[Marxism] Anti-Imperialists Beware - Bush Reading Again
hooverm at scc-fl.edu
Tue Jan 3 15:46:22 MST 2006
Anti-Imperialists Beware - Bush Is Reading Again
Analysis by Jim Lobe
The Reader-in-Chief is at it again, and anti-imperialists around the
world have reason to be concerned.
WASHINGTON, Dec 28 (IPS) - According to the White House, U.S. President
George W. Bush has taken two books with him to Texas for his holiday
reading, which he will presumably indulge between his favourite ranch
pursuits -- clearing brush and biking.
The first is about his most admired role model, Theodore Roosevelt, the
other on the wonders being achieved by U.S. soldiers around the world.
The choices are not unimportant. Indeed, Bush is known to read so
little -- both for official business and for diversion -- and to be so
impressed by the few books he does read that it is imperative for people
who are paid to know what's happening in Washington to find out what's
on the president's nightstand when he turns out the light.
As the U.S. was gearing up for war in Iraq in the summer of 2002, for
example, reporters noticed that Bush had tucked under his arm a rather
scholarly -- and hence unlikely -- book, "Supreme Command: Soldiers,
Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime", a book by Elliot Cohen, a
neo-conservative military historian and friend of then-Deputy Defence
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
The book argued that great civilian leaders, including Abraham Lincoln,
Winston Churchill and Georges Clemenceau, made far better commanders
than the generals who demanded that they be given a free hand in
conducting the war. It was perfectly timed for persuading Bush to stand
up to the recommendations of the top brass that he deploy far more
troops to invade and occupy Iraq than what Pentagon chief Donald
Rumsfeld and prominent neo-conservatives were calling for.
Similarly, Bush was given a copy of right-wing Israeli politician and
former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky's "The Case for
Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror"
immediately after its publication in late 2004, and was so impressed by
its argument for an aggressive pro-democracy policy in the Arab world
that the White House asked the author to interrupt a book tour for a
personal visit. "I'm already halfway through your book," Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice reportedly told Sharansky when he showed up the
next day. "Do you know why I'm reading it? I'm reading it because the
president is reading it, and it's my job to know what the president is
thinking." Passages in the book were subsequently incorporated into
Bush's 2004 inaugural address. It is in this context that Bush's latest
selections should be analysed. The first, "When Trumpets Call: Theodore
Roosevelt After the White House", concerns his favourite presidential
antecedent, whose famous or infamous 1904 Corollary to the Monroe
Doctrine shortly after the Spanish-American War heralded Washington's
claim to great-power status and its right to intervene unilaterally
anywhere in the Americas against "chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence
which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilised society".
The choice may suggest that Bush, who clearly subscribes to the "great
man" theory of history that was the rage in Roosevelt's time, is
contemplating a very active retirement. If it doesn't take him on safari
in Africa or on scientific expeditions to the Amazon (unlikely pastimes
for a man who by all accounts is an unenthusiastic and incurious
traveler), it could make him a permanent force in the Republican Party
and for the kind of aggressive nationalism that Roosevelt espoused
through much of his career.
The second book on Bush's reading list, "Imperial Grunts: The American
Military on the Ground" by Robert Kaplan is far more worrisome in its
implications, at least for the remaining three years of his presidency.
Kaplan, who began his career as a self-described "travel writer" in the
1980s, has evolved into a political thinker whose outlook is explicitly
imperialist -- a term that he has used and re-used in recent years with
unabashed approval -- and, in the words of one conservative reviewer and
retired Army colonel, Andrew Bacevich, "reactionary".
In his view (and one that would be shockingly familiar to Roosevelt in
his "Rough Riding" days in Cuba more than 100 years ago), the "war on
terror" and associated conflicts is simply a repeat of the U.S. Army's
Indian Wars, but on a nearly planetary scale.
Instead of the Great Plains and western reaches of the 19th century
U.S., however, today's "Injun Country", as Kaplan calls it, consists of
the entire Islamic world, from the southern Philippines to Mauritania,
as well as other un-governed or misgoverned areas in desperate need of
order and civilisation.
And who best to civilise these places and their inhabitants than the
U.S. military, specifically the "imperial grunts" with whom Kaplan
embedded himself -- no doubt with the enthusiastic support of the
Pentagon and probably Rumsfeld himself -- for weeks at a time in various
parts of the world on three continents, and who, not incidentally, bear
a striking resemblance to Bush's own self-image?
In contrast to the "elites" and "global cosmopolitans" who dominate the
media, the State Department, Washington think tanks and academia, and
the Democratic Party, these soldiers are "people who hunted, drove
pickups, employed profanities as a matter of dialect, and yet had a
literal, demonstrable belief in the Almighty", according to Kaplan.
He offers remarkable praise for the war-fighting traditions of "the
gleaming officers corps of the Confederacy" -- that is, the military arm
of the slave-owning southern states, including Bush's Texas, during the
Civil War -- and for the present-day "martial evangelicalism of the
In a "Hobbesian world" where U.S. military commands and deployments
span every continent, U.S. imperialism is not a choice, but rather a
necessity, just as it was for the British in the late 19th century,
according to Kaplan, who argues that Washington's "righteous
responsibility (is) to advance the boundaries of free society and good
government into zones of sheer chaos".
In one telling piece of analysis, he describes the presumed thoughts of
a Filipino in Zamboanga, presumably a descendant of Moro who resisted,
at the cost of tens of thousands of their lives, U.S. imperialism 100
years ago: "His smiling, naïve eyes cried out for what we in the West
With a message like that, it's not difficult to imagine Bush, who has
met with Kaplan at least once before in the White House, requesting a
return visit, in which case it may be useful to review the kinds of
policy recommendations he is likely to make.
A U.S. withdrawal from Iraq now, Kaplan has predicted, would result in
a "real bloodbath" and a reversal of liberalisation in the Arab world,
including the reconstitution of Lebanon by the Syrians "in their own
He has also cautioned against China's growing political and economic
clout in the world. "Unless we begin military cooperation with
Indonesia, for instance, at some point the Indonesian military will be
captured by the Chinese in some form."
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