The American Interest

The Battle for Bush’s Ear and Soul

It is reasonable to assume that a country’s foreign policy is conducted in the interest of that country’s security and well-being and that those entrusted with its formulation and conduct will act in a coherent and rational manner.  At the end of 2003, the foreign policy of the United States was neither coherent nor rational.  There was no unity of purpose or of action.  This is illustrated by a sequence of strange events in the space of one week last December.

On December 6, the Associated Press reported that “President Bush and his top aides were cajoling, imploring and even sweet-talking allies” into sharing the burden of reconstructing Iraq with America.  In a reversal of previous policy, Washington declared that it wanted greater roles in Iraq for the United Nations and NATO.  Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were sent to Europe with a new, less confrontational message, initially delivered by President Bush in London just before Thanksgiving, that both the reconstruction of Iraq and the War on Terror demand allies and partnerships.

Mr. Rumsfeld was anything but his usual abrasive self when he met NATO defense ministers in Brussels (December 2) and declared that Washington “welcomes more help in Iraq.”  When he went on to declare that “maybe we ought to try to do a better job of communicating,” his audience...

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