George W. Bush: Weak on Defense
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Mar 25, 2006 at 08:30:15 AM EST
While we're on the topic of national security, and specifically how the current administration is not nearly as strong on the issue as the major media outlets would have you believe, let's talk about Russia.
In June 2001, long before Russia became our close friend in the War on Terror (or whatever the Bush administration is calling this conflict these days), President Bush said the following about Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin.
I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.
While Nero fiddled, Rome burned. A Pentagon report leaked yesterday indicates that our "trustworthy" friend Putin collected information on American military activities which was subsequently passed on to Saddam Hussein in the opening days of the war. While Russia denies the chages, as they would whether they were true or not, the fact remains that President Bush got duped by an autocratic Russian leader, one who is challenging America on important issues around the world, including Iran's nuclear program, and one who has rolled back the Democratic reforms we fought half a century to institute.
There is absolutely no way for the White House to spin this story to negate the fact that they have dropped the ball on Russia. And this is not the first time that senior foreign policymakers in the Bush have screwed up on Russia. As The Economist noted in December 2000, Condoleezza Rice made at least one large blunder while serving as special adviser on Soviet affairs to the first President Bush during a time when the Soviet Union was falling apart (sorry, subscription required).
But if she deserves credit for [acting forcefully on German reunification], she deserves blame for a comparable failure: America's early underestimation of Boris Yeltsin. During Mr Yeltsin's first trip to the United States in 1989, she overruled the advice of the American embassy in Moscow on how to treat him. Instead of being ushered in to see the president through the front door of the White House, the Russian leader merely saw Mr Bush senior during a stop-by visit at the National Security Council.
This slight culminated in a more fundamental failure: while America was still hoping that Mr Gorbachev could reform the Soviet system, Russia and the rest were declaring independence. Any fool could see the Soviet Union was collapsing. It took the real brainboxes of the Bush White House to get on the wrong side of history.
After six years of the George W. Bush presidency, Americans must ask themselves some fundamental questions. Are we safer today than we were six years ago? Are we more respected in the world? Or are there more potential headaches in the world today than there were six years ago, with the rise of China, the seeming resurgence of Russia, the nuclear ambitions and economic strength of India, the spread of anti-United States sentiments in Latin America, the apparent genocide in Darfur, the arrest of Christian converts on capital charges in Afghanistan, and, of course, the ongoing debacle in Iraq? Are we really stronger when oil is $70 per barrel and the cost of a gallon of gas is $3, when we owe hundreds of billions of dollars to our strategic rivals and trillions more to others, when a miniscule amount of containers shipped into this country are screened and port operations are being sold to foreign governments, and when the government cannot mount an effective response to a major natural disaster?
For Americans interested in a strong America in years to come, the only choice this fall is to elect a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate to send a signal to Washington that the time for change is now and that the failed foreign policy of George W. Bush cannot continue.