[This is part 3 of “Six Crises in Search of an Author: How the Bush Administration Destabilized the Arc of Instability”: part 1 was “Bush’s Absurdist Imperialism”; part 2, “Chaos in the Greater Middle East.”]
At any moment, somewhere in the now-Bush-administration destabilized “arc of instability,” with its six crisis areas, a seventh crisis could indeed rise, demand attention, and refuse to be ejected from the premises. There are many possible candidates. Here are just a few:
Al-Qaeda, an organization dispersed but never fully dismantled by the Bush administration, has now, according to Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, rebuilt itself in the Pakistani borderlands with new training camps, new base areas, and a new generation of leaders in their thirties, all still evidently serving under Osama bin Laden. (In the future, Mazzetti suggests even younger leaders are likely to come from the hardened veterans of campaigns in Bush’s Iraq). Al-Qaeda is a wild card throughout the region.
Iraqi Kurdistan is now a relatively peaceful area, but from the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk to its Turkish and Iranian borders it is also a potential future powder keg and the focus for interventions of all sorts.
Oil pipelines, which, from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, crisscross the region, are almost impossible to defend effectively. At any moment, some group or groups, copying the tactics of the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, could decide to begin a sabotage campaign against them (or the other oil facilities in the region).
Saudi Arabia, an increasingly ossified religious autocracy, faces opponents ready to practice terrorism against its oil infrastructure and rising unrest in its oil-rich Shiite areas as well as an ascendant Iran.
Syria, a rickety minority regime, under internal pressure, now faces the launching of a renewed Bush administration campaign to further undermine its power. Though we have no way of knowing the scope of this campaign, it seems the President and his top officials have learned absolutely nothing about what their meddling is likely to accomplish.
Outside the “arc of instability,” but deeply affected by what goes on there, let’s not forget:
The U.S. Army: 13,000 National Guardsmen have just been notified of a coming call-up, long before they were due for another tour of duty in Iraq. The Army, like the Marine Corps, finds itself under near-unbearable pressure from the Iraq and Afghan Wars and, as a result, is sending less than fully trained troops, recruited under ever lower standards, with worn equipment, into battle. The Army, for instance, is having trouble holding on to its best soldiers. Beyond their minimum five years of service, to take an example, “just 62% of West Pointers re-upped, about 25 percentage points lower than at the other service academies.” And the public grumbling of the top brass is on the increase. Who knows what this means for the future?
The American People — Oh yes, them. They haven’t really hit the streets yet, but they’ve hit the opinion polls hard and last November some of them hit the polling booths — decisively. Who knows when they will “stand up” and insist on being counted. Perhaps in 2008.
In other words, in addition to the normal cast of characters dreamt up by the Bush administration in its fantasy production in the global round, a whole set of unexpected characters are already moving up and down the aisles, demanding attention, and at any moment, that seventh character — whether state, ethnic group, terrorist cadre, or some unknown crew in search of an author is likely to make its presence felt.
And let’s not forget that there is one more obvious “character” out there in search of an author; that there is one more Bush-destabilized place on the planet not yet mentioned, even though it may be the most important of all. I’m talking, of course, about Washington D.C.; I’m talking about the Bush administration itself.
Consider the process by which it turned Washington into a mini-arc of instability: First, it fantasized about the “arc of instability,” then stitched it together into a genuine Rube Goldberg instability machine, one where any group, across thousands of miles, might pull some switch that would set chaos rolling, the flames licking across the oil heartlands of the planet. Then, remarkably enough, the administration itself and all its dreams–both of a Pax Americana globe and a Pax Republicana United States–began to disintegrate. The whole edifice, from Rumsfeld’s high-tech military to Karl Rove’s political machine, became destabilized under its own tin touch. The putative playwright became just another desperate character.
It’s no longer far-fetched to say that, with the President’s polling figures in the low 30s, resistance to his war still growing, a Democratic Congress beginning to feel its strength, the Republican Party shaking and its presidential candidates preparing to head for the hills, corruption and political scandals popping up everywhere, and high military figures implicitly reading the riot act to their political leaders, the already listing Bush imperial ship of state seems to be making directly for the next floating iceberg.
Imagine then, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney still clinging tenaciously to what’s left of their dreams and delusions amid the ruins of their plans–as the USS Nimitz sails toward the Persian Gulf; as American agents of various sorts “advise” and, however indirectly, shuffle aid to extremist groups eager to fell the Iranian regime; as a new campaign against the Syrian regime is launched; as stolen Iraqi oil money is shuttled to the Siniora government in Lebanon (and then, according to Seymour Hersh, to Sunni jihadi groups in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria); and as American agents continue to “interrogate” suspected jihadis in their latest borrowed secret prisons in Ethiopia, while American-backed Ethiopian troops only find themselves more embroiled in Somalia. Imagine all that, and then ask yourself, what levers on that Rube Goldberg machine they’ve done so much to create are they still capable of pulling?