George Bush's narrow victory over dull John Kerry was a well-deserved personal triumph. But it would not have happened without brilliant Republican strategist Karl Rove, who managed a win for Bush in spite of two failing wars abroad, a weak economy, and monster budget deficits.
From what New Yorkers call "fly-over country," rural Protestant fundamentalists voting for "moral issues" forgot Bush could not tell the truth about Iraq and provided him the margin of victory.
The president must resume dealing with Afghanistan and Iraq, and the real, if overstated, threat from violent anti-American groups, aka the "war on terrorism."
Bush again vows to "win" the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By which he means staging elections producing pliable pro-American regimes. Such as the recent Afghan elections, where the U.S.-installed figurehead, Hamid Karzai, to no surprise, won a landslide. But this election impressed only Americans.
The Afghan vote, hailed by the White House and U.S. media as "Afghanistan's first-ever elections," was, in reality, a deja vu of rigged elections held in 1986 and 1987 by the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan.
Those votes "elected" the Kremlin's puppet ruler, Najibullah. Karzai was "elected" in identical fashion: Some real opposition parties were declared "terrorists" and banned, some ballots were reportedly rigged, and warlords massively bribed.
Afghanistan's election is to be the model for U.S.-run elections in Iraq next January. While the White House will proclaim the Iraqi vote a victory for democracy, the exercise will rightly be seen in Iraq, and across the Mideast, as a fraud. The winner is already known: Iraq's U.S.-installed figurehead ruler, Iyad Allawi.
Phony elections that exclude from power Iraq's and Afghanistan's main ethnic or religious groups, that install hated minorities or stooges, and from which nationalist parties opposed to foreign occupation are banned, guarantee continued violence and instability.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, costing at least $6.5 billion US monthly, are, at best, stalemated; at worst, lost.
The aim of war is to achieve political goals. Both interventions have failed on the strategic level, since U.S. political goals have not been realized in either nation.
Bush must decide to continue these hugely expensive, debilitating wars that cannot be won in the political or military sense, or find some face-saving way out.
The president must deal with terrorism. Killing Osama bin Laden will not eliminate the anti-American hatred surging across the Muslim world, where the U.S. is facing a spreading insurgency against its political and economic domination. Americans have yet to understand this fact.
Military responses to threats against the U.S. are certainly in order, but there will be no end to the so-called war on terrorism until political solutions are found to its leading causes.
Bush showed plenty of stick in his first term. Now, he needs to offer some carrot. Freed in his second term from having to appease supporters of Greater Israel and their Christian fundamentalist allies, Bush now has a splendid opportunity to resolve the basic cause of anti-American terrorism: Palestine -- as Britain's PM, Tony Blair, rightly noted this week.
By imposing a just peace on Israel and Palestinians, Bush could eliminate the primary incubator of anti-U.S. hatred across the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
Step two: Pull U.S. troops out of no-win wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- particularly after horrifying charges made by reputable U.S. and British academic analysts that U.S. forces have killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians since 2003.
Step three: Foster real democracy in the Muslim world. This means reforming U.S.-backed authoritarian, anti-democratic regimes in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, and Pakistan.
That is how President Bush can help minimize terrorism, strengthen world order, and regain the worldwide admiration, respect, and support for America that was lost during his first awkward, bellicose term.
© 2004 Toronto Sun