Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tougher Than Hell

So I was watching the Daily Show the other day and caught an interesting interview with Fareed Zakaria, who writes for Newsweek. He'll also soon have a show on CNN. He's an interesting character politically. Some might say that he comes from a neoconservative background. He's a big supporter of free trade and globalization. Well, anyways, you can wikipedia him. Whether or not you disagree with some of the underlying ideological assumptions, he is incredibly learned and has a fascinating perspective.

Here, he discusses the decline of the United States as the world's sole economic superpower. Generally, Zakaria tends to paint a rosier picture of our overall outlook than that which seems to be depicted on the television but his characterization of our power sent chills down my spine.

We have the biggest military in the world, by far. One of the things I think has happened . . . is that we look at every problem now really through the prism of the military because we're so damn good at it. So you look at what's going on in Africa and you say 'there's Islamic extremism there.' So we say 'well, let's set up Africom. You know, a command center, US military, four-star general.'

Wait a minute, is the answer to the spread, the rise of Islamic fanaticism to set up a kind of US neocolonial military presence in these countries and start having American troops go around there beating people up? I'm not so sure.

*Note, Jon sort of gives the rub to Tulane University at the end of the interview

The biggest military in the world. Every problem through the prism of the military. A neocolonial military presence.

And Mr. Zakaria should know, because he was at least one meeting with Paul Wolfowitz in November of 2001.

Another person who should know is former Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who since leaving his post as commander of the coalition troops in Iraq, has roasted the Bush administration's reckless consideration of American and civilian lives and their constant nods to political considerations over military objectives:

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez joined the White House videoconference on the second day of house-to-house fighting between 2,000 Marines and entrenched guerrillas in Fallujah.

Crafted in Washington as a brass-knuckles response to the gruesome deaths of four Blackwater security guards killed the week before and strung up on a bridge, the battle had the full support of President Bush.

Sanchez, in a memoir to be released Tuesday, said Bush “launched into what I considered a kind of confused pep talk” about the battle for Fallujah and an upcoming campaign to kill or capture radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and cripple his militia.

“Kick ass!” Bush said. “If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell!”

Fueled by images beamed by the Al-Jazeera television network, the administration quickly reversed course, stopping Operation Vigilant Resolve. Soon after, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer dropped plans to capture or kill al-Sadr, even though the president had said during the April 7, 2003, meeting, “It is essential he be wiped out,” according to the memoir.

Kick ass. If someone tries to stop the march to democracy we will seek them out and kill them. That's the mindset. Real classy. Never mind the fact that the President withdrew the orders because he thought it might hurt his reelection campaign.

Meanwhile, let us travel to the present, to Red Square in Moscow, where new Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and new Russian President Vladmir Putin put on a display of military might not seen since the days of the USSR.

The Kremlin’s decision to parade its military hardware has been a subject of competing interpretations, viewed variously as symbolic confirmation of Russia’s pride, or aggressiveness, as a marketing show of Russian arms, and as a nationalistic festival ordered by Mr. Putin, for Mr. Putin.

Mr. Putin insisted earlier in the week that the parade should not be viewed as “saber rattling.” “It is not a warlike gesture,” he said. “Russia is not threatening anyone.”

But it followed a year during which the Kremlin asserted its case against what it regarded as reckless American foreign policies. Mr. Putin has strongly protested an American-led plan to install a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. As tensions rose, Russia’s aging strategic bombers conducted international patrols, entered British airspace and approached American carrier groups on the high seas.

The United States' response?

Let's just speculate for a moment before I share it with you.

Remember, President Bush was very close with President Putin, he explained that he trusted Mr. Putin not to entrench himself as an autocrat because he "looked the man in the eyes" and was able "to get a sense of the man's soul." So, though Bush likely doesn't appreciate Russia's opposition to the missile defense project or Russia's incursions into former Soviet republic elections, President Bush probably doesn't want to aggravate Russia further. The administration will probably want to through a wet blanket on media attempts to fan flames. The President's policy toward Mr. Putin already looks abominable, might as well minimize damage, play off the significance of the military demonstration by talking up US-Russian friendship.

Well, here is the US reaction:
“If they wish to take out their old equipment and take it for a spin and check it out,” said the spokesman, Geoff Morrell, “they’re more than welcome to do so.”

So the official United States reaction to Soviet-style military escalation by the Russians is to backhand them in the face, insult their might, and challenge them to spend more money on their military.

You know, the Bush administration, for years, has insisted that we all have to adopt "a post-9/11 mindset." Reliance on diplomacy and the United Nations was naive in the face of the dangerous new world landscape. The United States needed to act more unilaterally to protect its interests, the argument was.

But, you know what, you know who never adopted a post-9/11 mindset?

The Bush administration.

Because they're still very clearly living in the midst of the Cold War.

We've dictated a foreign policy marinated in the same juices as the Domino Theory. If we can just use our guns and our planes to carve out spheres of influence in the Middle East, the terrorists and the unfriendly states will topple over in turn.

On the count of three, arms race: one.... two.....


The long, long road home,New Orleans said...

May just be me but our militaristic response to percieved "threats" emerges from our failure in foreign policy.

Schroeder said...

I couldn't agree more with your analysis. Other than ass monkey of the planet for president, the one thing which concerns me even more for the future of the United States and the world, is the fact of all of those idiots who voted for ass monkey of the planet. There's no fixing that problem without a significant, pervasive, long-term dedication to civic education in every sphere of life. Passing by a T-shirt shop in the Quarter today, to the sounds of Brittany Spears, I saw a T-shirt with an arrow pointing up with the words "The Man," and another arrow pointing down with the words "The Legend." It's the whores who sell this kind of trash to the idiots who buy this kind of trash that we're really trying to change -- one person at a time. It's a losing proposition if you ask me. I'm fairly convinced that the only thing which will ultimately change the fate of the world is reaching that point at some time in the future when the self-serving idiots of the world are subjected to such a degree of personal pain and suffering that they are forced to side with a wiser approach to life. It will be too late by then not to have the post-WWII generation of Americans marked in history books (if any will be written henceforth) as the worst in the entire history of the human race -- yes, even competing for that label with the legions of Christian crusaders, the Huns, and the Nazis, because the harm to other humans, to other species, and to the environment generally, will be so pervasive. We can only divert imminent disaster by joining in a radical culture of sacrifice for the common good.