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, including

  • Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony, 2005
  • America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses its Role in a Turbulent World, 2000
  • A Cold War Odyssey, 1997


Donald Nuechterlein


MAY 2007

By the time George Bush leaves the White House in January 2009, he will be the last of world leaders who were in office when the 9-11 attacks occurred in 2001.

Tony Blair of Britain will step down next month; France's Jacques Chirac will soon be replaced; Gerhard Schroeder of Germany lost his bid for reelection in 2005; Silvio Berlusconi of Italy was defeated in 2006; Jean Chretien in Canada retired in 2003; Junichiro Kuizumi of Japan retired in 2006; Chinese President Jiang Zemin was replaced in 2003, and Vladimir Putin of Russia says he will leave office in 2008.

Only three of these eight leaders--Blair, Berlusconi, and Kuizumi--supported Bush's decision in 2003 to invade Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein's regime. Three others strongly opposed Bush's move: Chirac, Schroeder, and Chretien. Two of them, Putin and Jiang Zemin, refused to support a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

Additionally, two important U.S. allies, President Vincente Fox of Mexico and Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey, did not support Bush on this crucial matter. Fox retired in 2006, and Erdogan will go later this year.

Significant changes in policy have occurred recently in each of these countries.

Britain. Tony Blair leaves office this spring with his Labour Party deeply divided over Britain's role in the war. His successor, Gordon Brown, will continue Britain's close ties with Washington, but he will withdraw most U.K forces in Iraq this year.

France. Last week's presidential election brings to power Nikolas Sarkozy, a conservative leader who campaigned on improving French relations with Washington, stimulating France's sluggish economy, and reducing its bloated welfare system.

Sarkozy's election will have positive effects on France's ties with NATO and the EU.

Germany. Former Chancellor Schroeder caused a serious rift in U.S.-German relations by joining Jacques Chirac in denouncing Bush's Iraq decision. In 2005 Schroeder was defeated for reelection and replaced by the conservative leader, Angela Merkel. She pledged to stimulate the German economy and improve relations with Washington. And she has done both.

Italy. Prime Minister Berlusconi, who sent several thousand Italian troops to Iraq in 2003 as part of the U.S.-led invasion, lost a national election in 2006 to socialist leader, Romano Prodi. Because of strong public opposition to the war, Prodi withdrew the troops from Iraq but nevertheless continues Italy's good relations with Washington.

Canada. Jean Chretien, one of George Bush's most vocal critics, left office in 2003 and eventually was succeeded by Stephen Harper, a conservative who restored good relations with Washington. Most Canadians continue to oppose the Iraq war, but Harper responded to President Bush's call for additional NATO troops in Afghanistan. Parliament agreed to keep 2500 combat forces there until 2009.

Japan. Junichiro Koisumi, one of Bush's strongest supporters, stepped down as prime minister last year, but his successor, Shinzo Abe, continues Tokyo's close ties with the United States. Japanese non-combat forces are in Iraq, and Abe strongly supports Washington's policy of thwarting North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Russia. Of all the G-8 countries, Vladimir Putin is the only current leader whose relations with George Bush have cooled since 2003. Russia opposes the U.S. military role in the Persian Gulf and is alarmed by Bush's plan to establish in Poland and the Czech Republic elements of an anti-missile shield that Moscow says threatens its security.

Given these changes in the governments of other countries, what is President Bush's current standing among the new leaders?

Unquestionably, Bush is a diminished leader in 2007, even though he continues to exercise a major influence on the world scene because of America's large military and economic power. But his failure, after four years, to bring the Iraq war to a successful conclusion has reduced his ability to persuade other governments to follow America's lead on a wide range of foreign policy problems.

The irony is that while new leaders abroad seek good relations with Washington, they also show less willingness to accept U.S. leadership on many crucial issues, for example, stabilizing Iraq, combating Taliban-led violence in Afghanistan, and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation.

In reality, however, most major countries depend on the United States to provide security in the world as well as a favorable economic environment in which to trade and do business. As a result, the new leaders seem prepared to give George Bush the chance to demonstrate that "collaborative diplomacy," as practiced in his second term, has finally replaced the arrogant unilateralism that dominated his first term.

File last modified on Monday, 21-MAY-2007 10:18 PM EST

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