Neither liberals nor the larger numbers of moderate Democrats are likely to bring down Bush. But disenchanted Republican right-wingers might hurt him in the conservative Republican base. Every so often there are signs of cracks in the conservative juggernaut. “Vote for a Man, Not a Puppet,” writes conservative Charley Reese in a recent column. “Americans should realize that if they vote for President Bush’s re-elec-
tion, they are really voting for the architects of war—Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of that cabal of neoconservative ideologues and their corporate backers. I have sadly come to the conclusion that President Bush is merely a front man, an empty suit who is manipulated by the people in his administration. Bush has the most dangerously simplistic view of the world of any president in my memory. . . . People who think of themselves as conservatives will really display their stupidity, as I did in the last election, by voting for Bush.”
In their book America Alone, Reagan conservatives Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke say Bush is the captive of a small group of neocons who have constructed a black-and-white line of thought along with a phony history to underpin their simplistic ideas. Neocons, they argue, see life as a never ceasing moral challenge to pick good from evil, along with the “assertion that the fundamental determinant of the relationship between states rests on military power and the willingness to use it.” And that both the Middle East and Islam are “the principal theater for American overseas interests.” For neocons, they say, military power is the “first, not last, option of foreign policy.”
Iran offers them a shot at striking at another “axis of evil,” and this summer, in a little noticed naval exercise off the China coast called Summer Pulse ’04, the U.S. is massing seven carrier groups in a maneuver that amounts to a peacetime rerun of D-day—only this time in Asia. The Chinese are responding to this provocation, as one might expect, with anger. And fooling with China, which now owns large amounts of our own debt and is the world’s biggest attraction for foreign investment, will almost surely reinforce that country’s military at a time when China shows signs of loosening up and moving toward some form of democratic government.