Bush's Flawed Strategy
Qian Qichen, a key architect of Chinese foreign policy, is a former vice premier, state councilor and foreign minister of China.
Beijing—The changes of the world's structure in the 20th century were mainly brought about by war. In that century, two world-scale wars, namely, World War I and II, along with the Cold War, broke out.
The world has not been clearly reconfigured since the end of the Cold War, which signaled the collapse of a two-polar structure in the world. For some time after the Cold War ended, the United States itself was not entirely sure of where its main threats came from, whether from the still-extant nuclear stockpile left by the Soviet Union, or China's rapid development, or somewhere else.
For a certain period after the end of the Cold War, the US focused its main energies on developing new kinds of weapons and building a missile defense shield to overpower its potential strategic rivals. In 1999, the world's sole superpower waged the Kosovo war to consolidate its dominance in Europe and squeeze its strategic scope toward Russia. In 2000, George W. Bush claimed China was a strategic competitor of the US in one of his presidential campaign speeches.
All the blustering was a clear signal of the US' uncertainty over who was its main foe.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, however, greatly shocked the US. Even in the Pearl Harbor incident of Dec. 7, 1941, mainland US was free from direct attacks from Japan, although its Pacific Fleet suffered heavy losses.
The Sept. 11 event shows that the biggest threat to the US homeland is neither sophisticatedly armed big powers nor its alleged strategic adversaries, but non-state terrorist organizations.
Facing such unprecedented challenges, the Bush administration substantially adjusted its global strategy, shifting its focus away from threats from strategic rivals and toward terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In the wake of Sept. 11, the "Bush Doctrine" came out, in which the US created "axis of evil" and "preemptive" strategies. It linked counter-terrorism and the prevention of proliferation to the reformation of so-called "rogue states" and "failed states."
Under this doctrine, the US launched a military action in Afghanistan and, less than two years later, one in Iraq. It reviewed the structure of its military forces and drafted programs for redeployment of US forces overseas.
Under this doctrine, the US has tightened its control of the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, strengthened its response ability to this outstretched "unstable arc" and put forward its "Broader Middle East" reform program. All of this testifies to the fact that Washington's anti-terror campaign has already gone beyond the scope of self-defense.
And these latest moves, when seen with the background of the Gulf War and the Kosovo war, have made it obvious that the US has not changed its Cold War mentality and that the country is still accustomed to applying military means to deal with various threats, visible or invisible.
The philosophy of the "Bush Doctrine" is, in essence, force. It advocates that the US should rule over the whole world with overwhelming force, military force in particular.
Hardly strange, then, that Bush and his administration still insist on arguing that their decision to go to war in Iraq and US policy on the issue were right. But the world's response to the war has been negative.
In Iraq, the US did win a war in the military dimension, but it is far from winning peace for itself and the Arab country. On the contrary, Washington has opened a Pandora's box, intensifying various intermingled conflicts, such as ethnic and religious ones.
The US case in Iraq has caused the Muslim world and Arab countries to believe that the superpower already regards them as targets of its ambitious "democratic reformation" program. This perception has increasingly aggravated the long-brewing conflicts between the US and the Muslim world.
Now, Washington's predicament in Iraq has become daily news.
On June 28, the White House hurried to transfer Iraq's power to the country's interim government. But the handover was of more nominal than practical significance. Currently, 135,000 US troops are still deep in the Iraq quagmire, and the death toll steadily increases.
The Iraq war has made the US even more unpopular in the international community than its war in Vietnam. Bush did not even dare to meet the public on the streets when he visited Britain, the closest ally of the US.
From US pre-war military preparations to postwar reconstruction of the country, the rift between the US and its traditional European allies has never been so wide. It is now time to give up the illusion that Europeans and Americans are living in the same world, as some Europeans would like to believe.
Over the past year, some American think-tanks and politicians have had soul-searching reflections on the issue and given their criticisms. Many of them believe that the Bush administration did not objectively and clearly assess challenges and difficulties facing the US when it applied the preemptive strategy. In so doing, the administration was only practicing the same catastrophic strategy applied by former empires in history.
Both history and practices of "the myth of empires" have demonstrated that the preemptive strategy will bring the Bush administration an outcome that it is most unwilling to see, that is, absolute insecurity of the "American Empire" and its demise because of expansion it cannot cope with.
Just as Harvard University Professor Joseph S. Nye said, the paradox of the US force theory is that the world's politics have already changed, and even for the world's most powerful country, it is impossible to realize its key goals merely through its own military strength, as was the case with the ancient Roman Empire.
Neo-unilateralism has seriously underestimated the role a country's soft power and international systems can play, thus denting important means that Washington can apply to practice its new national security strategy.
The Iraq war was an optional war, not a necessary one. The preemptive principle should be removed from the dictionary of US national security.
The Iraq war has also destroyed the hard-won global anti-terror coalition. Mounting hostile sentiments among the Muslim world toward the US following the war have already helped the Al Qaeda terrorist network recruit more followers and suicide martyrs. Instead of decreasing, the number of terrorist activities throughout the world is now on the increase.
The US' call for help from the United Nations for Iraq's postwar reconstruction work once again shows that in the current world, unilateralism is not appropriate for solving international affairs.
The Iraq war provides another negative example of international relations in the new century.
In an increasingly interdependent world, in which the benefits of every country have been closely intertwined, the damages a war can cause will be far more than the benefits it can bring. A superpower simply cannot force the international community into accepting its own norms merely through displaying its military muscle.
The current US predicament in Iraq serves as another example that when a country's psychology of superiority reaches beyond its real capability, a lot of trouble can be caused.
But the troubles and disasters the US has met do not stem from threats by others, but from its own cocksureness and arrogance.
The 21st century is not the "American Century." That does not mean that the US does not want the dream. Rather, it is incapable of realizing the goal.
In this century, all big powers should compete in a peaceful way, instead of through military means.
©China Daily/Global Viewpoint