Thursday, November 4, 2004

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What next for U.S. foreign policy?

The answer to the title question depends in part on who stays and who goes for Bush's second term. The New York Times had a Sunday piece about this ten days ago (sorry, no link) where one Bush official admitted that the variance for Bush's second-term foreign policy was wider than what could be expected of a Kerry administration.

This anonymous foreign service officer wrote in Salon last month that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage are not staying for a second Bush term:

When he goes, the last bulwark against complete neoconservative control of U.S. foreign policy goes with him....

Powell is leaving. We need to repeat that. When this reality sinks in, we will finally understand what we are getting ourselves into in a second Bush term. A handful of conservative columnists, Republican senators and a few other GOP luminaries are trying to reclaim a traditional conservative Republican foreign policy approach. But it is clearly too late.

James Mann is the author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet -- and he disagrees on Foreign Policy's web site:'s “Anonymous” from the State Department is right that the internal dynamics of the second Bush administration will change when Colin Powell is no longer part of the administration. Bush is likely to appoint a new secretary of state (whether National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice or someone else) who is more subject to the political control of the Bush-Cheney-Karl Rove White House.

But it’s a mistake to leap from there to the judgment that the neoconservatives will have complete control of the second Bush administration. During the last four years, the neocons were the dominant influence on U.S. foreign policy when it came to Iraq (which was no small thing). The neocons did not control the Bush administration’s first-term policy toward China or Russia, which conformed to the classic realist principles of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

And the impact of the Iraq war has served to reduce further the neocons’ clout. The war they so strongly favored has lasted vastly longer than they predicted. It took more U.S. troops and cost much more money than they led the nation to believe. By early this year, even leading conservative Republicans, such as columnist George Will, were vehemently opposing the Iraq war and the larger goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East. That internal Republican opposition has been muted this fall during Bush’s reelection campaign, but it is sure to resurface.

I’m not suggesting that Bush’s approach to the world will be utterly transformed during a second term. The vision the Vulcans carried into office four years ago—a view of foreign policy based above all on overwhelming U.S. military power and a skepticism about accommodations with other countries—will not be abandoned.

But I also don’t think Bush’s reelection means that United States is gearing up for some new military invasion. There are limits. Iraq has proved that fact, even to the Bush administration. And a sense of limits may turn out to be one of the defining characteristics of Bush’s second term.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I do know this -- regardless of cabinet shuffles, the one guaranteed constant in the second term is that Richard B. Cheney remains the Vice President, and will remain a very active player in the foreign policy machinery.

Cheney may be extremely intelligent, but as I've said before, I'm not sure it's healthy to have the sitting vice president be that active in the foreign policy process.

UPDATE: Some of the commenters are puzzled by my concern about Cheney's activism in the foreign policy process.

I have two problems with this. The first is Cheney's Ahab-like obsession with the unchecked expansion of the executive branch powers. The second is that even compared to Al Gore, Cheney has participated more actively in the NSC decision-making process. And rank matters. As I said back in January, "the difficulty is that even cabinet-level officials can be reluctant in disagreeing with him because he's the vice-president. This leads to a stunted policy debate, which ill-serves both the President and the country." So unless you think Cheney is clairvoyant, this is not a good thing in terms of weighing the costs and benefits of different policy options.

I might add that Bush himself recognized the need for a good policy process in today's press conference:

I always jest to people: The Oval Office is the kind of place where people stand outside, they're getting ready to come in and tell me what-for, and they walk in and get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and they say, Man, you're looking pretty. Therefore, you need people to walk in on those days when you're not looking so good and saying, You're not looking so good, Mr. President.... that's what you want if you're the commander in chief and a decision-maker. You want people to walk in and say, I don't agree with this, or I do agree with that, and here's what my recommendation is.

Here's hoping he gets well-served on this front in his second term. I remain apprehensive.

One more link -- Walter Russell Mead has some interesting thoughts over at (link via this commenter): One part that stood out:

Bush essentially has no excuses now: he has a mandate, he has both houses of Congress, and he is in full control of the foreign policy machinery. The war in Iraq is one that he chose, that he planned, that he has led. Bush is going to look pretty good if even two years from now Iraq is more or less pacified, and there is a government that is at least, in some ways, better than Saddam Hussein, and you have an island of stability in the middle of the Middle East. In retrospect he will look like a visionary, and people will forget all the ups and downs. When people now think of the Mexican War, they think about it as this quick, glorious dash. But in fact [President James] Polk had terrible problems during the Mexican War [1846-1848]....

Politically, at home, there were questions like, "Will those Mexicans ever negotiate?" "Are we stuck in this quagmire?" And this was a war that ended with the United States getting a whole lot of territory. Likewise, if you think about the Filipino insurrection after the Spanish-American War, I think we lost significantly more troops in suppressing that insurrection than we did in the Iraq war. [American casualties in the Filipino guerrilla war are estimated at 4,000 killed and 3,000 wounded]. What's interesting is that by 1910, even people like Teddy Roosevelt, who himself was an arch-imperialist, were saying that it was a strategic mistake to take the Philippines because it gave us an Achilles heel exposed to Japan. So here you have a war with thousands of U.S. casualties to capture a place that we then basically spent the next 30 years trying to figure out how to get rid of. Yet nobody who supported that war ever paid a political price, and everybody who opposed the war paid a political price. And conceivably, if the war in Iraq goes even reasonably well, Bush looks good.

posted by Dan on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM


I've pondered whether it was a bad idea to give Powell the State Dept. portfolio in the first place. It seems to me that the right strategy would have been to put a "trusted neocon hand" in charge of State to counter its institutional wishy-washiness, and have Powell as SecDef. The arrangement of Powell as very much an "outsider" heading up an off-the-reservation foreign ministry was a recipe for problems--in particular, the problem that anything coming out of State, already to be heavily discounted because of its perceived institutional biases, would now essentially be ignored.

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

"Cheney may be extremely intelligent, but as I've said before, I'm not sure it's healthy to have the sitting vice president be that active in the foreign policy process."

WHY? i've never really understood this complaint. is it a complaint against cheney, or against an influential vp?

what is wrong with an influential vp? is it bad to have influential advisors?
isn't there always someone influential in administartions? what's the big deal?

would you mind if cheney was NOT the vp, but worked with bush as an advisor?

i don't get it. and i don't mean that sarcastically or angrily... i just really have never understood why it was considered bad for cheney to be such an active particpating vp... is the complaint on cheny or about the vp' traditional role?

posted by: chris on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

I think Mann' FP piece was pretty funny. GW didn't take lack of resources as a problem with Iraq in the first place. What could possibly make Mann think that any pesky reality is going to keep GW from doing whatever he thinks is prudent.

As we've seen, "limits" doesn't really seem to be a word in these guys vocabulary.

posted by: Hal on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

I'm with Chris on this one. What's wrong with a strong Veep? Gore was one. Had Kerry succeeded in recruiting McCain--we now know he was offered not JUST the VP slot but simultaneously, unprecedentedly, that of SecDef--they would have practically been copresidents. And I say this as no great fan of Dick Cheney.

The Mann piece is more relevant today than the campaign era "anonymous" piece in Salon. For obvious reasons: that was a dire warning, this new article lays out a post-victory prognosis. Mann is no Bush poodle, and his connections in Washington are excellent--probably at least as good as "anonymous'", quite likely better.

Hal, limitations are a not a fixed thing. They change day by day, and, regardless of the "fantasy world" rhetoric of the Kerry campaign, there's not much evidence that Bush confuses himself with Superman. He has a long list of things he wants to accomplish this term--he's unlikely to poison the waters deliberately or quickly in the early days to maintain a questionable strategy in Iraq.

posted by: Kelli on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Interesting Walter Russel Meade discussion, including appointments to the Cabinet, in this interview.

I say: Rumsfeld for State ! Let him start a Revolution in Diplomatic Affairs ! :-)

posted by: fingerowner on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Unnamed lifers in the State Dept griping about a sitting Republican president? Im shocked.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Correct. Cheney is the man behind the curtain, and he will remain so.

posted by: praktike on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

One issue which seems to have been decided by the election: Americans will accept being lied to by a President, under oath, to justify a war in which over 1200 of her sons and daughters have died, not to mention all those thousands mulitated, and the estimated tens of thousands of Iraqis.

This is HUGE.

This is also an important step toward Empire. The next impoetant step is to have an economy so bad that there is a ready pool of cannon fodder. In this age where high tech workers are jobless, it might be possible to keep the quality of recruits up.

The British kept their Redcoats and wooden ships filled that way.

posted by: Jon Stopa on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Apart from the problem of an active Veep, there's the problem of CHENEY as an active Veep. History will show that this man was the driving force behind our invasion of Iraq, trumping up cherrypicked but worthless "intel" on WMDs. His judgment is dubious, as his pre-Bush career also shows.

(Not to restart the Iraq debate; I take it that readers of all stripes are aware that many smart people, Repubs and Dems, consider the war a massive distraction from fighting terror, a quagmire which has left us without an effective military response elsewhere in the world, a huge blow to our international credibility, and a big recruiting bonanza for al-Qaeda.)

I am willing to concede that Bush might be a decent president with good advisors. He has not shown any particular ability to discern who's good and who isn't, and I don't think he's going to develop one. But Cheney/Rumsfeld have been the difference, for Bush, between success and failure. Having Cheney continue to direct foreign policy is scary news.

posted by: Anderson on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

To compare Iraq to the imperial aggression of the United States in the Mexican War (a war fought to expand slavery and grab land) or in the Philippines (where insurrectionists were subdued only after a series of war atrocities committed at the behest of the administration) is surely a sign of desperation. If Iraq is similar to those episodes in our history, which are both examples of the worst kind of racist violence and unabashed imperial conquest, that is not good news.

posted by: Caleb on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

"the difficulty is that even cabinet-level officials can be reluctant in disagreeing with him because he's the vice-president"

Do spineless wimps normally make it to the top of the foreign policy apparatus?

posted by: Chris on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Here's some wishful thinking to raise your spirits. Now buoyed by a strong re-election and without having to worry about running again, Bush can pick Cabinet members based more on skills that loyalty or compatability. AND with Mitch Daniels being elected governor of Indiana, Bush could (COULD) appoint Dick Lugar Secretary of State.

posted by: Ted Craig on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

I think the Mexico/Philippines analogies are actually well-taken, given the obvious public indifference; but there were no TV cameras in those wars. Of course, with all the journalists terrified of being beheaded, there aren't that many cameras in this war, either. Zarqawi may be a net plus for Bush!

posted by: Anderson on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Thanks for clarifying your thoughts.


You'll know we are an evil Empire when we take "our" Iraqi Army and invade neighboring countries. Til then, I'm not buying the neo-imperialist argument. But do watch out for the impressment gangs roaming the streets of your hometown. Cap'n Rumsfeld needs more cannon fodder, arghh.

posted by: Kelli on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

The problem with assigning a policymaking role to the Vice President is what it says about the President.

It's no accident that Vice Presidents before Dick Cheney were hardly ever given more than symbolic or cosmetic roles. Cabinet officers, too, while often powerful have rarely been allowed to be seen as driving forces behind what the President does. The exceptions have occurred in administrations where the President is very weak.

Weakness can be political. This is why the Marshall Plan was not called the Truman Plan; it also explains the dominance of a foreign-born academic with a thick German accent in the last years of the Nixon and in the Ford administration. But it can be personal as well, a reflection of Presidential incapacity, disinterest or both. President Bush's background in politics and still his area of greatest interest and expertise is the mechanics of campaigning; Saddam Hussein may have been among the few world leaders whose name Bush knew at this time six years ago. His personal passivity toward even important details of policy is well-documented. If an issue doesn't pose an immediate political risk or opportunity, Bush is inclined to let someone else decide what to do about it. Often as not, that person is Cheney.

This is a simplification, in that even Cheney cannot always force action on a decision from the rest of the government. He could argue, for example, for one approach to the Korean problem starting in 2001; the State Department, which would have to handle any negotiations, could argue for another, and in the absence of Presidential intervention nothing would get decided and nothing would be done. Inaction resulting from bureaucratic deadlock is actually a common theme in this administration.

But in several areas Cheney has exercised a dominant influence, most notably after 9/11 in national security policy. In this area Cheney's access took the form of pushing the President toward a small number of big decisions (war with Iraq, for example) which would mostly be implemented by the Cabinet officer Cheney is closest to, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. It is interesting to speculate whether Cheney's influence would be what it is if Rumsfeld were not at the Pentagon, or if Rumsfeld would still be Secretary of Defense if Cheney had not been running interference for him at the White House all these years.

Since I'm speculating, let me throw out one possibility for Bush's second term. Rumsfeld, who is well past 70, does step down this year or next. Bush nominates Cheney to replace him. Cheney would resign as Vice President, and Bush would nominate someone to replace him with a view to naming his successor in the White House. The number of people Bush is close to and trusting of outside of the campaign world is limited; I'm not sure how enthused he is about the prospect of finding someone he doesn't know to run the most important department in the government. And, a President so zealous about campaign politics may not want to see the last years of his term dominated by a brawl among contenders for the GOP nomination in 2008. Before his reelection Bush wanted to avoid having his own prospects complicated by the ambitions of a more conventional Vice President. Soon, though, he may start to think about ensuring his own legacy.

posted by: Zathras on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

The neocons did not control the Bush administration’s first-term policy toward China or Russia,

Is that really the case ? With respect to China, it certainly seemed like the China policy before 9/11 conformed to the neocon's thinking of China being the main US rival in the coming century. If anyone remembers the near confrontation over the American plane that collided with a Chinene fighter, there should be little doubt that the neocon agenda was being pursued wrt China initially.

So what changed ? 9/11, and then the North Korean crisis. China required focus on the Middle East, and North Korea required Chinese co-operation. The neocons still insist on containing China, from time to time, but that is not an issue on which they have the President's ear.

Victor Davis Hanson was on TV the other day, saying China should not be in the UN because it was anti-US and it was not democratic. VDH was wrong as he is 99% of the time -- although his commitment to democracy is admirable, a democratic China would be as much of a rival of the US as before, what with the fervent Chinese nationalism now emerging.

posted by: Fisk on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

I can't speak to Mr. Hanson, but it's a little much to blame the Hainan plane collision on neoconservatives in the White House. It was the Chinese pilot who crashed his damn plane into ours. In that instance the Bush administration resolved a crisis admirably and with restraint in the face of much unreasonableness from Beijing.

posted by: Zathras on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Nasty implication of Polk parallel: We may not have a strong opinion about Polk, but Mexico still does. I remember a Mexican visitor commenting on how many streets are named for him up here, while there the official history still takes his name in vain.

Likewise, it's way too late to imagine an outcome in which the Iraqis don't hate us. Iraq may exhaust itself into stability, but what follows will be either a pro-American dictator or an anti-American democracy. Which one would Bush settle for? And could it last?

posted by: Jarrett on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Oh my god - not "Polk Blow-back"!!!

We really must be more selective in our pre-emption. Thanks for the timely warning.

As for the Original question "What next for U.S. foreign policy?":


Lots and Lots of bomb runs. God, there's nothing like calling in a good bomb-run. It's like bowling by phone. I mean, I'm sure the pilot enjoys it too, but getting to watch it: the noise, the speed, the soft, quasi-ballistic arc of the free-fall, the time-delay between the light speed and sound speed... MAN!

Anyrate - look forward to a lot of that.

posted by: Tommy G on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

but it's a little much to blame the Hainan plane collision on neoconservatives in the White House.

I wasn't blaming the plane collision on the neocons. I was blaming the general tone of US-China relations, which was somewhat negative at that time.

It was the Chinese pilot who crashed his damn plane into ours. In that instance the Bush administration resolved a crisis admirably and with restraint in the face of much unreasonableness from Beijing.

Well, there is some dispute over who caused the crash. [ Although the Chinese plane was probably more to blame, but then that did cost him his life. ]. And I wasn't blaming the Bush administration for this action (
there is plenty to blame them for, but this is not it). My point was that the neocons were determined to confront China, and were also determined to isolate China and support Taiwan even if Taiwan proposed independence.

There was a basic tension in the administration over China in 2001, with the neocons pushing for confrontation, and the Powellites looking for common ground. I think the 2 had an uneasy balance. After 911, the neocons returned to their number one goal of attacking Iraq, and the State DEpartment largely got its viewpoint over China.

The US should definitely be examining the fervent Chinese nationalism and seeing what it can do to defuse it, as much as possible. A powerful, militiaristic, ultranationalist China is not in anyone's interest. The revolutionaries of Tinamen Sqaure are gone, replaced by yuppies and others engraged by the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia.

posted by: fisk on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

England removed a PM who had fought one of the most succesful wars in history (Churchill). Other democracies have removed people who initiated wars that turned out badly. I don't think the US is that different, really. It could happen here.

posted by: erg on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Good lord, is VDH still pontificating on foreign policy. I thought his new hobby horse was bashing Mexican immigrants for ruining American culture. I lost any respect I might have had for him when I heard that.

posted by: Jon T on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

I don't agree with any of you. I think George Bush won the election by a majority and his mandate is to prosecute the war on terror in the interest of the American people and free men everywhere.

I think John Kerry spoke for the State department when he said that he wanted to see terrorism become a nuissance. Then the State Depatment could appoint desk officers to manage it.

The State Department is not part of the solution it is part of the problem. It is a bunch of people completely estranged from ordinary Americans whose most feverent desire is to promote the interests of their friends in the NGO's and foreign governments.

The Jewish community has long known that the State Department has been owned by the Saudis. It is no accident that UNWRA which supports the "palestinian refugee camps" is funded by the State Department.

My hope is that when Powell retires, Bush replaces him with Atilla the Hun who will fire everyone in the State Department who cannot sign a oath of loyalty in red, white and blue blood.

I don't care if the French like us, they are despicable anti-Semites, who would stab us in the back for 50 cents and did.

Neo-Cons -- I spit on your Neo-Cons. Barbarians!

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Is this a war of conquest or is Bush desperately looking for the fastest way out? Whats the new talking point?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

What's the new talking point?

Oh, Mark, we Dems are still waiting for directions from the new Osama audiotape, which our jihadist masters should be delivering to our secret dropboxes any day now ...

I don't buy the "war of conquest" line, but is there a logical contradiction between attempting a war of conquest and then wishing to get the hell out when it turns out to be, like, not so easy?

posted by: Anderson on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Re: The Filipino war. Weren't Western Countries, including the United States, far more willing to try and hold colonies because of dubious perceived benefits at that time ? British expeditions into Afghanistan and Nepal seemed to have little purpose other than grand imperial ambition (OK, afghanistan was part of the Great Game, to deny russia, but any other benefit was minimal).

These days, we've decided that old-fashioned imperialism doesn't work, costs money and its bloody hard to keep the natives down. The same British Empire that once ruled half the world can barely control the Falklands, Northern Ireland, a couple of missions in the Balkans and a small contingent in iraq and Afghanistan.

posted by: erg on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

If the Fillipino "insurgents" (i.e. nationalist patriots fighting for a Philipines free from colonial rule) had had huge ammo dumps, grenades, shells, looted plastic explosives that the Iraqi insurgents have they would have won their war against the U.S.

The key problem is that no matter how much firepower we have, no matter how many people we kill in Iraq, we won't win that war any more than we won in Vietnam. And for much the same reasons. The rebellion in Iraq is slowly spreading beyond control and our only response to ramp up the violence and try to beat some sense into the people. Rememeber that we killed 2 million asians and turned the Iron Triangle into a moonscape without being able to permanently control the countryside of Vietnam. It's happening again. We bomb a city like Fallujah into rubble and kill hundreds of women and children. Then we occupy the rubble for a time until it's "pacified". But in doing so we become targets, so we pull out the troops eventually in order to hold down the cost (to us). Then the insurgency breaks out again.

Rinse and repeat all over Iraq.

We now have a President who will never understand this remorseless logic, because he's intellectually uncurious. He will never look beyond whatever spin his advisors are feeding him this morning about what our next move is.

Iraq is going to be the albatross around the neck of Bush for the next 4 years. He can't win and he can't leave without appearing to "cut and run."

posted by: Cugel on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

"The key problem is that no matter how much firepower we have, no matter how many people we kill in Iraq, we won't win that war any more than we won in Vietnam. And for much the same reasons. "

Really? The rebellion in Iraq is being backed by a nuclear power? They're getting supplies from an untouchable sponsor that we can't bring the war to without touching off a nuclear war?

(Well, that will be the case if we don't do something about Iran tout de suite...)

"The rebellion in Iraq is slowly spreading beyond control and our only response to ramp up the violence and try to beat some sense into the people. Rememeber that we killed 2 million asians and turned the Iron Triangle into a moonscape without being able to permanently control the countryside of Vietnam.)

Again, because weapons and men kept coming from sponsors we couldn't touch without a nuclear war. So we were stuck with holding the line until the other side got sick of it and threw in the towel. Unfortunately, we tried to do it with conscripts, and it eventually blew up in our faces. Hopefully, we won't make that mistake again.

posted by: Ken on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Our goal in Iraq is not simply to win a military victory. If it were that simple, we would have packed up in 3 days after the war ended. We had a larger goal -- to win hearts and minds. Can we defeat the insurgency ?

Unquestionably, but does it help us if we end up with an Iraq that looks like Iran or like Lebanon, circa 1982 ?

posted by: Chun the Unavoidable on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

"The Jewish community has long known that the State Department has been owned by the Saudis.It is no accident that UNWRA which supports the "palestinian refugee camps" is funded by the State Department. "

Mr. Schwartz - Are you aware that Kerry got 78% of the Jewish vote? You may be Jewish but you don't speak for this Jew or, apparently, 78% of the American Jews of voting age. Some of us are sincerely interested in a nonviolent 2 state solution and never give a thought to things like who "owns" the State Dept.

posted by: davidr on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Dick Cheney as vice-president is a problem because he can run circles around George Bush. Even if you think Bush is a sincere, well-meaning person, think of the implications of this type of imbalance if they were running Nike instead of the country. Who do think would be making the substantial decisions. Gore had more responsibilities than any of his predecessors, but he had nowhere near the policy apparatus that Cheney has set up. It's unheard of. Are you aware that the original legal opinions regarding the use of torture, not adhering to the Geneva Conventions, and the various rationalizations regarding what a war president could do came from Cheney's staff?? Not the Justice Dept. Cheney's staff strong armed everyone else. The president was not even involved, just presented with a brief outline. Sounds like Reagan during the Iran Contra scandal. "In my heart I don't believe that I agreed to exchange arms for hostages, but the facts tell me different." Bush may as well be saying," In my heart I don't believe that my decisions set the stage for conditions at Abu Graib Prison, but the facts tell me I did see a 3 line memo."

posted by: let's get real on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Davidr: Further proof, if any was needed, that HaShem has protected the Jews across the millennia that separate us from Sinai, not for our own merit. Because, as we admit every year during the Days of Awe, we have little merit. But for the merit of our forefathers, and more importanly to demonstrate his own saving power to a disbelieving world.

Study Torah, you will learn that it has always been impossible to get the Jews to do anything no matter how pressing the need or exigent the circumstance. Unlike George Bush, Moses had the Devine Presence manifest next to him as a pillar of fire and the Jews still were grumbling and trying to elect other leaders.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Perhaps Bush likes Cheney involved in the process because Cheney feels comfortable saying, "You're not looking so good, Mr. President."

posted by: Austin MLS on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Robert - God's done diddly to "protect the Jews across the millenia." Au contraire, God sat back and watched as 2000 years of revenge unfurled.

No, what enabled Jews to survive is their own grit and wits, and no small heroism on the part of Righteous Gentiles. What's enabled Jews to *prosper* is secularized Western culture. Theocracy is never good for us; not our own and sure as hell not anyone else's.

The fundies who helped Bush win are convinced this is their big chance to de-secularize America. Abortion and gay marriage are just the hot buttons. There's also the sacred task of undermining science education by forcing an inclusion of unquestioned Creationist idiocy, crippling public health by withholding funds for any non-abstinence based programs, and pushing Xtian worship into the public sphere. (The latest big thing in theocratizing society is employer-sponsored Bible Study classes in the workplace. How long until attendance is a factor in one's job performance evaluation?)

If you're making common cause with the GOP's fundie base and neo-con imperialists because "they're good for Israel," you have an unpleasant awakening in store.

posted by: Palladin on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Friday, November 05, 2004

Behind Enemy Lines

One of our Diplomads has burrowed deep within the bureaucracy at HQS back in Washington and sends us the following emailed report on reactions to the Bush win. We have edited out anything that might give the enemy information to identify our agent:

I was telling a friend who voted for Kerry my theory as to why so many State Dept weenies (Note: a technical term) have it in for Bush.

Most State types, deep inside, believe that the primary purpose of American diplomacy is not to advance our country's geo-strategic interests, but to provide for them a prestigious career in which their unusual talents (e.g. foreign languages) and interests (foreign lands) are properly valued and appreciated (Note: there's precious little demand in the real world for experts on the history of Venezuelan political parties). This is a mindset that makes too many diplomats contemptuous of most ordinary Americans, who, in their view, are narrow-minded and boorish. You see the looks of bemused disbelief around the conference table - especially an AID one - whenever anyone suggests that a policy decision should be governed by the interest of the American taxpayer.

So, we were all minding our business one fine day, when one of these very boors - from Texas, no less - turned our little world upside down. It's not that Bush is a Republican, or conservative, or overly aggressive. It's that he's NOT a member of the club of Those of Us Who Understand These Things. As such, he had no right to redefine our foreign policy and security doctrine overnight. Certainly not without first commissioning many feasibility studies and blue-ribbon panels informed, of course, by Us. As a result "all our allies" hate us, and our international relations have been set back years.

Now look at the "mess" he's made in Iraq and Afghanistan! Too many junior officers at post, not enough from PD (note: Public Diplomacy) and worst of all - the DOD (Note: Department of Defense) people aren't even under Chief of Mission authority! On the home front, Bush's misadventure has completely screwed up the assignments and promotions system, damn him! And we have "the military" speaking up at all sorts of interagency policy discussions where they simply don't belong. In essence, to the career diplomat, Bush's crime was in being an outsider who refused to stay in his place - outside. None of our esteemed colleagues who holds this view would articulate it this way. But it's there. They express it in euphemisms, when they think the audience (their peers) is receptive. It's in the snide remarks, the rolling eyes, the upturned noses. And yesterday, in the gnashing teeth.

Fortunately, there were a number of us - a good and growing number - who bounced around the building cheerfully, grinning at everyone, enjoying ourselves.

Those of us Diplomads in the Far Abroad can confirm similar reactions from many of our Embassy colleagues. They were joyous upon hearing the early "exit poll data" showing Kerry well ahead, and grew increasingly despondent as the day wore on and the enormity of Bush's win became obvious. Too many of colleagues want to be liked by their foreign counterparts; they want to appear sophisticated; they want to have a "sophisticated" President. They deride American culture, prefer foreign movies, music, cars and wine -- all the while sniffing about Republicans "outsourcing" American jobs. They ridicule the American blue collar worker-- but don't mind being rescued by the Marines, i.e., the sons of those workers, when the poo hits the fan.

Anyhow, we Diplomads have had a great couple of days! And we are still not ready to stop gloating and be magnanimous! Not yet!

posted by Diplomad@1:24 PM

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

HTML Did not take on that one it is not mine: it comes from:

by Diplomad@1:24 PM

A Blog by career US Foreign Service officers. They are Republican (most of the time) in an institution (State Department) in which being a Republican can be bad for your career -- even with a Republican President! Join the State Department Republican Underground. FSOs (and others) Send us your suggested posts to diplomad-at-hotmail-dot-com

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

palladin: I got to hand it to you. You have it all figured out. The Jews hung on for 2000 years waiting for John Kerry and the Democrat party to save them. If thats youre take on things so be it. I'll be on my way. There has to be an ethnic group with better food.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

RS - How you got "waiting for John Kerry and the Democrat party to save them" from my post is a feat of reading noncomprehension worthy of an Evelyn Woods dropout.

I'll try one more time: Jews - and, in fact, everyone - prosper in secularist cultures, not theocratic ones. The GOP is hell-bent on theocratizing the US. This is bad for everyone, including Jews.

Is that simple enough for even you to understand?

posted by: Palladin on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

Condi Rice at State and Rumsfeld at Defense is a
telling formula consistent with the pre-election
scuttlebutt. Point one, the neocons ideologs are dead,
long live the realist practicons!

Rumsfeld is in a more unfortunate position than
Powell; Rummy has to see his neocon scripted Iraq game
plan undone as Bush extracts the US from a position
that began as a "perfect storm" (How could Bush resist
against a common call for Saddam's removal by BOTH the
Israelis and the Saudis-- for different reasons, of
course?). But now, as the President in his "for
history" and no longer for politics of re-election
term, Bush will focus on the budget and his domestic
"compassionate conservative" agenda, while disengaging
from armed assault against far away lands--including,
as soon as possible, Iraq after the January elections.
Once that is done, Rumsfeld will leave, taking with
him "blame" for the "cut and run" in the eyes of the

Victory did make Bush more arrogant-- some would say
insolent-- as the "mandated" American president; but
it also left him very much aware of how above him is
foreign affairs and humbled about what American power
can do. Personally, like many other Republicans, I had
offered to support Bush if he cut Cheney loose. For a
while it looked hopeful, but then came the argument:
"it's just as hard and just as easy to do that
anytime." Frustrated, I turned against Bush in the
election because he did not divest himself of his Vice
President. However, it seems that, according to
reliable sources, Cheney is being abandoned "in
place." Bush has indeed chosen to be his own man and
has come to consider both Cheney and Rumsfeld
(actually a long-time pair) as more "of the neocons"
than "of Bush." If Rice is up to the job of Sec. of
State-- personally I don't think so as she is a rather
simple thinker, not very subtle administrator-- she
will be directing the new American modesty in new

All in all, feeling that one cannot consider himself
an American unless one accepts the responsibility of
father, mother, brother or sister to the volunteer and
reservist troops in combat, I feel that Bush has
recklessly fumbled in his first term acting as a tough
guy at the expense of far too many of "my kids" and
certainly, tragically, as the chief-executioner of
many Iraqis he "liberated" (see Prof. Juan Cole's
astute Internet commentaries on this point)> He also
excessively played the cheerleader for Sharon. Yet,
beholden to the Saudis, he will exhibit far more "even
handedness" on the Israeli-Palestinian issues soon. I
suggest Arab commentators stop their racial slurs
against Rice as they will need her as the navigator
for the new subtle (we hope) pro-Saudi American
Mideast policy.

Lastly, contrary to Right Zionist egging on of
Congressional anti-"Arabist" academia, Fundamentalist
Christian Republicans, I think a genuine desire to
help Rice and Bush in Mideast policy by the members of
this list will be well received. The most
irresponsible thing that, I think, academics could now
do is return to their silence of the last term.
Constructive criticism will be most appreciated
(naturally, in White House silence).

Daniel E. Teodoru

posted by: DE Teodoru on 11.04.04 at 12:29 AM [permalink]

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