Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Wednesday | February 19, 2003

Tom Friedman Does Another 180 on Bush

I'll be guest-hosting for the next several days while Kos gets caught up in other areas.

As many of you have noted in the threads over the last 18 hours, even Tom Friedman has now zinged Bush over Iraq. Aside from the fact that his comments now are a reversal from his recent Bush-supportive, anti-European slant of late, these comments also trash the Bush Administration's handling of foreign policy in general. Many of us have been making similar criticisms in this fine blog of the relative lack of success that the Bush team can show in foreign policy, but in this case Friedman himself is moving towards this argument as well, and going further to make the case that the bullying "we know right" approach is destructive to coalition-building.

Welcome to our world Tom. Glad to see you've caught up. While you are at it, you might want to explain to Rummy and George that you shouldn't threaten your critical military partners in public (oops, I forgot; this is SOP with the Bushies; silly me). So with Turkey wavering, Saudi Arabia saying no, where does that leave us for major launching points? Tampa?

Along these lines, the most recent New Yorker has an interesting piece by Nicholas Lemann which focuses on what may be on the Bush Administration wish list after an expected victory and regime change in Baghdad. Needless to say, as many of us have suspected, Iraq is just the first step in an effort to ambitiously remake the Middle East to our liking. According to Lemann, who interviewed Bush State Department officials Douglas Feith and Stephen Cambone, and references a book by the State Department's David Wurmser, who now works for John ("Cuba has WMDs") Bolton, there is a grand plan behind the big thinking:

"One can easily derive from Wurmser's book a crisp series of post-Saddam moves across the chessboard of the Middle East. The regime in Iran would either fall or be eased out of power by an alliance of the radical students and the more moderate mullahs, with the United States doing what it could to encourage the process. After regime change, the United States would persuade Iran to end its nuclear-weapons program and its support for terrorists elsewhere in the Middle East, especially Hezbollah. Syria, now surrounded by the pro-American powers of Turkey, the reconfigured Iraq, Jordan, and Israel, and no longer dependent on Saddam for oil, could be pressured to co÷perate with efforts to clean out Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. As Syria moved to a more pro-American stand, so would its client state, Lebanon. That would leave Hezbollah, which has its headquarters in Lebanon, without state support. The Palestinian Authority, with most of its regional allies stripped away, would have no choice but to renounce terrorism categorically. Saudi Arabia would have much less sway over the United States because it would no longer be America's only major source of oil and base of military operations in the region, and so it might finally be persuaded to stop funding Hamas and Al Qaeda through Islamic charities."

But as you read the Lemann article and evaluate the arguments by Feith, Cambone, and Wurmser in support of this grand plan, two things may strike you. First, the whole scenario above assumes that Al Qaeda does nothing during this domino-toppling in the Middle East, that all of these quasi-regime changes would take place over months and years against a backdrop devoid of Al Qaeda. Secondly, what is absent in these hoped-for developments are any Israeli actions towards progress with the Palestinians, as if the current situation can be frozen for several years while our grand plan evolves.

In other words, this Administration's world view is based on the premise that only a military solution can deal with 9/11 and the Middle East, resulting in years of occupation, war, nationbuilding, domestic terrorist attacks, deficit spending, and "Pentagon or nothing" budgeting.

And while we are playing Monopoly in the Middle East over the next several years, what about North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mr. "Dead or Alive" etc. ....?


Posted February 19, 2003 12:20 PM | Comments (38)


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