Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Loss In The Doctrine Column

It came with so much bravado in June of 2002. It was aggressive, it was massive, and it would take all of four years for it to fall over after just one implementation. That speech, delivered before the graduating class at West Point, defined President Bush's vision for American military power projected outward.

Some brief snippets from that speech:
"This war [on terror] will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I am certain of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for our power, but for freedom. (Applause.) Our nation's cause has always been larger than our nation's defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace -- a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent."

"The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology -- when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends -- and we will oppose them with all our power. (Applause.)"

Many parts of this speech prove to be the jumping off point where the Administration felt obliged to lay the foundation for an attack on Iraq and thereby draw a connected line from the battle against the terrorists who sent their deeds from abroad, to the governments not connected to Al Qaeda.

From this speech a doctrine was born. Possibly still-born, but born nonetheless. In the past few days, several newspapers have written articles expanding on many analysts' takes on said doctrine. The San Francisco Chronicle ran "Iraq war has Bush Doctrine in tatters" and the Christian Science Monitor published "Has the Bush doctrine failed?".

The consensus of those who felt the foreign policy initiatives had failed cite the current struggle of sectarian violence/civil war in Iraq, the perceived heightened tensions of America's allies, and the increased negative opinion of the United States in the Arab world. Those who defend the Bush doctrine state that Iraq has had elections and is growing its defense forces, and may state that Libya gave up its weapons programs making the world safer.

So is the doctrine "dead"? It can only really die if the Administration itself sets a different agenda for foreign policy initiatives and follows through with that change. As can be witnessed in the Israel/Lebanon fighting in August 2006, the President did not see it necessary to ask Israel to stop its thorough attack on Hizbullah and the civilian populations inside Lebanon. Secretary of State Rice went on what appeared to be futile missions to collect a cease fire from both sides to no avail. It even appeared that her mission was against White House wishes.

If there were a central theme to President Bush's foreign policy initiative, it was an ideological mission to further democracy around the globe. In action, it appears that the mission centers on areas where America's interest in resources is most vital, rather than where there is a strict lack of democracy. Furthermore, when Congress voted on delivering democracy to Iraq via armed combat "as a last resort", it was less due to free and fair elections and more to do with nuclear holocaust and chemical weapons. Had the Administration come to the House and the Senate with a single motive of installing a bicameral legislature or parliamentary form of government for Country A, it would have most assuredly been voted down.

The instruments that were used in Iraq are now found to be quite wanting in terms of success. Military occupations of a foreign land don't breed democratic government. The population itself will drive that force, and if that drive is overpowered by a desire to separate from another or a desire for retribution, then no number of men and women in U.S. uniforms can make them adopt what we want. In addition to not founding a stable country, let alone a smoothly functioning democracy, the occupation of Arab lands furthers the goal of radicals in want to either expel the U.S. forces, or even worse, deliver a compensatory blowback by way of terrorism within the borders of America.

It would also appear that public opinion of the United States among the Arab populations in the Middle East has sunk precipitously in the past year. While it is difficult to say what the involvement of American diplomacy meant in the Israel/Hizbullah/Hama conflict to the general public opinion, it is easy to say that the actions of the White House did not bolster the country's image in the region.

If the Bush doctrine had as its goal to increase American security, to broaden democracy, and to strengthen our relationships throughout the world, then by these measures the foreign policy of the past four years has done strictly the opposite of those achievable and agreeable goals. By attaining their ends through militaristic means, each goal becomes stressed to the breaking point. Each next step becomes exponentially more difficult; that is if there are even steps left to take as in the occupation of Iraq.

The doctrine is not dead so long as the President adheres to it; regarding whether or not the policies are winning anything appears to be a closed case. Mark one up for the loss column.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Tale Of A Kidnapping

More than a few months ago, Jill Carroll was released by her kidnappers in Iraq and came home with much fanfare as one of the very few brights spots of news from the war-torn country. Though she was relieved to be home, she did not immediately give a full account of how she was abducted nor her treatment at the hands of the insurgents.

Through the Christian Science Monitor and over ten parts, Ms. Carroll tells the tale of her abduction and her detention. It is quite a powerful story of what gathering news from outside the Green Zone was like, and why not many reporters venture out of those confines today. It is a powerful story.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On The Connecticut Senate Race And Control In Iraq

A great deal of attention was paid to the primary election held in the state of Connecticut this past Tuesday. Senator Joe Lieberman versus businessman Ned Lamont pitted the three-term incumbent against a single-issue candidate for the right to compete in the general election under the Democrat banner.

The single issue won.

While Senator Lieberman is not resigned to the fact that he has lost his Senate seat just yet, there does appear to be a greater issue here - unbridled support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq might hurt candidates that still need to appeal to those in the middle of the electorate. While any primary usually attracts those most motivated to vote in any election cycle (meaning those more politically active and interested), all those in the House may not take too lightly the idea of siding with the Bush Administration's single message which is "stay the course." From the current polling data, 60% of Americans believe the war and subsequent occupation a mistake.

It may well become diametrically defining issue of the nation come this November as it was in all of the races in 2004.

Related to this issue, it was interesting to hear the opinions of one Rory Stewart regarding how life appears on the ground within the confines of Iraq. Part of his book The Prince of Marhses has been excerpted on Salon.com. His direct participation in the lives and affairs of those in and around Maysan demonstrate the tremendous complications one undertakes when invading and occupying a foreign land.

To his credit, he made mention while making a guest appearance on a radio show that no matter how well one planned to set up the bureaucracy to fill the void of post-Baath control there really is nothing better to be done. His sense that an occupying force would get the situation invariably wrong is a lucid assessment given the current climate of sending more ground troops to Baghdad in order to improve the tense situation. The United States fixes things by putting more money, more security, and more boots on the ground which may well act as a destabilizing force to the existing hierarchy of the country.

The book should be a good read.