From deteriorating security in Afghanistan and Somalia to mayhem in the Middle East, confrontation with Iran and eroding relations with Russia, the White House suddenly sees crisis in every direction.
North Korea's long-range missile test Tuesday, although unsuccessful, was another reminder of the bleak foreign policy landscape that faces President Bush even outside of Iraq. Few foreign policy experts foresee the reclusive Stalinist state giving up the nuclear weapons it appears to have acquired, making it another in a long list of world problems that threaten to cloud the closing years of the Bush administration, according to foreign policy experts in both parties.
...the events on the Korean Peninsula underscored how the administration has lost the initiative it once possessed on foreign policy in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, leaving at risk the central Bush aspiration of democracy-building around the world...they also showed how the huge commitment of resources and time on Iraq -- and the attendant falloff in international support for the United States -- has limited the administration's flexibility in handling new world crises. "This is a distracted government that has to take care of too many things at the same time and has been consumed by the war on Iraq," said Moisés Naím, editor of Foreign Policy magazine.
Of course, to buy the idea that the Bush administration ever had a "vision" you must make the assumption that there was ever more to neo-conservatism than conquering Iraq and securing a safe supply of oil in the long-term, and perhaps hoping that by kicking over the anthill you'd unleash forces of change that would spread over the Middle East like a fresh wind...or some shit like that.
On al-Arabiya last week, Hisham Milhem led a discussion on "Bush and democracy in the Arab world."....I was most struck by a remark by Amr Hamzawy. He pointed that the fact that most of the Arab media and political class were now discussing the "retreat" of American commitment to democracy demonstrates that at least at one point they were prepared to entertain the thought that there had been some credibility to that campaign. No longer, Hamzawy argued — America's turn away from democracy and reform had badly hurt its image and its credibility with this Arab political class....This seemed to be a well-received notion.
Wow. I must say I didn't know that the Arab political class ever sincerely gave us credit for really trying to promote democracy. I must say, they're less cynical than I am for I believe that this hoo-hah about democracy was purely for domestic consumption. Sure, we'd love democracy in Afghanistan, but that's not why we invaded. Sure, we'd love democracy in Iraq...but that's not why we invaded. You can always measure a country's sincerity by the wars it wages. Kevin Drum sums it up better than I can:
...the Bush administration literally seems to have no foreign policy at all anymore. They have no serious plan for Iraq, no plan for Iran, no plan for North Korea, no plan for democracy promotion, no plan for anything. With the neocons on the outs, Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, and Dick Cheney continuing to drift into an alternate universe at the OVP, the Bush administration seems completely at sea. There's virtually no ideological coherency to their foreign policy that I can discern, and no credible followup on what little coherency is left.
We can look forward to two more years of the Bush administration being forced to deal with issues like Iran and North Korea by events that outpace them, and attacking Democrats for being "defeatists" on Iraq even as they discuss with the PM of Iraq and entertain from their own generals plans for getting out. It's all about the politics baby. This is foreign policy run on an election timetable.