Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Road to 9/11

I. Reagan's Policy

A. The Reagan Doctrine--Reagan had long been a proponent of "containment" of Soviet influence, and rejected Jimmy Carter's policy of making human rights the linchpin of foreign policy. The Reagan Doctrine was meant to rollback Soviet influence around the world.

1. Support for the Contras--Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua had overthrown longtime dictator Anastocio Somoza,  and were attempting to foster a similar revolution in neighboring Salvador. The Reagan administration began supplying arms to the Contras in the hope of destabilizing the Nicaraguan government.

2. The Enemy of My  Enemy is My Friend--despite back channel diplomatic efforts during the 1980 presidential election to free US hostages in Iran, the US supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, despite his use of weapons of mass destruction (biological and chemical weapons) against the Iranians--and dissident groups within his country.

3. Beruit--US Marines initially sent to facilitate PLO pullout, but after the assassination of Israeli -friendly Christian leader Bashir Gemayel, and Israel allowing Christian forces to retaliate by slaughtering more than 1,000 Palestinians in a refugee camp, the initial contingent was reinforced--but rather than act as an impartial arbitrator, US forces began shelling Muslim militia positions. The upshot was the suicide bomb attack that killed 241 Marines--and led to the quiet withdrawal of US forces from Lebanon.

4. Grenada--Reagan had been planning an invasion of this tiny Caribbean nation, and after the fiasco in Lebanon this gave him a quick victory to remove  the defeat from the newspapers.

5. Continued support for the mujahideen--begun under Jimmy Carter after the Soviet invasion to prop up that country's puppet regime, this policy maintained pressure on the Soviets--and kept them engaged in an increasingly unpopular war at home. Support for the mujahideen came from across the Muslim world, including the son of a prominent Saudi family by the name of Osama bin Laden.

II. Bush the Elder

A. Patrician background--Bush's father was an investment banker and senator from Connecticut. Bush, like his father before him--and his sons afterward--attended Philips Andover Academy and Yale University.

B. Public Service and Private Gain--the Bush family, more so than most, was able to make a great deal of private gain from their public service, mainly through connections made with business people.

1. Marriage and college--Bush's education was interrupted by his service, which he entered soon after graduating from Philips in 1942. Bush survived being shot down in the Pacific, and on his return to the US at the close of the war Bush married Barbara Pierce that year; the first child, George, as born in 1946.

2. George Bush, oilman--Bush used family connections to make a great deal of money in the oil business in Texas during the 1950s and early 1960s, so that he was able to retire at the age of 40 from the oil business.

3. Bush the politician--used family connections to finagle one of the few "safe" Republican seats in Texas in  the mid-1960s. Bush was not driven by any ideology to get into politics; although he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he later moderated his position on this issue. For Bush, policy positions were merely a means to get elected.

a. 1980 Election--Bush was one of a number of Republican candidate in 1980, even going so far as labeling the economic plans of opponent Ronald Reagan as "voodoo economics"--but when he has defeated by Reagan, he accepted the latter's offer to become his vice-presidential candidate.

b. Bush's foreign policy experience--Bush was unusual as a candidate for the executive branch, in that he had served both as an ambassador and as the head of he CIA. His claim to have been "out of the loop" during the Iran-Contra affair was, therefore, not very believable--and, indeed, later evidence has proven that statement to be false.

C. Operation Desert Storm--this brief and successful military operation left Iraq, already impoverished by the Iran/Iraq war of the previous decade, in even worse shape, under  stringent UN sanctions (which they regularly violated, to little effect).

III. The Clinton Years

A. William J. Clinton--Born in Hope, Arkansas, and raised in Hot Springs, Clinton was a graduate of Georgetown University, and a Rhodes Scholar. He served as an elected official in Arkansas in a variety of capacities after graduating from Yale Law School (where he met and married a fellow law student named Hilary Rodham), eventually becoming governor of Arkansas

B. Clinton's Foreign Policy--After an attack with a truck bomb on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Clinton Administration began looking for ways to strike back at Osama bin Laden, who headed up the Al Qaeda.

1. Bosnia--the break-up of Yugoslavia--into Slovakia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia--led to increased ethnic tensions, which then exploded into ethnic cleansing, as the Slovaks and Croats attempted to eliminate the ethnic Bosnians, who were Muslim.

2. Somalia--the placement of US troops in that unstable place in the world, to bring stability, began under George H.W. Bush; with the murder of US troops in Mogadishu (made famous in Black Hawk Down), led to the withdrawal of those troops.

3. Attack on the USS Cole--a suicide attack on a US warship anchored at the Yemeni port of Aden resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors.

IV. George W. Bush and 9/11

A. Early life--although born in New Haven, Connecticut, while his father was attending Yale, Bush grew up in Texas (although he returned east to attend boarding school and Yale, just like father). After graduating from Yale in 1968 (at the height of the Vietnam War), Bush was able to obtain a treasured position in the Texas Air National Guard, which meant that he would not drafted and sent to Vietnam. Although he failed to fulfill his obligation, he was still able to obtain an honorable discharge, and went off to Harvard and obtained a MBA.

B. Mid-life crisis--Bush moved back to Texas, ran for office unsuccessfully, and then failed in a series of business ventures. It was not until friends of his father gave him a stake in the Texas Rangers baseball team, and made him the public face of the team--and he was able, with their help, to threaten and cajole the local government in the city of Arlington to build the team a new stadium with tax payer dollars, that he became a "success." Bush then profited from selling his share of the team, which helped him re-launch his political career, when he beat the popular Ann Richards in the race for governor of Texas.

C. 2000 Election campaign--Bush promised "compassionate conservatism" and to return "honor" to the White House--and still lost the popular election to Albert Gore. The "Brooks Brothers" riot shut down the recount in Dade County (Miami) Florida, and the Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore, decided that the recount should end, as well--in a 5-4 decision, along party lines.

D. George W. Bush Administration Before 9/11--largely ineffectual, in part because Bush himself was largely absent from the White House, on vacation--including the whole month of August of 2001--even after he received a briefing from his intelligence team on August 6 titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"

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