Bruce Sterling on Sat, 15 Mar 2003 08:22:12 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> America Loses "PreWar," Liquidation to Follow

*Good lord, people, this is the American *business press*
denouncing the Administration here.  I think they may
finally be recognizing that tax breaks don't matter when
you have no revenue.

*Well, time to vector on down to the poorhouse as
a saber-rattling banana republic.  -- bruces

The high economic price of the Bush Doctrine
The 2004 election isn't the sure thing it used to be
Growth will limp along even after the troops come home
How policymakers plan to stave off wartime disasters
The cash-strapped city braces for terrorism
How Iraq's neighbors are jockeying for position
Qatar is energy-rich and U.S.-friendly
A reporter readies for battle in Kuwait City
MARCH 24, 2003
By Bruce Nussbaum

Commentary: The High Price of Bad Diplomacy
Mismanaging the runup to war will do more than squander goodwill and damage 

The U.S. has already lost the prewar battle over Iraq, whatever the outcome 
of a further U.N. vote. Even if it wins a fig-leaf majority vote in the 
Security Council, America will be entering its first preemptive war faced 
with opposition from nearly all of its allies and much of the rest of the 
planet. A world that rallied to America's side in unprecedented 
demonstrations of support after September 11 increasingly perceives the U.
S. itself as a great danger to peace. How did things come to this? The 
failure of the Bush Administration to manage its diplomacy is staggering, 
and the price paid, even if the war ends quickly, could be higher than 
anyone now anticipates.

The political effect of this foreign policy imbroglio is already obvious. 
It can be measured in tattered alliances and global tensions, eroding 
support for President George W. Bush, and big changes throughout the Middle 
East. What remains unclear are the economic consequences. In the end, they 
may be far more significant.

Uncertainty is anathema to investment and growth. Much of the current 
weakness in the U.S. and the global economy is due to the immediate 
questions surrounding an Iraq war. Yet the Bush foreign policy of 
unilateral preemption is so ill-defined and open-ended that it could weigh 
heavily on the global economy well after the bombing stops. Look at the 
Administration's agenda. The war in Iraq will be followed by an occupation 
that could last years, cost many billions of dollars, and involve tens of 
thousands of occupying troops. That's a big price to pay if bungled 
diplomacy means that the U.S. bears most of the financial burden. Then 
there's dealing with North Korea's rush to build nuclear bombs. And Iran's 
play for nukes.

The prospect of America taking on this long list of crises -- and perhaps 
others -- with little international support is making people everywhere 
jittery. They fear that, beyond the war in Iraq, the global economy may be 
continuously threatened by political and military unrest. It is not a 
picture conducive to worldwide economic growth and prosperity. The first 
decade of the new century is beginning to feel like the 1970s, when the 
turmoil of the Vietnam War cast a long shadow over the U.S. economy.

It may even get worse than that. Chief executives are beginning to worry 
that globalization may not be compatible with a foreign policy of 
unilateral preemption. Can capital, trade, and labor flow smoothly when the 
world's only superpower maintains such a confusing and threatening stance?
  U.S. corporations may soon find it more difficult to function in a 
multilateral economic arena when their overseas business partners and 
governments perceive America to be acting outside the bounds of 
international law and institutions.

How did the U.S. lose the prewar? Conventional wisdom holds that September 
11 changed everything in U.S. foreign policy. It certainly did with regard 
to Mexico. Before the attacks, President Bush and Mexican President Vicente 
Fox were close friends on the verge of a new bilateral agreement 
liberalizing Mexican immigration to America. Bush made a rare trip outside 
the U.S. to Fox's ranch and had lunch with Fox's mother. After September 11,
  Bush abruptly ended all talks, hurting Fox politically in his own country.
  The message was clear: The most critical issue for the President of Mexico 
was no longer of any concern to the President of the U.S. Fast-forward two 
years, and the U.S. is heavy-handedly demanding that Mexico deliver its 
vote in the Security Council for a second resolution on Iraq. Instead of 
caving, as Washington assumed, Mexico is resisting. Bush alienated a friend 
and is paying the price.

But the seeds of the current diplomatic disaster were planted in the first 
year of the Bush Administration, well before September 11. That's when 
Washington defined its foreign policy, which has come to be seen as the 
three "D's" -- disdain, disregard, and disrespect for treaties, allies, and 
friends. In those early months, the Administration managed to insult the 
heads of both North and South Korea, an amazing policy feat. Bush was 
quoted as saying North Korea's Prime Minister was a "pygmy," and later said 
"I loathe Kim Jong Il." And Bush humiliated South Korea's Kim Dae Jung on 
his visit to the White House by publicly repudiating his opening to the 
North, a popular policy at home.

At the same time, the U.S. simply walked away from both the Kyoto global 
warming treaty, infuriating the Europeans, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile 
Treaty, angering the Russians. A personal rapport between Bush and Russian 
President Vladimir V. Putin papered over the humiliation felt by Russia. In 
exchange for help in the war in Afghanistan, the Administration did give 
Moscow a green light in Chechnya. But it never made the effort in Congress 
to lift the Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions on Russia imposed during the 
Cold War. In short, Washington treated Russia as cavalierly as it treated 
Mexico and Europe. Now, bolstered by new oil riches and courted by France 
and Germany, Russia is trying to regain some of its luster as a world power 
by threatening to veto a second U.N. resolution on Iraq. The White House 
has been surprised by the move -- yet another diplomatic miscalculation.

September 11 did matter greatly, of course, in redirecting U.S. foreign 
policy. Into the breach opened by the first massive act of terrorism 
against the country, the Bush Administration published The National 
Security Strategy of the United States of America, a formal codification of 
the White House's intentions. It rightly stated that two new realities of 
life -- terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- are 
restructuring the global order. The Cold War foreign policies of 
containment and mutually assured destruction can't work when suicidal 
fanatics, rather than rational states, are the major threat to America. The 
document also says these policies can't work when terrorists can get access 
to biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons from failing states or 
dictatorships. But the Bush Administration's prescription was a Pax 
Americana that broke traditional norms of international behavior. Since the 
Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the concept of the sovereignty of states has 
been sacrosanct. Nations are open to attack only when they actually do 
something to threaten another country. An imperial America acting alone to 
spread democracy by the sword may appeal to a handful of neocon ideologues,
  but it doesn't sit well with many Americans -- and especially not with 
people around the world.

The Bush Doctrine, laid out in the national security paper, has three 
tenets: that unilateral measures are better than international treaties and 
organizations in dealing with global problems; that no country or 
combination of countries will ever be allowed to challenge U.S. military 
dominance; and that the U.S. is free to take preemptive action against 
terrorists and states that have weapons of large-scale destruction. In 
short, it's my way or the highway. As a foreign policy, it is both arrogant 
-- certain to generate opposition by even the most friendly of countries -- 
and corrosive, certain to undermine multilateral institutions and 
agreements, including those in the economic sphere. Worse still, it is 
ill-constructed and confusing, making for a more, not less, uncertain and 
dangerous world.

The Bush Doctrine never defines just when the U.S. will act preemptively 
and take sovereignty away from a nation. That vagueness is apparent in the 
first test case of the preemption policy -- Iraq. The White House has said 
Iraq was helping the terrorists of al Qaeda. Then it argued that Iraq had 
to be disarmed because of the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass 
destruction. Then the Administration said a change in Iraqi regime was 
required to disarm the country. It has offered the grand vision of 
establishing democracy in Iraq. Washington is now suggesting that regime 
change and democracy in Iraq would help settle the Israeli-Palestinian 
conflict. This jumble of reasons has undermined the credibility of the 
entire invasion, even though there are strong grounds to disarm Iraq. After 
all, Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who gases his own people, wages war on his 
neighbors, and builds weapons of mass destruction that terrorists could 
potentially bring to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Berlin -- and 

North Korea adds further confusion to the Bush Doctrine. Washington insists 
it has no intention of preempting Pyongyang's nascent nuclear arsenal and 
wants regional powers -- China, South Korea, and Japan -- to take the lead 
in negotiations. But if preemption works in Iraq, why not North Korea? And 
what about Iran? These questions can only make the world, and the world 
economy, more volatile and uncertain.

The U.S. will win militarily in Iraq, but a victory in the period after the 
war is still in question. Whether the damage done by inept diplomacy will 
be long-lasting and deep will depend on whether the Bush Administration 
acts magnanimously and invites those nations who opposed the war to help 
rebuild Iraq. Holding grudges, as the White House has done against Germany,
  will be expensive. There are thousands of German troops in Afghanistan and 
Bosnia maintaining the peace.

President Bush might want to take some advice from his father, who clearly 
offered it up in a rare public speech at Tufts University in late February.
  Looking back at his effort at healing his relationship with Jordan, which 
sided with Iraq in the first Gulf War, the elder Bush said: "I think there'
s a message in that for those who today say, How can we ever put things 
together? The answer is: You've got to reach out to the other person. You'
ve got to convince them that long-term friendship should trump short-term 

But that implies a belief that long-term friendships are important -- a 
belief that it is not clear George W. Bush shares. From the outset, the 
Bush White House has emphasized hard power -- the military. Yet the U.S. 
derives much of its influence from leading a global political economy based 
primarily on American values. Since the end of the Cold War, the world has 
been moving toward this integrated system of democratic capitalism. 
Terrorism and the need to fight it don't change that. In fact, a 
multilateral effort to combat terrorism should reinforce this unity. To win 
the postwar in Iraq, America needs a multilateral foreign policy shared by 
its allies and feared by its enemies.

It is true that the Bush Administration did, belatedly, go to the Security 
Council and did receive a unanimous vote for Resolution 1441, which calls 
for Iraq to disarm or face the consequences. But then, of course, Secretary 
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the diplomatic gaffe of publicly insulting 
France and Germany by calling them "Old Europe." This stoked anti-American 
fires across Europe. France went on to disown 1441. Had it not, the U.S. 
might now be poised to fight as part of multilateral U.N. military force.

The price the Bush Administration is paying for its failed diplomacy is 
high, and it promises to rise even further. A world divided between 
multilateral economic and unilateral security policies is an uncertain and 
risky place. It is not likely to encourage economic growth or prosperity. 
The Administration risks turning what was once trumpeted as the American 
Century into the Anti-American Century.

Nussbaum is the Editorial page editor.

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