What to Expect from Bush-2


The second term of George W. Bush has potentials of immense harm to America, the world, as well as the Muslim world. It could also be a time of undoing most of the harm inflicted in the first term, writes DR MANZOOR Alam.


Now that President George W. Bush is firmly settled in his office in the second term as president of the United States, it is time for both the US and the rest of the world to take stock and figure out where we (the whole world) is headed.


To begin with the US, there is no end to its troubles in sight. Not in the short term. Nor in the mid term either. The economy does not seem to be taking off anytime too soon. The Clinton years were the best in terms of economic recovery. His second term witnessed the best economic performance in a quarter century. Since then it is a downward spiral. Down… down… down.  Down in the dumps.


The US military is present in nearly 140 countries, an example of the most precarious imperial overstretch. Something more precarious (and unsustainable) than the British Empire in the 30s of the last century. Or, the Roman Empire at its height. We are familiar with the ways empires go.


The US is not certainly going places in Iraq. Comparisons with Vietnam are only natural and inevitable. The torture at Abu Ghraib (and so many other detention camps) and the cold-blooded massacre of civilians in Fallujah remind one of the worst horrors at Mai Lai. It also shows the desperation of the occupation forces. Reports of US soldiers committing suicide in Iraq are still fresh in our minds. Things are not going to be easy for anyone. As many as 100,000 Iraqis are already dead, most of them non-combatants.


Even a sudden pull out by US forces is dangerous because it might trigger a vicious civil war. The US has virtually trussed itself down as the rest of us look helplessly, unable to help either the occupation or the resistance movement. The so-called Iraqi government is rightly seen as a bunch of quislings representing nobody except themselves, and the Pentagon, of course.


The civil liberties situation in the US is the worst in years. The so-called “war on terror” has brought a pervading sense of insecurity to the detriment of the basic freedoms with which America has always been identified. Even ardent supporters of President Bush complain that such compromises on liberty are too big a price to be paid for sustaining a “war on terror” whose achievements are at best uncertain.


It is quite clear that President Bush’s second term has to be utilised for a roll-back rather than escalation of the war. Afghanistan and Iraq are yet to be “pacified” and any expansion would only be self-defeating.


Naturally, the original neocon plan of breaking the axis of evil (Iraq, Iran, Korea) is not feasible at the moment, especially when Iran is prepared to accommodate US and Israeli wishes. Incentives have so far worked with North Korea. Thus the use of the big stick is hardly called for. Sudan was on the hit-list of John Kerry, but he could not make it to the White House. That should give us reason to believe that diplomacy would be sufficient to set things right, if at all things can be set right in a messy place like contemporary Sudan. US missionaries too are responsible for some of the mess.


So, where do we go from here?


The original neocon plan was to use Iraq as a strategic place from where to strike at and force out regimes in Syria, Saudi Arabia and even the loyal Egypt if the regimes in these countries fail to carry on according to American and Israeli orders. In the second term the neocon coterie is flush with hubris. Condoleeza Rice is sitting in the famous Foggy Bottom. In her the US has one of the greatest unilateralists in history.


Now the question to ask is will the neocon plan to have a “rolling war” that could go to as many as 60 countries (including the present favorite Pakistan if “fundamentalists” come to power) be implemented? Virtually the entire Muslim world is on target , the OIC itself consisting of 57 member countries.


The “war on terror” was supposed to go on for more than a decade. Will the US move on to new Muslim countries, like Syria, Sudan and Iran? When will the turn of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan come? Syria is already in the middle of a debilitating sanctions regime reminiscent of the Iraqi situation before the occupation forces rolled in.


For the moment one would like to think that the US would not be moving its “war on terror” to a third country. Had the Iraq war shaped up the way the neocons conned President Bush into believing the way it would go, one would have guessed that it could spill on to yet another country by the end of this year. However, the scenario has turned out differently.


Whatever its limitations at present, the US is still not averse to allowing Israel to intimidate and bully countries like Syria and Iran. Prime Minister Sharon has a carte blanche from President Bush to bomb Iranian reactors or Syrian sites the way it bombed and destroyed Iraqi nuclear installations several years ago.


Now that Sheikh Yassin, Sheikh Ratnissi and Yasser Arafat are no longer on the scene it is likely to be easier for the US and Israel to force their will on the Palestine National Authority “government”. By thus “pacifying” Palestine and having pulled out its forces from Saudi soil the US thinks it will be able to contain Muslim resentment.


An important point to consider here is that a second-term president has a greater operational freedom. He does not have to oblige each and every pressure group for the simple reason that there is no third term in America presidency. Keeping that in mind let us hope that he does not feel obliged to follow everything the neocon cabal asks him to. In America and the world’s best interests one hopes that he would be able to undo some of the damage he has inflicted on the US and the world.g

DR MANZOOR Alam is Chairman of Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi.