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Hichem Karoui: Another ‘Bush II’ in the making
October 28, 2012
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I  followed the third debate, focused on foreign policy, read “An American Century” (a strategy to secure America’s enduring interests and ideals), and arrived at the conclusion that there is another George W. Bush in the making.

This guy – Romney – is very much under the influence of the same kind of ideologists who convinced Bush that America needs nothing less than a messianic president, or an “imperial president,” (to use the title of A. Schlesinger Sr.’s classic book). The foreword is written by Eliot Cohen, a neocon who had also served at the US Department under Bush II from 2007 to 2009. For him as for Romney and the rest of the clique, nothing like military power can guarantee an indefinite momentum for the US world leadership. To hear them praising, day and night, military might, one may naturally think that they are ready to maintain this unbelievable military effervescence at any cost, human and financial.

In Afghanistan, as of August 2012, the conflict has already killed more than two thousand US troops and cost more than $440 billion (through 2011), according to congressional estimates.

Obama pledged to withdraw the troops completely by 2014, following the “strategic partnership agreement” he had signed in his visit to Afghanistan (May 2012), which outlined the transfer of the security mission to the Afghan troops. It is almost the same pattern that happened in Iraq.

Mitt Romney, who curiously did not mention the war in Afghanistan in his GOP convention speech in late August 2012, criticised the Obama plan. He agreed on transferring the security affairs to the Afghan, although he repeatedly said that withdrawing completely the US troops could be decided only if the military commanders on the field say it would achieve the American objectives.

It seems therefore that as long as the GOP begets more of those “imperial” advocates, the industrial-military complex would swallow up everything in the United States (American dream included). Those people cannot be content with reigning on peace and prosperity. They need to prove to the entire planet that America is the biggest cop, ever.

Their military rant is well coated into moral and religious lustre. They keep talking about the US military interventionist role in the world as if everybody on the planet requires it as a humanitarian duty. Freedom depends on America. Really! “A world without American leadership will be an unstable world, in which unscrupulous or tyrannical regimes feel free to get their way by force.” (Dix it Eliot Cohen). Then good morning! We are waking up right now. For just a few months ago, there were no unscrupulous or tyrannical regimes in the Arab world. Obviously, people took to the streets in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, etc., to protest against dictatorships. Oddly enough, those regimes that are now part of the past (as we hope) were the cherished “friends” of the US government. But maybe Cohen did not hear about it.

To reduce the defence budget by 350 billion over the next ten years, seems to Romney like putting the US “on course toward a hollow force.” Such devotion to the military dreams is unmatched, for as everybody knows, these cuts in the defence budget have met consensual agreement from Democrat and Republican Congressmen, since they voted the 2011 Budget Control Act. Were they all drunk on that day?

Actually, Romney said nothing new in the third debate on foreign policy, nothing that is not already written in black and white in his “strategy to secure America’s enduring interests and ideals.”

Look at the way “interests” are cautiously linked to “ideals.” In due course, if he is elected, Romney will have to come up with more ingredients to his “strategy…” Something like the famous “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush. Not really a genuine contribution to the intellectual wealth of conservatism, but a kind of “I am different.” And sure, Bush was different: the worst score ever among the US presidents in popularity, according to respectable polling institutions.

Here, you have a new Bush in the making. Seemingly, he has everything people expect from an “imperial president.” After all, he is not the only candidate who has a messianic view of the president’s role. In 2008, Mike Huckabee announced that he sought “the revival of our national soul.” Was the “national soul” constitutionally inscribed in the duties of the president? 

John McCain actually answered my question when he thought he was applying for the job of “national savior,” taking Teddy Roosevelt as his model and noting that a “liberal interpretation of the constitution” made him “nourish the soul of a great nation.”

Thus, we learn that the US president is required to show a quantity of talents and skills, among which, those of a “healer” or a “wizard,” according to the standards of old African tribes. We understand then how Barack Obama made a hit in 2008: he was directly related to African ancestry and through his “audacity of hope” promised the eternal redemption to the nation if ever he became president.

Americans are the citizens of a great industrial nation. Yet, they are not vaccinated against political bubbling. The art of broad eloquent political discourses is most certainly related to conjuration. Modern “wizards” would make you believe what you would never believe if left to your own thinking. They “help you” think the way they want you to think.

In his 1962 survey, Schlesinger Sr. noted that 5 of the top 10 presidents were war leaders: among them James K. Polk, Harry Truman and Woodrow Wilson. Polk’s major achievement was starting a war of conquest. Wilson took the US to the carnage of First World War, and Truman launched the first American “undeclared war” (i.e. Cold War).

As I noted in a previous column (last Sunday), US citizens do not choose their president based on his international ambitions, but because they think he may bring the best response to their expectations, which are like any people in the world, related to the economic and social situation of the country.

However, many US citizens feel affinity with a conservative candidate, because they are conservative and do not even mind to ask him about his foreign policy and defence programme. These are the latest of their concerns.

They would thus vote for people like Bush, or Romney, unaware that they vote actually for those whose defence and foreign policy programme would strain the economy, inflate the national debt, and send their kids away to fight in foreign lands for causes that are not even understood to them.

That is the programme of Mitt Romney.
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The author is an expert in US-Middle East
relations at the Arab Center for Research
and Policy Studies (Doha Institute)

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