Bush's Manichean Approach

Roundup: Historians' Take

Ehsan Ahrari, writing in Asia Times (Sept. 25, 2003):

Watching President George W Bush at the United Nations on September 20, I was reminded of the foreign policy behavior of two major personalities of the United States: John Foster Dulles and Lyndon B Johnson. Dulles, who served as secretary of state during the Eisenhower administration, viewed the Cold War as essentially a struggle between "good" and "evil".

In his worldview, the USSR epitomized the devil, while the United States symbolized everything virtuous and good. By so portraying the international struggle of the Cold War, he was scornful of the fence sitters (ie, the non-aligned nations) as essentially immoral for not joining the "good guys" in that epochal struggle. Even though president Johnson inherited the Vietnam War from John F Kennedy, the former's obsession of winning it, never mind the cost, became an albatross around his neck. He could not defeat the North Vietnamese because of domestic political reasons. The worsening Vietnamese imbroglio then drove him to the painful decision of not seeking re-election.

Regarding Iraq, Bush is manifesting the Dulles-Johnson complex in the following way. First, he continues to view his "war on terrorism" as a struggle between the good and the evil. The terrorists were described in the days and weeks following the September 11, 2001, attacks as the "evil-doers". Invoking the Manichean (extreme dualism) view of Dulles, Bush declared on September 21, 2001, "Every nation and every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Then, on January 29, 2002, he made his much publicized speech when he lumped Iraq, North Korea and Iran in the phrase "axis of evil".

Addressing the international community on September 23 this year, Bush posited the "clearest of the divides" along the following axiomatic lines, "... between those who seek order and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children without mercy or shame." Then he concluded, "Between these alternatives there is no neutral ground."

Second, since Bush's arguments are so heavily value-laden, he manifested no remorse or second thought about invading Iraq by blatantly ignoring the will of the international community. His September 2002 speech at the UN will be remembered for its admonishment of the world body that if it were not to support the then impending US invasion of Iraq, it risked becoming irrelevant. Ironically, the American president has returned to the same world body this September seeking for help.

comments powered by Disqus