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One Year On, Bush Presides Over More Dangerous World
Published on Tuesday, January 22, 2002 by the Inter Press Service
One Year On, Bush Presides Over More Dangerous World
by Jim Lobe
 
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 bleakness.

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 campaign platform.

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 overall make-up.

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 al-Qaeda's finances.

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 action.

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 Washington.

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 at all.

Copyright © 2001 IPS-Inter Press Service

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