By William James Martin
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
In the 1976 presidential debates, candidate Jimmy Carter told President Ford that Ford’s only accomplishment in office had been avoiding another Watergate.
Carter, who would become President Ford’s successor, could boast, if in the unlikely event that he so chose, of successfully negotiating the Israeli-Egyptian treaty, the Panama Canal treaties, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union along with having established normalized relations with the Peoples Republic of China, as well as having enacted a wide range of energy legislation, and having created the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, and also increased he preparedness of the US military by adding to it the Stealth jet fighter and the cruse missile. Jimmy Carter passed 76% of the legislation he sent to congress, the second highest percentage of an any president in history.
What may we say of the accomplishments of President Bush, who has had twice the length of time in office of Carter? Bush’s accomplishments are hard to think of.
To his credit, Khadafi’s Libya has emerged from conversations with the administration with an agreement to forswear the acquisition of nuclear weapons in return for the lifting of trade sanctions. Khadafi’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability was in any case a lethargic one. And North Korea seems to be moving back to the agreement of 1994, negotiated by Carter under the Clinton administration, which did not survive the initial period of the Bush administration just after Bush took office in 2001 and effectively abrogated the treaty. But these are pretty much at the periphery of the administration’s main focus
Beyond these matters, which were peripheral to the administration’s attention, Bush seems to have failed in all of his intended objectives, not least of which is freeing Americans from the threat of Al Qaeda.
Far from defeating Al Qaeda, Bush has only strengthened it, while paying the price of hundreds of thousands dead Iraqis and Americans and three quarters of a trillion dollars transferred from the pockets of American taxpayers to the banks of east Asia, which is the location of US borrowing in order to pay for the war.
The recently released unclassified portions of the National Intelligence Estimate titled, “The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland”, concluded that Al Qaeda, after having been driven from Afghanistan, had reconstituted itself in the remote mountainous area of northwest Pakistan and had re-established its training infrastructure and its global lines of communication. The assessment also concluded that though Al Qaeda had little organizational control over Al Qaeda in Iraq, it had benefited and gained stature from its apparent affiliation as Al Qaeda in Iraq is perceived by many in the Arab world as being at the forefront of the struggle with the United States.
A second government report issued in the same week written by the National Counterterrorism Center was titled, “Al Qaeda Better Position to Strike the West”, whose title pretty much describes its content.
The insistence of the US in locating components of a missile shield in central Europe and the US intention to deploy forces in Bulgaria and Romania has increased tension with Russia and has caused Russian President Putin to announce Russia’s suspension of its obligation under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe which had placed limits on the placement of non-nuclear forces in Europe.
Rather than creating democratic governments in the Middle East, triggered by the overthrow of the Iraqi government and the intended overthrow of the Syrian and Iranian governments, which fortunately, he has failed to do, he has, by seeking to destroy the democratically elected government in Palestine and the electoral successful Hezbollah in Lebanon, has convinced most of the residents of the Middle East that American efforts at introducing democracy into the Middle East is nothing but a strategy for augmenting the hegemony of Israel, and that democracy will be discarded as soon as an election victory goes to a party in opposition to Israel. He has not only failed to diminish the regional influence of Iran, but, by eliminating Iran’s regional adversary, Iraq, and having replaced it with a friendly Shiite government whose leadership was mostly nurtured in Iran during the dictatorship of Saddam, Bush has dramatically increased Iran’s relative power and influence.
Bush has failed to make a contribution to the US military and has, in fact, depleted it of manpower and available fighting potential as well as having depleted it of materiel’ and equipment in the Iraq war.
There were those in the administration that argued that “the road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad,” meaning the overthrow of Saddam, who contributed financially to the families of Palestinian “martyrs”, would contribute to a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not only has this not been the case but the argument rest on the most superficial assumptions and shallowness of understanding of what motivates the Palestinian national movement or even what the conflict is all about.
The overthrow of Saddam would also eliminate a source of regional support for Palestinian nationalism. I doubt that Bush understands the degree to which he is engaged in the Israeli program of defeating the Palestinians. It is really a zero-sum game – support for the Israeli program means defeat for the Palestinians.
The invasion of Iraq was to be the panacea that was to have solved all of the Middle East’s problems.
Not only has Bush failed to destabilize Syria, but Syria is enjoying an economic boom despite the economic sanctions which the US Congress has imposed on that Middle East nation.
A question that is rarely considered by the TV political pundits is; what is Bush’s overarching foreign policy strategy and objectives?
The administration’s foreign policy focus is almost totally on the Middle East and it is very much tied to the interests of Israel.
Before the invasion of Iraq, Israel looked to the east to see Saddam Hussein who was determined to be a regional power in possession of a large army, who had, in the past, pursued a nuclear and biological weapons program, who provided financial support to the PLO, and who had, during the first Gulf War, hit Israel with dozens of Scud missiles, which, however, were ineffective in causing damage. The US sponsored UN sanction program had, however, diminished Iraq as a serious threat in that it destroyed the Iraq economy.
Israel now looks to the north and sees Syria who has declined to enter into a peace treaty with Israel, lacking a negotiated settlement of the Golan Heights, has fought two wars with Israel and exercises influence throughout Lebanon and assist in the arming of Hezbollah which has been effective in its skirmishes with Israel and in the 2006 summer war, and arguably, was the cause of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon which Israel had occupied for twenty years. The Syrian government host offices of leaders and representatives on Hamas, and various factions of the PLO.
Israel looks again to the east to see Iran, a nation of 65 million people, ten times larger than Israel, with a considerable economic base and considerable oil producing capacity and probably developing the potential to develop nuclear weapons.
These are the three competitors with Israel for regional dominance and the states that, in Israel’s view, could pose, or could have posed, in the case of Iraq, an existential threat to Israel.
Seeking regional dominance is not unique to Israel, but is the universal goal of all states of sufficient population and resources to compete within their own regional spheres. The quest of a state’s population for security impels such action. That is one of the main reasons that Israel will never voluntarily surrender any significance sovereignty or autonomy to the Palestinian — that, and the expansionist philosophy of Zionism, in both of its secular and religious dimensions.
The administration’s goals in the Middle East of seeking regime change in Iraq, Iran, and Syria exactly coincide with Israel’s objectives, and Iran and Syria, and Iraq before the invasion, are Israel’s competitors for regional dominance. To understand Israel’s regional interests is equivalent to understanding what drives American foreign and Middle East policy.
The Bush administration fails to see the humanity of the Palestinians and to understand their perspective that they have been oppressed for 60 years as their land continues to be stolen and their rights continue to recede. The Bush administration cannot view Hamas as any other than a destructive terrorist group and cannot understand that the rise of Hamas is result of the failure of the Oslo as well as the loss of confidence in the American approach to yield anything other than continuing subjugation for the Palestinian people.
The Bush administration views Hezbollah in Lebanon as simply no more that a proxy of Iran and fails to see that members ofHezbollah are Lebanese with their own interest which includes protecting Lebanon from Israeli encroachment, which in Israel’s 1982 invasion took the lives of up to 20,000 Lebanese and in the summer of 2006 destroyed much of the infrastructure and took more than 1300 lives.
The US perspective is Israel’s perspective, and Israel has little incentive to understand Hamas’ or Hezbollah’s own self interest as these organizations are seen as threats and as competitors for power.
The perspective and understanding of the Bush administration is exactly the perspective and understanding of Israel and the foreign policy of the Bush administration is exactly the foreign policy of Israel.
No two countries in history have ever so thoroughly melded and have consolidated their foreign policies into a single unified endeavor.
That the Bush Middle East policy has failed so thoroughly and so dramatically reflects the narrow perspective of Israel and the inadequacy of its policy formulations as a template for a great power with interests which do not coincide with Israel’s and which has a need for a more inclusive view of the world incorporating international law and a more panoramic understanding of the universal yearnings for justice.
-William James Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.