Niall Ferguson has an interesting and speculative piece in
Foreign Policy, "A World Without Powers," and in it he
tries to imagine America losing its hegemony and what it would
mean in terms of the dear world we live in. His view is
a very pessimistic one but nearer to the truth of the matter
I believe. The world appears to be doing two things
simultaneously, "fragmenting and globalizing."
What the Terrorists Have Thought and May Be Thinking:
They certainly have an intelligence like a virus that has instinct
and intuition about the host they are attacking. For one thing they did not
confront U.S. military directly but pulled back, let American forces take
Baghdad and then conducted a guerilla war in strategic areas. This does several
crucial things. For one, it thinned out American response. Two, it was able to
effect American public opinion, which is very important to the terrorists. And three, it got these more religious factions in the fight to prevent any sort of government from arising out of the mess.
They knew that they did not have to defeat the American military; only American
public opinion. And you defeat American public opinion by killing soldiers every day,
bombing every day, and giving the impression that it will go on forever. That said, they know they have a role to play in the upcoming election. Terrorists discovered the power they have in 1980 when they defeated Jimmy Carter by holding the hostages and then releasing them the day he was replaced by President Reagan. So, the terrorists have to be thinking to themselves, "who do we want for President?" "Do we want to keep Bush in there? Is Bush
good for us? Or, would Kerry be better for us?" And I think the answer is that Bush is a lot better for the terrorists for these reasons. The President is disliked, viscerally, around the world. This plays into the hands of the terrorists. Along these lines, President Bush
has alienated many allies and, in fact, the coalition he has created is very weak. And that is unlike the coalition his father created which was brilliant and led to the success in Desert Storm.
The terrorists also understand that a key to their success is keeping Arab leaders from putting the kibosh on local terrorism networks or recruiting. For that to happen, they need a President who identifies very closely with Israel and Sharon. In fact, both President Bush
and Sharon are just red flags for most people in the Middle-east. And that plays into the hands of the terrorists.
So, the chances of something happening is lessened, if this is actually the case and how they are thinking. Who can know that? We can't even figure how coordinated they are. It appears as though each cell has autonomy. However, if there is any strategic meeting of the terrorist minds they will probably pull back in Iraq, let things settle down, get Bush re-elected and then open a new terrorist front.
The one thing they can't afford is a strong, new Iraqi government. They will do everything they can to disrupt the formation of that. I think, ultimately, what they seek
is a piece of territory, carved out of Iraq, which will give them a staging area. Obviously,
America would never permit such a thing but if America is forced to pullout for one reason or another, it may come to pass.
It's becoming very evident, as well, that a great blunder was made when American troops
did not go after Al-Queda and Bin-Laden in Afghanistan and resources diverted to Iraq. It's much easier to see in retrospect but clearly a mistake.
And that is, frankly, a failure of leadership on the part of President Bush. He couldn't
do anything about the false intelligence. But, he could have looked at the false intelligence and extrapolated the worst case scenario and given that a time-frame in which to further weaken Hussein and build alliance. Meanwhile, going after the very people who, allegedly, were going to receive WMD from Iraq.
Posted August 20, 2004
The question arises, "how should the U.S. deal with the rest of the world?"
This is a central question in the absence of the bipolar world that characterized
the cold war. For one thing, as a people, we need to know when to be proud and when
to be humble. We are justly proud of our system of governance which has stood against
crisis after crisis and common assault after common assault. That system of governance
recognizes that "what is the people, emerges from the people, becomes the authority."
This is why any form of public arrogance or corruption is quickly seized on as a
threat to the integrity of the whole. And why the most bitter experience is the feeling
of utter separation between what we are and what authority is.
On the other hand we need to continually be humbled by our mistakes, by our need
for more knowledge and wisdom, by our loss of connections which create a barbaric sort
of culture, by our understanding that we will not disappear quickly into time but
travel onward for many generations.
Posted July 23, 2004
I invite comments on this column. Use
the convenient form below and thanks!
Back to War on Terrorism
Previous impressions on the war on Terrorism:
"There's a very interesting interview with an intelligence guy
who calls himself "anonymous" for the benefit of his employer, the CIA
"What then, for the future? What then, for the first half of the 21 st century?"
"What is unfathomable, when looking at Iraq, is that no one in the Bush Administration
took seriously how those states fabricated by empire would disintegrate..."
"Most reasonable accounts and analysis see Iraq, now, as a slogging, painful,
impossible sort of conflict in which the U.S. can't possibly win."
"If you are a poet, a madman even, certainly a thinking person, the last place
you want to be is in the backwaters of history."
"We are patriots and for the good that America can produce..."
"We are neither fear-mongers or prophets..."
"Dissent is one thing that keeps free people honest..."
"The first question to ask is, "Is it worth the killing?"
"The core issue still remains this: How real is the threat of terrorism?"
"Can a good citizen agonize over the policy but love the country and still believe in its future?"
"President Bush's credibility wanes for some simple, clear-cut reasons..."
"The idea that the U.S. can "rule the world," is an absurd notion..."
"Common intuition says that the U.S. is at a cross-roads, a threshold point..."
"The most fascinating and awful thing to confront is this..."
"Our fears did not start in September of 2001..."
"In foreign affairs, the citizen is sucked into the final drop of calculation the
state is capable of..."
"The loyal opposition of the Democrats may have disintegrated in Iraq..."
"Listening to the good, heart-felt discussion about diversity and affirmative action..."
"We have two perspectives..."
Go to War in Iraq
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The Uncertain Decade
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March 27, 2003