July 7, 2008

"Sprint to the finish"

I've been sort of agreeing with the CW that President Bush is a "spent force." Perhaps even, as Alan speculated, psychologically wounded by the loss in 2006. Possibly I was being too pessimistic...

From Asia Times (thanks to Orrin), Bush carves out a legacy in Asia, By M K Bhadrakumar:

....Bush is undeterred. He meant what he said during Christmas 2006, "I'm going to sprint to the finish." Free of electoral pressures and the tyranny of popularity rating, the sprinter is gaining in velocity. Just as experts began concluding Bush's missile defenses were dying with his presidency comes the news from Washington last Tuesday regarding a US-Poland deal for a future missile shield. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be arriving in Warsaw this week for follow-up. Not only that. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that Lithuania had agreed to consider hosting a missile interceptor base if the US deal with Poland fell through. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrel explained that "prudent planning requires that we simultaneously look at backups, if necessary. Lithuania would geographically serve as a good alternative." Now, that is how legacies are planned - tenaciously, silently, prudently - until the scaffolding gets removed. Russian commentators were gloating just recently that Moscow's diplomacy had successfully buried Bush's missile defense plans. What appears unthinkable, however, is that Bush's finest legacies may yet be coming - from Asia, the continent that is "reshaping our world today", to use Rice's recent words.

Rice's speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on June 18 gave away that the Bush administration was working hard. Rice underlined, "The United States, contrary to much of the commentary, is actually in a stronger position in Asia than at any other time." She counted the calming of tensions across the Taiwan Strait; reaffirmation and "modernization" of traditional alliances with Japan and South Korea; recasting of relations with China and Russia; and finessing of a new global security agenda with Australia and an "enhanced partnership" with the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations as major diplomatic gains of Bush's foreign policy in Asia.

Rice said the US's "strategic accomplishments in Asia" also included "partnerships with a newly democratic Afghanistan, a democratic Pakistan, and an historic transformation of our relationship with the rising democratic power, India". But the bulk of her speech related to North Korea problem, underlining Washington's expectation Pyongyang will soon make a "verifiable, complete and accurate" declaration of its nuclear programs, facilities and materials so that Bush claims a legacy.

As Bush heads toward Japan for the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Hokkaido, he anticipates he's likely wrapping up two Asian legacies - and if luck holds, three. Beware the lame duck. As the Washington Post summed up, "George W Bush's presidency seems exhausted and irrelevant, but that's a dangerous illusion. The Decider remains in command ..." Clearly, North Korea has begun disabling its plutonium production facility at Yongbyon under the watchful eyes of US inspectors. Rice's consultations in Beijing last week galvanized the process. The White House announced that Bush proposed to attend the opening ceremony of Beijing Summer Olympic Games in August.

Meanwhile, a second Asian legacy for the Bush era is also gaining traction. On Wednesday, on the sidelines of the G-8, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inform Bush that New Delhi has decided to give the final push to the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the US....

Trading a de-fanged N Korea for a visit to the Olympics is smart, if that's really what happened. Good move, Condi. So maybe soon we can say, Axis of Evil: two down one to go.....

Posted by John Weidner at July 7, 2008 11:17 AM
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