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The UN must broker peace … the US and Britain have failed
As Israeli attacks on Lebanon and its capital Beirut increase in intensity and there is talk of a wider regional conflict ahead, the political chaos of the Middle East appears to have returned to the dark days of 25 years ago when Lebanon was ripping itself apart in civil war.
At the G8 meeting in St Petersburg, George Bush offered a glimpse of the foreign policy expertise that will be brought to the table to help end this renewed conflict: asked how the crisis could be resolved, President Bush said Hezbollah should simply lay down their weapons.
His answer was short, concise, and totally worthless. It offers no hope of bringing about a workable, temporary ceasefire that could allow all sides involved to negotiate a way of avoiding all-out war.
It was instructive that at the G8 meeting, Russian president Vladimir Putin found Bush’s version of Pax Americana such an easy target. Under sustained criticism for Russia’s lack of reform and for its failing human rights regime, Putin was asked what kind of democracy he was planning for Russia. He almost laughed when he replied: “Well, not the kind of democracy they have in Iraq.”
This is the level of international influence left by nearly six years of Bush’s neo-conservative, one- dimensional foreign policy; a policy that we were promised would create a democratic momentum right across the Middle East; a domino effect of Middle East states finally seeing the justice and value of the American way.
The tragedy is not that this has failed to happen – no political realists expected it to. It is that the US (and for that matter Britain, which has allowed its foreign policy to be dragged into the same illusionary territory) is now in no position to broker any solution in a Middle East that is significantly less stable than it was when Bush took over from Bill Clinton.
Bush’s pre-emptive strike doctrine has proved a blueprint for disaster. Bush claimed that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was harbouring al-Qaeda, leading to justification for an attack on Afghanistan, the claimed ousting of the Taliban, and the celebration of a new “democratic” state. The celebrations, as British troops currently in Helmand province will testify to, were premature. There is no democratic state beyond Kabul and the Taliban is still there.
Having cited a premature victory in Afghanistan, Bush’s next focus was Iraq. The illusion that a stable democracy has been created in that country post- Saddam continues to be backed by Tony Blair, who has never once questioned Bush’s foreign policy despite the fact that Iraq now teeters on the brink of civil war. Experts inside the UK Foreign Office warned of the consequences of getting it wrong in Iraq with a botched occupation which would swell anti-Western resentment worldwide, with all the dangers that holds.