Friday, February 23, 2007

Friedman on Bush's foreign policy disasters today

Tom Friedman reviews Bush's many foreign policy blunders today, "A Foreign Policy Built on Do-Overs." A key problem in the Bush approach to foreign policy that set the tone:
The only thing the Bush folks all agreed on was that they would never do anything Bill Clinton did. Beyond that, it’s been a food fight. The trial of Scooter Libby, with its testimony about wars between the V.P.’s office and the White House, the White House and the C.I.A., and everyone against the State Department, proves that beyond a reasonable doubt.
That petty partisan motivation really should not have occurred given the protestations that the "grown ups" would now resume charge of foreign affairs. His thoughts today about Iraq and Iran:
The irony of Iraq is that it’s the one place where Mr. Bush decisively chose regime change, but he then executed it so poorly, with insufficient troops, that Iraq never stood a chance. If Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney had spent as much time plotting the toppling of Saddam Hussein as they did the toppling of Colin Powell, Iraq today would be Switzerland. Today’s Bush troop surge in Iraq is just another mulligan — the president’s trying to do in 2007 what he should have done in 2003. In between, we’ve paid a huge price.

How about we avoid a mulligan on Iran? Let’s put a clear deal on the table: full diplomatic relations, security guarantees and thousands of student visas if Iran puts its nuclear program under U.N. inspection and stops supporting terrorism. If not: more sanctions and isolation. Such an offer would at least get us some leverage, unite us more with our allies outside Iran, energize our allies inside Iran and force some excruciating choices on Iran’s leaders.
I must say, that's a good line about Cheney and Rumsfeld. But it's a bit of a nod to the thinking that Bush is not ultimately responsible for the Iraq disaster, which of course he is. John McCain is trying to make the same distinction in his campaign, evidenced lately in his mini war of words with Cheney.

And what does this all mean for 2008?
I guess we should be thankful that Mr. Bush is trying to fix some of his mistakes, but we have paid a huge, unnecessary price for his learning curve. Which is why it’s always best to get it right the first time. The best golfers never take mulligans, and the best presidents never need them.
Which of the 2008 candidates could we fairly say would be least likely in need of those "mulligans?" Not too sure about that one right yet. But I will say, Bill Clinton may have needed a few golf (and personal) mulligans, but overall, his presidential judgment was pretty sound and I believe you could fairly say that he would never have led the U.S. to the state it's in now. So the vaunted foreign policy experience and indeed Washington experience may not be so necessary for the next president to have. Indicators of judgment from one's past professional experience and how they react to the campaign curveballs are arguably just as important, if not moreso.