What George Mason Experts Are Saying about…Bush’s Second Term, Foreign Policy

Posted: December 15, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of occasional articles on what George Mason experts have to say about a current topic. In this article, experts address foreign policy issues in President George W. Bush’s second term: the war in Iraq, and Middle East and foreign policy. These are personal opinions and do not reflect an endorsement by George Mason University.

What Will Bush Do with His Mandate?

George Bush has a solid mandate, according to Jeremy Mayer, assistant professor in the School of Public Policy. But regarding Iraq, “This is the area where Bush’s policies have come under the greatest stress since the election,” he says. “The casualty rate for November came close to the record set in April. There is no way for Bush to avoid responsibility if Iraq turns into a quagmire. And there is no dodging the January deadline of elections. If the Iraqi elections next month are not successfully held, the entire future of Bush’s Iraq policy may be in grave danger.”

Bush’s Middle East Policies Are Counterproductive

Despite all his bluster about “You are either with us or with the terrorists,” President Bush has not really proved effective at combating global terrorism, says Dennis J.D. Sandole, professor in the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. “Worse, his policies have even had the effect of motivating, recruiting, and training terrorists to carry out further attacks against the United States and Americans in general.”

Sandole adds that aside from the impact of the United States-led war and occupation of Iraq in this regard, the counterproductive nature of Bush’s policies in the Middle East has never been as evident as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Despite the clear linkage between that conflict and global terrorism, the United States has continued to behave in ways that are wholly compatible with Israeli interests, at the expense of the Palestinians,” he says. “Perhaps with his re-election comfortably behind him, President Bush might decide to become a ‘great’ president during his second—and final—term, pursuing ‘real’ peace in the Middle East and elsewhere, such as Northern Ireland. That may be so, but his choice of Condoleezza Rice to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state does not auger well in this regard. Still, it is too hard to tell, and Mr. Bush may just surprise us all.”

Bush Can Give Unprecedented Leadership in the Middle East

President Bush occupies a position to give unprecedented leadership to the shaping of Middle Eastern civilization, says Marc Gopin, James H. Laue Chair in World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution in the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

“Peoples of the Middle East resent the authority and power of the United States, while simultaneously they await new global leadership that will foster democratization in their region. They need the United States to stand up for true democratization in their region, but they also need their own cultural and religious identities to be honored by any American intervention efforts. Most want liberation from oppressive cultural representatives, like clerical extremists, but not liberation from the culture itself.”

Gopin recommends that President Bush use forceful words of a positive vision that send a clear message without any implication of humiliation, which he says is one of the most destructive techniques of pursuing international objectives.

“There is a great deal of evidence that it violates basic cultural norms of the world’s great civilizations and religions.” Rhetoric about terrorism will not be heard because that language is too generic and contested, he believes. Instead, Gopin says, Bush should speak out against the purposeful targeting of civilians or women and children. Or he should speak out against “extremism,” not “religious or Islamic extremism,” which begets militant rhetoric in the Middle East about “crusaders” and “Christian extremists.” In addition, President Bush should “consciously study the language of Bin Laden and his associates and refute it by specifying their crimes and the democratic alternatives the administration can support.”

Bush Pursuing a More Multilateral Foreign Policy

To the surprise of many, President Bush has already begun to pursue a more multilateral foreign policy since the election, says Mark Katz, professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs. “While stating American reservations about the European diplomatic approach to the Iranian nuclear issue, he has acquiesced to it. He has seized upon the death of Yasser Arafat to lobby Israel’s conservative prime minister to cooperate in new Palestinian elections, which may reinvigorate the peace process.”

Katz adds that Bush has also sought to restore relations with America’s traditional allies in Europe and Canada and, while obviously skeptical about the United Nations, appears to be trying to work with it more than against it. “The real question is whether those governments that have been so critical of his policies in the recent past will now try to meet him halfway. Many of them, unfortunately, have not yet shown the willingness to do this.”

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