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US: The foreign policy of the Bush Administration

The US is naturally the center of the world's attention, not always benevolent, even among our NATO allies, especially France. The failure of electoral reform has discredited the US political model, and the declarations of one or two Republican leaders that they would fight it tooth and nail because it would ruin the party have not helped Bush. The Enron scandal has discredited the US economic model. The French government actually sent twice as many delegates to the World Social Forum in Pôrto Alegre than it did to the US-backed World Economic Forum in New York. NATO allies are constantly denouncing US foreign policy as simplistic, and here again normally cautious French foreign minister Hubert Védrine has been most vocal. The criticism has two main themes: Middle East policy and the declaration of a worldwide war on terrorism. The US is silent about Israel but singles out Iran as one of of the three villains in the axis of terrorism.. For this Paul Wolfowitz, deputy to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is held responsible. The US policy on terrorism was formulated by the Bush administration in the days immediately after September 11. This was the subject of a series of eight articles in the Washington Post by Bob Woodward and Dan Balz, who were interviewed by Brian Lamb in an unusually long C-Span interview, proof of the importance attached to the matter. The Washington Post was widely reviewed as anti-Republican because of its role in bringing about the resignation of President Nixon, but the Bush administration welcomed its reporters and gave them access to many documents relating to the ten days. This was probably a strategy to avoid a confrontation with the newspaper such as that which led to the fall of Nixon. However, the result now was that the Washington Post was accused of peddling Republican propaganda. The two reporters naturally rejected the charge, saying that they had doublechecked everything. The outcome of the investigation was that President Bush is firmly in charge of the White House and the cabinet, and that the policy followed is that of Bush alone. That would make him appear more decisive and presidential than the common image of him as somewhat bewildered and uninformed. This would help in in the US, but it would not improve the judgment of its European critics, who regard him as an ignorant Texan cowboy. The one person who seems to have most influence over Bush is National Security Adviser Condi Rice, who is his éminance grise or rather noire. It was she who urged him to make war on terrorism. The impact of the articles is such that the Washington Post is thinking of issuing them in book form.

Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews is visiting Hoover, and I am meeting with him this afternoon. He may have something to add. Incidentally, I wonder if Paul Simon knows him, since he was the first Post reporter to establish a bureau in Beijing, and he co-authored with his wife Linda a book One Billion: A China Chronicle (1983). He spent nearly two months in China on special assignment in 1989, reporting on the army crackdown on the student worker demonstrations in Beijing. Although in recent years he has devoted much of his attention to education, his Tuesday column is entitled "Class Struggle". It may be read in the Post website

Ronald Hilton - 2/8/02