Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The End of Cowboy Diplomacy

Time has an interesting cover story this week entitled "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy." The sub headline poses, "What North Korea, Iraq and Iran teach us about the limits of going it alone."

I won't make this post a review of the article. But I do think the essay and its broader points are worthy of consideration, even by some of Bush's biggest supporters around here. The article's co-authors hit on the very same subjects that turned me off to Bush several years ago. For all his good intentions and his many failures, Bush's primary error will prove to taking those actions (both in domestic and foreign policy) in direct contrast to the principles by which he first campaigned.

Few television talking heads speak more to my own voice than MSNBC's Tucker Carlson. Tucker recently summed up Bush's legacy stating, "George W. Bush is no conservative and will be remembered by history much closer to Woodrow Wilson than to Ronald Reagan." A good point, I think. Both presidents were indeed inspired by great visions for the world. But Wilson was stubborn and Reagan was flexible. Wilson's policies failed and Reagan's worked. Into which category do we put Bush?

The Time article concludes by offering, "Global leadership can't be based on optimism alone. Until recently, Bush failed to acknowledge how much Iraq has eroded U.S. credibility or show that he takes seriously the criticism lodged against his policies by U.S. allies."

I agree. Iraq has put us in a difficult position to deal with Iran and North Korea. Optimism alone isn't going to work this time - but that's what we dealt in Iraq and it's all we ever get from these cards of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice. It's hard to talk tough to the rest of the world with one voice and no ears on Iraq, but then sit down at a big table and hold hands with Kim Il Jong. Even someone whose never played poker can see this bluff coming: we got nothing. A sad, but probably fitting end to such "cowboy diplomacy." Hopefully we'll have a new president and much different direction in our foreign (and domestic) policy before we "bust."


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