Aug 28 2008

More Nation Building at Home

Published by under Election,Thoughts

Tom Friedman’s column yesterday, “A Biblical Seven Years,” highlights his experience and thoughts during the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing. The focus is not so much on how the China has outclassed America but rather focuses on the reality that we need to do nation building here at home. Over the past seven years since the Chinese were awarded the Olympics they have invested dramatically in their infrastructure while we have spent our resources fighting terrorism. Their threats are small and primarily domestic; ours are significant and international in scope. Still, this year we need to make a choice — a choice between someone who offers a continuation of the failed, mishandled policies of one of the worst (if not the worst — he’s truly giving Jimmy Carter a run for his money) presidents in all of American history and someone who is untested and “unknown.”

There’s an old saying “better the evil you do know than the one you don’t.” In this situation I think we are better off with the evil “we don’t know.” Barack Obama represents, hopefully, a sea-change in the direction this country is taking. John McCain offers us more of the George Bush doctrine (if only he were capable of articulating a doctrine). We need to refocus our energies and our resources back here at home to tackle the hard issues facing us: our crumbling infrastructure, our dependence and addiction to foreign oil, the pollution of our environment, education, and global warming. We need to stop sending our money and our resources overseas and rebuild a great nation. Otherwise, as Tom Friedman said in his column, “Start teaching your kids Mandarin.” (Friedman, Tom, “A Biblical Seven Years“, The New York Times, August 27, 2008 ).

No responses yet

Aug 27 2008

The Bush Foreign Policy Legacy

Published by under Thoughts

So here it comes…we’re down to the last 150-some-odd days of the Bush presidency. Let’s take a moment and review the foreign policy legacy this man will leave behind: our military in Iraq, European allies pissed off at us, China ignores any human rights criticism from us, and Russia has decided to remake it’s “near abroad” into a more palatable form that it controls. Whatever moral and military might we had is gone…just like the fabled “political capital” that President Bush claimed the day after the 2004 elections. His administration’s mismanagement of U.S. foreign policy has left us in a more dangerous world than the one he inherited on January 21st 2001.

Let’s start from the top…our military in Iraq. Back in 2003 the Bush administration did a major PR campaign to drum up support for going in and getting rid of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). However, as we discovered once we went it, ol’ Saddam didn’t have any WMD in hand. In fact it became quite clear that whatever WMDs he did have were long since destroyed after the first Gulf war. Well…then our message changed (of course there’s the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background as President Bush declared major offensive operations in Iraq complete) to “bringing Democracy to the Middle East…one country at a time.” This became an embarassment as we managed to make one mistake after another in trying to restore a working government in Iraq. Nevertheless, we broke it, we bought it and we’re going to be paying for it for a long time.

As for our European allies…well…let’s just say that at one point back in 2001 we held the moral high ground. After September 11th 2001 our response to the attacks by Al Qaeda was viewed as justified and valid. Yes, the Afghani population really wasn’t responsible, but the Taliban government in power at the time was aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden. Now, fast forward to 2003. We go into Iraq under, at best, dubious pretenses and manage to make a bad situation possibly even worse. The issue was not just that we went into Iraq with questionable evidence which turned out to be wrong but that we went in ostensibly by ourselves. Yes, we had the British and some others on our side but the fact is we really didn’t have much of a coalition. Bush, Cheney and their neo-con buddies figured we could do this like the old west…we’re the sherriff on this planet and we’re going to take this outlaw Hussein fellow — dead or alive. Our European allies watched and cringed as this administration disregarded all the evidence and moved forward single-handedly. Our moral authority went up in smoke and any credibility we had with it.

Now we fast forward a few years to the Summer of 2008 — a mere two weeks ago in fact. China is preparing to show off it’s showpiece effort of the Beijing Olympics. As the President travels to China he criticized the Chinese for their Human Rights record

“America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents and human rights advocates and religious activists,” Bush said.

“We press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs, but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs.”

(Associated Press,”Bush Criticizes China’s Human Rights Record on Eve of Games“, FOX News, August 7, 2008 )

This immediately prompted a reply from the Chinese telling President Bush to effectively keep his nose out of their internal business. How much influence can America really have with the Chinese when we are indebted to them to such a great extent that they feel quite comfortable in blowing off any criticism so easily. On top of that, our operation of the Guantanamo prison camp for “unlawful combatants” reduces our moral voice dramatically.

Finally, there’s the latest issue with Russia. In the past two weeks we have seen a resurgent Russia with Vladimir Putin pulling the strings on his marionet President Medvedev. Russia has just finished “rearranging” Georgia’s nose and has finally agreed to a cease-fire. However, even though it has agreed to a cease-fire and a pull-back of troops Putin is taking his sweet time getting his troops back, at least, into South Ossetia. Seems like Mr. Putin has decided that even though Russia has signed the cease-fire it can do whatever it pleases — from occupying Gori to destroying Georgia’s infrastructure at will even though the fighting has stopped. It’s clear that Mr. Putin intends to demonstrate to the Georgians and the rest of the world that he is not a man to be messed with. And what can the world do? Nothing really. The only player in the game that theoretically could do something, the United States, is simply overstretched and unable to responsd. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put it: “I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation.” (Dowd, Maureen, “Russia is not Jamaica“, The New York Times, August 17, 2008 ).

So, here we are…Russia and Vladimir Putin are bullying their close neighbors and threatening even those that are not so close (think Poland), the Chinese blow off our criticism of their human rights record like we were some third world country, and our military is committed and overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan where our dollars are being used to rebuild those countries — even though Iraq’s projected surplus is some 78 billion (that’s billion — with a ‘b’) dollars strong. We have no way of countering these developments effectively and our economy is currently wheezing like a patient with pneumonia. Our foreign policy is a shambles and our standing in the world is at an all time low. Of course, don’t bother the President with these minor details…he’s off on another vacation.

One response so far