Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bush’s Dangerous Legacy

Every time we feel that Americans have got hold on what are their public liabilities and commitments, Bush Administration surprises them by making open one more public commitment. That is the case with what the recent Georgia Russia war reveals to Americans.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili openly played the game of ‘baiting’ America in his foolish instigation with Russia. Saakashvili’s Army got decimated and Georgian people suffered umpteenth times. But those are collateral damages; what is worrisome is it unveiled security expectations from America in that region.

One would think failure of America in not fulfilling exaggerated expectations of Georgians would make countries from former Soviet Union to rethink their relations with Russia and not to depend on unreliable America (‘talk is cheap with these chest thumping Americans’). But the effect of this war seems to be the opposite – all these former Soviet Union countries are clinging to NATO and USA at faster rate. Poland signs the missile deal with USA and Ukraine says it wants to participate in that deal too and is ready to deny Russians any access to its Black Sea port Sevastopol.

VP Cheney’s office tried all his two terms to convince these former Soviet Union countries to fall for his jingoistic missile plan; but he did not have much success. But one defeat with Russia (fortunately without any American causality) and all these countries are falling in line! VP Cheney would not have imagined such success too.

But alas, what is Cheney’s success is generally America’s loss and it is no different in this case. Bush Administration never made any public case to Americans what are the benefits of this proposed missile defense shield in these former Soviet Union countries and what could be the potential consequences. It for sure rattled Putin’s Russia and set it on the Stalinist course of foreign policy and here we are effectively on the brink of repeat of Cold War in 21st century. Russian Generals openly claim that Poland is now on ‘radar’ for Russian missile attacks as well as potentially other European cities. Russia wants to equip its Kaliningrad fleet in Baltic Sea with nuclear weapons and is actively thinking about stationing Russian or Russian backed advance forces in Cuba. All this for some missile shield in Eastern Europe, allegedly to stop Iranian missiles as if there are no better ways to stop Iran.

This is what we get when Bush ‘sees soul of someone’ – the soul of his former pal Vladimir Putin. What a judgment and what hubris! It was hilarious to see American President sweating with exotic Beach Volleyball players at the start of Beijing Olympics and at the same time frantically trying to work ‘geopolitics’ with the prince from Russia; what a rat hole he got us into.

The problem is not the foolishness of Bush and his Administration but effectively again and again American Public and next administration has to stand holding the bag. It started with Iraq, with Iran there is no progress and with N. Korea Americans are where Clinton left them while all along the problem of Terrorism is not even half addressed. Everywhere it is the same pattern – nothing is solved completely, everything is half finished. Presidents in a mature democracy are expected to leave their country in better security scenario than they start at their terms. Here with George Bush, on every front America is in a deeper hole than where he started. That is Bush’s legacy.

German Chancellor visits Georgia and backs Saakashvili’s goal of getting into NATO (no, we do not see any politics where a Christian Democratic Union German leader backs Christian Caucasian President!). This means it is a matter of time before Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO. As per the treaty there is no way America can avoid not being into the war anytime any of these European nations are attacked by Russia regardless of whether these European nations on purpose ‘baited’ America or genuinely face Russian challenge. This means in the next European war theatre, American blood will be spilled for sure. As these foolish NeoCon policies are pursued, the danger of such armed clashes has suddenly increased.

Bush’s wise Defense Secretary may say that for more than four decades American Foreign Policy made all efforts to avoid clashes with Soviet Union; but NeoCon folly is to negate this valuable lesson. German population is decreasing and Germany is in any case reluctant to commit any of its forces anywhere else (has anyone heard enthusiastic participation by Germans in NATO’s Afghan campaign?). This means when actual firing would start in Eastern Europe; it will be the American GI who will on the front.

McCain, Robert Kagan, Weekly Standard and the whole NeoCon cavalcade will be simply thrilled to resurrect the Cold War. McCain’s of this world are in the politics only to relive ‘Churchillian’ life again and again; as many times as possible. For them it is always ‘scrapping all the blood and treasury’ for the next glory. Time and again Conservative forces can only run up to the vision of ‘Churchill’; nothing more as if the world has not moved beyond 1940s. Their vision of ‘heroism’ is so anarchic and out of place for today’s challenges.

But what needs to happen is ‘to expose’ and let Americans know what Bush and his accolades are ‘underwriting’ in Eastern Europe. American Media failed in Iraq and the danger is Americans will miss again to know what commitments they are tied too. Having a sane discussion of whether these commitments make sense for America or not is the next step; but the first step is to put all these commitments on table so Americans know what we are getting into. We have incomplete wars in Iraq (at least for next 4 to 5 years) and Afghanistan (next 8 to 10 years); war on terror is no way concluded and now we are talking about another draw down on American blood in Eastern Europe.

Fareed Zakaria may very well make an erudite case that the next administration does not fall into the trap as how Bush Administration set to reverse Clinton Foreign Policies only to pay higher price in coming the full circle; but here is the case for the next administration to undertake complete evaluation of what is going on Eastern Europe, to be realistic about what America can under write, follow ‘hot & cold’ relationship with Russia and if needed reverse the course Bush has set for us. Everyone knows that it is the price of Oil which is propelling Russian aggressions. As America invests in alternative energy and moves away from her oil addiction; America will reduce the dangerous dependence on hydro-carbons. But even if America reduces its dependence on hydrocarbons; China and India of the world will continue to depend for long on oil; consequently Russian spigot of Oil Money will be a long way from drying. Hence, America and West will need a calibrated policy in dealing with Russia. Bush messed up that and McCain does not seem to get it. It will be imperative for Obama and Democrats to offer clearer vision here.

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