Avoiding a Simplistic Foreign Policy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Avoiding a Simplistic Foreign Policy


Byline: William Hawkins, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Last week two events occurred that should affect the debate over national security and diplomacy at the forefront of the presidential campaign.

On Aug. 31, August Hanning, director of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, warned in a speech, "There is fear of a big attack on America by the terror organization al Qaeda before the presidential elections in November."

German intelligence is rather good where militant Islamic groups are concerned, and has been of considerable value in the global war on terrorism.

On Sept. 2, the United Nations Security Council voted 9-0 (with six abstentions) for a resolution telling Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon and warning against foreign interference in Beirut's presidential elections. The resolution was drafted by the United States and co-sponsored by France.

President George W. Bush has been roundly criticized for alienating U.S. allies by taking a "unilateral" approach to foreign policy. The Democrats ran a TV ad in New York City during the Republican Convention accusing Mr. Bush of launching a "go it alone war in Iraq." The assertion runs contrary to the facts - more than 40 countries are part of the U.S.-led "Iraqi Freedom" coalition, including Japan and most the states of Europe.

The level of material contribution differs among the coalition members, but they have all provided diplomatic support that directly refutes the charge Washington has lost the respect of other countries.

To critics on the left, however, the key "allies" whose support is missing are France and Germany, who were so vigorous in their opposition to the U.S. at the U.N. regarding the invasion of Iraq. Both countries had substantial commercial ties with the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. France (along with Russia and China) particularly wanted to position itself in future Iraqi oil development. They did not want to see Saddam overthrown.

That major countries have differing interests should not be at all surprising. But it is surprising so many commentators take a simple black-and-white view of the very complex relationships between states in the world arena. Because governments clash on one issue does not mean they cannot cooperate on others where their interests coincide. Statesmen need to be pragmatic and flexible in a dynamic world if they are to protect their country's security. Despite intense differences over Iraq, France, Germany and the United States have continued to cooperate against common threats such as terrorism.

Cooperation has also been evident in the effort to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The Bush administration created the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), announced by the president while visiting Poland in May 2003.

Based on a coalition of Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Singapore, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom, the PSI facilitates sharing intelligence information, tracking suspicious international cargo and joint military exercises to interdict illicit shipments. …

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