As President George W. Bush begins his second term, it is urgent that both sides of the political spectrum closely examine American foreign policy. Bush’s foreign policy has made the United States the global enforcer, with a mandate to intervene against dangerous terrorist states and tyrants that violate human rights. This is not necessarily a bad foreign policy, except that it is increasingly clear that America will soon be alone. Current U.S. foreign policy isolates the United States from its allies and is makes the United States more of a target for future attacks.
Whether or not one agrees with Bush’s decision to attack Iraq before inspections were completed, it is inarguable that by doing so America weakened the United Nations. There is nothing it can do about this, but it does insult the important institution and a large number of countries. This is not a debate of whether the invasion was the right decision. What is truly important is that the preemptive strike is indicative of the character of our foreign policy. The invasion clearly disregards U.N. authority and generally accepted international laws. Since the end of the Cold War, America has been shifting its foreign policy to become the enforcer of international law, yet never accountable to it.
This can be seen not only in our military actions, but our political agreements. The Kyoto Protocol for better environmental practices was accepted by 178 states, but America abstained. The United States has also refused to join the International Criminal Court, which would try people accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. Bush has said in speeches that he does not wish our soldiers to be tried in foreign courts.
However, the United States has detained and tried Iraqi and Afghan citizens without any civil or political rights. Not only is this clearly hypocritical, it sends a message to the world that American citizens are more important than any other citizens.
Our allies can only take so much insult before we are viewed as a rogue superpower. It is also important to remember that those who hate America are not all religious fanatics who hate our society. It is well documented that the most famous of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, began hating the United States for its foreign policy before he joined al-Qaida. Of course no matter what we do, there are going to be people who hate our actions, as it is impossible to be completely just in foreign policy.
However, it is necessary for our foreign policy not to be comically unjust and hypocritical if we are going to improve our standing in world opinion. And it is important for the world opinion of us to be good not just for its own sake, but also to increase allies and reduce terrorism.
The tragic events of Sept. 11 created an opportunity for greater global respect and cooperation.
All know of the increased patriotism in the United States, but in much of the world, and virtually all Western countries, there was massive sympathy for the United States and a degree of global unity that is unheard of in modern history. Even hated French President Jacques Chirac spoke of the “solidarity of the entire French people during this terrible ordeal.” This should have been the beginning of a new era of global enforcement to truly make the world safer from terrorism and tyranny.
Shortly after Sept. 11, it seemed this might begin as the United States changed policy and agreed to begin to pay our debts to the United Nations. However, as the president used a cowboy approach in Iraq and did not make any other effort to reach to the global community, the unprecedented unity has completely disintegrated, both internationally and domestically. If this article was written two weeks ago it would be asking for a new leader, but now all that can be asked for is leadership.
Ben Turner is a sophomore at Tulane College majoring in international relations and international development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.