Tuesday, October 12, 2004

NYTimes > Campaign 2004 > Bush: Challenging Rest of the World With a New Order

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The Bush Record: Challenging Rest of the World With a New Order:
"Jorge Castañeda, Mexico's former foreign minister, has two distinct images of George W. Bush: the charmer intent on reinventing Mexican-American ties and the chastiser impatient with Mexico as the promise of a new relationship soured."

The change came with the Sept. 11 attacks. "My sense is that Bush lost and never regained the gift he had shown for making you feel at ease," said Mr. Castañeda, who left office last year. "He became aloof, brusque, and on occasion abrasive."

The brusqueness had a clear message: the United States is at war, it needs everybody's support and that support is not negotiable. Mexico's hesitant stance at the United Nations on the war in Iraq became a source of tension. Yet Mr. Castañeda said, "I was never asked, 'What is it you need in order to be more cooperative with us? What can we do to help?' "

It is a characterization of Mr. Bush's foreign policy style often heard around the world: bullying, unreceptive, brazen. The result, critics of this administration contend, has been a disastrous loss of international support, damage to American credibility, the sullying of America's image and a devastating war that has already taken more than 1,000 American lives. In the first presidential debate, Senator John Kerry argued that only with a change of presidents could the damage be undone.…

The Nov. 2 election will see if Mr. Bush's approach to foreign policy - replete with images of courage and endurance, of moral certitudes and of generational struggle to defeat a new enemy while transforming an entire region - has proved persuasive to most Americans. It has clearly divided America's friends.

Some are enthused. "Relations between Japan and America have never been better than with Bush," said Hatsuhisa Takashima, the foreign ministry spokesman in Tokyo, where spines have been stiffened by the North Korean threat and Mr. Bush's blunt approach to terrorism. "We have more than 500 troops in Iraq because we believe the American-British action prodded Libya to disarm, sent a strong message to North Korea and showed the price of noncompliance with United Nations resolutions. Failure in Iraq is unthinkable."

But as things stand, failure, with its potentially dire consequences for American world leadership, cannot be ruled out. Mr. Bush has proved to be a gambler in foreign affairs. Revolutions can bring big rewards. They can also deliver disaster.

The story of the Bush foreign policy is one of startling change: from the promise of a "humble" approach in 2000 through the "dead or alive" search for the elusive Osama bin Laden to the articulation of a bold, pro-active doctrine summed up last month by Mr. Bush, when he told the United Nations:

"Our security is not merely founded in spheres of influence or some balance of power; the security of our world is found in advancing the rights of mankind."

In other words, less emphasis on containment - the policy of slow-squeeze that defeated communism - and more on the contagion of liberty installed, at least in Iraq, by force of arms. This is stirring stuff that resonates in Eastern Europe, where the wounds of oppression are still felt, as well as with Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister of Iraq, and many of his compatriots. But it is also the stuff of upheaval, and a policy on which the NATO alliance, long a cornerstone of American security, has been unable to agree.

"We have been worried by the absence of debate, the presentation of faits accomplis," said Javier Solana, a former NATO secretary-general and now the European Union's chief foreign affairs official.

In effect, a new spectrum of relations with Washington has emerged. At one end are estranged allies like France and Germany, angered by the war, convinced it is a losing struggle, alarmed by America's use of overwhelming power.

In the muddy middle are nations like Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, important allies whose leaders are sometimes supportive, but where many people believe Mr. Bush has ignited a war against Islam. Their reliability is uncertain.

It has not helped that the Mideast peace process has stalled and that Mr. Bush has appeared less engaged in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute than his recent predecessors.

At the other end are nations, including Poland, Italy, Britain and Japan, that have made the choice to fall in line with Mr. Bush after Sept. 11. Others, including Russia, China and Israel, have embraced the war on terror for reasons of their own.

These divisions get little airing when Mr. Bush campaigns for a second term. The rhetoric at his rallies is of an America unbowed and unrestrained. The day after the first presidential debate Mr. Bush said Mr. Kerry would subject decisions on national security to vetoes "by countries like France.'' The U.N. is often derided at Republican events.

This sort of talk may bring partisan crowds to their feet, but it makes the world uneasy.

"If you want to get a cheap cheer from certain quarters in America, it seems that all you have to do is bash the U.N., or the French or the very idea that allies are entitled to have their own opinions," Chris Patten, the commissioner for external relations for the European Union, said last month. "Multilateralists, we are told, want to outsource American foreign and security policy to a bunch of garlic-chewing, cheese-eating wimps."

…the complaint often heard around the world is that from the outset the Bush administration's dismissive attitude set a pattern of take-it-or-leave-it policies that needlessly alienated friends. The Iraq war accelerated that process. Then, the acknowledgment that there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and no proven links between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda cemented the view in Paris, Berlin and elsewhere that Mr. Bush governed from ideology first, facts second.

"The United States had to react strongly to Sept. 11, a fact often forgotten in Europe," said Alexandre Adler, a French foreign policy expert generally sympathetic to America. "But Bush has given the image of a warmonger without subtleties and the result is no president since Nixon, and perhaps not even then, has been so unpopular here."

Anti-Americanism has become a winning European platform. In the most recent Spanish and German elections, opposing Mr. Bush's policies proved central to both the upset victory of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the re-election of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, respectively.

But recently, Mr. Bush has been buoyed by the overwhelming re-election of a steadfast ally, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia. For the past few days, Mr. Bush has crisscrossed Minnesota, Iowa, and Colorado celebrating Afghanistan's first free election.

Still, anti-American hostility in the Islamic world is widespread. Last year, Mr. Powell asked Edward P. Djerejian, an experienced diplomat, to travel the world to examine the failures of American public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Mr. Djerejian returned shocked at the picture of America he saw on Arab television and the absence of any effective American rebuttal. "We did not have anywhere near enough people in place with the right language skills or the right sensitivities to respond," he said.

Mr. Djerejian still believes the outcome in Iraq could be positive, but he added that a chronically unstable Iraq would "set back the key goals we said we were trying to achieve on the Arab-Israeli front, on energy security and certainly on democratizing the region."

His investigation came before the photographs of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq emerged. "The photographs shattered our reputation as the world's most admired champion of freedom and justice," said Philip Gordon of the Brookings Institution. "That is grave, because without the world's trust, America cannot flourish."

So three years after Sept. 11, Mr. Bush leads a United States whose image has been tarnished, while Europeans, Asians and Latin Americans still feel far less threatened by terrorism than Americans do.

con·cept: NYTimes > Campaign 2004 > Bush: Challenging Rest of the World With a New Order