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(March 7, 2003 // link)

I have been talking about the systematic deconstruction of U.S. foreign policy by the Bush administration for several weeks now. Today, Paul Krugman has a great piece in the New York Times about the pressure being applied to Mexico to gain its security council vote.

Added to my concerns about the war are my concerns about the economy. We are putting all of our diplomatic eggs in one basket and hurling them at a relatively insignificant dictator. At the same time we are depleting the treasury with unwise tax cuts that are really nothing more than patronage. We are robbing states of funding for federally mandated programs and we are letting states wallow in debt caused in no small part by the federal government’s refusal to pay attention to this growing national calamity. The economy is going to tank along with our national prestige. Last night Bush said that he prays for strength, wisdom and peace. I just wish there was someone who has his ear telling him how boneheaded his policies are.

Even the Canadians and the Irish are upset with us. When that happens, we have come to diplomatic nadir. I don’t know where Bush is going to get a reality check, but he needs one.

(March 6, 2003 10:35 P.M. // link)

I listened to the president’s press conference tonight and I have to say that the arrogance of this president never ceases to amaze me. Some of the heads on TV said that the President looked “somber” or “serious.” I think he looked bewildered. I just don’t see that he gets the full impact of what we he is doing, or the potential effect on future diplomatic relations and the UN.

He did not answer the questions of the pre-selected journalists that were permitted to speak, and he ignored the fact that most of the world is against this invasion. He offered no new facts or justification for this aggression and he drew no clearer link to a threat against the US. Instead he preached repetitive themes of refusal to disarm and refusal to comply with UN resolution 1441. This was much less a press conference than a sermon, and a bad one at that.

We are left with no new facts, only a certainty that war is inevitable, as if we didn’t know. Bush says that we are in the “final stages of diplomacy,” whatever that means, and that he intends to force a vote at the UN. The act of forcing the vote will have no effect on the decision; it will presumably only allow other countries to “put their cards on the table” or “stand up and be counted” as friend or foe.

Colin Powell has been out drumming up support among Security Council members. I’ll bet he has convinced some to at least abstain and not veto the resolution. I’m sure that others will be begged, bribed or cajoled into supporting us once again. Others might simply accept the inevitable and not resist. I hope some members of that body have the courage to resist the tremendous pressure being applied on them and to say, “If you go, you go alone.”

It used to be that only Congress could declare war. The president’s party undid that little constitutional formality last fall and paved the way for it’s head wrangler to ride into a sovereign nation to topple it’s leader. There is no backing down now, it is done and there is no stopping it. I only wish I knew what the plan was, what the reasons were, and why our government does not have enough faith and confidence in us, the people of this country, to give us the answers to so many questions about this attack, about the economy, about North Korea and about the dozens of other domestic and international issues facing us. None of these questions were answered tonight.

(March 6, 2003 // link)

Chris Suellentrop wrote a great piece for Slate yesterday that supports my analysis of Ken Pollack’s The Threatening Storm. Even though Pollack makes a good case for war, the book is an indictment of how we got here. You heard it here first.

If you have been following Doonesbury over the past few days you might have a good idea of just how important the Oregon school funding crisis is. Oregon has cut its school year short and has drastically reduced other essential services because the state is out of money. This is true of most states and the problem is not getting better. The Bush administration may be paying less attention, if that is possible, at home than in foreign affairs. Look to PoP in the next few days for more on the state budget crises, education funding, No Child Left Behind and medical malpractice insurance.

(March 5, 2003 // link)

It occurred to me last night that our government is unable to focus its attention on more than a single critical issue at any given time. We are not paying attention, and this is a bad thing.

While we are pressing forward with Bush’s war on Iraq, North Korea, Venezuela, and the Philippines are all trying desperately to get our government’s attention. North Korea is behaving like a child, albeit a big and dangerous child, looking for our attention. North Korean President Kim Jong-Il, unlike his father, has something to prove to his people. He needs to prove that he is tough, and that he can command respect on the national stage. We are escalating a potentially lethal conflict simply by refusing to talk to North Korea. North Korea has a nuclear weapons program, and they have systems for delivering those weapons against Japan and the U.S. Do we really need to prove that we are the most powerful military power on earth by taunting this bully? No. We need to talk, to talk directly and to talk now.

Venezuela is another area where we are not paying attention. One of our historic policies, the Marshall Plan, has defined our national policy in the northern hemisphere. Just as this administration has unraveled every other major foreign policy initiative of recent history, this vital policy seems to have been thrown out the window as well. We are hyper-focused on Iraq while Venezuela, one of the largest producers of oil in the world, is in the throws of a revolution.

We certainly haven't been paying attention to our fellow democratic nation, Turkey. Someone in our administration forgot to pay attention to what the people and the government of Turkey, think and feel about our unilateral decision to invade their neighbor, Iraq. This is akin to France deciding to use Texas as a staging area for their invasion of Mexico, without asking us. The administration now says that this invasion can be a “go” without a northern front in Turkey. It’s interesting that we now say that with hundreds of trucks and pieces of equipment lying in Turkish ports waiting for permission to unload. Perhaps Mr. Bush never learned that “no” means “no.” The Turkish parliament, a democratic body, will decide if we can stage our invasion in their country. It’s likely that they already have decided. If President Bush were paying attention he would know this.

Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo this week included a segment of an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger. The consensus seems to be that Bush Lite and his Texas Rangers (thanks, Brian) have managed to unravel decades of foreign policy groundwork in a few short months of blissful ignorance. Surely the recent bombings in the Philippines do not engender confidence in our containment policies in that country. Containment is like the Macedonian Square. It is a strategy of attrition, designed to wear down one’s opponent by outlasting him. Because of the nature of this strategy, containment cannot exist as a permanent solution to an international problem.

I don’t want to close this without pointing out that this president, who could not gain a popular majority vote in the last election, is also not paying attention on the domestic front. His “tort reform” programs have no basis in reality, his administration has no realistic approach to healthcare or prescription drug costs, his No Child Left Behind law is bad medicine for most of the country, and he has no plan for our domestic or foreign policy future. Mr. Clinton may have been a flawed human being, but he was an effective leader. Bush, Jr. may be a good man, but he is no leader.

(March 3, 2003 9:00 P.M. // link)

We received a note from Brian McEvoy today on the subject of war with Iraq. I've reprinted an excerpt of his letter because Brian makes some excellent points:

"I don't for one minute believe that the present occupants of the Executive Branch give an iota about WMD's. This is simply PR geared to fan the fear of terrorism at home, thereby giving some semblance of legitimacy to their planned war crimes. (As far as I can recall International Law from law school, an unprovoked attack against a sovereign country is a war crime.) My view is the reason they've identified Iraq as the next victim is not because of Iraq's strength, but because of its weakness. Iraq is a pipsqueak, particularly after having lost two wars (with Iran and the US) and having been under UN sanctions for 10 years. Even if they'd diverted every dime of their oil sales to weapons they'd still be a fifth-rate power. Beating the hell out of them will be far easier than, say, Iran, which by all accounts is much closer than anyone in the neighborhood to developing nukes, and who presently possesses bio- and chem- weapons.

As I said, although the war has much to do with oil, it has much more to do with Washington's continued domination over the world's economy. Because the country that controls the throttle in and out of the Gulf basically has veto power over the economies of Europe and Asia.

My view is that the debate which should have happened, but, of course, would never happen, is whether it is an acceptable proposition to send our sons and daughters to Iraq to get killed, as well as to kill many Iraqi sons and daughters, so that the Washington elite can maintain its empire. My view is a resounding no. I hope the sons of bitches get indicted by the world criminal court."

No one regrets more than I do the fact that war is imminent. The point I tried to make in my article was that we are where we are due to the ineptitude of the current administration. There may be good reasons to go to war, but the case has not been made on any level. I find that troubling. Equally troubling is the complete disregard for world opinion exhibited by Bush the Younger. In a previous column I advocated allowing the UN weapons inspectors time to complete their work and early on I argued against blood for oil. Apparently Mr. Bush isn't listening.

In case you missed it, billionaire Ernesto Bertollini and his Alinghi team swept New Zealand to win the America's Cup and will return it to Europe for the first time in 152 years. It is clear that the next challenge will not be on Lake Geneva and several countries are vying for the right to host for Switzerland. It will probably go to France. If it does, I won't watch.

(March 3, 2003 // link)

There is a strong case for the impending war with Iraq, and there is evidence to support it. The Bush administration is simply failing to make the case on any level, national or international, and seems to expect us to support the actions of the government on blind faith.

The best case that I have so far seen has been made in Ken Pollack’s book The Threatening Storm. My copy of the book finally arrived and I got to look at it this weekend. I first heard of the author and the book on Josh Marshall’s website, Talking Points Memo. Marshall has a link to an excellent interview with Pollack about his book on TPM. Pollack was a CIA analyst on Iraq in the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations and his book is well supported with original sources. Pollack was only one of three analysts who predicted the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Pollack makes an informed and well reasoned argument for war with Iraq. He is critical of some of the ways that we have come to be at the place that we are, but argues that since we’re here, we’d best wage war with Saddam now, and on our own terms, before he has nuclear capabilities. So why have Bush and his administration been so silent on why they’re so keen on war?

Pollack’s argument suggests, and most current analysts seem to agree, that Saddam has never abandoned his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs; he has only become an expert at hiding them. There is real evidence, discovered during the previous round of inspections that support this. In fact, there is an entire government agency in Iraq whose job it is to conceal these weapons programs.

Suppose Bush was to address the nation tomorrow night and just lay it out in the manner that Pollack does? The argument goes like this: “Look, we’re better off waging war with Saddam now, while we’re still certain to beat him handily with conventional warfare. Let’s not wait until he has expanded chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities. Think back to 1938, when Britain and France had the opportunity to wage war on Germany, but didn’t. They were stronger than Germany then but they opted for appeasement rather than action because they were still traumatized from the Great War, and it was understandable that they did everything in their power to avoid another war. But imagine how differently things could have turned out, how many lives could have been spared, if they had acted together to challenge Hitler in 1938, instead of appeasing him.” A speech like that would certainly have an effect on me. Maybe not Martin Sheen or Susan Sarandon, but I think that he could certainly persuade most ordinary, thinking Americans with a well-reasoned argument like Pollack’s. Rather than making the case for war, the administration is attempting to make a simple patriotic call to arms. Fortunately, this is America, and accusing people who oppose war, when you haven’t made an adequate case for going to war, of being unpatriotic is like pouring gasoline on a fire.

The Bush 43 administration has bungled the foreign policy aspect of the war, and it seems foreign policy in general, already. Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times yesterday, pointed out several examples of our foreign policy follies. Citing our actions in trashing the Kyoto global warming treaty and ABM treaties as a lousy way to build a foundation for international support, Friedman highlights the lack of a plan. In the absence of a plan, there is only arrogance.

So why doesn’t he talk to us? I can’t imagine that the administration does not know, or cannot give us and our allies the reasons why this needs to be done now so I can only assume that they therefore think that we cannot understand. This looks to be the pride before the fall.

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Copyright 2003 Edward Philpot

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