The Last Throes and The Final Stretch—Defining an Administration

Thus the necessity of not failing has become a cornerstone of the new reality within the Bush White House. All talk of success in Iraq has been taken off the menu, like yesterday’s leftovers.

When the goal becomes impossible, one hypothesis is merely to move the
goal posts. It may not be intellectually honest, but we are in times
when public opinion is so blindingly quick to forget and yet ready to
accept its own particular brand of prejudices, that few seem to notice.

Thus the necessity of not failing has become a cornerstone of the new reality within the Bush White House. All talk of success in Iraq has been taken off the menu, like yesterday’s leftovers.
Doggedly and at the cost of unparalleled carnage our vicious and
uncompromising vice-president continues to see victory in the ruins.
His prognostication is unerringly wrong, his past positions
consistently disproven and yet he and his agents dominate
foreign-policy discussion and decision within the administration.
Never has a vice-president held such sway with his president,
forcing all voices of moderation from the discussion. Whether they be
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (John Shalikashvili) or Secretary of State
(Colin Powell held both posts), when Dick Cheney speaks it’s ‘my way or the highway.’
Condoleeza Rice, who started her tenure as Secretary of State with a
certain degree of success and apparent independence has, since the
Lebanon war, been relegated to status of bag-man for Cheney. Rumsfeld
is always an enigma, but it appears he’s too terrified of his
self-crafted Iraq debacle to think creatively or independently. There
is, effectively, no dissenting voice between Cheney and his president.
All of which would be a mere footnote to history, were it not for Iran.
Seymour Hersh makes the case in the August 21st New Yorker,
that what the world saw in Lebanon and what Cheney’s office saw were
(my words, not his) from different planets. Largely, the world thinks
Israel came out on the bottom end of that confrontation, having done no
permanent damage to Hezbollah and wrecking its reputation for military
superiority as well as targeting restraint.

Dick Cheney was convinced, current and former intelligence and
diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force
bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified
underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could
ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a
potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear
installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

The Israeli bombing was not only unsuccessful, it failed to achieve any of its purposes against underground facilities. Again, from the Hersh article

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”

This demo was a lemon and where have we heard cheap war with many benefits
before? Iraq is now the second most costly war in American history.
Certainly, with so little to show for it and so much to regret, sanity
would dictate getting out of Iraq rather than widening the conflict to
Iran. 26 million Iraqis have kept us effectively tied up militarily
without an additional 70 million Iranians added to the Middle East stew.

began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the
support of his office and the Middle East desk of the National Security
Council.” After that, “persuading Bush was never a problem, and Condi
Rice was on board,”
the consultant said.

learned? Not bloody likely. In Dick Cheney’s world, belief is what he
wants to believe. Learning depends upon what the Dick-man defines and
is blindly predetermined to learn. Like goal posts, facts are there to
be moved if inconvenient.

Cheney’s point, the former senior intelligence official said, was “What
if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it’s really
successful? It’d be great. We can learn what to do in Iran by watching
what the Israelis do in Lebanon.”

“The big complaint now in the intelligence community is that all
of the important stuff is being sent directly to the top—at the
insistence of the White House—and not being analyzed at all, or
he (the Pentagon consultant) said. “It’s an awful
policy and violates all of the N.S.A.’s strictures, and if you complain
about it you’re out. Cheney had a strong hand in this.”

is an administration that does not ask, will not listen, has never been
moved by a contrary view, establishing policy entirely within an ever
smaller clique.

“Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it,”
John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, told
me. Arquilla has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing
success, to change the way America fights terrorism. “The warfare of today is not mass on mass,” he said. “You
have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focused on
bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more
aggressive on the ground.

The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”

Uh huh. But if control of Congress stays in Republican hands after November, we will be at war with Iran inside six months.
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