The Dominoes — Where Will It End?
Did U.S. President George W. Bush’s warning of Syrian WMD announce the next preemptive strike?
April 26, 2003
Some people believe that, in its decoded version, President Bush's veiled threat to President Assad of Syria really reads: "Give up Saddam's cousins and his sisters and his — or you are toast!"
The Bush Administration has since softened its rhetorical assault on Damascus. But come to think of it, calling on other nations to clean up their act is a brilliant strategy.
Of course, President Nixon tried it as well, but he was no George Bush. His efforts were cut short because he scared Americans more than America's foes.
President Bush is off to a much stronger start. The real question is this: How far will he go in his expansive mood and mindset? Which nation's conflicts will not get tangled up in his web?
In the view of many, Americans really need help with North Korean nukes — and Colombian drug traffickers.
North Korea presents a worse nuclear proliferation risk than anybody else, and Colombia festers on the edge of civil war in America's backyard.
And while we're at it, the United States could also help out its great ally, Britain. It is suffering mightily under all those farm seizures visited upon expatriates in Zimbabwe.
Resolving these prickly issues is a tough goal, but it is certainly within reach — now that the President of the mighty United States has caught the clean-up bug. Here is one correspondent's guide to how events could unfold:
With North Korea, the United States needs help from both China and Russia. As things currently stand, it is still far too easy for both of these nations simply to sit back and say, "Let's let America deal with the barking maniac in Pyongyang."
To address their complacency, watch for the U.S. President to announce that the rising threat on the Korean peninsula has forced him to occupy Taiwan and Russia's Kuril Islands.
He would claim that this move occurred purely out of self-defense, of course.
Normally, great nations would receive such an announcement with skeptical detachment. But the same cannot be said when the 101st Airborne is studying maps of the Syrian Desert.
With the 101st Airborne looking for suitable landing zones in the Syrian part of the Euphrates valley, a little hysteria would be in order.
Painful as it is to have to talk with Kim Jong-Il, one can imagine China's and Russia's leaders picking up the telephone to get the mad man of Pyongyang moving in the right direction. Either that or watch Marines roasting marshmallows on the beaches of Taiwan and the Kurils.
The Bush team will also want to turn its creativity to the boiling problems in the New World. Our good friends in Colombia need help in their war on drug terrorists, for example.
Venezuela would be in a great position to help the United States contain Colombian drug lords – but for one little problem.
Under the stewardship of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's government actually sympathizes with all those aging revolutionaries in Columbia who let their rebel organizations besiege civilian government.
Watch for the United States to step in — threatening to seize Venezuela's ports, say, until its difficult President Chavez comes around and lends a hand in the Columbian campaign.
As it is, Venezuela's ports are clogged with oil tankers. We could offer to relieve the congestion while President Chavez considers his options.
And then there is Fidel Castro, the unapologetic Cuban super-dictator, whose recent moves against his domestic opposition make him look like a latter-day revolutionary on a permanent overdose of Viagra.
Using the U.S. military — as it is on its way back from the Persian Gulf — in order to send Castro packing is always an option. But it would also be a true cheap shot.
A more elegant solution might involve, say, the Argentines. With Argentina's continuing economic crisis, the country needs all the help from the United States that it can possibly offer.
So the Bush Administration would only be wise to ask for a down payment in exchange for its favors. How about sending up the Argentine navy to seize Cuba – and free it?
After all, Argentina’s Navy has a lot of experience in seizing islands. Just think back to 1982 — when the country seized the Falkland Islands from Britain.
And speaking of Britain, what about Prime Minister Tony Blair?
It surely torments him to read daily dispatches of the latest abominations that Zimbabwe’s liberator-turned-tyrant Robert Mugabe has committed against white farmers and black opponents.
Virtually all of those farmers originally hale from Britain. The situation is awful — and, in asserting its geopolitical mission, the United States cannot forget about Britain, its primary ally. Sending the 82nd Airborne into Zimbabwe surely looks like an urgent humanitarian relief mission.
Of course, some might argue that President Bush could finally use his expansive mood to great effect — by convincing Israel to withdraw to its approximate old borders and focus on self-defense.
One could imagine the President declaring in a weekly radio address: “No offense intended, but the rising terrorist threat to Americans justifies U.S. occupation of the West Bank — as a trust reserved for Palestinians.”
To accomplish this ambitious homeland security goal for the United States, the President in all likelihood would not even have to commit any troops. After all, while illegal settlements come and go, smart Israelis would not want to build new ones on the prospective turf of the 3rd Infantry Division.
But we should probably stop short of predicting this last gambit. Unlike fixing the rest of the world, fixing the West Bank would cost the President real political capital at home.
Co-Founder, GoalScreen LLC David Apgar is the author of Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don’t Know (Harvard Business, 2006) and Relevance: Hitting Your Goals By Knowing What Matters (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Both books are based on ten years of best practices research for corporate finance teams as a managing director at the Corporate Executive […]