Americans' growing unease at US foreign policy is not reflected by the two partiesby Anatol Lieven / September 24, 2006 / Leave a comment
The foreign and security strategy of the Bush administration lies in ruins. The battering of the Lebanese state by Israel, with US support, came only months after US leaders vowed to support and defend that country as a beacon of democracy and progress in the middle east. The doublethink in US policy does not relate only to the contrast between the language of democracy and the disasters in Iraq and Lebanon. Even more striking is that this public rhetoric is diametrically opposed to America’s actual strategy in the middle east, admitted privately by many officials, which is a reversion to the pre-9/11 norm: US and Israel reliance on autocracies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere to hold down their own people. This is the strategy which Bush and the neoconservatives insist was proved to be bankrupt by 9/11; and whose proponents have been dismissed by Bush as racists because they supposedly don’t “believe that Muslims can self-govern.”
America’s pre-9/11 strategy was based on a commitment to maintain stability in the middle east—a tenuous and unsatisfactory stability, but stability nonetheless. The problem is that this strategy is now combined with a parallel US and Israeli strategy that is in effect promoting anarchy. In the case of the latest Israeli attack on Lebanon, this is deliberate.
Some leading neoconservative commentators, like Michael Ledeen in the National Review, speak openly of the need to cause “creative destruction” in the middle east by toppling the Syrian and Iranian regimes and risking the overthrow from within of key US allies like Saudi Arabia. But this ultra-radical approach is not the policy of the administration as it stands, which is much more confused and contradictory.
The bankruptcy of US strategy extends far beyond the middle east. Partly because the Bush administration neglected Afghanistan in order to attack Iraq, the Taliban is growing in strength. Incredibly, Osama bin Laden and the other planners of 9/11 are still at large on the Afghan-Pakistan frontier, and killing or capturing them no longer seems even a second-order interest of the Bush administration.
North Korea’s nuclear missile plans have been hindered only by their own technological backwardness, and not in the least by US pressure. The plan to bring Ukraine and other former Soviet countries into Nato has collapsed, while still leaving Moscow infuriated. And more than 2,500 US soldiers are dead in a war in Iraq, which was…