Bush's Fantasy Foreign Policy
Posted By: wtnf
Date: 12, October 05, at 7:42 a.m.
Rami G. Khouri
October 11, 2005
Rami G. Khouri is editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, published throughout the Middle East with the International Herald Tribune.
I heard then read President George Bush's speech on the war on terror last Thursday while my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful two-day, two-night train journey across most of the United States, from Chicago to San Francisco. But I only fully grasped the meaning of Bush's "global war on terror" when I arrived here and had a useful discussion with one of my sons on the fantasy football league that he and my other son in Beirut are deeply engaged in.
For readers who may not follow these things closely, fantasy football is a virtual world over the Internet in which individuals create their own teams by choosing real players from the existing rosters of the National Football League. Every week the performances of the real players are tallied to give the fantasy team a score, and the fantasy team with the highest score at the end of the season wins. The exciting week-to-week interaction between the actual and imagined worlds makes it hard to separate fantasy from realityŠ which brings me back to George Bush's speech and policy on terrorism.
My conclusion after this rich week of travel and conversation is that sensible middle class Americans get on with the hard work of making a living in challenging times, while their federal government in Washington conducts a fantasy foreign policy based more on make-believe perceptions and imagined realities. The latest public opinion poll figures here bear this out, showing that about one-third of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the Iraq war, while nearly two-thirds disapprove -- a sharp reversal of the situation two years ago.
The long train ride through the American heartland was an opportunity to visually see the varied beauty of this land and the socio-economic variety of its inhabitants, and to engage a small sample of ordinary Americans about the problem of terrorism and how they relate to it in their everyday lives. The Americans I spoke to -- a computer engineer from Denver, a train service employee from Chicago, a retired professor from Omaha, a seminary student from South Carolina, a young university engineering graduate from Alabama, among others -- expressed lingering anger about 9/11 and concern about a future attack. They also seemed perplexed about two important points: why this terror threat remains so vivid, and why so many people around the world criticize the United States.
I sensed a great disconnect in America today between the sentiments and perceptions of ordinary citizens and the rhetoric and foreign policies of their federal government, articulated again last week by Bush's cosmic speech about fighting the new global threat of Islamist jihadi terrorism. Bush and his ideological warhorses in Washington want to take this fight to the enemy in Iraq and elsewhere and keep fighting until freedom prevails everywhere. Ordinary Americans would settle for a more effective, productive policy that makes them feel safer at home and less opposed around the world. Bush's speech at the National Endowment for Democracy last week reaffirmed to me that Washington's policy to fight terrorism is a mishmash of faulty analysis, historical confusions, emotional anger, foreign policy frustrations, worldly ignorance, and political deception, all rolled into one. The fundamental flaw is that Bush confuses and conflates a range of separate issues that have very different causes and consequences. As a result, he formulates an ineffective or even counter-productive strategy on the basis of distorted analysis and a wrong reading of the symptoms and causes or terror.
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