THE BLOG

President Bush is Endangering Our Lives 10: Turning the World Against Us

01/27/2006 07:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"The U.S. will, if necessary, act preemptively, and will require bases within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, the ability to ensure U.S. access to distant theaters, and critical U.S. infrastructure and assets in outer space. Our forces will dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of equaling the power of the United States. We will not (be) impaired by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction we do not accept. We will respect the interests of our friends and partners. Still, we will be prepared to act apart when our interests require."
-- from the "Bush Doctrine", "The National Security Strategy of the United States," September 20, 2002

"The United States remains broadly disliked in most countries surveyed. There is considerable support across every country surveyed for some other country or group of countries to rival the United States militarily. Roughly three-quarters of the publics in Germany, Canada and France say Bush's re-election has made them feel less favorable to the U.S."
-- 16-Nation Pew "Global Attitudes Survey", 6/23/05

Although Mr. Bush no longer mentions his "Doctrine", the thinking behind it is still operative and still guides a foreign policy that has increased hatred of America around the world and dramatically weakened U.S. national security. Mr. Bush's foreign policy prioritizes the unilateral use of military power over coalition-building, international law and the exercise of "soft power": convincing, persuading, coalition-building, consulting and inspiring. It fails to understand that military force alone means little in today's world, and how "soft power" can be transformed into real, material, national security assets.

Pew Research Study Center head Andrew Kohut testified to Congress on November 10, 2005 that "America's global popularity plummeted at the start of military action in Iraq, and the U.S. presence there remains widely unpopular." A June 2005 Pew Center report provided a snapshot of how Mr. Bush has turned the world against us.

Between 1999/2000 when Mr. Bush took office and 5 years later, public approval of the U.S. has dropped dramatically among our allies: in Canada, 71 to 59; Britain, 83 to 55; France, 62 to 43; Germany, 78 to 41; and Spain, 50 to 41. Only 51% of the British and French, 50% of Germans, 45% of Canadians and 26% of Spaniards "support the U.S. war on terror."

Mr. Bush has become ineffective as a world leader: 76% of Spaniards, 65% of Germans, 63% of the French and 56% of the British say that Mr. Bush is "the problem with the U.S." (vs. 14%, 29%, 32% and 35% in who say the problem is "America in general.") His standing among most non-allies is even lower.

Mr. Bush has no global credibility because of his misleading the world about Saddam Hussein's WMD. Experts agree, for example, that he would fail was he to try and rally world support for action against Iran. His occupation of Iraq, support for torture, and penchant for unilateral action have given him a global image of a violent cowboy. Whereas FDR, JFK and even Bill Clinton were widely admired around the world, Mr. Bush is despised and feared.

To understand how such numbers harm our national security, we need remember the post-Cold War bipartisan consensus for building a "New International Order" - based on cooperative action, coalition-building, and international law - was a practical not moral judgment. America's "usable power" - not even Vice-President Cheney has yet proposed using nuclear weapons to "save American lives" - is a small fraction of its overall power. And, as Messrs and Mr. Clinton found in Lebanon and Somalia, and Mr. Bush has discovered in Iraq, the U.S. cannot unilaterally police even weak third world nations let alone the world.

Both George Bush Sr. during the Gulf War, and Bill Clinton in the Balkans, demonstrated that cooperative international action is a geopolitical imperative that translates "soft" power into "hard" assets: allied soldiers, funds, bases, intelligence, aircraft, resources. However one feels about the wars themselves, U.S. efforts were undoubtedly aided by cooperative action.

9/11 made strengthening a new international order an even greater strategic priority. Non-state global terrorism obviously requires even greater global cooperation than fighting a region-specific war as in the Balkans. The potential threats we face exist all the way from the Europe where Mohammed Atta spent so many years, to Indonesia and the Philippines.

The level of cooperation required is also far greater than for a regional military conflict- beginning with the vastly increased importance of reducing nuclear proliferation. The U.S. has a far greater worldwide need for cooperation in intelligence-gathering, tracking financial resources, monitoring cross-border movements of people and arms, and coordinating anti-terrorist police and political and military strategies. How effectively the French, Germans or British deal with their Muslim citizens, or Philippine, Indonesian, Russian or Pakistan governments fight Muslim insurgents, has far greater importance for the safety of American citizens than ever before.

Cooperation is also more important because we have embarked upon a permanent struggle, requiring ongoing cooperation for decades. U.S. national security is rooted in maintaining support of domestic public opinion in dozens of nations so that, as various governments rise or fall, governmental cooperation remains constant.

And finally, international cooperation is critical because the U.S. was entered a new kind of war in the Muslim World about which it knows very little. If Mr. Bush had heeded rather than denigrating his far more knowledgeable French allies about the wisdom of rushing into Iraq, for example, he and his nation would be far stronger today.

Strengthening international law is a particular priority in this post 9/11 world. Nothing can win us more support than being perceived as respecting international law protecting civilians, as opposed to terrorists who do not. International law can be the global equivalent of a domestic constitution: a key to gaining legitimacy and support throughout the long, hard years to come.

From this perspective, the "Bush Doctrine" is even more foolish than Henry Kissinger's "Nixon Doctrine," which made the Shah of Iran our lynchpin in the Middle East. At the very moment that America most needs to develop and strengthen a "new international order", President Bush has destroyed it:

-- We are hated throughout the Muslim World, increasing both the number and motivation of those who would attack us;

-- We are disliked, feared and often despised in most other countries of the world, who perceive us as violating international law as much as Mr. Bin Laden. As anyone who travels abroad knows, record numbers of people around the world will feel we deserved it in the event of another 9/11.

-- Governments once allied with us are withdrawing their support - openly as when a new Spanish government pulled out of Iraq following the Madrid bombings, and quietly, as the number of troops in Mr. Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" is expected to fall dramatically in 2006, as the AP reported on December 2, 2005: "two of America's allies in Iraq (Bulgaria and Ukraine) are withdrawing forces this month and a half-dozen others are debating possible pullouts or reductions, increasing pressure on Washington as calls mount to bring home U.S. troops."

-- More American soldiers are dying and our national treasury is being far more depleted than if Mr. Bush had taken the time to build and maintain a genuine coalition for fighting terrorism. Had Mr. Bush spent a year or two seeking to win world support for militarily invading Iraq, for example, either he (a) would have enjoyed world support for the invasion, and been able to pull it off properly; or (b) he would have been unable to convince his allies and have had to find other ways to try and topple Saddam's government - which we now know was collapsing from within anyway. Either scenario would have far better served America's national security interests.

Mr. Bush's turning the world against us will continue to hurt the U.S. for decades to come. Nowhere has he done more damage, however, than in the Muslim world. While Mr. Bush continues to argue that his efforts to create a "model for democracy" in Iraq help us in the Middle East, his invasion and occupation of Iraq have increased the possibility of dreadful Middle Eastern scenarios which could cost countless American and foreign lives in coming years, and drastically weakened our ability to respond to them effectively.