Saturday, November 13, 2004

Four More Thankless Years

Victor David Hanson has a forecast for George W. Bush's second term, and it's not a happy one.

Summarized by issue:

* Economic Globalization

"George Bush is going to have to make the argument that millions of Americans must retool, as traditional lifestyles continue to go by the wayside — even as our beneficiaries abroad or the world in general never acknowledge the dividends of American liberality. Indeed, countries such as Pakistan are more likely to demonize the United States as the great disrupter of traditional culture rather than praise it as a free trader, financial-aid giver, and provider of expertise that is pulling them out of the Dark Ages. So George Bush will be damned at home for outsourcing and destroying American jobs and damned abroad by newly upscale foreign elites for destroying their old (and now unwanted) way of life.

* Energy Independence

"[F]or both national-security and economic reasons, Mr. Bush is going to have to figure out how to cut imported American oil without impairing American competitiveness — and confront everything from the need for nuclear power, Arctic oil, and fuel-mileage improvement."

* Continued Hostility from "Old Europe"

"George Bush thus will get no credit for elections replacing the Taliban or for the liberation of women in Afghanistan, much less for democracy in Iraq. Instead he will be the target of constant venom for the human costs of war, with the silent proviso that he is not to cease, lest a Holland, France, or Spain become even more besieged by anti-Western jihadists emboldened by American appeasement. Indeed, Bush must endure elite European hatred, even as the majority there silently expects the United States to maintain the alliance and protect the West."

* The Culture War (a far more literal term these days) at Home

"Most Americans — in the movies they watch, the TV shows they view, the radio they hear, the abortions they receive, the sexual practices they choose, and the fashion and entertainment they enjoy — do not feel they are straight-jacketed by a Christian fundamentalist society. And yet we are told that the new jihadists are not Islamists, but our own Christians who are implementing a continental-wide red-state Jesusland.

"At its richest, most populous stage in its history, the United States, after reeling from a devastating blow to its financial and military nerve centers, in less than three years toppled the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, implemented elections in Afghanistan and scheduled them in Iraq, prevented another 9/11-like attack — and so far has tragically lost about 1,100 in combat in a war against a virulent fascism that is antithetical to every aspect of Western liberty. Our grandfathers would have considered all this a miraculous military achievement.

"We call it a quagmire, deride our leaders as liars and traitors, and often doubted that our Marines — the greatest street-fighting besiegers in the history of warfare, who stormed Manila, Seoul, Hue, and Panama City — could take Fallujah last April."

VDH didn't mention this one, but it is the proverbial elephant in the room everybody is ignoring:

* Iranian Nukes

The question, as posed by James Fallows in Atlantic Monthly, comes down to this: “Should Iran be likened to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in whose possession nuclear weapons would pose an unacceptable threat, or to Pakistan, India, or even North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions the United States regrets but has decided to live with for now?”

The Bush Administration has already declared that it considers Iran becoming a nuclear power to be unacceptable. So what to do about it?

Conclusion #1: Israel can't take out Iranian nuclear facilities as it did Iraq's at Osirak in 1981. They are too many of them (approximately 350), too dispersed, the Israelis don't know where all of them are, and the distance is too great for any of its attackers to return safely. Plus, needless to say, it would almost certainly bring about Iranian retaliation. Ergo, that task falls to us.

Conclusion #2: If we take military action against the mullahs, it has to be total, meaning not just air strikes against their nuclear facilities and military concentrations, but an all-out invasion to topple the Islamic extremist regime. This invasion would be vastly larger in scope than Operation Iraqi Freedom, involving a target country with three times the population and four times the land area, with much more mountainous topography that would favor Iranian defenders and create difficulties for U.S. ground forces that were not encountered in the broad, flat Iraqi desert.

Question #1: Such an operation could hardly achieve strategic surprise, given the logistics involved. Would the mullahs, unlike Saddam Hussein, simply wait to be attacked, or would they attempt "pre-emption" themselves? Either directly by invading Iraq, indirectly by ratcheting up the "insurgency" there even more, or asymmetrically through terrorist strikes against American targets, either abroad or in the U.S. itself?

Question #2: Assuming a relatively quick American victory (2-3 months), would the toppled Islamists be rounded up or would they bleed away like the Ba'athists did, and how big an "insurgency" would they generate against U.S. liberators?

Question #3: What would be the reaction of the U.S. populace to such a campaign? Could the far Left turn public opinion against it as they failed to do in the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq? Or will most Americans see it as the necessary next step in the GWOT?

Returning to the VDH piece, Mr. Hanson concludes:

"George Bush is asked to win the war without losing Americans. He must defeat Islamists, but not kill too many jihadists on global television. His second term must deal with everything from jobs and globalization, energy dilemmas, fickle Europeans, and a war where winning is sometimes seen as losing. Entitlements are out of control, yet his critics don't want cuts, but rather further increases. In such a topsy-turvy world, all that will see him through are his iron will to stay firm and consistent in face of a global media barrage. He must smile more, keep far quieter, seem much nicer — and carry an even a bigger stick.

"God help him, because few others will."

I would only add that the above, and not the donks' Christophobic fantasies, just might be why the voters opted to keep GDub at the helm.

Perhaps after he's once again "made the world safe for democracy," the nation can return to those "less interesting times" that better tolerate complacency, decadence, and the possibility of Democratic rule.

Well, two out of three ain't bad....