Has the Bush administration lost its will to defend the international community? “We’ve placed ourselves in a position that globally we don’t have the wherewithal to do anything,” notes George Friedman of Stratfor, the strategic analysis firm. “One would think under those circumstances, we’d shut up.” In response to this quote, a senior Bush administration official laughed and had this to say to the New York Times: “Well, maybe we’re learning to shut up now.”
Well, is that what American officials really want the world to hear? The frightening aspect of this comment is that it reveals that there is a new mentality at the White House. To his credit, President Bush sponsored the surge in Iraq. Yet balanced against this bold plan is his lack of a sufficient response to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, his feeble diplomacy in the face of North Korea’s nuclearization, and his commitment to unproductive talks with an increasingly defiant Iran. Russian tanks roll into the territory of an ally, and the President of the United States engages in friendly conversation in public with Prime Minister Putin. It’s evident that the United States has lost the will to exercise its traditional role as the power of last resort.
Of course, there are things that even a superpower cannot do, especially when China and Russia are gaining strength and developing a common agenda. One can perhaps forgive Bush for failing to achieve objectives in a changing global environment. Yet his White House is not even providing leadership or speaking with a clear voice. Instead, his officials joke about American helplessness. It’s not quite right to say the Bush administration has shifted tactics or has lowered its ambitions. It has simply given up.