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Bush League Diplomacy
How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk
By Craig R. Eisendrath and Melvin A. Goodman
Prometheus Books
HC, 250 pg. US$25/C$39
ISBN: 1-5910-2176-6

How neoconservatives are ruining the world

By Steven Martinovich
web posted April 12, 2004

Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at RiskIn the rapidly expanding constellation of books that deal with the Bush administration readers unfortunately find one of two types: worshipful acclamations or feverish denunciations. That's fitting perhaps given the polarized nature of American politics. Very few efforts bother with even the pretense of objectively evaluating Bush's record.

Craig R. Eisendrath and Melvin A. Goodman's Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk falls into the category of feverish denunciation. Their thesis is that George W. Bush, under the influence of a cabal of neoconservatives, has abandoned diplomacy in favor of military force when conducting foreign policy. Where the United States once encouraged and pursued multilateral solutions, today it prefers bullying unilateralism.

According to Eisendrath and Goodman, January 20, 2001 marked a new era in American diplomacy. After decades of being constrained, neoconservatives finally had an opportunity to pursue a more muscular brand of foreign policy. Led by Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, among others, the United States would no longer work towards consensus on the world stage. Instead, "as the world's dominant military power, it had no need to gain the cooperation of the world community that was organized to meet such international challenges."

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 gave the neoconservatives their chance to actively pursue this line of thinking. Although the United States went into Afghanistan with the support of the global community, it was also acting increasingly unilaterally. That approach, charge Eisendrath and Goodman, has caused many of America's allies to regard it with suspicion and bitterness. More worrisome, America's enemies are being encouraged to obtain weapons of mass destruction in an attempt to protect themselves against a hostile United States. Instead of a more secure global community, the world is becoming a more dangerous place.

As an example, they accuse the Bush administration of turning its back on the traditional American goals of arms control and disarmament. By withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, openly musing about developing new nuclear weapons and a national missile defense system, they argue that Bush had made it more difficult to persuade nations like India, Pakistan and North Korea to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. A missile defense system, besides being technically unfeasible and taking money away from counter-terrorism, also could prompt a new arms race as nations like China expand their nuclear arsenals.

Not content with blasting away at foreign policy, they also take to task the administration's actions at home. They contend that the power of the Congress is being eroded in favor of the executive branch, threatening the Constitution. Civil liberties are in danger thanks to legislation like the USA Patriot Act and the administration's increased military spending is causing a massive decline in government services like health care and education. The Bush tax cuts, besides being financially irresponsible, are destroying the very fabric of American society.

Perhaps cognizant of their litany of complaints, Eisendrath and Goodman do acknowledge that the administration has learned from some of its mistakes, though they credit that to elements in government reasserting themselves against the neoconservatives. To spur on those efforts they recommend a wide range of reforms including turning over Iraq and Afghanistan to the United Nations, increased use of international diplomacy, American membership in the International Criminal Court, an end to the Bush tax cuts and even more restrictive campaign finance laws -- all the better to limit the influence the "radical right" organizations that apparently control the Bush administration.

The success of their arguments ultimately depends on the mindset of the reader in this post-September 11 world. Liberals and paleoconservatives will likely applaud while those who believe we live in a new world will look at Eisendrath and Goodman as arguing outmoded ideas appropriate to a decade ago. Ultimately, both sides may be right to a degree. Those who argue that the militarization of foreign policy overlooks other ways of solving problems are right to the extent that further destabilization of the global order is possible. Neoconservatives, and those who agree with their goals, are also likely correct that perhaps the existing global order needs some destabilizing to root out some very dangerous weeds.

Bush League Diplomacy does raise valid points when it comes to the over reliance on military power to achieve foreign policy goals. Even the power of the United States has its limits, particularly when it comes to nations powerful enough that they feel they don't have to submit. Unfortunately Eisendrath and Goodman's seeming belief that their worst case scenarios are the most plausible outcomes can stretch the patience of anyone expecting a less strident analysis of the administration's foreign policy. Multilateralism may be a Swiss army knife but sometimes what you really need is a hammer.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

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