Is Bush inadvertently propping up terrorists?

<p>I thought this piece in Newsweek magazine (September 18, 2006) was really thought provoking, and not an angle that I had considered before. Has anybody else thought of this problem?</p>

Mao & Stalin, Osama & Saddam
Bush is starting to repeat one of the central errors of the cold war: treating our enemies as one entity.
By Fareed Zakaria

<p>Sept. 18, 2006 issue - I'm glad George W. Bush is using the bully pulpit to clarify the war on terror. Many of Bush's basic ideas—such as the need for reform in the Arab world—are sensible; it's their simplistic and botched execution, coupled with a mindless unilateralism, that have derailed his foreign policy. But in the past week the president, seeking to shore up domestic support for his policies, has been redefining the nature of the enemy. In doing so he is making a huge conceptual mistake, one that could haunt American foreign policy for decades.</p>

<p>Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have compared the current conflict to the cold war, a decades-long struggle that was ideological and political in nature, though always with a military aspect. But if we're going to use history and learn from it, it is worrying that America is beginning to repeat one of the central strategic errors of the cold war: treating a fractious group of adversaries as a unified monolith.</p>

<p>At the outset of the cold war in 1949, a senior State Department official, Ware Adams, prepared a critique of America's evolving policy of containment. While accepting that international communism was a monolith and that diverse communist parties around the world shared aims and goals, Adams argued that Washington was playing into the Kremlin's hands by speaking of communism as a unified entity: "[Our policy] has endorsed Stalin's own thesis that all communists everywhere should be part of his monolith. By placing the United States against all communists everywhere it has tended to force them to become or remain part of the monolith." For example, the memo explained, "in China, the communists are somewhat pressed toward being friends of the Kremlin by the fact that they can never be friends of ours." (The memo, previously unpublished, will appear in a forthcoming book by Marc Selverstone of the University of Virginia.)</p>

<p>Four decades later, the Soviet Union collapsed, undermined in good measure by the diversity within the communist world—a diversity that the United States should have done more to encourage. Had Washington been more attentive to the differences within international communism, the Sino-Soviet split might have taken place earlier, Egypt might have defected from the Soviet camp earlier and, perhaps most important, the rift between Beijing and Hanoi might have developed earlier, changing completely the character of the Vietnam War.</p>

<p>In a careful recent essay, former U.S. intelligence official Harold P. Ford documents that by the mid- to late 1950s the CIA was arguing that such splits were developing and should be exploited. Nevertheless, Ford writes, the agency's arguments met stiff "external resistance" from politicians and bureaucrats who were wedded to the idea—no doubt once true—of a unified communist monolith. Even sophisticated policymakers who saw the fracture lines couldn't see how to sell the new approach to Americans who had been brought up to view all communists as evil. Words matter.</p>

<p>In the past two weeks President Bush has, for the first time, started describing America's adversaries as part of "a single movement," "a worldwide network," with a common ideology. He notes that these groups come from different traditions but concludes that what unites them—their hatred of free societies—is more important. This kind of rhetoric does have the benefit of making the adversary seem larger and more sinister, thereby drumming up domestic support for the administration's policies, but it comes at great cost.</p>

<p>To speak, for example, of Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists as part of the same movement is simply absurd. They have hated each other for almost 14 centuries. Right now in Iraq, most of the violence is the work of Shiite militias, which are murdering people they claim are Sunni extremists. How can these two adversaries be part of a unified network?</p>

<p>A look at Bush's remarks on Iran will show how such a monochromatic view distorts America's strategic thinking. Last week he spoke of Iran in the context of a worldwide movement of Shiite extremists. This movement, Bush argued, has managed to take control of a major power, Iran, and use it as a launching pad to spread its terrorist agenda.</p>

<p>I'm not sure the president actually believes in the transnational threat of a "Shiite crescent." If he does, why would he have invaded Iraq and handed it over to another group of Shiite extremists? (The parties that rule Iraq—and whose militias are killing people—are conservative, religious Shiites, often with ties to Iran.) In fact, Iraqi Shiites are different from Iranian Shiites. They have separate national agendas and interests. To conflate them into one group, and then to toss in Sunni Arab extremists as comrades in arms, is bad policy. The world of Islam is extremely diverse. We should recognize and act on this diversity—between Shiites and Sunnis, Persians and Arabs, Asians and Middle Easterners—and most especially between moderates and radicals. But instead the White House is lumping Chechen separatists in Russia, Pakistani-backed militants in India, Shiite politicians in Iraq and Sunni jihadists in Egypt all together as one worldwide movement. This is, of course, exactly what Osama bin Laden has argued all along. But why is Bush making bin Laden's case?</p>

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