Wednesday, March 05, 2008

In Defense Of The Bush Administration (Sort Of)

Vanity Fair points out that after making the imbecilic decision to press for elections in the Palestinian territories, resulting in a Hamas parliamentary majority, the Bush Administration made yet another imbecilic decision, supporting a failed civil war in Gaza meant led by Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan. But the idea that Dahlan could be imposed as a strongman ruler in Gaza is far from new. Here's a prior example of that idea, courtesy of Robert D. Kaplan in 2002:
The post-Arafat era could usher in "Rajoubistan" and "Dahlanistan:" warlordships in the West Bank and Gaza respectively, controlled by Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan. Notables such as Hannan Ashrawi have no power bases of their own, and their job will be, as before, merely to perform for CNN. Rajoubistan will rely on King Abdullah of Jordan, and Dahlanistan on Mubarak's Egypt. Thus, a variation of the pre-1967 reality might take hold. That would be the optimistic scenario: Hobbesian warlordships with which the Israeli security services can make deals and thus manage a cessation of hostilities.
And no, Kaplan didn't originate the idea (or the terms, "Rajoubistan" and "Dahlanistan"), either. I can fault Bush for grabbing this idea and running with it, but it's been kicking around for a very long time and did not, as the article suggests, originate with Bush.

Making Dahlan the warlord in charge of Gaza is fundamentally an anti-democratic idea, but that shouldn't surprise anybody who looks at what Bush does as opposed to what he says. Dictatorships can be much more compliant than democracies, particularly when headed by people far more concerned with their own wealth and power than with the welfare of their people, and who have no particular concern with such niceties as "human rights". Within that context, what's not to love about Dahlan?
In 2001, President Bush famously said that he had looked Russian president Vladimir Putin in the eye, gotten “a sense of his soul,” and found him to be “trustworthy.” According to three U.S. officials, Bush made a similar judgment about Dahlan when they first met, in 2003. All three officials recall hearing Bush say, “He’s our guy.”
Does that surprise anybody? Is Bush truly an atrocious judge of character, or is it instead that he goes weak in the knees when he stares into the eyes of tyrants?

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