the world"! gasped the BBC. "Buoyant
Bush Wins Mandate for War"! announced the London
Times, in clearly horrified tones. "World
Braces for 'Triumphant' Bush" headlined UPI. "Bush's
hand on Iraq strengthened by GOP gains in Congress, likely
UN approval of tough Resolution," the Associated
Press matter-of-factly informed us. The day after the Democrats
were crushed at the polls, the U.S. submitted
the text of a new get-tough resolution to the United Nations
Security Council and the President declared: "This
time we mean it."
it be that the hubris of our foreign policy has been transferred
to the President himself, who now believes he has a mandate
for war in the Middle East? "The superpower you know,"
quipped BBC commentator Paul Reynolds, "now there is
the superpresident." And to think that if a few thousand
votes had gone the other way, the same people would now be
kicking sand in his face.
read this election as a referendum on the war is to ignore
that Iraq, for the most part, was not an issue. Since Congress
had already voted, at the insistence of Democrats as well
as Republicans, and given the President what he wanted, the
question had for all intents and purposes already been decided.
Democrats spent most of their time talking about subsidizing
prescription drugs – and dodging the war question as assiduously
as several of their Republican colleagues once dodged the
draft. Speaking of which….
in Georgia, a sitting Democratic Senator who left several
limbs on the battlefields of Vietnam lost out to a Republican
chickenhawk who spent the Vietnam war chasing after co-eds
and lounging around the pool. Georgia Republican congressman
Saxby Chambliss ran a
television ad that began with footage of Osama bin Laden
and Saddam Hussein:
"As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators,
Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage
unflattering photo of Max Cleland appears on the screen, and
a skeptical voice warns us:
Cleland says he has the courage to lead. But the record proves
Max Cleland is just misleading."
we conclude that perhaps Lincoln should have let the South
go, and good riddance to them although we might believe that
other grounds – it's important to ask: what worked?
Cleland's problem wasn't his vote against the Iraq war, but
his wholesale opposition to the President's Homeland Defense
concept – without offering any immediate alternative. The
Democrats, tied as they are to organized labor, had no choice
but to champion the cause of the union bosses and insist on
"workplace rights" for Home-def employees. Almost
entirely a.w.o.l. on the Iraq attack issue, the Republicans
wisely emphasized not only Homeland Security but also the
need for a missile defense system. Support for the war was
only implied in the GOP emphasis on support for the President
politicians can read the polls: indeed, they read little else.
They see that support for this mindless and destructive war
While the organized antiwar movement as it is presently constituted isn't
likely to do anything but alienate middle class Americans,
one can only note that there are no pro-war rallies.
We don't see a hundred-thousand Americans in the streets of
Washington, and tens of thousands more across the country,
demanding "war now!" Why is that?
Republican politicians and their pet pundits may be contemptuous
of antiwar rallies, no matter how many hundreds of thousands
show up, one thing they do understand is the deeply-ingrained
"isolationism" of the American people, rooted as
it is in our history and the ideology of the Founding Fathers.
No Republican member of Congress went back home, this election
year, and campaigned on a platform of the conquest of the
Middle East. None spoke of the need for an American Empire
based on the old Roman model; none spoke of occupying Iraq
(and surrounding territories) for decades, at a cost too fantastic
let the pundits to my left agonize over the Democrats' dilemma;
let them point to the lack of leadership, the cowardice,
and the ongoing neocon-ization of that party. Suffice to say
fall of the hawkish Dick Gephardt is a bit of silver lining,
but not enough to cheer anyone up.
nonsense about Bush the "superpresident" is but
the flattery of silver-tongued courtiers, foreigners mostly,
who mix a generous dollop of contemptuous irony in with the
sweetest phrases. Bush is no more a "superpresident"
than the Roman emperor Claudius
was a god. And perhaps even the ancient gods couldn't
pull off the logistical and diplomatic miracles that must
occur before the U.S. can even consider invading and occupying
the neoconservative advisors to the President see no problem,
and would do it tomorrow with a force of 50,000 or less, but
the Pentagon and the officer corps are intransigently
opposed and the President is no more likely to prevail
against the U.S. military than is Saddam Hussein. So that
is a big brake on the rush to war. Here's another….
developments in Turkey buttress the arguments of those
who disapprove of this invasion scenario from a purely military
perspective. There is considerable doubt whether the new Turkish
government will allow U.S. forces to use their country as
a launching pad for an invasion: the new ruling party, which
swept practically all the other parties out of existence,
has Islamic roots, and was banned by the militantly secularist
Turkish military from running in previous elections.
time, under the watchful eye of the European Union, the religious
party got past the gate and left the secularists in the electoral
only is the basing question in doubt, now, but so is Turkey's
strategic and military alliance with Israel – and that's
just in the first few days of their stunning victory.
the Turkish generals turn them out of power, as has happened
in the past?
Such a development would certainly ensure Turkey's availability
as a U.S. base – and it may take that, in the end, to secure
Turkish cooperation. Either that, or UN approval, in which
case the Turks say they would relent. Otherwise, no invasion.
For the Saudis have repeatedly ruled out the use of their
territory, and only Kuwait and Bahrain, along with some of
the other Trucial
States, among Iraq's neighbors, would even consider it.
where is the invasion going to be launched from?
is a problem to stump even a "superpresident." We
keep hearing how Bush has yet to make his final decision on
whether to launch an attack, but the real question they're
debating is how to do it without invading and occupying
the entire region at once. There are those in the administration
political periphery who advocate just that, but this is
something that the politicians prefer not to talk about –
even as they pursue policies that appear to make it inevitable.
the President believes his courtiers, and comes to see himself
as the superpresident of an invincible superpower, then the
countdown to catastrophe has already begun. Surely better
men than Dubya have fallen victim to this temptation. One
could easily – perhaps too easily conclude it's only a matter
of time before the great disaster unfolds. On the other hand,
several important factors, aside from the problem of the launching
pad, are intervening to delay or perhaps even indefinitely
postpone the rush to war.
Korea is looming larger as a crisis rivaling Iraq. Pyongyang
has just informed the Japanese that the only alternative to
normalized relations is more
missile testing by North Korea. The last
time the Koreans acted up they sent a missile hurtling
over Nipponese airspace, as if to demonstrate the vulnerability
of Japan's cities. The
kidnapping issue is also a
big deal in that part of the world, and the horror of
the sinister North Korean practice of abducting Japanese from
their own island and hauling them away to Kim
Jong-il's Communist ant-hill is hard to communicate or
of the Japanese, they figure prominently in the other big
problem facing this administration: a rapidly-unraveling economy.
Japan's banks belong to the
Alan Greenspan school of economics. Their answer to every
obstacle to unobstructed straight-line growth has been to
speed up the printing presses and lower interest rates. The
problem is they have reached the end of this particular road,
with Japanese interest rates at zero, and must now endure
a prolonged period of economic pain, or else see their entire
banking system collapse. The catastrophic effects of such
an implosion would be global in scope, and would almost certainly
hit like a tsunami on American shores. The resulting crisis
would seriously impede if not completely rule out spending
enormous sums on a war of conquest.
Republicans also have a political problem with this war. The
Christian Coalition and Jerry Falwell's flock have mobilized
to support a rush to war that primarily benefits Israel, their
Land. These people were key to the GOP victory in Georgia,
and elsewhere, and must be placated – so Karl Rove and others
believe – at all costs. But a price will be paid. An invasion
of Iraq is not likely to please economic conservatives, who
will see their favorite planks in the Republican platform
– a permanent tax cut, the abolition of the estate tax, the
de-empowerment of the federal government – fall by the wayside
as the war fever heats up. GOP strategists are contemptuous
of this constituency, however: since when have economic conservatives
organized to get out the Republican vote? The key to victory
in every election is turnout, and that was true this time
around in spades. Besides, they reckon, these guys have nowhere
else to go.
of course they do. The Democrats may be is disarray, but they
aren't going away any time soon. Suburban conservatives, socially
liberal but concerned about the economy, are the key to Bush's
reelection, and his strategists know it. Do the Republicans
really want to go into the 2004 election with 80,000 troops
in Iraq, oil prices doubled, and regimes toppling like dominoes
in the Middle East? I don't think so.
war inevitable, now that the Republicans are firmly in the
saddle? For all of the reasons stated above, and a few more
we'll get into in future columns, America's fateful turn toward
neo-imperialism can still be stopped, by acts of God, or men
– or, perhaps, God acting through men. In any case, nothing
is inevitable, and don't you forget it. There's still time
to stop this war before it starts.
Wednesday [November 13], I'm going to be Barry
Farber's guest on WABC radio, at 9 pm (Pacific Time),
talking about my recent Mother Jones article,
which has gotten a lot of attention, and why it's not too
late to stop this war. Sparks are sure to fly, so don't miss
review of Michael Ledeen's The War Against the Terror Masters
is in the current [November 18] issue of The
American Conservative. I had the privilege of being
in the first
issue, and I've the feeling I'll be writing for them in
the future. A lot of their stuff is not available online,
however, so if you're a fan of my work, you
might as well subscribe – there's lots of other cool stuff
in there, too. William Lind's "Gulf War II: No Cakewalk,"
and John Laughland's withering analysis of the Eurocrats'
totalitarian methods are two good reasons to check this one
out, even if you just buy it on the newstands. (You say it's
not at your local Borders? Call them and ask for it.)
I gotta go, because I just can't wait to read Taki's
take-down of Salman Rushdie….
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