No Foreign Policy

As I sent out my mini-rant last night, I got an interesting response from one of my friends. Don’t forget Darfur, she said.  Wow.  I did forget.  I hadn’t mentioned Darfur in months.  This is the largest humanitarian disaster in years.  We know that it is going on.  The president hasn’t mentioned Darfur in over a year.  According to the White House web site, the last time that the president mentioned Darfur was in 2004 and that was simply a press release

Today 2 op-ed’s in the NY Times really address the lack of leadership in the foreign policy arena from the Bush Administration.  Let’s assume that the Bush Administration does not really want to promote democracy outside of standing around with world leaders and smiling.  Darfur would have been an excellent place to promote democracy.  Nicholas Kristof writes – “No genocide has ever been publicly chronicled so extensively as this one. We have satellite images of the burned villages, and detailed reports from groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Aid workers interact daily with the two million displaced people, and we can watch as Sudan spreads instability into neighboring countries.”  And Frank Rich wrote – “AS American foreign policy lies in ruins from Pyongyang to Baghdad to Beirut, its epitaph is already being written in Washington. Last week’s Time cover, “The End of Cowboy Diplomacy,” lays out the conventional wisdom: the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, upended by chaos in Iraq and the nuclear intransigence of North Korea and Iran, is now officially kaput. In its stead, a sadder but more patient White House, under the sway of Condi Rice, is embracing the fine art of multilateral diplomacy and dumping the “bring ’em on” gun-slinging that got the world into this jam.”

But let’s look further – Afghanistan.  This is a country who we invaded and politely asked the Taliban to leave.  We didn’t make a thoughtful attempt to kill or capture the leadership of Al Qaeda or the Taliban but that’s another story.  So, we own the county.  We put almost no resources into this 3rd world country.  Estimates were that we were going to need to put $10 – $20 Billion in the infrastructure in order to put Afghanistan into the 20th century.  (GAO report documenting our failures)Unfortunately, we decided that promoting democracy in Iraq was more of a priority so, the resources went West.  We allowed warlords to stay armed.  Armed warlords and democracy don’t seem to jive. 

Let’s skip Iraq and proceed to North Korea.  Without consulting Russia, China, South Korea or Japan, President Bush declared that North Korea was nothing but a bunch of liars.  His exact quote was actually worse – “Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea, there’s not very much transparency.  We’re not certain as to whether or not they’re keeping all terms of all agreements.  And that’s part of the issue that the President and I discussed, is when you make an agreement with a country that is secretive, how do you — how are you aware as to whether or not they’re keeping the terms of the agreement.

The President was very forthright in describing his vision, and I was forthright in describing my support for his vision, as well as my skepticism about whether or not we can verify an agreement in a country that doesn’t enjoy the freedoms that our two countries understand — don’t have the free press like we have here in America.”

North Korea then pulled out the Agreed Framework as the US pulled out the Nonproliferation Treaty.  Bush included North Korea in the Axis of Evil.  North Korea kicked out the nuclear inspectors and began to reprocess uranium.  The US vowed not to have direct talks with North Korea.  Months go by.  The 6 party talks developed.  Six countries that do not share common goals come together.  For what exactly?  Russia and China clearly have a different agenda.  South Korea shares a common history.  Japan does not want a missile lobbed into their backyard.  The US would prefer for North Korea to simply go away.  So, there is no wonder that the Countries in the Hood aren’t getting anywhere.  North Korea wants respect and a promise that the US will not attack it like it did Iraq.  So, where is the leadership on this issue?  We allowed the talks to breakdown and nothing happened for months.  Nothing.  So?

When Bush first came in office he vowed not to spend time on Israel-Palestine issue.  He has really stuck by that claim.  Without the world’s only SuperPower leading the problem was allowed to drift.  There was one blip on the radar.  The former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who now lays in a coma had the clout to move the process without much help from the US.  We yelled that democracy equals elections.  So the Palestinians elected Hamas.  Hamas?  The administration once again began to pull back.  No aid.  Then Sharon.  Once he left the picture, the US left…again.  The result was Hamas and Hezbollah.  Now, do not think that all of this isn’t tied together.  Syria still appears to be supporting Hezbollah.  Iran also seems to be funneling weapons thru Syria to Hezbollah.  Is is an accident that just when the European Union is pressing Iran in the UN Hezbollah wakes up?  I don’t think so. 

The failure of leadership by the US is clear all over the world.  All we had to do was continue policies that were working.  Were they perfect?  No.  But they were something.  We have nothing now.  Nothing.  Our foreign policy hand now boiled down to Iraq and hoping there will be an Iraq that is safe and prosperous one day. That’s our hope.  We have no idea how to get there from here but that’s our hope while the rest of the world burns. 

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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