Sunday, March 19, 2006

If Bush Ruled the World

by William Pfaff
International Herald Tribune
March 19, 2006

PARIS - Intellectual poverty is the most striking quality of the Bush administration's new National Security Strategy statement, issued on Thursday. Its overall incoherence, its clich├ęs and stereotyped phraseology give the impression that Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, and his fellow authors assembled it from the boilerplate of bureaucratic discourse with contempt for the Congress to whom it is primarily addressed.

It reveals the administration's foreign policy as a lumpy stew of discredited neoconservative ideas with some neo- Kissingerian geopolitics now mixed in.

The statement's only visible purpose is to address a further threat to Iran, as its predecessor, in 2002, threatened Iraq. The only actual "strategy" that can be deduced from it is that the Bush administration wishes to rule the world. The document is nonsensical in content, insulting to other nations and unachievable in declared intention.

If people read it to find a statement of American foreign policy's objective, they will learn that the United States has "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Good luck.

The document's foreign readers will have two reactions. The first will be that it can't be serious. The second will be that it has to be taken seriously since these people have spent three ruinous years in a futile effort to control Iraq; they must be assumed capable of doing the same thing again to Iran.

An annual national security statement was demanded by Congress in 1986 legislation. The present document is the first since 2003, when an American policy of military pre-emption was proclaimed - subsequently implemented in Iraq. This document reiterates the pre-emption policy, warning that "we are in the early years of a long struggle" like the Cold War.

One asks if its authors foresee a 50- year struggle against Iran? Or with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the Iraqi desert and Osama bin Laden in his cave in Waziristan? Or against febrile and fanaticized young Muslim men in European ghettos, already repudiated by the immigrant populations from which they come? Surely the great American nation will have better things to do during the next 50 years.

While Stephen Hadley, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's former deputy, was preparing the strategy statement (or signing off on it), Rice was in Indonesia to "expand a strategic partnership" with Jakarta, a visit described by officials accompanying her as a signal of American "interest in building up [Indonesia] as a major commercial and military power ... to help counter the growing influence of China."

A few days earlier, Rice and President George W. Bush were in India on the same mission, making a "historic" gesture that conferred on India a nuclear partnership with America and authorized it to keep its nuclear weapons. This was also as meant to check China.

Speaking to the International Institute for Strategic Studies just three years ago, Rice condemned "balance of power" politics as outmoded and dangerous. She said: "We tried this before; it led to the Great War."

In a few weeks, President Hu Jintao of China will be at the White House for a long-delayed meeting. Possibly he in turn will be offered a strategic partnership, provided that Beijing obeys the new U.S. National Security Strategy, which tells China to "give up old ways of thinking and acting ... and [make] the right strategic choices for its people." Until China takes this advice, the strategy statement menacingly adds, the United States will "hedge against other possibilities."

The president and the secretary of state have been trying to manipulate the Asian power balance against China. At home, Stephen Hadley and colleagues have told us that the effort in Iraq has been worth it because now "tyrants know that they pursue weapons of mass destruction at their own peril." (One has also learned that those who pursue nonexistent weapons of mass destruction also do so at their peril.)

In addition, we are told that the United States today "may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," and that it reserves the right to take "anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack." Whose attack? Iran's? Under what conceivable circumstances would Iran attack the United States, even if it possessed nuclear weapons?

Finally there is North Korea, which the national strategy document seems to assume already has nuclear weapons. Pyongyang is simply enjoined to "afford freedom to its people," and the North Koreans are warned that the United States will protect itself "against adverse effects of their bad conduct." The Iranian government in Tehran will surely note that pre-emption is not mentioned in connection with North Korea.

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