August 15, 2007

America's Mayor, America's Enemies

Rudy Giuliani is not a man to whom doubt comes naturally. He is a man of conventional common sense and his views about foreign policy reflect this. Mr Giuliani has obviously attempted to learn the lessons of the Bush administration and the Clinton administration before it- but he has perhaps learnt some of the wrong lessons- and through absorbing conventional wisdom he has perhaps neglected to see bigger and more complicated, difficult issues than the ones he assesses. Ultimately though it is worth bearing in mind that Mr Giuliani like any presidential candidate is limited politically in what he can say- however its also worth remembering that after a candidate's accountability moment (phrase copyright the present incumbent) the electorate have little chance to make a real difference for another four years on the direction of the administration. Mr Giuliani's thoughts deserve therefore analysis.

On the basis of the article recently published in Foreign Affairs, Mr Giuliani represents the conventional wisdom within Republican foreign policy circles. He acknowledges that mistakes have been made in the war on terror- and yet Mr Giuliani beleives that Mr Bush's record compares with Mr Truman's in the 1940s. For Mr Giuliani like Truman and Reagen, Bush has spotted the danger that we need to confront and despite his mistakes has performed better than his Democratic predecessor by virtue of that act of insight. For Mr Giuliani the way forwards might best be represented as refined Bush- looking further into the problems that Bush and his team have examined and using the benefit of their experience for example to avoid some of their mistakes in Iraq and Palestine. Mr Giuliani replaces the concept of a democratic revolution- the subject of Mr Bush's second inaugural- with a concentration on good governance. He beleives that good governance in the end will produce democracy- but that democracy does not neccessarily produce good governance- and uses Hamas as an example of the latter- an illegitimate but democratically elected regime.

Furthermore Mr Giuliani displays a welcome attention to two different aspects of the Bush regime, in both of which he would represent a vital change: the military revolution Donald Rumsfeld inaugurated where a small army would wipe out and then occupy places will under the President Mayor be abandoned- the army will be increased by at least 10 brigades. Furthermore an administration led by hizzonner will he promises pay more attention to public diplomacy, doing more to sustain for example Arabic versions of Radio Free Europe than previously has been done and focusing diplomatic appointments away from political favours and towards those willing to actively engage with anti-Americans far from the US.

Much of this is positive- it is undeniable that the idea of doing war on the cheap has failed in Iraq. Undeniable also that many US diplomats have not proved an adequate voice for the US in the countries that they were sent to and undeniable that the US could do more public diplomacy. Positive though these changes would be: there are two interesting areas where I think that Mr Giuliani's approach may backfire because hizzonner may mistake the real nature of the United States's situation within the world.

The first is that he concentrates on the Middle East. The Middle East is a vital region for the world and the collapse of Iraq would be a disaster for the region- the possibility of a Shia bomb in Iran, a Jewish bomb in Isreal and a Sunni bomb in Saudi Arabia with a devastated Iraq lying between them, remains terrifyingly plausible and it will be a major part of any American successor to Mr Bush to avoid coming to that brink in whatever way he or she can. But there are other pressing issues in the world- the collapse of Afghanistan which receives upsettingly scant attention from Mr Giuliani is at least as terrifying as that of Iraq. If as the British senior commanders are warning we are on the verge of failure in Afghanistan. If as seeems more likely by the day the regime of General Musharref is tottering on the abyss thanks to the situation in Afghanistan- then disaster could be round the corner. Ultimately should Afghan instability spill over the border into Pakistan, then the legacy of concentrating on Mesopotamia and not on Kabul could be a mushroom cloud in New Dehli.

The second is that Mr Giuliani establishes his priority as to take on terrorism. Undoubtedly terror is a danger- particularly after 9/11- and its consequences in terms of the impact on order are a danger but ultimately terror does not threaten civilisation. Terrorists if they perform actions like 9/11 or 7/7 will bring tragedy and loss but they will not destroy the world, nor inflict the suffering that say Hitler was able to inflict on London during the Blitz in the awful autumn of 1940. The real danger with terrorists is not that they on their own can do a lot but that if they were armed and equipped by a sovereign state they could then do much worse. Most likelily that sovereign state would not arm a terrorist grouping with really serious weapons- civilisational threatening weapons- until it itself was semi collapsed- like Russia was in the 1990s.

Mr Giuliani therefore may be missing the point- that American foreign policy may well not be best aimed at destroying terror (incidentally it is my belief that you will never end low level terrorism), but aimed at propping up and stabalising nuclear and other powers that threaten to destabilise the world's system through their collapse. Pakistan would be an immediately salient example of somewhere where the Bush administrations' concentration on terrorism (and indeed others' inability to see the wider issue- see Barack Obama's call to bomb Pakistan should Al Quaeda flee across the border) misses the wider issue. It is not the plane going into the World Trade Centre that could precipitate the end of the world- but the collapse of Pakistan could.

It is interesting that Mr Giuliani does not dwell much on Iran in his essay- perhaps the most difficult society in the world today to read- particularly as the longterm impact of US policy in Iraq may be to set up a society rather like Iran's there- but also given its nature as a theocratic semi-democracy, the Iranian regime presents particular challenges. The most crucial of which is the question of weapons of mass destruction again- it will be interesting to see what a Giuliani administration would consider about that- or indeed what hizzonner's views on the situation in the Sudan another dangerous region of the world are- where anarchy is leading to strengthening Islamic radicalism. It is worth considering as well the destabilisation of such uranium rich countries as those in central western Africa- what exactly we do there could have larger impacts than our strategy to do with the Middle East.

Many of Mr Giuliani's recomendations for developments in foreign policy- the setting up of a specialist nation building corps within the US army and diplomatic services for example- deserve commendation. But unless he realises that the real failure of President Bush's administration has been the failure to see that not terrorism but the anarchy in which terror thrives (as in Iraq) is the real danger then his administration may itself end with as much disaster as the Bush administration's has.

Mr Giuliani should remember that the nightmares of historians have been haunted not by the ghosts of Neville Chamberlaine and Edward Daladier, but by that of Sir Edward Grey staring sadly over the doomed London sky in the summer of 1914. The real danger you see is not that Osama Bin Laden like Hitler will rage a global war of devestation- but that a single shot in Kabul or in Islamabad could sound round the world, the way a single shot echoed so terrifyingly from Sarajevo out into the rest of the world in 1914.

Giuliani forgets something about Bush- when they came in the Bush administration were focused on the great powers and nuclear relations, 9/11 shook them out of that to focusing on terrorism- lets hope that Mr Giuliani doesn't have the opposite shock as the great power politics of southern asia and the nuclear disputes about Indian borders make us perhaps look back on the halcyon days when all we worried about was Osama Bin Laden.

That may well be the challenge of the new US President. Perhaps for political reasons and worryingly perhaps for analytical reasons Mr Giuliani's article doesn't seem to reflect that reality.

Crossposted at Bits of News


Graf von Straf Hindenburg said...

Mr Giuliani should remember that the nightmares of historians have been haunted not by the ghosts of Neville Chamberlaine and Edward Daladier, but by crossdressing and transvestitism.

Welcome back, Tiberius.

Ruthie said...

James, you're positively hung up on that point.

I agree with you on Iran, Gracchi. It's a tough situation.