Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our Ms. Brooks: Booby Traps

Rosa Brooks' current column takes a look at some of foreign policy "challenges" that the next administration will face, challenges that have been put in place by the current administration.

...every new president is "tested" by national security crises, some predictable, some not. And I'm a lot less worried about the tests "the world" may offer Obama than about the national security booby traps the Bush administration is leaving behind for him.

Start with Iraq. The Dow's gyrations have pushed it off the front pages, but it's still there -- along with nearly 150,000 U.S. troops (compare this to "pre-surge" troop levels of 132,000 to 135,000). And the administration appears to be doing its best to make Obama's planned troop drawdown difficult.

We can't leave behind a stable Iraq without the cooperation of Iraq's neighbors, but this week's cross-border raid by Iraq-based U.S. troops into Syrian territory led Syria to break off high-level diplomatic contacts with U.S. officials -- contacts that had only recently been resumed. Heated negotiations over the future status of U.S. forces in Iraq have further increased tensions with Syria, Iran and the Iraqi government, which fear permanent U.S. military activities in the region. The current impasse in status-of-forces negotiations also threatens to leave U.S. troops in Iraq with no legal basis for their presence when their United Nations mandate expires Dec. 31. Happy New Year, Barack!

Then there's Afghanistan.

The Bush administration followed early military successes with grandiose promises of democracy and prosperity, then mostly ignored Afghanistan for the next six years. Meanwhile, the Taliban reconstituted itself, Al Qaeda leaders slipped away into Pakistan's ungoverned tribal regions, and U.S. troops found themselves playing an increasingly deadly game of Whac-a-Mole against an elusive and ill-defined enemy. According to the latest national intelligence estimate, Afghanistan is now in a possibly irreversible "downward spiral." ...

...after years of Bush administration malfeasance, increasing U.S. troop levels without an accompanying dramatic shift in regional strategy risks turning Afghanistan into another Iraq.

Or worse, because the Afghan booby trap is wired tightly to the Pakistan booby trap. Pakistan is the proud but horrifyingly unstable possessor of a nuclear arsenal. If the escalating conflicts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions spin out of control, we could end up in another Iraq-like situation -- only with weapons of mass destruction in the mix for real this time.

That's a pretty devastating set of challenges for the next president, presumably Barack Obama, and that list is hardly exhaustive. The nuclear agreement with North Korea is still not firmly nailed down. The Israeli-Palestinian question is even further from resolution than it was when Bush took office. Russia is still resisting the current administration's push for missile defense sites in countries bordering it. Relations with key Latin American countries such as Venezuela are in tatters. The bizarre "Africom" plan to install a military presence in African nations to allegedly do the work of the State Department has many sub-Saharan nations bristling.

Moreover, that's just the foreign policy side of what Obama will be inheriting. Here at home the next president will have a teetering economy, a broken national infrastructure, states about to ask for bailouts, and a home-based "security" system which has openly trashed the Bill of Rights in its massive domestic spying programs.

And he'll have just four years to make substantial improvements in all of these areas lest he receive the blame for the mess the country is in.

It almost looks deliberate, doesn't it?

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Blogger Koshem Bos said...

The main and most urgent problem facing the next president is the financial collapse. McCain, hopefully the loser, will bury the country even deeper. Obama, hopefully the next president, will face a daunting task.

The Bush administration is simplly an evil toddler. They jump from toy to toy, they destroy, they resist putting thing together after playing with them.

Actually, you wouldn't make bush a dog catcher; it's way out of his league.

8:11 AM  

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