the course of this open-ended operation, and
no sooner had he spoken than the pretense of Indonesian compliance
was already collapsing. Yesterday, Indonesia canceled its
treaty of cooperation with Australia, blasting the Aussies'
"arrogance" in a sharply-worded statement by Feisal
Tanjung, the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political
and Security Affairs: "The government of Indonesia deeply
regrets Australia's attitude, which has damaged the bilateral
agreement with Indonesia, as shown by Australia's decision
to stop military cooperation and help as well as receiving
cooperation in the field of security." Meanwhile, thousands
of nationalist students demonstrated outside the UN mission
in Jakarta, burning U.S., and Australian flags and accusing
the UN of rigging the recent referendum in which some 70 percent
of the East Timorese population voted against the central
government's autonomy plan. With the military already out
of control, the prospect of "rogue" Indonesian troops
engaging in combat with their Australian "saviors"
is more than likely. How long before we have to bail our Australian
as the Kosovo intervention was justified by the U.S. government
in the name of preserving NATO, so the East Timor expeditionary
force will be rationalized in the name of the Australian-U.S.
partnership, which goes back to World War II. But that isn't
all . . .
President, in announcing his decision in favor of a supposedly
"limited" military intervention, declared that "this
mission is in America's interest for several reasons. Indonesia's
future is important to us not only because of its resources
and its sea lanes, but for its potential as a leader in the
region, and the world." And so now we have extended U.S.
hegemony not only over the whole of Europe, the Middle East,
the Korean peninsula, and North and South America, but we
have also decided that it is time to annex the world's sea
lanes. Next step: the Moon and Mars.
the dark days of the Cold War, sea-lane hysteria was at least
a plausible reaction to instability in the region. Cold Warrior
policymakers could point to the ever-present danger of the
Soviet Union and its regional allies, including the Vietnamese
and the various guerrilla insurgencies that owed allegiance
to either Moscow or Beijing. But outside of the Cold War context,
this insistence that we must control every port and way station
in an archipelago of some 15,000 islands is entirely irrational.
For who is going to block the sea-lanes and forbid
passage to oil shipments bound for Japan and beyond?
WILL STAND AGAINST US?
not the Indonesian government, which is in enough financial
trouble as it is and certainly not any of the secessionist
movements, such as the Aceh Liberation Front or the rebels
of Irian Java, should they come to power. Will the navy of
the Aceh Liberation Front a couple of dinghies, and
a fleet of hollowed-out logs block all shipping from
passing through their waters? As a military project, not to
mention as an economic program, such an action by a newly
independent government would make little sense, aside from
being entirely ineffective. The point is that it matters not
one whit to the freedom of the sea-lanes whether Indonesia
breaks up, or remains intact. We have no vital national interest
anywhere near Indonesia, and Clinton knows it.
usual, our President is lying: his reasons for intervening,
like his decision to free the Puerto Rican terrorists of the
FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation), are entirely political,
having more to do with the domestic landscape than events
on the ground in East Timor. To begin with, he is under pressure
from his Left not only from the Barney Franks of this
world, and the "East Timor solidarity network" crunchy
granola leftists who want the U.S. to intervene on the side
of the Fretilin Marxist guerrillas, but he is also being pressured
internationally, by his fellow "Third Way" comrades in the
British Labor Party.
Blair is sending in the British Gurkhas, known for their toughness,
as "peacekeepers" alongside the 4,500 Australians
due to land on Saturday. The Australian section of the Socialist
International, the opposition Labor Party, is looking to its
British and American cousins to carry the banner of Blairite
"internationalism" into the South Asian arena: this
will give the party a political issue to use against Howard
in the upcoming elections With the warmongering Australian
unions, the base of the party, calling for Indonesian blood,
the Aussie Laborites are pressing the issue, with the more
rabid warmongers posing the possibility of literally declaring
war on Jakarta.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND"
politics of this intervention are underscored by the remonstrations
between Australia and the U.S. over the issue, with the latter
bitter about Prime
Minister John Howard's call for "U.S. boots on the ground."
U.S. officials are reportedly angry that the Australians had
underestimated the extent of the East Timor problem. The opposition
Labor Party has gone on the offensive, frantically beating
the war drums and pouncing on a
report in the Australian Financial Review of a
highly-placed Indonesian spy in either the office of the Minister
of Defense or within the intelligence service. With the Australian
Laborites even more belligerent than Tony Blair the
Maggie Thatcher of the Third Way Howard's government
has made many requests for additional assistance from
the U.S., including more Americans in the occupation (ooops!
I mean, "peacekeeping") force. If Washington is
waiting to "see what requests, if any, come forward,"
as Bacon puts it, then perhaps it is waiting to hear the request
from a Labor government. Or, then again, it may be forced
to act sooner, as events in the region veer out of control.
noticed throughout this crisis is that China is watching the
situation intently, and is "very much concerned about
the development of the situation in East Timor," as
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan put it. He also
announced that China is not going to sit on the sidelines
while the fate of nearby Indonesia is decided by the West.
Tang took the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) forum to make it known that China was considering whether
to contribute to the UN peacekeeping force, and yesterday
it was confirmed that China
will indeed contribute "police forces" to the
multinational corps of gendarmes. This underscores the potential
volatility of the Indonesian meltdown. Indonesian nationalist
elements have long agitated against Chinese immigrant merchants,
whose income is considerably higher than that the native population:
riots regularly break out, with hundreds if not thousands
of Chinese routed from their homes and many killed and injured.
If another outbreak of Indonesian nationalism occurs, and
resentment of foreigners continues to rise, as is happening
right now, then the Chinese are likely targets. As to how
Chinese cops sent by Beijing will react to anti-Chinese riots
let your imagination roam free.
described the situation in Indonesia as a meltdown, and with
each passing day this assessment seems almost certain, The
government of B. J. Habibie is rapidly losing whatever authority
it once had, as financial scandals rock Habibie's party: and
now the loss of East Timor, which has both the Indonesian
right as well as the left up in arms, has further undermined
his legitimacy. With the Aceh Liberation Front, which has
fought for independence nearly as long as the Fretilin of
East Timor, now calling for a UN-sponsored referendum on independence,
can there be any doubt that many others perhaps dozens
of islets and sub-archipelagos are headed in the same
reaction from Jakarta, and from the Indonesian people, is
hardly going to be passive. A
recent news photo shows a young protester of not more
than fifteen or sixteen holding a placard that reads: "Australian
Soldiers, Welcome to East Timor. Graves Have Been Prepared
for You! Rest in Hell."
very little forethought, and even less debate, are we marching
our soldiers off to another Asian hell, another war to secure
nonexistent "vital interests" in a region where
the national income is less than Bill Gates makes in one month?
It certainly looks that way. Where are the Republicans who
stood up against the President's meddling in the Balkans?
They are going to wake up, one morning, to discover that we
are embroiled in a major war on the other side of the world,
without hope of either justifying it to the American people
or declaring victory and going home. It seems the Republicans
have yet to learn the lesson of Kosovo a failure they
will live to regret.