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.

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Aug 18 2008

The Danger of Redrawing Borders

Published by under Thoughts

The recent fighting in South Ossetia and Russia’s support for the separatists as well as those in Georgia’s province of Abkhazia has significant overtones beyond the current fighting. The implications down the road in terms of territorial integrity are enormous — not just for the Georgians but for everyone else as well. Hizbullah has already used this methodology in it’s terror campaign against Israel. After Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon to the Internationally recognized border and was certified as having done so by the United Nations, Hizbullah concocted a new objective — the return of Shebaa Farms. It turns out the Shebaa Farms area is in a soft of limbo state. Syria sometimes claims that the Shebaa Farms is its territory and sometimes claims that it belongs to Lebanon. The Lebanese government is equally ambiguous in terms of its maps.

The United Nations, however, has certified that Israel, after withdrawing from Southern Lebanon in 2000 has met its obligations with regards to United Nations Security Council Resolution 425.

“On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government’s position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defense and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic.”

In a June 18, 2000 statement, the Security Council noted that Israel and Lebanon had confirmed to the Secretary General, that identification of the withdrawal line was solely the responsibility of the UN and that both sides would respect the line as identified.

(“Shebaa Farms“, Wikipedia, August 2, 2008 )

Nevertheless this has not stopped Hizbullah from continuing to demand the return of the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon. If the world presses Israel to cede the Shebaa Farms territory it will send a dangerous signal to men like Hassan Nasrallah, Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev. Like their Middle East counterpart Nasrallah, Putin and Medvedev see a Russia flush with petrodollars and able to exert its influence once more. And they’re using their new found muscles on Georgia. By distributing Russian passports to the citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as appointing Russians to those territories governments Mr. Putin has south to “redraw” the border between Russia and Georgia. It’s a stepwise process — first extend your citizenship into areas you want to take then start a war to make the world pay attention and force the other side to give you what you want. And the world seems quite willing to do so.

The writing is on the wall in Israel. In June of 2008 Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice visited Lebanon and declared that there must be a solution to the disputed Shebaa Farms area (“Lebanon: Visit by U.S. Secretary of State“, Keesing’s World News Archive, June 23, 2008 ). What dispute? Both Lebanon and Israel have agreed that the United Nations is the sole body which could determine the withdrawl line between Israel and Lebanon and both Israel and Lebanon agreed that they would abide by the UN’s decision. But here we have the Secretary of State for the U.S. saying that the area must be negotiated over and possibly the international border redrawn.

It is extermely destructive. If the precedent is set that no border, even if it is unanimously certified by the UN Security Council, is final — that is if each “certified” border is merely the starting point for a new border dispute then any peace — whether it is between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, Russia and Georgia or Russia and any of the former Soviet republics — between neighboring states is impossible. And this is exactly what Putin is hoping for. If the world were to turn to Georgia and pressure it to cede Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the Russians and redraw the border in the Russian’s favor then Putin would set his sights on other border regions similarly until he has slowly cut up and swallowed his neighbors one piece at a time.

The U.S. and the rest of the world must stand up to men like Hassan Nasrallah and Valdimir Putin and tell them in no uncertain terms that this behavior is simply unacceptable. To do so Russia should be denied membership in the World Trade Organization, she should be ousted from the G8, and Georgia and Ukraine should be included in NATO at the earliest opportunity. It doesn’t matter if the man behind the plan is the Prime Minister of Russia or the leader of a terrorist organization — the world must stand up to these villians and tell them that such behavior is unacceptable and will have consequences.

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