I have written for today's (London) Times about three different Bush foreign policies...
- 'Neoconservatism' in Iraq;
- Multilateralism in Iran; and
- Realpolitik in Pakistan
I suggest that it's no longer impossible to believe that policy towards Iraq may produce the least troublesome nation of the three in a decade or two's time. Space was limited but I could also have included Saudi Arabia in my list of Bush foreign policies - where outright appeasement has been pursued.
Text of article:
"Critics of George W Bush’s Middle East policy are hoping for a major change in direction once America’s 43rd President has left the White House. The foreign offices of Europe all hope for more multilateralism. More realpolitik. Less sabre-rattling.
The critics have a problem, however. In reality, Team Bush has largely been following European approaches to foreign policy in its relations with most of the world’s troublespot nations.
Take Pakistan. The‘realist school’ couldn’t honestly disapprove of any aspect of the Bush administration’s dealings with Islamabad. American taxpayers have financed a military dictator in the hope that Musharraf will suppress the Pakistan’s fundamentalists and continue to provide logistical support for NATO operations in Afghanistan. Has this worked? No. Islamic militancy is mushrooming. Musharraf has often bargained with the political patrons of the Madrassahs in order to stymie his democratic opponents. If Musharraf falls the Pakistan people may see America as the nation that propped up the regime that introduced martial law and warped the constitution. It’s all too reminiscent of America’s 1970s relationship with Iran’s Shah.
When it comes to present-day Iran Team Bush has been patiently multilateralist. Washington allowed the years to pass as soft-powered Europe promised to negotiate an end to Tehran’s nuclear programme. As it became increasingly obvious that the talks were doing nothing to slow President Ahmadinejad’s quest for a bomb, the Americans turned to the United Nations. Russia and China, immersed in economic self-interests, have predictably vetoed any significant action.
Something akin to neoconservatism has only really been pursued in Iraq. Even the keenest supporters of the war readily agree that dreadful mistakes have been made. In Iraq there was little planning and post-invasion troop deployments and tactics were completely inadequate. Nonetheless, the tide is now turning. Violence has halved. The progress of General Petraeus’ troops surge is increasingly apparent.
Rushing to judgment is hardwired into our 24/7 news culture but it probably won’t be possible to evaluate the mix’n’match Bush foreign policies for five, ten or even twenty more years. The bungled road to a democratic Iraq has been far too bloody but it’s now perfectly sensible to believe that Bush’s pre-emptive war may have sown the seeds for what could be the least troubled nation of the region in a decade’s time. The multilateral approach to Iran may leave us with a nuclear-armed Tehran, which, at best, would be terrorising Israel and holding the world to ransom over oil supplies. Pakistan, already a nuclear power, may be a failing state – turning to anti-American strongmen for order.
When the next US President considers foreign policy options the most important lesson for him – or her - to remember is that American policy is most effective when the world’s only policeman is seen as strong. That was particularly true immediately after the invasion of Iraq. Libya disarmed. The Khan nuclear exchange programme was exposed. Syria withdrew from Lebanon. Problems multiplied when America looked unwilling to commit necessary troops to finish the first battles of the war on terror. A weak America, tied down by do-nothing multilateralists, is the last thing our dangerous world needs."