‘‘The Caine Mutiny,’’ it was the business with the strawberries that
finally convinced the doubters that something was amiss with the captain. Is
foreign policy George W. Bush’s quart of strawberries?
Krugman: Losing touch with reality
New York Times, March 15, 2003
Over the past few weeks there has been an epidemic of epiphanies. A long list of
pundits who previously supported the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq have
publicly changed their minds. None of them quarrels with the goal. Who
wouldn’t want to see Saddam Hussein overthrown? But they are finally realizing
that Bush is the wrong man to do the job. And more people than you would think
— including a fair number of people in the Treasury Department, the State
Department and, yes, the Pentagon — don’t just question the competence of
Bush and his inner circle; they believe that America’s leadership has lost
touch with reality.
If that sounds harsh, consider the debacle of recent diplomacy — a debacle
brought on by awesome arrogance and a vastly inflated sense of self-importance.
Bush’s inner circle seems amazed that the tactics that work so well on
journalists and Democrats don’t work on the rest of the world.
They’ve made promises, oblivious to the fact that most countries don’t trust
their word. They’ve made threats. They’ve done the aura-of-inevitability
thing — how many times now have administration officials claimed to have lined
up the necessary votes in the Security Council? They’ve warned other countries
that if they oppose America’s will they are objectively pro-terrorist. Yet
still the world balks.
And to what end has Bush alienated all of America’s most valuable allies? (And
I mean all: Tony Blair may be with us, but British public opinion is now
virulently anti-Bush.) The original reasons given for making Iraq an immediate
priority have collapsed. No evidence has ever surfaced of the supposed link with
Al Qaeda or of an active nuclear program. At this point it is clear that
deposing Saddam has become an obsession, detached from any real rationale.
What really has the insiders panicked, however, is the irresponsibility of Bush
and his team, their almost childish unwillingness to face up to problems that
they don’t feel like dealing with right now.
I’ve talked in this column about the administration’s eerie passivity in the
face of a stalling economy and an exploding budget deficit: Reality isn’t
allowed to intrude on the obsession with long-run tax cuts.
That same ‘‘don’t bother me, I’m busy’’ attitude is driving foreign
policy experts, inside and outside the government, to despair.
Need I point out that North Korea, not Iraq, is the clear and present danger?
Kim Jong Il’s nuclear program isn’t a rumor or a forgery; it’s an
incipient bomb assembly line. Yet the administration insists that it’s a mere
‘‘regional’’ crisis, and refuses even to talk to Kim.
We all hope that the war with Iraq is a swift victory, with a minimum of
civilian casualties. But more and more people now realize that even if all goes
well at first, it will have been the wrong war, fought for the wrong reasons —
and there will be a heavy price to pay.
BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE