So Little Time, So Many Regimes to Change
- So Little Time, So Many Regimes to Change
Analysis - By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (IPS) - The interregnum between November's
election and the formal launch in January of U.S. President George W
Bush's second term has a strange feel.
Perhaps it is that Colin Powell, who until now stayed as close to
Washington as he could to try to prevent Vice President Dick Cheney
or Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld from pushing phoney intelligence
and aggressive policy advice policies on the president in his
absence, has been traveling virtually all over the world, assuring
appropriately sceptical foreign leaders that Bush will really --
REALLY -- be committed to multilateralism in his second term.
Now that Powell has been informed his services will no longer be
required, the least-travelled secretary of state in the last
generation is finally getting out to see the sights, even if his
credibility as a spokesman for future U.S. foreign policy is less
than it was for the past four years.
Or perhaps it is the sense of anticipation in some quarters, dread
in others, of what will actually happen in the coming term.
The dread, of course, comes from Democrats, whose somewhat
diminished presence in Congress will make them even more marginal in
the second term than they were in the first.
And it is felt by others who consider themselves on the ''left'' of
the very one-sided U.S. political spectrum, and by ''realist''
foreign-policy analysts who are just hoping against hope that the
over-extension of the U.S. military in Iraq and the rapid depletion
of the U.S. Treasury will force Bush to pursue a less ambitious
international agenda, sooner rather than later.
The eager anticipation, on the other hand, comes from the now-
familiar coalition of nationalist, neo-conservatives and Christian
Right hawks who still believe that Afghanistan and Iraq were just
the 'hors d'oeuvres' to a repast of at least five or six courses.
Like five-year-olds on Christmas Eve who just cannot wait to tear
off the ribbon and wrapping paper that separates their greedy
fingers from their Christmas presents under the tree, these
individuals are so manic and so fidgety that they just cannot
restrain themselves from blurting out or even shouting --
repeatedly -- what they think Santa Claus had better bring them, OR
It is as if they had been told by their parents for months -- as
indeed the hawks had been told by Bush's 'consiglieri', Karl Rove --
that if they keep talking about what they really wanted for
Christmas, Santa would not give it to them.
Similarly, Rove had ordered the hawks to shut up lest they scare the
hell out of the electorate and Bush would lose the election. So,
having bottled it up inside all this time, they are now bursting
Of course, toy fire engines, Lego and Barbie dolls are not going to
appease this crowd, which has rather bigger things in mind, above
all regime change. Unlike the wish lists that Santa's elves at their
workshops in the fast-disappearing Arctic are toiling overtime to
fill, these lists feature the names of countries and institutions.
Beginning one month ago, when 'ueber-hawk' Frank Gaffney, the
president of the Centre for Security Policy (CSP) and long-time
protege of neo-conservative impresario Richard Perle, published what
he called his ''checklist of the work the world will demand of this
president and his subordinates in a second term,'' prominent hawks
have been pushing their own favourite targets for regime change or
simple confrontation -- from Caracas to North Korea -- on what
sometimes seems like an hourly basis.
Add to that the State Department and the Central Intelligence
Agency, changes that are already in the works.
These calls to action have appeared in all the usual places -- the
editorial pages of the 'Wall Street Journal' and the 'New York
Post', the pages and websites of the 'Weekly Standard' and
the 'National Review', on FoxNews, and the 'Washington Times'.
Somewhat ominously perhaps, they are also reprinted in the
Pentagon's twice-daily 'Early Bird' editions -- compilations of must
reading for senior national-security officials.
What is common to almost all of these effusions is the sense that,
while Iraq might not have gone quite as well as anticipated,
the ''victory'' in Fallujah marked a turning point in the U.S.
occupation and January's elections should permit Washington to begin
drawing down its troop presence in Iraq not long afterwards.
And, while the United States should still be committed to Iraq for
the long haul, it is time that it came to act on the threats posed
by other ''evil'' regimes -- be it by military force, covert
action, ''support for the opposition'', or simple intimidation.
At the top of the list, as they have been for so long, of course,
are Iran and North Korea, whose possession of nuclear weapons is
simply ''unacceptable'', as the administration itself has said. But
others -- Syria, Venezuela, China, even Russia, and the latest
target, the United Nations itself -- are still seen as requiring
policies of active containment, if not ''regime change''.
Recent news reports that quote ''intelligence'' and
sometimes ''military'' sources saying that Syria is now the
financial, logistical and planning hub of the insurgency in Iraq
have prompted right-wingers to resurrect their plans for Damascus,
even as President Bashar al-Assad assures Washington and Israel he
is ready for peace talks without conditions, and might even be
willing to go to Jerusalem and negotiate an agreement with the
United States to secure his border with Iraq.
''The president's goals in Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, will
not be achieved until the Syrians are forced to halt all assistance
to our enemies'', write three officials associated with the
Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD), a neo-conservative
group behind the recent re-creation of the Committee on the
President Danger (CPD), in the 'Washington Times' this week.
Iran, of course, gets the most ink, with a constant drumbeat of
columns underlining the duplicity/hypocrisy/naiveté of Britain,
France and Germany for negotiating a nuclear accord with Tehran and
the necessity of an ultimate confrontation, if not because of its
nuclear programme than because of the regime's alleged infiltration
and subversion of Iraq.
While the hawks concede that a full-scale invasion of Iran is not a
viable option, at least for the moment, they insist not only that
well-targeted air strikes (by Washington or Israel) could, at the
least, significantly retard Tehran's acquisition of a nuclear
Similarly, they seize on every report of discontent, such as this
week's heckling by university students of President Mohammed
Khatami, as evidence that, as in pre-war Iraq, Washington is wildly
popular with theologically oppressed Iranian masses who will be
eager, at the very least, to accept money and rhetorical support --
already in the works, according to recent reports -- from the Bush
administration to put an end to the regime, perhaps as peacefully,
even, as in Ukraine.
North Korea is another top-ranking target, with, as in Iran, right-
wingers seizing on even more dubious reports of widespread and
growing discontent with the government to bolster their argument for
regime change and at least the preparation for military strikes,
despite the fact that U.S. intelligence does not have the faintest
idea where key nuclear facilities can be found.
Concern about China, whose failure to ''deliver'' North Korea, along
with its recent multi-billion-dollar energy contract with Iran and
persistent tensions with Taiwan are seen as evidence of potential
enmity, is also being spurred by the hawks, who appear to have
resumed their campaign against ''engagement'' with Beijing after a
Particularly notable in that regard, Dan Blumenthal, until recently
Rumsfeld's senior country director for China and Taiwan, moved
recently to Perle's American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he
resurrected the notion of China as a ''strategic competitor'' to the
Venezuela's recent aircraft purchases from Russia have spurred a
series of columns, particularly in the Journal and 'National
Review', reminding readers how close President Hugo Chavez is to
Fidel Castro and how determined he is to curb U.S. influence in the
But the newest and easiest target, of course, is the United Nations,
beginning with Annan, whose resignation over the ''oil-for-food''
scandal is being sought by a growing number of Republican lawmakers
in Congress and op-ed hawks whose hatred and contempt for the world
body dates back decades.
To find his head in one of those nicely wrapped packages under the
tree would portend a very happy new year and a terrific second term.
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