President George W. Bush likes to call himself “the war president” and strike martial poses against patriotic backdrops, a trick he learned from another president who never saw military action, Ronald Reagan.
In spite of Iraq and other foreign policy misadventures, and failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks, polls show that when it comes to national security many Americans still regard the Bush Administration with approval and trust.
Their confidence is not well placed. To date, the “war president” was asleep on guard duty on 9/11, involved the US in four lost wars, and has stirred up a hornet’s nest of anti-American hatred around the globe.
Defeat I: Five years after Bush ordered Afghanistan invaded and proclaimed “total victory” there, US and allied forces are struggling to defend their bases and supply lines against rising attacks from a growing number of Afghan resistance groups. The war costs $1.5 billion monthly. US-ruled Afghan now produces over 80% of the world’s heroin. The US just quietly deployed thousands more troops to Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in a desperate attempt to save Republicans from heavy losses in November mid-term elections.
Defeat II: Remember “Mission accomplished!” in Iraq? President Bush’s war in Iraq is clearly lost, but few dare admit it. The US has spent $300 billion on Afghanistan and Iraq, with nothing to show there but chaos, civil war, body bags, and growing Iranian influence in Iraq and western Afghanistan. The Bush/Cheney “liberation” of Iraq has now cost more than the Vietnam War. So much for the “cakewalk.” Iraq is likely the biggest American foreign policy disaster in living memory — even worse, in many ways, than Vietnam.
Defeat III: Off in the strategic Horn of Africa, another dangerous fiasco is unfolding. The White House had CIA and Pentagon spend tens of millions bribing Somali warlords to fight Islamist reformers trying to bring law and order to their strife-ravaged nation. The Islamists whipped CIA-backed warlords and ran them out of Somalia. Following this defeat, the US has encouraged and financed ally Ethiopia — shades of Lebanon — to invade Somalia, thus raising the threat of a wider war between Somalia, Ethiopia, and its old foe, Eritrea. Meanwhile, growing numbers of US Special Forces and CIA teams are getting drawn into obscure tribal mêlées in the Horn of Africa and the Saharan regions.
Defeat IV: Lebanon is, of course, the fourth major American military disaster. Bush and Cheney encouraged Israel to launch the hugely destructive but militarily fruitless war in Lebanon as the first part of their long-nurtured plan to militarily crush Hezbullah, Syria and Iran. The Bush Administration brazenly thwarted world efforts to halt the conflict while giving Israel the green light to tear apart Lebanon. Now, just over a month later, Bush announces he will send $230 million to “help rebuild” Lebanon — the same Lebanon blasted apart by US smart bombs rushed by air to Israel.
To Washington and London’s shock and awe, Hezbullah, Iran, and Syria emerged the war’s victors. Hezbullah is now the Muslim World’s new hero after battling Israel’s mighty armed forces to a humiliating draw. Even Syria’s President Bashar Asad, who played dead during the Lebanon War in fear of an Israeli attack, is now thumping his chest and crowing that Syria played a major role in the unexpected Arab victory.
Hezbullah’s triumph thwarted, at least for the moment, Bush/Cheney plans to attack Lebanon, Syria and Iran. The US and Israel have become so used to smashing nearly helpless foes armed with obsolete weapons — like Iraq, Taliban, or Palestine — that they were stunned to meet a force that had modern arms and could actually fight.
No sooner had bombing stopped than Hezbullah bulldozers were busy clearing rubble, and Hezbullah social workers resettling refugees. Perhaps President Bush should ask Hezbullah to take over rebuilding New Orleans and resettling all its refugees.
Hezbullah’s big brother, Iran, has also emerged from the Lebanon War with its political, moral and even military stature greatly enhanced. America’s Arab vassals — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt — were left badly shaken by Hezbullah’s victory and Iran’s surging influence which was already giving them nightmares well before Lebanon.
Israelis have now turned from fighting Arabs to furious finger-pointing. Politicians and generals are blaming each other for the Lebanon debacle that killed 118 Israeli soldiers and 41 civilians, cost at least $6 billion, ruined the summer tourist trade, and, after a burst of initial sympathy, brought worldwide condemnation. And no captured soldiers — this war’s supposed objective — have been yet returned.
Still, a swap of Israeli for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners remains likely, as this column predicted at war’s beginning. The killing of 1,000 Lebanese civilians, a million Lebanese made refugees, and billions of dollars of wanton destruction, could all have been avoided.
By turning a routine border skirmish into a big war, Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert showed he had no more grasp of military affairs than those other amateur warlords, Bush, Cheney and Tony Blair. Lebanon also showed that the western leaders learned nothing from their debacle in Iraq.
Now, some Washington hawks are wondering if invading Iran may not be the “cakewalk” that pro-Israel neoconservatives promise. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards helped train and arm Hezbullah’s victorious fighters. Suddenly, neither the Israelis nor the Americans look so invincible. As Napoleon said, in war, the moral is to the physical as three to one.
America was the big loser in the Lebanon war. From Morocco to Indonesia, each night 1.5 billion Muslims watched the carnage in Lebanon on TV and blamed America. Even the poorest shepherd in Uzbekistan heard the US was airlifting the precision bombs and deadly cluster munitions to Israel used against Lebanese civilians.
Any hope of damping down the Islamic World’s surging hatred of the US, Britain, Australia and Israel (now add Canada) was killed in Lebanon. Even the interestingly-timed airport hysteria in London over alleged bomb plots failed to divert attention from the latest US-British Mideast policy disaster.
Yet the White House still keeps listening to absurd military advice from the same neoconservatives thirsting for conquest, oil and Muslim blood. Undaunted even by the fiasco in Lebanon, the Bush/Cheney White House is now heading into a full-blown crisis with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.
Call this the “guns of August.” All the pieces are still in place for a bigger war. Israel will keep violating the Lebanon cease-fire and attempting to assassinate its new nemesis, Hezbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Bush’s pre-November surprise remains to be unveiled. Iran is gearing up for war. Even Hezbullah may still have a few tricks up its sleeve.
The self-declared “war president” could yet have a few more defeats in store for the nation.