Saturday, July 22, 2006

We Refuse To Learn

My copy of The One Percent Doctrine finally came in from the library, and I've just barely cracked it. But it's reminded me of one of the most annoying things about the Bush administration - something that for me goes beyond annoyance and is actually offensive: Their steadfast refusal to learn anything new, ever.

After the "end" of the Afghan campaign (see the news lately?) the Bush administration immediately began planning their war on Iraq - indeed, this began informally before the war in Afghanistan had even really begun.

The mental process was for the administration collectively was simple. They'd all come to Washington convinced that states - including rivals like China, but especially rogue states - were the challenge that America needed to face. Then comes 9/11. Undaunted, Cheney decides that the real problem with Al Qaeda wasn't the fact that they killed 3,000 Americans, but that they were sheltered by the Taliban doing it.

The problem then was not the terrorists, but the rogue states who sheltered them. This had the advantage of making the problem much easier, from the Defense Department's point of view: First, it took the game away from the CIA and their covert operatives, and second it put national governments and militaries in the cross-hairs, right where Cheney and Rumsfeld always believed they should be. Magically (after a brief detour in Afghanistan) it turns out the 9/11 showed that what America should do was exactly what they came in to office doing, anyway. Presto - magic!

Missile defense: Lather, rinse, repeat.

The Korean peninsula continues to be snarled because Bush refuses to learn anything that the Clinton Administration did right.

And now in Lebanon, the Bush Administration insists that - all evidence and reason to the contrary - that Iran and Syria both have Nasrallah's cell phone on speed dial, and that Nasrallah takes his marching orders from them.

This isn't a new idea for American statesmen - indeed, that's the problem with it - and it's almost always been wrong. America's relations with China and Vietnam were poisoned early by the Truman and Eisenhower Administration's refusal to see either Beijing or Hanoi as anything but a cat's paw for Moscow. In neither case was this at all accurate, but the American delusion persisted, despite regular hostilities between all three Communist countries.

It's pathetic to watch the Bush administration contort itself and try and fit Lebanon in to the box it must, if it's going to make any sense to them. Somehow, Israel is allowed to bomb critical civilian targets all over Lebanon, but Bush wags his finger sternly at the idea of Israel destabilizing the Lebanese government.

I'll save the obvious comment that sustained bombing campaigns are by definition destabilizing, because there's a long-term game to think about. Maybe it hasn't occurred to the Bush administration, but because of this mess the next Lebanese elections will be won by Hezbollah, if they occur at all. How's that for destabilizing the government?

Chris Albritton gets the last word:

Why, oh, why do people with access to really big bombs continue to think they can change people’s loyalties by dropping those big bombs on their homes and families?...

Before this damn war, Hizbullah was losing support. It wasn’t draining, but it was ebbing. The political process was stuttering along, but it was moving. Many people here hated Hizbullah… Many people also loved it. The society was split but there was a consensus the problem had to be settled judiciously and politically because no one wanted another civil war.

When the first Israeli bombs fell, some Shi’ites even blamed Hizbullah. I met a guy in the southern suburbs last Saturday, just four days after things started. He’s a Shi’ite from Nabatiyeh in the south and hated Hizbullah. He thought they’d screwed up big-time. These days, when I talk to him, he says he hopes Hizbullah rips the Israelis apart. Another friend of mine, one of those upper-crust Christians, told me last night that as much as he hates Hizbullah, he hates the Israelis even more now.

1 comment:

Adrian MacNair said...

Stephen Colbert roasted Bush by saying "This is a President who believes the same thing on Wednesday that he did on Monday. No matter WHAT happened on Tuesday."