Monday 23 October 2006

Many U-turns Required - II

The comment below was made anonymously in response to my article on Many U-turns Required; I try to address the issues raised with interspersed comments as follows.

[Comment] So the U.S should talk to every perceived enemy in the world-and that solves it and makes GW Bush a good world leader - Condi should jet out on and talk to them all.

[Response] I think there is no point trying to stress that the US and the kind of policies that GW Bush has espoused over the last 6 years are predicated on the fact that a country like the US in the absence of a Cold War does need an enemy to serve as a foil to project power and influence around the world.

North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan and Venezuela all offer opportunities to project fear on the American people about dangers at home as much as their getting stuck into the quagmires that are Iraq and Afghanistan.

If they had ever even tried to talk to them, there would have been a point, they have not.

[Comment] I think this position oversimplifies things. We must appreciate that the rhetoric of "no discussion with evil men/dictators etc" often belies the backroom discussions that go on all the time.

[Response] If there are backroom discussions why does the front room rhetoric resound with increasing animosity and frosty relations?

The fact is America is selective about the so-called evil men/dictators that it deals with; there is no balance in their projection of foreign influence that it now makes them literally ineffective in many places.

Be it Israel, Lebanon, Sudan and Zimbabwe, them not condemning the military coup in Venezuela, aligning with the military dictatorship in Pakistan, ignoring the democratic mandate of the Hamas, fostering Nuclear proliferation in India and condemning it in Iran with is under threat from two sides of its territory.

The oversimplification as it appears is primarily a commonsense diplomatic stance that the Bush administration find too simple to adopt.

[Comment] The lack of overt high level contact in the full glare of the cameras does not necessarily mean the absence of all contact. Anyway a lot of people, for example, criticised the US for not talking to Syria and conveniently forgot the existence of a US embassy in Damascus.

[Response] Yes, and they also have an Embassy building in Iran, what is the point of having the building without a full-fledged ambassador? Having office administrators handle serious diplomatic issues is hardly the way to deal with countries that could seriously impact your safety in proximity countries and allies.

[Comment] You forget that the deal Madeline Albright negotiated with the North Koreans was badly defaulted on by the North Korean government.

[Response] Indeed, it was flawed but North Korea did not get nuclear during the Clinton era and if Bush had tried to correct the flaws and not unfortunately hurt the sensibilities of the “dwarfish” leader, we probably would not be where we are at now.

At least we had inspectors in North Korea and were able to monitor and report what they were doing, we no more have that advantage apart from satellite pictures and measuring seismic activity after the event.

[Comment] You forget that Rwanda happened under Clintons watch

[Response] Agreed, it did, but should the lessons of “never again” not now apply to Darfur? Should the Bush regime now try to outdo the Clinton administration in being ineffective in the face of great human injustice considering they are the only ones who have called Darfur - a genocide.

[Comment] You forget that Somalia happened under Clinton’s watch

[Response] And now, it is happening again, with the Islamic “overthrow” of a UN supported government which is getting compared with the Taleban.

[Comment] You forget that the first attack on the WTC was under Clinton’s watch

[Response] And the blind sheik implicated as the instigator of that activity is in prison, they are even not prosecuting his lawyer for treason-type offences.

The people responsible for WTC II or 9/11 still send us home videos five years after and we have lost more lives in Iraq and Afghanistan – only yesterday, we were receiving messages from Mullah Omar.

[Comment] You forget that Al Qaeda was formed under Clinton’s watch

[Response] This is disingenuous, yes; it was formed under Clinton’s watch but instigated in the aftermath of Gulf War I [an earlier Bush era, I would think] when America was seen to occupy the Islamic Holy Lands and propping up Middle East regimes that do not attend to the clamour of their peoples.

[Comment] You forget that the planning for 911 started under Clinton’s watch

[Response] And what did Condi do with the dossier she was handed about the Al Qaeda threat – I think the 911 Commission drew a good few conclusions about the new regime’s inactivity.

You forget that the attacks on the USS Cole, the US Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies were under Clinton’s watch. You forget that Afghanistan fell to the Taliban under Clinton’s watch. You forget that Clinton never formally made the existence of a Palestinian State US Policy.

[Response] Considering the way the Republicans highlight that there has been no other attack on US soil since 911, I could commend the Clinton administration for keeping their guard up after WTC I that Al Qaeda had to find soft targets elsewhere – hence, the USS Cole and the African embassy disasters.

Afghanistan became a vacuum of power once the Russians were driven out, I would suppose the Taleban represented a form of peace after 20 years of war and as they grew more unacceptable they would have remained in power if they had handed over Osama bin Laden – but that was a difficult decision for them that they offered to send him to a neutral country.

They had just fought along side their Muslim brother to liberate their country from the Russians; they probably had a blood oath with Osama never to deliver him to anyone which is why they risked their demise than garner opprobrium.

Now that the Bush administration have created a terrorist haven in Iraq, Americans are still getting killed almost everyday only that they are being killed in Iraq. That seems to be great comfort to your public.

I see two handshakes in the Middle-East moving towards peace which was progressing and could have been improved upon rather than being left dormant till the Bush administration was embarrassed into saying something radical and where is the progress still?

Yasser Arafat shaking the hand of Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn and Jordan through King Hussein recognising Israel, all happening under Clinton’s watch – they created the forum to talk, that other Arab states at least now recognise the right for Israel to exist.

However, the attitude to the democratically elected Hamas who won election on a platform of not recognising Israel such that sanctions are about to make that government collapse helps feed the rhetoric that questions the legitimacy of Israel from Iran.

We have never had a more strident Iran and this is one of the countries that the US would have to talk to directly and respectfully, as well as Syria if they are going to extricate themselves from Iraq – Mr Bush is waking up to this reality.

[Comment] The list goes on - I cite these examples not to detract from Clintons legacy but to make the point that its no use idealising the Clinton era and that the context and circumstances of the two presidencies are significantly different.

[Response] You are not doubt right, we can all do convenient lists depending on what part of the political spectrum we are on, but rather than build on the Clinton legacy to forward the fledgling deals or plans that were in place, they were all discarded for a neo-conservative doctrine that put Bush at variance with the world before 911 and then Bush squandered the post-911 goodwill on the Iraqi escapade just as Americans are governed through fear into what is no less a police state.

[Comment] In fact, there is a growing consensus amongst Historians that the Clinton presidency was an inconsequential one as far as global events go.

[Response] I think we need a need a bit more time to see where history would place Clinton and Bush, there is no doubt that Bush has his place in history, how he would be judged would be revealing to all concerned before revisionists have a field day.

Besides, my blog has broached many of the issues I have covered in here concerning American foreign policy and its ineffectiveness – Bush may be able to do a better job, if he has the will to do better is debatable.


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