Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bush and the reorientation of the world

So this is not the long poem promised in my last session, but that will come, probably later tonight. But George W. Bush is a big figure in international politics and I thought I'd give him a little analysis, because I do think of international politics a lot. Let me start out by saying, I'm not going to demonize Bush and I don't think he's an idiot, but I do think he's made some serious and sometimes catastropic mistakes (as well as a few good moves) and he has in many ways led to a collossal change in the world of international politics, but on the other hand I think a lot of the changes in international politics he has made are in many ways accelerations of already beginning trends.

Let's start with what his foreign policy intended to do. I think when he was first elected Bush was honestly an isolationist. He ran on an isolationist platform and his party was highly isolaitonist except for the neo-cons who were background at most. Granted he did appoint neo-cons, but he also had a lot of old-fashioned conservatives like Dick Cheney, who really only became a neo-con after 9/11. The neo-cons I think at the time were loved by the intellectuals in some circles of the conservative movement and I think that prompted this move. But we should also remember before 9/11 the focus of the neo-cons was not on Iraq but on China. Our first big foreign policy squabble was not in the Middle East but with China. Yes, I've heard that the neo-cons prepared battle senarios with Iraq before 9/11, but remember when Bush was elected it was 2 years since we had given Iraq a bombing (under Clinton in 1998 for not allowing UN inspectors in and for suspected WMDs, when I first heard Bush's WMD claims were bogus I wondered about the 1998 claims given no evidence of the disposal of the previous supposedly huge stockpiles of WMDs, but then I started hearing that Clinton's intelligence men (led by George "slam-dunk" Tenet) were just as prone to pressure to tell Iraq had WMDs as Bush's) and heck, I'd prepare contingency plans for potential wars even if the actual chances were pretty low.

That said, all the plans for his foreign policy that he had before 9/11 completely changed after 9/11. Afghanistan was a move that anyone would have made. Gore would have made it, Kerry would have made it, McCain would have made it. It was sheltering and helping to train a global organization that was actively at war with us, it had in short declared an alliance with someone we were at war with, this made them a fair target for invasion. I know that sounds very glib and does not perhaps treat war with the gravity it deserves. War is hell, and should only be declared in cases where we are attacked or perhaps when another country is attacked (depends on the identity of the country being invaded and the country invading, for example it would be ridiculous to defend the Khemer Rouge when it was invaded by Vietnam, yes Vietnam was a bad regime but the Khemer Rouge was one of the most monsterous governments in history, on the other hand when Iraq invaded Kuwait we were justified in defending it, Kuwait's king might have been a dictator, but he was a decent one (he has since become a relatively good dictator and has been leading important democratizing intiatives although his government is far from a democracy) while what Iraq was doing to the Kuwatis was absolutely horrible), but in this case we were attacked and thus we were justified in attacking a vital ally of our attacker. Some might link this to Iraq and say Bush only attacks countries with oil, but in addition to my point above I'd like to say 2 cases is not enough to draw conclusions.

And then Iraq was attacked. I don't think most powerful politicians are directly greedy (this is more of a case with smaller case politicians) (especially since most politicians could get far more better paying jobs with lobbyists or as corporation heads). But I think the influence of greedy friends, of old memories (like remembering your father being threatened), and of old rivalries tends to exert a big influence. I also think a lot of corruption stems from the idea to the victor belongs the spoils philosophy (government posts are distributed according how useful you were poltically and to old friends (this is how I think the FEMA director got his job)) and I think idealism can blind us. I think all of this played a role in Iraq, coupled with faulty intelligence (led by the idea that what the president wants in his intelligence he should get). (I'd like to point out although I do not think that politicians are immune to greed, I rather think their greed comes in the form of power hunger and legacy craving, after all they have taken positions of power, it makes sense that that is what they want, a lot their corruption isn't because their primary motivation is money (although occassionally in history and around the world and country and in certain offices it is different) but because they feel a certain something belongs to them because of their position of power (and occassionally because they feel that they're serving the public and not getting enough payment for it)). The current situation I think was not inevitable though even after the invasion if better steps had been taken and I think that if we had overthrown Saddam after 1991 the situation would be better but I'll save that for other sessions.

This is about international politics. The Iraq War badly polarized international politics (in addition to domestic politics), it provided a rally point for anti-Americanism. But too all those who blame Bush alone for anti-Americanism forget that anti-Americanism has been going on for a long, long, long time. Anti-Americanism in the Islamic world itself has been going on for a long, long time, remember that Bid Laden declared Jihad against the US in 1991, not in response to Palestine or in regards to George W. Bush but because US troops were on Saudi Arabian soil, which in his view tainted it. And why? Because the United States is a special sort of symbol. In many ways it is a symbol of liberalism, and by liberalism I mean it in the classical sense, free trade, capitalism and large amounts of civil rights. It doesn't matter if you consider the United States the leader in those fields, it is a symbol of those things and all the good and bad things that are associated it with those (like more sex, less religion, looser ethnic ties, etc.). To Islamic extremism liberalism is a deadly virus that is spreading throughout the world, like Communism to us it seems like something that is threatening to completely destroy all their ways of life. However, that is not to say US foreign policy hasn't played a role. But we should understand that traditionally US foreign policy has not been promoting liberalism but rather undermining it, under the belief that Muslims are too violent, fanatical and ignorant to handle freedom, and so if they want any progress they must be dragged forward by authoritarian regimes. And the Muslim world hates us for supporting these authoritarian regimes. If there's one thing that can unite Islamists (not necessarily extremists, I think it's valuable to make a distinction between moderate Islamists and extremists, an Islamist just being someone who wants Islam to play a large role in government) and liberals it is their hatred for authoritarianism. So don't think that supporting the Muslim tyrants of the world is going to win us points with Muslims, it won't.

So I didn't get to my grand thesis that I was planning to, well not yet, but I need to do other stuff (part of my problem before with posting regularly is I always wanted to complete incredibly lengthy trains of thought before ending my sessions), but I'll revisit the topic later. I think I still covered a lot of ground about Bush, and so this isn't quite a waste. Anyways, I plan to start posting stuff from my epic poem later, but for now, take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks!

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