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Cleaning Up After Bush

William Pfaff
Columnist
William Pfaff is known as a globally respected political commentator and author on international relations, contemporary history and U.S. policy. He has been published in five countries and his column was…
William Pfaff

The Bush administration has lived by a strategy of tension, and will go out of office bequeathing the wars it has started and the ill will it has created to its successors, to compromise those who come after.

The Bush people have set a lot of precedents for America: Guantanamo and the “black sites” abroad will be left, and the probably more than 1,000 U.S. military bases abroad, presumably including the 50 bases (currently) that Washington still wants to keep in Iraq after the troops go home, if they go home. And of course the administration’s outsourcing arrangements for torture and kidnapping abroad will be left to a new administration.

Whether it is Barack Obama or John McCain who enters the Oval Office in January, he will confront an inheritance of eight years of foreign policy abuses, failures and unresolved dilemmas, and a climate of international crisis in the Caucasus, expected by Richard Cheney and others in the Bush administration to promote McCain’s election.

If this does elect McCain, it should pose no great problems for him because he is a man of simple commitment to the policy line of his predecessors: of military interventions in the Muslim world to win victory over the terrorists, and political interventions to control troubled European and Caspian-Crimean regions, and deter the new Stalin (or is it Hitler? Stalin was not at Munich).

This conservative interventionism, in a Manichean politico-intellectual framework of Virtue and Freedom confronting Evil, leaves the Bush administration’s successor with continuing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and, indirectly, Somalia, plus probable domestic crisis in Pakistan before the presidential inauguration arrives. The progress of Islamic integrist and tribal forces linked to the Taliban continues in Pakistan without an apparent solution that would satisfy Washington.

In all of these cases, the American intervention is itself the principal continuing cause of conflict — which in the American policy community is generally inadmissible. In none of these conflicts is America capable of providing a solution. Even in Iraq, which Bush and the neoconservatives now tout as a success, all that has happened is that the U.S. has pitilessly wrecked the country, and now the Iraqis have grown weary of fighting.

The war in Somalia that sets Somalian warlords and an “Islamic Courts” rebel coalition against an unsuccessful Ethiopian military occupation, engineered by the CIA, will be waiting for the new American administration, since any solution involving the Islamists is verboten to Washington.

The Georgian-Ossetian-Abkhazian-Russian drama will have worsened by January, and U.S.-Russian bilateral relations been envenomed (if not worse), as well as trilateral relations among the U.S., Russia and the hapless and doubly intimidated NATO Europeans, incapable of taking an initiative in their own interest.

The neoconservative determination that America must dominate at any cost a Hobbesian world driven by greed and self-interest has won the day. The television-rattled public fails to grasp just what this means, and for eight years the Democrats have been frightened into silence by the threat of being outed as unpatriotic.

Sen. Joseph Biden, according to the analysts, was made the Democratic vice presidential nominee because he knows everything about foreign policy. But everything that he knows about foreign policy is just what everybody else in Washington knows and thinks, and would never dream of questioning. There’s the problem.

An Obama-Biden administration would lower the rhetoric of the war on terror and enter global negotiations with Iran. It would emphasize the common interest of the U.S. and Iran in the stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan. It would acknowledge the political and social importance of Hamas and Hezbollah in the real world.

It would start over again with Israel-Palestine negotiations. Those backing the Obama candidacy talk about a “New Marshall Plan” for the Middle East (resembling Condoleezza Rice’s proposals last month in Foreign Affairs), offering a “generational” program to lift the Middle East “from misery” and make it democratic, pro-American, and friendly to Israel. Alas, we have heard all that before; the United States is incapable of doing it; and the problem of the Middle East isn’t money.

The leaders of such a new administration would negotiate with American allies rather than blackmail and bully them. They would resume good relations with international organizations and make good-faith use of them. They would protect the sovereignty of Georgia and Ukraine. They would be firm with Russia. They would protect Western energy sources. They will fight injustice wherever they find it, even if that means more war. They will make a better world. Good luck to them.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at http://www.williampfaff.com .

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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