HAS IT ONLY BEEN TWO YEARS?….Regular readers probably won’t be surprised to know that my reaction to 9/11 and its aftermath has been profoundly ambivalent. I first learned of the attacks around 7 am, when my sister-in-law called and told me to turn on the TV. After that I was glued to the set, like everyone else, but it wasn’t until the first tower collapsed that my jaw truly dropped. And I guess it’s stayed dropped since then.
About George Bush’s domestic programs I have no ambivalence at all. They are a witches brew of horrible, cynical, deeply poll driven policies that are seemingly divorced from any attempt to solve actual problems. Bush and his advisors seem content to simply let them fester and grow until they are out of office and can foist them onto some future president ? all the while exploiting them for whatever partisan gain they can extract from them.
There is, of course, no reason to think that Bush’s fundamental character is any different in foreign affairs than it is in domestic ones, and this naturally colors my view of his foreign policy. His hamhanded and obviously contemptuous attitude toward our allies ? while addressing a problem that quite obviously depends on widespread global support to be successful ? has done nothing to change my mind.
As little as I like or trust George Bush, there is still the question of what 9/11 means and how best to respond to it. And the fact that I don’t like him doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong. But the eternal question with Bush and his foreign policy is: what is Bush’s foreign policy?
Is he a necocon? Does he believe that Iraq is the first domino in a chain that will eventually bring democracy and tolerance to the Middle East?
Is he a realist? Does he want no more than to keep the Middle East reasonably stable and friendly toward American interests?
Or did he simply think that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a good idea and didn’t really give the matter much thought beyond that?
It’s impossible to tell what really motivates him, just as it’s impossible to tell how much his policies are driven by genuine conviction vs. how much they are driven simply by crass electoral considerations.
And so I dither. In an age where nuclear weapons are, if not easy to come by, at least possible to come by, an aggressive military posture toward radical Islamic terrorism makes perfect sense ? if it will work. Keeping a strong American presence in Iraq to ensure security and guide them toward some kind of democracy makes perfect sense ? if it will work. And insisting on the obliteration of terrorist groups like Hamas as a precursor to a Palestinian state makes perfect sense ? if it will work.
But will it work? And is George Bush the kind of person who is willing to look at the facts on the ground and change his policies if they aren’t working? Or does “firmness” demand that he pursue his policies forever regardless of success or failure?
I don’t know for sure that George Bush is wrong. But I sure as hell am scared that he’s a little too sure he’s right. And I fear that someday the entire world may pay the price for that.