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Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Looking For Trouble

I've written a lot over the past months about the problems a weak and intellectually deficient president can cause because he cannot manage the competing factions within his government. It leads to incoherent policy swings and constant second guessing. Unless he has a long term association with a group of advisors who think of his best interests first, and control the infighting around him, a dumb president is always being buffetted by the arguments and appeals to ego that characterize courtiers angling for his ear.

This hasn't happened much in our history because presidents are usually ambitious hard-working men who have developed a strong sense of what they believe long before they get into the oval office. This condition is more indicative of Monarchy and history is full of examples of callow, spoiled Royals being manipulated by devious advisors.

What we are seeing in this drama between the State Department and the Neocons is one such example and it may just become lethal if somebody doesn't get ahold of Prince George and tell him that he needs to fire John Bolton and put the State Department firmly in charge of Asia policy.

He is completely out of control now and I begin to suspect (as apparently Chris Matthews does, as well) that he may be trying to tank the North Korea talks on purpose. (I also agree that it might be part of a coordinated attempt to knee-cap Powell and Armitage, but that is just part of the ongoing battle that was launched when Newt Gingrich threw his broadside against the entire State Department professional staff last spring.)

Iraq is a travesty. But there was never really any question of seriously destabilizing the world order by invading such a weak country. North Korea is a completely different story. Neocon crazy men could actually succeed in causing a meltdown in Asia and that is something we really do not want to see.

It's a very good idea to keep in mind that the neocons characterize China(pdf) as being single biggest threat to US hegemony. There are some in the movement who are completely obsessed with them. As they said for more than 30 years about the USSR, they now say that the PRC is building up its military to levels that threaten the US and its allies in the region.

These guys are playing the most dangerous game imaginable. John Bolton may be a complete nut, but he represents Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld in the State Department. It is very hard to believe that he wasn't operating on orders when he made his ridiculously intemperate remarks. They were made for a reason.

The following exchange from Hardball (via the Daily Howler) shows Jed Babbin giving the PNAC official talking points:

MATTHEWS: Jed Babbin is the former deputy undersecretary of defense...Jed, you’re randy to say what a great guy this is but does it make sense to trash talk right before you’re talking about nuclear weapons?

JED BABBIN, FORMER DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No, it’s obviously not diplomatic here.

MATTHEWS: Not smart for us.

BABBIN: It’s not smart if you want to bring these guys to the table and you expect any result.
Right now we can’t expect any real result because the Chinese have not indicated they will make decisive pressure on North Korea. That’s the only thing that’s going to resolve this peacefully and without that, whether Bolton says what he says or not doesn’t matter because the talks will not proceed.


BABBIN: I think the neocons want to crush these guys and feel that they are creating pressure on these people, scaring them, hoping that they’ll come to the table to negotiate. I think it’s the old story of sunshine versus the north wind. The South Koreans have been trying north wind and we at least ought to try to negotiate seriously.

I don't know what the hell he means about Sunshine and the North Wind, but his frist answer is much closer to the truth. The trash talk is not designed to get the North Koreans to the table, it is designed to blow the talks. Those guys do not want to negotiate with China.

They're still complaining about Nixon coddling the Chi-Coms, fergawdsake:

"This preposterous legacy of America's normalization of relations with China more than two decades ago has become a positive invitation to war." Robert Kagan

Bush is all over Powell today like he's his long lost brother, so in the short term the gambit doesn't seem to have worked. But, in every big battle so far, Powell has only succeeded in slowing down the neocon juggernaut, and in the end he reluctantly ends up aiding them.

Let's hope it was because he was saving his political capital to force Lil' Cap'n T-Ball to listen to him on North Korea and China. It's not much, but it's all we've got.