consortiumnews.com

Three Options for America's Future

By Robert Parry
March 17, 2006

Great nations must sometimes move expeditiously – and creatively – to avert catastrophe, especially when leaders have proven themselves unfit to lead. Such a moment now confronts the United States as George W. Bush and his inner circle have demonstrated on multiple fronts that they lack the wisdom and competence to protect America’s future.

Yet even as Bush’s failures come into sharper focus – from Iraq to Katrina to U.S. port security to the exploding national debt – the trickier question is whether the American people can act with the unity and foresight to implement a solution.

At this critical time, the greatest obstacle may be an unwillingness to consider “unthinkable” options that might actually offer the best hope.

So, at this third anniversary of Bush’s ruinous invasion of Iraq – with more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead – there is reason to look at three alternative scenarios for the future, from one that might be best for America (though the most fanciful) to what could lie ahead if events continue as they are (the most likely).

Option One: The Agnew-Nixon Solution. 

From Bush’s rookie failure to cut short his month-long vacation after receiving the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence warning about Osama bin-Laden “determined to strike inside the U.S.” through his inability today to stabilize Iraq, Bush has proven that the U.S. Supreme Court’s interference in Election 2000 was a grave historic error.

If the Supreme Court had simply opted for the principled solution – to grant enough time for a full and fair recount of all legal Florida votes – Florida would have landed narrowly in Vice President Al Gore’s column, as later unofficial tabulations found. Gore, the candidate who also won the national popular vote, would have become President.

Instead, five Republican justices – Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, Kennedy and O’Connor – put partisanship ahead of legal principles to install Bush in the White House. With that decision on Dec. 12, 2000, American history took a dark turn.

Since then, if the past five years have shown anything, it is that Gore’s seasoning and priorities were a much better fit for the complex challenges facing the United States than were Bush’s inexperience, rashness and unilateralist tendencies.

While the nerdy Gore might not have made an ideal President, he was possibly the best qualified American to face the nation’s pressing threats, including global warming, the need for alternative fuels, worldwide economic competition and Islamic terrorism. He had experience working with other nations to address complex international problems and with balancing the federal budget.

At the time of Election 2000, the federal government was running surpluses and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was fretting about difficulties that might arise from paying off the federal debt entirely. That was one problem that George W. Bush did solve, as the federal debt now is hitting record highs, with the debt limit rising $3 trillion on Bush’s watch to a total of $9 trillion.

Bush’s government borrowing has become a ticking time bomb inside the U.S. economy as foreigners from China to the United Arab Emirates grow more and more leery about buying up the huge American debt. Combined with Bush’s appetite for costly foreign military adventures, the fiscal explosion could come earlier rather than later.

Fixing a Mistake

So, Option One would be a national recognition of the Supreme Court’s historic mistake in 2000 and an adoption of a bipartisan strategy to rectify it – putting the United States back on the course that the American voters chose five years ago. This option also could open the door to genuine bipartisanship, possibly even a unity government.

Responsible Republicans would join with Democrats in telling Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that their patriotic duty now is to admit their many mistakes and do what’s best for the country – a sequential resignation, as occurred in Richard Nixon’s second term when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and was replaced by Gerald Ford, who then became President upon Nixon’s resignation.

Only this time, the goal of bipartisanship would be best served by having Cheney replaced by Democrat Gore, who could then take over the Presidency upon Bush’s resignation. Gore could reach out to pragmatic Republicans, the likes of Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana or Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, for a Vice President.

This new unity government could then make the hard decisions to extricate U.S. troops from the Iraq quagmire, fashion a smarter counter-terrorism strategy and start rebuilding American credibility in the world. Gore also could apply his depth of knowledge about global warming and alternative fuels to chart a course toward energy independence.

Option One’s bipartisanship could reach into Congress, too, where budget realism could overcome Bush’s radical anti-tax ideology. To protect the future strength of the dollar and the health of the U.S. economy, Bush’s far-as-the-eye-can-see deficits would be reined in and federal spending would be focused carefully on top national priorities.

In short, the shock therapy of an Agnew-Nixon solution would stop the political drift that is now pulling the nation into some very dangerous waters.

That said, today’s political reality – especially the deeply angry right-wing political/media infrastructure – makes Option One virtually “unthinkable,” even fanciful. George W. Bush and his dead-enders would never admit they’ve made mistakes, let alone relinquish power to a Democrat. Which brings us to Option Two.

Option Two: Throw the Bums Out

Option Two would be a full-scale political battle for the nation’s future and for its soul.

With Bush and Cheney dug in – and conceivably lashing out with more military operations abroad, such as a military assault on Iran – the American voters would have to intervene via Election 2006 putting in a Democratic House and/or a Democratic Senate that would confront Bush.

A House Judiciary Committee under the chairmanship of Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, would demand documents about Bush’s secret policies and investigate Bush’s various abuses of power – policies of torture, warrantless wiretaps, detentions without trials and domestic propaganda.

But Bush, who believes he holds “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief, would surely refuse to cooperate, forcing Congress to subpoena records and eventually consider holding the Executive in contempt. [For more on Bush’s claims to power, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The End of Unalienable Rights.”]

The intensity of the political battle would deepen with the nation split into two warring camps: on one side, Americans demanding that Bush be held accountable under the laws and the U.S. Constitution – and on the other, Bush loyalists calling his critics “traitors.”

Bush’s megalomania, as a modern-day emperor who rages when aides bring him bad news, would prevent meaningful compromise. If Congress stuck to its guns and pressed for impeachment, a full-scale constitutional crisis would ensue.

There’s also the question of what Bush would do if he were faced with impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate. Would he go – as Richard Nixon finally did, waving his V-for-victory salute and flying into political exile – or would Bush resist with whatever forces remained at his disposal?

Option Three: Capitulation to the Leader

Most likely, however, the implausibility of Option One and the dangers of Option Two would lead Americans to settle on a passive Option Three, in which Bush continues as President for the next three years, even as he consolidates his authoritarian powers and leads the United States deeper into the neoconservative delusions of “preemptive” wars.

Without a pushback from Congress, Bush is sure to press his theories of the “unitary executive” domestically and his strategy of “preemptive wars” internationally. For instance, despite the Iraq disaster, Bush reaffirmed his commitment to the doctrine of “preemption” in his new national security strategy paper issued March 16.

Rather than showing signs of regret for invading Iraq over bogus weapons of mass destruction, Bush simply issued a new warning – against Iran, identifying it as his next primary target.

Indeed, Bush’s escalating rhetoric against Iran has prompted some analysts to conclude that Bush will launch at least air strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities before the U.S. elections in November 2006.

Bush’s political advisers still view national security as his strongest suit for blocking Democratic electoral gains. So, another foreign crisis – with Bush talking and acting tough – could be expected to intimidate the Democrats and rally his base.

Moreover, many of Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy advisers retain their faith in a policy of “creative destruction” in the Middle East with the goal of shattering the status quo and transforming Muslim nations into non-threatening pro-American states that also accept Israel.

Rather than building support for the United States in the Middle East, however, Bush’s Iraq War and revelations of prisoner abuse in U.S. detention centers have touched off tidal waves of anti-Americanism that threaten to inundate Washington’s regional allies.

So, while Bush rattles sabers against Iran ostensibly to prevent Muslim extremists from getting their hands on a nuclear bomb, one consequence of Bush’s strategy could be the destabilization of the pro-U.S. Pakistani dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is facing a growing domestic challenge from Islamic militants.

Ironically then, a U.S. attack on Iran to prevent its hypothetical development of nuclear weapons in a decade or so could lead to the rapid collapse of the Musharraf government and put Pakistan’s existing nuclear arsenal in the hands of radical Pakistani Muslims, with close ties to Osama bin-Laden’s al-Qaeda.

Bush’s air strikes against Iran also could lead to retaliation by Tehran against U.S. troops in neighboring Iraq. With close ties to Iraq’s new Shiite-dominated government, Iran could instigate bloody reprisals against American soldiers, including vulnerable U.S. trainers working inside the new Iraqi security forces.

Iran and angry Arab states could play the oil card, too, slashing American supplies or at least driving the prices up to levels that would endanger the U.S. economy. Already, some Arab oil ministries are quietly shifting some of their oil trading from dollars to euros, a transition that could further weaken the dollar and force a nasty restructuring of the American economy.

In short, the “safe” political option – to let Bush operate much as he has since Sept. 11, 2001 – has consequences that may be more dangerous than the other two more confrontational options. [For our early assessment of “preemption,” see “Bush’s Grim Vision”; for an early warning about Iraq, see “Bay of Pigs Meets Black Hawk Down.”]

There certainly are other potential future scenarios – beyond these three – that merit consideration. But the larger point is that U.S. citizens may have little choice other than to begin pondering difficult options that go beyond what’s envisioned by today’s conventional wisdom.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Back to Home Page