Saturday, June 16, 2007

Getting Through the Scary Next 18 Months

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Sidney Blumenthal on Europe's fears for the next 18 months:

I returned from Europe a week before President Bush departed for the G8 summit in Germany. In Rome and Paris I met with Cabinet ministers who uniformly said the chief issue in transatlantic relations is somehow making it through the last 18 months of the Bush administration without further major disaster. None of the nonpartisan think tanks in Washington can organize seminars on this overriding reality, but within the European councils of state the trepidation about the last days of Bush is the No. 1 issue in foreign affairs.
High officials of European governments describe U.S. influence as squandered and swiftly eroding (one minister went down a list of Bush administration officials, rating them according to their stupidity), the country's moral authority nil. Lethal power vacuums are emerging from Lebanon to Pakistan, and Europeans are incapable on their own of quelling the fires that burn far closer to them than to the United States through their growing Muslim populations and proximity to the Middle East. They have no illusions that they will be treated seriously as real allies or that there will be a sudden about-face by the Bush administration. Their faint hope -- and it is only a hope -- is that they have already seen the worst and that it is not yet to come. Even worse than Bush, from their perspective, would be another Republican president who continued Bush policies and also appointed neoconservatives. That would toll, if not the end of days, then the decline and fall of the Western alliance except in name only, and an even more rapid acceleration of chaos in the world order.

Bush's procession through Europe was a pageant of contempt, disdain, delusion, provocation and vanity masquerading as a welcome respite from his troubles at home. In Albania he landed at last in a place where he was hailed as a conquering hero. His demolition derby of U.S. influence was presented as a series of bold moves, but it confirmed the fears of the other world leaders at the G8 summit (and elsewhere) that the rest of Bush's presidency will be an erratic series of crashes. His performance ranged from King Nod, issuing proclamations oblivious to and even proud of their negative effect, to King Zog (the last king of Albania). No president has had a more disastrous European trip since President Reagan placed a wreath on the graves of SS soldiers in the Bitburg cemetery. Yet Reagan's mistake was unintentional and symbolic, a temporary and superficial setback, doing no real damage to U.S. foreign relations, while Bush's blunders not only reinforced counterproductive policies but also created a new one with Russia that has the potential of profoundly undermining U.S. national security interests for years to come.

Bush's foreign policy has descended into a fugue state. Dissociated and unaware, the president and his administration are still capable of expressing themselves as if it all makes complete sense, only contributing to their bewilderment. A fugue state should not be confused with cognitive dissonance, the tension produced when irreconcilable ideas are held at the same time and their incompatibility is overcome by denial. In a fugue state, a trauma creates a kind of amnesia in which the sufferer is incapable of connecting to his past. The impairment of judgment comes in great part from a denial of distress. Bush's fugue state involves the reiteration of a failed formula as though nothing has happened. So he proudly reasserts the essence of his Bush doctrine: Our acts are independent of other countries' interests. And he adds new corollaries: Other nations must forgive our unacknowledged mistakes even if we threaten their national security. To this, Bush overlays cognitive dissonance: Our policy is working; it just needs more time. Thus the incoherent becomes coherent.

Read the whole thing. It's well worth your time.

Thanks to Brynn for putting the link to this piece in the Comments section of my yesterday's post at Shakesville.

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