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Jewish World Review April 11, 2001 / 18 Nissan, 5761

Michael Barone

Michael Barone
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Bully (for) Bush

The president's foreign policy: better to be feared than loved --
GEORGE W. BUSH'S handling of China's refusal to return the EP-3E Aries II surveillance plane and its crew is consistent with his approach to foreign policy generally. Bush has spoken tersely, has delegated duties, and has been unwilling to utter the emollient words or enter into the lengthy negotiations that were Bill Clinton's signature.

Critics here and abroad grumble about Bush's "arrogant" and "contemptuous" approach to foreign policy and his abandonment of Clinton's "peace processes." Bush has refused to try to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders together. Instead, he warmly greeted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, called on the Palestinians to stop the violence, and left PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat conspicuously off his invitation list. Bush told a glum South Korean President Kim Dae Jung point-blank that he would not pursue Clinton's policy of negotiating with North Korea. And Bush said that he would stay out of any Northern Ireland negotiations unless called upon by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Posturing. Similar patterns can be seen on missile defense and Kyoto. Last summer, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman warned that a Bush policy of moving ahead on missile defense and abrogating the ABM treaty "could trigger a Seattle-like, Internet-driven, mass-based, anti-nuclear protest against the U.S." in Europe and Russia. But neither Blair nor German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder demurred when Bush made it clear that he would press for missile defense, and the European protesters remain fixated on genetically modified foods. European leaders expressed outrage when Bush said he opposed the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which would require massive drops in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 2012. But, as few stories in the media mentioned, Kyoto has been a dead letter from the start. No major single country–including those in Europe that have bemoaned Bush's stand–has ratified the agreement. The U.S. Senate voted 95-0 in 1997 to oppose Kyoto as long as it exempted China, India, and other developing countries from its sanctions–the pact's central architecture. European politicians praise Kyoto to score points with their greens and prefer to gloss over the fact that Kyoto will do nothing to produce cleaner air. Bush's principled stand exposes their cynical posturing.

The contrast between the Bush and Clinton approaches echoes of controversies that raged on college campuses when the two presidents were students. Like the liberal university presidents of the 1960s and 1970s, who believed campus protesters had legitimate grievances and would compromise if concessions were made, Clinton tried to negotiate with terrorists in the Middle East, North Korea, and Northern Ireland in the hope that appeasing their grievances would transform them into nonviolent liberals. Like the conservative critics of college presidents in the 1960s and 1970s, Bush thinks that compromise with terrorists is wrong and negotiations can weaken the forces of order. Events have been kinder to Bush's view than Clinton's. Huge concessions in the Middle East proved only that the Palestinians are determined to destroy Israel; concessions to North Korea have produced no clear abandonment of its nuclear and missile programs; the Irish pact is foundering because Irish Republican Army terrorists refuse to give up their arms.

"Bully Bush," the Süddeutsche Zeitung headlined. Europeans who have a gauzy faith in unenforceable environmental treaties and in endless negotiations to convert terrorists are naturally dismayed when Bush pops their bubbles. So are Clinton administration admirers who believe that their policies are the only form of engagement and anything else is "isolationism." But, as Niccolò Machiavelli noted, it is better for a prince to be feared than to be loved. Foreign leaders accustomed to deference from the United States are now having to get used to American leadership. Terrorists treated to endless rounds of palaver are having to get used to diplomatic isolation and the absence of cable news network camera crews. As Reagan-era policymaker Richard Perle says, "When you are trying to correct an accumulation of policy errors, you have to change policy, and some people may not like it. But that's not bullying."

It is not clear how the Aries incident will be resolved or how long that will take. What is clear is the direction of movement of U.S. policy. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's defense policy review seems likely to shift the focus of military preparedness from Europe to the Pacific. China's announced record defense-spending increase and its missiles bristling toward Taiwan will be met with a response intended to deter the Communist regime rather than propitiate it–and one that keeps in mind scholar Arthur Waldron's warning that today's Communist regime may turn out to be no more permanent than the Soviet regime in Russia. The United States will produce a missile defense to protect against nuclear blackmail from rogue states. It will promote freer trade in Latin America and elsewhere. And the president will not devote much of his psychic energy to propitiating terrorists. The world's real bullies, after all, are not found in Washington.

JWR contributor Michael Barone is a columnist at U.S. News & World Report and the author of the biennialAlmanac of American Politics. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


03/27/01: Following the money
03/13/01: Politics of the possible
02/26/01: End it, don't mend it
02/13/01: The durable Reagan
01/30/01: The missing answer
01/17/01: Boomers but not twins
01/02/01: President-elect Bush aims to make friends, one at a time
12/18/00: Red Queen rules
12/04/00: Lies and statistics
11/28/00: Thou shalt not steal
11/14/00: How Bush can lead
10/31/00: Puzzled by the state poll results? So are the candidates
10/18/00: When talk is cheap
10/03/00: The death of Big Media
09/09/00: A fair question
08/28/00: Making labor's day
07/11/00: The new Mexico: The 20-year history behind an overnight change
07/06/00: A textbook campaign: Bush makes hay before the convention lights shine
06/23/00: Beat the press
06/06/00: Reining in regulators: Will the Supreme Court clip Washington's wings?
05/25/00: In plain English: Bilingual education flunks out of schools in California
04/28/00: Gore in the balance: His book reveals a fanatical approach to the environment
04/04/00: President-elect Putin offers a basis for hopes–and for fears
03/14/00: Over the long, long haul, the issues may yet favor the Republicans
03/02/00: Will unions rule? Indispensable to Gore, labor may be the campaign's secret winner
02/15/00: A reformers' party
01/03/00: The voters rule: In Manchester, Mexico, and Moscow, an imperfect system works
01/19/00: The era of Big Promises
12/08/99: Welcome to the world of 'good enough'
11/2/99: Just saying no
11/12/99: Money talks, as it should
10/28/99: Mexico votes – for real
10/03/99: Going against type
09/28/99: The unions go public
08/31/99: China's strait flush
08/25/99: The first two contests
08/03/99: Paddling upstream
07/08/99: Taking Hillary seriously
06/22/99: Trying the lawyers
06/07/99: Facts on the ground

©2000, Michael Barone