Tag Archives: Bush

Call Me Ishmael…


Strategic threat or law enforcement problem?

The suggestion that al Qa’eda poses more danger to the well-being of ordinary Americans than a tanking economy that threatens the jobs and homes of millions seems preposterous to any sober observer: al Qa’eda is a small conspiratorial organisation that once, seven years ago, managed to pull off a spectacular attack on US soil, and has over the same period pulled off a few more such grisly stunts in London, Madrid, Casablanca and Bali. It controls no territory and is incapable of disrupting the defences of even the weakest states on the planet, much less the most powerful. To suggest it poses a greater risk than the most profound slump in three generations made a good Halloween story, nothing more.

But if McCain was simply trying to scare people into voting for him, he was inadvertently laying bare the fallacy at the heart of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”, which made the organising principle of US foreign policy a campaign against a handful of extreme jihadists.

McCain regularly repeats the preposterous mantra that the struggle against Islamist radicalism is the “transcendent challenge of the 21st century,” but make no mistake, Barack Obama falls victim to the same flawed logic when he proclaims Afghanistan “the right war” and promises to get out of Iraq in order to free up more troops to send to “stamp out the Taliban”, as he put it one of the presidential debates. Continue reading

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Why John Bolton is Right on Iran


Armageddon Man is unhappy with his President

Guest Column: Dr. Gary Sick
As usual, John Bolton is absolutely right. His policy prescriptions may be reckless to the point of foolishness (“When in doubt, bomb!”), but his understanding of what is happening in Washington policy (as outlined in his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday) is unerringly accurate.

While much of the world was hyper-ventilating over the possibility that the United States (and maybe Israel) were getting ready to launch a new war against Iran, Bolton was looking at the realities and concluding that far from bombing the US was preparing to do a deal with Iran. He had noticed that over the past two years the US had completely reversed its position that originally opposed European talks with Iran. Continue reading

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Behind the ‘Phony War’ on Iran

This from my new op ed in the National:

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s rocketeers – helped by its Photoshop mujahideen – managed last week to set off a wave of hysteria by test-firing four medium-range missiles to underscore its capacity to retaliate against any US-Israeli air strikes. (Well, three actually, the photo retouching was needed to disguise the failure to launch of the fourth.) But the hysteria seemed more like going through the motions of pre-existing agendas than a sign of impending combat.

The piece touches on what I believe is the significant debate in Washington, which is not that usually reported pitting those who actually want to attack Iran against those who want to pursue diplomacy; instead, it is being fought between those who believe diplomacy will only succeed if the Iranians believe they’re facing a real military threat, and those who believe that creating that such a belief would retard rather than enhance diplomacy and risk unintended escalation.

In other words, all Bush’s talk about the military option remaining “on the table” is an increasingly transparent bluff. But the real diplomacy will begin only after a new U.S. president is seated.
Continue reading

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Iraq to Bush: Nobody Likes You, Beavis…

Extract from a piece I did in the National this week on the floundering effort to negotiate a U.S.-Iraq security deal to replace the current UN Resolution that expires in December:

The problem, for the US and for those Iraqi political factions most dependent on its presence, is that the vast majority of Iraqis oppose a long-term US presence, which to them feels like an occupation. The demand for the US to agree to a departure date enjoys overwhelming support – and public opinion is clearly reflected in the response of Iraqi parliamentarians to the security deal with Washington.

What the Bush administration is encountering here is the unkind reality of just how few friends America really has in Iraq. Sure, it has an alliance with the government of Mr Maliki, the prime minister, and with its largest party, the Supreme Islamic Council. And it also has cordial relations with some of the Sunni nationalist parties and, of course, with the Kurds.

But none of these groups shares the US agenda for Iraq. Instead, each has responded to the US presence as an opportunity to pursue its own ends. Each has engaged in tactical alliances with Washington in the hope of using US power against its foes in the intra-Iraqi power game.

To read the whole thing, click here. Continue reading

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Bush, Like Bin Laden, on the Sidelines


By measure of each man’s negligible influence over events in the Middle East — despite florid denunciations of all compromise and accomodation with those each brands as evil — President George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden appear to have more in common than either would care to admit. In Lebanon, Israel, Syria and the Palestinian territories, protagonists in key conflicts are ignoring both Bush and Bin Laden to forge a new pragmatic politics of coexistence. Continue reading

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The Bin Laden-Bush Consensus

When it comes to Iran, the President and the Qaeda leader appear to be on the same page Continue reading

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Bush and Israel’s Alamo


Sobriety remains elusive in Bush’s Middle East policy as he tells the Knesset, “Masada will never fall again!” — as in, “Remember the Alamo!” Having visited the iconic site at which Jewish Jihadists of yore are said to have committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans, Bush was plainly moved to substitute war cries for serious policy. Long on the vacuous militancy that has characterized his entire tenure, Bush reprised the infantile posturing that compared talking to Hamas with appeasing the Nazis (uh, is that what Olmert is doing by negotiating a cease-fire with it via Egypt?), branding Iran the fount of global terrorism and warning that “Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations,” Bush told the Israeli parliament to mark its 60th birthday. “For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Don’t talk to Hamas or Iran, don’t allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, etc. etc. But what exactly is he offering? Is he going to bomb Iran? And then what? There’s no policy here, just testoterone. Continue reading

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About That ‘New’ Middle East…


Could there be a more perfect image of the catastrophic self-inflicted rout suffered by U.S. Middle East policy under President George W. Bush? This week, the President will party with Israel’s leaders celebrating their country’s 60th anniversary — and champion a phony peace process whose explicit aim is to produce an agreement to go on the shelf — with Bush curiously choosing the moment to honor the legend of the mass infanticide and suicide of the Jewish Jihadists at Masada. Meanwhile, across the border in Lebanon, Hizballah are riding high on the tectonic shifts in the Middle East’s political substructure, making clear that the “new Middle East” memorably (if grotesquely) inaugurated by Condi Rice in Beirut in 2006 is nothing like that imagined or pursued by the Bush Administration. On the contrary, the Bush Administration has managed to weaken its friends and allies and empower its enemies to an almost unprecedented degree. Having failed on every front, the question is, will the Bush Administration resort to war to try and roll back the gains of its enemies over the past five years? Continue reading

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A Teachable Moment in Basra

It should come as no surprise that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s disastrous offensive against the Mahdi Army of Moqtada Sadr in Basra has had the exact opposite effect of that intended — strengthening rather than weakening Sadr, and making clear that he, and the Iranians, have far greater influence of Iraq’s future than does the Iraqi government or the U.S. That’s because Maliki’s shared the fate of pretty much every similar initiative by the Bush Administration and its allies and proxies since the onset of the “war on terror.”

The pattern is all too common: The U.S. or an ally or proxy launches a military offensive against a politically popular “enemy” group; Bush and his minions welcome the violence as “clarifying” matters, demonstrating “resolve”, or, in the most grotesque rhetorical flourish of all, the “birth pangs” of a brave new world. Each time, the “enemy” proves far more resilient than expected, largely because Bush and his allies have failed to recognize that each adversary’s power should be measured in political support rather than firepower; and the net effect of the offensive invariably leaves the enemy strengthened and the U.S. and its allies even weaker than before they launched the offensive. Continue reading

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Iraq, an American ‘Nakbah’


American Taliban council of war

Five years into the catastrophe (for millions of Iraqis, and ultimately, for millions of Americans) in Iraq, has the media really asked itself how it enabled this war. Not only was it patently obvious that there was no evidence to back up the case for war, there was no questioning of its basic premise, i.e. that certain categories of weapons in the hands of a rival regime forced the U.S. to “preemptively” invade another country without provocation Continue reading

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