Thursday, February 02, 2006

Didn't See It Coming, Again

February 1, 2006 Op-Ed Columnist Didn't See It Coming, Again By MAUREEN DOWD Washington The White House should hire an anthropologist. Corporations have begun hiring anthropologists to help them improve product designs and interpret markets. And clearly, the Bush foreign policy team doesn't understand any of the markets where it is barging around ineptly trying to sell America and democracy. The brand value of America has been in steady decline. The state of the union is sour but the state of the world is chilling, thanks to a hideously ham-handed Bush foreign policy crew that was once billed as a seasoned "dream team." The more the White House tries to force-feed democracy to tempestuous parts of the world, the more it discovers that you may be able to spin and scare voters in the U.S., but the Middle East is not so easy to manipulate. W. believes in self-determination only if he's doing the determining. Fundamentalists in America like to vote for Mr. Bush, but elsewhere they're violently opposing him. It's stunning that nearly four decades after Vietnam, our government could be even more culturally illiterate and pigheaded. The Bushies are more obsessed with snooping on Americans than fathoming how other cultures think and react. One smart anthropologist reinforcing the idea that "mirroring" — assuming other cultures think like us — doesn't work would be a lot more helpful than all of the discredited intelligence agencies that are costing $30 billion a year to miss everything from the breakup of the Soviet Union to 9/11 to no W.M.D. to Osama's hiding place to the Hamas victory. Bush officials keep claiming they couldn't have anticipated disasters — from the terrorist attacks to Katrina — even when they got specific warnings beforehand. Busy building up the fake nuclear threat in Iraq, they misplayed the real ones in Iran and North Korea. In London Sunday, Condi Rice admitted that all of our diplomats and spies were caught off guard by the Hamas win. "I've asked why nobody saw it coming," she said. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse." Instead of paying the Lincoln Group millions to plant fake newspaper stories in Iraq, the Bush team might try reading real newspaper stories here. Instead of simply believing any fact that makes him feel self-important, the president might try reading history. Like many other presidential candidates I've interviewed, W. said he liked Winston Churchill. But if he really had read Churchill, he would at least have understood that the Middle East never turns out the way you expect. Churchill, who called Iraq "an ungrateful volcano," would not have been surprised by the new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll showing that close to half of Iraqis approve of attacks on American forces. The State of the Union is a non-event. But Bob Woodruff and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, being blown up by a roadside bomb has forced the media to focus on what the Bushies try to hide — all the injured and maimed coming home from Iraq. Mark Landler's Times piece noted that the ABC journalists came to the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, "on a military transport plane carrying 31 wounded soldiers — about a normal daily influx for this hospital." As Denise Grady wrote in The Times, the survival rate in Iraq is higher than in other wars, but the wounds are multiple and awful: "combinations of damaged brains and spinal cords, vision and hearing loss, disfigured faces, burns, amputations, mangled limbs, and psychological ills like depression and post-traumatic stress." The Oilman in Chief lecturing us last night, after five oblivious years, about being drunk on oil, now that Halliburton and Exxon are swimming in profits — Exxon's revenues were bigger than the gross domestic product of either Saudi Arabia or Indonesia — was rich. A more honest TV moment was Christiane Amanpour labeling Iraq "a black hole." The "spiraling security disaster," she told Larry King, had robbed Iraqis of hope, "and by any indication whether you take the number of journalists killed or wounded, whether you take the number of American soldiers killed or wounded, whether you take the number of Iraqi soldiers killed and wounded, contractors, people working there, it just gets worse and worse." But, hey, how could the Bushies have known that occupying a Middle East country — and flipping the balance of power from one sect to another — without enough troops to secure it could go wrong? Who on earth could predict the inevitable?

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