George W. Bush's re-election was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities' strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control - against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism - during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as "facilitators" of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.
Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region. Bush's re-ection is regarded within the Administration as evidence of America's support for his decision to go to war. It has reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon's civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.
"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone," the former high-level intelligence official told me. "Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah - we've got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism."
Bush is on record as claiming the election ratified his Iraq policy:
"We had an accountability moment and that's called the 2004 elections," he told the Washington Post.
"The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq and they looked at the two candidates and chose me."
Meanwhile, This is Rumor Control scores 5 out of 10 for the rumour that:
Speechwriters for George Bush are aghast at the President's insistence that his inaugural address contain an explicit military pledge to strike Iran militarily unless they announce an end to their nuclear program.
Iran has around 3 times Iraq's population, and over 4 times Iraq's area. The terrain is more varied, including some of the highest mountain ranges in the region. Broadly the population is better educated and national unity is much greater. Iraq, while nowhere near a democracy, is not an eccentric personal dictatorship wrecked by 12 years of economic sanctions. The US cannot sustain its occupation of Iraq. How the hell can they think about taking on a nation at least 4 times stronger?
The inaugural should make interesting listening. So should the Man of Steel's reaction.