Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bush's foreign policy -- a dismal failure

President Bush and his team have consistently, and smugly, indicated that they care nothing for current domestic or international appraisals of the effectiveness of the administration's foreign policy; they will wait, they say with an air of informed tolerance, for the verdict of history. I don't know about the verdict of history, but after five years of watching his deft hand at foreign policy, its impossible to come to any conclusion other than that it's been an abject disaster.

The President has had the right impulses. His decision to attack Iraq was probably the right one. He recognized the danger posed by North Korea and Iran early. He's made articulate and compelling speeches about the role freedom and democracy can play in the middle east.

The problem is that his foreign policy has been, to borrow a Texan phrase, all hat and no cattle. He's made all the right noises, given the grand Churchillian speeches, employed all the gestures appropriate to a no-nonsense, straight-shooting, straight-talking man who gets things done. Unfortunately he really has n't got things done.

His incompetence and laziness have hurt this country, and have hurt the chances of there being a lasting peace in the middle east.

Gerard Baker of the Times of London has an excellent article on Bush's foreign policy failures.

I look forward to a spirited debate with Orrin :-) ...


reddog said...

You're very smart. The threat to the US lies in the Gulf States with their extreme fundamentalist Wahabi brand of Shiite Islam and their deep pockets. Our intervention in Afganistan has come to nothing. The toppling of Saddam only insures that now all, instead of most, of the oil in the Middle East is in the hands of the Shiia. Iran and North Korea are posturers, they pose no real threat.

Bush has spent our lives and money for nothing. His usurpation of power and refusal to abide by constitutional law is more than troubling.

Juvenal said...

Er, reddog, I would have to disagree with you. I think it was the right thing to topple Saddam, it just was n't backed up with adequate preparation or force. I don't think Bush has usurped power or flouted the constitution. I'm all for the NSA wire-taps and the tracking of financial information. I just wish Bush would back up his fine rhetoric on foreign policy and freedom and democracy in the middle east with more effective action.

Orrin Johnson said...

You're right, reddog. The threat comes from Kuwaitt, Qatar, and Bahrain. Iraq, (whose coastline apparently no longer touches the Gulf), posed none. Iran, (which also apparently no longer borders the PERSIAN Gulf) responsible for hundreds of US deaths over the past decades via their proxy terrorists and their fighters in Iraq, posed no threat at all. Their long history of state sponsored terrorism against the US, coupled with their efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, shouldn't trouble us in the least.


Ranjit, I agree that Bush has not been nearly aggressive enough. I don't think it's lazy or even incompetence, I think it's a political calculation influenced by the left that we don't want to look too "mean," so as to get more Democrats on board with his policies. Wrong move.

But Iraq is still better off now than it was under Saddam, and so is Afghanistan. The enemy focuses their efforts there, knowing how high the stakes are if we succeed - or fail. So of course the violence will be elevated in certain areas (i.e. where the news cameras are). And of course, one must give credit for the multiple foiled plots against this country since 9/11.

Inadequate? I agree. But "dismal failure" goes much too far.

I have to admit, though - if our failure to go all out in Iraq causes us to leave, then it will be a failure. All the more reason the "Run Away! Er, I mean, Redeploy!" lefties are dangerous for this country.

Juvenal said...

Orrin -- a political calculation in an attempt to get more Democratic support which results in an undermining of the goals of the mission -- why is that not incompetence? Even more than incompetent, its dishonest. Bush's line has always been that he would never let politics interfere with military goals. If he did n't have the political strength or the political will to fight this war with the utmost vigor and with all the military strength and assets at his disposal, he should never have taken us to war in the first place. And there have been several instances of utter laziness. One was in the failure to get Turkey to allow the 4th ID to invade through Turkey. It seemed like he and his foreign policy team (especially Colin Powell), seemed completely uninterested in putting pressure on Turkey. A perfunctory visit by Powell, no aggressive diplomacy and involvement from Bush. A vital advantage in the war was lost (and we're still feeling the effects of that today), no squandered, merely because the President was unwilling to either engage in aggressive diplomacy or expend diplomatic capital on the issue.

Bush's failure to change course militarily in Iraq is also an example of rank incompetence. It is obvious that the military tactics and strategy in Iraq have been a complete failure. I don't think anyone can make a case that the situation in Iraq today was one that the President or his military team anticipated or desired. That being the case, something clearly went wrong. Has there been an investigation why things did n't go as planned? Have the generals who made strategic and tactical blunders been relieved of their command? Has Donald Rumsfeld's running of the war been questioned by the President? Loyalty to ones subordinates is a virtue, but a limited one. Bush's failure to hold accountable the people responsible for the current mess in Iraq is indicative of either incompetence or political fear (and they may be one and the same).

SirWhoopass said...

Have the generals who made strategic and tactical blunders been relieved of their command?

Let us recall that General Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the US Army at the time of the invasion, told Congress it would take "hundreds of thousands" of troops to occupy and police Iraq.

Secretary Rumsfeld replied that this estimate was "far off the mark" and an unnamed senior administration official leaked to the press that it was "bullshit from a Clintonite". The administration responded to General Shinseki by named his successor an unprecedeneted 18 months early, turning him into a lame duck who was ignored within the DoD.

To be fair, DoD civilian leadership was fueding with Shinseki (and some say the Army as a whole) prior to the invasion of Iraq. During the quadrennial defense review it had been proposed to greatly reduce the size of the Army (from the current 10 divisions to 8 or less), a political battle the Army eventually won (the Army then lost political battles with DoD to obtain the Crusader artillery system and increase the total size of the force).

Orrin Johnson said...

If unexpected outcomes is the brand of incompetence, then there has never in the history of human race been a competently fought war. WWII killed off thousands upon thousands more soldiers in a few months than OIF has total, due to foolish decisions by the Roosevelt Admin. And in a campaign against non-state guerillas who are willing to hide behind and murder their own civilians, the unexpected is a given.

As far as the political calclulus, that was a judgement call. He needed the support of a co-equal branch of government. That may be politics, but it's also how our government works in war and peace, and that's a good thing. I think he though that he could still prosecute aggressively enough with that, and I think on top of that, he wanted to maintain support of the Iraqi "street."

As for Turkey, what more was supposed to be done? The Turkish government was terrified of its people and of the Kurds, with whom the had previously clashed militarily. They weren't going to budge.

I even think the numbers would have been adequate had we shot looters and kept the army (and the police state infrastructure, like we did with Japan) in place. I understand why those things didn't happen, and I think there was, without the benefit of hindsight, a reasonable argument to be made for the troop numbers, especially after Afghanistan.

There have been thousands of mistakes. Some of the mistakes themselves have been incompetent, just as FDR and his generals did incompetent things in WWII, a battle that otherwise was conducted brilliantly. But overall, I think the world is a safer place closer to real resolution that it ever has been. It's just that now we're actually facing the threats we face and the totality of them, instead of just ignoring it until some planes hit our buildings.

Look - I'm not going to miss Bush when he's gone. There is much to be critical of, and I think that someone like McCain or even Gulianni would fight a far more effectiv war. I like Rummy, but I think he's getting tired and I think the politician generals have worked to undermine him in some respects (not that he hasn't made his own blunders and treated them poorly many times).

Ultimately, I think your criticisms, Ranjit, are fully legitimate and in many respects correct. He needed to fight a meaner, tougher, more overwhelming, ruthless, and uncomprimising war. More cattle, so to speak. Iraq would be more stable, but there would probably be tripple the casualty figures, too (not an insignificant consideration).

But I think to label it as blanket incompetence which has already led to a "dismal failure" I think far overstates it. I think the ball is now rolling in the right direction, and the courage it took to understand the threat against us and respond to it in a global, military way should not be discounted.

My votes go to people who will fight the hardest. I think America's votes will go the same way. Let's see who runs in '08. The winner will be the toughest SOB in the group.

Cato said...

In Reddog's defense, Orrin, the Gulf States are generally defined to exclude Iraq and Iran. I generally define the gulf states as those populated by gulf arabs, mostly the small ones plus Oman.

Orrin Johnson said...

I know - although Iraq was generally considered one until they became kind of an entity unto themselves. And you're right - I left out poor Oman, which, by the way, should be on nobody's vacation short list (although the snorkelling is quite good). And then there's the UAE, of course. Interestingly, because the Arabic states that border the Gulf are our allies, more or less, and because they have their own rivalries with Iran, the US military refers to the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf. The locals in Bahrain and in Dubai get mad if you refer to it as the Persian Gulf.

I was responding to reddog's maddeningly ridiculous and ignorant assertion that Iran poses no threat, while Bahrain does. Drivel like that drives me up the wall, knowing that the producer of said drivel along with his fellow travellers will vote based upon it.