Bush, do a Sharon

Damn the politics, save your doctrine. Bush's only option is to press forward, not to retreat.

saul singer 88 (photo credit: )
saul singer 88
(photo credit: )
Is the Bush era over? Veteran Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne stated as much, flatly, arguing that it began when he told the firemen at Ground Zero, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." "Leadership, strength and security were Bush's calling cards... they were lost in the surging waters of New Orleans," Dionne argues. Such eulogies, moistened by crocodile tears, are no surprise from Bush's opponents. What should worry him, and us, more is exasperation from his own camp. In an incisive essay by Steven M. Warshawsky in the Web blog The American Thinker titled "The Bush Doctrine, R.I.P." Bush stated the essence of his doctrine on 9/11 itself: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." This simple yet powerful idea, that states would be held accountable for supporting terrorism, defined the watershed between pre- and post-9/11 US policy. Four months later, in his famous "axis of evil" speech, Bush explained: "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred... I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." Bush certainly did follow through on these words. The scorecard stands, impressively, at three down, two to go. Since 9/11 three key terror-supporting regimes Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have either been removed or have shunned the terror and nuke business. North Korea is a special case since it is being handled by its neighbors and is outside the Islamist jihad against the West. Within the sphere of global jihad, only two more states openly support terrorism and are actively working to ensure the failure of Iraqi democracy: Iran and Syria. Bush knows this full well. But he may also share the wariness of Republicans who see Americans averse to $3-a-gallon gasoline, casualties in Iraq, and anything that smells like "starting a new war." Outside this perceived political straight-jacket lies reality. "As a practical matter, it is difficult to see how the new Iraqi government will ever be stable, let alone serve as a "beacon" of democracy in the Middle East, so long as it is bordered by pro-terrorist regimes in Iran and Syria bent on its destruction," writes Warshawsky. "President Bush's failure to gird the country for war in the aftermath of 9/11 thus may doom not only the Bush Doctrine, but the President's new, more limited war aim of establishing a "free society" in Iraq." DIONNE WAS right about one thing: Bush's calling card is leadership. The only way out, as usual, is up. The fight of his life is not social security, tax cuts or naming justices to the Supreme Court. The Bush presidency will be defined by whether, at the end of eight years in office, the war against militant Islamism has been won or tipped decisively in America's favor; or, conversely, whether nuclearized mullahs have not only entrenched their rule but seen to it that all Iraqi-led regional progress toward freedom has been stopped or reversed. Do not be fooled by over-compensating CIA analysts, burned by the Iraq WMD controversy, who now claim Iran is a decade away from a bomb. The truth is that Iran is already past the "point of no return," if that is defined as having the indigenous capability to produce bomb-grade fuel and fashion it into a nuclear weapon. We should have very little confidence in our ability to predict both how long it will take Iran to build a bomb, or know how far the mullahs have progressed. In this context, Bush should take a two-track approach: lead England, France and Germany (the E-3) to impose painful sanctions on Iran, either through the UN Security Council or outside it to avoid a Chinese or Russian veto; and ramp up support for the freedom and human rights of the Iranian people. Many think that both these tracks are unrealistic, either because Europe will never agree, the sanctions will never bite, or the Iranian people will never be a match for their regime. Some might argue the two tracks are in conflict. I admit that neither path is easy or foolproof. But the E-3, particularly after the 7/7 attacks in London, seems headed toward Security Council action against Iran. The mullahs may not be vulnerable to standard trade sanctions, but they would be hit hard by breaks in diplomatic relations, air links, World Cup participation, and access to oil sector technology. Sanctions and spotlighting human rights reenforce each other because the regime is most afraid of a Ukraine-style revolution. Indeed, the people-power victories in Ukraine and Lebanon (against Syrian occupation) showed how potent the people can be when fully backed by the international community. Bush's alternatives to this double track, with all its difficulties and uncertainties, are military action, or doing nothing and learning to live with an Iranian nuke. The first is politically impossible, the second politically and strategically disastrous. Nor should Israel be counted on to swoop in, as we did against the Iraqi reactor in 1981, and save the day. By the end of Bush's term, the die will be cast toward a nuclear Iran or a democratic Iraq but not both. If there is an Israeli connection, it is this: The political constraints Bush faces in non-militarily applying his doctrine to Iran are certainly less than Ariel Sharon faced in proposing and implementing disengagement. On the contrary, politically, let alone strategically, Bush's only option is to press forward, not to retreat. Though he wouldn't have to take on his own party's ideology, only its political cold feet, it's time for Bush to do a Sharon. [email protected]