Sunday, November 17, 2002
# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now here comes some diversity: Yesterday, Josh challenged me to defend my constant assertion that internal divisions in the Bush administration have "wrought havoc" on American foreign policy. As Josh points out
Bush's diplomacy has gotten him just about everything he wants...It was only by alternatively showing the more hawkish and less hawkish sides that we could maneuver the other Security Council nations into agreeing to the resolution. Unless you have the default assumption that any good outcomes produced by the Administration are the result of dumb luck, it seems to me that you'd come to the conclusion that this was a pretty skillful piece of coordinated diplomacy
I agree with Josh that intentionality is the fundamental issue for those interested in assessing the administration's efforts. If Bush intended to take advantage of internal divisions by playing good cop/bad cop with the Security Council, he deserves recognition for his success. If not, one has to acknowledge the wisdom of Napoleon who once observed, possibly in reference to George Bush, that "it is better to be lucky than smart".
In one of my first-ever posts on OxBlog, I raised the idea that the Bush administration might be taking advantage of its reputation for belligerence to wrest a strong resolution from the Security Council. I concluded, however, that
While the Good Cop/Bad Cop idea is somewhat plausible, I don't even find it convincing myself. Why not? Because Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney just seem so sincere in their demands. One struggles to detect even the hint of an admission on their part that European demands are legitimate. Their sincerity is reinforced by the unabashed unilateralism of the Bush administration in the months before September 11th. Nothing the Bush administration has done on either the domestic or international front has suggested that it has either the imagination or the discipline to follow through on even the sort of moderately sophisticated public relations campaign that a convincing Good Cop/Bad Cop strategy would require.
As it stands, that statement provides no evidence for the position it defends. Rather, the statement rests on an assessment of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's sincerity. I hope I can show that subsequent events have provided a more solid foundation for my initial hunch.
In my next post on the subject, I linked to a TNR article by Ryan Lizza whose careful reading of White House briefing books showed that explicit threats to use force against Iraq made it into very late drafts of Bush's September 12th speech to the UN. Lizza also points out that on September 14th, in a little-noticed interview with the US government's Arabic-language radio station, Rumsfeld refused to say that the US had committed itself definitively to seeking a new resolution calling for arms inspections. As Lizza concludes, and I concur, "the war between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the hawks seems to have continued right up until the moment Bush delivered his speech." In other words, there was no good cop/bad cop strategy, but rather a real divide within the administration.
Released today, an excerpt from Bob Woodward's new book "Bush at War" provides hard evidence to back up almost all of what Lizza said. At an NSC meeting in mid-August, Bush made a decision to go at Iraq through the United Nations. This decision, however, was not made public. Then, in late August Cheney publically and repeatedly attacked advocates of working with the UN, stunning Powell. Further meetings with the President revealed that his decision to seek a resolution was not firm. In fact, the actual, final, real decision was made so late that the relevant lines in Bush's September 12th speech were left out of the Teleprompter.
From my perspective, the most significant aspect of Woodward's account is the fact that Cheney publicly attacked a decision that the President had already made and eventually forced him to reconsider it. I see that as strong evidence supporting my assertion that the President is not in control of his own cabinet.
At this point, I will rest my case against the idea that the Bush administration sought to play good cop/bad cop with the United Nations. This brings up a second question, which I see as no less important. If "Bush's diplomacy has gotten him just about everything he wants" how can I say that internal divisions have "wrought havoc" on American foriegn policy? My first response to that challenge is that we don't know what Bush wants. Is he committed to seeing the UN resolution successfully implemented, or does he just want to show that he tried multilateralism before the US strikes out on its own?
Obviously, it won't be possible to answer that question until Hans Blix's inspections squad issues its report. Yet as Robert Kagan and William Kristol point out, it may be even harder for the US to justify unilateral action after the inspections are over. As these authors and others have pointed out, the inspections process may take so long that military action won't be possible until a year from now.
Now, if Tommy Franks is in Baghdad by March, I may have to eat my words. But there will still be other issues that the Bush administration needs to address before one can consider its foreign policy a lasting success. Two big ones are Afghanistan and Pakistan. While I haven't cited yet seen any evidence yet that the administration's half-hearted efforts to keep those nations on our side have been a result of internal divisions, I wouldn't be surprised if they were.
I hope everything goes right for Bush and for America. He's the commander-in-chief and his success or failure is ours as well. But sometimes I suspect the administration needs some prodding before it does the right thing.
If you are still reading this post, thank you for time. I suspect, however, it won't be the last of its kind. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
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