Sunday, September 05, 2004

Grading Bush

From the liberal-leaning Council on Foreign Relations:

Bush Gets an A for Effort in Iraq And a C- for Achievement
If you are going to fail Americans for not having good relations with France, then a lot of our presidents would have to come down in their grades, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, who failed to have good relations with [Free French President] Charles de Gaulle even when we were in the midst of physically liberating France from the Nazis. I do think that the Bush people probably thought that in the end France will do what it so often does, which is sort of pounce and prance and drive everyone crazy and get all the limelight and then at the end of the day go along.

The real problem was Germany. It is interesting that the Kerry people have not made U.S.-German relations more of a focus, because, in fact, what has changed is that Germany sided with Paris rather than with Washington in this latest round. There are a lot of factors there, but I think the reality is that even before the invasion of Iraq, when Gerhard Schroeder was re-elected chancellor on a pledge to oppose Bush's policies no matter what, the die was cast. Bush at that point had not taken a lot of the steps seen as so provocative later.
My own sense has always been if you look at what Osama bin Laden and his movement want, probably its first goal is Saudi Arabia and its second goal is Pakistan. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended up tightening the U.S.-Pakistani relationship and the fundamentalists are much farther from getting hold of Pakistan now, it would seem to me, than they were a couple of years ago. And by the same token, Saddam Hussein's refusal to disarm in compliance with the 1991 cease-fire meant that the Saudis had to have United States troops on their soil as part of the containment policy. And the presence of those troops was why Osama bin Laden declared war on both the United States and the Saudis. It was a tremendously delegitimizing and destabilizing factor in Saudi politics. With Saddam gone, the troops are gone. And what you are seeing, I think it is fair to say, is a Saudi regime, partly buoyed up by the increase in the price of oil, but also without this albatross of American troops at home, that has actually been able to take a tougher line on terrorism and al Qaeda than it was two years ago. I would say our enemies in the region are strategically in a worse situation than they were when Saddam Hussein was in power.


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