Dir. Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan
By Michael Koresky, posted on Reverseshot
Near the end of his new book, Rumsfeld: His Rise, His Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy—an unfriendly but persuasive portrait of the former secretary of defense—journalist Andrew Cockburn relates a story about an encounter between Bush père et fils that I put in the category "remarkable if true." It is August 2004, and the president is taking time off from his re-election campaign to visit his parents at their summer house in Kennebunkport, Maine. Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to the elder Bush, and also a public critic of the younger Bush, has written the president a memo on Iraq. Scowcroft has asked the father to give this memo to the son. Bush père uses Dubya's visit as an occasion to do so. I'll let Cockburn take it from here:
The president glanced at it disdainfully for a few seconds before tossing it aside, reportedly with the words "I'm sick and tired of getting papers from Brent Scowcroft telling me what to do, and I never want to see another one again." With that, he exited, slamming the door behind him.
This part of the story could very easily be true and wouldn't be all that remarkable if it were; there's very little love lost between Scowcroft and the president. But then Cockburn continues:
Notwithstanding this episode, Bush 43 still sometimes drew on his father's wide knowledge of the world. Though he refused to read newspapers, he was aware of criticism that his administration had been excessively beholden to a particular clique, and wanted to know more about them. One day during that holiday, according to friends of the family, 43 asked his father, "What's a neocon?"
"Do you want names, or a description?" answered 41.
"Well," said the former president of the United States, "I'll give it to you in one word: Israel."
Let's set aside the question of whether it's fair to describe neocons as caring only about Israel. (My own view is that it would have been unfair, and possibly anti-Semitic, 20 years ago, but that the neocon agenda has since dwindled to such an extent that by now it's an acceptable shorthand, if slightly risqué.) Instead, let's focus on the anecdote's suggestion that as recently as two and a half years ago, the president of the United States didn't know what neocon meant.
Can this possibly be true?
Cockburn is a good reporter who has covered national security for decades. He wouldn't make it up. He writes that he got this anecdote from "friends of the family," which means multiple sources—probably not eyewitnesses, but rather people who heard the story from the elder Bush or (more likely) from Scowcroft. Scowcroft is a very close friend to Bush père, making it plausible that he would have heard about the conversation between father and son. And because Scowcroft is close to Bush père, one can easily imagine that two other people who would have heard the story (third-hand) from Scowcroft would also be friends of the elder Bushes.
When someone is as uncurious as George W. Bush, it's easy to underestimate what he knows. A friend of mine tells the story of discussing the income tax with the president early in his administration and, after using the term progressive, acting on the impulse to explain to the president what, in that context, progressive means. "I know what progressive means," the president snarled back, irritated that anyone would think him so ignorant. ("How was I supposed to know what he knows and what he doesn't?" my friend says in self-defense.) With that lesson in mind, let's proceed cautiously.
It's possible that Bush fils was not asking Bush père to define a term whose meaning was unfamiliar to him, but rather inviting a ruminative conversation about the category's proper parameters. If Irving Kristol were to ask me, "What's a neocon?", he wouldn't be demonstrating ignorance of the term's meaning. He'd be initiating a lively give-and-take about the movement's nature and evolution. The problem with this interpretation, though, is that ruminative conversations really aren't Dubya's style (nor his father's, as his terse answer makes clear). The president is the kind of guy who, if he asked you what neo-Platonism was, would expect a simple declarative sentence and, if you went on longer than a sentence, would wander out of the room.
It is not possible, I think, that the younger Bush would be asking his father to define a word he'd only just heard for the first time, like gardyloo or chalcedony. It isn't possible to work in the White House and never encounter the word neocon. It is just barely possible, though, that neocon could be, for Bush, one of those words you hear all the time and keep meaning to look up but somehow never get around to, or that you look up again and again but whose meaning you can never seem to remember. (I'm that way with eleemosynary. I pray that doesn't mean I lack a charitable nature.) Moreover, throughout the current administration, I've had the experience again and again of learning some new fact that indicated life in the White House was much worse than I'd previously allowed myself to believe.
Is it true that Bush didn't know what neocon means? I don't know. But if it is true, that's astonishing.
A STRATEGIC SHIFT
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.............
PRINCE BANDAR’S GAME
The Administration’s effort to diminish Iranian authority in the Middle East has relied heavily on Saudi Arabia and on Prince Bandar, the Saudi national-security adviser. Bandar served as the Ambassador to the United States for twenty-two years, until 2005, and has maintained a friendship with President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. In his new post, he continues to meet privately with them. Senior White House officials have made several visits to Saudi Arabia recently, some of them not disclosed.
Last November, Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia for a surprise meeting with King Abdullah and Bandar. The Times reported that the King warned Cheney that Saudi Arabia would back its fellow-Sunnis in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw. A European intelligence official told me that the meeting also focussed on more general Saudi fears about “the rise of the Shiites.” In response, “The Saudis are starting to use their leverage—money.”In a royal family rife with competition, Bandar has, over the years, built a power base that relies largely on his close relationship with the U.S., which is crucial to the Saudis. Bandar was............
known by the name of his northern Italian hometown of "Caravaggio," was one of the most revolutionary artists of the 17th century. He began his career as a painter of genre with pictures of gypsies, musicians, card players, still lifes and portraits, but quickly developed into the most powerful religious artist of his age.
The major impetus on Caravaggio's art was the artistic principles articulated as a result of the Counter-Reformation. Art was to act as a media for propaganda and its depictions of biblical stories, and figures were to be realistic, in direct contrast to the idealistic style during the Renaissance. His paintings were vivid and his bold naturalistic style, which emphasized the common humanity of the apostles and martyrs, suited the aspirations of the Counter-Reformation church. Caravaggio's dramatic use of light and shadow, a technique called chiaroscuro, and his placing of figures directly in the foreground was revolutionary, and his works attracted a large following from all over Europe. His artistic influence was pervasive throughout the century, particularly on such artists as Rembrandt and Velazquez.
At age 24 Caravaggio was commissioned to paint for the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. In its Contarelli Chapel, Caravaggio's realistic naturalism first fully appeared in three scenes he created of the life of St. Matthew. The works caused public outcry, however, because of their realistic and dramatic nature.
Despite violent criticism, Caravaggio's reputation grew and he began to be envied. He had many encounters with the law during his stay in Rome and was imprisoned for several assaults and for killing an opponent after a disputed score in a game of court tennis. Caravaggio fled the city and kept moving between hiding places. When he reached Naples, probably early in 1607, he painted there for a time, awaiting a pardon by the Pope.
Early in 1608 Caravaggio went to Malta and was received as a celebrated artist. Fearful of imprisonment, he continued to flee for two more years, but his paintings of this time were among the greatest of his career. After receiving a pardon from the Pope, he was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for two days, at which time a boat that was to take him to Rome left without him, taking his belongings. Misfortune, exhaustion and illness overtook him as he helplessly watched the boat depart. He collapsed on the beach and died a few days later on July 18, 1610.
The Caravaggisti (from wikipedia)
The installation of the St. Matthew paintings in the Contarelli Chapel had an immediate impact among the younger artists in Rome, and Caravaggism became the cutting edge for every ambitious young painter. The first Caravaggisti included Giovanni Baglione (although his Caravaggio phase was short-lived) and Orazio Gentileschi. In the next generation there were Carlo Saraceni, Bartolomeo Manfredi and Orazio Borgianni. Gentileschi, despite being considerably older, was the only one of these artists to live much beyond 1620, and ended up as court painter to Charles I in England. His daughter Artemisia Gentileschi was also close to Caravaggio, and one of the most gifted of the movement. Yet in Rome and in Italy it was not Caravaggio, but the influence of Annibale Carraci, blending elements from the High Renaissance and Lombard realism, which ultimately triumphed.
Caravaggio’s brief stay in Naples produced a notable school of Neapolitan Caravaggisti, including Battistello Caracciolo and Carlo Sellitto. The Caravaggisti movement there ended with a terrible outbreak of plague in 1656, but the Spanish connection – Naples was a possession of Spain – was instrumental in forming the important Spanish branch of his influence.
A group of Catholic artists from Utrecht, the "Utrecht Caravaggisti", travelled to Rome as students in the first years of the 17th century and were profoundly influenced by the work of Caravaggio, as Bellori describes. On their return to the north this trend had a short-lived but influential flowering in the 1620s among painters like Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerrit van Honthorst, Andries Both and Dirck van Baburen. In the following generation the affects of Caravaggio, although attenuated, are to be seen in the work of Rubens (who purchased one of his paintings for the Gonzaga of Mantua and painted a copy of the Entombment of Christ), Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Velazquez, the last of whom presumably saw his work during his various sojourns in Italy.
The animal zodiac signs for one another in an established order, and are repeated every twelve years. 1976 was the Year of the Dragon, and 1977 was the year of the Snake.
Chinese zodiac rat are most compatible with people born in the years of the Dragon, Monkey, and Ox.
Chinese Year of the Ox (chou) 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997
People born in the Chinese New Year zodiac of the Ox are patient, speak little, and inspire confidence in others. Oxen are born leaders, however they tend to be eccentric, and bigoted, and they anger easily having fierce tempers. They are conservative, methodical, and good with their hands. Chinese zodiac sign Ox are mentally and physically alert. Generally easy-going, they can be remarkably stubborn, and they hate to fail or be opposed.
Chinese zodiac oxen are most compatible with Snake, Rooster, and Rat people.Chinese Year of the Tiger (Yin) 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998
They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. Chinese zodiac rabbit are most compatible with those born in the years of the Sheep, Pig, and Dog.
Chinese Year of the Dragon (Chen) 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000
This Chinese New Year zodiac called Dragon tend to be popular individuals who are always full of life and enthusiasm, with a reputation for being fun-loving and a "big mouth" at times. People born in the Chinese New Year of the Dragon are healthy, energetic, excitable, short-tempered, and stubborn. They are also honest, sensitive, brave, and they inspire confidence and trust.
People under Chinese zodiac neither borrow money nor make flowery speeches, but they tend to be soft-hearted which sometimes gives others an advantage over them. People under this Chinese New Year zodiac are well suited to be an artist, priest, or politician.
Chinese zodiac dragon are compatible with Rats, Snakes, Monkeys, and Roosters.
Chinese Year of the Snake (si) 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001
Rich in wisdom and charm, people under this Chinese New Year zodiac are romantic and deep thinkers and their intuition guides them strongly. They say little and possess great wisdom. Chinese zodiac sign snake never have to worry about money; they are financially fortunate. Snake people are often quite vain, selfish, and a bit stingy. Snake people tend to overdo, since they have doubts about other people's judgment and prefer to rely on themselves.
They are determined in whatever they do and hate to fail. Although calm on the surface, they are intense and passionate. Chinese zodiac sign snake are usually good-looking and sometimes have marital problems because they are fickle. The Snake would be most content as a teacher, philosopher, writer, psychiatrist, and fortuneteller.
Chinese zodiac snake are most compatible with the Ox and Rooster.
Chinese zodiac rooster is most compatible with Ox, Snake, and Dragon.
Chinese Year of the Dog (Xu) 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006
Chinese New Year zodiac Dog will never let you down. People born in this Chinese zodiac sign possess the best traits of human nature. They have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people's confidence because they know how to keep secrets. They are plagued by constant worry. They have a sharp tongue, and have a tendency to be a faultfinder. They care little for wealth; yet somehow always seem to have money. They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant at parties. Chinese zodiac sign Dog people make good leaders. They would make an excellent businessman, activist, teacher, or secret agent.
Chinese zodiac dog are compatible with those born in the Years of the Horse, Tiger, and Rabbit.
Chinese Year of the Boar (hai) 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007
Chinese New Year zodiac Boar is a splendid companion, an intellectual with a very strong need to set difficult goals and carry them out. People born in this Chinese zodiac sign are gracious and gallant. Whatever they do, they do with all their strength. They have tremendous courage and great honesty. They don't make many friends but they make them for life. They don't talk much but have a great thirst for knowledge. People under this Chinese zodiac study a great deal and are generally well informed. Boar people are quick tempered, yet they hate arguments and quarreling. They are kind to their loved ones. No matter how bad problems seem to be, Boar people try to work them out, honestly if sometimes impulsively. They thrive in the arts as entertainers.
A jack of all trades, Futureboogie advances jazz-oriented dance music with a booking agency, design collective, and, most notably, a rock-solid radio show. Also an online outpost for the group's Bristol-based club night, the website features revolving updates and a vast archive of past sets. This week, Tru Thoughts/Ubiquity artist Quantic drops jazz and deep funk in Bristol and Berlin-based Jazzanova delights with a mixtape featuring cuts from International Pony, on-the-rise UK producer and remixer Jesse Rose, and drum 'n bass don Marcus Intalex. For a fresh weekly fix, be sure to catch Futureboogie's radio broadcast, live in the UK and archived on the site, which comes complete with detailed tracklists for cratediggers and hardcore heads.
Can politics learn from history? Or is it subject to a fatal compulsion to repeat the same mistakes, despite the disastrous lessons of the past? President Bush’s new strategy for Iraq has posed anew this age-old philosophical and historical question.
Ostensibly, President Bush has embarked on a new political and military strategy for the war-torn Iraq. Bush’s new course can be summarized under three headings: more American troops, more Iraqi responsibility, and more US training for more Iraqi troops.
If you apply this new plan to Iraq alone, two things immediately catch the eye: almost all the proposals of the Baker-Hamilton report have been ignored, and the plan itself – in the face of the chaos in Iraq – is quite simplistic. In light of the failure of all previous “new strategies” for stabilizing Iraq, there is little to suggest that the newest “new strategy” will succeed any better, despite the additional 21,000 US soldiers.
What is interesting and really new in the US administration’s recently announced policy is the way it reaches beyond Iraq, to deal with Iran, Syria, and the Gulf states. Here, unexpected and genuinely new decisions have been announced: an additional US aircraft carrier group will be moved to the Persian Gulf; Patriot anti-aircraft missiles will be stationed in the Gulf states; and the additional 21,000 soldiers far exceed what the American generals had asked for to deal with Iraq. So one wonders about the purpose of this military build-up? One might almost think that Saddam was still alive and in power, so his overthrow had to be prepared all over again.
The surprise of Bush’s new policy is its shift of political focus from Iraq to its two immediate neighbors. Bush accuses Syria and Iran of interfering in Iraq, threatening its territorial integrity and endangering American troops, and, more generally, of seeking to undermine America’s allies in the region. If you add to this the seizure, on President Bush’s orders, of Iranian “diplomats” by US forces in the northern Iraqi town of Erbil, a completely new picture of the President’s plan comes to the fore: the “new strategy” does not follow the advice of the Baker-Hamilton report, but harks back to the disastrous strategy of the neo-cons. Iran is now in the superpower’s sights, and the US approach brings to mind the preparatory phase of the Iraq war – down to the last detail.
Where does all this lead? Basically, there are two possibilities, one positive and one negative. Unfortunately, the positive outcome appears to be the less likely one.
If the threat of force – a force that the US is quite obviously building – aims at preparing the ground for serious negotiations with Iran, there can and should be no objection. If, on the other hand, it represents an attempt to prepare the American public for a war against Iran, and a genuine intention to unleash such a war when the opportunity arises, the outcome would be an unmitigated disaster.
Unfortunately, this danger is all too real. Since the Bush administration views Iran’s nuclear program and hegemonic aspirations as the major threat to the region, its new strategy is based on a newly formed undeclared anti-Iranian alliance with moderate Sunni Arab states and Israel. The nuclear program is the dynamic factor here, because it will set a timeline for action.
But air strikes on Iran, which America may see as a military solution, would not make Iraq safer; they would achieve exactly the opposite. Nor would the region as a whole be stabilized; on the contrary, it would be plunged into an abyss. And the dream of “regime change” in Tehran would not come true, either; rather, Iran’s democratic opposition would pay a high price, and the theocratic regime would only become stronger.
The political options for stabilizing Iraq, and the whole region, as well as for securing a long-term freeze of Iran’s nuclear program, have not yet been exhausted. The current state of Iran’s nuclear program does not call for immediate military action. Instead, the focus should be on diplomatic efforts to detach Syria from Iran and isolate the Tehran regime. But this presupposes American willingness to return to diplomacy and talking to all the parties involved. Tehran is afraid of regional and international isolation. Moreover, the recent municipal elections in Iran have shown that betting on diplomacy and a transformation of Iran from within is a realistic option. So why the current threats against Iran?
The debacle in Iraq was foreseeable from the beginning, and America’s numerous partners and friends predicted it quite clearly in their warnings to the Bush administration. The mistake that the US may be about to make is equally predictable: a war that is wrong will not be made right by extending it – that is the lesson of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
The ideologically driven strategy of regime change by means of military force led the US into the Iraq war disaster. Getting into Iraq and defeating Saddam was easy. But today, America is stuck there and knows neither how to win nor how to get out. A mistake is not corrected by repeating it over and over again. Perseverance in error does not correct the error; it merely exacerbates it. Following the launch of the new American policy, the old question of whether politics can learn from history will be answered again in the Middle East. Whatever the answer, the consequences – whether good or bad – will be far-reaching.
Copyright: Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences, 2007.