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Around the World -
Bush's good points



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991

July 6th, 2004

LONDON - There is a tendency these days - and I share it - that urges one on to hit George Bush whilst he is down. But before he goes permit me a word in his favor - or, more accurately, his regime. Briefly put, the world is more at peace than when he came to power. The big powers have never been so relaxed with each other since the late part of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth and the number of small wars - ethnic disputes, tribal punch ups and territorial disputes - has been going down every year.

Through all the vicissitudes of Iraq the Bush Administration has managed to keep relations with Russia at their calmest and most fruitful since before the Revolution. Despite the earlier tensions over abrogating the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, Bush appears to have won the trust of President Vladimir Putin that he is not up to a clever game to overcome Russia's defenses against a surprise nuclear attack.

Neither has U.S. oil-politik in the Caspian region proved as malevolent as was first surmised. Bush has leant over backwards - too far - to be understanding about Chechnya. There are great gaps in Bush's Russian policies - a casual pace on nuclear disarmament and a lack of funds for making safe Russia's old nukes and plutonium stockpiles which could do more for nuclear proliferation than anything he has tried to do with Iraq, Iran and North Korea - but, still, this lack of antagonism in the central relationship is remarkable.

With China, after a rocky start, one gets the same sense of cooperative peace. Without turning a hair China voted for the recent UN resolution empowering U.S. peacekeeping in Iraq. Washington has prevailed upon Taiwan not to rock the boat and seems to accept that China has no great extra-territorial ambitions, outside of Taiwan, Tibet and mineral riches of the South China sea, all of which it has decided to manage and live with without overt conflict.

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Bush has handled the Turks with adroitness. Surprised at their last minute refusal to disallow passage of U.S. troops to northern Iraq at the onset of the war, Bush kept his mouth shut and has now become Turkey's main cheerleader for its admittance to the European Union.

With Iran he has been right to keep the pressure on the Europeans to be more assertive in persuading it to be honest about its nuclear bomb program. Unlike Bill Clinton he has taken Russia's commercial interests in Iran's nuclear power program much more into account. And it could well be he will have the success there that he has had in Libya where he has persuaded Muammar al-Qaddafi to cease bomb research. At last too Bush seems ready to compromise with North Korea, a nuclear fait accompli.

In contrast, in the Middle East progress all on fronts has been incremental when not counterproductive. Very slowly Washington has positioned itself as a critic of authoritarian regimes, even though they are still in realpolitik wanted on the U.S.'s side. With Israel he has turned back the clock and consequently taken a beating especially from the Europeans for being unblinkingly pro Ariel Sharon. But Europe, especially Britain and Germany, seem to forget they created this problem and they should look more to themselves and less to the U.S. to sort it out.

With most of the Indian sub-continent the future has never looked so promising since the British left in 1947. I had no brief for the need to go to war in Afghanistan and I remain convinced the "war on terrorism" be better left to police work than military action but there can be some hope, despite the shortcomings in aid promised to Afghanistan, that the country now has some chance of escaping from the worst of warlordism and poverty. India and Pakistan look as if both sides are moving towards making peace over Kashmir. India is on the path to becoming a big economic power, even more than China, but it will not be hostile either to the U.S. or China. The U.S., albeit belatedly, has decided unambiguously to be India's friend.

With the UN, despite early animosity, the U.S. has ended up supporting peacekeeping operations in a sustained way, far more than Clinton ever did - five operations in Africa in just the last year. And it has taken on the chin the recent vote in the Security Council not to acquiesce to the U.S. desire for its troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to be absolved from possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

If Bush loses in November he will be leaving the world - Iraq and Israel/Palestine apart - a better place than he found it. Who to thank? Colin Powell or the left side of Bush's own brain? The historians will have to tell us, since the press has conspicuously failed to keep us informed.


Copyright © 2004 By JONATHAN POWER


I can be reached by phone +44 7785 351172 and e-mail:




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40th Anniversary of Amnesty International

"Like Water on Stone - The Story of Amnesty International"




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