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Tuesday, January 13, 2004


The Bush record in foreign policy --- a polarizing force in US politics, as well as in West Europe and elsewhere --- follows a similar course of pushing ahead amid sharp, fully predictable criticisms and backlashes that the other two periods of revolutionary changes in American strategy and diplomacy have provoked since WWII:

  • The Truman era 1945-1952, with its radical series of containment policies, rearmament, stationing of bases abroad, and the creation of NATO, followed by the Korean war and a shift to a nuclear-based strategy of deterrence and war-fighting that was fleshed out by the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations;

  • The Reagan era 1981-1989, with its attack on detente with the Soviet Union worked out by the EU and the Carter administration as a cover for American retreat and Soviet advances globally --- plus its fast-paced rearmament, shift to offensives against Communist governments or Soviet allies in Central America, Africa, and Asia, and its determination to push ahead with a space-based anti-missile program --- all with an aim to bringing to a head the weaknesses and other problems that marked clear global overstretch on the part of the Soviet empire.

When, in the course of those pressures, the Gorbachev-led Soviet Union was then willing to wind down the cold war, Reagan shifted course and helped steer it toward an end . . . even as the forces unleashed in the Soviet empire that Gorbachev couldn't control, very much the contrary, led to its quick self-destruction in 1991: one more brutal totalitarian system that had emerged in the 20th century, the mass murder of tens of millions of people on its bloody hands, buried forever in the trash-can of history.


Like Truman and Reagan, who were excoriated personally by their political opponents --- by the right in Truman's case, by the left in Reagan's --- President Bush has been assaulted at home and abroad as a ninny, a menacing loose-cannon, a chronic liar, a demagogue, and a danger to American prestige, influence, and alliances. Red-Ken, the Mayor of London, went so far this last November, when Bush visited the UK, to dub him the single biggest menace to the survival of humankind in all of history. In the EU, especially on the Continent, it's doubtful if that's an idiosyncratic view. In the Arab media, the rhetorical assaults are more abusive still: Bush, we learn, is a tool of a Jewish neo-conservative cabal, he's a play-thing in the hands of the secretive, more menacing World-Jewish Puppet-Masters, and he has dared to challenge Arab taboos . . . including a clear snub to the despotic, corrupt Palestinian Authority, not to mention toppling the worst of the Arab dictators, Saddam Hussein, and instituting a dreaded transformation of post-Saddamite Iraq. [Remember here: all the Arab media are state-controlled save for those satellite channels like Al-Jazeera, and none of the despots in the other 21 Arab countries will voluntarily go out of business in favor of any contagious democratic fall-out from Iraq in the next few years. Just the contrary.]


Being Hated

Has Bush been attacked more viciously than Truman or Reagan --- or for that matter Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s? No, that's doubtful.

All three were hated by their opponents at home and abroad, all three were written off as fools or worse, and if there's any difference these days, it's in the kinds of communications open to the haters and opponents in the 21st century: the Internet, cable TV, satellite transmissions, and endless TV commentating . . . some intelligent, most of it simpleminded or uninformed or, in the case of the EU media, simply full of incompetent, blatantly biased reporters save in London and one or two other places in West Europe. Those who think, for instance, that the mass demonstrations in Britain last fall against Bush --- or earlier when he visited Europe in June 2001 --- are unique or even unusual know nothing about either what happened when Reagan visited West Europe in 1983 or Nixon visited Latin America in the late 1950s as Eisenhower's Vice President. For that matter, Eisenhower himself had to cancel a visit to Japan because the government there, faced with millions of hostile demonstrators, couldn't guarantee his safety.

Is this surprising?

Super-powers are never loved. Never. Even among the populations of allies --- especially talky elites --- envy and resentments are bound to be at work, just as they are in the lives of most people everywhere in their relations with others. Not least, especially given the enormous power of the US and the constant intrusions of American culture into the daily lives of billions of people around the world, the self-image of the elites in the EU or elsewhere is at stake. For two thousand years, for good or bad, there's never been such a lopsided distribution of power across countries: economic, technological, military, and cultural. Two thousand years ago? Yes, back to the Roman Empire. Nothing comparable for practically two millenium until the end of the cold war in 1990-1991. Fortunately, governments themselves have more concrete tasks to grapple with in their relations with the US. Specifically,

  • In friendly countries, the ways these tasks are handled reflect a better appreciation of where there interests lie.

  • In hostile countries, above all since the toppling of Iraq's brutal dictatorship, something else is under way, a series of positive changes: bluntly put, they reflect a better grasp in Syria, Iran, Libya, North Korea, and elsewhere --- including the divided Saudi royal leaders, involved in a typical palace-struggle for power and loot --- of what the consequences can be of defying the US too sharply . . . particularly in security matters and when faced with a determined White House.


A Theoretical View

These positive changes --- set out in detail later on --- can be illuminated theoretically. In particular, international relations specialists distinguish three alternative policies for dealing with more powerful countries:

1) balance against them,

2) bandwagon to them,

3) or seek neutrality if possible.

Bandwagoning can be of various degrees, just as balancing can . . . such as diplomatic balancing as with the French, Germans, and Russians last spring, or a longer-lasting blocking coalition, or more ambitiously military rearmament and alliances. Stay with bandwagoning. That's our concern. At one extreme, it amounts to allying with the greater power, whether out of convergent interests, fear, or other forms of self-interest. Short of that, it can be signaled by allies who had fallen out over an important issue deciding it's better to rally around the alliance-leader again: the case of Germany clearly, maybe to a degree of France too (however reluctantly), since last spring. Less ambitiously, however important in its own right, bandwagoning shows up among hostile countries as various degrees of policy-adjustments, at home and abroad, that the great power has insisted upon.

The outcome here?

Since last spring, to put it tersely, bandwagoning has been the dominant thrust around the world. The policy adjustments include several big changes under way in the countries just mentioned --- Libya, Iran, Syria, and North Korea, not to forget the new constitution adopted in post-Taliban Afghanistan and the warming relations between Musharraf's Pakistan and India. Simultaneously, most of the debts Iraq owed to Germany, France, and Russia are being written off, as well as lesser debts owed others . . . the exceptions, which probably will alter in the future, being other Arab countries.

[To repeat, a full list of the beneficial fall-out of the Bush policy-changes will be set out later here. Keep in mind, while we're at it, something else: those who have been going on about the Bush polilcies alienating our allies in NATO either are misinformed, ignorant, or trying to score political points . . . no other alternatives possible. When 18 out of 28 NATO allies have troops on the ground in Iraq, and Germany has stepped up its peacekeeping role in Afghanistan, what alienation is there except among the chattering EU media types and left-wing politicians, plus everybody, it seems, who reads and writes in France . . . mainly poorly, it seems? Come to that, the same things were said about the crack-up of the Atlantic Alliance were parroted in the first half of the Reagan administration, back in the 1980s, all allegedly the fall-out of over-assertive US policies in those days.)


Being Loved?

Does any of this mean that Bush is more liked on the elite or mass levels elsewhere? The best answer: does he really care?

True, all presidents want to be re-elected: that comes with the territory. Being liked or admired as an end in itself is another matter. More generally --- unlike Bill Clinton, a fairly good president --- Bush seems to be a man mentally at ease with himself: his turbulent drawn-out personal struggles way in the past, and in their place, it now seems, a relative indifference to being liked as a goal, even --- Clinton's fatal penchant, a man who craved admiration --- by those opponents he deals with harshly. Note that FDR, for all the furious hatred he inspired, was re-elected anyway: four times. And Truman in 1948. And Reagan in 1984. Right now, Bush's Iraq policy has the support of 59% of public opinion, and his preventive-war one 65%. Even 39% of registered Democrats support his policies in Iraq. The Democrats face a tough opponent next November.



So what is the nature of the Bush revolution in foreign policy? That's a pivotal question that we want to answer here. First, though, there's an indispensable preliminary one that prompts itself: when do revolutions in US policies abroad --- in diplomacy and security --- occur?

Radical Reorientations Are Unusual

As a first-line of reply, note that revolutions in foreign policy are fairly rare. FDR's efforts to get us into war with the Nazis, Fascists, and Japanese militarists failed before December 7th, 1941. Earlier, Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations initiative died in the US Senate in 1919, Wilson himself close to death. Since 1945, only Truman, Reagan, and Bush have carried out radically sweeping changes, a clear break with the policies of their predecessors. [Possibly Carter's human rights policy could be added to this list, except that Carter's ill-starred administration, a failure at home and abroad, left it with some staying-power even into the Reagan era --- when Reagan forced the dictator Marcos out of power in the Philippines, forced the dictator Pinochet in Chile to hold elections, forced the Soviet-allied Sandinista dictatorship to hold elections in Nicaragua, and set off changes that led to the overthrow of the dictator Stroessner in 1988 and 1989. No other Carter-legacy has endured.]


So What Are The Obstacles To Radical Changes?

The blunt answer: limited freedom of manuever open to a new administration. Two sets of restraints are always actively in play.

(i.) Consider first those beyond our borders in the international arena. Assume that a new president with big ambitions takes office January 23rd, three months or so after his election and the day after his inauguration.. Abroad, nothing has changed between January 22nd and January 23rd. the US is still in the same alliances, same international organizations like the WTO, still equipping the same bases around the world, and still faced with the need to persuade dozens of other governments, and sometimes international organizations, that they ought to alter their policies in their own interests to become more compatible with American interests. None of this has changed. All of it acts as externally based restraints on a president's room of maneuver.

(ii.) At home, ordinarily, the domestic restraints are no less numerous and powerful. A President --- whatever his inclinations to alter foreign and security policies --- faces the need to deal with influential, highly entrenched bureaucracies, each with powerful allies throughout Congress: especially the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department. At the same time, unlike an EU Prime Minister, he can't count on rallying a majority party --- or coalition --- automatically in support of his initiatives: just the contrary. It's imperative then that he find a way to convince dozens of Senators and hundreds of Congressmen to see the world in a different light --- his perspective.

There are other restraints besides these two.

  • The US media is full of investigative reporters, all with contacts in the bureaucracies and Congress and sooner or later in the White House too, and all desperate to uncover machinations or foul-ups or whatever you have. That's how they make their names. In doing so, they perform valuable services for democratic politics.

  • Contrary to the more elitist parliamentary systems in the EU, moreover, a President who wants to be re-elected --- and all do --- has to submit himself to a round of primaries even to get the nomination. In the process, he can alienate a wing of his supporters that can prove electorally disastrous. especially if they make a run for the presidency themselves as independents or in a third party: think of Perot who got 19% of the vote in 1992 and caused Clinton's election, or in 2000 when Nader got 2.7% of the vote and led Gore to defeat. (Yes, there are controversies about these matters, but almost all the evidence points to the outcomes just mentioned).

  • And everywhere, to top it off, the President faces powerful vested interests in the economy --- big business, financial institutions, trade unions, farmers' groups, not to mention an array of well-organized cause groups like environmentalists or civil rights ones --- that further limit his freedom of action.


Essentially, in crisp shorthand terms, for three related reasons:

  • drastic changes abroad, which overwhelm the domestic restraints on presidential initiative
  • new compelling ideas at home for dealing with the changes,
  • and the requisite personal traits and commitment of a determined President, largely indifferent, if need be, to popularity as the revolution is carried out.


A Radically New Security Environment:

Essentially, we're referring to abrupt, drastic changes in the world that create new and overwhelming security threats to the well-being of the US and the American people: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which ended all debate about whether to go to war against the fascists, militarists, and Nazis. Or the outbreak of the Cold War and the realization by 1947 --- when the Truman Doctrine was enunciated, followed by Marshall Aid, the Containment Doctrines, NATO, rearmament, and stationing US troops abroad all over Eurasia. Or, in the Reagan era, the realization that the détente worked out by Nixon, Ford, and Carter with the Soviet Union --- or in Europe by all the countries in the EU, eager for a sheltered life and cozy industrial contracts --- was one-sided and not leading to Soviet reciprocity: rather, to fast-paced nuclear armaments of a new sort, support for the Sandinistas in Central America, military intervention in Afghanistan, and involvement in civil wars all over Africa, not to forget the Shiite revolution in Iran that unleashed Islamist furies for the first time directed at the US and our allies.

The same is true of the Bush revolution. Whatever the president's inclinations to change American foreign and security policies, these were limited in their effects until 9/11 and the terrorist attacks on US soil. Until then, they were confined to carrying out at a faster pace the initiative of the Clinton and other administrations to build an anti-missile defense system, reforms within the Pentagon that Donald Rumsfeld --- a former Deputy Secretary of Defense --- was entrusted with, and the rejection of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming. That rejection was guaranteed. The US Senate had voted 95-0 in 1997 to reject it. Nothing had changed between then and the decision not to sign the treaty in the summer of 2001. Even the small stepped-up spending in military matters that appeared in early 2001 was preceded by the Clinton administration's recognition, before it left office, that a new 5 year defense program would require more defense spending. Small wonder. By 2001, that spending as a percentage of GDP --- around 2.8% --- was the lowest since 1941.


The Impact of Alternative Ideas and Doctrines

What's essential is still the other two influences. In particular, if a president is to carry out a successful revolution in foreign policy, there must be a team of advisers with alternatives in mind that make sense to him.

In the Bush case, these alternatives were associated with Cheney, his Vice President and a former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld who was the new Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz --- a powerful influence on what is called neo-conservative circles . . . and a strong believer, like Truman and the influential Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson from Washington, my home state and an idol of mine when I was a school lad, in dealing with major monstrous threats from abroad by attacking their domestic sources. These monsters could be Nazis, fascists, militarists, brutal thuggish regimes pursuing WMD, or Islamo-fascists supporting Islamist terrorism. No matter. You don't learn to live with them; you don't chit-chat with their leaders or their smooth-talking diplomats; you don't sign agreements that are meaningless to them; you show no sign of compromise that won't be premised on clear and easily monitored concessions by them, with credible threats attached if they renege. Ultimately, their systems have to be destroyed one way or another . . . of, if that's too dangerous, then be forced to drastically change their behavior under sustained pressures. That's how WWII ended; that's how the cold war ended; that's how WWIII with the Islamo-fascist regimes and other rogue states pursuing WMD, together with their terrorist allies, will be ended too . . . even if the outcomes will be strung out over time.

All neo-conservatives as well as Democrats of my leaning share these views --- fully institutionalized, for instance, in the AFL-CIO during the Cold War. Unlike multilateralists who think multilateralism is an end in itself, not a means; or contrary to radicals who love to cozy up to brutal third-world dicatorships or make excuses in the past for Communist systems, each and every one abominated by their citizens when they collapsed; or at odds with appeasers; or opposite of realist-managers who think the point of diplomacy should be to learn to live-and-let-live . . . we, neo-cons and traditional Democrats of the Truman-wing are convinced that you cannot accommodate and manage relations with Hitlerian Germany, Militarist Japan, Maoist China, the Communist Soviet Union, fascist Saddamite Iraq --- the Baathist parties in Iraq and Syria were modeled on Hitlerian and fascist doctrines of the interwar period --- or clerical-fascist Iran or clerical-fascist Afghanistan or brutal, mass-murdering North Korean totalitarians. True, it's a complicated world. True, from time to time, you may have to ally with one of these monstrous systems against a greater menace: hence Roosevelt America's alliance with the horrendous Stalinist Soviet Union against Nazi Germany and his allies. Or even, on a different level, initial support for Saddamite Iraq against the Iranian mullahs --- which does not justify at all, I add quickly, any effort by the Reagan administration to beat off successfully Congressional initiatives to condemn Saddam for using chemical weapons, either against Iranians or his own citizens later. Sooner or later, though, these regimes need to either be destroyed, transformed under external pressure, or forced to alter drastically their foreign policies under threat of credible and severe repercussions.

Was it any different in the cold war period?

No, not really --- despite the mutual restraints that were built into the shared risk of nuclear war and mutual deterrence. The original Truman Containment Policy of 1947, a revolutionary doctrine drawn up by George Kennan --- the great diplomat and later Pulitzer Prize-Winning historian at Princeton --- looked forward to the internal break-up of the Soviet Union . . . a meltdown owing to its contradictions in the brutal Stalinist totalitarian system that Kennan, our number two man in Moscow during WWII, knew first-hand, that we would accentuate by blocking its expansion everywhere we could. Kennan himself eventually left the State Department in 1950, worried that we had overreacted on a military plane. Whatever, his vision was realized in the Reagan era. By then, the Soviet Union was a victim of global overreaching: it was backing bankrupt dictatorships in Indochina and Africa, propping up hated dictatorships in East Europe, suffering from tremendous burdens of military spending in competition with the far richer US, and laboring under an economy that had stopped growing and showed no prospect moving into an era of advanced technologies in the computer, telecommunications, and related industries. For that matter, the Soviets couldn't produce a decent car, truck, or TV. Yet they faced a powerful alliance led by the US of the richest countries in the world: North America, West Europe, and Japan. Gorbachev's eventual efforts to salvage the bankrupt derelict system in order to compete more effective with the US --- the dominant power --- not only failed, they failed precisely because they unleashed forces that destroyed the Soviet empire abroad and at home, along with its Communist system.


Finally, A President's Personality

The Presidents who have carried out revolutionary changes in American foreign policy --- or tried to without success like Wilson --- are men with vision and full of conviction that they have no choice but to meet the new security threats head-on and overcome all the domestic obstacles no matter how many partisan backlashes they provoke or however numerous the resistances are created by the entrenched bureaucracies in the Executive and their Congressional supporters. Middle-road moderates will not succeed. Those who fear partisan conflicts and confrontations will probably fail or compromise more than they would like. Those who crave being liked even by his opponents --- a personal trait, it seems, of former President Clinton, and maybe his main problem despite an impressive intellect --- will be left wondering why they aren't likely to be remembered as great leaders in history. Those who believe that reassuring chit-chats with brutal dictators and their smooth-talking professional diplomats amount to much in diplomacy will certainly fail. And those who listen way too much to the worries that will be expressed, predictably, by certain European allies --- the French for self-interested reasons, the Germans or others because damage-limitation is the essence of European politics at home and abroad (the British since Mrs. Thatcher a clear exception, in both spheres) --- will end up in a self-created tangle of wishy-washy concessions and trade-offs that are self-contradictory and lead to contempt abroad as signs of weakness.

Those who dislike Bush's policies have a right to them. Leave aside the irate personal assaults: they're predictable and deserve to be met with a frown. Some criticisms strike the buggy prof as sound: for instance, over-optimism in the initial few months about occupying post-Saddamite Iraq.

Almost all the Democratic candidates for the party's nomination strike me further as decent people: that includes Howard Dean, a generally admirable man who --- coming out of a wealthy family bummed around, only to go to medical school, become a doctor, enter Vermont politics, and show himself a good governor --- has the kind of fire in his belly that in many ways single him out as the kind of man I've been talking about here. The trouble is, all of them save Joe Lieberman --- Dean included --- are catering to far too much anger in a minority of Democrats, enraged at the changes at home and especially abroad that Bush has carried out since his inauguration. They would do better to concentrate on spelling out their alternatives, as Clark did recently with his tax proposals. Or in environmental matters. Or above all in foreign and security policies beyond slogans like the need to consult our allies before doing this or that in foreign policy, a sure sign of weakness for the American people. 59% of Americans support the President's policies over Iraq; 39% of all Democrats do. 65% of Americans endorse the preventive-preemptive war strategy, which we'll discuss in a moment. The Democrats need to do better. Negativism alone, never mind tapping anger, will not aid them in an election. They don't serve our country any better, for that matter, than did the personal animosity of extraordinary sorts that the far right and many conservatives exuded toward Bill Clinton, a man that Ken Starr's investigations costing 50 million dollars could not find guilty of anything save a sexual fling that Clinton then, stupidly --- and maybe in character --- lied about in a judicial process.

Otherwise, he was a pretty good president.



1. Military action against the most menacing of these rogue states, particularly as a lesson to the others. The name given to this strategic change is a shift to pre-emptive war if need be . . . though preventive war is probably more accurate, the clear distinction between the two blurring in an era when an entire society can be exterminated suddenly by the use of WMD.

  • A full-fledged restructuring of our military has been a clear corollary of that new strategy, carried out with vigor by Donald Rumsfeld and his team, who face --- as any Pentagon heads of a reforming nature have in the past, usually to their regret and ultimate failure at reform --- one of the most entrenched bureaucracies in the US government. The entrenched status-quo forces also have powerful supporters throughout Congress.

  • The rapid push towards anti-missile defenses, and for a two-fold reason. The first is usually the only one mentioned: to protect the US urban populations from a small missile attack launched by rogue states. The second is probably even more important: to ensure that American sea-based forces can operate close off-shore of North Korea, Iran, Syria, or any other rogue state with WMD, and if need be, attack them from the air, sea, and by amphibious assault while protecting the carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and transport ships.

2. Diplomatic pressures --- coercive diplomacy, mixed with the prospect of rewards if they do change --- to impel the other rogue states to come clean about their WMD programs and give them up or else.

  • The destruction of two of the worst rogue states, involved in WMD programs and terrorist activities, Iraq and Taliban Afghanistan . . . plus, the big shifts under way in the behavior of Syria, Iran, Libya, and --- possibly, hard to know yet for sure --- North Korea. It's these rogue states, not Al Qaeda or the other Islamo-fascist terrorist networks that are the biggest menace.

  • Without biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, terrorist attacks can cause thousands of casualties --- witness 9/11 --- but otherwise are limited in their mass-murdering assaults. It's the overtowering danger of such mass-destructive weapons falling into the hands of Al Qaeda or Hezbollah --- the latter described by a Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, as an even greater threat than Bin Laden's paranoid fanatics --- that makes their conspiratorial, suicide-loving tactics the menace that they are. The only way to prevent that from happening is by the five-fold strategy implemented so far by the Bush administration

3. Prodding transforming changes at the heart of the Arab world, otherwise full of 22 despotic secret-police dominated states, run by small tribal-clan cliques and related clientele networks, none of them with any prospects for effective economic development as they are currently structured . . . the urgency of such transforming modernization all the greater because of the population explosion in the Arab countries, at a time of mass unemployment among disgruntled men anyway who are attracted increasingly to the paranoid hatreds enshrined in extremist Islamo-fundamentalisms.

4. An ambitious restructuring of our own homeland security, including an end to the deadly --- literally deadly for the thousands of 9/11 victims, thanks to intra-agency conflicts between the FBI and CIA, not to mention sheer bureaucratic pathologies that prevented accurate information from being processed properly and acted upon in a timely manner. The need to take control of our borders is also graphic here. The new security measures do raise issues of clear civil-rights concerns, something the buggy professor has written about earlier.

5. If need be, an abandonment of the multilateral diplomacy of the Clinton era --- seen as largely ineffectual in dealing with Saddam Hussein (despite the Clinton commitment to regime change there and launching several hundred missiles to decapitate Saddam and his henchmen in early 1999) and Al Qaeda and its fanatical equivalents --- and a strong return to the leadership initiatives of the Reagan-Truman era of American diplomacy after WWII.

  • Those leadership initiatives are called unilateralism by the Bush administration's critics. A strange term all the same, no? When the Bush administration went to war against Saddam Hussein, it had full Congressional support, had spent six months in the UN Security Council trying to win its support, and attacked the totalitarian Baathist state --- in violation of 16 UN Security Council Resolutions since 1990 --- with the active military support of four other democratic countries: the UK, Poland, Czech Republic, and Australia. It also had the diplomatic support of 23 of the members of NATO (18 a year ago, 10 new ones joining this year), including half of the EU members in that alliance.

  • Right now, 18 of the 28 NATO members have forces on the ground in Iraq, aiding in the transformation of that country after 40 years of brutal fascist Baathist rule. Mongolian troops are also there --- Mongolia, believe it or not, a functioning democracy. Japanese troops are scheduled to arrive soon too, along with several dozen war-ships.

  • Whatever else this amounts to, it is not unilateralism. Maybe critics mean that the US and the UK and the other democratic states that went to war with Iraq, in violation of 16 Security Council resolutions --- including 1441 passed in November 2003 --- should have tried harder to get another resolution in favor of war. Would that have been desirable? Yes. Would it have been feasible? President Chirac stated bluntly in early March 2003 that under no circumstances would France waive its veto over a war resolution. More generally, why the UN is regarded as sacrosanct when it's obvious, even in the Security Council, that states are following their self-interest isn't clear. What is clear is the dubious moral character of many of its members. A UN that has the blood-soaked Baathist Syrian state as last fall's chair of the Security Council, Khadaffi's madman Libya as the head of the Human Rights Commission, and was scheduled to have Saddam's Iraq chair the Disarmament Commission might figure in somebody's nightmares, but hardly in dreams of international peace and harmony.


Another Benefit

Note in passing one other beneficial change afoot in the international sphere that has made the world safer, though whether it's been influenced directly by US pressures and mediation can't be determined at present:

  • Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers that have fought three wars since 1947 --- the year Britain quit the Indian sub-continent --- and that have been waging a proxy war since 1988 over Kashmir in the north, have agreed to hold direct talks to improve relations, increase mutual confidence, and settle the Kashmir dispute.

Nothing would contribute more to stability in Central and South Asia then even partial success in the Pakistan-Indian relationship. The US is the only country with major influence on both governments. Two years ago, the visits of our Secretary of Defense and a Deputy Secretary of State helped defuse the rising spiral toward a war then. Musharraf's hold on power is precarious: opposed by Islamo-fascist movements, fundamentalist extremists, and sympathizers within the military and powerful intelligence community. It's time he started showing more courage and taking them all on.


More Benefits

Meanwhile, here are two other positive changes afoot that can be subscribed to effective American policies the last year or so:

  • Despite criticisms in France and Germany of the Bush policies abroad, NATO solidarity has survived the recent tussles, and --- in contrast to the stillbirth of the EU Rapid Reaction Force, a rhetorical commitment that never bore fruit --- NATO now has a RRF of its own, drawn mainly from European members.

  • 18 of the 28 members of NATO have sent military forces to help with stabilizing post-Saddamite Iraq.

  • And North Korea --- in a move that Secretary of State Powell dubbed as positive --- offered last week to freeze its nuclear programs in return for US political and economic concessions . . . even as it agreed as well to a 6-Power Conference of concerned states in North Asia to deal with its nuclear and missile programs. Back last winter, alarmist critics were saying that unless we met with North Korea on its own terms, some sort of explosion --- diplomatic, maybe even military --- might erupt. Wisely, the Bush administration refused to cave in to the sort of blustering swagger that marks North Korea's diplomacy for decades, even as it apparently has kept open lines of communication to the monstrous totalitarian regime in Pyongyang.

  TO BE CONTINUED, S.B. TIME, 2:30, January 13, 2004