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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Foreign policy incoherence

I have two posts up at C&L from yesterday. The first post concerns the fact that George Bush's unpopularity spans virtually the entire country; his approval ratings are now above 50% in only 6 states (not including Texas), and in 40 out of 50 states -- 80% of the country -- more people disapprove of his performance as President than approve. One of the most inexcusable, and revealing, media distortions is that Bill Clinton, who had approval ratings in the 60s and left office with sky-high popularity, is depicted as some sort of disliked politician, whereas Bush is still routinely depicted as a beloved and admired figure even though he is, and for quite some time has been, an extremely unpopular President, not just in blue states but in red states as well.

The second post highlights the utter incoherence and inconsistencies in the terrorism and Iraq stump speech which Bush gives over and over and over. He constantly insists, for instance, that we are "at war" and mocks those who disagree, even though his own Attorney General testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that we are not at war. Bush's central claim is that we will achieve "victory" in Iraq because democracy will produce a pro-U.S. government which will help us fight the "war on terror," even though two consecutive democratic elections have handed control of that country over to Shiite theocrats who are close allies with Iran, the country we are told is now our greatest enemy in the war on terror.

And Bush constantly justifies our occupation of Iraq with the assertion that democracies breed U.S. allies and dictatorships breed enemies, even though many of the countries with whom we have the greatest tensions and hostilities -- Iran, Venezuela, and now the Palestinian Authority -- have governments which were democratically elected to one degree or another, while some of our closest and strategically most important allies -- Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan -- couldn't be less democratic, and democratic elections in those countries would lead to governments which are infinitely more hostile to U.S. interests than the dictatorships which we prop up.

And the President continuously tells us that this war is unlike all others because we have to win not just militarily, but by winning the "hearts and minds" of Muslims. Meanwhile, the President's followers defend and justify the publication of cartoons which could not be more offensive or inflammatory towards Muslims (I agree that the cartoons should be published far and wide, but I don't espouse the contradictory principle that winning the "hearts and minds" of Muslims is our overarching goal); our abusive interrogation and detention practices (which repulse the moral standards of even by our closest Western allies) continue unabated; and we engage in what are perceived to be reckless, civilian-slaughtering military strikes which do nothing but inflame Muslim sentiment against us.

In sum, while the President continuously says that the most important goal in the "war on terror" is to undermine popular support for terrorists by showing Muslims that we have good intentions, virtually everything we do achieves the opposite result. These policies and their justifications are such a muddled, confused, internally inconsistent mess because they are just made up as they go along. They are political justifications, not thought-out strategic plans, and they shift like the wind whenever political expediency demands it.

If, as Bush claims, the metrics for determining "victory" are (a) the proliferation of democratically elected, pro-U.S. governments in the Middle East and (b) a positive view of the U.S. on the part of Muslims in the Middle East, can anyone contest that, using these metrics, we are doing everything except "winning"?

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