ALBRIGHT’S TWO CENTS
Madeleine Albright has an interesting piece in the current Foreign Affairs in which she criticizes the Bush team’s diplomatic style. She offers some useful observations, but seems to have bought too much into the Howard Dean version of the party line. She criticizes Bush and Co. for being caught up in a black and white, “with us or against us” mindset but then seems to think that we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.
The second Bush administration, believing that its perception of the meaning of September 11 is self-evidently right, has failed to make a sustained effort to persuade the rest of the world to share it. As a result, the world does not in fact subscribe to the same view. Certainly, most of the world does not agree with Bush that September 11 “changed everything.” This is not to say the attacks were met by indifference. On the contrary, NATO, for the first time in its history, declared the crimes to be acts of aggression against the entire alliance. Almost every government in the Muslim world, including Iran and the Palestinian Authority, condemned the strikes. U.S. allies, from Canada to Japan to Australia, rushed to aid or complement the American military campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan, properly confronted by the administration with a stark choice, chose to cooperate as well. Even China and Russia, plagued by Muslim separatists, pledged solidarity. For months after September 11, it seemed the Bush administration would harness these reactions to unite the world in opposition to a common threat.
The president began well, emphasizing the array of nationalities victimized in the Twin Towers attacks and gathering broad support for the military operation he directed at the perpetrators. Al Qaeda’s Taliban protectors were pushed from power, its training camps were destroyed, arms caches were seized, and many of its leaders were captured or killed. But instead of single-mindedly building on these gains, the Bush administration has since steadily enlarged and complicated its own mission.
In his 2002 State of the Union address, for example, President Bush focused not on al Qaeda and the work remaining in Afghanistan, but rather on the so-called axis of evil.
While I was stunned by the “axis of evil” announcement at the time and still am not persuaded it was the right tack, as Albright herself notes earlier in the piece, the fight is with Islamic terrorism, not al Qaeda alone. While expanding the mission beyond our capability is problematical, a consensus built around a too-narrow agenda is dangerous.
She then engages in a What If? scenario:
I remain convinced that had Al Gore been elected president, and had the attacks of September 11 still happened [So, Gore might have forestalled it? How? -ed.], the United States and NATO would have gone to war in Afghanistan together, then deployed forces all around that country and stayed to rebuild it. [Seems like our forces are still there doing precisely this. Check on this. -ed.]Democrats, after all, confess support for nation building, and also believe in finishing the jobs we start. I also believe the United States and NATO together would have remained focused on fighting al Qaeda [Did we stop fighting them? I don’t remember this. Didn’t we just capture an al Qaeda leader a couple days ago? -ed.] and would not have pretended — and certainly would not have been allowed to get away with pretending — that the ongoing failure to capture Osama bin Laden did not matter [Wonder what Gore would have done to find him that isn’t being done now. Note to Bush team: Get Gore’s advice here; he’s obviously a terrorist-finding savant. -ed.]. As for Saddam, I believe the Gore team would have read the intelligence information about his activities differently and concluded that a war against Iraq, although justifiable, was not essential in the short term to protect U.S. security. A policy of containment would have been sufficient while the administration pursued the criminals who had murdered thousands on American soil.
I agree that a Gore administration would have allowed Saddam to remain in power murdering his own people by the thousands and that this policy would have been very popular in the international community. France especially would be pleased. And it’s certainly quite possible that U.S. security would have been unharmed by such a policy.
The Bush administration’s decision to broaden its focus from opposing al Qaeda to invading Iraq and threatening military action against others has had unintended and unwelcome consequences. According to the recent findings of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which surveyed 16,000 people in 20 countries and the Palestinian territories in May, the percentage of those who have a favorable view of the United States has declined sharply (15 percentage points or more) in nations such as Brazil, France, Germany, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia, and Turkey. In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority state, the view of the United States plunged from 75 percent favorable to 83 percent negative between 2000 and 2003. Support for the U.S.-led war on terror has declined in each of the countries listed above, along with pivotal Pakistan, where it stands at a disheartening 20 percent. The citizens of such NATO allies as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy rated Russia’s Vladimir Putin more highly as a world leader than Bush. Significant majorities of those interviewed in Russia and in 7 of 8 predominantly Muslim countries (Kuwait being the exception) claimed to be somewhat or very worried about the potential threat to their societies posed by the U.S. military. I never thought the day would come when the United States would be feared by those it has neither the intention nor the cause to harm.
She is undeniably correct here. There is no doubt that the United States was beloved by all, especially those in the Muslim world, before Bush started employing his cowboy foreign policy and calling everybody “evil-doers.” Indeed, Bush should strive to be more like Vladimir Putin.
The ouster of Saddam has indeed made the world, or at least Iraq, a better place. [Cool! -ed.] But when the United States commits tens of billions of dollars to any worthwhile project, that is the least it should be able to say. Even more vital is progress toward mobilizing the kind of multinational, multicultural, multifaceted, and multiyear initiative required to discredit, disrupt, and dismantle al Qaeda and whatever splinter factions it may one day spawn. That initiative will require a maximum degree of global coordination and the integration of force, diplomacy, intelligence, and law. It will require strong working relationships in regions where radical ideologies thrive and pro-Western sentiments are scant. And above all, it will require vigorous leadership from Islamic moderates, who must win the struggle for control of their own faith. Unfortunately, the Iraq war and the subsequent U.S. occupation of Baghdad — the capital of Islam during that faith’s golden age — have made more difficult the choices Islamic moderates and others around the world must make.
We shall see, I suppose. But Albright acknowledges that a multi-year initiative is needed. So, the results will be seen in the long term, not the next few months. The Bush team is betting that they can put in place a moderate government in Iraq with a functioning economy and a thriving civil society. If so, if will be the lone such example in the Islamic world. One could argue that this would be helpful to the goals she outlines which, if their rhetoric is to be believed, are identical to those of the administration.
The article goes on to make some very worthwhile suggestions for repairing our relationship with the European allies:
As I suggested above, responsibility for the transatlantic split does not rest on the shoulders of the Bush administration alone. The French certainly have not helped matters, by arguing, for example, that the very purpose of European integration should be to create a counterweight to American power. This constitutes de Villepin’s choice “between two visions of the world,” by which he means a choice between a unipolar world in which Washington acts as an unrestrained hegemon and a multipolar one in which American power is offset and balanced by other forces, most particularly a united Europe. But that argument is ludicrous. The idea that the power of the United States endangers the interests of European democracies, rather than strengthens and helps shield them, is utter nonsense. American power may harm French pride, but it also helped roll back Hitler, save a blockaded Berlin, defeat communism, and rid the Balkans of a rampaging Slobodan Milosevic.
The divisions that have arisen between the United States and many in Europe can and must be narrowed. The challenge for Europe is to reject French hyperventilating about American hyperpower and keep its perspective. The United States has not lost its moorings, and the American people, with an assist from Secretary of State Colin Powell and other voices of reason, will not let the administration go too far.
The challenge for the United States, however, is to frame a choice for Europe that most of Europe can embrace with dignity (if not always with France). To help this mission along, NATO should be used in Afghanistan (where it has finally gained a role, two years after September 11) and in Iraq, where its umbrella might help relieve the pressure on hard-pressed U.S. troops. The Bush administration should enthusiastically welcome European efforts to develop an independent rapid reaction capability, especially to conduct peacekeeping operations and respond to humanitarian emergencies. When Europeans perform important jobs, as the Germans and the Turks have done over the past year in Afghanistan, they deserve congratulations, regardless of differences over less basic issues. Furthermore, the Europeans should be invited, not directed, to work closely with Washington on the toughest challenges, including that posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Perhaps above all, the Europeans should be treated as adults. If they have differences with U.S. policy, those differences should be considered seriously, not dismissed as signs of weakness (or age) or tantamount to treason. Washington needs to recall that “allies” and “satellites” are distinctly different things.
I agree that changes in style and tone might be helpful. But the differences go well beyond that to different worldviews. While it’s perfectly reasonable to get the input of these states and to try to forge consensus–and I think it’s unfair to say the Bush team hasn’t tried to do this, despite the results–there will be times when agreement is not reachable. Sometimes, it will be to our strategic advantage to give in. Other times, especially when our leaders believe our security interests are at stake, the option to go it alone will have to be exercised. We are, after all, adults too.