Sunday, February 08, 2004

What Foreign Policy?

Big Media Matt wonders just what the hell the Bush foreign policy is. There isn't a coherent foreign policy vision, and there never has been. Sure, there were the bumper sticker slogans "with us or against us," and "moral clarity," but one look at the list of nasty dictators in the Coalition of the Willing negated that for those of us with limited tolerance for cognitive dissonance. Then there were the various versions of the doctrine of pre-emption, whether the Neocons' "kick everyone's ass to prove we can," or the Friedmanesque "kick some ass and then plant some roses to prove we can," which as Matt points out are also no longer operative.

Look, this is the reason why I tend to roll my eyes a bit when people on "my side" argue the need for Democrats to come up with a grand foreign policy vision to convince the Amurcan people that we can do what George Bush failed to do and protect us from a major attack, terrorist or otherwise. I agree that it's fairly important that they manage to create the perception, but as with most issues it has everything to do with PR and little to do with actually coming up with something of substance.

Only in this upside world could Bush be considered either a "defense" or "foreign policy" success. 9/11 happened under his watch, and if ever the daily briefings come to light we'll see just how much warning they had. I'm not making tinfoil hat claims about them wanting it to happen, I'm just saying that they had warning. Whether or not they had warnings of enough specificity that they could have done something to stop it I have no idea. But, they totally ignored all of the warnings the Clinton administration gave them. They shelved the Hart-Rudman report and put Big Time Dick in charge of an anti-terrorism task force which did nothing. And, on 9/11, the official response to the unfolding events was, frankly, a complete clusterfuck. I don't know if any official response could have prevented some of the deaths, but it doesn't appear that they even had a chance to try.

Afghanistan got in the way of Iraq, so they quickly dropped that ball and spent hardly anything on the reconstruction we were told was going to happen. We never got Bin Laden. They're now promising that will happen, though what that means I don't want to speculate. Thousands of al Qaeda/Taliban members were allowed to run over the border into Pakistan.

As for the grand Neocon dreams - aside from not having a plan "b" in case the aftermath didn't go well, they also never stopped to consider the consequence of things not going well. If you set out to prove that you can topple any regime you want with minimal military force and quickly replace it with a stable democratic pro-American government, and then you end up failing to do the thing you set out to do - prove you can do it. Sure, we can kick any non-nuclear power's ass without much effort, but so what? Who ever doubted that?

So, Afghanistan didn't achieve much. Iraq's a mess. Our allies hate us and aren't going to be signing on to any ambitious adventures soon. If nothing else that raises the price of doing anything we might need to do. What success?

As for the Democrats - sure they need to convince the world they're "strong on foreign policy." But, don't bother releasing a 300 page manifesto. Come up with the bumper sticker.