Friday, March 21, 2008

The Bush/Cheney Endgame - Part II

There's a widespread perception that, for the last seven years, the Bush/Cheney administration has been reeling from one crisis to another improvising rather than pursuing any grand strategy. While it's hard to disagree with this conclusion, there are a couple common threads that bind the administration's domestic and foreign policies to the point of obsession. These are rarely articulated in any coherent way, but they provide common denominators.

The Bush/Cheney legal endgame on torture, including the veto of the congressional prohibition on waterboarding, fits neatly into a larger scheme for the final ten months of the regime. As Bush continues to seem unconcerned about his legacy, it seems clear that he values just two outcomes for his eight years in office:
  1. No additional attacks on the homeland: Bush and Cheney will deem their regime a great success if they can declare that their national-security decisions were necessary to keep the U.S. safe since September 11th. That result, they'll claim, justifies everything they did: the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of torture, the illegal detentions and renditions, the degradation of civil liberties at home.

  2. Increased corporate hegemony over the economy and national politics: Bush can accurately claim that he did everything possible to eliminate restraints on corporate profits and freedom of action in the post-industrial economy. For example, his administration has presided over the aggressive dismantling of the federal regulatory apparatus, with predictable effects on the mortgage industry, environment and elsewhere. To the extent that the administration had an economic strategy at all, that was it.
In a political system that struggles to look beyond the two-, four- and six-year terms of its leadership, this sort of short-term (or two-term) thinking has again yielded nothing but disaster. The difficulties are compounded when the lack of strategic vision is combined with Bush's a priori, ideological approach to problems. In the mental world of George Bush, all assumptions are immune from empirical testing and revision.

If no further terrorist attacks occur in the U.S., even on the scale of London or Madrid, it would be quite a leap to agree with the Bush/Cheney claim that their policies deserve all the credit. The harsh context for such a claim shouldn't be overlooked: 3,993 U.S. troops have lost their lives in Iraq, another 29,314 have been wounded and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured in an illegal war of aggression [1].

Meanwhile, the long-term security of the U.S. has been deeply compromised as world opinion has turned dramatically against the Bush/Cheney regime. Any claims to U.S. moral authority are now laughable, as even our British allies seem to recognize. The next administration will have to act dramatically to repair the damage by distancing itself from Bush/Cheney and their policies (for which there's a modest 12-step program).

The economic cost of Bush's short-term thinking is a deepening recession that has already imposed hardships and may require years of recovery. While expanding federal power through the growing National Security State, Bush/Cheney have been aggressive proponents of the Reagan "revolution's" hostility towards domestic programs, even including disaster relief, and regulation. [2]

The administration is staggering towards the exit, deferring the resolution of these crises and doing everything imaginable to escape blame. The next occupant of the White House will be greeted by piles of steaming turds in every closet, under all the furniture, in every heating duct and in other places that we can't even imagine yet. The stench will be in the air for years, and no disinfectant is powerful enough to remove it.


[1] Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties.

[2] On the other hand, they've been very selective in adopting the principles of Reaganism. In his famous "Star Wars" speech in 1983, Reagan declared: "The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor." [Seven months later, he ordered the unprovoked invasion of Grenada.] And: "History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap."

PHOTO: Bush/Cheney join the celebrations at the end of their terms (Wikimedia).

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