What's All This Then?

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Charlie Gibson asked Sarah Palin about the Bush Doctrine, she could have asked "which one?" In her defense, a number of people have pointed out that there are several Bush positions that could be considered "doctrines." "Either you’re with us or you’re against us in the fight against terror" could be considered a doctrine. And though he may never have articulated it in specific terms, certainly "The enemy of my friend is my enemy" could be thought of as a current policy of the United States. Governor Palin even opined that we could go to war with Russia if it attacked one of our "friends" in the NATO alliance.

But this "friend" and "enemy" thing can get pretty complicated at times, calling for the kind of diplomatic skills and fence balancing that seem to be sorely lacking with the current administration. For example, Israel is surely regarded as a friend -and we are a friend to Israel as is no other country. Without us, there probably would not be an Israel - which no doubt would please a goodly number of people and not all of then in the Middle East. The Bush administration also says that we are "friends" of the Iraqi people - even though we invaded their country without cause and killed unknown thousands of them and have remained in occupation of their country for years, doing what is not exactly clear. According to John McCain, what were are doing there is "winning" - although he doesn’t explain what it is that we are winning and against whom. To be kind, one could surmise that what he really means but doesn’t seem able to articulate is that we are "winning" in our efforts to help the Iraqi people, who we consider to be our friends - create a democratic society - something they have never known.

Casting aside for a moment those cynics who say that we invaded Iraq because of oil - there has been another theory advanced by the famous group of strategists and would be rocket scientists known as "neocons" - that by creating a democracy in Iraq, we would be setting in motion a version of a domino effect that would topple borders and spread peace and love throughout the turbulent Middle East - that "The Road to Jerusalem Goes Through Baghdad." Well, we’ve seen how well that has worked. Iran has become - to use a Bushism - "emboldened" - and representatives of the former enemy of Iraq are now welcomed with red carpet treatment when they come to visit. As opposed to being snuck in unannounced under cover of night, which is how George Bush pays his visits. And of course the "road to Jerusalem" is in the opposite direction to the road to Teheran.

Nonetheless, if we are successful in helping Iraqis achieve the nirvana of a democratic society, our sacrifices and those of the Iraqis will surely be worth it, because with two democracies in the Middle East, Israel and Iraq, stability would almost certainly be assured. They would both be our friends and Bush would be able to tell his critics how wrong they have been to question his grand, God directed plan to spread democracy throughout the world. Except that that outcome would violate the doctrine mentioned above, because whether or not Iraq is now a functioning democracy or a democracy in progress, it is an enemy of Israel - so declared to be by Iraqi law. That was made very clear in recent days with the possibility of an Iraqi politician facing felony charges for attending a counter terrorism conference in Israel. Mithal al-Alusi is the kind of politician that we would hope would emerge from an Iraqi democracy and from a democratic parliament. But he is not only in the minority - a minority of one it would seem - but now considered an enemy of the state.

So let’s see where our efforts and our sacrifices in Iraq are going to leave us - when and if we finally leave that country. Or maybe I should say if we ever leave it. Iraq will be a shaky democracy that could fall apart at any time that Sunnis decide that they’d rather be Sunnis than Iraqis and Shiites decide that they’d rather be Shiites than Iraqis. But still they’d be our friends - living next door to Iran which we consider to be our enemy and that used to be Iraq’s enemy but is now its friend - and with both Iraq and Iran sworn enemies of Israel, which, with its crazy quilt form of democracy, remains our friend through thick and thin. All of which will be dumped on the doorstep of the next President of the United States to sort out starting January 20, 2009.

A small part of the diplomatic legacy of George W Bush. And Sarah Palin tells Charlie Gibson that maybe we’ll need to go to war against Russia some day? What was it that Ebenezer Scrooge said after a Christmas visit from his nephew? Oh yes. I’ll retire to Bedlam.