Democracy Arsenal

« Dissecting Greenwald | Main | Haleh Esfandiari freed on bail from Tehran's prison »

August 21, 2007

Bush: A 'Dissident' in His Own Government?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I feel like I have an obligation to comment on Peter Baker’s Washington Post piece on why/how the Bush administration’s efforts to promote Middle East democracy failed miserably. It was one of the most frustrating, dispiriting reads I’ve read in a long time (Laura Rozen was similarly dissapointed). Some thoughts:

1. At best, the article's interesting in the kind of way a car crash is interesting ("car crash" refers to the Bush administration, not Baker's writing style). At worst, it's quite bad and incredibly misleading. President Bush comes out as a courageous visionary whose wonderful ideas were stilted by the State Department bureaucracy and by the government’s traditional resistance to new ideas (Poor George, he says he feels like a "dissident" within his own administration). What’s funny is that the State Department comes across as being separate than the Executive Branch, as if it was founded for no other reason than to defeat any good ideas that come out of the White House.

What’s strange, though, is that nothing of note or interest is said about Condoleezza Rice, who comes off as periphery player. She’s mentioned a few times, but only in passing, and only, it seems, so that Baker can continue with his narrative. However, over the course of 3000 words, we learn nothing about what Condi thinks about her rebellious bureaucracy. Presumably, as head of the State Department and invested with the authority granted to her by the President of the United States, she could have done something about this. It’s doubly amazing that Rice is more or less ignored by Baker, since she was central in articulating a foreign policy orientation known as “constructive instability” (a radical way of looking at the world that, while scary, isn’t altogether bad. For a primer on CI, see here and here).

2. Wait a second, wasn’t the State Department against another “new idea” in 2002? I seem to recall that there was some talk around then of invading a foreign country that had nothing to do with 9/11. I seem to also recall that the State Department bureaucracy was furious about this. President Bush was able, however, to overrule or circumvent this “resistance” because he wanted to. Iraq was his priority. I don’t doubt that Bush is sincere in his commitment to democracy, but I’m under no illusions that it was ever a top priority of his, or that it took precedence over more “tangible” strategic interests…like, um, supporting dictators with billions of dollars, something which Bush has proven quite fond of.

3. Wait, didn’t the Bush administration just announce a $20 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, one of the most undemocratic countries on the planet? Presumably, a change in policy like that has to get the approval of the President. Or can the dreaded State Department bureaucracy overrule the President?

4. Unbelievably, Iraq gets only one mention in the whole article. This is absolutely amazing.      More to say about this, but I’ll save it for another post. Suffice it to say that Baker deserves an “understatement of the last six months” award for this unassuming nugget: “The Iraq war has distracted Bush and, in some quarters, discredited his aspirations.” Oh really?

5. If only one good thing can come out of this article, I hope it is that someone in the White House will read it and then decide to demote Richard Boucher (read the article and you'll see why...if you like indulging dictators, though, you'll think he's a star).

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c04d69e200e54ecdba618833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bush: A 'Dissident' in His Own Government?:

» Valium definiton. from Can you overdose a dog with valium.
Valium cocktail. [Read More]

Comments

The Dissident-in-Chief? That's a depressing thought if one takes it literally. I'm not sure we can quite do that with the Baker piece.

Not once does Baker engage at first hand with anyone who thought emphasizing worldwide democracy and an end to tyranny was foolish, impractical, or a policy borne of the need to have a couple of quotable lines in a State of the Union speech. It looks as if he was spinning his reporting Bush's way, because he agreed with the messianic globalo...with the universal democracy promotion (or UDP) idea, and his White House (and former White House)sources took advantage of that. Bush is the hero, thwarted by champions of realism and inertia that Baker keeps at a safe distance by not interviewing them directly.

The picture thus painted is implausible, but this is not fundamentally a matter of Bush's sincerity. He really does wish for democracy in places like Egypt and Russia, in somewhat the same way I wish for a Braves rotation that didn't fall apart after Smoltz and Hudson. I'm completely sincere in my wish, but since it doesn't affect me personally and I have no idea how to make my wish come true I don't do anyting about it.

There are ways to move the foreign policy bureaucracy in a President's preferred direction. Truman's was one; he appointed a Secretary of State in whom he had complete trust and made every foreign policy move through him. Nixon's was another; he bypassed the bureaucracy, cutting the State Department out of all matters and especially all negotiations he thought important and running foreign policy through the Security Adviser's office. Reagan's was a third; he bided his time until direct meetings with Gorbachev and his own great popularity gave him the opportunity to move arms control discussions with the Soviets further and faster than most of his advisers were comfortable with.

All of these have their disadvantages, but under the right circumstances they can and did work. When Bush tried his hand at this he read some lines inserted into random speeches by a small group of pasty-faced, snotnosed speechwriters and expected policy to change as a result. That used to work on the old "West Wing" television show; it's never worked in real life.

Are you serious? Richard Boucher is one of the most urbane, thoughtful, articulate, staggeringly well-informed Renaissance men in Washington. It's entirely likely the man forgot more foreign policy than Bush will ever know. I'll bet you a thousand bucks Bush couldn't ID on a map the 130+ countries Boucher has visited without Condoleeza Rice passing him a cheat sheet.

If the United States electorate were more European, Boucher is the kind of man we'd elect president. Can you even imagine what a Boucher/Bush debate would look like in the primaries? OMFG, bloodbath!! There's not a politician alive whom he couldn't make mincemeat of.

If Boucher really is running our foreign policy these days? Hip hip hooray, three-cheers-and-a-double-backflip, and more power to him.

thanks for your article.Good

I always heard something from my neighbor that he sometimes goes to the internet bar to play the game which will use him some runescape gold
he usually can win a lot of rs gold

the fiesta online money is really poor. You can use fiesta online gold to buy the weapons.

Thank you for your sharing! I like i very much!

I feel good that Obama is doing something positive for somebody, even if it is for another country. Too bad he didn't listen to his own people and not hang that financial monstrosity around our necks.I would like to ask can we send all the people who voted for his lousy healthcare plan down there too?

It's etched and inked with a very nice rendition of the Blancpain Replica Watches which,as an engineer and pilot myself,has always been one of my favorite planes.The alarm is good,though not as loud as the 80dB Omega.Luminox managed this compromise while still maintaining 100m water resistance,though,which is a good tradeoff and a strong point in their favor.The face and dial are,in contrast to the Raptor just reviewed,quite sparse and understated.Stark white hands,minimal text and graphics,and a reverse LCD display; it all adds up to outstanding legibility.The sapphire crystal minimally domed with an inner camber and inner A/R coating also helps quite a bit.And,of course,at night the tritium tubes rock.Note,however,that the digital portion is not backlit,and therefore not useable in the dark.The Swiss Chanel Ceramic Watch has some really unusual features you might enjoy like the compass,and the "week of year" and tachymeter modes.I like that you can select a display mode that suits you: time,full date (day/date/year/month),seconds only (very clean),time,second or third timezone,alarm or countdown timer.It's an extremely functional Japanese Rolex Replica,and as with the Bedat & CO Replica Watches,the large curved segments are easy to read and use.The buttons and pushbutton crown are well-sized and spaced,and work fine even with gloves on; that's one advantage for the crown design.Case and packaging are quite good; it comes in a very nice travel pack with padding and cleaning cloth that you can actually use as opposed to something you store on a shelf or discard.It also has internal pockets to hold the manual and warranty card another thoughtful touch.The bracelet is good and fully PVD coated,including the inside bits of the clasp.It has snap closure,fliplock,four micro-adjustments,solid links with pins,and solid end links a good match for the Zenith Replica Watches,and with standard lugs on the case so you could try your own strap if you want.I suspect it would work well with a dark leather strap,as well.On the wrist,this is a fun Patek Philippe Replica to wear: substantial,but not massive,uniquely styled,and tremendously legible day or night.The sculpted bezel and profile mean that it's more cuff-friendly than you might expect which is one more thing to like about the design.List price on the Blackbird is $1,500,consistent with Luminox's recent push into higher-end Rolex Ladies Replica Watches.For a Tudor Replica Watches that compares well to the X-33,that seems like a reasonable price,especially given the discounts usually available,and how much easier the Luminox will be to find.If you like analog-digital Piaget Replica Watches as much as I do,this one is a clear winner: more waterproof than the X-33,tritium illumination,good alarm,tons of functions,cool inner bezel,cuff-friendly profile,and a clean,understated dial.Our thanks to Luminox USA for the review loan.By Paul Hubbard; For updates on content,follow Franck Muller Replica Report on Twitter.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Emeritus Contributors
Subscribe
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Email: 
Powered by TypePad

Disclaimer

The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use