The Bush administration’s ideological rhetoric concerning US policy in the Middle East has become separated from the policy itself to an extent almost reminiscent of the former Soviet Union. According to the rhetoric, the US has adopted democratisation as the core of its political strategy and made a clean break with its past strategy of propping up local dictatorships and playing one country and ethno-religious group against another.
In practice – especially since the latest conflict in Lebanon – US strategy relies entirely on the ability of pro-American authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to control the anger of their populations at US and Israeli policies. To help keep these Sunni regimes in line, Washington relies on their fear of an expansion of Iranian and Shia influence. This is precisely the dominant US strategy of the past generation, except for periods when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq replaced Iran as the chief regional bogeyman. President George W. Bush’s language of democracy is also accompanied by utter contempt for the views of potential voters in the region.
This glaring clash between rhetoric and reality is odd, but much odder is the degree to which it has gone unremarked by the US political class and even most of the media. Of course, criticisms have been raised on both the left and right. But the Democratic party and the US media have not made nearly as much of this contradiction, and the dangers it embodies, as one might have expected.
This is so true, it's disheartening. I cannot tell you how many times I've read some "mainstream" critique of the Bush "doctrine" that in essence says "But how can Bush and the neo-cons really think that we can spread freedom by forceful regime change? Can they really think such an idealistic approach protects American interests?" Well no, they can't as I've written before, but you've hardly read as much in the last three and a half years since we invaded Iraq, or almost five years since we toppled the Taliban. Now to be fair, you read plenty of stuff about the disconnect of Bush's rhetoric and our policies of detention and indefinite imprisonment of terrorists and non-terrorists alike, but hardly anybody has said "Wait, this Bush doctrine is a bag of s-." Nearly every action this administration has taken in the sphere of foreign policy has been motivated by American self-interest (based on real or hyped dangers) or the self-interest of Bush and his party at the polls. The only thing "new" about the Bush foreign policy approach is the lack of coherance with which it's been formulated and the lack of competency with which it's been carried out. It's obvious, it's been obvious for a long time, but I wish a few other people beyond left-wing bloggers such as myself would just come out and say it. This is a start, but it's long past time to pull back the curtain on the wizardry of the Bush "doctrine."