Wednesday, January 14, 2004

going native with the nativists
This report from the US Military's War College says that the effect of the Iraq invasion has been to divert attention from the war on terror, assuming such a thing is actually going on. Conservative strategist Kevin Phillips wonders what the Iraq invasion is actually diverting attention from.

When the U.S. launched a second war against Iraq in 2003 but failed to find weapons of mass destruction that Hussein was purported to have, international polls, especially those by the Washington-based Pew Center, charted a massive growth in anti-Bush and anti-American sentiment in Muslim parts of the world — an obvious boon to terrorist recruitment. Even before the war, some cynics had argued that Iraq was targeted to divert attention from the administration's failure to catch Osama bin Laden and stop Al Qaeda terrorism.

Bolder critics hinted that George W. Bush had sought to shift attention away from how his family's ties to the Bin Ladens and to rogue elements in the Middle East had crippled U.S. investigations in the months leading up to 9/11. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) complained that even when Congress released the mid-2003 intelligence reports on the origins of the 9/11 attack, the Bush administration heavily redacted a 28-page section dealing with the Saudis and other foreign governments, leading him to conclude, "There seems to be a systematic strategy of coddling and cover-up when it comes to the Saudis"

Phillips is the man behind Nixon's "Southern Strategy", which sought to use racial and cultural wedge issues to attract traditionally democrat leaning constituencies to the Republicans, further exploiting nativist and populist currents in American political thought.

Originally the aim seems to have been to ensure the dominance of the Republican establishment in power through riding herd on a great crowd of yahoos. The Bush presidencies, in which an East Coast political dynasty remakes itself as just plain Texas folks, seems to epitomise the process. However, Phillips seems to have taken against the Bushes in a big way. My theory: Bush junior has gone native, dislodging the traditional Wall Street/Washington types from power within within the Republican Party. And since it was these people who tdaditionally conduct foreign policy, their absence might also have made space for the neocon ascendancy, though this looks to have peaked.

As such, revealing the Bush family's overclass background and connections to the Saudis is a handy way of undermining the administration's populist credentials. It looks like the Republican mandarins want their party back. It'll be interesting to see if they are willing to endure a Democratic presidency if that's the price they have to pay.