1/05/2005

Bush's Lost Year

Via BlogIran...

Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Saul Singer lays out a concise and reasoned critique of President Bush's performance in 2004.

I would like to bet that Bush has not forgotten his own post-9/11 realization that the only way to keep America safe is to keep on the offensive, a conclusion that should have been reinforced by the experience of 2004.

Let's take Bush at his word and assume that he plans to spend the political capital he has gained. If so, how should Bush regain his stride in 2005?

First, by bringing back moral clarity. Branding Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the "axis of evil" was the right thing to do. But saying that and then not having a policy, much less implementing it, toward Iran is worse than not having said it in the first place. Since then it seems that Bush has learned not to set such bold markers. That's the wrong lesson; we need more markers and more follow-up.
Bush's "Axis of Evil" is often derided by anti-war leftists, but Singer has characterized it correctly: it was a bold marker in the spirit of Ronald Reagan's declaration that the Soviet Union was an "Evil Empire". The message of Singer's piece, and one that I agree with, seems to be that we need more bold words and more bold deeds.

Bold deeds do not only come in the form of invasion and occupation, as the piece goes on the illustrate:
Bush has to show that the 82nd Airborne is not the only arrow in his quiver. Each terror state has to be made to decide: Can it hang onto its old way of doing things, or should it go the way of Libya, and renounce WMD and terror? But if the only choice the US has is to invade or not, it is not surprising that rogue states are not lining up to cry uncle.

Yet invasion or bust is not America's real choice. Bush has plenty of underutilized and underestimated levers. Imagine if the US started talking about democracy in Saudi Arabia. Or if Bush held a press conference with Iranian dissidents. Or if the US proposed sanctions against Iran and Syria in the UN Security Council.
I believe that Singer looks at such sanctions as warning shots, which strikes me as a judicious use of a bureaucratic tactic with a long history of non-success. In the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Middle Eastern dictatorships faced with U.S.-backed sanctions will be forced to give serious consideration to the consequence of non-compliance. Recent history tends to indicate that it isn't just more sanctions.