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War on Tyrants: What Will Bush Do Next?

War on Tyrants: What Will Bush Do Next?

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 09 February 2005

While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assures allies that an American military attack on Iran ''is simply not on the agenda at this point in time,'' President Bush continues to push his newly expanded crusade to free the world from tyrants as well as terrorists.

Look again at his State of the Union address, where he made the War on Tyrants his central theme and organizing principle. "America," he declared, "will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Too many political observers have dismissed this as little more than hot air and hypocrisy. With failure looming in Iraq and our military stretched to the breaking point, why would Mr. Bush seek new conquests. It hardly seems realistic.

But that is precisely the point. Mr. Bush operates on Christian faith and Neo-Con ideology, not on a rational weighing of our vital national interests against the resources available to secure them. Mr. Bush shuns such reality-based thinking and has banished foreign policy realists like his father's National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft from even peripheral posts in his second administration.

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We can, of course, pray for a return to reality. In the meantime, we had best take Mr. Bush at his word when he repeatedly tells us that he is going after tyrants. Not all tyrants, to be sure. But he has told us the ones he wants to oust.

From his statements, those of his closest advisors, and a flurry of media reports, we can now see the opening gambits. Few Americans will find them reassuring. The rest of the world views them as a growing menace. While, in the afterglow of the Iraq elections, Europeans and American leaders talk of kissing and making up, foreign policy realists on this side of the Pond are looking for new ways to work with Russia and China to hold the American colossus in check.

What, then, should we expect Mr. Bush to do? Let's look at the two most critical battlegrounds.


Short of major political upheaval in the United States, our troops will continue to occupy Iraq for years to come. The White House and Pentagon would love to leave most of the fighting to Iraqi security forces, and keep American forces largely out of sight. But the Iraqis who side with us - or need our paychecks - appear considerably less motivated than those who fight against us.

Paul Wolfowitz, the big noise of the Neo-Cons and the Pentagon's number two, told Congress last week that Iraqi units had an average absentee rate of 40%. The Center for Strategic and International Studies found only a handful of Iraqi police and military battalions able to fight independently.

The result is one that absolutely no one wants, except perhaps the rebels. American troops will continue fighting in an endless effort to make Iraq secure, even as their presence recruits more Iraqis and dedicated foreigners to join the resistance.

As the BBC's Adam Brookes reported:

"Privately, officials say everything depends on just how tenacious rebels turn out to be - but the American public ought to be ready for their troops to stay in Iraq for years."
But assume that, in time, our Iraqis prove themselves able to do what our Vietnamese never could - defend themselves. Would large numbers of U.S. troops then leave?

Not if we take Mr. Bush seriously. They would instead use their permanent bases in Iraq as a staging area to help fight the War on Tyrants in neighboring countries.


Today, said the president in his State of the Union, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror - pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve.

The Ayatollahs are clearly Mr. Bush's tyrants of choice, though not necessarily the most immediate. Staying on message as only they can, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and even Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's resigning Neo-Con, have gone out of their way to insist that they are biding their time and using 'diplomatic tools' to deal with Iran and its nuclear program.

Think of it as foreplay. Just as Mr. Bush went to the United Nations Security Council after his Higher Father had already convinced him to use force against Saddam, he is again using diplomacy to set the stage for the glint he already has in his eye.

As in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, he is acting in extremely bad faith. But this time Congress, the media, and the American people have no excuse for getting sucked in. Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, mine.

Evidence of his bad faith is hard to ignore. Together with Dr. Mohamed El Baradei and the International Atomic Agency, France, Germany, and the U.K. have been working long and hard to persuade Iran to give up its plans to produce its own nuclear fuel, whether by enriching uranium or reprocessing plutonium. Whatever the Ayatollahs intend, once they have the nuclear fuel, they will be only months away from having the bomb.

The Europeans have offered Tehran a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel, generous trade deals, and new forms of political and security cooperation to encourage it to give up its own fuel production. But, in Europe's view, no deal seems likely unless Mr. Bush stops threatening Iran and offers his own economic and political incentives. These are the only 'diplomatic tools' that have any chance of working.

So, what did Team Bush do? They escalated their verbal attacks on Iran, and slammed the door shut on offering the Ayatollahs - or the European diplomatic effort - anything at all. Reporting Secretary Rice's meetings in London, the New York Times summed up Washington's approach in a clearly written headline:

"Rice Says U.S. Won't Aid Europe on Iran Incentives."
Ms. Rice also declared flatly that Washington would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, even as the Pentagon announced plans to develop new atomic bunker bombs capable of destroying Iran's underground facilities.

Expect the crisis to go muscular this summer.


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

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