October 25, 2008
I commend the Insitute for Strategic Studies’ Chaillot Paper 111, written ny Marcin Zaborowski. This publication of 126 pages gives a clear and readable account of George W Bush’s legacy and provides an indication of where American foreign policy may next be heading. I’ve encapsulated below the key elements.
America’s grand strategy changed during the eight years of George W Bush’s presidency. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 profoundly altered America’s view of the world in a way comparable to the effect of Pearl Harbour. American views on who are its foes and how to fight them have changed. The 2002 Security Strategy introduced the doctrine of pre-emption, the idea of democracy promotion and that of ‘coalitions of the willing’.
Regardless of who wins the elections, there will be a considerable element of continuity in American foreign policy under the new administration. Unilateralism and other approaches are deeply entrenched in American political culture. Either candidate is likely to strike terrorist targets in Pakistan without seeking Karachi’s permission. Bush’s foreign policy approach is consistent with the ideology of American nationalism and hegemonism.
The end of the Bush era creates an opportunity for a new departure and a renewed departure and a renewed dialogue between the EU and the US.
Bush will be remembered first and foremost for the war in Iraq, which was a major strategic blunder for the US. Barring a serious deterioration on the ground, US combat troops are likely to leave within two years.
The Iran policy has been marked by three essential factors: continuity, neglect and the changes in Iran’s strategic environment. Bush has not reached out to Iran: in fact the reverse, including Iran in his infamous ‘axis of evil’ speech and his hinting at the possibility of taking on Iran militarily after Iraq.
With the Taliban and Saddam Hussein removed from power and the Shia majority emerging as the dominant force in Iraq , Iran’s strategic position has been boosted to a point that rulers in Tehran could only have dreamt about prior to 9/11. With John McCain threatening to bomb Iran and Barack Obama advocating diplomacy , this is one issue that splits the parties. Both insist that the military option remains on the table.
Before 9/11 China was where Bush promised to leave his mark but he has not done this. Both candidates see China as a competitor, whether from the point of view of the economy, energy markets or international security. The differences between Republicans and Democrats in their view of China are overall minor and ultimately boil down to a question of emphasis rather than content.
Both McCain and Obama will ask the Europeans to increase their presence in Afghanistan and boost their contributions to the country’s reconstruction and development.
The new team will not be able to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until March or April 2009 and there will be a dangerous void which creates an opportunity for the EU to step in.
US-Russia relations have turned more acrimonious. McCain has been decidedly more hawkish than Obama but both have argued in favour of opening NATO to Georgia and Ukraine.
The Chaillot Paper ends with a call to the EU to develop its own policy expectations for the incoming administration. This should take into account the fact that there may be more continuity in America’s new foreign polict than most Europeans may wish for.Author : Stanley Crossick