Desperate Need for Serious Change in Transatlantic Foreign Policy

Almost eight years of the Bush/Cheney Administration have plunged the world into a deep political, economic, and moral crisis, whose overcoming will probably require decades if a sharp turn does not immediately take place.  That is why the newly elected Obama/Biden Administration must bring about serious change.

After having lost the popular national vote against Democratic contender Al Gore in late 2000, the son of former U.S. president George H. W. Bush (1989–93) was heaved into office by a highly controversial Supreme Court ruling that granted him victory in the all-decisive ballot in the state of Florida where his brother Jeb acted as governor.

George W. Bush’s administration took office on the assumption that Washington’s overwhelming military dominance will enable the “sole remaining superpower” to boundlessly project power into every corner of the post-Cold War globe.  The ascending Weltanschauung of neoconservatism replaced the “Evil Empire” rhetoric of the Reagan years by promulgating the calamitous “global war on terror” with the largely Muslim “Greater Middle East” as its center stage.  The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 allowed the militarist agenda of the “Bush/Wolfowitz Doctrine” to unfold its full destructive potential in the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan (in Oct. 2001) and Iraq (in March 2003) under the pretext of fighting terrorism, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and promoting democracy.  The world would soon learn that all those noble causes were not only highly hypocritical, but the outcome produced would be in stark contradistinction to those proclaimed aims.

In his second State of the Union address (Jan. 2002), George W. Bush justified his administration’s “war on terror” as being directed against an “axis of evil,” allegedly “arm[ed] to threaten the peace of the world.”  This notion evoking the good fight against the fascist “axis powers” during the Second World War paved the way for the neocon-designed “World War against Islamofascism.”  These crude concepts would heavily disrupt international relations for years to come.

When George W. Bush and his hyper-influential vice-president Dick Cheney ran for re-election in 2004, the moral bankruptcy of the self-proclaimed “war president” was already all too evident: Guantánamo, Abu-Ghraib, Fallujah, and Bagram became synonyms of atrocities committed by the self-appointed torchbearer of democracy and human rights.  In the wake of the USA Patriot Act (Oct. 2001), the transatlantic world, too, had to witness an unprecedented hollowing of its civil rights fabric for the doubtful sake of “fighting terrorism.”

To finance its global adventures, Washington effectively borrowed huge sums from the world, prompting the biggest budget deficit in U.S. history, and further greatly contributed to the economic and financial breakdown that we witness today.

In politico-strategic terms, the transatlantic world had to pay a high price for misguided U.S. policies and the lack of an independent and potentially corrective EU policy stance.  Europe’s highly important neighboring region, the Middle East, is aflame as a result of one-sided, blind, and overtly imperialist interventions whose outcome few dared to foresee.  Meanwhile, Latin America has slipped away from U.S. hegemony, and Asia has entered an active process of alliance building to counter Washington.

The idea that the United States, together with its willful European allies, is in pursuit of a selfish and cataclysmic agenda has only been fortified in the opinions of a vast majority of world’s populations.  Therefore, President Obama will not succeed by merely trying to cosmetically repair this abysmal image of the “West.”  He must decisively abandon unilateralism for the sake of multilateralism and replace imperial arrogance by a global vision of overcoming the planet’s growing maladies.  Europe’s reputation as a responsible actor in world affairs will much depend on her ability to encourage Washington to make the necessary adjustments.

The world, including Americans and Europeans, is in desperate need for a swift and serious change of the transatlantic world’s attitude towards the most pressing problems of our time.  It is time to rethink the very fundaments of the policies pursued so far and to establish a rational policy, which, instead of proliferating enemies, explores avenues leading to mutually beneficial partnerships.   Instead of thoughtless reliance on “coercive diplomacy” which has led to a vicious cycle of escalation (e.g. in the conflict with Iran), negotiations need to be undertaken in “good faith,” foremost taking into account the other party’s legitimate (security, political, economic) interests.   Only this would give credibility to the West’s handling of world affairs.

A full reactivation of the UN Charter’s authority is all the more crucial as its blatant circumvention by the United States has virtually prompted emerging great powers to follow suit, with the result of ever-growing global crises that have become hardly manageable by the international community.  Likewise it should be clear to policy-makers that any use of double standards is being attentively registered around the globe with a growing sense of alienation and mistrust, which only creates detrimental, counter-productive effects for the future of global governance.

For the time being, until Barack Obama’s inauguration in January, American and European decision-makers would be well advised to undertake every necessary step to dissuade the current Bush/Cheney Administration from deepening the Middle East quagmire by launching another preventive war against its proclaimed Iranian archenemy — a war which veteran U.S. foreign-policy expert William R. Polk, in his interview with me last month, characterized as a “great and present danger.”

Polk also told me in the same interview that, although Obama’s change of position on the Middle East was “lamentable and disturbing,” “we can hope with Obama.”  So, let’s hope he recollects the very promising ideas with which he entered the presidential race and which would potentially bring serious change.  

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (M.Sc. cum laude, M.A., B.Sc., B.A.) was educated in bi-national study programs in France (Sciences-Po Lille), Germany (U Münster) and the Netherlands (U Twente) covering the fields of political science, sociology, law, history, and economics.  His current main areas of research are U.S. and EU policies vis-à-vis Iran and the new geography of power in the 21st century.  He publishes in English, German, and French with his articles being translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Persian, and Turkish.

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