MSNBC talk show host and former Democratic policy wonk Chris Matthews recently has been fondly recalling bits of foreign policy wisdom from President Reagan, who, as Matthews notes, used to say the United States should be the “city upon the hill.” By that he meant that this country should be a benevolent powerhouse that leads by setting a shining example of civilized international diplomacy for the rest of the world.
Interesting that a pundit would point to Reagan-who competed with the Soviet Union in the nuclear arms race with almost maniacal fervor and who referred to the U.S.S.R. as the “evil empire”-as a much more benign foreign-policy president in comparison with George W. Bush. It effectively identifies Bush's place on the “might is right” continuum-up there at the top with people like Alexander Haig.
Bush set forth a doctrine last week that signals a remarkable departure for U.S. foreign policy. It says the U.S., given these dangerous times, should strike first militarily to protect its interests. Even Reagan said we shouldn't strike first. The Bush doctrine- which makes it clear that war-is-peace hawks like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have won the internal battle against more cautionary moderates such as Colin Powell-takes this country one step closer to attacking Iraq without provocation.
The course Bush has the United States on militarily is consistent with some of his pre-Sept. 11 moves, particularly his arrogant withdrawal from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to fight global warming. The chosen policy of unilateral war against Iraq is simply another obscene gesture that tells the rest of the world to screw off.
Bush's speech at the United Nations was a joke. First of all, he never had any intention of backing off in the event the U.N. Security Council didn't support his war effort. He has since said he'll kick Saddam Hussein's ass with or without an international coalition. Secondly, despite the fact that he scared the crap out of Hussein, the Iraqi leader has promised to allow unconditional weapons inspections-Bush now says it's too late for that. Which is odd, because Hussein's refusal to allow the rest of us to take a peek at his weapons is the reason we're talking so tough in the first place.
The only conclusion we can come to is that Bush and his chest-thumping buddies don't give a damn what the rest of the world thinks. They're bent on showing the planet that the United States, already the world's only undisputed superpower, plans to rule with an iron fist, regardless of its hypocrisy-laden policy (the U.S. has more weapons of mass destruction than any other country and is the only country that's ever dropped an atomic bomb).
Bush can potentially do a lot of damage domestically, but that's nothing compared to his potential for disaster internationally. Surely he must understand that much of the rest of the world already despises us. And it's not only violent Islamic extremists-it's also people in Western countries critical of America's arrogant stance on global environmental and economic matters. Ignoring the world community now will only weaken our tenuous footing.
If we attack Hussein unilaterally, we can likely kiss any international cooperation goodbye. How will that impact our efforts to combat terrorists? Immeasurably. We cannot root out terrorists without help from other countries.
Our representatives in Congress must forget for the moment about the November election and say no to Bush's costly war on Iraq. They should counter with a proposal that takes a fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars the war would cost and funnel it into an enhanced intelligence campaign.
We must stay focused on terrorism, and the only way to do that is to cultivate our global relationships and put more money into intelligence gathering, which will lead to better success in thwarting future attacks. If we're worried about Hussein and his nuclear capabilities, let's focus our efforts on better monitoring the international weapons trade, which, by the way, we have been a major player in for many decades.
We must, somehow, reel in the Bush administration before it plunges us into worldwide military quagmire.