In the wake of the recent “incident” in the South China Sea, we are afforded the opportunity to look back upon what happened, what could have been done differently and what lessons we should take away from this regarding an overarching philosophy of foreign policy in the new Bush administration. To date, the policy of the Bush White House has been largely reactive.
They responded through diplomatic channels to the situation that arose with China two weeks ago. Just this week, they made headlines for criticizing Israel after an attack on Syria earlier this week. However, Bush has yet to articulate a comprehensive policy of foreign affairs to the nation.
In some respects, this is understandable. By design, a large part of the task of managing an administration is reactive. Presidents are expected to respond capably, and without forewarning, to any crises that might arise.
However, in the responses we’ve seen from the Bush team thus far, a troubling trend has emerged. Bush has been applying the infantile strategy of the biggest kid on the playground to his foreign policy, demanding to get his way simply because of his overwhelming size. Bush’s frustrating unilateral approach to orchestrating foreign policy is winning the United States no new friends abroad. The President and those around him do not seem to be concerned, for they seem to be operating on a 1980s Cold Warrior world view that gives the military primacy over the economy and names Communism as the largest threat to the well-being of our nation.
These antiquated ideas fail to acknowledge the difference between the Soviet Union of the 1960s and the China of the 2000s. The USSR was an expansionary power that threatened the safety of our nation. China, quite to the contrary, is engaged in a border dispute with Taiwan and little else. In the vacuum created by the absence of Clinton and the missed presence of the USSR, the hawks of the right-wing are forced to find some threat to go to war with.
The appropriate prescription is this: Stop worrying about new ways to find work for the military-industrial complex and get to work trying to figure out how the world works in a post-Cold War environment. Economics have become far more important than military strength, and yet Bush and his security team are the only people who seem to not understand that. We all remember what happened to the school bully. By high school, no one liked him. We shouldn’t let the same fate befall our country, just so that President Bush can let the military have a work out.