President Bush Iraq War Policy Hurting US, World

The Bush administration’s foreign policy failures – and in particular the war in Iraq – have made the world less stable while eroding the global influence of the United States, according to a recently released report on global political trends. Meanwhile, two recent news polls show that the US troop surge in Iraq is as unpopular with Iraqis as it is with Americans.

The Denver Research Group’s Global Power Barometer report, published in the Washington Post on Saturday, warns that US influence is now in “steep decline” owing to a number of key factors including:

  • the war in Iraq, where the US will remain “bogged down” for years to come, rendering it unable to respond effectively to other world events;
  • the loss of moral high ground that the US had held for decades, as a result of the Abu Ghraib scandal and Bush administration policies that appear to advocate torture;
  • the consensus among world leaders that the US lacks a coherent foreign policy strategy;
  • the inability of the US to effectively use the extraordinary power it possesses; and
  • the Bush administration’s unfocused counterterrorism strategy which has dealt ineffectively with organizations such as al Qaeda, and allowed them to “hold their own or start to win”.

The report further forecasts that the enormous global power vacuum created by the loss of US influence is likely to be exploited by a number of international players including Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela.

Despite the widely held view that the war in Iraq is not going well, and is likely to continue to erode American prestige without being offset by commensurate benefits, President Bush remains indomitably upbeat about the prospect of “success” in Iraq.

In his national televised address on Thursday evening, Mr Bush assured Americans that “the troop surge is working”, that “Iraq’s national leaders are getting some things done” and that “success will make us safer here at home”. He said the success of the surge so far had enabled him to endorse the proposal of General David Petraeus to withdraw most of the 30,000-strong troop surge by July next year, although the remaining 130,000 US troops in Iraq would need to stay there for the foreseeable future. Mr Bush also emphasized that “success will require US political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency”.

The following day, the White House Benchmark Assessment Report presented to Congress also expressed the need for “an enduring American commitment to Iraq” and stated that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was making “satisfactory progress” on two-thirds of its agreed benchmarks – an optimistic and sharp departure from the recent assessment of the US Government Accountability Office, which found that the Maliki government had met only three of the agreed 18 benchmarks.

It is now clear that political reconciliation in Iraq will provide the only hope of abating the seemingly endless cycle of sectarian violence.

In response to the White House report, US House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the Bush administration is “attempting to paint a far rosier picture of Iraqi progress on key benchmarks than is justified by the reality on the ground.”

This is a view shared by the majority of Iraqis, according to a poll released on Monday conducted by ABC News, Britain’s BBC, and Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, which included interviews with 2,212 Iraqis across the country during the week August 17-24.

Seventy percent of Iraqis surveyed believe the US troop surge has worsened rather than improved security, political stability and the pace of redevelopment in Iraq. Significantly, the poll found that “every respondent in Baghdad, and also in Anbar, says the surge has made security worse now than it was six months ago”. Outside of these two areas, only 26 percent of Iraqis believe the surge has improved security.

Forty-seven percent of Iraqis support immediate withdrawal of all coalition forces from Iraq, while 57 percent consider attacks on coalition troops acceptable; yet only 19 percent blame the occupation for the violence in Iraq.

Most Iraqis view their personal prospects fairly bleakly. Sixty-one percent say their lives are going badly, with the highest levels of anxiety recorded among minority Sunni Arabs – 88 percent of whom believe their lives are locked in a negative spiral. Only 29 percent of Iraqis see their lives improving over the next year, and only about a third believe their children will have a better life.

In the US, an August poll conducted by CBS News found similarly low levels of optimism regarding the troop surge, with only 29 percent of Americans responding that they thought the surge was having a positive impact in Iraq.

The war in Iraq continues to be the major factor in President Bush’s abysmal domestic approval ratings. Only 29 percent of Americans approve of his performance, while 65 percent disapprove.

Given the level of opposition to the war among American voters, the President’s decision to give a prime time televised address left some top Republican strategists scratching their heads – especially in light of the stoically optimistic representations made by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker earlier in the week.

“Why would he threaten the momentum we have?” one GOP strategist asked Time. “You have an unpopular President going onto prime time television, interrupting Americans’ TV programs … to remind them of why they don’t like him.”


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