Empire of Novices
By MAUREEN DOWD
The Bush foreign policy team always had contempt for Bill Clinton's herky-jerky, improvised interventions around the world. When it took control, it promised a global stewardship purring with gravity, finesse and farsightedness.
But now the Bush "dream team" is making the impetuous Clinton look like Rommel.
When your aim is remaking the Middle East, you don't want to get stuck making it up as you go along.
Even officials with a combined century of international experience can behave with jejeunosity — if they start believing their own spin.
The group that started out presuming it could shape the world is now getting shoved by the world.
Our unseen tormentors are the ones who seem canny and organized, not us. As they move from killing individual U.S. soldiers and Iraqis to sabotaging power plants, burning oil pipelines, blowing up mosques, demolishing the U.N. headquarters and now hitting the Baghdad police headquarters, our enemies seem better prepared and more committed to creating chaos in Iraq — and Afghanistan — than we are to creating order.
They've also proved more adept at putting together an effective coalition than the Bush team: a terrifying blend of terrorists from other countries, Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam fighters, radical Shiites and Saddam remnants, all pouring into Iraq and united by their hatred of America.
If we review the Bush war council's motives for conquering Iraq, the scorecard looks grim:
• We wanted to get rid of Osama and Saddam and the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We didn't. They're replicating and coming at us like cockroaches. According to Newsweek, Osama is in the mountains of Afghanistan, plotting to use biological weapons against America. If all those yuppies can climb Mount Everest, at 29,000 feet, can't we pay some locals to nab Osama at 14,000 feet?
• Bushies thought freeing Iraq from Saddam would be the first step toward the Middle East road map for peace, as well as a guarantee of greater security for Israel. But the road map blew up, and Israel seems farther away from making peace with the Arabs than ever. The U.S. has now pathetically called on Yasir Arafat to use his power to help after pretending for more than a year that he didn't exist.
• Rummy wanted to exorcise the stigma of Vietnam and prove you could use a lighter, faster force. But our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan may not banish our fears of being mired in a place halfway around the world where we don't understand the language or culture, and where our stretched-thin soldiers are picked off, guerrilla-style.
• The neocons wanted to marginalize the wimpy U.N. by barreling past it into Iraq. Now the Bush administration is crawling back to the U.N., but other nations are suspicious of U.S. security and politics in Iraq.
• Dick Cheney and Rummy wanted to blow off multilateralism and snub what Bushies call "the chocolate-making countries": France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. But faced with untold billions in costs and mounting casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are beginning to see the advantages of sidekicks that know the perils of empire.
• The Pentagon wanted to sideline the C.I.A. and State and run the war and reconstruction itself. Now, overwhelmed, the Pentagon's special operations chiefs were reduced to screening a 1965 movie,
last week, as David Ignatius reported in The "The Battle of Algiers," , to try to learn why the French suffered a colonial disaster in a guerrilla war against Muslims in Algiers. Washington Post
• The neocons hoped democracy in Iraq would spread like a fever in the Mideast, even among our double-dealing friends like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But after the majestic handoff of democracy to the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, it seems the puppets (now nervous about bodyguards) don't even want to work late, much less govern. As one aide told The Times, "On the Council, someone makes a suggestion, then it goes around the room, with everyone talking about it, and then by that time, it's late afternoon and time to go home."
• The vice president wanted to banish that old 60's feeling of moral ambivalence, of America in the wrong. Our unilateral move in Iraq, with the justifications on W.M.D. and Qaeda links to Saddam getting shakier each month, has made us more hated around the world than ever.