Former CIA analyst
President Bush’s options appear extremely limited, and there is little doubt that the United States will continue to decline as a decisive force in world affairs over the next decade. The real question is not whether U.S. hegemony is waning but whether the United States can devise a way to descend gracefully, with minimum damage to the world, and to itself.
The Decline of American Power
The New Press, New York, NY, 2003
George W. Bush should be well satisfied with Condoleezza Rice’s three hours of speechifying and testimony on April 8. Rice made no major errors, and she made a quite detailed case that the Bush administration had not dragged its heels on counterterrorism before September 11.
While not perfect, her case was certainly good enough to prevent any serious loss of voting support for Bush. In fact, the entire hearing was probably a draw. What weaknesses there were in Rice’s presentation gave the Democratic Commission members an opportunity to repeat their own earlier arguments on the foot-dragging issue, but the issue itself is now so muddied that it is unlikely to live on much longer, at least among average voters.
At the hearings, all that the opposition really accomplished was to make it possible for some of the Democratic members to claim that they were not simply Bush-lite when it comes to foreign and military policy.
But in fact every one of the Democratic members of the 9/11 Commission looks just like a Bush-lite type. In the hearings to date, not one of them has given even a hint of willingness to consider in the Commission’s final report what changes in U.S. foreign and military policies might be necessary to reduce the likelihood of future terrorism against the United States.
It seems pretty certain that all ten commissioners have agreed in advance NOT to consider any changes in U.S. policies. Since Commission Chairman Thomas Kean has announced that he intends to issue his final report by the end of July (and then presumably disband the Commission), all the pressures on the commissioners between now and July will be to avoid complications and continue to interpret their mandate as narrowly as possible. The odds are nil that they will take on additional tasks such as considering needed foreign policy changes.
Let’s face it. Nothing else that this 9/11 Commission does really matters, and the Commission was designed from the start to do nothing that mattered. It can recommend all the reorganizing of the FBI and the CIA it wants. But no organizational changes will accomplish much if they are not accompanied by changes in present U.S. policies that generate legitimate hatred against America and thereby perpetuate terrorism against us.
The quotation at the beginning of this article says it all: “The real question is not whether U.S. hegemony is waning but whether the U.S. can devise a way to descend gracefully, with minimum damage to the world, and to itself.”
BILL CHRISTISON joined the CIA in 1950 and worked on the analysis side of the Agency for over 28 years. In the 1970s he served as a National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser of the Director of Central Intelligence) for Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa. Before his retirement in 1979, he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit. He can be reached at: email@example.com.