US foreign policy in bad shape

Special comment by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last night: Bush’s legacy: The president who cried wolf

Most importantly, perhaps, Mr. Bush, the plan fails because it still depends on your credibility.

[...]

In fact, when you briefed news correspondents off-the-record before the speech, they were told, once again, “if you knew what we knew … if you saw what we saw … ”

“If you knew what we knew” was how we got into this morass in Iraq in the first place.

The problem arose when it turned out that the question wasn’t whether we knew what you knew, but whether you knew what you knew.

You, sir, have become the president who cried wolf.

All that you say about Iraq now could be gospel.

All that you say about Iran and Syria now could be prescient and essential.

We no longer have a clue, sir.

We have heard too many stories.

[...]

Also worth reading is this recent article in the Washington Post by the former national coordinator for counterterrorism, Richard A. Clarke: While You Were at War . . .

Without the distraction of the Iraq war, the administration would have spent this past year — indeed, every year since Sept. 11, 2001 — focused on al-Qaeda. But beyond al-Qaeda and the broader struggle for peaceful coexistence with (and within) Islam, seven key “fires in the in-box” national security issues remain unattended, deteriorating and threatening, all while Washington’s grown-up 7-year-olds play herd ball with Iraq.

The “fires in the in-box”, in his view, are:

  • Global warming
  • Russian revanchism
  • Latin America’s leftist lurch
  • Africa at war
  • Arms control freeze
  • Transnational crime
  • The Pakistani-Afghan border

Not to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where it seems the US has also taken a hands-off approach and pretty much nothing has been achieved over the past six years. That’s very little when you consider that this may well be the root cause for a plethora of other problems in the region and in the world today. The same goes for the conflict between Syria and Israel, or between Syria and Lebanon, or within Lebanon.

That part of the world is a complete mess (at least politically), but the US is not excerting the kind of leadership that’s needed to turn things around.

And in another article in the Washington Post, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski notes Five Flaws in the President’s Plan (via Before Decisions):

  • The decision to escalate the level of the U.S. military involvement while imposing “benchmarks” on the “sovereign” Iraqi regime, and to emphasize the external threat posed by Syria and Iran, leaves the administration with two options once it becomes clear — as it almost certainly will — that the benchmarks are not being met. One option is to adopt the policy of “blame and run”: i.e., to withdraw because the Iraqi government failed to deliver. That would not provide a remedy for the dubious “falling dominoes” scenario, which the president so often has outlined as the inevitable, horrific consequence of U.S. withdrawal. The other alternative, perhaps already lurking in the back of Bush’s mind, is to widen the conflict by taking military action against Syria or Iran. It is a safe bet that some of the neocons around the president and outside the White House will be pushing for that. Others, such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, may also favor it.
  • The speech did not explore even the possibility of developing a framework for an eventual political solution. The search for a political solution would require a serious dialogue about a joint American-Iraqi decision regarding the eventual date of a U.S. withdrawal with all genuine Iraqi political leaders who command respect and wield physical power. The majority of the Iraqi people, opinion polls show, favor such a withdrawal within a relatively short period. A jointly set date would facilitate an effort to engage all of Iraq’s neighbors in a serious discussion about regional security and stability. The U.S. refusal to explore the possibility of talks with Iran and Syria is a policy of self-ostracism that fits well into the administration’s diplomatic style of relying on sloganeering as a substitute for strategizing.
  • The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush’s policy

Lots of potential for a lot of improvement for the next administration.

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