Thursday, January 11, 2007

The question

In his piece, Sacrificing Private Ryan, Yossi Sarid at Ha'aretz asks,
Is Bush the stupidest president his country has ever had?
More than a few on this side of the pond have been wondering that for quite sometime. This question asks for an answer that is far too simple, of course. With the collection of neo-cons, cronies, back room oil dealing, an increasingly displeased Saudi Arabia, a finger wagging Iranian government, and who knows what else (none of these, you'll note, include the wishes of the American citizenry) that Bush has to do deal with, he is clearly not up to the task. Yes, he is none too bright, but he is made more so by his steadfast adherence to a policy that is only increasing the backlash against America across the Muslim world.

Quite apart from the enormous recruiting tool that the Iraq invasion has become, two recent events are of particular note. First were the ill-considered air strikes in Somalia, which have only hardened those they were meant to dispatch. The loss of innocent life has probably recruited a few -- many? -- new al Qaeda members as well and certainly will have engendered further antipathy toward the US in the region. How can Bush think this a winning strategy? If he thought about it at all, I doubt he would, but he is most likely blasé about any and all untoward consequences of the extremely blunt instrument approach to his already adle-pated foreign policy. Conflict regions are simply mortars into which he grinds the pestle of US weaponry. So dismissive is the White House and its various "US officials" of the casualties and death they bring to already disaffected regions, one can't help but wonder if increasing the terrorist population of the world is actually a goal. We have been told this will be a "long war." Every stupid step like Somalia seems designed to guarantee it.

The second, small scale event was the also ill-advised "arrest" of five Iranian diplomats at the Iranian consulate in the Kurdish-controlled city of Irbil. The Kurds themselves called the event a kidnapping and was presaged by a stand-off between Pershmerga and US troops, who, in the dead of night, descended on the consulate from helipcopters mere hours after George Bush's speech in which he said Iran and Syria needed to stop their meddling in Iraq. It seems their meddling is interfering with US meddling, a situation that is simply unacceptable. But Iraqis and especially the Kurds are not at all pleased with this latest move by the White House:
The arrests in Irbil drew condemnation from the regional Kurdish government and concern from Iraqi officials in Baghdad.
The Kurds have said that two of the Iranians arrested were present by the invitation of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani.

The invasion and occupation are evidence enough that White House claims of Iraqi "sovereignty" were nonsense, though they continue to this day. Bush's threats to al Maliki to reign in the violence and now this move really ought to dispel the Iraqis of any notion that the latest push to calm the civil war is being done so for the sake of Iraq. But the White House should have thought about installing an Iraqi government with close ties to Iran before now. How could they not see the inevitable?

This question and the ones raised by the Somalia attacks are just the latest of many that lead Sarid and many others to wonder whether George Bush is the stupidest president ever. It is a question that will haunt Bush because he has had no help from those around him in keeping that question at bay.


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