Tuesday, March 15, 2005
The right wing wackos will say he is just that good. You'll forgive me if I do not join their numbers just yet. At best Bush is lucky, at worst he has set into motion a series of events that will ultimately damage the United States. Bush still has yet to show that he understands the law of unintended consequences or paid much attention to the history he was supposed to have learned at Yale.
Wait a minute you ask. Lebanon is a triumph for people power. Egypt is seeing the writing on the wall and the Palestinians have had free elections. So the democratic wave must be sweeping the middle east. I'm not so sure. Rather than give George Bush the credit, maybe we should give Yassir Arafat the lions share of the credit, for having the decency to die and free up the Palestinian people and the Arab world from his useless administration of the Palestinian movement. That event has had more to do with the changes in the Arab world than any thing the US has done in Iraq. And even if the stubborn Bush was right, it is still obviated by the fact that we tried to do this invasion / occupation on the cheap and its the American military who is paying the bill for that. Having accomplished his goal, is Bush prepared to deal with the forces he has unleashed?
Lets look at each of the supposed great triumphs individually: First , the election in Palestine.
Anyone could have done better than Arafat, who blew opportunity after opportunity to have the peace with Israel. Personally, I think he never wanted it. The only thing he knew was that it bettered his interests (and his bank account) to keep the Palestinians as victims. Thus he never stepped to the plate and put a stop to the violence of the Intifada. Once a terrorist, always a terrorist. So coming from that record Abbas has no where to go but up. Invading Iraq did not help that process along, only Arafat's dying did. Abbas has to cut any ties to Bush in this development.
Lebanon: Any one who thinks Syria is out of Lebanon is smoking serious drugs. Sure the Syrian Army may go, under considerable outside pressure, but thanks to their close association with Hezbollah, there will still be a Syrian presence and Syrian pressure on the Lebanese government. The Lebanese know this. And its an impressive display of their remaining power that Hezbollah was able to roust out 800,000 people to demonstrate in favor of Syria only a few days ago. You can't script those kind of numbers with out some kind of popular support. There is a great article by Juan Cole that explains in detail how Bush had nothing to do with the current Lebanese situation . He argues quite convincingly that the convoluted history of the country has more to do with any change, than than the self- serving hypocrisy that is the central premise of the Bush administration neo-cons. Worse yet, if there is a great enlightenment in Lebanon, it did not take a US invasion to accomplish it. So why do we still waste effort in Iraq?
Iraq. Ok the election is over, and afterwards they horse trade for over 2 months without a leader still being chosen. That is backroom politics right out of Chicago and his honor, Mayor Daley. Furthermore Iraq is still unsafe, Iraqi citizens are still dying, as are American soldiers and the country remains ripe for the rise of another strongman, only this time he will probably be a Shiite. People are spouting glowing praises for the new Iraqi government, I think it looks too much like Weimar Germany in the 1920's, with car bombs added in. Only this weak and war weary government does not have a popular hero like Hindenburg to rally around, they only have hero's who are either against or aligned with America or killed. Sooner or later, they will elect a demagogue who will realize that he needs to consolidate power and weaken the other groups. My money is on Chalabi to do that. Chalabi , by the way has no great incentive to support the US. That's not a government that needs or wants to be propped up by American military might.
Egypt. We've heard this song before from them, the devil is in the details of providing for real opposition. You can be darn sure that Mubarak is going to structure any political opposition such that he keeps 51% of the power for himself, and from his stand point with some pretty good reason. He needs to keep the Islamic fundamentalists at bay.
The real concern that Americans and the citizens of the the Arab and non Arab world alike should have is where these forces of democratic churn are ultimately taking us. And are we, without realizing it, providing opportunities for our other allies (like Jordan with a stable monarchy) to be undermined in the process. And even if some short-term goals are met, the endpoint of such a strategy leads to widespread resentment that leads to more terrorism and/or encirclement by second-tier powers -- will be bad for America, not to mention the rest of the world. Be careful what you wish for, Mr President, you just might get it.