Essays on American politics and foreign policy
By Donald E. Nuechterlein
Donald Nuechterlein is a political scientist
and writer who resides near Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the
author of numerous books on American politics and foreign policy,
- Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony, 2005
- America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses its Role in a Turbulent World, 2000
- A Cold War Odyssey, 1997
HURRICANE KATRINA WILL HAVE IMPACT ON BUSH'S FOREIGN POLICY
Two humanitarian disasters in four years, one man made, the other a
phenomenon of nature, affect U.S. foreign policy in contrasting ways. Each
presides a test of Gorge Bush's leadership as president.
Following the 9-11 attacks in New York and Washington, the president quickly
rallied the country behind his policy to invade Afghanistan, oust its
government, and crush Al Qaeda's terrorist training camps. In the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina, we must wait a while to see whether he overcomes the
widespread perception that the federal government failed to respond fast enough
to help maintain order in New Orleans and rescue thousands of people who were
trapped by rising flood waters.
The death toll from this level-5 storm along the Gulf Coast may exceed the
loss of lives in the 9-11 disaster. Unlike New York's response to the attack on
the Trade Towers, the failure by Louisiana local and state officials to deal
effectively with the initial impact of the hurricane, especially an absence of
busses to evacuate thousands of residents who had no means to exit New Orleans,
was a major contributor to the ensuing chaos. Failure by the federal government,
specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to get aid quickly to New
Orleans, deserves censure. For this, the president must take responsibility.
Critics argue that if Washington could not provide timely assistance to
Americans trapped in New Orleans, Bilozi, and Westport, how will it respond to a
chemical attack on a major city? Some claim that so many National Guard troops
are serving in Iraq that not enough of them were available to help deal with New
Orleans' conditions of near anarchy.
An early sign of Katrina's impact in Washington was the Pentagon's decision
to drop plans to send 20,000 more troops in Iraq, to bolster security there
during the national referendum in October and general elections in December.
Some national guard troops were recently sent from Iraq to assist law
enforcement in New Orleans. Also, the Air Force announced that transport
aircraft from Iraq are being redeployed to help get emergency aid to the one
million people who were evacuated and now live in temporary shelters in Houston
and other cities along the coast. Many evacuees don't plan to return.
Any nation faced with a natural disaster of this magnitude is obliged to
weigh its foreign policy priorities against the urgent needs of its own
citizens. One may speculate on how George Bush and his national security council
will reassess U.S. military and economic requirements abroad, including Iraq. My
guess is that serious questions will be asked in Congress about whether America
is overextended abroad, both in its economic and troop commitments. Three such
places are Iraq, South Korea, and Germany.
- Iraq. The United States has budgeted some $250 billion for the occupation
of Iraq, and it maintains about 140,000 troops there. An additional 50,000 are
based in the Persian Gulf to provide security to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other
oil-producing states. Many argue that this commitment of troops and funds is
essential to restrain the ayatollahs of Iran who aspire to replace the United
States as the hegemonic power in the area.
- Congress and the administration may now be obliged to reduce military costs
in the Persian Gulf in order to provide massive aid to Gulf Coast communities at
home. Emergency budgets being proposed for hurricane relief already exceed $100
billion. This sum is less than half the amount allocated for Iraq.
- South Korea. The Pentagon is reducing troop strength in South Korea from
37,000 to 24,000 over four years. This is long overdue, as South Korea now has a
strong military force of its own and one of the world's most successful
economies. There is no reason, I believe, why this force should not be reduced
to about 10,000 troops.
- Germany. The defense department is also cutting troop levels in Germany,
from 70,000 to about 40,000 over five years. Many will be redeployed to the
United States. The question may reasonably be asked: why are not additional
reductions planned? Germany, like all of Europe, faces no foreseeable threat of
attack, and it is certainly rich enough to provide for modern military forces.
Yet, the Schroeder government cut the defense budget substantially over the past
- The Bush administration also faces serious foreign policy tests in other
areas that do not currently require additional economic aid, but do affect U.S.
security and economic well-being. Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Palestine
are four cases.
- The administration may be forced to look more seriously at the political and
economic threats posed by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, the fourth largest
oil exporter to this country. Bush will also be obliged to consider requests for
billions of dollars in additional aid to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the
Palestinian Authority for their roles in assisting Israel's evacuation of Gaza,
and Jewish settlements in the West Bank
- In sum, tough economic and military choices will have to be made in coming
months if the United States hopes to remain an economically strong and effective
File last modified on Saturday, 15-SEPTEMBER-2005 7:55 PM EST