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Friday, July 21, 2006

Paul Krugman: The Price of Fantasy

Paul Krugman reports on how The Decider decides:

The Price of Fantasy, by Paul Krugman, Neoconservatives, Commentary, NY Times: Today we call them neoconservatives, but when the first George Bush was president, those who believed that America could remake the world to its liking with a series of splendid little wars — people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — were known within the administration as “the crazies.” Grown-ups in both parties rejected their vision as a dangerous fantasy.

But in 2000 the Supreme Court delivered the White House to a man who, although he may be 60, doesn’t act like a grown-up. The second President Bush obviously confuses swagger with strength, and prefers tough talkers like the crazies to people who actually think things through. He got the chance to implement the crazies’ vision after 9/11, ... And the result is the bloody mess we’re now in. ...

As I wrote back in January 2003, ... the “Bush doctrine” of preventive war was, in practice, a plan to “talk trash and carry a small stick.” It was obvious ... that the administration was preparing to invade Iraq not because it posed a real threat, but because it looked like a soft target.

The message to North Korea, which really did have an active nuclear program, was clear: “The Bush administration,” I wrote, ... “says you’re evil. It won’t offer you aid, even if you cancel your nuclear program.... But for all its belligerence, the Bush administration seems willing to confront only regimes that are militarily weak.” So “the best self-preservation strategy ... is to be dangerous.”

With a few modifications, the same logic applies to Iran. And it’s easier than ever for Iran to be dangerous, now that U.S. forces are bogged down in Iraq.

Would the current crisis on the Israel-Lebanon border have happened even if the Bush administration had actually concentrated on fighting terrorism, rather than using 9/11 as an excuse to pursue the crazies’ agenda? Nobody knows. But it’s clear that the United States would have more options, more ability to influence the situation, if Mr. Bush hadn’t squandered both the nation’s credibility and its military might on his war of choice.

So what happens next? Few if any of the crazies have the moral courage to admit that they were wrong. Vice President Cheney continues to insist that ... his declaration ... that we would be “greeted as liberators” and his assertion a year ago that the insurgency was in its “last throes” — were “basically accurate.” But if the premise of the Bush doctrine was right, why are things going so badly?

The crazies respond by retreating even further into their fantasies of omnipotence. The only problem, they assert, is a lack of will.

Thus William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, has called for a military strike — an airstrike, since we don’t have any spare ground troops — against Iran. ... Mr. Kristol is, of course, a pundit rather than a policymaker. But there’s every reason to suspect that what Mr. Kristol says in public is what Mr. Cheney says in private.

And what about The Decider himself? For years the self-proclaimed “war president” basked in the adulation of the crazies. Now they’re accusing him of being a wimp. “We have been too weak,” writes Mr. Kristol, “and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak.”

Does Mr. Bush have the maturity to stand up to this kind of pressure? I report, you decide.

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Previous (7/17) column: Paul Krugman: March of Folly
Next (7/24) column: Paul Krugman: Black and Blue

    Posted by on Friday, July 21, 2006 at 12:21 AM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (28)

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