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Triumphalism

If I correctly understood Greg Djerejian's view during the election, it was that we should vote to re-elect George W. Bush because Greg was privvy to secret information indicating that, despite all of Bush's public statements, he actually had a secret plan to start implementing a much more sensible foreign policy in his second term. That never made any sense at all to me. Nevertheless, judging by the past three months of Bush's foreign policy making, it does sort of seem to be happening. Naturally enough, Greg is crowing, which I suppose is his right. I still don't see how any of that was ex ante predictable, and I tend to think that John Kerry would have done essentially the same things had he been in office since January (if you can find examples of leading Kerry foreign policy advisors condemning Bush's recent initiatives with regard to Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon I'd be interested in hearing it).

At any rate, the fly in the ointment here continues to be Iran. Greg takes heart from signs that Bush is moving toward the Takeyh-Pollack line on Iran. Well, I'm glad to see those signs to. I'm also quite sure that a Kerry administration really would be implementing that policy, and not at all sure that Bush really will. I'd be thrilled to be proven wrong about that, but I continue to have some serious fears that he's going to do something there that throws the whole project off the rails once again. Fortunately, I'm reasonably confident that even if worst comes to worst we won't be launching a nuclear attack on Syria.

March 1, 2005 | Permalink

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» Quote of the Day from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
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Tracked on Mar 2, 2005 1:12:23 AM

Comments

Shrub's foreign policy couldn't have gotten worse, so 'regression on the mean' would indicate that is should get better.

Record deficits. EOS.

Posted by: AlGore | Mar 1, 2005 11:37:24 AM

Social Security aside, Bush's second term has been a bit of a surprise for me. He has shifted gears a little when it comes to foreign policy, and his trip to Europe to 'mend fences' was another welcome surprise. Also, his budget clamp-down is a complete turn-a-round from his spend, spend, spend person from the first term.

I still wish Kerry had won, for a myriad of reasons, but one has to admit that Bush has altered himself a bit. We'll just have to wait and see if it actually lasts.

Posted by: Matt (not MY) | Mar 1, 2005 11:49:20 AM

I still wish Kerry had won, for a myriad of reasons, but one has to admit that Bush has altered himself a bit. We'll just have to wait and see if it actually lasts.

No. He's just started talking a different game. This is the man that called the plan to gut the Clean Air Act "Clear Skies". Ignore his words -- they lie. Look at his actions.

He hasn't changed anything but his rhetoric.

Posted by: Morat | Mar 1, 2005 12:02:07 PM

As a rabid, partisan, irrational Bush-hater I am not going to give any Kudos. I think Bush's 'moderation' on foreign policy is a result of the realities created by his first term. Mainly that the military is now so overstretched maintaining the Iraq occupation that he cannot credibly wave much of a big stick. The whole world knows that we are incapable of any type of major ground action requring a large number of troops for the forseeable future, barring some kind of emergency. Sure a strike against an Iranian nuclear facility is a possibility, but this may or may not hinder their program while almost certainly would strengthen Iran's hardliners, so it's not a great option. As for NK, they contune to build nukes unabated.

In terms of Bush's spending moderation noted by Matt (not MY), that is a mockery of sham. Where he does cut it is mainly passing the Medicare buck to the states and a number of pork project certain to get re-instated my congress, who he will then be able to blame for not restraining spending (even though they are all republicans). His 5-year budget forecast "cutting the deficit in half" is a complete sham and despite the fact that everybody knows that, he gets to continue saying it.

Nope, this admninistration is still an incompetent joke.

Posted by: Dperl99 | Mar 1, 2005 12:07:50 PM

He wouldn't need to mend fences if we hadn't spent so much time and effort tearing them down in the first place.

Posted by: Matt G. | Mar 1, 2005 12:12:32 PM

All of the 'successes' of the Bush 2nd term would have been done better, cheaper, faster in a Kerry Admin, so it is really a case of cheering for Bush when he does not screw things up. It's kind of like a standing ovation at a little league game for the kid who always strikes out drawing a walk. There is nothing to cheer about other than for once performing with some competence.

Posted by: theCoach | Mar 1, 2005 12:28:06 PM

Dperl99 is correct. There's no plan, secret or otherwise. Mistaken or not, the admin at least had something resembling a proactive strategy in the first term. Now it seems simply reactive. So of course it's less problematic. But we can't be reactive in the long run. We need a positive go forward strategy beyond not making mistakes.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Mar 1, 2005 12:35:36 PM

The only thing that surprises me is how he wilfully refuses to admit how badly he fucked up in his first term. No matter how you feel about the war in Iraq, one fact is abundantly clear: the current troop level in Iraq is not working--it is either too high or too low. Yet George Bush stubbornly refuses to change it. He is also destroying the Army and Marine Corps by refusing to increasing active duty troop strength to a level that is appropriate for the missions they are undertaking presumably because to do so would demand real sacrifices on the part of the American people in the form of a tax hike or draft.

In fact he continues to live in a fantasy world. He thinks he can live through the next four years and ignore the mess he has created and someone else will have to clean it up. But I guess that's the way he has lived his whole life.

Posted by: Freder Frederson | Mar 1, 2005 12:36:27 PM

Matt, you are reality based! I'm not as gung-ho as Djerejian, but I agree with Kurt Anderson when after the Iraqi election he wrote: "The coginitive dissonance is palpable."

Posted by: Peter K. | Mar 1, 2005 12:37:39 PM

I'm just waiting for a meteorite to hit Tehran and Glenn Reynolds to announce that "but for the Iraq war, this meteorite would not have landed where it did."

Posted by: Anderson | Mar 1, 2005 12:37:57 PM

Most of the damage W has done will take 4-8 years to hit home. So I wouldn't relax yet.

Have you read any European accounts of W's recent Grand Tour? For some odd reason, they aren't as positive as the news articles published here in the US.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Mar 1, 2005 1:09:49 PM

This is going to be exactly like the USSR collapsing. If you like Reagan, he was responsible for that. If you don't, you think the USSR was going to collapse anyway. So I suppose for the next 20-30 years anytime something non-disasterous happens in the Middle East we'll be arguing over whether Bush caused it or not.

If you're in a hole, stop digging. Perhaps Bush has stopped digging and that is something resembling success. Maybe we'll get around to catching Osama one of these days.

I wouldn't declare victory though until we can go a year or two without getting into a war with Syria and/or Iran.

Posted by: Brian | Mar 1, 2005 1:30:11 PM

Skill, hard work, and collaboration must count for something. Nothing in this administration reflects skill, hard work, or collaboration -- certainly not domestic policy or foreign relations. Some credit due for proclaiming freedom and democracy as virtues but this is what American has stood for for generations. Yet our actions speak louder than Bush's words and the US has been badly damaged as a beacon for human rights. Lets wait to see the follow-through before granting too much credit.

Posted by: JB | Mar 1, 2005 1:42:48 PM

Have you read any European accounts of W's recent Grand Tour?

I prefer to think of it as W's "Rainbow Tour".

Posted by: cmdicely | Mar 1, 2005 1:54:48 PM

He's not doing so well close to home. Lúcio Gutierrez, the president of Ecuador now refers to himself as a Dictocrat and has been packing his Supreme Court, which apparently was bad when Hugo Chávez did it (something I agree on), but rates silence when Gutierrez does it. They're also still trying to put lipstick on the pig in Haiti and the mess that they helped make along with the french.

Posted by: Randy Paul | Mar 1, 2005 1:55:07 PM

For one, Kerry was adament in the last month of the campaign that he opposed going forward with the elections in Iraq. Remember, "I don't think the president sees how bad is there." If you agree with Walid Jumblaat and many other Lebanese opposition leaders, the Iraqi elections were a watershed moment in persuading them of the sincerity of the president's rhetoric on freedom. The Arab press has been filled with commentaries on the significance of the Iraqi elections by the way.

Now on the broader question, I think we can chalk up the Mubarak concessions to a continuation of Bush's first term policies. The State Department threatened to cut aid to Egypt over the detainment of Saad Ibn Ibrahim in 2002. Ambassador Welch has made a point of publicly calling on liberal reforms.

Finally, only a month ago, this list was up in arms about the radical rhetoric of the president's second inaugural and state of the union. Now he's a moderate. I don't think Bush will do much more than speak pleasent words about the possibility of WTO ascession for Iran. Will US ambassadors join negotiations? No.

But it begs a larger question. Do we credit bush with the brave strides of the opposition in Lebanon? No. The credit there goes to the people risking their necks in the tent cities of Beirut. But it is reasonable to say the president's high profile repetition of his vision of freedom, his signing of the Syria accountability act, his diplomacy with france on the UN resolution calling on Syria to leave, instilled confidence in the opposition that America would not abandon them.

Matt, do you really think the candidate who told the Washington Post that his administration would place less emphasis on democracy, would intill that kind of confidence? Kerry said he had a secret plan to replace American soldiers with Arab armies in Iraq so the GIs could come home. Under a Kerry administration there is a good chance that the highest priority would be to persuade the armies of Arab dictators to share in the occupation of Iraq with the election postponed indefinitely.

Posted by: Eli Lake | Mar 1, 2005 2:01:04 PM

Right, Walid Jumblaat has had a sudden, sincere, conversion to the idea that Bush is leading some benevolent, crusade to bring democracy to people.

In one day he went from believing that Bush took down the WTC as a cover to conquer the Middle East to believing in your brand of horseshit. Did a big, blinding, light hit him? Did litteral scales fall from his eyes?

Posted by: Ed Marshall | Mar 1, 2005 2:13:54 PM

Hey genius, Here is a quote from David Ignatius' column in the post on February 23.

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian
people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Posted by: Eli Lake | Mar 1, 2005 2:19:46 PM

Wow, it was a couple months.

You do have great instincts about these things though! I remember when people had doubts about Chalabi. Those idiots!

Posted by: Ed Marshall | Mar 1, 2005 2:25:17 PM

Is it true that Paul Wolfowitz has been named head of the World Bank?

If so, nuff said.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 1, 2005 2:32:38 PM

Wait, oh, I get it now.

You seriously believe this is happening everywhere. Everyone in the Arab world is really converting from hating out guts over Iraq to seeing it as a great deal. He's just one of many and not just a cynic, exploiting a criminally stupid American public into taking positions that are helpful to his Druze political agenda.

Wow.

Posted by: Ed Marshall | Mar 1, 2005 2:36:15 PM

I'm not meaning to be too pissy, here, as I think Bush deserves some credit for the way things are turning in the ME in general, but I kind of take Jumblatt's "it's strange for me to say it" clause to mean, "it's strange for me to credit the Americans with something because I still hate their guts." He may be, for example, also of a mind like I've heard from some Shiite politicians in Iraq -- that the sort of elections they had only came about because of the pressure brought on by the Sunni insurgency. He credits the event of the American invasion, not the Americans themselves, after all. While I'm just a casual observer who knows nothing of Lebanese politics, I find that take a little more easy to reconcile with his previous statements than the idea that he's plastered his car with GWB bumber stickers.

But, color me disappointed that there isn't more realization on the left that things are changing, and that that is a good thing.

Posted by: Dan | Mar 1, 2005 2:58:45 PM

The skepticism of Morat and Dperl99 is well-founded in the distinction between Bush's first term words and actions.

Also, you apparently have forgotten that other major fly in the ointment -- North Korea. Or do you consider that to be another early 2nd term FP success?

Posted by: Bragan | Mar 1, 2005 3:02:42 PM

While I'm just a casual observer who knows nothing of Lebanese politics, I find that take a little more easy to reconcile with his previous statements than the idea that he's plastered his car with GWB bumber stickers.

Pick up a good book on Lebanon (I suggest Pity the Nation) and read the section on 1975, and notice the number of eerie similarities. Also take note of just how many times the Lebanese opposition got together to call for national sovereignty right before they started mass killing each other along sectarian lines. I have no reason to think this is anything special and it's certainly not anything new under the sun in Lebanon.

Posted by: Ed Marshall | Mar 1, 2005 3:10:48 PM

What are talking about, folks? What 'moderation on foreign policy'? What 'Berlin Wall'? Are you nuts?

Posted by: abb1 | Mar 1, 2005 3:56:47 PM

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