Tuesday, January 25, 2005

False spring in DC?

Commentators on all sides held on to the hope (or, in some cases, trudged forward through a haze of dread) late last year that George W. Bush's second term would begin with the announcement of a timely withdrawal from Iraq and the swing back toward an at least nominally sane foreign policy.

No such luck, it seems -- if the events of the last few weeks are indicative of Bush's second-term agenda, expectations of a Thermidor for the Republican Surrealists were premature indeed. Their Robespierre isn't finished. As a matter of fact, he's just getting started.

The administration's chief advocate of torture is to be placed in charge of of guarding Americans' rights as Attorney General.

The administration's chief national security liar is to be sent forth as Secretary of State, charged with engendering trust and cooperation between the US and the world's other nations.

The man who sits an irregular heartbeat away from the presidency has publicly painted a new target on the map, directly over Tehran.

And the president himself delivered an inaugural speech which seems to promise four more years of blood, iron and conquest, further sullying the banners of "freedom" and "liberty" beneath which he purports to march.

Were the expectations of a pendulum swing simply wishful thinking? Was there a power struggle between the Realists and Surrealists which held out real hope, but which eventually went the Surrealists' way? Or was it all a clever agitprop operation designed to minimize discontent leading up to the inauguration, so that things could get back to business as usual?

Or, just possibly, is there still hope for a return to sanity while Bush remains in office?

Not likely. The original Jacobins' Reign of Terror lasted for only 13 months. Their ideological children in Washington have been in the driver's seat for 3 1/2 years, and seem to be promising -- and confident in their ability to deliver -- at least four more years of the same. The Surrealists remain firmly in control of the administration's agenda, and Scowcroft et al seem to have failed in their attempt to gather a Girondist resistance to the agenda of our day's Committee of Public Safety.

They've outdone Grandpa Maximilien already. Can they best Uncle Felix as well? And will Americans eventually -- and willingly -- consent to a Directory as the price of an end to terror?

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