Someone asked me the other day why we can’t just drop relief supplies on Burma, nevermind what SLORC has to say about it. That seemed like a good question to me, and I didn’t have an answer. Barbara Stocking, the director of the UK branch of Oxfam, says this won’t work logistically and that there’s no alternative to either somehow pressuring the junta into letting relief workers enter the country. Or else, more likely I suppose, to watching more Burmese be essentially slaughtered by the obstructionism of their rulers.
In a recent Politico interview, President Bush was asked about “the worst that could happen…the doomsday scenario” if the U.S. were to pull out of Iraq next year. Bush responded: “The doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States.”
BUSH: The biggest issue we face is — it’s bigger than Iraq — it’s this ideological struggle against cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives. Iraq just happens to be a part of this global war. Iraq is the place where al Qaeda and other extremists have made their stand — and they will be defeated. They’ll be defeated through military action, but they’ll also be defeated as this young democracy takes hold. They can’t stand to live in a free society, that’s why they try to fight free societies.
The United States pulling out of Iraq or pulling out of the Middle East or not maintaining a forward presence would send all kinds of signals throughout the Middle East. And it would shake everybody’s nerves, and it would embolden the very same people that we’re trying to defeat.
Don’t look now, President George W. Bush, but you know what else emboldened the very same people that we’re trying to defeat? Invading and occupying Iraq. This is a problem with justifying a particular course of action through appeals to reputation: There is simply no way to ensure that the reaction one gets will be the reaction one originally intended to evoke.
To use just any old random example, let’s take Iraq. President Bush and his advisers conceived the Iraq invasion as a way to demonstrate to America’s enemies that terror attacks upon American soil would be met with massive military retaliation. In short, the Iraq invasion was intended to demonstrate American strength. Unfortunately, what the Iraq invasion actually demonstrated was that America, at least an America under George W. Bush, could be induced into invading a Muslim country that had nothing whatever to with that attack, and then into occupying that country for five years and counting. For many Muslims, the Iraq war has also vindicated bin Laden’s claim that America wants a war on Islam.
And if Bush thinks that his strategy of fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here, which effectively amounts to using Iraqis as live bait in America’s War on Terror, has been anything other than a stunning disaster for America’s reputation, he’s even more deluded than he appears.
Not shockingly, Fox News reports the interview with the headline “Bush Says Electing Democratic President Could Lead to New Attack On U.S..” We can, of course, expect more of this stuff as the presidential campaign continues. It seems obvious that if progressives had, at long last, as little decency as conservatives do, progressives could point out that electing a Republican president did lead to a terrorist attack. But we won’t.
This is hardly the only preposterous aspect of President Bush’s notion of giving up golf because he’s sad about Iraq, but it does seem worth pointing out that he hasn’t given up recreational boating and fishing at his family’s enormous summer estate in Kennebunkport, Maine during the same period. If, as Bush says, “playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal” then what’s the difference between that and his other leisure pursuits?
Meanwhile, it seems he actually gave up golf because of knee trouble a bit after the time he claims to have given it up to respect the troops.
I chat with UN Dispatch’s Mark Goldberg about HITS, the U.N., and foreign policy more generally.