New Sysiphus is a veteran of the Foreign Service Office, and he’s tapped in to American global policies. He’s more devoutly conservative than I am, but we share an uncompromising believer in the universality of Western freedoms.
On Monday, he published The Breach. It’s one of the most powerful indictments of the Bush Administration I’ve ever seen. Not just for the writing, which is sufficiently potent, but because of the moral authority — if you will — of the writer.
He begins with the President’s own words, in the two key speeches Bush made that form the core of what has come to be called the “Bush Doctrine.” Like New Sisyphus, I fully subscribe to the idealism and high purpose and humanity of that doctrine. New Sisyphus then writes a history of American policies and campaigns in the war on terror that opened on Sept. 11, 2001. And he comes to a conclusion:
Along the way, the President has not advanced the American issue in a direct, forthright way. Instead, his Administration has bumbled along, pretending we are at peace. The very real fact of a very real war is not even discernable among the American population at large. No sacrifices are asked, not even doing without “American Idol.” No mobilization has been ordered. Life goes on as before, creating a severe and hurtful disorientation between those families who have lost sons and those who don’t even know there is a war on.
This is not the War on Terror the President sold us on in 2001. Not even close. We are not serious and everyone knows this, especially our enemies. I look into the eyes of my sons and I know that I would rather die-I would rather die-than let them fight in a war to establish the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or to hand power over to the crazy Shi’ites of Iraq.
The leading Iraqi political figure, the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, has on his website instructions for how to determine what is unclean and what is clean. Among his definitions of “unclean” are things like shit, entrails of animals and, oh yes, the dead bodies of infidel soldiers.
Our policy is to die for a man and a people who literally think the dead bodies of our soldiers are literally shit.
That is our policy.
There are little quibbles I could make with his minor points. But they do not affect the thumping force of his statements. He concludes with:
I cannot support President Bush any longer. Can you?
I agree with N.S. about the infuriation of seeing the same president say the right words in his official addresses, then do all the wrong things when it comes to implementing them. I agree with him that the mound of evidence that this administration doesn’t care, or doesn’t care enough, about the expressed ideals of the Bush Doctrine, is too high to dismiss.
To me, the problem wasn’t that there were too many neo-cons in the administration — as the opposition says — but that there weren’t enough of them. The neo-cons had a vision. But it was left to be implemented by old-school Kissinger-ish realists like Condi Rice and Don Rumsfeld. And Bush? He’s a CEO, not a visionary. The neo-con ideals were like a management model to him; something he could pick and choose from to cobble together his own policies. The rhetoric was useful because it held certain players in place long enough, but I don’t believe any more he feels any commitment to it.
If I ever did. I thought in 2000 he was about the worst major party presidential candidate I’d ever seen. The calculus of the post-9/11 world and the suicidal fixations and lack of better ideas of the anyone-but-Bush faction backed me into voting in 2004 for the same man I held in contempt in 2000. I supported him against the BDS lunacy. But on his own, it’s like rooting for my old college football team. You knew they were going to fumble on every possession. But they were the home team.
But what does it mean to “support” a lame-duck president in his second term? Where are you going to take your support if you withdraw it? My thoughts are, if we can get through to 2008 in one piece, we get another chance to put someone at the top who has an honest foreign policy vision and a commitment to American virtues and a firmness in purpose in advancing them, and a willingness to make the sacrifices that will bring out the spirit of this people.
I don’t support Bush. I don’t oppose him. Mostly I ignore him. And wait for the next chance. Iraq always was, for me, a long-term gamble. I said before it started, “20 years till we know if it’s a good idea.” The outcome will be nothing we intended at the start; unintended consequences will rule, but it seemed to me, and still seems to me, that the chance of those consequences being to the benefit of Iraqis, Americans, and the world in general remain good. In that context, I can wait out George W. Bush’s feeble fading years.