Young Mr. Bush and his handlers managed to squander
more than two centuries of American progress. Two interminable armed conflicts
and the economic collapse they produced left President Obama with the worst
combination of foreign and domestic policy disasters in our country's history.
He faces a conundrum; he needs to take care of the economic problems first,
but they won't fully heal until he straightens out the tangled web of war Bush
created in the Middle East. Unfortunately, he made very bad decisions when he
chose his foreign policy cabinet secretaries.
Smart Power poster girl Hillary
Clinton bombed relations with the Iranians back to the Cheney age when she
said that diplomacy
with Iran probably won't work. You can be assured it won't work if she's
in charge of it. After two days of talks in Egypt and Israel, where she heard
"over and over and over again" how worried Arabs and Israelis are
about the Persian state, she accused Iran of "fomenting" divisions
in the Arab world and seeking to "intimidate as far as they think their
voice can reach." That's abject hypocrisy coming from the chief diplomat
of a superpower that single-handedly placed the Middle East in a state of perpetual
turmoil. If Hillary's remarks were calculated, they were miscalculated. We need
a secretary of state who sounds like an intelligent adult, not a two-faced harpy
who flies around the world hurling fireballs at straw men. We just had four
years of that from Keystone Kondi.
Hillary has confirmed that despite her campaign claim of possessing a foreign
policy experience edge over Obama, it was Bill, not she, who was commander in
chief during the Clinton administration. Like candidate Hillary, Secretary Hillary
feels the need to act tough so the draft-dodging neocons won't call her a girly
man. She shouldn't worry. They'll call her a girly man no matter what she does.
And if she goes into high orbit every time the Arabs and Israelis lie to her
about Iran, she'll never come down to earth.
The neocons will never have anything bad to say about Hillary's counterpart
at Defense. Bill Kristol must have thought he'd ascended into heaven when young
Mr. Bush named Bob
Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Gates was brought in to serve as a welcome
mat for the surge strategy, the key to attaining Kristol's
dream of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. Kristol especially likes
having a warmonger around who says even dumber things than he does.
Gates is a grand master of self-contradiction, as he illustrated once again
on a recent Tavis
Smiley Show. He said that one of the "biggest lessons learned"
from the Iraq experience "is if you are going to contemplate preempting
an attack, you had better be very confident of the intelligence that you have."
Gates repeated that sentiment several times, then noted that the war in Afghanistan
is now his "biggest challenge," seemingly oblivious to the fact that
he encouraged Obama to preemptively escalate the conflict there on the basis
of no intelligence at all. We will never have good intelligence on the Bananastans.
You can count the number of people who speak both Pashtun and English and can
also pass a background check on the toes and fingers of a duck. Our best sources
of intelligence on Afghanistan and Pakistan are Afghan and Pakistani intelligence
officials. If we're going to trust them, we may as well believe everything the
Mossad tells us.
You'd think Gates would understand that, having been chief of the CIA, but
you'd be wrong. Where Hillary made her mark in Washington by clinging to a coattail,
Gates built his career as a bureaucratic dimwit the old-fashioned way: by not
rocking the boat. He "succeeded" as secretary of defense by telling
Bush what he wanted to hear and being more popular with his subordinates than
Rummy was, a feat considerably easier than falling off a log. You do everything
General A tells you to do, say everything General B tells you to say, pretend
you don't know General C is tagging his enlisted driver and, by golly, you're
such a military genius the next administration simply has to keep you on for
a year or so.
After Adm. William Fallon lost the showdown for control of Central Command,
the generals that remained – including Adm. Mike Mullen, now the Joint Chiefs
chairman – were all aboard the Petraeus train; there's nobody left but the long
warriors. The way things look now, the status of forces agreement won't amount
to a speed bump on the road to eternal occupation of Iraq, and we'll continue
to bury ourselves in the Bananastans whether we cook up a flimsy excuse to be
there or not.
In a bizarre turn on the BBC comedy Yes, Minister, our state and defense
secretaries are little more than figureheads for the career military officers
who have gained a stranglehold on U.S. foreign policy. I recommended several
weeks ago that Obama should order every officer from the full bird level up
to submit a request to retire, but he may consider that politically untenable.
And if he canned Hillary, oh, my: double, double, toil and trouble!
He can marginalize Hillary by encircling her with advisers and special envoys
and such who report directly to him. Hopefully, by the end of Gates' "year
or so," Virginia governor Tim Kaine will have been succeeded by a Democrat
and can take Jim Webb's Senate seat, freeing Webb to take over at Defense. The
best way to "get rid" of King David may be to promote him to Joint
Chiefs chairman. The chairman doesn't have any command authority; he's merely
the president's top uniformed military adviser. Obama can privately make it
loud and clear that he expects Petraeus to have his 10-word advice memorandum
to the Oval Office by 5 p.m. every tenth Friday, pronto.
With Petraeus neutralized, maybe – just maybe – Webb or someone like him can
begin developing a new generation of generals who don't believe that defending
their country involves keeping it entangled in never ending, counterproductive
wars that defeat its economy.