Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rejected, mocked, punished

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So you want to know how the Bush Administration conducted itself -- and how Bush conducted himself -- in the international arena leading up to and after the start of the Iraq War? (And how it has conducted itself with respect to international relations generally? Consider:

In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, wrote Heraldo Muñoz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Muñoz wrote.

But the tough talk dissipated as the war effort worsened and President Bush came to reach out to many of the same allies that he had spurned. Muñoz's account suggests the U.S. strategy backfired in Latin America, damaging the administration's standing in a region that has long been dubious of U.S. military intervention.

In other words, the U.S. bullied anyone and everyone (including friends and allies) who dared to disagree with its warmongering, threatening opponents (and even would-be opponents) of the Iraq War with reprisals. (You know, you're either with us or against us -- and if you're against us, you're with the terrorists. That was pretty much the extent of Bush's worldview. And that hasn't changed.) Bush himself, it is clear, was the chief bully, but he was not alone. Powell and Negroponte issued threats as well -- as, of course, did Cheney and Rumsfeld (who are not mentioned in the article).

The bullying stopped -- or at least was finally reined in -- once the U.S. found itself in the predictably lame position of having to ask (if not beg) for international support, but by then it was too late. Bush had already destroyed U.S. credibility and had already stomped all over whatever international goodwill there may have been. Having been rejected, mocked, and punished, countries that had opposed the war, including some of America's closest allies, weren't about to come to the rescue.

In the world of diplomacy, as pretty much everywhere else, Bush has been, without doubt, an abject failure.

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