Zachary Selden, who is the director of the Defence and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, argues that bq. … many European commentators and much of the public are resorting to conspiratorial theories to explain the direction of U.S. foreign policy and somehow overlook the factthat American public opinion runs in favor of the president’s handling of foreign affairs. Perhaps more important, however, they overlook the deep historical roots of the current direction of American foreign policy. It is not driven by a “neocon cabal.” Rather, it is that certain individuals associated with the neoconservative label have been particularly articulate in expressing a set of policies that flow from two ideas that resonate deeply in American public opinion. The first is a belief that the United States has a responsibility to spread its vision of individual liberty. The second is that the primary and perhaps exclusive task of the federal government is to protect its citizens from external threats. (“Policy Review”:http://www.policyreview.org/apr04/selden_print.html) But is this right? Have foreign critics (not only in Europe) mistaken the roots of US policy in policies that—Selden forbears to say explicitly—have benefited Europe in the past. Or are Washington’s critics addressing, rather, the absence of a rational, purposeful connection between the goals of ‘spreading liberty’ and ‘protecting from external threat’ (on the one hand) and the policies of the Bush foreign policy radicals (on the other hand) that, with respect to these goals, are ineffectual and counter-productive? Consider briefly the three most prominent pillars of the Bush Administration’s foreign and security policies. # Can there be any doubt that the belated military pursuit of the Taliban government and their protection of Bin Laden has been ineffectual in staunching islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan itself, let alone in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Indonesia?
# Isn’t there already probative evidence of dishonesty—or at best credulous self-deception—in the claims endorsed by the President that the invasion of Iraq was guided by a prospect of eliminating a terrorist threat to the United States or any imminent threat to any other country?
# Is there any real doubt that the monotonously accommodating policies of the Bush administration towards the recklessly risky and brutal actions of the Sharon government is devastating to the prospects of regional or global security or the spread of liberty? Selden acknowledges that in the past the ‘messianic’ pursuit of these policy goals by the United States have led to less than ideal outcomes (Central America, Somalia, South East Asia). But he shrugs-off this horrible record as an unavoidable ‘mix of the good, the bad and the ugly’. He goes on to argue that the differences across the Atlantic (and, he might add, the differences in other directions) are more of style than of substance, as the Europeans would see if only they had a mind to the ‘deep roots’ of policies that they, in fact, share. Incredible. I owe the referral to this stimulating rubbish to “Milt Rosenberg(link to a site I visit often)”:http://www.miltsfile.blogspot.com/2004_04_18_miltsfile_archive.html#108249834979180102 who, however, probably does not share my estimation of it.
Peter Gallagher is a leading Australian consultant on trade and public policy.[bio].
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