While the Bush administration is still in its early days, commentators of repute abroad and at home—never wavering or unsound in the old Cold War days—are complaining (sometimes bitterly) that the new administration’s foreign policy defies reason and experience.
Writing in the Toronto Star (February 18), Richard Gwyn imagined what would happen if the dictator of “Lower Volta” acquired a nuclear missile by smuggling diamonds, despite the U.N. sanctions imposed because of the ethnic cleansing that brought him to power:
The U.N. is only an irritant. . . Your real object of anger is the United States, which insisted on the sanctions despite Russian and Chinese concerns about state sovereignty. So you set up your missile in the jungle and get your scientists to aim it at Washington. Then you push the button. About 20 minutes later, half of Washington is devastated. About 15 minutes after that, all of Lower Volta, including you, disappears from the map.
Substitute a “rogue state” like North Korea, Libya, Iran, or Iraq, says Gwyn, and you have the entire intellectual and geopolitical justification for the NMD system that President Bush intends to build:
It’s absurd. It’s laughable. It’s surreal. Why would the leader of any of these backward, near-bankrupt, states commit suicide, even if, as is highly improbable, any of them could ever actually lob a missile across the Atlantic or Pacific? Yet Bush and his highly praised cabinet team (they are capable; they are experienced) all take this seriously. The only question about NMD, they insist, is not whether, but when.
“It’s not certain that Bush’s foreign policy will be less activist than Clinton’s,” Gwyn concludes. “Keep your seat belts buckled.” Robert Fisk agrees. Writing in the London Independent (February 18), he compared the recently renewed Anglo-American war against Iraq to “Airstrip One” and its perpetual war with Eastasia:
As in 1984, the characters in 2001 do not change. In 1991, defence secretary Dick Cheney and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell were urging the bombers on to Baghdad with the backing of President George Bush. In 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney and secretary of state Colin Powell are urging the bombers on to Baghdad with the backing of President George Bush Jr. In 1991, the Beast of Baghdad was Saddam Hussein. In 2001, the Beast of Baghdad is Saddam Hussein. And woe betide us if we feel like Winston Smith, eternally feeding old newspaper cuttings into the oven. Bin those clippings about how we ‘defanged’ Saddam in 1991. Forget the UN arms inspectors who would eliminate forever Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction’. Make no complaint about the half-million Iraqi children who have died under UN sanctions. Destroy all reference to the New World Order. We are engaging—an Orwellian cracker this, from the Pentagon—in ‘protective retaliation’.
Fisk ends with a note to Winston Smith: Burn at once all references to George Bush, Sr.’s 1991 call to the people of Iraq to overthrow Saddam and his subsequent willingness to let Saddam massacre the lot.
The thinking Tories’ in-house rag, the Salisbury Review, provides a final thought. Andrew Fear reminds us that the story of the emperor’s new clothes warns us that it pays to look beyond the “facts” of the day, as the) often prove illusory. Take, for example, NATO, whose raison d’être has collapsed:
One solution to this dilemma would have been to hold a celebration party and then to disband the organisation amid heartening thoughts of a job well done . . . In the event, as we all know, this was not the road chosen . . . A new NATO (a phrase found in NATO publications) was invented. This new NATO has performed an astounding[ly] successful sleight of hand on the general public. While retaining the outward trappings of its predecessor, it has undergone an astonishing transformation to the extent that its underlying thinking is now far more like its old rival, the Warsaw Pact, than that of its previous incarnation . . . NATO has decided to take for itself a global role. Gone are the strict limits on spheres of operation. Gone too is the notion of a defensive alliance as has been seen in the Kosovo debacle.
These changes are sinister enough. Fear admonishes, but beneath them lies an even greater problem. Cold War NATO was an organization dedicated to the preservation of national sovereignty, while the new NATO is deeply hostile to it:
The Cold War was fought to preserve our right to choose our own form of government. NATO was a means to that end, not an end in itself, and that end has been fulfilled . . . [N]ew NATO’s globalist aspirations are an aspect of American geopolitics espoused by both right and left in that country . . . Surely now is time to formulate a new defence policy, or rather restate that Britain wishes to have a defence policy—a policy which looks to defend the nation from others and to further the national interest abroad—and not an offense policy whose aim is to attack others who have done us no harm in the interests of a third party.
This salient point is deemed not so much “unfit to print” as unfit even to acknowledge (let alone respond to), by Messrs. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Armitage, et al.