Bush's Strategic Drift
Monday, August 18, 2008; 12:38 PM
As we watch President Bush lurch about, trying to find the proper response to Russia's invasion of Georgia, it seems a good time to check in on the Bush Doctrine.
But good luck finding it.
Julian E. Barnes writes in the Los Angeles Times: "In the last week, two major pillars of President Bush's approach to foreign policy have crumbled, jeopardizing eight years of work and sending the administration scrambling for new strategies in the waning months of its term.
"From the earliest days of his presidency, Bush had said spreading democracy was a centerpiece of his foreign policy. At the same time, he sought to develop a more productive relationship with Russia, seeking Moscow's cooperation on issues such as terrorism, Iran's nuclear program and expansion of global energy supplies.
"And in pursuing both these major goals, Bush relied heavily on developing what he saw as strong personal relationships with foreign leaders. . . .
"Efforts to create multiethnic, democratic regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan have run into repeated difficulties. And the American push for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip ended in victory for the radical group Hamas, complicating an already formidable task of reaching a Middle East peace accord. . . .
"'What freedom strategy?' asked David L. Phillips, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of a report on Georgia. 'It is scorned worldwide. Afghanistan is backsliding. The bar has been set low in Iraq. Georgia is in ruins.'"
Jacob Weisberg wrote in January for Newsweek that five different Bush Doctrines have come and gone -- starting with "Unipolar Realism", switching to "With Us or Against Us" after 9/11, and eventually turning into "Freedom Everywhere" -- leaving us since late 2006 with the "absence of any functioning doctrine at all." In my July 21 column, I suggested that Bush's new doctrine is a mystery. Also see my July 10, 2006, column, Desperately Seeking Doctrine.
But perhaps there is a new doctrine of sorts. Maybe we should call it "Incompetence and Internal Warfare."
Helene Cooper, C.J. Chivers and Clifford J. Levy write in the New York Times about how back in April, "Mr. Bush went to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the invitation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. There, he received a message from the Russian: the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia's 'red lines,' according to an administration official close to the talks.
"Afterward, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin, 'He's been very truthful and to me, that's the only way you can find common ground.' It was one of many moments when the United States seemed to have missed -- or gambled it could manage -- the depth of Russia's anger and the resolve of the Georgian president to provoke the Russians.
"The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia. In many cases, the officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity. . . .