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Bush Fails Upward in 'War on Terror'

By Ivan Eland
August 19, 2007

Editor’s Note: George W. Bush has always presented himself as a dedicated free-marketeer who lambastes the inefficiencies of the public sector and hails the genius of the markets -- except when tough standards of performance are applied to him.

Throughout his adult life, Bush has failed upwards -- and that trend seems to be continuing through his presidency. In this guest essay, the Independent Institute's Ivan Eland examines how Bush's errors in Iraq and the "war on terror" have brought him more power:

If a restaurant, dry cleaner, or home repair business provided inferior goods or shoddy services, it is likely that the concern would go belly up. Yet when the U.S. government makes a blunder, the more its citizens reward its failure with further money and authority. 

For example, after the Bush administration exacerbated the worldwide threat from Islamic terrorists by invading and occupying two Muslim nations, spied on Americans without warrants—which is both illegal and unconstitutional—to “urgently” combat such terrorism, and then saw its Attorney General dissemble about the espionage program, Congress has actually rewarded the administration for its actions.

Afraid of being labeled “soft on terrorism” after an administration report cleverly stoked public fear by hyping al Qaeda’s regrouping, the legislators not only granted the administration legal authority for such warrantless domestic spying, but widened it to include cases in which terrorism is not suspected.

Now the government may listen in on every phone call made by Americans to or from overseas. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has vowed that this cowardly travesty will be rectified when Congress reconvenes in September; but now that it’s law, President Bush need only veto the bill and obtain the votes of one-third of one chamber of Congress to block any changes to the horrific provisions.

At this point, the one scant hope seems to be that a more conservative Supreme Court would really be “strict constructionist” and rule that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution—which should protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures—makes no exception to the requirement that wiretapping warrants be subject to judicial approval.

Not even for reasons of “national security” does the Fourth Amendment waive warrants. In fact, protecting citizens’ rights during especially stressful situations was considered quite deliberately in the design of the Constitution.

This example is not the only self-generating demand for government activism that has arisen from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Although al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the Mesopotamian branch rose in opposition to the U.S. occupation, and now is causing mayhem by launching numerous suicide attacks against both military and civilian targets.

Yet with a straight face, George W. Bush maintains that the U.S. must continue expending U.S. and Iraqi lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq to battle a threat he helped generate. He is also arming former enemies in Iraq—the Sunni guerrillas—to help battle the destructive group.

Trust in the guerrillas may be misplaced, and could come back to haunt the United States later or exacerbate the ongoing civil war.

Furthermore, after the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq—Shi’ite Iran’s greatest rival—it was predictable that the strength of America’s greatest strategic competitor in the Persian Gulf region would grow. It is unwise to conduct military action that is likely to help your chief rival, but the zealous Bush administration did exactly that.

After the United States created an 800-pound Iranian regional gorilla, it then felt the need to sell $20 billion dollars’ worth of arms to shore up its skittish, oil-rich, Sunni Gulf allies, and to try to buy some cooperation from them in supporting the Shi’ite-Kurdish government in Iraq.

These sales in turn meant that the United States had to open its wallet—hiking by 25 percent the already huge military aid subsidies to the Gulf states’ nervous rival Israel, to an average of $3 billion per year.

Finally, in the chain of largesse, aid to Egypt, a potential rival of Israel, also had to be increased to an average of $1.3 billion per year. Thus, to compensate for its bungling, the United States is stoking an arms race in a volatile region, which could lead to further catastrophes.

Most of the U.S. public does not seem to notice that its government’s actions have exacerbated or even created foreign threats, which that same government then says it needs more resources in order to counter.

Instead of demanding that their government cease its excessive military interventions and occupations, arms sales, and foreign military assistance, and insisting that Congress cut off funding for such actions, the U.S. public rewards a government that not only performs poorly against those threats, but actually exacerbates them.

The public would never stand for such failure from private business.

Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute and Assistant Editor of The Independent Review. Dr. Eland has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office, Evaluator-in-Charge (national security and intelligence) for the U.S. General Accounting Office, and Investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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