Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fate of the Republic Hinges on Defeat of Republicans

Three opinion pieces in newspapers over the weekend illustrate the threat to America's Constitutional order and the republic itself that the administration of George W. Bush poses.

The first was by Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army Colonel and the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Wilkerson says that the current President Bush threatens America's greatness due to his radicalism:
As Alexis de Tocqueville once said: "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic. If our country continues on this path, it will cease to be great - as happened to all great powers before it, without exception.

From the Kyoto accords to the International Criminal Court, from torture and cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners to rendition of innocent civilians, from illegal domestic surveillance to lies about leaking, from energy ineptitude to denial of global warming, from cherry-picking intelligence to appointing a martinet and a tyrant to run the Defense Department, the Bush administration, in the name of fighting terrorism, has put America on the radical path to ruin.

Unprecedented interpretations of the Constitution that holds the president as commander in chief to be all-powerful and without checks and balances marks the hubris and unparalleled radicalism of this administration.

Moreover, fiscal profligacy of an order never seen before has brought America trade deficits that boggle the mind and a federal deficit that, when stripped of the gimmickry used to make it appear more tolerable, will leave every child and grandchild in this nation a debt that will weigh upon their generations like a ball and chain around every neck. Imagine owing $150,000 from the cradle. That is radical irresponsibility.
Wilkerson rightly holds the Republican controlled Congress as complicit in the transformation:
A somnolent Congress assisted - a Congress that, as Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia said as the Senate failed to debate in the run-up to the Iraq war, was "ominously, ominously, dreadfully silent."
Wilkerson holds out hope that Congress will change:
Congress can awaken and discover that the Constitution is correct, that Congress is in fact a separate and equal branch of government. The American people will find a way to deal with the remainder of the radicals, whether at the ballot box, in the courts or in the Senate.
This Republican controlled Congress has, time and again, shirked its Constitutional responsibility to act as a co-equal branch of our government and has, time and again, either remained silent or rubber-stamped Bush administration adventurism.

The next crisis is being (in a favorite verb of Edwin Edwards) "confected" in the White House, this time centered on Iran.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and certainly no dove, writes in the Sunday Los Angeles Times that the new run up to war against Iran is a near carbon copy of the run up to the war in Iraq.
IRAN'S ANNOUNCEMENT that it has enriched a minute amount of uranium has unleashed urgent calls for a preventive U.S. airstrike from the same sources that earlier urged war on Iraq. If there is another terrorist attack in the United States, you can bet your bottom dollar that there also will be immediate charges that Iran was responsible in order to generate public hysteria in favor of military action.
Brzezinski then gives what he calls four compelling reasons against such an attack on Iran. They are:
First, in the absence of an imminent threat (and the Iranians are at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war. If undertaken without a formal congressional declaration of war, an attack would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president. Similarly, if undertaken without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council, either alone by the United States or in complicity with Israel, it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s).

Second, likely Iranian reactions would significantly compound ongoing U.S. difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps precipitate new violence by Hezbollah in Lebanon and possibly elsewhere, and in all probability bog down the United States in regional violence for a decade or more. Iran is a country of about 70 million people, and a conflict with it would make the misadventure in Iraq look trivial.

Third, oil prices would climb steeply, especially if the Iranians were to cut their production or seek to disrupt the flow of oil from the nearby Saudi oil fields. The world economy would be severely affected, and the United States would be blamed for it. Note that oil prices have already shot above $70 per barrel, in part because of fears of a U.S.-Iran clash.

Finally, the United States, in the wake of the attack, would become an even more likely target of terrorism while reinforcing global suspicions that U.S. support for Israel is in itself a major cause of the rise of Islamic terrorism. The United States would become more isolated and thus more vulnerable while prospects for an eventual regional accommodation between Israel and its neighbors would be ever more remote.

In short, an attack on Iran would be an act of political folly, setting in motion a progressive upheaval in world affairs. With the U.S. increasingly the object of widespread hostility, the era of American preponderance could even come to a premature end. Although the United States is clearly dominant in the world at the moment, it has neither the power nor the domestic inclination to impose and then to sustain its will in the face of protracted and costly resistance. That certainly is the lesson taught by its experiences in Vietnam and Iraq.
An impeachable offense that would make America an outlaw nation. Well, that would certainly be enough to give pause to most rational thinkers, but our president and his administration have repeatedly demonstrated that thinking things through is not their long suit.

Brzezinski nicely lays out the problem in the process of suggesting a solution:
It is therefore high time for the administration to sober up and think strategically, with a historic perspective and the U.S. national interest primarily in mind. It's time to cool the rhetoric. The United States should not be guided by emotions or a sense of a religiously inspired mission.
He wraps up with these words:
For now, our choice is either to be stampeded into a reckless adventure profoundly damaging to long-term U.S. national interests or to become serious about giving negotiations with Iran a genuine chance. The mullahs were on the skids several years ago but were given a new burst of life by the intensifying confrontation with the United States. Our strategic goal, pursued by real negotiations and not by posturing, should be to separate Iranian nationalism from religious fundamentalism.

Treating Iran with respect and within a historical perspective would help to advance that objective. American policy should not be swayed by the current contrived atmosphere of urgency ominously reminiscent of what preceded the misguided intervention in Iraq.
Historian and former advisor to President Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., writes in Monday's Washington Post, that signs are pointing to Bush launching a third war (Afghanistan, Iraq and possibly Iran) in his final 1,000 days in office:
But as of this week, a thousand days remain of President Bush's last term -- days filled with ominous preparations for and dark rumors of a preventive war against Iran.
He notes that another president argued against this kind of war:
The issue of preventive war as a presidential prerogative is hardly new. In February 1848 Rep. Abraham Lincoln explained his opposition to the Mexican War: "Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure [emphasis added]. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.' "
Schlesinger lays out the danger:
There stretch ahead for Bush a thousand days of his own. He might use them to start the third Bush war: the Afghan war (justified), the Iraq war (based on fantasy, deception and self-deception), the Iran war (also fantasy, deception and self-deception). There is no more dangerous thing for a democracy than a foreign policy based on presidential preventive war.
These men are from various points across the political spectrum. There is growing unease about Bush and the disasters his policies have brought upon the country.

The fact remains that there is nothing in the experience or character of the current Republican controlled Congress (House and/or Senate) that demonstrates the capacity or the will to accept the burden of accountability that the Constitution demands it accept.

The ONLY chance for survival that exists for our noble experiment is to wrest control of the House and/or Senate from the hands of the profligate party of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove. That means the fate of the republic depends on our ability to defeat people like Charles Boustany who apparently believe they were elected to Congress as part of some kind of joy ride.

1 comment:

GumboFilé said...

It seems to me that de Tocqueville's prophecy has long since been fulfilled but I concur that things are even worse whenever any single political party has a monopoly on government power. And each succesive monopoly regime will probably be worse than the last, regardless of party. The groundwork for Bush was laid by many politicians of both parties over a period of many generations. After Bush it will probably be a long time before the Republicans again have a monopoly on power. The next time a party has a monopoly on power it will probably be the Democrats, and before it's over they could very likely be worse than Bush was.

David in Grand Coteau