WASHINGTON - One year after George W. Bush was sworn in as president,
prospects for a more peaceful, democratic and equitable
world order about which his predecessor, Bill Clinton, used
to wax eloquent, appear to have receded.
Os ama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, blamed for the
Sep. 11 terrorist attacks that, clearly, were planned well
before Bush was elected, contributed much to the year's
However, the hawkish, nationalistic, and unilateralist
policies of Bush's administration have raised tensions from
Israel to Indonesia, and from Colombia to the Koreas.
Whatever hopes existed in the late 1990s for a new era of
global cooperation in combating poverty, disease, and
threats to the environment seem to have evaporated.
When Bush took office, most foreign-policy analysts were
considerably more sanguine. Bush's choice of ret. Gen. Colin
Powell, a man of entirely mainstream views, as his secretary
of state suggested more continuity with Clinton's
more-internationalist approach to world affairs than a sharp
turn toward the radical planks that made up the Republican
Similarly, the closeness of the election - Bush was the
first candidate in more than a century to win the White
House despite losing the popular vote - also convinced many
observers that he would have to ''govern from the center''
and drop, delay, or at least substantially dilute campaign
pledges to the Republican right, such as building a national
missile defense (NMD) system, which, according to the U.S.
intelligence community, will likely to set an arms race with
China that could ripple across the Eurasian landmass from
Japan to the Mediterranean.
Finally, the fact that Bush's father, the much more worldly
and informed George H.W. Bush, was in itself a reassurance
for many who were worried about the younger George's clear
lack of interest in foreign affairs and his close ties to
the Christian Right..
So, much of the foreign-policy establishment was stunned
when, after six weeks in office, Bush ostentatiously pulled
the plug on visiting South Korean President and Nobel Peace
laureate Kim Dae Jung's ''sunshine policy'' toward North
Korea by announcing that Washington had no intention of
continuing high-level talks with Pyongyang aimed at freezing
the North's ballistic missile program. The move caught
Powell, who had assured reporters of Bush's full support for
Kim just the day before, completely by surprise.
Two weeks later, Bush humiliated Powell again - and angered
visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, as well as
other European leaders - when he denounced the Kyoto
Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in crudely
nationalistic terms. ''(W)e will not do anything that harms
our economy, because first things first are the people who
live in America; that's my priority.''
Bush's subsequent withdrawal from the Kyoto negotiations was
simply the first among a whole series of moves that
demonstrated his administration's contempt for multilateral
forums, particularly in the arms-control area.
It subsequently disavowed both the global ban on land mines
and the Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty (CTBT);
sabotaged UN negotiations on limiting international commerce
in small arms; and walked out of another conference on
strengthening the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and
later announced that the treaty was ''dead'' so far as
Washington was concerned.
Taking advantage of popular fears created by the Sep 11
attacks and ignoring recent intelligence estimates that
found that ballistic missiles were the least likely delivery
vehicle to be used by terrorists or ''rogue states'' to
attack the US with weapons of mass destruction, Bush
capped the year in December by officially withdrawing from
the ABM Treaty, viewed by Russia and most nuclear analysts
as ''the cornerstone'' of international arms control, to
accelerate development of NMD.
The unilateralist and surly attitudes behind these decisions
should not have been surprising, given the administration's
At the Pentagon, in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, and
on the National Security Council staff, the hawks and
unilateralists - usually in combination - clearly dominate
the administration. Virtually of them are men, and they have
strong likes and dislikes. They see Israel as a strategic
ally and are especially fond of right-wing Likud governments
there. They consider China, Iraq and Iran to be especially
dangerous to US interests in parts of the world where they
believe Washington's hegemony should be unchallenged.
In the aftermath of Sep 11, many of the same analysts who
earlier were hopeful that Bush would moderate his campaign
positions, argued that his '' war against terrorism'' would
force him to recognize the virtues of multilateralism, if,
for no other reason than Washington required the
co-operation of many foreign nations to close down
Wrong again. As coined by one senior State Department
official, the administration has opted for ''multilateralism
a la carte,'' meaning that it will co-operate with other
countries only to the extent that it serves the US
interest and does not compromise Washington's own freedom of
That point has been made crystal clear by the conduct of the
war in Afghanistan in which the administration not only
turned down offers of military help from virtually all of
its closest allies except Britain, but deliberately held up
the insertion of European-led peace-keeping troops precisely
because, in the words of Britain's top commander, that they
might get in the way of Washington's ''high-tech, Wild
West'' military operations and ''single-minded'' hunt for
al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.
While Washington pursued its quarry, vast parts of
Afghanistan remained inaccessible to relief convoys as
starvation spread with the onset of winter and the country
returned to the warlordism, banditry, and anarchy which
helped give rise to the Taliban in the first place. Even
now, the administration, just as it promised to its
right-wing supporters, is resisting the use of US soldiers
as peacekeepers to help stabilize the war-torn land and thus
boost the authority of its new government, handpicked by
Pentagon hawks have meanwhile been scanning the horizon for
new theaters in the anti-terrorism struggle including the
Philippines, Indonesia, Yemen, Somalia, the former Soviet
Central Asia, Lebanon and, Iraq of course, and maybe even
Iran - much as the Kennedy administration looked for places,
like Indochina, where it could try out its new
counter-insurgency doctrines in the early 1960s. The main
difference, however, is that counterinsurgency was
conceived as a comprehensive strategy aimed at winning
''hearts and minds,'' while hard-liners appear to believe
that military force alone can do the job.
Meanwhile, US involvement in global peacemaking - a major
priority under Clinton - has simply wilted on the vine.
In addition to stopping Korean reconciliation virtually in
its tracks last March, Bush - to Powell's clear discomfort -
has watched impassively as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
was increasingly taken over by extremists on both sides over
the past year and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon moved step by
step to weaken, humiliate and dismantle Yasser Arafat's
Palestine Authority and thus pound the final nail in the
coffin of the eight-year-old, U.S.-led Oslo peace process.
Similarly, Washington was conspicuously absent in efforts to
keep alive the three-year peace process in Colombia, where
there are already several hundred US advisers and to which
it is planning to increase aid apparently in anticipation of
the collapse of peace efforts. In Africa, apart from
remaining on good terms with key oil-producers and South
Africa, the administration has shown scarcely any interest
Copyright © 2001 IPS-Inter Press Service