Thursday, April 05, 2007

Much Ado About Pelosi

We could replace Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with Barney Fife and see an immediate improvement in the conduct of U.S. Foreign Policy. Barney, at least, had enough gumption to stand up to Sheriff Taylor from time to time, which is a lot more than you can say about Condi's relationship with her boss, Dick Cheney. So I was glad indeed to see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) go to Syria and speak with President Bashar al-Asad.

Critics of Pelosi's trip to Syria claim she encroached on Mr. Bush's "constitutional" privilege to unfettered control of foreign policy. The latest Rovewellian talking point says that's why Congress doesn't have its own State Department. Well, our current executive branch doesn't have a State Department either, at least not a functioning one. What passes for a State Department under this regime is a propaganda arm of the Department of Defense, and the most important person in it is not Condi, but Karen Hughes, the Texas crony who Mr. Bush appointed as Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs.

Can She Do That?

Naturally, in criticizing Pelosi's trip to Syria, the White House neglected to mention that a Republican delegation had done the very same thing on April 1. But that sort of thing is SHP (standard hypocritical procedure) in the Bush administration.

A serious question does arise, however, as to whether members of Congress should be making diplomatic visits to nations the executive branch has shunned. It certainly would have been inappropriate if the House Speaker had gone to speak with
Adolph Hitler on the eve of the D-Day invasion without the blessing of Franklin Roosevelt. But that's a whole lot different from the situation we're looking at with Syria today.

For starters, we're not at war (declared on undeclared) with Syria. Yes, the State Department has named Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism, but at this point, who cares what the State Department has to say about anything? Nothing in the Constitution empowers State to "declare" who America's enemies are. What's more, Saudi Arabia isn't on the terrorist sponsor list, and we all know where the 9/11 attackers came from, don't we?

Arguments that the executive branch enjoys sole control of foreign policy don't hold water. All treaties have to be ratified by two thirds of the Senate. Congress has exclusive authority, according to the Constitution, to declare war, to maintain and regulate the military, and to fund foreign aid. Are congressional leaders to keep their noses out of the foreign policy process and simply act as a rubber stamp for the executive's dictates? I think not. We've just witnessed six years of that sort of thing, and it hasn't turned out so well.

As to whether there's a danger in sending "mixed signals" to the international community regarding our foreign policy intentions, I say there's more danger in not sending mixed signals. We can no longer afford to let the rest of the world think that the Bush administration's policies reflect the will of the American body politic.

The efforts of Nancy Pelosi and others to shore up the foreign policy damage done by the Bush administration won't likely have an immediate effect. Any good that Pelosi accomplishes over the next two years will be kneecapped by Condi Rice's bumbling and Dick Cheney's sinister influence. Nonetheless, it's important for the Pelosi's in our government to begin reaching out now. American foreign policy is already bow down in a sand dune. We can't wait until early 2009 to begin the damage control effort.

Damage Control

A new world order emerged when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and America became the world's sole superpower. The next world order began in 2003 with the staged toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad. Since that time, the moist neoconservative dream of global domination through military force has been proven impotent. The neoconservatives have refused to recognize that their delusional philosophy has failed, and continue to pursue it, caring little that it's clearly leading to a post-modern Gottendammerung for the United States.

The challenge in the post-Bush II era will be to reestablish America as a benevolent (but still strong) first among nations, what Ronald Reagan envisioned as the "shining city on the hill" that would inspire, not bully, the rest of the world to strive toward a new era of peace and prosperity.

That will take a lot of work, and the time to start is now. So I say that if Nancy Pelosi wants to grab the foreign policy initiative away from Mr. Bush, let her.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. jeff, i happened upon your blog for the first time today and am impressed. Very impressed. You tie in a lot of info very well. I just wish I could move beyond Pelosi taking and leaving impeachment off the table which I fear could have catastrophic consequences.

    I'd also like to see you expand upon the damage control section as I'm not convinced the neocon philosophy has failed. As it seems to me that things have gone swimmingly for the military industrial complex and Big Oil. Perhaps you separate these groups from the more idealistic neocons. But even if that's the case, clearly Cheney & Bush are more closely aligned with the business interests. And in that world all dreams get fulfilled, no?

  2. Hot,

    Welcome aboard. Yeah, things are going swimmingly for the MIC, big oil, and the neocon cabal. Forever war, forever profits.



  3. Anonymous7:03 PM

    I beg to differ. The President declared a global war on terror, and he declared Syria as a sponsor of terror, therefore, it logically follows that we are at war with Syria.

    Now you could argue the Pres. doesn't have the constitutional power to declare war on anyone, therefore nullifying Syria as our wartime adversary. But that would be too logical, and this is Wonderland after all.

  4. Anon,

    I think you made my point for me. Mr. Bush doesn't have the constitutional power to declare war,

  5. hotpotatomash9:29 PM

    well the declaration of war is really a matter of semantics right? not only were we in on the planning stages of israel's war with lebanon but we tried hard to get them to expand the fighting into syria.

    on the iranian front, we have been sponsoring terrorists to cross into iran and kidnap and kill iranian soliers and intelligence officials since 2005.

    and talking about mixed messages, groups out of pakistan and lebanon that we are now working with look an awful lot like al-Qaeda. i can't wait for the state of the union when osama is sitting next to the first lady.

    actually, i'm pretty sure the only people we have declared war on are democrats and rosie o'donnell.

  6. I'm not so sure I follow your logic. Just because the President may not be doing a bang up job does not mean that Pelosi is capable of doing any better-because she's not. I saw her on TV today and just wanted to reach through the TV and shake her........

    What your post really points out is the low quality of politicians on both sides of the aisle-and how our process does not give us anything better. The people who could grab the reins well are not in a position to.

    Plus this visit, just gives the Repugs a great opportunity and gains nothing for the Democrats. They don't come across as statesmenlike, they look like buffoons.

    Want to change GWB's actions. Hurt him where it counts-at home. Plus I do not like it when Congress takes up a perk it has no right too.

  7. Bacon's Rebellion11:58 AM


    To which I can only add well said!

  8. EdNSted4:24 PM


    You've reminded me of this now famous quote from a 2004 article by Ron Suskind, that goes a LONG way towards explaining the problems with Bush's foreign policy:

    "The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

    No single statement, I believe, better illustrates the arrogance, the incompetence, the cynicism and the hubris of our current leadership. And frankly, I hope this quote is permanently etched into the granite tombstone of Bush administration. They've earned it.

    Yes, George, you're an empire now. A failing, crumbling, obsolete empire. An empire of one. PAX Americana? Hardly.

    So I also welcome Pelosi's trip to Syria. I'm under no illusion that Syria is any kind of white hat here, or that its changed its spots, or that Pelosi will be able to accomplish anything of real significance at this point. It is but a single, tiny footstep in the right direction and since our president is unwilling to do even this much, then my hat if off to Pelosi. The world is full of people we disagree with. We can't and shouldn't kill them all. I'd perfer save our war machine for the people who are genuinely trying to kill us, rather than picking needless fights based on pure dogma.

    And the real problem with George Bush's foreign policy toolkit is that it contains but a single tool - our military. And to George, every problem resembles a nail....

  9. Thanks again, all for the great discussion.

  10. Poor Karl Rove must be washing down his Cheetoes with Kooklaid about now.

  11. ednsted: Spot on. And the military is crumbling fast as well, see Time Magazine. Tho I think the first challenge will be to wipe this fascist smear of your nations face, re: Gitmo/gulag/torture/renditions etbloodycetera. About the funniest part of the whole Iranian detainee-situation was the rightwingers complaining about violations of the Geneva conventions because of a hijab.

    Waterboarding, anyone? Khalid Mohammed holds the record of 2 minutes.

  12. EdNSted1:06 AM


    If you haven't already seen this related piece over on The Hill's Pundits Blog, you might want to give it a peak...

    Speaker Pelosi Is 100% Right About Syria by Brent Budowsky


  13. Waterboarding, anyone? Khalid Mohammed holds the record of 2 minutes.

    2 minutes 40 seconds, or so i hoid

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