How Obama must cope with Bush foreign policy blunders
I have often wondered about the sanity of the Bush Administration's foreign-policy makers. What prompted them, for example, to negotiate with Poland and the Czech Republic to install anti-ballistic missile sites in those two countries?
The sites are supposed to be a defense against long-range missiles launched by Iran. But neither the two Slavic countries or other Europeans have been threatened by Iran. The Iranians do not lack for countries they regard as enemies. But how would radar systems and anti-missile missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic provide a defense for Israel and the U.S., the two nations on Iran's hit list?
The Russians initially responded by threatening to establish offensive ballistic missile sites in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave located between Poland and Lithuania, a territory once known as East Prussia. But the Russians have moderated that threat. They evidently recognize that President-elect Obama is likely to abandon Bush Administration policies that they have regarded as provocative.
On the more critical Iraq/Afghanistan front, I believe that Obama should speedily withdraw from Iraq. The Iraqis have established a relatively stable government, and increasing numbers of the country's political leadership are demanding that U.S. armed forces leave.
Instead, we continue to spend billions of dollars building Iraq's infrastructure and to bribe once-insurgent Sunni tribesmen to behave. Meanwhile, Iraq is keeping its growing national treasury, built by increased oil production revenues, sitting in a bank.
As for Afghanistan, I think Obama's intent to deploy more troops there is as unwise as President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. The original decision to invade Afghanistan was a logical effort to punish the forces responsible for 9/11. The enemy was both the Afghan Taliban regime and the Arab-dominated Al-Qaeda terrorist organization that had planned and launched the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The Taliban had provided shelter for Al-Qaeda after the latter's leadership had been forced to leave Sudan. Ironically, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic movement, was an outgrowth of the Afghan forces that had been supplied by the U.S. to fight the country's Russian invaders.
But I fear that it is too late to win the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. was well on its way to destroying both the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies. We were forced, however, to reduce our forces in Afghanistan and to concentrate on the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
This allowed the Taliban to regain much of its strength. It now threatens to overthrow the pro-American and increasingly corrupt Karzai regime. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda's leaders have established their primary bases in neighboring Pakistan's lawless tribal region and probably in Somalia, a nation torn apart by civil strife. They have also sponsored the creation of allied anti-American Muslim terrorist groups in North Africa and the Persian Gulf area and perhaps even in Europe.
The U.S. has inadvertently caused heavy civilian casualties in Afghanistan while seeking out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda bases. The result has been a deterioration of popular support for the Karzai government.
I do not believe that the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan will destroy the Taliban. Indeed, with the move of much of the Al-Qaeda organization to Pakistan, there is evidence that the U.S. has taken preliminary diplomatic steps to deal with the Taliban.
The alternative to defeating Al-Qaeda and capturing its leader, Osama bin-Laden, would be to invade Pakistan's tribal region, where the terrorist group is now headquartered. I cannot imagine, however, that the incoming Obama Administration is prepared to undertake such an adventure right now.