Nancy Soderberg's piece on the shift in US strategy gives a backhanded compliment to President Bush and Condoleeza Rice. On one hand, she says the "new" strategy of trying diplomacy with the Euros is a good thing. But she claims it is because they have finally realized that the strategy of preemption didn't work. What she fails to mention is that all of the good stuff that she says is happening is a direct result of that very strategy. Here's the first part:
"First, the administration is poised to make history in the Middle East, not only between the Palestinians and Israelis but perhaps also between Israel and Syria and the Arab world. The rise of the more responsible Palestinian leadership and the strong U.S. backing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could be a winning combination if the administration seriously engages in the search for peace. The backlash over a Syrian role in the assassination of the former prime minister of Lebanon could lead to a housecleaning and a new willingness in Damascus to make peace with Israel. Rice has appointed herself as the lead peace negotiator, putting her firmly in line for a Nobel Peace Prize."
Now let's analyze that passage. The reason that Syria found it necessary to kill the guy in Lebanon is because he suddenly had a stronger platform to argue from. His insistence on Syria removing its troops from his country was suddenly reinforced by the local folks seeing the elections in Iraq. The people began to demand, in much greater numbers, and with a louder voice the right to govern themselves, without Syrian intervention. Syria was suddenly afraid of the possibility of losing their hold on Lebanon, hence the assasination. Well, the reason there were elections in Iraq was the "failed" strategy of preemption. Failed?
Her second statement is flawed as well:
"Second, the recent elections in Iraq came off better than even the administration had hoped, with 8.5 million Iraqis voting despite insurgent violence. And they voted for a secular — not Islamic, Iranian-style — government. The key to success, however, will be continued U.S. aid and military presence over the next several years while we build up a functioning Iraqi force able to maintain security. Historians will long debate whether the U.S. investment was worth it. Regardless, an increasingly stable Iraq will help address problems elsewhere in the Arab world; the U.S. can convert its investment into progress in the region. To do so, Washington must develop a serious plan to address the lack of reform in the Arab world — a root cause of the radical fundamentalist terrorism."
Now she is saying that we should continue with our strategy, flawed though it is. She states the obvious, that we need to do what the president has already says we are going to do (in his State of the Union Address). The reason the elections were so successful was because we had exerted force in the area, not because we used negotiation.
Here's the next paragraph:
"Third, if the administration's newfound fondness for building partnerships and diplomacy holds, it has a chance to make significant progress in stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
The Bush administration has shown that the use of force was a successful strategy. It offered the opportunity for the Euros to help, prior to the invasion of Iraq. The offer was shunned. Now the same offer is being repeated. It isn't new, it's just being reiterated.
Here's the next erroneous paragraph:
"One big question is whether the administration will abandon its most ideological positions, such as its irresponsible opposition to negotiating a deal with North Korea, which probably has nuclear weapons. It will also have to work harder to bring the Europeans and Russians along with its tough stance against Iran, which is probably working to develop nuclear weapons."
The idea that insisting that other countries in the geographic area around Korea shouldn't be included in the discussions about Korea's nuclear weapons has no sense of reality to it. First, we should have included Europe in the Iraq issue, but now we shouldn't include China, Russia, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea in talks about what is a great threat to them? Sounds like double speak to me. And to repeat a common theme, the president has already stated that he wishes the Euros and Russia to help in the Iran situation. Talk about repeating the obvious.
The next paragraph makes another incorrect assertion:
"And it will have to shift its focus from national missile-defense programs designed to address a receding threat and invest in tough international regimes that stem proliferation. The Proliferation Security Initiative, endorsed last year by the U.N. Security Council, offers a new way of doing arms control that bypasses long treaty negotiations and uses the power of the Security Council to build new rules more quickly."
She says that the threat of nuclear attack is receding. I submit that the threat is far greater now than it ever was during the cold war. Even with all the saber rattling done by the Soviet Union during the 20th century, they were not ruled by insane people. The Soviets knew we could destroy them, and they cared. With the advent of nuclear capability in Iran and North Korea, (both of which are ruled by insane fanatics) the idea that the threat is less is head in the sand thinking.
Her last main assertion follows:
"Fourth, President Bush has a chance to change the U.S. relationship with the developing world by investing in it seriously. He recognized that this challenge is central to the war on terrorism in 2002 by saying, "When governments fail to meet the most basic needs of their people, these failed states can become havens for terror." Nowhere is that challenge starker than in Africa, where more than half of its 650 million people live on less than $1 day. In his first term, Bush doubled aid to Africa, including $15 billion to fight HIV/AIDS. Yet the U.S. is far from doing its fair share. The U.N. and most industrialized countries have called on states to provide 0.7% of their gross national product to halve the number of people in poverty by 2015. To do so, we will need to increase our giving from its current 0.1% of GNP."
The United States provides more foreign aid to the rest of the world than all the rest of the world's governments combined. Until the Euros are ready to put their money where their mouths are, they shouldn't be telling us how to spend our money.
Now that I have refuted virtually every assertion in the article, I guess I should write my own book.
I'll be back
PS I'm going to send this to the LA Times, where the article appeared. We'll see if it gets published.