April 25, 2005

Mendicant Diplomacy

Just in case this hasn't occurred to anyone else I thought I'd point out that the idea of a President of the United States having to approach foreign governments hat in hand asking for favors is thoroughly offensive, barring some grave emergency. First it was the Chinese two weeks ago over their weak-yuan policy, and today it is the Saudis over oil production levels and the idea that they might invest in refineries here in the United States.

Counting on other governments to bail ours out of problems it is unwilling to address seriously itself is an abdication, not a policy. As the poet might have said if he'd been even a tad bit wonkish, "oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to never propose anything that might be seriously unpopular and damage our approval ratings." All right, so I wasn't an English major, but you get the idea.

Posted by at April 25, 2005 05:12 PM | TrackBack (13)
Comments

Just giving 'em an opportunuty to do what they really want to do anyway....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 26, 2005 11:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't think there is anything wrong with asking for help when help is needed. That is what neighbors and communities are for.

The problem is that Bush has been so arrogant in his contempt for our neighbors and the world community that when he asks for help, it is a sign of America's weakness. No one is going to buy any argument from Bush that says that helping America out is the way to advance their own best interest, because Bush has never shown any consideration for the interests of other nation's in the past.

China and Saudi Arabia may choose to help Bush out, but it won't be because they see a strong United States as essential to their own best interests. That is the tragedy of the Bush administration --- the world no longer looks to the US for leadership, and believes that with US leadership everyone could prosper. We may still be "essential", but the rest of the world is working toward the day when we won't be essential, and any move made by China and Saudi Arabia will be based on that goal.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 26, 2005 01:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All that contempt for Iraq, for Kuwait, for Afghanistan, for Kosovo, for Palestine, for Taiwan, for Lebanon, for Egypt, the Ukraine, for Georgia (FSU), for Europe during the Cold War.

The mind simply boggles.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 26, 2005 01:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr Britt:

Quick question. Should the President not take the steps he's taken with respect to China and Saudi Arabia, ever? Or is it that he has taken those steps without addressing the budget deficit and oil consumption and the trade deficit with China through domestic measures?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at April 26, 2005 02:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Britt:
Re: your last comment - "oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to never propose anything that might be seriously unpopular and damage our approval ratings."

I was curious, do you think that Social Security reform, tax code reform, his energy bill (especially the drilling in Anwar part), etc. were not seriously unpopular and already damaged his approval ratings? Where in God's name do you get your news from?

Posted by: Charles at April 26, 2005 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BD should make the KOS blogroll shortly.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at April 26, 2005 02:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB has a point: foreign diplomacy is an area of serious weakness in the Bush administration. Most of our closest traditional allies are seriously pissed off at us and are not even slightly inclined to help us in any way, with anything. It wasn't like that under Clinton. Or even Bush Sr.

And so our president is reduced to asking, begging, pleading for help from the vilest regimes on this planet - and getting turned down. Makes me proud.

Posted by: Joel at April 26, 2005 03:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Case in point: President Bush's staunchest ally in the world is Britain's Tony Blair. But Blair has enlisted *Bill Clinton* to help his reelection campaign. Read about it here:

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/b20ee5b8-b533-11d9-8df4-00000e2511c8.html

From the article: "The former US president's endorsement could remind those who have been critical of Tony Blair's affinity with George W. Bush of a time when the special relationship was less controversial."

President Bush is not scheduled to visit England until after their election.

Posted by: Joel at April 26, 2005 03:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I suspect that the Saudis and Bush are more concerned about the world economy that has to bear the brunt of the high oil prices than the American economy, which can adjust to them.

Surely a world recession would be bad for the Saudis and the United States, but it probably would have little impact on the Bush poll ratings.

In short, maybe there is more at stake than simply a worry about the U.S. economy.

Posted by: Linc Wolverton at April 26, 2005 05:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

***
JEB has a point: foreign diplomacy is an area of serious weakness in the Bush administration. Most of our closest traditional allies are seriously pissed off at us and are not even slightly inclined to help us in any way, with anything. It wasn't like that under Clinton. Or even Bush Sr.

And so our president is reduced to asking, begging, pleading for help from the vilest regimes on this planet - and getting turned down. Makes me proud.
***

I do not think you could be more wrong.

First, the differneces between the US and Europe were masked to a certain degree during the Cold War.

Second, after the Cold War, they were ameliorated by a security inertia that largely continued until 9/11.

Third, during the 1990s, Clinton was given the benefit of the doubt by the Europeans because he was - in their view - like them. He talked the multilateralist aka internationalist talk and appeared to walk the walk. However, a closer look at the Clinton era makes clear that "assertive multilateralism" was not much more than the US asking nicely or aggreing to some claptrap consultation before doing what it wanted. The entire Clinton years reflected a multilateralist tone behind a traditionally American national interest policy of mixing uni and multilateral efforts in the pursuit of goals. As part of Clinton's efforts to satisfy the Euros, he left Kyoto, the ICC, and the CTBT signed and never getting ratified.

The problem for Bush was that ole GW was not suited to playing that role from the beginning. Go back and look at the things emanating from Europe during the campaign and right after Bush was elected.

After 9/11, NATO invoked Article 5 and then the French and others rushed to make clear they did not see this as more than symbolic.

As far as I see it, the United States attacked and attacked hard. The President at the time evaluated options and set out a bold agenda to address it. The strategic and tactical decisions have been ripped, praised, discussed etc to the Nth degree. Right now, he is looking pretty good overall. History will judge and barring a reversal it appears he will be judged a lot kinder down the road than today.

As for oil, it is the lifeblood of the world economy. We need oil for domestic purposes, trade purposes, and also for international stability. You should review a host of literature talking about the rise in Chinese oil demand and global oil demand and how both the US and the Chinese are nurturing, protecting and seeking out new oil markets. The problem of oil prices and rising demand is not going to disappear anytime in the near future. It is basic economics.

As for asking for help, is that what one is supposed to do in a multilateral or international system? As for sitting down with vile regimes, China and Saudi Arabia are members of the UN in good standing. I do not like the regimes that much, but if Bush was not willing to sit down and deal with them he would be ripped for it.

As a side note, how we manage our relationship with China is the biggest challenge (far bigger than AQ) for America over the next fifty years.

Posted by: Dundare at April 26, 2005 05:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Third, during the 1990s, Clinton was given the benefit of the doubt by the Europeans because he was - in their view - like them. He talked the multilateralist aka internationalist talk and appeared to walk the walk. However, a closer look at the Clinton era makes clear that "assertive multilateralism" was not much more than the US asking nicely or aggreing to some claptrap consultation before doing what it wanted. The entire Clinton years reflected a multilateralist tone behind a traditionally American national interest policy of mixing uni and multilateral efforts in the pursuit of goals. As part of Clinton's efforts to satisfy the Euros, he left Kyoto, the ICC, and the CTBT signed and never getting ratified.

see what a little respect and attention to diplomatic niceties can achieve?

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 26, 2005 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In recent years, the Saudis have frequently bailed the U.S. out when oil prices reached a level that is politically dangerous. In fact, the U.S. is not as self-sufficient as many of us think. We've always depended on the resources and actions of others. The same goes for other nations. The difference is that the wheeling and dealing goes on behind the scenes. If negotiations don't work, then threats come into play. I think I'd rather pump more oil to lower oil prices rather than face the threat of a U.S. inspired political movement or sanctions. By publicly asking the Saudis to help lower oil prices, knowing they are going cooperate by pumping more oil, allow everyone involved to save face.

Posted by: Munir Umrani at April 26, 2005 10:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

***
See what a little respect and attention to diplomatic niceties can achieve?
***

That worked for Clinton who a) was favorably viewed by the Europeans from day one and b) was born speaking out of both sides of his mouth. It also helped when the differences between the US and Europe were less pronounced and there was far less on the line. Preserving the Cold War status quo by not rocking the boat is far different than taking that alliance into the challenges of a new era in international politics that became clear on 9/11 and had been apparent even prior to that.

***
In recent years, the Saudis have frequently bailed the U.S. out when oil prices reached a level that is politically dangerous.
***

They have done their part in terms of keeping the global oil market stable. They have played a key role as the swing producer. However, the rise in global demand has made this increasingly difficult and it will become impossible in the months and years to come.

Posted by: Dundare at April 26, 2005 11:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dundare,

George Bush was bitch slapped on 9-11.

Instead of acting like a rational soldier under fire, he responded like a drunk paranoid redneck and his followers were as brave as little white boys in a Southern lynch-mob.

Romanticize the hooping-and-hollerin' all you want...the Bush legacy turned America into the home of the scared and land of the paranoid.

Bin Ladden must be proud of his work.

Posted by: NeoDude at April 27, 2005 02:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That worked for Clinton who a) was favorably viewed by the Europeans from day one and b) was born speaking out of both sides of his mouth. It also helped when the differences between the US and Europe were less pronounced and there was far less on the line. Preserving the Cold War status quo by not rocking the boat is far different than taking that alliance into the challenges of a new era in international politics that became clear on 9/11 and had been apparent even prior to that.

The idea that 9/11 represented some kind of "new era in international politics" is pure bollocks, I'm afraid. The fact that 19 religious fanatics with penknives were able to pull off 9/11 was not evidence of a national security threat; merely evidence that the US had not taken the most basic precautions to prevent such an attack.

The bottom line on 9/11 is that it was preventable, but George W. Bush ignored the warnings that he was given. If Bush and his subordinates had made as much efffort to focus our national security apparatus on preventing the attacks as it subsequently did trying to prove that there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11, I seriously doubt that the attacks would have succeeded.

The rest of the international community has been dealing with serious terrorist threats for decades --- the world was no less safe on September 12 than it was on September 10. Those who say "9/11 changed everything" are merely saying "9/11 made me afraid".

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 27, 2005 03:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

***
The idea that 9/11 represented some kind of "new era in international politics" is pure bollocks, I'm afraid. The fact that 19 religious fanatics with penknives were able to pull off 9/11 was not evidence of a national security threat; merely evidence that the US had not taken the most basic precautions to prevent such an attack.
***

Yet...it has. This is certainly not the old post-Cold War era of IP. The United States is using force in ways that havent been seen in a long time - deploying forces into areas it had never considered in the past. The traditional allies of the US (at least France and Germany) have rejected this approach and worked actively to block US efforts in a very un allylike manner.

The Cold War was a bipolar era. After the USSR faded away, the world continued with seemingly little change in the big picture stuff. Either the US was a hegemonic unipolar actor or we were in, as John Mearsheimer has suggested, an era of unbalanced multipolarity with all the weight sliding toward the US.

Things operated in predictable manners during the Cold War. In the post-Cold War world, the predictability was lamented for its perceived absence, but the responses and language for dealing with threats remained largely the same. Post 9/11 this changed.

I tend to agree with you that terrorism cannot define an era of international politics. Charles Kupchan has argued this point fairly well in the past (saying we needed to focus on China). However, the new era in international politics will be understood to have arrived on 9/11. That day changed decades old patterns of conflict and cooperation. It might have been that the reasons for that conflict and cooperation had disappeared without anyone suggesting agreeable changes, but 9/11 ushered in the new era with a bang and not a drift.

Posted by: Dundare at April 27, 2005 02:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dundare, instead of making comments about how European countries aren't helping us, perhaps you should see who has how many forces in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Barry at April 27, 2005 02:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Posted by: Charles:
"I was curious, do you think that Social Security reform, tax code reform, his energy bill (especially the drilling in Anwar part), etc. were not seriously unpopular and already damaged his approval ratings?"

They weren't seriously unpopular ahead of time. His "it's your money" tax cuts were highly popular, and allowed the GOP to position itself as the free-money party. The Democratic Party had to assume it's role as the 'eat your spinach, or no dessert' party. The drilling in ANWAR allowed Bush to pay off his energy buddies, spit on the environmentalists, and position them as inslamofascsymp anti-AmericanEnergy idotarians.
Bush's social security 'reform' was an attempt to rip off the American people by waving lots of signs saying 'free money!!!!!!!!'. The only problem was that the American people finally wised up, looked at the last few years, and decided that they'd rather not have their retirements end up in the same undisclosed location as Saddam's WMD's.


"Where in God's name do you get your news from?"

Typical right-wing freudian projection.

Posted by: Barry at April 27, 2005 02:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dundare,

Didn't you see Bush's loving embrace of the tyrantical prince of Saudi Arabia?

Do you think the whole of the royal family find the Bin Laddens as the best the Saudi's have to offer?

And as such, Bush was told that Osama was untouchable...that "coke sniffing AWOL" best keep his hands of Osama and he should take his cheerleading tantrum to Iraq.

Bush knows who his real daddy is.

Posted by: NeoDude at April 28, 2005 12:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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