On the grounds that foreign policy trumps the position of poet laureate, it looks as if, in the final decision for this week's Chutzpah of the Week award, President George W. Bush now sprints past Condoleeza Rice with three awards to his name. Traditionally, awards concerned with foreign policy are matters of the State Department; but in the case the award has been prompted by yesterday's executive order, reported on Al Jazeera English as follows:
The US president has signed an executive order to freeze US assets of anyone considered a threat to the Lebanese government.
George Bush's order covers those wanting to reassert Syria's control over Lebanon and anyone judged to be contributing to the breakdown of the country's rule of law.
It is in the second clause in that second sentence that the real chutzpah of Bush's action resides. Once again our administration has hurled us into a strategy of fighting extremism with extremism, this time invoking that weapon made notorious during the Nixon Administration, the "enemies list."
One also has to wonder whether or not this executive order is likely to have any impact other than giving an enormous raspberry to Theodore Roosevelt's advice to speak softly and carry a big stick. Given all the reports we can now examine concerned with the financing of terrorist acts, it is hard to imagine that the enemies in question are tying up their resources in the United States when there are so many better alternatives. Meanwhile, at least according to the Al Jazeera account, under the executive order all United States citizens are prohibited "from doing business with people officially identified as threats to Lebanon," where, of course, "officially identified" means "the ones we tell you to avoid."
This is yet another example of the folly behind the very concept of a "war on terror." Once again we must invoke Gore Vidal's proposition that the second attack on the World Trade Center, like its less successful predecessor, was neither more nor less than a criminal act. There are already plenty of laws in place that cover business activities that support criminal objectives. There is no need to supplement that legal foundation with an executive order, let alone an enemies list. The only consequence of this latest act of Presidential chutzpah is that any social capital that the United States may still have left in its resources for resolving the problems in the Middle East has now been squandered (just as so many of our other resources have been squandered).