Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hard Rain Journal 7-6-06: Axis of Drivel, and From Russia with Loathing -- The Failed Foreign Policy of Bush-Cheney

Hard Rain Journal 7-6-06: Axis of Drivel and From Russia with Loathing -- The Failed Foreign Policy and National Security "Strategery" of Bush-Cheney

By Richard Power

The headlines and hot air expended on North Korea, Iran and Iraq dubbed the “axis of evil” by Bush-Cheney, are disproportionate in relation to where they should fall on any reasonable scale of geopolitical or military threats to the US or its allies. They are just problems that got out of hand. Worse yet, the mostly hollow men (and women) who hold political office in Beltwayistan, and the pusillanimous pundits in US mainstream news media, are unwilling to articulate how these problems got out of hand.

North Korea is a big problem because despite Colin Powell’s sworn testimony, during his Senate confirmation hearings in 2001, that the Bush-Cheney administration would follow the US’s long-established, bi-partisan, internationalist foreign policy in general, and pursue negotiations underway with North Korea in particular, the “Decider” and his national insecurity team had other plans, i.e., to poke Kim Jong Il until he coiled and hissed, thereby strengthening the hand of right-wing politicians in Seoul and Tokyo, and providing a rationale for spending billions of dollars on missile defense at home.

If you want to brush up on this travesty, read Fred Kaplan’s Rolling Blunder: How the Bush administration let North Korea get nukes (Washington Monthly, 5/04)

Iran is a big problem because the Bush-Cheney administration ignored a last overture from the moderate Khatami regime in 2003, and because the US’s military adventure in Iraq has both alarmed and emboldened the Iranians.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a basket-case prior to the invasion and occupation. Bush's foolish military adventure has merely succeeded in smashing the basket that held it all together. Furthermore, this catastrophic blunder has seriously limited the US's ability to respond to both the hard-liners that have come to power in Tehran, and to the provocations of Kim Jong Il.

Al Qaeda, and related terrorist groups, are a big problem because the incoming Bush-Cheney administration did not keep the pressure on, or the alert level high, in the months preceding 9/11 (even though they had been warned that an attack was imminent), and also because its policy of malign neglect in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and its unprovoked, unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq have alienated and enraged the Moslem world. (Both of these blunders were also departures from long-established, bi-partisan foreign policy principles.)

Writing on “The New American Cold War” in The Nation, Stephen Cohen articulates the greatest threat, i.e., Russia 21st Century instability, and the US’s 20th Century reaction:

As a result of the Soviet breakup in 1991, Russia, a state bearing every nuclear and other device of mass destruction, virtually collapsed. During the 1990s its essential infrastructures--political, economic and social--disintegrated. Moscow's hold on its vast territories was weakened by separatism, official corruption and Mafia-like crime. The worst peacetime depression in modern history brought economic losses more than twice those suffered in World War II.….Outwardly, the nation may now seem to have recovered. Its economy has grown on average by 6 to 7 percent annually since 1999, its stock-market index increased last year by 83 percent and its gold and foreign currency reserves are the world's fifth largest….More fundamental realities indicate that Russia remains in an unprecedented state of peacetime demodernization and depopulation….The gap between the poor and the rich, Russian experts tell us, is becoming "explosive." Most tragic and telling, the nation continues to suffer wartime death and birth rates, its population declining by 700,000 or more every year. Male life expectancy is barely 59 years and, at the other end of the life cycle, 2 to 3 million children are homeless. …The stability of the political regime atop this bleak post-Soviet landscape rests heavily, if not entirely, on the personal popularity and authority of one man, President Vladimir Putin….The top business and administrative elites, having rapaciously "privatized" the Soviet state's richest assets in the 1990s, are particularly despised….The huge military is equally unstable, its ranks torn by a lack of funds, abuses of authority and discontent. No wonder serious analysts worry that one or more sudden developments--a sharp fall in world oil prices, more major episodes of ethnic violence or terrorism, or Putin's disappearance--might plunge Russia into an even worse crisis….As long as catastrophic possibilities exist in that nation, so do the unprecedented threats to US and international security. Experts differ as to which danger is the gravest--proliferation of Russia's enormous stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological materials; ill-maintained nuclear reactors on land and on decommissioned submarines; an impaired early-warning system controlling missiles on hair-trigger alert; or the first-ever civil war in a shattered superpower, the terror-ridden Chechen conflict. But no one should doubt that together they constitute a much greater constant threat than any the United States faced during the Soviet era…. Any instability in Russia could easily spread to a crucial and exceedingly volatile part of the world. There is another, perhaps more likely, possibility. Petrodollars may bring Russia long-term stability, but on the basis of growing authoritarianism and xenophobic nationalism….
STEPHEN F. COHEN, The New American Cold War, The Nation, 7-10-06

Cohen also articulates the failure of the Beltwayistan political establishment in failing to come to grips with this situation in any holistic way:

Since the early 1990s Washington has simultaneously conducted, under Democrats and Republicans, two fundamentally different policies toward post-Soviet Russia--one decorative and outwardly reassuring, the other real and exceedingly reckless….
….In a democracy we might expect alternative policy proposals from would-be leaders. But there are none in either party, only demands for a more anti-Russian course, or silence. We should not be surprised. Acquiescence in Bush's monstrous war in Iraq has amply demonstrated the political elite's limited capacity for introspection, independent thought and civic courage….
The vision and courage of heresy will therefore be needed to escape today's new cold war orthodoxies and dangers, but it is hard to imagine a US politician answering the call. There is, however, a not-too-distant precedent. Twenty years ago, when the world faced exceedingly grave cold war perils, Gorbachev unexpectedly emerged from the orthodox and repressive Soviet political class to offer a heretical way out. Is there an American leader today ready to retrieve that missed opportunity?

When Bush met Putin for the first time, in 2001, he said, “I looked the man in the eye….I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”

What do you think Putin saw in Bush’s eyes? What sense of his soul did Putin take away?

He probably knew he would be eating this little rich kid’s lunch every day.

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

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