containment Since I wrote the article A Man Consumed with Rage I’ve been thinking about what will happen to Bush when that rage is quenched. This utterly simplistic and single-minded demagogue has given us no clue about what he’s going to do about the total shambles he has created in two short years:

  • Chaos and acrimony in international diplomacy
  • The future of the UN and NATO imperiled
  • Middle East and global political instability, with a dozen governments vulnerable to internal overthrow
  • Millions of new enemies and thousands of new terrorists created
  • The international reputation and trust of the U.S. in tatters
  • Domestic freedoms stripped away
  • Many Americans paralyzed with unwarranted fear
  • The prospect of massive civilian war casualties
  • Economic ruin, starvation and anarchy in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Recession, loss of personal savings, and soaring numbers of unemployed and impoverished in debt-crippled America

My growing sense is that, just as he doesn’t care about massive opposition to his war, or opposition to his extremist right-wing domestic social and political agenda, he doesn’t care about any of these issues. His father, much wiser, more diplomatic and shrewd than he is, nevertheless lost his re-election bid. Winston Churchill, who was worshipped as a hero during WW2, lost his re-election bid in peacetime. Just as Saddam is making his last stand, content to die a self-perceived martyr, I think Junior knows full well he won’t win again once the realization of the horrendous damage he has done to America (exemplified by the bullets above) hits the American electorate. Shock and Awe isn’t just a plan for a fast and devastating war to achieve one single purpose, it’s the blueprint for a president who knows he will have no second chance to achieve his obsessive goal of revenge against the Arab world for 9/11 and revenge against the Clinton Democrats for their hugely successful ‘liberal’ transformation of America. He’s blowing his whole wad now.

This behaviour is entirely consistent with a psychopathic personality. Like a thief in a jewelry store, the objective is to smash and grab as much as possible and run, and then rationalize, lie, blame others and do whatever needs to be done to avoid the consequences of the crime. Psychopaths are good at this — they are often very intelligent, highly respected people whose zeal and guile can attract devotion from others, some to the point where the followers will take the blame for the psychopath’s actions (Tony Blair, Colin Powell, are you listening?). Psychopaths make powerful cult leaders. They surround themselves with the loyal and like-minded (just look at the savagery and sameness of Bush’s inner circle).

The good news, and the bad news, is that the jig will soon be up. If Bush ‘wins’ the Iraq war quickly, he will have to either face the problems above or create another crisis, and then manufacture consent for another misadventure to distract attention from these issues. But history has shown that people grow weary of war quickly, and beyond Iraq and perhaps North Korea, domestic support for further campaigns will rapidly wane. And if the Iraq war drags on or produces huge civilian casualties, that distaste will set in even faster. Under either scenario (and psychopaths are good at studying scenarios) the endgame is near, likely before the November 2004 election. If the economy or the war goes especially badly, or if the dirty tricks like those played on the EU lately can be attributed to Bush, then impeachment could bring the end of the nightmare even sooner (Nixon also showed signs of psychopathy).

So what is to be done? Confronting psychopaths can be extremely dangerous, since they can rationalize taking any means to their obsessive ends, and they strike out when defied or challenged (ask the French). Waiting for Bush to self-destruct is an option, but just as Saddam left a million landmines when he knew he was beaten in Kuwait, the costs of waiting out a retreating, beaten Bush might be huge, and the destruction could linger for decades. The damage of Bush’s deficits and environmental pillage are already going to take generations to undo.

As in any protracted siege, the best strategy is probably to be selective and focused, and choose one’s battles. Filibustering the nomination of lifelong extremist court appointees is probably a wise choice of battle, as was the defeat of the proposal for Alaskan wilderness drilling. Democrats deserve, for once, credit for their stand on these two important issues. Ironically, perhaps the best strategy for dealing with Bush is the strategy that pacifists proposed in dealing with Saddam: Not a bloody confrontation, not appeasement, not sanctions that just hurt innocent victims, but a constant and close watch to disarm him before he inflicts further ruin. Until he self-destructs in the coming months, George W. Bush needs to be contained .

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