Bush Doctrine Is Expected to Get Chilly Reception

By Peter Baker, Washington Post Staff Writer, January 23, 2005

When President Bush flew to Canada in his first international trip following his reelection, the White House portrayed it as the beginning of a fence-mending tour to bring allies back into the fold after a tense first term. But after Bush left, the Canadians were more furious than before.

They were stunned when Bush leaned across a table in a private meeting and lectured Prime Minister Paul Martin about opposing the U.S. missile defense system. And they were later taken aback by a speech filled with what they considered the same "old Bush" foreign policy pronouncements that opened the divide with the allies in the first place.

"If he's going to take that speech to Europe," said a top Canadian official who attended the meeting between Bush and Martin, "he's not going to get a good reception."

For all the talk of fresh diplomacy and rebuilding frayed alliances, Bush heads into his second term still demanding that the rest of the world meet him on his terms -- and now he has redefined those terms to an even more provocative degree with an inaugural address articulating a grand vision for spreading democracy and "ending tyranny" in "every nation." With his eye on history, Bush wants to change the world. The rest of the world is not necessarily so eager to be changed.

While administration officials have since tried to tamp down expectations of a radical shift in policy, the inaugural speech reflected a worldview dramatically at odds with that in many parts of Europe and the Middle East, where it has only confirmed the image of Bush as an American unilateralist pursuing his own agenda with messianic fervor.

To the neoconservative thinkers who have long sought a leader in the White House willing to champion American ideals abroad, Bush has the chance to be a transformative figure. The first-term efforts to build democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq, they hope, will expand in the second term, though not necessarily through armed force.

"His importance as a world leader will turn out to be far larger than the sort of tactical issues that are widely debated and for which he is sometimes reviled," said Richard Perle, an influential former adviser to the Pentagon. "Put this in a historic perspective: He's already created profound change. All around the Middle East, they're talking about the issue of democracy. They're talking about his agenda. It's an extraordinary thing."

Yet many Democrats, as well as Republicans from the traditional school of U.S. foreign policy, see Bush heading down a treacherous road that will further unravel a half-century of international relationships. The rupture over Iraq, they fear, may presage a widening divide with the rest of the world over the next four years.

"The proposition is being tested, and the proposition is we can reorganize the world from the base of American power and exceptionalism and that, like it or not, history will comply and other powers will back down," said Leon Fuerth, who was national security adviser to Vice President Al Gore in the Clinton administration. "It seems to me this is a formula for dispersing American power and influence rather than building it."

The inspiration for Bush's thinking lately has been Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet political prisoner turned conservative Israeli politician. Bush read Sharansky's book "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror" and invited him to the White House in November to talk about its ideas. Since then, Bush has been recommending the book to nearly everyone he sees, from friends to journalists to foreign leaders, telling CNN last week that "this is a book that . . . summarizes how I feel."

In the book, Sharansky outlines what he calls the "town square test," meaning that a country is not free if its citizens cannot go to a public place and express dissent from the ruling power without fear of reprisal -- a test Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice embraced during Senate testimony last week.

The book takes on conservative "realists" who focus on preserving stability and national interests rather than advancing noble causes such as democracy -- the approach espoused by Rice before Bush's 2000 election in a Foreign Affairs magazine article called "Promoting the National Interest." In that article, she defined U.S. national interests as rebuilding military power, expanding free trade agreements, confronting "rogue regimes," renewing relationships with allies and building ties with "great powers" such as Russia and China.

Rice's thinking has since evolved along with that of her president. The most striking personification of the thinking Sharansky rejects is none other than President George H.W. Bush, whose approach to foreign policy emphasized alliances and order over romantic crusades. At one point during his administration, the elder Bush resisted independence for Ukraine out of fear of destabilizing the Soviet Union, even as his defense secretary, Dick Cheney, advocated quick recognition of a free Kiev.

Like Sharansky, the current president's philosophical statement effectively repudiates the former president. "It's the opposite of his father, not a departure but the opposite," said Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan administration official and Cheney confidant. The current president wants "to be a transformational leader rather than a transactional leader. I can't imagine how much further it could be from the views of his father. He's just a different kind of leader."

The Bush doctrine will face an early and probably skeptical audience abroad when the president travels to Europe next month for talks with NATO allies and European Union leaders. After Brussels, Bush plans to visit Germany, the center of European opposition to the Iraq war; then he is scheduled to meet in Slovakia with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin logically would be Bush's first test of his inaugural pledge to confront "every ruler" about domestic oppression and predicate relations on "the decent treatment of their own people." Under Putin, the Kremlin has taken over or shut down independent television networks, ousted democratic reform parties from Parliament through manipulated elections, imprisoned or driven into exile Russian business magnates who defied him, and eliminated the election of regional governors.

Putin usually bristles at even mild U.S. criticism, and others around the world seem no more eager to listen to a proselytizing president. A survey of nearly 22,000 people in 21 countries by the BBC World Service last week found that 47 percent see U.S. influence in the world today as largely negative and 58 percent believe Bush's reelection will make the world more dangerous.

Some foreign leaders had hoped for a more collaborationist second term, reasoning that other U.S. presidents had matured by the time they were reelected. Rice sent signals of a more diplomatic approach with some of her early appointments and statements at Senate confirmation hearings.

In Europe, "there may be more readiness to deal with [Bush] in a second term than before because many of them have the illusion, the hope, that he will abandon some of his almost contemptuous unilateralism," said Fritz Stern, a German-born historian at Columbia University and former member of the Trilateral Commission.

Richard Holwill, a former Reagan administration diplomat, said Rice would make a difference at State because of her close relationship with Bush. "They're going to greatly improve the administration's foreign policy machinery," he said.

But he added that the administration needs to rethink its approach to fighting terrorists. "Bush presents everything in very black-and-white moralistic terms," Holwill said, "and I truly hope that we get a more sophisticated approach to the war against the Salafists," or Islamic radicals, "because they are gaining ground on the Arab street."

Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and now is president of the Brookings Institution, said he was optimistic Bush would do a better job of reaching out to allies in the second term. "Certainly his stock was low in Europe, but the good news is he has nowhere to go but up," Talbott said. "The administration came into office with some mistrust and, let's say, less regard for diplomacy as such because diplomacy is about compromise and they weren't in a very compromising mood." Now, he said, "I think you're likely to have a lot more diplomacy."

Still, Bush has sent mixed signals in that regard. In a pre-inaugural interview with The Washington Post, he acknowledged the discomfort in Europe, the Muslim world and elsewhere. "We need to work on a public diplomacy effort that explains our motives and explains our intentions," he said.

"That line," said Talbott, "particularly stood out as the interview was read on Embassy Row. The Europeans would like to see more than better explanations of American positions. They would like to see actual dialogue. . . . They want some give and take."

The Canada trip offered a case study in the tension between Bush's ideals and allies' expectations. When Bush agreed to go to Ottawa after the November election, the gesture was seen in Canada as a long-overdue olive branch. Like France and Germany, Canada broke from the United States over the Iraq war and felt alienated from Washington. Martin, the new prime minister, was eager to smooth the waters.

To avoid any unpleasantries, Martin sacked a shrill critic of Bush from his governing party, and Bush aides steered the president away from speaking to Parliament, where he might have been heckled. Canadian officials said their U.S. counterparts assured them that Bush would not put Martin on the spot on his refusal to join the U.S. missile defense system.

But Bush did confront Martin and used the sort of language that sets Canadians on edge. "He leaned across the table and said, 'I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, 'Why are we paying to defend Canada?' " said the senior Canadian official who was in the room and noted that he had been assured by Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell personally that Bush would avoid the subject.

"Most of our side was trying to explain the politics, how it was difficult to do," the official said. But Bush "waved his hands and said, 'I don't understand this. Are you saying that if you got up and said this is necessary for the defense of Canada it wouldn't be accepted?' "

The next day Bush gave a speech in Halifax that to the Canadians sounded as tough and uncompromising as ever. "We were all looking at each other and saying this is a speech for somebody else. It certainly wasn't for Canadians."

Correspondent Doug Struck contributed to this report from Toronto.

Campaign for Cooperation in Space




Home     Disclaimer/Fair Use