George Bush Flunks His Final Exam in Foreign Policy 101
Jon B. Alterman is director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Prior to joining CSIS, he served as a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State and as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.
So, first I present exhibit 1, Alterman on Bush:
On every issue that the administration has prioritized -- promoting Arab-Israeli peace, liberating Lebanon from Syrian and Iranian influence, democratizing Egypt, stabilizing Iraq, and containing Iran -- America's foes have grown stronger and its allies have grown weaker. Even more troublingly, virtually all of these problems are worsening as the administration prepares to leave office.
The problem is not merely one of happenstance or bad luck. Instead, it has to do with fundamental errors in analysis and planning, an intolerance of ambiguity, and a deeply flawed assessment of the capacities of American power. . . .
But there was an equally important failing. That was the conviction that among the most powerful tools that the U.S. government could use against its foes was withholding recognition and refusing dialogue. It is hard to find a single instance in which such boycotts were effective. Rather than being on the ropes, the targets of those efforts -- Hamas, Hezbollah, the Syrian and Iranian governments, and more -- are all far more secure than they were two years ago. That's not a birth pang of democracy, it's a whiff of failure.
Next, exhibit 2, a conservative columnist who needs no introduction, David Brooks, channels Barack Obama from his interview notes:
they’re going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims ... [but] ... if they decide to shift, we’re going to recognize that. That’s an evolution that should be recognized.
The debate we’re going to be having with John McCain is how do we understand the blend of military action to diplomatic action that we are going to undertake. I constantly reject this notion that any hint of strategies involving diplomacy are somehow soft or indicate surrender or means that you are not going to crack down on terrorism. Those are the terms of debate that have led to blunder after blunder.
The generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.
If your opponents are looking for your destruction it’s hard to sit across the table from them ... There are rarely purely ideological movements out there. We can encourage actors to think in practical and not ideological terms. We can strengthen those elements that are making practical calculations.
This is not an argument between Democrats and Republicans ... It’s an argument between ideology and foreign policy realism. I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush. I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This column by Brooks corroborates my thinking. Obama can insert a terminal punctuation to the Bush-McCain apostasy in American foreign policy. We can believe in our hopes and Obama's promise for a restoration of our American traditions of realism, sanity and legitimate leadership of the free world.
Obama is the one who can put America Barack on track!