Juan Cole: What's at stake

A series of observations on what tomorrow's election will decide, from University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole.

Bush is not winning the war on terror because he does not understand it. He has used the rise of al-Qaeda as a pretext for settling Washington's scores with old enemies like Saddam. This projection of main American force so far has paid no dividends whatsoever, in increased US security or stability in the world. It has not even made money for US companies, with the possible exception of Halliburton (and even it claims it has been hurt by bad Iraq publicity).

The most frightening thing of all is that the Project for a New American Century group, which has made an internal coup in the Bush administration, ultimately has its sights on China. They want to surround, besiege and break up Communist China, as they imagine the US did to the Soviet Union. In many ways, the Bush administration uses North Korea as a proxy for China, saying things about Pyongyang they really would like to say about Beijing. In fact, China is currently increasingly tied to the US-led world economic order and has every impetus to cooperate with the US on most issues. The Chinese take in $80 billion a year more from the US than we make from them. Picking a fight with Beijing, which is a very attractive option for the American Right, would be disastrous.

The Bush administration is full of revolutionaries. They are shaking up the world by military force. They are playing a role familiar in modern history, pioneered by Napoleon Bonaparte, of using overwhelming military superiority to establish new forms of hegemony by appealing to desires for change among neighboring publics. Bonaparte promised the Italians liberty on the French model, but in fact reduced the Italians to a series of French puppet regimes and then he looted the country. So far Bush's Iraq looks increasingly like Bonaparte's Italy in these regards.

Link (via William Gibson's blog)