Earlier, this scribe drew attention to the term-two trauma affecting American presidencies. The examples of Richard Nixon and Clinton were cited. In their second terms, with no further re-election to worry about, both attempted to remove the shackles of powerful vested interests that brought them to power and to chart new foreign policies. Both failed. Nixon was impeached. Clinton was crippled by scandal. Until recently President Bush appeared to be succeeding in liberating himself from the neo-conservatives in his second term. That effort is running aground.
In his first term President Bush started with a tough approach to China. But 9/11 proved a blessing for China. The US focus diverted from China to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. America militarily dislodged the Taliban. But the task remained unfinished. The Taliban and Al Qaeda retreated into the mountains and started guerilla insurgency. President Bush instead launched an attack against Iraq. The Iraq war was unmitigated disaster. Although a ruthless dictator, Saddam was perhaps the most secular Islamic leader. Instead of being made an ally in the war against terror, he was made the principal enemy. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda and Taliban have regrouped to revive a serious challenge.
During his first term US mainstream media strongly supported President Bush. This scribe ' among other critics ' questioned the diversion of the war against terror from Afghanistan to Iraq. White House terrorism expert, Richard Clark, exposed US lies about Iraq's complicity. Declassified FBI memos revealed that the Bush administration had forewarning but remained criminally negligent.
Despite this President Bush won. But in his second term he attempted a shift in foreign policy. He forced the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Despite foreknowledge from a secret US State Department survey that Hamas would win the Palestinian poll, he allowed it to contest. Despite projections worldwide that he would attack Iran, this columnist wrote the contrary. President Bush appeared to be reordering the Middle East to enable Shias to redress the balance of power with the Sunnis. Subsequently US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked about the birth pangs of a new Middle-East. The war with Iran has still not come. Iran 's latest offer of allowing France to enrich uranium on Iranian soil to guarantee it will not be misused gives hope of an eventual settlement.
Strangely enough, it is only now that America's mainstream media has turned savagely against President Bush for his first-term errors and their fallout. The criticism is certainly valid. But why now? Why not when it could have been effective? Is criticism motivated by the reasons cited, or because President Bush is attempting to reverse foreign policy?
One important initiative to alter US foreign policy is the proposed Indo-US nuclear deal. This deal could introduce a future shift in the global balance of power. That could disturb China and powerful vested interests inside the US. The hurdles in passing the nuclear deal do not therefore reflect necessarily temporary setbacks. They could derail the emerging Indo-US relationship. For fifty years a natural alliance between the world's most powerful democracy and the world's largest democracy was prevented by Indian and international vested interests. The same can be replicated for the next fifty years.
In a recent newspaper article Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz lucidly explained how closely American and Chinese economies are tied together. A collapse in one could ruin the other. In effect, a grossly overspending America can act as the world's policeman only because dollar-surplus from China bankrolls it. Earlier, America used dollar-surplus from Japan the same way. Then it shifted to China . Japan underwent thereafter a prolonged economic crisis. Can America in the long term replace China by a resurgent India? Could that be worrying China?
President Bush's first term got him into a hole. He dug himself in deeper. Allegations of illegal phone-tapping, torture of prisoners, denial of habeas corpus, exposure of earlier lies and cover-ups ' all these make Republican chances slim in the November poll. If President Bush loses control of the Senate and Congress he could face censure or worse. Among other factors, a Republican sex scandal is snowballing to menacing proportions.
Political observers fear a desperate Bush adventure against Iran or North Korea for reversing electoral trends. But his foreign enemies may have their own plans. On Saturday Zee TV interviewed Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir who recently met with Al Qaeda commander Abu Dawood in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders told Mir that Osama bin Laden was planning nuclear dirty bomb attacks on New York and Washington, for which preparations were complete. A 300-member team to effect the operation was already in place. The crude dirty nukes had been smuggled into the US across the Mexican border. Mir is the only journalist to have interviewed Osama and his deputy Ayman-al-Zawahiri after 9/11. Abu Dawood told him that the targets were scheduled for the holy month of Ramadan, which began on September 24th. Mir first gave this news to the al-Arabya television network in early September.
Is Mir's report credible? It might be recalled that in July 2005 former FBI consultant Paul Williams had disclosed that at least two fully assembled and operational nuclear weapons were already believed to be hidden in the United States. He quoted intelligence sources and his upcoming book. Williams, like Mir, had claimed that the weapons were smuggled across the Mexican border by Al Qaeda. The half dozen targeted cities included New York and Washington. His book, The Dunces of Doomsday, has been published.
Around the same time, London 's Guardian of July 16 2005 reported Chinese Major-General Zhu Chenghu warning through media that China could destroy American cities with nuclear weapons if both nations clashed over Taiwan. Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Gittings wrote that "it was clear to those of us who witnessed Zhu's warning that it was no accidental outburst." Was General Zhu alluding to nuclear strikes through China's delivery system, or to suitcase bombs smuggled into America? And would he have made this threat, even theoretically, unless he was confident that it could be carried out?
These apocalyptic fears are based on assessments of an FBI consultant, a Chinese general, and a Pakistani journalist with access to Al Qaeda. Experience tells us that such catastrophes are rarely taken seriously ' until they actually happen! In that eventuality few would be around to discuss the event.
President Bush's best bet for winning November's poll would very probably be to neutralize Osama bin Laden within the next four weeks. The need seems compelling. Can he do it?