Friday, July 01, 2005

A New Supreme Court Justice: A Distraction to Iraq and Afghanistan

Friday: also my day to let Karen rant about foreign policy. (She's a news junkie, but doesn't claim to be an expert.)
Most people were expecting Rehnquist to resign due to poor health, so when Sandra Day O'Connor left, the pundits were shocked. The mainstream media swung into action, eulogizing O'Connor's career, handicapping the race among likely replacement candidates, and interviewing pro-choice Democrats who sounded the alarm that Roe v. Wade was under serious attack. As a pro-choice feminist, I agree that abortion-rights are in deep trouble from the far-right ideologues, but people are missing the main point. None of this really matters compared to the Iraq War and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. If you tend to a more paranoid interpretation of the Bush Administration's assault on civil liberties, you may be worried that Dubya will try to put Alberto Gonzales, aka Torture Memo Guy, on the Supreme Court so that the U.S. devolves into a police state. This is a valid concern, but I still believe we have a long way to go before we approach Nazi Germany. We have an estimated 70,000 foreign prisoners (perhaps as young as 8 years old) held in overseas prisons so yes, we're no longer the poster child for freedom and democracy. That's still a long way from the relatively public murder of millions in Auschwitz, Dachau, etc. And, honestly, the Bush Administration isn't really interested in killing innocent civilians unless they can make money from that. Their most important qualification for a Supreme Court nominee is his willingness to allow corporate greed and government corruption to run amok. The religious right's ideology against gays, abortion, and minority rights is window-dressing to obscure the desire to reward corporate greed with taxpayer dollars. As important as these concerns may be to sections of the U.S. public, they are insignificant compared to the serious issues at stake in the Middle East and Central Asia. If Bush can engineer enough controversy over this nomination, he can distract the public from the debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan. He can't keep it up forever, of course, but he may be able to buy some time. Bush and the neocons are fumbling incompetents at foreign policy but Karl Rove is an acknowledged master at spinning domestic issues into political power. Assuming that Bush can regain some clout by clever exploitation of the religious right, we should expect a continuation of the same foreign policies which will eventually lead to catastrophe. Most reports indicate that Iraq is approaching a full-scale civil war. The U.S. military is at the breaking point due to manpower and equipment shortages; American military power is weakening and cannot stop the insurgency and the rival militias. At best, a theocratic Shiite government will take power and move into close alliance with Iran. At worst, civil war will spill over to the surrounding countries in the Middle East and destabilize Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. In the meantime, Afghanistan has seen a significant rise in the number of attacks from the Taliban. The British are afraid that the country is sliding into chaos. They are planning on removing thousands of their troops from Iraq and deploying them in Afghanistan even though the U.S. is desperate to maintain troop strength in Iraq. Very few people are aware of this; Afghanistan has become the "forgotten" war. The recent attack on a U.S. helicopter has refocused attention but I doubt that will last more than a few more days. This is unfortunate, since Afghanistan could become a far more significant problem than Iraq. My concern is that, by not focusing enough military attention on the Taliban, we run the risk of allowing Pakistan to come under the control of their Muslim extremist factions. Here's the problem. The Taliban is not just an Afghani movement; it may not even be primarily composed of Afghans. It was originally organized by the Pakistani intelligence service (Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI), drawing from the religious fundamentalists in the Pashtun community in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. There have been many reports that the Pakistanis continue to support the Taliban. Even though the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is a close ally of the U.S., he still has to placate the powerful Muslim fundamentalists who control half his country -- even while Muslim extremists try to assassinate him for helping the U.S. If the Muslim extremists ever succeed, there's an excellent chance that the fundamentalists will come to power in Pakistan, which, by the way, has nuclear weapons. I don't know what the Bush Administration considers to be a problem, but I suspect that a radical fundamentalist Islamic anti-western nuclear power is probably a bad thing. Pakistan has also exported their nuclear technology. It is alleged that Pakistan sold North Korea equipment and materials for their nuclear weapons program. I don't claim to be a foreign policy expert but, on the other hand, neither is anyone in the Bush Adminstration. K. Technorati tags:


Blogger Jeff Huber said...


For what it's worth, I think your remarks are quite accurate. The whole neo-con philosophy rests (rested) on the premise that American military power can accomplish anything. The generals who are still around are still pretending like it can.

Yes, SDO's resignation will doubtless be used by Rovewell to draw attention from the war (wars?).

Nice piece--post more often!


7/02/2005 08:32:00 AM  

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