You’re George W. Bush. You’re
50-something. You’re a Yale grad. You’ve had
cocaine-use problems. You’re supposed to be a draft-dodger.
You’ve been voted in on the most controversial election of
the age. The only people who like you on the domestic front are
from your redneck constituency (which is the Christian Coalition or
any one who supports the Christian Coalition, i.e. the American
South or Midwesterners with relatives from the American South),
your cabinet (probably minus Powell) and maybe your wife. In fact,
statistically, just a little more than half of your countrymen hate
you. The United Nations abhors you. The Europeans think
you’re a cowboy from hell. The Africans think you ignore
them. The Indians and Chinese only want your money. And the Islamic
world, at least on the popular if not on the leadership level,
wants you served for breakfast, topped with a bit of crusading and
a pinch of clash of civilizations. Man, even the Canadians are
ticked at you. By default, your only buddy internationally is one
Tony Blair, which is a crazy coincidence because he’s an old
pal of mine as well, but we haven’t been talking since he
started a career as a co-invader of Islamic countries with
you-know-who. But hey, seriously, Blair isn’t a bad guy. In
fact, you’re a pretty nice guy yourself. Your only problem is
that those years in Texas haven’t really worn off.
So what do you do for kicks? Well, there’s little doubt
that you’ve had a tough time in office, spending almost three
of your first nine months on vacation because of your high-stress
job. And then, on a fine September morning in 2001, you get to deal
with the largest terrorist event in the history of the world, short
of, hmmm, Napoleon’s battle at Leipzig, the Mongol attack on
Baghdad, Hitler’s invasion of Russia and oh yes, the
Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb runs. But anyways, considering that
those were “wars” and this is “terrorism”
(a scourge which exists in the gray area between all-out crazy
nukes/commandos/fighter-bombers war and pathetically
we’ll let you have it. Sept. 11 was a huge tragedy.
So, faced with such havoc, what did you do? Well, you did a
pretty good job uniting your country at a time of crisis. Not only
that, you did a pretty decent job convincing the world that America
had been wronged, even though you started getting a little out
line. Your “with us or with the terrorists” take was
cool for a Clint Eastwood-meet-Vin Diesel movie, but not for Paris
or Bonn or even Islamabad (which, by the way, didn’t really
have a choice for calling it uncool). Your “Axis of
Evil” take probably did really well in Alabama, but not so
much elsewhere. Still, your attack on Afghanistan was called for.
You had the United Nations, the Brits, the Pakistanis, even the
Iranians lined up. After all, America had been wronged. We all
thought so. It was a good thing taking out those Taliban crazies
and their crazier al-Qaida pals. Read my lips. We all thought
Then things got a tad more complicated.
Considering you can bench 240 pounds and
you’re the president of the United States, we all knew you to
be a pretty strong guy. You had “smoked them out of their
caves,” and you now wanted to “take the war to
terrorists.” Fair enough. Sounded impressive. We agreed with
you, George. Sure, let’s take the war to the terrorists.
Let’s tell Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Syria and
Jordan to get their case together on human rights and democracy so
terrorist recruitment can be stemmed. Let’s reconstruct
Afghanistan and disarm its warlords so that post-Soviet
factionalism never returns. Let’s send peacekeepers to quell
the terror of Africa’s rampant civil wars. Let’s get
Pakistan and India to talk and disengage their nuclear posture. And
let’s implement that two-state solution in Palestine and
Israel and tell both parties to take it a little easy. Sounds like
a plan, George. Let’s do it.
And what did you do, George? You didn’t fully commit to
Afghanistan, making American military presence more Osama-centric
than reconstruction-based. You dilly-dallied with your Arab
friends, letting them be because you needed their bases. You had a
lukewarm, apprehensive approach to Indo-Pakistan peace, not wanting
to force India to talk because of trade ties, not wanting to tick
the Pakistanis off too much on Kashmiri infiltration because of the
war on terror. Your ignoring Africa while the bloodiest conflict
since World War II raged on there was abysmal, a contradiction to
your “save-humanity” ethos. And your “road
map” to peace in Israel and Palestine lacked resolve.
American resolve, to back it up, to force Israel to talk, while
vetoing any and every United Nations resolution against that
up-tight, aggressive state.
Instead, your version of “taking the war to the
terrorists” translated into “let’s attack Iraq on
bad intelligence, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction,
without a U.N. resolution, lacking any semblance of
multilateralism, zero regional support, no broad alliance and a
dreamy post-war plan.” No one can say whether you were
finishing daddy’s war, but who cares? You did this during the
worst economic slump your country has had since Pearl Harbor and
when the world was already on edge about your infatuation with
Saddam and Osama and at a time you needed to maintain global
support like nothing else.
Now, on the homefront, the Democrats are screaming murder,
thousands of American college grads (believe it or not, a lot of
Yalies among them) are unemployed, the U.S. Social Security program
is going bankrupt, the U.S. government has the highest budget
deficit in history and four U.S. soldiers on average are being
killed in Iraq every week, where the latest polls indicate that
freedom is welcome, but American occupation is not.
And it gets more glib on the global front, George. The American
system of alliances, so intricately constructed since the times of
Woodrow Wilson, is literally in tatters. American unilateralism has
destroyed the confidence and functionality of the United Nations
and the prestige of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance
in Europe. And the complacent handling of Israeli terror (no doubt
in reaction to Palestinian terror) while aggression is exemplified
next door in Iraq and Afghanistan has angered much of the Islamic
world into believing the semi-myth of a Zionist-American alliance.
Pats on the back like “major non-NATO ally” status for
Pakistan, a $3 billion annual aid package to Egypt and almost $40
per barrel oil prices for Saudi Arabia are not going to deflect the
reality of the American reputation and position in the world
forever. America was hurting after Sept. 11, but instead of raging
into a constructive anger, it slipped into destructive arrogance.
That is the fallibility of America in the age of terror. That is
the legacy of your White House.
And oh George, good luck this November.
Syed is a University alum and a former Daily columnist. He is
currently in rural Pakistan.