Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Let history judge George W. Bush

Bush stands firm like a rock

From The Statesman

President George W Bush - not public opinion polls - is the prime political mover in the United States. Foreign policy of course cannot run on public opinion polls, which go up and down so often that it will be politically unwise to be solely guided by them.

National leaders some time take measures that are unpopular, nevertheless, necessary according to their perception of the problem the country faces and their political vision. The hope that the excesses of the Bush administration, if any, will be corrected by the Democratic control of both houses is yet to be fulfilled.

Some thought Democratic Congress would redirect the president’s policy of keeping the course in Iraq, but Bush keeps going. He says it his job to conduct the war, not for Congress. He will listen to the generals, who haven’t given up on Iraq, not yet. The generals hope the new strategy in Iraq needs time to show results.

Democrats realise that they have failed to make a strategic use of their newly attained political power to persuade the president to find a workable solution how to stabilize Iraq and bring about troops withdrawal without damaging the US long-term interest in the region. They don’t have veto-proof strength in Congress to tie up the president or force him take actions against his best judgment.

Democrats are also feeling helpless for failing to put forward their own national agenda to strengthen their control over Congress as well as prepare for winning the White House in 2008. Iraq is playing as much a significant role in the 2008 presidential election as it did in the mid-term elections. Iraq is keeping the country divided. No one believes that Iraq, Afghanistan or terrorism would go away soon, which means that Democrats whether they control Congress or the White House or both in 2008 will have to deal with Iraq and international terrorism, even when they claim that the mess was created and aggravated by the Bush administration.

There is a broad national consensus, nonetheless, that the United States cannot just pack and run away from Iraq. Not only Iraq would continue to be a bloody hell for decades but also the United States would never recover from its humiliating shame and failure, if US troops were withdrawn without a plan for peace and stability. The limited goal has been to control Sunni-Shia sectarian killings and bring about a reasonable level of law and order and political stability that could justify withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq. Unfortunately it has not been happening.

Of the several benchmarks Congress set for evaluation of progress in Iraq, only a few have been met satisfactorily.

While Kurds in the north who have enjoyed autonomy since the first Gulf War due to the no-fly zone restrictions imposed on Saddam’s regime by the United States are not ready to give up their gains including the region’s oil wealth, Sunnis aided by some neighbouring Arab countries and Shias with the full backing of Iran are locked in a deadly struggle for supremacy. Division of the country into three separate independent states would leave the oil wealth with Shias who dominate the south and with Kurd who control the north, leaving Sunnis empty but full of bitterness and vengeance, which would not bring sectarian violence and terrorism to an end.

Negotiations based on equitable distribution of oil resources and a federal-type political structure that keeps balance amongst three regions as the basis for reconciliation and unity and national reconstruction has not made much headway.

So when Congress leaders especially Democrats ask the president to get out of Iraq quickly, they are not being realistic. Getting out of Iraq will not be the end of Al-Qaida, which has become resurgent as the recent events in Pakistan’s Lal Masjid and the arrests of eight terrorists, most of them doctors, in the UK shows.

Writing in **Foreign Affairs**, Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis said sometime ago: “The terrorists of September 11 exposed vulnerabilities in the defences of all states,” which necessitated for Bush to preside over “the most sweeping redesign of US grand strategy since the presidency of Franklin D Roosevelt. The basis for Bush’s grand strategy, like Roosevelt’s, comes from the shock of surprise attack and will not change. None of FDR’s successors, Democrat or Republican, could escape the lesson he drew from the events of 7 December, 1941 (Pearl Harbor): that distance alone no longer protected Americans from assaults at the hands of hostile states. Neither Bush nor his successors, whatever their party, can ignore what the events of 11 September, 2001, made clear: the deterrence against states affords insufficient protection from attacks by gangs, which can now inflict the kind of damage only states fighting wars used to be able to achieve.”

Terrorism breeds in failing states. Pakistani military rulers know that breeding and financing terrorists can bite back. Britain and other European countries too have begun to realise that Islamic terrorism is growing in their midst and must be purged whatever the cost. Even lionising a glib satirist like Salman Rushdie can be hazardous.

No one will disagree with President Bush that war against terrorism is a struggle for civilisation. He has many successes and has made many mistakes, but now it is a question of consolidating the gains in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is unthinkable that the US will totally withdraw from the Middle East and Central Asia. Strategically speaking, there’s too much at stake in the region and the US Congress must realise it.

(ND Batra is professor of communications and diplomacy at Norwich University. He is the author of Digital Freedom: How Much Can You Handle?)

No comments:

Post a Comment