The cover title of the Economist August 11-17, 2007 was “Is America Turning Left?” and the answer was “Probably — but not in the way many foreigners (and some Americans) hope.” The lead article discussed the negative impact of President Bush’s foreign policy on the Republican Party and on the direction American people will take even after Bush leaves his post. The writer predicts that the American people will not go back to the center but to the left, but this left will still be a conservative force on the international stage.
The writer singles out an important fact regarding American foreign policy: as far as foreign policy goes, the main Democratic candidates are equally staunch in their support of Israel; none of them has ruled out attacking Iran.
But the concluding paragraph is the most telling about the impact of the neoconservatives on future generations of Americans: “… in 1968, with America stuck in another bruising war, few liberals saw Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy as part of a long-term turn to the right. All that was clear then was that most Americans urgently wanted a change of direction. That is also true today.”
Indeed, this is very much true today despite the enormous effort of the maistream media to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the wars ignited by Bush and the neoconservatives. Hence, the latest attempt by President Bush to compare what is happening in Iraq with what happened in Vietnam in order to lend strength to his argument to stay in Iraq, was widely criticized by analysts the world over. Perhaps the most telling comment was said by David Hendrickson, a specialist on the history of American foreign policy at Colorado College, who said: ” … it is undoubtedly true that America’s failure in Vietnam led to catastrophic consequences in the region, especially in Cambodia, … But there are a couple of further points that need weighing,” he added. “One is that the Khmer Rouge would never have come to power in the absence of the war in Vietnam. The same thing has happened in the Middle East today. Foreign occupation of Iraq has created far more terrorists than it has deterred.”
In fact, the main question President Bush raised in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars is irrelevant to both the issue and the solution. Bush said: “The question now before us comes down to this: Will today’s generation of Americans resist the deceptive allure of retreat and do in the Middle East what veterans in this room did in Asia?” He was implying that victory in WWII, Japan and Korea, was had because the U.S. carried on.
This is not the issue at all. The real question is what is Bush going to do about a war that has proved to be catastrophic? Bush refuses to pose this question because the answer has to begin with the acknowledgement that the decision to launch the war was a bad mistake. Then he would have to acknowledgethe horrid crimes perpetrated against humanity by his war.
The Bush team strategy is based on a racist attitude toward the Iraqis. They can be killed, maimed, tortured and displaced so long as the media doesn’t report these crimes and so long as the American people are kept in the dark about what is happening in Iraq.
You can cheat some of the people some of the time, but you can’t cheat all the people all the time. The Iraqi and American people have begun to see the terrible consequences of this unnecessary war. History will perhaps prove that the most important impact of the war on Iraq is the loss of confidence in the American system that used to be held in such high esteem by people around the world.
The American dream no longer exists in the minds of the current generation. The war on Iraq has changed the identity of the American system from one ymbolized by liberty and democracy to a system symbolized by Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the destruction of the country of Mesopotamia.
The collapse of confidence in the American system will have far reaching consequences not only on the Middle East but on the political direction of the American people for decades. Children of the middle of the 21st century will embody these consequences.
As communism after Stalin was never the same, the U.S. after Bush will never be the same. The downhill slide has already begun. Whether he withdraws from Iraq this year or next year, it will only affect the speed of this slide. But no one can reverse it now or stop it. It is indeed a real change of direction that will take decades to crystallize and be obvious to all.
Washington is going to have its “spring” just as Moscow and Prague did.
Dr. Shaaban is minister of expatriates in Syria and a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1995.