Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Isn't It Funny How...

....when you want real news about America, you need to go to England?:
Pentagon breaks with Bush on detentions

· Geneva convention covers Guantánamo detainees
· Supreme court ruling prompts policy switch

The Bush administration was facing the collapse of its detention regime in the war on terror yesterday after the Pentagon said for the first time that prisoners at Guantánamo and elsewhere in US military custody around the world would be granted the protections of the Geneva convention.

In a memo released yesterday, the Pentagon's second in command, Gordon England, broke with the Bush administration's insistence of the past five years that the rules of war do not apply to the fight against al-Qaida.
(Sidenote: Irony of ironies that an American general named England (no relation to Lynndie, presumably) makes an announcement that's barely covered in the States, but is featured on, well, English news media!)
While the Bush administration has said it will implement the supreme court decision, there were indications the new policy was only reluctantly endorsed by the White House. "We are going to do this in a way that is consistent with national security," the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, told reporters .

Other administration officials expressed reservations. In the first of three days of hearings in Congress on the treatment of detainees, Steven Bradbury, of the justice department's office of legal counsel, told senators the Geneva convention protections were ambiguous and poorly defined.

Those tensions dampened the response of civil rights organisations to the Pentagon announcement. "At the same time that the defence department is showing signs of heading in the direction of restoring the rule of law, the justice department is urging Congress to abandon it," said Anthony Romero, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
So we're back in the middle of the struggle between the Pentagon and the White House over how to prosecute the war and its ancillary issues, such as handling detainees. Bush has said he will seek Congressional approval for continuing the previous treatment of indefinite incarceration and secret tribunals, while the Pentagon (and by extension, the CIA) will now treat prisoners according to the Geneva convention.

Going to be kinda hard to tell your players without a scorecard this time around, since there's a LOT of political infighting to be had here. The short answer is, the Pentagon will prevail, and it's only a matter of how flexible they'll be willing to be in order to end the internecine conflict.

The failure of the Bush administration in its efforts to stop "terrorism" worldwide has been a rising topic these past few days. In an article entitled "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy," Time Magazine argues that "the Administration has been forced to rethink the doctrine with which it hoped to remake the world as the strategy's ineffectiveness is exposed by the very policies it prescribed."

Presumably this turf war over the Gitmo issue is front and center in Condi Rice's makeover attempts. But why is this happening now? Time explains it this way:
The most obvious answer is that the Bush Doctrine foundered in the principal place the U.S. tried to apply it. Though no one in the White House openly questions Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, some aides now acknowledge that it has come at a steep cost in military resources, public support and credibility abroad. The Administration is paying the bill every day as it tries to cope with other crises. Pursuing the forward-leaning foreign policy envisioned in the Bush Doctrine is nearly impossible at a time when the U.S. is trying to figure out how to extricate itself from Iraq. Around the world, both the U.S.'s friends and its adversaries are taking note--and in many cases, taking advantage--of the strains on the superpower. If the toppling of Saddam Hussein marked the high-water mark of U.S. hegemony, the past three years have witnessed a steady erosion in Washington's ability to bend the world to its will. is most clearly evidenced in the suddenly nuanced approach to North Korea. There we have a dictator who has weapons of mass destruction, has made noise about hurting us, and has shown himself to be unstable and self-destructive.

But we invaded Iraq. The signal that sends to Kim Jong-Il is one that the US will tolerate bullies, at least those who can fight back.

We had North Korea contained in the way we had Saddam Hussein contained, yet this part of another Time article struck me as being, well, disingenuous:
FOR SOME IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, the ideal strategy for dealing with Kim has always been economic and diplomatic strangulation, with the hope that his government will eventually atrophy into collapse or succumb to a coup that might usher in a more amiable--or at least more predictable--leader. That approach is based on the idea that rather than try to negotiate with Kim or take military action against him, the U.S. and its allies are better off keeping him in a box and focusing on preventing him from peddling his arsenal to other rogue actors. Elements of that strategy have been in place for some time and have produced a few notable examples of success.
Or you could call it the "Castro strategy" (I'll get to that in a moment). Nevertheless, this strategy was working to great effect in Iraq, and it was only in a fit of huffiness after September 11 that Bush decided that he would merely beat the living crap out of a defenseless dictator, not that plans to do just that hadn't already been in the works. September 11 provided a convenient excuse to execute them.

But what of Castro? After all, here's a thorn in our side for generations, sitting 90 miles off the coast, and our policy towards him has always been motivated by domestic political concerns and not in doing what's right for the Cuban people. Florida is a key electoral state, and the small number of Cuban-Americans in Miami hold much of those electoral votes in the palms of their hands. A leader would discount that, especially in a second term. For once, it looks like Bush may actually be making the right moves, albeit years later and dollars short, and somewhat misguided:
US has $80m plan for Cuba after Castro

· Aid and advisers should be on standby, says report
· Authors fear Venezuela could fund successors

America should be prepared to move quickly to pour aid and advisers into Cuba in the event of Fidel Castro's death, to turn the island away from communist rule, a government report due for release this week will recommend.
The report, the second from a group set up by George Bush three years ago to intensify US pressure for regime change in Cuba, calls for $80m (£43m) to be put aside to step up opposition to Mr Castro.
Sounds pretty good, huh? Fund an opposition that's prepared to step in as soon as Castro dies, take over, and run the country with us as its guide. Not much military opposition to it, certainly China can't get troops over there, and Venezuela will have its own problems to deal with.

Trouble is, this strategy demands the US keep an active armed force ready to fly in to tamp down a counter-revolt, since any opposition seen as funded by America will be resented, particularly after we hemmed and hawed about Castro for so long, not really tolerating him, but not really rejecting him, either. So how to defeat Castro?

The obvious solution, unilaterally pull down the sanctions we've imposed, would go a long way to defeating Castro's vision for Cuba, since it would force him to deal with the reality of the poverty and dishumanitarianism of his regime, full stop. Fuck the Miami Cubans, the thinking goes, since at the end of the day, a free Cuba is what we all want, and this is the fastest way to get there.

But Time points out a less-obvious solution: Brazil.
Paying attention to Brazil would involve offering an attractive trade agreement that would grant freer access to the U.S. market for Brazilian steel, shoes, orange juice, ethanol and other products that currently face import barriers. The costs for the U.S. economy would be relatively minimal. For Brazil, such a deal would stimulate exports, drive investment and lift the economy.

Even more important, such an approach would reward and support a country (and a government) that is providing a powerful counterexample to the populist policies that are gaining favor in the region. That could be a very inclusive initiative: any Latin American country could be invited to join the two leading nations in the western hemisphere in this agreement. To be eligible, countries would need to adopt pro-poor, growth-inducing economic reforms that spur competition and open markets. They would also be required to enact political reforms that strengthen democratic practices and institutions. It could be a powerful stimulus for positive change, since few countries in the region could afford to be left out of an economic arrangement that included Brazil and the U.S.
Imagine if we had done this with Iraq. Imagine if, instead of bombing the fuck out of them then invading, raping, and killing her people, we had engaged with nations around Hussein on footing other than how much oil we could get out of the ground?

How much would you wager that Iraq would have stopped being a problem years ago? Moreover, Iran would stop being a problem, Afghanistan wouldn't even have allowed the Taliban (and by extension, Al Qaeda) access to it, and there might actually be democracies besides Israel in the region that work.

Imagine...that we had a President Gore who would have done just this: been strong where needed, but open and friendly whenever possible...

This is not America's world, but we can make it an AmeriCAN world, if we just engage with other countries and, yes, firmly make our demands, but listen and accomodate those around us, whenever possible.

More and more, I am convinced that we are seeing the fall of the American republic, and it's troubling to think that the greatest minds in the greatest nation ever on the face of the planet can't seem to stop it.

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