Bush ready to fight war on two fronts: Fighting Domestically While Expanding Conflict Abroad
17.04.2003 [23:28]


The last shot of the war in Iraq will be the starting pistol for two further campaigns by the administration of President George W Bush. One will be fought in the region: no one really believes America's project is confined to Iraq. The toppling of Saddam is first base in what Michael Ledeen, leading thinker among the neo-conservatives driving foreign policy, calls 'a war to remake the world'.
The second front will be the home one: unlike his father - who lost an election the year after driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait - President George Bush junior has also to win what former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal promises to be a resumption of 'partisan warfare' at home.

If he succeeds in both campaigns, he will have become the most powerful President in US history, both at home and across the new Imperium of which victory in Iraq is the first footprint.

America's continuing 'war on terrorism' aims to secure Iraq, but then focus on fresh enemies: Syria and Iran. When an aide told Bush last week that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had fired a verbal warning shot at Syria, the President said: 'Good'.

William Kristol, a long-time friend of Bush from Yale days, wrote in a book he co-authored: 'The mission begins in Baghdad, but it does not end there. We stand at the cusp of a new historical era. It is so clearly about more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East. It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the twenty-first century.'

When the US was preparing for war, the then director of the semi-official Defence Policy Board, Richard Perle, said one of its advantages would be 'that we could deliver a short message, a two-word message: "You're Next."'

Grand plans for continuing war are devised by neo-conservatives on the edges of the administration, but the group includes key players, not least Vice-President Dick Cheney and eputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, regarded as the real architects of war and its aftermath. 'There will have to be change in Syria,' said Wolfowitz last week. And John Bolton, number three at the State Department, warned countries the US has accused of pursuing weapons of mass destruction - including Iran and Syria - to 'draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq'.

'I think we're going to be obliged to fight a regional war, whether we want to or not,' says Ledeen, a pivotal thinker within the neo-conservative group. The logic of the global war on terrorism - and a conviction that a democratic revolution can be encouraged to sweep across the Middle East will take the US into confrontation with other countries, argues Ledeen, since 'we are going to face the whole terrorist network' and 'the terror masters', Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia.

Briefings at the Pentagon now mention the Palestinian Hamas and Shia Hizbollah militias, based in Lebanon, far more than they do al-Qaeda. Hizbollah is the cover under which America would act against Syria, described by the Pentagon's number three, Douglas Feith, as 'one of the key international terrorist networks, supported by the Syrians and the Iranians'.

The Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, argued last week that moving against Syria would be a way of cutting off aid to Hizbollah, which he called 'the A team' of world terrorism.

But Saudi Arabia - with its hold over oil prices - is also coming within America's sights. 'After Hussein is removed, there will be an earthquake through the region,' predicts Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute think-tank, which recommends a dismantling of the Saudi kingdom by encouraging breakaway republics in the oil-rich eastern provinces.

America's dream of waging wider war in the region is all too familiar to James Akins, former political officer at the US Embassy in Baghdad and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 'If the ultimate goal [of the US] is to be world dominatrix, then she will need the oil of Arabia, from Kirkuk to Muscat,' he states. 'The ideological, imperial aim and that of commanding the oil markets for the rest of the oil era, entwine into the same game plan. If we do this, and move into Saudi Arabia, we are masters of the universe - the American Imperium.'

Ivo Dalder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is writing a book entitled America Unbounded, and argues that 'the real debate in this administration is not between the doves and the hawks, it is between the hawks and the hawks'. Between people like Cheney, 'who believe there are evil people out there and we have to confront them before they confront us', and people like Wolfowitz, 'who believe we can transform these people from dictatorships to democracies. They go hand in hand during the destructive phase, but part during the constructive phase. Cheney and Rumsfeld will want to get out of Iraq, Wolfowitz will want to stay in.'

Akins was fired from the US diplomatic service in 1976 after confrontations with then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger over US aspirations in the Gulf. 'In normal circumstances, I would say there is no question of these things happening - attacks on Syria or Iran,' Akins reflects. 'But these are not normal circumstances. These people can always find some Syrian atrocity - the Israelis attack, then we attack. The dragons have taken over now; you never know what these people will do and how far they will go.'

State Department sources tell The Observer Israel is integral to plans to attack Syria. They say a guarantee to remove Hizbollah and its sponsorship is a secret ingredient to the Middle East 'road map', agreed between Washington and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

'But there is one problem,' says Akins. 'Whatever makes them think free elections in Syria or Saudi Arabia will produce pro-Western governments wanting peace with Israel? They would produce anti-Western governments committed to the destruction of Israel.'

Fareed Zakaria, former editor of Foreign Affairs, believes the administration is 'wrong, if it believes a successful war will make the world snap out of a deep and widening distrust and resentment of American policy. What worries people around the world above all else is a world shaped and dominated by one country - the United States'.

A continuing war is integral to Bush's domestic campaign to retain power for another term.'When the dust settles, he'll get great credit from the American public for having the courage of his convictions,' says Ron Kaufman, who was political director in Bush senior's White House.

But Bush junior must look to the home front too. 'Now the President must show he can walk and chew gum,' says Donna Brazile, manager of Al Gore's campaign against Bush. 'He has to follow through on the reconstruction of Iraq and then focus on domestic issues again.'

According to NBC, 66 per cent support the President, but only 38 per cent support his plan for a $350 billion tax cut over the next 10 years. 'The Republicans had a khaki election in 2002, and that is what they want for 2004,' says Sidney Blumenthal, former senior official in the Clinton White House. 'They have got to prevent domestic issues dominating the presidential election'.

But, Blumenthal predicts: 'This country is going to plunge into partisan warfare very shortly. This is not simply over his absurd economic programme which will undermine the economy.

'It is to do with rolling back social programmes and social gains through the Clinton, Johnson and Kennedy eras to the New Deal and beyond. And, perhaps most important, there's going to be a battle royal over the Supreme Court'. Emboldened by the war, Bush junior may well, says Blumenthal, risk appointing hard-right judges to fill vacancies in the court.

'While that might appease the Right,' he says, 'the political impact in the country will be immediate and profound, and will dominate the summer of 2003 in politics.'

An election campaign linked to the war has begun. Karl Rove, Bush's most powerful adviser, tours the country presenting the image of a wartime leader and, connecting the two fronts, urges people - as he did at a rally in the swing state of Michigan last week- 'to 'trust the Republicans to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might, and thereby strengthening America'.

Ed Vulliamy/The Observer