Monday, July 31, 2006

George Bush: Beavis or Calvin?

Much play has been given to Bush's recent "Yo Blair" intervention when he expounded his wisdom and knowledge about the Middle East by claiming that everything would be just fine if Syria told Hezbollah to "stop this shit".

But let's wind the clock back to the beginning. To the first days of his presidency, when he had his first meeting on the Middle East. As recounted by Ron Suskind in his book, The Price of Loyalty, and quoted by Talking Points Memo:
"Just saw him that one time. We flew over the Palestinian camps," Bush said sourly. "Looked real bad down there. I don't see much we can do over there at this point. I think it's time to pull out of that situation." And that was it, according to [Paul] O'Neill and several other people in the room. The Arab-Israeli conflict was a mess, and the United States would disengage. The combatants would have to work it out on their own. [Colin] Powell said such a move might be hasty. He remarked on the violence on the West Bank and Gaza and on its roots. He stressed that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and Israeli army. "The consequences of that could be dire," he said, "especially for the Palestinians."Bush shrugged. "Maybe that's the best way to get some things back in balance."Powell seemed startled. "Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things," Bush said.
Fast forward to today. After giving the green light to Israel to unleash carnage and destruction across Lebanon, culminating the in the Qana massacre, Bush now notes that the war represents a "moment of opportunity." Ex-Bush official Richard Haass thought otherwise:
"An opportunity?" Haass said with an incredulous tone. "Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"
Sadly, Bush's outlook represents the ultimate fruits of a Calvinist approach to foreign policy, wherein the false doctrine of predestination means that the world can be neatly divided into the saved and the damned, between the good and the "evildoers".

1 comment:

John Lowell said...


An interesting story.

But I don't think it's the working out of Calvinist predestinationism that's the trouble here, MM. Would that Bush had anything even close to Calvinism as his point of departure. No, it's simpler than that. He has all the instincts - and, as recent history has shown, all of the mindset - of a dictator. Bush's MO isn't some aberant Calvinist dualism, its National Socialism. If it were not for the recent Gitmo decision, and Senator Specter's renewed efforts to bring control to these "signing statements" of his, I have little doubt that we'd wake up one day to an announcement that elections had been suspended in the interests of "national security". No president in history has ever acted as contempuously toward the Constitution as has Bush. The whole pattern is so close to that of Germany's during the waning days of the Weimar Republic it's freightening. National security was the issue then as well and the descent into totalitarianism very much of the kind we're witnessing with Bush/Cheney. The only thing that hasn't happened here is the SA street violence, but give Michelle Malkin, Shawn Hannity and Rush Limbaugh one more 9/11 and the guys that drive around with dual flag pennants attached to their cars will be stopping to beat up "them towelheads", guaranteed.

Gitmo was a narrow escape. One more "pro-life" justice of the Alito variety and there's no telling what restraint there would have been on Bush. I never thought I'd be grateful to the Stephen Breyer side of the Court for anything, frankly, but I certainly am now.

John Lowell