May 16, 2006 9:57 pm


There is nothing I hate more than ganging up on somebody who is down and Bush is down. But enough is enough. Today's news that the administration gave away yet another invaluable card which could have been used to secure Chinese cooperation on Iran is the brick (not straw) that broke this camel's back. Once again, the administration chose to accompany tough words with zero action:

Here is the manner The Lex column puts it:

Beijing is off the hook – for now. The US government stopped short of labelling China a currency manipulator on Wednesday, but did not attempt to hide its frustration at the slow pace of China's exchange rate reforms.

With sanctions off the immediate agenda, US gripes carry less weight. But pressure for further appreciation of the renminbi, which has stalled since Chinese President Hu Jintao returned from Washington last month, is building from closer quarters. Asian currencies are strengthening against the US dollar. The Singapore dollar and Korean won have notched up their strongest performance in eight years. Even the Japanese yen has joined the party, strengthening 2 per cent against the dollar this month. Consequently, China's currency is 0.7 per cent weaker than its trade-weighted reference basket according to JP Morgan – the first time it has dipped lower since the basket was unveiled last July.

Please note that the decision to let China off the hook was made not after a drop in the value of the Renminbi which would have reduced US trade deficit with China BUT after a drop in the value of the Renminbi which means yet another rise in the trade deficit.

Nor is US policy towards China unique. On the contrary, current US foreign policy is to speak very loudly without even carrying a small stick. Note Gerald Baker's must read evaluation of US policy towards Iran's other best friend, Putin's Russia. Baker correctly wrote that Rice's policy of"Forgiving Russia" for its active opposition to the Iraq War created not a more amenable bear but a more vicious one. Yet, nothing the Russians do seem to elicit a forceful American response. A couple of weeks ago, McCain suggested Bush should stay away from the G8 summit as Carter stayed away from the Olympics. Instead, Baker writes:

For months the State Department has been casting around for ideas as to what Mr Bush might do to lessen the impact of the G8 visit. They have pondered the possibility of the President making side trips to Ukraine or even the Caucasus, or having him meet, very publicly, Mr Putin’s critics in Russia, but none of it has so far proved appealing.

So the Cheney broadside looks instead like a kind of clever sideshow. What better way to appease the critics than to have Wild Dick go out and take a few rhetorical shots at Russia and show nervous Eastern Europeans that America’s heart is in the right place? Then Mr Bush can safely proceed to St Petersburg and drink the health and prosperity of the Russian leader and his Government in the apt setting of the Tsar’s old summer residence on the Neva.

It’s a risky strategy. Slapping Russia in the face in public while holding its hand in private requires a subtlety that has not been a striking feature of this Administration’s diplomacy.

Of course, the worst thing that could happen is that they succeed in this ambiguous strategy. Whatever you think about the merits of engaging with an increasingly authoritarian government such as Russia’s, you can’t really argue that in practice it has produced very much. It’s is one thing to kiss up to dictators when they kiss you back. But when they use it as a chance to do their own sweet thing, you can come away feeling rather soiled.

Nor is the treatment of China and Russia any different from that of smaller countries. Egypt responded to US democratization exhortations by throwing reformists into jail and extending the emergency laws for two years all without losing a penny of the over $2bl US aid. Assad of Syria not only continues to meddle Lebanese affairs but is part of the Iranian axis. Hamas said no recognition of Israel and no end to the violence against her and were"punished" with getting additional funds from the US. The Iranians are similarly awaiting the carrot package their"smart" president is about to secure for them. South Korea just announced its intention to provide North Korea with "unconditional aid." Last but not least, the much heralded UN reform turned out to be a joke. Lacking membership standards the following countries were elected to the New Human Rights Commission includes Cuba, China, Russia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia. I have heard nothing about withholding American dues.

It is a small wonder that Tom Friedman reports a significant change in foreign attitude towards the US:

Not only are others becoming more assertive: the U.S. has become less intimidating. With Americans bleeding in Iraq, with George Bush hugely unpopular in Europe, and with the U.S. two-party system so warped it can't even respond to a crisis like energy, America is not as feared as it was.

"In 2002 and 2003 everyone was talking about the American 'Hyperpower,'" said Eric Frey, editor of the Austrian daily Der Standard."No one these days is talking about overwhelming American power, and that has even added to the anti-Americanism. Because before you had resentment and respect, and now you have resentment and scorn."

Resentment and scorn also describe the feelings of those who voted for Bush in 2004 because they thought they knew where he stood on the war on terror. They no longer do. Bill Kristol (substituting for Charlie Rose) looked surprised when Andrew Kohut, the director of Pew Research Center, told him that the DPW imbroglio was a major reason for Bush's drop in the polls. He should not have been. For just as Katrina revealed how little improved was the post 9/11 bureaucracy's ability to deal with a major crisis, the Dubai Ports World debacle revealed and continues to reveal how little substance accompanied the administration's post 9/11 lofty rhetoric. Indeed, the country has yet to be placed on a war footing. In other words, Americans discovered what foreign leaders have already concluded. This administration is all bark and no bite and avoiding saying so no longer serves any purpose. Naill Ferguson writes:

Four years ago, George W. Bush would have binned such drivel with a snort of"WBUH" (War Be Upon Him) and told his generals to launch air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, to activate special forces already in Iran and to put Iranian opposition leaders on stand-by for regime change. In those days, as Saddam Hussein found to his cost, talking tough when the WMD weren't ready was a suicidal strategy.

But no longer. The result 1938 redux:

When Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations last September, this is how he concluded:"O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace."

To a millenarian, mutually assured destruction is just another word for the long-awaited Apocalypse. And that, in essence, is why we don't want Iran to have the Bomb. But are we doomed to grasp this only when the mushroom clouds are rising over Tel Aviv and Teheran?

Bruce Kesler is fuming at yet another example of sell out: Letting Vietnam into the WTO.

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More Comments:

Pamela - 8/31/2006

Just for knowing? I don't believe the MSM spin on Bush's poll numbers. It always reads the same by the jihad media.
Rememeber the exit polls in the Presidential election?

Lies lies and more lies.

Do not misunderestimate (/insert sarc tag) the American people.