The failure of the blame Bush foreign policy
New American presidents typically begin by behaving as if most of the world's problems are the fault of their predecessors -- and Barack Obama has been no exception. In his first three months he has quickly taken steps to correct the errors in George W. Bush's foreign policy, as seen by Democrats. He has collected easy dividends from his base, U.S. allies in Europe and a global following for not being "unilateralist" or war-mongering or scornful of dialogue with enemies.There is more.
Now comes the interesting part: when it starts to become evident that Bush did not create rogue states, terrorist movements, Middle Eastern blood feuds or Russian belligerence -- and that shake-ups in U.S. diplomacy, however enlightened, might not have much impact on them.
The first wake-up call has come from North Korea -- a state that, according to established Democratic wisdom, would have given up its nuclear weapons years ago if it had not been labeled "evil" by Bush, denied bilateral talks with Washington and punished with sanctions. Stephen Bosworth, the administration's new special envoy, duly tried to head off Pyongyang's latest illegal missile test by promising bilateral negotiations and offering "incentives" for good behavior.
North Korea fired the missile anyway. After a week of U.N. Security Council negotiations by the new, multilateralist U.S. administration produced the same weak statement that the Bush administration would have gotten, the Stalinist regime expelled U.N. inspectors and announced that it was returning to plutonium production.
When the inspectors were ousted in 2002, Democrats blamed Bush. Now Republicans blame Obama -- but North Korea's strategy hasn't changed in 15 years. It provokes a crisis, then demands bribes from the United States and South Korea in exchange for restoring the status quo. The Obama team now faces the same dilemma that bedeviled the past two administrations: It must judge whether to respond to the bad behavior by paying the bribe or by trying to squeeze the regime.
A second cold shower rained down last week on George Mitchell, Obama's special envoy to the Middle East. For eight years Democrats insisted that the absence of progress toward peace between Israel and its neighbors was due to the Bush administration's failure at "engagement." Mitchell embodies the correction. But during last week's tour of the region he encountered a divided Palestinian movement seemingly incapable of agreeing on a stance toward Israel and a new Israeli government that doesn't accept the goal of Palestinian statehood. Neither appeared at all impressed by the new American intervention -- or willing to offer even token concessions.
He points out that the change in policy toward Russia has not changed their aggressive conduct toward Georgia. What I think this all points out is that the Democrats were dead wrong in their criticism of Bush over the last eight years and now that they have the com, they are finding that their criticisms were invalid. Having to take responsibility is a terrible thing when you lack real constructive ideas.