Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bush and Clinton=Blinton? Cush?

First week of school, so I'm a little out of it--trying to juggle a new schedule. A bit of chicken with its head cut off syndrome this week.

Plus now living without a TV. And internet has been spotty, so I'm pretty out of it. Have no clue about this Clinton docudrama (non)mess, just a few thoughts in that general frame on the issue itself terrorism, etc. I'm going to give a pro/con for each president on GWOT issues and argue for a sorta synthesis of the best of each.

Clinton did not take seriously enough bin Laden. They had him tracked and there was the failed bombings on the training camps in Afghanistan and the so-called Medical Factory in Sudan. Clinton however did achieve fairly remarkable success in Bosnia, former Yugoslavia. It has been a fragile peace (The Dayton Accords), but it has held. Especially in Macedonia where there was the most worry in the aftermath of the 90s conflict. We had to make deals with bad guys (e.g. Milosevic) when necessary. It was labeled an intervention not an occupation and sought stability/security as a prelude to economic connection-opening political processes.

Bush took bin Laden and AQ more seriously--he has weakened the structure. Although it should be noted that bin Laden is not the strategic genius he has been made out to be. His idea of a umbrella organization that will unite all jihadists to fight the far enemey (US/Israel) first has never and will never take hold. Even within AQ, the move has been more towards targeted strikes rather than high profile targets--which seem to be bin Laden's mainstay. In fact the recent failed attack on British airlines proves that AQ's remaining bureaucracy and bin Laden's penchant for big media attacks/personal control over decisions hurts them.

Bush however did not send in the necessary troops at Tora Bora, rather leaving it to the Northern Alliance who played the long-standing game of wink-wink with the AQ. Waziristan in the frontier Pakistan-Afghan border is fast becoming the new base camp for AQ. So truth be told we still continue to not take them seriously. Not to mention the perhaps unavoidable viral spread of AQ-theology to affiliated groups.

Bush's biggest failure however in my view was a consequence of the conscious renunciation of the Clinton interventionist model. We called Iraq an occupation--and hence in the minds of the Middle East recalled the Palestinian issue. We did not focus primarily on security and hence the reconstruction in violent regions of the country can not go forward. We have been slow to make necessary deals with bad guys (first the Sunnis, and still not Syria/Iran).

From the neocons Bush properly learned that we could no longer continue to carte blanche support Sunni Arab tyrants. That human political evolution tends (emphasis on tends, not automatic) towards classical rule of law, separation of power. That globalization is coming to this disconnected world and it needs to catch up fast.

From the realists (Powell, Haas, Leverett) Bush should have learned the art of diplomacy when necessary--worked with Libya. He should have recalled how painful the transition would actually be and that we would be responsible: The Powell Doctrine, you break it, you fix it. Also the need for larger alliances, and perhaps most importantly, the miiltary can not solve all problems.

Bush had the right people around him for that synthesis, sadly it didn't happen. What neither side (neocon nor realist) will admit is the choice in the Sunni---emphasis on SUNNI--Arab world there is a choice between autocrats and Islamists. The realists retreat to a position that the Sauds and Mubarak are "moderates" against the radicals. The neocons thinking we can just continue to use military problem as a panacea to all ills. The realist position is correct on the Shia and the need to make a strategic bargain with Iran [see Condi Rice's recent possible opening diplomatic testing of the waters with Teheran].

But for the Sunni world, Islamism has to be parsed into its truly more moderate and radical elements. Does the recent Hamas/Fatah alliance bode well or ill? Time will tell. [Hamas' more radical wing in Syria authored the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier in the West Bank forcing the recent crisis in Palestine/Israel. What if the US/Israel had not isolated the Palestinian elected version of Hamas, would they have been able to stand up against the more radical wing and isolate them?]

And we have to shift our definition of the word moderate and have some sense of timing on this. Probably take about 20ish years for the kind of regimes to emerge/stabilize there that we would really like to see. That's 20 years as a conservative estimate. There will be major ups/downs in the interim period. So let's not either fall into the right-ist trap of wanting to just make war and create abstract "pressure" on regimes nor the left-ist defeatist mentality of we can never really win. Nor the realist-only position of re-entrenching the Sunni autocrats.


Post a Comment

<< Home