U.S. defense contractors were full participants in the last election cycle. Their contributions, totaling $13.5 million, were liberally distributed among both presidential campaigns, major party coffers, and House and Senate races, heavily emphasizing the members of both houses’ Armed Services Committees. This corporate campaign financing will help ensure that weapons industry interests will be well served in the coming year’s budget process.
Human rights has been a central rhetorical foreign policy concern of successive U.S. presidents since the Carter administration. For all that, the international community remains deeply ambivalent about the American government’s self-appointed role as the world’s largest human rights organization. Many see self-interest behind U.S. claims to be upholding high moral principles, and they also see hypocrisy in the U.S. government’s reluctance to be bound by the same instruments it is so ready to apply to others.
There is a touch of poetic justice for George Bush the Younger in the current state of affairs in the Persian Gulf. Bush takes the White House after Saddam Hussein’s flamboyant success in making a shambles out of United Nations weapons inspections and in the midst of his audacious campaign to unravel what remains of UN economic sanctions against Iraq. Even other Persian Gulf countries have moderated their positions toward Saddam in light of his ostentatious and highly popular condemnation of Israel’s violent retaliation against the new Palestinian Intifada. What might this mean for the future of Kuwait and the other Arab gulf states?
The Latin American region received little attention during either the presidential campaign or in the press coverage of the incoming administration.
Will Africa be “off the agenda” of a Bush administration? In the first week of Bush’s term, we can answer that question with a resounding no! It’s far worse than that. After four days, Bush in effect declared war on Africa and Africans.
A dangerous blind spot in the incoming administration’s view of Russian affairs is its inadequate understanding of the significance of the newly independent states (NIS). The unanticipated consequences of such policy blindness are exemplified by developments in the 1990s in Belarus, formerly called Byelorussia—a country sandwiched between Russia and Poland—sharing a border with Ukraine to the south and with Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
George W. Bush’s decision to make his first overseas trip to Mexico, in mid-February, has generated a great deal of speculation about what this could possibly mean for changes in U.S. policy toward Latin America over the next four years. It is clear that Mexico is vastly more familiar and comfortable for Bush than any other foreign country. In light of the questions raised about the former Texas governor’s foreign policy experience and competence during the campaign, it is hardly surprising that he would look first to the country immediately south of the Rio Grande to show he is up to the job.
During the past two decades, the American military presence in the Middle East has dramatically increased, yet American interests—as well as individual Americans—are more at risk than ever. The new administration must look critically at how we define security. We cannot advance our real interests in this vital region through bombing raids, punitive sanctions targeted at innocent civilians, the arming of dictatorial regimes, the denial of the right of self-determination, and the undermining of basic principles of international law. The new Bush administration, however, appears to be unwilling to seriously reevaluate the failed policies of the Clinton administration.
The Bush administration has made many of its major priorities clear through the selection of the president’s foreign policy advisers.
The first six weeks of the George W. Bush era, starting with the flurry of appointments he made during December, through the confirmation hearings of his key cabinet members earlier this month, and on into his first full week in office, has had a very “retro” feel about it. We have a vice president who was Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, and we have a secretary of defense who got his start in the Nixon administration in 1969 before he went on to become Ford’s chief of staff and then Ford’s secretary of defense.