Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bush's vision: Democratic criticisms

The February issue of American Prospect magazine carried a set of articles taking a critical look at various aspects of the Bush foreign policy.  It's an impressive collection, and worth checking out for those who are following the issues covered.  Below I'm linking to the foreign policy articles and providing brief quotes from them.  A couple of the articles I've already referenced in previous posts.

Paul Starr, Michael Tomasky and Robert Kuttner, "The Liberal Uses of Power", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.

As the sole superpower in the world, the United States is in an extraordinary position to shape the rules and practices of the international system. That system can augment our power, as it did during the Cold War, through a system of partnerships with other countries, based on consultation and joint decision making. Instead, under Bush’s leadership, the United States is intent on setting a unilateral course, which other countries are welcome to join if they accept our terms. That approach appeals to a deep, conservative nationalist tendency in America. From the insular conservatism that Bush advocated in 2000, it is but a short step to the missionary neoconservatism that he espouses today. Both are dismissive of a cooperative international framework. But acting unilaterally, the United States will face twin problems of its own making at home and abroad. First, as in Iraq, American taxpayers will assume an outsized share of the military burden of maintaining world order. And second, we will continue generating hostility elsewhere in the world and spurring other countries, including our traditional allies, to do what they have already begun: strengthen their own partnerships, like the European Union, separate from and perhaps increasingly in opposition to us. The liberal alternative to Bush is not to lessen our power but to listen to the world and, in the process, to add to the power that we and other liberal democracies can marshal to strengthen our security and freedom and to get on with the forgotten agenda of protecting the global environment and alleviating the poverty and misery that are still the fate of hundreds of millions of the world’s people. (my emphasis)

The point I highlighted is one that'soften misuderstood. Rightwing isolationism is the flip side of a coin whose other side is aggressive, militaristic unilateralism.  This is a big reason that my enthusiasm for "paleo-conservative" criticisms of the Iraq War - like those from Pat Buchanan and his magazine American Conservative - is limited.

I've previously quoted from Juan Cole's "Theocracy Now" on the political situation in Iraq which is in this same issue.

Asra Nomani, "Pulpit Bullies", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.

The problems in the Morgantown Muslim community are symbolic of the crisis in leadership facing the American Muslim world. They underscore the challenges that the emerging progressive Muslim community faces in trying to create a new reality of inclusion, tolerance, and balance. While seemingly far removed from the issues of corruption and intimidation that define the political process from Iraq to Afghanistan, the problems facing the American Muslim community, sitting in the bastion of democracy, are driven by some of the same impulses. Questions about democracy in Islam are not restricted to faraway lands but also echo in Muslim communities in America. The anatomy of a mosque in Morgantown also reflects the peculiar challenges America faces with some Muslims who wear the laurels of success in the United States.

Michael Steinberger, "Neo-Economics", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.

To the neocons[ervatives], globalization has always been a dangerous illusion, military might the only currency that ultimately matters. The president evidently follows this line of thinking: No president who takes geoeconomics seriously would ever have appointed Treasury secretaries as inept as Paul O’Neill and John Snow. These appointments hint at the real problem: Bush, with his constricted worldview and benighted conception of American power, just doesn’t attach much importance to U.S. economic leadership.

The results of Bush’s loyalty to this vision are potentially calamitous. The administration’s indifference to global economics has created a void that is quietly being filled by both the European Union and, more ominously, China. If the dollar were to crash, it could lead to a deep recession in the United States and abroad. Indeed, by disavowing the link between economic integration and geopolitical stability and by woefully undervaluing the link between U.S. global economic leadership and U.S. national security, Bush and the neocons, in their quest to turn what they extol as America’s unipolar moment into a unipolar era, are in the process of bringing the moment to a premature close. (my emphasis)

Graham Allison, "The Gravest Danger", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.

Russia’s 12-time-zone expanse contains more nuclear weapons and materials than any country in the world, including more than 8,000 assembled warheads and enough weapons-usable material for 80,000 more, much of it vulnerable to theft. Thirteen years on, according to Department of Energy data, not even half of Russia’s nuclear weapons and materials have been secured to acceptable standards. These present attractive targets for terrorists shopping for a bomb. In her confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed, stating, “I really can think of nothing more important than being able to proceed with the safe dismantlement of the Soviet arsenal, with nuclear safeguards to make certain that nuclear-weapons facilities and the like are well secured.”

But after America was attacked by bin Laden, what happened to U.S. spending and related efforts to secure nuclear weapons? Funding for the critical Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program for securing loose fissile material remained at about the same level. And the brute fact is that in Russia, fewer potential nuclear bombs were secured in the two years after 9-11 than in the two years before. (my emphasis)

Michael Tomasky, "Against the Neocons", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.  An interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser under President Carter. 

MT: What does all this leave internationalists and realists to say about the world?
ZB: It leaves the realists still with the reality of other practical problems for which neoconservative solutions have been discredited. One would have to be close to insane to say that our experience in Iraq has been an unqualified success. If the Iraqis are smart enough to ask us to leave, and if we are smart enough actually to leave, the fact remains that the Iraq operation has gravely undermined American global credibility. It has even more seriously compromised us morally. It has shown the limits of our warfare capability for dealing with political conflict. It has cost tens of billions of dollars more than originally estimated. And it would take a very naive president to again succumb to the same people who first demagogued about the need to go to war, who vastly exaggerated the welcome we would receive, who mismanaged the political dimensions of the war.
(my emphasis)

Tara McKelvey, "Ritual Abuse", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.

For the most part, experts advise against torture. [FBI] agents who visited Guantanamo Bay questioned the harsh strategies “in terms of effectiveness,” according to a May 13, 2004, e-mail obtained by the ACLU. Military officials say they are outraged. “Our policy has always been to treat detainees humanely,” says Lieutenant Colonel John Skinner, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman. “All credible allegations of mistreatment are always investigated.”

Yet recent investigations, including a report by Vice Admiral Albert Church on interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been postponed indefinitely. In August 2004, Defense Department spokesmen said the Church report would be released within weeks. In early February, Skinner said a draft had been circulated at the Pentagon. But the final report has yet to appear. “It’ll be out when it’s completely done,” Skinner says.

Andrew Moravcsik, "An Ocean Apart", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.  This article is good in saying explicitly what a lot of commentary on US-European relations tiptoes around: that many Republicans are downright hostile to democratic Europe.

Despite abiding common trans-Atlantic interests, however, many in and close to the Bush administration consider a united Europe at best an irrelevance and at worst a fundamental threat to U.S. interests. The disappearance of the Soviet threat in Europe and the increase in U.S. defense to nearly 50 percent of world military expenditures mean that the United States finds itself less dependent on its allies for conducting classic military missions than at any time in the past half-century.

Some American conservatives even favor an all-out diplomatic attack on the EU. They fear that France and Germany, having revealed fundamental opposition to the United States in the Iraq crisis, seek to exploit the new EU constitution to neutralize America’s ostensible allies in Europe, such as Britain, Spain, Italy, and Poland. ...

Jeffrey Cimbalo, a private lawyer writing in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, advises the United States to “end its uncritical support of European integration.” As in the Iraq War, the United States should aim to “divide and conquer” Europe by forcing a stark choice between the EU and NATO. The United States, Cimbalo contends, should publicly encourage populations in the United Kingdom, Poland, and Denmark to reject the new European constitution pending renegotiation of its security clauses to permit a permanent “opt out.” Once that is in place, the United States should eject any participants in the EU arrangements from NATO, or seek “bilateral or multilateral strategic arrangements … to replicate NATO’s core of close supporters.” (my emphasis)

Clyde Prestowitz, "China as No. 1", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.

The second-biggest lender to the United States after Japan is China. Those who think this dependence has no diplomatic consequences are naive. For more than 50 years, American policy was to keep China out of the Korean Peninsula. Today, the U.S. government has outsourced thehandling of North Korea to Beijing. When Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao came recently to Washington, American supporters of Taiwan were shocked and disappointed by his warning to the Taiwanese against any deviation from the long-standing “one China” formulation. American trade officials who ask Beijing to offer more protection for U.S. intellectual property, or to revalue its currency, are politely rebuffed. (my emphasis)

Flynt Leverett, "The Middle East: Thinking Big", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.

Unfortunately, while talking big, the president has thought small -- in an overly compartmentalized manner -- about each of these issues. In the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, the distribution of power among the states along the strategically vital Persian Gulf has been thrown into a potentially dangerous imbalance. With a severely weakened Iraq, Iran is emerging as a more powerful state in the region. Along with the prospect of a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad, the possibility of a nuclear-capable Iran under consolidated conservative leadership (with reformist President Mohammed Khatami stepping down in June) represents a potential watershed in the Persian Gulf’s balance of power, causing concern in Sunni-majority states throughout the region. The negative impact on regional stability of an increase in Iran’s power and assertiveness would be exacerbated if a consolidated conservative leadership in Tehran decided once again to step up Iranian support to large but politically marginalized Shia populations in states like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait. At the same time, America’s capacity to deal with this situation through its traditional bilateral partnerships in the region has been weakened by the Bush administration’s largely self-inflicted blows to its credibility as a mediator between Arabs and Israelis and as a promoter of reform.  (my emphasis)

Matthew Yglesias, "Disconnected", The American Prospect Online, Feb 21, 2005.  Yglesias is a capable political writer. But I found this article on the Democratic Party's message on foreign policy to be surprisingly superficial.  He operates from the conventional wisdom that voters tend to trust Republicans more on national security, an assumption that polling data over years has shown to be over-simplified, at best.  And his criticisms of the Kerry campaign are off-base.

The problems in Kerry’s campaign reflected deeper structural problems inside Democratic politics. Despite a reasonably broad consensus among left-of-center security hands about what should be done, the party’s political operatives are unable to turn that consensus into a compelling political narrative. Democrats are reluctant to address security issues except when forced to do so, and, as a result, they discover that when they are so forced, they aren’t very good at it. Political failure breeds further reluctance, which breeds further failure -- no one develops the relevant ability to spin security for partisan gain, and because no one can win on security, no one learns how to campaign on it.

1 comment:

happyb8888 said...

Well you see... the war in the Mid East, the trashing of the environment, all of this is part of the neocon agenda to push for Armageddon.  The war will hearold the return of Christ, and if that happens, who needs the earth to be in good condition because the Bible says it will be destroyed.  They expect the return will come between 4 seconds from now and 40 years.  Everything they are doing shows their commitment to this reasoning.

That Happy Chica,
Marcia Ellen