Bush foreign-policy goals largely unmet

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Thursday, October 30, 2008
— Having taken up residence in the White House nearly eight years ago with almost no foreign policy experience, President Bush set ambitious goals for himself and the country. He was determined to expand democracy around the world and maintain a role for the United States befitting the world's only superpower.

Now, with less than three months left, Bush appears destined to step down without achieving many of his global objectives.

The war on terrorism goes on, but credit Bush with making Americans realize the enormity of the threat. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provided gripping evidence there are people out there who want to hurt us.

Bush put countering terrorism at the core of his foreign policy, and his successors are likely to continue the effort.

But his goals of democratizing the Middle East and winning worldwide respect for the United States are at best works in progress.

Political chaos in Israel this year snuffed out any lingering hopes he could produce a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel. A new Israeli government cannot be formed before elections are held next year.

Iran is clinging to a right to enrich uranium while fending off economic and political offers designed to sidetrack any attempt to build nuclear weapons. North Korea, meanwhile, zigzags on how much access to give outside inspectors to its nuclear weapons program while wobbling on a pledge to disable a nuclear reactor.

Iraq has become less volatile, but it is still not the democratic jewel Bush had hoped to inspire after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein and despite huge investments in American troops and capital.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban, the hard-line Muslim group forced from power with a 2001 U.S. invasion, has mustered renewed strength. U.S. casualties are mounting and there is talk of the pro-U.S. government reconciling with the militants.

Pakistan has turned out to be an uncertain ally despite massive U.S. economic assistance. And Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders are thought to be hiding in the country's frontier region.

The list of disappointments is long. In the face of them, Bush has made few strategic adjustments.

Russian democracy remains a goal, but in practice the government in Moscow falls short of traditional freedom while using heavy-handed tactics to revive its influence in parts of the old Soviet Union.

In Africa, Bush made a special effort to combat disease and promote democracy. He made some headway, and yet there are vast areas of poverty and inhumane treatment of millions of people. In the Darfur region of Sudan, up to 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million chased from their homes since ethnic African groups rebelled against the Arab-dominated national government early in 2003.

In Congo, the State Department estimates that violence has driven tens of thousands of civilians from their homes. Peacekeeping efforts have failed.

In Somalia, Islamic militants have waged an insurgency against government troops and their Ethiopian allies for almost two years. The nearly daily mortar attacks and gunbattles have killed thousands of Somali civilians in Mogadishu, the capital.

In Latin America, a wave of leftist political victories in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and elsewhere across the region challenges Bush in what many Americans consider their diplomatic backyard. Bush's push for democracy and free trade is widely seen as failing to diminish the yawning gap between rich and poor.

And across the world, America is generally unpopular, though relations with other countries have improved here and there over the past few years.

Last updated: 10:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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