Thursday, August 17, 2006


Doctrine Collapse

Michelle Mitchell unfortunately was not able to guest-blog during my recent Far Eastern excursion. However, she took a subsequent trip abroad herself -- to the UK.

She sent an e-mail last week as the bombing plot was revealed (the opening line refers to the fact that the last two times she went to Afghanistan/Pakistan, the region was struck with severe earthquakes):

Well, as if you didn't already think that something dire happened every time I left the country, I'll bet this one did it for you!

I wasn't going to weigh in until I returned to New York (in what will be a miserable flight experience--still not allowed to bring on reading material or even extra socks, which admittedly are luxuries, but can you imagine a 777 packed with us spoiled western types, used to tapping away on keyboards or luxuriating in that key pair of extra socks, now forced to watch the wretched in-flight entertainment? Great news for Hollywood, though.). But then [Saturday] night, I caught the portion of President Bush's radio address where he connected the London bomb plot to Hezbollah. Wha-? This is when one has to think--hope, actually--that the president is just saying such things because he thinks this is "easier" for a war-muddled American public to digest. Because if he really believes this, then we're in real trouble.

First, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda have very different goals. And follow different religious tenets. That aside, if the London bomb plot points to anything, it is the Bush Administration's failed effort in Afghanistan. The "mastermind" spent time there, and (if MI5 intelligence is correct, and there is a raging debate here in GB that it is -- as unlike under our Patriot Act rules, one picked up for suspicions of terrorism actually have to be charged with something within a set amount of time -- and as I write this no charges have been made) many of the British-born suspects hail from Pakistani origin, which is the location of much of the support both financial and physical for the Taliban.

There seems to be a blind eye turned towards Afhanistan, the first battle in the war on terror, on the part of Bush, and that is understandable--as we are on the brink of utterly losing. That aside, when the president of the United States makes boneheaded statements like the Hezbollah line, he looks like an idiot to an international audience. And, like it or not, that's what the "war on terror" is all about: you HAVE to connect with the international audience, because you need to show capability and elasticity in order to organize cooperation. No one can claim that the part of the war on terror that the U.S. went at alone has been a raging success. We need to work with other countries. Whether we want to or not, it is a growing fact.
I thought Michele's comments about Bush were rather harsh and initially weighed whether to run her e-mail as a post -- or editing it somewhat.

However, I then had to take note of the
comments from conservatives denouncing the administration's role in brokering the Israeli-Hezbollah cease-fire. Glenn Greenwald assembled the words to mock those on the right who previously had castigated Bush critics as "appeasers" whose criticism served to undermine the administration during a time of war.

However, the language being used against Bush actually adopts a similar tone to that used by Ms. Mitchell in her characterization of how Dubya sees Hezbollah.

Bill Bennett harshly upbraids the administration for calling the cease-fire a "defeat" for Hezbollah:

—Other Israeli politicians on the news said yesterday the U.N. resolution was a defeat for Hezbollah, just as President Bush said the same thing on Monday.
—This is wrong and we need to say it. We need to say it because it is important that Israel, like the U.S., remain strong and victorious. If the terrorists can stop Israel, they can stop our ally; if they think they can defeat our ally they will think they can defeat us—because wars are often fought among proxies.

—It does us no favor to declare a defeat a victory.

—Nasrallah of Hezbollah is claiming victory, Assad of Syria is claiming victory, Achmadinejad of Iran is claiming victory. True enough, the defeated in the Arab and Muslim world can always claim victory—the question is whether those claims are plausible.


—And just before Israel started withdrawing, Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets into Israel and shot down an Israeli helicopter.

—So afraid of Israel and the West for kidnapping innocents, so full of the knowledge that concessions will not come from kidnappings and terror, Palestinians in Gaza two days ago captured American reporter Steve Centanni and his cameraman.

—We were told Hezbollah was a state within a state. Does anyone doubt that Hezbollah is actually stronger and more popular than the Lebanese army that is now to patrol South Lebanon? The main state is Hezbollah, it can fairly be said, with the Lebanese government quite possibly subordinate to it: The state within the state is Lebanon, not Hezbollah. The PM of Lebanon has said supportive things of Nasrallah, the president, and Speaker of Lebanon are Syrian puppets and the newest, most popular fighting force in the Middle East is Hezbollah.


—If Israel has more victories like this, there will be no Israel. We need to be clear on this. Not because we like it, far from it, but because we hate it.

Add to this, the voices of George Will and Patrick Buchanan who -- coming from very different places in the conservative firmament from each other or the blogosphere right-- both state, contrary to the president's official view that Hezbollah has come out of this conflict with dramatically enhanced political standing -- both within Lebanon and in the broader Arab world. Furthermore, Iran is in an even better strategic position than it was one month ago.

To add insult to injury, Will notes that the tracking and unraveling of the London bombing plot actually proved a point pushed by the president's 2004 rival:

The London plot against civil aviation confirmed a theme of an illuminating new book, Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." The theme is that better law enforcement, which probably could have prevented Sept. 11, is central to combating terrorism. F-16s are not useful tools against terrorism that issues from places such as Hamburg (where Mohamed Atta lived before dying in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and High
Wycombe, England.

Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that "many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force
banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror." In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

Ah, there's that "cooperation" word again.

While Ms. Mitchell eschews the description "liberal," she is certainly no conservative. Yet, there seems to be a broad consensus found here: George W. Bush no longer seems not to understand either Hezbollah, the significance of the Israeli cease-fire to which the United States signed onto or how these developments actually impact the president's signature policy -- the global war on terror.

Whatever consensus on the war on terror that existed may have come to a fatal end on the southern border of Lebanon. If that is the case, then the president and his political supporters are going to have a much harder time making the essential assertion that Iraq is part of the larger war on terror. Once that link is severed the president -- and his Republican congressional supporters are much more vulnerable politcally to opponents of the Iraq War.

Instead of the Democrats usual national security split, it is now the administration that is caught between dueling doctrines -- challenged on the center-left by an Iraq that remains endlessly chaotic and by the right which sees a disastrous decision to create a cease-fire that leaves a terrorist organization in a stronger situation than it was before.

So, will the criticism of Bush on the right help Democrats -- in the same way that the Harriet Miers and ports DuBacle did? The commentariat right may not sway too many voters (as much as we might like to think we do) but, seeds of doubt can be planted.

The criticism of the administraion's handling of the cease-fire can be appropriated by some Democrats to claim that it is part and parcel of the administration's general handling of foreign policy: The Left can say that the Iraq policy has strengthened Iran's hand by taking out the strong-man Sunni Saddam Hussein; the Right can say that the Lebanon cease-fire strengthens Hezbollah and its patron Iran.

With these arguments coming from both sides, it makes it that much more difficult for the administration to say that its policies have made the United States more secure.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook