BUSH’S FOREIGN POLICY- AN ACCOUNTING
As the Bush presidency draws to a close, we believe it to be appropriate to review its international policies record in office, against current developments in the nations on which we regularly report.
The defining moments perhaps were the awful events of 9/11 whereupon all previous foreign policy assumptions were put on hold and re-evaluated in the light of a seemingly unprovoked attack on mainland America.
Later when the culprits were identified, when the world needed to know what possible provocation brought 19 young men to together to kill themselves in order to slaughter 3000, Bin Laden made statements and suicide videos started to appear, then also did the first insights.
‘American boots treading on the sands once trodden by the prophet’s sandals’ extraordinarily, was one ‘provocation’ we were told (although US forces had already been moving out, at Saudi government request, to Qatar). A mix of Arab nationalism with islamic fundamentalism talked generally in terms of US /Western colonialism, which included the Russians in Chechnya, but more specifically in terms of unconditional US support for Israel which included the inherited US policy of pretending the Israeli nuclear arsenal didn’t exist.
Al Qaeda’s declared policy is to seek the downfall of leaderships of all Arab nations, many of which are supported by the US, which they condemn as being deeply corrupt and tyrannical. But is not the absence of civil rights that fires up Al Qaeda. These Arab nations are all condemned because they do not submit to Shariah law, nor operate their nations as theocracies. Nothing less than the expulsion of US and indeed Europeans and other non-arabs, from all Islamic lands, is what al Qaeda seeks, together with the theocratisation of all Islamic states past and present. This includes in Europe not only Bosnia in the Balkans, but even such as “Andalusia” - modern Spain that once, until half a millennium ago was under the sway of Arab conquerors who themselves were in due course conquered.
Such an perverse agenda would have remained an historical curiosity, a footnote to the world politics of our times, had it not been for those fateful September hi-jackings converting peaceful domestic airliners into flying bombs. These in turn presaged an al Qaeda campaign of suicide bombings, killing civilians of course, in Europe.
The initial US response captured massive support world-wide. The assailant’s base in Afghanistan was under the protection of the then government of that nation, the Taleban regime, who refused to evict. The Taleban was already fighting a civil war against Afghans of the Northern Alliance.
The day before 9/11, the brilliant leader of that Alliance Mohammed Shah Massoud, was assassinated as a favour to the Taleban, by al Qaeda agents inside his own HQ. In short order, the US supplied weaponry, air support and trained ground fire controllers, and together with the British and other friendly nations, inserted special forces behind Taleban lines, searching for Osama Bin Laden. The US intervention on behalf of the Northern Alliance, swiftly led to the Taleban’s and al Qaeda’s defeat and retreat from the cities, into the wild and lawless mountains of the vast border area with Pakistan. It was an efficient and effective military response to the outrage, except that once in the mountains, the leaders managed to slip away into this frontier area, which no government nor invader has ever been able to control.
Then to the amazement of the watching world the escaped leaderships of both the Taleban and al Qaeda were not pursued across the Pakistani border – the doctrine of ‘hot pursuit’ seeming obvious in these circumstances - the friendly government of Pakistan if they had resisted US and Alliance forces doing the job, would have had to have been ‘squared’ by whatever means, to accept for their own forces on the ground something like the decisive support the Northern Alliance received from the US in Afghanistan.
Instead Special Forces and hi-tech surveillance units were given and seven years later still have, the task of locating and dealing with the fugitive leaderships, who themselves had prior experience from the Soviet occupation of being ‘hi- tech hunted’.
Meanwhile astonishingly, with the job unfinished, a massive redeployment of US troops took place out of Afghanistan to fight a new, unprovoked war, which all Arab nations and many others assumed and still believe on common sense grounds, was an imperial strike to secure Iraq’s oilfields – amongst the richest in the world. This attack was carried out despite the UN Security Council and many US allies being unable to support the action, which they correctly deemed to be wrong.
The outcome in both IRAQ and
AFGHANISTAN are too well known to need repeating here, but the bottom line is that seven years after 9/11, the architects of the mass murder in New York and Washington are still alive, at liberty and still to some degree internationally operational.
The new president issued what became called ‘the Bush doctrine’ which stated that the US would, whenever it thought it necessary, make a pre-emptive military strike on any nation it regarded as being threatening to US interests. What then of the United Nations, it was asked, the purpose of whose foundation was to prevent war?
V-President Cheney partly answered that question, saying bluntly that the UN was useful in so far as it’s decisions were in US interests.
So much for the Rule of Law.
Neither of the 2008 presidential candidates has yet said that they would repudiate that arrogant doctrine, but it is a major obstacle to the US presidency once more resuming the world-leadership that it forfeited under George.W. Bush!
US Foreign policy seemed to have been removed from Foggy Bottom to the Vice-presidents office at the White House. There was a neo-con influence that manifested itself in a theory that democracy could somehow be imposed (at the point of a gun if necessary), on recalcitrant middle-eastern nations starting with the swiftly conquered
IRAQ. However, as soon as Saddamite repression was lifted there, the hate-wars between different Moslem sects took over, leaving US and allied troops seeking vainly to eliminate the terrorists of both the Shia and Sunni sides.
Into that volatile mix came flocking the foreign fighters of Al Qaeda, few of whom were Iraqi. They widely using the tactic of loading explosives onto religiously hyped-up youths, and killing and maiming targets, including western soldiers, but in the process they killed far greater numbers of hapless Iraqi civilians, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It has taken years for a viable Iraqi government to become effective, but as our
IRAQ report shows, some progress is being made in the transfer of powers, although absorbing armed Sunni irregulars is proving hard for the Shia government to swallow, and frightful terrorist acts still regularly continue. On the economic front there is no agreement between the factions, effectively on splitting the proceeds of an oil law, the results of which are that although the Iraqi government now claims larger oil reserves even than neighbouring Saudi Arabia, exploitation cannot yet proceed. Despite the ‘whistling in the dark’ from Washington, the prospects are not good. General Petraeus whom the White House /Fox News sought to build up as the ‘Victor of Iraq’ was far too canny to fall for that. He said that he “will never declare victory there”, that recent security gains “were not irreversible” and that “the US still faced a long struggle there”.
We still believe our proposed solution ‘PRESCRIPTIONS
IRAQ’ looks better than what is in place.
There was a refusal at the outset by the Bush administration to continue to deal with
NORTH KOREA via the negotiations that the outgoing Clinton government had engaged upon, yet the indications then were that Pyongyang was heading for both advanced missile technology and their own nuclear warhead, both of which pieces of intelligence proved to be true. Belatedly like “shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted” after years of inaction, negotiations, were set up via the Group of Six and despite many difficulties, steady progress was made as we have reported throughout, leading the North Koreans to agree to dismantle their nuclear program in return for certain commitments by the US.
As we reported in our September Update on that country, things suddenly turned sour due to apparent US ‘bad faith’ insisting on new and un-negotiated conditions
after the N.Koreans had largely dismantled the nuclear plant. Like the child’s game of snakes and ladders it seems that the main achievement of years of negotiation has come tumbling down, which may be a cause for celebration within the Cheney camp, who wanted this.
But this had been hailed as his boss, George Bush’s ONE Foreign Policy success!
Our current NORTH KOREA report updates that situation now, in the wake of speculation over a change in leadership, following the reported illness of its leader.
It also looks at prospective successors.
Always Israel – Palestine problems dominated the middle-east agenda but finding any resolution seemed until about their final year or two of office, to engage this US government not at
all. Their Israel policy had been simply to collaborate closely with Likud in Jerusalem. (Sharon’s office during his time and that of Cheney, were in daily communication).
It becomes more and more obvious that there is not going to be any peace solution after what is it, twenty, thirty
years of abortive attempts? No politicians on the Israeli side are single mindedly committed to the idea of a just peace in their neighbourhood. Since the murder of the Israeli Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin not by a Palestinian, but by an Israeli terrorist, their top politicians have steered away from peace. Peace gets you killed, was the subliminal message. So now they “talk the talk”, but do not “walk the walk”.
Clinton seemed to make the attempt. Bush left it for six years, did nothing, and then sent Condaleezza chasing around the middle-east as though it was a new idea.
Sadly the evidence, after all these years, indicates that Israel’s politicians although they might like the idea of peace as an abstract concept, feel that since they are in control of the territory, it is safer to do nothing more than… nothing. There are many Israelis of good will who want peace. Indeed Israeli independent journos and TV units, rather than the international media have often been responsible for much of the footage that has embarrassed the hawks. The absence of progress has riven the Palestinian side and allowed the progress made by Hamas who incredibly once were a client of Israel, who used them as a counter balance to Arafat’s PLO.
The US Israeli lobby is so powerful that elected pols in the US that could change things, will not stick their heads above the parapet, the only thing that shifts them is if Arab oil-producing nations put the pressure on, because they themselves are feeling pressure.
Forget peace, as opposed to defeat for the residents of Palestine! So the Bush US Israeli policy was about something else.
The US flared up whenever any threat to Israel seemed to emerge from its relationship with
SYRIA or IRAN, usually immediately because the Lebanese Hezbollah as a Shia group, are widely regarded as merely Iranian proxies, although they see themselves as Lebanese patriots resisting the Israeli war machine and their invasions of Lebanon.
SYRIA during the Bush period several times sought to make peace with ISRAEL, which for them meant the restoration of their territories on the Golan Heights, captured in war by Israel in the 1960’s. The US taking its cue from Likud was hostile to negotiating with
SYRIA, who quite recently persuaded neighbouring
TURKEY to act as an honest broker, without benefit of US involvement. That was going rather well, but Israel’s domestic political scene is fraught, with every possibility of a change of power and Likud hawk and Cheney pal, Benjamin Natanyahu becoming the new prime minister who would certainly scuttle such talks. It hasn’t happened yet, Tzipi Livni, the new leader of the government party has been leading the Palestinian negotiations since the Annapolis Conference and is believed to be pro-peace. Our
SYRIA Update continues the story.
A perennially touchy IRAN was during the Bush years promoted to being the world’s outstanding ‘demon nation’ after its two former co-nominees in the ‘Axis of Evil’ became forgiven and redeemed. One,
IRAQ, by the cleansing of a US invasion and occupation, the other because it agreed to give up, having demonstrated ownership, its nuclear weapons capacity – (see
NORTH KOREA - but it could be going ‘axis’ again).
IRAN has had a spat going on and no diplomatic relations with the USA, since 1979 – that’s nearly thirty years - when it’s revolutionary students occupied the US Embassy in Tehran.
IRAN is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which agrees not to produce nuclear weapons, but entitles signatories to develop civil nuclear power. Although the president, Ahmadinejad is far from all-powerful in this theocracy, nevertheless his pugnacity has made him a leading hate-figure outside of
Much sabre-rattling came from the White House, but this preparation for war was pre-empted from a most unlikely source. The US Intelligence community, consisting of 16 different intelligence agencies in November 2007 issued a unanimous report, that uncompromisingly said that
IRAN discontinued its nuclear weapons program in 2003, had not resumed it, and would be several years away from having a viable nuclear weapon if they did start it up again.
The White House, as they earlier did with North Korea, has taken the position that to talk to
IRAN would be an act of weakness (the logic of this is not obvious). US
– IRAN discussions may be ongoing, but if so they are at a secret level. Our report on
IRAN updates on the effects of sanctions. We can reasonably expect that a US government without a Cheney in it, may take a different view of direct negotiations, perhaps that of Winston Churchill that holds “jaw jaw to be better than war war.”
PAKISTAN has become the most recent bad dream for the administration, which in it’s second term now included Condi Rice’s Foggy Bottom. At the time of the 9/11 attack this Islamic nuclear-armed nation, was under the control of General Pervez Musharraf, who had brought some stability to the nation and agreed to support the US ‘war on terrorism’. But on US advice he agreed to return to full democracy and accept the constitution. He had himself now been elected president, and set in train a parliamentary vote. The west’s favoured nominee was a woman, a former prime minister who had earlier had to leave the country with her husband, who is now the president. He had been in jail in Pakistan for massive corruption, and during his sojourn with his wife in political exile, managed to acquire several further extradition requests for his prosecution for offences in European countries. His wife was assassinated whilst campaigning, apparently by Islamists, like so many in that country, leaving Zardari as the PPP leader now recently elected to the presidency .
Nothing that could be called stability exists there now. Musharraf was forced to resign. Islamists seem to be seeking to suicide-bomb the country into submission to their desired Islamic state. Nawaz Sharif the shrewdest of their politicians is waiting in the wings for the ‘nation’s call’. But he is as sinister as they come. In his previous stint as prime minister before Musharraf dethroned him, as a Wahhabi he tried to bully the parliament to accept Shariah law, in place of the constitutional law they have had since independence. Our
PAKISTAN Update tells more
RUSSIA has re-emerged on the world stage during the Bush / Cheney years, largely due to a strong and capable president, whose eight year term has co-existed with that of Bush.
At the time of Putin’s election in RUSSIA the country was economically backward, it’s significance largely being in the well publicized doings of its larger than life billionaire oligarchs who then exercised a disproportionate amount of power in the FSU. Eight years later,
RUSSIA is an economic giant, perhaps the most important supplier of oil and gas to the world, certainly that part which is Eurasia. It has played its cards very shrewdly to exploit its natural reserves, its geographical positioning, and its ruthless application of its internal laws in flattening any upstart capitalists that tried to compete with the state itself.
When Bush first met Putin in a meeting set up for that purpose in Slovenia, he rather patronisingly romanced about the Russian hard man’s spiritual qualities, which must have caused some amusement amongst the Russian’s former KGB colleagues. There was never any point during their contemporaneous eight-year terms, when the US president appeared to the world to be the better man.
RUSSIA was opposed to the invasion of
IRAQ for the same reasons as France and Germany, but because they had their own problems in Chechnya, their disagreement tended to be played down in international relationships.
The ongoing story of the Balkans was still there during this period whilst RUSSIA put a lot of investment into
SERBIA, and through its richer citizens and corporations more or less took over the tiny state of Montenegro, when it separated from the rump Yugoslav Federation - by the simple device of buying up its real estate. Then came the crunch issue of Kosovo whose UDI caused a major divide between
RUSSIA as SERBIA’s patron, and the west. This month’s issue of
SERBIA points out how that Russian policy over the
GEORGIAN enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, has knocked away the foundations of their previous high moral stance over Kosovo, leaving former admirers in
SERBIA high and dry!
remains the contemporary open sore in Western relations with RUSSIA.
It was at first reported by the likes of Fox News and the US and UK tabloid
press, as a flat-out Russian ‘invasion’ of the former Soviet colony. The
truth finally ‘got its boots on’ but it had to fight its way out even to be
heard. It was that GEORGIA
had launched a military invasion to reclaim its (de jure but long separated)
region of South Ossetia, by a military coup de main. It came badly unstuck when
the Russians whose (de facto) property it has long been, forcibly
counterattacked and laid about them, doing punitive destruction within GEORGIA
itself, far from the borders of disputed South Ossetia.
Was this “My Pet Goat” Part Two?
There is a curious aspect of this, which has been little commented upon by the
western media. It emerged from a conference of journalists and Russia experts on
September 12th in Sochi, attended by Vladimir Putin. On the night of the
Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, for such it was, coincidence placed both
Putin and Bush at the Olympics in Beijing.
Putin told the conference: “The Georgians launched their attacks at 23.30 on
August 7th. I learned about it the next morning. I spoke to Bush. He said,
“Nobody wants war.” We expected something would happen - that the US would
rein in its regional ally in Tibilsi.
I met him again at the stadium. I had the feeling that his administration
wouldn’t do anything about stopping the conflict. Russian tanks were then
ordered to move on to the South Ossetian capital”.
Could it have been that nobody had told George W Bush, or was it that he was
just enjoying the sportsfest and didn’t want have to do business ‘on
vacation?’ But why did he choose not to stop it, before the Russians
counterattacked into Georgia ?
All sorts of ‘finessing’ has been going on but the basic fact is that the
Georgian military invaded its erstwhile province and the Russians forcibly
evicted them and chased them back over their border – and beyond! The rest of
us are left to define “aggression”.
Russian Fear Of Encirclement
For reasons that have never been quite clear to international observers, the
Bush administration have pushed to extend NATO membership right up to the
borders of RUSSIA
itself, specifically GEORGIA
whilst insisting that it was no longer in business to counter RUSSIA.
Additionally, a US insistence in building an anti-missile base with units
divided between the Czech republic and Poland on the unconvincing grounds that
it was nothing to do with RUSSIA’s
ICBMs, but aimed at interdicting North Korean and Iranian nuclear ICBM’s which
as is well known, don’t exist.
If we in the west don’t believe it, how can he expect the Russians to do so?
Not so long ago, (in historical terms), the USA massively reacted against the
Soviet Union installing missiles in Cuba, seen to be America’s back yard
– a fairly good parallel in reverse, of these installations in Central Europe.
It is surprising that this point is not better appreciated in Washington. It
probably is in fact, but the White House has rolled over any and all objections.
It remains to be seen what the new US President will do about this powerful
As to NATO, although Vice-president Cheney (who else), has reportedly promised
membership to Tibilisi, that is a promise on which he cannot deliver, partly
because he won’t be in office in three months time, but mainly because NATO,
whatever some might think, is not a US subsidiary. Although supreme military
command rests with the appointee of the US Secretary of Defense, because the
main strength of the Alliance is US military power, it is politically controlled
by all of it’s member states.
Cooler heads in Germany in particular and in France, earlier this year,
prevented the swift adoption of Georgia into NATO, wanted by the US. It was a
very sensible objection because there is a provision that any member that is
under attack can call on all the other members to it’s military support.
In the recent GEORGIA
imbroglio, that could have looked remarkably like the 1914 network of
interlocking alliances of WW1, which following the street murder of an Austrian
aristocrat by a Serbian terrorist, led directly and inevitably to one of the
most destructive wars the world has yet known. It seems very unlikely that NATO
members will reward Tibilisi for their recent miscalculation, by extending
Our guess is that the vulnerability of pipelines routed through GEORGIA
which is its main strategic value to both Russia and the West, will require a
Panama canal-type zone solution, leased to the EU perhaps, whose members are far
more involved in this oil/ gas supply than the US. Then the EU can place
protective forces there without the hazard of a Saakashvili ‘adventure’
within Nato, with its dangers of precipitating an alliance-burdened
western world into WWIII.
subject to a tug of war internally as to its potential membership of NATO, as we
describe in this month’s report. It can be easily forgotten that to people
brought up in the USSR, NATO was the ‘evil’ force that threatened them and
their families. Many Ukrainians have deep interlocking family relationships with
Russians and membership of NATO to them somehow menaces their extended families.
Many like the freedoms of independence from Moscow enough, but they don’t
therefore see Moscow as their enemy. Moreover they would geographically be on
any WWIII ‘frontline’ and they had a bellyful of that, in WWI and WWII. So
although their president calls for it, there is probably no majority for
membership. Apart from this, the complexities of Ukrainian domestic politics are
horrendous and becoming more so, as we report in this month’s UKRAINE.
The above are the nations perhaps most affected by the Bush years. As can
be seen eight years have failed to even get close to resolving the problems with
IRAN. What did
seem to be shaping up to a late success in NORTH
KOREA has become unstitched, apparently due to bad faith in the White
House, which could have been a late Cheney ploy to scupper the deal to which he
was opposed. The greatest disgrace of these years is that no progress can be
seen in achieving a solution in the Israel Palestine confrontation. But it is
also a judgement between the promises and the performance that Osama bin Laden
and his top people are still free and active.
The new president and administration, even without the finding of a worldwide
solution for the financial crisis, have a mammoth task in foreign affairs to
make up for these wasted years.