Jewish World Review July 3, 2003 / 3 Tamuz, 5763

Jim Hoagland

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If Bush asks, who will help? | George W. Bush approaches the moment when American presidents seeking reelection routinely shift to playing defense on foreign policy.

Incumbents start to minimize their involvement in hot spots abroad and centralize policy-making in the White House in the summer before a presidential election year.

But Bush is no conventional incumbent. He is so deeply involved in remaking Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East that he lacks a foreign policy firewall for 2004. His presidency is irretrievably tied to events in those remote and devastated precincts. Bush must use every asset he possesses every day to achieve, at a minimum, non-failure.

Bush and his increasingly assertive White House foreign policy staff will have to stay on the offensive through the election season. They should begin by moderating the administration's tendency to go it mostly alone.

They should seek greater help from America's traditional friends and partners in managing the messy postwar aftermaths of rapid military victories in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

That thought is making headway in public opinion and, I think, at the White House. But this is not a one-way street: It is not only the administration that needs to engage in a fundamental rethinking of the highly fluid international scene created by overwhelming U.S. military power and Bush's unilateralist style in diplomacy.

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France, Germany, Russia and other countries that opposed the war in Iraq have yet to communicate in a convincing manner the final outcome they want to see inside Iraq. Nor have many of them indicated what they are prepared to contribute to bringing that outcome about should the United States seek the greater international involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan that is now being urged on Washington.

Is it better for France's quest for "multipolarity" if the United States succeeds or fails in Iraq? Do the hard-liners of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party want Germany involved in any way in bolstering America's new "imperialism"? Can Russia really work to eradicate the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime it supported for so long?

I ask these questions not because I know the answers but because I don't. It is not certain those questions have been thought through abroad. Instead of a clear common analysis by nations accustomed to working together, there is a continuing official ambivalence -- and a palpable eagerness in many quarters abroad to see the United States fall on its face. Just read the leftist French press, or listen to the extremist comments of right-wing backers of Jean-Marie Le Pen, to get that visceral anti-Americanism.

The ambivalence by foreign governments is already undercutting tentative efforts in Washington to expand the roles of other nations in the pacification and reconstruction of Iraq. India and Pakistan have both made it clear they would consider sending peacekeepers to Iraq if given a measure of political cover by the United Nations. Egypt might do the same. But help for that purpose has not been forthcoming from the powers on the Security Council or from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

This is myopic. It is not just the fate of the Bush presidency that is tied in important ways to the ambitious but stumbling U.S. efforts to stabilize the Middle East and the Persian Gulf regions. So are the fates of big-power relations and alliances in global politics, and of the United Nations as an effective international organization.

An American retreat in failure from Iraq -- an outcome Bush firmly ruled out on Tuesday -- would be disastrous for every country and international organization that has significant political and economic interaction with the United States. Ambivalence in this case is a self-defeating luxury.

As gears shift in Washington to seek better ways -- i.e., more American troops and foreign cooperation -- to deal with the resurgence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, the campaign of insurgency in Iraq, Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Europe, Russia, Japan and China should be ready to pursue, alongside the United States, a form of "success" that will benefit them as well.

This will require efforts to reach new common understandings that are much broader and deeper than the superficial kissing and making up with alienated allies that has marked postwar diplomacy so far. There are elements for a series of grand bargains that could provide immediate police and military help for Iraq and Afghanistan, and rejuvenate a now enfeebled international system.

I offer one small example: Annan seeks U.S. military involvement in Liberia. That is a good cause that could be facilitated by the U.N. secretary general's taking a positive public and private attitude toward India's involvement in Iraq right now.

For change to occur, Bush must first reach out -- and his partners must respond to a man seeking reelection and certain to remember who helped, and who did not, when he was in need.

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06/30/03: Fool's gold in Pakistan
06/23/03: Waking up to Europe's uncertain future
06/19/03: Fusing force with diplomacy
06/16/03: All too prepared for the real world
06/12/03: The Limits Of Saudi Openness
06/09/03: Energized on Foreign Policy
06/02/03: Clarity: The Best Weapon
05/27/03: Talk plus muscle on North Korea
05/22/03: The war isn't over
05/19/03: Europe on its own
05/14/03: Globalization's evil offspring
05/12/03: No time for mixed messages
05/05/03: The case for patience on North Korea
04/30/03: Eroding Principles
04/28/03: Wars tailor made
04/25/03: De-Baathification, root and branch
04/21/03: Victims of civic passivity
04/14/03: Three miscreants
04/11/03: Saddam's final mistake

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