National Security Network

Another Week That Demonstrated the Bankruptcy of Conservative Foreign Policy

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Report 22 August 2008

Iraq Iraq Afghanistan Awakening bush Georgia iraq Musharraf Pakistan russia Taliban


It may not have seemed possible for things to get any worse for the Bush administration after last week, when the world witnessed the full-circle collapse of the Bush’s personality-driven approach towards Putin’s Russia and Musharraf’s Pakistan. Yet not only did the extent of the President’s failed policy toward Pakistan and Russia become more clear, but the events of the week also demonstrated the bankruptcy of the conservative approach toward Iraq, Afghanistan, and Europe. This week it became clear that:

  • amidst discussions over the future of the American presence in Iraq, the country remains no closer to political reconciliation,
  • the Taliban is resurgent and Afghanistan is deteriorating, 
  • the U.S.-Russia relationship is in crisis and the U.S. has little leverage,
  • the Transatlantic alliance is in tatters after years of tension and neglect, and 
  • the stability of Pakistan is in doubt.

The list of foreign policy failures this week is breath-taking. The U.S. needs a completely new foreign policy, not more of the same.

Bush administration kicked political reconciliation down the road, but ethno-sectarian divisions continue to fester in Iraq.  Distracted by negotiations to establish the future status of the U.S. mission in Iraq, the Bush Administration has failed to address broader problem of political reconciliation. Provincial elections, “seen as vital to reconciling the deep-seated tensions among Iraq’s political and sectarian groups,” have been postponed repeatedly and may not occur until 2009.  In the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, ethnic clashing served as a reminder that “Iraq’s unsettled ethnic and regional discord could still upend directives emanating from Baghdad and destabilize large swaths of the country — or even set off a civil war.” Worst of all, there are increasing signs that the Iraqi government intends to crackdown on the ‘Awakening’ groups largely responsible for the dramatic decrease in violence.  Even as an aide to Prime Minister Maliki acknowledged that “part of them [The Awakening movement] will fight the government if they are not recruited into the security forces,” Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Hit, of the Iraqi Army, stated: “These people are like cancer, and we must remove them.” [NY Times, 8/07/08. NY Times, 8/19/08. NY Times, 8/22/08]

In Afghanistan, an increasingly brazen insurgency threatens to overturn hopes for stability.  In the absence of a greater U.S. and NATO commitment, the NATO-ISAF mission in Afghanistan struggles to contain a growing insurgency.  This week alone saw a dramatic surge in violence.  Insurgents struck a French patrol operating near Kabul, an attack which “killed 10 French soldiers and wounded 21 in a major battle… the biggest single loss of foreign troops in combat there since 2001.” In Khost province, waves of suicide bombers attempted to breach a NATO military base called Camp Salerno. “On Monday, a car bomb was detonated outside the base, killing 10 Afghans and wounding 13… On Tuesday, insurgents followed up with a second attack,” that involved “as many as 10 suicide bombers.”  [Reuters, 8/19/08. Washington Post, 8/20/08]

Russia ignores bluster from Bush, McCain, continues to fortify positions in Georgia – as U.S. has little leverage and seems to lack a broader strategy.
Reports indicate that despite protests from the Bush administration, Russia has refused to fully withdrawal from Georgian territory. There is a need for a broader strategy. “‘Outrage is not a policy,’ said Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state under President Clinton and is now the president of the Brookings Institution. ‘Worry is not a policy. Indignation is not a policy. Even though outrage, worry and indignation are all appropriate in this situation, they shouldn’t be mistaken for policy and they shouldn’t be mistaken for strategy.’” The failure of the Bush administration’s personality-driven approach, has meant that “Washington’s menu of options pales by comparison to Moscow’s. Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said ‘there’s a lot more’ that the United States needed from Russia than the other way around, citing efforts to secure old Soviet nuclear arms, support the war effort in Afghanistan and force Iran and North Korea to give up nuclear programs. ‘Hence Russia has all the leverage,’ she said.” [NY Times, 8/22/08]

U.S. - European alliance in tatters - after years of tension and neglect, unable to forge united front on Russia-Georgia conflict. The Transatlantic alliance is still feeling the harmful effects of the Iraq war, as the crisis concerning Georgia and Russia exposed divisions within the Alliance. The U.S. approach the past eight years, which at one point sought to exploit the divisions between “old” and “new” Europe, has contributed to increasing division within Europe. The “NATO ministers, at a rare emergency meeting, failed to agree on any specific punitive measures, despite pressure from the United States that NATO at least threaten Russia with unspecified “consequences,” and pleas from the Czech Republic, Poland and NATO’s Baltic members that it take a tough stand.” [NY Times, 8/19/08]

In the wake of President Musharraf’s resignation, confusion and disorder swirls in Pakistan.  Musharraf’s resignation represented the complete failure of the Bush administration’s personality driven policy toward Pakistan.  Upon his resignation there was a near “instant deterioration in relations within the government,” as Pakistani leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zadari began squabbling over the reinstatement of the chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, trouble continued to brew in Kashmir, “a region that has been claimed by both Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan.” While “relations between India and Pakistan improved during the last four years of Musharraf's presidency,” some Indians are now anxious that his resignation spells uncertainty for the historically fraught relationship.  And finally, in a sign that militants may use Pakistan’s instability to their advantage, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan orchestrated a massive bombing of an ordinance plant, an attack which claimed 70 lives. [NY Times, 8/19/08. Washington Post, 8/19/08. Bloomberg, 8/22/08]

Quick Hits

Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the bombings in Algeria this week, Tuesday’s suicide car bombing on a police academy that killed 43 and Wednesday’s twin suicide bombs killed 12 Algerian employees of a Canadian firm.

The British High Court yesterday ruled that the MI5 was complicit in the “unlawful interrogation,” detention and torture of a British resident now being held at Guantanamo Bay.  The detainee, Binyam Mohamed, will be tried by a military commission sometime over the next year.

Pakistan has announced a September 6 election to replace former President Pervez Musharraf.

In the wake of the Russia-Georgia conflict, foreign investors are pulling out of Russia, which had been enjoying an investment boom; foreign currency reserves were depleted by $16.4 billion in a single week.

Six Americans have been detained in China for attempting to protest
for a free Tibet at the Olympic Games.  This incident follows a week of suppressing of protests, which has included sending grandmothers to “re-education through labor” and the beating two AP photographers.

Crime and violence are running rampant in Mexico, as President Felipe Calderon has issued a national call for help, encouraging citizens to report lawbreakers despite fears of retaliation and asking for an overhaul of policing.