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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush: Having His Way -- Nice and Simple I

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The U.S. president has adopted a simple foreign policy approach. "Either you are for us or against us." This fork-in-the-road approach can only be adopted by the world's most powerful state because it alone has the capability to amply endow benefits on those "for us" and to withdraw benefits and inflict heavy costs on those "against us." The lone superpower can afford to make its foreign policy contingent on the behavior of other governments. President George W. Bush's United States is sufficiently secure to let other governments choose their foreign policies because Washington can deal with whatever policies they select.

This approach also contains a moral element. Whether a lesser nation gets no rewards or incurs punishment is not up to the superpower. The superpower's hands are clean. Rogue states and members of the "axis of evil" have put themselves in these immoral categories. Their suffering will be their own fault.

Bush's approach is designed to identify and maximize friends. The ability to reward generously makes lots of friends. And since the U.S. response to foes guarantees penalties, this foreign policy is also designed to discourage foes. Simple. And some would say simply grand if one is the superpower.

This pattern emerged immediately after Sept. 11. In his first address after the attack, Bush said that other nations "are either for us or on the side of the terrorists." Sept. 11 became the fork in the road for the world's governments. First, the Taliban in Afghanistan were presented with the fork in the road. Give up Osama bin Laden or face destruction. The Taliban took the foe fork, and bombs away. Russia, not willing to lose American aid, markets and support for its integration into Europe, quickly took the right fork in Bush's war on terrorism. China, the potential enemy designate before Sept. 11, also gave wholehearted support for Washington's counter-terrorism policies. Talk of China as a potential enemy vanished. NATO also offered support and invoked Article 5, thereby pledging cooperation against al-Qaida and the Taliban. Even the French saluted the American flag.

This convinced Bush he was on to something. Presenting a fork in the road -- while dangling rewards and penalties -- is a sure-fire way to generate support for his foreign policy or to justify punishing foes. This, undoubtedly, was one of the big appeals in going to the UN over Iraq. Even Syria was not willing to buck Bush. Only German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der took the wrong fork, and he quickly achieved pariah status and still remains in Bush's doghouse. Out of the Security Council came Resolution 1441, presenting Iraq with a final fork in the road: Disarm or face "serious consequences."

Dealing with Iraq illustrates another benefit of this approach. If the target government takes the right fork, then its doing so can be attributed to Bush. For example, if Saddam Hussein fully complies with UNMOVIC inspectors, everyone will attribute his compliance to avoiding the military threat generated by Bush. Hail Bush! He disarmed Saddam. On the other hand, if Hussein again does another "material breach," then he alone brought American military might down upon his regime. The world would blame Saddam. Hail Bush again! Either way he wins.

Immediately after the UN Security Council vote, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly got the North Koreans to confess to operating a uranium enrichment program in direct violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework. Bush then presented a fork in the road to the regime of Kim Jong Il. Destroy your nuclear program, have it verified, and our end of the Agreed Framework deal (two light-water reactors and an annual delivery of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil) will be resumed. Keep your nuclear program and this assistance will vanish forever. And if you commit military aggression -- thereby taking another wrong fork -- you will suffer the consequences.

It's a Manichean world for Bush, filled with good guys and bad as determined by the fork in the road they take. As a born-again Christian and one who believes he is God's instrument, Bush is becoming the world's taskmaster. There are rewards to be gained from Bush, but righteous wrath also awaits.

Simple.

Nicholas Berry, director of ForeignPolicyForum.com in Washington, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.