Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Thousand Days

Liberals groan at the thought of another 1000 days under the reign of George W. Bush.

China, on the other hand, probably considers that 1000 days a precious, slowly closing window of opportunity.

China has 1000 days to promote cautious and self-serving multi-lateralism as an alternative to detested Bush administration unilateralism.

China has 1000 days to promote the establishment of a nuclear, friendly Iran as a counterweight to US influence in the Gulf.

Currently, the world community appears to be unwilling to frame the Iran debate in any terms that will give the Bush administration any opportunity to claim a UN, diplomatic, or moral mandate for military action or even a position of leadership against Teheran.

And with good reason.

Too much has been revealed of the bankrupt intellectual and practical foundations of the Bush preventive war doctrine, the Bush administration’s incapacity for self-examination and self-correction, and its breathtaking mendacity and arrogance in furthering its foreign policy agenda for the world to trust President Bush’s word or his judgment.

Add to that the President’s dismal political ratings, and reports that his handlers believe that confrontation with Iran is the best way to get his poll numbers up.

Ratchet up the rhetoric against Iran too much, and President Bush might take the bit in his teeth again and drag the world into another foreign policy debacle.

As somebody said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well…won’t get fooled again.”

What we see now is a grudging containment of the Bush presidency by a bizarre constellation of allies and enemies.

The world community will be happy to close the books on the Bush administration.

Once George W. Bush leaves the White House, the new president, be it Clinton, McCain, Allen, or whoever, will have the opportunity to renew the natural covenant between the United States and the prosperous world powers.

The hearts of the Europeans and Japanese do not flutter ecstatically at the idea of Hu Jintao serving as the spokesperson for the global consensus against reckless US adventurism—and they do not look kindly upon Iran’s pretensions to becoming a regional nuclear power.

In the forthcoming honeymoon, they might even let the new US president bomb Iran to his or her heart’s content—or, what’s more likely, back up Washington’s bellicosity with real sanctions and ostracization--as a sort of friendly bouquet welcoming America back to its position of leadership on the world stage.

But not yet.

Now is the time, with America sidelined, that China can really do something for Iran.

“Something” means stalling UN efforts to sanction Iran, diluting the atmosphere of crisis, and making Iran’s surreptitious march toward a nuclear weapons program appear more of a normal, ongoing element in our stress-filled world.

Currently, the Chinese have the best of both worlds.

Either Iran emerges from the current tension thanking China for making the world grit its teeth and accept Teheran’s careful crawfishing toward a nuclear weapons program as part of the global status quo…

…or the Bush administration bombs the stuffing out of Iran and the Middle East remains violently hostile to the United States for a generation.

I can’t say I blame China too much. After all, turnabout is fair play.

As Robert Dreyfuss wrote in The American Prospect, the Cheney view on foreign policy which his minions so ruthlessly and effectively imposed not only on President Bush but on the entire US foreign policy and intelligence establishment is based on a zero sum calculation against China in the Middle East.

As in Occupy Iraq: we win, Chinese lose. On to Iran.

Dreyfuss writes:

Two of the people most often encountered by Wilkerson were Cheney's Asia hands, Stephen Yates and Samantha Ravich. Through them, the fulcrum of Cheney's foreign policy--which linked energy, China, Iraq, Israel, and oil in the Middle East--can be traced. The nexus of those interrelated issues drives the OVP's broad outlook.

Many Cheney staffers were obsessed with what they saw as a looming, long-term threat from China.


For the Cheneyites, Middle East policy is tied to China, and in their view China's appetite for oil makes it a strategic competitor in the Persian Gulf region. Thus, they regard the control of the Gulf as a zero-sum game. They believe that the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. military buildup in Central Asia, the invasion of Iraq, and the expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf states have combined to check China's role in the region. In particular, the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the creation of a pro-American regime in Baghdad was, for at least 10 years before 2003, a top neoconservative goal, one that united both the anti-China crowd and far-right supporters of Israel's Likud. Both saw the invasion of Iraq as the prelude to an assault on neighboring Iran.

It is more than a little ironic that Cheney’s headlong pursuit of an anti-China policy in the Middle East has given China, Iran, and their allies and sympathizers 1000 precious days of breathing space before America can resume its position of active world leadership and revive the alliance of powers seeking to limit China’s economic, political, and military reach.

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