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Suicidal Statecraft and Intrigues in Washington

"Suicidal statecraft. Sadly for President George W. Bush's place in history but-much more important-ominously for America's future, it has lately seemed as if that adroit phrase might be applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11."

Criticism of the Bush administration's foreign policy increases. Now Wilkerson, former chief of staff in the State department under Powell and former national security advisor Brzezinski speak out

By Oliver Minkwitz

[This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis, 10/21/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.telepolis.de/r4/artikel/21/21184/1.html. Oliver Minkwitz is an expert on US foreign and security policy and visiting fellow of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.]

Two heavyweights in American politics are leveling scathing criticism at the foreign policy of the US president. They charge him with a catastrophic and suicidal exercise of his office and reproach Bush for allowing a clique to capture foreign policy. They raise the public pressure for action on the US president who spends his second term of office on the defensive. Their criticism is not really new.

Public approval is lower than ever for a president in his second term of office. The Iraqi constitutional referendum did not bring the desired turn in the Iraq war. Bush's leadership in domestic policy is hardly inspiring. Since his failure in disaster management during the hurricane in New Orleans, he harvested criticism from the conservative camp. Conservative senators and representatives fear for their reelection next year.

The proposal of the president to call his confidant Harriet Myers who has no experience as a judge to the Supreme Court provoked intense disapproval in the neo-conservative camp.

For a week Karl Rove, the political strategist of the republicans in the White House (1) and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff in Cheney's office, have been suspected of disclosing the name of a secret agent (2). Criminal indictments are expected shortly [The White House Iraq Group and the Case for War in Iraq (1)]

Two more critics are now speaking out. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security advisor, elder statesman and critic of the Iraq war judges the statecraft of the US president very sharply:

"Suicidal statecraft. Sadly for President George W. Bush's place in history but - much more important - ominously for America's future, it has lately seemed as if that adroit phrase might be applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11."
Zbigniew Brzezinski in the International Herald Tribune (2)
Bush's suicidal policy "dangerously undermines America's `global position' since serious challenges that were locally restricted and manageable are transformed into an international debacle."

Brzezinski presents a list of all the trouble spots that Bush's foreign policy has stirred up. This policy has seriously damaged the foreign policy picture of the US in the world, whether in the Middle East or among the allies. Bush recently sent his confidant Karen Hughes from the State department on a PR-mission to the Middle East to polish the bad image in the region. As simple as is the slogan of the US president "we fight the terrorists abroad so we don't have to fight them at home," the "war on terror" is counter-productive.

The result of this demagogic policy, Brzezinski criticizes, is that the victims can now be found in Madrid, London and Bali. The unprovoked Iraq invasion has not contributed toward reducing the danger of proliferating weapons of mass destruction. On the contrary, North Korea and Iran are the real winners of the war. In the background, China only waits for the US to defeat itself. That Bush now "with the Iraq war stirs up a hornet's nest is an example for a catastrophic administration" that is unparalleled.

Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff under Colin Powell, sees this similarly. He described to the general public how decisions were made by a "cabal between Vice-president Cheney and Defense secretary Rumsfeld in important questions that the other departments didn't know about." He described Secretary of State Rice as part of the problem and Bush as someone "inexperienced and uninterested in foreign policy".

At a conference of the New America Foundation (3) in Washington, the former colonel admitted (4) "America must now pay the price of these decisions made in secret".

Wilkerson and Brzezinski are among the high-ranking critics who went to the public some time ago with their depictions of the presidential decision-making process like for example the head of anti-terrorism Richard Clarke (5) and the fired treasury secretary Paul O'Neill (6) (3).

The critical points are not new and the proposed solutions meager. Brzezinski urges a supra-party consensus on withdrawal from Iraq. Then urgent problems like Iran can be tackled. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process could be initiated and America's leadership position in the world restored.

Where will the supra-party consensus originate? The democrats are unable to capitalize on the defensiveness of the president and rebel resolutely. Their ideas for political security are not original [A Democratic National Security Strategy for the 21st Century (7)]. They read like an improved edition and not an alternative program to Bush.

Wilkerson has a gloomy perspective and reproaches the US Congress for completely failing in its control function.

The criticism of Brzezinski and Wilkerson is a sign that the US political system still has not recovered four years after the terrorist attacks.

The criticism and negative polls will not move Bush to change his political style. It is already too late for great shifts in policy. Seen politically, the second term of office has already expired.

(1) Karl Rove has been a close advisor of the president and the Republican Party for some time. His goal is the destruction of the Democratic Party and his method well-described in the New Yorker, the Controller: Karl Rove is working to get George Bush reelected, but he has bigger plans, 5/12/2003.

(2) Her husband should be punished for revealing before the war in the New York Times that the documents proving Iraq sought uranium from Niger were falsified. Bush made this allegation in his State of the Union address.

(3) Most experts share this analysis. In their recent scholarly study, Daniel Benjamin and Steve Simon describe the failure of the US anti-terror strategy under Bush. Daniel Benjamin/Steve Simon: The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right, Times Books 2005. Benjamin works for the RAND think tank and Simon served in the National Security Council under Clinton.

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