Gazing across what Zbigniew Brzezinski once called the “arc of crisis,” U.S. foreign policy appears to be disintegrating.
On the Horn of Africa, Islamic warriors have seized Mogadishu. The warlords, our allies, are on the run. In Islamist Sudan, the Darfur horror rages on. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, whom our secretary of state was only recently snubbing for undemocratic behavior, now appears again to be persona grata as our only alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet the Egyptian president scarcely seems chastened. His judges just confirmed a five-year jail sentence for his democratic opponent Ayman Nur, and his regime just ordered the International Republican Institute of John McCain to cease operations in Egypt.
While Ehud Olmert promises to work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel moves inexorably to wall off the desired slices of the West Bank, annex Jerusalem and its suburbs, retain military control of the Jordan Valley, and get an America awash in debt to pick up the tab for a reported $10 billion.
Further east, the U.S. position appears to be crumbling. Despite installation of a new government, the Iraqi insurgency shows no signs of abating, and a religious civil war has begun. From January through May, 6,000 corpses, most showing gunshot wounds and others signs of torture, turned up in Baghdad’s morgue. May was the worst month, with 35-50 bodies coming in every day.
In Basra, once considered pacified, murderous violence among Shi’ite militias has forced Baghdad to declare a state of siege.
Whatever happened at Haditha, Baghdad is demanding apologies for U.S. atrocities and charging that American troops are callously cold to the collateral killing of Iraqi civilians.
We are building Crusader castles inside the country, but we seem to be losing support among both Americans and Iraqis. Democrats like John Edwards and John Kerry have moved into the antiwar base of their party where Russ Feingold and Al Gore already reside. Can Hillary be far behind?
In Afghanistan, the resurgent Taliban roam half a dozen of the southeast provinces. A traffic accident in which a U.S. military vehicle injured several Afghans and killed one resulted in a shoot-out, anti-American riots, and a Karzai condemnation of U.S. brutality. NATO is moving troops into the Taliban-infested region, but the insurgency is stronger than it has been since Americans arrived, and the opium trade the Taliban once virtually abolished is flourishing.
Under pressure from the EU-3 and Republican Party wise men, Bush has begun to engage Iran. And as Iran and we have common vital interests—both would suffer from all-out war, neither wants to see a breakup of Iraq or return of the Taliban—the makings of a deal are present.
But U.S. intervention in elections in Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus and our in-your-face bellicosity toward Putin’s Russia are producing the predicted blowback. The decade-old Shanghai Cooperation Organization, consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, is evolving into an alliance to expel the United States from Central Asia. The SCO appears about to offer membership to India, Pakistan, Mongolia, and Iran.
Iran’s Ahmadinejad is to attend the June 15 meeting in Shanghai. Already, the SCO has effected the expulsion of the U.S. military from Uzbekistan; and Kyrgyzstan has demanded, as the price for retention of U.S. bases, a 10,000 percent increase in rental fees.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, it is impossible today to see a day when America and her allies can eradicate the insurgency or effect a U.S. withdrawal without inviting strategic collapse. We seem to be on a treadmill. And Americans—concerned over the immigrant invasion from Mexico, soaring gas prices, falling stock prices, and deficits ad infinitum—are demanding a timetable to get us off.
Today, the Bush doctrine—the world’s worst regimes will not be allowed to acquire the world’s worst weapons—has been defied by North Korea. U.S. military interventions to create democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan are draining us of blood and treasure. Both, as of now, appear open-ended with no assurance of ultimate victory.
Bush’s democracy crusade has been exploited by Islamists in Egypt, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran. The National Endowment for Democracy may claim victories in Georgia and Ukraine, but the cost of its meddling appears to be the loss of Russia and creation of an anti-American bloc from the Baltic Sea to the Taiwan Strait.
But while the Bush foreign policy appears to be failing at every turn, in neither party can one see another vision. Emerson’s words come to mind: “Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.”
In Dulles’s phrase, it’s time for an “agonizing reappraisal.”