December 06, 2006 (the date of publication in Russian)
THE EXODUS OF THE HAWKS
Neocons keep on losing key positions in the US Administration
On December 4 evening, American media reported about a new indicative change on the US political scene. John Bolton, US Ambassador to the United Nations, resigned, following Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Ostensibly, those were the results of the elections to the House and the Senate – unfavorable for the Republican Party – which prompted George W. Bush for a serious rotation. Still, that seems to be rather a pretext than the cause. In the present off-year elections, the number of new seats, won by Democrats in the Congress, did not exceed 10%. In 1994, when the Republicans gained a larger advantage in the House, then-Democratic White House – despite softness it was blamed for – did not hurry with cadre concessions.
A FAILED REFORMIST OF THE UN
The US Ambassador to the United Nations is a key political figure. Using the veto right, he not just expresses but also implements US policy. Only Bolton's veto prevented the approval of the UN resolution, denouncing Israel's military intervention in Lebanon. One person saved a whole country from being qualified as an aggressor, which implied not only disgrace but contributions.
Bolton achieved this position a year and a half ago, and that choice of President Bush was interpreted as a commitment to pursue the same foreign policy line – actually shaped not by the Republican Party as a whole but by its neoconservative faction.
John Bolton was regarded as an even more adamant and resolute member of the neoconservative team than Rumsfeld. He not only vehemently rejected any initiatives, inconsistent with the interests of the United States and its allies but also insisted on a sweeping reform of the UN itself. "The [UN] Secretariat building has got 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference", he would say.
Bolton not only broadly used but arbitrarily expanded the definition of the "axis of evil", often independently from the State Department, but also insisted on the right of the US to attack any of the "rogue states" without approval from any international authorities. The arguments he based upon were sometimes based on versions rather than hard evidence. Demanding that Cuba be included in the same axis of "evil" nations, he would refer to bacteriological weapons which Cuba supposedly delivers to other US-hostile states.
By this autumn, the US public opinion was overfed with this political line. That was not a matter of a change of taste which happens regularly. It was not the flag of the Confederation which disappointed the Americans but the particular foreign policy line, represented by Bolton, Rumsfeld, and traditionally personified with US Vice President Dick Cheney.
This line was initially based not on common reason and thorough calculation but on a myth of greatness and infallibility of the only superpower, and on its right to award and punish other nations and cultures for ideological reasons.
This line was opposed not only by politicians with alternative views but also by possessors of alternative information. This line was ready to neglect any precise knowledge of highly competent specialists if this knowledge does not correspond with the alpha and omega of the neoconservative – or romantic, as friends would say – world outlook.
This line eventually found a dead end in the Middle East, where one romantic foot got stuck in the Iraqi chaos while the other stumbled upon the surprise of the Iranian presidential elections, in which Lady Democracy, the faithful bride of the universal Knight of Liberty, was stolen from him with astonishing arrogance.
As soon as her new groom ascended to the global tribune, the US romantics lost their face. Since that time, every foreign policy move turned a result opposite to expectations. Knight Bush looked like Don Quixote. When even the devoted Tony Blair got bored of his role of Sancho, the whole decoration had to be replaced. In case the pretext of the elections were not at hand, the White House would have to invent another justification for sweeping off the neoconservative agenda from its face – in the effort of major repairs of America’s global image.
THE TRIUMPH OF "REALISTS"
Both Robert Gates, the new Defense Secretary, and Jim Leach, the House's bipartisan candidate for UN Ambassador, belong to the "deserved cadres" of the Republican establishment. Both have got a longtime reputation of reasonable, sober and principled politicians.
In particularly, Robert Gates, during his CIA Director’s service in 1991-92, did not recognize any "self-styled" intelligence bodies – which was later broadly practiced by Cheney's neocons. In his decision making, he would rely upon hard evidence, not opinions. Within the brief period of managing the most influential of the US intelligence agencies, the share of its subdivisions, mobilized to the anti-USSR front, reduced from 63 to 13. He believed that was sufficient, while politically and personally biased alarmists hyped the Soviet threat until the last breath of the USSR.
In his turn, Jim Leach had become famous for rejecting financial support from action committee funds, as well as negative ads. His colleagues from Iowa, where he served as Governor, appreciate his "intelligence, integrity, thoughtfulness, commitment to public service, and kindness". It is noteworthy that the fellow Dems forgave him the criticism of Clinton, as it emerged from principle and not from bias. On the peak of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Leach would not hype its indiscreet details. His mission was to protect America's reputation, which he used to regard as a supreme priority – which is true for Gates as well.
Gates and Leach have deserved a fame of "realists", as opposed to "romantics". Leach was one of the six House Republicans who opposed authorization of US military deployment in Iraq. Still, he would not afterwards capitalize on his foreign policy insight. Gates supported the deployment, but already in 2004, he urged the White House for a diplomatic rapprochement with Iran, even participating in unofficial talks with Khattami's representatives, arranged through the US Ambassador in Switzerland. At that time, the neocons swept the option from the table, and the mediating diplomat was ostracized for excess of duties.
The ascent of the duo of Gates and Leach is expected to improve US diplomacy in the Middle East in a foreseeable time span, yet before the US elections. "Leach is the best diplomat I've ever seen", says Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
Vice President Cheney, deprived of key partners in the Administration, is likely to undergo an even more massive and bipartisan criticism. The purge of the neoconservative team, as a number of leading observers believe, is favorable for State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, regarded as the mastermind of "realistic" foreign policy making.
With Rumsfeld and Bolton, George W. Bush's Administration abandons not only the adventurous plans of a military crackdown upon the regimes of Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia, which "romantics" like Paul Wolfowitz proposed just to divide into parts, overthrowing the monarchy. Along with the dream of a "creative destruction" of the whole Middle East, advocated by Bolton's close ally and political patron Richard Perle, radical schemes of alternative oil imports – namely, from Russia, Nigeria and Angola – are also losing significance.
The atmosphere of political tension around the Middle East and its resources has largely resulted from the militant policy of the neocons. With the ascent of the "realists", the anxiety in relevant markets is supposed to calm down. A decline of world oil prices, favoring the EU, is likely to contribute in improvement of the US-European relations. While alternative oil exporters will get a headache, America, protecting its rears, will be able to concentrate on its domestic problems.
BACK TO HOME AFFAIRS
On December 7, the Senate approved Robert Gates' nomination for Defense Secretary – though the timid-looking, gray-haired, and visibly sclerotic nominee openly admitted that the United States has not won the war in Iraq. This sincere confession, followed by an almost unanimous support by the Senate, is an evidence of not only a bankruptcy of the neoconservative mythology but of a significant reassessment of policy values o the top level of US establishment.
This means that the agenda of nationwide mobilization for a sacred war with the rogue Evil is being replaced with an agenda of reconciliation – both in foreign and domestic policies. The purge of the neocons from key positions is likely to weaken the radicals from the opposite pacifist camp. A similar effect was reached by Boris Yeltsin in November 1992, when after the failure of George H.R. Bush, he dared to replace the US Republican protegee in his office, State Secretary Gennady Burbulis, viewed by the opposition as the "prince of darkness".
Already today, moderates are gaining weight on both flanks of the US two-party political system. They are recognizing their advantage, but keep cautious, at the face of the rise and fall of the neocons. The unresolved economic problems of the United States don't encourage for excessive promises to voters.
None of the serious political figures is taking a risk to look forward for a two-year term. As a result, none of the two major parties have got an undoubted favorite, as the most popular politicians are yet reluctant to start their election campaign.
Still, it is already obvious that the cadre shift, initiated by the White House, is reducing the heat of the oncoming political contest. Instead of easy anti-militarist rhetoric, the Democrats will need to formulate a new agenda, meeting the immediate concerns of their voters. The Republicans will have to address more domestic issues as well.
Rick Warren, a popular Evangelic priest, recently invited two Senators to his public event, focused on the AIDS problem – a Republican and a Democrat. Traditionally, Warren's numerous parish was regarded as "Anglo-Saxon" Republican reserve. Now, he chose Barrack Obama, a popular Afro-American Senator, to join the event. Asked which political wing his church is going to prefer in the oncoming campaign, Warren just said, "I prefer the whole bird".
It was "the whole bird" which voted for Robert Gates on December 7. This bird is not looking hawkish – at least it can't afford being hawkish today. It will have to cure a whole array of maladies before its spreads it wings to their usual raptorial breadth.
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