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President Bush's foreign policy
Article added on May 3, 2004
  
US President George W. Bush's foreign policy rises many questions. His Iraq policy seems to have reached a dead-end: increasing troop casualties, retreat or announced retreat of troops from Iraq by US allies, humiliation and torture of captured terrorists and/or insurgents by US and British soldiers, threat of civil war.

Nevertheless, the intervention in Iraq was necessary. To quote from March 2003 Cosmopolis article: "In any event, the problem is not the existence of weapons of mass destruction, but Saddam Hussein. Only regime change can bring durable peace to the region." Saddam Hussein had not only produced but also used weapons of mass destruction in the past. It was probable that he still had some since he could not prove that he had destroyed them. Incidentally, some of them may still exist.

It should not be forgotten that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had not complied with more than a dozen UN resolutions before the war. He was very uncooperative and UN resolutions did not impress him. The UN had lost its credibility in Iraq a long time ago. Action was needed. Mass protests in Western cities and petitions by intellectuals and artists may impress a democratically elected president, but not a bloody dictator such as Saddam Hussein.

President Bush's administration was quite unscrupulous in advancing reasons for going to war. A low point was Colin Powell's presentation in front of the UN Security Council in New York. However, most people would agree that Donald Rumsfeld's military strategy in the war against Iraq was quite effective. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his diplomatic strategy. And worse, a substantial post-war plan for Iraq probably never existed.

A lot has been written about the errors made by President Bush and his team. Instead of pointing to the fact that Iraqi soldiers have not been disarmed and the like, I would rather insist on other inadequate preparations:

American soldiers often come from low income classes and lack higher education. They were totally unprepared for the Muslim and Arab world. All soldiers should have been taught the 200 most common words of the predominant language in their area of engagement in order to allow them basic communication with the people there. Instead, unable to speak the language and wearing high-tech gear, most soldiers resembled aliens from another planet.

Furthermore, hundreds of specialists fluent in the regional languages should have been trained to instruct local police forces, judges, teachers, etc. Only the combination of direct contacts with the population and immediate concrete steps to improve the economic and social situation can bring durable change to the region.

Bush's recent support for Ariel Sharon's hard line, especially legitimizing Jewish settlements in occupied territories, makes the US President lose even more of the little credibility he still had in the Arab and Islamic world. Washington's ability to act as an honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians has been damaged, and the US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan appear in an even darker light in the eyes of most people in the Arab and Islamic world, where conspiracy theories about "US and Jewish imperialism" and the like are popular, even among educated people.

The intervention in Afghanistan has not yet yielded the expected results. The danger of a new civil still remains. The country is again (or simply still) by far the world's largest heroin producer and exporter. As in the case of Iraq, after the military success, the real fight for peace only begins.

And then there is the sad chapter of US-European relations. The tone has been rude, diplomatic skills have been lacking on both sides, and the result has been disastrous. When George W. Bush, the man from a wealthy family who had almost never traveled abroad, became president, he seemed to be one of the most unprepared men for this job in US history. Unfortunately, his actions so far have not proven the contrary. It is also worrying that the skilled team around him - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice (especially in the last two I had high hopes) - have partly disappointed.

If we look further back, President Clinton's foreign and military policy was not more successful. He did not try to win domestic support for the Kyoto protocol, which could not only help to preserve the environment, but to prevent future conflicts resulting from ecological disasters. Furthermore, after the failed US intervention in Somalia in 1993, Clinton lacked the courage to confront Saddam Hussein militarily. In a few years time, with most of the sanctions on Iraq lifted - as especially French President Chirac had planned - the dictator would have again had the means to build up a military force with the capacity to threaten his neighbors.

Speaking of Clinton, Rwanda has taught us how disastrous non-intervention can be. In 1994, some 800,000 people were killed because the United States, the United Nations and the rest of the world remained silent. If Americans, Europeans, Christians, Jews and/or oil had been involved, intervention would have been immediate, we would commemorate this genocide on a yearly basis, and the literature on the subject would fill entire libraries. Where were all this peace-loving people in 1994, holding up "Pace" flags and signs in defense of the Tutsis who were about to be exterminated by the Hutus? Most people - and not only the peace activists - probably don't even remember whether the Hutus killed the Tutsis or the other way around. One final note regarding Bill Clinton: documents released ten years after the events of 1994 prove that he and his administration knew that a "final solution" was under way. (On the subject of inadequate US interventions see the book by Samantha Power: A Problem From Hell).

All the world's democracies have a vital interest in turning the US-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq into a success story. Thousands of innocent civilians, children, women and men as well as thousands of soldiers - who are human beings too - have lost their lives. Let their sacrifice not be in vain. The recent retreat or announced retreat of troops from Iraq by countries such as Spain, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Norway sends out the wrong signal to terrorists and other insurgents. A retreat of US troops would be disastrous and probably lead to civil war, wipe out the moderate Iraqis and lead to a radical regime.

The humiliation and torture of captured terrorists and/or insurgents by - hopefully only by a handful of - US and British troops are disgusting and do not help the cause of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq at all. The soldiers involved must be disciplined quickly and severely and their punishment made public as a clear sign that the allied forces will not tolerate hideous actions by its troops.

The time for a fresh start in the US Iraq policy has come, whether on the basis of a (symbolic) new UN resolution, the many existing ones or on the basis of a major conference. All the world's major powers should be involved and put the intervention in Iraq on a new legal, political and moral basis. Only new, better prepared and motivated troops, civilian instructors and aid workers from around the world can turn post-Saddam Iraq into a success story. Let's hope it is not too late, or else years of unrest or civil war may lie ahead of us.



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 © www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber All rights reserved.