Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bush go boom

As a resident of one of the cities potentially in the sights of North Korea should it actually prove to have become a member of the nuclear club, and eventually develop the capacity to deliver, I just want to say ...

Gee, thanks, Mr. Bush, for once again, through misfeasance, malfeasance, and plain old stupidity, creating a world in which I and my family are more likely, not less, to be blown up by a national enemy.

After all, we now know that the 9/11 attacks were in large part enabled by your administration's utter non-response to urgent warnings about impending terrorist attacks. Yet by bullying, blustering, and bullshiting, you managed to convince at least a portion of the nation -- and more importantly, the Beltway pundit and political-consultant class -- that you were actually strong on national security.

We now know that you persuaded the nation to invade another under false pretenses, and in the process made our situation in regard to fighting terrorism demonstrably and markedly worse. And the people who warned of this outcome before the invasion? They weren't "serious."

And now the debacle in North Korea, which has been building for some time and, as with your other history-making botches, is a direct product of the right-wing style of governance, which at its bottom is reactionary: its guiding principle is being anti-liberal. If Bill Clinton or liberals in general favored a policy or action, then it behooved the Bush White House to embrace its opposite. Bill Clinton was obsessed with Al Qaeda. He was soft on Saddam. He played footsie with North Korea.

You get the idea. It didn't matter whether a policy was perhaps diplomatically wise or otherwise had long-term value. It didn't matter whether it was effective. What mattered was whether it was liberal policy.

Thus, three great national debacles, all under the guidance of one president.

All along, Josh Marshall has been covering the North Korea mess, dating back to the administration's early days, and everyone should heed his consummate post on the Korean nuclear test. In particular, this paragraph should be etched in stone:
The bomb-grade plutonium that was on ice from 1994 to 2002 is now actual bombs. Try as you might to imagine a policy -- any policy -- which would have yielded a worse result than the one we will face Monday morning.

As Barbara at Mahablog points out, the neoconservative faction in the White House has been clearly pursuing a policy of confrontation (or "regime change") with North Korea for some time, and won out last year when they managed to impose sanctions on Pyongyang four days after diplomats at State had crafted a denuclearization treaty with Kim Jong Il's regime -- thereby sabotaging the hopes of settling the matter through diplomacy.

But, as Marshall has been reporting all along, this disaster has been on the rails ever since Bush stepped foot in the Oval Office, and has been brewing in the neocon agenda for longer than that.

Back in 1998, John Bolton -- currently Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, and one of the leading neocon lights in the administration -- testified before Congress, as the Center for American Progress details, and said that "sounder U.S. policy would start by making it clear to the North that we are indifferent to whether we ever have 'normal' diplomatic relations with it."

A few years later, there was this:
For instance, on the eve of talks with North Korea about their nuclear weapons, Bolton took a novel approach to public diplomacy and publicly called King Jong Il a "tyrannical dictator" and an "evil regime." The State Department was forced to send a replacement representative after North Korea responded by calling Bolton "human scum" and stating their objection to negotiating with him.

The dealings with Korea, as Marshall has been documenting all along, included a series diplomatic screwups and a seriously embarrassing moment for both the administration and its allies:
The defining encounter came in March 2001 when then-President Kim Dae Jung visited the White House only to be told that we were withdrawing support for his policy. As Jessica Matthews, head of the Carneigie Endowmentation, put it, President Bush "took the architect of the North-South reconciliation -- and publicly humiliated him."

In the process, Bush also managed to humiliate Colin Powell, then his Secretary of State.

The Korea debacle has been predictable. It also fits into a larger pattern of Bush administration malfeasance -- a volatile concoction of equal parts of arrogance, mendacity, incompetence, and viciousness.

And now we're all paying the price: A nation less secure, more vulnerable to attack by both military enemies and terrorists, and ineluctably more fearful.

Thanks, George. For nothing.

UPDATE: Michael Stickings has a good blogospheric roundup. Also, be sure to read Sean-Paul Kelly at the Agonist, who has a wrapup replete with lengthy excerpts from Chris Nelson.

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