Monday, June 12, 2017

Unilateral foreign and military policy in the Cheney-Bush Administration

A strong and militaristic trend toward unilateralism in American foreign and military policy didn't begin for the Republican Party with the nomination of Donald Trump for President in 2016.

I'm not trying to make a case for "normalizing" bad behavior by the Trump Family Business Administration. But I am pointing out how deeply rooted this set of bad ideas is within the Republican Party.

Philip Gordon's and Jeremy Shapiro's book Allies At War: America, Europe, and the Crisis Over Iraq (2004) had this to say about the Cheney-Bush Administration's general attitude post-9/11 about alliances and unilateral actions by the United States. This comes in a discussion of how the Administration shafted European and other allies over an environmental agreement by rejecting the Kyoto Protocol:

In retrospect, the manner in which the U.S. government withdrew from the process of international negotiation on global warming signaled more than just a repudiation of Kyoto. The harsh diplomatic style of the rejection contrasted sharply even with a similar rejection by the Reagan administration of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, when that administration also decided to reject a treaty that its predecessors had supported. But unlike the Kyoto rejection, before doing so the Reagan administration sent a special envoy - ironically, Donald Rumsfeld - to consult with allied governments and convince them not to sign or ratify the treaty. While that position hardly endeared him to European publics, Reagan's willingness to conform to established practices of consultation meant that criticism focused on the U.S. objections to the treaty itself, rather than on its potential to cause a breakdown in the alliance. ...

Bush's efforts with the allies, however - as one senior administration official put it - could best be described as "multilateralism à la carte." He was willing to use multilateral forums when they presented the most convenient path to accomplishing some specific U.S. foreign policy goal. But much of the administration never seemed to believe that U.S. commitment to international institutions and allied relationships had a long-term value that justified U.S. engagement when unilateral action- or actions with the support of certain individual countries-would be more expedient in the short term. The sum total of Bush's actions in his administration's first two years sent the clear signal that this type of deeper commitment simply did not exist. [my emphasis]
Cheney and Bush also used rejection of an international environmental agreement to thumb their noses at the European allies.

Where Gordon and Shapiro could say of that Administration, "The sum total of Bush's actions in his administration's first two years sent the clear signal that this type of deeper commitment [to NATO allies] simply did not exist," the Trump Family Business Administration has managed to do that in less than half a year.

Speaking of which, Digby Parton may have come up with the definitive label for the Trump team: the Carnage Crew. (John Kelly the “grownup”? Forget it — Homeland Security chief turns out to be another Trump zealot Salon 06/12/2017)

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