Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Last Throes and The Final Stretch—Defining an Administration

Thus the necessity of not failing has become a cornerstone of the new reality within the Bush White House. All talk of success in Iraq has been taken off the menu, like yesterday’s leftovers.


Bushlebanon
When the goal becomes impossible, one hypothesis is merely to move the goal posts. It may not be intellectually honest, but we are in times when public opinion is so blindingly quick to forget and yet ready to accept its own particular brand of prejudices, that few seem to notice.
Thus the necessity of not failing has become a cornerstone of the new reality within the Bush White House. All talk of success in Iraq has been taken off the menu, like yesterday’s leftovers.
Cheneyiraq_2 Doggedly and at the cost of unparalleled carnage our vicious and uncompromising vice-president continues to see victory in the ruins. His prognostication is unerringly wrong, his past positions consistently disproven and yet he and his agents dominate foreign-policy discussion and decision within the administration.
Never has a vice-president held such sway with his president, forcing all voices of moderation from the discussion. Whether they be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (John Shalikashvili) or Secretary of State (Colin Powell held both posts), when Dick Cheney speaks it’s ‘my way or the highway.’
Condoleeza Rice, who started her tenure as Secretary of State with a certain degree of success and apparent independence has, since the Lebanon war, been relegated to status of bag-man for Cheney. Rumsfeld is always an enigma, but it appears he’s too terrified of his self-crafted Iraq debacle to think creatively or independently. There is, effectively, no dissenting voice between Cheney and his president.
All of which would be a mere footnote to history, were it not for Iran.
Seymourhersh Seymour Hersh makes the case in the August 21st New Yorker, that what the world saw in Lebanon and what Cheney’s office saw were (my words, not his) from different planets. Largely, the world thinks Israel came out on the bottom end of that confrontation, having done no permanent damage to Hezbollah and wrecking its reputation for military superiority as well as targeting restraint.
Vice-President Dick Cheney was convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.
The Israeli bombing was not only unsuccessful, it failed to achieve any of its purposes against underground facilities. Again, from the Hersh article
“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”
This demo was a lemon and where have we heard cheap war with many benefits before? Iraq is now the second most costly war in American history. Certainly, with so little to show for it and so much to regret, sanity would dictate getting out of Iraq rather than widening the conflict to Iran. 26 million Iraqis have kept us effectively tied up militarily without an additional 70 million Iranians added to the Middle East stew.
“Israel began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the support of his office and the Middle East desk of the National Security Council.” After that, “persuading Bush was never a problem, and Condi Rice was on board,” the consultant said.
Lessons learned? Not bloody likely. In Dick Cheney’s world, belief is what he wants to believe. Learning depends upon what the Dick-man defines and is blindly predetermined to learn. Like goal posts, facts are there to be moved if inconvenient.
Cheney’s point, the former senior intelligence official said, was “What if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it’s really successful? It’d be great. We can learn what to do in Iran by watching what the Israelis do in Lebanon.”
“The big complaint now in the intelligence community is that all of the important stuff is being sent directly to the top—at the insistence of the White House—and not being analyzed at all, or scarcely,” he (the Pentagon consultant) said. “It’s an awful policy and violates all of the N.S.A.’s strictures, and if you complain about it you’re out. Cheney had a strong hand in this.”
This is an administration that does not ask, will not listen, has never been moved by a contrary view, establishing policy entirely within an ever smaller clique.
“Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it,” John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me. Arquilla has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing success, to change the way America fights terrorism. “The warfare of today is not mass on mass,” he said. “You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focused on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground.
The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”
Uh huh. But if control of Congress stays in Republican hands after November, we will be at war with Iran inside six months.
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