Rajpal's Column

21st January 2001

Take cover ? George W. Bush takes over

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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"In an effort to once and for all quash speculation about his foreign policy prowess, US President George W. Bush demonstrated his mastery of foreign policy by pointing out the island of Madagascar on a map. After initially hesitatingly fingering Sri Lanka (off the coast of India), Bush smoothly corrected himself and pointed to the island country located 300 miles east of Mozambique, off the coast of the African continent.''

"Critics claim that as Governor of Texas, I had no foreign policy experience with which to prepare for the Presidency. Well, I hope this little demonstration puts them in their place," Bush said, with his finger firmly planted on Antananarivo, the island's capital.

Granted, the scenario is not real. But who would have guessed? By the way, the anecdote is plucked from a take-off on the new American President titled "Bush claims mastery of foreign policy - can point out Madagascar on map.''

But Karl Inderfurth (who bears a stark resemblance to George W. Bush in profile, though all resemblances might end there ) has stated already that "the US wants political settlements to all of Asia's conflicts.''

However, Colin Powell, the new President's brand -new Secretary of State has written previously: "I believe peacekeeping and humanitarian operations are a given."( ……for the US armed forces.) Powell also once made reference — as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs of the US armed forces — to, "the case for a 1.6-million-strong military "base force" by pointing to areas of unrest throughout the world.''

The neo- Cold War orthodoxy in American foreign policy was best articulated by the 'great communicator'', Ronald Reagan when he addressed the Oxford Union in 1992, after his Presidency had ended. He said, with familiar braggadocio, that "our success in conquering communism should now be followed by success in conquering the host of smaller but no less deadly challenges.''

Not taking -on the "Hitler's'' of the world was seen as being "isolationist'' and a "failure of will.''

Vast chunks of this neo - Cold War orthodoxy can be seen in the speeches of the new President George W. Bush.

"America's first temptation is withdrawal – to build a proud tower of protectionism and isolation.

In a world that depends on America to reconcile old rivals and balance ancient ambitions, this is the shortcut to chaos,'' Bush said, in a address made at the Ronald Reagan Presidential library. "It is an approach that abandons our allies, and our ideals. The vacuum left by America's retreat would invite challenges to our power. And the result, in the long run, would be a stagnant America and a savage world.''

Powell's words and Bush's words taken together, certainly indicate that America may be moving closer towards a more interventionist foreign policy, that will translate as greater involvement for the American armed forces in international conflict.

This is to say that Sadaam Hussein will definitely have an even harder time. But, that would have been predictable. The question that will be more interesting is whether George W. bush will begin shooting from the hip, Texas style, and landing American troops in places he didn't know existed? Certainly, Bush doesn't say he is going to intervene everywhere there is a conflict. In the Reagan library speech, he talks of "strategy'' and of a "foreign policy of managing crisis.''

But, whenever an American President, especially one who is proud he knows the location of Madagascar, makes strident speeches and says thing such as "Let us not dominate others with our power – or betray them with our indifference, '' and then adds "god Bless Ronald Reagan'', we should know that there are going to be more American troops all over the world, in the next four years.

All this may not necessarily be in consonance with Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth's yearning for "political settlements to South Asia's conflicts.'' ( Recent interview.) This is not to suggest that George W. Bush will be sending troops to keep the peace in Sri Lanka, but to suggest that if things go against US priorities here, he is somehow more likely to do even that (than Bill Clinton would have been for instance. )

Somehow, the coercive aspect of American foreign relations seem poised to be even more pronounced in the coming Bush administration, and given that Bush will have more situations at home to detract from, that even Bill Clinton did, American foreign policy will probably tend to get more and more "interventionist.''

Translate that America will go hither and dither, messing more in world affairs and conflicts, in the name of perusing the cherished ideals of "democracy and freedom.'' The least we may be able to ask for is that there be no police brutality on the part of Globocop?

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