By Francesco Femia firstname.lastname@example.org
It is quite clear that the neoconservatives have really captured Bush's imagination (or, rather, have supplied him with an imagination), and that this phenomenon may have disastrous consequences if he's reelected again in 2004. There are certain conspiracy theorists who claim that Bush's foreign policy was Pax Americanish prior to 9/11, but I seriously don't buy that, given the talk and commitment to isolationism that characterized his campaign and his early days in office. However, that dull, monotonous paleoconservative song has now completely lost his ear, being replaced by the constant and incessant humming of a more rousing melody. The neocons' version of the "International."
Now, some have compared the current zeal in the White House to the necessary zeal of Cold War America, or to the same contrary zeal that drove Soviet Russia to it's own expansionism. But unlike the Cold War, this isn't an international campaign based primarily on defense. Nor is this a War of preemptive containment. It's a War of pre-emptive attack and transformation. Why? Because there's no superpower to hold us back. The UN has failed to fulfill that role. Vietnam analogies will never fit, because Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, never said anything about sending Ho Chi Minh to the moon, or about forcefully transforming North Vietnam into a democratic utopia.
But with Iraq, Syria, Iran, etc, etc, that's exactly our plan. But what, pray tell, makes Bush and his neocon puppeteers believe that democratic reform at gunpoint will produce Western neoliberalism in the Middle East? If anything, popular will will manifest itself in the reelection of fundamentalists. This backlash will be especially strong due to the polarizing effect American bullyism will undoubtedly produce. One wonders if the administration has forgotten (or even knows) how the Ayatollah got where he is.
However, in all, I think a better analogy than that of Rome, Stalinist Russia, or Truman-doctrine USA, is one which involves the late 18th century foreign policy of a country that has recently become our greatest enemy. Barring a less-than-humble birth, no visible signs of gastrointestinal problems, and an inability to vocally produce coherent sentences, Bush is behaving not unlike that silly little Corsican we've all read stories about. And while some might argue that Bonaparte was ultimately responsible for spreading our currently cherished ideals of Republicanism, democracy, and liberty throughout Europe, one need only look at his failure with Egypt to realize that the Middle East, or the Muslim World, is not going to give in as easily as lazy Italian Kings or German Barons.
Napoleon, after victoriously returning to Paris from Elba, declared to an assembled crowd, "I am France, and France is me." He may have been exaggerating a bit. However, Bush, without violating any sense of reality, could very well make a similar statement today. At the moment, Bush really is America, and America really is him. And with the help of popular support and enthusiasm, he's leading us on a crazy expedition into the unknown. I just wonder when and in what form Wellington will turn up.