Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
October 21, 2005
After the debacle in Iraq, any prudent policymaker would go slow on the military option and dust off the file called “diplomacy.”
But since no one in the highest reaches of the Administration fits that description, the BushCheneyiacs keep rattling the sabers.
Condoleezza Rice continued with the free-floating belligerence when she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 19.
In her opening statement, she went out of her way to criticize Iran and Syria. They “allow fighters and military assistance to reach insurgents in Iraq,” she said. “Syria and Iran must decide whether they wish to side with the cause of war or with the cause of peace.”
(Since April 2005, the country that has supplied the most foreign fighters to Iraq is not Syria or Iran, by the way. It is Egypt, according to The New York Times of October 20.)
Rice pointedly refused to rule out military options against Iran and Syria. Nor did she reassure the panel that Bush would ask for Congressional approval first. She said she didn’t want to “circumscribe” his powers as commander in chief.
The BushCheneyiacs believe those powers are essentially unlimited. Her words could hardly be described as surprising.
On October 6 at a speech at the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush himself condemned Iran and Syria in extremely harsh terms, saying “they deserve no patience,” and they are offering the terrorists “support and sanctuary.”
Rice, too, used the word “sanctuary.” In her testimony, describing the steps toward “decisive victory,” she said the United States is working to “clear the toughest places—no sanctuaries to the enemy—and disrupt foreign support for the insurgents.”
Anyone with a memory going back to the Vietnam War must hear the clear echo of the term “sanctuary,” which Nixon invoked as justification for widening that war into Laos and Cambodia. (Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith write about the possibility of a widening war at some length at portside.org.)
Already, the United States has engaged in skirmishes over the Syrian border. “Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct operations inside Syria, using small, covert teams for intelligence gathering,” said the Times article by Dexter Filkins.
Then there’s China, which Donald Rumsfeld visited on the same day Rice was testifying before Congress.
Before 9/11, China was the next enemy in the Pentagon’s view. Osama bin Laden gave China some breathing room, but Rumsfeld is still snorting and pawing the ground as he points his bullying head toward Beijing.
In June, Rumsfeld warned that China was “expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world.” (See Michael T. Klare’s excellent article in The Nation.)
Then in July, the Pentagon released a report that said, “The pace and scope of China’s military build-up are, already, such as to put regional military balances at risk.” China, the report said, is “potentially posing a credible threat to modern militaries operating in the region.”
Of course, the United States is one of those modern militaries.
And U.S. national security doctrine under Bush and Rumsfeld is to allow no nation to compete for supremacy with the United States either militarily or economically.
In Beijing, Rumsfeld reiterated his concern, saying that the “growth in China’s power-projection understandably leads other nations to question China’s intentions.”
But China’s power-projection is not growing rapidly. “It may come as a shock to learn that China’s nuclear arsenal is about the same size it was a decade ago,” writes Jeffrey Lewis in the May/June issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
“Perhaps your anxiety about ‘marginal improvements’ to China’s missile force would recede as you learned that China’s 18 ICBMs, sitting unfueled in their silos, their nuclear warheads in storage, are essentially the same as they were the day China began deploying them in 1981. . . . The true size of the country’s operationally deployed arsenal is probably about 80 nuclear weapons.”
By contrast, the United States has several thousand. As Klare noted, Rumsfeld in June made the ludicrous statement that “since no one threatens China, one must wonder” why it is building up its military.
But the United States itself threatens China, as Rumsfeld surely knows. “The 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)identified China as one of seven countries ‘that could be involved in an immediate or potential contingency’ with nuclear weapons,” Lewis noted in the Bulletin.
“Shortly before he was nominated as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Forces Policy (with responsibility for overseeing the NPR), Keith Payne argued that the United States, in a crisis with China over Taiwan, must possess the capability to disarm China with a first strike.”
In fact, the Bush missile defense initiative may have been designed with China in mind for a first strike. If the United States could take out most of China’s 80 nukes, then the missile defense shield would be in place—if the thing worked—to knock down the few remaining missiles China had left.
While Rumsfeld did agree in Beijing to a few minor steps toward improving military ties between the two nations, his rhetoric did not help matters any.
The BushCheneyiacs don’t do diplomacy.
They threaten war, and they make war.