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America as lone ranger
By H.D.S. Greenway, 9/6/2002
NATIONAL SECURITY adviser Condoleezza Rice told The New Yorker magazine that this post-Sept. 11 year has been ''analogous to 1945 to 1947,'' the period that set American foreign policy in its containment of the Soviet Union for the second half of the 20th century.
As the anniversary of that fateful September day approaches, new doctrines, strategies, and tactics are emerging from a secretive and partisan Bush administration, often hotly contested. Fiery penumbras of confidential deliberations flare up from the hot surfaces of policy debates in the form of astonishing news leaks. But so far, the Bush administration's record on foreign policy has been mixed to poor.
Niccolo Machiavelli said: ''A war is just when it is necessary,'' but so far the US government has not adequately made its case for invading Iraq. Stung by the public criticism from some of his father's closest advisers and generals - notably Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, and Anthony Zinni - the president reversed course this week and promised to take his case to Congress.
It's not that anybody likes Saddam Hussein, but the worry is that President Bush has his priorities wrong. Attacking Iraq could distract from, and even harm, the war on terrorism, and some positive movement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is needed if the necessary allies in the region are to be won over.
As it is, with the single exception of Britain, virtually all our allies in Europe and in the Arab world, as well as Russia and China, are opposed to the Bush administration's we-can-go-it-alone approach. As the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, Karl Kaiser, told The Boston Globe: ''To not even try to use the Security Council, as (Vice President) Cheney appears to be arguing, is a total denial of what the US and Europe have stood for during the last half century.'' Bush needs to build a national and international consensus the way his father did.
A doctrine of preemptive strikes against terrorism, which the administration is pushing, makes sense against such an elusive target as Al Qaeda. Certainly mutually assured destruction, which served us well in the Cold War, is no deterrent against people who are willing to die in order to hurt us. But within a preemptive strike policy lie the seeds of real trouble. It is a doctrine that, if mishandled, could run roughshod over every rule of international law and norms that govern the intercourse of nations.
But most dangerous of all is what one might call the new belligerency in the administration's approach to foreign affairs. It is a stick-it-in-your-eye belligerency that is at best unnecessary and at worst destructive to our ultimate goals. It started well before Sept. 11, with a go-it-alone attitude that seemed to say that the last remaining superpower is a law unto itself and that the rest of the world must conform or else.
There was plenty wrong with the Kyoto Treaty on the environment, and many of our close friends had not ratified it. But the Bush administration went out of its way to be bellicose about rejecting it instead of working with others to improve it. There are also lots of problems with the new International Criminal Court, but again, the Bush administration has seemed hysterically opposed instead of working quietly to ensure that it will not be misused against Americans.
The ''axis of evil'' approach, especially with Iran, makes unnecessarily hostile our relations with a very prickly country with which we should be trying to improve relations, not make things worse. As for the North Koreans, better to talk to them instead of brushing them off as evil, which will do little to modify their behavior.
Leaks on a new nuclear strategy that would contemplate using nukes against China and Russia as well as the conventional ''rogue states'' cannot help our foreign policy in its quest against international terror. The leaking of war plans that envision using countries in an invasion of Iraq that have not yet been consulted shows a lack of discipline within the administration's ranks that is frightening.
As for the Middle East, it would be hard to contemplate a more confused and contradictory handling of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Bush allowed the hawks to cut the more sensible policies of Secretary of State Colin Powell off at the knees. Bush's capitulation to Ariel Sharon's view that only brute force can win the day will be seen in the future as one of the great wrong turns in a tragedy that has seen so many roads not taken.
The wily Sharon has obtained from the Bush administration a carte blanch to do whatever he likes to the Palestinians by making the false parallel between Palestinian national aspirations and Al Qaeda's nihilistic and messianic mission to remove American influence from the Muslim world.
The harbinger of this new belligerence was apparent in an internal Defense Department paper from the first Bush administration, when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense. It suggested that the role of the United States was not to persuade and lead the world towards constructive alliances and mutual benefits but to prevent any other country from becoming a great power - by force if necessary.
The new belligerence talks of ignoring the wishes and thoughts of allies thought feckless, timid, and irresponsible. This is sometimes called ''realism,'' but of course it is not. Realists know that if the war on terror is ever to be won it will depend on the good will and cooperation of every ally we can enlist - not the militantly unilateralist approach towards which the administration seems to be inexorably drifting.
-- (Dumbya's @ suicidal. fantasy), September 07, 2002
Neville Chamberlain redux.
-- (appeasers @ peaceful.pieces), September 07, 2002.