Unfit to Lead the World

Much has been made of the recent survey which found that 84 percent of America's top foreign policy experts believed that the United States is not winning the war on terror.
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Appropriately, much has been made of the recent survey conducted by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress, which found that 84 percent (of the more than 100) of America's top foreign policy experts believed that the United States is not winning the war on terror. Not only do they dispute President Bush's insular and politically self-serving assertion that America is winning that war, they also "see a national security apparatus in disrepair and a government that is failing to protect the public from the next attack." [See "The Terrorism Index," July/August 2006]

"Disrepair" is an understatement. Not only has former domestic policy advisor, John Dilulio, decried the "complete lack of a policy apparatus" within the Bush administration, where "policy analysis is just backfill, to back up a political maneuver," Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, also has complained about policy formulation and implementation by a "cabal."

According to Ron Suskind, writing in his recent book, The One Percent Doctrine, "The policy process, in fact, never changed much. Issues argued, often vociferously, at the level of deputies and principals rarely seemed to go upstairs in their fullest form to the President's desk; and, if they did, it was often after Bush seemed to have already made up his mind based on what was so often cited as his 'instinct' or 'gut.'" [p. 225]

Suskind describes a meeting between Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah and President Bush in April 2002 that "could get no traction." Often Bush just "stared blankly" at his Saudi guests. "It was as though Bush never read the packet that they sent over to the White House in preparation for the meeting." And, in fact, he didn't. The packet "had been diverted to Dick Cheney's office. The President never got it, never read it." [pp. 110-111]

Even more potentially harmful was the mysterious deletion of the line from Bush's September 12, 2002 speech to the United Nations, in which he would ask for a new resolution regarding Iraq. "Yet that line - the most important line, one that Cheney and others opposed - was mysteriously missing from the text. Bush noticed the absence, and clumsily improvised this key line midway through his recitation." [pp. 170-171]

From these examples, one might conclude that "abandonment" or "sabotage" of the national security apparatus is a more appropriate term than "disrepair." Nevertheless, the 100 plus foreign policy experts certainly were correct when they specifically faulted the Bush administration for having "a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force." ["The Terrorism Index"]

Taken as a whole, the answers to this survey of foreign policy experts raise new doubts about the very fitness of both America's democratic institutions and their current office holders to perform adequately as the world's leader.

New doubts? Yes, such doubts had troubled the mind of one of America's wisest of "wise men," the late George F. Kennan. Mr. Kennan repeatedly and consistently expressed his conviction that "our political system is in many ways poorly designed for the conduct of the foreign policies of a great power aspiring to world leadership." [Kennan, At a Century's Ending, p. 136]

Specifically, Kennan excoriated the policy distortions caused by the unwarranted intrusions of "particularly aggressive and vociferous minorities or lobbies." [Ibid, p. 135] And although he wrote those words years before America's neoconservatives so egregiously weakened America's national security by successfully beating the drums for war against Iraq, their actions prove his point once again. .

Kennan also decried the American politician's "tendency, when speaking or acting on matters of foreign policy, to be more concerned for the domestic-political effects of what he is saying or doing than about the actual effects on our relations with other countries." [Ibid] "Freedom fries," anyone?

More significantly, Kennan firmly believed that "our greatest mistakes in national policy seem to occur where the military factor is most involved." [Ibid] Finally, Kennan never retreated from his steadfast belief "in a limitless human capacity for error," [Washington Post March 18, 2005] a belief which clearly informed his views about the need to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons and the need to err on the side of eschewing war.

Kennan lived long enough to presciently repudiate the Bush administration's propaganda about Iraq's ties to al Qaeda, calling them "pathetically unsupportive and unreliable" as early as September 2002. A month later Kennan prophetically warned the Bush administration: "The apparently imminent use of American armed forces to drive Saddam Hussein from power...seems to me well out of proportion to the dangers involved. I have seen no evidence that we have any realistic plans for dealing with the great state of confusion in Iraqian affairs which would presumably follow even after the successful elimination of the dictator." [Jane Mayer, "A Doctrine Passes," The New Yorker, October 14-21, 2002]

Fortunately, this foremost of America's foreign policy "realists" passed away before learning the depths of the folly and immorality of our current leaders, which propelled America's invasion of Iraq. He never learned, as we have from Mr. Suskind, that illegal, immoral preventive war became de facto American policy in late November 2001, when Vice President Cheney asserted: "If there's a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis or finding a preponderance of evidence. It's about our response." [p. 62]

According to Suskind, Cheney's "one percent" doctrine "became the standard of action that would frame events and responses from the administration for years to come." [Ibid]

Simply recall that, by the time Cheney imposed his "one percent" doctrine, President Bush already had authorized "an astonishing expansion of CIA authority," by approving the financing of a "'Worldwide Attack Matrix'...that detailed operations against terrorists in eighty countries." [Suskind, p. 20] Similar Department of Defense special operations would soon follow.

Thus, given the military nature of "our response," simply ask yourself: "How immoral is a doctrine that compels a military response even when 99% of the evidence remains silent or fails to justify it?" And what should we think about an individual who demands such an immoral standard?

Moreover, is it merely a coincidence that the individual, who set the bar so cowardly and dishonorably low, also happens to possess five draft deferments, which allowed him to avoid harm's way during the Vietnam War?

Cheney's cowardly behavior aside, his "one percent" doctrine goes far to explain the behavior of the Bush administration during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. First, it explains why the administration failed to request a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq. (You'll recall that the Senate belatedly requested it, not the Bush administration.)

Second, it explains why the Bush administration ignored five legitimate intelligence reports from the Intelligence Community that argued against any significant ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. After all, the neocon Douglas Feith, through his rogue Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, had already supplied neocon Paul Wolfowitz and, thus, Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney with the shards of undigested and bogus raw intelligence - especially about Mohamed Atta -- that easily met the latter's one percent threshold.

Third, Cheney's "one percent" doctrine explains why, in July 2002, British intelligence could secretly report to Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." [Michael Smith, "June 26, 2006, Testimony to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing on Pre-War Intelligence Relating to Iraq"]

Fourth, Cheney's "one percent" doctrine explains why the Bush administration had to resort to exaggerations and lies about Iraq, as soon as Op-Eds, such as Brent Scowcroft's "Don't Attack Saddam," compelled a hurried public relations counteroffensive.

Thus, Cheney asserted: "We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons." Yet he cherry-picked from contradictory evidence that was approximately seven years old. Why would he say, "We now know?" Moreover, the CIA's Jami Misic asked at the time: "Where is he getting that stuff from?" [Suskind, pp. 168-169]

Thus, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice claimed that Iraq's aluminum tubes could "only" be used in its nuclear weapons program, knowing full well that Energy Department's experts doubted such use. And thus, bogus intelligence about Iraq's attempt to purchase uranium from Niger - suspected by the CIA of being bogus and already excised from an earlier speech by Bush - found its way into his January 2003 State of Union address.

Unfortunately, as Suskind concludes, Cheney's "one percent" program "released George W. Bush from his area of greatest weakness - the analytical abilities so prized in America's professional class - and freed his decision making to rely on impulse and improvisation to a degree that was without precedent for a modern president. Cheney essentially crafted a platform, an architecture, for Bush to be Bush, while still being President." [p. 308]

Thus far, the Bush administration's perverse "one percent" morality and incompetence have killed 2,500 American soldiers and wounded tens of thousands, have killed between 50,000 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians and, in just the past four months, have displaced another 130,000.

Its perverse morality and incompetence permitted the looting that destroyed much of Iraq's infrastructure, caused oil prices to soar, precipitated civil war, elevated Iran's strategic position in the Middle East and earned the United States the hatred of much of the world. Such enormous harm to America's national security brings to mind Paul Miliukov's immortal words: "Is this stupidity or treason?"

Even when one puts aside their horrible handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the evidence is clear: These men are unfit to rule America, let alone lead the world.

One only can guess at what George Kennan would make of the Cheney/Bush "one percent" doctrine. In his absence, I've taken comfort in the recommendations of the highly esteemed military historian, Martin van Creveld:

"For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C. sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins." ["Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War," Forward, November 25, 2005.

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