Bush insinuates that Russia is not democratic
Enough. If George W. Bush is arrogant enough to speak about Russia's supposed lack of democratic processes on the eve of his summit with President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, then let us treat this insult with the answer it deserves.
"I also believe that Russia's future lies within the family of Europe and the transatlantic community", said George W. Bush in his address at the Concert Noble, Belgium, today.
For the information of this President, who parachutes into Europe once every two years because he dare not step off an aircraft in most countries outside his own, Russia has always been part of Europe, while the USA has not. Therefore what authority does this citizen of the USA have in speaking about European affairs?
"Russia, to make progress as a European nation must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law".
Democracy? President Putin was elected by a democratic process, was he not? Rule of law? Did the Russian Federation break every rule in the book by breaching the Geneva Convention and UN Charter, launching an illegal war, based on barefaced lies, slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent people in a sovereign nation? No.
Therefore what authority does George Bush have to speak about the rule of law and a commitment to democracy?
"Our alliance stands for a free press", says Bush.
Well, let us be the judge of that. We are free to write what we want, when we want, where we want and as we want. We can criticize President Putin, we can praise President Putin. I have done both. Many times. But only when I criticize President Bush do I receive death threats in my private and personal e-mail account.
What is George W. Bush trying to do? Humiliate Russia? Expect Vladimir Putin to kiss his feet?
The rule of law depends on the respect for the legal mechanisms constituted by the collective will of the international community. The rule of law is neither about dropping cluster bombs on civilians nor about sending record numbers of people to their deaths, like a Nazi concentration camp. The rule of law is not about torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo or Baghram.
Russia respects the rule of law by insisting on following the UN Charter in all cases. Does the USA?
No? Then George W. Bush had better shut up and watch what he says. Who the hell does he think he is, anyway? He was elected by a percentage of his people to govern his country. Nobody asked for his opinion elsewhere and nobody accepts his authority outside the USA. He was not elected by Russians, after all.
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - President Bush (news - web sites) is calling on European leaders to support his campaign to spread democracy abroad at a time people in many of those countries have doubts whether that should be the U.S. role in the world, Associated Press polling found.
A majority of people in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain said they thought it should not be the U.S. role to spread democracy, according to AP-Ipsos polls. A majority of those living in Canada, Mexico and South Korea (news - web sites) also disagreed with that role.
Bush is on a five-day fence-mending trip to Europe after tensions were raised there by the war in Iraq (news - web sites). In a speech Monday in Brussels, Belgium, the president promoted democracy as the path forward for a host of countries, from Saudi Arabia to Iran and Syria, and urged European leaders to move beyond the rift over Iraq and join his pro-liberty campaign.
"This strategy is not American strategy, or European strategy, or Western strategy," Bush said in an echo of the broad themes of his inaugural address a month ago. "Spreading liberty for the sake of peace is the cause of all mankind."
Yet the public skepticism reflected in a new AP-Ipsos poll in Europe indicates the American president faces plenty of work on that front — a development that analysts of international relations suggested was not surprising.
"There's still wariness and resentment of the United States in general," said Michael Mandelbaum, a professor who specializes in European studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Bush's efforts, he said, were having a limited impact in spreading democracy.
"In the wake of the Iraq war, there's particular suspicion of this administration," Mandelbaum added.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett suggested that foreigners may misunderstand Bush's plan to spread the liberties that Europeans and Americans take for granted.
"People get in their mind that spreading freedom means war and that's not the case," Bartlett said in an interview Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Some of those opinion polls are reading in to it a little more than what President Bush intends."
Resistance to Bush's plans to promote democracy abroad was strongest in France, with 84 percent saying the United States should not play that role, according to the polling conducted for the Associated Press by Ipsos, an international polling firm.
About as many Germans took that position, 80 percent, while two-thirds of those in Britain said they didn't think the United States should be exporting democracy. Just over half of those in Spain and Italy felt that way.
"It's hard to believe our allies are indifferent to the spread of democracy," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. "But they obviously don't feel comfortable with George Bush (news - web sites) as the self-annointed spreader of democracy."
In the United States, a slight majority, 53 percent, said the United States should not be trying to spread democracy, while 45 percent said the United States should play that role.
"Europeans in general — especially the European elites — tend to be more cynical about the possibilities of exporting democracy," said Mandelbaum, author of the book "Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy and Free Markets." "There is a general feeling that democracy just doesn't fit some cultures."
While people in many of the countries polls don't approve of Bush's policies, that does not appear to be having much impact on how they view U.S. consumer goods.
For example, attitudes about U.S. goods in France, lukewarm at best, have not shifted significantly since December 2001, before the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
About two in 10 of the French said they would rather buy U.S. goods than other types of goods available in their country if the price and quality were the same. About one in 10 said U.S. products were better quality than other goods available. Neither number has changed much since before the Iraq war.
"If anything there's been a little more traction to boycotting of French goods in America than of American goods in France, said John Quelch, a Harvard University professor who studies international marketing. "There is no evidence of significant spillover of tensions about American foreign policy into consumer purchase behavior in Europe."
In most of the countries polled, people were not likely to prefer American goods over local goods. They were inclined to think American goods were worth the money, but they did not think they were better quality than local products.
In most of the countries, young adults were more likely to be enthusiastic about buying American goods and working at American companies.
The findings are based on polling of about 1,000 adults in each of the nine countries surveyed from Feb. 9-17 and each poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 22, 2005; 1:08 PM
Not quite halfway through his European tour, President Bush was asked this morning: Is there anything to his visit beyond a charm offensive? What will make the second-term Bush presidency less dictating and unilateralist than the first?
The question was raised by a European reporter at this morning's joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Bush's answer, in short: Nothing. It's Europe that needs to get over the Iraq issue and move on.
Here's how he put it:
"The major issue that irritated a lot of Europeans was Iraq. I understand that. I can figure it out. And the key now is to put that behind us, and to focus on helping the new democracy succeed."
But Bush himself isn't exactly putting Iraq behind him. He's still trying to justify it. He continued:
"The policy in the past used to be, let's just accept tyranny, for the sake of -- well, you know, cheap oil, or whatever it may be, and just hope everything would be okay. Well, that changed on September the 11th for our nation. Everything wasn't okay. Beneath what appeared to be a placid surface lurked an ideology based upon hatred. And the way to defeat that ideology is to spread freedom and democracy. That's what NATO understands, see. . . .
"And so my message is, is that the past is -- I made some hard decisions -- as did other leaders, by the way, in Europe -- about how to enforce 17 different United Nations resolutions on Iraq. Not one resolution, but 17 different resolutions. And we liberated Iraq and that decision has been made, it's over with, and now it's time to unify for the sake of peace.
"And I believe that message -- I believe -- forget the charm part; I believe that message is a message that people can understand. And they're beginning to see that the strategy is working."
NATO's leaders did agree today to a modest pledge to help train security forces in Iraq -- but whether they think Bush's strategy is working there is another story entirely.
Bush's long answer was presaged by a much shorter exchange a few moments earlier. A reporter from the French newspaper Le Monde began a meandering question by noting that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, on a scouting trip to Europer earlier this month, described himself as a new Rumsfeld. (That was to distinguish from the "old Rumsfeld" who had condemned European countries that refused to back the war against Iraq.)
"Same old Bush," the president interrupted.
Here's the transcript.
President Bush has reached a dead end in his foreign policy, but he has failed to recognise his quandary
Friday February 25, 2005
President Bush has reached a dead end in his foreign policy, but he has failed to recognise his quandary. His belief that the polite reception he received in Europe is a vindication of his previous adventures is a vestige of fantasy.
As the strains of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, filled the Concert Noble in Brussels, Bush behaved as though the mood music itself was a dramatic new phase in the transatlantic relationship. He gives no indication that he grasps the exhaustion of his policy. His reductio ad absurdum was reached with his statement on Iran: "This notion that the US is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table." Including, presumably, the "simply ridiculous".
Bush is scrambling to cobble together policies across the board. At the last minute he rescued his summit with Vladimir Putin, who refuses to soften his authoritarian measures, with a step toward safeguarding Russian plutonium that could be used for nuclear weapons production. This programme was negotiated by Bill Clinton and neglected by Bush until two weeks ago.
The European reception for Bush was not an embrace of his neoconservative world view, but an attempt to put it in the past. New Europe is trying to compartmentalise old Bush. To the extent that he promises to be different, the Europeans encourage him; to the extent that he is the same, they pretend it's not happening.
The Europeans, including the British government, feel privately that the past three years have been hijacked by Iraq. Facing the grinding, bloody and unending reality of Iraq doesn't mean accepting Bush's original premises, but getting on with the task of stability. Ceasing the finger-pointing is the basis for European consensus on its new, if not publicly articulated, policy: containment of Bush. Naturally, Bush misses the nuances and ambiguities.
Of course, he has already contained himself, or at least his pre-emption doctrine, which seems to have been good for one-time use only. None of the allies is willing to repeat the experience. Bush can't manage another such military show anyway, as his army is pinned down in Iraq.
The problem of Iran is in many ways the opposite of Iraq. The Europeans have committed their credibility to negotiations, the Iranians have diplomatic means to preclude unilateral US action, and Bush - who, according to European officials, has no sense of what to do - is boxed in, whether he understands it or not.
The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, seeking to impress French intellectuals while in Paris, referred to Iran as totalitarian, as if the authoritarian Shia regime neatly fitted the Soviet Union model. With this rhetorical legerdemain, she extended the overstretched analogy of the "war on terrorism" as the equivalent of the cold war to Persia. Her lack of intellectual adeptness dismayed her interlocutors. One of the French told me Rice was "deaf to all argument", but no one engaged her gaffe because "good manners are back".
Regardless of Rice's wordplay, it is not a policy. Rice has vaguely threatened to refer Iran to the UN security council. The "simply ridiculous" remains on the table at the same time as the US is unengaged in diplomacy. Bush doesn't know whether to join the Europeans in guaranteeing an agreement to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons or not.
"So long as Iran remains within the non-proliferation treaty and the [UN weapons] inspectors remain on the ground there, there's nothing the US can do within the security council," John Ritch, the former US ambassador to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, told me.
The argument for keeping the Iranians within the treaty was overwhelming, he said. "As long as they are in the inspection system it gives us maximum opportunity to evaluate every step of their nuclear development ... The US should be willing to support a European-brokered deal under which the Iranians forgo their right to build a domestic nuclear enrichment and processing capability. Ultimately, the way to promote a satisfactory outcome is to empower the Europeans by asserting that the US will back up a sound agreement."
Bush has hummed a few bars of rapprochement. With their applause, the Europeans have begun to angle him into a corner on Iran. In time Bush must either join the negotiations or regress to neoconservatism, which would wreck the European relationship. If he chooses a course that is not "simply ridiculous", on his next visit the Europeans might be willing to play Beethoven's Third Symphony, the Eroica.
· Sidney Blumenthal is former senior adviser to President Clinton and author of The Clinton Wars