the Bush Administration
February 27, 2003
By Jeff Ritchie
the 2000 Presidential Campaign drew to a close, the Bush Campaign
confidently promised a foreign policy that would call upon
seasoned veterans of the diplomatic corps, many of them old
hands that had served back as far as the Nixon/Ford Administration.
Things were going to be different. No more of those ill-defined
"nation building" or "peace keeping" missions in countries
we'd never heard of.
The grown-ups were going to be back in charge of foreign
What we've seen so far is a foreign policy that is stunningly
reckless, one which may yet cause the United States, the nominal
leader of the free world and sole remaining super power, to
become an international pariah. The Administration's "won't
take 'no' for an answer" stance on war with Iraq will damage
our standing in the world community for a generation – and
that's only if we somehow manage to avoid an invasion. War
with Iraq could have dangerous repercussions.
The Bush Administration dug its own grave in many respects.
It started by rejecting the Kyoto Accords on the global environment
and by repudiating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that
the United States signed nearly thirty years ago. The Administration
also rejected an international ban on land mines, a pact to
limit the sales of small arms in Third World countries, and
the International Criminal Court.
Even a momentary flood of international sympathy for the
United States after the World Trade Center attack couldn't
erase the basic belief among our allies that the Bush Administration
was going to go its own way. Signing treaties and cooperating
across national boundaries were not a priority for the Bush
When the West Bank erupted into violence in the fall of 2001,
the Bush Administration did nothing. It wasn't until the body
count had reached levels too high too ignore that Secretary
of State Colin Powell made a belated – and completely ineffectual
– visit to the region. Since both sides knew that the Bush
Administration was not going to spend political capital on
finding a peaceful solution, it was time to lock and load
the minute Powell's plane went wheels up from Tel Aviv.
The most telling moment in the Bush Administration's foreign
policy came when the UN Human Rights Commission voted to boot
the United States off the panel. The U.S. was restored to
the Commission the following year, but only after the Bush
Administration threatened to withhold a quarter billion dollars
in funding from the perennially cash-strapped United Nations.
And now we're going to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein
has violated the will of the international community?
The push toward war in Iraq reveals the full scale of the
Bush Administration's ineptitude. We should go to war, the
Hawks argue, because Saddam Hussein's military is a threat
to the region; but when confronted with demands from peace
activists to know casualty estimates from an invasion, the
Administration replies that casualties will be insignificant.
If the Iraqi Army is so incapable of defending itself, then
by what definition do they constitute a military threat?
We should go to war, the Hawks argue, because Iraq's store
of biological and chemical weapons pose a threat to its immediate
neighbors; but for some reason none of Iraq's neighbors are
calling for unilateral military action by the United States.
Saudi Arabia has flatly refused to allow the U.S. to launch
invasion from its soil if there is no U.N. Resolution supporting
it. And Turkey acquiesced only after receiving some $30 billion
in U.S. foreign aid.
We should go to war, the Hawks argue, because we have a moral
obligation to free the long-suffering people of Iraq from
the hands of a brutal dictator; but the Administration then
says that it won't rule out the use of nuclear weapons. It
shouldn't take a genius to figure out that if a nation is
fighting a war of liberation, it wouldn't be planning to vaporize
the very people it's trying to liberate.
All of this goes a long way to explaining the opposition
to war in Iraq both in the United States and abroad. It's
not because Saddam Hussein isn't a vicious dictator (he is)
and it's not because other nations are afraid of confronting
the Iraqi Army (they aren't). It's because this Administration
has defied world opinion so frequently that the world now
must decide whether George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein is the
more disagreeable unelected leader of a nation with weapons
of mass destruction.
Far from seeing the grown-ups back in charge at the White
House, this Administration resembles nothing so much as a
half-drunken fraternity boy whose (still sober) best friend
is refusing to let him get behind the wheel. The Bush Administration
is talking way too loud and making way too many threats against
its allies, and even conservatives are alarmed at what they
see as a government – our government – desperately casting
about for a reason to start a war.
It seems that finally, belatedly, Democrats in Congress are
abandoning their "duck and cover" posture when it comes to
opposing the Bush Administration and its plans for liberating
Iraq. That much is encouraging, but it will require continued
pressure from all corners, both in the U.S. and abroad, to
create enough political counter-force to halt this pending
Jeff Ritchie is a democratic activist who lives in Cincinnati
and who recently launched www.progressivecincinnati.org.