Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bush's diplomatic failures

There is a passage in Theodore Rex, which supposedly the president has read, that illustrates Theodore Roosevelt's view on foreign affairs:
His test, an affirmation of the Monroe Doctrine with special reference to Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia, featured his favorite "West African proverb," except now the source was obscured, to make it more memorable and quotable:
There is a homely old adage which runs, Speak softly and carry a big stick: you will go far. If the American nation will speak softly, and yet build, and keep at a pitch of the highest training, a thoroughly efficient navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far.
This generated such loud applause as to suggest that the audience took his "adage" as aggressive, rather than cautionary. Actually, Roosevelt was trying to say that soft-spoken (even secret) diplomacy should be the priority of a civilization, as long as hardness -- of moral resolve, of military might -- lay back of it. Otherwise, inevitably, soft speech would sound like scared speech.
It is best to keep that big stick merely as a threat, as Sun Tzu said:
When employing them in battle, a victory that is long in coming will blunt their weapons and dampen their ardor. ... I have heard of awkward speed but have never seen any skill in lengthy campaigns. No country has ever profited from protracted warfare. Those who do not thoroughly comprehend the dangers inherent in employing the army are incapable of truly knowing the potential advantages of military actions.
The Los Angeles Times' analysis of the emerging conflict with Russia:
WASHINGTON — In its campaign to bring about a more democratic Russia, the Bush administration is speaking ever more loudly, but carrying a small stick.

Although the administration has served notice that it will press the Kremlin to govern democratically at home and play by the rules abroad, it has less and less leverage to bring this about. Despite the Bush administration's hopes and sometimes wishful rhetoric, the Russia that once was poor and dependent has found it can ride its energy riches to global influence.

In the 1990s, Russia depended heavily on international loans and yearned to be seen as a world power. Now, with oil selling for more than $70 a barrel and with $220 billion in gold and hard currency in the Russian treasury, Moscow needs less in the way of aid or international recognition. The shift is a potent reminder of how oil prices can alter the balance of power.

As a result, Washington is likely to make little headway in changing Russia's policies and faces a difficult relationship with the Kremlin for years to come, say current and former U.S. officials and other experts.

"If we had developed the relationship in a more positive way four years ago, we would have had more leverage," said Steven Pifer, a top State Department official for Russia during President Bush's first term. "But the relationship now is pretty thin. There's not that much they need us on."

Nonetheless, the Bush administration has made it clear over the last two weeks that it intends to step up pressure on the Russian government. In an appearance May 4 in Vilnius, Lithuania, Vice President Dick Cheney accused Russia of rolling back democracy and using its energy wealth as a "weapon" against its neighbors.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin responded, criticizing the United States in his annual state of the nation address. The White House fired back that it expected reform from Moscow.
The Bush administration has allowed Russia under Putin to drift outside the orbit of normal Western democracy with scarcely more than a tardy bark. As this occurred, Iran's power in the Persian Gulf was enhanced. The Taliban has not been fully destroyed. Bin Laden remains alive. Terrorist attacks are on the rise. There is and was genocide in Darfur. Nigeria is unstable, and a fifth of our oil comes from that country. Energy policy was written with no foresight or vision. The American military has taken a pounding in Iraq. And, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has built his own little anti-Bush/anti-America sphere of influence.


Blogger Ezzie said...

Sadly, this is primarily because of the left. Roosevelt (or Churchill?) also is quoted as saying something like, "Use force only as a last resort. But when you use it, use it fully."

For Iraq, the US spoke softly and then used the big stick. People then whined and whined and whined - and now, the US is afraid to do the same with Iran. It's a shame. (Notice Israel, btw, is relatively quiet.)

12:21 AM  
Blogger zen said...

So, a president that claims to not pay attention to polls, has indeed let "the left" determine his course of action? The president ignored opposition voices every step of the way. Now that his decisions have backed him into a corner of incompetence you want to blame it on someone else? I thought this was the party of "personal responsibility."
Bush deserves all the credit for the noble, lofty goals. Yet the blame or criticizm for failures are on the feet of the people not in power? The people that have been ignored, pushed aside, and even accused of being anti-American?! With all due respect...wake up.

It is not only the left, or the center, but also the right, the base, that recognize Bush's failure. And if you think that America will benefit from a "big stick" attack on Iran then you've not been paying attention.

9:50 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Ezzie, Israel is quiet because they can be confident of an active U.S. role in the region for the foreseeable future. I don't see how you can blame the left for these diplomatic failures while Bush has been in office with almost complete GOP control of the legislative branch. Roosevelt's diplomatic model was one of passive rhetoric and back-door negotiation. He split the Germans and British in their designs on Latin America and avoided a costly war -- he could have won two Nobel prizes for peace. The US did not speak softly in regards to Iraq, nor is is speaking softly with Iran and Russia (and Venezuela, for that matter). Also, you missed my point (or ignored it) about the blunted sword once it has been used.

Zen, I agree.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

That's the difference - I don't see failure where the left does. The left has unrealistic expectations of success. I will agree that Bush is making the mistake listening to this pressure from the left, though.

1:00 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Ezzie, could you identify what the left sees as failures that are, in fact, not failures?

1:27 PM  
Blogger zen said...

I'm interested to hear that answer as well.

EC you nailed it, again. The point being that regardless of the rhetoric, this war has been costly in not only lives and expense, but US influence in the world—Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, China, etc...
The whole fiasco was very short-sighted. They counted on, and only on, a quick in-out with the military. They counted on the worldwide support, with the US in the lead. They underestimated and failed to plan for anything else.
So now we are weaker for it and our options for other needs very limited. Mission Accomplished!

6:27 PM  

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