Russell's Blog

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Miserable Failure

Posted by Russell on October 09, 2006 at 4:24 a.m.
North Korea evidently tested a nuclear weapon today. USGS reports a magnitude 4.2 earthquake today at +41° 18' 41.04", +129° 6' 51.84". So much for George Bush's "muscular" foreign policy.

People have been worrying about the consequences of a nuclear North Korea for a very long time. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will probably have to move the Doomsday Clock back to two minutes from midnight, where it was in 1953. From a diplomacy point of view, this is a d disaster of the first order.

If this were the only example of the failure of our "muscular" foreign policy, it would be bad enough. But the North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons is far from the only disaster precipitated by George Bush's cognitive dwarfism. The Bush Doctrine has provoked Iran into reactivating its own nuclear weapons program. Likewise, the official policy of openly promoting regime change via a "Velvet Revolution" in Iran has triggered a brutal crackdown on the very groups that were meant to lead this revolution. For Time Magazine, Adadeh Moaveni writes from Tehran:

To be fair, it needs to be said that the Iranian theocracy is plenty paranoid and repressive on its own. It bullied its opposition long before the United States unveiled its regime change intentions. But really, what were the clerics expected to do when informed that the US had opened up a listening post in Dubai, and called it the "21st century equivalent" of a station in Latvia that monitored the Soviet Union in the 1930s? Start issuing permits for independent newspapers and releasing political prisoners?

I don't know a single Iranian scholar, intellectual, organizer, or journalist whose life and pursuits have not been dampened by this current U.S. policy. Who is it actually benefiting? From where I sit, freedom has never seemed so remote.

Iran, whose demographics had been quietly eroding the foundation of totalitarian clerical rule, has now crushed the very forces the Bush Doctrine was counting on to champion Iran's transition from tyranny. In Iran, "muscular" foreign policy has reinvigorated tyranny and terror and placed both on the fast track to nuclear weapons.

It would appear that the lessons being dealt our military and diplomatic establishment are simply not being learned. George Bush presided today at the christening of the 6-billion-dollar nuclear powered Nimitz aircraft carrier, named in honor of his father, George H.W. Bush. At one fifth of a mile long, the Nimitz class aircraft carriers are indeed the greatest warships ever built. And now we have ten of them :

  • USS Nimitz
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • USS Carl Vinson
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt
  • USS Abraham Lincoln
  • USS George Washington
  • USS John C. Stennis
  • USS Harry S. Truman
  • USS Ronald Reagan
  • USS George H. W. Bush
Why do we need ten of them? Nuclear aircraft carriers are profoundly unsutable for combating the non-state threats with whom we are supposedly locked in mortal combat. Even if you set aside the inherent sillyness of fighting a "war" with an abstract concept like "terrorism," exactly what use do we have for a nuclear powered aircraft carrier? Under which doctrine was the decision made that we need ten? The Doctrine of Maximum Cost for Minimum Benefit? What new and exciting countries do we need to bomb into submission -- or, since this is the real world, bomb into eternal bitterness and resentment?

And of course, Iraq. There is always Iraq. For three years, George Bush has left our military there to rot. We will probably have to rebuild it from the ground up. We will need to expand and reform the V.A. to take care of the tens of thousands of maimed and debilitated (not to mention the thousands of abandoned Vietnam War veterans). We will have to re-train the officer corps so that they will know how to avoid the mistakes that led to Abu Ghraib. The role defense contractors play in our armed forces has grown to resemble that of maggots feeding on a barely living creature. Extracting the parasites, excising the dead tissue and and healing the wounds left behind will be a generation-long process. Iraq has demonstrated that a small, mobile and coordinated army is an effective destroyer of nations. We have none of the appropriate tools for building nations (or, more likely, rebuilding them). We will have to re-imagine the enlistment process and bulk up the ranks. Six billion dollar Nimitz class aircraft carriers will not help.

The whole idea of muscular foreign policy stems from a failure to think beyond the reach of one's own actions. It only makes sense if the response of the rest of the world was predictably linear with our application of force. We need a certain amount of bend, so we push with a certain force, and the world responds as expected. The world is essentially static, and need only push and pull it to achieve our desired results. Unfortunately, this view fails to recognize that the rest of the world has people in it. People resist when you push them. They fight when you challenge them. They attack when you provoke them. Applying the concept of muscular foreign policy is a bit like playing chess without realizing that your opponent gets to move their pieces too.

Then again, if the world were a chess game, George Bush has demonstrated repeatedly that he's never figured out how the horsey moves.

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