SUNS #5154 Friday 5 July 2002 (

United States: Latest Bush moves will sow disorder abroad

Washington, 3 July (IPS/Jim Lobe) -- Two major new foreign-policy initiatives announced here in the past 10 days are providing ammunition to analysts who argue that the world's superpower is pursuing irresponsible policies likely to feed chaos and disorder abroad.

They say that Washington's threatened veto of UN peacekeeping operations if the Security Council does not grant its forces exemption from the new International Criminal Court (ICC) could destabilise global hotspots, beginning with Bosnia and southern Lebanon.

The threat also marks a major assault on the concept of international law, according to critics of the administration of President George W. Bush, who note that Washington has already renounced the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, the Rome Statute that created the ICC, and the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Global order depends on most governments abiding voluntarily by shared norms," said Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth, writing in Monday's 'Financial Times'. "Exempting America from the rule of law undermines those norms, leaving a more violent and inhumane world."

Critics say that Bush's demand last week that Palestinians carry out sweeping political and economic reforms of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and oust its president, Yasser Arafat, in new elections as a pre-condition for statehood is unrealistic and counter-productive.

Worse, the move is almost certain to spark renewed violence and turmoil in and around the Occupied Territories, especially in the absence of comparable demands for Israel to withdraw from towns and territory it re-occupied with Bush's implicit support.

"It's just an excuse for American non-involvement," wrote Nahum Barnea, a columnist for Israel's 'Yediot Ahronot' newspaper.

"By calling off our plans for a Middle East conference and simply insisting that Mr. Arafat leave the scene before we come out to deal, Mr. Bush is signalling that we are disengaging from the Middle East, returning to his earlier failed policy of looking the other way," wrote columnist Nicholas Kristoff in the 'New York Times'.

"That was a catastrophic mistake that helped create today's mess."

There is indeed a growing sense here and abroad that despite its unprecedented power, Washington is becoming increasingly detached from an international system that it dominates, even as it pursues its global war on terrorism.

"The paradox is that we need more and more co-operation, and the world's strongest nation is pulling back," noted Pierre Schori, Sweden's ambassador to the UN, at a recent seminar. "There will be no stability in the world without the US."

Such an assessment has already been demonstrated by Washington's performance in Afghanistan.

Despite the pleas of European allies and its hand-picked leaders on the ground, the administration's steadfast opposition to deploying the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul has resulted in the carving up of the rest of the country into fiefdoms run by the same warlords - renamed "regional leaders" by the Pentagon - who created the conditions for the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the first place.

Even neo-conservatives who have publicly cheered Washington's unilateralism in pursuing the war are growing worried that the administration is turning its back on Afghanistan despite Bush's promises less than three months ago to rebuild it.

"The resulting gap between rhetoric and reality is an embarrassment to the United States, as on too many foreign policy issues," the 'Washington Post' editorialised last month.

Bush's vision of a democratic and independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel within three years is belied by the total lack of planning and preparation that went into his new Mideast policy.

Similarly, his oft-stated goal of removing Saddam Hussein contrasts with the administration's abject failure to convince anyone - including its own military brass - that it has any idea of what to do with Iraq the morning after to prevent civil war or the country's disintegration.

"There is this idea that you can unseat governments and then simply leave it to the natives," according to Pierre Hassner, a foreign policy expert at France's International Studies and Research Centre (CERI).

To Hassner, this pattern of behaviour is "typical of empire, not of a mild hegemon", which "is always supposed to balance its interests (with) the interests of the alliance it is leading".

The problem is that the Bush administration has shown little or no inclination to even seriously consider the interests of friends or foes alike.

The president's summary rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it "could harm our economy", and his subsequent failure to fulfil a pledge to design an alternative that would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions has completely undermined Washington's claim to be a leader on global environmental issues.

Likewise, his administration's assault on the international arms-control regime, beginning with its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, appears to have been taken only with its own interests in mind.

"It's the wholesale replacement of one whole approach with a unilateral approach," said Miller. "It's seen as one more unilateral US effort to achieve singular security."

Almost 18 months after the administration took power, he added, "there is a lot of broken crockery. How much of it can be glued back together?"


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